Feb. 19, 2012: Whitney Houston, You Were Loved

Any time multiple television networks simultaneously cancel their regularly scheduled programming for the sake of covering a single event, our top story becomes clear. On Feb. 11, singer Whitney Houston, who in 2009 was named the most-awarded female act of all time, was found dead in her suite in the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles as she was preparing to attend a pre-Grammy Awards party. Whitney Houston, “The Voice,” will be buried next to her father this evening. Yesterday her family, friends, and fans gathered for a “Home Going Service” at which a number of fellow stars spoke and sang in Houston’s honor. (One fellow celebrity, ex-husband Bobbi Brown, left the service shortly after it began because of a conflict with security personnel.) The reasons for the 48-year-old’s death remain unclear, although that hasn’t stopped commentators from speculating that her cause of death might have been something less than natural. In any case, we can expect extensive coverage of Whitney Houston’s life, death, memorial service, and funeral for some time to come.

With just a few rounds of presidential primaries left until “Super Tuesday” on Mar. 6, the back-and-forth struggle continued with Mitt Romney taking the Maine caucuses from rivals Ron Paul and Rick Santorum on Feb. 11. Newt Gingrich has remained critical of his party opponents, saying that their negative ads have stymied Republican voter turnout and that they showed their fear in declining his Georgia debate challenge. Given how much longer the primaries are likely to take, it’s no surprise that President Barack Obama is diversifying his attacks to include the surging threat of Santorum as a possible challenger. Santorum, for his part, lashed back by questioning Obama’s values and attacking his positions on prenatal screening and abortion, while Romney is trying to overcome his “dog problem” by celebrating the 10th anniversary of the 2002 Olympics, a Salt Lake City event he helped to lead. While Obama has largely tried to avoid controversy in the campaign while his rivals are preoccupied with one another, his campaign manager, Jim Messina, isn’t afraid to stir up trouble. On Wednesday, he tweeted a reference from a recent Washington Post article: “Line of the day from WAPO’s Dana Milbank: ‘The chimichanga? It may be the only thing Republicans have left to offer Latinos.'” The comment prompted immediate backlash from the Hispanic Leadership Network, whose leaders demanded an apology for the comment which they deemed offensive to Latino voters, as well as from Republicans in general. In the end, though, perhaps this election won’t be about Republicans vs. Democrats as much as it will be a question of who gets the most billionaires on his side. Whether money or policies decide the race remains to be seen.

In somewhat more violent news, the FBI arrested a Moroccan man, Amine El Khalifi, near Capitol Hill on Friday. Khalifi, an illegal immigrant who made his home in Virginia, allegedly planned to carry out a shooting and suicide bombing attack on Congress. When he practiced detonating explosives in a West Virginia quarry last month, Khalifi believed he was working with the al-Qaeda terrorist organization. When two men gave him weapons and drove him to the Capitol, he thought he was completing his mission in opposing what he had called a “war on Muslims.” Little did he know that he had never been in contact with al-Qaeda — he had been the target of a federal sting operation from the beginning — and the sub-machine guns and explosive vests he carried were harmless fakes.

On the global scene, Iran is stirring up serious international tensions, as the country’s warships entered the Mediterranean Sea yesterday. Iran’s navy commander, Admiral Habibollah Sayari, said that Iran was showing its “might” to its regional neighbors, perhaps most notably Israel. With the country also poised to greatly increase its uranium enrichment program and possibly develop nuclear weapons, the United Kingdom’s foreign secretary William Hague warned that their ambitions could push the Middle East into “a new Cold War,” while U.S. officials worried that an attack could be mounted on American soil. Likewise, Israel’s Counter Terrorism Bureau issued a warning that Iran and the Islamic fundamentalist group Hezbollah are planning to attack more Israelis around the world. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak called for nations around the world to impose “crippling” sanctions against Iran in order to stifle the country’s atomic program, particularly given the apparent ineffectiveness of past sanctions. The Society for Worldwide International Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), which plays a key role in the international banking system, is banning blacklisted Iranian banks from their services and consequently putting economic strain on Iran’s capital, Tehran. Both the U.K. and the U.S. are reluctant to outright attack Iran, though, saying that there are “enormous downsides” for a move that could destabilize the region.

In technology news, Google is the center of ever more controversy this week, as Apple officials have filed a lawsuit against Google because of code related to their cookies. Although Apple’s browser, Safari, allows users to block cookies that monitor web browsing activity, Google’s cookies are specifically coded to bypass those security settings, subjecting users to monitoring without their knowledge or consent. To make matters worse, this contradicts Google’s own instructions on how to opt out of monitoring, as one Google page stated that Safari’s default setting was equivalent to opting out. Still, some say that this is just another missive in the fight between Apple and Google, noting that Apple’s decision to block cookies may have been a ploy to stymie Google, which heavily relies on those cookies. Besides, “If we really wanted privacy, we would turn off JavaScript, block ads, and browse in privacy mode through an anonymous proxy. But we would rather have free services.” Of course, that’s assuming that the general public knows how to do so, but there’s at least a point to be made about the choices that adept users make.

Those were all rather serious news stories, so let’s move to something a little lighter. An employee of French champagne producer Alexandre Bonnet was “attacking the building’s ceiling with a crowbar when gold coins started to rain down on him, followed by sacks of gold,” said company head Francois Lange. 497 U.S. gold coins were ultimately unearthed, and their collective value has been estimated at $980,000. While Lange could keep the profits for himself, he said he plans to only take half and share the rest with the employees who stumbled upon the treasure. Still, the story might not be over yet, as it’s possible that someone else will try to lay claim to the find, legitimately or otherwise. Just look at the prolonged legal battle over Spanish coins found off the coast of Florida in 2007.

In the self-fulfilling prophecy department, a man suffered a heart attack inside Las Vegas’ Heart Attack Grill. To make matters worse, he had just finished eating a “Triple Bypass Burger.” The restaurant advertises its menu as “Taste Worth Dying For!” (The man in question, thankfully, survived his medical emergency.) If you’re skeptical about how a burger could cause cardiac arrest, maybe this will enlighten you:

Triple Bypass Burger

Worth the ER visit?

Let’s just be glad he didn’t go for a Quadruple Bypass.

If eating a burger isn’t enough of a death-defying stunt for you, how about the tightrope walker who will attempt to be the first to cross Niagara Falls this summer? There’s also a Swedish man who survived for two months in a snowed-in car with no food. If that’s a little too dangerous for you, maybe the Thai marathon kissing contest, with couples trying to break the world record of over 46 hours, can provide some excitement without any deadly risk. (The record was, indeed, ultimately broken by a couple who locked lips for over 50 hours.) An Ohio mother accidentally forced a school lockdown when she changed into a Mickey Mouse costume to surprise her daughter’s class during a Valentine’s Day party without informing school officials of the disguise.

Last but not least, we have the New York father who, tired of his teenage daughter using her laptop to rant about him on Facebook, videotaped himself last week responding to her diatribe, drawing his .45-caliber pistol, and firing nine rounds into the laptop. He subsequently posted the video to YouTube — ironically using an attack over social media to discipline his daughter for her social media-powered attacks — and has already racked up over 26 million views.

UPDATE 2-19-2012, 5:30 p.m.: If you want to view the video in question, I’ve embedded it below. As I was adding this, I noticed that an astute reader of the spring 2012 version of the class blog already added it as a comment — thanks, Jason!

Some parents have voiced their support for the father, saying that he had the courage to fulfill his threats and live an exasperated parent’s dream. Others, however, said that he had stooped to his child’s level in his actions and criticized them, saying that other parents take the moral high ground in keeping their anger in check.

I think that’s plenty of food for thought this week. Don’t top it off with a Triple Bypass Burger, okay?

Other articles of interest:
‘Colbert Report’ off air; Comedy Central mum
Pope Benedict XVI Admits 22 New Cardinals
Mattel to issue William and Kate dolls for royal anniversary
French min deletes “stay indoors” tip for homeless
Police: Woman faked blindness for benefits
An Odd Game a Grandmother Can Appreciate
‘The Simpsons’ at 500: Show runner talks angry Homer, Julian Assange
Deadly bird flu studies to stay secret for now: WHO
FDA reiterates concerns with diet pill as drugmaker prepares to make second push for approval
Vast solar tornado spied on the sun

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2 responses to “Feb. 19, 2012: Whitney Houston, You Were Loved”

  1. klingermajoshua says :

    I thought that the federal sting operation was brilliant! It comes to show how sneaky our government despite how creepy it may be but it’s definitely a necessary evil to keep our country safe. I’m sure there’s been a lot of “cloak and dagger” spying and surveillance going on when they caught this guy, and a lot of behind the scenes action that our general public will never know about. This is another example of why our government needs to spy/monitor our own country.

    The video about the angry dad was hilarious! That girl deserved what her dad did to her computer. I like how calm he was during the whole time and told her straight up how he felt, and just gave it to her straight. It was blunt and to the point with a little bit of shock factor. It motivated a lot of parents and had a lot of non-parents celebrating after watching the movie. I was surprised with all of the positive reviews that it got.

  2. brianbritt says :

    Josh, I completely agree about the federal sting operation. When there are guys like this apt to throw away their own lives in order to destroy others, it’s nice to have someone keeping a watchful eye.

    As for the laptop annihilation, I agree that the girl really got what was coming to her, in the sense that she deserved to permanently lose her laptop. I will say that the gunshots seemed rather gratuitous, though, as they only served to bring the father pleasure (and, as an unintended consequence, to make him a YouTube star). That did seem to cross a line, because annihilating the computer didn’t do anything to change the punishment — in terms of his daughter’s laptop ownership, he could have accomplished the same goal by taking the device and selling it. His alternative just made it seem like he was enjoying the thrill instead of focusing on giving his daughter the discipline she needed. You lose some credibility as a disciplinarian when you have no discipline, yourself.

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