2008 - %3, July

Perfect Storm Stores CO2 Perfectly

| Mon Jul. 28, 2008 7:19 PM PDT

473px-Typhoon_Mindulle_28_jun_0445Z.jpg Hurricanes may be getting bigger and more frequent as a result of climate change. But they may also be counterbalancing their destruction by sequestering millions of tons of carbon in the deep ocean.

A new study finds that a single typhoon in Taiwan buried as much carbon as all the other rains in that country in a year.

Of the 61 million tons of sediment carried out to sea by the Choshui River during Typhoon Mindulle in 2004, some 500,000 tons consisted of particles of carbon, weathered from Taiwan's mountains.

That's 95 percent as much carbon as the river transports during normal rains in a year. It also equates to more than 400 tons of carbon per square mile washed away during the storm.

The good news is that once the carbon gets buried in the ocean it eventually becomes sedimentary rock and doesn't return to the atmosphere for hundreds of millions of years.

So, the work of tropical storms isn't enough to cancel out the warming gases we're putting into the atmosphere. But it's a pretty good response from a stressed planet.

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent, lecturer, and 2008 winner of the Kiriyama Prize and the John Burroughs Medal Award.

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China Exports 33% Of CO2 Footprint

| Mon Jul. 28, 2008 6:55 PM PDT

200px-D-Link_made_in_china.JPG One-third of China's carbon footprint comes from producing goods for export. That's up from an estimate of 25 percent only 10 months ago.

Now a new paper in Energy Policy say China's export emissions equaled 1.7 billion tons of CO2 in 2005. That's 6% of total global emissions. The same as Germany, France, and the UK combined.

Many of the industries producing these emissions make electronics for the rich world. Which gets sticky when you realize that international policy penalizes the producer country, not the consumer. China, understandably, thinks that's wrong, reports New Scientist:

"In some measure, it makes sense if people buy goods and become liable for the emissions generated when the goods are produced," says Benito Müller of the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, UK. "They will certainly be more choosy about what they buy."

Even Chinese consumers.

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent, lecturer, and 2008 winner of the Kiriyama Prize and the John Burroughs Medal Award.

WANTED: Nanny/(Factchecker) to Start Immmediately (Downtown Frisco)

| Mon Jul. 28, 2008 5:44 PM PDT

Spotted.
On Craigslist, via Gawker, this outlandish nanny job posting which, with a tinker here and there, could double as a MoJo internship listing, sorta... Have a read, and then decide, would you rather nanny 10 Upper East Siders or factcheck the world?


We're a family of ten an office of many. My husband editors-in-chief and myself, our 5 children 12 editors, 2 dogs 6 reporters, and cat creative director. For as long as we've lived Mother Jones has been in the city we have been lucky to have the same nanny/family assistant 700 factcheckers cycle in and out of our offices. Originally starting out as my eldest son's baby nurse fresh newbies and staying with us for nearly 19 years for up to two years before moving on as hardened vets.

The Dark Knight: WSJ Says "Yay," UK Guardian Says "Nay"

| Mon Jul. 28, 2008 3:00 PM PDT

mojo-photo-darkknightjoker.jpg

While commenters had a field day with my admittedly rambling post describing the troubling pro-Bush Administration subtext in Batman: The Dark Knight, there have been a few heavyweight additions to the fight over the last few days. First of all, the Wall Street Journal published an op-ed piece on Friday called "What Bush and Batman Have in Common" which looks at things from, well, the dark side:

Brian Eno and David Byrne to Join Forces Again

| Mon Jul. 28, 2008 2:27 PM PDT

mojo-photo-enobyrne.jpgSure, it's been 27 years since two of music's great pioneers put their heads together for a ground-breaking album, but hey, they've both been busy. Legendary producer Brian Eno and former Talking Heads frontman David Byrne have completed work on a new album called Everything That Happens Will Happen Today, and following in the footsteps of Radiohead, they'll be self-releasing it online at EverythingThatHappens.com. You'll be able to stream it free or buy the downloads starting August 18, but a preview track will be available for free on August 4.

The web site currently features a brief note from Byrne, revealing that he was the songwriter and lyricist while Eno did the music. In an interview, Eno calls the new material "electronic gospel," which could be good or bad, really, but doesn't sound much like their last album together. Their 1980 effort, My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, fused quirky samples with wildly diverse rhythms, a pop-culture/electro/world-beat mish-mash that was way ahead of its time. In fact, I'm not sure we've even caught up yet: M.I.A.'s 2007 album Kala basically follows the same formula and it still seems utterly groundbreaking.

After the jump, check out "America is Waiting," the first track from Bush of Ghosts, which loops talk-radio samples over a rolling, Cabaret Voltaire-style beat.

Iraq Contracts: Inspectors General Point to Waste and Fraud

| Mon Jul. 28, 2008 12:31 PM PDT

Following on my post from last week about the Senate Appropriations Committee's outrage at the scale of waste and fraud endemic to Iraq contracts, I offer two specific examples, both disclosed today in separate official audits.

To begin with, the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) released an audit (.pdf) of a $900-million, cost-plus contract awarded to Parsons Delaware Inc., in March 2004 to design and build infrastructure in support of Iraq's security and justice sectors. This was to include the construction of things like prisons, fire houses, and police stations. As of May 21, 2008, the firm had spent $333 million—of which $142 million (43 percent of the total) was wasted on projects that were never completed. Now, it's easy to point the finger at Parsons. But as SIGIR makes clear, blame also rests with the U.S. government for lack of oversight. Only 10 contract officers, for example, were assigned to the Parson's contract—a project that required about five-to-six times as many. To make matters worse, the audit itself was compromised by inadequate record-keeping by federal agencies. According to the report, SIGIR "contacted a number of responsible contracting offices, but at the conclusion of our review the U.S. government has been unable to locate the files for the contract bid and award process... SIGIR also could not locate inventory records for items purchased by the contractor in support of construction activities."

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Israeli Defense Minister Meets with Cheney, Rice Today, Iran on the Agenda

| Mon Jul. 28, 2008 9:13 AM PDT

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has arrived in Washington and is scheduled to meet with Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Pentagon officials and a few members of Congress today. Iran is on the agenda. Barak is accompanied by Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni and Transport Minister Shaul Mofaz. Their visit follows that of Israeli Defense Forces chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi to Washington last week.

(I recently wrote about the planned visits, and signs of a growing divergence between US and Israeli timelines and sense of urgency on the Iran issue. Israel was reportedly not informed in advance that the Bush administration planned to send a US representative to international nuclear talks with Iran. Barak's visit, which had been planned for earlier this month, was postponed several times, including because of a recent Israel-Hezbollah prisoner swap.)

Rice has given Iran until Saturday to respond to an international offer on a package of incentives in exchange for negotiations on halting its nuclear program. Accompanying the latest international incentives package to Iran, was a "freeze for freeze" proposal, under which Iran would agree to freeze further installations to its uranium enrichment program, while the international community would agree to freeze placing further economic sanctions on Iran, for a six week pre-negotiations period. In order to move to full-fledged negotiations, Iran has been asked to agree to suspend uranium enrichment for the duration of negotiations, in exchange for the UN agreeing to suspend sanctions already passed against it.

Iran reportedly did not provide a specific response to the freeze for freeze offer when it met with international representatives, including US undersecretary of state for political affairs William Burns, at international nuclear talks held in Geneva earlier this month. "What we're looking for is, at the end of the two weeks, a definitive statement through the normal channels, [Iran nuclear negotiator Saeed] Jalili to [international representative Javier] Solana, on where the Iranians stand," a State Department spokesman told reporters today.

A Potent and Populist Economic Issue for Obama?

| Mon Jul. 28, 2008 7:12 AM PDT

On Monday, Barack Obama, fresh off his triumphant overseas trip to Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel, and Europe, turned to the homeland's number-one concern: the faltering economy. He was in Washington to hold a meeting with his top economic advisers. Here's how his campaign described what would happen:

Senator Obama will be joined by leading figures from business and labor, Democrats and Republicans to talk about the recent developments in the economy: job loss, financial markets, and the rising costs of oil, food and other commodities....Participants of the early afternoon meeting include: Warren Buffett, Former Chairman of the Federal Reserve Paul Volcker, Former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, SEIU Secretary-Treasurer Anna Burger, Google Chairman and CEO Eric Schmidt and other economic leaders.

Most of the agenda is pretty obvious. And campaigns are supposed to do the obvious. But there's one economic issue that Obama ought to consider raising with these economic leaders and with the voters: transparency. So much of the economy now takes place in dark corners, where traders and speculators develop, buy and sell financial instruments that are unregulated and, perhaps worse, barely understood, except by the small number of players who trade them. This is partly what brought on the subprime meltdown. (See my description of swaps here.) Even former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin did not understand the financial products that led to the housing credit crisis.

So here's a populist issue for Obama: the U.S. economy is too important to be placed in the hands of wheeler-dealers who in the shadows engage in transactions that have the potential to send waves of harm throughout the highly-interconnected financial world. Americans are entitled to feel insecure when they see that the economy can be so severely affected by a few big firms that go off the reservation, thanks to the imaginative machinations of a small number of traders. More transparency, more regulation--whatever the policy prescriptions are (and they will be technical and hard for most of us to understand), Obama could by addressing this issue gain a political advantage over John McCain, who tends to celebrate the workings of the markets.

These days there is very good reason for commoners to be suspicious of the markets. If Obama can speak to that, it could make for good policy and good politics.

Some Surprising New Findings on GIs, PTSD, and Crime

| Fri Jul. 25, 2008 3:43 PM PDT

A while back, I waxed all sympathetic about GIs getting what I assumed was all too needed special consideration for post-discharge, surely PTSD-based offenses. Now comes a Sacramento Bee year-long study of GI's, 'shell shock', and crime. As usual, it's far from a simple situation.

Read their findings here, here, here, and here.

Turns out that some of these supposedly-traumatized-by-war defendants had a 'war or jail' option, with serious charges hanging over their heads, and appear to have taken their criminal dispositions to war with them. Some of these folks had colorful rap sheets long before they ever donned combat boots. Of course, as Kathy Griffin would say: allegedly.

Surely, the programs I praised earlier are taking such factors into consideration in deciding how to deal with these vet offenders, but damn this makes things murky.

Kudos to prison shrink and columnist John Schwade for the hat tip.

Interview: "Garfield Minus Garfield" Creator Dan Walsh

| Fri Jul. 25, 2008 2:50 PM PDT

mojo-photo-gmgstrip.jpgAs we entered the second half of 2008, I thought I'd take a look at Riff page view statistics for the year, just to see what online Mother Jones readers have been clicking on around this fun little blog. And what, dear Riffers, do you think was the number one post of the first six months of 2008? A post mocking George W.'s misinterpretation of a painting? A cynical look at coverage of the Iowa primaries? Abstinence pants? No, no and no. Our most-viewed post was my meditation on the subtext of late-capitalist anxiety in the comic "remix" Garfield Minus Garfield. Riff readers are stoned!

It turns out I was onto something: in the months since the piece's appearance on the Riff, "G-G" has been covered in The New York Times, Time Magazine, and The Washington Post; the latter tracked down original Garfield creator Jim Davis, who called the work "an inspired thing to do." So, who's behind this now-phenomenally-popular bit of inspired photoshoppery? Meet 32-year-old Irishman Dan Walsh, who turns out to be a really nice guy. He answered a few questions via e-mail about the strip.