2007 - %3, August

Breaking: Tony Snow Resigning

| Fri Aug. 17, 2007 4:55 PM PDT

After less than a year and a half as the White House spokesman, Tony Snow plans on leaving the gig. So says CNN. Props to them for throwing in this bit:

Snow told conservative talk-show host Hugh Hewitt on Thursday that "financial reasons" may prevent him for serving the remainder of his boss's presidency.
"I'm not going to be able to go the distance, but that's primarily for financial reasons." Snow said. "I've told people when my money runs out, then I've got to go."
According to The Washington Post, Snow makes $168,000 as the White House spokesman.

Maybe this is all an elaborate ruse to get a raise...

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Arctic Sea Ice Shrinks To Record Low (Again)

| Fri Aug. 17, 2007 4:54 PM PDT

The National Snow and Ice Data Center reports that Arctic sea ice broke an ominous record yesterday, with the least Arctic sea ice ever measured by satellite. The previous record low was set in September 2005 (see MoJo's Has The Age Of Chaos Begun?). Yesterday's record, August 16th, 2007, falls a full month shy of the typical summer low — which means there's a lot more melting yet to come. Sea ice extent is currently tracking at 2.02 million square miles, just below the 2005 record absolute minimum of 2.05 million square miles.

The Cryosphere Today scooped the news by a week, reporting on August 9th a new Arctic minimum sea ice.

A week before that, I heard it from Dave Carlson, an oceanographer at Oregon State University and current Director of the International Polar Year, during a talk he gave at Science Foo — a kind of science summit put together by O'Reilly Publishing and Nature Publishing, and hosted by Google at the Googleplex. Carlson reported then that NASA already saw the new record in their scopes.

The Sci Foo (FOO = friends of O'Reilly) meeting, by the way, proved exciting, exhilarating, inspiring, and terrifying, in no particular order. The good stuff came from the meeting of so many amazing minds, complete with their own onboard databases of experience and knowledge. The terrifying stuff came from listening to these physicists, mathematicians, bioengineers, biochemists, doctors, and about every other science and technology job known to humans, discuss the Really Big Problems of the day — everything from climate change to bioweapons. Everyone was probing science's responsibility and knowledge, and tossing around solutions. I'll be blogging more about this summit in coming posts.

In regards to the Arctic melting trend, it's likely to continue and even accelerate. You can read the how's and why's in my 2006 MoJo article, The Fate of the Ocean. It all has to do with albedo, water temps, positive feedback loops, and the like. JULIA WHITTY

Chart Beat: New Albums

| Fri Aug. 17, 2007 2:50 PM PDT

UGK

  • UGK land at #1 on the Billboard album chart with their well-reviewed self-titled album on Jive, selling 160,000 copies on the strength of the Andre-3000-featuring (and Willie Hutch-sampling) "International Player's Anthem."
  • Teen pop sensation Jonas Brothers land at #5 with their second release, the first album to be issued in the "CDVU+" format, using 100% recycled paper for packaging and featuring a bunch of digital extras.
  • Austin's Okkervil River had a surprisingly high debut for their album The Stage Names, landing at #62 after selling around 10,000 copies.
  • The Flight of the Conchords EP, featuring music from the show, sold 6,000 copies, good for #126 on Nielsen's Soundscan charts.
  • Over in the UK, 20-year-old newcomer Kate Nash debuted at #1 on the album charts with her debut, Made of Bricks. Is all new UK pop music in the Lily Allen-style MySpace-phenomenon mold these days? Well, thankfully, it's pretty good. Listen to some tracks here or, well, on her MySpace.
  • Jenna Tidbit

    | Fri Aug. 17, 2007 2:34 PM PDT

    From the NYT, almost too good to believe:

    Jenna Bush recently finished a book based on her experience working with Unicef, called "Ana's Story," about a teenage single mother living with H.I.V. Ms. Bush is working on a children's book with her mother about "a mischievous little boy who likes to do everything but read," according to the publisher, HarperCollins.

    Too many jokes...

    Also getting married: Andrew Sullivan.

    Clinton Leaving Obama in the Dust: New Cali Poll Results

    | Fri Aug. 17, 2007 2:01 PM PDT

    Wow, the gap is worse than Obama's people might have feared. As Ryan Lizza wrote in GQ, back in the spring:

    Obama's pollsters were finding alarming evidence that their candidate was vulnerable to the same phenomenon. When they compared the percentage of Democrats who said they strongly approved of Obama with the percentage who said they would vote for him, they found that the latter number was significantly lower than the former. Inside the campaign, aides dubbed this "the Gap." It was a sobering, hard number that quantified the difference between vague enthusiasm and actual votes. For Hillary Clinton, the gap is much smaller. The majority of voters who strongly approve of her also say they will vote for her.

    And that seems to be borne out by some shocking new poll results (California only folks) today (via the SF Chron):

    New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, bolstered by an aggressive campaign organization in California, has amassed a whopping 30-point lead over Illinois Sen. Barack Obama &mdash and enjoys more support among likely voters in the state Democratic primary than all of her Democratic presidential rivals combined, a Field Poll released today shows.
    The poll solidifies Clinton's position as the clear front-runner in the nation's most populous state &mdash and raises questions about Obama's effort in California, whose primary is Feb. 5. The Illinois senator has seen his support drop by one-third since the previous Field Poll taken in March....
    Clinton's strengths in California include a crushing 4-1 lead among Latino voters, a more than 2-1 lead among women and African American voters, and at least a 2-1 lead in every geographic region in the state, the poll showed. She is also the overwhelming favorite in all age groups and ethnic groups and at every education level.
    The robust poll findings, DiCamillo said, suggest Clinton may be putting to rest some of the commonly cited worries of Democrats regarding her campaign — that she could be too divisive and therefore less attractive to independent and swing voters.
    "I was looking for hints of vulnerability... and it's not really there in the data," DiCamillo said. "One theory was she is going to do very poorly among Republicans ... (but) you don't really see any evidence to support that."
    The poll showed that all three top Democratic candidates would defeat the four leading Republicans: former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson and Arizona Sen. John McCain.
    But Clinton appears strongest in head-to-head matchups &mdash leading all the GOP candidates by 15 to 20 percentage points.

    Did Obama peak too early? Or is it too early to tell much from poll numbers? It's an impressive ground effort in California, that much seems clear.

    More Recalls: Flaming Fords Back in the News

    | Fri Aug. 17, 2007 1:41 PM PDT

    If you own one of the 3.6 million Ford cars and trucks now being recalled due to a cruise control mechanism that can spontaneously catch fire (full list of vehicles here), don't be surprised. Media outlets have been reporting on the faulty part for years now, and Ford has been recalling vehicles that include it in fits and starts. This last batch of cars and trucks brings the total vehicles recalled because of the part to 10 million.

    Mother Jones is one of those news outlets that has reported on the issue. For more info on the recall, the faulty part, and the damage done to Ford's customers because of it, see "Flaming Fords" from our March/April 2006 issue.

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    First Listen: The New Pornographers - Challengers

    | Fri Aug. 17, 2007 1:37 PM PDT

    New New PornCanadian "supergroup" New Pornographers made two really good albums, and then made a great one, 2005's Twin Cinema, where the unique aspects of their 47 (or so) members seemed to gel magically. Cinema's power-pop was oddly familiar and comfortable, but sounded like nothing else: Fleetwood Mac? The Cars? Whatever it was, each track on that album seemed to top the previous one for sheer joyfulness, erupting into blissful codas of "hey-las" in three-part harmony. Even the contributions of the shambolic Dan Bejar (who usually annoys me) seemed charming. It was my #2 album of the year, just behind good old M.I.A.

    That's why Challengers is such a disappointment. The unified perfection of Cinema seems to have spun out and disintegrated, like a hurricane moving over cold water. Opener "My Rights Versus Yours" is nice, but it's a pale imitation of Cinema's "Bleeding Heart Show," with a groove that never seems to get off the ground. Neko Case's voice is still awe-inspiring, and on the title track, there are glimpses of her greatness, but the song's awkward phrasing seems to strangle her. Bejar gets track 4, "Myriad Harbor," and it's a terrible Pixies rip-off. Next. Relief comes on track 7, "Unguided," with bandleader A.C. Newman on vocals, but it still sounds like a Cinema track played at half-speed, and at 6:33, it's three minutes too long.

    Okay, I'm looking like a negative jerk, let's find something good to say. Track 9, "Go Places," again lead by Case, has a swaying bar-room charm reminiscent of the Pogues, and track 11, "Adventures in Solitude," starts as a lovely, quiet ballad, with a delicate refrain of "we thought we lost you," although its rocking climax never really rocks.

    A quick look around the intertubes shows there's people who think Bejar is the best part of the band, and people who think this is their best album. The NPs definitely reward multiple listenings, so perhaps further attention will uncover Challengers' appeal. But right now, I'm not feeling it.

    Challengers is out 8/21 on Matador.
    Hear mp3s at Stereogum here; I tried to check out their official website but my work internet censors are preventing me from doing so. Huh.

    Sometimes Fame Isn't Enough...

    | Fri Aug. 17, 2007 10:48 AM PDT

    Two stories of mistaken identity:


    1. Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchu mistaken for a bag lady.

  • Writer Stephen King mistaken for a vandal.
  • 'Mothballed' Russian Bombers Resume Long-Range Patrols

    | Fri Aug. 17, 2007 10:35 AM PDT

    I wrote last week of a flight of Russian long-range bombers to the Pacific island of Guam. Well, the news today is that Putin has decided to make it a regular thing. From the BBC:

    "We have decided to restore flights by Russian strategic aviation on a permanent basis," Mr Putin told reporters at joint military exercises with China and four Central Asian states in Russia's Ural mountains.
    "In 1992, Russia unilaterally ended flights by its strategic aircraft to distant military patrol areas. Unfortunately, our example was not followed by everyone," Mr Putin said, in an apparent reference to the US.
    "Flights by other countries' strategic aircraft continue and this creates certain problems for ensuring the security of the Russian Federation," he said.
    In Washington, a state department spokesman, Sean McCormack, said Russia's decision was "interesting".
    "If Russia feels as though they want to take some of these old aircraft out of mothballs and get them flying again, that's their decision," he told reporters.
    One of the reasons Russia halted its flights 15 years ago was that it could no longer afford the fuel.
    Today Moscow's coffers are stuffed full of oil money, says the BBC's Rupert Wingfield-Hayes in Moscow, and the Kremlin is determined to show it is still a military power to reckon with.

    Friday My Day for Music News

    | Fri Aug. 17, 2007 10:04 AM PDT

    Beck at Carnival

  • Beck set to release "surprise" single, "Timebomb," (possibly featuring Jamie Lidell, and probably not an 808 State or Rancid cover) on iTunes on Monday. (Pitchfork)
  • Nine Inch Nails' Year Zero gets a remix album and, possibly, a movie or TV show. (Stereogum)
  • Amy Winehouse cancels August shows, for "health reasons." (Yahoo! Music)
  • New PJ Harvey album White Chalk gets US release date: September 25th. (CMJ)