Blogs

Oliver Stone's W: Will It Be Better than "Lil' Bush"?

| Thu May 8, 2008 5:26 PM EDT

mojo-photo-ewbush.jpgEntertainment Weekly has a "first look" at Oliver Stone's W, the upcoming feature on our most awesomest president ever, starting Josh Brolin as the smirking W himself. Of course, by "First Look," EW is stretching things a bit, since, as they say, "shooting begins in less than two weeks." However, it sounds like Stone is trying to get the movie turned around in record time, with a release possibly coming "as early as October." EW's article is six long pages; so I've collected some highlights after the jump:

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Grand Theft Auto IV Makes More Money Than Anything Ever

| Thu May 8, 2008 4:48 PM EDT

mojo-photo-grandtheft.jpgWell, almost. Billboard magazine reports that first-week sales for the latest installment in the "Grand Theft Auto" videogame series has outperformed even the most optimistic of predictions, making more than $500 million in sales the first week. Billboard says that's 6 million copies, but it's $60 on Amazon, and that works out to $360 million, but who knows how they count these things. Either way, it's a new first-week record for a game, smashing the previous high mark set by "Halo 3" of $300 million.

For comparison's sake, let's just take a look at some other cultural products and institutions and their associated monetary figures, after the jump:

Guns Don't Kill People, Irresponsible Gun Dealers Do

| Thu May 8, 2008 4:39 PM EDT

Eric Thompson sells guns on the Internet. Of course, you may already know that. After all, his Green Bay, Wisc.-based firm, TGSCOM Inc. (www.thegunsource.com), has had some high-profile clients, including Seng-Hui Cho, who massacered 33 classmates at Virginia Tech last year, and Stephen Kazmierczak, who killed five students at Northern Illinois University last February. And surely for this, Thompson feels sorry. But don't ask him to apologize for his business, for he's committed to placing firearms in the warm, living hands of as many customers as possible... at the lowest possible price.

Since the initial shock of learning he had played a supporting role in at least two school shootings, Thompson has turned infamy into a marketing strategy. In the spirit of there being no such thing as bad publicity, he's taken full advantage of opportunities to appear on television, including his recent FOX News sparring match with Paul Helmke of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. This followed Thompson's visit to Virginia Tech last month, where, almost a year to the day after the shootings, he spoke at an on-campus event sponsored by Students for Concealed Carry on Campus. A school spokesman called the visit "terribly offensive" and said "the organizers appear to be incredibly insensitive to the families of the victims who lost loved ones and to the injured students still recovering from this horrendous tragedy." But Thompson, who claims to have donated money to a Virginia Tech victims' fund, stands by his decision to appear at the university. It's all part of the "special responsibility" he's been given to "help change people's opinions."

Pigs Spared Med School Surgeries

| Thu May 8, 2008 4:24 PM EDT

184100079_51b6915f01_m.jpg NatureNews reports how doctors used to practise surgery on animals before being allowed to work on patients. Nowadays only a handful of US med schools maintain animal labs. The Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Ohio will shut its live-animal lab this month. Next semester, instead of practising on anaesthetized pigs, its med students will use technologies like virtual simulations. It's all part of a general phase-out of animal labs across the US. In 1994 live-animal experiments were on the curriculum in 77 of 125 medical schools. Now as few as eight use them.

Cost is a factor in the change, since it's expensive to maintain animals and veterinary staff. But simulations have also developed impressively in the past decade. The most advanced simulators now have 'haptic feedback,' providing the sensation that the students' instruments are touching real tissue—advances that make the use of live animals gratuitous, according to John Pippin, a cardiologist in Dallas who once used live dogs to study heart attacks but now works for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. The group continues its work to convince the 6% of US institutes that still use live animals to change their ways—notably the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. NatureNews reports that Jonathan Lissauer, a doctor recently trained at Johns Hopkins, says that sometimes animal surgeries were used "as just a diversion for people who won't be using those skills at all. I think then you cross the territory from appropriate medical education to something worse than that. There was no medical utility in having pigs die so that people going into psychiatry could play around."

why_animals_matter_medium_rwcz.jpg According to Erin Williams and Margo DeMello in their compelling treatise on how animals suffer in institutional settings, Why Animals Matter: The Case for Animal Protection, the switch from live-animal experiments to simulations was driven in large part because "medical students around the country expressed reservations about killing animals as part of their education, and many refused to participate in dog labs and other classes in which animals were killed…" Could this be a way to identify the compassionate docs from the not so compassionate?

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent, lecturer, and 2008 winner of the Kiriyama Prize and the John Burroughs Medal Award. You can read from her new book, The Fragile Edge, and other writings, here.

Is Boycotting Wal-Mart Activism?

| Thu May 8, 2008 1:32 PM EDT

We want the lowdown on student activism, past and present. Been arrested and regret it? Would your school win the prize for silliest student protest? Was student activism way better when you were in school? Is your cause unique?

Help us put together our best student activism roundup yet. It's our 15th annual! Check out last year's. Answer a few quick questions and you could win some cool prizes.

Click here to begin!

A Vote For McCain Validates Bush

| Thu May 8, 2008 12:31 PM EDT

There are, in the minds of many, historical legacies at stake in the 2008 presidential election. From Der Spiegel, via Nitpicker:

SPIEGEL ONLINE: The Iraq war was perceived as the one chance the neocons had in our time to prove that their theories were right. Is neoconservatism already a historical footnote?
[Neoconservative Lawrence] Kaplan: The near-term argument here is that if John McCain wins the presidential election, neoconservatism will have been vindicated. Because by voting him into office, people will have tacitly given their endorsement to that sort of foreign policy. His advisers are the very people we are arguing about.

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Crank Dat Mike Gravel!

| Thu May 8, 2008 12:10 PM EDT

Okay, I know, too many nonsensical Gravel videos of late. And I know, the Obama Girl stuff is unforgivably lame. But indulge me. I just love this video. Mike Gravel is willing to sing, profess his love for a woman 52 years his junior, and do the (incredibly freakin' annoying) Soulja Boy dance. He's officially in that I'm-so-old-I-can't-be-humiliated stage. Somebody give this man a reality TV show!

On a more serious note, I'm willing to guess that Mike Gravel doesn't know the meaning of the Soulja Boy lyrics, which are horrifyingly misogynistic. I'm not going to explain them, but you can get answers at UrbanDictionary.com. That song is incredibly popular, even among children, and it really shouldn't be.

Compromise in Michigan: Another Sign of Things to Come

| Thu May 8, 2008 11:38 AM EDT

This may be how the Democratic primary race winds down: superdelegates endorsing Obama (and in some cases bailing on Clinton in order to do so) and Michigan and Florida coming to compromises that don't jeopardize Barack Obama's lead. Michigan appears on track to do exactly that.

Michigan Democratic leaders on Wednesday settled on a plan to give presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton 69 delegates and Barack Obama 59 as a way to get the state's delegates seated at the national convention.
Clinton won the Jan. 15 Michigan primary and was to get 73 pledged delegates under state party rules, while Obama was to get 55.

Clinton took 55 percent of the vote in Michigan, where only Kucinich, Dodd, and Gravel joined her on the ballot. "Uncommitted" took 40 percent.

The only question here is whether seating the Michigan delegates through this compromise erases any hard feelings Michigan voters have with Barack Obama. Michigan and Florida have been used a cudgel by Hillary Clinton and her campaign staff. They've pointed to those two states for months as evidence that Barack Obama doesn't truly want to hear the voice of every American — the unstated corollary being that Obama doesn't respect the people of those two states.

I'm betting, however, that Obama can do some internal polling in Florida and Michigan, see if he still has a chance in either state (probably; more likely in Michigan than Florida), and make up with voters there through a little extra attention in the general. And outside groups can work overtime pointing this out.

Superdelegates for Hillary Wavering: A Sign of Things to Come?

| Thu May 8, 2008 11:08 AM EDT

Here's Clinton-backer Diane Feinstein talking to The Hill.

"I think the race is reaching the point now where there are negative dividends from it, in terms of strife within the party," Feinstein said. "I think we need to prevent that as much as we can."
Feinstein stressed that Clinton is not an "also-run candidate," but added that there is a question "as to whether she can get the delegates that she needs. I'd like to see what the strategy is and then we can talk further."

Feinstein insists that she isn't revoking her support of Clinton, but that she wants to "talk" with Clinton and see exactly what her strategy is for the rest of the primaries.

Meanwhile, Obama unveiled three superdelegate endorsements yesterday (North Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Jerry Meek, North Carolina DNC member Jeanette Council, and California DNC member Inola Henry), and former Clinton supporter George McGovern switched to Obama and urged Clinton to drop out of the race. Today, the Obama campaign announced that John Edwards' campaign manager, former Congressman David Bonior, is endorsing.

Forget the media calls for Clinton to drop out. Forget the fundraising problems. It is the actions of the superdelegates over the next few weeks that will determine whether this race ends now or after all the primaries have been completed in June.

43,000 Troops Listed as Unfit for Combat Deployed Anyway

| Thu May 8, 2008 10:34 AM EDT

From USA Today:

More than 43,000 U.S. troops listed as medically unfit for combat in the weeks before their scheduled deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan since 2003 were sent anyway, Pentagon records show.
This reliance on troops found medically "non-deployable" is another sign of stress placed on a military that has sent 1.6 million servicemembers to the war zones, soldier advocacy groups say....
Unit commanders make the final decision about whether a servicemember is sent into combat, although doctors can recommend against deployment because of a medical issue, Army spokeswoman Kim Waldron said....
In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee in February, the panel's chairman, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., asked Army leaders about an e-mail from the surgeon for the Fort Carson brigade that said medically "borderline" soldiers went to war because "we have been having issues reaching deployable strength."
"That should not be happening," Army Secretary Pete Geren told the committee. "I can't tell you that it's not, but it certainly should not be happening."

This isn't terribly surprising, considering the lengths the military is going to in order to get soldiers on the battlefield.