Blogs

Sudan Allows U.N. Aid in Darfur, Thanks to Mia Farrow?

| Mon Apr. 16, 2007 7:14 PM EDT

Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir says he will allow U.N. aid in Darfur after three years of thumbing his nose at the U.N. and blocking humanitarian work there. Today he says he'll accept what a "heavy support package" including 3,000 well-equipped military police, six attack helicopters, and other aviation and logistics into Darfur.

What does Mia Farrow have to do with this? Quite a lot, believe it or not. As a good-will ambassador for the United Nations Children's Fund, she launched a campaign last month to coax (or shame) China's leaders into cooperation, as I blogged on Friday, by linking the genocide to the Beijing 2008 Games. China had until then used its permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council to thwart international sanctions on Sudan. (More than half of Sudan's oil exports go to China, and Beijing is the Sudan's leading arms supplier.) But upon Farrow's suggestion, Steven Spielberg sent a letter of concern to the officials he is working with as artistic adviser to China on the Games. Within days China dispatched a diplomat to the Sudan. It's possible that this recent step is just lip service. But even so, it has major ramifications. It's a sign that China cares more about its reputation as an ethical, rising global power than any sleazy oil source.

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Are Cellphones Decimating Bee Colonies?

| Mon Apr. 16, 2007 6:40 PM EDT

bee130x140.jpg

Cell phone radiation may be messing with bees' navigation systems, throwing them off track on their way back to the hive. Via New Scientist, this latest explanation for the decimation of American bee colonies comes from Jochen Khun's team at Landau University in Germany. Bees disoriented by cell phones signals? It makes more sense to me than than an earlier theory reported by the New York Times: "It could just be that the bees are stressed out."

Reptiles Mysteriously Declining Alongside Amphibians

| Mon Apr. 16, 2007 6:36 PM EDT

The catastrophic declines in frog and salamander populations may be spreading to reptiles. New Scientist reports that scientists reviewed data on ground-dwelling reptiles and amphibians collected over the past 35 years at La Selva Biological Station in Costa Rica, finding a 75-percent decline in both reptiles and amphibians in native forest since 1970. The numbers of both increased in abandoned cacao plantations, by 4% annually for amphibians, and 2.7% per year for reptiles. Fungal diseases or pesticide contamination, blamed for amphibians' decline elsewhere, are unlikely to be behind the declines at La Selva, since they would affect abandoned plantations as well as native forest. The researchers suggest the cause may be a warmer, wetter climate that stunts tree growth, and reduces the leaf litter, where reptiles and amphibians live. --Julia Whitty

Plans To Restore Key Climate Sensor

| Mon Apr. 16, 2007 6:13 PM EDT

You may not know that our ability to observe climate and atmospheric change has been declining in recent years. Just when we need it most. Another victim of too much money going to the wrong wars from the other NASA: the National Anti-Science Administration. Now NOAA and NASA (the real one) announce their plan to restore a key climate sensor designed to give researchers a more precise picture of the structure of the Earth's ozone layer. The NPOESS (National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System Preparatory Project) will include the OMPS Limb sensor (Ozone Mapping and Profiler Suite), set to launch in 2009. Restoring the OMPS Limb sensor addresses one of the recommendations of the recently released National Research Council's "Earth Science Applications from Space: National Imperative for the Next Decade and Beyond." In other words, it means we're stepping into the future with at least one eye squinting partially open. --Julia Whitty

Climate Change Brews An Extinction Paradox

| Mon Apr. 16, 2007 5:38 PM EDT

Climate change could trigger boom-and-bust population cycles making animal species more vulnerable to extinction. Environmental conditions that produce abundant supplies of food and stimulate population booms set the stage for population crashes that occur when several good years in a row are followed by a bad year. "It's almost paradoxical, because you'd think a large population would be better off, but it turns out they're more vulnerable to a drop in resources," says Christopher C. Wilmers of the University of California, Santa Cruz, as reported by EurekAlert. Wilmers' powerful new mathematical model evaluates how climate and resources interact with populations, finding that dramatic population fluctuations make species more vulnerable to extinction due to disease, inbreeding, and other causes, with each crash reducing the genetic diversity of a species, lowering its ability to adapt and making it more prone to extinction. --Julia Whitty

What Snoop Dogg Means by "Ho"

| Mon Apr. 16, 2007 4:24 PM EDT

Snoop Dogg told MTV that Imus deserved to be fired but rappers can keep talking about "ho's." That's because the Rutgers players are upwardly-mobile athletes, Snoop said, but rappers are referring to "ho's that's in the 'hood that ain't doing sh--."

"It's a completely different scenario," said Snoop. "[Rappers] are not talking about no collegiate basketball girls who have made it to the next level in education and sports. We're talking about ho's that's in the 'hood that ain't doing sh--, that's trying to get a n---a for his money. These are two separate things. First of all, we ain't no old-ass white men that sit up on MSNBC going hard on black girls. We are rappers that have these songs coming from our minds and our souls that are relevant to what we feel. I will not let them mutha----as say we in the same league as him."

So I guess slurs are fine as long as they come straight from the heart.

But seriously, listen to Gwen Ifill on Meet the Press yesterday, via Feministing. (When Ifill was a New York Times reporter, Imus called her "the cleaning lady.") It's great to see her look straight at David Brooks and Tim Russert when she talks about complicity--among journalists who appeared regularly on the show--in a culture of "casual slurs and insults."

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Watch the Daily Show? You're Smart. Read Blogs or Watch FOX? Not So Much

| Mon Apr. 16, 2007 3:18 PM EDT

It's always a treat when studies come out that link how much individuals know with where they get their news. In the following tables, the percentage next to a media outlet's name represents the number of viewers of that outlet that can answer 15 of 23 questions about political and world affairs correctly. Not a particularly high bar.

Daily Show/Colbert Report 54%
Major Newspapers' Websites 54%
NewsHour w/ Jim Lehrer 53%
Bill O'Reilly 51%
NPR 51%
Rush Limbaugh 50%

Those are the folks who did well. Here's the group that did just okay.

Newsmagazines 48%
Local Newspaper 43%
CNN 41%

Ouch, CNN. Clean up your act. And here's the folks that did really poorly. This is the funniest group.

Network Evening News 38%
Blogs 37%
Fox News 35%
Local TV News 35%
Network Morning Shows 34%

I'll let you digest all of that without making the numerous easy jokes. But I'll point out two facts: First, other questions from the same poll reveal that people are about as aware of major news events today as they were 20 years ago, so the information explosion has not helped anything. And second, the national average? 35%. So the majority of the country either gets their news from FOX, local news, morning shows, or doesn't get the news from anywhere at all.

For shame, Regis and Kelly.

Update: Some other tidbits that I love. Only 69% of people in America know Dick Cheney is the vice president. Also, this: "Democrats and Republicans were about equally represented in the most knowledgeable group but there were more Republicans in the least aware group."

Don't Get GLAAD, Get Mad

| Mon Apr. 16, 2007 2:02 PM EDT

mojo-photo-glaad.jpgTowleroad points out today that writer Michelangelo Signorile has given the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation some guff on his blog, "The Gist." The organization has become known for its annual media awards ceremonies, the most recent of which took place Saturday night in Los Angeles. I've got nothing against awards shows, I guess, but lately GLAAD's have started to seem like less like celebrations of still-rare queer representation, and more like opportunities for (apparently?) heterosexual stars to access the gay demographic. Saturday's honorees included a "vanguard" award to Jennifer Aniston, as well as "outstanding individual episode" of a TV show to "Grey's Anatomy." Maybe they were trying to be funny with that last one?

Vice President Bush?

| Mon Apr. 16, 2007 10:29 AM EDT

Jeb Bush, that is. Mitt Romney discussed potential running mates on the campaign trail recently (counting your chickens, Mitt?), and three southerners came up: South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, former U.S. House Speaker and current crazy person Newt Gingrich (of Georgia), and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.

Frankly, I would rather have years 13-17 with a Bush in the White House than years 1-4 with Gingrich in it. Romney said that the three gentlemen he mentioned would be prospective veeps for anyone who secured the Republican nomination, a fact that isn't really true. First of all, Romney was in South Carolina when he made the statement, so the southern flavor of his VP list is clearly a product of his circumstances. Second, the Massachusetts-based Romney needs some southern appeal. While that would also be the case for New Yorker Giuliani and maybe the Arizona-based McCain, a southern VP wouldn't be necessary for former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson, nor current Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee.

Also, it is way, way, way too early to be talking about this.

PS - Did you know Jeb Bush's full first name is not Jebediah? It's John. Very, very disappointing. A President Jebediah would have been kind of neat.

Sadr Pulls Ministers Out of Iraqi Government

| Mon Apr. 16, 2007 9:50 AM EDT

Shiite cleric and political leader Moqtada al-Sadr ordered his ministers to quit the Iraqi government on Monday because Prime Minister Maliki won't set a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops.

The Shi'ite Alliance is a coalition of Shiite political parties that includes Maliki and al-Sadr. Al-Sadr's followers hold a quarter of the Alliance's parliamentary seats (al-Sadr's members of parliament will not abandon the government), in addition to six ministries. The withdrawal of al-Sadr's ministers, though it has happened before, puts an already embattled Maliki in an even more tenuous position, and drives the Iraq government closer to the brink.

The problem here at home is that is makes clear that al-Sadr's priorities and the Democrats' priorities are one: a timetable for withdrawal. Not a good thing when you are perceived as being in lockstep with a war zone's most powerful thug.