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Clinton, Edwards Call on Gonzales to Resign

| Wed Mar. 14, 2007 10:34 AM EDT

Yesterday, presidential candidates John Edwards and Hillary Clinton called on U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to resign. This followed Senator Chuck Schumer's reiteration of his call for the AG to resign. Edwards was first. Here is an excerpt from the statement released by his campaign (courtesy of TPMcafe):

"Attorney General Alberto Gonzales betrayed his public trust by playing politics when his job is to enforce and uphold the law. By violating that trust, he's done a great disservice to his office. If White House officials ordered this purge, he should have refused them. If they insisted, he should have resigned in protest. Attorney General Gonzales should certainly resign now."

Hillary was not far behind in condemning Gonzales' actions. During an interview with Good Morning America, Clinton had this to say:

"The buck should stop somewhere...and the attorney general — who still seems to confuse his prior role as the president's personal attorney with his duty to the system of justice and to the entire country — should resign."

Thanks to Think Progress for spotting these.

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Arcade Fire Misses #1 Spot; World Somehow Goes On

| Wed Mar. 14, 2007 2:50 AM EDT

mojo-photo-hitparade.jpgTen days ago I ventured a prediction (or, really, a wish) that Arcade Fire could hit #1 with their new album Neon Bible. It was all very exciting. Upon the album's release on March 6th, it shot straight to the top of the iTunes charts (where it remains) and indie rock geeks like myself around the world held their breath. Well, sorry, geeks. The official Billboard charts won't be posted until Thursday, but HITS Magazine online is reporting (registration required) that the Fire will land at #2, behind the late Notorious B.I.G., whose Greatest Hits sold nearly 100,000 copies to Neon Bible's 83,000. Not really even close, but dead rappers win every time, so there's no point crying into your vintage T-shirts over this. And besides, take solace in this consolation prize: Arcade Fire managed to kick American Idol reject Daughtry down to #3.

[Update, 3/15/07, 1:30pm]
Billboard magazine is reporting that the battle between Biggie and Arcade Fire was a little bit closer: 99,000 to 92,000 copies, with 30% of the latter's sales coming from digital retailers.

Castro and Chavez Yuck It Up Over Ethanol

| Wed Mar. 14, 2007 2:36 AM EDT

Heading into the presidential campaign both Hillary Clinton and John McCain, both of whom once detested ethanol, are slobbering all over the place in its support. That's because they want votes in Iowa's caucuses.

Meanwhile, in a March 4 radio chat on the Venezuelan program "Hello President," Hugo Chavez warmly welcomed the recovering Fidel Castro, and in short order the two fell into an animated discussion on the same subject:

Chavez: Do you know how many hectares of corn are needed to produce one million barrels of ethanol?

Castro: To do what?

Chavez: To produce one million barrels of ethanol?

Castro: Ethanol. I believe you told me about that the other day. Somewhere around 20 million hectares.

Chavez:[Laughing] Just like that.

Castro: Go ahead, remind me.

Chavez: Indeed, 20 million. You are the one with an exceptional mind, not me.

Castro: Twenty million. Well, of course. The idea of using food to produce fuel is tragic, is
dramatic. No one is sure how high the price of food will rise when soy is being used for fuel, with the need there is in the world to produce eggs, milk, to produce meat. It is a tragedy. One of many today.

I am happy to know that you have taken up the flag to save the species because... there are new problems, very difficult problems and therefore to see someone become a great preacher of the cause, a champion of the cause, an advocate of the life of the species. For that, I congratulate you. Continue fighting [words inaudible] to educate the people so they can understand.

There are things that I read and review every day. I am very aware of the threat of war,
environmental threats and food threats. We have to remember that there are billions of people famished. These are realities, and for the first time in history, the governments are getting involved. Governments that are able and have the moral authority to do it, and you are one of those rare examples...

The two heads of state reminisced as they rambled along over the radio...

Castro: Venezuela has a territory of nearly one million square kilometres. We are just a nut shell that the Gulf current pushed too close to our friends to the north. [Chuckles]

Chavez: [In English] Our friends Fidel, listen.

Castro: Well, you say that I know English. I did at one time.

Chavez: Did you forget it?

Castro: The trauma afterwards has made me forget it. This is why I no longer have that excellent memory you have, the capacity to summarise or your musical ear, your talent to remember songs. I cannot believe that you have partied so much as to remember all those songs.

Chavez: I never partied as much as you.

Castro: I envy you that.

When it came time to say goodbye, Chavez said, "Do you know how many people listen to the first hour of the programme? Forty percent. As you know, the audience of "Hello President" is huge. Let's gain ground. We will win the battle for life. We will win that battle. Thank you for your call."

Castro thanks Chavez and they continue.

Chavez: Let's give Fidel a round of applause. [Applause] A hug. Comrade, companion, and you know, I do not have any qualms about calling you father in front of the world. Onward to victory.

Castro: Onward to victory.

Chavez: We will prevail.

Castro: We will prevail. [Applause]

You can read the entire transcript, originally provided by the BBC, at the National Post of Canada's site.

-- James Ridgeway

Conference of Pro-Israel Group Brings Applause for Attack-Iran Backers

| Tue Mar. 13, 2007 8:58 PM EDT

The annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference this weekend may have taken us a step closer to war with Iran. One featured speaker was John Hagee. Hagee is a powerful evangelical leader who founded the Christians United for Israel lobby last year. Hagee is a staunch supporter of Israel; that much is clear. But he is a literal reader of the Bible who thinks Armageddon in the Middle East is a good thing, and conveniently misinterprets most of Judaism to make it a helpmate for Christianity.

Even so, AIPAC delegates may be right to conclude that Hagee is good for the Jews, but The American Prospect's Sarah Posner argues:

Whether Hagee is good for Israel is beside the point. The real problem is that he represents a catastrophe for the United States and its standing in the world -- not because he might love the Jews too much, or might in fact secretly hate them, but because…the notion that Hagee -- whose status is only elevated by invitations like AIPAC's -- is leading a political movement based on nothing more than a supposedly literal reading of his Bible only reinforces the view that the United States is being led by messianic forces at odds with world peace and stability.

Hagee's speech, which compared Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Pharaoh and Hitler, went over big.

Nancy Pelosi also spoke at the AIPAC meeting, but she didn't make quite as big a splash. In fact, she was booed when she called the war in Iraq a failure. She was using a much more pragmatic rubric: "whether it makes the U.S. safer, the U.S. military stronger and the region more stable." Just moments before, Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) had received a standing ovation when he said that the U.S. had no choice but to win in Iraq. (By the way, Stephen Cohen has a powerful take-down of that argument in The Nation today.)

So why does this pro-Israel group need us to stay in the war in Iraq? It wants to turn up the heat on Iran. One of its priorities is to push Congress to approve tougher sanctions on Iran, which is hostile to Israel. For a rundown of the ears most primed to receive reasons to attack Iran, read this.

(AIPAC is also skeptical about candidate Barack Obama because he once told the Des Moines Register that "nobody is suffering more than the Palestinian people.")

New Mexico Will Require HPV Vaccine

| Tue Mar. 13, 2007 7:00 PM EDT

Merck, the maker of the new vaccine to protect against the strains of the HPV virus that cause cervical cancer, succumbed to pressure from Christian groups to cease lobbying for mandatory vaccination programs. As Salon put it, "New [Parenting] Rule: If you don't think your daughter getting cancer is worse than your daughter having sex, then you're doing it wrong." (The other metaphors in this article are a bit, err, saltier, but it's laugh-out-loud funny.)

The only state Merck had persuaded was Texas, where Governor Rick "Goodhair" Perry circumvented the legislature and mandated vaccines by executive order. Lawmakers are now rallying to supersede his order because they're more frightened of their daughters having sex than they are of them getting cancer.

It's not clear if Merck had made significant headway in New Mexico when it called off its lobbying efforts, but the legislature there has delivered a bill to Governor Bill Richardson's desk. Richardson, whom Jonathan would like to see become Secretary of State, has said he will sign the bill.

Everyone Else Is About To Have A Great Time at SXSW

| Tue Mar. 13, 2007 6:27 PM EDT

mojo-photo-barbecue.jpgAnd you're not. Well, I'm not either, so, uh, wanna go get a beer with me, and cry into it? Actually, my impressions of the Austin music festival (kicking off tonight) had been tarnished in the past few years by some unpleasant stories of desperate battles to get into the most hotly-tipped shows, even if you'd paid the $600 walk-up fee for a badge. But an industry friend's recent description of the festival as "better than Coachella" made me wish I was going again. The festival is sold (mostly by attendees to their bill-paying bosses) as a "proving ground" for new bands, who then emerge with the momentum to conquer America. That sounds nice, and while bands like Arctic Monkeys, Franz Ferdinand and Bloc Party put on great shows in recent years, their stars had been rising long before they set foot in Austin, and it's not like a poor performance there would have stopped the hype. So, really, SXSW is just a big party, but attended almost exclusively by music geeks, and since the great unwashed has become more and more intrusive at Coachella in recent years, I see the appeal.

Rolling Stone has a good roundup of some of the bands most likely to see overcrowding and mayhem at their Austin performances, and subsequent press overload the next week. From their list, the excellent Peter Bjorn and John and The Gossip seem most likely to get the breathless post-festival "best show ever" reviews. I don't quite get the crazed adoration of retro trio The Pipettes, and I'm personally a little tired of Girl Talk getting so much attention for his haphazard laptop silliness (when my friends do it so much better). But, those will definitely be hot tickets. To that list of potential SXSW highlights, I'd add Glasgow rockers The Fratellis (from the iTunes commercial), one of the first US shows from Damon Albarn's new project The Good the Bad and the Queen, and a set from the UK electronic combo Fujiya & Miyagi. But who knows: last year I heard it was an off-the-schedule secret DJ set by the Presets in a barn in the middle of nowhere that was everybody's highlight. Sigh. Well, if you're not there but want to to join in the fun from a distance, check out Hypebot's helpful links on how to pretend you're there, including the festival's official online update toolbox and local station KUT (90.5 FM) which you can listen to online. Grab a beer and some barbecue, and it'll almost feel like the real thing.

[Update, 5:52pm] Well, shut my mouth about Peter Bjorn and John. Via Gawker, it's a blog dedicated to convincing the world that they're "not a significant band." They're organizing a "Stop Peter Bjorn and John" rally. I still like them, but this is pretty hilarious.

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Weird Weather Watch: Year-Round Fire Season in SoCal

| Tue Mar. 13, 2007 6:26 PM EDT

Southern California is enduring its driest 12 months ever, which means firefighters are already busy again with little rest after the fall fires. The Santa Ana winds, which usually blow from October through December, have continued to blow, fueling fires started in the dry brush. It's also hotter there than ever before. Finally, the Los Angeles Times reports:

The deep freeze that hit much of the region in January is also worrying firefighters because it killed or damaged countless trees and plants, leaving them vulnerable to fire.

Fire experts say the vegetation looks like it's already dried out from the summer. "If this is the beginning, I don't know where we're going to end up," one said. No rain in the forecast.

This is what the earth looks like on global warming.

Newspapers Cutting Along the Color Line

| Tue Mar. 13, 2007 6:07 PM EDT

What do you cut when your publication's in a financial pinch? Diversity programs, of course. The Associated Press just announced its decision to terminate the 2007 "Diverse Visions / Diverse Voices" minority mentoring program—a week after the Feb. 15 application deadline. Students received a letter informing them that due to limited resources, the 5-day workshop would not take place. Applicants were required to submit a resume, three writing samples, a 500-word essay, and two letters of recommendation. The AP said it would run the program "every other year." We'll see.

The AP isn't the only program to add insult to injury in cutting minority programs. The Village Voice pulled a similar stunt last spring, when it announced days after the application deadline for its Mary Wright Minority Fellowship that the program would be suspended because of the paper's purchase by New Times (now Village Voice Media). Again little comfort to those who hustled to get the lengthy application form to the paper's Cooper Union headquarters on time. The program is, however, happily back on track and now offers a weekly stipend of $400, instead of the previous $150.

Village Voice also recently replaced its self-declared "white male Jew from the Upper West Side" editor-in-chief, David Blum, with a Latino, Tony Ortega, after Blum's mostly-white hiring policies were challenged in a story meeting. Blum didn't apologize for who he was, and was, the Huffington Post reports, the subject of complaints from minority staffers. Blum argued that there were only so many qualified minority candidates, and that journalism schools like Columbia University, where he was formerly an adjunct professor, were "98 percent white." As a Columbia J-school alum, I can say that the program at least felt diverse with tons of international students, plenty of Hispanics, a couple of Asians, and an ample helping of Jews—thought it was woefully lacking in African-Americans. Ortega will be the Voice's 5th Editor-in-Chief since the publication was bought by New Times, revealing that maintaining diversity may be one of the Voice's lesser problems.

Speaking of faltering New York papers, Newsday announced last week that it is losing Mira Lowe, associate editor of recruitment, and John Gonzales, the paper's court reporter. Lowe, whose always-friendly face was a regular at media job fairs in New York City, is moving on to Chicago to work on recruitment at Ebony and Jet, and she's taking her African-American husband, Newsday reporter Herbert Lowe, with her. Gonzales is going to New Orleans to join the AP in covering Hurricane Katrina recovery. Seems they're interested in minority issues.

Newsday has lost 6 other journalists of color since December of 2006. This is a serious blow to the publication, which prides itself on covering issues in the heavily-ethnic New York boroughs and Long Island that papers like The New York Times tend to ignore.

For Mother Jones' coverage of newspapers in peril, click here.

—Jen Phillips

Chuck Schumer to Bush on Prosecutor Purge: Explain Yourself

| Tue Mar. 13, 2007 5:30 PM EDT

Today, Senators Charles Schumer and Dianne Feinstein held a press conference (above) to discuss the most recent developments in the case of the fired U.S. Attorneys, namely how shady the Justice Department and the White House appear to have been, and to make clear that the stepping down of Kyle Sampson, Gonzales' chief of staff, "does not take heat off the attorney general." If you haven't been following the investigation, both Schumer and Feinstein give a good chronology of events. (TPMmuckraker was nice enough to transcribe for us.)

There were several things worth noting from both Feinstein and Schumer's speeches. Schumer called again for Alberto Gonzales to step down and said:

"Attorney General Gonzales has either forgotten the oath he took to uphold the Constitution or just doesn't understand that his duty to protect the law is greater than his duty to protect the president."

Schumer called on Karl Rove, Harriet Miers and George Bush to come forward and explain themselves. Schumer says of Bush:

"The president must clarify his role in this whole matter...the cloud over the U.S. attorneys, the cloud over the Justice Department is getting darker and darker."

Feinstein went on to discuss most notably the Patriot Act:

"We now know that it is very likely that the amendment to the Patriot Act... might well have been done to facilitate a wholesale replacement of all or part of U.S. attorneys without Senate confirmation."

This is an interesting part of the probe because it not only implies careful calculation on the part of the White House and the DOJ but it may implicate Senate Judiciary Committee (the senate committee investigating the firings) Ranking Minority Member Arlen Specter, whose chief of staff Michael O'Neill, under "orders from the DOJ," slipped the amendment into the Reauthorization of the Patriot Act. Specter is now co-sponsoring a bill to reverse the amendment -- perhaps to save face?

I love divided government!

The Continent Itself is Obese on Worldmapper

| Tue Mar. 13, 2007 4:24 PM EDT

worldmapper.pngIf you prefer to process global politics visually or if you just have a map fetish, Worldmapper is worth checking out. The site hosts several "density-equalizing" maps that depict the world according to demographic statistics ranging from total population, to the slightly more unique and topically relevant carbon emissions increases, greenhouse gasses, and nuclear waste. While other maps typically portray these statistics using icons and color-coding, these density equalizing maps resize landmass to account for the statistics in question. The maps depicting nuclear waste and wealth both show a hugely ballooned Northern Hemisphere and an atrophied Southern Hemisphere.

—Rose Miller