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). James has a masters of journalism from NYU, and has produced a variety of award-winning shows in his native Australia, including the national affairs program Hack.

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Stephen Colbert blanketed radio airwaves yesterday promising that his second performance on The Late Show on CBS would rank among his best two Late Show performances.

With first-night jitters now behind him—along with a hair-raising tale about how Tuesday's debut barely made it to air—Wednesday's broadcast offered samples of what anyone who loves Colbert knows he does best: surreal sketches (ScarJo on a blanket staring at the stars talking about her feet!), improvisation-fueled interviews (Elon Musk, are you a supervillain?), and on-the-money political satire, like this segment on the idiotic range of merchandise you can now buy from presidential candidates. Stay for the "Feel the Bern" mug, and Jeb Bush's radically overpriced "Guaca Bowle."

President Obama recently returned from a three-day trip to Alaska and the Arctic to push his climate agenda, but not before recording a clip for the reality TV show Running Wild with Bear Grylls for NBC. Grylls is the irrepressible British TV star who has made a career of eating absolutely anything to get out of pickles in the wilderness—combined with his survivalist know-how and occasional nudity.

In the short clip, broadcast on Today this morning, the president can be seen gingerly nibbling on the "bloody carcass" of an salmon that Grylls has cooked up on a portable stove after finding it on a riverbank. The fish had been previously chewed on by an actual bear, Grylls informed the president.

The verdict: "Bear's a mediocre cook, but the fact that we ate something recognizable was encouraging," Obama said—referring to Grylls's penchant for eating just about anything, like raw snake or giant larva. "Now, the fact that he told me this was a leftover fish from a bear, I don't know if that was necessary," the president said. "He could have just left that out."

Obama is called "the bear" himself occasionally, when he gets restless and starts doing unexpected things in public, outside the confines of his Secret Service bubble. "'The bear is loose': Is Obama breaking free or running away?" asked the Washington Post, last year. "As president, I am in what's called the bubble, and Secret Service makes sure that I'm always out of danger, which I very much appreciate, but it can be a little confining," he told Grylls, according to Today.

"This has got to be one of the best days of my presidency," he said.

Obama also ate dog meat as a child, which, you'll remember, unleashed a torrent of attacks from conservatives.

Correction: I wrongly referred to the salmon enjoyed by Obama and Grylls as "Atlantic" in an earlier version of this post. As Paul Arden, the communications director for congressman Jared Huffman (D-CA), points out by email: "Where'd you get the bit about it being Atlantic salmon? Should be Pacific salmon if it really did come from a bear? Looked like coho or sockeye…"

Three hurricanes are churning across the Pacific right now.

Astronauts aboard the International Space Station are marveling at a particularly awesome view from orbit right now. This week marks the first time that three major hurricanes—dubbed Kilo, Ignacio, and Jimena—have been captured simultaneously churning across the Pacific Ocean, according to the United Kingdom's Met Office. (The National Hurricane Center agrees.)

The storms are being fueled by warmer waters caused by this year's El Niño, the global climate event that occurs every five to seven years, bringing drought to places like Australia, while heaping rain on the Western United States. The Met Office says temperature anomalies in this part of the world are currently at their highest since 1997-98.

According to the Met Office: "Hurricanes Kilo, Ignacio and Jimena were all at category 4 simultaneously in the Pacific east of the International Dateline—the first time three major hurricanes have been recorded at the same time in this region." The Met Office says tropical cyclone activity across the northern hemisphere this year is about 200 percent above normal. Six hurricanes have crossed the central Pacific, more than in any other year on record, the agency says.

The view from space is incredible:

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says manmade global warming is likely to drive up the number of intense hurricanes like these around the world—despite a predicted overall drop in all types of weaker, tropical storms. By the end of the century, hurricanes will likely produce substantially higher rainfall—up to 20 percent more—than present-day hurricanes.

So far, Hawaii appears to be safe, and no humans are in the paths of destruction, allowing us to enjoy the spectacular view.

Tue Jul. 7, 2015 6:07 PM EDT
Mon Jan. 12, 2015 3:46 PM EST