Blogs

This NRA Tweet Is So Tasteless and Awful That It Makes Me Want to Vomit

| Thu Mar. 5, 2015 7:10 PM EST

Good afternoon.

How are you? How are you feeling? Are you feeling good? Are you, by chance, feeling too good? Are you flying too high on borrowed wings? Maybe you need a bit of a punch in the stomach to bring you back down to Earth and remind you that in life there are hills and valleys; that this vacation on Creation is, well, not all champagne and strawberries. I guess what I'm asking is, would you like to feel nauseous? You look to me like you might like to feel nauseous. C'mon! A little nausea never hurt anyone! It builds character!

Let's get nauseous!

This comes via the New York Daily News, which doesn't mince words:

Hitting a new low in its disgusting war against gun laws, the National Rifle Association on Thursday went after Gabby Giffords with a personal attack mocking her 2011 shooting dismissively.

Have a nice day.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

McDonald's Just Banned Antibiotic-Laced Chicken. Here's Why That Matters.

| Thu Mar. 5, 2015 6:49 PM EST

This week, McDonald's pledged to phase out serving chicken raised on antibiotics that can also be used to treat humans. To understand the giant implications this has for the meat industry, consider my colleague Tom Philpott's previous reporting on the topic. For starters, the livestock industry uses an astounding four-fifths of all antibiotics consumed in the United States. Mostly, these drugs are used not to treat infections but to promote growth in animals.

There is evidence that livestock antibiotic use contributes to antibiotic resistance, lessening the effectiveness of drugs that are medically important to  humans. And scientists have observed so-called "superbugs" migrating from farms to outside communities. It's a major problem—indeed, scientists predict that antibiotic failure will kill 20 million people by 2050. And yet, despite all this, the government still allows livestock producers to dose their animals with antibiotics.

McDonald's chicken move is a tacit acknowledgement that antibiotics are a precious resource. And considering that the chain serves 68 million people a day in practically every nation on Earth, it sends a powerful message indeed.

Ringling Bros. Announces It's Finally Ending Elephant Acts

| Thu Mar. 5, 2015 2:29 PM EST

On Thursday, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey said it will end the use of elephant acts by 2018—a move that follows decades of mounting criticism and public concern over the show's abusive treatment of the animals. Ringling's parent company, Feld Entertainment, cited a "mood shift" experienced by circus-goers who have grown "uncomfortable with us touring with elephants" for the decision.

President Kenneth Feld also said local legislation barring certain circus practices, such as the use of bullhooks, made it increasingly difficult for the company to continue including elephants in its performances. "This decision was not easy, but it is in the best interest of our company, our elephants and our customers," he said in a statement.

In 2011, Mother Jones published an explosive, yearlong investigation looking into Ringling's treatment of elephants, including the regular employment of electric shocks and whippings to control them:

Several of the beatings targeted Nicole, a twentysomething elephant named after Kenneth Feld's eldest daughter. Sweet-natured but clumsy, Nicole would frequently miss her cues to climb atop a tub and place her feet on the elephant next to her, Stechcon said in his videotaped statement. "I always rooted for her, 'Come on, Nicole, get up,'" he said. "But we left the show, brought the animals back to their area, and…we took the headpieces off, and as I was hanging them up, I heard the most horrible noise, just whack, whack, whack. I mean, really hard. It's hard to describe the noise. Like a baseball bat or something striking something not—not soft, and not hard…I turned around to look, and this guy was hitting her so fast and so hard [with the ankus], and sometimes he would take both hands and just really knock her, and he was just doing that. And I was, like, I couldn't believe it."

The investigation also exposed that Feld Entertainment had spent millions of dollars on PR campaigns to hide such abuse from the public and fend off lawsuits:

It was part of a multimillion-dollar spy operation run out of Feld headquarters to thwart and besmirch animal rights groups and others on the company's enemies list, according to a stunning Salon piece by Jeff Stein. Feld had even hired Clair George—the CIA's head of covert operations under President Reagan until his conviction for perjury in the Iran-Contra scandal. (George, who died in August, received a pardon from President George H.W. Bush.)

Thursday's announcement to phase out the elephants, which have been a staple for the Ringling brand for more than a century, has been met with praise from animal rights activists. Feld Entertainment said the elephants will be transitioned to the company's elephant conservation center in Florida.

For more, read our in-depth investigation here.

Health Note

| Wed Mar. 4, 2015 8:32 PM EST

I suppose the lack of content makes it obvious, but today has been a very bad day. I haven't been able to sleep more than a few hours for the past few days, despite plenty of sleep meds. I'm completely exhausted, and not just because of the lack of sleep. That's just making things worse. I can walk about 50 feet before I need to rest. My big accomplishment of the day was to turn on the TV around noon.

I assume this is all just part of the chemo withdrawal symptoms, but I don't really know. Tomorrow I have an appointment with an oncology nurse, so perhaps I'll learn more then.

If there's a silver lining to this, I suppose it's the possibility that this is the bottom of the post-chemo symptoms, and now I'll start getting better. We'll see.

Mitch McConnell Is Now Telling States To Ignore Obama's Climate Rules

| Wed Mar. 4, 2015 2:55 PM EST

It's no secret that Republicans leaders hate President Barack Obama's flagship climate initiative, which aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. So far, the main opposition has been at the state level. The new rules require every state to submit a plan for cleaning up its power sector, and a host of bills have cropped up—primarily in coal-dependent Southern states—to screw with those plans. These bills tend to be backed by GOP state lawmakers, the coal industry, and the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council.

The thrust of much of this legislation is to effectively stonewall the Environmental Protection Agency and hope that the rules get killed by the Supreme Court. It's a long shot, given the Court's long history of siding with the EPA. And the longer states delay in coming up with their own plan, the more likely they'll be to have one forced on them by the feds.

But in a column for Kentucky's Lexington Herald-Leader yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) threw his weight behind this obstructionist strategy:

This proposed regulation would have a negligible effect on global climate but a profoundly negative impact on countless American families already struggling…

Don't be complicit in the administration's attack on the middle class. Think twice before submitting a state plan—which could lock you in to federal enforcement and expose you to lawsuits—when the administration is standing on shaky legal ground and when, without your support, it won't be able to demonstrate the capacity to carry out such political extremism.

Refusing to go along at this time with such an extreme proposed regulation would give the courts time to figure out if it is even legal, and it would give Congress more time to fight back. We're devising strategies now to do just that.

There's plenty to take issue with in McConnell's analysis. For starters, the EPA rules are unlikely to cause any problems with blackouts or sky-high electric bills, as the senator implies. But I'm sure it'll make good ammunition for state lawmakers and fossil fuel interests as battles over this thing play out this year.


Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/2015/03/03/3725288_states-should-reject-obama-mandate.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/2015/03/03/3725288_states-should-reject-obama-mandate.html#storylink=cpy

Instead of Tackling Its Rape Problem, India Just Banned a Documentary About It

| Wed Mar. 4, 2015 1:44 PM EST
In New Delhi, women participate in a candlelight vigil at the bus stop where, two years ago, a woman boarded the bus where she was gang-raped. Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014.

Citing fears its broadcast would lead to "public outcry," an Indian court issued an order yesterday blocking the country's media from airing a documentary centering on the 2012 gang-rape and murder of a 23-year-old woman that occurred on a New Delhi bus.

The BBC documentary, titled India's Daughter, features an interview with one of the six men accused of the crime, in which he repeatedly blames the victim for fighting back while she was raped. Mukesh Singh spoke to British filmmaker Leslee Udwin from prison, where Udwin says he appeared like "a robot" during the 16 hours the interview was conducted.

"You can't clap with one hand," Singh says in the film. "It takes two hands. A decent girl won't roam around at 9 o'clock at night. A girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy. Boy and girl are not equal. Housework and housekeeping is for girls, not roaming in discos and bars at night doing wrong things, wearing wrong clothes. About 20 percent of girls are good."

Rajan Bhagat, a spokesperson for the New Delhi police, told AFP that police officials were concerned the "very objectionable interview" could incite violence.

"A girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy. Boy and girl are not equal," Singh says in the film.

"We have only seen the promotional parts of the film. Based on that we took the matter to court because we felt that it will cause likely apprehension of public disorder," Bhagat said.

The brutal 2012 incident shocked the international community and prompted mass demonstrations in India. Over weeks of protests, advocates called for reform and increased protections for women in a country where sexual assault is perceived as a source of shame and often leads to more restrictions for women.

But the controversy over India's Daughter demonstrates the country remains divided over the issue of sexual assault and how to move forward. India's parliamentary affairs minister M. Venkaiah Naidu slammed the documentary as an "international conspiracy to defame India." In its Tuesday order, the court echoed these concerns and said the film violated Indian law preventing "intent to cause alarm in the public."

Udwin has asked the Indian prime minister to lift the ban. The film premieres on BBC Wednesday evening.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Tea Party Darling Ben Carson Says Prisoners Prove That Homosexuality Is A Choice

| Wed Mar. 4, 2015 9:45 AM EST

Ben Carson, the prospective 2016 presidential hopeful beloved by Tea Partiers, told CNN host Chris Cuomo on Wednesday that he believes homosexuality is "absolutely" a choice—because "a lot of people who go into prison, go into prison straight, and when they come out, they're gay." 

The former neurosurgeon went on, "So did something happen while they were in there? Ask yourself that question."

Carson, who has previously compared homosexuality to murder and bestiality, also said that states should decide the legality of gay marriage, not the Supreme Court. Watch below:

 

What Did Monsanto Show Bill Nye to Make Him Fall "in Love" With GMOs?

| Wed Mar. 4, 2015 6:00 AM EST

Bill Nye, the bow-tied erstwhile kids' TV host, onetime dancer with the stars, and tireless champion of evolution and climate science, was never a virulent or wild-eyed critic of genetically modified crops. Back in 2005, he did a pretty nuanced episode of his TV show on it, the takeaway of which was hardly fire-breathing denunciation: "Let's farm responsibly, let's require labels on our foods, and let's carefully test these foods case by case."

In his book Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation, published just last November, Nye reiterated these points. His concern about GMOs centered mainly on unintended consequences of growing them over large expanses—he cited the example of crops engineered to resist herbicides, which have been linked pretty decisively to the decline of monarch butterflies, which rely on abundant milkweeds, which in turn have been largely wiped out in the Midwest by GMO-enabled herbicide use. Nye praised certain GMOs, such as corn engineered to repel certain insects, but concluded that "if you're asking me, we should stop introducing genes from one species into another," because "we just can't know what will happen to other species in that modified species' ecosystem."

Now, Nye's doubts have evidently fallen away like milkweeds under a fine mist of herbicide. In a February interview filmed backstage on Bill Maher's HBO show (starting about 3:40 in the below video), Nye volunteered that he was working on a revision of the GMO section of Undeniable. He gave no details, just that he "went to Monsanto and I spent a lot of time with the scientists there." As a result, he added with a grin, "I have revised my outlook, and am very excited about telling the world. When you're in love, you want to tell the world!"

Monsanto's longtime chief technology officer, Robb Fraley, responded to the interview with an approving tweet featuring a photo of Nye at company HQ:

It will be interesting to hear what wonders within Monsanto's R&D labs turned Nye from a nuanced GMO skeptic to a proud champion.

Obama: Netanyahu's Speech Fails to Offer "Viable Alternatives" on Iran

| Tue Mar. 3, 2015 4:27 PM EST

President Barack Obama weighed in on Benjamin Netanyahu's controversial address to Congress on Tuesday, saying the Israeli prime minister's remarks did not provide any "viable alternatives" to preventing Iran from securing a nuclear weapon.

The Associated Press reported that after reading a transcript of the speech, Obama noted that Netanyahu used essentially the same language as when the United States brokered an interim deal with Iran, a deal the president said Iran followed through on by scaling back its nuclear program. White House officials also slammed the address:

Earlier Tuesday, Netanyahu characterized the negotiations—which would ease sanctions against Iran in exchange for limits on the country's nuclear program—as a "bad deal" that would inevitably strengthen Iran's nuclear capabilities, rather than stopping them.

"I don't believe that Iran's radical regime will change for the better after this deal," Netanyahu said. "This regime has been in power for 36 years and its voracious appetite for aggression grows with each passing year. This deal would whet their appetite—would only whet Iran's appetite for more."

In January, House Speaker John Boehner invited Netanyahu to speak before Congress without consulting the White House—a move that received widespread condemnation from Republicans and Democrats as a clear attempt to undermine the president's authority. As many as 60 Democrats boycotted Tuesday's speech.

DOJ Finds Pervasive Racial Bias at Ferguson Police Department

| Tue Mar. 3, 2015 3:10 PM EST

The Department of Justice has concluded that the Ferguson Police Department engaged in racially biased practices, including disproportionately arresting African-Americans during routine traffic stops. The findings are the result of an investigation launched back in September, which found that systematic biased behavior, including "racist jokes about blacks" on police email accounts, have resulted in fractured race relations in the Missouri community and a deep mistrust of police officials. From the Times:

In compiling the report, federal investigators conducted hundreds of interviews, reviewed 35,000 pages of police records and analyzed race data compiled for every police stop. They concluded that, over the past two years, African-Americans made up about two-thirds of the city’s population but accounted for 85 percent of traffic stops, 90 percent of citations, 93 percent of arrests and 88 percent of cases in which the police used force.

The full report is expected to be released on Wednesday.

The findings are separate from an FBI investigation focused on Darren Wilson, the police officer who fatally shot unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown last August. According to previous reports, the Justice Department is planning to clear Wilson of civil rights charges.

Brown's shooting death and a Ferguson grand jury's decision not to indict Wilson sparked a national debate on police brutality and racist police practices.