Joe Bageant: A Note from Joe
As you may or may not know, I have been struck down by an extremely serious form of cancer. Presently I am back in the United States receiving treatment through the U.S. Veterans Administration hospital system. Due to the nature of the massive internal tumor, I am currently unable to even carry on email correspondence or Skype conversations.
Tom Danehy: Throughout injuries and illness, Larry Prior always had his truck-until Monday, Dec. 13 (Tucson Weekly)
I've never been a big fan of Russian literature, with its apparent affection for depression and its signature pattern of cascading one disaster upon another.
Barack Obama: State of the Union (Posted on Andrewtobias.com)
Tonight I want to begin by congratulating the men and women of the 112th Congress, as well as your new Speaker, John Boehner. And as we mark this occasion, we are also mindful of the empty chair in this Chamber, and pray for the health of our colleague -- and our friend -- Gabby Giffords.
Paul Krugman: SOTU (New York Times)
So, I've read the text, and find it hard to extract any theme. We're going to invest in the future - but we're also going to freeze domestic spending. So mixed signals - and although there were no numbers, given the further assurance that the freeze won't affect anything important, this has to mean that the investment plans are small change.
Paul Krugman: The Ryan Response (New York Times)
… was as bad as you might expect. Lots of breast-beating about deficits; you'd never know that no leading Republican, Ryan very much included, has offered a serious proposal to cut the deficit.
Jim Hightower: EPA REVOKES A PERMIT FOR DECAPITATING WV MOUNTAINS
At last, a small spark of sanity from Washington. After making a full scientific assessment of environmental impacts, the EPA has revoked the permit for the largest mountaintop removal project ever to assault the natural resources and the people of Appalachia.
The Editors: Revolt of the Elites (nplusonemag.com)
No one can read a lot without learning how to write, or pay close attention to articulate speech without becoming more silver-tongued himself. Language is that rare thing to be able to consume which is also to be able to produce it.
Jacques Steinberg: How Much Do College Students Learn, and Study? (New York Times)
In addition to seeking to establish the statistical contours of what they contend is a national problem, Professors Arum and Roksa provide something of a corrective blueprint for colleges and universities. They note, for example, that students "who spent more hours studying alone" had greater gains on the standardized exam being used as a benchmark, as did students who took courses requiring "significant" reading and writing.
Richard Roeper: Academy snub of 'Inception's' Nolan off-base (suntimes.com)
No offense to the five immensely talented individuals nominated for "Best Director" on Tuesday morning, but members of the Academy must have been smoking something powerful to snub Christopher Nolan's astonishingly creative work on "Inception."
Roger Ebert: Oscars: The king vs. the nerds vs. the Rooster
The 2011 Oscar race seems to be shaping up among the King of England, two nerds, and Rooster Cogburn.
Irene Lacher: "The Sunday Conversation: Kevin Costner" (Los Angeles Times)
'Dances With Wolves' won seven Oscars, but the actor-director recalls how difficult it was to get financing.
June Thomas: Why Is 'Hawaii Five-0' So Popular? (Slate)
David Bruce has 39 Kindle books on Amazon.com with 250 anecdotes in each book. Each book is $1, so for $39 you can buy 9,750 anecdotes. Search for "Funniest People," "Coolest People, "Most Interesting People," "Kindest People," "Religious Anecdotes," and "Maximum Cool."
From The Creator of 'Avery Ant'
Michelle in AZ
Pentagon to Outline Training for DADT Repeal
Pentagon leaders will roll out a plan Friday that is expected to give the military services about three months to train their forces on the new law allowing gays to serve openly, officials said Wednesday.
The plan, they said, will outline the personnel, recruiting and other regulations that must be changed. It will describe three levels of training for the troops, their commanders and the key administrators, recruiters and other leaders who will have to help implement the changes.
Under that training schedule, full implementation of the law could begin later this summer... Pentagon to Outline Training for DADT Repeal
(Be patient! They may not like it, but they're gonna do it and it will get done. This is not a 'wave the magic wand' situation...)
from that Mad Cat, JD
In The Chaos Household
Sunny and breezy.
Dear old Dad had an enjoyable birthday. He & the Babe went up to his sister Vivian's, and she made gnocchi. Yum!
Hollywood Walk O' Fame Star
Versatile actor Donald Sutherland, who's played everything from a Nazi spy to an aging astronaut, has been honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
The 75-year-old Sutherland was honored Wednesday with a star right next to son Kiefer Sutherland's star.
The Canadian-born Emmy-winner has made more than 150 movies and television appearances, including "MASH," "The Dirty Dozen," "Ordinary People" and "Space Cowboys."
9/11 Memorial Foundation Board
Jon Stewart is joining the board of the foundation building the Sept. 11 memorial in New York.
The host of the Emmy-winning "The Daily Show" on Comedy Central recently used his show to champion a federal bill that provided billions to treat people who became ill after working in the ruins of the World Trade Center.
Joe Daniels, the foundation's president, says Stewart is an important public figure and a regular New Yorker who saw the world change on Sept. 11, 2001.
Surgery To Delay "Hobbit"
Filming of the widely-anticipated "Hobbit" movies will be delayed because director Peter Jackson is recovering from surgery for a perforated ulcer, a spokeswoman said on Thursday.
Jackson, 49, who directed the hit "Lord of the Rings" film trilogy in his native New Zealand, was admitted to a hospital in Wellington on Wednesday evening with acute stomach pains.
Filming of the two movies of "The Hobbit," based on the J.R.R. Tolkien fantasy novel, had been expected to start around the middle of February.
In her fight over the legacy of her longtime partner Stieg Larsson, Eva Gabrielsson finds her life starting to resemble that of the goth-punk heroine of his phenomenal Millennium trilogy.
Just as tattooed hacker Lisbeth Salander contends with men who hate women, so Gabrielsson suspects misogyny among those denying her the right to administer one of publishing's hottest properties: his literary estate.
"I think it's true," she told AFP on Thursday in Paris, where her 160-page memoir of her 32 years alongside the crusading journalist who penned "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" and its sequels has just been published.
"There's a lot of truth in that. Those who are doing this are men," she said, acknowledging that her life after Larsson's untimely death might as well be the fourth volume of his best-selling crime thriller saga.
Immortalized With Estonian Bust
He's been honored with an Oscar and British knighthood. As of Thursday, Sean Connery can count a bronze sculpture in the Estonian capital among his tributes.
The bust of Scotland's most famous actor was unveiled by British Ambassador Peter Carter outside Tallinn's Scottish Club, whose members include Estonians enamored with Scotland and a handful of expatriate Scots.
The Scottish Club, which started as a whiskey sampling society in the early 1990s, got the idea of honoring "Scots who have made a difference" a few years back, said president Mart Haamer. It already has a bust of 18th century Scottish poet Robert Burns.
A vocal supporter of the pro-independence Scottish National Party, Connery lives in the Bahamas and has said he will not live in Scotland again until it gains independence from the United Kingdom.
However, Carter noted that "the fact that he has accepted knighthood, suggests that he is also a great supporter of the queen."
Cancels Carnegie Appearances
Conductor Seiji Ozawa has had back surgery to repair herniated disks and is canceling his performances at Carnegie Hall in April with the Seiji Ozawa Music Academy Orchestra.
The 75-year-old conductor is recuperating but his doctors said he "will not complete his rehabilitation in time for these performances," Carnegie Hall said Thursday. The orchestra's spring tour, which includes concerts in New York on April 1 and 2, has been canceled.
Music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra from 1973-02, Ozawa was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in January 2010. After canceling performances for six months, he returned to work in late July.
Charlie Sheen, America's highest paid TV actor, was hospitalized with severe abdominal pains on Thursday after he reportedly laughed too hard at the television during a marathon party.
In the latest apparent instance of rabble-rousing that has threatened production of his CBS hit comedy "Two and A Half Men," Sheen was carried by stretcher to an ambulance early on Thursday morning.
Sheen's spokesman, Stan Rosenfield, told Reuters the actor has a long-standing hernia condition, although he was not sure if that was the direct cause of his latest hospitalization.
TMZ said one of the guests claimed that a "briefcase full of cocaine" was delivered to the house at one point. Asked for comment, Rosenfield said, "I don't believe it." But he added he had no way of knowing since he was not present.
Police Charge Son
Police filed charges against the son of Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour on Thursday for his role in last month's violent protest against the British government's decision to raise university tuition fees.
Charlie Gilmour, 21, shocked many in Britain when he was photographed swinging from the Union Jack attached to the Cenotaph, Britain's most important war memorial, during the Dec. 9 demonstration.
The picture of Gilmour swinging from the flag featured prominently in the country's tabloid press and ran over captions reading "vile" and "shame."
Police said Thursday they aren't charging Gilmour with attempted criminal damage to the flag but they are filing charges of violent disorder and "theft of a mannequin leg."
New Scandal Documents
Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi faced more pressure to resign on Thursday after magistrates issued new documents with fresh details of erotic parties, some with under-age girls, and of his gifts to participants.
The center-left opposition said the new documents made his position "untenable" and said he should resign willingly or that his conservative allies should put pressure on him to step aside for the good of the country.
The 227 pages of new documents were sent by Milan magistrates to parliament on Wednesday night and chunks were leaked to Italian media, which published excerpts on Thursday.
They say a second woman who attended the parties was under age at the time, in addition to a Moroccan dancer at the center of the inquiry, who was 17 when some of the parties were held.
They also show that a key Berlusconi associate who is being investigated on suspicion of procuring prostitutes is privately turning against him and made disparaging remarks about his physique and age in phone conversations taped by police.
Body Snatched From Grave
The body of Mike Bongiorno, who was Italy's top quiz show host for more than 50 years and a close friend of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, was stolen from his grave, officials said on Tuesday.
Bongiorno, who died in Sept 2009 at the age of 85, was buried in Arona near Milan. A pensioner who regularly visits the cemetery alerted police that the grave had been violated and emptied. Italian media said no ransom had been demanded so far.
Bongiorno, a fixture in Italian television since its first broadcast in the 1950s, helped Berlusconi launch commercial television in the 1970s.
In 2001, in a cemetery near the one where Bongiorno was buried, the corpse of an investment banker Enrico Cuccia was stolen and a ransom demanded. The thieves were identified and arrested.
Tone Deaf In Indiana
An Indiana school district that told a black teenager to perform "The Star-Spangled Banner" in a "traditional way" after receiving complaints about her performance is drawing questions now about whether the complaints and directive were racially motivated.
Shai Warfield-Cross, 16, has performed the national anthem at sports events at Bloomington High School North over the last year without incident. But school officials said they received complaints about her performance during a game in Martinsville.
Principal Jeff Henderson told The Herald-Times in a statement that people had complained that while the words to the anthem were the same, the tune was unrecognizable. He declined to comment to The Associated Press.
Some who complained after the game in Martinsville - a predominantly white community about 30 miles southwest of Indianapolis - also said they felt the rendition was disrespectful to current and former members of the military, Henderson said.
Emergency Hay Airlift
Stockmen will begin airlifting hay to hundreds of horses left to starve in Montana after their owner's prestigious breeding operation went out of business, authorities said on Wednesday.
The target of the airdrop and an ongoing effort to truck tons of hay to a 2,000-acre fenced enclosure near Billings in south central Montana are roughly 350 horses whose condition has been steadily deteriorating since the onset of winter and in the absence of food and water.
The 350 horses are part of a larger herd estimated from 500 to 700 head. Hunger forced the other animals to break through fenced pastures and onto the rest of the 40,000 owned and leased acres that once made up the Home Place Ranch operated by James Leachman of Billings.
Law enforcement officials have charged Leachman, 68, with five counts of animal cruelty in what they say is a continuing investigation that may produce more charges.
The rumors can stop swirling: The baby grand piano that turned up on a Miami sandbar was burned to tatters by New Year's revelers, then brought to its new home by a television designer's teenage son who said Thursday he hoped the idea might help him get into a prestigious art school.
Theories of the instrument's origin had abounded, with some saying they saw helicopters and television crews hovering around the piano. Others tried to claim responsibility, but Nicholas Harrington, 16, had his endeavor on videotape.
Harrington said he wanted to leave his artistic mark on Miami's seascape as the artist Christo did in the early 1980s when he draped 11 small islands in Biscayne Bay with hot pink fabric. And if it helped the high school junior get into Manhattan's Cooper Union college, that would be OK, too.
On Jan. 2, Harrington, his older brother Andrew and two neighbors lifted the instrument, which had been trashed during a holiday party, onto the family's 22-foot boat and took it out on Biscayne Bay. There, they left it on the highest spot along a sandbar.
Harrington is the son of "Burn Notice" production designer J. Mark Harrington. The piano is an old movie prop that sat for four years in Harrington's grandmother's garage. The teen had talked about hoisting the instrument from a tree or using it in a music video, among other projects, his mother said, but nothing happened until the winter break from school.
Painting Fetches Record
A 450-year-old Madonna and child painting sold for a record $16.9 million on Thursday at a Sotheby's sale of Old Master works that saw especially strong prices for religious-themed works.
"A Sacra Conversazione: The Madonna and Child with Saints Luke and Catherine of Alexandria" by Renaissance master Titian was the top-priced work during a week of Old Master sales at Sotheby's and rival Christie's, carrying a hefty $15 million to $20 million estimate.
The circa 1560 oil on canvas, one of only a handful of multi-figured compositions by Titian remaining in private hands, went to a European collector bidding on the telephone. The final price was $16,882,500 including commission.
The price easily surpassed the artist's auction record of $13.6 million and went far toward the total of $78.6 million, which exceeded the $74 million high estimate for the first session of Thursday's two-part sale. Sotheby's held several Old Master auctions during the week, including two important private collections.
JP II's Wet Dream
There is no spewing green pea soup and there are no spinning heads. In real exorcisms, though, there is foaming at the mouth, spasmodic convulsions, demonic groans and a strangeness about the eyes.
The Rev. Gary Thomas, 57, the pastor at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Saratoga, ought to know. He's the official exorcist for the Diocese of San Jose and the inspiration for the supernatural thriller "The Rite," opening in theaters Friday and starring Anthony Hopkins.
Since he was tapped by Bishop Patrick McGrath in 2005 to perform the ancient rite for the diocese, Thomas has been approached by more than 100 people who feared they were possessed by the devil. After evaluating whether their problems were "psychological or diabolical" he has performed four exorcisms -- most in the soundproof confessional in the back of Sacred Heart's church. When school's not in session. When the sanctuary doors are locked.
A Serra High School graduate, Thomas became an embalmer at a local mortuary before he became a priest. While Thomas was at St. Nicholas Church in Los Altos, McGrath recruited him as an exorcist. With the increasing popularity of Satan worship, paganism and the occult -- all considered "doorways" to demonic possession -- Pope John Paul II was seeking more exorcists. Although the pope had hoped to install an exorcist in every diocese -- 195 in the United States -- there are fewer than 50 sanctioned across the country.
Rankings for the top 15 programs on cable networks as compiled by the Nielsen Co. for the week of Jan. 17-23. Day and start time (EST) are in parentheses:
1. "Jersey Shore" (Thursday, 10 p.m.), MTV, 6.06 million homes, 8.87 million viewers.
2. "Jersey Shore" (Monday, 9 p.m.), MTV, 5.45 million homes, 7.69 million viewers.
3. "Pawn Stars" (Monday, 10:30 p.m.), History, 4.3 million homes, 6.02 million viewers.
4. "Pawn Stars" (Monday, 10 p.m.), History, 4.21 million homes, 5.95 million viewers
5. "American Pickers" (Monday, 9 p.m.), History, 3.99 million homes, 5.76 million viewers.
6. "The Game" (Tuesday, 10 p.m.), BET, 3.5 million homes, 5.94 million viewers.
7. "Jersey Shore After Show" (Thursday, 11 p.m.), MTV, 3.47 million homes, 4.77 million viewers.
8. "WWE Raw" (Monday, 10 p.m.), USA, 3.39 million homes, 5.25 million viewers.
9. "SpongeBob SquarePants" (Monday, 11 a.m.), Nickelodeon, 3.27 million homes, 4.82 million viewers.
10. "Royal Pains" (Thursday, 9 p.m.), USA, 3.2 million homes, 4.43 million viewers.
11. "SpongeBob SquarePants" (Saturday, 9:30 a.m.), Nickelodeon, 3.16 million homes, 4.36 million viewers.
12. "WWE Raw" (Monday, 9 p.m.), USA, 3.16 million homes, 4.79 million viewers.
13. "SpongeBob SquarePants" (Monday, 11:30 a.m.), Nickelodeon, 3.13 million homes, 4.75 million viewers.
14. "SpongeBob SquarePants" (Sunday, 9:30 a.m.), Nickelodeon, 3.11 million homes, 4.24 million viewers.
15. "NCIS" (Wednesday, 8 p.m.), USA, 3.04 million homes, 4.17 million viewers.
Gladys Horton, who co-founded the 1960s Motown group The Marvelettes and sang on hits including "Please Mr. Postman," has died in Los Angeles at age 66.
Her son, Vaughn Thornton, says Horton died Wednesday night in a Sherman Oaks nursing home where she had been recovering from a stroke.
Horton was a teenager in the Detroit suburb of Inkster when she and some friends formed a group they called "The Casinyets," which was short for "can't sing yet."
When Georgia Dobbins had to leave, Horton became lead singer. The group changed its name to The Marvelettes and Horton was 15 when Motown released "Please Mr. Postman" in 1961. It was a hit and the group had many others. Horton was replaced as lead singer in 1965 and left the group two years later.