The SEIU Picks Obama

| Thu Feb. 14, 2008 9:53 PM EST


The national executive board of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) endorsed Barack Obama Thursday evening. The members of the board voted electronically following a conference call that was scheduled for 6 p.m. A high level union official tells Mother Jones there was "overwhelming support" for Sen. Obama during the call. The endorsement doesn't become official until union locals representing 60 percent of the SEIU's members actually email in their vote, the official said. The locals have until 7:00 a.m. on Friday to do so, but given the results of the conference call any change in course seems highly improbable. An email from the union confirmed it will make a "major political announcement" on Friday at 1:00 p.m.

The SEIU has stayed neutral in the national contest until now, allowing its state affiliates to endorse any candidate. Many of the state organizations backed former Sen. John Edwards. But Edwards dropped out of the race shortly after a poor showing in South Carolina, where where he was born.

The SEIU's endorsement comes at a crucial time. Hillary Clinton, who has lost eight straight contests since Super Tuesday, is leading in the polls in Ohio and Texas, two delegate-rich states that will vote on March 4. Wins there could conceivably help her narrow the lead Obama has recently opened up in the delegate count. But the SEIU endorsement could alter the balance.

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Valentine's Day Videos: Heartbreak Songs

| Thu Feb. 14, 2008 7:04 PM EST

mojo-photo-heartbreak.jpgJezebel's got the spirit, using today's holiday as an opportunity for lonely, heartbroken singles (sigh) to express our misery in song. It's satisfying, but honestly, good heartbreak songs aren't hard to find: agony beats ecstasy on the "great songs" tip by like 1000-to-1. Here are five for your viewing pleasure; why not add your favorite (or least-favorite) misery-loves-company tracks in the comments, since it's not like you've got anything else planned tonight.

Good News on the Border Fence?

| Thu Feb. 14, 2008 6:24 PM EST

jaguar.jpg Maybe. The AP reports that 28 miles of virtual border fence was approved by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff yesterday. The virtual fence will include 98-foot unmanned towers equipped with radar, sensor devices and cameras capable of distinguishing people from cattle at a distance of about 10 miles. (MoJo reported on the controversy over this fence from an environmental perspective in Gone. Think: endangered wildlife can't cross a real fence either).

Kim Vacariu, of The Wildlands Project, tells me that if the virtual fence "becomes reliably functional, it would indicate that the recommendations generated through our Border Ecological Workshops, action requests to Congress, and other efforts are beginning to reach the officials who are making security infrastructure decisions—that they are seeing the importance of protecting borderland ecology from the effects of wall-building. However, it's important to note that construction of [the virtual fence] requires road-building and associated other infrastructure that continues to degrade borderlands ecology. So we need to wait and see just how this system will work. If it does, we're taking a step in the right direction."

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent and 2008 winner of the John Burroughs Medal Award. You can read from her new book, The Fragile Edge, and other writings, here.

Dems Win on FISA! (Momentarily)

| Thu Feb. 14, 2008 5:56 PM EST

It looks as though House Democrats are going to head into the President's Day recess without acting on FISA, meaning that the Protect America Act will expire in a few days.

Most Democrats were happy to pass an extension of PAA, which allows the federal government to spy on foreign-to-foreign communications routed through the United States without a warrant, but the White House insisted it would veto the bill if it didn't include retroactive immunity for telecom companies that have helped the Bush Administration spy on Americans. (Chris Dodd recently lost this fight in the Senate.)

The House leadership (which is getting ballsier and ballsier) decided to risk the political attacks Republican will surely launch about leaving America unprotected instead of caving and passing a bad bill that helps undermine the Constitution. Kudos to them!

More info here.

The Remix: Drowning Pool Saved by DJ Sega

| Thu Feb. 14, 2008 5:49 PM EST

mojo-photo-bodiesremix.jpgIn today's remix-happy culture, you never know where songs might end up; new versions sometimes make songs sound older, dance-pop cheese can take on rock intensity, and a track you thought you hated is suddenly on repeat on your iPod. This remix of of the latter variety. Texas metal band Drowning Pool were known for their 2001 alt-radio hit, "Bodies," whose on-air life was cut short when the 9/11 attacks made the line "let the bodies hit the floor" seem kind of inappropriate. But it's a pretty unbearable song anyway, revolving around a single muddy note and a guttural, screamed chorus that seems designed to repel:

World's Largest Sea Sanctuary Created in Pacific

| Thu Feb. 14, 2008 5:27 PM EST

Kiribati%20Broken%20Bridge%20DSCN0004.JPG Couldn't come at a better time. Conservation International reports the tiny Pacific Island nation of Kiribati (pronounced: Kiribas) just established the world's largest marine protected area—a California-sized ocean wilderness of pristine coral reefs and rich fish populations threatened by over-fishing and climate change. The Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA) conserves one of the Earth's last intact oceanic coral archipelago ecosystems, consisting of eight coral atolls and two submerged reef systems in a nearly uninhabited region of abundant marine and bird life. The 410,500-square-kilometer (158,453-square-mile) protected area also includes underwater mountains and other deep-sea habitat… Agree this is excellent news? Thank them.

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent and 2008 winner of the John Burroughs Medal Award. You can read from her new book, The Fragile Edge, and other writings, here.

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More Than 40% of World Ocean "Heavily Impacted" by Humans

| Thu Feb. 14, 2008 4:36 PM EST


A new study in Science reports more than 40% of the world ocean is heavily impacted by human activities. Scientists from UCSB and NOAA combined 17 data sets of different human activities, examining overfishing, fertilizer run-off, commercial shipping, and pollution, and analyzed the effects on marine ecosystems, including coral reefs, seagrass beds, continental shelves, and the deep ocean. The team also examined climate change by three measures: sea surface temperatures, UV radiation, and ocean acidification. These were found to be among the most important factors in global impact.

"This project allows us to finally start to see the big picture of how humans are affecting the oceans," said lead author Ben Halpern, at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) at UCSB. "Our results show that… the big picture looks much worse than I imagine most people expected. It was certainly a surprise to me." The most heavily affected waters include large areas of the North Sea, the South and East China Seas, the Caribbean Sea, the east coast of North America, the Mediterranean Sea, the Red Sea, the Persian Gulf, the Bering Sea, and several regions in the western Pacific. The least affected areas are largely near the poles. "Unfortunately, as polar ice sheets disappear with warming global climate and human activities spread into these areas, there is a great risk of rapid degradation of these relatively pristine ecosystems," said Carrie Kappel, a principal investigator on the project at NCEAS.

The researchers note there's still time to preserve the more pristine areas. And we can all do our part. Know what you eat. Know what you buy. Buy less. Eat less.

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent and 2008 winner of the John Burroughs Medal Award. You can read from her new book, The Fragile Edge, and other writings, here.

Why NOT Lie To Congress?

| Thu Feb. 14, 2008 4:11 PM EST

After yesterday's day-long congressional hearing on the use of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball, the consensus on the matter here at our F Street headquarters boils down to two things: Roger Clemens was lying (duh), and devoting federal resources to baseball players is a colossal waste of time and taxpayer money. What makes it particularly "f*ing stupid," to quote my colleague Nick, is that nothing is likely to come of it. Sure, we got to learn some interesting things about Clemens' ass and the complications of injecting yourself with foreign substances. But here's the rub:

Mitt Romney to Endorse McCain

| Thu Feb. 14, 2008 2:41 PM EST
CNN's Dana Bash reports that former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney will endorse senator John McCain. The endorsement is expected to happen at a Boston event at 3:30 p.m. ET today.
Two sources familiar with the decision confirmed the news, and said Romney now wants the delegates he won during his campaign to back his former rival.

Movement in the Making: Stop the Superdelegates!

| Thu Feb. 14, 2008 2:37 PM EST

Folks across the internet are upset that the nearly 800 members of Congress, state governors, and Democratic Party honchos known as superdelegates could decide the winner of the Democratic nomination. If the pledged delegate count (i.e. the delegates won through primaries and caucuses) is close going into the convention, the superdelegates' votes will be decisive, and who knows what they will do: they may vote for the candidate who got the most pledged delegates, or the candidate who got the larger share of the popular votes, or the candidate who won their state, or whomever they think is best for the country, or whomever guarantees them the most/best patronage in the next administration.

Point is, everyday folks are angry that the nomination won't be decided in a purely democratic fashion. and Open Left are taking action: if you're worried about superdelegates, check them out.