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Saturday, October 20, 2007

Of Cat Herding and Gay Wizards...A Strange Week for News

It's been sort of a surreal week for news. The typical stupidity of the Beltway notwithstanding (nothing that goes on in DC surprises me any more), it's been sort of a strange week for news, and the weekend has kicked off with a gala of even more weirdness.

Definitely not normal news.

I suppose from time to time the dinosaur media and even the NEW media have to find things that are, for lack of a better word, different. The "different" for this past week, however, have the taintings of the ghost of Rod Serling to them...

Let's start with the dinosaur media itself. I used to like Charles Gibson; he came across as personable, likable, and someone you could actually sit down with in the morning and discuss the issues of the day over a cup of coffee. Perhaps that's why he had such staying power on Good Morning America. He really, really showed his true self this week, however, on World News Tonight:

A Depressing Lack of Bad News
By Rich Tucker
Saturday, October 20, 2007

Bad news, folks. We’re winning in Iraq.

According to a front page story in The Washington Post, “The U.S. military believes it has dealt devastating and perhaps irreversible blows to al Qaeda in Iraq in recent months, leading some generals to advocate a declaration of victory over the group.”

Wait -- isn’t that good news? As Charlie Gibson put it on ABC’s World News Tonight, “One item from Baghdad, today. The news is that there is no news. The police told us that to their knowledge, there were no major acts of violence. Attacks are down in Baghdad, and today, no bombings or roadside explosions were reported.”

Oh, come on, Post. Come on, ABC. You’re not trying hard enough. Any story can be bad news if you’re willing to dig deep enough.

Luckily for us, the Baghdad bureau of McClatchy Newspapers did just that. “A drop in violence around Iraq has cut burials in the huge Wadi al Salam cemetery here by at least one-third in the past six months,” Jay Price and Qasim Zein reported. “That’s cut the pay of thousands of workers who make their living digging graves, washing corpses or selling burial shrouds.”

You can almost hear the late Peter Jennings in the quote that has been covered up and not to be found but I and other people I know heard him say one night, "We did not mean to mislead you more than we had intended."

Moving right along.

Ernest Hemingway remains one of the best known authors of modern time. Tourists can still visit his mansion on Key West and see where he lived and wrote for more than a decade. Among the other things visitors can find while touring the grounds are the descendants of Hemingway's six toed cat Snowball. It would seem, however, that some people at the USDA have decided that they HAVE to step in on private property and make assertions:

The plot thickens for Hemingway's cats

By Laura Parker, USA TODAY
Literary legend's six-toed legacies live on in Key West — much to the dismay of some. The fight over the felines has grown to include the USDA and the courts.

The legendary American novelist Ernest Hemingway lived in Key West for a decade in the 1930s, in a stone mansion on Whitehead Street with his wife, Pauline, and a six-toed cat named Snowball.

Hemingway divorced Pauline in 1939, but Snowball stayed on. Today, about 50 of Snowball's descendants roam the grounds, to the delight of many tourists who visit the Hemingway Home and Museum. But the cats won't be roaming much longer, if the federal government has its way.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has cited the museum for violating a 1966 federal animal welfare law, and has threatened to impose stiff fines or confiscate the cats if the Hemingway Home does not do more to control the felines. Department inspectors say that the museum must be licensed as an exhibitor of animals, and that the cats, which sometimes climb over the wall surrounding the grounds, must be confined to the property.

After initially moving to comply with the government's demands, the Hemingway Home now is fighting them. The dispute has festered into one of those big-government-vs.-the-little-guy showdowns that involves a growing cast of characters, including locals in Key West, members of Congress, the U.S. Department of the Interior and, last week, a federal judge.

In an effort to resolve the spat, the museum sued last July in federal court and asked a judge to determine whether the USDA has jurisdiction over the museum. On Dec. 18, U.S. District Court Judge K. Michael Moore dismissed the museum's suit, saying that it first should pursue remedies in administrative hearings and appeals.

Darby Halladay, a USDA spokesman, says the agency will schedule a hearing before an administrative law judge.

"There's always a possibility of confiscation," he says of the cats. "The likelihood of that occurring, I can't state. But that is a remedy."

The museum also could face thousands of dollars in fines.

Cara Higgins, the museum's attorney, says that the federal Animal Welfare Act, which sets care standards for animals in zoos and circus acts, should not apply to the Hemingway Home.

The cats "are born and raised and live their lives in Key West," she says. "They've been doing so for over 40 years. They're not sold, they're not distributed, they're not taken across state lines."

Neighbor's complaint

The dispute began when a USDA inspector showed up at the museum in October 2003 in response to a complaint about the cats.

Long negotiations and multiple inspections ensued. The USDA suggested several methods for containing the cats, including hiring a night watchman, adding an electrified wire to the top of the property's 6-foot stone wall, or adding to the stone wall, which Hemingway had built in 1937.

The museum countered that a wire could shock tourists as well as cats, and that altering the wall would put at risk the house's designation by the Interior Department as a National Historic Place.

At the height of the USDA's investigation of the museum, the agency rented a room in a guesthouse near the Hemingway property in order to videotape the cats.

In a report of one inspection, on Dec. 1, 2004, the USDA noted that "during the inspection, a cat was seen scaling the fence and leaving the property." Another report cited the death of a cat named Toby, which had been fatally struck by a car after leaving the property.

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican who represents Key West, wrote to Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns, calling for a compromise over the Hemingway cats. Ros-Lehtinen, noted that "this extraordinary museum serves as an essential bond to past and revered American culture."

The Hemingway Home flunked three inspections. When the USDA declined to grant it a license, the museum sued to try to avoid having to get a federal license.

The Hemingway Home is one of Key West's most-visited attractions. Although Hemingway wrote most of his novels in Key West, including To Have and Have Not and A Farewell to Arms, Higgins says many tourists come just to see the cats.

Key West is known as much for its cats as it is for its zany festivals and eccentric charm. Located 159 miles from Miami and 90 miles from Havana, it is the southernmost point in the continental USA. Cats arrived in Key West long ago with visiting sea captains, who employed them as shipboard rat catchers. Today, cats wander Key West.

The neighbor who complained about the Hemingway cats is Debbie Schultz, a former official at the local animal shelter who lives four doors away from the museum.

"I contacted the USDA," Schultz says. The museum "made it appear I am the villain, that I am out to undermine everything they stand for in cats, which is absurd. My whole thing is the cats need to be cared for properly."

Those interested in positions as cat herders should contact the office of Senator Hillary Clinton, who is rumored to have much experience with cat fights and cat herding...


Speaking of cat fights, who could have seen this one coming? Any Harry Potter fans in the audience? Of course there are, even I like the Potter movies. But you know, watching the movies, I frankly didn't catch something that must have been obvious to J. K. Rowling. I haven't read the books yet; my 17 year old son has all of them and now I may have to borrow them from him and do a little digging to see if there is anything that suggests what Rowling revealed this week to fans in New York:

Dumbledore was gay, JK tells amazed fans

David Smith
Sunday October 21, 2007
The Observer

There could hardly have been a bigger sensation if Russell Crowe, Rod Stewart or Sven-Goran Eriksson had come out of the closet. Millions of fans around the world were yesterday digesting the news that one of the main characters in the Harry Potter novels, Albus Dumbledore, is gay.

The revelation came from author JK Rowling during a question-and-answer session at New York's Carnegie Hall. It instantly hurtled around the internet and the world. News websites in China and Germany announced starkly: 'JK Rowling: "Dumbledore is gay".' One blogger wrote on a fansite: 'My head is spinning. Wow. One more reason to love gay men.'

After reading briefly from her mega-selling book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, on Friday night, Rowling took questions from an audience of 1,600 students. A 19-year-old from Colorado asked about the avuncular headmaster of Hogwarts School: 'Did Dumbledore, who believed in the prevailing power of love, ever fall in love himself?'

The author replied: 'My truthful answer to you...I always thought of Dumbledore as gay.' The audience reportedly fell silent - then erupted into prolonged applause.

Rowling, 42, continued: 'Dumbledore fell in love with Grindelwald [a bad wizard he defeated long ago], and that added to his horror when Grindelwald showed himself to be what he was. To an extent, do we say it excused Dumbledore a little more because falling in love can blind us to an extent, but he met someone as brilliant as he was and, rather like Bellatrix, he was very drawn to this brilliant person and horribly, terribly let down by him.'
Can you say "making it up as you go along?" Interesting that Rowling waited until after finishing the series to make this "outing." I wonder if George Hamilton will play a "younger" Dumbledore. I can see it now, Dumbledore, the Gay Wand. Has a ring to it.

Speaking of goofy gay things, what about Ellen Degeneres and the the whole puppy adoption breakdown this week?

Ellen DeGeneres' Pooch Gets New Home

By SOLVEJ SCHOU – 1 day ago

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The pooch at the center of the dog-adoption drama between Ellen DeGeneres and an animal rescue agency has found a new home. Iggy was placed with a new family earlier this week, a spokesman for the agency's owners said Friday.

"We're not revealing the family's identity to protect their privacy," attorney Keith A. Fink told The Associated Press. "The dog is fine."

The tug of war over the little dog named Iggy began after DeGeneres, who had initially adopted the terrier mix, gave the dog to her hairstylist after Iggy couldn't get along with her cats.

Marina Batkis and Vanessa Chekroun, who own the nonprofit Mutts and Moms adoption agency, said DeGeneres violated her signed agreement, which called for Iggy to be returned if things didn't work out.

Iggy was removed from the hairstylist's home on Sunday during a confrontation that DeGeneres said left the woman's daughters in tears.

You know, she KNEW up front what the conditions were. Did she think that she was an exception because she's Ellen? Maybe she should have just built a four foot fence, like the following story discusses:

Congressman Questions Mich. Turtle Fence

Associated Press Writer

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) -- A congressman disputes the state's contention that it's worth $318,000 in federal money to keep turtles from becoming roadkill.

Installation is expected to begin this week on a 2-mile-long fence along both sides of U.S. 31 in Muskegon, in west-central Michigan. It is intended to prevent hundreds of turtles, some of them protected species, from being killed as they migrate to nesting sites along the Muskegon River, which the highway crosses.

Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich., questions why the Michigan Department of Transportation did not consider using the money on other projects "more related to the movement of people and products."

"Serious times require a serious approach to the very real problems Michigan faces," Hoekstra said in a news release issued Wednesday.

The 4-foot-high chain-link fence has been planned for two years. State officials consider it a relatively inexpensive solution to a problem that affects traffic safety and the environment of rare turtle species.

The fence will cover a stretch of road that is Michigan's deadliest for turtles and one of the nation's worst for the reptiles, Tim Judge, manager of a Transportation Department service center in Muskegon, said Thursday.

Two state-protected species - the wood turtle and Blanding's turtle - are common traffic victims, as are snapper, painted, box and map turtles.

Department spokeswoman Dawn Garner didn't know whether any drivers swerving to avoid turtles have gotten into crashes, but said: "There is definitely the potential for improving the safety of motorists."

Yes, let's all watch out for those turtles jumping out in front of us as we drive along not suspecting that we're in danger of TURTLE ATTACKS. Such horrid criminals these turtles can be, catching drivers off guard and causing huge amounts of damage each year.

Speaking of criminals, our last piece comes from Japan, where those creative and ingenious Japanese police officers are trying to be like the Canadian Mounties, and always get their man:

Fearing Crime, Japanese Wear the Hiding Place

TOKYO, Oct. 19 — On a narrow Tokyo street, near a beef bowl restaurant and a pachinko parlor, Aya Tsukioka demonstrated new clothing designs that she hopes will ease Japan’s growing fears of crime.

Deftly, Ms. Tsukioka, a 29-year-old experimental fashion designer, lifted a flap on her skirt to reveal a large sheet of cloth printed in bright red with a soft drink logo partly visible. By holding the sheet open and stepping to the side of the road, she showed how a woman walking alone could elude pursuers — by disguising herself as a vending machine.

The wearer hides behind the sheet, printed with an actual-size photo of a vending machine. Ms. Tsukioka’s clothing is still in development, but she already has several versions, including one that unfolds from a kimono and a deluxe model with four sides for more complete camouflaging.

Hat tip to Steve Gill for that one. His comment is that the Diet Coke one is more slimming...

Once and Always, a Still Highly Amused American Fighting Man