It's only been in the last two weeks that the black church came to Jesus about AIDS. Let us pray that it's not too little too late.
Having long ignored the alarms about the AIDS epidemic decimating an already ravaged community, blacks' most prominent ministers officially joined elected officials, the National Medical Association (formed when the AMA was segregated) and other groups in moving past their homophobia and brimstone to reality: blacks must do something about the cultural underpinnings that feed the flames of AIDS. Not since the 60s has the black church so thrown itself behind a community issue.
Read this for a snapshot of the crisis and news about the group's first meeting, but the bottom line is this: black refusal to deal with its attitudes about male privilege, sex, drugs, homosexuality and superstitions (please don't mention Tuskegee again) was threatening us with near extinction (AIDS is the number 1 cause of death for black women 25-34). Blessedly, last week's meeting was a success, complete with action plan:
"Following a two-day conclave, over 150 African American leaders proposed the National HIV/AIDS Elimination Act, which they plan to introduce to Congress as early as January. The act calls on the federal government "to declare the HIV/AIDS Crisis in the African American community a 'public health emergency'" and urges "the Secretary of Health and Human Services to use his emergency authority to redirect resources to address this emergency."
Here's the news I never wanted to hear. The seriously tragic news. Apparently, while we dithered over god's word and Rush Limbaugh's opinions, we missed the easy targets. You know, the piddling percentages of greenhouse gas emissions we could have reduced a mere 5, 10 or 15 years ago to maintain a benevolent planet. The latest study indicates we've waited too long and now only zero emissions will avert the Big Doomsday, the 2-degree rise that the science community (you know, the real one) agrees is needed to prevent the tipping points from tipping. The same 2-degree rise our unesteemed Leader in Washington doesn't get. Why? Because he can't convert from Celsius to Fahrenheit, apparently. This from New Scientist:
Andrew Weaver and colleagues at the University of Victoria in Canada . . . used a computer model to determine how much emissions must be limited in order to avoid exceeding a 2°C increase. The model is an established tool for analysing future climate change and was used in studies cited in the IPCC's reports on climate change. They modelled the reduction of industrial emissions below 2006 levels by between 20% and 100% by 2050. Only when emissions were entirely eliminated did the temperature increase remain below 2°C.
The researchers conclude that governments should consider reducing emissions to 90% below current levels and remove what is left in the atmosphere by capturing and storing carbon. There is a stark contrast between this proposal and the measures currently being considered. Under the UN's Kyoto protocol, most developed nations have agreed to limit their emissions to a minimum of 5% below 1990 levels by 2012. What happens beyond this date is the subject of ongoing debate and negotiation. The European Union nations have agreed to limit their emissions to 20% below 1990 levels by 2020, and support dropping global emissions to 50% below 1990 levels by 2050.
"There is a disconnect between the European Union arguing for a 2°C threshold and calling for 50% cuts at 2050 - you can't have it both ways," says Weaver, who adds: "If you're going to talk about 2°C you have got to be talking 90% emissions cuts."
As for the naysayers and their inevitable frakkin whining. What can I say. It looks like we are going to meet in hell.
The UK Guardian responds to a poll naming Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" the best music video ever with their own, "alternate" Top Ten; but honestly, both of them miss the mark. "Rhapsody" is a great song and the video was, indeed, one of the first videos, but best? It was followed in the poll by Michael Jackson's "Thriller," and again, I got excited about it when I was 11, but in retrospect it seems pretty ridiculous. The Guardian's list, on the other hand, includes REM's "Losing My Religion," which was apparently inspired by some highbrow art, but always seemed pretty boring to me, and Daft Punk's "Da Funk," whose man-with-dog-head concept gets old after about 15 seconds. So, DJ with the silly name, what are the best videos ever? Off the top of my head, here's a few ideas, in various categories.
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.