Who's Counting?

The latest chatter in cyberspace.
Nov. 20 2007 6:38 PM

Who's Counting?

Bloggers criticize the United Nations after it admitted it has overestimated the number of people living with AIDS. They also analyze the latest polls coming out of Iowa and debate the Red Hot Chili Peppers' claim to the word Californication.

Who's counting? Leading AIDS scientists with the United Nations now believe that the number of new HIV infections is 2.5 million annually, or 40 percent fewer than they projected last year. Similarly, their estimate for worldwide AIDS cases has been revised downward from 40 million to 33 million. The Washington Post reports that the shift is the result of "better measurements."

The article points out that the inflated totals "have long skewed funding decisions and obscured potential lessons about how to slow the spread of HIV."Conservative columnist Don Surber is unimpressed: "This is one more example of how corrupt the United Nations is. … It is all about the Benjamins. … AIDS is a deadly disease and I am for funding research, treatment and prevention. But the UN has proved once again it is the last place this money should go."

Some conservative bloggers make an immediate connection between the inflated AIDS numbers and the United Nations' increasing focus on global warming. Noel Sheperd at NewsBusters, which is dedicated to "exposing and combating liberal media bias," concludes: "[T]hese revelations should … refocus Americans and people around the world to recognize that this is what the U.N. does, and that any projections and estimates from this body should be seriously questioned for their veracity. … maybe everything coming out of the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] should be totally ignored." Scott Ott at ScrappleFace, a conservative news satire site, squeezed the comparison into a pithy headline: "UN: Millions Not Suffering AIDS Now Doomed to Drown."

Africa Flak, a freelance journalist based in Burkina Faso, feels vindicated for different reasons—evidence disputing the notion that Africa "doubles as a hospice for AIDS patients. … Of course, UNAIDS, a long perpetrator of this myth for its private gain, has come out of the darkness and (somewhat) begged our forgiveness. … I guess they could start by merely telling the truth and quit being so damned arrogant."

Read more about the U.N. AIDS estimates.

Still a horse race: A new Washington Post-ABC poll shows Barack Obama extending his lead in Iowa, which will hold its caucus on Jan. 3. The poll shows Obama with support from 30 percent of likely Democratic caucus-goers, followed by Hillary Clinton with 26 percent and 22 percent for John Edwards. Previous polling had suggested a three-way tie in the state

"Waco Farmer," a conservative and a Southern Baptist at Bosque Boys says that "the polling data suggests a personal distaste for the candidate. … Candidate Clinton can overcome a modest loss in Iowa, because she has the best organization. She is prepared to compete in every state primary following Iowa."

Atliberal Talk Left, Armando Llorens, a litigation attorney based in San Juan, Puerto Rico, is disappointed by the latest data: The Edwards campaign "is looking more and more like the Gephardt campaign of 2004. He is supposed to have union support, experienced caucus goers, etc. … Unlike Kerry in 2004, or Edwards 2004 for that matter, there is no positive narrative for the Edwards campaign now. There is no doubt he can hurt Hillary (or Obama if he chooses to shoot in that direction), but he now has reached the point where he cannot help his own campaign."

At The Fix, the Washington Post's political blog, Chris Cillizza wonders whether Obama's tactics in Iowa can be replicated elsewhere: "In nearly every national poll, Clinton holds strong leads among women, low-income voters, less educated voters and older voters. Not so in Iowa. …Those numbers suggest that the time and money Obama has dedicated in Iowa have altered the dynamics of the race in the state in a way he has been unable to do in other early states or nationally."

Read more about the Democratic campaign in Iowa. Check out more polling data with Slate's "Election Scorecard."

Don't give it away now: The Red Hot Chili Peppers have filed a lawsuit against Showtime over its use of the name Californication for its series starting David Duchovny. That just happens to be the title of a Chili Peppers' single and album.

Vinod Shankar at intellectual property blog IPwned notes  how modern technology could aid the Chili Peppers: "They argue that if a consumer searches for "Californication" in iTunes, they get results of both Peppers' music and the soundtrack/episodes of the TV show. An interesting point! Nowadays with the internet, music, and TV are delivered the same way, they may actually be in direct competition, which could be problematic in allowing the show the word."

Defamer, the queen of Los Angeles gossip blogs, hits the nail on the head: "One would have thought that at least one clearance report red flag might have gone up. ... Still, faced with the series' rather cumbersome original working title of Midlife Crisis Featuring Bitter, Boozy Writer Who Gets Barrels of Pussy in an Improbable L.A. Teeming With Hot Bookworm Groupies, we can understand how they might have perhaps too hastily chosen to go with the far catchier one-word moniker."

In the suit, Kiedis explained: "Californication is the signature CD, video and song of the band's career." But plenty of fans aren't buying that. Jim Treacher at movie blog Blowing Smoke says, "I would have thought their signature song was 'Under the Bridge.' Or if you're really old, 'True Men Don't Kill Coyotes.' But no, it's 'Californication,' and Kiedis is the only genius in world history who's ever made the connection between 'California' and 'fornication.'" Indeed, a commenter at Sonic Terrorism points to this 1972 Time article, titled "The Great Wild Californicated West."

Read more about the Californication case. Read the full text of Red Hot Chili Peppers v. Showtime Networks Inc.

Laurel Wamsley, a former Slate intern, is a writer living in Washington, D.C.

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