Short Takes: News From All Over: September 30, 2004

The Crisis of Universalism: America and Radical Islam After 9/11
By Fred Halliday, openDemocracy
We are still taking stock of the many losses caused by 9/11, but one of its most significant casualties is one of its most subtle. Universalism, the acknowledgment of crucial commonalities that facilitates collaborative foreign policy, has been trampled on all sides since the terrorist attacks, with nationalism and tribalism pervading the rhetoric of every country involved. With the dramatic factionalization of the world into warring nations and diametrically opposed ideologies, our capacity to cooperate and peacefully negotiate agreements seems to be buried in the Lower Manhattan rubble. — Brendan Themes

Fox Hunts Student Voters
By Katha Pollitt, The Nation
True to the American idiom, Fox News is not content with its War on Journalism; it wants to add a War on Voting to its blossoming resume. A local Fox affiliate bum-rushed a voter registration drive at the University of Arizona in Tuscon, accusing students of potentially assisting felonies by facilitating voter misrepresentation. Though out-of-state students can legally vote in Arizona, Fox has done little to correct their misinformation, choosing crass sensationalism over factual reporting. — Brendan Themes

Party Affiliation: What it is and What it isn’t
By Staff, The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press
In this highly contested election, we’re hearing complaints that even election polls and surveys have a partisan bias. A survey can now be widely discredited if too many respondents appear to be affiliated with one party or another. But these complaints reflect a widespread misunderstanding of surveys. The final question on Pew Research Center surveys, ‘In politics today, do you consider yourself a Republican, Democrat or Independent?’ is meant to measure nothing more than current feelings about politics — not how respondents are registered, how they have voted in the past, or how they have thought of themselves throughout most of their lives. — Elizabeth Dwoskin

Body Building: An Old Hotel Now Attracts Therapists and Bodyworkers
By Elizabeth Zimmer, The Village Voice
The St. Denis Hotel, on 11th street and Broadway was built in 1853, when the West Village neighborhood surrounding Grace Church was once a fancy shopping district. Ulysses S. Grant used it as headquarters after the Civil War, and Alexander Graham Bell gave the first New York demonstration of the telephone there, in 1877. But now, the hotel has gone

residential, and holistic. Increasingly, the building has become

home to offices for designers, small publishers, nutritionists, homeopaths, smoking cessation counselors, and, overwhelmingly, psychotherapists and bodyworkers, happy to fill the single-room spaces with massage tables, stability balls, and the more complex paraphernalia of the contemporary health and fitness industry. — Elizabeth Dwoskin

McDonalds Breaks Its Promise to Get Rid of Transfats
By Staff,
In September 2002, McDonalds’s President Mike Roberts announced that his company would be switching to frying with less partially hydrogenated shortening by February 2003. Called Transfats by the TransfreeAmerica campaign, these artificial fats are unnecessary in the food supply and promote heart disease. The company’s chief nutritionist told ABC News that the new oil was a ‘win-win for our consumers, a better nutrition profile with the same great taste.’ Well, February 2003 has come and gone, but it looks like Transfats are here to stay. Sign an online letter to get these unnecessary and unhealthy fats out of the diet of so many Americans. — Elizabeth Dwoskin

The Quest for the Universal Song
By David Soldier and Nina Mankin, Diacenter
Remember Komar & Melamid’s project to render the world’s most wanted painting by averaging the preferences of its viewers a priori to the creation of the piece? If it works for the visual arts, it should almost certainly work for music as well, right? Enter the quest for the most universally appealing song. In Spring 1996, approximately 500 visitors to Diacenter’s website took the survey to write music and lyrics for the Most Wanted and Most Unwanted songs. The results? The most wanted song is something like a pop song of today, short, not too loud, and a male and female vocalist singing R&B or rock type lyrics about love. The most unpopular song is 25 minutes long, veers wildly between loud and quiet sections, between fast and slow tempos, and features timbres of extremely high and low pitch. Ironically, the only item to be equally favored and disfavored by audience members was ‘intellectual stimulation.’ — Elizabeth Dwoskin

Comments? Story tips? Write a letter to the editor

Like this? Want more?Subscribe to Utne magazine

In-depth coverage of eye-opening issues that affect your life.