2007 - %3, April

EMI Ups the Quality and Drops the DRM

| Mon Apr. 2, 2007 1:59 PM EDT

mojo-photo-drm.jpg
Well, ask and ye shall receive. I was just complaining about the low quality of 128kbps iTunes mp3s, and blammo: today EMI announced it will be offering its catalog on iTunes in 256kbps quality for the slightly increased price of $1.29 per song. The big news is that the tracks will also be free of the crippling DRM (Digital Rights Management) protection that many have complained about, but of course the other news is that a record label has finally broken the 99-cent barrier on iTunes, something they've lobbied for unsuccessfully for a while. Hopefully this won't lead to more label influence over prices ("hey, that Beyonce track looks hot, up the price to $3.50 for the next 7 hours!") but if they're willing to make this kind of tradeoff, I'm willing to pay 30 cents.

Somebody does need to tell the Times that Damon Albarn is now two bands removed from Blur, though.

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Supreme Court Chastises Bush Administration For "Arbitrary, Capricious" Handling of Climate Change

| Mon Apr. 2, 2007 1:51 PM EDT

Even the Supreme Court justices appointed by Bush I and Bush II (Thomas, Roberts, and Alito) couldn't stop the Court from repudiating the current Administration's head-in-the–sand approach for dealing with climate change. Today's 5-4 decision in Massachusetts v. EPA, called the administration's approach "arbitrary, capricious ... or otherwise not in accordance with law" and found that the EPA does in fact have the authority to regulate greenhouse-causing gases under the Clean Air Act.

The majority opinion contends that the "EPA has offered no reasoned explanation for its refusal to decide whether greenhouse gases cause or contribute to climate change." While the decision does not necessarily compel the EPA to regulate carbon emissions (and don't hold your breath), the ruling is significant since it frees the hand of the next President to regulate carbon and methane emissions without Congress passing additional legislation.

What the decision also does is clear the way for states to reduce greenhouse emissions with initiatives of their own. In the past, states like California that have asked the EPA for special permission to apply more stringent carbon emission limits on automobiles have been stymied by the Administration's claim that the Clean Air Act does not provide the authority to do so.

—Koshlan Mayer-Blackwell

Canadian Baby Seal Hunt Likely Scrapped as Ice Melts, Pups Drown

| Mon Apr. 2, 2007 1:04 PM EDT

CNN running a story this morning from Reuters that Canada may be forced to halt the first stage of its annual hunt of baby fur seals. Because the Canadians' have seen reason? Frack no. They still want to kill at least the 325,000 they got last year. Because the ice has melted and it's likely all the baby seals have drowned. How's that for global warming for you? The melt took place in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Stage two is set for the waters off Newfoundland later this month.

Iraqi Civilian Deaths Up in March

| Mon Apr. 2, 2007 10:25 AM EDT

Data compiled by Iraqi ministries indicate civilian deaths in Iraq totaled 1,861 for the month of March, up from 1,645 in February. That 13% increase comes in the face of repeated claims from the government that that the surge is working, and claims from U.S. diplomats that violence is down 25% in Iraq.

More in-depth figures on the number of Iraqis dead and on the number of soldiers lost from each country in the coalition can be found here. Mother Jones coverage of the difficulty of counting Iraqi civilian deaths (and the government's unwillingness to do so) can be found here and here.

On the Internet, Nobody Knows You're a Werewolf

| Mon Apr. 2, 2007 3:41 AM EDT

Women writers are subjected to so many more ad hominems than male writers that the Editor in Chief at Salon.com call them "ad feminems." Joan Walsh weighs in on what difference having a female byline makes.

"When Salon automated its letters, ideas that had only seen our in boxes at Salon were suddenly turning up on the site. And I couldn't deny the pattern: Women came in for the cruelest and most graphic criticism and taunting," Walsh writes. "Is there really any doubt that women writing on the Web are subject to more abuse than men, simply because they're women? ...I say this as a mouthy woman who has tried for a long time to pretend otherwise: that Web misogyny isn't especially rampant -- but even if it is, it has no effect on me, or any other strong, sane woman doing her job."

As much as pretending otherwise may help brush it off, like the old "sticks and stones" rhyme, Walsh points out how verbal attacks corrode a writer's confidence, security, and credibility.

Too often hate speech is framed and dismissed as free speech. For starters, the First Amendment doesn't protect death threats and libel. Also, the First Amendment doesn't call for us to honor haters any more than the Second Amendment calls for us to admire our neighbor's collection of assault rifles.

What's disturbing is that it's not just peripheral geeks like RageBoy who turn into werewolves behind their PCs. It's grade schoolers in Novato, Calif., who drove an epileptic girl into home-schooling. It's even Yale Law students.