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Dispatches from the Culture Wars – Bad Taste in the Mouth edition

Reebok drops rapper after date-rape lyrics; Justin Bieber thinks Anne Frank would have been a fan; Trayvon Martin targets used for shooting practice; Mattel won’t make Black Barbie party supplies; Robot warriors coming soon; Indians leave the rez for unhappy city life; Americans still love libraries; Asians shouldn’t start to eat like Americans; The Nordic countries are reinventing their model of capitalism: Discuss!

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Reebok drops Rick Ross over controversial lyrics
By Gerrick D. Kennedy
April 11, 2013
Los Angeles Times

Rick Ross’ controversial lyrics that seemed to promote date rape resulted in the superstar rapper-mogul being dropped as a spokesperson for Reebok.

After intense pressure from a number of organizations, including anti-sexism collective UltraViolet, the athletic company announced Thursday it had parted ways with Ross. “Reebok holds our partners to a high standard, and we expect them to live up to the values of our brand. Unfortunately, Rick Ross has failed to do so,” Reebok said in a statement to The Times.

Ross, who has been a spokesperson for the brand since 2012, brushed off the controversy as a simple "misunderstanding” and apologized -- not for the actual lyrics, but for what had been “interpreted as rape.”

Justin Bieber on Anne Frank: "Hopefully She Would Have Been a Belieber"
By Joyce Chen
April 14, 2013
US Weekly

Justin Bieber stopped by the Anne Frank House museum in Amsterdam on Friday, April 12, and made sure to leave his mark at the historic landmark. The singer, 19, explored the house for about an hour before deciding to pen his thoughts about the meaningful tour.

"Truly inspiring to be able to come here," he wrote in a guest book at the museum. "Anne was a great girl. Hopefully she would have been a belieber."   BBC correspondent Anna Holligan confirmed with the Anne Frank House press office that Bieber wrote the reported comments in the "special guestbook."

Target practice with Trayvon Martin
By Jonathan Capehart
April 15, 2013
Washington Post

We have known for a long time that “Trayvon Martin brings out the worst in people.”  But Ron King defied decency. The Port Canaveral police sergeant showed up at a firearms training session on April 4 with two targets that resembled Trayvon Martin and offered the target to two fellow officers, who declined the offer and promptly reported him to the police chief.   King was fired on Friday.

But he’s not going quietly, saying it was used as a “no-shoot training aid.”  King’s claims are ridiculous, and that wasn’t the intent of the creator of the loathsome target. Officials said he bought the targets over the Internet. “Trayvon Martin Targets” were marketed by at least one online seller last year.

Trayvon Martin Gun Range Targets Reportedly Sold Online
By Madeleine Morgenstern
May 11, 2012
The Blaze

The shooting range target wears a hoodie and carries a bottle of iced tea. Cross hairs lie over the chest, just above the bag of Skittles that peek out of the pocket.

An online seller told Orlando’s WKMG-TV he wanted to profit off Trayvon Martin’s death and designed the paper targets to resemble the dead Florida teenager. He said they sold out almost immediately.  “My main motivation was to make money off the controversy,” the unidentified seller said in an email exchange with the station. According to the station, gun owners have been abuzz about the targets online — mostly expressing their disgust.

Mattel Refuses to Make More Black Barbie Party Supplies, Despite Pressure
By Jeff Mays
April 10, 2013
DNA Info

Karen Braithwaite, 40, a human resources manager, with daughter Georgia, 4, is leading the charge to get Mattel to produce more products featuring Barbies of color after she couldn't find party supplies for the black Barbie-themed fifth birthday party her daughter wanted. She launched a Change.org petition requesting that Mattel make black Barbie-themed party supplies to coincide with the black Barbie dolls they produce, and more than 14,200 people from all 50 states and 25 countries had signed the petition as of Wednesday morning.  Braithwaite says Mattel executives her told that licensees don't want ethnic-themed images for party supplies because large retailers won't buy them.

In 1980, Mattel introduced "Black Barbie," but the doll still had white physical features.  In 2009, the company launched its first black Barbie doll line that featured dolls of varying skin tones, fuller lips, a wider nose and more pronounced cheekbones.  Last March, another petition signed by almost 35,000 people on Change.org persuaded Mattel to make a bald Barbie friend aimed at children who had lost their hair due to illness.

Robot Warriors: Lethal Machines Coming of Age

By Jonathan Marcus

March 3, 2013
BBC News (UK)

The era of drone wars is already upon us. The era of robot wars could be fast approaching. Already there are unmanned aircraft demonstrators that can pretty-well fly a mission by itself with no involvement of a ground-based "pilot". And from here it is not such a jump to a fully-fledged armed robot warrior, a development with huge implications for the way we conduct and even conceive of war-fighting. 

Jody Williams, the American who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997 for her work leading the campaign to ban anti-personnel landmines, stresses that value-free terms such as "autonomous weapons systems" should be abandoned.  "We prefer to call them killer robots," she says, defining them as " When I first learnt about this," she says, "I was honestly horrified — the mere thought that human beings would set about creating machines that they can set loose to kill other human beings, I find repulsive."

Hagel eliminates ‘drone medal,’ creates device for existing medals
By Chris Carroll
April 15, 2013
Stars and Stripes

The so-called “drone medal” is no more.  Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced Monday he would replace the medal intended to recognize drone operators and cyber warriors with a “new distinguishing device that can be affixed to existing medals to recognize the extraordinary actions of this small number of men and women.”

The Distinguished Warfare Medal, announced in February by then-Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, created a firestorm of controversy when it was ranked above some that require service members to risk life and limb to be eligible, such as the Purple Heart and Bronze Star, which are frequently rewarded for valor in combat.

Critics argued that medals earned in direct combat must mean more than medals awarded in the rear, and after Hagel ordered a review of the medal, he wrote that combat medals will continue to be awarded “only to those who face the risk and hardship of combat. “  Veterans groups applauded Hagel’s decision.

Quietly, Indians Reshape Cities and Reservations
By Timothy Williams
April 13, 2013
New York Times

A mural painted by children at the Little Earth of United Tribes housing complex in Minneapolis
credit - Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times

Though they are widely associated with rural life, more than 7 of 10 Indians and Alaska Natives now live in a metropolitan area, according to Census Bureau data released this year, compared with 45 percent in 1970 and 8 percent in 1940. The trend mirrors the pattern of millions of African-Americans who left the rural South during the Great Migration of the 20th century and moved to cities in the North and West.

The migration goes to the heart of the question of whether the more than 300 reservations in the United States are an imperative or a hindrance to Native Americans, a debate that dates to the 19th century, when the reservation system was created by the federal government.

Americans Still Love Libraries
By Jason Boog
April 10, 2013
Mediabistro

Americans still love libraries. Don’t let anybody change your mind.  To show support for local libraries, CityTownInfo created an infographic showing why libraries are more important than ever in our digital world.

Eighty-one percent of American adults use the Internet and almost as many people agree that free computer and internet access (including Wi-Fi) are very important services that libraries offer. In fact, 62 percent of libraries are the sole provider of computers and Wi-Fi for free in their community. Libraries also offer technology assistance, help with social services applications, tutoring and advice for job-seeking patrons. Over the past decade, public libraries have been increasing in number, but the growth hasn’t kept up with the population. Between 2000 and 2009, public libraries increased by 1.7 percent, but the national population increased by 11.7 percent.

Asia's Lacking Pride
By Stephan Richter
March 25, 2013
The Globalist

Anybody who argues that it is a matter of global fairness for a billion Chinese and a billion Indians now to gorge themselves on factory-produced pork, poultry and beef is really delivering an argument for self-mutilation on a massive scale — leaving aside the climatic and planetary consequences of such a shift in the composition of the world's diet.

Ironically, what is considered a sign of Western wealth — overloaded food tables — is a sign of a breathless lifestyle where the real values with regard to ensuring a solid quality of life for oneself have gotten buried.

Northern Lights: The Nordic countries are reinventing their model of capitalism
By Adrian Wooldridge
February 2, 2013
The Economist

Thirty years ago Margaret Thatcher turned Britain into the world’s leading centre of “thinking the unthinkable”. Today that distinction has passed to Sweden. Sweden has reduced public spending as a proportion of GDP from 67% in 1993 to 49% today, and it could soon have a smaller state than Britain.

For most of the 20th century Sweden prided itself on offering a “Middle Way” between capitalism and socialism. As the decades rolled by, the middle way veered left.  But now the leftward lurch has been reversed: rather than extending the state into the market, they are extending the market into the state. The other Nordic countries have been moving in the same direction, if more slowly.

Social Democracy for Centrists
By Joseph M. Schwartz
March 19, 2013
Dissent Magazine

The Economist, long identified with libertarian economic ideals, lauded the “Nordic model” in a cover story last month as a “centrist” economic path for global capitalism. Long hostile to “tax-and-spend” social democracy, the publication’s change in tack arises from its recognition that austerity policies are deepening the economic crisis and that the inequality and declining social mobility of “free-market,” Anglo-American capitalism threatens the very legitimacy of the capitalist system that the Economist holds dear.

The magazine praises Denmark, Sweden, Finland, and Norway for accomplishments often touted by social democrats—low poverty rates, egalitarian distribution, and efficient public services. But The Economist never once mentions that the Nordic economic model of growth-with-equity derives from the continued existence of a powerful labor movement or that Nordic conservative parties resemble Obama-style Democrats.

The other secret to the Nordic model is the feminist character of its social democracy. The Nordic model’s generous funding of universal day care and generous paternity and maternity leave means that women’s labor market participation rate is as high as men’s. Not only does the labor market draw fully on the talents of women (though skilled women work disproportionately in the public sector), but nearly half of Nordic legislators and cabinet members are female.