Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Mickey Mouse Operation

From The Progress Report

With the help of the Defense Department, the Los Angeles-based company C3 is "developing the Baghdad Zoo and Entertainment Experience, a massive American-style amusement park that will feature a skateboard park, rides, a concert theatre and a museum" and "is being designed by the firm that developed Disneyland." More than that though, the Pentagon is also backing a $5 billion plan to create a "zone of influence" around the new $700 million U.S. embassy that will include luxury hotels, a shopping center, and condos in an effort to "transform" the Green Zone into a "centerpiece for Baghdad's future." This isn't the first time the Pentagon has turned to Disney for solutions. One year after the scandal erupted over the long-term treatment of soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, the Army introduced the "Service, Disney Style" program that is now required for all military and other government employees at the hospital in an effort to "revamp attitudes" and instill a sense that "poor service equals frustration." With violence escalating in Iraq, the Pentagon is again looking to the Disney model for a way out.

'ANYBODY EVER BEEN TO DISNEYLAND?': The Disneyland-style amusement park in the heart of Iraq will cost nearly $500 million. Llewellyn Werner, chairman of C3, said of the idea, "[T]he people need this kind of positive influence. It's going to have a huge psychological impact." But make no mistake, Werner also sees dollar signs. "I'm a businessman. I'm not here because I think you're nice people," Werner said, adding, "I wouldn't be doing this if I wasn't making money." Trying to sell the idea to Baghdad's skeptical deputy mayor, Werner explained the significance of waterpark lagoons: they're "very important to the sex appeal, the sizzle. Anybody ever been to Disneyland?" Werner's sentiment is shared by John March, executive vice president of the firm contracted to design the park. March recently downplayed any safety concerns associated with creating a massive entertainment complex in the heart of Baghdad. "Well, you live here in Southern California and there's drive-bys and everything else. So there's danger everywhere," he proclaimed. But Werner has an idea on how to bridge the sectarian divide in Baghdad: skateboarding. He said Iraqis will see the park as "an opportunity for their children regardless if they're Shia or Sunni." Speaking in deliberately slow English, Werner told the Iraqis, "One of the fastest growing sports in the world is skate…boarding." Indeed, the skateboarding park, part of the first phase, is set to open this summer.
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A new twist on nanowire growth leads to stunning structures

by Bethany Halford

Science ©2008

Nanowires don't grow on trees, but they can grow into tree-shaped objects, such as this stunning lead sulfide structure created by chemistry professor Song Jin's group at the University of Wisconsin (Science, DOI: 10.1126/science.1157131). While most nanowires sprout from catalyst seeds, the "trunks" of Jin's nanotrees form via a new mechanism of nanowire growth that's driven by screwlike dislocations in the PbS crystal. These defects, Jin says, create "self-perpetuating spiral steps for atoms to settle on and cause the crystal lattice to twist." Nanowire "branches" grow off this twisting central rod via the more common catalyst-based mechanism. "When this new mechanism is well understood and well controlled, more elaborate and complex nanostructures can be rationally prepared, many of which could have interesting applications," Jin says.

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Can MTV's 'The Paper' help make newspapers cool again?

By Chuck Barney
Contra Costa Times

God bless Amanda Lorber, a senior at Cypress Bay High School in Weston, Fla., who says "Journalists are the most important part of the world."

Oh, a woman after my own heart. Say it loud and proud.

Amanda is editor-in-chief of the Circuit, an award-winning student publication that serves as the setting for MTV's new reality series "The Paper" (10:30 p.m. Mondays).

You heard right. A school newspaper. On MTV.

The show marks a real departure for the youth-centric cable network. It's not "The Real World," or "Laguna Beach," or "The Hills." Rich, hot-looking kids aren't making out in Jacuzzis. They're not slamming shots in some raucous club. They're not prancing about in skimpy bikinis on spring break.

Instead, the show just focuses on smart, normal kids going to class, sacrificing large chunks of their social lives and pouring their passion into a "... newspaper.

Excuse me while I clear the lump in my throat.

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Book Review: The Universe - Solved!

by mortimer

Jesus Made Me Puke: Matt Taibbi Undercover with the Christian Right

by Matt Taibbe

I pulled into the church parking lot a little after 6:00 p.m., at more or less the last possible minute. The previous half hour or so I'd spent dawdling in my car outside a Goodwill department store off Route 410 in San Antonio, clinging to some inane sports talk show piping over my car radio — anything to hold off my plunge into Religion.

There was an old-fashioned white school bus in front of the church entrance, with a puddle of heavyset people milling around its swinging door. Some of these were carrying blankets and sleeping bags. My heart, already pounding, skipped a few extra beats. The church circulars had said nothing about bringing bedding. Why did I need bedding? What else had I missed?

"Excuse me," I said, walking up to an in-charge-looking man with a name tag who was standing near the front of the bus. "I see everyone has blankets. I didn't bring any. Is this going to be a problem?"

The man was about five feet one and had glassy eyes. He looked up at me and smiled queerly.

"Name?" he said.

"Collins," I said. "Matthew Collins."

He scanned his clipboard, found my name on the appropriate sheet of paper, and X-ed me out with a highlighter. "Don't worry, Matthew," he said, resting his hand on my shoulder. "A wonderful woman named Martha is going to take care of you at the ranch. You just tell her what you need when you get there."

I nodded, glancing at his hand, which was still on my shoulder. He waved me into the bus.

I had been attending the Cornerstone Church for weeks, but this was really my first day of school. I had joined Cornerstone — a megachurch in the Texas Hill Country — to get a look inside the evangelical mind-set that gave the country eight years of George W. Bush. The church's pastor, John Hagee, is one of the most influential evangelical preachers in the country — not because his ministry is so very large (although he claims up to 4.5 million viewers a week for his Sunday sermons) but because of his near-absolute conquest of a very trendy niche in the market: Christian Zionism.

The whole idea behind Christian Zionism is to align America with the nation of Israel so as to "hurry God up" in his efforts to bring about Armageddon. As Hagee tells it, only after Israel is involved in a final showdown involving a satanic army (in most interpretations, a force of Arabs led by Russians) will Christ reappear. On that happy day, Hagee and his True Believers will be whisked up to Heaven by God, while the rest of us nonbelievers are left behind on Earth to suck eggs and generally suffer various tortures.

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1930s Futuristic Fashion Predictions

Who Will Tell the People?


Traveling the country these past five months while writing a book, I've had my own opportunity to take the pulse, far from the campaign crowds. My own totally unscientific polling has left me feeling that if there is one overwhelming hunger in our country today it's this: People want to do nation-building. They really do. But they want to do nation-building in America.

They are not only tired of nation-building in Iraq and in Afghanistan, with so little to show for it. They sense something deeper — that we're just not that strong anymore. We're borrowing money to shore up our banks from city-states called Dubai and Singapore. Our generals regularly tell us that Iran is subverting our efforts in Iraq, but they do nothing about it because we have no leverage — as long as our forces are pinned down in Baghdad and our economy is pinned to Middle East oil.
Our president's latest energy initiative was to go to Saudi Arabia and beg King Abdullah to give us a little relief on gasoline prices. I guess there was some justice in that. When you, the president, after 9/11, tell the country to go shopping instead of buckling down to break our addiction to oil, it ends with you, the president, shopping the world for discount gasoline.

We are not as powerful as we used to be because over the past three decades, the Asian values of our parents' generation — work hard, study, save, invest, live within your means — have given way to subprime values: "You can have the American dream — a house — with no money down and no payments for two years."

That's why Donald Rumsfeld's infamous defense of why he did not originally send more troops to Iraq is the mantra of our times: "You go to war with the army you have." Hey, you march into the future with the country you have — not the one that you need, not the one you want, not the best you could have.

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Ready for hot, steamy stories from..Thoman Mann? (Yes, that Thomas Mann)

Billy Collins: A boy went to camp and made a plastic lanyard for his mother. You may not have been That Kid, but bad you if you don't read this poem.

- May 5, 2008 -

Dear Friends,

I've never read "Buddenbrooks" (736 pages).

Ditto "The Magic Mountain" (720 pages).

And though I was once young and clear-eyed, I never even tackled "Doctor Faustus" (544 pages).

But I didn't want to face the Lord of Literature at the Library in the Clouds without having read Thomas Mann, so I picked up a copy of "Death in Venice and Seven Other Stories" --- a snip at 400 pages. Still not Mitch Albom, but I figured I didn't need to read all eight stories to get a feel for Mann.

I read all eight stories.

Literary excellence and cultural relevance may not be enough to convince you to read these stories.

Try this: Three of them provide the kind of pleasure not regularly available. They're dirty. Hot. Sick.

Do I have your attention? Then please click to the site and read on.

Reading before Tuesday noon? Click here.

Reading after Tuesday noon? Click here.

-- Jesse Kornbluth, for HeadButler.com

Today's Cartoon: The No Money Diet

Center for American Progress

Today's Cartoon: The No Money Diet

Read about today's issue:
Public Opinion Snapshot: New Highs for Economic Worries
Bad News in New Job Numbers

From the Cartoonist Group

View more cartoons in the cartoon archive.

Support the Center for American Progress.

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Be part of a moment in history!

Pangea Day

May 02, 2008

8 Days Away...

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Close your eyes and imagine people around the world gathering for four hours.

This will happen on May 10 - Pangea Day. Some people will drive miles to watch, and others will just turn on their television sets. Some will wake up before the sun has risen, and others will stay up through the night.

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Christiane Amanpour is chief international correspondent for CNN. She will be speaking live from London.

Lisa Ling is a journalist who has covered a broad range of topics and works frequently with Oprah. She will host live from LA.

Max Lugavere & Jason Silva are hosts on Current TV, filmmakers and gonzo-journalists. They will hosting live from LA.

June Arunga, a well known journalist and writer from Kenya, will be hosting live from LA.

Queen Noor, the widow of the late King Hussein of Jordan, works for peace and economic justice in the Middle East and throughout the world. She will be speaking live from LA.

Jean Paul Samputu is a Rwandan singer-songwriter who has fashioned himself as a cultural ambassador. He will be speaking live from Kigali.

Dave Stewart is the singer-songwriter for Eurythmics and president of the creative firm Weapons of Mass Entertainment. He will be singing live in LA.

Rokia Traore blends the traditions of her Bamana heritage with a modern singer-songwriter's approach to music-making. She will perform live from London.

Gilberto Gil is a singer, guitarist, songwriter, and the current Brazilian Minister of Culture. He will perform live from Rio de Janeiro.

Khaled Aboul Naga, Egyptian Actor and talk-show host will host live from Cairo.

Ali Abu Awwad and Robi Damelin are the Palestinian and Israeli members of the Bereaved Family Forum, respectively. They will be speaking together live from LA.

Ishmael Beah is a former child soldier from Sierra Leone. He will be speaking live from LA.

Mohamed Mounir is a Nubian-Egyptian singer whose modern pop sound has roots in traditional Egyptian and African music. He will be performing live in Cairo.

Donald Brown is an anthropologist and the leading authority on "human universals" - the hundreds of attributes that every human has in common. He will be speaking live from LA.

Jonathan Harris makes online art that captures the world's expression – and gives us a glimpse of the soul of the internet. He will be speaking live from LA.

Bassam Aramin is a Palestinian ex-fighter and Yonatan Shapira is an Israel ex-soldier. The two joined together to form Combatants for Peace. They will be speaking live from London.

Hypernova, an Iranian rock band, will perform live from LA.

Robert Kurzban is a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. He will be speaking from LA.

Muhieddine Chehab and Assaad Chaftari were soldiers in the Lebanese Civil War. Now they travel together to promote messages of peace. They will be interviewed together by Christiane Amanpour in London.

Eboo Patel is the Executive Director of Interfaith Youth Core, a global nonprofit that promotes religious cooperation. He will be speaking live from LA.

Carolyn Porco is a planetary scientist. She will be speaking live from LA.

For more information about the Pangea Day hosts, speakers, and musicians visit our website .

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Advisory Board

JJ Abrams
Writer, Director & Producer - Alias, Lost, Mission: Impossible III

Lawrence Bender
Producer - Good Will Hunting, An Inconvenient Truth, Kill Bill

Nancy Buirski
Founder, CEO & Artistic Director - Full Frame Documentary Film Festival

Alan Cumming
Actor & Director - Cabaret, X-Men, The Anniversary Party

Richard Curtis
Producer & Screenwriter - Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill, Love Actually
Ami Dar
Executive Director - Idealist.org

Cameron Diaz
Actress - There's Something About Mary, Shrek, Vanilla Sky
Matthew Freud
Chairman & Founder - Freud Communications
Bob Geldof
Musician & Mastermind - Live Aid & Live 8

Goldie Hawn
Actress, Director & Producer - The First Wives Club, Private Benjamin
Jim Hornthal
Venture Partner - CMEA Ventures

Judy McGrath
Chairman & CEO - MTV Networks

Pat Mitchell
President & CEO - The Paley Center for Media, New York & California
Vik Muniz
Brazilian contemporary artist

Clare Munn
Founder & CEO - The Communication Group
Mira Nair
Director - Salaam Bombay!, Monsoon Wedding, The Namesake

Dr. Tero Ojanperä
EVP, Entertainment and Communities - Nokia

Eboo Patel
Executive Director - Interfaith Youth Core

Alexander Payne
Director & Screenwriter - Sideways, About Schmidt, Election
Richard Rogers
Architect - Centre Pompidou, Madrid Barajas Airport, Millennium Dome
Meg Ryan
Actor- When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, You've Got Mail

Deborah Scranton
Director - War Tapes (winner of Best Documentary at the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival)

Paul Simon
Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter and guitarist

Jeff Skoll
Founder - Participant Productions, Former President - eBay

Sir Martin Sorrell
Chief Executive - WPP
Philippe Starck
World-renowned designer of interiors, consumer goods, & furnishings
Dave Stewart
Singer & Songwriter - Eurythmics, President - Weapons of Mass Entertainment
Yossi Vardi
Tech entrepreneur & Founding investor of ICQ

Kevin Wall
Executive Producer - Live Earth & Live 8
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Actor, dorector & producer, Bird, Ghost Dog, The Last King of Scotland

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