Lonely Udinese football fan wins hearts in Italy

A football fan has stolen media attention in Italy after being the only supporter to show up to watch his club play an away game in the top league.

Udinese fan Arrigo Brovedani was the club’s sole supporter in Genoa for a Serie A match against local team Sampdoria…

It was a cold Monday night and Udinese never attracts more than 50 or 60 away fans. “But I went there thinking I’d find five or six other people,” the Udinese fan said. “I went into the stadium while they [Udinese] were warming up. I shouted and said ‘hi’ to the team.

“When I went in the local fans booed me, I felt a bit offended. But in the end they clapped and invited me for coffee and a meal, and the club managers gave me a shirt. They wished me a merry Christmas.”

Genoa is about four hours’ drive from Friuli, where Udinese are based. But Mr Brovedani was in Genoa on business.

“I like the stadium there, it’s very similar to English stadiums,” he said. “I always take my flag and scarf around – they’re always in the car with me.”

Udinese won the match 2-0. The team dedicated their victory to their only fan.

Bravo, Arrigo!

American evangelicals question Republican ownership

After an election where conservative social causes failed to convince voters, evangelical Christians are pondering their relationship with the Republican party.

Christian conservatives used to be referred to as the “base of the base” of the Republican Party – voters whose strong religious ideologies meant the party could count on them to support “family values” candidates and initiatives…

After the 2012 election, evangelical leaders are contemplating what it means that conservative Republicans lost so badly, and that social issues championed by the religious right also suffered defeat. They are also questioning whether they still have a place in the world of politics.

There was a time when leading evangelicals had a very powerful position inside the Washington DC inner circle. The rise of the religious right in the late 1970s and early 1980s heralded an era in American politics in which social conservatives very much shaped the Republican agenda…

In return for an outpouring of support, politicians pushed agendas dear to the evangelicals, such as opposing gay rights and abortion and promoting the teaching of “intelligent design” in schools along with evolution…

At Barack Obama’s first term comes to an end, there has been a sizeable demographic shift in the US when it comes to voters and faith.

According to a recent survey, an increasing number of Americans are giving up on religion. The Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life found that one-third of Americans under 30 have no religious affiliation, and, with few exceptions, are not seeking religion.

Dr Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Theological Seminary, says this “acceleration of secularisation” is what made social conservatives, and their agenda, lose so badly in November.

He acknowledged the religious right is losing its political power…

Evangelicals may well have to learn how to live into a minority position against the larger society moving in a different direction.”

That, my friends, is what is called wishful thinking. The point of evangelism, of fundamentalist religion – as ideology, for that is what it is – is remaining true to beliefs that ran out of reality centuries ago. That fact hasn’t mattered to proselytizers in the past. There isn’t any inherent reason to expect that commitment to reverse itself.

No, religious fanatics are perfectly willing to retreat into an ever-diminishing circle of influence. Choosing isolation is perfectly satisfactory to a True Believer. The only worry for the rest of the nation is the possibility of a truly nutball fringe deciding they need to become a Christian al-Qaeda.

Poll of South Carolina voters favors Stephen Colbert to replace outgoing DeMint

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Seriously?

Twenty percent of voters want Colbert to go to the U.S. Senate, driven by support from Democrats and Independents. The Comedy Central host launched a mock campaign for the seat on Thursday, encouraging his fans to bombard Gov. Nikki Haley with tweets calling for his appointment.

Colbert was followed at 15 percent by Rep. Tim Scott, who is getting the most buzz as a potential replacement for DeMint. That chatter increased on Monday when Haley announced she would not appoint a “placeholder” to only serve out the rest of DeMint’s term.

If appointed, Scott would be the only black senator currently in office.

Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy was close behind Scott with 14 percent.

Jenny Sanford, the ex-wife of former Gov. Mark Sanford, came in at 11 percent. Sanford left her husband after he admitted to a longtime affair with an Argentine beauty he called his “soul mate.”

The PPP poll also found that Nikki Haley is among the most unpopular governors in the country. Only 42 percent of voters approve of the job she’s doing compared with 49 percent who disapprove.

She’ll no doubt prove that point by picking someone [a] who will be an obedient party hack; but, [b] not so popular he’d stand in the way of Haley running for the office herself in a couple of years.

Final sale of AIG shares brings taxpayer profit to $22.7 Billion

American International Group (AIG)’s rescue has come to an end with the U.S. raising $7.6 billion in its final offering of the insurer’s shares, four years after a bailout that fueled resentment against Wall Street…

The Treasury Department is selling 234.2 million shares at $32.50 each in the sixth offering since the 2008 rescue. The proceeds boost the U.S. profit on the rescue that began in 2008 to $22.7 billion, according to a statement…from the Treasury…

The U.S. took over the New York-based company in a 2008 bailout that swelled to $182.3 billion to save the global economy from collapse. AIG has sold more than $65 billion of assets to help repay the rescue, while Chief Executive Officer Robert Benmosche scaled back from the derivative bets that almost destroyed the firm. He’s focusing on property-casualty coverage globally and life and retirement products in the U.S.

Treasury can claim victory, AIG can be free of TARP, and AIG will begin to trade on its merits,” said Josh Stirling, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co…

The U.S. owned as much as 92 percent of AIG after saving a firm that insured 100,000 municipalities, retirement plans and companies and was counterparty to some of the biggest banks. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke has said saving AIG after it was hobbled by mortgage-related bets made him “more angry” than any other measure the government undertook to counter the deepest financial crisis since the Great Depression.

“There weren’t a lot of options, let’s face it,” Robert Willumstad, CEO of New York-based AIG when the firm was rescued, said in an interview last month. “It was controversial, it was a big risk, but one would argue today that the government got its money back and a healthy profit.”

I couldn’t agree more. Though I’ve been of two minds throughout the whole TARP program – the challenging part being the deal saving the collective butt of banks that made foolish bets based on fraudulent information – my confidence in Bernanke and Geithner getting taxpayer money back was never challenged by the realities of the financial marketplace. In truth, a steady profit was realized from each of the investments in major banks and financial houses.

Not much further to go to retire the remainders of the program. Establishing wind-down procedures for some of the smaller banks still dependent on local and regional markets – which haven’t matched the gradual recovery of our national economy. This, too, shall pass.

Immortal Hydra polyp illuminates human aging

The tiny freshwater polyp Hydra is a remarkable creature. It does not show any signs of aging and appears to be immortal. Researchers from Kiel University have examined this phenomenon and uncovered an important link to the aging process in humans that could lead to the development of advanced rejuvenation therapies.

How does the polyp Hydra do this? It accomplishes the feat of apparent immorality by reproducing through budding rather than mating. Each polyp contains stem cells capable of continuous proliferation. Without this endless supply of regenerating stem cells, the animals could not reproduce.

Geneticists at Kiel University, together with the University Medical Center Schleswig-Holstein, discovered that the same longevity gene that makes the hydra immortal may also explain why humans get older, and more infirm.

“Surprisingly, our search for the gene that causes Hydra to be immortal led us to the so-called FoxO gene,” says Anna-Marei Böhm, PhD student and first author of the study.

All animals and humans have a FoxO gene. Until now, no one has been able to work out if FoxO plays a role in aging and why human stem cells become fewer and inactive with increasing age. The growing inactivity of stem cells as we age is critical. Because our stem cells lose the ability to proliferate and form new cells, aging tissue cannot regenerate any more. As a result, our muscles decline…

The study has produced two conclusions. First, the FoxO gene plays a key role in the maintenance of stem cells and thus determines the life span of all animals. Secondly, the aging and longevity of organisms depends on two factors: the maintenance of stem cells and the maintenance of a functioning immune system.

The hypothesis can’t be verified yet on human beings as that would require genetic manipulation. Nonetheless, the research is a big step forward and more studies on the Hydra and the FoxO gene are planned which could lay the foundations for the development of advanced rejuvenation therapy for humans in the future.

Yup. And someday, when research is sufficiently advanced to make the step to human trials, scientists will probably have to go to Singapore or elsewhere in Asia – even if volunteers are involved. Once the question is asked, it will only take American ethicists, politicians, pundits and preachers a decade or so to complete their response. Not because of complexity – but ideology.