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Sunday, January 1, 2012

Sunday Morning News and Views, Part III

Happy New Year!

May 2012 bring all that you wish for and then some...

It is a happy New Year for NASA (at least a bright note if not the funding the need).. A NASA spacecraft has successfully slipped into orbit around the moon.  A roomful of scientists and engineers monitoring the New Year's Eve maneuver clapped after the Grail-A probe signaled that it was circling the moon.  The celebration was brief. Mission team members looked ahead to. New Year's Day when twin Grail-B was scheduled to perform the same move. The duo will study the moon's gravity to determine what's inside straight down to the core. The $496 million mission is managed by the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

An Arab organization is calling for the immediate withdrawal of the Arab League monitors from Syria. The 88-member Arab Parliament says President Bashar Assad's regime continues to kill government opponents even in the presence of the observers. The monitors are supposed to be ensuring that Syria complies with
terms of the League's plan to end the 9-month-old crackdown on dissent. But the head of the Arab Parliament says the monitors are only providing cover for the regime's "inhumane actions."

Tune in to Radio Bilingue, and you will hear - in Spanish - breaking news, debates about taxes or health care reform and songs spanning the Latino music spectrum. As the only Spanish-language, non-commercial public radio network in the U.S., Fresno-based Radio Bilingue reaches an estimated 500,000 Latino listeners per week. It airs on 7 FM stations, via 100 affiliates and on the Internet. Controlled by Latinos and run by a Harvard-educated former farmworker, the network fills a crucial gap in public broadcasting, which attracts overwhelmingly white, middle or upper class, English speaking audiences. Radio Bilingue targets immigrant and first generation Latinos who are predominantly low-income, young and undereducated. Experts say the network's efforts to foster civic engagement are key as the number of Latinos keeps growing and the nation moves toward a presidential election.

With the Iowa caucuses only two days away, it appears a large number of those who'll be voting still haven't decided which presidential candidate to support. A Des Moines Register poll finds 41 percent of the likely GOP caucus goers surveyed are either undecided or say they could still change their mind.Romey and Paul are in a virtual tie in the polls, Rick Santorum is not far behind, with the other candidates still in the running. If this were a horse race, it would be a nail biter.

This will be the year of the "superpacs", as political action committees had the restrictions removed by the US Supreme Court, which in 2009 undid over 110 years of campaign reform with one overextended decisions. Republicans benefit the most from Superpacs, but until they have a candidate the political action committees will help control who the nominee will be....the one that represents big money. Already money has lined up against Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum. 

Republican Rick Santorum says that if he's elected president, he would bomb Iran's nuclear facilities unless they were opened for international arms inspectors. Santorum says President Barack Obama hasn't done enough to prevent the Iranian government from building a nuclear weapon and has risked turning the U.S. into a "paper tiger." Santorum tells NBC's "Meet the Press" that he would tell Iranian leaders that either they open up those facilities, begin to dismantle them and make them available to inspectors - or the U.S. would attack them. The Obama administration, like the Bush administration, has focused primarily on international diplomacy and economic penalties to try to pressure Iran into abandoning its nuclear program. Iran contends its efforts are for peaceful purposes.

Michele Bachmann is desperate for a late lift in Iowa and the Minnesota congresswoman is increasingly stressing a distinction in the Republican presidential field: She's the only woman competing for the nomination. She's made the gender card central to her closing argument. She's urging voters to embrace the idea of a "strong woman in the White House" and is molding herself as "America's Iron Lady" in the vein of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. That carries as much risk as potential reward because some of the religious conservatives she's courting have traditional views about gender roles. Iowa has never elected a woman as governor or to its congressional delegation. Bachmann seldom underscored gender early in her campaign. But she's been hitting the theme hard as Tuesday's caucuses near.

A prosecutor in the Casey Anthony murder trial says he is running for the state attorney's office in central Florida. In a video posted Sunday on the Orlando Sentinel's website Jeff Ashton said he would challenge his former boss, Lawson Lamar, to be the Orange-Osceola State Attorney. Ashton worked for the state attorney's office for 30 years. He retired as planned days after Anthony was found not guilty in the death of her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee. Ashton says he would offer voters the choice between a prosecutor and a politician. He says he hopes the election won't focus on the Anthony trial.    

This is presented solely to stimulate my students to think critically, engage in current events, expand their topics and interests and understand how communication and the media work. Sources include network TV and radio and various print. From time to time personal views observations are inserted.

Sunday Morning News and Views, Part II

It's New Years Morning! Happy 2012!

Why is a year made up with 12 months, with a leap year every four years (2012 is a leap year, so there will be a February 29 th this year)? Researchers at Johns Hopkins University have come up with a new calendar that solves the problem of leap year.  They call it the Hanke-Henry Permanent Calendar, and it consists of two 30 day months followed by one 31 day month all year long. The proposal also puts all holidays on Sundays, ending three day weekends, although researchers say that would not preclude a four day work week.

The Rose Parade cannot be held on Sundays, according to its constitution and charter. The family centered event will not conflict with church services. So this year's Rose Parade will be on Monday morning. If you have a 3D TV, the Home and Garden Network will broadcast for the first time in 3D HD.

A Las Vegas teenager who said he wanted to become an organ donor before dying in an apparently random shooting will be honored in the Rose Parade in Pasadena, Calif. The 16-year-old boy, Aric Brill, was killed in an unsolved 2009 shooting outside a Las Vegas party. Not long before that, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports Aric told his mother he was willing to become an organ donor. The boy's wish was granted: Six people received his organs. The boy's floral image will grace a Donate Life parade float on Monday. His parents, Karen and Don Brill, say the honor lifts their spirits. Witnesses told police that members of an unknown street gang accosted Brill and another boy before shooting them both. The other victim was wounded but survived. 

It's all in how you look at things. These are gloomy times for debt-burdened France. But citizens who take a long view of French history...thinking back to World War Two, World War One and even the time of Julius confidence that their country will weather the financial crisis of today

This may not help you sell your home or meet your bills, but UNLV says hope is in sight for our economy. University of Nevada, Las Vegas analysts say the worst is over for southern Nevada's economy after the
recession, and better times and job growth await the region in 2012. While the region has one of the nation's highest unemployment and foreclosure rates, UNLV's Southern Nevada Index of Leading Indicators found other sectors of the local economy have shown improvement.

It's been a good year for John Logan, who's the Hollywood screenwriter behind three big films of 2011: Martin Scorsese's "Hugo," Ralph Fiennes' (RAY fines) Shakespeare adaptation "Coriolanus," and the animated film "Rango."   He also worked as primary writer on "Gladiator", "the Aviator",  "Sweeny Todd" and other memorable films. He also helped write the next James Bond movie. Like David Mamet and others, he started as a playwright in the creative cauldron of Chicago. The main difference he says, is that cinema is a visual media with its own language. Sweep, nuances observations, color, timing are all vital to screen plays. Screenwriters do not enjoy the job security of actors or directors. "Fresh voice" and other writers come in and make the work a team, or in some cases take over entirely. You have to wish for the best and move on the the next project.  Being a dramatist means you cooperate and hand your work off to other "actors", including writers, director, cinematographer, editor and of course the actors themselves. What we do in writing movies is an act or enchantment.

What's ahead for Americans in terms of health care in the New Year, including a constitutional challenge to the mandatory health care provision of the Affordable Health Care Act. More than four times as many late teenagers have taken advantage of rules allowing them to remain under their parents insurance than was projected. More than three times as many women have benefited from the end of discrimination due to the bill, although the full advantage will not come until rates go down in two years, when pre-existing conditions are no longer allowed to set insurance rates or reject coverage. Being a women under the pre-Obamacare system is considered a preexisting condition, greatly raising health insurance and care rates for all women. Most of the programs in the health care act do not take effect for another two to five years. Already in place are the end of preexisting conditions rejection or increase in rates for children.

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney says he would veto legislation that would allow certain illegal residents to become American citizens. During a campaign stop in western Iowa, Romney answered "yes" when he was asked if he would refuse to sign what's known as the DREAM Act. Romney has said before that he would oppose the legislation, which would allow some illegal immigrant youths to earn permanent residency and eventually citizenship if they attend college or serve in the military.
January 1st, 1752 was the day  Elizabeth "Betsy" Ross  was born. She stitched the first banner of what became our national flag. The exact extent of her role is in dispute. George Washington may not have asked her to make the first flag, and she may not have come up with the design, but she is credited with stitching the first stars and stripes.

Sources include NPR's Weekend Edition, BBC World Service, CBS Sunday Mornings, NBC, newspapers and other Sunday morning news sources.


Sunday Morning News and Views, Part I

Happy New Year!

A 6.8 quake jolted northern and northeastern Japan early this New Years' morning. Damage was minimal. Buildings were shaken in Tokyo today by a 7.0-magnitude earthquake, but there's been no damage or injuries
reported. Japan's Meterological Agency says the quake struck near the uninhabited island of Torishima in the Pacific Ocean, about 370 miles south of Tokyo. Its epicenter was about 230 miles below the sea. It did not generate a tsunami. Express trains in northern and central Japan were suspended temporarily for safety checks but later resumed. Public broadcaster NHK says no abnormalities have been reported at power plants, including the crippled nuclear power plant in northeast Japan hit by the March earthquake and tsunami. A massive earthquake and tsunami March 11 left nearly 20,000 people dead or missing. Japan, which lies along the Pacific "Ring of Fire," is one of the world's most seismically active countries.

Pope Benedict XVI is marking New Year's Day at a Mass in St. Peter's Basilica on a day the Vatican dedicates to world peace.  The pope in his homily Sunday says educating young people about fundamental values and virtues is the key to securing a future of hope.Benedict praised young people, saying that by their nature they are open to dialogue and mutual respect. He cautioned that there is a risk that social realities can lead them to be intolerant and violent. But he predicted they will become "builders of peace" if properly educated. The pontiff spoke of "shadows that obscure the horizon of today's world," but didn't mention specific conflicts or the economic crisis afflicting many countries.

The BBC took a look this morning at whether Pope Benedict XVI is a real leader. Their conclusion is that he lacks the skills, dynamics and social campaigning fever his predecessors had. The papacy is not a leadership position so much as a religious shepharship. That said, the Catholic church is world wide, with Vatican it's own country under the Pope.

Pope Benedict XVI has named a married priest who converted from Anglicanism to head the first organizational structure in the U.S. for converts wanting to retain some of their Anglican heritage. The Vatican said Sunday that the Rev. Jeffrey Neil Steenson, former rector at an Episcopal church in Texas, will lead the
Personal Ordinariate, the equivalent of a diocese. Benedict in 2009 issued an unprecedented invitation for
Anglicans to join the Catholic Church in groups or as parishes. Formerly, converts were accepted case by case. The Vatican created the first such ordinariate in Britain last year. Married Anglican priests who convert to Catholicism can stay married, an exception to the Vatican's celibacy rule.
Holocaust survivors are outraged over a Jerusalem demonstration in which ultra-Orthodox Jews wore Star of David patches and uniforms similar to those the Nazis forced Jews to wear during World War II.  Thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews gathered Saturday night to protest what they say is a nationwide campaign directed against their lifestyle.  The practices, which call for strict separation of the sexes, are rejected by mainstream Israelis as religious coercion. At the protest, one child's hands were raised in surrender - mimicking an iconic photo of a terrified Jewish boy in the Warsaw Ghetto.  Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial called the use of Nazi imagery "disgraceful," and several other survivors' groups and politicians condemned the acts.

Iran's navy says it has test-fired a medium-range surface-to-air missile during a drill in international waters near the strategic Strait of Hormuz - the passageway for one-sixth of the world's oil supply. State TV says the missile is designed to evade radars and was developed by Iranian scientists. The report didn't provide further details or say when the missile was tested. A spokesman for the exercise, Rear Adm. Mahmoud Mousavi, says torpedoes will be used in the drill on Sunday.  The exercise covers a 1,250-mile (2,000-kilometer) stretch of water beyond the Strait of Hormuz, including parts of the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden.  The drill could bring Iranian ships into proximity with U.S. Navy vessels that operate in the same area.

Iran has said that as of tomorrow all ships moving through the straight do so only with the permission of the Iran. The US is standing by a commitment to potential military action should Iran keep any ship from passing through the narrow passage, the most busy oil and shipping straight in the world.

Iran says its scientists have produced the nation's first nuclear fuel rod, a feat of engineering the West doubted Tehran was capable of. Sunday's announcement comes after Iran has said it was compelled to manufacture fuel rods on its own since international sanctions banned Tehran from buying them on foreign markets. Nuclear fuel rods contain pellets of enriched uranium that provide fuel for nuclear power plants. Iran's atomic energy agency's website says the first domestically made rod has already been inserted into the core of Tehran's research nuclear reactor. It's unclear if the rod contained pellets or was inserted empty, as part of a test. The West fears Iran's uranium enrichment program is geared toward making atomic weapons - a charge Tehran denies

"We will respond with a sea of fire" to any aggression from the south or America promised the new youthful leader of  North Korea. North Korea's Kim Jong Un has spent part of New Year's Day visiting a tank division in his first apparent field inspection of the country's military since his father's death.  The official Korean Central News Agency said Sunday that Kim Jong Un praised soldiers for closely watching enemy troops and being vigilant.  Kim Jong Il regularly made such visits to military units, factories and farms across the country. His son's trip provides further evidence of the North's intention to link the new leader closely with the powerful military. The country said in its New Year's Day message that it vowed to make an all-out drive for prosperity, bolster its military and defend Kim Jong Il's young son "unto death."

President Barack Obama is highlighting recent economic bright spots while taking care not to overstate a recovery that still has not lifted millions out of joblessness. His Republican rivals acknowledge that there's been improvement. But they say Obama's policies have been a drag on a recovery that could have taken hold sooner. There have been positive indicators in areas ranging from retail sales and housing to unemployment and falling gas prices. But the European debt crisis is casting a pall over these domestic gains, and many Americans have yet to see the benefits. Obama cites months of private sector job growth. But, he says,
"It's not happening as fast as it needs to." What the president and the nation face are factors far beyond the limits of presidential power, and the haggling of two very polarized political parties and philosophies. In the past such high stakes economic pressures and the realities that real everyday people feel, have been met with government that loudly disagreed but worked together for the common good. Today both sides are right, and those on the right are inflexible in any real significant way to any compromise or movement forward.

A Philippine official says at least 476 people have been injured by powerful firecrackers and gunfire despite a government scare campaign against dangerous New Year revelries. Health Secretary Enrique Ona said y that several flights were diverted or canceled after a dark smog left by a night of firecracker explosions obscured visibility at the Manila airport.Injured revelers, many of them children writhing in pain, filled hospital emergency rooms shortly after midnight. Ona says 454 were injured by firecrackers, 18 by stray bullets and four by accidentally swallowing small firecrackers or explosive powder.Ona says the number of injuries is slightly lower than last year's but remains alarming and may still increase as Filipinos continue to celebrate.

Sunday mornings involve BBC, NPR, NBC, CBS, CNN and other sources. These are for educational use only for the benefits of my students and their quest to expand their horizons and open their minds as critical thinkers and with civic responsibility in mind.