Blogs

Australia To Build Cross-Continent Corridor For Wildlife

| Mon Jul. 9, 2007 6:47 PM EDT

Australia will create a wildlife corridor spanning the continent to allow animals and plants to flee the effects of global warming. Reuters reports that the 1,740 mile climate "spine," approved by state and national governments, will link the country's entire east coast, from the snow-capped Australian alps in the south to the tropical north Queensland. "A lot of that forest and vegetation spine is already there. But there are still blockages," David Lindenmayer, a professor of conservation biology, told Reuters. Climate scientists have predicted temperatures rising by up to 12 degrees Fahrenheit by 2080 in the country's vast outback interior. The corridor will link national parks, state forests and government land, and help preserve scores of endangered species. . . For an in-depth look at plans for similar corridors in the U.S., check out the work of the Wildlands Project in Gone, in the May/June 2007 issue of MoJo. JULIA WHITTY

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Dutch Bike Ridership Increasing

| Mon Jul. 9, 2007 6:15 PM EDT

The distance the average Dutch person bicycles every day has increased by nearly 10 percent in the past five years. This in a nation already renowned for its love of bikes, says the Environmental News Network in an AP story. Holland's Central Bureau for Statistics, accounting for every woman, man, and child in the country, reports the Dutch rode an average of 1.5 miles per person per day in 2006, more than 8.7 billion miles in all. The Dutch Biker's Union says increased bike usage is tied to increased traffic congestion around cities and the difficulty of finding parking places in city centers. The trend also reflects the growing popularity of bakfiets, bicycles with sturdy wooden boxes on the front capable of carrying loads of groceries or children up to 175 pounds. The Dutch are apparently also slimmer and healthier than Euro-neighbors thanks to their bike miles. JULIA WHITTY

Debating the Surge at AEI

| Mon Jul. 9, 2007 5:33 PM EDT

Before a packed house including Vice Presidential daughter Liz Cheney and former VP aide Mary Matalin, Iraq surge godfathers Frederick Kagan and Gen. Jack Keane faced off against a proponent of a phased withdrawal from Iraq at a discussion at the American Enterprise Institute today. "I think I am the designated skunk at the AEI surge garden party," said James Miller, of the new centrist think tank, Center for a New American Security, a former Clinton era deputy assistant secretary of defense, from the panel. And in a way, that's exactly what he was meant to be.

Miller is the co-author of a recent CNAS Iraq report, Phased Transition, that argues that the U.S. should reduce its troop presence in Iraq by 100,000 troops over the next year, and withdraw completely over the next five years. By arguing for a planned phased withdrawal, Miller says his plan hopes to avoid what it sees as the likely alternative: a precipitous withdrawal in January 2009 when the Bush administration leaves office. The report also argues for an increased advisory role for the U.S. in Iraq.

AEI military expert Tom Donnelly recently brought out the big guns, taking to the pages of the Weekly Standard (several floors below AEI) in an article entitled "Orderly Humiliation" to tar the CNAS report as the "Clintonista" plan -- in case any potential moderate Republican supporters of such a plan didn't understand CNAS' genetic bloodlines. Conservative scholar Max Boot went after it on the op-ed pages of the Los Angeles Times the same week. Such coordinated critiques as well as today's event indicate that the architects of the Iraq invasion and the surge are nervous about the political pressure growing on the White House to rethink the U.S. strategy and reduce the U.S. troop presence in Iraq. Pressure that is increasingly coming from Senate Republicans.

At the AEI event today, Miller argued that the surge had had two goals: 1) reducing the violence in Iraq, particularly in Baghdad, and 2) facilitating political reconciliation. He said that violence has partially subsided in Baghdad but is now increasing elsewhere; and that there has been essentially zero progress in furthering political reconciliation among Iraq's ethnic groups.

Kagan, a bespectacled resident scholar at AEI, argued, contra Miller, that the surge is showing signs of political progress. "Are we so impatient? Are the stakes so low? Is it easier to declare failure?"

An Iraq expert who attended the event comments, "The AEI crowd thinks that we are making real progress, should ignore politics at home, and cut the Iraqi government some slack ... They completely fail to grasp that in pursuing the surge until our country is strategically and politically exhausted, and not thinking about a transitional presence as part of a responsible withdrawal, they will end up triggering a precipitous withdrawal the minute Bush leaves office."

The AEI debate on this sweltering Washington day drew the kind of crowd you would expect to see for the kind of high stakes event the think tank ran during the height of the Iraq invasion. And the stakes are high: while the panel moderator Danielle Pletka mourned at the end everyone was only talking about the surge in the context of U.S. domestic politics, and not U.S. national security, the event organizers too are arguing for a strategy they see as urgently necessary for political vindication, but one that has lost the support of the vast majority of the American public. As the presence of Cheney daughter Liz and aide Matalin attest, the public debate continues a private discussion with a more receptive audience of two in the White House.

Climate Change The Root Of Armed Conflicts?

| Mon Jul. 9, 2007 4:53 PM EDT

Climate change and its resultant shortage of ecological resources could be to blame for armed conflicts in the future. According to a paper published in Human Ecology, changing temperatures and dwindling agricultural production correlated with warfare frequency in eastern China in the past. The authors reviewed warfare data from 899 wars in eastern China between 1000 and 1911, and cross-referenced these data with Northern Hemispheric climate data for the same period. They found that warfare increased significantly when temperatures fluctuated enough to affect food crops. Their conclusion: in times of ecological stress, warfare could be the ultimate means of redistributing resources. JULIA WHITTY

Epuron

| Mon Jul. 9, 2007 12:38 PM EDT

An element speaks.

JULIA WHITTY


Live Earth Concert Kicks Off, Critics Weigh In

| Sat Jul. 7, 2007 3:52 PM EDT

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Live Earth, the 24-hour concert, part of a larger multi-year campaign called Save Our Selves -- The Campaign for a Climate in Crisis (see video below), kicked off today on all seven continents across the globe. The event, organized by former U.S. Veep Al Gore and the Alliance for Climate Protection, features nearly 150 artists, including U2, Snoop Dogg, and Madonna, who play to trigger a "global movement to solve the climate crisis."

But regardless of the star power, some are critical. Live Aid/Live 8 creator Bob Geldof says, "It's just an enormous pop concert or the umpteenth time that, say, Madonna or Coldplay get up on stage." Keith Farnish, a British environmentalist and the founder of the Earth Blog is "not sure events like this make a difference."

Some are more harsh. Matt Helder, the drummer of Arctic Monkeys, a British Indie rock band, thinks the execution is hypocritical. "We're using enough power for ten houses just for lighting," he notes. This type of skepticism is being echoed by many, but Treehugger, an environmental blog that touts bringing sustainability to the mainstream, reports that steps have been made to make the concert greener and proceeds do go to create a foundation to combat global warming, which will be led by the Alliance for Climate Protection.

The concert does have its supporters (it is estimated that 2 billion people will be reached). Vocalist Patrick Stump of the alt rock band Fallout Boy is hopeful. "If we spread out the influence as much as we can and if we hit some people with some really big ideas, there might be a kid there that will totally eradicate fossil fuel." And of course, Gore is a big, big fan. He says, "the task of saving the global environment is a task we should all approach with a sense of joy."

We want to know what you think?

—Anna Weggel

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Live Earth Concert Kicks Off, Critics Weigh In

| Sat Jul. 7, 2007 3:42 PM EDT

LE%20image.jpg

Live Earth, the 24-hour concert, part of a larger multi-year campaign to combat climate change, kicked off today on all seven continents across the globe. The event, organized by former U.S. Veep Al Gore and the Alliance for Climate Protection, features nearly 150 artists, including U2, Snoop Dogg, and Madonna, who play to trigger a "global movement to solve the climate crisis."

But regardless of the star power, some are critical. Live Aid/Live 8 creator Bob Geldof says, "It's just an enormous pop concert or the umpteenth time that, say, Madonna or Coldplay get up on stage." Keith Farnish, a British environmentalist and the founder of the Earth Blog is "not sure events like this make a difference."

Some are more harsh. Matt Helder, the drummer of Arctic Monkeys, a British Indie rock band, thinks the execution is hypocritical. "We're using enough power for ten houses just for lighting," he notes. This type of skepticism is being echoed by many, but Treehugger, an environmental blog that touts bringing sustainability to the mainstream, reports that steps have been made to make the concert greener and proceeds do go to create a foundation to combat global warming, which will be led by the Alliance for Climate Protection.

The concert does have its supporters (it is estimated that 2 billion people will be reached). Vocalist Patrick Stump of the alt rock band Fallout Boy is hopeful. "If we spread out the influence as much as we can and if we hit some people with some really big ideas, there might be a kid there that will totally eradicate fossil fuel." And of course, Gore is a big, big fan. He says, "the task of saving the global environment is a task we should all approach with a sense of joy."

We want to know — what you think?

—Anna Weggel

NSA Warrantless Wiretapping Case Dismissed

| Sat Jul. 7, 2007 3:10 PM EDT

A three-member federal appeals court ruled very narrowly yesterday that the government's warrantless wiretapping program should remain in place until a plaintiff comes along who can prove s/he was spied on, resulting in concrete harm. The decision suggests that the program might be illegal, but states clearly that the lawyers and journalists who brought the suit had no standing to do so.

There are some important sticking points in the decision, however. First, what about the generalized harm that results when any number of law-abiding citizens clam up because they believe, with a some justification, that they are being monitored? Second, people could only know for sure that they were spied on if the government told them. The government claims that that information is a "state secret"—information that, if revealed, would threaten national security. (One of the two judges in the decision determined categorically that the plaintiffs had no standing; the other wrote that the state secrets privilege prohibits the court from knowing.) The government's claim is, of course, only true if warrantless wiretapping were only conducted on people who posed a genuine threat, but it allows no legal avenue to determine if that's the case. Many legal experts argue that the state secrets privilege should not serve as a get-out-of-court-free card, but rather should simply require careful handling of the potentially secret material by the federal judges. After all, if we can't trust presidentially appointed federal judges to maintain confidentiality—which they already do as a routine part of their jobs—who can we trust? The same Bush administration that leaked Valerie Plame's name?

A case in San Francisco in which the plaintiffs claim to have proof that they were monitored is still pending.

Matches Go To War

| Sat Jul. 7, 2007 1:12 AM EDT

Conflagration.

First Listen: Interpol - Our Love To Admire

| Sat Jul. 7, 2007 12:36 AM EDT

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Total number of animals pictured in the cover booklet's photographs of nature dioramas: 21

Percentage of those which appear to be male Greater Kudu antelopes: 10%

Rank of Track 1, "Pioneer to the Falls," a bottomlessly bleak track dominated by an epic and mournful guitar melody, on the List of Best Interpol Songs of All Time According to Me: #4 (behind "Untitled," "PDA," and "NYC" from Turn On the Bright Lights, 2002)

Number of days frontman Paul Banks claims he hasn't slept on Track 8, "Rest My Chemistry," in what is apparently a reference to a cocaine binge: 2

Amount of time into the 4 minute and 30 second Track 10, "Wrecking Ball," a TV On the Radio-reminiscent lament, before the band are joined by what sounds like a full orchestra: 3:09

How heard-rendingly sad the Spanish-style guitars that accompany album closer "The Lighthouse" are on a scale where 1 equals Spongebob Squarepants and 100 equals the inevitable death of the universe in a entropy-driven whimper: 99

Average rating out of 100 for the album in reviews compiled so far by Metacritic: 90

Random sampling of adjectives used in the featured reviews: "ominous," "doomy," "funereal," "reverberating," "devastating," "terrible," "brooding," "magnificent," "cadaverous"

Number of offices and studios out of which one could hear Our Love to Admire playing after advance copies arrived at our radio station this afternoon: 4

Date on which the general public can purchase and enjoy this brutal, majestic album: Tuesday, July 10, 2007

MTV.com website where you can stream the entire album: right here