Monthly Archives: November 2013

Newtown football, helping a town heal. My favorite “West Wing” Thanksgiving clip. And a homeless man honored for his ethics and generosity

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And a Happy Good News Friday to you you all; hope everyone had a terrific Thanksgiving. Mine was stellar as always; family and friends gathered at my aunt’s in New Jersey, where once again I had the best meal I’ve had all year (that’s about 20 years consecutive for that streak). Man, I love everything about Thanksgiving; I have so much to be thankful for, this and every year.

Today I give you a couple of stories of goodness and hope, and a little leftover Thanksgiving humor.

First, a heartwarming little story from Atlanta. Joel Hartman is a homeless man living in Atlanta when he found a wallet while dumpster diving for food a few weeks ago.

Instead of taking all the money, he saw that it was a tourist’s wallet with a foreign ID card. He then took the remarkable step of visiting four hotels before finding out the tourist was staying at the Omni Center hotel.

He turned the wallet back in to hotel security and when they asked, he didn’t give his real name.

The hotel manager was so impressed with the gesture that he tracked Hartman down a few weeks later by canvassing the neighborhood, so to speak, to try to find the hero.

Hartman was then treated to a week-long stay at the Omni, a week’s worth of room service, and given $500.

Beautiful all around.

“When you’re looking through food in the garbage can, it’s probably one of the toughest times of his life. But when you find somebody’s wallet and you do the right thing, I think we’d like to do the right thing by this person,” the hotel manager, Scott Stuckey, said.

**Next up, since yesterday was Thanksgiving, I feel like you’d certainly enjoy this clip from the best turkey day episode of “The West Wing.” This is a compilation of scenes that are among the show’s funniest ever, when C.J. Cregg has to be in charge of which turkey gets pardoned by the President, and which gets eaten.

I laugh every single time, especially toward the end when Donna asks, “You can’t pardon a turkey?” And Bartlet’s line about the Oscars slays me too.

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**Finally today, this is, of course, going to be an awful December for the people of Newtown, Conn., as the one-year anniversary of the horrific school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary dawns on us.

There’s not much good news to be found in the Newtown tragedy, but if you look hard enough, there are a few reasons for the townspeople to smile this year.

The Newtown High football team just completed an undefeated regular season. The Nighthawks have gone 12-0, while dedicating their season to those innocent children killed last year.

“Our players are hungry to win the championship to give everyone in town a great Christmas present and something to feel happy about a year after such a horrible tragedy,” said Newtown High’s head football coach, Steve George.

It’s a ridiculous oversimplification to say anything as trite as the football team bringing a whole town together, and of course a football team’s wins aren’t going to salve any wounds.

But you know what, sports really do help bring communities together sometimes. And maybe, just maybe, if Newtown High keeps winning and makes people in the city feel a little bit better for a few hours a week this December, it’ll be a wonderful thing.

http://www.hlntv.com/article/2013/11/23/homeless-stolen-wallet-hero-hotel-thanksgiving

A heartbreaking, hugely important book on soldiers returning from war. Dialects from across the U.S. in one video. And U.S. corporations act classlessly in Bangledesh

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Quick housekeeping note: Probably no blog on Thursday, so Happy Thanksgiving! Will be back Friday with our regular Good News Friday post.

A few years ago I read a remarkable book by Washington Post reporter David Finkel called The Good Soldiers, in which Finkel embedded with the men of the 2-16 Infantry Battalion in the U.S. Army, following them to Iraq for a harrowing tour of death, fighting, and misery.

It was an incredible book, maybe one of the best on war I’ve ever read, and as I wrote back then, Finkel, a Pulitzer Prize winner, truly made you feel like you were there with the soldiers.

Two years later Finkel has written an even better book, about what happens when our soldiers come home, broken, battered, and severely psychologically damaged. Thank You For Your Service is shocking, like Finkel’s previous book was, but in two very different ways.
Here, the shock comes from just how mentally destroyed these men who saw such awfulness are, and how difficult it is to try to re-adjust to the real world. And the other sad shock is how incredibly disorganized and often hapless the U.S. government is in trying to help these men, from pushing them from one case manager and therapist to another, to offering inadequate answers to why so many soldiers have come home from this war and killed themselves.

The book goes deep into the lives of these men, like Adam Schumann (above), who still has nightmares and guilt about men in his command who died in battle (after not being on the scene when one of his men died, another comes back and says “This shit never would’ve happened if you’d been there.” That one comment haunts him for years.”)
There’s Tausolo Aieti, who wakes up screaming nearly every night after dreaming that another dead soldier is blaming him for his death.
Finkel also shows us the whole spectrum of recovery, from some success stories inside therapy programs the VA runs, to the awful toll the psychological damage takes on the soldiers’ wives and families, and he even takes us inside high-level Pentagon meetings, where the incredible rash of suicides is examined case by case, to try to see exactly what’s wrong.

This book is absorbing, and hard to put down. The details are extraordinary; Finkel lives with these men and their wives and families for months, and we get to see all the stops and starts, the fights and the successes, like we’re right there in the room.

One sample passage: Of one soldier, Finkel writes: “He began to take sleeping pills to fall asleep and another kind of pill to get back to sleep when he woke up. He took other pills, too, some for pain, others for anxiety. He began to drink so much vodka that his skin smelled of it, and then he started mentioning suicide.”

The true devastation of war isn’t always known when the tanks pull away and the helicopters leave; the tragedies continue at home.

This is a hugely important book, and not an easy one to read, because you’ll probably come away angry, like I did.

It’s also a book I wish every politician would read before blindly sending Americans into battle. Check it out on Amazon here, and here’s the NYT Review of the book.

**Remember a few weeks ago in this space when I wrote about a survey that reported which American regional accents were the best and worst? Well, time for something even cooler; this video, put together by the great folks at The Atlantic, is four minutes of all the different dialects of the U.S. spoken together.

We hear about grinders, subs, and hoagies; of Coke, pop, and sod-er, and all kinds of good stuff.

Part of the glory of America, don’t you think? But you people who say “grinders” are just strange to this New Yawker.

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**Finally today, a really embarrassing story out of Bangladesh, that ought to shame the American corporations involved.

Surely you remember the awful factory collapse in that country last year, when awful working conditions resulted in the deaths of 1,200 workers.

Now, American companies whose products were being made there, companies like Walmart, Sears, and The Children’s Place, are refusing to offer ANY assistance toward victims compensation funds. Several European companies are helping out, but Walmart and the rest are showing a pathetic lack of concern.

From this N.Y. Times story: “Walmart is the one company that is showing an astonishing lack of responsibility, considering that so much of their product was being made at the Tazreen factory,” said Samantha Maher, a campaign coordinator for the British arm of the Clean Clothes Campaign, a European anti-sweatshop group.

Just awful. These people died making your products in an unsafe factory, and you don’t have the decency to offer their families compensation. Disgusting.

A bitter cold morning, and saying goodbye to Grandma for the last time. The great Barry Bremen, remembered. And a hockey commercial 1980s wrestling fans are sure to love.

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Sunday morning, on a sunny, 20-degree day on Long Island, my family said goodbye to our beloved matriarch one last time.

It was my Grandmother’s unveiling, which is a Jewish tradition wherein, within the first year after someone’s death, the family gathers together to unveil her headstone, and pay final respects.

I’ve been to several unveilings, and as a non-religious person it’s always struck me as an odd little ceremony. You are of course still sad about the loss of a loved one, but most of the emotion from the funeral has gone, everyone has moved on, and it sometimes feels like an afterthought.

This unveiling was different, though. My grandmother, as I’ve written here several times before, was an incredible woman, the best person I’ve ever met. I still think about her often, and miss her terribly.
Something so mundane as scrolling through the contacts in my cell phone and reaching the “G’s” and not seeing her name in there can make me feel sad. We used to talk all the time before Alzheimer’s robbed us of the person she once was, and our phone calls were always a highlight.

But that’s been over for a long time now, and Sunday seemed like the final moments we’d have with her. She was on a headstone next to my grandfather, and I’m glad they’re together again. We said a few prayers, hugged and kissed each other, and placed small stones on both their monuments.

It wasn’t nearly as emotional as the funeral was, but it was still a very final feeling, and it was nice to have everyone together to celebrate her one last time.

Then, we all went and had a good meal, laughing and joking and talking about Thanksgiving.

Grandma would’ve been so happy to see us all there.

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**When I was a kid, one of the strangest characters I’d ever seen in sports was Barry Bremen. Bremen was a Detroit sporting goods salesmen who, thanks to some creative ingenuity and incredibly lax security, came to be known as “The Great Imposter.” He snuck onto the field at an MLB All-Star Game, shot some warm-up hoops on an NBA court, became a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader, and an NFL referee.

ESPN’s “30 for 30 shorts” documentary series did a great little nine-minute video on Bremen’s life.

He was just such a bizarre character, who none of the athletes really minded (well, Tommy Lasorda, around the 6-minute mark of the video, kinda got mad).
You watch this video and realize that none of Bremen’s antics could’ve happened today, with the security in today’s stadium.

I always sort of envied Bremen; “all he ever did was bring a smile to your face,” one of his friends says in the video.
That’s a pretty good epitaph to have, if you ask me.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

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**Finally today, this one made me laugh out loud. The Nashville Predators hockey team have a glut of American-born players doing well this season, so they decided to make a promo video highlighting their stars, juxtaposed with photos of great American landmarks.

To the soundtrack of Hulk Hogan’s old wrestling entrance music, “I am A Real American.” Old-school wrestling fans, enjoy.

And if you don’t have this song in your head the rest of the day, I haven’t done my job here. (Can’t you just hear Gorilla Monsoon hollering “And here comes teh Hulkster!”)

We get some new wheels, and I’m a bit overwhelmed. A wild day in the NFL, and the Jets officially stink. And what Kurt Cobain would look like today

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Pretty big weekend for the Lewises; we got a new car.

I’d had my 2004 Toyota Corolla for about 10 years, and I loved that car, which got me through a whole bunch of long nights and days driving on different newspaper job assignments, drove me back and forth from New York to Florida twice, and basically did everything I needed it to do.

But the last nine months or so she really was falling apart, 140,000 miles after her life began (I don’t know why I’m calling her “she,” seems like boats are always females, aren’t cars, too?), and we were pouring more money into the car than it was worth.

So about a month ago we started to go car-lease shopping (not sure we wanted to buy, a lease gives us more flexibility because we don’t know where we’ll be living in a few years, maybe out of NYC). We really like the Toyota RAV-4, but the safety ratings on it were terrible. We liked the Subaru Forester, but it just didn’t feel right.

Then we saw the Honda CR-V, and loved it. It felt good, it looked cool, and it was the best of the small SUV’s we looked at (I really, really don’t like driving big cars, but the wife likes “sitting high up” so I figured what the hell.)

And so, thanks to some really quick work and excellent service at a great Long Island Honda dealer, we picked up our metallic blue pearl CR-V on Saturday.

And I gotta say, not having driven a new car in 10 years, I was pretty overwhelmed. So many new features, so many damn dashboard buttons to deal with, a navigation system that’s more complicated than my first computer… it was a little dizzying.

But also, super cool. The SiriusXM satellite radio free trial definitely has the potential to get me hooked into a subscription, if only for the “80s on 8” channel alone. The car handles great, it has like 47 airbags, and so far we’re definitely in love.
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**More craziness in the NFL on Sunday: The Rams beat the tar out of the Bears, the Lions get beat by the awful Buccaneers, and what in the name of Jack Trudeau (old-school Tecmo Bowl fans remember him?) is going on with the Colts, getting destroyed by a suddenly-awesome Arizona team?

The Sunday night game was at least blessedly predictable, with Peyton Manning and Tom Brady putting on another classic. The Broncos completely collapsed in the second half, rallied to send it to OT, and then lose on a fluke fumble on a punt at the end of OT? Ugh. Hate, hate, HATE seeing the Patriots win.

Well, at least one thing Sunday was predictable: The Jets and Geno Smith continued their downward slide to where we expected them to be. The boys in green and white were miserable Sunday, losing to the Ravens 19-3, and Smith has definitely regressed into Mark Sanchez territory.

Kid just looks lost. He was under heavy pressure most of the day, and the running game didn’t do much, but Geno just doesn’t seem to know what to do out there. Maybe a game or two on the bench would help; anything but more of the same.

As I said to my fellow Jets diehard David Sunday, I’m rooting for 5-11 now, so the Jets can at least get a Top 10 pick and have a shot at a top college QB. Because no matter what Geno does the rest of the way, he hasn’t won the job for next year.

Ah, the Jets. So nice there’s something predictable in the NFL world tonight.

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**Finally today, I thought this was kind of creepy and weird but also fascinating.

The music website NME.com has paired with the Rock and Roll Heaven Project to show us what famous rock stars who died young would look like today. They’ve got Jim Morrison (above), Kurt Cobain, and what I think is the creepiest one of all, Elvis Presley.

Man, the John Lennon one (No. 3 in the gallery) really looks horrible, doesn’t it? I think he would’ve aged better than that.

Pretty fascinating stuff.

Good News Friday: Dayna Morales, a waitress with a great heart. Harry Reid grows some cojones (finally) in Congress. And a cool ad to get girls to become engineers

daynamoralesBy now you are probably familiar with the story of Dayna Morales, a former Marine and gay waitress who, a few weeks ago, was stiffed on a tip at the New Jersey restaurant where she works because she’s a lesbian.

Instead of leaving a tip on a $93.55 bill, a family of diners ridiculed Morales and scrawled an anti-gay note on the receipt, that read: “I’m sorry but I cannot tip because I don’t agree with your lifestyle & how you live your life.”

Morales publicized this on Facebook, and thankfully, support for her rolled in, in the form of several thousand dollars.

Morales could’ve kept this money, and no one would’ve raised a peep of objection. But she’s made my heart smile for donating a portion of the money to the Wounded Warriors Project, which aids injured soldiers.

A great gesture by a classy woman. As an aside, do you notice how every single obnoxious, bigoted act by people in America now seems to get loads of attention, and shouted down each time? It’s wonderful to see hatred treated with the 100 percent contempt it deserves.

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**Next up, someone I never thought I’d be honoring on Good News Friday, but what the hell, miracles do happen every day. In this case, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat previously without a spine, actually grew one on Thursday.

After years of threatening to end the filibuster on judicial nominees and presidential appointments, thanks to near-constant Republican obstructionism, ole’ Harry Reid from Nevada finally did something about it Thursday. He put it to a vote, and by a 52-48 margin, the “nuclear option” was passed. Now, the filibuster isn’t totally dead; it can still be used by the minority party to block legislation and Supreme Court nominations.

But so many of the ridiculous delays in appointments and judgeships will now finally be over; from Elizabeth Warren’s blocked appointment a few years ago to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, to these recent appeals court vacancies that the Republicans have refused to be allowed to be filled, it’s been obscene how much power the minority party has had.

Majority rule, finally, might actually be allowed to happen sometimes. And sure, in a few years if the GOP are in control of the Senate I’ll be pissed, but you know what? The price you have to pay for progress. And by getting rid of a filibuster that’s been used only because the Republicans can the last few years, is a welcome, wonderful change.

Here’s the great Ezra Klein in the Washington Post on why this is a big deal.

**And finally today, you may remember those awesome OK Go videos that had a Rube Goldberg feel to them: trippy and cool.

Well a company called GoldieBlox is out with an awesome new TV ad, set to music by the Beastie Boys, on encouraging girls to become engineers.

I can’t emphasize enough how important I think positive messages for young girls are; there’s so much crap and negative messaging in the media, from people like Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian, that reinforce so many negative stereotypes about women.

Commercials like this, showing girls they can do anything and making it look cool? Fabulous.

The new Bob Dylan video is spectacular. How close the NFL really came to having an active gay player. And I tip my hat to Dean Smith, always a legend

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So there’s no way to sugar-coat this or oversell it: This new Bob Dylan video for “Like a Rolling Stone” is brilliant.

If you haven’t seen it by now, I’m surprised, because it’s been all over the Internet. But here it is, and it’s spectacular. It’s an interactive video; the whole video looks like a TV screen, and by using the up and down arrows on your keyboard, you can “watch” people singing the classic song in all different formats. There’s an old movie, a sports highlights show, a “The Price is Right” episode, and a whole bunch more people all singing the song perfectly in sync with each other.

I have no idea how it was done, but I keep watching it over and over. So cool. I really, really recommend clicking on it; it’s a dazzling example of the merger of a great old song and 21st century technology.

If you’re interested in how it was made, Rolling Stone interviewed the creators here.

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**I’m sure you all remember the media attention garnered last spring by Jason Collins, who became the first active male pro athlete in a major team sport to admit he was gay.
Collins, a longtime NBA center, was on the cover of Sports Illustrated, and hailed for weeks as a hero, as he should’ve been.
Unfortunately, Collins isn’t an active player anymore; most distressingly, the free agent saw not one NBA team reach out to him for so much as a tryout in training camp this year, and as the season rolls on he remains unsigned.

(Now, I completely understand that he’s no LeBron; he’s an aging big man who was never that good in the first place, and teams are totally in their rights to ignore him because of his lack of ability. Still, I can’t believe a man as PR-conscious as NBA commissioner David Stern couldn’t find a way to get Collins in the league.)

Anyway, around the time Collins came out, there were also rumblings that several NFL players were going to come out of the closet together. How close did it really come to happening? Pretty damn close, as Mike Freeman, an excellent sportswriter (and fellow UD Blue Hen!) writes in this story. It was about to happen, and then one of the teams got gun-shy and it didn’t happen; they didn’t sign the player (My fellow Jets fans might recognize the profile and characteristics of one of the players mentioned; if it’s who I think it is, it’s not a surprise; he played with the Jets for several years about six years ago.)

Pretty sad that it’s late 2013 and NFL owners are general managers are still too afraid to actually have an out gay player on their roster. How much longer will it take?

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**Finally today, a few words about Dean Smith, the legendary University of North Carolina men’s basketball coach, who Wednesday was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Now as you may know from reading this blog, I’m sort of a big Duke basketball fan (ha), which of course means I hate everything Carolina blue.

But I can never, ever, ever say anything bad about Dean Smith. Of course I admire all that he accomplished at UNC, from his victories, to his principled stand on civil rights (he was a leader in helping integrate the school in the 1960s, and recruited black players long before most others did) to his absolute grace and dignity on and off the court.

But personally, I was lucky to have interviewed him 1-on-1 a few times, and he could not have been more gracious. I’ll never forget asking him a question at a press conference once, the first time I’d gotten to do that, and then seeing him months later at a charity event. He walked up to me and said “Hey Michael, how’ve you been?” like we were old friends.

Dean was all class, and it’s heartbreaking to know that now he’s quite ill, with significant memory loss (no one has quite said what’s ailing him, trying to protect his privacy, but it sure sounds like Alzheimer’s or dementia).

He’s one of the greats, and I’m glad he continues to be recognized for the giant life he has led.

The XBox that can see you naked. A hilarious Foot Locker ad. And how the post office can read awful handwriting.

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So I’m not much of a video-game player anymore, but I still like to keep up on the big trends (when I substitute teach in NYC the kids are always amazed when they learn I’ve heard of Grand Theft Auto. They really think all grown-ups are idiots. Then again, I probably did too when I was their age.)

Anyway, a new version of XBox is coming out, the XBox One (shouldn’t the first version have been called One? But I digress) and it’s got this cool whizbang infrared camera thingy built into it where it can capture the player’s image and motion, even when the lights are out.

Sounds great, except for one thing: Early testers of the game discovered that game can see you naked.
Seriously, right through your clothes and into your birthday suit.
Yep, it seems to project all of you onto the screen, which, let’s face it guys, we don’t really need to see at three o’clock in the afternoon.

**Next up, a truly brilliant commercial from Foot Locker. To celebrate what the shoe company is calling their Week of Greatness, they decided to see what could happen if they could right previous wrongs in the sports world. So we get Mike Tyson returning Evander Holyfield’s ear to its original owner, Brett Favre reversing his pattern, and other wonderful changes. Really great…

**As someone with truly horrendous penmanship (not proud of it, just something I’ve learned to live with since I was little), I appreciate how difficult it is for the post office to read handwriting of those like mine.

And now thanks to the great folks at Mental Floss, I know how they do it. It’s actually quite complicated, with three different layers of service based on how difficult the handwritten address is.

I found this article pretty fascinating. And to all the mailmen out there who have to look at my chicken scratch, my apologies. I’m trying my best.

“Dallas Buyers Club” a terrific look at AIDS in the 1980s. Padding in schools finally challenged by a principal. And a hilarious play-by-play of a car accident.

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I saw that rarest of media creations over the weekend, something more rare than an 85-degree day in New York City in January.
More rare than a Cleveland Browns Super Bowl win.
More rare than Alec Baldwin acting like a sane human being when there’s a photographer around.

Last weekend I saw a good Matthew McConaughey movie.

Yep, the male Ken doll with the perfect teeth, great body and great hair has spent most of his career making one crappy film after another in my opinion, but looks like he’s finally got a winner and shown off his acting chops.

“Dallas Buyers Club” is a terrific, a real absorbing, brilliantly-acted and so well-written story of the life of Ron Woodroff, a Texas electrician who in 1985 was diagnosed with AIDS. A more unlikely AIDS champion you could not find, Woodruff manages to fight the FDA on their delay of life-saving AIDS drugs by going into business importing “alternative” medicines that end up doing a whole world of good for thousands of people.

McConaughey is really terrific as Woodroff, showing a man who changes from being only out for himself (his behavior the first 30 minutes of the flick is truly abhorrent) to making a ton of money while actually doing good. The FDA is an enormous government entity tangled in red tape, and especially when it came to the HIV virus moved incredibly slowly.

Jared Leto is Oscar-worthy as Woodroff’s partner in crime, a transsexual AIDS patient who initially is just a pawn in Woodroff’s game, but becomes much more. Jennifer Garner, usually pretty “blah” in movies, is good here, and the script is truly wonderful; you get to know these characters as human beings caught in a terrible situation, not knowing if they’re going to live or die.

The awful epidemic of AIDS in the ’80s has spawned a ton of great movies, plays and TV shows, like “The Normal Heart” and the great documentary “How To Survive a Plague.

“Dallas Buyers Club” deserves to be a part of that rich history. And hey, if Matthew McConaughey can make a great movie, there must be icicles forming in hell as we speak.

**Next up, this is another one of these videos that may or may not be fake, but it’s so funny I don’t care. A Dallas man was leaving a voicemail for his boss telling him he’d be late to work when he witnesses an accident between one man and a car-ful of old ladies. Listen to his hilarious play-by-play (it gets good about 30 seconds in); I think this proves that hearing someone laugh uncontrollably while describing it makes anything three times funnier.

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**Finally today, this story made me say “Hallelujah!”

I’ve long believed that one of the problems in our society today is the “over-congratulating” of young people, giving everyone a trophy and a pat on the back for everything, and the syndrome is at its worst in some schools as well.

I may have told this story here before, but as a student teacher two years ago I was so dismayed when, after grading several students fairly (and poorly) for shoddy work on their essays, I was told by my mentor teacher that I “had to change their grades; you can’t give them scores that low.”

It’s insulting and wrong when we continue to publicize and highlight and praise everyone, because it takes away from the kids who truly excel.

Anyway, I’m rambling, but this story is a great example of some pushback. A mother in Florida was confused when her 7th-grade son brought home a report card telling him he made the honor roll, when he had a D and a C on it.

The mom brought it to the school principal’s attention, and Kim Anderson of Pasco Middle School agreed wholeheartedly, acknowledging that having 50 percent of her students make the honor roll isn’t exactly right.

The kid’s mom, Beth Tillack, said it perfectly:

“The bottom line is there’s nothing honorable about making a D,” said Tillack. “I was not happy, because how can I get my child to study for a test when he thinks he’s done enough?”

A-freaking-men!

Senate may make long-overdue change in military rape cases. The Jets continue their schizophrenic pattern. And dogs doing funny stuff.

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For the last several years, as I read more and more horrifying stories of what happens to female soldiers in all branches of our military, I’ve been more and more disgusted.

As we’ve seen in scandal after scandal, thousands of women have been sexually assaulted while serving our country, and rarely if ever are their attackers brought to justice (hell, sometimes they even get promoted).

The fantastic documentary movie “The Invisible War”, which I wrote about here, talked about how much the deck is stacked against women like Kori Cioca and others who have been violated.

One of the biggest obstacles is getting a fair shake judicially when a victim’s complaint is handled in the military chain of command, where sometimes the person handling the rape charge IS the person who did the assaulting. And even when the defendant is not the judge, it’s incredibly difficult for women’s complaints to be taken seriously.

In the Senate right now a cross-section of Democratic and Republican senators are taking up a proposal to remove the power to decide whether to try sexual assault cases from the military chain of command and put it in the hands of an independent military prosecutor.

This would be a vital step toward at least helping these victims get a fair shake. Why only 46 of 100 Senators are signing on to this so far is beyond me, but hey, it’s a start.

Read more about the proposal here, and check out “The Invisible War” on Netflix here.

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**Well, can’t say I didn’t see that one coming.
Everything for the past two weeks that’s been said about the New York Jets ws positive. They’ve finally turned the corner, they’re 5-4, they’re in playoff contention, then they sign veteran safety and future Hall of Famer Ed Reed, they’re playing Buffalo Sunday who the Jets always beat … so of course, being a Jets fan, with all that positivity, I was frightened of Sunday’s game.

And I had reason to be. After three decades of being a fan, I’ve learned to see these things coming. Geno Smith was awful, as bad as he’s been all year, losing fumbles, throwing interceptions (including a Sanchez-ian Pick 6 in the third quarter).
The offensive line couldn’t block a mosquito. The secondary was awful, as it has been much of the year. And so the Jets became the first team in NFL history (whoo-hoo!) to alternate wins and losses for the first 10 games of the year.
Always nice to make history.

Couple more quick-hit NFL thoughts:

— Everyone who had the Eagles in first place in the NFC East a month ago, please raise your hand. What a wacky NFL season.

–So much for that Cleveland Browns resurgence, eh?

— I say it every time they wear them, but those Pittsburgh Steelers throwback uniforms (above) are the ugliest unis I’ve ever seen. I mean, did they all just break out of prison?

**And finally, for a little Monday pick-me-up, four minutes of puppies and big dogs escaping from situations they weren’t too thrilled to be in. The dog at :37 is my favorite, sign him up for the NBA!

Two stories of warm-hearted Grandmas. And a 5-year-old leukemia patient gets his Batman wish

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And a happy Good News Friday to you all; I’m happy because I’m going to my first Rangers game at the “new” Madison Square Garden on Sunday, where I’m sure I’ll be depressed after what I suspect will be the Jets letting me down Sunday afternoon.

But that’s two days away, let’s focus on the good. And on two great stories involving Grandmas, who really never get the credit they’re due.

First, once again “CBS Sunday Morning” comes through with a heartwarming story. An 81-year-old grandmother named SuEllen Fried of Prairie Village, Kan.,who for the past three decades has been leading a support group and lending plenty of support herself, to prisoners at Lansing Correctional Facility.

Fried runs a program called “Reaching Out from Within,” helping prisoners learn to be kinder toward one another, and trying to change their outlook on life.

You may think it’s a hopeless task, but this stat from the story blew me away: While the normal prisoner recidivism rate is 50 percent, inmates who go through Sue’s program only return to prison 10 percent of the time.

It’s a beautiful story and yet more evidence that the neanderthal notion of “locking them up and throwing away the key,” without offering supports and a way out, is just so, so wrong.

You go, Grandma.

**The second Grandma story involves Florida Marlins rookie pitching sensation Jose Fernandez and his grandma (I actually saw Fernandez pitch in high school in Florida, and he was a man among boys).

Fernandez is from Cuba, and he hadn’t been able to see his grandmother for the past five years, since he left the country for Florida.

Well, with the help of Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria (who rarely gets any praise, nor deserves any), Fernandez got to see his Grandma recently. Check out the video here; it gets really good around the 2:45 mark, but the whole thing is terrific.

miles.batkid

**Finally today, this story is wonderful on a few different levels. A 5-year-old boy with leukemia named Miles loves Batman, and his Make-A-Wish Foundation wish was to become BatKid.

And now the entire city of San Francisco today is helping Miles’ wish come true. Check out these awesome details from this story:

“(Today) a breaking news story will appear on TV in San Francisco. The police chief will be asking if anyone knows where Batkid is because he needs his help to solve a crime and “bringing the bad guys to justice,” Make-a-Wish said in a statement.

“Miles’ day will then include rescuing a damsel in distress tied up across the Hyde Street cable car line and capturing the Puzzler in the act of robbing a downtown vault. As Batkid eats his lunch at Burger Bar, he’ll get a special message from the chief telling him to go to the window where he’ll look out over Union Square and see a huge group of volunteers jumping up and down and asking for his help.

A villain will be kidnapping a famous San Francisco mascot and Batkid will rush to the rescue. His last stop will be City Hall, where the mayor and police chief will thank him and present him with a key to the city and a crowd will be cheering him on.”

I mean, can you believe the lengths this city is going to? Thousands of people are coming out to help make one sick little boy’s dreams come true.

How could you not be an optimist about our world after reading that?