The AP reports that a federal judge has temporarily delayed construction of a 1.5-mile section of a border fence in a wildlife conservation area along the Arizona-Mexico line. Defenders of Wildlife and the Sierra Club requested a 10-day delay alleging the Bureau of Land Management and other agencies failed to conduct a thorough environmental study of the fence in the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area. U.S. District Court Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle granted the delay because the government did not explain why it hurried through an assessment and began building.
Huvelle repeatedly asked the government's attorney, Gregory Page, to explain why the agencies took only three weeks to do the environmental assessment. She said that amount of time was unprecedented and that the government was trying to "ram" the environmental study through and start construction "before anyone would wake up.
Ouch. Good judge. . . MoJo covered the really bad environmental aspects of this fence in GONE. Bottom line, regardless of what you think of the immigration issue: the fence won't keep people out and it will destroy the most endangered wildlife linkage in North America. Check out The Wildlands Project to learn more.
The most underappreciated TV series ever just got, uh, less appreciated? New Yorkreports that Fox has shut down a theatrical "sing-along" tour of Buffy the Vampire Slayer's musical episode, "Once More, With Feeling." Tour creator Clinton McClung apparently had the legal clearances for the events, which had been taking place over the past year (including a recent San Francisco stint), and also had the tacit support of show creator Joss Whedon. However, apparently Fox had some issue with, you know, TV shows in movie theaters or something. McClung speculates that despite his securing permission for the shows, "someone who is supposed to get paid when these things get screened wasn't."
The episode, for the uninitiated, featured a demon of some sort whose arrival in Sunnydale causes the locals to burst into song-and-dance routines, and then burst into flame. Not only were the songs actually pretty catchy, but since the spell also caused people to sing out their innermost feelings, the plot got moved along quite a bit as well. Like: turns out Willow cast a spell to make Tara forget their argument! And Buffy was in heaven! If you don't know what I'm talking about, buy all the DVDs right now and take a week off from work to watch them.
About 10 minutes of "Once More, With Feeling" is on YouTube:
These audience-participation showings have become more and more popular lately, but usually with movies, making clearances a non-issue. Either way, your chance to raise your voice along with the second-greatest episode of one of the greatest TV shows ever is gone, although hopefully just temporarily: you can sign a petition online to support the tour.
As of today, Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport has begun using a new kind of x-ray to search passengers for possible weapons. The radiation-free x-ray, called a "millimeter wave," scans a person's entire body. In the process, it creates a blush-inducingly graphic image of the person being scanned. The TSA blurs the face in scans, and only allows a remote screener to see the final scan. But for some, that isn't enough: "If you want to see a naked body," ACLU director Barry Steinhardt told the Associated Press, "this is a naked body."
The millimeter wave is just one of a few kinds of advanced technology (AT) x-rays being tested by the TSA. Another kind of AT x-ray has received similar outcry (it's been called a "virtual strip search"). In response, the TSA altered the machine, but so much so that it obscured the very weapons it was supposed to find, as we reported in our July/August issue. The technology was initially developed for use in prisons and courthouses.
Despite privacy concerns, the TSA seems determined to roll out AT x-rays across the nation: they recently awarded more than $30 million in contracts to the companies that produce the machines and have used them at several airports including New York-Kennedy, Los Angeles International, and Regan National. So far, the machines have been voluntary, as an alternative to a pat-down in secondary screening. And, the TSA says, it has disabled the "save" function so that images cannot be stored or distributed. However, with the TSA's history of violating passengers' rights, I wouldn't bet on it.
Last week I noted that the University of St. Thomas had rescinded a speaking invitation to Archbishop Desmond Tutu because administrators deemed Tutu's previous criticisms of Israel to be "hurtful" to some Jews. This morning, Scott Jaschik of InsideHigherEd has some good news: St. Thomas' president has reversed his decision and will invite Tutu to campus after all.
The twist here is that Anti-Defamation League director Abe Foxman wrote a letter to St. Thomas objecting to its decision to cancel Tutu. This is an unusual outburst of sanity from Foxman and the ADL, which Glenn Greenwald has been pounding in recentdays for seeming to apply "its outrage practices selectively and politically" and marching in lockstep with the right on issues like Iran. While Foxman still indulges in his annoying tic of describing people in terms of whether they are, in his opinion, "a friend of Israel"—in the letter, he deems Tutu "not a friend of Israel" simply for voicing a criticism of an Israeli policy—the ADL deserves credit here for standing up for free exchange on campus. Maybe the group is taking Greenwald's criticisms to heart.
Military leaders said yesterday that they plan to accelerate the Army's expansion, adding 74,000 soldiers by 2010, not 2012 as originally planned. The goal, they say, is to relieve the strain on troops currently serving while maintaining the numbers necessary to continue the war effort.
Sounds great, right? Hire more soldiers, give the troops on the ground a much-needed break. But where are they going to get these people? Defense Secretary Robert Gates specified that the recruiting needs to be done without forcing anyone to stay or loosening entry standards. That might be tough, considering how much the Army has already had to widen its net to meet recruiting goals. In addition, a big part of the plan involves retention—convincing servicemen and women not to leave the Army at the end of their tours. While in a perfect world this might mean rest between deployments, practically speaking, it probably means more time in Iraq.
To top it all off, last time I checked, General Petraeus had announced plans for a troop drawdown beginning next spring. Bush endorsed the plan provided he saw evidence of progress. But given the Army's current numbers, a troop reduction is inevitable. Does the expansion push mean there won't be a drawdown after all? More likely that even with the departure of 30,000 soldiers, we're still planning for the very long term.
Okay, after much ado, your intrepid reporter with the silly DJ name was able to download the new Radiohead album In Rainbows (for which I paid £5), and my first reaction is it's worth the trouble. The title at first put me off a little; its girlish cutesiness (will the next CD be called With Unicorns?) seemed to combine with the whole "almost-free mp3" thing to give the album an air of disposability. Was it all going to sound like homemade blog-house?
Perhaps this image was intended as contrast, since the music itself is more organic and, well, rock than the band has been in a while, a 180-degree turn from Kid A, the band's most electronic release. Even "All I Need," which nods to downtempo experimenters Boards of Canada in its synth-y bassline, turns out to be almost a traditional love song, with live-sounding drums and piano as well as a soulful side to Thom Yorke's vocals we haven't really heard before. "Soulful" is, in fact, the operative word here; there's the Motown-style reverb and falsetto crooning on "Reckoner," and the Beck-like acoustic number "Faust Arp."
Not that it's anything but Radiohead. I've always said the band sounds like they're making music to be sent into space as an artifact of a dying-off human race, and the usual bleak majesty and immense mournfulness haven't gone anywhere. But when the three-chord pattern from Paul McCartney & Wings' "Silly Love Songs" pops up, you know this isn't "Idioteque." It may even grab some new fans who found the band's screaming intensity rattling: play your anti-Radiohead friends "House of Cards," a sweet, quiet ballad, with Yorke singing, plainly: "I don't wanna be your friend/I just wanna be your lover." Fine, let's put on In Rainbows and make out.
Back in the early heyday of American cinema, when desire for news and entertainment was often sated by regular visits to the theater, films aimed at social reform enjoyed distribution that would make Michael Moore's mouth water. The National Film Preservation Foundation has assembled a new anthology, Treasures III: Social Issues in American Film 1900-1934, that highlights the boldness of early 20th century cartoons, serial episodes, newsreel stories, advocacy films, and features designed to inform. These films addressed many of the same issues as our latter-day blockbusters, but often with a lucidity that modern movies lack:
Fans of Gus Van Sant may now add yet another component to their ongoing dissection of My Own Private Idaho. From the Submerged (1912) is the first known drama about homelessness that featured "slumming parties," minus the Shakespearean overtones.
Jungle Fever, Do the Right Thing, and the rest of Spike Lee's immortal oeuvre owe a debt to Ramona (1910), D.W. Griffith's sympathetic portrait of a romance between a Native American man and a Spanish woman played by Mary Pickford. (That's right, the same D.W. Griffith who later gave us the cinematic landmark of bigotry, The Birth of a Nation.)
In the sternly reproachful Where Are My Children? (1916), District Attorney Richard Walton discovers that he never became a father because his wife had a slew of abortions behind his back. No doubt do-gooder Alison Scott, the lead character in last summer's hit comedy Knocked Up, represents the inverse of Mrs. Walton's ways.
In Cecil B. DeMille's masterful silent feature, The Godless Girl (1928), the Christians take on the Atheists and get themselves booked into juvenile prison. There are hints of Grease, mingling with Saved! and Girl, Interrupted, but only in DeMille's version do the opposing camps go home with crucifixes burned into the palms of their hands.
What do Chevron and BP have in common, besides being leading members of Big Oil? Computer games, apparently. Yesterday, the New York Timesreported on BP's latest rebranding move—a "collaboration" with the video game company Electronic Arts. To learn more about these companies' quests into unknown territory, read the rest of this post on Mother Jones' environment and health blog, The Blue Marble.
New York City again shows that the as one of only two American city cities* actually attacked by Islamic terrorism, it is the one perhaps most willing to embrace Muslims, immigrants, and its own rich cultural diversity. From Newsday:
The Empire State Building will be illuminated green this weekend to mark the Islamic holy days of Eid-al-Fitr (EED-ALL-FEET-er).
The joyous "Festival of Fast-breaking" marks the end of Ramadan, a month of intense spiritual renewal.
This year is the first time the famous skyscraper will be aglow for the Islamic holiday. A spokeswoman for the building's owner says it will be an annual event, in the same tradition of the yearly skyscraper lighting for Christmas and Hanukah.
In Islam, the color green symbolizes a happy occasion and the importance of nature.
* I am a complete idiot. Thanks to melissa in the comments.