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Sunday, January 8, 2012

A Corporate Democracy not for the people or by the people...
America woefully undemocratic - “If you prick a corporation does it not bleed? If you tickle it does it not laugh? If you poison it does it not die?” — Lawyer pleading to Supreme Court in New Yorker cartoon “The world’s greatest democracy...

Sunday Morning News and Views, Part I

Steven Hawkins turns 70 today. The world known scientist has a disease where the prognosis was he would not live to the age of 30. He remains active, although it is taking longer for him to use the very limited interface to "write down" his thoughts.A renowned physicist,  Hawking is celebrating his 70th birthday in typically ambitious fashion - with a wide-ranging discussion of the nature of the universe. The celebrity scientist is at the center of a daylong conference on cosmology being hosted at England's Cambridge University.  An expert on black holes, Hawking gained wide acclaim for popularizing the work of theoretical astrophysicists in best-selling books such as "A Brief History of Time" and "The Universe in a Nutshell." Other speakers Sunday include Astronomer Royal Martin Rees, Nobel Prize-winning physicist Saul Perlmutter, and Hawking's longtime collaborator Kip Thorne. Among the topics due to be discussed are supernovae, black holes, and dark matter.

David Bowie turns 65, as the Baby Boom Rock Era grays and ages, but keeps making bank in concerts and music sales.Bowie is also an accomplished actor and painter.

Congresswoman Gabby Gifford was shot one year ago today. Tuscon has a weekend of events to honor the Congresswoman and remember those who died. Gifford will decide later this Spring if she will seek reelection.

100 years ago today the African National Congress was formed, staring the long battle to end Apartheid in South Africa.

People of a certain age will remember the Rubik's cube. Introduced January 8, 1980, the simple but frustrating puzzle cube took the world by storm. Like all good fads, it died away after a few years. But now, fueled by a new generation of technologically-savvy youngsters, the Rubik's cube is making a comeback.

The Mark Twain Cultural Center in Incline Village has closed its doors after 18 months of operation. The North Lake Tahoe Bonanza reports McAvoy and Rebecca Layne cited financial factors for their decision to shut down the center devoted to entertainment and education on Dec. 30. McAvoy Layne, a renowned Mark Twain impersonator, says the center was able to generate sufficient revenue in the summer, but not enough to make it through the winter. Among other things, the center featured lectures, concerts, plays and Layne performances after opening in July 2010 near a Lake Tahoe cove where Samuel Clemens camped and accidentally started a brush fire in 1861. Twain later assumed his pen name while working at The Territorial Enterprise, a newspaper reporter in nearby Virginia City.
The frozen sea is crumbling under the bow of a Coast Guard icebreaker cutting a path for a Russian tanker carrying much-needed fuel for the iced-in Alaska city of Nome. The 370-foot ship, hauling more than 1.3 million gallons of fuel, is scheduled to arrive tomorrow or Tuesday and is less than 190 miles away on Saturday. The city of about 3,500 people on the western Alaska coastline normally gets fuel by barge. But it didn't get its last pre-winter fuel delivery because of a massive storm and it could run out of crucial supplies before spring. The tanker is being shepherded by the Healy, the Coast Guard's only functioning icebreaker. If the mission is successful, it will be the first time petroleum products have been delivered by sea to a Western Alaska community in winter.

Some victims of last year's air show crash here in Nevada say they want to attend future air races even though that event was the worst air race accident in the U.S. in more than 50 years. But a lawyer for some victims says he's told his clients, "You are absolutely nuts." At the September show in Reno, 11 people died and about 70 more were injured when a souped-up World War II-era warbird crashed, sending shrapnel into the crowd. On Tuesday, the National Transportation Safety Board will hear from industry officials and others whether the safety of air shows and races can be improved. The board says there have been 152 accidents since 1986, including 75 fatal accidents. All those killed were performers except for the fatalities in Reno.

Tensions with Iran have jumped in the past week, with the US and Europe moving to hit Iranian oil revenue and Iran responding with new threats to assert control over the Straits of Hormuz. The prospect of a naval conflict has increased, but the bellicose rhetoric has more to do with economic than military maneuvers. The US and its allies want to squeeze Iran's economy, but Iran's moves have brought it new income as a result of higher oil prices. It's a high stakes game, with the danger of miscalculation on either side. An Iranian newspaper quotes a senior commander in Iran's Revolutionary Guard as saying that Tehran's leadership has decided to order the closure of the strategic Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the Persian Gulf if the country's oil exports are blocked. Khorasan daily reported Sunday that Ali Ashraf Nouri says the strategic decision has been made by Iran's top authorities. Iranian politicians have made the threat in the past, but this is the strongest statement yet that a closure of the strait is official policy. The U.S. has recently enacted new sanctions targeting Iran's central bank and its ability to sell petroleum abroad over Tehran's nuclear program. Washington says Tehran is trying to develop weapons, while Iran denies the charges.

There are growing calls on Capitol Hill to cut off US military aid to Egypt, worth about $1.2 billion annually.  The State Department and Congress were angered over raids by Egyptian soldiers and police on the offices of several NGOs in Cairo, among them the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute which were helping to monitor Egypt's parliamentary elections.

Sunday Morning News and Views, Part II

One minute for statements for thirty seconds for rebuttals is the fodder of sound bites and platform language, not debates. So the question is, have we had too many debates among the Republican candidates or no real debates at all? Has the American public's attention span slipped so far that substantive statements and responses are too long and too boring for us to pay attention to? Also, since when did the public service of political debates have commercial interruptions, or have these debates become reality television for political junkies?

Image has become so important that we "cast" our politicians, looking for hansom, thin, young, with beautiful or handsome spouse, cute children and the all white expensive smile. Studies show that Americans are so sold my marketing that they equate thin and beautiful or hansom to smarter, brighter and more able to accomplish things. Thanks to our media and our own gullibility, youth is better than age, aggression stronger than compromise, energy better than wisdom. How can we return to the society of centuries of history, where age was valued, speed was foolhardy and knowledge was power?

Language is an interesting thing. "Tough Decisions" are no longer have dilemmas that cause pain and loss to those making the decision, but only decisions that hurt the middle class and poor. Yet politicians talk of "tough decisions:" and "tough choices" without voting to impact their own pocket-book or standard of living. As we enter the all politics all the time year, we will see a barrage of e-mails, slogans, sound bites and claims reminiscent of George Orwell and 1984. People believe what they hear, over and over again, and the marketing instead of  thinking about what the words really mean. And as our vocabulary shrinks, Orwell's prophetic book becomes increasing true, because the only way to truly think and protect democracy is through a strong vocabulary. Can true democracy, as Thomas Jefferson envisioned it, survive?