Blogs

Nan Kempner the Anti-Paris Hilton: Classy, Dignified, Relevant

| Tue Jun. 19, 2007 7:42 PM EDT

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Nan Kempner grew up in a wealthy family, and she married rich. Like many women of her generation and background, the socialite occupied her time with charity work and fashion, but no one could accuse her of dabbling. Over thirty years, she raised $75 million for cancer research. In many ways, her collection of designer clothing and accessories is even more impressive.

Kempner, whom Diana Vreeland famously called the one chic American woman, had an eye for detail and she knew how to make the most of her body (flat chested, flat bottomed, leggy). She got her first couture dress for her debutante ball in 1949 and never really stopped shopping. She liked Dior and Valentino; she loved Madame Gres and Yves Saint Laurent. Chanel bored her.

A small portion of Kempner's Imelda Marcos-sized collection has traveled from the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute to the de Young Museum in San Francisco. Arranged by Harold Koda, "Nan Kempner: American Chic" opened June 18 and closes November 11.

—Ellen Charles

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Bush to Veto Stem Cell Research Bill, Again

| Tue Jun. 19, 2007 7:07 PM EDT

President Bush announced today that tomorrow he will veto stem-cell legislation allowing federal funding for stem-cell research using excess embryos created by fertility treatments. The bill was passed by the House on June 7, but lacks the 2/3 majority necessary to override the predicted veto.

Bush's statement today included the quote that "Each of these human embryos is a unique human life, with inherent dignity and matchless value...These boys and girls are not spare parts." Bush previously used the "spare parts" metaphor in 2006 when he rejected a bill (passed by a Republican Congress) that would have allowed couples to donate their extra embryos to research rather than store them or have them destroyed. The Senate failed an attempted veto.

Only ten percent of frozen embryos are implanted; 500,000 remain frozen in a limbo-like legal status, waiting to be adopted, destroyed, or (in three percent of cases) slated for research. Bush has promoted—fiscally and publicly—embryo banks and adoptions as alternatives to disposal. As of 2003, Snowflakes, a Christian "embryo adoption program" that openly discriminates against single women, gay couples, and non-Christians, had received $1 million in federal funding.

In 2001, Bush issued an executive order restricting research to the 21 existing stem cell lines still usable in the United States.

Amy Winehouse Sets US Tour Dates, Hits Top Ten

| Tue Jun. 19, 2007 5:36 PM EDT

mojo-photo-amywinehouse.jpgIt wouldn't be surprising if you missed British R&B singer Winehouse the last time she came through your town; most of the venues were booked long before her recent, extraordinary rise to fame in the US, and thus were too small for the crowds. This time she's planning ahead: booking, for instance, two nights at the 3,000-capacity Warfield in San Francisco. However, with "Rehab" rocketing 38 slots (!) to land just inside the Billboard Top 10 this week, and her album, Back to Black, selling over 560,000 copies in the US to date, those dates will probably sell out fast. If you're a fan of Winehouse's neo-soul (and I wasn't at first but I have to say it's really growing on me) get your tickets soon.

Dates and some videos after the jump.

Good Job, You're Fired

| Tue Jun. 19, 2007 3:27 PM EDT

The Bush administration's pattern of promoting imbeciles like Paul Wolfowitz while sacking competent lawmakers like Colin Powell continues, with the news that budget director Rob Portman will step down. (His stated reason—to spend more time with his family—suggests that the move was not voluntary.) The Washington Post reports that Portman "is one of the most popular Cabinet members on the Hill, and even Democrats speak highly of his intellect and affability." The timing of Portman's departure is odd, given that the next two years will require someone who can negotiate with the Democrats.

Enter Jim Nussle, who is known for his combative style. The AP reports:

As House budget chairman, Nussle helped draft the blueprint for Bush's signature 2001 and 2003 tax bills....Republican leaders and conservatives such as Nussle regularly rolled over Democrats - and took pleasure in doing so.

Asked what he thought of Nussle, House budget chair Steny Hoyer said, "What's the next question?" So why did this guy get the job, beyond the fact that the Bush White House seems to love to do things that throttle the democratic process?

He's a hawk.

With Friends Like Bush...

| Tue Jun. 19, 2007 2:50 PM EDT

Imagine that somebody in power made it impossible for you to do your job, then watched as you were fired for not doing your job, then appeared on TV with your long-time nemesis, who had participated in making it impossible for you to do your job, and declared his support for you.

That's what President Bush has done to Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority. After free elections created a government divided between Abbas' moderate Fatah party and the radical Hamas party, Bush and his Israeli counterpart, Ehud Olmert, imposed such strict sanctions on the Palestinians that even those who had jobs weren't getting paid. Hamas would not and did not stand by and let this happen: The group overthrew Fatah in the Gaza Strip. Today, Bush and Olmert stood in the Oval Office together and declared their support for Abbas. Seriously? Here's the kiss of death: Bush called the emergency prime minister Abbas appointed "a good fella." Brownie, anyone?

Drinking The Ocean Not A Solution For A Thirsty World

| Tue Jun. 19, 2007 1:32 PM EDT

Making drinking water out of sea water is a growing trend but a potentially insidious threat to the environment that could exacerbate climate change. The World Wildlife Fund reports that desalination is not only expensive but also an energy-intensive and highly environmentally unfriendly way to get water. Yet more and more of a drying world is looking to it: the Arabian Gulf gets 60% of its fresh water through desalination; Perth, Australia, hopes to source a third of its needs the same way; Spain uses 22% of its desalinated water for agriculture and holiday resorts in arid areas. Meanwhile, the impacts of desalination include brine build-up, increased greenhouse gas emissions, destruction of prized coastal areas, and reduced emphasis on conservation of rivers and wetlands. . . Howzabout we stop engineering and start conserving. First on the chopping block: golf courses.

This from the Aussies, drought masters.

--JULIA WHITTY


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Musharraf Gets Full U.S. Backing Despite Crackdowns

| Tue Jun. 19, 2007 1:16 PM EDT

As I've pointed out before, the United States has refrained from directly criticizing General Musharraf's assault on the judiciary and his crackdown on the Pakistani media. And once again, the Bush Administration is paying more lip service to its "commitment to democracy" while giving a military dictator full backing in the same breath.

This weekend, during his visit to Pakistan, the U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte gave Musharraf support by stating, "It is up to him (Gen Musharraf) to decide when to take off his uniform but we do want free, fair and transparent elections scheduled for this fall or early next year." Negroponte makes it clear where America stands: Despite the fact that Musharraf has locked up more than 1,000 opposition activists and shut down Pakistani TV channels that have been critical of him, it's really up to the good General to decide when to stop being a military dictator.

Negroponte and Musharraf also discussed strong U.S. support for Pakistan government's FATA Development Plan, "a $ 750 million five-year US support programme that we will begin implementing in the next few months" Money and political backing—what more could Musharraf ask for?

But the administration's actions certainly aren't winning us any hearts and minds of the people. As one Pakistani teacher puts it, "America is supporting Musharraf against the people...The reason people hate America here is that they always support dictatorship in Pakistan."

—Neha Inamdar

Toxic Fumes Poisoning Us, Pilots Say

| Tue Jun. 19, 2007 12:58 PM EDT

Toxic fumes on planes are poisoning pilots and rendering them unable to fly safely. NewScientist reports that British pilots are campaigning for "aerotoxic syndrome" to be recognized as a disease, while two official investigations examine whether highly toxic fuel contaminants are leaking into cabin air supply on commercial airliners in flight, exposing passengers, pilots and cabin crew. The UK government will fit air-monitoring equipment aboard aircraft, and 1500 pilots will take part in the first major health study designed to establish the extent of the problem.--JULIA WHITTY

Sounds Of A Dying Glacier

| Tue Jun. 19, 2007 12:46 PM EDT

Scottish artist Katie Paterson set up a phone line to an Icelandic glacier and invited people to call up and listen as it melted away. Catherine Brahic blogging at NewScientist reports how Paterson dropped a waterproof microphone into the water near Glacier Vatnajokull and hooked the microphone up to a mobile phone. Check out Paterson's diary and photographs or listen to the sounds of the dying glacier. . . Eerily beautiful in an emo kind of way. --JULIA WHITTY

Arctic Spring Comes Weeks Earlier Than A Decade Ago

| Tue Jun. 19, 2007 12:22 PM EDT

Winter in the Arctic is yielding to spring as much as a month earlier than ten years ago. On average, spring is arriving two weeks earlier, as reported in Current Biology. Using the most comprehensive data set available for the region, the researchers documented extremely rapid climate-induced advancement of flowering in plants, and emergence and egg-laying in a wide array of High Arctic animal species. The finding in the Arctic offers an "early warning" of things to come on the rest of the planet.--JULIA WHITTY