Archive for January, 2008|Monthly archive page

No get out of jail free card, here

In Cops and crime, Culture, Politics on January 31, 2008 at 2:41 am

I’m running the straight, boring AP version of this brief about a prison-themed board game in Friday’s paper, but for you, the hip, with-it, online friend of SmartNews, I’m providing this link to a blog that puts the brief in amusing context. For the clickphobic, here’s the good half from Gamepolitics.com:

In 2006, Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D) threw her support behind a proposal to legislate video game sales. What she said then was:Parents today face new challenges that we didn’t have when our children were younger. Video games and music lyrics promote violence…The bill ultimately failed to win enough legislative support to pass.That was then and this is now, however. These days, the Guv’s 23-year-old son John, a student at the Rhode Island School of Design, is marketing a board game called Don’t Drop the Soap.

If it weren’t for hypocrisy, we’d have so little to blog about.

Pollution: Root cause of the old-age dumb-down?

In Culture, Science and fiction, Smartness on January 27, 2008 at 6:16 pm

More research is linking pollution exposure — this time, it’s lead — to deterioration late in life — this time, in brain function.

Could it be that the “natural” mental decline that afflicts many older people is related to how much lead they absorbed decades before?

That’s the provocative idea emerging from some recent studies, part of a broader area of new research that suggests some pollutants can cause harm that shows up only years after someone is exposed.

The new work suggests long-ago lead exposure can make an aging person’s brain work as if it’s five years older than it really is. If that’s verified by more research, it means that sharp cuts in environmental lead levels more than 20 years ago didn’t stop its widespread effects.

Nothing definitive, of course. As is frequently the case with science, the results are more intriguing than engineerable. Wonder if these guys are thinking about ways to exfoliate the lead ‘n’ such from our cells:

Both my folks died of cancer. I wonder: Was it genetic? Too much delicious barbecue? Dad used to smoke a pipe — did that come into play? Stray gamma rays? There’s just no knowing.

Tears and slurs in Chapel Hill on MLK Jr. weekend

In Uncategorized on January 21, 2008 at 6:35 pm

I’m an N.C. State grad and sports fan, so I’m familiar with my old school’s culture of media-paranoia. Wolfpack fans (like most sports fans) KNOW that the media is out to get them. Granted, there’s at least some evidence dating back to the Jim Valvano witchhunt, but nowadays it’s usually irrational. But that doesn’t make media-baiting any less entertaining for Pack fans.

The latest brouhaha is over a YouTube clip taken from coverage of the UNC-CH men’s basketball team’s recent home upset at the hands of Maryland. A girl’s voice can clearly be heard saying “Go back to the ghetto!” as we see images of girls openly weeping at the end of an undefeated run.

To understand just how sweet this is from the N.C. State perspective, you may require a little bit of background.

First, in North Carolina, UNC-CH is the liberal, do-gooder, politically correct school. And it’s the holier-than-thou school. (I make no representation of fairness or freedom from bias.) UNC-CH grads will wax poetic with their memories of that terrific campus. In their minds, it has an aura. A holy aura.

Second, N.C. State fans have been called out in the local newspaper, The News and Observer, for taunting a Wake Forest player.

The Chapel Hill incident has yet to make the papers. Needless to say, the Wolfpack discussion boards are having an indignant field day. Sports radio has been having fun with it, too. Kerliner’s halo might need a little polish, on this Martin Luther King Jr. weekend.

Now, seriously, who knows whether the girl who blurted out the slur, if you can call it that, is even a student or alum at Chapel Hill. She is just one idiotic, overwrought fan among thousands. But for Pack fans, it’s a delicious opportunity to briefly savor the humbling of a mighty foe AND enjoy a moment of hypocrisy AND wallow in their own bitterness. That may not have much to do with justice, but it’s a pretty good weekend for those in red and white.

The vid:

So, it looks like snow in North Carolina, finally

In Fayetteville, Fort Bragg, snow, Weather on January 19, 2008 at 9:49 am

Figures it would be forecast for a day when I wanted to make a road trip. I reckon the grocery stores will be packed all day as people freak out. Southerners (I’m one, so I should know) go nuts when the smell of snow is on the wind. We drive pretty badly, too. Partly it’s lack of practice, partly it’s that none of us have snow tires or chains. Anyway, if it’s real bad, I won’t take my little trip. But if not, I reckon the main roads will be clear and by the time I get back the secondary roads should be clear or thawed.

Last time I tried to drive in snow, I got trapped in Durham for a few days. The snowy bottom dropped out of the sky while I was on I-40 east of Raleigh, on my way to visit a friend. Traffic slowed to a crawl, except for a few SUV-drivin’ soccer moms, several of whom ended up in ditches along the way. I crept for what seemed like hours to get to my friend’s house, and the neighborhood roads froze solid overnight. Down here, we’re just not prepared for that shit. “Winter weather” happens too infrequently. I missed a couple days of work for not being able to get out of his neighborhood. Finally, his live-in girlfriend got so sick of me, I had to dig out the best I could. The main roads were fine, but the back roads were still iced up. I managed to make it out without power-sliding into anything. Or anyone.

Anyway, here’s the latest news update on the weather.

And, if you’re like SmartNews, you go to Weather Underground to see what’s what.

The Bugle: Devastating application of snarkiness to the news

In Culture, Politics, Smartness, The news biz on January 12, 2008 at 8:12 am

You’ll recognize John Oliver from his recurring bits on The Daily Show. SmartNews can only aspire to this level of mockery. Download, listen, laugh, weep.

Pat Robertson: Do people actually take this moron seriously?

In Culture, God, Unfettered stupidity on January 3, 2008 at 8:29 pm

First, I saw a blurb on the televangelist’s annual predictions on CNN, for chrissakes. Then, slightly less surprisingly, I found coverage on the Fox News site. To their credit, both point out that Pat blew it on a prediction of a horrible, nuclear terrorist attack on U.S. soil in 2007:

Last year, Robertson predicted that a terrorist act, possibly involving a nuclear weapon, would result in mass killing in the United States. Noting that it hadn’t come to pass, Robertson said, “All I can think is that somehow the people of God prayed and God in his mercy spared us.”

Or, just possibly, Pat, you’re completely full of shit.

Amputating medical costs by ‘offshoring’ the work

In Biz, Smartness on January 2, 2008 at 5:07 pm

AP has a “newsfeature” about medical tourism — where people go out of the country to have surgery and whatnot — coming up, but, as usual, it hasn’t appeared on its Web version. So I scouted around to see if maybe it had already run online elsewhere (it hadn’t) and ran across this interesting idea: Businesses more or less bypassing “normal” insurance and just paying for employees to have medical work done overseas.

Victor Lazarro, CEO of BridgeHealth International, a fledgling company … is making a push to market medical tourism directly to employers who are seeing their health premiums skyrocket. In many cases, he said, it’s cheaper for a company to waive a person’s deductible and co-insurance payments and just pay to have a procedure performed — travel costs included — in countries such as Singapore, Thailand or Costa Rica.

It’s an interesting thought. I know a woman who went to Costa Rica to have extensive dental work done. Of course, one wonders what recourse one has if one gets work done in Thailand and something goes awry. A significant part of the reason medical costs are so high in the U.S. is malpractice insurance, is it not?Apparently, most folks going overseas for medicine are doing elective surgery — tummy tucks ‘n’ such — that aren’t covered by insurance. But it’s an interesting thought about bypassing insurance for “medically necessary” procedures.Hey, if publishers can “offshore” their editing work, underpaid journos should be able to “offshore” their expenses, too, hm?