Big Squid In California Waters

| Thu Jul. 26, 2007 5:58 PM PDT

The Los Angeles Times and others are reporting on the "voracious" jumbo squid "invading" California waters and "preying" on local anchovy, hake and other commercial fish populations. . . .Hmm. Sound a little hysterical? Could anything actually be more voracious, invasive, or predatory than one of our very own? JULIA WHITTY

You compare. This:

Or this:

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Beijing To Build Windmills For 2008 Olympics

| Thu Jul. 26, 2007 5:22 PM PDT

Beijing has started work on 33 windmills to supply clean energy in time for the 2008 Olympic Games. Reuters reports the $76 million power stations, situated on the outskirts of Beijing, are expected to produce an estimated 100 million kilowatts of electricity a year to reduce the city's reliance on polluting coal-fired generators. The windmill project, which China claims to be the 10th largest in the world, would also cut carbon dioxide emissions by at least 10 million tons a year. . . So, how to harness the muscle power of those athletes with their Olympic-sized carbon footprints? JULIA WHITTY

Low Literacy Equals Early Death Sentence

| Thu Jul. 26, 2007 4:44 PM PDT

Older people with poor health literacy have a 50 percent higher mortality rate over five years than people with adequate reading skills. Low health literacy is defined as the inability to read and comprehend basic materials like prescription bottles, appointment slips, and hospital forms, according to the study from Northwestern University. Low health literacy was the top predictor of mortality after smoking, surpassing income and years of education. Most of the mortality differential was due to higher rates of death from cardiovascular disease. "When patients can't read, they are not able to do the things necessary to stay healthy," said David Baker, M.D., lead author of the study. "They don't know how to take their medications correctly, they don't understand when to seek medical care, and they don't know how to care for their diseases." This is the likely reason they're much more likely to die. . . No Elder Left Behind, anyone? JULIA WHITTY

Air Pollution Link To Clogged Arteries

| Thu Jul. 26, 2007 4:23 PM PDT

New research shows that air pollution plays a role in atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries. This in turn contributes to heart attacks and/or strokes, according to a study published in the open access journal Genome Biology. The fats that clog arteries apparently work in conjunction with air pollution particles to trigger the genes behind inflammation, which leads to increased lesions in the clogged arteries, and the potential for thrombi, and resultant heart attacks or strokes. . . Listen up Dick Cheney, master of the clot. Clean air is good for you. JULIA WHITTY

Badgers and Squirrels and Iran, Oh My!

| Thu Jul. 26, 2007 1:48 PM PDT

TAPPED has a great post today summing up all the crazy animal-related foreign policy news of the past week. The lead items? Iran accusing the U.S. of using trained squirrels as spies, and the belief, widely held by the inhabitants of Basra in southern Iraq, that the British military has released man-eating badgers into the city.

The U.S. and the British have denied all squirrel- and badger-related activity (one Foreign Office official called the squirrel story "nuts"), but suspicions remain. From one of TAPPED's commentators, on a British spokesman's statement that "We can categorically state that we have not released man-eating badgers into the area.":

That's sort of a lawyerly non-denial denial, isn't it? Maybe the badgers eat women and children, but not men.

Good point. Reminiscent of the famed (and possibly fake) killer dolphins set loose by Katrina.

— Nick Baumann

Galifianakis Explains "Alternate" Kanye Video

| Thu Jul. 26, 2007 1:03 PM PDT


This week Kanye West posted on his website an "alternate" video for his new song "Can't Tell Me Nothin'," featuring comedian Zach Galifianakis (right) and musician Will Oldham as a pair of rural yokels, carousing on tractors and accurately lip-synching to Kanye's lyrics.

Watch it here.

The world responded with a collective "WTF?!"

Today Galifinakis talked to MTV News about what inspired the clip, saying basically that he and Oldham were "drunk in my basement:"

"Kanye's trainer, Harley Pasternak, is a friend of mine, and he showed Kanye some of my videos. Then Kanye came to a stand-up show of mine and asked me afterwards if I would produce and perform a video for him," Galifianakis told MTV News. "I was flying to my farm in North Carolina the next morning [and] I told him that if I could shoot it there, then I would do it. There was no audition. I did whatever I wanted. He told me to just do what I thought would work. … [The song has] lots of words that are quite fast. Plus, my horrible dancing throws off the rhythm inside my head."

Question: Zach Galifianakis has a farm, with tractors just ready to go? Does that make him a comedian who farms, or a farmer who tells jokes?

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Political Trivia for July 26

| Thu Jul. 26, 2007 10:37 AM PDT

Today's question comes (again) courtesy of, and it's a tough one:

How many years after the historic Nixon-Kennedy debates in 1960 was the next debate between the Democratic and Republican presidential nominees?

No googling, just guessing. If you have a trivia question to suggest, email it to

Update: As two commenters correctly guessed, it was 16 years later, in 1976.

— Nick Baumann

Lawmakers Have a Sense of Humor About This "Paying For Sex" Business

| Thu Jul. 26, 2007 10:12 AM PDT

An item from today's Hill, reproduced without comment but with plenty of giggles:

Which member of Congress was scaring the bejesus out of colleagues late Tuesday night by putting in fake reporter requests to speak to lawmakers about Deborah Jeane Palfrey, aka the D.C. Madam?
Reporters long have filled out cards in the Speaker's Gallery to request face-time with members. An aide brings the card to the particular member on the House floor and he or she decides whether to come out and chat with the requesting scribe.
The rambunctious lawmaker filled out cards posing as a Washington Post reporter, only to watch the color drain from the faces of unsuspecting co-workers when confronted with the cards from a "journalist" writing about Hill types caught up in a scandal related to an alleged prostitution ring.

Sexist "We Only Describe What Female Politicians Are Wearing" Media Moment of the Day

| Thu Jul. 26, 2007 9:35 AM PDT

Anyone who reads newspapers with any frequency recognizes the trend: reporters love to talk about what powerful women are wearing. You'll never hear about the cut of Robert Byrd's suit or where Harry Reid got his shoes, but, boy, does Nancy Pelosi look good in that Armani suit. And that Condi Rice has been looking fine, too — especially in boots. Smart people know that talking about Hillary Clinton's cleavage is a meaningless (not to mention sexist) distraction from the issues, so we'll take care to try to point out some of the more egregious examples we come across.

From today's Washington Post:

[California Rep. Loretta] Sanchez, ... resplendent in a black outfit with silver sparkles.

"Resplendent"? Really? Tongue-in-cheek or not: give me a break.

— Nick Baumann

How Do You "Make" a Terrorist Threat?

| Thu Jul. 26, 2007 9:27 AM PDT

Prosecutors have accused Olutosin Oduwole, a student at Southern Illinois University, of planning a Virginia Tech-style massacre on his campus. He has been charged with "attempting to make a terrorist threat," according to today's Washington Post. Police say Oduwole's abandoned car contained a note that demanded $50,000 — to his PayPal account! — to avert a "murderous rampage" at a "highly populated university."

If SIU really was Oduwole's target, he doesn't think too highly of it. According to the Post, the note "suggested the shooting would target a "prestigious" university, but that word was crossed out." (If you want to learn more about Mr. Oduwole, the AP thinks it has found his page here).

So yesterday, on his 22nd birthday, Oduwole pleaded not guilty to making a terrorist threat. But how do you "make" a terrorist threat? Is it enough to just have a note in your car? The ATF has noted that Oduwole was legally entitled to the guns he ordered online. His friends ("hundreds" on according to the AP) say this is all a big misunderstanding because Oduwole likes violent rap music and guns. What are the laws about planning to make a terrorist threat? Does the first amendment protect threatening writing if you never show it to anyone? And, if Oduwole actually did write the note, what could drive an apparently popular, happy young man — the president of his fraternity, the kid with hundreds of friends — to even consider writing something so stupid?

— Nick Baumann