Salvation Army Strong-Arms Marriage

| Sat Dec. 6, 2008 6:15 PM EST

red_kettle.jpg Next time you see the dingaling bell ringers on the sidewalk, and before you drop your coin in the red kettle, consider this: If you're an officer for the Salvation Army, you also live Salvation Army. Meaning the country's second largest charity (behind the United Way) mandates that their leaders (not priests, mind you, business professionals) don't drink or smoke, and that they marry only other officers. This all because the charity is a devoutly religious one, founded by an evangelical Christian in 1865. Still, Salvation Army gets a hefty chunk of its budget from government funding (via faith-based funding that Obama says he'll expand) so the marriage restriction seems to fly in the face of employment discrimination principles.

Take Captain Johnny Harsh, the head of Salvation Army's Oshkosh, Wisconsin chapter. His wife, also a captain, died of a heart attack in June. Johnny has since fallen in love with a nurse he met on a Christian online dating site, a nurse who, incidentally, is not a Salvation Army officer. Still, they got engaged. (The harsh consequence after the jump.)

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Cell Phones Fry Memory

| Fri Dec. 5, 2008 9:27 PM EST

Rats exposed to mobile phone radiation for two hours a week for more than a year suffered memory loss. The findings may be related to earlier findings that microwave radiation from cell phones affects the blood-brain barrier.

The team from Lund University in Sweden previously found that albumin, a protein that acts as a transport molecule in the blood, leaks into brain tissue when lab animals are exposed to mobile phone radiation. Now they find damaged nerve cells in the cerebral cortex and in the hippocampus, the memory centers of the brain. Although the albumin leakage occurs directly after radiation, the nerve damage takes four to eight weeks to manifest.

Furthermore, the team discovered alterations in the activity of a large number of genes after cell phone radiation—not in individual genes but in groups that are functionally related. "We now see that things happen to the brains of lab animals after cell phone radiation. The next step is to try to understand why this happens," says Henrietta Nittby. She has a cell phone herself, but never holds it to her ear, using hands-free equipment instead. . . The lab animals, lacking opposable thumbs, have no choice. Oh, wait, aren't we all lab animals, in our own special way?

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent, lecturer, and 2008 winner of the PEN USA Literary Award, the Kiriyama Prize and the John Burroughs Medal.

MOJO VIDEO: Rallying to Unelect Obama

| Fri Dec. 5, 2008 4:52 PM EST

Obama-haters, conspiracy theorists, and old fashioned Constitution devotees that question Barack Obama's eligibility for the White House due to his birth status reached their collective apogee Friday morning in front of the Supreme Court. The justices were considering whether to put on the docket a New Jersey case that alleges Barack Obama was a dual American and British citizen at birth, and that he thus fails the ill-defined "natural-born citizen" standard demanded of presidents by Article II of the Constitution. Legal experts doubt that the case will move forward, but that didn't stop roughly 20 people from gathering on the steps of the Supreme Court building to wave flags, pray, say the pledge of allegiance, and generate as much media attention as they could.

— By Jonathan Stein and Tay Wiles

Joe Satriani Sues Coldplay for Plagiarism

| Fri Dec. 5, 2008 4:19 PM EST

mojo-photo-coldplaysatriani.jpgPoor Coldplay. They just got word that they had the biggest-selling album of the year on iTunes and the second-highest number of Grammy nominations, and then a little thing like copying somebody else's song has to go and get in the way of their celebration. Guitarist Joe Satriani has brought a suit against the British band, saying that the title track from Viva la Vida plagiarized one of his recent songs. From Reuters:

Satriani's copyright infringement suit, filed on Thursday in Los Angeles federal court, claims the Coldplay song "Viva La Vida" incorporates "substantial original portions" of his 2004 instrumental "If I Could Fly." The 52-year-old guitar virtuoso is seeking a jury trial, damages and "any and all profits" attributable to the alleged copyright infringement.

I'd just like to point out the Satriani song is from an album titled Is There Love In Space, a title that might actually be worse than Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends. Did Coldplay steal the idea for "crap" too? Anyhoo, the two songs are in the same key and have the same melody line; check out a YouTube video comparing the two songs and review previous plagiarism claims against Coldplay after the jump.

Friday Cat Blogging - 5 December 2008

| Fri Dec. 5, 2008 3:31 PM EST

FRIDAY CATBLOGGING....Last week, you'll remember, I told you that I bought a cat-shaped pod for my mother's new kittens, but when I got it home both of my cats immediately claimed it. So here they are. As you can see, it's mostly Domino who curls up in their latest new toy, but occasionally Inkblot eyes it covetously (the tenth commandment doesn't apply to cats). No fights yet, though.

In other news, Alex Massie insists that chicken-blogging will be the new sensation of 2009. Perhaps in socialist hellholes with national health services that will be true. But here in the land of the free? Please.

Email Madness From the Afro-Sphere

| Fri Dec. 5, 2008 3:16 PM EST

Authorities are planning to open the entire length of the National Mall for Obama's inauguration, a historic first. Planners are estimating that 1.5-5 million folks will be visiting DC for that occasion. (Nice ballpark figure, huh?)

I got the following joke email about it from one of those relatives. The kind who fill your inbox with miracle cures, urban myths Snopes wouldn't dignify with a debunking, and Protestant chauvinism too appalling to reply to. (Yesterday's was a shaggy dog joke about atheists suing for a holiday of their own and being informed by the judge that, as non-believers, they already had one: April 1. Hardy har.) But now I'm glad I hadn't blocked their address. This one made my day.

Since Obama's election, the afro-sphere has been abuzz with joyful outbursts, but this one is the only one to really touch me. It's a trifle, but it's so exuberant and paints such an eloquent picture of blacks' sense of validation as Americans and their sense of family with the Obamas, it makes its own gravy. Pretending to scold, it is instead a clever, jubilant way of celebrating black culture and bragging about having a homey Prez, and makes its peace with individual blacks' inability to lay hands on the magic brother. It says: We can't all be with you there, Obama. But we're there in spirit. There's a party going on in black America.

Here it is; enjoy.

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More Mortgage Woes

| Fri Dec. 5, 2008 3:01 PM EST

MORE MORTGAGE WOES....Unemployment rose in November by the highest amount since the first Arab oil embargo, and that's making the housing situation even worse:

A record one in 10 American homeowners with a mortgage were either at least a month behind on their payments or in foreclosure at the end of September...up from 9.2 percent in the April-June quarter, and up from 7.3 percent a year earlier.

Distress in the home loan market started about two years ago as increasing numbers of adjustable-rate loans reset to higher interest rates. But the latest wave of delinquencies is coming from the surge in unemployment.

This is why allowing Detroit to collapse would be such bad news. But we still need a decent plan to turn them into going concerns.

OJ Lyrics, Anyone?

| Fri Dec. 5, 2008 2:55 PM EST

It's too little, too late, but OJ's finally going to do time. For that stupid, stupid Vegas robbery.

I bet OJ's all kindsa pissed off. He's getting zero points for not murdering all involved, including his fellow jackasses, the room service waiters, the maids on turn-down service, and any passing valets. At other hotels.

Bailing Out Detroit

| Fri Dec. 5, 2008 2:04 PM EST

BAILING OUT DETROIT....John Judis, feeling in a rantish mood this morning, wants to know why we're dragging our feet on rescuing the auto industry. If it fails, he says, it won't be like the semiconductor industry in the 80s after the Reagan administration restricted imports and subsidized new research:

The upshot was that the U.S. did lose out to Asia on low-cost semiconductors, but it retained its lead in the most advanced computer technology....That's not going to happen with automobiles and trucks. With them, it is not going to be possible to abandon manufacturing while retaining the ability to engineer and administer. The industry will disappear the way the American television industry disappeared. American workers and engineers will lose their ability to compete in a major durable goods industry — and that's not a good thing.

Other countries seem to understand this. French President Nicholas Sarkozy announced a $33 billion bailout package yesterday. France is not in as bad shape as the United States, but Sarkozy is worried about the French auto industry and is promising to protect it in exchange for a commitment from it to produce cars in France rather than to outsource the production of them.

Speaking for myself, I guess part of my problem is arguments like this one. Will the demise of the Big Three really decimate our design and engineering abilities? Was the loss of the television industry really that big a deal? Do we really want to follow the French lead of bailing out their perpetually ailing national champions year after year?

I guess I want to see a different argument. I don't mind spending the money that much — what's $34 billion between friends? especially during a world historic economic collapse? — but I want to hear a reasonably plausible explanation of how Detroit is going to become viable again in the face of a massive global oversupply of auto manufacturing capacity. Someone's car production is going to have to fall pretty steeply over the next few years, after all, and I want to hear a plan for how it's going to be Germany's or Korea's, not ours.

Even a great plan would only be an absolute minimum requirement, but at least it's a minimum requirement. If we're going to bail these guys out, there needs to be at least, say, a 25% chance that the restructuring plan will produce healthy, going concerns five years from now. I'm not sure I've seen that plan yet, and if being 30 days away from running out of cash isn't enough incentive for GM to produce one, just exactly what is it going to take?

Don't Just Limit Executive Compensation. Limit Financial Industry Compensation

| Fri Dec. 5, 2008 2:04 PM EST

Gao Xiqing, president of the China Investment Corporation, speaking to James Fallows:

I have to say it: you have to do something about pay in the financial system. People in this field have way too much money.... It distorts the talents of the country. The best and brightest minds go to lawyering, go to M.B.A.s. And that affects our country, too! Many of the brightest youngsters come to me and say, "Okay, I want to go to the U.S. and get into business school, or law school." I say, "Why? Why not science and engineering?" They say, "Look at some of my primary-school classmates. Their IQ is half of mine, but they're in finance and now they're making all this money." So you have all these clever people going into financial engineering, where they come up with all these complicated products to sell to people.

Another benefit of working in finance, other than the spectacular paychecks? Job security. You create the economic crisis, and people in manufacturing and construction lose their jobs.