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Jamie Cullum to Perform Two Sets at CareFusion Newport Jazz Festival

Written By Games Lover on Wednesday, May 2, 2012 | 10:34 PM

NEWPORT, RI -- British singing and piano sensation Jamie Cullum brings his eclectic mix of jazz, pop and rock-influenced music to the opening night celebration of the CareFusion Newport Jazz Festival* on Friday, August 6, at 8:00 pm at the International Tennis Hall of Fame at Newport Casino. The evening opens with the saxophonist/singer Grace Kelly.

The festival continues August 7 and 8 at Fort Adams State Park; Cullum is set to perform on the Fort Stage on Saturday. Tickets and more information are available at

Get a sneak preview of Jamie Cullum in performance when he appears on The Bachelorette on Monday, May 31, at 8:00pm on ABC. For more information, visit Jamie Cullum, who has played guitar and piano since age eight, developed an avid interest in jazz from his older brother. He was inspired by piano icons Oscar Peterson and Dave Brubeck and spent some of his formative years living in Paris, where he honed his abilities performing in jazz clubs. Cullum will perform selections from The Pursuit, his first album in four years, as well as some of his favorite jazz standards and his own originals. His latest music embraces the full range of his diverse talents and far-flung musical passions. While it covers more stylistic ground than anything he's done previously, the album offers the same musical fluency, emotional commitment and lyrical wit that helped to make Cullum's prior releases Twentysomething and Catching Tales international crossover hits selling more than four million combined copies worldwide. He recorded his first album, Heard It All Before, at age 19, followed by Pointless Nostalgic.

After spending two years touring in support of Catching Tales, Cullum retreated from the spotlight and spent much of the next two years working on a variety of musical and non-musical endeavors. He and his older brother and frequent collaborator, Ben, joined forces for a dance music project, “BC vs. JC," that found the brothers creating melodic dance music in clubs across England. Jamie also contributed to albums for Pharrell Williams, the Count Basie Orchestra, Japan's Soil & Pimp Sessions, Norway's Beady Belle and France's Camille, as well as spent time as a Goodwill Ambassador to Ethiopia for UNICEF. Cullum's highest profile side projects saluted his courtship with Hollywood, beginning with the animated Disney feature Meet The Robinsons, in which Jamie was the singing voice of Frankie The Frog. He followed with his vocal on the Golden Globe-nominated “Best Original Song" from the John Cusack film Grace Is Gone, and culminated in his co-writing and performing with Clint Eastwood for the Golden Globe-nominated “Best Original Song" from 2008's Gran Torino. Now, he's back on the road celebrating The Pursuit at concert across Europe and the United States.

Eighteen-year-old Grace Kelly's career is definitely on the fast track. Wynton Marsalis (who performs on the Fort Adams Stage on Sunday) was so impressed with her three-night stand as guest of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra in November 2008 that he invited her to join the ensemble at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. Harry Connick, Jr. heard her in a master class and invited her to sit in with his band and she has been a featured guest on NPR's Piano Jazz with Marian McPartland. In addition, Grace has received numerous honors including The Boston Music Awards' “Outstanding Jazz Act," WCVB-TV's “Five Bostonians to Watch," Downbeat Critics Poll's youngest ever “Alto Saxophone Rising Stars," the Boston Phoenix's “Best Jazz Act in Boston" in the 2009 Best Music Poll (for the second consecutive year) and three ASCAP Young Jazz Composers Award. To this astonishing list of credits, Kelly adds Mood Changes, the fifth release on her PAZZ label. The album mixes six standards with four Kelly originals. She is particularly excited about the strides that Mood Changes reveals in her band leading skills. “There's nothing like playing my own music with my own band," she acknowledges. She also enjoyed critically acclaimed success on her previous album, Gracefulee, which has dominated the DownBeat Student Awards over the past four years. A student at Boston's Berklee College of Music, Grace enjoys “... playing all the time and just living music all day." Her College is also represented at the festival by the Berklee Global Jazz Institute Septet on Saturday afternoon.

George Wein made history 56 years ago when he started the festival era with the Newport Jazz Festival. Along with his company, New Festival Productions, LLC, Wein continues to present the best in established and rising stars, this year including Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea Freedom Band with Kenny Garrett, Christian McBride & Roy Haynes, Ahmad Jamal, Wynton Marsalis, Maria Schneider Orchestra, Chris Botti, Jason Moran's Bandwagon, Jon Faddis Quartet, Gretchen Parlato, Fly, Julian Lage Group, JD Allen Trio, David Binney Third Occasion Quartet, Darcy James Argue's Secret Society and many more.

Java Jazz Festival 2012: Some Tid-Bits from the Fest

Java Jazz Festival 2012 has been passed, yet many of us should still experience the jazz-lag after receiving the blows from stage to stage. Aside from enjoying jazz being served by around 2000 musicians from all over the world, it’s also interesting to see what’s happening outside during the festival.

It’s clear that Java Jazz Festival has become an important part of the lifestyle. Speaking of fashion, many people tried to dress up jazzy for this occasion as we found vests, blazers and of course the Sinatra’s fedora hats everywhere, other than the casual dress like t-shirts and jeans. Looking at the number of attendance, we can have a solid proof that jazz is actually not that difficult to digest. All ages from small babies to seniors packed in to catch their favorite artists, or even just to absorb the sense of jazz. For us, all these showgoers brought a different kind of excitment to see in a festival as big as this. It’s normal to see puzzled face when they were trying to find the stage or people running in full speed because they didn’t want to miss the selected show. There were many funny things, cool moments or unique situations all around the venue that we didn’t want to miss, not to mention the lovely blue sunset sky which appeared above the venue for the whole three days.

Salute to our photographers, they still managed to snap some shots in between their duty to take stage photos and squeezing through crowds. So now we want to share their off stage during the foremost music bash on earth. (Please click each thumbnail at the end of this article to see the photos).

There were many sweet couples seemed to drown their romance into Java Jazz by hugging each other while enjoying the show. Java Jazz Festival has also become the meeting point for artists around the world, including those who came from the same country said hi to one another. Fans took the chance to take pictures with the artists if they were lucky enough, while others had such a good time with their family and friends inside.

What Java Jazz Festival brings to us is not just a simple jazz event. Yes it’s gigantic, with thousands of artists and hundreds of show for total 3 days, but more than just that, we could also see the kind of jazz lifestyle under one roof living peacefully and harmoniously. We just remember a song from Level 42 titled “Love in a Peaceful World”, and we experience the essence in this festival. How lovely to have it through jazz. Not only jazz can entertain us to the max, but it can also carry the message of peace. Thank you Java Jazz! We’ll see you again next year.

Norah Jones and the Music She Loves

It took Norah Jones precisely one year to become a household name. Her debut album, “Come Away With Me,” was released in February 2002, and by the following February it had sold four million copies and she had won five Grammys.

A side project she created the following year is less well known. As a diversion from the pressures of following up one of the best-selling debuts of all time, Ms. Jones and four friends formed the band the Little Willies (named after her childhood hero, Willie Nelson) and began playing her favorite country songs at a series of unannounced gigs at the Living Room, a tiny music venue in New York.

“I think I had to leave home for me to know how much country music meant to me,” said Ms. Jones, who moved to New York in 1999 after studying jazz composition and performance in high school and college in Texas. “I listened to Hank Williams, Dolly Parton and Willie growing up, but I wanted to play jazz. When I listened to Bill Evans, I transcribed the chords. When I listened to ‘Red Headed Stranger,’ I just listened to enjoy it. But it really seeped in more than I could have known.”

Almost six years after the Little Willies released its self-titled 2006 debut, the band — which features Lee Alexander on bass, Jim Campilongo and Richard Julian on guitar and Dan Rieser on drums — is finally unveiling its sophomore set, “For the Good Times.” The album, which will be released on Jan. 10, includes covers of songs by Loretta Lynn, Johnny Cash and Dolly Parton.

In the final days of December, we put Ms. Jones on the spot and asked her to create an on-the-fly five-song playlist of her favorite Texas songwriters — artists she’s been inspired by, performed alongside or covered with the Little Willies.

WILLIE NELSON, “PERMANENTLY LONELY” “He’s my No. 1,” said Ms. Jones, who has earned Grammy nominations for three of her duets with the country legend — “Wurlitzer Prize (I Don’t Want to Get Over You),” “Dreams Come True” and “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” The Little Willies’ version of Mr. Nelson’s “Permanently Lonely” is on the upcoming album.

“Willie’s songs are deceptively complicated,” Ms. Jones said. “He’s like a twisted jazz musician under all that country. He writes these chords that are just beautiful — the way they come together so simply, yet they go against normal forms that you learn as a musician. But he makes them sound so beautiful and simple. You don’t try to that, you just do. And that’s what’s great about Willie: he just does.”

TOWNES VAN ZANDT, “NO PLACE TO FALL” A song considered by many to be one of the late great Texas songwriter’s signatures, the Little Willies included it on its 2006 debut.

“I tend to listen to Townes when I’m feeling melancholy,” Ms. Jones said. “And this is one of Townes’s most beautiful songs. For the Little Willies, it was one of the easiest and most natural things we’ve recorded. That’s the best kind of situation, when the song kind of plays itself. For that to happen, it has to be a pretty incredible song.”

KRIS KRISTOFFERSON, “BEST OF ALL POSSIBLE WORLDS” Mr. Kristofferson recorded “Best of All Possible Worlds” in 1970 for his debut album “Kristofferson,” and 36 years later, the Little Willies laid down the same track on its debut release. (The title track of the band’s new album, “For the Good Times,” is also one of Mr. Kristofferson’s songs.)

“Best of All Possible Worlds” is “so much fun because it stacks up a lot of words and a lot of clever lines; it’s so well crafted, but also so soulful,” Ms. Jones said. “That’s the trick to songwriting — you want craft, but you also need soul and honesty. And who’s as inherently soulful as Kris Kristofferson? Look at ‘For the Good Times.’ It’s one of the most heartbreaking, beautiful lyrics ever. If he only wrote those two songs, he’d be on the list. But obviously, he’s given us so much more.”

SLY AND THE FAMILY STONE, “IF YOU WANT ME TO STAY” “I’ve always loved the fact that Sly Stone was born in Denton,” said Ms. Jones, who went to college in Denton at the University of North Texas. She has yet to record a Sly Stone song.

“He’s just one of those people,” she said. “You put on a Sly Stone record and it changes your mood. It feels so good. I might be crazy, but I also feel like I can hear the Texas in his singing. I feel like you can hear the country in the back of his voice and the pronunciations, the way he splits syllables.”

CINDY WALKER, “YOU DON’T KNOW ME” Ms. Walker, a country songwriter, had Top 10 hits in every decade from the 1940s to the ’80s, and big-name musicians from Ray Charles and Bing Crosby to Elvis Presley and Mr. Nelson performed her songs.

“I didn’t know much about her until Willie did that ‘Songs of Cindy Walker’ album and I realized I knew half of those songs. I grew up on them,” Ms. Jones said. “ ‘You Don’t Know Me’ is so fantastic because it strikes the perfect balance of simplicity, directness and heart.”

11 killed, dozens injured in Egypt clashes

(CNN) -- Assailants targeted protesters demonstrating against the exclusion of a presidential candidate in Cairo early Wednesday, killing at least 11, medical sources told CNN. At least 100 people were injured, said Hisham Shiha, the deputy minister of health. It was unclear who the attackers were, but they were not wearing uniforms, witnesses said.

Clashes were ongoing Wednesday afternoon. There were fears of increased violence as additional protesters marched from downtown to join the other demonstrators. The military dispatched a unit to attempt to restore calm. Protesters hurled rocks at the assailants, who responded with a steady barrage of rocks and Molotov cocktails.

"Down with military rule!" the protesters chanted.

Protesters camped outside the Ministry of Defense for a fourth day to voice their anger about the disqualification of Islamist candidate Hazem Abu Ismael from the presidential election set to start May 23. They also want to disband the presidential election commission.

Abu Ismael was disqualified because of evidence that his late mother had U.S. citizenship, an assertion he has denied, prompting his followers to protest the decision by the election commission.

A day before the attacks, state TV broadcast videos showing protesters chanting against the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which has ruled Egypt since President Hosni Mubarak was forced from power last year.

"Dozens of military men dressed in plainclothes started pelting us with stones, cement blocks, and fired tear gas from rifles, so they were obviously security officers under cover," said Alaa Younis, who took part in the sit-in with some friends.

"We fought back with rocks until we noticed they escalated and fired birdshot. Many of us took refuge at one of two field hospitals." Two other presidential candidates announced Wednesday they were temporarily suspending campaign activities because of the violence.

Leading candidate Abdel Monein Aboul Fetftouh, an independent, said on his Twitter account that lawmakers must push the interior minister to investigate. The candidate for the Freedom and Justice Party, Mohamed Mursi, said he is suspending his campaign for two days to "mourn the souls of the martyrs" in the clashes, and blamed the military government for what he called a "massacre."

A government official denied reports that the military was involved. "There were no riot police or military that tried to evict the sit-in by force," said Gen. Marwan Mustapha, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry. "We are not sure of the identities of the thugs that attacked the peaceful protesters. The military only protects the vicinity of the ministry and blocked some roads leading to it."

The epicenter of the violence was around a mosque in Cairo, but clashes continued in several streets. Residents formed neighborhood watches to protect their streets as gunfire crackled for hours, according to witnesses. The military blocked some highways leading to the ministry and did not interfere in the fighting between protesters and the unidentified attackers.

Clashes have erupted in Egypt since an uprising led to the toppling of Mubarak in February of last year, with protesters demanding the military leaders who took over hand over power to a civilian administration. The latest violence comes a few weeks before the presidential elections. About 10 of the 23 presidential contenders have been disqualified, the head of the election committee said earlier this month.

The May 23-24 vote will be the first presidential election since Mubarak's ouster. It comes amid rising political tensions as officials work to craft a new constitution and Egyptians await the June 2 verdict in Mubarak's murder trial.


Chelsea beating Barcelona at the Nou Camp, with ten men

Written By Games Lover on Friday, April 27, 2012 | 11:53 PM

Lionel Messi missed a penalty as holders Barcelona were sent crashing out of the Champions League semi-finals after 10-man Chelsea battled to a 2-2 draw at the Camp Nou on Tuesday. Chelsea, leading 1-0 from the first leg, snatched a 3-2 aggregate win on a night of extraordinary drama which saw the Premier League side recover from 2-0 down and the dismissal of captain John Terry to reach next month's Munich final.

Barcelona looked to be cruising to victory after goals from Sergio Busquets and Andres Iniesta put them 2-0 up in the first half either side of Terry's red card for a foul on Alexis Sanchez.

But a superb counter-attack and chip from Ramires put Chelsea ahead on away goals, and in the dying seconds substitute Fernando Torres completed an unlikely fightback to kill off an unforgettable contest.

Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo hailed his side's "incredible achievement" in reaching the final, where his side will face either Real Madrid or Bayern Munich.

"A lot of people had written us off and we showed again what kind of character these players have," Di Matteo said. "We didn't expect to play with 10 men and we knew it was going to be tough. It was even more difficult than we expected.

"They're a great team, with some fantastic players. We just showed what we're made of." Disappointed Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola attempted to strike a philosophical note after a traumatic exit.

"The first thing I feel is huge sadness," Guardiola said. "I think we played exceptionally well. We have done everything we possibly could to reach the final. Finals are great but we'll have to watch this one on TV. "We have played well recently but it wasn't enough. Sometimes football is like this. This year it was not our turn. This year it seems like we could couldn't win."

An extraordinary first half had seen Chelsea manage to frustrate Barcelona in the face of remorseless pressure despite the setback of losing Gary Cahill to injury after only 12 minutes. Cahill was replaced by Jose Bosingwa, with Branislav Ivanovic moving to centre-back.

Despite the defensive reshuffle Chelsea's thin blue line held firm, with Petr Cech saving brilliantly with his leg from Messi on 19 minutes before Terry slid in desperately to block Iniesta's follow-up.

At the other end Chelsea were limited to pumping long clearances for Didier Drogba, who, just as he had done at Stamford Bridge a week earlier, was forced to plough a lonely furrow up front.

It was only to be a matter of time before Barcelona's monopoly of possession yielded its reward and the breakthrough came on 35 minutes, the start of a catastrophic period for Chelsea.

A headed Drogba clearance fell only as far as Dani Alves on the edge of the area who picked out Isaac Cuenca on the left, who in turn rolled his pass across the six-yard box for an unmarked Busquets to sidefoot home.

It got worse for Chelsea a minute later with Terry's dismissal, which left the English side with neither of their starting centre-backs. It was not long before the makeshift nature of Chelsea's defence was exposed and Barcelona struck what looked to be the killer blow on 43 minutes.

Careless play from Raul Meireles saw Messi dart forward and feed Iniesta, who sprang Chelsea's defence and prodded past Cech for 2-0. Camp Nou rocked with delight but incredibly, within minutes, Chelsea were back in the game and ahead on away goals AS Ramires scored.

Lampard's magnificent pass sent the Brazilian racing in behind the Barcelona back four and when Victor Valdes advanced the rangy midfielder clipped an exquisite chip into the net to make it 2-1 on the stroke of half-time.

The Catalans were swiftly back into their stride in the second half, however, and when Drogba brought down Cesc Fabregas to concede a penalty the match again seem to have swung in Barcelona's favour. Yet Messi, the most prolific scorer in Europe this season with 63 goals, implausibly crashed his spot-kick against the bar and Chelsea were let off.

But the pattern of the game had been set, and what followed was 40 minutes of excruciating tension as Barcelona took up permanent residence on the edge of Chelsea's penalty area. Chelsea, however, somehow managed to thwart their tormentors, closing down relentlessly and never allowing Messi, Xavi and Iniesta the freedom to work the ball into dangerous positions.

All too often Barcelona's artful probing led to nothing as they cut the ball back from wide positions where Chelsea's wall of bodies stood firm. Sanchez had a goal disallowed before Cech tipped a shot from Messi onto the post in a frantic finale.

Then with Barcelona caught pressing upfield, Torres darted clear of the home side's defence and touched round Valdes to score and Chelsea were through. The win came at a cost, however, with Ramires, Ivanovic and Meireles all picking up bookings that will keep them out of the final.


The better side does not always win

The Spanish striker scored the Blues' second goal of the night as Roberto Di Matteo's side held Barca to a 2-2 draw at Camp Nou to progress to the tournament decider following a 1-0 victory in the first leg in London.

Prior to the match, Torres had warned Barcelona that upsets can happen, and the Spaniard believes that Tuesday's contest is an example of that.

"Football is just like this," he told reporters. "The better side does not always win.

"We knew this is what we had to do against Barca, although this is not the prettiest thing to do.

"We used our weapons and it turned out great for us in both matches. Barca had their chances, but they did not take them and we found a lifeline with Ramires' goal.

"We have great respect for Barca because we know they are the strongest side in the world."

Torres then lamented the fact that Chelsea will be without suspended Branislav Ivanovic, Raul Meireles, Ramires and John Terry for the final and stated he has no preference in meeting either Real Madrid or Bayern Munich in the tournament decider.

"We are qualified for two finals [FA Cup and Champions League] and we will continue to fight for fourth place in the Premier League," he said.

"These last weeks could turn a bad season into a memorable one. We will be without several players and the most important thing is to continue like this and believe that we can win.

"I have no preferences because if we want to win the Champions League, we have to beat any side."


Spain in shock as 'God-like' Guardiola quits Barcelona

Josep Guardiola's decision to quit as coach of Barcelona after four record-breaking years is tantamount to a prime minister resigning, according to one Spanish football expert. Begona Perez told CNN World Sport that Guardiola's imminent departure had sent shock waves around Spain and plunged Barca's fans into a period of mourning as they contemplate life after the coach who delivered 13 trophies.

The 41-year-old's reign at the Catalan club has been littered with success and underpinned by a philosophy that has produced some of the most attractive football seen in recent times. Guardiola cited tiredness as the major factor in his decision, describing his four years on Barca's bench as an eternity. His assistant, Tito Vilanova, will take the reins next season, but for now, it is all about Guardiola.

His decision to quit prompted his current players to pay the warmest of tributes. Lionel Messi took to his official page on social networking site Facebook to laud Guardiola. "I want to thank Pep with all my heart for everything he has given me in my professional career and personally," the 24-year-old wrote.

"Because of the emotions I feel I preferred not to be present at Pep's press conference and to stay away from the press because I know they will look for the pain on the players' faces. It is something I decided not to show." Perez told CNN Guardiola's announcement was a huge occasion in Spanish sporting terms.

"It's almost like a prime minister leaving his post," she told CNN. "He's almost God-like in Barcelona. What he has achieved has been amazing.

"The most successful thing at Barcelona is the philosophy at the club. He didn't invent this style of football but he made it perfect. We've seen in the last four years what they achieved and the style has been amazing." Perez explained that four grueling seasons at one of the world's most high profile clubs had finally taken its toll on Guardiola, who had always maintained it was a job that no-one could do indefinitely.

He has also had to contend with serious illnesses to defender Eric Abidal, who recently underwent a liver transplant, and health difficulties for his successor, Villanova, who had a tumor. "It has been a very difficult season," she added. "There are personal reasons behind this, they lost to Real Madrid and Chelsea in the last week, but it's been difficult for personal reasons.

"Especially with the illness to Abdial and his number two Villanova. Basically he needs a break. We expect him to take a sabbatical year because it has been emotionally very hard this season. "He's a person with other interests -- he is football obsessed but he is the kind of person who likes to read a book, go the cinema and obviously his family. He has made many sacrifices and he wants to make the most of it now."

As for Guardiola's replacement, Perez said promoting Vilanova from assistant was the logical choice for a club that prides itself on a distinct approach to the game "We don't know what is going to happen to this team in sports terms and whether they will be able to win trophies with Tito Vilanova," she added. "Guardiola has been the most successful manager in Barca history and that is something that is going to be difficult to achieve again.

"I think the fans are very sad, they feel it's an end of an era but they are happy with Vilanova talking over -- it's a natural decision.

"It's someone who knows the club inside out, he was the manager of the likes of Fabregas, Pique and Messi in the youth team so it's a continuity of the club's philosophy."


Holstein with mad cow disease was lame, lying down

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — The California dairy cow found to have mad cow disease was very old for a milk producer and had been euthanized after it became lame and started lying down, federal officials revealed in their latest update on the discovery.

The 10-year-old dairy cow, only the fourth ever discovered in the United States, was found as part of an Agriculture Department program that tests about 40,000 cows a year for the fatal brain disease. It was unable to stand before it was killed and sent to a rendering plant's Hanford, Calif. transfer station. It was one of dozens that underwent random testing at the transfer site, and the positive results have set off a federal investigation into the source of the disease.

U.S. health officials say there is no risk to the food supply. The California cow was never destined for the meat market, and it developed "atypical" BSE from a random mutation, something that scientists know happens occasionally. Somehow, a protein the body normally harbors folds into an abnormal shape called a prion, setting off a chain reaction of misfolds that eventually kills brain cells.

A USDA spokesman says they do not yet know what causes this strain of the disease. Agriculture officials are investigating, among other things, whether feed sources might have played a role in the animal contracting the fatal illness.

The strain of bovine spongiform encephalopathy that appeared in the UK in the 1990s and set off a worldwide beef scare was a form caused by cattle eating rendered protein supplements derived from slaughtered cattle, including brains and spinal columns, where the disease is harbored. Scientists know less about the "atypical" strain.

It "may or may not be related to feed or forage type," said Larry Hawkins, spokesman for the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service in California. The dairy in question is one of 381 in Tulare County, the No. 1 dairy county in the nation. Most mega-dairies have computerized records which would allow investigators to easily track any offspring the cow had in order to keep up her milk production.

However, USDA spokesman Matt Herrick said investigators are laboring through paper records. That fact, combined with the fact that the cow was more than twice as old as most milk cows in the system, could indicate one of the region's smaller dairies is the target of the probe. The World Organization for Animal Health has established protocol for investigations into cases of bovine spongiform encephalopathy that includes finding other cows that the Holstein in question was raised with, tracking down all progeny and determining what she ate.

After the UK crisis, federal regulations changed to keep brains and spinal columns in cattle over 30 from being rendered into protein products for human consumption. In addition, bovine protein is not supposed to be fed to other bovines.

However, bovine protein is routinely fed to egg-laying chickens, and the "litter" from those chickens — chicken excrement and the feed that spills onto the floor — is collected and rendered back into cattle feed. Neurodegenerative researchers such as UC San Francisco's Dr. Stanley Prusiner, who received the 1997 Nobel Prize in Medicine for discovering prions — the protein associated with BSE — has warned that the US should ban poultry waste in cattle feed.

Most dairy cows typically experience declining milk production by age 5 and are sent to slaughterhouses to be ground into hamburger. The FDA tests 40,000 of the nation's 35 million slaughtered dairy and beef cattle annually for BSE, targeting animals older than 30 months, when the disease is more likely to appear. However, there are cases of BSE that have been detected in cattle as young as 20 months.

"We are testing .12 percent of the cattle slaughtered," Michael Hansen, senior scientist at the Consumers Union and a longtime critic of the US policy regarding mad cow disease. "In Japan they test all cattle over 20 months, in Europe it's all cattle over 24 or 30 months, depending on the country. They've been able to find sick animals that look healthy but could have ended up in the food supply."

A move by a Kansas beef packer in 2006 to voluntarily test all of its beef so it could label the packages "BSE free," was thwarted by the USDA, which argued that it would create instability in the market. Creekstone Farms Premium Beef had challenged the USDA's position that it held legal authority to control access to the test kits.

In the current case, the USDA didn't elaborate on the cow's symptoms other than to say it was "humanely euthanized after it developed lameness and became recumbent." Outward symptoms of the disease can include unsteadiness and incoordination. The unidentified Tulare County dairy where the cow died was not under obligation to report its suspicious behavior, according to state and federal agriculture officials, because the symptoms mimic other neurological diseases that can afflict cattle, said Dr. Richard Breitmeyer, director of the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory at UC Davis.

"In reality (mad cow disease) is so rare in this country and there are just very little in the way of clinical signs specific to BSE alone," said Breitmeyer, who spent 17 years as California's state veterinarian.


Think carrots, not candy as school snack: advocates

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Junk food may soon be hard to buy at American public schools as the U.S. government readies new rules requiring healthier foods to be sold beyond the cafeteria -- a move most parents support, according to a poll released on Thursday.

With childhood obesity rising, the survey found most people agreed the chips, soda and candy bars students buy from vending machines or school stores in addition to breakfast and lunch are not nutritious, and they support a national standard for foods sold at schools.

The findings from the advocacy group Kids' Safe and Healthful Foods Project came as the federal government prepares to roll out a nationwide standard that may set up another battle among health experts, schools and the food industry. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is expected to issue its guidelines by June, according to some experts. These could limit the amount of sugar, salt and fat that foods sold at schools could contain.

Agriculture Department Under Secretary Kevin Concannon said an important step in addressing childhood obesity is to help make the "right choice an easy choice" while at school. "We look forward to working with parents, teachers, school food service professionals and the food industry to craft workable guidelines so that healthier options are available for our students," he said.

Many states have already enacted their own laws mandating healthier non-cafeteria food options. Jessica Donze Black, a dietician who leads the Kids' Safe and Healthful Foods Project, said the results show growing support for updating standards that surfaced in 1979.

"What has changed in the last 30 years is that the childhood obesity epidemic has more than tripled," she said. "The school environment has also changed. ... Today, there are a lot of other places throughout the day that compete with kids eating a healthy school meal."


Eighty percent of the 1,010 adults polled said they would support nutritional standards limiting the calories, fat and sodium in such foods. Seventeen percent would oppose it. Most also agreed there are now few healthy options. Just five percent of adults said vending machines offered totally or mostly healthy choices compared with 10 percent for school stores and 21 percent for a la carte lunch lines.

Changes to school foods may be controversial. New standards for more fruits, vegetables and whole grains in traditional school meals announced in January drew scrutiny when lawmakers blocked limits to french fries and counted pizza as a vegetable because it contains tomato sauce.

Efforts to give students more healthy options to help fight childhood obesity have historically faced pressure from food and beverage companies and even from schools themselves, who rely on such food sales for extra cash. But health experts, pediatricians and other advocates say that is changing as more companies and school districts come on board at a time when more than one-third of U.S. children are overweight or obese.

"Most people accept that soda, candy bars and other unhealthy foods just don't deserve a place in school on a regular basis," said Margo Wootan, head of nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest. She said there are still concerns that members of Congress and industry lobbyists could water down the proposal.

The American Academy of Pediatrics' Laura Jana said new rules are imperative now that kids consume more than half of their daily calories in school. More students are getting most of their calories from snacks and drinks, not meals, she said. "To me, it's a no-brainer. ... They can't make that healthy choice when we stick all those temptations under their noses," said Jana, a pediatrician based in Omaha, Nebraska, and co-author of "Food Fights: Winning the Nutritional Challenges of Parenthood Armed with Insight, Humor and a Bottle of Ketchup."


Food and beverage makers have expanded their portfolios to include juice, granola bars and other healthier products. Vending machine companies focused on nutritious offerings have also sprung up. U.S. drink companies have already taken voluntary steps to keep sodas out of some schools and their trade group says this has cut calories consumed from beverages in schools by 88 percent.

Christopher Gindlesperger, spokesman for the American Beverage Association, said its voluntary guidelines are a good model for the government to follow. "It's a standard that's already in place that is working. It strikes a balance," he said.

ABA's guidelines eliminate soda in elementary and middle schools but allow diet sodas and low-calorie sports drinks in high school. Companies such as The Coca-Cola Co, PepsiCo Inc, and Nestle SA either had no immediate comment or referred questions to industry trade groups.

Mars Inc, maker of the iconic M&M's chocolate candies, said it has already agreed to withdraw branded vending machines from schools and does not offer traditional candy in those settings. Mars said it has instead developed other, lower-calorie products.

As for schools, most now realize vending machines can help teach students about healthy habits and boost learning even though money does loom large, said Whitney Meagher, project director for the National Association of State Boards of Education.

"If you have a choice between a cookie and an apple and the cookie is going to sell better, it's hard not to make that decision as a business decision," she said. The Kids' Safe and Healthful Foods Project is a joint venture by the nonprofit policy group The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a private organization that aims to improve Americans' health.

Its poll surveyed 1,010 registered voters by telephone in mid-January and has a margin-of-error of plus-or-minus 3.1 percentage points.


Speedweeks Open Strong for Nascar at Daytona

Written By Games Lover on Tuesday, February 21, 2012 | 12:22 AM

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Kyle Busch twice appeared destined to destroy his race car, and twice used breathtaking saves to keep on running around Daytona International Speedway.

He probably shouldn't have been in position to race with the leaders. Yet there he was, bearing down on the finish line with a shot at winning Saturday night's exhibition Budweiser Shootout, and with a slingshot pass on the outside of defending NASCAR champion Tony Stewart, Busch pulled off a miraculous win in the first event of 2012.

Not too shabby of a start to the season.

NASCAR has every right to be giddy about Sunday's season-opening Daytona 500, a pivotal race in sparking interest at the start of a very long season. A rain-shortened event in 2009 set the tone for a rocky year, and two lengthy delays to fix a pesky pothole in the track surface impacted the 2010 season.

Then came Trevor Bayne's upset victory last year, and NASCAR never looked back. The 2011 season ranked among the best in years, and ended with a phenomenal race between Stewart and Carl Edwards for the Sprint Cup championship. The two ended the season tied in the standings, with the title going to Stewart on a tiebreaker.

All that momentum meant NASCAR could tweak very little during the offseason. Why mess with a good thing, right?

Well, not everything was sunshine and roses.

NASCAR officials said earlier this month that more than 80 percent of fans polled "hated" the two-car tandem style of racing that had taken over at Daytona and Talladega. Such a strong opinion forced NASCAR to spend a significant chunk of the offseason tinkering with the rules package in an effort to recreate pack racing before the Feb. 26 opener.

The Shootout proved NASCAR made the right moves, and the drivers seemed overwhelmingly in favor of the racing.

"It's pretty wild and crazy, but, I mean, I like this better than what we had last year, definitely," said four-time champion Jeff Gordon, who rolled his car several times and wound up on his roof for what he said was the first time in his NASCAR career.

Gordon's night ended seconds after he nudged Busch, triggering a chain-reaction crash that also led to Busch's second save of the race. It was one of three multicar crashes — the wrecks collected 23 total cars, set up a green-white-checkered overtime finish and resulted in the closest finish in race history. Busch's margin of victory was a mere 0.013 seconds, and his driving awed his competitors.

"I was right behind him ... and he had to catch it three times before he saved it," Stewart said. "When you get 3,400 pounds moving like that, to catch it one time was pretty big. To get away from him and catch it a second time was big. The third time was big. That's three big moments in one corner. He just never quit driving it.

"There's a lot of guys that wouldn't have caught that. I'm sitting there and the green is still out. I'm going, 'Man, that's the coolest save I've seen in a long time.'"

It was a redemption of sorts for Busch, who had to fight hard to keep his sponsors intact at the end of last season. Suspended by NASCAR for intentionally wrecking Ron Hornaday Jr. in a Truck Series race at Texas, primary sponsor M&M's told Joe Gibbs Racing it didn't want Busch in its car the final two races of the year.

His career was at a crossroads, and Busch worked hard during the offseason to repair his reputation. He referenced M&M's, which was back on his car for the first time since the company pulled itself off the No. 18 Toyota for the final two races of last season, during his Victory Lane celebration.

"First race back in the M&M's car, and we're back in Victory Lane. Pretty cool," Busch said.

There are other feel-good stories heading into NASCAR's biggest race of the year.
  • Danica Patrick will make her Daytona 500 debut, and the series is thrilled she's made the full-time move to NASCAR.
  • Dale Earnhardt Jr., NASCAR's most popular driver, had his best season in five years in 2011 and is excited about his chances in the Daytona 500.
"I like this kind of racing better. At least I know what to expect," Earnhardt said. "I feel like I have a better chance with this style than I did last year for damn sure."
  • Edwards bounced back from his loss to Stewart in the title race by winning the pole for the Daytona 500.
  • There's already some controversy, as the car for five-time series champion Jimmie Johnson failed inspection before it ever got on the track. Crew chief Chad Knaus will likely be penalized after the Daytona 500.
It's all setting the stage for Sunday, which is shaping up to be a strong opener for NASCAR. The race probably won't be 500 miles of three-wide racing, but if it's anything close to the Shootout, it's bound to be entertaining.

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