Celebrity, News

Celebrity Deaths and Decorum

Most people were saddened to read about the passing of David Bowie, who succumbed to cancer on Sunday at the age of 69. My newsfeed has been sprinkled with links to YouTube videos of Bowie’s songs, various articles and blog posts written in tribute, and posted their favorite pictures. Someone I know decided to post an article about rock stars that slept with teenagers, accompanied by a very snide and snarky comment. While I am against people of a certain age sleeping with those that have “teen” in their age, you would’ve thought this person was talking about deceased BBC presenter Jimmy Savile.

It’s a tricky subject when talking about celebrities and past transgressions–you don’t want to forgive them simply because of their status and their wealth, especially after they’ve passed. Just because someone has died (whether or not they’re a celebrity or in the public eye otherwise) does not mean that they automatically enter sainthood. However, there is something to be said about the matter of decorum in a time like this. I know that pieces like the one the snarky Facebook friend posted are going to be popping up over the next few weeks, it’s par for the course. Yesterday was not that day.

I wouldn’t call myself a Bowie fan the same way I call myself a Queen or a Jenny Lewis fan. I don’t have any Bowie albums, tee-shirts, other memorabilia, but I can sing along to a few songs and did enjoy seeing him pop up on TV and in movies. I also think it’s pretty bitchin’ that my day job plays “Let’s Dance” twice a day. But that said, when I saw that my best friend had texted me “awww David Bowie” with a crying face emoji early yesterday morning, I knew it was bad. When I googled to confirm, I was sad. Not as sad as when Davy Jones died (The Monkees were my BSB/N*Sync in 6th grade,) but still sad.

So if I’m not a big Bowie fan, why did that pithy, bitchy comment piss me off so bad? Because it’s disrespectful. It was not the right time or place to post that list, to make Bowie fans that are already feeling shitty feel even worse. I mean, again, it’s bound to happen–for every nice article about Michael Jackson after he passed, there were several that felt the need to point out his scandals in the days following his death. I remember when Whitney Houston died, a different Facebook friend posted a very tasteless joke about Houston’s demons just minutes after the story broke (and it was intentional as this person referenced her death outright.)

Perhaps it is a coping mechanism–who expected to see “David Bowie Dies at 69” all over the news and social media yesterday?–and perhaps it is to point out that amongst all the heartfelt posts that again, Bowie was human. He fucked up too. Just because he’s dead doesn’t mean he’s instantly in the running for sainthood. But that said, the man was an artist and touched a lot of people’s lives. Most of the posts I’ve read talked about how Bowie’s music helped them feel not so lost, not like such a misfit thanks to Ziggy Stardust and other projects. Others talked about their sexual awakening thanks to his role as Jared the Goblin King in Labyrinth (1986.) Others posted/quoted their favorite songs. There’s no denying that Bowie had an impact, and not just for people of a certain age. 

Or, perhaps this person is looking for attention knowing that anything else they posted was going to get lost in the Bowie shuffle. And hey, it worked–this person’s post pissed me off so much, I wrote this post. But seriously, let’s be mindful of what we post in the wake of someone’s passing. This is a situation where if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. 

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News, Women

MMA Fighters With Breast Implants Can’t Fight In Louisiana

Last Wednesday, the Louisiana State Boxing and Wrestling Commission passed an emergency ruling prohibiting female fighters with breast implants from competing in MMA tournaments unless they have permission from the doctor who performed the surgery. Why? A few weeks ago, a fighter was forced to withdraw from a match after her implant ruptured.  Okay, they’re worried about the safety of the fighters, that’s actually kind of nice. That’s not what concerned the commission–apparently, this issue was so serious, it warranted a hearing at the Louisiana state capitol where commissioner Harold Williams decided that “if [women] want to look good, then they don’t have to be in the ring.”

 

If that weren’t bad enough, the meeting didn’t come about of concern for women’s health, it came because apparently, not only is it expensive to fix boob jobs, but “I don’t know of a single plastic surgeon who is going to allow his artistic work to be messed up,” says Dr. Thomas Ferguson, a member of the commission.

 

 

Are you serious? While we’ve discussed the darker side of plastic surgery, ultimately, it is a personal choice. So what if someone wants to compete in MMA matches and get breast implants? Women in sports have it rough–they have to be camera ready, yet if they’re too pretty, they’re just models with a bit of athletic ability. That being said, if they’re too “unattractive,” they’re butch punchlines. It’s really not fair, and this ruling isn’t helping. It’s also infuriating that it seems the doctors aren’t concerned about the fighters, but about their work–that the fighters are just sculptures, not human beings. I understand that it takes time, but come on, at least acknowledge that these women are humans.

 

This seems to have started from a place of concern–a fighter had a breast implant ruptured. But now, thanks to sexist comments, it’s turned into something else. But you have to admit, there is definitely some sexism behind the whole thing–one ruptured implant causes a moratorium while severe head injuries continue to happen left and right? It’s not like implants rupture every day–and yes, there can be serious health risks if one does, but there are women who have had ruptured implants that weren’t MMA fighters.

 

What’s your take, LivLunatics? Is the Louisiana State Boxing and Wrestling Commission right, or is this just another way to keep female athletes down?

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Health, News

Environmental Group Finds Carcinogen in Pepsi

On Wednesday, the Center for Environmental Health revealed that Pepsi’s caramel coloring still poses a risk to consumers due to a high levels of a carcinogenic known as 4-methylimidazole, or 4-Mel.

4-Mel can be formed after certain foods are cooked, so many foods may contain the carcinogen, even in trace amounts. So why is this shocking? The news of the finding comes not long after Coca-Cola and Pepsi agreed to reformulate their drinks in compliance with a new California law stipulating that certain drinks with high carcinogen levels come with a warning label.

Coke has removed the caramel coloring that contains 4-Mel from all their beverages, not just ones sold in California. However, while Pepsi is compliant with the law in California, drinks sold outside of California were found to contain levels of 4-Mel some four to eight times higher.

This is bull–okay, so Pepsi is being responsible and complying with a law in California, but the rest of the country can drink beverages containing a carcinogen that’s been linked to cancer? I’m not saying that Coca-Cola is a pure and wonderful company (I was involved with the Campaign to Stop Killer Coke in college; Coke’s corporate practices are unbelievably messed up) but you have to admit that they’re being smart and realizing that there is a reason California put that law into effect–to give consumers choices and allow them to protect their health. Why it hasn’t spread to the rest of the country, I don’t know.

Then again, are we to be surprised that a company that added an artificial sweetener that’s 200x sweeter than sugar to it’s diet formula would do the bare minimum when it comes to corporate responsibility, caring more about profits than the well being of their consumers?

What’s your take, LivLunatics? Do you think Coke is smearing their competition, or should the California law spread to the rest of the country?

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News, Political

Occupy Gezi: The Revolution is Not Being Televised

A small park in Istanbul has become a hotspot for a new political movement, Occupy Gezi.On Wednesday, a group of people (not part of any specific group) met to protest the demolition of Gezi Park. Last year, it was announced that the small park would be leveled off to be turned into a shopping mall. There are numerous malls in Istanbul, and protestors had enough, wanting to keep the park with 606 trees. The protests started off peaceful, with people bringing blankets and tents, to be ready when demolition started the following morning.

Sure enough, the demolition started and protestors stood in front of the machines. That was all, there was no media attention, just people standing up for what they believed in. However, police were called in anyway, bringing water cannons and pepper spray, causing the number of protestors to grow so large over night, the local government shut down all the ways leading up to Taksim square. This did not deter the protestors, many of whom who chose to walk. The police continued to use excessive force, even going so far as to burn down protesters’ tents.

Although the police lifted barricades in the hope of relieving some tension, Erdogan was still defiant, promising to stick to the government’s redevelopment plans. He called the protesters a “minority” that was trying to forcefully impose demands and challenged the opposition that he could easily summon a million people for a government rally. “I am not claiming that a government that has received the majority of the votes has limitless powers … and can do whatever it wants,” he said in a televised speech.“Just as the majority cannot impose its will on the minority, the minority cannot impose its will on the majority.”

Although Turkey has seen great economic growth under Erdogan’s leadership, he remains a divisive figure in mainly secular circles due to his strong conservative Muslim beliefs and is criticized for his often abrasive style. Why did he overreact to a peaceful, environmentally charged protest? It wasn’t about him until he decided to bring in pepper spray and water cannons to quell the protests.

Many social justice groups such as Amnesty International are concerned with the excessive police force used during the protest, especially as Reuters has reported that school children on a field trip were caught up in the tear gas. The protests are also exposing a larger issue in Istanbul–the disconnect between Tayyip Erodgan and the people. In a piece for the The New Yorker, Elif Batuman reports that on her television, CNN Turk was broadcasting a cooking show, while other networks were showing dance programs and a study abroad show. Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and personal blogs are showing the truth; harsh photos, live tweets, etc.

While new stuff pops up on social media every day, I find it so appalling that the mainstream media in Turkey seems to be completely ignoring the story, and fueling the fire. Ted Turner’s vision for CNN was that it was news twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. In the US, Turner used to steal footage from the big news networks in order to get his stories. So why isn’t CNN Turk doing the same thing and aiding the disconnect between the government and the people? Occupy Geziis news. People need to know what’s going on so they can make an informed choice, to decide to get involved or to just hang back.

So, LivLunatics, what’s your take on the situation? Turkish LivLunatics, did I miss anything important? What’s your take on the lack of  mainstream media coverage?

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Health, News

Diet Pepsi Adding Second Artificial Sweetener to Formula

According to The Huffington Post, Diet Pepsi has been quietly testing out new sweeteners to help add to the shelf life of the popular soft drink.  Previously, the diet cola has been sweetened with Aspartame. Aspartame is sensitive to heat and breaks down more easily. By adding “a very small amount” of acesulfame potassium (which is often found in chewing gum, gelatin desserts and baked goods,) the aspartame will break down less quickly and will “ensure consistency with every sip.” But rest assured–“A change in sweetener does not change the flavor.” Executives at Pepsi are hoping that the addition of acesulfame potassium will help boost sales of the soft drink, which the number three soft drink in the country. Main competitor Coca-Cola is the number one drink.

Now, I’m all for corporate competition. However, I’m not digging the addition of even more artificial sweeteners to the mix. What exactly is acesulfame potassium? It’s a calorie free sweetener that is 200 times sweeter than table sugar. It is often used in sweetener blends to produce a more sugar-like taste in a food or beverage. The ingredient also helps the blend retain its sweetness during baking or heat processing, which is important for preparing foods, such as cookies and candies. Acesulfame potassium helps blends sustain their sweetness over time, thereby increasing the sweetness shelf life of products. In addition, foods containing blends of acesulfame potassium contain up to 40 percent less total sweetener.

While the FDA claims that the sweetener is safe, why not add natural sugar to the beverage? It’s easy to say “well, we should all stop drinking soda and stick to water, tea and milk,” but everyone has personal taste preferences. What’s your take on the soda debate?

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environmental, Health, News

FDA to Give up on Regulating Antibiotic Abuse on Factory Farms

I’ve been wary of the FDA for quite sometime, ever since they bypassed their deadline for determining what exactly is and isn’t gluten-free.  This new nugget of information, however, really makes me wary of them. According toMother Jones, the FDA has decided to give up on regulating antibiotic abuse on factory farms–at least for the time being, they claim.

How does this affect you? If you’re a meat eater, this means that non-government related farms (agribusiness) can plump their cows full of antibiotics, which in turn generate antibiotic resistant pathogens in you, and thus, endanger your life. Isn’t that just a lovely holiday gift? It just goes to show that big business really doesn’t care about the people, they only care about their product. Eighty percent of antibiotics aren’t consumed by humans, they’re consumed by animals. Worst of all, they’ve thrown in the towel after fighting this fight since the Carter administration over thirty years ago. Why stop now? Have the big bad agribusiness men really scared you, FDA? With all these facts and figures, why would you say, “okay, you can pump the animals full of drugs, even though we know that this hurts people. We’re tired. We’re so over this.” It’s BS, and I’m really angry. Of course they have a fake apology, claiming that the action “should not be interpreted as a sign that the FDA no longer has safety concerns or that the FDA will not consider re-proposing withdrawal proceedings in the future, if necessary.”

Really, FDA? You had three years to regulate what really is and isn’t gluten-free, and nothing has been accomplished. You allow countless diet pills come into the market that severely harm and kill people. Many birth control manufacturers are facing a lot of heat for their ingredients that you allowed. You allow HFCS to still be on the market, and even allowed agribusiness to produce those BS “your body can’t tell if it’s corn sugar or cane sugar!” commericals AND be put into “natural products” (yep, HFCS shows up in Vicks NatureFusion cold medicines, even though they go on about how wonderful it is that there’s no dyes and gluten and such, they still have something that was invented in a laboratory in 1957 in their “natural” medicine.)  Why should we trust them?

What do you think, LivLunatics? Do you think the FDA will pick up on the anger of the population, or will it be business as usual? Does this make you not want to eat meat anymore?

Update 01/05/12: There’s been a little bit of success! According to Mother Jones, the FDA has banned certain uses of the cephlasporin family of antibiotics. The agency has released a statement in regard to this decision: “Cephalosporins are commonly used in humans to treat pneumonia as well as to treat skin and soft tissue infections. In addition, they are used in the treatment of pelvic inflammatory disease, diabetic foot infections, and urinary tract infections. If cephalosporins are not effective in treating these diseases, doctors may have to use drugs that are not as effective or that have greater side effects.” This is a minor step, but still a step nonetheless. Let’s hope the FDA gets more aggressive with the banning of antibiotics in animal farms!

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Celebrity, News

The Kardashians and Sweatshop Labor–Are they REALLY that Ignorant?

Update 12/23/11: Kris Jenner is now suing Star for libel. The Kardashian matriarch is also planning on suing the The Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights. This is getting pretty heated…

Update 12/21/11: Charles Kernhagen now claims that Star magazine (where Radar got their information from) has taken his quotes out of context and that he was talking about 75% of the factories in the Guangdong province, not necessarily the factory where the various Kardashian fashion lines are created. Additionally, Kris Jenner and her business partner, Robert Shapiro, released a statement to TMZ saying that the factory where the clothes are made are “strictly policed,” and do not violate any child labor or human rights laws. Whether or not there is truth to either story, I feel this discussion is still important, especially in the wake of the  allegations of child labor being used to obtain organic cotton for a line of Victoria’s Secret underwear. If something bears your name, wouldn’t you want to research your manufacturing methods before making a business agreement? 

–Kathleen

Radar Online has broken the news that the Kardashian fashion empire is guilty of using slave labor to produce their merchandise. According to the website, the fashionable family is being investigated by a human rights organization due to their use of sweatshop workers in the Guangdong province of China. The workers are believed to work up to eighty-four hours in a seven day workweek to produce the Sears-exclusive line (as well as other Kardashian endorsed lines such as the Kris Jenner Collection and ShoeDazzle.com) that helped the family earn a cool $65 million last year. The workers make roughly $1 per hour, are not allowed to listen to music, or even stretch in the often 100 degree plus temperatures. According to Charles Kernaghan, executive director of the Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights,  “The Kardashians are in bed with some pretty bad people. Not only are [they] taking advantage of these workers, they are holding hands with a government that spits on democracy and women’s rights.”

My question is, are the Kardashians and other celebrity designers really that unaware and that heartless that they would use such awful methods to create their clothing? Are they so desperate for a profit that they would resort to exploiting people who believe that they need to work in such awful conditions to provide for themselves and their families? I really don’t get it, especially after the Kathie Lee Gifford scandal in the mid-nineties. Gifford, who sold her clothes exclusively at Wal*Mart, claimed that she was unaware of how the clothes bearing her name were produced, that she was not involved in that aspect of the business. This angered people–if you’re going to put a product with your name on it, wouldn’t you want to make sure that the people involved are taking the steps to make sure that other people aren’t being endangered just so YOU can make more money on top of your TV hosting gig? Or, in the case of the Kardashians, your reality shows/nail polish collection/perfume/personal appearances/books/magazine stories/etc.? There are young women and girls who do look up to the family, who see them as entrepreneurs and fashion icons. So, are they really greedy or just ignorant? Remember, this isn’t the first time the Kardashians have put their name on an inferior, poorly researched product–last year, the Kardashian Kard was released. Unbeknownst to the family, the pre-paid card was riddled with hidden fees and finance charges, causing consumers to be angry and the card to be pulled from rotation.

LivLunatics, again–are the Kardashians (and other celebrities, as Mel “Scary Spice” B. and Carmen Electra have also been named in the investigation) greedy or ignorant? What do you think is a good way to eliminate or improve labor conditions?

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