The Squid Is the Whale

| Thu Mar. 8, 2007 6:47 PM EST

If you enjoyed our report on the fate of the oceans, you might, like us, be both amazed and saddened by the tale of the colossal squid. One of these mysterious creatures was caught by accident—as are so many of its smaller and less exciting relatives—giving scientists a their first good look at the largest invertebrate.

For more on the startling revelation from the deep, read this Newsweek story. For more on how big a problem by-catch really is, click here.

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Rove on U.S. Attorney Firings: This Is So Not A Big Deal

| Thu Mar. 8, 2007 6:42 PM EST

As TPMmuckraker reports, Karl Rove is on camera (above) discussing how not a big deal the recent mass purging of U.S. Attorneys is. Give it up for the Arkansas Times blog for spotting this gem. Rove was speaking at a Statehouse Convention Center in Little Rock. The president's Deputy Chief of Staff basically says (I'm paraphrasing): "U.S. Attorneys serve at the pleasure of the president, they can be fired for any or no reason at all, Clinton fired all of the U.S. Attorneys in place when he took office...blah, blah, blah." So, yes, Rove is correct. U.S. Attorneys do serve at the pleasure of the president, which mind you is why all eight of them prior to being subpoenaed before the House quietly and graciously accepted their forced resignations. But this type of cleanse, as was repeated ad nauseam on Tuesday in front of the House and Senate committees investigating the firings, is unprecedented. And the DOJ's constant flip-flop over why the USAs were canned looks rather fishy. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee leading the senate investigation, brought up this very point during his questioning of the attorneys. He said that USAs do serve at the pleasure of the prez and in his state, they "like to cycle as many people through this position as [they] can" (again, paraphrasing, I don't have my hearing notes in front of me). But, he noted that all four of the attorneys that appeared before the senate committee had been in office for a very long time, so if the DOJ had been unhappy with their performance, which is one of the many reasons given by the department for the attorneys' terminations, somebody was asleep at the wheel for quite a while.

Rove also attacks Carol Lam, claiming she refused to file immigration cases. This just isn't true. During the senate hearing, Lam testified that offices of comparable size file 400-800 cases each year, her office filed between 2400 and 3000 cases and doubled the number of immigration cases that went to trial between 2006 and 2007.

Internet Radio In Danger?

| Thu Mar. 8, 2007 6:14 PM EST

For those of us who have become… ahem… frustrated with the trend towards consolidation and conservative playlists at regular, over-the-air "terrestrial" radio, the internet has been a life-saver. Whether it's random amateur stations, AOL's XM-assisted collection of channels, or ghosts of once-terrestrial frequencies like WOXY, internet radio has offered a whole world of musical choices. But all that could be in jeopardy. Music blog Idolator has pointed out that new royalty rates just decided on by the Copyright Royalty Board would put most internet broadcasters out of business.

Full disclosure: I'm an employee of LIVE 105 (CBS Radio), and we, like all stations, pay fees to the record labels for broadcasting their music. The fee structure is such that (most) stations can continue to be profitable businesses. But as Business Week points out, the new rates for internet stations could add up to over 100% of revenue. That doesn't sound very profitable. The kind of unfortunatetly-titled website Save Our Streams has been set up in anticipation of the coming internet radio silence (perhaps they could also double as a prostate-health awareness site?) and has links to a variety of news stories on the issue.

So, what's a new music junkie to do? Allow me to suggest the apparently unregulated world of podcasts! It seems nuts, but there's a whole section on iTunes full of free – and great -- new music, and if you're like me, the promise of listening to a new DJ mix on the iPod is the only thing getting you to the gym in the morning. Check these out:

  • And Did We Mention Our Disco?
    Currently featuring electro DJ sets from the excellent Simian Mobile Disco and Rory Philips
  • Stones Throw
    The LA hip-hop label's got a short-but-sweet tribute to J Dilla
  • Mad Decent
    Diplo's eclectic selections from Baltimore House to Baile Funk
  • Erol Alkan / Club Trash
    The world's premier electro-skronk DJ and remixer features recent sets from himself and guests at his ground-breaking london club night
  • Beatport Burners
    The online dance music store features the biggest tracks of the moment
  • See if those don't give you an extra jolt of energy on the treadmill...

    Scandal in Obama's Past Finally Revealed

    | Thu Mar. 8, 2007 5:02 PM EST

    obama.jpgSpotted in Salon's War Room, the Boston Globe is reporting today that Barack Obama paid $375 in late fees and fines for parking tickets racked up while he was at Harvard just two weeks before announcing his presidential bid. The man is clearly not presidential material: He should have had his daddy intervene on his behalf with the Traffic, Parking & Transportation Department. (Although I've heard it's more intractable than the draft board ever was.)

    Mira Nair's The Namesake Opens Tomorrow

    | Thu Mar. 8, 2007 4:35 PM EST

    namesake.gifLooking for a good movie to see this weekend? Check out The Namesake (opening tomorrow), Mira Nair's film adaptation of Jhumpa Lahiri's best-selling novel of the same name. The film tells the story of Ashima (played by the wonderful Bollywood star Tabu) and Ashoke (Irfan Kahn), immigrants to New York from Calcutta, and their son Gogol (Kal Penn), named (for reasons that can't be revealed in this blog post) after the Russian writer Nikolai Gogol. The unfortunate trailer makes The Namesake look like the story of a son whose Indian parents don't want him to date a white girl (I guess they thought it would help sell tickets?), but the movie tells a far more interesting immigration story.

    Nair eschews a neat and tidy view of immigration and instead displays it in all its messy contradictions. This family is in many ways quaintly American—their clean suburban home, Ashima gluing sparkles onto home made Christmas cards—yet the parents cringe at the easy informality of their children, and the action shifts equally between India and the United States, creating a palpable sense of what Nair calls "living between two worlds."

    Fans of Nair's other works (especially Monsoon Wedding and Mississippi Masala) may be surprised by this film's more somber tone, but as in those other films, Nair shows a keen eye for interpersonal relationships and presents a touching portrait of familial love and the complex emotions of immigration.

    For more on The Namesake, read my interview with Mira Nair here. (She gives a great interview.)

    --Amaya Rivera

    Michael Jackson: No Regrets

    | Thu Mar. 8, 2007 4:12 PM EST

    It turns out there's at least one person in the world who's as unwilling to admit mistakes as President Bush. That person is Michael Jackson. Having spent most of his time abroad since being acquitted on child molestation charges in 2005, the bizarre star appeared at a $3,500-a-head party in Tokyo on Thursday dressed in a Roberto Cavalli suit that looked strangely like pajamas (click the link for a picture). He told the AP: "I've been in the entertainment industry since I was 6 years old. As Charles Dickens says, 'It's been the best of times, the worst of times.' But I would not change my career" despite "deliberate attempts to hurt me."

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    Fantasy Rape or Erotic Dream?

    | Thu Mar. 8, 2007 3:54 PM EST


    Dolce & Gabbana pulled an ad today after women's groups in Italy and Spain alleged that the ad depicts a "fantasy rape" and thereby promotes violence against women. Dolce & Gabbana counter that the ad was meant to portray an "erotic dream" (presumably among consenting, of-age dream avatars). What do you think?

    I say neither. Looks like your standard, creepy pseudo sensual D&G spread to me--too unemotional to be either violent or particularly erotic. Lesson: never make love to a model.

    Slick Willie Version 2.0?

    | Thu Mar. 8, 2007 3:33 PM EST

    If you want to know why New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson's presidential campaign is having trouble getting off the ground, check out this Politico article on Richardson's "excessively personal" campaign style.

    MoJoBlog on Richardson's expertise on nukes here and his all-around qualification for the country's highest office here.

    Climate Change Will Affect Women More Severely Than Men

    | Thu Mar. 8, 2007 3:29 PM EST

    Today is International Women's Day. You'd hardly know it.

    Though the IUCN (World Conservation Union) has celebrated by releasing a disturbing report on global warming predicting that the physical, economic, social, and cultural impacts of global warming will jeopardize women far more then men. Just as Hurricane Katrina and the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami disproportionately affected women far more then men.

    The report, Gender and Climate Change (available here as a PDF), concludes that women are more severely affected by climate change and natural disasters because of their social roles and because of discrimination and poverty. To make matters worse, they're also underrepresented in decision-making about climate change, greenhouse gas emissions, and, most critically, discussions and decisions about adaptation and mitigation. From the report:

    For example, the 20,000 people who died in France during the extreme heat wave in Europe in 2003 included significantly more elderly women than men. In natural disasters that have occurred in recent years, both in developing and in developed countries, it is primarily the poor who have suffered—and all over the world, the majority of the poor are women, who at all levels earn less than men. In developing countries, women living in poverty bear a disproportionate burden of climate change consequences. Because of women's marginalized status and dependence on local natural resources, their domestic burdens are increased, including additional work to fetch water, or to collect fuel and fodder. In some areas, climate change generates resource shortages and unreliable job markets, which lead to increased male-out migration and more women left behind with additional agricultural and households duties. Poor women's lack of access to and control over natural resources, technologies and credit mean that they have fewer resources to cope with seasonal and episodic weather and natural disasters. Consequently traditional roles are reinforced, girls' education suffers, and women's ability to diversify their livelihoods (and therefore their capacity to access income-generating jobs) is diminished.

    The report notes examples from other sources, including this:

    An Oxfam Report (March 2005) on the impact of the 2004 Asia Tsunami on women raised alarms about gender imbalances since the majority of those killed and among those least able to recover were women. In Aceh, for example, more than 75 percent of those who died were women, resulting in a male-female ratio of 3:1 among the survivors. As so many mothers died, there have been major consequences with respect to infant mortality, early marriage of girls, neglect of girls' education, sexual assault, trafficking in women and prostitution. These woes, however, are largely neglected in the media coverage.

    And this:

    In a study executed on behalf of ACTIONAID in 1993-1994 in the Himalayan region of Nepal, it became clear that environmental degradation has compounded stress within households and pressure on scarce resources. This meant that the pressure on children, particularly girl children, to do more work and at an earlier age was increasing. Girls do the hardiest work, have the least say and the fewest education options. Programmes that concentrate only on sending more girls to school were failing as the environmental and social conditions of the families deteriorated.

    Ironically, women also produce less greenhouse gas emissions than men, the report concludes. Flatulence jokes aside, this includes women in the developed world.

    In Europe, in both the work and leisure contexts, women travel by car less frequently and over shorter distances, use smaller, energy-saving cars and fly considerably less frequently than men.

    Women are over represented as heads of low-income households and under represented in high-income groups. In this respect, income levels play a role in CO2 emissions: the higher the income, the higher the emissions from larger houses with more electrical equipment, bigger cars and so on.

    Lower income people, who happen to be—you guessed it—mostly women, also have less access to energy-efficient appliances and homes because these tend to be more costly. Most frustrating of all, women perceive global warming as a more dangerous threat than men do and would do more to address it, given the tools.

    Women and men perceive the cause of climate change (including CO2 emissions) differently. In Germany, more than 50 percent of women compared to only 40 percent of men, rate climate change brought about by global warming as extremely or very dangerous. Women also believed very firmly that each individual can contribute toward protecting the climate through his/her individual actions. However, policy planning does not reflect in anyway these perceptions.

    By excluding women, the world loses vital input and profound knowledge—knowledge that may prove key to adapting to climate change.

    Inuit women in Northern Canada have always had a deep understanding of weather conditions, as they were responsible for assessing hunting conditions and preparing the hunters accordingly. During a drought in the small islands of the Federal States of Micronesia, it was local women, knowledgeable about island hydrology as a result of land-based work, who were able to find potable water by digging a new well that reached the freshwater lens.

    The report concludes:

    There is a need to refocus the thinking and the debate on energy and climate change to include a human rights perspective. Integrating a rights-based approach to access to sustainable and affordable energy is an approach that will recognise and take into account women's specific needs and women's human rights. Current economic models based primarily on privatisation strategies do not include accountability in terms of meeting people's basic needs.

    The UN has established a website on gender and climate change, where you can learn more, get involved.

    Estonian Election Goes Digital

    | Thu Mar. 8, 2007 2:29 PM EST

    In random, but interesting news, Estonia recently completed its national parliamentary election, and with it, the largest scale non-Simon-Cowell-related online voting experiment in history. 30,000 citizens (about 1 in 30 voters), used their national ID cards and PINs to cast their ballots on a government website. Apparently, no security breaches occurred, and voter turnout was an all time high of 61%. The BBC points out that online voting will need to flush out all security concerns before gaining mass popularity, but the future, imagine casting your vote to reelect President Jenna Bush from the comfort of your moon-beer-drenched LazyBoy...ah technology.