Zimmerman Sues NBC

Good for him!  George Zimmerman is suing NBC over their reporting of the incident between Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin. Whatever may be said about that incident, and I am not commenting on that here, it is obvious that their reporting was slipshod and perhaps intentionally deceptive. Here is the story I read at the Washington Post.

Lawyers for George Zimmerman filed suit today against NBC Universal Media over a well-publicized editing error that portrayed their client in racist terms in his pursuit of Trayvon Martin on a drizzly evening in February.

“NBC saw the death of Trayvon Martin not as a tragedy but as an opportunity to increase ratings, and so to set about the myth that George Zimmerman was a racist and predatory villain,” states the civil complaint in its opening salvo against NBC.

This is the part to pay attention to.

NBC’s editing of the 911 audiotape in the Martin case became a public fixation after the media-monitoring Web site NewsBusters.org noted editing oddities on a “Today” show broadcast March 27. Here’s how NBC News portrayed the audiotape:

Zimmerman: This guy looks like he’s up to no good. He looks black.

The full tape went like this:

Zimmerman: This guy looks like he’s up to no good. Or he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around, looking about.
Dispatcher: OK, and this guy — is he black, white or Hispanic?
Zimmerman: He looks black.

Zimmerman thus didn’t volunteer a racial profile of Martin; he was asked to provide it, a point that the lawsuit makes in colorful fashion: “NBC created this false and defamatory misimpression using the oldest form of yellow journalism: manipulating Zimmerman’s own words, splicing together disparate parts of the recording to create illusions of statements that Zimmerman never actually made.”

The suit contends that this and other examples were no innocent mistakes but a deliberate attempt to stir up racial trouble for the sake of higher ratings. I wouldn’t care to speculate on anyone’s motives but I think that the media has to be held accountable. If it turns out that NBC’s reporting of this case was intentionally deceitful, I hope Zimmerman wins the suit and I hope he cleans up.

By the way, I read some of the comments below the article. There is nothing quite so depressing as seeing how stupid many of these people are, on both sides of the issue.

Mutant Mosquitoes

This story I read at The Daily Mail sounds like it could be the beginning of a really bad horror movie.

English: Mosquito on finger This image is part...
English: Mosquito on finger This image is part of a set of UF/IFAS images specifically released for Creative Commons usage. Please do not alter or delete attribution watermark. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hundreds of thousands of genetically modified mosquitoes are awaiting federal approval for release into the Florida Keys as part of an experiment aimed at reducing the risk of dengue fever.

Mosquito control officials have requested the Food and Drug Administration’s sign off on the experiment that would be the first of its kind in the U.S.

Some residents of the tourist town of Key West worry though on how much research has been done to determine the risks of releasing genetically modified mosquitoes on the Keys’ fragile ecosystem.

Officials are targeting the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes because they can spread dengue fever, a disease health officials thought had been eradicated in the U.S. until 93 cases originated in the Keys in 2009 and 2010.

The trial planned by mosquito control officials and the British company Oxitec would release non-biting male mosquitoes that have been genetically modified to pass along a birth defect that kill their progeny before reaching maturity.

The idea is that they will mate with wild females and their children will die before reproducing. After a few generations, Key West’s Aedes aegypti population would die off, reducing the dengue fever risk without using pesticides and at relatively a low cost, the proponents say. There is no vaccine for dengue fever.

English: Stegomyia aegypti (formerly Aedes aeg...
English: Stegomyia aegypti (formerly Aedes aegypti) mosquito biting a human. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

‘The science of it, I think, looks fine. It’s straight from setting up experiments and collecting data,’ said Michael Doyle, pointing to research Oxitec has had published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. He inherited the project when he took the lead at the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District in mid-2011.

The district’s website says the modified genes will disappear from the environment after the mosquitoes carrying it die, resulting in no permanent change to the wild mosquito population. The district also says that the mosquito species isn’t native to the Keys, nor is it an integral food source for other animals.

Dengue fever is a viral disease that inflicts severe flu-like symptoms — the joint pain is so severe its nickname is ‘breakbone fever.’ It isn’t fatal but victims are then susceptible at subsequent exposures to dengue hemorrhagic fever, which can be.

‘It’s very uncomfortable. You ache all over, you have a terrible fever,’ said Joel Biddle, a Key West resident whose dengue fever symptoms lasted more than a week in 2009.

Biddle is among those concerned about the Key West trial. He worries the modified genetic material will somehow be passed to humans or the ecosystem, and he wants more research done. He and other Key West residents also chafe at the fact that the project was in the works long before it was made public late last year.

The public resistance and the need to reach some agreement between mosquito control and the public, I see that as a very significant issue, outside of the (operating) costs, since this is not just a one-time thing,’ Lounibos said.

The Aedes aegypti has shown resistance to pesticides used to control other species, and is the most difficult for the district to manage. Common in the Southeast and the Caribbean, it lurks in standing water around homes and businesses and can breed in containers as small as bottle caps.

District inspectors go door-to-door to remove the standing water where they breed, a time-consuming task. The district spends roughly $1 million a year to suppress Aedes aegypti, 10 to 15 percent of the agency’s budget, Doyle said.

‘Unfortunately, control of Aedes aegypti is a never-ending job,’ said Larry Hriber, the mosquito control district’s research director.

In the trial, thousands of male mosquitoes bred by Oxitec would be released in a handful of Key West blocks where the Aedes aegypti is known to breed; the number of mosquitoes in those neighborhoods would be measured against the numbers from similar blocks where no modified mosquitoes were released.

What happens next is that the genetic modifications cause the mosquitoes to grow to giant size, or there mosquitoes turn out to be fertile and their female descendants bite human and turn them into weird mosquito creatures, or something. Well if they could make a bad movie about giant killer rabbits why not one about giant killer mosquitoes?

The truth is that mosquitoes are responsible for more human fatalities than any other animal by carrying diseases like malaria and dengue fever. It really wouldn’t bother me in the least if the whole mosquito family were made extinct. That, would of course, be bad for various ecosystems since bats and other animals feed on them, but still I don’t like mosquitoes at all.

How to Fix Everything in America Forever

There are some people out there, mostly hippies, who believe that America’s best days are behind us, that we are no longer the best, most awesome country in the world. The solutions to our problems that are proposed by the politicians do not seem do not seem to work.

Fortunately, Frank J. Fleming has come to the rescue with his new book, How to Fix Everything in America Forever. In this book, he truly thinks outside the box with innovative yet commonsense solutions to the problems facing us and offers ways to make America even more awesome than it already is. These ideas include such proposals as requiring Congressmen to wear pain collars, banning whining, blowing up public schools and putting kids to work where they can learn marketable skills, punching hippies, and, of course, nuking the Moon. If we all follow Fleming’s proposals, we make America a nation to be feared and respected once again.

All joking aside, Fleming makes a number of very good points under the guise of satire, not least of which is that we have to get into the habit of solving our problems ourselves once again and not look to the government. Even at its best, the government helping people is like Godzilla rampaging through downtown Tokyo. As Fleming points out, relying on the government is like relying on Godzilla to save a baby from danger. Even if he does it successfully, there is still that trail of destruction he left behind.

This is why the epilogue of this book is about the most dangerous hippie of all, the one we see when we look in a mirror. It does little good to punch hippies all day long, if at the end of the day we listen to the hippie inside us that tells us we can’t do it on our own, we need to government to help and protect us.  We need to shut that hippie inside us up so we can go about the work of making this a country even better than our forbearers gave us.

I  hope that Frank J Fleming is successful in making his readers think a little while they are laughing, and I hope he writes more books like How to Fix Everything in America Forever. We need them.