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FDA Sued For Politicizing Women's Health

| Fri Apr. 13, 2007 11:39 AM EDT

Here's a new one: The Family Research Council is accusing the FDA of "politicizing women's health." Because before Plan B came around a woman's body was her own business? Right.

Yesterday a coalition of groups including the Family Research Council and Concerned Women for America filed a lawsuit against the FDA for its decision to approve the nonprescription sales of Plan B, Barr Laboratories' emergency contraceptive. Among its litany of complaints, the lawsuit accuses the FDA of violating the law by allowing the same drug to be distributed simultaneously by prescription and over the counter (uh, what about that "all-day non-drowsy relief"?), and it also names names, charging that the decision was made after "improper pressure" from Democratic Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Patty Murray.

"There are a lot of concerns," a spokesperson for the FRC told the Washington Times. This despite the fact that Barr has taken unprecedented steps to ensure the drug does not get into the hands of those under 18 and the uninformed. The company has agreed to send "anonymous shoppers" into pharmacies to test compliance with the age restriction, to distribute with the drug a booklet about its proper use, and to exclude gas stations and convenience stores from selling Plan B at all.

The improper pressure mentioned in the suit refers to Clinton and Murray putting a hold on the confirmation of current commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach until the FDA acted on the recommendation to approve OTC status. FRC said the decision to approve Barr's application is "very clearly caught up in political dynamics, and I would go so far as to say there is electoral politics involved here." Susan Wood, former director of FDA's Office of Women's Health, points out that the senators simply urged the agency to make a decision one way or the other, after months of stalling, and "didn't say what the decision should be."

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Coed Half-Naked Hunting

| Thu Apr. 12, 2007 9:22 PM EDT

Some archaeologists say the image of caveman as macho big-game hunter is just a figment of our 20th Century imagination. Then what were Neanderthal gender roles? Faye Flam asks in the Philadelphia Inquirer, "Did primitive peoples form relationships, the males playing father to sons and daughters, or did we act more like our chimpanzee and gorilla cousins--promiscuous, violent, with males fighting over the females?"

Most likely, fathers took more care of their kids as males and females approached the same body size. Human men and women are closer in body size than chimps. "In species with males and females closer to the same size, the sexes are more likely to work in pairs, cooperate, and share the burden of protecting their young," Flam writes. "So determining how long ago we reached our current ratio should point to when our ancestors stopped organizing themselves like apes and started acting more like people."

Speaking of prehistoric gender roles, this study is about two years old, but its absurdity is timeless: A researcher at Texas A&M University somehow demonstrated that female monkeys like playing with pots and pans. "Just like boys and girls, male monkeys like to play with toy cars whereas female monkeys prefer dolls" the Washington Post reported without irony, along with about 36 other news sources. "Males also played with balls while females fancied cooking pots." They quoted the researcher, Gerianne Alexander as saying, "The differences apparently date far back in evolutionary history to the time before humans and monkeys separated from their common ancestor some 25 million years ago."

So when in evolutionary history did monkeys learn what pots and pans are all about? Actually, that discovery launched the earliest known era of stay-at-home motherhood, by enabling moms to put dinner on the stove while their boys were out playing baseball with monkey dads. I saw it in Planet of the Apes.

A few years earlier, the same psychologist demonstrated that female monkeys like pink and male monkeys like blue. Maybe the next study will prove that monkeys associate white with weddings and black with funerals. Except for Chinese monkeys, who would, if they could, wear red to weddings and white to funerals. No doubt there are mental differences between the sexes due to hormones. One recent discovery was that men pay more attention to crotches than women, as shown in this eye-tracking study. (Scroll down). But that monkey study has such blatantly unscientific bias; it's like a university psychology department conducting research into whether or not African Americans are innately drawn to cotton.

Imus Loses His Bully Pulpit

| Thu Apr. 12, 2007 5:48 PM EDT

CBS dropped Don Imus' morning shock-jock radio program, Imus in the Morning. Read more on The Riff.

Imus Loses His Bully Pulpit

| Thu Apr. 12, 2007 5:40 PM EDT

imus.jpgCBS dropped Don Imus' morning shock-jock radio program, Imus in the Morning. In case you've been living under a rock, Imus called the Rutgers women's basketball team, who placed second in the women's NCAA championship, a bunch of "nappy-headed hos." Although many black groups expressed their dismay to CBS, Imus's ratings went up after the April 4 remark. Here's an example of the market not taking care of itself, I guess. Fortunately, CBS (and MSNBC, which dropped the simulcast yesterday) did the right thing.

Ironically, Imus was scheduled to apologize to the team in person today.

An interesting thought problem: Clearly, what Imus said was more racist than sexist ("hos" notwithstanding). But it's interesting that his racism was stimulated by women's basketball and not men's. Why do racism and sexism seem to get so perversely intertwined?

The Most Boring YouTube Video Ever

| Thu Apr. 12, 2007 5:39 PM EDT

Wow. I've seen YouTube videos that are ridiculous, provocative, nonsensical, funny and utterly meaningless, but Mitt Romney's latest entry definitely earns the least-interesting award.

His snooze-fest video is part of YouTube's "You Choose '08" initiative that lets candidates showcase their campaigns through videos.

Actually, it's nice to get a glimpse of a 2008 presidential candidate speaking candidly, alone, without annoying banners, campaign posters, megaphones or loud crowds, so props to YouTube's News and Politics site.

If YouTube videos are too literal for you, try investigating virtual communities like Second Life, where Barack Obama has set up shop and posted a national webcast of his "living room conversation" with supporters.

The argument here is that campaigning with web tools like MySpace, Facebook, YouTube and Second Life open up the door for a new sense of "intimacy" with candidates, but I'm not so sure I'm buying it. Romney's video put me to sleep. Obama's virtual self doesn't even look anything like him. At this point I'm not really feeling more connected to candidates through web campaigns, I'm feeling bored.

--Gary Moskowitz

Rove and Co. Broke Federal Law With Email Scam

| Thu Apr. 12, 2007 3:59 PM EDT

Our friends at CREW are back in the news. They've put out a report saying "the Executive Office of the President (EOP) has lost over FIVE MILLION emails generated between March 2003 and October 2005." The White House was apparently given a plan to recover those emails, but has chosen to do nothing. I'm going to go ahead and guess that the plan to uncover those emails will never be undertaken unless done so with the power of a federal subpoena, because those emails were meant to be lost.

But guess what? Turns out, this is all illegal! Dan Froomkin of the Washington Post asked a White House spokesman to read aloud the White House's policy on email retention, and this is what he said:

"Federal law requires the preservation of electronic communications sent or received by White House staff... The official EOP e-mail system is designed to automatically comply with records management requirements."

Federal law? Holy cow! Deleting your emails is a federal offense, and the official email system is designed so emails will never be "accidentally" deleted. These guys are totally on the hook, right? Wait, there's more?

"Personnel working on behalf of the EOP [Executive Office of the President] are expected to only use government-provided e-mail services for all official communication."

So using email addresses belonging to the RNC and laptops and Blackberries on loan from the same is a violation of policy?

Bring in Patrick Fitzgerald now! Everyone is going to prison!

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Stanford Students Hold Hunger Strike for a Living Wage

| Thu Apr. 12, 2007 3:54 PM EDT

If you are a regular reader of Mother Jones you know that we love activism from the college kids. We've done thirteen annual campus activism roundups, the most recent of which can be found here.

Well, we're in for a doozy. Four Stanford students are beginning a hunger strike tonight in an effort to win a living wage for Stanford's workers.

This is well-tread ground. Living wages for kitchen staff, maintenance workers, groundskeepers, and construction workers is often a contentious issue on college campuses, with students and workers fighting for a livable wage and administrators resisting, then frequently adopting more economically just policies in fits and starts.

That's certainly the case at Stanford. In the winter and spring of 2003, workers and students rallied for a living wage and President John L. Hennessy appeared to cave by agreeing to a living wage with certain restrictions. In time it became clear that those restrictions excluded enough Stanford workers to render the policy meaningless, and in May 2003 students fasted for a week until Hennessy agreed to appoint a commission to examine the issue.

In June 2004, the commission recommended striking down five of Hennessy's seven restrictions and said, "If Stanford University operates a "living wage" policy, it should not attach so many conditions to its applicability that it has the effect of excusing many Contracted workers from that policy. A "living wage" policy that appends a string of conditions creates inequities among similar workers and risks giving the unfortunate impression that Stanford's employment policies do not really mean what they are proclaimed to be." Hennessy agreed to consider and possibly adopt the commission's recommendations.

Almost three years later nothing has happened and student activists say they are back at "square one." Thus, another fast. Their demand: "That the living wage be expanded to apply to all campus workers regardless of the dollar value of employee contract; duration of employment; amount of hours worked per week; union membership status; and worksite location." You can learn more about the group holding the hunger strike, and its demands, at this website.

The students can thank Stanford for wireless internet at least, and while they are occupying a public space on Stanford's campus and refusing to imbibe, they will be filing regular dispatches for Mother Jones. Think of it as activism in action. Check the Mother Jones homepage over the next few days for regular updates.

About Your Commute...

| Thu Apr. 12, 2007 3:30 PM EDT

If it makes you unhappy and it's destroying the planet, isn't it time to stop? Learn more on The Blue Marble.

Environmental Fact of the Day

| Thu Apr. 12, 2007 3:28 PM EDT

Americans spend, on average, 51 minutes a day commuting to and from work. The fastest growing group of commuters is "extreme commuters"—those whose one-way commute takes longer than 90 minutes. The length of one's commute is directly proportionate to how unhappy one is—meaning, the longer your commute, the more you hate life. So now you have a good reason to stop: Saving the planet for your children. Don't you think they'd prefer that to your nice big house in the exurbs?

Bomb Kills 2 Iraqi Lawmakers

| Thu Apr. 12, 2007 2:32 PM EDT

The lawmakers were having their midday meal in a restaurant in the Green Zone after concluding the day's parliamentary session. Both were Sunni. According to the U.S. military, 8 people died in the attack and 23 were injured.

A separate attack blew up a 70-year-old bridge across the Tigris River as commuters were driving across. At least 10 people died.

Again, I say the surge is not working.