Jaeah Lee

Jaeah Lee

Associate Interactive Producer

When Jaeah isn't coding, researching, or writing for Mother Jones, she's usually reading about foreign policy, climate change, or new dinner recipes. A lover of mass transit, she can pretty much navigate the New York City subway blindfolded.

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Prior to joining Mother Jones, Jaeah worked as a research associate at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, focusing on China. Her writings have appeared in the Christian Science Monitor, Global Post, Huffington Post, Talking Points Memo, and Movements.org.

EPA to Cruise and Cargo Ships: No More Dumping on California's Coasts

| Thu Feb. 9, 2012 3:13 PM EST

Great news, Golden State: Federal regulators have ruled that, starting next month, no more sewage shall be dumped on your coasts. Or at least not without consequence. Yesterday, the Environmental Protection Agency designated California's 1,624-mile coastline (stretching from Mexico to Oregon) a federal no-discharge zone, banning large vessels like cruise (PDF) and cargo ships from unloading sewage and other types of pollution into the state's coastal waters. (Of course, oil leaks and spills and their aftereffects will continue to be a problem.)

"California's coastal waters will no longer serve as a sewage pond for big ships," said state EPA Secretary Matthew Rodriguez in an agency press release. "For too long, pollution from these vessels has endangered our marine environment, jeopardized public health, and threatened the coastal communities that rely on recreation and tourism dollars." The EPA estimates that the no-discharge zone will prohibit more than 22 million of the 25 million gallons of treated sewage dumped by vessels in California waters each year. A small boater flushing untreated sewage into the water produces as much bacterial pollution as that of treated sewage produced by 10,000 people, according to a 2003 study by the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission. The marine conservation group Oceana estimates (PDF) that an average cruise ship generates 30,000 gallons of human waste every day. Untreated sewage, chemical, and oil runoff from marine vessels can contaminate water with toxins, coliform bacteria (the family of bacteria that includes E. coli), and invasive species, all of which can disrupt marine ecosystems.

The new sewage ban, which creates the nation's largest no-discharge zone to date, will apply to some 2,000 cargo ships that traverse the state's ports each year. It could also effect the nearly 77 percent of Californians who live on or near the coast, as well as marine and other wildlife. The state coastline is home to four national marine sanctuaries, portions of six national parks and recreation areas, and more than 200 other marine reserves and protected areas, according to the EPA.

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A Zagat-Style Guide for Ethical Diners

| Mon Dec. 5, 2011 5:30 AM EST

jeffreysclark/Flickrjeffreysclark/FlickrDiners, foodies, and hungry folk across America: There's a new, handy guide to restaurants for you to peruse. Except, this isn't your typical set of reviews. The Restaurant Opportunities Center United's report from last week scores 186 US eateries based on wages (for both tipped and non-tipped jobs), paid sick days, and opportunities for advancement. After surveying the 150 highest revenue-grossing restaurants in the US as well as 4,300 workers, the ROC found a rather sobering picture of the labor and sanitation practices in the industry, which the group says employs more than 10 million people and is one of of the largest and fastest-growing in the country:

  • The median wage for restaurant workers is $8.90, just under the poverty line for a family of three. More than half of all restaurant workers earn less than the federal poverty line.
  • 90 percent of the 4,300 workers surveyed report not getting paid sick leave. Two-thirds of respondents reported cooking, preparing, and serving food while sick.
  • Women, immigrants, and people of color hold lower paying positions in the industry. ROC found that on average workers of color make $4 less than white workers. Nearly three-quarters of workers surveyed said they did not receive regular promotions.

While it might not shock you that the neighborhood Chuck E. Cheese's is underpaying the busboy, in the report you'll find four-star steakhouses and foodie meccas like Nobu also among the guilty. And Starbucks, which touts "competitive pay," health insurance, bonuses, and even domestic-partner benefits on its career page, scored rather poorly by ROC's measure.

Since these aren't the sorts of reviews you'll find in go-to sources like Zagat or on Yelp! we've compiled our own abbreviated guide for you, pairing the things you normally look for when searching for a place to eat next to their reported labor practices. Sift away.

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From Rock Musician to Anti-Slavery Activist

| Mon Nov. 21, 2011 6:00 AM EST
Justin Dillon with Tremolo in 2007.

You've probably never heard of Justin Dillon or his band, Tremolo. After all, until fairly recently, his career was pretty unremarkable: By 2003, Tremolo had developed a following playing the usual tour circuits. They'd even landed tracks on a few films and television shows, including How to Deal, a romantic comedy starring Mandy Moore, and were awaiting an offer from Capitol Records to cut their first album.

"It was a weird phase where Capitol had a hold on us and we were all excited," Dillon recalls earlier this month as we sit in his sun-basked office in Oakland, California's iconic Tribune Tower. Wispy haired with hazel eyes, Dillon sports a militaristic look: khaki-green Mao cap, dark-washed jeans, black boots, 10 o'clock shadow.

Not wanting to sit around stressing about the record deal—which never materialized—the band accepted an invitation from a nonprofit to spend a week performing in a remote corner of Eastern Europe. Soon, Tremolo was in a town in Kalmykia, a Russian territory bordering the Black Sea. "Like, way the hell out there," Dillon says. "It wasn't hard to impress people because there was nothing to compare us to."

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