Monday, August 31, 2015

Zakaria GPS shows how Singapore forces ethnic diversity on its population

Sunday, August 30, 2015, Fareed Zakaria, on Global Public Square, talked about his July trip to Singapore and his interview with the city-state’s deputy prime minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, about how racial and ethnic diversity plays out in the city state. Zakaria has a photo piece on the interview on CNN here and an op-ed in the Washington Post June 25, “What America can learn from Singapore about racial integration”, link here.  The little report had the flavor of a "Parts Unknown"; maybe Bourdain will pay a visit. 
Zakaria pointed out that the city-state forces ethnic quotas in every neighborhood, practically every apartment or condo tower.  Therefore the people learn to do things together, and most of all, their kids go to the same schools and share the same line of personal experience. It is true that Singapore is an authoritarian, “nanny state”, and the government regulates lives in ways that would not be acceptable in western democracies.  But Zakaria thinks we have something to learn from the example it sets.
Some friends from the workplace (when I was living in Minneapolis) did visit Singapore in 1998.

See correlated post about Zakaria and the "baby bust" on International Issues blog today. 

Wikipedia attribution link for photo of Singapore harbor by Chensiyuan, under Creative Commons 3.0 Share-Alike license.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

PBS Frontline: "The Trouble with Chicken"

PBS Frontline re-aired (from May) a documentary “The Trouble with Chicken” Tuesday night, link here. The title is not a pun. 

The report focused on salmonella outbreaks (particularly the Heidelberg strain) leading to blood poisoning and severe symptoms (like limb blood vessel blockage) suddenly in some patients.

Much of the report focuses on the poultry giant Foster Farms.

Some strains have become more resistant to antibiotics.

It wasn’t clear if thorough cooking is sufficient to destroy the bacteria.

The poultry industry, a lot of it in the South, has some of the most brutal manual labor assembly jobs around.  Somebody’s got to do it?

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Unusual medical story on NBC4; Andraka bio video airs on Aussie TV; Trump's gaffe

NBC Washington presented a disturbing case history health report this evening (Tuesday, August 25, 2015).  A young woman, married with children, living in Urbana, MD (near Frederick) elected to go to Sloan-Kettering in New York City and have hear entire stomach removed, only a year or so after her father died of stomach cancer, after she learned she carries an unusual gene that increases the risk of stomach cancer, as well as a rarer breast cancer. Apparently she underwent a total gastrectomy.  She says the motive is to be here for her children, but it’s unclear why doing the surgery immediately after a genetic test would really be indicated.

Perhaps future tests for specific proteins (like in Jack Anraka’s test for pancreatic cancer) could be developed to monitor patients with genetic susceptibilities but no tumor.
She has to stay on a liquid diet and feed herself about every ninety minutes, and keep a detailed log of food. But some gastrectomy patients are gradually able to return to solid food. The idea is to adjust to a “new normal”.

The gastroenterologist said that the stomach actually adds relatively little to digestion, but is essentially a storage reservoir.

Women have sometimes undergone prophylactic mastectomies at young ages after genetic counseling, and this could be very challenging to marriages.

The Australian version of CBS 60 Minutes presented an updated 10-minute biography of teen medical innovator Jack Andraka, 18, about to start at Stanford in a couple weeks but now traveling in Australia. MSN carries the video (“Cool to Be Clever”) here    but there’s no embed offered.

The video (I think released today) even mentioned his kayaking and triathlon (which I hadn’t heard about). On the same day, Donald Trump (unfortunately) said in Iowa, “I will never enter a bicycle race as president” (before throwing out a Univision protestor).  I guess he’ll leave the racing to a protégé, Troy McClain, from the 2004 Apprentice Season. 

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Robin Roberts hosts "Katrina: 10 Years After the Storm"

Robin Roberts returned to her hometown New Orleans for the one-hour special “New Orleans: Katrina: 10 Years after the Storm”. The Inquisitor has a link here. Curiously, ABC does not have its own legitimate site for this film yet.
The floods represented a total failure by the Corps of Engineers to protect the city.

Roberts’s voice resembled Oprah Winfrey, as she visited the Superdome, which was a symbol of horror at first as people piled up in it, but later football made it a symbol of resurrection.  (Oprah had said she almost vomited in the Superdome at the first visit.)

She covered water rescues, and her reunion with her own loved ones. She also presented Habitat for
Humanity’s effort to rebuild a jazz center as well as homes.

One church group I know went down in 2006 and was not allowed to do much because of mold.
I visited the area myself in February 2006.

In September 2005 I volunteered at times at a Red Cross call center in Falls Church VA, but there was little we could do in most cases.

Some displaced persons were housed in Washington DC, as well as in Texas and throughout the south.

A lot of people don’t have the “choice” to live away from coastal floods, big tornadoes, earthquakes or wildfires.  Will climate change make this worse?

This would be a good place to mention Spike Lee's two-part miniseries for HBO aired in August 2005, "When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts". 

Friday, August 21, 2015

NBC Today show host Al Roker learns to cook on the beach of Abu Dhabi, spectacular views

The NBC Today show gave a quick visit to the beach at Abu Dhabi, and Al Roker let 19-year old Bader Najeeb give a lesson in cooking confections with camel’s milk, link here.  It was 6 PM local time and hot. 
The cook said that camel’s milk is good for you, provides many home remedies. He also has two shows of his own in the country but is self-taught. 

The episode was interesting just for showing the space-station-like architecture of some of the buildings near the beach, resembling Dubai.

Wikipedia attribution link for aerial of Abu Dhabi, by Cnes, under Creative Commons 3.0 Share Alike

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Chris Cuomo grills Donald Trump on CNN, and Trump has no clear answer to the 14th Amendment on birthright

Wednesday night, CNN offered a special presentation at 9 PM of an interview of Donald Trump by Chris Cuomo.  The link is here.

As usual, Cuomo, himself an attorney, grilled his guest in detail (remember how he handled Amanda Knox).

The weakest part of Trump’s interview seems to be his idea that he can end the “birthright” guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment for children born in this country of undocumented or illegal aliens.  Upon close examination, he has no plan as to how to do it other than some vague power of persuasiveness, or the idea that there is some weakness in this interpretation or implementation of the 14th Amendment.

Trump admitted that he has learned most of his “military analysis” by watching television.  (Chris Hansen used to ask, “Do you watch television” on his TCAP series, mentioned here Monday.)

Trump says he wants to make the country “rich” before it becomes prosperous (for average workers).


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

"Face of Evil: The Charles Manson Murders" on CNN

Face of Evil: The Charles Manson Murders” was a special report on CNN Tuesday night (in line with a similar episode of “The Seventies”).   CNN’s promotional video link is here.  Somehow the title of the episode reminds me of the classic Orson Welles film "Touch of Evil." 

The documentary traced the biography of Charles Manson, said to be the most “evil man of all time” (compared to Hitler or Stalin?) now in prison for life at age 80, having been spared the death penalty by a Supreme Court ruling in 1972.  Try CNN's link on "little known facts about the Manson murders" here
Manson was convicted for murders he plotted without committing with his own hands.  Like the two escaped prisoners in New York State recently, he had the false charisma to recruit others, especially women, into “the Family”, into a bizarre cult.  He could be compared to the leader of Jonestown.
Manson said he had a horrible mother and childhood, which seems to be true. “I was my own mother.”  Yet, as a young man, he was fairly “attractive”.

The documentary opens with an account of the horrific Sharon Tate home invasion and massacre in 1969.

Manson’s plot had been to inspire a “race war”, by targeting privileged white celebrities, and create a scenario where the Black Panthers would be blamed.  This was a kind of domestic terrorism which a foreign enemy (even ISIS) could try to mimic today.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Chris Hansen returns to crime reporting on Investigation Discovery with his "Killer Instinct" series, starting with case of Anthony Sowell in Cleveland; he should followup his earlier "TCAP"

Chris Hansen is back on crime investigation documentary television, now on cable, the Investigation Discovery Channel, with a series called “Killer Instinct”.  The link for the series is here
The first episode aired Monday night Aug. 17, 2015, and traced the case of Anthony Sowell, who captured and killed eleven women in his home on Imperial Ave. in east Cleveland Ohio.  At least two women “escaped” and testified at trial.  Police were slow to catch on to the fact that women were vanishing, as the first two victims were reluctant to report.

Sowell was eventually sentenced to death and is on death row now.

Hansen mentioned the more recent case in Cleveland of Ariel Castro.

Hansen’s series seems to suggest the idea that serial criminality is specific to the perpetrators, and may involve genetic and background factors more than general economic hardship or inequality.
Hansen looked a little older than he did on NBC ten years ago with the series “To Catch a Predator”, which had covered the work of a “vigilante” group called Perverted Justice, which posed as minors in online Internet chatrooms to lure men into meetings in many states to set illegal underage sex, about 90% of it heterosexual.  The series was followed with a brief sequel called “Predator Raw” on MSNBC

Hansen ought to report on how some of the cases turned out.  One of the most disturbing was Rabbi David Kaye (Virginia, whose prosecution was delayed and went federal), and another was an oncologist in San Francisco. What happened to these men in prison and what is their life like on “supervised probation”?  Although this is not a pleasant topic, Hansen should do a followup on what happened in some of these cases over the years.  NBC Dateline has some material ("Where are they now?") on what has happened here.  Chris Hansen’s book is covered on the books blog March 17, 2007.

The picture is downtown Cleveland in August 2012, my visit.  

Sunday, August 16, 2015

CSI Cyber: "Click your Poison": when bogus adware on a computer can kill

Sunday night, August 16, 2015, “CSI Cyber” re-aired the episode “Click Your Poison”, which ran close to 80 minutes, like a feature film (longer than the slot listed in TV Guide for CBS).  Patricia Arquette is all business, just as in her films for David Lynch.

The episode is important in that it presented a scam in which a search engine entering vague terms of medical symptoms loads a website with “bait and switch” adware which sends the visitor to a site that sells fake pharmaceuticals.  They turn out to be dangerous, masking symptoms with oxycodone. 

The episode also included the idea of a mole within the cyber security unit, and poker-playing software.  In the end, a businessman finds his site taken down by a DDOS attack, and he was unaware that hackers (in Turkey) were using it to sell fake pharma.

One middleman is hired as an accomplice, and he collapses and nearly dies of his own disease when arrested.

Legal YouTube link ($1.99) is here


Friday, August 14, 2015

ABC 20-20 "Hunter and Hunted": the tragedy of the charismatic lion Cecil

Friday evening ABC 20-20 aired “Hunter and Hunted”, an account of the killing of Cecil the Lion by a hunting party in Zimbabwe hired in part by Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer. 

The animal was baited by an elephant carcass, and he wandered out of the protected reserve at night, where he was shot by an arrow and badly wounded.  The party found and killed the animal about 36 hours later. 
ABC also includes the account of the killing of a black bear in Wisconsin by Palmer, complete story here
The documentary reviewed some rural people, who indicate a completely different cultural attitude toward hunting wildlife than city people, who are sympathetic to intelligent wildlife that seems “human”. We should say that about dolphins and orcas, and remember that people used whale oil for lamp fuel in the 19th Century. ("In the Heart of the Sea", a new movie, will remind us.) 

Despite the arrest warrant from Zimbabwe and popular pressure to extradite Palmer (which lawyers say is probably not likely to happen), many in the country are surprised at the reaction in the US. 
One could argue that the killing of older animals past reproduction age doesn’t hurt the breed.  But killing strong lions does weaken the gene pool.
The documentary also covered the situation with Cecil’s brother, Jericho.


Thursday, August 13, 2015

CNN 70's: :The Music": the dawn of disco (and when getting into Studio 54 was a privilege)

Thursday, Aug. 31, CNN’s “The Seventies: One Nation under Change” continued with “The Music of the 70s: Eight Essential Musical Acts of the 70s”, basic link here. Tom Hanks appeared to introduce the episode.

The music scene was perhaps quiet as the decade began and old bands broke up, but soon new artists, such as the boy Michael Jackson appeared, and Glen Campbell became popular. But the most important development was disco, for dance floors (especially in gay bars) where certain groups, like the Bee Gee’s, provided a lot of the songs, some of which would appear in the movie “Saturday Night Fever”.

I can remember also the “Village People” (from about 1977), with songs like “In the Navy” and “Macho Man”, whose lyrics and spirit would foreshadow the debate on gays in the military to occur 15 or so years later.  The “Macho Man” would sound strangely poignant a few years later when AIDS became a tragic epidemic (CNN will cover the 80s in 2016, it announced tonight).  My own personal life (turning 35)  in NYC in 1978 was interesting, and the music fit it. 

But the most interesting narrative in the episode concerned specifically NYC’s “Studio 54”, which became the subject of the 1998 film from Miramax, “54” (by Mark Christopher).  Remember how the kid played by Ryan Phillippe from New Jersey “gets in” after being asked to remove his shirt and display a hairless chest.  Breckin Meyer played Greg in the movie.  You couldn’t get into the disco if you were unkempt.  (It was curiously common afterwards for many straight discos not to allow tennis shoes, and I never knew why.)  Actually, in the male gay community in the late 70s, mustaches were common, even though they aren’t so popular today. 

Since the 70s and 80s, the surprisingly lyrical style of some disco has been supplanted by hip hop and extreme dissonance (going through “rap”). 
The visitor might find some companion material in Joseph Lovett’s 2005 documentary film, “Gay Sex in the 70s”.  

Monday, August 10, 2015

"The Whispers" plays games with the power grid, and biblical ideas of sacrifice

The episode “Darkest Fears” on ABC’s “The Whispers” tonight seemed to recreate the idea of Abraham’s sacrifice of an animal at the last moment in place of Isaac.  In this episode, the government considers sacrificing one kid to get rid of the electrical-energy alien “Drill”.

The government also shuts down power in progressive sections of Washington DC to isolate “Drill”.  Massive traffic jams lock up the city.  But this would have been much more interesting had the government knocked out everything with an EMP flux device, destroying all electronics.  But according to the “science” of this series, that is logically what it should have done, feeding all the right wing fears.
The series appears to have three more episodes to come (13 total).  More interesting than most, not as gripping as “The Event” or “Flash Forward”, for me at least.  I'm reminded of a 50s horror film "Kronos". 
Picture: Artwork near the harbor in downtown Boston at night. 


Friday, August 07, 2015

Fox News GOP presidential candidate debate has sharp edges

Fox News seems to have run what turned out to be a monumental debate of GOP candidates for president Thursday night, in Cleveland, Ohio.

The best link for multiple video clips seems to be here

Charles Krauthammer summarizes the best moments in one 5-minute clip.

Donald Trump caught the most obvious attention by saying he would not rule out running as a third party candidate.  Perot did that in 1992, and had he not pulled out for a while, he might have won!
Trump also said he wasn’t waging a war on women, but took a verbal shot at Rosie O’Donnell.

Scott Walker stuck to his pro-life position, insisting that there are ways to protect the lives of women other than abortion, apparently even when the pregnancy is involuntary (rape).  Walker seems will to make some people (women) do what they didn’t choose sometimes.

Chris Christie (remember his “I saw what I mean and mean what I say” from the Train “Bulletproof Picasso” video) sparred Rand Paul on the NSA phone metadata monitoring program.  But they talked past one another. Christie talked about his own direct experience with 9/11 and its victims.  Paul stuck to his line on warrant searches.

Marco Rubio said that he grew up in a family that went paycheck-to-paycheck.

There was little mention of Hillary, and little cutting off of remarks by the bell.


Sunday, August 02, 2015

Another dolphin "Sea Rescue", when one swims into fresh water

An episode of “Sea Rescue” on “Litton’s Weekend Adventure” (repeated Aug 1 on some syndicated stations) showed the rescue of a dolphin trapped in fresh water, after swimming too far inland into a bayou in East Texas, link here. I wasn't aware that the salt water would not penetrate into the low bayous. 
Most dolphins cannot live indefinitely in fresh water and will get deadly infections.  But despite their intelligence and unusual physiology (sonar), they don’t always detect inadequate salinity.  This young dolphin was also somehow separate from its pod or family.  This time, Sea World can say it was needed to rescue the animal.
Still, dolphins may be the most intelligent non primates on Earth, and their rise predates humans by millions of years. 


Saturday, August 01, 2015

ABC Nightline: teen will be listed as sex-offender after underage girl lies about age; Michigan does not reccognize lying by a minor as a defense

Friday night, ABC Nightline aired a disturbing report about a young man, Zack Anderson, 19, who, according to a sentence from a Michigan court currently in effect, could, after serving about 75 days in a Michigan jail, spend 25 years on a sex-offender registry and five years under strictly supervised probation where he honors curfews and is not allowed Internet access or to own a smart phone.

The incident started when the northern Indiana teen resident met a girl online with an online dating app “hot or not” (Google shows several of these).  The girl said she was 17.  (According to reports, she told Zack that when he asked directly online, and she had falsely registered as an adult on the site, violating TOS.) They met in southern Michigan (Niles) and had consensual sex.  It turns out the girl had lied and was 14.  The mother called police while she was out, thinking she was missing. Two months later, police came to Indiana and interviewed Zack and work, and he was soon charged with 4th degree assault.

He plead guilty to get the smallest sentence.  One big catch is that Michigan law doesn’t recognize an underage partner’s lying about age as an affirmative defense.  Apparently Indiana law would have.  But the terms of Zack’s probation are based on Michigan even though he lives in Indiana (under Full Faith and Credit).

The girl’s parents did not want to see Zack prosecuted and did not regard their daughter as a “victim”. But the judge seemed to want to set an example, and a Republican state legislator who crafted Michigan’s law said that he should have checked her driver’s license, like a bar would.  There is a school of thought that says that adults must look after minors even when minors lie and behave irresponsibly.

Zack’s parents are trying to get the sentenced reduced, but have spent much of their savings on legal fees, and have bought him a fix-up house in a part of town where he can leave legally.

Sex-offender registries in many states clearly are trapping people who as individuals do not pose a threat to others.  When is "sending a message" a justification for ugly, disproportionate consequences? 
Dr. Phil would have said that this episode shows that teenagers don’t see around corners or perceive hidden possible consequences of their behavior.  Zack probably would have presumed that asking her age verbally was enough, or would have trusted the website.  He would not have thought he had to take even more responsibility for others.  He would not have thought about different states’ laws.
Michigan has an age of consent of 16 with no “Romeo and Juliet law”.  Indiana also has 16, with a Romeo-and-Juliet exception (Wiki )   California, Virginia, Wisconsin and Arizona all have age as 18. 

One obvious question comes up:  if someone gets a fake-ID, and meets that underage person in a bar and has illegal sex, then is the person guilty?  Perhaps so in Michigan.  On several occasions I have seen people in bars who I knew was underage.  Fake-id’s seem to be common.  (An episode in the series “Everwood” was based on the issue, and the critical incident with Ephram and Madison near the end of the series would have been illegal in Colorado because the Ephram character was 16.)  I said nothing, but on one occasion, the person had been a student in a classroom where I had subbed.  He spoke to me, but I left immediately.   On one or two occasions I have accidentally seen conduct, from a distance, that might have been on the borderline of illegality but said nothing.

The official title of the Nightline episode was “The 19 Year Old Will Spend 25 Years on Sex Offender Registry”, in a series called “Firsts”.

The comments on the ABC site are interesting. Story link is here.

Picture: Marijuana sign in SE Michigan, 60 miles from Detroit, my trip, 2012.