Mark Shields: Stop Looking for a Democratic Donald Trump (Creators Syndicate)
Here is an incumbent president running for reelection at a time of historic American economic prosperity. The U.S. unemployment rate is the lowest in 50 years (since the nation's economy was fueled by the Vietnam War). The unemployment rate for Asian Americans just reached a new historic low. The unemployment rate for adult men and adult women is an identically low 3.3%. Average hourly wages have grown 3.1% over the last year. Yet, in spite of those politically positive numbers, Trump has never once - in any day of his presidency - been rated favorably by a majority of his fellow Americans.
Lenore Skenazy: Does Dodgeball Really Corrupt Kids? (Creators Syndicate)
Nonetheless, the idea that dodgeball plays some larger role in creating an cruel, undemocratic world dominated by gym class-empowered giants (with balls) seems to be part and parcel of the idea that every little thing kids do is somehow literal and every little blip is traumatic. That's how we get to a kindergartener suspended for bringing a princess "bubble gun" - it blows soap bubbles - to school, as if it were just the first step on the (very) slippery slope to depravity. It's how we get to zero tolerance for the kid who twirled a pencil, making another student uncomfortable. The kid had to undergo a five-hour psych evaluation.
Froma Harrop: Going Slow Turkey From Donald Trump (Creators Syndicate)
Trump is hypocritical, shameless and an international embarrassment? You don't say. Helping keep me cool are polls showing Joe Biden comfortably ahead in most primary races. Biden is the candidate not threatening private health insurance coverage for about 250 million Americans. And he doesn't want to decriminalize illegal border crossings. Nevertheless, as president he would be worlds more humane toward immigrants than the current White House occupant. Biden is the one standing strongest between Trump and a second term.
Froma Harrop: Drug Price Gouging: An American Story (Creators Syndicate)
To be American is a wonderful thing most of the time. There are moments, however, when it is downright humiliating. Can you imagine a more pitiful scene than a busload of Americans traveling 815 miles from Minneapolis to a Walmart in London, Ontario, Canada, to buy insulin at a 10th - a 10th! - of the price charged in the United States?
Dollar-wise, the difference is not modest. In the U.S., one vial of insulin costs around $300. In Canada, it's $30.
Connie Schultz: A Birthday Like No Other (Creators Syndicate)
For almost a year, I've thought about writing this column, in this week. In four days, I will turn 62, which was the age of my mother when she died. If you've lost a beloved parent too young, I doubt I need to describe for you my roiling mix of emotions. If you haven't, please forgive my envy.
Oliver Burkeman: Skipping a flight might not save the Arctic, but it means you care (The Guardian)
The environmentalist Derrick Jensen has written that when people ask why he bothers, he tells them: "Because I'm in love. With salmon, with trees outside my window, with baby lampreys living in sandy stream bottoms And if you love, you act to defend your beloved. Of course results matter to you, but they don't determine whether or not you make the effort." You make the effort anyway.
Lily Allen: 'The book I wish I'd written? Harry Potter, for obvious reasons' (The Guardian)
The singer and memoirist on the appeal of Enid Blyton, Russell Brand, and why George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four is overrated.
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Comic singer Anna Russell once worked in a pantomime at the Ashton Circus in Australia, which is as famous there as the Ringling Brothers Circus is here. Most of the pantomime performers stayed in hotels, but Ms. Russell decided that she wanted to experience the circus life, so she rented a trailer and stayed with the circus performers. At the end of the season, she was presented with a medal that had her name on one side and the Ashton crest on the other. According to the ancient tradition of the circus, she could get a job - even if it is nothing more than washing the elephants - at any circus in the world simply by showing the circus her medal.
British ballet was born in the early 1930s. Not surprisingly, it didn't pay very well. While dancing for Marie Rambert's company, Alicia Markova was told that she and the other dancers would be paid 6s 6d per performance, but Ms. Markova protested that this would just pay for the ballet shoes she would use in the performance. (Principal ballet dancers wear out one - or two - pairs of shoes per performance.) In addition, she would have to pay 4s for a taxi to get home after the performance. After her protest, Ms. Markova was paid 10s 6d per performance.
Everyone believes that ballerinas lead a glamorous life, but it is hard work - and often low paying. Illaria Obidenna Ladrι danced in the Diaghilev Ballet, where she was paid very little. She, like the other dancers, learned to brush her teeth when she was hungry but had no food to eat. By the way, Mr. Diaghilev, who was not supported by tax money, also suffered for his art. When he died, he had holes in his shoes and $6 in his pocket. (Many people are against the use of tax money to support the arts, but taxes are the price of civilization.)
While working as a reporter at the Pressin Huntington, Indiana, H. Allen Smith worked alongside a 12-year-old kid whose father, a local politician, owned part of the newspaper and wanted his son to learn to be a reporter. (People started working earlier back then.) One day, an explosion occurred and the kid was sent out to cover the big story because he was the only person available. His story read: "Three men were killed in a dynamite explosion today in the new sewer. An explosion is about the worst thing that can happen to a man."
The night before the premiere of Don Giovanni, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was having a good time at a party when the conductor rushed in looking for him. "Where is the overture?" the conductor asked, anxious because so little time was left for rehearsing it. "Don't worry," Mozart said. "It's all up here, in my head." During the rest of the night, Mozart wrote out the overture and in the morning he gave it to the copyists. (Even so, the overture arrived at the theater only a half-hour before opening, and there was no time to rehearse it.)
Richard Strauss was once shocked to hear that a former pupil had asked for a year's leave from an orchestra in order to compose. According to Strauss, the pupil already had plenty of time to compose. Strauss reasoned that each day has 24 hours; therefore, once you take away 8 hours for sleeping, and 12 hours for working, you still have 4 hours for composing.
Alexander Borodin (1833-1887) was a Russian scientist who found the time to compose. Because of his work, he composed slowly, taking five years to write his first symphony. In addition, he worked on his opera Prince Igor for 18 years - and still had not finished it at his death. Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov worked with his pupil Alexander Glazunov to complete the opera and premiere it in St. Petersburg in 1890.
No one ever thinks of ballerinas collecting unemployment insurance, but they do. During the off-season, when all the ballet dancers were laid off, ballerina Alice Patelson used to go downtown to the unemployment insurance office on 90th Street and Broadway, where she would see other dancers with the New York City Ballet.
One of Ludwig van Beethoven's students, Carl Czerny, reports that the composer did not keep regular hours. He worked whenever he wished, which was usually all the time. According to Czerny, "He would often get up at midnight, startling his neighbors with loud chords, thumping, singing, etc. His singing voice was absolutely horrible." Of course, genius requires hard work. Carl Czerny, reports that Beethoven's fingers were powerful but not long. Because Beethoven had played the piano so much, the tips of his fingers were flattened.
Ludwig van Beethoven's creation of the Missa Solemnis caused him to lose two servants. According to his secretary Anton Schindler, Beethoven stayed behind closed doors, "singing, howling, and stamping his foot" in an attempt to get the "Credo" fugue right. Two maids were so frightened that they quit.
Josef Haydn wrote The Creation and sent it to London to be copied. Unfortunately, the manuscript arrived late, so that the copyists had to work long hours to copy it, finishing the work in six days. The chief copyist remarked, "This is not the first time that The Creation was completed in six days."
A man once applied for a job and submitted a resume that had three preachers listed as references. The prospective employer looked at the references, then told the job hunter, "Around here we don't work on Sunday. Do you have any references from people who see you on weekdays?"
Giacomo Puccini enjoyed hunting pheasant. While living in the country so he could work on composing a new opera, he used to hire someone to go to his composing room and play the music he had written so that his wife would think that he was working on the opera when he was really out hunting.
Ballet is glamorous, but it is also hard work. Ballerina Cynthia Gregory always used two pairs of pointe shoes to dance the lead in Swan Lake. After the second act, the first pair would be soaked with perspiration and too soft to use anymore.
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Jeannie the Teed-Off Temp
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In The Chaos Household
The defective rooster spent the night practicing, again.
Tests Conan's Comic Book Cred
Conan O'Brien is a comic, but how well does he know comic books?
The late-night host's nerd cred was put to the test Friday at San Diego Comic-Con by none other than sci-fi superstar Mark Hamill.
After a roaring standing ovation, the "Star Wars" legend - who was in San Diego promoting his new Netflix series "The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance" - took a seat to administer the "Comic-Con Citizenship Test" to Conan. In light of all the political discourse around citizenship, the test was designed to determine if Conan really belonged in San Diego.
"I know everything about Comic-Con," Conan, who has hosted his show from the convention the last five years, boasted.
After a softball opener about "Avengers: Endgame," the citizenship test questions got tougher and more obscure.
Son's Court Battle
It's a court battle that has raged for several months, but it looks like Damien Hurley, son of actress and model Liz, will finally inherit some of the money due to him as Steve Bing's son.
The decision was handed down in an LA court this week, with the judge calling the opposing side's arguments "unreasonable".
So what has been all the fuss about? it's the kind of story the tabloids couldn't make up. US billionaire businessman Dr Peter Bing has refused to recognise two of his grandchildren - Damien Hurley and his half-sister Kira Kerkorian - due to them being born "out of wedlock".
The inheritance battle started when sportswoman Kira tried to access some information on the Bing family trust, which she believed she qualified for.
When Dr Peter Bing set up the family trust in 1980 the wording stipulated that any grandchild must be "raised by my children as part of their families" and that his trust "would not benefit any person bought out of wedlock unless that person had lived for a substantial period of time as a regular member of the household" said the Mirror.
Internet boyfriend Keanu Reeves is up to it again - and by it, we clearly mean being so sweet and downright adorable that it's impossible not to swoon. His latest crush-worthy behavior? While on the way to the Bill and Ted Face the Music set, Reeves surprised a fan by leaving a note on their yard sign. And that's not all the thoughtful actor gave the unsuspecting Louisiana fan.
On Thursday, Bill and Ted Face the Music writer Ed Solomon took to Twitter to reveal an excellent adventure he recently shared with Reeves. The two were apparently on their way to set when they happened upon a yard sign that read "You're breathtaking." The sign served as a subtle shout-out to Reeves, who had the exact same thing shouted at him by a crowd member (YouTuber Peter Sark) during an E3 video game conference in June. Reeves' very Reeves-y response, of course, was to tell the crowd, "You're breathtaking. You're all breathtaking."
Fast forward to Solomon and Reeves' carpool to set. "So yesterday this sign was out on a lawn on the way to set. Keanu jumped out of the car and did this," Solomon captioned his post, alluding to Reeves autographing the sign and leaving a sweet and oh-so-apropos note: "You're breathtaking!"
Thanks to the power of social media, the internet also got to hear the real happy ending of this hero's tale when the family who made the sign shared photos of Reeves' posing with them. "Wow! Yesterday was a dream come true! We knew @KeanuReevess_ was filming up the street so my son said we need to make a sign that says 'you're breathtaking' so we did!" the homeowner wrote, continuing, "A few cars stopped but then a car stopped and there he was!! He actually stopped! Oh my heavens!"
By now, Reeves' "Keanussance" is in full swing, thanks largely to little gestures like this. The 54-year-old actor's kindness has taken on a sort of folkloric quality, with fans and even fellow cast members sharing stories of the nicest things Reeves has done. From buying ice cream for the sole purpose of signing a receipt for the cashier to giving stranded plane passengers an impromptu tour of Bakersfield, California, this guy obviously has a heart of gold.
Stripped Of Title
Miss Michigan Kathy Zhu has been stripped of her title after several insensitive and racist tweets surfaced. The 20-year-old received an email Friday from the pageant removing her from her position.
"It has been brought to the attention of Miss World America 'MWA' that you social media accounts contain offensive, insensitive and inappropriate content," the letter said.
It also said that Zhu no longer meets the requirement of "being in good character." "Therefore, and effective immediately, MWA does not recognize you as a participant of any sort or in any capacity as it relates to any and all events of MWA," it concluded.
The social media posts were targeted at Muslim women and gun violence in the black community.
Zhu is a University of Michigan student, majoring in political science. She is an avid Donald Trump supporter on social media and the vice president of the College Republicans group at her school.
Rise Linked to Election
The United States 2016 election, when President Don-Old Trump (R-Pendejo) was voted into office, may have been tied to a rise in premature births among Latina women across the US, according to a new study.
In the nine months beginning with November 2016, about 3.2% to 3.6% more preterm births to Latina women occurred above the levels of preterm births that would have been expected had the election not occurred, suggests the study, published in the medical journal JAMA Network Open on Friday.
Birth outcomes have long been used in medical research as indicators of acute stress among populations of women, and preterm birth in particular is linked with maternal stress, the researchers noted in their study.
"Because mothers and children are particularly vulnerable to psychosocial stress, our findings suggest that political campaigns, rhetoric and policies can contribute to increased levels of preterm birth," said Alison Gemmill, an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore and first author of the study.
The study involved analyzing monthly data on preterm births in the United States from January 2009 through July 2017. The data, which included 32.9 million live births total, came from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's WONDER online database.
Snowmelt Pushes Water Level
Lake Tahoe is the fullest it's been in nearly two decades.
Officials say the alpine lake on the California-Nevada line is approaching the legal limit after snowmelt from a stormy winter left enough water to potentially last through three summers of drought.
For three weeks, Tahoe has been within an inch (25 millimeters) of its maximum allowed surface elevation of 6,229.1 feet (1,898 meters) above sea level. It crept to within a half-inch (13 millimeters) earlier this week.
Chad Blanchard, a federal water master in Reno responsible for managing the water, told the Reno Gazette Journal it's the longest he's seen the lake stay that high for so long.
"This is a rare year," he said. "I've been doing this for 26 years, and we've had big (snow) years, but this one is unique as far as being up within an inch of being full and it's just hanging there ... It's a product of still having so much snow up there."
115,000-Year-Old Engraved Bones Found
Archaeologists digging at an early hominin site in China have discovered two engraved bone fragments that date back nearly 115,000 years.
The two weathered bone fragments were found at the site of Lingjing in Xuchang county of China's Henan province.
The specimens were examined by Dr. Francesco d'Errico from the Universities of Bordeaux and Bergen and his colleagues from China and France.
The researchers found that the bones are rib fragments from adult, large-sized mammals.
According to the team, the bone fragments were likely engraved symbolically by Denisovans, a mysterious close cousin of Neanderthals.
Squirts Glowing Clouds
American Pocket Shark
A pocket-sized pocket shark found in the Gulf of Mexico has turned out to be a new species.
And the mysterious pouches that it's named for, up near its front fins? Scientists say they squirt little glowing clouds into the ocean.
Researchers from around the Gulf and in New York have named the species the American pocket shark, or Mollisquama (mah-lihs-KWAH-muh) mississippiensis (MISS-ih-sip-ee-EHN-sis).
It's only the third out of more than 500 known shark species that may squirt luminous liquid, said R. Dean Grubbs, a Florida State University scientist who was not involved in the research. He said the other two are the previously known pocket shark and the taillight shark , which has a similar gland near its tail.
Like the only other pocket shark known to science - a 16-inch (400-millimeter) adult female found in the Pacific Ocean off Peru - this 5.6-inch (142-millimeter) newborn male fished out of the Gulf has a pouch next to each front fin. But with this one, scientists figured out what they're for.
American Pocket Shark
Why They Are Stupid
Moon Conspiracy Theories
When humans first walked on the moon 50 years ago, they left footprints, a flag and for some, a trail of doubt. While most Earthlings celebrated humanity's great feat, a handful of holdouts just raised their eyebrows and whipped up some bizarre theories. The most famous of these conspiracy theories is that the moon landings were not real, but were staged by NASA.
About 5% of Americans think the moon landings were completely staged (they were not). These people cite various reasons for this belief, as Space.com previously reported. Why are there no stars in the photos of the moonwalkers? Why is the U.S. flag fluttering? Why are there footprints but no prints from the lunar modules from the landers?
There aren't any stars in the photo because daylight on the surface washes them out, just like it does on our planet. The U.S. flag is fluttering because it has a metal rod sewn into it to give it the appearance of moving in the "wind." And there are footprints but no impressions from the modules because the weight of the lunar modules was more evenly distributed than the astronauts' weight was in their boots.
The moon is not real, but an alien space station that is used to monitor our planet, according to another conspiracy theory. This came from a website written by a person named Scott C. Waring, who claimed to have found two photos in the NASA Image Atlas in 2013 that have since been deleted.
This same self-proclaimed UFO researcher also claimed that there was an "alien city" on the "dark" side of the moon. He came to this conclusion after analyzing a photo of the Giordano Bruno crater - a 14-mile-wide (22 kilometer) crater that lies on the far side of the moon. There, he said, he found destroyed or damaged "structures" that could be a hundred million years old. Some of them had reflective roofs and some looked like ships, he explained in a Youtube Video.
Moon Conspiracy Theories