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Q&A: Fate of the 'Cole' bombing mastermind, fastballs and homers, Nicholson on 'Andy Griffith Show'

The bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen in October 2000 killed 17 U.S. sailors.

Associated Press (2000)

The bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen in October 2000 killed 17 U.S. sailors.

Fate of the 'Cole' mastermind

Why did President Obama pardon the master planner behind the bombing of the USS Cole?

Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri was not pardoned. The charges against him were dropped without prejudice by Judge Susan Crawford, the top legal authority for military trials at Guantánamo Bay, meaning new charges can be brought later. He remains in prison.

President Barack Obama's executive order mandates that Guantánamo's military proceedings be halted. Crawford's ruling gives the White House time to review the legal cases of all 245 terror suspects held at Guantánamo and to decide whether they should be prosecuted in the United States or released to other nations.

Seventeen U.S. sailors died on Oct. 12, 2000, when al-Qaida suicide bombers steered an explosives-laden boat into the Cole, a guided-missile destroyer, as it sat in a Yemen port. The Pentagon had planned to seek the death penalty against al-Nashiri, a Saudi.

Hitting a fastball over the fence

Now that baseball season is here, I once again heard that it is easier to hit a home run if the ball is pitched faster. Is that the case? If so, why are so many home runs hit during batting practice, when pitchers are throwing much more slowly?

Hit fastballs will go farther, much like a harder thrown ball will bounce farther off a wall than a softer thrown one, explained Yale physicist Robert K. Adair, author of the book The Physics of Baseball. Fastballs hit squarely will travel a few extra feet, so the effects of the speed of the pitch are rather small, he said.

The key phrase is "hit squarely." Fastballs aren't necessarily easier pitches to turn around into home runs. Hitting is all about timing, and a fastball can be hard to hit because of bat speed issues, Adair said.

Batting practice pitches in general are medium speed — not slow change-ups that could be hard to hit, nor blazing heaters, Adair said. Hitters in batting practice generally know what's coming because the idea is not to fool the hitter, but to allow him to fine-tune his timing — get in the proverbial groove. That makes it easier to hit homers.

They may not go quite as far as a 98 mph fastball that's hit squarely, but they go far enough.

Nicholson and Aunt Bee

I was watching an episode of The Andy Griffith Show in which Aunt Bee was on jury duty. I thought I saw a young Jack Nicholson appear briefly in a courtroom scene. Is that true?

As a matter of fact, Nicholson appeared twice on The Andy Griffith Show, as two different characters. One of them was indeed in the episode called "Aunt Bee, the Juror." You can even see a clip from his performance on YouTube.

Q&A: Fate of the 'Cole' bombing mastermind, fastballs and homers, Nicholson on 'Andy Griffith Show' 04/06/09 [Last modified: Monday, April 6, 2009 5:13pm]
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