Salon reached a big milestone when we passed the 80,000-member mark this week. We've seen a sudden surge in signups and readership and we know it's because of the high-stakes November election. This week alone, Salon readers learned:
Oklahoma Republican Senate candidate Tom Coburn, an obstetrician, sterilized a 20-year-old woman without her consent in 1990 and failed to report the procedure to Medicaid (which won't pay for sterilizing patients under 21). Though Coburn dismissed the story as the work of a "sleazy liberal dot-com," Salon's report forced the New York Times, Washington Post and Associated Press to follow up. On Wednesday the female patient came forward and told Oklahoma papers that indeed Coburn had sterilized her without permission.
U.S. military leaders and Marines on the ground opposed the White House decision to invade Fallujah in retaliation for the killing of four contractors last April -- and then felt bitterly betrayed when told to call off the siege and turn the city over to local militia. As embedded reporter David J. Morris revealed Thursday in Salon, it undermined the leaders' hopes for a "hearts and minds" campaign to win local support (the local Marine commander told Morris he'd asked Congressional Black Caucus members to come speak to Sunni tribal leaders about protecting minority rights while building democracy.) As another Marine complained: "My buddies died in vain."
While the major media is fixated on the authenticity of documents used by CBS News to report that President Bush's Texas Air National Guard superiors felt pressured to cover up his poor Guard performance, Salon's Eric Boehlert kept plowing through the records of Bush's Guard years. This week Boehlert reported that in 1968 Bush signed a contract promising to serve as a pilot for five years. But he failed to fulfill that commitment -- wasting the money the Guard spent to train him.
During his stint at Harvard Business School, Bush bragged about pulling strings to get his National Guard slot, ridiculed the poor for being lazy, and displayed "pathological lying habits," according to a former professor. "He was a very insecure, cunning and vengeful guy," Yoshi Tsurami told Mary Jacoby.
But Salon's great reporting isn't limited to our News and Politics section. On Thursday John Gorenfeld explored the little-known background of the indie-hit movie "What the Bleep Do We Know!?" Its directors are believers in the Ramtha School of Enlightenment -- led by a woman who claims to channel a 35,000-year-old warrior spirit named Ramtha -- and is little more than an infomercial for the sect's New Age teachings. Readers also loved our Salon TV Awards -- a chance to weigh in on what the Emmys did and didn't get right. Salon readers were also among the first to learn about the season's best new novel, "Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell," thanks to Laura Miller's great review of Susannah Clarke's debut.
At times like this we like to thank you, our Premium members, because your support makes all this groundbreaking work possible. As we move into the last leg of the political season, check back frequently for more of the breaking news you've come to expect and the cultural commentary that widens your world.
David Talbot Editor, Salon.com
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