dana liebelson

Dana Liebelson

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Dana Liebelson is a reporter in Mother Jones' Washington bureau. Her work also appears in Marie Claire and The Week. In her free time, she plays electric violin and bass in a punk band.

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It's Over: Congress Passes a Bill Ending the Shutdown and Giving Tea Partiers Almost Nothing

| Wed Oct. 16, 2013 12:20 PM EDT

Update: TPM reports that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has "no objections" to the Senate voting on the bill today, and will not attempt to block or delay it. He added, "There's nothing to be gained from delaying this vote one day or two days."

Update 2: Politico reports that the Senate will be voting first on the bill, sometime Wednesday afternoon or early evening.

Update 3: House Speaker John Boehner has released a statement about the agreement, promising to support the Senate's bill: "Blocking the bipartisan agreement reached today by the…Senate will not be a tactic for us."  Read the full text of the bill below

Update 4: The Senate passed the billed, 81-18. On to the House...

Update 5: The House of Representatives passed the bill late Wednesday night, 285-144. The bill now goes to President Obama who has promised to sign it immediately.

Update 6: President Obama signed the bill, officially making it into law. The government will open Thursday.

Senate leaders have forged an 11th-hour deal to end the government shutdown and raise the debt ceiling, and House Speaker John Boehner is expected to bring the bill up for a vote, Politico and other media outlets reported Wednesday morning. If the bill passes and arrives on President Obama's desk by the October 17 deadline, the US government will reopen until January 15, and the debt ceiling will be raised until February 7, delaying the budgetary and debt ceiling crises and leaving President Obama's signature health care bill largely intact.

Many concessions that tea partiers attempted to extract from the Obama administration in exchange for reopening the government and raising the debt ceiling are not expected to be included in the bill. Conservative Republicans had, over the course of the budget fight, demanded a one-year delay to Obamacare, a delay or repeal of the act's tax on medical-device manufacturers, and a "conscience clause," which would have allowed employers to block their employees from buying health insurance that covers birth control. None of those measures are expected to appear in the Senate's bill. The only concession Republicans seem to have won is a slightly stricter set of rules for verifying the incomes of Americans who are receiving subsidized health insurance under Obamacare.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the final bill won't include a GOP proposal that would stop the Treasury Department from using extraordinary measures to raise the debt ceiling. But it will include back pay for federal employees who missed paychecks during the shutdown and establish a committee tasked with working out a longer deal ahead of the new January 15 and February 7 deadlines. The bill also reportedly includes a provision that could make it harder to use the debt ceiling as a bargaining chip: At the next deadline, Congress would be required to pass a bill if it wants to block the ceiling from increasing. Otherwise, the ceiling would go up automatically.

The House is expected to vote on the proposed bill first, which would allow the Senate to skip some of its cumbersome procedures and quickly move to a final vote. Politico calls this "an extraordinarily risky play" because the majority of House Republicans are expected to oppose the bill. However, Robert Costa of the National Review reported that Boehner has agreed to pass the bill with mainly Democratic votes. There's still a chance that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) could go rogue and filibuster the bill in the Senate, dragging out the debate past the October 17 deadline, but his office has not said whether or not he will do so, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Here is the full text of the bill.

 

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Flesh-Eating Zombie Drug Hits Midwest (Still Not a Joke)

| Fri Oct. 11, 2013 11:31 AM EDT

Last month, krokodil, a highly addictive drug that eats through human skin, made its first known appearance in the United States, with two cases reported in Arizona. Now, use of krokodil—which has been nicknamed the "zombie drug"—has spread to the Midwest. The Herald-News reports that five people have been treated for symptoms associated with krokodil use at the Provena Saint Joseph Medical Center in Joliet, Illinois, which is located about 40 miles from the Windy City.

Dr. Abhin Singla, director of addiction services at the Joliet hospital, told CBS 2 that one of the patients was a 25-year-old longterm heroin user who started using krokodil about a month ago. Singla notes, "When she came in, she had the destruction that occurs because of this drug, over 70 percent of her lower body."

As we reported last month, krokodil, which is Russian slang for Desomorphine, has a similar effect to heroin, but it is significantly cheaper and easier to make. Its main ingredients are codeine, iodine, red phosphorous, paint thinner, gasoline, and hydrochloric acid. It's far more addictive and deadly; krokodil users tend to only live two or three years. When the drug is injected into the skin, it often causes gangrene, forcing the skin to rot away, and causes speech problems and erratic muscle movements. Singla told the Beacon-News, "If you want to kill yourself, (using) this is the way to do it." (For gruesome and totally NSFW images of the health effects of krokodil, go here.)

Singla told the Herald-News that the krokodil users believed that they were getting heroin and were given the other drug instead. Most said they obtained the drug in Chicago—not Joliet. Three of the patients were "middle-class white women in their early to mid-20s" and the other two were men, one 22 and the other 32, with arm wounds, according to the paper. The 25-year-old remains in intensive care, and "two others have left the hospital against medical advice because they were afraid of prosecution." Krokodil is a new synthetic drug, so it is not yet a controlled substance, according to a DEA spokesperson.

Until this fall, the drug had never been seen before in the United States. However, the drug has been prevalent in Russia. In the first few months of 2011 alone, the Russia's Federal Drug Control Service confiscated 65 million doses of the drug.

The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) is not currently investigating the reported emergence of krokodil in the US. "We have not received any sort of specimen in any of our labs," DEA spokeswoman Dawn Dearden tells Mother Jones. But, she adds, "we're keeping an eye out on the trends across the country, and if and when we need to get involved, we certainly will."

Alaska's Supreme Court Will Rule on This College Freshman's Global Warming Lawsuit

| Wed Oct. 9, 2013 11:29 AM EDT

Many college students consider it an accomplishment if they beat their hangovers and make it to class on time. But last year, Nelson Kanuk, a freshman at at the University of Alaska–Fairbanks, sued his state for failing to reduce carbon emissions or slow climate change. Last week, the Alaska Supreme Court agreed to hear Kanuk's appeal, becoming the first high court in the country to take up such a case. (You can view the full hearing, which took place in a high school auditorium, here.)

Kanuk hails from a remote Yup'ik Eskimo village called Kipnuk, which is accessible primarily via river. Due to melting permafrost, the riverbank that protects Kanuk's family's house from floods softened, and some 13 feet of their front yard was swallowed up by the rushing water. The family has since been forced to move about 100 miles away.

"[My village] is not really connected to the outside world, but I was always interested in what's going on all around us, I was curious in climate change and how it was affecting us," Kanuk says in a video put out by the environmental group helping with the lawsuit, Our Children's Trust. "I didn't realize how bad it was. When I finally understood what climate change was, I thought, what can I do to help?"

Kanuk's legal argument hinges on what's called the "public trust doctrine" which holds that there are natural resources (like lakes, or places where the states issues hunting permits) that can't be subject to private ownership, and as a consequence, states have a responsibility to protect them so that they can be enjoyed by future generations. Kanuk and his six co-plaintiffs claim that the atmosphere falls under this doctrine, and although the air hasn't been "threatened" before, "throughout history, law has evolved as courts respond to unforeseen, often urgent, circumstances."

Kanuk isn't the first person to bring a climate change lawsuit against a state—or even the first teenager. Lawsuits are also pending in 12 other states, including Montana, Colorado, Iowa, Minnesota, Arizona, New Mexico, Washington, Kansas, Pennsylvania, Oregon, and also in federal court. The environmental group working with Kanuk, Our Children's Trust, has been helping teens bring many of these lawsuits, and in Kansas, the plaintiff was only 14. But so far, only a trial court in Texas has backed the plaintiffs and the case is now facing appeal, according to Alaska Public Media. A decision in Kanuk's case is expected in a few months.

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