Blogs

Court Denies FTC Injunction Against Whole Foods Merger

| Thu Aug. 16, 2007 6:24 PM EDT

The proposed merger between Whole Foods and Wild Oats is back on the table. The Federal Trade Commission's recent injunction to stop the merger under anti-monopoly laws was denied today, and the merger may take place as early as Monday, August 20. That is, if the FTC does not file a stay for an appeal by then. Stay tuned for more Whole Foods news Monday. Until then, though, you can browse Michael Pollan's feature on why eating organic isn't necessarily sustainable.

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New Lawsuit: Michael Vick is Going to Need a Bigger Contract

| Thu Aug. 16, 2007 3:27 PM EDT

Spotted on The Corner, the most interesting news story of the day. Reprinted in full:

An offbeat South Carolina prison inmate has filed a handwritten lawsuit seeking $63 quintillion from Michael Vick.
That's $63,000,000,000,000,000,000.
Or as Jonathan Lee Riches put it in his handwritten lawsuit, "$63,000,000,000 billion." The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court in Richmond on July 23.
Riches -- who has developed an Internet cult following for his propensity to file strange lawsuits naming multiple diverse defendants -- claims that Vick stole his pit bulls and sold them on eBay to "use the proceeds to purchase missiles from the Iran government."
In the complaint, Riches scrawls that "Michael Vick has to stop physically hurting my feelings and dashing my hopes."
If he wins the lawsuit, Riches says he wants the $63 quintillion delivered in gold and silver to the front gate of the Williamsburg Federal Correctional Facility in South Carolina, where he is housed as he serves a conviction for wire fraud.

News Flash: Jose Padilla Found Guilty On All Counts

| Thu Aug. 16, 2007 3:01 PM EDT

His attorneys were not allowed to mention the original "dirty bomb" allegations, nor the fact that he was held without an attorney for 3 1/2 years. AP story here.

More to come. Meanwhile read my previous blog post here. And our full archival coverage of the Padilla case here.

Women Lagging Politically, Except for That Whole WH Contender Thing

| Thu Aug. 16, 2007 2:58 PM EDT

Yesterday Salon picked up on a Wall Street Journal article titled: "Women's March Into Office Slows," which begins:

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton could be elected president next year, and Rep. Nancy Pelosi would likely remain Speaker of the House assuming the Democrats retain control of Congress.

Yeah, that sounds like the women's march is screeching to a halt. Or, it sounds like women could grab the White House and maintain control of the highest ranking seat in the House. But, I guess that's neither here nor there.

What's important, says the WSJ, is that three governships held by women "face stiff competition." The article also uses the current Cook Political Report as evidence that the female gender's political dominance is slowing down. The article notes that 14 out of the 75 "vulnerable" House seats are women. But, if you look at that in terms of percentages, there's only about a six percent difference between the number of male and female vulnerable seats. And anyway, isn't it a bit early to be talking 2008 congressional races?

Jenna is Getting Hitched

| Thu Aug. 16, 2007 2:49 PM EDT

Jenna Bush has just announced her engagement to former Karl Rove aid, Henry Hager. This gives her just enough time to plan a White House wedding before daddy gets the boot.

—Celia Perry

Rappers Respond to Al Sharpton

| Thu Aug. 16, 2007 2:22 PM EDT

mojo-photo-davidbanner.jpg As I previously covered here on the Riff, Al Sharpton recently organized protests against foul and violent language in hip-hop, demanding the withdrawal of government-run pension funds from record labels who don't comply. Now artists are speaking out against Sharpton. Web site SOHH.com reports that both critically-acclaimed MC Talib Kweli and hit producer and rapper David Banner (above) have criticized Sharpton, each in their own way. Kweli was firm but thoughtful, saying "I'm an artist and I'm gonna say what I want to say," but also giving respect to, well, Oprah:

I do think that people like Al Sharpton and Oprah and Russell Simmons are our vanguards and our elders and that we should respect them… They have been here representing for us since before even hip-hop was here. What they say is important and it's relevant but I think we need our own leadership so that we can respectfully disagree and say 'I hear you uncle Russell, I hear you Al Sharpton' and be respectful about it. But we can't cow tow (sic!!!!) to them either.

I'm going to hope it was SOHH and not Kweli who made that unfortunate bovine slip-up there. Anyway, on to Banner: his brilliant, minimalist 2005 hit "Play" may be the filthiest song ever recorded, one of a few hip-hop tracks ("My Neck, My Back," anyone?) whose "radio edits" basically required complete re-writes. He was naturally more colorful in his response:

The next time you see Al Sharpton, tell him I said @#*$ him and he can suck my @#*$… I might change the name of my album from The Greatest Story Never Told to @#*$ Al Sharpton. I hate Al Sharpton. This is the kind of @#!* that I'm talking about. They're killing kids in New Jersey and all across the country and all a @#*$% got to talk about is rap lyrics? … He's [Sharpton] a permed-out pimp. Him and Jesse Jackson are out here charging people to do rallies with them … @#*$%s talk a good game about we need to clean up the hood and the lyrics and all that. But I'm out here doing it.

By "doing it," Banner may be referring to his sponsorship of a neighborhood children's program's annual Six Flags trip (pointed out by This Recording) or being honored by the National Black Caucus of the Mississippi state legislature after his work for victims of Hurricane Katrina. But, one wonders if perhaps pulling back on the expletives might have been a good idea just this once.

By the way, to all you commenters who think any reference to sexuality in hip-hop music is "sexist," go give "My Neck, My Back" a listen.

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CIA Edits Wikipedia Entries

| Thu Aug. 16, 2007 2:09 PM EDT

A 24-year-old graduate student at the California Institute of Technology named Virgil Griffith (hacker name: "Romanpoet") has created a program called "Wikipedia Scanner," which matches IP addresses of Wiki editors to the names of the individuals or groups to which those addresses are registered. So, yes, you can still edit your own profile (as so many people do), but prepare yourself for the humiliation of being outed...

Among those undercover editors already dragged into the light of day is the CIA. According to the BBC:

On the profile of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the tool indicates that a worker on the CIA network reportedly added the exclamation "Wahhhhhh!" before a section on the leader's plans for his presidency.
A warning on the profile of the anonymous editor reads: "You have recently vandalised a Wikipedia article, and you are now being asked to stop this type of behaviour."
Other changes that have been made are more innocuous, and include tweaks to the profile of former CIA chief Porter Goss and celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey.
When asked whether it could confirm whether the changes had been made by a person using a CIA computer, an agency spokesperson responded: "I cannot confirm that the traffic you cite came from agency computers.
"I'd like in any case to underscore a far larger and more significant point that no one should doubt or forget: The CIA has a vital mission in protecting the United States, and the focus of this agency is there, on that decisive work."

Wahhhhhh!

Hurry Up and Wait for New Radiohead

| Thu Aug. 16, 2007 12:12 PM EDT

mojo-photo-radiohead.jpg
Everybody's favorite happy-go-lucky UK boy band has delayed the release of their seventh album until 2008, reports NME. Radiohead have not released an album since 2003's Hail to the Thief. The band have been working on new material (including a recent stint in the studio in New York), but apparently forgot they left their label EMI after Thief and, gee, it's kind of hard to release an album without a label. Actually, no, they didn't forget, they just stopped caring:

Radiohead's management dismissed speculation over recent months that Warner Music was poised to secure the band's signature. "The band [is] not looking for a record company in any way, shape or form," the representative says. "They are out of a contract, but they're not actively looking for another one. They're getting on with doing what they do."

Which is, I guess, make music nobody can hear, except in tiny little clips on a confusing website that has a tendency to lock up your computer. (Seriously.) Please, guys, we know you're annoyed with the Industry. We're all annoyed with the Industry. But that's all the more reason to speed your cathartic tunes to us! Malaise! Besides, the world might end before 2008!! Isn't that what Kid A is about?!

New Giuliani Flip-Flop: Immigration

| Thu Aug. 16, 2007 12:06 PM EDT

This one's a doozy, maybe bigger than his flip-flops on the flat tax and on abortion.

Here's what Giuliani said in a 1996 speech at Harvard:

We're never, ever going to be able to totally control immigration to a country that is as large as ours, that has borders that are as diverse as the borders of the United States, and as a society that wants to be a country that values freedom -- that values freedom of movement, freedom to do business.

See video at TPM's Election Central. This is part of Giuliani's formerly understanding view of immigration and immigrants: Giuliani's New York gave many of the same benefits to citizens and illegal immigrants; Giuliani took strong measures to educate the children of illegal immigrants; he fought to keep illegal immigrants from being turned in by employers. Of conservativism's hardline anti-immigrant forces, Giuliani has said, "the anti-immigration movement now sweeping the country is no different than earlier anti-immigration movements that have surfaced periodically in American history. We need only look back at the 'Chinese Exclusionary Act' or especially at the 'Know-nothing' movement that swept America in the mid-19th century."

Kind of a good dude, right? Unfortunately, all this contrasts with Giuliani's views today. In a recent speech in South Carolina, Giuliani contradicted the Harvard speech, saying, "We can end illegal immigration. I promise you we can end illegal immigration." The former mayor now advocates building a physical fence between the U.S. and Mexico.

Willing to forgive what appears to be a simple change of heart? I understand. I wouldn't slam the man if he said, "I've seen new evidence since '96, illegal immigration has gotten much worse, we need to do something." But Giuliani's rhetoric on immigration these days is so extreme and xenophobic that the man deserves no harbor. Giuliani's plan, according to his own press release, includes a "tamper-proof Secure Authorized Foreign Entry Card (SAFE Card) for all foreign workers and students, a single national database of non-citizens to track their status, and tracking those who leave the country. In addition, Giuliani will encourage Americanization by requiring immigrants to truly read, write and speak English."

He wants a database of all foreigners in the United States! And he wants to somehow force-teach them all English! He is the Know-nothing he once derided!

This is a very different Rudy Giuliani than the one from ten years ago. Running for president will do that to a man.

Surging Toward Civil War, Part 2

| Thu Aug. 16, 2007 10:45 AM EDT

I wrote yesterday about the truck bombings in northern Iraq. The death count has now risen to 500, making the attack the most deadly of the Iraq War.