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Castro: Not Dead Yet

| Tue Apr. 24, 2007 6:15 PM EDT

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It's been nearly 9 months since Fidel Castro was seen in public, but new photos released Saturday suggest that Castro's health is getting better not worse. The photos show Castro wearing his now ubiquitous Adidas track suit and speaking with Chinese official Wu Guanzheng.

The news has thrown a wrench into preparations being made in this country for Castro's death. As word spread that Castro was ill and relinquishing most of his power to his brother Raul in July, American nightclub owners squealed with delight about the possibility of building Cuban outposts of their clubs. In August, Tommy Puccio, co owner of several hotels and clubs in Miami told the New York Daily News that he wanted to be "the first one to serve Jell-O shots in Cuba. Here it is 2006, and it might just be reality now." And in late January, the city of Miami announced plans to throw a huge "Castro is dead" party at the Orange Bowl, complete with souvenir t-shirts and live entertainment.

It's still unclear how Castro's health or his brother's planned economic changes will affect Cuba in the long run, but for now at least, the Jell-O shots will have to wait.

--Amaya Rivera

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You Ordered Lube Online in 2003? We Know

| Tue Apr. 24, 2007 6:03 PM EDT

About 250,000 people will think twice before ordering free sex products at the next giveaway. Ryan Singel at Wired has been unraveling the latest case of a leaked customer database. "There's no such thing as a free lubricant," he writes. All too true. Way to stay on top of the story, Ryan. Customers are worried about what will come out of their next prospective employer's Google search, but I think the Astroglide corporation is going to have to do the biggest reputation clean-up of all. Bloggers: hurry and get your lewd puns in now before the story goes cold.

Sheryl Crow Under Fire for Toilet Paper Proposal

| Tue Apr. 24, 2007 3:00 PM EDT

I've come across less than effective environmentalism over the years. The least effective ever had to be bathwater recycling in an area with no drought at all. This was accomplished by plugging the bathtub drain, scooping out the water with a bucket, and using it to flush the toilets. Standing in previous bathers' scummy water made showering quite unpleasant. But none of those radicals ever scolded me to conserve toilet paper.

That's why I was surprised to read that Sheryl Crow had literally proposed rationing toilet paper to stave off global warming. She had also designed washable clothing to take the place of napkins at the dinner table, the BBC reported. In fact, she was just clowning around on her blog:

I propose a limitation be put on how many sqares [sic] of toilet paper can be used in any one sitting. Now, I don't want to rob any law-abiding American of his or her God-given rights, but I think we are an industrious enough people that we can make it work with only one square per restroom visit, except, of course, on those pesky occasions where 2 to 3 could be required. When presenting this idea to my younger brother, who's judgement [sic] I trust implicitly, he proposed taking it one step further. I believe his quote was, "how bout just washing the one square out.
I also like the idea of not using paper napkins, which happen to be made from virgin wood and represent the heighth of wastefullness.[sic] I have designed a clothing line that has what's called a "dining sleeve". The sleeve is detachable and can be replaced with another "dining sleeve," after usage. The design will offer the "diner" the convenience of wiping his mouth on his sleeve rather than throwing out yet another barely used paper product.. I think this idea could also translate quite well to those suffering with an annoying head cold.

What's funniest was how many news reporters took the spoof seriously, after the BBC took the quotes out of context. Today, she had to spell out "just kidding" to the gullibles: "We're just so happy that people are talking about global warming, even if it's brought on by a joke." Sorry to disappoint, guys, but the "dining sleeve" clothing line will not hit stores anytime soon.

The Most Twisted, Disingenuous Statement on Iraq Ever Made

| Tue Apr. 24, 2007 12:43 PM EDT

The American people voted for change in the 2006 midterms, right? A change in the culture of corruption in Washington, a change in the lack of checks of Bush Administration overreach, and most of all, a change in Iraq.

Did you know that the "change" Americans wanted in Iraq was more troops? Yeah, that's what Americans wanted when they roundly defeated the president's party. More. Troops.

Honest to god, this statement from President Bush could not be more disingenuous. And that's an incredible statement, all things considered.

Happy Equal Pay Day?

| Tue Apr. 24, 2007 12:29 PM EDT

Today is Equal Pay Day, the day when women's annual wages finally catch up with what men made through December 31 of the last year. Currently, women make 77 cents to a man's dollar, so it takes them an extra 114 days (that's nearly 4 months) to catch up to men's wages.

It's important to note that the 77 cents figure is not, as Carrie "I'm too rich to work" Lukas' insidious Washington Post editorial suggests, due to Ivy League-educated, rich women "choosing" to stay home with their children. The 77 cents figure is only for women working full-time, year-round and is partially due to women making trade-offs—e.g. flexible work hours—at the expense of higher salaries.

Fully 1/4 of the wage gap, maybe more, is due solely to workers being female. The recent Walmart sex-discrimination lawsuit is a great example of how women are being paid less for doing the same work as men, or alternately, are not being promoted at the same rate as men despite being equally qualified.

So why are women paid less? Well, it's certainly not because they're less educated. Women now make up 58% of undergraduates, and do better scholastically than men. Female college students dominate honor rolls, hold more leadership posts, study more, are more involved in student clubs, and logically, are distributed more awards and honors.

But even with superior education, women's wages slip further and further from men's after graduation. One year after graduation, women working full-time earn 80% of men's wages, in part because they choose lower-paying, traditionally "female" fields like healthcare and education. Ten years after graduation, women are only making 69% of men's wages. Even after accounting for hours worked, parenthood, and job choice, the gap remained.

Sadly, even the most elite of workplaces are not immune to sex discrimination and harassment that often prompts women to leave or file lawsuits. From Smith Barney to Walmart, women are paid less for doing the same job. And despite the fact, says AlterNet, that the wage gap "consistently polls number 1 with female voters in election years," it's only been addressed significantly by one 2008 contender: Hillary Clinton. Her Paycheck Fairness Act aims to make employers responsible for promoting and paying employees equally, regardless of sex, by increasing penalties, teaching women negotiation skills, and allowing employees to share salary information.

Speaking of sharing salaries, just for fun, ladies, you can see how much you would make if you were a man here.

—Jen Phillips

Save Small Magazines! Fight Corporate Cronyism!

| Tue Apr. 24, 2007 10:54 AM EDT

A while back, we blogged about the proposed postage rate hike that will imperil small magazines. To summarize:

The founding fathers decided that an active public debate was vital for America, so they intentionally created affordable postal rates for small political journals. Today, the USPS's Board of Governors is set to adopt a new set of rates, devised not by a staff of experts, but by media giant TimeWarner. The new rates may fatally wound the small magazines like Mother Jones, The Nation, and others.

You can learn more by reading this open letter from the president of The Nation to the chairman of the Postal Board of Governors. You can sign a petition and help save the small journals you love at www.stoppostalratehikes.com.

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Sudan, Rebels Seek Talks to End Conflict in Darfur

| Tue Apr. 24, 2007 10:22 AM EDT

The U.N. is reporting that the Sudanese government and rebel forces have agreed that there is no military solution to the crisis in Darfur and are hoping for a negotiated settlement. They are in talks to bring about just that. Who knows if this will lead to anything productive. We can only hope.

Mother Jones has run two photo essays illustrating the horror and chaos of Darfur. One is called "Scorched Earth." The other is "Rebels and Refugees." Examples:

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We've also spoken with a special adviser to the International Crisis Group in Darfur about the lack of an effective international response, blogged about the difficulty aid workers in Sudan have, and discussed the possibility that oil is driving the genocide. Get educated!

Rove Finally Under Investigation

| Tue Apr. 24, 2007 10:07 AM EDT

The little-known Office of Special Counsel is preparing to investigate the various nefarious dealings of Karl Rove. Liberals rejoice.

The investigation, which will be bolstered in clout and credibility because it is coming from within the administration and not from Congressional Democrats, will look into "the firing of at least one U.S. attorney, missing White House e-mails, and White House efforts to keep presidential appointees attuned to Republican political priorities."

The 106-person Office of Special Counsel has never conducted such a broad and high-profile inquiry in its history. One of its primary missions has been to enforce the Hatch Act, a law enacted in 1939 to preserve the integrity of the civil service....
"We will take the evidence where it leads us," Scott J. Bloch, head of the Office of Special Counsel and a presidential appointee, said in an interview Monday. "We will not leave any stone unturned."

Wow. How long until that guy gets fired? Godspeed, sir.

And I know I shouldn't be greedy, but Rove also had a major role in selling the war to the American public and using it for political gain. Can we investigate him for that, too?

Update: Commenter dmh has a very astute point that I want to draw everyone's attention to: "Rove can now say that he is unable to answer any questions about any of these matters because they are now the subject of a criminal investigation. Is that a good result?"

I'm not sure this investigation is criminal, but no doubt the actions of the Office of Special Counsel will be used as cover by Rove and embattled PR flacks across the Bush Administration. If this investigation drags on and on, allowing Rove to not answer questions about his conduct, while never producing any results, I'm going to wonder if it was orchestrated by the White House to dupe us all. How Rovian would that be?

[Editor's Note: Hey Jonathan, you should also direct people to Dan's great story on the OSC, which is about the dark side of Scott Bloch and his obsession on rooting out "the homosexual agenda" while ignoring tips about murderers, spies, and terrorists. Read that here.]

Whatever Happened to Mullah Omar?

| Tue Apr. 24, 2007 2:36 AM EDT

That's what I wondered when I saw a Reuters story that "Afghan and NATO troops have surrounded more than 200 Taliban insurgents and their feared military commander"...Mullah Dadullah.

Sure, they may be closing in on Dadullah, a one-legged leader of the Taliban. But what of Omar, the one-eyed supreme leader of the Taliban, now, like Bin Laden, on the lam for more than four years?

Btw: there's evidently more than one Mullah Omar.