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Another State Agency Just Banned the Words "Climate Change"

| Wed Apr. 8, 2015 3:45 PM EDT
Madison, Wisc.

The climate change language police just struck again.

Last month it was in Florida, where former staffers with the state's Department of Environmental Protection alleged that senior officials, under the direction of Gov. Rick Scott (R), had instituted an unwritten ban on using the phrases "climate change" and "global warming." Scott denied the claim.

This week's incident is much less ambiguous. Yesterday, the three-person commission that oversees a public land trust in Wisconsin voted 2-1 to block the trust's dozen public employees "from engaging in global warming or climate change work while on BCPL time."

In proposing and voting on the ban, the commission "spent 19 minutes and 29 seconds talking about talking about climate change," according to Bloomberg:

The move to ban an issue leaves staff at the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands in the unusual position of not being able to speak about how climate change might affect lands it oversees…

The Midwest warmed about 1.5F on average from 1895 to 2012. Pine, maple, birch, spruce, fir, aspen, and beech forests, which are common in the region, are likely to decline as the century progresses, according to the latest US National Climate Assessment.

The ban was proposed by newly elected State Treasurer Matt Adamczyk, a Republican who ran on the unusual campaign promise to swiftly eliminate his own job. At a public meeting on Tuesday, according to Bloomberg, Adamczyk said he was disturbed to learn that the agency's director, Tia Nelson, had spent some time co-chairing a global warming task force in 2007-08 at the request of former governor Jim Doyle (D). Dealing with climate issues—even responding to emails on the subject—isn't in the agency's wheelhouse, he said. Adamczyk didn't immediately return our request for comment.

Adamczyk was joined in voting for the ban by State Attorney General Brad Schimel (R), also newly-elected. Schimel is handling Gov. Scott Walker's lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency over President Barack Obama's new climate regulations. The ban was opposed by the commission's third member, Secretary of State Bob La Follette, a Democrat.

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The Walter Scott Shooting Video Shows Exactly Why We Can't Just Take the Police's Word For It

| Wed Apr. 8, 2015 3:10 PM EDT

A white police officer in South Carolina was arrested and charged with murder on Tuesday, after a shocking video emerged showing him fatally shooting an unarmed black man attempting to flee from the scene. The video, which was first published in the New York Times, captures the lethal confrontation between Officer Michael Slager and Walter Scott that quickly ensued during a traffic stop, which included Slager firing eight shots at Scott.

Slager originally told police that Scott had stolen his Taser and attempted to use it against him. This narrative was largely accepted by police authorities, at least according to what they initially told local media. The first report of the fatal encounter reported by the Post and Courier on Saturday ran with the headline, "Man shot and killed by North Charleston police officer after traffic stop; SLED investigating":

An officer’s gunfire disrupted a hazy Saturday morning and left a man dead on a North Charleston street.

Police in a matter of hours declared the occurrence at the corner of Remount and Craig roads a traffic stop gone wrong, alleging the dead man fought with an officer over his Taser before deadly force was employed.

The officer’s account, witness statements and other evidence gathered from the scene are now the subject of a State Law Enforcement Division investigation to determine whether the shooting, the state’s 11th this year involving a lawmen, was justified.

A statement released by North Charleston police spokesman Spencer Pryor said a man ran on foot from the traffic stop and an officer deployed his department-issued Taser in an attempt to stop him.

That did not work, police said, and an altercation ensued as the men struggled over the device. Police allege that during the struggle the man gained control of the Taser and attempted to use it against the officer.

The description reads eerily similar to police deaths that occur all around the country. If it had not been for the video's eventual publication, it's easy to imagine this being the press' final narrative of how Scott died. Oftentimes, newspapers struggle to report anything more than what law enforcement agencies tell them.

In the case of the Post and Courier's first story, the paper's note that "in a matter of hours" police were quick to label the incident nothing more than a "traffic stop gone wrong" is revealing, as the video that has since surfaced clearly shows a very different account: Slager shoots Scott in the back multiple times; an object that appears to be Slager's Taser is placed next to Scott's body as he lays handcuffed on the ground.

It's unclear when authorities became aware that a video of the incident existed, but on Monday, Slager appeared increasingly defensive. Speaking through an attorney, he doubled down on his actions to the same paper, saying he had "felt threatened" by Scott and needed to "resort to deadly force":

A North Charleston police officer felt threatened last weekend when the driver he had stopped for a broken brake light tried to overpower him and take his Taser.

That’s why Patrolman 1st Class Michael Thomas Slager, a former Coast Guardsman, fatally shot the man, the officer’s attorney said Monday.

Slager thinks he properly followed all procedures and policies before resorting to deadly force, lawyer David Aylor said in a statement.

Monday’s developments filled in some of the blanks in what was South Carolina’s 11th police shooting of the year.

By Tuesday, the Times and the Post and Courier had obtained a bystander's footage of the incident and the stories published that day are a direct about-face of the initial account, with both papers leading with news of the officer's arrest and murder charge. The Post and Courier's lead below:

A white North Charleston police officer was arrested on a murder charge after a video surfaced Tuesday of the lawman shooting eight times at a 50-year-old black man as the man ran away.

Walter L. Scott, a Coast Guard veteran and father of four, died Saturday after Patrolman 1st Class Michael T. Slager, 33, shot him in the back.

Five of the eight bullets hit Scott, his family’s attorney said. Four of those struck his back. One hit an ear.

In just a few days, the account's drastic evolution in a single newspaper highlights yet again the problems surrounding police reporting—issues that have received national attention following recent events in Ferguson and New York City. Scott's tragic death underscores the power video can bring to police accountability. As Scott's family said during an appearance on the Today show Wednesday, this video helped an officer avoid a successful cover-up. "It would have never come to light," Walter Scott Sr, Scott's father, said. "They would have swept it under the rug, like they did with many others."

BREAKING: Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Has Been Found Guilty On All 30 Counts in the Boston Bombing Trial

| Wed Apr. 8, 2015 2:03 PM EDT

A Massachusetts jury has found Dzhokhar Tsarnaev guilty on all counts in the Boston Marathon Bombing trial, making him eligible to face the death penalty.

Tsarnaev faced 30 counts, 17 of which carried a possible death sentence.

Next up comes sentencing which could begin as early as Monday.

This post will be updated as more information becomes available.

Watch:

 

 

 

Let the 2016 Presidential Poster Wars Commence!

| Wed Apr. 8, 2015 9:20 AM EDT
Michael Mechanic

Is this the first salvo in the 2016 presidential campaign poster wars? This past week, somebody plastered this poster—guerilla style—at well-trod locations around San Francisco.

What was the artist thinking? Was this a subtle jab at Cruz's hubris or a bona fide attempt to promote the guy—or just a cool design? I could see it psyching up the GOP base in Kevin's Orange County stomping grounds. But in San Francisco? Only 13 percent of this city voted for Romney. A Ted Cruz fan hoping to boost the Texas senator's presidential hopes would be wasting his time posting these around here—even if they are pretty cool looking.

Maybe the message was meant to reach rich tech libertarians who have moved north from Silicon Valley and might be game to donate. You know, the crew who admire Ron and Rand Paul and seem to have forgotten that the tech industry was built on massive government funding. Then again, given Cruz's head-scratching position against net neutrality—he's called it "the biggest regulatory threat to the internet"—he's not likely to get much love from the tech world. Even the Obama-haters on Cruz's Facebook page had to ridicule his position.

My favorite Cruz poster to date went up last March around Beverly Hills, where Cruz was slated to appear at the annual dinner of the conservative Claremont Institute. (The artists, being artists, got the hotel wrong.) But Cruz was indeed, as the poster joked, "loving it." Here's what he tweeted:

I just hope Bernie Sanders, the left's favorite bomb thrower, decides to run. I'm dying to see what street artists will make of him. 

Brian Williams Was "Obsessed" With Mitt Romney's Underwear

| Wed Apr. 8, 2015 9:09 AM EDT

Vanity Fair is out with a deliciously gossipy long read on the troubles at NBC News by Brian Burrough. The focus is largely on Brian Williams and his recent drama but it also goes into the larger culture clashes that have dominated 30 Rock since Comcast took over NBCUniversal from GE in 2011. There was the Today drama. There was the Meet The Press drama. Now the Nightly News drama.  Drama with a capital D!

This is the type of story Vanity Fair is so good at. (Back in February they had the definitive insider account of the Sony leaks.) If you like this sort of thing, you should read the whole article

Here are some of my takeaways from it:

A lot of people are sniping about NBC News president Deborah Turness.

Turness gets a lot of blame for NBC News' troubles but it's not clear to me that any of the criticisms really mean much. One of the problems with this genre of story is that it's necessarily almost all blind quotes and the criticisms are so predictably broad and meaningless. A la:

"News is a very particular thing, NBC is a very particular beast, and Deborah, well, she really doesn’t have a fucking clue,” says a senior NBC executive involved."

It's not that this is gibberish, it's that it is meaningless. Everything is a particular thing. Every place is a particular beast. All this quote tells you is that an unnamed senior NBC executive doesn't much care for Deborah Turness, not one bit, boy howdy. 

When the criticisms do get a bit more specific they're muddled and contradictory. She is blamed for not being tough enough with talent ( “She’s letting the inmates run the asylum. You have kids? Well, if you let them, they’ll have ice cream every night. Same thing in TV. If you let the people on air do what they want, whenever they want, this is what happens.”) but also dinged for not being nice enough to the talent's agents? ("She didn’t understand that you communicate [with the talent] through their agents. Like if [WME co-C.E.O.] Ari Emanuel calls, you have to phone back the same day.")

Then there is this stuff:

"It was almost unfair to give Deborah this job,” says one NBC observer. “She was basically overmatched. From day one, it was difficult, even just managing the daily job. Because it’s a big job, it’s got a lot of intricate parts to it, and you know she had a rough time with it."

[...]

"Come on!” barks one critic. "Anybody with a triple-digit I.Q. who interviews somebody to come in as president of NBC News you ask, ‘What are you going to do with the 800-pound gorilla? With Today?’ And Deborah’s answer was ‘You hire Jamie Horowitz!’ It was almost like it was Deborah’s cry for help. Like if you’re overwhelmed and you don’t have a lot of confidence or vision, you bring in other people: ‘Help me, I’m drowning."

Overmatched. Overwhelmed. She was given a job then found herself drowning in it. She hired a male producer from ESPN as a cry for help. This is the sort of language people somehow never use when describing male executives.

Maybe the president of NBC News is bad at her job—NBC News definitely has struggled under her watch—but no where in this whole thing does anyone articulate in any meaningful way how she is bad at her job.

Comcast treats talent with the same disregard they treat their cable customers.

"To be honest, you got the sense they couldn’t fathom why NBC worried so much about the talent; you know, ‘Why are these people worrying so much about what Matt Lauer thinks?’”

NBC staffers resent the fact that Brian Williams has nice hair and good cheekbones.

An industry insider adds, “There is also a lot of envy of Williams’s movie-star good looks, his long happy marriage to a wonderful woman, great kids, and he’s paid millions to read a thousand words five times a week from a teleprompter.”

Brian Williams and Tom Brokaw don't like each other very much.

“Tom and Brian,” one longtime friend of both men says with a sigh, “that was never a good relationship. Tom pushed for him to get that job. But Brian never embraced Tom. And I don’t know why…. He knows the rank and file will never love him like they did Tom, so he never tries. That’s the reason there’s not a lot of support for Brian over there.”

Brian Williams resents Tom Brokaw for not saving him.

“Tom didn’t push Brian out, but he didn’t try to save him, either.”

[...]

While he has accepted responsibility for his actions, friends say, Williams is bitter, especially at those who he believes might have saved him.

“I talked to Brian about this,” says one friend, “and I’ll never forget what he said at the end. He said, ‘Chalk one up for Brokaw.’”

Side note: Want to giggle yourself silly? Say, "Chalk one up to Brokaw" out loud like you're playing Brian Williams in an off-Broadway play. Repeat until you see the humor. It's pretty fun.

Brian Williams exaggerated his personal tales of valor and glory because Tom Brokaw is just so great.

“I always felt he needed to jack up his stories because he was trying so hard to overcome his insecurities,” this executive says. “And he had to follow Tom, which brought its own set of insecurities. He likes to sort of tell these grandiose tales. But, can I tell you, in all the years we worked together, it never rose to the point where we said, ‘Oh, there he goes again.’ I just saw it as one of the quirks of his personality.”

Brian Williams thinks in boxes.

"...his wife [Jane] tried to explain. She said he put things in boxes [in his mind]. He would only talk about what was in those boxes on-camera.”

I have no idea what this means.

Very serious NBC News people think Brian Williams is unserious.

“What always bothered Tim was Brian’s lack of interest in things that mattered most, that were front and center, like politics and world events,” says a person who knew both men well. “Brian has very little interest in politics. It’s not in his blood. What Brian cares about is logistics, the weather, and planes and trains and helicopters.”

“You know what interested Brian about politics?” marvels one longtime NBC correspondent, recently departed. “Brian was obsessed with whether Mitt Romney wore the Mormon underwear.”

This is so Broadcast News, right?

Brian Williams wanted to be a late night host.

According to New York, he talked to Steve Burke about succeeding Jay Leno. When Burke refused, Williams reportedly pitched Les Moonves, at CBS, to replace David Letterman, who was soon to retire. Moonves also allegedly declined. Though his appearances on shows such as 30 Rock and Jimmy Fallon successfully repositioned Williams as a good-humored Everyman—and thus expanded not only his own brand but that of Nightly News—they were not popular among many of his colleagues.

[...]

After refusing Williams the Leno spot, Steve Burke offered him a consolation prize: his own magazine show, Rock Center, a bid to anchor what he hoped would be the second coming of 60 Minutes. It wasn’t. Rock Center debuted in 2011 to tepid reviews and worse ratings.

There is a lot more. If you've made it this far, go read the whole article.

Nearly 1 in 10 Americans Have Serious Anger Problems—and Can Easily Get Guns

| Wed Apr. 8, 2015 4:00 AM EDT

In the United States, most people diagnosed with mental illness are allowed to buy guns. While state laws vary, federal law prohibits only those who have been committed to a psychiatric hospital or adjudicated as "mental defectives" from owning firearms.

In most states, even people who have committed violent misdemeanors or have had restraining orders issued against them for domestic violence are allowed to own guns.

But researchers at Duke University suspect that the law is ignoring a group of Americans who could make for potentially dangerous gun owners: people with a history of angry, impulsive outbursts. In a study published this month in the peer-reviewed journal Behavioral Sciences and the Law, the Duke team looked at more than 5,500 interviews conducted in a landmark survey of mental illness by Harvard researchers. From the interviews, they extrapolated that 1 in 10 adults in the United States has an anger management problem—and access to firearms.

One caveat: While it makes intuitive sense that angry people and guns would be a volatile combination, it's important to note that there is no data yet on whether people with anger problems are more likely to commit violent crimes. Still, lead author Jeffrey Swanson believes that the finding is worrisome. "Probably the strongest predictor of violence is previous violent behavior," says Swanson, a professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke Medicine.

Swanson points to the recent shootings of three students near the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. The alleged shooter, Craig Stephen Hicks, had a history of threatening behavior. "People who knew him said that he was very angry; they were scared of him," says Swanson.

And yet, in most states, even people who have committed violent misdemeanors or have had restraining orders issued against them for domestic violence are allowed to own guns.

Meanwhile, people with the types of severe psychiatric problems that lead to involuntary commitment, like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, commit just 4 percent of violent crimes in the United States. Most people with those acute conditions are not prone to violence.

However, Swanson doesn't believe that isolated incidents of anger should prevent people from buying guns—everyone gets angry once in a while. But "the group that we focus on goes far beyond regular anger," he says. "These individuals are off on the extreme." They often get into physical fights and break or smash things when they become upset.

Some states have tried to address the problem with laws that allow police to temporarily seize weapons from people whom a court deems immediately dangerous based on testimony from those who know the individual and his or her behavior. Currently, just three states—California, Connecticut, and Indiana—have versions of these laws.

In most places, a history of violence isn't enough to make authorities think twice about whether an individual should be allowed to own a gun. "The way the law is set up now, it's missing a lot," says Swanson. "The most volatile people are slipping through the cracks."

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Rand Paul's Announcement Video Pulled Over Copyright Issues

| Tue Apr. 7, 2015 7:45 PM EDT

This morning Rand Paul announced that he was running for president. There was a crowded auditorium and they were going wild and then he strode on up to the podium and music was blaring and it was all going great and he gave a speech and the crowd ate it up and they cheered his name and then he finished and they clapped and cheered and the campaign uploaded the video of the speech to YouTube so that the world could clap and cheer and...YouTube bots automatically pulled the video for unlicensed use of copyrighted material.

Womp womp.

Warner Music Group, the official owner of John Rich's "Shutting Detroit Down," a song about how much it sucks that rich corporations own things, has now shut Rand down.

Both Billboard and The Washington Post have reached out to get to the bottom of this and neither Warner or YouTube have commented on the situation.

The campaign's video has now been deleted from YouTube (C-PSAN's remains) but you can still enjoy the song in its entirety if you play it through John Rich's YouTube page, where you can also admire WMG's copyright claim in plain view:

The lesson, kids, is: if you ever run for president be sure to get permission to use copyrighted material before using it in your announcement speech. Otherwise the dream could end before it ever really begins.

Arkansas Will Force Doctors to Tell Women Abortions Can Be "Reversed"

| Tue Apr. 7, 2015 4:37 PM EDT

As conservative lawmakers pass a record number of anti-abortion laws, it is staggering to consider how many require doctors to tell patients information that has no basis in science. Five states now require abortion providers to inform women about a bogus link between abortion and breast cancer. Several states mandate that doctors say ending a pregnancy can lead to mental health conditions like clinical depression—another falsehood, in the eyes of most mainstream medical groups.

Now there's a new crop of legislation to add this list: laws forcing doctors to tell women planning to take abortion-inducing drugs that they may be able to change their minds mid-treatment.

On Monday, Arkansas became the second state to pass such a law, just over a week after Arizona's Republican governor signed a similar measure. A spokeswoman for Americans United for Life, the legal arm of the anti-abortion movement, confirmed that both laws are based on the group's model legislation.

Critics have slammed these bills as propagating a lie based on "junk science." According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), "Claims of medication abortion reversal are not supported by the body of scientific evidence."

Americans United for Life has not only backed the bills, but has enthusiastically endorsed a new procedure pioneered by George Delgado, a pro-life doctor who claims to have reversed abortions.

Most drug-induced abortions require two pills taken a few days apart. The initial dose, of mifepristone, blocks the progesterone hormones that help sustain the pregnancy. The second dose, of misopristol, causes contractions that flush out the pregnancy. Delgado says he's stopped abortions by injecting supplemental progesterone between the two rounds of medicine. The evidence backing his discovery, however, is incredibly thin. As Olga Khazan writes for The Atlantic:

Women who only take the first pill already have a 30 to 50 percent chance of continuing their pregnancy normally, according to ACOG. The progesterone advice is based on a study by Delgado in which he analyzed six case studies of patients who regretted their abortions and were given progesterone. Four out of the six patients went on to deliver healthy infants. In other words, the limited evidence we have suggests that taking progesterone does not appear to improve the odds of fetal survival by much. The abortion pill binds more tightly to progesterone receptors than progesterone itself does, one reproductive researcher told Iowa Public Radio, and thus the hormone surge is unlikely to do much of anything.

As Cheryl Chastine, an abortion provider at South Wind Women's Center in Kansas, put it recently, "Even if these doctors were to offer a large dose of purple Skittles, they'd appear to have 'worked' to 'save' the pregnancy about half the time."

That's why, on the small chance that a woman does regret her abortion midway through, ACOG-affiliated doctors say they would simply tell her not to take the second pill.

The injections might not only be useless—large doses of progesterone can actually be dangerous: "There can be cardiovascular side effects, glucose tolerance issues, it can cause problems with depression in people who already had it," Ilana Addis, a gynecologist who opposed the Arizona measure, told The Atlantic. "And there are more annoying things, like bloating, fatigue, that kind of stuff. It's an unpleasant drug to take."

The new Arkansas law requires the state's health department to write up information on abortion reversal for doctors to make available to patients, and it's not yet clear if the health department will promote Delgado's specific method. Meanwhile, Arkansas Right to Life is already promoting the services of doctors who are "trained to effectively reverse" abortions, and more than 200 physicians around the country have told pro-life groups that they are willing to conduct the procedure.

Let These Adorable Children Show You Just How Insane the NRA's Fear-Mongering Is

| Tue Apr. 7, 2015 3:25 PM EDT

Wayne LaPierre, the National Rifle Association's executive vice president and perhaps the gun lobby's most visible figure, has a penchant for invoking fear and paranoia in order to convince people that gun ownership is key to physical safety—despite an increasing number of studies that prove the very opposite.

Ahead of the NRA's annual convention this weekend, Everytown, the gun-safety coalition backed by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, has released a video to demonstrate just how ridiculous LaPierre's signature fear-mongering tends to get. The video, which features kids adorably rattling off a handful of the NRA executive's quotes, is part of the group's larger effort to expose the lobby's tactics coined "Stop Crazytown."

Watch below:

For more of Mother Jones' reporting on guns in America, see all of our latest coverage here, and our award-winning special reports.

 

More Fabulous Health News

| Tue Apr. 7, 2015 2:22 PM EDT

I continue to be a star patient. Final results from yesterday clocked in at 5.2 million stem cells. Apparently I only need two million for the transplant, but they like to get a double sample in case I need another transplant a few years down the road. So four million is the goal.

So why am I still here? Good question. I don't really have a good answer, though. Just in case? More is always better? This is actually a SPECTRE front and they use excess stem cells to breed an undefeatable clone army that will take over the world?

Not sure. In any case, stem cell collection has gone swimmingly and I'll soon be out of here. Now there's only one step left: the actual second round chemo itself followed by transplanting my stem cells back into my body. That begins on April 20.

BY THE WAY: The folks here, who have much more experience with cancer meds than your standard ER facility, are quite certain that my excruciating back pain on Friday was a side effect of the Neupogen. So that's that. Today was my last shot of Neupogen, which means I can get off the pain meds in the next day or two.