Archive for the ‘Media’ Category

Firing watch and norts spews: November 29, 2016.

Tuesday, November 29th, 2016

This is an actual ESPN headline:

espn
Jesus, Joseph, and Mary. May the dead rest peacefully, and may the survivors recover and find peace as well.

Recent firings that I missed over the past few days:

Brian Polian out in Nevada, though this is being spun as “by mutual agreement”. The team was 23-27 over his four years, and 5-7 this year.

Ron Caragher out at San Jose State. 19-30 in four seasons, 4-8 this year.

Art (Acevedo), damn it! watch. (#AB of a series)

Thursday, October 20th, 2016

I want to get this up while it is still fresh, but I don’t have as much time to think and write about as I’d like: I’m actually down at the cop shop tonight.

The chief recently had a closed door meeting with his commanders. Apparently, during the meeting, he laid into a few of them about not following his direction, especially with respect to relations with the minority community.

Someone taped the meeting and provided a copy to the Statesman. (Edited to add 10/21: Link fixed. Thanks, Uncle Kenny.)

Quick thoughts, based on a skim of the article:

  • Taping the meeting and giving a copy to the press strikes me as questionable.
  • I don’t see anything really outrageous in what the chief said.

I may have more to say on further reflection.

Breaking news from the blotter.

Tuesday, September 27th, 2016

Suspect number three in the shooting of Judge Kocurek is now in custody.

According to the Statesman report, he was run to ground in New Orleans.

According to federal authorities, Burgin led federal agents on a car chase in Southwest Houston on Sept. 22 that resulted in a crash and a foot chase. Burgin escaped and had been a fugitive ever since.

It seemed to me that the HouChron (at least online: I don’t see the print edition these days) was awfully quiet about the chase, the search, and the $10,000 reward that was offered for this guy.

Onyeri and the others are accused of committing mail fraud, bribery of a public official, wire fraud, document fraud, access device fraud and money laundering from January 2012 to November 2015 in Austin, Houston, the state of Louisiana and surrounding areas.

Impressive resume, even without the “tried to kill a judge” part.

TMQ watch.

Thursday, September 15th, 2016

Our blog traffic has spiked up in the past couple of days, and we haven’t been able to figure out why. It doesn’t seem to be tied to anything specific we’ve written (our stats just show a lot of folks looking at the homepage/archives) but there do seem to be two things that are kind of popular: our list of Austin city council members, and people looking for Gregg Easterbrook’s ‘Tuesday Morning Quarterback”.

We don’t have anything new to report on tha second front. Here’s what Easterbrook is saying:

TMQ

We are trying to keep an eye on his Twitter for more substantial updates, but that’s all we have for now.

The other scandal I wanted to touch on…

Thursday, September 8th, 2016

My major source of information on this is an article in the WP. I haven’t seen very much English-language coverage elsewhere, but I welcome links if anyone has them.

There’s a place in Sweden called the Karolinska Institute, a medical school with an associated teaching/research hospital, the Karolinska University Hospital.

The hospital, up until March of this year, employed a scientist, Dr. Paolo Macchiarini. It seems that Dr. Macchiarini was kind of a hot shot:

Macchiarini captured headlines in 2011, a year after he had been recruited by the institute, for his work in regenerative medicine. That year he implanted a “bioartificial” trachea, one made from plastic and the patient’s own stem cells, into a man named Andemariam Beyene.

This is kind of cool, at least to me. Regenerative medicine is sort of a holy grail: imagine if, instead of a heart transplant and the lifetime of anti-rejection/immunosuppressivee drugs, you could just grow a new heart? Or liver? Or spleen?

(Tangentially related: Isabelle Dinoire died in April, though her death is just now being reported in accordance with her family’s wishes. Ms. Dinore was the first person to receive a partial face transplant, and her death is being attributed in part to the immunosuppressive drugs she had been taking.)

So what went wrong?

But in January 2014, as the Iceland Review noted, the trachea Macchiarini had implanted became loose, killing Beyene.

“trachea…became loose”. But wait, there’s more: Dr. Macchiarini did three of these surgeries. Two of the patients are dead, and the third has been in intensive care since 2012.

But wait, there’s more:

The investigator who examined his studies said that Macchiarini was guilty of scientific misconduct by omitting or fabricating information about his patients’ postoperative status to make the procedure seem more successful than it really was.

But wait, there’s more: Dr. Macchiarini didn’t get signed consent forms from two of the patients, and the one he did get isn’t valid. (“that one signed form would not have been approved’ since the patient wasn’t afforded the option of discussing the procedure with an independent medical expert”).

But wait, there’s more:

The report pointed out that a different synthetic material was used in each transplant, which hinted at a lack of research into which one actually worked and suggested an unreadiness for usage in human beings.

There was also illegal use of “growth-stimulating drugs” without proper permits.

But wait, there’s more! It isn’t just that Dr. Macchiarini was a rogue researcher who has since been fired:

The English version of the report stated:

There are many instances of KI [Karolinska Institute – DB] employees being involved in the discussions preceding and following up surgery. KI has also, in several contexts, cited the transplantations as part of its own activities. For example, they have been quoted as research successes in KI’s evaluations of how research funding has been utilized.

This report opined that KI never should have hired Macchiarini in the first place, considering the references the institution received concerning the surgeon.

It was the usual stuff: negative references, false information on his CV, you know the drill.

Lastly, the report found the hospital extended Macchiarini’s contract twice — once in 2013 and one in 2015 — with “no real evaluation or assessment of Macchiarini’s work.”

But. Wait. There’s. More.

The Karolinska Institute is very closely tied to the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine.

On Tuesday, the Nobel Assembly, which is in charge of choosing the recipient of the institution’s prize for physiology or medicine, asked Harriet Wallberg-Henriksson and Anders Hamsten, two of its 50 judges, to resign. Both are former vice chancellors of the Karolinska Institute, the Swedish medical university associated with the Karolinska University Hospital that employed Macchiarini.

(If I understand correctly, those 50 judges are just the ones who decide on the medicine prize.)

The Swedish Minister of Higher Education also fired Wallberg-Henriksson from her position as “Sweden’s chancellor of all public universities”. The minister is also demanding that everyone who was on the board of the Karolinska Institute while Dr. Macchiarini was employed there resign. “Any who choose not to resign will be replaced, Reuters reported.”

By the way: Dr. Macchiarini is also being criminally investigated. It looks like the prosecutors may press involuntary manslaughter charges against him, depending on the outcome of the investigation.

(It occurs to me: this would make for another great “Law and Order” script. Your cold open is a guy walking down the street with his girlfriend when he suddenly drops dead, coroner finds the loose trachea, McCoy charges the doctor with murder…)

(Question for any TV writers who might be reading this: is it okay to write spec scripts for shows that aren’t on the air any longer?)

Edited to add: Just found this: a February article from Vanity Fair. Seems that NBC News did a two-hour long documentary on Dr. Macchiarini.

I swear, I need an AutoText for “But wait, there’s more”: Dr. Macchiarini was also involved in a romance with the producer of the documentary. As in, they were going to get married. By the Pope. Who personally approved their marriage, even though they were both divorced and she is Episcopalian. And who was going to host the wedding at Castel Gandolfo.

“…Who the hell are you and what the hell is wrong with you?”

Headline of the day.

Thursday, September 1st, 2016

Everyone was loving Montreal’s family-friendly puppet festival until the prison rape part

Torn from the pages of the NYT.

Monday, August 8th, 2016

Two stories from the NYT that aroused my interest, for different reasons:

Emperor Akihito of Japan wants to step down from the throne. But it isn’t that simple. There’s no provision in the law that allows him to step down and have his son, Crown Prince Naruhito, take over the throne, so the Japanese government would have to change the law. But the Emperor can’t ask for that directly, because that would be meddling in politics. So he has to hint that he’d like the law changed. But people are concerned that if the government does change the law, they would be exerting undue influence over the throne. So Japan has a mess to sort out, one that’s also tied up with the question of allowing women to take the throne, and what the role of the Emperor should be in present day Japanese society.

One of the things that I found most striking about this article was a reference – which appears to have been deleted from the current version of the article, but there are comments mentioning it – to Crown Prince Naruhito’s wife, Masako, Crown Princess of Japan, who according to the article (this is also backed up some by Wikipedia) has lived in virtual seclusion for the past fifteen years battling crippling depression. That’s about the saddest thing I’ve heard in a long while.

Story number two: a man named Neil Horan, who lives in London, was upset that Vanderlei de Lima was selected to light the Olympic flame.

Why?

Neil Horan shoved Vanderlei de Lima into the crowd during the 2004 Olympic marathon, probably costing him the gold medal. (De Lima ended up winning the bronze.)

Horan has gained bursts of infamy for his public exploits. He is a defrocked Irish priest who has made an occasional habit of interrupting sports events. He frequently appears at demonstrations, wearing a green beret and a green vest — the same outfit he wore when he interrupted the Olympic marathon — claiming that the second coming of Jesus is near. In 2009, he appeared on “Britain’s Got Talent,” and his Irish dancing earned him an invitation to the second round, until executives realized who he was. He does not dispute the label as an eccentric.

I believe “asshole” is actually the word the paper of record is looking for here. But what reason does Horan have for being so worked up?

He said that he has sent de Lima two letters of apology, in Portuguese, but has never had contact with him since the fateful day in Athens. (After the 2004 Games, Horan said he planned to go to Brazil to apologize in person, but he faced charges of indecency with a child. He was acquitted by a jury later that year.)

“It’s extremely sad that he never responded to my apologies, nevertheless acknowledged them,” Horan said. “I would like to meet him and his family. But absolutely no response. I condemn him for this. He miserably failed in basic manners of human decency and courtesy.”

That’s funny. I would have said the person who failed in “basic manners of human decency and courtesy” was Horan, when he pushed an athlete that had done nothing to him into a crowd and ruined his chance at winning the race.

Seriously. This guy is upset because the man he wronged refuses to accept his apologies, or even contact him. That’s not surprising; that’s the kind of behavior you expect from delusional assholes.

“As if I was just some sort of pop star looking for attention,” Horan said. “I see it as a personal attack on me, my Christian mission and Christ himself.”

The question on my mind is: why did the NYT chose to devote space to the rantings of an attention-seeking nut?

Random notes: August 1, 2016.

Monday, August 1st, 2016

I’ve observed that sometimes the NYT will run nice obituaries for people who weren’t famous – the type of person whose passing would usually escape the paper of record’s notice, except that they were a community figure in their neighborhood or something very much like that.

The man who lost his voice was a gentle man who didn’t ask terribly much of life. He lived in a miniature space in a single-room-occupancy residence on the corner of 74th Street and Third Avenue in Manhattan, above J. G. Melon, the popular restaurant and bar known for succulent hamburgers. And he was a New York story.

Another nice story from the NYT: Shannon Beydler and Kevin Hillery were married July 3rd. Ms. Beydler is a judicial clerk and a first lieutenant in the Marine Corps Inactive Ready Reserve. Mr. Hillery attended the Naval Academy.

But in the spring of 2011, during an off-road adventure race with three friends in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, a storm blew in as he was biking down a hill; a tree hit his head and rolled down his back, crushing his spine. Mr. Hillery was airlifted to Charlottesville, Va., where he underwent surgery.
During months of rehabilitation, he wondered if he would ever be able to get back to the Naval Academy. Less than a year later, Mr. Hillery did just that, graduating with his class — the first paraplegic to do so in the school’s 170-year history.

See also, by way of Instapundit: “Can the New York Times Weddings Section Be Justified?”

Ace of Spades had a sidebar link over the weekend to the semi-finalists in the Texas State Fair fair food competition.

“Bacon Wrapped Pork Belly on a Stick”? Isn’t that just bacon-wrapped bacon on a stick? “Buffalo Chicken Jalapeno Poppers”? Can’t you get those at Chili’s? “Injectable Great Balls of BBQ”? Don’t know, don’t want to know, don’t believe the word “injectable” should ever be used with a food item. “Deep Fried Bacon Burger Dog Sliders on a Stick”? “Loaded Bacon Mashed Potato Egg Roll”? Okay, now these people are just stringing random words together; those last two sound like something that was auto-generated by a Perl script.

Historical note: today is the 50th anniversary of the UT Tower shootings. I haven’t written much about that, and won’t: other people have done it better, and this year’s anniversary is even more politically fraught than usual. (Today is also the day that the university’s new rules on campus concealed carry take effect.)

I haven’t gone through this, and am not sure if a login is required (or if you can get away with private browsing), but here’s the Statesman‘s 50th anniversary coverage. Noted: A Sniper in the Tower: The Charles Whitman Murders by Gary Lavergne (the definitive book on the shootings) is available in a Kindle edition.

Obit watch: July 11, 2016.

Monday, July 11th, 2016

Sydney H. Schanberg, Pulitzer-prize winning journalist, passed away on Saturday.

Mr. Schanberg was a correspondent for the NYT who covered the fall of Cambodia.

In the spring of 1975, as Pol Pot’s Communist guerrillas closed in on the capital, Phnom Penh, after five years of civil war in Cambodia, Mr. Schanberg and his assistant, Dith Pran, refused to heed directives from Times editors in New York to evacuate the city and remained behind as nearly all Western reporters, diplomats and senior officials of Cambodia’s American-backed Lon Nol government fled for their lives.
“Our decision to stay,” Mr. Schanberg wrote later, “was founded on our belief — perhaps, looking back, it was more a devout wish or hope — that when the Khmer Rouge won their victory, they would have what they wanted and would end the terrorism and brutal behavior we had written so often about.”

That didn’t quite work out the way Mr. Schanberg hoped. He was eventually thrown out of Cambodia and returned to the United States, but he never forgot Mr. Dith.

Overwhelmed with guilt over having to leave Mr. Dith behind, he asked for time off to write about his experiences, to help Mr. Dith’s refugee wife and four children establish a new life in San Francisco and to begin the seemingly hopeless task of finding his friend.

Dith Pran escaped Cambodia in 1979 and made his way to the United States. He and Mr. Schanberg got back together, Mr. Schanberg got him a job as a photographer with the NYT, and wrote an article for the NYT magazine, “The Death and Life of Dith Pran”. That became a book, and eventually the movie “The Killing Fields”.

“I’m a very lucky man to have had Pran as my reporting partner and even luckier that we came to call each other brother,” Mr. Schanberg said after Mr. Dith died in 2008. “His mission with me in Cambodia was to tell the world what suffering his people were going through in a war that was never necessary. It became my mission too. My reporting could not have been done without him.”

Today in journalism fraud.

Friday, July 1st, 2016

Noted author Gay Talese (“Frank Sinatra Has a Cold”, The Kingdom and the Power) has a new book coming out.

The Voyeur’s Motel is allegedly based on the diaries of a man named Gerald Foos. Mr. Foos owned a motel in Colorado, and claims that he constructed special walkways above the ceilings of some of the rooms so he could secretly watch his guests having sex.

Except there are some problems with the Foos story:

Foos sold the motel, located in Aurora, Colo., in 1980 and didn’t reacquire it until eight years later, according to local property records. His absence from the motel raises doubt about some of the things Foos told Talese he saw — enough that the author himself now has deep reservations about the truth of some material he presents.

More:

Talese does note in “The Voyeur’s Motel” that he found discrepancies in Foos’s accounts. Foos’s earliest journal entries, for example, were dated 1966. But the author subsequently learned from county property records that Foos didn’t buy the Manor House Motel until 1969 — three years after he said he started watching his guests from the catwalk. “I cannot vouch for every detail that he recounts in his manuscript,” Talese writes in the book.

If you can’t vouch for details, why did you write the book? Shouldn’t this have sent up some warning flags?

In a series of interviews, he expressed surprise, disappointment and anger to learn about the transactions. He said he had not been aware of them until a reporter asked him about it on Wednesday.
“The source of my book, Gerald Foos, is certifiably unreliable,” Talese said. “He’s a dishonorable man, totally dishonorable. . . . I know that. . . . I did the best I could on this book, but maybe it wasn’t good enough.”

The odd thing is, nobody seems to be talking about pulling the book. Yet.

Edited to add: And now Talese is disavowing his disavowal:

In a statement from his publisher, Grove Atlantic, the 84-year-old author said, “Gerald Foos, as no one calls into question, was an epic voyeur, and, as I say very clearly in the text, he could also at times be an unreliable teller of his own peculiar story. When I spoke to the Washington Post reporter, I am sure I was surprised and upset about this business of the later ownership of the motel, in the [1980s]. That occurred after the bulk of the events covered in my book, but I was upset and probably said some things I didn’t, and don’t, mean. Let me be clear: I am not disavowing the book and neither is my publisher. If, down the line, there are details to correct in later editions, we’ll do that.”

If I were a betting man, I’d bet money that there’s going to be even more information coming out that throws doubt on Foos and his claims, and that this will end badly for Talese, the book, and Grove Atlantic.

Quote of the day.

Tuesday, June 21st, 2016

Apropos of nothing in particular, and certainly not related to anything below:

The paper of record.

Wednesday, June 8th, 2016

Two interesting bits from the NYT:

1. I noticed this yesterday, and Lawrence emailed me about it as well: Rudolph Stocker retired from the Times on May 18th at the age of 78.

Who?

Rudolph Stocker was the last printer at The Times working under a guaranteed lifetime contract; the last Times employee who knew how to operate a Linotype casting machine; the last journeyman of the old International Typographical Union and its New York local, No. 6, a bargaining unit that was once so powerful and important that everyone in the newspaper business knew it simply as “Big Six.”

When the Times went over to computer typesetting, part of their agreement with the union guaranteed job security to the existing printers (“…1,785 situation-holders and full-time substitutes, 810 of whom were at The Times”).

Did he sit on his butt after the paper phased out the Linotype?

“Rudy was an expert proofreader,” his colleague Barbara Natusch recalled, “and transferred his skills from operating a Linotype machine to producing ads for the paper on a Mac, using InDesign and Photoshop.”

Sounds like a hell of a guy. I hope he has a happy retirement.

Through his colleagues, he made it known that he was not interested in a valedictory interview.

2. The Times Insider talks about the process of getting Ali’s obit into the paper, including a literal “stop the presses”.

It’s always kind of nice to know these people are human, too:

“Looks like I picked the wrong week to stop smoking,” Mr. Coffey said, imitating Lloyd Bridges in the disaster spoof “Airplane!”