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Our Prez Finally Made Hell Freeze Over

| Fri Jan. 11, 2008 11:20 AM EST

It's snowing in Baghdad.

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Clinton Faces Trouble in South Carolina for MLK Remarks

| Fri Jan. 11, 2008 10:38 AM EST

clyburn.jpg Before the New Hampshire primary, Hillary Clinton went on Fox News and responded to Barack Obama's frequent invocations of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. "Dr. King's dream began to be realized when President Lyndon Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964," she said. "It took a president to get it done."

The message was clear: knowing how to work the levers of power is more valuable in getting stuff done than even the mightiest of speeches.

But slighting Dr. King is probably not the best way to make any political point. Maybe the biggest ramification is this: South Carolina Representative James Clyburn, the highest-ranking African-American in Congress and a veteran of the civil rights movement, appears poised to abandon the neutrality he has maintained throughout the presidential race and endorse Barack Obama.

"We have to be very, very careful about how we speak about that era in American politics," Clyburn told the New York Times. "It is one thing to run a campaign and be respectful of everyone's motives and actions, and it is something else to denigrate those. That bothered me a great deal."

Clyburn is a heavyweight in South Carolina politics, and his endorsement could help solidify Obama's support amongst the black community there. The black vote in South Carolina, as we've discussed, is not solidly in anyone's camp at the moment, and if Obama can add that voting block to others that are on his side, he will have a very solid chance at the nomination. After all, if he could win Iowa and be competitive in New Hampshire, two states that are heavily white, imagine what he can do in places that are more diverse.

(And PS — Does Clinton really want to use the LBJ vs. MLK analogy? Who is going to say, "Well, I guess we could elect the Martin Luther King guy, but I'll go with the Lyndon Johnson lady instead." That's crazy. Ain't nobody getting a day off on LBJ's birthday.)

Iditarod Race Feels Global Warming's Heat

| Thu Jan. 10, 2008 6:30 PM EST

iditarod3.jpgCiting "less-than-winter conditions," and encroaching suburban development, Iditarod officials are moving the famous dog race's starting point 30 miles north from Wasilla to Willow. They're also shortening the first, ceremonial leg of the competition (the short, easier race that precedes the harsh, longer race to Nome) by seven miles.

This isn't the first time officials have had to change the traditional sled dog race's route. Just six years ago, a lack of snow forced them to move the 1122-mile-long race's start point 200 miles north, from Wasilla to Fairbanks. And even now, they have to truck in snow for the ceremonial start.

Warm weather isn't the only element threatening the Iditarod: Increasing suburban development has crunched in previously wide-open spaces. "No matter what the weather conditions would be, there's a lot of asphalt and other things that don't mix well with competitive racing," said Stan Hooley, executive director of the Iditarod Trail Committee. "To be around that is stressful for the dogs."

You can see an interactive map of the trail for this year's race, which begins March 1, here. To see the NOAA satellite view of the land around the start point, go here.

Writers' Strike to Cancel Grammys?

| Thu Jan. 10, 2008 6:28 PM EST

mojo-photo-grohlgrammys.JPGHow will we know if Carrie Underwood has made the song of the year? Variety's Set List blog is speculating that if the writers' strike is still in effect on the planned Grammys ceremony date of February 10th, the list of musicians who might show up will be missing some big names:

Another Email Scandal

| Thu Jan. 10, 2008 5:37 PM EST

As a follow-on to Nick's post about the missing White House emails, I should point out that there's another email scandal brewing—this one in Missouri, where the former deputy legal counsel to Governor Matt Blunt (son of House Minority Whip Roy Blunt) has alleged that the governor and four of his aides schemed to destroy potentially damaging electronic communications. According to a suit filed yesterday by Scott Eckersley, Blunt's one-time legal counsel Henry Herschel instructed staffers to destroy email records related to the politically-motivated firing of a state official, rather than turn them over to the press under a public records request. Ed Martin, then serving as Blunt's chief of staff, subsequently "instructed the governor's office to delete e-mail in inbox and trash files 'to ensure they did not have to be turned over to the press or the public in response to Sunshine requests,'" according to the Kansas City Star.

And this is what happened when reporters confronted Blunt about the allegations earlier today:

At the governor's annual prayer breakfast, Blunt declined to answer questions from The Associated Press about Eckersley's lawsuit but pledged to discuss it at a later news conference on drunken driving laws. At that news conference, however, Blunt devoted barely 2 minutes to questions about the lawsuit—refusing to discuss it any detail—and then turned his back on reporters and walked out of the room while ignoring continued questions.

Still M.I.A.: Millions of White House Emails

| Thu Jan. 10, 2008 5:36 PM EST

missing-emails250x200.jpg

Remember how White House spokeswoman Dana Perino told us in April that she "wouldn't rule out" that the Bush administration may have lost 5 million emails? You know, the emails the White House doesn't want you to see? No? Here's your update:

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People Actually Buying In Rainbows

| Thu Jan. 10, 2008 3:02 PM EST

mojo-photo-inrainbowscover5.JPGHey, so there was this band, they put an album out on the intertubes? You might remember it: they'd send you the album through the tubes, and then you'd take the album out of the little truck and put in as much money as you wanted and send it back to them through the return tube. It was a lot of fun. But that was months ago. So, nine days ago, Radiohead's In Rainbows materialized in actual stores on actual CDs (and vinyl!) and there was some question over how it would sell, seeing as how the kids have had unfettered access to 160kbps mp3s for a while. Turns out they needn't have worried: In Rainbows landed at #1 on the Billboard album charts in the US, achieving the same feat in the UK.

However, like most pieces of news from the music industry these days, this is mostly just a sign of how bad things have become.

Rick Santorum, Back From the Grave to Slam John McCain

| Thu Jan. 10, 2008 3:02 PM EST

crypt_keeper.jpg I love when Republicans rip each other. And Rick Santorum just went on Hugh Hewitt's radio show and did nothing but rip John McCain the entire time. Enjoy.

HH: Why can't John McCain win this election?
RS: Well, number one, John McCain will not get the base of the Republican Party. I mean, there was a reason John McCain collapsed last year, and it's because he was the frontrunner, and everybody in the Republican Party got a chance to look at him. And when they looked at him, they wait well, wait a minute, he's not with us on almost all of the core issues of…on the economic side, he was against the President's tax cuts, he was bad on immigration. On the environment, he's absolutely terrible. He buys into the complete left wing environmentalist movement in this country. He is for bigger government on a whole laundry list of issues. He was…I mean, on medical care, I mean, he was for re-importation of drugs.
I mean, you can go on down the list. I mean, this is a guy who on a lot of the core economic issues, is not even close to being a moderate, in my opinion. And then on the issue of, on social conservative issues, you point to me one time John McCain every took the floor of the United States Senate to talk about a social conservative issue. It never happened. I mean, this is a guy who says he believes in these things, but I can tell you, inside the room, when we were in these meetings, there was nobody who fought harder not to have these votes before the United States Senate on some of the most important social conservative issues, whether it's marriage or abortion or the like. He always fought against us to even bring them up, because he was uncomfortable voting for them. So I mean, this is just not a guy I think in the end that washes with the mainstream of the Republican Party.

More after the jump. Santorum's final message? The GOP is like a meat-lover at a San Francisco co-op grocery store. No good options.

Antarctic Sea Ice Increase: Fodder for Global Warming Skeptics?

| Thu Jan. 10, 2008 2:37 PM EST

antarctic200.jpgHold onto your hats, kids, because climate change skeptics are sure to have a field day with this one: Researchers have found that for the past 20 years, while ice in the Arctic has been rapidly decreasing, Antarctic sea ice has actually been increasing. "See?" The skeptics will say. "If the world really were getting warmer, then it wouldn't be all cold and icy in the South Pole."

But like many global warming denialist arguments, this one doesn't leave a whole lot of room for scientific nuance. Not all that science is fully understood yet, but until it is, you can fire back at doubting Thomases with a few basic facts: For starters, South Pole ice is much thicker than North Pole ice (2 miles in the Antarctic vs. 6-10 feet in the Arctic). Also, the ice in the north sits on open ocean, so it gets warmed from beneath&8212;while in the south, much of the ice sits on a continent.

Sydney Indymedia e-mailed renowned NASA climate scientist James Hansen, and he kindly put the Antarctic trends in some context:

All of the models, and the observations, have the central parts of Greenland and Antarctica growing faster because of global warming. This is a consequence of warmer air holding more moisture, thus increasing snowfall. But the net effect of warming on both continental ice sheets is mass loss, the increased melting being a larger effect than the increased snowfall.

And according to Hansen, not all of Antarctica's sea ice is increasing:

He also said "The fact that West Antarctica is shedding mass at a substantial rate, even though there is only small warming of surrounding sea surface temperatures, is a telling fact in my opinion, and a likely consequence of the warming ocean at depth, which affects the ice shelves that buttress West Antarctica, as discussed in our paper 'Dangerous human-made interference with climate: a GISS modelE study.'"

So there you have it: As usual, climate change is much more complex than skeptics would have us believe.

If China Can Ban Plastic Bags, Why Can't We?

| Thu Jan. 10, 2008 2:05 PM EST

china-bags.jpgCommunist governments may be oppressive to American eyes, but they do have the power to make sweeping environmental changes. Key example: China.

As Jacques Leslie reports in our current issue, China is the world's top CO2 emitter and uses more coal than any other nation. But in a bid to reduce pollution, effective June 1, the country's Communist government has banned those flimsy, white, petroleum-based plastic bags. And not just in a few cities, but across the entire nation of 1.3 billion people.

"While [the bags] providing convenience to consumers," the central government said in a statement, "they have also caused serious pollution, and waste of energy and resources, because of excessive use and inadequate recycling," China uses about 3 billion plastic bags a day.

Thicker plastic bags will still be allowed, for a fee, but the government is highly encouraging people to use traditional baskets or re-usable cloth bags. Citizens have been receptive, perhaps because pollution is so bad in China that most have experienced its effects (poor water quality, lung-searing smog) firsthand.

One consequence could be, since production of the bags in China will be banned, that perhaps we'll end up with fewer over here. Everything else we sell is made in China, if our plastic bags are too we might face a welcome shortage.