Archive for April 2011

The Palestinian Reconciliation Agreement Should Be Supported

The Israeli response to news that Palestinian factions had achieved a unity agreement was predictably irritating. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu derided the agreement in stark terms, saying that the Palestinians had a choice of either “Peace with Israel or peace with Hamas”. His spokesperson reduced this bumper sticker rejection of Palestinian unity even further to “reconciliation or peace”.
What is, of course, galling is the assumption implicit in the prime minister’s framing of the matter, namely, that peace with his government is a real possibility that the Palestinians have now rejected Read more

Americas Fate Under Chinese Hegemony A Review of Eamonn Fingletons Jaws of the Dragon

The news has recently hit the press that China’s economy, measured on the purchasing-power basis that adjusts for price differences between nations, may surpass the U.S. in only another five years or so.
Surprisingly, China has still shown no signs of morphing into the cuddly liberal and democratic nation, devoted to American ways from Coca-Cola to democracy, whose eventual appearance has been assumed by American policy for thirty years now.
Our policy during this period has, after all, enthusiastically cooperated with China’s efforts to build up its economic power–which entails, of course, every other kind of power, including the military kind. So our assumption of a benign China had better be right, or else we have been abetting the creation of a monster. A hostile China will be arguably even worse than the USSR, because it will not do us the favor of sabotaging its economy by adhering to a dysfunctional economic ideology.
The above realities are the subject of Eamonn Fingleton’s book In The Jaws of the Dragon: America’s Fate Under Chinese Hegemony Read more

The Pure in Heart Shall See God

One of Kierkegaard’s famous lines is that “purity of heart is to will one thing.” Purity for him has to do with extracting from the heart all of the elements that are contrary to the one thing we should will, which he named the Good.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, “The eye is the lamp of the body. So if your eye is sound, your body will be full of light; but if your eye is not sound, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matthew 6:22-23).
Given these two ideas, one might conclude that to the degree that we have divided or fragmented hearts, our hearts are impure and our vision is obscured Read more

After the Tornadoes Prayers Support and Hope in The Love of God

The clergy conference for the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama was scheduled to start this past Wednesday. We saw the dire predictions of the weather reporters and decided that we would proceed, hoping their warnings were exaggerated. As it turned out, with at least 300 killed, many more injured and incredible damage to homes and property, the forecast fell short of the reality. We cut the conference short and went back to work Thursday afternoon, many of us to communities and neighborhoods that are picking up the pieces.
On the way to Camp McDowell, Bishop Henry Parsley and several priests saw a tornado Read more

Great Opera Singers Visit Whats My Line

Long before the debut of People Magazine on March 4, 1974, one of the most popular forms of celebrity appearances was the “Mystery Guest” spot on What’s My Line? The popular television game show originally ran on CBS from 1950 to 1967 with former television newsman John Charles Daly as its host.
During the “Mystery Guest” segments, the panel was required to wear blindfolds to prevent them from recognizing the mystery guest. What I always loved about these appearances is that the audience could see the mystery guest sign his name. The show’s mystery celebrities would often try to disguise their voices to confuse the panelists (Gypsy Rose Lee stuffed marbles in her mouth).
Thanks to YouTube, many of the classic “Mystery Guest” segments from the show are now available online. As viewers watch these appearances from a distance of nearly half a century, they offer a fascinating look into a world of entertainment and celebrity lifestyles that seems much smaller, tamer, and more intimate than today’s relentless publicity machines and rabid paparazzi.
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Contralto Marian Anderson
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After the Daughters of the American Revolution refused to allow Marian Anderson to perform before an integrated audience at Washington’s Constitution Hall in 1939, President Franklin D Read more

Mona Lisas Bones Should Be Left Alone Begs Princess Descended From Leonardos Muse

Besides picking out Philip Treacy hats to wear to certain royal weddings, what do princesses really have on their plates these days? Well, in Italy, Natalia Guicciardini Strozzi — princess, actress, winemaker, and former ballerina — is leading the charge in opposition to plans to exhume the remains of Lisa Gherardini, Strozzi’s forebear and the Renaissance Florentine woman whom many believe to be the subject of Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa.” (The woman is better known as Lisa del Giocondo, thanks to her early marriage to a merchant of that surname.)
A royal descendant of Mona Lisa doesn’t want researchers looking for her remains. / Courtesy Wikimedia Commons
According to the Telegraph, the princess — whose blood ties to La Gioconda, as Leonardo’s painting is universally known in France, go back some 15 generations — is standing up against the team of Italian researchers led by Silvano Vinceti who are using a “ground-penetrating radar” to search beneath the Convent of St. Ursula in Florence for the suspected model’s coffin. The research team believes that if they can locate the remains, they can compare DNA samples with data extracted from the bones of other deceased family members, and then use skull fragments to reconstruct the visage of the woman, who died in 1542 at the age of 63 Read more

US ‘not denying North Korea aid’

US 'not denying North Korea aid'

US officials have denied an accusation from former President Jimmy Carter that the US is withholding food aid from North Korea.

A state department official said the North Korean government was responsible for the plight of its people.

US food aid was suspended two years ago after the North said it was not wanted.

North Korea has warned of severe food shortages this year as a result of the harsh winter. The UN has announced plans to distribute emergency food aid Read more

Century exposed

Century exposed

John G Morris is a name that will probably mean little to most of you reading this, yet to news photographers and picture editors it's a name that most will recognise and hold in esteem.

Morris' was the editor of photographer Robert Capa on D-Day and went on to help shape the look of the post-war picture magazine. He was also the first executive editor of Magnum Photos and worked at The Washington Post and The New York Times before moving to Paris in 1983 where he workedas correspondent and editor for National Geographic.

Throughout his career he has built up a collection of original prints that are now being sold at auction on today, 30 April, in Paris. The pictures are both personal gifts from the artists as well as creative working prints from his visual diary.

The prints being auctioned include pictures by Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Capa, Robert Frank and Dorothea Lange, each one a historic document Read more

Day 1 of New Orleans Jazz And Heritage Festival We NO

Day One of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival kicked off with weather so beautiful, it was almost sarcastic. Between the mango freeze ice cream headaches and cochon de lait po-boys, there was wall to wall music. Jeff Beck, Mumford & Sons, the subdudes, Red Stick Ramblers, Germaine Bazzle, Justin Towes Earle, Robert Plant and dozens more rocked their respective stages.
Haiti – New Orleans ties are being highlighted at the festival this year, with everyone from Wyclef Jean to my new favorite band Ti-Cocoa and Wanda Neges. New Orleans benefits for Haiti have been offering relief since the Haitian earthquake, including photographers donating their work to Images Without Borders gallery shows Read more

Harry Potter star denies bullying claim

Harry Potter star denies bullying claim

Actress Emma Watson has denied claims that bullying drove her to take a break from a prestigious US university.

Media reports had said students at Brown University, in Providence, Rhode Island, had teased her about her role as Hermione in the Harry Potter films.

But in a statement on her website, Miss Watson, 21, said: "I have never been bullied in my life."

She said she did not know what she wanted to do after September, but would focus on acting for the time being.

She had enrolled at Brown in September 2009, initially to study literature Read more

Libya’s Gaddafi offers Nato talks

Libya's Gaddafi offers Nato talks

Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi has called for a ceasefire and talks with Nato to stop the coalition's air strikes against his country.

The Western alliance is acting under a UN mandate to protect civilians amid an uprising against Col Gaddafi's rule.

Previous Libyan offers of ceasefires have either not been implemented or have been quickly broken.

In a TV speech, Col Gaddafi said he would not be forced from Libya – a key condition of rebels leading the revolt.

State TV later implied that Nato strikes on a government complex in the capital Tripoli had targeted Col Gaddafi while he was speaking. There is no Nato confirmation.

"The door to peace is open," Col Gaddafi said in his overnight speech.

"You are the aggressors. We will negotiate with you Read more

Deaths from US tornadoes top 340

Deaths from US tornadoes top 340

The death toll from the tornadoes that hit the southern US this week has risen to 340, in one of the worst twister outbreaks in the country's history.

Soldiers and emergency teams are still searching for bodies and survivors.

More than 200 tornadoes were reported across six southern US states on Tuesday and Wednesday.

During a visit to Alabama, which bore the brunt of the storms, President Barack Obama said he had "never seen devastation like this".

Mr Obama was speaking in Tuscaloosa, an Alabama town hit by a mile-wide (1.6km) tornado on Wednesday.

"We are going to do everything we can to help these communities rebuild," Obama said. "We're going to make sure you're not forgotten."

President Barack Obama has visited storm-ravaged communities in Alabama as south-eastern US states face up to the aftermath of devastating storms

At least 246 people died in Alabama – mostly on Wednesday Read more

US tobacco firms defeat hospitals

US tobacco firms defeat hospitals

Six major US tobacco companies have defeated a lawsuit by hospitals seeking compensation for treating patients with smoking-related illnesses.

Thirty-seven hospitals in the state of Missouri had claimed cigarette companies delivered an "unreasonably dangerous" product.

They sought more than $455m (£272m) reimbursement for treating uninsured smokers who had not paid for care Read more

San Antonio Spurs vs Memphis Grizzlies Recap April 29 2011 ESPN

San Antonio Spurs vs Memphis Grizzlies  Recap  April 29 2011  ESPN

Source:Associated Press
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Zach Randolph had 31 points and 11 rebounds and the Memphis Grizzlies advanced to their first Western Conference semifinals and made NBA history in knocking off the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs 99-91 on Friday night.Memphis had been the franchise best known for empty seats and the unenviable NBA mark for playoff futility at 0-12 after being swept in its first three appearances. This time, a third straight sellout crowd cheered every bucket with a couple signs begging the Grizzlies to “Finish Them” in a town in desperate need of a hero.The Grizzlies needed 10 seasons, but they have become just that as only the second No. 8 seed to upset a No. 1 seed since the NBA expanded the opening series to a best-of-seven.
Sign Of Things To Come?
The Grizzlies won three of four regular-season games against the Oklahoma City Thunder, the same team Memphis will face in the Western Conference semifinals.
FG pct
Top scorer
Durant (30.5)
Randolph (26.5)
— ESPN Stats & Information
They will play Oklahoma City in the semifinals.Marc Gasol had 12 points and 13 rebounds for Memphis. Tony Allen added 11 points, and rookie Greivis Vasquez had 11 off the bench playing 24 minutes with Mike Conley in foul trouble most of the game.Tony Parker led San Antonio with 23 points, Manu Ginobili had 16, Tim Duncan 12 and Antonio McDyess 10.The Spurs led only twice at 2-0 and again at 80-79 when McDyess hit a 15-footer with 4:41 left.That’s when Randolph, the man cast off and unwanted when he arrived in Memphis in the summer of 2009, took over and scored 17 of the Grizzlies’ 29 points in the fourth quarter.He scored 10 of the next 14 for Memphis, with his hook putting Memphis ahead to stay at 81-80. Conley added a jumper, then Randolph hit a fallaway jumper, two free throws and another fallaway jumper for an 89-82 lead with 1:55 left. Randolph went to the bench to a huge cheer with 3.4 seconds left.The Spurs, winners of 61 games in the regular season and the dynasty with four NBA titles with Duncan, turned the ball over three straight times while Randolph was putting away this franchise’s biggest win. One desperate pass from Ginobili went right off Parker’s hands.San Antonio had gotten a reprieve with Gary Neal’s clutch 3 getting the Spurs to overtime as they staved off elimination Wednesday night. But the Spurs talked of how lucky they were to pull out a game when they had their bags packed for the offseason.Ginobili also had a big shot to help the Spurs stay alive. This game, he had an even more amazing shot, beating the buzzer at the end of the third quarter as he tossed up the ball from half court off balance and trying to beat the clock. He had been 3 of 10 from the floor before that lucky attempt pulled the Spurs to 70-66.It just wasn’t enough for a team that couldn’t beat the Grizzlies in Memphis during the regular season or the postseason. The Spurs edned this season dropping nine of the last 10 on the road and 16 of the last 19 in the postseason away from San Antonio.Parker opened the game with a pair of free throws, then the Grizzlies took over. Allen scored on a floater in the lane, Randolph tipped in the ball as the start of 10 straight points by the Grizzlies. That prompted Spurs coach Gregg Popovich to scream at a referee for a timeout. But Vasquez and Allen scored for a 14-0 spurt before Parker finally answered with a layup.For Memphis, it was almost as dominant as the third quarter of Game 4 when the Grizzlies outscored the Spurs 30-15. This time, the Spurs didn’t score from the floor for the first five minutes as the Grizzlies opened with a 28-16 lead after the first 12 minutes and led by as much as 14. The Spurs had six turnovers in the period.Duncan, who turned 35 on Monday, looked every bit of those years early as he almost stumbled trying to drive to the basket. He later added an emphatic dunk that pulled the Spurs within 46-43 at halftime.Game notes Memphis had only 44 points in the paint in the series until Friday night. The Grizzlies outscored San Antonio 62-36 in the paint.
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The Strengths and Weaknesses of American Exceptionalism

The Center for American Progress issued a fascinating and important PolicyLink paper early in April 2011: Prosperity 2050: Is Equity the Superior Growth Model? Written by Sarah Treuhaft and David Madland, both its content and its title raised a central question of our time: whether it is “possible that the traditional assumption that there is a tradeoff between growth and equity is wrong, and that broadly shared growth is ultimately better for the economy?” The tentative Treuhaft/Madland answer to this question was that shared growth might indeed be the preferable way forward: so that at the very least, “as a first step, we need to change our collective understanding about what, why and how economic and social inclusion matters.”
They are quite right. We do need that change, and we need it now.
The fact that the Center for American Progress felt the need to ask such a question is proof enough that the route to future U.S. prosperity is no longer clear – certainly not clear to them, and probably not clear to us Read more

Breakfast parties

Breakfast parties

The US has a long-held fascination with the British royal family, and there had been huge anticipation across the country. So how did Americans mark the event?

It takes some dedication to get up in the middle of the night on a normal working day to watch another country's royal wedding.

But millions of Americans did just that, many of them saying the pageantry, romance and pure joyfulness of a British state occasion were too tempting to resist.

More than a dozen US television channels were broadcasting the event in the small hours, with their top talent, including familiar British names like Piers Morgan and Cat Deeley, holed up in London all week.

Some of the networks adjusted their tone slightly, to reflect the tragic events earlier in the week when nearly 300 people were killed by storms in the south-east US.

NBC's top anchor Brian Williams flew back to the US after arriving in London, to cover the storm story. But many people said the royal wedding was a welcome antidote to the terrible events.
'It was worth getting up at 4am'
Jody Milanese and Jason Baletsa watched the wedding at the Ritz-Carlton in Washington DC.

"There's such a special relationship between the two countries, that's why it's a special day for Americans. I love the pomp and ceremony of it all, it's fun to see something so different" says Jason Read more

Layton’s rise

Layton's rise

Canadian voters go to the polls on 2 May to vote in a general election. But many seemed unconvinced about the significance of the ballot, the BBC's Andrew North reports from Toronto.

"You're from the BBC? You mean the BBC?" the Canadian voters we met typically asked.

"Yes, the BBC," I said.

"So what are you doing here? You should be covering the royal wedding."

Hardly a vote of confidence in the importance of their own elections.

True, Canada's third elections in only five years were always going to struggle for attention, even if Prince William and his bride had not been walking down the aisle.

It is just possible, though, that Canada is on the verge of a political earthquake.
‘Growing rebellion’
With just days to go, opinion polls suggest the left-wing New Democratic Party (NDP), previously languishing among voters, has surged into a close second behind the incumbent Conservatives, led by sitting Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
“Start QuoteThey’re only for the rich people, the Conservatives and Liberals”
End QuoteHazel CrawfordCanadian taxi driver and voterInstead of the majority he was hoping for, he is struggling to hold off what looks like a growing rebellion against Canada's political mainstream.

Gains by the NDP could also push the other main party, the Liberals, to the margins.

"This is the strangest election I've seen in more than 40 years," says veteran political journalist and broadcaster Dennis Trudeau.

If Monday's results match the opinion polls, the NDP and its charismatic leader Jack Layton, who have never held power before, could even form a minority government and reverse Canada's rightwards, pro-US drift.

Out on the stump in the constituency of Brampton-Springdale, one of the key battlegrounds, one could feel the change in mood Read more

US court backs stem cell funding

US court backs stem cell funding

A US appeals court has overturned an earlier order to suspend federal funding of stem cell research.

The Washington court said opponents of the research, who say it is illegal because it involves the destruction of human embryos, were unlikely to succeed in their lawsuit to stop the funding.

The ruling marks a significant victory for US President Barack Obama, correspondents say.

President Obama lifted a ban on funding for stem cell research in March 2009.

Soon after, US District Judge Royce Lamberth issued a temporary injunction on the move while a legal challenge went ahead – although this suspension was itself overruled on appeal, pending a final decision Read more

Friday Talking Points Royally Screwed

This is going to be a somewhat surprising column introduction, for our regular readers. For new or occasional readers, I’d have to recommend just skipping this whole introduction entirely, and scrolling down to the awards section and the talking points for the semi-serious commentary. Because I’m about to talk about something I’ve been absolutely ridiculing all week long — the royal wedding. And how the American media missed a joke (not to mention a kiss), despite spending millions of dollars in coverage in an orgy of “reporting on the shiny and the distracting, and calling it news.” In other words, they couldn’t even get it right at their absolute shallowest Read more

Hold On Alabama Your Countrys Here For You

The president’s plane touched down at Tuscaloosa Regional Airport at 10 a.m. this morning, local time.
That’s Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA.
These are the moments that bring us together as a nation, and as people. Just like 9/11 did, before people used it to divide us Read more

Canada’s NDP comes under scrutiny

Canada's NDP comes under scrutiny

Canada's New Democratic Party (NDP) has come under increasing fire from its rivals as polls suggest the party is closing the gap with Conservatives in the run-up to the 2 May election.

Recent polls have put the NDP five percentage points behind Conservatives.

Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the NDP would need the Bloc Quebecois' support to win the election.

Meanwhile, NDP leader Jack Layton said he would not interfere with the Bank of Canada's independence if elected.

Mr Layton's comment about Canada's central bank came a day after he said he would like the bank to keep its interest rates low, prompting a flurry of criticism from his opponents.

A federal general election was called after Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative minority government lost a confidence vote.

The vote was sparked after his government was found to be in contempt of parliament because of its failure to disclose the full costs of anti-crime programmes, corporate tax cuts and plans to purchase stealth fighter jets from the US.
NDP gains
Although Mr Harper's Conservatives were seen as the front-runners going into the election, the left-leaning New Democratic Party has been making unexpected gains in recent polls.

A survey of 1,200 Canadians conducted by polling firm Nanos Research placed the NDP at 31%, while putting Mr Harper's Conservatives at 36% Read more

US court restores NFL ‘lockout’

US court restores NFL 'lockout'

A US appeals court has put a "lockout" imposed National Football League (NFL) team owners back into effect, throwing the league into chaos.

The decision came hours after players had returned to work, after a judge on Monday granted players a temporary injunction to end the lockout.

The dispute began seven weeks ago after talks over collective bargaining rights and revenues broke down.

The latest upset comes amid the draft, in which the 32 teams pick new players.

The annual draft will continue over the weekend, but the college players chosen may find they cannot properly start their new careers with their new clubs.

NFL team owners imposed the lockout, which is threatening the 2011 season, last month, the first labour stoppage in the sport since 1987 Read more

Obamas Biggest Problems Still Lie Abroad

President Barack Obama has no shortage of nasty critics at home, including the present gong show known as the Republican presidential field. But despite them and what was already an uneven economic recovery, his biggest problems still lie abroad.
Obama has a multi-dimensional obstacle course to pick his way through when it comes to geopolitics. But this becomes his domestic political problem when it is boiled down — or perhaps better put — refined into one word: Oil.
Here’s the general equation on oil: More chaos and conflict equals higher prices. Higher oil prices and higher gasoline prices equals economic trouble and political trouble.
Economists have just noted that incomes generally rose in March, leading to higher spending Read more

By the Way Meet Vera Stark

By the way, you ought to meet Vera Stark. You can, in the highly entertaining new play at Second Stage Theatre, By the Way, Meet Vera Stark. Now in previews, Vera Stark is directed by Jo Bonney and written by the accomplished Lynn Nottage, a MacArthur Fellow and Pulitzer Prize winner for the 2009 play, Ruined.
Vera Stark involves racism in Hollywood over a 70-year period — 1933 to 2003. In the thirties, black actors were relegated to only the most menial roles in movies Read more