Swine Flu Returns, Just In Time for “Back to School” Season

heidi_montagIn case you haven’t already been informed by your television via the countless commercials for half priced Old Navy denim or extra durable Five Star notebooks, it’s back to school time kids! And along with the annual advertisements from companies trying to hawk everything from butter to laundry detergent with a “back to school slant,” looks like the H1N1 flu virus has also got a sneaky publicist on its side.

The H1N1 flu virus, or swine flu, seems to have had a more up and down and up again career than Britney Spears in the past six months.

First it was Barack Obama’s fault and then spring breaking in Mexico was pretty much the equivalent of spring breaking in Iraq, and then it wasn’t that big of a deal, and then celebrities were sporting protective masks, and then it was back to school time and The New York Daily News reported a study that claimed 1 out of 10 New Yorkers have had swine flu.

And apparently among those 1 out of 10 infected city-dwellers is the beloved, slightly dorky (but in a good way) Rachel Maddow, as she revealed to Jimmy Fallon this week during Late Night with Jimmy Fallon that she recently had a stint with “the capital F Flu” herself.

Although their conversation about the flu was brief, gossip/ media blogs alike were all dawning frantic headlines like “Rachel Maddow: I Had Swine Flu!” this morning despite her pretty light attitude while discussing her experience with the flu last night.

Definitely a key publicity move for the H1N1 virus during this second wave of swine flu fever that everyone has appeared to have contracted in preparation for the new school year.

Did Ted Kennedy And Sarah Palin Drown Out Katrina Anniversary Coverage?

hurricane-katrina-1Amidst this weekend’s wall-to-wall Ted Kennedy coverage, and the growing Sarah Palin anniversary retrospectives (hard to believe it’s only been twelve months!) it was sometimes difficult to recall that Saturday marked the fourth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina hitting New Orleans. It’s not that the media hadn’t gone to some advanced lengths to cover the anniversary — CNN’s American Morning featured a week long series, and this weekend’s Times magazine had a number of articles including the cover story; Michael Lewis‘ piece recounting his arrival in his hometown shortly after Katrina landed is a must-read. So it’s not so much that the story was ignored but that the anniversary, which normally is an end of August media focal point, failed to permeate the larger conversation.

With most of the country’s attention focused on his Kennedy eulogy, the President’s radio address, with his assertion that he would visit NOLA this year, barely caused a blip. Even Twitter seemed relatively quiet on the subject. Speaking of Twitter, it’s hard not to wonder how differently the aftermath of Katrina might have played out had Twitter been around just four years ago.

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The TimesBrian Stelter, who wrote the TVNewser blog at the time, noted on Twitter (above) that: “What we sometimes forget about #Katrina: while reporters were first responders, story unfolded slowly. Took days for public to comprehend.” What a difference four years and the Internet makes: imagine the level of accountability the President would have had to face had all those people trapped on roofs, and in the Superdome had direct access to the social web. One thing’s for certain, we would not have had to wait for the outrage of anchors and images to kick the country into action — more than likely it would have been the other way around, and it would have been a different event entirely. Also, #heckofajobBrownie would have made for a heck of a hashtag.

VIDEO: Obama’s Eulogy For Ted Kennedy: “A Colleague, A Mentor, and Above All, A Friend.”

obama kennedy funeralHere is a video and the transcript of President Barack Obama’s eulogy for his friend and mentor, Senator Edward M. Kennedy, delivered at Senator Kennedy’s funeral yesterday in Boston, MA, before an assemblage of presidents, senators, congresspeople, journalists, constituents, colleagues, friends and family — the Kennedys, frequently likened to America’s Royal Family — who had all come to bid farewell to who Obama called “the greatest legislator of our time” — but also a loving and caring friend, father, uncle and mentor, guardian of those he represented.

“The greatest expectations were placed upon Ted Kennedy’s shoulders because of who he was, but he surpassed them all because of who he became,” said Obama. “We do not weep for him today because of the prestige attached to his name or his office. We weep because we loved this kind and tender hero who persevered through pain and tragedy – not for the sake of ambition or vanity; not for wealth or power; but only for the people and the country he loved.”

Obama also recalled the role Kennedy played as the head of this iconic American family, ever in the public spotlight, having no choice but to step up into that role after the deaths of his two older brothers, John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy, both killed in the line of political duty. Obama read from a letter written to Ted Kennedy by JFK’s widow, Jackie, after Ted had given Caroline Kennedy away at her wedding: “On you the carefree youngest brother fell a burden a hero would have begged to be spared. We are all going to make it because you were always there with your love.”

Here is the full video, followed by the full transcript:

President Barack Obama – Eulogy for Edward Kennedy
August 29, 2009, Boston, MA

Mrs. Kennedy, Kara, Edward, Patrick, Curran, Caroline, members of the Kennedy family, distinguished guests, and fellow citizens:

Today we say goodbye to the youngest child of Rose and Joseph Kennedy. The world will long remember their son Edward as the heir to a weighty legacy; a champion for those who had none; the soul of the Democratic Party; and the lion of the U.S. Senate – a man whose name graces nearly one thousand laws, and who penned more than three hundred himself.

But those of us who loved him, and ache with his passing, know Ted Kennedy by the other titles he held: Father. Brother. Husband. Uncle Teddy, or as he was often known to his younger nieces and nephews, “The Grand Fromage,” or “The Big Cheese.” I, like so many others in the city where he worked for nearly half a century, knew him as a colleague, a mentor, and above all, a friend.

Ted Kennedy was the baby of the family who became its patriarch; the restless dreamer who became its rock. He was the sunny, joyful child, who bore the brunt of his brothers’ teasing, but learned quickly how to brush it off. When they tossed him off a boat because he didn’t know what a jib was, six-year-old Teddy got back in and learned to sail. When a photographer asked the newly-elected Bobby to step back at a press conference because he was casting a shadow on his younger brother, Teddy quipped, “It’ll be the same in Washington.”

This spirit of resilience and good humor would see Ted Kennedy through more pain and tragedy than most of us will ever know. He lost two siblings by the age of sixteen. He saw two more taken violently from the country that loved them. He said goodbye to his beloved sister, Eunice, in the final days of his own life. He narrowly survived a plane crash, watched two children struggle with cancer, buried three nephews, and experienced personal failings and setbacks in the most public way possible.

It is a string of events that would have broken a lesser man. And it would have been easy for Teddy to let himself become bitter and hardened; to surrender to self-pity and regret; to retreat from public life and live out his years in peaceful quiet. No one would have blamed him for that.

But that was not Ted Kennedy. As he told us, “…[I]ndividual faults and frailties are no excuse to give in – and no exemption from the common obligation to give of ourselves.” Indeed, Ted was the “Happy Warrior” that the poet William Wordsworth spoke of when he wrote:

As tempted more; more able to endure,

As more exposed to suffering and distress;

Thence, also, more alive to tenderness.

Through his own suffering, Ted Kennedy became more alive to the plight and suffering of others – the sick child who could not see a doctor; the young soldier sent to battle without armor; the citizen denied her rights because of what she looks like or who she loves or where she comes from. The landmark laws that he championed — the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, immigration reform, children’s health care, the Family and Medical Leave Act -all have a running thread. Ted Kennedy’s life’s work was not to champion those with wealth or power or special connections. It was to give a voice to those who were not heard; to add a rung to the ladder of opportunity; to make real the dream of our founding. He was given the gift of time that his brothers were not, and he used that gift to touch as many lives and right as many wrongs as the years would allow.

We can still hear his voice bellowing through the Senate chamber, face reddened, fist pounding the podium, a veritable force of nature, in support of health care or workers’ rights or civil rights. And yet, while his causes became deeply personal, his disagreements never did. While he was seen by his fiercest critics as a partisan lightning rod, that is not the prism through which Ted Kennedy saw the world, nor was it the prism through which his colleagues saw him. He was a product of an age when the joy and nobility of politics prevented differences of party and philosophy from becoming barriers to cooperation and mutual respect – a time when adversaries still saw each other as patriots.

And that’s how Ted Kennedy became the greatest legislator of our time. He did it by hewing to principle, but also by seeking compromise and common cause – not through deal-making and horse-trading alone, but through friendship, and kindness, and humor. There was the time he courted Orrin Hatch’s support for the Children’s Health Insurance Program by having his Chief of Staff serenade the Senator with a song Orrin had written himself; the time he delivered shamrock cookies on a china plate to sweeten up a crusty Republican colleague; and the famous story of how he won the support of a Texas Committee Chairman on an immigration bill. Teddy walked into a meeting with a plain manila envelope, and showed only the Chairman that it was filled with the Texan’s favorite cigars. When the negotiations were going well, he would inch the envelope closer to the Chairman. When they weren’t, he would pull it back. Before long, the deal was done.

It was only a few years ago, on St. Patrick’s Day, when Teddy buttonholed me on the floor of the Senate for my support on a certain piece of legislation that was coming up for vote. I gave him my pledge, but expressed my skepticism that it would pass. But when the roll call was over, the bill garnered the votes it needed, and then some. I looked at Teddy with astonishment and asked how he had pulled it off. He just patted me on the back, and said “Luck of the Irish!”

Of course, luck had little to do with Ted Kennedy’s legislative success, and he knew that. A few years ago, his father-in-law told him that he and Daniel Webster just might be the two greatest senators of all time. Without missing a beat, Teddy replied, “What did Webster do?”

But though it is Ted Kennedy’s historic body of achievements we will remember, it is his giving heart that we will miss. It was the friend and colleague who was always the first to pick up the phone and say, “I’m sorry for your loss,” or “I hope you feel better,” or “What can I do to help?” It was the boss who was so adored by his staff that over five hundred spanning five decades showed up for his 75th birthday party. It was the man who sent birthday wishes and thank you notes and even his own paintings to so many who never imagined that a U.S. Senator would take the time to think about someone like them. I have one of those paintings in my private study – a Cape Cod seascape that was a gift to a freshman legislator who happened to admire it when Ted Kennedy welcomed him into his office the first week he arrived in Washington; by the way, that’s my second favorite gift from Teddy and Vicki after our dog Bo. And it seems like everyone has one of those stories – the ones that often start with “You wouldn’t believe who called me today.”

Ted Kennedy was the father who looked after not only his own three children, but John’s and Bobby’s as well. He took them camping and taught them to sail. He laughed and danced with them at birthdays and weddings; cried and mourned with them through hardship and tragedy; and passed on that same sense of service and selflessness that his parents had instilled in him. Shortly after Ted walked Caroline down the aisle and gave her away at the altar, he received a note from Jackie that read, “On you the carefree youngest brother fell a burden a hero would have begged to be spared. We are all going to make it because you were always there with your love.”

Not only did the Kennedy family make it because of Ted’s love – he made it because of theirs; and especially because of the love and the life he found in Vicki. After so much loss and so much sorrow, it could not have been easy for Ted Kennedy to risk his heart again. That he did is a testament to how deeply he loved this remarkable woman from Louisiana. And she didn’t just love him back. As Ted would often acknowledge, Vicki saved him. She gave him strength and purpose; joy and friendship; and stood by him always, especially in those last, hardest days.

We cannot know for certain how long we have here. We cannot foresee the trials or misfortunes that will test us along the way. We cannot know God’s plan for us.

What we can do is to live out our lives as best we can with purpose, and love, and joy. We can use each day to show those who are closest to us how much we care about them, and treat others with the kindness and respect that we wish for ourselves. We can learn from our mistakes and grow from our failures. And we can strive at all costs to make a better world, so that someday, if we are blessed with the chance to look back on our time here, we can know that we spent it well; that we made a difference; that our fleeting presence had a lasting impact on the lives of other human beings.

This is how Ted Kennedy lived. This is his legacy. He once said of his brother Bobby that he need not be idealized or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life, and I imagine he would say the same about himself. The greatest expectations were placed upon Ted Kennedy’s shoulders because of who he was, but he surpassed them all because of who he became. We do not weep for him today because of the prestige attached to his name or his office. We weep because we loved this kind and tender hero who persevered through pain and tragedy – not for the sake of ambition or vanity; not for wealth or power; but only for the people and the country he loved.

In the days after September 11th, Teddy made it a point to personally call each one of the 177 families of this state who lost a loved one in the attack. But he didn’t stop there. He kept calling and checking up on them. He fought through red tape to get them assistance and grief counseling. He invited them sailing, played with their children, and would write each family a letter whenever the anniversary of that terrible day came along. To one widow, he wrote the following:

“As you know so well, the passage of time never really heals the tragic memory of such a great loss, but we carry on, because we have to, because our loved one would want us to, and because there is still light to guide us in the world from the love they gave us.”

We carry on.

Ted Kennedy has gone home now, guided by his faith and by the light of those he has loved and lost. At last he is with them once more, leaving those of us who grieve his passing with the memories he gave, the good he did, the dream he kept alive, and a single, enduring image – the image of a man on a boat; white mane tousled; smiling broadly as he sails into the wind, ready for what storms may come, carrying on toward some new and wondrous place just beyond the horizon. May God Bless Ted Kennedy, and may he rest in eternal peace.

The President Wants The Power To Turn Off Your Internet

big-brother-posterTruth be told, more than once, particularly during the last two weeks of deadly slow news days, I have fantasized that someone would turn off the Internet. That said, I would probably prefer the President didn’t actually have this sort of control over my lifeline to, well, life. However, there is a bill making its way through the Senate that aims to give the President just that power, and revised version sponsored by Sen. Jay Rockefeller is making even more waves. Here’s the gist of the controversy:

The new version would allow the president to “declare a cybersecurity emergency” relating to “non-governmental” computer networks and do what’s necessary to respond to the threat. Other sections of the proposal include a federal certification program for “cybersecurity professionals,” and a requirement that certain computer systems and networks in the private sector be managed by people who have been awarded that license.
Probably the most controversial language begins in Section 201, which permits the president to “direct the national response to the cyber threat” if necessary for “the national defense and security.” The White House is supposed to engage in “periodic mapping” of private networks deemed to be critical, and those companies “shall share” requested information with the federal government.

Of course the official aim of the bill is to protect the nation’s cyber-security case of attack: “A Senate source familiar with the bill compared the president’s power to take control of portions of the Internet to what President Bush did when grounding all aircraft on Sept. 11, 2001.” An analogy which doesn’t necessarily instill confidence. Moreover, the severity of government enforced travel restrictions, while frightening in their own right, somehow pale in comparison to the inability to obtain any information — one imagines that by the time a bill such as this wends its way through Congress the amount of people in this country who actually own, say, an emergency radio, will be slim, indeed. Remember the panic that followed last month’s Twitter outage? That is a drop in the bucket to what would happen if someone shut off the Internet nationwide. So arguably not the best plan of action in any emergency.

Still, the real problem, which the President acknowledges, is that the government is unprepared to fend of a cyber attack. So in the end, better to have the government possess the ability to shut things down, rather than say, angry Georgian rebels? Don’t throw out your radio yet.

Ted Kennedy’s Funeral Coverage Dominates Airwaves

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Senator Ted Kennedy’s funeral is dominating the dials this morning. For those of you unable to get to a television both CNN.com and ABC News are carrying it live online (sans the history-rich coverage, alas), as is the NYT.com homepage.

Our Lady of Perpetual Help Basilica, where the service is being held, is packed with dignitaries; the above pic was snapped a few minutes ago (oh to be a fly on the pew of that conversation!). You can find of list of the speakers herePresident Obama is slated to give the eulogy. Below is a look at how the Twitterverse is reacting.

MoDo Points Finger at Nasty Bloggers; Fingers Point Back at Her

MauDoIn her column today, Maureen Dowd writes about cowardly Internet bullies — all those bloggers out there who say the meanest stuff, and are seldom called to task for it. “On the Internet,” she writes, “it’s often less about being constructive and more about being cowardly.”

Granted, Dowd puts her name on everything she writes. But the whole ‘cowardly not constructive thing’ — not so much.

• Just last weekend MauDo went after Anna Wintour. Alright, maybe she was more interested in celebrating the “sacred monster,” but some of her jabs cut pretty deep: “Behind those bangs and dark glasses, is Anna human? Or did she tie Hermès scarves together and make a daring escape from District 9 in a getaway car driven by Oscar de la Renta?” Ouch.

• Dowd is a big fan of pet names (usually objectionable ones). Hence headlines like “Will Hillzilla Crush Obambi?

John Edwards got his share of smack from Dowd after his $400 haircut in a column called “Running with Scissors.” We haven’t reached the point,” she writes, “where we can handle a green-tea-soy-latte-drinking, self-tanning-sea-salt-mango-body-wrapping, Norah-Jones-listening, yoga-toning chief executive.”

NYT public editor Clark Hoyt included Dowd’s attacks on politicians in a column called “Pantsuits and the Presidency,” responding to readers’ complaints about the Times‘ slanted political coverage. A thick slice of those comments revolved around mean Maureen Dowd was:

But Dowd’s columns about Clinton’s campaign were so loaded with language painting her as a 50-foot woman with a suffocating embrace, a conniving film noir dame and a victim dependent on her husband … She often refers to Barack Obama as “Obambi” and has said he has a “feminine” management style. But the relentless nature of her gender-laden assault on Clinton — in 28 of 44 columns since Jan. 1 — left many readers with the strong feeling that an impermissible line had been crossed, even though, as Dowd noted, she is a columnist who is paid not to be objective.

Photo: Nancy Kaszerman/ZUMA Press via Salon.

Platitudes and Attitudes: What to Expect from Kennedy Coverage

TedsmilingMassachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy died late Tuesday at his home in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, after a lengthy battle with brain cancer. The death of any legendary public figure comes with cliches, but the life and career of Kennedy was far too complex to sum up in the inevitable and hackneyed phrases (regardless of how correct they may or may not be). But since the media has never been afraid of the obvious, following is a list of the expected phrases and narratives you can expect to read and hear in the coming days.

For colleagues in the Senate (on both sides of the aisle) he was widely considered as both gracious and generous. However, Kennedy was a lightening rod for both praise and criticism, and as the coverage of Kennedy’s death and career continues, we will begin to see the following narratives discussed:

  • The “End of the Kennedy Era” meme: Coupled with the recent passing of his sister Eunice Kennedy Shriver we will see numerous “End of an Era” headlines and story points.
  • The “Effect on Health Care Reform” thread : Completing the already started narrative of how Kennedy had hoped to live to see Health Care Reform passed. Many will openly wonder if the current debate will change because of Kennedy’s death: is reform more or less likely to pass due to his passing?
  • The “Obama owes his presidency to him” narrative: Ted Kennedy famously supported Barack Obama over primary rival Hillary Clinton, a move that many see as the watershed moment that ultimately led to his Obama’s election as the 44th President.
  • The “Kennedy’s Demons” meme: A failed marraige, very public bouts with alcohol, getting expelled from Harvard…many will point to the fact that Kennedy was “all too human”, which will likely be used as both a positive and a negative in reviewing his life.
  • The Chappaquiddick meme: Some will be quick to mention of the tragic death of Mary Jo Kopechne as way to question the Senator’s character; some may go as far as wondering why Kennedy didn’t serve time in jail, instead of the U.S. Senate.
  • The “Career Politician” meme: He was the third oldest US Senator at the time of his death. Most will point to this as an example of great service to his country, others may use this in a less favorable manner
  • The “Liberal Lion” meme: Kennedy was central to nearly every progressive political agenda and policy shift. His passing may be seen by some as the death of the Liberal movement in general.
  • The “Bi-Partisan hero” meme: The Massachusetts Senator was well loved by all members of the Senate, but the love and respect of his Republican foils such as John McCain and Orrin Hatch will be used to exemplify how he truly worked with the other side of the aisle, particularly in passing Republican bills such as “No Child Left Behind”.