Hall of Fame coach John Wooden 1910-2010

From Reuters. Former UCLA basketball coach John Wooden, one of the most revered figures in U.S. sport, died Friday of natural causes at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. He was 99. His 100th birthday would have been October 14.

Wooden’s children, Nan and Jim Wooden, issued a statement asking that donations be made in his name to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation or another charity of choice.

Widely regarded as one of the best team builders in U.S. sport, Wooden guided UCLA to an unprecedented 10 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) championship titles, including seven in a row from 1967-1973.

Under his charge, Bruins teams registered a record 88-game winning streak from 1971-1974, four perfect 30-0 seasons and strung together 38 consecutive NCAA Tournament games from 1964 to 1974.

Affectionately dubbed the “Wizard of Westwood”, he ended his career with a win-loss record of 667-161 after 29 years of college coaching.

Wooden became the first person to enter the Basketball Hall of Fame as a player (1961) and as a coach (1973).

“He established a goal that is unreachable in college sports, obviously,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said before Thursday’s Game One.

“And held it to such a standard that we all appreciated his teaching and his mentoring of his college students. His coaching has been an inspiration to all of us coaches.”

Memorial Day 2010

Today is a holiday that in my lifetime has been overshadowed by bbq, crabs, and trips to the beach or amusement parks, depending on where you live. Memorial Day, or Decoration Day as it was first called when it was celebrated at the close of the Civil War, was a much more solemn occasion.

According to David W. Blight’s book, “Decoration Day: The Origins of Memorial Day in North and South”, In Charleston, South Carolina in 1865 Freedmen celebrated at the Washington Race Course. The site had been used as a temporary Confederate prison camp for captured Union soldiers in 1865, as well as a mass grave for Union soldiers who died there.

Immediately after the cessation of hostilities, Freedmen exhumed the bodies from the mass grave and reinterred them properly with individual graves. They built a fence around the graveyard with an entry arch and declared it a Union graveyard.

On May 1, 1865, a crowd of up to ten thousand, mainly black residents, including 2800 children, proceeded to the location for events that included sermons, singing, and a picnic on the grounds, thereby creating the nation’s first Decoration Day.

That’s a far cry from what Memorial Day has ‘devolved’ to these days…the ‘unnofficial’ beginning of summer.

I hope you take out a moment or two today, (between cookouts, and parties) to remember servicemen, and women who’ve made the ultimate sacrifice for us to enjoy our freedom.

Go to a National cemetary and pay your respects, or sit down and talk to your uncle, aunt or grandfather about WW II, Korea, or Vietnam…or maybe it’s your brother or sister that has served in our most recent conflicts in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Thank a veteran, or a service member today for their service, and remember freedom has never been free.

‘Diff’rent Strokes’ actor Gary Coleman dies at 42

(CNN) — Former child star Gary Coleman, who rose to fame as the wisecracking youngster Arnold Jackson on the TV sitcom “Diff’rent Strokes” but grew up to grapple with a troubled adulthood, has died. He was 42.
“We are very sad to have to report Mr. Gary Coleman has passed away,” his spokesman, John Alcantar, said in a statement Friday afternoon. “He was removed from life support; soon thereafter, he passed quickly and peacefully. By Gary’s bedside were his wife and other close family members.”
Coleman died of a brain hemorrhage at a Provo, Utah, hospital, according to a hospital spokeswoman. The actor fell ill at his Santaquin, Utah, home Wednesday evening and was rushed by ambulance to a hospital, Coleman’s spokesman had said earlier Friday.

He was then taken to another hospital — Utah Valley Regional Medical Center in Provo — later Wednesday night.

In the late ’70s and early ’80s, Coleman was one of television’s brightest stars, the personality around which NBC’s “Strokes” — the story of two inner-city children who are taken in by a wealthy businessman, his daughter and their housekeeper — was built.

“There was a touch of magic and a different stroke in Gary Coleman. He was the inspiration behind his show’s title,” said producer Norman Lear, whose company oversaw the show.

Coleman’s natural charm and way with a line — the frequently uttered “Whatchoo talkin’ ’bout, Willis?”, directed at his older brother (played by Todd Bridges), became a catchphrase — helped make the show a breakout hit, a mainstay of the NBC schedule from 1978 to 1985 (and on ABC for a year afterward).

But in later years Coleman’s name became a punch line. He was denigrated because of his short stature — he never grew taller than 4 feet 8 inches because of nephritis, a kidney condition. He sued his parents over mismanagement of his finances; though he won a $1.3 million settlement in 1993, he had to file for bankruptcy six years later. He was occasionally in the news for scuffles.

Indeed, the 2003 Broadway musical “Avenue Q” featured a character named Gary Coleman who was identified as the former star of “Diff’rent Strokes,” and was now the superintendent of an apartment building. (Coleman himself had once been a security guard after “Diff’rent Strokes” went off the air.) The character joined the cast in singing a song called “It Sucks to Be Me.”

Coleman was born on February 8, 1968, and raised in Zion, Illinois, near Chicago. He was adopted as an infant by Willie Coleman, a representative for a pharmaceutical company, and Sue Coleman, a nurse. By age 5, Coleman was modeling for retailer Montgomery Ward, a job that was followed by appearances in commercials for McDonald’s and Hallmark, according to a 1979 profile in People magazine. After Lear cast him in an unsuccessful pilot for a new version of “The Little Rascals” — Coleman played Stymie — he got the role of Arnold in “Diff’rent Strokes.”

“Pudgy cheeks, twinking eyes, and flawless timing made him seem like an old pro packed into the body of a small child,” wrote Tim Brooks and Earle Marsh in “The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows, 1946-Present.”

At the time, NBC was mired in last place among the three major broadcast networks and, excluding movies, had just two series in the Nielsen Top 20. “Strokes” was an immediate hit, finishing in the Top 30 its first three years, and made Coleman into a household name.

Veterans marveled at his comic timing. He appeared several times on Johnny Carson’s “The Tonight Show,” performed on several specials and had a hit TV movie with “The Kid From Left Field.” Until NBC started its mid-’80s rise with “The A-Team” and “The Cosby Show,” he was the primary prime-time face of the network.

“Gary is exceptional, and not only by the standards set for children. He’s bright, sweet and affectionate. He seems incapable of a wrong reading, and I’ve never seen that in any actor,” co-star Conrad Bain, who played “Strokes’ ” millionaire industrialist Philip Drummond, told People in 1979. “His talent,” his mother added, “may be God’s way of compensating him for what he’s been through, and the fact that he’ll never have the physical size of other boys.” Coleman reportedly had a kidney transplant at 5, and would have another when he was 16.

Coleman was ready for new challenges when “Diff’rent Strokes” was canceled in 1986.

“I liked “Diff’rent Strokes” up until about the last three or four years. I was bored,” he told CNN’s Larry King in 1999. “I was disinterested, and I was jealous because I was missing my childhood and I was missing normalcy. I knew what normalcy was, and I wasn’t having it.”

But after the show went off the air, the actor — by then 18 — struggled to find a place in show business. He had occasional guest spots on game shows and other sitcoms but rarely regular work. (His youthful co-stars fared no better — Bridges struggled with drug addiction before turning his life around, and Dana Plato, who played Kimberly Drummond, engaged in porn and crime. She died in 1999.)

Coleman also found himself with little money, after making more than $70,000 an episode at “Diff’rent Strokes’ ” peak. Upon turning 18, he looked into his finances and discovered that his fortune — which should have been put in a trust fund and totaled in the millions — was mostly nonexistent. A lawsuit against his “adopted parents,” as he started calling them, was resolved in Coleman’s favor, but he lost the money in attorneys’ fees and bad investments, he told People in 1999. At one point in the ’90s he was a security guard on a movie set.

He wanted to work, he told King.

“I like to work. To answer the thing about the security guard, it’s actually two parts. I like to work, and I’m not going to allow this industry or any industry to prevent me from earning a living,” he said. Still, by the time People interviewed him that same year — after he declared bankruptcy — he was down to $100 cash, a few thousand in merchandise, an $800-a-month apartment and a leased pickup. He had also been sued by an autograph seeker whom he’d struck, claiming he’d felt threatened.

In the past 10 years, the headlines were generally bad news — “Gary Coleman cited for disorderly conduct” (2007), “Gary Coleman in alleged bowling alley scuffle” (2008), “Gary Coleman charged with reckless driving” (2008), “Gary Coleman hospitalized for another seizure” (2010).

Even the bright spots had dark shadows: He married 22-year-old Shannon Price in 2007, but the marriage hit the rocks before they had celebrated their first anniversary. At the time of his death, the couple had filed for divorce.

But he stayed active. He took guest spots, promotional appearances and — in 2003 — ran for governor of California.

Part of his drive, he said, came from his height.

“I suffer a little bit from Napoleonism, if you will,” he told CNN in 2003. “I don’t like being short. I wish I was tall because I’d be accepted in other, more tall circles or adult circles, if you will.” At one time, when Coleman was on top of the world, he’d hoped to be a great actor like his hero, Sidney Poitier, according to People. He never let go of his dream, even after all his troubles, the magazine reported.

“He’s an intelligent, successful black man,” Coleman told People in 1999. Then he laughed, aware he’d always have other challenges. “But he’s taller, so success comes rather more easily to him.”

Pac-Man Celebrates 30th Anniversary

It’s been 30 years since the introduction of the arcade classic Pac-Man — a game that became an icon of the 1980s and succeeded in bringing videogames to new segments of players.

The game, created by a Japanese company called Namco, was originally titled Puck Man when it was released in Japan in May of 1980. The character does look more like a hockey puck than … whatever a pac is … but the name was changed to Pac Man for the U.S. introduction that fall. It became such a phenomenon that Pac-Man is now the most recognizable videogame character and is known by 94% of American consumers, according to the Guinness World Records Gamer’s Edition. (Pac-Man just barely beats out Mario of Super Mario Bros., which has 93% recognition.)

Pac-Man creator, Toru Iwatani

In an interview posted on Namco’s PacMan.com, creator Toru Iwatani describes his brainchild as “the first cute game” — and says there was a reason for that. “Before Pac-Man was released, most games were aggressive, where you did things like shoot aliens,” he says. “At the time when Pac-Man was released, the image of the game arcade was that it was a dark and scary place, and it’s a place for only guys. However, we knew that there would be no future in arcades unless girls and couples would come in as well.”

Eventually, gaming moved to the living room and involved increasingly realistic graphics and complex story lines. But along with games such as Donkey Kong and Space Invaders, Pac-Man was part of the golden age of arcade videogames, and as such it has a special place in nerd hearts everywhere.

Google is celebrating Pac-Man’s birthday by putting a version of the game on its home page. (Click “insert coin” below the search field for a great Friday-afternoon time-waster.) If you want to get your Pac-Man fix at other times, games are available for smart phones — although you’ll have to pay $3.99 for a sale version of the iPhone game and $6.99 in the Android store. Source

The Wes Moore I know, and the one I feel compelled to meet

I spent my Saturday afternoon reading, for a change! Something sadly, I don’t do enough of…but Saturday was special, I read my friend Wes Moore’s new book, The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates.

There is a mystique about writing a book, author is one of those respected titles like scientist, or lawyer…it makes you take notice.

I’ve always been impressed by those who are compelled to put their thoughts to paper, the hours of research, and in the back of the author’s mind must be the thought that you are creating something much more than your words, thoughts, and views, on premium text, matte-finish paper…it’s really something that will stand the test of time.

A piece of history.

Now, I do have my own fair share of literary skills, but enough to fill 200-500 pages? I’m not sure, but I’m glad Wes did! There are just a handful of people who I’ve had the pleasure to meet, that have really impressed me. Wes Moore is one of those people.

I remember a young man with an infectious smile joining us for an interview when I was co-hosting the Big Phat Morning Show here in Baltimore. I couldn’t help but take notice…he had wonderful personality, and lots of excitement and energy, but there was much more. Wes at the time was preparing for his journey to Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar, had already graduated from Johns Hopkins University, and received a commission as an officer in the United States Army. How could you not be impressed!

But with all those accomplishments, and an extremely bright future ahead, I found myself wondering what had I been doing with my life? Ten years later, I still ask myself that question! While reading the book Saturday, I was struck by a statement that Wes heard from his military school commandant, relayed in on page 133.

“When it’s time for you to leave this school, leave your job, or even leave this earth, you make sure you have worked hard to make sure it mattered you were ever here.”

As I assess myself, I feel like I’ve done that to some degree. I think I’ve helped some people, and done some positive things, but the reason I was asking what I had been doing with my life, was because I was looking at someone who WAS accomplishing their goals. I saw a parallel…Wes achieved some of the goals that I set for myself a long time ago, but didn’t accomplish. I was reminded of the achievements I might have made, but also encouraged by the difference I can STILL make.

The book is also about another person named Wes Moore, one whose life is much more tragic than the Wes I know. I won’t give away the storyline, I want you to read the book, and find out about the parallels in these two peoples lives, and realize the consequences of decisions made, whether good or bad, and the endless possibilities that lie ahead if we just reach out and try.

To the Wes Moore I know, congratulations on the book! Add bestselling author to your myriad of accomplishments. Thank you for the inspiration…for the thousands and thousands you’ve already inspired, and many more to come, but also for being an inspiration to me.

Between your worldwind press junkets, and trips to the Oprah show, when you have time, let’s take a trip to Jessup, there’s another guy names Wes I’d like you to introduce me to.

For more information on The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates, check out his website.

Found: genes that let you live to 100

SCIENTISTS have discovered the “Methuselah” genes whose lucky carriers have a much improved chance of living to 100 even if they indulge in an unhealthy lifestyle.

The genes appear to protect people against the effects of smoking and bad diet and can also delay the onset of age-related illnesses such as cancer and heart disease by up to three decades.

No single gene is a guaranteed fountain of youth. Instead, the secret of longevity probably lies in having the right “suite” of genes, according to new studies of centenarians and their families. Such combinations are extremely rare — only one person in 10,000 reaches the age of 100.

The genes found so far each appear to give a little extra protection against the diseases of old age. Centenarians appear to have a high chance of having several such genes embedded in their DNA.

“Long-lived people do not have fewer disease genes or ageing genes,” said Eline Slagboom of Leiden University, who is leading a study into 3,500 Dutch nonagenarians. “Instead they have other genes that stop those disease genes from being switched on. Longevity is strongly genetic and inherited.”

Slagboom and her colleagues recently published studies showing how the physiology of people in long-lived families differs from normal people. Other studies, showing the genetic causes of those differences, are due for publication soon.

“People who live to a great age metabolise fats and glucose differently, their skin ages more slowly and they have lower prevalence of heart disease, diabetes and hypertension,” she said.

“These factors are all under strong genetic control, so we see the same features in the children of very old people.”

The so-called Methuselah genes — named after the biblical patriarch who lived to 969 — are thought to include ADIPOQ, which is found in about 10% of young people but in nearly 30% of people living past 100. The CETP gene and the ApoC3 gene are found in 10% of young people, but in about 20% of centenarians.

The studies show that tiny mutations in the make-up of particular genes can sharply increase a person’s lifespan. Nonetheless, environmental factors such as the decline in infectious diseases are an important factor in the steady rise in the number of centenarians. The human genome contains about 28,000 genes, but they are controlled by a tiny number of so-called regulator genes.

Dr David Gems, a longevity researcher at University College London, believes that treatments to slow ageing will become widespread.

“If we know which genes control longevity then we can find out what proteins they make and then target them with drugs. That makes it possible to slow down ageing. We need to reclassify it as a disease rather than as a benign, natural process,” he said.

“Much of the pain and suffering in the world are caused by ageing. If we can find a way to reduce that, then we are morally obliged to take it.”

An anti-ageing drug which might be taken by millions of people, perhaps from middle age onwards, could be the ultimate blockbuster for the pharmaceutical industry.

Michelle Mitchell of Age UK said: “Ageing is a natural part of life. The key is to ensure that we do not simply extend life but extend the years of healthy life so that people can enjoy, not endure, their later years.”


President Obama on the Ongoing Response to the Deepwater BP Oil Spill

The President speaks about the Administrations commitment to help protect the Gulf Coast and the livelihoods of the people who live and work there from the effects of the Deepwater BP Oil Spill and calls on the companies involved to stop pointing fingers and take responsibility. May 14, 2010. Source

David Cameron becomes prime minister of the United Kingdom

Queen Elizabeth shakes hands with new Prime Minister David Cameron

David Cameron is appointed next prime minister by the Queen just an hour after Gordon Brown announced his resignation. George Osborne has been confirmed as Chancellor, with Nick Clegg becoming deputy prime minister.

Mr Cameron arrived in Downing Street after being appointed prime minister by the Queen at Buckingham Palace.

Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg will be his deputy prime minister in the UK’s first coalition government in 70 years.

Speaking to the awaiting media, Mr Cameron stressed that he intended to govern through the coalition deal.

“Nick Clegg and I are both political leaders who want to put aside party differences and work hard for the common good and for the national interest,” he said.

“I believe that is the best way to get the strong Government that we need, decisive Government that we need today.

“I came into politics because I love this country, I think its best days still lie ahead and I believe deeply in public service, and I think the service our country needs right now is to face up to our really big challenges, to confront our problems, to take difficult decisions, to lead people through those difficult decisions so that together we can reach better times ahead.

“I want to help build a more responsible society here in Britain – one where we don’t just ask what are my entitlements but what are my responsibilities.

“One where we don’t just ask what am I owed but more what can I give and a guide for that society that those who can should and those who can’t we shall always help.

“I want to make sure my government always looks after the elderly, the frail, the poorest in our country. We must take everyone through us on some of the difficult decisions that we have ahead.

“Above it will be a government that is built on some clear values. Values of freedom, values of fairness and values of responsibility.”

Shortly after Mr Cameron’s arrival in Downing Street, it emerged George Osborne would be the chancellor – while William Hague was confirmed as foreign secretary. Liam Fox will be the defence secretary.

No other cabinet roles were announced, however the Liberal Democrats will get five seats.

Gordon Brown’s departure

Gordon Brown and his family leave No. 10 Downing Street.

On a dramatic evening that followed five days of uncertainty followin the general election, Mr Brown accepted that he was unable to form a coalition with the Liberal Democrats.

Speaking outside Number 10 with his wife Sarah standing alongside. Mr Brown said: “I have informed the Queen’s private secretary that it’s my intention to tender my resignation to the Queen.”

Mr Brown said he “loved the job, not for its prestige, its titles and its ceremony, which I do not love at all.

“No, I loved the job for its potential to make this country I love fairer, more tolerant, more green, more democratic, more prosperous, more just – truly a greater Britain.”

He also paid tribute to the armed forces, saying: “Now that the political season is over, let me stress that having shaken their hands and looked into their eyes, our troops represent all that is best in our country and I will never forget all those who have died in honour and whose families today live in grief.”

Mr Brown paid tribute to colleagues and staff, who had been “friends as well as brilliant servants of the country”.
Mr Brown then left Downing Street with his wife and two sons to be driven to Buckingham Palace to formally hand in his resignation.

After announcing resignation in Downing Street, he then spoke to activists at Labour HQ where he confirmed he would be standing down as party leader.

Mr Brown said: “In constituency after constituency despite all odds we proved that again and again on Thursday night by the strength of our common endeavours that we achieved more together than any of us could have done on our own. “So I’m here to thank every member of Labour staff, every volunteer, every member of parliament, every supporter for what you’ve done in the past and for what I know you will do in the future.”

Mr Brown then flew back to his constituency home in Fife with his family. Source

“The Horne” 1917-2010

Lena Horne in Panama Hattie, 1942.

Over the next few days, much will be said about the multi-talented woman we all knew as Lena Horne. Her incredible voice, striking beauty, and her activisim, all left an indellable mark on the world of entertainment, and the world in general.

I know it’s cliche’, but there will never be another like her.

There are many reasons for this, mostly times have changed. Lena Horne broke color barriers…she was the first black performer to sign a long-term contract with a major Hollywood studio.

She made her debut with MGM in the movie Panama Hattie, in 1942, and performed the title song Stormy Weather (1943), which she made at 20th Century Fox, on loan from MGM. She was in several MGM musicals, most notably Cabin in the Sky (also 1943), but was never featured in a leading role because of her ethnicity.

Films featuring Lena Horne had to be re-edited for showing in states where theaters could not show films with black performers. Her appearances were stand-alone sequences that had no bearing on the rest of the film, so editing caused no disruption to the storyline. None the less, she spoke up, and spoke out. The activist was born.

“I was unique in that I was a kind of black that white people could accept,” she once said. “I was their daydream.

I had the worst kind of acceptance because it was never for how great I was or what I contributed. It was because of the way I looked.”

Lena Horne shifted her sights away from Hollywood, to headlining nightclubs and hotels, around the world. She made many apperances on TV, and also turned out incredible music in the studio, earning herself 7 Grammy Awards, and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. But her fight against racisim continued.

“I was always battling the system to try to get to be with my people. Finally, I wouldn’t work for places that kept us out. … It was a damn fight everywhere I was, every place I worked, in New York, in Hollywood, all over the world.”

In the midst of this stellar career, Ms. Horne was a staunch supporter of the Civil Rights movement. She was at an NAACP rally with Medgar Evers in Jackson, Mississippi, the weekend before Evers was assassinated. She also met President John F. Kennedy at the White House two days before he was assassinated. Horne was at the March on Washington and spoke and performed on behalf of the NAACP, SNCC and the National Council of Negro Women.

For me, Lena Horne was an enigma…the beautiful woman that I saw on Sesame Street as a little kid, was the same woman that made me laugh on an episode of Sanford & Son a few years later when Fred called her “The Horne”.

She had that smooth voice, measured words and pleasant southern tone…always in control, but underneath it you felt a fire and an energy that expressed the sting and anger of her life experiences, and the successes the she wanted her people to have without having to fight America’s issues with race.

Fred was right…she is “The Horne”, and I will miss her sounding off for all of us.

“I wouldn’t trade my life for anything,” she said, “because being black made me understand.”

Obama nominates Kagan for Supreme Court

President Barack Obama and his nominee for Supreme Court Justice, Solicitor General Elena Kagan. May 10, 2010.

President Barack Obama nominated Solicitor General Elena Kagan for the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday, choosing a moderate who may not spur a damaging political fight in a congressional election year.

Obama made the announcement in the White House East Room with Kagan, a 50-year-old former Harvard Law School dean, at his side. The job is a lifetime position and requires confirmation by the Senate.

Obama called Kagan a fair-minded choice who is skilled as a “consensus-builder” and called for swift, bipartisan approval.

“Elena is widely regarded as one of the nation’s foremost legal minds,” Obama said. “She is an accomplished legal scholar with a rich understanding of constitutional law.”

Experts said Kagan could be expected to pass fairly smoothly through the Senate confirmation process, which can be fraught with political peril. Kagan has been through one Senate confirmation already — she was confirmed last year for her current position.

If confirmed, Kagan would become the third woman currently on the nine-member court, joining Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She would be the fourth ever to serve on the court.

“I look forward to working with the Senate in the next stage of this process, and I thank you again, Mr. President, for this honor of a lifetime,” Kagan said.

The country’s highest court currently is controlled by a 5-4 conservative majority and Obama’s choice to replace 90-year-old liberal John Paul Stevens, who is retiring, is unlikely to change that dynamic.

The high court decides contentious social issues such as abortion and the death penalty and high-stakes business disputes.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy said he aims to have Kagan confirmed by early August, which would be in time for her to join the court in its autumn session.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell made clear that Kagan will not receive rubber-stamp approval, pledging to review her “brief litigation experience.”

Kagan has never been a judge and has served only one year as solicitor general, which is the lawyer who represents the U.S. government in cases before the Supreme Court.

“Fulfilling our duty to advise and consent on a nomination to this office requires a thorough process, not a rush to judgment,” McConnell said. Source