UNDERNEWS

Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who has covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

May 14, 2009

BREVITAS

CRASH TALK

NY Times - Nearly three months after President Obama approved a $787 billion economic stimulus package, intended to create or save jobs, the federal government has paid out less than 6 percent of the money, largely in the form of social service payments to states. Although administration officials say the program is right on schedule, they have actually spent relatively little so far. The stimulus bill has directly injected around $45.6 billion into the economy, mostly to help states cover the costs of Medicaid and unemployment benefits, one-time $250 checks that were mailed to Social Security recipients last week, and income tax cuts that began to take effect this spring.


MID EAST

Haaretz -
Israel Police detained Haaretz correspondent Amira Hass upon her exit from the Gaza Strip, where she had been living and reporting over the last few months. Hass was arrested and taken in for questioning immediately after crossing the border, for violating a law which forbids residence in an enemy state. She was released on bail after promising not to enter the Gaza Strip over the next 30 days. Hass is the first Israeli journalist to enter the Gaza Strip in more than two years, since the Israel Defense Forces issued an entry ban following the abduction of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit in a 2006 cross-border raid by Palestinian militants.

ECO CLIPS

Current
- The most spectacular stretch of coral reefs on the planet is in danger of collapse from climate change, overfishing and pollution, according to a report presented at the World Oceans Conference in Indonesia. Scientists consider the region known as the "coral triangle" to be the centre of marine life on Earth, teeming with fish and almost one-third of the world's coral reefs. Covering 1 per cent of the planet from South-East Asia to the Pacific, the area also supports about 100 million people. But in the past 40 years, 40 per cent of the coral reefs and coastal mangroves in the coral triangle have been lost because of pollution, coastal development and overfishing, said a University of Queensland professor, Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, who led the study commissioned by WWF. "It's an astounding amount," Professor Hoegh-Guldberg said. "At the moment the coral reefs are disappearing at about 1 to 2 per cent a year."



Tree Hugger
- The new World Games stadium in Kaohsiung, Taiwan is just about completely covered in photovoltaics, to very dramatic effect. . . According to the Taipei Times, "The generators will meet the stadium's power needs for lighting and air conditioning during the Games. When it is not hosting a sports event, the surplus electricity could be sold to Taiwan Power Co. . .


MEDIA

ABC News -
Playboy, probably the most famous adult magazine, is struggling to stay alive and is about to undertake "radical changes" in what many see as a last-ditch effort to continue publishing. "It is clear that this company cannot continue to sustain significant losses in a business that now comprises less than one-quarter of the company's revenue base," Jerome Kern, interim chief executive for Playboy Enterprises said during an analyst conference call. . . Joe Francis, founder of the Girls Gone Wild video empire, said he has tried to purchase Playboy in the past and now doesn't consider the business salvageable. "Their overhead is astronomical. They have no core business that's attractive," Francis said.
He blames the demise on Hefner, 83, who he said "refuses to change and evolve the brand" because of ego.

DRUG BUSTS

UK Press
- Drug busts by the UK's organised crime fighting agency have helped to force dealers to hike their wholesale cocaine prices to record levels, its boss has claimed. Trevor Pearce, head of enforcement at the Serious Organized Crime Agency, said prices per kilo had jumped from L39,000 last year to more than L45,000 as a result of undercover work and seizure operations. But his findings come amid a warning that UK cocaine's purity level is currently the lowest on record, as gangs use increasing amounts of chemicals like insecticide and worming powder to dilute the drug.

SUSTAIN YOURSELF

Tree Hugger
-According to Bicycle Retailer, Best Buy is about to start selling some electric bikes in some of its stores on the West coast. At first, e-bikes by Currie Technologies and Ultra Motor will be available. Currie Technologies will be stocking Best Buy with six different Izip models, ranging in price from $499-$2,000. The Southern California-based company will also provide Best Buy with two electric scooters at $299 and $599, according to Currie president Larry Pizzi. Mr. Pizzi adds that his electric bikes will be sold in 20 stores at first, but that a "larger roll out" was possible for the holiday season.

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