Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Another visit to the 'pigsty' of life

JUST WHEN the seamy details of the BALCO (steroids) case had, seemingly, started to corner the biggest names in baseball, scandals involving two other major sports -- football and basketball -- hit the proverbial fan in succession.
So what's next? Hockey? Tiddly-winks? Stay tune for the next edition of your scandal sheet.
Of course, there was a time of innocence or at least a lull when according to a now departed scribbler called sports "the playpen of life." However, nowdays, it's just "the pigsty."
In January, I listed the top seven scandals, in my opinion, starting with the one involving "better living through chemistry" known as BALCO, which has surrounded such illustrious names as Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi.
Ranked at No. 2 was Canada's Ben Johnson with Tonya Harding's whacking on Nancy Kerrigan's knees in 1994 at No. 3. In quick succession came the disgrace shadowing baseball basher-gambler Pete Rose; former NHLer Mike Stanton; bruising Mike Tyson and, of course, O.J.
For good measure, we added the notoriety surrounding Rick Tocchet and Gretzky's gambling spouse, Janet, and then there was Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant.
It seemed the scandals and its "dry rot" might have run its course.
But no, Bunky, such was not the case.
In fact, the leading seven listed in a late January column was just the tip of the iceberg.
Since Friday's banner headlines in the New York Post, the NBA has been reeling that senior hothead referee Tim Donaghy gambled on games. That's considered a definite no-no.
Was this senior official, who is being investigated by the FBI, involved in such a criminal act as point shaving?
And if you think the gambling aspect of the NBA isn't BIG BUSINESS, just scroll through the Pregame.com website and get these facts from its president, RJ Bell.
According to National Gambling Impact Study Commission, the amount gambled on sports illegally is almost 170 times bigger than the amount bet legally ($380 billion vs. $2.25 billion per year). In addition, Nevada Gaming Control Board apparently stated $61 million was bet on the NBA in May 2007.
Bell emphasized that $10 billion a month is bet, legally and illegally, on the NBA.
In other words, BIG BUSINESS is almost an inadequate term for the present situation, which even alarmed the evasive NBA commissioner David Stern, who worked as a lawyer for the league before assuming the commissioner's role.
The Donaghy gambling situation was apparently an isolated one, although Stern was certainly aware of the ongoing investigation.
"We think we have a rogue isolated criminal here," said Stern during a Tuesday morning press conference although the FBI probe is expected to root out more gambling associates Donaghy might have had.
In the meantime, the senior NBA ref, who is estimated to have earned $260,000 annually and resigned from the league on July 9, was reported to have concerns for he and his family's safety from "enemies," which could include the mob.
While the NBA reeled from the Donaghy accusations, who slipped under the so-called all-pervasive radar set by the league, it had to share the glaring spotlight, which has been aimed at the NFL and Atlanta quarterback Michael Vick, who, undoubtedly, thumbed his nose at commissioner Roger Goodell.
While the NFL boss has told Vick not to show up for the Falcons' training camp, dogfighting allegations certainly hang over this multi-millionaire player, who some have placed in the "thug" category.
The indictment against Vick and others have raised his questionable behaviour to a high level and a section in it probably outlined the savagery in the bloodsport more than any legalese. "In March 2003, Vick and others sponsored a 35-pound female pit bull in a fight that had a $26,000 purse. After the fight, Purnell Peace, one of the others indicted, consulted with Vick about the losing dog and Peace then "executed the losing dog by wetting the dog down with water and electrocuting the animal."
Whether Vick is found guilty of conducting such savagery on his property in Virginia or not, he doesn't deserve any respect and his troubling actions, not only in this instance but in others, should never be condoned by the NFL or society, in general.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: Kimberly Bell, who once had a relationship with 43-year-old Bonds, told the AP: "If I had more self-esteem when I was younger, I wouldn't have been caught up with such a rotten man."

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Being crucified for their beliefs

SO DID someone take your spot in the church parking lot? The audacity of such an act boggles the mind. It's enough to take it to the church board and complain about such an utterly, unholy act.
Or, perhaps, you didn't get to sit beside the pastor and his wife at the annual church picnic or the fact that Sister So-and-So didn't greet you in the manner you were accustomed to ... such blasphemy will definitely be reported to the district superintendent.
Those slights are common whether you are regular attendee or only manage to darken the church door at Christmas time or at Easter and they stretch from the most devout Catholic to even the most fired-up evangelical.
Am I hitting a raw nerve, oh pious one?
Of course, I'm preaching to myself after reading the BosNewsLife exclusive concerning Christians being crucified in Iraq.
The news service's Eric Leijenaar, who reports from Iraq and Syria, has detailed the findings of senior Dutch parliamentarian Joel Voordewind of the Christian Union (CU), who learned about these atrocities from a reliable source within the United Nations.
Voordewind was quoted as saying, "several Iraqi Christians were nailed to a cross and their arms tied with ropes. The ropes were put on fire."
The BosNewsLife article went on quote Voordewind as saying the victims of the cruxificions are "in most cases Christian converts who abandoned Islam or people who, religiously speaking, are involved in mixed marriages."
These reports come on the heels of thousands of Christians fleeing Iraq because of hideous persecution.
Earlier, Ken Timmerman, the executive director of the Foundation for Democracy of Iran, and author of Countdown to Crisis: the Coming Nuclear Showdown with Iran, wrote a thought-provoking expose, entitled Blood of Iraqi Martyrs for Front Page Magazine.
Timmerman, who was nominated for the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize along with John Bolton for his work on Iran, has been one of the few voices to point out the continuing terror against ancient Christian communities from Iraqi Muslim extremists.
In May, Timmerman wrote about the fire bombing of St. George's Assyrian Church in the Dora neighbourhood of Baghdad and pointed out it was the 27th church to have been destroyed by Muslim gangs since the so-called "liberation" of Iraq from Saddam's tyranny.
Perhaps, the most startling quote came from Rev. Dr. Keith Roderick of Christian Solidarity International, who told Timmerman, "the bombing of St. George's Church should leave no doubt in any one's mind that a process of ethnic cleansing has begun."
While fire bombing churches has become a familiar pattern in Iraq and elsewhere throughout the Middle East, Al-Qaeda terrorists are known to force their way into the neighborhoods and demand they pay something called "jizya." Apparently, this "jizya" or "protection" tax was instituted by the Prophet Mohammad and it's known that anyone who refuses pay it are told to convert to Islam "or leave the house within 24 hours or else be killed," according to Timmerman's article.
Peter BetBasoo of the Assyrian International News Agency (AINA) was quoted in Timmerman's story as saying Al Qaeda is demanding that "Christians pay 250,000 dinars (around $200) for the right to stay in their own homes."
While the anti-Christianity wave has swept through Iraq, it is not the only nation which has been under the cloud of persecution.
Others which have been listed are: Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Sudan, China, Yemen, Morocco, Iran, Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Chechnya, Pakistan, Laos, Maldives, Qatar, Turkmenistan, North Korea, and Somalia.
And in one of the most startling statistic available, some 465 Christians are reportedly being murdered daily for their faith, while North American churches, with few exceptions, wallow in a sea of apathy.
In 2006, an Afghan named Abdul Rahman brought the plight of persecuted Christians to world attention.
He was an unknown until his wife filed a complaint against him in a child custody dispute, and accused him of rejecting Islam -- an offence which carries the death penalty under his country's Islamic Sharia law.
Although he was condemned by the Taliban with the obvious threat of death hanging over his head, Rahman stood his ground and after a number of diplomatic manoeuvres, he was able to escape to Italy, which gave him political asylum.
After arriving in Rome from Kabul, he said: "I have been suffering for 11 years, but I was never scared of dying because I have the faith."
Rahman, according to an article in the Afghan Times, said he had converted to Christianity after spending nine years in Germany, and working for a Christian relief agency in Pakistan.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

An investigative reporter's notebook

IT'S ONE OF the most thankless jobs in any profession. Long sleepless hours, sometimes hunched over a computer with a cold cup of coffee, a phone stuck in the ear and scribbled notes in some kind of "foreign" language, which only a seasoned investigative reporter might decipher.
Two scribblers -- Michael Paulson and Jason Berry -- have earned even the briefest mention for their dogged pursuit of a story, which involved the scandal surrounding the Boston diocese and tainted priests, John Geohagen and James Porter.
And just when that scandal seemed to fade, this week, a judge in Los Angeles agreed to a $660 million payoff concerning clergy sex abuse in that diocese.
Geoghan, who during a 30-year career allegedly sexually abused some 130 people, and, finally, in 2002, was sentenced to nine to 10 years in prison for fondling a young boy at a swimming pool, according to Thomas Pierce's report in NPR. While Geohagen was awaiting a further trial, he was strangled and stomped to death while in so-called protective custody.
Porter allegedly molested some 125 children. He would die of cancer while serving a 20-year prison sentence.
Cardinal Bernard Law, the former archbishop of Boston, apparently shuffled accused priests and he quit in 2002 and now lives in Rome, overseeing one of the basilicas.
Although monetary punishment has been meted out in Los Angeles, with Cardinal Roger Mahony, offering some kind of an apology, the pain and suffering of these "survivors" will remain forever.
It's rare than investigative journalists such as those forementioned in Boston or Los Angeles are recognized for their "digging, " but they should be. The same holds true for Brian Ross and his group as well as Kevin Sites along with Max Haines, whom I consider the greatest of them all.
Haines has now, basically, retired to "smell the roses," but during his tenure with the Toronto Sun, I was privileged to be his editor, which meant I changed a few commas in his Crime Flashback columns, for his copy was always superb.
This fellow Nova Scotian showed he could mix wit and wisdom in his columns and also assisted me in my pursuit as an ID* Investigative Day columnist.
I also had my run-in with a wayward minister with a Pentecostal background, and his "sins" of the flesh led to his dismissal and a paperback in the 1990s called "Betrayal."
Then Haines was generous with his words in the introduction to another investigative paperback called "The Rassler Papers," now an e-book called "Counterfeit Hero."
This was Haines' introduction:
"The Villainous Viking has crafted a winner. Who but respected journalist Kaye Corbett, once known as the Villainous One himself, could bring the reader into the inner circle of wrestling, After reading 'Counterfeit Hero' you will never view the grunt-and-groan boys in the same light again.
Corbett reveals the inner workings of the World Wrestling Federation with special emphasis on its kingpin, Vince McMahon. He reviews the checkered history of McMahon and his wrestling heroes, who have been portrayed with publicity expertise as either clean-living lily whites or lovable monsters. Corbett exposes the chinks in the armour of the game itself, exposing the influence that anabolic steroids have had on athletes. In addition, he documents child sex abuse within the sport, which precipitated the resignation of several executives.
Not even the game's superhero, Hulk Hogan, is left unscathed. Despite his public persona as a clean living wholesome giant, Hulk Hogan (real name: Terry Bollea) has been linked to steroids and drugs. Corbett reveals that the Hulkster's image is well protected, and with good reason. He is the star of a merchandising empire than grosses $1.7 billion annually. He also stars in movies and commercials. To maintain his image, particularly with the Little Hulksters, he visits as many as 30 children's hospitals in a week. It pays well for Hogan to perpetuate his clean living, child-oriented image.
After walking through the dry rot that is the modern version of the World Wrestling Federation, Corbett relates the details of Vince McMahon's trial in which he was charged with conspiracy to distribute anabolic steroids. The testimony and evidence is presented in a most readable manner."
While the investigative paperback-e-book on pro wrestling follies was written in 1994, anabolic steroids and death are once again in the news some 13 years later. On Tuesday, a toxicology report showed Chris Benoit's body contained 10 times the normal level of testosterone, as well as the anti-anxiety drug Xanax and the painkiller hydrocodone. And, once again, solid investigative reporters will be hunched over their computers, trying to make sense of all that information.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Final words about those (ill) wills

THE OL' CURMUDGEON was lying in the weeds, waiting for me the other day.
"Say, Corbett, whatcha goin' to leave me when you depart?"
"What?" I intoned. "You know, when you croak," he muttered.
Those words I understood.
"Well, you can have visiting rights to Molly the Cat and Benny the Hound and a couple of ol' fishin' poles that I used to catch the Big One off Campbell River," I answered without the slightest hesistation.
The conversation actually spurred me into chasing down a litany of final wills, mostly strange, some humourous, and even bizarre, which struck my fancy. Maybe, you'll get either a groan or, maybe, a laugh or two out of the following:
* Ms. Eleanor Ritchey, the unmarried granddaughter of the founder of Quaker State Oil, died in 1968 with an estate worth about $12 million. It seems she left more than 1,700 pairs of shoes and 1,200 boxes of stationery to the Salvation Army. The rest of the estate went to the dogs. Yes, real mutts, for it seems, Ms. Eleanor was a collector of some 150 strays.
* Francis R. Lord, a thrifty Aussie, left one shilling to his wife and these words: "It's for tram fare so she can go somewhere and drown herself." Mrs. Lord never claimed the inheritance.
* Sandra West, who happened to be a filthy rich socialite from Beverly Hills, left most of her $3 million estate to her brother if he buried her in a lace nightgown in her Ferrari. Well, her Ferrari was packed in concrete so no one would later dig it up and drive it away. Apparently, Sandra and the Ferrari are still "parked."
* Did you hear about the woman from North Carolina, who left her estate to God? When the court told the county sheriff to find her beneficiary, he eventually submitted his report, which read: "After due and diligent search, God cannot be found in this county."
* Edgar Bergen left 10 grand to the Actor's Fund of America with one stipulation that Bergen's "friend" -- Charlie McCarthy -- come out of retirement once a year. The Fund went along with it, but it makes one wonder who does Charlie's voiceovers?
Then there's the bequeathing of both immovable and movable properties as Roshni Johar reported in India's Tribune:
* One eccentric wrote his will not on paper, but on his door in red chalk, making two witnesses sign it. The court, however, called that an absurdity, but it was finally settled when the executers unhinged the door and produced the will in court.
* Did you know that Leo Tolstoy left his possessions to the stump of a tree? Would I make up such a tale?
* German Countess Carlotta Liebenstein, who died in 1991, left 139 million German marks to Gunther III. Incidentally, III was a pet dog and now Gunther IV has a personal maid, a limo and a custom-made swimming pool. Some lucky dog, eh?
* Jimmy, Trunte, Fifi, Trine, Grinni and Gigi are six lucky chimps in the Copenhagen zoo. It seems an 83-year-old Danish woman left her entire fortune of $67,000 to them. A lawyer went to the zoo and read them their inheritance. It makes one wonder if they understood one word of it.
And speaking of eccentrics, there's the one about the wealthy New Yorker, who left the following will: "To my wife I leave one dollar and the knowledge that I wasn't the fool she thought I was. To my son, I leave the pleasure of earning a living which he had not done in 35 years."
Finally, the friendly librarian in Falkland, near the Ol' Homestead, scoured the swarb.co.uk website and found these gems:
* From England in a more gentle and generous time: The retired Sir Joseph Jekyll, Master of the Rolls and, therefore, a very senior judge, left his considerable estate to pay off the national debt. A contemporary commentator suggested he might as well have "attempted to block the middle arch of Blackfriars Bridge with his full-bottomed wig." More surprisingly, perhaps, the will was later set aside on the 'ground of imbecility.'
* Even further back in time was Billy Shakespeare's bequest: "I gyve to my wief my second-best bed with the furniture."
That's a good one, William, even if you couldn't spell gyve (give) or wief (wife).
Then there's the bizarre 911 calls such as this one:
(Dispatcher) 911. What's your emergency?
(Caller) I'm scared.
(Dispatcher) What's the problem?
(Caller) I just got a Ouija board for my birthday and now there's writing on my wall and I can't get it off ... This thing is going back to Kmart first thing in the morning!
DID YOU KNOW? (From The Book of Lists): James Cagney never uttered the line, "You dirty rat" in any of his roles as a hard-boiled gangster. Cagney impersonators often used it ... Also, Cary Grant never uttered the line, "Judy, Judy, Judy."

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

It's just me, the Goodyear Blimp

IT WAS a typical breakfast fare: Eggs and bacon and then washing it all down with seven tons of granulated, white sugar in my favorite brew. Yeech!
That's when I knew I was in trouble with The Missus.
"You know what, Corbett, I can't fit into anything any more?" she whispered. "I'm going to go on the Atkins' Diet."
The Ol' Columnist just nodded his head.
After all, being the second coming of the Goodyear Blimp, I knew enough to keep my mouth shut and that's when she hit me with one of those addendum: "When are you going on one? You certainly could lose that gut!"
Sometimes, a wife can crush you with a few words.
And that's when I thought, "Self, if she's on Atkins', you'll have to make a choice? Will it be the South Beach, the Zone Diet, the Hoodia, the Mayo Clinic Diet, the Amazing Chinese fat-loss secret diet or what about Sonoma?"
That's when I remembered watching Jordan Rubin on TV and something he called The Maker's Diet and wondered if it would be of assistance even for an unhealthy "fat" man.
When I looked up his website, he claimed The Maker's Diet had saved his life.
"In 1994 at 19 years of age and six foot one inch tall, my weight plummeted from 180 pounds to a shocking 104 pounds in a matter of months," he wrote. "As my immune system began to break down, I suffered from a list of debilitating conditions, including intestinal parasites, abdominal pain, chronic diarrhea, liver problems, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, arthritis, prostate and bladder infections, irregular heartbeat, eye inflammation, and chronic depression.
"I was diagnosed with Crohn's disease. Though I was not familiar with the disease, I soon learned that my future looked bleak. I was told that medications would keep me alive, but I quickly discovered that their side effects were nearly as bad as the disease itself. And then, it turned out, the medications weren't that effective. I continued to waste away. Science knew of no cause or cure from Crohn's at the time, and my prognosis was very poor."
Rubin then continued to write that he had seen 70 health professionals in seven countries and had 500 different treatments and still ended up in a wheelchair about to die.
His world changed when his father contacted an eccentric nutritionist who said Rubin was ill because he wasn't eating the diet of the Bible.
"I integrated the nutritionist's program with my own findings about nutrition and health from the Bible, and for the first time in my long battle, I saw some improvment in my health.
"I believe my survival is a true testament to the power of my faith in God and the revolutionary health program I call The Maker's Diet. In the seven years since my recovery, I have not shown any sysmptoms of the disease that nearly took my life."
When watching Rubin on TV, one item that turned me off was brown seaweed, but I could handle some of his diet ideas (www.makersdiet.com) for Breakfast: Easy Egg Scramble; Tomato-Basil Omelet; Blueberry Muffins; Leek Frittata; French Toast ... Lunch: Coconut Milk Soup; Salade Nicoise; Texas-Style Chili; Traditional Beef Stew; Roast Beef Sandwich With Cole Slaw ... Dinner: Family Roast Beef; Cilantro-Lime Chicken Cacciatore; Wild Alaskan Salmon With Pecan Pesto; Steak au Poivre With Fried Peppers and Onions; Spaghetti With Meat Sauce.
For Rubin, The Maker's Diet took him from a scrawny creature to a solid and healthy individual.
While it sounds appealing, The Missus has made up her mind to follow Atkins' Diet Plan with its list of all you can eat such as lamb, ham, bacon, pork, veal, beef and venison all the way to poached, deviled and scrambled eggs to cream cheese. However, there are a number of items to steer clear off such as rice, cereals (bread, flour, breakfast cereals), maize, wheat, things high in sugar (fruit, juice, candy), potatoes (chips & fries) along with alcohol (beer & whisky). That's okay since neither one of us imbibe.
Tomorrow, we'll go on The Maker's Diet and Atkins (www.101dietrecipes.com/), respectively.
Now, please excuse me while I munch the last of these three chocolate-covered cookies and wash it down with some Coke (that's Diet Coke, of course).
SOME ALL-STAR SAYINGS (From baseball great Yogi Berra): These are worth repeating -- "Think! How the heck are you going to think and hit at the same time?" ... "I knew I was going to take the wrong train, so I left early." ... "If you can't imitate him, don't copy him." ... "You better cut the pizza in four pieces because I'm not hungry enough to eat six." ... "Baseball is 90 per cent mental -- the other half is physical."

Saturday, July 7, 2007

So 'Git Er Done' Larry The Cable Guy

"LORD, I APOLOGIZE FOR ... Daniel Lawrence Whitney ... and be with the starvin' pygmies in Noo Guinea, Amen."
In this ultra-serious world when the No. 2 al-Qaeda goon has declared the annihilation of the West and vile medical doctors have made a mockery of the Hippocratic Oath, Whitney, aka Larry the Cable Guy, brings a smile even to the most sophisticated TV viewer.
If you don't believe me, then why is The Missus always mouthing, "Git-er-done" even when no one's listening.
And just the other night as gloom settled over the planet, Ol' Larry was smashing political correctness and spinning yarns about an overweight sister who looks like DeeWayne from the Ozarks and has multiple moles. So many Larry has nicknamed her "Old Moley," "Holy Moley" and "Guacamole."
Of course, he spreads his caustic wit to his entire "family," for according to his Wikipedia blurbs, his sister's baby has been pegged as "Rolie Polie Moley."
Although, the sophisticates would turn up their noses at Whitney and snub his sometimes racist and homophobic references, Ol' Larry answers with "the only people who are uptight at my shows are politically correct white people."
Just the other night, this now millionaire laughmaster was on Donny Deutsch's The Big Idea and viewers quickly learned that Whitney, the one-time baseball player and hotel bellhop, showed off his comedic wares when a friend convinced him to go on stage at an "open mike" comedy show and as they say the rest of history.
In his bio, Whitney was born in Pawnee City, Nebraska and then moved to West Palm Beach, Fla., when he was 16 where he attended Berean Christian School. His father was a preacher, who worked as the school's principal, and had played guitar with the Everly Brothers at one time.
He worked at Wendy's before being thrust into the showbiz realm with a radio call-in stint and "Larry" became born when a friend suggested he call in as a cable installer.
While he's appeared with his other comedic talents such as Bill Engvall on the Blue Collar Comedy Tour, Whitney has been the voice of Mater on the animated film Cars. He's followed this up with Delta Force and Witless Protection to be released in 2008.
Besides The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch, Whitney also has made a (lasting) "Larry" impression on 60 Minutes in which correspondent Bob Simon said: "Larry is not angry, he's not depressed, he's not paranoid ..."
That's the Cable Guy, who claims his grandma has a severe case of the 'walkin' farts' ... Lord, I apologize for that!
Speaking of Deutsch, besides showcasing a litany of rising and money-generating individuals on his The Big Idea program, is more than just another talk show host, for he's chairman of Deutsch, Inc., a $2.7 billion marketing company.
One of the most fascinating characters to be on his Big Idea show was Matthew Kaye, aka Matt Striker, who was fired from his teaching job when he took a few days off wrestle in Japan.
Until that time, Mr. Kaye was the social studies teacher at Benjamin Cardozo High School in Queens, New York, and then his weekend ventures became known with his wrestling persona plastered in the newspapers ... and, quickly, his educational bosses dismissed him.
However, the firing has had its rewards, particularly, in the money department. Striker has found out that pro wrestling has a higher salary base than any teaching job.
Another one to realize millions of dollars from their Big Idea was Sara Blakely, who became Ernest & Young's 2002 Entrepreneur of the Year Award winner, with her pantyhose idea, known as Spanx.
Being shy, the Ol' Columnist will leave that one alone. Perhaps, The Missus should write a column about that slimming product.
Or as Larry might belch, "I don't care who you are, that's funny right there!"
DID YOU EVER HEAR THIS ONE? (From The Book Of Lists): The billionaire oil magnate J. Paul Getty (1892-1976) met Jack Dempsey in 1916, when Dempsey was an up-and-coming young fighter, and the two became good friends. Getty, who kept fit in the fully equipped basement gym in his parents' mansion, used to spar with Dempsey. Dempsey once claimed that, in an altercation over a girl, Getty knocked him out with a left upercut -- the only time Dempsey was ever KO'd by anyone.
FINALLY (From Uncle John's Bathroom Reader): High On The Hog meaning luxurious, prosperous ... Background: The tastiest part of a hog are its upper parts. If you're living high on the hog, you've got the best it has to offer.