Blogs

Clinton to Obama: Yes We Can

| Wed Feb. 13, 2008 3:37 PM EST

Just a few hours after Obama campaign manager David Plouffe insisted that Hillary Clinton has virtually no chance to catch his man in the race for pledged delegates, the Clinton campaign held a conference call saying that they intend to be tied with Obama after the March 4 primaries in Ohio and Texas.

Clinton strategist Mark Penn pointed out that Texas' Democratic electorate, which is usually 25 percent Latino, could be as much as 40-50 percent Latino this time around. Ohio, Penn said, is suffering the economic ills that only Hillary Clinton—someone in the "solutions business, not the "promise business"—can heal. Also, in a memo sent around to reporters, Penn pointed out that 41 percent of Ohio's Democratic primary voters in 2004 were white women, a block that is larger than the ones we saw yesterday in Virginia and Maryland.

There are vulnerabilities in Penn's arguments, but also points of strength. Economically minded voters no longer seem to trend to Clinton, no matter how many solutions she has to offer. But white women remain a powerful block for her, and while Latinos in the Potomac Primary went for Obama, they were a tiny percentage of the electorate there and are likely a bad data point when predicting Texas' Latino turnout. The Latino community is Texas is more likely to resemble the one in California that voted heavily for Clinton: more first- and second-generation Latinos that are less assimilated than Mid-Atlantic Latinos and closer to the Latino political machines that are loyal to Clinton.

Team Clinton made sure to point out that they are not focusing solely on Ohio and Texas, however. They mentioned an ad buy in Wisconsin—get ready for the WI/HI primary next Tuesday!—and have apparently set up offices and hired staff in every primary state left on the calendar, plus Puerto Rico. They are ready for a long race, that, in Communications Director Howard Wolfson's words, will ultimately hinge on superdelegates.

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Putin to Ukraine: We'll Sell You Natural Gas, But Might Nuke You, Too

| Wed Feb. 13, 2008 3:01 PM EST

shirtlessputin.jpg

Break out your Scorpions records and your parachute pants, for the neo-Cold War is here. Just as your high school's star quarterback now daydreams about past glories while stocking the cereal aisle in your local supermarket, Russia's Vladimir Putin has never quite been able to let go of his KGB past. Like any member of the old Soviet elite, he's gripped the reigns of power with an iron fist and has demonstrated his nostalgia for the once-powerful Motherland by emulating its approach to politics—the political assassinations, the press intimidation, and the corrupt, old-boy political style. Now add military gamesmanship, nuclear sabre-rattling, and economic extortion to the list.

At a Kremlin press conference yesterday, Putin and Viktor Yushchenko, his Ukrainian counterpart (disfigured after being poisoned, allegedly by Russian agents, in the run-up to the Orange Revolution) unveiled a last-minute compromise that would allow Russian natural gas shipments to Ukraine to continue. Russia's state-owned gas monoply Gazprom had threatened to reduce supply by 25 percent until Ukraine agreed to pay down what the company said was a $1.5 billion debt. It was not the first time Putin had used the bitter chill of winter to wage what could literally be called a "cold war"—Russia suspended wintertime natural gas deliveries to Ukraine two years ago, only a month after Yushchenko's Western-leaning regime took power after a disputed election. This winter's threatened reduction in supply had stoked fears of a shortage and price increases in Western Europe, where 80 percent of all natural gas imports, while en route from the Russian Arctic to lucrative Western markets, must first pass through Ukraine. The compromise, reached only minutes before a Russian-imposed deadline on talks, pacified Ukraine by eliminating the participation a Swiss middleman company from natural gas deals in exchange for Russia taking a 50 percent share in the Ukrainian natural gas market. Score one for Putin.

Text Your Way to Sustainable Seafood

| Wed Feb. 13, 2008 2:52 PM EST

img_posters_114-Sustainable-Fish.jpg These days it's tricky enough navigating the terrain of seafood for health concerns, much less moral ones. Plenty of organizations have compiled comprehensive lists of good and not-so-good fish to eat, depending on whether the fish are imperiled, how they're caught, their overall health, and other factors.

But let's say you're out at a restaurant and there's fish on the menu (for example, the buttermilk fried calamari that was on the menu when I was dining out last weekend) but you forgot your geeky pocket-sized sustainable fish reference guide. Feel caught in a moral quagmire? Simply get out your cell phone and text "fish" and the name of the fish to 30644. You'll get a text informing you about the fish's sustainability.

I tried the service and within seconds got a text back telling me:

squid; (GREEN) few environmental concerns; squid grow quickly making them resistant to fishing pressure

So I forged ahead, and the squid didn't disappoint.

If your choice isn't "green," the text will provide you with alternatives. This nifty service is offered by the Blue Ocean Institute.

—Joyce Tang

Obama to Clinton: You Can't Catch Me

| Wed Feb. 13, 2008 1:10 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.

Barack Obama's Messiah Complex

| Wed Feb. 13, 2008 12:10 PM 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 11:38 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."

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Scores of Journalists Killed in Action

| Wed Feb. 13, 2008 9:31 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 1:49 AM EST

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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 10:57 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."

All About Light

| Tue Feb. 12, 2008 10:47 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.