Good morning Conflucians! You know it’s a slow news day when the top story on all the popular news sites is a about a six-year old boy who may or may not have helped his family fake a crisis in order to get on TV. The New York Times even had this story linked on its front page! Supposedly, the boy, Falcon Heene of Fort Collins, CO., had been carried off by a helium balloon, and there was a frantic search until the boy was found hiding in the attic of his parents’ house in fear of punishment. According to the NYT The Lede blog,
But on Thursday evening, after Falcon and his family appeared on CNN, the blogosphere was skeptical. The Internet — from social networking forums to comments on news media Web sites — came alive with suggestions that the balloon incident might have been staged.
Here is a clip from the family’s interview with Wolf Blitzer, filling in for Larry King last night:
The suspicions began after the family was interviewed on the CNN program “Larry King Live,” which was being hosted by Wolf Blitzer.
As law enforcement personnel searched frantically for the boy, Falcon Heene said he had heard people in the house calling his name, calling for him to come out. When asked on camera by his father, Richard Heene, why he hadn’t responded, the boy said, “You guys said we did this for the show.”
Richard Heene looked uncomfortable upon hearing the comment, but later in the program said he was “appalled” at any suggestion that the incident had been staged.
I can testify from personal experience that six-year-old boys are not very good at keeping secrets. We’ll have to wait and see how this thing plays out, I guess.
The New York Daily News has more lurid details on the “balloon boy” story:
The kind that chases storms for fun, volunteers for “Wife Swap,” and brags that their kids have no fear.
Amateur scientist Richard Heene and wife, Mayumi, were bucking convention long before the youngest of their three sons untethered a silver balloon and sparked panic across Colorado.
The 48-year-old dad has no formal science training but is obsessed with extreme weather and extraterrestrials and fantasizes about meeting “real aliens from outer space” on his MySpace page.
There is even more weird stuff about this family at the Denver Post
We didn’t know the Heenes were weather chasers (who slept in their clothes to be at the ready) or extraterrestrial chasers or, for that matter, ABC reality-TV chasers.
Or that ABC would describe the family for its “Wife Swap” audience this way: “Richard calls Mayumi his ‘ninja wife’; she maintains equipment, drives the storm-mobile, films tornadoes and waits with the kids while Richard . . . heads into the eye of the storm and launches rockets to measure magnetic forces. At home the family are as chaotic as a twister: The kids have no table manners and throw themselves around the house, and while Richard devotes every moment to his research, he expects Mayumi to cook, clean and run the house without any help.”
And here’s the LATEST BREATHLESS UPDATE: the balloon boy threw up twice in two different TV appearances! You’ll have to google it, because I’m afraid to link to AP stories.
In other child-rearing news, a six-month-old baby survived after falling onto subway tracks in Austrialia. You can watch the security camera video at the at the Guardian UK.
The CCTV footage shows a baby’s pram rolling off a train platform as the mother makes a desperate lunge to save her son, but she is too late and it tumbles on to the rails in front of an incoming train.
This heart-stopping scene happened yesterday at Ashburton station in Melbourne, Australia. But the story has a happy ending: the six-month-old baby survived with just a cut on his forehead, although the pram was dragged about 35 metres by the braking train.
Paramedic Jon Wright said the boy just “needed a feed and a nap”.
“Luckily, he was strapped into his pram at the time, which probably saved his life. I think the child’s extremely lucky,” Wright told the Herald Sun newspaper after the baby was taken to hospital with only minor injuries.
That will be quite a story to tell this lucky little boy when he gets a little older!
If you have kids to entertain this weekend, it sounds like the new movie based on Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are might be good for some safe thrills.
President Obama visited Dakinikat’s home base: New Orleans’ Ninth Ward. At Obama’s town hall the audience booed Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, and the President defended him. Personally I can’t wait for Dakinikat’s in-person account of events. I sure hope she was able to get into the town hall meeting!
Reuters reports from New Orleans that Obama “fired back at critics” who say he hasn’t accomplished anything. Shades of George W., Obama announced that change is hard and big change is harder. Aww….poor baby. But hey, you wanted the job. Maybe you should get to work and do it.
Meanwhile, a new Fox News Poll shows that only 43% of Americans would vote for President Obama if he were running today. And…surprise, surprise: Hillary Clinton is now more popular with Americans than Barack Obama.
A recent Gallup poll shows that President Obama’s favorable rating has dropped by 22 percent since he first took office in January—down from 78 percent to 56 percent. This is the lowest Obama’s favorable rating has been during his presidency.
Over the same period of time, Clinton’s popularity has dropped by only two percentage points—from 65 percent to 62 percent.
In other New Orleans news, Keith Bardwell, a justice of the peace in Tangipahoa Parish is in hot water for refusing to marry an interracial couple. This is the 21st Century, isn’t it?
However, Bardwell told Hammond’s Daily Star newspaper that he was concerned for the children who might be born of the relationship and that, in his experience, most interracial marriages don’t last.
“I’m not a racist,” Bardwell told the newspaper. “I do ceremonies for black couples right here in my house. My main concern is for the children.”
Bardwell, stressing that he couldn’t personally endorse the marriage, said his wife referred the couple to another justice of the peace.
Naaaah! He’s no racist. BTW, has anyone told Bardwell that the child of an interracial couple is President of United States?
But the decision facing New Jersey voters is startlingly bleak, the poll found. They do not like Mr. Corzine, think he has done a poor job and have little faith that he will revive the state’s ailing economy or gain control of soaring property taxes, the two issues they say they care about the most.
But the electorate is just as skeptical of Mr. Christie, who has been hit with a blizzard of Mr. Corzine’s attack ads but has failed to get across a positive message. Most voters think he has not explained his positions, and among those who offer an opinion of him, twice as many dislike him as like him. That suggests that Mr. Corzine’s TV ad campaign is working; he has spent more than $10 million, much of it on ads attacking Mr. Christie.
With the two campaigns slinging mud but inspiring scant hope, and an independent candidate, Christopher J. Daggett, seen as having little chance of victory, New Jerseyans are more supportive of the devil they know than the devil they don’t, according to the poll, taken Friday through Wednesday.
The Republicans are nervous about the upcoming release of a series of Bush administration memoirs. Henry Paulson, Laura Bush, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld will all be releasing books soon.
Today, President Obama will be in Houston “promoting community service” with George H. W. Bush.
The first President Bush (“Forty-one” to his admirers), for whom the school of government is named, bears responsibility for inviting his less-conservative successor to the campus. On Friday afternoon, Mr. Obama is to join Mr. Bush before an invitation-only audience of 2,500 at Rudder Auditorium to commemorate the 20th anniversary of ”Points of Light,” the presidential call to volunteer service.
“Surely everyone, almost everyone, anyhow, will take pride in a visit by a sitting president,” said George C. Edwards III, a distinguished professor of political science at the university.
For his part, Mr. Bush has been taking no chances. After a summer of contentious nationwide protests culminating in an outburst during a Congressional address, Mr. Bush issued a call for decorum on the front page of the student newspaper this week.
Health Care Reform
Politico characterizes Obama’s sucking up to the health insurance lobbyists as “unlikely.”
Oh really? How come Conflucians weren’t surprised then? Morons.
At Huffpo: Who should pay for health insurance reform?
I won’t be holding my breath for the results of that story.
Robert Parry on The Politics of the Public Option
The public option offers the only means for a reform to be quickly implemented and to demonstrate a beneficial effect for the people by 2010 and 2012. It has the potential for reducing costs, especially for small businesses and individuals who are now being soaked by private insurers or denied coverage.
After assessing the five pieces of legislation that have cleared different committees of Congress, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office found that the nation would get the most savings on health-care costs from a public option tied to Medicare rates. Such a version, which is included in two of the House bills, would save an estimated $110 billion over 10 years.
A more modest public option in another House bill, which de-links the rates from Medicare and would require negotiations with health-care providers, would save an estimated $25 billion, the CBO says. By contrast, the co-op idea in Sen. Max Baucus’s Finance Committee bill would cost $6 billion to set up and would garner few if any savings.
Since the co-op would offer minimal competition, the health-insurance industry doesn’t object to it but is dead set against the public option. The reason is obvious: many of those projected savings would come out of the industry’s bottom line.
So what else is new? Another fox watching another henhouse….
At Naked Capitalism, Yves Smith: MSM Reporting as Propaganda
The press has been on a downslope for at least a decade, as a result of strained budgets and vastly more effective government and business spin control (and it was already pretty good at that, see the BBC series, The Century of the Self, via Google video, for a real eye-opener). I met a reporter who had been overseas for six years, opening an important foreign office for the Wall Street Journal. He was stunned when he came back in 1999 to see how much reporting had changed in his absence. He said it was impossible to get to the bottom of most stories in a normal news cycle because companies had become very sophisticated in controlling their message and access.
I couldn’t tell immediately, but one of my friends remarked in 2000 that the reporting was increasingly reminiscent of what she had grown up with in communist Poland. The state of the US media became evident to me when I lived in Australia during the run-up and the first two years of the Gulf War. I would regularly e-mail people in the States about stories I thought were important and I suspected might not be getting much play in the US. My correspondents were media junkies. 85% of the time, a story that had gotten widespread coverage in Australia appeared not to have been released in the US. And the other 15%, it didn’t get much attention (for instance, buried in the middle of the first section of the New York Times). And remember, Australia was an ally and sent troops to the Iraq.
It’s an excellent post!
Google revealed its intention to launch an online bookstore dubbed Google Editions sometime in early 2010. Google plans to open for business with about 500,000 available titles from a variety of publishers. The new service will provide ebooks in a browser-centric, eReader-agnostic manner that will muddy the eReader water even more than it is today….
This is a whole new offering from Google that will create an online bookstore to go head-to-head with Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble’s online presence. Preliminary details on Google Editions suggest that Google plans to share the revenue from online book sales with the publishers. Books sold directly through Google Editions would pay out 63 percent to the publisher, with Google keeping the other 37 percent.
I guess I’ll continue holding off on buying a Kindle.
“We have discovered an arc-shaped ribbon of high-pressure material that looks to be piled-up material from the Sun,” says team member Herbert Funsten. “The IBEX maps and the discovery of the ribbon are completely different from what we thought it should look like. We were expecting tie-dye and instead found noodle soup.”
Brain speed reads using just one part
Broca’s area involved in both reading and speaking words
…patients with epilepsy are giving researchers split-second insight into language processing in Broca’s area. Three people with epilepsy had a rare surgery to implant electrodes in their brains. The surgery allows doctors to pinpoint the source of seizures and treat the condition while sparing parts of the brain that control language, vision and other important processes. The patients gave permission for Ned Sahin of the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and his colleagues to measure activity in their brains during pre-surgery tests.
Those measurements showed that Broca’s area is able to do more than scientists had thought, including executing all steps from reading to speaking. The area recognizes words within 200 milliseconds of a person seeing them. Then it takes only another 120 milliseconds to mentally change the tense of a verb or make a noun singular or plural. By 450 milliseconds after first seeing a word, the brain is ready to silently articulate it.
(Hope you don’t mind my including a little bit of language research–it’s my main area of interest in psych.)
Some were pets whose bodies and appetites apparently got too big for their owners to support. Most are probably descendants of released pets. Today, thousands of really big non-native snakes — we’re talking boa constrictors, anacondas and pythons — slither wild in southern Florida. And there’s nothing holding them in the Sunshine State. Which is why a report that was released today contends they pose moderate to high ecological threats to states on three U.S. coasts.
Indeed, the homelands of these snakes share climatic features with large portions of the United States — territory currently inhabited by some 120 million Americans. Based on comparisons of the temperatures, rainfall and land cover found in the snakes’ native range, it’s possible that these slithering behemoths could stake claims to territory as far north as coastal Delaware and Oregon. Or so Gordon Rodda and Robert Reed of the U.S. Geological Survey observe in a 300-page assessment. As North America’s climate warms, the two predict, these invaders might even expand that range — by the end of this century becoming permanent residents of the Midwest.
Northeast Passage through the Arctic slashes time and money for mariners and could be a boom for Russia. But it raises concerns about ice loss induced by global warming.
Podcast of the day: Explaining Science with Substance and Style
Interview with Randy Olson, author of Don’t Be Such a Scientist: Talking Substance in an Age of Style I found it really interesting.
HAVE A FABULOUS FRIDAY!!!!!!
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Filed under: Afghanistan, Barack Obama, Economy, Politics | Tagged: ballon boy, Barack Obama, Falcon Heene, George H. W. Bush, George W. Bush, Health Care Reform, Keith Bardwell, Morning News Links, New Orleans, Science news |