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.
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.
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).
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.
Jaime Aguilar, a Salvadoran immigrant going through deportation proceedings as a result of the Secure Communities program.
On February 13, Jaime Aguilar was standing at 16th and Mission streets in San Francisco when a police officer approached him for holding an open beer can. The officer asked him if he had a California ID, and when he replied that he didn't (he's an undocumented worker from El Salvador), he was arrested and taken to a nearby police station. He was then transferred to the police station on nearby Bryant Street, and within 13 hours, a man with a previously clean record—the father of two children—was wearing an ankle bracelet, about to be deported for drinking beer in public.
Aguilar, like hundreds of Californians, had been ensnared by a federal immigration program called "Secure Communities," or S-Comm. While Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) purported to target dangerous criminals when it began implementing the program a year and a half ago, recent data (PDF) reveal how the majority of those targeted in the state have committed minor crimes, such as traffic offenses, or no crimes at all. Because the program's results have differed so markedly from its declared intentions, state lawmakers have been pushing to pass a bill that would allow counties to opt out of S-Comm.
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.