Blogs

"Green" Planes to Debut in 2015

| Fri Jun. 15, 2007 5:28 PM EDT

ecojet.jpgAs we've written before, air travel is pretty bad for the environment. But thankfully, some airline moguls (ahem, Richard Branson) are aware and are donating money and researching better fuel sources. Now Andy Harrison, of British budget airline easyJet, has announced his contribution: the ecoJet.

The ecoJet, seen left with Harrison, boasts a cutting edge design that would emit half the carbon dioxide of current airplanes, and would be 25 percent quieter to boot. The key to the plane's efficiency is its high-propulsion "open rotor" engines, which--to reduce noise--would be mounted in the very back of the plane instead of under the wings. The "green" jet would also have a lower cruise velocity (to reduce drag) and would be mostly used for short-haul flights. The ecoJet could be completed as early as 2015 and Harrison said he'd replace his whole fleet with ecoJets if they were available now. Until then, there's always carbon offsets.

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U.S. CO2 Emissions Even Higher Due To Trade With China

| Fri Jun. 15, 2007 4:43 PM EDT

Rising U.S. trade with countries like China has major consequences on greenhouse emissions. Carnegie Mellon University engineering researchers describe how the U.S. has reduced its increasing carbon emissions by importing more carbon-intensive goods from other countries. For example, the amount of CO2 emissions generated from making a computer in China could be up to three times higher than when the same computer is made in the U.S. The researchers estimate that CO2 emissions associated with imports rose from 12 percent of total U.S. emissions in 1997 to 22 percent in 2004--a substantial increase given that the U.S. already emits around 25 percent of the world's total global carbon dioxide.

Many researchers question how emissions associated with traded goods should be accounted for. "These emissions are only going to increase as the United States continues to consume more and more essential goods from outside its borders," says researcher H. Scott Matthews. Since the U.S. continues to import more goods from carbon-intensive trading partners, this trend is likely to continue in the short term. . . There we go again: buying our way to the end of the world, one DVD player at a time. --JULIA WHITTY

The Military Is Going Nuts

| Fri Jun. 15, 2007 4:41 PM EDT

A report released by a congressionally ordered mental health task force suggests that the military's handling of mental health problems in its ranks is even worse than Mother Jones previously reported (with little to no cooperation from the DoD, by the way). According to NPR, 40 percent of troops returning from Iraq or Afghanistan have some sort of psychological problem. Nearly a quarter show signs of serious mental health disorders.

It gets worse: Soldiers reporting psychological problems are not only not helped, but actually get punished for their illnesses. Some are sent to clean the latrines; others, in an image disturbingly resonant of Abu Ghraib, must sit in a corner wearing a dunce camp for long periods of time. At one army base, many soldiers were kicked out of the services following psychological complaints.

The Pentagon doesn't spend enough on mental health services, nor does it train troops, officers or even mental health care providers adequately. Believe it or not, even military doctors aren't well trained about the links between war and PTSD. For reasons NPR's correspondent doesn't address, since the War on Terror began, the few mental health specialists the DoD has "have been leaving the Army, the Marines, and the Air Force in droves." Problem is, neither the soldiers nor their demons miraculously disappear after they are released with inadequate or no treatment. The Pentagon is outsourcing their care—to you and me and the rest of us who oppose the war in Iraq.

Mike Gravel Will Hypnotize You

| Fri Jun. 15, 2007 11:47 AM EDT

I've blogged before about how much I love fringe presidential candidates. They definitely make the best videos, from ones where they claim they are the only ones in their party qualified to run for president to ones where they make post-modernist statements about the future of political campaigning.

Now stone-faced Mike Gravel has an entry in the world of crazy videos -- one where he makes it clear he will stare deep into your soul and convince you to vote for him by throwing a rock in a lake. Got that?

Okay, so I don't get it either. But this feels a lot like my college English classes where inevitably the poem I didn't understand was the one most revered by scholars. So Mike Gravel is either crazy or the smartest man to run for president, ever.

Or maybe he just has too much time on his hands.

More Info on Financial Disclosures: Clinton, McCain, Romney All Rolling in Cash

| Fri Jun. 15, 2007 9:14 AM EDT

We blogged a while back about the financial disclosures of many of the candidates, noting that some folks -- including Romney, McCain, and Clinton -- were granted extensions in filing their paperwork. We now have more information.

Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton have assets valued from $10 million to $50 million (the massive window is a product of FEC rules) with the former president raking in speaking fees of more than $10 million in just the last year. The bulging bank account comes after the pair left the White House with millions in debt from legal fees. Two days ago I hit Senator Clinton pretty hard for being the "Big Money" candidate in the Democratic primary, so it's worth noting that she's made a bid for some financial transparency -- along with Bill, she has liquidated a family trust worth between $5 million and $25 million that had investments in oil and pharmaceutical companies, military contractors, Wal-Mart, and FOX News parent company News Corp. The cost of avoiding future conflicts of interest (and being hit for investing in decidedly non-progressive entities) is substantial, because of capital gains taxes the Clintons will have to pay.

Elsewhere, filings showed that the McCain family has $24.3 million in assets, almost all held by Cindy McCain and the McCain children. Cindy McCain controls an Anheuser-Busch distributorship in Arizona that is said to be among the largest in the nation.

And former Bain executive Mitt Romney is worth the most out of the bunch, with assets totaling $190 million to $250 million. Yahtzee!

Do Not Pass Go, Scooter Libby. Do Not Collect $200

| Fri Jun. 15, 2007 9:04 AM EDT

Perhaps you've heard about this?

Scooter Libby will not be allowed to remain free while his lawyers appeal the 30-month sentence he received after being convicted of lying to investigators during the CIA leak investigation, according to media reports.
The former White House adviser could be sent to federal prison within weeks, according to the Associated Press.

Now the pressure is really on President Bush regarding a pardon -- delaying it until the end of his term, entirely possible if Libby was allowed to stay free during appeal after appeal, is out of the question. Reports say that Team Cheney is pushing for a pardon hard, but the president is ambivalent. Though I think it would make a mockery of the justice system, I'm not sure why he doesn't pardon Libby today -- it's not like his approval ratings can get any lower.

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Gonzales Under Investigation for Trying to Influence Aide's Testimony

| Fri Jun. 15, 2007 8:48 AM EDT

The problem with investigations is they create new, smaller investigations. That's what Alberto Gonzales is learning, anyway. He's under investigation for possibly trying to influence the testimony of former aide Monica Goodling in the U.S. Attorneys scandal.

Gonzo said in testimony that he never discussed the scandal with other "fact witnesses," and that in fact this lack of discussion was exactly why he had to respond with so many "do not recalls" in response to lawmakers' questions. But in testimony that came after Gonzo's, Goodling said that her boss had a conversation with her around this time about whether or not she should stay at the DOJ. According to Goodling, this conversation made her "a little uncomfortable." Many speculate it was intended to influence her testimony.

What's remarkable about this is that the investigation isn't being taken up by Congress -- it's being instigated by the Department of Justice itself. That means that it's no Democrat-led fishing expedition, but also that Gonzales is being investigated by his subordinates, putting everyone in an awkward position and raising the question of whether the investigation will be effective.

Effective or not, add this to the ever-growing list of scandals at DOJ.

Geek Love -- The Long Awaited Follow-up

| Thu Jun. 14, 2007 7:24 PM EDT

After 17 years, fans of the cult (and personal) favorite Geek Love by Portland-based author Katherine Dunn are finally getting their wish for a follow-up. Knopf, Dunn's publisher, will release Dunn's second novel, The Cut Man in September 2008. Back in 1989 Dunn told The Guardian, "'The cut man in boxing is the person who stops the bleeding in a boxing match. The new novel is about boxing and serial killers."

In the meantime, you can get your Dunn fix here, where Dunn is guest blogging for a bit. Be sure to check out the comments section below posts where the host blogger asks her questions about her life and writing. She gets into the nitty gritty of how the writing process works for her.

She is especially interested in the sound of the human voice, writing yesterday, "I keep trying to remind people that the hen scratches are just symbols for the sounds of the human voice. That it's the sound that communicates. You've got to hear this stuff as you read it. It's gorgeous, this process. Alone in a room you hear the sounds and note them down in silence and they go out to others who read them in silence and hear the sounds again."

Her first post on the blog is the essay "Just as Fierce," which was originally published in the Nov/Dec 1994 issue of Mother Jones.

--Martha Pettit

Bush DOJ Protects the Strong from the Weak

| Thu Jun. 14, 2007 6:55 PM EDT

Jonathan blogged earlier today about how the Department of Justice's shifted its focus away from traditional issues like race and sex discrimination and vote suppression to discrimination against religious conservatives—one of the most kowtowed-to and overrepresented groups in the country. I think he gave short shift to how utterly disturbing the move is. Here are specific examples cited in the Times article, which I will let speak for themselves:

• Intervening in federal court cases on behalf of religion-based groups like the Salvation Army that assert they have the right to discriminate in hiring in favor of people who share their beliefs even though they are running charitable programs with federal money.

• Supporting groups that want to send home religious literature with schoolchildren; in one case, the government helped win the right of a group in Massachusetts to distribute candy canes as part of a religious message that the red stripes represented the blood of Christ.

• Vigorously enforcing a law enacted by Congress in 2000 that allows churches and other places of worship to be free of some local zoning restrictions. The division has brought more than two dozen lawsuits on behalf of churches, synagogues and mosques.

• Taking on far fewer hate crimes and cases in which local law enforcement officers may have violated someone's civil rights. The resources for these traditional cases have instead been used to investigate trafficking cases, typically involving foreign women used in the sex trade, a favored issue of the religious right.

• Sharply reducing the complex lawsuits that challenge voting plans that might dilute the strength of black voters. The department initiated only one such case through the early part of this year, compared with eight in a comparable period in the Clinton administration.