In Case You Missed It, July 18th 2017: Kermit The Frog Is Not Happy, And The Banned Girls From Afghanistan Banned Together And Won In Robotics 

I know, I know, I know! Puppets and the world are from two completely different news spectrums. One story is about the beloved Muppet and Sesame Street character that is Kermit The Frog. And the second item is about a group of girl scientists originally from Afghanistan coming to the U.S. but were refused entry.

But the connection between the two is about how the story started out as something simple, and then it got bizarre as it unfolded. 

“It’s not easy being green,” is Kermit’s favorite catch phrase. It also became the puppeteer of Kermit as well, as he was fired and replaced because of “unacceptable business conduct” in the workplace. The puppeteer of Kermit, Steve Whitmire was the voice and the man behind the ever loving green frog. Whitmire took over after Jim Henson’s passing in 1990, so Whitmire has been the big green frog for 27 years. But as of October 2016 Whitmire was fired by Disney. Disney owns the rights and copyright of Kermit, The Muppets, and its characters. 

They are however two differing points of view on the firing of Whitmire. For Whitmire, he stated that he was fired for being outspoken on changes in regards to the Kermit character. He attributes this to two main reasons for his firing: firstly, Whitmire received “unwanted notes” on the “Muppets” TV show that aired on ABC, which was quickly canceled. Secondly, Whitmire further says there was a “union disagreement.” 

The other point of view about the change of Whitmire comes from Henson’s family and Disney. Brian Henson, the son of the late Jim Henson creator and chairman of the Jim Henson Company, tells a different tale about Whitmire and his overall behavior. Brian, and his mother Jane, picked Whitmire to take over as Kermit.

“Nobody worked harder than me making sure Kermit survived my father’s death and retained his cathartic personality and presence,” Henson said. But Henson also adds that Whitmire and his overall behavior with the cast of actors, performers, and fellow puppeteers worsened. Henson calls him unprofessional, and that it had reached the point that Whitmire behaved “appallingly” with his colleagues. Henson says it started since the mid 1990s. 

But Henson is quick to point out that Whitmire is a “fantastic technical puppeteer.” Disney and The Muppets Studio agree with Henson about Whitmire but only in the pejorative. They say that Whitmire was overly hostile, unproductive, that his negotiating style delayed production…etc. It sounds like a laundry list of complaints over the years. 

I guess your wondering who will take over for Kermit now? Disney and The Muppets Studio announced that Matt Vogel, a fellow Muppet performer, will be Kermit. Incidentally, Vogel voiced the evil criminal mastermind Constantine, a Kermit doppelganger in the Muppet movie “Muppets Most Wanted” back in 2014. Vogel has also voiced characters on “Sesame Street.”

From fun and games that soon worsened, to girl scientists – originally from Afghanistan – that were denied entry into the U.S., under President Donald Trump’s controversial travel ban against Muslim based countries. Team Afghanistan, a group of six girls, seemed to be indiscriminately targeted and prevented from entering via Afghanistan. Afghanistan is not on the list of countries that fell within the framework of the travel ban; these countries are: Iran, Lybia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. 

The girl scientists were at first very disappointed about not coming to the U.S. to show their talents. But in a twist of fate President Trump reportedly intervened and allowed Team Afghanistan into the U.S. to show their robot and its talents. 

“We are so happy from the support of the Americans and Mr. Trump, and we thank them for providing us visas to allow us travel and attend the competitions,” 14-year-old Fatemah Qaderyan said, one of the teammates from Team Afghanistan.

There was no clear reasoning as to why these girls were specifically denied entry, but U.S. Embassy officials have trepidation in allowing Afghans into the U.S. because they usually do not like to return back to their country. 

The girls came to play with their robot. The team of six, in the U.S. capital, competed among more than 150 people in the “First Global Challenge”: A robotics competition designed to encourage youths to pursue careers in Mathematics and Science. Perhaps the steps to exposing young minds to STEM: Science, Technology, Maths, and Engineering. Team Afghanistan’s robot could pick up and distinguish between blue and orange balls. 

Sources: TimeReutersThe Hollywood ReporterCNN


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In Case You Missed It, July 17, 2017: US Health Care Bill, Venezuela Constitution, And The Cheetah’s Robot Counterpart 

How was your weekend? Did you spend it anticipating what would be the results of the GOP’s second attempt at overhauling the Affordable Care act, aka “Obamacare”? Were you worried about another political explosion in Venezuela, in the form of a Constitutional crisis. What about Cheetahs and robots? Or just Cheetah robots? 

This is about all of the above. While all of them are not directly linked to one another that is the state of the U.S. health care system, what is happening overseas, and the rise of machines, these events and items are all about protests, what affects us all, and the future forward. 

It took seven years, and nearly seven months for the ruling Republican party – who controls both the U.S. Senate and House – to repeal and replace “Obamacare.” But the bill failed to pass…again. Why did this happen? Leading the charge since 2010, the year former President Barack Obama’s health care law was enacted, is Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell. But McConnell and the rest of Republican party have not been able to agree on any alternatives to the complete overhaul – behind closed doors with no input from Democrats, which would have arguably contributed to this failed attempt. 

But some GOP Senators were very vocal in not throwing their support behind the Republican backed bill: Senators Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Susan Collins of Maine, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, along with Senators Mike Lee of Utah, and Jerry Moran of Kansas. These strong opinions by these staunch conservative politicians sort of blindsided the Whitehouse and its administration, and further led to the bill not being passed. Perhaps it was a little premature to celebrate on the Whitehouse lawn several weeks ago.

What happens now? President Donald Trump is hoping that “Obamacare fails and then the Democrats will come to us [GOP].” McConnell wanted a straight repeal of Obamacare effective within two years, but conservative politicians like Lee and Moran put an end to that idea. It looks like it’s back to the drawing board. Meanwhile, Democrats saw the failure as a win, “the second failure of Trumpcare is proof positive that the core of this bill is unworkable,” Democrat Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer stated.

Over 20 million Americans have gained health insurance coverage under Obamacare. 

From one big country’s dilema to another, Venezuela and its constitution is in trouble. President Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela wants change once again in his country’s constitution. It, their constitution, has been changed 26 times within 206 years of its history. 

A referendum for the country was carried out in the form of protests by Venezuelans. Under this new referendum Maduro wants an opportunity for his people to live in peace, and in putting an end to violence. Maduro argues that this will be for the small neighborhoods that were created by former Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez. They also want to expand the justice system to fight corruption, etc.

The opposition is not buying what Maduro is selling. They call the referendum “fraudulent.” They have sent messages to Maduro to end this proposal, as well as have a plan for a 24 hour strike on July 20 that would be in the streets. Venezuelans however support the current constitution which was changed since 1999. 

It sometimes takes laws and swift action to influence the minds and actions of people in these situations. Speed is needed, so how about a Cheetah. MIT’s newest Cheetah robot is one of the most exciting ventures in robotics to date. This four-legged robot can jump, and run up to nearly 30 miles per hour. This kind of metallic cheetah runs on a complicated algorithm, and responds to voice commands via Alexa, Amazon’s digital voice recognition software. 

The Cheetah robot debuted at the TC Sessions: Robotics in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The creators of this super fast robot is hoping to have it do more than be the fastest robot on the planet. Sang-bae Kim and his team at MIT’s Biomimetrics Lab want a more practical and life giving approach. Kim says that their vision became transformed when they wanted to use it in a real situation such as, the clean up at Fukushima. The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant disaster was an accident that took place in Fukushima, Japan on March 11, 2011. 

Kim adds that he has been “fascinated by developing legged machines, which can go where real machines cannot go.” Humanity has “conquered air, water,” earth, or the ground in this case. But the ground needs to be challenged in a different way that is by modifying it for “our four wheels.”

Sources: PoliticoReutersBloombergTechCrunchCBS This Morning