Columns

Recurring Columns

FROM THE CHIEF'S CORNER: ARE YOU PREPARED? SEPTEMBER IS NATIONAL PREPAREDNESS MONTH!

 

By Sam DiGiovanna

September 5, 2013 (San Diego) – Are You Prepared? Jeeepers, What Next?

It seems there are so many things we need to be prepared for, says Fire Chief Sam DiGiovanna. How do you keep up and prepare with all these life and worldly events?

September is the 10th Annual National Preparedness Month, which means that public safety agencies are busy working on a number of events to ensure that their communities are educated, informed, and ready to face any type of crisis situation. “This year’s national theme is ‘Be Your Own Hero,’” says Fire Chief Sam DiGiovanna.

FROM THE CHIEF'S CORNER: LABOR DAY SAFETY TIPS

 

By Fire Chief Sam DiGiovanna

August 29, 2013 (San Diego) – Next weekend is the start of Labor Day Weekend.  In order to ensure your Labor Day is a good one, there are some simple safety precautions to consider, says Fire Chief Sam DiGiovanna.  Anyone want to barbecue or picnic?  Keep a close eye on the grill to ensure safety at all times.  Keep children away.  Keep the grill away from combustibles and vegetation.

EARTHTALK®: FOOD WASTE TO ENERGY

 

August 26, 2013 (San Diego) – Dear EarthTalk: Might another possible source for ethanol be discarded pastries from bakeries? For that matter, wouldn’t fermenting unsold bananas, oranges and apples from grocery store produce departments be able to provide an ample supply of fuel?

-- Curious in Warren, PA

Food waste is indeed an untapped resource with great potential for generating energy. Some one third of all food produced around the world gets discarded uneaten, and environmentalists, energy analysts and entrepreneurs are beginning to take notice. Diverting even just a portion of this waste to so-called waste-to-energy (WTE) systems could free up large amounts of landfill space while powering our vehicles and heating our homes, and thus putting a significant dent in our collective carbon footprint. Perhaps that’s why WTE is one of the fastest growing segments of the world’s quickly diversifying energy sector.

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: DRUNKS VS. ROBOTS (THE WORLD'S END)

 

 

By Brian Lafferty

August 23, 2013 (San Diego) – Up until The World’s End, Edgar Wright had only three feature films to his directorial credit:  Shaun of the Dead (2004), Hot Fuzz (2007), and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010).  However small his output, those films – Shaun of the Dead in particular – have spawned a huge cult following like few I’ve encountered in recent years.  To those outside this circle, he’s an acquired taste.  Shaun of the Dead, for example, was a dry take on the zombie apocalypse in fine British fashion.  It’s laugh out loud funny if you get the sophisticated humor.

RENO DISPATCH: BOB FILNER THANKFULLY RESIGNS, BUT TROUBLING QUESTIONS LINGER

 

 

By Jamie Reno

August 20, 2013 (San Diego) – I'm sure by now you've read the news that embattled San Diego Mayor Bob Filner is probably resigning. Yes, the greasy pol is apparently out - though some of the details of his pending resignation "deal" are still uncertain. It had to happen. At least 18 very credible women have come forward with specific accounts of Filner's creepy behavior. That he is apparently leaving represents a potentially healing moment for this city, which has taken a major PR hit in recent weeks.

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: SERVE AND REFLECT (LEE DANIELS' THE BUTLER)

 

By Brian Lafferty

August 15, 2013 (San Diego) – Like Forrest Gump, Cecil Gaines (Forest Whitaker) views American history from a distance, a bystander swept up in a relentless flurry of major historical events that came to dominate and define the latter 20th century.  Like Forrest Gump, Danny Strong's screenplay - based on the Washington Post article by Wil Haywood - mystifies the civil rights movement, the Kennedy assassination, and the Vietnam War.  As major political figures appear, and landmark events transpire or are referenced, the joy of discovery and realization kicks in at full stop.  And like Forrest Gump, it's full of "easter eggs" masterfully hidden that become uncovered with repeat viewings. 

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: TECHNOBABBLE (JOBS)

 

By Brian Lafferty

August 16, 2013 (San Diego) – After Steve Jobs passed away in October 2011, Steve Breen - whose political cartoons are always as funny as they are spot-on - paid a more respectful and touching tribute to him.  It showed him, presumably having arrived in Heaven, being welcomed by Thomas Edison and Benjamin Franklin.

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: THE LEAGUE OF ORDINARY SUPERMEN (KICK-ASS 2)

 

By Brian Lafferty

August 16, 2013 (San Diego) – Scattered throughout Kick-Ass 2 are the same high-caliber flashes of genius of its predecessor.  Only thing is Kick-Ass had a rich, fully developed screenplay by Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn from which to hang them.  Jeff Wadlow's screenplay is otherwise a messy concoction of underdeveloped subplots and gratuitous nasty violence. 

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: NO TIME LIKE THE PRESENT (THE SPECTACULAR NOW)

 

By Brian Lafferty

August 15, 2013 (San Diego) – Sutter (Miles Teller) is like that friend who has certain annoying tendencies, but you nonetheless love hanging out with.  He's a boisterous young man with an extreme fondness for beer...even though he hasn't yet graduated high school.  He knows how to have a good time, too.  A really good time.  One night he'll be at a party, and then the next morning he'll find himself passed out on a random neighbor's lawn.

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: PLANET OF THE 99% (ELYSIUM)

 

By Brian Lafferty

August 9, 2013 (San Diego) – Last August, I declared on Facebook that you will never see me post about politics and religion on social media.  That’s an easy rule for me to follow on Facebook and Twitter.  Not so much when reviewing movies (Gerrymandering, Client 9).  Writer and director Neill Blomkamp packs so many socio-political issues into his latest film, Elysium, that it demands discussion.  

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: I THINK IT'S GOING TO BE A LONG, LONG TIME (EUROPA REPORT)

 

By Brian Lafferty

August 8, 2013 (San Diego) – Every time I think about Europa Report, I can’t help but think of Elton John’s hit song, Rocket Man.  It tells about an astronaut who leaves his family for a lengthy and lonely trip to Mars.  The lyrics beautifully describe the feelings of isolation ("It's lonely out in space"), longing ("I miss the Earth so much, I miss my wife"), and career crossroads ("All this science, I don't understand, it's just my job five days a week.") 

RENO DISPATCH: NO MURDER CHARGES FILED IN THE CASE OF MISSING AMERICAN AUBREY SACCO

 

August 8, 2013 (San Diego) – An update today from Nepal on a story I've been following for two years: Contrary to what a number of media reports suggested last week, lack of enough evidence has prevented police from filing murder charges against the three people identified as suspects in the alleged murder of American woman Aubrey Sacco, who went missing in 2010.

Nepal's Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) arrested the three suspects Friday in connection with the possible murder of Aubrey, an athlete, scholar and musician who as I reported for ESPN had gone missing from the Langtang area of the Rasuwa district of Nepal more than three years ago.

RENO DISPATCH: IS AMERICAN JOURNALISM CORRUPTED BY BIG PHARMA DOLLARS?

 

August 8, 2013 (San Diego) – There have been many breakthroughs recently in the study of adult (non-embryonic) stem cells. But the national media has all but ignored them. Most news outlets still seem to prefer perpetuating the tired notion that all adult stem cell researchers are cons and all patients who enroll in adult stem cell clinical trials are fools. That's no longer the case.

Yes, there are still unethical players in this sector who take advantage of ailing, desperate patients willing to try anything. And yes, this is a relatively new field about which there is still much to learn. But a number of reputable companies that specialize in this research, including Medistem and Cytori Therapeutics, already have FDA-approved trials under way or in the pipeline for a variety of health conditions.

SYLVIA'S SOAPBOX: THE ZIMMERMAN JURY DROPPED THE BALL

 

By Sylvia Hampton

August 6, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) -- I did not watch every minute of the George Zimmerman trial, but I did see the closing arguments and enough testimony to get the basic evidence against him and the arguments from the defense.  I was convinced the jury would take the hint from the judge and find him guilty of manslaughter. Most talking heads have missed an important key to why the verdict came down as “not guilty” and that was the fact that the most powerful personality on the six-women jury turned out to be wrong, biased, and she pressured and got a unanimous vote. The hold-outs caved to her pressure because they were intimidated, I believe.

THE ATTORNEY'S CORNER: IS A PREMARITAL AGREEMENT RIGHT FOR YOU?

 

“Your source for Trusts, Wills, Probate, Family Law & more”

By Stephen C. Ross, Esq.

August 3, 2013 (San Diego) – A “premarital” (also called “prenuptial” or “antenuptial”) agreement is a contract entered into between prospective spouses in contemplation of marriage, or between domestic partners in contemplation of registering their partnership with the State. The agreement establishes property rights and financial responsibilities upon consummation of the marriage or registration of the partnership. A premarital agreement is typically intended to create conditions that will preserve a forthcoming marriage or registered domestic partnership.

FROM THE CHIEF'S CORNER: SUMMER THUNDERSTORMS - PRETTY, BUT DANGEROUS

 

By Fire Chief Sam DiGiovanna

July 30, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) – We are in the monsoon season, where pop-up thunderstorms can quickly and unexpectedly bring flash floods no matter where you live, warns Fire Chief Sam DiGiovanna. Though part of natures beauty, these storms can be very dangerous.

EARTHTALK®: SEA LEVEL RISES NOT LETTING UP ANYTIME SOON

 

July 29, 2013 (San Diego) -- Dear EarthTalk: Hurricane Sandy brought more sea water onto shorelines than I’d ever witnessed before and many communities near where I live are now being required to raise their homes up. What is the prognosis for sea level rise in the years immediately ahead?

-- Scott P., Fairfield, CT



Since sea level measurements were first recorded, in 1870, global averages have risen almost eight inches. The annual rate of rise has been 0.13 inches over the past 20 years, which is close to twice the average from the previous 80 years. Future estimates for sea levels vary according to region but most Earth scientists agree that sea levels are expected to rise at a greater pace than during the last 50 years.

FROM THE CHIEF'S CORNER: DAD, THE BURGERS ARE BURNING, AND SO IS THE HOUSE!

 

“July has been dedicated National Grilling Safety Month…”

July 24, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) – Dad, the burgers are burning, and so is the house!” Not something one wants to hear. While gas grills contribute to a higher number of home fires than their charcoal counterparts, all grills pose a risk for fires and burns, says Fire Chief Sam DiGiovanna.

BIRD TALK: NESTS - HOMES FOR BIRDS

 

By Greg Dunne

July 24, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) – Bird nests can be hard to observe. We usually just stumble across them out in nature. One place you can always see a large variety of Egret and Heron nests is in the Eucalyptus trees at Lindo Lake.

“Large” fledgling Egrets and Herons are leaving the nest at this time of the year. I say large because the Snowy and Great Egret babies getting ready to leave the nest are as big as their parents. It always looks a little odd to see Mother Egret feeding a bird nearly her own size in a very crowded nest.

POLITICAL REFLECTIONS: FILNER - MAYOR BEHAVING BADLY

 

By Mark Gabrish Conlan

July 19, 2013 (San Diego) – Just when you thought the current sex scandal involving San Diego Mayor Bob Filner couldn’t get any weirder, it did. On July 17 KGTV Channel 10 broke the news that Filner had been booked to be the keynote speaker at the National Military Women Veterans’ Association of America’s gala event in San Diego August 30-31. They had originally planned to give him a “Lifetime of Leadership” award honoring his work on behalf of veterans in general and military veterans in particular. But with allegations that Filner routinely harassed women, including his staff members, in the workplace and at community events, the group decided to rescind the award but keep him on as a speaker. “He is now the keynote speaker for these injustices,” said the group’s official statement.

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: ROCK THE BOAT (A HIJACKING)

 

By Brian Lafferty

July 12, 2013 (San Diego) – A Hijacking is a straightforward hostage movie that is as simply constructed and acted as its title.  Somali pirates take over a Danish cargo ship.  The captors demand millions of dollars in exchange.  No one-liners, no fancy style, no John McClane heroics or Hans Gruber villainy.  Not even a note of music to underscore the tension.

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: MONSTERS BRAWL (PACIFIC RIM)

 

 

By Brian Lafferty

July 12, 2013 (San Diego) – The scariest story I’ve ever read was Stephen King’s The Mist.  Made into a 2007 Frank Darabont film I’m too frightened to see, it told of a band of New England survivors trapped in a grocery story by a dense fog and a horde of horrific creatures from another dimension.  At the end, the remaining survivors encounter a monster so humongous, that it would make a blue whale – the largest animal in Earth’s existence – look like a trout.

FROM THE CHIEF'S CORNER: EMERGENCY EDITION

 

By Fire Chief Sam DiGiovanna

July 11, 2013 (San Diego) – Before a wildfire strikes:

  • Know where your gas, electric and water main shut-off controls are and how to use them.
  • Become familiar with your community’s disaster-preparedness plans and create a family plan.
  • Plan several escape routes from your home and neighborhood and designate an emergency meeting place.
  • Put together an emergency kit.
  • Ensure you follow your local fire code and adhere to its brush compliance program

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: HIGH FIVE, SILVER! AWAY! (THE LONE RANGER)

 

By Brian Lafferty

July 3, 2013 (San Diego) – When I first learned of The Lone Ranger’s budget, I asked myself, “What studio in their right mind would spend a quarter of a billion dollars on a movie based on a property that originated as a long-running radio show, and later a low-budget 1950s kids TV show?”  In the 1930s and 1940s, Monogram Pictures and Republic Pictures rolled out hundreds of low-budget B-movies, a significant chunk of them westerns.  A cursory glance through the Internet Movie Database and a little arithmetic tells me The Lone Ranger cost a ton more than all these companies’ movies put together.

FROM THE CHIEF'S CORNER: DOG GONE IT! WHAT ARE YOU THINKING? 4TH OF JULY SAFETY FOR PETS

 

By Fire Chief Sam DiGiovanna

July 1, 2013 (San Diego) – If your pets could talk, chances are they “wouldn’t” give you a “lick in,” says Fire Chief Sam DiGiovanna. Dogs can develop heat stroke and sunburn in the hot weather, but one danger to dogs that's frequently overlooked is the potential for paw pad injuries and burns from walking a dog on hot pavement or sand. Walk the dog in the early morning or evening to avoid paw pad burns. Avoid walking the dog in the heat of the day, when the sun beats down, heating the pavement and sand. Walk the dog on the grass; it’s cooler for you and them. Are you taking your dog hiking? Would you like to hike barefoot in the heat on rocky terrain? Maybe your dog wouldn’t either! Make sure you have water for your dog while hiking and do so during a cool hour and “watch those paws!”

FROM THE CHIEF'S CORNER: 4TH OF JULY SAFETY

 

July 1, 2013 (San Diego) – With warm weather and family events, the Fourth of July can be a fun time with great memories. But before you and your family celebrate, make sure everyone knows about 4th of July safety, says Fire Chief Sam DiGiovanna. If not handled properly, fireworks, barbeques and heat can be dangerous and cause injuries to kids and adults. The best advice: “Attend public fireworks displays, and leave the lighting to the professionals,” says Chief DiGiovanna.

FROM THE CHIEF'S CORNER: THE HEAT IS ON

 

By Fire Chief Sam DiGiovanna

June 28, 2013 (San Diego) – The Heat is on and looks like it will be with us for a while!

If you work or play outside, you should know about heat stress safety tips. Heat stress is caused by over exposure to hot climates. You might not think it is possible, but you can suffer from heat related injuries inside as well as outside. Heat stress occurs when your bodies core temperature rises above normal.

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: BLOODLUST (BYZANTIUM)

 

By Brian Lafferty

June 28, 2013 (San Diego) – Neil Jordan’s Byzantium is cinema’s best answer to the Twilight series since Tomas Alfredson’s Swedish vampire masterpiece Let the Right One In (not counting Matt Reeves’ equally crafted American remake Let Me In).  It takes the now all-too-familiar forbidden vampire-mortal love story and breathes into it an intoxicating mix of realism, atmosphere, and wicked sexiness.

POLITICAL REFLECTIONS COLUMN: HIGH COURT ON RIGHTS: 1 WIN, 1 LOSS, 2 DRAWS

 

By Mark Gabrish Conlan

Columnist's elation over marriage equality rulings is tempered by dismay over high court's ruling on Voting Rights Act

June 26, 2013 (San Diego)--The sun is shining this Wednesday, June 26 and it’s a beautiful, if rather hot, day in San Diego. I sent my husband Charles off to work this morning after we both got up early to watch MS-NBC broadcast news of the United States Supreme Court’s rulings on two cases involving the rights of same-sex couples to marry each other. It was a personal story to us because Charles and I are legally married.

RENO DISPATCH: THE SAD DEATH OF ONE OF AMERICA'S LAST REAL INVESTIGATIVE REPORTERS

Originally posted Wednesday, June 19 at the Reno Dispatch

June 25, 2013 (San Diego) – The news of Michael Hastings' death comes as a total shock. Michael, 33, who was killed early Tuesday in a car crash in Los Angeles, was among the last of a disappearing breed of fearless investigative reporters. A friend and former colleague, he and I worked together often when we were fellow writers at Newsweek.

I'll never forget our marathon phone conversations about politics, war, civilian casualties and General David Patraeus. Michael was probably the general's most outspoken critic, as you can see in this article he wrote for Rolling Stone. Michael ripped the general in that story, and in others. I haven't exactly gone easy on Patraeus, either, but I've typically left it to my sources to evaluate him in stories such as this one for Newsweek/Daily Beast. Michael had no time for that. It just wasn't his style. He called it the way he saw it, and I admired him for it.

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