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April 23rd, 2010
09:30 AM ET

Arctic explorer arrives at North Pole on Earth Day

Editor’s note: Arctic explorer Eric Larsen is trying to make it to the North and South Poles and the summit of Mount Everest in 365 days as part of an effort to raise awareness about climate change. Larsen joined us on American Morning before he set out on his Save the Poles expedition. On Earth Day, he arrived at the North Pole, the second destination in his global expedition. Below is an excerpt from his online journal.

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Antony Jinman, Eric Larsen and Darcy St-Laurent standing at the Geographic North Pole."]

By Eric Larsen

Achieving the North Pole on Earth Day is not only the realization of a dream but also a reinforcement of a basic philosophy. The quality of our lives is directly linked to the air we breathe and the water we drink. At the North Pole, lines of longitude begin, grow and extend until they reach everyone one the entire planet. In spite of its remoteness, this is the one place that connects us all.

Nearly four months ago, I was at the opposite end of the world, the South Pole (another of Earth's connecting points). Today, the North Pole. In another four months, the summit of Mt. Everest. Standing here now is the culmination of three and a half years of preparation and planning as well as the efforts of many people. While I may be personally involved in these adventures, the Save the Poles expedition is not about me. My importance in any of this stems only in my ability to share my experiences with others.

On this expedition, we often traveled within a narrow margin of safety. We had limited resources and had to conserve and meter food and fuel. There is no question that now, the 21st century, we need to use resources to ensure our health and survival. But which resources we use, how we use them (and in what quantities) and if they are renewable are cornerstone to preserving our planet for future generations. Ultimately, when we view ourselves part of a whole, we can begin to understand how our actions affect other people and the planet.

After all, we are all explorers in one fashion or another, but the job of explorers in the 21st century is not to conquer but to protect. Read more

Audio podcast: Larsen and his team describe their journey to the North Pole

Filed under: Environment • Eric Larsen
April 23rd, 2010
09:00 AM ET

Oil slick spreads from sunken rig

(CNN) – A 1-by-5-mile sheen of crude oil mix has spread across the Gulf of Mexico's surface around the area where an oil rig exploded and sank, according to the Coast Guard.

"This is a rainbow sheen with a dark center," Coast Guard Rear Adm. Mary Landry told reporters.

Officials do not know whether oil or fuel are leaking from the sunken Deepwater Horizon rig and the well below, but BP Vice President David Rainey said "it certainly has the potential to be a major spill."

A remotely operated vehicle is surveying the area and cleanup efforts are under way, Landry said. The sheen "probably is residual from the fire and the activity that was going on on this rig before it sank below the surface," she said. Read more

Filed under: Environment • Gulf Oil Spill • U.S.
April 23rd, 2010
08:30 AM ET

Love, Sex, Freedom and the Paradox of the Pill

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="A woman holds prescription contraceptives June 13, 2001 in Seattle, Washington in this FILE photo."]

By Nancy Gibbs,

There's no such thing as the Car or the Shoe or the Laundry Soap. But everyone knows the Pill, whose FDA approval 50 years ago rearranged the furniture of human relations in ways that we've argued about ever since.

Consider the contradictions: It was the first medicine ever designed to be taken regularly by people who were not sick. Its main inventor was a conservative Catholic who was looking for a treatment for infertility and instead found a guarantee of it. It was blamed for unleashing the sexual revolution among suddenly swinging singles, despite the fact that throughout the 1960s, women usually had to be married to get it.

Its supporters hoped it would strengthen marriage by easing the strain of unwanted children; its critics still charge that the Pill gave rise to promiscuity, adultery and the breakdown of the family. In 1999 the Economist named it the most important scientific advance of the 20th century, but Gloria Steinem, one of the era's most influential feminists, calls its impact "overrated."

One of the world's largest studies of the Pill — 46,000 women followed for nearly 40 years — was released this March. It found that women who take the Pill are less likely to die prematurely from any cause, including cancer and heart disease, yet many women still question whether the health risks outweigh the benefits.

Keep reading this story »

Filed under: TIME
April 23rd, 2010
08:00 AM ET

Air Force launches space plane on secret mission

(CNN) – A mystery, unmanned space plane operated by the Air Force is orbiting the earth. Its mission in space is top-secret.

The spacecraft, dubbed the X-37B, lifted off last night from Cape Canaveral in Florida. Military officials say the launch was a success, but they won't say much else. Our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr has the report.

Filed under: Military • Tech
April 23rd, 2010
07:30 AM ET

Doctor's love, money help families of 'miracle babies'

By Erika Clarke, CNN

San Diego, California (CNN) - Twenty-four weeks pregnant, Veronica Pacheco went to the emergency room last October with a hacking cough that made it hard to breathe. Tests found she had H1N1 flu, and doctors put her in a coma so her body could continue the gestational process without expending additional energy.

"My life changed forever after that," Pacheco said.

Six weeks later - 10 weeks before full term - her unborn baby's vital signs dropped and doctors performed an emergency C-section.

"When I woke up, my husband said, 'We had to take out the baby' and I immediately clutched my stomach, fearing the worst," she said. "But he settled me down and [said], 'He's OK, he's down in the NICU."

Born 2½ months early, Noah Pacheco weighed less than 3 pounds and was immediately put in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) - a vital step for premature babies but often financially and emotionally stressful for families.

Do you know a hero? Nominations are open for 2010 CNN Heroes

The Pachecos found some relief with the help of Dr. Sean Daneshmand and his nonprofit Miracle Babies. The group provides financial assistance for items such as housing and medical expenses, baby supplies and transportation costs. Read more

Filed under: CNN Heroes
April 23rd, 2010
07:00 AM ET

Gut Check: Are we living in a 'dirty girl' culture?

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Women in pop culture are depicted as either angelic, as in Taylor Swift, or not, as in Snooki from “Jersey Shore,” says feminist author Jaclyn Friedman."]

By Carol Costello and Ronnie Berke, CNN

(CNN) – You see it everywhere – in videos, movies and even TV shows. Young women who are rude, crude and sometimes very, very drunk. Are we living in a “dirty girl” culture? Or are these just examples of kids having fun and nothing to worry about? Time for a Gut Check.

The newest “dirty girl” is the violent tween in the movie, “Kick Ass.” Her potty-mouth rants would do Chelsea Handler proud. Handler, whose raunchy sex talk and love of alcohol have fueled three best-sellers, is more popular than ever.

Pop star Ke$ha’s hit song “Tik Tok” celebrates promiscuity and drinking until you pass out in a stranger's bathtub. Her catchy tune goes: “Before I leave, brush my teeth with a bottle of Jack.”

Some, like social commentator Nancy Giles, find the trend alarming. “There seems to be this strange ... hazing ritual or a badge of honor, how drunk can you get, how bad can you behave? How close to the edge can you go? I don't get it.”

Giles says it's as if girls are celebrating the worst of frat boy behavior as a way to female empowerment. Some young women agree.

“Women are becoming more comfortable with themselves and their sexuality,” says Lauren Casiva, 24, in Washington, DC. “They realize that it’s okay to behave as men behave.”

Bad girls a dangerous trend? Video

When it comes to binge drinking, experts say, sadly, women are up to the challenge. According to Southern Illinois University, in 1996, 33 percent of women admitted to binge drinking or having five drinks in one sitting – in the prior two weeks.

In 2008, that percentage shot up to nearly 41 percent. It’s a disturbing trend to feminist editor Jaclyn Friedman, whose book “Yes Means Yes,” explores the problem of date rape. She says women having fun and making stupid mistakes is one thing, but adopting destructive, raunchy behavior is, well – scary.

“When it comes to sexual assault, most rapists use alcohol to facilitate sexual assault.” Friedman says the real problem is a lack of reality-based role models. In our popular culture, women are either depicted as angelic, as in Taylor Swift – or Snooki, in “Jersey Shore.” There’s no one left in the middle.

What do you think? Send us your comments below.

Filed under: Gut Check
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