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China Outlaws Pringles and Fanta

| Mon May 12, 2008 12:45 PM EDT

China has banned the import of several food products citing poison and bugs as contaminants. The list includes Coca-Cola's berry-flavored Fanta soda, which apparently contains levels of benzoic acid dangerous to the liver and kidneys (so I guess stick with the bright orange stuff if you want to be kind to your kidneys). Also listed are two varieties of Proctor & Gamble's Pringles, banned for carcinogens, and one Nestle's coffee flavor found to be infested with beetles. All in all, China's quality control found 593 products unfit for consumption.

These bans follow last year's recalls of Chinese-produced toxic toothpaste and lead paint-coated toys, as well as the FDA's ban on Chinese seafood contaminated with traces of illegal veterinary drugs.

—Caroline Winter

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The Weird McCain-Dictator Connection

| Mon May 12, 2008 12:28 PM EDT

mccain_closeup_250x200.jpg When you have advisers who are interested in international conflict resolution, you get into one kind of trouble. When you have advisers who are lobbyists, you get into another.

John McCain has been forced to cut ties with two campaign staffers recently because of their ties to the military junta in Burma. The first, Doug Goodyear, was the man McCain had selected to run the 2008 Republican convention. Goodyear is the chief executive of DCI Group, a lobbying firm that was paid $348,000 in 2002 to improve the junta's image in America and to push the federal government to improve relations with the notorious human rights abusers. The second, Doug Davenport, was a regional campaign manager for McCain who helped found DCI Group and served as head of its lobbying practice, where he also worked for the junta.

This is a great example of (1) why lobbying is so freaking toxic, and (2) how, if you build your campaign machinery with lobbyists in dozens of key positions, you run into problems.

But the problem isn't just Dougs Goodyear and Davenport. The watchdog group Campaign Money Watch is now calling for three more McCain staffers to resign because of connections to distasteful foreign regimes:

Bob Barr Throws Down Gauntlet to Ron Paul

| Mon May 12, 2008 10:36 AM EDT

bob-barr.jpg Former Republican Congressman Bob Barr is declaring his bid for the Libertarian Party's nomination for president today. Barr, who is perhaps most well-known for his high-profile role in the Clinton impeachment proceedings, left the Republican Party in 2006 and says that his run for the presidency will provide voters with a "genuinely conservative" alternative to John McCain. A recent Zogby poll had Barr taking three percent of the vote in a general election match-up between Obama and McCain. As you might expect, Republicans are trying to convince Barr not to run.

This creates an interesting drama on the libertarian right. While Ron Paul is the country's preeminent libertarian, he has repeatedly declined to run for president as anything other than a Republican. But he has refused to endorse John McCain (and even gone so far as to praise Barack Obama's approach to foreign policy), leaving the door open for a run as a third-party candidate.

So here are the key questions. Will Ron Paul run as a candidate in the Libertarian Party? (I know it's unlikely, but he did run for president as the Libertarian Party's nominee in 1988 while maintaining his Republican affiliation.) If he doesn't run, will he endorse Bob Barr and cede his status as America's big dog libertarian? After John McCain secures the Republican nomination in early September and Ron Paul drops out, will his supporters shift their support to Barr, Obama, or no one? We considered this question before here; what say you?

Obama-McCain Could Create Some Fun Moments

| Mon May 12, 2008 10:25 AM EDT

Because they're both open to traveling the campaign trail together.

Sen. Barack Obama said Saturday that if he were to become the Democratic nominee, holding joint town hall-style campaign events with Republican Sen. John McCain would be a "great idea."
"Obviously, we would have to think through the logistics on that," Obama continued. "But … if I have the opportunity to debate substantive issues before the voters with John McCain, that's something that I am going to welcome."
Recently, advisors to the all-but-certain GOP nominee have said the Arizona senator is open to the idea, and his campaign has touted the fact that he and Democrat Bill Bradley held joint campaign events when the two ran for the presidential nomination in 1999.

Obama is better when he commands a room by himself — he is, as everyone knows by now, an impressive speaker. McCain is not, and these joint town halls would definitely play to his strengths. One gets the feeling that David Alexrod might pull Obama aside sometime soon and put the kibosh on this idea.

Update: Noam Scheiber agrees, and adds that joint town halls would give the cash-strapped McCain lots of free media.

McCain Portrays Himself as Environmental Champion, but Record Undercuts Credibility

| Mon May 12, 2008 9:56 AM EDT

McCain is touting his passion for the environment this week. He has an ad up that portrays his approach to fighting climate change as "a better way" — that is, a moderate third option that doesn't embrace the supposed taxation and regulations of the left, nor the dangerous denialism of the right. He's following that with a speech on climate change today in Oregon. "The facts of global warming demand our urgent attention, especially in Washington," he plans to say. "Good stewardship, prudence, and simple common sense demand that we act to meet the challenge, and act quickly."

In truth, John McCain is a phony when it comes to the environment. He managed to miss every vote important to environmentalists in 2007, including some where he could have been the deciding vote on important issues. His lifetime rating from the League of Conservation Voters is just 24 percent; Clinton and Obama's are 87 and 86 by comparison.

We're written a lot about this at Mother Jones. Now even the mainstream media is catching on. Here's the Washington Post today:

"Sacking" of Washington Mid East Hand Points Up Growing Rift Between D.C. Ideology and Israeli Pragmatism

| Sun May 11, 2008 11:13 PM EDT

Former Clinton administration Middle East peace negotiator Rob Malley now heads the Middle East program of the International Crisis Group, an international conflict resolution nongovernmental organization. He has also been one of many informal advisers to Barack Obama's campaign.

Through his work at ICG, Malley has talked with Hamas officials, according to a report in Sunday's Times of London. Which is not so surprising given ICG's conflict resolution mission. But because of that revelation, the paper reports, Malley has been officially "sacked" as an informal adviser to the Obama campaign:

One of Barack Obama's Middle East policy advisers disclosed yesterday that he had held meetings with the militant Palestinian group Hamas – prompting the likely Democratic nominee to sever all links with him.
Robert Malley told The Times that he had been in regular contact with Hamas, which controls Gaza and is listed by the US State Department as a terrorist organisation. Such talks, he stressed, were related to his work for a conflict resolution think-tank and had no connection with his position on Mr Obama's Middle East advisory council.
"I've never hidden the fact that in my job with the International Crisis Group I meet all kinds of people," he added.

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Harry Reid Promises Hearings on Pentagon Puppets

| Sun May 11, 2008 2:03 PM EDT

Harry Reid is at Firedoglake promoting his (well-received) new book — it's a real sign of the seriousness with which Washington's political establishment takes the blogosphere, by the way, when the Senate Majority Leader does an online book salon with a blog — and he was asked this question by a reader:

Lish: Senator, are you planning to hold hearings on the illegality of the Pentagon's propaganda training program of retired military officers that was recently exposed by the New York Times and Glenn Greenwald?

Reid's response:

Reid: The answer is yes. I have personally spoken to Chairman Levin and he is tremendously concerned as I. And we are proceeding accordingly.

That's good news. Lawmakers have been clamoring over the Pentagon puppets scandal, but the news media has largely been silent. If there are hearings, that will have to change.

McCain's Surrogates Get Confused

| Sun May 11, 2008 1:55 PM EDT

Think Progress has a great catch. Mitt Romney on CNN earlier today:

BLITZER: Does John McCain want to continue what Obama called the failed policies of the Bush administration?
ROMNEY: Well I think you're going to hear that time and again, Wolf, throughout the campaign season. And I just don't think it's going to stick.

McCain surrogate Rep. Roy Blunt (R-MO) in the same program:

BLITZER: So it would be in effect a third Bush term when it came to pro-growth tax policies?
BLUNT: It would be. I think it would be. And I think that's a good thing.

Good work out there, fellas. Here's video. Blunt is pretty adamant about that same-as-Bush thing.


In the Shadow of Mother's Day

| Sat May 10, 2008 9:52 PM EDT

Below is a guest blog entry in honor of Mother's Day by obstetrician-gynecologist Nancy Stanwood:

I am fortunate to have met many wonderful mothers. These women understand what it means to raise a child well. They make daily sacrifices to keep their children physically and emotionally healthy and happy. As a new mother myself, I find their commitment inspiring.

What I know about these mothers, though, won't be celebrated on Mother's Day. They came to me to have abortions.

I am an obstetrician-gynecologist, and in my 13 years of delivering babies and providing abortions, I have ended pregnancies for many women with children at home. These mothers account for the majority of U.S. abortions. Six out of every ten women who have abortions in this country each year already have at least one child.

In my experience, these mothers have abortions to meet their responsibilities for their children at home.

How To Win A Nobel

| Sat May 10, 2008 7:40 PM EDT

teaser.png Log enough hours of Foldit and you might play your way into a cooperative Nobel. The new online game is designed to understand how existing proteins fold themselves, as well as to design new ones. The ultimate goal is to tap into that endless supply of human gaming energy to solve really hard problems. You might find yourself part of a cure for HIV or Alzheimer's or malaria. Or one of the many who designs a new protein to break up toxic waste, say, or absorb CO2 from the air.

There are more than 100,000 different proteins in the human body. They form every cell, make up the immune system, and set the speed of chemical reactions. We know many of their genetic sequences but don't know how they fold up into shapes so complex it would take all the computers in the world centuries to calculate them. Yet humans' natural 3-D problem-solving skills, utilized in an addictive gaming scenario, might solve the problems in only years. Or less. At least that's what a bunch of computer scientists, engineers, and biochemists from the University of Washington are hoping.

The game looks like a 21st-century version of Tetris, with multicolored geometric snakes filling the screen. A half-dozen UW graduate and undergraduate students spent more than a year figuring out how to make the game accurate and engaging. They faced challenges commercial game developers don't encounter, including not knowing the best results themselves.