“Ready…4…3…2…1…and back,” The set director pointed at Handecker.
Acting the part of sage by removing his glasses Handecker looked up from his notes. “Welcome back,” he said.
The operator of holocam-one focused on the host of the show and then pulled slowly back to pan the oval table as each of the guest participants was reintroduced.
“… and we’re ‘Telling It Straight Today’ with Doctor Marion Weisman, internationally known anthropologist and last year’s Nobel prize winner from Copenhagen Denmark. Bishop Harlan McDonal, technical council to the Holy See in Rome. Dean Collingsworth, former Democratic congressman and currently the President’s science czar. A native of South Carolina… And our good friend… Edmond Sorenson, entrepreneur and President of Fermi Laboratories right here in Illinois. Let’s continue where we left off with you Marion…. the change in the arctic shelf… Marion!”
“Thank you Jonathan,” Marion said. Her face became a luminous smile. She moved forward pushing her flyaway hair aside to face directly at the blinking light atop holocam-two. Picking up the the prompt from Handecker she continued, “As the ice shelf recedes, the drift of the ice flows between landmass cannot support the range needs of the polar bear. Measurements on our tracking bears show a marked drop in fat and fur. Without subzero temperatures and ample snow the bears will continue to lose habitat and move toward extinction.” Marion summed up her statement by adding, “Fortunately, this endangered species is being preserved in artificially created environments through international cooperation with Canada, Russia and Iceland until the ice returns to normal.”
Handecker quickly probed for conflict, “So you agree there is a global warming in progress…”
“The meltin’ ice caps are natural phenomena, a cycle. There’s no cause to go worrin’ ‘bout global warmin’,” Collingsworth picked up the bait. “Jest nature as usual.” He adjusted his yellow silk power tie and mugged toward the blinking light atop the holocam in front of the group. Then he winked at the petite anthropologist as if to say I got you off the hook.
Without missing a moment, the second camera technician panned from left to right, settling on the craggy face of Handecker. The heavyset host of the Sunday morning ‘Telling It Straight’ forum stroked his chin in mock thought and then posed a carefully contrived follow-up question aimed as Edmond Sorenson.
“Do you care to comment on that, Edmond?” he asked.
Given this opportunity Sorenson took aim at Collingsworth who he considered a Washington puppet. “My learned friend from Carolina is mistaken, Jonathan,” Sorenson said quietly. “I can tell you with absolute certainty that the Earth’s atmosphere is heating up. Over a half a degree following last year’s winter solstice…. but it’s not global warming of our making… the sun is slowly readying to go nova.”
Collingsworth sucked in his breath. Veins popped out on his forehead “Ya’all full of shit, Edmon’,” he jeered across the oval table at the younger man, “I’ve listened to your 2012 drivel for the last time… no’un’s’s goin’ to believe that crap. Not me. Not the public. No’un…”
Sorenson raised his voice to match Collingsworth’s raucous drawl. “Ya’all get your head out of your… ass,” he mocked. Sorenson didn’t like Collingsworth or his apocryphal opinions, so he decided to take it to the flamboyant, grey haired ex-congressman. “You Washington politicos can’t seem to understand what’s in front of your face.”
Wading into the conversation Bishop McDonal added to the rhetoric. “There is no conclusive proof of that measurement,” he intoned, “the Vatican’s observations…”
“Damn it Edmond,” the anthropologist broke into to the now dysfunctional oratory, “next you’re going to tell us that NASA’s prediction about the sun’s magnetic pole last year meant something sinister.”
“… show the corona activity is of minor importance….”
Handecker tilted his head, sat back in his chair and picked imaginary lint from the lapel of his pin striped suit. He smiled at the rating producing interaction he had just managed to engineer. This escalating face off between Nobel winner, Washington insider, industry leader and the clergy would make the late night world news and might even have Emmy written on it. He could hear the national newscast now: Fermi Lab prodigy in verbal shootout with Presidents top science gun, world renowned animal activist and Vatican council over 2012 conjecture.
Off camera the frantic stage director motioned the two cameramen to move into close-up range and signaled the recording booth to keep a hand on the sound mixer’s bleeper.