It’s pouring in Larry HQ, which makes it a better time than ever to read about guns and gals, China and America’s inferiority complex, military anthropologists and more. Soak it up after the jump.

Every day, Truthdig brings you the news items and other 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.

We’ll continue to update this entry with new items as Larry sends them to us, with the newest links on top.

Dirt Can Be Good for Children, Say Scientists

Children should be allowed to get dirty, according to scientists who have found being too clean can impair the skin’s ability to heal.

Milestones in Political Thought In the opinion of Arlington, Tenn., Mayor Russell Wiseman, President Barack Obama’s speech on Tuesday night on the war in Afghanistan was deliberately timed to block the Christian message of the “Peanuts” television Christmas special.

The Secret U.S. War in Pakistan At a covert forward operating base run by the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command in the Pakistani port city of Karachi, members of an elite division of Blackwater are at the center of a secret program in which they plan targeted assassinations of suspected Taliban and Al Qaeda operatives, “snatch and grabs” of high-value targets and other sensitive action inside and outside Pakistan, an investigation by The Nation has found.

Faux Friendship We live at a time when friendship has become both all and nothing at all.

Is It Important Who the Writer Is? From Hemingway to war heroes, there’s a romance in writers who put themselves in their own story. And there’s a danger in it too. …

Let Us Now Praise … Jingles Until very recently, I regarded the notion of the “meme,” first advanced by Richard Dawkins in 1976, as an example of its originator’s grossly underrated capacity for science fiction.

Net Piracy: The People vs. the Entertainment Industry “This is the kind of snooping you’d expect in China, not a modern Western democracy. It raises huge questions over privacy invasion and freedom of expression.”

Dubai: The Glitzy, Puffed-Up Peacock of the Middle East Is Imploding One day last month, I was sitting in a cafe on the Dubai Creek with a locally based architect, talking about the traffic.

The Changing Role of the Critic in the 21st Century It was five in the morning when the news editor rang to tell me Alex was dead.

Bolivian President Morales Empowered by Re-Election Bolivian President Evo Morales was re-elected on Sunday in a landslide victory.

Why Copenhagen May Be a Disaster Let me be blunt about what amazes me when it comes to global warming. In the U.S., it’s largely an issue for Democrats, “progressives,” liberals, the left, and I simply don’t get that.

Naked Man Furniture

Andrew Sullivan Joins LGF’s Charles Johnson in Kissing Off the Current ‘Conservative’ Movement While Andrew Sullivan has been hard to peg on some issues (and catches heat on all sides for many), he’s been clear that he was searching for U.S. conservatism to reflourish.

Visualization of Global Social Media Usage Want to know how many people are microblogging in Australia? Or uploading photos online in Brazil? Or writing blogs in the Netherlands? There’s a map for that—literally.

Reform Movement for English Libel Law Gathers Momentum Calls for reform of the draconian libel laws in force in England and Wales have finally caught the ears of those in high places.

Attracting Boys to Ballet Still a Challenge Think “ballet dancer,” and you’ll probably picture a pretty young woman in a tutu. The choreographer George Balanchine saw it that way. “Ballet is the female thing. It is woman,” he famously said.

Hey, Are Those the Real Yogurt Caps? Earlier this fall, Ann Temkin, the chief curator at the Museum of Modern Art’s department of painting and sculpture, was working on the checklist for the upcoming Gabriel Orozco retrospective (opening Dec. 13) when it occurred to her that one of the pieces she wanted to include in the exhibition might no longer exist.

Let’s Celebrate Works, Not Artists It’s funny how you learn something, and for one reason or another, promptly forget it. I remember reading a book called “Shark Infested Waters” by Sarah Kent.

E-Readers: They’re Hot Now, but the Story Isn’t Over Books are having their iPod moment this holiday season. But buyer beware: It could also turn out to be an eight-track moment.

Old Books Gassier With Age Perhaps you can’t judge a book by its cover, but there’s a wealth of information to be gleaned from its scent.

Obstacles Speed Up Exiting Crowds If you’ve been to a big concert, or a ballgame, with a big crowd, you know what happens when it’s time to leave. No matter how big the exit is, everybody gets jammed up and it goes really slowly.

Appeals Court: School District Can Ban Christmas Carols The federal appeals court in Philadelphia has upheld a New Jersey school district’s ban on religious songs during the Christmas holiday season.

U.S. Seen as Less Important, China as More Powerful The general public and members of the Council on Foreign Relations are apprehensive and uncertain about America’s place in the world.

The Rise and Fall of MySpace In summer 2005, having spent the best part of four decades ­building a newspaper, film and television empire, Rupert Murdoch decided that the time had come to get serious about the Internet.

Gun Rights Are Women’s Rights? Why are progressives standing with the National Rifle Association in the biggest gun rights case of the year?

Program to Embed Anthropologists With Military Lacks Ethical Standards, Report Says In the shadow of President Obama’s decision to send 30,000 new troops to Afghanistan, social scientists remain deeply anxious about the roles they are being asked to play in American counterinsurgency strategy.

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