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Editor, The Konformist
May 17, 2007
New Demographic Racial Gap Emerges
By SAM ROBERTS
With the number of nonwhite Americans above 100 million for the
first time, demographers are identifying an emerging racial
That development may portend a nation split between an older, whiter
electorate and a younger overall population that is more Hispanic,
black and Asian and that presses sometimes competing agendas and
"The new demographic divide has broader implications for social
programs and education spending for youth," said Mark Mather, deputy
director of domestic programs for the Population Reference Bureau, a
nonpartisan research group.
"There's a fairly large homogenous population 60 and older that may
not be sympathetic to the needs of a diverse youthful population,"
Dr. Mather said.
The Census Bureau estimated yesterday that from July 1, 2005, to
July 1, 2006, the nation's minority population grew to 100.7 million
from 98.3 million; that is about one in three of all Americans. The
new figures also suggest that many states are growing more diverse
as minorities disperse.
As a result of immigration and higher birthrates among many
newcomers, the number of Hispanics grew by 3.4 percent nationwide
and Asians by 3.2 percent. Meanwhile, the black population rose by
1.3 percent, and that of non-Hispanic whites by 0.3 percent. (The
number of American Indians and Alaska Natives increased by 1
percent, and Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders by 1.7 percent.)
More than 20 percent of children in the United States either are
foreign-born or have a parent who was born abroad. Nearly half the
children under age 5 are Hispanic, black or Asian.
Over all, the median age of Americans reached 36.6 years, another
record high. It ranged from 27.4 among Hispanics to 40.5 among non-
The census counted more than 73,000 centenarians (about 14,000 men
and 59,000 women) and also 78 million baby boomers (those born from
1946 to 1964), who, as they turn 60, are helping to drive the racial
While growth rates fluctuated, many states are becoming more
racially and ethnically diverse.
"Hispanics are dispersing, especially from California," said William
H. Frey, a demographer with the Brookings Institution. "Texas is
gaining from all racial groups, a true multicultural magnet."
The changes have potential implications for national politics. In
Nevada, where the share of whites has declined to 59 percent from 66
percent since 2000, the voting-age population has soared 25 percent,
with minorities accounting for 63 percent of that increase.
Arkansas, Georgia and Tennessee have recorded the greatest
percentage gains in their Hispanic population since 2000, with the
biggest numerical gains, predictably, registered by California,
Texas and Florida.
The biggest percentage increases in black residents were registered
by Maine, South Dakota, New Hampshire and Idaho, and in Asian
residents by Nevada, Arizona and New Hampshire.
In New York and Maryland, the departure of non-Hispanic whites has
accelerated since 2005. (California has lost nearly 100,000, more
than any other state). In the same period, New York and Michigan
have recorded a loss in black residents. (Louisiana, in the wake of
Hurricane Katrina, recorded losses across the board.)
The racial generation gap, Dr. Mather said, emerged relatively
recently and may turn out to be temporary as the growing proportion
of Hispanics, blacks and Asians gets older.
As recently as 1980, he said, the share of minorities in each
generation varied by only five percentage points or less.
According to the latest figures, 80 percent of Americans over age 60
are non-Hispanic whites, compared with only 60 percent among those
in their 20s and 30s, and 58 percent among people younger than 20.
Dr. Mather said the widest racial generation gaps were found in
California, Texas, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico and Texas. In
Arizona, minorities account for more than half the people under the
age of 20, but only one in six who are 60 and older.
The smallest gaps were found in Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, New
Hampshire, Vermont and West Virginia.
Dr. Mather said the three most homogeneous states Maine, Vermont
and West Virginia spent the highest proportion of their gross
state product on public education.
"There does seem to be a correlation," he said.
John B. Diamond, a professor of education at Harvard, said
that "there are patterns of school funding that suggest that may be
a problem down the line." But he also said the impact might be
mitigated by two factors. Because of persistent residential
segregation, he said, elderly white voters do not necessarily live
in the same school districts as young members of minorities. And,
altruism aside, older voters may be persuaded that their pensions
and other benefits depend on the income and taxes generated by a
better-educated work force.
The census found that fully 21 percent of the nation's minority
population lives in California, and 12 percent in Texas.
Hispanic Americans, the largest minority, accounted for nearly half
the nation's population growth in the year ended last July 1.
The nation's black population surpassed 40 million for the first
time, the Census Bureau said, and the number of Native Hawaiians and
Pacific Islanders topped one million.
Minorities constitute a majority in four states: Hawaii (75
percent), New Mexico (57 percent), California (57 percent) and Texas
Small Parks Could Cool Big Cities
Fri May 18, 2007
A little bit of greenery in urban areas can cool off the hotter and
stickier summers that city residents face as a result of global
warming, new research show.
An additional 10 percent more green space could reduce surface
temperatures by 7 degrees Fahrenheit, according to a team of British
scientists. Extra parks and green roofs could counteract the
predicted rise in temperature until 2080 when summers are expected
to be hotter and drier and winters wetter.
Because American cities are more prone than British cities to high
summer temperatures, University of Manchester biologist Roland Ennos
said green space has an even more important function in the United
In cities around the world, planting more grass and trees could keep
people more comfortable and reduce air conditioning costs and energy
expenditures, Ennos said.
"It should make life more pleasant climatically," Ennos told
LiveScience. "Many studies have also shown that it improves people's
physical and mental health, sense of wellbeing, and can result in
reductions in crime."
The research, published in the current issue of the journal Built
Environment, coincides with President Bill Clinton's announcement
Wednesday that 15 cities, including New York and London, will update
city-owned buildings with energy-efficient technology to cut carbon
On sunny days, urban areas such as downtown sections of American
cities can be up to 22 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than more rural
But the research team found that adding green space can minimize
the "urban heat island" effect, which involves the fact that plants
collect and retain water more efficiently than skyscrapers and
parking lots. When the water evaporates from leaves on plants and
trees, it cools off the air nearby, just like evaporating sweat
cools us down.
Although Ennos' models suggest green space will decrease
temperatures, it will not be able to absorb the rainfall from the
more frequent and 50 percent larger winter storms predicted to hit
Manchester by 2080, he said. Left unabsorbed, the rainwater is
expected to flow to city drains and travel to streams and rivers,
ending up in the ocean.
"Unfortunately, increasing the amount of green space only has a
limited effect in reducing run-off, and so flash flooding will
become an increasing problem in our cities," Ennos said.
Floods could be prevented with more rainwater storage, he said,
which might keep the city's green space irrigated during the
droughts expected in summer months.
Happy 400th, Homer
by Natalie Finn
Fri, 18 May 2007
And to think, Homer once worried that he wouldn't live to see his
children die. But here he is, clocking in at 400.
The Simpsons' 399th and 400th episodes air Sunday on Fox, starting
at 8 p.m., and the yellow-skinned patriarch, not to mention his blue-
haired wife and spiky-headed children, is none the worse for wear.
Over the course of 18 seasons, with at least one more in the works,
the 23-time Emmy winner has become both a mainstream hit and a cult
classic, pulling in millions of viewers and attracting the sort of
fanatical attention to detail that would make any Trekker proud.
The animated sitcomonly the fourth scripted prime-time series in
history to reach the 400-episode markhas spawned reams of episode
guides, trivia books, academic studies and treatises on The
Simpsons' influence on television, language, philosophy and pop
culture in general. And speaking of the national lexicon, "D'oh!"
made it into the Oxford English Dictionary in 2001. All told, the
franshise has generated a reported $1 billion in revenue.
Plenty has also been written about why this dysfunctional yet
inseparable family of five has had such staying power, especially as
audiences' attention spans shorten and it becomes increasingly
difficult to keep a sitcom on the air for one season, let alone 19.
The Simpsons hasn't made Fox a ratings winner on Sunday nights
lately, averaging 8.7 million viewers this season, but more than
half of that audience is made up of the coveted 18-49-year-old
Producers are betting that the town of Springfield has enough juice
left to populate a feature film, as well. The Simpsons Movie, the
only 2-D film slated for release this year, lands in theaters July
27, long enough after the arrival of Shrek, pirates and Spidey to be
a potential hit.
"Our show is parody of what we see in life," supervising director
Matt Kirkland told Animation World Magazine recently. "Life keeps
changing and moving on. There's always new ideas for us to parody."
More than 90 writers have sit in for The Simpsons over the years to
keep the jokes fresh and the series' trademark edge sharp.
Plus, being a cartoon, The Simpsons has been able to get away with
more than any live-action showHomer's eyes crusting over after
Lasik surgery, Marge flipping her Canyonero to save her family from
a pack of charging rhinos, Mr. Burns having every disease known to
man and declaring himself "indestructible"while still turning an
eerily accurate mirror on modern politics, media, celebrity culture,
religion, education, economics, family dynamics and every current
event in between.
"I love the style that we stumbled into, this high-velocity pacing
that allowed us to do every kind of comedy we could think of, from
the most highfalutin' literary references to sub-Three Stooges
physical abuse," creator Matt Groening told USA Today.
And, of course, The Simpsons, which premiered in 1989, can also
boast the most impressive celebrity guest list of any scripted
series, a roster comprising hundreds of iconic names from film,
television, music, sports and the arts.
For instance, The Krusty the Clown Show would have been canceled for
sure back in season four if Lisa hadn't been able to assemble Johnny
Carson, Bette Midler, Luke Perry, Barry White, Hugh Hefner and the
Red Hot Chili Peppers to fete that crotchety old clown.
On tap for this celebratory weekend is "24 Seconds," a 24-inspired
episode (love that Fox synergy) featuring the vocal contributions of
Kiefer Sutherland as Jack Bauer and Mary Lynn Rajskub as Chloe
O'Brian, and "You Kent Always Say What You Want," in which
Springfield's very own Kent Brockman gets in trouble for uttering a
swear word on TV. Number 400 features Ludacris as Luda-Crest, a
bacteria-fighting tube of toothpaste.
Exhibit: dragons, other mythic creatures
By DEEPTI HAJELA, Associated Press Writer
Fri May 25, 2007
Harry Potter would probably feel right at home here.
A new exhibit pairs an unusual subject dragons and other fantastic
creatures with an unlikely location: a science museum. "Mythic
Creatures: Dragons, Unicorns and Mermaids" opens Saturday at the
American Museum of Natural History and runs through Jan. 6
What's going on? Has one of the pre-eminent science museums in the
world made a discovery that would show these creatures are real? No,
no, the exhibit looks at how people have come up with all kinds of
myths and stories to account for things they didn't understand.
"Across cultures and throughout time these creatures are what people
dreamed up as a way of interpreting and making sense of the strange
and often mindboggling but real wonders of the natural world," said
museum President Ellen Futter.
The show gets right to it at the entrance is a model of a huge
Other displays include a huge bird known in mythology as a roc, and
the enormous head of a kraken, a fearsome, many-tentacled creature
of the deep.
The exhibit shows how cultures around the world came up with such
strange, mysterious creatures. Dragons, for instance, can be found
both in the East and West, although they're considerably more
benevolent in Chinese culture than they are in Europe.
Another section shows how tall tales and exaggeration can lead to
the creation of a mythic creature. The exhibit posits that the
kraken may be based on sightings of the corpses of giant squids,
which have been known to wash up on shores. Or that legends about
giant men or giant birds might come from people finding fossils and
trying to make sense of what kind of creature could have had such
"Just like analytical science is one way of interpreting the world,
myth was a way people interpreted the world up until quite
recently," said Mark Norell, the show's co-curator. "If you look at
all the mythical creatures ... they do have real underpinnings in
"We clothe our beliefs, we clothe our imaginations, we clothe our
fears and sometimes we do this with incredible artfulness," said co-
curator Laurel Kendall. "It's the celebration of that human capacity
for artfulness and wonder that I think this show witnesses."
The show was put together with collaborators including the Field
Museum in Chicago, the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Gatineau;
the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney, and the Fernbank
Museum of Natural History in Atlanta. It will travel to those
locations after closing in New York.
On the Net:
Roswell may cash in on fame with UFO theme park
Park would feature alien abduction coaster.
By Tim Korte, Associated Press
ROSWELL, N.M. - It could happen only in Roswell. City officials want
to help build a UFO-themed amusement park, complete with an indoor
roller coaster that would take passengers on a simulated alien
"Nobody will be harmed and everybody will be returned, hopefully, in
the same shape," concept designer Bryan Temmer said Friday.
The park could open as early as 2010. The city has received a
$245,000 legislative appropriation for initial planning but the park
would be privately built and managed. Requests for proposals will be
advertised next month.
City Planner Zach Montgomery said the project will cost "several
hundred millions of dollars," but a more accurate figure hasn't been
A roller coaster similar to the one proposed by Temmer is currently
under construction at another theme park for almost $100 million,
The proposed park, dubbed the Alien Apex Resort, initially will
cover 60 to 80 acres with room to expand to 150 acres. It will
feature other rides and attractions, including an exhibit hall with
information on scientific exploration of the universe.
"Definitely, there will be a part of the park devoted to space
exploration," Temmer said.
"It's not just about the Roswell Incident and did it happen?"
The Roswell Incident, of course, has brought the southeastern New
Mexico city worldwide acclaim. It centers on a purported UFO crash
on a nearby ranch in July 1947, which the military later claimed was
a top-secret weather balloon.
Temmer, of Land O' Lakes, Fla., pitched the Alien Apex concept to
city leaders two years ago. He describes himself as a fan of theme
parks and a science fiction buff, saying the Roswell idea was a
natural for him.
"I knew there was only one place on the planet, probably in the
universe, where this idea would work," he said.
Montgomery said the city is considering six potential sites but
declined to identify them, other than to say each is within city
limits or could be annexed. He also wouldn't name potential
"At least four major corporations have been approached and all of
them are excited about this project," he said. "Everyone would
probably know and recognize the names of these major corporations."
Roswell has been cashing in on the UFO craze for years. Paintings
and replicas of UFOs and space aliens adorn several downtown
businesses, and even the McDonald's and Wal-Mart are UFO- and space-
The theme park would take that concept to another level, one that
some business owners believe is necessary to keep tourists
Sharon Welz is a co-owner of the Roswell Space Center, a T-shirt and
souvenir shop just off Main Street. She said visitors often complain
they'd like to see and do more during trips to the town of about
"We would welcome something like an alien roller coaster or a theme
park, absolutely," she said. "How can it hurt us? It would help
everybody all the way around if there was something bigger to bring
more people in."
Montgomery agrees, saying the top complaint by tourists during the
city's annual UFO festival each summer is that there's not enough to
The town's biggest tourism attraction is the International UFO
Museum and Research Center, which has drawn 2.5 million visitors
since opening in 1992.
"We're still in the infancy of our UFO-related economic
development," Montgomery said.
Gruesome 'Rambo' Trailer Slays on Internet
When a movie series has been dormant for nearly 20 years, what's the
best way to resurrect it? For 'Rambo,' it's with cartoonish violence
and tons of viral buzz.
The trailer for 'John Rambo,' the newest installation in Sylvester
Stallone 's Vietnam Vet-turned-vigilante series, was posted online
earlier this week, and has generated movie Internet buzz akin to
the "Snakes on a Plane" phenomenon. On Youtube, the two clips have
garnered more than a million views.
The footage in the trailer is more "Grindhouse" than "Platoon,"
showing Stallone as John Rambo ripping out a man's throat, gunning a
man in a truck to pulp, decapitating another and disemboweling a foe
in the gruesome 3 1/2 minute clip.
The Hollywood Reporter hints that Stallone and 'John Rambo' could
hit a ratings snag unless they tone down the violence a bit, as the
Motion Picture Association of America could slap the film with the
dreaded NC-17 rating.
"If they end up cutting back on the violence, what will the reaction
be? There could be an interesting backlash," author Eric Lichtenfeld
told the Hollywood Reporter.
Another hurdle "John Rambo" may face is the same fate that "Snakes
on a Plane" suffered -- lots of pre-release Internet buzz without
the box office results to back it up. And with the release date
for "Rambo" set for May 25 of 2008, there could be too much time for
fans to tire out of the gory hype.
Besides "Rambo," Stallone has had other things on his mind lately.
He recently plead guilty to illegally importing muscle-building
human growth hormones into Australia, and was slapped with a fine
for the offense.