Thursday, November 29, 2007

Christmas Lights (re post)

Originally Posted Friday, December 22, 2006


CHRISTMAS LIGHTS (also published in 2006 at "Oh My News International")

In the weeks leading up to Christmas, New York City evenings begin to arrive at their annual ritual of taking on an extra-added electric glow. The added lights, displays and decorations among other signalers of the season announce to residents and visitors alike, the holidays have arrived. New York’s extravagant Christmas lights and decorations provide visual coaxing for what is meant to be a festive time of year in the American city that never sleeps, and loves to shop. Many tourists, children and residents, look at the lights in awe, as Department store districts like those in Midtown transform into a Christmas wonderland, where shoppers scurry about like busy elves getting ready for a certain really big night.

From Rockefeller Center and the famous, tall, sculpted and not a spot missed tree, to the giant crystal snowflake at 57th and Fifth Avenue, the city is polished and ready for Santa, North Pole bound, almost to a point of perfection with its elaborate decoration. Even down in the gritty fashion district new, modern single color snowflakes and brightly lit stars line the streets, one right after the other in an accurate order present an urban district that upon first glance, appears to have been enrolled in a special holiday exterior decorating class. Parts of Manhattan becomes a polished Christmas village, a scene out of a modern more orderly version of “Miracle on 34th Street” where all is planned, a place where if one's not careful, the sheer brightness and excitement can overtake the city's buffet of visual stimuli. But, in taking some time to explore and study detail of less traveled streets, one might stumble upon a Christmas light display that doesn’t shine as bright as those in Midtown. Sometimes, on those off the beaten paths, are the lights that twinkle, and for some unexplainable reason they might bring back memories which stimulate childhood nostalgia, recollections that have the ability to provide a key that can unlock personal spirits of Christmas and the hope, anticipation as well as joy the season brings.

According to Mary Bellis at “”, Inventor Edward Johnson was responsible for the first string of Christmas lights back in the late 1890’s. By 1900, Department stores had started using the lights for displays. Later, Albert Sadacca came up with “safe” Christmas lights and eventually started mass producing the brightly colored bulbs through a company called NOMA. Soon enough, cities found themselves taking on the added glow of Christmas displays of all shapes, sizes and colors from coast to coast. Hanging from light poles on main streets, big city downtowns and other places where people lived, Christmas Lights soon become the tradition they are today.

This year in New York, Christmas displays began appearing as early as Halloween. There was barely time to enjoy Thanksgiving when what would appear but strands of giant green garland across Eighth Street and the white stars in the Financial and fashion districts. Then, at some point, several strands of random, vintage Christmas displays were quietly being strung across the streets of the East Village. And, it was in that neighborhood, on 7th Street, near Avenue A, one of the displays brought back memories of growing up in a small Alabama town, when the annual appearance of Christmas decorations in Wilsonville made a small boy thrilled that the holiday season had arrived.

It was in the tiny one stop light village of less than a thousand, usually the day after Thanksgiving, a boy would ride his bike down to the main road, Hi-way 25. Here he would sit, watch and worry, eagerly awaiting men with cherry picker trucks to arrive and install the town's Christmas lights. The festive lights in Wilsonville, some shaped like canes with bells, others with Santa Clauses faces framed in green tinsel, even a few red candles held up with green garland all grand to the small town child eyes waiting for their show. Hues of red, blue and green suddenly lit power line poles and the road beneath them, areas of space and time that seemed dark and lonely over most of the year, except for the occasional passing car on its way to someplace else. Now the holiday hues projected joy on all who passed by, as well as those who appreciated them nightly.

The displays of then and there weren't so polished and the lights not so bright like today's extravagant bulbs, instead these sweet old creations twinkled, more like the far away stars in mysterious reaches of the sky, all magic to a child's eye, especially eyes from a small town who knew nothing else. He saw the lights as visual pills of warmth, comfort and the wonderment that Christmas, back then and there, meant to him.

And suddenly, here in New York City, amid the hectic hustle and bustle here on his neighborhood streets, there it was again. It took a few minutes to realize the twinkling lights were even there, complete with their sweet hues of joy and peace. It was here in the nation’s largest and busiest, that he had discovered a memory formed years ago during a period of untouched innocence and love.

In truth, it was an accidental discovery, since, he'd probably passed the draping lights several times before he'd actually taken any time to notice them. But for whatever reason, there they were, green garland donned by bells lit pink and red, hanging in poetic curves that came to point over the center of the street, all framed by a red ribbon filled with tiny gold lights.

What imperfection, this relic of history, who could say how many Christmas seasons these old weathered lights had seen? How much had New York City changed since those twinkling bulbs first decked the street and charmed the children and adults of the city's past? How much the world had changed since the boy made his way from Alabama to New York? Where do they store those whispering lights throughout the year and how did they had survive so long in the rough and tumble that is New York.

The cycling New Yorker paused with his logical pondering and began to stare deeper, to wonder at the Christmas Light's beauty, and the sense of comfort, anticipation, joy and hope they provided. He'd realized, unlike so many of the city's impressive decorations, tree's, Broadway shows and Department store window displays that all blatantly attempting to coax people into the season, he'd been ushered into the spirit through the re acquaintance with a memory. It was a memory that held a key to what this season truly meant, or at least, what it represented for him. It was the sort of moment that proved beauty, hope and joy is everywhere, but sometimes one has to make the effort to find it, in this case, beauty, joy and the peace it commanded was locked away inside the memories that an old Christmas light hanging across the street could, and did, set free.

CBS News' Bob Schieffer Say's Political Candidates Underestimate America's Intelligence

On Politicians Telling the People what Politicians Think the Voters Want to hear...Hi Tech Style-
'Face The Nation's' Bob Schieffer Comments

(New York Times) As Giuliani Cites Facts, He Stretches Them Sometimes

As Giuliani Cites Facts, He Stretches Them Sometimes
Published: November 30, 2007 excerpt and link:
Both Rudolph W. Giuliani’s Republican rival Mitt Romney and Democrats have accused him of a pattern of misleading figures and have begun to use the issue to try to undercut his credibility.

AND FROM CBS NEWS- Katie Couric Asks Mayor Giuliani Tough Questions on EXPENSE-GATE
link to video clip at CBSNEWS

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Governor Siegelman's Daughter See's Higher Up's Fingerprints (From RAW STORY)

An interview with Dana Siegelman, daughter of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman from "Raw Story". Link to full text

Alabama Updates-Don Siegelman-From Scott Horton's No Comment

From Scott Horton at "Harper's" No Comment:
Alabamians Believe Siegelman a Victim of Political Prosecution
The view taken by Raw Story, that Don Siegelman is a political prisoner, may have emerged as the view of the people of Alabama. In any event, a new Rasmussen poll shows 56% of Alabamians surveyed believed that politics played a role in the prosecution of Don Siegelman. Earlier polls had shown only about 30% believing that the prosecution and trial were politically motivated.
Link to Full Text

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Darfur- PBS Frontline's "On Our Watch"

From PBS FRONTLINE: The world vowed "never again" after the genocide in Rwanda and the atrocities in Srebrenica, Bosnia. Then came Darfur. Over the past four years, at least 200,000 people have been killed, 2.5 million driven from their homes, and mass rape has been used as a weapon in a brutal campaign supported by the Sudanese government. In On Our Watch, FRONTLINE asks why the United Nations and its members once again failed to stop the slaughter. (more »)
View the entire program at PBS.ORG

Monday, November 19, 2007

Hood 2 Hood: Birmingham, AL - Part 1

The Simplistic and Divisive List of Dangerous Cities


For the 14th year in a row, CQ press published its “City Crime Rankings: Crime in Metropolitan America” , based on the September 24 FBI crime statistics report. Once again, some of the usual suspects, Detroit, Cleveland St Louis and my home “metropolitan” town Birmingham were listed in the top ten. As a result, the rankings have appeared on websites, newspapers and will probably be broadcast on television stations across the country.

The message in the rankings seems to say, that these places are dangerous, so if you go there, be afraid, watch your back, best to stay away if you know what’s good for you.

. But, as a number of critics charge, the “most dangerous” rankings, tend to be simplistic and incomplete. Beyond the irresponsibility of broadcasting shrill messages that fail to detail crucial criminal science and sociological factors in each of these unique places, especially the story behind the poverty that leads some cities to high crime rates, is the fact that the lists actually divide us as a nation, and in a number of ways, that is more dangerous than Downtown Detroit at midnight.

For one, they imply that places like Detroit are hopeless, and that residents live in chaos and fear, that non residents should avoid visiting, and those residents with means should try to leave when economically feasible for greener and more safe pastures, perhaps a nice suburban gated community.

The rankings also play upon the epidemic of fear in America that has, for far too long, included America’s inner cities among its unhealthy symptoms.

We Americans are suckers when it comes to fear. For example, since 9/11, some government officials and politicians have used fear as a method of gathering support around causes and platforms that in the end resulted in serious erosions of some of our most cherished rights and freedoms. Fear has proven that it has the ability to bring certain groups of people together, united in their fright, but, the cost has been ideological and political division unlike any seen since the Vietnam War. Fear in public policy is cheap. It is the bad cream rising to the top, and it takes attention away from solving what are usually very complex problems like the current health of many American cities. It’s certainly easier to paint broad brush strokes of danger, isolation and fear. In truth, dangerous places lists contribute to American fragmentation, further confirming the words of a certain American President who once said, we have nothing to fear, but fear itself.

Besides that, what purpose does a dangerous place list serve? For a person living in Phoenix, Detroit might seem just a bit more scary, thanks to the new rankings. But, for that some person, will they ponder, why or what made Detroit, statistically a high crime town. Will this 14th Annual list, evoke a flurry of political leaders across America to address the nuts and bolts problems that residents of Cleveland or Detroit may face like cultures of poverty, racial segregation, investment money flight? Or does Detroit’s status as number one, simply serve as further confirmation of long held stereotypes that Detroit has held as America’s poster child of urban danger?

And, underlying the confirmation of stereotypes is the role that race plays in images of crime and cities. It's no secret that people of color face the most danger from crime in Urban America. And, as we see in newscasts and other media, the way those stories get told is through sensational details, since it still holds true, if it bleeds it leads. But, once again, that’s simplistic and potentially numbing to viewers and readers, who have yet to see the press confront Washington leaders about urban ills or success stories that deserve greater attention and resources. As “Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting” pointed out in a July 1992 article that critiqued the media’s coverage of political candidates speeches regarding race and urban ills, “the press needs to be as interested in the crafting of urban and social policy as they are in fiery speeches”.

While it might be easy to point at places like Detroit or Cleveland as spooky northern cities, they are, in fact, connected to the same greater fabric of the American community as places like Des Moines or Salt Lake City. Perhaps, its time to start taking care of our cities with real innovative solutions that address what led them to this unfortunate list in the first place.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

US governors feuding over water shortage

Summation of the ongoing water wars over man made Lake Lanier's dwindling water pool. The report mentions Alabama and Florida's concern over wildlife, but does not point out that Alabama's Coosa River, which depends on Lanier for healthy flow, enables public utility generating power and is also a source of drinking water for parts of the state.CL

Inside Story- Does Pakistan need emergency rule?-06Nov07-Pt1

Interesting take from AlJazeera English Channel

U.S. Acts to Bolster Supply of Water for Atlanta (From New York Times)

U.S. Acts to Bolster Supply of Water for Atlanta
Published: November 17, 2007
Federal biologists allowed Georgia to keep more water in a reservoir that supplies the city and northern parts of the state, a decision that reduces flows to Florida.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

FBI Charges Guards (From NEW YORK TIMES)

International / Middle East
F.B.I. Says Guards Killed 14 Iraqis Without Cause
Published: November 14, 2007
F.B.I. agents investigating the Sept. 16 episode in which Blackwater security personnel shot and killed 17 Iraqi civilians found that all but three of the shootings were unjustified.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Why did a Mother Sue A Motel After her Kids were exposed to Pornography?

My investigative story looks at a lawsuit where a Mother won $85,000 after she sued a Motel in California after her children were exposed to a few minutes of pornography.

Atlanta is Running Out of Water

How Poor Planning and an Unfortunate Nod from Mother Nature contributed to a Potential Catastrophe



For America’s Deep South, Atlanta Georgia is what the Emerald City was to the land of OZ. First built in 1837 as Terminus, Atlanta later rose from the ashes of the civil war to become the land where Peachtree met CoCa Cola. Later, in the early 1960’s as the winds of change blew storms of resistance throughout much of the South, Atlanta leaders chose compromise over conflict, almost progressive when compared to some its neighbors, especially competitor cities like Birmingham where fire hoses, bombs and police dogs became symbols of all that was wrong with the region.

Atlanta’s conflict free transition through the civil rights movement, planted the seeds for its current role as the South’s economic center. By the 1980’s the city was growing faster than kudzu as investors and business interests helped attract residents to the area’s low cost of living and warm climate. But the arms of expansion extended well beyond the glass towers of downtown, sprawling out some 60 miles in either direction presenting infrastructural challenges common to uncontrolled growth. Still, bigger highways and construction along with other solutions kept Atlanta’s economic engine churning. That is, until a once in a lifetime drought threatened the regions most precious natural resource.

Within a matter of months, Atlanta could run out of water.

Without some sort of intervention, Atlanta’s main source of water, the 38,000 acre Lake Sydney Lanier could go dry in three months according to Georgia’s Environmental Protection Unit. That means if a slow moving tropical storm doesn’t settle over Georgia, or drastic measures aren’t taken, Atlanta’s water faucets could soon spew air. In addition, public utilities in Alabama and Georgia may be forced to reduce production of power and the Apalachicola Bay in Florida might see the death of millions of mussels and other wildlife. But perhaps it’s the un-spoken nightmare scenario, a Katrina like disaster that has observers and advocates most worried as the sense of urgency and blame begins to sink in over the South.

Almost 30 percent of the south is now covered by what is called an “exceptional drought”, the National Weather Service’s absolute worst category. One result has been the rekindling of a long running dispute over water between Georgia, Alabama and Florida. Water from Lake Lanier, channeled through dams on the Chattahoochee River provide water not only to around 3 million people in metro Atlanta, but also industry and residents in Alabama and much of the marine life in Apalachicola Bay Florida. A number of those on the end of the water flow are blaming Atlanta’s over development and its apparent slow reaction to the potentially catastrophic conditions.

After a brutal drought over the summer, Atlanta leaders finally did order a ban on all outdoor watering that took effect on September 28, 2007.

Still, Alabama Governor Bob Riley told the “Washington Post” this past month that “Atlanta can’t spend all summer during a drought watering their lawns and flowers and then expect someone else to bail them out.”

But, what exactly defines Atlanta anyway?

Unlike most major metropolitan areas, Atlanta is not located on a major body of water. For those unconcerned about the negatives of sprawl, that has in the past been considered a positive impact on development. As a 1998 Federal Reserve Bank regional update report detailing Atlanta’s Housing growth seemed to say, the expanse of land surrounding Atlanta’s core was ripe for development.

Titled, What is Fueling Atlanta’s Housing Growth the FRB report noted that Atlanta’s growth area is “unlimited” thanks to “the lack of nearby natural barriers like large bodies of water, mountains or major federal land holdings. The same report went on to say that the area “can continue growing and expanding into fringe areas with cheaper land for some time.”

Expansion continued with sub-divisions filled mostly single family homes sprang up across hundreds of square miles of former farmland and forests creating what some have called America’s poster child of Suburban Sprawl, areas of low density development spread over wide areas typified by single family homes and commutes by automobile to work.

According to the United States Census Department the Atlanta Metropolitan area now consists of around 6,000 square miles that include 28 counties with a population of around 4 million which compares to 1970 when the metro area had 1.9 million residents living on 1,730 square miles of land. The actual city of Atlanta’s population has hovered at only around 400,000. Metropolitan Atlanta’s population density remains low at around 700 people per square Km. compared which compared to New York City’s metropolitan area is dramatic at 2,050.

In addition to the 28 county governments there are around 65 somewhat autonomous municipal government bodies.

The reality of disconnection and separation illustrated by a greater Atlanta now spreads over a hundred miles in every direction, defined by rings, perimeters and super rings allowed for a psychology of negligence when it came to uniform environmental concerns including water supply.

A report from the “New Georgia Encyclopedia” stated that 67 percent of Georgia’s monitored waters do not meet water quality standards. That report said that the area’s waters are threatened by pollution associated with poor development practices and urban storm water runoff. It also said, that the water quality of the Chattahoochee River, the river where half of Georgia gets its water is threatened by rampant suburban growth and inadequate or aging water and sewer systems, runoff from paved surfaces, agricultural lands and lawns erosion from construction sites and seepage from septic tanks. One million metro Atlanta area residents still use septic tanks which is more than any other major American metropolitan area.

It’s clear, that now, as frightening potentialities flood newspapers, websites and newscasts, investments need to be made in the bones of the body of the Atlanta area.

According to a study and report by American Rivers, The Natural Resources Council and Smart Growth America there are efficient, cost effective approaches that policy makers in cohesion with developers and communities could take to help remedy the threats now faced by Atlanta. They include measures like allocating more resources to identify and protect open space and critical aquatic areas, sound growth management, comprehensive legislation that includes incentives for smart growth, integrating water supply into planning efforts by coordinating road building and other construction with water resource management, managing storm water among others.

They say that what is needed is the political will to see them through to fruition.

Steve Davis, a spokesperson at Smart Growth America, said most of the regional planning that might result in uniform implementation of smart planning that impact water had finally started to happen, but, unfortunately, mostly without teeth.

“Most of the efforts to consider water supplies as part of the long range comprehensive planning consisted only of “suggestions” as to approval or denial, but local plans still have no mandatory requirement for projecting the effects on water in the area,” he said.

It’s clear now, that Atlanta must act, as should the Federal and State Governments. The spirit of what made Atlanta a beacon of progress and opportunity for all now faces great peril, thanks to an unfortunate nod from Mother Nature coupled with a lack of human ingenuity, cooperation and perhaps patience. This is a time, when Atlanta, must take a break from being busy and figure out how it can plan for its future.

New York Activists Push for Gender Expression/ID Protections Bill

"A lot of discrimination is not about who you go home to at night; it’s about the fact that you are breaking some kind of gender norm in the eyes of your boss or co-worker," according to Joe Tarver, Spokesperson at Empire State Pride Agenda. Link to Full Story At EDGE

Sunday, November 04, 2007

"One of the Deadliest Con Jobs of Our Time" (60 Minutes Reveals Curveball)

CBS "60 Minutes" reveals the crown jewel source of intelligence that was used to sell the American invasion of Iraq to the world. LINK TO CBS VIDEO

Friday, November 02, 2007