Looking back on Barack Obama’s presidency

As president Obama’s term in office comes to an end, everyone seems to be evaluating his terms in office. We might as well start with the one issue that never goes away in America, and that is race. The president and his family carried the heavy burden of being ‘firsts’, people who are the first members of any community in a high office that they have not occupied before. Such people know that the members of their community are fervently hoping for just one thing: Don’t mess up. Because if they do mess up in any way, they know that those who oppose any advancement of their group will point to the failure as signs that they are incompetent and cannot be trusted with such responsibilities. Obama has undoubtedly passed that test, making it a little easier for the next person of color or another ‘first’, be it a woman or Latino or LGBT or atheist or member of some other group hitherto excluded, but they will still feel that pressure from their community.
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This should be an interesting case

During the campaign we had numerous women alleging that Donald Trump assaulted them in many ways, charges that the Trump campaign furiously denied and for which many of the accusers were harassed by Trump supporters. But now one woman Summer Zeervos has said through her attorney Gloria Allred that she has filed a lawsuit against Trump for defamation because of the charges he made against her while denying her accusations.
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Crowley loses job over plagiarism charges

Monica Crowley is one of those right-wing pundits who seems to have a permanent sneer on her face, especially when she is attacking the already marginalized. So naturally she was tapped for a position in the Trump administration as “senior director of strategic communications at the National Security Council”. But it turns out that she is a serial plagiarizer who has lifted verbatim, without citation, entire passages from other sources not only for her articles but even for her doctoral thesis for Columbia University. This seems to have been a little too much for even an administration that disdains ethics as much as the incoming one does and despite some earlier statements of support from them, she has withdrawn from the position, presumably to ‘spend more time with her family’.
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In praise of an adversarial press-government relationship

Donald Trump clearly has a strong dislike for much of the press, except for the alt-right extremists. This is not surprising. Trump is an incredibly thin-skinned and petty man who cannot stand any criticism from any quarter and during the campaign he received quite a lot of negative coverage. That much of it was generated by his own words and actions does not seem to matter to him. He seems to want and need fawning adulation all the time.
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Chelsea Manning to be out of prison on May 17

In one of his final moves in office, president Obama has commuted the 35-year sentence that was given to Chelsea Manning to mostly the time already served and she will be released on May. Alex Emmons reports:

While serving as an army intelligence analyst, Manning sent hundreds of thousands of classified diplomatic and military documents to Wikileaks, revealing, among other things, a dramatically higher civilian death count in Iraq and Afghanistan than the Pentagon revealed publicly, and the chilling video of a U.S. Apache helicopter gunning down journalists in central Baghdad.
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Film special effects without computers

We are so used to computer-generated special effects in films that we have become blasé about them. While producing these effects takes a lot of skill and tedious hard work, there is something about it being done on a computer that makes it seem to be not as clever somehow, though that does an injustice to all the programmers and artists who work so hard to produce these magical effects. We also know that the actors are not in any real danger, that they are safely on some sound stage in front of a green screen and that the dangerous effects are being produced in a studio.
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TV Review: Discussion of Sherlock (spoilers galore so enter at your peril!)

I mentioned in my review of the last episode of Sherlock that there were some gaping plot holes in the storyline. For those of you who have seen the series and are as puzzled as I am about some of the decisions made by the writers, at the suggestion of Eric Riley, I decided to open up the discussion because sometimes there are subtle and fleeting references that address some of the issues that one misses on the first go-round. I picked up some of them when I watched some of the episodes the second time. I hope that those who have not seen the show yet will come back here later and join the discussion.
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TV Review: Sherlock: The Final Problem (no spoilers)

I watched this final episode of season 4 last night and frankly found it disappointing. You can see it online in the US here until January 29. Unfortunately, the writers have once again succumbed to the temptation to go in for surprise plot twists at the expense of plausibility, which was also the big problem with their Christmas special The Abominable Bride from a year ago.
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Dutch electric trains now run entirely by wind energy

The smaller nations of Europe seem to be in the vanguard of using wind energy. Some time ago, I wrote about the day when Denmark managed to power the entire national grid using just wind energy. It was on a Sunday when energy consumption is lower but it was still a remarkable feat. Then this week had this news item that said that all the electric trains in the Netherlands are now powered by wind energy.
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