Blogs

Amnesty International Adopts Powerful Technology To Protect Darfur

| Thu Jun. 7, 2007 12:27 PM PDT

Amnesty International USA is using powerful satellite cameras to monitor highly vulnerable villages in war-torn Darfur. This is the first-ever technological capability by human rights defenders to track possible targets of attack, prevent new atrocities, and save lives, says Amnesty. The human rights organization is inviting ordinary people worldwide to help protect 12 villages by visiting the Eyes on Darfur project website (www.eyesondarfur.org) and put Sudanese President al-Bashir on notice that the areas are being watched around the clock. Check it out. --JULIA WHITTY

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War Czar Says Questioning War Has Nothing to Do With Not Supporting the Troops

| Thu Jun. 7, 2007 12:01 PM PDT

Testimony from war czar Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute reconfirms the fact that it is politicians, and not military men, who scream "Support the troops!" as a political attack against their enemies.

When asked about the debate over the Iraq War that has consumed Washington and the nation, Lute said at his confirmation hearing today, "I don't believe it undercuts [the troop's] morale." The troops "understand the democratic process," he said, "and, in fact, that's what we've sworn to protect and defend."

It sounds a lot like what Gen. Pace said on the subject: "As long as this Congress continues to do what it has done, which is to provide the resources for the mission, the dialogue will be the dialogue, and the troops will feel supported."

Or what Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said: "I think [the troops are] sophisticated enough to understand that that's what the debate's really about."

Of course they are. The troops, after all, debate the merit of the war as much or more than anyone else. They know the same thing goes on at home, and that the mere existence of debate doesn't mean liberals somewhere want them to die. To assume otherwise is an insult to their intelligence.

So who's doing the insulting? Republicans in Congress like House Minority Leader John Boehner, who said, "Think about the message we have sent them... We have undermined their efforts, lowered their morale, and clearly sent the wrong message." Or John McCain, who said, "if we voice disapproval and send our young troops on their way... what message does it send to the troops? That we disapprove of what they're doing but we still support them, but not their mission?"

Or the dark lord himself, Dick Cheney, who said straight up that questioning the war is "detrimental to our troops." I suggest the vice president fact-check that with his generals, his Secretary of Defense, or any one of the troops fighting on the ground.

Think Progress has video of Lute's testimony.

Point System in Immigration Bill Survives Near Miss from Obama

| Thu Jun. 7, 2007 11:13 AM PDT

The point system we've discussed at length here on MoJoBlog almost suffered the same fate as the guest worker program. Late last night, Barack Obama introduced an amendment to sunset the problematic point system after five years instead of the current 14, a move that infuriated the bill's sponsors and never quite mustered the support to pass. So in a 55-42 vote, the point system that will radically change the face of America's immigrant population remains as is.

Orange, Yellow, and Read All Over

| Thu Jun. 7, 2007 10:28 AM PDT
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29-year old Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie just won Britain's Orange Prize for her novel Half of a Yellow Sun. Rina Palta interviewed Adichie for Mother Jones last October; she also gave the novel a big thumbs up—"a great read... without the oppressive symbolism or exoticism common to novels by young authors from so-called third world countries."

Immigration Bill Endangered by Guest Worker Change

| Thu Jun. 7, 2007 10:04 AM PDT

Just after midnight this morning, the Senate passed an amendment to the immigration bill that would sunset the guest worker program after five years. Though the sponsors of the bill had been successful in deflecting a number of amendments, some intended to drastically reshape the bill, others intended to kill it outright, they weren't able to stop a bipartisan coalition of senators from adding the sunset to the bill. Dems don't like the guest worker program because it creates an underclass of laborers with few rights that drag down wages for low-income American workers; anti-immigration Republicans don't like it because it gives more immigrants a legal place in the country. Pro-business Republicans love the thing for obvious reasons, and composed the bulk of the amendment's opposition.

Senators are discussing this amendment like it might strangle the bill, which means that the speculation that the guest worker program would be the most contentious part of the bill was correct.

Dep't of Riveting Videos: Chris Dodd, Au Naturel

| Thu Jun. 7, 2007 9:22 AM PDT

This is either a biting commentary on the capacity of YouTube fetishism to overwhelm and ruin actual debate in American politics or the worst example of an out-of-touch campaign trying to glom onto a trend it doesn't understand. Either way, it's hilarious if you have a minute to spare.

Yeah, that's right. Just a man writing, eating, writing, drinking, and writing some more. We really need to reel in the viral video aspect of the 2008 campaign -- we're in danger of losing words altogether in favor of (barely) moving images. Spotted on The Plank.

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The Man Who Would Be Surgeon General

| Wed Jun. 6, 2007 3:52 PM PDT

holsinger.gifNot only is Bush's choice for Surgeon General a homophobe; he's also an idiot. A 1991 paper by the nominee written for the Methodist Church, James W. Holsinger, makes about as infantile an argument against homosexuality as one could imagine. His argument boils down to "the thing speaks for itself!" (really, the exclamation point is original!). His point is that the food/waste system (which includes not just that locus of gay anxiety, the anus, but also, hello!, the mouth) is self-evidently distinct from the sexual/reproductive system—and therefore, self-evidently, the anus should not be used for sex, and doing so self-evidently causes health problems.

Holsinger tries to make his utterly childish argument sound smart by:

(a) quoting "the thing speaks for itself!" first in Latin;

(b) mentioning the cross-cultural acceptance of his argument: "[I]t is clear that even primitive cultures understand the nature of waste elimination, sexual intercourse, and the birth of children. Indeed our own children appear to "intuitively" understand these facts. I think we should note that these simple "scientific facts" are the same in any culture." (Ed. Note: The use of scare quotes and exclamation points is almost always evidence of a stupid, stupid argument.)

and (c) drawing, as a true sign of erudition, on fields other than the sophisticated medicine that is his focus—specifically, how nuts and bolts fit together just as, self-evidently, male and female genitalia do (though more than one woman would probably disagree with even that assessment): "the logical complementarity of the human sexes has been so recognized in our culture that it has entered our vocabulary in the form of naming various pipe fittings either the male fitting or the female fitting depending upon which one interlocks within the other."

There you have it: Holsinger is no rocket scientist. And he shouldn't be Surgeon General, either. He shows clear signs of not being able to separate his personal beliefs from medical fact. Not only that, but Holsinger eventually resigned from the Methodist Church's Committee to Study Homosexuality because he thought it was too liberal. He went on to found a church for ex-gays.

Gay rights groups are protesting the nomination, but Holsinger's supporters are claiming he would never let his religious beliefs interfere with his duties as Surgeon General. Self-evident, don't you think?

Would-Be Lifesavers Go Down in Crash

| Wed Jun. 6, 2007 1:59 PM PDT

There's a sad piece of news in today's New York Times. A plane crash over Lake Michigan killed an entire medical transplant team and two pilots yesterday. The precious organ—a lung—was also lost. Organ transplant is a high risk field of work, because doctors habitually rush from donors to recipients in small planes. You know, trying to save other people's lives. The would-be recipient of the lung had already been anesthetized and opened up, taxing his already seriously ill system.

Worth reading in full.

Weird Weather Watch: Killer Algae Bloom

| Wed Jun. 6, 2007 1:15 PM PDT

sea_lion.jpgSea lions (pictured) and elephant seals are sick and dying off the coast of California due to a record algae bloom. Algae produces domoic acid, which is toxic to sea mammals in large doses. "In over 22 years of marine mammal rescues, I've never seen such distress of marine mammals," said Peter Wallerstein of the Whale Rescue Team, a private marine mammal rescue group. Researchers aren't sure what caused the massive bloom, but their suspects include climate change, pollution, and shifting nutrients in the water.

For Mother Jones' coverage of the effects of climate change and pollution on the ocean, click here.

DeAnza Rape Case: State Attorney to Review DA's Decision

| Wed Jun. 6, 2007 1:00 PM PDT

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Remember that case that got everyone so riled up a couple weeks back? Well, apparently the California State Attorney's office is heeding the public's protests. The office has decided to review District Attorney Dolores Carr's controversial decision not to prosecute the men who allegedly gang-raped a 17-year-old, intoxicated, girl at a house party at a DeAnza College baseball player's house back in March.

The DA said her office did not have enough evidence to confidently prosecute the case, despite three eyewitnesses. Women's groups, community activists, and the media quickly called foul. Carr gave her reasons in an editorial in the local paper, where she detailed why she believed there's not enough evidence to go forward.

Carr wrote that the intoxication of the alleged perpetrators, victim, and witnesses would make it difficult to prove "beyond a reasonable doubt" that the victim did not give consent AND that her alleged attackers knew it. She saluted the courage of the eyewitnesses but said that they "only saw the last 30 to 60 seconds of a two-hour party," and their testimony was just part of a body of evidence rife with conflicting accounts.

Carr's editorial did not squelch the demand for a trial, however. The Santa Clara County sheriff's office is pursuing the case, perhaps especially now that the victim is speaking out (albeit, via representatives). The girl, who has since moved out of the area, says she deserves "her day in court."