Blogs

Stewart and Colbert Return Without the Prompter

| Tue Jan. 8, 2008 5:59 PM EST

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As the writers' strike continues, Comedy Central stalwarts Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert's returns to the screen without their scribes last night were highly anticipated. Would they be able to talk, or would they just stare wide-eyed at the screen and stammer helplessly for 30 minutes? Well, both shows were entertaining (if slightly off) and definitely strike-focused, which in the current moment of political frenzy seemed kind of weird.

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Patagonia Deconstructs Your Clothes

| Tue Jan. 8, 2008 5:34 PM EST

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Okay, I already covet their gear more than is morally good for me. Now Patagonia has launched a cool interactive website called The Footprint Chronicles. At the moment it's more evolving prototype than matured design. Still, it enables you to follow the environmental footprint of a handful of their products. "The impact of an unexamined life is far more serious than it once was—deadly so," says Patagonia, turning their own practices inside out and letting us pick at the seams. Their long-sleeved Wool 2 Crew shirt, for instance, is both environmentally good and bad: good comes from sustainably ranched sheep in New Zealand, dyed without heavy metals, sewn in the US; bad comes from a 16,200-mile-long footprint between New Zealand and Los Angeles via Malaysia and Japan. Not sustainable.

The site is designed to "ignite conversation every bit as much as corporate introspection," and encourages viewer feedback & discussion. "We've been in business long enough to know that when we can reduce or eliminate a harm, other businesses will be eager to follow suit," says Patagonia… Let's hope so.

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent. You can read from her new book, The Fragile Edge, and other writings, here.

Record Turnout Predicted Today in New Hampshire

| Tue Jan. 8, 2008 5:18 PM EST

The record for turnout in the New Hampshire primary is 393,000, set in 2000, the last time the state had a contested primary for the Democrats and the Republicans in the same year. The current prediction for today's turnout is 500,000, a number pumped upward by clear skies, warm temperatures, and Obamania. The Secretary of State is sending more ballots to Democratic polling places because they have been running out.

Shaping up to be a very, very big day.

Tuesday's Bemusing Music News Day

| Tue Jan. 8, 2008 4:56 PM EST

News

  • The Kinks' Dave Davies is denying rumors that the band may reunite; his brother and ex-bandmate Ray had told the press that the band members were considering "getting back together." Dave told NME that he and Ray "haven't even spoken in over 6 months… a tour hasn't even been discussed." Dave suffered a stroke four years ago but has continued a solo career.

  • Rappers Lupe Fiasco and Rhymefest are exchanging a war of words over support for Barack Obama, and of course it's all on their MySpace blogs. Fiasco told hip-hop news site SOHH.com that Obama "doesn't impress me" because of "his agendas the bombing of Iran and all that stuff." When confronted by Fest, Fiasco expressed cynicism about the democratic process: "I have no faith in it."
  • The former Jamaica Broadcasting Corp seems to have lost a "massive collection" of 1970s music, including original recordings by Bob Marley and Peter Tosh as well as videos of historic concerts and events. The archive was apparently stolen, with a former program manager for the JBC calling the theft a "national disgrace."
  • Eminem was in the hospital over the holidays due to complications from pneumonia. Huh?
  • Flu Deaths Run in the Family

    | Tue Jan. 8, 2008 4:45 PM EST

    1918Flu_photo.jpg Everyone gets the flu. Some are more likely to die from it, reports New Scientist. A study published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases looked at death certificates and family records going back 100 years and found that blood relatives of flu victims were more likely to die than nonrelatives, even during different flu outbreaks. Risks increased with relatedness: siblings were 74% more likely to die than unrelateds; blood uncles 22%; first cousins 16%. Victims' spouses were also more likely to die, probably because they lived in the same house. The team is tracking relatives of people who died recently to see if they too are at increased risk, and if flu vaccinations help…. Good question.

    Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent. You can read from her new book, The Fragile Edge, and other writings, here.

    Some Biofuels Worse Than Fossil Fuels

    | Tue Jan. 8, 2008 3:51 PM EST

    bio-fuel_6648.jpg Burning biofuels emits less greenhouse gasses than burning fossil fuels. But producing some biofuels is far more environmentally costly, according to a new study commissioned by the Swiss government and reviewed by researchers from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Science. In particular, sugarcane, US corn, Brazilian soy, and Malaysian palm oil may be worse overall than fossil fuels in environmental destruction, pollution, and damage to human health. The new study calculates the relative merits of 26 biofuels based on relative reduction of greenhouse-gas emissions and an environmental-impact index. The best alternatives include biofuels from residual products, such as recycled cooking oil and ethanol from grass or wood… Hmm. What are the chances we can be smart about this?

    Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent. You can read from her new book, The Fragile Edge, and other writings, here.

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    The Danger of Having 'Civilians' Speak at Campaign Events

    | Tue Jan. 8, 2008 11:10 AM EST

    A former Edwards supporter, Francine Torge, introducing Hillary Clinton yesterday in Dover, NH:

    "Some people compare one of the other candidates to John F. Kennedy. But he was assassinated."

    The expected Clinton campaign disavowal came from Phil Singer, a spokesman:

    "We were not aware that this person was going to make those comments and disapprove of them completely. They were totally inappropriate."

    Whoops.

    Election Day in NH: Hillary's Last Hurrah?

    | Tue Jan. 8, 2008 10:29 AM EST

    Last night, at a rally near the Manchester airport, Hillary Clinton packed 'em in. A thousand or so people listened to her deliver a long speech outlining virtually every policy position she has ever mentioned during the campaign. On one level, it was an impressive performance. She demonstrated a command of policy and facts. She spoke passionately about her intellectual passions. On another level, it was, perhaps, too much too late. As at least two reporters in the room --including Mickey Kaus--quipped, it seemed she was delivering a State of the Union speech, particularly the sort that her husband use to give. Remember how he would go over a long laundry list of policy proposals? One of the biggest cheers of the night came when she said that if elected president she would make sure the federal student aide form wouldn't be too long.

    This was as good as she gets. The crowd was pumped--though it did lose some energy as she went on and on. (And on Election Day eve, you don't want to tire out supporters who have to get up early the next morning and start working for you.) She pointed out that she was the candidate who was strong enough and experienced enough to deliver the change that the American electorate yearns for. But she took no pot shots at her opponents. "Time to tell her story," a Clinton aide said to me.

    It's not such a bad story. And did the size of the crowd indicate she might just be able to pull out a win in New Hampshire? Once upon a time--that would be sixteen years ago--another Clinton became the self-proclaimed "comeback kid" of New Hampshire. (That was after placing second in New Hampshire. Talk about chutzpah!) There's no reporter in New Hampshire I've spoken to who thinks that HRC can pull it out. Instead, we discuss how big Barack Obama's win will be--and what the point spread will mean. Some political commentators claim that if Clinton can hold him to a 6-point or less win, she can claim a moral victory. I dunno. Seems to me that whatever the win is, as long as it's more than a close call, the important statistic will be this: 2 for 2.

    Where the Candidates Stand on Science

    | Mon Jan. 7, 2008 11:43 PM EST

    homepage.jpg A 10-page special report, "Science and the Next U.S. President" published in the journal Science profiles the nine leading candidates' stances on important scientific issues.

    "Science felt that it was important to find out what the presidential candidates think about issues that may not be part of their standard stump speeches but that are vital to the future of the country—from reducing greenhouse gas emissions to improving science and math education," said Jeffrey Mervis, deputy news editor, who oversees election coverage for the magazine's news department. "We hope that the coverage may also kick off a broader discussion of the role of science and technology in decisions being made in Washington and around the world."

    Clinton gave the most detailed examination of science policy that any presidential candidate has offered to date, emphasizing innovation to drive economic growth, proposing a $50 billion research and deployment fund for green energy (paid for by increasing federal taxes and royalties on oil companies), and establishing a national energy council to oversee federal climate and greentech research and deployment programs.

    Pharma Spends Twice as Much on Marketing as Research

    | Mon Jan. 7, 2008 10:54 PM EST

    Pharma%20Industry%20Can%20Help%20States.jpg The US pharmaceutical industry spends almost twice as much on promotion as it does on research and development—contrary to the industry's claim. Researchers from York University, collecting data directly from industry and from doctors, found that in 2004 pharma spent $235.4 billion: 24.4% on promotion; 13.4% for research and development. They also found the number of promotional meetings jumped dramatically from 120,000 in 1998 to 371,000 in 2004. Further evidence the U.S. pharmaceutical industry is increasingly market driven—not driven by life-saving research. The authors also note the money spent on marketing is likely an underestimate.

    Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent. You can read from her new book, The Fragile Edge, and other writings, here.