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Bush's Appointee for Head of Family Planning Hates Family Planning

| Wed Oct. 17, 2007 11:11 AM EDT

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The deputy assistant secretary for population affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services has an important job. He or she oversees "HHS's $283 million reproductive-health program, a $30 million program that encourages abstinence among teenagers, and HHS's Office of Population Affairs, which funds birth control, pregnancy tests, counseling, and screenings for sexually transmitted diseases and HIV." So who better to run it than someone who once called contraceptives part of the "culture of death"?

That delicious little nugget belongs to Susan Orr, former "senior director for marriage and family care" at the Family Research Council (full bio here) and Bush appointee for the deputy assistant secretary spot (on an acting basis of course, which is a sham).

In another instance, Orr supported a Bush Administration proposal to stop requiring all health insurance plans for federal employees to cover a broad range of birth control. "We're quite pleased," said Orr, who would be perfect for this job in a bizarro universe, "because fertility is not a disease."

And soon, having a kid will not be a choice. You'll have one, dammit! One sexual act equals one kid. That's the moral math in George W. Bush's America.

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Why Obama Struggles: Right Message, Wrong Time

| Wed Oct. 17, 2007 10:56 AM EDT

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The Washington Post runs a story this morning that echoes my thoughts on why Barack Obama has been unable to gain ground on Hillary Clinton.

My thinking is this: Obama is preaching a truly admirable message of bipartisanship and a new politics, but he's preaching it when the Democrats neither want it nor need it.

They don't want Obama's message because they've been bullied by the Bush Administration and the Republicans in Congress for almost seven years and want payback. They don't need Obama's message because the GOP has screwed everything up so badly the Democrats can win with a purely partisan approach. When fewer and fewer people identify with the Republican Party and more and more claim they trust the Democratic Party on important issues like the economy, the war, and health care, why reach across the aisle?

There is a perception, borne out of Hillary Clinton's years of fighting tooth and nail with the GOP, that Clinton will kick ass when she's in office. And there's a perception, fostered by the Obama campaign, that Obama will eschew kicking ass in favor of bringing people together to renew America's politics.

Every poll indicates Democrats, for the time being, prefer ass-kicking to bringing-together.

Has Rock Lost Its Soul?

| Tue Oct. 16, 2007 7:30 PM EDT

Snoop vs. Axl
Photo collage by Adrian Roberts

Sasha Frere-Jones opens up the, erm, "race box" in this week's New Yorker with an extended piece lamenting the racial "re-sorting" of popular music. It's a dangerous topic, and he's to be commended for bringing it up, but I'm not sure where it's all going. Frere-Jones wrote an eye-opening (if slightly more specific) essay on the same theme a few years back; called "When Blackface Has No Face," it seemed to lament the lack of, well, current white "minstrels" (his word), or white artists playing music from traditionally black sources. He gives the examples of DJ Shadow and Diplo, both of whom were known for DJ sets celebrating black (and brown) music but solo albums full of "white signifiers" like electric guitars, sluggish tempos and dramatic strings. The current NYer article brings up Arcade Fire and Wilco, but the message is the same: white people are making really, really white music these days. It's an interesting question: why aren't there more white people making hip-hop?

Tuesday Spews Music News Day

| Tue Oct. 16, 2007 6:05 PM EDT

Newsy News

  • U2 are planning Ireland's first skyscraper, which they will call "The U2 Tower." The nearly 400-foot structure will be designed by Norman Foster; the band's new studios will occupy the building's peak. Doesn't this sound like a cartoon? Will they have superpowers? Presumably to help fund this venture, the band are releasing special 20th-anniversary editions of The Joshua Tree next month. That was 20 years ago? Ugh.

  • J Dilla fans are being asked to support Lupus research by joining the Alliance for Lupus Research's walkathons. The events, set to take place later this month in cities around the U.S., will feature "J Dilla Project teams." The ground-breaking hip-hop producer died from the disease in 2006.
  • Relive the magic that was Live Earth with a CD/DVD package out November 20th from Warner Brothers, and a digital version hitting the intertubes two weeks earlier. Free Nobel Prize with purchase.
  • Rapper Nas has caused a bit of a stir by announcing he will call his next album, ahem, Nigga. The LP is set for a December release. The New York artist told MTV he'd planned to use the title for his last album, but instead decided on Hip-Hop Is Dead.
  • Onslaught Indeed, Anyone Else Tired of Dove's 'Real Beauty' Campaign?

    | Tue Oct. 16, 2007 5:25 PM EDT

    Dove has unveiled a new chapter in its ongoing effort to hoodwink the conscientious consumer in need of a new bar of soap. Its "Campaign for Real Beauty," like those of Benetton and The Body Shop before it, has been throwing up gorgeous billboards and television commercials featuring women of all shapes, sizes, and shades for years now. The message? Dove is different from other purveyors of beauty products; Dove cares for your skin as well as your well-being, as expressed by its honest portrayals of beauty in its various forms.

    Dove's new marketing strategy is to web-release ads that directly critcize deceptive representations of beauty. This past summer, the viral ad Evolution won a Grand Prix prize at Cannes. The minute-long film featured a woman's face transformed through make-up and digital augmentation to an idealized face on a billboard wholly unlike the original. The spot concluded, "No wonder our perception of beauty is distorted." Its sequel—Onslaught—which hit the web at the beginning of October, opens with a close-up of a guileless young girl, blissfully unaware of the pressure to be "younger, taller, lighter, firmer, tighter, thinner, softer," followed by a fast-forward zoom through the debasing and all-too-prevalent beauty ads to which she will soon aspire. Through this campaign, Dove is taking a stand against such ads. Onslaught closes with this message: "Talk to your daughter before the beauty industry does."

    Good advice, if only it wasn't coming from a company owned by Unilever, which also owns Slim-Fast and Axe deodorant, products that are pushed by those very ads that Dove is denouncing.

     

    Should Bill Richardson Give Up?

    | Tue Oct. 16, 2007 4:33 PM EDT

    richardson_headlock.jpg That's the question the New Republic is posing. Their argument, in essence, is that no matter how many awesome commercials the governor from New Mexico runs, he's just not catching fire, and he'd serve the Democratic Party and the country better by running for the New Mexico senate seat Pete Domenici is abandoning.

    Richardson is so popular in New Mexico, he'd likely have a cakewalk to the senate. And with Big Bill's help, the Dems might get a filibuster-beating 60 seats, which would ensure a serious progressive agenda. It's hard to argue with that logic, but then again, the Democratic Party has a history of letting members doing what is best for themselves instead of what is best for the collective. That's not a terrible thing. And that's not a terrible picture either, eh?

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    Iraq and Afghanistan Wars Breed Deadly Disease

    | Tue Oct. 16, 2007 3:58 PM EDT

    5480425_83bfb97928_m.jpg Hundreds of troops wounded in Iraq or Afghanistan have been infected with a deadly bacterium in their bloodstream, cerebrospinal fluid, bones, and lungs. Civilians have also been infected after stays in military hospitals, reports the Los Angeles Times. Since 2003 at least 27 people in military hospitals have died after infection by Acinetobacter baumannii, an increasingly drug-resistant bacterium. The military claims it hasn't tabulated how many have been infected overall. The outbreak has spread to at least six American military hospitals, including the hospital ship Comfort, Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, and the Army's Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. The rise in infections has been dramatic, comprising 2 percent of admissions at the specialized burn unit at Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas in 2001 and 2002, 6 percent in 2003, and 12 percent in 2005. Other military hospitals have reported similar levels.

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

    Bumblebees Also Disappearing, Putting Crops in Peril

    | Tue Oct. 16, 2007 3:30 PM EDT

    bumblebee.JPGWith all the to-do about the disappearing honeybees, not much has been written about the humble bumblebee. Bumblebees, though less glamorous because they don't produce much honey, are still a crucial part of nature's chain and therefore, agriculture—they pollinate 15 percent of all domestic crops, especially greenhouse-grown plants such as tomatoes and strawberries. And like honeybees, they're becoming scarce.

    A recent study blames the bumblebee's demise on the combined effects of habitat loss, pesticides, pollution, and disease. A U.C. Davis professor says the Franklin's bumblebee may have gone extinct before anyone even put it on the endangered species list, and two more bumblebee species have become rare. The combined disappearance of both the honeybee and the bumblebee spells trouble for agriculture; bumblebees pollinate different crops and at different times than honeybees.

    Most recently, scientists have found that a single virus is "strongly correlated" with colony collapse disorder, and is killing both bumblebees and honeybees.

    EPA Slacking On Mississippi Pollutants

    | Tue Oct. 16, 2007 3:15 PM EDT

    MRivDrainageBasinTN.gif The Environmental Protection Agency is asleep at the helm, says the National Research Council—at the expense of the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico. The agency needs to take the leadership role it commands and implement the Clean Water Act immediately for water quality to return to "fishable and swimmable" status. In particular, the river needs to be evaluated as a single system. The 10 states along the corridor monitor their own water quality, but state efforts vary widely. EPA needs to coordinate them.

    Many of the Mississippi's current problems stem from nonpoint pollution sources—nutrients and sediments entering the river through runoff. Nitrogen and phosphorous from fertilizers create water-quality problems in the river and an oxygen-deficient dead zone in the northern Gulf of Mexico. Sediments are too plentiful in the upper Mississippi, and too scarce in the lower river, robbing the coastal wetlands of southern Louisiana.

    Written between the lines: EPA needs to actually do what its name mandates, protect the environment, not the destroyers of the environment.

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

    The New York Sun's Candidate (It's Not Rudy)

    | Tue Oct. 16, 2007 2:58 PM EDT

    SUN.jpg

    Garance Franke-Ruta over at TAPPED makes a pretty compelling case for Rudy Giuliani, with his bevy of Likudnik-friendly advisers, being dubbed "the New York Sun candidate"—"culturally moderate, reasonably sophisticated, socially tolerant, and a far-right Zionist hawk on matters Middle Eastern."

    Problem is, that particular moniker already belongs to another man. Back in April, the Sun's editorialists explicitly named their dream candidate for '08. Who was it? One hint—the president calls him "Big Time."

    —Justin Elliott