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October 23, 2007

City Strobe

Because you don’t know where this paper’s beenUnlike most of the seemingly terrifying stories TV news anchors shout, MRSA is a freak-out you might want to have. MRSA stands for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. It’s a type of staph infection that is resistant to common antibiotics, including methicillin, oxacillin, penicillin and amoxicillin. After playing in smaller venues such as hospitals and nursing homes for the past decade, MRSA is now embarking on a stadium tour and has been spotted in all corners of the United States, including Louisville.The bacteria are spread by casual contact and are found in about one-third of the population. You won’t get sick unless the germ enters your body through a cut or other wound. If not treated quickly, MRSA can turn your sore into an abscess and your abscess into something you might parlay into an acting gig in the next “Shaun of the Dead” movie. In extreme cases, the infection spreads to the lungs, bones or bloodstream, where it killed nearly 19,000 people in 2005. Young people, old people and those with weakened immune systems are the most vulnerable. How did we get into this mess? The wanton overuse of antibiotics, both in prescription drugs and in cattle, chicken and pig factory farming. These antibiotics find their way into our water supply and encourage bacteria to mutate in their never-ending quest to return to their pre-Louis Pasteur glory days.How do we get out of this mess? Well, we could stop overusing antibiotics, but this is America, so we’ll come up with stronger antibiotics. But oh-oh, they’re expensive to develop and are prescribed only in extreme cases, so drug companies aren’t too keen on the work (no, really).Meantime? Keep an eye on your sores and wash your hands like David Sedaris after a dumpster dive. LEO readers are nothing if not hygienic, but with microbes gone wild, you can never be too OCD.For more info, see www.mayoclinic.com. —Jim WelpBottle effronteryHey, you — the hybrid-driving, fluorescent-bulb-using, Nobel-laureate-admiring, Whole-Foods-shopping environmentalist drinking from the Evian bottle. C’mere. Got a funny story for ya. Guess what’s one of the most earth-unfriendly things you can do. Yup: Drink bottled water.The bottled water industry is reeling from a nascent backlash as restaurants, schools and whole cities ban their crispy deliciousness in favor of good old-fashioned tap water. Turns out that tap water is better regulated than bottled water (except for the 40 percent of bottled water that actually IS tap water), perfectly safe and much better for the environment.Bottled water burns up massive amounts of fossil fuels on its way to your lips — both in manufacture and transport — and billions of the plastic bottles end up in landfills. Bottled water also undermines confidence in public water systems and wastes crucial Benjamins you could be spending on cigarettes and fried chicken. Log on to a faucet or fountain near you to say no to Big Water. And if making promises to complete strangers online keeps you honest, take the pledge at www.thinkoutsidethebottle.org. —JWFood for thoughtA week or so ago, me and some pals were watching some NFL action when a glossy KFC commercial flashed across the screen.It went like this: Family sits at dinner table in brightly lit kitchen. An older woman smiles as kids surround her, eager to chow on Col. Sanders’ famous chicken.I didn’t think twice about the content until one member of our pro football peanut gallery — who is white — pointed out three potentially troubling facts in the ad: 1) A single woman with kids; 2) all of whom are African American; 3) eating fried chicken.Oh, and there’s no older male figure present.Last Thursday I saw the ad again, and this time I couldn’t ignore this bucolic, jovial supper, what the actors were eating, who was present, and, more important, who wasn’t. Something stinks here, and it ain’t the 11 herbs and spices.I’m gonna break all my Journalism 101 axioms and tell you what I don’t know: I don’t know these actors, nor do I know what the older woman’s relationship is to the kids. But I know black people eat more than just fried chicken, and there might be some subtle, cultural commentary being served up with the coleslaw.I went to the public relations page at www.yum.com. On the bottom left-hand side of the Web site was a number for media inquiries. I called it. It rang and rang. No answer. I called a bit later. No answer. When I tried to e-mail through the contact link, the site had me fill out my age via a drop-down menu. So I did. The page closed immediately. I tried selecting the appropriate month (July), day (12) and year (1978) again.“Sorry,” the site said, “you are not old enough to use this feature of the Web site.”Weird. I backtracked. Yum!, KFC’s Louisville-based parent company, is quite accomplished in matters of diversity: Black Enterprise magazine named it one of the 30 best companies for diversity. Fortune voted it one of the top 50 companies for minorities, and Hispanic magazine included Yum! on its list of 100 employers that are “providing opportunities for Hispanics.” (See: www.yum.com/news/pressreleases/101907.asp) I dug a little deeper. Nashieqa Washington, who blogs at www.yourblackfriend.com, and is the author of “Why Do Black People Love Fried Chicken?,” sheds light. In an FAQ, Washington writes: “Much of what is called soul food (including fried chicken) is made up of Southern foods tweaked by Black folks. … popular with many, fried chicken, watermelon, and the love of them have been negatively connected with Black people through years of caricatures.”She explains this more thoroughly in her book, which I, for one, plan on reading.Her answer raises a question: Why would a company with these bona fides use stereotypes to make money?Yum!, my direct line is 895-9770 ext. 224. Call between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Thanks. —Mat HerronContact the writers at citystrobe@leoweekly.com