2007 - %3, February

Oceans Will Keep Rising For 1,000 Years (And That's the Good Scenario)

| Fri Feb. 2, 2007 12:02 AM EST

"250+ scientific experts; 800+ contributing authors; 450+ lead authors; 130 countries; 6 years; 4 volumes; 1 report."

That's how the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is pimping the release of "Climate Change 2007," the fourth assessment report from the most authoritative climate change group. All this week, 500 scientists have been working in Paris, making the final edits to the report being released today. You can click here to find the report itself, but it seems that most of the key findings have leaked out.

Highlights, if they can be called that, include the finding that an increase in hurricane and tropical cyclone strength since 1970 "more likely than not" can be attributed to man-made global warming. The panel's last report, in 2001, said that there was not enough evidence then to support that claim.

According to Reuters, "It is very likely that (human) greenhouse gases caused most of the observed increase in globally averaged temperatures since the mid-20th century," according to a final draft. "Very likely" means a probability of at least 90 percent -- up from a judgment of "likely", or a 66 percent probability, in the previous 2001 report. The Paris study, looking at the science of global warming, will also project a "best estimate" that temperatures will rise by 3 Celsius (5.4 Fahrenheit) by 2100 over pre-industrial levels, the biggest change in a century for thousands of years."

And the millenium of seas rising? That's assuming we can stabilize greenhouse gas emissions this century, which based on the level of obfuscation and inactivity of the world's leading greenhouse gas belcher, is no sure thing.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Abused Women Have Higher Health Care Costs and More Health Care Visits

| Thu Feb. 1, 2007 8:05 PM EST

A new study shows that women who experience spouse or partner abuse have much higher health care costs and utilize more health care services than women who have no history of such violence. Years after abuse stops, these women continue to use the health care system more and to incur higher costs.

The abuse discussed in the study includes not only overt physical abuse, but also threats, controlling behavior and verbal abuse. Of the 3,333 women, aged 18 to 64, those who had been abused had 19% higher annual health care costs than other women. This group also had17% more primary health care visits, 14% more specialist visits, and 27% more prescription refills.

Who Can Be "One Less"?

| Thu Feb. 1, 2007 5:04 PM EST

It's a little shocking to see television ads for the new vaccine against the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus. References to human sexuality have been frowned upon for so long that seeing young, healthy, all-American girls promoting a vaccine against an STD is a bit of a shocker. In a good way.

The ads follow Merck's recent release of a vaccine against HPV. The virus is easy to catch, even with condom use, and is a major risk factor for cervical cancer. But the ads don't mention that the vaccine costs $360, and that low-income women face the greatest threat of cervical cancer because they don't get regular Pap smears. (Cervical cancer is very treatable if caught early.)

As states debate making vaccination against HPV mandatory for public school students, former Mother Joneser Ann Friedman, now at the American Prospect, makes the point that funding should accompany any vaccine requirements.

Valdez Spill, Undiminished, Turns Exxon a Profit

| Thu Feb. 1, 2007 4:03 PM EST


Exxon reports that it earned $39.5 billion in 2006, giving the company the most profitable year ever for a US corporation. This mammoth figure has overshadowed other Exxon related news released today. A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration study has found that lingering crude oil from the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989 has barely budged. NOAA research chemist Jeffrey Short explained, "We expected the natural decay rate was 25% a year. But very little of the oil actually disappeared. What's left is going to be there a long time." Researchers now estimate that the oil is weathering at a rate of only 3% to 4% a year.

Continuing its campaign of disinformation about all things environmental, Exxon spokesman Mark Boudreaux refuted the findings' importance in an e-mail to USA Today: "There have been nearly 350 conference presentations or publications in peer-reviewed journals. Based on that body of scientific evidence, it is clear that there have been no effects on the environment that remain ecologically significant."

How has Exxon remained so profitable, especially when it was responsible for the nation's largest oil spill? It doesn't hurt that the company managed to turn clean-up costs and legal fines it accrued in the aftermath of the disaster into tax write-offs. Additionally, by stretching its payments on a punitive damages settlement over 10 years, Exxon was able to collect millions in interest on money it had yet to pay.

--Celia Perry

Biden's Evolving Obama Explanation

| Thu Feb. 1, 2007 3:47 PM EST

Below, Jonathan has a good summary of the Biden flap from yesterday. (And he's probably buying up Biden '08 t-shirts on eBay to resell to ironic hipsters at this very moment.) Granted, Joe Biden inserting foot in mouth is hardly news but what struck me as fishy was his evolving explanation of what he meant. On CNN yesterday afternoon he said that his mother had a saying, "clean as a whistle, sharp as a tack," and that using that context, he meant that Obama was astute. But last night on The Daily Show, he said that he meant to say "fresh" (as in fresh ideas) rather than "clean." So which is it, fresh or sharp? If calling Obama "clean" was not a slur, wouldn't his explanation have remained constant? No doubt he had the benefit of several advisers in the meantime, but the changing story seems to signal that Biden is rightly ashamed of his original impulse and is casting around for a better explanation.

Valdez Spill, Undiminished, Turns Exxon a Profit

| Thu Feb. 1, 2007 3:36 PM EST

Exxon reports that it earned $39.5 billion in 2006, giving the company the most profitable year ever for a US corporation. This mammoth figure has overshadowed other Exxon related news released today. A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration study has found that lingering crude oil from the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989 has barely budged. NOAA research chemist Jeffrey Short explained, "We expected the natural decay rate was 25% a year. But very little of the oil actually disappeared. What's left is going to be there a long time." Researchers now estimate that the oil is weathering at a rate of only 3% to 4% a year.

Continuing its campaign of disinformation about all things environmental, Exxon spokesman Mark Boudreaux refuted the findings' importance in an e-mail to USA Today: "There have been nearly 350 conference presentations or publications in peer-reviewed journals. Based on that body of scientific evidence, it is clear that there have been no effects on the environment that remain ecologically significant."

How has Exxon remained so profitable, especially when it was responsible for the nation's largest oil spill? It doesn't hurt that the company managed to turn clean-up costs and legal fines it accrued in the aftermath of the disaster into tax write-offs. Additionally, by stretching its payments on a punitive damages settlement over 10 years, Exxon was able to collect millions in interest on money it had yet to pay.

--Celia Perry

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Only in California

| Thu Feb. 1, 2007 1:10 PM EST

One night between December 28 and January 4, while the owners of a tony home in Atherton, California, were vacationing, burglars struck. These were no ordinary burglars. They managed to get through a code-entry gate. Once inside the house, they passed by numerous electronic gadgets and headed for the cellar. The wine cellar. There, they pooh-poohed lesser vintages and went straight for the good stuff, including a 1959 magnum of Bordeaux worth $11,000. All told, they made off with $100,000 worth of wine, at an average of $3,000 a bottle. Wine theft is on the rise, because prices at auction have been mounting of late. And there's no way to track hot wine—by which I mean metaphorically hot, bien sûr. Sounds like the perfect crime, if the thieves can keep out of the booty.

General Casey Under Fire

| Thu Feb. 1, 2007 11:44 AM EST

General George W. Casey Jr., former Iraq commander and the man Bush has nominated to be chief of staff of the Army, was raked over the coals at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing this morning by Republican senator and presidential contender John McCain. "We have paid a very, very heavy price in American blood and treasure," McCain told Casey, because of his bad "judgment."

The hearing by Democratic Senator Carl Levin's Armed Services Committee is part of a sprawling debate all across official Washington -- within the Pentagon and in both houses of Congress as well -- over the President's decision to send more troops to Iraq. Elsewhere in the Senate, Senator Joe Biden's Foreign Relations Committee was questioning former national security advisor Lt. General Brent Scowcroft about his ideas on Iraq. (Scowcroft advised the administration's of both Gerald Ford and Bush senior and was a critic of our Iraq policy before the war began.) Meanwhile, Democrats are determined to pass a non-binding resolution against boosting troop levels. Republicans who have broken with Bush, led by former armed services committee chair John Warner of Virginia, will be instrumental in pushing through a bipartisan measure, one that protests additional forces but reasserts overall support for the troops serving in Iraq.

This afternoon the Senate will also hold a confirmation hearing on the nomination of retired Vice Adm. Mike McConnell to be Director of National Intelligence. McConnell has become controversial because of possible conflicts of interest stemming from his former employment at the consulting firm Booz, Allen, Hamilton and for other possible ties to the defense sector. He is known to be a hardliner on Iran and is likely to support Dick Cheney's views on the war.

Although other military commanders and the President have conceded the Iraq policy hasn't worked, Casey insisted today, "I do not believe the policy has failed." He said he wants two more brigades in Iraq to help secure Baghdad. General David Petraeus, the new commander, has asked for 5 brigades. McCain, for his part, thinks 5 brigades are not enough.

In questioning Casey, McCain quoted Casey's own statement in 2004 saying "we are broadly on track" to accomplishing objectives with Iraqi security forces "to get there by December 2005." After a moment of silence, Casey said, "that obviously has not panned out." Casey has said he doesn't subscribe to the idea Iraq has descended into civil war. Nevertheless, he agrees the situation in Baghdad is "bad."

Al Gore Nominated for Nobel Peace Prize

| Thu Feb. 1, 2007 11:12 AM EST

Al Gore has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by two Norwegian members of parliament (socialists, by the way) who feel that global climate change is the newest and possibly biggest threat to the earth's welfare. Getting nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize is notoriously easy (Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, and uh, George W. Bush have all been nominated), but still, pretty neat.

Bush Says, "There's Some Racial Insensitivity Going Around? Count Me In!"

| Thu Feb. 1, 2007 10:21 AM EST

I love this. President Bush spoke about the Biden/Obama dust-up on Fox News and, well, I'll let the Chicago Tribune explain (via ThinkProgress):

Well-spoken black people hate it when white people call them "articulate." It's the modern-day version of what white people used to say back in the day when they thought that by saying "He's a credit to his race" they were saying something that a black person would welcome hearing.
Those dated words, like Biden's comments, were patronizing at the very least. And they also appeared to carry some pretty negative assumptions about the majority of the race.

Many Americans know this because (1) they aren't stupid, and (2) they've seen the famous stand up routine by Chris Rock where Rock says that anytime white people see an intelligent black person they always say, "He's so well-spoken! He speaks so well!" which is the most patronizing compliment perhaps of all time. Rock used the example of Colin Powell, but this occurs with athletes all the time. Anytime a black athlete gives a post-game interview without saying "um" fifteen times, moms across America say, "Well, he seemed like a nice young man. Very well-spoken."

Anyway, here's the point. Bush on Obama yesterday: "He's an attractive guy. He's articulate. I've been impressed with him when I've seen him in person."

You know, George, usually when a man of any color earns his way into multiple Ivy League schools and gets elected to the Senate, he's able to speak without sounding like a dummy. But I suppose you wouldn't know about any part of that.