media/memes: travolta, groucho, oregon art & world events

scientologist john travolta’s son dies strangely from a ‘medical episode’ while on vacation in the bahamas
scientologist john travolta's son dies strangely from a 'medical episode' while on vacation in the bahamasfrom ap: John Travolta’s teenage son, Jett, died in the Bahamas after falling ill and hitting his head at his family’s vacation home, police said Friday [jan2]. A house caretaker found Jett, 16, unconscious in a bathroom late Friday morning. He was taken by ambulance to a Freeport hospital, where he was pronounced dead, according to a statement from chief police superintendent Basil Rahming. The teenager had last been seen going into the bathroom on Thursday and had a history of seizures, according to the statement. Police said they are planning an autopsy to determine the cause of death. Another police spokeswoman, Loretta Mackey, said Jett apparently hit his head on the bathtub. A spokeswoman for Rand Memorial Hospital in Freeport said she could not release any information because of privacy concerns.

2 experts to autopsy travolta’s teenager*
travolta’s son died of seizure disorder*
wecht weighs in on death of john travolta’s son*
wecht: unanswered questions in travolta death*
jett travolta secretly cremated*
travolta & preston return to florida with son’s ashes*

dianetics, drugs & the death of a young travolta
from national post: The news last night [jan2] that 16-year-old Jett Travolta’s death certificate now lists “seizure disorder” as the cause of his death in the Bahamas last week may have had the unusual effect of raising more questions than it answers. Given that seizures derive from brain malfunctions, and that the Church of Scientology, of which the Travoltas are devout members of the highest stratum, frequently rejects brain-related diagnoses, many of the questions are being pointed at the grieving parents, John Travolta and Kelly Preston, and whether their quirky beliefs may have contributed to their son’s death. That’s sparked interest in this case not only from the typical supermarket-line celeb-watchers, but from Scientology’s numerous critics as well…

Questioning someone’s personal beliefs amidst such a profound tragedy is tricky business. But the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jews and Catholics have had their faith around preventing death publicly debated, and even if the Church of Scientology’s skepticism toward modern medicine isn’t exactly unique, its strange culture of secrecy has a way of inviting special scrutiny. Already, stories on mainstream media outlets (like this one, as well as here, here and here) are asking aggressively about how his Church’s pharmaceuticalphobia (deliciously ironic, given founder L. Ron’s own alleged pill-popping obsession) might have been part of the short, sad story of Jett Travolta, and tales from former Scientologists who had experience with untreated illnesses themselves—sometimes with equally terrible consequences—are getting much more attention today. One Church official defended Scientology today to MSNBC, explaining that the group does not reject “conventional medical treatment for medical conditions . . . when physically ill,” it will only disregard a “psychological diagnosis.” But given the blurry line between the two when it comes to matters of grey matter, the most likely explanation may turn out that no one knew exactly what Jett was suffering from since his reported brain disfunctions may never have had a proper medical diagnosis. Whatever happens, more than the Travoltas, the Church of Scientology’s top-notch public relations arm finds itself being tested yet again with another scandal, while the world’s concern for Baby Suri’s safety only deepens.

making ‘duck soup’ out of today
making 'duck soup' out of todayfrom bill moyers: Life imitates satire – and vice versa. Which brings us to our other unusual list. The best movies of… 1933. Naturally, the original “King Kong” is on our list. So are “The Invisible Man” and “42nd Street.” But our number one choice: The Marx Brothers’ “Duck Soup.” Why? Because as we enter this final month of the Bush years, the parallels are remarkable. Sometimes it feels as if we live not only in the United States but also in the side-splitting state of Freedonia, the imaginary country in which “Duck Soup” takes place. In 1933, a time much like now of calamity, fraud and peril, the Great Depression gripped America. Franklin D. Roosevelt had just become President and declared a New Deal, while in Germany, Adolph Hitler was named chancellor, the beginning of the Third Reich. As all of this was taking place, the Marx Brothers – there were four of them then; Groucho, Chico, Harpo and Zeppo – shot “Duck Soup,” a comedy that almost inadvertently transcended slapstick, becoming a trenchant send-up of power and vanity and the disastrous consequences of both. Freedonia is bankrupt and asking for a bailout – sound familiar? The wealthy Mrs. Teasdale, played by the redoubtable Margaret Dumont, says the only way she’ll come up with the money is if the country appoints as its new leader Rufus T. Firefly – played by Groucho, as only a true clown can play a charlatan. He sings, “The last man nearly ruined this place, he didn’t know what to do with it. If you think this country’s bad off now, just wait ‘til I get through with it.”

video: oregon art gallery hosts bush shoe toss
from ashland daily tidings: Ashland City Councilor Eric Navickas and his partner Amy Godard opened their co-owned MAda Shell Gallery on Jan. 2, 2009 with a carnival attraction. Visitors were given an opportunity to ‘Shoe Bush’ through the use of a slingshot that launched a shoe attached to a wooden stick at a large face of President Bush. The soles of the shoes were painted to provide a splattering effect … and perhaps art.

world events fall through the cracks in US media
from upi: The much criticized – and usually with good reason – U.S. news media missed or underreported a lot of big stories in 2008. Half of the stories that United Press International lists as the most neglected or “lost” of 2008 were in Latin America and Africa, vast regions that have dropped off the map as far as the national U.S. media are concerned.

First, just across the U.S. border, the Mexican state reeled from the growing power of the drug lords who ran virtual fiefdoms in some of its northern states…

Second, the U.S. media and national political leaders were asleep at the growing power of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez…

Third, the U.S. media virtually ignored the slide toward anarchy and civil war in the most populous nation in Africa – Nigeria…

Fourth, the U.S. media shockingly neglected the three worst human rights violation stories in the world – and all three of them were in Africa, too…

Fifth, it took Al Jazeera to report that in 2008 at least 6 million African Muslims converted to Christianity: This was a trend of enormous importance and vast scale, yet you found it nowhere in the U.S. electronic or print news media.

Sixth, in August, Russia’s blitzkrieg conquest of one-third of the former Soviet republic of Georgia made headlines around the world. But the far more significant renewal and expansion of Russian strategic nuclear forces that occurred in 2008 was virtually ignored in the U.S. and Western European media, apart from UPI, which covered it closely…

Seventh, most of the Arab world was remarkably stable in 2008, though you wouldn’t have known it from the op-ed pages and regular pundits of the U.S. media…

Eighth, coverage of the U.S. and then global economic crisis that erupted in September with the fall of the Lehman Brothers investment house in New York focused on developments in the United States, China, Russia and Western Europe. But the collapse of Japan’s enormous industrial export trade with the United States got far too little coverage and analysis…

Ninth, most Americans took it for granted that India was a strong ally of the United States – if they thought about the issue at all. In fact, U.S. defense companies remained frozen out of the Indian arms market in 2008, and the Indian armed forces continued to buy big for their combat aircraft, aircraft carriers and frigates, main battle tanks, heavy military air transports and even co-produced BrahMos cruise missiles from Russia.

Finally, plenty of news came out of Afghanistan, but the analysis to put it into context was woefully lacking. UPI Editor Emeritus Arnaud De Borchgrave and Mr. Lind provided that context when almost no one else did. They warned how U.S. neoconservative and liberal passions for democracy, nation building, women’s rights and wars on drugs had alienated millions of ordinary Afghans and played into the hands of the resurgent Taliban, who increased their power by giant strides, defying NATO’s undermanned and ham-handed efforts to stop them.

Of course, none of this mattered compared with the fun and games of Jen, Brad and Britney.

how to stop the new world order
from theopoulagr: And so it begins… You Have The Right To Remain Silent. But We Hope You Won’t.

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