Living-Today: Issues of modern living

By United Press International  |  Jan. 31, 2002 at 4:45 AM
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According to a new study by the Directors Guild of America, Hollywood studios and production companies have not made good on past pledges to bring more diversity to the entertainment business.

The report examined the top 40 TV series of the 2000-01 season and found that more than 80 percent of drama and comedy series episodes last season were directed by white men.

White women directed 11 percent of the episodes, while black men directed 3 percent -- 27 out of 826 -- and no black women received a directing credit. Some of the top shows on TV -- including "The Drew Carey Show" (ABC), "Friends" (NBC) and "Law & Order" (NBC) employed no female or minority directors during the 2000-01 season.

The DGA report said that for the current season, "Friends" has hired a minority director for one episode and "Law & Order" has employed a woman to direct one episode, while "Malcolm in the Middle" (Fox) and "Everybody Loves Raymond" (CBS) were criticized for not using either a female or minority director for any of their 2001-02 episodes.

Emmy Award-winning director Paris Barclay -- whose credits include several episodes of "NYPD Blue", "ER" and "The West Wing" -- told the Los Angeles Times he was "really surprised" by the number of shows that only employ white male directors.

"And what really shocks me is that not one African-American female director has directed a top 40 show," said Barclay. "I can name 10 -- some with Oscar nominations -- who are not even considered."

Veteran director Martha Coolidge told the paper the numbers in the report are embarrassing. "Why is it happening? It's called discrimination," she said. "It's called comfort level. People don't change easily until they have to."

"Frasier" (NBC), "Just Shoot Me" (NBC), "My Wife and Kids" (ABC), "Three Sisters" (NBC) and "Third Watch" (NBC) had at least five episodes each that were directed by women or minorities.

(Thanks to UPI Hollywood Reporter Pat Nason)


Cardiac health specialists at a forum Wednesday were divided on whether advanced heart-saving equipment should be available for ordinary citizens to use at home.

Automatic external defibrillators can help the more than 200,000 people who experience sudden cardiac arrest each year, said Dr. Howard Torman, a former medical reporter who moderated the forum.

Unlike a heart attack, where blood flow to the muscle is disrupted, sudden cardiac arrest involves ventricular fibrillation, the misfiring of electrical signals that trigger the heartbeat, Torman said. The heart stops pumping blood to the rest of the body, eventually causing death. If the condition is not dealt with within 10 minutes, the patient rarely survives, he said.

An automatic external defibrillator can provide treatment within that time. The device is a simplified version of systems used in emergency rooms and ambulances. Its sophisticated computer program withholds the electrical pulse until it detects fibrillation that needs treatment.

Two of the forum's co-sponsors, the American Red Cross and the National Center for Early Defibrillation, said most cardiac incidents occur at home, so getting automatic defibrillators widely distributed to the general public would provide proper treatment, even before rescue personnel arrive.

Dr. Lance Becker, professor of medicine at the University of Chicago and director of its Emergency Resuscitation Research Center, told the forum the defibrillators and trained people could prevent half of the 1,000 cardiac deaths daily in the United States. He said the best candidates for the home devices are those people who would benefit from an implanted defibrillator -- such as the one Vice-President Dick Cheney has -- but who cannot undergo surgery for a variety of reasons.

But Arthur Kellermann, a doctor at the department of emergency medicine at Emory University in Atlanta, said disseminating such defibrillators more widely is a bad idea, for now. Having done studies on defibrillator use by emergency personnel, Kellerman told the forum there is a serious lack of data on how the devices would affect possible homebound cardiac victims.

"It could produce a false sense of security," he said. "A patient with chest pain or symptoms might figure they can wait and see what happens, because they've got this backup in the house, instead of seeking immediate emergency care."

People interested in spending money on an automatic defibrillator might do more good by splitting those funds between a health club membership and donations to their local rescue squad, Kellerman said.

(Thanks to UPI's Scott Burnell in Washington)


Long train rides that could really be torture may soon be a thing of the past.

Amtrak has rolled out its first Internet-enabled passenger trains and also has begun testing high-speed trains along a 45-mile stretch of track in the nation's heartland.

In a deal with Yahoo! and Compaq, Amtrak last week began operating three interactive trains -- the Acela in the Northeast between Washington and Boston; the Capitols in Northern California, which runs from Sacramento to San Jose; and the Hiawatha in the Midwest, which runs from Chicago to Milwaukee. The experiment will continue for six months and offer passengers access to the Web through Compaq iPAQ Pocket PCs. The PDA-sized units are mounted in the cafe cars or coaches and can be used free of charge. Travelers cannot plug in their own handheld or notebook computers.

"More and more people are choosing to travel by train and by combining the experience with the latest technology, we are making the train an even more productive and stress-free way to travel," said Cyndi Darlington, Amtrak's assistant vice president for sales and marketing.

Amtrak carries 65,000 passengers a day on its 22,000-mile system and the routes chosen for Internet access are the most popular. In Michigan, the rail carrier has started experimenting with high-speed trains along a 45-mile stretch between Niles and Kalamazoo -- part of the Chicago-to-Detroit route.

Michigan Department of Transportation spokesman Ari Adler said people are ecstatic over the 90-mph speeds reached by the train. "They're a little disappointed when the train slows down again, but this is a first step in showing that rail travel is a viable option if the service is good," he told the Chicago Tribune.

The Illinois Department of Transportation is hoping to begin testing high-speed trains by the end of this year between Chicago and St. Louis.

The high speeds actually are a blast from the past. Railroads routinely ran trains at 100 mph in the 1930s, but there were far fewer grade crossings and more track separated freight trains from passenger trains.

Trains traveling at 90 mph have been in place in the Northeast for two decades but Congress has yet to fund improvements for high-speed train travel outside the Northeast corridor.

(Thanks to UPI's Marcella S. Kreiter in Chicago)


A nationwide poll by the University of California at Los Angeles indicates more college freshmen describe themselves as politically liberal than at any time since the Vietnam War.

The researchers measured liberalism by asking students to describe their political views and take positions on certain benchmark issues. More than one-third -- the highest rate since 1980 -- say marijuana should be legalized, although 75 percent also say employers should be allowed to require drug tests of workers and applicants. A record 57.9 percent think it should be legal for gay couples to marry. And 32.2 percent say the death penalty should be abolished, which is the strongest showing for that position in 20 years.

Still, about half of the class's members, in line with their recent predecessors, view themselves as "middle of the road" politically. And 20.7 percent consider themselves conservative or "far right," while 29.9 percent -- the highest figure since 1975 -- say they are liberal or "far left."

(From UPI's Capital Comment)


The recent premiere of "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" in Spain's Catalonia region has brought about an old dispute: Should movies be dubbed, and at what price?

Warner Sogefilms, the distributor of "Harry Potter" -- which belongs to the AOL-Time Warner group -- decided not to show the film in Catalan because, it said, there was not enough time to dub it. The decision caused an outcry; soon there were calls to boycott the movie and jam the company's Web page.

In response, Warner Sogefilms promised it would show seven copies in English with subtitles in the local dialect of Catalan, compared with 70 copies dubbed in Spanish. The studio also agreed to show the dubbed Harry Potter sequel to Catalan next December.

However, the release of the first part of "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy went unnoticed in terms of linguistic disputes. In Catalonia, the distributor showed 82 copies dubbed in Spanish and 12 dubbed in Catalan, attracting 186,000 and 17,546 spectators respectively.

The Catalonian government has tried to make Catalan compulsory in the movies for some time. However, the courts in 1999 reversed a governmental decree that had allowed authorities to fine distributors that did not dub their movies to Catalan and Catalonian authorities have been criticized for expending too much money promoting the language.

(Thanks to UPI Business Correspondent Miren Gutierrez in Barcelona, Spain)

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