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. She manages Mother Jones' Ben Bagdikian Fellowship Program.

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Micronesia Challenges Europe's Dirty Energy

| Tue May 24, 2011 1:00 PM EDT
The Prunéřov Power Station in Bohemia, Czech Republic

The Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), an island nation scattered across the Pacific north of New Guinea, has already had to confront the tides of climate change, which have eaten away at its coasts and left its food and water security in shambles. When leaders in FSM heard that the Czech Republic planned to extend the license on its biggest polluter, the Prunéřov power station, they decided that a coal plant halfway across the world had everything to do with their fragile island country's health. In January of 2010, FSM legally intervened in the extension of the plant by calling for a Transboundary Environmental Impact Assessment, which required the Czech government to take into account the environmental impact upon another territory when deciding whether to approve the project.

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Did ICE Intentionally Mislead?

| Thu May 19, 2011 7:00 PM EDT

Yesterday, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) called again for an immediate investigation into whether Immigration and Customs Enforcement intentionally misled local authorities as to whether they could opt out of the controversial immigration enforcement program, Secure Communities. In late April, Lofgren asked ICE to investigate the program for misleading statements surrounding their opt-out policy. "I believe some of these false and misleading statements may have been made intentionally, while others were made recklessly, knowing that the statements were ambiguous and likely to create confusion," Lofgren wrote. In return, she received a promise from Acting Inspector General Charles Edwards that a review of Secure Communities, otherwise known as S-Comm, would begin at the start of the 2012 fiscal year. In a letter she sent out on May 17, Lofgren states that an investigation into the program is "pressing," and that the review should begin immediately (see "Lofgren Letters" at the end of this article for all documents).

Fleet Foxes Sing the Blues

| Mon May 9, 2011 6:30 AM EDT

There's a moment towards the end of Fleet Foxes' new album Helplessness Blues, during the song "The Shrine/An Argument," where front man Robin Pecknold's voice cracks in desperation. The fissure may be the emotional nadir of the record's narrative, but it sends ripples down my spine—it's probably been the highlight of my listening experience lately. For the first time, Pecknold dares to waver from his flawless vocal prowess, hinting at a darkness his listeners have rarely experienced from the angelic singer.

Helplessness Blues is not a huge departure from Fleet Foxes, the band's first CD, but it possesses more moments of frustration and despair. By allowing these feelings to creep in, Fleet Foxes have created a more complicated and ambitious repertoire, strengthening their overall reach.

Revenge of the Predatory Tax Preparers

| Thu Apr. 14, 2011 11:00 AM EDT

 In "Secrets of the Tax Prep Business," Gary Rivlin investigates one of the tax industry's most exploitative services: the refund anticipation loan. Rivlin explains how RALs—short-term, high-interest loans backed by a customer's pending tax refund—are largely responsible for the rapid proliferation of tax-prep chains throughout working-class America. By disguising the high-priced loans as instant refunds, the tax mills bring in hordes of low-income clients who receive the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). Thus the preparers' huge profits come at the expense of what Rivlin calls "arguably the nation's most effective anti-poverty program." IRS data (PDF) reveals that nearly two-thirds of RAL recipients received the EITC in 2009, compared with just 17 percent of taxpayers overall.

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