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People Are Crazy, Halloween-Edition

| Fri Oct. 26, 2007 11:28 AM EDT

Fun facts for your Friday:

- 23 percent of Americans believe they have seen a ghost. 34 percent believe they exist.

- 48 percent believe in ESP, or Extra-Sensory Perception.

- 14 percent believe they have seen a UFO.

- 5 percent say they have literally seen a monster in their closet.

Update: To steal (and paraphrase) a line from Dana Milbank, this means as many people believe in ghosts as believe in George W. Bush's leadership.

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Greenhouse Gas Sensors Tap California Air

| Thu Oct. 25, 2007 8:27 PM EDT

315428461_54649b3aa7_m.jpg Sutro Tower in San Francisco now hosts the first of California's regional greenhouse-gas detectors. Nature reports that another sensor is in place atop Richland Tower near Sacramento, part of the California Greenhouse Gas Emissions Project, a collaboration between state and federal agencies and universities. The sensors are the first of 10 that will take measurements twice daily. The project, born at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, hopes to establish whether California is reaching its goal of reducing atmospheric greenhouse gases—at present, running about 550 million tons a year—by cutting state emissions. The data will also be used to improve estimates of GHG emissions at the national scale in support of the North American Carbon Program.

The gears are grinding. Slowly. Let's hope momentum develops faster than disaster.

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent. You can read from her new book, The Fragile Edge, and other writings, here.

French Clay Kills Superbugs

| Thu Oct. 25, 2007 7:23 PM EDT

This is how they did it in the olden days. Slap on the clay. Watch wounds heal. Some animals still do (foxes that dig themselves into clay banks to heal wounds and/or broken limbs). Anyway, new research out of Arizona State University, reported by the Geological Society of America finds that one kind of French clay kills several kinds of disease-causing bacteria. Including Mycobacterium ulcerans, a germ related to leprosy and tuberculosis, which causes the flesh-eating disease Buruli ulcer. Currently, advanced cases of Buruli ulcer can only be cured by surgical excision or amputation. In lab tests, the French clay also killed bacteria responsible for many human illnesses, including: Staphylococcus aureus, methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA), penicillin-resistant S. aureus (PRSA), and pathogenic Escherichia coli (E. coli). In other words, the really bad stuff we've bred through egregious overuse of antibiotics.

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent. You can read from her new book, The Fragile Edge, and other writings, here.

That Was Quick: Times Tackles Rudy Story

| Thu Oct. 25, 2007 6:37 PM EDT

Yesterday I complained that the New York Times had ignored a big story: Rudy Giuliani has been assembling a nightmarish group of extremist advisers. Today the Times' Michael Cooper and Marc Santora obliged with an A-1 piece on the subject. While "Senior Freedom Adviser" Peter Berkowitz, whom I called attention to yesterday, doesn't make an appearance, the Times folks did put together a handy chart on Rudy's foreign policy team. Check it out.

—Justin Elliott

Vanity Fair's Top Movie Soundtracks of All Time Kind of Boring

| Thu Oct. 25, 2007 5:13 PM EDT

The Real Best Soundtracks

The esteemed Vanity Fair has put together a list of the 50 greatest movie soundtracks ever, set to be announced in their next issue. The top ten has been revealed early to drum up some publicity, and I'm falling right into their trap—I can't help it, I love lists! Here's what they said:

10. The Big Chill
9. American Graffiti
8. Saturday Night Fever
7. Trainspotting
6. Superfly
5. The Graduate
4. Pulp Fiction
3. The Harder They Come
2. A Hard Day's Night
1. Purple Rain


Wait, are these just the top ten selling movie soundtracks of all time? I mean, they're all fine, and achievements in one way or another, but what about great, ground-breaking soundtracks that didn't exactly go platinum? Here's a couple ideas:

Stephen Colbert's Fictional Campaign Beating Real Republicans in South Carolina

| Thu Oct. 25, 2007 3:28 PM EDT

colbert.jpg It's astounding that a TV personality pretending to be an preening, egomaniacal, over-the-top, hyper-bombastic Republican is now more popular amongst young voters than actual Republicans.

With the Republican Party in disarray and out of money, one wonders what Democrats will have to do to screw this presidential election up.

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52-Year-Old Scientific Paper Retracted Due to Enthusiam Amongst Creationists

| Thu Oct. 25, 2007 3:14 PM EDT

Delightful little story in the New York Times:

In January 1955, Homer Jacobson, a chemistry professor at Brooklyn College, published a paper called "Information, Reproduction and the Origin of Life" in American Scientist, the journal of Sigma Xi, the scientific honor society.
In it, Dr. Jacobson speculated on the chemical qualities of earth in Hadean time, billions of years ago when the planet was beginning to cool down to the point where, as Dr. Jacobson put it, "one could imagine a few hardy compounds could survive."
Nobody paid much attention to the paper at the time, he said in a telephone interview from his home in Tarrytown, N.Y. But today it is winning Dr. Jacobson acclaim that he does not want — from creationists who cite it as proof that life could not have emerged on earth without divine intervention.
So after 52 years, he has retracted it.

These folks are going to be awfully disappointed. Dr. Jacobson is quite the character. More after the jump.

New CBO Report: War Still Really Expensive

| Thu Oct. 25, 2007 2:52 PM EDT

The Congressional Budget Office released a report yesterday estimating that by 2017, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan may have cost us up to $2.4 trillion. More than a quarter of that money will go to paying interest on the money we've borrowed to finance the conflict.

The White House, predictably, dismissed the numbers as "speculative." But if you look at what we have already spent, the numbers seem right on target—maybe even low. According to the CBO'S report, the country has spent $604 billion since 2001. The total amount of money requested for 2008 alone is up to $196 billion, nearly a quarter of what's been spent over the past five years. At that rate, we'll sail past $2 trillion by 2014. And that's not counting interest.

The report contains some other interesting reminders as well. Of the $604 billion spent since 2001, only $1.6 billion has been allocated to medical care, disability compensation, and survivor benefits. Only $30 billion has gone to training Iraqi and Afghan security forces. The Army estimates that it will need $12-$13 billion a year from now until at least two years after we leave just to repair its equipment. That's a lot of money, and it seems like even more when you place it in the context of other major wars.

The result of all this vanishing cash, of course, is a severely depleted Army that continues to fight amidst ever-worsening conditions. See our current issue for thoughts on how to break this cycle.

—Casey Miner

Only Top Notch Drug Dealers Support Rudy Giuliani

| Thu Oct. 25, 2007 1:52 PM EDT

If you've seen the previews or commercials for the upcoming movie American Gangster, you are familiar with the real-life story of Frank Lucas, an African-American man who rose above the Italian mafia to create, in the words of one prosecutor, "one of the most outrageous international dope-smuggling gangs ever."

Turns out he's supporting Rudy Giuliani for president.

No kidding. In the video below, Lucas talks via speakerphone with Leroy "Nicky" Barnes, another legendary drug dealer who was considered, at one point, one of the most successful heroin dealers in the country. Barnes also likes Giuliani.

But they both echo conventional wisdom: no matter who they like, they are resigned to the fact that Hillary Clinton will be the next president. It's hard out there for a pimp.

(H/T War Room)

DREAM Act Fails

| Thu Oct. 25, 2007 12:25 PM EDT

I like Ana Marie Cox's take on the DREAM Act.

The "DREAM Act" would allow undocumented high school graduates with no criminal record who have been the country for at least five years (and who entered the country before they were 16) a form of "conditional" legal status. They then must complete two years of college or two years of service in the military. In other words, it's aimed primarily at illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. by their parents who are now on a path to, you know, make a better life for themselves. Their illegal status is something that happened to them, their academic success is something they've earned.
You'd assume conservatives would want to rewards such self-starting, entrepreneurial behavior. You'd be wrong.

If you do a Google New search for "DREAM Act," you find a bunch of web commentaries from conservatives hating on the bill. It's a back-door version of amnesty, they say.

Well, they won this fight. Yesterday, Democrats failed to garner the 60 votes they needed to move the bill forward, yet more evidence of the importance of the 2008 senate races.