Short Takes: News From All Over

Green Streets Are ‘Naked’ Streets
By Philip Booth, Resurgence
When thinking of ‘traffic control’ one typically envisions road signs, barricades, speed bumps, and one-ways, all primarily directed at cars. But some European cities and towns are finding that when it comes to car, bike, and pedestrian traffic, less is often more. In an approach sometimes called ‘naked’ streets, these cities are removing directional signs, lines, and lights and integrating all types of traffic, and finding that their streets are safer and less congested. Behavioral psychologists explain that by removing distracting signage, drivers begin to focus on a more important element of the road: humans. — Elizabeth Oliver

Street Use
By Kevin Kelly,
Street Use is a blog-homage to clever amateur designers edited by Kevin Kelly, founding executive editor of Wired. The site displays an array of materials being used for purposes other than intended. Posts range from the very simple shovel-turned-frying pan and a toy dump truck made from sticks, to the more complex fan-and-copper-piping air conditioner and fryer basket antenna. Taken together, they’re an inspiration to resourceful do-it-yourself types. — Suzanne Lindgren

Pleasure Politics Surround Sex-Skill Courses
By Malena Amusa, Women’s e-News
Thanks to classes offering instruction in striptease, lap-dancing, and oral sex, many metropolitan women are discovering a new sexual confidence. However, says Malena Amusa, these pleasure-giving courses end up ‘focusing women on the provision of a service rather than a mutually pleasurable relationship.’ Women of all ages and backgrounds worry about being unskilled at sex, and while many laud them for breaking through taboos to increase their sexual knowledge, others can’t help but point out the lack of men seeking similar classes for pleasing women. — Rachel Anderson

It Was a Very False Year: The 2005 Falsies Awards
By Diane Farsetta, PR Watch
It’s kind of like the Olympics of Spin: The second annual Center for Media and Democracy Falsies Awards have passed out their medals for the worst three offenders of journalistic integrity. Taking home the gold is the video news release industry. The brainchild of public relations firms, these ‘advertisements’ are disguised enough in their sheep’s clothing to end up on local news stations nationwide. The Bush administration’s ‘Not Counting the Dead’ and the US military’s ‘Spinning Wars and PsyOps’ win silver and bronze, respectively. Also check out lay-skeptics’ picks for last year’s finest spin artists in the Readers’ Choice Falsies, and, for a boost of optimism, read about the work of the counter-spin agents in the ‘Win Against Spin’ category. — Rachel Anderson

Companies Explore Overseas Healthcare
By Patrik Jonsson, Christian Science Monitor
With the medical costs soaring high enough to give just about anyone acrophobia, some companies are opting to send employees to India, Thailand, or Indonesia to save costs on expensive operations. Medical tourism, once known as a chance to get low-budget fillings or cheap plastic surgery along with a beach vacation, is morphing into ‘global healthcare’ as US companies opt for medical treatments that are up to 80 percent cheaper overseas. — Rachel Anderson

Big, Easy Money
By Rita J. King, CorpWatch
CorpWatch is on to a new kind of swindler — the disaster profiteer. In a recently released report, the nonprofit analyzed FEMA’s records and found that companies in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama had to fight for a combined 16.6 percent share of post-Katrina reconstruction contracts, while politically connected companies in Virginia and Indiana raked in the lion’s share (including lucrative no-bid contracts). The corporate watchdog also found that large companies often exploited subcontractors, paying them little or sometimes not at all. As a result, reconstruction has been inefficient and those doing the actual work of rebuilding are underpaid. Meanwhile, taxpayers’ money is being funneled to corporate bank accounts in acts of nepotism writer Rita J. King calls criminal. — Suzanne Lindgren

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