February 12, 2015
Live, From New York! A Three Hour SNL Special, Sun., Feb. 15
By FRAZIER MOORE
AP Television Writer
New York (AP) "Saturday Night Live," which has never shied from self-congratulation with countless best-of, holiday and anniversary shindigs, is doing it again, big-time.
"The SNL 40th Anniversary Special," three hours of it, will air live on Sunday at 8 p.m. EST on NBC.
Everyone who has ever been an "SNL" regular, guest host, musical guest or behind-the-scenes creative force has been invited. Indeed, it seems every boldface name who ever tuned in to watch might be showing up at fabled Studio 8H.
Attendees announced so far range from Dan Aykroyd, Alec Baldwin and Robert De Niro to Kanye West, Betty White and Kristen Wiig. And to welcome them all, the "Today" show anchor team will host "The SNL 40th Red Carpet Live" at 7 p.m. EST.
"We waited to see who RSVPed, then we started thinking about what we could do with the people we knew were coming," said Lorne Michaels last week. "We're still working on it, as more people reply."
The show will include sketches and other comedy bits employing what Michaels calls "a mash-up of different generations, so you'll see people working with people they never actually worked with" as "SNL" regulars.
"SNL" was born as the brainchild of Michaels, then 31, who today, at 70, remains very much hands-on. He's also very much in charge of Sunday's retrospective.
He pointed with special satisfaction to the expected return of Eddie Murphy, among the series' biggest discoveries whose "SNL" tenure fell during Michaels' absence between 1980 and 1985.
"Eddie Murphy coming is a huge thing," says Michaels, adding that his role in the proceedings "is still being worked out, but he's been very open to different ideas.
"I know this sounds weird, because we've been working on the show for eight months, but we still have nine days." That's an eternity, as "SNL" has demonstrated with its breakneck six-day cycle for decades.
"SNL" was born into a world where there was nothing much to watch on TV other than a trio of broadcast networks. Topical comedy was almost nonexistent.
No wonder each week of "SNL" was greeted as a video godsend by its first generation of disciples, who, powered by 60-cents-a-gallon gasoline and $15-an-ounce marijuana, flocked to one another's living rooms for smoky viewing parties, gathering around the TV set to live the live-ness of "SNL" along with its performers. Whatever else was happening at 11:30 came to a halt. It had to. Home VCRs weren't on the market yet.
"SNL" (titled "NBC's Saturday Night" its first season) premiered Oct. 11, 1975, with comedian George Carlin as host, and Billy Preston and Janis Ian its musical guests. (NBC will repeat this debut program on Saturday at 11:30 p.m. EST.)
The New York it originated from, a city that "SNL" celebrated as its own hip version of urban decay, was in fact crime-ridden and destitute. Late that October, President Gerald Ford would deny federal assistance to spare New York from bankruptcy, a snub The Daily News famously expressed with the headline: "FORD TO CITY: DROP DEAD."
Ford was an instant target of "SNL." The day of its premiere, newspapers across the country were reporting how he, a habitual klutz, had bumped his head boarding the presidential chopper. On the first-ever "Weekend Update," anchor Chevy Chase seized on this mishap: "Yesterday, President Ford bumped his head three times getting into his helicopter. The CIA immediately denied reports that it had deliberately lowered the top of the doorway."
Murphy as Buckwheat on SNL
"Weekend Update," of course, would become the show's most enduring comic fixture, and the forebear of such fake-news ventures as "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart," `'The Colbert Report" and "Last Week Tonight With John Oliver."
No one at the time could have predicted all that, but in a remarkably few weeks, "SNL" had settled into a creative groove. By the fourth show, with Candice Bergen hosting, it had found the look and format it hews to today.
And though it took a few weeks for viewers to discover it, by the end of 1975 "SNL" was not-to-be-missed, and Chase, the breakout star among its inaugural Not Ready for Prime Time Players, was being breathlessly touted as the rightful successor to "Tonight Show" host Johnny Carson.
Early in the second season, Chase, bound for Hollywood, became the first defector from a steadily replenished troupe of players who, by now, exceed 120. It's a cast that never gets old, even as the show has inevitably gone gray at the temples. A show that in its early days brashly held itself apart from the TV establishment, it has since gorged on TV with spectacular success. Born to lampoon lofty institutions, it long ago became one.
Sunday night will be an opportunity for viewers to survey how it got from there to here - and for Michaels to see 40 years of his life unfold before his eyes.
"I'm sure it will be very emotional," he acknowledges. "But right now, I'm trying to just think about it as a show, and how to get it on the air."
Pit Bulls Can Prove Themselves Valuable, Non-Violent Helpers
By Sue Manning
Los Angeles (AP) When former Marine Joe Bonfiglio starts thrashing in his sleep, his pit bull service dog jumps on the bed, climbs on top of him and wakes him up to end the flashback.
The dog named Zen has allowed Bonfiglio, 24, who was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after returning from a five-month tour in Afghanistan, to get back to everyday activities. He can now do things such as shop at malls in Poughkeepsie, New York, because Zen helps calm Bonfiglio when crowds trigger a panic attack.
"I used to go to bars with my friends. And war movies. I am not going to see `American Sniper,'" he said. "It would bring me back to a place I don't want to be."
Pit bulls aren't the typical choice for a service dog. They are feared, banned in hundreds of cities and blamed for sometimes deadly attacks. The Animal Farm Foundation in Dutchess County, New York, wants to change that stigma through a program that trains and donates rescued pit bulls to guide the blind and push wheelchairs or help people regain their mobility and avoid falls.
The effort faces opposition from those who believe the breed is dangerous.
The Assistance Dog Training Program is believed to be the only U.S. training school exclusively for service dogs that uses pit bulls saved from shelters, said Apryl Lea, the foundation's certified trainer. It's placed five dogs that require two years to breed, socialize, train and acquaint dogs with handlers.
A smaller group, Pits for Patriots, trains rescued pit bulls as comfort, therapy and support dogs for veterans, police officers and firefighters but has yet to place any service dogs. Comfort dogs are pets that get a few weeks of training, while therapy animals receive at least six months of training to help calm people who haven't received a diagnosis as severe as PTSD.
"Veterans and first responders can identify with pit bulls because they either have seen a lot of trauma or been through a lot of trauma," said Kelly Yearwood, co-founder Pits for Patriots in Chicago, whose group started the same year as the Animal Farm Foundation's program, in 2011.
The handful of major training schools and a few smaller ones all typically breed German shepherds, Labradors and golden retrievers for the lengthy, costly process to become a service dog.
Shelters nationwide watch for canine candidates for the foundation's program, which trains dogs based on Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines, Lea said. With pit bull breeds making up a huge percentage of dogs in shelters, she has to carefully decide which dogs are accepted. They must have the right build, aptitude and focus to help a person get through life with disabilities or injuries.
"My job is not just to train the dog but to help the handler be a good trainer, too," she said.
But the program faces pushback.
"There are over 100 dog breeds that are far more suitable to perform tasks for persons with disabilities than pit bulls, especially rescued pit bulls with unknown backgrounds," said Colleen Lee, founder and president of DogsBite.org, a national group that tracks bites and works to reduce attacks through bans and other laws.
Pit bulls can be unpredictable and kill or maim when they attack, she said.
From 2005 to 2014, dog attacks killed 325 people in the United States. DogsBite.org blames pit bull breeds for 62 percent of the deaths.
"There is simply no need for pit bulls, rescued or otherwise, to be utilized as service dogs for people with disabilities," Lee said.
Pit bulls have helped people like Bonfiglio get back to their normal lives. The former Marine has made such progress with Zen that he's now taking cybersecurity classes at Mercy College in New York.
"Zen is a fantastic dog; the best thing that's happened to me since I've been home," said Bonfiglio, whose other family dogs also provide comfort. "They are all great supporters. They are all great supporters. They don’t talk back, just put a smile on your face.”
Dead Hostage Mueller’s Family Releases Letter From Woman
By The Associated Press
The family of Kayla Jean Mueller said Tuesday it had received confirmation that she died while being held by Islamic State militants. The Mueller family released a letter it said she had written last year. Here is the text, as provided by the family, which also redacted some portions:
Everyone, If you are receiving this letter it means I am still detained but my cell mates (starting from 11/2/2014) have been released. I have asked them to contact you & send you this letter. It’s hard to know what to say. Please know that I am in a safe location, completely unharmed & healthy (put on weight in fact); I have been treated w/ the utmost respect & kindness. I wanted to write you all a well thought out letter (but I didn’t know if my cell mates would be leaving in the coming days or the coming months restricting my time but primarily) I could only but write the letter a paragraph at a time, just the thought of you all sends me into a fit of tears.
If you could say I have ``suffered’’ at all throughout this whole experience it is only in knowing how much suffering I have put you all through; I will never ask you to forgive me as I do not deserve forgiveness.
I remember mom always telling me that all in all in the end the only one you really have is God. I have come to a place in experience where, in every sense of the word, I have surrendered myself to our creator b/c literally there was no else.. & by God & by your prayers I have felt tenderly cradled in freefall. I have been shown in darkness, light & have learned that even in prison, one can be free. I am grateful. I have come to see that there is good in every situation, sometimes we just have to look for it. I pray each each day that if nothing else, you have felt a certain closeness & surrender to God as well & have formed a bond of love & support amongst one another. I miss you all as if it has been a decade of forced separation. I have had many a long hour to think, to think of all the things I will do w/ Lex, our first family camping trip, the first meeting (at) the airport. I have had many hours to think how only in your absence have I finally (at) 25 years old come to realize your place in my life.
The gift that is each one of you & the person I could & could not be if you were not a part of my life, my family, my support. I DO NOT want the negotiations for my release to be your duty, if there is any other option take it, even if it takes more time. This should never have become your burden. I have asked these women to support you; please seek their advice. If you have not done so already, (REDACTED) can contact (REDACTED) who may have a certain level of experience with these people. None of us could have known it would be this long but know I am also fighting from my side in the ways I am able & I have a lot of fight left inside of me. I am not breaking down & I will not give in no matter how long it takes. I wrote a song some months ago that says, ``The part of me that pains the most also gets me out of bed, w/out your hope there would be nothing left.’’ aka—The thought of your pain is the source of my own, simultaneously the hope of our reunion is the source of my strength. Please be patient, give your pain to God. I know you would want me to remain strong. That is exactly what I am doing. Do not fear for me, continue to pray as will I & by God’s will we will be together soon.
All my everything,
Scientists Report It’s Time To Cool Earth With Artificial Clouds
By Seth Borenstein
AP Science Writer
Washington (AP) It’s time to study and maybe even test the idea of cooling the Earth by injecting sulfur pollution high in the air to reflect the sun’s heat, a first-of-its-kind U.S. science report said Tuesday.
The idea was once considered fringe—to purposely re-engineer the planet’s climate as a last ditch effort to battle global warming with an artificial cloud. No longer.
In a nuanced, two-volume report, the National Academy of Sciences said that the concept should not be acted upon immediately because it is too risky, but it should be studied and perhaps tested outdoors in small projects. It could be a relatively cheap, effective and quick way to cool the planet by mimicking the natural effects on climate of large volcanic eruptions, but scientists concede there could be dramatic and dangerous side effects that they don’t know about.
Because warming has worsened and some countries might act unilaterally, scientists said research is needed to calculate the consequences.
Panel chairwoman Marcia McNutt, editor of the journal Science and former director of the U.S. Geological Survey, said in an interview that the public should read this report ``and say, `This is downright scary.’ And they should say, `If this is our Hail Mary, what a scary, scary place we are in.’’’
This is the first time a government-associated science panel talked about the controlled small scale outdoor tests of the artificial cloud concept, called solar radiation management or SRM. But even then panelists downplayed the idea and said it would require some kind of government or other oversight before it is done.
``Yes, small scale outdoor tests might be allowed, but it wouldn’t just be in the hands of scientists to decide what’s allowable and what’s not allowable,’’ McNutt said. ``Civil society needs to engage in these discussions where the line is to be drawn.’’
Some scientists worry that research itself it will make this type of planet hacking more likely to occur.
``This creates a bit of what we call a moral hazard,’’ said Waleed Abdalati, a University of Colorado ice scientist and former NASA chief scientist who co-authored the report. ``There will likely come a time we’re going to want to know the ramifications of that kind of action. ... You’re talking about potentially changing weather and climate. You don’t want to do that without as good an understanding as you can possibly have.’’
And the committee scientists said once you start this type of tinkering, it would be difficult to stop because warming would come back with such a force. So a decision to spray particles into the air would have to continue for more than 1,000 years.
The report was requested by U.S. intelligence agencies, academy president Ralph J. Ciccerone said. Because the world is not reducing the emissions of greenhouse gases that cause global warming, scientists have been forced ``to at least consider what is known as geoengineering,’’ he said.
The panel did favor technology to suck carbon dioxide from the air and bury it underground. But unlike the artificial cloud concept, it would be costly and take decades to cool the planet. The panel wrote a separate volume on this method with the idea of distancing the concept from the idea of the artificial cloud, which McNutt described as a political hot potato.
Carbon dioxide is a byproduct of the burning of coal, oil and gas. Removing it from the air treats the cause of man-made global warming, while deflecting the sun with an artificial cloud only treats the symptoms and does nothing about ocean acidification, the report said.
A leading climate engineering scientist, David Keith of Harvard, hailed the report, but said it could have gone further. With backing from billionaire Bill Gates, Keith has proposed an experiment involving putting about two pounds (1 kilogram) of a sulfur solution in the air to see what happens.
Rutgers University scientist Alan Robock said it would be interesting to spray a small sulfur dioxide into a cloud, and use a blimp or drone to measure what happens. But that should only be done with proper oversight, he said.
Other climate scientists are adamantly against injecting sulphates into the air, even as a last ditch effort.
Such an idea ``could do far more harm than good’’ and scientists should treat the Earth like doctors do their patients, abiding by the rule ``first, do no harm,’’ said Pennsylvania State University climate scientist Michael Mann. But he favors increased study of the issue ``if only for one purpose: to expose just how dangerous many of these schemes might be.’’
While the artificial cloud idea is a much worse option that carbon dioxide removal, it is more attractive to some people because ``we could probably do it right now,’’ said Texas A&M University atmospheric sciences professor Andrew Dessler. ``There’s really very little that’s technologically standing in our way.’’
Online: National Academy of Science: http://www.nas.edu