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"Daily Show" Explains the Absurdity in Alabama's New Abortion Law That Appoints Lawyers for Fetuses

| Fri Jan. 16, 2015 9:32 AM EST

Back in September, Mother Jones reporter Molly Redden investigated a new law in Alabama forcing pregnant teenagers seeking an abortion to first receive parental consent. If she is unable to get permission, the teenager is then put on trial, giving judges the right to appoint attorneys to defend the unborn fetus.

This all sounds insane. Last night, "The Daily Show" sent correspondent Jessica Williams to the state to investigate. Here's how some of that absurdity played out:

"You get a call from a fetus seeking legal representation, then what happens?" Williams asks unborn fetus attorney Julian McPhillips. 

"I cannot get a call from a fetus for anything much less legal representation," he answers.

When questioned about how he meets in confidentiality with his unborn client, McPhillips shoots back, "I cannot communicate with them directly, you know better than to ask the question."

"Well I don't know! You have a crazy ass job, sir. I don't know what's in the realm of possibility and what's in the realm of not possible." 

For more on how judges humiliate teens seeking abortions, read our in-depth report here. 

Watch below:

 

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Pope Francis: Climate Change Is Real and Humans Are Causing It

| Thu Jan. 15, 2015 5:55 PM EST

Pope Francis made headlines Thursday when he told reporters that he believes climate change is largely caused by humans. "I don't know if it [human activity] is the only cause, but mostly, in great part, it is man who has slapped nature in the face," said Francis, according to the Associated Press. "We have in a sense taken over nature."

But how does the pope know that humans are responsible for most of the unprecedented warming that has occurred in recent years? How can he be sure it wasn't caused by solar cycles? Or volcanoes? Or "global wobbling"? Here's a hint: The AP mentions that some of Francis' top aides have recently noted "that there is clear-cut scientific evidence that climate change is driven by human activity."

That's right. Unlike much of the US Congress, the pope seems seems to be relying on science to inform his opinions about climate change. And indeed, his remarks Thursday echoed the scientific consensus on the issue. The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, for instance, recently declared it "extremely likely"—that is, at least 95 percent certain—that "human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century."

Still, all the science in the world won't help much if we don't actually do something to reign in the greenhouse gas emissions that are causing the problem. And the pope is pushing for action. According to the AP, Francis criticized world leaders for failing to accomplish enough at a recent climate conference in Lima, Peru, and he called for them to be "more courageous" when they reconvene in Paris later this year.

We Have Some Bad News For You About That Hilarious Dog-Walker Craigslist Ad Everyone Is Talking About

| Thu Jan. 15, 2015 4:24 PM EST

Update, Sunday, January 18, 2015: We have more bad news. Apparently this dude is a plagiarist. Yahoo Tech editor Jason Gilbert wrote this Craigslist post years ago and the guy in Seattle stole it. 

On Sunday, a "dog-walker" in Seattle posted a Craigslist ad offering their services to "rich-ass dog owners." The lengthy—and hilarious!—ad took the internet by storm. One site went so far as to call it the "Great American Craigslist Ad.

HEY RICH-ASS DOG OWNERS:

Are you at the office 23 hours a day in a coke-fueled effort to squeeze every last penny out of your 20's and 30's?

Are you going out of town with your post-divorce trophy-girlfriend to visit your slave ship collection in the Barbados?

Do you work for a corporation that received Tarp money?

I AM YOUR DOG-WALKER

I am the most radical, bitching, mind blowing dog- walking experience in all of Seattle. All dogs are STOKED when I'm around, regardless of breed or sex. Your dog is gonna be on me like Charlie Sheen on a porn star mad of amphetamines; when I'm ascending toward penthouse suite in your private elevator, bitch's nipples are gonna be ROCK HARD.

Do I have experience walking dogs?

I'M A HUMAN BEING, OF COURSE I HAVE EXPERIENCE WALKING DOGS. THIS ISN'T LINEAR ALGEBRA, FOLKS; ITS DOG-WALKING

The heroic rant continues. Other people found it quite amusing as well and deemed it the latest "great American Craigslist ad." 

But when reached for comment, our "dog-walker" revealed the hard-hitting truth. 

Ummm... I posted this as a joke. I have surprisingly gotten people that want me to walk their dogs. Ive got more marriage proposals and offers for sex more than anything. I prefer to remain anonymous but i will tell you that I am married with a daughter and contrary to my post(that is a joke) I make a comfortable living and I'm pretty much your average joe family man. The reason I posted it is to show what happens when you go to college and stack up student loans and dont have a plan afterwards. you'll turn out having to walk dogs with a shitty outlook on society.

The moral of this story is that nothing on the internet is ever true.

Sorry, guys.

Here is a screenshot of the ad for when it gets taken down:

Chart of the Day: Thanks to Obamacare, Medical Debt Is Down

| Thu Jan. 15, 2015 4:22 PM EST

A new survey from the Commonwealth Fund brings us good news and bad news. The good news is that, thanks to Obamacare, the number of people with serious medical debt issues has dropped from 41 percent to 35 percent. Hooray!

And the bad news? This barely gets us back to where we were a decade ago. We still have a long way to go.

McDonald's Just Recalled 1 Million Chicken McNuggets for a Super-Gross Reason

| Thu Jan. 15, 2015 2:31 PM EST

Update 12/15/15: Cargill announced that "they are confident the blue, plastic foreign material recently reported in one McDonalds Chicken Nugget in Japan did not originate from Cargill’s production facilities." The source of the plastic is unknown.

McDonald's Japan is having a rough start to 2015. Last week, the company apologized after a customer found plastic fragments in an order of Chicken McNuggets, which were thought to have been produced at a Cargill factory in Thailand. McDonald's pulled out nearly 1 million McNuggets from the factory in one day. The same week, a customer in Misawa found a piece of vinyl in an order of McNuggets.

In a statement about the plastic contamination, company spokesman Takashi Hasegasa said, "We deeply apologize for the trouble we have caused our customers and we are taking quick measures to analyze the cause of the contamination."

Plastic and vinyl are, sadly, not the only gross items that customers have found in their McDonald's meals over the past year. In August, the company received a complaint from a customer in Osaka who had found the shard of a human tooth in an order of french fries. It was unclear at press time if the customer was in fact "lovin' it."

In July, McDonald's shut down its poultry supplier in China, Shanghai Husi Food Co, after allegations that the factory had deliberately mixed fresh chicken with expired produce. The meat had then allegedly been shipped to McDonald's in Japan and Starbucks and Burger King in China.

The summer food scares led McDonald's Japan sales to drop more than 10 percent every month compared to the previous year, according to CNN. This fiscal year, the golden arches are bracing themselves for the their first net loss in Japan in 11 years.

In an effort to bounce back, McDonald's Japan launched a sales campaign with discounts, giveaways, and new nuggets made from tofu.

 

The Muslim Hero Who Saved Lives at a Paris Kosher Market Is Being Awarded French Citizenship

| Thu Jan. 15, 2015 12:05 PM EST

Lassana Bathily, the Muslim man from Mali who saved the lives of several customers during last week's hostage situation at a kosher supermarket in Paris, will be awarded French citizenship for his heroic efforts. 

The news comes as many, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have expressed their gratitude to Bathily for his bravery. Nearly 300,000 people signed a petition calling for his citizenship. 

On Friday, Bathily, who works as an assistant at the market, risked his own life by ushering a group of customers downstairs and hiding them in the market's walk-in freezer. Needing to inform police of the situation, he managed to exit through the basement. Once out, however, police ordered him to lie down, in fear Bathily was working with the gunman inside. After he was able to convince authorities he was not working with the gunman, Bathily provided the necessary details and key to the market's metal blinds, both of which helped rescue the fifteen people hiding in the freezer. 

"Yes, I aided Jews,” Bathily said in an interview. "We’re brothers. It’s not a question of Jews, Christians, or Muslims. We’re all in the same boat. We need to help each other to get out of this crisis."

Bathily has reportedly lived in France since 2006.  

Correction: The original version of this post incorrectly stated that Bathily won the Legion d'Honneur.

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Housekeeping Update

| Thu Jan. 15, 2015 11:24 AM EST

I continue to be death warmed over, the result of a cold that won't go away acting in some kind of diabolical concert with all the usual chemotherapy crap. I may blog a bit later, or I may not. Hard to tell right now. But I'll get better eventually.

Mitt Romney Is Going to Run for President Again? WTF?

| Wed Jan. 14, 2015 5:34 PM EST

I'm sort of slowly catching up on things I missed over the past couple of days, and most of it at least makes sense. Wall Street panicked over a single bad economic report. Check. Boko Haram massacred another village in Nigeria. Check. Tea partiers still control the Republican agenda in Congress. Check. Mitt Romney is going to run for president again. Ch—

Wait. Mitt Romney is going to run for president again? Seriously? That's insane, isn't it? Can anyone aside from Romney's overpaid team of advisors and consultants actually make a good case that he can win?

I'm still a little woozy, so I'm not up to the job of trying to figure this out. But there's just no way. Parties don't rally around losers, and Romney is now a two-time loser. Ann Romney may still be nursing a planet-sized grudge about the way Mitt was treated in 2012, but that buys no votes. Besides, he'll be treated the same way this time around. Once a plutocrat, always a plutocrat. Maybe that's fair, maybe it's not, but nobody ever said life was fair.

So I guess I'm caught up. Except for this one thing. What the hell is Romney thinking?

Obama's Crackdown on Methane Emissions Is a Really Big Deal

| Wed Jan. 14, 2015 2:08 PM EST

This morning the White House announced a new plan to crack down on the oil and gas industry's emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. The move is the last major piece of President Obama's domestic climate agenda, following in the footsteps of tougher standards for vehicle emissions and a sweeping plan to curb carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.

Like the power plant plan, the methane standards will rely on the Environmental Protection Agency's authority to regulate pollution under the Clean Air Act. The new rules will regulate the amount of methane that oil and gas producers are allow vent or leak from their wells, pipelines, and other equipment. Ultimately, according to the White House, the rules will slash methane emissions 40 to 45 percent by 2025. The proposal announced today is intended to be finalized before Obama leaves office, but it's certain to take a battering along the way from congressional Republicans and fossil fuel interest groups.

Methane makes up a much smaller slice of America's greenhouse gas footprint than carbon dioxide—the volume of methane released in a year is roughly 10 times smaller than the volume of CO2—so the proposal might seem like small potatoes. But it's actually a pretty huge deal, for a few reasons.

Obama's methane crackdown is "a moment of truth" for the fracking industry.

Locking in climate protection: An underlying assumption of Obama's carbon emissions plan is that many power plants will switch from burning coal to burning natural gas. That's great, if your only concern is carbon dioxide. But methane, the principal emission of natural gas consumption, is 20 times more powerful than CO2 over a 100-year timespan. The problem is less with natural gas-burning power plants themselves, but with the infrastructure (pipes, compressors, etc.) needed to get gas from where it's drilled to where it's burned—and also with venting, the burning of excess gas from wells. So far, those bits and pieces have proven to be exceptionally leaky—some studies have found up to 7.9 percent of the methane from natural gas production simply escapes into the air.

So if we replace our coal with natural gas but let methane go unchecked, we won't be much closer to meaningfully mitigating climate change, said Mark Brownstein of the Environmental Defense Fund. "Leak rates as low as 1 to 3 percent undo much of the benefit of going from coal to gas," he added. (Some climate scientists disagree with this assessment, arguing that CO2 from coal is significantly more damaging over the long run than methane leaks from natural gas operations.) The plan proposed today will focus on plugging leaks and will help ensure that the quest to curb carbon emissions doesn't simply shift our climate impact to another gas.

Saving money and energy: Methane leaks aren't just bad for the climate, they're also bad for business. Every year, according to a recent New York University analysis, between 1 and 3 percent of all US natural gas production is lost to leaks and venting, enough to heat more 6 million homes. A separate study from the World Resources Institute put the price tag for all that lost gas at $1.5 billion per year. Plugging leaks and limiting venting from drilling sites would keep more gas on the market.

The industry doesn't deny that leaks are a problem for its bottom line; the dispute is over whether intervention from the federal government is required and whether the cost to fix the leaks is worth it. Today the president of the American Petroleum Institute called the methane proposal "another layer of burdensome requirements [that] could actually slow down industry progress to reduce methane emissions." While it's true that overall methane emissions have been on a modest decline over the past several years, Brownstein said much more is needed to meet the nation's climate goals. And the oil and gas sector is the single biggest source of methane.

Cleaning up fracking: Behind any conversation about natural gas is always the specter of fracking. Of course, there are many concerns about fracking that have nothing to do with methane emissions: Public health issues related to water contamination, for example, or earthquakes. But stringent methane rules could alleviate some of the climate-related concerns about the fracking boom and could help refocus the debate around local pollution and land rights issues. These rules are also an opportunity, Brownstein said, for the gas industry to show good faith. "If the industry resists basic regulation for a relatively simple issue to solve, what is the public to think about the industry's willingness to solve more complex issues," he said. "This is a moment of truth."

Yep, Gasoline Lead Explains the Crime Decline in Canada Too

| Wed Jan. 14, 2015 12:13 PM EST

Erik Eckholm of the New York Times writes that violent crime has plunged dramatically over the past two decades. But the reasons remain elusive:

There are some areas of consensus. The closing of open-air drug markets....revolution in urban policing....increases in drug and gun sentences....Various experts have also linked the fall in violence to the aging of the population, low inflation rates and even the decline in early-childhood lead exposure. But in the end, none of these factors fully explain a drop that occurred, in tandem, in much of the world.

“Canada, with practically none of the policy changes we point to here, had a comparable decline in crime over the same period,” said Franklin E. Zimring, a law professor and an expert in criminal justice at the University of California, Berkeley. He described the quest for an explanation as “criminological astrology.”

I'm happy to see lead at least get a shout out. Unless I've missed something, this might actually be the first time the New York Times has ever mentioned childhood lead exposure as a possible explanation for the decline in violent crime. Progress!

But while Eckholm is right to say that none of the other factors he mentions can explain a decline in violent crime that happened all over the world, he's wrong to include lead in that list. It's the one explanation that does have the potential to explain a worldwide drop in crime levels. In particular, the chart on the right shows the use of gasoline lead in Canada, which peaked in the mid-70s and then began dropping as catalytic converters became more common. Leaded gasoline was banned for good in 1990, and is now virtually gone with a few minor exceptions for specialized vehicles.

So what happened? As Zimring says, Canada saw a substantial decrease in violent crime that started about 20 years after lead emissions began to drop, which is exactly what you'd expect. I calculated the numbers for Canada's biggest cities back when I was researching my lead-crime piece, and crime was down from its peak values everywhere: 31 percent in Montreal, 36 percent in Edmonton, 40 percent in Toronto and Vancouver, and 53 percent in Ottawa. CompStat and broken windows and American drug laws can't explain that.

"Criminological astrology" is a good phrase to describe the relentless effort of US criminologists to explain a worldwide phenomenon using only parochial US data. But there is one explanation that really does work pretty well everywhere: the reduction in gasoline lead, which happened all over the world, but happened at different times in different places. And everywhere it happened, crime started to decline about 20 years later. No explanation is ever perfect, but this one comes closer than most.