Sunday, January 01, 2006

Memo to New Orleans Saints Staff from Team Owner, Tom Benson - from the NFL

This memo was written by Saints' Owner Tom Benson, and even though he wrote it for the organizations' staff, the National Football League released it for distribution by the member's of its press corp. Here it is below, with my commentary to follow

December 30, 2005


Hurricane Katrina overwhelmed New Orleans and the Gulf Coast region this past year. All citizens, businesses and governmental agencies in the region are continuing to deal with the recovery and rebuilding effort. Our Saints organization did many exceptional and unprecedented things to keep operating and play its entire 2005 schedule. We received tremendous cooperation in the San Antonio community to accomplish this.

While we are disappointed with our won-loss record, we are looking forward to recapturing the winning momentum we had at the end of the 2004 season and to playing the 2006 season knowing that many of this year's challenges will be behind us.

Recently I met with Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and told him that I wanted the Saints to resume operations in our training and practice facility in Metairie. Subsequently, it has been confirmed that our facility has been released back to us by FEMA and the National Guard. Today we are very pleased to advise our entire organization -- coaches, players and staff -- that we will be returning to Metairie in January to resume our off-season and regular season training operations there. Our facility will be fully staffed and open for player use on a regular basis by mid January. The schedule for players, including organized team activities, will be conducted in the same manner as in past seasons.

We will continue to work closely with the NFL and other entities to develop a sound playing schedule for our 2006 pre-season and regular season that will be very attractive for all Saints fans, both old and new. We are working in Louisiana to play as many games as possible in the Superdome, which may be ready in September. Many complex questions still need to be resolved in this area, and we expect to have answers to these scheduling questions early in the off-season. Along with the League and the business community in New Orleans, we will work with each of you to make the transition back to Metairie as smooth as possible.

In beginning preparations for a successful 2006 season, we have already reviewed with the NFL office a preliminary Saints playing schedule for the 2006 season that includes significantly reduced away game travel and attractive home games with the Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Redskins and Cincinnati Bengals as part of an overall slate of great match-ups.

I am proud of everyone in the Saints organization, and we should join all citizens in the Gulf Coast region in looking forward to a better year in 2006.


I think releasing this was the right action because the public image of Bentson was that he was going to use the Katrina Disaster as a reason to move the team to ...LA, perhaps. On the matter of LA, I feel the NFL's making a mistake in not carefully packaging the approach to filling that market. They must develop a plan to sell the team, and that strategy must integrate the stadium's design with the organization's overall marketing system. In other words, "themed entertainment" should be the objective. Hollywood Exec Michael Ovitiz' orginal plan for "The Hacinda" -- a 70,000-seat stadium design based on a Spanish mission, was a great example of what I'm talking about; all the way down to the ringing of the mission bells when the team scored a touchdown.

Anything less than this will prove a fiscal failure. The LA market is far too competitive for a conventional approach to NFL expansion.

100 things we didn't know this time last year - BBC online

This is a priceless collection of information. I elected to copy it rather than link to it because I don't know for how long the BCC keeps it's pages up before replacing them. This presents an English view of the World, so keep that in mind when you wonder what the reference to English royalty is all about.

Each week the BBC Magazine picks out snippets from the news, and compiles them into 10 Things We Didn't Know This Time Last Week. Here's an end of year almanac.

1. The UK's first mobile phone call was made 20 years ago this year, when Ernie Wise rang the Vodafone head office, which was then above a curry shop in Newbury.

2. Mohammed is now one of the 20 most popular names for boys born in England and Wales.

3. While it's an offence to drop litter on the pavement, it's not an offence to throw it over someone's garden wall.

4. An average record shop needs to sell at least two copies of a CD per year to make it worth stocking, according to Wired magazine.

5. Nicole Kidman is scared of butterflies. "I jump out of planes, I could be covered in cockroaches, I do all sorts of things, but I just don't like the feel of butterflies' bodies," she says.

6. WD-40 dissolves cocaine - it has been used by a pub landlord to prevent drug-taking in his pub's toilets.

7. Baboons can tell the difference between English and French. Zoo keepers at Port Lympne wild animal park in Kent are having to learn French to communicate with the baboons which had been transferred from Paris zoo.

8. Devout Orthodox Jews are three times as likely to jaywalk as other people, according to an Israeli survey reported in the New Scientist. The researchers say it's possibly because religious people have less fear of death.

9. The energy used to build an average Victorian terrace house would be enough to send a car round the Earth five times, says English Heritage.

10. Humans can be born suffering from a rare condition known as "sirenomelia" or "mermaid syndrome", in which the legs are fused together to resemble the tail of a fish.

11. One in 10 Europeans is allegedly conceived in an Ikea bed.

12. Until the 1940s rhubarb was considered a vegetable. It became a fruit when US customs officials, baffled by the foreign food, decided it should be classified according to the way it was eaten.

13. Prince Charles broke with an 80-year tradition by giving Camilla Parker Bowles a wedding ring fashioned from Cornish gold, instead of the nugget of Welsh gold that has provided rings for all royal brides and grooms since 1923.

14. It's possible for a human to blow up balloons via the ear. A 55-year-old factory worker from China reportedly discovered 20 years ago that air leaked from his ears, and he can now inflate balloons and blow out candles.

15. Lionesses like their males to be deep brunettes.

16. The London borough of Westminster has an average of 20 pieces of chewing gum for every square metre of pavement.

17. Bosses at Madame Tussauds spent £10,000 separating the models of Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston when they separated. It was the first time the museum had two people's waxworks joined together.

18. If all the Smarties eaten in one year were laid end to end it would equal almost 63,380 miles, more than two-and-a-half times around the Earth's equator.

19. The = sign was invented by 16th Century Welsh mathematician Robert Recorde, who was fed up with writing "is equal to" in his equations. He chose the two lines because "noe 2 thynges can be moare equalle".

20. The Queen has never been on a computer, she told Bill Gates as she awarded him an honorary knighthood.

21. One person in four has had their identity stolen or knows someone who has.

22. The length of a man's fingers can reveal how physically aggressive he is, scientists say.

23. In America it's possible to subpoena a dog.

24. The 71m packets of biscuits sold annually by United Biscuits, owner of McVitie's, generate 127.8 tonnes of crumbs.

25. Nelson probably had a broad Norfolk accent.

26. One in four people does not know 192, the old number for directory inquiries in the UK, has been abolished.

27. Only in France and California are under 18s banned from using sunbeds.

28. The British buy the most compact discs in the world - an average of 3.2 per year, compared to 2.8 in the US and 2.1 in France.

29. When faced with danger, the octopus can wrap six of its legs around its head to disguise itself as a fallen coconut shell and escape by walking backwards on the other two legs, scientists discovered.

30. There are an estimated 1,000 people in the UK in a persistent vegetative state.

31. Train passengers in the UK waited a total of 11.5m minutes in 2004 for delayed services.

32. "Restaurant" is the most mis-spelled word in search engines.

33. Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho has only been in an English pub once, to buy his wife cigarettes.

34. The Little Britain wheelchair sketch with Lou and Andy was inspired by Lou Reed and Andy Warhol.

35. The name Lego came from two Danish words "leg godt", meaning "play well". It also means "I put together" in Latin.

36. The average employee spends 14 working days a year on personal e-mails, phone calls and web browsing, outside official breaks, according to employment analysts Captor.

37. Cyclist Lance Armstrong's heart is almost a third larger than the average man's.

38. Nasa boss Michael Griffin has seven university degrees: a bachelor's degree, a PhD, and five masters degrees.

39. Australians host barbecues at polling stations on general election days.
More details

40. An average Briton will spend £1,537,380 during his or her lifetime, a survey from insurer Prudential suggests.
More details

41. Tactically, the best Monopoly properties to buy are the orange ones: Vine Street, Marlborough Street and Bow Street.
More details

42. Britain's smallest church, near Malmesbury, Wiltshire, opens just once a year. It measures 4m by 3.6m and has one pew.
More details

43. The spiciness of sauces is measured in Scoville Units.

44. Rubber gloves could save you from lightning.

45. C3PO and R2D2 do not speak to each other off-camera because the actors don't get on.

46. Driving at 159mph - reached by the police driver cleared of speeding - it would take nearly a third of a mile to stop.

47. Liverpool has 42 cranes redeveloping the city centre.

48. A quarter of the world's clematis come from one Guernsey nursery, where production will top 4.5m plants this year alone.

49. Tim Henman has a tennis court at his new home in Oxfordshire which he has never used.

50. Only 36% of the world's newspapers are tabloid.

51. Parking wardens walk about 15 miles a day.

52. You're 10 times more likely to be bitten by a human than a rat.

53. It takes 75kg of raw materials to make a mobile phone.

54. Deep Throat is reportedly the most profitable film ever. It was made for $25,000 (£13,700) and has grossed more than $600m.

55. Antony Worrall-Thompson swam the English Channel in his youth.

56. The Pyruvate Scale measures pungency in onions and garlic. It's named after the acid in onions which makes cooks cry when cutting them.

57. The man who was the voice of one of the original Daleks, Roy Skelton, also did the voices for George and Zippy in Rainbow.

58. The average guest at a Buckingham Palace garden party scoffs 14 cakes, sandwiches, scones and ice-cream, according to royal accounts.

59. Oliver Twist is very popular in China, where its title is translated as Foggy City Orphan.

60. Newborn dolphins and killer whales don't sleep for a month, according to research carried out by University of California.

61. You can bet on your own death.

62. MPs use communal hairbrushes in the washrooms of the Houses of Parliament.

63. It takes less energy to import a tomato from Spain than to grow them in this country because of the artificial heat needed, according to Defra.

64. New York mayor Michael Bloomberg's home number is listed by directory inquiries.

65. Actor James Doohan, who played Scotty, had a hand in creating the Klingon language that was used in the movies, and which Shakespeare plays were subsequently translated into.

66. The hotter it is, the more difficult it is for aeroplanes to take off. Air passengers in Nevada, where temperatures have reached 120F, have been told they can't fly.

67. Giant squid eat each other - especially during sex.

68. The Very Hungry Caterpillar has sold one copy every minute since its 1969 publication.

69. First-born children are less creative but more stable, while last-born are more promiscuous, says US research.

70. Reebok, which is being bought by Adidas, traces its history back more than 100 years to Bolton.

71. Jimi Hendrix pretended to be gay to be discharged from the US Army.

72. A towel doesn't legally reserve a sun lounger - and there is nothing in German or Spanish law to stop other holidaymakers removing those left on vacant seats.

73. One in six children think that broccoli is a baby tree.

74. It takes a gallon of oil to make three fake fur coats.

75. Each successive monarch faces in a different direction on British coins.

76. The day when most suicides occurred in the UK between 1993 and 2002 was 1 January, 2000.

77. The only day in that time when no-one killed themselves was 16 March, 2001, the day Comic Relief viewers saw Jack Dee win Celebrity Big Brother.

78. One in 18 people has a third nipple.

79. The section of coast around Cleethorpes has the highest concentration of caravans in Europe.

80. Fifty-seven Bic Biros are sold every second - amounting to 100bn since 1950.

81. George Bernard Shaw named his shed after the UK capital so that when visitors called they could be told he was away in London.

82. Former Labour MP Oona King's aunt is agony aunt Miriam Stoppard.

83. Britain produces 700 regional cheeses, more even than France.

84. The actor who plays Mike Tucker in BBC Radio 4's The Archers is the father of the actor who plays Will Grundy.

85. Japanese knotweed can grow from a piece of root the size of pea. And it can flourish anew if disturbed after lying dormant for more than 20 years.

86. Hecklers are so-called because of militant textile workers in Dundee.

87. Pulling your foot out of quicksand takes a force equivalent to that needed to lift a medium-sized car.

88. A single "mother" spud from southern Peru gave rise to all the varieties of potato eaten today, scientists have learned.

89. Spanish Flu, the epidemic that killed 50 million people in 1918/9, was known as French Flu in Spain.

90. Ordinary - not avian - flu kills about 12,000 people in the UK every winter.

91. Croydon has more CCTV cameras than New York.

92. You are 176 times more likely to be murdered than to win the National Lottery.

93. Koalas have fingerprints exactly like humans (although obviously smaller).

94. Bill Gates does not have an iPod.

95. The first traffic cones were used in building Preston bypass in the late 1950s, replacing red lantern paraffin burners.

96. Britons buy about one million pumpkins for Halloween, 99% of which are used for lanterns rather than for eating.

97. The mother of stocky cricketer - and this year's Strictly Come Dancing champion - Darren Gough was a ballet dancer. She helped him with his pivots.

98. Nettles growing on land where bodies are buried will reach a foot higher than those growing elsewhere.

99. The Japanese word "chokuegambo" describes the wish that there were more designer-brand shops on a given street.

100. Musical instrument shops must pay an annual royalty to cover shoppers who perform a recognisable riff before they buy, thereby making a "public performance".

Vikings head coach Mike Tice fired -- annouced just 20 minutes ago on ESPN

After a controversial year which saw the departure of Randy Moss to the Oakland Raiders, the acquistion of seven new defensive players, a new offensive coordinator, and a terrible incident of indecent exposure involving 17 players, Mike Tice, the Minnesota Vikings head coach, was fired after their 34 to 10 victory over the Chicago Bears, who had already cliched home field advantage for the playoffs.

Europe faces potential gas crisis

This is on the Scotsman and from Reuters. It could mean high prices in America too..or should I report "higher" prices.

By Stuart Penson

LONDON (Reuters) - Europe faced a potential energy crisis on Sunday after Russia started cutting gas flows to Ukraine amid a bitter dispute over prices.

Europe gets about a quarter of its gas from Russia, most of it pumped west via Ukraine. Sunday's move by Russia, which wants Ukraine to pay much more for its gas, comes as European demand hovers near peak levels because of freezing weather.

Analysts say Ukraine could defy Russia and continue drawing gas from transit pipelines, reducing the volumes bound for European customers.

Industry sources said utilities across the continent were on standby to open the taps on back-up storage depots and to ask for more gas from other suppliers like Norway and the Netherlands to safeguard flows to industrial consumers.

This despite reassurances from Russian state-controlled energy giant Gazprom that flows to Europe would not be hit by the move against Ukraine.

"Our members hope that there is enough gas in storage for the next two to three months," said Wulf Binde, senior gas specialist at the VIK industrial energy consumers' association in Germany, the biggest buyer of Russian gas.

"There could be some questions over pipeline capacity within Germany if we have to get gas from other suppliers," he said. "Gas will have to be moved within Germany and that could be a problem."

Germany's biggest supplier, E.ON Ruhrgas , which gets about a third of its gas from Russia, has said it could cope with disruptions as its storage tanks are full.

Italian utility Eni said on Saturday that Gazprom had advised it that gas supplies could be put at risk by the dispute with Ukraine.

European Union officials are due to meet for emergency talks on January 4 to discuss the situation.

Aside from Germany, Russian gas goes to Italy, France and Austria, as well as central European markets including Poland and Hungary, which say they have been preparing for supply disruptions.

Britain, which relies on imports from Belgium to meet winter demand, could also feel the squeeze if Russian flows to mainland Europe start to drop, traders said.

If continental Europe feels uncomfortable about its own supply situation then exporting gas to Britain will not be their top priority, traders said.

Britain's gas supply is already tight as output from its ageing North Sea fields drops.

A squeeze on gas supplies could also force up prices across Europe, which are already close to record highs after rallying in line with oil prices.

Sunday's events will stoke underlying concerns in Europe about future security of supply and reliance on Russia and will put EU energy policy under fresh scrutiny.

"The EU hasn't made any effort to intervene (in the Russia/Ukraine row)," said Jonathan Stern, Russian gas expert at the Oxford Institute of Energy Studies.

"For years we've been telling Russia to move towards market prices and now what are we are going to say -- market prices (for Ukraine) are not such a good idea?"

Jerry Brown moving out of Oakland

The news is at Oakland Focus -- just click on the title of this post.

Happy New Year 2006!

Happy New Year! I'm glad this year is here and after a 2005 that felt like three years in one. And where I had five family members with cancer -- two of which, my father and stepdad, who passed on. It was a year that seemed to have everything. But I got this year off right, with a great dinner at Girabaldi's with my new friend Jean, and a song or two at The Alley, all here in Oakland.

My wish for the year is good health and happiness for my Mom, the continued growth of my business, a set of great relationships for me and my friends, and the continuance of what has been a good period of my life. I also wish political victories for all my friends!

This is a political year, and for me those are the most exciting!