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Global Warming Killing Caribou

| Thu May 1, 2008 8:31 PM EDT

800px-Caribou.jpg Fewer caribou calves are being born and more are dying as a result of a warming climate. The problem is timing. Peak food availability in West Greenland no longer corresponds to the peak time of caribou births, according to a study by Eric Post of Penn State. Throughout the Arctic winter, when there is no plant growth, caribou dig through snow to find lichens. In spring they switch to grazing on newly growing willows, sedges, and flowering herbs. As the birth season approaches, cued by increasing day length, they migrate to areas where newly-emergent food is plentiful.

But the routine that's worked for millennia is faltering because caribou are unable to keep up with accelerated plant cycles tied to global warming. Now when pregnant females arrive at the calving grounds they find plants that have already reached peak productivity and are declining in nutritional value. The plants initiate growth in response to temperature, not day length (unlike the caribou), and are peaking dramatically earlier in response to rising temperatures. "Spring temperatures at our study site in West Greenland have risen by more than 4 degrees Celsius (7.2 degrees F) over the past few years," said Post. "As a result, the timing of plant growth has advanced, but calving has not."

The phenomenon is called trophic mismatch and is a predicted consequence of climate change. Trophic mismatches have been documented in birds. The most famous example being the study on Dutch birds and their caterpillar prey highlighted in Al Gore's film An Inconvenient Truth. "Our work is the first documentation of a developing trophic mismatch in a terrestrial mammal as a result of climatic warming," said Post. "And the rapidity with which this mismatch has developed is eye-opening, to say the least."

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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Are Today's Student Activists Lazy?

| Thu May 1, 2008 7:41 PM EDT

We want the lowdown on student activism, past and present. Been arrested and regret it? Would your school win the prize for silliest student protest? Was student activism way better when you were in school? Is your cause unique?

Help us put together our best student activism roundup yet. It's our 15th annual! Check out last year's. Answer a few quick questions and you could win some cool prizes.

Click here to begin!

NYC's New Reefer Madness

| Thu May 1, 2008 7:04 PM EDT

A new study shows that New York is targeting youth of color for marijuana possession. This offensive is also designed to build a Big Brother database (Think: Counterterrorism, with inner city youth as the terrorists and objects of legitimate fear.) If you weren't already terminally suspicious of society's need to criminalize black and brown youth, read on.

"Marijuana Arrest Crusade," a study by Queens College sociology professor Harry Levine and drug-law-reform activist Deborah Peterson Small paints an ugly and fascist picture of life in George Bush's wiretapping, profiling, presumed guilty-by-association-if-swarthy 2008. From the Village Voice:

George W. Bush: Most Disapproved of President in History

| Thu May 1, 2008 4:08 PM EDT

It's official: George W. Bush is the most unpopular president since pollsters have been able to track presidential popularity.

According to a CNN/Opinion Research poll, 71 percent of Americans disapprove of Bush's presidency. Harry Truman hit 66 percent in January 1952. But no president had cracked the 70-percent mark--until now.

The good news for Bush: he has a 28 percent approval rating. Truman fell as low as 22 percent, and Richard Nixon bottomed out at 24 percent. So though he's the most disapproved of president in history, Bush has a ways to go before he's the least approved of president in history. But that's not out of reach. There are nine months left in his presidency.

Obama: Is He Slipping?

| Thu May 1, 2008 3:36 PM EDT

Barack Obama has a lead in pledged delegates and in all likelihood will end the primaries with more voter-determined delegates than Hillary Clinton. He's picking up superdelegates at a quicker pace than Clinton. He's ahead in the popular vote. Yet.....If one looks at the recent media coverage and the latest polls, it's hard not to wonder if Obama is losing altitude--and doing so at a dangerous rate. The media narrative of the race in the past month has been dominated by Wright and Bittergate. Do voters care about this stuff? Pundits and analysts argue--and wonder--about this. It's hard to tell how much of a connection exists between what appears on cable news shows--which only a few million Americans watch each night--and how voters view politics and render decisions.

As for the polls, it's always perilous to pay too much attention to them. But the latest polling data from both North Carolina and Indiana all point in a direction troubling for Obama. In early April in North Carolina, he led Clinton by 10 to 23 points in various surveys. Now, he has a 7-point edge. In Indiana, three recent polls have Clinton ahead by 5, 8, and 9 points.

Could Obama be sinking? Does he need a game-changer after the Wright to-do and the bitter "bitter" fuss? For political analysts, it is always tempting to overreact. That's what pundits and commentators do. It makes for better columns and better TV. Perhaps he'll do fine in North Carolina and Indiana, with voters in these states embracing him for the same reasons millions of Democrats elsewhere have done. But what if Obama truly is slipping and manages only to limp across the finish line? That's obviously what Clinton and her crew are betting on. And such an end to the primaries could lead to protracted political warfare within the Democratic Party. One question is, what can she really do if he ends up with more pledged delegates? But the flip side is, can he keep hope alive if he closes weakly?

Gas Tax Follies: Obama and Clinton Camps Spar

| Thu May 1, 2008 3:25 PM EDT

On dueling conference calls from the Obama and Clinton campaigns today, the gas tax holiday that has gotten so much play (read: condemnation) in the press was the major topic.

The gas tax holiday would eliminate the 18-cent tax on each gallon of gas over the course of the summer; experts, economists, and editorialists have all pointed out that oil companies can simply add 18 cents to the price of each gallon, making savings for consumers nonexistent or nearly nonexistent. To prevent the oil companies from profiting, Senator Clinton has suggested accompanying the holiday with a tax on the oil companies. Even Clinton backers have admitted that this would simply mean cash would go into one of Exxon's pockets and out the other.

Simply put, the gas tax holiday is a pander to cash-strapped voters who want to hear a presidential candidate sound like he or she cares about their burdens. Obama campaign manager David Plouffe called it a "metaphor for the entire campaign." It's a short-term fix — even if oil companies don't negate the tax cut by raising prices, the estimated savings is under $100 for the summer — which Plouffe claimed would distract Americans from the long-term solutions that will constitute a legitimate energy policy. The whole situation, said Plouffe, is "emblematic of what we need to change."

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Play the Veepstakes Game!

| Thu May 1, 2008 1:34 PM EDT

The good folks at CQ Politics have assembled a list of the 32 politicians most likely to be John McCain's VP choice and have put them in a bracket. You can vote on who advances from each round. If you have no problem with momentarily trivializing one of the most important choices we make as a country (and quite literally turning politics into a game), go try it out. I did.

By the way, the 32 candidates include four women, five people of color, and 24 white dudes. Considering the state of the modern GOP (no African-Americans in Congress), that's not bad. The fact that Condi is involved really boosts their diversity numbers.

Lawmakers Push for National Same-Day Registration

| Thu May 1, 2008 12:42 PM EDT

There has been bad news on voting rights lately, so this is particularly welcome:

Minnesota and Wisconsin lawmakers are seeking legislation that would require states to let people register to vote on the same day that a federal election is held.
Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, along with Senator Amy Klobuchar and Congressman Keith Ellison of Minnesota, plan to introduce the bill on Thursday. The lawmakers, all Democrats, say that same-day registration will encourage more people to vote.

Here's Feingold's comment:

On Michigan/Florida, Kucinich to the Rescue?

| Thu May 1, 2008 11:08 AM EDT

562_01_200x203.jpg Deep-pocketed Dennis Kucinish is a man with a plan...

Former Democratic presidential candidate Dennis J. Kucinich has proposed a plan to seat delegations from Florida and Michigan at the Democratic National Convention based on the results of a fresh round of polling in the two states...
The plan would base the distribution of delegates on polling conducted by three firms, one selected by each campaign and a third chosen by the other two companies. Delegates would be apportioned based on the composite findings of the three polls. None of the firms could have previously been employed by either campaign.

Democrats are at a point now where even an ad hoc plan like having polling substitute for actual voting sounds reasonable. But you know what would probably be a better solution? If Dennis Kucinich, who is a superdelegate, actually endorsed somebody and then got all the other superdelegates to endorse somebody, too. Because after one of the two candidates gets the requisite number of delegates for the nomination, he or she can seat the Michigan and Florida delegates in a way that doesn't change the outcome of the race. And if that happened, oh, two months ago, that would be awesome.

Update: Another potential solution here.

McCain Had His Own "Mission Accomplished" Moment

| Thu May 1, 2008 10:11 AM EDT

Five years ago today, George W. Bush got all gussied up and landed a jet on an aircraft carrier floating off the Southern California coast, where he declared "mission accomplished" in Iraq. Roughly 97 percent of American military deaths in Iraq have come after that moment.

Less well known is the fact that John McCain also prematurely declared a win in Iraq. In the congressional record on May 22, 2003, he declared "massive victory":

"We won a massive victory in a few weeks, and we did so with very limited loss of American and allied lives. We were able to end aggression with minimum overall loss of life, and we were even able to greatly reduce the civilian casualties of Afghani and Iraqi citizens."

bush-mccain-mission-accomplished.jpg