Maddie Oatman

Maddie Oatman

Research Editor

Maddie worked as a travel guide in Argentina and a teacher at several educational nonprofits in San Francisco before joining Mother Jones. She’s also written for Outside, the Bay Citizen, and the Rumpus. A proud Boulder native, she makes time for mountain climbing, stargazing, and telemark skiing.

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The Case of the Missing Red Snapper

| Fri Oct. 28, 2011 6:48 PM EDT

I call myself a pescatarian, though when I do choose to layer lox on my bagel or slurp the occasional oyster, I prefer responsibly sourced seafood, or at least to know exactly what I'm eating. And sometimes when sitting down to a sushi dinner, that's not exactly clear. To everyone but the most discerning epicure, pink fish can be pretty easily mistaken for other types of pink fish. So it came as no comfort to read Consumer Reports' new investigation, "Mystery Fish," which found that more than 20 percent of seafood purchased at restaurants and stores in three US states was improperly labeled or identified. Among the most mysterious meats was red snapper, which, after going through DNA matching during this particular investigation, could never be positively identified as such.

Consumer Reports sent 22 samples of "red snapper" to an outside lab for DNA testing, where along with other seafood samples, their genetic sequences were compared with standardized gene fragments. Eight red snappers were deemed as possible DNA matches, but the rest were unidentifiable or simply mislabeled.

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Abigail Washburn Brings Bluegrass to the Silk Road

| Mon Oct. 24, 2011 6:02 AM EDT

"The first day I stepped forth in this fair country," Abigail Washburn's breathy voice wafted down over the grass, "border man took my paper, told me I would be free." A slight figure dressed in black gossamer, Washburn looked rather elegant when I caught her live at San Francisco's Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival. The crowd below lay drowsy and peaceful in the mid-morning sunshine, ready to be transported to wherever the singer wanted to take them.

And transport them she did. While the clawhammer banjo queen can fit right in at a hoedown like Hardly Strictly, she's become just as comfortable entertaining crowds on the other side of the globe. A Mandarin speaker and self-declared Sinophile, she's made a career out of bringing bluegrass to the far corners of China—and by the same token making Chinese folk music accessible to American bluegrass fans. Themes of migration and boundary-crossing pop up in her songs, as with the abovementioned tune, "Dreams of Nectar."

Birth Control Coverage for Everyone? Not So Fast.

| Fri Aug. 12, 2011 6:00 AM EDT

The announcement last week that the Obama administration will require health insurance plans to cover preventative health care for women at no additional cost elicited whoops of joy from females all over the country. The idea that contraception will be fully covered was an especially celebrated point; Mother Jones blogger Jen Quraishi heralded the occasion as "a momentous day," and Jezebel happily noted that it was time to "kiss your co-pay goodbye."

Not everyone found the rule change so invigorating. That's because the new regulations contain a religious refusal clause, also known as a "conscience clause," exempting "certain religious employers" from having to cover the cost of contraception in employees' insurance plans if doing so would contradict the employer's belief system. The proposed conscience clause defines a religious employer as a nonprofit organization that "has inculcation of religious values as its purpose" and primarily employs and serves people who share its religious tenets. Religious groups say that language is far too weak and might force some religious institutions that don't want to provide birth control to women to do so anyway. Women's groups, meanwhile, are arguing that the language shouldn't be there at all.

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