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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

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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.

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:

 darfur_07_299x198.jpg  darfur_05_299x198.jpg

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.

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Jargon Watch: "Long War" Goes the Way of GWOT

| Tue Apr. 24, 2007 2:00 AM EDT

Man, if only the Pentagon put as much effort into winning the war as it does into rebranding its losing efforts.

Remember when
GWOT (Global War On Terrorism) became GSAVE (Global War on Violent Extremism). Well, at least that's what Donald Rumsfeld proposed back in 2005. Evidently, even Bush thought this was stupid.

As for the "long war"—this one was coined by Gen. John P. Abizaid before he retired as head of the Central Command. According to the NYT, "it was intended to signal to the American public that the country was involved in a lengthy struggle that went well beyond the war in Iraq and was political as well as military."

Except, whoops, folks in the Middle East took it to mean that they'd be occupied for a long time. The Times also notes that U.S. officials seem to be using the phrases "Islamic fascism" and "jihadist" less regularly, as they seem to have offended Muslims worldwide, and even helped recruit folks to fight us. (D'oh!) The Pentagon has also dropped "Salafist Extremist Network," presumably because only Juan Cole knew what it meant.

"We continue to look for other options to characterize the scope of current operations," said a Pentagon spokesperson.

SNAFU? Vietnam II? Hundred Years War?

Canadian Sealer Admits Hunting is All About Fun Not Money

| Tue Apr. 24, 2007 1:21 AM EDT

The Canadian sealing fleet is still stuck in the ice off Newfoundland. The Toronto Star reports conditions are moderating, the icebreakers are free, and many of the longliners, which hunt seals on the side, may be freed tomorrow. But the Star also reports a Newfoundland sealer, Desmond Adams, as saying, "we all go out for the love of it rather than the money, which isn't there anymore." He adds, "No one's going to stop hunting if they don't have to. We need someone to tell us, 'No, this is too dangerous. You can't do it.' Newfoundlanders are good at following orders. They've told us we can't fish and we can't do this or that. And we don't."

"No one's getting rich from the seal hunt," he said, "at least not among the hunters. The price of pelts is down to about $55, about half what it used to be." That means the Canadian taxpayer is footing a bill worth millions of dollars to provide four full time ice-breakers, plus the cost of the Canadian Coast Guard flying in groceries, to assist the lads on their seasonal slaughter gone bad.

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society reports that over 60,000 seal pups are available under the quota of 275,000. Over 200,000 have already been clubbed or slaughtered, not taking into account the estimated 250,000 pups killed by melting ice from global warming in the Gulf of St. Lawrence last month.

The Canadian government has acted very irresponsibly in allowing vessels that are not ice-strengthened to venture into these conditions, says Sea Shepherd founder, Captain Paul Watson. "There is a double standard. My ship the Farley Mowat is an ice-class ship and I have more experience in navigating in ice conditions than most of these sealers, but the Coast Guard did everything they could to prevent us from going into the ice to save seals citing their concerns for our 'safety'."

Come on, Canada. Stop it. Stop lying about the economic necessity of the hunt. Stop awarding the permits. Stop wasting money on the seaboys with clubs and a twisted sense of fun. --Julia Whitty

Handy List of Bushies Who've Left Under Cloud (or Should)

| Mon Apr. 23, 2007 9:57 PM EDT

Thanks AP! (Via WaPo) But you forgot a few. Like Rumsfeld.

• Scooter Libby, former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice in a grand jury investigation into the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame. His trial also implicated top political adviser Karl Rove and Cheney in a campaign to discredit her husband, Iraq war critic and retired ambassador Joe Wilson. Libby, who plans an appeal, is awaiting a June 5 sentencing.
• Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is fighting to hold onto his job in the face of congressional investigations into his role in the firing of eight U.S. attorneys. Two top aides have resigned in the investigation into whether the firings were politically motivated. Emails and other evidence released by the Justice Deparment suggest that Rove played a part in the process. Other e-mails, sent on Republican party accounts, either have disappeared or were erased.
• Paul Wolfowitz, president of the World Bank and a former deputy defense secretary, acknowledged he helped arrange a large pay raise for his female companion when she was transferred to the State Department but remained on the bank payroll. The incident intensified calls at the bank for his resignation.
• J. Steven Griles, an oil and gas lobbyist who became deputy Interior Secretary J., last month became the highest-ranking Bush administration official convicted in the Jack Abramoff influence-peddling scandal, pleading guilty to obstructing justice by lying to a Senate committee about his relationship with the convicted lobbyist. Abramoff repeatedly sought Griles' intervention at Interior on behalf of Indian tribal clients.
• Former White House aide, David H. Safavian, was convicted last year of lying to government investigators about his ties to Abramoff and faces a 180-month prison sentence.
• Roger Stillwell, a former Interior Department official, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge for not reporting tickets he received from Abramoff.
• Sue Ellen Wooldridge, the top Justice Department prosecutor in the environmental division until January, bought a $980,000 beach house in South Carolina with ConocoPhillips lobbyist Donald R. Duncan and oil and gas lobbyist Griles. Soon thereafter, she signed an agreement giving the oil company more time to clean up air pollution at some of its refineries. Congressional Democrats have denounced the arrangement.
• Matteo Fontana, a Department of Education official who oversaw the student loan industry, was put on leave last week after disclosure that he owned at least $100,000 worth of stock in a student loan company.
• Claude Allen, who had been Bush's domestic policy adviser, pleaded guilty to theft in making phony returns at discount department stores while working at the White house. He was sentenced to two years of supervised probation and fined $500.
• Philip Cooney, a former American Petroleum Institute lobbyist who became chief of staff for the White House Council on Environmental Quality, acknowledged in congressional testimony earlier this year that he changed three government reports to eliminate or downplay links between greenhouse gases and global warming. He left in 2005 to work for Exxon Mobil Corp.
• Darleen Druyun, a former Air Force procurement officer, served nine months in prison in 2005 for violating federal conflict-of-interest rules in a deal to lease Boeing refueling tankers for $23 billion, despite Pentagon studies showing the tankers were unnecessary. After making the deal, she quit the government and joined Boeing.
• Eric Keroack, Bush's choice to oversee the federal family planning program, resigned from the post suddenly last month after the Massachusetts Medicaid office launched an investigation into his private practice. He had been medical director of an organization that opposes premarital sex and contraception.
• Lurita Doan, head of the General Services Administration, attended a luncheon at the agency earlier this year with other top GSA political appointees at which Scott Jennings, a top Rove aide, gave a PowerPoint demonstration on how to help Republican candidates in 2008. A congressional committee is investigating whether the remarks violated a federal law that restricts executive-branch employees from using their positions for political purposes.
• Robert W. Cobb, NASA's inspector general is under investigation on charges of ignoring safety violations in the space program. An internal administration review said he routinely tipped off department officials to internal investigations and quashed a report related to the Columbia shuttle explosion to avoid embarrassing the agency. He remains on the job. Only Bush can fire him.
• Julie MacDonald, who oversees the Fish and Wildlife Service but has no academic background in biology, overrode recommendations of agency scientists about how to protect endangered species and improperly leaked internal information to private groups, the Interior Department inspector general said.

Who else should AP have included on this list?

Omega Fat Ratio Linked to Depression and Heart Disease

| Mon Apr. 23, 2007 9:16 PM EDT

A recent study buttresses one explanation for the rise of depression and heart disease in recent generations: an increase in processed vegetable oil in the diet. Doctors at Ohio State University measured blood ratios of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids and found....

The more omega-6 fatty acids people had in their blood compared with omega-3 fatty acid levels, the more likely they were to suffer from symptoms of depression and have higher blood levels of inflammation-promoting compounds.... The 6 individuals diagnosed with major depression had nearly 18 times as much omega-6 as omega-3 in their blood, compared with about 13 times as much for subjects who didn't meet the criteria for major depression.

That's a striking correlation.

Omega-3 fatty acids are found in foods such as fish, flax seed oil and walnuts, while omega-6 fatty acids are found in refined vegetable oils used to make everything from margarine to baked goods and snack foods. The amount of omega-6 fatty acids in the Western diet increased sharply once refined vegetable oils became part of the average diet in the early 20th century.

According to the Vegetarian Society of the United Kingdom, a reliable source of omega-3 is ground flax seed. Tofu, apparently, is only so-so.