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Endangered Species List Endangered

| Thu Jul. 5, 2007 7:14 PM EDT

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is neglecting its mission as keeper of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the Los Angeles Times reports. While the Bald Eagle soars back from near-extinction, hundreds of other dwindling species are foundering under the legal, bureaucratic and political turmoil facing the agency. The Bush administration has added fewer species to the ESA list than any other since the law was enacted in 1973, resulting in a waiting list of 279 candidates creeping closer to extinction each day nothing is done on their behalf. Another bottleneck weakens efforts to save those already listed. Two hundred of 1,326 of these are now closer to disappearing forever, in part because funds have been cut for their recovery. The agency acknowledges a 30% vacancy rate in ESA staff. Plus the top position has been left vacant for more than a year. . . More evidence that the casualties of war, stupidity, and this administration will never be healed. JULIA WHITTY

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First Listen: Editors' An End Has a Start

| Thu Jul. 5, 2007 6:55 PM EDT

mojo-cover-editorslarge.JPG Who's afraid of Coldplay? Well, Jon Pareles, most famously, rightly calling their third album, 2005's X&Y, "self-pitying" and "hokum." In a post-"Fix You" world, it's easy to forget that Coldplay used to be alright: A Rush of Blood to the Head is introspective and creative where X&Y is maudlin and overwrought, and a quick listen to the former is a reminder that sensitive-guy music with dramatic, overarching melodies isn't always annoying.

Birmingham, England's Editors released The Back Room in '05, displaying a sound reminiscent of Joy Division; they were subsequently lumped in with the myriad other combos exploring that post-punk style, so it's not surprising they would now redirect themselves a little. This new direction is definitely sensitive-guy-land: lead single "Smokers Outside the Hospital Doors" laments that sight as "the saddest thing I've ever seen" over the insistent beat from Coldplay's "Clocks." But lead singer Tom Smith's straightforward baritone has none of the whimpering quality of Chris Martin, and combined with the soaring guitar work, the track achieves grandeur without trickery.

Elsewhere, on tracks like "Bones," the band returns to the propulsive uptempo of The Back Room, an "I Will Follow"-reminiscent style the band nearly owns at this point. It's all nicely done, if not earth-shattering, and despite the favorable comparisons to Coldplay, Start sometimes slips dangerously towards cliché: "Put Your Head Towards the Air" starts off sounding uncomfortably similar to Billy Joel's "She's Always a Woman," asking, "have we learned what we set out to learn?" But the track quickly redeems itself with a gigantic drum beat, and when Smith sings the strange line "there's people climbing out of their cars," it's hard not to get a little shiver. Fans of U2 and Coldplay looking for a similar band that hasn't lost the plot will find An End Has a Start a enjoyable, and at times awe-inspiring, listen.

An End Has a Start is out Tuesday, July 17th, on Fader Label. Three tracks are currently available on iTunes here.

AIDS Takes A Toll On The Environment

| Thu Jul. 5, 2007 6:44 PM EDT

AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa is taking its toll on the natural world. Nature reports from South Africa, and the annual meeting of the Society for Conservation Biology, that the disease is acting on communities in a multitude of ways. Game wardens and other conservation workers have died, while others miss work to care for ill loved ones. Families that have lost their primary breadwinners turn to the land for food and fuel. In some places, timber harvesting for coffins is causing deforestation. Researchers from the University of Witwatersrand surveyed several hundred families in the rural northeast of South Africa, where about one in four people are HIV positive. JULIA WHITTY

Spike Lee To Make WWII Film

| Thu Jul. 5, 2007 5:16 PM EDT

Controversial film director and actor Spike Lee announced that he plans to make a World War II film that will focus on the contribution of black American soldiers who fought and died to liberate Europe during WWII.

"If you think Hollywood and World War II, you think John Wayne—the great white male that saved the world. It's a myth," he told Reuters.

Shooting for the film, based on James McBride's novel Miracle at St. Anna, is expected to start by the beginning of 2008 and to cost $45 million. It will be shot in Tuscany, where American soldiers were trapped in the mountains behind enemy lines and were living with local villagers who had never laid eyes on a black person before.

Much of Lee's film career has focused on skewering controversial political and social issues, particularly those affecting the African American community. He was recently given the annual George Polk Award for his work on When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts, a documentary about life in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

Lee also announced in 2006 his plans to direct a James Brown biopic, which would tell the story of the "Godfather of Soul," who died of congestive heart failure on Christmas morning last year in Atlanta at age 73.

Punk Planet Magazine Dead in the Water

| Thu Jul. 5, 2007 5:12 PM EDT

The gutting of independent publishing and news media doesn't show signs of letting up.

Punk Planet in June announced that after 13 years and 80 issues, its final magazine issue was being sent out.

Staff blamed the internet, consumerism, bad distribution deals, and a stagnating independent music business for the demise of their publication.

The Chicago-based Punk Planet magazine and its online component punkplanet.com covers punk music, punk subculture, visual arts, and progressive issues such as media criticism, feminism, and labor issues through interviews, essays and album reviews.

Independents' Day Media, a small community-supported journalism project, has been publishing Punk Planet, as well as their own line of books and a skateboarding magazine called Bail.

The group will continue to publish fiction and nonfiction books on poster art, punk "rabble-rousers," inner-city organizing, and personal tragedy online and its website will continue to function as a social networking location for "independently minded folks."

Over here at Mother Jones, we're paying close attention to the struggles facing news media and indie publishing. For more info, see here, here, here, and here.

Netroots Sends ActBlue Love to John Edwards

| Thu Jul. 5, 2007 2:36 PM EDT

Our package on Politics 2.0 is all about how the internet will decentralize politics and make it more accessible to the common man. That includes fundraising, mostly in the form of the website ActBlue.

To learn more about the site, check out the link. But suffice it to say, the netroots and online activists use ActBlue to funnel money to favorite candidates, and have sent almost $25 million over ActBlue's wires (average donation: $60). So who are the candidates receiving the lion's share of that cash?

Turns out, it's John Edwards. Just John Edwards. And it's not even close.

For number of lifetime donations through ActBlue, Edwards leads with 41,236. The next highest are James Webb with 16,363 and Ned Lamont with 12,420. Edwards also leads in terms of lifetime money raised, with $3,437,887. Webb is again second with just $894,042.

Obama and Clinton aren't in the top ten in either category. Hmmm... a strong clue on who the internet supports for president.

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'08 Campaign's Next Big Issue: Hedge Fund Taxes

| Thu Jul. 5, 2007 2:12 PM EDT

There's an upcoming issue that will test the principles of the Democratic presidential candidates. From Politico:

On the merits, this specific proposal -- which is part of a larger, ongoing re-examination by congressional tax writers of the way Wall Street is treated -- should not be a close call for a progressive leader courting union leaders and activists in Iowa and New Hampshire. It would correct an outrageous loophole that enables hedge fund and private equity managers to have their eye-popping profits (known as "carried interest") taxed as capital gains instead of income.
The net effect of this is that billionaires are getting taxed for their work at a lower rate -- 15 percent, instead of the top income bracket of 35 percent -- than the men and women who clean their offices, drive their cars and tend their gardens.
But when billions of dollars are at stake, the calculus is rarely that simple. Particularly when the billions are being taken away from a group of donors the Democratic Party is literally banking on for a competitive edge in the all-important financial arms race with the business-backed Republicans...

Favoring a fairer tax on hedge fund managers would very directly hurt any Dem's pocketbook: three-quarters of the $1.1 million that hedge fund managers contributed in a single quarter went to Democratic candidates. It's safe to say that anyone who supports doubling the taxes of these folks will be cut off from the money trough.

Politico frames this as an issue most important for Edwards, because he has focused most on bridging the gap between the rich and the poor in America, and because he needs campaign money the most dearly of the top three Democratic candidates.

I agree that it'll be interesting to see what Edwards does on the issue -- Politico recommends that he make it a central part of his campaign, because the loss of campaign cash will more than be made up for by the positive press and character points -- but I'm more interested in seeing what Hillary Clinton does. She's the most business-oriented of the Democratic candidates, and cares most about tending to her donors. Will she take the populist route, or will she disappoint yet again?

Iraq Creating New Terrorists, and Americans Know It

| Thu Jul. 5, 2007 2:02 PM EDT

According to a new poll, 67 percent of Americans believe that the Iraq War is creating new terrorists. And they're absolutely right. Here's the proof.

Weird Weather Watch: Floods and Draughts

| Wed Jul. 4, 2007 3:40 PM EDT

I'm late on this one, but you may have read elsewhere that Central Texas was deluged with day after day of rain in late June, causing a dozen deaths. Is this weather weird? Yes indeed. As a former Texan, I can tell you that Texas summers (everywhere but East Texas, where weather is more like Louisiana's) are dry as a bone. There is an occasional thunderstorm to cool things down, but all too briefly and infrequently. Not so this summer. The days of continuous rainfall reached a 70-year high, and the weather was sometimes so bad that helicopters rescuing people from rooftops were grounded.

Now move over a bit to the east. Things in the Cotton Belt are dry as a bone. Farmers in this traditional agricultural hotbed are facing the worst draught in 100 years, and three quarters of their crop is gone to proverbial seed.

It seems difficult to get people to respond to the threat of global warming because in many places the warm (or dry) weather is a welcome change. But this is what global warming really looks like: floods and draughts right next door to one another, with nobody benefiting.

Political "Outsider" Fred Thompson Happy About Libby News

| Wed Jul. 4, 2007 11:06 AM EDT

When George W. Bush commuted Scooter Libby's sentence, one of the Republicans to speak up on behalf of the action was possible presidential candidate Fred Thompson, who said, "I am very happy for Scooter Libby. I know that this is a great relief to him, his wife, and children. While for a long time I have urged a pardon for Scooter, I respect the President's decision. This will allow a good American, who has done a lot for his country, to resume his life."

You bet he was happy. According to a June 25 article in the Washington Post, Thompson helped run the Scooter Libby Defense Fund Trust, which raised more than $5 million. Yet, as Media Matters for America points out, Thompson's connection to the Libby defense fund was totally ignored by NBC's Today, ABC's Good Morning America, and ABC's Nightline. A story on the Fox News website does mention his connection to the fund.

The Washington Post article describes Thompson's anything-but-outsider position in Washington. He has lobbied for S&L deregulation, liability limits for asbestos lawsuits and nuclear energy, and has increased his income significantly through lobbying.

The news media has also continued to ignore Thompson's recent shutting down of his PAC, an act that became necessary when it was discovered that it had raised only $66,700 for candidates, but had paid Thompson's son $178,000 in consulting fees.