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Straight Talk Express Runs Aground

| Wed Jul. 18, 2007 1:32 PM EDT

John McCain's bus, which could be dubbed the "Flip-Flop Express" or the "Endless War Express," will now be called nothing at all. The bus, like the campaign, is out of gas, and McCain doesn't have the money to fill it up. So from now on, McCain will be taking the "Straight Walk Express" (yuck, yuck).

It's worth pointing out, though, that while McCain is seen as doomed because he only has $2 million on hand, Mitt Romney would have the exact same amount if he hadn't given his campaign a personal loan of $10 million. McCain's even doing better than Romney in some polls. The media tends to think and move in packs; maybe we should peel ourselves off the dog pile that is currently burying John McCain and take a look at the GOP's prettiest hypocrite?

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Libya: Death Sentences Commuted in HIV Case

| Wed Jul. 18, 2007 12:59 PM EDT

It's been long time coming, but, as reported in this morning's Washington Post, the five jailed Bulgarian nurses and one Palestinian doctor accused of intentionally infecting 460 Libyan children with HIV may soon go free. They have been languishing in Libyan prisons since 1999 and had been on death row since December. On Tuesday, however, Libya's Judicial Council—great arbiter of justice that it is—commuted all six death sentences to life in prison. Now, one could argue that death is preferable to eternity spent in a Libyan jail, but there are indications that the high court's move foreshadows the extradition of all six health workers to Bulgaria (including the Palestinian, who has been granted Bulgarian citizenship), where they would presumably be allowed to go free.

The long episode has raised passions in Libya and Bulgaria, which have both viewed the case as an issue of national pride. The European Union and the U.S. government have also weighed in, putting pressure on Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi to intervene in the case. The Libyan government has long contended that the childrens' infections were the result of a reckless HIV experiment undertaken by the six foreign health workers at medical facility in the Mediterranean port city of Benghazi. But independent investigations have concluded that the outbreak was caused by the hospital's poor hygienic conditions, which predated the foreign workers' arrival.

It now appears that the imminent resolution of the dispute could join the list of other conciliatory notes struck by the Libyan dictator, who in recent years has been working diligently to rehabilitate his reputation. According to the Post, a fund created by the Libyan and Bulgarian governments (under the auspices of the European Union) will compensate the families of the HIV-infected children to the tune of $1 million each; the Libyans had initially demanded $13 million per family.

Morning Trivia for July 18

| Wed Jul. 18, 2007 12:21 PM EDT

Today's question is:

What is the largest consulting services company in the world? (Hint: It's a private company, but it's still a trick question).

I'll update this post later today with the answer and let you know if any of us got the question right. If you have a question, submit it to mojotrivia@gmail.com. If it's good, we'll use it and credit you on the blog. Please let us know if you got it from another source.

Guess in the comments, and good luck.

Update:

IBM is the largest consulting services company in the world. IBM's "Global Services" division has revenues of almost $50 billion, a sum that represents more than half of the giant multinational's corporate revenue. Commenter Nicholas Beaudrot was first again, guessing the answer that no one in our DC bureau could come up with. Today's New York Times has more on IBM's consulting business.

— Nick Baumann

Flynt to Reveal Sexcapades of Another Senator?

| Wed Jul. 18, 2007 12:05 PM EDT

On Larry King last night, Hustler published Larry Flynt hinted that another senator may be headed for a David Vitter-like fall from grace. Via Political Wire:

FLYNT: We've got good leads. We've got over 300 initially. And they're down to about 30 now which is solid.

KING: When are you going to print?

FLYNT: Well, the last thing now is we don't know if we want to let it to drip, drip, drip or we want to go with everything at once.

KING: You mean you might release 30 names at once?

FLYNT: A good possibility.

KING: Will we be -- I don't want to get into names yet. Will we be shocked?

FLYNT: Yes.

KING: Were you shocked?

FLYNT: I was shocked, especially at one senator but...

KING: One senator especially?

FLYNT: Yes.

The Usual Suspects

| Wed Jul. 18, 2007 11:40 AM EDT

In case you thought Cheney might have secretly been consulting with Greenpeace, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International, have no fear. He was meeting with just who you thought he was: Exxon, Enron, British Petroleum, Duke Energy, and a Norquist/Gale Norton front group with ties to Abramoff.

Peruvians Ban GM Potatoes

| Tue Jul. 17, 2007 10:22 PM EDT

The government of Cusco in the Peruvian Andes is scheduled to ban all genetically modified varieties of potato. Nature reports the area was the birthplace of many kinds of potatoes, and is still home to thousands of varietals. The move was supported by Peruvian non-profit Association ANDES, along with the London-based International Institute for Environment and Development. The hope is to ensure that genes from GM potatoes don't infiltrate native potatoes, and to promote the area as a source of diverse, authentic, organic potato varieties. Association ANDES has been involved in repatriating varieties of potato that have gone locally extinct, but are held in repositories such as the International Potato Center in Lima. "When the potatoes came back, the culture came back," says Alejandro Argumedo. "Genetic diversity and cultural diversity are closely linked." JULIA WHITTY

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Vines Swamp Southern Forests

| Tue Jul. 17, 2007 9:47 PM EDT

A new study in the southeastern U.S. suggests that increased vine growth is changing bottomland hardwood forests. Researchers from Ohio State University charting the growth of grapevines, trumpet vines, poison ivy, and Virginia creeper in two South Carolina forests found as much as a 10-fold increase in just two decades. As the vines increase, the density of small trees decreases, probably because most vines use adhesive roots or tendrils to climb trees. The reasons for the shift aren't yet understood, but rising CO2 levels may be to blame &mdash since other studies suggest that vines such as poison ivy benefit more than trees from higher CO2 levels. . . Think of that itchy future: the Republican rash. JULIA WHITTY

It's Got a Good Beat, and You Can Think To It

| Tue Jul. 17, 2007 8:46 PM EDT

The Reagan era may have jump-started an entire era of politically-charged punk music, but dissent lies among the ranks of globalized musicians in 2007 as well. And the music of the Bush era is as fun as it is political.

Wunmi, a singer who used to perform with Soul II Soul and Roy Ayers, takes the basic elements of Afrobeat (jazz, funk, 70s African percussion, lots of repeated musical phrases), and adds distinct verses, choruses, and hooks to make it sound like a pop song. On her song "Talk Talk Talk," She tells politicians to stop flapping their jaws—"Too much talking. Too much yap yap talking"—and to start solving problems.

Brooklyn's Antibalas, a self-described "giant versatile orchestra," plays Latin-influenced Afrobeat music inspired by Afrobeat originator Fela Kuti and Latin jazz band leader Eddy Palmieri. Their 2007 album Security powers through political songs like "War Hero" and "Filibuster X," but band members say that even their instrumentals are filled with enough cultural and political emotion to inspire awareness and change.

Ozomatli, a 10-piece Latin/funk/rock band from Los Angeles, describes its brand of musical activism as "oppositional politics." Their song "La Temperatura," off their 2007 album Don't Mess With the Dragon, was inspired by immigration marches last summer in downtown L.A. Last month, the group was credited as the first western artist to perform in Nepal in recent history and the group's shows were acknowledged by some as the first peaceful and non-political mass gathering ever organized in modern Kathmandu.

Take that, Reagan Youth!

New Music: John Vanderslice - Emerald City

| Tue Jul. 17, 2007 8:21 PM EDT

mojo-cover-johnvanderslice.jpgI don't, like, drink beer with John Vanderslice, but he lives across the street from one of my friends in a fogged-in outer-SF neighborhood, and he's legendary around town for being a super nice guy, which he totally was the one time I talked to him. This of course should all be irrelevant to the actual music, but still, I get all excited when he has a new CD coming out, like, "Hooray! Go, you!" Vanderslice is a multi-instrumentalist and studio owner, so it's hard to characterize his sound: Beatles-y, Smoggy, Death Cabby? The title of his sixth (!) solo album, Emerald City, apparently refers to Baghdad's Green Zone, which reflects the darkness that creeps up around the edges of these deceptively sunny tunes. I guess his French girlfriend's visa is all tied up in Homeland Security red tape, so it's understandable where the heartache is coming from. But on songs like "White Dove," which asks, again and again, "what are you thinking of," the sense of longing is rendered with delicate grace; you get the feeling Vanderslice couldn't make an ugly song if you paid him to.

Emerald City is out Tuesday, July 24th on Barsuk Records.

(mp3 of "White Dove" from the Barsuk site, or listen at JV's MySpace)

I Smell a Hit

| Tue Jul. 17, 2007 6:08 PM EDT

mojo-photo-smell.JPG So, how can kids these days be convinced to shell out big bucks for CDs when free mp3s of the new Fergie megajam are just a click away? Here's an idea: add value through the magic of odor. CMJ reports that CDDVD Now! plans to introduce scent-infused scratch 'n' sniff CDs, which they're calling "Rub 'n' Smell Discs." Seriously. The Bay Area company alleges that scents "stimulate purchase activity," which I suppose is true when you smell cookies and then buy actual cookies. The scents are applied to the CD surface as a varnish, customers release the odor by lightly rubbing the surface. Stock scents offered include standards like Strawberry and Watermelon, pleasant surprises like Ocean Mist and Clean Cotton, and bafflers like Asphalt and Stinky Cheese. Custom scents are also available… please tell me the new Collie Buddz CD will smell like Cheetos and Ho-Hos.