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Live from Macau

ESPN's Bernardo Osuna and I doing our thing for the cameras at the aforementioned Pacquiao-Rios bout in Macau. Yes, Bernardo is wearing a suit, and I am wearing an unbuttoned jacket and jeans. This is because Bernardo is a TV professional. And I ... am not.

As for the Macau experience itself: with the benefit of having shed the jetlag, it was a positive one. Neither I nor many (if any) of the US-based colleagues who made the trip ever fully shook off the effects of travel during the week or so we were there; and, as noted in the post below, inside the property itself, the ambiance was Las Vegas on steroids - albeit with a somewhat different clientele. But the crowd was appreciative, the fight day atmosphere was festive, and unusually for such events I had the opportunity to explore the area a little. This may be but the first big-time venture in the region, as I explained in this piece I wrote for ESPN.comRead More 
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A New Frontier

I've been covering fights for 10 years now, which is hard enough for me to wrap my head around. All but one of the fights I've covered in that time have been in the United States (the exception being a light-heavyweight title fight in Montreal in 2011). That latter factoid will need updating a week from now; tomorrow, I head to Macau to cover a bout between Manny Pacquiao and Brandon Rios. Truth be told, I'm not entirely sure quite what to expect, other than a lot of jetlag. Judging from the photos of the host venue - the Venetian Macao - it might not be too much of a culture shock. Read More 
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The Golden Oil

In the bottle, fresh olive oil - by which i mean truly fresh, straight-from-the-organic-mill olive oil, looks if anything a little like fetid swamp water: green and uninspiring. Pour it onto a plate of bread and it is immediately transformed, a bright shining gold.

I have just spent a few days in Paciano, Italy, where just about every family has its own olive trees and makes its own oil. I'll be returning next month for a longer spell, to research an article for The Washington Post Magazine.  Read More 
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Wyatt Earp, Boxing Referee

Yesterday was the 132nd anniversary of the Gunfight at the OK Corral, which I used as an excuse to write a piece I have been wanting to write for a while. Having already written about my particular and peculiar enthusiasm for Tombstone and the Old West for the Washington Post Magazine, and done my best to explain the events that led up to the gunfight for Discovery Channel News, my latest was for, of all outlets, ESPN. The story is the little-known tale of how Wyatt Earp was persuaded to referee a heavyweight title fight and how, in the fight's aftermath, he became so hated for the actions he took in the ring, that he was hounded out of town. Enjoy. Read More 
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Klein on Obamacare

From the Ezra Klein 'Wonkbook' morning email:
The classic definition of chutzpah is the child who kills his parents and then asks for leniency because he's an orphan. But in recent weeks, we've begun to see the Washington definition: A party that does everything possible to sabotage a law and then professes fury when the law's launch is rocky.

On Tuesday, Rep. Paul Ryan became the latest Republicans to call for HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to step down because of the Affordable Care Act's troubled launch. "I do believe people should be held accountable," he said.

Okay then.

How about House Republicans who refused to appropriate the money the Department of Health and Human Services said it needed to properly implement Obamacare?

How about Senate Republicans who tried to intimidate Sebelius out of using existing HHS funds to implement Obamacare? "Would you describe the authority under which you believe you have the ability to conduct such transfers?" Sen. Orrin Hatch demanded at one hearing. It's difficult to imagine the size of the disaster if Sebelius hadn't moved those funds.

How about congressional Republicans who refuse to permit the packages of technical fixes and tweaks that laws of this size routinely require?

How about Republican governors who told the Obama administration they absolutely had to be left to build their own health-care exchanges -- you'll remember that the House Democrats' health-care plan included a single, national exchange -- and then refused to build, leaving the construction of 34 insurance marketplaces up to HHS?

How about the coordinated Republican effort to get the law declared unconstitutional -- an effort that ultimately failed, but that stalled implementation as government and industry waited for the uncertainty to resolve?

How about the dozens of Republican governors who refused to take federal dollars to expand Medicaid, leaving about 5.5 million low-income people who'd be eligible for free, federally-funded government insurance to slip through the cracks?

The GOP's strategy hasn't just tried to win elections and repeal Obamacare. They've actively sought to sabotage the implementation of the law. They intimidated the people who were implementing the law. They made clear that problems would be exploited rather than fixed. A few weeks ago, they literally shut down the government because they refused to pass a funding bill that contiained money for Obamacare.

The Obama administration deserves all the criticism it's getting for the poor start of health law and more. Their job was to implement the law effectively -- even if Republicans were standing in their way. So far, it's clear that they weren't able to smoothly surmount both the complexities of the law and the political roadblocks thrown in their path. Who President Obama will ultimately hold accountable -- if anyone -- for the failed launch is an interesting question.

But the GOP's complaints that their plan to undermine the law worked too well and someone has to pay border on the comic. If Republicans believe Sebelius is truly to blame for the law's poor launch, they should be pinning a medal on her.


Yup. Read More 
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Fire

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Prednisone

The itching began about, oh, 10 days ago. Maybe more. It wasn't initially a total surprise: I have had for many years a form of physical urticaria, which manifests itself in the whispered threat of spreading hives, which I keep at bay with a dose of Zyrtec.

But this, it soon became clear, was something else. My skin was angrier, redder, and blotchier. the Zyrtec was making not even a hint of a dent in its progress. I tried antihistamine spray and hydrocortisone lotion. Nothing.

The cause, I suspected, was the mosquito bites. I do not do well with mosquito bites. I swell up and itch and suffer and moan; this season, for a variety of reasons, has been an especially acute one for mosquitoes, and on a couple of occasions I was bitten in perhaps a dozen spots within moments of setting foot outside.

That, I suspected, had turned my histamine response up to 11, and now I couldn't turn it off. The dermatologist was dubious about my bite hypothesis, but said that whatever the cause, my body was in full-on hyper-sensitive allergic attack mode. The only thing to do was nuke the immune system and settle everything down.

So I've been taking prednisone. And it's been doing its job. My skin has cleared up; all that remain are some dry, reddened patches of skin, the corpses littering the immediate aftermath of a battlefield. But there are side effects. Instead of itchy, I am twitchy. I can not focus or concentrate. It took me days to write a 400 word column. Little tasks can get done just like that; anything that requires any form of lengthy resolve may need to wait awhile. There is, of course, much to be done.

On the plus side, I no longer look as if I have the plague. Read More 
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London

Not until earlier this year did I find myself fully appreciating London. Before, it had always been ... there - a place I visited or passed through. A few days on and around the South Bank changed all that, and made this film seem all the more evocative. It is, of course, a testimony to the power of color: the exact same footage in black and white would be a curiosity, but the fact that it is in color provides it with an authenticity, an immediacy, and makes it easier for the viewer to identify with the scenes and the people - all of whom, presumably, have now left us.
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Because, Again

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Look Closer

From an HBO Boxing photo shoot in Hollywood, California: Mike 'Mile High' Alvarado works the heavy bag.
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