Monday, December 31, 2012

President Obama addresses nation during soaps, says "deal is within sight but not there"


President Obama appeared on network television around 1:40 PM Monday, New Years Eve, 2012, to say “A deal is in signt, but it is not yet done”.  He was surrounded by members of middle class families who would be affected by the Fiscal Cliff, especially the loss of unemployment benefits.

The president still points the finger at some Republicans, whom he says simply refuse to join in the shared sacrifice (a Ross Perot term from 1992) that could be expected by those with high incomes.

The “horizon deal” would raise taxes on couples making over $450000 a year (marginally) or individuals over $400000.  It would preserve tax cuts for families with children.

The president talked about a “responsible, balanced approach” but didn’t get into entitlement reform or discussion of the debt ceiling. He didn’t mention the AMT, but it is almost certainly in the legislation.
The markets reacted negatively right when the president said that we would have to negotiate deficit reduction “in several steps”.

The FICA payroll tax holiday of 2% will almost certainly expire tonight.

Although both houses were in session early Sunday night, it looks as though they both shut down around 7:30 PM because of the distraction of the Washington Redskin's divisional title championship game  with (and win over) the Dallas Cowboys on NBC. 


A critical point in NBC’s “Days of our Lives”, where Nick and Gabbie (and Will) almost told a priest “the truth” about Will’s baby was skipped.  It would be available online on NBC tomorrow. 


Sunday, December 30, 2012

Obama explains "quick and dirty" Fiscal Cliff "deal" sought today on NBC "Meet the Press"


David Gregory, on NBC “Meet the Press”, has just interviewed President Barack Obama this morning on live television.
  
Obama said that there were three possibilities:  (1) a deal (2) no deal, but an “up and down” vote on keeping taxes the same for the middle class (and a few other emergency items like the AMT (Alternative Minimum Tax) levels for 2012, unemployment and milk, or (3) retroactive fax fix shortly after Jan. 4, which the President thinks the GOP cannot resist.

The President said we cannot solve the problems on the backs of senior or college students,  but he didn’t really promise really significant entitlement reform.

The link for the interview is here.  A video will probably appear today.

Tom Brokaw, in the post-interview discussion, pointed out the destructive effects of gerrymandering, which has seriously hardened the positions of some GOP congressmen (see Movie reviews, Oct. 30, 2010).  He also said that the vote needed to finish before the Redskins’s kickoff Sunday night (against the Dallas Cowboys).

Brokaw spoke out indirectly for means testing of entitlements, as well as gradually raising eligibility ages. He said that a lot of selfish adults want to keep their money for themselves and don’t care about the next generation (is that only the childless?)

An earlier discussion on ABC criticized the idea of tax cuts for the rich because of small business, but failed to mention that it is possible to carve out lower rates for money put back into closely held businesses.  People even in my own family circle (and probably Republicans) tell me the carve-out is pretty easy to do.

There was brief discussion with the president on Newtown.  Gegory was reprimanded by the DOJ  for showing a magazine clip illegally on an earlier MTP show.

The president did mention the repeal of "don't ask don't tell" in 2011 as an example of progress on social issues.
  
My take on the Cliff Notes: do the math on everything.  Do the “LOMA 9” (actuarial) calculations on the FICA tax contributions to Social Security that can be at risk.

The Huffington Post has a partial transcript of Gregory's interview, and its own "do these things" list here

Saturday, December 29, 2012

ABC's "Back to the Beginning" Part 2, gets into the collapse of the Kingdom after Solomon, looks for the "supernatural" Ark of the Covenant


On Friday, December 28, 2012, ABC 20-20 aired Part II of Christiane Amanpour’s “Back to the Beginning”, link, another two hour segment.
  
The documentary picked up with the story of Moses and traced “The Land of the Bible” through the end of the period of the Kings and the capture of the Jews and their eventual captivity.

She is shown riding on modern highways in the Sinai, with a driver dressed as a Bedouin. There are serious security problems with bandits in the area.

One of the interesting controversies concern how quickly the Jews recaptured territory after return from Egpyt.  Many were disheartened by physical hardship and wanted to return to slavery.  The archeological evidence suggests a gradual settlement, as in Judges.

Somewhere during this history the Ark of the Covenant was developed, and said to have supernatural powers, to be alike a weapon of mass destruction.

Much of the documentary concerned efforts to locate the Ark today.

The documentary says that David is the first king for whom we have actual proof of his existence.  David vanquished enemies, but Solomon courted them. But Solomon’s successors would be done by “idol worship”, by the unwillingness of the people to accept personal submission to Jehovah. That might be the most startling point in the film. 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

"Days" honors PFLAG, but writers will have to get Will past an honesty crisis


Today, on NBC’s “Days of our Lives”, Will’s dad, Lucas Roberts, gave a donation to PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), in front of everyone, including Sonny.  Earlier in the Boxing Day episode, Will and Sonny had kissed under the mistletoe.  This was a three-day Christmas. 

But the plan for Will to keep his parentage of Gabbi’s baby a secret will soon fall apart. It’s hard to understand why Nick Fallon is so proud of playing father to (as Nick puts it) that “gay boy”.

Political correctness, and adventurousness, would say that the secret gets out, and somehow Sonny gets over Will’s dishonesty in hiding it from him, and that Will and Sonny raise the child as gay dads.  Sonny certainly has the business acumen to make enough money.  He seems to be the smartest character in the show (given the previous fall of Nick).

You can try the “AfterElton” blog for more, here. I wonder what this affair is doing for the show’s ratings.  Everything else going on right now is pretty silly.

On Dec. 27, Eric (*the priest) tried to get Nicole to "volunteer" at a homeless shelter to "ring in the New Year, to give his new employee "something to do" so she "wouldn't be alone".  This is an interesting take on volunteerism. 

Monday, December 24, 2012

Piers Morgan re-interviews Rick Warren


Piers Morgan seems to be weathering the efforts of pro-gun forces to gather petitions to get him deported back to the UK. (as in the movie “Like Crazy”).

Tonight, Piers Morgan interviewed Pastor Rick Warren (a second time), for Christmas Eve.
   
There were a lot of juicy quotes in tonight’s interview:

“Make me famous. The purpose of influence is to speak up for those who have no influence.” He says this is based on Psalm 72.

“It’s not a sin to die rich. It’s a sin to die rich.”

“Worry says, I’m assuming responsibility God never intended me to have. “  That was an important idea in his book “The Purpose-Driven Life”. Assuming responsibility can mean legitimate fame and recognition, however. 

“Opposites attract, but in marriage opposites attack.” He discussed the practical importance of marriage counseling. 

“Love is a choice.”  He also said that Jesus commands that “we love everybody”.
   
Piers Morgan quizzed him again on gay marriage, and at one point Warren apologized for some uncivil remarks on an earlier show.  But he said that “moral laws in the Bible don’t change” even if ceremonial law can. “Love between two men or between two women isn’t wrong.  But it’s the sex that’s wrong.”
     
Morgan asked why LGBT people don’t or shouldn’t have the same rights to marry adults of their choice that straights do.  Warren seemed to sidestep the idea of a separate kind of person or “separate creation” (Chandler Burr).  But he could not explain why the Bible would regard sex between two adults of the same sex who love another wrong.  There seems to be a nebulous idea that allowing that dilutes the commitment to create and raise the next generation.  He did punt by saying that you can’t change the essential meaning of a word describing a social institution.  But he hasn't cleanly explained why people who are probably, at some biological level, brain-wired differently to respond to certain kinds of emotion should make such a special sacrifice for everyone else.  


Saturday, December 22, 2012

CNN: Morgan interviews Summly's teen founder; Zakaria's "Tough Decisions; Gupta, Lemon on psychopathology


Tonight, CNN had an interesting pre-Christmas Saturday evening, and I didn’t venture out into the cold winds and snow flurries. 

The most interesting and upbeat item was Piers Morgan’s interview of the British teenager, Nick D’Aloisio, now 17, who “innovated” the content summary service called “Summly”.  I have to admit that I will need to try it myself soon (I have a Motorola Droid under contract, not an iPhone, not sure yet if it works – but Nick said his summaries fit any size screen.  Now Google has already formatted Blogger  content to fit nicely onto smartphones.  I don’t know if further summaries are necessary.  Nick seems to be a programming prodigy on the level of Mark Zuckerberg.  He earned venture capital at age 15, the youngest ever.

Earlier, at 8 PM, Fareed Zakaria aired “Tough Decisions” (link ).    Zakaria first interviewed Donilon about Obama’s decisions in tracking down Osama bin Laden (which we’ll see a lot more of soon when “Zero Dark Thirty” is in general release Jan. 11).  He then interviewed Paul O’Neill, who implemented a “perfect safety” policy at Alcoa when he became CEO of the company, to gave confidence of his workers.  He also interviewed Henry Kissinger as to the clandestine bargaining that led to Nixon’s visit to Red China in 1972, shortly after the Maoist Cultural Revolution. Sunday Zakaria added another "tough decision": how the Obama administration decided to bail out the auto industry in 2004.  

Sanjay Gupta today laired “Inside the Violent Mind”.  The three patterns are “traumatized, psychotic, and psychopathic”.  Gupta interviewed Dr. Schouten, and them Andrew Solomon, author of “Far from the Tree”.  Gupta discussed many of the specific cases.  In many of them, it seems as though the thought patterns included nihilism (typical of terrorists), but generally we don’t have details as to what they people had been doing before their attacks.  In general, in most cases, there seem to have been considerable evidence of very severe mental disturbance of some kind for a long time.  Schouten discussed the idea that psychopathy is not an officially diagnosable mental illness.  It probably has a biological basis, but it is viewed as “evil”. 

Gipta made the point that a lot of severe schizophrenia appears in young adulthood (roughly ages 18-26). I  have known personally hundreds or thousands of people in this age range in my life, and have yet to know of a single case in someone I know, however -- that is, apart from other patients at the National Institutes of Health when I was "hospitalized" in the latter part of 1962, none of whom I had met in my "own" life.   


Tonight, CNN's Don Lemon described his own undercover operation in buying a gun, which he said takes much less time than getting a driver's license.  

Friday, December 21, 2012

ABC presents "Back to the Beginning", starting at Genesis, with Amanpour; The Flood was like the biggest tsunami ever


Christiane Amanpour (who normally reports overseas for CNN) presented the first two hours of her “Back to the Beginning” subseries for ABC 20-20 Friday night on December 21.

The film started with a visit to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, with a mother and son from North Carolina. 
    
But then she discusses attempts to find the location of the original Garden of Eden, which might be in southern Iraq where the marsh Arabs live today. The most important part of the documentary might be the exploration of the probability of The Flood around 5000 BC when the Mediterranean overflowed into the Black Sea (maybe after an earthquake) and flooded villages along the Black Sea up to 400 feet.  Divers (who had explored the Titanic) found evidences of pottery and even buildings on the sea floor.  This disaster would be the equivalent of a 400 foot tsunami today, without the water leaving. Katrina, on the other hand, flooded areas about 10 feet below sea level. Nevertheless, it sounds unlikely that the Ark could have wound up on a 16000 foot mountain in the land of the Kurds.  
  
Amanpour then explored the possible route of Abraham, and then focused on Joseph, who insulted his brothers with his “smarts” when he told them his dreams.  The documentary presented excerpts from the musical “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”, which I saw at the National Theater in 1994 (on YouTube here ). Apparently Joseph's dream geek-work impressed the Egyptian Pharaoh, who made him privileged (and an Uncle Tom) in a land where his people were enslaved.  He might have been regarded as a mooch on his own people today.
        
The last part of the documentary looked the enslavement of the Israelites in Egypt for demographic reasons, and the act of civil disobedience by a nanny that led to saving the life of Moses and his rearing in the court of the Pharaoh.  There is a Nile park in Cairo that simulates what the area of Moses’s rescue might have looked like. 

The scenery in the 2-hour special looked sharp in plasma high-definition.  Still, "go big or go home".  

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Nightline covers undercover work by Va Tech survivor Colin Goddard, and presents tight school security, maybe even arming teachers


ABC Nightline, on Dec. 19, covered two critical stories of the gun issue.

One is the suddenly increased security in schools all over the country, with Middleton Elementary School near Chicago.

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The school has a system that can perform an instant background check before one enters the school.  The concept may not be so different than the TSA’s.
  
Nightline discussed the proposals that teachers and administrators should be armed, at least if they are licensed.  Now it seems to me that, besides the obvious possibility of abuse, it could lead to a world where you have to be capable of acting as a soldier or policeman to teach.  Wichita Falls, TX already allows teachers and administrators to be armed, and in Virginia, Governor Bob McDonnell ® has made a similar proposal.  I used to substitute-teach.  I simply cannot protect others from violence, and that is not my calling.  Does that in itself mean I should not be a teacher or should not have been allowed to before?


Then Nightline covered the work of one of the Virginia Tech survivors, Colin Goddard, who appears fully recovered but has three bullets in his body.  Goddard not only works for the Brady lobby to strengthen gun control, he also went undercover and demonstrated how easy it was to buy weapons in Virginia at gun shows without background checks.
  
Nightline also demonstrated the relative power of military weapons (the automated M-16) and a semi-automatic based on the M-16 design.  When I was in the Army (1968-1970) I fired the M-14 (which also had Drill and Ceremonies) but not the M-16; I was barely too early for it.  I have not held a weapon in my hand since discharge from the Army. 

Piers Morgan hosted a panel discussion on CNN  on gun control tonight, and it got heated and out of control.  Conservative Will Cain tried to question whether new measures (closing the background check loophole and banning assault weapons) really worked and will work now.  

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Piers Morgan tears up guest over gun policy (tossing "insults"); Bradley Cooper "reveals" himself to Ellen


On Tuesday December 18, 2012 Piers Morgan interviewed Larry Pratt, head of Gun Owners of America.  Earlier Tuesday, Virginia governor Robert McDonnell (Republican) had suggested that principals (maybe teachers) in Virginia schools be armed.  I had actually tweeted that to Piers Morgan.  On the show, Morgan called Pratt “stupid” at one point, and then later said, “I know about role models, and you’re not one of them.”  You let Piers Morgan interview you at your own risk.

Will Bob McDonnell go on the Piers Morgan show?  I haven’t heard “those Republicans” say much except let everybody carry their own weapons.  The GOP is suddenly mum this week. 

Dr. Michael Weiner from NYU spoke about the ominous nature of an outburst like what happened this weekend.
Mehmet Oz discussed the blog entry “I am Adam Lanza’a Mother” on CNN after AC360, with regard to the difficulty in getting mental health services for young people with certain issues, blog source link here.  Petula Dvorak had discussed the item today in the Washington Post.

Today, Ellen DeGeneres said that this was her first show since the incident, and wanted to keep it light.  She had Bradley Cooper as a guest (the world’s best looking heterosexual man), and did some dirty dancing with him.  Then Bradley, sufficiently challenged and tempted, “revealed”, pulling  apart his shirt,  then his sleeve, his pantleg for outer banks, to show three extra “nipples”.  How did he do the makeup through the hair?

Bradley did give a good explanation of his troubled character in "Silver Linings Playbook" (Movies blog, No.v 24). Ellen showed a clip from the Hemmingway book scene, and Bradley depicted his character as in dire straits with bipolar disorder, but his problems look less significant now in view of the tragedy that apparent mental illness has brought.   

Sunday, December 16, 2012

President addresses nation from Newtown Sunday night, says we are all parents


On Sunday night, I was concluding supper at a sports bar, Thirsty Bernie’s, in Arlington VA, where Sunday night football was on the plasma TV’s.  The broadcast was punctuated when President Obama appeared at an Interfaith service in Newtown, CT to address the nation.

The gathering in the bar became completely quiet.

CNN has a story on with videos, here.  CNN has made the videos unavailable for embedding, an unusual step for this media company.

I have not yet found the complete text online.  I expect that it will appear soon at “whitehouse.gov”.
    
The president did not mention gun control specifically. However he said that parents cannot raise their children all by themselves, and that the nation would have to work together to make the environment safer for the next generation.  He made a particularly interesting statement, something like “We are all parents for all our children”.  Check the text when it appears for the exact wording. That statement would include the childless, and give them some responsibility for the actions of others.  He went on, "This is our first test, caring for our children. If we don't get that right, nothing else matters." He also said that becoming a parent is like feeling your heart go outside your body. The love of one's own kids takes one into spaces larger than oneself.  I did wonder how that applies to non-parents.  

The president allowed himself a little humor, saying that one child offered that he knew karate (like a younger Taylor Lautner).

There are a lot of other issue that, at least indirectly or in a sense of commons, affect the ability of parents to provide safety for their children besides just the availability of weapons to ordinary Americans.  I’ll save talking about the Second Amendment or the effectiveness of gun laws for another time (although someone from the NRA did tell Piers Morgan on CNN tonight that another armed civilian may have helped stopped the incident in Oregon, a fact that I had not heard yet.)

Some of the other issues that affect the common good would include violence in media, and the possible dangerous effects of unsupervised user generated content that may in practice may be very hard for parents to monitor.  That could get into the Section 230 issues that I’ve talked about on my main blog. 

It also raises the question of how any one of us might react if suddenly confronted with an unexpected challenge caused by the danger to someone else, whether by accident, natural disaster, or wrongdoing of others.  That possibility doesn’t wait just for people to become parents.  
The president used the word "comfort" at least twice.  That concept was mentioned in conjunction with Psalm 42 in church this morning. The president did refer to his Christian faith several times.  

Friday, December 14, 2012

Rock Center presents noted children's author (Osborne); On "Take It All" don't trust the smooth!


NBC Rock Center last night offered an interview with children’s author Mary Pope Osborne and her “Magic Tree House” chapter books, explaining their enormous popularity with kids and parents.

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Osborne has refused to sell the rights to her books or characters to the movies, unlike the case of J. K. Rowling.  There’s one exception: she sold rights to make an animated film in Japan.

The episode certainly reinforced my own sense of interpersonal distance from people as a writer.Children's books can sell, but a long way from me. 
   
Rock Center also covered the recovery of pianist and composer Petra Anderson, from the Aurora tragedy.  She was shown playing piano in simple fashion in the episode.  (See “Drama  blog. Aug. 1, 2012).

The interview with Ambassador Susan Rice lightly stepped on the issue that her  initial scripted  (but misleading) remarks about the attack on Libya tended to make amateur “free speech” look like a bad thing.

Earlier  Thursday night, I sampled the reality show “Take It All” on NBC.  At the end, the young woman and young man seemed to agree to “Keep Mine”.  The young man double-crossed her.  He was like Jacob in the Bible.  She shouldn’t have trusted him. After all, “he ‘th’mooth”.  Bring back those days at Fort Eustis in 1969.  Back to the Bay!

Picture: there is some natural scenery in Metro billoards. 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Barbara Walters interviews her "10 Most Fascinating People" for 2012; Anderson Cooper explains his "second coming" (out, as gay) on "The View"


Wednesday December 12, Barbara Walters interviewed her “10 Most Fascinating People”, leading off with King David Petraeus, “The Most Fascinating Person of 2012”. Hillary Clinton follows.  Hillary said that Iran is the most dangerous country in the world. 

The basic link is here and it has a text transcript of the entire broadcast.

Walters also interviewed President and Mrs. Obama, and the president owned that taxes would grow up, and that if Congress doesn’t act, everyone ‘s taxes will go up. She also used to the show to announce the US official recognition of the rebel group in Syria.

She interviewed Ben Affleck, the director of “Argo”.  Affleck mentioned that actors sometimes sleep with directors (and so do screenwriters).  He also said that with the head shaved or buzz cut, Matt Damon had regained the title of sexiest man alive.  (Remember, in “Dogma”, Matt and Bee (who have a stage play named after them) lived together as angels in Wisconsin.)

Other interviewees include Gabby Douglas, Honey Boo Boo, Prince Harry, NJ Governor Chris Christie, Seth McFarland, and the boy band One Direction.  She showed Chris Crhistie paraodying himself on SNL and did discuss his being overweight. Christie said he would rather belong to the E-Street Band than be President. For Prince Harry, the most important observation was not his chest in Las Vegas, bu this "paying his dues" as an Army lieutenant in Afghansitan.  He had to be like everybody else then. 

On “The View” today, Anderson Cooper, and discussed his self-outing. He says he was out as gay in college, but kept a low profile (with respect to his personal life) when he became an international journalist as a young man, because he traveled in countries where gay people are often executed.  So his recent statements amounted to what I called in my first "Do Ask Do Tell" book, a "second coming".   Anderson had covered the new theory about epigenetics and sexual orientation on his AC360 show Wednesday night on CNN.

Anderson also discussed his temporary blindness in one eye after exposure to UV on a cloudy day on the ocean near Portugal.  He woke up a few hours after the exposure with a feeling of sand in his eyes.  

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

"General Hospital" explores book authorship, publication, copyright issues today


In the DC area, “General Hospital” now comes on earlier, at 2 PM, and the story apparently has long since taken in some characters from “One Life to Live”, especially McBain (Michael Easton).  It’s supposed to take place in “Port Charles, NY”.  But “Port Charles” was at one time a half-hour soap (an offshoot of “General Hospital”) , but ended suddenly in 2004 with a woman changing into a vampire (and a tiger),  and a man marrying her and not knowing he would become a vampire, too.  (That sounds like the “Twilight” series doesn’t it. Taylor Lautner wasn’t old enough yet to be in it.)

Today, I noticed some interesting themes.  A couple (heterosexual) is having a baby with the fertilized ovum planted in a surrogate mom, who develops a rash from a food allergy.  It seems as though she is not as careful with the baby as she might be.

Another young woman has written a novel, and a businesswoman “steals” it from her.  The young woman says people write to personal expression, and the businesswoman says that people write to get published (by others) and make money.  It seems as though she hasn’t heard of Internet self-publishing or print on demand.
   
ABC’s link for the soap is here


As for “Days of our Lives”, I won’t rehearse the complications of Will, Sonny, Gabi and Nick – and Chad, and Sonny’s lawyerly dad right now.  I have a feeling that Will and Sonny could wind up as a gay couple raising Will and Gabi’s baby after all.  Chad (who, very tall and slender, is cute himself) is spilling the beans, although he could go to the pokey himself.  Gabi is an awful person.  Sonny seems to be the sanest and most stable character in the show.  I actually know someone who looks and acts exactly like Will.  I suppose that could be a flattering comparison.

“Days” loves to bring dead people back to life.  I don’t get how they did this with Stefano.  They’ve done it before.  Even “Revenge” does it with Victoria Grayson. 

Update: Dec. 19, 2012

"General Hospital" explores the book publishing angle further.  The mother finds the girl's revised book manuscript and objects to all the sex; but the girl says that the publisher added it to make the book sell.  The title was changed from "Love in Maine" to "Lust in Maine", with the help of Stephen King.

Wikipedia attribution link for Lake on Mt. Katahdin, ME: I climbed this far in July 1974 and encountered a peaceful black bear on the trail.  

Monday, December 10, 2012

AC360 previews "Zero Dark Thirty": does the film falsely show that the US needed torture to get Osama bin Laden?


On AC360 tonight,  Anderson explored the allegations that the first part of the film “Zero Dark Thirty”, about the assassination of Osama bin Laden, directed by Kahtryn Bigelow (Columbia Pictures), inaccurately showed the use of torture (“extreme rendition”) by the military and CIA in order to locate Osama.  Analyst Peter Bergen, an unpaid consultant for the film, appeared.

The AC360 report suggested that the public will come away with a false impression that torture (waterboarding) was needed to find bin Laden, and this could affect future operations. Anderson noted that the FBI was also involved in the location of bin Laden as well as the CIA.

Anderson has already seen the film, which is getting awards, even though it will open only in New York and Los Angeles on Dec. 19, and not open in wide release until Jan. 11, 2013.  Arch Campbell of WJLA in Washington DC has also reviewed it.

Since Washington was also hit on Sept. 11, 2001, why doesn't Columbia Pictures do us the courtesy of opening here on Dec. 19 along with NY and LA, even if at only one theater (like Loew's AMC Gerogetown, or Landmark Bethesda Row).  Or perhaps Regal's Potomac Yard or AMC Shirlington, the closest theater complexes to the Pentagon. 
      
Peter Bergen has an op-ed on the question at CNN here

On Tuesday, Dec. 11, the Washington Post has a story (by Greg Miller) about the young female operative who helped trck down bin Laden's location from a courier, here.  The article describes the CIA as "middle school with clearances".   Detached, schizoid personalities are common.  I could probably have done her job the same way had I been employed there.  The Post offers a video interview of director Bigelow.  

Anderson and Sanjay Gupta also presented a new treatment for childhood leukemia, in which HIV is modified to carry immune modulators against the leukemic cells to T4 cells (but not to destroy T4 cells permanently). It was successful in at least one girl, and temporarily in some other children.  It is still very brutal treatment but less costly than bone marrow transplant.

CNN’s report on the experiment was not posted as if this writing, but MSNBC has a similar story from NBC Nightly News.


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Sunday, December 09, 2012

CNN's Soledad O'Brien reports "Who Is Black in America?"


On Sunday, December 9, 2012, CNN aired Soledad O’Brien’s report “Who Is Black in America?”, as followup episode in a long-standing series.  O’Brien is of mixed ancestry herself. The episode was also called simply "Who Am I?"

Tonight’s report discussed the informal “one drop rule” and presented a number of mixed-race families.  “You decide what you are”.  Well, Census considers “North African” heritage still to be “white”.  (Census doesn’t consider Hispanic to be race at all.)  7% of the children born in the US today are said to be of “mixed race”.  My own parents, of earlier generations, believed the “one drop rule”

The CNN entry for the program is here

It would seem that the “one drop rule” would make shreds of “affirmative action” admissions policies, is with a lot of recent litigation in Michigan, where some race conscious admission by the state university system is permitted.  Similar debates go on elsewhere, as at the University of Texas. 


Scientifically, we are all “black”, as the first humans appeared in Africa about 100000 years ago.  As people migrated farther from the Equator, they often lost pigment as an adaptation to less sunlight in order to get enough Vitamin D.  Humans also lost most body hair originally, in order to remain cooler (than competing species) when hunting and foraging in daytime tropical heat.  In colder climates, male members sometimes got some of it back, and it came to be seen (like the beard and lower voice) as a secondary sexual characteristic that could be viewed as attractive for mates.  

Update: Dec. 14

There is a book by Deborah Watts, "101 Ways to Know You're 'Black' in Corporate America", self-published in 1998, presented at a forum at ReliaStar (now ING) insurance in Minneapolis that year. 

Friday, December 07, 2012

"The View" hot topic: Ending the "War on Men"


Lightning stirkes twice. On Friday Dec. 7, ABC;s :The View: had another “hot topic” when conservative columnist Suzanne Venker appeared as a guest and said that women are driving away men from wanting marriage when women want to “have it all”. Quit the "War on Men" she advises. 

But other members of the View (like Whoopi) suggested that most women can’t afford to let themselves become dependent on their husbands.  And in today’s economy, you have to count your blessings when either spouse has a good job. 

Does the CEO of Yahoo! (Marissa Meyer) set a good example with the way she handles having a baby?  

Try the Huffington Post story here

 The ABC link for the View report today is here  and the comments are as interesting as the video and article.

I found it perplexing, when I was a young man, that I should be “attracted” (I could be more blunt but this is public) to someone who was supposed to become dependent.

Then, in 1980, when I was living in and working in Dallas, a female consultant asked me if I could change a flat tire for her (at the time, in the Zale Building parking lot on I=35 – that was the building in “Logan’s Run”).  I couldn’t. She gave me a lecture on how men were supposed to do physical things for women. (I was 36 at the time.)  

George Gilder ("Men and Marriage") would be delighted. 

Thursday, December 06, 2012

ABC's "The View" previews the movie about the West Memphis Three


ABC’s “The View” presented an extended preview of the new documentary by Peter Jackson and Amy Berg, “West of Memphis”, about the gross injustice perpetrated by the mob mentality in 1993 after the savage murder of three boys.  Three young men, one retarded, were picked up and framed merely because of their interest in the occult. Prosecutors were determined to punish someone, if even the wrong people. 

The full episode can be watched here

The film starts in many theaters Dec. 14.

One of the freed men, Damien Echols, appeared on the show.  A young woman who left her life in Brooklyn and married him while he was on death row also appeared.  Damien said that there were no outdoor periods in prison; the one hour “exercise” was just removal to another cell.

If such an injustice were done to me, I don’t think I would survive.  I would simply be paying for the sins of others.  I would be gone forever because others had taken me away.  Some things you cannot make all right. 


The men were freed only by an Alford plea, rather than overturning of convictions, even though there is now solid evidence to convict someone else.

There has also been extensive tv coverage of Ken Burns's film about another breach of justice, in NYC in the late 80s, "The Central Park Five". 

Wikipedia attribution link for eastern Arkansas river lands picture.  I was there im December 1992. 

See also July 23, "The Exonerated".  

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

History: "Mankind" The Story of All of Us" and the New World


Tonight, I tried the History Channel’s “Mankind: The Story of All of Us”, two hours, covering much of the critical history of the explorers to the New World.

Visually, the most interesting section concerned the Aztecs, with Tenochtitlan, built on canals through an ancient lake in what is now Mexico City. Animation showed the city going up.  An early sequence shows the Aztecs capturing a warrior from a competing tribe for sacrifice.  The empire may have housed 25 million people and was as advanced as the Maya, which had already fallen.  When Cortes came, the people turn on their own ruler. Six months later, half are dead from smallpox, to which European invaders had immunity.  Dr. Mehmet Oz explains the accidental “biological warfare”.
  
The film also showed the sacking of Christian Constantinople by the Muslim Turks, the first time a walled city had been destroyed by modern trebuchets.
  
It describes how the Spanish made silver a worldwide currency by chemical innovations with the mines at Potosi, Bolivia, one of the highest cities in the World.
  
It rather briefly describes the Pilgrims, but then explains how slavery, motivated by the sugar trade, started in Africa.

The film also describes the "bubble" in the poppy market in the Netherlands in the 1600s.

The last portion depicts the building of the Taj Mahal in India as a monument to a king's bride. 
   

The film series reminds me of CNN’s “A Thousand Years of History” with one episode per century. Aired in late 1999 just before Y2K.

Wikipedia attribution link for model of Tenochtitlan. I visited Mexico City (including the big archeology museum) Labor Day weekend of 1974, just before I moved into NYC.  

Sunday, December 02, 2012

CNN Heroes for 2012: Child caregivers who drop out of school, kids who don't swim among the people helped


Pushpa Basnet was named CNN Hero of the Year for 2012 tonight, in a ceremony on CNN hosted by Anderson Cooper. 
  
The basic link for the show is here.

Pushpa started a children’s center in Nepal to help kids whose parents are incarcerated, and who often live with their parents in prison.

Thulani Maldondo set up a program to provide academic support to children in Kliptown, South Africa,  In a typical hut, up to ten children sleep in one room, several sharing one bed.  

Connie Siskowski  maintains “No child in the U.S. should have to drop out of school to take care of a family member”.  The idea that this would even happen sounds shocking to me; I comes out of the early scenes in “October Sky”.  She started the American Association of Caregiving Youth. At least 1.3 million children do caregiving in the U.S. and some sacrifice their education and childhood.  Sometimes the caregiving is not just for parents, but even siblings, whom the parents were morally responsible for bringing into the world (rather than the other siblings).  The website for the organization is this. One of Lady Gaga’s disco songs  (“Bad Romance”) was played during this segment.

One of the most interesting ideas was from Wanda Butts, who arranges for children to get swimming lessons.  Studies show that African American children disproportionately do not learn to swim.  As I happen (by coincidence) to discuss on my main blog Dec. 1, I did not learn either as a boy, in a time when upper income school districts and many colleges require swimming proficiency as part of physical education. (I could say, “let gym grades count”, but that would be another topic.) 


Razia Jan, through the Zabuli Education Center, provides free education to girls in Afghanistan.  CNN mentioned the story of Malala Yousoufzai in Pakistan, who is now being treated in Britain after an attack by the Taliban when she was outspoken about girls’ education.

Could I do anything like what one of these individuals did?  It would have to come out of my own unique skill set;  I couldn’t just join somebody else’s cause, no matter how compelling, unless it had something to do with how I had lived.

Going overseas and working on an infrastructure project (like water) for people in the developing world sounds like a great first job for any engineering college graduate.  Related would be rebuilding (prudently) in storm (hurricane, fire) ravaged areas in the U,S  
     
In the pre-show, Anderson interviewed Ben Stiller, about his program in Haiti, including film school training, in a country with no movie theaters. 

This all sounds rather like Rick Warren ("Purpose-Driven Life", "It's not about you"....) .  But sometimes it is about "me". 

Saturday, December 01, 2012

ABC 20-20 covers underground hotel, repo, and towing practices in "True Confessions"; do you tip the hotel maids?


Last night (Friday, November 30 – pardon me, that’s December 0), ABC 20-20 aired an episode called “True Confessions” and focused on the unseen behavior of hotel employees with regard to tip expectations, and later on repo men (like in B movies) and towing companies.  The link for the episode is here.  
  
I usually stay in Choice Hotels when I travel outside NYC and do pretty much everything myself. I haven’t encountered any tipping situations.  But last time, I wonder.  The room ($99, in Weirton WV) had plumbing noises.  And in Charletson WV I was unable to get a non-smoking room in July, and there was a terrible odor in the room.

In NYC, I’ve tried a variety of places, but usually carry my own stuff - - pretty light – just a bag for clothes and laptop and electronics.  My favorite spot has been the Yotel, on 10th Avenue, where you stay in a spaceship cabin, as if it could be your last night on Earth.  I did not care for the Park Central (but Com Ed had an explosion nearby that night, can’t blame them); the Hotel Pennsylvania did not have its own Internet in every room and I had to ask for it – and got it (without a tip), since the Amtrak ad promoted it. (I have often reserved rooms through the Amtrak website, usually about 25% off, and expect the hotels to deliver what they say.)  The Holiday Inn Express in Chelsea actually has an old fashioned cable Ethernet Internet service, which is very fast. 

As for valet parking, some places have only valet parking and I presume a tip is expected.  There is one place where you park yourself, but you’re expected to back the car in, and sometimes the attendant parks you – I don’t know if a tip is expected.  And it goes valet if it is full – is a tip expected then?  I tried to visit a bar in Detroit in August called the Gold Coast, and the valet lot looked so difficult and dangerous to get into that I chickened out.  I don’t know what I missed (see GLBT blog, Aug. 7, 2012). 

At the Hotel Angelino on the 405 in Los Angeles, where I stayed in May, all parking was by valet.  There was no indication whether tips were expected.  But as I noted few hotels where I stay have it.  It’s hard for me to know what the hotel practices are in other communities. 

The ABC program talked about “revenge” practices (as if motivated by the ABC series) from staff, who keep track of which guests are good tippers and share with other hotels .  (There can be an “offline reputation”).  One trick was to give the person room 1212, which often gets rogue calls from other guests.
Is tipping of the hotel maid staff expected? Only about 30% of people do it (and I have to admit that I don’t).


There is controversy as to whether hotel staff is a risk to take electronics left in room.  This hasn’t happened to me.  There is a concern that one particular brand of hotel magnetic key  (with the Arduino microcontroller) is vulnerable to hackers, link here

The episode noted that  extra charges (like the honor bar in rooms) can often be waived if requested.
The episode (with Chris Cuomo) then focused on the practices of “repo men”, who troll social media to see when debtors will show up at specific locations.  One repo man took cars of both bride and groom at a wedding.

The episode also covered the way towing companies make certain parking spaces look “legal” and then troll them to pick up tows. 

Friday, November 30, 2012

NBC Rock Center covers homeless families with children; Muslim pro football players who sacrifice to go to the hajj


On Thursday, November 29, 2012 NBC Rock Center  (with Brian Williams) presented at least two controversial stories.

One concerned homeless families with children, including the Kennard family in Johnson City. TN, where both parents had worked at low-wage jobs and then the father became ill.  Another woman described the difficulty of finding a homeless shelter that allowed husbands, wives and children to stay together.

The story is by Jessica Hopper, Tim Sandler and Cristina Boado.

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Brian Williams stays this problem has not been as widespread since the Great Depression.

The broadcast also covered two pro football brothers, Husain and Hamza Abdullah, who gave up a year of their career for religious purposes to journey to Saudi Arabia for the hajj.  Mary Carillo and Brian Brown told the story. During the week in Saudi Arabia, they stay in cramped tents next to poor people; all men are equal.  

The men said that they were offended and shocked by the 9/11 attacks, and had no idea that they could even happen, and pointed out that many Muslims died in the attacks on the WTC.  

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Angus Jones bites the hand that made him rich on "Two and a Half Men"


I finally garnered a look at CBS’s “Two and a Half Men” tonight, given the controversy when actor Angus T. Jones (as “Jake”) broadcast his view that people shouldn’t watch this festival of potty jokes, that had made Angus rich before he turned 19 and found Christ.

A while back, there was controversy over Martin Sheen’s bad bipolar behavior and firing – he had been playing “ghost” anyway.  Ashton Kutcher joined the show (“A-plus-K”) as another Mark Zuckerberg aka Nolan Ross – and a very nice Internet billionaire from what I saw tonight, steadier than the sly Nolan from Revenge (although Nolan is more seductive, to me at least). 

But the gutter-like material is apparent as Jake, appearing on laptop by Skype, tells his dad (Charlie’s brother) Alan (Jon Cryer), in Army dress greens, that he got the “clap” and everyone could see it.  This script sounded like it came from the DADT days when straights could get away with anything in the military.  No, they couldn’t, but they acted like they could, according to more established comedy writers. 
It’s all fluffy stuff. 

Dr. Phil, on “Access Hollywood” tonight, said that Angus’s behavior was simply “unwise”.  But after all, Angus just plays  half a man. 

Here’s the site (CBS just reprogrammed all the links).  


You know, they assess chess positions now in terms of a "half pawn".  Two bishops and a half-pawn better than a bishop and knight -- that is, a half-man better,  
‘ 
The flippancy of the comedy suggests that nothing really matters, that issues or matters of fairness never come in to play.  Just let the good times roll when they do. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

NatGeo "Doomsday Preppers" are a bit crazy, I hope; NBC Revolution fall finale doesn't say much



I finally watched an hour-long episode of National Geographic’s “Doomsday Preppers”, who have also been covered on Anderson (weekdays, ABC) and some local news channels.

A middle aged man in Berryville, VA, in the upper Shenandoah Valley, discussed how he expects society to fall apart because of the economy.  He said a “thin fabric holds society together.  He talked about protecting his family from violence and looting, by using “home field advantage”.  He discussed a “circle of force” and the use or boarding, as well as pepper spray as a non-lethal defensive weapon.

Later, Brian P. Murdock, of Sommerville MA (near Boston), was moving to upstate New York in his mobile home to a 50-acre property.  His new bride from eastern Europe, Titianna, didn’t know what she had bargained for.  He said that the “covenant of marriage” was important to survival.

The Brian May, living somewhere in the lower Mississippi River valley, talked about how another New Madrid style earthquake could split the continent in half (that’s not true).  He showed home preparedness. 
All the speakers mentioned the value of barter in acquiring fortification, and May talked about acquiring gold and silver coins.  It was if a money economy was immoral.

If the world “as I know it” were destroyed, I wouldn’t want to survive, because I would have nothing to offer a world  (fragmented into  militias as in the NBC show “Revolution”) that doesn’t recognize an economy and law and order.  My existence would become meaningless.  I would be seen as a parasite.

By the way, the Fall 2012 season of “Revolution” concluded Monday night  ("Nobody's Fault but Mine") – without explanation of how the power went out.

The link for the NatGeo series is here

A question on ABC's "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" on Nov. 28, 2012 referred to this show as "Doomsday Bunkers". 

Here’s another episode put up by NatGeo, “I Hope I Am Crazy”.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

"60 Minutes" covers a "Free the Children" We Day, ballet, and the Jouberts still filming lions


CBS “60 Minutes” aired three important reports Sunday Nov. 25.

First, the show reported (by Scott Pelley) on Craig Kielburger, who started the charity Free the Children after getting involved opposing child slavery at the age of 12 in the third world after a particular egregious death of a child who had escaped.  The broadcast started with an excerpt from a “We Day”. The CBS link on "kids helping kids" is here

The charity is offering a chance to “win a trip to Kenya” for a volunteer experience, here

But some of these countries, like Uganda, sound truly dangerous, given news reports.

It’s sometimes hard for me to deal with the idea of being “recruited” to belong to a "We". .

The YouTube channel shows that Kielburger's group has been active in Haiti. 


The second segment concerned Peter Martins of the New York City Ballet, and the rigid training of ballet students, and an examination of whether ballet is losing popularity compared to other kinds of dance (“Dancing with the Stars”).  For comparison, see “Joffrey: Mavericks of American Dance” on my movie reviews blog Jan. 28, 2012.

The last segment (Lara Logan) updated the work of Beverly and Dereck Joubert, who have spent their lives in Africa filming big cats, especially lions.  (See my review on the movies blog March 6, 2011 of their National Geographic film “The Last Lions”; see also review on this blog of “Eye of the Leopard”  July 17, 2008).  Today, 60 minutes showed their palatial hut and bedroom on the savannah., and then some of their new footage of lions, such as pride attacking an elephant, which lets them go, as well as a lioness abandoning a cub with a broken back after showing obvious grief. They also showed a new breed of superlions that are 15% larger and like to swim.  But overall, the numbers of big cats in the wild is rapidly decreasing and threatening extinction.

In the 60 Minutes episode, the lions seemed comfortable being filmed and seem to respect the humans consistently caring about them.  Big cats do have a lot of social capabilities that humans take further.  

The episode seems timely given the impact of the recent film "Life of PI" (movies blog, Nov. 21, 2012). 

Friday, November 23, 2012

ABC 20-20: "Breaking Polygamy" shows that Jeffs still controls the FLDS from prison


On Friday, November 23, 2012. ABC 20-20 aired “Breaking Polygamy”, an examination of the FLDS church in Colorado City. AZ and some communities in Utah and Texas. ABC has found that Warrem Jeffs still has control of the cult from behind bars in a Texas prison.

The link for the show is here.

Jeffs has changed things, somewhat, reducing birthrates and kicking out far more people with no skills to be employed in the outside world.

State laws in Utah and probably Arizona are amazing lax on home-schooled children, who are taught only part of an elementary education and not taught true science or history. 

Jeffs still seems like a cult leader, like David Koresh, Jim Jones, or even the head of North Korea.
   
A compelling part of the report concerned an 18-year old boy adopted by a “Holding Out Help”  (link) family in a western state (probably a conventional  LDS family in Utah) and taught to read by the family.  It’s not clear if Utah and Arizona have an adult education programs to help them.

Polygamy is objected to, of course, because if causes men to be cast out of a society. 

The show demonstrates how “compulsory socialization”, when carried to extremes (here under the guise of a cult-like “fundamentalist” religious faith)  leads to totalitarian dictatorship.  Virtues (such as loyalty to family and caring for children) are perverted as some people are kicked out anyway. 

Wikipedia attribution link for Colorado City picture.  I visited the area in October 1987 and was able to see the common dorms from a distance of a few hundred feet, and see the women in pastel dresses.  

The Texas prison system cannot stop Jeffs from having communications by mail.

YouTube has a featurette, and imdb lists a 2008 film "Damned to Heaven".  I don't know if it was completed (it's not on Netflix)..  Men are told they can't go to Heaven wtihout at least three wives. That leaves two-thirds of the men stranded.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

"The World According to Lance" (CNN) has nothing to do with Garp


CNN today aired a 45-minute documentary “The World According to Lance" Armstrong, reported (and directed) by Quentin McDermott, with many interviews not only of Lance (denials), but also Tyler Hamilton and Betsy and Frankie Andreu.

CNN has a link describing the film here

The film starts with a legally binding deposition of Armstrong, the first ever in public media, where he denies the charges.  

There is also a tape of Greg Lemond suggesting that sponsors may have been involved in covering up Armstrong’s use of performance enhancing drugs.

The film describes some medical tricks used to hide the doping, including self-transfusion. For a long time, according to Hamilton, officials accepted certain blood levels of certain indicators.

Although Armstrong insists he has given thousands of negative drug tests, a French lab confirmed the use of "EPO". 
  
All of Armstrong’s Tour de France wins, including those on the United States Postal Service teams, have been vacated, as if they had never happened.

Back in the 1990s, Lance Armstrong overcame testicular cancer, which was quite advanced when it was diagnosed, to the point that he had been coughing up blood.  It's conceivable that substance use could have caused or contributed to the virulence of the tumor.  The effect of chemotherapy on his body was severe, even if temporary.  Armstrong had been reported as having unusual natural aerobic capacity.  

The book “The Cheating Culture” in 2004 by Princeton professor David Callahan (book reviews blog, March 28, 2006) had discussed the likely use of performance enhancement by cyclists.

Racing sports involve a process of psychological peaking, also known to swimmers.  The body shaving that takes place may be more a matter of ritual sacrifice than anything that has much effect on the physics of speed (does wind or water resistance really matter that much)?  One could say that Armstrong shaved his arms and legs for all those years for nothing.

CNN’s broadcast actual comes from an original by Journeyman Films, link here

Lance Armstrong does have a charity for cancer patients called Livestrong, and his future with it is uncertain. 

The DVD is available for purchase; Journeyman offers the whole film on YouTube, apparently free now; it is customary for most new films to require a rental of $3.99, sometimes more or less. 

This is not “The World According to Garp”.  How will Lance look when he’s 64?

Let's also hope that recreational cycling doesn't have to be competitive cycling -- for obvious reasons.  

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

"Fringe": Science channel restarts the series with the graphic-looking Pilot: watch your body, and check for mindreaders


Yesterday (Tuesday, November 21, 2012) I noticed that imdb was pushing the series “Fringe” on the Science channel  -- now in its fifth season on Fox – restarting from the 2008 Pilot last night. I had never used Science before, and had to hunt for it – it was 110 on Comcast and did not seem to have a HiDef channel. Life’s not perfect, right? 
    
The 2008 “Pilot”, essentially an 81-minute feature film directed by Alex Graves and written in part by J. J. Abrams, starts when a distressed passenger on an overseas flight to Boston gives himself an insulin injection on the plane (that’s permitted, and I didn’t want to see his gams).  Pretty soon, his body disintegrates, and so does that of everyone else on the plane, which lands at Logan on auto-pilot.
  
Enter FBI agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Trov), a kind of Scully (X-Files) but even physically tougher.  She’s intimate with her partner Scott (Mark Valley) when called into the case.   That will lead her to work with the son Peter (Joshua Jackson, often in B-horror movies), son of the “fringe scientist”  Walter Bishop (John Noble), who had spent a lot of time as an “M.P.”, institutionalized.  Peter seems more authoritative and mature than some of Jackson’s earlier characters, at one point saying it’s good thing to learn things from old fashioned printed books. 
   
Whatever chemicals destroyed everyone on the plane (turning them almost into skeletons) soon infects Scott, who is put into a medically induced coma, his ruined body (his skin is ossified) on display to the heartbreak of Olivia.  Her investigation leads to a company called Massive Dynamic, headed by a woman Nina (Blair Brown) who is not afraid to shock everyone with the revealing of her artificial arm.
   
An important part of the science  (and FBI forensic investigation) is the reading of brain waves or “dreams” from the comatose (or at least from people who are asleep), including Scott, which may be possible to continue even after he dies.   Possibly this aspect of the plot was an inspiration for Christopher Nolan, who would go on to write and direct a much bigger treatment of this idea in the 2010 film “Inceptiion” (Movies blog, July 16, 2010).  If the government really could read minds (or if people could) and post the results on the Internet, what would happen to privacy, beyond what happens now?  The "No Lie MRI" alternative-to-polygraph may do just that. 
  
I’ll have to check more into what is happening now on the series about “fringe science”.


The Fox site for Fringe is here

The Science Channel (not to be confused with SyFy) has a couple of recent one hour documentaries that I just missed.  One is “Solar Storms”, about the threat of geomagnetic solar storms and the damage than can be done to the power grid by huge coronal mass ejections.  Another is “Megastorm”, an explanation of how Hurricane Sandy became a superstorm, and still another is “Alien Storms”, about weather on other planets (try Titan).  I will look for reruns of these (which may occur on the Discovery Channel) or for DVD”s or instant replays on Netflix, but I don’t see them yet.  They will be important to see.  If anyone knows where to find them (or when they will rerun) please comment. 

 Picture (first): Imagine, if you will, a model railroad running on a Mobius strip.  The other "side" below any point on the strip is the same "place" a couple hundred years ago.  A vehicle for time travel?  Fringe science and mathematics, anyone?  This is all "algebraic topology".