Hannah Levintova

Hannah Levintova

Assistant Editor

Hannah came to Mother Jones after stints at NPR and the Washington Monthly. A proud New Englander, she enjoys tea, good books, and cold weather.

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Robot-Building 6-Year-Old Girls Talking Tech With Obama Is the Best Thing You'll See All Week

| Tue Mar. 24, 2015 7:56 PM EDT

On Monday, President Obama made his annual rounds at the White House Science Fair. The event is a breeding ground for adorable interactions with kid-nerds (See 2012's marshmallow-shooting air cannon), but his chat yesterday with five cape-wearing Girl Scouts from Oklahoma was especially magical.

The 6-year-olds from Tulsa's Girl Scout Troup 411 were the youngest inventors selected to present at this year's fair. Inspired by conversations with a librarian and one of the girls' grandmas, they built a mechanical Lego contraption that can turn pages, to help patients with mobility issues read books.

The group of first graders and kindergartners explain to Obama that the device is a "prototype" that they came up with in a "brainstorming session." One of the girls asks Obama if he's ever had his own brainstorming session.

"I have had a couple brainstorming sessions," replies an amused Obama. "But I didn't come up with anything this good!"

Another girls asks what he came up with:

"I mean, I came up with things like, you know, health care. It turned out ok, but it started off with some prototypes," the president says.

And then they all go in for a group hug. GOLD.

Suzanne Dodson, the coach of the Lego team and the mom of one of the scouts, told Tulsa World that she's glad the girls are getting such positive attention for their project: "It really is a problem with girls, when they get to middle school, they lose confidence in their own ability to succeed in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math)" she said. "Having this experience at young age really gives them a confidence boost."

Why a German Court Just Ordered A Vaccine Skeptic to Pay $100K

| Fri Mar. 13, 2015 4:39 PM EDT

Four years ago, vaccine-skeptical German biologist Stefan Lanka posed a challenge on his website: Prove to him that measles is, in fact, a virus. To the first person who could do that, he promised a whopping 100 thousand Euros (about $106,000).

Despite loads of long-standing medical evidence proving the existence of the measles virus, Lanka believes that measles is a psychosomatic disease that results from trauma. "People become ill after traumatic separations," he told a German newspaper.

German doctor David Barden took him up on the challenge. Barden gathered six separate studies showing that measles is indeed a virus. Lanka dismissed his findings.

But today, a district court in southern Germany found that Barden's evidence provides sufficient proof to have satisfied Lanka's challenge. Which means Lanka now has to cough up the promised cash.

This issue has taken on new urgency due to a measles epidemic in Berlin that began in October. Health officials announced last Friday that 111 new cases had been reported in the previous week, bringing the total number to 724. The majority of those affected are unvaccinated; last month an 18-month-old died of the disease.

Lanka said he plans to appeal the court's decision.  

This Fake App Just Summed Up Everything That's Wrong With Silicon Valley

| Thu Mar. 12, 2015 6:08 PM EDT

In Silicon Valley, a group of mostly white, mostly male twentysomethings have built a multibillion-dollar empire of sharing apps: shared housing (AirBnB), shared cars (Uber), shared dog-sitting (DogVacay)…you get the idea. But the so-called "sharing economy" doesn't actually share equally with everyone. One fake app wants to change that.

WellDeserved is an app that helps you "monetize" your privilege—be it racial, gender-based, or socioeconomic—by sharing it (temporarily, of course) with other people. The fictional app was the winning entry at last month's Comedy Hack Day in San Francisco, where creative agency Cultivated Wit challenged contestants to come up with a comedic app idea and pitch it to judges, all in 48 hours.

The app's promo video will make you laugh and cry: A Google employee sells his free Google lunch to a guest for $10, a dude charges a black man $5 to hail a cab on his behalf, and another guy walks a woman home so she won't get catcalled, asking himself, "Why don't I walk with them, spare them the harassment, and charge 'em like five bucks?"

The creators' (fake) plan for making the (fake) app work is summed up perfectly: "Our business plan is that VCs will just give us money. Because this is San Francisco, and we have an idea."

This post has been updated.

Tue Jun. 21, 2011 6:00 AM EDT
Wed Jun. 15, 2011 4:05 PM EDT
Wed Jun. 15, 2011 1:30 PM EDT
Fri Jun. 10, 2011 2:14 PM EDT