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What Is Early Word?
The Philadelphia Inquirer's experimental online "morning show", which began in Sept. 2005, went on hiatus in the summer of 2006, after a gradual shift to putting more of its content directly on

About the Host
Peter Mucha, husband and father of two, grew up in Cherry Hill and is a lifelong Philly sports fan. He's been writing and editing for The Inquirer for 18 years. His motto (at least for today): "If I'm not brief, give me grief."

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Friday, June 02, 2006

My Latest Theory on 'Lost': Widmore's War Crimes 

For a long time, my favorite theory about mysterioso ABC series Lost was that the island was Atlantis with wanderlust: Disguised by the very magnetic fields that moved it, it traveled over the centuries from the Mediterranean into the Atlantic and then the Pacific, picking up an 19th-century slave ship, the Black Rock, and polar bears on the way.

Now, after the finale, I've come up with my own Grand Scheme: Everything is about Charles Widmore (who's reputedly in cahoots with the Hanso tricksters) trying to cover up something big, probably war crimes. Here's what we know:

As we found out on the last episode, Widmore's a filth-rich industrialist, who didn't want his daughter marrying Desmond Hume, previous failsafe-button-pusher in the Hatch.
Desmond was jailed for some offense committed in the military.
Inman, Desmond's button-pushing Hanso-employee Hatchmate, lost his Armed Services gig after turning the Iraqi Sayid into a torturer during the gulf war. Inman also told Sayid about a massacre involving sarin gas.
Sayid also worked during the war with Sgt. Sam Austen, Kate's stepfather.
Sayid's vanished friend/lady love, Nadia, had her house inspected by John Locke, another strandee and button pusher.
Desmond met Jack after having a talk with Widmore's daughter.
Desmond was given the sailboat that took him to the island by Libby, who was seen at the asylum where Hurley was treated.
Hurley knew the numbers, which some fans believe correspond to the geographical coordinates of the island's secret location. (They numbers were picked up, remember, from a radio transmission.)

You can check out these characters connections and many more at,, and

See where this could be going? Notice all these military ties. Or ties to Hurley, who knew the numbers / coordinates. Could it all be a plot to isolate / test / interrogate lock up people who might know something dangerous to Widmore? Like what? How about knowledge of a war crime, like that massacre with sarin gas? The new Lost best-seller Bad Twin says of Widmore: "other rumors hinted at classified defense contracting or private security work of questionable ethics." Desmond, Sayid and Inman all end up on the island. So do people who talked with people from those war days (Kate, Jack, Libby and Locke) and people who spent time talking with Jack's father (Sawyer and Analucia). Speaking of Libby, something fishy there. She gave Desmond the boat and knew Hurley? Maybe she was an agent working for Widmore! Maybe Sawyer and Analucia were, too -- hired to find out if Jack's father knew anything, or even kill him, to silence him or lure Jack to Australia. Maybe the construction company Michael worked for was Widmore Construction.

Sure, a lot remains to explain. How could an intentional plane crash be made to seem so accidental? Seems far-fetched that Inman lured Desmond away at just the right moment so the button wouldn't get pushed and the flight would crash.) And how are the other characters involved? Maybe Claire's demon baby is the result of some Widmore/Hanso experiment and Eko had to be abducted, too, because he talked with Claire's know-it-all psychic? Sun also has a fishy pregnancy -- again, more Widmore/Hanso experimenting? Could the gulf war and pregnancy experiments somehow be related?

By the way, the real Henry Gale rode to the island in a balloon with a Widmore logo.

It's a theory. Let's see how it evolves.

Car Buyers Beware of Internet Ads 

It's bad enough to keep getting bogus emails saying my credit info needs updating for eBay, Pay Pal, or some national consumer agency. (Don't click that link! Test it. Put the cursor over it, and see if the same address shows up elsewhere in your browser, often at the bottom. If a different address appears, it's a link to a phony site. Still worried? Then go to eBay's real home page, for instance, and check things out from there. Read more on avoiding such "phishing" scams.)

Anyway, recently we browsed online ads to find a car, and found what seemed like a great deal. Low mileage, low price. Lots of pictures. But things started to sound fishy when the "seller" didn't directly answer questions about where exactly the car was, or when we could go see it. Oh, the seller just got a job in the United Kingdom, and could arrange to bring the car, which was garaged in Philly, to us. More questions from us. More evasions from the seller. Was this a con? Could the car be stolen? So, playing a hunch, I slapped the VIN into Google and did a search. Up popped a link to eBay where the real car, with the very same pictures, had recently sold far from Philly for $5,000 more!!! A little more searching, and gee, found a story of a swindled Minnesota woman who wired $8,300 to the seller who supposedly had just moved to London! Sure enough, next email from our seller wants a four-digit sum to prove we're serious. BEWARE! Just found a new CNN report with more on such scams.

Inquirer consumer columnist Jeff Gelles comments: "There's a common thread between your scam, the one I may write about, and the eBay bridal gown scam I wrote about recently. They all involve scammers who request wire transfers of funds. "

Actually, Jeff, this guy asked for cash ... and suggested it get put into escrow. Yeah, right. Like it would be tough to create a phony web site for a phony escrow service.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Giving Google the National Spelling Bee Test 

Here's a better idea. You know how Google suggests better spellings? Let's misspell actual spelling bee words and see even know-it-all Google gets them right.

attahnt: did you mean atlanta?
ersats: did you mean ersatz? (You go, Google.)
caullicle: your search did not match any documents.
tichopotamic: did you mean tychopotamic? (You go, Google.)
estreep: did you mean street?
parrrrus hilltonn: did you mean Paris Hilton? (suspect this alternative might be the default?)

Don't Get Stung by the Spelling Bee 

No disrespect to the kids, or to the idea of brains being tested instead of brawn. But, seriously, the National Spelling Bee on national TV? What are we watching here? A test of who has wasted the most time memorizing words so obscure that almost nobody outside of dictionary writers and crossword puzzle addicts will see them again in a lifetime. OK, fine, you still say it's kind of cute. But is it also fair? How about this example from an actual round today. One kid gets ersatz, which appears 16.9 million times in Google, but another kid's out after getting hit with attrahent, which appears just 771 times, mostly in dictionaries and proper names. Other Googol-frugal lulus: caulicle, 661 (kid got it wrong), tychopotamic, 477 (right!) and recumbentibus, 738 (you're outta here!). Other kids got words I've actully seen in print: whippoorwill, monoceros, bildungsroman, nasopharyngeal and realpolitik. (Just don't hold me to defining them.) By the way, just for comparison, the word the is found in 23 billion documents, cat in 638 million, "Paris Hilton" in 44 million documents, pictorials, spams, and buried coding of sites desperate for Google hits.

Theory That Explains Local Cowboys Fans? 

Yeah, we've all heard the main theories as to why the area seems to have many Dallas Cowboy fans. (1) As little boys, they liked cowboys and stars. (2) They're front-runners, who switched when the Eagles were bad. (3) They're contrarians, just out to fight Eagles fan obnoxiousness with even greater obnoxiousness.

I have another theory. I call it the "By Rooting for a Hated Rival, I Can Get People to Talk to Me Theory." Works like this. In junior high, none of the guys would take Cliff From the Northeast (or whoever) seriously, because his knowledge of the Eagles was laughable. Then one day, he gets ticked, says the Eagles stink, Cowboys are much better because they actually win Super Bowls, you losers! All of sudden, everybody wants to argue with Cliff, who now seems kind of brave and knowledgeable. Makes the Big Switch, locking down this grudging respect, which beats previous eye-rolling apathy, even despite accompanying abuse.

Boing, Boing, Watch Me Dunk a ... Yoinks! 

Trump Can Taste Those Jackpots! 

Here's a cartoon by Avery Lawrence, a junior at Penn.

Why Not Legalize Sports Gambling? 

Read the story about the boatloads of cash corralled in the apparent bust of a sports-betting ring run by the Mastronardo brothers? One's the late Frank Rizzo's son-in-law, the other a former Eagles draft pick. They were first convicted in 1987, alleged to have a total take of about $50 million a year a few years later, and found with $2.7 million in cash this time.

Earlier this year, authorities announced busting a gambling ring, naming ex-Flyer Rick Tocchet
as a principal
and Wayne Gretzsky's wife, Janet, as an apparent bettor. A week ago, the two said they plan to sue over the leaking of information from the case.

Now, if there's so much demand, and so much money involved, and such easy access to off-shore Internet betting, why not just legalize more sports gambling? One objection: More games will get fixed. Really, isn't illegal betting more likely to be tied to organized crime? (The Mastronardo brothers' lawyer explicitly denies any mob ties or harming of non-payers, by the way.) Besides, one way to sidestep that worry is to require bets to involve multiple games, like playoff pools, or pick so many of this week's NFL games. Restricting the maximum bet, or requiring cash, no credit, are other ways to minimize damage to losers. Why skip this source of tax revenue?

What do you think? Post comments here, or vote in our poll.
Do you think more sports betting should be legalized?
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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Legend of Jesus' Life as a Dad in Japan 

Seeing The DaVinci Code (liked it, even if a suspenser needs an actor intenser than Tom Hanks) reminded me of another legend I'd read about long ago: Jesus spent his missing years traveling Asia, studying with gurus and magicians, and, after surviving the cruxificion, settling down in Japan, where he married, had three daughters, and was buried. Ah, the Internet. Repository of all half-truths. All sorts of sites recount this legend. Apparently, there's a village in Northern Japan that believes Jesus was buried there after living more than 100 years. Word is another tomb holds the ear and some hair from Jesus' brother, the person who actually died on the cross. Copies of documents, odd local words with possibly Hebrew roots, and a tradition of cross imagery in the area are cited as support for the story. This Jesus' descendents don't include a French femme but a garlic farmer. Today, the gravesite is somewhat of a tourist attraction. Sure sounds like fodder for a novel or a screenplay ... or the next job for that shoveling FBI squad that failed to dig up any trace of Jimmy Hoffa. And if that doesn't pan out, well, they can try the other place Jesus is rumored to be buried: in India.

More Double-Takers From the Web 

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

These Are Supposedly True 

But This One Is Pure Fabrication 

Fans Picking Up on a Pick-Up Line? 

Story goes that guy's in a bar, chatting up a bodacious babe in leather pants, when ESPN's Chris Berman strides by, says "You're with me, leather," and off she goes. Story gets put on a sassy sports blog, headlined "He ... could ... go ... all .. the ... way," inspiring all sorts of funny comments, such as "Thanks. You now owe me breakfast and a new keyboard," and "Using that on the wife when she gets home." Next thing, sports wordist Tony Kornheiser uses the term on the radio, Keith Olbermann on TV ("Then again, who am I to get into a semantics argument with a guy carrying an iron war hammer and a tunic made out of animals he killed with his own teeth? You're with me, leather.") and the phrase is on T-shirts, gets in wikipedia, and starts appearing on signs at sporting events, like the Indy 500, as Glen Macnow mentioned last night on WIP. A nexus of weirdness and fantasy has somehow enveloped this phrase, but the weirdness doesn't matter as long as the fantasy lingers. And as long as it engenders more stories about Boomer's abilities and comments like "Berman scoring makes baby Jesus cry." There's even one with a local angle:
Because of this info, I have spent the afternoon hiding under my desk, curled into the fetal position. Because if being on ESPN, having catchphrases, and being loud is all it takes to score mad chicks, well ... Imagine the women even Stephen A. Smith gets.
Hey, seeing "You're with me, leather" on signs beats seeing biblical numbers or guys waving with cellphones or fans flocking to the stands for dollar dogs.

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