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October 22, 2003

Interesting News That Caught My Eye

  • I'm sure everyone knows by now that the U. S. Senate has approved $87 billion for Iraq. That big number is hard to visualize. Want to see that huge amount of moolah in its proper perspective? Check this out: "A Little Perspective on $87 Billion." The site compares large amounts of money to visual images we can identify with such as a compact car, a nice house, a football field, millions of packs of soda in Barbados... (Well, okay, I can't picture what millions of packs of soda in Barbados looks like, but I'm sure a soft drink junkie can.)

  • NPR listeners get more facts straight about Iraq than Faux News watchers. Not surprisingly, Faux News was shown to be "the news source whose viewers had the most misperceptions." Eighty percent of Fox viewers believed at least one of these un-facts; 45 percent believed all three." What were those un-facts? (1) "the United States had uncovered evidence demonstrating a close working relationship between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda," (2) "we had found the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq," and (3) "most people in other countries had backed the U.S. war against Saddam Hussein."

    I bet liberal bloggers would rate even higher on the "got it right" scale than NPR listeners.

  • Why is robust democracy so rare in the Muslim world? Here's one explanation:

    [Article writer M. Steven Fish] did find one factor common across Muslim societies that works against democracy: the treatment of women and girls. In super-patriarchic cultures that put a different value on male and female lives, robust democracy is exceedingly rare.

    There are many ways to measure the status of females in a society, but two indicators are particularly revealing. The first is the gap in literacy rates between men and women, which reflects the value that societies assign to the education of females. The second is the gender ratio, which is measured as the number of males per 100 females in the general population.

    A wide gap in literacy between the sexes (which invariably favors males) tends to keep women out of public life and politics. The consequences for democracy are momentous. Social and political psychologists have found that women are on the whole better at building consensus, less comfortable with hierarchy and inequality in social relations, and more averse to extremism and violence in politics. The marginalization of women, whether in the neighborhood or in elective politics, means fewer anti-authoritarian voices.

  • Michigan is promoting joint custody again. The proposed legislation "would impose joint custody on parents who are in conflict over custody." Every study out there has shown that children are harmed in joint custody situations when they are exposed to parental conflict.

  • In news that fits in well with my earlier post about the politics of beauty, Dame Diana Rigg has won a $48,000 libel suit against two newspapers that referred to her as "an embittered woman who held British men in low regard." Hey, you don't mess with Mrs. Emma Peel!

  • Senior UN officials say women still face widespread violence. Trafficking of women is a "particularly hideous form of violence."

  • There are always lots of great things to read at Body and Soul, but a couple of things there caught my eye today. Jeanne is understandably disgusted with Bill Lockyer's announcement that he voted for Schwarzenegger, even though he believed the women who had claimed the governor-elect had sexually harassed and abused them. Lockyer blew it off, saying Schwarzenegger had only engaged in "frat-boy behavior." Robert Scheer is right-on when he wrote that was "an incredible signal of disrespect to send to women."

  • Jeanne at Body & Soul has more to say about the touchscreen voting machines manufactured by Diebold that were used in Georgia. She links to an article in Wired. The Independent also covered the story, wondering about "something very odd" that happened in Georgia's mid-term elections last November. Opinion polls shows the incumbent Democratic governor Roy Barnes had a comfortable lead, between nine and eleven votes. Popular Democratic senator Max Cleland was "ahead by two to five points against his Republican challenger." However, when the results came in, the Republican challengers won by some rather large margins.

    The explanations that Bush's stumping for the Republicans and a surge of "angry white male" voters helped to elect those Republicans didn't quite ring true. Other states where similar bizarre last-minute swing patterns had occurred were explained away by "the demoralisation of a Democratic Party too timid to speak out against the looming war in Iraq."

    Getting more much-needed attention is the politics behind the companies that manufacture the voting machines:

    What, then, is one to make of the fact that the owners of the three major
    computer voting machines are all prominent Republican Party donors? Or of
    a recent political fund-raising letter written to Ohio Republicans by
    Walden O'Dell, Diebold's chief executive, in which he said he was
    "committed to helping Ohio to deliver its electoral votes to the president
    next year" - even as his company was bidding for the contract on the
    state's new voting machinery?

  • In the middle of an article about how men's and women's sexual appetites supposedly differ is this eye-opening tidbit:

    One purpose of a diagnostic classification is to help research on new
    treatments. It was the push to develop drugs to treat female sexual
    dysfunction that led pharmaceutical manufacturers to fund researchers
    working in this area and to help the fairly new organization stage its
    annual conference.

    Compared to previous meetings, however, there was a visibly smaller drug
    company presence in Amsterdam.

    Isn't that special?

    Pharmaceutical companies create these "disorders" so that they may profit from selling pills they manufacture to "cure" them. Create the "disorder" ("female sexual dysfunction") and then profit from the pills you make to "cure" the "disorder" you created.

    I wrote an article about Viagra for Feminista a few years ago. I didn't realize how prophetic one of my quotes would be: " In the few stories dealing with clinical trials of women on Viagra, those women appeared to be in the process of being primed to make them sexually available and ripe for men. It's worthy to note that testing of the drug on women did not occur until after it had been tested and purchased by thousands of men around the world. Now that he has his erection, test the drug on women so that they will be well-lubricated for him."

    Sometimes I hate being right.

    Posted on October 22, 2003 at 12:20 PM | Permalink