Sunday, July 31, 2011

NBC Dateline: "Taking the Hill: Inside Congress"

Tonight, NBC Dateline covered the debt ceiling debate with a one hour special, “Taking the Hill: Inside Congress”, with basic link here, with Brian Williams, tracking Wednesday, July 27.

John Boehner, Speaker of the House, from Ohio (third in line for the presidency) was portrayed as the “cigarette-smoking man” (from X-files), and it shows with his gams when he comes to the golf course in his shorts.  Boehner's office was said to reek with stale tobacco odor, like a smoking-permitted motel room.   He played golf with the president , who also has a history of smoking. That’s depressing.

People become coffeepots working there, especially the weakly paid interns, who then become motivated to run for office themselves. But what we need is for more people from other walks of life to serve in Congress for more limited times.

 Second picture: from Tea Party "Hold the Line" rally Wednesday.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

ABC 20-20: Report on Progeria by Barbara Walters

Friday, July 29, ABC 20-20 aired a report by Barbara Walters on three families (two of them in Ohio) with kids who have progeria, an extremely rare hereditary disorder that causes kids to age before they would be fully grown.

Barbara Walters did talk to one of the girls, who weighed only 24 pounds at age 6.

In one family, there were two “normal” older brothers who seemed very well adjusted.

Study of progeria could help scientists understand how normal people age. And epidemiologists have been learning to report more cases.

Here’s a story from Medical News today, link

Friday, July 29, 2011

PBS: "Triumph at Carville": a documentary about the only leprosy hospital in the US

Triumph at Carville: A Tale of Leprosy in America”, directed by John Wilhelm, was aired by PBS in 2004 and is now available from Netflix. The main PBS link is here.

The hospital, run for decades by the Marine Corps, was the only hospital in the United States to treat Hansen’s Disease, or leprosy, and people came from all over the world and lived there for life.

Patients did not have civil rights and were not allowed to leave the hospital without permission, and male and female patients were not allowed to mix.  But the disease is not contagious, and the restriction on the movement and activities of patients (and the stigma associated with the disease since Biblical times) would foreshadow the debate on the public health aspects of HIV in the 1980s.

The film does show the dreaded disfigurement of the disease, which results from nerve damage which in turn leads to destructive injuries and infections.

The only known animal reservoir seems to be the armadillo. 

One medical anomaly was interesting. Before anti-leprosy drugs were perfected, doctors noticed that the disease tended to become worse in cooler parts of the body, particularly the legs, where in many people hair is lost because of declining circulation with age.

Hygiene and nursing care that prevented limb loss in Hansen’s disease was found to be effective for diabetes.  

The hospital, located 16 miles south of Baton Rouge, was turned over to the state in 1999 and the last remaining patients, some of whom wanted to stay in their home there as long as they lived, left to go “on the outside.”

Democratic strategist James Carville, who comes from the town, appears in the film.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

BBC: "Voyage to the Planets and Beyond"

Warner Home video distributes a BBC/Discovery two-part series “Voyage to the Planets and Beyond” (2005).

A British crew makes a six year voyage, landing on Venus, Mars, and Io (the moon of Jupiter) and flying through the atmosphere of Jupiter.

I was disappointed that it doesn’t spend more time on Io or doesn’t “land” on Titan (it shows it from a distance), but instead visits desolate Pluto.   Cassini landed a probe on Titan in early 2005, remember.

Venus is appropriately brown and desolate, but the scenery doesn’t really show how an ultra thick atmosphere would affect what you can see, possibly causing a total “wrap around”.   It does provide a warning on global warming.  What happened to Venus is a “natural tragedy”.  And the runaway greenhouse effect may have occurred less than a billion years ago.  Maybe there was life there before.

Toward the end of the film, a crew member dies, and the crew has to deal with a memorial in deep space.
The two-episode film (2 one hour episodes) is directed by Joe Ahearne.

Best site from BBC is here.

Here’s a video from a related film on YouTube:

Wikipedia attribution link for surface of Pluto.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Obama, Boehner address nation; "My way or no way?"

President Obama and Speaker John Boehner continued their dual tonight with speeches on all the networks at 9 PM.  Obama spoke for about 16 minutes; Boehner, much more earthy, for about 8. Curiously, Boehner accused the president of creating a “crisis atmosphere.”

The president emphasized fairness in an old fashioned way, a concept that the Tea Party ignores for ideological reasons (and maybe pleases the right wing “natural family” crowd).

Wolf Blitzer, in the hour before, interview many people (including Alabama’s Senator Sessions), grilling them in detail about all the inconsistencies that have appeared in the past few weeks.

CNN predicted that Obama would warn of “imminent threat of default”, but Obama did not. Obama this time did not threaten to veto any specific bill. But he did object to Boehner’s two-step process, and mentioned that the credit rating agencies had warned that the GOP plan would not stop a downgrade. So far the GOP has not responded to that deficiency.

After the speeches, Wolf Blitzer expressed discouragement, and fear that we would default on Aug. 2.  Most commentators felt that both speeches were partisan. 

But Piers Morgan raised the question of using the 14th Amendment of Sen. Schumer.   He also interviewed White House senior aide David Plouffe.

Morgan then interviewed Grover Norquist.  He said "write it down". 

Saturday, July 23, 2011

ABC 20-20 covers earth-grown super-heroes (without coming from other planets)

Friday, July 22, ABC 20-20 presented the “topic” of super-humans, with the help of machines.

Jeb Corliss proved that man can fly, but only with actual air-filled wings. Jay Schadler reported.

Memory artist Stephen Wiltshire showed his savant ability in his drawings.

Chris Waddell climbs Mt. Kilimanjaro in a handcycle (with no altitude problems).

Ashley Battles plays wing-walker in the San Francisco bay.

Now compare these to the TV series heroes: Clark Kent of Smallville, Jake 2.0, Sean Walker in “The Event”, Kyle XY, and Shawn Farrell in “The 4400”. If you have powers, you must have come from another planet.

How many people can you think of that seem to have extraordinary talent, and deploy it well and convincingly.  Is it hard work – usually.   Or could it mean that “friend” is “one of them”?   “No one human could possibly do all this.”

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

CNN: Piers Morgan interviews The Donald on the debt issue, doesn't get fired

CNN on Wednesday July 20 covered a variety of important topics about the budget, justice, and national security.

Piers Morgan interviewed Donald Trump at a distance about the budget crisis (link).  Trump said that a “grand bargain” needed to be struck, and that increasing taxes would only drive companies offshore. He said that he would repeal ObamaCare, but in the past he has said that society should take care of all of its sick.  He said that George W. Bush did not do well as president, but Obama has made things worse.  He also talked about enormous regulation that drives jobs overseas, especially to China.  He said the Chinese can fill in the ocean to build a real estate development “in two days”. 

Later Cornel West and one other speaker talked about Trump as having “pimped” the presidency, and talked about poverty as an existential national security threat.

On AC360, Sanjay Gupta was heralded by Breaking News that the “Gang of 6” didn’t get closer this evening on a budget deal, and went off into a conversation as to whether there was a count of votes in the House that would derail any debt extension at all.  (ABC disagreed with this assessment).  Later, AC360 presented a controversy in Anoka, MN, near Minneapolis, where a “neutrality” policy preventing discussion of sexual orientation in public schools indirectly contributes to bullying that has led to several suicides. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

ABC Nightline Prime: "Battle with the Devil" in its "Beyond Belief" series

A preview and a portion of ABC Nightline Primetime’s “Beyond Belief” called "Battle with the Devil”, full report Wednesday July 20, some of it aired July 19:

There’s a scene of an exorcism in a rural “Baptist” church near Buffalo, NY (not the South this time), with people burping and coughing up phlegm, in a physical experience. Terry Moran reports.
I did see believers being “slain in the spirit” at the Brownsville Assembly of God in Pensacola, FL in November 1998.  Afterwards, believers, while sleeping, were gently covered with blankets.

Without being specific, I can say that I may have witnessed something like possession one time when I was an "MP" "inpatient" back in 1962.

The show, as aired, focused on the devil, and mentioned a lawsuit over whether the music of a heavy metal band could induce suicide, and mentioned the musical "tritone" chord as "devlish" (as in Liszt). The show focused on our ideas about Satan and the Devil. 

Sunday, July 17, 2011

CNN: commentator compares Casey Anthony's situation to witness protection; also, a silly commercial

For my TV news coverage, I have a couple small items this Sunday morning, one serious and one trivial.

Yesterday, a female forensic psychologist spoke on CNN and advised Casey Anthony, the notorious defendant recently acquitted in Florida because a jury could not find enough hard physical evidence beyond the circumstantial, to spend the rest of her life in a “very low profile.”  (CNN lawyer Jeffrey Toobin had said she should live in "obscurity".)  She would have to “watch her back”.  Have we as a culture deteriorated to the point that we cannot count on law and order and give in to bullies?  This did not sound appropriate to me to be on CNN.  I've had people tell me to stay in hiding and keep a low profile in the past because I am gay.  This is a dangerous idea. 

ABC Nightline (on July 18) even suggested that she get plastic surgery to make herself unrecognizable.

There is a good question, as to whether book publishers or independent film or cable television producers will want to "buy" her story. 

The CNN psychologist compared Anthony’s situation to that of someone in a federal witness protection program.  In fact, Lifetime has sometimes aired a very disturbing (made-in-Canada) film “Family in Hiding” ( (2006, Lifetime / Insight, dir. Timothy Bond), with Brenda Strong, who plays a business executive and single mother who witnesses a mob hit and is whisked away into witness protection, her life destroyed as well as that of her kids.  It was a shocking film, which I watched about three years ago.

It's true that the law could be changed to require parents to report missing or abused children sooner, and avoid this kind of result. But remember that in some states, "ambitious" prosecutors have gone after parents or caregivers and solicited testimony from minor children. 

Yesterday, CNN aired a really silly commercial from “Micro Touch”, which showed an attractive young man using this special razor or “men’s groomer” (ordered from some 1-800 number) to shave his own arms (like he was about to go on a [destructive] “mission”), and a wife or girl friend shaving his chest, on camera.  This was bizarre.  And, jeepers, consider the "humiliation" actors go through as part of their "job".

Saturday, July 16, 2011

CNN: Larry King airs a special on the last Harry Potter movie

This week, CNN’s Larry King Live has aired a one hour special , “When Harry Met Larry: Harry Potter, The Final Chapter”.

Yesterday, I reviewed the full film on my movie’s blog.

The one hour show featured a lengthy interview with Daniel Radcliffe, now almost 22, who said he wept the last day. As with Emma Watson and Rupert Grint, who also appear, the 10 year project took up most of their “childhoods”.  At one point, Daniel Radcliffe was Britain’s wealthiest teen. It also showed a snippet of his stage performance in Equus.

Radcliffe considers the last film the best. He also said that child actors in Britain are still children first and professionals second, the opposite of how it is in the U.S.   He also said that Harry as a character has a bit of a hero complex, and that he does himself. 

There were scenes from the Harry Potter attraction in Orlando and another in New York.

Interview with Helena Bonham Carter.

Last picture: Would Harry Potter make it at West Point?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Obama sounds (relatively) upbeat on network news conference on debt extension impasse

President Obama held a news conference on major networks at 11 AM EDT Friday morning on the debt extension crisis, which I have covered in detail on my “issues” and “retires” blogs. 

The president’s tone was optimistic, and sounded reasonable. He did sound like he was trying to get the GOP hardliners to become more specific as to exactly what cuts they wanted.

One development that has surfaced today is that “Tea Party” Republicans have promised constituents that they would not vote to raise the debt ceiling under any circumstances.

However, if the receipts of the federal government after Aug 2 are 40% short of the bills that come due, there simply is no way to avoid a catastrophe. It is irresponsible for any politician to make such promises.

Picture: Yale, not Harvard.  But I'll get to Barack's and Mark's stomping grounds in due course. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

"Days of our Lives" has an openly gay character (finally?)

Today, as I turned on Corday/NBC’s “Days of our Lives”, for the first time I saw an openly gay story line. Sonny (Freddie Smith) tells Victor that he (Freddie) is gay, and Victor actually worries that he’ll get beaten up in conservative Salem, which is supposed to be a fictitious big city in [red state] Ohio (there is a small town by that name).  How will Stefano take to this?  Here's an EW story. I notice, by the way, that Dustin's "Soap Opera Fan" site still keeps the detailed summaries. 

I have to admit I’ve kind of lost interest in Days, as it has gotten silly, with the “two Rafe’s”, and so on. A few years ago, the premise of a Caribbean replica of Salem and the abduction of all the characters from graves after Marlena’s spree was actually interesting. I’m surprised it has survived this long. Look at what happened to Passions, which used to be on at 2 PM.   And an Internet channel supposedly will pick up “All My Children” and “One Life to Live” from ABC.

A couple years ago, one of “Days” best characters was the geeky Nick Fallon (Blake Berris), whom the show proceeded to “ruin”.  At one point, Nick was tricked into playing dad to another woman’s children from a casino.

But, finally, a gay story line on Days.  It needs it now.  The problem with a gay character in this soap is that he won’t do anything to make any of the other “men” jealous, especially over Sami.

Days has a habit of just suddenly writing characters out of the script, like Malena, and then Sean and Belle. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

AC360: Does the Octomom represent our future better than childless people? Anderson's "Ridiculist"; Also, GOP really chokes on pro-family, anti-gay-marriage pledge

Anderson Cooper covered the Octomom Nadya Suleman with her 14 kids last night on the Ridculist on his AC360 show.

Cooper, who I believe has no kids, said he believes that kids are our future, and therefore Nadya has 14 times as much invested in the future as him. (Sorry, Anderson: 14/0 – fourteen divided by zero – is infinity, or indeterminate, not 14).  I thought his comment was itself ‘ridculist-like”.

He did bash Nadya-bashers, however. Here is his column

Remember, Dr. Phil had often presented Nadya and had asked for local (LA-area) "volunteers" to help raise her kids ("other people's children"). 

He also discussed a bizarre “family values” pledge circulating in the GOP claiming that slaves were more likely to be raised in two-parent opposite-sex parent families than today’s African American children. Sorry, GOP, a history professor explained how slaves had no rights at all, including no right to marry. Families were often split up as chattel. Therefore, if the GOP was looking for a new argument to down gay marriage, it really choked on this one  -- or gagged.   That should have made Anderson’s Ridiculist. 

Sunday, July 10, 2011

"Open House" series from a real estate firm gives a feel for wide price swings in real estate market today

Open House” is available on many local cable channels in many cities.  It is sponsored by Coldwell Banker. “Open House NYC” presented condos and coops on the Upper West Side for under $900000, and then redesigned a “bachelor pad” without the help of Nate Berkus (who is said to have moved ro NYC).  It talked about cluttered book spaces and electronic gear.  No piano or bicycle here. 

But the program also offered city-to-city comparisons (Barbara Cochrane-like), saying Niagara Fallas NY was now the most affordable community and Huntington Beach, CA the least.  The wildest price swings  up and down (and neighborhood s adjacent) occur in the Atlanta area now.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

CNN AC360 interviews Anthony jurors, then Rand Paul on cutting (or means testing) Social Security as part of debt ceiling deal

On Wednesday night, CNN AC360 was hosted by John King, who re-presented three of the jurors from the Casey Anthony trial. Two of them said they were sickened by the tragedy, but did not believe the state had proved the case with physical evidence that matched up. One juror thought that an accident and a coverup was possible.

CNN also discussed the idea that the State of Florida would go after Anthony for costs, very unusual in a criminal case, unless it is obviously part of expected book or media deals.

AC360 also discussed the Strauss-Kahn case. Both this and the Anthony case “suffer” from hasty or overzealous prosecution.

During the AC360 broadcast, CNN broadcast breaking news, that President Obama has agreed to Social Security cuts as part of a budget deal. It was not clear whether cuts could affect current retirees.  But then AC360 put on Rand Paul (R-KY), who in the past has argued for graduated social security cuts aimed at younger people (and probably wants to replace with privatization).  But he said today that the way for the rich to do their part is to means test them for Social Security and Medicare benefits, and apparently he means to start doing that now with current beneficiaries.

This of course pits one generation against another. Paul says that tax hikes on the “productive rich” essentially tax everyone with higher unemployment.  But King argued that Bill Clinton raised taxes slightly on the rich and enjoyed an economic boom in the 1990s (largely because of “Web 1.0”, in the first DotCom era).

Lori Montgomery’s breaking story in the Washington Post on social security cuts is here.

As of late Wednesday, it did not offer speculation as to whether the cuts could affect current recipients. It would obviously be complicated to develop mathematical means testing formulas, partly based on "present values" of past FICA contributions (and what about those who took "early retirement")? 

Below, Marcia Clark offers a comparison of the Anthony case to O.J. Simpson in the 1990s:   This all reminds me of 1990s radio talk show host Victoria Jones, "the British Lady". 

ABC Nightline will interview "Juror #3" again tonight.

One "obvious:"question: who was the baby's father, and what about his accountability?


The media covered the sentencing Thursday morning. The judge threw the book at her with four consecutive sentences, but she will get out next Wednesday.  On CNN, Jeffrey Toobin said Casey should leave Florida and go and live "in obscurity". 

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

ABC Nightline coverage of Casey Anthony Acquittal is typical; case differs much from earlier Frontline doc on abuse prosecutions

All the media have covered the Casey Anthony case and acquittal today in Florida.  ABC Nightline aired a one hour special this evening.

Earlier, ABC had aired a 41-minute documentary “Crime and Punishment: The Case Anthony Story”, link here (no embed offered).

A major excerpt from the Nightline show is embedded, however.

Dan Abrams and Ashley Banfield provided commentary.

Generally, the legal community feels that the jurors were confused about “proof beyond a reasonable doubt” – that does not mean that no existential questions could remain about the lack of physical evidence.
But generally, comments from the jurors suggest that the State did not prove with physical evidence that the child’s death was not an accident, and then covered up later, clumsily. The mother’s reputation does not in itself constitute enough evidence for conviction.

But it is likely that the prosecution could have convicted her of manslaughter, requiring a smaller jury. Instead, there is only the conviction for lying to police.

Nancy Grace spoke, and she expressed deep disappointment and an existential lack of confidence in our system.

Another point that the legal system does not go after truth in a given case. It goes after justice in a collective sense, going to great lengths to prevent conviction of a guilty person. But we also know, from a recent PBS Frontline report, that in other circumstances prosecutorial abuse and wrongful conviction in child abuse cases (where prosecutors manipulate kids to testify against parents) have been common. Just rent the 2001 film “Just ask My Children”.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

CNN: Demi Moore (and Ashton Kutcher) host "Nepal's Stolen Children"

On Saturday, July 2, CNN aired (or re-aired) the one hour film “Nepal’s Stolen Children”, a CNN Freedom Project Documentary, basic link here.

Actress Demi Moore (who with her husband Ashton Kutcher run the project) narrates, and introduces CNN Hero of the Year for 2010, Anuradha Koirala.

The children of the women sold or trafficked across the border into India into slavery often do not recognize their mothers, but cling to their rescuers.  The women are often lured with promises of jobs, and sometimes given beverages laced with sedatives. 

Moore interviews the prime minister of Nepal, but is rebuffed when she visits the jail where men who arrange the trafficking serve sentences. There is one raid of a brothel shown in India, but men get little or no sentences.

Ashton Kutcher appears near the end of the film. His catch phrase is “Real men don’t buy girls.”  He has tweeted a lot lately about this, even about ads in the Village Voice, such as this story by Wendy Davis in Online Media Daily.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Legal show "Suits": The Ross character survives with "street smarts", and is very "cute"

I caught episode 2 of the new USA network series “Suits” last night. It looks like the Pilot aired June 23, and last night’s was titled “Errors and Omissions”.

A very cute Patrick J. Adams plays Mike Ross, a brilliant college dropout with a photographic memory, who doesn’t like to behave by the rules, and has to run from a Coen Brothers'- style deal gone bad. He talks a law firm hired by a tricky gonzo Harvey Specter (Gabriel Macht) into hiring him as a paralegal – fake lawyer.  He figures that Ross’s “street smarts” can "get him business."  Would Donald Trump hire Ross as (the) "apprentice"?

The script moves from one tricky situation to another, showing how the competitive world of law firm work and what it takes to get clients, and to manipulate circuit judges who have their own closet skeletons (straight ones, that is).  Part of the episode has to do with a trademark case where it appears that Ross missed a filing, and then has to out maneuver a client’s competitor to get it back. I’m not sure the USPTO really works that way. But toward the end, there’s a great Skype conference that shows how the practical world of high-tech innovation really works (hint: “The Social Network”).  The Winkelvi wouldn’t get past this law firm.

The show is somewhat intimate, and the script crisp. The men wear suits, often without ties, and there are some locker room and tennis court scenes that heighten Adams’s physical attractiveness (particularly in high def).   Adams doesn’t even show a hint of a widow’s peak yet. This is still the straight world, right?

Other viewers on Imdb call this “the least accurate legal show ever”.  Remember WB’s “Just Legal” that ran only a few episodes?

But it’s good to see USA (“characters welcome”) back with an intriguing series. I miss “The 4400”.

The official site is this.  (I think USA is affiliated with CBS and Paramount.)