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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Messing with the National Passtime


Game changer. Let's Go Back to when there were two leagues that met in the World Series. This game playing for ratings and dollars is ruining the game. Major League Baseball is going to add another wild card slot to the postseason. The  move will mean more playoff games and -- of course -- more TV money. Also, the Houston Astros are leaving the National League Central for the American League West. As a traditionalist, I'm against this. But then again, if I had my way there would be more day games, no designated hitter and no teams in Florida! More from the Los Angeles Times and The Wall Street Journal.

Sunday Morning News and Views, Part III

In 1951 "I Tought I Taw a Putty Tat" reached  #1 on the billboard charts, sun by Tweety and Silvester (both Mel Blanc). the song is now part of a new Looney Tunes Cartoon in theaters showing along with "Happy Feet 2". According to Mel Blanc, his dad was a method actor, becoming the character. With Tweety he became a little bird, for Sylvester he became a large angry cat. Blanc would travel to where the animals are, then spend hours and even days studying each animal to find a voice that would reflect its character. 

Get your igloo ready. Activists inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement say they will follow the world's political and business elite to their annual Alpine retreat in Switzerland in January. Left-wing groups in Switzerland say their plans include building an igloo camp outside the World Economic Forum in the Swiss ski resort of Davos. The president of Switzerland's Young Socialists party, David Roth, told The Associated Press that an open invitation was issued to activists around the world via social networking sites Sunday. Roth says the aim of the protest will be to draw attention to what he called the "undemocratic nature" of the Jan. 25-29 forum attended by heads of state and industry. Activists have yet to receive permission from Davos authorities to stage the protest. 


Film star Hugh Grant, "Harry Potter" author J.K. Rowling and others get a chance this week to take a whack at British tabloids. They'll testify at the nationally televised inquiry into media ethics. A judicial body could recommend sweeping changes to the way Britons get their news. It's the result of the phone hacking
scandal at Rupert Murdoch's News of the World. Most horrific was the news that the tabloid had broken into the phone of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler in its search for scoops. Speaking ahead of the testimony last week, victims' lawyer David Sherborne told the inquiry multiple tales of shattered privacy and broken lives stemming from relentless media intrusion. Most powerful among his accusations was the suggestion that media coverage had driven some celebrities' family members to the brink of suicide - or beyond.
    

Pearl Harbor Survivors are passing away, and later this year the national umbrella organization of vets who survived Pearl Harbor will shut down at the end of the year. There are simply not enough survivors to keep it going, and may can no longer travel. Associations began showing up in 1954, with the national organization formed in 1961. Survivors did not talk much about the war, but did gather in fellowship to do good works for Viet Nam and more recently Gulf War vets, help with hospitals, keep up grave sites and help out families.  December 7 will be the 50th anniversary of the Japanese "sneak" attack on Peal Harbor Hawaii.

How does a whale wind up in the desert? How about scores of them? More than 2 million years ago, whales congregating off the Pacific Coast of South America mysteriously met their end. Scientists don't know how, but it produced one of the world's best-preserved graveyards of prehistoric whales in Chile's Atacama
Desert. Chilean scientists together with researchers from the Smithsonian Institution are studying how these whales, many of them the size of buses, wound up atop a desert hill more than half-a-mile from the surf. Experts say other groups of prehistoric whales have been found together in Peru and Egypt, but the Chilean fossils stand out for their staggering number and beautifully preserved bones. More than 75 whales have been discovered so far - including more than 20 perfectly intact skeletons.


The Libyan information minister says Moammar Gadhafi's son and one-time heir apparent will be tried at
home and will not be handed over to the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Mahmoud Shammam says Libya's National Transitional Council will discuss its decision with the ICC's chief prosecutor when he visits Libya on Monday. Seif al-Islam Gadhafi is wanted by the ICC on charges of crimes against humanity. But Shammam told The Associated Press on Sunday that it would only be fair for Libyans to try Seif al-Islam at home where he "committed crimes against Libyan people." Seif al-Islam was captured in the desert of southern Libya on Saturday. 

Syria's foreign minister has attacked the Arab League following its suspension of Damascus and says the organization is being used as a "tool" to take the Syrian crisis to the U.N. Security Council. Walid al-Moallem is speaking in Damascus shortly after the Arab League rejected Syria's proposed amendments to a peace plan to end the country's turmoil, saying the changes put forward by Damascus alter the plan's "essence." Al-Moallem said Sunday the proposed Arab League mission gave excessive authority to the observers and violated Syria's sovereignty. He denied Damascus had sought to restrict the observers' movement within Syria, but declined to give further details. The minister said Syria will send a reply to the Arab League
secretary general asking for clarifications on why the proposed amendments were rejected.

The Arab League says it has rejected amendments proposed by Syria to a peace plan to end the crisis in the country, saying the changes put forward by Damascus alter the "essence" of the plan. A statement issued Sunday by the Cairo-based organization says the league told the Syrian government that its proposals were also unacceptable because they introduce "drastic changes" to the mandate of an observers' mission the league wants to dispatch to Syria to ensure the implementation of the peace plan. President Bashar Assad's regime has cracked down on an 8-month-old uprising against his rule and the league's plan provides for the withdrawal of the government's tanks from the streets, the release of political prisoners and a halt to attacks on civilians. Meanwhile, a key Syrian opposition group says a major building belonging to the ruling Baath party in the capital Damascus has been by hit several rocket-propelled grenades. And Syria's President Bashar Assad remains defiant to international pressure to end a brutal crackdown on dissent. He
tells Britain's Sunday Times he'll crush 'militants' who he says are massacring Syrians on daily basis.

More than 1,000 university students are blocking a main highway in eastern Afghanistan in protest against a proposed agreement to keep thousands of U.S. troops in Afghanistan past 2014. An Associated Press photographer at the scene saw protesters in Jalalabad city block the road to Kabul on Sunday. They shouted
"Death to America! Death to Karzai!" They said they would not accept any partnership with the United States. The protest comes a day after a council of elders endorsed the idea of such an agreement, though with conditions to protect Afghan sovereignty. The Taliban condemned the meeting of elders on Sunday, saying that they were puppets of the Afghan government and therefore the NATO and U.S. forces it sees as occupiers.

The death toll from Thailand's worst flooding in more than half a century has passed 600. The floods began in late July, fed by heavy monsoon rains and a series of tropical storms. The floodwaters swamped entire towns as they moved south through the country's central heartland to Bangkok and the Gulf of Thailand. More than two-thirds of the country's 77 provinces have been affected. The government said Sunday that the death toll has reached 602, the majority from drowning. It said the number of affected provinces is currently 17. The situation has improved dramatically in recent days and cleanup has begun in many areas, though some still face weeks more under water.

Sunday Morning News and Views, Part II

Over 140,000 fans are assembled in the Salt Lake Stadium in Bombay, India, for a local rivalry soccer game. India's sport is Cricket, not soccer, and most fans follow the British Premiere League more than local or national "football" matches. But for local rivalries, the games get loud, and sometimes violent.

The "owners" of wild animals tend to be men who have come into money. The women in their lives tend to personify the "pets"and are the most likely to be harmed when an animal gives into its basic instincts. That's according to a report on the BBC on the growth of ownership, often in less than sanitary conditions, of animals that are not genetically removed from the wild state. Media encourages it, including a current ad for an imported Mexican Beer, featuring "the most interesting man in the world."

For the third day protesters are confronting police and military in Egypt, asking to take back their government. The anger behind the protest came when a proposed constitution gave the military strong overriding rights over civilian governments. Supporting the temporary Constitution was a promise by the military to keep Muslim extremist from "taking over" the country. Those behind the protest say Egyptians want a civilian government not a Muslim based government. The leading Muslim minority claims all they want is a voice. Conservative Muslims represent just over thirty percent of the population.The first "free" elections in decades will take place this week.

Studies estimate that more than a third of the homeless youth in big cities are gay, bisexual, or transgender. These young people are much more likely to be thrown out of their parents houses, or sometimes they're just not comfortable enough to stay. Gay activists have long focused on issues of adults; now the leaders of services for gay homeless youth are trying to get gay activists to focus on destitute teens.Legal action can be taken against parents who kick their under 18 year old children out of the house, however courts often rule with the parents, when the claim is made that the child ran away on their own. There are only 250 beds for over 3,800 homeless kids living in NYC. Republican supported budget cuts would cut 100 beds and greatly reduce the state support for homeless children and young adults. Homeless children do not have money, power or votes and are something that Republicans say the underfunded and very discriminatory private sector should take care of.

Sunday Morning News and Views, Part I

A new Looney Tunes short debuting in movie theaters this weekend features a never-before-used recording of the late Mel Blanc . The late voice actor, who created all of the Looney Tune characters along with many Hanna Barbara favorites, passed away in 1989. In this new short he sings as both Sylvester The Cat and Tweety Bird in the song "I Tawt I Taw a Puddy Tat."  
 
A chance for a Rhodes Scholarship or the chance to battle your arch-rival football team? Yale Quarterback Patrick Witt was faced with this agonizing choice, and had to withdraw his Rhodes application to play the big game, which was scheduled at the same time as the scholarship interview. Has sports become too important in our society. 

Bucking the trend to re-locate overseas, many US manufacturing companies are locating on the US Mexican border, with factories on the Mexican side where wages are low and headquarters, R&D and marketing on the US side. These factories can make and deliver large products to US customers much faster than factories in Asia, which have to send their products by ship. This US-Mexican collaboration may help to revive North American manufacturing. Critics say these factories still represent jobs that leave the US, if only within easy reach of our southern boarder.

When apartheid ended in 1994, the new South African government laid out plans to achieve economic and social equality. A key goal was land reform. The government hoped to transfer 30 percent of white-owned farms to black ownership by 2014. But now it's clear, the government is falling well short of that goal. The government is far short of the goal, as blacks who were offered farming opportunities have little or not farming experience and the government has not provided the mentorship they promised. But reforms are not on track and are failing. Just 5% have been transferred to black farmers, far short of the 30% planned. Black farmers have sold the farms back to whites, do not have the training or background to run a far, may not have the funds to weather problems and keep the farms operational. Anger is high in a country where unemployment under 25 runs over 40%, the highest in the black townships. Rising fuel, electricity and marketing cost higher than most farmers, black or white, can afford.

The super committee charged with cutting federal deficits by at least $1.2 trillion over the next decade is down to the final days before its Nov. 23 deadline, and the group appears to be at an impasse. Our normal patterns of government appear to be broken, as we face the largest world economic crisis (or its aftermath if you are a Republican) and the greatest need for helping out the public sector since the Great Depression. Cuts planned are going to hurt defense, domestic services, put people out of work and create an unstable short term economy. A 1.3 trillion dollar change over ten years is not near enough to have any long term impact or stabilize the economy as those proposing cuts claim. Corporate and individual tax codes are riddled with loopholes. The top 1% may pay over 40%  of the tax but they earn far more in that proportionately. Meanwhile over 40% of the population pay not taxes because we have far more poor in this nation than people want to admit, between on in five to as high as one and three Americans, and those just above that are working pay check to paycheck in a debt situation created or strengthened by the continuing recession (technically our post-depression) impacts.


President Obama returns to Washington today after an unusually long ten day trip to Asia. The President is keen to spread the word that the US is shifting its focus to the region, which he sees as a major source for economic growth and new US jobs in the coming century. The trip also raises questions about US-China relations in the Pacific rim, and saw the announcement of new diplomatic openings between the US and Myanmar, or Burma. US jobs was the stated goal of the trip, which the White House says will amount to well over 250,000 over the next ten years. The secondary goal was the security of the region, reinforced by a commitment to base US Marines in Australia for rapid deployment anywhere in South East Asia.


This weekend, the Southeastern chapter of the Pearl Harbor Survivors held its final meeting. Seventy years have passed since the attack on Pearl Harbor. With a dwindling surviving membership, the worldwide Pearl Harbor Survivors organization will disband-and every chapter, including the Southeastern branch, will return its charter.