It’s been kind of a lousy decade, but things are looking up. An Indian minister says TV works as birth control, coffee might not kill you, and there’s plenty more where that came from. Today’s list after the jump.

On a regular basis, Truthdig brings you the news items and odds and ends that found their way to Larry Gross, director of the USC Annenberg School for Communication. A specialist in media and culture, art and communication, visual communication and media portrayals of minorities, Gross helped found the field of gay and lesbian studies.

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Your Favorite Brands? Take Another Look — They May Not Be What They Seem

One of AlterNet’s most popular articles of the year: Confident that you are buying good, socially conscious brands? Find out the real story.

The Case Against the New Year The islands of the Kingdom of Tonga, the only surviving monarchy in the Pacific, are tropical, but not quite a paradise. The largest people in the world live there, and they eat a lot of Spam.

Coffee Will Kill You (or Not) Coffee lovers have had a few good reasons to feel good about themselves recently.

Indian Minister Says TV Is Good Birth Control System Earlier this month the United Nations warned that the world population — at least 6.7 billion — would double in the next 40 years if growth rates remain unchecked.

Giorgio Carbone, Elected Prince of Seborga, Dies at 73 Nestled near the beaches of the Italian Riviera and the snow-capped Alps is the tiny principality of Seborga, a place that floats on legends.

Why Golden Ratio Pleases the Eye: U.S. Academic Says He Knows Art Secret Many artists have proportioned their work in shapes that facilitate scanning of images to the brain, says professor.

Liberal Arts: Alive and Well The liberal arts are higher education’s answer to Broadway, that “fabulous invalid” whose demise is predicted with both certainty and regularity.

As Books Go Beyond Printed Page to Multisensory Experience, What About Reading? The mysterious man looks completely wrong to me. In the text of the conspiracy thriller “Embassy,” an online novel by Richard Doetsch, the character is described as “a starkly thin fellow with a protruding Adam’s apple.” My brain goes: Alan Rickman!

For Obama, No Opportunity Is Too Big to Blow No president since FDR has been handed as many opportunities to transform the U.S. into something that doesn’t threaten the stability of life on this planet. Is he blowing it?

Autumn of the Republic? Three books suggest America has slipped into a polarized state of undermined self-government. None convincingly suggests how we can slip back out.

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