Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Opinion: The crisis in Ferguson

I'd like to address the crisis in Ferguson for a brief moment, because in my opinion, what is going on there is absolutely deplorable.

Looting? Rioting in the streets? Overturning police cars? It makes you look like complete idiots more than anything else.

And then, i was watching the news last night, and there was a story that reported that Michael Brown's father said "Burn it down" to start a riot. I'd love to see him try and explain that to the press, because i would have thought that he's an ass for doing something stupid like that.

The other story i heard was that there was going to be a "dead-in" at Grand Central Terminal to protect this, and the Eric Garner decision that is supposed to come down later this week. It means that the "dead-in" is supposed to block the flow of regular and human traffic.

Really. I'd like to go down there and photograph it just too see how much of an ass everybody down there looks.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Long Time, No posting :-(

I feel sorry for the fact that i have not posted on my news blog for a number of months.

From now on, we will continue to bring you the news on a consistent basis.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Mets fired me for being pregnant and unwed: exec

It’s another beanball for the hapless Mets.

A former high-ranking franchise executive claims she was canned by the team because co-owner Jeff Wilpon, son of principal owner Jeff, objected to her becoming pregnant out of wedlock, according to a stunning Brooklyn federal court lawsuit filed Wednesday.

Penn grad and former soccer player Leigh Castergine said Wilpon and the Mets dumped her from her powerful position as head of marketing and ticket sales last month because the bumbling owner was “morally opposed” to her out-of-wedlock pregnancy.

“He frequently humiliated Castergine in front of others by, among other things, pretending to see if she had an engagement ring on her finger and openly stating in a meeting of the Team’s all-male senior executives that he is ‘morally opposed’ to Castergine ‘having this baby without being married,'” the suit states.

“Wilpon told her that, when she gets a ring, she will make more money and get a bigger bonus,” the suit states.

Wilpon told Castergine that “something had changed” in Castergine after the birth of her child — “with still no ring on her finger,” the suit states. “Wilpon told her that she was no longer as ‘aggressive” as she used to be.”

When the first female senior vice president in the team’s 52-year history complained about Wilpon’s behavior to the team’s human resources department, she was abruptly terminated, according to the suit.

Castergine, who previously worked for the Philadelphia 76ers, Orlando Magic and Boston Bruins, is suing Wilpon personally as well as the team for damages.

Her suit takes a stinging shot at the Mets while describing her working conditions during her four years with the team.

“In particular, the Team’s front office has failed to field a winning team in six years, including 2014, and has made a series of public relations blunders that too frequently led to the franchise being ridiculed in the sports pages,” the suit states.

“The team’s ownership and front office have only made things worse,” the suit states, noting that the Mets alienated their fan base by denying obvious financial difficulties while failing to sign big-name stars.

“Some fans had become so disenchanted that they pledged not to attend any games until there was a change in ownership,” the suit states. “Others compared Castergine’s job to selling ‘deck chairs on the Titanic’ or ‘tickets to a funeral.'”

The Mets did not immediately return a call for comment.

Friday, May 23, 2014

SHLs Moving Ahead in August

The New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) is pleased to notify its licensees that, starting in August 2014, the TLC will begin selling the next installment of 6,000 Street Hail Livery (SHL or “boro taxi”) permits.

Between now and then, the TLC will be working with the New York State Department of Transportation, disability advocates, the New York City Council and members of the boro taxi industry to determine how many of these new permits will be required to be used with a wheelchair accessible vehicle.

Also during this period the TLC will host outreach events in each borough to share information about the boro taxi program with, and to elicit feedback on the program from, the public and potential permit purchasers.

Starting in mid-July, the TLC will begin e-mailing prospective purchasers who are currently on the wait list to schedule appointments to purchase these permits.  E-mails with the date and time of the purchase appointment will be sent to the e-mail address provided by the prospective purchaser when they placed themselves on the wait list.  All appointments will be scheduled at the TLC's Licensing facility in Long Island City, Queens.

Please check our website at: http://www.nyc.gov/html/tlc/html/industry/shl.shtml for updates and additional information on the status of the program, as well as for locations and details on the boro taxi borough events.

White Sox seek spark from Eaton against Yankees

The White Sox traded for Adam Eaton this past offseason in part because he gives max effort on every play.

Then again, Chicago needs its leadoff man to stay healthy.

Eaton, who came off the disabled list Sunday after sitting out with a strained right hamstring, said before Thursday's game his legs weren't yet underneath him, affecting his timing at the plate. Perhaps he started to find it after singling in his first two at-bats Thursday. The White Sox hope he can keep things going at the top of a lineup that lost Jose Abreu to an ankle injury the same day Eaton returned when they take on the Yankees on Friday night at U.S. Cellular Field.

Eaton said several players have talked to him about how to dial it back when he can, most of all his slow-footed teammates, Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko. It may go against his DNA to ever go less than 100 percent -- even on a routine grounder -- but he's learning how important it is for him to conserve his legs.

"Paulie was talking about his speed and how he tries to conserve his speed, his legs, for how important it is to him," Eaton quipped. "With those jokes, we had a good conversation and he's just saying, 'You wanna play in this game a long time, and you wanna be able to walk when you're 60, you've got to take it easy.'

"It's something I'm learning and again, risk-reward as we've always talked about. Hopefully, we'll continue to make better judgment calls when we can really bust it down the line and when we can take it easy."

Like White Sox manager Robin Ventura with Eaton, Yankees skipper Joe Girardi has to concern himself with conserving an outfielder, but for a different reason. The 40-year-old Ichiro Suzuki came into the season as the team's fifth outfielder but has seen consistent playing time since Carlos Beltran hit the disabled list May 15. Suzuki didn't start in Thursday's series opener, but came through with a pinch-hit single during a two-run ninth-inning rally.

"He's going to play more," Girardi said before Thursday's game. "I didn't play him tonight because of the left-hander [Chris Sale]. That's simply the reason. But he's been productive for us and he's done a good job"

Suzuki and the rest of the Yankees hitters will look to back veteran righty Hiroki Kuroda, who has somewhat turned things around in May. After posting a 5.28 ERA in five April starts, he has a 3.86 ERA in four May start, and only one wasn't a quality start. Even without Abreu, Girardi knows Kuroda will have his hands full with a revamped Chicago lineup.

"I noticed they scored seven runs on Monday and seven on Tuesday [without Abreu], so I mean this is a club that I think is second in the American League in runs scored," Girardi said. "So they're going to score runs and we're going to have to find a way to shut them down."


White Sox: Noesi building up arm strength
Hector Noesi will make his fifth start for the White Sox as he continues to build his arm strength after a brief stint in the bullpen. Noesi, once a highly regarded prospect in the Yankees' system who went to Seattle in the Michael Pineda deal in January 2012, last started regularly that season for the Mariners.

Noesi has gone five, six and six innings in his last three starts after lasting just 3 2/3 innings in his first start of the year, and has tossed 117 and 109 pitches in his last two starts, respectively. He'll look to bounce back from his previous start, in which he allowed five earned runs on eight hits to the Astros on Saturday.

The ability to go deeper into games hasn't necessarily translated into success, however. Noesi has a 5.66 ERA in his four starts, but he said he's happy with the progress he's made with pitching coach Don Cooper, who's helped Noesi retool his mechanics.

"It's been like 90 percent already," Noesi said of how far he's come with his mechanical adjustments. "It's pretty good and then I think I've been throwing bullpen last few days and I feel better for tomorrow, do whatever I have to do."


Yankees: Betances emerges as bullpen weapon
It is an extreme luxury to feel as though a crucial strikeout is just a bullpen call away, and that is what Girardi feels he has found in right-hander Dellin Betances.

Betances led all Major League relievers with 45 strikeouts entering play on Thursday, and has recorded 45 of his 78 outs this season via strikeout.

"That's probably why I go to him, because I do have confidence in what he's doing," Girardi said. "He's a guy that really has the ability to strike out guys and sometimes there are points in the game where that's exactly what you need."

Converted into a reliever after bouts of wildness as a Minor League starter, Betances is holding batters to a .156 (14-for-90) batting average this season.

"The more I get out there, the more confidence I have in myself," Betances said. "[Girardi] is showing that he's putting me in good situations, so I'm just trying to deliver whenever I can."


Worth noting
  • With his dominating performance in Wednesday's 3-2 win, Chris Sale recorded his 12th career game with 10 or more strikeouts, tying him for fourth on the White Sox franchise list with Alex Fernandez. Sale accomplished the feat in his 65th start, while it took Fernandez 197 starts.
  • The Sox are 7-3 in their last 10 games against they Yankees dating back to last season. Chicago has also won seven straight home games against the Bombers. 
  • The Yankees are 3-5 in their last eight games decided by two runs or fewer.
  • With a two-run single in the ninth inning of Thursday's game, Mark Teixeira has 19 RBIs in his last 19 games.

Dad stuck overseas sends a video surprise

A brave soldier deployed to Kuwait couldn’t attend his son’s NYU graduation — so he surprised him with a heartfelt video at a ceremony in Brooklyn on Friday.

Wearing a camouflage uniform and a proud look, Army Staff Sergeant Pedro Cruz Jr. told his son Pedro Cruz III, 22, of Staten Island he may be 6,317 miles away — but he’s right there with him “in heart and spirit.”

“He said he’s proud of me and that he loves me. It’s wonderful. I didn’t expect this at all,” said Cruz, a civil and urban engineering major, who hasn’t seen his dad in person for seven months.

He added, “He’s all the way overseas … He wanted to be here but we had to make the best of the situation.”

In the video — which came just in time for Memorial Day weekend — the military man salutes his son, saying he wishes he could be there in person.

“Hey son, surprise. Right about now you should be on stage picking up your degree. I wanted to be the first to congratulate you on this special day. I really wish I was there with you but unfortunately I’m not,” Cruz said.

He adds, “I have seen you grow so much in the last four years. It really amazes me. I am so proud,” he said while standing in front of a military helicopter at Camp Buehring in Kuwait.

The soldier then offers his son some life advice.

“I want you to take this special day and enjoy yourself. Don’t think about tomorrow. Enjoy today, take it one day at a time… I love you. I salute you, my son.”

The video message prompted a big grin from the graduate, who was decked out in a cap and gown.

NYU staffers pulled Cruz aside right after he received his diploma at Barclays Center and showed him the video on an iPad, which he watched with headphones.

The proud papa also arranged to have an American flag flown to honor his son at his base camp in Kuwait.

On Friday, he gave his son plaque that proclaims, “We will not waiver; we will not tire and we will not fail. Peace and freedom will prevail.”

It’s unclear when the military man will return home but the two talk frequently, Cruz said

“I love him and I salute him and I love him, too.” the grad said.

“He’s a very outgoing guy, loving father, very popular and loves his country,” he said.

He added he had no clue his father had been planning the sweet surprise.

“I thought I’d just go right back to my seat with everybody else,” he said.

Cruz plans to go into the construction industry, saying it’s his version of “the American dream.”

His father coordinated the surprise with help from the United Service Organizations and NYU officials, he said.

Weekend Bridge and Street Closures – May 24-26

One of four lanes on the Williamsburg Bridge eastbound to Brooklyn will be closed on Saturday from 6 am to 12:30 pm to facilitate NYCDOT bridge maintenance.

Mulberry Street between Canal Street and Broome Street and Hester Street between Mott Street and Baxter Street will be closed Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 5:30 pm to 9 pm for the Little Italy Pedestrian Mall.

Washington Square East between Waverly Place and West 4th Street will be closed Saturday and Sunday from noon to 6 pm for the Washington Square Outdoor Art Exhibit.

The following locations in Brooklyn will be closed Saturday, Sunday and Monday from noon to 8 pm for the 37th Annual Dance Africa Bazaar:
  • Ashland Place between Hanson Place and Fulton Street
  • Lafayette Avenue between Flatbush Avenue and Fort Greene Place
  • Hanson Place between Ashland Place and St. Felix Street
  • Rockwell Place between Lafayette Avenue and Fulton Street

Lexington Avenue between 57th Street and 42nd Street in Manhattan will be closed on Saturday from 11 am to 6 pm for the 17th Precinct Community Council Lexington Avenue Spring Festival.

The following streets in Manhattan will be closed on Sunday:
  • Lexington Avenue between 42nd Street and 34th Street will be closed from 11 am to 6 pm for the 13th Precinct Community Council Stuyvesant Park Neighborhood Association Fair.
  • Broadway between 72nd Street and 86th Street will be closed from noon to 5 pm for the 27th Annual Livable West Side Festival.

The following streets in Queens will be closed from noon to 5 pm for the United Veterans Day Parade (Maspeth):
  • Grand Avenue between 72nd Street and Maspeth Avenue
  • Maspeth Avenue between Grand Avenue and 61st Street
  • 61st Street between Maspeth Avenue and 56th Drive
  • 56th Drive between 61st Street and Perry Avenue
  • Perry Avenue between 56th Drive and LIE Service Road
  • LIE Service Road between Perry Avenue and South Side of Queens Midtown Expressway Service Road
  • Queens Midtown Expressway Service Road between LIE Service Road and Grand Avenue
  • Grand Avenue between Queens Midtown Expressway and 69th Lane

The following streets in Queens will be closed from 1 pm to 3:30 pm for the College Point Citizens Memorial Day Parade:
  • 28th Avenue between Ulmer Street and College Point Boulevard
  • College Point Boulevard between 28th Avenue and 26th Avenue
  • 26th Avenue between College Point Boulevard and 120th Street
  • 120th Street between 26th Avenue and Graham Court
  • Graham Court between 120th Street and College Point Boulevard
  • College Point Boulevard between Graham Court and 5th Avenue
  • Poppenhusen Avenue between 5th Avenue and 119th Street

The following streets will be closed on Monday:

6th Avenue between 14th Street and 23rd Street in Manhattan will be closed from 11 am to 6 pm for the Chelsea Reform Democratic Club 6th Avenue Festival.

Liberty Street between Broadway and Trinity Street in Manhattan will be closed from 11 am to 6 pm for the Chabad of Wall Street Community Fair.

The following streets in Brooklyn will be closed from 11 am to 6 pm for the United War Veterans Memorial Day Parade:
  • 3rd Avenue between 87th Street and Marine Avenue
  • Marine Avenue between 3rd Avenue and 4th Avenue
  • 4th Avenue between Marine Avenue and 101st Street

Broadway between Crescent Street and 47th Street in Queens will be closed from noon to 6 pm for the Broadway Merchants Professional Association.

Rockaway Beach Boulevard between Beach 130th Street and Beach 90th Street will be closed from noon to 2 pm for the Memorial Day Parade.

Cypress Avenue between Myrtle Avenue and Madison Street and Myrtle Avenue between 71st Street and Cypress Avenue in Queens will be closed from 11 am to 1:30 pm for the Allied Veterans Memorial Day Parade.

Northern Boulevard between Great Neck Road and Alameda Avenue in Queens will be closed from 2 pm to 4 pm for the Little Neck & Douglaston Memorial Day Parade.

The following streets in Queens will be closed from 11 am to 2:30 pm for the Howard Beach Memorial Day Parade:
  • Coleman Square between 159th Road and 159th Avenue
  • 159th Avenue between Coleman Square and 100th Street
  • 100th Street between 159th Avenue and 157th Avenue
  • 157th Avenue between 100th Street and 157th Avenue
  • 157th Avenue between 100th Street and 99th Street
  • 99th Street between 157th Avenue and 159th Avenue
  • 159th Avenue between 99th Street and 98th Street
  • 98th Street between 159 Avenue and 160th Avenue
  • 160th Avenue between 98th Street and 102nd Street
  • 102nd Street between 160th Avenue and 159th Road
  • 159th Road between 102nd Street and Coleman Square

Father Capodanno Boulevard between Sand Lane and Greeley Avenue on Staten Island will be closed from 9 am to 1 pm for the Staten Island Advance Road Race.

Forest Avenue between Clove Road and Marianne Street on Staten Island will be closed from noon to 3:30 pm for the United Staten Island Veterans Parade.

The times listed for closures for street fairs are for the actual times of the street fairs themselves. The streets may be closed longer to allow for set-up and breakdown. Street fair organizers are generally permitted to begin set-up at 8 am and breakdown must be completed by 7 pm.

Detailed information on weekend street closures will be available on the DOT web site at: http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/html/motorist/wkndtraf.shtml.

D-backs look to get payback vs. Mets

It's been only a little over a month since the D-backs and Mets played each other, but when the teams take to the field in Flushing on Friday night for the opener of a three-game weekend series, they will be two squads that have gone a long way -- in opposite directions -- in that short time.

Mets fans might remember the mid-April series as a high point on the young season. The visitors' starters -- Zack Wheeler, Jenrry Mejia and Dillon Gee -- limited host Arizona to two runs in 18 1/3 innings while the likes of Carlos Torres and Kyle Farnsworth finished games. The Mets took what is their only three-game series sweep of the season.

Now, Gee is hurt, Mejia is the closer, Farnsworth is in Houston and the Mets are four games below .500 and losers of six of their last eight contests. They did, however, salvage a series against the Dodgers with a 5-3 win on Thursday. The D-backs, 9-22 at the end of April, are 9-9 and had won four of their five series this month before getting swept by the Cardinals this week. Arizona has benefited from its starting rotation stabilizing, and earlier this week it hired Tony La Russa as chief baseball operator.

If you think Terry Collins might manage with a little more urgency as a result of his team's struggles, think again. That's not his style.

"The players are going to feed off of it. If you start to panic, they start to panic," Collins said. "[Thursday] there might be people who think putting Eric Campbell in left field is a panic move. It's not. This guy's swinging the bat really, really good and he's going to face a pitcher that's really, really good. I'm just riding that hot horse at the moment.

"We're trying to do some stuff, but as I told some of the guys, this is when you find out if you can play here. Grind this out, get through it, and when we start swinging the bats and we got hot, we'll be back on the horse. We're not playing good and we're five games out. That can be made up real fast, especially in our division."

Right-hander Bartolo Colon (5.34 ERA, 1.34 WHIP) is next up to help the Mets get back on the horse. He has been inconsistent this season, his ERA jumping from 4.50 in April to 6.39 in May, but Colon has good numbers in three starts at Citi Field -- a 3.15 ERA while fanning 18 and walking just one.

Colon will try to build on his eight innings of two-run ball against the Nationals on Saturday.

He'll match up against the D-backs' Chase Anderson, a right-hander who was 9 years old during Colon's rookie season. Anderson, like the Mets, fell victim to the Dodgers recently -- yielding five runs in 5 1/3 innings -- and he has been touched up for six runs on nine hits and three walks in 10 2/3 Major League innings. Anderson made the jump straight from Double-A Mobile earlier this month.

Despite recent improvements, the D-backs' rotation still allows more runs per game (5.23) than any other team in the Majors.


Mets: Niese smacks Mets pitchers' first extra-base hit
When Jon Niese sent a Zack Greinke fastball to the right-center field gap Thursday night to momentarily give his team the lead, it was the first time in 73 at-bats the Mets received an extra-base hit from a pitcher.

The phrase "automatic out" is not much of an exaggeration when it comes to the Mets' No. 9 spot.

Niese's double was also just the third hit overall from Mets hurlers, the other two singles off the bat of rookie Jacob deGrom.


D-backs: Ross and the bat toss
D-backs outfielder Cody Ross is notorious for not being able to hold onto his bat. When the team was in Chicago recently to play the White Sox, Ross swung and missed at a pitch and the bat landed past third base in foul territory.

"I don't know if my grip is too loose," Ross said. "It's kind of a weird deal. I'll tend to throw it in the stands or at the pitcher or at the ball. I've done all those this year."

It actually paid off for Ross on Wednesday as he threw his bat at the ball and wound up with a single to center.

"I barreled it," Ross said with a laugh.


Worth noting
  • Mets shortstop Wilmer Flores has hit in five of his last six games, batting .364 (8-for-22) with a .440 on-base percentage in that stretch.
  • Colon has allowed more home runs (nine) than walks (six) this season. 
  • D-backs outfielder A.J. Pollock, the reigning NL co-Player of the Week, is hitting .377 since May 4.

Ray Rice’s ‘apology’ was a complete debacle

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ray Rice’s effort at damage control Friday didn’t appear to control much of the damage.

Speaking for the first time since being arrested for knocking his fiancee unconscious at an Atlantic City casino in February, a tearful Rice provided plenty of self-pity to go along with his apologies during a 10-minute afternoon “press conference” at the Ravens’ practice facility here.

Rice, a New Rochelle native who starred at Rutgers before becoming a three-time Pro Bowl running back for Baltimore, declined to take any questions from the overflow crowd of media and made at least one inappropriate analogy during his prepared statement.

“Sometimes, you will fail,” Rice said as his now-wife, Janay Palmer, sat stone-faced by his side and his mother and infant daughter watched from the audience. “But I won’t call myself a failure. A failure is not getting knocked down, it’s not getting up.”

But “knocked down” is exactly what Rice did to his wife Feb. 15 at Revel Casino in an ugly incident caught on security cameras. Rice, 27, also was taped dragging his unconscious wife out of an elevator.

Rice was later charged with third-degree aggravated assault, but prosecutors earlier this week allowed him to enter a pre-trial intervention program reserved for first-time offenders. Rice can have the assault charge dismissed if he completes the one-year arrangement.

Rice, though, still faces the possibility of a suspension by the Ravens or NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for violating the league’s conduct policy.

Rice apologized to the team, his fans and “the kids” — conspicuously leaving out his wife — before touting the value of the counseling he has received since the incident.

“Though we know that no relationship is perfect, me and Janay want the world to see what counseling has done for us,” Rice said, who added the he and his wife have become “better parents … better lovers and also better friends throughout the situation.”

Rice also acknowledged the toll the incident has taken on his personal marketing efforts.

“I know many of my supporters and sponsors acted as they don’t want to be in partnership with me, and that’s my fault,” Rice said. “I take full responsibility for that. One thing that I do know is that I’m working every day to be a better father, a better husband and just a better role model.”

Palmer, who was initially ticketed by Atlantic City police along with Rice for simple assault-domestic violence, also spoke Friday and apologized — apparently for provoking Rice to punch her.

“I do deeply regret the role that I played in the incident that night, but I can say that I am happy that we continue to work through it together,” Palmer said. “I love Ray, and I know he will continue to prove himself and gain the respect he built up.”

Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti, coach John Harbaugh and GM Ozzie Newsome didn’t attend Rice’s press conference Friday because of what the club said were “other commitments,” but the team has offered vocal public support for its star back since the incident.

Rice said Friday he hopes to return the favor.

“Hopefully, one day I’ll gain back everyone’s trust to let you know we’re still the same people and I’m still the same person,” Rice said. “I really treat my job as a very special job, and I failed miserably. But I wouldn’t call myself a failure, because I’m working my way back up.”

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Gee throws eight shutout frames to top Fish



NEW YORK -- The Mets keep chugging right along. Unfazed by a rare pitching blip in Saturday's loss to the Marlins, they rebounded behind Dillon Gee for a crisp 4-0 win in Sunday's series finale at Citi Field.

Gee continued living up to his role as de facto staff ace, firing eight shutout innings to deliver his third consecutive quality start. He did not allow a hit until the fourth, and though he routinely found himself in trouble after that, he generated two key double plays to stall promising rallies in the middle innings.

The former, off the bat of Marcell Ozuna, helped Gee work around a pair of walks in the sixth. The latter, from Adeiny Hechavarria, ensured that Gee would not melt down late in the game, as he made a habit of doing early this season.

Gee struck out six and walked four, allowing three hits.

It helped that by the middle innings, Gee was pitching with a comfortable cushion. Chris Young's two-run homer in the fifth gave the Mets a four-run lead off Marlins starter Tom Koehler, who needed 109 pitches to complete five innings. Koehler, a New York native who attended SUNY Stony Brook, also gave up RBI doubles to Lucas Duda and David Wright in the second and fifth innings, respectively.

Gee's long outing allowed the Mets to save their bullpen -- something they have been unable to do throughout the young season. His eight innings marked the longest outing by any Mets starter this season, and with an off-day on Monday, the Mets will begin a nine-game road trip through Philadelphia, Colorado and Miami with a completely fresh bullpen.

Marlins blanked by Mets in series finale

NEW YORK -- Streaks seemed to come to an end for the Marlins this weekend against the Mets.

On Sunday afternoon it was Tom Koehler's turn to run into a rough patch.

Chris Young belted a two-run homer, and Koehler allowed four runs in five innings as the Mets blanked Miami, 4-0, at Citi Field.

Mets starter Dillon Gee struck out six and scattered three hits over eight shutout innings.

Koehler arguably has been Miami's second best starter, behind Jose Fernandez. A New York native who attended SUNY Stony Brook, Koehler had gone at least six innings and allowed two runs or fewer in his first four starts.

With four such outings, Koehler matched Kevin Brown (1997) for the most consecutive starts by a Marlin to open a season.

In taking two of three in the series, New York put an end to Christian Yelich's hitting streak at 17 games, and Steve Cishek's stretch of consecutive saves at 33 games.

Koehler entered the game having thrown 18 straight scoreless innings against the Mets, and he bumped it up to 19 after retiring the side in order in the first inning.

But in the second inning, Koehler had trouble finding the plate, and it led to New York grabbing the early lead.

Daniel Murphy walked to open the inning, and Young was hit with a pitch. Lucas Duda's opposite-field ground-rule double put New York on the board.

At that point, Koehler had thrown 29 pitches, just 13 of them for strikes.

Despite laboring to throw strikes, Koehler worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the second.

Gee, meanwhile, held Miami without a hit until Marcell Ozuna opened the fourth inning with a single.

Command issues caught up to Koehler in the fifth inning, when New York put up three runs, two on Young's homer.

A leadoff walk to Curtis Granderson to open the inning set the tone before David Wright ripped an RBI double off the wall in left field. Wright now has 106 RBIs against Miami. The only team he has more against is the Phillies (107).

The crushing blow, however, was delivered by Young, who capped an 11-pitch at-bat with his drive to left.

Driver sues boy she struck and killed

A woman who hit three teenage boys on bikes while driving, killing one and injuring the other two, is suing the dead teen for the emotional trauma she suffered.

Mother-of-three Sharlene Simon, 42, is also suing the other two boys and the dead boy’s family for $1.35 million in damages due to her psychological suffering, including depression, anxiety, irritability and post-traumatic stress.

The claim follows the accident which killed 17-year-old Brandon Majewski when Simon struck him from behind in her SUV as he rode along the Innisfil Beach Road on Oct. 28, 2012 about 1:30 a.m.

Majewski’s friend Richard McLean, 16, was seriously injured in the crash, breaking multiple bones including his pelvis. Another friend, 16-year-old Jake Roberts, was knocked off his bike but luckily escaped with only scratches.

In a statement of claim filed in a Canadian court, Simon blames the boys for negligence, the Toronto Sun reports.

“They did not apply their brakes properly,” the claim states. “They were incompetent bicyclists.”

Simon is also suing the County of Simcoe for failing to maintain the road.

Majewski’s mother Venetta Mlynczyk told the Toronto Sun she was devastated by the lawsuit.

“I’m in shock … she killed my child and now she wants to profit from it? She says she’s in pain? Tell her to look inside my head and she will see pain, she will see panic, she will see nightmares,” she said.

Simon was not charged over the accident but a police reports says she was traveling at 55 mph in a 50-mph zone.

She told police she did not see the teenagers or any reflectors on their bicycles.

Brandon’s family is also suing Simon over the accident, alleging she was speeding and may have been intoxicated and talking on her phone.

Both parties claims have not been tested in court.

This story originally appeared on News.com.au.

Tanaka gets first look at Angels in series finale

He's tangled with Jose Bautista of the Blue Jays, gone toe-to-toe with Chris Davis and Adam Jones of the Orioles, and stared down Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz of the Red Sox.

On Sunday, Masahiro Tanaka will face a new challenge: Mike Trout and Albert Pujols of the Angels.

It's still all new to him.

"I've been playing in Japan for the past seven years, so to be honest with you, I'm not really familiar with basically any of the batters here," Tanaka said through a translator on Saturday, leading up to Sunday's series finale against the Angels from Yankee Stadium.

"I can tell that they're really good batters, but the truth is, I haven't had the chance to face them yet, so it's hard to make any type of assessment. Looking at tape and film, yeah, they're really good."

And so is he.

The 25-year-old right-hander enters his matchup with Garrett Richards with a 3-0 record and 2.15 ERA in his first 29 1/3 innings in the U.S. His 35 strikeouts are a Yankees record for a pitcher's first four career starts, easily topping the 28 that Al Leiter (1987) and Orlando Hernandez (1998) put up, and the fourth-highest total through a pitcher's first four starts in Major League history.

Opponents are batting .314 against Tanaka the first time through the lineup, then only .149 after that.

And dating back to his time with the Rakuten Golden Eagles, Tanaka hasn't lost a regular-season game since Aug. 19, 2012, going 31-0 since.

"We've only seen video on him," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said, "but obviously, he has a terrific arm, and he looks like he knows his way around the mound and how he wants to pitch and what he wants to do."
Richards is there, too.

The 25-year-old right-hander established himself down the stretch last season, with a 3.72 ERA in 13 starts.

And he has seemingly taken it to another level in 2014 now that he has a guaranteed rotation spot for the first time, going 2-0 with a 2.52 ERA while striking out 24 batters in 25 innings.

"He's very confident right now," Angels pitching coach Mike Butcher said, "and when you're confident like that, you want to ride it out as long as you can."


Angels: Scioscia may load up on righties
Sunday may not be a good day for Raul Ibanez, Ian Stewart or any other left-handed bat available to Scioscia, even though the Angels are facing a right-hander. Tanaka entered Saturday ranked sixth in the Majors in opponents' batting average versus lefties (.164).


Yankees: Jeter still producing
Derek Jeter, who had an 11-game hitting streak snapped on Wednesday, has hit safely in 16 of his 19 games this season. On Saturday he played in a day game after starting a night game for the first time this season and finished 1-for-4 with a strikeout. His batting average is .292.


Worth noting
  • Richards has a 5.54 ERA in two career starts at Yankee Stadium. Last season, though, he pitched eight innings of two-run ball in the Bronx.
  • The Yankees have beaten the Angels in 21 of the last 29 games at the current Yankee Stadium (including the playoffs).

How 7 minutes could cost a trooper’s widow millions

On Dec. 7, 2009, New York State Police narcotics investigator Richard O’Brien fell off a ladder while fixing his mother’s roof.

He lived for only three more hours after the fall — but in that brief time, fellow troopers tried to have him retired on disability.

Now, Stephanie O’Brien, his widow, is fighting in court, saying a faulty fax machine and a measly seven minutes mean she and the couple’s daughter would get a $342,000 death payout — rather than lifetime benefits that could total in the millions.

The case is the first involving an officer filing for a disability retirement on the day of his death, lawyers said.

Fellow troopers rushed to the emergency room at St. Luke’s Cornwall Hospital in Newburgh, where O’Brien, 42, lay mortally injured and unconscious following his off-duty repair accident at 3:34 p.m. They immediately asked State Police Headquarters in Albany to send retirement forms — though it took the ER’s faulty fax machine several tries to receive them, causing the first in a series of delays.

The troopers helped O’Brien’s wife fill them out.

“I was in the shock of my life,” she told The New York Post. Married five months earlier, the couple was expecting. “I remember signing the document, I remember being advised, but I don’t remember the details.”

The form she signed checked off a payment option in which Richard would get 75 percent of his $90,000 salary for life. If he died, his beneficiary, Stephanie, would receive the same $67,500-a-year for life.

It then took 10 tries — an 18-minute delay — to fax the papers back to a State Police supervisor, who finally received them at 6:19 p.m.

The supervisor took 11 minutes to review the application and formally file it by fax to state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli at 6:31 p.m.

Meanwhile, O’Brien had died at 6:24 p.m.

At that point, the 14-year police veteran became ineligible for retirement. The state Comptroller’s Office offered Stephanie a death benefit — three times O’Brien’s last 12 months of pay. But the disability benefits could have amounted to much more — $3.3 million if Stephanie, now 36, lives to age 86.

Dick Dadey, of the civic watchdog group Citizens Union, called the troopers’ actions “understandable but unseemly.”

“He was gravely injured, his death imminent, and they jumped through hoops to bring about his retirement to extend this benefit. Retirement is a planned event, not a technical act made on someone’s behalf while dying,” Dadey said.

Stephanie, a special-ed teacher, gave birth to a daughter, Abigail, six months after O’Brien’s death. She appealed the decision by the state Comptroller’s Office, but a panel of judges this month voted 3-1 to uphold it.

Stephanie’s lawyer, Alan Sash — whose firm, McLaughlin & Stern, took the case pro bono — denied any effort to “game the system.”

“This was the benefit of his bargain to risk his life every day as a State Police officer,” Sash said of O’Brien, who also served in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is asking the state Court of Appeals to review the case.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Exclusive: Tech meltdown cripples deportation cases

A computer meltdown is crippling the nation’s immigration courts — creating an overwhelming backlog of deportation cases, The New York Post has learned.

The problem began April 12, when five servers that help power a nationwide computer network failed and shut down the entire system, an insider at the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement revealed.

Without access to the electronic records, court proceedings have slowed to a crawl and officials are resorting to old-fashioned methods — including paper, pens and cassette recorders — to keep track of cases.

One illegal alien who was ordered deported to his native Brazil following a DWI conviction even got to skip a scheduled flight home Friday due to the problem, the ICE source said.

He claimed to have filed a last-minute appeal, and prosecutors couldn’t check to see if he was lying — so he was released under an “order of supervision” that relies on him to check in with deportation officers, the source said.

That man, who was not identified, came to the United States illegally in 1988 and has a history with ICE of skipping out on bond.

The parts needed to repair the busted servers — located in Fairfax, Va. — aren’t expected to arrive for at least two weeks, the source added.

A veteran immigration lawyer, Alexander Cane, predicted the glitch would help aliens, possibly even leading to their release over “due process” issues caused by delays.

Court workers are prioritizing cases and struggling to make and maintain official records without their computers.

At the immigration court in lower Manhattan on Monday, officials openly complained about the problem.

Judge Alan Page, who was presiding via video from Newark, set a follow-up date for one case, then noted ruefully, “I guess we’ll have to put it in manually.”

“Everything is accumulating. We just have boxes and boxes,” a clerk responded.

Another immigration lawyer, Eva Kozlowska, said the problem was wreaking havoc with her practice because she can’t check online about the status of cases.

“Furthermore, the toll-free, 1-800 number that gives information about respondents, their court dates, what judges they are before and other information is also not working,” Kozlowska said.

A statement posted on the Department of Justice Web site said, “A hardware failure has resulted in the agency’s inability to perform some functions related to its computer system.”

An ICE spokesman said, “The immigration courts have developed alternative solutions and have continued to schedule and hear immigration cases brought to the courts by ICE.”

Lauren Alder Reid, a spokeswoman for the Executive Office for Immigration Review, added, “EOIR is not making any decisions regarding the release of detainees outside of normal court processes.”

Lululemon — and CEO — not in great shape

Lululemon’s new boss has failed to define more than just financial targets.

Shares of the struggling yoga-clothes retailer dropped more than 5 percent Monday, as Wall Street critics blasted a presentation last week from new CEO Laurent Potdevin as overly vague about the company’s turnaround plans.

“Management spoke of building an ‘authentic relationship’ with the guests, creating an ‘authentic global voice,’ ” Sterne Agee analyst Sam Poser said.

But Potdevin’s team refused to update the company’s financial targets with hard numbers, and offered “no explanation of what being ‘authentic’ means,” Poser said.

Meanwhile, some investors who attended the meeting said they were surprised to see that Potdevin, in his first major public appearance since he took the helm in January, didn’t exactly look the part of a fitness mogul.

“He was kind of … dumpy,” one shareholder said, noting that Potdevin wore baggy clothes with an untucked shirt that failed to hide a bulging stomach.

“If he’s a competent leader, he’s a competent leader,” another investor said. “But you’ve got to ask whether this guy is really in touch with the mind-set of his core customer in the athletic space.”

A third investor said Potdevin’s less-than-chiseled frame might be a good thing for the brand, given last year’s furor over comments from founder Chip Wilson, who blamed see-through yoga pants partly on oversize customers.

“Quite frankly, some women’s bodies just actually don’t work for” Lululemon’s yoga pants, Wilson had said last November. “It’s really about the rubbing through the thighs, how much pressure is there over a period of time.”

A Lululemon spokeswoman didn’t respond to requests for comment Monday.

Lululemon shares lost $2.64, more than 5 percent, to close at $49.07.

Cardinals send their ace to face Mets' Gee

It's no surprise to Terry Collins that the Cardinals, through 20 games, again sport one of the better records in the National League.

As manager of the Mets, Collins has long admired the Cards from afar -- particularly the way they have developed their homegrown core of players, including Yadier Molina, Matt Carpenter, Allen Craig and a host of young pitchers.

Collins would prefer to view from a distance. Instead his team has another date on Tuesday with the Cardinals, who will send ace right-hander Adam Wainwright to the mound at Citi Field.

"They've done a great job," said Collins, whose Mets beat the Cards, 2-0, in Monday's series opener.

"When you look at their club, obviously they've got some very, very good players that they signed and raised on their own. But they've gone out and done a nice job of adding some help. There's not one thing that really sticks out. They all are just good, solid players."

The Mets will counter with right-hander Dillon Gee, who rebounded from a tough start to the season to blank the D-backs over seven innings last week in Phoenix. Though Gee threw just 72 pitches in the game, Collins was unwilling to give him a chance to falter late, as had become Gee's habit earlier in the month.

Gee understood the decision, noting that he has to earn back his coaching staff's trust.

The upshot is that he should be plenty fresh when he takes the mound for Tuesday's game, perhaps giving him an advantage. But unlike Gee, Wainwright has been consistently sharp this season, pitching a shutout against the Nationals his last time out.

"Waino has been around for a long time," Molina said. "The other team has a pretty good idea what Waino brings to the table. That's what makes Waino good, because he can do different things in different at-bats.
One at-bat, he can get you out with a curveball. The other at-bat, he can get you out with a cutter. He's hard to hit that way."


Mets: Tejada looking to get rolling
The Mets are slowly starting to see returns from Chris Young, Travis d'Arnaud and other hitters who'd either slumped or endured injuries early this season. But they have not enjoyed much production from shortstop Ruben Tejada, who finally broke through with a big game -- mostly on the defensive side -- on Monday.

Tejada's early struggles opened the door to criticism of the front office, considering that the Mets declined to upgrade the position through free agency -- Stephen Drew is still available -- or trade over the winter. But Collins believes his shortstop is on the cusp of returning to his 2011-12 form, which saw him hit .287 with a .345 on-base percentage.

Since that time, Tejada has hit just .201 with a .266 OBP in 73 games, missing significant time due to injuries and a Minor League demotion. But he did make two fine plays on Monday, finishing 1-for-3 with an intentional walk.

"I don't feel upset about sticking with Ruben," Collins said. "He's put some good at-bats together. ... Would you like it to be better? Well we'd like everybody to be better. But right now he's the guy, and we've got to continue to try to get him to improve."


Cardinals: Ellis over Wong, but not forever
The Cardinals played veteran Mark Ellis over Kolten Wong at second base for Monday's series opener against the Mets, though that arrangement is far from permanent. Manager Mike Matheny feels that Wong is on the verge of breaking out despite a rough start to the season, which includes his current 2-for-18 funk.

"I think he is doing a better job than what we were seeing in Spring Training of not feeling good but not wearing it on his sleeve," Matheny said on Monday. "He is making good strides toward getting it remedied. I talked to him at length today about some of the things he is looking to do, and he has a real good approach to how to fix it. I am anxious to get him back out there."

Wong, who is historically better against right-handed pitching, is a good bet to return to the lineup on Tuesday versus Gee.


Worth noting
  • Forty-year-old Bobby Abreu joined the Mets on Monday, and he could start in the outfield at some point this week. Abreu, who was hitting .395 in a short spell with Triple-A Las Vegas, will serve mostly as a left-handed pinch-hitter.
  • Mets third baseman David Wright extended his hitting streak to 12 games with a broken-bat RBI single in the third inning on Monday. It is the franchise-record 18th double-digit hitting streak of Wright's career. 
  • Cardinals pitchers struck out at least seven batters in a game for the 15th time Monday. That mark is second only to Washington (16) in the National League.
  • Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy has owned Wainwright throughout his career, going 6-for-11 with two doubles, a triple and a walk. Outfielder Lucas Duda has also seen plenty of success against Wainwright, with a double, a homer and six RBIs in eight at-bats. As a roster, the Mets sport a lifetime .301 batting average and .845 OPS against the Cardinals ace.

‘Save us!’: Terrified boy made first call from sinking ferry

The first distress call from a sinking South Korean ferry was made by a boy with a shaking voice, three minutes after the vessel made its fateful last turn.

He called the emergency 119 number which put him through to the fire service, which in turn forwarded him to the coastguard two minutes later. That was followed by about 20 other calls from children on board the ship to the emergency number, a fire service officer told Reuters.

The Sewol ferry sank last Wednesday on a routine trip south from the port of Incheon to the traditional honeymoon island of Jeju.

Of the 476 passengers and crew on board, 339 were children and teachers on a high school outing. Only 174 people have been rescued and the remainder are all presumed to have drowned.

The boy who made the first call, with the family name of Choi, is among the missing. His voice was shaking and sounded urgent, a fire officer told MBC TV. It took a while to identify the ship as the Sewol.

“Save us! We’re on a ship and I think it’s sinking,” Yonhap news agency quoted him as saying.

The fire service official asked him to switch the phone to the captain, and the boy replied: “Do you mean teacher?”

The pronunciation of the words for “captain” and “teacher” is similar in Korean.

The captain of the ship, Lee Joon-seok, 69, and other crew members have been arrested on negligence charges. Lee was also charged with undertaking an “excessive change of course without slowing down”.

Authorities are also investigating the Yoo family, which controls the company that owns the ferry, Chonghaejin Marine Co Ltd, for possible financial wrongdoing amid growing public scrutiny.

An official at the Financial Supervisory Service (FSS) told Reuters it was investigating whether Chonghaejin or the Yoo family engaged in any illegal foreign exchange transactions. The official did not elaborate.

Another person familiar with the matter told Reuters that prosecutors were looking into suspected tax evasion by the firm, its affiliates or the Yoo family with assistance from the National Tax Service. A spokesman at the tax agency declined to comment on the matter.

“There are lots of reports in the media, so as the regulator we need to check if they are true,” another FSS official said.

Neither the Yoo family nor the company was immediately available for comment.


Only obeying orders
Several crew members, including the captain, left the ferry as it was sinking, witnesses have said, after passengers were told to stay in their cabins. President Park Geun-hye said on Monday that instruction was tantamount to an “act of murder”.

Many of the children did not question their elders, as is customary in hierarchical Korean society. They paid for their obedience with their lives.

Four crew members appeared in court on Tuesday and were briefly questioned by reporters before being taken back into custody. One unidentified second mate said they had tried to reach the lifeboats, but were unable to because of the tilt.

Only two of the vessel’s 46 lifeboats were deployed.

Two first mates, one second mate and the chief engineer stood with their heads lowered and it was impossible to tell who was speaking.

One said there had been a mistake as the boat made a turn. Another said there was an eventual order to abandon ship. He said the crew gathered on the bridge and tried to restore balance, but could not.

“Maybe the steering gear was broken,” one said.

Media said the ship lost power for 36 seconds, which could have been a factor.

Public broadcaster KBS, quoting transcripts of the conversation between the crew and sea traffic control, the Jindo Vessel Traffic Services Centre, said the passengers were told repeatedly to stay put.

For half an hour, the crew on the third deck kept asking the bridge by walkie-talkie whether or not they should make the order to abandon ship, KBS said.

No one answered.

“We kept trying to find out but … since there was no instruction coming from the bridge, the crew on the third floor followed the instructions on the manual and kept making ‘stay where you are’ announcements,”
KBS quoted a crew member as saying. “At least three times.”

Lee was not on the bridge when the ship turned. Navigation was in the hands of a 26-year old third mate who was in charge for the first time on that part of the journey, according to crew members.

In a confused exchange between the sinking Sewol and maritime traffic control released by the government, the crew said the ship was listing to port.

“Make passengers wear life jackets and get ready in case you need to abandon ship,” traffic control said.

The Sewol answered: “It’s difficult for the passengers to move now.”

Ellsbury makes first trip back to Fenway in pinstripes

The road gray uniform with "NEW YORK" across the front is starting to feel more normal to Jacoby Ellsbury, who has not seemed to have much difficulty adjusting to his new surroundings through seven weeks of Spring Training and three weeks of regular-season contests.

Even having his old Red Sox teammates visit Yankee Stadium earlier in April did not register much of a blip on Ellsbury's radar. But the atmosphere might change quite a bit when the center fielder returns to Fenway Park on Tuesday -- seeing the ancient red-brick corridors for the first time as an enemy competitor.

"Every situation is different," Ellsbury said. "I can't compare it with other guys' situations, but I'm definitely aware of it. I've seen it. I've seen how passionate they are. I think they're all wondering what's going to happen.

"I'm not going to think about it too much, because it's out of my hands. I gave [that] organization everything I had every time I stepped on the field."

Ellsbury's return to Fenway won't be the only compelling storyline in this one. Japanese rookie Masahiro Tanaka, who is off to a strong start with the Yankees, will make his first start in baseball's most storied rivalry.

"I'm looking forward to seeing him pitch," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "I think anyone who is a fan of the game is going to look forward to watching a highly-touted guy coming to the Major Leagues here. We know that he's got a well-above-average split-finger fastball. We're looking forward to seeing him on the field and across the field from him."

And Boston will counter with ace Jon Lester, who has pitched well in all of his starts this season. In his last time out, Lester outdueled Chris Sale in Chicago.

Ellsbury, meanwhile, will be a focal point every time he steps to the plate. He signed a seven-year, $153 million contract with the Yanks after winning the World Series with the Red Sox last season. Ellsbury received his second World Series ring earlier this month, hand-delivered to the Bronx by Farrell and general manager Ben Cherington.

"I always enjoyed playing there, I had a great time, my time being a Red Sox [player]," Ellsbury said. "I still have a lot of friends over there. I'm looking forward to it. I'll have some family there [at Fenway], as well."

But how warm of a reception can Ellsbury really expect? He was in the Boston organization back in 2006 when Johnny Damon clipped his long locks to accept a big contract with New York -- and Damon was booed by the great majority when he returned to Fenway.

Despite the obvious parallels between the two situations -- and the fact that Damon and Ellsbury chatted last week -- Ellsbury said that he still hasn't given too much thought to what it will be like to be back at Fenway.

"You can't think about what they're going to do," Ellsbury said. "In this game, you can really only focus on what you can do, not worry about all that other stuff that you can't control.

"We'll see what happens. I gave the organization everything I had for a third of my life. Nine years in an organization -- drafted by them, came up and won two World Series. I left it all on the field."

Ellsbury will look to make his presence felt against Lester, who will get the ball for the Red Sox in the opener.


Yankees: Tanaka's first taste of Fenway
  • Tanaka said that he used to park in front of the television to watch some of those epic Yanks-Red Sox showdowns, beamed to Japan from a half world away.
"I've seen the two teams play, and I understand there is a certain rivalry between the two teams going into the game," Tanaka said through an interpreter. "I'm sure the fans will be heated up a bit, and it should be a good experience going up on the mound that day. I'm very much looking forward to it."

Tanaka, who is looking for his third Major League victory, is coming off eight superb scoreless innings against the Cubs last time out and owns a 2.05 ERA. He has recorded 28 strikeouts in 22 innings, with just two walks. Tanaka said that he is not concerned by the Green Monster in left field.

"I understand that if you give up fly balls, it might be dangerous, so I think the best thing to do is try to get as many ground balls as possible," Tanaka said.


Red Sox: Victorino on the mend
  • Right fielder Shane Victorino, who took Sunday off after opening his rehab assignment on Saturday, will continue playing for Triple-A Pawtucket on Monday and Tuesday.
Victorino could be back in Boston's lineup as soon as Wednesday, for the middle game of this three-game series.

The return of Victorino will create a tough roster decision, considering the logjam in the outfield. One possibility would be optioning Jackie Bradley Jr. back to Pawtucket. Otherwise, a move would have to be made involving Mike Carp or Daniel Nava.

"Those [discussions] have been ongoing," said Farrell. "Those talks aren't going to initiate when [Victorino's] deemed ready to come back to us. We've looked at every available combination of outfielders that are here with us -- and, ultimately, there will be a roster decision made. We'll get to that in the coming week."


Worth noting
  • Tanaka has recorded at least eight strikeouts in each of his first three Major League starts, joining Stephen Strasburg (2010 Nationals) as the only two pitchers since 1900 to accomplish the feat. Tanaka's 28 strikeouts are a new Yankees record for a pitcher in his first three starts, shattering Al Leiter's record of 25 set in 1987.
  • Since allowing a leadoff home run to Melky Cabrera in his Major League debut against the Blue Jays on April 4, Tanaka has allowed only six left-handed batters to reach base (5-for-44, one walk). He has struck out 18 of the 37 right-handed batters he has faced this season (48.6 percent). 
  • The Yankees and Red Sox are 14-14 in the last 28 meetings between the teams, since Sept. 12, 2012. The Yanks were just 6-13 against the Sox last season -- their most losses to Boston in a single season since 1973 (4-14). The Red Sox won six of the nine games played at Fenway Park in 2013.
  • Dustin Pedroia could be on the verge of getting hot for Boston. He's had three straight multihit games.

Monster 11-foot, 805-pound shark caught on Florida beach

A fisherman standing on the waterfront has caught a monster 805-pound, 11-foot-long mako shark in Florida, in what may be a record for land-based fishing.

Joey Polk reeled in the shark after an intense, hour-long workout in which the shark pulled out 2,700 feet of line. Makos are the fastest of all sharks and can swim at speeds up to 60 mph.

Polk, from Milton, Fla., told the Houston Chronicle: “She was pulling line out of my reel at easily 60 miles an hour. We call that ‘smokin’ the drag’ round here.”

“When I saw it, I knew it was a big fish. I’ve been fishing since I was a little kid, but I thought it was maybe 700 pounds or so, then when we weighed it, it came in at 805! It was amazing,” said Polk.

The shark, which was too big to fit in the back of Polk’s truck, is not the largest catch for Polk, a third-generation shark fisherman. He also pulled in a 950-pound tiger shark in 2010.

Polk took the fish home and cooked it for his neighbors, providing food for around 200 people. He said he returns most of his catches to the sea, but that this one was too injured to be released.

This article originally appeared on News.com.au.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Knicks fire coach Mike Woodson, rest of staff

The Jax ax finally fell on Woody.

Mike Woodson, after last season delivering the Knicks their first Atlantic Division title since 1993-94, was let go as head coach Monday in a move that was anticipated even prior to Phil Jackson taking over as president last month.

“I have a tremendous amount of respect for Mike Woodson and his entire staff,” Jackson said in a press release. “The coaches and players on this team had an extremely difficult 2013-14 season, and blame should not be put on one individual. But the time has come for change throughout the franchise as we start the journey to assess and build this team for next season and beyond.”

Woodson, who met with Jackson early Monday, was packing his belongings at the training facility in Tarrytown and declined comment.

“I’ve got to clear my head first before making any comments,” Woodson told The Post.

The rest of the coaching staff — assistants Jim Todd, Herb Williams, Darrell Walker and LaSalle Thompson, plus shooting coach Dave Hopla — also were relieved of their duties by Jackson. According to a source, Jackson did not bother speaking to the assistant coaches, and the staff came in to collect their things after Woodson got the word. Williams, though, may return in some capacity.

Woodson had one season left on his pact at about $3.3 million, but his ouster was a foregone conclusion when Jackson came aboard, looking to bring in his own staff, perhaps angling toward a triangle-themed offense. Steve Kerr and Derek Fisher, former Jackson point guards with no head-coaching experience, have been mentioned as potential candidates whom Jackson can mold.

Kerr has emerged as the frontrunner, with a source telling The New York Post’s George Willis last week Kerr “absolutely expects” to get an offer. Other candidates for the Knicks staff are Derek Fisher, Ron Harper, Kurt Rambis, Jim Cleamons and Bill Cartwright, with Jackson looking for people familiar with the triangle.

Woodson still felt he was the man for the job, saying after Jackson was hired that he would like to install the triangle with Jackson’s assistance.

Fans first started chanting “Fire Woodson’’ back in November when the Knicks sputtered to a 3-13 start. But Knicks owner James Dolan stuck it out with Woodson across this disappointing season that saw the Knicks finish at 37-45 and miss the playoffs in shocking fashion.

Woodson’s record as Knicks coach in his 2 ½ seasons goes down at 109-79. His .580 winning percentage ranks third in franchise history behind Pat Riley (.680) and Jeff Van Gundy (.590).

Woodson, who played his rookie season for Red Holzman in New York, was 18-6 in his first season in 2011-12 after being promoted from defensive assistant when Mike D’Antoni resigned.

Woodson then guided the Knicks to a 54-28 record last season, acquiring the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference and earning third place in Coach of the Year voting. However, the Knicks’ second-round playoff ouster by the Pacers didn’t sit well with Dolan, who felt Woodson was outcoached by Frank Vogel.

After Glen Grunwald, Woodson’s buddy and former University of Indiana teammate, was fired four days before training camp, things went downhill. The Knicks’ injury-riddled roster had Amar’e Stoudemire, J.R. Smith and Kenyon Martin sidelined or limited in the early going. In recent days, the former Hawks coach made an allusion to the season’s troubles stemming from training camp.

“Coming out of camp, we weren’t sharp based on the injuries,” Woodson said last week. “It was an ugly camp. I didn’t feel good about where we were as a basketball team. We didn’t get much out of camp. I didn’t have the bodies to push guys where they needed to be, whereas the year before, everyone was flying around. My staff and I was willing to coach and do what we need to do. It’s done. We got to figure out where we go from here.’’

Scouts say Woodson’s offense was too predictable and didn’t fool anyone in end-game situations — which could explain why the Knicks lost so many close contests this season. But the Knicks never quit on Woodson and made a hard charge for the eighth seed in the final 1 ½ months after falling 19 games below .500 in early March. The Knicks won 16 of their final 21 games.

However, it was not enough. The end for Woodson was inevitable.

Robbery suspect shot in court after lunging at gang witness

SALT LAKE CITY — A U.S. marshal shot and critically wounded a defendant on Monday in a new federal courthouse in Salt Lake City after the man rushed at a witness with a pen, authorities said.

Defendant Siale Angilau, 25, was hospitalized with at least one chest wound, FBI spokesman Mark Dressen said. Under standard procedures, Angilau was not restrained in the courtroom, the FBI said.

Perry Caldwell, who was in the courtroom with his adult daughter, said Angilau was shot several times as he lunged toward the witness stand and tried to strike the witness.

At least six shots were fired, he said.

The witness, who was not injured, appeared to be in his mid-20s and was testifying about gang initiation, Caldwell said. The person was not identified.

Caldwell and his daughter were in court to support his mother, Sandra Keyser, who was punched in the face during a holdup in 2002 and was scheduled to testify.

“It was kind of traumatizing,” Sara Jacobson, Caldwell’s daughter, said of the shooting.

Angilau was one of 17 people named in a 29-count racketeering indictment filed in 2010 accusing gang members of conspiracy, assault, robbery and weapons offenses.

Prosecutors said Angilau robbed convenience stores in Salt Lake City and assaulted clerks on five occasions from 2002 to 2007. A clerk was shot in the final robbery, according to the indictment.

Angilau was accused of assault on a federal officer with a weapon and discharging a firearm during a crime of violence on Aug. 11, 2007.

Angilau was the last defendant in the case to stand trial, U.S. attorney’s office spokeswoman Melodie Rydalch said.

A mistrial was declared after the shooting by U.S. District Judge Tena Campbell. The order said members of the jury were visibly shaken and upset.

Angilau’s attorney, Michael Langford, declined to take questions as he left the courthouse. He said he was concerned about Angilau’s well-being and didn’t know his condition.

Angilau was in Utah state prison from September 2007 until he was handed over to U.S. marshals on Friday, said Utah Department of Corrections spokeswoman Brooke Adams.

He was arrested in August 2007 for a probation violation and pleaded guilty a year later to obstruction of justice and failure to respond to a command of a police officer, court records show.

His trial in the robbery case was among the first at the new $185 million federal courthouse opened just one week ago in downtown Salt Lake City next door to a century-old federal courthouse. The towering building isdesigned to withstand blasts and also contains bulletproof glass in some areas.

The security measures include separate routes in and out for judges, prisoners and the public. In the old courthouse, they all used the same hallways.

The courthouse was temporarily closed after the incident and reopened later in the day.

From mullet to math genius after a concussion

When Jason Padgett pours cream into his morning coffee, this is what he sees:

“I watch the cream stirred into the brew. The perfect spiral is an important shape to me. It’s a fractal. Suddenly, it’s not just my morning cup of joe, it’s geometry speaking to me.”

Padgett’s world is bursting with mathematical patterns. He is one of a few people in the world who can draw approximations of fractals, the repeating geometric patterns that are building blocks of everything in the known universe, by hand. Tree leaves outside his window are evidence of Pythagoras’ theorem. The arc that light makes when it bounces off his car proves the power of pi.

He sees the parts that make up the whole. And his world is never boring, never without amazement. Even his dreams are made up of geometry.

“I can barely remember a time,” the 43-year-old says, “when I saw the world the way most everyone else does.”

Flash back 12 years: Padgett had dropped out of Tacoma (Wash.) Community College, and was a self-described “goof” with zero interest in academics, let alone math. The only time he dealt in numbers was to track the hours until his shift ended at his father’s furniture store, tally up his bar tab, or count bicep curls at the gym.

With his mullet, leather vest open to a bare chest, and skintight pants, he was more like a high-school student stuck in the 1980s — even though it was 2002, and he was a 31-year-old with a daughter.

He would race his buddies in a freshly painted red Camaro. His life was one adrenaline rush after another: cliff-jumping, sky-diving, bar-hopping. He was the “life of the party.” The guy who would funnel a beer before going out and would slip a bottle of Southern Comfort in his jacket pocket to avoid paying $6 for mixed drinks.

“I thought it would go on that way forever,” Padgett says.

Party time came to end the night of Friday, Sept. 13, 2002, at a karaoke bar near his home. There, two men attacked him from behind, punching him in the back of the head, knocking him unconscious.

He fell to the ground as the two men punched and kicked him, stopping only when he handed over his worthless jacket.

He was rushed to the hospital, where a CT scan revealed a bruised kidney. He was released that same night.

The next morning, while running the water in the bathroom, he noticed “lines emanating out perpendicularly from the flow. At first, I was startled, and worried for myself, but it was so beautiful that I just stood in my slippers and stared.”

When he extended his hand out in front of him, it was like “watching a slow-motion film,” as if ­every slight movement was in stop-motion animation.

Days went by, but the visuals remained.

Padgett, who had scored relatively high on IQ tests in elementary school but reached only pre-algebra in high school, soon became “obsessed with every shape in my house, from rectangles of the windows to the curvature of a spoon.”

When he looked at numbers, colorful shapes superimposed over them.

He stopped going to work and began to read anything he could get his hands on about math and physics. He developed a fascination with fractals and pi.

The doctors called what happened to him a “profound concussion.” Little did they know just how profound it was.

Padgett is one of only 40 people in the world with “acquired ­savant syndrome,” a condition in which prodigious talents in math, art or music emerge in previously normal individuals following a brain injury or disease.

Acquired savants like Padgett raise remarkable questions about the rest of us average folk: Do we all have inner Einsteins just waiting for the right bop on the head to be set free? Do we possess inner greatness?

“I believe I am living proof that these powers lie dormant in all of us,” Padgett writes in his memoir, “Struck by Genius: How a Brain Injury Made Me a Mathematical Marvel” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), out Tuesday.

“If it could happen to me, it could happen to anyone.”

After Padgett’s brain was shaken up, so was his perception of the world.

“I noticed the light bouncing off a car window in the form of an arc, and the concept came to life,” he writes.

“It clicked for me ­because the circle I saw was subdivided by light rays, and I realized each ray was really a representation of pi.”

Overcome by his realization, he began to draw out the images. Although he never had an aptitude for art before, now it was as if “someone else were clutching my fist and guiding my hand.” Drawings had to be perfect. Sometimes they took days; a few took weeks.

During one of his meditations, he came to the conclusion that “circles don’t exist.”

“It was like a bomb went off in my mind. In a matter of minutes, I was no longer just a receiver of geometric imagery or a researcher; I was a theorist,” he writes.

The New York Post showed some of Padgett’s drawings to Tim Chartier, a math and computer-science professor at Davidson College in North Carolina and author of “Math Bytes” (Princeton University Press).

“It’s remarkable that he sees the world this way without any real training,” says Chartier. “Is that genius? I think you have to be careful when you use that word, but, yes, to be able to see that. That’s just wild.”

Padgett reminds Chartier of Srinivasa Ramanujan, an early-20th-century mathematician who significantly contributed to number theory despite never receiving formal training.

But Padgett is not the next Stephen Hawking. This ability allows him to see the world in a unique way — but it’s highly ­unlikely that his ability will land him a Fields Medal.

“He needs the help of a trained mathematician,” says Chartier.

There were downsides that came along with the new Padgett. Once gregarious and outgoing, he now refused to leave the house. He nailed blankets to the window and refused visitors. He became obsessed with germs and washed his hands until they were red and raw.

He couldn’t even hug his own daughter until she washed her hands.

He began to fear that this wasn’t a gift at all — that it all was a sign of mental illness.

Reassurance came from a BBC documentary that featured Daniel Tammet, who could recite pi to the 22,514th digit. Tammet is an autistic savant, as well as a synesthetic one, which means that multiple senses are evoked — such as “smelling” colors or, in Padgett’s case, matching numbers and colors.

“That’s it! That’s what’s going on with me. Oh, my God! Someone else can see what I see!” Padgett recalls thinking.

He began to Google and found that there were others — people, unlike Tammet, who had ­acquired their “gifts.”

There was Orlando Serrell, who, after being struck by a baseball at age 10, could suddenly tell you the day of the week of any given date; Dr. Anthony Cicoria, who began expertly playing the piano after he was struck by lightning; and Alonzo Clemens, who was a child with an IQ of 40, yet, after falling on his head, could sculpt any animal out of clay down to the most minute detail after seeing it only briefly.

Padgett reached out to Wisconsin psychiatrist Dr. Darold Treffert, the world-recognized expert on savantism who had studied Kim Peek, the inspiration for “Rain Man,” and championed use of the word “savant syndrome” instead of “idiot savant” in 1980.

Via e-mail — and later in person — Treffert diagnosed Padgett with acquired savant syndrome, one of only 30 people identified at the time. (The number has since risen to 40, Treffert tells The Post.)

Padgett wasn’t alone, and this comforted him. He tore the blankets off the windows and enrolled in a local community college.

Further reassurance arrived in 2011, when Dr. Berit Brogaard, now director of the Brogaard Lab for Multisensory Research at the University of Miami, invited him to Finland for a three-day ­research work-up.

She used fMRI machines and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to find that the right side of Padgett’s brain had been compromised and that there was greater activation on the left side. She noted significant increased activity in the left parietal lobe — which is where neuroscientists say “math lives.”

The parietal lobe is involved with many complex computations used in our daily lives. Reach out for a cup of coffee while reading, and your brain is making seriously complex calculations (charting the distance, the weight, the velocity of movement, etc.) — all of this without our realizing it.

“One could speculate that [Padgett] has better access to these areas than the rest of us,” Brogaard says.

This supports emerging research that shows that bilateral involvement in the parietal lobe (meaning both sides are activated) actually is correlated with worse math abilities. The brain likes to be specialized — and Padgett is ­hyper-specialized.

But how did it get this way? How did the brain know to specialize after an injury?

Theories involving neuroplasticity, or the ability of the brain to make new connections, abound. Brogaard hypothesizes that the trauma of the event flooded the brain with neurotransmitters, which ultimately changed its structure.

Treffert believes that the structural changes allow Padgett to tap into his “genetic memory” — the same kind of instinctual memory that guides birds to fly in a “V” formation — freeing up areas that are inhibited in healthy brains.

“It shows us that ordinary people have untapped abilities,” says Brogaard. This sentiment is one that every researcher interviewed by The Post repeated.

In a series of studies at the University of Sydney in Australia, people wearing a “thinking cap,” a device that immobilizes parts of the brain, were able to draw in greater detail and complexity, find mistakes in written language, solve complex puzzles and more accurately guess the number of objects in a large sample size. But these advances happen only while wearing the cap and fade an hour later.

It’s enough for author Allan Snyder to conclude, “Savant skills are latent in all of us.”

The truth is we know very little about our 3-pound organs, says Dr. V.S. Ramachandran, director of the Center of Brain and Cognition at the University of California, San Diego.

“All the progress and advances we’ve made in neuroscience over the years, yet we know precious little of higher brain functions. These anomalies, as scientists call them, show the depth of our ignorance,” he says.

But do we even want to know? Would we be happier as savants?

Asked whether Padgett would go back to his old life if he could, he responded:

“No.”

Then, after a pause, he added, “though sometimes I do miss the blissful ignorance of life before.”

Netflix plans ‘$1 or $2’ price increase

Video streaming service Netflix reported higher profit that beat Wall Street expectations and said it intends to raise the monthly subscription price for new customers, sending its stock up 6.5 percent in after-hours trading.

Net income for the quarter that ended in March reached $53 million, Netflix said on Monday, an increase from $3 million a year earlier. Earnings-per-share came in at 86 cents, topping the average forecast of 83 cents, according to analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Netflix said it added 2.25 million customers to its U.S. streaming business during the quarter, in line with the company’s earlier guidance.

The company, in a quarterly letter to shareholders, said it plans to impose “a one or two dollar increase, depending on the country, later this quarter for new members only.” It did not name the countries. Existing customers would keep their current price “for a generous time period,” it said.

Shares of the company jumped 6.5 percent to $371.26 in after-hours trading, up from their earlier close of $348.49 on Nasdaq.

At the end of March, Netflix reported 35.7 million U.S. streaming subscribers. In international markets, its customer base reached 12.7 million, a gain of 1.8 million during the quarter.

“It was an impressive quarter,” FBN Securities analyst Shebly Seyrafi said. “They came through on the bottom line and the net subscriber ads were solid.”

The company has “room to raise prices” because “they’re still seeing a lot of demand” for the service, Seyrafi said.

Netflix suffered from a consumer backlash and stock plunge after it announced an unpopular price increase in July 2011.

Mets face another tough foe as Cards come to NY

The Mets will swap out one postseason contender for another Monday.

New York played host to the Braves over the weekend and will match up against the defending National League champion Cardinals over the next four days. St. Louis, trailing Milwaukee in the NL Central, comes to New York with a 7-5 mark in its past 12 games.

St. Louis has qualified for the playoffs in three straight seasons, but the Mets are 9-11 against the Cards over that span. Monday's matchup will feature two promising young pitchers, as Jenrry Mejia pitches for the Mets and the Cards' Tyler Lyons comes up to make his first big league start of the year.

Lyons, 26, went 2-4 with a 4.75 ERA in 12 appearances for the Cardinals last season, and he's entering the rotation as a replacement for injured starter Joe Kelly. Lyons, a former ninth-round draftee, went 2-0 with a 3.32 ERA in his first three starts for Triple-A Memphis this season.

"He was very good last time out," said St. Louis manager Mike Matheny of Lyons, the only lefty in the rotation. "We just hope he can carry that momentum forward here [Monday]."

To make room for Lyons, the Cards optioned pitcher Jorge Rondon back to Memphis. That gives them a seven-man bullpen, and Lyons will be able to pitch with the knowledge that he belongs in the Majors.

"He did a great job for us when he got the opportunity," said Matheny of Lyons, who has a career 3.96 ERA in the Minors. "And we go with that hot hand. He had a good start last time."

The Mets, meanwhile, are hoping that Mejia can shake off an injury to continue his impressive start. Mejia, 24, has two solid outings in his three starts, but he left his last outing early with a blister on the middle finger of his throwing hand. The Mets believe he's all right, though, and Mejia will be monitored closely as he takes on the heart of the Cardinals' batting order.

The Cardinals, playing through a stretch of 20 games in 20 days, will arrive in New York fresh off a hard-fought four-game series against the Nationals which the teams split. After they play against the Mets, the Cards will return home for two tough series against Central foes Pittsburgh and Milwaukee.


Cardinals: Traveling by train
For the first time since 2009, the Cardinals traveled to their next stop on this road trip by Amtrak. Following the Cardinals' series finale in Washington on Sunday, the team boarded a train headed for New York City's Penn Station. It was the only train trip for the club this year.

The last time the Cardinals used the railways to travel was in making their way from Washington to Philadelphia on July 23, 2009. The next day, the Cardinals acquired outfielder Matt Holliday from the A's in a trade that sent Clayton Mortensen, Shane Peterson and Brett Wallace to Oakland.


Mets: Granderson moves up in order
The Mets placed Curtis Granderson to the No. 2 slot Sunday, but the veteran continued his slow offensive season. Granderson went 0-for-6 against Atlanta in Sunday's game, though he delivered a walk-off sacrifice fly in the 14th inning of a 4-3 victory. He's batting .127, but he's confident that the results are nothing more than an early-season aberration.

"Obviously, you want things to be better," he said Saturday night. "But you realize that there's a lot of baseball to be played and a lot of at-bats to be had. ... Continue to swing the bat, continue to do the work that you need to do. Stay focused, stay ready, stay aggressive. Eventually, things will turn."


Worth noting
  • Matheny has been aggressive in finding days off for his regulars during this stretch of 20 games in 20 days, and Sunday was Holliday's day to sit. The Cardinals' left fielder is expected back in the lineup for Monday's series opener, which will push Allen Craig back to right field.
  • Because of an overlap with the St. Louis Blues' NHL playoff game, the Cardinals' telecast Monday will be moved to FOX Sports Midwest Plus in the St. Louis area. 
  • The Mets scored again in the first inning Sunday, and they have more first-inning runs (14) than all but one other NL team. The Giants have scored 15 times in the first.

Bode Miller reaches deal in messy custody battle

Olympic ski champ and California resident Bode Miller hatched an 11th-hour custody agreement with his Manhattan baby mama that includes “virtual” daddy time with his 14-month-old son through Skype.

But Miller’s ex, Sara McKenna, pooh-poohed the push by Miller to include Skype chats as part of their pact.

“He’s interested for 45 seconds, then he’s off,” McKenna said of their young son, Samuel Bode Miller McKenna, outside Manhattan court Monday.

“It’s an inadequate substitute for being there — you can’t hug him or touch him,” McKenna, 28, said.
But she said Miller had insisted on the Skype clause — which was part of a last-minute deal between the pair just minutes before Miller was scheduled to give potentially embarrassing testimony about his rocky relationship with Bode Jr. and her.

McKenna said that when she has custody, she already typically sets up her iPad on a table out of the tot’s reach a few times a week so he can see and hear his father through the online messaging and video system.

The seven-page agreement gives the parents shared custody of their son through Aug. 28, with McKenna remaining the primary caretaker.

The parties are due back in court in September after a psychologist evaluates the child and his interactions with McKenna and Miller.

The two met through the high-priced matchmaking service Kelleher and dated for three months. Shortly after McKenna found out she was pregnant, Miller had met his soon-to-be wife, professional volleyball player Morgan Beck.

Miller, 36, had not even met his then-3-month-old son last spring when his lawyer tried to take the child from his mother, claiming that New York was an “inconvenient forum” for the custody trial because he lived on the opposite coast.

McKenna, a former Marine and firefighter, moved to New York City to study at Columbia University on the GI Bill.

When Family Court Justice Fiordaliza Rodriguez asked the parents if there were any conditions such as lack of sleep or working a double shift that would impair their judgment regarding the parenting plan, Miller grumbled, “I haven’t slept.”

He flew in from California on a red-eye flight in case the agreement fell through and he had to testify.

Rodriguez approved the deal, finding, “It does appear to be in the child’s best interest inasmuch as it provides for substantial time with each parent.”
The six-time Olympic medal winner had no comment for reporters as he left court.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Parents, kids don’t want first lady at HS graduation

TOPEKA, Kan. — If expanding the guest list to include Michelle Obama at graduation for high school students in the Kansas capital city means fewer seats for friends and family, some students and their parents would prefer the first lady not attend.

A furor over what the Topeka school district considers an honor has erupted after plans were announced for Obama to address a combined graduation ceremony for five area high schools next month an 8,000-seat arena. For some, it was the prospect of a tight limit on the number of seats allotted to each graduate. For others, it was the notion that Obama’s speech, tied to the 60th anniversary of the US Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education outlawing segregation in schools, would overshadow the student’s big day.

“I’m a single mother who has raised him for 18 years by myself,” said Tina Hernandez, parent of Topeka High School senior Dauby Knight. “I’ve told him education is the only way out. This is one of the biggest days of their lives. They’ve taken the glory and shine from the children and put on Mrs. Obama. She doesn’t know our kids.”

Hernandez was among the parents and students who spoke Thursday at a school board meeting and urged district officials to reconsider their decision to invite Obama. Ron Harbaugh, spokesman for the Topeka school district, said Friday discussions were under way to work out the logistics and planning for the event, including how many tickets each family would be allotted.

“We will have a clearer picture of what’s going on,” Harbaugh said.

Harbaugh said officials asked the president or first lady to speak at graduation as a tie-in with the anniversary of the Brown decision, which outlawed school segregation. The district plans to place a priority on seating students and their families, and could broadcast the event to an overflow room at a hotel adjacent to the graduation arena for those unable to find a seat inside.

That’s not good enough for Taylor Gifford, 18, who started an online petition Thursday evening to urge the district to reconsider its plans. She and the more than 1,200 people who had signed it expressed concern that Obama’s visit would limit the seating options for family and friends.

“I really would like it to have a peaceful solution, but there is so much misinformation going on,” Gifford said.

Gifford said her initial reaction to the news was excitement, saying she was “freaking out” about the prospect of the first lady speaking at graduation. When rumors of limited tickets surfaced, Gifford felt like the focus was being shifted from the students to Obama.

“People think it’s a great opportunity, but it’s the graduates’ time. They are getting that diploma that they worked so hard for,” Gifford said. “Families are feeling that they are being cheated out of the loved ones special day.”

Abbey Rubottom, 18, a Topeka High senior, described herself as a “die-hard Democrat” but doesn’t like the idea of Obama sharing the stage with graduates.

“No disrespect for the first lady, and it’s amazing that she wants to come speak, I just think it doesn’t belong at graduation,” Rubottom said.

Rubottom suggested separate ceremonies with Obama speaking at one and the address being replayed at the other.

Some people have said bringing in the first lady politicizes the graduation. Others have suggested that if she wants to mark the Brown anniversary, she could just visit the historic site that commemorates the decision, which is just few blocks from the graduation venue.

The Brown site is housed in a former all-black school where the lead plaintiff’s daughter and another plaintiff’s child in the desegregation case were students. It tells the story of the 1954 Supreme Court decision.

Messages seeking comment from the first lady’s office in Washington were not immediately returned Friday.