Sunday, December 19, 2010

Context Post #4

(Periodically on this blog, I try to give a smattering of examples of what's happening in the bigger world--aside from my own insular life and day-to-day worries and concerns--but at the same time, they are things that I am aware of --that are part of my day-to-day consciousness. I've been collecting things in my head for awhile--let's see how many of them I remember:)

Black Friday, the post Thanksgiving shopping day, in this year of recession became...what did they call it? Gray Thursay I think. In Indiana at least (I was visiting my mom on the day), the major department stores opened at 3AM in the morning, to start their sales--and Toy R Us opened its doors at 10PM on Thursday and stayed open all night long... Despite these attention garnering acts, I think what I heard was that sales were not up significantly from the year before. Although online sales apparently were up. I se lots of what they term 'cyber' sales now--and the announcements come direct to your inbox. My mom is now on a number of email notification lists for her favorite stores, which I would guess is representative of the "middle majority" on the adopters curve. The world has now officially changed.

More computer information changing the world: Wikileaks. This guy Julian Assange, an Australian journalist, is the editor in chief for a "whistle-blowing" site called Wiki-leaks. While he won accolades from organizations like Amnesty International for leaking news about extra-judicial killings in Kenya and the like--some people are quite unhappy with his the latest set of leaks, diplomatic cables that have to do with America's involvement in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He was taken into custody under suspicion for sexual offenses--charges which have nothing to do with leaking diplomatic information--unless they are trumped charges because he leaked diplomatic information...Speculation ensues.

Meanwhile, Bradley Manning, the American soldier who gave the material to Wikileaks, just passed his twenty-third birthday and his seventh month in solitary confinement At Quantico Marine Base in Virginia. He hasn't been officially charged with anything yet. The authorities say his confinement, and his treatment (one hour of exercise a day, inside a room--no access to fresh air, no pillow at night, no clothing at night etc) is for his own protection (suicide watch), but others feel this treatment is simply to place pressure on the young man to give evidence against Assange, to say he solicited the information in someway and was a co-conspirator.

Elsewhere in the government, Senate recently passed a repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell," a bill which forbade gays from openly participating in the military.

In the same session, the Dream Act was stymied--for want of five votes to take it to vote. The Dream Act was a conduit for children of illegal immigrants--who were brought to America before the age of fifteen, and had graduated from highschool--to gain legal status in the U.S. if they attended a university or served in the military.

And they passed a controversial tax bill, which extended Bush-era tax cuts to the rich--something many Republicans had wanted and Democrats had not, but the Republicans refused to vote for tax relief for the lower income groups and I think, extended unemployment benefits, without the tax cut--

In the big world, the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Chinese guy, Liu Xiaobo for his "long and nonviolent struggle for fundamental human rights in China." He was unable to accept the award in person because he is in prison in China for "inciting subversion of state power" or something like that. The Chinese government was pissed off about the award, and has tried and (according to NPR), succeeded pretty well in suppressing the information, so that most of the public is not aware of who Liu Xiaobo is, or that he has won the award.

China, and our fears about China as a rising power are made manifest in different ways these days--it comes up in our comedy (I don't have any examples that come to mind at this exact moment, but I have a sense that I see it). New fodder for these fears arrived in the form of the latest PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) scores. China scores topped the list in math, science and reading, while the U.S. fell far below.

In pop culture, (my roommate just stopped by says I should "spread the word") Conan O'Brien, the talk show host I mentioned in a previous context post, has moved to a small cable network, TBS. He had amazing ratings in his first week, which was in November, but they have fallen off since--but they still take a portion of the viewership pie from the the other big networks. And roomie, S, is enthralled with the show itself--since Conan can do stuff on this show he never could have done on the more traditional Tonight Show. She particularly liked his Christmas episode.

And speaking of Christmas--I have a couple of presents left to find, so I'm off.

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