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SAVE THE DATE!

October 4, 2010 Leave a comment

Cocktail Fodder is back. But a little different. Photo by Hector Garcia.

Cocktail Fodder is back! Save the date! One week from today, on October 11th, your favorite conversation-starting, fun-fact generating, snarktastic blog will be back, producing new content.

Yes, the Fodder has been on hiatus for a little longer than expected. Yes, we’re officially down a founding member. Yes, we’ll have to slim down content for the time being before we find a bright young mind to join the cause. Yes, Captain Adam is still churning out the good ole alcohol related humor. No, we will not waver from our goal or stop rocking your world with brain-stimulating, morally challenging opinions and espresso machine fodder tidbits. No, you won’t get those 30 minutes back each day you spend on Cocktail Fodder. Sorry.

So mark you calendar. Put it in your Blackberry. Throw it in your iCal on your iPad or iPhone. Do what you need to do. Just remember, we’re back and better than ever. Get ready.

The Week in Fodder

July 26, 2010 Leave a comment

Admittedly, we are a few days late with last week’s Week in Fodder but we wanted to post it anyway. It was a big week here at the Fodder…. new guest bloggers, new web domain and new levels of traffic. Glad you’re all tuning in and I hope this Week in Fodder continues that trend. Ciudad Juárez, Trafigura, BP, Alberto Gonzales, teacher purges, 200 year old champagne, whales jumping on boats and so much more! Please enjoy.

World Views:

Legal Independence. For now.

Legal Independence: On Thursday, the International Court of Justice ruled that Kosovo’s declaration of independence in 2008 was a legal, unilateral decision under international law. The UN’s ranking court based its ruling on the fact that international law did not prohibit, or make illegal, declarations of independence. This is a monumental decision for independence movements – Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Ingushetia – across the world; legal experts see this as a precedent for future declarations. The US was quick to support the decision and Serbia, as expected, rejected the ICJ’s ruling. This decision will undoubtedly lead to numerous more countries recognizing Kosovo as an independent state. Keep an eye on this story and its implications on Kosovar-Serbian relations and international law.

Bombs in Juárez: Last weekend, the raging drug war in Mexico took a turn for the worse. The infamous Ciudad Juárez was hit with a car bomb; the first in the conflict between major drug cartels and the Mexican government. This is just the most recent, and possibly most disturbing, escalation in a de-facto war that has claimed over 20,000 lives since 2006. A car bomb is not a tactic to be taken likely. It’s an attack used by al-Qaeda, Hezbollah and Taliban… not a drug cartel. We can only watch and hope that this first car bomb does not signal the beginning of a full-out guerilla war.

Trafigura: The oil firm Trafigura was fined the maximum penalty allowed by law, $1.28 million, for dumping toxic sludge in Côte d’Ivoire’s capital Abidjan in 2006. Originally, the Trafigura ship tried to offload the waste in Amsterdam but it was deemed too noxious to stay. So instead, the ship traveled to West Africa and dumped the waste in landfills around a city of 3.8 million people (2006 number). This is a case of pure, unadulterated corporate greed. I cannot say that I agree with the $1.28 million fine. I think a more fitting punishment would be the dismantling of the company, the selling of the scrap pieces and the profits given to the clean up of Abidjan. Despicable, Trafigura.

Speaking of Oil Firms…: Friday, in Louisiana, the former chief technician of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig testified that the onboard alarm system utilized to alert crews to the build-up of combustible gases was intentionally disconnected. The chief stated that the rig worked without the safety system functional for over a year because the leadership did not want crew “bothered” by false alarms. If this turns out to be a fraudulent rationale, and that is HIGHLY likely, BP is in even more trouble that it already is. Which leads me to another dismal public relations topic for BP: its role in the release of Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, the Lockerbie Bomber. There have been questions, since his release last August, about whether BP lobbied the Scottish government to make the move in order to garner favor from the Libyan government for potential oil rights. It was even on the agenda between UK Prime Minister David Cameron and President Obama. We will see what a call for an inquiry by the Senate does to the investigation.

Honda’s Electricity: Earlier this week, Honda announced that it will start selling an electric car in 2012. Following Nissan into the burgeoning market, this is the first time that the major firm has set an exact deadline in which it will follow in the production of electric cars. I say cheers, to you, Honda. We’ve all seen/heard of Who Killed the Electric Car, the movie in which we heard the arguments about how the electric car was kiboshed by the major car companies. It finally seems that we’re turning the corner, led by Honda and Nissan, and investing in electric cars as a viable alternative to petrol powered vehicles.

American Matters:

Rep. Rangel cannot be smiling right now.

More Trouble for Rep. Rangel: It has been over three months since Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) stepped down as chair of the House Ways and Means Committee over allegations of ethics violations and other improprieties. On July 22, the House ethics subcommittee announced that it had found Rep. Rangel guilty of breaking ethics rules. So with the midterm election season heating up, the public House trial of Rep. Rangel will be a continued nightmare for the Democratic Party. Already fretting over their perception to the American public, the admonishing of a senior Party member for taking corporate sponsored vacations to the Caribbean could not come at a worse time for campaign officials across the country. That being said, Rep. Rangel deserves whatever is coming to him. The Democratic giant stepped way over the ethical line on more than one occasion.

Deficit Woes: The Federal government released its latest deficit predictions for 2011 on Friday. The Obama Administration believes the the national deficit will hit $1.47 trillion; slightly north of the deficit record of $1.4 trillion in 2010. While this looks like a drastic – catastrophic to some – number, it is actually $84 billion lower than Peter Orszag’s estimate in February. Crazy, I know. Those are titanic sums for anyone other than that US government.

Teacher Purge: On Friday, using results from its newly established teacher assessment system IMPACT, Washington, DC fired 241 teachers in one of the biggest school system purges in recent memory. DC schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee was quoted as saying, “Every child in a District of Columbia public school has a right to a highly effective teacher — in every classroom of every school, of every neighborhood or every ward, in this city….” According to Ms. Rhee and the IMPACT test, many teachers in the capital’s school system were not being effective. The Washington Teachers Union immediately responded to the firings by calling the IMPACT system a flawed form of assessment. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle, but you have to applaud the gall of Ms. Rhee in making the decision to lower the axe and undoubtedly infuriate a very strong union for what she sees as the good of children’s education.

End of the Climate Bill: The Democratic Senate leader Harry Reid admitted this past weekend that the Senate would not be able to pass a climate bill in its current session. In 2009, the House of Representatives passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (H.R.2454) and put it on the Senate calendar for consideration. Capping emissions and establishing a carbon exchange system, the bill is (and would be) a major step forward in US climate regulation. It unfortunately looks like we will have to wait, until at least the next Senate session, for any passage of a climate law.

A Chapter Closed: I am sure most of you remember the firing of 8 federal prosecutors by the Bush Administration’s Attorney General Alberto Gonzales in 2007. Last Wednesday, after three years, the Department of Justice closed the book on their investigation into the alleged improper actions by the former Attorney General and his staff. Citing insufficient evidence to charge anyone, including former Senator Pete Domenici, the DOJ decided not to proceed with charges. It’s an official end to one of the Bush Administration’s last lingering political controversies.

Off the Beaten Path:

Cristal does not even hold a candle to 200 year old champagne.

Damn Good Bubbly: Let’s be honest, we’ve all rung in a New Year’s Eve or two with a gran reserva André (so classy it doesn’t even have its own website) at some point or another and thought “wouldn’t it be nice if we were drinking a bottle of Cristal instead?” Well, last week, divers working in a shipwreck at the bottom of the Baltic Sea found the ultimate prize of the aged champagne lottery: 30 bottles of champagne that pre-date the French Revolution. That’s right, it’s over 200 years old. Traveling to St. Petersburg, Russia, the cargo ship carrying the bubbly-vino sank and the depth, darkness and pressure seem to have kept the celebratory beverage in good condition; not only drinkable but sweet to the taste. So later this year, when you’re ready to make New Year’s plans, look for a nifty 200 year old champagne. Just be ready to shell out $68,000 for a bottle. No big deal.

A Donkey and a Parasail: Well… the title of this little synopsis is self-explanatory. A group of entrepreneurial beach owners on the Sea of Azov hooked a donkey into a parasail and sent it up, up and away. The businessmen are now potentially facing animal cruelty charges over the incident. The donkey could be heard squealing in terror in the surrounding towns making children cry and prompting public outrage. Clearly this was a terrible thing to do to the poor animal… seems to have worked in getting people’s attention though. Got mine at least at the very least.

Slender Loris: The Horton Plains Slender Loris was caught on camera for the first time last week in the jungles of Sri Lanka. Discovered over 80 years ago, the Slender Loris is so rare that it was thought to be extinct. It is always great, especially in a world of declining ecosystems, to find out that a species is still alive and kicking. I suggest you watch the video below to familiarize yourself with the awesomeness of the Loris…

A Whale of a Boat Ride: Last week, as a couple whale watched in a sailboat off the shores of South Africa their voyage took a turn toward the dramatic. Breaching the surface, a 40 ton whale landed on Ralph Mothes and Paloma Werner’s yacht. There isn’t really words to describe what happened. Luckily no one was hurt. The incident was captured from a boat nearby. Shout-out to EB for showing me this story. Really, the video is too much for words…

Watch here.

Biking 10,000 Miles Plus: Tony Lucente, an IT guy at UPenn, embarked on an amazing journey from Philadelphia to the Artic Circle in Alaska! 10,370 miles in total, with an average distance of 400 miles a day, Tony recently completed the trip. He did it all to raise money and awareness about domestic violence and Native American women. Check out the featured video from NBC Philadelphia.

Photoshop Blunders: We all know that Photoshop, and all of its magic, contribute quite a bit to today’s world but it is always fun when corporations and countries get caught in wonderfully stupid Photoshop edits. The Telegraph ran a piece last week about recent and well-known Photoshop gaffes. From Iran to Microsoft… these blunders never get old.

Idiom of the Week: Shank’s Pony

The saying refers to when you find yourself without the option of taking the train, bus, plane or car and have to settle with walking to your destination.

Example #1: “I was hoping my rents would pick me up after the party. However, to my dismay, I had to take the Shank’s pony all the way home.”

Example #2: “That hitchhiker is probably looking at a ride on Shank’s pony if he wants to get anywhere.”

Video of the Week:

How to open a wine bottle using gravity, a shoe and a wall!

Song of the Week:

This week’s song comes to us from the Brooklyn-based singer Holly Miranda. I love the guitar and bell combination in this song. It’s the type of song that gets you going; definitely one for the car or before you go out. Hope you enjoy!

The Week in Fodder

July 9, 2010 2 comments

A comical new Cold War.

Here we are, back again, for our third installment of the Week in Fodder. (Well, technically only the second considering last week’s was never published.) We have a full slate of Fodderific nuggets for you today: the spy swap, more shenanigans from Silvio Berlusconi, same-sex marriage’s proponent in Massachusetts, LeBron’s ego and a man who swam 750 miles down the Yangtze to visit the World Expo. Enjoy!

World Views:

Spy Swap: Unless you live under a rock or in the Laurentian Abyss (thank you, Hunt for Red October), you have undoubtedly heard about the Russian spies caught last week and their unfolding ordeal with the Justice Department. Last night, the U.S. and Russian governments performed the spy swap that had been the subject of rumblings and grumblings for the past week. Landing in Vienna, the 10 Russians switched positions with the 4 Americans on the inbound plane from Moscow and headed back to the Russian Federation. That was that. I’m sure something more will come out of this whole absurd and bizarre spectacle. Until then, however, it seems that 14 people engaged in a service for their countries and are on their way home to debrief and continue their lives. Comical?

Oh Silvio!: Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is up to it again. Citing personal privacy protection, Mr. Berlusconi and his Government are pushing a law that would severely restrict law enforcement use of wiretaps. In America, some would see this as a welcome change from privacy encroachments established by the Patriot Act. In Italy, wiretaps are seen in a very different light: they catch corrupt corporate and federal authorities. As recently as last month, wiretap utilization helped discover the extent of a public works contract scandal that ended up involving the Vatican. Considering Mr. Berlusconi  and some of his Cabinet are under scrutiny in ongoing corruption investigations, it seems fishy, at the VERY least , that he would be pushing these new restrictions with such force. But then again, we should not be surprised, it’s just Silvio up to his old tricks.

Sakineh Mohammadie Ashtiani: As of early Thursday Sakineh Mohammadie Ashtiani, an Iranian and mother of two, was awaiting her “death by stoning” sentence to be carried out by the Iranian government. Reports late yesterday are saying that the sentence will be stayed and that Ms. Ashtiani will not die in such a barbaric manner. The fact that stoning is still a legal and practiced form of capital punishment is truly reprehensible, but this stay, if real, is a victory for human rights campaigners and activists; as it was brought about by a sustained internet campaign started by her lawyer. Just as importantly, Mr. Ahmadinejad’s government is not one to kowtow to international pressure. Let’s all hope for the brave Ms. Ashtiani.

Torpedos and the UN: Today, the UN Security Council released a statement on the North Korean sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan. Expressing “deep concern,” the statement lacked any real teeth; avoiding the words torpedo or intent. North Korea even called it a “great diplomatic victory.” Once again, the glaring inability of the Security Council to affect any real pressure on problematic regimes is troubling. I guess we can look at the silver lining here: the statement at least called the sinking an attack.

Raul’s Cuba: Raul Castro assumed power in Cuba in 2006 after Fidel’s health deteriorated to a point where he could no longer run his Communist paradise. Hailed as a possible reformer, the Cuban diaspora saw his ascension to power as a path to loosened personal freedoms, travel restrictions and overall political oppression. However, in his first year or so in office, the world was disappointed with the lack of progress on any of these fronts. It seems though, Cuba might be turning a corner. Yesterday, the Cuban government agreed to release 52 political prisoners; bringing the total number of political prisoners in Cuba to the lowest level since 1959. For sure, a step in the right direction.

American Matters:

Downtown Oakland - familiar with riots.

Mayhem in Oakland: Yesterday, a California jury returned a verdict of involuntary manslaughter in the murder trial of former BART police officer Johannes Mehserle. Mr. Mehserle shot Mr. Oscar Grant, unarmed and facedown on a train platform, once in the back, killing him on January 1st, 2009. Mr. Mehserle maintains that he was reaching for his taser and inadvertently pulled out his gun. Finding enough merit in this argument, the jury did not convict on the greater charge of murder in the second degree. Residents of Oakland did not agree with that verdict. Taking to the streets, in a scene reminiscent of riots past, the people of Oakland made their opinion known. I am obviously not condoning rioting, but I understand it. It seems unfathomable – in a city that KNOWS, so intimately, of racial tension and violence – that this kind of bias can still exist. Keep an eye on this story.

Same-Sex Marriage: On Thursday, Judge Joseph L. Tauro, a federal district judge in Massachusetts, ruled the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional. Judge Tauro cited the right to access all privileges granted to heterosexual couples and an infringement on state’s right as the backbone of the Act’s unconstitutionality. While it is too early to tell how this ruling will stand up against the plethora of appeals soon to follow, it will add legal kerosene to the fiery debate. Either way, it’s a win for same-sex advocates everywhere! Love those hippies in MA.

Richardson Joins the Fray: In response to the Arizona immigration law, and the fallout between Mexico and the US that has followed, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson has offered to mediate the negotiations to keep the Border Governors Conference from folding under the controversy. Mr. Richardson, the former ambassador to the UN, is adept diplomat and should bring a level head to the discussions. Cross your fingers he can keep the conference above water.

Summer Fatigue: A week long heat wave has been plastering the Northeast since last Monday. Stressing power grids, engendering uncomfortable walks for all city dweller and heating bulldogs to the point of utter exhaustion, the heat has brought summer in with a sucker punch. New York City hit 100 degrees twice this week while Philly hit 102, Baltimore 103 and DC 102. So until the heat advisories and water bans are lifted, Northeastern residents will be struggling to do anything more than sit at their computer and read the Fodder all day.

James’ Joke: “King” James left one city in despair and inflated another with his announcement on primetime national television to “take his talents” to the Miami Heat and play with superstars Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. The “Decision” was quintessential, popcorn-eating, American sensationalism. That it was held at the Greenwich, CT Boys and Girls Club is patently hilarious—I had no idea there was even a Boys and Girls Club in Greenwich. At any rate, this watershed moment in American sports only serves to reinforce the unattractive reality that loyalty is cheap and sports are a business first and foremost. Cowardly decision? I think so. As a wise Mainer says: “I calls it like I sees it.”

The Yangtze - Don't you want to go for a swim?

Off the Beaten Path:

Yangtze Madness: How badly do you want to attend the Shanghai World Expo? Desperately? You’ll do anything? Well Bao Zhengbing did anything. Mr. Bao swam 750 miles down the Yangtze from central China to Shanghai. Now, 750 miles is a scarily daunting swim under any conditions but just look at that picture to your left. See that? The Yangtze is so polluted it actually turned red. We’ve all been swimming; in a pool, river, ocean, pond. If you swim for more than half an hour, you’re bound to get water in your mouth at some point. It’s an inevitability. Now, extrapolate that out over the time you would need to swim 750 miles. Nope, I don’t think the World Expo is worth it. On the other hand, good for Mr. Bao, that definitely takes some intestinal fortitude.

Cyrano de Bergerac: Just when you thought there were limits to what the internet could replace in human interaction, the burgeoning world of cyber dating has added a wrinkle: one can hire the services of an individual— known as a ghost writer– to essentially write their personal profile in an effort to increase the number of views to their dating page. Wow. There’s steep demand for this ghost writer outsourcing service and as is seen in this testimonial in the BBC article, some people are actually satisfied with the service. More importantly, how does something like this make us feel about the internet? What can you actually believe on the web? Or is this just like applying to a job or having a college counselor look over your resume to make you a more attractive candidate? I don’t know, but maybe all those people on eHarmony.com aren’t the good Christians they claim to be.

Airhead: This story is probably too colloquial and local, but it’s just too good to pass up. A 20 year old man walked in to a Boston-area Mercedes dealership and asked to take a car for a test drive. He then proceeded to try to steal the car with a FAKE grenade. I’m not even sure where to start. Why a fake grenade and not a water-gun assault rifle like the immortal Brendan Fraser? And who is he kidding, how was a real grenade supposed to be confined to hurting the Mercedes employee? Idiocy. Utterly ridiculous.

Winnebago Man: The Winnebago Man. We’ve all seen the YouTube video. (If you haven’t, it’s imbedded below!) Over twenty million views later, a documentary is coming to a theater near you about the man behind the outtakes and profanity. Jack Rebney, the Man himself, now lives a semi-hermetical life in California shirking the technology that has made him an international icon. A truly bizarre story on all fronts… but yeah, I’ll probably pay to see that movie.

Leviathan: Stolen from last week’s missing Fodder, you have to read all the links in this little synopsis. The Peruvian desert has given the world a brand new monstrous creature to inspire fascination: Leviathan. Formally named Leviathan melvillei (yes, in honor of Herman Melville), this beast dined on other whales for snacks and brought 14 inch long (!!!!!) teeth to the predatory table. To put that into perspective, the Great White’s teeth grow up to 3 inches long. I think the real question here is: who would win in a prehistoric ocean fight, Leviathan or Megalodon?

I bet most of our readers think they're the cat's whiskers.

Idiom of the Week:

Tasked with finding the idiom of the week, AWC came back with one that fit for any cat lover: the cat’s whiskers!

This expression comes in handy to describe someone who believes they are better than others in a particular area –beauty, competence, sports, skills, etc.

Example #1: “Ever since she got that promotion, she thinks she’s the cat’s whiskers!”

Example #2: “LeBron James thinks he’s the cat’s whiskers but he hasn’t even won a single championship!

Leave some of your own examples!

Song of the Week: Weekend Girl by the SOS Band

This week’s Song of the Week is going to go back into time to the 1980s when music was delightfully cheesy and slow jams with synthesizers were in full effect. (So, in fact, it’s not really transporting you anywhere because if you turn on your local hip-hop station, you’re sure to find about the same today!) Anyway, “Weekend Girl” by the SOS Band is a classic single from 1985. I would recommend just putting this in the background and fixing yourself one of Captain Adam’s cocktails.

That’s your Week in Fodder ladies and gentleman. Hope you found a conversation starter for the bar, the beach or the cookout this weekend. Until Monday, keep living the good life!

Ladies and Gentleman: Cocktail Fodder!

July 8, 2010 Leave a comment

AWC’s wine jefe, the East Village Wine Geek, promoting your daily Fodder.