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The Original ‘Empire Strikes Back’ Wampa Was HUGE!

With his three books looking behind the scenes of the original “Star Wars” trilogy, Lucasfilm editor Will McCrabb has become the master of rare of pictures and details from the classic films. EMPIRE: This gives you a sense of the size of the Wampa Snow Creature not seen in 1980, a stuntman is on stilts. […]Source:
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Engadget’s 2013 Holiday Gift Guide: E-readers

Welcome to Engadget’s holiday gift guide! Head back to our hub to see the rest of the product guides as they’re added throughout the month.

Engadget's 2013 Holiday Gift Guide Ereaders

Weighing your e-reader options isn’t as difficult as, say, deciding on a new smartphone. There are fewer models to sift through, for one, and your allegiance to Amazon or B&N could further narrow things down. Still, you have a range of options in every camp — from barebones devices meant for reading and nothing else to full-fledged tablets with the higher-end specs to match. Below, we make the case for some of our top picks.

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Khloe Kardashian Sports Her New Designer Line in Amsterdam

Giving her European fans a treat, reality starlet Khloe Kardashian appeared at a high-end department store at Bijenkorf in Amsterdam as she launched a clothing line designed by the Kardashian sisters for the brand, Lipsy.

The 29-year-old arrived in a sleek all-black outfit, smiling and sporting a few funny faces for the attendees. Five lucky fans, winners of a competition on Facebook, reportedly met her personally before she left.

In preparation for her trip to the European heartland, the “Keeping up with the Kardashians” lady hopped on Twitter, writing, “I am on my wayyyy!!! Just landed in Amsterdam and I’m coming straight to the event at de Bijenkorf! See you soon! XO.”

When she landed, and experienced some of the city life, Khloe posted, “Wow! Amsterdam is beautiful! Story book land. I can’t wait to come back and explore the stunning scenery! I’m in awe by how sweet every1 is!”

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The secret, dirty cost of Obama’s green power push

CORYDON, Iowa (AP) — The hills of southern Iowa bear the scars of America’s push for green energy: The brown gashes where rain has washed away the soil. The polluted streams that dump fertilizer into the water supply.

Even the cemetery that disappeared like an apparition into a cornfield.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way.

With the Iowa political caucuses on the horizon in 2007, presidential candidate Barack Obama made homegrown corn a centerpiece of his plan to slow global warming. And when President George W. Bush signed a law that year requiring oil companies to add billions of gallons of ethanol to their gasoline each year, Bush predicted it would make the country “stronger, cleaner and more secure.”

But the ethanol era has proven far more damaging to the environment than politicians promised and much worse than the government admits today.

As farmers rushed to find new places to plant corn, they wiped out millions of acres of conservation land, destroyed habitat and polluted water supplies, an Associated Press investigation found.

Five million acres of land set aside for conservation — more than Yellowstone, Everglades and Yosemite National Parks combined — have vanished on Obama’s watch.

Landowners filled in wetlands. They plowed into pristine prairies, releasing carbon dioxide that had been locked in the soil.

Sprayers pumped out billions of pounds of fertilizer, some of which seeped into drinking water, contaminated rivers and worsened the huge dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico where marine life can’t survive.

The consequences are so severe that environmentalists and many scientists have now rejected corn-based ethanol as bad environmental policy. But the Obama administration stands by it, highlighting its benefits to the farming industry rather than any negative impact.

Farmers planted 15 million more acres of corn last year than before the ethanol boom, and the effects are visible in places like south central Iowa.

The hilly, once-grassy landscape is made up of fragile soil that, unlike the earth in the rest of the state, is poorly suited for corn. Nevertheless, it has yielded to America’s demand for it.

“They’re raping the land,” said Bill Alley, a member of the board of supervisors in Wayne County, which now bears little resemblance to the rolling cow pastures shown in postcards sold at a Corydon pharmacy.

All energy comes at a cost. The environmental consequences of drilling for oil and natural gas are well documented and severe. But in the president’s push to reduce greenhouse gases and curtail global warming, his administration has allowed so-called green energy to do not-so-green things.

In some cases, such as its decision to allow wind farms to kill eagles, the administration accepts environmental costs because they pale in comparison to the havoc it believes global warming could ultimately cause.

Ethanol is different.

The government’s predictions of the benefits have proven so inaccurate that independent scientists question whether it will ever achieve its central environmental goal: reducing greenhouse gases. That makes the hidden costs even more significant.

“This is an ecological disaster,” said Craig Cox with the Environmental Working Group, a natural ally of the president that, like others, now finds itself at odds with the White House.

But it’s a cost the administration is willing to accept. It believes supporting corn ethanol is the best way to encourage the development of biofuels that will someday be cleaner and greener than today’s. Pulling the plug on corn ethanol, officials fear, might mean killing any hope of these next-generation fuels.

“That is what you give up if you don’t recognize that renewable fuels have some place here,” EPA administrator Gina McCarthy said in a recent interview with AP. “All renewable fuels are not corn ethanol.”

Still, corn supplies the overwhelming majority of ethanol in the United States, and the administration is loath to discuss the environmental consequences.

“It just caught us completely off guard,” said Doug Davenport, a Department of Agriculture official who encourages southern Iowa farmers to use conservation practices on their land. Despite those efforts, Davenport said he was surprised at how much fragile, erodible land was turned into corn fields.

Shortly after Davenport spoke to The Associated Press, he got an email ordering him to stop talking.

“We just want to have a consistent message on the topic,” an Agriculture Department spokesman in Iowa said.

That consistent message was laid out by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who spoke to ethanol lobbyists on Capitol Hill recently and said ethanol was good for business.

“We are committed to this industry because we understand its benefits,” he said. “We understand it’s about farm income. It’s about stabilizing and maintaining farm income which is at record levels.”

The numbers behind the ethanol mandate have become so unworkable that, for the first time, the EPA is soon expected to reduce the amount of ethanol required to be added to the gasoline supply. An unusual coalition of big oil companies, environmental groups and food companies is pushing the government to go even further and reconsider the entire ethanol program.

The ethanol industry is fighting hard against that effort. Industry spokesman Brooke Coleman dismissed this story as “propaganda on a page.” An industry blog in Minnesota said the AP had succumbed “to Big Oil’s deep pockets and powerful influence.”

To understand how America got to an environmental policy with such harmful environmental consequences, it’s helpful to start in a field in Iowa.


Leroy Perkins, a white-haired, 66-year-old farmer in denim overalls, stands surrounded by waist-high grass and clover. He owns 91 acres like this, all hilly and erodible, that he set aside for conservation years ago.

Soon, he will have a decision to make: keep the land as it is or, like many of his neighbors, plow it down and plant corn or soybeans, the major sources of biofuel in the United States.

“I’d like to keep it in,” he said. “This is what southern Iowa’s for: raising grass.”

For decades, the government’s Conservation Reserve Program has paid farmers to stop farming environmentally sensitive land. Grassy fields naturally convert carbon dioxide into oxygen, which helps combat global warming. Plus, their deep root systems prevent topsoil from washing away.

For Perkins and his farmer neighbors in Wayne County, keeping farmland in conservation wasn’t just good stewardship. It made financial sense.

A decade ago, Washington paid them about $70 an acre each year to leave their farmland idle. With corn selling for about $2 per bushel (56 pounds) back then, farming the hilly, inferior soil was bad business.

Many opted into the conservation program. Others kept their grasslands for cow pastures.

Lately, though, the math has changed.

“I’m coming to the point where financially, it’s not feasible,” Perkins said.

The change began in 2007, when Congress passed a law requiring oil companies to blend billions of gallons of ethanol into gasoline.

Oil prices were high. Oil imports were rising quickly. The legislation had the strong backing of the presidential candidate who was the junior senator from neighboring Illinois, the nation’s second-largest corn producer.

“If we’re going to get serious about investing in our energy future, we must give our family farmers and local ethanol producers a fair shot at success,” Obama said then.

The Democratic primary field was crowded, and if he didn’t win the Iowa caucuses the road to the nomination would be difficult. His strong support for ethanol set him apart.

“Any time we could talk about support for ethanol, we did,” said Mitch Stewart, the battleground states director for Obama’s 2008 campaign. “It’s how we would lead a lot of discussions.”

President Bush signed the bill that December.

It would fall on the next president to figure out how to make it work.


President Obama’s team at the EPA was sour on the ethanol mandate from the start.

As a way to reduce global warming, they knew corn ethanol was a dubious proposition. Corn demands fertilizer, which is made using natural gas. What’s worse, ethanol factories typically burn coal or gas, both of which release carbon dioxide.

Then there was the land conversion, the most controversial and difficult-to-predict outcome.

Digging up grassland releases greenhouse gases, so environmentalists are skeptical of any program that encourages planting more corn.

“I don’t remember anybody having great passion for this,” said Bob Sussman, who served on Obama’s transition team and recently retired as EPA’s senior policy counsel. “I don’t have a lot of personal enthusiasm for the program.”

At the White House and the Department of Agriculture, though, there was plenty of enthusiasm.

One of Obama’s senior advisers, Pete Rouse, had worked on ethanol issues as chief of staff to Sen. Tom Daschle of South Dakota, a major ethanol booster and now chair of the DuPont Advisory Committee on Agriculture Innovation and Productivity.

Another Obama adviser at the time, Heather Zichal, grew up in northeast Iowa — as a child, she was crowned “sweet corn princess” — and was one of the Obama campaign’s leading voices on ethanol in her home state.

The administration had no greater corn ethanol advocate than Vilsack, the former Iowa governor.

“Tom understands that the solution to our energy crisis will be found not in oil fields abroad but in our farm fields here at home,” Obama said in 2008. “That is the kind of leader I want in my Cabinet.”


Writing the regulations to implement the ethanol mandate was among the administration’s first major environmental undertakings. Industry and environmental groups watched closely.

The EPA’s experts determined that the mandate would increase demand for corn and encourage farmers to plow more land. Considering those factors, they said, corn ethanol was only slightly better than gasoline when it came to carbon dioxide emissions.

Sixteen percent better, to be exact. And not in the short term. Only by 2022.

By law, though, biofuels were supposed to be at least 20 percent greener than gasoline.

From a legal standpoint, the results didn’t matter. Congress exempted existing coal- and gas-burning ethanol plants from meeting this standard.

But as a policy and public relations issue, it was a real problem. The biofuel-friendly Obama administration was undermining the industry’s major selling point: that it was much greener than gasoline.

So the ethanol industry was livid. Lobbyists flooded the EPA with criticism, challenging the government’s methods and conclusions.

The EPA’s conclusion was based on a model. Plug in some assumed figures — the price of corn, the number of acres planted, how much corn would grow per acre — and the model would spit out a number.

To get past 20 percent, the EPA needed to change its assumptions.

The most important of those assumptions was called the yield, a measure of how much corn could be produced on an acre of land. The higher the yield, the easier it would be for farmers to meet the growing demand without plowing new farmland, which counted against ethanol in the greenhouse gas equation.

Corn yields have inched steadily upward over the years as farms have become more efficient. The government’s first ethanol model assumed that trend would continue, rising from 150 bushels per acre to about 180 by the year 2022.

Agriculture companies like Monsanto Co. and DuPont Pioneer, which stood to make millions off an ethanol boom, told the government those numbers were too low.

They predicted that genetically modified seeds — which they produce — would send yields skyrocketing. With higher yields, farmers could produce more corn on less land, reducing the environmental effects.

Documents show the White House budget office also suggested the EPA raise its yield assumptions.

When the final rule came out, the EPA and Agriculture officials added a new “high yield case scenario” that assumed 230 bushels per acre.

The flaw in those assumptions, independent scientists knew, was that a big increase in corn prices would encourage people to farm in less hospitable areas like Wayne County, which could never produce such large yields.

But the EPA’s model assumed only a tiny increase in corn prices.

“You adjust a few numbers to get it where you want it, and then you call it good,” said Adam Liska, assistant professor of biological systems engineering at the University of Nebraska. He supports ethanol, even with its environmental trade-offs.

When the Obama administration finalized its first major green-energy policy, corn ethanol barely crossed the key threshold. The final score: 21 percent.

“If you corrected any of a number of things, it would be on the other side of 20 percent,” said Richard Plevin of the Transportation Sustainability Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley. “Is it a coincidence this is what happened? It certainly makes me wonder.”

It didn’t take long for reality to prove the Obama administration’s predictions wrong.

The regulations took effect in July 2010. The following month, corn prices already had surpassed the EPA’s long-term estimate of $3.22 a bushel. That September, corn passed $4, on its way to about $7, where it has been most of this year.

Yields, meanwhile, have held fairly steady.

But the ethanol boom was underway.


It’s impossible to precisely calculate how much ethanol is responsible for the spike in corn prices and how much those prices led to the land changes in the Midwest.

Supporters of corn ethanol say extreme weather — dry one year, very wet the next — hurt farmers and raised prices.

But diminishing supply wasn’t the only factor. More corn than ever was being distilled into ethanol.

Historically, the overwhelmingly majority of corn in the United States has been turned into livestock feed. But in 2010, for the first time, fuel was the No. 1 use for corn in America. That was true in 2011 and 2012. Newly released Department of Agriculture data show that, this year, 43 percent of corn went to fuel and 45 percent went to livestock feed.

The more corn that goes to ethanol, the more that needs to be planted to meet other demands.

Scientists predicted that a major ethanol push would raise prices and, in turn, encourage farmers like Leroy Perkins to plow into conservation land. But the government insisted otherwise.

In 2008, the journal Science published a study with a dire conclusion: Plowing over conservation land releases so much greenhouse gas that it takes 48 years before new plants can break even and start reducing carbon dioxide.

For an ethanol policy to work, the study said, farmers could not plow into conservation land.

The EPA, in a report to Congress on the environmental effects of ethanol, said it was “uncertain” whether farmers would plant on farmland that had been set aside for conservation.

The Department of Energy was more certain. Most conservation land, the government said in its response to the study, “is unsuitable for use for annual row crop production.”

America could meet its ethanol demand without losing a single acre of conservation land, Energy officials said.

They would soon be proven wrong.

Before the government ethanol mandate, the Conservation Reserve Program grew every year for nearly a decade. Almost overnight, farmers began leaving the program, which simultaneously fell victim to budget cuts that reduced the amount of farmland that could be set aside for conservation.

In the first year after the ethanol mandate, more than 2 million acres disappeared.

Since Obama took office, 5 million more acres have vanished.

Agriculture officials acknowledge that conservation land has been lost, but they say the trend is reversing. When the 2013 data comes out, they say it will show that as corn prices stabilized, farmers once again began setting aside land for conservation.


Losing conservation land was bad. But something even worse was happening.

Farmers broke ground on virgin land, the untouched terrain that represents, from an environmental standpoint, the country’s most important asset.

The farm industry assured the government that wouldn’t happen. And it would have been an easy thing for Washington to check.

But rather than insisting that farmers report whenever they plow into virgin land, the government decided on a much murkier oversight method: Washington instead monitors the total number of acres of cropland nationwide. Local trends wash away when viewed at such a distance.

“They could not have designed a better approach to not detect land conversion,” said Ben Larson, an agricultural expert for the National Wildlife Federation.

Look closely at the corn boom in the northern Great Plains, however, and it’s clear. Farmers are converting untouched prairie into farmland.

The Department of Agriculture began keeping figures on virgin land only in 2012 and determined that about 38,000 acres vanished that year.

But using government satellite data — the best tool available — the AP identified a conservative estimate of 1.2 million acres of virgin land in Nebraska and the Dakotas alone that have been converted to fields of corn and soybeans since 2006, the last year before the ethanol mandate was passed.

“The last five years, we’ve become financially solvent,” said Robert Malsam, a farmer in Edmunds County, S.D., who like others in the central and eastern Dakotas has plowed into wild grassland to expand his corn crop.

The price of corn is reshaping the land across the Midwest. In Wayne County, Iowa, for example, only the dead can stop the corn.

A gravel road once cut through a grassy field leading to a hilltop cemetery. But about two years ago, the landowners plowed over the road. Now, visiting gravesites means walking a narrow path through the corn.

People have complained. It’s too narrow for a hearse, too rutted for a wheelchair, too steep for the elderly. But it’s legal, said Bill Alley from the board of supervisors.

“This is what the price of corn does,” he said. “This is what happens, right here.”


When Congress passed the ethanol mandate, it required the EPA to thoroughly study the effects on water and air pollution. In his recent speech to ethanol lobbyists, Vilsack was unequivocal about those effects:

“There is no question air quality, water quality is benefiting from this industry,” he said.

But the administration never actually conducted the required air and water studies to determine whether that’s true.

In an interview with the AP after his speech, Vilsack said he didn’t mean that ethanol production was good for the air and water. He simply meant that gasoline mixed with ethanol is cleaner than gasoline alone.

In the Midwest, meanwhile, scientists and conservationists are sounding alarms.

Nitrogen fertilizer, when it seeps into the water, is toxic. Children are especially susceptible to nitrate poisoning, which causes “blue baby” syndrome and can be deadly.

Between 2005 and 2010, corn farmers increased their use of nitrogen fertilizer by more than one billion pounds. More recent data isn’t available from the Agriculture Department, but because of the huge increase in corn planting, even conservative projections by the AP suggest another billion-pound fertilizer increase on corn farms since then.

Department of Agriculture officials note that the amount of fertilizer used for all crops has remained steady for a decade, suggesting the ethanol mandate hasn’t caused a fertilizer boom across the board.

But in the Midwest, corn is the dominant crop, and officials say the increase in fertilizer use — driven by the increase in corn planting — is having an effect.

The Des Moines Water Works, for instance, has faced high nitrate levels for many years in the Des Moines and Raccoon Rivers, which supply drinking water to 500,000 people. Typically, when pollution is too high in one river, workers draw from the other.

“This year, unfortunately the nitrate levels in both rivers were so high that it created an impossibility for us,” said Bill Stowe, the water service’s general manager.

For three months this summer, workers kept huge machines running around the clock to clean the water. Officials asked customers to use less water so the utility had a chance to keep up.

Part of the problem was that last year’s dry weather meant fertilizer sat atop the soil. This spring’s rains flushed that nitrogen into the water along with the remnants of the fertilizer from the most recent crop.

At the same time the ethanol mandate has encouraged farmers to plant more corn, Stowe said, the government hasn’t done enough to limit fertilizer use or regulate the industrial drainage systems that flush nitrates and water into rivers and streams.

With the Water Works on the brink of capacity, Stowe said he’s considering suing the government to demand a solution.

In neighboring Minnesota, a government report this year found that significantly reducing the high levels of nitrates from the state’s water would require huge changes in farming practices at a cost of roughly $1 billion a year.

“We’re doing more to address water quality, but we are being overwhelmed by the increase in production pressure to plant more crops,” said Steve Morse, executive director of the Minnesota Environmental Partnership.

The nitrates travel down rivers and into the Gulf of Mexico, where they boost the growth of enormous algae fields. When the algae die, the decomposition consumes oxygen, leaving behind a zone where aquatic life cannot survive.

This year, the dead zone covered 5,800 square miles of sea floor, about the size of Connecticut.

Larry McKinney, the executive director of the Harte Institute at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, says the ethanol mandate worsened the dead zone.

“On the one hand, the government is mandating ethanol use,” he said, “and it is unfortunately coming at the expense of the Gulf of Mexico.”

The dead zone is one example among many of a peculiar ethanol side effect: As one government program encourages farmers to plant more corn, other programs pay millions to clean up the mess.


Obama administration officials know the ethanol mandate hasn’t lived up to its billing.

The next-generation biofuels that were supposed to wean the country off corn haven’t yet materialized. Every year, the EPA predicts millions of gallons of clean fuel will be made from agricultural waste. Every year, the government is wrong.

Every day without those cleaner-burning fuels, the ethanol industry stays reliant on corn and the environmental effects mount.

The EPA could revisit its model and see whether ethanol is actually as good for the environment as officials predicted. But the agency says it doesn’t have the money or the manpower.

Even under the government’s optimistic projections, the ethanol mandate wasn’t going to reduce greenhouse gas right away. And with the model so far off from reality, independent scientists say it’s hard to make an argument for ethanol as a global warming policy.

“I’d have to think really hard to come up with a scenario where it’s a net positive,” said Silvia Secchi, a Southern Illinois University agriculture economist.

She paused a few moments, then added, “I’m stumped.”

In June, when Obama gave a major policy speech on reducing greenhouse gas, he didn’t mention ethanol. Biofuels in general received a brief, passing reference.

What was once billed as an environmental boon has morphed into a government program to help rural America survive.

“I don’t know whether I can make the environmental argument, or the economic argument,” Vilsack said in an interview with the AP. “To me, it’s an opportunity argument.”

Congress and the administration could change the ethanol mandate, tweak its goals or demand more safeguards. Going to Congress and rewriting the law would mean picking a fight with agricultural lobbyists, a fight that would put the administration on the side of big oil companies, which despise the ethanol requirement.

So the ethanol policy cruises on autopilot.

Bob Dinneen, president of the Renewable Fuels Association, the ethanol lobbying group, said there’s no reason to change the standards. Ethanol still looks good compared to the oil industry, which increasingly relies on environmentally risky tactics like hydraulic fracturing or pulls from carbon-heavy tar sands.

Leroy Perkins, the farmer agonizing about what to do with his 91 acres, says he likes ethanol as a product and an industry. But he knows it fuels the corn prices that are transforming his county.

“If they do change the fuel standard, you’ll see the price of corn come down overnight,” he said. “I like to see a good price for corn. But when it’s too high, it hurts everybody.”

Investors from as far away as Maryland and Pennsylvania have bought thousands of acres in Wayne County, sending prices skyrocketing from $350 per acre a decade ago to $5,000 today.

One in every four acres of in the county is now owned by an out-of-towner.

Those who still own land often rent it to farming companies offering $300 or more per acre. Perkins could make perhaps $27,000 a year if he let somebody plant corn on his land. That’s nothing to dismiss in a county where typical household income is $36,000.

But he knows what that means. He sees the black streaks in his neighbor’s cornfields, knowing the topsoil washes away with every rain. He doesn’t want that for his family’s land.

“You have to decide, do you want to be the one to…”

He doesn’t finish his sentence.

“We all have to look at our pocketbooks.”


Associated Press writers Jack Gillum in Washington and Chet Brokaw in Roscoe, S.D., contributed to this report.



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1995: Tank’s pirate booty and “The Beast”

(As the UFC turns 20, we revisit each year from 2013 to 1993 with 20 articles in 20 days.)

One of the more colorful fighters in the UFC’s short history was Dan Severn, a 6-foot-2, 250-pound construct who was split down the middle between menace and levity. He began wrestling in 1969, and won his first national title in 1972. Yet he’d never been in a street fight ahead of his first appearance in the Octagon in 1994, and to this day he’s never ingested a mind-altering chemical. Severn’s resume is teeming with such dissimilar feats.

In his glorious heyday, though, which began at the age of 36 at UFC 4 and raged on for well over a decade, Severn had a mustache that couldn’t be emulated at Hollywood’s best disguise shops, and an eccentric way of going about business. Still, in the prehistoric days of No Hold’s Barred fighting, when anarchy sold pay-per-views and ended up as VHS tapes, Severn lived up to his nickname of “The Beast” when the cage door locked behind him.

Through it all he had a lightness of being, which was never anything other than unnerving.

“The very first time I ever walked into the Octagon cage at UFC 4, referee John McCarthy had a set format, where he used to talk to the fighter first,” Severn says. “And when he got to the end he’d always say, ‘are there any questions?’ He’d turn to you, then turn to your corner person. So, the very first time, he goes, are there any questions? I couldn’t think of anything. But as he’s turning away, I made the comment, ‘yeah, where did all that money go that my parents paid for piano lessons?’ And he said he heard it, but when he looked back at he thought it couldn’t have come from me because I had my game face on.”

The next fight, just before he blew up Marcus Bossett, McCarthy did the same routine, and this time Severn muttered to McCarthy, “if you would only give me the winning lotto ticket numbers, I wouldn’t be doing this.” McCarthy knew what he heard this time, and later would marvel at this kind of humor just before a potentially gruesome encounter.

“McCarthy said you’re the scariest cat of them all, because you’re out there farting around and these guys are trying to take your head off,” Severn says. “And in those days, even with the two rules — no eye-gouging and no biting — if you really read the contract, it just said your purse would be fined, not truly disqualified.”

By 1995, having been upset by Royce Gracie in the finals of UFC 4 after dominating 15 minutes of the less than 16-minute fight, Severn was a popular figure to the underground sphere of NHB. At UFC 5, he ran roughshod through Joe Charles, Oleg Taktarov and Dave Beneteau to win the tournament.

“For UFC 5, I took out 32 days of my life,” he says. This would prove as historic as Severn’s legacy for joining the 100-fight club in 2007 against Dave Legeno in Cage Rage. Severn, in 127 pro MMA fights, only had two full training camps. The rest of he time he just taught classes. Ahead of UFC 4, he trained in a pro wrestling ring with pro wrestlers, and made up crude submissions by which he would relent only upon hearing them “scream or squawk.”

Though he lost the “clash of the titans” fight with Ken Shamrock in Casper, Wyoming at UFC 6 — a card that signaled the end times for the UFC’s puritanical detractors, selling over 240,000 PPVs — Severn was at the height of his popularity heading into the Ultimate Ultimate in December of that year. That was the only other fight card he put in a training camp for, isolating himself from family and friends in remote Michigan for 35 days.

“Only until the Ultimate Ultimate did you know who your first opponent was going to be ahead of time,” he says. “That was the first time they brought in judges…but there was no criteria for the judges. It was thumbs up, thumbs down…I don’t know what they were doing. To go back in time and look at what was going on then, people are right to be baffled as to what these guys were doing. I was doing battle with the Shamrocks and the Gracies and everything else, and there were no rules or regulations. I call it kind of like the Wild Wild West. Anything goes at that point in time.

“But I will say, my cardio vascular was off the hook at that point at that point. Out of a two-hour PPV, in those three matches I was in the Octagon cage just over one hour.”

It was perhaps Severn’s opus that cold night at the Mammoth Gardens in Denver, as the old stevedore went to work piling up bodies. First it was Paul Varelans, who was also known for his work in professional wrestling (much like Severn himself). Varelans went gently, succumbing to a triangle choke.

That brought up Tank Abbott, who back at UFC 5 had one of the most violent knockouts of the UFC’s checkered decade when he sent sumo John Matua into convulsions with a right hand. The pillager Abbott, ever goading and never short on words, was already dishing out lines of hysteria. He’d said that Severn looked “like Freddie Mercury on steroids,” and that he “hit like a girl,” none of which bothered Severn so much as the unnecessary shot following the coup de grâce that Abbott put on Matua a few months earlier.

“Tank was a character, and he was very brash to me,” Severn says. “When he hit the 400-pound sumo again, as he was laying there stiffening up and basically his body going into convulsions, I was like, you bastard. If you would do that to a man who can’t defend himself, then when I face you, if I can hurt you, if I can injure you or end your career, I’m going to do it. I lost all respect for him.”

Severn battered Abbott for 18 solid minutes.

“I basically embarrassed him out there with how many times I hit him, and how many different ways I hit him,” he says. “I told my corner, keep me aware of time. When I heard them yell out three minutes, that’s when I allowed Abbott to get up to his feet. I had been on the ground the entire time punishing him, and I threw a lot of knees into his sciatic area because I wanted his knees to be wobbly as he stood.

“When my guys yelled out one minute, I tried to pry him off the cage wall because I was going to belly-to-back suplex him onto his head. It might not have ended the fight. He probably would have bounced once or twice and came up swinging or something like that, but I was going to entertain the crowd after going almost a 20-minute match. If done correctly, the belly-to-back suplex is actually quite devastating. And I tell you, if I could have pulled that off, the roof would have exploded off the place.”

That set up a rematch with Taktarov, the Russian who had won the tournament at UFC 6 by taking out Tank Abbott as well.

“I already knew what the Russian mentality was, I’d been to Russia a few times,” Severn says. “I knew I was going to have to half kill my opponent. And basically, I just about did that twice. I think I delivered well over 300 headbutts in that match against him. And 20 or 30 minutes after that match was done they rushed him off to the hospital because his skull was swelling. I popped two Ibuprofen and I was good to go.”

Severn won the Ultimate Ultimate ’95, and avenged his loss to Ken Shamrock at UFC 9 the next spring. That was his eleventh pro fight, when he was 38 years old. He would go on to fight 116 more times, facing all of the 100-fight club members (which included Jeremy Horn, a marvel of existence himself). Only in January of 2013, at the refined age of 54, he did call it quits from MMA competition. He remains one of the fight game’s greatest characters.

And that mustache, just like Bert Sugar’s hat and cigar, will follow him to Valhalla.

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10 Things to Know for Tuesday

New-born baby Bea Joy is held as mother Emily Ortega, 21, bottom, rests after giving birth at an improvised clinic at Tacloban airport Monday Nov. 11, 2013 in Tacloban city, Leyte province in central Philippines. Bea Joy was named after her grandmother Beatrice, who was missing following the onslaught of typhoon Haiyan. Ortega was in an evacuation center when the storm surge hit and flooded the city. She had to swim to survive before finding safety at the airport. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

New-born baby Bea Joy is held as mother Emily Ortega, 21, bottom, rests after giving birth at an improvised clinic at Tacloban airport Monday Nov. 11, 2013 in Tacloban city, Leyte province in central Philippines. Bea Joy was named after her grandmother Beatrice, who was missing following the onslaught of typhoon Haiyan. Ortega was in an evacuation center when the storm surge hit and flooded the city. She had to swim to survive before finding safety at the airport. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

Marines stand in the cold rain after a 21-gun salute during the Medal of Honor Memorial Dedication ceremonies for U.S. Marine Corps Reserve 2nd Lt. Sherrod E. Skinner Jr. outside the Hannah Community Center in East Lansing Monday, Nov. 11, 2013. Skinner, who was from East Lansing, is a postumous recipient of the Medal of Honor for bravery in the Korean War. (AP Photo/The State Journal, Rod Sanford) NO SALES

FILE – In this April 8, 2005 file photo, The Atlanta Braves, right, and the New York Mets stand on the baselines at Turner Field in Atlanta during opening day ceremonies. The Atlanta Braves are leaving Turner Field and moving into a new 42,000-seat, $672 million stadium complex in Cobb County in 2017. Braves executives John Schuerholz, Mike Plant and Derek Schiller said Monday, Nov. 11, 2013, that the team decided not to seek another 20-year lease at Turner Field and began talks with the Cobb Marietta Coliseum and Exhibit Hall Authority in July.(AP Photo/John Bazemore/File)

Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Tuesday:


Some 800,000 people were evacuated ahead of the typhoon — but many evacuation centers proved to be no protection against the 147 mph winds and rising water.


Half the storms on an informal list of the strongest ones to hit land in the 20th and 21st centuries ended up striking the Philippines, an expert says.


Kerry blames the Iranians for backing away from a deal. Iran blames Kerry for “conflicting statements” that undermined the process.


Recruitment is banned at the sprawling Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan — but an AP reporter found members of the opposition overtly seeking new fighters there.


In one of many such observances, two of the original Tuskegee Airmen join Washington, D.C., leaders for a Veterans Day wreath-laying ceremony.


The online site reaches a long-sought deal with the U.S. Postal Service for Sunday package delivery.


While the world’s biggest economies are showing signs of growth, it’s mostly because of the extraordinary aid being supplied by central banks.


That keeps a streak alive: Space junk is not believed to have ever injured anyone or caused significant property damage.


Gun violence in PG-13 movies has rivaled the frequency of such violence in R-rated movies, and actually surpassed it in 2012, a study says.


The team announces that it’s moving to a new 42,000-seat stadium away from downtown Atlanta — just 17 years after its current home, Turner Field, opened.

Associated PressSource:
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Dan Henderson: ‘I don’t see myself fighting for more than five or six fights’

Dan Henderson has his back against the wall at next Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 32 in Goiania, Brazil, but a win over Vitor Belfort would change that completely.

As he fights on the last bout of his contract with the UFC, Henderson needs to get back to the win column after consecutive losses to Rashad Evans and Lyoto Machida. Belfort might be the perfect fight for that.

“It’s got potential to be a really good match-up,” Henderson told the media. “I don’t have to worry with someone trying to take me down the whole time. My fight with Lyoto, he ran around most of the time, and then the fight with Rashad, he tried to take me down most of the time, so it was kind of tough to really fight the way I like to. I believe that with Vitor I’ll be able to do that.”

Belfort scored a pair of high kick knockouts in his last appearances inside the Octagon against Luke Rockhold and Michael Bisping, and “Hendo” knows he needs to be careful with Belfort’s new tricks.

“Just don’t get kicked,” he said. “Keep your hands up, don’t get kicked and punch him.”

Henderson has never been knocked out in his 39-fight career, but he knows he can’t count on his chin forever.

“I’m sure I could (get knocked out),” he said with a laugh. “I was knocked silly a few times. Maybe not out, but I’ve been knocked silly and that’s when you learn to keep your chin down a little better.”

Belfort looked unstoppable in his last appearances inside the cage, and Henderson believes his wrestling could be the best way to get the victory.

“Obviously, I think both of us are going to respect each other’s power,” he said. “I’m sure if I need to take him down I can, of if I wanna defend takedowns I can. It’s going to come up to how I can control the fight.

“I think I use a little bit of jiu-jitsu in every fight at some point. I’m always very comfortable on the ground. I’m sure I’ll be taking Vitor down at some point of the fight. I don’t know why I don’t go more for submissions when I (take the fight to the ground), I think I like to do more ground and pound. We’ll see.”

Henderson is currently ranked six in the UFC, but what would a win over Belfort — who moved up from 185 pounds for this fight — do for him?

“I doubt it helps that much,” Hendo said. “It’s not the fight I was hoping for but I was excited for this fight as well. I don’t know if it helps me a lot, but we’ll see. It always depends on how the fight goes.”

At 43, the former PRIDE middleweight and welterweight champion sees retirement getting near, and he expects to hang up the gloves after five or six fights.

“I’m a year or two away from that,” he said. “At least five fights. We’ll see what happens, but my body is feeling good. As long as I can get that going, I’ll be fine. But I don’t see myself fighting for more than five or six fights.”

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UFC Fight for the Troops 3 predictions

It’s not the strongest UFC card ever in terms of star power, but it is one filled with rising prospects and middling talent that need to take a step in a direction, one way or the other. At UFC Fight Night 31 (or UFC Fight for the Troops 3, as it’s also called), the UFC has put together a card that almost seems as if the matchmaker had a lot of unsettled questions about how good their talent is and used this event as a way to get some answers.

That’s less true for the main event, although that bout also has some relatively modest implications for the middleweight division. Will Tim Kennedy get a win in front of the partisan crowd of soldiers? Will Rafael Natal play spoiler to the Army’s hopes for Kennedy? I answer these questions and more with my predictions for Wednesday’s event.

What: UFC Fight for the Troops 3: Kennedy vs. Natal

Where: Fort Campbell, Kentucky

When: Wednesday, the four-fight Facebook card starts at 3:10 p.m. ET, the four-fight Fox Sports 1 card begins at 5 p.m. ET and the main starts at 7 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1.

Tim Kennedy vs. Rafael Natal

Natal is a bit of a wild fighter. That’s less true on the floor, but even then he’s a bit of a risk taker with passing and changing position. Generally speaking, he’s a bit of a risk taker. That might be enough to given Kennedy problems in spots, but the American is defensively well-rounded enough and patient enough in his offense to slowly whittle Natal down to either a TKO stoppage or decision victory.

Pick: Kennedy

Liz Carmouche vs. Alexis Davis

Carmouche might have some issues with the slippery, technical proficiency of Davis on the floor, but as long as this fight stays standing, it should be Carmouche’s to win. She’s the much better athlete of the two, far better striker and heavier hitter. If Davis can drag things to the mat, she’s got a chance to tie Carmouche up and make things difficult, at least in terms of executing offense. Over time, however, I have a bit of a hard time seeing how Davis accumulates enough offense to really win the bout.

Pick: Carmouche

Ronny Markes vs. Yoel Romero

I’m really not sure what to make of this bout. Both of these guys are horses for the weight class. Romero is the better athlete, but not nearly as well-rounded as Markes. He’s also considerably older. Markes can make things boring with a clinch fest and by wearing Romero down, a man whose gas tank I still don’t trust. I can also see Romero putting Markes in uncomfortable spots with improved cardio and training now under his belt. Ultimately, I don’t know what to expect, but the results will tell us a lot about both competitors. Coin flip time.

Pick: Markes

Jorge Masvidal vs. Rustam Khabilov

This one is another really difficult pick. It’s a clear step up for Khabilov, a fighter with some impressive tools, but no real track record of being able to use them against next-level opposition. That’s where Masvidal comes in. He’s easily the best fighter Khabilov has faced, so this is as much a fight as fact-finding mission. My worry for Masvidal is he can fight both up and down to competition. I don’t know if he’s serious, but he said he didn’t even watch tape on the Russian for this bout. That worries me. My gut tells me Masvidal is capable of beating Khabilov, but won’t because he took Khabilov too lightly as a potential threat.

Pick: Khabilov

Colton Smith vs. Michael Chiesa

Smith is dropping to lightweight, although under the watchful eye of a master of weight manipulation. Still, one wonders if the cut makes sense in terms of advantages gained, real or perceived. I’m going to side with Chiesa. He’s surprisingly lethal with jiu-jitsu transitions and submissions and highly proactive on offense. Smith might try to slow it down and he’ll probably have some success with it, but I don’t see him being able to do that long enough to really win a decision or put Chiesa away.

Pick: Chiesa

From the preliminary card:

Bobby Green < James Krause
George Roop > Francisco Rivera
Dennis Bermudez > Steven Siler
Amanda Nunes > Germaine de Randamie
Chris Camozzi < Lorenz Larkin
Yves Edwards < Yancy Medeiros
Neil Magny < Seth Baczynski
Derek Brunson > Brian Houston

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Mutai, Jeptoo of Kenya win titles at NYC Marathon

NEW YORK (AP) — Geoffrey Mutai ran by himself through Central Park, the same scene as the last New York City Marathon.

The race’s return to the five boroughs looked no different from the past in many ways, yet much had changed. The streets were still crammed with runners and the sidewalks with fans, undaunted by the tight security.

Mutai successfully defended his title Sunday, while fellow Kenyan Priscah Jeptoo came from behind to win the women’s race.

Mutai broke the course record in New York two years ago, then the 2012 race never happened because of the destruction from Superstorm Sandy. The April bombings at the Boston Marathon bared the vulnerability of an event that packs city streets with people.

So barricades blocked off much of the park, and fans waited in bag-check lines to get in.

Still, there were plenty of spectators to urge on Jeptoo to chase down Buzunesh Deba, a Bronx resident who finished runner-up for the second straight time in her hometown race.

Nobody was catching Mutai, who pulled away around Mile 22 and beat Ethiopia’s Tsegaye Kebede by 52 seconds. On a windy morning, Mutai’s time of 2 hours, 8 minutes, 24 seconds was well off his course record of 2:05:06 set in nearly perfect conditions two years ago. He’s the first man to repeat in New York since Kenya’s John Kagwe in 1997-98.

“To defend your title is not easy,” Mutai said. “As you see the course today, the weather today, it was not easy. Even for me, I try all I can, but I was not believing that I can finish like that.”

Jeptoo trailed Deba by nearly 3½ minutes at the halfway point. She made her move as the race entered Manhattan after a race official on a bike told her how big the gap was.

“So I started to push the pace,” she said. “I was having confidence that I will make it.”

Deba was slowed by stomach cramps, and Jeptoo passed the Ethiopian with just more than 2 miles left. The 2012 Olympic silver medalist and 2013 London Marathon champ, Jeptoo won in 2:25:07 to clinch the $500,000 World Marathon Majors bonus.

Last year’s late cancellation of the event in New York incensed many residents and runners, but there was little sign of those sour feelings Sunday. City and marathon officials initially vowed that the race would go on, and New Yorkers balked at the idea of possibly diverting resources amid such devastation. But by the time the decision to cancel was made, many out-of-town entrants had already traveled to the city.

Plenty came back a year later. A record 50,740 runners started.

The women’s race played out almost identically to the last NYC Marathon two years ago. But this time, Deba was the pursued, not the pursuer.

In 2011, Mary Keitany took a big early lead, and Deba and countrywomen Firehiwot Dado chased her down. Dado, who won that day, was 14th Sunday as the defending champ.

This time, Deba and training partner Tigist Tufa separated themselves right from the start. Deba wound up finishing 48 seconds behind Jeptoo, while Tufa fell back to eighth.

“That’s my plan,” Deba said. “I need to run my best time. My training is very good. I prepared very good.”

Jelena Prokopcuka of Latvia, who won the NYC Marathon in 2005 and ’06, placed third at age 37, returning to the podium after the birth of her son.

Kebede, the London Marathon champ, clinched the $500,000 bonus for the World Marathon Majors men’s title. South Africa’s Lusapho April was third.

Mutai proved again that when he’s healthy, he’s the best in the world. He ran the fastest marathon in history, 2:03:02 in Boston in 2011, which didn’t count as a world record because the course is too straight and downhill.

Tatyana McFadden of Maryland won the women’s wheelchair race after taking the titles in Boston, London and Chicago in 2013. No other athlete has won those four races in the same year. Marcel Hug of Switzerland was the men’s wheelchair winner.

Runners, professional and amateur, said they felt safe on the course. Security was tight from the moment they arrived at the start. They were corralled into long bag-check lines, and officers and volunteers repeatedly reminded them to keep cellphones out.

Elizabeth Hutchinson of Seattle recalled the joy at the starting line in Boston this year. People were handing out sunscreen, Band-Aids and energy gels with a smile.

On Staten Island, she said, “the machine guns are very visible.”

“The atmosphere is so different,” she said, “It kind of makes me sad.”

Near the finish, Ashley O’Brien of Brooklyn was ready with a bullhorn to cheer members of her running group, the Hudson Dusters. She got teary-eyed remembering the events of the past year.

“It’s a nice time to all come back together,” she said. “You still remember why it was canceled last year and you remember Boston. So it’s a little bittersweet.”


AP writer Meghan Barr and AP freelancer Michael Casey contributed to this report.

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Miley Cyrus Exposes Breast, Twerks in Lil’ Kim Costume at Halloween Party

Happy Twerking Halloween! After revealing her (predictably) over-the-top Halloween costume on Twitter earlier in the day on Thursday, Oct. 31, Miley Cyrus took her alter ego out for a night on the town. The 20-year-old singer dressed up in Lil’ Kim‘s half-topless purple jumpsuit from the 1999 MTV Video Music Awards. The infamous ensemble completely exposed Cyrus’ right breast, which was concealed only by a purple pastie.

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Wearing a purple wig and the ultra-sexy costume, the “We Can’t Stop” singer attended Adam Lambert’s Halloween for Charity party powered by CIROC at Bootsy Bellow’s in West Hollywood Thursday night. An insider told Us Weekly that Cyrus arrived around midnight and headed to a booth near the DJ. She stood up on the table was reportedly smoking an electronic cigarette while dancing and twerking. “No one was dancing as provocatively as Miley,” the eyewitness told Us. “She was dancing seductively while grinding against her girlfriends and twerking.”

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Cyrus danced to Missy Elliott‘s “Work It” and Snoop Dogg‘s “Drop It Like It’s Hot” while “flirtatiously shaking her butt and moving along to the beat,” the source said.

No stranger to nudity, the “Wrecking Ball” singer’s half-topless ensemble didn’t appear to inhibit her partying — it only enhanced it! “Miley was dancing with her girlfriends, shaking and shimmying and began tapping at her bare breast that was covered with the purple sequined pasty,” the eyewitness said. “She had no shame flaunting her body.”

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What did Lil’ Kim think of Cyrus’ copying her look for a Halloween costume? She loved it! In an interview with MTV on Thursday, the 39-year-old rapper gave her stamp of approval.

“How awesome was that! Put it this way, she did me very well. I think she looked gorgeous. I love her; she’s one of my besties,” she said. “She’s like my bestie-slash-wifey. You know what’s so funny? As soon as she tweeted the picture, she texted me and was like she was like, ‘Happy Halloween, babe!’ . . . I think she did me well.”

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