Patt Morrison for June 24, 2010

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State workers and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger have never gotten along—after beating up on them in successive campaigns (the infamous vow to “kick the butts” of the state nurses union) he went on to demand concessions in collective bargaining agreements and furloughed state employees for several days out of the year. Once again, on the eve of yet another bitter budget battle, the Governor has public employees in his crosshairs, threatening to cut their salaries to minimum wage until the Legislature strikes a budget accord. It is a foregone conclusion that Sacramento will fail to produce a balanced budget by the end of the fiscal year next Wednesday, so in theory over 200,000 state workers will see their paychecks dramatically reduced. In the background of all of this are tense negotiations over new agreements with the unions and several court cases about how far the governor can go in punishing public employees. Is it fair to blame California’s budget mess on state workers?
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And we thought only World Cup soccer games lasted this long—or at least it often feels that way. John Isner and Nicolas Mahut are not necessarily household names on the international tennis circuit, but even if they do nothing else in their careers they will make history over the course of three days and at least 10 hours on the tennis court: they are in the midst of playing the longest tennis game ever, as they enter Thursday’s third installment of their match at Wimbledon tied 59-59 in the final set. The net on Wimbledon Court 18 broke at one point, then the scoreboard conked out, but Isner and Mahut continued to play on. As play was suspended Wednesday night the two men had served up nearly 100 aces a piece and are guaranteed to far surpass the next longest game, which was at 6-hours, 33-minutes during the 2004 French Open. How much longer will the epic tennis battle rage on?
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Go USA…….but does soccer suck?

It was a fantastic end-to-end rush: the Algerian team put on a fierce attack against the American goal, peppering the goalie with shots; he makes a key save, launches the ball up field, the American players on an all out sprint close in on the Algerian goalkeeper and with one shot and a nice rebound, Landon Donovan catapults the American soccer team into the second round of the World Cup. It was a delirious 11 seconds out of a 92 minute soccer match, which is why in spite of all of the excitement surrounding this World Cup tournament, we maintain that soccer still sucks. The inspiring Donovan goal is a rarity in soccer, the kind of frenetic end-to-end action that is so often absent in drawn out matches than have a high tendency to end in scoreless ties. This is why soccer has no traction in the U.S.; this is why the World Cup is more popular as a curious spectacle rather than an attention-grabbing sports event. You may forever root for the U.S. team, but there is any doubt that soccer still sucks?
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The fight against cancer still wages on in the medical world as there are “breakthroughs” in the field seemingly everyday. Scientists work tirelessly to combat the disease, bringing forth ideas such as training the immune system to fight cancer and examining cancerous cells in 3D to better form an attack strategy. There’ve also been strides made in the path toward a cancer vaccine, but alas, no cigar. In any case, the battle must be fought slowly and a step at a time. So where are we, really, in the fight against cancer? And what effect does the media have on society when it turns a small step into a giant leap?
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Probably nothing is more certain, more studied or more essentially “human” than war, but new study may change that. Dr. John Mitani of Michigan University recently completed a ten-year look at warfare among chimpanzees, finding that they cooperate to organize themselves with the intent to capture territory, their behavior is adaptive, and that natural selection has therefore hard-wired warfare into their neural circuitry. That’s of particular interest to humans because of the possibility that we both inherited an instinct for aggressive behavior from a common ancestor who lived about 5 million years ago. Chimp warfare heretofore has rarely been observed by humans—Jane Goodall famously witnessed a chimp community in Tanzania’s Gombe National Park split into two and then one group wipe out the other (but those chimps had been fed bananas, leading some researchers to blame the war on this human intervention) and the only other instance involved another Tanzanian chimp group that was wiped out completely, but no bodies were ever found. From what has been witnessed, chimps’ warfare closely resembles that of contemporary human hunter-gatherer societies, so if there is a genetic link, Dr. Mitani’s study raises many more questions—can chimps foresee the consequences of their behavior? Do they calculate the outcomes? And what can they tell us about ourselves and our perhaps inevitable appetite for war.
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Are Americans afraid to take vacation? We’ve earned a global reputation as workaholics; we’re the only advanced economy in the world that does not guarantee paid vacation time to our workers; and now, in a recession, could it be that we’re scared of losing our jobs if we take our due time off? According to a pre-recession report by the Center for Economic Policy Research, 1 in 4 U.S. workers did not receive any paid vacation or paid holidays. A lack of paid vacation and holidays was especially common among lower-wage and part-time workers. Now, in light of a recession, fears of unemployment and an increase in the number of part-time workers, has this only gotten worse?
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