Author: winter b

Midday Matinee – People watching people

Midday Matinee is our people watching, people doing and people being feature. Join the Woodland Creatures for an afternoon break. Okay, I was the one doing the watching. 🙂 That’s the thing about being in a foreign country: you can’t help watching because while people are people everywhere, in some ways they’re different. Those differences are part of what make the experience so enjoyable. Germans, for example, generally have little patience for the handicapped. Which is not to say that none of them do, but I saw enough not to be surprised when a German friend said, “You aren’t considered handicapped unless you’re missing a leg.” I’ve seen that here, too, in the U.S. although it has improved somewhat. When my daughter was on crutches a decade ago, I actually watched people kick them as they passed, and shove her out of the way. In Paris, in stark contrast, if an elderly person boarded the bus, or someone with young children, seats were immediately vacated for them. People were quick to help my handicapped friend on and off the bus. I take back every damning word I ever spoke about Paris, all of which were based on what I was told by friends and family members who visited the cities decades ago. Today in Paris you find a lot of courtesy and kindness and patience, even for fractured attempts to speak...

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Furthermore! – I’m tired of this battle

Many of us have by now heard of the Minnesota Mom who has been fined $1.5 million for illegally sharing copyrighted music. Many think this is unjust and that we should have a right to rip and share as much as we want. I don’t quite agree. (More) Let me start with disclaimers so you know where I am coming from, and then I’ll explain why Jammie Thomas-Rasset and so many others are wrong and what’s at stake here. First: I think the penalty in this case was excessive. But…. Second: It’s not a fine. It’s a jury award. Yup, folks just like you and me have now three times said Thomas-Rasset broke the law. The first jury penalized her $200,000, but that verdict was reversed on technical grounds. The second jury set the penalty at $1.9 million. A judge thought that was too high and lowered it to $52,000. The Record Industry Association of America offered to settle the case for even less – $25,000 – but Thomas-Rasset decided to appeal, and was granted another trial. This time the jury said, “Okay, 1.5 million.” Yes, that’s excessive … because of a federal statute that authorizes damages as high as $150,000 per infringement. That amount makes sense for a professional CD or DVD piracy firm. It makes no sense for someone uploading 24 songs on a peer-to-peer system. Each...

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Midday Matinee – True Ghost Stories

Midday Matinee is our people watching, people doing and people being feature. Join the Woodland Creatures for an afternoon break. It’s Halloween. What better time for some true ghost stories? I’ve long had mixed feelings about the whole idea of ghosts. I probably would have dismissed the notion entirely except that I once lived in a haunted house, and that experience left me with an uncomfortable question or two. What was it and why would it happen? And then I had an experience in St. Augustine, Florida that opened the whole question again. When I was in high school I experienced what some ghost researchers call a residual haunting: something that happens repeatedly and follows the same pattern every time, like a recording playing again and again. Night after night, I would hear footsteps in the house, climbing the basement stairs, walking through the dining room and into the kitchen which was right next to my bedroom. Then it would stop. I finally told my mother about it, to explain why I wanted a light on at night, and she snapped, “You’re being dramatic. And don’t you dare mention it to the other kids. The last thing I need is four terrified children.” Well. Many years later she apologized for that reaction. It seems the “residual” haunt had grown over the years. All my siblings and my mother herself had experiences. The...

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Morning Feature: Digging deeper in the water

I’m taking a break with my morning caffeine today. I need to chill a bit from politics, so I’m going to look into something else. Champion open-water swimmer Francis Crippen died yesterday, and he shouldn’t have. To find out why, let’s dig deeper. (More) Francis (Fran) Crippen was well-known in his sport, and headed for the Olympics. He was the silver medalist in the 10k at the Pan Pacific championships in August, earned a bronze medal in the 10k at the 2009 world championships, was national champion in the 5k in 2009, and won a gold medal in the 10K at the 2007 Pan American Games. He was the kind of guy people respected. His coach Richard Shoulberg recalled how Crippen sacrificed his own time at this year’s Pan Pacific meet by turning around to help teammate Alex Myers, who had fallen behind and appeared to be in trouble. “He went back to help him until the Jet Ski with the first-aid guys got there,” Shoulberg said. “He just missed winning by a hand.” There are many stories about Crippen’s death, but as yet the facts are few and far between. We know that a number of swimmers were hospitalized after the race. We know that Crippen, an experienced open water competitor, was discovered dead about 400 meters from the finish of the 10K race, two hours after the race ended. Swimmers...

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Noontime News Roundup – October 22, 2010

Noontime News is a snapshot of our RSS feeds from the noon (Eastern time) hour. Polluter-Funded Groups Spending Almost $70 Million On Anti-Clean Energy Ads “Amid an unprecedented surge in mostly secret money into this year’s election campaign, a new report released yesterday by the Center for American Progress Action Fund details how 13 right-wing groups — including large secret money groups like American Crossroads, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and American Action Network — have spent more than $68.5 million this year on “misleading and fictitious televisions ads designed to shape midterm elections and advance their anti-clean energy reform agenda.” In addition to the anti-clean energy ads polluting our airwaves, an earlier CAPAF report outlined an astonishing $242 million in spending on lobbying by the 20 biggest oil, mining, and electric utility companies.” ∞ Everyone Is Violating FEC Rules! “It’s less than two weeks until election day, which means the time for levying complaints with the Federal Election Commission against political opponents is well underway.” ∞ U.S. officials, experts: No high-level Afghan peace talks under way “Despite news reports of high-level talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government, no significant peace negotiations are under way in Afghanistan, U.S. officials and Afghanistan experts said Thursday. “ ∞ GOP Candidate Hartzler Wants ‘Government To Leave Us Alone’ Yet Has Taken $774,325 In Federal Subsidies “Yesterday, GOP congressional candidate Vicky...

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