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Will 2017 See the End of Obamacare?

In 2017, the possible end of Obamacare will be a major news story to follow. With attacks on two fronts, the Obama administration could see one of their most notable policies disappear. Or be changed in a way where it is no longer recognizable.

In this audio report, we analyze the problems that may spell doom for Obamacare in the new year. While the system has been beneficial to millions of Americans, its inherent flaws have dogged it since its inception.

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Credentialed: Bellator 163

On November 4, Bellator brought their traveling carnival of MMA into the Mohegan Sun Arena, in Uncasville, CT. It was a night where my fledgling journalistic journey would be embraced (for the first time) by big-league mixed martial arts. And the likes of Phil Davis, Liam McGeary and a host of other talents would make it a night to remember for the devotees in attendance.

Friday night was my first foray into being a credentialed press member for a major MMA show. So my excitement was palpable. It was subdued though, as I admired the massive splendor of the Mohegan Sun casino. Its impressive looking and mirrors any notable casino in the country—including that smell of cigarettes and senior citizen perfume wafting over from the slot machines.

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The Unstoppable Support, Meets the Immovable Trump

Donald Trump has turned himself in a political unicorn. In a format where hopefuls for office must walk a public relations tight rope, Trump has thrived using political tactics that are often detrimental to a campaign. In an April 2015 tweet (which was then deleted), Trump said, “If Hillary Clinton can’t satisfy her husband, what makes her think she can satisfy America?” These are the moments that have shown how the Trump-icorn seems impervious to bad press.

Political campaigns in America are often a popularity contest. Missteps in this process can easily alienate voters, and permanently damage any run for office. Yet, since Donald Trump entered the race to be the GOP representative for president, he has verbally bucked many common sense trends of previously successful campaigns.

“[Trump] has built his brand around saying things no one else will say, and when he does, he just reaffirms what it is he said he would do,” says Mike Morey, Managing Director of SKDKnickerbocker. SKDKnickerbocker is a public affairs agency that gives consultation to Fortune 500 companies, non-profit organizations, and candidates for public office.

In the spring of 2015, Donald Trump made it official that he was running for president. And because of this, all of his actions would be scrutinized like never before. One of his earliest comments at the beginning of his run, was the aforementioned tweet about Hillary Clinton’s ability to satisfy her husband. It is the kind of derogatory comment that should hurt a campaign in its early stages. Yet by June, he was actually up three percentage points. Giving him 12 percent of the support amongst republican voters.

As 2015 entered its summer months, Trump too started to heat up. A topic of focus at the time was Trump’s thoughts on American relations with Mexico. In June, he made it publicly know his desire (if elected president) to build a wall on the US/Mexico border. He explained why in a July tweet when he said, “billions of dollars gets brought into Mexico through the border. We get the killers, drugs and crime, they get the money!” And of course, since they were getting the money, he felt the Mexican government should be the one paying the bill to build his wall.

 

Trump has also been quoted as saying, “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us.” He continued, “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” These comments were viewed as offensive by many Mexican and Mexican-Americans. Yet by August of 2015, just like in June, Trump’s poll numbers again rose. In a Quinnipiac University poll, his support among Republicans was at 28 percent.

Once winter came around, the Trump campaigns focus moved on to Muslims and Muslim-Americans. The topic of Islamic refugees was leading the news cycle because of the humanitarian crisis brought on by war in Syria. However, Trump used the subject as an avenue to proclaim his thoughts on Muslims in a much broader scope.

In November, he told Yahoo News he would be open to the idea of requiring Muslims within the country to register with a government database. Or possibly have them carry specialized identification cards. Yet he did not stop there. He also indicated a willingness towards constant surveillance on these people, and warrantless searches of mosques.

Despite his divisive views on Mexicans and Muslims, the immovable object that is the Donald Trump campaign stood firm. At the start of 2016, Trump moved to the front of the pack as the favorite to be the GOP representative for president. In a CNN poll in January, Trump had 41 percent support from the party’s voters. The next closest was Texas senator Ted Cruz at 19 percent.

During his run for the Republican nomination, his April 2015 tweet about Clinton weren’t his only unsettling statements regarding women. In an interview with Hugh Hewitt last year, he said he supported the notion of shutting down the government just to defund Planned Parenthood. Planned Parent has been a lightning rod subject for Americans with different religious ideologies about pregnancy.

He also took aim at Fox News host Megyn Kelly, after her moderation of the first Republican presidential debate in 2015. He was questioned about his history of disparaging remarks towards women. This upset Trump and put Kelly in his crosshairs. During an interview with CNN, Trump spoke about his frustrations with Kelly’s moderation style when he said, “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her—wherever.” Which would seem to allude to a woman’s monthly menstruation as the force behind her line of questioning during the debate.

 

In the face of disapproval from Mexican-Americans, Muslim-Americans, and many female voters, Trump now stands toe-to-toe with Hillary Clinton in a race for the presidency of the United States. And despite his questionable comments, there is clearly a contingent of Americans who agree with Trump’s views and will support him in November.

“In large part, [Trump supporters] see him as a megaphone for articulating the anxieties they have and have been afraid to articulate for fear of being called racist, xenophobic, sexist or bigoted,” Mike Morey notes, when trying to explain Trump’s rising numbers. “Unfortunately, there are large sectors of the American public who hold fringe values and have been rightfully marginalized. They are feeling a bit more empowered as Trump has brought some of their perspective into the mainstream.”

In May of this year, a CNN poll had Trump 13 points behind Clinton for support among likely voters. In August he was just three points behind in a Morning Consult Survey. By September he was either two points behind Clinton (ABC News/Washington Post), four points ahead (LA Times/USC), or tied (CBS News) in certain national polls.

Trump’s ability to circumvent debatable campaign maneuvers is incomparable. In 1972, Edwin Muskie was a front-runner for winning the democratic nomination for president. During his campaign, a New Hampshire newspaper published two editorials that made scandalous claims about the Maine senator. To combat the accusations, he gave an impromptu press conference in front of the newspaper’s offices. The media there, to report the press conference, said Muskie got emotional and shed tears. His aides said it was falling snowflakes melting on his face. Muskie never got the nomination for the democratic party.

Bob Dole fell off of a stage at a rally in California during his presidential race against Bill Clinton, in 1996. The image of an elderly man—he was 73 at the time—falling down while just trying to shake hands, underscored the age gap between the two candidates. And possibly pushed some voters towards Clinton.

Though all of these pale in comparison to some of the notable moments in the Trump campaign. Those mens’ run for office floundered soon after those political miscues. Trump has only gained steam from what should have been poison pills for his campaign. Yet it would seem the American standard for what we expect from political candidates has greatly changed.

“The fact is a presidential candidate asked Americans to go view a sex tape of a former beauty pageant winner [Alicia Machado] and mocked a disabled reporter [New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski] on national television, and yet he is still considered a viable candidate for the presidency,” says Morey. “That should tell us all we need to know about what society is willing to accept in a political leader.”

Morey furthers his point about the change in standards when he harkens back to the 2008 presidential election when he says, “Since the vice presidential candidacy of Sarah Palin, we have entered an era of entertainment politics, where formally crass and amateur qualities that would have sunk someone, are now almost assets in a two-year reality show for the presidency of the United States.”

Now, in his latest moment of controversy, a recording from 2005 has been released of Trump making inappropriate comments. During a planned interview with the television show Access Hollywood, in a down period when microphones were thought to be off, Trump cavalierly spoke about fondling and kissing women in a non-consensual manner. He claimed his celebrity status allowed for the behavior. It is now just another test for American standards of what is acceptable behavior from elected officials.

Donald Trump’s campaign of hard line stances and alienating proclamations has been groundbreaking. Not because this is a new tact for aspiring politicians, but because it has actually worked. What it says for our society is that we have altered what we see as acceptable behavior from politicians—for the worse. And an individual who would never have even made it past his own party’s primary in previous elections, is possibly weeks away from holding the highest position on the planet.

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Better Late Than Never Reviews: Marvel’s Secret Wars (2015)

This review has some mild spoilers from early plotlines in the series. So beware!

Marvel’s recent incarnation of Secret Wars is familiar, in that it falls in line with the company’s strategy of having a yearly “event” series. And that is where the similarities end. In an era when broad sweeping affairs fall short of expectations, Secret Wars is one of the best, big-deal, stories I’ve read in a long time.

I don’t go to the comic shops weekly and get the latest issues. I follow the major story-lines as best I can as they happen. But I do purchase many graphic novels (old and new), especially when events like these occur. And without a doubt this is the best story I’ve read since the first Civil War. And that was a long time ago.

This isn’t to say worthwhile and entertaining event comics, from Marvel, haven’t come out between now and then. Siege, AvX, Messiah Complex, and Secret Invasion were all special tales. But Civil War and its shift changing plot occurred in 2007. It was a landmark tale of heroes versus heroes. What makes the new Secret Wars great is the same thing that made Civil War unique—legendary characters in nontraditional situations. That is why the two tales are comparable and on a similar level.

Secret Wars is a culmination of what was happening in the short-lived New Avengers series. In that series,  a group of heroes consisting of Black Panther, Dr. Strange, Reed Richards, Namor, Iron Man, Black Bolt, Beast and Captain America (though he is removed from the group early on), become aware of a deadly new anomaly—incursions. Incursions are when parallel universes/realities clash like a Highlander film, meaning—there can only be one.

Because the incursions are far beyond anything these men can manage, they end up making some very difficult decisions along the way. This included sanctioning the wholesale destruction of these other realities—and the innocence in them—to save their own.

But this isn’t a review with designs to give you a bunch of back story. Though, you should find these stories for yourself. And I’m not looking to spoil big moments from the series either. However, I will drop dime on a couple of early story elements. My master plan is to let you know how great this series/book is, and why you should read it. Even if you read comics casually, all the time, or haven’t picked one up in years, this story has the same characters you know, but put into an uncanny (pun intended) story.

I digress, while the aforementioned Civil War occurred within the confines of the Marvel 1610 universe (the universe most of us are familiar with), this story throws together some of the best elements of many of the alternate universes we have heard of.

Secret Wars begins with the final two universes left, Marvel 1610 and Marvel 616 (also known as, the very popular, ultimate universe) and the clash between the defending forces of both. So from jump street, Secret Wars starts off in a very big way.

Along with this opening salvo of force meeting force, you follow two factions of characters hoping to survive the end of all things in specially made arks. One faction is made up of Richards, Black Panther, Spider-Man from both universes, Captain Marvel, Starlord, the Jane Foster/Thor and one other character—Cyclops. Though this isn’t your normal Scott Summers. If you have followed his exploits in the last few years, you know he has become a bit of a schemer. And boy does he have a fun little plan at the intro of this one. But I will let you find  that out for yourself.

The other outfit, a.k.a. The Cabal, looking to see the other side of this war includes Thanos, Black Swann, Terrax, Corvus, Proxima, Maximus (Black Bolt’s insane-genius brother), Namor and The Maker. If some of these names aren’t familiar it’s okay. Just know they are all bad. Especially The Maker, who is the ultimate universe version of Reed Richards. He is Reed Richards with far more bad days. This has turned him into a man with nefarious ideas of what makes the world a better place. So suffice to say, they are a real motley crew of crazies.

Like all existence ending moments, everything goes white (or black) and we enter into something different. These shipwrecked survivors end up in a realm where Dr. Doom is—wait for it—god. If that is not enough reason to get you intrigued, then I don’t know what will.

The basic outline of Secret Wars was clearly influenced by the HBO series Game of Thrones (GOT). In this new world, dubbed Battleworld, Doom has set up several kingdoms with figureheads who control them (similar to GOT and its realms). People can often be removed from those roles for all sorts of reasons, everyone answers back to the capital city of Doomstadt (sort of like Kings Landing in GOT), and there’s even a wall dividing the kingdom from a lower-class of beings. They call their wall the shield. Instead of wildlings, they have Annihilus and Ultron leading their followers. And they don’t have white zombies, but we do have anybody Doom didn’t care to work with being a regular ole’ zombie.

What’s also fun about this stories set-up, since it doesn’t fall under current continuity, is that you can make use of more obscure characters from all over the map of Marvel history. Characters like Apocalypse, Madeline Pryor, Beta Ray Bill, Molecule Man, Mr. Sinister and Galactus all make appearances. Some much more worthwhile than others. And some very different forms than what you’ve seen before.

A good example of this is a character like The Maestro. For the uninitiated, The Maestro is similar to The Maker, in that he is what would happen if a character we love went bad. In this case an alternate future version of the Hulk. Because, in something so massive with so many major fights you need a little Hulk action in your life. The Maestro isn’t influential in the tale, but he has some fun moments.

While we may get to see rare faces, we of course get the usual big names of the Marvel U. Just in a totally different light. And that’s part of the brilliance of the story-telling. Doom is a god but still has his mangled face and his inherent desire to be Reed Richards. Mr. Sinister is as unpredictable as ever, but in a much more flamboyant and “naughty” way. And might I add, Thor Corps! Yes, you read that right.

The book takes the usual archetypes of these legends and presents them in a refreshing way. It blends original story-telling while showing love to the mythology of this universe. Yggdrasil is still the world tree, but also god-Doom’s throne. Also, since we are mentioning trees, “I am Groot” gets said once, and you may never forget it.

While it showcases a varied range of characters from the major to the obscure, it is the rare event series that doesn’t have Captain America, Iron Man or Wolverine at the forefront. And I don’t mean in the same way that Spider-Man is there, but just in a minimized role. No, these three staples of significant Marvel happenings aren’t even in this story. They are fodder for companion books to the greater tale. A departure from the last decade or so.

Each chapter builds upon itself quite well, and it leads to a nicely executed linking of all the side stories. Which then pays of in one of the most legendary final battles I have ever read. It is the kind of battle that can only be done in the pages of a comic, and would be a financial non-starter at every movie studio. We get unexpected face-offs and well set-up showdowns between Doom and his challengers Thanos, Black Panther and Richards.

Secret Wars lives up to the hope and hype, a rarity in the world of hyperbole laden advertising. The story is a completely new spin on what you have seen before in Marvel, while sticking to the familiar nature of its icons. The execution is spot on and it is a joy to read.

If you are a serious comic reader, casual, semi-casual, or just don’t even read them anymore. If there is any part of you that loves huge and fantastical story-telling that includes familiar faces, then this series/graphic novel is worth your purchase. Secret may be in the title, but the greatness of this story should not be a secret to any fan of amazing tales.

Would Another Division Change Make Daniel Cormier One of the Best Ever?

In just under seven years Daniel Cormier has made his mark as one of the very best fighters of the last decade. However, there is a feeling among fans, analysts and even Cormier himself, that a win over Jon Jones would forever solidify his legacy in the sport. Yet with Jones now possibly being absent  for up to two years after a doping violation, where does the UFC light heavyweight champion go to lay claim to being one of the best fighters of all-time? Would a super-fight championship win at heavyweight be the landmark moment needed for Cormier to achieve his goal?

“DC” has a record of 5-1 during his stint as a light heavyweight in the UFC. His lone loss in the division, and in his career, came in January of 2015 to the former champion and erstwhile pound-for-pound kingpin Jon Jones. With that victory Jones maintained his place at the top of the sport. Cormier looked to be in a position where he would have to work his way back up. And at 36-years-old, the opportunities to strengthen his case as an all-time great were disappearing.

To read the rest of my piece, head on over to lastwordonsports.com

Cheap Seats and The Stickman Podcast: WWE Mock Draft Part II

Here is part I of the mock draft for the upcoming WWE draft. And our first edition of the Cheap Seats and The Stickman Podcast. Hosted by Jason Burgos and Jose Maldonado.

If you dig it and want to listen to part I, head here…WWE Mock Draft Part I

Cheap Seats and The Stickman Podcast: WWE Mock Draft Part I

Here is part I of the mock draft for the upcoming WWE draft. And our first edition of the Cheap Seats and The Stickman Podcast. Hosted by Jason Burgos and Jose Maldonado

To here the rest of the draft give Part II a listen.

How Kimbo Slice Turned me into an MMA Fan

As an aspiring journalist, I am taught to be unbiased and see things from all sides. To learn the finer details of a subject, so that I can truly be informed. And that thought process also holds true in my personal passions, like professional wrestling, comic books and Mixed Martial Arts (MMA).

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Muhammad Ali “Legendary” Tribute Video – By Jason Burgos

Put this little video package together myself, in tribute to “The Greatest” Muhammad Ali. Song by Royce Da 5’9

The Growth of a Culture in a Foreign Land: Japanese-Americans

During this semester I had the opportunity to choose a specific ethnic community, or beat, to cover. I chose to follow the Japanese-American community. And with that coverage came the creation of my site dedicated to it—Rooted in Japan. But even that site doesn’t fully give a proper perspective on this population of people. I hope to remedy that in this profile.

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