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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Tracking Prison Deaths Is Tougher Than You'd Think

| Tue Aug. 9, 2011 6:00 AM EDT

On July 19, 2007, a 33-year-old Chinese immigrant named Hiu Lui Ng arrived at his final green-card interview. Instead of a green card, he got arrested—on a faulty, six-year-old deportation order that he had no idea existed. A year later, Ng died in custody at the Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls, Rhode Island. He had a fractured spine, bruises, a blood clot, and cancer that had gone untreated for so long that it had "spread throughout his entire body," according to court records. Ng received medical care only five days before his death on the order of a judge, after begging—and ultimately, legally petitioning—to get it for seven months.

The grim details of Ng's death would likely never have surfaced if his wife hadn't teamed up with the ACLU to file suit against Wyatt. (The case, if you're wondering, is still ongoing.) Why? Because currently, there isn't a single federal law requiring state-run jails and prisons to report detainee deaths, or what caused them. Not one.

Last week, the House Judiciary Committee moved to change that, approving the Death in Custody Reporting Act of 2011. If passed, the law would mandate that each time someone dies in law enforcement custody, the incident's details must be reported to the attorney general. The bill applies to people in the process of being arrested, inmates, and immigrants held in detention centers.

Bidding Adieu to Amtrak?

| Sat Jun. 25, 2011 6:35 AM EDT

In his 2011 State of the Union address, President Obama ran down a long list of things the nation needs to do better. Among expected topics, like education and healthcare, Obama noted infrastructure, and more specifically—high-speed rail. Parts of Europe and Russia invest more in their railways than we do, he said, and it's high time we start catching up.

That mission made some headway this week—but not in quite the way the rail industry would have hoped for. On Wednesday, the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure held a legislative hearing to discuss a draft bill that aims to improve high-speed and intercity passenger rail for the nation. How? By privatizing Amtrak.

If implemented, the GOP-sponsored bill would transfer control of the Northeast Rail Corridor—the train web connecting major Northeast cities—from Amtrak to the Department of Transportation. DOT would then oversee a private sector bidding process for high-speed rail projects in the Northeast, and for intercity routes nationwide.

New in Natural Gas Hype: A Fracking Coloring Book

| Tue Jun. 21, 2011 4:50 PM EDT

With government agencies, documentaries, and even celebrities taking aim, fracking has been getting a bad rap these days. So it's no wonder that oil and gas companies are working hard to change the tone of the debate surrounding the controversial method of reaping natural gas.

The latest in their PR efforts? A children's coloring book. Published by oil and gas producer Talisman Energy and distributed for free, the 24-page text follows the adventures of a "Friendly Fracosaurus" named Talisman Terry. Throughout the book, he leads his readers through a natural gas extraction saga—explaining the benefits of the substance, and how it's found, drilled, and delivered.

tk

ACLU's "Kick-A-Jew Day" Case Edges Forward

| Tue Jun. 21, 2011 6:00 AM EDT

In a 2005 South Park episode, Eric Cartman—the show's fat, whiny, spoiled antihero—sets off an anti-redhead movement in his Colorado elementary school. "Gingers," he says, are soulless, inferior beings that should be shunned. The episode's satiric take on bigotry was lost on some: in 2008, it inspired a 14-year-old British Columbia boy to launch a Facebook group declaring November 20, 2008, "Kick-a-Ginger Day," and sparking redhead bullying nationwide. A year later, ten North Maple Middle School students in Collier County, Florida, revised the holiday—they held "Kick-a-Jew Day" in its stead. At least one student was kicked and reported the attack to school authorities.

The incident has since sparked a lawsuit against the Collier County school district by the local chapter of the ACLU, which wants the district to reveal how it disciplined the students involved in the incident. Last week, that effort finally got a go-ahead.... with caveats. Collier County Judge Hugh Hayes denied the school district's motion to dismiss the suit, but also asked both sides to do a little rethinking and rewriting.

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