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Randi Schmelzer

Potato Proponents Speak Up for Study-Scarred Spud

"Girl, I think my bud gettin' big."

Defenders of America’s most popular vegetable are deep in damage-control mode following the release of a highly publicized study blaming potatoes for long-term weight gain.

Among its many spud-disparaging findings, the study by Harvard University researchers contends that people who eat an extra serving per day of potatoes — fried, baked, mashed, whatever — pack on more pounds over time than those who drink an extra can of sugar-sweetened soda.

That news may once have spawned an Atkins-like crisis for the potato, still working to recover its image (and consumption numbers) from the hit it took back in 2004, when the low-carb diet was at its peak.

Now, though, the potato industry seems better prepared to take the heat.

With Supreme Court Decison, Video Game Outreach To Shift Focus

Good news for the video-game industry: On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a California law that banned the sale of violent games to minors, and punished those who sold them with $1,000 fines. California is the seventh state to try – and the seventh state to fail – restricting the sales of violent video games. Now, following the Supreme Court’s ruling, video game companies are essentially shielded from government efforts to regulate violent content.

In the final decision of its 2010-11 term, the court equated violent games with “protected books, plays, and movies” and stated that “video games qualify for First Amendment protection.”

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Clean Energy’s New Dirty Word

How did fracking become the energy industry’s new f-word?

Oil companies have practiced hydraulic fracturing for decades, but it was the press surrounding Oscar-nominated documentary Gasland back in February that first exposed many Americans to the now-controversial natural gas-drilling process.

Just a few months later — thanks to a surge of investigative news reports, academic research papers and what CNNMoney’s Steve Hargreaves calls “a series of public relations missteps” — the fracking issue is hard to avoid. And public opinion has taken a dramatic turn against the process; not long ago it was understood to be (relatively) clean and safe.

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Women Ask Subaru to Ship Out of Saudi Arabia

Photo: AFP

We’ve written before about the efforts of Saudi Arabian women to drive – and the Saudi government’s efforts to put the brakes on their campaign.

Today, the activist group Saudi Women for Driving tried another tactic: In a petition posted on U.S.-based social-activism site, the coalition called on Subaru to pull out of the kingdom until the driving ban is lifted.

In sort of an off-handed compliment, the petition explained that Subaru was the first carmarker targeted directly because the company was “progressive” and “loves selling cars to women.”

And yet. Cash and oil may flow in Saudi Arabia, but women aren’t allowed to drive. ”A big company like Subaru pulling out could help change our country forever,” the group said.

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Military ‘Joining Forces’ With Hollywood

Michelle Obama with military panelists on Monday. Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson

Hollywood’s relationship with the military has needed counseling for quite some time. But it took Michelle Obama‘s call for support with the White House’s Joining Forces initiative to get either side to make the first move.

On Monday morning, they showed up in droves.

On a panel moderated by J.J. Abrams — whose own depiction of the military in Super 8 was criticized in the New York Times Media Decoder blog this week – the First Lady urged nearly 500 writers, directors, and producers to help “promote a better understanding and appreciation of the sacrifices made by military personnel and their families” by integrating their experiences into TV, movie, and digital-media story lines.

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Circumcision Debate Comes to a Head

One of California’s most controversial ballot initiatives — banning circumcision — has taken a turn for the racist, thanks to the mainstream debut of Foreskin Man.”

A ripped-and-caped advocate against the (so-called) defilement of Jewish newborns, the unmistakably Arayan-featured superpower Foreskin Man battles the black-bearded, black-hatted “Monster Mohel,” a sinister snipper who — bloody scissors in hand — sets after helpless male babies in the name of religion.

Depicted in a comic book and online video clips, until late last week, “Foreskin Man’s” shaft-saving efforts had been relatively under-the-radar. On Thursday, however, a San Francisco Chronicle column thrust the comic and its creators into the media spotlight.

“Nothing excites Monster Mohel more than cutting into the penile flesh of an eight-day-old infant boy,” the comic at one point reveals, snipped infants’ tears dripping from its panel. The scene is a bris, the traditional Jewish ceremony in which a newborn boy’s foreskin is removed by a professional snipper (called a mohel) in the presence of several dozen fawning friends and relations. Really, there’s nothing evil about it: The baby cries, the relations cry, pastries are served.

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Missing Heads, Strange Tweets, and Other Questions about the ‘Girl With the Dragon Tattoo’ Leak

Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander in the new version of 'The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo'

What began as news of a leaked trailer for David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has turned into an Internet-wide debate over movie-marketing gimmicks.

Uploaded to YouTube on Saturday by a European user identified only as “dobvlvstiuwir,” the allegedly bootlegged trailer was at first taken at face value, its appearance breathlessly reported by the media’s most reliable sources.

But by Sunday, after random oddities and inconsistencies led The Hollywood Reporter and to suggest that the “leak” was actually a Millenium Triology-inspired publicity effort by the film’s creators, Columbia Pictures/Sony Films, those same sources jumped on the bandwagon. Throwing around words like “conspiracy” and “hoax” — to describe a movie-marketing campaign — even those questioning Sony’s black-hat promotional methods were at the same time fueling its movie tie-in concept.

*Update! The official trailer is now available and it’s after the jump!

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‘Tree of Life’ Proposes a New Take On the Summer Movie

The summer blockbuster season is officially upon us, kicking off this weekend with a lineup of typical popcorn-fueled crowd-pleasers: The Hangover Part II, Kung Fu Panda 2, and…  The Tree of Life.

Terrence Malick‘s The Tree of Life, the Palme d’Or winner at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, doesn’t sound like the usual summer movie fodder — and it doesn’t look like it, either, even though it’s got dinosaurs. But the timing of its release is central to Tree‘s marketing strategy, part of distributor Fox Searchlight‘s effort to position it as “a different kind of summer event.”

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Violent Video Game a Treatment for Asperger’s?

There’s been much debate over the link between violent video games and real-life displays of aggression/depression. Next month, in fact, the Supreme Court will decide if selling certain titles to minors should be downright illegal.

Rockstar Games‘ recently released L.A. Noire — with its gritty, 1940s backdrop of corruption, drug deals, and murder — is a likely ban candidate. Though widely praised for its gaming-meets-cinema style and storyline, rave reviews don’t have much clout with the judges. But here’s something that might: At least one expert contends L.A. Noire may provide a new treatment for Asperger’s Syndrome.

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Vegas Reclaims Its Ties to the Mob

After more than a decade of playing every possible hand to draw visitors, Las Vegas is finally pulling its organized-crime card.

Swept under the table in favor of celeb chefs, theme nightclubs, and Broadway-style productions, Vegas’ ties to the mob continued to captivate both Hollywood and history buffs; from the ’40s through the ’70s, these ties made the city the gaming capital of the U.S. Now, two new, heavily publicized “interactive attractions” aim to cash in on that legacy.

Sure, there’s a story in the attractions’ similarities: Will a blood-crusted fedora here or bullet-pocked divan there dramatically alter one exhibit’s attendance? (Both properties have annual expectations in the mid- “hundreds of thousands.”) It’s far more illuminating, however, to look at their differences, and how each attraction might stimulate the city.

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