Nov. 11, 2012: President Barack Obama Wins Re-Election

The presidential election reached its conclusion late Tuesday night, with incumbent Barack Obama earning a second term in the Oval Office over challenger Mitt Romney. The result thrilled Obama’s supporters, who waited well past midnight to hear their candidate proclaim victory under the night sky in Chicago, reviving the inspirational rhetoric that drove voters in 2008. And it was a night of anguish for the Romney camp, with the team searching for an explanation — after all, if Romney had merely received as many votes as John McCain did in 2008, he would have won the election — and with Republicans astonishingly losing ground in the Senate when they hoped to instead overtake the left-wing majority.

In a rare election year where prominent leaders in both parties acknowledged that the incumbent was vulnerable, more of the post-election soul-searching has come from Republicans than Democrats. (Which makes sense — why should Democrats question themselves after winning?) Naturally, many commentators have pointed to Romney himself as the reason for the right-wing failure, noting that the stagnant economy, the Benghazi terrorist attack, and the impending fiscal cliff were among numerous opportunities on which Romney failed to showcase how his leadership would be an improvement. Others have instead pointed to Karl Rove, who handled the Republicans’ $1 billion campaign to unseat Obama, as the scapegoat amid inaccurate polling, a weak ground game, and a misguided push to swipe Pennsylvania from Obama’s electoral map in the eleventh hour. Numerous campaign staffers have turned instead to the new ORCA election-day monitoring system, which was designed to give the team unprecedented mobile tools to track voter turnout. ORCA had not been properly tested and was still loaded with bugs, which ultimately resulted in a series of election-day crashes that left the team blind to what was happening around them.

The Republican party as a whole is now struggling with its identity, particularly after losing decisively among Latino and female voters. Immigration reform is one of many topics that Republicans have been forced to reconsider as speculation mounts about whether the party must change to survive. Others argue that the Tea Party’s influence, which has pushed Republicans further to the right of the political spectrum, cost them the 2012 contest and will continue hurting their chances in the future. And some have even speculated that the outcome had little to do with the people involved, but that Hurricane Sandy shifted the tide toward the incumbent by presenting him with one last opportunity to showcase his presidential style.

Whatever the reason for the result, it’s as clear as ever that no one likes a loser. That’s especially true on Facebook, where Romney continues to lose an average of 847 “friends” an hour in the aftermath of his defeat. (In the three days after his concession speech, more than 50,000 people unliked his page.) That’s not to say that Obama has gotten off scot-free: consider the Cold Stone Creamery employee who was fired after posting a racist slur and her wish for an Obama assassination on Facebook.

The election day voting procedures have also faced substantial scrutiny, as the process was marred by technical glitches and many voters had to wait in line for hours just to cast a ballot — in Florida, for instance, where the polls officially closed at 7:00 p.m., some voters were still waiting until 1:00 a.m., well after networks across the political spectrum had already called the election for Obama. (After days of counting ballots, Florida finally declared Obama its winner yesterday, several days after I formally called it in my projections.) Others have mocked the various pundits who wrongly predicted a Romney victory while congratulating those whose assessments were more accurate. Among those with more accurate projections were prediction markets like Intrade and Betfair, whose projections never shifted to give Romney the advantage at any point during the campaign.

But no projection could have anticipated the results of three much smaller elections. In Walton City, Kentucky, the race between Robert McDonald and Olivia Ballou for a seat on the city council ended in a tie, 669-669, which likely means that the race will be decided by a coin toss. The biggest insult to McDonald, though, is that he could have won — if his wife had voted. McDonald’s wife works as a night care assistant at a local hospital and sleeps during the day. As the candidate told reporters, “She woke up about 10 minutes before the polls closed and asked if she should run up, but I told her I didn’t think one vote would matter.” Oops.

And in Bibb County, Alabama. Charles Beasley, a Republican, was working to unseat Democratic incumbent Walter Sansing as the County Commissioner when he died on October 12 due to a suspected aneurism. Despite the 77-year-old’s death, however, his name remained on the ballot, and he won 52% of the vote on election day. Given that the election’s winner is clearly unable to serve, Alabama’s governor will have to appoint someone as the new Bibb County Commissioner. Much the same happened in Orlando, Florida, where Democrat Earl K. Wood won a 12th consecutive term as Orange County tax collector after dying at the age of 96.

In any case, with the election now in the past, we can now direct more of our focus to other affairs, like Hurricane Sandy. Power restoration in the northeast is inching closer to completion, yet the region is hardly out of trouble, as gas shortages in New York have forced fuel rationing reminiscent of that in response to the Arab embargo in the 1970s. Even some donations have only made matters worse, as relief agencies have been requesting cash or very specific items, but are being inundated with unwanted donations that have only slowed their efforts.

The gas shortage continues.

Still, there’s at least one bright side to the calamity: participants in last year’s infamous Occupy Wall Street movement have found a new calling as aid workers, exploiting the social media foundations that they originally developed for their protests to benefit the current relief effort. With the Sandy relief effort turning to #Sandy, former protesters are using social media sites like Twitter to coordinate their efforts, systematically moving across the region to deliver meals, blankets, and other aid to survivors of the tragic cyclone.

Let’s turn our attention back to sports. Well, actually, there’s not a lot to report, aside from 14th-ranked Texas A&M’s upset win over Alabama yesterday, at least — the top-ranked Crimson Tide’s 29-24 defeat seriously damages their hopes to defend their national football championship this year.

Otherwise, the biggest story continues to be the NHL’s failure to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement with its players. The league and the players’ union have intermittently attempted negotiation and broken away from talks, with the mood worsening by the day. Now that talks have once again reached a stalemate, some commentators have turned their blame toward Donald Fehr, head of the NHLPA, for refusing to compromise and withholding vital information from the players he represents. Others continue to scrutinize NHL commissioner Gary Bettman for negotiation tactics that have ranged from unorthodox to highly reckless. And still others are keeping one eye on the reality of a lockout and another eye trained on the fictional season which continues to be simulated by EA Sports. Vancouver, Chicago, and San Jose currently lead the Western Conference, while Montreal, New York, and Carolina now stand atop the East.

And the St. Louis Blues have dropped to 5-6-2. As my father would say, “This game sucks.”

Let’s jump to entertainment news for a moment. No, I’m not talking about the apparently all-important breakup between Selena Gomez and Justin Bieber, which has entertainment sites going mad. Nor am I talking about the new James Bond film, Skyfall, which raked in a whopping $30 million on Friday and is projected to gross a total of $80 million by the weekend’s close. That would be the biggest debut of any James Bond film in history.

No, I’m much more interested in talking about Star Wars. Specifically, Star Wars Episode VII.

Say what?

Yes, it’s true. After the Walt Disney Company purchased Lucasfilm Ltd. for $4.05 billion last month, some speculated that the media giant might try to continue long-established franchises like Star Wars and Indiana Jones. Now it appears that this was Disney’s plan all along, as mere days after the sale, the company announced that Episode VII will be released in 2015. The sale caught many in the industry by surprise, including actor Mark Hamill, who played the iconic hero Luke Skywalker in the original trilogy and who only learned of the plan a few months prior to the deal being sealed. Still, it’s possible that Hamill and co-stars Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia, if you weren’t aware) and Harrison Ford (Han Solo) might have cameos in the new films.

Oh, wait, did I say “films”? Plural? Dear me. Look no further than Wikipedia and Wookiepedia, which already have extensive articles on the so-called sequel trilogy spanning Episodes VII, VIII, and IX. Reports indicate that Episode VIII is expected two or three years after the 2015 release of Episode VII, with Episode IX following after roughly the same gap. The first of the three films is expected to take place an as-yet unspecified number of years after the events of Episode VI: Return of the Jedi.

...Episode VII? Let's hope not.

Now, I’ve already talked with a number of fellow fans about the new movies, expressing my concerns about the continuation of the classic franchise. I’ve reminded them about the letdown that Episodes I-III represented to fans of the original franchise, as well as other disappointments like Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

My peers have responded merely by saying that my lack of faith disturbs them. (Ha ha?) They claim that the travesty of Episodes I-III (their words, not mine) were George Lucas’ fault, and now that he’s out of the picture, Star Wars can continue unabated. One of my readers further suggested that a best-case scenario would involve Wil Wheaton of Star Trek fame taking a major role in coordinating the new films. J. J. Abrams, a longtime fan of the series, quickly cast aside notions that he might be an ideal director. Zach Snyder, Quentin Tarantino, and Steven Spielberg have also declined to take the helm. On the other hand, Michael Arndt, the Oscar-winning writer behind Little Miss Sunshine and Toy Story 3, has already been confirmed as the screenwriter for Episode VII. Others in the industry are itching to get on board, including Russell Brand from Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and Twilight star Robert Pattinson.

Is the Force with him?

It’s been far too long since we’ve talked about gaming, but the Wii U has garnered its share of headlines over the past few days. Nintendo’s upcoming game console, set to be released next Sunday, impressed some reporters during Nintendo’s press event last week, from surprise exclusive titles like Bayonetta 2 to sharp graphics on games like Call of Duty: Black Ops II, which some analysts described as impressive even on the game pad controller.

Even I have to admit, that's pretty sharp.

But in many respects, these happy surprises were overshadowed by major concerns, not the least of which is the console’s meager eight gigabyte hard drive. That’s if you get the basic version, at least. The deluxe Wii U package carries a 32 GB hard drive. If you want to download Tekken Tag Tournament 2, you’ll expend more than half of that deluxe disk space. There are also serious concerns about the system’s online capabilities, especially given Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata’s description of the Wii U’s internet service as an “empathy network.” As one commentator eloquently asked, “What the heck is that?

Then there’s the much-anticipated second screen, which left some who have tried the system unsure of where their eyes should be — on the television, or on the mini-screen in their hands? It may be something to which gamers eventually grow accustomed, much like we all had to get used to flicking a remote to play the Wii or swiping a stylus across one of two screens on the DS. But either way, hardcore gamers will certainly find a learning curve on the Wii U. These technical concerns and other more economic issues leave some wondering if we’re witnessing the slow death of console gaming, particularly given that industry sales in October fell 25% compared with October 2011.

Speaking of death, a Montana man narrowly avoided his own gruesome demise while napping in a cornfield on Wednesday. The unidentified 57-year-old was travelling the country on a bus when he decided to take a rest. So he wandered three rows deep into the corn, presumably to get some shade, and fell asleep there. Cue the local farmer driving his combine through the field. He felt the harvesting machine hit something, and turned off the unit to the sound of screaming. Apparently our poor victim’s clothes were caught in the combine blades, and he received a number of large cuts that required stitches. He may also need skin grafts in the future to repair the damage. Still, if you’ve ever seen a combine, you know that the sap is lucky just to be alive.

Ow.

In slightly more lascivious news, a toy company in Spain has released a doll that is designed to suckle from the breasts of a specially designed halter top. The Breast Milk Baby doll, produced by Berjuan Toys, is intended to teach young girls about breastfeeding. The accompanying halter top contains sensors sewn into the nipples for the breastfeeding simulation.

Words fail me.

Naturally, a number of parents have complained that the doll is far too sexualized. Yet it’s already been honored on a top 100 list by toy review site Dr. Toy, the “Dr. Toy Top 100 Best Children’s Products of 2011.” It also reached the top ten in the site’s “Socially Responsible Products” distinction. I learned this on the company’s website, which also features an article on “Why Little Girls Need to Learn to Breastfeed.” Just so you know.

Then there’s the man who took his girlfriend’s pregnancy test as a joke, then found it especially funny when the test came back positive. One of his friends drew a comic showing his surprise at the positive test result and posted it on Reddit. And that’s where the joke fell flat, as an astute reader informed him that a male getting a positive test result on a pregnancy test can indicate testicular cancer. After all, many pregnancy tests are designed to detect the hormone beta human chorionic gonadotropin, which can indicate pregnancy when found in female urine. Many testicular cancers, however, also produce beta hCG. The man visited his doctor, and sure enough, there was a tiny lump in his right testicle. While the cancer was caught early, his testicle may still have to be surgically removed, depending on the results of further examinations.

And finally, murder charges are surely on the horizon for a South African man who was arrested on Wednesday with his 18-year-old nephew’s severed genitals stuffed in his wallet. The man, who has not been identified, was arrested and taken to a forest in Eastern Cape. He led investigators to the young man’s body, from which he had already sliced off the head, hands, and legs. It was at that point that the police discovered that the genitals were missing, as well, and eventually located them in the culprit’s wallet. The bizarre case may be a “muti” killing, in which the body parts are sold on the black market for use in witchcraft rituals.

Many of our readers are aspiring pilots, so maybe you should add this to your resume: “Doesn’t stink.” At least, that’s a requirement for a job on Hainan Airlines, China’s fourth largest airline. The company decided that it would no longer hire any pilot with “bad body odor,” so during a recent screening of job applicants, recruiters put their noses right next to candidates’ bare armpits and took a whiff. As one recruiter explained, “our staff works very closely with the public, and no passenger wants to smell a pilot’s armpits. And if they can keep their cool in this test, they aren’t going to sweat in the cockpit.”

What.

The unusual test has already spelled doom for one applicant, who passed all the other requirements (including English proficiency, 20/20 vision, and a maximum height of 6’2″) with flying colors, but who admitted that his armpits “are always a bit whiffy.”

On a very different topic, I’m sure we all know that the couch is not a safe place for our savings. One Ukrainian couple, however, did not. It was their nine-year-old son who taught them a lesson when he stole their $4,000 in savings from under the family’s sofa, coerced a mentally disabled adult into having it converted to the local Ukrainian currency, then blew the entire supply at a candy store.

You can’t make up this stuff, folks.

But he’s not the only kid on the loose. Many new parents complain that because they have to constantly look after their babies as they crawl around the house, they don’t have enough time for other things, including housework. That was the motivation behind the hot new parenting purchase, the Baby Mop. This rather unusual set of clothes comes with mop attachments affixed to the arms and legs so that newborns can help around the house while they crawl. One customer noted that the mops don’t clean up everything on their own, since they aren’t wet, but that “You can experiment with spraying the kids with water when they crawl to see if that helps.”

Cute or creepy?

Incidentally, if you find the concept somewhat familiar, that’s because the product was inspired by this Japanese ad spoof from the late 1990s:

In local news, a dead Indiana middle school student showed up to class on Monday. Riverside Junior High in Fishers, Indiana received a series of texts from the boy’s phone on Sunday night, with his father alerting school officials that 14-year-old Michael Sinkfield had died in a car accident. Many of his friends received the same texts, and word quickly spread through the small town. School officials planned a meeting on Monday to address how to console the students and help them cope with the tragedy. A number of people posted messages on his Facebook wall and to his Twitter account. Here’s a sampling:

R.I.P. Michael Sinkfield… 1998-2012. He was one of the nicest people I ever knew. He is going to be in my prayers.

R.I.P. Michael Sinkfield. My brother and him were good friends and its so sad to see him so upset. Michael and his family will be in my prayers.

So when Sinkfield boarded the school bus the next morning, he was met with an assortment of astonished smiles and heartwrenching tears from his grieving classmates, much to his bewilderment.

Apparently the texts were nothing more than a cruel hoax devised by a few students who stole Sinkfield’s phone and thought it would be funny to trick the community into believing he was dead. Sinkfield’s parents were alerted to the hoax as well when they started receiving condolence calls from fellow parents later that day. Even the principal called to console his mother, then later had to call her again and apologize for the mistake. That’s one heck of a way to panic a parent.

On the other side of the globe, we have Bunty Verma, a 32-year-old television repairman from Sendhwa, India. As one columnist quipped, “Bunty Verma used to have a sharp tongue.” You see, Verma had an anger problem, and he was prone to verbally abusing his wife, Hema. It eventually got so bad that she left him, taking their daughter with her.

Verma wanted to reconcile with his wife, but he knew that his verbal abuse would get in the way. So to lick the habit once and for all, he did the only reasonable thing: cut off his tongue.

He then left a note to his wife, explaining that since his tongue was the culprit in his speech, slicing it off would enable them to reconcile. There’s no word on whether she bought into his self-mutilation, but Verma was admitted to a government hospital for treatment, and a hospital worker informed police officials about his self-inflicted dismemberment.

There’s plenty more where that came from, like the carjacker who stole a Chinese restaurant’s delivery van and then proceeded to make its deliveries, or the other Chinese restaurant where an armed robbery was foiled by, of all things, the language barrier. Then there’s the woman who drove on a sidewalk to avoid a school bus that was picking up children and has now been sentenced to two days standing at that intersection wearing a sign which proclaims her an “idiot.” We could even address the woman who was conned into paying $200 for a phony iPad that turned out to be a mirror instead.

Hey, it's the iPad Mini Mega Micro Max!

But instead of getting into those stories, I’ll just leave you with this gem. You may remember Patrice Wilson, or “Fat Usher,” who is best known as the rapper who wrote and appeared in Rebecca Black’s “Friday.” (If you haven’t heard of “Friday,” let’s just say that I envy you.) Wilson eventually quit ARK Music Factory, the company that produced “Friday,” in order to form his own music studio, PMWLive. And he’s been working hard, enlisting the help of tween pop hopeful Nicole Westbrook as the lead singer for his latest project.

Well, now you can rejoice because… “It’s Thanksgiving.”

Other articles of interest:
Barrage of rocket attacks slam southern Israel
One month until they regulate the Internet
Is Adopt A Lab of Indiana a rescue shelter or an online pet store?
On Twitter, pope to get different type of followers
Kenyan mother names twins Barack Obama and Mitt Romney
Walmart Fires Employees Who Smashed iPads on Video
Walmart announces Black Friday sales will begin Thanksgiving night
Sources: Phil Jackson in lead for job

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