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The New York Times is continuing its tradition of enlisting summer substitute op-ed columnists who run the risk of showing up the regular team. Last summer Barbara Ehrenreich treated readers to a series of serious, well crafted and genuinely progressive pieces. And now humorist, This American Life contributor, essayist, and author (not to mention The Incredibles star) Sarah Vowell has been asked to pen in Maureen Dowd’s stead.

Today’s contribution draws some G8 opening day attention to the One Campaign, a new initiative to boost African aid that counts members as diverse as Pat Robertson and P. Diddy. Vowell gives Robertson extra praise for a new willingness to recognize the practical and necessity of condoms in fighting AIDS, which admittedly is a big step for a man who once “warned the city of Orlando that the flying of homosexuals’ upbeat rainbow flags might incite divine retribution in the form of hurricanes or ‘possibly a meteor’?” Asking Vowell onboard was a smart move; The Times’ op-ed page gets a younger voice. And readers can count on reading something humorous–besides Thomas Friedman.

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