Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Charles Owens

February 13, 2013

Cupid and an approaching asteroid help to liven up a slow news week

Love is apparently in the air. Or so is normally the case on the day before Valentine’s Day.  Floral shops across the region are doing big business, and will be even busier on the actual holiday — as many men are chronic procrastinators who tend to wait until the final hour before remembering to order a dozen roses or buy expensive jewelry for that special person in their life.

But for now it is the calm before the storm — as most of the roses aren’t delivered until the big day itself on Thursday. In a way, Valentine’s Day comes at a good time this year. That’s because the news week is starting off pretty slow. And cupid is capable of generating a few headlines. So is an approaching asteroid, and another secret nuclear test by the reclusive North Korea. In fact, the news cycle has been a lot like the weather this winter — a roller coaster seesaw pattern. One day it is warm. The next day it is cold. One day we have more news than we can handle. The next day absolutely nothing is happening in the greater Four Seasons Country region.

The asteroid won’t hit our planet on Friday — coincidentally the day after Valentine’s Day. There is no chance of an impact whatsoever, according to NASA. The asteroid  measures approximately 150 feet, and will pass within 17,000 miles of the planet on Friday. In fact, the big rock will come closer to Earth than many of our high-flying communication satellites. (Remember the movie “Independence Day” where the big alien ships crashed into the satellites orbiting our planet — and well you get the picture). But apparently this asteroid isn’t expected to collide with communication satellites as the alien ships did in “Independence Day.”

NASA says the asteroid will be visible through binoculars or telescopes in some locations across the world as it zooms past the planet, but apparently not by the naked eye. So unlike in the movie “Deep Impact,” you won’t be able to see the asteroid getting closer, and closer, as it passes by our planet. Or in the case of the 1998 movie — as it smashes into our planet.

The experts say the best viewing locations will be Indonesia, Eastern Europe, Asia and Australia. So the astronomy class at Concord University could be out of luck. And the same goes for other future astronomers across the area.

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It apparently doesn’t take much to get us in the newsroom excited. Talk of an approaching asteroid lightened up the sometimes all too serious afternoon budget meeting last week. Editor Samantha Perry — normally not a big fan of all things science fiction — was very interested in the asteroid story.

The comment was then made that, “Bruce Willis would have to be put on stand by — you know just in case NASA is wrong and all.” And that was followed by a quick response from reporter Kate Coil, who argued that Willis is now “simply too old” to save the planet — as he did in the 1998 motion picture “Armageddon.” Then another staffer commented that we would have to call Ben Affleck instead — since he is apparently still kind of younger than Bruce Willis, or so was the argument. Affleck of course has a West Virginia connection since he’s married to the Mountain State’s own Jennifer Garner. Kate once again had to respond with a final quip that Affleck “might finally win an Oscar” for saving the Earth. Yes, our sense of humor is pretty poor.

I still consider “Armageddon” to be a pretty good movie. Fellow staffer Bill Archer, who confessed just last week to finally getting around to watching the disaster movie “2012” in early 2013, disagrees. He considers “Armageddon” to be one of Bruce Willis’ worse movies ever. I will admit that “Deep Impact” was a lot more realistic than “Armageddon” as far as killer asteroid movies go. Earth was saved in both movies. “Deep Impact” earns special recognition for a scene where residents fleeing from the giant asteroid were basically urged to “head to the mountains” in West Virginia. Apparently, if you find a mountain tall enough, you can avoid being hit by an asteroid? The logic seems a little flawed.

But on a slow news week, we’ll take cupid, an approaching asteroid and other international headlines. North Korea for example supposedly conducted its third nuclear test early Tuesday morning — on the same day President Barack Obama was scheduled to give his annual State of the Union Address. I was baffled by the lack of national television news coverage concerning this story Tuesday morning while getting ready for work.

The “Today Show” made little to no mention of the nuclear test, and CNN was too busy promoting the president’s State of the Union address. But an underground nuclear test is always big news, and bad news.

Charles Owens is the Daily Telegraph’s assistant managing editor. Contact him at cowens@bdtonline.com. Follow him @BDTOwens.

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