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Orange, Yellow, and Read All Over

| Thu Jun. 7, 2007 1:28 PM EDT
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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."

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Immigration Bill Endangered by Guest Worker Change

| Thu Jun. 7, 2007 1:04 PM EDT

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 12:22 PM EDT

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.

The Man Who Would Be Surgeon General

| Wed Jun. 6, 2007 6:52 PM EDT

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 4:59 PM EDT

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 4:15 PM EDT

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.

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

| Wed Jun. 6, 2007 4:00 PM EDT

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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."

Man Falls from Heaven; Pope Doesn't Notice

| Wed Jun. 6, 2007 3:28 PM EDT

Yesterday, as the Pope waved his way down a crowd-lined street in Vatican City, one enterprising young man decided to leap, belly-flop style, into the Popemobile. This is a must-see video: The Pope doesn't even notice as a gaggle of security officers wrestle the man to the ground right behind him.

Pomp And Nonsense

| Wed Jun. 6, 2007 2:48 PM EDT

First there was the pregnant Alabama senior who was not allowed on stage to receive her diploma (though the father of her child was permitted to). Then there were the students in Michigan who painted over some gay-hating graffiti and were not allowed to attend their own graduation ceremony.

Now there are five Illinois students who were denied diplomas at their commencement ceremony because--wait for it--there were cheers when they walked across the stage. There are rules at the school that were designed to "restore graduation decorum."

It gets worse. School administrators wanted the five students to track down the cheering audience members. Like it is their job. Like they would obtain an accurate round-up. Like anyone cares.

The students and their parents met with school administators, who agreed to give diplomas to the students if they apologized, even anonymously. They did not.

An attorney for the students is sending a letter to school officials at Galesburg High School, asking the school to apologize and to grant the diplomas. There is the possibility of a court case.

Former Interim U.S. Atty. Inhales Helium Before Hearing, Shifts Blame to Colleague

| Wed Jun. 6, 2007 1:10 PM EDT

Former interim U.S. Attorney (U.S.A.) for the Western District of Missouri Bradley Schlozman appeared before the Senate yesterday to testify about the U.S. Attorney firings. Schlozman was folded into the prosecutor firings investigation last month when evidence surfaced that Todd Graves (the U.S.A. Schlozman replaced) was pushed out to make room for him. Eyes are on Schlozman not only because he was the first U.S.A. to be appointed by the Attorney General, without Senate approval, under the little-known provision slipped into the Reauthorization of the PATRIOT Act last spring (the provision has since been repealed), but because his actions are suspicious as well (let's just say he is not opposed to filing voter fraud cases).

Prior to the 2006 midterm elections, while he was still a U.S.A., Schlozman brought indictments against four ACORN workers. ACORN is a voter registration group that does registration drives in urban minority neighborhoods, many of which are Democratic, and has been the subject of numerous Republican allegations of voter fraud. Schlozman's decision to bring these indictments contradicts DOJ policy regarding election offenses, which clearly states that election fraud cases should not be brought prior to an election, as they may influence voters.

Yesterday, during the hearing, Schlozman did not admit wrongdoing, but instead, like many of his DOJ colleagues have done during this investigation, he quickly shifted the blame, claiming he got the green light to bring the indictments from Craig Donsanto, chief of the Public Integrity Sector (the DOJ department that oversees election crimes). TPMmuckraker points out that it would be a little fishy if Donsanto, who basically wrote the manual outlining the policy Schlozman allegedly defied, gave the go-ahead (although, I am not discounting this, considering the blatant disregard of DOJ policy by many DOJ officials, which has been revealed throughout this investigation). TPM also notes that there is evidence (a 2004 email from David Iglesias, one of two U.S.A.'s thought to have been fired for not filing enough voter fraud cases) that this action is not in line with Donsanto's past position on these cases.

So, either Donsanto is not immune to the rampant politicization of the department or Schlozman is lying through his teeth. At this point, either is plausible. I hate to be snarky, but did I mention the prosecutor sounded like he was inhaling helium moments before he took the stand?