Tagged: Brandon Lewis

Cost of Kosher Meals for Prisoners is Anything but Kosher

By Brandon Lewis, Staff Writer
@Brandon_S_Lewis

/PHOTO VIA Flickr user Henk Kosters

Is the cost of a kosher meal too high for the Florida prison system?/PHOTO VIA Flickr user Henk Kosters

Gone are the days of unrecognizable mashed potatoes and beans in prison cafeterias. Kosher offerings are being added to the menus of prisons across the country. According to a New York Times article, Florida is the latest state to fall under the kosher spell.

In 2007, Florida penitentiaries stopped serving kosher food because of its high cost. Now, under a court order, the sunshine state will offer kosher food to eligible inmates sometime before July, becoming the 35th state to do so.

I think it’s great that kosher food is making a comeback, but the state is running into the same problem as before: paying for these meals. On average, kosher meals cost $7 per day, as opposed to standard meals which cost $1.54.

In Florida, over 4,400 inmates have requested kosher meals. If you multiply the number of requests by $7 a day, that leaves Florida having to take out a larger chunk from their budget. And it’s estimated that more prisoners will request kosher options once the meals make their way back into the system, which already faces a $58 million deficit at the moment.

So it may not be too wise for the state to go through with the kosher program.

Kosher food isn’t necessarily healthier, but it does garner some health benefits such as the reduction of cholesterol. Kosher guidelines prevent people from simultaneously eating meat and dairy, which eliminates foods like pepperoni pizza and cheeseburgers (i.e. the foods we all love but shouldn’t be indulging in). Another benefit is that kosher meat and poultry are hormone free, so you don’t have to worry about becoming susceptible to the effects of hormone-induced meat.

If I were an inmate, I would certainly appreciate Florida’s efforts to provide a religious diet considering the size of the Jewish population. But if I were looking at it from a state government point of view, I would have to consider the fact that the kosher program could potentially cost $54.1 million a year. That’s definitely not chump change.

Regardless, kosher food is making a return to Florida prisons, and I hope it won’t have the same fate as it did in 2007.

America’s Most Shoplifted Items

By Brandon Lewis, Staff Writer
@Brandon_S_Lewis

Shoppers beware this holiday season./PHOTO VIA Flickr user freefotouk

I would like to dedicate this post to all the retail stores out there bracing for the holiday season madness. It is the best time of year for the retail industry because shoppers will be bustling in and out of stores, all hours of the day.

However, since there are more consumers in the stores, retailers should implement loss prevention strategies in order to prevent theft. The National Retail Federation just released its ninth annual Organized Retail Crime Survey, revealing the country’s most shoplifted items.

1. Cell phones

iPhones and Android devices are arguably the most desired holiday gifts. On its release weekend in September, the iPhone 5S and 5C sold over 9 million units, which broke Apple’s sales record for iPhones.  Its competitor, the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 is also doing well. Samsung sold over 5 million units in its release month.

2. Laptops

The lives of college students revolve around one item: their laptops. You can’t really survive college without one. The big debate is whether one wants a PC or a Mac. I prefer the lighter, more stylish MacBook Pro.

3. Weight-loss pills

I’m pretty sure you could end a friendship if you give someone weight-loss pills as a gift. Most of these pills are simply caffeine and diuretics, which results in electrolyte imbalance. Try the old-fashioned way of losing weight before resorting to pills.

4. Handbags

Handbags are a hot item. These accessories are usually expensive but this is the season of sales! So, at some point this holiday season, head over to Barneys or Bergdorf Goodman in the coming weeks to catch handbags at a reduced price.

5. Designer clothing

Designer clothes are also expensive gifts and vulnerable to theft. Therefore I advise anyone to just stay away from designer merchandise if you can not afford it. You don’t want to get attached to a $500 cardigan and then become depressed after looking at the price.

6. LCD televisions

LCD (liquid-crystal display) televisions are the most widely produced television type because it makes everything appear high quality. Like most technology during the holiday season, these items should be on sale. Make a trip to Best Buy or PC Richards.

7. Lotions and creams

Lotion is essential for surviving winter. Nobody wants to leave his or her house with dry skin. It doesn’t really make sense to steal lotion because it’s not expensive at all. But I guess since it’s a necessity (in my opinion), it’s going to be susceptible to theft.

Check out the WBAL-TV article for more info on common shoplifted items.

Batkid Saves San Francisco

By Brandon Lewis, Staff Writer
@Brandon_S_Lewis

Batkid

Batkid and Batman save the day/ PHOTO VIA Flikr user Eric Wagner

With Thanksgiving coming up next week, the holiday season is already in full gear. Kids all over the world are prepping their gift lists, attempting to be on their best behavior and asking their parents, “Is it Christmas yet?”

Last week, the Make-A-Wish Foundation put many of us into the holiday spirit by making a young cancer patient’s dream of becoming Batman come true.

Miles Scott, a 5-year-old from Northern California, was diagnosed with leukemia at just 18 months old and, after undergoing years of chemotherapy, is now in remission. The non-profit organization, along with the people of San Francisco, rallied together to transform the city into Marvel’s Gotham City and allowed the little man to roam the streets as Batkid.

Police Chief Greg Suhr called on Batkid do what Batman does best: fight crime. Batkid foiled the Riddler’s plans to rob a bank, rescued a damsel in distress from being struck by a cable car, and saved the San Francisco Giants’ mascot from being captured by the Penguin. But he wasn’t fighting crime alone: a Batman impersonator accompanied him on his crime fighting spree.

The day ended with the young cancer survivor receiving a key to the city from the San Francisco mayor, Edwin M. Lee, and a $10,000 check donated by an anonymous clothing company. Miles even got a shout-out from President Obama. And The San Francisco Chronicle circulated a special “Gotham City Gazette” edition in honor of Batkid’s heroics.

What an amazing day it was for both Miles and the city! The tireless work of the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the support of the city of San Francisco both prove that something good can come out of something bad and together we can make the seemingly impossible possible.

Facebook versus Twitter Showdown: Celebrities

By Brandon Lewis, Staff Writer
@Brandon_S_Lewis

What if, one day…/PHOTO VIA Flickr user imjustcreative

Twitter’s been on a roll as of late. Last week, “the SMS of the Internet” went public and witnessed its shares rise 73 percent above the offering price on its first day in the stock market. It was a pretty amazing accomplishment, considering Facebook flopped during its public debut last year. Facebook’s shares rose only 0.6 percent.

I’m pretty sure Facebook’s top guns have put this day in the back of their minds. Since Twitter now has something to gloat about, the rivalry between the two is definitely heating up.

Twitter and Facebook are currently fighting over celebrity attention. Both want to make it easier for celebrities to create profiles and interact with their fan base. They believe a stronger celebrity presence will not only attract more users, but also engage them.

It’s important that more people sign up for accounts with Facebook and Twitter but if they’re not engaged, these users aren’t going to stay.

Twitter is often credited with breaking down the barrier between celebrities and their fans. Katy Perry, Justin Timberlake and Nicki Minaj can connect with the world by re-tweeting and favorite-ing their fans’ tweets. They could make someone’s dream come true by simply hitting the follow button on their fans’ pages.

However, it’s a different story while on Facebook. Celebs don’t have many options to address fans because their public profiles have certain limitations. They’re attempting to change this.

According to an article in Yahoo!, it looks like Facebook is going to launch a feature allowing the Jay-Zs and Lady Gagas of the world to better reach out to their supporters. Facebook hasn’t released any details on the new feature as of yet. It’s been hinted that the feature will “step on Twitter’s home turf.”

I don’t really pay attention to celebrities on Facebook, but when it comes to Twitter, I follow them religiously. I feel more connected when they tweet about their normal lives than on Facebook when their posts are more glamorized.

It’s also entertaining to watch celebrity feuds pan out on Twitter such as the recent feud between Kanye West and Jimmy Kimmel. You would never see something like this on Facebook. I love Twitter.

I’ll give Facebook the benefit of the doubt and wait to see what its new feature will offer. Whatever happens, I’m still #TeamTwitter.

Hip Hop at Harvard

For Nas, the search starts at Harvard University./PHOTO VIA Flickr user Jonene Taddei Photography

Hip hop at Harvard? I’m sure you never expected to hear those two words in the same sentence.

Rap icon, Nas, ventured to Harvard University last week to introduce the Nasir Jones Hip Hop Fellowship, a scholarship awarded to two scholars dedicated to inciting change through hip hop music.

The fellowship is designed to help visiting scholars partake in hip-hop related research at the Cambridge institution. The scholarship is the result of a substantial endowment from an anonymous donor who wanted Nas to be the poster child of the unique program.

The donor got his wish when the Queens native agreed to lend his name to the fellowship following an email request from Harvard professor, Henry Louis Gates (the current host of PBS’ The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross).

During the introduction ceremony, Nas said, “Hip-hop is important like computer science. The world is changing. If you want to understand the youth, listen to the music. This is what’s happening right underneath your nose.”

I totally agree. If you want to understand why the current generation of young adults and adolescents act the way they do, check out the music they listen to. It’s not the main reason, but it’s a good indicator. Nas’s involvement with this program showcases his support of music as a cause rather than pure entertainment.

It may be ironic that the 18-time Grammy nominee is the face of an Ivy League scholarship despite never obtaining a high school diploma but Nas’s successful rap career epitomizes the belief that music is more than just lyrics and tempo.

Nas claimed that he was drawn to hip-hop because it is an education in it itself, aiming to address different problems. Despite being a middle school dropout, Nas used hip-hop to abandon his past mistakes and channel his struggles into songs that uplifted others.

Throughout his career Nas appealed to millions of people with message-filled songs like “The World is Yours” and “I Can.” Now he wants to open the door for others to do the same. Who would have thought he’d start the search at Harvard?

Top Heroes of 2013 – Boston Edition

By Brandon Lewis, Staff Writer
@Brandon_S_Lewis

These heroes have made Boston./PHOTO VIA Flickr user DKOphotography

Earlier this month, CNN released its Top 10 Heroes of 2013 list, shedding light on average individuals attempting to make a difference.

This year’s winners partake in a wide range of causes such as providing shelter for disabled veterans and helping inner-city children stay off the streets. Each hero is rewarded $50,000 for their philanthropic efforts and will be honored at “CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute” airing on Dec. 1.

2013 has been a crazy year for Boston and there are plenty of people who deserve to be recognized for their efforts to keep our city intact. Here are my “Top 3 Boston Heroes of 2013″:

RED SOX

No matter how the World Series turns out (preferably with a title), the success of the Red Sox is arguably the best sports story in Boston this year. Following their worst season since 1965, the Sox had a strong 2013 season with 97 wins to only 65 losses. They became the 11 team in major league history to go from worst in the division to first the following season. They finished this year tied with the Cardinals for the best record in baseball. What a year for the team!

MAYOR MENINO

With the mayoral election coming up next week, it’s only right to salute the man who has kept Boston in check for the past two decades. As Thomas Menino enters his final months in office, the 70-year-old Boston native remains a popular figure amongst city residents. Some of his accomplishments include improving the Boston Schools system and founding the Innovation District. And the little things, such as fixing potholes and revitalizing neighborhoods. Many are sad to see him go but he felt it was time to pack up the cleats. Mr. Menino, we’ll miss you!

Boston Police Department, Watertown Police Department, First Responders, and Good Samaritans at the Boston Marathon

The unthinkable occurred at this year’s Boston Marathon. A day of celebration and triumph quickly turned into a tragedy. Two bombs exploded near the finish line, killing three and injuring over 260. Instead of fleeing the area, many bystanders ran to helpless individuals injured on the ground to keep them calm and ensure that help was on the way. The help came in the form of first responders. Their primary goal was identifying injured individuals and getting them to hospitals as fast as they could. Four days after the attack, the Watertown Police Department along with the Boston Police Department killed Tamerlan Tsarnaev, one of the suspects, and captured the other, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. On behalf of Boston and the state of Massachusetts, I would like to salute all the heroes, recognized or unsung, of the Boston Marathon.

Boston is a tough and resilient town, and so are its heroes.

NBA for NFL?

By Brandon Lewis, Staff Writer
@Brandon_S_Lewis

It’s not completely unheard of for an athlete to go between two sports./PHOTO VIA Flickr user Keith Allison

Remember when Michael Jordan decided to pursue baseball? It was back in 1993 when he decided to step away from the NBA, which was the first of his three retirements.

He signed a deal with the Chicago White Sox and played for their Double A-minor league affiliate for the 1994 season. His batting average was .202 with three homers and 51 RBIs. These stats weren’t bad for the NBA superstar but they were average compared to other minor leaguers fighting to be in the major leagues.

I’m sure Jordan received a great deal of respect for attempting to try another sport, but we were all relieved when he returned to basketball in 1995.

Lebron James, the current king of the NBA, recently revealed on Twitter that he too wants to pick up another sport: football. Well, not pick it up, but just play in one NFL game. Check out the tweet here.

Before becoming a dominant force in the NBA, James played high school football in Akron, Ohio. Many believe that he could have played in the NFL, but I guess being the first pick in the 2003 NBA Draft made it clear which sport to pursue.

Imagine being blessed with the skills to succeed in both pro basketball and football, two of the most body-abusing sports! Now, do you understand why he’s called King James?

Plenty other athletes have also showed interest in other sports. Charles Barkley, an 11-time NBA All-Star, is known for having a terrible golf swing and was featured on a reality show that attempted to improve his golf skills. Michael Vick, the Philadelphia Eagles’ current quarterback, was drafted by the Rockies in 2000 as a starting pitcher. Then there’s Dave Winfield. Before he embarked on his Hall of Fame baseball career, he was drafted by four teams in three different sports. He was picked up the San Diego Padres (baseball) and drafted by the Vikings (football), the Hawks (NBA) and Stars (ABA). That’s just unheard of!

Despite all the talk about James making an appearance in the NFL, it looks as if the Miami Heat star will return to the NBA to help his team win its third straight championship. His season begins on Oct. 29 when the Heat take on the Bulls.

The Utility of the Flip Phone

By Brandon Lewis, Staff Writer
@Brandon_S_Lewis

Sometimes it’s just about utility./PHOTO VIA Flickr user joelogon

The owner of the Dallas Cowboys boasts a net worth of $3 billion. No big deal, right? Just another CEO raking in revenue for possessing a wealthy enterprise. Not much of a difference between him and the Rupert Murdochs and Mark Zuckerbergs of the world.

What’s shocking about Jerry Jones is, according to a CNN article, is that the football tycoon communicates via flip phone.

Jones was spotted at last week’s Arizona State-Notre Dame football game chatting on an old school flip phone. You would think he’d invest in the iPhone 5s or Samsung Galaxy Note, but I guess those phones aren’t on his radar.

When asked about his dated device on a Dallas radio sports show, Jones stated that flip phones worked for him and he didn’t have to deal with any pocket dialing with his phone.

I remember the days when everyone wanted a flip phone. I wanted one just to hear the clapping sound it made when I flipped it shut.

Looking back on the flip phone era made me realize that these phones weren’t that bad. Here are a few reasons why flip phones are still relevant:

  • PRICE

The cell phone market is primarily composed of smartphone devices, which aren’t cheap especially without a contract. Flip phones are exponentially cheaper than the phones out there today. Many companies are selling them at low costs with the purchase of a plan. If you’re attempting to ball on a budget, the flip phone is for you.

  • Durability

Flip phones are most likely going to last longer than the dainty iPhones. When you drop a flip phone, a minor scratch may be the worst outcome. When a cover-less iPhone drops, you might as well have Apple Care as your emergency contact. And you don’t need to buy a case for a flip phone because it can take on pretty much anything besides water.

  • Keypad Protection

Like Jones said, he doesn’t have to deal with pocket dialing. Smartphones are known for acting up when they’re put away in your bag or pocket. That gets annoying. Flip phones don’t have this issue. They physically fold to protect the keyboard from unwanted use.

Let’s remember that Jerry Jones is no spring chicken. The 71-year-old, like many older Americans, has trouble dealing with the vast world of technology.

It’s probably just easier for him to navigate a basic flip phone than a  smartphone. But I will say that he’s seriously missing out on Candy Crush.

‘American Psycho’ Musical

By Brandon Lewis, Staff Writer
@Brandon_S_Lewis

Dr. Who to Patrick Bateman, murderer. What a change./PHOTO VIA Flickr user vagueonthehow

My personal definition of a musical is a cheery, upbeat theatrical production full of music. What comes to mind are the Lion King, Mamma Mia, Wicked, Book of Mormon, Jersey Boys and the list goes on, not a psychological thriller like American Pyscho, a film known for its graphic violence and sexual content. But it’s happening. A musical version of the movie is set to premiere in London later this year.

According to an article in the Los Angeles Times, former Doctor Who star, Matt Smith, was cast as the musical’s lead character. Smith will play Patrick Bateman, a Manhattan businessman who serves as an investment banker by day and serial killer by night. So what is Smith going to be singing about on stage, the amount of blood oozing from his victims’ bodies or how much stock his employer is selling to investors? Beats me.

The Ruper Goold directed stage production is based on Bret Easton Ellis’s 1991 novel and the 2000 film adaptation in which Christian Bale played the lead role. Duncan Sheik, the Tony Award-winning composer of “Spirit Awakening”, created the score for the musical, which also stars Ben Aldridge, Susannah Fielding and Simon Gregor.

I’m interested in hearing Sheik’s score for this musical because I can’t imagine the types of songs he created to depict a storyline that’s far from the conventions of a typical musical. Let’s be real here. There is no musicality in murder and mental instability. This type of subject matter simply doesn’t suit theatre. I don’t know how Ruper Gould and his production team pulled this off but they found a way. “American Pyscho: the Musical” (I don’t know if that’s the official title) is set to debut at London’s Almeida Theatre on December 3 and run until January 25.

TV Shows To Watch For Fall

By Brandon Lewis, Staff Writer
@Brandon_S_Lewis

With fall fast approaching, it’s now time to watch TV!/PHOTO VIA Flickr user vagueonthehow

It’s that time of the year again. Students are back in school, the cool weather is on its way and everyone’s favorite shows are returning for the fall season. Here are a few shows I think you should look out for:

Law and Order: SVU

Since I’m a native New Yorker, I have an overwhelming bias for Law and Order: SVU. Season 14’s finale ended with the cliffhanger of all cliffhangers. [SPOILER ALERT BELOW]

Detective Olivia Benson, one of the show’s remaining original characters, returns home following a disappointing verdict in which a rapist is acquitted of assault charges. She hears a strange noise in her apartment and attempts to investigate where it’s coming from, only to find the acquitted rapist in her living room with a gun pointing in her direction. Then, the screen fades to black. Will Benson survive the ordeal or are her days numbered? SVU airs on NBC on Wednesday nights.

Scandal

The show that’s loosely based on the life on COM’s very own PR alum Judy Smith has been one of the most popular shows on television since the series premiered in April 2012. Ms. Olivia Pope and her incredible crisis management staff are responsible for cleaning up the mistakes of people and preventing their secrets from being exposed. They fix people’s problems before these problems ruin their lives. Pope is strong when it comes to the workplace but becomes vulnerable when in the vicinity of her former client, the current President of the United States. She has feelings for the president, and the feelings are mutual between the two. Will they ever become an item? We’ll just have to wait and see. Scandal shall return for its third season on October 3 on ABC.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

The Marvel based show premiered on September 24 to a resounding 12.12 million viewers, which is pretty awesome. The series premiere was the largest for a network drama in four years. People really go crazy for anything Marvel related. The show follows around Agent Phil Coulson as he assembles a select group of agents known as the S.H.I.E.L.D. to protect the world from evil. Sounds like a typical Marvel plot, doesn’t it? It’s going to be interesting to see if the show continues to attract large amounts of viewers, since this is Marvel’s first television series. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. airs on ABC on Tuesday nights.

Hostages

CBS’s new show grips you right from the start. A prominent doctor, who is moments away from performing brain surgery on the president, is abducted along with her family. The assailants inform her that her family will die unless she kills the president during the operation. What would you do in that situation? Be known as the doctor responsible for killing the president or risk your family’s life for the sake of saving one of the most powerful men in the world? Tough call. Hostages airs on CBS at 10 pm on Tuesdays.