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Sunday, January 30, 2011

SAG After-Party

Betty White and Ernest Borgnine, the night's elder statesmen honorees, stopped in and settled into one of the designated VIP couch pits, while nearby the trophy-winning "Modern Family" kids - Ariel Winter, Rico Rodriguez and Nolan Gould - danced up a storm to the music of Impulse.

SAG Awards, and the winners are...

Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
The King’s Speech
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading RoleColin Firth, The King’s Speech
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading RoleNatalie Portman, Black Swan
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting RoleChristian Bale, The Fighter
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or MiniseriesClaire Danes, Temple Grandin
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie or MiniseriesAl Pacino, You Don’t Know Jack
Screen Actors Guild Awards 47th Annual Life Achievement AwardErnest Borgnine
Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy SeriesModern Family
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy SeriesBetty White, Hot in Cleveland
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy SeriesAlec Baldwin, 30 Rock
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role
Melissa Leo, 
The Fighter
Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama SeriesBoardwalk Empire
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama SeriesJulianna Margulies, The Good Wife
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama SeriesSteve Buscemi, Boardwalk Empire

Cost of Education

Nevada's governor is hitting higher education harder than any other part of the state's budget cuts. After losing well over half of the budget levels of just four years ago, while increasing student populations by over fifty percent, cuts of 27% are planned (almost a third of current budgets). He is against any new fees or taxes, but does not consider tuition a fee, so sizable increases in the cost passed on to students may be possible while at the same time reducing staff, cutting programs and slashing classes.

What are your thoughts?  Any ideas on how else to balance the budget?

Sunday Morning News and Views, Part IV

Global food prices are at an time high, with riots in many countries and political unrest where prices are up as much as 30%. Droughts, flooding, population growth, increased demand for bigger and better meals, increased demand for American type food, increased fuel costs, increased use of grain for fuel instead of food and wars or limitations on trade are among the causes.

US food prices rose less than 1% over the last year, with near record prices in the US for basic foods. We pay for packaging and other costs, but the price of basic food is low, This coming year US prices will go up by about 3% and could go up as much as ten percent over the next few years.

Health Care reform is working, but in the short run insurance companies and medicare have raised prices or lowered coverage, changes planned and scheduled well in advance of the reform passing. The result is a wave of using those rises as "proof" of its failure. In addition, there has been some profiteering and some cost related to changes that are being passed on in the short term, before caps and controls are in place. There is a legitimate argument that the costs of health care reform coming at the same time as the recession and its impact on national, state, local and personal finances has amplified what cost there are in their impact on society.The cost of reversing the reforms is higher than allowing them to go through and then adjusting or fine tuning them to correct any problems or perceived errors that occur. The Congressional Budget office and three independent auditors have all come to the same conclusion...the health care reform as passed will save Taxpayers and those who pay for insurance large amounts of money over the next decade, despite temporary increases or perceived problems caused by the tiered implementation as passed in the Congressional compromise. False information and exaggeration were already printed and ready for use before any actual costs or implementation took place, designed to inflame voters to vote Republican and for overturning the bill during the last election. There never were death panels, dictates as to what a doctor can do or your choice of doctors, at least no more than exist under existing insurance and HMO's.

Haiti is setting up mobile cell phone money credits as a way of getting money quickly to those who need it, despite their devastated infrastructure. It has saved many businesses and could allow for Haiti to recover from the ground up. The government is even providing free cell phones and e-phone services for funds and communication. Food rations are sent to the phones in rural Haiti, encouraging people to migrate out of the city.The system will provide banking type services to the millions who do not have banks or ways to collect cash due to them. Even poor Haitians are use to cell phone minutes, due to poor phone and postal services even before the earthquakes and storms. The phone companies make about a tenth of a cent per transaction. One problem is that there are two incompatible cellular systems in the island country.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is flying to Haiti to mediate in a political crisis there while other administration officials are keeping watch on violent protests
halfway across the world in Egypt. Clinton will meet Sunday with President Rene Preval and the three candidates vying to succeed him during her visit. She will also see a treatment center for the cholera epidemic that has killed almost 4,000 people. Haiti's political crisis stems from a first-round presidential
election in November that was marred by fraud. The U.S. wants Preval's preferred candidate, Jude Celestin, to bow out because the Organization of American States says he had the least support. The U.S warns that continued aid for Haiti's reconstruction from last year's earthquake is at stake. Haiti's presidential run-off is in March.

Clinton is refusing to speculate on what will happen to Egypt's Hosni Mubarak and his teetering government. But she says the U.S. doesn't want to see "radical ideologies" take control in a key Arab ally of the United States. There's a growing fear that a government hostile to the U.S. could take power there.Clinton urges Egyptian security forces to show restraint and not to respond through violence or intimidation toward protesters. Jets are buzzing close to the crowds but as of 8 AM Pacific time the military has been involved only in replacing the civilian police in civil protection and enforcement.The US would like to see regular Democratic elections in Egypt with the support of and  respect for the people.

On the ground word is that a modern country like Egypt has been kept together through military might, but also through torture, hard handed tactics and the threat of danger form other countries. 85 million Egyptians are ready for a change after 30 years under one dictatorial government. There has always been unrest and terrorism in Egypt, mostly in the southern portions of the country, with various factions fighting and two separatist movements, but the overall nation has functioned. In recent years the stronghold has gotten worse, with restrictions that have kept the country from moving further forward in a modern world and International economy.

Israel's prime minister says his government is "anxiously monitoring" the political unrest in Egypt. It's Benjamin Netanyahu's first comment on the crisis -- which threatens a regime that has been one of Israel's key allies for more than 30 years.

Chief Washington Post Foreign Correspondent for the New York Times told CBS Face the Nation the administration fears a power vacuum that could create an opening for Islamist

The Myanmar opposition group led by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has launched its first official website. Suu Kyi says she believes the National League for Democracy's site will help achieve the group's goal of democracy for Myanmar at a faster pace. The website, in English and Burmese, was launched a day before the opening of Myanmar's first parliament in 22 years. The NLD boycotted last year's general elections, saying they were held under unfair conditions to perpetuate military rule. It was not immediately clear if the government, which exercises tight control over the Internet and other media, would try to block the site, which is meant for party members at home as well as supporters abroad.

Sunday Morning News and Views, Part III

Internet and political and social change

Does stationary still have a place in a mobile society? Has the Internet made hand written invitations, thank you notes and just communication by personal letters obsolete?  What do you think? Do you hand write notes? Has our civility been lost to the faster then ever, need to know now, easy to hit a transmit key world of the Internet and text messaging?

The Internet is the new cell phone, which replaced the fax machine of the Tienanmen Square protests. Today tweets, Facebook and text messaging fed movements in the Sudan, Tunisia and now Egypt. The government blocking of these services fueled people flooding angrily into the streets in Tunisia and Egypt. However the democracy of social networks also get protesters arrested or hanged, as happens in Iran where just this week two protester who used Facebook were hung for treason. Nothing is private on the Internet or over cellular transmissions.

In 2010 US aid to Egypt exceeded 1.6 billion dollars, with 1.3 billion of that slated for the military, seen as a stabilizing force in the middle east and northeastern Africa. So far the Army has been used only to keep the peace.

Al Jazeeera has been ordered to close its Egyptian News Bureau as Egypt de-credentialed its reporters for "bias" coverage of the protest and the government's responses. They vowed to continue coverage using cell phones and reports from citizens and other news organizations delivered over the Internet.

Wealthy Egyptians and Arabs are fleeing Egypt, as are the middle class who can afford to.

Meanwhile the unofficial results of a two week long ballot on succession, indicates that Southern Sudan will soon become its own country. Citizens there are celebrating in the streets!

The Kings Speech and Stuttering

3 million Americans have major stuttering problems, as do over 65 million others world wide. but the King's Speech has given hope and spurred major thrust by those who work with and help mediate the condition. "CBS Sunday Morning" included a feature on stuttering. It is available on-line as a segment. In the segment they also tell the story of the author of "The King's Speech" and how he stuttered as a youth and was fascinated how King George the VI was thought as "feeble minded" when he was prince because of his stuttering. The speech in the movie was a turning point for the new King, for those who stutter and for the nation. Researchers say that the problem is neurological, not psychological or behavioral as had been thought. The body can be trained, but the problem never goes away. It is also true that teasing, events and trauma can exacerbate the problem.

Sunday Morning News and Views, Part II

Bill Clinton says that it will take six to ten years to recover the jobs we lost in the US, not counting the jobs to keep up with inflation and the world market, and without recovering from replacing higher paying manufacturing jobs with lower paying service and technology jobs. Unemployment is far above the numbers, because so many people have given up looking. Some states are hit harder than the national news may indicate, and may not recover to pre-recession levels. The stimulus was not money spent on jobs, less than a third was. One third were tax cuts that were intended to be temporary and a third to help keep state and local government operational for the short run. He sees defaults possible for local, state and parts of the Federal Government. A new wave of unemployment from government related jobs, and contractors to the government, will caused another swell in umemployment that could make recovery as far off as twenty years for most of the US. That said he says that there is enormous potential in America, where we can increase growth, and this time around the recession did not devastate the poor so much as lower the bar for the middle class, which means there is a strong base to build on without driving up government costs in the process.Clinton believes Americans are resilient and will live through this and prosper again, beyond the wealthy. He also believes taxes on his income level are unrealistically low.

Across the country, governors and state legislators are haggling over budget proposals for the next fiscal year. Many states are facing budget shortfalls this year. But California is facing the largest one -- more than $25 billion. In Georgia, more across-the-board state budget cuts are coming. Overall budget cuts are not as big as in previous years, but some suggest there is a kind of "budget fatigue" because Georgia has continued to cut for several years. The 2012 budget is $3 billion less than in 2009. 

Law professor David Skeel wrote about a proposal that would allow states to declare bankruptcy as a way to handle overwhelming debt. Skeel, who teaches corporate law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, wrote an op-ed for "The Weekly Standard," titled, "Give States a Way to Go Bankrupt."

Ignoring a government curfew, thousands of protesters remained in the streets and squares of Cairo through the night. The army has been deployed but is allowing peaceful demonstrations to proceed. Many soldiers and officers have expressed solidarity with the protesters. The police who clashed with protesters in the early days have disappeared, though there are reports that some of them may be provoking fear and chaos, disguised as thieves.

Residents in Egypt set up self-styled checkpoints and barricades at street corners and intersections of their neighborhoods overnight trying to protect their homes as police disappeared from view. Cairo, the capital, was eerily quiet at dawn, with fires still burning and armored military vehicles encircling main government buildings in the downtown.

The U.S. Embassy in Cairo has told its citizens in Egypt to consider leaving the country as soon as possible in a display of Washington's escalating concern about the stability of its closest Arab ally. Gangs of armed men attacked at least four jails across Egypt before dawn, helping to free hundreds of Muslim militants and thousands of other inmates. The army increased its presence as police vanished from city streets.

While corporate leaders in Davos are mostly pondering ways to boost profits and smooth out financial markets, a huge problem is bubbling up. Billions of people can't afford food. If these spiraling prices start to hit the U.S. this year, they could derail the U.S. recovery. Increase in food prices has already impacted McDonald's here and world wide, along with other international and national retailers. Soon it will hit all of our pocketbooks, driven up by fuel costs, international drought and rapid increases in income in some key emerging economies, with billions of mouths to feed.

It's not what flood-ravaged northeast Australia wants to hear. A hurricane/ cyclone is headed that way tomorrow and another storm could move in later in the week. The region has already suffered billions of dollars worth of damage from a months long flood crisis. Cyclone Anthony intensified to a Category 2 storm today with winds of 80 miles an hour.

Five Somali pirates could face up to life imprisonment if they are convicted at trial in South Korea. The pirates, captured during a raid on a hijacked cargo ship in the Arabian Sea, were brought to South Korea today by the coast guard. Commandos rescued all crew members during the raid and killed eight Somali pirates.

A new U.S. report warns that without more help.Iraqi security forces may not be able to protect the fragile nation from insurgents after American troops leave. Sunday's report by the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction also cites data by the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad that shows the nation's government, economy, legal systems and basic services like electricity and water remain unstable. Under a security agreement between Washington and Baghdad, U.S. troops will leave Iraq by the end of the year.The report says corruption in Iraq's military and army and police forces has led to wasted resources and bad planning. Congress is deciding how much money to give Iraqi forces this year.

Sunday Morning News and Views, part I

Egypt dominates the news.

The BBC spent their entire 4 AM Pacific time hour on the subject save for news headlines and three minutes of very British sports).

NPR and CBS news spent much of their time on the subject and its importance to the US, including the future of Middle East peace, such as it is, and the existence of Israel. The US take looks at how no matter how this "popuular uprising" goes, we cannot afford to lose Egypt as an ally.

BBC news has feet on the ground, reporting on looters, among whom credentialed undercover police have been reported to be instigators. The famed Cairo Museum was broken into with the gift shop looted and some of the exhibits. The curator said that damage was minimal and the looters did not seem to know that the real valuables and gold of the museum were not in or near the gift shop, or were kept from going near exhibits by someone among them. The Army has now secured the museum.

The story is one that is happening too quickly for a blog like this one. I suggest keeping on top the story using tV news, radio news and the Internet.

The US economy did pick up steam this past quarter, but not as much as expected. The economy grew 2.9%, must under three percent, the largest since the recession hit in 2009 (officially), but not at normal healthy rates.

A year ago the world expected a Great Depression, but at the World Economic Summit the feeling is optimistic, with "I am making money, a lot of money," and little concern, according to academic participants, for the continued recession for American and European workers and consumers. Emerging markets are going well, and investment is in those markets. This is a recovery but it is not a great recovery. We are growing but only now near where we started. The budget deficit in America will hit one and a half trillion dollars this year. The Congressional Budget office says that to stabilize the debt ratio all federal taxes will need to be raised 12% or cut that much. The US is in the middle of multiple wars, an aging infrastructure, the drain of jobs to other countries and real crisis in education, health and average consume spending power. Meanwhile the rich get richer, the markets rally and optimism is high among the business sector. Housing may take ten to thirty years to recover to pre-recession levels, with some markets far behind (including Las Vegas).

At the World Ecconomic Summit the feelings toward President Obama and his policies did work in reversing not only the US but the world recession. They feel greater stimulus is needed, but admit that conservatives in the US have made that unlikely, so increased taxes or cuts that could push the US into second rate power status may be needed for America and the world economy.

Across the country, governors and state legislators are haggling over budget proposals for the next fiscal year. In Georgia, more across-the-board state budget cuts are coming. Overall budget cuts are not as big as in previous years, but some suggest there is a kind of "budget fatigue" because Georgia has continued to cut for several years. The 2012 budget is $3 billion less than in 2009.

'King's Speech' Director Tom Hooper Tops 2011 DGA Awards

Tom Hooper

Tom HooperThe King's Speech (The Weinstein Co.)
Production manager: Erica Bensly
First Assistant Director: Martin Harrison
Second Assistant Director: Chris Stoaling

Mick JacksonTemple Grandin (HBO)
Unit Production Manager: Scott Ferguson
First Assistant Director: Philip Hardage
Second Assistant Director: Shawn Pipkin
Second Second Assistant Directors: Kayse Goodell, Richard E. Chapla Jr., Robbie Friedmann
Additional Second Second Assistant Director: Glen Moorman
Martin ScorseseBoardwalk Empire (HBO)
Unit Production Manager: Harvey Waldman
First Assistant Director: Chris Surgent
Second Assistant Director: Takahide Kawakami
Second Second Assistant Director: Patrick McDonald
Additional Second Assistant Director: Sal Sutera
Second Assistant Director/Location Managers: April Taylor, Regina Heyman
DGA Trainee: Jamiyl Ihsaan Campbell
Michael SpillerModern Family (ABC)
Unit Production Manager: Sally Young
First Assistant Director: Alisa Statman
Second Assistant Director: Helena Lamb
Second Second Assistant Director: Matthew Heffernan
Charles FergusonInside job (Representational Pictures, Sony Pictures Classics)
Glenn Weiss, 64th Annual Tony Awards (CBS)
Associate Directors: Gregg Gelfand, Robin Abrams, Ricky Kirshner
Stage Managers: Garry Hood, Peter Epstein, Andrew Feigin, Lynn Finkel, Doug Fogel, Jeffrey Gitter, Dean Gordon, Phyllis Digilio Kent, Arthur Lewis, Joey Meade, Tony Mirante, Cyndi Owgang, Jeff Pearl, Elise Reaves, Lauren Class Schneider
Larry CarpenterOne Life to Live, "Episode #10,687"
Associate Directors: Teresa Anne Cicala, Tracy Casper Lang, Paul S. Glass, Mary Ryan, Jen Pepperman, Barry Gingold
Stage Managers: Alan Needleman, Keith Greer, Brendan Higgins
Production Associates: Kevin Brush, Nathalie Rodriguez
Eytan KellerThe Next Iron Chef, "Episode #301" (Food Network)
Segment Director: Stephen Kroopnick
Stage Managers: Tom Borgnine, Seth Mellman
Stacy Wall (Imperial Woodpecker)

"Rise," Nike - Wieden & Kennedy/Portland
First Assistant Director: Bac DeLorme
Second Assistant Director: Steve Del Prete
Second Second Assistant Director: Kenny Hanson
"Really?," Microsoft - Crispin Porter & Bogusky/Boulder
First Assistant Directors: Miles Johnstone, Doug Halbert
Second Assistant Director: Michael Brawer
"Slim Chin & D Rose," Adidas - 180LA
First Assistant Director: Dave Dean
Second Assistant Director: Carl Jackson
"Handshake," Nike - Wieden & Kennedy/Portland
First Assistant Directors: Miles Johnstone, Scott Metcalfe
Second Assistant Director: Michael Brawer
Eric BrossThe Boy Who Cried Werewolf (Nickelodeon)