Thursday, April 28, 2011

Royal Wedding is Pop Culture Heaven

The coming Royal Wedding on April 29, 2011, is likely to become a world media extravaganza surpassing that of Prince William's parents' wedding in 1981. With cable and satellite television, social media, and an even larger consumer culture than 30 years ago, there may be no end to its marketability and the wide range of commemorative souvenirs and ancillary events.

It is now customary that enough commemorative plates, coins, tea pots, tea towels, coasters, champagne flutes, pillows, shortbread tins, paper dolls, stickers, postcards, pencils, magnets and thimbles be produced for such an event to fill Buckingham Palace.

The most memorable, however, are the campiest, like William and Kate bobble-heads, a replica engagement ring, and nail clippers with a photo medallion of the glamorous duo. One campy and clever item is the KaTEA & William greeting card that comes with tea bags. "It all started with a cup of tea," the card reads. Each Assam tea bag has a cardboard cutout attached—one of Kate dressed in a pale blue wedding gown and another of William in military regalia.

Those more into crafts and Etsy can pick up Knit Your Own Royal Wedding by Fiona Goble, which shows you how to make stitch doll versions of all the British Royals—even the Queen's corgi.

There are, of course, T-shirts with such phrases as "Royal Wedding Crasher," "It should have been me," and "Don't do it, Kate!" Fashionistas might favor the commemorative plastic cameo rings, pendants, and earrings depicting the happy couple in silhouette, with an inscription of the royal wedding date.

British designer Ted Baker has the "Better Kate than Never" collection of quintessentially British gifts and accessories, including boxer shorts with Union Jack, crown, and rose floral motifs, as well as a commemorative tea towel printed with the wedding date and popular Britishism "A right royal knees up" (slang for a raucous good time). There's even "No More Waity, Katie," the newest nail polish shade from cosmetics company Butter London.

Naturally, television and live streaming by the BBC will be a key component of the Royal Wedding. This isn't relegated to the wedding day itself or even completely topical. Leading up to the event, the BBC will air Modern Monarchy: Dos & Don'ts and Prince William's Africa, and Wedding Central will be airing Charles & Diana's Wedding of course, and Kate: The New Diana?
"The Royal "People's" Wedding: Overview." Pop Culture Universe: Icons, Idols, Ideas. ABC-CLIO, 2011. Web. 28 Apr. 2011.  Read the full feature story here. If you are not already a subscriber, sign up for a free 60-day trial.

Additional Resources

By Joann F. Price
Greenwood, 3/2011

Prince William is well-liked in England as well as the United States and around the world, serving as a role model and trendsetter, especially among his peer group. His decision to wait eight years before proposing to Kate Middleton—a woman who is not of royalty—with his mother's ring is representative of his status as both a traditionalist and a modern man. This biography examines the life of one of the most charismatic individuals in public life today, in Great Britain and beyond—Prince William.

Pop Culture Universe: Icons Idols Ideas (PCU) is an irresistible yet authoritative digital database on popular culture in America and the world, both past and present—in a package as dynamic as the topic it covers.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Earth Day - It's Easy Being Green!

Earth Day, annually held on April 22, is designed to raise global awareness of the Earth's environment and how to better protect it. The first Earth Day was held in 1970 and organized by U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin, who was inspired to rally active support for the environment after witnessing the damage caused by the 1969 oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara, California. Backed with tremendous support from grassroots activists around the country, the first Earth Day was a huge success, with an estimated 20 million Americans participating in peaceful demonstrations for the environment. Popular support for the first Earth Day led to significant milestones in environmental legislation in the U.S. and around the world.

The widespread appeal of the first Earth Day prompted landmark environmental legislation from the U.S. government. Approximately eight months after the event, the Nixon administration created the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to address the needs of the natural environment. The establishment of the EPA was followed by the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act of 1972, laws that set federal standards for acceptable levels of pollution in both air and water. Congress also passed the Endangered Species Act in 1973 to protect plants, animals, and the habitats in which they live.

Although the popularity of Earth Day dwindled in the years after the first event, the environmental movement continued to grow over the following decades. In the 1970s, Greenpeace was founded in Canada and the National Audubon Society and John Muir's Sierra Club began efforts to prevent commercial logging in old growth forests. Many environmental discussions also began to include questions about the role of CFCs as a greenhouse gas. In the 1980s, many American families started participating in community recycling programs. In 1992, the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, commonly known as the Earth Summit, was held to bring attention to the effect humans have on the environment.

Since its roots as a protest movement in the 1970s, Earth Day has become a yearly reminder of the many issues facing the global environment. Earth Day festivities around the world often include rallies, exhibitions, or fairs that focus on topics ranging from the overlogging of rainforests to ozone depletion. In 2006, the Earth Day Network, an organization established by the founders of Earth Day, announced its plans to kick off a three-year campaign to reverse the damaging effects of global warming, an issue that has gained visibility and momentum in recent years.

"Earth Day." Issues: Understanding Controversy and Society. ABC-CLIO, 2011. Web. 22 Apr. 2011.
Further Reading

Donald R. Liddick
This comprehensive analysis of garbage trafficking, wildlife trafficking, illegal fishing, and illegal logging highlights the difficulty in balancing human interests and environmental responsibility.

Beyond the Age of Oil: The Myths, Realities, and Future of Fossil Fuels and Their Alternatives
Leonardo Maugeri
Translated from the Italian by Jonathan T. Hine Jr.
This book offers a revealing picture of the myths and realities of the energy world by one of our most renowned energy experts and managers.

Encyclopedia of the U.S. Government and the Environment: History, Policy, and Politics
Matthew J. Lindstrom, Editor
A timely new comprehensive resource on the history of the U.S. government's approach to environmental policy.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Roots and Rhythms of Latino Music

In March 2011, the U.S. Postal Service released a series of stamps in honor of five Latino musicians—Celia Cruz, Carlos Gardel, Carmen Miranda, Tito Puente, and Selena Quintanilla—who made important contributions to music history and culture in the United States. In the abridged commentary below, University of Houston professor Nicolás Kanellos offers his analysis of the dynamic and syncretic nature of music. He also makes the case that Latin American musicians and musical styles have had an important impact on popular music in the United States that stretches back centuries, though these contributions have gone largely unrecognized.

In celebrating "Latin Music Legends" in a new series of U.S. Postal Service (USPS) stamps, the United States, through one of its most important institutions, is recognizing Latinos as a major cultural force in the nation. It is a force that has always been with us, although rarely acknowledged in the past as a dynamic contributor to our national history, images, and symbols...

In fact, Latin music is one of those cultural markers that sets the Western Hemisphere, in general, and the United States in particular, apart from the "Old World." For it is the centuries' old blending of contributions from three continents—Africa, Europe and indigenous America—that has brought about Latin music's dynamic wedding of musical idioms, instruments, dances and rhythms. Long before there were recordings of country and Western music, the songs of the vaqueros, their fandangos and stringed instruments, and even their clothing, planted the base on which this American vernacular music would thrive, not only inducting the Spanish guitar and its playing styles but the indigenous vocal expressions that would characterize it....

The story of the USPS stamps celebrating the legendary Selena, Gardel, Miranda, Puente and Cruz is not an indication that Latinos have arrived, for we were always here, always contributing to U.S. culture....These "legends" are only commercial and popular culture manifestations of what has always been below the surface of U.S. culture and from time to time emerges, as in the sudden appearance of these icons on official postage, to help us remember who we are and where we come from.

Read Dr. Kanellos's full commentary by checking out the April Feature Story, "U.S. Postal Service Stamps Honor Latino Music Icons," on the Latino American Experience. If you are not already a subscriber, click here for a free trial.


Additional Resources

The American Mosaic: The Latino American Experience

Comprehensive, informative, and now even easier to use, The American Mosaic: The Latino American Experience is the latest version of the first-ever database dedicated to the history and culture of Latinos—the largest, fastest growing minority group in the United States.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Medicare and Proposed Changes

One of the few things that the two political parties currently agree on about Medicare, the federal health care program for the elderly and for some disabled people, is that some change is needed. Of course, the Democrats have already proposed gradual changes to help to reduce costs of the Medicare program as part of the 2010 Affordable Health Care Act. Many of these changes have yet to begin, however. Administration officials argue that by building on or adjusting last year’s health care reform bill, $480 billion would be saved by 2023, with an additional $1 trillion saved in the decade after that. 

On Friday, April 15, 2011, the House of Representatives passed the Republican leadership’s 2012 budget proposal. Included with this budget proposal is a Republican plan drafted by Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, to cut federal deficits by almost 4.4 trillion dollars over the next ten years partially through a radical makeover of both the Medicare and Medicaid health plans. The passage of this bill in the House of Representatives followed political party lines, with every Democrat opposed to the measure. The bill has very little chance of passing the Democrat-controlled Senate and is strongly opposed by President Obama. 

The Republican plan would end Medicare as we currently know it. Beginning in 2022 the government would no longer pay the bills for the elderly, but would instead provide some amount of money, sometimes called a voucher and sometimes called premium support, so they could then choose coverage from a list of private health insurance providers. Beneficiaries of Medicare would be individually responsible for any costs above the premium support amount. The annual increase in the government contribution would be limited to the consumer price index, a measure of general inflation. One major concern is that the premium or voucher amount would not keep up with the rising costs of health insurance because the increase in health insurance costs has exceeded the increase in the general consumer price index for most years since the passage of Medicare in 1965. A likely result would be that, over a period of some years, the amount provided would not be enough for many of the elderly to purchase health insurance. While wealthier people would still use the premium subsidy to purchase private insurance, many of those with limited incomes might end up without any health care insurance as they age, thus destroying Medicare as a guarantee of coverage for the elderly as it is today. While individuals currently 55 and over would retain the traditional Medicare plan many opponents of the Republican plan argue that support for full Medicare benefits for people in this age group would erode over time, since working age tax payers would know that they would not benefit from the program in that form. Estimates of the Kaiser Family Foundation are that, under the proposal, typical 65-year-olds retiring in 2022 might have to devote almost half of their monthly Social Security checks toward health care costs. This is more than double than what would be spent under current Medicare law. 

In addition to this major change in how Medicare operates, other changes are included in the proposed legislation. The age of eligibility for Medicare would gradually increase from 65 to 67. The provisions of the 2010 law to close the Medicare drug benefit’s coverage gap, or "doughnut hole" would also be eliminated, as would the creation of an Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB).

Other non-Medicare related changes would be to make Medicaid, the joint federal-state program that provides health care for the poor, into a series of block grants for the states on the premise that state governments would be better able to allocate those funds more efficiently. This would create a major issue with the 2010 health care reform program, which relies on expansions to Medicaid as it is currently structured to help provide care for some of the currently uninsured. 

On the tax side, the Republican proposal would modify key portions of the tax code, dropping the top rate for individuals and businesses to 25% while eliminating a number of loopholes. Democrats argue this means that many of the funding cuts to Medicare and Medicaid would be used to lower the tax rates on the wealthiest Americans, ultimately destroying the social framework that has been in place since 1965. 

Debates about how best to modify Medicare to either strengthen the program or control rising costs are not new at all. Since Medicare initially passed we have seen both parties suggest major modifications, and certainly there have been important may expansions and additions. These components include George W. Bush's drug component, and the way that providers, both hospitals and physicians are reimbursed. The still the current Republican proposals are more extreme than previous suggestions for improvement and ultimately argue for the elimination of the programs as they have operated over the past 45 years. The outcome of this new/old policy debate will be resolved through the remainder of the year.

Jennie Jacobs Kronenfeld, PhD, is a professor in the sociology program in the School of Social and Family Dynamics at Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona. Dr. Kronenfeld conducts research in medical sociology, especially in health policy, health across the life course, health behavior and health utilization. She coauthored ABC-CLIO’s Healthcare Reform in America: A Reference Handbook and authored Expansion of Publicly Funded Health Insurance in the United States: The Children’s Health Insurance Program and Its Implications. She also authored Medicare in the Greenwood Press Health and Medical Issues Today series. She is the author of the Emerald Press research annual series “Research in the Sociology of Medical Care”. She is a past chair of the medical sociology section of the American Sociological Association, and a fellow of the American Academy of Health Behavior.


Additional Resources...

Jennie Jacobs Kronenfeld
Greenwood, 12/2010

Including up-to-date details about Medicare in light of the 2010 Health Care Reform bill, this book will help readers understand past concerns about the program, as well as current issues and ways to address them.

This database explains the foundations of our government, connects these concepts to the issues of the day, and examines the strengths and weaknesses of the political and economic systems of the United States by comparing them to those of other countries.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Implications of Latino Population Growth

In 2011, the U.S. Census Bureau released 2010 Census data on a state-by-state basis throughout February and March. The new numbers show that the Latino population in the United States, which historically has been concentrated in the Southwest, has continued to grow rapidly and has geographically expanded into such regions as the Deep South and Midwest that are not typically associated with Latinos. 

In the excerpt below, scholar Nicolás Kanellos provides historical context for the issue of Latino immigration and discusses the potential political, social, and cultural implications of immense Latino population growth.

The complex issues of Hispanic immigration and population growth have their roots in the 19th-century expansion of the American Republic by conquest and/or purchase of lands from Spain and Mexico. As a consequence, the United States incorporated a resident population of Spanish-speaking Catholics who were seen as racially different, if not inferior, by Americans who rapidly and overwhelmingly spread into former Hispanic lands and came to dominate their inhabitants. In addition to safeguarding early trade and commercial ties to Latin America by proclaiming such edicts as the Monroe Doctrine, the developing nation needed a cheap alternative to slave labor after the Civil War; the most efficient and wildly popular remedy for the next century and a half was to import cheap labor from the neighboring countries of Latin America. . . . Thus, economic and political policies that were set in motion shortly after the founding of the United States have continued to transform the country into a nation of immigrants and their offspring. When U.S. foreign policy and trade within the Americas influenced the internal economies and politics of Latin America, the migrant streams naturally targeted the "Colossus of the North" as the preferred destination.

It was this pattern established long ago that continues to dominate current population trends, as the comparative wealth and opportunity up north attracts migrants from the south, whose U.S.-born children transform the U.S. national landscape. . . . The implications of such dramatic changes in the ethnic/racial constituencies of the nation include changes in social and education policy, a new relationship between national identity and language, especially in education and public service, and even a re-writing of the nation's history to more accurately reflect the truth about the development of the United States as an industrial and economic power.

Read Dr. Kanellos's full commentary by checking out the March Feature Story, "New Census Data Point to Latino Political Gains," on the Latino American Experience. If you are not already a subscriber, click here for a free trial.

Additional Resources

José María Mantero
Praeger, 2008
Through an analysis that incorporates historical research, existing legislation, and economic trends and statistics, and explores U.S. Southern and Latin American literatures, religious customs, the construction of a U.S. Southern identity, current events such as Hurricane Katrina, present tensions, and personal experience, Latinos and the U.S. South offers a window into how Latinos are adapting to an emblematic yet often overlooked region of the United States and the possible parallels between the two.

Mark Overmyer-Velázquez, Editor
Greenwood, 2008
The overlooked history and the debates over new immigration from Mexico and Central America are illuminated by this first state-by-state history of people termed Latinos or Hispanics. Much of this information is hard to find and has never been researched before. Students and other readers will be able to trace the Latino presence through time per state through a chronology and historical overview and read about noteworthy Latinos in the state and the cultural contributions Latinos have made to communities in that state. Taken together, a more complete picture of Latinos emerges.