Blogs

FTC Continues Whole Foods Fight

| Mon Aug. 20, 2007 8:00 PM EDT

As we blogged last week, the Federal Trade Commission's injunction to stop Whole Foods' $565 million merger with fomer competitor, Wild Oats, was denied. Whole Foods was set to merge with Wild Oats as early as today. Not so fast. Friday, the FTC appealed the denial and requested that the judge delay the merger.

Whole Foods is "confident that the merger will be allowed to proceed" and I'm sure the organic grocer feels pretty good about stock prices too. Whole Foods shares jumped 7% after the appeal was announced.

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Add 'Probable Flooding' to the List of Dangers in Iraq

| Mon Aug. 20, 2007 5:34 PM EDT

Scariest headline of the day comes from Army Times: "Iraqi Dam Expected To Burst, Engulf City, Air Base Any Day."

And they're completely serious. You can read the entire article at the link (it's about Mosul), but here's just one of the many quotes.

Almost every conversation in Mosul — over card games, coffee or even out on patrol — leads to speculation about when the dam will finally go.

Jeepers.

Mother Jones Contributing Writer Julia Whitty Speaks in SF Tomorrow

| Mon Aug. 20, 2007 5:31 PM EDT

Bay Area residents: don't miss author, filmmaker, and Mother Jones contributing writer and blogger Julia Whitty ("Gone," May/June 2007). She'll be speaking tomorrow at the California Academy of Sciences about "wonders and warnings from the oceans." Time: 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Location: 875 Howard Street, between 4th and 5th Streets. Admission price: $8 for non-members.

See you there!

Merv Griffin Was Gay and Everyone Is Freaking Out

| Mon Aug. 20, 2007 3:49 PM EDT

Merv and his horse
In another depressing sign of just how uncomfortable America continues to be with all things queer, the Hollywood Reporter's "outing" of host and producer Merv Griffin is sending shock waves through the industry and the press. On Friday, the Reporter printed a story in its online edition headlined "Merv Griffin Died a Closeted Homosexual." Then, apparently buckling under pressure from "Hollywood titans, advertisers, and lawyers" (reports Michelangelo Signorile on his blog), they pulled the story, which has since reappeared under the new title, "Griffin Never Revealed Man Behind the Curtain," with significant revisions. (See the blog Queer Two Cents for an outline of the revisions, Canada.com for a reprint of the original story, and Towleroad for a timeline of the events). Reuters picked up the story and just as quickly dropped it, saying it "did not meet our standards for news." (See this page, where the Reuters story apparently was at one point.)

Chamillionaire, Cultural Pundit

| Mon Aug. 20, 2007 3:30 PM EDT

If you're interested in a hip-hop take on faux news, global warming, and America's culture wars, check out Chamillionaire's "Evening News." It's pretty excellent. Chamillionaire, who's always had a lot to say about swearing in rap music (see below), announced earlier this month that he's going cuss-free.

What's Your Walkability Score?

| Mon Aug. 20, 2007 2:10 PM EDT

Bragging about your neighborhood's through-the-roof property values is, like, SO late nineties. These days, one-upmanship is all about establishing eco cred. Luckily, there's a handy new website, Walk Score: Just enter in your address, and the site instantly calculates your home's "walkability score," on a scale of 1-100. The principle is pretty simple: If you can walk to the supermarket and your favorite restaurant, for example, you can expect a high rating. If you have to get in your car just to get the newspaper at the end of your driveway, though, don't expect any walkability bragging rights.

But is walkability always a good thing? Crosscut Seattle's David Brewster isn't so sure:

And does walkability work? Sightline cites research showing that residents of compact areas (homes mixed with stores and services, and a street network designed for walking and strolling) are less likely to be obese, suffer fewer chronic illnesses, and may breathe cleaner air than suburbanites by being farther from the "pollution tunnel" of busy highways.
Such claims are probably true in a broad sense, but there are interesting complexities in the new science of walkability. All those nifty shops in walkable neighborhoods, for instance, are signs of gentrification, which normally drives density downward by replacing working class families with wealthier singles. Transit stations normally do not help bring more density, since many are surrounded by parking lots or have such high property values that neighborhood services can't pay the rent. Another paradox is that really charming walkable neighborhoods soon line up the pitchforks to oppose increased residential densification in any form.


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Dr. Dre Suing Label; Madonna Leaving Hers?

| Mon Aug. 20, 2007 1:52 PM EDT

Dre and Madge
Two stories today prove just how relevant (and helpful!) record labels are nowadays. First, Dr. Dre is suing the defunct Death Row Records over rights and royalties from his 1992 album The Chronic. Dre handed over rights to the seminal album in exchange for royalty payments, which he now alleges he has never received. Death Row filed for bankruptcy in 2006, raising the shameful possibility that one of the greatest albums of all time will be auctioned off to pay for, I dunno, an outstanding debt to OfficeMax.

In other "record labels are awesome" news, NME is reporting that Madonna is considering leaving Warner Music, where she's been under contract since 1982. Where does she want to go? Another label, perhaps? Nope: Live Nation, the venue owner and event producers. Perhaps she's realized that today's music business model is all about live performances, for someone like Madonna especially: her eight Wembley shows in 2006 grossed over 20 million dollars.

FOX News Fundraises for Giuliani

| Mon Aug. 20, 2007 12:38 PM EDT

Here's your fair and balanced news story of the day. According to the Daily News, Sean Hannity recently introduced Rudy Giuliani at a closed-door, $250-per-head fundraiser in New York City, committing what many at real journalism outfits would call an unpardonable ethical sin. Even for FOX, this blurs the lines between its standard journalism-cum-advocacy and outright advocacy. The defense from FOX's senior vice-president of programming? "Sean is not a journalist — Sean is a conservative commentator." That's true, he's not a journalist. In fact, FOX News talking heads are proudly anti-journalist.

The Hannity-Giuliani nexis should surprise no one. Hannity's crush on Rudy is well-documented.

The Hotline, a political journal, has noted that through July 15, Giuliani had enjoyed 115 minutes of free face time on Fox - more than half of that on "Hannity & Colmes." His airtime on Fox was 25% higher than any other Republican candidate, data show.

Fair. And. Balanced. No doubt about it. If I was Mitt Romney, I'd be pissed.

Seven Active Duty Soldiers in Iraq Take to the Pages of the NY Times

| Mon Aug. 20, 2007 11:45 AM EDT

I would consider this a direct rebuke of Michael O'Hanlon and Ken Pollack.

VIEWED from Iraq at the tail end of a 15-month deployment, the political debate in Washington is indeed surreal... The claim that we are increasingly in control of the battlefields in Iraq is an assessment arrived at through a flawed, American-centered framework...
Four years into our occupation, we have failed on every promise, while we have substituted Baath Party tyranny with a tyranny of Islamist, militia and criminal violence. When the primary preoccupation of average Iraqis is when and how they are likely to be killed, we can hardly feel smug as we hand out care packages. As an Iraqi man told us a few days ago with deep resignation, "We need security, not free food."
In the end, we need to recognize that our presence may have released Iraqis from the grip of a tyrant, but that it has also robbed them of their self-respect. They will soon realize that the best way to regain dignity is to call us what we are — an army of occupation — and force our withdrawal.

Read the full thing here.

Update: There is a really good reported piece on life in Baghdad in Newsweek today. Here's the passage with the most direct summary, but the rest is filled with captivating details and personal stories:

While security is returning to some areas of Baghdad, modern conveniences aren't necessarily following. The Iraqi capital is no longer the place described in the old guidebooks, a metropolis of casinos, culture and Western-run hotel chains, although vestiges of that city can still be found. Instead, unceasing violence has thrust Baghdad back to a more primitive era, forcing its people to take up pre-industrial occupations and rediscover almost forgotten technologies. The collapse of municipal water services has revived the profession of well-digging... Donkey and horse carts are increasingly common on the capital's streets...

"Tepid" Interest for a Rummy Iraq Book

| Mon Aug. 20, 2007 10:49 AM EDT

Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has been fishing for a deal for a book that would justify the Iraq war. There's just one problem, the New York Post reports. Publishers aren't very interested.

IN the latest development in the quest by Donald Rumsfeld to snag a book deal, a well-placed industry source said the former Secretary of Defense has received only tepid interest from a handful of publishers.
As a result, he now plans to make it a full-blown autobiography rather than simply a treatment of his six years in the cabinet. ...