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Outside column: On exams, Lesbos, boys, oil, Al Gore and so much more

Posted: Friday, May 23, 2008

Brief comments, direct or implied, about items large and small in the news. ...

• Prior to the Indiana and North Carolina primaries, the Obama campaign fretted that turnout in a demographic group key to its success might be damped down because of ... exams.

• If Barack Obama wants to expand his appeal to that demographic, and at the same time to gain the benefit of the Clinton name without Hillary's multitudinous luggage, maybe he should offer the veep spot to Chelsea.

• Talk about obscene executive compensation: Merrill Lynch's new head of global sales and trading decided he would take the job for a 2008 guaranteed payout of $39.4 million.

• Three residents of the Aegean island of Lesbos, known as Lesbians, have sued the Homosexual and Lesbian Community of Greece to bar it from employing the word "lesbian" - on the ground that such usage defames them and their hetero affectional preferences.

• So-called social conservatives persist in their aloof disdain of John McCain. Incredibly, do they prefer a Clinton or Obama presidency?

• The superintendent of West Point says it's time to replace "men" and "boys" in the Army school's two favorite songs with gender-neutral words inoffensive to female cadets. Perhaps he has been in head-shed consultations with the Naval Academy's commandant, who thinks it's time for midshipmen (er, midship-persons) to drop "beat" from their cry of "Go Navy, Beat Army" - the notion that warriors should beat anybody these days being so, you know, mean.

• Abdullah Salim Ali al-Ajimi (involved in recent Baghdad suicide bombings) is but the latest of about 30 released Guantanamo detainees who have resumed terrorist killing for al-Qaeda or the Taliban despite - before their release - signing pledges forswearing violence.

• A suburb of Santiago, Chile, is dispensing up to four Viagra pills each month to over-60 resident males because - in the mayor's words - "an active sexuality improves the overall quality of life."

• Animal-rights types are -let's see: (1) insisting global warming demands that polar bears be added to the list of endangered species, even though the bears' numbers are on the rise; (2) opposing the delisting of gray wolves in certain states where - having been reintroduced - they have proliferated and now are ravaging livestock; and (3) complaining that the U.S.-Mexico border fence not only will curb illegal immigrants but impede migrating wildlife.

• The Mint is contemplating the future of the penny and the nickel, whose per-copy labor and materials (97.5 percent zinc and 2.5 percent copper for the penny, 75 percent copper and 25 percent nickel for the nickel) are money-losers. They now cost - respectively - 1.26 cents and 7.7 cents to produce.

• With Congress thwarting domestic energy independence, President Bush has been only marginally successful in persuading the Saudis to up their oil output for U.S. consumption. Saudi Arabia stands second to Canada as an importer of oil to the United States - followed by (in order) Mexico, Nigeria, Venezuela, Iraq, Angola, Algeria, Ecuador and Brazil. As Bush notes, "Our problem in America gets solved when we aggressively go for domestic exploration."

• Near the conclusion of his "Inconvenient Truth," crusading Al Gore says the most important thing an individual can do to combat global warming is to reduce his home energy consumption. It's yet another example of Gorean hypocrisy. In 2006, Gore's energy usage at his Tennessee home (221,000 kilowatt hours), was 20 times the national average. In August 2007 alone, the Gore home's monthly usage was more than twice the annual usage of the average American family.

• The American Association of University Women, grinding yet another axe, has produced a study purporting to show that in this feminist hour boys - contrary to right-wing propaganda or something - are doing just fine. Says the group's executive director: "There is in fact no boys' crisis. We are blowing the myth out the door."

• Not so fast, says Christina Hoff Sommers - author of the seminal 2001 book "The War Against Boys." A fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, Sommers vigorously dissents from the AAUW study's findings, and pointedly describes the group as consisting of "hard-line feminists who look for evidence that girls are shortchanged by the system."

• Ross Mackenzie is a former editorial page editor at the Richmond (Va.) Times-Dispatch, now retired.



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