2008 - %3, January

Tuesday's Bemusing Music News Day

| Tue Jan. 8, 2008 4:56 PM EST

News

  • The Kinks' Dave Davies is denying rumors that the band may reunite; his brother and ex-bandmate Ray had told the press that the band members were considering "getting back together." Dave told NME that he and Ray "haven't even spoken in over 6 months… a tour hasn't even been discussed." Dave suffered a stroke four years ago but has continued a solo career.

  • Rappers Lupe Fiasco and Rhymefest are exchanging a war of words over support for Barack Obama, and of course it's all on their MySpace blogs. Fiasco told hip-hop news site SOHH.com that Obama "doesn't impress me" because of "his agendas the bombing of Iran and all that stuff." When confronted by Fest, Fiasco expressed cynicism about the democratic process: "I have no faith in it."
  • The former Jamaica Broadcasting Corp seems to have lost a "massive collection" of 1970s music, including original recordings by Bob Marley and Peter Tosh as well as videos of historic concerts and events. The archive was apparently stolen, with a former program manager for the JBC calling the theft a "national disgrace."
  • Eminem was in the hospital over the holidays due to complications from pneumonia. Huh?
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    Flu Deaths Run in the Family

    | Tue Jan. 8, 2008 4:45 PM EST

    1918Flu_photo.jpg Everyone gets the flu. Some are more likely to die from it, reports New Scientist. A study published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases looked at death certificates and family records going back 100 years and found that blood relatives of flu victims were more likely to die than nonrelatives, even during different flu outbreaks. Risks increased with relatedness: siblings were 74% more likely to die than unrelateds; blood uncles 22%; first cousins 16%. Victims' spouses were also more likely to die, probably because they lived in the same house. The team is tracking relatives of people who died recently to see if they too are at increased risk, and if flu vaccinations help…. Good question.

    Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent. You can read from her new book, The Fragile Edge, and other writings, here.

    Some Biofuels Worse Than Fossil Fuels

    | Tue Jan. 8, 2008 3:51 PM EST

    bio-fuel_6648.jpg Burning biofuels emits less greenhouse gasses than burning fossil fuels. But producing some biofuels is far more environmentally costly, according to a new study commissioned by the Swiss government and reviewed by researchers from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Science. In particular, sugarcane, US corn, Brazilian soy, and Malaysian palm oil may be worse overall than fossil fuels in environmental destruction, pollution, and damage to human health. The new study calculates the relative merits of 26 biofuels based on relative reduction of greenhouse-gas emissions and an environmental-impact index. The best alternatives include biofuels from residual products, such as recycled cooking oil and ethanol from grass or wood… Hmm. What are the chances we can be smart about this?

    Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent. You can read from her new book, The Fragile Edge, and other writings, here.

    The Danger of Having 'Civilians' Speak at Campaign Events

    | Tue Jan. 8, 2008 11:10 AM EST

    A former Edwards supporter, Francine Torge, introducing Hillary Clinton yesterday in Dover, NH:

    "Some people compare one of the other candidates to John F. Kennedy. But he was assassinated."

    The expected Clinton campaign disavowal came from Phil Singer, a spokesman:

    "We were not aware that this person was going to make those comments and disapprove of them completely. They were totally inappropriate."

    Whoops.

    Election Day in NH: Hillary's Last Hurrah?

    | Tue Jan. 8, 2008 10:29 AM EST

    Last night, at a rally near the Manchester airport, Hillary Clinton packed 'em in. A thousand or so people listened to her deliver a long speech outlining virtually every policy position she has ever mentioned during the campaign. On one level, it was an impressive performance. She demonstrated a command of policy and facts. She spoke passionately about her intellectual passions. On another level, it was, perhaps, too much too late. As at least two reporters in the room --including Mickey Kaus--quipped, it seemed she was delivering a State of the Union speech, particularly the sort that her husband use to give. Remember how he would go over a long laundry list of policy proposals? One of the biggest cheers of the night came when she said that if elected president she would make sure the federal student aide form wouldn't be too long.

    This was as good as she gets. The crowd was pumped--though it did lose some energy as she went on and on. (And on Election Day eve, you don't want to tire out supporters who have to get up early the next morning and start working for you.) She pointed out that she was the candidate who was strong enough and experienced enough to deliver the change that the American electorate yearns for. But she took no pot shots at her opponents. "Time to tell her story," a Clinton aide said to me.

    It's not such a bad story. And did the size of the crowd indicate she might just be able to pull out a win in New Hampshire? Once upon a time--that would be sixteen years ago--another Clinton became the self-proclaimed "comeback kid" of New Hampshire. (That was after placing second in New Hampshire. Talk about chutzpah!) There's no reporter in New Hampshire I've spoken to who thinks that HRC can pull it out. Instead, we discuss how big Barack Obama's win will be--and what the point spread will mean. Some political commentators claim that if Clinton can hold him to a 6-point or less win, she can claim a moral victory. I dunno. Seems to me that whatever the win is, as long as it's more than a close call, the important statistic will be this: 2 for 2.

    Where the Candidates Stand on Science

    | Mon Jan. 7, 2008 11:43 PM EST

    homepage.jpg A 10-page special report, "Science and the Next U.S. President" published in the journal Science profiles the nine leading candidates' stances on important scientific issues.

    "Science felt that it was important to find out what the presidential candidates think about issues that may not be part of their standard stump speeches but that are vital to the future of the country—from reducing greenhouse gas emissions to improving science and math education," said Jeffrey Mervis, deputy news editor, who oversees election coverage for the magazine's news department. "We hope that the coverage may also kick off a broader discussion of the role of science and technology in decisions being made in Washington and around the world."

    Clinton gave the most detailed examination of science policy that any presidential candidate has offered to date, emphasizing innovation to drive economic growth, proposing a $50 billion research and deployment fund for green energy (paid for by increasing federal taxes and royalties on oil companies), and establishing a national energy council to oversee federal climate and greentech research and deployment programs.

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    Pharma Spends Twice as Much on Marketing as Research

    | Mon Jan. 7, 2008 10:54 PM EST

    Pharma%20Industry%20Can%20Help%20States.jpg The US pharmaceutical industry spends almost twice as much on promotion as it does on research and development—contrary to the industry's claim. Researchers from York University, collecting data directly from industry and from doctors, found that in 2004 pharma spent $235.4 billion: 24.4% on promotion; 13.4% for research and development. They also found the number of promotional meetings jumped dramatically from 120,000 in 1998 to 371,000 in 2004. Further evidence the U.S. pharmaceutical industry is increasingly market driven—not driven by life-saving research. The authors also note the money spent on marketing is likely an underestimate.

    Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent. You can read from her new book, The Fragile Edge, and other writings, here.

    In New Hampshire, Negative Signs for Romney

    | Mon Jan. 7, 2008 10:50 PM EST

    romney-mccain-nh.jpg MANCHESTER, NH — If you were to guess the location of a Mitt Romney campaign event, what would it be?

    A corporate office? A country club?

    Try both. This morning in New Hampshire, the former Massachusetts Governor appeared at the Timberland world headquarters in Stratham, New Hampshire, and then moved to the Nashua Country Club in Nashua. His appearances in both locations, along with multiple events by Senator John McCain also held today, illustrate why Romney will likely get beaten by his main competitor in tomorrow's primary election.

    Romney has held campaign events at corporate headquarters before; a campaign official today could identify at least three, including today's at Timberland. The crowds are always sizable, said the official, and the campaign doesn't need to work to turn out attendees since they are already at the site for their day jobs. But if Governor Romney is anticipating a conservative and business-friendly audience, he's mistaken.

    For beginners, Timberland is a progressive company, committed to social responsibility. It uses soy-based inks and 100 percent recycled post-consumer waste fiber boxes. People attending today's event passed solar arrays out front and displays in the lobby that demonstrated how the company takes advantage of recycling opportunities (next to a giant pile of plastic bottles was a sign explaining that Timberland uses recycled plastic to make the lining of its boots). The company houses and sponsors the non-profit organization City Year.

    So when I headed into the event's auditorium, I suspected Romney wasn't hitting his target audience. Before the event began, I surveyed people and found I was right. Of the 17 people I spoke with, two said they were committed to Romney, one said she was leaning toward him, and the other 14 said they were "learning more about him," which could mean they were considering him or just playing hooky from work.

    Ten of the 17 called themselves independents, four said they were conservatives, and three said they were liberals. Not the right mix for someone who has tried to position himself to the right of his opponents on issues like national security, immigration, and gay marriage. After Romney finished speaking, he turned to the crowd for questions. People were slow to rise to their feet. Eventually, three people did ask questions, one of whom was distributing leaflets on Israel beforehand and used her question to promote her agenda. The same lack of excitement characterized Romney's crowds in Iowa a few days before he lost to Mike Huckabee in that state's caucuses.

    Afterwards, I poked my head into the cafeteria and found five City Year employees, all young men and women. I asked if any of them were more likely to vote for Romney after the event. I got grimaces and awkward giggles. Most stared at the table. None responded.

    How To Shrink a Fetus: Add Air Pollution

    | Mon Jan. 7, 2008 10:23 PM EST

    fetus2.jpgAs if we need more compelling reasons to clean up the air… A new study finds that exposure to air pollution significantly reduces the size of human fetuses. Ten years of research by scientists from the Queensland University of Technology in Australia and the Environmental Protection Agency in the US compared 15,000 ultrasound scans, and correlated fetus size with air pollution levels. The study was conducted within a 9-mile radius of the Australian city of Brisbane and found that mothers with a higher exposure to air pollution had fetuses that were, on average, smaller in terms of abdominal circumference, head circumference and femur length. "Birth weight is a major predictor of later health," says Dr Adrian Barnett of QUT, "bigger babies have been shown to have higher IQs in childhood and lower risk of cardiovascular disease in adulthood." Most of Brisbane's air pollution level comes from cars and trucks… As if we needed more reasons to rethink them.

    Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent. You can read from her new book, The Fragile Edge, and other writings, here.

    All Terror, All the Time Is Giving Americans Heart Failure

    | Mon Jan. 7, 2008 9:26 PM EST

    A new UC Irvine study suggests that the Bush Administration's attempts to intensify fears of terrorism for political gain have significantly contributed to Americans' heart problems.

    Researchers showed that stress responses to the 9/11 attacks—particularly those that persisted for years afterward—were linked to a 53 percent increase in cardiac ailments. The most common triggers of renewed stress were videos of the attacks in the media (thanks, Rudy!) and—you guessed it—the rise and fall of DHS' terror alert levels. All that politically opportunistic drum-beating has actually made us sick. Perhaps if Americans had universal health insurance, the government would think twice about such callous manipulation.

    One of the Irvine study's findings seems to provide more general insight about violence. The study was able to document post-traumatic responses among Americans who merely saw the attacks on TV. If, as the finding suggests, seeing violence happen to others with whom we identify can spur emotional distress and ill-health, that says a lot about what it's like to be black, or a woman, or a soldier in Iraq, doesn't it?