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Surge of Homeless Vets

| Thu Nov. 8, 2007 6:02 PM EST

For those looking into the real costs of the war in Iraq, as Mother Jones did in our Iraq 101 package, it's been evident for some time that as soldiers returned from war, rates of homelessness would spike.

The New York Times reports:

"We're beginning to see, across the country, the first trickle of this generation of warriors in homeless shelters," said Phil Landis, chairman of Veterans Village of San Diego, a residence and counseling center. "But we anticipate that it's going to be a tsunami."

In fact, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are turning heroes into homeless people faster and more efficiently than Vietnam did.

Special traits of the current wars may contribute to homelessness, including high rates of post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, and traumatic brain injury, which can cause unstable behavior and substance abuse, and the long and repeated tours of duty, which can make the reintegration into families and work all the harder.

If that weren't depressing enough, because women are seeing far more combat in 21st century wars, more of them are turning up homeless, too. One major risk factor is sexual abuse: 40 percent of homeless female vets report being raped by other American soldiers while on active duty.

And in case you weren't thinking it already, all this for what, exactly?

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No Justice In Climate Change

| Thu Nov. 8, 2007 4:00 PM EST

Global-warming-maps_hi-res-sm.jpgWhen it comes to global warming, discussions tend to get real abstract, real fast. How will climbing temperatures actually affect you? Well, it depends where you live—and how rich you are (or aren't). According to a forthcoming study, climate change will disproportionately impact the world's poor.

Jonathan Patz, a professor of public health and the environment at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is one of the study's lead authors (and also an IPCC author). Patz says it's time for those of us in the gas-guzzling-est of countries to come to terms with the painful (and inconvenient) truth: Our lifestyle is bad news for the developing world—and we've got an ethical problem on our hands. In a UW-Madison press release, Patz says:

If energy demand drives up the price of corn, for example, this can inflict undue burden on poor or malnourished populations or shift agricultural areas away from other traditional food crops.

And then there are the health issues:

There are many serious diseases that are sensitive to climate, and as earth's climate changes, so too can the range and transmission of such diseases....Many of these climate-sensitive diseases, such as malaria, malnutrition, and diarrhea, affect children.

This isn't the first time someone has pointed out the unfairness of climate change. Among others, Inuit activist Sheila Watt-Cloutier has noted that her people's carbon output is a tiny fraction of the U.S.'s, yet global warming is already threatening the Inuit way of life. The IPCC has also predicted that poor people—particularly those in Africa—will be hardest hit by climate change.

To read the study, you'll have to wait till next week, when it will be published in the journal EcoHealth, but you can already check out these cool maps—one shows countries' relative carbon outputs, while the other shows their vulnerability to the effects of climate change.

Huckabee Fever Hits Iowa, Sorta

| Thu Nov. 8, 2007 3:56 PM EST

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Mike Huckabee spoke to a crowd of about 100 people in Cedar Rapids this morning. I hate to confirm all the cliches about the Arkansas Governor, but his campaign appeal really does rest on his folksy, down-to-earth charm and his good humor. People at the event said they were considering supporting Huckabee (there were precious few true believers) because he is "genuine," "honest," and/or "charming."

To wit. He opened his speech with a fictional story that made no point about his campaign or his personal history—it was simply a longish joke about a condemned man who would rather hang than listen to a politician campaign. Ba dum.

And from that, Huckabee moved to another story, this time a true one about a woman at a gala dinner in Arkansas who confused Huckabee with a different politician and was unapologetic about it afterwards. "You politicians all look the same to me," she told Huckabee. It's a head-scratcher why he chose to tell us.

As for the body of the speech, Huckabee spoke at length about how abortion is a moral issue that cannot, like Fred Thompson argues, be decided at the state level. That's Huckabee's bread and butter—as a former Baptist minister, he has unique appeal amongst the Christian Right. He took a hard-line approach on illegal immigration, pimped his fair tax idea that scraps the IRS and the income tax in favor of a "consumption tax," and emphasized that the American health care system needs to focus on prevention. It's time we started "killing snakes instead of treating snake bites," he said.

At one point, when an audience member was asking a question, one of the "Mike Huckabee for President" signs taped behind the Governor fell off the wall. Huckabee turned around while the person was still talking, picked the sign up, and smacked it back on. "I don't want anyone saying Huckabee's campaign is falling in Iowa," he said.

After the event, Huckabee's national field director, who also happens to be his daughter, said that Huckabee has to place in the top three in Iowa to stay in the race.

Oh, and after the event, I asked Huckabee if he was disappointed and/or suprised by social conservative Sam Brownback's endorsement of John McCain.

"I would be dishonest to say I wasn't disappointed, but I wasn't that surprised," he said. "I knew that Sam and John McCain were good friends from the Senate. For me, what's more important than just having the Senator's support is having his supporters' support." Huckabee smiled and said, "John McCain can take Sam, I'll take the supporters."

Bob Novak Sees Everything Through a Political Lens

| Thu Nov. 8, 2007 1:03 PM EST

Bob Novak is claiming that social conservatives have had just about enough of Fred Thompson and his moderate views. On a recent Meet the Press appearance, Thompson opposed a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, opposed the congressional intervention in the Terri Schiavo case, and opposed a constitutional amendment to ban abortions (though such an amendment has been part of the Republican Party platform since 1980).

And it's this last that is really getting people. On abortion, Thompson said, "You can't have a [federal] law" that "would take young, young girls... and say, basically, we're going to put them in jail." Despite his 100 percent pro-life voting record, Thompson is clearly just not avid enough. Here's Novak:

Thompson's comments revealed an astounding lack of sensitivity about abortion. He surely anticipated that Russert would cite his record favoring states' rights on abortion. Whether the candidate just blurted out his statement or had planned it, it suggested a failure to realize how much his chances for the Republican nomination depend on social conservatives.

Here's what I want to point out. As should be obvious, Thompson's comments revealed a lack of sensitivity about politics; they showed a high level of integrity about abortion. Novak can't distinguish between the two. For him, evaluating a stand or a position on principle is a non-starter, a moot point. A position can only be evaluated based on politics, and how it will help election chances. Blergh.

Blackwater Implicated in More Killings

| Thu Nov. 8, 2007 10:50 AM EST

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Add another series of killings to our Blackwater timeline. Steve Fainuru reports in this morning's Washington Post that a Blackwater sniper killed three Iraqi security guards employed by Iraq's national television station. The incident, which appears to have been inadequately investigated, occurred a full seven months prior to the most recent spate of killings in a Baghdad traffic circle on September 16. According to Fainuru:

Last Feb. 7, a sniper employed by Blackwater USA, the private security company, opened fire from the roof of the Iraqi Justice Ministry. The bullet tore through the head of a 23-year-old guard for the state-funded Iraqi Media Network, who was standing on a balcony across an open traffic circle. Another guard rushed to his colleague's side and was fatally shot in the neck. A third guard was found dead more than an hour later on the same balcony.
Eight people who responded to the shootings -- including media network and Justice Ministry guards and an Iraqi army commander -- and five network officials in the compound said none of the slain guards had fired on the Justice Ministry, where a U.S. diplomat was in a meeting. An Iraqi police report described the shootings as "an act of terrorism" and said Blackwater "caused the incident." The media network concluded that the guards were killed "without any provocation."
The U.S. government reached a different conclusion. Based on information from the Blackwater guards, who said they were fired upon, the State Department determined that the security team's actions "fell within approved rules governing the use of force," according to an official from the department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security. Neither U.S. Embassy officials nor Blackwater representatives interviewed witnesses or returned to the network, less than a quarter-mile from Baghdad's Green Zone, to investigate.
The incident shows how American officials responsible for overseeing the security company conducted only a cursory investigation when Blackwater guards opened fire.

So, maybe you didn't know that Blackwater had snipers in Iraq? Well, they do. You can even watch them work on YouTube. This footage was taken in 2004. It shows a Blackwater sniper cooly picking off insurgents attacking the Coalition Provisional Headquarters in Najaf.

Homeland Insanity

| Thu Nov. 8, 2007 10:31 AM EST

USA Today: "John William Anderson, who was born on July 4, 2001, is on TSA's watch list. He was first stopped in 2004 when his mother and grandmother took him on his first plane ride to Disney World." Anderson's mom Christine tells the paper, "No one can give any answers to why my son is on the list or really how to get him off." More than 15,000 want to get off U.S. terror list, USA Today reports. With the recent trial and conviction on 13 counts of bribery related charges of U.S. government security contractor Brent Wilkes, his Congressional benefactor/bribee Congressman Duke Cunningham serving eight years in jail, and the endless Orwellian insanities of the post-9/11 system as described above, anyone else get the sense that the whole homeland security project is more about enriching contractors and filling congressmen's ATMs rather than anything to do with security? Then again, just what is under young John Anderson's hat?

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House of Representatives Passes ENDA

| Wed Nov. 7, 2007 7:36 PM EST

Today marks the first time in U.S. history that either body of Congress has passed employment protections that cover lesbian, gay and bisexual citizens. Unfortunately, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, as it is currently written, does not include gender identity, which made it difficult for supporting organizations such as the Human Rights Campaign, to continue to support it. However, a decision was made by all involved that it would be better to support the current version of the bill than to let it be defeated.

Hold The Antibiotics: Infections Critical For Healthy Life

| Wed Nov. 7, 2007 6:33 PM EST

bacteria.jpg Nix the antibacterial soaps. Forget the hand sanitizers, antibiotic gels, sprays, and baby blankets. Research shows that antibacterial products actually make children and adults more likely to develop asthma and allergies and maybe even mental illnesses. The study from Colorado State University suggests that our love affair with antibacterial products is altering how immune, gastrointestinal, and nervous systems develop and function. Infection may play a significant role in many chronic aliments, including schizophrenia, ulcers, and obsessive compulsive disorder. What many people may not realize is that most infections ensure our health instead of compromise it. Humans have 10 times more bacterial cells in their bodies than human cells. Without bacteria, there would not be humans. Gerald Callahan, who studies bacteria and infectious diseases at Colorado State University, points out that there are more bacteria by far in this world than any other living thing. "We are a minority on this planet, and we must learn how to work with the majority," he says.

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

Bush Still Peddling Progress in Iraq. Sigh.

| Wed Nov. 7, 2007 6:25 PM EST

I'm not sure why it never gets old to bring attention to Bush's constant reiteration that we are freedom fighters and that Iraq is making progress. Maybe because the further along we get in this quagmire, the more absurd these comments become. This from a press conference with French president Nicholas Sarkozy held this afternoon:

If you lived in Iraq and had lived under a tyranny, you'd be saying: God, I love freedom, because that's what's happened...we're making progress.

Well, according to our figures, more than 4 million of these thankful Iraqis have fled this newfound freedom.

Shipping Fuels Heart and Lung Disease

| Wed Nov. 7, 2007 6:10 PM EST

tinley_ship-lrg.jpg That's right. All those goods you're paying to get for cheap from China. Those winter blueberries from Argentina. South African wines. Well, they come with a hidden cost. Pollution from marine shipping causes approximately 60,000 premature cardiopulmonary and lung cancer deaths around the world each year, according to a study from the Rochester Institute of Technology. The researchers correlated the global distribution of particulate matter—black carbon, sulfur, nitrogen and organic particles—released from ships' smoke stacks with heart disease and lung cancer mortalities in adults. Worse still, the predicted growth in shipping could increase annual mortalities by 40 percent by 2012.

"Our work will help people decide at what scale action should be taken," says James Corbett of the University of Delaware. "We want our analysis to enable richer dialogue among stakeholders about how to improve the environment and economic performance of our freight systems."

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