Takeru Kobayashi is once again the world's hot dog eating champion, setting a record by consuming 50 1/2 hot dogs in Nathan's Famous Fourth of July world hot-dog eating contest.

But as ESPN reported, Kobayashi's defense of his title (he won last year by eating 50 hot dogs in 12 minutes) was not without some controversy:

The slightly built Kobayashi, who set a world record with 50 hot dogs eaten in 12 minutes a year ago, did himself a half-dog better this year with 50 1/2 to win easily..

However, after the clock ran out, Kobayashi seemed to have difficulty keeping his lunch down, and at one moment put his shirt to his face as his body heaved noticeably.

A fellow competitor — Hungry Charles Hardy — cried foul.

'He should be disqualified, period,' said Hardy, a 5'11, 360-pound New York City corrections officer who had 20 hot dogs. 'Eric (Booker, who had 26 hot dogs) should have that belt.'

Said Booker, who acknowledged he didn't actually see Kobayashi do anything against the rules: 'It's my understanding that if you puke, you're disqualified.'

George Shea, the chairman of the International Federation of Competitive Eating, said he would review the tapes, but two judges had confirmed Kobayashi's victory.

Kobayashi took the hot dogs out of their bun, then dunked the bun in water before eating both. He reportedly trains by eating cabbage and drinking water.

The contest, a Fourth of July tradition since 1916, took place at New York's Coney Island. The 20 top hot dog eaters in the world were entered.

Okay, forget the controversy. There's actually an International Federation of Competitive Eating? A Federation that boasts elected offices? Really?

And there's really a worldwide ranking of hot dog eaters? And people train for the title of World Hot Dog Eating Champion?

Man, I need to get out more.

Got beer?

"Scientists have kept the secret to strong bones bottled up for years. Now, a new study has raised the bar on the list of nutrients that could have benefits.

Television station WCVB [Boston] reported that the good news is pouring out — beer builds bones.

A new study shows beer is rich in the mineral silicon. Researchers said that learning which parts of our diet have high concentrations of silicon may be key to preventing osteoporosis.

'Animals that are deprived of silicon have poorly developed skeletons and the muscular system is also poorly developed,' Hebrew Rehabilitation Center's Dr. Douglas Kiel said.

The study found that men get up to 33 percent more silicon in their diet than women. The source for men ahead of most of the others is beer, researchers said.

Good deal. So let's compromise, then: I'll accept a tribute tax on Mountain Dew and Big Macs if the health nannies will (in turn) push through a tax break for heavy beer drinkers. (Not that such a tax break would benefit me, mind you.)

I mean, it's all about health, right?

Charles Krauthammer says should MLB players strike again, he ain't coming back to the game this time. As a baseball nut (and an addicted fantasy leaguer), I'm not sure I could stay away — though another strike would go a long way toward pushing me toward permanent withdrawal.

Writes Krauthammer:

The players have it made. And they're ready to strike to keep it that way. They think that the fans will let them get away with it. Again. 'It's entertainment,' said Bonds. 'It will come back. A lot of companies go on strike, not just baseball. And people still ride the bus.'

But baseball is not just any company. People don't root for Intel or Sunkist Raisins. One more strike and people will be rudely confronted with the utter silliness of caring one way or the other about Barry Bonds Inc.

The players don't seem to understand that they have peculiar skills of limited marketability. Throwing a ball 95 mph has few industrial applications. If the players betray us again, it will be gratifying to see pitchers who might have made $5 million a year pumping gas at the local Exxon.

Bonds was asked whether he felt fans could empathize with players who are making an average of $2.4 million. 'It's not my fault you don't play baseball.' Bonds said. It won't be ours if you don't either, Bud.

And there you have it, ladies and gents. Barry Bonds. Sticking it to the Man since 1986.

Hillbilly Hoorah! 

Anybody catch the most recent Red Neck olympics? 'Cause you missed some good stuff if not, I can tell you that much.

For instance, I saw someone spit a watermelon seed 147 yards into an old Crisco can — without even taking the piece of straw he was chewing on out of his mouth!

Granted, the "banjo pickin', stockcar racin'" biathlon struck me as kinda strange — but at least afterwards everybody got together for some barbecue and seemed to be enjoying themselves.

Musta been that punch. Or those hand-rolled cigs.

Man, can country folk ever party...!

Worker Bees of the World, Unite! 

Strict vegans — those who decline all and any products that come from animals — are now warning about the evils of honey, reports the New York Post. 

They claim its production uses the labor of oppressed worker bees, according to a Time magazine report on the growing numbers of American vegetarians.

And kiss a carnivore? Never. The survey revealed that 29 percent of committed vegetarians would refuse to kiss someone who just wolfed down a meal containing meat.

The Time/CNN poll showed that 10 million Americans consider themselves vegetarians, while an additional 20 million people have flirted with a meatless diet.

C'mon, "oppressed worker bees?" Fruits and nuts is right. 

Jeff Goldstein teaches writing and literature in Colorado. His fiction has appeared in a number of obscure academic journals you've never heard of.  He's currently at work on a novel you'll likely never read.

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