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.

How I (Almost) Became an Air Guitar Fan

| Mon Jul. 4, 2011 6:30 AM EDT
Contestants and crowd mingle at the US Air Guitar regional championships in San Francisco.

Going to an air guitar show is like going to a three-drink-minimum comedy club. You're never sure how you ended up there. You walk into a room where "Jessie's Girl" is playing, sparsely crowded with Saturday-night patrons borrowed from sports bars, heavy metal shows, comic conventions. Things are running an hour late, and you have to wonder why you're waiting around to watch a bunch of people get on stage and pretend to play the guitar. The merchandise is also pretend: They're selling "air vinyls" at $5 a pop. Air vinyls? "There's nothing on it," explains the woman behind the table. "You can take it home and smash it if you want." (None have sold thus far.)

You consider leaving before the show starts. It's still early. You could probably still make the next screening of the new X-Men movie, and by next weekend you'll already have filed away the experience as just another one of those weird encounters. But ultimately you can't justify leaving, because you just paid $20 to get in. So you go to the bar.

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RJD2's Four-Handed Vinyl Orchestra

| Mon Jun. 20, 2011 6:50 AM EDT
RJD2 spins at 103 Harriet in San Francisco.

Somewhere between late Friday and early Saturday, an atrium overflowing with dedicated RJD2 fans waited out the last stretch of a long anticipation. They had driven in from out of town, endured brisk winds standing in line behind velvet ropes, and hurdled testy bouncers outside San Francisco's 103 Harriet nightclub. Once inside, there was more waiting but much sensory stimuli to be occupied with, from the three fiery opening acts and accompanying laser-and-strobe-light shows, to the dance parties in adjacent rooms, three wet bars, and girls twirling around in glow-in-the-dark hula hoops. It seemed only fitting when a guy asked me if I had any cocaine.

Why Bolivia Still Won't Sign a Global Climate Agreement

| Wed Jun. 8, 2011 1:31 PM EDT

Pablo Solon, Bolivia's ambassador to the United Nations, might be the world's most ambitious climate negotiator. But his reputation is more notorious than renowned. In 2009, when Bolivia (with one other country) boycotted the Copenhagen Accord, Solon said his country would not support a proposal based on voluntary carbon emission reductions rather than legally binding targets. A few months later, the US denied climate aid to nations that did not support the accord, including the $3 million Bolivia requested. By the time negotiators reconvened in Cancun last December, Bolivia was the only country to oppose the proposed global deal.

While the Cancun Agreements have since been applauded as pragmatic (if modest) for focusing on country-specific targets and zeroing in on tangible mitigation efforts like combating deforestation, Bolivia has continued its unlikely campaign for stringent and binding targets. The next round of talks in Durban, South Africa is just six months away, and some pundits are arguing that mandatory targets are not only unrealistic but also akin to climate diplomacy suicide. With the existing Kyoto Protocol set to expire next year, there is no comprehensive replacement in sight. "In Durban it’s almost impossible to see a legally binding agreement," Japanese delegate Akira Yamada told Reuters last week. (Read MoJo reporter Kate Sheppard's analysis for more on the international negotiations.)

Sleigh Bells' Postmodern Punk

| Mon Jun. 6, 2011 7:30 AM EDT
Sleigh Bells in Manchester.

Last Monday night, in a packed, fogged-up space in San Francisco, the mosh pit of young Sleigh Bells fans got a little rowdy. They shoved each other relentlessly, shot their fists in the air, and tossed their hair around. Up on stage, vocalist Alexis Krauss and guitarist/producer Derek Miller delivered a head-banging, punk-meets-hip-hop performance, riling up the crowd so much that by about the 10th song and Krauss' fourth crowd-surf, security struggled a bit to retrieve her from the clenches of the fans. "I think our music can be cathartic for kids," Krauss told me later, as Sleigh Bells' tour bus passed through the hills of Utah. "You can just go out and get really sweaty, and lose their shit, and it feels good."

How Bad Is Climate Change for Your Lungs?

| Fri Jun. 3, 2011 5:16 PM EDT

A new study puts a hefty price tag on climate change by linking it to the air you breathe. The report, published yesterday by the Union of Concerned Scientists, concludes that CO2-induced temperature increases will worsen ground-level ozone concentrations (the kind coming from power plants and exhaust pipes, not the kind that shields the Earth from UV rays). Higher concentrations of ground-level ozone threaten the health of millions of Americans, an impact that could cost the US $5.4 billion in 2020. If that's not compelling enough, here's what the study's findings mean for you:  

  • If you live in the following states: California, Texas, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, North Carolina, New Jersey, and Virginia topped the list of most vulnerable populations under the projected ozone concentration increase of 2 parts per billion per 1 degree of temperature increase.
  • If you have asthma: Higher ground-level ozone concentrations could lead to 2.8 million additional occurrences of asthma attacks, shortness of breath, wheezing, and chest pains in 2020 compared to today.
  • If you go to school: Many schools already prevent students from going outside and cancel sports games due to poor air quality. UCS projects that in 2020 higher ozone concentrations could lead to 944,000 more school absences than today.
  • If you're older than 65 or younger than 1: In 2050, an average of 24,000 more seniors and 5,700 more infants than today could be hospitalized for respiratory problems linked to air quality.

If you're an athlete, work outdoors, or live in a low-income community or in any of the 322 counties that do not meet the current national ozone standard, then you're also at high risk. And if you're a farmer, ozone pollution in rural areas may also lower your crop yields.

So what to do? There's the obvious, like riding a bike or taking mass transit instead of driving. Also, you could avoid mowing your lawn on bad ozone days. In late July, the Environmental Protection Agency is expected to announce a stronger ozone standard as well as new proposed rules to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. But the EPA has already delayed tightening its ozone standards three times, and now the coal power plant industry and related labor unions are lobbying Congress to delay the air pollution rules. Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Kent.), and Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), who have previously tried to reverse the EPA's ability to regulate air pollution under the Clean Air Act, have asked the EPA to delay or abandon the rules.

In any case, it might all be too little, too late. The majority of states in the US consistently violate the EPA's existing limit on ozone concentration. And there is virtually no entity that sets standards these issues at the county and state levels, report co-author Jerome Paulson said in a press conference call. He adds that "there are essentially no national level recommendations," either, because none of the federal agencies have the authority to legally mandate them.

This summer, says UCS public health expert Liz Perera, nearly 50 percent of Americans will breathe air with unsafe ozone levels. The figure will probably increase with time, since hotter temperatures could easily mean higher demand for air conditioners and more demand for electricity during summer months, thus resulting in more emissions from fossil-fueled power plants. 

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