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Dan Leone Fired

Dan Leone FiredEagles worker fired over Facebook rant

This is why you kids have to be careful what you post on Facebook.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Dan Leone, a 32-year old lifelong Eagles fan who worked as the west gate chief at the Linc on game days for the past six years, was fired because of a rant he posted on his Facebook page after the Eagles allowed Brian Dawkins to become a free agent (he later signed with the Broncos).

Within a week, he was fired. Let me also mention that Leone suffered from a neurological disorder called transverse myelitis that caused muscle fatigue and limited range of motion in his limbs, which forced him to work from a wheelchair when the pain of standing became too unbearable.

Said Leone: "I tried putting in my case to Rachel [Vitagliano, the team's guest services manager]. I told her I worked there for six years. I did whatever they asked. I only missed one Eagles game the entire time I worked there, and that was because I'm a Mummer. I told her it was my dream to work for the Eagles and that I'd never do anything like that again."

He continued: "I apologized for it. I apologized 20 million times. I never bad-mouthed the organization before. I made one mistake and they terminate me? And they couldn't even bring me into the office to talk to me? They had to do it over the phone? At least look me in the eye. To get done dirty like this, I can't believe it. I'm devastated."

The Eagles had a brief response through a representative: "The only information we can share is that Dan was a seasonal game-day employee and not a full-time member of the Eagles staff."

Personally, I'm really surprised by this harsh ruling. Wouldn't you think the Eagles would want an employee who deals with hardcore fans on a weekly basis to show the same fervor about the team as they do? I guess towing the company line is more important.

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Xanadu Mall

Xanadu MallThe Last Shopping Mall? New Jersey Awaits Xanadu.

It rises out of the tidal murk of the Meadowlands — the polluted northern–New Jersey wetlands on which the sports complex of the same name was built some 33 years ago — like a garish species from a monster movie. What is that swamp thing? It's a mishmash of big-box structures covered in aqua, blue and white tiles, with a little mustard yellow and brown thrown in to finish off the 1970s-nightmare look. Part of the complex, still under construction, is shaped like a ski jump, because what says industrial metropolitan America quite like a Nordic sport?

"Looks like bathroom tile from the 1970s," one astute commenter wrote on, a website that covers New Jersey news. "I expect to see David Cassidy every time I drive by that thing because it looks like the Partridge Family bus!" wrote another. Are the construction workers wearing bell-bottoms? The commenter continued, "My ex-husband flew in from Florida and said, 'That mall can be seen from space.' "

Yes, that thing is a mall called Xanadu, located in East Rutherford. The name is a nod to the heavenly summer home immortalized by English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge: "In Xanadu did Kubla Khan/ A stately pleasure-dome decree." It's also the name of a ridiculous 1980 Olivia Newton-John movie involving roller-skating muses and disco. Slated to open in August, Xanadu, a wannabe shopping paradise, will be a 2.4 million-sq.-ft. retail and entertainment complex located 3½ miles from the Empire State Building, across the Hudson River at the intersection of the New Jersey Turnpike and two heavily trafficked state roads through which 88 million vehicles pass each year.

Across the state, the project has taken a rightful beating for its exterior. The Meadowlands location isn't scenic — it's surrounded by weedy wetlands, decrepit factories, shipping containers and railroads — and Xanadu's developers spent $2 billion on what seems like the most hideous spot on the lot. "It's basically a lot of junk," says former New Jersey Governor Brendan Byrne, for whom the basketball area at the Meadowlands was once named (it's now the Izod Center). "I drive by with friends and we're embarrassed."

You've got to give the developers some credit for their tenaciousness. But this massive project, the most expensive shopping mall ever built in the U.S., has a more serious problem than its tacky exterior: the doors will open smack in the middle of the worst recession since the Great Depression. Malls are suffering a slow, painful death. The International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) has predicted that 73,000 stores will close their doors during the first half of 2009. Retail expert Burt Flickinger III, managing director of Strategic Resources Group, projects that 2,000 to 3,000 shopping malls and centers nationwide could go under this year. If Xanadu — which allegedly has leased 73% of its space thus far — does open in 2009, it would be the only enclosed mall to debut this year, according to the ICSC. Xanadu is the lone ranger, running straight into every possible horrible economic headwind. "It's the poster child for bad timing," says Howard Davidowitz, chairman of Davidowitz & Associates, a national retail-investment-banking and consulting firm.

What's worse, according to Xanadu's detractors, is that the mall will offer discretionary amenities at a time when consumers are in survival mode. For example, that ski jump structure will actually house a 165,000 sq. ft. indoor skiing and snowboarding facility. The mall will also include restaurants like the Cheesecake Factory, whose 2008 profits dropped nearly 30% amid the casual-dining meltdown; an 18-screen movie theater; fashion retailers such as H&M, Guess and Zara; and Cabela's, an upmarket fishing, hunting, outdoor apparel and equipment outlet. Adrenalia, an extreme-sports store, is slated to have an indoor wave pool, and the mall includes a skydiving simulator. Xanadu will also offer rides on a 286-ft. Ferris wheel that is sponsored by Pepsi. The wheel will provide stunning views of the Manhattan skyline — as well as the north Jersey highways, toll booths, weeds, containers, smokestacks and steel bridges you see in the opening credits of The Sopranos.

"Xanadu is the epic discretionary story," says Davidowitz. "It's the epicenter of 'not needed.' How can you have this when the consumer is completely decimated? It's already one of the world's biggest nightmares."

Naturally, executives for Xanadu, which has been beset by prior delays and cost overruns, offer a different spin. "It's not like people aren't looking to recreate," says Larry Siegel, president of Xanadu. "They are. But people may not be able to rent that house on the beach or pay a few hundred bucks for a three-day pass at Disney. But they can come here and spend $100. If people spend the time here, they're going to spend the money."

Although Xanadu doesn't have a pretty face, it's what's inside that counts for a mall. And if Xanadu can corral enough retailers to sign on for a grand opening, it has the potential to at least survive the downturn. If all goes according to plan, the mall could spice up the shopping experience, which would be a welcome change in this depressed retail environment. For example, a huge video screen in the sports area will broadcast games, which could draw shopping-averse men to the mall. The Children's Science Center, Legoland Discovery Center and Wannado City — where kids can hold "jobs" as firefighters, cops and other professionals — may give families incentive to leave the house, head for the mall and maybe buy a shirt or two while they're there.

Another advantage: the huge, diverse New York City metro area hasn't been hit quite as hard by the recession as the rest of the country has. Housing prices are dipping, but not collapsing like in other places. New York malls have held up relatively well. Xanadu's location, amid the confluence of some of the country's most congested road arteries, should also help. Surely a few curious drivers will want to check out the mega-mall. Plus, the state has built a rail line to the site; it's now just a 23-min. ride to Xanadu from Manhattan. Traditionally, city residents without cars cringe at the thought of crossing the Hudson to the Meadowlands, since public transportation to the site has been so abysmal.

Xanadu's president insists the mall is the real deal. "For people driving by who don't like how the front of it looks, please, give yourself a chance to understand the whole package," Siegel says. That would be a reasonable request from any mall developer. Unfortunately, it was reasonable back in 2006. Forget about paradise, Xanadu. Just try to stay out of hell.

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Oxana Malaya

Oxana MalayaMalaya was born to alcoholic parents. At age 3, Malaya’s parents were not tending to her in a community where wild dogs roamed the boulevards.

One day Oxana went missing, her parents unaware nor caring about her disappearance. Oxana stayed in a shed behind her house were dogs lived. Soon Oxana ate with the dogs, lived with them. In time, the dogs raised Malaya. In the next five years, she lived with the dogs as a family. Malaya picked up their traits, barking, growling, with stronger smell and hearing attributes. At age 8 Oxana Malaya was discovered.

A documentary for British Channel 4 documentary is covering her story and her reunion with her father.

There are a reported 100 cases like Malaya’s in the world today.

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I Married The Eiffel Tower

I Married The Eiffel TowerMeet the woman whose emotional needs are met by a 1,000ft iron monument – and the other unlikely lovers giving new meaning to the term 'solid relationship'

Imagine a world in which people seem hostile while inanimate objects appear friendly – even affectionate. Imagine dreading the touch of another human but longing for a passionate encounter with a large public structure. This is the strange world of the "objectum sexual"– a group of people, mainly women, whose intimate lives revolve around objects with which they say they share romantic and sexual love.

As a documentary film-maker passionate about exploring psychological aspects of human nature, I have made films about bigamists, domestic violence and co-dependent anorexic twins. Modern society is a never-ending source of these stories. It is still exceptional for a father to lock up his daughter for 24 years in a cellar, but scratch the surface and it seems that good personal relationships are rare. To fill their emotional needs, people are increasingly turning to a variety of substitutes: from internet virtual reality and food to... well, objects.

On first meeting, Erika La Tour Eiffel appears extraordinarily ordinary. An ex-US Army soldier, the 36-year-old lives in San Francisco. She is also a former world champion in archery – propelled to success, she believes, by her love for Lance, a bow. She now claims to be married to the Eiffel Tower, following a ceremony with friends last year in Paris, at which she promised eternal love to the iron monument and changed her name legally to reflect the bond. "There is a huge problem with being in love with a public object," she says sadly. "The issue of intimacy – or rather lack of it – is forever present."

Eija-Riitta Berliner-Mauer, a Swedish woman who has taken the German name of the Berlin Wall as her surname, coined the phrase "objectum sexual" (OS) 30 years ago and documents her love for, and "marriage" to, the wall at www.berliner Berliner-Mauer, however, disagrees that OS is a recent phenomenon, saying that "while unusual in Western society, in Eastern cultures people routinely believe objects have souls. It is perfectly normal." Though the OS members' group run through her website has just 40-odd members globally.

Emma (not her real name), 43, the only British member of the community, suffers from Asperger syndrome – a condition which seems to be shared by around half of OS people. Asperger sufferers often have difficulties forming relationships with other people, and Emma's fixations are radios and hi­fis. When I met her, she was in love with a hi-fi system which she called Jake. Jake, she says, is "solid, reliable and beautiful". She repairs "him" whenhe goes wrong, and "makes love" to him on average twice a day. "This is the way I communicate with him."

Aside from her electricals, Emma leads a solitary existence. "I would like to meet more people and to have friends," she says, "but I just think it is too difficult now. I am scared they will reject me."

Jerry Brooker, from New York State, one of the psychotherapists I talked to during my research for the documentary, explains: "It is not that an Asperger person does not long for human relationships; they do, desperately. But someone who falls in love with objects can control that relationship on their own terms. Their objects will not let them down. That is extremely attractive for a person who is otherwise often desperately lonely."

Amy Wolfe is a confident 32-year-old American who also lives in New York State. She too has been diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, and has been in relationships with models of spaceships, the Twin Towers, a church organ and a banister, though her main lover – since OS people believe in polygamy – is a fairground ride called 1001 Nacht, located at Knoebels, an amusement park in New York State.

When we filmed her at Knoebels visiting 1001 Nacht, we witnessed Wolfe kissing, caressing and talking to the austere, crane-like machine, and I began to feel both uncomfortable and a little frightened. Wolfe truly believes the machine talks back to her. As I watched, I wondered not for the first time whether I was crossing the line from a documentary film-maker to a voyeur. Should I have left her alone? "No, no – show our love for the objects," Wolfe insisted. "Give us our voice. People must understand we are not fetishists." And so I stayed.

Why people really fall in love with objects is a controversial issue. The OS members believe it to be metaphysical but most of the women I interviewed had serious difficulties in early childhood, from severe sexual abuse to abandonment and rejection.

David Morgan, a senior psychoanalyst at the Portman NHS Trust for sexual dysfunctions, believes the condition usually stems from having been treated in early childhood like "an inanimate, unfeeling object, so the person forms a psychic retreat by taking refuge in a world where objects are idealised. In other words, when your parents or carers let you down badly, you might turn to more reliable bonds: objects, food, virtual reality..."

La Tour Eiffel has been diagnosed with a chronic post-traumatic stress disorder due to abandonment and sexual abuse she suffered while growing up. But she is also a talented, charming person – and a survivor. "My objects have helped me through," she says. She has not been in therapy since her teenage years – a great shame, says Morgan. "At 36 she is too young to give up on human love and I am sure her wounds might still heal."

But, for better or worse, La Tour Eiffel does not want to experiment with any changes. "I do not wish to be fixed," she says. "If it is true that all that has happened to me in my childhood made me the person I am today, I am fine with it. I do not want to change."

The Woman Who Married the Eiffel Tower airs on Five at 10pm on 4 June

Breaking down walls

'It's unconventional but we don't care'

Eija-Riitta Berliner-Mauer, the pioneer of "objectum sexuality", who is "married" to the Berlin Wall, also describes herself as an animist.

"Animism is the belief that inanimate objects are sentient beings," she says, "that they have intelligence, feelings, and are able to communicate. Animism is the foundation of objectum sexuality. If one can see objects as living things, [one] is also pretty close to being able to fall in love with them.

On the subject of her "husband", she says: "We have been together now for many years, spiritually if not physically. Like every married couple, we have our ups and downs. We even made it through the terrible disaster of 9 November 1989, when my husband was subjected to frenzied attacks by a mob. But we are still as much in love as the day we met. It may not be a conventional marriage, but neither of us cares much for conventions. Ours is a story of two beings in love, our souls entwined for all eternity."

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USNS Impeccable

USNS ImpeccableChinese Vessels Harass U.S. Navy Ship, Pentagon Says.

Five Chinese vessels in a possibly coordinated effort yesterday “shadowed and aggressively maneuvered in dangerously close proximity” to a U.S. Navy ocean surveillance ship as it conducted routine operations in international waters, the Pentagon said today.

Two of the vessels closed to within 50 feet (15 meters) of the USNS Impeccable, waving Chinese flags and telling the U.S. ship to leave the area, according to a Defense Department statement. The Impeccable sprayed its fire hoses at one of the boats in order to protect itself.

The incident took place eight days after the U.S. and China agreed to resume military exchanges after China in October froze some contact to protest arms sales to Taiwan.

The U.S. Embassy lodged a protest during the weekend with Chinese officials over the incident, State Department spokesman Robert Wood said today.

“We felt that our vessel was inappropriately harassed,” Wood told reporters in Washington.

Yesterday’s encounter took place in international waters in the South China Sea, about 75 miles south of Hainan Island, and included a Chinese Navy intelligence ship, the Pentagon said. The incident was preceded by days of increasingly aggressive conduct by Chinese vessels, the Defense Department said.

Vessel Challenged

On March 7, what the Pentagon described as a Chinese intelligence collection ship challenged Impeccable via bridge-to- bridge radio broadcast, calling the U.S. vessel’s operations illegal and directing it to leave the area or “suffer the consequences,” the Pentagon said.

Two days earlier, a Chinese frigate crossed Impeccable’s bow at a range of about 100 yards, according to the Pentagon’s account. Less than two hours later a Chinese Y-12 surveillance aircraft made 11 fly-bys of Impeccable, and the frigate crossed Impeccable’s bow again at a range of 400 to 500 yards.

On March 4 a Chinese Bureau of Fisheries Patrol vessel used a high-intensity spotlight to illuminate the entire length of the ocean surveillance ship USNS Victorious several times, the U.S. said. The vessel then crossed Victorious’s bow in darkness, without notice. A Chinese Y-12 made 12 passes near Victorious the next day.

Impeccable and Victorious are part of the Military Sealift Command. Impeccable carries a crew of 25 civilian mariners and 25 military personnel, and Victorious has about 18 crewmembers, according to Navy Web pages on the vessels.

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