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Roseanne Barr Files Documents to Become President of the United States of America

Roseanne Barr
 — who famously butchered the National Anthem — has filed official documents to become the Green Party’s nominee for President of the United States ofAmerica.

Barr — who has been waging a Twitter and Facebook grassroots, digital campaign — has just made it official.  She wants to carry the Green Party banner in the November election.

Barr says she’s sick of Democrats and Republicans, whom she believes are not working in the best interests of the American people.

So what, you ask, is Roseanne pushing?  The answer is simple … pot.  She wants marijuana legalized and sold strictly domestically.

As for the whole Iraq thing … she’ll get back to us.

via TMZ.com

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Cash-Strapped College Students Turning To Food Stamps


Tuition hikes, combined with the increased cost of general living, have left many college students more strapped for cash than ever before.

As such, more and more are turning to tax-funded food stamp programs to help them afford the essentials.

The program – the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP for short – is offered by the United States Department of Agriculture for qualifying people in need.

According to its website, eligibility requirements for the program include gross and net income tests and employment requirements. It is designed primarily to assist families, however students can apply, given the age and work stipulations in place for qualification.

A sum of $200 is awarded to program participants each month, which is to be used toward grocery bills.

The stigma of the cash-strapped college student is nothing new. The use of government aid in amending the situation, however, is a more recent phenomenon.

The educational institutions are reportedly not at all involved in the process on any level, but use of SNAP for help with food bills has become something of a widely accepted practice on campuses.

Ravae Graham, the deputy director of legislative affairs and communications for the state’s Department of Human Services, said that a student’s eligibility depends largely on the amount of time they work outside of the classroom.

“If (an applicant) is working at least 20 hours per week and meets income limits, they can qualify … and college students are eligible,” she told CBS Atlanta. “And there has been a significant increase of use in the program over recent years.”

She added that students who participate in school-funded work study programs may also make the cut.

Food stamp statistics for the state of Georgia provided to CBS Atlanta show that the average size of a household receiving food stamps in 2011 averaged out to 2.40 persons.

The totals for both households and individuals have increased over the past six years, but the latter has seen an especially large spike, rising from just under 950,000 individual users in 2006 to almost 1,740,000 in 2011.

According to The Signal, a student-run newspaper at Georgia State University, a basic meal plan at the school can cost approximately $1,700, which is more than many students can reportedly afford.

“With me being a senior and living on campus for the past four years, I honestly got tired of paying that amount of money per semester just to eat,” student Taylor Smith told the paper. “I did not even know that I was applicable for food stamps until someone told me about the site and to apply to see if I would get it.”

Added Smith, “Since then, I have saved a ton of money.”

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The Super Bowl Prop Bettor’s Guide

via  Cousin Sal’s Gambling Blog on Grantland.com 




I can’t believe it’s already here. Super Bowl XXCLVICXIILCMCMC. (I did the Roman math — it works out). Either way — I’m prepared. I’ve read up on every degenerate gambler’s wagering option connected to this game. If Congress spent half as much time reading President Obama’s health care plan as I did peering over the Super Bowl proposition menu the country would be a better place.

I know betting on the big game can be a terrifying prospect. Eight months is a long time until your next pigskin wager so you absolutely must get it right. But we’ve been betting on NFL props all year long. We’re good at this — remember? How good? I’m only down 287,000 jermajesties* on the season. You don’t get more expert than that.

Here are a few can’t-lose Super Bowl props and a bunch that aren’t but should be.

The Patriots will convert a 4th down attempt (+120) 
Is this a proptical illusion? Seems too easy. Two weeks ago, Belichick employed an inexplicably ridiculous, conservative offensive game plan against the Ravens and the Patriots still managed a 4th down conversion. And if you think I have a problem wagering on old men in striped outfits measuring chain lengths wait until you see the next bet …100,000 jermajesties

Henry Hynoski over 4.5 receiving/rushing yards (EVEN)
Here it is — my Gary Russell Memorial Super Bowl prop bet of the year. (have a listen to my appearance on this week’s BS Report to get the full Gary Russell history).

I know what you’re thinking — EVERYONE’s going to take this one. It’s too obvious. Oh — that’s not what you’re thinking? Rest easy. I’ve researched this one a ton. Hynoski totaled a whopping 20 yards vs. the 49ers in the NFC title game. He’s surpassed five yards in seven games this year. Expect lots of points and lots of weird plays this Sunday. Sorry Gronkowski/Gostkowski — there’s a new Polish proposition sheriff in town — and his name is Henry Hynoski. Take the over. 150,000 jermajesties

Welker over 78.5 yards receiving (-115) and over 6.5 receptions (-115)
The Giants fantastic front four gives them the luxury of never having to blitz. That means they’ll be able to keep a few linebackers back in coverage to disrupt the Pats mutant beasts lining up at tight end. I think the confusion over the middle will force Brady to throw to his sure-handed go to route in Welker. Not to mention Welker racked up 136 yards against the Giants earlier in the year and that was before he grew the aerodynamically-enhancing mustache. 40,000 jermajesties each

First TD scored: Welker (8/1) and Manningham (12/1)
See Welker reasons above. These Manningham odds are high especially considering the man who will be responsible for covering him strongly resembles a guy who plays wide receiver for the Patriots. 10,000 jermajesties each

Total points 61-65 (7/1), 66-70 (9/1), 71-75 (12/1), 76-80 (15/1), 81+ (6/1)
All of a sudden, I’ve turned into the worst roulette player. Hear me out. Five out of the last 20 Super Bowls fell in this range. In that time half the games played in domes ended up at least in the mid 50s. That means these odds are too high. Worth a shot. 3,000 jermajesties each

Giants total points (+1/2) over Knicks 1st quarter points vs. Nets (-115) 
Simple logic — the Knicks don’t get credit for points when an inbounded pass sticks to a forward’s head — the Giants do. 15,000 jermajesties

Don’t look for these. You won’t find them anywhere …

NE defensive tackle Vince Wilfork’s halftime bowel movement over/under 16.5 pounds?

That’s disgusting. I’m going over. And I don’t want to hear how I’m better than this. I’m not.

137,000/1 odds any valet would be excited to take Matthew Broderick’s Honda CRV for a joyride as they are in this Super Bowl commercial

Anyone else glad the Super Bowl ads are leaked online a week before the game so that we can go to the bathroom during commercial breaks? Anyone? Anyone?

12/1 odds Kelly Clarkson and Madonna will make out at halftime
Not likely.

38/1 Odds Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth will make out at halftime 
Even less likely.

2/1 odds Betty White will make out with and Seal at halftime. 
This is a slam dunk. But not with the recently separated singer — an actual seal. That chick loves animals.

What shade of red will Tom Coughlin’s Rosacea-cursed face be at the end of the game? 
Scarlet and crimson are sucker bets. I’m going with vermillion at 11/1.

65/1 odds Kelly Clarkson gets a last minute Chili’s endorsement deal and during the national anthem replaces the phrase “home of the brave” with “home of the awesome blossom”?
I know. That was a long way to go for a blooming onion joke. Bear with me — this is almost over.

Who will NBC show first in the owner’s box: The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo (Rooney Mara, daughter of Giants VP Chris Mara) or an actual girl with an actual dragon tattoo — Rob Gronkowski’s porn star girlfriend?
If the peacock network has any kind of sense of humor they’ll shoot for the latter.

Even odds that for the ninth year in a row Danica Patrick will get cut-off unzipping a leather jumpsuit in a godaddy.com ad. 
I joke but the truth is to this day she’s still one of the sexiest female dwarf drivers NASCAR has to offer.

Over 35.5 players from both teams are forced to share the same two prostitutes in Indianapolis. 
This is cruel and not at all fair to the players. Like the Brady children having to share the same bathroom as Alice the maid. Barbaric!

1/3 odds that Madonna gets replaced by Kellie Pickler after failing the HGH test. 
Hold on. I have a few of these.

Number of game balls made from Madonna’s skin — over/under 8
Almost there.

Which will be higher: Victor Cruz receiving yards or number of visible veins in Madonna’s arms?
Okay — that’s enough. Wait — one more.

Over/under 2.5 friends of yours that will out themselves at your Super Bowl party by knowing all the lyrics to Madonna’s La Isla Bonita

If by any chance you dreamt of San Pedro last night — please keep it to yourself. Or at least save it for a Glee re-run.

5/2 odds Eli Manning’s wife Abby leaps from her luxury box seat to her death after NBC shows a side by side photo of her and Gisele Bundchen.
Hold on — I’m looking at a picture of Abby now. She’s actually pretty cute. Let’s make it 7/2 odds.

Even odds that NBC shoe horns in Whitney Cummings’ irreverent female take on football.
Hey NBC — you already spared us Fear Factor‘s donkey semen stunt. Please do us all a favor and give us a pass on this one as well.

Which will be higher: television shots of Peyton Manning or television shots of Peyton Manning doing shots?

I know — it’s a thinker.

3/1 odds that at next year’s Media Day I will be asking white players who their favorite black person is much like I did last night on Jimmy Kimmel Live

Sorry, black folks — white people are dumb.

That’s that. Enjoy the game. And regardless of how much real money I’ve cost you this year with my fake advice — let’s really try to stay friends this year.

— Cousin Sal

*(Obligatory weekly explanation: A “jermajesty” represents the fake name given for a dollar amount. It is also the unfortunate name of one of Jermaine Jackson’s sons.)

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A poker player helped rent a billboard, a Mormon spreads the word at root beer socials and prostitutes at a famous brothel turn tricks and donate their customers’ tips — all for Ron Paul.

The 76-year-old, 12-term Texas Republican congressman is banking on a big showing at the Feb. 4 Nevada caucuses to boost his third presidential primary bid. His message of personal liberty, states’ rights and low taxes resonates with voters in the state, where prostitution is legal, gambling is widespread and the foreclosure rate has been the highest in the nation for five years, according to RealtyTrac.

“Go to the Romney campaign and ask ‘How many of your lives have been changed by the philosophy of Mitt Romney?’” Julie Benincasa, 52, of Las Vegas said in an interview as she volunteered in Paul’s Henderson, Nevada, campaign office this week. “People will go, ‘what?’”

“My entire life — just about every spare moment, in one way or another — is promoting Ron Paul’s message of liberty, limited government and sound money,” she said, adding that she sold $1,600 worth of jewelry to donate to the campaign.

Benincasa’s commitment to Paul is matched by a legion of followers who see it as their duty to spread the word, including Arin Hopkins, 46, a dog sitter in a gated community in Henderson who pays for pro-Paul brochures and delivers them door-to-door and Pete Claytor, 49, a Las Vegas electrical union member who converted five of the six Democrats at his job site.

Gambler’s Billboard

Robert Fellner, 27, a professional poker player and blogger, donated $1,000 of the $3,500 cost of putting a billboard up in downtown Las Vegas, raising the rest of the cost on his website. The billboard touts Paul as the only candidate to predict the economic collapse.

Those avid supporters may give Paul an advantage in such caucus states as Nevada and Maine on Feb. 4 and Colorado and Minnesotaon Feb. 7, where casting a vote takes more of a time commitment than showing up at a precinct and casting a ballot.

On Jan. 31, as the Florida results were being counted, Paul flew into Nevada and kicked off a state tour with a rally at a Henderson casino that drew more than a 1,000 — a number far exceeding Newt Gingrich’s 200-person reception in Orlando that evening.

‘Irate, Tireless Minority’

“We will spend our time in the caucus states because if you have an irate, tireless minority you do very well in the caucus states,” said Paul, who finished fourth in Florida’s primary with 7 percent. “If you have an energized group of people that are working on a campaign and actually believe in something, it is going to work in the caucus states.”

In the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses, Paul placed third with 21 percent of the vote. Romney and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum had 24.5 percent and 24.6 percent, respectively, in the contest, while Gingrich had 13 percent.

In Nevada, Paul’s staffers have been on the ground for more than six months, Carl Bunce, the state campaign chairman, said at the Jan. 31 rally. They have been educating voters both on the candidate and on the caucus process, holding “scores” of training events all over the state, said James Barcia, deputy national press secretary.

Paul is the only candidate with a presence on college campuses here, said David Damore, associate professor of political science atUniversity of Nevada, Las Vegas. The only campaign with a stronger ground operation in the state is Romney’s, Damore and other observers said.

Tea Party Outsourcing

“The Paul folks are well-organized, the Romney folks are well-organized and Gingrich is outsourcing to the Tea Party,” Damore said.

In 2008, Romney won the Nevada caucuses with 51 percent support compared to Paul’s 14 percent. In the four years since then, both candidates have maintained their support bases in the state. Romney has spent more money. As of Jan. 31, he had bought almost twice as much in broadcast television commercials in the state than Paul, according New York-based Kantar Media’s CMAG, a company that tracks advertising. The other Republican contenders hadn’t spent anything on commercials.

Nevada Lieutenant Governor Brian Krolicki, co-chairman of the Romney campaign in the state, said he’s confident his candidate will win, although he wouldn’t rule out Paul’s campaign machine.

“A caucus can always be full of surprises,” he said in a media call on Jan. 31.

Appealing to Mormons

One way Paul is targeting Romney is by going after his rival’s base: members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter- Day Saints, who four years ago comprised about 25 percent of Nevada’s Republican caucus-goers. A campaign subgroup called Latter Day Saints for Ron Paul is seeking to convince Mormons that the congressman — and not LDS member Romney — best represents their views about the U.S. Constitution.

“Although the country might be ready for a Mormon president, we provide them with the notion that, in terms of constitutionality, that we have the better candidate,” Barcia said in a Jan. 30 interview at the Henderson campaign office.

David IsBell, 29, from Las Vegas, said he saw a sign on an overpass in Salt Lake City in 2007 that said “Google Ron Paul.” He did. IsBell had been a Mormon missionary in Eastern Europe when the U.S. invaded Iraq. The move turned him away from President George W. Bush and other Republicans. Paul’s opposition to the war got his attention.

“He was the first politician who gave me goose bumps when he talked,” IsBell said in a telephone interview. “The way Ron Paul speaks is parallel to the way our prophet Ezra Taft Benson spoke about our faith,” he said referring to the former president of the Mormon church, who served from 1985 to 1994.

Root Beer Floats

IsBell said he spreads that message at root beer float socials, game nights and other events wearing a Ron Paul t- shirt. He shares quotes from Benson, and then Paul.

“Mormons are reliable voters — they turn out,” said Robert Uithoven, a Republican consultant with j3 Strategies in Reno. Still, Uithoven, who has ties to Las Vegas Sands Corp. (LVS)chairman and Gingrich supporter Sheldon Adelson, puts most Mormons in Romney’s camp. While Nevada’s libertarian streak is good for Paul, those same Mormon voters were targeted by his campaign in 2008, Uithoven said.

“He has a base of support that tends not to grow very much,” Uithoven said.

Paul’s strategy isn’t limited to Mormons. He has rolled out special coalitions of gun owners, home-schoolers, veterans, Hispanics and hospitality workers, too.

The most unlikely coalition of supporters, though, is the one the candidate didn’t recruit.

Moonlite BunnyRanch

At the Moonlite BunnyRanch, a legal brothel near Carson City featured in HBO’s “Cathouse” series, the most scantily- clad caucus of all was held two weeks ago.

Dennis Hof, 65, the proprietor and self-described “pimpmaster general” of the BunnyRanch and five other Nevada brothels, said he polled all 500 women to see who they supported for the presidency. Last time, they cast their support behind Barack Obama. This cycle their opposition to the roundups of wild horses on federal land near the brothel moved them to Paul.

He said they like Gingrich — they “don’t have a problem with him being a womanizer” — but they think Romney is too square. Paul’s support for states’ rights won them over, he said.

At the BunnyRanch, customers who say they are “Pimpin’ for Paul” get extra attention, Hof said, and some of the women ask clients for Paul donations. Many, like Hustler centerfold Cami Parker, 25, also donate tips.

“I really appreciate the fact that Ron Paul respects states’ rights and individual rights,” Parker said in a telephone interview. “It seems like he really understands our rights to do what we want.”

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Five US Airports Doing Great Things with Concessions

(via crankyflier.com)

Getting back to speed with a new baby in the house isn’t easy, so I’m posting one more guest post today to help me catch up. (Besides, I need time to read through all the American Airlines changes as well as the FAA reauthorization bill for posts next week.) This one is from a familiar face . . .

My frenemie Brett “Cranky Flier” Snyder begged me (ok, he just asked) to write a guest post for his tiny, insignificant blog. Normally, I would have just ignored Brett’s email (which I do 98.7% of the time). But he and his lovely wife delivered my baby avgeek niece or nephew, so I relented.

I had one of the best jobs in the world – airports and security editor for Aviation Week magazine. That, along with being a judge the past four years for Airports Council International-North America’s annual concessions contest and my extensive world travels going back to when I was 5, has given me a fine appreciation of what I like to see in airports when it comes to concessions.

I’m old enough to remember the days when airport concessions consisted of “Newstand,” “Restaurant,” “Snack Bar” and “Gifts.” but oh, how times have changed!! This change has come for two reasons.

One, as airlines have merged and cut routes and frequencies, they are paying airports less in landing fees and rent. Two, because of post-9/11 security changes, travelers are spending more time in airports, and they’re demanding more sophisticated food/beverage and retail options. So below are my five picks for airports doing great things with their concessions programs.


    • San Francisco International Airport – I’ve had the chance to see my original hometown airport evolve over the years, and I love the changes. Among its treasures, this airport has a full-service medical clinic and a world-class art museum. As I write this, I haven’t been to the new Terminal 2, so nothing in there is in this post. But great food options abound: Andale Mexican Restaurant, Boudin’s Bakery and Café, Tomokazu and Peet’s Coffee. Retail options are U Threads (sells clothing and items from Bay Area universities), Aviator Books, Coach, and Ghiradelli.


    • Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport – This has always been one of my favorite airports because of features like free Wi-Fi, two pet parks, and one of the first cell phone lots in the country. Terminal 4 (home to Southwest Airlines and US Airways) has some great food choices: Blue Burrito Grille (restaurant and carry-out), Paradise Bakery and Café, Einstein Bagels and Quiznos. On the retail side, check out A to Z Kids, In Celebration of Golf, and See’s Candies.


    • Chicago Midway Airport – I have actually scheduled some of my Southwest Airlines trips to go through Midway because I love the shopping options there. The main concessions area has an actual sense of place. Food choices include Harry Caray’s, Nuts on Clark (I’d kill for this popcorn), Ben & Jerry’s, and McDonalds. Available retail choices are House of Blues, Discover Chicago, and Kids Works.


    • Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport – I did an insider’s tour of this facility a few years ago and had a grand time. This is a very passenger-focused airport, with concessions including free Samsung lounges (with seats, outlets and Wi-Fi) and the giant Shop 24 vending machine that sells everything from diapers to Caesar salads. I’m also a big fan of the La Bodega Winery, Cereality Breakfast Bar, Dunkin Donuts, and Au Bon Pain. Retail options include my beloved Bijoux Terner (everything is $10!), Natalie’s Candy Jar, Official Dallas Cowboys Pro Shop, and Bose.


I appreciate Brett allowing me to blog on one of my favorite topics. You can follow my musings over at AviationQueen.com and follow me on Twitter at @AvQueenBenet.

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Al-Ahly players escaped from the field as fans of Al-Masry rushed to the pitch [AFP]

At least 73 people have been killed in clashes after a football game in the Egyptian city of Port Said, medics say.

About 1,000 others were injured in Wednesday’s violence, including police. At least two players suffered light injuries.

Fans of the winning al-Masry team flooded the field seconds after the match with al-Ahly, Egypt’s top team, was over.

A security official said the fans chased the players and cornered their supporters on the field and around the stadium,
throwing stones and bottles at them.

Thousands of supporters covered the field, as seen in a video posted online.

“This is unfortunate and deeply saddening. It is the biggest disaster in Egypt’s soccer history,” Hesham Sheiha, deputy health minister, said.

He said most of the injuries were caused by concussion and deep cuts.

Al-Ahly football players were trapped in the changing room along with supporters. Riot police were sent in to drive the rival crowds of fans back.

‘War, not football’

Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the head of the country’s ruling military council, sent army helicopters to transfer al-Ahly football players and injured fans from Port Said.

Private cars helped to shuttle the injured across the city to hospitals.

“This is not football. This is a war and people are dying in front of us. There is no movement and no security and no
ambulances,” al-Ahly player Abo Treika told the team’s television channel. “This is a horrible situation and today can never be forgotten.”

The Muslim Brotherhood, the country’s largest political force,  accused supporters of ousted President Hosni Mubarak of instigating the violence.State television announced that parliament will hold an emergency session over the violence. State prosecutors  ordered an investigation into the pitch invasion and the violence that ensued.

“The events in Port Said are planned and are a message from the remnants of the former regime,” parliamentarian Essam al-Erian said in a statement on the group’s Freedom and Justice Party website.

Al-Ahly’s supporter club, Ultras, said on their website that they would head to Port Said later in the evening.

Al-Masry team won a rare 3-1 against Al-Ahly.

The two teams have a long history of bad blood, and clashes have erupted in recent years between their fans.

Al Jazeera’s Rawya Rageh, reporting from Cairo, said several football games after the revolution have witnessed violence due to the absence of police forces.

“In the security vacuum that has lasted since the revolution, the police force has basically disappeared from the street after their notorious performance during the revolution.”

A match in Cairo on Wednesday evening was interrupted following the news of the deaths in Port Said. Television  footage showed a big fire behind the supporter stand at the Cairo stadium.

The Premier League, which the games were part of, was suspended indefinitely.

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shane hopkins mug shot 

MAYS LANDING, N.J. – February 1, 2012 (WPVI) — A college in Atlantic County, NJ has been locked down as police try to track down an escaped prisoner.

Security officials at Cape May Community College, Mays Landing Campus confirm that the campus was put on lockdown Wednesday beginning at 12:30 p.m. while police searched for a man who escaped from Hamilton Township Police Tuesday night.

People are not being allowed to enter the campus and are being asked not to leave. If they do leave they are not being permitted back on campus.

Shane K. Hopkins, 38, escaped from the custody of Hamilton Township Police on Tuesday night as he was being transported to the Atlantic County justice facility in Mays Landing for a hearing.

He was a prisoner of South Woods State Prison in Bridgeton, N.J. and had been in custody since April 27, 2011 on several charges, including burglary and eluding police.

Hopkins is 5’3″, 135 lbs with blue eyes and brown hair. He was wearing an orange jumpsuit and handcuffs when he escaped.

An alert on the college’s website says Hopkins may now be wearing a white flannel shirt and gray sweatpants.

The alert reads:

“A lockdown is in progess at Atlantic Cape’s Mays Landing Campus. Stay indoors until further notice; do not come to campus at this time. Police are pursuing escaped inmate near campus. Escaped inmate is wearing white flannel shirt and gray sweatpants. Updates will be provided as available.

“To stay updated with essential information on weather-related closings and other up-to-the-minute bulletins, sign up for TxtAlerts or find us on Facebook. Please contact your instructor or view the list of instructor cancellations for individual courses.”

Police say anyone who spots Hopkins should immediately call 911.

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FRACKING FOR THE TRUTH: ‘Gasland’ Filmmaker Arrested at Capitol Hearing $UNG

Capitol policemen cornering the filmmaker Josh Fox at a House subcommittee session on fracking.Courtesy of EarthworksCapitol policemen cornering the filmmaker Josh Fox at a House panel’s hearing on fracking.
Green: Politics

Josh Fox, whose HBO documentary “Gasland” raised questions about the safety of the natural gas drilling technique known as horizontal hydraulic fracturing, was handcuffed and led away on Wednesday as he tried to film a House Science Committee hearing on the topic.

The Capitol Police said that Mr. Fox, whose film was nominated for an Academy Award last year, was charged with unlawful entry and was being dealt with at Capitol Police headquarters. A spokeswoman for Mr. Fox said she had no further details as of early Wednesday afternoon.

Mr. Fox brought a crew to film a hearing of the energy and environment subcommittee that was looking into an Environmental Protection Agency finding that fracking, as the technique is popularly known, was probably responsible for groundwater contamination in Pavillion, Wyo.

Mr. Fox is preparing a sequel to “Gasland,” which has contributed to widespread concern about fracking, which uses large volumes of water and chemicals under high pressure to free gas deposits from underground shale.

The chairman of the subcommittee conducting the hearing, Representative Andy Harris, a Maryland Republican, objected to the presence of Mr. Fox and his crew as well as another crew under contract to ABC. A committee chairman has the discretion to bar cameras from hearings, according to a committee aide.

The hearing was broadcast at the committee’s Web site. Mr. Harris said the two crews did not have proper media credentials.

Representative Brad Miller, the ranking Democrat on the subcommittee, asked that the crews be allowed to stay and called for a vote. After a recess to round up more members, the Republicans prevailed and the cameras were barred.

“This is a public hearing!” Mr. Fox shouted as he was led away, according to several news reports. “I’m being denied my First Amendment rights.”


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So, Just How Safe Is Your Ship?

Giuseppe Modesti/Associated Press

IN the wake of the Costa Concordia catastrophe on Jan. 13 that killed at least 17 people and raised troubling questions about the ship’s captain, many tourists are wondering: How safe am I on a cruise?

Well, the chance of dying in a cruise accident is small. From 2005 to 2010, about 100 million passengers took cruises, and there were 16 deaths attributed to marine accidents, according to the Cruise Lines International Association.

But the Concordia, which ran aground off the Tuscan coast of Italy a few hours after departure, has the cruise industry on the defensive. “All of our members recognize the seriousness of these events,” said Christine Duffy, president of the Cruise Lines International Association, in apress briefing last month.

Still, no regulatory changes have actually been made, though there has been plenty of discussion about the growing size of ships and the 24-hour window after boarding in which ships must run safety drills.

At the time of the deadly wreck, just off the coast of Isola del Giglio, about 3,200 passengers and 1,000 crew members were aboard the Costa Concordia, a massive vessel owned by a subsidiary of Carnival Corporation.

Some travel industry experts say the sheer size of the Concordia and other cruise ships may pose greater evacuation challenges because of the large number of passengers, but cruise officials point out that regulations have kept pace with the size of the ships. Evacuation routes and safety equipment, including the size and number of lifeboats, are “scaled in accordance with the increased size of the vessel,” said Capt. William Wright, a senior vice president at Royal Caribbean International, at the briefing convened by the Cruise Lines International Association.

There is no indication that size was a factor in the Concordia accident, but the 24-hour window for safety drills is being scrutinized. Some critics argue that the window should be tightened so that passengers will be better prepared in case an emergency strikes early on, as it did on the Concordia. Unlike airplane safety announcements, which take place before takeoff, cruise drills aren’t required before the ship leaves the dock. The Concordia passengers who had boarded before Civitavecchia had already been through the drill, but nearly 700 passengers who joined the ship there had not. The next drill had been scheduled for the following day.

While the Carnival Corporation said it will do “a comprehensive audit and review” of safety procedures, at least one other cruise line, Prestige Cruise Holdings, the parent company of Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas, has announced that it will hold drills on the day of departure. Previously, those drills were occasionally held the next morning.

The Concordia tragedy has focused attention on safety and operating standards, but there are other concerns that passengers should keep in mind.


Cruise passengers are more likely to get a stomach bug than face shipwreck. Last year, there were 14 outbreaks of gastrointestinal illnesses on 10 ships, affecting hundreds of passengers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The illnesses included the highly contagious norovirus.

Cruise companies increase cleaning and disinfecting procedures if there is an outbreak, including scouring “high-touch” areas of ships, like banisters and elevator buttons. But such measures can’t prevent a sick passenger from infecting others. According to the C.D.C., the best defense against catching a stomach bug is simple: keep washing your hands, avoid shaking hands during outbreaks and use alcohol-based hand sanitizers.


Crime on cruise ships has become such an issue that in 2010 Congress passed the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act. The law mandates reporting of kidnappings, sexual assaults and other crimes and requires vessels to be equipped with cabin peepholes and video surveillance systems, among other security measures. Last year, the Federal Bureau of Investigation closed 16 investigations involving crime on cruise ships, 13 of which were sexual assaults, according to data posted online by the Coast Guard. But that doesn’t represent the total number of incidents reported to the F.B.I., including any still-open or pending prosecutions.

While it’s easy to let your guard down on a cruise, travelers shouldn’t assume they’re safe just because they’re onboard, said Charles R. Lipcon, author of “Unsafe on the High Seas” and a maritime lawyer who handles cases involving personal injury, cruise-line sexual assault and wrongful death claims. Sure, a cruise may feel like a floating party — and no one has to drive home — but drinking too much can compromise your judgment.

“I like to tell people, don’t leave your common sense at the dock,” Mr. Lipcon said. “That’s typically what people do, and overdrink and get themselves into a risky situation.”


Even though modern cruise vessels are designed with smoke detectors and sprinkler systems, fire is a risk. Last year, a fire aboard a Hurtigruten cruise ship off the coast of Norway killed two people, injured nine others and forced the evacuation of nearly half of the 262 people aboard. CruiseShipFires.com, a Web site dedicated to documenting blazes, explosions and other accidents on pleasure vessels, has photographs of similar events, including an engine fire on the Carnival Splendor in 2010. No passengers were injured, but the fire stripped the ship of its power, knocking out its operating systems and leaving its 3,300 passengers without air-conditioning, hot food or water.

Most of those fires started in the engine room in the lower part of the ship, said Janet Huggard, editor of CruiseShipFires.com and its sibling site, CruiseBruise.com, devoted to publicizing crime, injuries and other incidents on ships. She recommends avoiding cabins below deck. “Higher is better in almost all cases for evacuation purposes,” she said.


Although falling overboard is rare, it does occur. Last year at least 22 people went overboard on cruise ships and passenger ferries, according to Cruisejunkie.com, which lists cases reported by the media on its Web site, including passengers who jumped. One of the requirements under the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act is that ships must be equipped with rails not less than 42 inches above the deck, and with alarms and other technology to help signal and locate passengers who go overboard.

As a general rule, pay attention to safety announcements and make sure you try on your life jacket and know where your muster or lifeboat station is located. If you are traveling with friends or family, have a contingency plan so you know how to find one another in the event of an evacuation. “It is unlikely that something will happen,” said Ross A. Klein, who has written books on the cruise industry and operates Cruisejunkie.com, “but it is better to have a plan if something does happen than to be drawn into a hysteria when an emergency situation presents itself.”

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Tripadvisor is Shadier Than You Think $TRIP

Tripadvisor must no longer claim that all of its reviews are honest or even from real people

Tripadvisor must no longer claim that all of its reviews are honest or even from real people Photo: ALAMY
James Hall

By , Consumer Affairs Editor

7:00AM GMT 01 Feb 2012

It follows complaints that some unscrupulous hoteliers have posted fake comments on the site to boost their own business or sabotage others.

Following a four month investigation, the Advertising Standards Authority found that it was possible for “non-genuine content” to appear on Tripadvisor, which is designed to allow holidaymakers to share tips and opinions on places they have visited.

The advertising watchdog said that because reviews can be posted on the site without any form of verification, Tripadvisor must no longer claim that all of its reviews are honest, or even from real people.

In a strongly-worded ruling, the ASA told Tripadvisor “not to claim or imply that all the reviews that appeared on the website were from real travellers, or were honest, real or trusted”.

The ASA’s ruling, which applies only to Tripadvisor’s UK site, follows a complaint last year from two unnamed hoteliers and a website called Kwikchex, which helps companies manage their online reputations.

They argued that wording on Tripadvisor’s website – claiming that the site contained “reviews you can trust” and “honest” opinions from “real travellers” – was misleading as Tripadvisor could not prove that the reviews were genuine.

Chris Emmins, co-founder of Kwikchex, said that there are a “substantial” number of fake reviews on Tripadvisor, which is being “abused by fraudsters”.

Fake comments range from unsubstantiated claims of food poisoning in restaurants to theft and credit card fraud in hotels, said Mr Emmins.

Tripadvisor, which has removed the wording from its website, said that the ASA had taken a “highly technical view” of its online marketing copy that was “used in a limited capacity”.

In a statement, the company said: “We have confidence that the 50 million users who come to our site every month trust the reviews they read on Tripadvisor, which is why they keep coming back to us in increasingly larger numbers to plan and have the perfect trip.”

A spokesman added that the average traveller reads dozens of reviews before making an informed decision on where to travel, rather than just “one or two” reviews. Travellers base their decision on “the wisdom of the crowds” rather than isolated reviews, the spokesman said.

“We know that our users approach Tripadvisor with common sense, and make an educated decision based on the opinions of many. If people did not feel the insight they gained from our site was an accurate reflection of their experience they wouldn’t keep coming back,” the spokesman said.


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Creepy Voice Over Narration for Morgan Freeman’s Incestuous Marriage to Step-Granddaughter

Hit Dan BackHit Dan BackA few weeks ago, a disturbing story broke that Morgan Freeman was maintaining a 10-year relationship with his step-granddaughter with whom he had a questionable sexual encounter when she was young. Yes, they are not related through blood, but Freeman is 72 and E’Dena Hines is now 27, which means she would have been 17 when they first… um… got together. Once Freeman’s wife found out about their secret affair she filed for divorce, and now the Enquirer is claiming that once proceedings go through, he and Hines are set to wed.

“Morgan has led her to believe that he wants to marry her,” says a family insider. Another source says, “Becoming Mrs. Morgan Freeman has been E’Dena’s goal.”

Consider us creeped out. Morgan Freeman is giving Woody Allen a run for his money! [HitDanBack]


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