Week in Review: 3/3/11

by by Emily Gogolak, Ashton Strait & Emma Whitford

illustration by by Emily Martin

Last Wednesday, Texas-based anti-abortion group Life Always erected a racially charged billboard on the corner of Watts Street and Sixth Avenue in SoHo: an adorable black girl with a pink hair bow and matching pink dress stands next to a slogan reading “The Most Dangerous Place for an African American Is In the Womb.” The nonprofit wanted New Yorkers to be aware of its claim that Planned Parenthood targets minority groups. According to spokesperson Marissa Gabrysch, “There’s… just a huge disproportion [in] that African Americans represent 13 percent of the U.S. population yet represent 36 percent of abortions in the United States.”
Pastor Stephen Broden is a member of the board of directors for Life Always. He’s glad that New Yorkers who have seen the billboard can now empathize with the 36 percent of African American women who have had abortions: “The reaction to this billboard is centered on trauma; abortion is traumatic, it is the emotional and physical trauma that women face after abortion that necessitates access to post-abortive healing services.”
Councilwoman Letitia James voiced the astonishment echoed by many viewers: “To compare abortion to terrorism and genocide is highly offensive.” Not to mention that employees at the Mexican restaurant below the billboard allegedly faced threats of violence.
Almost immediately after it was erected, an upswell of complaints convinced the outdoor advertising company that endorsed it to take it down. The billboard disappeared last Friday, but the image of 6-year-old Anissa Fraser, the stock image model selected for the billboard, is immortalized on the internet.
Luckily, the billboard wasn’t enough to shift those in the pro-choice camp to the other side. Mayor Bloomberg assured New Yorkers: “I’ve always been in favor of a woman’s right to choose, and nothing that any billboard or anything someone puts up is going to change my mind.” –EW

Humans began domesticating gray wolves at least 15,000 years ago, presumably as soon as the technology developed to weave miniature booties and four-legged sweaters so that Fluffy and kind didn’t get cold in the winter. This tango with nature has led to many questionable creatures (read: Pomeranians); nonetheless, researchers in Russia are hoping to recreate the domestication process with one of Fido’s closest cousins: the silver fox. Russian biologist Dimitry Belyaev leads a team of researchers at the Institute of Cytology and Genetics (ICG) who have been breeding silver foxes since the 1950s, trying to replicate the process that turned Canis lupus into Lassie.
The experiment has had remarkable success. After years of selectively breeding those foxes which are most amenable to human contact, the animals now actively seek human attention and, for all intents and purposes, behave exactly like dogs, complete with tail-wagging, face-licking, and attention-seeking behaviors. Belyaev hopes the experiment will not only finally justify the premise of Fox and the Hound but also shine a light on the process of animal domestication in human history. However, it could have interesting implications for human evolution as well. Researchers have proposed that the genes that encourage increased sociability in animals might have also occurred in our early primate ancestors, allowing us to live together cooperatively and, eventually, build complex societies.
For those desperate to acquire their own, the internet company purportedly sells domesticated Russian foxes. Unfortunately, their Rainbow Boulevard address in Las Vegas and the fact that those foxes which are not used in the ICG experiment or adopted by researchers are sent to a coat factory undermines the legitimacy of the establishment. It looks like it could be a while until everyone can have their own fantastic Mr. Fox. –AS

Awkward first date reaches the point of bad icebreakers.
Boy: So, what’s your favorite ice cream flavor?
Girl: Um… I don’t know. Mint-chip probably. You?
Boy: Definitely breast milk.

He wasn’t kidding. A new trend has taken the ice-cream world by storm: breast milk. Last Friday, Icecreamists, an ice-cream parlor in London’s Covent Garden, debuted its latest concoction. Meet “Baby Gaga.” Fans turned out in droves for the rare offering, intended to promote breast-milk awareness among mothers. Flavored with vanilla and lemon zest, containing the milk of over 15 women, and selling at 14 pounds a scoop – that’s $22.50 – this Gaga sold out as soon as it launched. All were screaming for ice cream, but the Icecreamists assured customers that supplies would soon be restocked. “We have had an amazing response -- many women have come forward and offer to give us milk,” owner Matt O’Connor told Reuters.
But, breast milk, really? “Some people will hear about it and go yuck – but it’s pure organic, free-range and totally natural,” O’Connor said. And if you think donating your milk is a bad idea, think again. Victoria Hiley, 35, sold her milk to the ice cream shop after responding to an Internet ad. It’s a “recession beater,” she said. “What’s the harm in using my assets for a bit of extra cash?” she added. Paid 15 pounds (about $24) for every 10 ounces of her milk, Hiley may be onto something.
If you’re lactating and thinking of making some extra cash, however, you’re out of luck. Breast milk won’t be hitting the Thayer Ben and Jerry’s anytime soon. On Thursday, the BBC reported that Icecreamists removed Gaga “to make sure it was fit for human consumption.” Gaga samples were sent to the county lab to test for hepatitis – not something you usually catch from the casual ice cream run. The local Councilor Brian Connell announced: “Selling foodstuffs made from another person’s bodily fluids can lead to viruses being passed on.” Who knows if Gaga will make its way back to Icecreamists, but here’s to a great attempt at viral marketing. –EG