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.”

Friday, January 18, 2008

Headlines: Bobby Fischer Dead at Age 64

There are 64 squares on a chessboard and, apparently, 64 years in the life of chess grandmaster, Bobby Fisher. Fischer died Thursday of kidney failure after an extended illness. The child prodigy was residing in Iceland.

Fischer was born in the United States (Chicago to be exact) but relocated to Iceland in 2005. In 2004 Fischer was arrested on a warrant for violating international sanctions in 1992, when he traveled to Yugoslavia to play a match against Boris Spassky. He was held for nine months before being released to Iceland where he had been granted citizenship. Iceland is well known for its obsession with chess.

Fischer’s early life was riddled with success. He began playing competitively at age 8 and was the youngest player in history to win the United States Junior Championship, a feat he managed at age 13. Fischer took the first of his eight United States Open Championship wins at age 14. He broke another ‘youngest ever’ record when he became an international grand master at age 15.

Fischer continued his erratic career as a chess super-star, having his most famous match in 1972 against Boris Spassky. The American-Russian match was seen as a foreshadowing of the end of the Cold War as Fischer finished the tournament 12.5 points to Spassky’s 8.5 points over 21 matches. In addition to Fischer’s well-known reputation for gracelessness, rudeness, and unusual demands concerning playing conditions, he is remembered as the American that took down Russia in an allegorical struggle against our greatest nemesis of the day.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Headlines: UFO Invasion in Texas

The end of the world approaches, first target: Stephenville, Texas. This rural community has been plagued by visits from a low flying, brightly-lit object that runs silently across the night sky, bewildering the lowly humans that witness its flight.

Steve Allen, a freight company owner and pilot reported that the object was a mile long and a half mile wide, “It was positively, absolutely nothing from these parts,” he said. Other locals who saw the aircraft swear that it was larger, quieter, faster and lower to the ground than a terrestrial aircraft.

The January 8, 2008 appearance of the craft was possibly not the first. Ricky Sorrells said that he has seen the object on more than one occasion as it hovered over his pasture near his home. On one occasion, Sorrells watched the UFO through his rifle’s telescopic lens and describes the object as being very large and without seams, nuts or bolts.

Maj. Karl Lewis, a spokesman for Forth Worth Naval Air Station, stated that there were no aircraft from his base in the area on the night in question. “I’m 90 percent sure this was an airliner,” Lewis said, “With the sun’s angle, it can play tricks on you.” The two neighboring Air Force bases also report that none of their aircraft were in the area last week.

Erath County Constable Lee Roy Gaitan saw the event and attempted to examine the craft through binoculars. He was able to see the rapidly moving lights but was unable to focus on the object to which the lights were attached. “I didn’t see a flying saucer and I don’t know what it was, but it wasn’t an airplane, and I’ve never seen anything like it.”

So keep your eyes on the sky Texas, we are counting on you to raise the alarm when the space aliens arrive to eat our brains.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Science: Spacecraft Makes Close Pass on Mercury

NASA’s Messenger spacecraft zoomed by Mercury today, coming within 124 miles of the solar system’s innermost planet. The pass today is part of a plan to place it in orbit around Mercury by 2011.

Messenger is the first spacecraft to visit Mercury since 1975 when NASA’s Mariner 10 made its pass. The Messenger’s mission will include taking images of the reverse side of the planet, never before visited by a spacecraft.

The closest approach by Messenger occurred at about 2 p.m. today. It took roughly 10 minutes for the radio signals to reach John Hopkins University, which is monitoring the flight from Laurel, Maryland.

Today’s fly-by is the first of three that will occur before an orbit is achieved. The spacecraft was originally launched in 2004. Further data and images will begin to be received by tomorrow. More than 1,200 images are expected from today’s fly-by.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Headlines: Man Beaten to Death in China

Citizen journalist, Wei Wenhua, was beaten to death when he attempted to film an altercation between city inspectors and protesting villagers in Hubei Province, China. The protest occurred over waste being dumped near the homes of the villagers. Fighting began when the villagers attempted to prevent the officials from unloading garbage from several trucks. When Wei pulled out his cell phone to record the protest, over fifty municipal inspectors turned on him, beating him for approximately five minutes. Wei was pronounced dead on arrival at the Tianmen hospital.

The beating is being condemned by China’s Xinhua news agency, Northeat News, and Reporters Without Borders, an international press freedom group. “He was beaten to death for doing something which is becoming more and more common and which was a way to expose law-enforcement officers who keep on overstepping their limits,” the group said in a statement to the Associated Press.

In light of the beating, Qi Zhengjun, an official in central China, was fired. Chen Yizhong, a Xinhua columnist, asked why this type of violence isn’t met with harder restrictions. “Cities need administration but urban administrators [such as Zhengjun] need to be governed by law first.”

Police have detained twenty-four inspectors and are investigating more than a hundred others in regard to the death of Wei Wenhua.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Headlines: Digital Television Conversion Boxes

If you own an analog television and do not subscribe to a cable or satellite service, you will be effected by the upcoming conversion to digital service slated for 2009. Broadcasting companies will be switching to a digital only signal, making those rabbit ears obsolete for anyone who utilizes free television service. In order to avoid losing your signal, you will need a conversion box. Conversion boxes go on sale on February 16th for between $50 and $70.

If you are one of the millions of Americans that will be effected, there is hope out there! To order a $40 government converter coupon call (888)-DTV-2009 or visit the website at to order your coupon online. Each household is permitted to request up to two coupons to help defray the cost of the conversion boxes.

The government funded coupons are going fast. The 1.5 billion dollar program is a first come first serve basis and two million people have already sent in their requests. Regardless of whether you subscribe to a paid television service or not, you are still eligible for the program.

The demographic most effected by the switch will be senior citizens who are more likely to watch free television and who depend on it more as a source of entertainment then other age groups, watching an average of 5.5 hours a day. The coupon program will allow seniors, as well as others, to purchase the converters for little or no personal cost.

The reason behind the change is so that valuable airwaves can be utilized by agencies such as police or fire departments. The conversion to digital will also make for clearer picture and sound quality as well as allow broadband services to offer better Internet service. The flip side, however, is that the public is paying for the conversion directly by switching to paid service or purchasing a box, or indirectly by providing tax dollars that fund the government coupon program. This comes as an insult when television networks rope in huge returns on programming but have not been required to put forth any money for the conversion.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Politics: The Role of Gender Votes in the 2008 Election

When the democrats began campaigning, it was generally assumed that Hillary Clinton would gain a great deal of the female vote based solely on her gender. As the primaries heat up, it is becoming increasingly evident that Barack Obama is at least as appealing as Clinton when it comes to securing the female vote.

In early December, Oprah jumped on the campaign trail to back Obama. The double O spelled disaster for the Clinton campaign as her main demographic started to slip away. Obama is becoming more appealing to today’s female voter, a change that could win him the primary over Hillary Clinton.

So why is it that women voters are having second thoughts about a woman president? Hillary Clinton, it would seem, does not represent what women voters want to see in the White House. Many women plan to vote on the issues and do not wish to consider gender or race in their voting decisions. Others may have been turned after listening to Oprah’s compelling speech and endorsements as she throws her significant weight behind Obama.

Regardless of the reasons, it is becoming apparent that Obama is likely to sweep the primaries after his win in Iowa and favorable polls in New Hampshire, where the next primary is to be held.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Politics: Iowa Caucuses Claim Winners and Victims

Democratic candidate Barack Obama and Republican Mike Huckabee cleaned up today at the Iowa caucuses, the first real bid for power on the campaign trail. The results came as a surprise for Clinton supporters as Edwards took the runner-up position and the Clinton campaign trailed in third.

Iowa is the first of the string of caucuses about to occur nation wide. Its importance is weighted due to the tremendous media coverage and publicity surrounding the event. Most of the primary candidates have been spending a great deal of time as well as money to secure their position there. The next caucus will take place in New Hampshire in five days. While Clinton has been favored there, Obama’s Iowa win could dramatically influence voters there.

Democratic candidates Christopher Dodd and Joseph Biden have both dropped out of the Presidential race after disappointing turnout in Iowa tonight. However, the democratic turnout was exceptional, counting a record 225,000 partisans compared to only 115,000 on the Republican side. The Iowa demographic is particularly low on young people when compared to the rest of the country so a large Democratic turnout bodes well for the party overall.

Headlines: Cayle Bywater Missing from Home

ATHENS, Ga -- The Athens-Clarke County Police Department is asking for help in locating 29 year old, Cayle Bywater.

Bywater was reported missing on New Year's Eve when a neighbor found her dog running loose near her S. Milledge Ave. home.

She was last seen on Saturday and spoke with a family member that same day.

Police found her backdoor open. Her purse, wallet, keys, cell phone and car are all still at her residence.

Cayle Bywater is described as a white female, 5'3" tall, 113 pounds, with curly brown hair and blue eyes.

Anyone with information should call:

Athens Clarke County Police Central Communications (706) 613-3345

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Entertainment: Paris Hilton Crossing the Line

Britney Spears and Paris Hilton have been nearly inseparable on the Los Angeles party circuit for the last few months. Britney celebrated her 26th birthday with Paris earlier this month while fending off rumors of another pregnancy.

Spears has had a rough year, experiencing a meltdown resulting in shaving her head, a stint in rehab and ultimately, the loss of custody of her children to ex-husband Kevin Federline. It would seem that her association with the Hilton heiress was another bad choice in the pop-star’s messy year.

This weekend, Paris was seen chumming it up with Britney’s ex at Lax, a Las Vegas bar and nightclub with Spears nowhere in sight. Witnesses state that Paris and K-Fed were seen whispering and laughing together after K-Fed greater Hilton with a kiss on the cheek. “It looked as though they were getting quite friendly,” one on-looker stated. One source also stated that K-Fed visited Hilton's hotel room later that night.

Britney has not commented on the relationship between her supposed friend and ex-husband but this surely comes as another blow at the end of a stressful year for Spears.