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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15 Minutes with Rogue Cellist Ben Sollee

| Mon Jun. 28, 2010 7:00 AM EDT

Onstage at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, Ben Sollee paints an unassuming portrait. He's small in stature, with the baby face of a teenager—despite being in his twenties and married, with a son. He sits on a low stool with only his cello as a companion. But as soon as he starts singing, his voice, silky with a touch of smokiness, fills the field where we sit and slides up the sheer peaks behind us, quieting the chatter of the crowd until all eyes are upon him.

A Kentucky native—his father a guitarist and grandfather a fiddler—Sollee was raised amid the musical traditions and culture of Appalachia. He studied classical cello and then teamed up with three musicians, including the legendary banjo player Bela Fleck, to form The Sparrow Quartet in 2005. Two years later, NPR's Morning Edition named him one of the "Top 10 Great Unknown Artists of the Year."

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Are Happy Meals Really a "Creepy and Predatory Practice?"

| Thu Jun. 24, 2010 3:08 PM EDT

McDonald's Happy Meals toys are in the news again, but not for their cadmium-laced veneers or potentially choke-inducing tiny parts (see a Mother Jones slideshow of recalled toys for more in that vein). No, this week the entire concept of Happy Meals sits in the hot seat. "McDonald's is the stranger in the playground handing out candy to children," says Center for Science in the Public Interest litigation director Stephen Gardner. The watchdog group has given McDonald's 30 days to pull toys from the menu—or face a lawsuit for illegal and deceptive food marketing.

But are the millions of burger dollars pumped into kid marketing really why—as Corporate Accountability International put it—"one in three children born today will become diabetic during their lifetime as a result of a McDonald's-style diet?" Argues Slate writer Rachael Larimore:

If you're going to punish McDonald's for catering to kids, are you also going to restrict how much programming the networks can air targeted to children? Are you going to tell Nintendo that they can release only so many games rated "E for everyone"?...it's not fair to blame one company or one industry for a disease that has a multitude of causes. That just lets the parents off the hook.

The concern over the seductive qualities of Happy Meals could mean the end to a childhood tradition of getting a fun surprise along with those chicken McNuggets. But at the rate the meals are now being consumed worldwide, maybe it's a tradition that has gotten a little out of hand.

Shining a Light on Guantanamo's Torturers

| Tue Jun. 15, 2010 12:29 PM EDT

Using torture for interrogation isn't new to the military. But the practices at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, argues journalist Justine Sharrock, signal a shift in how that torture is being carried out and who's doing the dirty work. During its interrogation of detainees at Guantanamo, the military often relied on inexperienced soldiers from lower ranks to implement torture tactics. In a conversation with The Rumpus about her book Tortured: When Good Soldiers Do Bad Things, Sharrock explains:

They've used no-touch torture before, but it was CIA agents who were more trained and more prepared to do this, whereas the low-ranking soldiers had no idea that this is what they were going to get into. So I think it had more of a profound effect on them, but I also think it's an interesting way to look at how the torture regime has affected all of us as Americans.

Tortured examines three soldiers who realized that many of the orders they were carrying out—from waking up detainees constantly to "check for weapons," to making them stand for hours on end—were forms of torture meant to hack away at prisoners' minds. Not surprisingly, engaging in torture, even unknowingly, left devastating psychological scars on the soldiers. Says Sharrock:

One problem with working in the prisons is that you are face to face with the person you are breaking down over a long period of time. Whereas if you are sniper, you're shooting at someone who's really far away and who you only see for a second. No one has done any studies about how PTSD has affected soldiers who work in prisons as opposed to those out in the streets.

Read the full interview on The Rumpus and check out Sharrock's book, Tortured: When Good Soldiers Do Bad Things, released in hardback today.

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