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OUTRAGEOUS! Why Higher Education is in a Bubble on Top of Student Debt Issues

Out-of-touch professors + Debt-ridden students = Bad combination


Sacramento State professor George Parrott walked out of his Psychology 101 lab class Thursday morning because his students didn’t bring any snacks.

Instead, he says, he went to breakfast with his teaching assistant.

The professor said students are told of the requirement to bring snacks on the first day of class. A handout from the teacher is clear – “Not having a snack = no Dr. Parrott or TAs. Now you are responsible for your own lab assignment.”

He said the snack obligation is his way of encouraging students to work collectively. It connects students who might not otherwise interact on a commuter campus, said the professor.

“Having these goodies in the class breaks down some of the formality and some of the rigidity in the class, which is one of the most stressful for students,” Parrott said.

But students are crying foul, saying the teacher left before a review for a midterm to be given Monday. The test accounts for a good portion of their grade.

“Our education isn’t worth food, it’s for us,” said Francisco Chavez, a student in the class.

It’s also not clear why homemade baked goods would teach teamwork better than a box of Oreos. The handout offers suggestions and pictures of which snacks are preferred. It lists homemade or bakery items and vegetable or fruit platters under “Good Ideas” and Nabisco products or pre-packaged items under “Bad Ideas.”

It also suggests that two people take responsibility for each day’s snack – in case one forgets – and that they should avoid bringing the same thing every week.

The professor said he has required classes to bring snacks for at least 39 years.

His afternoon lab class brought pizza Friday, he said. But they haven’t always followed instructions either. “The afternoon lab had an externally similar failure to be collectively involved a month ago,” Parrott said, adding that he left that class, too. “They were taken aback. Their collective involvement has been more cooperative since.”

Parrott listed additional benefits of requiring “goodies” in an email to The Bee. He said the snacks maintain glucose levels that affect mental sharpness, keep students from leaving class to find food and alleviate stress in what he calls one of the most difficult courses in the department.

But the goodies aren’t just for the students. The teacher and his teaching assistants eat, but don’t contribute, according to students.

“I’m not always observing how much the TAs eat,” Parrott said Friday. “In the last month I’ve had one mini cupcake and maybe six or eight carrot sticks.”

Parrott said he doesn’t feel bad about asking college students to bring food to class. The cost, he says, is offset by savings – about $200 – which students realize by not having to buy a textbook for the course.

“This is also designed to relieve financially strained CSUS students from typical costs for texts and to provide each student the token resources to buy, bake, or otherwise access the snacks/goodies when their once per semester turn would occur,” he said in an email to The Bee.

The professor, who is 67 and retired in 2006, works part time at the university. His salary for 2010 was $44,000, according to state data.

Parrott doesn’t regret his decision to walk out Thursday. “I can understand the immediate frustration,” he said. “I’m sympathetic, but I’m absolutely comfortable with the conclusion. The ethos I’m trying to promote is incredibly important. It may not be appreciated, and that’s even more unfortunate. It speaks to their lack of understanding of higher education.”

University officials, contacted Thursday, said they take the allegations seriously and will investigate.
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Years before he was arrested for allegedly molesting children, former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky said he loved being around children and having “a good time with them.”

“I enjoy being around children,” Sandusky said in a 1987 NBC interview made public today. “Their enthusiasm. I just have a good time with them.”

Of course, Sandusky’s comments now have a chilling connotation to them after he was recently arrested for molesting eight boys and charged with 40 counts in connection with a string of sex abuse claims dating back 13 years.

“Everybody needs people to care for them. … Kids are growing up awfully fast these days,” Sandusky said in that same interview when asked about his charity work with troubled kids.

In 1997, ten years after that NBC interview, Sandusky was first accused of showering with and fondling a boy at Penn State.


No charges were filed at the time and a year later Sandusky retired as an assistant coach to spend more time with his Second Mile charity.

This comes as the president of the charity linked to Sandusky resigned today, saying he hopes his departure after 28 years as the group’s CEO would help restore faith in its mission.

The Second Mile’s board of directors said in a statement it had accepted the resignation of Jack Raykovitz.

Raykovitz, a psychologist, had testified before the grand jury that indicted Sandusky. The grand jury said Sandusky found his victims through the charity’s programs.

The board also said that would conduct an internal investigation to assess policies and make recommendations regarding future operations.

Raykovitz said in a statement that he hopes his resignation would mark the beginning of a “restoration of faith in the community of volunteers and staff” at The Second Mile.

Sandusky founded The Second Mile in 1977. The group has said that its youth programs serve as many as 100,000 children a year.

With AP

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Thieves have nabbed a 3-foot-long copper sword atop Lincoln’s Tomb in what is believed to be the first theft at the site in more than a century.

An employee noticed last week that the sword was cut from a statue of a Civil War artillery officer, the (Springfield) State Journal-Register reported Saturday. Officials think the sword was stolen sometime between September and early November.

Nothing had been stolen from the Springfield site, which is the final resting place of Abraham Lincoln, since the sword on the same statue was taken more than 100 years ago, said Dave Blanchette, a spokesman for the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. Then, the sword was bronze.

“We just cannot imagine why someone would even think about doing it, let alone climb up the steps and actually do it,” Blanchette said.

The statue is on the tomb’s balcony, which is closed to visitors. Workers would likely have spotted a thief during the day, but no one guards the tomb at night, Blanchette said.

A security guard was posted overnight after a 1987 incident in which racist graffiti was spray-painted on the tomb. Five teenagers were arrested. But budget cuts ended that position within a few years of the incident, he said.

The rest of the statue was unharmed. Officials plan to fix the statue, Blanchette said.

Dedicated in 1874, Lincoln Tomb is the final resting place of Abraham Lincoln, his wife Mary, and three of their four son, according to its website. The eldest son, Robert T. Lincoln, is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

According to the website, “the 117-foot tomb, designed by sculptor Larkin Mead, is constructed of brick sheathed with Quincy granite. The base is 72-foot square with large semi-circular projections on the north and south sides. Double sets of north and south stairs lead to a terrace, above which rises the obelisk. At the corners of the shaft, large pedestals serve as bases for four bronze sculptures, each with a group of figures representing one of the four Civil War services—infantry, artillery, cavalry, and navy. A taller base on the obelisk’s south side holds a heroic bronze statue of Lincoln.”


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GOP Candidates Talk Tough on Iran

Republican presidential candidates said on Saturday they would stop Iran from developing an atomic bomb but differed over how to do it in a debate that tested their knowledge of world hotspots.

The economy has been the No. 1 issue for the 2012 election campaign, so the CBS News/National Journal debate offered a rare opportunity to hear the candidates explain how they would handle the job as commander-in-chief.

The candidates made no major stumbles during the first hour of the 90-minute gathering, but Texas Governor Rick Perry’s belief that the United States should consider eliminating foreign aid to Pakistan stirred debate among the candidates.

Newt Gingrich, who came to Spartanburg, South Carolina, riding a new wave of support as the conservative alternative to the more moderate Mitt Romney, declared he would launch covert operations within Iran in order to be able to deny them later.

Romney, who for months has been a front-runner to win the right to challenge President Barack Obama in the election next year, vowed in the debate at Wofford College to prevent Iran getting a nuclear weapon.

“One thing you can know is if we elect Barack Obama, Iran will have a nuclear weapon,” said Romney, a former Massachusetts governor. “If you elect me … as the next president they will not have a nuclear weapon.”

The U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, on Tuesday reported that Iran appears to have worked on designing an atomic bomb and may still be conducting secret research related to building such weapons.

Businessman Herman Cain, who has been dogged by sexual harassment allegations recently, said the only way to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon was through economic means, squeezing Tehran through sanctions and boosting Iran’s opposition movement.

Perry, hurt by a string of poor debate performances, including an embarrassing gaffe Wednesday night that some observers say might have crippled his campaign, was insistent that Washington should consider cutting aid to Pakistan.

While Gingrich agreed, Rick Santorum was adamantly opposed.

“Pakistan is a nuclear power,” Santorum said. “We cannot be indecisive about whether Pakistan is our friend. They must be a friend.”

None of the eight candidates on the stage have much in the way of foreign policy experience, save for former U.S. ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, but they all criticized Obama for mishandling U.S. relations abroad..


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The Penn State Scandal Deepens Into 2005 Disappearance of District Attorney

One of the questions surrounding the sex-abuse case against Jerry Sandusky is why a former district attorney chose not to prosecute the then-Penn State assistant coach in 1998 after reports surfaced that he had inappropriate interactions with a boy.

Nabil K. Mark/Centre Daily Times, via Associated Press

Ray Gricar

Michelle Klein/Centre Daily Times, via Associated Press

In 2005, divers searched the Susquehanna River in Lewisburg, Pa., for Ray Gricar, who was a Centre County prosecutor.

The answer is unknowable because of an unsolved mystery: What happened to Ray Gricar, the Centre County, Pa., district attorney?

Gricar went missing in April 2005. The murky circumstances surrounding his disappearance — an abandoned car, a laptop recovered months later in a river without a hard drive, his body was never found — have spawned Web sites, television programs and conspiracy theories. More than six years later, the police still receive tips and reports of sightings. The police in central Pennsylvania continue to investigate even though Gricar’s daughter, Lara, successfully petitioned in July to have her father declared legally dead so the family could find some closure and begin dividing his estate.

Yet as the Sandusky investigation moves forward, questions will be asked anew about why Gricar did not pursue charges against him 13 years ago. A small but strident minority believes Gricar did not want to tackle a case that involved a hometown icon. Others who knew and worked with Gricar say he was a meticulous, independent and tough-minded prosecutor who was unbowed by Penn State, its football program and political pressure in general.

“No one got a bye with Ray,” said Anthony De Boef, who worked as an assistant district attorney under Gricar for five years. “He didn’t care who you were; he had a job to do.”

De Boef said Gricar did not share any information with him about the case in 1998, which involved Sandusky allegedly showering with an 11-year-old boy. Gricar, he said, reviewed the police reports in private including, presumably, notes or recordings of two conversations that the police heard between Sandusky and the boy’s mother. But Gricar had a reputation for thoroughness, and if he thought he had enough to charge Sandusky, he would have, De Boef and other lawyers said.

Still, the circumstances surrounding Gricar’s disappearance prompt many questions.

On April 15, 2005, Gricar, then 59, took the day off. At about 11:30 a.m., he called his girlfriend, Patricia Fornicola, to say he was taking a drive on Route 192. About 12 hours later, she reported him missing.

The next day, Gricar’s Mini Cooper was found in a parking lot in Lewisburg, about 50 miles from his home in Bellefonte. Gricar’s cellphone was in the car, but not his laptop, wallet or keys, which were never recovered. Months later, the laptop was found in the Susquehanna River without its hard drive, which was discovered later. It was too damaged to yield any information. On the fourth anniversary of his disappearance, investigators revealed that a search of his home computer yielded a history of Internet searches for phrases like “how to wreck a hard drive,” according to a report at the time in The Centre Daily Times.

When Gricar disappeared helicopters, dive teams and patrol cars were deployed, and the F.B.I. was brought in. Reports of Gricar turning up in Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, Maryland and other states proved to be dead ends.

So what happened? Friends and colleagues say Gricar was not the type to walk away. His bank accounts were not touched after he disappeared, he had no other sources of income and he had no major debts, said Robert Buehner Jr., a friend and the district attorney in Montour County. Though divorced twice, he seemed happy with his girlfriend and close with his daughter. Gricar had already announced that he was retiring at the end of his term.

“He was absolutely looking forward to his future,” Buehner said.

If Gricar committed suicide, Buehner added, he would have wanted the body to be found. Foul play is the next possible conclusion. By the nature of their jobs prosecuting criminals, district attorneys end up having many enemies. But no credible suspects have emerged.

“I don’t think you’ll find too many district attorneys who disappear,” said Ken Mains, a detective who works on cold cases in Lycoming County. “D. B. Cooper, Amelia Earhart, Jimmy Hoffa, until a body is found, there are going to be conspiracy theories.”


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The Dark Side of Lululemon

UPDATE: The content below is from a source linked to at the end of this post. It does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of iBankCoin Financial News. 


Last week’s guilty verdict in the trial of 28-year-old Brittany Norwood — accused of first-degree murder in the grisly slaying of her 30-year old co-worker Jayna Murray — has brought to a close — for now, at least — the latest ugly chapter in the history of Lululemon, the posh yoga apparel company whose suburban outlet on the outskirts of Washington, DC was the setting for a killing that seasoned homicide detectives have described as one of the worst they’ve ever seen.

It would be tempting to dismiss the savage murder — Norwood stabbed and bludgeoned Murray an estimated 330 times over the course of 20 minutes, severing her spinal cord — as a bizarre and random event. That’s surely what the Canadian-based Lululemon, which seems to have nine lives when it comes to recurring scandal and controversy, is hoping for. But for the American yoga community, which extols the virtues of peace and non-violence, the killing raises deeply disturbing issues. How could two female “yogis” — the Sanskrit word for devotees of the ancient Hindu practice — arrive at a place where lethal force became an “option”? And what kind of workplace environment would fuel, or at least fail to ameliorate, such a dispute?

Lululemon is no typical workplace, in fact. It’s highly competitive — indeed, cultish — corporate culture has raised serious ethical concerns for years, and so have the company’s exploitative marketing and advertising policies. But those concerns have largely been ignored, or downplayed, because of Lululemon’s position as the yoga industry’s leading “pioneer,” with net revenues of $239 million projected for 2011, six times the level reached in 2004. The company, with stocks publicly traded on Wall Street since 2007, has been in the forefront of re-branding yoga as a trendy, eco-friendly lifestyle, similar to the way an earlier generation of marketers exploited urban hip-hop to reap billions from suburban whites starved for “authenticity.”

In fact, most of America’s up-and-coming yoga “gurus” — men like John Friend, a self-styled corporate mogul — who are anxious to see their spiritual movement expand — and their own celebrity enhanced — have struck a Faustian bargain of sorts with companies like Lulelemon. They’ve largely stayed quiet, amid a string of controversies like this one, hoping to exploit yoga’s commercial success, even if Lululemon’s commitment to yoga as an authentic “wellness” practice — in fact, even much of the pricey apparel it sellshas no actual relation to yoga — remains dubious at best.

The seeds of the company’s problems were planted early, with its initial founding in Vancouver in 1998. Former CEO Chip Wilson, an avid snowboarder, said he came up with “Lululemon” because he delighted in the idea that trying to pronounce the name — with its three syllables beginning with “l'” — would pose a special challenge for the Japanese, whom he enjoyed making fun of. From that less-than-enlightened starting point Nelson went on to create a huge controversy in 2005 when he announced that the firm would rely on child labor and “sweat shops” in China, after three competitors in his native Vancouver went belly up due to rising labor costs.

Wilson, with characteristic elan, argued that Lululemon would be giving poor Chinese youth jobs, and should be applauded, not lambasted, for wanting to assist in Third World “development.” Critics didn’t see it that way, of course, noting that Chinese youth would be better off getting an education, and that sweatshop workers, usually young women, couldn’t support themselves with the wages they’d be paid. But Nelson, still smarting from criticism from Canadian trade unions that his past use of local non-union Vancouver labor hadn’t really demonstrated a socially responsible commitment to the welfare of his workforce, would hear none of it.

It took only a year for Lululemon to step into an even larger controversy. In 2006, the firm rolled out a line of “Vita-Sea” apparel bags that it claimed were made with seaweed fiber, and had health and medicinal effects for consumers, including stress reduction, through the release of amino acids and vitamins into the skin’s natural moisture. But skeptics, including the New York Times, decided to sponsor lab tests, which revealed that Lululemon wasn’t just misleading consumers: it was lying. There was no seaweed of any kind in the bags the newspaper tested. There was no difference, in fact, between the Lululemon bags and other bags made of cotton – except that Lululemon’s, of course, were a lot more expensive.

Company executives, with characteristic arrogance, refused to issue an apology and privately chalked it up as a “growth” experience. But apparel industry watchdogs weren’t amused: a major investigation of the eco-claims of a large number of mainstream companies ensued.

And then there’s Lululemon and sex. Sex-based advertising has become increasingly
 in the yoga world, even appearing in the pages of the industry trade magazine Yoga Journal. But Lululemon, as always, has been a trend setter. It’s creepiest manifestation, perhaps, was revealed in early 2008 when a mother and her daughter unwittingly discovered secret messages woven into the fabric of Lululemon products that appeared to extol the virtues of getting high and having multiple orgasms. Lululemon had also included more traditional inspirational messages but the more risque adages had been placed underneath those, apparently to be digested subliminally.

How has Lululemon managed to fend off one scandal after another? Recording record profits year after year for your shareholders surely helps, but so does the firm’s clever co-optation strategy. Most of its stores offer free weekly yoga classes taught by “neighborhood” yogis who often turn out to be specially recruited fitness pros new to yoga but who have already drunk the Lululemon kool-aid. The company calls these local yogis “brand ambassadors” — currently, there are roughly 1,000 nationwide — and often features them in Lululemon publications. It’s a win-win deal: the yogis get free marketing, and a ready-made pool of prospective yoga clients. Lulu reaps extraordinary “word-of-mouth” and gets more shoppers into its stores, where they typically receive 15% discounts just for attending the free yoga class.

Lululemon is quite blunt in its assessment of the “typical” yoga personality. Wilson early on experimented with yogis who extolled the virtues of stillness and introspection — genuine yoga, that is — but found that as workers, hard-core spiritual yogis didn’t move his merchandise fast enough. Wilson is also devotee of the Landmark Forum, a successor organization to EST “human potential” movement started by scientologist Werner Erhard in the 1970s. Wilson and his successors talk a lot about transitioning people from “mediocrity to greatness,” and freely admits that he likes to recruit highly competitive “Type-A” personalities to staff and run his stores. That’s great for business, perhaps, but the concentration of estrogen and ego, heightened by a faux Tantric mysticism that celebrates every woman as a reincarnation of Shakti — or worse, Kali, the goddess of destruction — has the potential to turn your company into a furnace of creativity — or simply an emotional powder keg.

Which is why for Lululemon, the less said about the workplace murder, the better, perhaps. Last Thursday, in a bizarre public statement, the company’s CEO Christine Day, who’s anxious to do for the company what she previously did for Starbucks — expand its empire overseas – personally thanked the judge, the prosecutor, the police, and the jury for their speedy resolution of the case. Her statement contains none of the language one might expect from a company genuinely concerned about the welfare of its employees, other than stating that Norwood’s behavior was “contrary to our values.” There was no mention of the incident as a “terrible tragedy” or the need for “healing” in the two families, let alone any call for “reflection” or a promise to review internal policies. Just the usual exculpatory language one might expect from a company that’s boldly taking yoga where it’s never gone before and that clearly doesn’t want a nasty, still-unexplained murder conducted on its premises standing in its way.

Occupy Wall Street? That’s the new rallying cry of yoga progressives. And why not — that’s where you’ll find Lululemon’s investors, extolling the firm’s phenomenal growth and record profits amid the nation’s rampant joblessness and recession.

But that’s why protesting yogis might want to take their critique of greed and capitalism one step further, and end their semi-official silence on a company that’s more predator than partner, more pariah than pioneer. The demand for corporate responsibility, like most things in life, begins at home. Physician, heal thyself.


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SHOCK: New Rumors in Penn State Scandal; Sandusky Pimped Out Kids to Rich Donors

In April, Pittsburgh radio host Mark Madden wrote a story revealing Penn State for much of the cover-up ofJerry Sandusky‘s alleged child rape that has been exposed in the past week. While it didn’t raise many eyebrows back then, six months later it looks to be incredibly accurate.

On Thursday morning, just hours after legendary head coach Joe Paterno and university president Graham Spanier were fired by the school’s board of trustees, Madden was asked on The Dennis and Callahan Show what he believes the next piece of news will be.

What he said was twice as shocking as anything that’s been released thus far.

“I can give you a rumor and I can give you something I think might happen,” Madden told John Dennis andGerry Callahan. “I hear there’s a rumor that there will be a more shocking development from the Second Mile Foundation — and hold on to your stomachs, boys, this is gross, I will use the only language I can — that Jerry Sandusky and Second Mile were pimping out young boys to rich donors. That was being investigated by two prominent columnists even as I speak.”

After the news spread, Madden later explained via Twitter why he went public with the rumors.

“I normally abhor giving RUMORS credence,” Madden wrote. “But whole Sandusky scandal started out as a RUMOR. It gets deeper and more disgusting all the time. One of state’s top columnists investigating. That adds credence. I am NOT rumor’s original source. [Why does] Sandusky deserve benefit of doubt?”

Madden also spoke more definitively on Dennis and Callahan to the cover-up efforts at the school and beyond that he expects will be made public soon.

“The other thing I think that may eventually become uncovered, and I talked about this in my original article back in April, is that I think they’ll find out that Jerry Sandusky was told that he had to retire in exchange for a cover-up,” Madden said. “If you look at the timeline, that makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?

“My opinion is when Sandusky quit, everybody knew — not just at Penn State,” Madden added. “I think it was a very poorly kept secret about college football in general, and that is why he never coached in college football again and retired at the relatively young age of 55. [That’s] young for a coach, certainly.”


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Flash: Here Come the Orwellians with First-Ever Nationwide Emergency Test

It’s Only a Test, but What a Test


At 2 p.m. Eastern time on Wednesday all television channels and radio stations in the United States will be interrupted by a brief test of the nation’s Emergency Alert System.

Viewers and listeners are accustomed to hearing the tones and reminders — “this is just a test” — when the systems are activated locally each week by broadcasters. But government officials say the national system has never been tested before as a whole, nor has it ever been used in an emergency, allowing the president to address the public during a national emergency.

Officials said the nationwide test should last about 30 seconds as it digitally ripples across the country. Government agencies and media companies have sought to spread the word about the test so that it does sneak up on, and potentially scare, the public.

Michael Powell, the head of the Cable and Telecommunications Trade Association, wrote on Twitter, “No one wants a ‘War of the Worlds’ sequel!”

In a blog post, the trade association wrote: “Our message is simple: This is just a test of the system, and no action is required.”

The Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Emergency Management Agency are leading the effort to carry out what is formally called the Presidential Emergency Action Notification. The test “will allow
emergency personnel to assess and improve our alerting capabilities in the event of a crisis,” the White House wrote Tuesday in a blog post.

During the test, the on-screen text set up by the government will say, “This is an Emergency Action Notification.” It will not specify that the notification is only a test because officials want the test to duplicate actual alert conditions “as closely as possible,” according to an F.C.C. planning document. But voiceovers and other on-screen graphics will indicate that there is no need for alarm.

Planning for the test has not been without its hiccups. Last month, the cable trade association asked the government to postpone it because some cable systems appeared to be unable to include their won “this is just a test” graphics. Perhaps to alleviate their concerns, the government shortened the test to 30 seconds, after having planned for it to last for up to three minutes.

Television and radio stations will have to report back to the agency about whether they received the test message and whether they rebroadcast it. “We’re confident that the vast majority of local radio and TV stations will participate in the E.A.S. test, and that those tests will be successful,” a spokesman for the National Association of Broadcasters said.

Satellite distributors like DirecTV and cable distributors like Comcast will participate along with over-the-air stations. DirecTV said its customer service agents are prepared to answer questions from customers about the interruption, adding, “we expect the test to go smoothly.”

Internet connections are not included in the test.

Notifications about the test have been hard to miss — though some people surely will be surprised by it anyway. Public service announcements and graphics have run on local stations, messages have appeared on cable customer bills and Web sites and news segments have informed people about the plan.

What is now called the emergency alert system was first authorized in 1951 by President Harry Truman. It was first intended to inform Americans about an impending nuclear attack and was called CONELRAD, short for “Control of Electromagnetic Radiation.” The system was superseded by the emergency broadcast system, which was used primarily for local weather alerts and was replaced by the current emergency alert system in 1997.

The current system has never been turned on nationwide. After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, President George W. Bush addressed the nation through the major television networks without activating the emergency alert system. The networks were able to transmit Mr. Bush’s statements live on their own.


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