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  • Ben Folds on Chat Roulette, Again

    Ben Folds just posted another Chat Roulette improv session on YouTube:  What does this have to do with The Human Condition? I'm human, and my condition is that I need to take a break and watch some piano for a few minutes before heading back to work. For everyone else who needs a little mental-health break, enjoy.And now that I have your attention, I'll be speaking at Pace University tomorrow from 9 to 11 as part of a panel on how media deals with weight and weight loss. Emme will be there! More info here. 
  • Newsverse: The Light in the Tunnel

    By Jerry AdlerAfter 16 years and $10 billion, there was joy in the meadows and tunnels of the Swiss-French countryside Tuesday: the world’s biggest physics machine, the Large Hadron Collider, finally began to make subatomic particles collide. —The New York Times, March 31, 2010Thirteen billion years ago,  Beginning with a pinpoint glowThe Universe we’ve come to knowEmerged, and then commenced to grow.And all that ever was and isPrecipitated from that fizzOf X-rays, gamma rays, and lightThat cosmic burst of clarityThe moment before symmetry Lost its grip, began to shatter.And left behind the photons’ flightSomething new was forming: matterTwo protons, call them “A” and “B”Colliding with an energyNever felt before on EarthRe-creates the violent birthOf the Universe. The pangOf Creation: the Big Bang.And leaves us with a tiny frisson.Though logically, there is no reasonFor concern. No earthly chanceA new black hole could swallow FranceSuck it down by gravityInto a singularity.A...
  • Will Steele Buckle Under Pressure?

    Tony Perkins has given up on Michael Steele—which matters to Republicans and should matter to Steele. Perkins heads the Family Research Council, a respected traditional-values lobbying group, and he told me today that he had been working for the last year behind the scenes to advise ("prop" up might be the better term) RNC chairman Steele, whose reign so far has been nothing short of a disaster.But even before the Voyeur nightclub fiasco, Perkins told me today, he'd lost patience with Steele, whom he describes as, at best, tone-deaf to social conservatives. Without giving a heads-up to the Bible-Belt right, Steele hired attorney Ted Olson to handle the party's legal matters on campaign-spending laws and rulings.Olson has impeccable GOP credentials, but he's also heading a legal team trying to overturn state laws and referendums that bar gay marriage. When Perkins called Steele to complain the other week, Steele blandly replied that Olson was hired solely because of his skills as an...
  • Genetics Is Good Science, But Is It Good Business?

    There’s been a lot of hoopla lately about the upcoming 10th anniversary of the Human Genome Project. This week, the journal Nature is commemorating the milestone with a special issue. But readers shouldn’t be so distracted by the celebratory essays that they miss the concrete discoveries being published alongside them. These, after all, are the reasons to celebrate—making sense of the genome was the whole point of sequencing it. For instance, Nature’s sister journal, Nature Genetics, has some impressive content of its own this week, including a paper explaining how malaria jumps back and forth between humans and mosquitoes, a strategy for engineering corn to boost its levels of beta carotene, and a study that offers a new way of understanding how and why cancer risk runs in families.The appeal of this last paper is subtle at first. The study reveals a genetic mutation that increases a person’s risk of a slow-growing type of bladder cancer. It’s not the first bladder cancer gene to...
  • Gordon Brown's Tough New Strategy Had Me April-Fooled (Almost)

    When it comes to pranks, Brits are usually pretty good sports. Their newspapers are no exception, and for April Fools', they had some fun fibs. For starters, there's the Daily Express's story about the queen catching a cut-price flight on the budget British airline EasyJet. (Complete with a quite convincing photo of the queen boarding, while waving in her signature fashion.)But the story that almost had me was this one from The Guardian. For those of you who haven't paid much attention to British politics of late, P.M. Gordon Brown is facing a tough reelect this year. Odd are he'll lose to a charismatic, Tony Blair–esque (except for that whole Conservative thing) guy called David Cameron. Adding to Brown's woes are a series of stories about his temper, which have made the stodgy Brit appear mercurial and nasty. Riffing off this, The Guardian is running a story about Brown's new strategy of embracing the angry man inside. It unveils a fake billboard...
  • Quote of the Day: Guam Might Capsize

      "My fear is that the whole island will become so overly populated that it will tip over and capsize." —Rep. Hank Johnson, during a House Armed Services Committee hearing on a budget request to relocate naval personnel to the island of Guam. Guam is 212 square miles with a population of 175,877 (2008 estimate). Later asked to clarify the remark, a spokesman for Johnson said he meant that population increases could lead to a "tipping point" destructive to the island's overtaxed ecosystem.  
  • Biden's Gaffe Becomes a Money Spinner

    I have a story out today about the political left's gradual but warm embrace of Vice President Joe Biden. Upon his selection, liberals were pleased enough with Biden, but their attention was steadfastly trained on the top of the ticket. It was Obama, not his veep, who embodied a riveting vision of social change for the left. Any vice president who didn't distract from that mission would do—someone who could be the occasional attack dog, even better. But since taking office, Biden as slowly emerged as a friend of progressives. You can read my account of how here. ...
  • To Nancy Drew on Her 80th Birthday: You're a Nintendo Game?!

    Nancy friggin' Drew—happy birthday, baby! Our favorite slim sleuth of River Heights turns 80 this year, not that she looks her age. Botox, Pilates, intravenous chardonnay therapy—to whatever she's doing to look so fab, we say cheers. In her latest incarnation, Drew sports a trendy motorcycle jacket over a sporty striped shirt and uses some slick Ashleigh Banfield glasses to help scan for crime-scene clues. And she's kicking it these days with a new gig, as the title character in a THQ Nintendo DS game out this month: "Nancy Drew: The Model Mysteries."Of her celebratory, birthday reimagining, we should start by saying that this isn't the first videogame version of Drew's sleuthing (it's just the latest), nor is a makeover for the teen a new fad. Quirky, multiplatform reboots are all the rage for young-adult lit serials: witness the revived Goosebumps novels (now a new series and online "theme park"); the Hardy Boys spinoffs; or this...
  • Today in Triumphs of Ignorance: Obama's Drilling Decision

    Politics aside, on the policy merits the Obama administration's decision to "expand oil and gas development and exploration on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) to enhance our nation’s energy independence" is absurd. There is no such thing as "energy independence." Nations that produce a lot of crude oil are not immune to concerns about political instability in other oil-rich nations. Sure, Saudi Arabia may not need to buy oil from Iran, but it depends on oil revenue. Oil revenue, in turn, is determined by the prices set in the international market. So the Saudis have, if anything, even more of an investment in making sure oil supply is not raised or decreased to the detriment of their ideal price point. ...
  • The Strategy Behind Obama's Drilling Announcement

    Obama's offshore-drilling announcement this morning has left many environmentalists with their knickers in a knot. For them it's a betrayal by an administration from whom they'd expected more. A year ago it seemed perfectly reasonable to assume the Obama White House would aggressively pursue legislation that curbs America's greenhouse-gas emissions. Now, they're letting big oil companies drill for more fossil fuels. It's appears like a strategy designed to get more Republicans on board with climate-change legislation. But GOPers aren't exactly playing ball right now. Obama's recent nuclear announcement didn't win him any new conservative buddies....
  • Iran Sanctions Watch: China on Board

    It's official: China has joined the club of six world powers pursuing a fourth round of U.N. sanctions against Iran, closing the last remaining gap among the five countries with veto power on the U.N. Security Council. As per Reuters (via an unidentified source "with knowledge off the talks"): "It has been agreed with China to start drawing up sanctions on Iran," the source said. "Drawing up of a Security Council resolution is to begin in the next few days." Diplomats say China has been slowly and reluctantly falling in line with the other powers involved in the negotiations on Iran by backing the idea of new U.N. sanctions against Tehran but Beijing wants any new steps to be weak. They say the four Western powers would like a resolution to be adopted next month, before a month-long U.N. conference on the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in May, but acknowledge that negotiations will probably drag on at least until June. A few quick thoug...
  • With White House Drilling Announcement, Cap-and-Trade Officially Dies

    After a long and bumpy past, it’s now clear that cap-and-trade has gone from the gurney to the morgue. The stark admission came this morning during a CNBC interview with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. "I think the term 'cap-and-trade' is not in the lexicon anymore," he said, suggesting that more agreeable goals, like slowing pollution and reducing oil imports, were more in the scope of the administration. Instead, the White House signaled it would be moving in a slightly different direction by opening parts of the Virginia coast and northern Alaska to offshore drilling.There has been plenty of outrage from environmental groups all morning. Environment America director Anna Aurilio said that the announcement “makes no sense,” especially when clean technologies on the horizon will usher in energy security. Ocean advocacy group Oceana was "appalled that the president is unleashing a wholesale assault on the oceans," according to programs director Jackie Savitz. Neither group was...
  • Today in Made-Up Numbers: 16,500 'Armed Bureaucrats' Will Enforce Health-Care Reform

    It was a high figure that I heard again and again covering health-care reform this past week: 16,500. That was the number of “bureaucrats” or “IRS agents” that numerous Republicans said would be necessary to enforce the individual mandate—basically, to make sure that Americans comply with the law to carry health insurance. The number struck me as high but potentially plausible, until the claims started getting really weird. Like when Ron Paul (R-Texas) claimed that not only were 16,500 new hires on the way, they would all be armed (around 3:53 in the clip above): “16,500 armed bureaucrats [are] coming to make this program work,” he explained to the host. “If it was a good program and everybody liked it, you wouldn’t need 16,500 thugs coming with their guns and putting you in jail if you didn’t follow all the rules.”...
  • Belabored Britain

    For Britain's conservatives, it came as a pre election gift: workers at British Airways are staging a series of strikes that threat-en to cripple the airline. Civil servants walked off the job last week, and railway staffers plan work stoppages in April. Cue loud taunts from the Tory leadership about a return to the bad old days of the 1970s, when Britain was a byword for poor industrial relations and Labour politicians kowtowed to the union bosses who bankrolled their party. A vote for Labour in this May's elections will be a vote for more of the same--or so the Conservative message goes. It's an easy charge to make--but it's also wrong. These days organized labor is a spent force in Britain. Union membership has slumped from 55 percent of the workforce in 1979 to 27 percent today. The number of days lost to strikes averaged 10 million a year in the '70s; over the last decade the equivalent figure was just 500,000. The heavy industries that once provided...
  • Anti-Abortion-Rights Activists Make Smart Rhetorical Moves In Georgia, Nebraska

    Late last week, the Georgia Senate approved a bill barring gender- and race-specific abortions. If it becomes law, the bill, dubbed The Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act, would criminalize a person who performs an abortion “with the intent to prevent an unborn child from being born based upon race, color or gender of the child or the race or color of either parent of that child.”This comes on the heels of another proposed abortion law, this one in Nebraska, that would bar abortions past 20 weeks' gestation. From a short item I had in NEWSWEEK's print edition this past week:Nebraska has long played a pivotal role in the national abortion battle, mounting the first defense of the “partial birth” ban before the Supreme Court in 2000. Now the legislature is pushing another first-of-its-kind restriction—this time on procedures that cause “fetal pain.” Currently the only abortion bans that have been deemed constitutional are based on viability, the point at which the fetus can live...
  • Enroll America Has the Right Approach to Health-Care Implementation

    Implementing large-scale health-care reform is really, really difficult. As I wrote in a story today, it requires “a sweeping outreach effort alongside meticulous attention to details, and they stumble without both key elements in place.”  But one nonprofit has already decided to take on the challenge: introducing Enroll America. “We want to make sure everybody gets enrolled,” says Ron Pollack, the nonprofit’s founder and current head of Families USA, a health-care-reform advocacy group. “This is about creating systems in each state that will make enrollment effective.”Pollack has been thinking about implementation since this summer and now has a general outline of how a nonprofit could best facilitate health-care reform (he hopes to have an official business plan in the next few months). The blueprint for Enroll America has 50 state-based consortia, each with diverse stakeholders (government officials, pharmaceutical executives, insurance companies, and nonprofits), sharing...
  • Like Father, Like Son in N. Korea

    By Jerry Guo North Korea's botched currency revaluation last November caused near rioting in a society where even slight criticism can  lead to the gulag. Now news that Kim Jong Il may have executed his top finance official in early March has some pundits wondering if the despot has finally gone soft. But don't believe it. Rather than a bow to public opinion, Kim's scapegoating of Pak Nam Gi, a loyal bureaucrat, seems more like a brutal move to solidify the hereditary rule of Kim Inc.  That's because, according to internal party propaganda, the failed currency reform--which knocked two zeroes off the won, sparking massive inflation--was actually the work of 27-year-old Kim Jong Un, the Dear Leader's likely successor. Blaming and executing Pak is a way for dad to wipe a major blemish off Jong Un's short career, says Marcus Noland, deputy director of the Peterson Institute for International Economics. To help smooth his son's ascent, the elder Kim...
  • In Surprise Ruling, Court Declares Two Gene Patents Invalid

    When the ACLU, joined by a long list of medical and genetics groups, sued to invalidate patents on human genes, the lawyers I spoke to for my recent column were almost unanimous in saying the plaintiffs didn't have a prayer, while the scientists said their arguments were compelling. Patents, according to the Constitution, exist to "promote the progress of science," but patents on human genes arguably do the opposite, researchers told me. I figured the lawyers knew better, and assumed the geneticists and the ACLU would lose. Surprise: in a 156-page decision just handed down, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled that patents on the genes (BRCA1 and BRCA2, both associated with hereditary breast and ovarian cancer) held by Myriad Genetics are invalid. It's the first time a court has thrown out gene patents, and it raises questions about the validity of the other 40,000 patents on an estimated 2,000 human genes. (There are more patents...
  • Five Things You Should Know About Donald Berwick, the New Medicare/Medicaid Chief

    The president has just appointed the person who's going to oversee Medicare and Medicaid for the next few years—a daunting task, given that the programs are bleeding money and may have big changes in store. If you've been following health-care policy (and not just health-care politics), you may already know the new chief's name: Donald Berwick, president of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI), the influential Cambridge, Mass., think tank that advocates elegantly simple ways of making medicine better without making it more expensive. (In his spare time, he's also a pediatrician and health-policy professor at Harvard.) Berwick's appointment has a lot of people in the blogosphere excited. Here's why:...
  • Why Shelving 24's Jack Bauer Is a Bipartisan Agreement

    On Friday, Fox announced that this season of the real-time thriller 24 would be the last. Immediately, the conversation seemed to turn toward whether the current political climate was too inhospitable toward 24's deeply entrenched Bush-era themes to last in an Obama age. Anyone who believes that also probably thinks that someone who gets killed off-camera is actually dead.The end of 24 has nothing to do with politics; it has to do with old age. 24 is in its eighth year, and after that many seasons, any show starts to reveal some fatigue. This is especially true for 24, a show with a basic premise so elaborate and limiting that critics once wondered how there could be a second season, let alone an eighth. But when it caught on, the writers made a way, as they so often do when they have a hit on their hands.Now that the show's ratings continue to sag, as the cost of making the explosion-heavy, ensemble-cast drama continues to rise, the time has come to retire Jack Bauer&apos...
  • Is It Time for Michael Steele to Go?

    When news hit the wires this morning about top Republican National Committee officials living the high life—frequenting strip clubs and musing about buying a private jet—the RNC went into crisis mode. The conservative Web site The Daily Caller had reported that during a February trip to California, Steele approved more than $15,000 for visits to several fancy hotels to visit with donors and close to $2,000 at a West Hollywood club “featuring topless women dancers imitating lesbian sex.” While Democrats were pouncing on the story all morning hoping for gains in public opinion, the RNC was walking back, and denying that Steele himself had any part in the planning or execution of fundraising in strip clubs. A spokesman also said the RNC is doing an internal investigation.The new revelations pose obvious embarrassment for the Republican establishment. Headlines about gentleman joints and private jets distract mightily from the GOP effort to build momentum before the midterms this fall,...
  • New Poll Has Good News for Democrats

    When it comes to midterm elections, voter enthusiasm is everything. Relative to presidential years, midterm turnout is depressed. Without the hype of a presidential battle, the only people you can really rely on to hit the polls are the party faithful; those folks who'll turn out rain or shine. If you give them a reason, that is.Now that health-care reform has passed, the Democratic rank and file have that reason. While conservatives have been riled up since Obama set foot in the Oval Office, the enthusiasm that carried Obama there steadily dwindled, along with Obama's approval ratings. But early signs are that the passage of health reform has altered that dynamic. A new Washington Post poll found that 76 percent of registered voters who lean Democrat are enthusiastic about voting for them in the midterms, compared with 75 percent of Republicans. For all the talk this year of the enthusiasm gap between Democrats and Republicans, the gulf appears to have evaporated....
  • Ari Ne’eman and the Controversy Over an Autism Cure

    Last week, I called attention to a candid and illuminating memoir about autism in Harper’s magazine. The piece, as I pointed out, is refreshingly devoid of controversy. But that is rare in the world of autism, as this story in Sunday’s New York Times about Ari Ne’eman, the founder of the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network, makes clear. Last December, President Obama nominated Ne’eman to be a member of the National Council on Disability. Ne’eman, 22, and his supporters—who include other people on the autism spectrum—were thrilled. His critics were not. Charges: he’s too young and inexperienced, he’s out of touch with the most profoundly affected on the spectrum, and he doesn’t support the hunt for a cure. Now, a hold has been placed on Ne’eman’s Senate confirmation—he would have been the first person with autism to serve on the council—though it is unclear why. Ne’eman, as the Times points out, is a “lightning rod” for a dispute over how autism should be perceived and treated....
  • In Russia, ‘The War Is Coming to Their Cities’

    Sergey Ponomarev / APEmergency personnel carry equipment in downtown Moscow on Monday, following two rush-hour subway blasts. Russia thought it had the North Caucasus beat. Ten years ago, then-president Vladimir Putin built his reputation by using brute force to bring Russia's most volatile region to heel. On the surface, it seemed to have worked. But in the last year, a rising tide of suicide attacks in the south hinted that Moscow's hold was more tenuous than it liked to admit. Russia's most wanted Islamist leader, Doku Umarov, vowed to bring the violence out of the conflict-prone south and straight to the country's economic and cultural centers. "Blood will no longer be limited to our cities and towns. The war is coming to their cities," he warned. Still, as long as the violence was contained in the south, those cities remained calm.That confidence was shattered this morning, when two female suicide bombers killed at least 38 people on packed Moscow...
  • france can't seal the deal

    When Fench president Nicolas ­Sarkozy dines with Barack Obama at the White House this week, expect the smiles to be strained. A pair of multibillion-dollar military-­procurement disputes have marred relations in recent weeks. When Northrop Grumman, in partnership with European aerospace firm EADS, charged favoritism for Boeing and withdrew its bid for a $35 billion Pentagon contract, Sarkozy accused the U.S. of "protectionism." Meanwhile, Sarkozy's recent decision to sell Mistral assault ships to Russia has made Washington and NATO allies nervous. Don't be surprised if it seems as though Paris is putting economics ahead of smooth relations with America. France is unusually reliant on big global contracts, thanks to an economy heavily dependent on a stable of world-class firms with tight historical links to the state. The president is expected to help these companies strike deals, meaning that setbacks aren't just economic--they're political. With France...
  • China's Mixed Signals

    It would be understandable if foreign business leaders are confused by the signals Beijing is sending these days. On the one hand, Premier Wen Jiabao cordially greeted international executives last week, telling them, "It's important to reinforce your confidence in China." On the other, Wen's comments came the same day Google shut its China search engine, saying it would no longer bow to government pressure to censor results. That controversy has contributed to the growing uneasiness of business leaders operating in China. A new survey shows a startling uptick in the percentage of U.S. IT executives who feel "increasingly unwelcome to compete in the Chinese market," from 26 percent in December to 38 percent in early 2010.  If it seems like China's sending mixed messages, that's because it is. While Beijing may appear monolithic to outsiders, in reality two camps are locked in a behind-the-scenes tussle over how best to deal with the world. On...
  • Lay Off Eric Cantor! (Sort Of)

    An angry Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) lashed out at Democrats yesterday, claiming they were shamelessly using threats against lawmakers to make political hay. In fact, the minority whip said, someone had a shot a bullet at his own office in Richmond, Va. But an investigation found that the bullet was probably a random shot, fired from as far as a half-mile away, police said today. It appears it wasn't fired at Cantor's office, which is minimally marked and in a city with serious gun violence problems. ...
  • Why You Shouldn't Worry About Texas's Textbook Changes

    We're now two weeks into the row over changing Texas history-textbook standards, and the story seems likely to persist at least until a final vote in May on the changes. That means several more weeks of hysteria....
  • Is This the End of Republican Obstructionism?

    It's a weird moment right now for the GOP. On one hand, the base has rarely been more riled up—and understandably so. For the past year, party leaders have told rank-and-file Republicans that the passage of Obamacare would represent a kind of Nazi-Bolshevik Armageddon, and that they must band together as honest, freedom-loving Americans to do everything in their power to stop the "Democrat [sic] Party" from destroying the country. But now Obamacare has passed, and the final reconciliation bill is heading to the Oval Office for the president's signature. So right-wingers are angry, and scared, and a few are even calling members of Congress to say things like, "you baby-killing motherf--ker … I hope you bleed out your ass, get cancer, and die." On the other hand, the bill passed. Republicans did do everything in their power to kill it, and yet, here we are.Obstructionism? Didn't work. Game over. And now Republicans have nothing to show for their...
  • Opera Dares Apple to Reject Its Browser From the iTunes App Store

      On a desktop computer, your choice of browser says a lot. Using the copy of Microsoft Internet Explorer that came with your PC screams "novice"—even though recent versions of IE are much improved, the program is still a symbol of an Internet that was slow, buggy, and insecure. Switching to Chrome or Firefox or Safari says you're Web savvy, care about speed and security, and want complex web apps to perform at their best.On the iPhone, you have no such choice of browser. The device comes with a mobile version of Apple's Safari, and that's it. Pretty much everyone is fine with that—it's a functional and minimalist app that does an amazing job of squeezing full Web pages onto the iPhone's 3.5-inch screen. Now Opera Software, a Norwegian company that has long been an also-ran in the desktop browser wars (its market share is less than 3 percent), is trying to inject some competition in the mobile space. This week, Opera submitted a mobile version of...
  • Why Obama's Russia Agreement Is a Big Deal

    The U.S. and Russia have an undeniably storied past. There was the Cold War, of course, but relations since have only become slightly less tense. The nuclear arsenal of both countries has led to a begrudging acknowledgment of mutual existence, but friendship would be a far stretch. Even efforts to repair the relationship have been tepid. It's hard to forget the high-profile and embarrassing snafu when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton presented Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov with a prop button that she thought said "reset" in Russian—but actually meant "overwhelm."But this morning's call between President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev indeed signaled progress, but in a roundabout way. The purpose of the call was to agree to a new treaty between the two countries, one modeled on the original START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) that’s kept tension at bay since the early '90s. This one further reduces the number of usable...
  • By the Numbers: Buying Up the West

    As the recession eased in the second half of 2009, rich nations continued to scale back acquisitions in emerging markets, while developing economies--led by China--began buying up Western companies even faster, according to a new study from KPMG:16Percent drop in developed-country acquisitions in emerging markets in second half of 200930Percent rise in emerging-market acquisitions in the developed world47Percent drop in developed-country acquisitions in emerging markets since 200752Percent rise in China's acquisitions in developed countries since 2007
  • Tweeple Trail: Tiger Woods Had Better Win the Masters, Or Else

    Last week, Tiger's sexts were the talk of Twitter—from the golfer's predictably nasty ones to our favorite, "No turkey unless it's a club sandwich."  But now, with Woods confirmed to appear at Augusta in fewer than two weeks, Tweeps are forecasting what his sordid text-trail will mean on the course. Can he withstand the embarrassment to pull off one of the "most shocking comebacks in sports history," like Rick Reilly says he'd better? Can he shore up against more media attention than he's ever received in his over-scrutinized life (for the first time in recent memory, People is accredited to cover the Masters )?  After a five-month layoff, Woods is the odds-on favorite according to Golf Digest, but Golf.com's Jim Suttie thinks it'd be a coup if Woods made the top ten. "[He] just won't be tuned into the competitive mindset that a Tour player needs to win," he writes.  Punditry: what think ye?  @JimmyTraina: If he...
  • A Mother Shares the Pain and Pleasures—Not Politics—of Raising a Child With Autism

    Stories about autism tend to feel like literary battlefields, with vaccine-theory supporters on one side and vaccine-theory opponents on the other. Which makes Sallie Tisdale’s memoir, “My Daughter, Her Autism, Our Life,” in the April issue of Harper’s Magazine so illuminating. In six pages, there’s no mention of mercury; instead, Tisdale writes with compassion and candor about what it’s like to care for her autistic daughter, Annie—“a peculiar, sweet, amusing person, irritating and courageous.” Annie drives Tisdale mad with her incessant pacing in her big running shoes in the kitchen, but the 26-year-old also manages to make her mother laugh almost every day. The emotional impact on Tisdale—and on so many other parents who have adult children with developmental disorders—is overwhelming and never-ending. She spends endless hours caring for Annie, but beats herself up anyway: “I feel sad and sorry for myself or pissed off, and then I feel petty because I’m sad and sorry for myself,...
  • HBO Documentary Highlights Tough Battle for Immigration Reform

    Last night, HBO2 aired The Senators' Bargain, a documentary about the years-long battle to reform the immigration system, which culminated in a dispiriting loss for proponents in 2007. The result of years of work by filmmakers Shari Robertson and Michael Camerini, it offers a behind-the-scenes look at the messy, frustrating, byzantine effort to steer contentious legislation through the bureaucratic muck of Congress. Its arrival is especially timely, given the torturous health care fight that's finally drawing to a close and the recent talk of resurrecting immigration reform. Given that health care passed, you'd think that would bode well for immigration. After all, Congress just proved that it can actually pass big, controversial bills. Yet one of the things that The Senators' Bargain drives home is just how little comity remains among lawmakers of opposing parties. There were still vestiges of it in the period chronicled by the film, from 2001 to 2007. In one...
  • Pretending We're Not In a Trade War

    Even in the darkest days of the recession, as job reports registered stomach-flipping descents, politicians around the globe swore not to give in to protectionism. Now, as the economy starts to stabilize, the World Trade Organization has offered them a muted congratulations. Its analysis of anti-free trade actions in 2009 reveals some minor slippage, but in general "paints a reassuring picture."...
  • Quote of the Day: Robert Gibbs

    "The notion that you don't get what you want, [so] you're not going to cooperate on anything else, is not a whole lot different than I might hear from a 6-year-old." —White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, taking a hard swipe at John McCain and other Republicans who have promised to obstruct congressional business.
  • 'The Next Mountains'

    Moving around town in the days after the Big Sunday Night—Health-Care Night—there is a different mood in the air. Passage of the enormous and historic bill, far from exhausting President Barack Obama and the Democrats, has invigorated them. Now they want it all—the whole, sweeping Obama agenda—and they are rushing into the challenge hungrily....