Monday, October 31, 2016

QUEER QUOTE: Nation's Largest LGBT Group Rescinds Kirk Endorsement Over Racist Remark

Well, well! The Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest LGBT political advocacy organization, has rescinded its endorsement of incumbent U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R-Illinois)  over a shocking racist remark Kirk made in a debate with his opponent U.S. Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth last week.

An excerpt from the open letter HRC head Chad Griffin released explaining the organization's action is today's Queer Quote:

“After careful consideration, HRC’s Public Policy Committee of the Board of Directors has taken the unprecedented step -- a first in our 36-year history -- of revoking an endorsement. We are a bipartisan organization and our staff and board make endorsement decisions based on a proven record of LGBTQ equality and a candidate’s ability to drive legislative change. We will not continue to make progress and pass the Equality Act without Republican support. It’s vitally important that we continue to build bipartisan coalitions so that we may continue to move equality forward. We endorsed the sitting senator, Mark Kirk, because he has been a strong supporter of our cause time and again, scoring a 100 percent on HRC’s most recent Congressional Scorecard. But events this week have gone beyond the pale for our standards of leadership.
“Leadership is about more than the legislation one sponsors and the votes one casts. On Thursday night, Senator Kirk's comments about his opponent's heritage were deeply offensive and racist. His attempt to use Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth’s race as a means to undermine her family’s American heritage and patriotism is beyond reprehensible. Yesterday, Senator Kirk tweeted an apology that failed to adequately address the real harm and magnitude of his words. So today, following a vote by our board’s committee, the Human Rights Campaign withdrew our support of Senator Kirk.
“Attacking someone because of her race and ethnicity is inexcusable for anyone, but especially for a sitting U.S. Senator. The diversity of our movement is our greatest strength, and Senator Kirk’s remarks were an affront to our most fundamental values. We have therefore voted to endorse Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth, who has been a strong LGBTQ ally in the House of Representatives, and HRC has contributed the maximum amount to her campaign. We look forward to working with her in the Senate to secure full federal equality for all LGBTQ Americans."
I have refused to donate money to HRC ever since they endorsed the odious Alfonse D'Amato over Charles Schumer in the 1998 U.S. Senate race from New York. The fact that they finally did the right thing by rescinding the endorsement when their chosen candidate made an explicitly racist remark is a sign that things may be changing at HRC.

WATCH: Trailer for Arrival Features Difficulty Of Intraspecies Communication

I"m very excited about the imminent arrival of Arrival, the new film by director Denis Villeneuve (Incendies, Prisoners, Sicario) starring Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker based (loosely) on an award-winning short story by Ted Chiang. Villeneuve has made some of my favorite films over the last decade (notwithstanding my constant fan-boy love for Christopher Nolan) and I'm thriller he is working in my favorite genre of science fiction for the first time.

In this "Common Ground" trailer, the difficulty of communicating with people who share common experiences but not a common language is depicted as a means of emphasizing the key point of the film which is about the arrival of aliens whom humanity needs to communicate with.

EYE CANDY: Paul Arthur

Paul Arthur is an African-American male model (signed by Wilhemina New York) who I found through Pop Glitz. He is a certified personal trainer and multiple reports say that he is 6-foot-6. He has his own website and is active on social media: Instagram (@PHYSIQUE101), Facebook, and Twitter (@PHYSIQUE101). Enjoy!

Hat/tip to Pop Glitz.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

2016 WTA TOUR FINALS: Cibulkova Shocks Kerber To Win Biggest Career Title

Defying the odds and most predictions, Dominika Cibulkova defeated World #1 Angelique Kerberb 6-3 6-4 playing fierce, high-quality tennis to win the WTA Tour finals, the biggest title title of her career (and over $2 million in prize money). The surprising result means that Cibulkova will end the year ranked World #5, her highest ranking ever. (She started the year ranked #38.)

Cibulkova became the second player (after last year's winner Agnieska Radwanska) to lose two matches en route to winning the title. The WTA Tour finals is only open to the Top 8 players of the year and thus employs a round-robin format (instead of the typical win-or-go-home rules). Cibulkova lost an epic 3-setter to Kerber in her first match, and then lost again in straight sets to Madison Keys. She had to win in straight sets against Simona Halep and hope that Kerber did not drop a set against Keys. Kerber obliged her (and won her first four matches), thus allowing Cibulkova to sneak into the semifinals. There Cibulkova played another intense 3-set match against Svetlana Kuznetsova, coming back from a set down and a break down in the final set to reach the biggest final since reaching the 2014 Australian Open final.

Cibulkova simply played her best tennis when it counted the most. She served at 84% and won 70% of her second serve points. She had twice as many winers as errors (28 to 14) and just kept on going for her strokes, outlasting Kerber's impeccable defense. Kerber didn't help her cause by not serving well (6 doublefaults) but in the end Cibulkova went out and won this match.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

QUEER QUOTE: SCOTUS Agrees To Hear Important Transgender Rights Case From Virginia

The United States Supreme Court agreed to hear the case of Gavin Grimm, a 17-year-old transgender boy who (with the help of the ACLU) is suing the Gloucester County School Board in Virginia for the right to use the bathroom associated with his gender identity.

Today's Queer Quote is from the granting of certioari by SCOTUS in Grimm:
 (1) Whether courts should extend deference to an unpublished agency letter that, among other things, does not carry the force of law and was adopted in the context of the very dispute in which deference is sought; and (2) whether, with or without deference to the agency, the Department of Education's specific interpretation of Title IX and 34 C.F.R. § 106.33, which provides that a funding recipient providing sex-separated facilities must “generally treat transgender students consistent with their gender identity,” should be given effect.
SCOTUSblog describes the Grimm case in this way:
Although the controversy over the school board’s policy requiring students to use the restrooms and locker rooms that match the gender that they were assigned at birth instantly became the highest-profile case of the court’s term so far, the dispute actually centers on more technical (and, some would say, rather dry) legal issues. In this case, the district court ruled against G.G., relying on a 1975 regulation that allows schools to provide “separate toilet, locker room, and shower facilities on the basis of sex,” as long as those facilities are comparable to those provided to the opposite sex. But, in January 2015, the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights issued an opinion letter stating that, if schools separate students in restrooms and locker rooms on the basis of their sex, a “school generally must treat transgender students consistent with their gender identity.” In light of the 2015 letter, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit reversed and ruled for G.G. It relied on the Supreme Court’s 1997 decision in Auer v. Robbins, which held that courts generally should defer to an agency’s interpretation of its own regulation. 
In granting review today, the justices sidestepped the most prominent issue they had been asked to take on: whether they should overrule their decision in Auer, which has been the target of criticism by conservative lawyers and jurists. Instead, they agreed only to weigh in on two other, lower-profile questions presented in the school board’s petition: whether courts should defer to a letter, like the Department of Education opinion letter in this case, that was issued as part of the specific dispute before the court; and whether the Department of Education’s interpretation of the federal civil rights laws and the 1975 regulation as requiring schools to treat transgender students consistent with their gender identity should be given effect. 
The school board’s case, as well as the others in which the justices granted review today, likely will be argued during the court’s February sitting, which begins on February 21.
Here at we will be  watching this case closely. The primary takeaway should be that although marriage equality is now the law of the land, the fight for full LGBT equality is clearly not over. And the United States Supreme Court will almost certainly play a role in accomplishing this.

Hat/tip to Kenneth in the 212

2016 WTA TOUR FINALS: Kerber Beats Radwanska, Cibulkova Outlasts Kuznetsova

The semifinals of the WTA Tour Finals in Singapore took place earlier today and Angelique Kerber defeated defending champion Agnieska Radwanska in straight sets, while Dominika Cibulkova won another epic three-set match, this time against Svetlana Kuznetsova. Kerber beat Radwanska 6-2 6-1 to remain undefeated in the final tournament of the year, winning her 4th match in a row. The clash between Cibulkova and Kuznetsova was much more dramatic, ending in a 1-6 7-6(2) 6-4 scoreline after 2 hours and 27 minutes.

The Cibulkova and Kerber will face off in the WTA Tour Finals Final tomorrow. (Last year it was Radwanska and Petra Kvitova.) Interestingly, due to the unusual round-robin format of the tournament, the two have already played this week, with Kerber coming back to win in 3 sets. (That match featured the best set of tennis I saw all week, which Kerber won in a tiebreak.) The German lefty has now won the last five meetings with Cibulkova and leads their head-to-head 5-4. Kerber is starting to demonstrate why she is the #1 player in the world and the newfound confidence this gives her in big matches makes her a formidable opponent.

MadProfessah's prediction: Kerber.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Celebrity Friday: Paul Beatty Becomes First American To Win Man Booker Prize

This week Paul Beatty became the first American writer to win the Man Booker prize, one of the most prestigious prizes in fiction for his novel, The Sellout. Amazingly, this is the second year in a row the award has been won by a Black man. Last year, Marlon James, a writer born in Jamaica won the prize for his A Brief History of Seven Killings.

Beatty, 54, is a Los Angeles resident and the Los Angeles Times reported on his win:
Paul Beatty won the 2016 Man Booker Prize for fiction for his novel “The Sellout,” a dazzling written, wickedly funny satire of race set in South Los Angeles. Beatty is the first American to win the prize, which was awarded at a black-tie ceremony in London on Tuesday. 
“I’m not going to get all dramatic, writing saved my life or anything like that,” he said from the stage, searching for words. “But writing’s given me a life.” 
The Man Booker Prize, which comes with an award of about $61,000, is one of the world’s most prestigious literary prizes. It was first presented in 1969, but Americans were not eligible until 2014. 
Last year, Jamaican-born Marlon James, who lives and teaches in Minnesota, won the prize for his novel “A Brief History of Seven Killings.”
Beatty's  The Sellout also won the 2015 National Book Critics Circle award. It's interesting that it only took a few years for an American to win the Man Booker after becoming eligible in  2014. I'm curious to hear from readers of the blog if they have read The Sellout and how good it is.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

MadProfessah is in Indianapolis!

BOOK REVIEW: Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie

The third and final book in the Imperial Radhch trilogy by Ann Leckie is Ancillary Mercy. The first book in the series (Leckie's debut novel), Ancillary Justice, is one of the most celebrated works in science fiction awards history, having won basically every award a speculative fiction book can win (Hugo, Nebula, Clarke, Locus, BSFA). All of the books were nominated for multiple awards and each of the entries in the trilogy won at least one major award, although only the first book won either the two most prestigious awards (the Hugo and the Nebula). In my reviews of the first and second books, Ancillary Mercy and Ancillary Sword, I felt that overall their widespread acclaim was generally deserved because the books include a decidedly brilliant premise, which is the central concept of the narrator denying gender classification to any of the characters, by referring to EVERYONE as female (*i.e using her and she exclusively). In addition, the central character of Breq used to be a ship controlling many thousands of bodies, called ancillaries. Questions of loss and how one identifies the self are integral to the story being told in the Imperial Radhch trilogy.

But lest you think this is some experimental feminist work of literature (not that there's anything wrong with that!) the Imperial Radhch trilogy is definitely space opera (there are lots of space ships and artificial intelligences and battles in space and hyperspace gates) but it's also about manners and cultural norms. In my view there is FAR too much drinking of tea, but the detailed depiction of various cultural practices of the societies Breq visits on her journeys is part and parcel of how Leckie builds the world in which the story is set.

To be honest, though, I probably would have been just as happy with just reading the first book and skipping the last two. I think Leckie was caught in a trap of her own making after the first book. The scope of the story is simultaneously too big (the primary antagonist is the Lord of the Radhch who is 3000 years old and controls dozens or hundreds of star systems with probably thousands of planets and trillions of human lives) and too small (the protagonist Breq is obsessed with one particular tragedy involving a specific Lieutenant who served on her ship Justice of Toren). So, while the trilogy attempts to resolve the conflicts that animate both (the big and the small) stories it really only satisfactorily deals with one of them (I won't say which one!) by the end of Ancillary Mercy.

Overall, I am very glad that I purchased, read and completed Ann Leckie's entire trilogy and would strongly encourage any fan of science-fiction/fantasy to at the very least put Ancillary Justice on their must-read list. If they agree with that book's status as the most celebrated SFF debut novel of all time, then you will probably also be happy with  reading its two sequels.

Title: Ancillary Mercy.
Ann Leckie.
Paperback: 368 pages.
Date Published: October 6, 2015.
Date Read: December 31, 2015.


OVERALL GRADE: A-/B+ (3.58/4.0).


Tuesday, October 25, 2016

2 Weeks Until #ElectionDay: Clinton 0.861, Trump 0.138

There are only 2 weeks left (14 days!) before the 2016 Presidential Election will be determined on November 8. This week, the forecast has Clinton-Kaine ticket has an 86.1% chance of winning, with Trump-Pence having a 13.8% chance of winning. This is slightly changed from last week's probabilities (88.2% Clinton-Trump, 11.8% Trump-Pence).

Monday, October 24, 2016

2016 WTA TOUR FINALS: Kerber, Kuznetsova, Pliskova Win 3-Set Thrillers; Halep Rolls Over Keys

The WTA Tour finals in Singapore have kicked off with a bang, with three of the four completed matches in the first two days absolutely thrilling 3-set slugfests. First came the encounter between Angie Kerber and Dominka Cibulkova. The two played an absolutely epic, hour=long first set, which was won by Kerber on her one and only set point at 6-5 in tiebreaker after both players had won and lost momentum in the games played earlier, Cibulkova responded by continuing to crush the ball into the corners and won the second set 6-2 but then lost the decider 6-3. The match was nearly 3 hours long with final score 7-6(5) 2-6 6-3. This was in sharp contrast to yet another meeting between Madison Keys and Simona Halep, where again, Halep was too steady for the young American power player, and improves her head-to-head to 5-1.

On Monday, the matches got even better with both eventual winners having to save a match point on their way to victory. First Sveta Kuznetsova came back from a 1-4 deficit in the first set to squeeze out the first set 7-5 but Radwanska roared back with a 6-1 beat down. As Ian DW noted on twitter: Radwanska had won 21 of 22 matches when she won one of the sets 6-1. The only loss was to Kuznetsova (who had won 8 of their 9 previous encounters). Kuznetsova went down an early break 0-2 in the third set and eventually Radwanska served for the match at 5-4 (after losing and regaining the break) but was broken again to even the 3rd set at 5-all. Kuznetsova held  to go up 6-5 and this time when Radwanska was serving to stay in the match, she saved 2 match points (1 with an ace!) but still succumbed, losing 7-5, 6-1, 7-5. Probably the match of the year (although Cibulkova-Radwanska at Wimbledon 2016 was pretty amazing as well.)

But wait, there's more! Garbine Muguruza and Karolina Pliskova had an even more compelling match (although probably not as entertaining or high-quality) as Kuznetsova-Radwanska. Pliskova easily won the first set 6-2 and was up 3-1 in the second when the wheels came off and Muguriza fought back went up a break and served for the set at 5-3 but eventually won the second set in a 7-4 tiebreak. In the third set Muguruza extended her momentum and quickly went up 4-0 and 5-2 (double break). Amazingly Pliskova never gave up, broke back (saving a match poiint in the process), and then held her serve and when Muguruza served for the match a second time at 5-4 Pliskova broke at love to even the match at 5-all and again easily held her serve to go ahead 6-5. But then Muguruza lost her serve and the match when she was serving a must-hold 12th games, and lost 6-2 6-7(4) 7-5.

EYE CANDY: Fabrice Lemonnier

Fabrice Lemonnier is a bodybuilder from France. He is active on Instagram (@fabricelemonnier)and Snapchat (fabcherry78) has an official Facebook page. Frankly I am surprised more people do not know follow him on these platforms. Just look at him! He is this week's Eye Candy, and will surely make many more appearances in the future.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

2016 WTA TOUR FINALS: Kuznetsova Grabs Last Spot In Elite 8, Displacing Konta

Svetlana Kuznetsova upended the script at the WTA Tour Finals in Singapore by waiting until the very last possible moment to quality for the prestigious year-ending championship. Because Serena Williams withdrew, the Top 9 players in the world will be eligible to play. As of this week Johanna Konta of Great Britain was in the #9 position but she could have been surpassed by either Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain or Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia if either won the Moscow Open (Konta didn't play). Kuznetsova was the defending champion in Moscow and despite having numerous tension-filled matches all week, the 2-time major champion was able to win the title and qualify for the year-ending championship for the first time since 2009 (which is when Sveta won her 2nd major at the French Open that year).

The Elite Eight qualifiers are Angelique Kerber (#1), Dominika Cibulkova (#8) Simona Halep (#4) and Madison Keys (#7) in the Red group and Agnieska Radwanska (#3), Garbine Muguruza (#6), Karolina Pliskova (#5) and Svetlana Kuznetsova (#9) in the White group. The draw is made so that the two groups play a round-robin and the top 2 finishers n each group play semifinals against a player from the other group to reach the final. Last year's final four was Maria Sharapova, Muguruza, Radwanska and Petra Kvitova. Kvitova and Radwanska reached the final, which, amazingly, was won by Radwanska. This year Kvitova did not even qualify for the Top 8 and is just outside the Top 10.

Interestingly, despite qualifying late, Kuznetsova has a very good record against the rest of the players in her half of the draw (13-6, mostly because of a 12-4 head-to-head against Radwanska!). Kerber has a 12-9 advantage and Halep has a 10-7 advantage against the rest of the players in the Red group. My prediction would be a Kuznetsova-Kerber semifinal and a Radwanska-Halep semifinal

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

GODLESS WEDNESDAY: Mormons Trying To Influence Ballot Measures in Western States (AZ,CO,CA,NV)

The Mormon Church notoriously (and somewhat disastrously) got involved with a California ballot measure in 2008 called Proposition 8 that purported to amend the United States California Constitution to ban same-sex marriage that was eventually struck down in a 5-4 U.S. Supreme Court decision on June 26, 2013. has decided that it didn't learn its lesson 8 years ago and is getting involved in opposing a series of ballot measures involving social issues in various West Coast states.

The Deseret News reports:
The LDS Church's First Presidency is asking the faith's members in four western states to oppose bills that would legalize doctor-assisted suicide and recreational marijuana use.
Church President Thomas S. Monson and his counselors sent a letter Wednesday to Mormons in Colorado, where Proposition 106 would legalize physician-assisted suicide. 
"We urge church members to let their voices be heard in opposition to measures that would legalize physician-assisted suicide," said the letter signed by President Monson, President Henry B. Eyring and President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, who make up the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 
They sent a similar letter Wednesday to Mormons in Arizona, California and Nevada about marijuana legislation.
"We urge church members to let their voices be heard in opposition to the legalization of recreational marijuana use," the letter said.
The Mormon Church does not get involved in political issues very often (which is one reason their involvement in the Proposition 8 fight over same-sex marriage was so striking) so it is noteworthy that they are urging their adherents in California, Colorado, Arizona and Nevada to follow the Church's leadership instead of voting their conscience in these particular matters. It's also interesting that the LDS Church did not weigh in on Proposition 62 (abolish death penalty) and Proposition 66 (maintain death penalty) in California.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

TENNIS TUESDAY: Serena Ends 2016 Season; Murray Closing In On #1; Cibulkova,Keys Qualify For WTA YEC, Kyrgios Sanctioned

For the second consecutive year, World #2 Serena Williams ended her annual tennis season without hitting a ball after falling in the semifinals of the U.S. Open, the last major of the year. WTA released figures today which indicate how much Serena is concentrating on the majors as she gets older:
2013: 82 matches, 78-4 record, won 11 titles.2014: 60 matches, 52-8 record, won 7 titles.2015: 56 matches, 53-3 record, won 5 titles.2016: 44 matches, 38-6 record, won 2 titles.
What's amazing is that since she played so few matches in 2016, Serena should not have much trouble reclaiming the #1 ranking in 2017, a year in which I am convinced that she will win her 23rd major title, cementing her status as the greatest player of all time.

After World #1 Novak Djokovic self-destructed in his semifinal at the 2016 Shanghai Masters against Roberto Bautista Agut, losing his first match in China in nearly three years, World #2 Andy Murray seized the opportunity to win another Masters Shield, the 13th of his career, his 41st ATP tour title and 6th of 2016. Although Murray is now merely 915 points behind Djokovic for the race to #1 for the calendar year, he is still 2415 points behind the World #1 but intends to play 3 more tournaments this year. It's unclear how many tournaments Djokovic will play this year, but there are two big ones remaining: 2016 Paris Masters and the 2016 Barclays ATP World Tour Finals.

Australian phenom Nick Kyrgios received an unprecedented 8 week-long ban from the tour (until January 15, 2017) today from the ATP in response to an execrable performance in the 2nd round of the Shanghai Masters against Mischa Zverev. They also gave the Australian an option to reduce the ban to just 3 weeks if he agrees to see a Psychologist, which he agreed to do. This means that Kyrgios will just be banned for the rest of the 2016 season, but his 2017 season will be unaffected.

The WTA year-end championship in Singapore is the most prestigious tournament of the year (apart from the Grand Slams). Last year the tournament was won by Agnieska Radwanska. This year there are several first-time qualifiers: 2016 US Open finalist Karolina Pliskova, 2014 Australian Open finalist Dominika Cibulkova and American phenom Madison Keys. With Serena's withdrawal, #9 Johanna Konta shuld get the 8th slot, but she withdrew from playing this week due to an injury, so if either Svetlana Kuznetsova and Carla Suarez Navarro are able to win the title in Moscow this week, they would get the final slot.

3 Weeks Until #ElectionDay: Clinton 0.882, Trump 0.118

The probabilities in the 2016 presidential race have moved sharply in favor of the Clinton-Kaine ticket in the last week. With just 21 days (3 weeks) before election day, the latest numbers from show a 0.882 probability America will elect its first female president, with just a 0.112 chance Donald Trump will win his first elected office on November 8th. Last week, the probabilities were 0.84 Clinton, 0.16 Trump. Since i began blogging about the data, the probabilities have been as close as Clinton 0.546, Trump 0.454 just 3 weeks ago so the numbers can change rather rapidly. 

Will they change again? We'll know more in 21 days!

Monday, October 17, 2016

EYE CANDY: Joshua Benoit

Joshua Benoit is a Haitian-American model and body-builder. According to a post he made on Instagram about  a year ago, Mr. Benoit said he was 26 years old, 6-feet tall, 215 pounds with 20" arms and 8% body fat!

That's why he's this week's Eye Candy!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

2016 SHANGHAI: Djokovic Loses Temper and Semifinal; Murray Faces Bautista Agut In Final

Something is clearly affecting Novak Djokovic's play. The current #1 lost his first ATP Master series semifinal in years to Roberto Bautista Agut 6-4 6-4. During the match, Djokovic's play was off-track but his loss of compusure was even more startling. He destroyed a racquet, argued with the chair umpire and ripped off his own shirt after losing a rally. Bautista Agut has 37 hard-court victories, 3rd most on tour this year (behind Djokovic and Gael Monfils).

The Spaniard will face Andy Murray who had his own anger issues in his semifinal but was able to defeat Gilles Simon 6-4 6-3 to reach his 10th final of 2016, 1 more than Djokovic. The race for the year-end #1 is getting more exciting as the year-end championships (held in London in November) approaches.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

4 Weeks Until #ElectionDay: Clinton 0.84, Trump 0.16

Election Day is now exactly 4 weeks (28 days!) away. FiveThirtyEight's election prediction model says that Hillary Clinton has a probability of  0.84 of becoming president, while Donald J. Trump has a 0.16 probability of winning the 2016 presidential election. This is a significant change from last week, when their relative chances were 0.718 for Clinton-Kaine and 0.282 for Trump-Pence.

Monday, October 10, 2016

EYE CANDY: Dee Baker

Dee Baker is a 21-year-old model from Pompano Beach, Florida. He has a Facebook page. I think you can see why he's this week's Eye Candy model!

Hat/tip to Pop Glitz

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

TENNIS TUESDAY: Serena 35; Davis Cup Final #ARGCRO; Kvitova,Berdych Win Titles; #NextGen Breaks Thru; Sharapova Ban Reduced To 15 Months

On September 26, 22-major champion Serena Williams turned 35 years old. Although she is no longer the #1 ranked player in the world, she is still a formidable force in tennis. She is more focused on chasing tennis history as she seeks to break her tie with Steffi Graf's for the most major singles titles in the Open era. The question is will she even play a match for the rest of the year? She has pulled out of the Asian swing, but not the year-end championships in Singapore, yet.

Juan Martin del Potro and Andy Murray had an epic first rubber match which ended up being the decider in which of their countries would reach the Davis Cup final for 2016. Del Potro won the 5-hour, high-quality match 6-4, 5-7, 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-4. Murray was able to win two points for his team in the tie but the rest of the team  was unable to contribute (apart from his brother in the doubles). Argentina will face Croatia in the final after Marin Cilic and Ivan Dodig paired up and defeated the #1 doubles team in the world, Pierre-Hughes Herbert and Nicolas Mahut and Cilic was able to win both his singles matches, beating Richard Gasquet and Lucas Pouille relatively easily (losing one set and winning 6). The Davis Cup final will be in Zagreb, Croatia November 25-27.

When she's on, she's very on. In Wuhan Petra Kvitova played two of her best matches in a row all-year long to blast through Simona Halep in the semis and Dominka Cibulkova in the final after earlier outlasting World #1 Angie Kerber in a 3-hour 3-set epic. Kvitova lost just 5 games in four sets in the last two rounds to win her first title of the year. Fellow Czech also salvaged his 2016 season by outlasting Richard Gasquet in 3 sets to win the Shenzhen Open, just 5 weeks after having surgery to remove his appendix, which caused him to skip the US Open.

20-year old Karen Khachanov, 19-year-old Sascha Zverev and 22-year-old Lucas Pouille all won their first ATP tour titles recently. Khachanov beat Alberto Ramos-Vinolas in Chengdu, while Zverev beat reigning US Open champion Stan Wawrinka in St. Petersburg and Pouille beat fellow #NextGen Dominc Thiem in Metz. The most impressive of these wins is Zverev, since not only is he the youngest of the three but he beat the toughest competition. However, Pouille is the highest ranked of the bunch at #16, but Zverev is not that far behind at #24.

The result of Maria Sharapova's appeal of her 2-year-suspension for using a banned substance (meldonium) was announced just minutes ago. Her ban has been reduced to 15 months, and since she has not played since January 2016 (the end of the Australian Open), she could be on court in time fo the 2017 clay court season and play in Madrid, Rome and Paris. It was very possible if the fine had not been reduced, then the 5-time major champion would have announced her retirement. It will be interesting to see how a then 30-year-old Maria will fare against the likes of Kerber, Pliskova and Muguruza after such a long absence.

5 Weeks Until #ElectionDay: Clinton 0.718, Trump 0.282

There are now 5 weeks (35 days) until November 8, 2016, election day. The FiveThirtyEight election forecast  now says the probability that Hillary Clinton will be elected president is now 0.718 (Donald Trump's chance of winning is now 0.282). This is a dramatic jump from last week, where the probability was 0.546 Clinton, 0.454 Trump. That shows the volatility in the prediction, although it must of course be noted that in between now and then, the most watched presidential debate in historym occurred, with more than 84 million people viewing the debate on Monday September 26.

The Vice-Presidential debate is tomorrow night. Can it possibly have as large an effect on the probabilities? The second Presidential debate is next Sunday, October 9th.

Monday, October 03, 2016


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