Marc Dion: Groundhog of Eden (Creators Syndicate)
As I have written before, groundhogs live in my yard.
Ted Rall: Corrupt Politicians Should Stop Whining About Being Criticized and Do Their Jobs (Creators Syndicate)
No. I refuse. I don't care what they say. No way, no how will I make excuses for America's lazy, morally bankrupt, ineffectual and cowardly politicians. Believe it or not, asking we the people to sympathize with our crappy legislators has lately become a Thing.
Mark Shields: Lies the Liar Tells (Creators Syndicate)
President Trump's trousers are combustible. Herodotus, the Greek historian, was right, as we are forced, 25 centuries later, to learn again: "Character is destiny."
Lenore Skenazy: Raising the Marriage Age (Creators Syndicate)
This commencement season, I'm profiling a few extraordinary students who graduated from New York City's Hunter College. Hunter began almost 150 years ago as a teaching college for women. It was already ahead of its time, admitting African American and Jewish students. (And it admits men now, too). Today's grads show us the young people now ahead of our own time, like Safia Mahjebin.
Susan Estrich: Joe Biden and Henry Hyde (Creators Syndicate)
I understand the argument that Joe Biden has the best chance against Donald Trump. But he will have no chance if he gives the president the opportunity to brand him with overnight conversions that are so plainly political. The problem with having a lot of experience is that you have a long record, of votes and of mistakes. Biden's past offers plenty of flash points. He will either own them, take responsibility, admit mistakes and build his own lemonade stand, or it will be clear that he does not in fact have the best chance against Trump. The primaries will make him or break him.
Susan Estrich: Losing Judy. Again (Creators Syndicate)
Judy Jarvis was my best friend for 19 years. She was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. If it matters, I never saw her smoke a cigarette; if it matters, her internist had failed to give her an annual chest X-ray. All that mattered to me, as I raced from Los Angeles to the hospital in Boston, was that my best friend was dying, and I was terrified. When I got there and introduced myself as her sister (close enough), the doctor was kindly, and scarily pessimistic. "We hope to get her home," he told me before I surprised her by walking into the room. "They hope to get you home," I said, almost as gravely as the doctor.
Froma Harrop: Tweets, Stock Prices and Donald Trump (Creators Syndicate)
President Donald Trump's tweets often set off big gyrations in stock prices. Anyone who knows of the tweets in advance could make a fortune, though not legally. Who knows of the tweets in advance? Trump knows, and there's growing speculation that he might be showing tweets in the making to select others in his inner circle. Such suspicions have been bubbling since Election Day 2016, when Trump started attacking specific corporations, causing their stock prices to tank. An investor can make money off a falling stock price as well as a rising one.
Federal Communications Commission: Watch out for Auto Warranty Scams (FCC)
If you own a vehicle and a phone, you may receive calls from scammers posing as representatives of a car dealer, manufacturer or insurer telling you that your auto warranty or insurance is about to expire. The call will include some sort of pitch for renewing your warranty or policy. During the call - which often begins automated or pre-recorded - you may be instructed to press a certain number or stay on the line, then asked to provide personal information, which potentially can be used to defraud you. What makes it particularly hard to discern if this type of call is fraudulent is that the scammer may have specific information about your particular car and warranty that they use to deceive you into thinking they are a legitimate caller.
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Michelle in AZ
• Opera singer Nellie Melba noticed a youth who stared at her and followed her around during a time she was singing Faust at Covent Garden. She finally asked him who he was, and he replied that his name was Landon Ronald and he had just been engaged as répétiteur at Covent Garden. (Répétiteurs play piano at rehearsals and coach singers.) She asked, "Are you any good? […] Do you know Manon?" (This opera was also being performed at Covent Garden.) He replied, "Yes," and she said to him, "Very well. Come to my hotel tomorrow at twelve o'clock, and I'll see what you are made of." He showed up, and he played the opening bars of Manon without any music in front of him. Ms. Melba said, "Not so fast. You have studied this. I haven't. I want the book." They went through the first act, and Ms. Melba said to Mr. Ronald, "You play beautifully, and you seem to have a wonderful memory. Have you studied Manon for long?" He replied, "No. I borrowed the score after the performance, and sat up learning it all last night. I had never seen it before." Of course, the young Mr. Ronald became a world-renowned conductor and composer. Ms. Melba said about this example of Mr. Ronald's work ethic, "And that is why Landon Ronald is Landon Ronald!" Of course, he did make mistakes when he was young. Everyone does. He once got in trouble while Giuseppe Campari was singing before a large audience. Mr. Ronald was unable to bring the orchestra and the singer together. Fortunately, Mr. Campanari good-naturedly said, "I think we'll begin again." This time, all went well. And once Mr. Ronald played the accompaniment for Ms. Melba in the wrong key and she said to him, "Landon, please try the other key. I'm not a contralto yet!" (He had played the music for a contralto the previous night, and absent-mindedly played in the same key for Ms. Melba.) Ms. Melba believed that in cases of a mistake it is better to acknowledge it than to try to keep it secret from the audience. She said about Mr. Ronald's wrong key and its correction, "I need hardly say that every audience adores a little scene like that!"
• Anton Seidl could be cutting in his wit. He once listened to a young woman sing, but the young woman lacked vocal talent. When she asked him for his advice, he replied, "I advise you to marry some rich old tradesman." She did. And when he wanted to conduct Richard Strauss' tone poem Thus Spake Zarathustra but the price for doing so was exorbitant, he said, "I know that Zarathustra spoke a great deal. But he didn't say that much." Mr. Seidl loved Wagnerian opera. When he was with the Neumann Company, he was scheduled to conduct Die Walkure in Italy. The King of Italy promised to attend, and the Italian custom was to stop the performance of the opera when the King, who apparently was always fashionably late, walked in. The orchestra would play the Marcia Reale (the Royal March) and then resume the opera. Mr. Seidl absolutely declined to do this, and for the performance that the King attended, the assistant conductor took over and observed the Italian custom. By the way, the German operatic tenor Max Alvary greatly respected Mr. Seidl's conducting. A lesser conductor once criticized Mr. Alvary because he had not started singing when the conductor had indicated that he should come in with his first beat. Mr. Alvary replied, "The first beat! I am an actor! I have no time to watch your beats! I was waiting for the big wall of sound to plunge into it with my voice-but the wave never came." Mr. Alvary told music critic Henry T. Finck, "When Mr. Seidl conducts, these waves of sound, be they large or small, never fail to rise."
• Conductor James Conlon was ready for his big break when it came. He was studying conducting at Julliard, and a famous conductor-Thomas Schippers-was supposed to conduct La Bohème there, but Mr. Schippers became ill and cancelled. Mr. Conlon rehearsed the orchestra while the school looked for another conductor. At the time, Maria Callas was giving master classes, and the president of Julliard asked Ms. Callas her opinion of Mr. Conlon. Mr. Conlon says, "Callas listened to me rehearse for about 15 minutes, walked out, and told him, 'There's your man; he's got a great future.'" And Mr. Conlon conducted the first of many successes.
• As is well known, Arturo Toscanini conducted from memory because of his poor eyesight. A musician once told conductor Karl Böhm that he had told Maestro Toscanini, "Of course, you know exactly how it goes, but you don't know each individual part by heart." Maestro Toscanini replied, "Give me a test." The musician said, "Write out for me, with the bar rests, the bassoon part from the fight scene in the second Act of Die Meistersinger." This was a remarkable test-but Maestro Toscanini passed it.
• When Antonin Dvorak created his New World Symphony, he marked the slow movement andante. However, Anton Seidl conducted the movement largoat a rehearsal. Hearing that, and liking it, Dvorak changed the tempo to largo. Music critic Henry T. Finck writes, "A greater compliment has never been paid to any interpreter."
• Sir Thomas Beecham was a feisty conductor. When he was old, he conducted the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Delius' "Brigg Fair," and he sang along with the orchestra. However, he heard the audience coughing, and he suddenly turned around and shouted, "Be quiet! I can't hear myself sing!"
• In Richard Strauss' Alpine Symphony, a passage of music portrays a storm. During a rehearsal conducted by Mr. Strauss, the first violinist dropped his bow. Mr. Strauss stopped the rehearsal, saying, "Gentlemen, may we pause briefly? Our leader has lost his umbrella."
• Conductor Jeffrey Tate and his companion Klaus Kuhlemann keep in their home a collection of very valuable early Meissen porcelain, each piece of which cannot be replaced because of its rarity. According to Mr. Kuhlemann, "Our cleaning lady is terrified."
• While dancing solos, the ballerina sets the tempo of the music. In opera and symphonic music, the conductor sets the tempo.
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Jeannie the Teed-Off Temp
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In The Chaos Household
With the advent of digital TV and sub-channels, I currently receive 148 channels over-the-air - you know, old-school, with an attached-to-the-TV-antenna.
One of my new favorites is NHK from Tokyo. They do a live news update at the top of the hour, 24-7.
They also have Grand Sumo, but more about some other time.
Most nights, I check into to NHK around 1am (pdt), so I was watching the night of the Gulf of Oman incident.
At the time, they were covering Shinzo Abe's adventures in Iran, also a live breaking story.
As Abe was speaking, a crawl, encased in hot red, started scrolling across the bottom of the screen, stating 'something' had just happened to a Japanese tanker and another ship in the Gulf of Oman.
There was no fear-mongering, no speculation, just simple statements of facts.
That's one of the reasons I've come to value these live news updates from Tokyo.
The news is stated in wonderfully precise, well-crafted English. No spin, no bullshit. Just the facts, ma'am.
After Abe finished speaking, they returned to the anchor, who then gave more details on the Oman incident, and they expanded coverage.
At the top of the next hour, they laid out what they knew, again, with no speculation.
The next night at 1am, they opened with the Japanese tanker company's president making a statement about his ship was hit with something that was sent by air, perhaps from UAE.
He flatly denied any torpedos or water-launched devices.
I've found the coverage quite enlightening, and contrary to the US media's fellating of the usual war mongers and other pissers-away-of (at least) 50% of our national budget.
Another thing I like about NHK's news updates is they spend the last couple of minutes on world weather.
Some mighty freaky weather all over the place. And since they believe in science, they are willing to point it out.
Oh, and there are no commercials.
They run a promo that says they have an app, but since I still use a flip-phone, don't pay it much attention. But if you'd like a different perspective, from a non-Euro-centric source, I highly recommend NHK.
Cancels Atlanta Show
Actress and comedian Tiffany Haddish has canceled her upcoming Atlanta performance because of Georgia's new restrictive abortion law.
The Girls Trip star sent a statement to ticketholders Saturday, saying she cannot "in good faith" perform in Georgia unless it withdraws the so-called heartbeat bill. Haddish had been scheduled to perform June 22 at the Fox Theatre.
The Hollywood Reporter obtained the original statement given by the actress: "After much deliberation, I am postponing my upcoming show in Atlanta. I love the state of Georgia, but I need to stand with women and until they withdraw Measure HB481, I cannot in good faith perform there."
The new law would ban abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can be as early as six weeks, before many women know they are pregnant. Unless it's blocked in court, it's set to go into effect in 2020. The ACLU has already said the group will mount a legal challenge.
Anita Hill has said she could see herself voting for Joe Biden, despite his past treatment of her, saying she considers him "perfectly capable of running for president".
Before announcing his presidential bid in April, Biden contacted Hill to express his "regret for what she endured" while testifying against US supreme court nominee Clarence Thomas in 1991, a hearing over which the former vice-president presided and where Hill was given little support as she alleged persistent sexual harassment from Thomas when they worked together. She later said she was not satisfied with Biden's comments and that she did not consider it a proper apology.
In an interview broadcast on Thursday evening, Hill, now a law professor, said she still holds Biden accountable, but has not ruled out voting for him if he were to become the Democratic nominee in next year's presidential election.
"I don't think it has disqualified him," she told NBC News. "He's perfectly capable of running for president. I think we will have to make our decisions about what we want our leaders to be doing in the future around these issues of gender violence."
When asked whether his behavior was comparable to that of Donald Trump, who has denied multiple accusations of sexual assault, she said: "Absolutely not. I never said that and never intended to say that." Adding: "I'm not actually sure that anything I've said has actually hurt Joe Biden's campaign. He still is leading in the polls."
Jersey Sells For record $5.64M
The Babe has topped his own record.
A Babe Ruth jersey, circa 1928-30, sold for a record $5.64 million at auction. The sale of the New York Yankees jersey bested the $4.4 million previously paid for one he wore in 1920, according to Hunt Auctions.
The jersey -- gray with YANKEES emblazoned across the chest -- was one of more than 400 pieces of Ruth memorabilia supplied by his family and some collectors for the auction, which was held Saturday at Yankee Stadium.
The seller of the jersey was anonymous, ABC News reported. The name of the buyer was not revealed.
Marvel Theme Park Expansion
With Galaxy's Edge a success, it's time for Disney to move forward on its next franchise-incorporating theme park project: a Marvel park.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Disney has begun work building the park, which will be at Disney's California Adventure park, in a location previously used for an area dedicated to the (frankly underrated) A Bug's Life. As the LA Times reports, Disney has secured permits for the construction to get underway, including allowances for a character meet-and-greet area, a store bigger than most houses, and a microbrewery, which I'm seriously hoping is Thor-branded.
Presently, the area where construction is happening is blocked by a large temporary wall, upon which is written "Stark Industries." Looks like Tony's getting into the theme park business.
Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner made as much as $135m (£107m) last year while working as aides to Donald Trump, financial disclosures released by the White House have revealed.
Ms Trump's stake in her family's Washington DC hotel made her $3.95m (£3.1m). Down the street from the Oval Office, it is currently at the centre of two federal lawsuits claiming Trump is violating the constitution's ban on foreign government payments to the president.
A personal business selling tariff-exempted handbags, shoes and accessories, generated at least $1m (£794,000) in revenue for Ms Trump in 2018.
Her husband Mr Kushner took in hundreds of thousands of dollars from his holdings of New York City apartments. He also owns a stake in the real estate investment firm Cadre worth at least $25m (£19.8m).
Cadre has also drawn conflict-of-interest questions. It launched a fund to take advantage of large tax breaks by investing in downtrodden areas. It has also received $90m (£71m) in foreign funding from an opaque offshore vehicle since Mr Kushner entered the White House.
The Cantina Of World Politics
Trump has been ramping up his "Deep State" rhetoric again. He's back to blaming a cabal of bureaucrats, FBI and CIA agents, Democrats and "enemies of the people" in the mainstream media for conspiring to remove him from office, in order to allow the denizens of foreign "shitholes" to overrun America.
But with each passing day it's becoming clearer that the real threat to America isn't Trump's Deep State. It's Trump's own Corrupt State.
Not since the sordid administration of Warren G Harding have as many grifters, crooks and cronies occupied high positions in Washington.
Trump has installed a Star Wars cantina of former lobbyists and con artists, including several whose exploits have already forced them to resign, such as Scott Pruitt, Ryan Zinke, Tom Price and Michael Flynn. Many others remain.
When he was in Congress, the current White House acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, pocketed tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from payday lenders, then proposed loosening regulations on them. Mulvaney was also acting head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, of all things.
One of Africa's largest wildlife preserves is marking a year without a single elephant found killed by poachers, which experts call an extraordinary development in an area larger than Switzerland where thousands of the animals have been slaughtered in recent years.
The apparent turnaround in Niassa reserve in a remote region of northern Mozambique comes after the introduction of a rapid intervention police force and more assertive patrolling and response by air, according to the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society, which manages the reserve with Mozambique's government and several other partners.
Monitoring of the vast reserve with aerial surveys and foot patrols remains incomplete and relies on sampling, however. And despite the sign of progress, it could take many years for Niassa's elephant population to rebuild to its former levels even if poaching is kept under control.
Aggressive poaching over the years had cut the number of Niassa's elephants from about 12,000 to little over 3,600 in 2016, according to an aerial survey. Anti-poaching strategies from 2015 to 2017 reduced the number killed but the conservation group called the rate still far too high.
Political will is a key reason for the success, Bampton said, with Mozambique's president keen to see poaching reduced.
Growing Weird Bone Spikes
The hours we spend scrolling through our smartphones appear to be changing our skulls. This may be the reason why some people - especially the younger crowd - are developing a weird, bony spike just above their necks.
The bony skull bump - known as an external occipital protuberance - is sometimes so large, you can feel it by pressing your fingers on the base of your skull.
"I have been a clinician for 20 years, and only in the last decade, increasingly, I have been discovering that my patients have this growth on the skull," David Shahar, a health scientist at the University of The Sunshine Coast, Australia, told the BBC in a fascinating feature about the changing human skeleton.
In a 2016 study in the Journal of Anatomy, Shahar and a colleague looked at the radiographs of 218 young patients, ages 18 to 30, to determine how many had these bumps. Regular spikes had to measure at least 0.2 inches (5 millimeters), and enlarged spikes measured 0.4 inches (10 mm).
In all, 41% of the group had an enlarged spike and 10% had an especially large spike measuring at least 0.7 inches (20 mm), the doctors found. In general, enlarged spikes were more common in males than in females. The largest spike belonged to a man, sticking out at 1.4 inches (35.7 mm).
Giant Cambrian Trilobite Species Unearthed
Trilobites are a group of extinct marine arthropods that resemble modern-day horseshoe crabs and are related to modern crustaceans and insects.
These creatures appeared in ancient oceans in the Early Cambrian period, about 540 million years ago, and disappeared in the mass extinction at the end of the Permian period, about 252 million years ago.
They were extremely diverse, with about 20,000 species, and their fossil exoskeletons can be found all around the world.
Dubbed Redlichia rex, the newly-discovered species is the largest Cambrian trilobite discovered in Australia.
Italian director Franco Zeffirelli, who delighted audiences around the world with his romantic vision and extravagant productions, most famously captured in his cinematic "Romeo and Juliet" and the miniseries "Jesus of Nazareth," died Saturday at 96.
While Zeffirelli was most popularly known for his films, his name was also inextricably linked to the theater and opera. He produced classics for the world's most famous opera houses, from Milan's venerable La Scala to the Metropolitan Opera in New York, and plays for London and Italian stages.
From his out-of-wedlock birth on the outskirts of Florence on Feb. 12, 1923, Zeffirelli rose to be one of Italy's most prolific directors, working with such opera greats as Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo and Maria Callas, as well as Hollywood stars including Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Mel Gibson, Cher and Judi Dench.
He was one of the few Italian directors close to the Vatican, and the church turned to Zeffirelli's theatrical touch for live telecasts of the 1978 papal installation and the 1983 Holy Year opening ceremonies in St. Peter's Basilica. Former Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi also tapped him to direct a few high-profile events.
But Zeffirelli was best known outside Italy for his colorful, softly-focused romantic films. His 1968 "Romeo and Juliet" brought Shakespeare's famous story to a new and appreciative generation, and his 1973 "Brother Sun, Sister Moon," told the life of St. Francis in parables.
"Romeo and Juliet" set box-office records in the United States, though it was made with two unknown actors, Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey. The film, which cost $1.5 million, grossed $52 million and became one of the most successful Shakespearian movies ever.
A year earlier, he directed Taylor and Burton in Shakespeare's "The Taming of the Shrew," leaving his distinctive mark on world cinema.
In the 1970s, Zeffirelli's focus shifted from the romantic to the spiritual. His 1977 made-for-television "Life of Jesus" became an instant classic with its portrayal of a Christ who seemed authentic and relevant. Shown around the world, the film earned more than $300 million.
Zeffirelli worked on a new staging of La Traviata as his last project, which will open the 2019 Opera Festival on June 21 at the Verona Arena.