WWF reports that ExxonMobil has ignored a petition from more than 50,000 people demanding they suspend activities harming the Western gray whale—one of the world’s most endangered whales (Red List: Critically Endangered, only 35 reproductive females left).

Thousands of signatures from around the world were delivered to the CEO of ExxonMobil in Texas and in Moscow just as the first whales arrived at their summer feeding grounds. Sadly, the whales' breeding grounds are ground zero for Exxon’s Sakhalin I oil and gas project.

The petition urges Exxon and other oil companies to suspend all oil and gas development near the whale’s habitat off Sakhalin Island and calls for the creation of the Sakhalin Marine Federal Wildlife Reserve. Despite requests for a response within a two week deadline—and despite ExxocnMobil's claims to "seek to eliminate incidents with environmental impact"—Exxon remains silent.

Longest Odyssey

The Wildlife Conservation Society announced their researchers spotted a Bar-tailed Godwit in Alaska banded in Australia 8,000 miles away. We've known for a while these small birds make epic migrations (I wrote about godwits and what they have to teach us in Diet for a Warm Planet).

But it's still really rare to find a bird tagged on one end of its migration at the other end. They're usually spotted back where they were banded. The WCS researchers also found two other long-distance flyers, a Banded Dunlin and a Semipalmated Sandpiper, marked and released three years ago as part of a study testing whether birds overwintering in Asia carry H5N1 Avian Influenza to North America. The answer so far: No.

The BBC reports how whole "chunks of life" are lost in extinction events when related species vanish together. That's based on a new paper in Science analyzing the extinction rates of fossil marine bivalves (clams, oysters, mussels) from the past 200 million years.

Turns out that extinctions tend to cluster along evolutionary lineages, wiping out species with a common ancestor and eliminating entire branches of the evolutionary tree. One researcher called it a casino of extinctions with the odds rigged against certain groups. The same is happening to modern species. For instance, the same drivers—climatic change and habitat loss—are now threatening whole groups of seabirds. This new understanding could enable more effective conservation efforts faster.

Breaking Friday Evening: ABC News's Martha Raddatz is reporting that Mother Jones contributor Shane Bauer, his girlfriend Sarah Shourd, and friend Josh Fattal—who apparently strayed into Iran while hiking in the Kurdistan region of Iraq—are being moved to Tehran. ABC characterizes this as a sign that the negotiations over the fate of the three Americans will drag on.

Yesterday, Mother Jones printed the account of a fourth American hiker, Shon Meckfessel, about how Shane and his friends came to be detained. " I hope that people understand my friends’ presence in the area for what it was: a simple and very regrettable mistake," he concludes.

Shane has a piece in the upcoming issue of Mother Jones on corruption among Iraqi contractors. In accordance with the wishes of the families of all three missing Americans, we plan to post the piece early next week.

Update: On Saturday, PressTV, an English-language news agency funded by the Iranian government, reported that the a commission of the Majlis (Parliament) will meet to discuss the fate of the three Americans tomorrow. Since the US has no formal diplomatic relations with Iran, the Swiss are acting as an intermediary. Things got odder on Saturday when Iraq (an age-old enemy of Iran) also pressed Tehran officials for details surrounding the hikers' arrest.

Clara Jeffery is Co-Editor of Mother Jones. You can follow her on Twitter here.

This was a fun week to review. Topics covered: When will the Birther insanity end? Where will Bill Clinton go next? Who will win the battle for August's health care reform town halls? And what's with Rush Limbaugh calling you the Joker, David? Plus: Kevin's take on liberal vs. conservative derangement. Listen to the podcast here.

 

Laura McClure hosts podcasts, writes the MoJo Mix, and is the new media editor at Mother Jones. Read her investigative feature on lifehacking gurus in the latest issue of Mother Jones.

Hey it's Laura, dropping off the latest Kevin and David Week in Review podcast. This week: When will the Birther insanity end? Where will Bill Clinton go next? Who will win the battle for August's health care reform town halls? Plus: Rush Limbaugh and Kevin's take on liberal vs. conservative derangement. Listen to the podcast here.
 
Laura McClure hosts podcasts, writes the MoJo Mix, and is the new media editor at Mother Jones. Read her investigative feature on lifehacking gurus in the latest issue of Mother Jones.

We'll keep it short and sweet:

  • In Costa Rica, a new species of frog was discovered. And their colors are extraordinary.
  • In Surrey, England, theives stole a painting of a frog sitting on a toilet from a gallery.

Clearly it's been a slow news week, which just may be a good thing. Oh, and we cleaned our frog/fish/snail tank out for the first time in a month. Everyone is alive and well. Cheers!

After a yearlong investigation, the Senate Ethics Committee has dismissed complaints against Senators Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) for their participation in Countrywide's "Friends of Angelo" VIP loan program. (I can't say this is unexpected, since the House and Senate members who sit on the congressional ethics committees aren't exactly known for taking fellow lawmakers to task.) Informing Dodd and Conrad they'd been cleared of wrongdoing, the committee gave the Democratic senators the mildest of rebukes:

While the Committee finds no substantial credible evidence as required by Committee rules that your Countrywide mortgages violated Senate ethics rules, the Committee does believe that you should have exercised more vigilance in your dealings with Countrywide in order to avoid the appearance that you were receiving preferential treatment based on your status as a Senator.

The ethics committee also told the lawmakers that participating in "a program with the name 'VIP' should have raised red flags for you"—a major understatement if you ask me.

On the left, Inkblot is pretending to be in kitty jail.  Pretty nicely decorated jail, though.  On the right, Domino is Queen of the Printer.

My new food rationing plan is working well, by the way.  It's way too early to know if anyone has lost any weight, of course, but my interim Metric for Success™ is that no one starts yowling in the middle of the night because they're hungry and want me to come downstairs and feed them.  I never do, but in the past that hasn't stopped the yowling if they're feeling mistreated.  So far, though, half a cup of dry food before bedtime is enough to last them through the night until I wake up naturally.  Peace reigns throughout the house.

Superstar police chief Bill Bratton has announced he'll be leaving the LAPD at the end of October.  Mark Kleiman would like to see him move up in the world:

As for Bratton's own future, here's hoping that his move to Altegrity is a just a quick cash-in on his way back to public service. The FBI would be a stretch: agents aren't really cops, counter-terrorism isn't policing, and any fight to change Hooverville would run into serious resistance from the Ba'athist dead-enders at on the north side of Pennsylvania Avenue. So I wouldn't put the same sort of odds-on bet on Bratton's success at the Bureau that I would if he took over another police department. Still, given the stakes, it's a gamble I'd like to see happen.

Well, Mueller's term is up in 2011, so that would give Bratton a couple of years to earn some private sector dough before returning to the trenches.  He'd certainly be an interesting choice.