Tag Archives: The Interview

Start shouting for Alzheimer's research

T.R. Reid, writing in the January-February AARP Bulletin, puts it succinctly and powerfully.

Alzheimer’s disease is “the most expensive disease in America” and it is “devouring federal and state health care budgets, and depleting the life savings of million of victims and their families.”

So, what are the federal and state governments doing about it? What kind of public resources are they committing to fighting this dangerous killer?

Too damn little, according to Reid.

He’s correct. That must change.


Reid, a former reporter for the Washington Post, notes that the “cost of caring for Americans with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias has surpassed the cost of treatment for cancer patients or victims of heart disease.” Alzhiemer’s disease, says Huntington Potter, a University of Colorado neurobiologist, is “going to bankrupt Medicare and Medicaid.”

Let’s get busy, folks.

Alzheimer’s disease afflicts 5.2 million Americans — at the moment. The number is going to increase as the nation’s population continues to age. One projection puts the number of Americans suffering from the disease by 2050 at 13.8 million.

How has Alzheimer’s research funding stacked up to other deadly diseases? Reid writes the federal government has committed $5.4 billion on cancer research, $1.2 billion on heart disease and $3 billion on HIV/AIDS research. Alzheimer’s disease research will get $566 million.

My own interest in this disease is intensely personal. My mother died of complications of Alzheimer’s in 1984. She was 61 years of age when she died. Sixty-one! She’d exhibited symptoms for perhaps a decade.

The pain of watching a loved one lose their memory, their cognitive skill, their ability to take care of basic needs is beyond description. Take my word for it.

And that pain is going to spread as more Americans fall victim to this merciless killer.

Federal government estimates put the cost of Alzheimer’s care at about $214 billion annually. Medicare and Medicaid pay about $150 billion per year; the rest of the cost falls on patients and their families, according to Reid.

Why hasn’t there been an outcry for federal funding of this disease as there have been for cancer or HIV/AIDS? Part of it is stigma, Reid reports. U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said, “I think the problem is that there’s still a stigma attached to Alzheimer’s and other dementias. People don’t want to talk about it. By contrast, LGBT groups have no qualms about campaigning for HIV/AIDS research. The cancer advocacy groups are extremely well-organized, vocal and politically skillful, with their Race for the Cure and everyone wearing pink for a month.”

I’ve made it my mission with this blog to call attention whenever possible to the need to boost attention to this disease. Its impact doesn’t just affect those who afflicted with it. It causes severe pain and anguish on care-givers and other loved ones.

The good news — if you want to call it such — is that some notable celebrities are beginning to put the word out there. One of them is Seth Rogen, the comic actor known most recently for his role in the controversial film “The Interview.”

“Americans whisper the word ‘Alzheimer’s’ because their government whispers the word ‘Alzheimers,'” Rogen told a Senate committee hearing in 2014. Rogen’s own interest has been fueled by his mother-in-law’s struggle with the disease. “It needs to be yelled and screamed to the point that it finally gets the attending and the funding it deserves.”

Well, young man, I’m with you. I’ll yell and scream for as long as it takes.


'Terrorism' takes on cyber meaning

“Terrorism” is defined in the American Heritage Dictionary as a “political use of violence or intimidation.”

That’s all it says. I get it.

So does U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., who wants to label North Korea’s hacking of Sony Pictures an act of terrorism.


The notion is quite clear that to commit an act of terrorism, one doesn’t need to kill or maim someone.

Intimidation comes in many forms. That is what happened when someone — probably the North Koreans — hacked into Sony’s system as the company was getting ready to release the film “The Interview,” a so-so movie that depicts an attempt on the life of North Korean goofball/dictator Kim Jong-Un. Sony initially pulled the film, refusing to release it as scheduled. Then it had second thoughts and released “The Interview” in selected theaters. It’s gotten mixed reviews.

Back to the point.

Menendez said the U.S. government needs to label this hacking episode a terrorist attack, as it clearly defines how terrorism is morphing into something quite different in the Internet Age.

President Obama is reluctant to follow Menendez’s advice. He called the hacking an “act of vandalism.” Menendez disagrees — and so do I.

According to The Hill: “‘You know, the one thing I disagree … with the president on is when he characterized the action here against Sony by North Korea as an act of vandalism. Vandalism is when you break a window,’ he told (CNN reporter Dana) Bash. ‘Terrorism is when you destroy a building. And what happened here is that North Korea landed a virtual bomb on Sony’s parking lot, and ultimately had real consequences to it as a company and to many individuals who work there.’”

Indeed, the cyber attack frightened many Americans who don’t work at Sony.

It’s not an act of war, as some have called it. It’s far more, thought, than an act of “vandalism.”


Sanctions seek to punish North Korea

It turns out President Obama is going to be up front and visible as he responds to North Korea’s alleged cyber attack on a major American company.

He took time from his vacation in Hawaii to sign an executive order slapping economic sanctions on North Korea.


I’m still thinking the president had a hand in North Korea’s Internet crash shortly after dictator Kim Jong-Un bullied Sony Pictures into holding back release of “The Interview,” a fictional story about a plot to assassinate the North Korean dictator. The bullying included the alleged hacking into Sony’s emails and other communications.

Obama threatened a “proportional” response.

Now we have the sanctions. They’re sweeping and designed to bring serious economic pain to a government known for bringing plenty of pain of its own to its people.

According to ABC News: “The order authorizes the Treasury Department to shutdown access to the U.S. financial system, prohibiting transactions and freezing assets, for specific officials  and entities of the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) and anyone who supports them.”

Further, according to ABC: “‘The order is not targeted at the people of North Korea, but rather is aimed at the Government of North Korea and its activities that threaten the United States and others,’ Obama wrote in a letter to House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell notifying them of the action.”

Will the sanctions work? Well, Kim Jong-Un ought to ask Soviet strongman/president Vladimir Putin about the effectiveness of these sanctions.

Yes, they’ll work.


North Korea to attack U.S.? With what?

North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un has issued a direct threat to President Barack Obama.

His country will attack the United States if the president retaliates with a cyber counterattack as payback for the hacking of Internet systems at Sony Pictures.


So he’s going to attack us, yes? With what, precisely?

Well, if there ever was an empty threat, I’m guessing this is one.

Kim isn’t going to see this bit of advice, but I’ll offer it anyway.

Do not talk like that, young man. You are playing a very dangerous game when you threaten the greatest military power in the history of Planet Earth. If by “attack” you mean another cyber raid on our computers, I shall remind you as well that our resources are far greater than yours and that you would rue the day you tried that tactic as well.

I don’t mean to dismiss Kim Jong-Un as a toothless tiger on the world stage. He does have nukes … allegedly. South Korea sits just on the other side of the 38th Parallel and that nation is a critical ally of this nation; indeed, we’ve got about 40,000 troops stationed there.

However, this tough-guy talk isn’t likely to stop President Obama from considering — and perhaps ordering — a “proportional” response to the havoc Kim reportedly brought to Sony computers over the company’s production of that movie depicting Kim’s attempted assassination.



Rethinking this Sony film matter

Mea culpa time, kind of.

I’ve been getting beaten up over a blog I posted about whether Sony erred in making a comedy about an attempted assassination of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un. I said Sony Pictures’ biggest mistake was in making the film at all.

The chastening I’ve taken has forced me to reconsider what I wrote. Here it is:


President Obama said this week that Sony “made a mistake” in pulling the film from its scheduled release. He said the filmmaker should not be intimidated by a two-bit dictator. Others have noted that the United States, the strongest nation on Earth, shouldn’t be cowed by a tinhorn despot.

My friends on the left and the right have slung barbs at me for suggesting that Kim Jong-Un had a legitimate beef with the filmmakers and the film, “The Interview,” which stars Seth Rogen and James Franco.

No one likes admitting they were mistaken, but I think I’m about to go there.

Maybe I got caught up in the heat of the moment and didn’t think through the implications — all of them — in suggesting Sony had messed up.

Perhaps if I were running Sony, I would have been reluctant to depict the killing of an actual sovereign leader. Here’s the thing, though: I am not running Sony. That was someone else’s call. They had the right to make that decision.

Kim Jong-Un, therefore, didn’t have the right to bully Sony into pulling back the release of its film.

There. I actually feel better now.


How to respond to cyber attacks?

Let me stipulate that I love living in a relatively free and open society.

However, there are some things I don’t need to know.

I don’t need to know where we’ve deployed all our nuclear weapons and which nations are targeted by them. I don’t need to know where our spies are operating overseas.

And I don’t need to know how we’re going to respond to the cyber attack launched — admittedly — by North Korea in response to that film that depicts an attempt to kill Kim Jong-Un.

President Obama said today at a news conference that the United States is planning a “proportional” response to the cyber attack.


Go ahead and plan away. I don’t need to know what we’re going to do to retaliate.

I do have confidence that our highly trained American cyber spooks are going to deliver some serious grief to the North Koreans when the time is right and when they’ve decided how to get back at them for what they did to us on this end.

Let’s face facts. North Korea is a half-starving Third World dictatorship that has squandered its money on a military machine at the expense of feeding its people or providing them with infrastructure. Its Internet technology is third- or maybe fourth-rate as well. Yet the reclusive Stalinist state has managed to hack into American businesses using some skill its cyber geeks have acquired.

How much damage can our geeks do to the North Koreans? Plenty.

I just don’t feel the need to know the nitty-gritty details of what they’re going to do.


Terrorism goes online

Twenty-first century terrorism has entered a new phase.

It’s highly offensive and utterly mind-blowing. It comes in the form of threats to hack into people’s emails if they dare attend a movie — a movie, for crying out loud! — that portrays the North Korean goofball/dictator in a decidedly unflattering light.

This is what terrorism looks like in the Digital Age.


The film in question is “The Interview.” It stars Seth Rogan and James Franco. Sony today cancelled the release of the film after major movie chains declined to show the film because of terrorist threats by computer hackers.

The film is about an attempted assassination of Kim Jong Un, the bizarre North Korean dictator who succeeded his equally bizarre father, Kim Jong Il. It’s a comedy. It’s meant to make people laugh. It’s meant to poke fun at the reclusive Marxist government that operates in the shadows on the Korean Peninsula.

So now some mysterious Internet terrorists are telling American movie-goers that they cannot watch the film. What do they fear? That someone is going to see the film and then become motivated to try to do what is portrayed on the screen? That the movie is going to produce an assassin bent on killing Kim Jong Un?

Sony already has been hit by hackers reportedly angry over the film.

All of this has me absolutely bumfuzzled.