July 21, 2006 ESPN's humorist Bill Simmons is fed up with the antiseptic, controlled atmosphere at pro sports events. He just can't take it anymore: "American sports have been ravaged by TV timeouts, ticket price hikes and Jumbotrons that pretty much order fans how to act. Just look at what happened in the NBA playoffs. Miami fans were urged to wear all white like a bunch of outpatients from a psych ward." So even though Simmons isn't a soccer fan, he went shopping for an English Premiere League team to root for.
July 21, 2006 NPR reporters continue to fan out around the Middle East to cover the second week of violence between Israel and Hezbollah. We'll have reports on All Things Considered from southern Lebanon, Syria, Jerusalem and Gaza. Word just in that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will travel to the Middle East this weekend. On Monday, she begins a round of visits in which the U.S. will press for a reduction in the fighting. Michele Keleman will examine the prospects for success...
July 21, 2006 On Morning Edition today Jim Zarroli has a corporate fraud story that's worth hearing. Three former executives of Brocade Communications were charged in a scheme in which they allegedly handed out company stock options that had been backdated to when the share prices were low. That guaranteed recipients the biggest possible payday. These are the first charges in a burgeoning backdating scandal that involves dozens of U.S. corporations and top executives. Prosecutors allege the backdating practiced at Brocade was especially crooked. They claim the backdating was hidden from shareholders and auditors and that board minutes at meetings were altered to maintain the deception. Whether backdating without this sort of alleged cover-up is illegal or merely sleazy is something that will be sorted out in court. SEC chairman Christopher Cox calls the practice "poisonous to efficient marketplaces..."
July 20, 2006 After federal prosecutors let it be known that a grand jury would not be indicting Barry Bonds today, the slugger's lawyer, Michael Rains, held a news conference, at which he announced it was a good day for his client. "They don't even have enough to indict a ham sandwich, much less Barry Bonds." An odd reference at first glance, but ham sandwiches and grand juries actually go way back together. In 1985, Sal Wachtler, former chief judge of New York's court of appeals, told the Daily News that prosecutors have so much sway over grand juries they could get them to "indict a ham sandwich." The saying has been a staple for legal pundits ever since. But just because Bonds didn't get the ham sandwich treatment today, doesn't mean he's out of his beef yet. A new grand jury will continue to investigate whether Bonds lied under oath when he said he never knowingly took steroids.
July 20, 2006 Several months ago I began hearing a new gerund around the hallways and meeting rooms of NPR: "efforting." As in: "We're efforting to get an interview with the president of Kazakhstan." I get the gist, but I'm still not sure whether it entails more or less effort than simply trying. In any event, I am "efforting" to find out where this term comes from. I found similar complaints here and here. Any word detectives out there with the back-story?
July 20, 2006 American cyclist Floyd Landis has won the 17th stage of the Tour de France. He broke away from an 11-man pack and propelled himself back into contention for the overall title. Just yesterday, Landis dropped out of the lead, falling more than 8 minutes behind Spain's Oscar Pereiro. That poor showing had cycling experts writing off Landis as a possible Tour champion. Landis will speak about today's remarkable comeback ride with NPR's Melissa Block later today.
July 20, 2006 Just in: Barry Bonds won't be indicted today. The term of the grand jury investigating him on possible perjury and tax evasion charges was scheduled to end today. So is Bonds in the clear? Stay tuned for details.
July 20, 2006 From Reuters, the latest word on the depths of sports fan mania. In this case, about six feet deep. The German soccer team, Hamburg SV, plans to open a cemetery for its most dedicated supporters. It'll be just a crossing pass away from the stadium's main entrance. "For a large number of people it's important to be close to the club after their lives are over," says the team's deputy chairman, Cristian Reichert. "The cemetery will have the look of a small, open stadium." Think this sort of thing is limited to soccer-obsessed Germans who have spent too much time smacking balls around with their heads? Just last month, Major League Baseball signed a licensing agreement with a firm called Eternal Image. It gives the company the right to "reproduce the names and logos of all 30 major league teams on a new line of caskets and urns." Chicago Cubs coffins, for the eternally hopeful, and the others, should be ready for delivery by 2007. And then there's Collegiate Memorials in Forsyth, Georgia, where they sell college-themed caskets for more than 40 schools around the country.
July 20, 2006 From time to time, a cell phone chirps in the middle of the morning meeting. An interruption to be sure, but sometimes it's a reporter calling from the field with some important new development in a story. My colleague Felix Contreras told me about a well-sourced reporter he worked with at a TV station in Miami. When his phone rang during the news meeting, Felix says, it was time to start re-writing the lead of your story. Well, today my phone rang during the meeting. It was my 11-year-old son. He wanted some tips on how to make scrambled eggs.
July 20, 2006 Reporters are on the move in the Middle East. Ivan Watson has traveled to a Hezbollah stronghold in Beirut's suburbs where he will talk to residents about the impact of Israel's air strikes. From Jerusalem, Eric Westervelt finds that Israelis are united behind their government's military campaign against Hezbollah. Even the left-wing Peace Now group believes the army should do what it takes to prevent Hezbollah from firing missiles into Israel's civilian population. In other major news, President Bush tries to mend fences with the NAACP. He'll speak to the civil rights group's annual convention — the first time he's done so during his presidency...
July 20, 2006 Finally someone on NPR to speak up for shiftless layabouts. Kevin Smith, director of the low-budget classic Clerks talks to Morning Edition's Steve Inskeep about the upcoming release of — you guessed it — Clerks II. Dante and Randal have moved on from the Quickstop to a fast food joint but their MO remains the same: minimum work for minimum wage. Smith is funny, but unexpectedly touching when talking about the unambitious but utterly human individuals who inspire his movies. "Someone's got to sell me the milk, dude," he tells Inskeep. "Not everyone shoots for the moon... some people are happy to scrape by."
July 19, 2006 Two well-known and controversial political figures struggled in Georgia elections yesterday. Lobbyist and former Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed lost in the Republican primary for lieutenant governor. Six-term Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney failed to capture 50 percent of the vote in her bid for renomination. She'll have to face the second place finisher, a former county commissioner, in an August runoff. Mixed Signals is turning to NPR Political Editor Ken Rudin to sort out the results...
July 19, 2006 The Tour de France is a pitiless race. Just yesterday, American Floyd Landis was the overall leader and considered a strong favorite to capture the title. In some quarters, he was being anointed as the successor to Lance Armstrong. Today, after struggling in a grueling 113-mile mountain stage in the Alps, Landis is in 11th place, more than eight minutes behind the leader, Oscar Pereiro of Spain. The tour is a three-week marathon, filled with shifts in momentum. But for the leader to lose more than eight minutes this late in the race is disastrous. Landis could be in real trouble.
July 19, 2006 For the last several weeks, U.S. stock markets have looked at the trouble in the world and shuddered: missile tests from North Korea, the nuclear standoff with Iran, bombs and missiles raining down on Lebanon and Israel. Before today, the S&P 500 was down 2.6 percent this month on all that bad news. Today, investors narrowed their focus to one man: Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. And when he spoke — in prepared remarks before the Senate Banking Committee — the mood in the markets brightened suddenly. In unusually direct language for a Fed chairman, Bernanke said he expects inflation to moderate as the economy cools down. If inflation backs off, the Fed would likely quit raising interest rates. That would please investors immensely. So for today, at least, nukes and missiles were out on Wall Street. Numbers were back in...
July 19, 2006 Does the phone ring once in your household and mysteriously stop? Does it happen over and over? If so, maybe you or someone close to you is getting the One Ring treatment. Rick Reilly explains in his Sports Illustrated column this week. Let's say you're a guy who happens to be a sports fan and your team messes up: the kicker blows a field goal, the slugger whiffs with the bases loaded or the midfielder head-butts an opponent in overtime. Your buddies know just what you're going through. Your pain is their joyful opportunity. They'll ring once and hang up. With just about everyone carrying a cell phone, it's apparently happening a lot more recently. One of the leading practitioners of the One Ring calls it "21st-century trash talking." Reilly says it's a perfect way for guys to say: "'I miss you,' and 'I love you' and most important, 'Your team sucks.' "