Shaping State Laws With Little Scrutiny

Posted on October 31, 2010  Leave a Comment

Shaping State Laws With Little Scrutiny

Here’s how it works: ALEC is a membership organization. State legislators pay $50 a year to belong. Private corporations can join, too. The tobacco company Reynolds American Inc., Exxon Mobil Corp. and drug-maker Pfizer Inc. are among the members. They pay tens of thousands of dollars a year. Tax records show that corporations collectively pay as much as $6 million a year.

With that money, the 28 people in the ALEC offices throw three annual conferences. The companies get to sit around a table and write “model bills” with the state legislators, who then take them home to their states.

ALEC’s Bowman says that is not unusual; more than 200 of the organization’s model bills became actual laws over the past year. But he hedges when asked if that means the unofficial drafting process is an effective way to accelerate the legislative process.

The Masturbation Gap

Posted on October 10, 2010  Leave a Comment

The Masturbation Gap

“Don’t knock masturbation,” Woody Allen famously quipped. “It’s sex with someone I love.” But masturbation has of course been knocked around some, historically. According to Thomas W. Laqueur, a professor of history at the University of California at Berkeley (and the author of “Solitary Sex: A Cultural History of Masturbation”) masturbation was not a topic of great interest to the powers that be until 1712, when a con man named John Marten anonymously published a book spectacularly entitled: Onania; or, The Heinous Sin of Self Pollution and all its Frightful Consequences, in both SEXES Considered, with Spiritual and Physical Advice to those who have already injured themselves by this abominable practice. And seasonable Admonition to the Youth of the nation of Both SEXES.

Facebook Sells Your Friends

Posted on October 9, 2010  Leave a Comment

Facebook Sells Your Friends

There were two obvious winners at the FIFA World Cup this summer. Spain took home the 13-pound, 18-carat-gold trophy for its achievement on the field. Nike (NKE) won the branding championship, thanks largely to a three-minute commercial called “Write the Future,” in which its stable of soccer endorsers fantasize about the glory or disgrace that might result from their play in the tournament. Hundreds of millions of people saw “Write the Future” on television. Before it blanketed traditional media, however, Nike launched the video on Facebook, the Web’s dominant social network.

The video started as an ad on the site. Then it was passed from friend to friend, often with comments and members recommending it. In the resulting discussions, the clip was played and commented on more than 9 million times by Facebook users—and helped Nike double its number of Facebook fans from 1.6 million to 3.1 million over a single weekend. Getting the ad onto Facebook cost a few million dollars, according to the companies. All that passing around was free. Davide Grasso, Nike’s chief marketing officer, says Facebook “is the equivalent for us to what TV was for marketers back in the 1960s. It’s an integral part of what we do now.”

Why So Many People Can’t Make Decisions

Posted on October 8, 2010  Leave a Comment

Why So Many People Can’t Make Decisions

Some people meet, fall in love and get married right away. Others can spend hours in the sock aisle at the department store, weighing the pros and cons of buying a pair of wool argyles instead of cotton striped.

Seeing the world as black and white, in which choices seem clear, or shades of gray can affect people’s path in life, from jobs and relationships to which political candidate they vote for, researchers say. People who often have conflicting feelings about situations—the shades-of-gray thinkers—have more of what psychologists call ambivalence, while those who tend toward unequivocal views have less ambivalence.

High ambivalence may be useful in some situations, and low ambivalence in others, researchers say. And although people don’t fall neatly into one camp or the other, in general, individuals who tend toward ambivalence do so fairly consistently across different areas of their lives.

Rent-a-Wolf: Filmmakers Fake Wildlife ‘Documentaries’

Posted on October 7, 2010  Leave a Comment

Rent-a-Wolf: Filmmakers Fake Wildlife ‘Documentaries’

Palmer, who describes himself as an adventurer who has swam with whales and sharks, gotten up close and personal with Kodiak bears, camped among the wolves, and trudged through an Everglades swamp.

But in his new book, Palmer, whose work has appeared on IMAX screens and on primetime television, points a finger at himself and other nature documentary filmmakers, shedding light on what he sees as a pervasive practice of faking nature.

“Wildlife films, too many of them, involve deceptions, manipulations, misrepresentations, fraudulence, and the audience doesn’t know,” said Palmer, 63, in an interview with “Nightline’s” John Donvan.

Study: Flamboyant Male Dancing Attracts Women Best

Posted on October 6, 2010  Leave a Comment

Study: Flamboyant Male Dancing Attracts Women Best

John Travolta was onto something. Women are most attracted to male dancers who have big, flamboyant moves similar to the actor’s trademark style, British scientists say in a new study.

Kris McCarty and colleagues at Northumbria University and the University of Gottingen in Germany asked 19 men aged 18 to 35 who were not professional dancers to dance in a laboratory for one minute to a basic drum rhythm. They filmed the men’s movements with a dozen cameras, and then turned those movements into computer-generated avatars so the study could focus on moves, not appearances.

Scientists then showed the dancing avatars to 37 women, who rated their skills on a scale of 1 to 7. According to the women, the best dancers were those who had a wide range of dance moves and focused on the head, neck and torso.

The Privatization of Yoga

Posted on October 5, 2010  Leave a Comment

The Privatization of Yoga

It is a sign of the predatory nature of markets today that a tradition that goes back 4,500 years now needs to affirmatively defend itself as a common legacy of humankind. Yes, the latest endangered resource is…. yoga.

Yoga was developed in India as a physical and spiritual practice for everyone. The breathing known as pranayama is perhaps the most elemental aspect of human existence. But wouldn’t you know it…. all sorts of scheming entrepreneurs now want to convert yoga into “intellectual property.”

The pioneer in this endeavor was Bikram Choudhury, born in Calcutta, who came to the U.S. and began to franchise his trademarked yoga studios with his own distinctive adaptations of the ancient practice. Bikram’s claimed a copyright in his “original” sequence of 26 postures that his clients perform in 105-degree rooms. Anyone who “stole” his copyrighted yoga postures for commercial purposes would then be liable for damages, he claimed.

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