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Sunday, August 5, 2012

Sunday Morning News and Views, Part I

The London Olympic Summer Games continue for another week. Lots of news and many channels to watch. Just be sure you consider a different viewing option this evening, as scientist hold their breath for a very risky Mars landing. This evening at 10:30 Pacific Time history will be made. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California is mission control for the Mars mission landing tonight. While confidence is height, the history of Mars exploration means that the drama is real, because many missions fail. Reasons include dust, winds, mechanical failures and electrical outages. It's a 2.5 billion gamble on this mission. Of course two Rovers due to die a decade or more ago, are sill reporting data from the surface of Mars.

Tonight at the Olympics, South African Oscar Pistorius runs again in a preliminary heat in the 400 meter sprint.  His first heat Saturday made history because Pistorius has artificial legs.  He's the first double amputee to run an Olympic race.  

50 years ago today Jamaica became an independent democratic country. Jamaican athletes have dedicated this year's participation by the nation to their countries half centennial. Of course for most people Jamaica, whose athletes traditionally do well at many of the summer games, is famous for the first entry ever into the winter games, made famous by a John Candy movie. Yes,everyone "Jamaica has a bobsled team", just not in London's summer games.

Marilyn Monroe died 50 years ago today at the age of 36.  He death may have been suicide or an accidental misuse of prescription drugs and alcohol, but it was almost certainly tied to the depression Norma Jean experienced with her fame and fortune. She had a unique sense of humor, and ability to deliver believable straight lines that allowed he to deliver punch lines and reflect in subtle satire on her own image. Marilyn was very intelligent, using subtext in ways others have to work at, to bring the lines to life. She morphed from Norma Jean into a screen 'trophy' wife/date and sex symbol. Her personality and the way she acted off camera made her lovable to most around her and led to a private life and international image that made you at the same time want to hug her as your baby sister and bed her as a sex symbol of the times. Many film historians, and fans, consider  "Some like it hot" one of the best comic films ever made. She was a serious actor, studying under Lee Strasbourg, the top dance and singing coaches of the day, and was set on making her audience, her fans and the public happy.

 The island of Campobello (CAMP-oh-BELL-oh) has long been a tourist destination for fans of former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. As members of the Greatest Generation pass away, the park is rebranding itself as a destination for nature lovers.   Because of its location on an island off the stat of Maine between the US and Canada, 9-11 also hit the park, followed by the great recession.  The island is a transition between the US and Canada, linked to both by  the Franklin Roosevelt Bridge, opened 50 years ago today. As with more popular US parks, revenue from tourist is down and the continued maintenance of the historic facilities are in danger. Funds for nature preserves have been put to use, using the wide variety of wildlife that calls the island home, or stops by on their migrations. Yes, the bird watching is legendary.

There is a massive political battle going on here in the US, that goes far beyond the presidential race. It's between moderate and conservative Republicans and their increasingly successful far right Tea Party supported opponents. What is at stake is the way we govern, traditional through cooperation, compromise and rhetorical fencing. A "take no prisoners" fixed agenda is threatening the foundation of the Republican Party as well as the nation. The internal civil war is not new. Republicans in Kansas have been at each other's throats for over 20 years. That civil war will come to a head Tuesday in the GOP primary. Governor Sam Brownback is going after moderates who control the state senate and have been the last check on the governor's aggressive conservative agenda. 

 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney campaigned in Evansville, Indiana, Saturday. President Obama narrowly won the state in 2008, and the Romney campaign is working to win it back,  a battle he feels he can win given recent victories for Republicans in state government and the passage of Right-to-Work in a state that is traditionally both rural and pro-union industrial. Obama was the first Democrat to win Indiana's electoral votes in a very long time. The real battle however, is for the US Senate, where polls show a Democrat has a chance of upsetting a Republican incumbent. A Romney coattail victory for the Republican could half Republicans deny Democrats increased strength in the senate, or to even earn majority control of both houses of the Congress. 

Democrats have an uphill battle to win a second term in the presidency. Polls show that democrats and independents are increasingly saying they will not vote because they are disappointed in the economy and do not trust Republican Mitt Romney. So this year the presidential race may just depend more on getting out the vote than the estimated up to one billion dollars being spend on the presidential race (includes all budgets for the primaries and caucus races).

India's massive power outages last week shocked many people who thought that India was on course to become a new economic super power, akin to the rapid development of China - where outages like this are unheard of. The attitudes toward infrastructure in the two emerging economies.   India, which is the world's most populous democracy, puts social services, dealing with poverty and developing international business ahead of an aging and overused infrastructures. China, which remains a communist top down government, can mandate what the government does, and it makes sure the government is heavily involved in all aspects of society. China has identified a solid infrastructure as essential toward becoming the economic, and they hope political powerhouse of the 21st century. Profits from all companies and corporations in China are shared with the government, giving it an economic power that both India and the United States lack.

Two Swedish economists have studied the survival data from shipwrecks over the last three centuries and found that women are less likely to survive than men. That's despite the standard "women and children first". Three hundred years of data show that the mostly likely to survive are the crews, followed by the officers, then the captain, then "able bodied" men and then women. The gentlemen of the Titanic were an exception, with two thirds of the survivors women and the vast majority passengers.

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