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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The strange Russian dossier story

While I was away for the birth of our grandchild, I could only follow the news in a cursory manner but what I could catch dealt primarily with two things: the confirmation hearings of the Trump administration nominees and the story of a dossier that detailed some bizarre activities by Trump while visiting Russia as well as claiming that Trump associates were working with the Russian government and intelligence agencies. While we now should not be surprised by bizarre and even repulsive behavior by Trump, the more explosive element of this story was that this dossier had been prepared as part of an ongoing attempt by Russian intelligence agencies to co-opt and assist Trump. That raised the seriousness of the issue to a far higher level.
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The end of ethics

There is a cliché that what is scandalous in Washington are not the things that are done that are illegal but the things that are legal. They system of laws that we have contain an inbuilt bias to protect and enhance the wealth of those who already have money and influence. It should be no surprise that with few exceptions, the halls of government have elected officials who are already wealthy or have become immensely wealthy as a result of what we euphemistically call government ‘service’. The hard edges of this system is softened by so-called ethics guidelines that supposedly bind legislators and limit how much influence-peddling they can be the recipients of while in office and how much they can do after they leave, but those guidelines can be circumvented by those determined to do so.
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