Blogs

Edwards, Obama Keep It Virtual

| Thu Feb. 15, 2007 2:37 PM EST

John Edwards just lost the blogosphere, but he's already staked out his place in the virtual realm of Second Life. Isn't there something ironic about talking about the "two Americas" from inside an alternate world? But then, it's a lot less expensive to build a mansion in SL. Not to be outcourted by a man who already has the hair of an avatar, Barack Obama's just launched his version of MySpace called— yes, really—MyBarackObama. Beacuse Obama belongs to all of us. Even the lurkers.

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Edwards, Obama Keep It Virtual

| Thu Feb. 15, 2007 2:37 PM EST

John Edwards just lost the blogosphere, but he's already staked out his place in the virtual realm of Second Life. Isn't there something ironic about talking about the "two Americas" from inside an alternate world? But then, it's a lot less expensive to build a mansion in SL. Not to be outcourted by a man who already has the hair of an avatar, Barack Obama's just launched his version of MySpace called— yes, really—MyBarackObama. Beacuse Obama belongs to all of us. Even the lurkers.

myobama.gif

New Technology May Help Iraq Vets Regrow Limbs

| Thu Feb. 15, 2007 2:30 PM EST

We all know that animals such as salamanders and newts can regrow body parts, but humans? An experimental technology using extracellular matrix—a fine powder derived from pig bladders—may lead to just that.

Thus far, the growth has been limited to soft tissue and blood vessels, and the only human test was on a doctor's brother who had (conveniently) chopped off 3/8 of an inch of the top of a finger. By using extracellular matrix, the missing part regrew in just four months. Except for a scar, "it was like the finger I always had," he said.

Less than half an inch of finger may not sound like a lot, but for the five Iraq vets testing the technology at a center in Texas it may mean the difference between fumbling for a pencil (or a fork, a hammer, etc.) and being able to pick it up. And as amputations are a key injury in this war, scientists are hoping that the new technology may one day lead to full limb regeneration. Stem cells are of course an important part of this debate. "Fetuses can regenerate just about everything," a scientist involved in the extracellular matrix therapy said. Most recently, human stem cells implanted in rats' damaged spinal cords reproduced and fused with the rats' nervous systems to repair function. This gives hope that paralyzed GIs may one day be able to regain at least some of their mobility instead of having to rely on expensive prosthesis.

With all the potential of biotechnological help for vets, why is Bush not behind stem cell technology? Bush says he won't allow the intentional destruction of human embryos, but he seems perfectly happy to witness the mental and physical destruction of the nation's young men and women. Bush's opposition to stem cells is not just hurting those injured today, but may actually be keeping researchers from helping others down the line.

—Jen Phillips

Introducing "The Gavel"

| Thu Feb. 15, 2007 1:43 PM EST

Hey, Nancy Pelosi has a new blog, and it's legit! It's called "The Gavel," and it's a boon to C-SPAN junkies who can't watch TV during work hours. There's all sorts of neat video up now from House floor debate and Congressional hearings. It's wonky but cool. Also, be warned that it's kind of slow loading, either because there is so much video or because a ton of people are checking it out.

Take a look.

A Soldier's Take on Cutting the Funding

| Thu Feb. 15, 2007 12:54 PM EST

A DailyKos diarist who served in Iraq and Afghanistan weighs in on whether or not cutting funding for the war in Iraq will put the troops in danger. Very much worth a read.

Romney Follows Papa McCain's Lead on Pandering

| Thu Feb. 15, 2007 12:26 PM EST

CNN is reporting that Mitt Romney will give the commencement address at Pat Robertson's Regent University, just as John McCain, one of Romney's chief rivals for the 2008 Republican nomination, delivered the commencement address at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University last May.

First of all, how do all these guys get their own universities? Second, it's incredible how the religious right has these candidates on a leash. McCain's speech was part of a larger campaign to embrace the religious right, including forsaking his previously moderate views on Roe v. Wade; Romney's speech is part of a coordinated effort to fight his own moderate past and convince the right he is a true conservative, an effort that has included pulling a complete 180 on gay rights.

This is why I think Chuck Hagel has a chance to secure the Republican nomination: he is a conservative through and through with no weaknesses in his social record, and has bucked the party line on just two topics, the Iraq War and President Bush. He opposes both vehemently. Isn't that exactly what the polls indicate conservative voters want right now? The Republican nomination may end up depending on how well Chuck Hagel can make all of this apparent to the vast majority of American voters who have little idea who he is.

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Evangelicals Protect The Planet, The Planet God Created

| Thu Feb. 15, 2007 2:33 AM EST

Evangelicals have been green for some time, but lately it seems like they're going dark green. Deep green. Like a forest green. A Charleston green, even.

The Evangelical "What Would Jesus Drive?" green campaign of a few years ago has now paved the way for a new movement. An unprecedented group of Evangelical and scientific leaders just last month sent an urgent call to action to President Bush on behalf of "Creation Care," urging him to protect the environment and "defend life on earth." They are calling for a "fundamental change in values, lifestyles, and public policies" needed to address global warming and other environmental problems "before it is too late." Olympia Snowe and Barack Obama even jumped on board in support.

Richard Cizik, the pro-Bush vice president of governmental affairs for the National Association of Evangelicals, told the Inter Press Service News Agency:

"There are people in our community who don't yet accept the science of human-induced climate change and other environmental problems. What we're saying is, let's be in dialogue with the scientists who have the best information about these problems that we can come up with."

Climate change isn't the only turf Evangelicals have been walking on lately. Marcus R. Ross submitted a doctoral dissertation to the University of Rhode Island in December on the existence of mosasaurs, but was vocal about his status as a ''young earth creationist'' who, aside from his academic work, believes that the Bible is a literally true account of the creation of the universe, and that the earth is at most 10,000 years old.

The kicker of it all is that while 38% of Americans call themselves evangelical, only 9% actually agree with key evangelical beliefs. According to a study last year by the Barna Group, one out of every four self-identified evangelicals has not accepted Christ as their savior. Which means the third of our country who are evangelicals are a pretty diverse lot, and many of them are looking to do some saving of their own, all the better for a planet that can use all the help it can get.

—Gary Moskowitz

Still Fewer "Criminals" in the Army Than in Your Neighborhood Bar

| Thu Feb. 15, 2007 2:19 AM EST

For years now, the Army has been stretching to keep its numbers up by compromising everything from enlistment standards to the quality of new recruits to the character of recruiters themselves. As Peter points out below, today's New York Times now warns us about the rash of waivers being given to incoming soldiers. Salon posted this snarky response under the headline "Need more recruits for Iraq? Take more criminals":

The good news: As the Times explains, "soldiers with criminal histories made up only" -- only! -- "11.7 percent of the Army recruits in 2006."

There are 52 million individuals in the FBI's Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System criminal history database; that's about 17% of Americans who've been in trouble for some crime at some point in their lives. So the percentage of recruits with criminal histories, less than 12%, is lower than that of the general population with criminal histories.

Moreover, people with criminal records don't equal lifetime criminals; working at a bank two years ago doesn't make you a teller any more than having sold pot in college makes you a dealer. It's not enough that ex-cons face employment discrimination and legal restrictions on where they can live in some states. The public is, evidently, so opposed to letting them establish legitimate lives that we don't even want them doing it in a war zone six thousand miles away.

—Nicole McClelland

Twisters Create Emergency In New Orleans, Bush Responds With...You Guessed It--Nothing

| Wed Feb. 14, 2007 11:06 PM EST

A tornado system with twisters up to 135 miles per hour ripped through three major New Orleans neighborhoods early Tuesday morning, killing one person, injuring a few dozen, and doing what is estimated to be $20 million worth of damage. Several houses that had been rebuilt or almost rebuilt after Hurricane Katrina were torn apart, as were many FEMA trailers. Schools were closed, highways were shut down, piles of rubble were everywhere, trees were uprooted, and thousands of people were left without electricity.

Governor Kathleen Blanco declared a state of emergency yesterday afternoon, and asked the White House to do likewise. As of right now, late Wednesday night, the response from George W. Bush is that he will present the governor a timetable for when he will "consider" declaring the New Orleans area in a state of emergency.

If this sounds familiar, it should. The scenario lacks playful guitar strumming and a birthday cake at a desert resort, but it is all too similar to what happened in early September of 2005.

Bush declared an emergency within 24 hours of a tornado which recently struck Mississippi.

Army Lowers Recruiting Standards (Again)

| Wed Feb. 14, 2007 9:39 PM EST

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From today's New York Times:

The number of waivers granted to Army recruits with criminal backgrounds has grown about 65 percent in the last three years, increasing to 8,129 in 2006 from 4,918 in 2003, Department of Defense records show.

It's actually a bigger story about the Army's change of standards regarding education, fitness, and criminal history (although not, of course, sexual orientation). For a helpful overview, check out Liz Gettelman's piece in the current issue of the magazine.