Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Congratulations, Seattle!

Seattle, Washington, is one of the first major U.S. cities to claim it has cut greenhouse-gas emissions enough to meet the targets of the Kyoto Protocol.

Seattle’s reductions were largely the result of energy conservation by households and businesses, and changes in power production at Seattle City Light, the report said.
Part of the cuts are due to changes in power production at Seattle City Light, which provides clean-running hydropower to homes and businesses.
Seattle has started trying to lure people from their cars. Two tax measures approved by voters in 2006 are aimed at improving bus service, bike lanes and sidewalks.
The city also has passed development rules to encourage people to move downtown, where they will drive less, said Nicholas, with the Office of Sustainability and Environment.

For Whom the Bell’s Palsy Tolls

By Amy Goodman
Bell’s palsy. It hit suddenly a month ago. I had just stepped off a plane in New York, and my friend noticed the telltale sagging lip. It felt like Novocain. I raced to the emergency room. The doctors prescribed a weeklong course of steroids and antivirals. The following day it got worse. I had to make a decision: Do I host “Democracy Now!,” our daily news broadcast, on Monday? I could speak perfectly well, and I’m tired of seeing women (and men) on TV who look like they just stepped off the set of “Dynasty.” Maybe if they see a person they trust to deliver the news, still there, but just looking a little lopsided, it might change their view of friends and family—or strangers, for that matter—who are struggling with some health issue.
Wikipedia, the popular online encyclopedia anyone can edit, stated that I had suffered a stroke. So on Tuesday I decided to tell viewers and listeners that I was suffering from a temporary bout of Bell’s palsy, that it wasn’t painful and that “the doctors tell me I will be back to my usual self in the next few weeks. In the meantime, it just makes it a little harder to smile. But so does the world.”
Bell’s palsy affects 50,000 people in the U.S. every year. It is an inflammation of the seventh cranial nerve that connects to the eye, nose and ear. The inflammation causes temporary paralysis of the nerve. For some, the eye can’t close, so they have to tape it shut at night, and some can’t speak. George Clooney had it. Ralph Nader came down with it in the midst of a speaking tour. He was in Boston debating someone when his eye started to water and his mouth sagged. It didn’t stop him. He continued his tour, just beginning each talk by saying, “At least you can’t accuse me of speaking out of both sides of my mouth.”
I was just in Santa Fe, N.M., interviewing Tim Flannery, voted 2007 Australian of the Year for his remarkable work as an explorer, paleontologist, zoologist and climate-change scientist. Before we went on the stage, I apologized for my crooked smile. He said he knew the feeling, having had shingles, a more painful viral condition that affects one side of the face. I was beginning to feel less and less alone.
The next day we broadcast from the New Mexico state Legislature. The cameraman told me that Ambassador Joe Wilson, husband of Valerie Plame, had just been in. He had been doing an interview with his wife from a remote studio with Larry King. The cameraman told Wilson that I had Bell’s palsy. He said that he, too, had suffered a bout of it. I caught up with Wilson after our morning broadcast. He described what happened to him. It was 10 years ago. He had just gotten off Air Force One in Africa with President Clinton. He splashed some water on his face, looked in the mirror and saw the telltale face sag, unblinking eye and mouth droop; he thought he had had a stroke. Walter Reed Army Medical Center was called, and Wilson was diagnosed with Bell’s palsy within a few minutes. Clinton sat him down and said that he had known a number of people who had had Bell’s, and that he should just carry on. It would go away. Wilson flew off to Luanda and gave a speech on the tarmac. Later that day, he passed a television set and hardly recognized himself, with his mouth askew. He thought he looked like the actor Edward G. Robinson, a tough-talking gangster speaking out of the side of his mouth.

Even my neurologist once had Bell’s palsy, and said I should just keep working, that, with the medication, it would heal itself. Just to make sure, I visited an acupuncturist in New York’s Chinatown, next to the Off Track Betting Parlor, hearing that the doctor was a good bet!

I’m happy to report the Bell’s palsy is easing up, and I feel fortunate. Fortunate for the waves of support, from the hundreds of e-mails from strangers. A female marketing professor from a Houston business school wrote: “Watching you carry on with Bell’s palsy has taught me a little bit about myself. In real life we encounter people with physical imperfections all the time. Why are we shielded from seeing people with flaws and imperfections on TV? Reporters and anchors on TV news, especially women, typically look as if they just won a beauty pageant or a modeling contest, which seems to add to the disingenuousness of their messages.”

The Supermarket of Struggling Artists

Captain Lance is angry at crew member Karen.

Karen Shueh, a cherubic store clerk, has arrived with the words everything will be taken away written backward on her forehead in black ink. She’s participating in a public-art project. “The artist is Adrian Piper! She deals with the politics of viewing and the power of looking at people.”

Lance frowns and grunts out the closest thing to a Trader Joe’s reprimand: “I can’t have people with words on their forehead working here!” Karen scowls and trudges toward the bread aisle.

It’s early summer and I’m elbow-deep in the rye-bread drawer, midway through a 6 p.m.–to–2 a.m. shift on my new job, crew member at Trader Joe’s on 14th Street, the first city outpost of the West Coast foodie retailer, which has been gridlocked with shoppers since its opening in March 2006. It serves up Tofutti bars, pappadam chips, and reams of gluten-free, dairy-free, and sodium-free organic grub on the cheap. The 14th Street store grosses over $1 million weekly; it’s apparently one of the highest-grossing locations of the 285 nationwide. It is, in a sense, the poor man’s Union Square Whole Foods, one fifth the size and in the armpit of the square. A second city location opened in Forest Hills on October 26; next up, one on Court Street in Cobble Hill.

But those customers don’t come in for the hummus and low prices alone. Supermarket employees have never looked so appetizing, or so poignantly arty—remember Jake Gyllenhaal cast implausibly as a stock boy who thought he was Holden Caulfield in The Good Girl? That’s the sort of person Trader Joe’s seems to recruit. The store uses cute, clean-looking, multiethnic twentysomethings in the same way as other hip retailers (say, Urban Outfitters): It’s part of the shopping experience. To see what it’s like, I decided to work there. It turned out to be frustratingly difficult to get hired. The Joe’s employees are less-established versions of the typical Trader Joe’s shopper: Our customers “read The New Yorker, not People magazine,” explains an employee handout. So does the floor staff. (It’s not surprising that there are non-Gyllenhaalian workers unloading pallets after-hours.)

Today’s crew includes a filmmaker, an actor, two fashion students, two painters, a film-production intern, and a martial artist. They’re mostly college graduates—University of Washington, New York University, the University of Maine—here with dreams of making it in the city’s bourgeois bohemia, but currently stuck serving it hummus. Most are from comfortable backgrounds. The young workers are attracted to Trader Joe’s for its groovy, noncorporate aura and also because it, unlike most of the sorts of jobs arty kids do while waiting for their big break, offers health insurance.

Karen, a peppy Northwestern graduate, hurls expired breads at a cart while happily talking to me at full volume—her only volume—and pulling at her red Raggedy-Ann skirt. She falls silent only during our involuntary gagging at wet moldy bread. She wants to be a studio assistant or perhaps work at a public-art organization like Creative Time, and works at three galleries and sneaks into art lectures at Barnard. Trader Joe’s serves as her art supply: “I take unused receipts and dried onions and corn husks. The utility knife they give us has been very useful. And those huge Saran wraps that the grocery pallets come in—I love those! I take those home.” Some of her work has been shown at P.S. 122.

But for now, she’s mired in the bread aisle—“Breadway.” For her efforts, Karen, 23, makes $11.25 an hour, in the middle of the $9.50-to-$12.50 crew range, minus $92 per month for health insurance. She also spends hundreds on food at a 10 percent discount.

Shanice, a 21-year-old CUNY student carrying a clipboard, hollers over. “Hey, Karen, ain’t you supposed to be on register? They lookin’ for you.” Karen hates register. She whimpers to Shanice about how occupied she is in Breadway. Shanice raises her eyebrows.

I’m left alone, squatting to reach the bottom-shelf pitas near the doorway. Two black stiletto boots appear an inch from my nose. A woman in a bright-orange blouse asks me for a product that sounds like “oloveria juice.” I check the shelf and ask her to spell the name. She sneers: “You should know how to spell aloe.”

Crying in public isn't cool for women

"Please, please, please, just give the dog back," Ellen DeGeneres wept on national TV recently. It was a moment that quickly established itself in the pop culture firmament, less for the plight of Iggy the adopted terrier than for the copious crying itself.

Setting aside the question of whether those sobs were 100 percent genuine, tears are a natural human response, and public figures are obviously not immune. But some who study this most basic expression of feeling will tell you that in this day and age, it can be easier for a crying man to be taken seriously than a crying woman.

In politics, it's a far cry (OK, pun intended) from 1972, when Sen. Ed Muskie's presidential campaign was derailed by what were perceived to be tears in response to a newspaper attack on his wife. Whether he actually cried is still up for debate. But decades later, an occasional Clintonesque tear is seen as a positive thing.

For Bill Clinton, that is.

"Bill could cry, and did, but Hillary can't," says Tom Lutz, a professor at the University of California, Riverside, who wrote an exhaustive history of crying. In other words, the same tearful response that would be seen as sensitivity in Bill Clinton could be seen as a lack of control in his wife.

But there are additional rules for acceptable public crying. "We're talking about dropping a tear," Lutz notes, "no more than a tear or two." And it all depends on the perceived seriousness of the subject matter. Thus Jon Stewart or David Letterman could choke up with impunity just after 9/11. But a dog-adoption problem is a whole different matter.

Gender perceptions

In a recently published study at Penn State, researchers sought to explore differing perceptions of crying in men and women, presenting their 284 subjects with a series of hypothetical vignettes.

What they found is that reactions depended on the type of crying, and who was doing it. A moist eye was viewed much more positively than open crying, and males got the most positive responses.

Sex parolees must hide on Halloween

San Jose Mercury News: "No faux spider webs. No scary pumpkin. No lights, candy or interaction.
That's the message the state is sending to paroled sex offenders with "Operation Boo," a Halloween night clampdown aimed at easing parental minds by removing any hint for children to ring the wrong doorbell.
Sex offenders must stay home and may not show any sign of being there.
Under special Halloween conditions, sex offender parolees must stay indoors from 5 p.m. to 5 a.m., keep their exterior lights off and answer the door only to law enforcement agents.
State parole officers and police will be out in force tonight to ensure that the sex offenders follow the rules, officials say. A violation could land them back in prison for violating their parole terms, said Bill Sessa, spokesman for the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
"Their homes must look like there's literally no one at home," he said.
Such "Halloween Rules" are part of a long roster of conditions for all paroled sex offenders, said Sessa. The Fright Night visits from officers began a few years ago, he said.
"Sex offenders must comply with the longest list of special conditions of parole out of any group that we have," said Sessa. "It's not new.""

Jury Awards Father $2.9 Million in Funeral Protesters Case "BALTIMORE (AP) -- A federal jury on Wednesday awarded the father of a fallen Marine $2.9 million in compensatory damages after finding a fundamentalist Kansas church and three of its leaders liable for invasion of privacy and intent to inflict emotional distress for picketing the Marine's funeral in 2006.
The jury was to begin deliberating the size of punitive damages after receiving further instructions, although U.S. District Judge Richard Bennett noted the size of the compensatory award "far exceeds the net worth of the defendents," according to financial statements filed with the court.
Albert Snyder of York, Pa., sued the Westboro Baptist Church for unspecified monetary damages after members staged a demonstration at the March 2006 funeral of his son, Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, who was killed in Iraq.
Church members routinely picket funerals of military personnel killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, carrying signs such as "Thank God for dead soldiers" and "God hates fags."
A number of states have passed laws regarding funeral protests, and Congress has passed a law prohibiting such protests at federal cemeteries, but the Maryland lawsuit is believed to be the first filed by the family of a fallen serviceman.
Snyder's suit named the church, its founder the Rev. Fred Phelps and his two daughters Shirley Phelps-Roper and Rebecca Phelps-Davis, 46. The jury began deliberating Tuesday after two days of testimony.
The York, Pa. man claimed the protests intruded upon what should have been a private ceremony and sullied his memory of the event.
The church members testified they are following their religious beliefs by spreading the message that the deaths of soldiers are due to the nation's tolerance of homosexuality."

Is America Ready For A FLILF?

Crooks and Liars: "Jason Jones: The first lady. We’ve looked to her for moral guidance. We have looked at her as our nation’s mother. But the one thing we have never done, is looked at her."

Video at C & L

Carnegie Mellon Study Ranks Most Informative Blogs

A recent Carnegie Mellon study used higher mathematics to answer the question: if you want to be informed about what the entire blogospohere is talking about, but you can only read 100 blogs (out of the millions available), which blogs should you read? We were very happy to learn that came in 8th on the list. Other blogs that ranked high on the list include Instapundit, Michelle Malkin, Boing Boing, BlogHer, Gothamist and Micropersuasion.

You can see the website for the study here and a PDF file for the report can be found here. The paper was awarded the best student paper award at the ACM SIGKDD International Conference on Knowledge Discovery and Data Mining. (via Data Mining)

Here is a list of the 100 top ranked blogs.

Don Surber
Science & Politics
Watcher of Weasesls
Michelle Malkin
National Journal's Blogometer
The Modulator
Boing Boing
A Blog for All
TFS Magnum
Alliance of Free Blogs
Pajamas Media
The Jawa Report
Soccer Dad
Nose on Your Face
The Anchoress
Why Homeschool
The Daou Report
Captain's Quarters
Guy Kawasaki
Lucy by Lucy
Blue Star Chronicle
Official Google Blog
The Glittering Eye
The Conservative Cat
The Social Customer Manifesto
The Next Net
Gateway Pundit
Crooks and Liars
Right Wing News
10,000 Birds
O'Reilly Radar
Cowboy Blog
Business Opportunities Weblog
Creating Passionate Users
Citizens For Legitimate Government
What About Clients?
Rough Type
The Unofficial Apple Weblog
Dans la cuisine d'Audinette
The London Fog
Indian Writing
Power Line
Blog d'Elisson
Rhymes With Right
Written World
The Jeff Pulver Blog
blog d'eMeRY
Hugh MacLeod's gapingvoid
Hugh Hewitt
A Socialite's Life
Gates of Vienna
A Life Restarted
The Volokh Conspiracy
See Also...
Dr. Sanity
Mudville Gazette
Privacy Digest
Catholic and Enjoying It
Single Serve Coffee
Jeremy Zawodny's blog
Basic Thinking Blog

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Germ Fighters May Lead to Hardier Germs

New York Times: "Reports of schoolchildren dying from infections with drug-resistant bacteria are enough to send parents on an antimicrobial cleaning frenzy.
But before you start waging your own personal war on single-celled organisms, be warned. Many household and personal cleaners contain ingredients that could make the resistance problem worse.
Today, hundreds of soaps, hand lotions, kitchen cleansers and even toothpastes and mouthwashes include antibacterial agents. One of the most popular is triclosan, which has been used not only in cleaners but also to coat toys, cutting boards, mouse pads, wallpaper and even dog bowls.
The temptation to blanket our families with antibacterial protection has been fueled by scary news reports about a deadly bacteria called CA-MRSA, which stands for community-acquired methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. Two otherwise healthy children — a seventh grader in Brooklyn and a high school football player in Virginia — died in recent weeks from MRSA infections.
The general advice for avoiding infection is basic hygiene — washing hands or using alcohol-based sanitizers, keeping scrapes covered until healed and refraining from sharing personal items like towels and cosmetics.
But some recent laboratory studies suggest that antibacterial products containing triclosan may not be the best way to stay clean. Instead of wiping out bacteria randomly, the way regular soap or alcohol-based products do, triclosan may inhibit the growth of bacteria in a way that leaves a larger proportion of resistant bacteria behind, according to lab studies at Tufts and Colorado State Universities, among others."

Monday, October 29, 2007

A Hazardous Bite Out Of Halloween, Official Investigation Into Why Some Fake Teeth Contain Extreme Levels Of Lead

CBS News: "(CBS) Based on the inquiries by CBS News and the complaint filed with the Consumer Product Safety Commission, there is now an official investigation into why some "Ugly Teeth" have levels of lead 100 times beyond the legal limit.
There are thousands of these fake teeth, which have been purchased in the past few days as part of the ghoulish outfits of tiny trick-or-treaters around the country. Lead is dangerous if ingested, and extremely dangerous to small children.
Retailers like Factory Card and Party Outlet, Party City, Halloween USA and distributors like AMSCAN responded to the news today, CBS News correspondent Hari Sreenivasan reports. They say they have pulled the teeth off store shelves, taken the products out of their inventory, warned their sales associates not to sell them, set up 888-840-8066 for consumers and are offering full refunds to those who have already purchased these toys.
The Factory Card and Party Outlet chain traced the supply of these toys to JCS Hong Kong Limited, which is the subsidiary of AMSCAN - a company which will soon be purchasing the Factory Card and Party Outlet.
But as we learn in many of these product recalls from Chinese manufacturers, it can often be a labyrinthine trail to get to the producer and assembly line of inexpensively made goods.
The proportion of products that Professor Jeff Weidenhamer found to have high lead levels is what troubled him. Out of 56 Halloween-related products he tested, he found six to have levels between four and 130 times what is allowable. All 6 of the products with these problems were made in China. "

What's in a Name?

New York Times: "Shirley Temple didn’t make many enemies, but Alleen Nilsen can think of a few people who loathed America’s sweetheart. Nilsen, a professor of English at Arizona State University and president (with her husband, Don) of the American Names Society, once met a Shirley from a family that used the name for four generations — for its men. As soon as Temple stamped it as indelibly girlish, Shirley IV disgustedly switched to Shirl. There was no Shirley V.
Dozens of longstanding male names — Kim, Beverly, Ashley, etc. — have met the same fate. Linguists know the pattern well: not long after a boy’s name catches on with girls, parents shy away from christening sons with it. “We crowd them out,” Nilsen says. Consider some examples from the Social Security Administration’s baby-name database. Through 1955, “Leslie” consistently appeared among the 150 most popular boys’ names. About a decade earlier, it began to catch on among girls. And the “crowding out” Nilsen mentioned took place. “Leslie” fell out of favor, dropping from a peak of 81 in male popularity rankings in 1895 to 874 a century later, and will most likely never gain traction with men again. Dana, Carol and Shannon met similar ends.
And then there’s the so-called playground effect, to which even Nilsen’s own family succumbed. Until age 4, her son was happy to be called Kelly. Then he went to preschool, “where there was a ‘Kelly Girl’ and a ‘Kelly Boy,’ ” she says. After a day of teasing, he came home, crying. “Forever after,” she says, “he insisted on being called Kelvin.”"


Edwards vs. Colbert

Fully compensating for his campaign's odd war on a student newspaper, Edwards spokesman Eric Schultz puts out this statement:

For those who missed Stephen Colbert's misleading attack on John Edwards in the State newspaper this weekend, I wanted to make sure we had an opportunity to set the record straight. .


CLAIM: Edwards abandoned South Carolina when he was one year old.

FACT: Edwards was born in South Carolina, learned to walk in South Carolina, learned to talk to in South Carolina, and will kick Stephen Colbert's New York City butt in South Carolina.

"Stephen Colbert claims to represent a new kind of politics, but today we see he's participating in the slash and burn politics that has no place in American discourse. The truthiness is, as the candidate of Doritos, Colbert's hands are stained by corporate corruption and nacho cheese. John Edwards has never taken a dime from salty food lobbyists and America deserves a President who isn't in the pocket of the snack food special interests."

Sunday, October 28, 2007

New Poll Suggests Stephen Colbert Should Be Frontrunner Within a Month!

Editor and Publisher : "NEW YORK Less than a week ago, shortly after he announced for president, Stephen Colbert was favored by only a little more than 2% of Democrats as the favorite for the nomination. Now, a Rasmussen Report national telephone survey has found that he gains 13% of voters in a matchup with Rudy Giuliani and Sen. Hillary Clinton.
With former Sen. Fred Thompson substituted for Giuliani, the host of Comedy Central's Colbert Report still got 12%.
If he keeps gaining over 10% a week, Colbert should be leading the field before November is out.
Rasmussen explained, "Colbert does particularly well with the younger voters most likely to be watching his show and therefore most aware of his myriad presidential-like qualities. In the match-up with Giuliani and Clinton, Colbert draws 28% of likely voters aged 18-29. He draws 31% of that cohort when his foes are Thompson and Clinton. In both match-ups, Colbert has more support with young voters than the GOP candidate."
Warning to other candidates: The poll was taken Oct. 19-21 -- mainly completed before Colbert's breakout appearance on "Meet the Press."
Some wag in the Huffington Post comments section responded that if Colbert becomes president then George W. Bush in 2009 could provide the jokes at the White House Correspondents' Dinner.
Colbert announced last week that he would run in the primary for both parties -- at least in his native South Carolina.
In an unofficial kickoff for the race, the mayor of Columbia, S.C., will greet Colbert during a visit this Sunday -- and declare it "Stephen Colbert Day."
Meanwhile, a Facebook group titled “1,000,000 Strong For Stephen T. Colbert” has attracted more than 880,000 members in just over a week -- making it the most popular political group on Facebook by far.
Comedy Central, concerned about possible election law challenges, has taken certain steps, including separating a Colbert campaign Web site from his regular Colbert Report offering.
Another Huffington Post commenter asked, "They're including him in the polls???" But a third observed: "I know that Colbert's candidacy is a joke, but the fact remains that he is the only "candidate" to directly confront George Bush and the media elite. I think that's why he is gaining support. Even though he is a comedian, he has heart, brains and courage. That separates him from the rest of the pack.""

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Generation Overwhelmed

"At my housewarming party last weekend there was vodka and tonic and indie rock, there were a few, inexpensive cheeses, and there were some 20-somethings with loose tongues and misunderstood hearts.
My friend Molly, an assistant in a big New York publishing house and a fascinating world-wanderer, had sent me the link to Thomas Friedman's New York Times op-ed, "Generation Q," earlier in the day. "So what did you think?" she asked. Molly and I met while studying abroad in South Africa together.

"About what?" asked my friend Daniel, a labor organizer destined for Harvard Divinity School next fall. A native of Paul Wellstone's Minnesota, he's spent the years since college on the Hill in Washington, in Harlem sky rises, and Los Angeles barrios and synagogues alike, trying to figure out how to bring people together.

"That Friedman piece where he alleges that our generation is idealistic and 'too quiet, too online, for [our] own good,'" I summarized, I admit, rolling my eyes.

"What's that?" asked Ben, a new friend of mine who works for the Clinton Foundation and who was a speech writer and a campaign organizer before that.

A lengthy, raucous conversation about outrage, its sources and manifestations, ensued. Until of course, we got distracted by a really good dance song ...

And this, it turns out, is what I'd like to talk to Mr. Friedman about. Not outrage. Not online activism. Not statues of long dead emancipators (which he invokes at the end of his piece as the symbol of what has been lost on us, the young and passive). But distraction. I think that he has mistaken my generation's sense of being overwhelmed, our absolute paralysis in the face of so many choices, so many causes, and so much awareness, for a mere quiet.

We are not quiet. Molly, the passionate environmentalist, Daniel, the bourgeoning theologian, Ben, the political communicator -- all of these kids have big mouths and lots of ideas. We don't hesitate to assert opinions. We are often outraged -- outraged, in fact, to the point of tears about the war in Iraq. I have lived this outrage since March 20, 2003. And I have had countless conversations with my friends, my mentors, my family, and my own pained conscience about what can possibly be done.

We are not apathetic. What we are, and perhaps this is what Friedman was picking up on, is totally and completely overwhelmed. One of the most critical questions of our time is one of attention. In a 24-7 news climate, it is all but impossible to emotionally engage all of the stories and issues you are taking in, and then act on them in some pragmatic way. So instead, young people become paralyzed. (It seems that all of us are a bit paralyzed. After all, what are Friedman's peers really doing? And aren't his peers the ones with the most straightforward kind of power?)

My generation tries to create lives that seem to match our values, but beyond that it's hard to locate a place to put our outrage. We aren't satisfied with point-and-click activism, as Friedman suggests, but we don't see other options. Many of us have protested, but we -- by and large -- felt like we were imitating an earlier generation, playing dress-up in our parents' old hippie clothes. I marched against the war and my president called it a focus group. The worst part was that I did feel inert while doing it. In the 21st century, a bunch of people marching down the street, complimenting one another on their original slogans and pretty protest signs, feels like self-flagellation, not real and true social change.

When Friedman was young and people were taking to the streets, there were a handful of issues to focus on and a few solid sources of news to pay attention to. Now there is a staggering amount of both. If I read the news today with my heart wide open and my mind engaged, I will be crushed. Do I address the injustices in Sudan, Iraq, Burma, Pakistan, the Bronx? Do I call an official, write a letter, respond to a request? None of it promises to be effective, and it certainly won't pacify my outrage.

In Friedman's op-ed, he actually hints toward this insight, but falls short of recognizing it. At one point he gives an anecdote of his daughter, who reads about the disappearing ice caps and expresses dismay: "What happened to that Arctic story, Dad?"

What happened is that it was buried in a mountain of other stories about the torture, murder, and blatant disregard for our civil liberties and environmental health. What happened is that none of us can psychologically survive if we pay too much attention or commit ourselves too passionately to affecting change in all of these areas. What happened is that the world became too big and brutal, and we haven't figured out a way to process it all.

We do our best. We pursue careers and seek answers to questions that we believe are important. So many of the young New Yorkers standing around my living room that night were professional activists -- social workers and teachers and nonprofit workers. We discuss the latest current events, send one another links to our favorite blogs or videos on the subjects, grab drinks after work and hash it all out. We study like hell. My generation knows so much about so much. We read everything and anything that we think might point us in the direction of some kind of political enlightenment and psychic relief.

But it's not enough. I know that. We know that. Friedman has, in his own patronizing way, pointed that out once again. He's right that our outrage is "in there somewhere." I just wish he and his intellectual literati were suggesting methods for unearthing it and channeling it into effective projects and processes, instead of shaking their heads at us like a bunch of disappointed schoolmarms for not imitating his heyday.

We can't be you, because we don't live in your time. We don't have the benefit of focus, the cushion of cheap rent, the luxury of not knowing just how complicated the world really is. Instead we have corporate conglomerates, private military contracts, the WTO and the IMF, school debt, and no health insurance. We are savvy and we are saturated and we are scared.

We are painstakingly composing our Facebook profiles because we did our daily round of news sites, and it left us feeling powerless and unsafe, like the only place to put our energies was inward. We are studying abroad because it feels like the only obvious way to interact with the world we care so deeply about. We are dancing at house parties on Friday nights because we talked about your op-ed, the war in Iraq, rape in Congo, but in the end, we just felt overeducated and underutilized.

You call that quiet. I call that coping."

See You There

Now is the time for all peace and justice activists to get into high gear: outreach, organize and mobilize.

The watchwords of the day: EVERYONE BRING SOMEONE NEW, someone who has never marched before. The 49th Ward, for example, met a few days ago, in a public meeting, and is aiming for a bus of newcomers from Rogers Park

We’re hitting the airwaves. We’re holding a major press conference in the Loop Monday featuring some of our labor, community, congressional and city council leaders. They will call Chicago to join us on Oct 27 under the banner, ‘STOP THE WAR NOW, BRING ALL OUR TROOPS HOME!. Other themes stressed are ‘Fund Human Needs, Not the War!,’ ‘Defend Our Civil Liberties, Defend Immigrant Rights!’ and ‘Stop the Violence at Home and Abroad, No Wider Wars!’ Several Congress people and community leaders also recorded Oct 27 radio ads which are being broadcast this week.

We have a terrific lineup of speakers and performers. To the list posted last week, we’re adding Rosemarie Slavanas, Gold Star Families Speak Out; Rep John Conyers, (D-MI); and Rep Jan Schakowsky (D-IL).

Our logistical plan is solid. Two good stages with excellent sound, seating for the older folk, plenty of room for assembly, a good line of march, space for tables, buses parked near Federal Plaza, everything down to portapotties. We need about 50 more volunteers to lead chants and serve as guides and peacekeepers. We also need to borrow all the bullhorns people can lend us.

We have new contingents. Chicago-Area Educators for Peace and Justice, Chicago Layers against the Iraq War, Healthcare Not Warfare Contingent, ‘No War, No Warming’ Contingent, as well as new neighborhood groups have formed. Connect to these or create your own.

We’re still growing. This week we pulled in groups like Illinois Volunteers for Richardson, National Organization for Women – Chicago, the Buddhist Peace Fellowship-Chicago, Greater Chicago Ron Paul 2008 Campaign, Stop the War on Iraq –Terre Haute, and a number of new local unions, and youth and community groups.

Go Grassroots! Is your neighborhood covered with posters? Are you speaking up at the meetings, services, concerts and events you go to? The night before Oct 27, get on your phone and nudge all your friends one more time, not only to come, but to bring someone who has never come to one of these before.

Now is also a good time to write a check or hit the ‘donate’ button on the website to help all those who are already into high gear.

To volunteer call us or use the ‘volunteers’ link on the website.

If you have a ride to offer, post it to the ride sharing forum on the web site.

ALL OUT Oct 27!

'Cow-eating' trees of Padrame

MANGALORE: Carnivorous trees grabbing humans and cattle and gobbling them up is not just village folklore.

Residents of Padrame near Kokkoda in Uppinangady forest range sighted one such carnivorous tree trying to dine on a cow last Thursday. According to reports, the cow owned by Anand Gowda had been left to graze in the forests.

The cow was suddenly grabbed by the branches and pulled from the ground. The terrified cowherd ran to the village, and got Gowda and a band of villagers to the carnivorous tree.

Before the tree could have its meal, Anand Gowda and the villagers struck mortal blows to the branches that turned limp and the cow was rescued. Uppinangady range forest officer (RFO) Subramanya Rao said the tree was described as ‘pili mara’ (tiger tree) in native lingo.

He had received many complaints about cattle returning home in the evenings without tails. On Friday, the field staff confirmed coming across a similar tree in Padrane, partially felled down.

However no detailed inquiry was made as the authorities were not asked for any report, Rao said.

Odd Couple: Robert Plant & Alison Krauss Make the CD of the Year

Summer. Dusk. An ancient Cadillac convertible, top down, cruises on Long Island back roads.
"The world's greatest rock band?" I ask.
The music mogul at the wheel doesn't have to ponder.
"Led Zep," he says.
And so it may be. Which would put Robert Plant, Led Zeppelin's singer, a cut above Mick Jagger. And would make it even more unlikely that he would ever collaborate with a bluegrass singer and violinist from Nashville on anything --- especially something as crazy as a collection of cover songs from the moldy basement of country and rock.
But here is Raising Sand, the Robert Plant and Alison Krauss CD, and you have only to hear it once to know that you will listen to it often. And, again, I have to invoke the most unlikely of reasons --- it confounds your every expectation.
You expected Plant's want-you, need-you, got-to-have-you cry that starts somewhere in the mid-range and moves fast into the crack-glass zone? You'll find his signature scream here, but you'll have to listen closely.
And Ms. Krauss? Bluegrass is rigid, unforgiving music; it is, say I, more about expertise than imagination. Over the years, she's bent the bluegrass envelope, but she's never shredded it. You'll find her purity on display here; again, you'll have to listen closely.
In these songs, everything's off-kilter. Plant whispers and Krauss shrieks. Drums pound, but vocals are muted. The past is honored --- it turns out that Plant and Krauss share a love of bluegrass and '50s country-rock --- but it's filtered through processors that transform no-frills country into sophisticated urban ghost music. Raising Sand is, in short, the kind of music that sounds great in the car or when you're puttering, but sounds even greater when you sit down, plug in the headphones, and go to school on it.
The key player here is T-Bone Burnett, who, on the strength of this CD alone, ought to abandon all dreams of performance and surrender to his genius as a producer. With his input, Plant and Krauss realized they didn't have to record a dozen duets. And so Raising Sand is a collaborative "project" --- some of him, some of her, and a generous helping of them.
What's true of every song: originality. We're used to fervent being fervent; here the power of love or heartbreak or whatever is in the restraint. It's more than Plant, Krauss and Burnett throwing one head fake after another your way. It's about digging in and exploring, caring more about sound than about commerce. Only unknowns and megastars get the chance to make this kind of CD --- and these days most megastars prefer the safety of a victory lap.
At the corner of quality and daring, we find a welcome novelty. Cover songs as cutting edge music? A rocker who looks 200 finding the kind of tenderness he used to sneer at? A bluegrass sweetheart who seemed to want to grow up to be Emmylou Harris discovering a wild side? All of the above.
Miracles occur. Magic is afoot. And Raising Sand is the CD of the year.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


e.thePeople:""He'll do for the country what he did for Cleveland"
--Tim Russert
Meet The Press

The Worst Mayors (1820-1993)
Next, and seventh, is Cleveland's Dennis Kucinich (1977-79). Only thirty-one years old when elected, Cleveland's "boy" mayor had failings that were not the sins of venality or graft for personal gain, but rather matters of style, temperament, and bad judgment in office. Kucinich earned seventh place the hard way: by his abrasive, intemperate, and confrontational populist political style, which led to a disorderly and chaotic administration. He barely survived a recall vote just ten months into office, then disappeared for five weeks, reportedly recuperating from an ulcer. When he got back into the political fray, his demagogic rhetoric and slash-and-burn political style got him into serious trouble when he stubbornly refused to compromise and led Cleveland into financial default in late 1978—the first major city to default since the Great Depression. That led also to Kucinich's defeat and exit from executive office. Out of office, he dabbled in a Hollywoodesque spirit world and once believed he had met actress Shirley MacLaine in a previous life, seemingly confirming his critics' charges that he was a "nut-cake." After that, he experienced downward mobility, losing races for several other offices and finally ending up with a council seat; but more recently, he climbed back up to a seat in Congress. Bad judgment, demagoguery, and default also spelled political failure in the eyes of twenty-five of our experts, who ranked Dennis, whom the press called "the Menace," as seventh-worst. "

Will George W. Bush Use the California Fires to Say 'I Told You So'?

Radar Online:"Will George W. Bush use the California fires for a massive I-told-you-so?
As Melissa Etheridge, Barbara Streisand, Rob Reiner, and plenty of non-famous, stinking rich people watch an ungrateful Mother Nature destroy their Malibu beachfront properties, let's re-examine the 2003 Healthy Forests Restoration Act. Clearly an under-the-table handjob for logging companies that cut citizens out of the government's environmental decisions, it did call for the clearing of dense forests and brush areas to prevent the spread of wildfires. The Sierra Club did not support the bill in 2003, but the group did concede that, "[a]long with the Malibu fires of a decade ago and other more recent fires, there is no shortage of evidence indicating the essential role that clearing brush near communities plays in protecting homes and lives."
That didn't stop current Malibu resident and green scenester Robert Redford from echoing the talking-points of his millionaire neighbors (who've since, unfortunately, needed to move on to their other properties) in a 2003 interview with Redford blasted the Healthy Forests Initiative as "insidious ... painfully ugly" and "jingling with jingoism."
Pundit Glenn Beck went ahead and broke the ice for Bush on this issue earlier in the week, saying essentially that he's happy Redford and his ilk are tasting the charred backhand of same Mother Nature they so frequently hump. On his radio show Monday, Beck said, "There is a handful of people who hate America. Unfortunately for them, a lot of them are losing their homes in a forest fire today."
That'll teach 'em to buck a Bush bill."

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

On the Eve of Destruction

Posted on Oct 22, 2007
By Scott Ritter
Don’t worry, the White House is telling us. The world’s most powerful leader was simply making a rhetorical point. At a White House press conference last week, just in case you haven’t heard, President Bush informed the American people that he had told world leaders “if you’re interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing [Iran] from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon.” World War III. That is certainly some rhetorical point, especially coming from the man singularly most capable of making such an event reality.
Pundits have raised their eyebrows and comics are busy writing jokes, but the president’s reference to Armageddon, no matter how cavalierly uttered and subsequently brushed away, suggests an alarming context. Some might note that the comment was simply an offhand response to a reporter’s question, the kind of free-thinking scenario that baffles Bush so. In a way, this makes what the president said even more disturbing, since we now have an insight into the vision, and related terminology, which hovers just below the horizon in the brain of George W. Bush.
When I was a weapons inspector with the United Nations, there was a jostling that took place at the end of each day, when decisions needed to be made and authorization documents needed to be signed. In an environment of competing agendas, each of us who championed a position sought to be the “last man in,” namely the person who got to imprint the executive chairman (our decision maker) with the final point of view for the day. Failure to do so could find an inspection or point of investigation sidetracked for days or weeks after the executive chairman became distracted by a competing vision. I understand the concept of “imprinting,” and have seen it in action. What is clear from the president’s remarks is that, far from an innocent rhetorical fumble, his words, and the context in which he employed them, are a clear indication of the imprinting which is taking place behind the scenes at the White House. If the president mentions World War III in the context of Iran’s nuclear program, one can be certain that this is the very sort of discussion that is taking place in the Oval Office.

A critical question, therefore, is who was the last person to “imprint” the president prior to his public allusion to World War III? During his press conference, Bush noted that he awaited the opportunity to confer with his defense secretary, Robert Gates, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice following their recent meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. So clearly the president hadn’t been imprinted recently by either of the principle players in the formulation of defense and foreign policy. The suspects, then, are quickly whittled down to three: National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, Vice President Dick Cheney, and God.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Five Easy Ways to Go Organic

NY Times:"Switching to organic is tough for many families who don’t want to pay higher prices or give up their favorite foods. But by choosing organic versions of just a few foods that you eat often, you can increase the percentage of organic food in your diet without big changes to your shopping cart or your spending.
The key is to be strategic in your organic purchases. Opting for organic produce, for instance, doesn’t necessarily have a big impact, depending on what you eat. According to the Environmental Working Group, commercially-farmed fruits and vegetables vary in their levels of pesticide residue. Some vegetables, like broccoli, asparagus and onions, as well as foods with peels, such as avocados, bananas and oranges, have relatively low levels compared to other fruits and vegetables.
So how do you make your organic choices count? Pediatrician Dr. Alan Greene, whose new book “Raising Baby Green” explains how to raise a child in an environmentally-friendly way, has identified a few “strategic” organic foods that he says can make the biggest impact on the family diet."

Fearing Crime, Japanese Wear the Hiding Place

NY Times: "OKYO, Oct. 19 — On a narrow Tokyo street, near a beef bowl restaurant and a pachinko parlor, Aya Tsukioka demonstrated new clothing designs that she hopes will ease Japan’s growing fears of crime.
Deftly, Ms. Tsukioka, a 29-year-old experimental fashion designer, lifted a flap on her skirt to reveal a large sheet of cloth printed in bright red with a soft drink logo partly visible. By holding the sheet open and stepping to the side of the road, she showed how a woman walking alone could elude pursuers — by disguising herself as a vending machine.
The wearer hides behind the sheet, printed with an actual-size photo of a vending machine. Ms. Tsukioka’s clothing is still in development, but she already has several versions, including one that unfolds from a kimono and a deluxe model with four sides for more complete camouflaging.
These elaborate defenses are coming at a time when crime rates are actually declining in Japan. But the Japanese, sensitive to the slightest signs of social fraying, say they feel growing anxiety about safety, fanned by sensationalist news media. Instead of pepper spray, though, they are devising a variety of novel solutions, some high-tech, others quirky, but all reflecting a peculiarly Japanese sensibility.
Take the “manhole bag,” a purse that can hide valuables by unfolding to look like a sewer cover. Lay it on the street with your wallet inside, and unwitting thieves are supposed to walk right by. There is also a line of knife-proof high school uniforms made with the same material as Kevlar, and a book with tips on how to dress even the nerdiest children like “pseudohoodlums” to fend off schoolyard bullies.
There are pastel-colored cellphones for children that parents can track, and a chip for backpacks that signals when children enter and leave school.
The devices’ creators admit that some of their ideas may seem far-fetched, especially to crime-hardened Americans. And even some Japanese find some of them a tad na├»ve, possibly reflecting the nation’s relative lack of experience with actual street crime. Despite media attention on a few sensational cases, the rate of violent crime remains just one-seventh of America’s."

Argentina's new Evita Peron tangoes her way to power

Times Online: "WHEN Senator Hillary Clinton appeared on Capitol Hill displaying a hint of cleavage, she sparked off a media furore about women in power, the way they dress and the role of femininity in American politics.
There has been no such fuss over the presidential campaign of Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, whose enthusiasm for mascara and designer handbags has played no small part in her seemingly effortless stroll towards victory in next Sunday’s elections in Argentina.
Like Clinton, Kirchner, 54, is the politically accomplished wife of a president with her own designs on the presidency. She is a Peronist senator from Buenos Aires province; her husband is Nestor Kirchner, the architect of Argentina’s economic revival, whose decision to stand down so that his wife can succeed him opens the door to a decade or more of family rule.
But unlike Clinton, the woman to whom most Argentinians refer simply as Cristina has deployed her glamour and sexuality as potent weapons on her way to a goal that not even the legendary Eva Peron was able to achieve.
With recent polls showing her up to 30 points clear of her nearest rivals, Kirchner seems certain to become the first woman elected to the Casa Rosada, the pink-walled presidential palace in Buenos Aires. (Isabel Peron, Evita’s successor as wife to Juan Peron, the former president, was appointed president when her husband died.)
In the process, Kirchner has been coolly rewriting the rules of political campaigning. While every fashion move that Clinton makes is relentlessly analysed for its potential impact on voters in Iowa – from her latest hair-style to whether or not she laughs too loudly - Kirchner has gaily shrugged off accusations that she is “frivolous”.
She is storming to victory with the help of a leisurely timetable that reportedly requires at least an hour a day to be set aside for her make-up."

Scientists Race to Detect First Gravitational Waves "The race is on to detect ripples from the most massive events in the universe: spinning, orbiting, exploding or colliding ultra-dense objects like black holes and neutron stars.
In 1918, Albert Einstein predicted these cosmic events would radiate a propagating distortion of space and time: gravitational waves. After spending hundreds of millions of dollars to detect them, scientists have come up empty.
But don't write off the hunt just yet. Physicists worldwide have been fine-tuning enormous, multimillion-dollar machines to filter out background noise so they can observe the unique signatures of a gravitation wave. Before the decade is out, they believe they'll record the percussive crash of colliding black holes or the vibrant hum of a pulsar -- a discovery that would be the proverbial shot heard around the scientific world.
"I tell students they're lucky," said Rana Adhikari, a principal investigator at the Caltech-MIT Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory. "They're getting in at the right time -- it's right before we see something."
The first concrete proof that gravitational waves exist will not only verify a key tenet of relativity theory, but provide unprecedented insight into the mysterious lives of black holes, neutron stars, quark stars (if these controversial objects exist), cosmic strings (also controversial) and probably other as-yet unimagined treasures."

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Stephen Colbert On Meet The Press

Crooks and Liars"Presidential candidate Stephen Colbert gave an interview to Tim Russert this morning on Meet The Press and in typical Colbert fashion, he lays out his agenda and plan to lose the race. Russert questions him, tongue in cheek, on some of the more controversial statements from his new book and talks to him about his now infamous appearance at the 2006 White House Correspondents Dinner, his obsession with Richard Nixon, his one-time goal to be a cult leader, and asks him if he would consider asking Sen. Larry Craig to be his running mate.

Russert: “Would you consider Senator Larry Craig as your running mate?”

Colbert: “I would.”

Russert: “Have you had conversations with him?”

Colbert: “Define conversation.”

Russert: “Have you spoken to him?”

Colbert: “No.”

Russert: “Have you met with him? Have you been in the same room together?”

Colbert: “Yes, and I — sorry my lawyers telling me to say no more.”"

Video at Crooks and Liars

Friday, October 19, 2007

Data Discrimination-You could be next

NEW YORK - Comcast Corp. actively interferes with attempts by some of its high-speed Internet subscribers to share files online, a move that runs counter to the tradition of treating all types of Net traffic equally.

The interference, which The Associated Press confirmed through nationwide tests, is the most drastic example yet of data discrimination by a U.S. Internet service provider. It involves company computers masquerading as those of its users.

If widely applied by other ISPs, the technology Comcast is using would be a crippling blow to the BitTorrent, eDonkey and Gnutella file-sharing networks. While these are mainly known as sources of copyright music, software and movies, BitTorrent in particular is emerging as a legitimate tool for quickly disseminating legal content.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Economist to put archive online

Stephen Brook, press correspondent
Thursday October 18, 2007
Economist: its archive will contain more than 600,000 pages
More than 160 years of articles from the Economist are set to become available online with the launch of The Economist Historical Archive 1843-2003.
The archive will contain more than 600,000 pages of the weekly magazine's reporting and analysis.
It is a joint project between Gale - part of Cengage Learning - and the Economist.
"The Economist Historical Archive is more than a database - it is a remarkable record of the most significant world events over the past 160 years through the unbiased, probing eyes of the Economist," said John Micklethwait, the magazine's editor-in-chief.
The magazine, which has a worldwide print circulation of more than 1.2m, hopes to target educational institutions, public libraries, government organisations, corporations and financial institutions.
Users can search or browse by issue and date, or use more advanced search options such as sections of the paper, article type or article title.
Mark Holland, publishing director at Cengage Learning, said: "The Economist Historical Archive 1843-2003 is set to revolutionise the way institutions and educationalists conduct research.
"As mediums such as the internet become ever more advanced, it is imperative that the media evolves through digitisation to support 21st Century learning."
Preview trials of the archive are available and the full archive will be available via subscription in December.
Its website, offers readers free access to content under one year old.

A Bona Fide Stephen Colbert Presidential Candidacy Might Be a Bona Fide Violation of Federal Law

Fresh Intelligence : Radar Online: "Ever the publicity hound, Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert must understand that no real presidential campaign is complete without a scandal. But does he know that if he succeeds in using his show to help him score a slot on South Carolina ballots as a bona fide 2008 contender, he'll also violate federal campaign law?
An expert with experience in several prominent Republican campaigns says it looks like Colbert's getting a corporate contribution from his Report in the form of air time and production costs—that's prohibited by the Federal Election Commissions Act. "It's something that I could see people raising," said the former strategist. "If I was running against Colbert, I would raise this as a campaign issue."
Viacom, parent company of Comedy Central, has been down this road before with the Showtime reality program The American Candidate, a program about fake presidential candidates in the 2004 elections. In that instance, they got their hotshot Washington attorneys on the case and asked the Federal Election Commission to provide an opinion as to whether or not the show fell under the Federal Election Commissions Act. The FEC said the show was good to go, but with strong reminders that corporations cannot make "any contribution or expenditure in connection with a federal election" and that "any cost incurred in covering or carrying a news story, commentary or editorial by any broadcast station (including a cable television operator, programmer, or producer), newspaper magazine, or other periodical publication, is not a contribution unless the facility is owned or controlled by any political party, political committee, or candidate."
Jon Stewart's Busboy Productions owns The Colbert Report, but clearly Stephen runs the show. In other words, he's toast.
While a possible violation of a sketchy law by a maybe-real, book-promoting faux pundit isn't the sort of thing Bob Woodward would tackle, it does give fodder to those who fear Colbert might be this election's Ralph Nader.
A Comedy Central spokesperson declined comment."

Indexed: Golden Oldies and Glass Ceilings


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Stephen Colbert tosses satirical hat into ring "‘After nearly 15 minutes of soul-searching, I have heard the call’
NEW YORK - Stephen Colbert has announced his candidacy for president on "The Colbert Report," tossing his satirical hat into the ring of an already crowded race.
"I shall seek the office of the president of the United States," Colbert said Tuesday on his Comedy Central show as red, white and blue balloons fell around him.
Colbert, 43, had recently satirized the coyness of would-be presidential candidates by refusing to disclose whether he would seek the country's highest office — a refusal that often came without any prompting.
Shortly before making the announcement, Colbert appeared on "The Daily Show" (the show that spawned Colbert's spin-off) and played cagey, claiming he was only ready to consider a White House bid. He entered the studio set pulled by a bicycle pedaled by Uncle Sam and quickly pulled out a bale of hay and a bottle of beer to show that he was "an Average Joe."
Colbert said his final decision would be announced on a "more prestigious show," which turned out to be his own.
"After nearly 15 minutes of soul-searching, I have heard the call," said Colbert.
His recent best-seller, "I Am America (And So Can You!)," allowed him to mock the now-standard approach to a White House run, complete with a high-profile book tour.
Colbert said he planned to run in South Carolina, "and South Carolina alone." The state, one of the key early primaries, is also Colbert's native state. Earlier this week, South Carolina public television station ETV invited Colbert to announce his candidacy on its air."

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Kucinich on Colbert Report

Watch it!
Kucinich 2008!

Graham Nash and David Crosby On Music%u2019s Ability To Amplify Public Sentiment

21 schools shut after teen dies of staph "BEDFORD, Va. - A high school student who was hospitalized for more than a week with an antibiotic-resistant staph infection has died, and officials shut down 21 schools for cleaning to keep the illness from spreading.
Ashton Bonds, 17, a senior at Staunton River High School, died Monday after being diagnosed with Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, his mother said.
"I want people to know how sick it made my son," Veronica Bonds said.
Staph infections, including the serious MRSA strain, have spread through schools nationwide in recent weeks, according to health and education officials.
MRSA is a strain of staph bacteria that does not respond to penicillin and related antibiotics but can be treated with other drugs. The infection can be spread by skin-to-skin contact or sharing an item used by an infected person, particularly one with an open wound."

Life is harder now, experts say

Gut Check America "Shopping malls are packed every weekend. Restaurants can't open fast enough. Everyone seems to be wearing designer shoes, jackets and jeans and sipping $4 lattes. Credit card commercials constantly advocate splurging and, it seems, U.S. consumers are all too ready to comply.
So what's the problem? Why do so many middle class Americans with so much stuff say they feel so squeezed? If they are dogged by debt, isn’t it their own fault?
Perhaps, some experts say, things are not as they appear.
Bankruptcy law expert and Harvard University Professor Elizabeth Warren spent a lot of time crunching consumer spending numbers for her popular books, "The Fragile Middle Class” and “The Two-Income Trap.” In both, she makes this point: Despite all those $200 sneakers you hear about and the long lines at Starbucks, consumers are actually spending less of their income — much less — on discretionary items like clothing, entertainment and food than their parents did. In fact, after taking care of essentials like housing and health care, today’s middle class has about half as much spending money as their parents did in the early 1970s, Warren says.
The basics, according to Warren, now take up close to three-fourths of every family's spending power (it was about 50 percent in 1973), leaving precious little left over at the end of the month — and leaving many families with no cushion in case of a job loss or health crisis."

Monday, October 15, 2007



FRONTLINE presents
Tuesday, October 16, 2007, at 9 P.M. ET on PBS

For three decades Vice President Dick Cheney conducted a secretive, behind-closed-doors campaign to give the president virtually unlimited wartime power. Finally, in the aftermath of 9/11, the Justice Department and the White House made a number of controversial legal decisions. Orchestrated by Cheney and his lawyer David Addington, the department interpreted executive power in an expansive and extraordinary way, granting President George W. Bush the power to detain, interrogate, torture, wiretap and spy -- without congressional approval or judicial review.
Now, as the White House appears ready to ignore subpoenas in the wiretapping and U.S. attorneys' cases, FRONTLINE's season premiere, Cheney's Law, airing Oct. 16, 2007, at 9 P.M. ET on PBS (check local listings), examines the battle over the power of the presidency and Cheney's way of looking at the Constitution.
"The vice president believes that Congress has very few powers to actually constrain the president and the executive branch," former Justice Department attorney Marty Lederman tells FRONTLINE. "He believes the president should have the final word, indeed the only word on all matters within the executive branch."
After Sept. 11, Cheney and Addington were determined to implement their vision -- in secret. The vice president and his counsel found an ally in John Yoo, a lawyer at the Justice Department's extraordinarily powerful Office of Legal Counsel. In concert with Addington, Yoo wrote memoranda authorizing the president to act with unparalleled authority.
"Through interviews with key administration figures, Cheney's Law documents the bruising bureaucratic battles between a group of conservative Justice Department lawyers and the Office of the Vice President over the legal foundation for the most closely guarded programs in the war on terror," says FRONTLINE producer/director/writer Michael Kirk. This is Kirk's tenth documentary about the Bush administration's policies since 9/11 (Rumsfeld's War, The Torture Question, The Dark Side, The Lost Year in Iraq, Endgame).
In his most extensive television interview since leaving the Justice Department, former Assistant Attorney General Jack L. Goldsmith describes his initial days at the Department of Justice in the fall of 2003 as he learned about the government's most secret and controversial covert operations. Goldsmith was shocked by the administration's secret assertion of unlimited power.
"There were extravagant and unnecessary claims of presidential power that were wildly overbroad to the tasks at hand," Goldsmith says. "I had a whole flurry of emotions. My first one was disbelief that programs of this importance could be supported by legal opinions that were this flawed. My second was the realization that I would have a very, very hard time standing by these opinions if pressed. My third was the sinking feeling -- what was I going to do if I was pressed about reaffirming these opinions?"

Soldier's Mom Finds Silly String Shipper

Breitbart: "TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - After months of frustration, a mother of a soldier in Iraq has found someone to ship about 80,000 cans of Silly String to the troops, who use the foamy substance to detect trip wires on bombs.
"I'm just thrilled," said the woman, Marcelle Shriver. "I couldn't sleep too well this whole weekend thinking about it."
The thousands of cans of Silly String are boxed and addressed to individual servicemen and servicewomen in Iraq. But since the string comes in an aerosol can, it is considered a hazardous material, and only certain companies can ship it.
Thom Campbell, one of the founders of Capacity LLC, a New Jersey-based shipping company experienced in hazardous materials, heard about Shriver's problem and decided to help out.
"It seemed like the right thing to do," Campbell said. "We're quite lucky to have an opportunity to help her."
The boxes were to be picked up Monday in Deptford Township, where Shriver has been storing them. They will be inspected by the company and then delivered to the United States Postal Service for transport with other letters and packages bound for Iraq.
Shriver's Silly String campaign began after her son, Todd, a soldier in Ramadi slated to leave Iraq in November, asked his parents to send cans of the product.
Soldiers can shoot the substance, which travels about 10-12 feet, across a room before entering. If it hangs in the air, that indicates a possible trip wire."

Communication online: Zeppelin goes digital

Blues rockers to sell full catalog of songs online beginning Nov. 13
LONDON - British rockers Led Zeppelin will offer their music online for the first time next month, they said on Monday.
The band, whose reunion gig in London in November prompted more than a million fans to apply for 10,000 available tickets, is one of the last major pop music acts to offer their catalogue digitally.
Led Zeppelin, which disbanded in 1980 following the death of drummer John Bonham, will make its albums available for download from all online music retailers on Nov. 13.
The group behind such hits as "Stairway to Heaven" and "Communication Breakdown," which has sold an estimated 300 million albums worldwide, joins the digital revolution sweeping the music industry as physical CD sales continue to fall.
"We are pleased that the complete Led Zeppelin catalogue will now be available digitally," said guitarist Jimmy Page.
"The addition of the digital option will better enable fans to obtain their music in whichever manner they prefer," he said in a statement.
As well as downloads, Led Zeppelin is teaming up with mobile provider Verizon Wireless to provide ring tones and full song downloads. Verizon Wireless is owned by Verizon Communications Inc and Vodafone Group Plc.
The band hit the headlines in September with the announcement of a one-off reunion gig on Nov. 26 as a tribute to the late founder of Atlantic Records, Ahmet Ertegun, who signed Led Zeppelin in 1968.
The group will also release "Mothership," a two-CD collection spanning the group's 12-year career and a remixed version of "The Song Remains the Same" soundtrack from the band's three-night stint at Madison Square Garden in 1973.

Flying in the face of logic

The mysterious appearance of a South American hummingbird at a Wisconsin home attracts bird-watchers from across the U.S.

Bird lovers flock to Joan Salzberg's backyard in Wisconsin to catch a glimpse of a South American hummingbird rarely seen north of the Mexican border. (Tribune photo by David Trotman-Wilkins / October 14, 2007)
By Susan Kuczka | Tribune staff reporter
October 15, 2007
BELOIT, Wis. - Joan Salzberg planted her backyard garden with flowers, shrubs and trees she hoped would attract wild birds to the tiny wooden houses, baths and feeders she strategically placed outside her kitchen window.
She never imagined her bird sanctuary ultimately would attract close to 700 bird lovers from across the country who flocked to her home this fall to catch a glimpse -- however fleeting -- of a South American hummingbird rarely seen north of the Mexican border. It was still there Sunday.
"Once word got out on the Internet, people came, and they came and they came," said Salzberg, 77, who nicknamed her home "Bluebird Headquarters" long before her tropical visitor turned her residence into a top tourist destination for bird lovers.
Bird experts say sightings of the green-breasted mango inside the United States are rare, making the one in Salzberg's yard on a recent warm October morning that much more unusual.
"Birds from the Yucatan aren't supposed to be in southwestern Wisconsin," said Donnie Dann, a bird conservation expert from Highland Park who recently made the approximately 90-mile trek to see the iridescent green animal. "But that's one of the wonderful things about birds. They fly, and sometimes they act in a bizarre and unexpected way."
Salzberg said she did a double take when she first saw the exotic bird lapping up her secret recipe of sugar water from a red strawberry-shaped feeder she'd placed outside her kitchen window. With her view from the breakfast table, she could discern that the visitor was a hummingbird because of the way it hovered in place at the feeder before darting back into the nearby woods.
But the bird looked about twice as big as the ruby-throated hummingbirds that regularly visit her feeder. Plus, its long black beak had a D-shaped hook at the end -- something she'd never seen on any of the local hummers -- and it had a cinnamon swirl running along its sides. She could see a distinctive black patch edged in white on its belly -- a sign the bird was a youngster. Adult mangoes have a fully green chest.
"It's really cute, especially when it makes its little tweety noise," Salzberg said.
Because she couldn't find a picture matching the markings and traits of the strange visitor in her local bird guides, she called a friend, Mike Ramsden, who successfully snapped pictures of the creature. When members of the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology, a group of bird experts and hobbyists, tentatively identified the bird as a green-breasted mango, Salzberg gave him her approval to post the sighting on the Web.
Word flew among bird lovers that Salzberg also had given her permission for visitors to come see the lost bird for themselves, prompting the massive migration to the two-story brick home that she and her husband, Karl, had built on the site of a former apple orchard.
The Salzbergs asked only two things of their visitors -- that they not stomp on their well-manicured yard and that they write down their names, hometowns, the date and time they saw the mango and their impressions of the bird in a loose-leaf notebook left near the backyard entrance of their home.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Rocket Scientists Stymied by Hearst Elevators

New York Magazine's Daily Intelligencer: "The elevators in Hearst Tower are, like the rest of the building, designed to look cool and be efficient. They're so cool and efficient, in fact, that they don't even have buttons on the inside. Instead, Hearsties punch in the floor number on a panel outside, which then tells them which car to hop into. Though the system is simple enough if you go there every day, it's confusing for visitors. Especially, you know, models. But you wouldn't think that they'd stymie some of the country's most brilliant engineers. But last night at Popular Mechanics' Breakthrough Awards, which honored the top innovators and inventors of the year, the tower's lobby was a scrum of confusion. Honorees stood gazing at the elevator doors, stumped. "Excuse me, but how do you get this to go down?" one, the inventor of a nonturbine wind alternative, was heard asking. Meanwhile, the maker of a nerve-powered robo-arm trotted off to ask for help from a security guard. Eventually, Hearst dispatched staffers to the lobby to escort honorees upstairs. Hm. Guess there's something to that "selective intelligence" thing."

Why Americans should eat more excrement.

Slate Magazine: "One year ago, the now-famous E. coli outbreak arising from contaminated spinach rattled the natural-food industry and gave carnivores a moment of schadenfreude. The story had the heartbreaking elements we have come to dread: A young child eats something mundane and dies a horrid death. Boom, gone. I have (unsuccessfully) treated one such case and rate it as perhaps the most chilling moment of my career.
Since then, the United States has seen at least four additional food-borne outbreaks: salmonella in peanut butter and in spinach, botulism in canned chili, and the current Topps Meat Co. recall of 21.7 million pounds (40,000 cows' worth) of E. coli-tainted ground beef. Those with an insatiable interest in E. coli O157:H7 (along with the lawyers who traffic in this corner of the human misery market) can keep up-to-date here.
With every outbreak, the same question sounds: Why can't we keep the food chain clean? The annual numbers aren't small, nor are they decreasing. By one estimate, about one-fourth of Americans get "food poisoning" of some type each year, 300,000 are hospitalized, and a few thousand die. The perps remain the same—E. coli, listeria, salmonella, and all the rest. Why is this public-health problem so difficult to solve? This is America, after all, replete with wondrously harsh chemicals that can kill anything. Why can't we scrub away the bacteria our guts don't get along with?
Maybe we are taking the wrong approach. Rather than trying to make our food and water ever cleaner, we should focus instead on making sure it's dirty enough to assure our good health.
Here's why. Our struggle to purify food and water has been ongoing for thousands of years. Ask any expert to name mankind's greatest public-health advance, and the answer will be not vaccines, or antibiotics, or disposable diapers, or refrigeration, or mosquito netting. Though wondrous, each is dwarfed by the greatest invention of them all: plumbing. Why did the Romans successfully rule the world? The Cloaca Maxima, ancient Rome's elaborate sewer system, a structure so effective that Pliny the Elder considered it the "most noteworthy" accomplishment of the empire. And why does the West still run economic circles around the developing world? Because we don't ingest each other's excrement. At least not that often.
The triumph of Western civilization is, first and foremost, a triumph of pipes and valves and the fact that water runs downhill. Aqueducts bring fresh water in, cobblestoned underground tunnels move used water out, and, presto, our world is clean.
But here is the problem: We have become victims of our own success. Ever wonder why your dog can gobble, lick, and gnaw all he wants along the glorious buffet of a city street and (almost) never get sick? Your dog is used to eating shit. Americans, on the other hand, grow up eating almost no shit at all. Our food is hosed and boiled and rinsed and detoxified and frozen and salted and preserved. Recently, we have begun to irradiate it, too—just in case. As a result, when our bodies encounter the occasional inevitable bug, they're unhappy. Our centuries-long program of winnowing out all the muck has turned us into sissies and withered the substantial part of the immune system mediated by our intestinal tract."

10 Businesses Facing Extinction in 10 Years : "They're going, going and may be completely gone by 2017. Check out their odds of survival.
By Geoff Williams | September 19, 2007
Determining which industries aren't long for this world may seem easy enough. But some types of businesses, such as telemarketing, are surprisingly hard to kill. And then again, other industries, probably the ones you're sad to see go, can't find a way to survive.
So start setting up your office pool, because here are our picks for 10 businesses facing extinction in 10 years.

Record stores: Record stores are closing in, well, record numbers. One of the most prominent music retailers, Tower Records, shut down all 89 stores last year after concluding it couldn't withstand the onslaught of online music stores and chains like Wal-Mart, which can offer lower prices and sell other items to offset the smaller number of CDs being sold.

Odds of survival in 10 years: Great, if you consider Wal-Mart a record store.

Camera film manufacturing: This probably isn't the best business to get into right now. According to The Chicago Tribune, from May 2006 to May 2007, the volume of prints made from digital cameras grew by 34 percent. Film camera sales, meanwhile, fell by 49 percent, while digital cameras sales continued to grow--by 5 percent. Of American internet users, 70 percent own a digital camera; another survey shows that 70 percent of Canadians now use a digital camera.

Odds of survival in 10 years: Some entrepreneurs who specialize in making camera film for amateur photographers could possibly make a living.

Crop dusters: They'll be around in 10 years, but likely not in their present form. The average age of the typical crop duster is 60, the number of crop dusters is dwindling, and the profession can be dangerous. Just several weeks ago, an Arkansas crop dusting company was ordered to stop flying in Iowa after spraying farm workers with a fungicide; 36 farm hands in a cornfield had to be decontaminated by a hazardous materials crew.

Odds of survival in 10 years: The type of crop dusting plane that chased after Cary Grant in North by Northwest will have almost certainly gone south. Farmers say that they'll always need crop dusters, even though new technologies have made them less important than in the past. But commercial airlines are increasingly taking business away from the small, independent crop dusters.

Gay bars: As The Orlando Sentinel noted in a recent article, around the country gay bars have been going out of business as gay men and women have been gaining greater acceptance in society. What used to be a hangout for people who felt unwelcome elsewhere is becoming less necessary.

Odds of survival in 10 years: As with many industries, the very best of them will endure; the rest won't.

Newspapers: Some people thought they were through when radio and TV news came about. Even after the fax machine revolutionized offices, some people predicted that everyone would have their news faxed in, since that would be quicker than relying on a newspaper. But the numbers have been falling precipitously since the 1990s when the internet came on the scene. In the past year, the Audit Bureau of Circulations twice has posted drops averaging 2.1 and 2.8 percent over six-month periods. Newsrooms across the country have been hemorrhaging staff.

Odds of survival in 10 years: They won't disappear; they'll be on the internet. We don't recommend startups investing a lot of money into a printing press plant."

Study: Rise in Humidity Caused by Humans

Wired News - AP News: "WASHINGTON (AP) -- With global warming, the world isn't just getting hotter - it's getting stickier, due to humidity. And people are to blame, according to a study based on computer models published Thursday.
The amount of moisture in the air near Earth's surface rose 2.2 percent in less than three decades, the researchers report in a study appearing in the journal Nature.
"This humidity change is an important contribution to heat stress in humans as a result of global warming," said Nathan Gillett of the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom, a co-author of the study.
Gillett studied changes in specific humidity, which is a measurement of total moisture in the air, between 1973-2002. Higher humidity can be dangerous to people because it makes the body less efficient at cooling itself, said University of Miami health and climate researcher Laurence Kalkstein. He was not connected with the research.
Humidity increased over most of the globe, including the eastern United States, said study co-author Katharine Willett, a climate researcher at Yale University. However, a few regions, including the U.S. West, South Africa and parts of Australia were drier.
The finding isn't surprising to climate scientists. Physics dictates that warmer air can hold more moisture. But Gillett's study shows that the increase in humidity already is significant and can be attributed to gas emissions from the burning of fossil fuels."

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Dragonfly or Insect Spy? Scientists at Work on Robobugs. -

Vanessa Alarcon saw them while working at an antiwar rally in Lafayette Square last month.

"I heard someone say, 'Oh my god, look at those,' " the college senior from New York recalled. "I look up and I'm like, 'What the hell is that?' They looked kind of like dragonflies or little helicopters. But I mean, those are not insects."

That is just one of the questions hovering over a handful of similar sightings at political events in Washington and New York. Some suspect the insectlike drones are high-tech surveillance tools, perhaps deployed by the Department of Homeland Security.

Others think they are, well, dragonflies -- an ancient order of insects that even biologists concede look about as robotic as a living creature can look.

No agency admits to having deployed insect-size spy drones. But a number of U.S. government and private entities acknowledge they are trying. Some federally funded teams are even growing live insects with computer chips in them, with the goal of mounting spyware on their bodies and controlling their flight muscles remotely.

On XM Radio's 'Theme Time,' Freewheelin' Dylan Calls the Tune

By Linton Weeks
Washington Post Staff Writer
Through the years, Bob Dylan's dealings with the public have been difficult.
Hear him live and he can be a mumbling and aloof musician -- as at his recent Merriweather Post Pavilion concert.
No telling what might come out of Dylan's mouth on "Theme Time": Recipes, mother-in-law jokes or, if the subject is femmes fatales, maybe he'll do his best Sam Spade with a noirish nugget like, "If you see trouble walking in, it's probably wearing very high heels and nylons." (Riffle through interviews with Dylan on YouTube and you discover a contentious, pretentious artist who is laconic, distant, apparently indifferent to enunciation, pleasantries and other everyday social constructs.
But listen in on Dylan's weekly satellite show, "Theme Time Radio Hour" on XM Radio-- now in its second season -- and you discover quite a different Dylan. He's voluble, generous, articulate. He's liable to quote a poem, give tips on hanging drywall, pass along a recipe. In his show on baseball, he broke into "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" -- a cappella.
For nearly 50 years, besides being the voice of his particular generation (and maybe several others), Bob Dylan has been a musical rainmaker. He is a tireless performer, prodigious songwriter and now ardent professor and promoter of all kinds of songs. He has produced more than 30 studio collections. This month Columbia Records is releasing a three-CD retrospective of Dylan's Methuselahian career.
The one thing missing from the radio show, oddly enough, is Dylan's own music.
"With this show, Dylan is tapping into his deep love -- and I would say his belief in -- a musical world without borders," author Peter Guralnick writes in an e-mail. "I feel like the commentary often reflects the same surrealistic appreciation for the human comedy that suffuses his music." Guralnick has written several books about music, including biographies of Elvis Presley and Sam Cooke.
Tight-lipped about actual numbers, an XM spokeswoman will say that about 2 million listeners tune in to Dylan's show, which repeats through the week on several channels. Keen listener Elvis Costello says Dylan's shows "are a bit like those films of Picasso painting on glass. They don't pretend to explain anything about the host but they offer just a little glimpse of the musical -- and literary -- taste of a great singer and songwriter without obliging him to confess every dark secret."
A pitch for Dylan's show might be: Garrison Keillor meets Alan Lomax meets your weird friend who makes theme-oriented mix tapes in his downstairs rec room.
"Theme Time" is a "surreal hour of radio," comedian Richard Lewis writes in an email.
The show is not available on terrestrial radio, but Washington-based XM does offer free three-day trials on its Web site. The company says it has no plans to distribute the show on CD.

cheney's math by David horsey

Friday, October 05, 2007

iPod Sets Man's Pants On Fire

WSBTV Atlanta: "ATLANTA -- The new iPod Nano is hot. But one Douglasville man said his old Nano got even hotter -- hot enough to burst into flames.
"So I look down and I see flames coming up to my chest," said Danny Williams.
Williams said the burn hole from the pocket of his pants marks the spot of his 15 seconds of flame. He said he had an iPod Nano and an glossy piece of paper in his pocket. He believes the paper shielded him from being burned.
"I'm still kind of freaked out that after only a year and a half my iPod caught fire in my pocket," said Williams.
The iPod uses a lithium ion battery -- the same type of battery under recall for setting laptops on fire.
Williams said the fact is iPod Nano burst into flames while he was at work was bad enough, where he works could have been another issue. He works at a kiosk in Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
"If TSA had come by and seen me smoking, they could have honestly thought I was a terrorist," said Williams.
Williams said Apple wants him to send his iPod back and they've vowed to replace it. Williams' mother called Channel 2 because she said this is more than one iPod. She said it's about what could have happened.
"It could have happened when we were sleeping, it could have happened when he was driving and the outcome could have been much worse," said Elaine Williams.
After Channel 2 sent Apple pictures of the iPod, they called back but they refused to say how common the problem is. In fact, Apple refused to talk about this particular incident at all."

Conservatives Are Such Jokers

NY Times: "In 1960, John F. Kennedy, who had been shocked by the hunger he saw in West Virginia, made the fight against hunger a theme of his presidential campaign. After his election he created the modern food stamp program, which today helps millions of Americans get enough to eat.
But Ronald Reagan thought the issue of hunger in the world’s richest nation was nothing but a big joke. Here’s what Reagan said in his famous 1964 speech “A Time for Choosing,” which made him a national political figure: “We were told four years ago that 17 million people went to bed hungry each night. Well, that was probably true. They were all on a diet.”
Today’s leading conservatives are Reagan’s heirs. If you’re poor, if you don’t have health insurance, if you’re sick — well, they don’t think it’s a serious issue. In fact, they think it’s funny.
On Wednesday, President Bush vetoed legislation that would have expanded S-chip, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, providing health insurance to an estimated 3.8 million children who would otherwise lack coverage.
In anticipation of the veto, William Kristol, the editor of The Weekly Standard, had this to say: “First of all, whenever I hear anything described as a heartless assault on our children, I tend to think it’s a good idea. I’m happy that the president’s willing to do something bad for the kids.” Heh-heh-heh.
Most conservatives are more careful than Mr. Kristol. They try to preserve the appearance that they really do care about those less fortunate than themselves. But the truth is that they aren’t bothered by the fact that almost nine million children in America lack health insurance. They don’t think it’s a problem.
“I mean, people have access to health care in America,” said Mr. Bush in July. “After all, you just go to an emergency room.”"

Is your make-up killing you?

the Daily Mail: "Women absorb 5lb of chemicals from cosmetics every year - from cancer-causing compounds in face cream to arsenic in eyeshadow. We tested two beauty junkies to reveal the shocking toll on their bodies...
Charlotte Kohl and her sister Emma are attractive young women. Their looks, they admit, are very important to them, which is why, between them, they use more than 70 different beauty and cosmetic products every day.
Take Charlotte, 27, an estate agent from East London. Each evening, after slathering her face with a concoction of night creams, she sleeps with a dental bleaching kit on her teeth and fake tan all over her body.
Every morning, she uses an array of products in the shower, ranging from shower gels and exfoliating scrubs to 'body building' lotions to give life to her fine hair.
Her make-up regime includes blusher, bronzer, eyeliner, eye shadow and mascara, and she never leaves the house without covering her head in a thick cloud of hairspray.
Her 24-year-old sister Emma, a personal trainer, follows a similar routine, but she also has an obsession with lipgloss: she owns 60 different ones and touches up her lips every few minutes.
In a bid to ensure she always has fresh breath, Emma also cleans her teeth seven times a day and carries a tube of toothpaste in her handbag, which she rubs into her teeth and gums at almost hourly intervals.
Between them, the two girls get through four cans of deodorant a week, and spend £1,000 a month on cosmetics.
"We have been into cosmetics since we reached our teens," says Emma.
"We're the sort of people who rush out to buy a new mascara just because it claimed to do more for our eyelashes than any other mascara previously.
"I'm a complete sucker for anything that says it can make me look or feel better, or that is endorsed by a celebrity."
And Charlotte and Emma are not alone. Last year, Britons spent £6.4billion on cosmetics and grooming products, with the average woman applying 12 toiletries every day.
But here's the rub - these toiletries can bring with them at least 175 chemical compounds.
A recent study found that British women are one of the heaviest users of cosmetics in Europe and, as a result, we ingest through our skin, and occasionally through the mouth, up to 5lb of chemicals a year."

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Greenspan and the Myth of the True Believer

Naomi Klein
The tall graduate student, visiting the United States from Sweden, would not be satisfied with a quip. He wanted answers.
"They cannot only be driven by greed and power. They must be driven by something higher. What?"
Don't knock power and greed, I tried to suggest--they have built empires. But he wanted more.
"What about a belief that they are building a better world?"
Since I began touring with my book The Shock Doctrine, I have had a number of exchanges like this, revolving around the same basic question: When hard-right political leaders and their advisers apply brutal economic shock therapy, do they honestly believe the trickle-down effects will build equitable societies--or are they just deliberately creating the conditions for yet another corporate feeding frenzy? Put bluntly, Has the world been transformed over the past three decades by lofty ideology or by lowly greed?
A definitive answer would require reading the minds of men like Dick Cheney and Paul Bremer, so I tend to dodge. The ideology in question holds that self-interest is the engine that drives society to its greatest heights. Isn't pursuing their own self-interest (and that of their campaign donors) compatible with that philosophy? That's the beauty: They don't have to choose. Unfortunately, this rarely satisfies graduate students looking for deeper meaning. Thankfully I now have a new escape hatch: quoting Alan Greenspan.
His autobiography, The Age of Turbulence, has been marketed as a mystery solved: The man who bit his tongue for eighteen years as head of the Federal Reserve was finally going to tell the world what he really believed. And Greenspan has delivered, using his book and the surrounding publicity as a platform for his "libertarian Republican" ideology, chiding George W. Bush for abandoning the crusade for small government and revealing that he became a policy-maker because he thought he could advance his radical ideology more effectively "as an insider, rather than as a critical pamphleteer" on the margins. Yet what is most interesting about Greenspan's story is what it reveals about the ambiguous role of ideas in the free-market crusade. Given that Greenspan is perhaps the world's most powerful living free-market ideologue, it is significant that his commitment to ideology seems rather thin and perfunctory--less zealous belief, more convenient cover story.
Much of the debate around Greenspan's legacy has revolved around the matter of hypocrisy, of a man preaching laissez-faire who repeatedly intervened in the market to save the wealthiest players. The economy that is Greenspan's legacy hardly fits the definition of a libertarian market but looks very much like another phenomenon described in his book: "When a government's leaders routinely seek out private-sector individuals or businesses and, in exchange for political support, bestow favors on them, the society is said to be in the grip of 'crony capitalism.'" He was talking about Indonesia under Suharto, but my mind went straight to Iraq under Halliburton. Greenspan is currently warning the world about a dangerous looming backlash against capitalism. Apparently, this has nothing at all to do with the policies of negligent deregulation that were his trademark. Nothing to do with stagnant wages due to free trade and weakened unions, nor with pensions lost to Enron or the dot-com crash, or homes seized in the subprime mortgage crisis. According to Greenspan, rampant inequality is caused by lousy high schools (which also has nothing to do with his ideology's war on the public sphere). I debated Greenspan on Democracy Now! recently and was stunned that this man who preaches the doctrine of personal responsibility refuses to take any at all.
Yet ideological contradictions are only relevant if Greenspan really is a true believer. I'm not convinced. Greenspan writes that as a student he had no interest in big ideas. Unlike his classmates who were in the thrall of Keynesianism with its promise of building a better world, Greenspan was simply good at math. He started doing research for powerful corporations; it was profitable, but Greenspan made no claims to a higher social contribution.
Then he discovered Ayn Rand. "What she did...was to make me think why capitalism is not only efficient and practical, but also moral," he said in 1974.
Rand's ideas about the "utopia of greed" allowed Greenspan to keep doing what he was doing but infused his corporate service with a powerful new sense of mission: Making money wasn't just good for him; it was good for society as a whole. Of course, the flip side of this is the cruel disregard for those left behind. "Undeviating purpose and rationality achieve joy and fulfillment," Greenspan wrote as a zealous new convert. "Parasites who persistently avoid either purpose or reason perish as they should." Was it this mindset that served him well as he supported shock therapy in Russia (72 million impoverished) and in East Asia after the 1997 economic crisis (24 million pushed into unemployment)?
Rand has played this role of greed-enabler for countless disciples. According to the New York Times, Atlas Shrugged, her novel that ends with the hero tracing a dollar sign in the air like a benediction, stands as "one of the most influential business books ever written." Since Rand is simply pulped-up Adam Smith, her influence on men like Greenspan suggests an interesting possibility. Perhaps the true purpose of the entire literature of trickle-down theory is to liberate entrepreneurs to pursue their narrowest advantage while claiming global altruistic motives--not so much an economic philosophy as an elaborate, retroactive rationale.
What Greenspan teaches us is that trickle-down isn't really an ideology after all. It's more like the friend we call after some embarrassing excess so that they will tell us, "Don't beat yourself up: You deserve it."