Issues Updates
News, Views and Reviews Since This Issue Came Out...

Scroll down to learn about people, places, things, new music releases, live events, current TV reviews, new movies and movie reviews, interesting things on radio.... All sorts of interesting things that have come our way at Issues since our publication date!

Sandra Dee Dies
The original star of the "Tammy" and "Gidget" movie series died in a suburb of Los Angeles yesterday of renal disorders (kidney failure) at the age of 62. He was married for a time to singer Bobby Darrin.

Hunter S. Thompson Dies
The author of "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" apparently shot himself at his Colorado home. He was 67 years old. Authorities beleive it was a suicide.

John Raitt Dies
The father of Bonnie Raitt died of pneumonia at his home in Pacific Palesades. He was 88 years old. Best known for his work on stage (he was the male lead in the musical Carousel on Broadway,having worked for Rogers and Hammerstein in their previous play "Oklahoma!") he also starred in the stage and later the movie version of "Pajama Game" (which was choreographed by Bob Fosse, who went on to direct "Sweet Charity" and "All That Jazz").

Super Nova Affects The Earth
Over 50 million years ago we believe a "neutron" star exploded or errupted throwing off a large burst of cosmic rays, much like what an A-bomb does upon explosion. Those rays finally reached up last week and disrupted some spacecraft and satelites around the Earth, but didn't get through our atmosphere.

The fraction of a second explosion originally held the eqivalent of power equal to what our sun puts out in 100,000 years!

U.S. Curbs Lawsuits
One of the Bush Presidency goals has been to limit liability and lawsuits for corporations and today Congress passed a bill that will take some suits away from state courts (which is unusual because Republicans are usually "states rights" politicians) and require them to be heard in Federal court.

Affected are class-action lawsuits (which are largely to blame for some consumer price increases, such as those seen in the pharmacutical industry which charges very high prices inside the U.S. for all medications but far less in countries like Canada, Mexico, England and Australia where branches of the same companies exist). In order to stay in state courts a majority of the "class" of people must be residents of that state.

Lawsuits such as those against the tobacco and asbestos industries could be affected. In the future, should global warming prove fatal to some people, auto makers, industrial plants and oil companies would also face action only in Federal courts.

This law does not change cases currently in the courts.

Iraq Election To Be Certified
The final seat allocations in the new Iraqi Parlement are to be certified later on Thursday, February 17th. A coalition of Shiite and Kurds is expected to give the Shiites dominance in the assembly, allowing them to select leaders (a President and two Vice Presidents, who will then establish the various "Ministries" and select a Prime Minister -- see our piece on Government in this issue for more on Parlementary governments).

Israel Expected To Pass Gaza Pullout Funds
The Israel Parlement is expected to approve compensation for those settlers being removed from the Gaza strip.

Prime Minister Sharon had previously been in favor of the Gaza settlements but is now giving this area up as a part of the peace process, although he is keeping part of the West Bank area, which is also disputed.

The Gaza strip and West Bank were captured during the 1960 war between Arab nations and Israel.

Israel has previously given back lands to Egypt which lead to peace between those two nations.

Israel is also set to release some prisoners captured during the various Palestine uprisings.

Greenhouse Gas Treaty To Begin
The so-called Kyoto accords are due to begin today with 140 nations around the world. The pact is aimed at curbing auto and industry emissions to help reduce the so-called "greenhouse gasses" that are believed to cause so-called "global warming."

The United States and Australia are not a part of the pact. The United States is taking a different road but would consider the pact if China, India and a few other countries are included. Australia won't consider the pact unless the United States and China are included.

The pact calls for reduction in "greenhouse gas" levels between now and 2012.

North Korea Has Nukes; U.S. Won't Talk
North Korea announced that they have nuclear weapons and won't accept any sanctions, disarmaments or inspections. The U.S. states it won't talk directly with North Korea on a one on one basis.

Intelegence believes the North Koreans can have anywhere from 2 to 8 nukes and could make more if they have the right equipment.

North Korea says the nukes are a defensive measure against any U.S. attack or invasion threat. The U.S. says it has no plans to invade or attack the North.

Middle East Cease Fire
Officials representing Palestine and Israel verbally agreed to a halt in hostilities.

Israel will agree to halt military action so long as Palestine makes no further terrorist agressions. Factions in Palestine have not totally agreed to this concept but did agree to look at the tenants of the accords made verbally by both sides. The Palestine government will not have to enforce this at the current time with agressive anti-terrorist measures, but are expected to eventually police their own insurgents.

Arthur Miller Dies
The playwright and author died at the age of 89. He is best known for the play "Death of a Salesman" and he also wrote the motion picture "The Misfits" which stared his then wife, Marilyn Monroe.

The Budget With 2.5 Trillion And Red Ink
President Bush and key Republicans are pushing for their 2.5 Trillion Dollar budget that trims a variety of programs including farm subsidy, something which could possibly weaken support for Republicans in the rural areas where they normally hold a strong lead. Missing from the budget is the cost of Social Security and the Iraq military operations. Democrats say this could turn the budget to 4 trilling by 2010.

The budget is based on privitization of Social Security, tax cuts and curbing Federal grants and social programs between 2005 and 2009, when the President leaves office. At that time the budget deficit is expected to be reduced to under 300 million.

The last President to have no deficit and balance the budget was President Clinton, who was in office just before President Bush. The Clinton administration even saw a small budget surplus.

Neither the Clinton administration, Bush administration, Reagan administration, Bush Senior administration nor Carter administration has made a single dent in the National Debit or Balance of Trade Deficits that has gone on since around the time of the Roosevelt administration starting around 1940 and World War 2, where U.S. borrowing and spending outpaced collected taxes.

President Bush State of the Union Speech
The yearly batch of political rhetoric and spin (that is provided equally by both Republicans and Democrats when they are in office) is due to be broadcast live on U.S. network television at 9 pm Eastern Time tonight. President Bush is expected to make statements on Iraq and Social Security.

A largely extension of the campaign speech process, nothing truly new ever comes from either party. The President will probably vaguely push for continued support of the new Iraq government and tell us how bad off Social Security is (something we've known for years, as President Reagan had also worked on this problem raising the retirement age over the next few decades to 67 and 72) and that we must "privitize" it, something many people (including the Democtratic Party) don't really support as it could wipe out "retirement years" for many young people down the road. The current, forced, government insured system warrantees each person who works 10 years or more some type of retirement income. A private fund can go bankrupt (like Lincoln Savings did in the 1990s) or can be pilferred by the investor who is still young and wants the money now not later.

Bush is not expected to tackle hard issues of his Presidency, such as the growing national debt, budget deficits and greenhouse gasses and globl warming (the U.S. is not part of the World effort on this program).

Pope John Paul Hospitalized
The 84 year old Polish born Pontiff, who has headed the Shi'ites are exepected to win a majority, largely because of a general Sunni boycott, however some Shi'ite leaders have gone on record as stating that Sunni representation will be incorporated into the government one way or another and that everyone will be represented.

Guantanamo Tribunals Declared Unconstitional
A U.S. Federal Court Judge has declared the "Tribunals" at the Guantanamo detension center to be unconstitutional and that the detainees are entitled to "rights" under the U.S. Constitution.

This is a lower Federal Court and the Bush administration will certainly take the matter to a higher court who may delay any changes of status from this lower court ruling, setting the stage for an issue that will be settled in a mid-level Federal court as it is highly unlikely the U.S. Supreme Court will look at this matter without a "special" test case of merit. So long as the mid-level court makes a sound constitutional ruling (one way or the other) the Supreme Court will probably pass on any petition for review without comment.

Decision Iraq
Voters in Iraq go to the polls today to cast ballots for their assembly and Parlament. It is anticipated that 50% of the people who can vote will vote, which is far above the percentage of those in the U.S. who generally vote in elections.

No one party or group is expected to gain a majority and therefore there will most likely be a coallition government formed in the next two weeks. See our piece on Parlamentary governments in the Issues section.

Morning L.A. Commuter Train Wreck Kills 10
Around 6 this morning a Metro Link commuter train that was apparently leaving the city of Glendale (first stop from downtown Los Angeles main station) while on route to the city of Burbank struck a parked SUV left intentionally on the tracks, derailed, struck a freight train and then side-swiped another Metro Link communter train heading into Glendale/Los Angeles from Burbank.

All in all 10 people have died, including Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Deputy James Tutino. Tutino was probably one of the two Deputies that regularly ride the train to monitor payment of fares (riders purchase tickets at the train stations and must hold a valid travel ticket or they recieve a citation from the County Sheriff). Hundreds were injured as this is a heavily travelled morning commute for those living in Orange County or in Los Angeles who are going to of from Glendale, Burbank (by the mall and shopping district), San Fernando, Van Nuys (by the General Motors plant), Northridge (by the University campus), Moorpark, Simi Valley, Santa Clarita, Sagus and Newhall. Many city and county staff members, medical workers at Glendale Memorial Hospital, students at Cal State University Northridge and employees of both Disney and Warner studios take this ride daily.

Fire Fighters from Los Angeles, Glendale and Burbank had to pull many people from inside the wreckage in which some cars were totally flattened, some rolled off the embankment and some lay on their sides against the rails.

KNBC/NBC News Photo

Issues Editor Earl R. Dingman used to ride this exact train each morning from the studio where he worked in Atwater Village (a small Los Angeles community located between the City of Glendale and Griffith Park) and remembers showing Deputy Tutino his ticket stubs in the past.

This is the most serious accident in the 13 year history of Metro Link, which is operated by Amtrak and uses Amtrak rail easements and one of the 3 most serious train wrecks in Southern California history.

The train runs adjacent to San Fernado Road on almost a straight run from Glendale to Burbank, except for a slight curve just before entering Glendale from the Burbank area (in the South), which seems to be where this accident occurred next to an industrial park complex. There are three to four sets of rails along this area to service both commuter (Amtrak) and freight (Southern Pacific, who operates all tracks in this area) trains. Freight trains are regularly parked along this stretch of rail area from the Glendale station back along the curve. Many businesses, including supermarkets, have side rails to accomode freight trains bringing in supplies. Many Amtrak trains don't make stops in either Burbank nor Glendale, except for a few runs. Metro Link always makes stops at both. Southern Pacific freight trains use the same exact twin pair of tracks to run freight into Los Angeles Union station. The remaining tracks are sidings for layover freight trains, which is where the freight train engine involved in this collision probably was located.

It is common for Metro Link trains to pass each other most times of day as the inbound and outbound timetables are generally only a few minutes from each other.

At this area of track between Glendale and Burbank (a 5 minutes rail trip) there are more than a dozen street crossings, all with signs and gates. Train drivers are required to honk their horns continually for 500 feet before each crossing. It is generally normal for the train to be moving a 50+ MPH and the driver can see ahead in most instances, however it takes a long time to stop such a train and the driver probably never had much of chance after seeing the car. Because the car seemed to be "wedged" on the tracks it didn't give way as the train collided with the Jeep SUV.

A 25 year old Latino male, Juan Manuel Alvarez, is suspected of leaving his vehicle on the tracks intentionally in an aborted suicide attempt. He is described by all reports as "derranged." He may be charged with multiple counts of murder in this collision.

TV Host Johnny Carson Dies

NBC Photo of Johnny Carson, star of the Tonight Show from 1962-1992.

(Watch 'The Tonight Show' now with host Jay Leno, weeknights on most NBC stations at 11:30 pm local time.)

While not widely known outside the United States, Johnny Carson was a fixture on late night U.S. television for decades (making him the rough equivalent of David Frost in the UK).

Starting on the local CBS affiliate in Los Angeles, he graduated to network television as a writer for the Red Skelton Hour. He then became the host of the game show To Tell The Truth on NBC. When Jack Parr retired as host of the Tonight Show, a late night interview and talk show that ran from 11:30 pm until 1 am, Carson took over that spot in 1962 and remained there until 1992.

Carson introduced the world to a lot of new talent, including many new comics. He gave a lot of these comics his spot on the show when he took vactions, including George Carlin, Joan Rivers and Jay Leno.

Caron regularly did comic bits on his show, of which the most popular regular bit was the mystic Carnac who knows the answer to the questions before he hears the questions. We, here at Issues, lampooned that bit for our President Karnak segement during the recent Presidential race, as we noticed that George Bush, Jr. and Carson looked very much alike, so we put the President's face over the Carson image.

Another classic one time bit on the Carson show was his President Reagan send up, based on the Abbott and Costello "Who's On First" routine in which the forgetful President asks about that Arafat fellow and his adviser says Yassir and the President say, yeah well tell his first name and the adviser goes Yassir. Then the President asks about the name of his Interior Secretary (James Watt) and is advise says Watt, sir. The President then restates, "I said, what's the name of my Interior Secretary...!" "Watt, sir!" "That's what I want to know, what's his name?" "Watt, sir!...." Carson stares the camera like a deer in headlights.

Carson was an Icon to millions of Americans who stayed up late just to see his opening monologue and sometimes pushed the envelop to see the show show which went on past midnight.

China's Zhao Ziyang Dies
Zhao Ziyang, a former premier of China died today from a lung ailment in Beijing. He was 85 years old and had an up and down career in China's Socialist political movement since the 1930's. He helped institute some of the reforms that has helped China's economy in the last few decades, but also caused some problems in the China economy as a result of those reforms.

ESA Probe Lands On Titan
A space probe, complete with photo taking capabilities, has landed on Titan, one of the many moons of the planet Saturn. This is the first space vehicle to land on the moon of another Planet. In the past probes have flown by such moons, including moons of Saturn or have landed on either the planets Mars or Venus, plus our own moon.

The probe shows round boulders in the ground and evidence of lake beds where cold, liquid gases may reside from time to time.

Key Guard Conviced In Iraq Prisoner Abuse
Spc. Charles Graner Jr. was found guilty on all charges today by a Military Court jury. He faces up to 15 years in prison for his part in the torchure and humiliation of Iraqi Prisoners while serving as a senior guard. He is the most senior member of the Military to be convicted and the first by Courts Martial. Others have bargained to get reduced sentences and not face a Courts Martial or were sentenced under other Military articles.

CBS Fires Producers; Rather Chastised
Four senior producers and executives, mostly women, were fired as a result of a questionable story they produced about President and Candidate for re-election George Bush and his National Guard issues.

It was eventually decided that documents they used and showed (and which were the basis for the heart of the story) were forgeries.

The producers we faulted for not taking enough time to verify the documents and for rushing it to the screen, however the independent reviewers did defend them to a degree stating that other pending news stories on the "60 Minutes" programs they supervised were taxing and contributed to the poor oversight on this one story.

Dan Rather, who narrated the story, was chatised for not looking deeper and questioning the producers after the story was presented to him for narration.

The producers and executives involved has extensive time in with CBS or other networks such as ABC. They produced some impactive shows over their tenure.

Mahmoud Abbas Wins Presidential Election In Palestine
The popular and moderate Mahmoud Abbas won 62% of the vote (however some factions boycotted the elections) to become the replacement for the late Yassir Arafat.

The world is hoping that this election may signal a new begining for peace and progress in the Middle East between Palestinians and Isralies.

Governor Ali al-Haidari of Baghdad Assasinated
Gunmen ambushed the three vehicle convoy of the Baghdad regional Governor killing him and six of his body guards. Last year al-Haidari's Deputy was killing in an attack.

Happy New Year
To most in the world this date establishes the start of a New Year, at least for business and commerce (even in the Middle East and Asia, where they hold different views on the "start" of a new year).

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