Mixed Media

There Is New Evidence That Football Destroys Brains—and It’s Terrifying

| Fri Sep. 18, 2015 3:03 PM EDT

A new joint study by the US Department of Veterans Affairs and Boston University found that 87 out of 91 former NFL players who donated their brains for examination showed signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the degenerative brain disease also known as CTE. The report out of the nation's largest brain bank, which received a $1 million research grant from the NFL in 2010, supports prior research suggesting that playing football could have long-lasting neurological effects over the course of an athlete's life.

As reported first by Frontline:

In total, the [Boston University] lab has found CTE in the brain tissue in 131 out of 165 individuals who, before their deaths, played football either professionally, semi-professionally, in college or in high school.

Forty percent of those who tested positive were the offensive and defensive linemen who come into contact with one another on every play of a game, according to numbers shared by the brain bank with FRONTLINE. That finding supports past research suggesting that it's the repeat, more minor head trauma that occurs regularly in football that may pose the greatest risk to players, as opposed to just the sometimes violent collisions that cause concussions.

CTE can only be accurately identified posthumously, and it's important to remember that many of the ex-players who donated their brains to BU did so because they thought they might have the disease. Still, the results are more bad news for the NFL, which for years has been criticized over its handling of concussions and brain research. The league has long denied a link between the sport and long-term brain disease—in its annual health and safety report, the league reported a 35 percent decline in concussions in the course of two regular seasons—but in April it gained approval for a $1 billion settlement with about 5,000 retired players, resolving concussion-related lawsuits. (The Will Smith film Concussion, which recounts the story of the doctor who first discovered CTE in the brain of a former NFL player, debuts on Christmas.)

An NFL spokesperson said in a statement to Frontline on Friday: "We are dedicated to making football safer and continue to take steps to protect players, including rule changes, advanced sideline technology, and expanded medical resources. We continue to make significant investments in independent research through our gifts to Boston University, the [National Institutes of Health] and other efforts to accelerate the science and understanding of these issues."

Dr. Ann McKee, who is the chief neuropathologist at the brain bank, told Frontline: "People think that we're blowing this out of proportion, that this is a very rare disease and that we're sensationalizing it. My response is that where I sit, this is a very real disease. We have had no problem identifying it in hundreds of players."

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Fox News Wants New American Citizen Emily Blunt to Leave Town

| Tue Sep. 15, 2015 3:40 PM EDT

Appalled by Emily Blunt's recent remark that she regretted becoming an American citizen after watching the first GOP debate—a joke that has since sparked the hashtag #GoHomeEmily on Twitter—Fox News is now telling the actress to remove her ungrateful, Anglophile self from Hollywood.

"Why don't you leave Hollywood, California, and let some American women take on the roles that you're getting, because Americans are watching your movies and lining your pockets," Anna Kooiman said, barely containing her hurt and anger, during a segment of Fox & Friends on Monday.

Kooiman's colleagues agreed. One even went so far as to open up old conservative wounds (and create a new verb in the process) when he compared Blunt to the once beloved, since branded traitorous Dixie Chicks.

"You know what Emily Blunt just did?" Steve Doocy said. "She just Dixie Chicked herself. She has alienated half the country that now will think twice about going to one of her movies."

The Dixie Chicks, you may recall, were outspoken in their opposition to George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq. In a 2003 concert in London, lead vocalist Natalie Maines said, "Just so you know, we’re on the good side with y’all. We do not want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the president of the United States is from Texas." The group never recovered.

Harsh, Doocy. Fox News did, however, credit Blunt for being "very pretty."

Let John Oliver Show You How America's Overworked Public Defense System Screws the Poor

| Mon Sep. 14, 2015 8:42 AM EDT

On the latest Last Week Tonight, John Oliver took America's criminal justice system to task by highlighting the problems surrounding overworked and under-resourced public defenders across the country—including in one California county where only 60 public attorneys are responsible for a staggering 42,000 cases a year.

"A thousands cases in a year? That's nearly 3 cases per day," Oliver noted on Sunday. "Those are Gerard Depardieu wine consumption numbers—at breakfast. And with caseloads that heavy, public defenders cannot possibly prepare an effective defense."

As Mother Jones has reported in the past, such systematic failures are often paid for by the country's most vulnerable and poor.

To help make his point, Oliver recruited the likes of television detectives, including Dennis Quaid and Jeremy Sisto, to rewrite the Miranda rights warning to more accurately depict the public defense system's challenges.

Texas Tornadoes' Classic Albums Bring Rootsy Delights

| Mon Sep. 14, 2015 6:00 AM EDT

Texas Tornados
A Little Bit Is Better Than Nada—Prime Cuts 1990-1996
Real Gone Music


Call them a supergroup, or just a super group—either way, the Texas Tornados were a lot of fun. Featuring Tex-Mex great Doug Sahm, leader of the Sir Douglas Quintet, on soulful vocals and guitar, SDQ bandmate Augie Meyers on pumping Vox organ, crooner Freddy Fender and ace accordionist Flaco Jimenez, this lovably scruffy crew created the perfect soundtrack for a laid-back party over the course of four studio albums (the first of which came in English and Spanish-language versions). Offering 39 tracks on two discs, including a Miller Lite beer ad, A Little Bit Is Better Than Nada contains a slew of rootsy delights, among them Sahm's rousing "Is Anybody Goin' to San Antone," the classic Fender ballad "Wasted Days and Wasted Night," and Bob Dylan's tender "To Ramona." There's no better non-prescription cure for stress.

Anything Goes on the Final Unwound Compilation

| Sun Sep. 13, 2015 6:00 AM EDT

Numero Group

The fourth and final chapter in record label Numero Group's fascinating history of the Olympia, Washington, trio Unwound collects the albums Challenge for a Civilized Society (1998) and Leaves Turn Inside You (2001), along with stray tracks from the same period. At this point, Justin Trosper (vocals, guitar), Vern Rumsey (bass), and Sara Lund (drums) are in full anything-goes mode. While some exhilarating songs reflect the band's familiar hard rock and grunge roots, others take entirely different paths, using mellotron, harmonium, and studio effects in unpredictable pieces that can run ten minutes, notably the freeform electro-psychedelia of "The Light at the End of the Tunnel Is a Train." Not everything works, but even the experimental misfires feel like an heartfelt attempt to develop new ideas without abandoning the anxiety-inducing tension that made Unwound so compelling in the first place.

Jimi Hendrix's Last Big American Concert Hit Darker Notes

| Sat Sep. 12, 2015 6:00 AM EDT

Jimi Hendrix Experience
Freedom: Atlanta Pop Festival
Experience Hendrix/Legacy


Jimi Hendrix was at a musical crossroads when he played the Atlanta Pop Festival on July 4, 1970. With bandmates Mitch Mitchell (drums) and Billy Cox (bass) in tow, he turned in a fiery 16-song set that mixed reliable crowd-pleasers such as "Purple Haze" and "Foxey [sic] Lady" with less-flashy, socially conscious material like "Message to Love" and "Straight Ahead," which wouldn't see official release until after his death less than three months later. While Hendrix could easily have phoned it in on the oldies and still thrilled the crowd, he didn't, preferring to add different, darker textures to his hits; the bluesy staples "Red House" and "Hear My Train a Comin'" found him, as always, using familiar structures to veer off in exciting, unexpected directions. Whether Hendrix was on the verge of entirely abandoning the rock scene for uncharted territory remains unknown, but Freedom: Atlanta Pop Festival suggests big changes were definitely in the offing.

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Here Is a Video of the Moment Serena Williams Was Defeated at the US Open

| Fri Sep. 11, 2015 3:04 PM EDT

In a stunning upset, Serena Williams just lost to Italian Roberta Vinci in the semifinals of the US Open, ending Williams' hope of winning all four Grand Slam events in a calendar year. Vinci won 2-6, 6-4, 6-4.

New Photos: See Pluto's Surface in Incredibly Rich Detail

| Thu Sep. 10, 2015 4:44 PM EDT

We love Pluto. We love that we know so much more about it now—after the spacecraft New Horizons hurtled 3 billion miles to get there and send back the amazing Pluto pictures that arrived in July. Today, NASA released a new set of images that bring us right up close to the planet's weird, chaotic surface in unprecedented detail.

Here's NASA's take

"This is what we came for—these images, spectra and other data types that are going to help us understand the origin and the evolution of the Pluto system for the first time," said New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in Boulder, Colorado. "And what's coming is not just the remaining 95 percent of the data that's still aboard the spacecraft—it's the best datasets, the highest-resolution images and spectra, the most important atmospheric datasets, and more. It's a treasure trove."

Our friend Phil Plait at Slate has some more detail about what these images tell us. But for now, just check them out for yourself. Kickass!

NASA: "This synthetic perspective view of Pluto shows what you would see if you were approximately 1,100 miles above Pluto's equatorial area, looking northeast over the dark, cratered, informally named Cthulhu Regio toward the bright, smooth, expanse of icy plains informally called Sputnik Planum. The entire expanse of terrain seen in this image is 1,100 miles across." NASA
NASA: "This image features a tremendous variety of other landscapes surrounding Sputnik. The smallest visible features are 0.5 miles in size, and the mosaic covers a region roughly 1,000 miles wide." The white squares outline close-ups in the following two images. NASA
A close-up from the image above, this is called the "chaos region" because of the diversity of surface geology. NASA
NASA: "This 220-mile wide view illustrates the incredible diversity of surface reflectivities and geological landforms on the dwarf planet. The image includes dark, ancient heavily cratered terrain; bright, smooth geologically young terrain; assembled masses of mountains; and an enigmatic field of dark, aligned ridges that resemble dunes; its origin is under debate." NASA
NASA: "Two different versions of an image of Pluto's haze layers, from a distance of 480,000 miles. Pluto's north is at the top, and the sun illuminates Pluto from the upper right. The left version has had only minor processing, while the right version has been specially processed to reveal a large number of discrete haze layers in the atmosphere. In the left version, faint surface details on the narrow sunlit crescent are seen through the haze in the upper right of Pluto's disk, and subtle parallel streaks in the haze may be crepuscular rays—shadows cast on the haze by topography such as mountain ranges on Pluto, similar to the rays sometimes seen in the sky after the sun sets behind mountains on Earth." NASA
The moon, Charon. NASA

You Have to Watch Stephen Colbert's Bernie Sanders Joke

| Thu Sep. 10, 2015 11:47 AM EDT

Stephen Colbert blanketed radio airwaves yesterday promising that his second performance on The Late Show on CBS would rank among his best two Late Show performances.

With first-night jitters now behind him—along with a hair-raising tale about how Tuesday's debut barely made it to air—Wednesday's broadcast offered samples of what anyone who loves Colbert knows he does best: surreal sketches (ScarJo on a blanket staring at the stars talking about her feet!), improvisation-fueled interviews (Elon Musk, are you a supervillain?), and on-the-money political satire, like this segment on the idiotic range of merchandise you can now buy from presidential candidates. Stay for the "Feel the Bern" mug, and Jeb Bush's radically overpriced "Guaca Bowle."

Stephen Colbert Perfectly Roasts Trump and the Media’s Obsession With Him in Dazzling Debut

| Wed Sep. 9, 2015 10:36 AM EDT

Last night Stephen Colbert premiered The Late Show on CBS, the talk-show staple he took over from David Letterman (who performed his final show in May). Colbert's guests included Republican presidential hopeful Jeb Bush, George Clooney, and a cursed ancient amulet with a taste for hummus (an ingenious play on Colbert's requirement to ruthlessly sell products to his new, larger late-night audience.)

Colbert's tone was predictably a departure from that of the buffoonish conservative zealot he played on The Colbert Report on Comedy Central. Here, while still a smart goofball, Colbert seemed delighted to shed a decade of playing just one character, and noticeably conscious of taking on a bigger stage, quite literally: The Ed Sullivan theater in Manhattan has been sumptuously renovated and decorated for the occasion.

One of the best segments, in an unpredictable and larger-than-life show jammed with jokes, was when Colbert ripped into everyone's favorite top-polling, golden-haired, low-hanging comedic fruit—Donald Trump—and satirized the media's gluttonous obsession with covering him (using another not-so-subtle product placement). Enjoy: