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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Baseball Player Takes 2 Days of Paternity Leave. Sports Radio Goes Ballistic.

| Thu Apr. 3, 2014 5:15 PM EDT

New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy has been getting all sorts of flak on sports radio today for missing last night's game against the Washington Nationals. Why? Because yesterday was his second (and final) day of paternity leave, which is apparently one too many.

Murphy got word late on Sunday night that his wife was in labor, and rushed to Florida to be with her. He was there for the birth of their first child the next day, Monday, which also happened to be Opening Day. The Mets had Tuesday off, and Murphy decided to stay with his wife Wednesday before flying back in time for today's game, also against the Nationals, which he played in. Murphy told ESPN that he and his wife decided together that it would be best for him to stay the extra day. "Having me there helped a lot, and vice versa, to take some of the load off," he said. "It felt, for us, like the right decision to make."

"You can hire a nurse to take care of the baby if your wife needs help…Are you gonna sit there and look at your wife in the hospital bed for two days?"

For a number of sports commentators, however, Murphy's decision seemed ludicrous. New York-based radio host Mike Francesa kicked off the outrage yesterday afternoon, devoting his entire WFAN show to asking, exasperatedly, why on earth a man would need to take off more than the few hours during which his child is actually born. "For a baseball player, you take a day. All right. Back in the lineup the next day. What are you doing? What would you be doing? I guarantee you're not sitting there holding your wife's hand."

"You're a major league baseball player. You can hire a nurse to take care of the baby if your wife needs help," he said. "I don't see why you need…What are you gonna do? Are you gonna sit there and look at your wife in the hospital bed for two days? What are you gonna do?

Repeating this question at least five more times over the course of a 20-minute segment, Francesa also continued to confuse maternity and paternity leave. Noting that it's possible for the lucky few to stagger their paternity leave rather than using it in one chunk, Francesa was dumbfounded: "What do you do? You work the next day, then you take off three months, to do what? Have a party? 'The baby was born…But I took maternity leave three months later.' For what? To take pictures? I mean, what would you possibly be doing? That makes no sense. I didn't even know there was such a thing." (The full clip is above.)

Hosts of WFAN's "Boomer & Carton" spent their morning show today piling on to the criticism. "To me, and this is just my sensibility: 24 hours," Craig Carton said. "You stay there, baby's good, you have a good support system for the mom and the baby. You get your ass back to your team and you play baseball."

Cohost and former NFL quarterback Boomer Esiason thought even 24 hours was too much time: "Quite frankly, I would've said, 'C-section before the season starts. I need to be at Opening Day.'"

The Mike and Mike show on ESPN Radio also devoted tons of airtime to scrutinizing the nondrama. Cohost Mike Golic, a former NFL defensive lineman, weighed in: "If you wanna be there for the birth of your child, I have zero problem with it. That said, when the baby is born…The baby was born on Monday. And he didn't play in a game [on Wednesday]? This is just me, I would have been back playing."

"Quite frankly, I would've said, 'C-section before the season starts. I need to be at Opening Day.'"

Notably, the collective bargaining agreement between MLB and the players association allows for three days of paternity leave. That's better than most jobs—only about 13 percent of workplaces offer paternity leave at all, and the United States is one of four countries in the world that doesn't mandate leave for new moms and dads.

For his part, Murphy seems to be shrugging off the criticism: "We had a really cool occasion yesterday morning, about 3 o'clock. We had our first panic session," Murphy told ESPN. "It was just the three of us at 3 o'clock in the morning, all freaking out. He was the only one screaming. I wanted to. I wanted to scream and cry, but I don't think that's publicly acceptable, so I let him do it."

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Guns May Soon Be Everywhere in Georgia

| Thu Mar. 13, 2014 6:00 AM EDT

Update April 24, 2014 5:40 p.m. EDT: Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed HB 60 into law on Wednesday. "Our nation's founders put the right to bear arms on par with freedom of speech and freedom of religion," Deal said in a statement. "Georgians cherish their Second Amendment rights, and this law embodies those values." The new regulations—which allow guns to be carried in airports, bars, and K-12 schools, and expand Stand Your Ground protections—will take effect on July 1.

Update March 21, 2014 4:15 p.m. EDT: Last night, in the final minutes of its annual legislative session, the Georgia House passed a bill with the "guns everywhere" bill attached; HB 60 now goes to Gov. Nathan Deal's desk for a signature. The state Senate had sent the bill back to the House with a few minor amendments earlier in the week; Among the tweaks was a provision allowing religious leaders to decide whether guns may be carried in their houses of worship; the fine for not respecting those wishes can be no more than $100. Another change permits the use of silencers while hunting on some public land and on private property if the owners approve.

Otherwise, the final bill was largely the same as the one previously passed by the House. A copy of the final bill is not yet available, but according to the list of Senate amendments, changes were not made to sections providing for the expansion of Stand Your Ground. Opponents of the bill say the SYG provisions would allow convicted felons or others using guns illegally to claim a Stand Your Ground defense. 

If Gov. Deal signs the bill, it will go into effect on July 1. "We expect Governor Deal to sign the bill as he has always stated that he will sign any pro 2A [2nd Amendment] bill that reaches his desk," the pro-gun group Georgia Carry stated on its website this morning. Deal has an A rating from the National Rifle Association.

Soon gun owners in the state of Georgia may be allowed to pack heat almost anywhere—including K-12 schools, bars, churches, government buildings, and airports. The "Safe Carry Protection Act" (HB 875) would also expand Georgia's Stand Your Ground statute, the controversial law made famous by the Trayvon Martin killing, which allows armed citizens to defend themselves with deadly force if they believe they are faced with serious physical harm.

The bill could pass as soon as next week, before the current legislative session ends March 20. It is the latest effort in the battle over gun laws that continues to rage in statehouses around the country. It is perhaps also the most extreme yet. "Of all the bills pending right now in state legislatures, this is the most sweeping and most dangerous," Laura Cutiletta, a staff attorney with the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, told PolitiFact. Americans for Responsible Solutions, the gun reform advocacy group founded by former congresswoman Gabby Giffords after she was shot in the head, has deemed it the "guns everywhere" bill. For its part, the National Rifle Association recently called HB 875 "the most comprehensive pro-gun reform legislation introduced in recent state history."

In addition to overturning current state laws and dramatically rolling back concealed-carry restrictions, HB 875 would loosen other gun regulations in the state. The law would:

  • Remove the fingerprinting requirement for gun license renewals
  • Prohibit the state from keeping a gun license database
  • Tighten the state's preemption statute, which restricts local governments from passing gun laws that conflict with state laws
  • Repeal the state licensing requirement for firearms dealers (requiring only a federal firearms license)
  • Expand gun owner rights in a declared state of emergency by prohibiting government authorities from seizing, registering, or otherwise limiting the carrying of guns in any way permitted by law before the emergency was declared
  • Limit the governor's emergency powers by repealing the ability to regulate the sale of firearms during a declared state of emergency
  • Lower the age to obtain a concealed-carry license from 21 to 18 for active-duty military and honorably discharged veterans who've completed basic training
  • Prohibit detaining someone for the sole purpose of checking whether they have a gun license

The sweeping bill would also expand the state's Stand your Ground law into an "absolute" defense for the use of deadly force in self-protection. "Defense of self or others," the bills reads "shall be an absolute defense to any violation under this part." In its current wording, the bill would even allow individuals who possess a gun illegally—convicted felons, for example—to still claim a Stand Your Ground defense.

Are Russia and Ukraine on the Verge of an All-Out Cyberwar?

| Wed Mar. 12, 2014 12:16 PM EDT

For the past week, reports of physical violence have been rolling out of Ukraine: Russian troops storming a base in Crimea, officers beating journalists, and violent brawls at rallies. But as tensions escalate, another part of the conflict appears to be playing out in a cloudier realm: cyberspace.

On Saturday, Ukraine's top security agency—the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine—announced at a briefing that it had been hit by severe denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, "apparently aimed at hindering a response to the challenges faced by our state." This comes on the heels of a number of alleged hacks involving Russian and Ukrainian targets, including attacks on news outlets and blocking reception to the cellphones of Ukrainian parliament members.

Security experts say the region is currently seeing an unusually high number of DDoS attacks, which aim to shut down networks, usually by overwhelming them with traffic. But many of those seem to be coming from third parties, rather than government entities. In terms of state-sponsored cyberwarfare, "we haven't seen that much," says Dmitri Alperovitch, CTO of CrowdStrike, a California-based cybersecurity firm. Alperovitch adds, though, that his firm has seen a significant amount of cyber-espionage on the part of the Russian intelligence services—including tracking the activities of Putin opponents in both Russia and Ukraine—but he would not disclose names of those being monitored.

Ukraine is situated in a region of the world known for breeding some of the most talented cyber criminals. Several Russian universities offer top-notch hacking training, and a Ukrainian hacker is suspected in December's theft of 40 million credit card numbers from Target. But Ukraine and Russia aren't on equal footing when it comes to their cyberwarfare capabilities. "Russia is a Tier 1 cyber power," says Alperovitch. "Ukraine isn't even in Tier 3." So Russia has a leg up in this arena—and, during past conflicts with former Soviet bloc countries, it has flexed its cyberwarfare muscles. In April 2007, hackers unleashed a wave of cyberattacks on Estonian government agencies, banks, businesses, newspapers, and political parties, following a spat over the removal of a Soviet war memorial in Tallin, the country's capital. (The Kremlin took only partial credit for the crippling three-week attack.) Georgia was targeted with similar attacks in 2008 in the days leading up to its invasion of the secessionist republic of South Ossetia. (Russian involvement was widely suspected.)

Ukraine has yet be targeted with these type of widespread cyberassaults on key infrastructure—but it may not be long. "I anticipate continued escalation," says Jason Healey, director of the Atlantic Council's Cyber Statecraft Initiative and the former White House director of cyber infrastructure protection during the Bush administration. So far, the cyberskirmish is playing out differently than past attacks, Healey says. While the Estonia and Georgia attacks were strictly digital, in Ukraine's case, pro-Moscow forces have also deployed more hands-on attacks on information: "This old-school, Cold War style physical manipulation of equipment. Getting in and physically messing with the switches so Ukrainian civic leaders don't have phone service," Healey says. In Ukraine, these sorts of attacks ​are likely to be a bigger threat, because much of the telecommunications infrastructure was installed by Russians during the Soviet era. "Cyberattacks the way we tend to look at them—denial-of-service attacks, and so forth—you don't have to do those when you've got physical access to the guy's switch!" says Healey.

Here's a run-down of what has transpired so far: 

All the Times Putin Said He Wouldn't Invade Ukraine

| Wed Mar. 5, 2014 10:52 AM EST

Many a theory has been offered about how the situation in Ukraine has escalated to this point. On Monday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel wondered if Russian President Vladimir Putin was "in touch with reality." Her point was bolstered by his rambling Tuesday press conference, during which Putin implied—among other things—that this whole thing was the United States' fault and that the troops on the ground weren't Russian soldiers but well-outfitted, trained military imposters. "If I do decide to use armed forces," he said, "this will be in full compliance with international law." President Barack Obama offered his take, saying that "President Putin seems to have a different set of lawyers making a different set of interpretations, but I don't think that's fooling anybody." Obama added, "There is a strong belief that Russia's action is violating international law." 

The thing is, Putin actually loves international law—at least, in theory. The Russian president has expressed strong support for international law many times, but, no surprise, it usually comes when he's singling out the United States as a violator. In recent months and years, Putin has repeatedly assured the public that what's happening in Crimea right now—the use of force without UN permission and potential violations of the 1994 Budapest memorandum—would never happen on his watch. So in case a reminder might be useful—as diplomatic efforts are underway to de-escalate the crisis—below is a partial timeline of Putin's many vows to abide by international law and not resort to the unilateral use of force to resolve a crisis.

1) December 19, 2013: About a month after protesters first occupied the Maidan in Kiev, Putin held his annual end-of-year press conference in Moscow and got several questions on Ukraine. One reporter reminded Putin of Russian interventions in South Ossetia and Abkhazia and then asked, "Is a situation possible, even hypothetically, in which you will similarly protect the interests of Russian-speaking residents or Russian citizens of Crimea?…Is the deployment of Russian troops to Ukraine at all possible?"

Putin's answer was a definitive no: "None of what is happening in Crimea is like what occurred in South Ossetia and Abkhazia." He noted that Russia interfered in these other spots only because the ethnic conflicts in these regions had placed Russian citizens in the area at risk. "We care about the situation of our compatriots…But this does not mean that we're going to swing sabers and bring in troops. That is absolute nonsense. Nothing of the sort is or will be happening."

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