James West

James West

Senior Digital Editor

James West is senior digital editor for Mother Jones, and before that, the senior producer for its reporting project Climate Desk. He wrote Beijing Blur (Penguin 2008), a far-reaching account of modernizing China’s underground youth scene. James has a masters of journalism under his belt from NYU, and has produced a variety of award-winning shows in his native Australia, including the national affairs program Hack. He's been to Kyrgyzstan, and also invited himself to Thanksgiving dinner after wrongly receiving invites for years from the mysterious Tran family.

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Please, Please Stop Making Mittens for Koalas

| Mon Jan. 12, 2015 3:46 PM EST

After record-breaking fires hit the Adelaide suburbs in South Australia last week, an emergency call went out on social media, which was then quickly picked up by the international news media: Injured koalas need cotton mittens to protect their burned paws! Since then, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, thousands of pairs of mittens have poured into Australia from all around the world. "We're now getting offers from as far afield as Russia, Kazakhstan, China, the UK and the US," said Josey Sharrad from the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), which put out the request. "It's truly phenomenal."

The wildfires destroyed 27 homes and charred nearly 50 square miles. Koalas are especially vulnerable because they live in trees, which are the very fuel for the fires, and koalas just aren't very fast.

The IFAW put out this call to action on January 9, 2015:

The group even published a pattern to help avid sewers around the world:

But perhaps don't dig out that old sewing machine just yet. There's dissent in the wildlife community about the best way to help the koalas, and their burned paws.

The Australian Marine Wildlife Research and Rescue Organization (AMWRRO), a rescue and rehabilitation group based in South Australia, says the mittens are unnecessary and may even hinder the koalas' recovery. AMWRRO is the organization that first published the photo of now-famous "Jeremy," whose four paws were being treated for "second-degree partial thickness burns":

 

AMWRRO has now put out a warning on its Facebook page: "Please note AMWRRO does not require mittens as they impede the animals ability to hold leaf and branches verses that of specific bandaging techniques as shown in previous images."

In any case, the great mitten campaign is over. IFAW now says they have more than satisfied the need for koala mittens, and now the group's attention has turned to other injured wildlife. "This began as a small regional effort, and in Australia we are now moving to work with local people to create cozy pouches for other wildlife like possums, kangaroos and wallabies that are also at risk from bushfires," the IFAW said in a statement.

In short, both groups now agree: Stop sewing koala mittens. Please, stop.

P.S. I know you want to know. Jeremy is doing a lot better now:

And here he is, back to eating leaves!

 

"They Were Brave. And They Are Dead." Best Friend of Paris Cartoonists Honors Fallen Comrades.

| Thu Jan. 8, 2015 1:22 PM EST
Mourners hold signs depicting victims' eyes during a rally in support of Charlie Hebdo, in Union Square in New York.

Our friend and Mother Jones alum Sydney Brownstone has published an extraordinary interview today over at The Stranger: A Q&A with a French editor who gave refuge to Charlie Hebdo staff members after the weekly's offices were fire-bombed in 2011, and who counted the murdered cartoonists amongst his best friends. Nicolas Demorand is the former editor-in-chief of the leftist French newspaper Libération, which was founded by Jean-Paul Sartre, and Brownstone reached him at the end of a truly harrowing day in Paris—after protests swept into the streets.

The interview is well worth your time. Amidst overwhelming grief, Demorand eloquently—and with great dignity—discusses the issues emanating from yesterday's attack: suburban disadvantage in France, American missteps post-9/11, the threat of hard-line right-wing parties scoring points using tragedy, and the meaning of secularism in France today. But this bit instantly made my hairs stand on end, as it would anyone who works in journalism:

You know, I cried all day long. I never cry. You know, we're journalists. We know about shit, about sadness, about horror, about misery, about terror, about all that shit. We know about that. I cried all day long, you know. They killed the best guys. They killed the best guys. It's horrible. It's really horrible.

Read the whole interview at The Stranger.

Fox News Gives Paris Massacre the Benghazi Treatment

| Wed Jan. 7, 2015 6:34 PM EST

On Wednesday afternoon, Fox News's Gretchen Carlson focused on portraying the Obama administration as weak-kneed and out of touch in its response to the massacre in Paris. After interviewing pundit Ari Fleischer, who served as a principal spokesman for President George W. Bush's global war on terror, Carlson went with a familiar script:

"It is what it is. It, meaning terrorism. Terrorism is what it is," Carlson said. "So why does the administration continue to have such a problem telling the American people and the rest of the world just that? Is that a disservice to all of us? In some way giving us a false sense of security? That since our own leaders don't see any of these attacks as terrorism right away, neither should we?"

The problem is, her premise was plain false. Earlier in the day, Secretary of State John Kerry described the attacks as an "act of terror" in direct, forceful terms. "The murderers dared proclaim, 'Charlie Hebdo is dead.' But make no mistake: They are wrong," Kerry said. "The freedom of expression that it represented is not able to be killed by this kind of act of terror."

Also prior to Carlson's commentary, a statement from President Obama was equally clear on this point:

I strongly condemn the horrific shooting at the offices of Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris that has reportedly killed 12 people. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims of this terrorist attack and the people of France at this difficult time. France is America's oldest ally, and has stood shoulder to shoulder with the United States in the fight against terrorists who threaten our shared security and the world. Time and again, the French people have stood up for the universal values that generations of our people have defended. France, and the great city of Paris where this outrageous attack took place, offer the world a timeless example that will endure well beyond the hateful vision of these killers. We are in touch with French officials and I have directed my Administration to provide any assistance needed to help bring these terrorists to justice.

We've seen this script before, of course, when Fox News, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, and other conservatives obsessively criticized the Obama White House over the deadly attack on the US consulate in Benghazi in 2012. The argument was that the president didn't call the Benghazi attack "terrorism" quickly enough (before quickly morphing into a conspiracy theory about a massive cover-up of some sort). That was despite the fact that Obama had used the phrase "act of terror" three times in the initial aftermath to describe the attack on the consulate.

In Wednesday's segment Carlson also went on to insinuate that Obama's policy of releasing prisoners from Guantánamo Bay may lead to a Paris-like attack in the US: "Keep in mind this administration is more concerned about executive actions for manufacturing and even climate control today, and releasing Gitmo detainees," she said. "We now know many of those detainees go back to join the jihad. So at this crucial moment, after a horrific attack on one of our allies, will politics continue to trump the reality... In the last few months we've seen terrorism hit Australia, Canada, and now France. Will the United States once again be next?"

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