Friday, June 3, 2016

Boxing Legend Muhammad Ali, 'The Greatest', Dies at 74

Muhammad Ali, the three-time heavyweight champion of the world and global icon whose magnetic charm and anti-establishment ethos made him someone Hollywood found impossible to resist, has died. He was 74.

Image result for muhammad aliAli, named Sportsman of the Century by Sports Illustrated in 1999, died Friday at a Phoenix hospital. In 1984, the boxer was diagnosed with Parkinson’s syndrome -- a disease thought to be brought on by head trauma -- and spent his last years increasingly shaky, immobile and quiet.
Will Smith received an Oscar nomination for portraying the champ in Michael Mann’s Ali (2001), and the fighter played himself in The Greatest, a 1977 Columbia film adapted from his autobiography. Ali starred as a slave turned U.S. senator opposite Kris Kristofferson in the 1979 NBC telefilm Freedom Road, based on a true story, and he lit the torch to kick off the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.
And in the late 1970s, he even voiced his own Saturday morning cartoon, I Am the Greatest!: The Adventures of Muhammad Ali, which saw his character jetting around the world fighting evil.
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However seen or characterized onscreen, Ali was never more vital than in When We Were Kings (1996), the Oscar-winning feature documentary that immortalized “The Rumble in the Jungle,” his Oct. 30, 1974, bout with heavyweight champion George Foreman in Kinshasa, Zaire.
“I live in America,” Ali says in the film, “but Africa is the home of the black man. I was a slave 400 years ago, and now I’m going home to fight among my brothers.”
Because of legal and financial difficulties, it took director-producer Leon Gast more than 20 years to bring When We Were Kings to the screen.
In the bout, which started at 3 a.m. local time, Ali, then 32, employed a “rope-a-dope” style to wear out the stronger Foreman, 24, before finishing him off in the eighth round to reclaim the crown taken from him in 1967 when he refused to serve in the U.S. military.
That stance, coming after he joined the Nation of Islam and ditched his birth name Cassius Clay, angered many Americans, who called him a coward and a draft dodger. Others, though, considered him a hero – one that would go to Iraq and negotiate with Saddam Hussein to engineer the release of 15 U.S. civilian hostages in 1990 and receive the 2005 Presidential Medal of Freedom.

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Image result for muhammad aliAli’s wars came in the squared circle, where he also battled archrival Joe Frazier in three of the greatest boxing matches of all time before retiring from the ring in December 1981 with a 56-5 record and the title as the most recognizable person on Earth.
“When I fly on an airplane,” Ali once told film critic Roger Ebert, “I look out of the window and I think, ‘I am the only person that everyone down there knows about.’ ”
Born in Louisville, Ky., on Jan. 17, 1942, Ali first entered the world spotlight when he captured a gold medal at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome. He composed one of his first poems:
“To make America the greatest is my goal,
So I beat the Russians, and I beat the Pole,
And for the USA won the medal of gold.
Italians said, ‘You’re greater than the Cassius of old.’ ”
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Unlike most heavyweight boxers of his day, he had uncommon quickness and elusiveness, describing his style as “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.”
Outside the ropes, he showed a witty, intelligent side (even though he suffered from dyslexia and had trouble reading while growing up) and learned from pro wrestler Gorgeous George how to spewed braggadocio. He took verbal assaults to a level never before reached in the annals of sport -- then backed up pretty much every boast or prediction he made.
At age 22 in February 1964, he surprised the surly 7-to-1 favorite Sonny Liston in Miami (he clowned around with The Beatles on their first trip to the States before the fight, and George Harrison would later call him “quite cute”) to take the heavyweight title for the first time. “I shook up the world! I shook up the world,” he shouted in the ring.
He beat Liston again 15 months later in Lewiston, Maine; Neil Leifer’s shot of Ali hovering over his fallen competitor is one of the most memorable sports photographs ever taken.
In April 1967, Ali was arrested in Houston after he refused induction into the U.S. Armed Forces. The New York State Athletic Commission quickly suspended his boxing license and stripped him of his title, and other state commissions followed suit.
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On June 28, 1971, the Supreme Court overturned Ali’s conviction. (His legal battle was the subject of two projects in 2013: the HBO telefilm Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight and the documentary The Trials of Muhammad Ali).
“When I look back, I see only what I have accomplished,” he wrote in his 2004 autobiography, The Soul of a Butterfly: Reflections on Life’s Journey. “The price I paid was nothing compared to what I gained. I lost the championship title. I lost three and a half of my prime fighting years. I lost financial security and public acclaim, but I gained something greater by giving it all up — a title no man or government could ever take away: I was the People’s Champion.”
In his third fight since returning from suspension, he lost to Frazier in a 15-round unanimous decision in March 1971 in New York’s Madison Square Garden in “The Fight of the Century.” Frank Sinatra was ringside to photograph the bout for Life magazine.
After avenging that defeat in a non-title bout back at the Garden in January 1974, Ali met his rival again in October 1975 in the Philippines for “The Thrilla in Manilla,” with Ali prevailing when Frazier could not come off his stool for the 14th round. Both fighters were exhausted and struggling to survive.
“I remember telling [trainer] Angelo [Dundee] after I won that it was the closest I’d ever come to dying,” he wrote in his book.
Image result for muhammad aliIn September 1976, Ali beat Ken Norton in Yankee Stadium in New York in their third meeting, And seven months after a shocking loss to Leon Spinks, he avenged that defeat in New Orleans in September 1978 to become heavyweight champ for an unprecedented third time.
Ali’s other brushes with the world of entertainment included a cameo in the 1962 film version of Requiem for a Heavyweight; appearing as a mystery guest (can you imagine?) on a 1965 episode of What’s My Line?; starring on Broadway during his exile in the 1969 short-lived musical Buck White; as the subject of aDean Martin Celebrity Roast in 1976; making sportscaster Howard Cosell a frequent foil on Saturday afternoons on ABC’s Wide World of Sports; sparring with Rocky star Sylvester Stallone on stage at the 1977 Oscars; showing up on episodes of Diff’rent StrokesVegas and Touched by an Angel; and refereeing Hulk Hogan’s WrestleMania I bout in 1985.
Ali was married four times, the last to the former Lonnie Williams, who survives him, as does his nine children: Maryum, Rasheda, Jamillah, Hana, Laila (a former boxer herself and reality TV star), Khaliah, Miya, Muhammad and Asaad.
In his autobiography, Ali reflected on his legacy and how he would be judged. “When I’m gone, they’ll just have to look at the records and look at my actions. Then it is up to the people to rank me where they want,” he wrote.
“They’ll have to say I was the fastest heavyweight that ever lived. They’ll have to say that I was the best looking — my face was unscratched and unmarked. They’ll have to say that I was the most entertaining and the most clever. They’ll say that even without a college education, I was smart enough to lecture at colleges and debate the best minds on television. They’ll have to say that I was the only real world champion. I fought in such diverse places as Zaire, England, Indonesia, Switzerland, Japan and the Philippines.
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“They’ll have to say that I was the most famous man in the world, the most famous fighter in history. They’ll have to say that I invented the rope-a-dope and the Ali Shuffle. They’ll have to say that I was the boxer who could predict the winning rounds of my fights. They’ll have to say that I was the People’s Champion. They’ll have to say that after I stopped boxing, the sport lost its zest and wide appeal. They’ll have to say that I loved the people as much as they loved me.
“And after they review all the facts, they’ll have no choice but to conclude that I AM the Greatest of All Time!”

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

What led to Alexandria Vera, English middle school teacher, to sexually preying on her thirteen year old student?

636003838346866984-Vera-Mug-1464798295051-2628029-ver1.0-2.pngHOUSTON – A twenty-four-year-old teacher accused of having sex with a thirteen-year-old student turned herself in to police on Wednesday morning, after a warrant was issued for her arrest.

Alexandria Vera, 24, is charged with continuous sex abuse of a child. Harris County prosecutors said Vera had sex with a 13-year-old boy who was also her student.  The victim turned 14 after the alleged crimes.

Students remember Vera as the “cool teacher” who let kids at Stovall Middle School use cell phones in class.  They also long suspected her to be romantically involved with an eighth-grader.
“That kid was always over (Vera’s house in Spring) and she always told (neighbors) it was her brother,” said one neighbor, who did not want to be identified.

Vera sometimes had as many as five teenage boys over at one time, accord ing to neighbors.

“She was having a lot of kids in her home,” one neighbor said.  “There was drinking in the front.  We always found beer bottles and beer cans on her side of the lawn and half of the (teens) did not look older than high school, maybe.”

According to court documents, Vera said she and the victim “love each other.”  They had sex almost daily for nine months, Vera told investigators, according to court documents.  She said the two met in summer school, then grew close the following school year.

During an open house in the fall, Vera claimed she was introduced to the victim’s parents as “his girlfriend.”  She also told investigators the boy’s family accepted the relationship, invited her to family gatherings and became “very supportive and excited” when told Vera was pregnant with the victim’s child in January, according to court records.

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But when Child Protective Services showed up at the school to question Vera and the victim, she said she got nervous and later had an abortion.

Vera already has a 4-year-old daughter. Neighbors said they have not seen either for days.

A man answered Vera’s door Tuesday and said he did not know where she went. Police issued a warrant for her arrest before she turned herself in on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Aldine ISD said Vera has been on administrative leave since last month and that the district is in the process of terminating her employment.

In a statement, school district officials said:

Image result for Alexandria VeraAldine ISD has been made aware that charges have been filed against a former Stovall Middle School teacher involved in inappropriate behavior with a male student. When the allegation was made in April, the teacher was immediately removed from the school and placed on administrative leave. Aldine ISD Police investigated the incident and turned their findings over to the Harris County District Attorney’s Office. The safety and security of Aldine ISD’s students and staff remains a priority of the school district.
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Vera's bond was set at $100,000. She remains in custody at this time. Texas law, the felony sexual abuse charge carries a minimum sentence of 25 to 99 years in prison. Probation and early release are not options, according to the law, because it is an aggravated offense.

TOP STORY: Police Say Man Posted Photo of Girlfriend’s Body on Facebook; It Lingered for 36 Hours

A Texas man posted a photo of his dead girlfriend’s body on her Facebook page on Sunday after fatally stabbing her as part of a suicide pact, the police say. The image remained on the site for 36 hours before Facebook removed it.

Kenneth Alan AmyxCredit, via Associated Press
The man, Kenneth Alan Amyx, 45, told the authorities that he and his girlfriend, Jennifer Streit-Spears, 43, had discussed a suicide pact for months. They had been drinking at an apartment in Plano, Tex., and had agreed to stab each other until both died, according to a Plano Police Department affidavit. But Ms. Streit-Spears “chickened out,” Mr. Amyx said, and he had to “finish her off,” according to the affidavit.

Officer David Tilley, a spokesman for the department, said that Mr. Amyx not only posted a photo of Ms. Streit-Spears — nude and with her neck cut — on her page, he also posted a selfie of his face covered in blood and the words “Pray for us,” the officer said.

Officer Tilley said the photo of the body was dark, as though the lights had been out and the photo had been taken without a flash. Still, he said, “it was quite disturbing.”

The privacy settings on the Ms. Streit-Spears’s Facebook account did not allow access to the public, Officer Tilley said, though he added, “It’s everywhere for family and friends to see.”

After the stabbing, Mr. Amyx called his father and said: “This is Ken. I love you. We’ve cut our throats,” and gave him the address of the apartment, the affidavit said. Mr. Amyx was charged with murder.
Ms. Streit-Spears’s mother called 911 around 10 a.m. on Sunday after seeing the photos on Facebook and after Mr. Amyx had texted them to her, the police said. But the photos remained on Facebook for about 36 hours, even after Ms. Streit-Spears’s relatives asked the social media giant to remove them.
Facebook, which receives one million reports a week about possible violations of community standards, said the image of the body at first did not appear to violate its policies, because it was not immediately clear what it depicted and that it had been posted by someone other than the account user.

“We remove graphic images when they are shared to celebrate violence,” a Facebook spokeswoman said in a statement. “As soon as it was clear what the facts were behind this photograph, we removed it.”

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Robert J. Thompson, a professor of popular culture at Syracuse University, noted that social media sites were being used in ways that could not have been predicted years ago, adding that the Texas case was not the first time recordings of violent acts had been posted online.

In Florida, Derek Medina posted a photo of his wife’s bloody body on Facebook after shooting her eight times. He was convicted of second-degree murder and was sentenced in February to life in prison.

As for what could lead someone to post incriminating evidence on Facebook to be seen by so many, Mr. Thompson said, “There is no rational answer to it.”

Ms. Streit-Spears’s Facebook page has since been turned into a memoriam page. According to her social media profile, she studied criminal justice at the University of North Texas. She and Mr. Amyx had been dating for about four months, the police affidavit said, before the stabbing.

The couple took turns cutting each other, Mr. Amyx told the authorities, but after she was cut, she became too weak to continue, he said. Officer Tilley said the police found Mr. Amyx naked and bloody in a bedroom. The police initially thought he was dead until he started to make noises. He had superficial cuts and one wound on his neck, which required stitches, the officer said.

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Two knives, one of them a six-inch carving knife, were found at the scene. As he was being taken to the hospital, the police said, Mr. Amyx told a firefighter: Oh, I killed her. Oh, I lost her. I’ll never get her back. Just kill me.”

Mr. Amyx had two outstanding warrants: one accusing him of indecency with a child in Dallas County, and another charging him with sexual abuse of a child under the age of 14 in Rockwall County, according to court records.

Mr. Amyx’s father, Charles, declined to comment on Tuesday night, citing the instructions of his lawyer. In an interview on Tuesday night, Mr. Amyx’s lawyer, Keith Gore, said some things had not yet been disclosed in the case but did not elaborate.
He said he would seek to have his client’s bond reduced; it was set at a total of $600,000 in the murder case and two other cases.

Sacramento Kings Guard Darren Collison Arrested For Felony Domestic Violence

Collison has been released on $55,000 bail.

Image result for Sacramento Kings guard Darren CollisonSacramento Kings guard Darren Collison was arrested Monday afternoon at a Northern California home and charged with felony domestic violence after deputies found a woman visibly injured at the house.
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The Placer County Sheriff's Office said Collison was charged with one count of corporal injury on a spouse as well as two misdemeanor bench warrants for driving a suspended license. 
According to reports, the Kings guard was only in jail for a few hours before being released on $55,000 bail.
In a quick statement about Collison's Memorial Day arrest, the Kings said:
"The Sacramento Kings condemn violence of any kind,'' the team said. "We are gathering additional information and once all facts are known we will take appropriate steps.''

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Collison averaged 14 points and 4.3 assists per game in 73 appearances for the Kings last year.