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What, if anything, should be done about violence in movies?
July 26th, 2012
02:57 PM ET

What, if anything, should be done about violence in movies?

By CNN's Jack Cafferty:

That horrific massacre in a Colorado movie theater has revived the debate of whether violent films contribute to real-life violence.

Director Peter Bogdanovich talked to the Hollywood Reporter about how movie violence is way over the line.

"Violence on the screen has increased tenfold. It's almost pornographic. In fact, it is pornographic. Video games are violent, too. It's all out of control. I can see where it would drive somebody crazy."

And Bogdanovich knows violence. His first film, 1968’s "Targets," showed a sniper killing movie-goers at a drive-in.

But he now says there are other ways to talk about violence without showing people getting blown up. Bodganovich believes there's been a "general numbing of the audiences" because there's just too much murder and killing on our screens.

He says people have become insensitive to it and that there's a general lack of respect of life.

Meanwhile, The New York Times reports how Warner Bros. Studios, which put out "The Dark Knight Rises," has a decades-long history of violent movies.

Starting with gangster films in the 1930s - Warner Bros., which shares a parent company with CNN - is also responsible for films such as "Bonnie and Clyde," "A Clockwork Orange," "Dirty Harry," "Natural Born Killers" and "The Matrix."

There have been alleged copycat crimes after the release of several of these violent Warner Bros. films.

As for the aftermath of the Aurora tragedy, background checks for people wanting to buy guns in Colorado have spiked more than 40%.

And in multiple theaters around the country, screenings of the same "Batman" film have been accompanied by panic, evacuation and gunshots being fired.

Here’s my question to you: What, if anything, should be done about violence in movies?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

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What does it mean if most of the world’s excess body fat is in the U.S.?
June 21st, 2012
05:00 PM ET

What does it mean if most of the world’s excess body fat is in the U.S.?

By CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Most of the world's extra body fat is attached to bodies living right here in the U.S.

New data from the UN and the World Health Organization shows that the entire adult global population is nearly 17 million tons overweight.

And researchers in London found that while the average global body weight is 137 pounds, the average weight in North America is 178 pounds.

In other words we are 41 pounds heavier on average than the rest of the world.

Not shocking since 2/3 of the U.S. is either overweight or obese. But wait, there's more:

While North America has only 6% of the world's population, it makes up a third of the world's weight due to obesity.

Compare that to Asia which has 61% of the world's population but only 13% of its weight due to obesity.

One researcher tells the BBC that if every country had the same fatness we have in the U.S. it would be like an extra billion people of average weight.

And scientists say this global fatness is a real concern. It's straining the world's food supply and environmental resources. Fatter people need more energy - and they eat more.

This means the competition for environmental resources isn't always about population growth, "when it comes down to it, it's not how many mouths there are to feed, it is how much flesh there is on the planet." And we've got plenty of flesh to spare here.

Experts suggest the best way to fight global fatness is programs that encourage more physical activity - like walking and cycling.

Here’s my question to you: What does it mean if most of the world’s excess body fat is in the U.S.?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST

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Filed under: Health • Health care • Longevity • On Jack's radar
Do politicians who hang out with celebrities help or hurt themselves?
June 6th, 2012
04:00 PM ET

Do politicians who hang out with celebrities help or hurt themselves?

By CNN's Jack Cafferty:

As the race for the White House heats up, the candidates are hoping star power can help them raise the big bucks and boost voter enthusiasm.

But Republicans are slamming President Barack Obama - much like they did in 2008 - for his hobnobbing with Hollywood and celebrities.

Obama held New York fund-raisers this week with the theme “Barack on Broadway.” The star-studded events helped the president raise millions for his re-election coffers. On the way to New York, the president hosted rock star Jon Bon Jovi on Air Force One.

The president is due back in New York next week for another fund-raiser at the home of actress Sarah Jessica Parker.

This visit follows the much publicized dinner at the Los Angeles home of George Clooney, where the Obama campaign raked in $15 million. A recent campaign ad featured Vogue editor Anna Wintour, and folks such as Ricky Martin, Barbra Streisand and Spike Lee have appeared at other events for Obama.

The GOP whines about all this at length, saying it just proves the president is out of touch with ordinary Americans - many of them trying to find a job.

In some cases, the Obama campaign hopes it can use celebrities to target key voting blocs, such as women, gays or Hispanics.

And the president isn’t alone here, although Mitt Romney doesn't have the same following among celebrities. Romney's been hanging out at campaign events with folks such as Donald Trump, Kid Rock, Jon Voight and Ted Nugent. No doubt about it, the president has much better celebrities.

But the point is: How much do Americans suffering under a shaky economy and high unemployment care what celebrities have to say about politics? I know I don't.

Here’s my question to you: Do politicians who hang out with celebrities help or hurt themselves?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST

What does it mean when 6 in 10 people worry about their children achieving the American dream?
June 5th, 2012
03:55 PM ET

What does it mean when 6 in 10 people worry about their children achieving the American dream?

CNN A majority of Americans worry about their children achieving the American dream.

A new USA Today/Gallup poll shows that nearly 6 in 10 Americans are dissatisfied with the opportunity for the next generation to live better than their parents.

It's a sad commentary on the state of our country: parents have always dreamed of a brighter future for their children than what they had.

Perhaps not anymore.

The reality is many of us may wind up working longer, and retiring later, than anticipated.

The CEO of the international insurance giant A.I.G. tells Bloomberg News that the retirement age could eventually reach 80 in light of Europe's debt crisis.

As we live longer, raising the retirement age is one way to make pensions and health care more affordable.

As Europe sinks deeper into financial crisis under the weight of massive government debt, a piece in The Daily Beast describes young European adults as the "screwed generation."

In countries like Spain, Greece, Portugal and Italy, the Baby Boomers have held onto generous jobs and benefits leaving little opportunity for their children. In Spain and Greece nearly half of adults under the age of 25 don't work.

There's an increasing sense of hopelessness as young Europeans simply give up on raising families.

And the U.S. could be next.

Young Americans are being crushed by college debt. And even with college degrees, many of them can't find jobs. Consider this: a majority of unemployed Americans older than 25 attended college.

Here’s my question to you: What does it mean when 6 in 10 people worry about their children achieving the American dream?

Tune in to the Situation Room at 4pm to see if Jack reads your answer on air.

And, we love to know where you’re writing from, so please include your city and state with your comment.

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What's the outer limit of reality TV?
(L-R) Angela Rockwood, Tiphany Adams, Mia Schaikewitz, and Auti Angel of Sundance Channel's "Push Girls."
June 5th, 2012
03:50 PM ET

What's the outer limit of reality TV?

(CNN) – Reality TV is set to conquer the final frontier - or try.

A Dutch company says it's planning a reality show about a group of humans colonizing Mars in 2023.

The mission is backed by a co-creator of the show "Big Brother" as well as a Nobel-winning physicist.

The company is billing it as the "biggest media event ever.” They say viewers will follow the selection and training of the colonists and ultimately their settlement on Mars.

It's the next logical step, I suppose, in the phenomenon of reality TV. After all, they've already done about everything else, haven't they?

Just this week, the Sundance Channel launched "Push Girls." It follows the stories of five women in wheelchairs and shows what life is like after paralysis.

Reality TV took off in the 1990s with "The Real World" on MTV. Producers got a group of strangers to live together in a house and just let the cameras roll.

Soon a whole industry was born.

Now there are competition shows such as "Survivor," "The Apprentice" and "The Amazing Race."

And we can check out talent shows such as "American Idol," "Dancing With the Stars" and "America's Got Talent" ... and dating shows such as "The Bachelor" and "The Bachelorette."

There are shows about pregnant teenagers, about families with eight kids ... and with 19 kids, "Real" housewives of various locales, the Jersey Shore, weight loss shows, programs about over-the-top sweet 16 parties as well as pseudo-celebrities such as Paris Hilton and the Kardashians.

From “Survivor” to women in wheelchairs to what next?

Reality shows are cheap to produce and viewers like them. They're television's answer to a prayer.

Here’s my question to you: What's the outer limit of reality TV?

Tune in to the Situation Room at 5pm to see if Jack reads your answer on air.

And, we love to know where you’re writing from, so please include your city and state with your comment.

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Would you want to travel into space?
May 31st, 2012
03:55 PM ET

Would you want to travel into space?

By CNN's Jack Cafferty:

(CNN) - Space travel might soon be a reality for the average Joe - or at least for wealthy average Joes.

With NASA shuttering the space shuttle program and the government decreasing funding for the space program, private companies are filling the void.

Thursday, the first private capsule to dock at the International Space Station successfully returned to Earth.

As part of its historic nine-day trip, the Dragon capsule - built by the company SpaceX - delivered more than 1,000 pounds of cargo to the space station.

NASA has hailed the mission as a step toward a new future of private innovation in the space industry.

SpaceX is one of a few companies getting funding from NASA to develop commercial transport of astronauts into space.

Meanwhile, the Federal Aviation Administration has given the green light to Virgin Galactic to start rocket-powered suborbital test flights for a commercial spacecraft.

The so-called SpaceShipTwo seats six passengers; it has one year to test flights beyond the atmosphere.

Virgin Galactic, owned in part by British billionaire Richard Branson, has taken deposits from more than 500 people, including celebrities such as Ashton Kutcher.

It costs $200,000 a pop. Passengers will get to experience weightlessness and see the curve of Earth against the black sky of space.

Virgin Galactic's commercial spaceflights are not expected to start before 2013.

Finally, NASA is warning future moon explorers not to ruin the Apollo landing sites.

Twenty-six teams are competing to become the first privately funded group to land on the moon as part of the Google Lunar X PRIZE.

It's clear we're inching ever closer to the final frontier being open for business.

Here’s my question to you: Would you want to travel into space?

Tune in to the Situation Room at 5pm to see if Jack reads your answer on air.

And, we love to know where you’re writing from, so please include your city and state with your comment.

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Why does the U.S. rank as the 11th happiest country in the world?
PHOTO COURTESY: Getty Images
May 30th, 2012
03:15 PM ET

Why does the U.S. rank as the 11th happiest country in the world?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

The United States once again failed to make the top 10 when it comes to the happiest countries in the world.

The U.S. just missed the cut - ranking 11th in the organization for economic cooperation's recent report on life satisfaction in the developed world.

The survey measured everything from housing, income, and jobs to education, the environment, civic engagement, health and work-life balance.

Denmark ranks as the happiest country on earth - followed by Norway, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria, Israel, Finland, Australia, Canada and Sweden.

The website 24/7 Wall Street has crunched the numbers in this report to determine the strongest factors related to happiness.

And it's no surprise that economic prosperity tops the list.

Researchers say the overall regional economies of these top 10 countries appear to be doing "exceptionally" well.

Government debt as a percentage of GDP is relatively low. Some of these nations are even running a surplus. Hard to imagine as our country runs $1 trillion-plus annual deficits and is almost $16 trillion in debt.

Employment obviously plays a key role in making people happy, and many of these nations have low unemployment rates.

After economic stability, physical and social well-being factor into happiness.

That includes things like good health, longer life expectancy, strong social support networks and having enough leisure time.

And the survey suggests it ain't all about money. The U.S. has the highest rate of disposable income in the developed world.

But we have a lower life expectancy, low job security and relatively high long-term unemployment.

Here’s my question to you: Why does the U.S. rank as the 11th happiest country in the world?

Tune in to the Situation Room at 5pm to see if Jack reads your answer on air.

And, we love to know where you’re writing from, so please include your city and state with your comment.

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Why don't most Americans take all their vacation time?
May 22nd, 2012
03:25 PM ET

Why don't most Americans take all their vacation time?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

With Memorial Day weekend - and the unofficial start to summer - just around the corner, many Americans have no vacation time in sight.

A recent study shows 57% of working Americans had unused vacation time at the end of last year.

And most of them had about 11 days left over, or nearly 70% of their allotted time off. Who takes only 30% of their vacation?

Well, one of the biggest reasons people skip their vacation is because they feel like they have too much work. Others say they can't afford to travel - no surprise in this economy. And still others say they are afraid to take time off from work in an unstable job market, also not surprising with unemployment stuck above 8%.

Meanwhile, the U.S. plays by different rules than most other developed countries when it comes to vacation. The law here doesn't require companies to offer any paid vacation to employees.

Nevertheless the average American worker gets 13 paid days off. Compare that with Italy, where the average worker gets 42 days off. In France, it’s 37 days off.

And guess what? Nearly 90% of the French use all of their vacation time. Insert your own joke here.

Experts say a lot of this is cultural. Many of these countries also have strong labor unions. Some European cities, such as Paris, practically shut down for part of the summer when everyone goes on vacation.

As for Americans, the trend is for people to take long weekends instead of one- or two-week vacations.

It's understandable that people are worried to leave the office for too long in our shaky economy; but it does make it harder to recharge your batteries and get a mental break from work.

Here’s my question to you: Why don't most Americans take all their vacation time?

Tune in to the Situation Room at 5pm to see if Jack reads your answer on air.

And, we love to know where you’re writing from, so please include your city and state with your comment.

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Filed under: On Jack's radar • United States • Vacation
Obama W.H. change official biography pages of past presidents?
May 17th, 2012
04:00 PM ET

Obama W.H. change official biography pages of past presidents?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

President Barack Obama is under fire for adding his own policy plugs to the official biographies of past presidents on the White House website.

Here's how it works: The White House added blurbs to the end of these biographies. These "Hey, did you know?" factoids appear on nearly every president's bio page going back to Calvin Coolidge.

For example:

"In a June 28, 1985, speech, Reagan called for a fairer tax code, one where a multimillionaire did not have a lower tax rate than his secretary. Today, President Obama is calling for the same with the Buffett Rule."

These added links plug everything from Obama’s health care overhaul to Social Security, Medicare and the repeal of don't ask, don't tell.

Republicans are having a field day with this.

The RNC created a hysterical "Obama in History" website. It shows the president as part of other historical events like the moon landing and the Declaration of Independence and with historical figures such as Albert Einstein, Richard Nixon and Elvis.

The White House insists that the biographies themselves weren't changed. They tell Fox News they "simply added links at the bottom of each page." They say this is a commonly used Internet practice to encourage people to explore further.

Maybe so.

However, one expert tells ABC News that while these additions didn't "cross the line" by changing the presidential biographies, the White House could have made it clearer that they weren't part of the official White House presidential biographies.

Here’s my question to you: Is it appropriate for President Obama to change the official biography pages of past presidents on the White House website?

Tune in to the Situation Room at 4pm to see if Jack reads your answer on air.

And, we love to know where you’re writing from, so please include your city and state with your comment.

Florida lowers passing test grade after students' scores drop?
May 17th, 2012
03:55 PM ET

Florida lowers passing test grade after students' scores drop?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Yet another sign that our education system is failing:

Florida is lowering the passing grade on the writing portion of a standardized test.

Students' 2012 scores plunged on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test writing exam.

Only 27% of fourth graders scored a passing grade of 4 - out of a possible 6.

Last year 81% of fourth graders passed. Eighth and 10th graders had similar declines in their scores.

So the state Board of Education decided to change the test's passing score to a 3 - from a 4. Presto. Suddenly the number of kids who passed was about the same as last year.

Critics say by manipulating test results, Florida is covering up problems in the system. It has also reignited an ongoing debate over using standardized test scores to make important education decisions.

The state education commissioner defends the decision, saying it "helps to correct the process, not the results."

Schools and parents were told this was coming. Florida announced last summer there would be tougher grading for the writing exam - with more focus on spelling, grammar and punctuation. In the past, those issues had been graded with "leniency."

State officials say they may not have communicated those changes well to school districts and teachers.

It kind of makes you wonder how Florida graded these writing exams before the increased focus on little things like spelling and grammar.

Here’s my question to you: What does it say about U.S. education if Florida lowered the passing grade on a standardized test after students' scores dropped?

Tune in to the Situation Room at 5pm to see if Jack reads your answer on air.

And, we love to know where you’re writing from, so please include your city and state with your comment.</strong5

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