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Sunday, October 9, 2011

Atomic Bomb Day: The birth of the bomb

Seventy years ago today, October 9, 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt signed an order setting into motion the US atomic bomb program. While we were not yet at war, it was known that Hitler was a threat and was working on a new type of bomb, a nuclear bomb. What was not known was that Japan was also developing not one but two bomb programs, part of what emboldened them to attack Pearl Harbor and invade the Philippines less than two months later. In October, 1942 a new army camp opened at Oakridge, TN, one that was not on any maps. Hitler was dead and the war in Europe was over in June, 1945.In July 1945 the first US atomic bomb was exploded at White Sands New Mexico. August 6 and  9, the US dropped the only two atomic bombs ever used in war. On August 15 in the US, August 16th by local time in Japan, the Empire surrendered.

Review Links and Notes Revised for Midterm Revies

A new deal fit for Halloween...sends chills through Hollywood

As Montgomery Burns would say, "excellent."
Fans of "The Simpsons" can rejoice that a deal has been reached between the actors who provide voices for the animated hit show and 20th Century Fox Television, the studio that produces the show for its sister Fox network.
The new agreement ends several days of tension between the two sides and ensures that "The Simpsons" will run for at least 25 seasons. The studio said it needed to cut the salaries of the actors to make keeping production going economically viable while the actors countered that the studio, network and parent company News Corp. were being greedy.

Sunday Morning News and Views, Part III

Water is what makes the earth a cradle of life. Where did it all come from? Turns out it was not here when the earth formed, and temperatures were too high for H2O to form. Scientist have found that most of the water comes from segments of comets, and from minerals found in meteors. The same forces that could someday destroy our planet are responsible for the core environmental element that nurtures life on our world.

Put on the sunscreen and wear clothing. The risk of burn and cancer is now higher, as scientist have confirmed that a new Ozone layer hole has formed over the North Pole, increasing the penetration of dangerous rays over the northern hemisphere. The first hole, over the South Poll, has been healing gradually tanks to environmental conservation efforts. There also proof that Climate change, mislabeled by those who do not believe it is a large problem as Global Warming, could be contributing to the new hole in the Ozone.

The bulls are better tempered, slower and their horns have been blunted, and this definitely isn't Pamplona. But they're still bulls, and nearly two dozen of them will be chasing after hundreds of humans on a quarter-mile track in the small town of Cave Creek,Arizona starting Friday. The event is loosely fashioned after the annual running of the bulls in Spain. Organizers say although Cave Creek's event is similar, it is safer because they're using rodeo bulls, not fighting bulls, and runners will have plenty of escape routes. Still, the run carries enough risks that participants have to sign a lengthy liability waiver and medical form. Organizers say they guarantee that runners "will have more of a rush than they've ever had in their lives."

Four generators that power emergency systems at nuclear plants have failed when needed since April, an unusual cluster that has attracted the attention of federal inspectors and could prompt the industry to re-examine its maintenance plans. None of these failures has threatened the public. But the diesel generators serve the crucial function of supplying electricity to cooling systems that prevent a nuclear plant's hot, radioactive fuel from overheating, melting and potentially releasing radiation into the environment. That worst-case scenario happened this year when the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant in Japan lost all backup power for its cooling systems after an earthquake and tsunami. Experts say the failures generally are not cause for alarm. But they have prompted federal regulators to increase scrutiny at plants where the problems happen.

Boxing robots are the undisputed champions at the weekend box office. According to studio estimates Sunday, Hugh Jackman's "Real Steel," set in a near-future when robot fighters have replaced humans in the ring, debuted at No. 1 with $27.3 million.

The supercommittee is struggling. After weeks of secret meetings, the 12-member deficit-cutting panel established under last summer's budget and debt deal appears no closer to a breakthrough than when talks began. The panel members aren't doing much talking, but other lawmakers, aides and lobbyists closely following the group are increasingly skeptical, even pessimistic, that it will be able to meet its assigned goal of at least $1.2 trillion in deficit savings over the next 10 years. It's all because of a familiar impasse. Democrats won't go for an agreement that doesn't include lots of new tax revenue; Republicans are just as ardently anti-tax. The impasse almost certainly means that Democrats won't agree to cost curbs on popular entitlement programs like Medicare. Once again the Congress does not appear to be able to govern, while unemployment, foreclosures and program cuts continue to harm average American citizens and the poor.

The leaders of Germany and France, the eurozone's two biggest economies, say they have reached agreement on strengthening Europe's shaky banking sector. German Chancellor Angela Merkel says she and French President Nicolas Sarkozy "are determined to do the necessary to ensure the recapitalization of Europe's banks."

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi says she agrees with protesters from Wall Street to Washington who are saying most of the country isn't getting a fair shake from the financial and political establishments. Republicans are criticizing the protesters' message as divisive. Asked to respond, the California Democrat said on ABC's "This Week" that the GOP didn't object to the tea party's in-your-face protests against members of Congress in last year's elections. House Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor this week said he was concerned about the "growing mobs" and criticized those who support them. He said condoning the demonstrations amounted to supporting the "pitting of Americans against Americans." The loosely-affiliated movement amassed on Wall Street and in Washington in recent weeks is protesting the power of the financial and political sectors.

Africa's first democratically elected female president, who was honored this week with a Nobel Peace Prize, will face stiff competition at Liberia's presidential polls Tuesday against a fiery opposition candidate and his soccer-star running mate. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf won the country's first post-war election in 2005. On Friday, she received a Nobel prize for her efforts to restore peace to Liberia after a brutal 14-year civil war that ended in 2003. Her political opponents, however, have questioned the merit of the award and criticized its timing. Following the announcement of the award, opposition candidate Winston Tubman and his running mate, soccer-sensation George Weah, attracted one of the largest crowds in recent memory at their final campaign rally in Monrovia. Some Liberians also say that post-war progress has not been fast enough.

Federal biologists have confirmed that two of the three killer whales that swam far up a river in southwestern Alaska have died. NOAA Fisheries spokeswoman Julie Speegle says the carcasses were spotted during a flight over the Nushagak River on Saturday. The two dead whales appeared to be adults. A necropsy is planned for early this week. The third, a juvenile, was seen downriver from the carcasses, and biologists were going to assess its health on Sunday in deciding whether to try to force it out to sea. The whales were first spotted in the river about three weeks ago, and had been in danger of starvation.

Sunday Morning News and Views, Part II

Longtime Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis, whose maverick style had a huge impact on professional football, has died. The 82-year-old saw his team win three Super Bowls. His independent streak was both admired and excoriated. And stubbornness in his later years was blamed for the team's struggles.  He sued the league to move the team to LA, appointed the first woman CEO in the league, favored African American and Asians in key positions and diversified the overall image of the team. Unfortunatley

The documentary "Hell and Back Again" was a standout at Sundance, and it hits theaters this week. It follows follows Marine Sgt. Nathan Harris from Afghanistan back home to North Carolina. Director Danfung Dennis made an unusual choice for this film: there is no musical score. Instead, he uses sounds he gathered on the battlefield, homefront and in interviews, then  processes them -- editing, overlaying, slowing them down or distorting them -- to highlight the emotion of the story. This may be the first time that sounds alone are used for a "film score". The intent is the same as a musical score, to help bring the audience deep inside the experience of the characters and story of the film.

Chicago police say former Weezer bass player Mikey Welsh has been found dead in a Chicago hotel room.
Police spokeswoman Laura Kubiak says Welsh was supposed to check out of the Raffaello Hotel at 1 p.m. Saturday. When he didn't, hotel staff went to his room and later entered it. Kubiak says Welsh was unconscious and not breathing. The Cook County Medical Examiner's Office says autopsy results will be available this afternoon. Kubiak says there's nothing to indicate foul play. Weezer posted a message on its official website, saying, "a unique talent, a deeply loving friend and father, and a great artist is gone, but we will never forget him." Welsh performed with the band from 1998 to 2001. He was 40.

A Turkish news agency says suspected smugglers set loose a swarm of bees on 15 police officers searching
for contraband cigarettes hidden among a truckload of hives. The state-run Anatolia agency says police, acting on a tip, stopped the truck in the southern city of Adana on Sunday. The alleged smugglers then set some of the bees free to prevent police from searching the vehicle. There was no information on the officers' conditions. The agency said the truck was later searched by officers in beekeeping gear who seized some 32,500 packs of smuggled cigarettes. The truck driver and two beekeepers were arrested.

Upon hearing the news that former Apple CEO Steve Jobs had died, Time Magazine on Wednesday evening stopped its presses for the first time in at least 30 years.
Adweek says Time, which hits newsstands on Friday, has devoted its entire feature section, 21 pages, to coverage of the late visionary. This is the eighth time Jobs has been featured on the cover of the news magazine.
He was also featured on the cover of Time’s first iPad issue in April 2010 when Apple revealed the tablet. That year, he was a finalist for the title of Time Person of the Year. - More on this story in PC Magazine (click here)

Steve Jobs was a pioneer in seeing the potential for computers in schools. Apple computers started appearing in schools in the 1980s, and educators were quick to embrace the graphical interface of the MacIntosh. These days, it's the iPad that's the hot trend in education. 

Supreme Court justices Antonin Scalia and Stephen Breyer trekked across the street last week to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The hearing was titled "Considering the Role of Judges under the Constitution of the United State," and produced a wide-ranging philosophical discourse that included an admission from Scalia that he really has no idea what the American people want or like, because he has no meaningful interaction with them.  Scalia sees the Constitution as a solid set document from the founding Fathers. Justice Breyer says that the Constituion was intended to be and is a "living document" where, as part of the experiment set up by the framers of the Constitution began and foresaw as flexible and changing as was needed to preserve life, liberty and the pursuite of happyness. Breyer sees the danger of "regidity" in not acknowledging the framers intent for a living document. He says that the document needs to work for a nation of over two hundred million Americans in a high teach and very fast travel and communicaiton age.

In Alabama, educators and activists are reaching out to Latino families frightened by the state's strict new immigration law. The measure requires schools to record the immigration status of newly enrolled students. As the Justice Department continues to fight the law, many Hispanic families are fearful for their futures.

The White House receives some 20,000 letters and e-mails a day, and occasionally citizens are surprised by a personal response to their missives. Washington Post reporter Eli Saslow  writes about this correspondence in his book "Ten Letters: The Stories Americans Tell Their President." FOX news generates much of the letters, launched by an anger and often bias presentation of Washington and in particular the Obama Administration. The adminstration believes in civil discourse and the rights of Americans not only to speak, but to listen. Most writers vent their frustration, anger, stress and fears. But some write about positive experiences along the "it gets better" veign. Historically presidents deal with mail differently. All have staffs to process the mail. Roosevelt wanted to see critical letters. Nixon only wanted to see letters that affirmed his policies. Obama is interested in both, grouped by common themes. All letters and e-mail are read by staff, over 50 paid and 200 interns or volunteers. All are responded to, but time is a constraint onf the president. He responds but may have the staff personalize responses in groups based on his general response. He does put his heart into his responses. Roosevelt by the way had to toss tons of mail unopened because it became a major fire hazard.

Pope Benedict XVI has denounced the "inhuman" mob that plagues southern Italy. He urged residents there to respond to the socio-economic ills affecting the region by caring for one another and the common good. Benedict made the comments while visiting the mob's home area. The group is considered more powerful than the Sicilian Mafia and is one of the world's biggest cocaine traffickers. The region is also one of the poorest in Italy, with a 27 percent unemployment rate. Benedict noted the region is seismic - "not just geologically but from the structural, behavioral and social point of view." He lamented that unemployment and the "often inhuman criminality" wounds society.

Happy Birthday John Lennon

You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one."

 - John Winston Lennon 

Sunday Morning News and Views, Part I....Today as history

Security barriers have been put in place since Friday outside Marylebone Town Hall in central London in anticipation that Sir Paul McCartney this morning married American heiress Nancy Shevell there. The couple announced their engagement earlier this year. Shevell, 51, would be the former Beatle's third wife. The couple are reported to be planning a Sunday afternoon reception at McCartney's house nearby in the St. John's Wood neighborhood. The 69-year-old McCartney married his first wife Linda at the same venue in 1969. She died of cancer in 1998. McCartney's second marriage ended in divorce.

Roger Williams, the virtuoso pianist who topped the Billboard pop chart in the 1950s and played for nine U.S. presidents during a long career, died Saturday. He was 87.  Williams died at his home in Los Angeles of complications from pancreatic cancer, according to his former publicist, Rob Wilcox. 

On Oct 9, 1936, the first generator at Boulder (later Hoover) Dam began transmitting electricity to Los Angeles. Yesterday the families of those who moved to what is now Boulder City Nevada before dam construction began, in search of scarce job, assembled at the Boulder City Hotel. The "31ers" remembered what it was to live in desert tent cities when it was 117 degrees, or in the Federal Company Town that rose in just two short years on a plateau overlooking the project,

Also on this date:
In 1701, the Collegiate School of Connecticut - later Yale University - was chartered.

In 1776, a group of Spanish missionaries settled in present-day San Francisco, purchasing land from Russians who had already explored the region.

In 1888, the public was first admitted to the Washington Monument, which remains closed today while repairs are made in the aftermath of this summer's earthquake.

In 1910, a coal dust explosion at the Starkville Mine in Colorado left 56 miners dead. This was one of many worker safety incidents that fueld the union movement.

In 1930, Laura Ingalls became the first woman to fly across the United States as she completed a nine-stop journey from Roosevelt Field, N.Y., to Glendale, Calif.

In 1941 Presdient Roosevelt, now in his record third term as president, signed an order launching a program that brought to fruition the atomic bombs. His vice president, Harry Truman, was kept in the dark.

In 1946, the Eugene O'Neill drama "The Iceman Cometh" opened at the Martin Beck Theater in New York.
In 1961, the New York Yankees won the World Series, defeating the Cincinnati Reds in Game 5 at Crosley Field, 13-5.

In 1967, Latin American guerrilla leader Che Guevara was executed while attempting to incite revolution in Bolivia.

In 1985, the hijackers of the Achille Lauro  cruise liner surrendered two days after seizing the vessel in the Mediterranean. Wheelchair bound passenger Leon Klinghoffer was killed by the hijackers during the standoff.

Ten years ago today: In the first daylight raids since the start of U.S.-led attacks on Afghanistan, jets bombed the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar.

Letters postmarked in Trenton, N.J., were sent to Sens. Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy; the letters later tested positive for anthrax. 

Five years ago today: North Korea faced a barrage of condemnation and calls for retaliation after it announced that it had set off a small atomic weapon underground; President George W. Bush said,
"The international community will respond."

Also five yeas ago today, Google Inc. announced it was snapping up YouTube Inc. for $1.65 billion in a stock deal.

One year ago: Chile's 33 trapped miners cheered and embraced each other as a drill punched into their underground chamber where they had been stuck for an agonizing 66 days.

 A crush of fans circled a flower-graced mosaic in Central Park's Strawberry Fields and sang lyrics from "Imagine" to honor Beatles legend John Lennon on his 70th birthday.

Hate it when those 'liberals' take to the streets in search of a fair shake

2 Faith Based Films fail to do well at Box Office

The Way didn't get off to a great start at the box office this weekend
It had been a solid year at the box office for films with religious themes.
But this weekend, two pictures with spiritual motifs -- "The Way" and "Machine Gun Preacher" -- failed to resonate with moviegoers.
"The Way," directed, written by and starring Emilio Estevez and his father Martin Sheen, opened in 33 theaters and grossed $132,411, according to an estimate from Producers Distribution Agency, which is releasing the film. That means the movie brought in an average of $4,012 per theater, a weak start for the picture about a father who sets off on a religious pilgrimage to honor his late son.
"Machine Gun Preacher" got off to a better start when it opened in limited release late last month, averaging $11,000 per theater. But the film about a missionary who travels to Sudan to help children of war has not been as successful since. This weekend, the movie played in 93 theaters but only brought in $113,000. Since its release Sept. 23, the picture -- which had a budget of around $30 million -- has only collected a disappointing $291,632.
Neither film looks to follow in the footsteps of "Soul Surfer," about a teenager who relies on her faith when her arm is bitten off by a shark. Moviegoers loved the the modestly budgeted film, assigning it a rare average grade of A+, according to market research firm CinemaScore. After opening in March, the movie went on to take in a respectable $43.9 million domestically.
"Soul Surfer" hasn't been the only religious film audiences have responded to in 2011. In recent weeks, "Dolphin Tale" -- a 3-D family film that doesn't center around explicitly Christian topics but was marketed to a faith-based audience -- has done surprisingly well at the box office. And "Courageous," made by two brothers who are also ministers, is proving to be a sleeper hit. The film about four police officers grappling with religion after a tragedy had a budget of only $2 million, but has already made $15.9 million after two weeks in theaters.
-- Amy Kaufman
Photo: Martin Sheen stars in "The Way." Credit: Producers Distribution Agency.