"You spend your whole life practicing your humor for the times when you really need it."
~Jerome Cornfield, speaking to his children about his pancreatic cancer diagnosis.
I noticed something unsettling while I was searching for news stories this morning. A large proportion, if not an outright majority, of stories that newspapers and cable news websites classify as "US News" or "National News" is political. The rest is crime, death and national disasters with very little coverage of life in America.
More protests over HK 'national education' row
Thousands protested outside government headquarters in Hong Kong on Monday, amid a row over a controversial national education programme.
The protesters accuse the government of trying to brainwash students with pro-China education and want the programme to be scrapped.
But the government says it is about building national pride and identity.
Bahrain court upholds life sentences for opposition activists
A defense lawyer says a Bahrain appeals court has upheld jail sentences against 20 opposition figures, including eight prominent activists facing life in prison.
Tuesday’s decision is likely to bring strong objections from international rights groups. The Gulf kingdom has been hit by nearly 19 months of nonstop unrest between the Sunni-led ruling system and Shiite protesters demanding greater political rights.
Syria Says No Dialogue Before It Crushes Rebels
The Syrian regime said Monday there will be no dialogue with the opposition before the army crushes the rebels, the latest sign that President Bashar Assad is determined to solve the crisis on the battlefield even if many more of his people have to pay with their lives.
The statement comes a day after activists reported that August was the bloodiest month since the uprising began in March 2011.
"There will be no dialogue with the opposition prior to the Syrian army's imposition of security and stability in all parts of the country," Information Minister Omran al-Zoebi told reporters at a news conference in Damascus.
How Plan to Help City Pay Pensions Backfired
Jeffrey A. Michael, a finance professor in Stockton, Calif., took a hard look at his city’s bankruptcy this summer and thought he saw a smoking gun: a dubious bond deal that bankers had pushed on Stockton just as the local economy was starting to tank in the spring of 2007, he said.
Stockton sold the bonds, about $125 million worth, to obtain cash to close a shortfall in its pension plans for current and retired city workers. The strategy backfired, which is part of the reason the city is now in Chapter 9 bankruptcy. Stockton is trying to walk away from the so-called pension obligation bonds and to renegotiate other debts.
After reviewing an analysis of the bond deal, underwritten by the ill-fated investment bank, Lehman Brothers, and watching a recording of the Stockton City Council meeting where Lehman bankers pitched the deal, Mr. Michael concluded that “Stockton is entitled to some relief, due to deceptive and misleading sales practices that understated the risk.”
When it rains, it pours: Isaac eases drought, starts floods
For most of the U.S., Hurricane Isaac has come and gone, and now Southerners and Midwesterners are grappling with the good and bad it left behind.
Evacuation orders eased for parts of Louisiana, and many Missouri residents saw the possible end of a long and painful drought when Isaac passed over the state Friday and Saturday, dumping much of its strength before going on to Illinois and Indiana.
Kansas City cooled off with a long drenching in which some areas reportedly received 7 inches of rain, arriving slowly enough to get sucked up by the parched soil rather than flooding over it.
Ancient Human Kin’s DNA Code Illuminates Rise of Brains
DNA analysis of an extinct human ancestor that lived 80,000 years ago has pinpointed fundamental genes tied to the brain’s evolution, showing how genome testing is changing anthropology and archaeology along with medicine.
At least eight genes that rose to prominence in human DNA since the time of the ancient relatives, called Denisovans, affect nerve growth and language, an international team of researchers said today in the journal Science. The cognitive power conferred by these genes may have keyed the development of complex thinking skills, culture and civilization said Svante Paabo, a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.
“This is perhaps in the long term, to me, the most fascinating part about this; what it will tell us in the future about what makes us special in the world,” he said yesterday on a conference call.
Stanford Scientists Cast Doubt on Advantages of Organic Meat and Produce
Does an organic strawberry contain more vitamin C than a conventional one?
Maybe — or maybe not.
Stanford University scientists have weighed in on the “maybe not” side of the debate after an extensive examination of four decades of research comparing organic and conventional foods.