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Nude Baristas, Pledge Drives and Alien-Abduction Psychology

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A lot of people who get sex enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning. Even people who don’t get sex enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning. Then there are people for whom good coffee is the next best thing to sex.

Hot on the heels of its “Women of Enron” issue last summer, Playboy magazine wants to give its 3.1 million subscribers a steamy look at Starbucks’ sexiest baristas for a prospective “Women of Starbucks” issue. Candidates should send two photos and proof of employment to the magazine’s Chicago headquarters by April 1. (Ignore the date. This is for real, folks.) Frothing, grinding and pouring are not options, as the coffee behemoth has already made it known that it stands ready to jealously guard its trademark and company logo. Any posing will be far removed from the espresso machine. There goes coffee’s sex appeal. But surely this tie-in adds extra weight to the LDS Church’s prohibition on coffee. The evil bean’s connection with pornography is exposed for all to see.

• It’s Pledge time again. This has nothing to do with the public television and radio stations that already get federal tax dollars but still want listeners like you to pry open their wallets. This is about the Pledge of Allegiance, and the ban on its recitation in public schools. The ban was recently upheld by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals after a circuit court ruling last summer backed an atheist’s claims that the Pledge “under God” violated the First Amendment’s separation clause. “Wah, wah, wah!” cried the religious patriots among us.

• Does it really do any good to trot out the facts one more time? Fact: the original Pledge was written in 1892 by socialist clergyman Francis Bellamy. Fact: the Pledge wasn’t even officially recognized by government until 1942. Fact: the phrase “under God” was added to the Pledge by lawmakers caught up in Cold War hysteria.

Really, if our nation has done so well for so long without the Pledge—never mind the “under God” bit—what is all the panic about? America has the highest rate of regular church attendance in the industrialized world, far above that of Britain, where 8 percent of the population regularly attends. Yet we as a nation have rates of violent crime that pales beside “godless” European nations, where most churches function as museums. Reciting “under God” changes nothing. It’s behavior that counts.

• What’s so delicious about all this is the drama. If the U.S. Supreme Court doesn’t intervene, 9.6 million children in nine Western states could be banned from reciting the Pledge. Don’t worry your little head. Utah doesn’t fall under the aegis of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

• “In my mind’s eye, Horatio.” So said Hamlet. Now two studies, one from Harvard and the other from the University of California at Irvine, reveal that memories are more malleable than we previously thought, especially when it comes to planting images and thoughts. One test showed that, after listening to audiotapes describing their alleged alien abduction, certain subjects actually demonstrated signs of abduction trauma on par with those who experienced documented trauma. Believing that you experienced something is almost as powerful as experiencing it, even if the sight of aliens has often been reduced to the phenomenon of hypnopompic, or “waking,” hallucinations.

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