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Dec. 23, 2012: Hey, guess what? The world didn’t end on Friday.

Yes, apocalypse fanatics aside, life goes on. Dec. 21, 2012 has come and gone, and the world continues to turn. The only impending change of any significance is that most people will forget all about the Mayan civilization over the next few months.

Speaking of not learning from history, how long will we have to wait for the next apocalypse myth?

With that said, I am currently visiting family and, due to a set of serious hardware issues with my laptop, do not have access to my normal computer setup. As such, I don’t have the means to open hundreds of news stories at a time, the way I usually do to enrich the articles here. I think it would be best to just take a momentary break and pick up where we left off once my schedule is a little more predictable again.

The blog is currently on hiatus. Regular postings will resume this fall, after the completion of my Ph.D.

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Aug. 5, 2012: Fixed Fights and Olympic Medals

Because this post will contain somewhat controversial statements about the ongoing competition in London, and in particular about the boxing competitions, let me preface it with a brief disclaimer. I am from the United States and have no vested interest in seeing any other particular country win medals at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. As you will note in my below comments regarding controversial judgments in the Olympics, none of the 2012 examples I name have anything to do with U.S. participants, just to demonstrate the lack of any biases. In 2006, however, I earned the rank of black belt in Tae-Kwon-Do, and I conducted significant cross-training in boxing in pursuit of that title. It is with that experience and expertise that I approach much of the content of this post.

Olympic boxing has been in a tailspin ever since the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, South Korea. During a heated argument at the Games, Vladimir Gordienko of the 1988 Olympic boxing executive committee told American officials that “You will lose 5-0 to the Bulgarian.” Michael Carbajal of the U.S. subsequently lost a 5-0 decision to Bulgaria’s Ivailo Marinov. Even more controversial was Roy Jones Jr. losing a decision to South Korea’s Park Si-Hun, with the implication that the fight was given to the host country despite wide recognition of Jones as the superior fighter. The latter loss is widely regarded as one of the worst in boxing history, as Jones scored at least two punches to Si-Hun for every one that hit him. The three judges who named Si-Hun the winner were suspended, and when referee Aldo Leoni was forced to raise Si-Hun’s arm after the fight, he whispered to Jones that “I can’t believe they’re doing this to you.” Even Si-Hun recognized the travesty, raising Jones’ arm himself to denote the true winner during the award ceremony.

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Mar. 25, 2012: Facebook, the Final Four, and a Two-Foot Frankfurter

After two weeks of intense action on the court, the road to the Final Four is nearing its end. On the men’s side, Rick Pitino’s fourth-seeded Louisville Cardinals rallied on Saturday to overcome the seven-seed Florida Gators, 72-68, punching their tickets to their first Final Four since 2005. The Ohio State Buckeyes followed by pushing aside the Syracuse Orange, taking down their region’s top seed in a 77-70 victory. This afternoon, the Baylor Bears will try to spoil the run of the tournament’s top-ranked team, the Kentucky Wildcats, while the Kansas Jayhawks hope to take advantage of a battered North Carolina Tar Heels squad in the evening. (North Carolina, the Midwest region’s top seed, looked particularly vulnerable on Friday, giving 13-seed Ohio University plenty of chances to beat them in an ugly overtime victory Friday night.)

On the women’s side, the undefeated Baylor Lady Bears easily shut down the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets yesterday, riding an 83-68 victory into the Elite Eight. On Monday they’ll face the Tennessee Lady Volunteers, who overcame a 14-point deficit on Saturday to escape the surprisingly threatening 11-seed Kansas Jaywawks. The rest of the Elite Eight is still being decided: the St. John’s Red Storm faced the Duke Blue Devils last night, while the South Carolina Gamecocks challenged the Stanford Cardinal to wrap up the evening. Today we’ll see Texas A&M vs. Maryland, St. Bonaventure against Notre Dame, Penn State vs. Connecticut, and finally 11-seed Gonzaga, the biggest Cinderella left in the tournament, against second-seeded Kentucky.

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March 18, 2012: Afghanistan Killings

Three weeks ago, we talked about the outrage and violence spreading across Afghanistan after workers at a U.S. military base accidentally burned several Qurans with their garbage. A number of American soldiers were killed in the riots that followed, and President Obama formally apologized for the burning.

If relations with Afghanistan were mending after the chaos — and that’s very much a question — Sgt. Robert Bales may have made matters much, much worse. Last Sunday, 16 Afghan villagers, nine of whom were children, were massacred in a “predawn shooting and stabbing rampage.” Bales, who stands accused of these gruesome murders, has been recalled to the military’s highest-security prison in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, as Afghanistan erupts in waves of “Death to America” protests. Investigators are currently poring over his service records as they draw up charges against him, records which once proudly portrayed Bales as the epitome of a good soldier, dedicated to his comrades, his country, his family, and the mission of helping the Afghani people. After a 2007 battle in Najaf, in which 250 enemy fighters died, Bales said that

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Feb. 5, 2012: Super Bowl XLVI Edition

Well, there’s one obvious top story this week… which we’re going to put off until the end. Because I can.

First, it looks like Mitt Romney regaining his advantage in the Republican presidential primaries. After scoring a convincing 14-point victory over Newt Gingrich and the rest of the field in Florida, Romney has a big early lead in Nevada, as well. While Romney tries to build an insurmountable lead over the field, his main remaining opponents, Rick Santorum, Ron Paul, and Gingrich are desperately clinging to their campaign hopes. If the prediction market players at Intrade are to be believed, though, Romney has the nomination all but wrapped up — in fact, he’s taking some of his focus off the primary race to lodge an early set of attacks on the incumbent Barack Obama. As for who will win the presidency in November, well, that’s a little less clear.

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Jan. 29, 2012: From the State of the Union to unions in the state

The presidential primaries were on hold this week while our sitting president, Barack Obama, made the annual State of the Union address on Wednesday evening. If you haven’t yet seen it, take a look at the official White House “enhanced edition” here or below:

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Jan. 22, 2012: SOPA/PIPA bit the dust. Does it matter?

Two weeks ago, I highlighted the growing discontent over the SOPA and PIPA bills and the “nuclear option” that some of the internet’s largest companies were considering to stop it. On Wednesday, that plan came to fruition, with Wikipedia, Google, and Craigslist, among others taking a very visual, public stance against the bills — Google placed an obvious black censorship bar over its own logo, while Craigslist blacked out its own site and Wikipedia shut down its entire English encyclopedia for 24 hours. (I’m obligated and pleased to mention that my fiancee, Rebecca Ivic, was quoted in a local article on the subject.) The plan seems to have worked, as political support for SOPA/PIPA abruptly fell apart in the days that followed. The bills aren’t necessarily dead yet, but they appear to have minimal chance of passing in the near future, particularly given the Obama administration’s recent statement that “While we believe that online piracy by foreign websites is a serious problem that requires a serious legislative response, we will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet.”

That, however, is hardly the end of the story. As many on the web celebrated the apparent collapse of SOPA/PIPA on Thursday, the U.S. government was ironically shutting down prominent file-sharing site Megaupload. Founder Kim Schmitz was found in New Zealand hiding with a gun in a safe room; authorities stormed his mansion, and extradition proceedings are already underway to ship him back to the U.S. on criminal charges. This all begs the question of why SOPA and PIPA were needed in the first place, if Megaupload could be shut down and its founder arrested in a foreign country without the greater SOPA/PIPA governmental powers in place. Still, some would undoubtedly argue that the process took far too long, given that the company has been well-known for making piracy relatively easy since its creation in 2005. Either way, 4chan-based hacker group Anonymous retaliated with denial of service (DoS) attacks against such websites as the U.S. Department of Justice, FBI, Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), and Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). Some hailed Anonymous’ retaliation as a righteous stroke against governmental tyranny over free speech on the internet. Others lamented it as an overreaction to the “bait” of the Megaupload arrests, saying that it changed the conversation over internet freedom back to one about limiting unlawful chaos, stymieing any momentum built through Wednesday’s successful anti-SOPA/PIPA blackout. Besides, if Megaupload is guilty for what its users did — even if Megaupload itself did little to stop piracy on its site — then other file-sharing sites may be at similar risk. Furthermore, all this may create a path forward for the competing OPEN bill which also provides more power to combat “willful” piracy, even if it is quite limited compared to SOPA/PIPA.

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