Archive for ‘News Bites’

October 16th, 2007

Mixed Feelings On Medal Of Honor

by Venomous Kate

The next recipient of America’s highest civilian award, the Congressional Gold Medal: Tibet’s god-king, the Dalai Lama.

Not to be confused with the Congressional Medal of Honor (which is awarded to military personnel only), nomination for the Congressional Gold Medal requires support of 2/3 of the House and at least 67 Senators before a nominee is considered.

Although the first recipients included citizens who participated in the American Revolution, the War of 1812 and the Mexican War, Congress broadened the scope of the medal to include actors, authors, entertainers, musicians, pioneers in aeronautics and space, explorers, lifesavers, notables in science and medicine, athletes, humanitarians, public servants, and foreign recipients.

Past recipients include George Washington, John Paul Jones, Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, Charles Lindbergh, Robert Frost, Robert Kennedy, Rosa Parks and other historical notables.

Now, I don’t mean to disparage the holy man — I’ve enjoyed his writings and have quite a bit of admiration for him as a person. But therein lies the problem: my admiration is based on him as a human being, whereas he and his supporters claim that he is in fact a reincarnation of Avalokiteśvara, the bodhisattva of compassion.

Therein lies my problem.

Is the award going to the man who was born a Tibetan and became a monk, or is it going to the reincarnated entity — and aren’t the two inseparable?

October 10th, 2007

Discovering That Summer Was Lost

by Venomous Kate

Summer Shipp

Within one month from the day our family left Hawaii I found myself thinking twice of Summer Shipp, a woman I’d not seen since 1986.

The first time, it was because the flight attendant attendant introduced herself as Summer, and I hadn’t met anyone else in nearly 20 years with that name.

The second time, it was because I heard on the morning news that Summer Shipp was missing, and last seen while conducting a marketing survey in Independence.

For what would have been three years next month, the Friends of Summer — and I — have held out hope that she’d return home, safe and sound.

But that’s not going to happen.

Summer’s body was found in the Little Blue River in Independence, Missouri.

I’d tell you just how much that news rips me apart, but I’m not sure I could even find the words to describe the empty, ravaged feeling I have in the pit of my soul, that little part that still wants to believe in happy endings despite all the damn evidence in the world to the contrary.

My heart goes out to Summer’s daughter, Brandy — whom I last saw when she was still working through her rebellious teen years. This kind of discovery is no closure at all, but someday justice will be served.

I wish you the strength and the patience to see that day come.

October 10th, 2007

Shazaam!

by Venomous Kate

Interesting news from NASA today about lightning striking the poles on Jupiter:

Images from a NASA probe have shown that lightning does occur at the poles on Jupiter, a phenomenon previously only seen on Earth, a study released Tuesday said.

Lightning strikes had previously been observed at lower latitudes and around the equator on the gas planet but the jagged bolts of electricity had never been observed at either of its two poles, puzzling astronomers.

Maybe it’s just me but the thought of “lightning” + “gas planet” seems a bit alarming, don’t you think? Kind of makes me wonder if Einstein was right when he said God does not play dice with the universe.

September 24th, 2007

In-Flight Wi-Fi? Sweet!

by Venomous Kate

I don’t like to fly. It has nothing to do with a fear of, say, a large metal tube in which I’m captured suddenly plummeting out of the sky at thousands of miles per second in a headlong death-spiral doomed to end in a fiery explosion once it meets Earth. The way I see things, that sounds like a relatively painless way to go.

It’s the elbow-to-elbow confinement with the rest of the unwashed masses that I despise, the lack of any physical boundary or sound barrier between me and the yappy, gassy fat man who inevitably takes the seat next to mine. Most stewardesses flight attendants suck, too, but since they’re the only people who are legally allowed to ferry my alcohol in-flight, I match their plastic, insincere smiles with my own.

This was all so much easier to tolerate back in the good ol’ days when smoking was allowed on the plane. If I puffed away hard enough the smoke effectively masked the stench of the fat man’s flatulence. Plus, cigarettes gave me something to do with my hands besides restrain them from pushing the call button so the stewardess flight attendant could bring me more vodka.

Back then, I flew mostly sober.

These days if I fly anywhere alone you can bet I’ll be parked in the airport bar for a full hour before takeoff while I inoculate myself against hazardous spike in my blood pressure that’s triggered whenever I’m crammed elbow-to-elbow, knee-to-seat among a crowd of people with whom I want to have nothing in common aside from our destination.

In other words, by choice, I don’t fly much.

I simply can’t stand it, and until the airlines catch on to the link between “Air Rage” and packing people in like sardines, I don’t see a whole lot of voluntary air travel in my future, either.

Then again, Alaskan Airlines may make me change my mind. I can’t imagine there are a whole lot of people on one of their flights to begin with. Aside from salmon fishing and looking at snow — a lot of snow — there’s really not much to do in Alaska, is there? When you get on a flight bound for that kind of non-excitement, I imagine it’s mighty tempting to drink yourself into a stupor.

Which might explain why Alaska Airlines just announced it’s going to test satellite-based WiFi on one of its jets next spring. If it works well the company will expand satellite internet service to all of its 114 aircraft.

Granted, satellite internet is slower than the 6500 kb/s I’m used to at home, but there’s a lot to be said for the distraction provided by watching a page load. If nothing else, I can imagine restraining myself from pushing the button for the stewardess flight attendant to bring more booze because I wouldn’t want her (or him) to interrupt me the instant the page finished loading.

Frankly, I hope this catches on with other airlines. It’s high time they figure out ways to add more value into the whole miserable flight experience, particularly if they insist on charging a small country’s GDP for a GD miniature bottle of vodka.

I imagine such a move would be rather well-received among other folks, too, particularly those folks sick of the FCC’s ban of cell phones in-flight. If they’ve got a smart phone they’ll be able to carry on conversations using the plane’s satellite internet provider. Good luck to the stewardess flight attendants trying to figure out who’s using one of those and who’s from Europe where it’s perfectly legal.

Now if they’d only figure out a way to let me smoke on flights again, I might just start traveling more.

September 20th, 2007

I Can’t Watch Kid Nation

by Venomous Kate

Did you watch the series premiere of Kid Nation last night — the show featuring 40 unsupervised kids trying to establish and run their own town?

I can’t bring myself to watch it. Call me close-minded if you will, but I refuse to support reality TV shows that turn childhood struggles into entertainment fodder for other folks. I don’t watch any of those Nanny-style shows for the same reason, and only caught a few minutes of Shaq’s show about fat kids by accident. That brief glimpse was enough to infuriate me, and I vowed to never watch anything like it again.

Oh, but I’ve heard plenty about it. It’s hard not to: Kid Nation is one of the most hyped shows on network TV these days, and critics are both panning and praising it. Says one:

There was a lot of disagreement and strife, and there were a number of moments — when a kid pulled a muscle, when they couldn’t figure out to cook pasta but were desperately hungry, when kids sobbed uncontrollably — that it seemed like an adult should step in. But then the kids figured out what to do, and even if the results weren’t perfect (the first-night’s dinner of macaroni and cheese did not look very appetizing at all), they made it work.

That’s supposed to be entertaining and “enlightening,” as one critic claims? It allegedly shows… just what, exactly?

That truly hungry children will eat just about anything?

That kids don’t instinctively know how to fend for themselves but will muddle through when they must?

That children can and will take care of themselves when adults abandon their responsibilities?

Louisiana Conservative says the show’s “genius” stems from the way it reminds viewers that children are more resourceful than we give them credit for. He wonders why people have a problem watching these kids when there are, in fact, so many adults around to keep an eye on things.

Perhaps that’s just the problem: adults watching children struggle then calling it “entertainment” sounds like little more than exploitation to me.

September 19th, 2007

The Gray Lady Spreads Her Legs

by Venomous Kate

Faced with the need to increase its online advertising revenue, the New York Times stopped charging for access to parts of its website.

For two years, the paper has offered a subscription program, TimesSelect, that allowed access to columns and archives. (Access was free for print subscribers.) Only 227,000 felt the NYT was so irreplaceable as to be worth the $49.95 per year fee.

Times execs claim they’d always set their expectations low. Even so, they’d recently realized that the majority of visitors to their online site were arriving there from search engines only to find themselves denied access to search results. Plus — and here’s the truly surprising part — they finally figured out that people arriving via Google, for instance, weren’t going to pay to access an archived article.

Yes, folks, it’s the “DUH!” heard ’round the world.

September 18th, 2007

The Wheel Turns

by Venomous Kate

The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again.

Robert Jordan, author of the Wheel of Time series, passed away Sunday. I read the news today. Oh, boy.

I have been a long-time fan of RJ’s blog at DragonMount, having been introduced to his series years ago by De Doc (who remains Strangely Silent of late). I enjoyed the books so much that I even sank money into the somewhat disappointing video game then loved it solely because it brought me one step closer to the fictional word he created.

Jordan had been battling amyloidosis, a progressive metabolic disease which causes protein deposits within organs. Since amyloidosis is incurable, Jordan has known for many years that his death was more imminent than most, and yet he battled against it with all of the ferocity and humanity of his fictional heroes, including some explorations into “experimental” remedies.

To say that the fantasy novel genre has lost one of its heroes is an understatement. The world lost one of its heroes, too. Jordan was more than an author of some damn fun reads: he was one of the good guys, too.

Born James Oliver Rigney, Jr., he did two tours in Vietnam, and earned the Distinguished Flying Cross with bronze oak leaf cluster, the Bronze Star with “V” and bronze oak leaf cluster, and two Vietnamese Gallantry Crosses with palm. He later received a degree in physics from The Citadel and worked for the U.S. Navy as a nuclear engineer.

He was also, as I’ve mentioned, the author of some damn fine reads.

Jordan’s family has asked fans not send flowers. Instead, they would like donations sent to help fund further research into finding a cure fore amyloidosis. Donations may be sent to:

James Rigney
Mayo Clinic Department of Hematology–Amyloidosis Research
200 First Street SW
Rochester, MN 55905

And thus the Wheel of Time turns. A legend has come to pass.

August 1st, 2007

Pit Bull Toddler “Attack” Update

by Venomous Kate

News keeps coming in about the pit bull who allegedly sodomized a toddler. As I’d previously written, Rhonda at StinkyJournalism.org had sent me additional information which indicated the dog may have been trained to mount humans.

Obviously, such training would point to heinous human criminal involvement and explains why the police had inquired about previous acts of aggression. Investigators contacted the dog’s previous owner, who’d had the dog as a puppy before it was taken in by the boy’s family. The owner said there was no prior history of aggression or even biting.

Although the investigation is ongoing, several questions have been repeatedly raised. Where were the boy’s parents at the time of the attack? How would a dog get a diaper off of a toddler without leaving bite marks? And, most of all, is the dog being accused of sodomy that was actually committed by a human?

Via Rhonda again comes this update which addresses many of those questions:

“We’re still plodding through it,” Lockport Police Detective Capt. Larry Eggert said.

Eggert said nothing incriminating was found in the results of DNA tests that were taken from the dog and from the boy.

“If it says dog DNA for both parties, it’s dog DNA, which is pretty much what we were expecting,” he said.

Women’s and Children’s Hospital of Buffalo will not release any information about the boy’s current condition or if he is still a patient there. He underwent surgery there when he was admitted on July 8, the day of the attack.

The boy’s mother told police he had just removed his own dirty diaper and asked her to change him. She said he went into the living room to get a clean diaper and was alone with the dog, a 2-year-old pit bull named Bear, for a matter of minutes when the attack occurred.

The mother heard the boy scream and walked in to see the dog sodomizing him, police said.

Eggert said at the time the boy suffered “some pretty significant injuries” and was expected to undergo reconstructive surgery.

So, while DNA tests rule out a human as the perpetrator of the sodomy, the test results do not rule out human culpability. And the mother certainly has a plausible explanation for why the child was not wearing a diaper at the time of the attack. She is, incidentally, still demanding that the dog — which remains in custody of the SPCA in Niagra County — be put down.

Many of you have left comments indicating that dogs do not act this way of their own accord. I am not a dog owner, but I’m familiar enough with the concept of the “alpha dog” and notions of “pack mentality” to wonder whether such territorial, instinctive behaviour could account for this kind of an attack.

Share your thoughts.

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