Winter in the Arctic is yielding to spring as much as a month earlier than ten years ago. On average, spring is arriving two weeks earlier, as reported in Current Biology. Using the most comprehensive data set available for the region, the researchers documented extremely rapid climate-induced advancement of flowering in plants, and emergence and egg-laying in a wide array of High Arctic animal species. The finding in the Arctic offers an "early warning" of things to come on the rest of the planet.--JULIA WHITTY
Okay, I was all set to rip Hillary Clinton's choice of campaign song, but I can't anymore. She's really impressed me.
You probably know the story: supporters were allowed to suggest songs on the Clinton website and Clinton's top folks picked the one they liked best. Just today, they chose "You and I" by Celine Dion, which is great if you like shrieking Canadians and awful if you have taste. (You can hear the song at Clinton's campaign site.)
But boy, have they headed off criticism big time. The video introducing the pick is genius. Pure genius. I've watched it twice and smiled more the second time. It even has Bill Clinton saying, "My money's on Smashmouth!" Check it out here.
Note: After you've watched the video, come back and watch this one -- tell us which is better.
Presidential candidate and hilariousad-man Bill Richardson has frequently criticized Democratic frontrunners Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama for being willing to leave a "residual" force in Iraq after the main pullout of American troops is over. Richardson says he would never support such a thing. "No airbases, no troops in the Green Zone, no embedded soldiers training Iraqi forces -- because we all know what that means -- it means our troops will still be out on patrol, with targets on their back."
But here's where it get interesting -- Richardson would leave some troops behind: "An all-Muslim peacekeeping force." I've never heard that before, but it could be interesting. I wonder if the Muslim peacekeepers would come from the region or from America. I also wonder if this idea has been seriously debated and fleshed out in think tanks and other places, or if Richardson is just pulling it out of thin air to gain a bit of publicity. Either way, interesting brain candy.
Update: An all-Muslim peacekeeping force has been considered before. Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf proposed it in May. Minus points for cribbing from a dictator, plus points for being open to ideas from around the world.
Remember this video of Mike Gravel staring into your soul and then throwing a rock in a lake? It had a companion that consisted of (1) Gravel gathering twigs, and (2) a fire made of those twigs burning for seven minutes.
Weird and inexplicable, right? That's what I thought too until I found on MSNBC, via Wonkette, Gravel explaining the videos in brazenly cantankerous fashion.
"What people like you don't understand which I think is hilarious is this is a metaphor," Gravel said Monday, lecturing guest host David Shuster during an appearance on MSNBC's "Tucker."
You didn't understand two videos that looked like they were made by two dudes who got hopped up on acid, read a bunch of Foucault, and decided to make a crazy dreamscape campaign video? Listen closely to Mike Gravel: this means you're dumb.
Anyway, here's the explanations for the spots. Of the rock one, Gravel says, "The point of the spot is not the rock but the ripples it leaves in the water." Gravel is making waves. That doesn't explain the several minutes of staring directly into the camera, but whatevs.
Of the fire spot, the candidate says, "Branches are what people acquire in the way of wisdom... And then he reaches down and acquires a little more experience, a little more wisdom. Reaches down, picks up a little more wisdom. And then goes out and starts a fire."
"What does a fire represent?" Gravel asked rhetorically. "Fire represents light, heat, warmth. It's the sustenance of life."
Makes sense, I guess. Except for the part about "branches are what people acquire in the way of wisdom." I always thought those were "degrees."
So, anyway, yeah -- how about Mike Gravel, everybody?
Quick follow up on the missing emails story. Here's what we know: the White House has been using nongovernmental email addresses, specifically ones administered by the RNC, in order to keep its correspondence out of the hands of investigators and historians. Congress caught wind of these nongovernmental email addresses through an entirely separate investigation, looked into the issue, and found that many of the emails sent through the RNC had been deleted.
Now we find that many, many more have been deleted than previously thought. The White House originally said that about 50 White House officials had RNC email accounts. But Henry Waxman and his supersleuth committee have found that there were at least 88 officials with secondary email addresses, and that emails for 51 of them have been completely lost.
While this shakes ones trust in our government -- what do they have to hide? -- the good news is that this is a potential violation of the Presidential Records Act, and officials scared of being indicted may take immunity in exchange for ratting out their superiors. Eighty-eight officials with nongovernmental emails is a coordinated, deliberate attempt to drive a stake through the heart of open government, and it must have been directed at the highest levels. Further investigation of Rove, anyone?
One of the problems that hampered reconstruction in Iraq was that the Bush Administration hired young loyalists with no foreign policy experience to do extremely important and difficult jobs. In his book Imperial Life in the Emerald City, Rajiv Chandrasekaran noted that potential employees seeking a position in Iraq were asked explicitly if they voted for George Bush in 2000, and some were even asked for their views on Roe v. Wade. Unsurprisingly, the people hired tried to implement tenets of conservative ideology instead of taking necessary and pragmatic steps.
So why stop now? The new U.S. ambassador to Iraq just complained to Condoleezza Rice in an unclassified memo that employees at the massive U.S. embassy in Baghdad are either too young for the job, are unqualified, and/or are "trying to save their careers" by taking an urgent assignment in Iraq.
"Simply put," wrote the ambassador, Ryan Crocker, "we cannot do the nation's most important work if we do not have the Department's best people." Sorry, Mr. Crocker. If this administration's track record is any indication, you'll be getting Bush-Cheney '04 opposition researchers and Heritage Foundation junior staffers. Good luck trying to protect America's interests in a failed state of our own making -- especially with those folks on your team.
The embassy in Baghdad is America's largest embassy in the world, with a 2007 budget of more than $1 billion and a staff that includes more than 1,000 Americans and 4,000 third-country nationals. It is due for a $1.3 billion remodeling, which would renovate the 100+ acre compound and add a new pool, tennis courts, basketball courts, and the like. Whoops, forget I mentioned that.
Ah, time off, when you can do things you don't usually do, like rent a car and head for the desert and eat fast food and not think about stuff. I'd say the Top Ten this week is influenced by what sounded good on the stereo while driving through the immense, desolate landscape around Joshua Tree, but, turns out this atmospheric electronica and groovy hip-hop really isn't that different from what I usually listen to in my little apartment. Go figure.
10. Stateless "Inscape" (from the self-titled album out tomorrow on K7)
(MySpace, mp3 via Get Weird Turn Pro)
"How did it get so cold out here?" asks vocalist Chris James in this downtempo number from the UK combo's debut album. Well, here's an idea: maybe DJ Shadow-style beats and Portisthead atmosphere isn't exactly a recipe for turning up the heat, Stateless. Jeez.
9. Blue Scholars "North by Northwest" (from the new album Bayani on Rawkus)
The Seattle hip-hop duo gives their rainy region some love on this track from their just-released sophomore album. Politically aware hip-hop is kind of uncool right now, and nobody wants to be preached at, for sure. But it's the jazzy, surprising backing beats, reminiscent of Dilated Peoples or A Tribe Called Quest, that keeps the project on track.
8. Maps "Back + Forth" (from the new album We Can Create on Mute)
(MySpace, iTunes, YouTube video of live performance) Much has been made about how UK producer James Chapman created this electronica-inflected album in his bedroom without the use of computers, laying down everything to good old 12-track tape. I'm not sure if I can tell how this affects the music, but whatever floats your boat, Jim, especially if it helps you make ethereal pop this good. "Back + Forth" ends up sounding a bit like Leisure-era Blur, of all things.
7. People reacting to a first taste of Pepsi Ice Cucumber, now available in Japan
Just say that a few times: Pepsi. Ice. Cucumber. Pepsi. Ice. Cucumber.
6. Bitman & Roban "Answer 2 the Beat" (from The Chicas Project on Nacional)
This various-artists CD (accompanying the reality TV show) provides an quick fix of contemporary Latin music, most of it united by a mellow, summery vibe. Of course, I gravitate towards the strangest track: a Groove Armada-style instrumental with what appears to be a Speak 'n' Spell doing some lyrical stylings.
I know: The bar is set high here. Before writing that headline, I asked myself, "Is this dumb thing so dumb that to call the administration a bunch of crackheads for saying it would be an insult to crackheads everywhere?" And I concluded, yes, it is that dumb.
This weekend, U.S. forces killed 7 children in Afghanistan and 100 died there in clashes between NATO and the resurgent Taliban. A new jihadist group continued fighting the Lebanese military from a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon. The more radical faction of the Palestinian government overthrew the more moderate Fatah in a five-day civil war in Gaza. The Iranian governmentwhich by the way, is holding four American citizens with no chargesis engaged in a massive crackdown on civil liberties.
This morning, when asked if he thought the U.S. invasion of Iraq has helped stabilize the Middle East, White House spokesman Tony Snow said, "Hard to say....But it is pretty clear that a lot of people are putting their lives on the line for the cause of democracy in Iraq, Lebanon, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. And we support them."
Saner heads would have said something like this: "The Middle East is in flames....Everywhere you look, there's deep trouble Iraq, Lebanon, the Palestinians, the peace process, Iran. Are they linked? Of course they're linked." Saner heads like Lee Hamilton, who authored the Iraq Study Group report. The report correctly predicted that Bush's surge was a waste of time, money, and lives.
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