Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Entertainment: Writer’s Strike comes to an End

The entertainment industry, as well as billions of viewers, can breathe a collective sigh of relief as it is announced that the writer’s strike has come to and end. The three month strike was the most damaging that the industry has experienced in 20 years. The last major strike occurring in 1988 and lasting five months.

As a viewer, you may have noticed the explosion of reality television shows, the weirdness of late night television, and the lack of new episodes of your favorite dramas and sitcoms. The Writer’s Guild of America (WGA) hit the picket lines fourteen weeks ago, bringing prime time television to a screeching halt while they battled over royalty payments and Internet programming.

Previously, writers whose work was offered for free over the Internet, were not given additional royalties as they would have been had the show been released to DVD. With Internet streamlining becoming more and more popular, it had become a very real concern for writers who would have received income from a season DVD release but weren’t receiving anything from networks who offered entire seasons online for free. The new contract stipulations also cover programming that is created specifically for Internet-only release.

The WGA didn’t win on all fronts. They were also striking for rights on reality shows and animated shows. But the end result was still highly beneficial and as DVDs become more obsolete and consumers turn more often to instant downloads, the concessions will provide more long-term income for unionized writers.

It is fortunate for the Academy Awards that the strike was resolved before the 80th annual show on February 24 of this year. There was a great deal of fear that the Oscars would suffer the same fate as the Golden Globes did, a situation that may have accelerated the negotiations. Now actors and writers can work together to produce a show that meets viewer expectations without the stigma of crossing picket lines.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Politics: Democratic Ticket Runs Neck and Neck

Since the beginning of this race, the democratic hopefuls, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have been running an impossibly close race. Today, they will do battle over Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia in hopes of taking home the prize of the168 available delegates.

Obama hopes for a big win in tonight’s caucuses, which could mean overtaking his competition whom he only trails by 23 delegates. If Clinton does fail to secure a win tonight, it will mean 10 straight losses for the democratic front runner. Clinton is hoping to make a big comeback on March 4, when primaries will take place in Ohio and Texas.

Both candidates have already begun television advertising in Ohio and Texas including satellite interviews in which Clinton made a call for additional debates and begun addressing regional issues.

The candidates are both far short of the required 2,025 delegates needed to win the democratic ticket at the convention this summer. Before the caucuses to take place tonight, Obama trails Clinton with 1,124 delegates to her 1,147. In his effort to take the lead, Obama has spent vast amounts of money on television advertising for Maryland, D.C. and Virginia. The advertising scheme began over a week ago and it remains to be seen if the $1.4 million that he spent will be worth it.

When asked about the possibility of a shared ticket, Clinton stated that it was too soon to determine. In light of recent polls giving evidence that Obama is a more likely win over Republican hopeful McCain, it could be in the best interest of the Democrats as a whole if the two liberal powerhouses joined forces to take control of the white house.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Mental Health: Middle Age is really depressing

A study performed in London using data from 80 different countries finds that depression is most common among men and women in their forties. The countries studied ranged widely in development status but all but eight of them followed a U-shaped pattern of disbursement when it came to happiness-age relationships.

The study tested some 2 million people on depression, anxiety and general metal health and well being. Regardless of the demographic, whether married or single, with or without children and rich or poor, the truth comes out that people in their forties are sadder worldwide.

The dip in mental health and happiness comes on slowly, not all at once and most people do not begin to emerge from the slump until they approach their fifties. Although some speculation exists regarding the cause of this age-related depression, nothing has been positively determined.

The good news is that if you manage to reach 70-years old and still retain your physical health, you will, on average, be as happy and mentally healthy as a 20-year old.

For those of you just entering your forties, that really sucks. Look forward to a decade of pain and sorrow as you realize how many of your dreams will never be realized and wait for the day that the deaths of your friends gives you a new appreciation on life allowing you to climb out of the black pit of despair.

Original Story Located Here

Monday, January 28, 2008

Environment: Flex-Fuel Cars Help Environment and Stop Terrorism

Venezuela and Iran have recently joined forces in threatening a raise in oil prices to $200 per barrel. Since 1999, the OPEC oil cartel has successfully pushed the price of oil steadily upward. In 2007 alone we saw a 50 percent increase.

While this declaration will come as a frustration to most Americans who are already feeling the pinch at the pumps, it should be taken very seriously by everyone. Most of the money that we spend on oil gets filtered through a network of fronts, ending up funding the spreading of terrorist ideology and, in the case of Iran, is used to develop technology and materials to be used in nuclear weapons.

With the steady increase of oil prices, we will soon be spending more on oil than we do on our own military. Bad news for us when you consider that the money we spend on oil is, in effect, funding organizations and countries that could eventually oppose us in battle.

Everyone is well aware of America’s dependency on oil. From financial concerns, to environmental concerns, to foreign disputes, we have been heavily immersed in ‘oil talk’ for the last decade. The problem is, the government has done very little to make changes that will break the oil cartel’s power and America’s oil addiction.

It is more important now than ever that Congress pass a law requiring that all new cars sold in America be fueled by an alcohol/gasoline combo. The cars, referred to as flex-fueled, are already being produced but, like the demise of the electric car, conflicts between supply, demand, and availability of refueling stations have kept them from gaining a strong foot hold in the market. By making it nationally mandated that new cars be capable of running on high alcohol fuels, the problem of available pumps would be solved and the call for oil would be dramatically reduced.

Aside from the obvious benefits to the environment and the breaking of our dependency on foreign oil, there would be worldwide ripples, as international car companies would be forced to match the US restrictions if they wish to compete in the American market. We would also be capable of re-channeling the money we currently give to the oil cartel into world agriculture. This would benefit our own farmers as well as those of third world countries and shift spending from terrorism to world development.

Headlines: Marijuana Vending Machines in California

California has begun to introduce marijuana vending machines into the public for use by people with prescriptions for the controlled substance.

Patients with a valid prescription will be permitted to apply for a vending machine card. To get this card they must undergo a fingerprinting and photo process, which will be stored in a database for the machine’s use. When a cardholder approaches a machine they will have to submit their fingerprint and have their picture taken again, to ensure that the person with the card is, in fact, the person with the prescription. The machines will also be guarded by security guards who will provide a human element to the checking process.

This could be a new trend that will eventually be applied to other prescription drugs, allowing less expensive and less educated personal to monitor the machines rather than highly skilled pharmacists. For now though, the machines are limited to dispensing medicinal marijuana.

Medicinal marijuana is reputed to be an effective painkiller and an appetite stimulator for patients with diseases or medications that cause chronic nausea. Although there are currently eleven US states that allow medicinal marijuana use, it is still considered a controlled substance by the federal government and is banned under the 1970 Controlled Substance Act.

Headlines: Lego Celebrates 50th Birthday

Most of us remember playing with LEGOs in our childhood. I remember the good old days when LEGO castles were all bricks, no prefab walls! Whether you were the type to follow the instructions, building to-spec castles and vehicles and then keeping them intact for future play, or the type that designed their own monoliths of creative construction, it is doubtless that you gained hours of entertainment from the colored cubes.

LEGO history began in 1932, when Ole Kirk Christansen built his first factory for wooden toys and named the company “LEGO”, which was a meshing of the Danish words “Leg” and “Godt” meaning “Play Well”.

Several years later, Christansen discovered plastic as a more ideal material for making toys and purchased equipment to introduce plastic fabrication into his factory. In 1949 he developed the LEGO brick prototype. Although the design of the LEGO brick has changed over the years, bricks made today still fit with bricks made as long ago as 1958.

There are now 2,400 different types of LEGO bricks, which are produced in Denmark, Czech Republic and Mexico. The company even recycles old or unsold LEGO bricks, making them into new bricks and pieces.

LEGO is celebrating its birthday by rolling out tons of new sets and featured products. Whether your interest is in Star Wars, law enforcement, medieval castles, or space stations, LEGO has a set for you!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Holiday: Martin Luther King and General Lee Share Holiday

The third Monday in January is recognized nationally as the birthday of Martin Luther King, but in Arkansas, Alabama and Mississippi, there is another man’s birthday being celebrated. General Lee, the leader of the Confederate Army during the Civil War shares his honorary birthday with Martin Luther King, spokesman for the Civil Rights Movement.

It may seem odd that the man who spoke out against racism would have to share his birthday with the man who led the south in a war advocating slavery; however, their actual birthdays really do fall quite close to one another (King’s birthday is Jan. 15 and Lee’s is on Jan. 19). What is more, Lee’s birthday was declared a memorial day long before King’s.

In 1947, Arkansas legislators named Lee’s birthday a legal holiday in honor of the general. It wasn’t until 1983 that King’s birthday was to receive recognition in the same way. In 1985, the two memorial days were combined and changed to the third Monday in January. This allowed workers to have the day off regardless of which man they celebrated rather than having to choose between the two, as was often the case previously.

The issue of the combined recognition has been rankling some people for many years. Dale Charles, president of the Arkansas chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1997 felt that it is inappropriate to honor King and Lee on the same day. “Dr. King worked hard to unify the country,” he said. “I wouldn’t say General Lee would be in the same notion of Martin Luther King. He was a great general and all, but he didn’t come close to what Martin Luther King was about.”