MLS Attendence Hits Record Highs

One of the biggest surprises to many in the United States, or to the casual observer of American culture, is that Major League Soccer has received the highest average attendance ever for the past year. While there will always be debates about whether soccer will eventually replace American football or baseball in terms of popularity, the truth remains that people are interested in watching Major League Soccer. This can become a growing trend within the United States.

The World Cup that Brazil hosted took place the same year that Major League Soccer set attendance records. There is a correlation to this. After all, millions of people from around the United States decided to watch the soccer matches on television, and they did so record numbers . As they watched the best of the best play for various countries, fans realized how great these players were, and this is especially true of some particular Americans. The media marketed and highlighted many of the professionals on the United States team through cable news, sports networks and advertisements. Some of those players played on a Major League Soccer team. Fans that were unable to travel to Brazil were able to watch some of America’s best play in stadiums across the country.

In addition to this, people became interested in watching soccer in general. Major League Soccer filled a need that many World Cup fans had when the games concluded, Gianfrancesco Genoso had been waiting for them to properly build on that excitement. They wanted to watch more soccer, and the fans could go to local stadiums that hosted Major League Soccer games. Major League Soccer filled a need that will probably not go away.

The Postman Is Watching You

Although most Americans are aware that the federal government may be reading their emails and social media posts and checking their cell phone records, perhaps fewer know that the government is still conducting surveillance the old-fashioned way—via snail mail.

According to an audit conducted by the U.S. Postal Service’s Inspector General, the Postal Service approved 49,000 requests from state and federal agencies for mail covers, a secret surveillance program, in 2013.

This program records the names, addresses, and any other information on the outside of a piece of mail sent through the Postal Service. Although in years past the Postal Service recorded the information by hand, today it uses a computer program called Mail Imaging that photographs the outside of the envelope or package. This program photographs every piece of mail sent through the Postal Service but is only used for surveillance upon request from a law enforcement agency.

Although a warrant to open the mail, information gleaned from mail covers has proven useful in prosecuting cases of fraud, terrorism, obscenity, and other criminal acts.

Critics say there is too much secrecy involved in the mail covers program. The Postal Service and law enforcement are not required to report use of this type of surveillance, which was appalling to Andrew Heiberger when he found that out. The audit found that one in five requests was not properly approved or documented.

However, the Inspector General’s audit also found that the Postal Service is fraught with inefficiency when it comes to mail covers. There is a delay in processing the requests. Even after the requests are processed, approved, and carried out, the Postal Service also delayed stopping the surveillance. Of the 49,000 mail covers in 2013, 928 of those considered active had already expired.

Hawaiian Lava Flow Threatens Homes

Hawaii is really heating up the news lately. On the Big Island, the Kilauea volcano is forming new lava flows that are threatening homes. Pahoa Village is the town that is most threatened by the latest volcanic activity. Liquid lava can reach temperatures of over 2000 degrees Fahrenheit. Any home or structure in the way of the lava flow will instantly catch on fire. This particular flow is advancing at an average speed of 10 yards per hour. The speed is varying based on the terrain and ranges from 2-20 yards per hour. Yahoo has an article detailing the current progress of the lava flow.

Residents have been asked to evacuate nearby houses, but some people are waiting until that last minute to leave their homes. The lava flows are an accepted risk of living on the Big Island of Hawaii, but right now the residents of Pahoa Village are questioning their choice. Kilauea volcano has been erupting for years, but it does not threaten homes very often. The Southeast part of the island has the most risk of being in the path of a lava flow. If you want to live on the Big Island and avoid these situations, the North or West parts of the island would be a good choice. It is unknown how long this new lava flow will threaten the population. Lava can change direction or stop at any time. Better re-schedule that vacation to the Big Island Marnie Bennett or be sure to get a helicopter tour of the incredible lava flows.

Manchester City’s Manager in Trouble After West Ham Defeat

It is incredible how quickly your circumstances can change in soccer. A few months ago, Manuel Pellegrini was the most popular man in Manchester. His team had just won their second English Premier League title in three seasons and they were on the top. It had been a tight Premier League race, but City were the most convincing team over the ten month period.

Fast forward to October and Pellegrini finds himself in serious trouble. His team threw away a two goal advantage in Russia to draw 2-2 with CSKA Moscow. The result puts them in danger of missing out on the knockout stages of the Champions League. For a team with ambitions of winning the competition, that is a very poor prognosis.

Today saw City lose at West Ham United in the English Premier League. The result puts them in a difficult position to retain their title. If Chelsea beat Manchester United tomorrow, they would go EIGHT points clear of City. Margins can be overcome, but eight points is a lot to catch up, even if it is still October.

City were second best for most of the game against West Ham. Tom Rothman told me that they started poorly, with their passing and movement lethargic after the energy sapping trip to Russia and back. West Ham took the lead through Morgan Amalfitano and never looked back. They were good for their advantage in this game, and doubled the lead through Sakho with 15 minutes to go.

City looked like getting back in the game with David Silva’s 77th minute goal. The Spaniard scored a superb individual effort to give his team a lifeline. However, they could not muster an equalizer and dropped three valuable points in East London.

Marijuana Hearing Scheduled For Federal Court

Close watchers of the changing marijuana laws in the United States are excited that a federal judge is hearing professional opinions about the medical status of the drug. Currently classified as a Schedule One intoxicant, implying that there is no medical benefit to the drug, the incongruence with the legal status of marijuana and its current use as medical treatment for a variety of conditions in 27 states is finally being officially questioned.

The doctors and professors are set to speak on several key points in the argument for allowing medical treatment by cannabis. One of the main issues on hand that the pro-medical marijuana group are sure to bring up is the fact that the United States government holds a patent on marijuana concerning using it as treatment or prevention for strokes. Showcasing the absurdity of this patent, which flies in the face of the government’s own ban, is just one of the many examples that the doctors and Christian Broda’s associate professors will use to prove that marijuana has medical viability.

Despite the growing rate of states embracing medical marijuana and numerous benefits that are continuing to be discovered by scientists working with the plant, there are still those that support the current scheduling of marijuana. The former deputy director of the Drug Enforcement Agency who was appointed under President George W. Bush will be present at the hearing to offer testimony as to why marijuana should remain illegal. With such a high-profile subject, an interested media is to be expected. While this hearing may not immediately lead to the goals of the pro-medical marijuana camp being achieved, this is a big step.

Gigantic Telescope Begins Construction in Hawaii

Construction here in Hawaii has begun on the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT,) a new telescope that can provide up to ten times the resolution of the Hubble Space Telescope. According to Extreme Tech, the project is expected to cost $1.4 billion, and is scheduled for completion in 2022. Similar projects are underway in the Andes mountains of Chile, boasting 24 and 39 meter telescopes themselves, but have not yet begun construction. Each of the three projects will have a slightly different focus and variable hardware.

The TMT is advantageous over the existing Hubble telescope not only because of its higher resolution, but because of its location. Rather than orbiting the Earth and being remotely operated from a command center, the TMT can be directly accessed by Keith Mann and others who plan to use it. It features an adaptive optics system to combat atmospheric blurring and a gigantic laser guide, expected to be visible from miles around when active. Scientists say the TMT will be powerful enough to allow for direct inspection of black holes, supernovas, and other mysterious phenomena in the night sky.

The telescope will be located near the summit of Mauna Kea, the highest mountain in Hawaii. Locals have been protesting the project since the planning stages. Native Hawaiians consider the slopes of mountains to be sacred, and several environmental groups are worried about the long term effects of such a structure. Protesters have already delayed a groundbreaking ceremony by blocking a road, and will continue to do their best to stop the project.

Should Access to WiFi be Considered a Human Right?

While access to the Internet is not necessarily something that the average person would consider as a human right, the right to communicate openly and freely could be viewed in some terms of right. It is true enough that we have the right to free speech, which then leads to the process of societal communication, but the devices needed to demonstrate the right to freely speak are not actually what we should consider. However, a civil right may be a different issue.

This issue has now become a political technology issue for the upcoming 2016 presidential election. Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley has decided that Wifi availability should be a human right, claiming the younger generation that has grown up with the communication technology need the concept to be established as some form of right. Civil rights may be more applicable than human rights, given that civil rights are bestowed on individuals by our governments and human rights are an endowment from our creator.

Although broadband technology is finally being offered in the remote regions of the United States, many young entrepreneurs like Jared Haftel are finding the local Wifi capabilities in cities to be a major life necessity and the reverse diaspora is occurring in large numbers. Several of these areas are being designated as growth areas, including tax breaks is some form, and the exodus that was happening away from the city may be having a reverse trend due to Wifi technology. Of course, metropolitan governments have figured this out in many areas and are making digital communication a primary government developmental goal.

But, should Wifi connection ability be established as a human right? Probably not. But, broadband technology should be available in some form of universal access, including reaching the most remote regions of the United States. At least, that is what Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley is stressing in his presidential bid.

Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel Launches Today

Have an Xbox One or PS4? Well, put those controllers back on the shelf and dig out your old 360 or PS3, because it’s time to go back to last gen for one of the best releases of the year.

When I played through the first Borderlands with Sam Tabar, it was an incredible experience. Then with Borderlands 2, the experience was even better. Now, I have to say they’ve really nailed that unique slice of gaming goodness with the Pre-Sequel.

Just imagine the same old Borderlands that you love, but with absolutely amazing low gravity sequences where you literally fight outside on the moon.

Now imagine finally being able to play as a badass Claptrap, that mows down hordes of robotic enemies. Now imagine Handsome Jack is back from the dead, and one of the main facets of another Borderlands game.

Yup, one of the best experiences that you can find anywhere.

While I wish that they had a release for the Xbox One or PS4, this is still the same old Borderlands that you’ve come to love. But I still can’t help but wonder how the experience could have been helped with a next-gen upgrade. Better graphics, performance, more enemies on screen. Could have been even more epic than what we’ve come to expect from an amazing game series.

But I’m still perfectly content with another last gen outing. It’s a Borderlands game, and that means I’ll be sinking well more than 50 hours into this game world.

Minecraft Coming to PS Vita Next Week

The long awaited PS Vita version of Minecraft is set to release next week. I couldn’t be more excited. The prospect of playing a real version of Minecraft on a mobile platform sounds amazing. The previous versions for iPad and iPhone were okay, but it just wasn’t the full game, and touch screen controls always leave something to be desired.

But the fact that Vita will have the best of both worlds, allowing for touch screen control, and also tactile feedback from button presses and the dual joysticks. This is going to be the definitive version of the game, as far as mobile platforms go.

However, the limitations of the Vita are where Minecraft will suffer. While this is akin to the PS3 and 360 versions of the game, the slower processor means the graphics aren’t going to be super crisp, and the size of the game world is going to suffer.

On Xbox One for example, Minecraft is almost infinite, with a game world so large it takes hours, upon hours to traverse. The Vita worlds are going to be a bit smaller.

But you can still expect the same excitement battling Creepers, and finding dungeons to explore. Not to mention exploring the Nether.

Kudos to Microsoft too, for continuing to support Minecraft on different platforms, despite buying the company. Many feared this would turn Minecraft into an Xbox and PC exclusive, but that hasn’t been the case.