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Global Warming for Fun and Profit

| Mon Mar. 24, 2008 5:41 PM EDT

Sick of frittering away your hard-earned wages on March Madness? How about betting on melting ice instead?

An annual contest to guess the exact moment the ice breaks on the River Tanana, 300 miles north of Anchorage, is attracting global interest, both as a chance to win a $300,000 (£151,000) prize and as one of the world's most precise scientific indicators of the effects of global warming.

Betting closes at midnight on April 5, and tickets are sold throughout Alaska.

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White House Destroyed Hard Drives That May Have Contained Missing Emails

| Mon Mar. 24, 2008 5:32 PM EDT

The White House has responded to a judge's order asking it to explain why it shouldn't be required to make copies of all of its hard drives to ensure the recovery of missing emails by claiming that many of the relevant hard drives have been destroyed. You read that correctly: the White House position is "We don't have to preserve hard drives containing missing email because we already destroyed them."

Is it Possible to Take Back an Endorsement?

| Mon Mar. 24, 2008 4:31 PM EDT

lieberman200.jpg The Day of New London, Connecticut, has an ass-kicking editorial about John McCain's traveling buddy. It's titled, "We Don't Know This Sen. Joe: Sen. Lieberman has been too busy burning bridges to build any."

When The Day endorsed Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman for re-election in November 2006 it was supporting a candidate who demonstrated a history of pragmatic leadership and a willingness to seek bipartisan solutions.
We wonder what happened to that senator....

Live Review: Vampire Weekend @ Rickshaw Stop, San Francisco

| Mon Mar. 24, 2008 4:12 PM EDT

mojo-photo-vampire2.jpgAppropriately enough, just getting to this show sucked the life out of me like a bloodthirsty Transylvanian. I'm happily relaxing with friends at around 9:15pm, having a spirited argument about Hillary Clinton and political dynasties, and I get a text message from Friend A: "R U cming 2 vamp?" I reply: "yes." Friend A: "Show starts in 15." "Minutes?" I reply. "Yes," comes the answer. As I get my jacket on, another text comes from Friend B: "Can my girlfriend be your +1"? Er, I don't have a +1. "Do you have the # of [Friend C who works at the label]"? I text it to him. Friend A texts again: "I'm here with [Friend D, lead singer of a notable Bay Area rock band], he says 'hi'." Okay. Friend C texts to tell me I now have a +1 and it's for Friend B's girlfriend. I arrive at the show, no sign of Friend B or the girlfriend. "Whr r u," I text. "At the kebab place around the corner." That kebab place is like 3 blocks away! "I'm here, band is on," I text madly, as I hear the strains of "Mansard Roof" through the door. A woman bicycles up and asks the security guy if he saw anyone selling tickets. "Someone was selling a ticket for $60 earlier," he says. "Do you think it's worth it if I wait?" she asks, and he says, "nah, I wouldn't." Minutes and two more songs pass, and no sign of my friends, but then Friend C from the record label shows up and puts Friend B on the list anyway, and I can finally enter the venue.

John McCain Doesn't Know How to Use a Computer (Video)

| Mon Mar. 24, 2008 3:56 PM EDT

This video appears to be from at least six weeks ago, but no one has really commented on it. Do we want a commander-in-chief who can't use a computer without assistance?

Washington is full of these guys, and it's so depressing. Larry Craig once said "I've never used the internet" (though we know he was lying). Ted Stevens thinks the internet is a series of tubes. Bush uses "the Google." I can't wait until we have a computer-literate generation of leaders in our Capitol.

Gender Bending Language

| Mon Mar. 24, 2008 3:05 PM EDT

Last week I examined the issue of gender-neutral language, and demurred at the tendency of the English language to fall back on male-dominant pronouns. Having poked around in a few writing style guides, I concluded that their rules negate the need to pander to linguists looking to strip our pronouns of any association with gender or sex. What my heterocentrist discussion—similar to that of most people—overlooked is how our current construct of language fails to accommodate or even recognize the marginalized transgender or "gender nonconforming" population. An article in New York Times Magazine featuring Rey, a transmale (born female but identifies as male) student, finds that on gender-sensitive campuses "students will often use gender-neutral pronouns like 'ze' and 'hir'—especially if they post on campus message boards." And the appearance of terms such as "gender nonconforming" and "genderqueer" in the article signifies that our relationship to gender is transforming.

"…today many students who identify as trans are seeking not simply to change their sex but to create an identity outside or between established genders—they may refuse to use any gender pronouns whatsoever or take a gender-neutral name…"

Mother Jones took a look at the evolution of gender-neutral pronouns in our March/April 2008 issue. So although our writing style guides allow us to circumvent the current, although heterocentrist, gender pronoun debate, in the future—as our discussions evolve—they might need an update as well.

—Joyce Tang

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Drilling Making Alaskans Sick

| Mon Mar. 24, 2008 3:00 PM EDT

offshore200.jpgBy now, most of us have heard about how oil and gas drilling does a number on ecosystems. But it's no good for people, either. By way of the British Columbia online magazine the Tyee comes the story of Nuiqsut, a coastal community of 523 people in northern Alaska, about 100 miles west of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Back in the late '90s, the oil and gas companies wooed the local Inupiat tribe with promises of jobs and minimal environmental impact—just 14 acres of tribal land would be affected by offshore and land drilling, they said. But now, 14 looks more like 500, and the community is a whole lot worse for the wear, says Rosemary Ahtuangaruak, mayor of Nuiqsut and also a health-care worker:

It's Not Just Wall Street That's Happy To See Spitzer Go

| Mon Mar. 24, 2008 2:58 PM EDT

Last fall, former New York governor Eliot Spitzer appointed a task force to address the state's high rates of malpractice by hospitals and doctors. The task force was also charged with making recommendations for lowering doctors' med mal premiums, which soared 14 percent last year. The insurance industry and doctors' groups seized the opportunity to press for new restrictions on medical malpractice lawsuits, which they claim would reduce the premiums. As other states have learned, though, such limits usually only result in windfall profits for insurance companies while leaving injured patients with no recourse should their doctor, say, amputate the wrong leg.

Consumer groups in New York had long suspected Spitzer of siding with the doctors on this issue, largely because his brother is a downstate neurosurgeon. Their suspicions were confirmed when Spitzer stacked his medical liability task force with more than 20 representatives from the hospital, medical and insurance industries, while consumer protection and patient safety groups got just three spots. The consumer reps have largely been shut out of the task force deliberations, and despite repeated demands, they've been denied access to the insurance industry data, which supposedly justified the limits on lawsuits. Recently, the consumer members learned from local newspapers that the task force had drafted a major reform proposal that would be released soon. None of them had ever seen it.

Now that Spitzer has resigned, the groups are hoping his replacement, Governor David Patterson, will open up the process. In a letter today, representatives from NYPIRG, the Center for Justice and Democracy, the Center for Medical Consumers and others wrote Patterson, "We refuse to be mere window dressing, to be used as stage props to create the illusion of inclusion, while proposals that affect the life and safety of every health care consumer in our state are drafted in secret. We hope you will redirect the state's efforts towards reducing the deaths and injuries caused by a tiny fraction of the state's physicians, rather than enabling error, negligence, and malpractice to be subsidized by taxpayers."

Presidential Candidates Want Foxes Guarding the Henhouse

| Mon Mar. 24, 2008 12:11 PM EDT

In his column today, Paul Krugman notes that former Sen. Phil Gramm, a major advocate for de-regulation of the financial services industry and thus one of the two men perhaps most responsible for the current economic crisis, is John McCain's chief economic adviser.

Aside from Gramm, Krugman's main scapegoat is Alan Greenspan, who Sen. Hillary Clinton now wants to appoint to a "an emergency working group on foreclosures" to "recommend new ways to confront the nation's housing finance troubles," according to the Associated Press. Barack Obama, like Clinton, has received oodles of money from Wall Street. Krugman says those donors "surely believe that they're buying something in return." Let's hope all three candidates are not as beholden to the financial services industry as they seem.

Kristol: Giving McCain a Pass for Campaigning with an Anti-Islam Bigot

| Mon Mar. 24, 2008 11:31 AM EDT

If Barack Obama accepted the endorsement of a minister who called for eradicating Judaism, praised that minister, and campaigned with that minister, what would the media reaction be? Would Fox News not go nuts over that--especially if there were video? Would CNN and MSNBC not provide plenty of air time to outraged commentators demanding that Obama denounce this minister and reject his support? Would The New York Times and The Washington Post not devote inches of columns to news stories and columns dissecting the relationship between Obama and the minister and use the occasion for big-think articles probing the relationship between blacks and Jews?

With that in mind, let's turn to an exchange between Chris Wallace and Bill Kristol from this Sunday on Fox News:

WALLACE: With all the talk about Obama and Reverend Wright, I got a bunch of email this past week from viewers who said: "Why don't you ever talk about McCain and the evangelical -- some of the evangelical ministers who have endorsed him?" And let's put up a couple of these: Reverend John Hagee, who has called the Catholic Church a "false cult," and Reverend Rod Parsley, who has attacked Islam and said that Allah was a "demon spirit." Do you think it's fair, Bill, to compare McCain's, quote, "ministers" to Obama's pastor?
KRISTOL: No, because these are just individuals who've endorsed Senator McCain. I think, actually, some of the attacks, especially on Reverend Hagee, are unfair. But leaving that aside, no. This would be like attacking Obama because random individuals in the Democratic Party have endorsed him. Obama and Wright have a close relationship. Obama chose, not just to join Reverend Wright's church, but to stay there over 20 years. And that's what hurts him.

Talk about intellectual honesty--or the lack thereof. Kristol is right (to a degree) that the Obama case and the McCain case are different. Obama had a long and personal relationship with Wright (which, depending on your view, might make the matter better or worse). But McCain, out of political expedience, made common cause with Hagee (a well-known anti-Catholic, who called Catholicism the "great whore" and a "false cult system") and with Parsley, who has called for western Christian nations, in particular the United States, to destroy (literally) the "false religion" of Islam. McCain sought and accepted the endorsement of each of these fundamentalist pastors. He campaigned with Parsley before the Ohio primary and called him a "spiritual guide."