Daily Flog: Kicking the habit but blindly drunk, hounded by Afghans, woofed at by Hillary

Running down the press:

To the dismay of headline buffs, the New York Post let a good one slip away this morning. Buried in its canned Weird But True roundup is the news that Italian priest Antonio Rungi planned a beauty contest for nuns, "Miss Sister 2008," but canceled it under pressure.

And this isn't a separate splash in the Post?

The tab decided to focus on the other beauty content, the one in Denver, where it managed to get in a well-justified shot at Hillary:

HILL: 'BARACK'S MY CANDIDATE'; BUT HEAPS MORE PRAISE ON HER BACKERS THAN ON HIM

Brendan Scott and Maggie Haberman crafted a solid lede:

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton last night declared that former rival Barack Obama "is my candidate" and urged her backers to let go, lay down their swords and vote for him over John McCain.

But while throwing her political weight behind her one-time foe, Clinton said little that boosted Obama's personal story, political résumé — nor did she defend him against GOP attacks that he's unqualified for office.

Good piece, but the Post didn't have to kick its headline habit by practically ignoring the beauty contest for nuns.

Christ, it merited separate pieces in outlets around the world — even in the government-controlled Kazinform in Kazakhstan.

The Calgary Sun headlined it "Sisters' Pageant Just Nun-Sense," and the Daily Mash in the U.K. proclaimed, "Nun Lovers Devastated" before veering off into its usual satire by "quoting" Rungi:

"I wanted to reflect the inner beauty of my holy sisters. But if you just want to look at nuns' tits then I suggest you try the Jesuits."

Even the mostly moribund Chicago Sun-Times found space amid its Demo convention news to weigh in with "Beauty Contest Doesn't Have Prayer."

Isn't it big news when a priest is obsessed with female beauty?


Salon: 'We drive as we live'

Kevin Berger had the good sense to hitch a ride on NYC's mad streets and expressways with Brooklyn's Tom Vanderbilt, author of Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do. (See Vanderbilt's blog.)

Reporting from the front (seat), Berger weaves:

"You have to be careful here," [Vanderbilt] says. "People come blazing out of the Battery Tunnel with an E-Z Pass and don't stop for you."

"I notice you didn't signal," I say.

"It's New York drivers. It's one thing I've observed from living here: They will not slow down. It's almost like you're taunting them. I was told in Boston that signaling is revealing your intentions to the enemy. It's the same here. You're better off not signaling."


Times: 'Clinton Delivers Emphatic Plea for Unity'

Ridiculously lame headline that doesn't even back up the story's angle, which is surprisingly heady, at least in the second graf. Unfortunately, even there, Patrick Healy and his editors made sure that the syntax was typically stiff and stilted:

With her husband looking on tenderly and her supporters watching with tears in their eyes, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton deferred her own dreams on Tuesday night and delivered an emphatic plea at the Democratic National Convention to unite behind her rival, Senator Barack Obama, no matter what ill will lingered.

Mrs. Clinton, who was once certain that she would win the Democratic nomination this year, also took steps on Tuesday — deliberate steps, aides said — to keep the door open to a future bid for the presidency. She rallied supporters in her speech, and, at an earlier event with 3,000 women, described her passion about her own campaign. And her aides limited input on the speech from Obama advisers, while seeking advice from her former strategist, Mark Penn, a loathed figure in the Obama camp.


Times: 'Taliban Gain New Foothold in Afghan City After Attack'

Too bad that Carlotta Gall's important story from Kandahar has a feature-y lede on such a good hard-news piece. The significance of a Taliban jail break in June starts in her third and fourth grafs, and you have to give the Times credit for surprisingly using such adjectives as "spectacular" and "catastrophic" in the same sentence:

The prison break, on June 13, was a spectacular propaganda coup for the Taliban not only in freeing their comrades and flaunting their strength, but also in exposing the catastrophic weakness of the Afghan government, its army and the police, as well as the international forces trying to secure Kandahar.

In the weeks since the prison break, security has further deteriorated in this southern Afghan city, once the de facto capital of the Taliban, that has become a renewed front line in the battle against the radical Islamist movement. The failure of the American-backed Afghan government to protect Kandahar has rippled across the rest of the country and complicated the task of NATO forces, which have suffered more deaths here this year than at any time since the 2001 invasion.

Why she didn't lede with the fourth graf is beyond her editors. And that contributed, no doubt, to the soft headline on a story carrying ominous news about what may turn out to be a watershed moment in the worsening Afghan War.


Times: 'A Decline in Uninsured Is Reported for 2007'

As predicted in yesterday's Press Clips, the big dailies mostly limped home in the race to report the bad economic news eructated by the Census Bureau.

But there was some good nagging. Go straight to Steven Pearlstein's column in the Washington Post. He cuts through the bullshit:

Hey, good news on the income front: The Census Bureau reported yesterday that median earnings for full-time male workers rose by $1,653 last year, to $45,113, after adjusting for inflation.

Another year like that, and maybe the typical male worker will finally catch up to where he was in 1973.

The Times's Ian Urbina focused almost solely on the health-insurance angle of the stats.

The WashPost's news story, by Michael A. Fletcher, takes another angle, the poverty rate.

But Urbina's focus on the health-insurance figures is at least serviceable because he throws in the big caveats very high. (Disclosure: I've edited Urbina's work and respect it.)

And Urbina got some good context that dampens the supposedly good news about the number of uninsured Americans:

Health-care experts and advocates for the poor said the report also presented an outdated picture regarding health insurance. The rate of people without health insurance declined to 15.3 percent in 2007, from 15.8 percent a year earlier.

“In 2007, at least 26 states made efforts to expand coverage, but as the economy has turned downward so have state efforts,” said Diane Rowland, executive vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Ms. Rowland added that insurance premiums had risen faster than wages and inflation, causing more people to seek insurance from public programs.


Daily Scotsman: 'Young Scots risk losing their sight in bid to get blind drunk'

The best story of the day, and it's too bad that the big U.S. papers ignored it.

The Times, for instance, limited its Scotland coverage this morning to "the Royal Bank of Scotland announced on Wednesday it appointed a trio of non-executive directors in effort to address weaknesses on its board."

Fascinating. Now here's the interesting news out of Edinburgh, courtesy of Craig Brown:

With one of the highest rates of binge drinking among teenagers, Scotland already has an unenviable reputation with alcohol. But now experts are warning about a new trend among young people that is aimed at speeding up the process of getting drunk – pouring shots of alcohol directly into their eyes.

Known as "one-in-the-eye", it involves using shot glasses in a manner similar to that of eye-wash.

Despite the risk of blindness, users hope that by absorbing the alcohol via the membranes of the eye, it will enter the bloodstream more quickly and have a stronger effect when it reaches the brain.

Brown's piece continues with a taste of history of this, like, totally insane practice, dude:

Originating in the bars of holiday resorts on the continent, the dangerous fad has caught on in university bars and nightclubs, despite potentially catastrophic consequences.

One leading doctor warned those who indulge in the craze are seriously endangering their sight.

Expect more hipsters than usual staggering around Williamsburg's streets.


Daily News: 'Hillary Clinton leaves no room to doubt support for Barack Obama'

Talk about going blind:

Playing the role of healer, an impassioned Hillary Clinton delivered the most dramatic speech of her storied life Tuesday night - even if it wasn't the one she wanted to give.

Moving forcefully but gracefully to tamp down the enduring bitterness over her tough primary battle with Barack Obama, Clinton unequivocally beseeched her Democratic supporters to follow her lead and vote for the Illinois senator in November.

Ludicrous, though you can't help but perversely love the 19th century feel of "unequivocally beseeched."

Fill the inkwell and fetch the carriage, my good man! I warrant there's no dearth of speechifying to report to the citizenry!

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