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Last Stronghold For Chimps Fails

| Fri Oct. 17, 2008 1:07 AM EDT

490px-MattiParkkonen_chimpanze1.jpg Some days you just gotta cry.

A population survey of West African chimpanzees living in Côte d'Ivoire found 90 percent fewer animals than 18 years ago. The remaining few are highly fragmented, with only one viable population living in Taï National Park.

What's happened? Well, the human population in Cote d'Ivoire has increased nearly 50 percent in 18 years. Add to that a civil war since 2002, and the end of surveillance in the protected areas, and, voilà, the sad end of our closest relatives.

Côte d'Ivoire was one of the final strongholds for West African chimps. Geneviève Campbell of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology suggests their status should immediately be raised to critically endangered on the IUCN Red List. The study appears in Current Biology.

This is one of those days.

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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Antidote to Too Much Politics on the Riff: M.I.A. Update!

| Thu Oct. 16, 2008 10:11 PM EDT

mojo-photo-miapreg.jpgSure, I'm as guilty as anyone. All of us here tend to get all whipped up into a frenzy every time something silly about Palin pops up over at HuffPo, for instance, but come on, doesn't that say "Arts & Culture" up there under "The Riff"? Commenters (and even other MoJo contributors!) may find this arty little blog a lightweight intrusion into their serious non-profit matters, but I say we take a breather from the campaign and focus on what's really important: what M.I.A.'s been up to. OMG, she's got a wee Arulpragasam in the oven! The singer confirmed her pregnancy to Pitchfork, naturally, over the weekend, saying she's "creating a baby," assumedly with the help of her fiancé Ben Brewer. By the way, not only is Brewer the singer for New York band the Exit, he's also the son of Warner Music Group CEO Edgar Bronfman. Hmm, is M.I.A. pulling a McCain, marrying up, for a little bit of—oh, damn, sorry, I promised I wouldn't talk about politics.

Back to M.I.A.: while the singer grabbed headlines when she appeared to announce her retirement onstage at Bonaroo in June, she emerged from this brief hiatus on Saturday at a Diesel-sponsored shindig in New York to do a few numbers as well as her part in T.I.'s amazing "Swagga Like Us." The party, which also featured Franz Ferdinand and N.E.R.D., was apparently the hottest ticket of the year, with thousands (!) of partygoers reduced to tears when they couldn't get in. Vulture's roundup of the event positively oozes with self-satisfaction at being one of the lucky V.I.P.'s who made it inside, but I admit I'm secreting massive amounts of jealousy. Ahem.

After the jump: More about M.I.A.!!!

The Shah and Us

| Thu Oct. 16, 2008 9:54 PM EDT

THE SHAH AND US....Here's a bit of interesting historical work on the roots of the Iranian revolution:

A new report based on previously classified documents suggests that the Nixon and Ford administrations created conditions that helped destabilize Iran in the late 1970s and contributed to the country's Islamic Revolution.

....The report, after two years of research by scholar Andrew Scott Cooper, zeros in on the role of White House policymakers — including Donald H. Rumsfeld, then a top aide to President Ford — hoping to roll back oil prices and curb the shah's ambitions, despite warnings by then-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger that such a move might precipitate the rise of a "radical regime" in Iran.

....Analysts and historians often contend that President Carter, a Democrat, fumbled Iran, allowing the country to eventually become one of the chief U.S. opponents in the region. But the report suggests that his Republican predecessors not only contributed to the shah's fall but also were inching toward a realignment with Saudi Arabia as the key U.S. ally in the Persian Gulf.

....We should get credit for what happened at [OPEC's Doha summit in December 1976]," Kissinger told Ford. "I have said all along the Saudis were the key. . . . Our great diplomacy is what did it."

But it would prove to be a Pyrrhic victory....The shah's government, shaken by the loss of oil revenue, imposed a harsh austerity budget that threw thousands out of work, collapsed investor confidence and panicked middle-class Iranians. Economic chaos and unemployment quickly spread.

Within a year of the Doha summit, the first mass demonstrations that grew into revolution broke out on the streets of the Iranian capital.

The collapse of oil prices in the mid-80s, also engineered by the Saudis, was one of the key factors in the disintegration of the Soviet Union. So apparently Saudi Arabia can claim at least partial credit for both the rise of the Iranian revolution and the fall of communism. Not bad for a country with a population of 20 million or so.

Recapitalization

| Thu Oct. 16, 2008 9:18 PM EDT

RECAPITALIZATION....Via a link from John Quiggin, here's some raw data for you. It's several years old (too old to include data on Japan's banking crisis), but it includes historical data on the initial cost of recapitalizing banking systems after most of the other financial crises of the past few decades. Given the different nature of every crisis, and the different nature of small countries vs. big countries, it's hard to suggest that there's any kind of "average" recapitalization required after a banking collapse. Nonetheless, the historical records suggest that 5% of GDP would be a reasonable guess and 10% would hardly be out of line, especially given the epic nature of our current meltdown.

And how are we doing in comparison? So far the Treasury has committed $250 billion as part of the Paulson bailout plan and another $100 billion or so to Bear Stearns, AIG, and Fannie/Freddie. To get to 5% of GDP we'd need to increase that to $700 billion. To get to 10% we'd need to increase it to $1.4 trillion. Just some benchmarks to keep in mind.

Flaming the Geezer Vote: Attacks on John McCain's Age May Backfire

| Thu Oct. 16, 2008 8:58 PM EDT

Originally published on the Guardian's "On the road to the White House" blog, a project of Guardian Films

Every year, despite their purported senility and decrepitude, elderly people like myself somehow manage to hobble to the polls with their canes and walkers, or zip down in their golf carts or aging Cadillacs, and figure out which lever to pull or which little box to fill in. We are the most reliable group of voters in America. In 2004, people over the age of 65 made up more than a third of the voting age population, and what's more important, nearly 70% of them actually voted. In addition, seniors are a key segment of the vote in several vital swing states, including here in Nevada, as well as Florida and Pennsylvania.

With this in mind, attacking McCain on the basis of age is not just mean, it's dumb.

Weirdest. Mississippi Political Ad. Ever.

| Thu Oct. 16, 2008 8:37 PM EDT

Lately McCain and Palin (McCalin, if they were a celebrity couple) aren't the only leaders fanning the flames of prejudice among their constituents.

Mississippi's Exhibit A: Republican Sen. Roger Wicker's "zany" ad bashing Democratic rival Ronnie Musgrove for being supported by, (of all people!), The Gays. Who apparently all look like Village People, as imagineered by Walt Disney. (Oh, and cows also support Musgrove. We don't know why.)

Anyway, you can catch the rather surreal video here:

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Can Halloween Mask Sales Predict the Election?

| Thu Oct. 16, 2008 7:19 PM EDT

Obama%20mask.jpgMcCain.jpg According to Fortune magazine, more than one Halloween mask retailer has claimed they can correctly predict who will win the White House. Spirit Halloween, the largest seasonal Halloween vendor in the US, says Bush outsold Kerry two to one in 2004, Gore sold 14 percent fewer masks in 2000, and Clinton masks won with 71 percent in 1996.

We decided to update Fortune's presidential mask findings for 2008 thus far; here's what we found.

Quote of the Day - 10.16.08

| Thu Oct. 16, 2008 6:43 PM EDT

QUOTE OF THE DAY....From Joe Klein:

Ronald Reagan used to say that the most frightening nine words in the English language were "I'm from the government and I'm here to help." That is no longer true. This year, the most frightening eight words are "I'm John McCain and I approved this message."

Actually, that's just the best prepackaged zinger from the linked post. The most genuinely penetrating piece of wordsmithing was this:

We have had 30 years of class warfare, in which the wealthy strip-mined the middle class.

That's a very good metaphor. Personally, I'm not very interested in income redistribution. I'm interested in getting the distribution right in the first place. For three decades we've artificially kept middle class wage increases far below the growth rate of the economy, and this trend has been even more pronounced over the past eight years. This has created an enormous pool of extra money that's been — yes — strip mined and redirected to the rich, and fixing this is Barack Obama's biggest and longest-term challenge. If we restore the normal growth of middle class wages, it provides a sustainable consumer base for the entire economy; it reduces the demand for endless credit card debt; it brings down income inequality naturally; and it goes a long way toward keeping the financial sector under control and reining in Wall Street salaries without putting in place a bunch of artificial (and probably fruitless) regulations.

And that's just for starters. Stop the strip mining and economic vigor will follow. It's at the core of everything.

Who Cares If Joe the Plumber Isn't a Plumber?

| Thu Oct. 16, 2008 6:34 PM EDT

Or if the Court of Common Pleas in Lucas County, Ohio, issued a tax lien on Joe Wurzelbacher, the now-(in)famous plumber-by-association?

I don't; nobody should.

But while John McCain and the right are heralding Joe as a hero for asking Barack Obama head-on if the plumbing business he wants to buy would pay higher taxes under Obama's economic plan, everyone else, it seems, is prying into his life and making a huff about the fact that he was never licensed as a plumber in Ohio, owes back taxes, and just might be related to Charles Keating.

Why can't we—the media—leave the guy alone? As far as I'm concerned, there are only two things that matter about Wurzelbacher: He probably won't actually pay more taxes under Obama's plan if he buys the plumbing business, and, as Andrew Sullivan notes:

Joe the Plumber has now had more press conferences than Sarah Palin.

—Steve Aquino

Priorities

| Thu Oct. 16, 2008 6:11 PM EDT

PRIORITIES....Pakistan's economy is about to implode and they're looking for help:

President Asif Ali Zardari arrived in Beijing on Tuesday for a four-day state visit as concern has surged over a possible debt default by Pakistan that could cripple its economy and spark more civil unrest. While the amount of money Pakistan needs in the short term is relatively small — $4 billion to $6 billion — analysts say the climate of crisis and public anger over domestic bailouts in the United States and Western Europe have made even a modest infusion from its Western allies politically difficult.

....The Bush administration and Congress have been shaping a long-term economic and military assistance package for Pakistan, but there is no indication the United States is able to step in with a short-term financial lifeline.

Pakistan is going to the Chinese now "because you go to the guys with the money," a senior International Monetary Fund official said. "And right now, the Chinese are the ones with the money."

By itself, this isn't a big deal. Pakistan has long been friendly with China, so there's no reason they shouldn't ask them for assistance.

Still, this is the kind of thing that's a canary in the coal mine. Global power generally flows to "the ones with the money," and to the extent that this is China, not the United States, our influence in the world inevitably wanes. In other words, it's not just a platitude to say that getting our economic shop in order really is at least as important as the fact that we can project military power into places like Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact, considering how well that projection has gone lately, it's probably more important — and that means that it's time to get our priorities in order. This is decidedly not the right way to do it.

UPDATE: Dan Drezner says, "this is a very small canary." I agree.