Blogs

Eat Less Meat To Save The Planet, Brits Say

| Wed May 30, 2007 7:26 PM EDT

Eating less meat and dairy could help tackle climate change by reducing the amount of methane gas emitted by cows and sheep. Reuters reports on an email leaked to a vegetarian campaign group, Viva, wherein a British Environment Agency official expressed sympathy for the green benefits of a vegan diet, which bans all animal product foods. The official said the government may in future recommend eating less meat as one of the "key environmental behaviour changes" needed to combat climate change… Blimey, the Brits threaten to take the lead again. --JULIA WHITTY

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The Worldbike: Cargo-Carrying Bicycle Designed For Africa

| Wed May 30, 2007 6:20 PM EDT

Alex Steffen blogs at WorldChanging on the Worldbike--a cargo-carrying bicycle designed for Africa, where most bikes are used by small entrepreneurs to transport goods for a living. Now, Steffen reports, the bike has appeared in the Smithsonian's Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum exhibit, "Design for the Other 90%." According to WorldBike:

The Worldbike [is] a new platform for developing world bicycle entrepreneurs. With a lighter weight, stronger frame, V-brakes for stopping power, an ergonomic seat and riding position, a seven-speed drivetrain for hill climbing and integrated cargo racks, the Worldbike is the bike people are calling out for in developing countries. Why hasn't it been built before? Because American recreational customers are the singular focus of the bicycle industry. But things are changing. The Design for the Other 90% is one example of a growing awareness of the importance of developing products that can assist the world's poor.

In my perfect world: You could only shop at CostCo if you carried back what you bought on one of these… --JULIA WHITTY

Swedish Cancers Traced To Chernobyl

| Wed May 30, 2007 5:33 PM EDT

The incidence of cancer in northern Sweden increased following the accident at the nuclear power plant in Chernobyl in 1986. This was the finding of a study from Linköping University in Sweden that asked: Was the increase in cancer caused by the radioactive fallout from Chernobyl or could it be explained by other circumstances? In two studies using different methods, Martin Tondel showed a small but statistically significant increase in the incidence of cancer in northern Sweden, where the fallout of radioactive cesium 137 was at its most intense… --JULIA WHITTY

Torture Double-Header: Immoral and Idiotic, and Aided and Abetted

| Wed May 30, 2007 3:42 PM EDT

In the lead-up to an expected executive order outlining new standards for military interrogations, social scientists from around the country are telling the government that, in matters of intelligence, pain does not equal gain. In fact, many of the coercive interrogation tactics—AKA torture—the military has been using since September 11 were adopted from a Cold War training module in which American soldiers were subjected to the worst and most sinister forms of abuse they might receive if captured by the Soviets. No evidence exists that such methods were effective, or even employed. Most of the post-9/11 "torture light" methods date from the Cold War, but at least one military interrogator claims that the even older World War II methods were both more humane and more fruitful—partly because the interrogators spoke the detainees' languages. (There are only 6 Arabic-speakers are on staff at the palatial new American embassy in Baghdad; numerous government employees fluent in the language have been fired because they were gay or, well, Arab.) Bush's executive order is expected to ban waterboarding (or mock drowning) but to authorize aggressive techniques not currently allowed by the Army Field Manual.

Now for part two of your double-header: A subsidiary of Boeing—the same company tapped to build a virtual fence along the border with no government oversight—helped the government enact its immoral and ineffective torture policies, according to a lawsuit filed by the ACLU. The suit charges that the company, Jeppesen Dataplan Inc., of San Jose, "facilitated more than 70 secret rendition flights over a four-year period to countries where it knew or reasonably should have known that detainees are routinely tortured or otherwise abused in contravention of universally accepted legal standards." In an article in the Oct. 30 New Yorker, Jane Mayer reported that a former Jeppesen employee told her that a senior company official announced at a board meeting, "We do all of the extraordinary rendition flights — you know the torture flights."

But don't get excited about learning something about the ultra-secret rendition program. The Bush administration will almost certainly request that the case be dismissed on the grounds that it will reveal state secrets. And even though the ACLU is basing the suit on "publicly available records" and a New Yorker article, the government will probably be granted its request because the "state secrets" privilege is wrongly recognized as a get-out-of-court-free card.

Thompson Campaign Courts Rove Protege, Not Their Best Move

| Wed May 30, 2007 12:55 PM EDT

Amidst the "Fred Thomspson to announce" clamor, TPMmuckraker spotted a Wall Street Journal (sub. req.) article that claims Thompson's campaign is courting Timothy Griffin. Griffin is the young prosecutor and Karl Rove protégé who was appointed U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas in December of 2006. His appointment has received a great deal of criticism within the broiling U.S. Attorney firings scandal, as it is believed that former U.S. Attn. Bud Cummins was removed only to make room for Rove's lackey.

But that's not all the dirt on Griffin according to Monica Goodling's long-awaited testimony last week. Goodling claimed that her former coworker Paul McNulty falsely testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee when he claimed he had no information about Griffin's involvement in "caging" (a voter suppression technique). Greg Palast noted back in March that according to BBC Television, Griffin headed up a scheme to suppress 70,000 citizens' votes before the 2004 election, targeting black soldiers and homeless men and women. This, by the way, is illegal. Strangely, no one in the media is touching this, except, of course, Palast, who after Goodling's testimony cried out for people to pay attention to this scandal. Although, in doing so, he got McNulty's name wrong, calling him Kyle Sampson. (Oops, wrong resigned-DOJ official, Greg.) There is bound to be more news on this front but in the meantime a note to Thompson: I don't think this is your best move.

State Dep't Official Takes on the Bushies

| Wed May 30, 2007 12:16 PM EDT

Price Floyd left his post as the head of Media Affairs at the State Department just a few weeks ago and he is already going public with how difficult it was to make America's intentions and actions clear to the world with the Bush Administration in charge.

We have eroded not only the good will of the post-9-11 days but also any residual appreciation from the countries we supported during the Cold War. This is due to several actions taken by the Bush administration, including pulling out of the Kyoto Protocol (environment), refusing to take part in the International Criminal Court (rule of law), and pulling out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (arms control). The prisoner abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib and the continuing controversy over the detainees in Guantanamo also sullied the image of America.
Collectively, these actions have sent an unequivocal message: The U.S. does not want to be a collaborative partner. That is the policy we have been "selling" through our actions, which speak the loudest of all...
I was not a newcomer to these issues. I had served at the State Department for more than 17 years, through the Persian Gulf War, Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo, numerous episodes of the Middle Eastern peace process and discussions in North Korea on its nuclear programs.
During each of these crises, we at least appeared to be working with others, even if we took actions with which others did not agree. We were talking to our enemies as well as our allies. Our actions and our words were in sync, we were transparent, our agenda was there for all to see, and our actions matched it.
This is not the case today. Much of our audience either doesn't listen or perceives our efforts to be meaningless U.S. propaganda.

The full op-ed in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram is definitely worth reading. Spotted on Laura Rozen's War and Piece and Think Progress.

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The Censored Stories of 2007

| Wed May 30, 2007 11:25 AM EDT

From Project Censored (via Ten 95) comes a list of the top 25 censored stories of 2007. Did you know that the Pentagon is exempt from the Freedom of Information Act? Or that the Department of Homeland Security contracts with KBR to build domestic detention centers? Or that six to seven million people have died in the Congo since 1996?

Project Censored has the scoop on all of those and more, so check out the link. But we'd like to point out that Mother Jones extensively covered two of the list's top ten.

6. Federal Whistleblower Protection in Jeopardy
Special Counsel Scott Bloch, appointed by President Bush in 2004, is overseeing the virtual elimination of federal whistleblower rights in the U.S. government. The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC), the agency that is supposed to protect federal employees who blow the whistle on waste, fraud, and abuse is dismissing hundreds of cases while advancing almost none.

Yup, we were on that one. Check out "Office of Special Counsel's War On Whistleblowers" from our May/June 2007 issue. Also...

3. Oceans of the World in Extreme Danger
Oceanic problems once found on a local scale are now pandemic. Data from oceanography, marine biology, meteorology, fishery science, and glaciology reveal that the seas are changing in ominous ways. A vortex of cause and effect wrought by global environmental dilemmas is changing the ocean from a watery horizon with assorted regional troubles to a global system in alarming distress.

We did a whole issue on that, with articles like "The Fate of the Oceans", "The Catch", and "Net Losses."

Google Trying to Get Bigger -- and More Evil?

| Wed May 30, 2007 9:24 AM EDT

When Google announced a $3.1 billion acquisition of online advertising company DoubleClick, European Union officials and internet privacy advocates warned that the massive trove of information Google has on virtually every internet user just got bigger.

Count Mother Jones amongst the concerned parties. In 2006, we ran a feature called "Is Google Evil?" that looked into the myraid different ways Google collects information on you -- and the ways it coughs up that information to snooping governments. Should you be concerned? Well, Google's famous founding duo certainly seems to be:

Google Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the two former Stanford geeks who founded the company that has become synonymous with Internet searching, and you'll find more than a million entries each. But amid the inevitable dump of press clippings, corporate bios, and conference appearances, there's very little about Page's and Brin's personal lives; it's as if the pair had known all along that Google would change the way we acquire information, and had carefully insulated their lives—putting their homes under other people's names, choosing unlisted numbers, abstaining from posting anything personal on web pages.

Hmmm. Read the feature here.

Mexico Consumed by Drug Violence, Journalists Feeling the Impact

| Wed May 30, 2007 8:33 AM EDT

Increasingly violent drug cartels have been blamed for 3,000 murders in Mexico in the past eighteen months, according to a story in the Washington Post. But as the death toll rises, media coverage decreases. That's because cartel gunmen target journalists in addition to one another -- more than 30 journalists have been killed in the past six years in Mexico and scores more have been subject to intimidation -- kidnapping, office bombings, and so on. It all adds up to make Mexico the second most dangerous country in the world to be a journalist, according to the Post. First, of course, is Iraq. (The Post story has all sorts of good details and quotes from the reporters and editors on the ground -- worth a read.)

Mexico has gotten bad quickly. In 2005, I created two tables that illustrated how much worse Iraq was for journalists than all other countries around the world. Before the invasion of Iraq, the countries that routinely saw the most press deaths were Russia, Algeria, and Columbia -- they each had three or four a year for ten years running. Starting in 2003, Iraq saw 56 journalists killed in a three year span. Mexico wasn't even on the list.

But we could have predicted this. In a 2006 photo essay called "Born Into Cellblocks," Mother Jones sent a photographer into a Mexican prison to photograph the children who live there with their mothers. Chuck Bowden wrote the accompanying text, in which he explored the drug violence that was even then consuming Mexican towns near the American border. He also mentioned the growing violence against journalists. Snippets are below, the whole thing is here.

Bullets killed the police chief last summer, just a few hours after he took office. This brought in the Mexican army. The ongoing slaughter of many cops and citizens caused the U.S. government to shut down its consulate for a spell last August. This winter the local paper was visited by some strange men, presumably working for the cartels, and they fired dozens of rounds and tossed in a grenade. One reporter took five bullets. The editor promptly announced a new policy: His paper, one of the few Mexican publications on the line actually printing news about the drug cartels, would no longer report on the cartels...
Beneath this gore, women and children muddle on, some in Mexican jails. Incarceration, like law, is a bit different in Mexico. Conjugal visits are permitted; small children younger than six can be locked up with their moms; and men and women peddle goods and themselves within the walls in order to survive. Mexican prisons often do not provide grub. I've stood in line with family members who toted a week's supply of food on visiting day, seen women reel out of cells in disarray after their weekly intercourse sessions with their men. Drugs are commonplace inside the walls, as are gangs. Money can buy anything. For years the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has complained about the posh quarters given to major drug players and how they continue to do business without interference while theoretically being under lock and key.

Update: Journalists of any stripe -- not just those that cover the drug cartels -- are vulnerable in Mexico. After Lydia Cacho exposed a powerful hotel owner as the orchestrator of a child pornography and prostitution ring, she was arrested and almost killed by local police. Mother Jones interviewed Cacho in May.

Breaking: Humpbacks Are Almost Home

| Tue May 29, 2007 10:36 PM EDT

The two lost whales have picked up the pace and are now within 10 miles of Golden Gate. The injured mother and her calf have made good time since we followed them last week, 90 miles up the river in Sacramento. They're nearly home to the Pacific Ocean.