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The Daily Journal: April 11, 2007

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Just in Time
Russia Threatening New Cold War

From the Guardian: "Russia is preparing its own military response to the US's controversial plans to build a new missile defence system in eastern Europe, according to Kremlin officials, in a move likely to increase fears of a cold war-style arms race. The Kremlin is considering active counter-measures in response to Washington's decision to base interceptor missiles and radar installations in Poland and the Czech Republic, a move Russia says will change "the world's strategic stability". The Kremlin has not publicly spelt out its plans. But defence experts said its response is likely to include upgrading its nuclear missile arsenal so that it is harder to shoot down, putting more missiles on mobile launchers, and moving its fleet of nuclear submarines to the north pole, where they are virtually undetectable. Russia could also bring the new US silos within the range of its Iskander missiles launched potentially from the nearby Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, they add. [...] The Bush administration says the bases are designed to shoot down rogue missiles fired by Iran or North Korea. Its proposed system would be helpless against Russia's vast nuclear arsenal, it says. But this claim has been greeted with widespread incredulity, not just in Russia but also among some of the US's nervous Nato allies. They include Germany, where the Social Democrat leader, Kurt Beck, warned last month that the US and Russia were on the brink of another arms race "on European soil"." The full story...

Diabetic Breakthrough
You mean Stem-Cells Work?

It would appear to be the case. From the UK Times: "Diabetics using stem-cell therapy have been able to stop taking insulin injections for the first time, after their bodies started to produce the hormone naturally again. In a breakthrough trial, 15 young patients with newly diagnosed type 1 diabetes were given drugs to suppress their immune systems followed by transfusions of stem cells drawn from their own blood. The results show that insulin-dependent diabetics can be freed from reliance on needles by an injection of their own stem cells. The therapy could signal a revolution in the treatment of the condition, which affects more than 300,000 Britons. People with type 1 diabetes have to give themselves regular injections to control blood-sugar levels, as their ability to create the hormone naturally is destroyed by an immune disorder. [...] A study by British scientists in November also reported that stem-cell injections could repair organ damage in heart attack victims. But research using the most versatile kind of stem cells — those acquired from human embryos — is currently opposed by powerful critics, including President Bush. The JAMA study provides the first clinical evidence for the efficacy of stem cells in type 1 diabetes. Sufferers of the chronic condition, which normally emerges in childhood or early adulthood, have to inject themselves at least four times a day." The full story...

"That Grotesque and Laughable Word"
Twain, Whitman and Patriotism in Time of War

David Caplan in the latest Virginia Quarterly: On April 14, 1887, Walt Whitman delivered a lecture he had given several times before, describing a moment that his audience knew well. Whitman reserved his talk, “Death of Abraham Lincoln,” for the assassination’s anniversary. This performance fell on the twenty-second commemoration. “The New York literati listened in religious silence to that resplendent discourse . . . the whisperings of the stars,” reported José Martí, the Cuban revolutionary, writing for an Argentinean publication. He joined a remarkable audience. Those gathered in the Madison Square Theatre included Martí and Mark Twain. Andrew Carnegie paid $350 for a box (out of the $600 Whitman earned for the performance), though it is unclear whether the industrialist attended. General William Tecumseh Sherman and his wife did.

Viewed collectively, the distinguished crowd represents an allegory of patriotism, as the members suggest the idea’s various meanings, its darker and more hopeful definitions. Interpreted in this fashion, Martí symbolizes anti-imperialist patriotism, what his translator calls “a patriotism of bridges, not barriers.” “Patriotism,” Martí wrote, is “the best (of all known) leavenings for all human virtues.” A poet doomed to die young, fighting for his country’s independence, Martí celebrated Whitman’s use of foreign words as a gesture of solidarity, not an affectation as some American and British readers believe. “Certain words of our language,” Martí observed, “can be found on every page in his book: viva, camarada, libertad, americanos.” The very words Martí repeats encourage life and invite friendship. Whitman’s Spanish offers a geo-political model presented in linguistic miniature. The borrowed words signal mutual respect, not imperial violence and subjugation, as if answering Martí’s later call, “The nations arise and salute one another.” The full essay...

Narcissism's New Pronoun
The You Decade

Christopher Hitchens in Slate: "I suppose I started to notice it about two or three years ago, when the salespeople at Rite-Aid began wearing dish-sized lapel buttons stating that "YOU are the most important customer I will serve today." It was all wrong, in the same way that a sign hung on a door saying "Back in five minutes" is out of time as soon as it is put in place. It was wrong in other ways, too, since it could be read from some distance (say, from 10 spaces back in a slow-moving line) and thus became an irritant to anyone who could grasp that "they"—or the "we" of this putative "you"—were not really important at all. As in "your call is important to us"—but not important enough for us to supply enough operators to get you out of the holding pattern and the elevator or fasten-your-seat-belt music that comes with it. The annoying lapel button was soon discontinued, and the bright consultant who came up with it was no doubt promoted to higher things, but "You" retained its centrality. A room-service menu, for example, now almost always offers "your choice" of oatmeal versus cornflakes or fruit juice as opposed to vegetable juice. Well, who else's choice could it be? Except perhaps that of the people who decide that this is the range of what the menu will feature. Fox TV famously and fatuously claims, "We report. You decide." Decide on what? On what Fox reports? Online polls promise to register what "you" think about the pressing issues of the moment, whereas what's being presented is an operation whereby someone says, "Let's give them the idea that they are a part of the decision-making process." [...] So, whatever happened to the Me Decade? The answer is that nothing happened to it. It mutated quite easily and smoothly into a decade centered on another narcissistic pronoun. Which pronoun is that? You be the judge." The full piece...


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