July 25 (Bloomberg) -- Are you ready for some mugshots?
The gold chains and diamond studs are tucked away for the moment, the flashy sports cars and gaudy SUVs are in the parking lots, and the millionaire athletes who drive them have their playbooks in hand. All NFL training camps are now officially open to rookies and veterans, except for the Detroit Lions, who will be in full swing by Sunday. Considering they’ve had one winning season in the past 13 and are starting this year with a new head coach in Jim Caldwell, you’d think they might want to get a little bit of a head start on things, but whatever. It’s Detroit.
Call us crazy, but this is the best part of the NFL season -- the preseason. Because once the games start counting, the mood sours easily. How your week starts off is determined Sunday night. The anxiety, the thrill of victories and agonies of defeat -- it’s too stressful.
Like spring training in baseball, there’s an idyllic quality to the training camp weeks, when it’s all about hot weather and optimism, and when the exhibition games are just for fun, the way it ought to be. Try crazy plays, send in the scrubs, talk some trash, try out the new astroturf.
Sadly, the summer rituals of rookies singing college fight songs and nighttime bed checks have been joined by the annual police blotter and drug-test failures. Offseason arrests dropped this year to 21 from 31 in both of the previous two years, but that’s 21 too many for the most-watched sport in the U.S. And it’s only July.
We’ve got Ray Rice in Baltimore, suspended two games, and only two games, for a fight with his wife/then-fiancee that left her unconscious. In fact, five of the 21 arrests of current or former players were made on Baltimore’s players, but, short of Aaron Hernandez’s murder charge as the lowlight of 2013, you don’t get much lower than beating up someone who can’t fight back. On the just-pathetic scale, Kellen Winslow Jr.’s bust for synthetic weed has to be the lamest. Really dude? Synthetic marijuana?
As for substance abuse, Opening Line’s hometown Eagles are the latest entrants, with a four-game suspension for offensive tackle and 2013’s No. 4 overall pick, Lane Johnson, now official. So coach Chip Kelly has to start his sophomore season with one foot in the bucket already. Johnson joins (at least) two players from the team in Washington, two from the Colts, one each from the Giants, Dolphins, Cardinals, Rams, Panthers, and Brandon Moore, who doesn’t have a home right now.
And to dip into the college game for a moment, two University of Texas players were charged yesterday with felony sexual assault of a woman and photographing it.
Guys, you do know that kids are watching, right?
Durable-goods orders is the lone U.S. economic figure today.
U.S. earnings today include Moody’s, AbbVie, Xerox and Safeway.
Overnight, Japan said inflation slowed to 3.3 percent in June, and moments ago Russia unexpectedly raised its benchmark interest rate to 8 percent. Earlier, the U.K. said second-quarter GDP expanded 0.8 percent, meeting forecasts and pushing output 0.2 percent above its peak in 2008.
- Russia’s just straight-up shooting at Ukraine now, the U.S. says. - Central American leaders meet Obama in Washington to tackle the recent surge of immigrant children into the U.S. - The House voted against a measure that would have accelerated an overhaul of the VA. - The penalty for not buying health insurance in the U.S. has been capped at $2,448 per person. - A House committee advanced a resolution authorizing the House to sue Obama for his use of executive privilege. - Ted Cruz is demanding answers about the FAA’s ban on flights to Tel Aviv. - Arizona officials deny that the two hours Joseph Wood spent gasping for air during his execution constitute a botched job and blame the media for saying so. - No, it’s torture, says Senator John McCain, also an Arizona official. - McDonald’s has taken chicken and other items off the menu in Hong Kong amid the food-safety crisis created by a Chinese unit of OSI Group. - The Colorado River Basin is “being sucked dry,” and California officials are struggling to monitor water usage accurately. - A variation of the painkiller Oxycontin that’s more difficult to abuse was approved by the FDA. - Bank of America was fined $16.6 million for handling the accounts of drug traffickers. What, Iran’s not good enough for them? - A psychiatrist returned fire, critically injuring the patient who shot and wounded him in his hospital office outside Philadelphia. A woman who worked at the hospital was killed. - Alabama man enters hospital for circumcision, gets more, or less, than he paid for. - “I shot her anyway.” - Seattle Space Needle suffers no damage in drone attack. - When Sinatra sang “It’s quarter to three, there’s no one in the place except you and me,” he was in a bar like this one.
As Rupert Murdoch presses for an even more dominant share of the U.S. media market in his pursuit of Time Warner Inc., the morals of his news staff in the U.K. are getting another undressing in the courts.
The world has already been through the News of the World horror show, which resulted in the conviction of former Downing Street Director of Communications Andy Coulson for running the phone hacking while he was the paper’s editor, and in October comes the start of a trial involving News Corp. journalists paying off public officials.
But for now Jeremy Hodges is sifting through the wreckage of the trial of Tulisa Contostavlos, a TV personality in the U.K. who was set up to broker a drug deal by The Sun newspaper’s Mazher Mahmood, aka “the fake sheik.”
That was the conclusion of the judge in the trial, saying Mahmood went to “considerable lengths to get Ms. Contostavlos to agree to involve herself in criminal conduct.” But the case is a bust because the judge says Mahmood probably lied during pretrial hearings.
Hard to believe a “reporter” who made a recent career out of masquerading as an Arab sheik to get people to break the law would prevaricate, but that’s Fleet Street for you.
Maybe Murdoch will fail in his bid for Time Warner, and right now the options are starting to lean away from him. Although anything would help CNN.
Those looking for a fixed-income trade in some of the less liquid bond markets in Europe are swamping ETFs with money.
More than $16 billion has flowed into bond funds, compared with $4.5 billion at this time last year, and BlackRock says the total will climb to $20 billion by year-end, Alastair Marsh reports in today’s Credit Markets column.
While the period of cheap money appears unlikely to end anytime soon in Europe, it’s the proxy for the underlying bonds that’s adding to the attraction, especially as the underlying European markets suffer from diminished trade.
“ETFs are a better reflection of what the market thinks and where the real price of a bond is,” JPMorgan Chase’s Nikolaos Panigirtzoglou told Marsh, referring to them in emerging markets and corporates as “a price discovery tool.”
But live by the sword, die by the sword: If things get hairy, investors shouldn’t expect any quicker exit from the funds than they’d get from the bonds.
Even watching Philip Seymour Hoffman in a trailer is a rewarding experience, which makes the posthumous release this weekend of “A Most Wanted Man” that much more depressing following the actor’s stupid, stupid death from a heroin overdose.
We finally get to write about a movie that isn’t garbage, and it’s led by an actor we’ll see no more. If you’ve never tried your hand at acting, you have no idea what this guy could do. If you have, you do. Every little tic and every modulation in his tone of voice was a masterstroke.
The suspenseful story of post-Sept. 11 intelligence adapted from the John le Carré novel has Hoffman as a German spy, and there’s little need to hash out the plot because it’s a spy thriller, and you know how those work.
In the end it’s the final turn for arguably America’s best actor.
“Mr. Hoffman’s performance is so finely etched — and the story so irresistible — that the film becomes, almost inescapably, something of a last testament,” the New York Times wrote yesterday.
The rest of the weekend’s lineup is a grab-bag.
Scarlett Johansson plays an unwitting drug mule whose payload bursts inside of her, turning her into the dangerous super-brain Morgan Freeman must contend with in Luc Besson’s “Lucy"; Michael Douglas plays a curmudgeon forced to care for his granddaughter in Rob Reiner’s ‘‘And So It Goes,’’ which the New York Times reviewed under the headline ‘‘When Grumpy Met Sappy"; Dwayne ‘‘The Rock’’ Johnson tests his range as ‘‘Hercules"; and stand-up comedian Gabriel Iglesias plays himself in concert in ‘‘The Fluffy Movie.’’
New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio’s going to create about 10,000 free Wi-Fi hotspots out of old sidewalk payphones. How great is that?
This is what mayors are for: Saying, ‘‘Right, here’s what we’re going to do. It’s going to make the city infinitely better and help everyone.’’
Not that the previous mayor of New York wasn’t awesome. He started this, as veteran metro reporter Henry Goldman writes in today’s Cities column. De Blasio’s just ramping it up.
Ostensibly the initiative is an effort to help connect those New Yorkers on the lower end of the economic scale (however many of them remain), those who can’t afford Internet or even computers and who go online only through their phones.
But it’s just an infinitely cool thing for everyone in town, and Goldman reports there’s more than just Wi-Fi planned for these pods. They might include charging stations for smartphones and cars, air-quality sensors, and even pay-per-use smartphones, which would make them...payphones.
It won’t solve all the issues of the so-called digital divide, and U.S. cities still trail other countries in this kind of technological infrastructure, Goldman writes, but eventually there will be no impediment to the already common sight of New Yorkers navigating choked sidewalks with their third eye while the other two are buried in what their hands are holding.
Which brings us to France.
Readers of yesterday’s edition will recall we said there’s little to stop Italy’s Vincenzo Nibali from sailing into Paris on Sunday as the winner of the Tour de France as long as he stays ‘‘upright and unbroken.”
For those of you who seethe at the sight of people on their mobile phones while driving, or while interacting with the cashier in front of you, or as they walk into you in Manhattan, you almost know what’s coming next.
A woman talking on her phone, standing out in the roadway with her back to the race, could have been the one to knock Nibali out yesterday. It’s unclear why someone would even be at the Tour de France if not to experience the moment of the race leader coming into view right in front of you during the last major mountain stage of the race, but these devices do weird things to people.
Fortunately, Nibali had his head up and brushed the phone out of the woman’s hand with his shoulder.
In the end it was Nibali himself who won yesterday’s 18th stage, making a statement by pulling away in the final 9.5 kilometers, or 5.9 miles. He put even more time between him and the rest of the race, building his lead to 7 minutes, 10 seconds over France’s Thibaut Pinot in second and by to 7:23 over France’s Jean-Christophe Peraud in third.
Spain’s Alejandro Valverde, who had been second to Nibali for much of the latter stages of the tour, is in fourth at 7:25 back, which means the three riders closest to the final two spots on the podium are separated by 15 seconds.
The last Frenchman on the podium in Paris was Richard Virenque, who finished second in 1997.
Today’s stage is the last involving the peloton, a run of 208.5 kilometers from Maubourguet Pays du Val d’Adour to Bergerac that’s mostly flat, and it will be dominated by the sprinters. Saturday’s penultimate stage is an individual time trial, and on Sunday they’re in Paris.
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