Thursday, March 18, 2010

"The Virgin Suicides', Sweet 16," by Nadine Rubin

(Photo and article courtesy: The Daily Beast)

Impossible as it may be to believe, Jeffrey Eugenides had so little faith in his ability to get The Virgin Suicides published that he filled it with the names of people he knew. “I was a virtually unpublished writer just playing around,” he says on the phone from Berlin, where he is spending the summer with his wife, the photographer and sculptor Karen Yamauchi and their 10-year-old daughter. “I had no ostensible hopes for it. My writing was a private exercise to please myself.”

Still, he had studied with the likes of Rick Moody, who was beginning to get published, and while Eugenides maintained himself by working as an executive secretary at the Academy of American Poets in New York, he wrote for two hours a night, four hours on the weekend and at every chance he could get during the workday. He was eventually fired for writing on the job, so he submitted the first chapter of his “private exercise” to The Paris Review as a short story. That was almost two decades ago. Today, the novel that resulted from that short story has been republished in paperback and holds its place as a modern American classic.

Read remainder of the article HERE.

"Size Doesn't Matter," by Nadin Rubin

(Image and article courtesy: The Daily Beast)

“I read the new Joan Rivers’ on the plane over here,” says Susie Orbach, the British psychoanalyst who is in New York to promote her 11th book, Bodies. She is referring to Rivers’ cosmetic surgery tell-all, Men Are Stupid . . . And They Like Big Boobs: A Woman's Guide to Beauty. “I pride myself on my knowledge of plastic surgery, but some of those procedures I’d never even heard of. She’s a woman in her seventies and her body is just so incongruous.”

Orbach is the anti-Rivers: At 62, she’s an attractive woman with crow’s feet and a forehead that wrinkles when she’s perplexed. The V-neck of the black T-shirt that she is wearing underscores her unenhanced cleavage, yet she is not looking to go under knife or needle, notwithstanding her recent separation from her husband of 30 years or the fact that for millions, as Rivers will tell you, nipping, tucking, filling or suctioning is as basic a part of a beauty regime as using toner. “I recently heard that brides are now offering their bridesmaids plastic surgery a year before the wedding so that it’s all settled by the time they accompany her down the aisle. I mean, hello!” says Orbach, widening her eyes. “We now see our body as something we can, must, and should perfect.”

Read remainder of the article HERE.

"Alleged 'American Jihadist' Made Way to Yemen," by Haley Sweetland Edwards

(Photo and article courtesy: AOLNews)

SANA'A, YEMEN (March 12) -- Sharif Mobley, a 26-year-old New Jersey man suspected of being an al-Qaida member, reportedly shot his way out of a Yemeni hospital Sunday and into American headlines.

"It was like the movies," said Zaid al-Olfah, who was visiting a family member at the aging, Soviet-style building in the Yemeni capital on Sunday. "There was shooting and smoke coming out the windows and down the hallway." The window of Mobley's former hospital room is still blackened.

Mobley is the latest in a line of suspected "American jihadists" -- disgruntled American citizens, including Colleen LaRose aka Jihad Jane, who have allegedly been radicalized and recruited as foot soldiers by Islamic extremists. Their American citizenship, which allows them to both travel freely and hold sensitive positions of employment without raising suspicion, makes them potentially invaluable contributors to al-Qaida plots on American soil, U.S. intelligence reports have said.

Read the remainder of the article HERE.

"Adding Zest to Recipes on Labels," by Miriam Gottfried

Article and Photo courtesy: The Wall Street Journal)

Recipe developers at Campbell Soup Co. spent months testing and tasting before reaching a decision: "Chicken With Sun-Dried Tomatoes" was safe enough to print on the back of a can of cream-of-mushroom soup.

Some of the most beloved American dishes started as back-of-the-package recipes, designed in corporate test kitchens to sell more cans of soup, bags of noodles and boxes of cake mix. Campbell, for example, says 30 million "Green Bean Casseroles," a recipe created in 1955, are made using its cream-of-mushroom soup between Thanksgiving and Christmas each year.

America's increasingly sophisticated palate, influenced by TV cooking shows, celebrity chefs and gourmet ingredients, presents a problem. Food companies need to figure out how to update their recipes to entice today's more ambitious cooks to use products that might otherwise sit on the shelf for months. The recipes must make cooks feel like they're doing more than just adding eggs to a mix, but not use so many ingredients to require a special trip to the store. If they get too trendy, they risk alienating their core consumers.

Read remainder of the article HERE.

"Destination: Haiti," by Emily Schmall

(Article courtesy: CJR)

"It took chartered planes, buses, commercial flights, SUVs, motorbikes, helicopters, and some incredible luck to get in and out of Haiti—twice"

It was sweltering when the Blackhawk landed on the narrow airstrip of the USS Carl Vinson, a United States air carrier floating thirty miles from the shores of Port-au-Prince. It was Friday, January 15, three days after a 7.0-magnitude earthquake had rocked the Haitian capital, and I was among a small coterie of foreign journalists who secured a spot on a Navy helicopter. Three days earlier, I had been eating sushi in Mexico City, where I live and work as a freelance journalist, when I first read about the quake. Though I had never reported from Haiti, my first job out of college at The Miami Herald had piqued my interest in the country, and my instinct told me I should go.

In the naïve early hours after the disaster, I had booked a direct flight on Air France from Miami into Port-au-Prince. But by the next day, all commercial flights into Haiti were canceled. It was my first introduction into the logistical challenges of reporting from the site of a disaster—challenges that take on a particular pitch when you’re going in without a satellite phone or a big wad of cash.

Remainder of article can be found HERE.

"Poverty Predicts Quake Damage Better Than Richter Scale," by Emily Schmall

(Article and photo courtesy: AOLnews)

Though an 8.8-magnitude earthquake that rocked Chile early Saturday was one of the strongest on record, the structural devastation and human toll is expected to be far smaller than the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti in January.

To project the scope of destruction and loss of human life, the quality of buildings and the poverty level are far more telling than the magnitude on the Richter scale, scientists and aid workers say.

"It's not as much the earthquake that kills, it's the poverty that kills," said Colin Stark, a geomorphologist and researcher at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory who is studying the aftermath of a 1999 earthquake in Taiwan to predict the probability of landslides in Haiti.

Read remainder of article HERE.

"Billionaire Among Us: How Mexicans See Carlos Slim," by Emily Schmall

(Photo and article courtesy: AOLnews)
MEXICO CITY (March 13) -- How does a country battered by a lethal drug war and the worst recession since the 1930s react when one of its own, Carlos Slim Helu, is deemed by Forbes magazine to be the world's richest person?

In a word, mixed.

"There's no way for a country with so many poor to have the world's richest man without something being awry," said Pedro Dominguez, a mechanic from Puebla. "The problem is, most Mexican people have no way to attain this kind of wealth."

"He has my respect," countered Rafael Contreras Martinez, a housepainter from Izucar de Matamoros, on his way to a job. "I'm not going to speak ill of a man who has worked and struggled."

Read remainder of article HERE.

"Going Green," by Laura Colarusso

(Photo and article courtesy: New Jersey Monthly)

The Garden State is cleaning up its energy act, one town at a time.
Until last October, the tallest structure in Ocean Gate was the water tower. Reaching 138 feet into the air, the gray steel tank was the sole silhouette rising above the town’s tree line.

But now a second structure punctuates the skyline. A town-owned wind turbine, it eclipses the water tower by seven feet and looms large over the one-story bungalows that line Ocean Gate’s streets.

The turbine has become a point of pride for residents of this sleepy Barnegat Bay community. It’s the first in New Jersey created and owned by a municipality. With its construction, the people of Ocean Gate see themselves as having taken a considerable step toward not just reducing their greenhouse gas emissions, but also saving some serious cash and helping the country work toward energy independence from foreign sources.
By this fall, Ocean Gate should have a second wind turbine installed. Once it’s running, more than half the town’s municipal electricity needs—for the firehouse, municipal building, community center, and water treatment plant—will be provided by renewable energy. How did a half-square-mile town of 2,200 people with only two restaurants, a deli, a beauty parlor, and an auto body shop find itself at the forefront of the green revolution?

Read the remainder of the article HERE.

Monday, March 15, 2010

"A Wedding in the Town of Al-Qaeda," by Abigail Hauslohner

(Article and photo courtesy: TIME)

The men were firing their Kalashnikovs so close by that I was certain I could hear the bullet casings cascading down onto the roof of the tent. A crowd of women swaddled in black cupped their hands over their veiled mouths to emit a wave of high-pitched ululations — a call of celebration familiar across the Middle East. The 16-year-old bride, draped in a sparkly white gown, henna tattoos running up her arms, sat silent and tearful as she prepared to meet her groom for the first time. I hadn't meant to spend the night in this tiny village in a country everyone is pointing to as the next hub of global terrorism. But it's not every day that you get invited to an Al-Qaeda wedding.

Read more:,9171,1955577,00.html#ixzz0iDuVN3DM

"Road Tripping in Yemen," by Abigail Hauslohner

(Video courtesy: TIME)

Undaunted by the dangers, video journalist Abigail Hauslohner takes a road trip through Yemen from the capital, Sana'a, to the southern port of Aden

You can also watch the story HERE.

"Mexico's Pink Taxis Cater to Fed-up Females," by Catherine Shoichet

(Photo and article courtesy: ABC NEWS and The Associated Press)

Creepy Cabbie Taxing Your Patience? Mexico's Women-Only Taxis Offer Safe, Pink Environment

Each pink taxi comes with a beauty kit, a GPS system and an alarm button.

The new fleet of 35 cabs in Mexico's colonial city of Puebla are driven exclusively by women and don't stop for men. The cabs cater especially to those tired of leering male drivers.

"Some of the woman who have been on board tell us how male taxi drivers cross the line and try to flirt with them and make inappropriate propositions," said taxi driver Aida Santos, who drives one of the compact, four-door taxis with a tracking device and an alarm button that notifies emergency services. "In the Pink Taxi they won't have that feeling of insecurity, and they feel more relaxed."

Women's rights activists are aghast at the cars' sugary presentation and said the service does not address the root of the harassment problem.

Read the remainder of the article HERE.

"Mexican prosecutors probe possible Frida fakes," by CATHERINE E. SHOICHET

(Article courtesy: Huffington Post)

MEXICO CITY — Mexican federal prosecutors said Tuesday they are investigating a claim that more than 1,000 items attributed to artist Frida Kahlo were forged.

The Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo Trust filed a complaint saying signed paintings, notes and drawings featured in two recent art history books are fake, the Attorney General's Office said.

"We must stop the commercialization of false works," said Hilda Trujillo, director of the Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo Museums.

Read remainder of article HERE.

"As Nuclear Reactor Fleet Ages, Engineers Ask,' Is 80 the New 40?'" by Paul Voosen

(Article courtesy: The New York Times and Greenwire)
Could nuclear power plants last as long as the Hoover Dam?

Increasingly dependable and emitting few greenhouse gases, the U.S. fleet of nuclear power plants will likely run for another 50 or even 70 years before it is retired -- long past the 40-year life span planned decades ago -- according to industry executives, regulators and scientists.

With nuclear providing always-on electricity that will become more cost-effective if a price is placed on heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions, utilities have found it is now viable to replace turbines or lids that have been worn down by radiation exposure or wear. Many engineers are convinced that nearly any plant parts, most of which were not designed to be replaced, can be swapped out.

Read remainder of article HERE.

"Wind Power's Dirty Secret: Hidden Carbon Footprint?" by Anita Kissee

(Video and article courtesy: KATU-TV)

PORTLAND, Ore. – In 10 years Oregon has handed out $1.3 billion in tax credits for renewable energy and conservation projects like wind power, but questions about why the state is spending so much on something that may have a hidden environmental drawback have been raised by some.

Wind power is touted as the cleanest and greenest renewable energy resource.

"You've got a non-carbon-emitting source of energy that's free," said Doug Johnson of the Bonneville Power Administration.

However, Todd Wynn of the Cascade Policy Institute says it’s not as clean as advocates claim. He says it’s simply because the wind is volatile and doesn’t blow all the time.

"Carbon Markets Struggling to Emerge From Communism's Rubble," by Paul Voosen

(Article and artwork courtesy: The New York Times and Greenwire)

A surplus of U.N. carbon emission credits piling up across Central and Eastern Europe is threatening to destabilize nascent carbon markets across the world and dampen efforts to curb global warming, market experts and politicians say.

Already this year, sales of emission credits from countries like the Czech Republic, Latvia and most notably Ukraine have caused the price of a ton of carbon in Europe's cap-and-trade system to plunge by more than a euro, a significant drop, said Kevin James, the vice president of carbon finance at Climate Change Capital.

To date, some 147 million tons of the credits -- known in U.N. legalese as assigned amount units and in policy circles as "hot air" -- have been sold worldwide under the Kyoto Protocol, according to a recent analysis by Point Carbon. Ukraine alone is estimated to be in negotiations to sell an additional 450 million tons to Japanese firms, said Andreas Türk, a Kyoto consultant at Joanneum Research in Austria.

Read the remainder of the article HERE.

"Poetry so bad it's Good," by Abigail Deutsch

What are we to do with lines like these?

We have seen thee, queen of cheese,
Lying quietly at your ease,
Gently fanned by evening breeze,
Thy fair form no flies dare seize.

All gaily dressed soon you'll go
To the great Provincial show,
To be admired by many a beau
In the city of Toronto.

We might grow slightly nauseated. We might (who knows?) get hungry. We might gleefully illuminate the poetic palsies that weaken the frame of this work, James McIntyre's "Ode on the Mammoth Cheese": the clanging rhymes, the collapsing meter, the misguided coronation of a Canadian dairy queen.

Alternatively--as we reread in delight, as we probably just did--we might note the workings of a mysterious alchemy. Just as milk ferments into cheese, so can bad poetry, in this and other cases, transform into something rather enjoyable. Like a pungent Roquefort, bad poetry can stink in marvelously complex ways.

Read remainder of the article HERE on the Huffington Post.

"Seven Cancer Topics to Watch," by Elaine Schattner

"Why I’m enthusiastic – I anticipate that within just a few years, cancer patients might take “medication cocktails” for their tumors, much in the way people living with HIV use drug combinations to fend off infection. Cancer will, in many circumstances now deemed incurable, be managed instead as a chronic..."

Read the remainder of the post and see Elaine's blog HERE.

"Quiet Biotech Revolution Transforming Crops," by Paul Voosen

(Graphic and article courtesy: The New York Times and Greenwire)
Fourth in a five-part series about genetically modified crops.

For the past two decades, promises of crop improvement have been the domain of genetically modified plants: mostly, crops supplemented with bacterial genes to resist pests or weedkillers like Roundup. More than 85 percent of U.S. corn, soy or cotton grown contains such genes.

But there is more than one way to transform a plant.

Using advanced biotechnology, long hidden in the background and only now starting to pay dividends, scientists are changing crops without tapping foreign genes -- and often without the regulatory oversight that is given to GM crops.

"Escaping to England," by Erica Rex

(Article and photo courtesy: Kaiser Health News)

This is the first in a new KHN series, First Person.

I moved to England in September at the age of 53, three days after my student health coverage at Columbia University ran out. Diagnosed with breast cancer last April, I knew I would not be able to buy a plan on the open market, even if I could have afforded it.

I had been struggling to find a full-time job in New York since 2003, following the breakup of my first marriage. It had been grim. Between the economy and the state of my profession – I’d been working as a journalist for many years – I hadn’t been able to land full-time work. After yet another promising job melted into “we’ve had our requisition pulled so now we can’t hire you,” it occurred to me that a journalism degree might help. So in the fall of 2008, I returned to school for a mid-career masters degree at Columbia Journalism School.

Read the remainder of the article/series HERE.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

"#1 Party School," by Aaron Scott

(Photo and article: This American Life)

This year, The Princeton Review named Penn State the #1 Party School in America.
It's a rotating crown -- Last year it was University of Florida, before that it was West Virginia University. So we wondered, what's it like to be at the country's top party school?

Listen to episode HERE.

"Where wedding shots once meant something else entirely," Haley Sweetland Edwards

(Article and Photo: GlobalPost)

"SANAA, Yemen — It's wedding season in Yemen and traditionally, that's meant three things: music, dancing and joyously firing an array of pistols, assault rifles, rocket-launchers, anti-aircraft mortars and grenade launchers into the air to celebrate the occasion.

But in the past few years, that last part has been nixed from the program.

In 2007, the Yemeni government began implementing an ambitious disarmament and weapons-registration campaign in Sanaa, the nation's capital, and in many other cities around the country. The upshot is that Yemenis can no longer carry, brandish or fire weapons of any sort in urban and semi-urban districts — even on their sons' wedding nights."

Read remainder of article HERE.

"The golden mean in Pakistan," by Maha Atal

(Illustration: Jayachandran / Mint)

Political reformers in Pakistan have long argued that economic growth would bring about a decline in the militancy that today threatens to tear the country apart. While economic deprivation is undoubtedly a cause of political instability, recent history suggests that growth alone is not a solution.

That’s the lesson from a new book by Tufts University political economist Vali Nasr, Forces of Fortune: The Rise of the New Muslim Middle Class and What It Will Mean For Our World (2009). Capitalism is the best insurer of political stability, Nasr posits, but not all capitalisms are equal. To promote peace, growth must do more than simply reduce absolute poverty by expanding the proverbial economic pie. It must also curb inequality by expanding the middle class, and tie their success explicitly to the stability of the state.

Read remainder of article HERE.

"Yemen's Hidden War: Is Iran Causing Trouble?," by

(Photo and article: TIME)

"The Yemeni capital of Sana'a thunders at night with the sound of war planes taking off and heading north, toward a remote conflict on the Saudi border that the Yemenis and Saudis have stealthily managed to keep off-limits to journalists and aid workers. In the lawless frontier zone of Saada governorate, a fierce battle has raged for months between Yemeni troops and rebels belonging to the Houthis, a religious minority. Each side — Houthis on one, Yemenis and Saudis on the other — has offered conflicting reports on everything from air strikes to motives, and with Saada a no-go zone, it's difficult to separate fact from fiction."

Read remainder of article HERE.

"Yemen a Dead End for Somali Refugees," by Abigail Hauslohner

(Photo: TIME)