Mojo - August 2007

'Mothballed' Russian Bombers Resume Long-Range Patrols

| Fri Aug. 17, 2007 10:35 AM PDT

I wrote last week of a flight of Russian long-range bombers to the Pacific island of Guam. Well, the news today is that Putin has decided to make it a regular thing. From the BBC:

"We have decided to restore flights by Russian strategic aviation on a permanent basis," Mr Putin told reporters at joint military exercises with China and four Central Asian states in Russia's Ural mountains.
"In 1992, Russia unilaterally ended flights by its strategic aircraft to distant military patrol areas. Unfortunately, our example was not followed by everyone," Mr Putin said, in an apparent reference to the US.
"Flights by other countries' strategic aircraft continue and this creates certain problems for ensuring the security of the Russian Federation," he said.
In Washington, a state department spokesman, Sean McCormack, said Russia's decision was "interesting".
"If Russia feels as though they want to take some of these old aircraft out of mothballs and get them flying again, that's their decision," he told reporters.
One of the reasons Russia halted its flights 15 years ago was that it could no longer afford the fuel.
Today Moscow's coffers are stuffed full of oil money, says the BBC's Rupert Wingfield-Hayes in Moscow, and the Kremlin is determined to show it is still a military power to reckon with.

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CARE Doesn't Want the U.S.' Money

| Thu Aug. 16, 2007 5:04 PM PDT

CARE, an organization that combats poverty, will no longer accept $45 million a year in funding from the U.S. government. It's not often you hear about a charity walking away from that much money, but CARE's reasons are sound. It comes down to the fact that the U.S. food aid program is designed to suit American agricultural and shipping interests more than those of the world's poor. Jonathan Schwarz, in our upcoming issue (hitting the newsstands in early September), documents why this is happening and what Congress needs to do to change it. But lucky for you, you don't have to wait. Read the entire article here.

—Celia Perry

Court Denies FTC Injunction Against Whole Foods Merger

| Thu Aug. 16, 2007 4:47 PM PDT

The proposed merger between Whole Foods and Wild Oats is back on the table as of today.

To learn more, continue reading this post on our science and health blog, The Blue Marble.

New Lawsuit: Michael Vick is Going to Need a Bigger Contract

| Thu Aug. 16, 2007 1:27 PM PDT

Spotted on The Corner, the most interesting news story of the day. Reprinted in full:

An offbeat South Carolina prison inmate has filed a handwritten lawsuit seeking $63 quintillion from Michael Vick.
That's $63,000,000,000,000,000,000.
Or as Jonathan Lee Riches put it in his handwritten lawsuit, "$63,000,000,000 billion." The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court in Richmond on July 23.
Riches -- who has developed an Internet cult following for his propensity to file strange lawsuits naming multiple diverse defendants -- claims that Vick stole his pit bulls and sold them on eBay to "use the proceeds to purchase missiles from the Iran government."
In the complaint, Riches scrawls that "Michael Vick has to stop physically hurting my feelings and dashing my hopes."
If he wins the lawsuit, Riches says he wants the $63 quintillion delivered in gold and silver to the front gate of the Williamsburg Federal Correctional Facility in South Carolina, where he is housed as he serves a conviction for wire fraud.

News Flash: Jose Padilla Found Guilty On All Counts

| Thu Aug. 16, 2007 1:01 PM PDT

His attorneys were not allowed to mention the original "dirty bomb" allegations, nor the fact that he was held without an attorney for 3 1/2 years. AP story here.

More to come. Meanwhile read my previous blog post here. And our full archival coverage of the Padilla case here.

Women Lagging Politically, Except for That Whole WH Contender Thing

| Thu Aug. 16, 2007 12:58 PM PDT

Yesterday Salon picked up on a Wall Street Journal article titled: "Women's March Into Office Slows," which begins:

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton could be elected president next year, and Rep. Nancy Pelosi would likely remain Speaker of the House assuming the Democrats retain control of Congress.

Yeah, that sounds like the women's march is screeching to a halt. Or, it sounds like women could grab the White House and maintain control of the highest ranking seat in the House. But, I guess that's neither here nor there.

What's important, says the WSJ, is that three governships held by women "face stiff competition." The article also uses the current Cook Political Report as evidence that the female gender's political dominance is slowing down. The article notes that 14 out of the 75 "vulnerable" House seats are women. But, if you look at that in terms of percentages, there's only about a six percent difference between the number of male and female vulnerable seats. And anyway, isn't it a bit early to be talking 2008 congressional races?

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Jenna is Getting Hitched

| Thu Aug. 16, 2007 12:49 PM PDT

Jenna Bush has just announced her engagement to former Karl Rove aid, Henry Hager. This gives her just enough time to plan a White House wedding before daddy gets the boot.

—Celia Perry

CIA Edits Wikipedia Entries

| Thu Aug. 16, 2007 12:09 PM PDT

A 24-year-old graduate student at the California Institute of Technology named Virgil Griffith (hacker name: "Romanpoet") has created a program called "Wikipedia Scanner," which matches IP addresses of Wiki editors to the names of the individuals or groups to which those addresses are registered. So, yes, you can still edit your own profile (as so many people do), but prepare yourself for the humiliation of being outed...

Among those undercover editors already dragged into the light of day is the CIA. According to the BBC:

On the profile of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the tool indicates that a worker on the CIA network reportedly added the exclamation "Wahhhhhh!" before a section on the leader's plans for his presidency.
A warning on the profile of the anonymous editor reads: "You have recently vandalised a Wikipedia article, and you are now being asked to stop this type of behaviour."
Other changes that have been made are more innocuous, and include tweaks to the profile of former CIA chief Porter Goss and celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey.
When asked whether it could confirm whether the changes had been made by a person using a CIA computer, an agency spokesperson responded: "I cannot confirm that the traffic you cite came from agency computers.
"I'd like in any case to underscore a far larger and more significant point that no one should doubt or forget: The CIA has a vital mission in protecting the United States, and the focus of this agency is there, on that decisive work."

Wahhhhhh!

New Giuliani Flip-Flop: Immigration

| Thu Aug. 16, 2007 10:06 AM PDT

This one's a doozy, maybe bigger than his flip-flops on the flat tax and on abortion.

Here's what Giuliani said in a 1996 speech at Harvard:

We're never, ever going to be able to totally control immigration to a country that is as large as ours, that has borders that are as diverse as the borders of the United States, and as a society that wants to be a country that values freedom -- that values freedom of movement, freedom to do business.

See video at TPM's Election Central. This is part of Giuliani's formerly understanding view of immigration and immigrants: Giuliani's New York gave many of the same benefits to citizens and illegal immigrants; Giuliani took strong measures to educate the children of illegal immigrants; he fought to keep illegal immigrants from being turned in by employers. Of conservativism's hardline anti-immigrant forces, Giuliani has said, "the anti-immigration movement now sweeping the country is no different than earlier anti-immigration movements that have surfaced periodically in American history. We need only look back at the 'Chinese Exclusionary Act' or especially at the 'Know-nothing' movement that swept America in the mid-19th century."

Kind of a good dude, right? Unfortunately, all this contrasts with Giuliani's views today. In a recent speech in South Carolina, Giuliani contradicted the Harvard speech, saying, "We can end illegal immigration. I promise you we can end illegal immigration." The former mayor now advocates building a physical fence between the U.S. and Mexico.

Willing to forgive what appears to be a simple change of heart? I understand. I wouldn't slam the man if he said, "I've seen new evidence since '96, illegal immigration has gotten much worse, we need to do something." But Giuliani's rhetoric on immigration these days is so extreme and xenophobic that the man deserves no harbor. Giuliani's plan, according to his own press release, includes a "tamper-proof Secure Authorized Foreign Entry Card (SAFE Card) for all foreign workers and students, a single national database of non-citizens to track their status, and tracking those who leave the country. In addition, Giuliani will encourage Americanization by requiring immigrants to truly read, write and speak English."

He wants a database of all foreigners in the United States! And he wants to somehow force-teach them all English! He is the Know-nothing he once derided!

This is a very different Rudy Giuliani than the one from ten years ago. Running for president will do that to a man.

Surging Toward Civil War, Part 2

| Thu Aug. 16, 2007 8:45 AM PDT

I wrote yesterday about the truck bombings in northern Iraq. The death count has now risen to 500, making the attack the most deadly of the Iraq War.