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Sunday, February 12, 2012

Sunday Morning News and Views, Part I

"The Phantom of the Opera" made Broadway history last night with it's 10,000th performance. Meanwhile the "Phantom of the Opera Las Vegas Spectacular" (a shortened and tweaked version of the show) will close this year as part of a marketing shift by the Venetian.

Whitney Houston's powerful voice had its roots in the church, where she began singing when she was just 11. She went on to perform in N.Y. clubs with her mother, R&B singer Cissy Houston. The younger Houston's cousin was Dionne Warwick and her godmother was Aretha Franklin. So it's not surprising that Whitney Houston went on to become one of the most popular singers in pop music history. Houston died Saturday afternoon in a Los Angeles hotel room after struggling for years with drug abuse. She was 48 years old.

Whitney Houston's death dominated the BBC overnight, a tribute to her international fame. Over one third of overnight coverage on the magazine format BBC World Service radio coverage was taken up with news of Houston, her life, her impact on tonight's Grammys, her impact on music and reactions from people ranging from backwoods tribesmen to Barbara Streisand.

Tomorrow, President Barack Obama is scheduled to release his proposed federal budget for the year that starts Oct. 1. House leaders are likely to release their version in the coming days. Neither is likely to pass. Not that it matters -- the spending level for the year was set in last summer's bill that settled the debt ceiling crisis.

There are complaints about President Obama's plans to cut military spending by 500 billion dollars over the next 10 years, but those complaining must remember the source for the mandate to make the cuts.. That figure may double to a trillion, since the penalty imposed by last fall's congressional super committee was for even deeper cuts starting in 2013.  The military has long been been planning to shift its mission and the tools of war to accommodate potential threats along the Pacific Rim, Indian Ocean and Africa, as well as technology that makes such mainstays as tanks, landing craft and even aircraft carriers highly vulnerable to single weapon attack.

The Pentagon announced last week that the military would now allow women to serve in jobs that would bring them closer to combat.While these will not be combat roles, the reality is that in urban warfare and fighting terrorism this will put women in the front lines in larger numbers than ever before in US Military History.

The tiny Central American nation of Honduras is not considered t the world's most violent place. The United Nations made this designation for the country where violence, kidnappings, people going missing and major shifts in government put it into classic third world status. A 2009 coup that toppled President Manuel Zelaya is viewed by many as a tipping point in the nation's downward spiral into violence.

The main opposition leader in Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi, is campaigning for a seat in parliament in her constituency outside Rangoon. It's a scene that seemed impossible only a few months ago, before the military-backed government began a process of reform aimed at ending international sanctions.

French president Nicolas Sarkozy has not even officially declared his intention to run for re-election this spring. But he seems to be campaigning. He's already gotten an endorsement from German Chancellor Angela Merkel, as the man to help her lead Europe out of its debt crisis. Sarkozy,  is trailing in the polls behind Socialist Francois Hollande.

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