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Top Ten Stuff 'n' Things: 5/25/07

| Fri May 25, 2007 9:35 PM EDT

While the rest of the country gets ready to kick off the summer this weekend, with barbecues or swimming or whatever you do, we in San Francisco are just battening down the hatches, as the fog rolls in and dampens our spirits that were so recently teased with a summery come-on. Appropriately enough, this week's Top Ten is a mish-mash of top-down party jams and huddled-in-a-blanket dirges, and if you can't handle the, um, mixture of heat and cold, then, uh, get out the kitchen.

mojo-photo-editors.JPG10. Editors – "The Weight of the World" (from The End Has A Start, out July 17th on Epic) (mp3 via Hayat Bayat)
The Birmingham combo's excellent, Joy Division-reminiscent "Munich" from 2005 unfortunately wasn't equaled by any track on their album, The Back Room, and I kind of wrote them off. However, a now-legendary performance at Coachella (opposite Madonna!) and some leaked tracks from their upcoming album are making me reconsider. This ballad, taking off from a "Just Like Honey"-style beat, is both quieter and more ambitious than anything they've done before

mojo-photo-simianmobile.JPG9. Simian Mobile Disco – Live DJ Set on BBC Radio 1's "Essential Mix," Sunday, May 20th, 2007 (mp3 via BBC Essential Mixes)
Okay, yes, I was in LA last weekend, and I upgraded to a rental car that had Sirius Satellite Radio, and I'm sorry, but rather than enjoy the soothing sounds of KCRW or the indie jams on, er, Indie, I stayed locked on Sirius Channel 11: BBC Radio 1, which was broadcasting live from their "Big Weekend" concert event. The broadcast was so compelling that I even listened to a whole Scissor Sisters live number ("Comfortably Numb") and I really, really hate them. But it was hearing this storming DJ set (from the duo currently vying with Justice for the title of Reigning Kings of Electro-skronk) that made the upgrade worth it

mojo-photo-common.JPG8. Common"The People" (from the apparently forthcoming album Finding Forever on Geffen)
Class-consciousness is sorely lacking in... well, jeez, in America in general, so it's nice to see prog-rapper Common taking up the cause. More importantly, he rhymes "Botswana" with "Obama." All this happens over a quirky sample, produced by Kanye West (in an apparent attempt to be reminiscent of J Dilla), with oddly cut-off vocals and infectious synth lines. He's no Dilla, but what are you gonna do

mojo-photo-spankrock.JPG7. Bjork – "Earth Intruders" (Spank Rock remix) (mp3 via Chazology)
Just as Mark Bell's clattering remix of "Hyperballad" seemed to lead the way to his production work on Bjork's next album, Homogenic, one can only hope that Spank Rock's rerub of "Earth Intruders" might lead to a new Bjork album infused with their hyper Baltimore style. Oddly, this mix turns the tempo down a notch, but still manages to feel freer and, well, more fun

mojo-photo-spoon.JPG6. Spoon – "The Ghost of You Lingers" (from Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, out July 10th on Merge)
Depire the fact that this track from the Austin indie rockers is basically just piano, voices, and and some funky reverb, it sure reminds me of ELO. Maybe it's the minor 7th chords? Either way, it's not surprising everybody's jumping over themselves to grab (and give away) the leaked mp3s from the forthcoming album

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New Elephant Arrives At Tennessee Sanctuary

| Fri May 25, 2007 8:22 PM EDT

Enjoy this latest news from the excellent people at The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee. Dulary, an Asian elephant caged in a quarter-acre yard at the Philadelphia Zoo for 43 of her 43.5 years, has been given a second life on 2,700 acres in Hohenwald. She joins a small herd of other Asian elephants offered retirement from circuses, roadside zoos, and just plain abuse—many of them crippled or ill. The Sanctuary is home to a small herd of African elephants, as well. Dulary has taken to a natural elephant lifestyle like, well, an elephant.

May 5th, 2007: This was a good day for a grand adventure, and after only three full days of Sanctuary life Dulary was ready for more exploring. Her curiosity got the best of her as caregivers and dogs headed out towards the lake. Dulary dusted, grazed and played in a mud puddle as she made her way down the road that leads to the lake. She hesitated for a moment (but only a moment) as she passed through the open gate. She may have wondered why these people keep leaving all the gates open, but she did not waste any time; instead, she walked through the open gate and right up the hill. She loves the new grasses growing alongside the road and the mud was good enough to cover her body with, completely. When she reached the top of the hill the vegetation was more than she could resist, and that is where she stayed all afternoon and into the night.

Check out this video made in memory of Jenny, who arrived, crippled, at the sanctuary in 1996, whereupon her life improved exponentially--though no one could predict her incredible good fortune when Shirley arrived three years later. The two had lived in a circus together more than 20 years earlier, where they'd been as close as mother and daughter. Once reunited at the Sanctuary, they were inseparable for the next 7 years, until Jenny's death last October.

This place reconfirms my belief that elephants are simply incredible, and that people are capable of incredible good. --JULIA WHITTY

Ohio Execution by Lethal Injection Takes 2 Hours

| Fri May 25, 2007 5:19 PM EDT

Lethal injection has gotten a lot of well-deserved scrutiny for being kind of cruel and unusual. The three-drug cocktail that is almost universally used in the United States is usually administered by a guard or other non-medical prison official, leading to a high number of mistakes, and the drugs are rumored to cause excruciating pain that often goes undetected. Governors across the country are halting executions in their state until the matter is investigated further. For example, former governor Jeb Bush put a moratorium on executions in Florida after it took a man named Angel Nieves Diaz 34 minutes to die, during which time reporters saw Diaz in obvious pain. Diaz's body had 12 inch burns on its arms after the ordeal.

Yesterday's execution of Christopher Newton in Ohio should add momentum to the fight against lethal injection. Newton took two hours to die. He had to be stuck at least 10 times with needles to insert the shunts where the chemicals are injected. An ACLU lawyer said that Newton had been effectively tortured to death.

This wasn't how it was supposed to be. Lethal injection was invented by an Oklahoma state legislator who wanted to see executions become more humane. But not only is there evidence that death by lethal injection is horribly grotesque, executions have actually become more common because the public has become more comfortable with lethal injection that it ever was with the electric chair (whose head fires -- executions where a prisoner's head would catch fire -- unmistakably illustrated the method's problems). That Oklahoma legislator is now a priest, and he preaches for the end of the death penalty. His remarkable story, and lots of info on the problems with lethal injection, can be found in this 2005 Mother Jones feature, "A Guilty Man."

Prosecutor Firings: Goodling's Testimony, the Gift that Keeps on Giving

| Fri May 25, 2007 5:05 PM EDT

Monica Goodling, former Department of Justice (DOJ) White House liaison and Senior Counsel to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales testified before the House Judiciary Committee under the protection of a use immunity this past Wednesday. Former Deputy Attorney General (DAG) Paul McNulty bore the brunt of her freely flowing testimony. Goodling noted, referring to the DAG's testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee in February, "The Deputy's public testimony was incomplete or inaccurate in a number of respects." (McNulty could face a criminal investigation.)

But McNulty is not the only one that stands to catch fire from the former DOJ White House liaison's testimony. While admitting that she may have used a political litmus test to screen career positions, as well as political appointees, she pointed a finger at the department's Office of Legal Counsel, claiming that in 2005 Kyle Sampson told her "some years earlier" the office had said civil service rules (rules that bar politics from being weighed as a hiring factor for civil service employees) do not apply to immigration judges as they do to other career positions. The Office of Legal Counsel has fired back claiming the office never held such an opinion.

And, as TPMmuckraker points out today, the appointments of immigration judges during Bush's tenure do look sort of fishy, calling upon a Legal Times article from last year for its information:

Among the 19 immigration judges hired since 2004: Francis Cramer, the former campaign treasurer for New Hampshire Sen. Judd Gregg; James Nugent, the former vice chairman of the Louisiana Republican Party; and Chris Brisack, a former Republican Party county chairman from Texas who had served on the state library commission under then-Gov. George W. Bush.

But the plot gets a little thicker. Goodling's lawyer, John Dowd, released a response to the Office of Legal Counsel's response. (And round and round we go.) Dowd wrote that Goodling realized there was no official order made by the Office of Legal Counsel and that Acting Assistant Attorney General Daniel Levin had made the suggestion. As TPM notes, this means it "came from the top." Stay tuned.

Rosie O'Donnell Leaving "The View" A Little Early

| Fri May 25, 2007 4:59 PM EDT

mojo-photo-view.JPGABC announced today that Rosie O'Donnell, controversial co-host of "The View," has permanently left the show three weeks earlier than planned, following a surpremely uncomfortable argument with her co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck on Wednesday. O'Donnell's upcoming departure had already been announced, and attributed to contract negotiations failing, but her often-combative presence on the show was clearly troublesome as well. On Thursday, co-host and producer Barbara Walters announced O'Donnell wouldn't be joining the show that day since it was "her partner Kelly's birthday;" today's announcement just stated she had now requested an "early leave."

Obama and McCain -- We've Got Ourselves a Pissing Match, Folks

| Fri May 25, 2007 3:24 PM EDT

After Barack Obama opposed the recently-approved war funding bill that replaces timelines for withdrawal with toothless benchmarks, John McCain said the position was "the equivalent of waving a white flag to al Qaeda." Mitt Romney also had harsh words.

Obama responded:

"This country is united in our support for our troops, but we also owe them a plan to relieve them of the burden of policing someone else's civil war. Governor Romney and Senator McCain clearly believe the course we are on in Iraq is working, but I do not.
"And if there ever was a reflection of that it's the fact that Senator McCain required a flack jacket, ten armored Humvees, two Apache attack helicopters, and 100 soldiers with rifles by his side to stroll through a market in Baghdad just a few weeks ago."

(For background on what Obama is referring to, see these blog posts.) McCain shot back less than two hours later:

"While Senator Obama's two years in the U.S. Senate certainly entitle him to vote against funding our troops, my service and experience combined with conversations with military leaders on the ground in Iraq lead me to believe that we must give this new strategy a chance to succeed because the consequences of failure would be catastrophic to our nation's security.
"By the way, Senator Obama, it's a 'flak' jacket, not a 'flack' jacket."

Who needs policy analysis, right? We've got eighteen months of petty sniping to look forward to!

Actually, this should take the humor out of this whole situation -- the insurgents made an example out of that bazaar McCain visited in a flak jacket, ambushing, binding, and murdereding 23 workers shortly after the Senator's visit.

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Stop the Presses: John McCain Voted!

| Fri May 25, 2007 3:10 PM EDT

Last week we noted incredulously that John McCain had missed 43 consecutive votes in the Senate (causing commentor JG to write, "You're complaining?! Have you checked his voting record??"). That streak extended three more votes and sadly has now come to an end.

After 46 straight missed votes, encompassing six weeks, John McCain finally found time to push himself back from the money trough of constant fundraising and cast a vote on behalf of the citizens of Arizona. McCain voted in favor of exempting children of certain Filipino World War II veterans from the numerical limitations on immigrant visas. Just so you know.

And, oh yeah, our taxes pay that man's salary. Which, it shouldn't need to be said, he continued to collect even though he failed to fulfill his most important responsibility as a senator.

IRS Terrorism Gumshoes: Look for "Middle Eastern Sounding Names"

| Fri May 25, 2007 2:59 PM EDT

Apparently the gumshoes over at the IRS have been investigating nonprofits for potential ties to terrorism in Keystone Cops fashion. According to a report by the agency's watchdog, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, IRS agents pour over nonprofit filings manually, cross-referencing them with a terrorist watch list that is woefully inadequate. "As a result, the IRS provides only minimal assurance that tax-exempt organizations potentially involved in terrorist activities are being identified," the watchdog reports. And that's not even the worst part. Responding to the dismal report in a letter to Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson today, Montana Democrat Max Baucus, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, reveals that IRS investigators resorted to racial profiling when looking into potential terrorist financing. "IRS personnel told TIGTA that they primarily look for 'Middle Eastern sounding names' when considering which tax filings to flag for further review." How has this screening process worked out for the IRS? Not very well. Baucus writes: "TIGTA investigators found that the current IRS screening process has never identified any person or organization with links to terrorists."

Neato Viddys on the Intertubes

| Thu May 24, 2007 9:03 PM EDT

Hmm, not sure if there's a theme with these five. Things that are either slightly or very disturbing? An exploration of the roles we all play in society? Cool new music? Whatever, just watch.

UNKLE feat. Ian Astbury – "Burn My Shadow" (via Stereogum)

In which a regular guy awakens one morning to find, well, something's been installed in his body. Creepy factor: 7/10

Ciara – "Like a Boy"

In which the young pop singer wonders about gender roles, and dances around with some butch gals. Groundbreaking factor: 5/10

Death Toll Associated with 9/11 Still Climbing

| Thu May 24, 2007 5:01 PM EDT

Nearly six years after two planes crashed into the Twin Towers, the number of deaths associated with the attacks continues to climb. Yesterday, the death toll reached 2,750 after Dr. Charles Hirsch, New York City's chief medical examiner, amended the death certificate of civil rights attorney Felicia Dunn-Jones. Previously, she had been thought to have died of natural causes. Her certificate now notes that exposure to toxic dust from the ruins of the World Trade Center "was contributory to her death." Dunn-Jones' certificate is the first to be amended, but perhaps not the last.

More than 7,300 people, including New York City police officers, firemen, and other first responders who inhaled toxins during the city's 10-month cleanup effort, filed a class-action lawsuit against the city, complaining of deteriorating respiratory health.

New York Representatives Carolyn Maloney and Vito Fossella, who pushed for a review of Dunn-Jones' case, are continuing to pressure the city's medical examiner to review other cases. Although Hirsch has no plans to do so, his decision to amend Dunn-Jones' death certificate could have far-reaching implications and is likely to be cited as evidence in 9/11-related health suits filed against New York City.

Rudy Giuliani may also catch fire from these suits. The city's mayor, who has framed his presidential campaign around his 9/11 heroism, is facing criticism for his administration's handling of safety measures during the cleanup effort. The New York Times reported earlier this month that, according to public documents filed in a suit, the city "never meaningfully enforced federal requirements that those at the site wear respirators" and "officials also on some occasions gave flawed public representations of the nature of the health threat, even as they privately worried about exposure to lawsuits by sickened workers."

--Jessica Savage