Archive for August, 2009

Hey Suburbia!

blog_suburbiaSome critics of Obama’s plan to fight housing segregation by dumping money into impoverished inner-city sectors and hoping for the best received welcome encouragement from a groundbreaking ruling earlier this month that makes it tough for affluent suburbs to shut their gates on low-income families; meanwhile, a Houston writer explains why suburbs deserve to exist inside city limits, and why “inner-city” and “urban” are no longer synonymous adjectives when attached to “neighborhood;” finally, a Slate photo essay takes us on a tour of Forest Hills Gardens, a transit-oriented planned community in New York built 100 years ago. -SS

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Teeing Up for the Green

blog_golfIt’s rare that a New York Times writer takes the side of Hugo Chavez, but it’s hard to argue that golf isn’t a bourgeois sport; its history as a predominantly White activity has been challenged, of course, by the dominance of Tiger Woods, but class issues remain, as evidenced by this report of “Tiger gawkers” with “high levels of disposable income” who “may not have been aware” that the 330 dollars they paid to see Tiger will help fight diabetes and obesity among Native Americans; Barack Obama’s vacation hit Day 2 yesterday, and with it came a relaxing jaunt around the links with UBS Investment Bank President Robert Wolf, a generous campaign donor attracted to Obama because Obama was “a candidate who would take his calls, listen to his ideas” (the LA Times provides some golf tips for the president); meanwhile, a golf course in Michigan faces a massive re-branding task after the discovery of a 11,000-year-old mammoth tooth on its premises — the course’s logo will now feature a wooly mammoth design, and its restaurant will serve mammoth burgers.

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Tireless Tinkerer RIP

images1Les Paul, the guitar virtuoso and inventor, passed away this week at the age of 94; Besides developing the solid-body guitar that bears his name, Paul also revolutionized rock-and-roll through multi-track recording; Just four years ago, he recorded his first-ever rock album, and up until recently performed in New York City weekly at the New York jazz club Iridium. - SS

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NASA’s Empty Pockets

blog_nasaA panel appointed by President Obama to evaluate the program proposed by NASA to put humans back on the moon in 2020 has intensely criticized the plan, which originated under George W Bush, saying that its budget would be unworkable even with the help of Santa Claus; at the same time, NASA has announced that it lacks the funding to reach its goal of monitoring 90 percent of deadly asteroids by 2020, which Congress mandated it do in 2005; all this makes one wonder if the severe head scratching over what food to serve astronauts on their upcoming three-year Mars mission is really what scientists should be concentrating on. -SS

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Life After Death

blog_fluResurrections take on a variety of forms today, some more literal than others: A family in Paraguay was baffled, overjoyed and angered when a baby declared dead at the hospital woke up after being taken home for his own wake; Michael Jackson’s death has resurrected his dwindling profitability to the tune of $100 million in just 48 days, with another $100 million projected before the end of the year; an exhibit at the International Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago shows the innovative ways in which medical arts students are bringing life to anatomy via photorealistic 3-D models and interactive animations; and lazy photojournalists are doing their halfhearted best to revive interest in Detroit by flocking to the city and taking pictures of the same decrepit structures as everyone else. -SS

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Let Them Eat Meat!

blog_mcdonaldsDark days for vegetarians may lie ahead: The White House has called for the removal of posters from the DC Metro that urge lawmakers to support mandated veggie options in public school lunchrooms, because the ads use the president’s daughters as linchpins in their argument; while we noted months back that organic farming has been hit hard by the recession, McDonald’s version of “downscale, industrialized, aggressively unhealthy” meat-centric cuisine has buoyed the company through a stretch of growth and prosperity; farmers in the northeast United States face seriously dwindling supplies of tomatoes as their crops are hit with late blight, the same disease that caused the Irish potato famine; and even fauna like their fair share of flesh, we’re reminded, as researchers discover a pitcher plant large enough to eat rats. -SS

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Jailhouse Roundup

blog_jailThe worlds that exist inside behind bars — ever-fascinating for their mystery, brutality and occasional bouts of poetry — continue to bubble up into the view of the unincarcerated: It’s no secret that California’s infamous “Chino” prison erupted in a riot last weekend, but no report of that violence comes close to what a young Iranian describes seeing after being arrested during protests following July’s disputed presidential election; in Mexico, drug cartel bosses and underlings continue to live in prison (and leave) much as they please; Christopher Hitchens notices that the two American journalists recently “saved” by the Clintons from North Korea look in better shape after six months in prison than most citizens of that country do normally; and City Journal provides an incredible look at the US jail system, where the volume and turnover rate of pre-trial detainees makes jailkeepers’ jobs much like “shepherding each of the thousands of commuters streaming through New York’s Penn Station to their trains safely and on time, except that the commuters are all criminals who keep changing their travel plans, and their trains, to which they don’t want to go, and have no fixed timetables”. -SS

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Fakes, Frauds and Fallacies, Oh My!

blog_counterfeitKeep an eye out, folks, counterfeits abound: The New York Times reported Tuesday that letters received by members of Congress from a nonprofit group arguing against a piece of climate-change legislation were actually from a lobbying group that represents a coal company — the alleged nonprofit doesn’t exist; Vanity Fair shines a dim light on North Korea’s opaque Office 39, a crime syndicate that, among other things, produces counterfeit US currency so real it passes through hypersensitive Las Vegas slot machines; finally, the BBC Magazine takes on a YouTube video that’s been viewed over 10 million times, which lays out statistics that suggest the EU will be home to a majority Muslim population in a matter of decades — a claim the news organization attacks as patently false.

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Ghosts of Administration Past

blog_eprinceMore and more horrifying nuggets continue to creep out from the Bush administration woodwork: The Nation provides coverage of the ongoing saga of Blackwater and its Crusader Captain, Erik Prince, who has been accused by former employees of arranging the murder of individuals who were cooperating with federal authorities investigating the company; meanwhile, Guantanamo inmates are feeling more and more like guests of Hotel California — where you can check out any time but never leave — as a growing number have been cleared by courts for release yet remain inexplicably incarcerated (on the bright side, they may have a move to gorgeous Michigan to look forward to); finally, the New York Times ruminates in an editorial about the ordeal of Mohammed Jawad, a Gitmo resident since he was 17, whose case a federal judge threw out last week, “seven years, one suicide attempt and untold hours of physical and mental torture later”. -SS

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Varying Degrees of Access

blog_billBill Clinton’s diplomatic feat of securing the pardon and release of two detained journalists in North Korea (as well as a sitdown with the reclusive leader Kim Jong-il on his own soil) is a tough act to follow; however, Joseph Cotchett, a San Francisco lawyer, had his own impressive display of access recently when sat down with Bernie Madoff in his North Carolina prison for the first interview since Madoff received his 150-year sentence; in the open waters, questions remain about how and why two Russian nuclear-powered attack submarines slipped into the East Coast of the US for a patrol mission; in the sporting world, a Pittsburgh Penguins fan revealed how he was able to smuggle himself onto the ice during his team’s championship celebration last June (and even hoist the Stanley Cup, as if he was a teammate); and in an unsavory gossip item courtesy of Vanity Fair, troubled actor Ryan O’Neal fessed up to the ultimate case of mistaken identity — making advances on a woman at his wife’s funeral, only to realize the woman was actually his daughter. Awkward has a new home.

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