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Thursday, 14 June 2012

Lance Armstrong doping probe has its merits


It was only four months ago that Lance Armstrong was riding in the clear.

Two years after federal prosecutors in the United States opened an investigation into whether the seven-time Tour de France winner had engaged in an illegal doping program, the case was closed.

But, because the 40-year-old cyclist managed to avoid criminal charges, that did not guarantee those tasked with preserving the integrity of sport were just going to sit on their hands.

But the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency vowed to continue to look and the agency this week notified Armstrong that it intended to seek sanctions against him, which could result in a lifetime ban from sport, and even the retraction of his seven Tour de France titles.

Armstrong continues to maintain his innocence. His accusers continue to push. The public wonders why it still matters nearly seven years after Armstrong won his last Tour de France.


'Dallas' Reboot: Five Burning Question

Wednesday night's series premiere left us wondering everything but who shot J.R.
How about that highly entertaining return to "Dallas" Wednesday night (June 13)? TNT's reboot of the iconic '80s hit struck a chord with viewers, 6,863,000 of them to be exact, which made it the #1 scripted series premiere on all of cable so far this year.

Now that we've seen the first extended episode and been properly introduced to the new young castmembers, it's time to throw out a few burning questions we hope to have answered over the course of season one.
Whose Side Is Marta On?
Despite the aggressive scheming set up by the male characters on the show, the biggest surprise in the series premiere was in the reveal of the bait-and-switchery by Marta Del Sol (played by Leonor Varela). She's "working" for both sides of the Ewing family, or is she? J.R. told his son that he's known her for years and that she'll be the key to taking Soutfork from brother Bobby, and then we see John Ross and Marta having their own not-at-all-inconspicuous meeting on the 50-yard line of Dallas stadium. So who is Marta really working for? Bobby, J.R. or John Ross?

How Soon Will Christopher and Elena Rekindle Their Romance?
Clearly the love still burns between Christopher and Elena. We didn't even need that heated scene re-hashing the abrupt end to their too-recent engagement to know that their flame has yet to be extinguished. So what now? If John Ross is responsible for sending the email that ended their relationship, there are trying times ahead, no matter the fact that Christopher just married his second love, Rebecca. We're predicting to see a kiss between Christopher and Elena by episode three or four.

Who's Responsible for the Burglaries?
Over the course of this first extended episode there were two burglaries, one at Christopher's office and another at Bobby's home. Was it John Ross? J.R.? It's certainly easy to blame John Ross, since he is so obviously adept at manipulation and acquiring confidential information. And J.R. has no qualms about robbing his brother, but why make such a big show of it? And if it wasn't the J.R.'s, who did it and how will they use whatever was taken against their targets?

How Serious Are J.R. and Bobby's Illnesses?
Come on now, we just got the original Ewing boys back on the air and they both have life-threatening illnesses to deal with? Sure, it's realistic that Bobby and J.R. are dealing with cancer or perhaps other age-related ailments, but we cannot have their lives hanging in the balance of this first season, at least not due to medical reasons. We'll take a good ol' bounty on their heads or something appropriately more dramatic. In the meantime, how long will J.R. and Bobby be dealing with these problems?

Is John Ross Inherently Good or Evil?
All signs currently point toward evil, given the fact that John Ross is likely the reason for the end of Christopher and Elena's engagement, along with the burglary at Christopher's office. Not only that, but he wants to wrestle Southfork away from his own flesh and blood and defy the wishes of his beloved grandmother. According to actor Josh Henderson, who plays John Ross, the troublesome young lad is going to be walking a fine line all season.

"It's funny people keep asking, 'Who's good and who's bad?' " Henderson laughed. "We'll have to see. I follow in my father's footsteps basically, a little bit. Now how that describes my character we'll see, but it's definitely a lot of fun."

Earthquakes that rattled Disneyland occurred near major fault

The 4.0 earthquake that rattled the Disneyland Resort’s red-carpet premiere of the new Cars Land attraction occurred near a major fault in Southern California that can produce a magnitude-7.0 temblor.

The 8:17 p.m. shaker occurred very near a section of the Whittier fault, which straddles the border of Los Angeles and Orange counties along the suburbs of Whittier, La Habra Heights, Hacienda Heights, Rowland Heights, Brea and Yorba Linda. Wednesday evening's quake occurred just 8 miles from Disneyland.

"The Whittier fault is capable of producing a magnitude-7 earthquake, so is of concern to many seismologists, as it lies directly under a large population center," according a report posted on the Southern California Seismic Network.

More research is needed to determine which fault triggered the quake, but the initial analysis suggests it did not happen on the Whittier fault directly, said Caltech seismologist Egill Hauksson.

The fear would be that a small quake on the Whittier Fault could trigger a larger quake. The Whittier fault is relatively long, and the longer the fault, the bigger an earthquake can be.

Wednesday's quake was relatively shallow, at a depth of about 6 miles. Deeper quakes, Hauksson said, like those 8 to 10 miles below the surface, are more worrisome, because "quite often, these larger earthquakes start at greater depth, and they break ... to the surface and then run along the fault," Hauksson said.
Scientists have not detected an earthquake on the Whittier fault in modern history. The magnitude 5.6 Whittier Narrows earthquake in 1987, which caused destructive damage and killed eight people and $358 million in damage, actually occurred on the underground Puente Hills thrust fault, which lies under downtown L.A., the southern San Gabriel Valley and southeast L.A. County.

The Chino Hills earthquake, a magnitude 5.4, issued a strong jolt throughout Southern California in the summer of 2008, but most areas remained unscathed. A magnitude 4.7 quake in Inglewood in May 2009 shattered windows near the epicenter and renewed worries about the dangerous Newport-Inglewood fault, which killed 115 people during a 1933 earthquake. Finally, the predawn Pico Rivera quake in 2010, a magnitude-4.4, rattled nerves but caused no structural damage.

Nine aftershocks followed the main shock Wednesday night. The latest, a 1.7 shaker, hit just north of Yorba Linda High School at 7:35 a.m.

“It was a jolt, and a little teeny shake, and I kept thinking more was coming, but it stopped,” said Claudia Welch, a secretary at Yorba Linda High School who lives nearby. The school reported no damage.

The U.S. Geological Survey reported light shaking from southeast L.A. County into northern Orange County and the Riverside area.

With Disney's California Adventure near the main shock, the celebrities, media and other invitation-only guests who had gathered for the final piece of the $1.1-billion expansion of the Anaheim park were briefly scared.

"Earthquake just happened in so cal, felt at #carsland preview" tweeted @FindingMickey. "#disneyland #JustGotScarier."

The #JustGotScarier hashtag on Twitter was a play on the #JustGotHappier phrase Disney had used to promote Cars Land, which opens to the public Friday.

Hauksson said the earthquake should still serve as a reminder that Californians live in earthquake country and need to be prepared for the Big One.

Matt Cain gem gives Giants a perfect game at last

SAN FRANCISCO – Matt Cain tossed and turned and managed all of about four hours of sleep following his history-making gem for the Giants.

Perfectly understandable.

Cain's perfect game will be remembered among the most masterful pitching performances in regular-season baseball history, if not ever.

San Francisco's ace right-hander dominated the Houston Astros every which way Wednesday night in a 10-0 win for the 22nd perfect game ever and the fifth no-hitter already this year.

He struck out a career-best 14 batters, making up more than half of his 27 straight outs and tying Sandy Koufax for most Ks in a perfecto. Cain (8-2) threw 19 first-pitch strikes and never faced a 2-0 count in winning his career-high seventh straight start.

"I'm still pumped," said Cain, who was back on the field playing catch with fellow starter Madison Bumgarner by 10:15 a.m. Thursday after a workout. "I haven't really had a ton of time to sit down and look over stuff, see how it all happened. I don't know that it has hit me yet, maybe when I can sit down and watch the highlights, go over the game."

Add in a pair of improbable catches by Melky Cabrera and Gregor Blanco to preserve the bid, and Cain wound up with the first perfect game in the franchise's storied 130-year history and its 14th no-hitter. It was the third this month, as Cain joined the Mets' Johan Santana and a combined no-no by Seattle's staff.

He threw 125 pitches — most ever in a perfect game — and 86 of those for strikes. Seven of his strikeouts were called. He didn't shake off catcher Buster Posey even once. They were in sync on this memorable evening, all right.

"It's something I always wanted to do since I was little, but it's kind of a blur when it actually happens," Cain said Thursday, when the Giants lost their series finale to Houston 6-3.

Cain followed up Bumgarner's 12-strikeout night Tuesday, and they became the first Giants pitchers to record consecutive double-digit strikeout games since Vida Blue and John Montefusco in May 1978.

"Things like this bring a team together even more," San Francisco skipper Bruce Bochy said. "That's the first one I've seen. It was an incredible night. Matt was going about it like a normal game. That last at-bat he sprinted to first base and I yelled, 'Hey, take it easy.' But he always plays the game hard."

Team President and CEO Larry Baer and the rest of the brass must have been pinching themselves in delight that they decided to reward the two-time All-Star with a $127.5 million, six-year contract days before the season began — the richest for a right-hander.

The 27-year-old Cain showed glimpses of his potential for perfection in consecutive starts in mid-April. There was a one-hitter against Pittsburgh in the home opener, then nine shutout innings against Cliff Lee and the Phillies in a 1-0, 11-inning Giants victory his next time out — a memorable game in which the aces combined to throw 19 scoreless innings.

Yet even Giants Hall of Famers Carl Hubbell, Christy Mathewson, Juan Marichal and Gaylord Perry hadn't accomplished what Cain did Wednesday.

Perry, who lives in the North Carolina mountain town of Spruce Pine, caught the replays when he woke up early Thursday. He's thrilled the Giants have a perfecto at last.

"I'll take that no-hitter I had, though," Perry said with a laugh, taking a break Thursday from painting his horse barn. "I saw him in the spring and he was throwing well. He was just a strong young man and I expect great things out of him, maybe not another perfect game. I think he'll be the first guy in many years to win 20 games for us. He has the fight in him, he has the stuff and he has the determination to do just that."

Philip Humber of the Chicago White Sox tossed the majors' last perfecto at Seattle on April 21. This is the second time in three years there have been two perfect games in the same season — before that, the only other time it happened was in 1880.

And San Francisco pitching coach Dave Righetti was among the first to embrace Cain afterward. Righetti is the only other member of the team with a no-hitter after he stymied the rival Red Sox in a no-no for the New York Yankees on July 4, 1983.

Highlights of Cain's latest brilliant outing were shown before Thursday afternoon's series finale with Houston, and the pitcher received another warm ovation from his supporters at AT&T Park.

Cain's cap, cleats, dirt from the mound, a ball and his uniform are being sent to Cooperstown. The umpires presented the pitcher with a game ball signed by all four of them. The Giants also replaced the pitching rubber and home plate and will keep those as mementos in San Francisco.

First baseman Brandon Belt made sure Cain got the game ball, quickly putting it in his back pocket after catching third baseman Joaquin Arias' throw for the 27th and final out. Cain's wife, Chelsea, hands clasped in front of her except when she clapped as he recorded each out, said "C'mon, c'mon" as Arias fielded pinch-hitter Jason Castro's bouncer and exhaled when the throw across the diamond was on target.

"I think I watched video of the last out 15 times. It was pretty cool, an awesome feeling," Belt said.

Left fielder Cabrera delivered the first save with his glove when he chased down Chris Snyder's one-out flyball in the sixth at the wall that everybody in the ballpark figured was a home run. Then, right fielder Blanco sprinted into deep center for a diving catch on a hard hit drive by Jordan Schafer for the first out of the seventh.

Blanco came up holding the ball for all to see as fans in the sellout crowd of 42,298 jumped to their feet in celebration.

"I have watched it a lot, and I still don't believe I made that play," Blanco said Thursday.

Not since 1917 have there been five no-hitters in a season by mid-June. The only year that came close was 1990, when Fernando Valenzuela and Dave Stewart each pitched no-hitters on June 29 — the fourth and fifth of the season.

Of the 22 perfect games, half have come in the last 24 years. Roy Halladay and Dallas Braden each threw one two seasons ago, with Braden's coming across the bay with the Oakland Athletics on Mother's Day 2010. Braden was among those to offer congratulations to Cain on Twitter.

The Astros, who had a perfect game thrown against them for the first time, also got no-hit by Marichal on June 15, 1963.

Cain tried to keep it all in perspective the day after.

"The crazy thing is that in four more days I've got to pitch again," he said. "Enjoy it, love that it happened. But I have to start thinking about pitching against the Angels on Monday. I'm trying to stay on a routine."