The (Occasional) Veterans Report
New VA Facebook Pages
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has announced that all of its 152 medical centers are now actively represented on Facebook. The Department of Veterans Affairs now has 150 Facebook pages, 64 Twitter feeds, a YouTube channel, a Flickr page, and the VAntage Point blog. VA clinicians cannot discuss the specific health concerns of individual veterans on Facebook, but that does not prevent staff from monitoring VA's sites closely each day to provide helpful information to veterans when they can
Free SAT and ACT Prep Software
eKnowledge continues to donate their world-class SAT and ACT College Test Preparation Programs to military servicemembers and their families. Eligible recipients include Active Duty, Guard and Reserve Service Members from all branches of the military, Military Retirees, Veterans, in addition to all DoD employees and civilians performing military support and relatives and dependants of anyone who otherwise qualifies from the prior list. There is a nominal charge of $13.84 per standard program for the cost of materials, processing, distribution and customer service. eKnowledge does not profit from this venture.
Housing for Homeless Veterans
The U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs have announced that HUD will provide $2.4 million to public housing agencies to supply permanent housing and case management for homeless veterans in the U.S. The funding will support 435 vouchers in 18 communities. Veterans participating in the HUD-VASH program rent privately owned housing and generally contribute no more than 30 percent of their income toward rent. For more information, visit VA's Homelessness HUD-VASH webpage
Resources for Entrepreneurial Vets
Veterans who run or are considering starting their own companies should check with their local colleges and Small Business Development Centers to see if they offer training specifically for veterans. At 16 Veterans Business Outreach Centers, the Small Business Administration (SBA) offers veterans business plan workshops, mentoring, and feasibility analysis. For more information, visit the SBA website
New VA Health Services Webpage
VA's Health Services Research & Development Service recently launched a webpage designed for the veteran community. The new webpage
Life Member - DAV
Paul Krugman: Nobody Understands Debt (New York Times)
The obsession with deficit reduction is wrongheaded and ill-informed.
Henry Rollins: FOR THE BROKEN HEARTED
John McCain is lonely for the good old days when American forces were in Iraq.
Matthew Yglesias: Happy Days Are Here Again! (Slate)
Don't believe the naysayers: An economic recovery is right around the corner.
Scott Burns: Fearless Forecasts, 2012 (AssetBuilder)
Tired of the Republidem and Demorep impasse, a new party will arise with no platform and a single purpose: Replace all Incumbents by voting for any candidate who is not currently in office. Bumper stickers are already available, witness "Fight Organized Crime: Don't Reelect Anyone" on Amazon. The website Zazzle offers a broad selection: "Save America: Re-Elect No One!," "Recycle All Incumbents", "Stop Repeat Offenders: Just don't re-elect them" and "Help Stop Narcissism: Re-Elect No One!"
Rule #1: Spend less than you earn (The Simple Dollar)
If there is a single rule that underlies everything I've written about on The Simple Dollar, it's this simple sentence: Spend less than you earn. It sounds so simple, doesn't it? Yet there are many people out there burying themselves in debt (spending more than they earn) or living purely paycheck to paycheck (spending exactly what they earn).
Megan Conner: "This much I know: Eddie Izzard" (Guardian)
The comedian, 49, on the Iron Man triathlon, spiders and doing stand-up in French.
Roger Ebert: Review of "Paul Goodman Changed My Life" (3 stars)
"Paul Goodman Changed My Life" is a documentary about a man who changed mine. Now largely forgotten, Paul Goodman (1911-1972) was an omnipresent influence on young people in the 1960s.
ROGER EBERT: I'll Tell You Why Movie Revenue is Dropping
Box office revenue at movie theaters "lagged far behind 2010," an article by the AP's David Germain reports.
David Bruce has 42 Kindle books on Amazon.com with 250 anecdotes in each book. Each book is $1, so for $42 you can buy 10,500 anecdotes. Search for "Funniest People," "Coolest People, "Most Interesting People," "Kindest People," "Religious Anecdotes," "Maximum Cool," and "Resist Psychic Death."
Michelle in AZ
9 Really Unusual Deserts
From The Creator of 'Avery Ant'
from that Mad Cat, JD
In The Chaos Household
Picture postcard perfect weather.
"Queen of Soul" singer Aretha Franklin has become the latest celebrity to announce an engagement over the holidays, joining a list including "Aerosmith" frontman Steven Tyler and basketball superstar LeBron James.
Franklin, 69, and her friend William 'Willie' Wilkerson hope to marry later this year on a sandy Miami beach with a private party to celebrate afterward aboard a yacht, a spokeswoman for Franklin confirmed on Monday.
Tyler, 63, rocked longtime girlfriend Erin Brady, 38, with a proposal, too, his representative confirmed to celebrity media, but no details were given.
James and his longtime girlfriend Savannah Brinson also became engaged over the New Year holiday weekend.
Berlin Film Festival To Honor
Meryl Streep is to be honored for her wide-ranging career at this year's Berlin film festival.
Festival organizers said Monday that the 62-year-old Streep will be presented with an honorary Golden Bear, the event's top award, on Feb. 14.
The two-time Oscar winner will be honored at a screening of her latest movie, "The Iron Lady," in which she plays former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
The Berlin event, the first of the year's major European film festivals, takes place Feb. 9-19.
World's Most-Visited Museum
The Louvre cemented its position as the world's most-visited museum with a record 8.8 million visitors last year to the Paris home of Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa and other masterpieces.
The Louvre saw a five percent increase in visitors in 2011, after three years in a row in which about 8.5 million people had visited the museum, it said in a statement.
The museum said it enjoyed "a strong return of American visits and a more and more marked presence of visitors from emerging countries."
Visitors from abroad accounted for 66 percent of the museum's attendees, led by tourists from the United States, followed by Brazil, Italy, Australia and China.
Lost A Day
If you are reading this on Friday you cannot be in Samoa.
Friday, December 30, has been cut this year for the tiny South Pacific island nation as it ditched a time-zone alliance with the United States and moved its time zone 24 hours ahead to catch up with Asia, New Zealand and Australia.
On New Year's Eve, Samoa will have jumped to the west of the international dateline, which runs zig-zags through the Pacific Ocean and broadly follows the 180 degree line of longitude, in a move Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi said would make it easier for Samoa to trade with key partners.
Samoa, a country of about 180,000 people, used to be same time zone as New Zealand and Australia but went back a day in 1892, celebrating July 4 twice and aligning itself with the United States.
Joins Twitter, Offends Serfs
Rupert Murdoch (R-Evil Incarnate) opened a Twitter account over the New Year's holiday, and already had more than 50,000 followers as of midday today. (He's @rupertmurdoch
"Great oped in WSJ today on Ron Paul," read one of his first tweets on Saturday (Murdoch's News Corp. owns the Wall Street Journal). "Huge appeal of libertarian message."
Somewhere along the line, he apparently also tweeted, "Maybe Brits have too many holidays for broke country!" If you look at his feed, it's already gone. Another Twitter user, @Wendy_Deng (not a verified account, but Wendy Deng is the name of Murdoch's current wife), urged him to take it down, and tweeted that Murdoch was only joking.
Murdoch, now 80, has mostly kept his views to himself since the phone-hacking scandal that led to the closing of News Corp.'s London-based tabloid The News of the World, but News International - and Twitter chairman Jack Dorsey
Fluffing Mrs. Palin
GOP presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich (R-Philanderer) is sinking in the polls but nevertheless said he would consider former half-term Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R-Quitter) as a potential vice presidential running mate.
"I am a great admirer of hers and she was a remarkable reform governor of Alaska, she's somebody who I think brings a great deal to the possibility of helping in government and that would be one of the possibilities," the former House Speaker said in response to a question about Palin during a tele-town hall Wednesday.
He didn't stop there - Gingrich also suggested the 2008 GOP vice presidential candidate could be a good pick for "some very important cabinet positions."
"There are also some very important cabinet positions that she could fill very, very well," he said. "I can't imagine anybody who would do a better job of driving us to an energy solution than Gov. Palin, for example. Tell her that she would certainly be on the list of one of the people we would consider."
Whines About O'Really
After his 2006 midterm election loss in Pennsylvania, former Republican Sen. Rick Santorum took a job with the Fox News Channel as a contributor, appearing regularly on the network until he departed last year to run for president.
But even having spent over four years working at the Fox, Santorum said he has been unable to get invited to be on its show "The O'Reilly Factor," hosted by Bill O'Reilly. In an appearance on Mike Gallagher's radio show on Monday, Santorum sounded off about it.
"I've seen the media completely try to shape this race," Santorum said. "It's not just the liberal media. It's even Fox News. Bill O'Reilly has refused to put me on his program. As far as he was concerned, I wasn't a worthy enough candidate to earn a spot, sit across from him and be on his program."
"Here you have folks supposedly in the conservative media who are saying, 'You know - well, we're going to choose who we think is going to win,'" Santorum continued. "And then complain that the mainstream media does the same thing. Look, this is not just a few folks. This is a general attitude of the elite media in our country, both conservative and liberal, who think they know best and they're going to decide - based on [who] they think the candidate should be - who you should think the candidate's going to be. And Iowa is going to provide a surprise to that tomorrow."
Bonus Link - Rupert Murdoch urges Iowans to support Rick Santorum
2 From NY
No one making a religious pilgrimage to Catholic shrines in this scenic yet hardscrabble stretch of New York's Mohawk Valley is going to mistake it for Italy. Yet starting next year, the region can boast of being the home of two of the Roman Catholic Church's newest saints.
The Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, a Mohawk Indian, spent most of her life here during the 17th century. About 200 years later and 40 miles to the west, the Blessed Mother Marianne Cope began a religious life that focused on providing medical care in central New York and the Hawaiian islands.
On Dec. 20, Pope Benedict XVI certified miracles attributed to the two women, the final step toward sainthood. The women's canonization is expected to happen this year.
When they are elevated to sainthood, they'll be among just 12 of the Catholic Church's thousands of saints who either were born in America or ministered in what is now the United States.
Find Home On The Range
In a sign of America's growing girth, dude ranches and hunting camps in the Northern Rockies are adding heavyweight horses and super-large saddles to seat swelling numbers of outsized clients.
With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reporting that a third of U.S. adults and 17 percent of children are obese, Western wranglers and outfitters say they are doing all they can to accommodate the widening of waistlines and other anatomical areas.
"To put it bluntly, we call them the big-butt saddles," said Lee Hart, owner of Broken Hart Ranch in Montana. The business near Yellowstone National Park seasonally provides trail rides and guided hunting by horseback to nearly 2,000 people from across the country.
Hart and others said the 18-plus-inch saddles they now stock were all but nonexistent 30 years ago, when just 15 percent of American adults were considered obese. At that time, a 16.5-inch saddle would have been considered ample enough for a stout rider.
Guest ranches and outfitting operations also are bulking up on riding stock crossbred with draft horses -- weighing in at roughly 1,500 pounds -- to fit their super-sized customers.
Chicago Restaurant Closing
The Chicago Sun-Times reports that Charlie Trotter's will close in August after 25 years.
In an interview, the 52-year-old Trotter told the paper that he will travel around the world and that he will return to college to study philosophy and political theory.
Trotter says he's not closing the 120-seat restaurant for financial reasons, and says that once he completes his master's degree he will open another restaurant.
Charlie Trotter's has long been considered one of the finest restaurants in the United States, with Trotter having won the prestigious James Beard award ten times. Charlie Trotter's has also been a training ground for some of city's top chefs, including Grant Achatz, Graham Elliot and Mindy Segal.
Claims Top Rank Among US Studios
Paramount Pictures claimed top-dog status in Hollywood on Monday, saying its 16 releases grossed a record $5.17 billion around the world, more than any other American studio.
In a statement, the Viacom unit said that after releasing 16 films this year, it had placed first in North American market share with $1.96 billion, besides reaping a record $3.21 billion overseas.
Its biggest money-spinner was director Michael Bay's toy-inspired sci-fi action flick "Transformers: Dark of the Moon," the first Paramount release ever to gross more than $1 billion worldwide.
Other top earners included Marvel Studio's "Thor," which took in $181 million domestically, and Brad Bird's "Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol" starring Tom Cruise, the most-seen film over Christmas and New Year's.
Olympic fencer and movie sword master Bob Anderson appeared in some of film's most famous dueling scenes - though few viewers knew it.
Anderson, who has died at age 89, donned Darth Vader's black helmet and fought light saber battles in two of the three original "Star Wars" films, "The Empire Strikes Back" and "Return of the Jedi."
Anderson, who worked with actors from Errol Flynn to Antonio Banderas during five decades as a sword master, fight director and stunt performer, died early New Year's Day at an English hospital, the British Academy of Fencing said Monday.
Vader, "Star Wars'" intergalactic arch-villain, was voiced by James Earl Jones and played by six foot six (1.98 meter) former weightlifter David Prowse, but Anderson stepped in during the key fight scenes.
The scenes worked beautifully, although Anderson, then nearing 60, was several inches shorter than Prowse.
Few knew of Anderson's role until Mark Hamill, who played Luke Skywalker, said in a 1983 interview that "Bob Anderson was the man who actually did Vader's fighting."
"It was always supposed to be a secret, but I finally told (director) George (Lucas) I didn't think it was fair any more," Hamill told Starlog magazine. "Bob worked so bloody hard that he deserves some recognition. It's ridiculous to preserve the myth that it's all done by one man."
Robert James Gilbert Anderson was born in Hampshire, southern England, in 1922, and was drawn to fencing from an early age.
Anderson joined the Royal Marines before World War II, teaching fencing aboard warships and winning several combined services titles in the sport.
He served in the Mediterranean during the war, later trained as a fencing coach and represented Britain at the 1952 Olympics and the 1950 and 1953 world championships.
In the 1950s, Anderson became coach of Britain's national fencing team, a post he held until the late 1970s. He later served as technical director of the Canadian Fencing Association.
His first film work was staging fights and coaching Flynn on swashbuckler "The Master of Ballantrae" in 1952.
He went on to become one of the industry's most sought after stunt performers, fight choreographers and sword masters, working on movies including the James Bond adventures "From Russia With Love" and "Die Another Day"; fantasy "The Princess Bride"; Banderas action romps "The Mask of Zorro" and "The Legend of Zorro"; and the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy.
Anderson is survived by his wife Pearl and three children. Funeral details were not immediately available.