The real skinny on weight and earning power

The Wall Street Journal’s Juggle blog looks at a new study that shows a disturbing – but not altogether surprising — correlation between weight, gender and earning power. The study concludes that,

[E]mployers seem to treat women exactly the way the fashion industry does – by rewarding very thin women with higher pay, while penalizing average-weight women with smaller paychecks.

Other highlights of the study show that women who weighed 25 pounds less than the group average earned approximately $15,572 more a year. The opposite was true for underweight men, who made about $8,437 less than their average-weight counterparts.

Banned Books Week: Putting censorship on the map


View Book Bans and Challenges, 2007-2010 in a larger map

Updated | October 3 Banned Books Week may have ended on Saturday, but with the social and political unrest currently roiling the country, free speech advocates are already planning their next steps in the fight against censorship. And new digital tools are helping them do it.

Organizers of the 28-year-old campaign, including the American Library Association, documented more than 460 challenges to books across the country in 2009, and advocates say that figure is only a fraction of the total number of complaints registered against books across the country.

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Abuse, neglect and exploitation in ‘adult family homes’

Next year, the oldest baby boomers will turn 65, raising the question of how America will care for a burgeoning senior population unlike any the country has ever seen. The trend across the country is toward small, community-based residential care that involves little government regulation compared with that of traditional nursing homes. In theory, this is a great idea. But Seattle Times investigative reporter Michael Berens has spent more than a year and a half investigating abuses in such homes in Seattle, and has uncovered 236 unreported deaths linked to abuse or neglect in these adult family homes, as well as accounts of

elderly victims who were imprisoned in their rooms, roped into their beds at night, strapped to chairs during the day so they wouldn’t wander off, drugged into submission or left without proper medical treatment for weeks.

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Clearing the air: The fury over Jonathan Franzen’s ‘Freedom’

Franzen at The Progressive Reading Series in 2008. Photo: Flickr/Jennifer Yin.

Note: This post contains details about the plot of “Freedom.”

For about two weeks now, I’ve had “Freedom” on my mind. That’s “Freedom,” Jonathan Franzen’s acclaimed new novel, and also the notion of “freedom,” with its many attendant qualities — autonomy, individualism, responsibility. “Freedom” will do that to you. Franzen’s work penetrates deeply: in the characters, in their struggles, in their fits of impetuousness and deliberate malice, lies an epic clash between different views of what it is to be human, to be American, to be free.

There’s also something like that going on in the endless dissection of Franzen’s new masterpiece, and the hype surrounding the book’s debut. In that brouhaha, as well, there are two views of what it is to be human, to be American, to be free — and to be a journalist. I hadn’t considered it until I asked Jodi Picoult, the novelist and leader of the anti-Franzen campaign, if she’d had a chance to actually read “Freedom” yet. When she responded that she was “done talking about Franzen” — fair enough, given the firestorm she ignited — I thanked her and told her I would probably write something about the book regardless. To that, she responded, “Where’s the pressure to do a Franzen piece coming from?”

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Cosa Nostra Verde

Forget drugs and gambling, these days the mafiosi are breaking into the low-carbon energy racket.

The Telegraph has an interesting article on crime syndicate infiltration of Europe’s wind energy business. With a nascent regulatory system and large amounts of money flowing through grants, loans and subsidies, the wind industry holds significant attractions for the Mafia.

On Tuesday, Italian police seized the assets of Vito Nicastri, a businessman with links to the current boss of the Sicilian Mafia. Among the 1.5 billion euros in confiscated assets were more than 40 wind and solar energy companies that appeared to be vehicles for money laundering. AFP interviewed Beppe Ruggiero, an official with the anti-Mafia association Libera:

The Mafia interest in clean energy is explained by the fact that it is a “new sector where there is more public money and less control,” Ruggiero said. “It allows the creation of new companies, and so the recycling of money. For organised crime, it’s a sector that was still unknown 15 years ago, but is becoming very important.”

Italy ranks sixth in the world in wind power, but this will be a story to keep your eye on around the globe as individuals and groups take advantage of early-stage alternative energy regulation.

Since Sofia Coppola just won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, maybe she can hang around Italy and direct Godfather IV: The Big Wind.

Case against Colombian paramilitaries shrouded in secrecy

Our friends at Wide Angle have partnered with ProPublica to investigate the secrecy surrounding U.S. federal drug cases against Colombian paramilitary leaders. They’ve found that more than a dozen of the country’s most notorious paramilitary leaders have been extradited to the U.S. to face drug trafficking charges — and access to the cases has been blocked, so there’s no way for the victims (or anyone) to know that justice is being served. Prosecutors say the cases were probably sealed to protect the safety of the paramilitaries, who are cooperating with U.S. drug enforcement authorities. But the secrecy means that the truth about two decades worth of brutality might not ever be exposed.

Read the full article by Wide Angle’s Oriana Zill and Jennifer Janisch and ProPublica’s Chisun Lee in the Washington Post.

Wieseltier on the mosque

The site of the Cordoba controversy. Photo: Flickr/beelaineo

Rising above the depressing din that has characterized much of the debate surrounding the Ground Zero mosque is Leon Wieseltier’s deftly written, clearly reasoned defense of the Cordoba House in Lower Manhattan.

Wieseltier challenges thinkers on both the left and right who would argue that aberrant individual behavior stands outside the “currents of culture,” as well as those who fall back on reductive, ahistorical characterizations of Islam. Read All »