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Blog Party

| Wed Aug. 8, 2007 3:09 PM EDT

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The platform: more clicks, less schtick!

  • Researchers attempt to encourage breeding in captive sharks by playing them music. Justin Timberlake turns them on; Britney Spears, not so much. (Towleroad)
  • Courtney Love says crazy stuff on her MySpace page! I know, can you believe it? This time it's about, er, cupcakes. (Defamer)
  • Idolator offers the first installment of its Top 100 Greatest R&B Songs Ever, complete with videos. Hey look: "Oh Sheila!" (Idolator)
  • I know I just posted a link to an Alan McGee rant, but he's just so adorably ornery! This week: bands that were over-hyped. (UK Guardian Music Blog)
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    Coral Reefs Disappearing Twice As Fast As Rainforests

    | Wed Aug. 8, 2007 2:43 PM EDT

    Corals in the central and western Pacific Ocean are dying faster than previously thought. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill researchers have found nearly 600 square miles of reef have disappeared per year since the late 1960s, twice the rate of rainforest loss. The reefs are now disappearing at a rate of one percent per year, a decline that began decades earlier than expected. Historically, coral cover, a measure of reef health, hovered around 50 percent. Today, only about 2 percent of reefs in the Indo-Pacific have coral cover close to the historical baseline. "We have already lost half of the world's reef-building corals," said John Bruno, author of the study published in the online journal PLoS One. The Indo-Pacific contains 75 percent of the world's coral reefs and has the highest coral diversity in the world.

    One of the most surprising results of the study was that coral cover was similar between reefs maintained by conservationists and unprotected reefs. This consistent pattern of decline across the entire Indo-Pacific indicates that coral loss is a global phenomenon, likely due in part to large-scale stressors such as climate change. . . Check out this video from the Philippines to see how climate change is adding to their reef problems. JULIA WHITTY

    Knitting Meets Science

    | Wed Aug. 8, 2007 2:10 PM EDT

    How cool is this? Way more fun than stocking caps. JULIA WHITTY

    How To Save Earth's Disappearing Topsoil & Store Carbon Too

    | Wed Aug. 8, 2007 1:40 PM EDT

    Ploughs and a rapidly growing world population are combining to deplete the Earth's soil supply. A new study from the University of Washington finds that long-established farm practices appear to increase soil erosion 10 to 100 more than the rate at which soil is created. The good news is there is a solution. No-till agriculture eliminates ploughing, instead mixing the crop stubble with the top layer of soil using a method called disking. Study author David Montgomery notes that as oil becomes more expensive and less available, preserving soil fertility through no-till farming becomes even more important, since it requires less fertilizer and many fewer passes with a tractor. No-till farming could also prove a major benefit in a warming climate by increasing organic matter in soil, and as much as tripling its carbon content in less than 15 years. More carbon in the ground means less in the air.

    "If all farms on the planet were converted to no-till, the range of estimates for sequestered carbon runs from 10 percent of current carbon emissions to about half," says Montgomery. In his book, "Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations," Montgomery links the demise of history's major civilizations to how long it took them to deplete their soil supply. . . That's why that organic cheese and tomato sandwich on whole organic wheat bread you're munching is only good for you (in the short term) and not for the planet unless the components are also sustainably farmed. JULIA WHITTY

    Primaries in Early States to Move Up Even Further

    | Wed Aug. 8, 2007 1:01 PM EDT

    The WSJ's Washington Wire notes that the primary insanity is still getting worse.

    [New Hampshire and South Carolina] are moving up their presidential primary dates earlier into January, according to a prominent South Carolina Republican.... That likely will force Iowa — always protective of its party caucuses as the first-in-the-nation nominating contests — to make good on its vow to move their date from next Jan. 14 into pre-Christmas December.

    Pre-Christmas December! We're talking almost a full year before the general election, which at this point will probably just go to whichever party is least sick of its candidate. And let's not even begin on the pointlessness of the conventions, which used to officially choose a nominee amongst legitimate contenders and will now be a hollow media event (sorry, an even more hollow media event) a full seven months after the first primary.

    (H/T Kevin Drum)

    Sharpton Protests Rap Lyrics

    | Wed Aug. 8, 2007 12:50 PM EDT

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    The Reverend Al Sharpton led a protest in Detroit on Tuesday against degrading lyrics in hip-hop. Sharpton's National Action Network organized demonstrations in more than 20 cities nationwide in a so-called "Day of Outrage" against "gutter terms" in popular music. Using a typical counterargument to the whole "free speech" concept, the group is urging public divestment (specifically, government-run pension funds) from record labels that promote racially and sexually degrading music.

    In Detroit, Sharpton referenced the city's Motown history, describing it as a time "when music was not denigrating and was entertaining." He then turned and aimed a sword at a nearby windmill.

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    The Police Rake It In

    | Tue Aug. 7, 2007 9:11 PM EDT

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    As we've reported here on the Riff, the reunited Police have had some good and bad nights on their recent tour. But you know what makes interpersonal issues or musical struggles seem a little less important? I'll tell you what: one hundred meeellion dollars. That's right, Billboard magazine is reporting the 38-date first leg of the Police tour has already grossed $107,592,002, and was attended by 929,941 people. And that doesn't even include the Bonnaroo or V festival stops in Tennessee and Baltimore, so add in a couple zillion to both those numbers. The two July dates at Chicago's Wrigley field grossed $9,494,248 on their own. Gulp. I made $50 at a DJ gig once. Anyway, the tour continues at the end of August, returning to the US Halloween night at Madison Square Garden. The band then plan to continue touring until they have all the money in the world.

    Kids Say Food in McDonald's Wrappers Just Tastes Better

    | Tue Aug. 7, 2007 6:47 PM EDT

    Whether it's milk, carrots, or apple juice, kids ages 3-5 think food just tastes better when wrapped in the golden arches of McDonald's, a recent study finds.

    To learn more about the study, continue reading this post on our science and health blog, The Blue Marble.

    Kids Say Food in McDonald's Wrappers Just Tastes Better

    | Tue Aug. 7, 2007 5:23 PM EDT

    mcdonalds_tokyo.jpgWhether it's milk, carrots, or apple juice, kids ages 3-5 think food just tastes better when wrapped in the golden arches of McDonald's, a recent study finds. The study was aimed at low-income children enrolled in San Mateo, CA's "head start" programs, but the author of the study, Tom Robinson of Stanford University, believes the results would be similar for higher-income children. Quite simply, Robinson states, a child's sense of taste has been "physically altered by the branding."

    While the extensive marketing of fast food products to young children has been decried by health advocates and in movies like Supersize Me, the fact that children prefer a branded food is probably heavily influenced by the larger advertising industry, not just McDonald's. I would guess that children prefer a branded grape juice to any generic grape juice, just as I'd guess that most people would give higher ratings to a Prada purse or Calvin Klein underwear than to their generic counterparts. Much of this can be explained by the connotations of happiness, wealth, and enjoyment that the ads convey.

    On the other hand, some ads don't seem to convey much of anything, like this recent McDonald's commercial discussed by Slate.

    MTV Nominates French Techno for Video of the Year

    | Tue Aug. 7, 2007 2:46 PM EDT

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    Super-hot Paris duo Justice's single "D.A.N.C.E." has been nominated for MTV's "Video of the Year" alongside regulars Beyonce, Rihanna, Justin Timberlake and Kanye West, as well as newcomer Amy Winehouse. One might be tempted to see this nomination as an acknowledgement of grungy Francophile nu-rave's dominion over dance floors worldwide (and it is a pretty good video to boot, featuring cute animated T-shirts); but really, it's just a publicity stunt. It was just last year when the quirky video for Justice's remix of Simian's "Never Be Alone" upset Kanye West's "Touch the Sky" for Video of the Year at the MTV Europe awards in Copenhagen; Kanye, famously, crashed the stage and gave an expletive-filled rant about why his "million-dollar" video should have snagged the award instead. So, as Idolator points out: MTV America is just concocting a cheeky little rematch between the hot-headed rapper and the hapless Frenchmen. Having Kanye actually present at the announcement in New York today, joking (?) he's "still mad" about the loss, adds to the feeling of a setup. Whatevs: anything that gets Justice in front of more eyes and ears is a good thing—although I suspect MTV won't exactly be putting "D.A.N.C.E." into heavy rotation.

    The MTV Video Music Awards are on your TV September 9th; check out the rest of the nominees here. (The only other sort of interesting nod is Peter Bjorn & John for "Best New Artist.") Watch the video for "D.A.N.C.E." below.