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Sunday, September 4, 2011

Sunday Morning News and Views, Part III

Nighttime deer poachers beware - that shadowy creature on the roadside may just be remote-controlled. State wildlife officials are rolling out robot decoys to nab unscrupulous hunters, deploying them along roadways where deer gather or where poachers have been a problem.  Hunting is not allowed at night, but authorities say the sight of big deer on the side of a road can just be too tempting for some. Sgt. Matt Briggs of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources says the robot decoys are put in place, and authorities hide nearby. When a passerby takes a shot, authorities pounce. .

More than 50,000 revelers are gathering on the northern Nevada desert for the climax of the annual Burning Man  counterculture festival,which was sold out this year for the first time in the events history.    Federal Bureau of Land Management spokeswoman Lisa Ross reports a record  53,341 people attended the event on Friday night, a 9 percent increase over the same time a year ago. She says the agency hopes to release Saturday's attendance figure later in the day. Last year's event, climaxing Labor Day, attracted more than
51,000 people to the remote Black Rock Desert about 120 miles northeast of Reno.  The annual celebration of radical self-expression was expected to make its usual climax late Saturday night with the torching of its 40-foot signature effigy. Ross says no major problems have been reported at the week long
art, music and performance festival.
     
Law enforcement are on the alert against possible attacks using small planes, both as explosives and for possible distribution of  weapons of mass destruction. Homeland Security says there is no immediate threat, but that there remains a risk of terrorist attacks over the anniversary period of the 9-11 attack.

Plans for the September 11th attacks were found on a laptop computer used by the terrorists. On that computer seven locations were studied, with traffic counts, security schedules and optimum times for an attack. T\hree were in Washington DC, two in New York City, the sixth was Disneyland in California and the seventh was the MGM Grand and the corner of Tropicana and the Las Vegas Strip here in Las Vegas. More stinger missiles are confiscated monthly in Las Vegas than anywhere else in the world, outside war zones. The cover story of today's Las Vegas Review Journal asks "are we a target"  and review events both then and now that show that, yes, Las Vegas remains a potential terrorist target.

Hillary Rodham Clinton isn't president, but former Republican Vice President Dick Cheney says that if she were in the White House rather than\ Barack Obama, then things might be different today in the country. Cheney isn't getting into specifics, but he does think that "perhaps she might have been easier for some of us who are critics of the president to work with." The former vice president tells "Fox News Sunday" that it's his sense that the secretary of state is "one of the more competent members" of the Obama administration and it would be "interesting to speculate" about how she would have performed as president. Clinton lost the 2008 Democratic nomination to Obama, who went on to beat Republican John McCain in the general election. Obama named Clinton as the country's top diplomat.

It will be obvious partisan politics if Obama's job plan is rejected by Congress. The White House says President Barack Obama hopes that when Congress returns this coming week from its summer break, lawmakers will share his sense of urgency in taking steps to create jobs and help the economy. Obama plans a prime-time speech to Congress on Thursday night and is expected to propose a mix of tax credits and public works spending. Spokesman Jay Carney says Obama will offer plans that historically have attracted bipartisan support and will, if passed, "positively affect growth and job creation." Carney tells reporters traveling with Obama on a tour of flood damage in New Jersey that "we are at a time in our economy when we need to do something." Carney says Obama will press lawmakers to act quickly on his
ideas.

Despite missing its biggest star in Jerry Lewis, the Muscular Dystrophy Association is asking millions of
Americans for at least $1 more than the $58.9 million it raised last year during its annual Labor Day weekend telethon. This year's revamped fundraiser fro Las Vegas plans to trot out as much A-list punch as it can muster Sunday night as the charity works to raise money for neuromuscular research, clinics and summer camp for
youngsters known as "Jerry's Kids." The intent is to appeal to a younger generation with the sort of program that raised money for 9-11 victims, earthquake victims and Hurricane victims over the past decade.   No matter what organizers do, the association's inextricable bond to the beloved actor and can comedian seemed certain to hang over the six-hour primetime TV production. Lewis was first told he would not host the show, then that he could not appear, than that he was no longer the CEO or on the board. A planned taping of his appearance was cancelled on short notice this past week, with musicians notified they would not be needed. The telethon has been shortened from 21 1/2 hours it ran last year to only six hours this year.. It will be broadcast live in the Eastern time zone from 6 p.m.-12 a.m. EDT and tape-delayed in other U.S. zones.

A reality TV series is planned about the Clark County (Las Vegas for ratings) Coroner's Office, that is if the Clark County Commission agrees. A pilot exist already for another reality series for National Geographic following employees of the Clark County Administrators office. Joe Shoenmann in today's LasCSI is an example.

A shark bit the legs off a bodyboarder at a popular surfing spot in western Australia on Sunday, killing the man, police said. Authorities were reportedly searching for the shark as well as the man's missing limbs. The man in his early 20s was bodyboarding with five friends when the shark attacked, a police spokesman said.  He died at the scene in the surfing haven known as The Farm, off Bunker Bay near the western town of Dunsborough. The beach was closed after the attack. About 30 surfers were in the water when the shark attacked, according to beachside cafe employee, Deb Pickett, who called police and an ambulance after hearing the disturbance. "We had some sharks spotted far out at sea a few months ago, but they never come this close to the shore," Pickett said. She added that helicopters were still searching the area for the shark late Sunday, while rescue staff searched for the man's arms and legs, which she believed had been taken by the shark. Local official Ian Stubbs says it was the first shark attack in the area for more than 20 years.

Budget cuts and calls from Tea Partiers to slash government spending have left us with a decaying infrastructure, including the computers used by government. States nationwide are dealing with outdated
computer systems that provide crucial government services but are susceptible to crashes. A July audit of the Colorado system that handles the state's financial reporting concluded there is a "significant risk" of a
crash because of obsolete technology and programming code. A collapse would stall payments for food stamps and construction contracts and affect nearly every state agency. Officials at the state's Office of Information Technology say they'll make a pitch for funding from the Legislature to start an  upgrade and are working to have enough employees who are familiar with the system. Minnesota, Mississippi and Tennessee implemented new financial reporting systems this year, and Virginia, California and Texas are doing so.The National Association of State Chief Information Officers says some states don't have funding for new technology.

The tea party is having a big influence on the race for the GOP presidential nomination as the candidates
parrot the movement's language and promote its agenda while trying to win its favor. That's much to the delight of Democrats. They're working to paint the tea party and the eventual nominee as extreme. Mitt Romney's shift is the latest evidence of the big imprint that the tea party is leaving. So far he's done little to woo tea party activists. But he's speaking at a Tea Party Express rally in New Hampshire on Sunday. The next day, he's appearing with some of his rivals at a forum in South Carolina that's hosted by GOP Sen. Jim DeMint. The senator oversees a political committee that has supported tea party candidates.

Less Government!

Sunday Morning News and Views, Part II


A pre 9-11 joke from NYC...The World Trade Centers are the boxes the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building came in. The two blocky buildings were considered eyesores to many, monuments to some and a symbol of a city reaching for the stars and its position of the business center of the western hemisphere if not the world. Then came 2001...the week ahead and next Sunday will be full of memorials. My suggestion is rent the documentary made French filmmakers who were, at the time, doing a film on a fire station "probie".

Skyscrapers are part ego for the company placing its name on it, part ego for the city, and part a way to use expensive real estate. The truth is that they are out of style and many are mostly to partly vacant. The design of classic buildings from the Empire State Building to the Sears Tower (I refuse to use its new name), reflects the large cubicle, typewriter pool dominated needs of business form the 1920's to late 1970's, the sort shown in the movie "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" and to a lesser extent in TV's "Mad Men". Today personal space, quick access to the street or subway, parking or open public areas are the premium these tall monoliths cannot meet. Even on 9-11-2001 death tolls were held down by the large number of offices that were vacant in the twin towers compared to its heyday in the 1970's and early 1980's. The Freedom Tower at One World Trade Center is more a statement than a needed architectural office structure. Its spire and light will illuminate the spirit of a city and the nation....a symbol.

On this date, September 4, 1888. Inventor George Eastman patented his rolled film camera. He choose the name Kodak, it is said, because he liked the sound of the K's. His invention took photography and made it possible for a much larger, and less technical, portion of the population to discover photography. The company and labs developed everything from black and white print rolls to Kodachrome color and the cameras used in project Mercury, Gemini and Apollo. It's position with the Greatest Generation came with war photographers, while its position with the public became very day with the inexpensive, easy to use Brownie. Kodachrome became the color film for the Baby Boom Generation, preferred even by professionals who say that the color, sharpness and detail cannot be replaced by the you get what you see and then Photoshop world of digital. Unfortunately for Kodak, the corporation, the world has gone digital, so in 1999 Kodak stopped production of Kodacrome and earlier this year processed their last role of Kodachrome. The history is preserved at the Eastman House in Rochester, New York, a museum and research institute.

In Chicago, the nation's third largest school system starts a new school year at a crossroads -- a new mayor, former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, and his new schools chief, both on the job now for just 3 months, are trying to shake up the status quo. They've rescinded the  raises teachers were due to receive and they're pushing for a much longer school day. Teachers say they're willing to work a longer day, but not without more pay. And they want the extra instructional time to be time well spent, and not more standardized test prep. Needless to say, the kids themselves are not thrilled with the idea of longer school days and a longer school year.

Congress returns to Washington this week after taking most of August off. On tap for Congress this week: 12 budget bills, a possible fight over a roads bill, a meeting of a new "Supercommittee" to cut the budget deficit ... and to start it off, a jobs speech by President Obama to a rare, joint session. Even in session, the house will meet only nine days all month and even fewer in October and November. The senate will remain technically in session indefinitely as Republicans go through the motions to continue to block any appointments by President Obama and to continue to keep the government from functioning properly.

Congress will have one less watering hole this fall. This week the Hawk 'n' Dove, a popular bar for Capitol Hill lawmakers and other locals since it opened 44 years ago, announced that it has lost its lease and will shut down in October. In keeping with the 90's (yes, I know this is 2011), the site will reopen as a Biestro.

As Libya struggles to find its equilibrium in the post-Gaddafi era, one of many questions is its future with the rest of Africa. Moammar Gaddafi championed the vision of a United States of Africa, with himself as the president of the continent. That never came to pass, but Gaddafi invested billions of Libya's money in Africa, in ventures ranging from gas stations to luxury hotels and telecommunications -- and recruited African mercenaries to fight for him. The African Union has declined to recognize the rebel leadership in Libya, taking the official position that "regime change" and outside military intervention were the wrong way forward. This has not pleased Libya's interim leaders.

The 1990's we benefited form the end of the Cold War, the need of emerging countries for our goods and products and the economic maturity of the baby boom. Then came 9-11.  The spending since then on war, security, and making up for the mistake of not watching the financial industry as it celebrated and profited from the last thirty years of politics and economics. An atmosphere of lack of regulation much of  the first decade of this century left us with feeling a world wide recession we should have weathered and having to spend billions to keep the auto industry, the banks and the very financial foundation of this country from shattering and forcing a depression that could take decades to recover from, if at all.

We have a world of young people who have bought into the capitalistic dream. The result is tremendous competition for the United States in lower cost goods, services and a decrease in US production and the ability to provide for ourselves. It is an international economy in an interdependent instant communication world, were labor cheep and profits are king. If this model continues the US will become simply a consumer market, dependent on any nation that we might otherwise wish to defend ourselves against, and unable to defend our basic beliefs and system on the world stage.

The stalemate in Congress will keep the US from doing what is needs to do, which is to spend a trillion dollars or more to stimulate employment and expand the economy. This will have to include tax increases on the wealthy, some sort of social safety net and government and private business working hand in hand in ways not seen since the Second World War.

Consumer confidence is down. 

We face a political crisis, and the people have lost confidence in their government, Unfortunately that means faith in the only institution that can pull us out of this recession and stimulate jobs has lower support from the people than ever before, and cutting needed programs is mistakenly taken as cutting the fat from bad government.

Will the baby boom and the generation under 35 do what needs to be don? Are they willing to make sacrifices not seen since the Greatest Generation of the Depression and World War II?

The US was built on its entrepreneurship, its independent business thinking, its business drive. That drive, according to the founding fathers and reinforced by governments ever since, included five basic pillars for success.

1. Educate our people up to or beyond the level of technology. An educated electorate was considered necessary and investment in education essential for a society to function and prosper.

2. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddles masses yearning to be free, and while you are at it we allow freedom and the potential for prosperity for your best and brightest. Open Immigration and immigrants are key to tour society and our growth as a nation.

3. Invest in, protect and defend the needed Infrastructure for business and commerce to prosper. The best roads, shipping lanes, military, railroads, air traffic, telecommunications, health care and social services the world can offer to keep business flowing and our population healthy and working.

4. Follow the Golden Rule of "do unto others as you would do unto yourselves", particularly in the areas of finance. We had, since Hamilton, rules for capital investing and a social mandate for the use of money and resources. For God and Country was more than a saying.

5. Invest in the future. Government research  funding and support for business, research, development and and implementation of the best products, ideas and concepts in the world.

What has happened over the past two decades?

Wholesale cuts in education, before anything else is cut.

A strong anti-immigration movement at the same time that those we educate from other countries are leaving to look for greater opportunity back home overseas.

Deep cuts in infrastructure, leaving us with bridges collapsing, one of the slowest rail systems in the world, pot holes, levies collapsing, water shortages, power shortages, decline in state of the art production and shortages in the supply chain.

We have have shifted from "us" and "we" to "me" and "I", putting each of us as individuals above the overall good of society. Everything from education to social services, road repairs to the space program are being cut with no major effort by the private sector to step up the plate. American investors are putting their money and our future in the hands of other countries, where they can earn a higher dividend for their shareholders, who in turn look at it as a right, showing little or no obligation to their fellow Americans other than lip service and patriotic songs.

The fifth pillar that built America is directly under attack by the Tea Party and it appears the majority of Americans. Current needs and trimming the "fat" in government has all but eliminate the key role government has always played in investing in the future and American technology.

We have a nation that is resting on its laurels, looking back with rose colored glasses at the past and increasingly resistant in moving forward and doing what needs to be done to keep this nation great and pull us out of this jobless "recovery" and our lack of faith in our own government.

What can be done?
Former IMF leader Dominique Strauss-Kahn arrived in Paris today. It was his first return to his native country since his arrest in New York in May on charges of sexually assaulting a hotel maid -- a case that subsequently fell apart. His return is likely to spark some excitement in France, although the country is split on its attitude to him.







Sunday Morning News and Views, Part I

The FBI and the Homeland Security Department are warning about small airplane terror threats just days before the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks, but authorities say there is no credible or specific information about a plot. The FBI and DHS say as recently as early this year, al-Qaida considered ways to attack the aviation sector because it would have a greater impact than other means of attack. That's from a Sept. 2 bulletin sent to law enforcement and private officials around the country. The five-page document described al-Qaida's continued interest in recruiting Western terror operatives to get training on flying small aircraft. Federal and local law enforcement have increased security around the country before the anniversary.


Drop City Colorado, a memory of 1967, a youth community in the mountains, mostly Hippies, remembered this morning on the BBC. Homes built of parts of homes and left over wood. The "drop" related to both dropping out of society and drops of LSD. Pot was a stable diet, along with home grown vegetables and left overs donated by local businesses. The homes they built were domed shaped. The mindset was anti-war, cooperation, sharing and building a new society based on communal and humane values. Vintage audio reports, with ambient sound, brought the era back to life on the radio early this morning. Creative forces came forth from a feeling that freedom and creativity are interconnected. Unlike the stereotype, the women did experiment sexually, but quickly partnered into communal marriage, open about sex but monogamists. The Joy Festival during the "summer of love" brought the "city"to fame, which also helped bring the city to an end. Mass media brought tourist buses with expectations that the community was Utopian, when in reality it was organic and a bit of a hovel for those who did not expect those conditions. Transients without the basic beliefs of the founders, changed the city rapidly, turning it into just short of a ghost town by the early 1970's.


Las Vegas is the city of the new century  that tripped, fell and may not be able to get up for decades to come, according to BBC coverage of our city this past week. Spiraling housing cost against historic rapid growth and then a massive international recession may be close to a death blow, complicated by the expansion of gaming by the companies that "own" Las Vegas internationally, representing jobs overseas, on Native American reservations and in states with increasingly loose attitudes about gambling as a source of tax revenue. The BBC found Nevada to be a state where government, from governor on down, have been unwilling to take the deficit risk needed to keep the state from spiraling downward. For example: Education is being slashed at a time when it is should be a priority. Matching grants are unmet by the state, for everything from highway repair to extending unemployment, funding the flagship hotel school at UNLV to public arts needed to enrich and unify a community. An attitude in most of the state that Las Vegas is really East Los Angeles has created a political divide that has population versus history and identity, with most Las Vegans having no sense of community, history and state pride. From transients to speculators, locals fleeing for jobs or to get out from under a financial debt mountain, Las Vegans have shallow roots. The BBC noted how we seldom know our neighbors, particularly if we do not have young children. There are no real tie to the street, the neighborhood, the township, the city, the county or the state. As employees wear badges with their home state or country printed on the badge, any feeling of local pride, connection and roots is discouraged, as it could lead to the opinion that you are less qualified, less corporate loyal or less tied to the city's customer base. The BBC did note diversity of population, employment, education levels and cultural beliefs, but in a way that implied a less coherent and unified community. So the questions, will Las Vegas, will Nevada spend what is needed, tax enough to pay for it and find ways not only to attract visitors, but to expand upon what has begun with solar research, the Brain Center an other additions to the community over the past two decades? Is the political and personal will there? Investment in education alone puts serous doubt on that will see the world class city, or the New Chicago of the West, many saw us becoming....before the bust.


Assisted suicide goes well beyond Dr. "Death"  Kevorkian, who passed way himself earlier this year, and the United States. It is at the center of a major battle in United Kingdom courts by quadriplegic and his family, who claim that quality of life needs to be considered in legislation related to murder and homicide. The man, who can only talk by moving his eyes on a special screen, and has no control over movement, lives on baby food and requires others to do everything for him, including things we take for granted by going to the bathroom. His wife says she would risk the law, if it were not for the future of their two daughters. They passed on an offer to travel to Switzerland, where assisted suicide is legal, because he would like to die in his home with his family around him.




President Barack Obama faces a long re-election campaign having all but given up on the economy rebounding in any meaningful way before November 2012. His own budget office predicts unemployment will stay at about 9 percent nationally, a frightening number for any president seeking a second term. But Obama's prospects aren't entirely grim. He may find himself the only viable candidate against a Republican thought to be dangerously right of center, or uncompromising, by the majority of voters. The GOP is heavily influenced by the tea party and could nominate someone who's deeply flawed or right-leaning. If that were to happen, Democrats hope that Obama could persuade Americans to give him a second chance rather than risk the alternative. A strong feeling  by the majority of the electorate that Congress is not doing its job, and that the GOP has been obstructionist and too fixed and dogmatic in the House of Representatives could play to the president's advantage. Democrats admit  the man who ran on hope and change in 2008 may have to claw his way toward a second term with a sharply negative campaign.


In the early days of the Obama administration, organized labor had grand visions of pushing through a sweeping agenda that would help boost sagging membership and help revive union strength. Now labor faces this reality: Public employee unions are in a drawn-out fight for their very survival in Wisconsin, Ohio and
other states where Republican lawmakers have curbed collective bargaining rights. Many union leaders are grousing that Obama hasn't focused enough on job creation and bold plans to get their members back to work. And there's a move for labor to build an independent voice separate from the Democratic Party. Labor remains a core Democratic constituency, and union leaders will stand with Obama in Detroit on Labor Day when he addresses thousands of union members during the city's annual parade.
     
Obama may be ready to stand strong against a conservative and perhaps Tea Party leaning Republican, but it will be with less enthusiastic support from progressives, the left, labor and many other factions of the large tent that is the Democratic Party. They key questions are whether Republicans will choose a candidate moderate enough to appeal to independents and disillusioned Democrats. Early in the primary and debate process, the Republican party seems to be leaning the other direction...solidly to the fundamentalist right,.


A week after Hurricane Irene caused massive flooding as it barreled up the East Coast, President Barack Obama is set to visit northern New Jersey for a first-hand look at the damage.The president is visiting the Paterson, N.J., about noon on Sunday. The Passaic River swept through the once-booming factory
town of 150,000, flooded its downtown and forced hundreds to evacuate. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie plans to lead Obama's tour of the flood damage in Paterson. Obama's visit comes as officials keep an eye on Tropical Storm Lee down south. That storm is unleashing heavy rain and wind on Gulf Coast states, including Louisiana, which is still recovering from Hurricane Katrina six years ago. Lee is expected to dump more than a foot of rain on the region.


The National Hurricane Center says Katia is a hurricane again out in the Atlantic Ocean. The Miami-based hurricane center says Katia is moving to the northwest but no immediate coastal watches or warnings are in
effect.


A powerful typhoon has killed at least 15 people and left another 43 missing in Japan. Typhoon Talas has moved northward past the country today but not before unleashing heavy rains and mudslides. NHK TV footage showed a bridge that had been swept away after intense rainfall, which caused a river to swell with brown torrents. People holding umbrellas waded through knee-deep water in city streets and residential areas. Because of the storm's slow speed, the Japan Meteorological Agency warned that heavy rains and strong winds are likely to continue and could lead to flooding and landslides. NHK reports three homes were buried in a landslide in one prefecture, and houses in another prefecture were swept down a river.




An Associated Press tally has documented a global surge in prosecutions under new or toughened anti-terror laws with at least  35,000 people convicted as terrorists in the decade since the Sept. 11 attacks. But while some bombed hotels or blew up buses, others were put behind bars for waving a political sign or blogging about a protest.In the first tally ever done of global anti-terror arrests and convictions, the AP found that before 9/11, just a few hundred people were convicted of terrorism each year. The sheer volume of convictions, along with almost 120,000 arrests, shows how a keen global awareness of terrorism has seeped
into societies, and how the war against it is shifting to the courts.  But it also suggests that dozens of countries are using the fight against terrorism to curb dissent and imprison political opponents. Some countries refused to provide information.






Iranian state radio says the country's first nuclear power plant has been connected to the national power grid
for a test run. The Sunday report quotes Mohammad Ahmadian, Iran's deputy nuclear chief, as saying the plant began to generate 60 megawatts of electricity about midnight. Ahmadian says a ceremony marking the connection to the power grid will be held Monday. He expressed hope the plant would feed the grid at full capacity in coming months.The power plant in the southern Iranian port of Bushehr has a capacity of 1,000 megawatt power generations. Iran built the plant with Russian help. The plant was supposed to go online over the past years but it was repeatedly postponed.