- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Baby bonus

“In Russia’s Ulyanovsk province, amorous couples got the day off on Wednesday to have sex for the official Day of Conception. Anyone who has a baby nine months from now … on June 12, Russia Day can compete for money, an SUV, and other prizes. The program is part of Russia’s effort to combat the population decline that’s been taking place for 15 years. Other nations in Europe and Asia also want to raise their fertility rates.

“Government benefits … in the form of tax credits, for example, or state-run day care can make raising children more manageable. Last year, Vladimir Putin proposed a number of benefits designed to encourage large families, like long maternity leaves and $8,900 cash subsidies for stay-at-home mothers who have a second child.

“So, will Russia’s Day of Conception have any effect? Seventy-eight babies were born in Ulyanovsk province’s hospitals in the month of June after last year’s whoopee holiday. But that’s just a 4.5 percent increase from before, and the limited measure probably won’t make a dent in the population decline.”

Michelle Tsai, writing on “How To Make More Babies,” on Thursday at Slate.com

Faking fashion

“Once, you bought a trunk because you traveled, and a good one if you could afford it. New York society women bought frocks from Worth in Paris because that was the uniform, the price of admission to the balls. At Versailles, perfume eased you through the stinking day. …

“Then marketing men arrived and everything went abstract. You don’t buy useful, excellent things; you aspire to the class, the lovely uselessness of the people who once bought them. Exact and personal production collapsed into mild dishonesty: ‘Made in Italy’ shoes, manufactured in China, then the soles stuck on in Italy; frocks whose sleeves lose half an inch to save on fabric; chemical perfumes because real flowers cost too much.

“If you can’t buy the Yves Saint Laurent frocks, get a handbag (handbags are the profit center of the fashion trade nowadays). If you don’t need a trunk, buy the perfume. If you can’t afford the suits, get a T-shirt.”

Michael Pye, writing on “Status for Sale,” in the Sept. 8 issue of the Scotsman

O.J.’s farce

“The ‘yuck’ factor in O.J. Simpson’s ‘hypothetical’ account of how he would have murdered his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Lyle Goldman is so high that the needle soars right off the scale.

“The pages of ‘If I Did It’ are certainly priceless — to the Goldman family. They won the rights to the book, yanking it away from Simpson and the corporation he set up using his children’s names, a scheme a federal bankruptcy judge called a ‘sham.’

“Other than the Goldmans’ heartfelt, overwritten and under-edited introduction and Dominick Dunne’s more stylish and ferociously Old Testament afterword … the book fits Karl Marx’s useful observation about history: first act tragedy, second act farce.”

Patt Morrison, writing on “After ‘Yuck,’ the Farce of O.J. Simpson’s Book,” on Friday in the Los Angeles Times

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