Monday, 22 October 2007

The Multi-Tiered Tower of Insecurity

I don't think that the profession of journalism works like a corporate ladder. It's more like a series of platforms with no stairs leading up to them, requiring a person to pull and clambor his or her way up. When a person finally struggles his or her way up, he or she feels a sense of accomplishment--that is, until he or she discovers the next platform up.

From an early age people told me that I was a "good writer." One doesn't realize how relative the word "good" is until her work is being railed upon by the instructor in the middle of her grad-level reporting class. In that context, good has no meaning and one is left to feel like all he or she is good for is sitting on the top of a rubbish heap, between brown banana peels and used condoms. Yeesh.

In print journalism there are rarely any superstars. Even if you are successful in your career by industry standards, the most fame you will receive will be when you write your tell-all book at the end. After that, you might be asked to speak at industry events or universities, but only then will you actually be recognized for all of the hard work you put forth.

As writers, most of us don't do it for the fame. We are content with our little byline and are happy to get whatever money we need to survive. We do it for its purpose in our lives and some of us do it for its more humanitarian purpose. Some of us do it for the excitement and the constant intake of knowledge, but little glory comes with our guts.

Sometimes I wonder, as I hurtle toward this uncertain future, if I am doing the right thing. I once attended a lecture by Ridley Pearson, a famous U.S. crime novel writer. He said that the difference between a writer and a non-writer is that a writer can't not write. I can't stop writing, no matter what I do, and little makes me happier. It's funny, I always thought that I needed to choose something to do with my life, but my profession chose me in a way. Sometimes I wish I'd been chosen by a more lucrative skill, but I suppose we can't all be millionaires.

The future of journalism is changing, however, and I am excited to be on the cusp of this technology boom. I feel kind of like a surfer, poised and ready to roll with the waves and catch the next one as the tide tumbles in. And, of course, when duty calls for it, I'm ready to dive in the salty fray, head first.

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Rising Questions

As a journalist, I become instantly critical when faced with controversial news. I study it from all angles and resist sensationalist propoganda in favor of as much research and logic as I can gather. That being said, I'm afraid that I've become increasingly concerned about the issue of 9-11 and the neoconservative agenda.

I'll admit, I never was in favor of President Bush. There were many reasons I felt the guy was incapable of being a good leader, most of all his low intellect and his track record in Texas. I felt, as I always feel, a good leader should be selected irrespective of political party, but this guy reeked of extremism in politics and policy. Still, the Florida incident helped him to win the presidency, and there we were.

What happened on 9-11? After watching several different deconstructive 9-11 videos, reading expert research and watching several videos, I am left with an unsettled feeling. The movie, "Zeitgeist",
although sensational in it's presentation, provides a logical connection between historical facts and the Bush agenda.

My biggest question, as has been a big question posed by celebrity, Rosie O'Donnell, is: How did the steel towers collapse? Jim King, an MIT engineer explains scientifically how the towers could not have collapsed based on burning jet fuel alone.

More videos show eyewitnesses hearing several explosions and show both buildings pulverized to dust. Does a mere fire do that? One really strange eyewitness gives testimony just minutes after the attack. How could he know what he knew and how could he be so calm about it?

Also, listen to the phone call by a supposed stewardess on Flight 11, Betty Ong. Does she seem abnormally calm to you? Also, the government says that her body was found at ground zero after the crash. Uh, okay, an entire building pulverized into dust by jet fuel, yet a single intact body of a stewardess from the vaporized plane remained?

Speaking of "vaporized" planes, there was no sight of any plane hitting the Pentagon, nor one at the crash site of flight 93. No bodies, no smoke, no smoldering wreckage, just pieces of metal remained and a crater that could have been anything. Of course, no one noticed it at the time, we were all too freaked out about what had happened in New York. In all the chaos, someone must have figured out that we'd never realize that this seemed abnormal.

If a plane did hit the Pentagon, why haven't government officials released the video that would confirm what happened? Why was each crash site immediately scrubbed clean so that scientists could not forensically re-create the incidents as is usual procedure?

Logically, nothing the government has done makes sense. The fact that the initial investigative report says that finding out who funded the attacks is of little importance is insane. Little importance? Isn't that the root of the issue? And honestly, do we think that one person is responsible for funding such an elaborate attack with no government support whatsoever?

Even if somehow one person could afford such a scheme, how on Earth could everything have worked out so perfectly for him? Security was lax that day in the airport, nothing was seen in the skies, most of the evidence was vaporized, and he managed to get two of the buildings to collapse just by flying the planes into the towers! Amazing!

Scientifically and logically all of the evidence points to something else going on. I'm not drawing the pistol automatically and blaming the government, but it seems odd to me that a government would not want to find out everything about an incident that changed the U.S. and the world forever. Instead, we set out to war to invade the "bad guys" and covered up all of the evidence that led to the truth. Why?

Why is the government so quick to deny that the buildings collapsed due to explosives? If Bin Laden could hijack planes and evade all security, he sure as hell could find a way into the building to plant explosives. Why wouldn't we want to investigate that? That's where it all begins to give me that sick feeling at the pit of my stomach.

The people of New York City, the United States, and the world have a right to know what really happened that day. However, if no one tells them, no worries. The truth will out itself eventually. It always does.

Sunday, 7 October 2007

It Has Come to This?

Boy, 11, in 100mph police chase
An 11-year-old boy and his parents have been arrested after he fled Louisiana police in a car chase at speeds of more than 100mph (160km/h), it is reported.

The child's mother and father have been accused of letting him drive for about six months, the Associated Press said.

The pursuit began when a patrol car spotted the boy's car speeding on Interstate 310 near New Orleans.

Police gave chase but the car sped away, only stopping at a Burger King restaurant where his mother worked.

The boy had been driving home from a hospital where he had dropped off his disabled father for an appointment when the chase began, police told AP.

His parents have been charged with the improper supervision of a minor and allowing an unlicensed minor to drive - something authorities said had been going on for six months.

The boy was reportedly released to the custody of an aunt after being arrested for fleeing from an officer, reckless driving, speeding, passing on the shoulder, improper lane usage and having no driver's licence.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2007/10/06 23:16:34 GMT


An 11-year-old boy on a high-speed chase. That's what the BBC and International news stations deem newsworthy. Does anyone else see the real story here?
Here, this kid's got a disabled father and a mother who works her ass off at Burger King in order to help pay Dad's insurance so that he can get the treatment he needs. Meanwhile, this poor mother, who probably works 70 hours per week at that hellhole, needs to be able to get Dad to his appointments. Her friends all work, she obviously can't hire a caretaker, the public transportation in Louisiana sucks or at least is not wheelchair accessible, and all she has is this loyal little kid. She knows that teaching him to drive is against the law, but at this point she has no other alternative.
Consider this situation for a moment. True, this family probably made some unwise decisions when it came to the law and perhaps the safety of their child, but I'm certain that this is not the only family that faces this type of situation. What does a low income family do when one parent falls ill and insurance and medication are so high? How can they survive? And with the dollar failing, everything seems more expensive.
As for transportation, forget about it. Most U.S. cities are built to rely on cars only. Many don't even have sidewalks for pedestrians. Gas is so pricey it's forced many low income people to give up much of their driving time. Buses are usually run down and smelly and often drop people off in strange or hazardous places, like on the side of a major highway with no sidewalk. That's of course, if the buses run in a person's area.
As a woman who used the St. Louis, Missouri public transportation system as often as possible, I experienced disconcerting sexual harassment on a daily basis from other passengers. A friend of mine witnessed a person masturbating across from her on the train. Metrolink staff did nothing. Does this sort of apathy make a person want to use public transportation in the first place?
The United States is not a country that allows its lower income inhabitants to survive. Yet, the number of them is increasing. I suspect that we will see more desperation like the acts detailed in the article come about in the near future. Eventually, one would hope that these people would gain a collective voice against the government and the war, but we'll see. Without a voice, the people will continue to fall and the future looks grim.

Thursday, 4 October 2007

When Does Liberal Become Conservative?

This MeMe Roth woman has me seeing red. For those who don't know who she is, she is the president of the National Action Against Obesity organization and a militant extremest against obesity, both for children and adults. This woman makes inaccurate, generalized statements on public television in the United States without presenting any scientific evidence to support her views. She's a dangerous you-know-what and she must be stopped.

Ms. Roth states that you can't be fit and fat. She attacks the overweight population with a vengence, stating that just 10 or 15 extra pounds can put a person at risk for health complications. A 1995 study published in the International Journal of Obesity claimed that cardiovascular health played a bigger role in predicting the health of a person than weight. Also, Roth overlooks all of the thinner people with higher metabolisms that shovel down calories because they don't seems to stick to their lithe frames. A 2006 London-based study concluded that both thin and overweight non-exercising people had similar health risks due to high cholesterol. It's almost worse for the thin people because fat builds up around their organs on the inside and they can't see what it's doing to them.

Furthermore, Roth and her organization push for a ban on certain types of foods, her most recent target being Girl Scout cookies. Banning foods is not the way to go and certainly wouldn't solve the obesity problem. Do you realize how much Samoas would go for on the black market?

Creating good foods is an art. People go to school for the purpose of pleasing the palate. It's not the devil. People who think that a food ban is the answer to all of our problems are naive and don't spend a lot of time thinking, to be honest.

To deny that a problem exists would also be naive, but at this point we've dug ourselves into such a deep hole that it will take a long time to dig our way out. Corporations like McDonalds are guilty of creating this problem, true, but we as a people must change in order for food-based businesses to change. Remember, the corporations are only as strong as their consumers. They make Big Macs and Supersize fries because we WANT them, because we will buy them. If the climate changes and suddenly everyone wants smaller portions and healthier options all around, the corporations will have no choice but to follow consumer demand. We blame the corporations for starting this crisis, but we are guilty of perpetuating it.

Overall, I think the reason that U.S. citizens have become as large as they are is portion distortion. Only in the United States can one walk into a restaurant and come out in five minutes with a one pound burrito. Those Chipotle or Qdoba burritos clock in, at minimum (we're talking a vegetarian bean burrito with no cheese) at 1000 calories. That's almost a full day's worth of calories in one sitting. Half of that would be a large lunch meal, forget about chips.

Diet experts say when eating out to cut the portion in half, but, even at that, sometimes we're still getting way more than our bodies can handle. In some restaurants, the normal portion size for a dish is one quarter of what is served! Combine extra calories with zero activity and you get extra weight, period. We all know that formula.

Education about food choices is the most important way to control obesity. Teaching people how to create delicious healthy meals in little time would be an asset to controlling the problem. Why not provide a nutrition class to kids in grade schools as part of science? What about offering mandatory seminars in hospitals before parents give birth as to the nutrition and health of a child?

I do agree with Ms. Roth that junk food machines should be removed from schools, but why not offer healthy snacks instead? When kids are hungry, kids will grab for things besides candy and chips if that's all there is. I don't believe that children don't desire to be healthy, it's the perception that unhealthy food is tastier than healthy food. That's a perception that starts at home.

Roth says that fat parents produce fat children because of their eating habits. While that may be true in many cases, we have yet to fully understand the concept of genetics. I tend to believe (as some researchers also believe) that if everyone ate the exact same diet and performed the exact same activity day in and day out, that we would still be all different shapes and sizes. Morbid obesity I do think can be controlled, but the tendancy to put on weight might have a solution until we figure out what role genetics plays in weight gain.

It's unrealistic for Roth to say that those people who aren't at their ideal weight should exercise more or eat less. Some people exercise for an hour a day, have cut calories to the minimum and still cannot lose that last 10 lbs of fat. Should people give up another hour of their work lives to lose the weight? Should they become obsessed with weight like Ms. Roth?

Life has to have a balance. There's a happy place between obsessing over every step of exercise and every mouthful of food and living one's life to the fullest. There are solutions, but people like MeMe Roth need to buck their own insecurities and get a life of their own.

Monday, 1 October 2007

Try it! You'll Like It (not)!

I have read many an article to the contrary of what I am about to say, but, through my own personal observation, I find the majority of the British food I've tried unsavory. Although I grew up in the United States, I did not come from a household whose diet consisted of fare from the crude network of fast food conglomerates such as McDonalds or Kentucky Fried Chicken. With homemade, healthy meals as a staple and the occassional sojourns to France and Morocco, I developed a taste for flavors that reign in some of the most popular cookbooks in the world.

My French father says, "Give food to British people and they ruin it."

I hate to perpetuate this statement, but I've tried a variety of foods form the local market, only to discover the sauces watery and lacking spice, the noodles limp and mushy, and the complete and utter fear of garlic, basil and other beautiful flavorings. In other words: Yucky.

Brits do make some tasty desserts, such as puddings and chocolate tartes. Anything fried, they do with flair. But cooking, as it traditionally stands, the British take last place to any nationality I've sampled.

Still and all, the food is really the only thing I find absolutely unacceptable about living in London. So far, so good.