2007 - %3, April

Department of Veterans Affairs Backs Down, Allows Pentacles On Headstones

| Sat Apr. 28, 2007 1:53 PM PDT

In March of 2006, I reported that the widow of a Nevada National Guardsman shot down in Afghanistan was trying to get permission from the Department of Veterans Affairs to have a pentacle engraved on her husband's headstone. Her request was denied.

Both the ACLU and Americans United for Separation of Church and State filed lawsuits against the Department of Veterans Affairs on behalf of families whose loved ones' headstones remained blank. The ACLU's suit involved three individuals and two churches. The DVA settled the suit brought by Americans United, an act which automatically settled the ACLU suit.

Under the terms of the settlement, which was reached April 23, the DVA will add the pentacle to its list of approved emblems of belief, and will provide appropirate headstones to the families who filed the lawsuits.

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Provo, Utah Business Community Forms Blacklist Of Protesting Students

| Sat Apr. 28, 2007 10:44 AM PDT

First, the Provo School District denied a venue to Brigham Young University students who wanted a place to hold an alternative commencement ceremony. The students, who did not want to attend the official ceremony with speaker Dick Cheney, had been promised space at a local high school, but then a memo suddenly appeared, telling all principals to deny use of their schools for the event. An anonymous member of the Provo School Board says that, in denying space to the students, the board is violating its own rental policy.

But that was just the beginning of the story. A local businesswoman has tipped off the students that their names are now also on a "do not hire" list circuated by local businesses. "Many businesses are noting the names involved," she says.

Coachella Wrapup - Friday

| Sat Apr. 28, 2007 3:29 AM PDT

Good morning from Indio. It's Party Ben, reporting at 2:30 a.m., so please forgive the poor grammar or wonky punctuation.

Coachella, it should be said, contains multitudes, and I don't just mean 60,000 hipster kids wandering around the desert. With so much music happening all at once, your experience of the festival is shaped by your choices, your luck, and how fast you can walk. So I, along with my intrepid photographer Kristi, tried to sample as many performers as possible. Here's what we saw on the first day of the first three-day Coachella in the event's 8-year history.

Nagi Noda and Jack White Team Up to Pimp Coke Prettily

| Fri Apr. 27, 2007 3:12 PM PDT


Highly acclaimed director Nagi Noda is known for her whimsical eye and is the creative genius behind many fantasy laden art and video projects. Her most notable works include the short film Fitness Video and music videos for artists such as the Scissors Sisters: "She's My Man", Tiga: "Far from Home", and the brillant Yuki: "Sentimental Journey" video that inspired Noda's latest work--a commercial for Coke featuring music by Unibloggal heartthrob Jack White. For the most part I hate ads which is why I praise my DVR up and down every night, but if I have to be subjected to the art of marketing, I at least appreciate when it's artful.

—Laurin Asdal

True Heroes

| Fri Apr. 27, 2007 2:20 PM PDT

They get no recording contracts, but $125,000, good publicity, and a trip to San Francisco.
These folks are seriously idol-worthy:

2007 Goldman Prizewinners
goldmangroup.jpg
From left, front row: Julio Cusurichi Palacios secured a rainforest reserve in Peru. Sophia Rabliauskas halted logging in Canada. Tsetsegee Munkhbayar shut down mines polluting waterways in Mongolia.
From left, back row: Hammerskjoeld Simwinga curbed elephant poaching in Zambia. Willie Corduff stopped a Shell Oil pipeline in Ireland. Orri Vigfússon slowed salmon overfishing in Iceland.

What's at Stake in the Farm Bill

| Fri Apr. 27, 2007 2:06 PM PDT

Americans, their media, even most of their legislators, ignore the farm bill. But what's at stake is much more than farms and farmers. It's everything from obesity to immigration, with clean water and land-use in between. The farm bill subsidizes overproduction of soy and corn, but does nothing to promote fresh produce. It makes the most unhealthy foods the cheapest. It has pushed millions of Mexican farmers off their land. It determines what happens on nearly half the private land in America. This story by Michael Pollan in the New York Times Magazine is a good read.

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Bush's FBI/DOJ Neglect Hate Crimes and Other Civil Rights Cases

| Fri Apr. 27, 2007 11:25 AM PDT

A few weeks back, Jonathan wrote about Bush being soft on crime, especially white-collar crimes. Following 9/11, GW restructured the FBI, tasking it with counter-terrorism efforts. Because the bureau was given no additional funds to handle the increased work-load, something had to go. Well, it turns out the FBI hasn't just neglected bank fraud and ID theft, civil rights cases have been ignored as well. Seattle Post Intelligencer reports that there were "two-thirds fewer investigations targeting abusive police officers, cross-burners and other purveyors of hate from 2001 to 2005." According to the FBI, it wasn't just the budget crunch that lead to the decrease, but that they gave up on investigating these types of crime because only 10 percent of the cases referred to the Justice Department were prosecuted. As Jonathan noted, the DOJ was maybe too busy with "show trial terror prosecutions" or was it the politicization of the department that had them otherwise engaged?

The Real Headline from the Dems' Debate: "Nothing Happened"

| Fri Apr. 27, 2007 7:51 AM PDT

Every news outlet seems to be leading with the debate the Democratic presidential candidates had in South Carolina last night. The reporters had to mine a thoroughly uneventful evening for a news hook, and so if you look around the web you'll find stuff like, "Everyone attacked Obama!" or "Obama was great, Hillary was awful!" or "Democrats target Bush!" Or whatever. In reality, here's what happened: nothing.

Obama was Obama. Edwards was Edwards. Clinton was Clinton. They didn't lash out at anyone except President Bush, which they've been doing every day for months. Richardson talks too much. Joe Biden knows what he's talking about, but has no chance. Dennis Kucinich doesn't talk about issues, he talks about philosophies and how they lead to positions on issues. He doesn't have a chance either. Chris Dodd was a non-entity. Mike Gravel (pronounced Gruh-VELL) is crazy and hilarious and you don't know who he is. But let's emphasize this, he's really crazy. Brian Williams was a fine moderator until the last ten minutes, when he let things get out of control and Obama and Kucinich started bickering about bombing people.

Everyone was so careful and timid and uninterested in attacking their opponents that they could have debated for three days instead of 90 minutes and there wouldn't have been a single worthwhile news hook. And that's all you need to know.

Illegal Drugs Making a Legal Comeback

| Thu Apr. 26, 2007 8:41 PM PDT

shroom.jpg

This is trippy. Time Magazine asks, "Was Timothy Leary right?" LSD and Ecstasy are making a comeback in high-level psychiatric research.

Last year two top journals, the Archives of General Psychiatry and the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, published papers showing clear benefits from the use of psychedelics to treat mental illness. Both were small studies, just 27 subjects total. But the Archives paper--whose lead author, Dr. Carlos Zarate Jr., is chief of the Mood and Anxiety Disorders Research Unit at NIMH--found "robust and rapid antidepressant effects" that remained for a week after depressed subjects were given ketamine (colloquial name: Special K or usually just k). In the other study, a team led by Dr. Francisco Moreno of the University of Arizona gave psilocybin (the merrymaking chemical in psychedelic mushrooms) to obsessive-compulsive-disorder patients, most of whom later showed "acute reductions in core OCD symptoms." Now researchers at Harvard are studying how Ecstasy might help alleviate anxiety disorders, and the Beckley Foundation, a British trust, has received approval to begin what will be the first human studies with LSD since the 1970s.

Legal, clinical studies, that is. People never stopped "studying" LSD at home. The intersection of illegal drugs and prescription medicine is fascinating, because the difference between them is not material. It's one of authority. What's illegal about most narcotics, of course, is not taking them, specifically, but taking them unsupervised. So many now-illegal drugs got a head start in the mental health field, including LSD, Ecstasy, and cocaine. While elementary schools in recent years have legally forced parents to make their children take Ritalin, adults have been legally prosecuted for crumbling up and snorting it.

Here's a story about a girl forced to take drugs. And here's a story about a medicine people are denied.

Meet the "Messengers of Orgasm"

| Thu Apr. 26, 2007 8:00 PM PDT

If you haven't found your clit by adulthood, it might be worth seeking some guidance. That little nub can be hard to find, and cultural and religious mores have shrouded it even further. But paying $2,000? Living in a community of spiritual supporters? Practicing "orgasmic meditation" every day under the direction of a guru? The for-profit One Taste Urban Retreat Center in SOMA sounds less like feminist consciousness-raising than a self-help scam. Rife with jargon such as obnosing, chargey, and open-source sensuality, this story by Mary Spicuzza is a fun read.