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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826 Valencia's Spelling Bee for Cheaters

| Fri Feb. 18, 2011 3:30 PM EST
Judge Jay Reiss helps Mythbusters' co-host Adam Savage pronounce a word

The atmosphere at San Francisco's Herbst Theater on Thursday night felt more like a high school auditorium than its usual elegant performance space. Hundreds had come to observe the Spelling Bee for Cheaters, a fundraiser for literary nonprofit and tutoring center 826 Valencia, and the air bubbled with the sounds of peppy teams cheering on their spellers. A team of librarians near stage right quietly practiced snarky rhyming chants, and teens dressed in bee costumes flitted around the orchestra seats. As the lights dimmed, the "Black Swan" team near the front row turned on their twinkling electric crowns, stood up, and in unison did a ballerina spin in support of their tutu-clad teammate on stage.

A Sticky Situation for TransCanada's Keystone XL Pipeline

| Thu Feb. 17, 2011 6:07 AM EST

Environmental activists have long criticized the production of tar-sands oil; this especially dirty form of fuel demands tons of energy to obtain and results in high greenhouse gas emissions, not to mention the toxic wastelands its extraction leaves behind. But a new report, "Tar Sands Pipeline Safety Risks" (PDF), looks more closely at the environmental costs associated with the oil's transportation—which might soon run straight down the middle of the continent. A proposed TransCanada pipeline, the Keystone XL, would carry billions of gallons of crude tar sands oil from Canada into the US. This raw oil—more corrosive, volatile, and acidic than the upgraded synthetic tar-sands oil we've become used to—would flow from Alberta to Houston, through some valuable wetlands and aquifers in the Midwest.

"Bhutto" Film Lauds Leader, Hints at Shadows

| Thu Feb. 17, 2011 6:00 AM EST

To hear an interview with Fatima Bhutto, Benazir Bhutto's niece and author of a new memoir, see "Fatima Bhutto on Pakistan, Egypt, and Middle East Unrest."

When a suicide bomber killed Benazir Bhutto in December of 2007 in her native Pakistan, not everyone was surprised. Over three decades, Pakistanis had watched three of Benazir's immediate family members murdered. Benazir had just returned from exile in Dubai in hopes of being reelected for a third term as Prime Minister, stepping back into the fast-moving and often bloody currents of Pakistani politics. It wasn't just their charm that earned the Bhuttos the comparison with the Kennedys: Upon reentering Pakistan, it was as if Benazir had unlocked the doors to her family's curse.

When the filmmakers set out to make the documentary Bhutto about Benazir, they too got a taste of the Bhutto curse. "Three days after checking out of the Marriot Islamabad," writes American director Duane Baughman, "the entire hotel was blown to the ground by a suicide bomber and a truck full of explosives, killing over 40 people." Despite this haunting experience, Baughman and his crew went on to interview dozens of allies, family members, historians, and academics and used unaired footage of the Bhuttos and audio recordings of Benazir create a dense, chronological look at Bhutto's tumultuous life and the predicaments in which her country has found itself over and over again. And though the film sympathizes heavily with Benazir, it also hints at the shadows inherent in her controversial persona.

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