2007 - %3, May

Elephant Herds Found On Isolated Sudanese Island

| Tue May 29, 2007 6:32 PM EDT

Wildlife experts have located hundreds of wild elephants on a treeless island in the swamps of south Sudan. The herds have avoided unchecked hunting in this isolated sanctuary during more than 20 years of war, reports Reuters. "We flew out of a cloud, and there they were. It was like something out of Jurassic Park," said Tom Catterson, working on a US-funded environment programme in south Sudan. Environmentalists are keeping the location of the island secret to prevent poachers from killing the animals… Life is resilient. Hopefully more than we ever get to know. --JULIA WHITTY

Advertise on MotherJones.com

The Case of the Missing Bees: It's the Flowers, Dummy

| Tue May 29, 2007 5:58 PM EDT

Today's Salon features a round-table discussion that's the real bees' knees on the disappearing bee problem. The scientists seem to agree that the precipitous drop-off in domesticated honeybee populations (no one keeps track of wild bee populations) was likely caused, at least in part, by the unavailability of nutritious pollen. (The theory that cellphones are doing it didn't get much traction.) Jeffery Pettis, who heads the research program at the USDA's honeybee lab, observes that "all pollinators -- which rely on a diversity of flowers -- are in decline." Eric Mussen, of the Honey Bee Research Facility at the University of California at Davis, explains:

Honeybees rely on pollen for protein, vitamins, fats and minerals. …If we are having a typical year, and the rains come, there aren't too many places in the United States where the bees cannot find their mix of pollens to meet their dietary needs. …What happens when…you get this blast of hot temperature [at] about the time the flower buds are forming and the pollen grains are beginning to form[?] …You get sterile pollen.

Lack of sufficient food leaves honeybees with compromised immune systems, making them vulnerable to parasites. Honeybees play a major role in the agricultural production of fruit and nuts. Mussen puts it this way:

Bees are a necessary part of our food production. If we don't grow our own cherries and apples, can't we just buy them somewhere else? The answer is yes. But do we want to become as dependent on foreign nations for our food as we are dependent on them for fuel?

The disappearing bees also point to another problem, explains Wayne Esaias, a NASA climatologist and amateur beekeeper. We don't have any idea how climate change will affect blooming trees:

[E]cologists in general have not paid attention to the timing of blooming and nectar availability and quality of pollen.… As a kind of a climatologist, I'm getting paid to study the impact of potential global warming scenarios on our ecology. There's a lot of research being done on carbon cycling, but without information about when the plants bloom and how the quality of the flora changes, we are in a poor position to assess the effect of changes in temperature and rainfall on our ecosystems.

In other words, the models, which are already predicting disaster, aren't even accurate because we have immense gaps in our knowledge of the interconnectedness of plants and animals. That spells serious trouble.

Anti-War Republican Wins "Iraq Joke of the Day" Contest

| Tue May 29, 2007 3:12 PM EDT

Our buddy Walter Jones (R-N.C.) has a suggestion for Paul Wolfowitz's next job: Mayor of Baghdad. You broke it, you buy run it, Paul.

Ron Paul is Still Throwing Elbows

| Tue May 29, 2007 12:50 PM EDT

Libertarian, internet sensation, and Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul takes on Rudy Giuliani, explains why he's the only real Republican in the race, and comments on the importance of the internet for candidates like him who "can't raise $100 million."

I think the campaign needs characters like Paul and Mike Gravel. There will be months and months of dissection of the frontrunners and eventual nominees (some might argue there already has been). If we didn't have other people to focus on in these early months, we'd all be so burned out by the primaries that we wouldn't have any energy or attention span left for the general election. Besides, Paul is a smart, likable guy who I only disagree with 60 or 70 percent of the time. Better than most in his party!

Illegal Immigration - Terrorism Nexus Debunked

| Tue May 29, 2007 10:55 AM EDT

The anti-immigration forces have long pushed the myth that cracking down on illegal immigration is necessary to stop terrorism from seeping into the United States.

They might want to tell the Department of Homeland Security about their game plan. According to a new study that analyzed millions of records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, only 0.0015 percent of cases filed in immigration courts by the Department of Homeland Security have had anything to do with terrorism. Only 0.014 percent pertained to national security.

The rest were mundane immigration cases. According to the study, 85 percent of the charges involved infractions such as not having a valid immigrant visa, overstaying a student visa, or entering the United States without an inspection.

So the Department of Homeland Security's immigration department is protecting our country from over-ambitious graduate students instead of terrorists. Unless there really aren't any terrorists trying to sneak in across the southwestern desert, in which case someone might want to fact-check Michelle Malkin.

UMass Hates Andy Card: Former White House Chief of Staff Booed at Graduation Ceremony

| Tue May 29, 2007 10:32 AM EDT

Former White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card was lustily booed as he was awarded an honorary degree during the graduate school commencement at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. We're not talking scattered boos from a radical students' group. This was a huge percentage of the commencement's attendees, including professors. Take a look.

The boo birds weren't angry with Card's pathetic involvement in the NSA wiretapping scandal that was recently revealed in former Deputy Attorney General James Comey's testimony before Congress. (Card joined Alberto Gonzales on the rush to John Ashcroft's hospital bed, where they hoped to convince a barely conscious man to authorize a constitutionally questionable domestic spying program.)

No, they were angry with Card over the big issue of the day -- the Iraq War. After all, it was Card who in August 2002 set up the White House Iraq Group, a group of foreign policy experts and political messaging gurus whose job it was to sell the Iraq War to the public. Karl Rove, Karen Hughes, and chief Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson were part of WHIG, as were Condoleezza Rice and Stephen Hadley.

Of course, every member of that group either has or will go on to earn honorary degrees and make tons of money as a lobbyist, consultant, or think tank wonk. Screwing up can be big business in Washington -- the only people who will let you know how badly you blew it, apparently, are college students.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

God Bless America And You Stay In Your Seat

| Mon May 28, 2007 10:45 AM EDT

Before September 11, 2001, the song "God Bless America" was played in Yankee Stadium only on holidays. But since mid-October of 2001, it has been played before the bottom of the seventh inning at every game. It seems like that would be punishment enough, but George Steinbrenner has taken the punishment a step further: While the song is being played, fans are not allowed to leave their seats.

"Not allowed" means that off-duty uniformed police officers, ushers, security personnel, and aisle chains are used to restrict the movement of patrons. One end of each chain is held by someone to prevent the chaining system from being a fire hazard.

A spokesman for the Yankees said that the system was put in place after hundreds of fans complained that other fans showed a lack of respect for "God Bless America" by not observing silence while it was played. The spokesman also said that no one has complained about the system. The Mets do not restrict movement during the playing of patriotic songs. However, several other teams do, but with personnel only, not chains.

The New York chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has stated that since Yankee Stadium is private property, the restriction practice is not illegal. However, if someone is arrested for disobeying the rule, the ACLU would consider stepping in.

Meltdown in the Texas House

| Sun May 27, 2007 12:50 PM EDT

"Good thing we've still got politics in Texas--finest form of free entertainment ever invented," the late Molly Ivins once wrote. Where's Molly when we need her? I smile wondering what she'd make of the latest dustup in the Texas House, where politics has never ceased to be a full-contact sport. Although the last physical scuffle in the U.S. Congress dates (I think) to 1902, when South Carolinian Senator John McLaurin punched a colleague in the jaw, the most recent one in Texas dates to Saturday, when booing and hissing Texas congressmen launched an insurrection against House Speaker Tom Craddick that ended with Craddick bolting from the chamber and Democrats, who stormed the speaker's podium, being restrained by the House sergeants-at-arms. Call in ESPN and set up the bleachers!

Craddick's iron-fisted rule over his fellow Republicans has made him increasingly unpopular among moderates in his party, who complain that his insistence on party discipline has put them at odds with the interests of their districts. As I reported in October, close followers of Texas politics have predicted that Craddick's strategy could backfire. Houston Republican Martha Wong appeared particularly vulnerable at the time, having kowtowed to Craddick on abortion and environmental issues. In November, her socially moderate constituents ousted her.

Wong's unsuccessful reelection slogan was "Be Right, Vote Wong." Add an "R" in there, and it could also be a perfect slogan for Craddick.

Top Ten Stuff 'n' Things: 5/25/07

| Fri May 25, 2007 9:35 PM EDT

While the rest of the country gets ready to kick off the summer this weekend, with barbecues or swimming or whatever you do, we in San Francisco are just battening down the hatches, as the fog rolls in and dampens our spirits that were so recently teased with a summery come-on. Appropriately enough, this week's Top Ten is a mish-mash of top-down party jams and huddled-in-a-blanket dirges, and if you can't handle the, um, mixture of heat and cold, then, uh, get out the kitchen.

mojo-photo-editors.JPG10. Editors – "The Weight of the World" (from The End Has A Start, out July 17th on Epic) (mp3 via Hayat Bayat)
The Birmingham combo's excellent, Joy Division-reminiscent "Munich" from 2005 unfortunately wasn't equaled by any track on their album, The Back Room, and I kind of wrote them off. However, a now-legendary performance at Coachella (opposite Madonna!) and some leaked tracks from their upcoming album are making me reconsider. This ballad, taking off from a "Just Like Honey"-style beat, is both quieter and more ambitious than anything they've done before

mojo-photo-simianmobile.JPG9. Simian Mobile Disco – Live DJ Set on BBC Radio 1's "Essential Mix," Sunday, May 20th, 2007 (mp3 via BBC Essential Mixes)
Okay, yes, I was in LA last weekend, and I upgraded to a rental car that had Sirius Satellite Radio, and I'm sorry, but rather than enjoy the soothing sounds of KCRW or the indie jams on, er, Indie, I stayed locked on Sirius Channel 11: BBC Radio 1, which was broadcasting live from their "Big Weekend" concert event. The broadcast was so compelling that I even listened to a whole Scissor Sisters live number ("Comfortably Numb") and I really, really hate them. But it was hearing this storming DJ set (from the duo currently vying with Justice for the title of Reigning Kings of Electro-skronk) that made the upgrade worth it

mojo-photo-common.JPG8. Common"The People" (from the apparently forthcoming album Finding Forever on Geffen)
Class-consciousness is sorely lacking in... well, jeez, in America in general, so it's nice to see prog-rapper Common taking up the cause. More importantly, he rhymes "Botswana" with "Obama." All this happens over a quirky sample, produced by Kanye West (in an apparent attempt to be reminiscent of J Dilla), with oddly cut-off vocals and infectious synth lines. He's no Dilla, but what are you gonna do

mojo-photo-spankrock.JPG7. Bjork – "Earth Intruders" (Spank Rock remix) (mp3 via Chazology)
Just as Mark Bell's clattering remix of "Hyperballad" seemed to lead the way to his production work on Bjork's next album, Homogenic, one can only hope that Spank Rock's rerub of "Earth Intruders" might lead to a new Bjork album infused with their hyper Baltimore style. Oddly, this mix turns the tempo down a notch, but still manages to feel freer and, well, more fun

mojo-photo-spoon.JPG6. Spoon – "The Ghost of You Lingers" (from Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, out July 10th on Merge)
Depire the fact that this track from the Austin indie rockers is basically just piano, voices, and and some funky reverb, it sure reminds me of ELO. Maybe it's the minor 7th chords? Either way, it's not surprising everybody's jumping over themselves to grab (and give away) the leaked mp3s from the forthcoming album

New Elephant Arrives At Tennessee Sanctuary

| Fri May 25, 2007 8:22 PM EDT

Enjoy this latest news from the excellent people at The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee. Dulary, an Asian elephant caged in a quarter-acre yard at the Philadelphia Zoo for 43 of her 43.5 years, has been given a second life on 2,700 acres in Hohenwald. She joins a small herd of other Asian elephants offered retirement from circuses, roadside zoos, and just plain abuse—many of them crippled or ill. The Sanctuary is home to a small herd of African elephants, as well. Dulary has taken to a natural elephant lifestyle like, well, an elephant.

May 5th, 2007: This was a good day for a grand adventure, and after only three full days of Sanctuary life Dulary was ready for more exploring. Her curiosity got the best of her as caregivers and dogs headed out towards the lake. Dulary dusted, grazed and played in a mud puddle as she made her way down the road that leads to the lake. She hesitated for a moment (but only a moment) as she passed through the open gate. She may have wondered why these people keep leaving all the gates open, but she did not waste any time; instead, she walked through the open gate and right up the hill. She loves the new grasses growing alongside the road and the mud was good enough to cover her body with, completely. When she reached the top of the hill the vegetation was more than she could resist, and that is where she stayed all afternoon and into the night.

Check out this video made in memory of Jenny, who arrived, crippled, at the sanctuary in 1996, whereupon her life improved exponentially--though no one could predict her incredible good fortune when Shirley arrived three years later. The two had lived in a circus together more than 20 years earlier, where they'd been as close as mother and daughter. Once reunited at the Sanctuary, they were inseparable for the next 7 years, until Jenny's death last October.

This place reconfirms my belief that elephants are simply incredible, and that people are capable of incredible good. --JULIA WHITTY