Last week, Congress took quick and decisive action to restore funding to the Federal Aviation Administration that had been cut as part of sequestration. The move, which is expected to be signed into law by President Obama, comes as welcome news to America's frequent fliers. The long-term unemployed, on the other hand, are still totally screwed.
On Monday, New Hampshire residents receiving new emergency unemployment benefits—designed to assist people who have been without work for more than 26 weeks—will see their checks shrink by about 17 percent due to sequestration cuts. (Per the Associated Press, between 150 and 180 New Hampshire residents apply for emergency unemployment benefits every week.) Also laying down the sequestration hammer on the long-term unemployed on Monday: Utah, which will cut its benefits by 12.8 percent. The move is expected to impact roughly 4,000 citizens, according to the Deseret News. Alabama's 12.8-percent cuts (affecting about 16,500 people) and Rhode Island's 12.2-percent cut (affecting about 8,000 people) both go into effect this week as well.
As tough as these cuts are, they only get steeper the longer states wait. States that wait to make cuts will have a shorter period of time in which to enact them. As the National Journalexplains, "If California waits until June 30 to reduce the checks, for instance, it will have to cut benefits by 22.2 percent between then and Sept. 30 in order to meet the sequester's requirements."
This could be averted if Congress restored full funding for the emergency unemployment benefits program. But don't expect Congress to act fast this time—people on emergency unemployment assistance generally don't fly business class.
On Monday, three days after Boston police arrested 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in connection with the Boston Marathon bombings, Reddit general manager Erik Martin issued an apology. It had not been the best of weeks for his online community. Law enforcement officials had explained that one of their motivations for releasing surveillance camera footage of the Tsarnaev brothers was to put an end to the wild speculation on sites like Reddit, where anyone with a backpack was being floated as a possible suspect. Redditors never came close to identifying the Tsarnaevs, instead casting their suspicions on a missing Brown University student named Sunil Tripathi. (Tripathi was found dead in the Providence River on Thursday morning.)
Martin was contrite. "[S]ome of the activity on reddit fueled online witch hunts and dangerous speculation which spiraled into very negative consequences for innocent parties," he wrote, referring to a smaller sub-community, or subreddit, on his site that was devoted to catching the Boston bombers. "The reddit staff and the millions of people on reddit around the world deeply regret that this happened."
Redditors have, for years, worked to use the resources of crowds as a force for good. There's an entire subreddit dedicated to Redditors ordering pizzas for families and raising money for surgeries. But Boston represents a reality check. Can Reddit harness its greatest asset—the tireless brainstorming of millions—while reining in the speculative impulse that makes the site tick? And even if Reddit could solve crimes, would it be worth it?
Since mid-March, when former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton endorsed marriage equality in a YouTube video, 11 Democratic senators have formalized their "evolution" on the issue in a series of interviews, statements, Facebook posts, and Tumblr entries. Only three Democratic senators—Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana—have yet to officially come out in support of gay marriage.
While the Senate holdouts hail from states that voted for Mitt Romney last fall, their 18 counterparts in the House come mostly from districts that President Obama won in 2012—in some cases overwhelmingly—even though the majority hail from red states. Reps. Cedric Richmond (D-La.), Terri Sewell (D-Ala.), David Scott (D-Ga.), and Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) all represent heavily black districts in the Deep South that Obama won by 30 points or more.
Richmond is a particularly interesting case. Although he told the Hill's Cameron Joseph that he is a "proponent of equal rights," he did not explicitly endorse marriage equality. Meanwhile, his New Orleans district, where 76 percent of voters cast for Obama, includes one of the largest gay communities in the South and is home to the annual LGBT "Southern Decadence" festival. In a statement provided to Mother Jones, Richmond said he supported equal rights, but did not respond specifically to the question of marriage:
I am a firm proponent of equal rights and support efforts to end prejudice against all human beings. A person's decision concerning who they commit their life to should be respected regardless of gender, race, or sexual preference. Our collective goal as Americans should be to strive to treat all people with decency and fairness.
Here's the breakdown of the Democratic holdouts, and how Obama fared in their districts last fall.
Correction: Costa formally endorsed marriage equality on April 18, before this story was published.
No one celebrates Earth Day quite like the Republican party of Iowa. On Monday, as environmental activists across the world called for increased attention (or any attention at all, as the case may have it) to the effects of anthropogenic climate change, state Rep. Dwayne Alons took to the floor of the state capitol to offer up a counterpoint: Climate change is awesome.
Alons cited a 2012 article in Global Change Biology on the impact of increased carbon dioxide levels on the growth of Greek fir trees:
There's a man by name of Koutavas has come out with this report that basically says there's a very positive indication that rising global CO2 is a good factor, not a bad factor, and we shouldn't be fighting that. And to sum up of some of his words in his report and such observations in the words of Koutavas are most consistent with a significant CO2 fertilization effect operating through restricted stomatal conductance and improve motor use efficiency. And he also opines that if this interpretation is correct—and what other interpretation could there possibly be?—atmospheric CO2 is now overcompensating for growth declines anticipated from dryer climates suggesting its effect is unusually strong and likely to be detectable in other up-to-date tre-ring chronologies from the Mediterranean. There we have it: The increasing concentration of atmospheric CO2 as illustrated in the data I have before me, and the graph is quite significant, appears to be the most important factor driving recently enhanced growth rates of Greek fir trees, and it in spite of unfavorable moisture conditions and declining temperatures that should be causing growth declines. Not bad for a growth-promoting and life-sustaining molecule that some have incorrectly labeled a pollution. So let's hear it for rising CO2 on Earth Day!
The study doesn't actually say, as Alons suggests, that CO2 is a "good" thing or that we "shouldn't be fighting that." It's simply looking at a near-term effect of CO2 on a specific population. Scientists are skeptical that tree growth will continue to keep pace with rising CO2 levels. And all is not well for Alons' beloved Greek fir; he forgot to mention—or perhaps had no idea—that the species is in a continual decline due to, among other things, drought and air pollution.
Rep. Ralph Watts, who followed Alons on the floor, proposed Iowans observe Earth Day by honoring power plants. He suggested that legislators "leave our lights on all night long in celebration of Earth Day and recognition of those privileges we have."
Tens of thousands of people were tracking the manhunt for the Boston Marathon bombing suspects on Friday morning when the police scanner went dark.* City officials had taken to Twitter to chide social-media users for publicizing unverified reports and key details, such as the location of police units. But the decision to shut the scanner down ultimately fell to Broadcastify, a company that offers a free online scanner app. "Boston area law enforcement feeds are temporarily offline to protect law enforcement resources and their efforts during the manhunt underway in the Boston Metro area," a statement on the firm's website informed users.
More MoJo coverage of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings
The suspension of the scanner feed was temporary, and by no means comprehensive; it was just a little bit harder to find. But that could soon change. Over the last few years, an increasing number of municipalities have ditched their old scanners for encrypted channels. That, in turn, has left reporters and transparency advocates scrambling to keep up.Given the post-manhunt focus on scanner traffic, Watertown could be the beginning of a big switch. As Breaking News' Cory Bergman tweeted, "Safe bet that every major police force in the country will encrypt their radios after this is over."
Police scanners have been accessible to private citizens and shortwave hobbyists for years, but things have come to a head over the last decade, as technological advancements have made it possible for almost anyone to listen in—and from anywhere.
For now, regulation is fairly weak. In 1997, after a Florida couple secretly recorded a meeting of top House Republicans, Congress considered the Wireless Privacy Enhancement Act, which would have made it illegal for reporters to use scanners to monitor police and fire activity. (The bill passed the House but died in the Senate.) A handful of states, such as Indiana, prohibit the possession of police scanner smartphone apps due to concerns that criminals will use them to better avoid detection when they're on the run—somewhat redundant, given that it's already a crime to use police scanner information to aid and abet a crime.