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Sunday, July 3, 2011

Various "off the path" information souces

Note: these may or may not count
as academic sources for your course.
They are intended as sources of alternative
views and in depth reporting by
award winning journalist.

Yankee Doodle Dandy

NBCUniversal completes takeover of Universal Orlando theme parks

It's now all part of the Wizarding World of Comcast.
NBCUniversal said Friday that it had finalized its $1-billion purchase of private investor Blackstone Group's 50% ownership stake in the Universal Orlando theme parks in Florida.
Comcast Corp., which controls NBCUniversal, said in a statement that the acquisition was financed with "cash on hand, borrowings under NBCUniversal's existing credit facility and a one-year $250 million note to NBCUniversal from a Comcast Corp. affiliate."  The deal was announced in June.
NBCUniversal and affiliates now own 100% of the Universal Orlando Resort, which includes Universal Studios Florida and Universal's Islands of Adventure -- which has seen attendance soar during the last year due to the popularity of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter attraction -- as well as Universal CityWalk.

Giving Back

Giving back.

Do you donate or do you sell?

Do you offer help to others or do you offer your ego?

Are you seeking self fame, or the opportunity to pursue your craft?

Is it for self promotion or for the overall good of the community?

Ask yourself these questions.

I know where I fall.

Where are you?

And how can we work together to make better things happen together?

Sunday Morning News and Views, Part II

On this date in 1952 the SS United States set sail from New York on its maiden voyage. The official ocean liner of the US was the biggest passenger liner ever launched in the US (almost 1,000 feet long), and became the fastest ocean liner on the Atlantic, breaking both the eastbound and west bound records in her maiden voyage. It took just over three days. The ship was the way to cross the ocean until the late 1960s' when jets put her out of date for increasingly speed driven high rollers and the business elite, leading to the death of the great cruise liner age. Today's liners are vacation junkets more than a leisurely transportation necessity. The SS United States made 400 voyages before it retired in 1969. Today she sits rusting in ship yard near Philadelphia.

Is there a fourth of July in Canada? Just had to ask that.

Tomorrow we celebrate the official 235th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. Truth is the signing began the days before but in an age of hand copying the document was dated July 4th, the day of the copy..

Sunday July 4, 2010

Vote for independence was on July 2, 1776 and the signing began in August, so we actually do not celebrate the correct holiday. July 4 was the date that was placed on the declaration sent out to the states for ratification, which is the Fourth of July, comes from.

On this date in history, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was “said” to be signed, as explained earlier. In reality several of the signatures were not added until years later.

July 4,1826, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, his rival in later years, died within hours of each other. It was the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

On this date in 1831 President James Monroe passed away.

July 4, 1872 birthday of Calvin College, the first president to be afflicted by the newsman’s camera

And on this date in1997, CBS anchor and founding anchor of Sunday Mornings, Charles Kuralt passed away. In his honor the program aired some of Kuralt’s melodic reading of the Declaration of Independence.

I am going to hazard a guess as to why they aired only a few seconds of Kuralt’s readings. It is not because he is gone. I feel that all of us, have grown faster in our Sunday pace, less relaxed. Media is now rated in ten six minute increments, whereas when Kuralt was on the air ratings were by the quarter hour or even half hour. We have many more channels to switch to ad our patience may be stretched to its limit by the demands on our time and mind in this mediated world. One thing is sure. We have changed.

The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere was a fiction written by Longfellow years later to rally support for the Civil War. In reality it was another rider who waited for the lamps, and Revere was one of many riders who passed the word that night. Of course this year Sarah Palin attempted to rewrite even that story..."warning the British"?

The actual day the Declaration of Independence was agreed to and we declared we were a new nation, was July 2, 1776. It took two days to do the copies for the states to ratify, so the date on the declaration copies was July 4. Signatures came in August and even later for several "colonies".

Most of our history is ingrained by childhood stories, songs, television and movies. We simply do not move beyond the fiction to learn the facts.

Another is that Britain did not attack us in the War of 1812, which actually took several years. The new country, the United States, did what was thought to be a preemptive strike on Canada, burning the British Colonies capital in what is now Toronto. Later when the British torched Washington DC is in direct retribution for our actions. No one will ever know if British forces massing in Canada were indeed going to attack or if Brittan was reinforcing control in the wake of separatist talk in parts of their remaining North American colonies.


Why do we have fireworks on the fourth?

What was a way of finding ships at sea, and even setting fire to wooden warships, became celebratory in Europe nearly a century before we became a country. So the transition to the US using it in celebrations here. John Adams requested bonfires and illuminations in honor of the signing in a1776 letter to his wife Abigail. In 1777 we had our first fireworks celebration. Fireworks did not take off as a key part of our civic life until after the War of 1812 and Francis Scott Key’s penning of the “Star Spangled Banner”. Today there are well over 14,000 official fireworks celebrations on the fourth, representing 90% of a 945 million dollar industry in the United States alone. 186 million pounds of backyard fireworks were set off in 2008 along. Fireworks have been set off all over the world on the Fourth, wherever Americans go. On July 4, 1934, Admiral Richard Bird’s Antarctic expedition set off a display at the South Poll despite 33 below zero weather in the face of a storm.

They also built into the constitution, and late the Bill of Rights, protections that fit their times. Education, a free press, the right to peaceful assembly, support of wide spread and solid education, the literacy of the public and the free flow of information by post or other method were all considered essential to a public who would have the right to vote and determine their own destiny.

One wonders how Jefferson, Adams, Washington and the lot would feel about deep budget cuts in schools, monopolistic control of the media and the ability to buy elections and the popular vote.

Boston Pops

This is the 126th season for the Boston Pops, which formed as a way to bring orchestral music to the masses. From the beginning they broke with tradition and offered beer and food at events, along with wine and cheese. In the mid 1930’s, at the height of the depression Arthur Fiedler took the Boston Pops into the modern age with phonograph recordings produced and sold at affordable prices, live radio broadcasts and later television. He came up with formula of the light orchestral at the beginning, concerto or serious in the middle, and “rock it out” at the conclusion with whatever was popular at the time (including the Beatles “I want to hold you hand” in 1964). John Williams came on board when Fielder died, and reinvigorated the orchestra with Hollywood music, including from his own films. Star Wars and Raiders of the Los Arch, Close Encounters and other Williams’s works became stables. But all along tunes that were once new and novel have remained among the music fans expect to be played. Of course today’s favorite remains “Stars and Stripes Forever,” the traditional closer for every Independence Day Celebration!

Norman Rockwell Americana and the movies.

Steven Spielberg and George Lucas hold the largest personal collections of Norman Rockwell paintings, having auctioned some of them off to charity over recent weeks. It was a personal competition to see how would get the best and the most, but it was also a reflection of how the Normal Rockwell look influenced their cinematic images. George Lucas did “American Graffiti” in part due to a Rockwell influence, and “Spielberg” paid direct homage in “Indiana Jones”, in the scientist line up in “Close Encounters” and in “Empire of the Sun.” Rockwell himself was in turn influenced and used film techniques for the photographic models he used in his rough shots. He lit, set up the set and directed the models, as a film director would do. He used non-professionals, usually his neighbors, as models. In “ET” Spielberg used some Rockwellian direction techniques in framing and directing kids and animals. Rockwell, who began in advertising, loved to connect with the audience and sell his stories. So do Spielberg and Lucas.

Health Reform and Immigration: A Reversal of Parties, or Hypocrisy

The same people who are crying against “Obamacare” and moves to legalize illegal immigrants, who are already in the US, should read their history. The health plan is very much like the one proposed by Republican President Richard Nixon, and the immigration bill opposed by block voting from Republicans, was proposed and is almost identical to one proposed by Ronald Reagan, and has its rooms with former Republican Senator Alan Simpson.

We are too selective in lauding people with one side of our mouth while attacking people for the very same proposals, as the people we praise believed in.

Do you speak Globish?

“Globish” is a cross between the Queens English and American that has become the international language of business, trade and cross boarder communication. Predictions of Spanish or Chinese overtaking the language have faded, at least for the next century or more, in part due to Google, Microsoft, Apple and the base language of computers on a global scale.  Countries that resisted English, such as France, Germany and China, are now using it on a regular basis in business, government and even in schools. This is not without resentment. It is more a case of being resigned to the economic and political reality o communication. While it is true that more people, as their “home language”, speak Chinese than any other single language, and that Spanish is the “official” language to more people than English, both take a back seat in actual use outside of the home. Of course there is a price, both the Queen’s English and its American cousin are changing in the direction of a globalized hybrid, even when used at home. Immigration and commerce are to blame. As for dialects, they still exist, but television and international media are eroding their strength and dominance. Still subtitles may be needed t understand some English speakers even in countries where the official language is English.

News Briefs

Veteran cowboy poet Waddie Mitchell is receiving a top award from the Nevada Arts Council. Mitchell is the
winner of the 2012 Nevada Heritage Award, which honors Nevada folk and traditional artists who embody the highest level of artistic achievement in their work. The Spring Creek man was nominated by the Western Folklife Center in Elko, which notes he has become "an icon of Nevada, of buckaroo culture and of cowboy poetry itself."

Teams of federal and state workers are fanning out along Montana's Yellowstone River to assess the environmental damage from a ruptured ExxonMobil pipeline. The pipe spewed an estimated 42,000 gallons of crude oil into the river. An official with the Environmental Protection Agency says fast flows are spreading the oil over a large area but could also reduce the damage to wildlife and crops.

48 UNLV Professors lost their jobs on Thursday, contributing to a large brain drain resulting from massive cuts in the state budget and a total lack of understanding of the value, nature and function of higher education in a society and in the fiscal stability and future of a region. They came out on top, with retirement or new jobs at institutions more likely to appreciate the value of academic brainpower to a community. The professors were those who accepted buyouts of tenured professor contracts, UNLV says was needed to protect the jobs of  newer professors and to keep as many programs open as possible. Of course in academics, the talents, background and reputation of your faculty is what attracts grants, income and increased value for the diploma's and credentials of those who graduate from a school. From UNR to UNLV to the community college system, Nevada has shot itself in the competitive foot wen it comes to attracting higher paying industry and jobs to the state, keeping bright students in state and raising future tax revenue. But what do legislators care...after all most are successful and wealthy already, and a few terms ago they voted to have term limits so they will not have to be here to deal with the high long term costs of their decisions.

Another long term impact of this term's cuts will be the health of rural and lower income Nevadans, in terms of health care and education. Colleges will over the next two years shut down programs, close satellite campus locations and leave communities without brick and mortar campus's or personnel. The standard answer is that the schools are shifting to on-line, however with that comes the loss of local community and the role of those schools as centers and supporters of local communities. Also ignored is that digital divide research confirms that in rural America the percentage of those without high speed Internet is far  higher than in cities, and that among the poor ownership of home computers or smart pads is far lower than in middle and high income households.

The Swiss team behind the world's most advanced solar-powered airplane plans to fly its prototype across the Mediterranean next year before attempting a round-the-world trip in 2014. Pilot Andre Borschberg says a recent flight to Belgium and France has encouraged the Solar Impulse team to consider flying the aircraft to Morocco in 2012. He told The Associated Press in a satellite linkup while returning from Paris on Sunday that Turkey is another possible destination next year. The Mediterranean flights will be a major challenge for the
engineers and the pilot, because the plane will have to stay in the air for 48 hours. The Solar Impulse with its 63-meter (207-foot) wingspan holds no passengers and is very sensitive to air turbulence.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is on the people of the world to oppose  “a global crackdown on human rights.” Clinton encourages young activist there to “speak out in favor of social change.”
A new policy is intended to help foreign employees of diplomats who want to sue their bosses for
mistreatment.The policy allows workers on special visas to remain in the country and work legally while their court case is pending. Lawyers and advocates say the change will ease the deportation threat for
workers who have lost their jobs and left their visas.The visas are tied to specific jobs, so once workers leave their positions, they risk being deported. The change comes as part of a concentrated federal effort to
fight human trafficking. Among those could benefit is Beatrice Oluoch, who came to America five years ago to work for a Kenyan diplomat. She says she suffered illegal working conditions and is now suing.
Sen. John McCain says the Obama administration is taking an unnecessary risk in drawing down the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Appearing Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union," the senator said none of the U.S. military commanders has recommended the draw down. President Barack Obama has ordered a troop reduction of 10,000 by the end of the year and another 23,000 by September 2012. The U.S. administration sent more than 30,000 extra troops in a bid to pacify areas in the Taliban's southern heartland and other
dangerous areas. U.S. military officials have predicted more tough fighting through the summer as the Taliban try to regain territory they have lost. McCain is on a tour of Afghanistan and spoke from Kabul.
U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint says in a new book that he's ready to get to work electing more conservatives to the
U.S. Senate, even if his tactics anger other Republicans. "The Great American Awakening" hits bookstores Monday. In the book, DeMint describes the frustration following GOP losses in the 2008 elections that motivated him to work toward supporting new candidates, even if it angered his Republican Senate colleagues. DeMint says he was encouraged by the victories of several candidates endorsed by his Senate Conservatives Fund. One of those candidates, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, wrote the introduction to DeMint's book. DeMint also talks briefly in the book about Alvin Greene, the unemployed Democrat he easily defeated in the 2010 general election.

China is in the middle of major social change. A massive migration to the cities and the potential of income and a better standard of living has led to overcrowding, pollution, poverty and social unrest. In five years the number of urban dwellers is expected to surpass those who live in rural and “regional” China or the first time in history, exceeding 700 million city dwellers. The government is attempting to lure industries to rural China and has provided incentives and other support in rural areas not offered in the cities, in an effort to reverse this trend without ending China’s march toward industrial dominance of the word economy.
A mother says her 9-year-old son told two lifeguards that a woman had not resurfaced after going
underwater last weekend at a murky public swimming pool in Massachusetts. The body of 36-year-old Marie Joseph was found in the Fall River pool two days later. Officials have been investigating how she could have been in the pool for so long without being noticed. The boy's mother tells the Boston Herald that the woman had bumped into her son on a pool slide before she disappeared underwater. She says the boy told two of the six lifeguards that were on duty that the woman never came out of the water. She says one told him she was on break, and the other said he would do a pool check but never did.
Police say a motorcyclist participating in a protest ride against helmet laws in upstate New York died after he flipped over the bike's handlebars and hit his head on the pavement. The accident happened Saturday afternoon in the town of Onondaga, in central New York near Syracuse. State troopers tell The Post-Standard of Syracuse that 55-year-old Philip A. Contos of Parish, N.Y., was driving a 1983 Harley Davidson with a group of bikers who were protesting helmet aws by not wearing helmets. Troopers say Contos hit his brakes and the motorcycle fishtailed. The bike spun out of control, and Contos toppled over
the handlebars. He was pronounced dead at a hospital. Troopers say Contos would have likely survived if he had been wearing a helmet.
Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan says he thinks it's unlikely that home prices will continue to drop and calls it a good time to buy a home. Donovan acknowledges that officials must find ways to provide
access to home ownership that doesn't require a 20 percent down payment. Donovan warns that officials must not "over correct" the problems that led to the housing crisis. He says the federal government can't go so far in the other direction of housing regulation that it effectively denies new housing for deserving people with good credit ratings. The housing secretary says the Obama administration has made progress in resuscitating the housing market but acknowledges that "we are not where we need to be." Donovan spoke Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union."

Sunday Morning News and Views, Part I

A man flying from Seattle to Anchorage was bitten mid-flight by a scorpion.... Sounds like a set up for a bad joke, but this past week it actually happened. Jeff Ellis was stung 30,000 miles in the air by a scorpion which the airline assumed came from San Antonio. The EMT's in Anchorage had to google scorpion bites.

A man in Massachusetts is facing courtroom troubles because he hasn't shown up for jury duty. Why? He died five years ago.  National Public Radio reports that without a death certificate the judges bench warrant to appear remains legal and in force.

"The Boardwalk" at Conney Island will be a memory, as for maintenance and "ecological" reasons, the contract to replace fading and aging wood went to a cement contractor. The original wood came from the Brazilian Rain Forest. Other woods would not last as long and not look or feel the same. So for maintenance costs and "to protect the rain Forrest" instead of wood New Yorkers will be stepping it up on good old concrete "planks".

The Tasmanian Devil, made famous by a Warner Brother's Cartoon Character, is going existence. Where fifteen years ago there were over 100,000 of the loud, biting and seemingly ill-tempered beasts, today there are under 40,000. The cause is a fast spreading contagious cancer of the mouth, spread, it is through, by the habit of the creatures of biting each other affectionately around their mouths. The facial cancer makes it difficult to eat, communicate and eventually breath. Their only natural habitat is a peninsula on the island state of Tasmania, part of Australia.

This week will be the final flight of the Space Shuttle program, leaving American Astronauts with no American vehicle to go into space, and many in the program may never actually leave the earth. That does not mean the program is dead, as astronauts will, as do drone pilots for Afghanistan and Iraq, fly from bunkers here on earth, and of course a select few will make it into space on Russian and other nations launch vehicles. While the Air Force is rumored to have its own shuttle ready for deployment, a NASA replacement is at least a decade away, with the recession making the future uncertain. Current plans are for a vehicle that can carry man to the planets and someday deep space. For those who have been in space, the current slump in the manned program is like having candy just out of reach, or not being able to breath the same as you did before. Because of the nature of shuttle training, many experienced astronauts are headed to desk jobs or training positions instead of trips to the Space Station on a Russian capsule. The change means less chance to fly, fewer missions, learning Russian, far more time away from home and much stronger engineering handyman skills than those who flew on the aging space shuttles.

Scientist have discovered a remarkable history lesson by pointing telescopes deep into space. A quasar going back to before hydrogen was an atom made up to an electron and a proton, before the Milky Way or other galaxies were formed has been discovered in the night sky. The quasar is so far away that it was alive when the lifetime of the universe was less that seven hundred million years old instead of many billions of years, or less than five percent of the current lifetime of our universe. The density of matter itself was millions of times heavier than it is today.

An alternative treatment for veterans suffering the effects of PTSD and traumatic brain injury is growing in popularity as is its wait list. The program, started by a Vietnam veteran, uses the soothing sounds of the guitar to help heal the vivid memory of bomb blasts, gunfire and other lingering symptoms of combat. A program offers free guitars and lessons to recovering vets. It has been proven to work. As one vet put it, having the guitar and learning to use is has the tactile advantage of replacing the gun you learned to live with and use in the military. There is also an indication music does sooth the savage beast.

Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan says the stimulus money did not work because it was not spent. Based on money multipliers those private sector individuals who received help simply did not invest it, at least not in the US. There is no evidence that QE1 or QE2 have worked, where commercial banks choose to hold the money in reserve at the Federal Reserve than choosing to invest it through lending. There was a psychological effect where investors and business felt richer, but in reality they were not. Most earnings are foreign affiliate earnings, which contribute to the erosion of the dollar and in effect mean American companies are eroding the US currency and economy while earning profits. Greece is a major force on Europe and the US,

Former US Senator Alan Simpson of Wyoming was the author of a report that called for major reforms to meet the deficit, deal with health insurance and rebuild the economy. He says a decision must be made by August 2nd to raise the debt limit. His paper, written as co-chair of the Commission on Fiscal Development, were not adopted. He says that "politicians never respond to anything, they react." Simpson believes in and warns that we must return to the era of bipartisan cooperation, and more important compromise. Compromise moves you in the right direction. 

Thailand is holding elections today, but most people will likely cast their ballots based on a candidate not on the ballots.Exit polls show a landslide victory for candidate Yingluck Shinawatra, the younger sister of Thaksin Shinawatra, the deposed Prime Minister, whose followers have formed the Red Shirt movement. Yingluck, known as the clone sister, would be the country's first female Prime Minister. Her older brother Thaksin's rule, ended by coup d'etat in 2006.  His image is on more posters supporting her campaign then she is.

The Associated Press announced agreements with the Korea Central News Agency, including one to open an AP news bureau in Pyongyang. It would be the first permanent television, audio, text and photo bureau operated by a Western news organization in the North Korean capital. Five years ago, AP Television News, headquartered in London, became the first Western news organization to establish an office in North Korea. 

This may be the weekend we celebrate our Independence from Great Britain, but in our neighbor to the north today is the day they pay tribute to the visiting Royal Couple, and honor their colonial heritage. News from north of the border is dominated by the Royal visit.