Wednesday, July 31, 2013

PBS Frontline: "Life and Death in Assisted Living": a troubling look at the nation's largest chain (Emeritus)

On July 30, 2013 PBS presented a scathing report in its Frontline series, “Life and Death in Assisted Living”, with a focus on the largest assisted living facility chain in the U.S., Emeritus.  The link is here
The documentary presented several cases of severe injury or death of residents, mostly in California and in the deep South, at Emeritus facilities, and presents the resulting lawsuits by the families.  The film presents the case that the company (publicly traded) is most concerned about numbers and keeping its facilities full, and does not hire and properly train enough staff to handle residents who are on the borderline of needing to be in nursing homes, or to have full time hands-on caregivers at home.
During the care of my own mother (who passed away at the end of 2010), I looked at the Emeritus in Arlington, VA.  I did not come away with a sense of these problems.  The apartments are small.  The facility had a separate Alzheimer’s floor with doors locked.  Mother never was moved into an institution until a hospice four days before she passed away.

An aunt lived for several years at an Emeritus facility in Ohio before passing away, also in 2010, and I did not hear complaints of any problems such as in this film.
The film would leave the impression that adult children of disabled parents cannot depend on institutions to relieve them of hands-on responsibility, even if the parents have the money (up to $6000 a month for assisted living and maybe $9000 for nursing homes).  

Emeritus told me that there are definite criteria for eligibility for assisted living. One requirement is that the elder not have reactivated tuberculosis.

“Assisted living is the rock we don’t want to look under.”
The other huge chain is, of course, Sunrise.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

CNN: "Reagan Assassination Attempt" gives interesting early 1980s history, perspective on mental illness (in "Crimes of the Century" series)

The CNN series “Crimes of the Century” has an interesting account of the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan on March 30, 1981, after Reagan had been office for just 70 days. The best video for “Reagan Assassination Attempt” seems to be here
I had forgotten that Reagan stayed conscious so long and did not realize for a while he had been shot, and actually was able to walk into GWU Hospital, before collapsing. Reagan was quite articulate in describing the experience on the Larry King show later.
Most of the documentary concerned the documentary of John Warnock Hinckley.  The young man first lived with his parents, and tended to stay in his room and play his music. He imagined he could become a popular composer and went to Hollywood, but actually stayed in his room and watched movies, especially “Taxi Driver”, where he developed a one-way infatuation with Jodie Foster, which psychologists call “erotomania”.
He actually tried to contact Foster by phone and notes, and she (or a female friend) had to tell him to knock it off.  Imagine the rejection!
The psychiatrists described him not as narcissistic, but as rather empty and lifeless, filled with fantasy but little capability to act.
I was working in Dallas when the incident happened, and felt relieved early that afternoon (a Monday)  when a coworker identified the perpetrator and already knew that he was “mentally ill”.
Jodie Foster would have to give a deposition at the Hinckley trial, to the effect that she had no contact with him, and Hinckley has enraged.
Hinckley would be found “not guilty” by reason of insanity, and has spent his entire life a St. Elizabeth’s, sometimes released to his parents and allowed to live under supervision in Williamsburg, VA.
The documentary covered the grievous wounding of Jim Brady and wounds of two Secret Service agents.
I have seen one or two examples of one-way infatuations in my own life. In the  late 1970s, a gay friend in NYC who also played in chess tournaments had an infatuation with another player, and actually disrupted a NYC tournament (I wasn;t there, but he told me about it.)  Then the other person actually wrote him a letter never to contact him again, which “David” showed me.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen another letter like that.  

Monday, July 29, 2013

"Inside Man": Morgan Spurlock looks at eldercare, starting in his own blood family

On Sunday night, July 28, CNN aired another episode of Morgan Spurlock’s “Inside Man”, where Morgan moves in with his 91-year-old grandmother and investigates caregiving.
The link for the episode is here
This seems like an off-putting concept, to turn care of one’s own family member as an example of commercial journalism. 
Nevertheless, Morgan’s report takes us through the steps that eldercare often entails.  He also provides some statistics about the rapid aging of the population and the cost to our economy.  More than a third of people over 65 will need some kind of custodial care. 
The grandmother goes to the hospital for an infection, becomes weaker, has a stroke.  In this situation, the family considers placing her to a skilled nursing facility for physical therapy. The documentary explains how Medicare will pay for 20 days of skilled care, and 80% of the next 80 days  But Medicare intervenes only if the patient is expected to get better.
Spurlock also visits a great uncle who is 96, with dementia, but still at home, accommodated.
My own mother had a terrible experience in an SNF in 1999 after coronary bypass surgery at 1985.
President Obama once said that he would gradually pay for hip replacement for his own grandmother. 

The documentary covers the fact that Medicare does not normally pay for custodial care, and mentions the Medicare “spend down” problem.  But it did not mention filial responsibility laws, as with the case in Pennsylvania.  

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Morgan Spurlock as "Inside Man" tries his hand as a migrant farmer, picking oranges for piecework pay

On Saturday night, July 27, CNN reran a critical episode of Morgan Spurlock’s series “Inside Man”, as this time Morgan takes a job as an orange picker (or “migrant farmer”) in a grove in Florida, trying to find out why the citrus industry is so dependent on low-wage and only partially legal immigrant labor.
Morgan quickly learns he is paid for piecework, and is only able to pick enough fruit to make about $28 his first day.  And he is taller than most of the natives from Mexico and Latin America.
Morgan could not earn the minimum wage at the piecework rate.  But Americans depend on work that is done this way; or at least citrus product prices are artificially low because of this dependence.  Imagine what the far Left can say about this. It's bad karma. 

The basic link for the episode is here

Morgan picks a thorn out of his bald leg (he hadn’t known that orange trees even have thorns), and visits the housing of the Latinos, which hardly seems legal. It must be off the books.
In 1986, I visited the town of Belle Glade, FL (at the time, a small focus of the AIDS epidemic) in a rent car, on the shore of Lake Okeechobee, which is in the heart of sugar cane country, and which also would have immigrant labor issues.  I was chased out of town by a mystery car.
I’ve been in the orange country around Orlando a few times, as in 1973 and 1983. 

Saturday, July 27, 2013

"Sea Rescue" on ABC covers a prosthetic tail for a dolphin, useful for people with artificial limbs?

On Saturday morning, WJLA in Washington has been broadcasting episodes of ABCs “Sea Rescue” (30 minutes), and this morning the report concerned rescuing a dolphin that had lost her tail.  It was fitting the morning I was unable to get tickets to sold out showings of “Blackfish”.

Sea World has a  “Sea Inside” story about the show here

Surgeons developed a prosthetic tail, and a glue was developed that also will be used in human prostheses.
David Hoye has a story on Huffington about the dolphin with the prosthetic tail (in Clearwater FL)  here.

Apparently this story became the subject of “A Dolphin Tale” which I have not seen. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

CBS "Criminal Minds" seems like genre police procedure drama, even if popular

The CBS show, “Criminal Minds” (created by Jeff Davis, started in 2005) may fit the genre of police “procedural” dramas, but is different in that it profiles an unknown subject, trying to predict what he or she may do next.  (The concept is perhaps a little bit of an extrapolation of movies like “Seven”.)   The characters are based in the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU) lab in Quantico, Virginia.  (This differs from the "Minority Report" concept because the suspect is unknown.) 

I sampled an episode originally aired Oct. 31, 2012, called “The Good Earth”, set in Oregon. It hardly does credit to the famous author Pearl Buck.  Four men have disappeared, including one single man who had apparently recovered from Hodgkin’s  Disease (with its trying cycle of chemotherapy) and had hired a female health trainer.  You can guess it – a female villain.  Having lost a husband and then suffered a bizarre disease herself (schleroderma) which she still imagines she has (even though doctors reassure her she is in remission)  She seems to be looking for the ultimate seed for her daughter, although not much of it makes any sense.
CBS has an episode summary here

I still like series that have an ongoing mystery, rather than variations on the same theme weekly

Monday, July 22, 2013

CNN: "The Royal Baby"

Sunday night CNN aired the special “The Royal Baby”, giving a complete history of the 10+ year relationship between Prince William and Kate Middleton, leading to the April 29, 2011 wedding and now the baby, due any time.  The link for the coverage is here
Kate’s pregnancy had attracted a lot of attention in late 2012 because of her severe morning sickness.  A prank played by a radio station in Australia led to a suicide and the end of a career.  The possibility of severe medical issues with any pregnancy does reinforce some old-fashioned notions about division of gender roles – for everybody.  But a century ago, pregnancy was much more dangerous for all women.

The CNN documentary gave a lot of details about Kate’s upbringing, including some teasing and bullying that led her parents, who had been successful with an Internet business (“Party Pieces”, link /), to put her in a private school.  She became popular and a good student but had a slightly “wild side”. 

How much attention should the media and the public give to "privileged lives".  At least William and Kate have paid their dues as individuals.  

Saturday, July 20, 2013

CNN Next List presents information technology job training for autistic teens, a new innovation for local governments

Today, Sanjay Gupta on his "Next List" series on CNN presented a couple major "grass roots" technical innovations,

Sanjay introduced Dan Selec and the "NonPareil Institute" which trains moderately autistic teenagers to fill high tech jobs.

He described autism in terms of issues with social interaction, communication, and repetitive behaviors.

One of the jobs involved designing games (as did the "alien" character Sean Walker in "The Event"). One teen had programmed a game called SpaceApe.  He also described an educational application called "np.connect".  I wondered how this would fit into Arvin Vohra's company (Book review blog, April 19, 2013).

There is a film called "Programming Hope" that documents this effort, which I can look into, link. The NonPareil Institute has a Facebook link (website url) here.

The Sanjay introduced Jennifer Pahlka in Oakland, CA, founder of a volunteer group called "Code for America", which designs applications to make local governments work better.

She also described "living off the land" right there in Oakland.

A grad school roommate of mine at KU bought a home in Oakland in 1971, which I visited once then, but haven't seen since.  

Friday, July 19, 2013

PBS series from Y12 and Oak Ridge: "A Nuclear Family"

Tennessee PBS and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Y12 National Security Complex and Y12 Video Services, offer a four-part television series called “A Nuclear Family”, most of it filmed apparently in 011.  Each part runs about 25 minutes.  Dr. Ray Smith is the lead historian. Some of the footage comes from one of the first employees who owned a camera, Ed Wescott.

The DVD's are offered free to visitors of the Y12 Center on the tour operated in the summer weekdays from the American Museum of Science and Energy in Oak Ridge (see Issues blog, July 16, 2013). 
The four parts of the series are called “I’ve Seen It”, “The Manhattan District”, “A Race for Peace”, and “Lifting the Veil

Part I describes family life and community life in East Tennessee in the early 1940’s.  It describes life as communal, with people and families helping one another, although there was less that could be done for the needy in many ways in those days than today.

One man had a dream that his land would be used to win a war.  Soon, news of the beginnings of World War II began to drift into the community. 

In late 1942, people were told they would be evicted from their farmland and would have to live by the end of the year.  A typical payment from eminent domain was $900 for 40 acres.  People were not paid for months, and had to ask for the generosity of friends and relatives, or “radical hospitality”.
People were willing to sacrifice property to win the war, because their sons were already dying on the battlefield after being drafted, or volunteerings.

Part 2 describes the Manhattan Project, and the work at ORNL for it.  The enormous facility employed many women and many African-Americans. 

Single people lived in dormitories.  There were more dorms for women than men.  Only married couples (with or without children) could live in the prefabricated homes.  Black workers were “separate and unequal” and lived in huts.

The secrecy and the “need to know” rule kept workers from understanding the implications of their work.  Military officers, dressed in plain clothes, would take uranium samples in briefcases in subcritical masses on passenger trains all the way to Los Alamos, NM.

The workers, some of whom are elderly women who speak in the film, didn’t find out what they were doing until they heard the news about Hiroshima.
A typical link describing the series is here. Another link is at DOE,

After WWII, Y12 continued work on the critical components of larger nuclear weapons as part of the Cold War, as shown in Part III.

Some returning veterans went to work there, and men with large shrapnel pieces in their bodies ould not work near the huge electromagnets without being stabbed from the inside

Part IV shows how Y12 was so instrumental to triggering the collapse of the Soviet Union, ending the Cold War without ever using the weapons components its plant had produced for decades.  Literally, we might have wound up living under fascism or communism without it, the film says.

Y12 workers and "volunteers" participated in removing nuclear materials from many part of the world, including parts of the former Soviet Union, a goal of Sam Nunn's "Nuclear Threat Initiative". 

Y12 workers needed knew jobs, and some were applied to civilian use, such as using metallurgy to reproduce the sounds of pre WWII banjos. 

The films imply that Y12 (facility for creating and handling enriched uranium)  is organizationally separate from ORNL; I’m not sure what that means. 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

AC360 interviews Trayvon Martin's parents; discussion of racial profiling

Anderson Cooper interviewed the parents of Trayvon Martin on his AC360 program on CNN Thursday night, July 18.
The mother explained that they as a couple stayed away when the verdict was read, because they wouldn’t be allowed to show any emotion and they did not want to aggravate any other emotions by being there.
The mother also said that she thought that the jury did not understand the encounter from a teenager’s or a child’s perspective (although he was 17).  She thinks everyone looks at this from an “adult’s perspective”, especially someone who is not a parent.
There are also a lot of comments that many (non-minority) people have no concept of what it I like to be “profiled” by law enforcement.  I can recall one time in 1979 stopping in a rental car at a police check point north of the Texas-Mexico border and being waved on because I am obviously white.

Voice of America on racial profiling:

The father said that he thought that the juror (37) who had spoken to AC360 had her mind made up when the trial began.

Anderson commented on an idea that he says is “stunning”:  parents telling African-American teen boys what speed they should walk in order not to look suspicious.

As far a profiling by non-police, it seems as though there would not be much of a problem from people who do not carry weapons in public.  

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

AC360 interviews juror on Zimmerman trial

CNN New Day interviewed Anderson Cooper Tuesday morning about his interview with Juror B37 from the George Zimmerman trial, and also the family of Mr. Martin.

About 20 minutes of the interview is yet to be played.

The juror said that she had started out not-guilty, but one started out with guilty of 2nd degree murder, and two for voluntary manslaughter.

She said Zimmerman should not have gotten out of his car, but yet she was troubled that the 911 operator had asked what building Trayvon was near, and Zimmerman might have felt that he needed to pursue after all.

She also said that the evidence suggested that it was Martin's voice in the final scuffle. She felt for Zimmerman's heart.

The report suggests that Zimmerman was quite concerned about previous crime in the gated community, although the facts about that matter are not clear in the media.  Normally, that would not happen much in this kind of residential area, with security.  That is a big question.  There seems to a suggestion that Zimmerman baited Trayvon, who might have become angry when he really didn't anything to happen.  It's a case of no one backing down.  Even so, apparently in Florida Zimmerman had a right to use his weapon if he feared for his life at the last moment.  It's unclear if Trayvon might have gone for the weapon,

I am quite troubled by these ideas that Zimmerman must stay our of sight and keep a low profile and give into bullying.

The facts in this whole tragic case are deeply troubling, and still obscure.  But the facts may not justify the emotional outcry that has obscured.

A civil suit, against Zimemrman as an individual, may occur, and federal civil rights law prosecution is possible;  but it's hard to see that the actual facts justify it.

Look at the hard evidence.  The facts are what matter, not emotion.  It must be that way under rule of law.

The Florida prosecutor said the evidence for at least manslaughter was there, because you can't entice someone to engage you and shoot him if "he punches you in the nose".  But the "stand your ground" law seems to say that you can.

But Florida needs to look at its self-defense laws again.  And also on how neighborhood volunteers should behave/  Should they even be armed?  Interesting question.  Unpaid posse's are not a good idea generally. Certainly not if armed.

Here's the complete CNN story on Anderson's interview, with a video/

In my own experience, I have "retreated" a couple of times, once at a service plaza on the Ohio Turnpike, where I simply drove quickly away (and calling state police at the toll plaza), remembering that an unarmed Mark Zuckerberg at age 20 had done that once right after moving to CA and was approached at a gas station.  I can say I did the right thing, but the NRA would say I (or Mark for that matter) was lucky.

Note: The post title url reads "370", not 360, because of initial typo (which the system saves as the URL).  Remember the IBM 360 and IBM 370 in the 1970?  In the back of my mind subliminally given the career I retired from!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

CNN airs Zimmerman trial all day Saturday: Not Guilty verdict announced at 10 PM EDT

CNN has been covering the jury deliberations all day on the George Zimmerman trial.  At around 10 PM Saturday night, CNN broadcast the “Not Guilty” verdict live.
Only one verdict was read.  The jury was not polled separately on second degree murder and voluntary manslaughter.
The jury has asked the judge detailed questions about manslaughter and then continued deliberating during dinner.  CNN reported that such a development hinted that a verdict was near.
Angela Corey spoke afterward as to why she prosecuted for second degree murder.  She said that the fact that the screams stopped immediately after the shot was fired was a major factor.  She also said that the did not believe that Zimmerman’s injuries showed great bodily harm. Corey says that Martin was profiled.
CNN has a developing story about the acquittal here.
CNN's interviews with Ben Crump made Crump seem a little silly, with his condescending langauge, Orlando story here.

I always wondered how relevant it was that Zimmerman pursued Martin after he had been advised not to do so by 911 phone support.  If he acted improperly in a way that led to a confrontation (whether or not motivated by profiling), a manslaughter result could have been appropriate.  It’s not clear who was engaging in self-defense. 

Friday, July 12, 2013

NBC's "Camp": seriousness and lighthearted comedy; is it another "Summerland"?

Summer brings new series to broadcast and cable television, some of them inventive, but others rather desperate.

“Camp”,  a new comedy (and mockumentary) series by Liz Heldens and Peter Elkoff, premiered on Wednesday, July 10, 2013, with a pilot.  NBC has reportedly ordered ten of the expected thirteen episodes.
Apparently filmed in Australia, it takes place at the Little Otter Family Camp (or is it “Little Hawk Family Camp”). 

It starts with a nerd kid Kip Wampler (Thom Green) resenting the idea of giving up Internet and computer toys for the woods and great outdoors.  But half-way through we will learn that he had leukemia, a grave aside in an otherwise lighthearted show (that doesn’t match the style of “Modern Family”).   He resents the way he has to be so careful about getting infected with anything.

Rachel Griffiths plays Mackenzie Granger, the owner of the “family” camp, and recently divorced. Her son, Buzz (Charles Grounds) is a camp counselor "in training".
Later, there is a discussion about homophobia and anti-gay slurs, that is somewhat constructive.   The show is somewhat explicit as to language, as some of the boys do want a new kind of “adventure”. 

NBC’s site is here

The show reportedly did fairly well in ratings.  Will it develop a hook, or is it too scatterbrained.  A good comparison could be made to Spelling’s “Summerland” on the WB about eight years ago, where Zack Efron was introduced.  It seems today that the series today have trouble establishing the hook of similar series a decade ago.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Stephen King's "Under the Dome" (CBS) gets off to an intriguing start

CBS has started the anticipated series based on Stephen King’s mammoth novel. “Under the Dome”.  The premise is that a transparent dome suddenly covers the town of Chester’s Mill, Maine, cutting off the citizens from the rest of the world and letting them settle their squabbles on their own, while others (maybe including aliens) watch.  The Pilot aired June 24.
King always populates his novels with diverse, skilled but troubled characters, and this is no exception, as the pilot opens with a man doing something in the woods.  We see a couple of young couples and people and troubled families, and soon a female reporter visits an elderly woman who wants to give her a news tip about propane tanks being filled nearby.

The scene where the Dome appears is quite well done.  Some characters are outside, and some bizarre wind gusts come up, despite the cloudless skies.  Animals behave oddly and some fall out of the sky. Suddenly, a cow is bisected laterally, as the invisible barrier slams down. Soon, there is a small plane crash, and various auto accidents.

Early, there is a "foreshadowing" of the Dome, with a transparent plastic hemisphere covering a pie in a restaurant.
It’s always interesting to wonder how a town, and authorities, will deal with a happening that simply cannot be explained by anything we understand.

The previous episodes can be watched free right now on Amazon, without commercials.  They run about 43 minutes.

The CBS site for the series is here.

Reports indicate that the show has started out pretty well in the Nielsen ratings, story.  

This one may generate a narrative hook. The series is actually filmed in North Carolina.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

"Catfish" expert Nev Schulman appears on Jay Leno; a "touch-off" with Dane Cook

On Tuesday night, “Catflish” researcher Nev Schulman, now 28,  appeared as a guest on Jay Leno's Tonight Show (link) , walking in an air cast because of a minor accident.

Dane Cook was already on stage.  Let’s say that they “scoped” one another, by hand, as Jay watched.

His own little autobiography on YouTube suggests a youth that is more troubled than his present personality would suggests.  He discussed his Catflish series on MTV, now Tuesday.  In that series, he tends to show great interpersonal skills in working with people fooled or bedeviled in online relationships, especially when they meet in person.  
It’s rather interesting that this one issue (fake Internet identities leading to web relationships) can provide a young adult person with an ample income in television and motion picture production, guest appearances, and reporting. 

Matt Nathanson also appeared earlier on the Leno episode. 

Regarding "Catflish", see movie reviews, Sept. 24, 2010, and TV reviews here Jan. 29, 2013 for review of the MTV series. 

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

NBC "Get Out Alive with Bear Grylls": pretty silly (and what they drink to survive)

Well, is NBC’s “Get Out Alive with Bear Grylls: The Ultimate Survival Competition” an accidental companion to “Siberia”? 

This time, the host takes ten two-person teams to South Island, New Zealand (around the land of “Lord of the Rings”), and they have to make it to a goal in the wilderness.  They get one feast along the way (the teams have different jobs, like the food team), but along the way they have to drink their own urine!

There was one gay male couple from West Hollywood among the contestants.

One couple gets sent home, a couple whom Bear believes could not survive. Yes, they’re fired.  And there’s no board room.

The link is here

These reality shows get even sillier. But they don't require SAG.

Monday, July 08, 2013

NBC's "Crossing Lines", shown first at European TV festival; Is this just Interpol?

NBC has picked up another suspense series, “Crossing Lines”, by Ed Benero and Rola Bauer, under somewhat unusual circumstances.  It had been test marketed at a festival in Monte Carlo, a kind of offshoot of Cannes. It was also broadcast in Italy on a public channel first.

The series involves a special police unit in Europe (the “ICC”) that tracks down serial criminals, and amounts to a combination NSA and FBI in American terms.  How is this more than Interpol?

William Fichtner plays Carl Hickman, a former NYPD police officer who was injured on the job and whose life deteriorated into drug addiction as he wound up in the Netherlands working on menial jobs.  He gets recruited by the ICC in the Pilot (June 23).
Other characters are Sebastian (Tom Wlaschiha), Kathrin (Florentine Lehme) , Tommy (Richard Flood), Eva (Gabriella Pession) and Michel (veteran actor Donald Sutherland, from the 1978 "Body Snatchers").
The June 30 episode, “The Terminator”, involved the use of polonium, which has actually been used in rare cases in spy circles. 

Last night, July 7, the third episode was “Long-Haul Predators”.   This is a truly bizarre idea.  A mechanic goes after families with children by disabling their vehicles so the families will fight, and then kidnaps the children.  Katrin offers her own son to act in a sting, where Tom and Eva play the “parents”.  Is this a social commentary on the desire for parenthood, when Europe is having low birth rates? 

NBC’s site for the series is here. The networks are going way afield to look for “breakout” concepts that will hold an audience’s attention. 

Saturday, July 06, 2013

CNN re-airs some of TNT's "Boston's Finest": "Everything Is Personal"

CNN aired an episode of “Boston’s Finest”, called “Everything Is Personal”, where female Boston police officer Jenn Penton deals with a fugitive, and family issues involving her twin sister (fraternal), who has lived on the wrong side of the law.  The twin sister Melissa is giving up a baby for adoption.  Jenn says she wants to be part of the baby’s life but does not have “time” to adopt it, given-hour weeks. 

Apparently the episode aired originally on April 17, 2013 (on TNT), coincidentally right after the Boston Marathon event.
The best listing I could find is on TV Guide, here. The Guide mentions the idea of “family responsibilities”.

The episode reinforces the idea that when stopped, a motorist should not leave his vehicle unless asked to. That's why registration and license has to be on you (not in the trunk).  "Follow the rules".  

Wikipedia attribution link for Boston picture. 

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

CNN airs a lot of Zimmerman testimony "live" ; expert witnesses taking over from judge

On Wednesday morning, CNN continued live broadcast of the testimony of the Second Degree Murder trial of George Zimmerman for the death of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, FL.

The prosecution called witnesses  (including an instructor) showing that Zimmerman had taken criminal justice courses, even made an A in one, and applied for jobs with police departments.  They were trying to show that Zimmerman could have been planning a crime that would look like an accident or “heat of passion”, but this idea sounds very speculative.

An expert witness  testified on the meaning of “stand your ground”, and the degree of fear one needs to act, and that Zimmerman did not necessarily have a duty to retreat when outside his home.

If one is unarmed in public (the usual case), one can only retreat.  That has happened to me a couple of times (once at a turnpike service plaza), and always worked out.  The NRA would say that I have been lucky.
Jeffrey Toobin said that the testimony amounted to having part time law teachers giving instructions to the jury from the witness stand.

It seems to me that there are other criminal justice problems in the news more pressing than the Zimmerman trial.  One of them is gratuitous prosecution for Internet statements taken out of context, as with a case in Texas described in my Internet Safety blog this morning.
CNN’s best link (actually HLN) with transcripts is here.

It seems to me that it will be pretty easy for the defense to establish reasonable doubt on 2md Degree Murder.  They could get a conviction for voluntary manslaughter, or certainly involuntary manslaughter.  Imagine the outcry that will follow. 
Good thing I'm not on a jury, at least something controversial.  If I was sequestered, I couldn't follow the news or blog.  

Update: July 5

The lack of Zimmerman's DNA on some of Trayvon's effects is seen as helpful to the prosecution.

But a medical examiner brought notes into the courtroom today. The notebook must be made available to everyone (the defense), and this behavior by a witness may hurt the prosecution.

If Zimmeran is convicted "only" of voluntary manslaughter, under Florida law he still could get 15-20 years since Trayvon was under 18.

Jonathan Capehart has an important column Sunday in the Washington Post, "5 Myths about the Killing of Trayvon Martin", link.   The column may give the defense a little more ammunition, even for acquittal.  The 9-11 emergency operators cannot give Zimmerman direct orders without liability; hence they worded things indirectly, "We do not need you to do that."

Picture: Naples FL, Gulf Coast, 2004. 

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

NBC kicks off quasi-reality show "Siberia": Is this real?

Monday night, July 1, NBC carted out its season premier of its summer “reality show”, called “Siberia,”  by Matthew Arnold, with a Pilot.

Sixteen young adults (men and women) are placed in the wilderness and whoever survives the coming winter will split a share of $500000.  Is this really Siberia?  The scenery in high definition is stunning. (But “go big or go home”).  The host (Australian Jonathan Buckey) suggests to the contestants that they’re near the site of the 1908 Tunguska asteroid strike over Siberia.  “This village will be your home as long as you can bear it.” 

The first day, the contestants have to make it to a wooden cabin through the woods.  The last two to make it are eliminated.  Daniel (Daniel Sutton, from Minnesota) is slightly injured, but makes it with the help of another contestant.

The people have to hunt for food in the woods, and know how to identify edible mushrooms.  They bunk in close quarters in the hut.  At night, there are scary sounds.

The tragedy strikes one of the other male contestants.  Is this really a reality show, or something else?
The site for the series is here.

This seems like a nebulous concept for a reality show.  I wouldn’t do it. 

Wikipedia attribution link for topographical map of Siberia. 

Monday, July 01, 2013

CNN: "Crimes of the Century" leads off with Malvo, Lennon cases

CNN aired at least two of its “Crimes of the Century” series Sunday night, June 30.

The basic link with videos is here. The series is produced in part by Ridley Scott. 

The leadoff episode concerned the October, 2002 sniper episodes, in the Washington DC suburbs, going down almost to Richmond, VA. This was the case of John Allen Mohammed and Lee Malvo, who were eventually arrested at a rest stop on South Mountain on I-70 in Maryland.  Mohammed received the death penalty from a trial in Virginia Beach  in 2003 and was executed in 2006.  Malvo is serving life without parole.  Wikipedia offers some theories about the “motives” which are gruesome, but the CNN documentary remained rather non-committal as to speculation.

There was a night in 2002 when almost all traffic on I-95 from Richmond to Washington (100 miles) was stopped for the manhunt.  This was the most serious disruption of public movement that had ever occurred before the Boston Marathon lockdown. 

The next episode concerned the killing of John Lennon outside a luxury apartment building in New York City in December, 1980, by David Chapman, who is interviewed from prison in the documentary. Chapman discusses his mental illness quite candidly.  He says the was giving orders to imaginary little people in his head.  He had a fascination and resentment of celebrity which resembles that of John Hinckley who tried to kill President Reagan in 1981 because of his fascination with Jodie Foster.  Chapman was married, and had worked odd jobs in Hawaii, flying a couple times to NYC, even stopping in Atlanta to buy ammo.  The case would fit into the gun control debate today. 


Lennon was emotionally paralyzed by his own act and waited calmly for police to arrest him right after the shooting.