No surprise as fallen giants Harlequins call time on John Kingston

first_imgShare on Pinterest Harlequins Share on Messenger Todd Blackadder is struggling to revive Bath’s fortunes. Photograph: Matthew Lewis/Getty Images Twitter At this stage of the domestic rugby season the table seldom lies. It is not enough simply to blame under-achievement on injuries or match officials or the weather. If, after seven months of league rugby, a high-profile, well-backed club is wallowing in lower-table mediocrity the only remaining place to look is the bathroom mirror.Perhaps the defining aspect of this year’s Premiership season has been the unusual number of big sides conducting major inquests with three weekends of the campaign left to play. The bottom three clubs – London Irish, Worcester and Northampton – had already parted company with their directors of rugby this season and the announcement that John Kingston is to leave ninth-placed Harlequins at the end of the season has maintained the sorry sequence. Premiership Partly it is a sign of the times, the inevitable flip side of a league which grows more competitive – if not necessarily of a higher quality – each year. Not everyone can make the play-offs and European Champions’ Cup qualification can never be guaranteed. That said, the decline in fortunes of Quins, Northampton and Bath is striking: the last time any of them made the last four was in 2015 and their supporters’ patience is wearing thin.The mood around the Stoop, in particular, had darkened to such an extent in the wake of their 35-5 home defeat to the bottom side London Irish on Saturday that Kingston’s departure was no surprise. Even before it was announced, the club’s ex-England captain Will Carling was among those who felt something had to give.“Painfully obvious that some tough decisions have to be taken before key players start to leave,” Carling wrote on Twitter. “Once down that road attracting great players becomes almost impossible.”Given the contract extensions awarded to the coaching trio of Kingston, Mark Mapletoft and Graham Rowntree only in January, these are uncomfortable times for the club’s board. A team containing experienced England internationals such as Chris Robshaw, Mike Brown and Danny Care, two British & Irish Lions props and an assortment of talented youngsters should not, in normal circumstances, be disappearing without trace at home against an Exiles side who had a bonus point wrapped up after an hour.While injuries may have disrupted Quins’ season, six defeats in seven league games this year cannot be wholly explained away by last summer’s retirement of their high-class fly-half Nick Evans – now the attack coach – or a lack of consistent forward turbo-thrust. You would have to go a long way in rugby, however, to meet three more genuine rugby men than Kingston, Mapletoft and Rowntree. Where, too, is the surefire alternative saviour on his – or her – white charger? Coach sackings are becoming as much of an occupational hazard in professional rugby as football but, equally, there are examples of shrewd recruitment and a couple of dressing-room departures achieving more than flipping over the entire Monopoly board.As Northampton, champions as recently as 2014, are discovering, change can be equally painful. They also had a reasonable side out on paper at the weekend but ended up conceding nine tries to Saracens at Franklin’s Gardens, including 48 unanswered points in the second half. In four games against Sarries this season, two of them in Europe, the Saints conceded 237 points and scored just 64; it has not much mattered whether Jim Mallinder, Alan Gaffney or Alan Dickens has been in charge. If the transitional Saints are banking on their incoming Kiwi director of rugby Chris Boyd to ensure an automatic turnaround, they should study Todd Blackadder’s stint at Bath. The former All Black captain is another man of integrity who knows the secrets of winning consistently from his time at the Crusaders. Like many before him, however, he is finding success elusive at Bath, now in eighth place and looking unlikely to make the top six never mind the top four.Again, as at Quins and Saints, there is a sense of a club adding up to less than the sum of its parts. Talk to some within the Bath dressing-room and they even wonder aloud about their palatial training headquarters at Farleigh House, designed to be the envy of every other club in the world. The long winter has left the training pitch out in front of the stately home heavy and its unprotected rural position leaves it particularly exposed whenever the wind blows.Injuries, either way, have been Bath’s constant companion and unless they manage to conjure a win at Saracens on Sunday their chances of making even the top six will be all but extinguished. The ever-reliable Matt Banahan is off to Gloucester, new midfield recruit Jamie Roberts has a serious amount of rugby miles on the clock and up the road will be promoted Bristol, potentially a much stronger proposition this time around. The current top four of Exeter, Saracens, Wasps and Leicester will be tough to shift, Newcastle and Sale are growing stronger year on year and Gloucester under Johan Ackermann are also heading in the right direction. For Quins and the other fallen giants of English rugby, recapturing former glories could take a while.Owens puts Folau in his place At some stage, hopefully, the Wallaby full-back Israel Folau will have his attention drawn to a heartfelt column in the Western Mail written by the Welsh referee Nigel Owens. The latter, as a gay man in rugby, was dispirited to read of Folau’s views that homosexuals were destined for “hell” unless they repented of their sins, a stance that has also angered the Wallabies’ sponsor Qantas. “If you really are a Christian then surely you should respect people who are different to who you are,” Owens wrote. “It’s not your sexuality that should define you as a person but the content of your character in being the person that you truly are.” As so often Owens is spot-on, particularly in a season when two other high-profile players, Mathieu Bastareaud and Denny Solomona, have also been found guilty of homophobic slurs. Homophobia has absolutely no place in rugby or society, regardless of hemisphere or religious persuasion.One to watchThe Commonwealth Games Sevens. Even by Fiji’s remarkable standards something special is potentially brewing: could the Fijian men become the first nation to hold the Olympic, Commonwealth, World Series and Hong Kong sevens titles at the same time? After sweeping Kenya aside in Sunday’s final in Hong Kong under the command of their Welsh coach Gareth Baber, the Pacific island kings are now seeking a double on the Gold Coast having not featured at the past two Commonwealth Games. “Yeah we are being a little bit greedy but there’s a desire to win both,” says Baber. Competition will be tough, with other nations having rested most of their best players for the Games, but the flying Fijians usually find a way. features Rugby union Share on Facebook … we have a small favour to ask. More people, like you, are reading and supporting the Guardian’s independent, investigative journalism than ever before. And unlike many news organisations, we made the choice to keep our reporting open for all, regardless of where they live or what they can afford to pay.The Guardian will engage with the most critical issues of our time – from the escalating climate catastrophe to widespread inequality to the influence of big tech on our lives. At a time when factual information is a necessity, we believe that each of us, around the world, deserves access to accurate reporting with integrity at its heart.Our editorial independence means we set our own agenda and voice our own opinions. Guardian journalism is free from commercial and political bias and not influenced by billionaire owners or shareholders. This means we can give a voice to those less heard, explore where others turn away, and rigorously challenge those in power.We hope you will consider supporting us today. We need your support to keep delivering quality journalism that’s open and independent. Every reader contribution, however big or small, is so valuable. Support The Guardian from as little as $1 – and it only takes a minute. Thank you. Share on LinkedIn London Irish Pinterest Northampton Share on WhatsApp Share via Email Since you’re here… Reuse this content Topics Read more Share on Twitter Sportblog John Kingston to leave Harlequins as London Irish defeat proves final straw Support The Guardian Bath Facebook last_img read more

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Cruel Tour marked by broken bones and stars fighting for survival

first_imgShare on Facebook Tour de France Read more Cycling Egan Bernal set to give Team Sky the edge for years to come Geraint Thomas: unassuming Welshman ‘won’t be changed at all’ by Tour win In the end, the principal opposition to Team Sky came from the Netherlands, in team terms at least. Dumoulin was always tipped as a favourite for this Tour and he lived up to that. The Butterfly of Maastricht floated and stung in equal measure, as he had done in the Giro d’Italia and on any course before 2013. In the days when the time triallists were given ample space to work with he would probably have beaten Thomas.Compared to Thomas and Froome, Dumoulin is still relatively new to the game as it is less than three years since he came within an ace of winning the Tour of Spain and two since he first made an impact on the Tour, winning a mountain and time trial stage in 2016. As his Sunweb team grows around talents such as Søren Kragh Andersen, it can only be a matter of time until he gives the Netherlands a third Tour winner to follow Jan Janssen in 1968 and Joop Zoetemelk in 1980.However, Roglic is the true newcomer, in his third year racing at World Tour level for the Netherlands’ oldest team (LottoNL-Jumbo has its roots in the Kwantum squad, founded in 1984). Unlike his teammate Kruijswijk, he is a prolific winner, with 16 victories to his name in two and a half seasons. A proficient time triallist, he resembles greats such as Greg LeMond in that he is not content to lean solely on that discipline. His brute strength and dynamism – not to mention his nerveless descending – suggest an intriguing future. Lawson Craddock’s fist pump as he crossed the line in Saturday’s time trial spoke volumes. The American had completed a three-week battle to finish the Tour de France with a broken shoulder blade, a challenge that had seemed improbable after he fell on the opening day. He had been a daily sight at the back of the peloton, on occasion fighting to maintain contact from relatively early on. That he had raised more than $100,000 for the hurricane-damaged Houston velodrome along the way merely added to the romance.Craddock was far from alone in his suffering. There had been a touch of pathos in the Pyrenees as riders who had faded in the Alps – notably Mikel Landa, Adam Yates, Romain Bardet and Ilnur Zakarin – attempted in vain to save what they could from the wreckage. The final mountain passes were also particularly tough for Peter Sagan and Nairo Quintana, crash victims fighting for survival, beset by a Tour that seemed particularly cruel to its stars this year.One by one, most of Chris Froome’s potential challengers had dropped by the wayside. The stage across the cobbles of northern France had been dreaded, rightly so, but Richie Porte’s Tour ended with a broken collarbone before he even got to the first of the pavé. That stage ended Rigoberto Urán’s race because of injuries to his left arm and leg, while a heavy crash compromised Landa’s challenge, knocking the central prong out of Movistar’s trident of the Spaniard, Quintana and Alejandro Valverde. … we have a small favour to ask. More people, like you, are reading and supporting the Guardian’s independent, investigative journalism than ever before. And unlike many news organisations, we made the choice to keep our reporting open for all, regardless of where they live or what they can afford to pay.The Guardian will engage with the most critical issues of our time – from the escalating climate catastrophe to widespread inequality to the influence of big tech on our lives. At a time when factual information is a necessity, we believe that each of us, around the world, deserves access to accurate reporting with integrity at its heart.Our editorial independence means we set our own agenda and voice our own opinions. Guardian journalism is free from commercial and political bias and not influenced by billionaire owners or shareholders. This means we can give a voice to those less heard, explore where others turn away, and rigorously challenge those in power.We hope you will consider supporting us today. We need your support to keep delivering quality journalism that’s open and independent. Every reader contribution, however big or small, is so valuable. Support The Guardian from as little as $1 – and it only takes a minute. Thank you. Since you’re here… Share on Messenger Share on Pinterest Share on Twittercenter_img Tour de France 2018 The Observer Share via Email Read more Topics Support The Guardian That cobbled stage passed in a mesmerising few hours, an intense afternoon that seemed set to fast forward; in the three-week picture, the pavé carried greater weight than was reflected in the time gaps on the day, which – among the overall contenders at least – were relatively small. The riders who were tipped as most likely to struggle on the day did get through – with the obvious exception of Porte – but there was a toll in racing at such intensity.Take Daniel Martin, who lost no time but was already dealing with the consequences of a heavy crash and intense chase from the day before, and Bardet, who spent the best part of two and a half hours chasing, puncturing, chasing and puncturing again. Going so deep in those kind of desperate efforts have consequences in a race as long as the Tour.In the Alps, the principal casualties were Yates and Vincenzo Nibali; the young Briton will return to the Tour as a challenger but it is an open question whether the Italian will be seen at his best again in the race he won in 2014. With broken vertebrae following a crash caused by a fan at L’Alpe d’Huez, his was the bitterest of exits. As for the sprinters, their mass exodus was prompted by the brevity of the principal Alpine stages, leaving them no margin for survival.What of the climbers Yates and Quintana? The most obvious answer is to look at the riders who ended up at the top of the standings approaching Paris: Geraint Thomas, Froome, Tom Dumoulin, Primoz Roglic and Steven Kruijswijk. There are no diminutive climbers among that quintet, that is not a coincidence, and it could probably be traced back to that intense opening week, which might have looked boring at times, but was far more turbulent than usual, something that has long-term effects on the mountain men. Share on LinkedIn Share on WhatsApp features Reuse this contentlast_img read more

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Broadcasting Commission Continues Media Literacy Project

first_imgThe Broadcasting Commission of Jamaica (BCJ) is set to roll out Phase III of its Media Literacy Project, being undertaken in institutions across the island. Addressing a meeting with stakeholders at the BCJ head offices in New Kingston on Wednesday (January 24), the agency’s Executive Director, Cordel Green, said under this third and final segment, which will run from January to December, the Commission is aiming to embed media and information literacy in the curricula of teachers’ colleges and primary and junior high schools. As such, he said, the Commission will be establishing media mentorship programmes involving existing media practitioners, in five pilot schools this year. This is in addition to the implementation of five low power and internet school/community radio stations, which will be operated by the students. Assistant Executive Director, BCJ, Karlene Salmon-Johnson, added that the Commission will be reviewing the teacher college training curriculum with a view to include literacy project strategies and material. “We will also be conducting a refresher course with those student teachers who were trained in Phase II of the project, in preparation for a practicum/pilot of their materials,” she said. Mrs. Salmon-Johnson said the media and information literacy materials will be tested and implemented in 45 schools – 30 primary and 15 secondary – by students and in-service teachers trained in the second phase. At the end of Phase III, the curricula of the media literacy project will be formally handed over to Ministry of Education. Launched in 2007, the Media Literacy Project was conceptualised as a necessary intervention in dealing with problematic content in traditional and new media. It also seeks to address the need to empower Jamaican children, and by extension, the Jamaican society, in making use of media for personal and national development. The programme involves partnership with the Ministry of Education, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and the Joint Board of Teacher Education (JBTE). Giving an overview of the first two phases of the project, Mr. Green, said a package of four lessons on video, each designed for delivery within a 20-minute class, was developed for grades four to six, which was the original focus of the project. The videos and other teaching manuals have since been tested by the JBTE in 10 primary schools and select teacher training colleges across the island. Based on the feedback, grades one to three were included in an effort to target children at a younger age. Additionally, some 80 teachers were trained to provide instruction in media literacy in schools across the island, while 150 grades five to eight students were trained in the operation of radio stations. Also attending the meeting were: Administrator, JBTE, Dr. Marcia Stewart; Deputy Chief Education Officer, Sharon Neil; National Literacy Coordinator, Dr. Andre Hill; Education Officer, Nadine Simms; and Education Officer, Media Services Unit, Kerrick Watts.last_img read more

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Stephen Fry Supports Wildlife Crime Awareness Week

first_imgAlthough poaching and hare coursing are common problems in many UK counties, and criminals can make as much as £12,000 from the sale of a single carp, many members of the public are not aware of the wildlife crimes happening around them or that they can report it to the authoritiesOften thought of as an overseas problem, there are in fact devastating impacts from crimes against domestic UK wildlife including badger baiting, bat persecution, poisoning a bird of prey, poaching fresh water mussels or stealing eggs.From 18th to 25th October, World Animal Protection and Crimestoppers are joining forces to raise awareness with the public for how they can spot wildlife crime and who to report it to. Twenty police forces from around the country will also be promoting the week within their own constabulary areas, letting residents know what they are doing to crack down on wildlife crime locally.It is not just the countryside that is affected as wildlife crime is both very much both an urban and rural problem. The organisations involved will be equipping the public with a guide on how to spot crimes that are happening, or may have happened in their area.Head of UK Campaigns at World Animal Protection, Alyx Elliott, said: “We know the public adore the wonderful British species like badgers, bats, hares and birds of prey, but they may not be aware of the devastating crime that affects them. This week will empower people to recognise the signs of certain crimes like badger set disturbance, raptor poisoning, hare coursing, or poaching so they can report it to the police, or Crimestoppers and help protect our beloved wildlife.”Recent successful prosecutions by the Metropolitan Wildlife Crime Unit in recent months have included cases against a jeweller selling tiger claw necklaces, a contractor for destroying the habitat of roosting bats and a man in Croydon for killing a deer in his own home.DC Louise Morris, of the Metropolitan Police Service’s Wildlife Crime Unit, said: “London plays host to an abundance of wildlife, some of which, sadly, is subject to cruelty, disturbance and other human threat. The Wildlife Crime Unit aims to reduce wildlife crime and prosecute those responsible for it.“The public’s assistance is essential as, from their initial observations and reports, we can uncover an array of wildlife crimes taking place. Combating wildlife crime needs effort from everyone and I urge anyone with information about it – however insignificant they feel it is – to call the police on 101.”Celebrity supporters of World Animal Protection have backed the awareness week, encouraging members of the public to familiarise themselves with the signs of wildlife crime and report any evidence to Crimestoppers anonymously, or to the Police on 999.“Morally, nothing separates someone who kills a swan by throwing rocks in the UK, from someone shooting a wild animal for fun on the plains of Southern Africa,” said Stephen Fry. “The world has woken up to the seriousness of wildlife crime. Join me and World Animal Protection and use your voice to speak out and put an end to this criminality against animals.”“Wildlife crime isn’t just something that happens in other countries, it doesn’t just affect exotic creatures like rhino, elephants and pangolin, it’s happening right here in the UK as well,” added Michaela Strachan. “Beautiful British creatures like hares, bats and badgers need you to give them a voice and stop this cruelty in its tracks. Find out more this Wildlife Crime Awareness Week.”Deborah Meaden said: “I am supporting Wildlife Crime Awareness Week as I want to urge the British public to consciously watch out for signs of crime such as poaching, baiting and trapping across the country, and if you see something suspicious – report it. No matter whether you live in a city or the countryside, get involved and use this week to find out what you can do to help tackle wildlife crime.” Ann Scott, Crimestoppers Campaigns Manager, said: “As an independent charity which takes information from the public on crime anonymously Crimestoppers gives the public a voice. Our wildlife doesn’t have a voice, but through you they can. Crimestoppers never ask for your name, we don’t take any personal details, we can’t trace your calls, we don’t record our calls and those giving information don’t have to go on to give a statement to police or go to court. It is quick, safe and easy. You may think that your information is insignificant, but it could be that last bit of the jigsaw which police need to uncover a serious crime. Help us stop wildlife crime. Help World Animal Protection protect our wildlife.”If there is a wildlife crime in progress call 999 or for a non-emergency call 101If you want to give information regarding a crime anonymously, call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111last_img read more

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UN war crimes tribunals warn Security Council many suspects remain at large

Video of Security Council meeting [2hrs 42mins] During an open meeting of the Council, representatives of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) said the failure of some Member States to pay their contributions had jeopardized their ability to meet their workload on schedule.The two tribunals, set up by the UN to try people suspected of committing war crimes during the 1990s, have been told by the Council to do all they can to meet the completion strategy mapped out in previous Council resolutions.That strategy calls for the tribunals to finish their investigations by the end of this year, complete all trials at the first instance by 2008 and wind up all their work by the end of 2010.ICTY’s President, Judge Theodor Meron, told the Council today that the court is operating at full capacity and has amended some rules of evidence and procedure in a bid to meet its schedule.The Council has previously suggested to both tribunals that they review their caseloads to decide which cases they should proceed with and which cases they should transfer to the domestic justice systems of appropriate countries.But Judge Meron said he had doubts that the domestic courts of Croatia or Serbia and Montenegro could conduct “credible war crimes trials,” citing concerns about the impartiality of some Croatian judges as one reason.ICTY Chief Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte criticized the failure of authorities in Serbia and Montenegro and in the Republika Srpska of Bosnia and Herzegovina to arrest the 20 indicted figures who remain at large.These fugitives include former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, former Bosnian Serb Gen. Ratko Mladic and former Croatian Gen. Ante Gotovina.Ms. Del Ponte said Croatian authorities had become more cooperative with the ICTY, and she expected them to locate General Gotovina soon and transfer him to the court’s custody in The Hague.But she said Serbia and Montenegro “has become a safe haven for fugitives,” with at least 15 accused – including General Mladic – believed to be at large there. Belgrade has not cooperated with the Tribunal since December.ICTR’s President, Judge Erik Møse, said his court had lifted the number of judges who could hear cases and was building a fourth courtroom as it strived to meet the Council target of 2008.But Judge Møse said some nations had not paid their dues and were thus threatening to undermine the ICTR’s ability to meet the deadlines.ICTR Prosecutor Hassan Jallow said 15 suspects remain at large, with many located in the eastern part of the neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).He said the court faced real challenges in staying on schedule, pointing out that the number of people remaining to be tried by the ICTR between now and 2008 is greater than the number whose cases have been completed.But he said the ICTR had introduced several administrative and procedural reforms to make it more flexible and efficient at handling cases, including those with multiple defendants.During the debate that followed, Council delegates stressed the importance of encouraging neighbouring States to cooperate with the two tribunals to hand over suspects and take on some of the caseload in their domestic courts.Some delegates also suggested that while the Council’s completion strategy was designed to ensure the tribunals did not operate indefinitely, it was not meant to impose unbreakable cut-off dates. read more

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Liberals decision to reopen teachers contracts cost Ontario 468M Auditor

Liberals’ decision to reopen teachers’ contracts cost Ontario $468M: Auditor by Keith Leslie, The Canadian Press Posted Nov 19, 2014 2:00 am MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email TORONTO – Premier Kathleen Wynne’s decision to reopen contracts for public school teachers last year cost Ontario taxpayers $468 million, auditor general Bonnie Lysyk reported Wednesday.The Liberals hoped to save $2.4 billion when they passed legislation in Sept. 2012 to freeze teachers’ pay for two years and reduce banked sick days and pension benefits, but the auditor found they gave some of the savings back to the unions.“The savings were reduced as a result of subsequent discussions,” said Lysyk.Of the total cost, $200 million went toward giving teachers and school board workers more paid sick days, hiring more substitute teachers to cover the sick days and changing the eligibility threshold for retirement benefits, she said.It cost another $155 million to reduce the number of unpaid professional activity days, give teachers one day’s pay if they take fewer than six sick days a year, improve maternity benefits and compensate school boards for increased expenses because of the new deals.And it cost another $113 million to eliminate wage differences between teachers’ unions, which have so-called “me too” clauses so every group benefits when one negotiates a new or increased benefit, added Lysyk.“So if you add the $200 million, the $155 and the $113, that is the total for the additional costs,” she told reporters.Wynne was not available for comment on the auditor’s report even though she was in question period and attended a cabinet meeting at the legislature Wednesday.Education Minister Liz Sandals refused to comment on the additional costs for the decision to reopen the teachers’ deals, and ended up walking away from reporters.“I am absolutely delighted that we have a new way of doing collective bargaining,” Sandals said repeatedly. “We saved what I said we would save.”Public school teachers withdrew from extracurricular activities and staged protests after the Liberals legislated the two-year wage freeze, and blocked the streets outside Maple Leaf Gardens during the Liberal leadership vote in Jan. 2013.Wynne knew the Liberals needed to get the teachers back on side before the spring election and so she reopened their contracts to appease them, said Progressive Conservative Lisa MacLeod.“This information would have been better in the hands of moms and dads before the election, but it wasn’t,” said MacLeod. “Today parents are learning that $500 million that should have been intended for kids in classrooms went to renegotiate contracts so that Kathleen Wynne would be more popular.”MacLeod said she felt vindicated but not happy that the auditor confirmed the extra costs for the move to reopen the teachers’ contracts and accused Wynne of trying to buy labour peace.The New Democrats said the Liberals created a huge mess by violating the Constitution when they legislated the teachers’ pay freeze, and warned that could result in a hefty legal bill for the government because of a court challenge.“They broke open collective agreements, they took money that they shouldn’t have taken and they caused turmoil in our schools,” said NDP education critic Peter Tabuns. “The government wrote the law for its own convenience and students, parents and teachers have to deal with the fallout.”The auditor said the new deals with teachers, which reduced their ability to bank sick days and cash them out at retirement, would save about $2.1 billion, but warned about the unknown costs of the teachers’ court challenge of the wage freeze bill.“We’re saying that there’s $2 billion in savings, but depending on what the courts decide in that situation, it would have an impact on this if there was a ruling against the government,” Lysyk said.On Tuesday, Sandals admitted the Liberals would cut the education budget by half a billion dollars over the next three years to help eliminate the $12.5-billion deficit, suggesting hundreds of schools with low enrolment would be shut down.Follow @CPnewsboy on Twitter read more

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How Madden Ratings Are Made

Making The First String 2014-15 When “Madden NFL 15” shipped, the third-year linebacker had an overall rating of 64 and was buried on Denver’s bench. But after an injury to Danny Trevathan in August, Marshall joined the Broncos’ starting lineup. After he put together four straight games with a Pro Football Focus grade of +1.0 or better by midseason, Marshall was rated 75 overall with vastly increased awareness, tackling, zone coverage and play recognition ratings. By Week 14, he carried an 81 overall rating, up a league-high 17 from where he’d started the season. The Virtual NFL February 25, 2015 Hunched over a keyboard, surrounded by computer monitors, Donny Moore, 37, controls the fate of the National Football League. Its players throw as hard as Moore wants. They run as fast as he says they should. And the stars of America’s most popular sport aren’t always delighted by his judgments. Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, for instance, was upset. “I want to talk about my speed,” Moore remembers Newton saying as he clambered into Moore’s cubicle last April. Despite leading all NFL quarterbacks in rushing yards in 2013, Newton ranked as only the ninth-fastest QB in the league, according to Moore — hence Newton’s unhappiness. But as Moore wheeled around from his den of screens, he was confronted by not only Newton, but also an enormous boot on Newton’s foot, the result of recent ankle surgery. “Yeah,” Moore said as Newton hobbled toward him, “let’s talk about your speed.” Eventually, Newton was pleading with Moore to not make him slower. Such is the power afforded Moore, a hyperactive Floridian who works as the official Ratings Czar1 for EA Sports’ Madden NFL video-game franchise. In that role, Moore is tasked with assigning more than 40 numerical grades to each of the NFL’s roughly 2,600 players,2 evaluating them in categories ranging from passing accuracy to tackling ability. Moore’s process has largely been a black box, and yet it shapes how more than 5 million gamers simulate pro football — particularly because there’s no official alternative to his numbers. A decade after signing a controversial exclusivity deal with the league and the players union, Madden3 is still the only licensed NFL game in town. In fact, an entire culture has grown up around Madden and its attempts to distill human athleticism into numbers. It is all good marketing for EA Sports but also speaks to the sway Madden holds. The ratings are a de facto time capsule from the year they were produced, a digital archive that offers players some measure of immortality in a sport where the average career lasts only a shade over three years. “It’s important to these guys that they be rated 99 in speed; it’s important to somebody that he have the best arm in the game,” Owen S. Good, a writer for the video-game news site Polygon, told me. The allure of the Madden rating might also speak to the relative lack of meaningful statistics in football itself. It would be strange for a baseball player to complain about his ratings in MLB: The Show, for instance, because a realistic baseball simulator (by necessity) has ratings grounded in actual statistics. But in a sport where objective measurements are often inadequate, subjective numbers — like those generated by Moore — take on greater currency. All these factors put more pressure on Moore to produce ratings of ever-increasing accuracy even as they highlight the fundamental paradox limiting Madden’s realism: It’s nearly impossible to accurately simulate some players as long as a gamer must assume control of the athlete’s brain. Madden has generated more than $4 billion in revenue over its 26-year lifetime. Yet for all EA’s resources, Moore performs his czar duties in surprising solitude. Footnotes Position QB Walt Hickey @WaltHickey madden rating tom brady a 93 further exemplifies why it is the worst of the EA sports games #thatsjustdisrespectful #hesthegreatestever— mackey (@kylemack_) August 28, 2012 Original 64 It was against this backdrop that Moore began his professional affiliation with EA. In 1998, he was still a student at the University of Central Florida, pursuing a degree in political science, when in November when he noticed advertisements for an “NCAA Football 99” tournament at the student union. Moore and his roommates were devotees of the game — he recalls elaborate house rules requiring that a witness be present every time a game was played in the friends’ shared Dynasty Mode savefile. On a whim, he skipped class, entered the contest using Florida State as his team, and won first prize. Moore’s detailed knowledge of the game’s minutiae impressed NCAA Football developers on hand for the tournament. On the spot, they offered him a part-time job testing the coming edition of the game, a break he would later parlay into a full-time gig as an EA Sports football tester. Playing and testing the games, Moore got a firsthand look at the give-and-take between gameplay and player ratings. He recalls the time a long-forgotten defensive tackle for the University of Kentucky inadvertently became a superstar after a typo assigned him a speed rating11 of 85 — blazing for a lineman — and when the Oakland Raiders, long known for their real-life fixation on speed, became unstoppable because the Madden game engine translated the overall velocity of the Raiders’ roster into far better virtual performances than the team was capable of in reality. Moore would eventually be promoted to a designer and associate producer along his path to Ratings Czar, but the relationship between Moore’s testing background and his current job is clear. “The [ratings] are probably the single biggest factor in gameplay,” Moore said. And the ratings have far more moving parts now than when Moore began working at EA. Each player in the game is graded in 43 categories — many of which were added when Madden transitioned from the sixth generation of consoles to the seventh. There are also nearly 20 new player-tendency tags, known as “traits,” that control specific player behaviors. Moore’s employer, Electronic Arts, is the world’s fifth-biggest game publisher by revenue, and Madden is among its most popular titles. The franchise has generated more than $4 billion in revenue since its debut in 1988. Yet for all of EA’s resources, Moore performs his czar duties in surprising solitude. He’s assisted by a former Madden tester who oversees players’ cosmetic details4 and the usual barrage of (ever-civil) feedback on Twitter. But when it comes to the task of managing a database of more than 100,000 player attributes, one of the best-selling sports franchises in gaming history largely leaves matters up to one man. Moore’s job has morphed from a behind-the-scenes technician to a sort of celebrity — and villain — in gaming circles. And in an increasingly data-heavy sports landscape, it’s a role that sits squarely in two intersections of growing importance — between scouting and analytics, simulation and reality. Because in both Madden and the post-“Moneyball” sports world, humans become a collection of data points and then are turned back into a digital approximation of themselves. Physical Talent Throwing Power Madden Rating But these days, I don’t have to step on the field to know what happens when I step on the field. We have Madden for that. And shockingly, the people behind Madden were willing to turn me into a guinea pig. All I had to do was give them 36 hours and sit in front of a panopticon of cameras, and they’d turn my corporeal self into a digital one. I booked a flight to Florida. The most pressing issue on my mind: what my Madden ratings would be. The game (the most recent edition is “Madden NFL 15”) rates players on a scale from 0 to 99, basing overall scores on 43 categories, including trucking, deep passing, strength and agility. A guy like me was virgin territory for Donny Moore, the Madden Ratings Czar. How exactly would he quantify the football ability of a person with hardly any? That I was essentially a rookie made Moore’s job even harder. As my colleague Neil Paine explained, rookies require an intense amount of research — game tape, college stats, combine performance — because they have no NFL experience to use for a rating. The only way Moore could draw up my forecast was by watching me play. On the agenda: the 40-yard dash, agility drills, and basic throwing and catching evaluations. After that was all over, I figured I’d be one of Jon Bois’s Breaking Madden creations. For the past few years, in a series for SB Nation, Bois has been tweaking players’ stats to show what happens when those players are made superhuman or all too human. I expected to be in the latter category. But I wanted my avatar to at least get a point on the board, at least complete a couple of passes, and at least lead a team to one victory over several simulations (even if I broke an interception record for good measure). I wanted to show that the average dude could survive the rigors of the NFL. I’ve never exactly been an athlete. The last organized sport I attempted was three semesters of club crew in college. I reached out to my former coach, Nathan Walker, to get an independent assessment of my athletic priors. In an email, Walker said he didn’t imagine I was “the type of kid who defined himself through sports while growing up.” That is an understatement. I went to an elite-football high school but ran the debate team. He said that in my first year of rowing, I was “clumsy and awkward,” and my limbs didn’t quite go where I wanted them to. Nonetheless, he said, I was “a pure joy to watch” because I was passionate about it.1 Essentially, like most Americans, I’m not exactly out of shape, but I’m not exactly in shape either. I’m generally just a shape. Speed If you hang around the Madden studio enough, you’ll hear a curious phrase tossed around, a relic from games of a decidedly different genre and medium: “Dice rolls.” Although Madden takes pains to immerse gamers in the fantasy that they are controlling real NFL players, every interaction between two players in the game is also dictated by underlying probabilities, weighted by the various ratings of the respective players. As Rex Dickson, Madden’s creative director, said: “The way the game works on a high level is that when two players run into each other and are about to do an interaction — let’s say it’s a ball-carrier and a linebacker — it’s going to take several ratings and throw them into a formula and do a dice roll. “The dice roll is how we get the randomness. So it’s basically his break-tackle chance against your tackle chance and then a dice roll on top of that. The ratings mismatch is your modifier on the dice roll. If he’s 10 points higher than you for his tackle rating, the dice roll is going to be favored in his favor to get the tackle versus the flip where it’d favor the break-tackle.” After hours of hearing this kind of talk during our visit to EA’s studios, my colleague Walt Hickey had a realization: This is basically Dungeons & Dragons for sports fans. If an obsessive following is a requirement for that comparison, consider Madden certified. The annual unveiling of Madden’s player ratings is an event unto itself. Beyond just Newton, many NFL players grouse to Moore about their numbers. (Kerry Rhodes, while playing safety for the New York Jets, made a YouTube video titled “WTF Madden!” demonstrating pretty conclusively that his throwing power rating was too low.) There are also sites where amateurs, apparently dissatisfied with Moore’s handiwork, aim to create their own competing sets of ratings. And the ratings have even been deemed to constitute “likeness” in lawsuits such as Parrish, et. al v. NFLPA.16 Bois told me that he thought the game does about as well as it can when it comes to converting real players’ abilities into a series of numbers. “If we were going to be entirely realistic, you’d probably have to have 1,500 different skill sliders” per player, he joked. “But this is a decent way to distill it into a thing that the layman can play around with and use.” Bailey agreed. “It’s an inexact science,” she said, “but for the most part [Moore] gets it right.” Yet for all of Madden’s quest for realism, there are certain aspects of football that the game still, and may always, have trouble simulating. On one level, sports video games give regular Joes and Jills the opportunity to perform athletic feats that most could only dream about in real life — blazing runs, high-flying dunks, cannon-armed throws — and games have gotten pretty good at simulating these aspects of what it means to be a professional athlete.17 But sports video games will always struggle to accurately replicate the cerebral side of sports; that’s why it’s more difficult to simulate being Ricky Rubio than LeBron James. Gamebreakers There are certain player archetypes that have always been difficult for Madden to accurately simulate. The classic example is Michael Vick from “Madden NFL 2004“; Vick’s speed was overvalued in the game. But less egregious examples occur whenever a gamer takes control of a player whose real-life counterpart possesses immense physical gifts but lacks awareness. The converse is also true; players whose defining skill is football IQ — Peyton Manning and Reggie Wayne, for example — are inept in the hands of an inept gamer. Watch the gamebreakers Position QB Clockwise, from top left: Hickey poses in front of the cameras; the computer builds a 3D model of Hickey’s face based on his photos; skin tone and facial detail are added; Hickey’s final rendering Extra Points 0/4 How Madden Ratings Are Made The Secret Process That Turns NFL Players Into Digital Gods by Neil Paine graphics by Reuben Fischer-Baum illustration by Mike McQuade Short Accuracy 0/5 On the early December day I visited his cramped cubicle, tucked away in a corner of an office building on the EA Sports campus near Orlando, Moore was putting the last touches on a roster update that would be downloaded later in the week by PlayStation and Xbox owners around the globe. When he was finished, 577 players saw some aspect of their skills re-evaluated on the basis of the previous week’s action. It’s an activity that Moore repeats every week of the season in an attempt to ensure that Madden imitates NFL reality. Front Page Sports: Football Pro Sierra Online’s “Front Page Sports: Football Pro,” regarded as the most realistic football simulation of its time, came out in 1993 and had eight ratings. Early player ratings were simplistic. The legendary “Tecmo Super Bowl,” released in late 1991, kept 14 ratings categories in total. But only a few affected in-game performance for any given position. Meanwhile, the initial version of Sierra Online’s “Front Page Sports: Football Pro,” regarded among the most sophisticated football simulations of the mid-1990s, tracked just eight rating categories for each player,8 with the same traits taking on radically different meanings depending on the player’s position. (For instance, a quarterback’s strength rating might refer to powerful throws, while the same category for a lineman would control his ability to block.) Deep Routes 0/2 The quarterback drills brought me back to earth. Asked to throw the ball as far as I could, I threw it pretty consistently between 17 and 20 yards in an often-loose spiral. I then threw the ball toward my colleague Neil Paine, who was trying his hand at receiver, and connected only 40 percent of the time on short, medium and long passes. Watching the drills unfold, Moore said I was throwing the ball too low and would probably end up hitting offensive linemen in the back of the head often. When I had exhausted my arm, I did some receiving drills — or attempted to. I was useless beyond 10 yards but caught each of the three short passes thrown my way. Brad Hilderbrand, a communications specialist for EA, said I could possibly be a great tight end. My pride swelled again. And then it withered the moment my foot touched a football. My range was so pathetic that I couldn’t boot it more than 20 yards, which at least doesn’t preclude me from being one of the league’s great onside kickers. Punting was no better. Any team with me as its punter would go for it on fourth down every time because I couldn’t kick it farther than 11 yards. “Offensive guard is probably your athletic skill set,” Moore said at the end of the day. “But you’re probably going to want to put on 100 pounds. So, that’s going to be hard for you to bulk up there and still maintain the performance that you put on display today.” Leaving Orlando, I reflected on the day and felt one thing above all: extreme pain. My back was seizing up, my right arm went somewhat numb, and a nap had only made me more sore. When I got home in the wee-morning hours, I took enough ibuprofen to dull my senses and decided that I should exercise more often.3 The soreness continued for three more days. Take, for example, a player’s trucking score, which captures his ability to run over a defender. Mine ended up being 9 out of 100, which makes me highly unlikely to take on Jadeveon Clowney and prevail. But my interaction with Clowney has an element of randomness — that weighted dice roll could lead to luck for me and misfortune for him, which would mean I’d lower my shoulder and it would somehow push him aside. When I walked on the field to try out for the game, I found this idea oddly comforting. Moore’s ratings elicit all sorts of reactions — anger, joy, pride, ridicule. Here, for example, is a sampling of reactions on Twitter to Tom Brady’s ratings over the last few years. The Virtual NFL February 26, 2015 I was on the 50-yard line, trying to make sense of the long slant route ahead of me. My debut was not going well. I was winded, slightly dehydrated and kicking myself after a day of mediocre runs and failed catches. The next pass was my last chance to impress, and I knew the cameras would be on me. When I heard “hike,” I took off. Eight yards out, I saw the ball above in a spiral. I jumped for it pitifully … and hit the ground. The ball was not in my arms. Before that pass, I knew I wasn’t cut out for the NFL. But when it sailed over my head, something else became clear: I was barely cut out for a video-game facsimile of the league. I was in Orlando with a crew of people who work on Madden, EA Sports’ premier football simulation, because I, like many obnoxious New York Giants fans, once had a fleeting moment of hubris. Sometime during QB Eli Manning’s 97 interceptions over the past five years, I thought: “Christ, even I could throw a better pass than that.” I cannot throw a better pass than that. Yet there was a sort of perverse appeal to the damage I’d bring to the Giants if I were swapped with Manning. What would happen if a schlub like me played in a league as unforgiving as the NFL? In the next madden game Tom Brady’s rating is going to be 100— Zachary Olds (@ZacharyOlds) February 2, 2015 Player performance is notoriously more difficult to quantify in football than in baseball. Deep Accuracy 0/5 3 Cone 0.0 sec Translating the athletic skills of flesh-and-blood humans into digital form has been a necessary part of sports gaming as long as real-life players have been incorporated into the software. According to Good, that practice dates at least5 as far back as the 1984 release of “Micro League Baseball” for the Commodore 64. “Micro League” was among the first sports simulations with a license to use Major League Baseball players on team rosters, an innovation that helped usher in the modern era of sports gaming. Developers were suddenly presented with a novel problem: having to represent actual players’ likenesses within the technical constraints of the day. One solution? Assigning numerical skill ratings to help differentiate good players from bad. “They were transitioning from primitive video games that were just trying to approximate the basic acts of a sport,” Good told me, pointing to the Atari 2600’s sports titles as examples of early games without rated players. “Basically, all players perform equally,” Good said. “They just wanted [to know]: ‘Do we have three outs and three strikes? You can throw the ball from third to first to put a guy out?’ ” But with the advent of licensed games, the stakes were raised. “You want Kirk Gibson to play differently from Tony Gwynn,” Good said. The method of “Micro League Baseball” was to algorithmically translate a player’s real-world statistical benchmarks — his batting average or home-run total, for instance — into skill ratings that would presumably6 spit similar numbers back out on the other side of the simulation. It was effectively the computerized version of older board games like All-Star Baseball whose colorful spinners reduced the essence of a ballplayer to a series of probabilities, locked in an eternal marriage with chance.7 But player performance is notoriously more difficult to quantify in football than in baseball. On the gridiron, detailed individual statistics are kept for only a handful of positions, and those numbers frequently miss the whole story because of interactions between 11 players on each side of the ball. Game developers quickly realized that football players, in contrast with their cousins in baseball, would need to be graded on a wider variety of skills — and that ratings-makers would have to temper the science with a whole lot of art. Tecmo Super Bowl Nintendo’s seminal football game was released in 1991 and used no more than seven rating categories for any player. The game wasn’t super realistic. Bo Jackson was an all-time great in the NFL; he was superhuman in Tecmo. Donny Moore at his cubicle at EA / Photo by Erika Larsen Listen to Walt Hickey and Neil Paine discuss their reporting and how they broke Madden. Neil Paine @Neil_Paine Next: Reggie Wayne Mute Video No player to participate in the 40-yard dash at the NFL combine since 1999 had a 40-yard time as bad as mine.2 The closest was Regis Crawford, a 316-pound offensive guard out of Arizona State who after the 2004 combine went undrafted. Crawford still managed to run the dash 0.70 seconds faster than me. Next up came agility drills — one shuttle run with three cones in an L-shape, another a 20-yard back-and-forth — that would determine how agile I wasn’t. I have the maneuverability of a rudderless aircraft carrier. Moore charitably characterized my style as “a real north and south kind of player.” Then came a lunging jump, in which I posted a consistent 6-foot, 5-inch leap. Moore seemed less appalled than he had all day. “Not bad there,” he said. It was one of the only times I felt anything approaching pride. 6’1″ Height When I first met my avatar, it was like staring into a mirror set up across the uncanny valley. My facial features were nearly exact, down to the barely noticeable scar on my chin. But I looked disoriented — even more disoriented than I was on the day of the shoot. My neck lolled; my eyes were glazed over; my blinking was algorithmic. My avatar played just as strangely as it looked. We’re used to playing Madden with athletes who have remarkable skill sets; they move quickly, consistently and responsively. I did not. It was like driving in the snow: You know how the car is supposed to move, but it just doesn’t behave as expected. This is what happens when your Madden score is 12. A 12 out of 100 is bad. Very bad. The lowest-rated player in “Madden NFL 15” is Jacksonville Jaguars long snapper Carson Tinker, who’s a 41. Despite the praise during practice — that I had more of an offensive-guard skill set, that I could be a tight end, that I was “a real north and south kind of player” — when it comes down to it, I’m clumsy and awkward, my limbs don’t quite go where I want them to go, and at best, it’s just fun to watch me. Generally speaking, I don’t think a regular person could compete with the pros. Most people are somewhat good at something. But greatness — regularly scheduled weekly articulations of greatness — is something that just can’t be turned on. Maybe the only thing causing me to play poorly was that I wasn’t playing as myself. I challenged Madden’s creative director, Rex Dickson, to a scrimmage. Starting at QB for the Giants: Walt Hickey. Hickey did not have a good day. He threw 7 for 25, threw three interceptions and was sacked three times. The Giants lost 42-7. The only points came thanks to wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who could make any quarterback look good. He scored on a short pass that he turned into a 94-yard touchdown. My only comfort was to imagine the great headline The New York Post would put on its back page the next day: “Hickey Fails to Leave a Mark.” Original 75 24 Years Age When I asked Moore what types of players Madden had the most difficulty simulating, two archetypes sprung to his mind. “There’s the Peyton Manning guy — not [Tom] Brady or [Aaron] Rodgers because they have strong arms18 — but the quarterback that’s pure decision-making, accuracy and touch,” Moore said. “And the crafty veteran wide receiver with the ability to find holes in zone [coverage], like Reggie Wayne or Roddy White.”19 As he is wont to do, Moore suggested the latter could be better simulated with even more ratings or traits. “We could rate if a receiver was on the same wavelength with his QB,” he offered. After all, Moore loves to add to Madden’s stable of ratings. His pet example is passing accuracy, which was originally represented by a single rating but is now broken down into three separate classifications by distance. In previous versions of the game, the single rating was applied to the sureness of every throw, which failed to capture a big part of what makes each quarterback unique. In reality, some QBs have better accuracy on short tosses than deep bombs (think Brady), while others are better at judging long throws than short passes (Joe Flacco comes to mind). By splitting pass types into subcategories, Moore thinks he is better able to represent the characteristics that define different quarterbacks. Greater rating detail has also recently enabled Moore to address one of the criticisms that has dogged sports games — and Madden in particular — from time immemorial: that fast players are fundamentally overvalued. (Regarding the tendency for digital speedsters to far surpass the skills of their real-life counterparts, ESPN’s Patrick Hruby once mused that “Oakland Raiders boss Al Davis should have been a game programmer.”) Moore doesn’t shy away from that critique. “When you make a guy fast in a video game, he’s just a little too effective,” he said. Take receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, a former track standout who hasn’t exactly had a great NFL career despite ranking among the league’s fastest players. Heyward-Bey is just the kind of one-dimensional speedster whose avatar traditionally wreaks undue havoc in Madden, but Moore insists the revamped ratings have made it more difficult for those players to trick the game’s engine. Bailey confirmed this development. “It was true for a long time [that] the little speedy guys could just get open, and that was that,” she said. “I don’t think that’s as much of the case anymore.” But while speed can be mitigated, Moore granted that there’s no good way to overcome the problem of simulating a quarterback like Manning, whose most important skills — reading defenses, calling audibles, seeing things on the field that no one else can, and making sound decisions — are instantly negated when a gamer picks up the controller. Physical Talent Agility Position WR Comments The effects of the ratings on actual gameplay can be arcane for even the most seasoned Madden veterans. Perhaps no one outside of EA Sports has spent more time contemplating Madden’s inner workings than SB Nation’s Jon Bois, the creator of Breaking Madden, a football column that doubles as an absurdist meditation on the game itself. But Bois confessed that he still can’t quite figure out what some of the rating categories actually do for players on the virtual gridiron. “There are definitely more obscure settings,” Bois said. “There’s a slider called ‘press,’ which I have no idea what it means. I set it to zero every time, and I still have no idea what it does, or what ‘press’ even is.”15 It says so right on his business card. ^ Including practice-squad members, free agents and other fringe players. ^ The namesake of retired coach and commentator John Madden. ^ Their equipment styles, for instance. ^ Good rightly cautioned me about the imprudence of declaring anything in gaming a definitive “first,” given the variety — and, just as often, the obscurity — of games and platforms in the medium’s history. ^ It’s impossible to say because “Micro League” didn’t actually have the capacity to track statistics from simulated games. ^ Perhaps it’s no coincidence that in another region of the baseball universe, the field of sabermetrics was tracing a parallel path at roughly the same time. Both endeavors were seeking to distill a player’s on-field performance to its numerical core, albeit for somewhat different purposes. ^ Acceleration, agility, hands, strength, speed, endurance, intelligence and discipline. ^ Also developed by EA’s Tiburon studio outside Orlando. ^ EA Sports’ ratings are on a 1 to 99 scale. ^ Not counting the overall rating, which just serves as a composite of a player’s component attributes. ^ There aren’t even college ratings to fall back on anymore; EA Sports put its NCAA Football series on hold in 2013. ^ Typically watched on the NFL’s RedZone channel. ^ In fact, the overall rating generally doesn’t use all — or even most — of the 43 component attributes at its disposal. Many categories effectively receive a weight of zero. ^ After a little digging, I found that the “press” rating measures a very specific skill: the defensive back’s ability to jam a receiver at the line of scrimmage while lining up in tight coverage. ^ In that class-action lawsuit, a group of retired NFL players sued the NFL Players Association — and won — over royalties that the union received from sales of Madden games containing classic teams with unnamed players whose ratings bore a striking resemblance to the talents of those teams’ real-life members. The unnamed players had “the same height, same ethnicity, same uniform number, same position,” Good said. “Although those things are very substantial in identifying a person, it was also that they would perform as you would expect that player to have performed in real life.” ^ As NBA Jam illustrates, there’s no limit to how much a video game can crank up the dial on pure athleticism. ^ Brady and Rodgers boast throwing power ratings of 93 and 95, respectively; Manning sits at 85. ^ Both Wayne and White boast speed ratings beneath the average of 90 for receivers in “Madden NFL 15”. ^ “Quarterback decision-making is the most difficult thing to simulate,” Moore said. “Quarterback decision-making is the most difficult thing to simulate,” Moore said. “We’re trying to simulate strengths and weaknesses as best we can within the game, but how you play the game is still you.” Neil Paine is a senior sportswriter for FiveThirtyEight. Reuben Fischer-Baum is a visual journalist for FiveThirtyEight. UPDATE (July 24, 7:15 p.m.): In July 2015, Moore announced his retirement as Madden’s Ratings Czar, leaving EA Sports to join the daily fantasy sports company FanDuel. Madden NFL 16, which will be released in August, will be the final game in the series to contain ratings curated by Moore. CORRECTION (Feb. 25, 1:23 p.m.): A previous version of this article incorrectly characterized Tecmo Super Bowl’s rating system. The game kept 14 rating categories in total, not per player. Michael Vick Hidden Skill Set Reading defenses,calling audibles Comments Finally, after all the component categories are set for both rookies and veterans, the numbers are used to generate the fabled Overall Rating. When I asked Moore about this, I expected him to decline to comment, citing a proprietary formula shrouded in secrecy. Instead, he cheerfully called up a spreadsheet containing the values that go into computing a player’s overall grade (and later e-mailed it to us). And somewhat anticlimactically, the overall rating is simply a weighted average of a player’s ratings across the 43 skill categories tracked by Madden, with different categories taking on more weight depending on the position.14 For example, the most heavily weighted categories for quarterbacks in “Madden NFL 15” are awareness and throwing power (each contributes about one-fifth of a quarterback’s overall rating), accuracy by zone (short and medium accuracy are both slightly more valuable than deep accuracy), and play-action passing. Together, those categories make up 89 percent of the overall grade for QBs, with the rest of the weight given to throwing on the run, agility, speed and acceleration. Reggie Wayne Reuben Fischer-Baum @reubenfb I strolled onto the gridiron in Orlando wearing old gym clothes and the cheapest sneakers available, which I had ordered three days prior. I did the three stretches I remembered from my middle school Presidential Physical Fitness Test — touch your toes, lunge side to side, twist your arm out of its socket — and some light jogging. That may have tired me out more than I expected. My 40-yard dash and 10-yard split times were poor — 6.75 seconds and 2.30 seconds, respectively. Those numbers were a problem because they determined my speed and acceleration grades, which are two of the most important ratings in Madden. And yet I won some games as quarterback. In the 15 seasons that EA simulated with me as QB for the Giants,6 the team never had a winning season but did win an average of 2.9 games each year. Head coach Tom Coughlin was also fired every season. So, win some, lose some. Moore also simulated me as a receiver, kicker and punter, each of which also dragged the Giants down. The team had an average of 3.3 wins with me as a receiver, 3.5 wins with me at kicker, and 3.8 wins with me at punter. Somehow, I made 95 percent of extra-point attempts, and my average punt was 27 yards. Skeptical, I emailed Moore to see whether the game might be flawed. “It might be one of those things in our simulation where it might not simulate the Extra-Point kicks based off of ratings enough,” he said. Even my achievements may have happened in error. Case StudyBrandon MarshallVeteran Player by Walt Hickey graphics by Reuben Fischer-Baum photography by Marius Bugge Long 0 yds How Madden helped a schlub like me make it into the NFL Walt Hickey is FiveThirtyEight’s lead writer for lifestyle. Broad Jump 0’0″ The Walk-On A Rating-Changing MomentNov. 23, 2014 A 75 overall rating for a rookie receiver is nothing to sneeze at, but that was just the beginning for the New York Giants wideout. Beckham recorded 31 catches in his first six games, raising his rating to an 80 overall by Week 11. And in front a national TV audience the next week, he hauled in 10 balls for 146 yards against the Dallas Cowboys — 43 yards of which came on arguably the greatest catch in NFL history. Beckham’s rating would increase by 10 more points, and he ended the year with huge upgrades in awareness, route-running, catching in traffic — and, of course, spectacular catch. Bailey offered an illustration from franchise mode, in which a gamer uses a finite supply of experience points to boost players’ skills. “It can be unclear which ratings you want to increase,” she said. Spending experience points on awareness, for instance, will almost always increase a player’s overall rating — but for defensive players and even quarterbacks, that boost won’t cause them to play better when they’re being controlled in-game. Meanwhile, wide receivers can actually see tangible in-game benefits from a higher awareness score. Confused yet? “I’ve heard it speculated that even the Madden team themselves don’t really know what’s going on,” Bailey said. “Because they’ve got years upon years of systems and code just layered on top of one another, where it’s not always entirely clear how they’re interacting. “It’s kind of a crazy system.” Whatever the virtues and drawbacks of Madden’s player ratings, though, they’re just a starting point. The game must still be played. Physical Talent Throwing Power PASSING Throw Power 0yds Moore looked relieved during the scrimmage. My abysmal performance was proof that Madden really is a simulation of the NFL: A player who somehow lucks into the league without any skills really doesn’t have a chance. He’d have to rely on his teammates to compensate. Thankfully, Madden doesn’t allow for locker-room coups. I will never on my best day be as good as Manning on his worst day. And yet, Madden was way too kind. The Giants should have been so, so much worse with me at the helm. My avatar couldn’t have been rated much lower. I was far closer to a zero rating than I was to the lowest legitimate athlete in the game (Tinker, the long snapper). Despite that, my avatar still managed to lead a team to a little less than three wins a year on average? That doesn’t make sense. The Giants went 6-10 last season. There’s no way Eli Manning is only three wins above Walt Hickey. All we need to do to demonstrate this is to look at the team that performed exactly as I expect mine would: the 2008 Detroit Lions. Although that team was among the worst of all time and failed to win a game, it was made up of talented players who were each still vastly better athletes than I am. Indeed, that year, the overall ratings for four Lions quarterbacks — Daunte Culpepper (80), Jon Kitna (84), Dan Orlovsky (73) and Drew Stanton (77) — vastly exceeded my rating. Factor in my shocking kicking performance (maybe I could make 95 percent of extra-point attempts on, say, the moon or some other low-gravity satellite), and I think that even my low stats fail to encapsulate just how bad (or rather how normal) I am. Madden’s simulation is geared to work within a realm of athleticism where I do not reside. To articulate my actual performance on the field, I’d probably need a negative rating. It’s all laughs for Bois, who excels at turning Madden into surreal comedy. But the cryptic nature of the game’s growing set of player attributes can also have frustrating consequences for serious gamers. “The unfortunate thing for Madden is that a lot of [its] player ratings are opaque,” USgamer senior editor Kat Bailey told me. “There are so many systems going on that you don’t always know which [ratings] affect which [systems].” Two months later, Moore and company asked me to return to Florida for the big reveal: what I’d look like as a real (fake), live (artificial) NFL (Madden) player. When I was first in Florida, EA mapped my face for an avatar by putting me in front of 12 high-definition cameras, each poised at a slightly different angle. It looked like what Jeremy Bentham would have made if he had gone into photography after he was tired of designing prisons. I posed seven ways — one mugshot, left and right profile shots, a natural smile,4 one with my mouth slightly open,5 one with a wrinkled forehead and eight chins, and one screaming. When I saw the photos in December, they looked like I had just walked out of an anti-methamphetamine advertisement. The photos came with polarized flashes that stripped my face of any shadow. Zooming in on the high-def shots made it look like I had slept in hot grease. Will Gibson, the technician who took the photos, said they made me look sort of like Ray Romano. But this, he said, was the point. “Put Brad Pitt in front of this,” he said, “and he’d look like Steve Buscemi.” Next: Michael Vick Mute Video Moore lobbied for many of the new rating categories, spurred by the same motivation that drove “Micro League Baseball” to add player ratings in the first place: greater differentiation among players. Hickey’s best scores for combine drills. Continue Reading Mute Video Just lost ALL respect for the madden ratings creators! They got russell wilson the same rating as Tom Brady! GTFOH!!!!!— ☆G.O.A.T☆ (@YoungPrevo) July 22, 2014 Receiving “You’re going to be setting new ground in how low we go with the ratings,” Moore told me on my second day in Florida. But I still had a chance to succeed. In Madden, everything’s a weighted dice roll — one player slamming into another isn’t an athletic act, it’s a probabilistic one. Even bad players like me could get lucky now and then. Medium Routes 0/2 Hidden Skill Set Poor awareness, decision-making Walter Hickey Monroe, N.Y. 40-Yard Dash 0.0 sec Walt Hickey 17 Throw Power 15 Throw On Run 14 Strength 03 Deep Accuracy 00 Consistency 12 Overall “The possibilities are endless.” KICKING/PUNTING 205 Pounds Weight For example, one of the most important categories when computing a quarterback’s overall rating is awareness, which is based on experience and attempts to quantify factors like decision-making and depth of playbook knowledge. Awareness clearly affects how computer-controlled quarterbacks play the game; the lower the rating, the more likely a CPU opponent is to throw into coverage or miss open receivers. But despite its heavy weighting in the overall rating formula, a quarterback’s awareness score makes no difference when a human is controlling him. When you, the gamer, are in charge, it’s up to you to be “aware” for the avatar you’re controlling. Bois described the same conundrum using a basketball analogy. “I’ve found that the video-game version of J.R. Smith is incredible,” he said. “He’s just way better than he is in real life, and I think the reason is because you get to make the decisions and not him. He’s an amazing player, but once you distill him to his physical self, he’s just unstoppable half the time.” So at what point does an unaware Peyton Manning — or an aware Smith — cease to be a true representation of the original? It’s an interesting philosophical issue and one connected to the delicate balancing act of favoring skilled gamers while having virtual players mirror the strengths and weaknesses of their real-life counterparts. “It’s a fine line,” Dickson said. “You want to make sure that somebody with great stick skills can still win and be successful but at the same time not transcend a really crappy team and all of a sudden they can beat anyone.” When that equilibrium is disturbed, the game can sometimes even be criticized as too realistic. In 2013, testers from Houston complained to Dickson after playing as the Texans’ undrafted rookie quarterback Case Keenum. “They all said, ‘[With] these computer physics, I can’t have fun with this guy: Every pass is inaccurate,’ ” Dickson said. “We’re watching film on [Keenum], and it’s like, ‘Well, he’s a third-stringer. Every pass is inaccurate. This is real life.’ ” “They said to us, ‘Well, if I’m good and making good decisions, I should be able to make good reads and get the pass there,’ ” Dickson continued. “But all of a sudden then you’re making guys like Geno Smith look like Peyton Manning, and your stick skills are now superseding the simulation. We’ve actually had that in the game before, and it didn’t go over well. People reject that. “You shouldn’t be able, just because you’re really good at Madden, to make Geno Smith all of a sudden awesome. Geno Smith, even if he makes a good read, is still an inaccurate passer. That’s just the way it works in the NFL, and that’s modeled in our simulation.” Polygon’s Good used a baseball example to illustrate this tug of war between enjoyment and realism: “How do you make failing seven out of 10 times fun?” It’s a challenge that doesn’t seem to be completely solvable using player ratings, no matter how much faith Moore places in them. Then again, I doubt it will stop him from trying. “In a perfect world, in ‘Madden 2037,’ we might have [ratings] split into 10 or 15 different awareness-type categories,” Moore said, still rattling off items from his wish list. “Like awareness around the end zone, awareness in the fourth quarter … Actual participation was out of the question. This is no longer George Plimpton’s NFL. The size of an NFL player has ballooned — players are taller and larger than ever before. Between 1974 and 1999, rookie offensive linemen got 24 percent heavier. I’m not getting near the turf of an actual football field. Plus, my insurance isn’t that great. Madden Rating Short Routes 0/3 Adjusted 64 “Some designers and producers complain that there are too many ratings,” Moore said of his colleagues. “They ask, ‘How can we limit the number of ratings?’ But I would argue you make players more vanilla with fewer numbers.” That’s why Moore wants to continue adding categories even if it makes his job progressively more daunting. “The developers and programmers hate this,” he said, “but it would be great to do more ratings.” He then launched into an only-half-joking suggestion that the game might add a long-snapping rating someday. When Moore sits down to build a player’s ratings for the newest version of Madden, he goes through one of two separate processes, depending on whether the player is a veteran or a rookie. Each type of player offers its own challenges. Veterans have existing ratings from previous games, but the degree to which each of their categories must be changed is uncertain. Rookies, meanwhile, must be created completely from scratch.12 For the past few versions of the game, users can download Moore’s latest roster update every week of the season via Xbox Live or the PlayStation Network. That means a player’s ratings fluctuate based on how he plays each time he takes the field. To figure out whose ratings to tweak and by how much, Moore said he combines his observations and notes taken during games13 with subsequent film study, conventional statistics, and — increasingly — advanced metrics from outlets such as Football Outsiders (particularly for schedule strength) and Pro Football Focus. “The big factor during the season is stat-based,” Moore said. “The advanced metric sites like Pro Football Focus, like the Football Outsiders, this guy named Ryan Riddle — [a] former NFL player who actually does a blog that has a lot of great information — those types of things bring out the snap-by-snap look on a player. And that, to me, gives a truer look in terms of a player’s value, rather than the conventional ‘how many receiving yards’ or ‘what was the completion percentage for the quarterback.’ ” Pulling all that data together, however, is when Moore’s instincts take over. Listening to him describe the process of rating a Madden player across all 43 categories, I began to realize that he has unwittingly adopted a sort of ad hoc Bayesian updating process. He said there’s a bit of “What have you done for me lately?” in the ratings but that certain categories are fundamentally more or less prone to short-term adjustments — another Bayesian-sounding notion. “Speed largely stays the same,” Moore said, “although when guys get hurt, I will make a change to [their] speed and agility” — a fact Cam Newton came to know firsthand. “Carry rating can be in flux if a guy fumbles a few times,” Moore continued. “Every position has certain ratings more impacted in-season than others.” Meanwhile, a category like “spectacular catch” can change on the basis of a single play. Moore defended the policy, saying that this particular rating has little to no effect on actual gameplay — but it underscores the ad hoc nature of some of Moore’s changes. Such modifications will take a veteran player through the end of the season. Moore makes additional adjustments over the summer based on age-related factors and other reports coming out of OTAs and training camps. “In the offseason, I look for guys trending up — young guys — or down — older players,” Moore said. As for the rookies, their creation process dominates Moore’s spring schedule. Starting around March, Moore begins sketching out the ratings framework for projected draftees using a series of templates for each position. Working with measurables from the scouting combine and pro days, he establishes a player’s ratings in categories such as speed and strength, which are almost directly tied to the drills performed by prospects in advance of the NFL draft. For instance, a 4.50-second time in the 40-yard dash will usually earn a prospect a speed rating of 89, barring particularly strong scouting comments about his fleetness of foot (or lack thereof). At the same time, Moore dives into the various public pre-draft scouting reports for each player, marking down pluses and minuses when consistent themes emerge and applying those adjustments to the templates in areas where the raw combine measurables are less useful, such as coverage skills or play recognition. This did not lend itself to a great deal of differentiation between players. The assortment of skills that needed to be collected for each player grew as football games progressed through the 1990s. By the end of the decade, EA Sports’ NCAA Football series9 assigned 14 attributes to every player in the game,10 while Madden began handing out 17. With the advent of fifth-generation consoles, the degree of complexity in simulating football increased dramatically, requiring a wider range of player attributes to feed into the new game engines. “I’ve heard it speculated that even the Madden team themselves don’t really know what’s going on,” Bailey said. Adjusted 75 I asked Moore whether there were any sports that regular people could jump into and be at least a little competitive. “Poker, if you consider that a sport,” he said. Mohegan Sun has a poker tournament at the end of the month. How hard can that be? Footnotes Walker added that he never considered me one of his top rowers. “Even though you pushed yourself at practice, you lacked that same self-discipline away from practice and would often stumble into morning practices having not slept the night before,” he said. That is entirely correct. ^ Craig M. Booth’s excellent NFL height/weight charts inspired the scatter-plots in this article. ^ I have not. ^ Presumably to be used in event of a successful play in-game, so essentially unnecessary. ^ I just made a Manningface. ^ Using the 2014 roster each time. ^ Peyton Manning Case StudyOdell Beckham Jr.Rookie Player Hidden Skill Set Knack for getting open read more

admin September 28, 2019 tipstjdveffr Leave a Comment

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Shorthanded Buckeyes drop 2 against Michigan State and Michigan

Senior outside hitter Kaitlyn Leary (11) hits the ball during a match against Michigan Sept. 27 at St. John Arena. OSU won, 3-1.Credit: Mark Batke / Lantern photographerThe Ohio State women’s volleyball team, playing without a full lineup, could not end its lengthy losing streak when it took on No. 17 Michigan Saturday.The Buckeyes, who have dropped eight straight matches, are still looking for a breakthrough in a tough Big Ten conference.OSU is now 2-10 in the Big Ten after winning all 12 of its matches in non-conference play. It looked as if the streak might end as the Buckeyes took the first two sets against the Wolverines, but Michigan was able to win three straight, including a 15-7 decision in the fifth.Sophomore outside hitter Katie Mitchell, who was cleared to play just in time for the Buckeyes’ Friday loss at No. 14 Michigan State after suffering an injury in practice earlier in the week, played in all five sets against the Wolverines.Senior outside hitter Kaitlyn Leary recorded a career-high 31 kills against Michigan. Leary added 13 digs but also tallied 16 attacking errors. Freshman outside hitter Kylie Randall added 10 kills and senior defensive specialist Julianne Mandolfo had a match-high 24 digs.The Buckeyes had a .168 attacking percentage in the match, compared to a .226 clip for Michigan.The Wolverine attack was spread out, as four players recorded double digit kills. Senior outside hitters Molly Toon and Lexi Erwin tied for the team lead with 16 kills. Senior middle blocker Jennifer Cross added 12 and freshman middle blocker Abby Cole pitched in 10.The loss to Michigan, which is one of only two teams that OSU has beaten in conference play this year, came on the heels the Buckeyes’ second three-set loss to the Spartans this season.The Buckeyes fell to Michigan State 25-21, 25-23, 25-17. Coach Geoff Carlston said OSU would be forced to play without two starters for the match in freshman setter Maggie Heim and Mitchell. Mitchell was cleared in time, but only played in the third set, while Heim missed both weekend matches because of illness.The Buckeyes are also playing without junior middle blocker Anna Faul, who tore her ACL during non-conference play during the Blue and White Classic.Randall led the shorthanded Buckeyes with 11 kills and Leary pitched in with 10, but the team finished with 22 errors, compared to 13 for Michigan State.Spartan senior outside hitter Lauren Wicinski led the match with 14 kills.Coming off of two more road losses, the Buckeyes are scheduled to return home for their next two matches. OSU is set to host Indiana Friday before welcoming No. 16 Purdue Saturday. read more

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Football Ohio State stays at No 4 in the latest AP Poll

Alabama (54)Clemson (6) GeorgiaOhio StateOklahomaWisconsin (1) Auburn Notre DameStanford WashingtonPenn StateLSUVirginia Tech West Virginia TCUMississippi StateBoise StateUCFMichigan OregonMiami USCArizona StateOklahoma StateMichigan State Ohio State Buckeyes join together at the end of the game against Rutgers to sing “Carmen Ohio” on Sept. 8. Ohio State won 52-3. Credit: Amal Saeed | Assistant Photo EditorAfter a 52-3 win over Rutgers in the first Big Ten game of the season, Ohio State stayed at No. 4 in the Week 3 of the AP Poll behind No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Clemson and No.3 Georgia. The Buckeyes failed to earn a first place vote. Ohio State is one of five teams from the Big Ten in the Top 25 along with No. 6 Wisconsin, which received one first place vote, No. 11 Penn State, No. 19 Michigan and No. 25 Michigan State. The Buckeyes were ranked as high as No. 2 by three voters, and as low as No. 11.No. 4 Ohio State will face No. 15 TCU on Saturday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. AP Top 25 read more

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Army sergeant accused of attempting to murder his wife has bail conditions

first_imgEmile Cilliers and his wife, Victoria  She suffered multiple serious injuries at Netheravon Airfield, on Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire, on April 5, 2015.Mr Cilliers, of Aldershot, Hampshire, denied two charges of attempting to murder his wife during the short hearing at the court.One charge is alleged between March 24 and 31 last year, while the second is alleged between April 3 and 6 last year.Mr Cilliers also denied a charge of damaging a gas fitting belonging to his wife, while recklessly endangering life, between March 28 and 31 last year.Judge Keith Cutler, the Recorder of Winchester, adjourned the case for a date to be fixed and released Mr Cilliers on bail.”It is likely to be a trial of five weeks’ length, perhaps in May or the summer part of next year,” the judge told the defendant.Mr Cilliers, who was born in South Africa, spoke only to answer “not guilty” to the three charges alleged against him. An army sergeant accused of attempting to murder his wife after her main parachute failed to open during a 4,000ft jump has had his bail conditions amended so he can go skiing.Emile Cilliers, 36, pleaded not guilty when he appeared at Salisbury Crown Court to face three charges in relation to his wife Victoria Cilliers, 40. The proposition is there’s a ski leaders’ course in Bavaria… then there’s another ski course in AustriaChristopher Hill, representing Emile Cilliers The court heard Mr Cilliers’ bail conditions include having no contact with his wife, not to enter Wiltshire apart from legal appointments and to surrender his passport.Christopher Hill, representing Mr Cilliers, applied for his passport to be in the possession of police or the Army, so his client could attend ski courses abroad.”The proposition is there’s a ski leaders’ course in Bavaria, with a transfer by bus and ferry,” Mr Hill said. “Then there’s another ski course in Austria. The request is that he is allowed to attend those.”The judge said the passport should be in the possession of the police and the Army.”This case comes first,” he told Mr Cilliers. “I will renew your bail in those amended terms.”He added there would likely be another administrative-type hearing in February or March.  Emile Cilliers and his wife, Victoria, who he is accused of attempting to murder Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings.last_img read more

admin September 25, 2019 tipstjdveffr Leave a Comment

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Phone checks on pensioners after they leave hospital can cut readmission rates

Experts said the measure could stop thousands of pensioners from worsening health – and save the NHS millions.Research by Aston University shows over-65s given a phone call by nurses within a day of leaving hospital were 41 per cent less likely to be readmitted in the next month.Doctors said the checks meant they could ensure patients knew which medication to take, could check for any signs of confusion, and arrange home visits if required.Currently, around one in seven older patients end up back in A&E within a month of discharge.NHS figures show that there were around 865,000 emergency readmissions to English hospitals in 2017-18, costing the NHS at least £2.4bn per year.Lead researcher Dr James Brown said: “Our work shows that a simple service, whereby community nurses attempt to contact older adult patients after they are discharged from hospital, leads to a significant reduction in the number of patients readmitted within a month.“It is now more important than ever to minimise the costs to our health services caused by unnecessary readmissions.“It may seem hard to believe that something as simple as a phone call can have such a major impact, but our evidence suggests that this is so – the NHS could tackle the rise in readmissions by implementing simple, inexpensive telephone services which improve communication with patients.”In the study, published in Future Healthcare Journal, researchers tracked more than 750 pensioners.Those with no follow-up had a 15.7 per cent chance of being rushed back to A&E.But those contacted by nurses saw their risk fall to 9.2 per cent – a 41 per cent drop.Dr Martha Pinkney, elderly care consultant at Solihull Hospital, part of University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We have shown that a simple and inexpensive intervention may be highly effective at reducing readmission rates in this vulnerable population.”This finding warrants further investigation in a  prospective controlled setting to quantify these potential significant benefits for both patients and the health service.” Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings. Simple phone checks on the elderly after they leave hospital can cut the number of emergency readmissions by more than 40 per cent, research has found. read more

admin September 25, 2019 tipstjdveffr Leave a Comment

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Citizens helped catch fourwheeldrive shooter

first_imgThe police yesterday thanked the public for playing a vital role in the arrest of a 31-year-old suspected of firing randomly from his car at five people in Athens earlier this month. The suspect, an unmarried man who holds a license to operate a taxi, was caught early on Sunday after an Omonia resident tipped off police that a dark-colored Jeep Cherokee resembling the one involved in the shootings was parked in central Athens.Officers lay in wait for the suspect to return to his vehicle and arrested him as he opened the door. Inside the four wheel drive, they found two bullet cartridges as well as traces of gunpowder that linked the owner to the attacks.Police had set up roadblocks in various parts of Athens following the shootings, which took place between December 20 and 22, but the description of the vehicle that was provided by witnesses, as well as the fact that one incident was recorded by a CCTV camera, helped officers identify the type of vehicle used. This information was passed onto the public, which eventually led to the call being placed to police early on Sunday. Attica Crime Squad director Yiannis Dikopoulos said to Kathimerini the way in which the unnamed suspect was arrested highlighted how important “the contribution of the public toward fighting crime actually is.” The 31-year-old appeared before a prosecutor yesterday but denied being involved in the attacks. “He is trying to recall his involvement in the attack but he does not remember anything,” lawyer Christos Kanatakis said of his client. The suspect is due to be examined by a psychologist amid suspicion that the alleged gunman suffers from mental problems. Sources said that he lives in a seven-story building in Sepolia, near central Athens, which is owned by his family and, contrary to initial reports that he is a taxi driver, he owns a license to operate a cab but leases it to two other men.Three people were injured during the shootings. A 57-year-old man remains in the hospital after suffering spinal injuries while a 42-year-old woman is still in the Red Cross Hospital with serious stomach injuries. Facebook Twitter: @NeosKosmos Instagramlast_img read more

admin September 21, 2019 tipstjdveffr Leave a Comment

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Hulu Is Making a Hitman TV Series with the Creator of John

first_img ‘Hitman 2’: The Briefcase Is a Hitman’s Deadliest WeaponThe Deadliest Assassins in Video Games Stay on target Remember when Square Enix sold IO Interactive and the future of the Hitman franchise looked bleak? That continues to be the best thing that ever happened to the company and their most beloved series. Not only did they add yet more content to their award-winning episodic experiment, not only do they have another season/game in the works, they’re about to have a TV show.Deadline reports that Fox is teaming up with Hulu to create a television series based on IO’s hit, man. (Sorry.) The pilot will be written by John Wick creator Derek Kolstad, who is also executive producing the series. That’s one promising sign that a live-action Hitman could really work this time. Another promising sign is that Hulu hopes to turn the show into a flagship series for the streaming network. That mean’s it’s more than just a cash grab. They’re more likely to give the show what it needs to actually be good.The Hitman series doesn’t have the best history when it comes to live adaptations. 20th Century Fox previously released two Hitman movies, and both were abysmal. While many factors went into making Hitman and Hitman: Agent 47 that bad, their biggest sin, as a fan of the games, was that they didn’t understand what Hitman was all about. They took all the careful planning, the intricate assassinations, the dark humor, and the insane methods, and through it all away. They turned Hitman into two movies about a bald guy who shoots a lot of guns. That’s not what Hitman is. Hitman is learning your target’s movements, figuring out when they’re alone. Or if they’re never alone, it’s figuring out how to cause a horrific accident with no one suspecting it’s you. It’s carefully calculating every step and wildly improvising when your plan inevitably goes awry. If you can’t turn that into compelling live-action drama, I don’t know what’s wrong with you.That’s where Kolstad’s involvement has me optimistic. Yes, the John Wick movies were big loud action flicks, but they had a craft that’s rare in those kinds of movies. Even with the tiniest bit of story, the movies made you care about a character nobody had ever heard of before. Those films displayed a mastery of pacing. The Hitman series will inevitably have its big action sequences, but I trust Kolstad to recognize that the build-up to those sequences is just as important, if not more so. And that it’s just as much fun to watch Agent 47 kill a bunch of dudes with a battle axe as it is to watch an intricate Rube Goldberg machine of death come together. That’s what I’m hoping for, anyway. Also, since a TV show, there may be fewer restrictions on what kinds of stories they can tell. And with a per-episode budget being much lower than a Hollywood film, that could force the show to get more creative with each assassination, rather than turning everything into a big action setpiece.No word on a release date yet, but this is the perfect excuse to revisit some of your favorite Hitman games. The story of the series is said to be very close to the games’ mythology.center_img Let us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey.last_img read more

admin September 20, 2019 tipstjdveffr Leave a Comment

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Police investigate incustody death of naked man running on Little Italy street

first_img SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – Authorities Saturday investigated the in-custody death of a naked man who was running in and out of traffic in the Little Italy section of San Diego.Officers responded at 11 p.m. Friday to calls of a naked man who appeared to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs running in the street and yelling for help in the 600 block of West Grape Street, according to Lt. Matt Dobbs of the San Diego Police Department.Witnesses told investigators the first officer on scene was able to place the man in handcuffs, but as the officer attempted to escort him out of the street, the man began struggling with the officer, who was able to take him to the ground, but was having trouble controlling him, Dobbs said.Two civilians rushed to help the officer restrain the man until additional officers arrived, Dobbs said.The man went into medical distress and officers provided medical aid until paramedics arrived and took over, he said.The man was transported to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead just before midnight, Dobbs said.The man’s identity was not disclosed. No officers or civilians involved in the incident sustained significant injuries.Anyone with information regarding this incident was asked to call the SDPD Homicide Unit at (619) 531-2293 or Crime Stoppers at (888) 580-8477. Categories: Local San Diego News FacebookTwitter KUSI Newsroom, Police investigate in-custody death of naked man running on Little Italy street Posted: October 6, 2018center_img Updated: 12:09 PM KUSI Newsroom October 6, 2018last_img read more

admin September 17, 2019 tipstjdveffr Leave a Comment

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Learn from industry leaders at Employee Benefits Connect 2016

first_imgEmployee Benefits Connect 2016 is fast approaching. The one-day event will take place on 9 March at the Lancaster London.The event will give attendees the opportunity to stay ahead of the curve by hearing the latest thinking on the future of reward.The comprehensive conference programme will provide insight into benefits approaches for the workforce of tomorrow, with a special focus on financial wellbeing, employee benefits strategy, global reward, and health and wellbeing.Expert speakers include: Embarrassing Bodies’ Dr Pixie McKenna (pictured); Joanna Bean, head of reward, human resources at Samsung UK and Ireland; Adam Brooke, international benefits manager at Standard Chartered Bank; Dr Andreas Kornelakis, senior lecturer in international management at Kings College London; Spencer Roach, total reward manager EMEA at Cisco International, and many more.Nigel Jeremy, chief learning officer at British Airways, will present the opening keynote session at the event. He will outline the latest thinking on how the range of different generations in the workplace might affect employee benefits in the future.Perry Timms, director, people and learning at Media Zoo, and an adviser to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) on social media and engagement, will deliver the closing keynote session on the digital future of the workplace, including technological innovation, shifts in working habits and the creation of new ways to lead and be successful.Delegates will also have the chance to share ideas and knowledge with their peers during interactive roundtable sessions, covering topics such as gamification, behavioural science, and pensions education. These will be led by industry experts, including Pete Ackerley, head of participation at the Football Association (FA) and Goals Soccer Centres, Emma Mamo, head of workplace wellbeing at Mind, and Charles Cotton, performance and reward adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).Attendees will also be able to discover innovative reward and benefits solutions at the exhibition, which will bring together a number of leading suppliers from across the employee benefits industry.For more information and to register, visit www.employeebenefitsconnect.co.uk.last_img read more

admin September 15, 2019 tipstjdveffr Leave a Comment

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Civil Service Pinsent Masons and Royal Mail Group awarded for equality and

first_imgThe Civil Service, Lloyd’s of London, Pinsent Masons and Royal Mail Group were among the organisations awarded for inclusive and equal workplace practices at the Employers Network for Equality and Inclusion (ENEI) Awards.The awards are designed to acknowledge and celebrate organisations with a commitment to good practice above and beyond legal compliance, using innovative approaches to inspire other employers.Royal Mail Group won the Wellbeing at Work accolade, while Pinsent Mason took the prize for Working Families.Scottish Power was recognised for its approach to flexible and agile working, and Zurich Insurance won the Employee Engagement award.In additional, CA Technologies won the award for intergenerational working.The full list of winners is:Overall Winner 2016 – Private Sector: Zurich InsuranceOverall Winner 2016 – Public Sector: The Civil ServiceSmall Employer of the Year: CleanStartGold Standard Award for Equality – Home Office, South East Coast Ambulance Service, Santander and Zurich InsuranceGlobal Diversity Award: Sodexo UK and IrelandInclusive Culture Award: The Civil ServiceInclusive Communications Award: HM Revenue and CustomsEmployee Engagement Award: Zurich InsuranceInclusive Recruitment Award: Bank of EnglandEmploying Ex-Offenders Award: Joint winners: CleanStart and Freshfields Bruckhaus DeringerExcellence in Training Award: The Civil ServiceFlexible/Agile Working Award: ScottishPowerWorking Families Award: Pinsent MasonsTapping into Talent Award: Home OfficeIntergenerational Working Award: CA TechnologiesAdvancing Social Mobility in the Workplace Award: EYWellbeing at Work Award: Royal Mail GroupInclusive Procurement Award: Joint Winners: IBM and Minority Supplier Development UKRepresentative Workforce Award: Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation TrustEquality and Inclusion Champion of the Year: Lindsey Ambrose, St Andrew’s HealthcareTeam of the Year Award: Berwin Leighton PaisnerEmployee Network Group of the Year: Land RegistryCommunity Impact Award: Paul J Watson SolicitorDenise Keating, chief executive at ENEI, said: “The ENEI annual awards recognise the commitment of organisations to achieving diverse and inclusive workplaces, celebrating the teams and individuals who really are making a difference. We have been encouraged by the steps organisations have taken to promote equality and diversity, and hope this will encourage other companies to follow their lead.“There were over 126 applications for the awards this year and we are delighted that so many organisations are prepared to publicly demonstrate best practice and have been publicly recognised for the innovative work they are doing.”last_img read more

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Slightest delay not an option Abhishek Singhvi on appointment

first_imgNew Delhi: Ahead of the crucial Congress Working Committee meeting, party leader Abhishek Singhvi said on Friday that any further delay in the selection of the new chief is not an option. The Congress Working Committee (CWC) is meeting on Saturday and is likely to select a provisional chief to replace Rahul Gandhi, who is firm on his decision to quit. Also Read – War propaganda delays removal of internet restriction in Jammu and Kashmir Advertise With Us The CWC may also form a panel of senior members to look for the new chief. “On Saturday, a consensus builder party President of Congress must be selected. Slightest delay is not an option,” Singhvi said on Twitter. “In lighter vein, I gave analogy of wise men of Vatican locked in a room indefinitely until they got a nomination! Subsequently, it has to be followed by full intra party elections,” he added. A number of partymen have expressed their opinion in public, saying the delay in selecting the new Congress chief is harming the party. Some Congressmen also made a call for Priyanka Gandhi Vadra to take over from her brother Rahul Gandhi, who quit as party chief post post the Lok Sabha poll debacle on May 25.last_img read more

admin September 6, 2019 tipstjdveffr Leave a Comment

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North Carolina Civil Rights Leader Receives Genius Grant

first_imgBy MARTHA WAGGONER, Associated PressRALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The Rev. William Barber, one of the newest recipients of the honor known as the genius grant, said Thursday that becoming a 2018 MacArthur fellow means he has more work ahead of him, not less.So appropriately, he was participating in — and getting arrested at — a “Fight for $15” protest outside McDonald’s headquarters in Chicago on Thursday, the day the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation announced this year’s 25 MacArthur fellows.Rev. William Barber, president of the state chapter of the NAACP and pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, N.C., was named one of this year’s MacArthur fellows by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation on Thursday, Oct. 4, 2018. In 2017. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome, File)Each recipient will receive $625,000 over five years to use as they please.“They don’t share these grants so that you sit down,” Barber said in a telephone interview Thursday. “They hope and believe you will do more things.”The foundation noted that Barber “is effective at building unusually inclusive fusion coalitions that are multiracial and interfaith, reach across gender, age, and class lines, and are dedicated to addressing poverty, inequality, and systemic racism.”The 55-year-old Barber, minister of Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, first came to the public eye when he was elected president of the state chapter of the NAACP in 2005. He began the “Moral Monday” movement in North Carolina in 2013 and led frequent protests over issues such as voting rights, gerrymandering, LGBTQ rights and unions.Barber is now co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign, a revival of the movement begun by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. just before the assassination of the civil rights leader in April 1968.“The message of an award like this is to keep on, keep fighting, don’t despair, somebody sees you,” said Barber, who’s been arrested at least 15 times.Barber hasn’t decided specifically how he will use the money, although he does have tentative plans. “One of the things I always wanted to is go places where people don’t have the resources to bring you and help empower communities,” he said.Among those congratulating Barber on Thursday was former Vice President Al Gore, who attended events with him in August in North Carolina. One of the platforms of the Poor People’s Campaign is ecological devastation, a prime interest of Gore, who shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 for his campaign to protect the environment.“Nobody is more deserving,” Gore tweeted.Barber described his work as “a long struggle. It’s going to continue to be a struggle.”Added Barber, “I do it because it’s not about what you have to suffer but how you help others who suffer, who don’t need you to do things for them but need you to stand alongside them.”___Follow Martha Waggoner on Twitter at http://twitter.com/mjwaggonernclast_img read more

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Few people understand Sufi music

first_imgThe spiritual and devotional path of Sufi music has enchanted humankind for centuries but nowadays the genre is hogged by people who don’t know or understand Sufism at all, says Piyarelal Wadali of the famed Wadali Brothers. Also Read – ‘Playing Jojo was emotionally exhausting’“The songs performed in films are not Sufi. Nobody sings Sufi music in films,” the veteran singer answered to a query on what he thinks of the Sufi music trend in Bollywood.Lamenting the “herd mentality” prevailing in the music industry, he said, “Nowadays, people who don’t know or understand Sufi claim to be the purveyors of this music. Audiences also believe that. There are few people who understand and sing Sufi.”The duo, who were in Mumbai to perform at Mirchi Live’s concert on Saturday, also participated at the first season of Coke Studio@MTV and did a re-interpretation of the song Tu mane ya na mane. Also Read – Leslie doing new comedy special with Netflix“We did a programme in Coke Studio and played Tu mane ya na mane. It was not originally a Sufi song, but we made that rendition. The individual is considered as the Almighty in this song,” Piyarelal said. The Wadali Brothers have lent their voices to films like Pinjar and Dhoop and one of their most popular songs was Rangrez Mere, which was featured in the Kangana Ranaut — R Madhavan-starrer Tanu Weds Manu. Piyarelal reveals it was recorded in a single night. Hailing from Guru ki Wadali, a small village near Amritsar, the Wadali Brothers — Piyarelal and his elder brother Puranchand — are widely renowned as among the leading exponents of Sufi music in the world and have enthralled audiences in Dubai, the US, Australia, New Zealand and other places.“We play our music according to what the audience likes. We observe and understand our audience and then mould our performance according to their liking,” Piyarelal said.He termed Sufi music “a way to connect to one’s guru”.“We consider guru as our god. Nobody has seen god, but he said that if you want to see me, then you should understand yourself. God exists within man,” Piyarelal said.“A Sufi is a fakir (mendicant); he is a spiritual, honest being. The words written by the legends Bulle Shah, Amir Khusrau and the like are called Sufi. If I or someone else were to write it, we cannot call it Sufi,” he said.Known for their soulful and passionate music and expressive singing, the Wadali Brothers believe in giving their own touch to the compositions provided to them by music directors, Piyarelal said.“We take the composition and then we create the songs as per our liking. We make sure to keep our trademark style alive,” he added.Recollecting their earlier days of struggle, Piyarelal said his career didn’t start as a singer but started as a dancer.“I used to perform in Ras-Lilas. We used to travel to villages, and I danced for 20-25 years. Then my guru Mastan Shah asked me not to do that and devote my life to Sufi music. I obeyed him and left dancing,” he said.Soon after this transition, the Wadali Brothers got their first recognition via All India Radio, Jalandhar, in 1972, said Piyarelal.“Radio Jalandhar asked us to sing, and kept the microphone in front of us. Our elders said that you should not sing in front of the microphone because it sucks your voice in. But then we got to know that it wasn’t so and we went ahead. It was 1972,” he added.last_img read more

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1 dead in N11 accident

first_imgWebsiteWebsiteWebsite WebsiteWebsiteWebsite WebsiteWebsiteWebsite 1 person has died after a Toyota Hilux double-cab bakkie crashed while travelling from Ladysmith to Glencoe.It is alleged that the driver lost control and the vehicle rolled.There were four occupants and 1 person did not survive the horror crash.Two people were slightly injured and the driver was treated for shock.EMRS and ER24 responded to the scene and stabilized the injured before transporting them to hospital.Towing services were also on scene, along with SAPS and RTI.last_img read more

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