Archive for January 2011

Reality TV Is Not Reality

What attracts millions of Americans each week to this cultural phenomenon known as “reality TV?” Where did the purveyors of shows such as “Survivor,” “Jersey Shore,” and “Wife Swap,” get the idea (I know, from Europe!), and why do so many of us buy into the idea that reality TV resembles reality in any way, shape or form? Only in George Orwell’s “1984” reality can people be watched every moment of the day like on “Big Brother.” Only in William Gerald Golding’s “Lord of the Flies” reality can people “eliminate” one another on a desert island like on “Survivor.” Only in Ira Levin’s “The Stepford Wives” reality are all of the women attractive, shapely, and predominantly white like on the “Real Housewives” franchise. Only in Andy Warhol’s “fifteen minutes” reality do people whose only claim is that they won a reality TV show make them worthy of the fame and fortune of talk show appearances, book contracts, and speaking tours. Yet this is the “reality” of reality TV to which we are exposed and it is the reality that some of us may come to believe can be our reality.
Reality TV promotes the worst values and qualities in people — and disguises them all as entertainment. Reality TV has made the Seven Deadly Sins — pride, avarice, envy, wrath, lust, gluttony and sloth — attributes to be admired Read more

Bold Move by Obama Needed to Save Middle East Peace Process

As President Obama faces mounting revolutionary turmoil in the Middle East, it is imperative that he avoid placing the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process on the back burner, which would only cement the skepticism already held by both sides about his handling of the peace process. In the wake of al-Jazeera’s publication of the “Palestine Papers,” the spreading anti-government sentiment across the region, including in the West Bank, a choice by Washington to back away from its Mideast peace efforts could drive a stake in hopes for a two-state solution. To avoid this tragic outcome, Obama should take the bold decision to travel to the region and make a direct appeal to Israelis and Palestinians. Only such a dramatic move will enable him to rebuild his credibility with both sides and rescue peace from the fire of revolution.
The ascendance of Obama on the political scene was accompanied by a brief spark of hope in the Arab and Muslim world Read more

Reading Ahmadinejad via Wikileaks A Freedom Lover or a TwoBit Dictator

In a recent article for the Atlantic, Middle East expert Reza Aslan writes that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may not be the hard-line president outside observers actually thinks he is. Based on unverified WikiLeaks documents and remarks by the president himself, the author concludes that Ahmadinejad is, in fact, in favor of greater social and political freedoms and the “Persianization” of Iranian society, but is isolated among others in Iran’s current ruling establishment:
Here is why Aslan’s characterization of Ahmadinejad is flawed:
Ahmadinejad is the kind of man who should not be judged by his words, but by his actions. As somebody who has met him on several occasions, once when he was Tehran’s mayor and twice when I was reporting on his trips to the UN in New York over the past few years, I can say I’ve never seen a more insincere, manipulative and deceptive personality in my entire life.
One doesn’t need WikiLeaks to know what Ahmadinejad has said about freedom Read more

What Should We Learn From The Deaths Of Fitness Icons

The fitness icon, Jack LaLanne, died last week at the age of 96. Healthy and active until the very end, he was a powerful example of the role that exercise and nutrition can play in elevating a life. Jack lived long and vibrantly, and inspired millions of people to make positive health choices.
Jack’s death reminded me of the life and untimely death of another fitness icon of the 20th century, Jim Fixx. Jim’s books were wildly popular, and his work was credited for helping start the tness revolution in the Western world Read more

Health Care Ruling Shows Judicial Activism is Alive and Well And Living on the Right

Monday’s federal court decision striking down the landmark Affordable Care Act (ACA) shows how much the political right has embraced judicial activism. After years of denouncing liberals for seeking to overturn the will of the people through court decisions, conservatives have fully adopted that very same approach to laws they don’t like. Unable to repeal the health care reform bill through the elected branches, they want the judiciary to do their bidding for them.
Unfortunately, some federal judges are going along.
Approximately a dozen federal courts have already upheld the ACA from constitutional challenges. Yet the ruling out of Florida will undoubtedly receive much more media attention than those earlier rulings Read more

Whos Really to Blame for the Housing Crisis

The nominally bipartisan Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission released its findings last Thursday in tripartite form. One section, the output of the Democratic end of the panel, will focus on the Wall Street and banking sector abuses that contributed to the ongoing crisis. A second take on the troubles, the product of three centrist-leaning Republican panel members, focused on global influences. But the third, by the American Enterprise Institute’s Peter Wallison, repeated the now familiar GOP mantra that the entire blame falls on Democrats and their nurturing of Fannie Mae and its brother-in-housing-market-crime, Freddie Mac.
No doubt Fannie and Freddie have plenty to answer for when it comes to squandering taxpayer dollars Read more

Made in the USA

The United States has given billion dollars of military aid to Egypt over the last decades. Lockheed Martin, Boeing and General Electric have provided tanks, missiles, engines and more to the Hosni Mubarak regime. Following the massive popular uprising, U.S. foreign aid continues to flow to Egypt, although the Obama administration has placed the program under review Read more

Worlds oldest woman Eunice Sanborn dies in US at 114

Worlds oldest woman Eunice Sanborn dies in US at 114

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World's oldest woman Eunice Sanborn dies in US at 114

  • The world's oldest woman has died in Texas aged 114, US media have reported.
    Eunice Sanborn's death on Monday morning was confirmed by a friend and neighbour, the Daily Progress newspaper in Jacksonville, Texas, reported.
    The title of the oldest living woman now goes to 114-year-old Besse Cooper of the US state of Georgia, according to the Gerontology Research Group.
    The oldest man is also an American: 114-year old Walter Breuning of the state of Montana, the group said.
    Ms Sanborn, who claimed she was actually 115 and that the US Census Bureau had erroneously recorded her birth year as 1896, was a homemaker and active member of her church, the AFP news agency reported Read more
  • Florida Health Care Decision Judicial Activism on Steriods

    You’ve probably read by now that Judge Vinson did the expected: The judge gave Republican governors and attorneys general what they wanted, a decision that advances the GOP’s extremist agenda to return control of our health care to the insurance companies. This is judicial activism on steroids. Fortunately, the U.S. Supreme Court will have the final say on the legal challenge to the Affordable Care Act, and it has corrected such lower-court mistakes when other major laws like Social Security, the minimum wage law and the Voting Rights Act were passed Read more

    The Coming Twivolutions Social Media in the Recent Uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt

    When the authoritarian regime of Tunisian President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali fell in mid-January, many in the news media dubbed it the “Twitter Revolution.” In the words of New York Times columnist Roger Cohen, “Facebook gave young protesters [in Tunisia] the connective muscle to oust an Arab dictator.” This led Cohen to conclude, “The freedom to connect is a tool of liberation — and it’s powerful.”
    Twitter and other social media networks are certainly powerful. But do they actually cause revolutions? The seed of nearly all revolutions is dissatisfaction, especially discontent brought on by gross injustice. The advent of new forms of communication will not alter this fact of life.
    To suggest that the Tunisian transformation was a “Twivolution” — and that there are more social media upheavals to come — is a bit misleading. As Parvez Sharma maintains about the on-going protests in Egypt, the majority of demonstrators “are not ‘twittering’ or ‘Facebooking’ or ’emailing’ or even watching the landmark live coverage that Al-Jazeera is providing Read more

    Pursuing Real Environmental Justice in California

    California Governor Jerry Brown plans to move forward with the implementation of Assembly Bill 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act, under which California seeks to take dramatic steps to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. Questions have been raised about the wisdom of a single state trying to address a global commons problem, but with national climate policy developments having slowed dramatically in Washington, California is now the focal point of meaningful U.S. climate policy action.
    California’s Plan
    A key element of the mechanisms to be used for achieving California’s ambitious emissions reductions will be cap-and-trade, a promising approach with a successful track record, despite its recent demonization as “cap-and-tax” by conservatives and other opponents in the U.S. Congress.
    Under this approach, regulators restrict emissions by issuing a limited number of emission allowances, with the number of allowances ratcheted down over time, thus assuring ever-larger reductions in overall emissions Read more

    Strong Social Security Is Central to the Latino Communitys Future

    Social Security is central to the economic security of all Latinos, young and old alike. For 75 years it has played a vital role in providing a safety net for the protection millions of retirees, disabled workers and aged widowers. Social Security has mitigated economic hardship for vulnerable communities, serving as one of the most successful government programs whose benefits can be credited in part with alleviating poverty among the elderly.
    As working families nationwide struggle with widespread economic insecurity and baby boomers approach retirement, the President’s fiscal commission is suggesting cutting already modest Social Security benefits as part of deficit-reduction strategy. This plan is flawed and conservatives are capitalizing on the opportunity to call for the privatization of Social Security, reducing benefits and lifting the retirement age in the name of fiscal discipline Read more

    From the Palettes of Babes 5 Prodigious Child Artists to Watch

    On Thursday, the New York Times dared to ask a question that has been plaguing moms for years: what do you do when your children’s artistic output outgrows the surface area of the refrigerator? “We’re not going to build an addition on the back for every piece of crayon art they’ve ever done,” one parent sighed. But reporter Michael Tortorello and the frustrated parents he interviewed forget that for a lucky few, those crayon artworks could end up paying for that new addition.
    In the last decade, paintings by child art prodigies have commanded upwards of $25,000 at auction — and loads of media attention. Art historians will remember that these precocious painters aren’t an exclusively 21st century phenomenon: Pablo Picasso showed unusual promise at the age of 8 with his bullfighter painting “Picador,” while Drer crafted a strikingly precise silverpoint self-portrait at 13. The great early Renaissance painter Giotto, Vasari recounts, was discovered at a similarly tender age after the Florentine painter Cimabue caught him drawing pictures of sheep on a rock.
    In an effort to scout out today’s great-artists-to-be, ARTINFO surveyed young talents who have recently attracted attention — and even collectors — as a result of their art Read more

    Shelby County v Holder Oral Argument Preview

    On Wednesday, February 2, U.S. District Judge John Bates will hear oral argument in one of the most important civil rights cases pending in the lower federal courts, Shelby County v. Holder, a case with nationwide ramifications for the right to vote and our democracy. At issue in Shelby County is the constitutionality of Congress’ nearly unanimous 2006 decision to renew one of the most important and successful provisions of the Voting Right Act — the Act’s preclearance requirement (which requires certain jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination in voting to obtain federal permission before altering their voting laws or regulations).
    The Supreme Court has, on four separate occasions, upheld the constitutionality of the Act’s preclearance provision – in 1966, 1973, 1980, and 1999 – concluding that Congress has broad power under the explicit grant of enforcement power in the Fifteenth Amendment to prevent and deter racial discrimination in voting Read more

    Air Fruitcake Manitou Springs Launches Leftover Fruitcakes

    Somehow, I managed not to get clobbered with flying fruitcake at this year’s Great Fruitcake Toss in Manitou Springs, Colorado. It’s an annual festival that celebrates the world’s most reviled and under appreciated food. Well, celebrating it might be a stretch. The good folks of Manitou Springs fling it, smash it, shoot it from air-powered canons and, some years, fashion it into sculptures such as the Saddam Hussein fruitcake bust that landed Dee Byvoet on top of the ugliest fruitcake division one year.
    This wacky festival, now in its 16th year, is the perfect metaphor for Manitou Springs, a quirky little town just four miles up the mountain from Colorado Springs Read more

    The AP has 652 Million YouTube Views MSNBCcom Has Record 158 Million Views in Jan The Golden Age of Video News is Now

    While audiences for the networks news nightly newscasts have vastly shrunk and cable news nets have maintained which might called a niche audience, the emergence of the Web, social media and mobile as video-rich environments has powered video news consumption in extraordinary ways.
    The Associated Press has registered some 645 million video views just on its YouTube channel. has registered its biggest January ever with 158 million video views, we have learned.
    As mobile and connected TV’s become more widely used, video news consumption will continue to rise.

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    Are the Primary Causes of Multiple Personality Disorder Psychiatrists and Psychotherapists

    Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD), or, as it is referred to in most recent version of the manual DSM-IV, Dissociative Identity Disorder, is a genuine psychiatric disorder. However, the numbers of cases of MPD are far higher in North America than in any other part of the world. Many suspect that this surplus of MPD cases is the product of American culture and over-indulgent psychiatrists and psychotherapists.
    There have long been reports of individuals who seemed to have “someone else” inside their body Read more

    Florida Judge strikes down Obamas healthcare law

    Florida Judge strikes down Obamas healthcare law
  • A federal judge in Florida has declared the US healthcare reform bill passed in 2010 unconstitutional, ruling in a suit brought by 26 states.
    Judge Roger Vinson ruled that the requirement that Americans purchase health insurance or face penalties violates an individual's rights.
    Because mandatory individual insurance is so central to the bill, Judge Vinson struck down the entire act.
    The case is likely to end up in the Supreme Court.
    Judge Vinson is the fourth federal judge to rule on the constitutionality of the reform bill Read more
  • WalMart Plays With Our Food

    Every week, 140 million people — about the population of England and Germany combined — shop in a Wal-Mart store. Soon, all of these people will be eating healthier, and the environmental impact of their food will be lessened.
    That’s because in recent months, the world’s largest grocer (and company) has started to fundamentally change the food on its shelves. Wal-Mart’s recent announcements continue a five-year campaign to green the supply chain, but they add in some interesting new twists as well. The entire agricultural sector, and everyone who, well, eats, will feel the ripples of these moves.
    Some of Wal-Mart’s initiatives increase profitability while hitting sustainability goals; for others, the societal benefits are real, but the business benefits are not as clear, at least on the surface.
    Three initiatives in particular demonstrate a strategic focus on food sustainability.
    (1) In October, Wal-Mart announced that it would double the amount of locally-sourced produce on its shelves Read more

    Keeping Travel Plans After a Terrorist Attack

    I’m not generally afraid of traveling to so-called “unsafe” places.
    Sure, I put on full hijab regalia for my Saudia flight from Riyadh to Medina three months after 9/11, but that was mostly because I wanted to escape notice. Was it intimidating to board the plane and look across the sea of red-and-white scarves to the aircraft’s television screens, which featured steady footage of a qibla that changed direction as we flew, always pointing to Mecca? Absolutely. But was I ever scared? Not really Read more

    Debts Should be Honored Except When the Money is Owed to Working People

    This seems to be the lesson that our nation’s leaders are trying to pound home to us. According to the New York Times, members of Congress are secretly running around in closets and back alleys working up a law allowing states to declare bankruptcy.
    According to the article, a main goal of state bankruptcy is to allow states to default on their pension obligations. This means that states will be able to tell workers, including those already retired, that they are out of luck. Teachers, highway patrol officers and other government employees, some of whom worked decades for the government, will be told that their contracts no longer mean anything Read more

    Anderson Silva Bored or on Borrowed Time

    It’s fair to say Superman was never quite as invigorated by the prospect of rescuing a cat from a tree than he was propping up a falling skyscraper with a stray pinky. Considered by many to be the Superman of mixed martial arts, Anderson ‘The Spider’ Silva looks wonderful when lifting buildings with one finger, yet, when uninspired and complacent, often struggles getting cats down from trees.
    Silva is, of course, the incredibly gifted UFC world middleweight champion and a fighter undefeated in 12 UFC bouts. Upon joining the organization in June 2006, Silva dominated Chris Leben, Rich Franklin (twice), Travis Lutter, Nate Marquardt and Dan Henderson with frightening ease Read more

    This Generations Sputnik Moment

    Around the world, food prices are surging, with protests breaking out across Northern Africa and the Middle East. Against this backdrop, the scourge of malnutrition continues to ravage more than one billion people globally, contributing to more than three million deaths in children under the age of five each year — a number equal to the entire population of Chicago.
    Adding up these deaths and the preceding incapacity, malnutrition costs the world billions in lost GDP and productivity each year. For a young child, the impact is more personal. Without adequate nutrition in the first 1000 days of life — from conception to age two — she will lose over 10 percent of her lifetime earnings Read more