Blogs

Indian Crocodiles Guard Dwindling Forests

| Tue Jun. 26, 2007 3:02 PM EDT

Dozens of crocodiles bred in captivity in eastern India are protecting their endangered counterparts. Newly released into the wild, these giants are scaring away poachers bent on illegal fishing and timber harvesting in mangrove forests in the states of Orissa and West Bengal, reports Reuters. The disappearing mangroves have led to a steep decline in wild croc numbers, from several thousand a century ago to less than 100 in the early 1970s. But the same species has bred well in captivity and is now being used to solve its own problem. "The swelling number of released crocodiles in the wild is working as a deterrent and keeping people away from the mangrove as villagers are more cautious before venturing into the forests," said Rathin Banerjee, a senior wildlife official. "Unlike guard dogs, crocodiles cannot be tamed and are ferocious and can attack anyone in the swamps." . . . Wow. That's innovation. Can we use them against our own bad-boy loggers? --JULIA WHITTY

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Giant Microwave Turns Plastic Back To Oil

| Tue Jun. 26, 2007 2:32 PM EDT

A US company has developed a machine using 1200 different frequencies in the microwave range to turn waste plastics back into the oil they came from, plus gas. Global Resource Corporation's Hawk-10 machine, looking like a giant concrete mixer, zaps the hydrocarbons in plastic and rubber until they're broken down into diesel oil and combustible gas, reports New Scientist. Whatever doesn't have a hydrocarbon base is left behind, minus any water it contained, which evaporates. For example, a piece of insulated copper is stripped of its insulation, which becomes diesel and gas, leaving the copper to be recycled. . . This seems to be great news on the plastics recycling front, and desperately needed for the health of the world ocean, at the very least. But dubious on the greenhouse front, where the last thing we need is more oil.

When the Netroots Attack! MoJo's Politics 2.0 Package

| Tue Jun. 26, 2007 2:25 PM EDT

Are we entering a new era of digital democracy—or just being conned by a bunch of smooth-talking geeks? That's the central question behind Mother Jones' Politics 2.0 package, which went up on the home page today. (Monika's and my ed note on the topic can be found here.)

In it we explore whether A-list netroots bloggers are acting more like political bosses of old. And chart the GOP/Pay-Pal connection: a bunch of Silicon Valley conservatives now trying to build the right-wing MoveOn from the top down. In light of the Supreme Court's campaign finance decision yesterday, our piece on how despite the advent of viral video like "macaca" and "Hillary 1984," the 30-second TV campaign spot ain't going anywhere yet seems more pertinent than ever.

And we published great excerpts (and full interviews) with 27 netizens, digerati, and politicos including Lawrence Lessig, Esther Dyson, Jimmy Wales, Howard Dean, and the "Hillary 1984" guy.

Oh, and I interviewed Digg founder Kevin Rose to get the scoop on whether his site can be gamed, and what's up with those Ron Paul supporters, and the perils of making video while drinking heavily.

Check it out.

One Fourth Of Deaths From Environment Are Avoidable

| Tue Jun. 26, 2007 1:54 PM EDT

Living in an unhealthy environment kills many times more people than die in car accidents, violent conflicts and natural disasters combined. Though these risks rarely make headlines, reports the World Health Organization via Nature. Furthermore, one-fourth of these deaths could be avoided. Polluted water, poor sanitation, and smoke inhalation resulting from indoor wood-burning stoves are the primary risks in low-income countries. Noise, work stress, and outdoor pollution kill in wealthy nations. The research centers on 'disability adjusted life years' (DALY) that are preventable through healthier environments. The DALY is a commonly used unit that includes years lost when someone dies prematurely, and also takes account of years blighted by chronic disease or disability, writes Quirin Schiermeier. . . Hmm. Think there's any connection between noise, work stress, and outdoor pollution and the depression discussed in the previous post? --JULIA WHITTY

Taking Cheney at His Word

| Tue Jun. 26, 2007 1:43 PM EDT

Two can play this game. In response to Dick Cheney's claim that he's not part of the executive branch, Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Il.) is taking him at his word and proposing cutting the vice president's office from executive branch funding. Says Emanuel: "If the vice president truly believes he is not a part of the executive branch, he should return the salary the American taxpayers have been paying him since January 2001 and move out of the home for which they are footing the bill." Should the proposal pass, Senate President Cheney would presumably receive full funding to execute his constitutional duty to periodically tell lawmakers to go F themselves.

Common Antidepressants Associated With Lower Bone Density

| Tue Jun. 26, 2007 1:22 PM EDT

Some antidepressants appear to be associated with an increased rate of bone loss in older men and women. These SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), such as Prozac, Zoloft, and Paxil, treat depression by inhibiting the protein that transports serotonin, a neurotransmitter involved in sleep and depression, reports the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) via Science Daily. But serotonin may also be associated with an increased rate of bone loss in older men and women, according to two new JAMA articles. And some data suggest that SSRIs may interfere with the function of osteoclasts and osteoblasts, the cells responsible for the regular breaking down and rebuilding of bone in the body. . . So, there's a choice for you. Depression or broken bones or both. How about looking for the root cause of the depression, not just the (dubious) chemistry? --JULIA WHITTY

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Free Speech Takes a Big Hit in "Bong" Case

| Tue Jun. 26, 2007 1:34 AM EDT

Well, that sure ended badly. The Supreme Court ruled today that public schools can limit students' speech if they express themselves in a way that might be construed as pro-drug. The case in question involved an Alaska student who'd been suspended after he unfurled a tongue-in-cheek banner reading "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" at a school event. Chief Justice Roberts argued that because the banner just might give someone the idea that toking up is OK, it could be suppressed: ''The message on Frederick's banner is cryptic. But Principal Morse thought the banner would be interpreted by those viewing it as promoting illegal drug use, and that interpretation is plainly a reasonable one." By that standard, couldn't someone reasonably interpret the banner as a religious message and therefore demand its protection? Apparently not.

When this case hit the docket a few months ago, I figured it would be a novelty. Boy, was I wrong. The decision was 5-4, but you already knew that, right?

Cheney Stovepipes Climate Policy; Christie Todd Witman Declares Herself A Candidate, Er, Innocent

| Mon Jun. 25, 2007 10:29 PM EDT

Over at Rolling Stone, MoJo alum Tim Dickinson has a great piece on how Dick "I'm
My Very Own Branch of Government
" Cheney skillfully got a clueless Bush to gut all meaningful climate policy.

"By having control of the energy plan, the vice president also had the reins on the climate policy," says Jeremy Symons, who sat in on Cheney's energy task force. "The ideology is simple: You don't put limits on greenhouse-gas pollution, because that might put limits on coal and oil - and that would hurt industry's performance. Everything else flowed from that."

Though many details in the piece have been reported before—Mother Jones, for example, published a huge investigation into ExxonMobil's role in the Bush administration's climate change policy, and nobody's done better work on this than the NYT's Andy Revkin—Tim got a big document dump from unnamed former administration sources, including, no doubt, the former head of the EPA, Christie Todd Witman, who spends much of the article claiming on the record that she was shocked, shocked that Bush & Cheney put the task of carrying industry's water over protecting the planet.

"The consequences of climate change are very real and very negative, but Cheney is not convinced of that," says Christie Todd Witman. "He believes - not quite as much as Senator James Inhofe, that this is a 'hoax' - but that the Earth has been changing since it was formed and to say that climate change is caused by humans is incorrect."

You know, if she was so appalled, she coulda just gone public and resigned. (She did resign in 2003 to "spend more time with her family.") She also coulda spoke out on this subject forcefully before, say, the most recent meeting on the Koyoto protocols. As it is she's just another Tenet-come-lately to the abandon Bush brigade.

Witman keeps denying she's interested in running for president (more like VP). But she recently wrote a book called It's My Party Too. As a pro-choice(ish) moderate Republican, a former governor, and a chick armed with a formidable family political pedigree—CTW could make an interesting addition to a ticket. Except for the whole "I allowed global warming to go unchecked on my watch" problem. That and telling everyone it was safe to go back to Ground Zero two weeks after 9/11.

Let's see if she can blame Cheney for that!

Update: CTW spent the entire day today on Capitol Hill, defending her 9/11 record. It did not fly with Rep. Jerry Nadler (more after the jump). And the timing of the RS article is fortuitous? Perhaps.

Update #2: Tim has given generous shout-outs to Revkin, Ron Suskin, as well as Chris Mooney and Ross Gelpspan-who along with Bill McKibben-wrote MoJo's ExxonMobil investigation.

Dubai Energy Tower Is Sexy and Sustainable

| Mon Jun. 25, 2007 4:08 PM EDT

A new energy tower designed by German architect Eckhard Gerber is the tallest zero-emissions skyscraper in the world. Read more at Mother Jones' science and health blog, The Blue Marble.

Indie Pubs and Bay Area Media Hit Hard

| Mon Jun. 25, 2007 4:01 PM EDT

Read more about the demise of indie publishing and the incredible shrinking Bay Area media at Mother Jones' arts and culture blog The Riff.