Blogs

Obama to Clinton: You Can't Catch Me

| Wed Feb. 13, 2008 12:10 PM EST

David Plouffe, Barack Obama's campaign manager, was not gloating the morning after. But he did have a message for Hillary Clinton's camp: you can't catch us.

That is, in delegates awarded via primaries and caucuses.

Speaking to reporters on a conference call on Wednesday morning--after Barack Obama swept Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia by supersized margins--Plouffe was low-key in manner but confident in substance. He maintained that, by his campaign's number, Obama now had a lead of 136 delegates in the race for pledged delegates (that excludes superdelegates). He termed it an "enormous" advantage and noted that Clinton could not close this gap without running up a string of "blowout" wins in the coming primaries, including big states (such as delegate-rich Ohio, Texas, and Pennsylvania) and other states. "Even the most creative math does not get her back to even in pledged delegates," he insisted.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Barack Obama's Messiah Complex

| Wed Feb. 13, 2008 11:10 AM EST

obama-messiah.jpg Barack Obama has a messiah complex and no one will convince me otherwise.

You can find the prepared version of last night's victory speech here, and you can video of his delivery here. Comparing the two reveals that Obama improvises quite a bit, and does so impressively. But what he improvises is some awfully heady, almost messianic, stuff.

Follow me after the jump.

A Terrorist is Assassinated in Damascus: A Whodunnit

| Wed Feb. 13, 2008 10:38 AM EST

When the news broke that Imad Mugniyah was killed by a car bomb in Damascus on Wednesday, speculation quickly turned to who brought down the wanted Hezbollah terrorist, a man accused of plotting the 1983 bombings of the U.S. Embassy and Marine barracks in Beirut and the 1985 hijacking of TWA flight 847, along with a host of other terrorist attacks.

Naturally, the Israeli intelligence service Mossad seemed a likely candidate (and Hezbollah quickly accused the "Zionists of martyring" him). Israeli security officials made no secret that they considered Mugniyah's death a service to humanity. "I don't know who killed him, but whoever did should be congratulated," former Israeli military intelligence official Gideon Ezra told Israel Radio. Ultimately, the office of Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert denied Israeli involvement, saying in a statement that "Israel rejects the attempt by terrorist elements to ascribe to it any involvement whatsoever in this incident."

Scores of Journalists Killed in Action

| Wed Feb. 13, 2008 8:31 AM EST

It's a dangerous time to be a journalist. This is the conclusion of a Doctors Without Borders report out today on press freedom worldwide. Last year, according to their tally, 86 reporters and photojournalists were killed, the most global casualties in a single year since the mid-1990s during the height of the Rwandan genocide.

Iraq accounted for 56 of those deaths, and at least another 25 were kidnapped. Just this week three journalists went missing in Baghdad. The body of an Iraqi reporter, who had been kidnapped earlier this week, was found yesterday. And on Monday two journalists working for CBS, one of whom is an Iraqi working as an interpreter, were kidnapped. There's still no sign of them.

The dangers Iraqis face—working as interpreters, drivers, correspondents, intel-gatherers—are often far greater than the dangers western journalists do; foreign journalists live in compounds, and they are on temporary assignment, where they don't have to a threat of retaliation. There's no offficial tally but as of last summer there were only 20 American print journalists in Baghdad, meaning many of the headlines we see in the west come to be because of the work of local journalists. And for that perilous work, what will it mean for their resumes long-term? And what becomes of these stringers when we leave?

Scary New CO2 Numbers on Shipping, Plus a Hopeful Breeze

| Wed Feb. 13, 2008 12:49 AM EST

MS-Beluga-SkySails_Taufe.jpg

More bad news on the real costs of all the cheap goods that come our way from all over the world via the high seas. A leaked UN report says pollution from shipping is nearly three times higher than previously thought, and that annual emissions from the world's merchant fleet have already reached nearly 4.5% of all global emissions of CO2. The report warns that shipping emissions are destined to become one of the largest single sources of manmade CO2 after cars, housing, agriculture, and industry. By comparison, the aviation industry, under heavy pressure to clean up its act, emits only half as much CO2, reports the Guardian:

The figure is highly embarrassing for the four governments, including Britain, that paid for the report. Governments and the EU have consistently played down the climate impact of shipping, saying it is less than 2% of global emissions and failing to include shipping emissions in their national estimates for CO2 emissions. Previous attempts by the industry to calculate levels of carbon emissions were largely based on the quantity of low grade fuel bought by shipowners. The latest UN figures are considered more accurate because they are based on the known engine size of the world's ships, as well as the time they spend at sea and the amount of low grade fuel sold to shipowners. The UN report also reveals that other pollutants from shipping are rising even faster than CO2 emissions. Sulphur and soot emissions, which give rise to lung cancers, acid rain and respiratory problems are expected to rise more than 30% over the next 12 years.

Here's a partial solution, at least, as reported by the BBC. The world's first commercial cargo ship partially powered by a giant kite just sailed from Germany to Venezuela. The MS Beluga Skysails—seen in the photo above—carries a computer-controlled kite, measuring 160sq m (1,722sq ft), designed to cut fuel consumption by as much as 20%.

So, how about we accept cheap goods from abroad only if they come in under sail?

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent and 2008 winner of the John Burroughs Medal Award. You can read from her new book, The Fragile Edge, and other writings, here.

Sweeps for Obama and McCain

| Tue Feb. 12, 2008 9:57 PM EST

Barack Obama and John McCain both scored hat tricks tonight, taking Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia.

In Obama's victory speech in Madison, WI, he pointed out that tonight highlights the fact that he can win in any setting. "We have now won east and west, north and south, and across the heartland of this country," he told an excited crowd. The Clinton campaign has dismissed Obama's victories from Super Tuesday and this past weekend by saying Obama wins in caucus states (which, due to their format, favor activists and the well-to-do) and in states Democrats never win in general elections. Well, Maryland, Virginia, and D.C. were all primaries, not caucuses. Maryland and D.C. are the Democrats' territory in November, and Virginia is a swing state. As Obama was saying, "We need a new direction in this country," the Clintonites were probably thinking, "We need new spin in this campaign."

Advertise on MotherJones.com

All About Light

| Tue Feb. 12, 2008 9:47 PM EST

13Cribsheet.jpg The latest addition to SEED's excellent Cribsheet series: Light. On one page, everything you wanted to know or remember about the electromagnetic spectrum, wave-particle duality, how light interacts with matter, how we use light to study the size, age, and composition of the universe, how light can help provide clean energy, faster computers, and efficient space travel. Check out other Cribsheets on everything from hybrid cars to nuclear power to extinction to genetics, to name a few.

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent and 2008 winner of the John Burroughs Medal Award. You can read from her new book, The Fragile Edge, and other writings, here.

Sea Level Rise Twice As High as Current Projections

| Tue Feb. 12, 2008 9:25 PM EST

New research on Greenland glaciers suggests that sea level rise will be twice as high the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimate of 18 to 58 cm (0.6 to 1.9 ft) by 2100. The study, published in the Journal of Glaciology (pdf), combines important data long missing from the ice sheet models. Researchers from the University at Buffalo, Ohio State University, the University of Kansas, and NASA, combined field mapping, remote sensing, satellite imaging, and digital enhancement techniques to glean "hidden" data from historic aerial photographs, some 60 years old.

The resulting two-dimensional pictures are of limited value. But the researchers digitized them, removed the boundaries between them, and turned several pictures into a single 'mosaic' producing one data set viewable in three-dimensions. "By reprocessing old data contained in these old photographs and records, we have been able to construct a long-term record of the behavior of the [Jakobshavn Isbrae] glacier," says lead author, Beata Csatho. "This was the first time that the data from the '40s could be reused in a coherent way."

080211172517.jpg

You can see in this 1946 image how the 4-mile-wide Jakobshavn Isbrae glacier is flowing from the ice through Greenland's rocky coast. Image courtesy of University at Buffalo.

Other glacier views and data here and here.

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent and 2008 winner of the John Burroughs Medal Award. You can read from her new book, The Fragile Edge, and other writings, here.

Six Words, Six Months to Come up with Them

| Tue Feb. 12, 2008 8:55 PM EST

How lovely. Six word memoirs.

I know. Me, too.

Had to be a crappy ad gimmick or college drinking game, but it's not. It's addictive and sadly beautiful when not slyly sexy or funny or enigmatic. The good kind of enigmatic, not the annoying kind usually meant just to show off.

From SMITH magazine, bathroom reading that may spoil us all for the dreck we usually settle for in...you know...there. No one can resist the challenge. Check this and this and this and this....

I'll never sleep again until I pull this off. And realize I'm depressed by the truth I've managed to tell on myself. Here's a taste (from Ron Rosenbaum's site, above):

Debra Does Don: Update (to update)

| Tue Feb. 12, 2008 8:36 PM EST

I'll be doing Don Imus tomorrow (Wednesday Feb 13), 830ish. Here's a good recap on the whole Imus comeback thing. Presumably, this link will work 6-10 am (EST), when's he live.

Update: moved to Friday, same bat time, same bat channel.
Updat-ier: moved to Wed, Feb 20. (Don is sick)