2008 - %3, April

Creationists Flunk Masters Degree

| Wed Apr. 30, 2008 9:47 PM EDT

454px-Tizian_-_The_fall_of_man.jpg Hallelujah. Rationality returns. A religious group has been rejected in its bid to offer a Master of Science degree. The Institute for Creation Research, which backs a literal interpretation of the Bible, including the creation of Earth in six days, seeks a certificate to grant online degrees in science education in Texas, reports Nature. But the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board voted unanimously last week not to pass the request, following the recommendation of Raymund Paredes, the state's commissioner of higher education. "Religious belief is not science," Paredes said… Amen.

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent, lecturer, and 2008 winner of the Kiriyama Prize and the John Burroughs Medal Award. You can read from her new book, The Fragile Edge, and other writings, here.

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Bring Back the Bison

| Wed Apr. 30, 2008 9:09 PM EDT

820471096_a762ae179c.jpg Want to see bison back in the North American landscape? It's not only possible but could be achieved in only 100 years, says a coalition of scientists, conservationists, ranchers, and Native Americans/First Nations peoples. Bison are a keystone species in this continent's natural history and could repopulate large areas from Alaska to Mexico, including grasslands, prairies, mountains, taiga and deserts. The continent-wide assessment, published in Conservation Biology, is based on a "conservation scorecard" evaluating the availability of existing habitat. The goal is ecological restoration of bison, defined as large herds of plains and wood bison moving freely across extensive landscapes within historic ranges, interacting with other native species (elk, bear, wolves, prairie dogs, birds), as well as inspiring, sustaining and connecting human cultures. It will likely take a century, says the Wildlife Conservation Society, and will only be realized through collaboration with a broad range of public, private and indigenous partners.

Bison once numbered in the tens of millions but were wiped out by commercial hunting and habitat loss. By 1889 fewer than 1,100 animals survived. Of the estimated 500,000 bison alive today, 20,000 are wild, the rest live on private ranches— awaiting liberation back into the wild.

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent, lecturer, and 2008 winner of the Kiriyama Prize and the John Burroughs Medal Award. You can read from her new book, The Fragile Edge, and other writings, here.

The Missing Pink Floyd Pig Has Landed!

| Wed Apr. 30, 2008 5:21 PM EDT

mojo-photo-e07b-pig.jpgBreaking news here on Riff and Friends, following up on a story we first reported here on Sunday night. The gigantic helium-filled inflatable pig thing that said "OBAMA" on its belly, released accidentally by Roger Waters during his performance at Coachella Sunday night, has been found! This reporter witnessed the pig rising near-vertically into the sky on Sunday night, and apparently winds didn't pick up too much in the interim, since the shredded pig parts were discovered Monday morning in La Quinta, the gated-community-and-retiree-filled suburb just south and west of the venue. We were actually staying in La Quinta so, jeez, how awesome would it have been to have the Pig land in our pool? Dammit, so close! Apparently the homeowners in whose driveways the tangled remains appeared didn't know what it was at first, but after seeing saturation news coverage of the clearly earth-shattering event, they figured it out. That's our nation's media, doing a fine job with the stories that matter, and now we can get back to talking about Reverend Wright, the second most important thing happening in the world.

Both families will split the cash portion of the reward, $10,000, and each will get four tickets to the festival for life, although Susan Stoltz, one of the lucky pig-finders, says they "kept souvenirs." It's all so exciting. Next year, everybody better be ready when Bono releases a giant inflatable balloon showing a complicated graph explaining debt relief.

Riff photo by Miles Anzaldo.

Freedom's Watch Finds Its Inner Mother Theresa

| Wed Apr. 30, 2008 4:32 PM EDT

Conservative advocacy group Freedom's Watch, funded by billionaires such as Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, a famously fierce critic of labor unions (see core issue area three here, "Standing up to Big Labor's radical agenda"), revels in its newly discovered economic populist streak.

Yesterday, it launched an ad attacking House Democrats and speaker Nancy Pelosi for "doing nothing" to reduce high gas prices.

Today, it sends out emails attacking Congressional Democrats for being responsible for the housing crisis, the bad economy, and more high gas prices. And it's rebranded itself as "mainstream," too: "'It is truly astonishing that two years after assuring the American people they possessed a 'commonsense plan' to combat high gas prices, Congressional Leaders are still struggling to put one together,' said Ed Patru, spokesman for Freedom's Watch, a mainstream conservative issues advocacy organization," the group emails.

What's next? After all, with Adelson's fortune valued at $28 billion by Forbes this year, an expressed commitment by the former Boston cabbie to donate $200 million a year to charitable causes he favors, and given the fact that that, according to a recent column by George Will, Adelson's casino empire is now the single largest foreign investor in China, Adelson alone would be in a position to make a meaningful contribution to those Americans losing their homes in foreclosures and consumers hurting at the gas pump. Stay tuned, as they say.

Cheney: 300 Endangered Whales Is 300 Too Many

| Wed Apr. 30, 2008 2:54 PM EDT

right_whale.jpgHot on the heels of a GAO report detailing the Bush administration's assault on the EPA, this little tidbit pops up.

Cheney's office has been delaying attempts to issue speed limits near the habitat of the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale for FOUR YEARS. There are only about 300 right whales alive today, and ship collisions are their leading cause of death. As Henry Waxman wrote in his letter to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, "the death of even a single whale, particularly a breeding female, may contribute to the extinction of the species."

Iran Picking Sides in Iraq?

| Wed Apr. 30, 2008 2:51 PM EDT

From Juan Cole, via Kevin Drum:

Sadr spokesman Salah al-Obeidi (al-Ubaydi) in Najaf bitterly attacked Iran, accusing it of seeking to share with the US in influence over Iraq. He pointed to the Iranian's regime's failure to condemn the long-term mutual security agreement being crafted by the Bush administration and the al-Maliki government. Al-Obeidi's angry denunciation suggests that Iran is backing PM Nuri al-Maliki and his current chief ally, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq led by Abdul Aziz al-Hakim against the Sadr Movement of Muqtada al-Sadr.

This could be misinformation or it could be the beginning of something major.

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Hawks Try To Throw Mylroie Overboard

| Wed Apr. 30, 2008 1:49 PM EDT

Former American Enterprise Institute Iraq hand Laurie Mylroie wrote a book alleging that Iraq's Saddam Hussein was really behind the 1993 Al Qaeda attack on the World Trade Center. In the wake of 9/11, Mylroie's book and theories were highly influential on the thinking especially of then deputy defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz and former CIA director James Woolsey, who wrote a blurb for her book. Indeed, shortly after the 9/11 attacks, Woolsey was reportedly dispatched to the UK to pursue one of Mylroie's theories.

Now, the Weekly Standard's Stephen Hayes, the authorized biographer of Vice President Dick Cheney and like both the Veep and Mylroie, a proponent of the theory that Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda worked closely together, tries to throw Mylroie overboard:

Mylroie comes up In several of the books written about the Iraq War as a terrorism analyst who led the Bush Administration into making questionable claims about Iraq and al Qaeda. (George Packer, the New Yorker writer and author of the otherwise well-reported book, "The Assassin's Gate," makes this mistake.) This vastly overstates her role. Although her emails may have occasionally made their way to Bush administration officials, no one I know took her arguments very seriously. For good reason. Mylroie has seen an Iraqi hand behind virtually every terrorist attack on American interests. Indeed, in our one brief conversation, she faulted me for failing to understand that al Qaeda is little more than an Iraqi "front group." That's crazy. Iraq was an active state sponsor of terror and, as the recent Pentagon report confirms, a willing sponsor of al Qaeda leaders, their terrorist associates, and a wide variety of jihadist groups.

Hey, at least the hawks are still loyal to Chalabi.

Siegelman Speaks

| Wed Apr. 30, 2008 1:40 PM EDT

don_siegelman.jpg We've covered former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman around these parts before. You can learn about him here or here. Suffice to say, it appears that Alabama Republicans couldn't find a way to beat the Democratic Siegelman, so they stole an election from him and then gamed the legal system until they were able to throw him into prison. Below, you'll find an hour-long interview he did with Air America (Siegelman is out of prison now) in which he puts a large share of blame on Karl Rove and suggests that Rep. John Conyers, head of the House Judiciary Committee, is going to do something about his situation. Settle in.

Fox News: Stephen Douglas and Frederick Douglass, What's the Difference?

| Wed Apr. 30, 2008 12:24 PM EDT

Lately, Hillary Clinton has been calling for a "Lincoln-Douglas style" debate, in which she and Barack Obama would speak directly to one another without moderators, in response to the Obama campaign's refusal to do any further televised debates.

Of course, the reference is to the famous series of debates held between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas when both men were campaigning for an Illinois senate seat in 1858.

Fox News apparently didn't get the memo.

I suspect a debate between Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln wouldn't be all that exciting.

Douglass: We should abolish slavery.
Lincoln: I dunno.
Douglass: It's the only way to save the Union.
Lincoln: Okay.

And scene.

Update: Oh, I almost forgot. More Fox hilarity here.

Citing Fort Bragg Conditions, U.S. Army Broadens Barracks Inquiry

| Wed Apr. 30, 2008 11:33 AM EDT

In case you haven't seen it, check out the video to the right for a look at the conditions of the 82nd Airborne Division's barracks at Fort Bragg. The footage was taken by Ed Frawley, the outraged father of one of the soldiers living there—a soldier who, along with the rest of his unit, had just returned from a 15-month deployment in Afghanistan, most of it spent at a remote firebase in the mountains. I hazard to guess that upon their return to North Carolina, some of the soldiers may have experienced pangs of nostalgia for the relative comfort of a combat post.

In response to the controversy brought on by the Fort Bragg video, the Army has announced an audit of all its barracks worldwide. According to Brigadier General Dennis Rogers, the officer in charge of barracks maintenance, initial inspections were carried out last weekend. The results have not yet been released. According to the Associated Press:

Rogers said it was too soon to know whether the Fort Bragg problem was an isolated incident. He acknowledged the revelations from a video shot by the father of an 82nd Airborne Division soldier showing poor conditions such as mold inside the barracks, peeling interior paint and a bathroom drain plugged with sewage...