Thursday, December 20, 2012

Miss USA wins Miss Universe crown; Miss Philippines second

LAS VEGAS — A 20-year-old Boston University sophomore and a self-described "cellist-nerd" brought the Miss Universe crown back to the United States for the first time in more than a decade when she won the televised contest Wednesday.
Olivia Culpo beat out 88 other beauty queens to take the title from Leila Lopes of Angola during the two-hour competition at the Planet Hollywood casino on the Las Vegas Strip.
Culpo wore a tight navy blue mini-dress with a sequined bodice as she walked on stage for the competition's opening number. Later in the night, she strutted in a purple and blue bikini, and donned a wintery red velvet gown with a plunging neckline.
Culpo's coronation ends a long losing spell for the U.S. in the competition co-owned by Donald Trump and NBC. An American had not won the right to be called Miss Universe since Brook Lee won the title in 1997.
Culpo was good enough during preliminary competitions to be chosen as one of 16 semifinalists who moved on to compete in the pageant's finale. Her bid lasted through swimsuit, evening wear, and interview competitions that saw cuts after each round.
She won over the judges, even after tripping slightly during the evening gown competition. Telecasters pointed it out but also noted her poised recovery.
Minutes before the middle child of five was crowned, she was asked whether she had she had ever done something she regretted.
"I'd like to start off by saying that every experience no matter what it is, good or bad, you'll learn from it. That's just life," she said. "But something I've done I've regretted is probably picking on my siblings growing up, because you appreciate them so much more as you grow older."

Miss Philippines, Janine Tugonon, came in second, while Miss Venezuela, Irene Sofia Esser Quintero, placed third.
All the contestants spent the past two weeks in Sin City, where they posed in hardhats at a hotel groundbreaking, took a painting lesson, and pranked hotel guests by hiding in their rooms.
Culpo was the first Miss USA winner from Rhode Island when she took the national crown in Las Vegas in June.
She grew up in Cranston with two professional musicians for parents and has played the cello alongside world-renowned classical musician Yo-Yo Ma. On her Miss Universe page, she said she hopes to pursue a career in film or television, and cites Audrey Hepburn as a role model because of her "generosity, intelligence and grace."
With Culpo's promotion, Miss Maryland Nana Meriwether becomes the new Miss USA.
The Miss Universe pageant was back in Las Vegas this year after being held in Sao Paulo in 2011. It aired live on NBC and was streamed to more than 100 countries.
Organizers had considered holding the 61st annual Miss Universe in the popular Dominican Republic tourist city of Punta Cana, but Miss Universe Organization President Paula Shugart said that country's financial crisis proved to be too much of an obstacle.
The panel of 10 judges included singer Cee Lo Green, "Iron Chef" star Masaharu Morimoto and Pablo Sandoval of the San Francisco Giants.
Asked on the red carpet whether he found playing in the World Series or judging the beauty pageant to be more difficult, Sandoval said both were hard.
Sharply dressed women and men, including a large contingent from South America, held banners and cheered on their favorite contestants.
The pageant started as a local revue in Long Beach, Calif., organized by Catalina Swimwear. It is not affiliated with the Miss America pageant and unlike that contest, does not include a talent section.
Contestants in the pageant cannot have been married or have children. They must be younger than 27 and older than 18 by Feb. 1 of the competition year.
As Miss Universe, Culpo will receive an undisclosed salary, a wardrobe fit for a queen, a limitless supply of beauty products, and a luxury apartment in New York City. By HANNAH DREIER and MICHELLE RINDELS, Huffington Post.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Religion has nothing to do with Pacquiao’s fall

"You cannot believe in God until you believe in yourself."
--Swami Vivekananda

By Alex P. Vidal

LAS VEGAS, Nevada – If it is true that “God punished” Manny Pacquiao supposedly for converting from Roman Catholic to “born again” Christian, then God is not just; He is cruel and He plays favorites. 
Since most of us believe that God is pure love in its most supreme form, He could not have guided Juan Manuel Marquez’s lethal right to inflict harm on a faithful follower.
God has laid down from all eternity the law which governs all things, like light from the sun; but He will never change the economy of world boxing for Marquez who is a Roman Catholic.
What happened to Pacquiao had also happened to other great marquee names such as Muslim convert Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, Lennox Lewis, Roberto Duran, Tomas Hearns, Sugar Ray Leonard, and to the now Rev. George Foreman.  


When all these ring titans were felled with one blow in high profile fights, nobody blamed God or their conversion to any faith for their Waterloo.
Ali (56-5, 37 KOs), formerly Cassius Clay, converted from Christian to Muslim after winning the world heavyweight crown from Sonny Liston on February 25, 1964.
As a Muslim, he racked up 10 straight wins before losing by unanimous decision to Joe Frazier for the world heavyweight championship on March 8, 1971 in New York.
In this defeat to Frazier (32-4, 27 KOs), Ali was floored with a single punch and nearly suffered a knockout loss but managed to finish the fight scheduled for 15 rounds. 
Nobody blamed his shocking loss for his decision to embrace Allah.
Before he became a pastor, Foreman suffered a humiliating 8th round technical knockout defeat to Muslim Ali on October 30, 1974 in Zaire. 
In this epic war dubbed “Rumble in the Jungle,” the Christian God and Allah did not intervene to save their respective “bets.”


Another Muslim fighter Hasim Rahman (50-8, 41 KOs) made headlines all over the globe when he scored a major upset in the heavyweight division with a one-punch knockout win over previously indestructible Brition Lennox Lewis (41-2, 32 KOs) at the Carnival City, Brakpan, Gauteng, South Africa on April 22, 2001.
Again, nobody credited Allah for Rahman’s extra-ordinary power that night. 
Nobody blamed Lewis for missing his “duties and obligations” as Christian Anglican faithful.
The distinction between religion and superstition is fundamental in the fall of Pacquiao.
Voltaire, in his magnificent prayer, once addressed to God in the article “Theist” where he expounded his faith finally and clearly:  “The theist is a man firmly persuaded of the existence of a supreme being as good as he is powerful, who has formed all things; who punishes, without cruelty, all crimes, and recompenses with goodness all virtuous actions…Reunited in the principle with the rest of the universe, he does not join any of the sects which all contradict one another. His religion is the most ancient and the most widespread; for the simple worship of a God preceded all the systems of the world.”