James West

James West

Senior Producer, Mother Jones/Climate Desk

James West is senior producer for Mother Jones and 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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Dear Rick Santorum: Sorry, the Pope Actually Did Study Science. So He Might Know About Science.

| Tue Jun. 16, 2015 12:57 PM EDT

"I am not a scientist!" is now the standard escape hatch through which Republican climate deniers slither to avoid talking about climate science or evolution. From Sen. Marco Rubio, asked how old the Earth is: "I'm not a scientist, man." Rick Perry whipped out the same "I'm not a scientist" line last year in DC while questioning the consensus around climate change. Jeb Bush said the same thing back in 2009.

Now at least one GOP presidential hopeful is turning the talking point into an attack on the pope, ahead of his landmark encyclical on the environment, to be released Thursday. (A draft of the document has already leaked). Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, a Catholic with a history of criticizing Pope Francis, says the pope should leave science to the scientists. "The church has gotten it wrong a few times on science," he told Dom Giordano, a radio host in Philadelphia, earlier this month. "And I think that we are probably better off leaving science to the scientists and focusing on what we're really good at, which is theology and morality."

One problem with Santorum's retort? The pope, while obviously not a climate scientist (he's the pope), actually did study science and therefore might have a better grasp of fundamental scientific processes than most people who have not studied science.

The National Catholic Reporter and the Official Vatican Network both report that Francis, then Jorge Bergoglio, earned a technician's degree in chemistry from a technical school in Buenos Aires before joining the seminary. Sylvia Poggioli from NPR also reports Francis worked as a chemist. Listen to her report from Morning Edition, below, from Rome:

And for good measure, here's a video my Climate Desk colleagues—Tim McDonnell and Suzanne Goldenberg (from the Guardian)—put together last week. They asked a bunch of climate change deniers at the annual Heartland Institute conference in Washington, DC, what they think of the pope's calls for action on climate change:

 

Hillary Clinton Officially Launches Campaign for White House

| Sat Jun. 13, 2015 1:45 PM EDT

There was the first, inevitable video announcement. Then, the media-phobic "Scooby" van tour through early primary states. Now, speaking today in front of a bright New York skyline, on an island in the middle of one of the most polluted waterways in America, Clinton officially launched her campaign for presidency.

The former Secretary of State hit every major talking point of her highly publicized campaign so far. Seriously, nothing was left out of this 45-minute populist, progressive speech outlining her campaign's policies: mass incarceration reform, LGBT equality, climate change and alternative energy, income inequality, a constitutional amendment to overhaul Citizens United, paid family leave, immigration, universal pre-K... even broadband.

"You brought our country back, now it's time, your time, to secure the gains and move ahead—and you know what? America can't succeed unless you succeed. That is why I am running for president of the United States."

The speech on Roosevelt Island, opposite the UN building, would have been difficult to give in the heat; once the clouds cleared, the stage would have certainly felt hotter than 81 degrees—maybe that's one reason the crowd appeared at times somewhat muted. The luckiest supporters crowded under the European Littleleaf Linden trees along the waterfront, which park staff assured us were low allergenic. Nonetheless, the biggest applause lines came when Clinton spoke about marriage equality and women's rights. While the "overflow" area—where a large screen had been set up seemingly in the hopes of bigger crowds—remained nearly empty, the live TV footage would have looked pretty great: billowing American flags, and soaring in the distance, One World Trade, once known as the Freedom Tower.

Danny Jestakom (L) and Philip Fry. James West

The diversity of the supporters here today represents the Obama coalition that Clinton surely hopes to recapture. Valerie Wakin, 29, from Brooklyn, liked that Clinton was focusing on pay equality as a campaign issue, and also felt that Clinton had broad appeal: "I don't think she just supports African American rights, she supports everyone," she said. Ahmad Nelson, 28, from Pittsburgh admitted that while "she does have some baggage" from a long life in the public eye, he will vote for Clinton to help raise the minimum wage across the country.

Valerie Wakin, 29, from Brooklyn. James West

Noticeable in the crowd was a large cohort wearing the rainbow flag version of Hillary's much-derided logo. Danny Jestakom, 26 and Philip Fry, 24, who have been a couple for about a year, said Clinton's embrace marriage equality appealed to them, as did her attempts to let voters learn more about her personal story—evident in today's speech, which drew heavily on her biography. "She seems like a real woman, a real person," Fry said.

"I may not be the youngest candidate in this race," Hillary joked, "but I'll be the youngest woman president in the history of the United States."