Blogs

Court Upholds Alabama Sex Toy Ban

| Thu Feb. 15, 2007 9:14 PM EST

A federal appeals court just upheld Alabama's sex toy ban, defending the state's interest in "preserving and promoting public morality," i.e. invading your privacy so you don't do it yourself. That's bad news for Sherri Williams, the adult store (NSFW) owner who's the lead plantiff on the case (and whom we wrote about last year.) This could be the end of the road for the case—the Supreme Court has already refused to touch it.

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Global Warming Vintage 1958

| Thu Feb. 15, 2007 8:54 PM EST

Who says we haven't known about global warming until Al Gore? Check out this 1958 Frank Capra short.

Does it Matter if BP Sleeps With UC Berkeley and Californians Fund Their Hotel Room?

| Thu Feb. 15, 2007 7:48 PM EST

Nature.com, website of the British science journal Nature, reports on growing concerns about oil-giant BP's $50-million energy research partnership with the University of California Berkeley. On February 1, BP announced it will fund a decade of alternative-energy research by Berkeley and its partners, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign —fueling worries about the affair.

Some fear that the pact — for which final details are still being worked out — could be a repeat of a controversial $25-million contract that the university entered into in 1998 with the biotech giant Novartis. That deal expired in 2003, amid criticism that the academic freedom of some university researchers had been compromised.

It's not uncommon for industry to fund academic research. It is unusual for funders to shack up with researchers—a cozy arrangement California's governor Arnold Schwarzenegger hopes to promote by asking the state for $40 million in bonds to pay for the Energy Biosciences Institute, where BP-funded researchers would work.

The building would house university professors and students, along with perhaps 50 industry scientists. Industry funds a lot of research on public and private university campuses, and it's fairly common for companies to have labs located near institutes where industry and academic researchers work together — as Intel and Yahoo do at Berkeley, for example. But it's rare for industry to house its scientists in public buildings on state university property.

The ménage-a-trois between government, industry and academia disturbs Berkeley entomologist Miguel Altieri, who fears the deal is another step in the

"rapid, unchecked and unprecedented global corporate alignment of the world's largest agribusiness, biotech, petroleum and automotive industries". He fears that for "a relatively small investment", BP can benefit from public resources and cash in on inventions developed with taxpayers' money.

More controversial still is the bidding non-war that led to Berkeley's win, says Nature.

The BP competition occurred alongside a volatile political campaign in California to create a $4-billion public research programme into alternative energy sources, funded via a severance tax on oil firms. Energy companies spent $108 million on advertisements against the measure, Proposition 87, on last November's ballot. Schwarzenegger refused to back Proposition 87, and critics are upset that, instead, he is supporting a deal that they see as enabling one of those energy companies to benefit from public facilities. Schwarzenegger argues that the BP deal fits California's plans for developing cleaner energy in an economical manner.

The losing bidders were the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; the University of California, San Diego; Imperial College London and the University of Cambridge, UK. Imperial's rector Richard Sykes notes that his university had costed its bid so no public funds would be used. He says BP told Imperial that its bid wasn't economical. "We thought that was interesting," he comments.

Republicans Say Pelosi's New Blog Violates Copyright Laws

| Thu Feb. 15, 2007 5:28 PM EST

As Jonathan writes today, Nancy Pelosi's new blog, "The Gavel," is "a boon to C-SPAN junkies who can't watch TV during work hours." Just think, more accessible wonk, and first-hand. Well, some are less excited than others. DailyKos has the press release that the Republican Study Committee spammed the media with today. "The RSC spoke with C-SPAN today, who confirmed that these videos violate C-SPAN copyright/trademark of the House proceedings." I'm not sure I would expect anything less from the far right wing of the party. Stay tuned. I'm sure there's more to come.

Tennessee To Require Death Certificates For Aborted Fetuses

| Thu Feb. 15, 2007 5:14 PM EST

Via Feministing, comes this pretty frightening tidbit. The state of Tennessee is proposing legislation to create death certificates for aborted fetuses. No, really. Republicans tout the bill as a way to track how many abortions are performed. As Feministing blogger, Jessica, points outs, the number of abortions is already reported, so really it's just a way to infringe on the privacy of women; creating public records with their social security numbers and all.

Brit Awards Conspiracy?

| Thu Feb. 15, 2007 5:07 PM EST

Lily Allen, the up-and-coming reggae-pop singer whose recent show at the Great American in San Francisco I thoroughly enjoyed (and, full disclosure, DJed before), was snubbed at the Brit Awards last night in London. Turns out she had predicted in advance that she wouldn't win a single trophy and blamed record industry politics, telling MTV UK that because the voting juries were made up of "industry insiders... predominantly from Universal," she wouldn't win, since she's on EMI. Music blog Stereogum did some math and added up how many of the Brit awards went to Universal artists: a somewhat eyebrow-raising 61%. Hmmm.

So of course one can't help but wonder: any conspiracies back here in the States at the recent Grammys? Well, I did some math and added up basically all the pop and jazz categories, although I didn't include the random gospel and Norteno stuff because I got tired. Out of the 56 categories I tallied, the results were:

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Iraq Vets Trying Technology to Regrow Fingers

| Thu Feb. 15, 2007 3:39 PM EST

With amputations an all too common injury in this war, scientists are hoping that new technology may one day lead to full limb regeneration. Read about at The Blue Marble.

Edwards, Obama Keep It Virtual

| Thu Feb. 15, 2007 3:37 PM EST

John Edwards just lost the blogosphere, but he's already staked out his place in the virtual realm of Second Life. Isn't there something ironic about talking about the "two Americas" from inside an alternate world? But then, it's a lot less expensive to build a mansion in SL. Not to be outcourted by a man who already has the hair of an avatar, Barack Obama's just launched his version of MySpace called— yes, really—MyBarackObama. Beacuse Obama belongs to all of us. Even the lurkers.

myobama.gif

Edwards, Obama Keep It Virtual

| Thu Feb. 15, 2007 3:37 PM EST

John Edwards just lost the blogosphere, but he's already staked out his place in the virtual realm of Second Life. Isn't there something ironic about talking about the "two Americas" from inside an alternate world? But then, it's a lot less expensive to build a mansion in SL. Not to be outcourted by a man who already has the hair of an avatar, Barack Obama's just launched his version of MySpace called— yes, really—MyBarackObama. Beacuse Obama belongs to all of us. Even the lurkers.

myobama.gif

New Technology May Help Iraq Vets Regrow Limbs

| Thu Feb. 15, 2007 3:30 PM EST

We all know that animals such as salamanders and newts can regrow body parts, but humans? An experimental technology using extracellular matrix—a fine powder derived from pig bladders—may lead to just that.

Thus far, the growth has been limited to soft tissue and blood vessels, and the only human test was on a doctor's brother who had (conveniently) chopped off 3/8 of an inch of the top of a finger. By using extracellular matrix, the missing part regrew in just four months. Except for a scar, "it was like the finger I always had," he said.

Less than half an inch of finger may not sound like a lot, but for the five Iraq vets testing the technology at a center in Texas it may mean the difference between fumbling for a pencil (or a fork, a hammer, etc.) and being able to pick it up. And as amputations are a key injury in this war, scientists are hoping that the new technology may one day lead to full limb regeneration. Stem cells are of course an important part of this debate. "Fetuses can regenerate just about everything," a scientist involved in the extracellular matrix therapy said. Most recently, human stem cells implanted in rats' damaged spinal cords reproduced and fused with the rats' nervous systems to repair function. This gives hope that paralyzed GIs may one day be able to regain at least some of their mobility instead of having to rely on expensive prosthesis.

With all the potential of biotechnological help for vets, why is Bush not behind stem cell technology? Bush says he won't allow the intentional destruction of human embryos, but he seems perfectly happy to witness the mental and physical destruction of the nation's young men and women. Bush's opposition to stem cells is not just hurting those injured today, but may actually be keeping researchers from helping others down the line.

—Jen Phillips