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Friday, June 16, 2017

Trailer for "The Tunnels"--on Escapes Under the Berlin Wall

Thursday, June 8, 2017

New Study 'Verifies' Deaths at Berlin Border

In my new book "The Tunnels," on escapes under the Berlin Wall (click on cover at right for more), I detail some of the most dramatic murders at the barrier in the early 1960s and beyond:  escapees, diggers, and guards alike.  I also note that there have been conflicting estimates of how many Germans were killed at the Wall, based on strict or loose accounting (some counts, for example, include a large number who committed suicide or died or heart attacks and other ailments while contemplating or attempting escapes).

Now a new study, released today, takes a new "strict" approach, and places the number at  327,  more than double the previous "verified" total.  (My photo at left.)  Just one detail:
The 327 victims came from both East and West Germany, and the vast majority (80 percent) were younger than 35 years old. The youngest victim was six-month-old Emanuel Holzhauer, who died of asphyxiation next to his parents inside the trunk of a car as they were being smuggled into the West from the GDR (East Germany).

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Media on Trump: the First 100 Days

Amazing study just released by the very credible Shorenstein center at Harvard.  Here's their press release summary:
A new report from Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy analyzes news coverage of President Trump’s first 100 days in office.

The report is based on an analysis of news reports in the print editions of The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post, the main newscasts of CBS, CNN, Fox News, and NBC, and three European news outlets (The UK’s Financial Times and BBC, and Germany’s ARD).

Findings include:
  • President Trump dominated media coverage in the outlets and programs analyzed, with Trump being the topic of 41 percent of all news stories—three times the amount of coverage received by previous presidents. He was also the featured speaker in nearly two-thirds of his coverage.
  • Republican voices accounted for 80 percent of what newsmakers said about the Trump presidency, compared to only 6 percent for Democrats and 3 percent for those involved in anti-Trump protests.
  • European reporters were more likely than American journalists to directly question Trump’s fitness for office.
  • Trump has received unsparing coverage for most weeks of his presidency, without a single major topic where Trump’s coverage, on balance, was more positive than negative, setting a new standard for unfavorable press coverage of a president.
  • Fox was the only news outlet in the study that came close to giving Trump positive coverage overall, however, there was variation in the tone of Fox’s coverage depending on the topic.

Friday, April 14, 2017

More for Easter from Sam Cooke

From our greatest modern singer, with Soul Stirrers, mid-1950s.  
And another.

When Good Friday Comes

One of the finest vocal performances ever--and greatest Good Friday song--featuring Sam Cooke with the Soul Stirrers, mid-1950s. 

Friday, April 7, 2017

Bombing Syria: Updates for April 7

The latest below, updated frequently at the top, all times ET.   I've done this before, and wrote a rather influential book on Iraq and the media with this title:  So Wrong for So Long.

12:50  AP:  U.S.now probing if Russians were involved in the alleged chemical attack.

12:30  The Guardian: Global critiques and praise reveal divisions on the civil war.

11:45  That scene from my favorite movie, Dr. Strangelove, where President Muffley phones the drunken Russian premier about coming U.S. air strike.

11:30   Bernie Sanders releases statement on it being "easier to get into war than out of it" based on recent past.

10:35  Sen. Elizabeth Warren releases statement--Syria must pay but Congress needs to approve.   Sen. Mike Lee later joins her.

10:30  People are finding numerous Trump tweets from past that mock his current stance.  Just one from 2013:   "The President must get Congressional approval before attacking Syria--big mistake if he does not!"

10:20  The Atlantic's Andrew Exum on how "the fight against the Islamic State just got harder."

10:15:  ABC and others report that Trump warned Russia about coming attack, Russia warned Syrians, and Syrians moved key equipment and personnal away from attack.  Remember when Obama ripped notion of ever signaling enemy about a possible attack?

10:10  Trump's approval rating in the Gallup daily tracker cratered at 35% a week ago but had climbed to 41% before the attack.  Expect rise to near 50% by Sunday--unless it's true (which I doubt) that all of his alt-right fans oppose this. 

10:05   "BREAKING Russian military says it will help Syria strengthen its air defenses after US strike."

10:00  As I tweeted last night, liberal pundits on TV and print almost all back the Syria attack, from Nick Kristof to take your pick.  Brian Williams committed the sin of quoting Leonard Cohen's line about loving "the beauty of our weapons" (which Leonard did not take as an endorsement but Brian did).  Now Fareed Zakaria on CNN claims, "I think Donald Trump became President of the United States" last night.   Oh, I thought that happened when he introduced the widow of Navy Seal he killed at his State of the Union?

9:45 Juan Cole on the "supreme hypocrisy" of USA complaining about civilian deaths.  Also:  From my years of research: U.S. tried to cover up radiation effects of A-bombs in Japan fearing it would be (rightly) likened to "poison gas."

9:30  Unconfirmed, of course, but Syrian state news agency Sana reports: nine civilians, including four children, were killed by the strike.   No claims yet that Sarin or other poisons released in the strike.

9:00  @MalcolmNance, a leading intel and military expert for MSNBC, has been tweeting about the foolishness and risks of this attack and predicting more to come.  His latest:  MISSION FAILURE: US struck base deliberately avoided destroying chem weaps/killing crews. Warned Ru/Sy. Message? Kabuki lives.

8:45  Keep in mind, as always, that nearly every Pentagon reporter is simply a mouthpiece--they report claims as facts without the reminder, "of course, there is no way for us to confirm this and we may not even try." 

8:30  I've spent much of professional life since the early 1980s (when I became the editor of Nuclear Times and spent a month in Hiroshima and Nagasaki) to writing about the atomic attacks of 1945--and the fact that the U.S. has retained its first-use policy to this day.  My recent article (after hundreds of earlier ones) posted here.

8:oo. First things first:  Trump did not want to admit those dead babies into the U.S.....Did Trump think this attack through--Russians may not release info on his aides aiding their election hacking...

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Update: My Ten (or Fifteen) Best Movies List

Every year pre-Oscar I post a tentative, incomplete list of best movies of the year--with a few additions to come. I see a lot of movies, including many indie, foreign and doc, but unlike "real" critics, I don't get invited to screenings and so, at that point, I have not seen all the contenders.  Then in January and February I catch up on most of the stronger candidates I'd missed.  Now I'm only missing Toni Erdmann, which I will see tomorrow, weather permitting.  So here we go, a top 16, from what I can say now, in approximate order.

Manchester By the Sea
The Salesman (Iran)
Hell or High Water
The Innocents 
The Witness
20th Century Women
La La Land
Hunt for the Wilderpeople
The Lobster
The Tower
The People vs. Fritz Bauer 
I Am Not Your Negro
The Handmaiden

Close but no cigar:  Elle, Fences, Hidden Figures.   Paterson was disappointing.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Second Best!

My favorite worldwide trend....comedy shows in countries throughout Europe (and now beyond) making videos making their claim to being "second best in world" since Trump has declared America First!  The Dutch kicked it off,  the video weent viral, now inspiring at least two dozen others everywhere, even supposedly Mars, all mocking Trump (and shockingly up to date on details of his own claims and language).   There's now a web site posting the videos, Every Second Counts, just click on country on their map.

I'll post as many as I can below, starting with Holland, which kicked it off:
Here's Germany's great one:

two and too many more to add....

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Winter in America

Alex Winter, for years now a fine doc film director, trained his camera on people arriving in lobby of Trump tower for meetings with the predator upstairs, and has just released a six-minute slice of "life."

Monday, January 23, 2017

Baghdad Bob and the Spicer of Life

After his bold face lies of the weekend, new Trump press secretary Sean Spicer is being compared to none other than the immortal "Baghdad Bob."

Baghdad Bob, of course, was Saddam Hussein’s minister of information, later immortalized on t-shirts, Web sites, and even a DVD for his optimistic, if fanciful, statements about Iraq’s triumph over the American infidels, right up to the point his boss left the building. Baghdad Bob somehow survived and later worked as an Arab TV commentator, sans trademark beret.

Here are a few Baghdad Bob classics from the spring of 2003. See if you can imagine them coming out of the mouth of Spicer, KellyAnne or the Donald speaking to the press today.


“Be assured: Baghdad is safe, protected.”

“The American press is all about lies! All they tell is lies, lies, and more lies!”

“They think that by killing civilians and trying to distort the feelings of the people they will win.”

“We are in control, they are not in control of anything, they don’t even control themselves!”

“The battle is very fierce and God will make us victorious.”

“Those are not Iraqis at all. Where did they bring them from?”

“No, I am not scared, and neither should you be.”

“I blame Al-Jazeera.”

“I would like to clarify a simple fact here: How can you lay siege to a whole country? Who is really under siege now?”

“We’re giving them a real lesson today. Heavy doesn’t accurately describe the level of casualties we have inflicted.”

“I can assure you that those villains will recognize in the future how they are pretending things which have never taken place.”

“They are becoming hysterical. This is the result of frustration.”

“I speak better English than Bush.”

“Just look carefully, I only want you to look carefully. Do not repeat the lies of liars. Do not become like them.”

“The United Nations … it is all their fault.”

“This is unbiased: They are retreating on all fronts. Their effort is a subject of laughter throughout the world.”

“The force that was near the airport, this force was destroyed.”

“They are achieving nothing. Our estimates are that none of them will come out alive unless they surrender to us quickly.”

“They hold no place in Iraq. This is an illusion.”

“My information came from authentic sources. Many authentic sources.”

“Once again, I blame al-Jazeera. Please, make sure of what you say and do not play such a role.”

“I will only answer reasonable questions.”

“These cowards have no morals. They have no shame about lying.”

“You can go and visit those places. Everything is okay. They are not in Najaf. They are nowhere. They are on the moon.”

“My feelings – as usual – we will slaughter them all.”

“We are in control. They are in a state of hysteria. Losers, they think that by killing civilians and trying to distort the feelings of the people they will win. I think they will not win, those bastards.”

“Rumsfeld, he needs to be hit on the head.”