Blue whales are changing their tune, medieval trial-by-floating-or-drowning turns out to have been shockingly accurate, and President Obama may have trouble with working people because he’s so damned upwardly mobile — all this and more on today’s list.

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.

The links below open in a new window and newer ones are on top.

Amazon for Art Shoppers?

If you need a Damien Hirst diamond-skull T-shirt or a Grayson Perry silk scarf that reads “unpopular culture,” you’re in luck.

Blue Whales Are Singing in a Lower Key Blue whales have changed their songs. It’s the same old tune, but the pitch of the blues is mysteriously lower — especially off the coast of California where, local researchers say, the whales’ voices have dropped by more than half an octave since the 1960s.

Medieval-Style ‘Trial by Ordeal’ Actually Worked? For the better part of a millennium, Europe’s legal systems decided difficult criminal cases in a most peculiar way.

What Would Pat Robertson Say About This? There’s an interesting chart on the web that compares the religiosity of the various states — based on a Gallup poll — with other factors. Based on these stats it would seem that the five least religious states are six percent more intelligent than the five most religious states. The most religious states also have 70% more poverty, 133% more murders, 57% more thefts and 33% more divorces.

Maine’s Missing Water The Stonington Water Co. has a mystery on its hands. Large amounts of water have been disappearing regularly from the system since October, and officials don’t know how or why.

Why Do Late-Night Hosts Always Keep Their Desks on the Right? Conan O’Brien and Jay Leno, who have been at each other’s throats of late, had very different approaches to hosting the Tonight Show. But one thing remained the same: For the interview portion, both hosts sat at a desk on the right side of the television screen, with their guests on the left.

Race to the Checkout Line: Grocers Association’s Best Bagger Championship What the National Grocers Association’s Best Bagger Championship says about work and competition.

The ‘Long Tail’ Hits Manufacturing The door of a dry-cleaner-size storefront in an industrial park in Wareham, Massachusetts, an hour south of Boston, might not look like a portal to the future of American manufacturing, but it is.

Why Obama Can’t Connect With the Working Class He’s a yuppie: He has trouble with working class voters because he appears to them as coming from a different world, a different realm of experience, a different class, if you like. And that’s because he does.

Have Iran’s Opposition Leaders Really Sold Out? Is the Green Movement finished? That is what the Iranian government wants the world to believe.

Crying Shame at UCLA: Fair Use, Videos and Higher Ed The University of California at Los Angeles has decided to forbid teachers from posting videos (or, apparently, pieces of them) to their electronic teaching platforms, after an educational media association complained about the practice.

Top Doctorate Programs Shrinking Yale University has become the latest research institution to announce that it is shrinking graduate admissions.

The Corporations Already Outspend the Parties For the first time in recent history, the lobbying, grassroots and advertising budget of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has surpassed the spending of BOTH the Republican National Committee and Democratic National Committee.

The Creed of Objectivity Killed the News Don’t blame the Internet. The bloodless and soulless journalism of the traditional media left newspapers on the wrong side of the growing class divide and their readers.

Amazonian People and ‘Avatar’ I’m very happy that “Avatar” has helped to bring to the mainstream some of the issues that indigenous people face—issues that all of us care about deeply. Also, I recently learned that the Fundación Pachamama in Quito, Ecuador, hosted some 90 indigenous people for a screening of the 3-D version of “Avatar.” From what I understand, the film re-affirmed the validity of what most people in the audience are doing to protect themselves and their forest.

The Intellectual Property Wars from Gutenberg to Gates Academe today is the site of myriad conflicts over intellectual property, including those of patent ownership, piracy of university press publications, and Google Books, to name just a few. But, while the rise of the Internet has given it new dimensions, the concept of intellectual piracy has existed for centuries, and the disputes of previous eras have much in common with those of our own time.

Volcker Rules Finally President Barack Obama has come to his senses on financial regulation. His endorsement of what he calls the “Volcker Rule” for once puts him squarely on the side of ordinary Americans as opposed to the banking bandits who have so thoroughly fleeced the public.

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