2009 - %3, March

Hayfever? Just Blow Your… Knob

| Tue Mar. 31, 2009 9:22 PM EDT
Health alert: Spring and hayfever go together like, well, sex and sneezes. All those flowers. All that green grass. Kachew.

But, guys, you get a break on this one. A neurologist from Tabriz Medical University in Iran proposes that a well-timed ejaculation will clear your bunged nose. Too.

The logic goes like this: the nose and genitals are both connected to the sympathetic nervous system that controls certain reflexes. A blocked nose is caused by swollen and inflamed nasal blood vessels irritated by an infection or by pollen in the air. But during ejaculation the sympathetic nervous system constricts blood vessels across the body. That should soothe the swollen nasal blood vessels, freeing the airway for deep, er, that is, normal breathing.

Sina Zarrintan, the neurologist, says he hasn't actually tested this yet. Right, and the pope doesn't have wet dreams.

But if it works, whacking off could offer many advantages over decongestant drugs, which can cause hypertension and make congestion worse over the course of a few days, writes Zarrintan in Medical Hypotheses.

He suggests masturbating or having sex whenever the symptoms are bad enough to warrant another ejaculation. And when aren't they? The patient can adjust the number of intercourses or masturbations depending on the severity of the symptoms, he says. It's the best scrip of all: Take as needed.

Work this in with a little sneeze fetishism and it gets downright fun to be miserable in the spring—if you're a guy, that is. Global warming gets some much-needed kink.

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Feminism's Frankensteins

| Tue Mar. 31, 2009 9:22 PM EDT

"Feminism's Frankensteins" is Courtney E. Martin's phrase, not mine. And she's right.

Writing in TAP, she argues that, "The era of the singular feminist agenda is over. But that doesn't mean gender-based activism is."

If it's Tuesday, that means the feminist movement has been declared DOA again. This time, though, the analysis is actually worthy. Usually what that means is that women are not, and perhaps never were, discriminated against; the movement is over because it is no longer, or never was, needed. In other words: Bitches, quit your bitching. The absolute worst of these 'feminism is dead' dirges are the ones written by young female wannabees with nothing to offer the world but their quest for unearned fame. Martin's saying something quite different. Attending an old school feminist forum, she writes:

Madonna vs. Malawi, Part Two

| Tue Mar. 31, 2009 6:31 PM EDT

Madonna's been all over the papers this week as she waits for Malawi to finalize legal proceedings for the adoption of her fourth child, a 14-month old girl named Mercy James. This comes on the heels of increased skepticism over the legality of her prior Malawi adoption: her son David Banda, age three, has a birth father who now claims he regrets the adoption. The rules for international adoption in Malawi are vague, but the 12-month mandatory waiting period (which Madonna appears to have bypassed) is not. Thus, because of her star treatment, Madonna's adoptions have been treated with scorn rather than humanitarian envy. She's even been called out by fellow adoption-happy celeb Angelina Jolie.

Though the recent flurry of celebrity adoptions has definitely brought attention to issues surrounding international adoptions, the results have been mixed. It’s hard to focus on the sinister undertones of taking a child out of a poverty-stricken country with high infant mortality rates. In the Republic of Malawi, for example, almost 12 percent of the population is infected with AIDS, medical care is minimal, and life expectancy hovers around a dismal 43 years. 

But cynics argue that the benefits of international adoption, particularly when the adoptive parents are celebrities, rarely outweigh the costs. CNN wrote of Madonna's first adoption of David Banda in 2006:

Regardless of the motives of their adoptive parents, a child picked up from a developing country and dropped straight into the inevitable media spotlight becomes an unwitting poster child for poverty...
Although Madonna has pledged $3 million to the Raising Malawi charity, which aims to provide care and support for the country's one million (out of a total population of 12 million) orphans, even that generosity is tempered by the fact that the multi-million album-selling artist already has a fortune estimated to be worth some $460 million.

And, as Scott Carney reported in our March/April 2009 issue, vaguely worded international laws and cash-hungry adoption agencies make it very difficult to assure that a child in a poor country has been truly surrendered instead of trafficked. A little bit of extra research, Carney suggests, and adherence to international guidelines could save parents, biological and adoptive, a lifetime of regret.



Treasury Resisting TARP Transparency, Oversight

| Tue Mar. 31, 2009 5:06 PM EDT | Scheduled to publish Tue Mar. 31, 2009 5:06 PM EDT

At a hearing of the Senate Committee on Finance on Tuesday, two oversight chiefs delivered harsh criticism of the Treasury Department's lack of accountability and transparency in its Troubled Asset Relief Program.

Neil Barofsky, the Special Inspector General of TARP, testified that the Treasury has yet to require TARP recipients to deliver reports disclosing exactly how they are spending taxpayer money. "[C]omplaints that it was impractical or impossible for banks to detail how they used TARP funds were unfounded," Barofsky said. "While some banks indicated that they had procedures for monitoring their use of TARP money, others did not but were still able to give information on their use of funds."

GAO: Bailed-out Banks Paying Dividends

| Tue Mar. 31, 2009 4:39 PM EDT | Scheduled to publish Tue Mar. 31, 2009 4:39 PM EDT

On Tuesday, the Government Accountability Office released its latest report on the Troubled Asset Relief Program. Like everything the GAO puts out, the report is long and wonky, but to summarize, the GAO thinks the Treasury is a bit disorganized: It hasn't hired asset managers to oversee bailout repayment agreements and needs a better communication strategy "should it need additional funding" for TARP.

This is hardly surprising considering it was just last week that President Obama moved to fill the high-level vacancies at the Treasury. But it's hard to see why the Treasury wasn't on top of filling those spots sooner: the pool of available asset managers certainly hasn't run dry.

The most interesting nugget of information comes later in the report, where the GAO notes TARP recipients have paid the Treasury $2.9 billion in dividends through March 30. Around $2.5 billion of that was paid by banks that gave the government preferred stock in exchange for bailout funds—the exchange otherwise known as the Capital Purchase Program. The Treasury has paid out $199 billion in CPP funds so far, so the government has recouped 1.25 percent of its money in the last six months.

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Rachel Maddow Video 8: Who She Trusts to Report the Bailout

| Tue Mar. 31, 2009 4:21 PM EDT

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Rachel Maddow Video 7: Would Lincoln Drink Pink Ladies?

| Tue Mar. 31, 2009 4:18 PM EDT

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