Thursday, April 30, 2015

NBC Dateline: San Diego car bombing in 2010 mimicked a terrorist attack but came from a domestic crime

An NBC Dateline episode “Deadly Intent II”  (there had been a previous episode of that name with a case in Illinois of Drew Peterson) described the serious injury to San Diego mom Connie Hoagland by a car bomb, in 2010.

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The case was important because at first authorities thought that this could be a true act of terrorism, with targeting of ordinary civilians.  But her husband, Lawrence, would eventually get a life sentence, as in this news story  He would have to face his family at sentencing, and it was brutal. 

Picture: University Ave in San Diego, my May, 2012 trip 

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

PBS, "The Day the 60s Died", about the Kent State shootings in 1970

Tonight PBS aired “The Day the 60s Died”, a historical narrative of the Kent State shootings of studetns by the National Guard at Vietnam-related posts in May 1970, link here

The Justice Department absolved the Guard of any responsibility and indicted 25 students, even though the students who were killed were bystanders.

Nixon is quoted as quite bellicose and unrelenting on the Vietnam protests, saying the college kids are the luckiest in the world. But in three years he would end the draft (Movies, April 28).

The documentary also relates a 5 Am solitary visit by Nixon to the Lincoln Memorial.  

Police would shoot protesters in Mississippi in 1970.
I was on the way to Indianapolis for a job assignment with RCA when this happened.  

Monday, April 27, 2015

"Dick Cavett's Vietnam" on PBS

PBS started a week of history relating to the Vietnam War and transitioning into the 1970s, with an hour retrospect, “Dick Cavett’s Vietnam” (link), which clips from his shows, which show the growing disenchantment with the War in Vietnam. 
Many important moments are shown, such as LBJ’s Gulf of Tonkin announcement.  
The credibility of both Johnson and Nixon erodes, as some of the protests over the bombings under Nixon are covered.
I might have heard a little of this late at night when I started working in 1970 (after the Army) and was living in New Jersey.
The program is a companion to “The Draft”, reviewed on the movies blog.

Today, of course, major networks in the Washington and Baltimore areas have covered the situation in Baltimore live.  More on that in future posts.  On CNN, all major shows were canceled or postponed, including a special history of ISIS, originally to be aired at 9 PM.  

Friday, April 24, 2015

"Bruce Jenner: The Interview" on ABC 20-20, 2-hour special, "I am a woman"

Friday night, on a special 2-hour 20-20, ABC aired “Bruce Jenner: the Interview” with Diane Sawyer. 
Jenner explained the story behind his decision to become a woman.  Jenner was a popular Olympic athlete, winning the Decathalon, in the 1970s.  I remember during my own coming of age that he was viewed as a competitive male role model.  He has six biological children and has had a rich family life.  He considered himself a heterosexual male at first, and is still attracted to women during gender change.
The link for the “11 biggest moments” from the interview is here
Jenner explained the difference between sexual orientation and gender identity, as "apples and oranges"/ 
Jenner started the hormone treatments and body hair removal, and then stopped for a while whne he became concerned about Biblical teaching, and eventually resumed. She has not yet had formal sexual reassignment surgery. 
Jenner says he is a Republican and a Christian, and see no inconsistencies.  The Washington Times jumped on that.  On the other hand, Vox Media made a lot of the idea that it is easier for a celebrity to change gender than for a person of average means. 
Vanity Fair has a story about the broadcast (“I am a woman”) already, here   CNN had already aired "Lady Valor: The Kristin Beck Story" about a Navy Seal who became a woman after retirement (Movies blog, Sept. 4, 2014).  

Thursday, April 23, 2015

HBO airs satire with Bill Maher and John Oliver from UNC

On HBO Reality Time in a broadcast from UNC, Bill Maher interviews Clay Aiken, who says he likes the idea of becoming a congressman with whom he could agree about 80% of the time.

Maher lauded “Republicrat” Clinton’s administrations, with their budget surpluses and economic boom, when Bush gave us wars and deficits.

He also went back to a few studies in the 70s that claimed we faced global freezing.

Also on HBO, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver made fun of patent trolls  (explaining how the legal “extortion racket” really works) and the “end of the world” with Hanz Zimmer’s music from “Inception”. Oliver did give an example of an organization serving disabled people over a patent associated with a copier it was using, assuming it was a normal consumer product. 

Monday, April 20, 2015

CNN continues series on gradual legalization of marijuana with "Weed 3"

Dr. Sanjay Gupta hosted the newest installment on CNN’s reporting on legal marijuana, here just medical, Sunday night, on “Weed 3: The Marijuana Revolution”, main link here 

The program covered the issues of using marijuana to treat PTSD, especially in military veterans, and even in delaying the formation of plaques related to Alzheimer’s disease.

There is a facility near Oxford MS where marijuana can be grown legally for research only.

A professor was fired from the University of Arizona after trying to set up a legal marijuana research program (for vets). Attempts are made to set up programs in Las Vegas and then, of course, Colorado.
A point is made that marijuana suppresses memories of dreams, but tends, in the minds of some people, to enhance perception of reality. 

The second hour of the presentation, now on legal recreational use in Colorado, is "High Profits: Cannibas meets Captialism", link.  A young couple opens a shop off the beaten track in Breckenridge, CO.   The job interviews are shown (an applicant is asked "Are you high now?"  It opens at 8 AM MST on New Year's Day.  It's cash only, as banks won't handle it (although the bankks secretly encouraged marijuana back in the 80s when farms failed) out of fear of racketeering prosecutions (since this is still illegal under federal law, but not pursued in a state that has made it legal within the state).  I wouldn't be able to handle this myself.

A visitor from Mexico thinks that legalization is the answer to the cartel problem. He's right.

It costs $20000 a month to get a license to grow marijuana in Colorado.

This is the first episode in a series ("High Profits").

The series continued May 3, with a debate on whether a marijuana store should be allowed by zoning in downtown Breckenridge, and also with presentation of the security problems with handling cash when banks won't accept your business.
Wikipedia attribution for Breckenridge photo DReifGalaxyM31, Creative Commons Share Alike 3.0 license, here

Sunday, April 19, 2015

ABC 20-20 reairs a case where a mom appears to frame her own daughter for husband's poisoning

Saturday night, ABC 20-20 re-aired (condense) an older case from upstate New York, of Stacey Castor, accused of poisoning two husbands and then trying to frame the grown daughter of the first husband, Michael Wallace, for the second murder, link here (back from 2009). Apparently the original airing was two hours. 
The grandmother actually supports Castor, who to this day denies the act from prison, where she was sentenced to 50 years.
The poisoning death by antifreeze is quite painful. 
The Onondaga County judge in sentencing her said he had never tried a case as appalling as this, with a parent's own adult child being set up. A local paper has a backup story in 2010 here
But Castor today tells David Muir from prison she was denied the opportunity to present exonerating evidence.
Wikipedia attribution link for photo by Crimson Fury, which he says is released to p.d. I believe my most recent visit to the city was way back in 1970.  Second picture is mine (PA). 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

PBS airs "Kamikaze" (is this the same film as "Wings of Defeat"?)

PBS has been airing an hour-long documentary “Kamikaze”, about the Japanese suicide pilots during WWII.  It is not completely clear which film this is (as there is also an Independent Lens film, “Wings of Defeat”), but it seems to be this one, “The Kamikaze Threat” 

The Japanese started using “manned missiles” as a strategy of desperation toward the end if WWII, and the Nazis considered it.

The strategy, at a certain psychological level, previews 9/11.

The Japanese also used kamikaze submarines.  

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

PBS Nova: "The Great Math Mystery"

PBS Nova aired “The Great Math Mystery” tonight, April 15, 2015, primary link here. Is mathematics an invention of humans, or is it the language of the Universe?

 I think it is the latter.  Even God (or Allah or Jehovah) can’t change mathematics.  He (or She) can only decide on the constants of physics so that a universe works and life with free will is possible.  But the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus will always work.

And, as I have said before, life (with biological reproduction) is nature’s remedy for entropy.
The show demonstrated how Galileo and then Newton designed experiments that showed how gravity works.  And on the Moon, astronauts dropped a feather in competition with lead shot to show, in an airless environment, that Galileo had been right.
Like in a Physics 101 lab, experiments showed how the acceleration of gravity works (meaning distance fallen varies with the square of time).  Gravitational force is proportional to each mass and inversely proportional to the square of distance. I do remember conversations in grad school in the 60s about all that "useless math", like algebraic topology. 
Particularly interesting was a 20-year-old Marconi's experiment, based on Maxwell's equations, that laid the foundation for today's wireless Internet.
But mathematics doesn’t describe really intricate systems as well, like weather out into the future, or economics, or biology – or free will – or even “Grace”.  

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Bill Weir shows how draining the Everglades has ruined the area, on his Wonder List

Bill Weir visited the Florida Everglades on his “Wonder List” Sunday night, with primary link here.   Weir covers how draining the Everglades has threatened the aquifers that provide South Florida drinking water, and probably contributed to the sinkhole problem.
It also has killed about half of the wildlife.

I drove East through the glades in November 2004, along “Alligator Alley”.  Back in 1986, I had visited Belle Glade, on the shore of Lake Okeechobee and a center for migrant workers.  It was for some time a center of AIDS cases in the 80s. 

Saturday, April 11, 2015

"Venice" tries to protect itself from sea level rises with MOSE on Bill Weir's "Wonder List"

Bill Weir’s “Wonder List” Episode 6 covered “Venice”, Italy, starting with the Grand Canal, with the main link here.
Most of the City can be approached only by water, but some communities have been segregated on separate islands.
The main focus of the hour was the gradual loss of the city to seal level rise.  Tidal flooding regularly inundates some plazas in the city. 
Much of the program discussed the MOSE Project, which would protect the city with a flexible sea wall, as described here. But there have been controversies, enough to get the mayor into legal trouble, and questions as to whether it can be adequate for the degree of seal level rise expected. 
Wikipedia attribution link for photo by Wolgang Moredor of Plaza San Marco when flooded 

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

NBC's "Law and Order SVU" explores vaccination debate (as well as sexting)

NBC’s “Law and Order SVU” (Special Victims Unit) tonight offered an episode “Granting Immunity” that played on the vaccine debate (link). 
A mother, believing that her son became autistic after a vaccination, organizes a campaign to falsify vaccination records so that kids can go to NYC public schools unvaccinated.  Eventually, she is arrested and charged with reckless endangerment (a term often used in New York State law) after a middle school kid gets measles with severe complications after getting exposed by attending a “porn” party, which provides a little bit of a subplot – police try to arrest a student responsible for posting or sexting the photos of the teen host of the party before running into the outbreak.

The trial does a good job of outlining the many points of the vaccine debate.  The mother insists she has the right to decide the risk of vaccination for herself, ignoring the “herd immunity” public health argument.  The lawyers do mention the overwhelming modern evidence that vaccination has very few if any risks (even with mercury thimerosal preservatives). The trial mentions the idea that parents are not allowed to send kids to school with any peanut products (like peanut butter sandwiches, which I ate a school all the time as a kid) because of the risk to kids with peanut allergies.  

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

CNN downplays "rumors" about Mary Magdalene and possible marriage and family by Jesus

The final episode of CNN’s “Finding Jesus” aired Easter Sunday night, “Mary Magadalene”, didn’t exactly ratify Dan Brown’s theory from “The Da Vinci Code” (Books, April 16, 2006).  Instead, it presents her as a probably wealthy older woman who probably supported Jesus with her fishing business.  (You didn’t have ‘free fish” in that economy.)  The link for the episode is here

What’s curious, then, was the introduction of Mary as possessed by demons when Jesus met her.  He would call upon the demons by name to leave.  Mary was almost like one of the female patients at NIH when I was “hospitalized” there in the latter part of 1962.  But she seemed to go on to have a “successful” life. That seems inconsistent with starting out as a prostitute. 
Much of the material comes from the Gospels of Thomas, and then Philip.  Later, a “Gospel of Mary Magdalene”,  the only one by a woman, appears, in the Second Century, but it was probably ghost-written by someone who had contact with her.
There is speculation that Jesus had a marital relationship with Mary Magdalene, and even returned after the Ascension to live a normal life.  But there would be obvious “biological” questions then tracking back to the Virgin Birth.
National Geographic has a documentary on Mary Magdalene, to which I can return later (on YouTube). 

Monday, April 06, 2015

"American Odyssey" on NBC recalls the film "Babel"

American Odyssey” premiered on Easter Sunday night, right after “A.D.”.   The NBC site is here and the Pilot had the title “Gone Elvis”.  The show seems to be the brainchild of Adam Armus and Nora Kay Foster.
My first reaction was that series is like the movie “Babel” (missing Brad Pitt).  It has several parallel plot threads around the world, coming together.  And like “Babel” it opens in a combat area in Muslim Africa, this time, Mali.  We have a superwoman soldier Odelle Ballard (Anna Friel) whose mission is to help with communicating with females in the Muslim populations (particularly with medical needs).  She is well trained in native languages and military intelligence.  She stumbles on evidence of corporate funding of terrorist organizations on a laptop, with bizarre money transfers (a lot of money for poor countries).  But she gets captured, not before texting her location on an iPhone just in a nick of time.  Presumed dead (and her family in Massachusetts in notified by an official visit in dress greens) she is rescued by a Muslim teen Aslam (Omar Ghazaoui) and they set across the Sahara on an “odyssey” home in a scene that looks like it comes right out of “Lawrence of Arabia”.
Her text is intercepted in New York City by computer hacker Harrison Walters (Jake Robinson) associated with the street Occupy Wall Street movement.  And corporate lawyer Peter Decker (Peter Facinelli) has come across evidence of corporate funding of terror from the physical comfort of the office.
The series was first to be called simply “Odyssey” before the name was modified to separate it from Homer.
I have a script from 2002 called “American Epic” which I could have called “American Odyssey” which is set up in the immediate post-9/11 period when an ordinary blogger might get drawn into an international plot, a somewhat similar concept, descriptive link here.
Will this new NBC series hold the audience?  I think a clue is to introduce stateside characters and pose the notion “this could happen to me.”

Sunday, April 05, 2015

NBC resumes "A.D.: The Bible Continues" Easter Sunday night

Easter Sunday, NBC carried the premier of “A.D. The Bible Continues” with Mark Burnett as the most conspicuous co-producer.   The main link is here.

The episode depicted the Crucifixion and the disappearance of the body from the tomb (essentially Mark’s version).

The series emphasizes the political climate and the fears of both the Romans and the Jewish establishments in Jerusalem that they could not survive insurrection fomented by loose lips. The Jewish establishment accused Jesus of claiming he was a Messiah when he was not (although the Gospel of Mark has Jesus keeping a low profile in this regard). The Romans accuse Jesus of treason, of fomenting insurrection.  The Romans also regretted allowing his body to be placed in a tomb, rather than eaten by animals, because his followers could steal the body and claim resurrection.

An hour of Dateline depict the making of the series, including the construction of a Jerusalem in Morocco, and the challenges of playing Jesus, on the cross, faced by Argentine actor Juan Pablo Di Pace. 
Mark Burnett explained his interest in Christian television, and also the history of “Survivor”, where he was paid very little but had to raise money from sponsors.  The business of televangelism, as illustrated by an Oklahoma network, is still strong.  

Update:  April 13, 2015

The second episode shows the Romans concerned about how Jesus's body could have been removed.

Later, Jesus is asking Peter if Peter loves him and would sacrifice everything to follow him.  I know this is a religious idea, but a "Clark Kent" person that I look up to ("upward affiliation") would never say this!

Friday, April 03, 2015

"The Slap" Finale: Lucas Hedges shines as the gay teen photographer who has the evidence, and is more troubled than he looks

The NBC mini-series “The Slap” concluded Maudy Thursday night with an episode named “Richie”, after the teen photographer who actually had taken images of “The Slap” and then deleted them.
Richie is played by Lucas Hedges, son of screenwriter and director Peter Hedges.  Richie seems like one of the most solid characters around, but in the finale we learn he had moved from rural Pennsylvania to NYC and taken on a new last name after being bullied for being gay and then attempting suicide. A local tabloid insists on running Richie’s story as related to the trial, and Richie attempts suicide again, but is rescued (in a truncated series) by Hugo’s father.  The episode skipped the stomach-pumping and Bellevue emergency room.

NBC's link for Richie's testimony is here
Richie’s photography talent will get him into the New School.  Near the end of the episode, Richie willingly testifies that he saw Harry slap Hugo after Hugo had actually put the bat down.  Richie says he had deleted all of the pictures of the party for privacy reasons, that he didn’t think pictures like this should be kept.  Harry is convicted in a bench trial and sentenced to time-served.  The judge admonishes all the other adults in the room for their bad behavior, including Hugo’s parents. 

I personally feel that the screenplay did not need another suicide attempt. I think that could have been skipped.  It would be stronger if Richie were barraged by the press and he simply stayed above it. 

The idea of photography of people, at parties and in bars and discos, has become much more sensitive recently than it was even five years ago.  I’ve noticed that myself.  

(Note: NBC spell's the character's name as "Ritchie" but imdb spells it "Richie".)

Update: April 11

There is a real-life "Slap" incident in a convenience store in Bakersfield, CA, local TV video here

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Bizarre poisoning case in Pittbsburgh, a "Lethal Weapon" on NBC Dateline

NBC Dateline aired a third straight special mystery, this one called “Lethal Weapon”, about the death of a female physician and medical researcher in Pittsburgh, Autumn Klein.  She had gone to medical school in Boston and met her husband Robert Ferrante, much older, also a medical researcher.  Eventually they took jobs back at the University of Pittsburgh.

One evening, after having one child, she collapsed at home, and died after emergency treatment could not revive her.  Autopsy showed cyanide poisoning, which apparently had been placed in a creatine energy drink.
Her husband would be convicted on what sounded like circumstantial evidence, but he had done Internet searches on cyanide.  His motives seem obscure, other than jealousy.  The perpetrator is 66.

He was convicted and sentenced to life without parole. Story from WPIX in Pittsburgh. 

This story (besides Holmes in Colorado) is the second major criminal story involving a neuroscience student or physician.  

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

"Cancer:The Emperor of All Maladies" from Ken Burns

PBS has aired a 3-part documentary produced by Ken Burns and Florentine Films, “Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies”, directed by Chris Dorrance and Barak Goodman.  The three parts are (1) The Blind Men and the Elephant, (2) Cancer: A Conversation, and (3) Magic Bullets.  The best link is here.
Chemotherapy and radiation for cancer started to become more in general use back in the early 1960s, when it was studied at NIH (literally while I was a “psychiatric” patient but got to work with patient specimens I the labs).  I had a female music teacher die suddenly of colon cancer in 1958.  In the old days, the dreaded word was “colostomy”.

The documentary gets into the genetic causes of most tumors, as an example of evolution speeded up. Although the genetics are very complex, there are about twelve patterns that most cancers follow.  Some people have a na├»ve idea of a single “cure for cancer” based on the idea of changing the biochemistry that allows cells not to die.
The documentary covered the efforts of 26-year-old lawyer in 1970 to force networks to air anti-smoking ads, leading to most cigarette ads being off the air by the early 1970s.  That was shortly before I worked for NBC.
The film covered the stories of many patients, and the strategies doctors have of counseling them over terminal disease.  Once a cancer recurs, it is usually fatal.

The latter part of the film covered immunotherapy. 
The film did not go into HIV specifically very much, and it didn’t mention the idea of quick early detection tests like Jack Andraka’s.  It did not play up the emotions too much, the way some earlier PBS specials had (like "Lion in the House" about a decade ago).