Monday, April 30, 2018

CNN's Anthony Bourdain visits West Virginia. especially the coal town Welch

On Sunday, April 29, 2018, Anthony Bourdain’s “Parts Unknown” visited West Virginia, specifically Welch in the southern part of the state, McDowell county.  This is not "almost heaven" anywhere. This was a longer (75 minute) episode. 
Greg Morabito on Easter summarized many of the scenes, especially the homecooked food without recipes, here

Welch was a boomtown in the 1940s (called “Little New York”, 600 miles away), as the picture shows.  Today it has fewer than 2000 people.

The broadcast makes the point that even a slight recovery in coal jobs does make a real economic difference to the lives of many people.  That is one reason so many supported Trump.  However, mountaintop removal mining has removed many underground mining jobs, which were always very dangerous.
I believe I visited Welch in 1991, after visiting the underground mine attraction in nearby Beckley (and also Bluefield). In 1972, I went on a weekend trip where I met a previous roommate from KU. I believe that on that weekend I drove through Logan, to the north of Welch but similar. I made that visit the subject of the short story “Expedition” in my DADT III book.
In my planned novel “Angel’s Brother”, as backstory, the character Frankie is supposed to have been born around 1960 in a coal family and moved out to his own life, before being recruited into “intelligence”, so to speak.
In the movie “October Sky” (1999)  inventor Home Hickum comes from a coal family which pressures him to drop out of school and work in the mines when his dad is sick (from black lung).  This film got shown to a high school physics class when I worked as a substitute teacher in 2005.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

"Weed 4: Pot or Pills": Gupta argues that medical marijuana may help control the opioid epidemic

Tonight, CNN produced a special report with Dr. Sanjay Gupta, “Weed 4: Pot or Pills” (writeup).
Gupta started by interviewing a pro football player, Mike James, who gradually got addicted to opioid painkillers after knee surgery in 2010, for an injury incurred when he was playing right after his mother’s death. 
Gupta explains how opioids alter the receptors in the brain with prolonged (if legal use), but in many cases medical marijuana seems to replace the need for painkiller and offer a pathway to gradual withdrawal
James has applied to the NFL for a therapeutic exemption from the ban in marijuana use but so far been denied.
Gupta says that at one time he was opposed to medical marijuana, but has become convinced of its medical benefits.
He indicates that many drugs now controlled were legal until the 1930s.  Marijuana became illegal as a result of big business pressure to outlaw hemp which competed with their products for many uses.
A few scenes with Gupta deserve careful watching, for future clues. 

Friday, April 27, 2018

ABC 20-20: Popular actress from "Smallville" indicted in apparent trafficking activity in New York State

ABC 20-20 tonight aired a report on the secret sorority NXIVM and the indictment of well-known actress Allison Mack, as well as the founder, for “sex trafficking and force labor conspiracy” in upstate New York (in a federal indictment).  The lead story on the 20-20 site right now is here.  20-20 had aired a report on the group in 2017.

Allison was of interest because she had played Chloe Sullivan, the teenage Clark Kent’s best friend in many early seasons of “Smallville”.  In the summers between the early seasons, she had often offered speculations online as to what mysteries of Clark would be revealed the next season (as when Christopher Reeve eventually appeared).  It seems interesting that Mack would follow up on acting in such an upbeat series with joining a “sorority”. 

ABC’s own legal columnist Abrams reported that the defendants might be able to argue that legally the sex and other activities were consensual (and by adults).

The case is also interesting in view of the fact that Congress recently passed a controversial law regarding liability for platforms online that knowingly allow sex trafficking on their facilities, although that law doesn’t seem to have figured in to this specific case.
Broadway World has a thorough account ("scoop")  of the episode here

Check back to the 20-20 site to view the full episode (cable provider paywall) which should appear shortly. 

Update: 4/28

The episode is called simply NXIVM and is available now

Thursday, April 26, 2018

James Comey does town hall at William and Mary, moderated by Anderson Cooper

Wednesday night, CNN aired a two hour Town Hall with former FBI director James Comey, from the College of William and Mary, of which Comey is a graduate.  Comey has authored the book “A Higher Loyalty” which I have just received from Amazon.
Anderson Cooper moderated.  The main link is here (many videos).  
Comey revisited his claim that Donald Trump is morally unfit for the presidency, and does not respect the norms and boundaries of exercising power for its own sake.
He also recounted the experience he had repelling a home invasion in northern New Jersey at age 15, an event which cemented his desire to go into law enforcement. 
Comey discussed an incident around 1980 at the College where he was involved in dorm bullying, and incident he says he regrets.  I have covered at great length my own expulsion from William and Mary in the fall of 1961 for “admitting latent homosexuality” to the Dean of Men, an incident that shaped my adult life.  I hope Comey finds my postings and is aware of the college’s history.  (All three of my books are at the law school library.) Comey mentioned specific buildings on campus, like Rogers Hall (which used to be for chemistry when I was there).
Comey reiterated his position on how he handled Hillary Clinton’s email problems, saying he had to thread a path between bad alternatives regarding the independence of the FBI.
Comey also reviewed his firing by Trump, and Trump’s disquieting private dinner in which Trump demanded “loyalty”.
There were a number of spirited questions from undergraduates in the audience.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

"Trafficked in America" on PBS Frontline; labor trafficking is less discussed than sex trafficking (FOSTA)

Tuesday night, April 24, PBS Frontline presented the episode “Trafficked in America”, link here.
The documentary tracked the process of bringing teens from Guatemala into the US illegally so they can wind up working in agriculture; in this case, on an egg farm in Ohio.

Labor trafficking has not gotten as much public attention as sex trafficking, because the latter was the subject of a controversial law, FOSTA-SESTA, that recently passed Congress.  This law may undermine downstream liability (CDA Section 230) protections for Internet intermediaries in a way as to jeopardize a lot of unrelated user-generated Internet content.

Nevertheless, agricultural employers (often big companies) have trouble finding Americans who can do the hard manual labor, for low pay. Leila Miller explains “why labor trafficking is so hard to track.”

Picture: near Mt. Vernon, Ohio, January 2018 (personal trip, not part of film) 

Saturday, April 21, 2018

"My Reality: A Hidden America" on ABC 2020: sexual harassment of low income domestic workers

“My Reality: A Hidden America” aired on ABC 20-20 Friday April 20, 2018 with a report on sexual harassment of women in the workplace, with viewer link here.  and a writeup here. This broadcast appeared to be an episode in a running 20-20 subseries.

Yet the most interesting aspect of the report was the coverage of how hard the physical labor is of domestic work, as in hotels.  A typical expectation on a shift is 14 rooms cleaned to military perfection. There was a trace of cultural revolution in the report.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

"McCain" biography on PBS Frontline

Tonight PBS Frontline presented a one-hour film “McCain”, link
The biography covered the excruciating details of McCain’s capture by the North Vietnamese and his attempted suicide before capture, because he feared dishonor if he confessed under torture.  I can relate to these feelings.

Yet his life recovered enough for the 2008 presidential nomination and loss to Obama.  McCain would not go along with the tribalist far right, with its birtherism and its uncompromising demands that its candidates remain hyperpartisan.  However McCain appointed an ideologue as a running mate in Sarah Palin, who "didn't know anything"  (See HBO "Game Change", movies, March 11, 2012). 

The documentary covered McCain’s no vote on undoing Obamacare in the middle of 2017.

It briefly covered his new struggle with a brain tumor, which has required some absence, but he seems to be doing much better medically than perhaps was expected, with new treatments.
McCain was hesitant about the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” at the end of 2010 but has been fine with saying that indeed some transgender troops are entirely fit to serve, in response to Trump’s attempted transgender ban.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Stephanopoulos interviews James Comey on his new book concerning Trump

James Comey gave a special interview on ABC 20-20 tonight at 10 PM with George Stephanopoulos. Comey’s book “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership.” 

Comey says that Trump’s leadership culture resembles that of a mob boss, even if he hasn’t followed through with any personalized violence.

Comey was particularly concerned about the 1:1 dinner and Trump's expectation of "loyalty". Comey describes it as a "shakedown".  

Comey says that he released the letter on Hillary Clinton’s emails appearing on a laptop connected to Anthony Weiner’s sexting scandals. (on Oct 28, 2016) because he feared if he withheld them, and Clinton won (which he expected) he would appear to have withheld possibly pertinent information out of political considerations, and the FBI must remain non-political.
At the end of the hour Comey said that he views Trump as morally unfit for the presidency.
The best ABC link for the interview is here.   The transcript is here.

Thursday, April 05, 2018

David Hogg's footage of a California beach incidents in August 2017 (CBS)

Here is a CBS2 (LA) interview with David Hogg made six months before Parkland, when David filmed an incident on a beach in California involving a lifeguard.

Then the video moves to cover David’s initial coverage of the shootings at Parkland Feb. 14. 
David seems determined to film what he sees and annotate it in detail. 
Everybody says that the University of Missouri is the main journalism school in the nation. I remember that from my days at KU in the 1960s.

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

"The Kennedys" on CNN continues with the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962

The Kennedys” continued Sunday April 1 on CNN with an episode that focused on the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.

Kennedy was at Hyannisport and knew that there was suspicious activity in Cuba about a week before getting the intelligence photos (as in the movie “13 Days”). 

Extensive plans were made to evacuate the Kennedy family, but Jacqui wanted to stay by her husband’s side even if they were to die in a fireball together, or of fallout.

The episode also emphasize how important the work of Robert Kennedy (Attorney General) in setting up the final compromise with the Soviets removing a base in Turkey.  

I was at GWU in Washington in a cafeteria eating dinner when I heard the speech.  I had to return to NIH later that evening.  I had heard about an hour before that there was a serious threat from Cuba.  Back at NIH, the patients knew nothing about it.
I was not as shaken personally now as I would be now.

Monday, April 02, 2018

"The Crossing": Asylum seekers from an AI-dominated future

ABC’s “The Crossing” started this evening, with a Pilot.  Off the California coast, bodies start showing up, and some people survive.  They claim they are refugees (or asylum seekers) from the future, where AI has taken over the world and decided who is fit to live. That’s after a war.  They get put into detention at first. 
Then we find out the refugees have “powers”, and that some of them are already here.They want to change the future as it is the past for them, and that always presents a problem of logic. 

The series is created by Jay Beattie and Dan Dworkin. Steve Zahn is the lead DHS ICE cop as the series starts.
Does this sound like “The 4400”?  Maybe with a little of “The Event”.