Blogs

Neato Viddys on the Intertubes

| Tue Feb. 13, 2007 9:21 PM EST

With VH1 Classic possibly going away, and Logo's "NewNowNext" seemingly impossible to catch, there's almost no good place for music videos on TV these days. So, like in all things, we must turn to the internet. Below are some new clips that make squinting at a tiny window on your work monitor worth the trouble.

Robyn "Konichiwa Bitches" (via Stereogum)
In which the Swedish pop star gets silly (warning: a couple swear words)

MIA "Bird Flu" (via Cliptip)
In which the UK rapper goes back to Sri Lanka and brings back an evil, infectious beat (sorry)

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Dutch Lead Rearguard Action Against Sea Level Rise

| Tue Feb. 13, 2007 8:20 PM EST

The Associated Press via the International Herald Tribune reports that Dutch engineers are considering creating "breaker islands" off the country's North Sea coast as a possible defense against rising sea levels caused by global warming. Should we be following their lead?

More than two-thirds of the Netherlands' 16 million population lives below sea level, and Dutch policy makers are counting on a rise in sea level of around 80 centimeters (30 inches) in the coming century regardless of the ongoing scientific debate on the causes and likely impact of global warming. Bakker cited a strategy increasingly being used to strengthen the dunes that protect the country's coast: pumping sand into strategic offshore locations where currents in the North Sea sweep them into place, bulking up the dunes.

"This strategy is successful and relatively cheap" in addressing immediate needs to strengthen the country's water defenses, Bakker said. "We could use a similar more natural approach in strengthening our coastal defenses in the longer term. For example, by creating a series of small islands off the coast ... instead of raising the current dunes or dams."

That would help protect against storm surges such as the one in 1953 that drove water near the Dutch coast more than 4 meters (13 feet) above normal levels, breaching defenses and killing more than 1,800 people. That set off a massive 40-year building project that made the country's water defenses among the strongest in the world. But the country's undersecretary of Transportation Melanie Schultz said the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina was a "wake up call" that more work remains.

"We can't delude ourselves that natural disasters occur only in developing countries," she said.

So while we misspend billions on the wrong war for homeland security, the Dutch are engineering really good defense systems designed for the watery battlefront of the 21st century.

The Dutch government approved a new euro14 billion (US$18.5 billion) increase in spending on water defenses and water quality improvements over the next 20 years in December. That's on top of euro3 billion (US$4 billion) in extra projects already in the works this decade against the threat from river floods, as Dutch climate models predict global warming will lead to more abrupt showers in the Rhine catchment area, whose water ultimately funnels through the Netherlands on its way out to the sea.

The recent IPCC (International Panel on Climate Change) reports the seas will rise for at least 1,000 years. We'll need a whole civilization of Hans Brinkers with stout fingers and, well, not ice skates… maybe Jetskis.

Quiet Your Legs, Gamble Your Lifesavings, New Drugs Do All This and More

| Tue Feb. 13, 2007 7:05 PM EST

A study from the Mayo Clinic says that a class of drugs used to treat restless leg syndrome has the bizarre side effect of turning regular folks into compulsive gamblers. (… note to Karl Rove: GWB's excuse?...) The modern world is strange, but no stranger than this: peddling a new drug for a syndrome no one's ever heard of and then creating a solution far worse than the problem.

Compulsive gambling with extreme losses -- in two cases, greater than $100,000 -- by people without a prior history of gambling problems has been linked to a class of drugs commonly used to treat the neurological disorder restless legs syndrome (RLS). A new Mayo Clinic study is the first to describe this compulsive gambling in RLS patients who are being treated with medications that stimulate dopamine receptors in the brain.

One patient, a woman seen in the Mayo Clinic Sleep Disorders Center, had a five-year history of regular nighttime creeping-crawling sensations in her legs, accompanied by the strong urge to move her legs. Two and a half years prior to her Mayo Clinic visit, she had been diagnosed with RLS and treatment with pramipexole was begun.

Her symptoms improved, however, a problematic behavior developed soon after she started taking the medication. She developed an uncontrollable urge to gamble when visiting the nearby casino. As the dose increased, her gambling compulsion grew stronger. The transition of her therapy to another dopamine agonist, ropinirole, further increased her compulsion to gamble. Prior to her treatment for RLS, she had no history of gambling and viewed gamblers as "unfortunate individuals," the authors report. The patient lost more than $140,000 from gambling.

War Comes Home as Children of Deployed Military Suffer Stress

| Tue Feb. 13, 2007 6:44 PM EST

A study from the Medical College of Georgia tells a predictable yet neglected story, that the children of parents in the military during wartime have significant physical and mental health issues. Stress not only, well, stresses them, it also effectively ages them beyond their years.

Researchers looked at 121 adolescents – including 48 with civilian parents, 20 with a parent deployed to Iraq and 53 with a parent in the military but not deployed – days after Operation Iraqi Freedom was launched in March 2003 and nearly three months later when President Bush announced major hostilities had ceased.

At both points, adolescent offspring of military personnel self-reported higher levels of stress and measures of blood pressure and heart rates supported that.

"We expected stress levels would push up blood pressure and heart rates," says Dr. Vernon Barnes, physiologist at the Medical College of Georgia and principal author of a paper published in the January issue of Military Medicine.

Dr. Barnes and his colleagues used a posttraumatic stress disorder questionnaire developed by the military for personnel and modified for adolescents, a survey to assess psychosocial concerns such as sense of well-being and faith in government as well as more objective heart rate and blood pressure measures.

Not surprisingly, they found that particularly adolescents with deployed parents had higher rates than their classmates. Studies were done at the Academy of Richmond County, a high school in Augusta, Ga., attended by many children whose parents are stationed at Fort Gordon.

Casualties without boundaries.

Romney: Lies, Boring Lies

| Tue Feb. 13, 2007 5:26 PM EST

When Mitt Romney entered politics in 1994 with a losing bid to unseat Sen. Ted Kennedy, he packaged himself as a moderate. He promised the Log Cabin Republicans that he would be a stronger advocate for gay rights than Kennedy. He also said that regardless of his personal beliefs, abortion should be safe and legal.

Let's be honest: You can't win in Massachusetts if you say you hate gays and value fetuses more than women.

When he announced his presidential aspirations earlier today, Romney presented himself as a veritable values warrior. He called for smaller government. Apparently, taxes are still too high...on the wealthy.

He also wrapped anti-abortion and anti-gay views into a frighteningly tight little package. (Perhaps he would support gag legislation recently introduced by the Washington Defense of Marriage Alliance, limiting marriage to those who can and will have children?)

"America can't continue to lead the family of nations if we fail the families at home," he said, adding that values and morals are "under constant attack" and promoting families where a mother and a father are in each child's life.

Where to begin? Romney's rhetoric is so two decades ago and contradicts positions he's taken in the meantime. And to say values are under attack is downright frightening. I challenge Mr. Mitt to find me one instance of one person of any credibility saying that values and morals are bad: End laws against stealing! Make perjury mandatory! Murder? No problem!

The only way his statement makes any sense is as an assault on the separation of church and state, which is just downright bizarre because Romney isn't protestant, he's Mormon and would join gays and abortionists on the heretics list.

That's the crazy-boring package. Oh, yeah, he also supports continued involvement in Iraq.

Banking Industry Offers Credit Cards to High-Risk Group, Again

| Tue Feb. 13, 2007 5:11 PM EST

In just another example of banks targeting high-risk groups, those with bad or no credit, Bank of America is discreetly offering credit cards to people without Social Security numbers, reports the Wall Street Journal today. Now, before my knee-jerk reaction, that this is a really dirty and exploitative moneymaking scheme, gets away from me, I think it's important to consider the positives.

Undocumented immigrants, the obvious target of the new offer (the majority of people in the U.S. who don't have a SS number are illegal immigrants), deserve options for credit as well. It is harder to buy a house, car and really, anything big without credit, and as the WSJ points out, illegal immigrants have "typically relied on loan sharks and neighborhood finance shops for credit." So potentially, this could be a good advancement. Unfortunately, Bank of America's lending scheme appears to be just another example of high-risk groups being taken advantage of.

Illegal immigrants have to pay an upfront fee to obtain Bank of America's Visa card and the interest rate on the card, surprise, surprise, is "unquestionably high," according to a researcher for the Nilson report, a group that puts out newsletters on consumer payment systems. Salon blogger Andrew Leonard, notes, sarcastically, that anti-immigration activists should be shouting from the rooftops, because immigrants' money will no longer be flowing across the border in the form of remittances, but rather staying right here in the U.S. of A.

It's a tough time for banks. Historically they have raked in profits by simply buying other banks, but consolidation regulations are tightening and banks are forced to look for other lucrative avenues. It's really no wonder Bank of America would look to give credit to an untapped population whose financial stability is not guaranteed, one that probably has no idea that the average household that makes less than $35,000 has credit card debt of $4,000.

Higher standards, huh?

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Dazed and Confused

| Tue Feb. 13, 2007 4:30 PM EST

lez-zeppelin-tshirt.gifMaybe it's because the camp gene is right next to the gay gene, but I heart tribute bands. I'm not sure how I feel about Rolling Stone reviewing them, but it is. Still, I can't help but be titillated by their mention of transgendered bands like Lez Zeppelin and (male) Madonna. I've been giving Klezbians and Isle of Klesbos CDs for gifts for years, for the name alone! But the idea of some dykes rocking out to "I've gotta little woman but she won't be true" is just too fantastic. I love the underground, irreverent humor, especially as it pertains to gender, about which we tend to be sooo reverent. (Little people are down with it, too, at least the ones in the band Mini Kiss.) But if Rolling Stone is covering it, does that mean it's already over?

Another PR Firm Poses as an Activist Group

| Tue Feb. 13, 2007 3:41 PM EST

The California Alliance to Protect Private Property Rights feels your pain. You've been upset about eminent domain abuse—when cities take land from the little guys and pass it to developers of chain stores, car dealerships, and golf courses—haven't you? It's so un-American. Well, the Alliance sympathizes, and it wants to channel your feelings into… opening up nature preserves and greenbelts to developers.

Up close, the "Alliance" doesn't look like much an alliance. It looks more like a public relations firm. The man running the show, Marko Mlikotin, might be on Wal-Mart's payroll. He was spotted recently drumming up community support for two Wal-Mart supercenters in Chico, Calif. But public relations is a tough job, and he's having a rough go at it. Reporter Tom Gascoyne writes, "When I asked him questions, he would say, 'I'm not sure,' or 'Don't quote me.'"

Anyway, "Marko the Mysterious" just sent out a press release trumpeting a recent survey. The pollster is the Public Opinion Strategies, a Republican firm which says, "As our roots are in political campaign management, our research is focused on producing information…." Doesn't sound so objective.

You can guess the poll results: People don't like eminent domain abuse. They would support a law to protect homeowners. But the survey didn't differentiate between the private property rights of homeowners and those of Wal-Mart. And what people weren't asked about is how much they value open space and greenbelts and nature preserves. People don't want a law like Prop 90, which citizens smartly defeated in November, because it would have crippled environmental regulation and cost the states billions of dollars. A "pay-or-waive scheme," Prop 90 would have required the government to compensate landowners for new regulations that devalue their property, or waive the regulations altogether. (In Oregon, which has pay-or-waive, property owners in three months last summer filed more than $5 billion in claims).

As far as I can tell, no news agencies have picked up the survey, which means folks are onto Marko and his "alliance." But the point is, they're back. Special interests behind this "alliance" are drumming up support for another Prop 90. Get ready.

Another PR Firm Poses as an Activist Group

| Tue Feb. 13, 2007 3:38 PM EST

The California Alliance to Protect Private Property Rights feels your pain. You've been upset about eminent domain abuse—when cities take land from the little guys and pass it to developers of chain stores, car dealerships, and golf courses—haven't you? It's so un-American. Well, the Alliance sympathizes, and it wants to channel your feelings into… opening up nature preserves and greenbelts to developers.

Up close, the "Alliance" doesn't look like much an alliance. It looks more like a public relations firm. The man running the show, Marko Mlikotin, might be on Wal-Mart's payroll. He was spotted recently drumming up community support for two Wal-Mart supercenters in Chico, Calif. But public relations is a tough job, and he's having a rough go at it. Reporter Tom Gascoyne writes, "When I asked him questions, he would say, 'I'm not sure,' or 'Don't quote me.'"

Anyway, "Marko the Mysterious" just sent out a press release trumpeting a recent survey. The pollster is the Public Opinion Strategies, a Republican firm which says, "As our roots are in political campaign management, our research is focused on producing information…." Doesn't sound so objective.

You can guess the poll results: People don't like eminent domain abuse. They would support a law to protect homeowners. But the survey didn't differentiate between the private property rights of homeowners and those of Wal-Mart. And what people weren't asked about is how much they value open space and greenbelts and nature preserves. People don't want a law like Prop 90, which citizens smartly defeated in November, because it would have crippled environmental regulation and cost the states billions of dollars. A "pay-or-waive scheme," Prop 90 would have required the government to compensate landowners for new regulations that devalue their property, or waive the regulations altogether. (In Oregon, which has pay-or-waive, property owners in three months last summer filed more than $5 billion in claims).

As far as I can tell, no news agencies have picked up the survey, which means folks are onto Marko and his "alliance." But the point is, they're back. Special interests behind this "alliance" are drumming up support for another Prop 90. Get ready.

Congressman from Georgia Passes Away

| Tue Feb. 13, 2007 3:04 PM EST

Representative Charlie Norwood has died at his home in Georgia, a victim of lung disease and cancer. Norwood, a Republican, was a citizen-politician, serving as a dentist before coming to Congress in 1994. Rest in peace.