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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DJ Spooky's Icy Philharmonic

| Mon Oct. 17, 2011 5:00 AM EDT

Where most artists hone in on one medium, DJ Spooky that Subliminal Kid—né Paul Miller—has spent his career breeding a tizzying, singular brand of organized, multimedia chaos. He's all over the place, and yet remarkably put together. One reviewer called him "Einstein with a better haircut."

Spooky's The Book of Ice, released this past summer, is a motley collection of photos, essays, data, and relics of an imagined People's Republic of Antarctica. It's also just one chapter of Spooky's Antarctic opus, which includes a film (North/South), and Terra Nova: Sinfonia Antarctica—an acoustic portrait of melting ice molecules that's part science experiment, part symphony, and part cautionary climate-change narrative.

Climate change is just one of several causes Spooky, 41, has tackled over the years. His 2009 album, The Secret Song, slams corporate America with tunes like "The War of Ideas," a new version of The Coup's "5 Million Ways to Kill a CEO," and a title track whose lyrics are based on economist Adam Smith's "invisible hand" theory. "The Secret Song," Spooky says, is the sound of "credit card fraud and jazz motifs made into stock exchanges." The album's brainy tracks are also supposedly hidden in smart-phone-scannable barcodes scattered around Manhattan. (Occupy Wall Streeters, after all, could perhaps use some additions to their repertoire.) His remake of D.W. Griffith's 1915 film "Birth of a Nation" turns the original—a glorification of racism and the Klan—on its head, making a once-silent film into one of rich sound and transforming a work of bigotry into a powerful educational tool.

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Boycott Minerals From Congo? Not So Fast

| Thu Sep. 29, 2011 10:00 AM EDT
A UN peacekeeper takes stock of weapons collected as part of the demobilization effort in eastern Congo.

As the fact-checker for Mac McClelland's "To Catch a Warlord," I started thinking about the topic of her piece as the "Bosco Paradox." The feature is about ICC-indicted Congolese warlord Bosco Ntaganda, and it investigates the competing priorities that have made his arrest (which should be easy–even Mac has his home address) a near-impossibility. Delving into DRC history, I saw that the Bosco Paradox is just one example of a long-standing pattern: In Congo, obvious solutions often aren't implemented because they'll simply create other problems.

This idea has cropped up recently in reference to a small, Congo-related provision of the year-old Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act. The rule—Section 1502—aims to regulate four of Congo's "conflict minerals:" gold, wolframite, cassiterite, and coltan. These are key for producing popular electronics like laptops and cell phones, and their trade has, for decades, financed DRC human rights abuses. So, Section 1502 requires US companies getting minerals from the DRC to disclose how they're doing so, submitting reports to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on the measures they're taking to ensure that their business isn't benefiting DRC rebel militias.

"Three Famines" Presents an Anatomy of the F-Word

| Mon Sep. 26, 2011 5:00 AM EDT

In foreign policy vocabulary, the word "famine" pretty much functions like an expletive. Two months ago, the UN brandished "the F-word" when it declared two parts of southern Somalia official famine zones. Soon, four more regions were bestowed with the dreaded title.

This curse word of sorts, though, can't be tossed around lightly. Before using it, the UN requires serious number-crunching to show that at least 20 percent of households in an area face extreme food shortages, that acute malnutrition exceeds 30 percent, and that the death rate is more than two people per 10,000, daily. Given its weight, a declaration of "famine" is a serious call for global awareness and aid. And yet, while reports of other natural disasters have jam-packed American news-pages, "famine"— this rare word, for what is supposedly a rare natural calamity—has barely flickered across the daily newscycle.

All this is why Thomas Keneally's latest book—Three Famines—couldn't have come out at a more appropriate time. In it, Keneally, the Booker Prize-winning author of the novel Schindler's List, has set out to prove that famines are borne of man-made disasters, not natural ones. Sure, natural flukes are the starting point, he writes, but it's politics that feed famine's terrifying momentum. If you follow the situation in Somalia—where tallies of the starving are going up, not down, and where Western aid stands blocked by militant group al-Shabaab—you'll get the sense that Keneally’s hypothesis is legitimate even before he's launched into the evidence.

New Study: Wealth Makes You Selfish

| Fri Aug. 12, 2011 7:20 AM EDT

In theory, America's mega rich could pay off all of America's student debt, halve global poverty and hunger by 2015, and replace 70% of money lost in the 2008 recession. Bevy of problems solved, right? Not quite. A study released this week sheds light on why a billionaire bailout isn't very likely. Titled "Social Class as Culture: The Convergence of Resource and Rank in the Social Realm," the report, published in Current Directions in Psychological Science, concludes that individuals from rich backgrounds are, to put it simply, more selfish. 

The report's authors—social scientists Dacher Keltner, Michael Kraus, and Paul Piffhave done 12 different studies to measure empathy, Keltner told MSNBC, and they keep coming back to the same idea: "Lower class people just show more empathy, more prosocial behavior, more compassion, no matter how you look at it," Keltner says.

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