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Sunday, December 26, 2010

Showbiz is dangerous, nothing new....

Cirque du Soleil performers, who have quite a bit in common with the "Spider-Man" aerialists, are known to fall now and then, and nobody calls for those shows to be shut down. It's an occupational hazard.
On Broadway, legit dancers are subject to both acute and chronic injuries and Broadway as an industry is notoriously lax about attending to long-term health problems. A Google search for Broadway injuries reveals plenty of bad accidents on previous shows.
Beyond that, we routinely watch sports, where major injuries are common, and car races, where people die before our eyes.
One of my colleagues, while insisting to me that injuries on "Spider-Man" are different because it's Broadway, recounted seeing a dancer suffer a compound fracture onstage in a ballet performance.
Patrick Page, who plays the Green Goblin in the show, called all the media scrutiny "an education as to how things have changed." He was in "Beauty and the Beast" on Broadway, playing Lumiere, with two butane tanks strapped to his back, hoses running down his arm, a stun gun to ignite the gas and 2½-foot flames coming off him.
"And things happen," he said. "There were so many times I hit myself with that stun gun and shocked myself. But hey, you know, it didn't make the newspapers."

Sunday Morning News and Views, Part IV

What will 2011 look like in Washington?

It would be great to find rays of sunshine and hope, but the truth is that unless you are one of those optimist who think that newly elected Freshman representing your own personal views or philosophy can change the world overnight, you have to agree that there is no way of knowing what will happen, or if anything can happen with the new Congress and our national economic and foreign policy challenges.

Economics are on an international level, with a decreasing ability for the US alone to influence major trends. Manufacturing, jobs, investment by US and international firms have all migrated to eastern Asia and to emerging Hispanic countries. Jobs lost in the Great Recession, or the decades leading up to it, probably will never return, and the currency of the new century, education, also finds the US slipping behind other industrialized countries and even some of our potential future adversaries.

The shift to a Republican House of Representatives, loss of any super-majority in the Senate by Democrats, failure of Republicans to honor simple majorities, a new group with their own ideas within the  Republican party, retirement or election losses by moderates who knew how to advance legislation and win, a president who ends his second year as president with a modern high of 47% approval (despite what FOX news may tell you...approval ratings done by multiple non-patrician survey and research agencies), the continuation of the "aftermath" of a very real Great Recession, major government cuts at all levels and in all forms of government (including education), several states facing possible bankruptcy...all factors in what promises to be an unpredictable year, with little or no real progress made.

A gradual draw down of troops from the Middle East, slower than had been hoped due to the political breakdowns reflected in relations with the US and in internal communications within Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq. The threat of Iran also forebodes a slower US draw down of troops.

The US will face two major foreign policy issues this next year, our "allies" Pakistan and Afghanistan. Pakistan has nuclear weapons, is non-secular yet quietly works with the Taliban and looks the other way far too often. Afghanistan is not moving in the way the US would like politically and the Taliban has moved to a national assault from former regional footholds.

Nuclear power and sabre rattling will keep the US and our military on edge over Iran and North Korea, with no one predicting any military action, but no one completely eliminating it either.

President Obama will create vast new wilderness areas, undoing changes from the Bush Administration.

Compromise on some key issues but also the strength of a centrist leadership in a period of an increasingly polarized congress and court. But it will not be easy, as the chairs of the powerful House committees will probably call head-hunting expeditions against Democrats in ways the Democrats did not do when they took power or when Obama was elected to the White House (a key difference between the parties).  Government agencies that new House, in particular the new Tea Party friendly Freshmen, targeted in rhetoric will face very read budget cuts if not moves toward elimination. These cuts may be the ax that Democrats can use in fighting back during the 2012 elections. It will be a battle of ideologies that cannot be predicted, or avoided,.

Republicans will face a major crisis as they deal with the far right and Tea Party in their own party and its no compromise, no tax increase, cut government and cut programs it considers not serving the full national good. Maintaining internal control enough to move into needed legislation and compromised to pull the US from recession and move to reverses erosion in everything from education to our position as a leader that is listened to on the world stage.

Dealing with obvious corporate control of the past election will create a major battle over "campaign finance reform." The leaders will be Freshmen and those who benefited the most from the unmarked unlimited financing, mostly Republicans, will do everything they can to stop any move to restore the 104 years of campaign control and reform that the Supreme Court overturned last year.We may be in for decades of corporate professional marketing dollars being spent with unlimited abandon through positive sounding front orgnizations with no direct responsibility for disclosure. Individual dollars will remain important, but only if major candidates can generate enough grass roots support. Even assembly races cost from $175,000 to as much as six million dollars to win, often for part time low paying legislative offices. This past year, with reappportionment on the line, the cost per local state legislative seat hit all time highs.

What about this past year? What was President Obama's best move of the year?

The passage of Health Care Reform? Saving America's key automotive industry? The tax cut compromise? Change of command in Afghanistan? Handling of the BP Oil spill? Passing more legislation than any other president since Roosevelt? Allowing Harry Reid and Nancy Polosi to take the heat for his policies and political indecisions? The repeal of "don't ask, don't tell?" Defusing possible wars centered on Korea, Israel and Iran?

What about his worst move?

The same list, if you are on the other side of the political fence. What was the key issue in Obama's way? The war (or Bush's wars) continuing and even escalating? His mixed race? Being from Illnois (where scandals continue,and I am a native Chicagoian so I can say this...)?  His belief in the legislative constitutional process? His oppositions financing and success in painting him with a "liberal" brush.  His belief that fast action was needed on the economy? His belief in social reform to protect the least of our brothers and sisters? His inability to dictate and lead his own party? (His belief that he is America's and not the Democratic Party's president).

What are the major factors in the media?

COMCAST to take over NBC-Universal in January. Net-Neutrality. Wiki-leaks changes freedom of access and how international deplomacy is done. The power of e-mail, Facebook and Twitter to run circles around traditional media. The continued decline of newspapers and print magazines. The polarization and abandonment of serious efforts for non-bias news by FOX, MSNBC and now CNN. The i-Pad. The passing of the last generation of classic American journalism. Rapid decline in traditional advertising revenue. You-Tube. Entertainment trained ratings driven leadership takes over most all news media, letting advertising, ratings and what they people "want" to see or read dictate what is news. Citizen journalist. The i-phone (and all "smart" phones). Blogs as and dictating what is news. A continued decline in reading. Talking and shouting heads instead of journalist and fact-checks. John Stuart. Comedy Central and MTV as news organizations. Glen Back and other ratings driven showmen being taken seriously as scholars and pundits. Constant Harry Reid bashing and then trying to "excuse" his reelection to the Senate. Making a highly trusted and rated US President seem as if he is a loser and untrusted by the American people.

(The above is through the viewership or reading web sited from the Sunday morning talk shows).

Sunday Morning News and Views, the day after Christmas, Part III

Olympic gold for Nevada? Nevada's lieutenant governor is calling again for the Reno-Tahoe area to prepare a bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympics. Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki has raised the call before as chairman of Reno Tahoe Winter Games Coalition. He's telling the Nevada Appeal the area that hosted the 1960 Winter Olympic Games at Squaw Valley should be prepared if the United States Olympic Committee calls for a bid. Krolicki says hosting the games would boost the regional economy for years before and after. USOC spokesman Mark Jones tells the Appeal there are no current plans to call for a bid. An announcement is due in July whether Annecy in France, Munich in Germany and Pyeongchang in South Korea will host the 2018 Winter Games.

Without going into the long line of names of those who passed away this year, it is best to say that the Baby Boom is saying good-bye to come of its most influential, from Charlie in Charlie's Angeles, to our Daniel Boone and Davey Crocket, three of the stars of the comedy "Airplane", a pair of acting brothers who took us from sea to missions impossible, men who wrote some of the most famous presidential speeches, Anna Frank's friend and protector, icons of the 60's, the more than 500 service members who died in combat this year, scientists, actors, writers, inventors, soldiers, singers, politicians, those behind the thrones, those who fought the good fight, those who lived it, and those who captured it. Iconic mothers, jockeys, heart and soul, painters and poets, fathers, brothers and the final members of the Cartwright's of Bonanza. Las Vegas supporter writer Stephen J Cannel, Henderson painter and movie star Tony Curtis, and others who helped Vegas prosper through the 60's , 70's and 80's left us this year, some great and others soiled. For a significant homage to those who have passed into history, and the history they helped build, go to CBS Sunday Mornings web site. More icons of the past 70 years of American history and culture passed on than any list can fully cover. They all had a role in making us who we are today. I highly recommend the lengthy but uniquely Sunday Morning's tribute.

Give until it hurts. Despite the bad economy, charitable giving didn't drop as much in 2010 as it did last year. The level of giving among Americans appears to have leveled off. The problem is that demand for charitable services continues to grow, while government help and endowments are continuing to shrink. The wealthy are investing overseas more than giving to their fellow Americans. Cost of living, goods and simply a helping hand are growing, higher than the average in the areas where help is most needed (food, medicine, shelter, education).Even the wealthiest and most generous givers are finding that their efforts cannot achieve even the more modest of their goals in giving.

Just say "thank you". Being polite every opportunity and writing a thank you note each day, handwritten, can change your life for the better, as explained John Kralik's new memoir, "365 Thank Yous: The Year a Simple Act of Daily Gratitude Changed My Life." The simple action helped raise his own self esteem, view of life, return long lost family, friends and even money to his life in just one year. For this story I suggest you go to National Public Radio's "Weekend Edition Sunday".

Thousands of pro-Palestinian activists have welcomed back to Turkey's capital a ship that was raided by Israeli troops in May. The ship had been part of an international flotilla carrying supplies to Gaza in an effort to breach an Israeli blockade. Israeli troops intercepted the convoy, and eight Turks and an American-Turkish teenager were killed in the violence that erupted on board the ship. Since then, it's been undergoing repairs at a port on Turkey's Mediterranean cost. Today, hundreds of balloons were released as the ship sailed into an Istanbul port. Activists meanwhile, promised to send more ships in an effort to break the Gaza blockade. Turkey has said it wants improved ties with Israel. But it's not backtracking from its demands that Israel apologize for the raid and compensate victims before relations can return to normal.

The Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce says its new president has died just nine months after taking the job. Chamber spokeswoman Cara Roberts tells the Las Vegas Review-Journal that Matt Crosson died Thursday at MountainView Hospital, several weeks after heart surgery. The 61-year-old Crosson moved to Las Vegas this year.

Gov. Jim Gibbons closes the latest chapter in his 20-year political career after a rough-and-tumble
term that left him politically bruised. His wild ride as Nevada's chief executive officially ends Jan. 3, when Gov.-elect Brian Sandoval takes control of a state severely crippled by the crush of the Great Recession. The lame duck governor has mostly kept a low profile in his final months. He became the first governor in Nevada history to lose his own party's primary, after a term riddled with dictates ignored, lack of cooperation with the legislature, confrontational politics, allegations of sexual improprieties and his high profile divorce with long time wife and supporter, Dawn Gibbons.

The Los Angeles suburb of Vernon could be stripped of its status as a city. With 1,800 businesses providing an annual tax base of $334 million to a town with fewer than 100 residents, the former city manager was pulling down a $785,000 salary last year. State Assembly Speaker John Perez says he can't tolerate people using "an entire city as their own personal fiefdom with no impunity."

It looks like overcast skies on the leading edge of four days of persistent rain made conditions great for ducks during an annual Christmas Bird Count in southern Nevada. Red Rock Audubon Society observers say the Dec. 18 count sure didn't happen on a bluebird day. Bird watchers tallied 157 ring-necked ducks and 130 American wigeon at Tule Springs and a Corn Creek count area around the Desert National Wildlife Range, 30 miles north of Las Vegas. They also spotted mallards, redheads, ruddy ducks, canvasbacks, buffleheads and teal. Many of the same types of birds were seen in last year's count. Environmentalist John Hiatt says weather certainly plays a role in where and when some bird species are seen.

Sunday Morning News and Views, Christmas Weekend, part II

84 year old Hugh Heffner is engaged to a 24 year old model. It will be his third actual marriage.

It has been 44 years since it began. It's meaning has morphed from "black power" and racial identity to a multi-cultural celebration that somehow takes away from a holiday that most African Americans hold sacred...Christmas. The way African-Americans, and Americans in general, view the seven-day cultural holiday Kwanzaa varies

How did Christmas become Christmas? No one knows when Jesus was born, although the census would lead to support the April and May services celebrated  up until the fourth century, when the celebration Holy Day was moved to coincide with the winter solsitis, the Roman celebration of Sol Invictus, the Roman God of the Unconquered Sun. The BBC spend a great deal of time on the topic and what it means today. CBS Sunday Mornings took a few minutes. NPR none.

Today there are over two billion Christians around the world.

On a side not a CBS Poll found that Silent Night out-polled White Christmas and all other Christmas songs, with 13% for Silent Night and 9% for White Christmas, still holding the record for most singles sold in history. It was a symbol of World War II, where transportation did not allow for soldiers to be rotated home and the entire world seemed as it it was at War. It resurrected again during the Korean War and even outsold the rock and country anthems of the View Nam War. The popularity of the song has been decreasing since Bing Crosby's death. He was only one of many artist who popularized the Irving Berlin song,

As we take out digital photos, with their "realistic" flat imagery and digital alteration on computers, or with the computer chips in the phone themselves, we also bid farewell to the icons that turned photography into a household hobby and holiday stable.Kodak Moments, and Kodachrome, now officially a thing of the past. After this Friday the last remaining Kodachrome processing firm will stop processing Kodachrome, so all processing of Kodachrome will end. You will no longer be able to develop the film, because the process and dies are complex and incorporated into the film as it being developed, using Kodak chemicals no longer manufactured. Kodachrome was the way billions around the world preserved their most treasured memories for more than 76 years. Home photography started for the wealthy early on, but became for the masses after World War II when Kodak made it an every-man's celebration and everyday life photography. Famous photographers, journalist and artist are mourning the loss of the film, as it captured things in a way that digital computer imagery cannot. It's in the film and how it was developed.

Chateau Marmont in Hollywood is a boutique hotel where Hollywood elite hung our, had affairs and went to be left alone.  You could disappear in the heart of Hollywood, perched on the hillsides above Sunset Blvd..." a no-tell motel" with high thread count sheets. It inspired "The Hotel California", although the band denies it. A new movie is taking the antiquated hotel of old and putting it in the limelight again. It is a homage by Francis For Coppola's Academy Award winning daughter, to the life she led growing up. William Holden, Glenn Ford, Robert Mitchem, Jim Morrison all got into trouble at the old hotel. John Belushi was found dead of an overdose at the hotel.

As the east coast of the US braces for a heavy winter storm, canceling mid-Holiday flights, Europe is digging out of a snow and ice storm that few countries were prepared for. One place you think would be ready for severe winter weather is the far northern city of Moscow, whose biggest airport has resumed operation, after being shut down for nearly 15 hours by an icy rain.The rain left roads coated with ice. More than 200,000 people and 14 hospitals have been without electricity. Emergency officials say workers are scrambling to restore the power supply after heavy ice snapped power lines.The main Moscow airport shut down after the power supply was cut off. No planes were allowed to land or take off for about 15 hours, before the airport then allowed some outbound domestic flights to resume. The full power supply had not yet been restored. Moscow's other two major airports remained open but experienced delays. Moscow motorists woke up today to find their cars covered with an inch of ice.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano says the use of full-body scanners and invasive pat-downs at airports around the country will not change for the "foreseeable future." Napolitano told CNN's "State of the Union" that she is always looking to improve the security systems in place but adds that the new technology and the pat-downs are safer for the traveling Napolitano also dismisses a recent news report about major public airports failing secrets tests designed to get contraband such as guns and knives past security screeners. The report said some airports had a 70 percent failure rate. The Homeland Security secretary says many of the tests were old and out of date and that there were other problems with them.

The Taliban have shut down food aid The suicide bombing that killed 45 people outside a World Food Program depot in northwest Pakistan has prompted the closing of food aid distribution centers in the region. An official involved in the WFP food distribution project says the four relief centers have been shuttered on orders of the regional government. It's not clear how long the food distribution points will be closed. The World Food Program project in Bajur feeds thousands of people who have been displaced since early 2009 by fighting between the Pakistan military and insurgents.

Sunday Morning (Boxing Day) News and Views, Part I

It's Boxing Day..the day after Christmas, a major retail day of exchanges and sales across the nation and internationally.

Christchurch, New Zealand started Boxing Day with a major earthquake and aftershocks. The city's core, depending on Boxing Day for retail sales, is shut down due to the hazard of falling glass, bricks and decorations from buildings, plus some structures need to be inspected, which could take days. In  September the same city was hit with a 7.0 quake and aftershocks.

Business experts and economist see not much change in 2011, but that people will feel better about it as the turn around will be perceived as beginning and there is a natural optimism that will kick in. Jobs may grow but on the low paying end, and not much in way of sunshine for those who are top heavy on their homes or homeless. Almost one in 10 Americans enter the New Year out of work, at 9.8% on the record and as many as one in four under-employed or off the radar. By years end the best the experts (not the politicians) predict is a 9.2% unemployment by the end of 2011. Housing will improve but no where near to the previous mortgage values of homes, and only a small segment of America will qualify to buy the homes on the market. Manufacturing cannot sell to people who are not buying, or reverse the trend that will increase of sending manufacturing jobs overseas.

From Washington north into New England, forecasters say a winter storm revving up along the east coast could bring snowy chaos today and into tomorrow. Delaware and Philadelphia are braced for up to a foot of snow. The storm could bring blizzard conditions to New York City and New England. Washington and Baltimore could get six inches or more. Winter storm warnings stretch from Georgia to New England today. Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina have declared states of emergency and Virginia's governor urged motorists not to get caught out in the storm. Airlines say hundreds of flights have been canceled and there could be more of the same today -- not what holiday travelers want to hear. Travel misery began yesterday in parts of the South, where a rare white Christmas came with reports of dozens of car crashes

Windows PC's are expected to lead tech support calls this day-after-Christmas, the traditional busiest day of the year not just for returns but for technical support calls. They are always less than intrinsic, even to those use to using them. Manuals are often unreadable because they are written in one language by experts in the product, translated to another and then translated again, sometimes more than once, before you actually read them. Steps are skipped, or assumed you would know them. Human support remains important.

An interesting change in society has parents not knowing children's addresses and most of us not remembering phone numbers. We are slaves to our gadgets. We hit a button and the call goes through automatically, we write by Facebook, we Skype but do we dial a phone, or write a handwritten note sent by mail? Valuable information is being lost to our pdf, our phone, our computer or our lack of taking the time to learn simple things like physical addresses, phone numbers, or even e-mail addresses. Is that changing society or reflecting how we have changed? And are we becoming less tangible, less physical, less personal?

The top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan has stressed the importance of growing coordination between coalition forces and their Pakistani counterparts, saying that more such operations would be carried out to pressure a resilient Taliban entrenched in the region. The Taliban in Afghanistan and other extremist groups use safe havens across the border in Pakistan, and the U.S. has been pushing Islamabad to clear Pakistan's lawless tribal belt that runs along the frontier. The pressure has often strained U.S.-Pakistani relations, with Islamabad bristling at suggestions it should do more. Gen. David Petraeus told the AP late Saturday that there have been successful "hammer and anvil" operations straddling the border, with Pakistani forces on one side and NATO and Afghan
troops on the other squeezing militants.