Give me some space! Now to many of us that may sound like an encouragement to promote social distancing, but for thousands of science-minded folks, it’s a hopeful statement for today’s #CurrentEventFriday set to happen this weekend.
For the first time in over a decade, NASA will be launching a space vehicle to the ISS crewed by astronauts. The journey is a joint effort between the space agency and SpaceX, a company connected to Elon Musk and the Tesla company.
The mission nicknamed Dragon will be led by astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley. Given the hiatus of launching astronauts to the ISS from Florida, many gathered Wednesday for the scheduled launch near Cape Canaveral and online, including Pres. Trump. Anticipating a new era, NASA & SpaceX were excited for the acclaim they were receiving for the launch. Yet, the weather in Florida was less than cooperative and the launch was scrubbed and rescheduled for Saturday at 3:22 P.M. EDT.
Saturday’s launch is still questionable as there is a tropical depression just off the coast of Florida that will linger for the next few days. If the launch on Saturday is scrubbed, the mission will launch 24 hours later on Sunday.
Most astrophiles are excited and hopeful that this launch will happen and that it may lead to further missions that include manned missions to Mars or a possible return to the Moon. As the Space Age unfolded in the 1960’s, we were already expected to have established several colonies on the Moon, and yet we have only conducted studies and research on the lunar orb as well as Mars. Much of the same anticipation and excitement for the Apollo missions seem to have surrounded the Launch America mission between NASA & SpaceX. Added to this is Pres. Trump’s newly created military branch, Space Force we’re likely to see a new Space Age. I for one, look forward to what this might include. If SpaceX can do better at innovating their space vehicles, affordable public travel to space will be a goal for many. Elon Musk has already shown that through his funding and encouragement, the electric car market has made Tesla vehicles comparable to hybrid and conventional petrochemical cars.
If you haven’t heard, podcasts are a thing and so many have their favorites. For those that are unfamiliar, podcasts are an episodic audio program hosted by pseudo-celebrities, celebrities, and experts in a particular field. One such podcast got more attention than they planned on this week and that’s today’s topic of discussion for #CurrentEventFriday.
Call Her Daddy is a weekly podcast hosted by two young women on the Barstool Sports platform. The Hosts Sofia Franklyn and Alex Cooper discuss their personal lives and how to make it as sexually-liberated millennial women. Their frank discussions endeared them to many people who were already fans of Barstool Sports’ unconventional and irreverent platform geared to Millennial and Generation Z audiences.
Surprisingly for those fans, the hosts had been silent on their platform since late March. Many thought maybe it was part of shelter at home orders in New York, but the duo posted on their social media accounts that they were being bound by Barstool Sports not to speak about their situation but they would address their fans called “The Daddy Gang” when it was permissible. Shortly after that post, the hosts encouraged their fans to purchase “free the fathers” apparel to help them while they weren’t recording and restricted by Barstool Sports.
Late Sunday though, the president of Barstool Sports, Dave Portnoy revealed on the Call Her Daddy Podcast that the hosts were not recording because they had been attempting to gain leverage with Barstool Sports based on their success.
Most would understand that the hosts would be entitled to their belief and the compensation would be given as part of contract negotiations with their employer given their success from the time they had signed a contract to be part of Barstool Sports platform. Yet, the Call Her Daddy women were not honoring their contract and making demands that no other podcast on the platform enjoyed.
The sticking point seems to be that the hosts wanted the Intellectual Property (IP) of the show including the name if and when they moved to another platform. The IP had already been a sticking point when originally signing their contract. Portnoy maintained that the program was product created for Barstool sports in their employment and as such belonged to Barstool. The hosts’ own likenesses were able to be used without restriction, but since Barstool had secured advertising and promoted the program they deserved the IP of the program.
Portnoy also explained that Sofia Franklyn’s new boyfriend, Peter Nelson who is an executive with HBO had been shopping the podcast to a rival platform and hoped to cost Barstool Sports money. For Barstool Sports, they were willing to let the Call Her Daddy girls go after their contract was up, increase their salary, reduce the service time, and even give them the IP if they would honor the contract by continuing to host the podcast until the time was up. Call Her Daddy refused to accept the terms and stopped communicating with Barstool Sports executives. Portnoy maintains that eventually Alex Cooper contacted him and told him that ending the contract negotiation was Sofia’s idea and that Sofia would never sign the new contract or come back to the program. Cooper was willing to accept terms that guaranteed her $500,000 a year and finish the length of the contract.
Sofia Franklyn did address the topic on her personal Instagram and that she felt she was unfairly presented by Portnoy in his reveal. Also, surprisingly for the hosts the Daddy Gang that had felt that Barstool was being oppressive and in the wrong in March quickly turned on the hosts calling them spoiled and gold-diggers. Portnoy has also produced apparel mocking Sofia’s boyfriend using a nickname ‘Suitman” given his executive position at HBO. In addition, Portnoy has also superimposed his face into movie and television clips along with the girls and Nelson that includes Portnoy shaming or attacking the trio. Portnoy’s attacks in the clips are part of his promise to sue the duo if they don’t honor the contracts.
I’ll admit, I listen to several Barstool Sports podcasts, and am vaguely familiar with Call Her Daddy but I’m not surprised that Barstool Sports is coming out looking smart and generous in this. I’d also be interested to see if Alex does finish the contract and has a new co-host. It could find even more success and be a learning experience for her.
Dave Portnoy has also added to his own profile this week by questioning the wisdom of continued lockdowns and earned a retweet from Pres. Trump as well as an endorsement from Tesla & SpaceX’s Elon Musk for political office as Musk has seemingly realized that the woke left and Democrat government may not always be friendly to businesses. So, if you were wondering, yes, we are probably living in Bizarro World and that everything you thought you knew should be questioned.
Should the Call Her Daddy hosts been honest with their fans about the contract negotiations and accepted the terms of the new contract?
Uh-oh, Congress passed another big government bill that won’t really help financially strapped people. Yes, those are recent headlines, but they could also be applied to today’s #HistoryMonday event as well. Although, the historical event we’ll discuss was much more widely accepted at its inception and even today.
On this day in 1833, Pres. Franklin Roosevelt signs Tennessee Valley Authority Act. This act was a hallmark of New Deal programs. The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) was a connected effort of public utility companies to be administered by the federal government.
The Tennessee Valley which comprises the states of Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Kentucky, as well as slivers of North Carolina, Georgia, and Virginia. These states are all part of the Tennessee River watershed which would provide much needed resources for hydroelectric plants.
Building hydroelectric plants and a utility commission in the South during the Great Depression was a way to assist communities that were suffering even more than other regions of the country. As much of the South was already impoverished before the Great Depression, the financial crisis from the Stock Market and banks only compounded the problems.
While seen as part of Pres. Roosevelt’s New Deal program, the TVA Act was authored by Sen. George Norris (R-NE). Sen. Norris had previously blocked a private utility effort by Henry Ford some 12 years earlier. In hopes of preventing further private utility companies that charged unfair prices for their consumers, Sen. Norris authored the Muscle Shoals bill in 1931, but it was vetoed as being a socialist idea by Pres. Hoover. Pres. Roosevelt was not as opposed to Sen. Norris’s efforts, and had campaigned for public utility commissions to be overseen by the federal government prior to his election.
The TVA was originally headquartered at Muscle Shoals, AL but would eventually move to its present location in Knoxville, TN. A three-member board appointed by the President administered the authority: Harcourt Morgan, Arthur E. Morgan, and David Lilienthal. Under their leadership, Lilienthal became known as Mr. TVA for his efforts to maintain the commission and to be its public face.
During the initial building of the hydroelectric plants, much of the power produced was directed to aluminum factories owned by Alcoa and others. These plants were necessary for the building of airplanes and other weapons for the war effort. By the time the Fontana Dam was built, much of its electric output was used at Oak Ridge, TN for the uranium enrichment process needed as part of the Manhattan Project.
As power demands grew after World War II, the TVA changed to a broader electric utility portfolio. Adding coal power plants became necessary in the 50’s & 60’s and this became their primary electric-producing method. Keeping their costs low and promoting competition, a handful of power plants were built to use nuclear power, but with skepticism of nuclear reactions, this never really became a primary method.
Of course, as concern grew over the environmental impact over coal, the TVA has retired many of those plants in accordance with EPA regulations. They have in the last decade purchased equipment for wind farms. Also, in attempt to be more in touch with the 21st Century, the TVA has also recently added an in-house energy infrastructure cybersecurity panel. This panel oversees social media and IT programs to prevent threats to energy by cyberterrorists.
Many other rural electric cooperatives aspire to have the efficacy and fame of the TVA, but much of those attributes are reserved only in their regions. Private utility companies also exist today and are not always appreciated for their costs to consumers, but government regulations try to keep those prices in check.
The TVA has also been a source for tourism. You can visit many of the sites used by the TVA today and learn more about their construction and their impact in the region. Additionally, museums include artwork form the TVA remembering their contributions.
Media has included the TVA as part of their efforts as well, Ronald Reagan was fired by General Electric for his criticism of the TVA for being a big government program that shouldn’t be celebrated. Given that General Electric used electricity from the TVA, this was a conflict of interest for them. A more recent and less-controversial media appearance features the TVA and their efforts from the Coen brothers 2000 film O Brother Where Art Thou? The film includes the public utility as a timing foil for the protagonist who has to recover stored treasure before his house is flooded by the TVA.
Another week is in the books, and that means another edition of #CurrentEventFriday. Normally, I try to stay above the fray, but an event making the rounds the last couple of days is worth discussing regardless of my aversion to controversy.
Earlier this week, a video was circulated throughout social media that showed a confrontation between two white guys and an African-American man. As the video unfolds, one of the white men fires the gun he had on his person at the African-American man, killing him. Of course, this drew criticism from the African-American community.
I saw a few posts like this one about the deceased gentlemen as the video began making the rounds and didn’t pay attention at first. Then, more news outlets and more accounts I follow on social media began sharing about it and the story is tragic. The events that led up to the death of Ahmad Arbery in the video seemingly point out an indefensible act of racism and vigilantism. Arbery was out jogging in a white neighborhood of Brunswick, GA when he was spotted by Gregory McMichael who believed Arbery was a suspect in a recent series of robberies. Gregory McMichael called for his son Travis McMichael to get their guns, a .357 Magnum and a shotgun. The pair then got in their pickup to confront Arbery. While the McMichaels chased Arbery, their friend William “Roddie” Bryan followed behind their truck and videotaped the encounter including the fatal shooting. In the video, Arbery attempts to evade the pickup and the McMichaels. Unable to do so, Arbery then tried to catch his breath. Gregory McMichael exited the truck and aimed the shotgun at Arbery. Fearing what could happen, Arbery tried to wrestle the gun away from the elder McMichael but in the struggle, the trigger was pulled three times and Arbery fell to the ground almost immediately.
Even more shocking, is the event in question happened in late February and the local prosecutor decided not to bring charges against the McMichaels as the event was only described by the McMichaels. The prosecutor also chose not to prosecute given his previous relationship with Gregory McMichael who is a retired law enforcement officer. The prosecutor recused himself and asked another local prosecutor to look into the case. With the new video being released by a friend of the McMichael family, the case has been re-opened, and charges of aggravated assault and murder have been filed against both McMichaels. They have also been arrested for those charges, and a charge for the friend who video-taped the encounter is also expected soon.
As the video made the rounds, notable activists with Black Lives Matter pounced on the event, calling out the white shooters. Everyone’s favorite NBA star and race-relations expert LeBron James even weighed in tweeting, “We’re literally hunted EVERYDAY/EVERYTIME we step foot outside the comfort of our homes!” Presidential Candidate Joe Biden excoriated the McMichaels as well for their racist tendencies and cold-blooded execution of Arbery. Many also pointed out that the date of the shooting in February was eerily close to the date of the Travon Martin shooting.
In memory of Arbery, mini-marathons are being organized nationwide to honor Arbery’s favorite activity—jogging. Hashtags promoting the name of Arbery have also been a means of support and solidarity for the family in the midst of the re-living of the traumatic event.
Normally, I’m skeptical of events like this, that usually involve on-duty officers and citizens. Even just this week, a shooting in Indianapolis involved a handful of officers and an African-American man driving at excessive speeds on the interstate. As the driver got out of the car and attempted to flee on foot, he was shot by officers and killed. So, naturally I look at that and am not entirely surprised at the tragic consequence. This doesn’t seem to be the case in the Arbery incident. It seems purely that the two white guys can’t tell black people apart and were suspicious of any black man in their neighborhood. Many skeptics have also found that Arbery has a criminal record and point to that as proof that he was up to no good, and that the McMichaels might have observed Arbery committing a crime. Sadly, without evidence to prove Arbery’s activities or his ability to give a statement, those are only hypothetical at best. Assuming the McMichaels saw Arbery committing a crime, there should’ve been no reason to shoot him, as securing him and detaining him might have been the better option as citizens rather that law enforcement detaining him.
It will be interesting to see how the trial plays out for Gregory and Travis McMichael as well as William Bryan. Given that we’re just five months into what has certainly been a wild and unpredictable year, the attention to this case won’t likely go way overnight. Be sure to stay tuned to next month’s episode of “What in the world is happening in 2020?” to see what new characters and storylines are added for your attention.
Should the McMichaels have called 911 and waited for officers to respond?
Happy Cinco de Mayo! Be sure to enjoy the day that most think is the Mexican Independence Day. Yet, today actually commemorates a decisive battle in the Franco-Mexican War. The battle took place in the city of Puebla de Los Angeles between French forces and a small number of Mexican troops in 1862.
The Mexican troops were outnumbered 6,000 to 2,000 but were able to outlast the French force and eventually cause their retreat. This sent shockwaves throughout Europe as well as in the United States even though Mexico’s northern neighbor was itself embroiled in the Civil War.
Although a victory in the battle of Puebla, the Franco-Mexican War lasted until 1867 as neither side had enough allied support. After the Civil War ended in the United States, they were able to financially support Mexico in their ousting of French proxy governors. Puebla would be later renamed to Puebla de Zaragoza in honor of the Mexican General who had led the victory.
Today the celebration has become a celebration for Mexican-Americans and in the town of Puebla but hardly any other locations in Mexico. The majority of Mexicans celebrate their day of Independence on Sept. 16 which was accomplished 50 years prior to the Battle of Puebla.
Mexican-Americans celebrate this day to honor their heritage and commemorate the Mexican defeat of French forces. Given that the day is close to American Independence Day and Memorial Day, the day lends itself to borrowing some of the same trappings of those holidays while adding Mexican flair.
So, if you want to have a Margarita, a Mexican beer, nachos, or tacos go right ahead. It’s a day to celebrate and probably we need some day to celebrate in light of all the craziness going on around us. Think of the day you’re commemorating like the Battle of Ft. McHenry in the War of 1812 that inspired the Star-Spangled Banner.
The wheels on the bus go round and round while Civil Rights leaders call attention to the plight of African-Americans in the United States. I know it doesn’t roll of the tongue like the original lyrics, but it’s a good setup to today’s #HistoryMonday topic.
On this day in 1961, a group of 13 Civil Rights leaders—7 black and 6 white boarded Greyhound & Trailways buses and headed on a tour of the deep South. This was not a sightseeing tour but was intended to call attention to the non-enforcement of Supreme Court cases that overturned the Plessy v. Ferguson decision from 65 years earlier. The Plessy decision had set precedent for the concept of separate but equal facilities as well as transportation. The riders would come to be called the Freedom Riders by the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE).
The Supreme Court had ruled against the practice of segregation in Morgan v. Virginia in 1946, Sarah Keys v. Carolina Coach Company (1955), and Boynton v. Virginia just the year before. However, local authorities had ignored the reversal of separate but equal and protests had ensued.
Early protest rides in 1946 & 1947 occurred after the Morgan decision went unenforced. Sit-ins also occurred after the Boynton decision. CORE organized the first bus protest rides that would travel from Washington D.C. and end up in New Orleans about 2 weeks later.
As the Freedom Riders drew attention to the unfair practice of segregation and Jim Crow laws present in the South, more rides were planned for the summer. In addition to the CORE group of riders, organizers from the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) joined the efforts.
Unfortunately, the Freedom Riders were met with violence in many of the Southern locations even by the police and other authorities. Governor Ross Barnett of Mississippi resisted the desegregation efforts and infamous Public Safety Commissioner Eugene “Bull” Connor directed police to resist the Freedom Riders.
Pres. John Kennedy appreciated the problems that faced African-Americans in the South but feared escalating violence towards them and urged a cool-down period during the summer. The Freedom Riders encouraged the protests to continue in spite of the mounting violence. Attorney Gen. Robert Kennedy also pushed for a cool-down but CORE & SNCC leaders ignored his advice as well.
Many of the Freedom Riders would be involved in other protests during the Civil Rights Era. Stokely Carmichael became the face of SNCC and gained attention for their coordinated efforts along with Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). Speaking of the SCLC, Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth had helped to found the organization 4 years earlier with Martin Luther King Jr., Bayard Rustin, Ella Baker, C.K. Steele, Joseph Lowery, and Ralph Abernathy all playing key roles in the initial meeting.
Abernathy, King, and Shuttlesworth were arrested 2 years later in Birmingham while protesting on Good Friday to bring attention to the problems with segregation. King would write his famous Letters from a Birmingham Jail during this stay in jail.
In terms of media response, Oprah Winfrey helped celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Rides, on her TV program by inviting all living Freedom Riders which aired on May 4, 2011. Eyes on the Prize, a PBS series featured an episode, “Ain’t Scared of Your Jails: 1960-1961,” dedicated to the Freedom Riders and included an interview with James Farmer, a co-founder of CORE and the original Freedom Ride. PBS also broadcasted an episode of its American Experience series in 2012 about the Freedom Riders with interviews and news footage from the Freedom Riders movement. Simon & Garfunkel penned and performed the song “He Was My Brother”, as a tribute to the Freedom Riders.
Commemorative facilities have also been erected to honor the Freedom Riders’ legacy with one located the old Greyhound Bus terminal in Montgomery, Alabama, which became the new Freedom Ride Museum as part of the 50th Anniversary. Two years later, Montgomery police Chief Kevin Murphy presented Congressmen John Lewis with his own badge and apologized to Lewis for violence the statesman had suffered during Civil Rights protests. Jackson, Mississippi also commemorated the 50th Anniversary with a reunion and conference in the city. President Barack Obama declared the Anniston, Alabama bus station the Freedom Riders National Monument in January 2017.
Have you visited any of the sites of the Freedom Riders protests?