Athletes Gear Up for Olympic Winter Games

World renowned snowboarder Kelly Clark competing in the Mammoth Grand Prix Half Pipe Finals in Mammoth Lake, CA.

World renowned snowboarder Kelly Clark at the Mammoth Grand Prix Half Pipe Finals in Mammoth Lake, CA.
Photo credit: NatalieJean / Shutterstock

Snowboarding isn’t an easy sport, but that hasn’t stopped a plethora of talented athletes from pushing themselves in the hopes of joining the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team in PyeongChang for the Winter Olympics this year.

The team, whose trustees include big names from the financial world like Stifel Financial Corps co-chairs Thomas Weisel and Ron Kruszewski, is looking forward to this year’s competitions in particular: It’s the 20th anniversary of snowboarding being recognized as an official Olympic sport.

Some of the most talented athletes in the country are vying for their chance to display their skills in PyeongChang—no matter what their age. Veteran snowboarder Kelly Clark, who has now qualified for her fifth Olympic Games, has won three medals for the U.S. since 1998—one gold and two bronze. At age 34, Clark is “old” compared to her teammates (many of whom are under 20). Yet she was the first US snowboarder male or female to compete in four Olympics—and now she’ll become the first to compete in five.

“I’m not out here to prove anything to anyone else, but simply to reach my goals and hit my potential as an athlete,” Clark said.

On the men’s side, well-known snowboarder Shaun White is back from a training injury and looking to win gold in South Korea. White earned his stripes in the 2006 Turin Games, where he won the first of his two gold medals and essentially became the face of the sport around the world. Subsequently, however, his performances have been comparatively subpar, and the injury took him out of the game entirely for a while.

Now, however, White is looking forward with optimism to the Olympics. He scored a perfect 100 at the U.S. Grand Prix in Colorado this month, which he sees as a positive sign with respect to his chances at the Olympics after a lot of dedication and practice.

“Getting that 100 was just awesome,” White said. “I felt like I was on the right track, and all this hard work I put in over the holidays was paying off.”

Together with their potential teammates, Clark and White are likely to give the U.S. Team a serious chance of medalling at the Winter Olympics this year.

Posted in sports | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

New Street Drug is 10,000 Times More Potent Than Morphine 

A photo of gray powder on a white surface. The powder outlines the shape of a coffin.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

A new street drug dubbed “gray death” is so powerful that it can kill users in a single dose. Several overdose cases have already been reported in Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, and Ohio. Now, investigators warn that the drug is so potent that it can even be transmitted through skin contact.

“Gray death is one of the scariest combinations that I have ever seen in nearly 20 years of forensic chemistry drug analysis,” said Deneen Kilcrease, who manages the chemistry section at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

The street drug is made from a killer concoction of opioids that includes heroin, the painkiller fentanyl, and the tranquilizer carfentanil (which is used to put tigers and elephants to sleep).

According to the United States Drug Enforcement Agency, gray death is 100 times stronger than fentanyl. Fentanyl on its own is already 50 times more powerful than heroin. Put another way, gray death is like taking 10,000 doses of morphine.

“The Mexican cartels, they don’t tell their supplies what’s in the drugs,” said Nick Ernstes, a deputy at Hancock County Sheriff’s Department in Indiana. “It’s not going to a chemistry lab for them to test it.”

But don’t take it from Ernstes; take it from Richie Webber, who overdosed on fentanyl-laced heroin in 2014.

“You don’t know what you’re getting with these things,” Webber told The Associated Press. “Every time you shoot up, you’re literally playing Russian roulette with your life.”

Another reason gray death is so dangerous? It’s price. Doses can be acquired for as little as $10, making it easily accessible to anyone seeking a cheap thrill.

Thus far, the drug is mostly confined to the southeastern United States. However, all new street drugs carry the potential of becoming worldwide epidemics, which is why authorities are warning about its lethality.

Posted in News | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Head of Kenya’s Election Commission Cannot Guarantee ‘Fair and Credible’ Election

A photo of Uhuru Kenyatta, whose presidential win in August 2017 was nullified by Kenya's Supreme Court.

A photo of Uhuru Kenyatta, whose presidential win in August 2017 was nullified by Kenya’s Supreme Court.
Photo courtesy of Uhuru Kenyatta via Flickr Creative Commons.

Wafula Chebukati, chairman of Kenya’s Independent Electoral Boundaries Commission (IEBC), has warned voters than he cannot promise the legitimacy of next week’s presidential election. Chebukati told reporters that threats of violence combined with interference from politicians have led to corruption within the IEBC.

“Ironically, the very people, political leaders, who are supposed to build the nation have become the greatest threat to the peace and stability of the nation,” Chebukati stated. “Under such conditions, it is difficult to guarantee a free fair and credible election. We cannot move forward with a divided commission.”

The upcoming vote, which will take place on Oct. 26, is a redo of the election that took place a couple months ago. In August, the Kenyan Supreme Court nullified presidential candidate Uhuru Kenyatta’s win after opposition candidate Raila Odinga challenged the vote. Odinga claimed that the electronic voting system had been hacked in favor of Kenyatta. The Supreme Court ordered a new election to be held within 60 days.

Odinga has since dropped out of the election, alleging that the IEBC failed to improve its security. He has also encouraged the public to hold daily protests against the election committee.

“Demonstrations will continue,” Odinga asserted. “October 26 will be the biggest demonstration of them all.”

But there’s another side to the story; police said that election staff attending training sessions in Odinga-supported areas were attacked this past week.

“There is growing frustration among Western diplomats that a man who stood for democracy … is essentially in charge of a movement trying to sabotage an election,” a senior Western diplomat told Reuters. “There is thuggery going on … People who incite violence will be held accountable.”

Another IEBC board member, Roselyn Akombe, echoed concerns that the electoral commission had fallen victim to corruption. On Tuesday, Akombe issued a statement in which she asserted, “the commission has become a party to the current crisis” and is “under siege.”

Posted in Global News, Politics | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Film Producer Working on Syrian Prison Torture Movie Survives ‘Assassination Attempt’

An old cement prison cell. There is a metal bed frame in the center of it.

Photo courtesy of Bill Dickinson via Flickr Creative Commons.

Syrian moviemaker Muhammad Bayazid is in stable condition after surviving what his friends and family are calling an “assassination attempt.”

Bayazid was working on his latest film, “The Tunnel,” when he was stabbed in the chest. The film is about a Syrian-American man who spent 20 years in Palmyra prison.

Palmyra is a well-known torture/execution site where thousands of Islamists and Assad opponents anguished. The Islamic State destroyed the prison in 2015 after conquering the city.

A friend who was with Bayazid during the attack said that they were attempting to meet with a businessman when the stabbing took place. The businessman reached out to Bayazid online, stating that he also suffered in Palmyra and wanted to help raise funds for the film. But when Bayazid and his friend arrived at the meeting location, they could not find a residential building.

That’s when an unknown male approached the duo while they were still in the car. The man asked to speak to Bayazid. After inquiring about his identity, the man then stabbed Bayazid in the chest. The friend then rushed Bayazid to the infirmary.

“Along the way he lost a lot of blood and fainted a few times, but we arrived at the emergency room in time,” the friend stated. “He has started his recovery, and we have contacted the police and authorities and informed them about all the details of the incident.”

Bayazid’s wife and film-making partner, Samah Safi Bayazid, told the Guardian that she believes it was an assassination attempt.

“When we chose this life we knew what it meant, because we aren’t from places like America where we can express our opinions,” Samah Safi Bayazid explained. “It’s very hard if you’re an Arab to fight against oppression, your life is always in danger. He was stabbed and I nearly had a stroke just because we wanted to do a film on human rights.”

Posted in News | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hollywood Film Producer Harvey Weinstein Accused of Sexual Harassment

A photo of Harvey Weinstein taken at the de Grisogono Party during the 66th International Cannes Film Festival in 2013.

Harvey Weinstein at the de Grisogono Party during the 66th International Cannes Film Festival in 2013. Weinstein is a renowned film producer and co-founder of Miramax.
Photo credit: Denis Makarenko / Shutterstock

Miramax co-founder Harvey Weinstein is in hot water after several former female employees of his accused the entertainment mogul of sexual harassment. One of his accusers is none other than Hollywood actress Ashley Judd, who’s played in several well-known films including, “Kiss the Girls,” “Double Jeopardy,” “High Crimes,” and more recently, “Divergent.”

The allegations were made public in a New York Times article that was published yesterday. Judd said that her first inappropriate encounter with Weinstein happened about twenty years ago, when the film studio executive invited her to his hotel for a business breakfast meeting. When she arrived at the hotel, he sent her up to his room, where he greeted her in a bathrobe. He then asked her to give him a massage or watch him shower.

“How do I get out of the room as fast as possible without alienating Harvey Weinstein?” Judd recalled thinking.

Other women have accused the him of similar misconduct. According to documents obtained by The New York Times, in 2014, Weinstein offered to boost temporary employee Emily Nestor’s career if she accepted his sexual advances. Nestor later told her colleagues that Weinstein had propositioned her. Her colleagues then reported the incident to Weinstein Company executives.

In 2015, yet another female employee said that Weinstein had coerced her into giving him a massage while he was nude. This particular employee recounted her experience to colleague Lauren O’Connor, who recorded the incident in a memo. In her memo, O’Connor described her fellow co-worker as “crying and very distraught.”

“There is a toxic environment for women at this company,” Ms. O’Connor wrote in a letter addressed to several senior-level executives at the Weinstein Company.

The New York Times uncovered sexual harassment allegations spanning the course of nearly three decades. Some of these complaints were resolved in the form of lawsuit settlements.

Lisa Bloom, Weinstein’s lawyer, said that Weinstein “denies many of the accusations as patently false.” However, yesterday, Weinstein made the following statement to The New York Times:

“I appreciate the way I’ve behaved with colleagues in the past has caused a lot of pain, and I sincerely apologize for it. Though I’m trying to do better, I know I have a long way to go.”

Many take that statement as a partial-admission of guilt. However, Weinstein has not yet elaborated on what specific behavior caused his colleagues “a lot of pain.”

Posted in Entertainment | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment