The staff at Mother Jones knows it couldn't live without our interns, who fact-check our stories, blog, research, and generally work their butts off. But you, dear reader, may not know how cool these folks are. So, via our friends at the Village Voice, here's a sampling, in an article entitled, "You Just Graduated from Journalism School, What Were You Thinking" [emphasis mine]:

"I grew up with doom and gloom," counters Sonja Sharp, 23, who was paralyzed at eight and, despite being told she would never walk again, is now ambulatory. "So you can doom-and-gloom until you're blue in the face, and I'll yawn." She knows things are "apocalyptic" now, but believes journalism will emerge all the stronger for it. "I decided when I was nine—and in a wheelchair—that I would write," she says. "I still want to be a journalist because I'm stubborn, and dropping in on total strangers and having them open their lives to you is addictive, and I'm not a 'just say no' person."

Sharp turned down an education beat at a Los Angeles weekly in favor of Columbia, and started in the newspaper concentration. "Journalism marries the two things in the world I'm actually good at—being nosy and writing for money," she says. After graduating, Sharp landed a six-month internship at Mother Jones. "I don't know where I'll be next year, but I'll be somewhere," she says, adding that uncertainty is fine "when you're young and you don't mind living hand-to-mouth."

Sonja puts all of our woe-is-me impulses to shame, and her cohorts: interns Ben Buchwalter, Andy Kroll, Stephen Robert Morse, and fellows Steve Aquino, Taylor Wiles, Nikki Gloudeman, and Sam Baldwin are just as great. Follow those links to learn more about them and read their clips. Learn more about our awesome (and paid!) fellowship program here.

Clara Jeffery is Co-Editor of Mother Jones. You can learn more about her here and follow her on Twitter at @clarajeffery.

 

For nearly seven years the US government has defended its detention of Mohamad Jawad, possibly the youngest inmate at Guantanamo Bay. But in an abrupt about-face late on Wednesday, Justice Department lawyers said they will allow Jawad to be released, acknowledging that key evidence in their case had been tainted by torture. This admission could affect the cases of more detainees and complicate the administration’s attempt to close down Guantanamo by the end of the year.

The government's decision to release Jawad suggests that it may stop trying to delay the release of at least some of the detainees whose cases hinge on evidence contaminated by torture. It could also signal a real break between Obama's Justice Department and the agencies that have previously run the show at Guantanamo: the Defense Department and the CIA.

Should Barack Obama respond to the "birther" lunatics by asking the Hawaii Department of Health to produce his original birth certificate?  Should Sarah Palin be required to produce original medical records proving she's really Trig Palin's mother?  Conor Friedersdorf says no.  Elected officials may have less right to privacy than ordinary citizens, but there are limits:

As evident is that public officials are under no “transparency” obligation to address all questions. Were the right fringe to allege that Barack Obama is in fact a woman, and demand a photograph of his penis to definitively prove otherwise, and the left fringe retaliated by alleging that Sarah Palin is a man, and requested the same sort of photographic proof, Andrew [Sullivan] would surely join me in concluding that both politicians have some right to privacy. Right?

Right.  There's a level of craziness beyond which no politician is obligated to respond.  All it does is spur yet more craziness.  If you believe that the state of Hawaii has conspired to hack its computer system and produce a phony certificate of live birth, then what good would the original document do?  You'd just figure it had been forged.

If someone produces actual evidence of scandal or wrongdoing, then you have to respond.  But if mere conspiracy theorizing is all that's required, then the sky's the limit.  Bill Clinton has to prove he wasn't transporting bales of coke through Mena airfield.  Barack Obama has to prove his mother wasn't in Kenya in August 1961.  Sarah Palin has to prove she wasn't faking a pregnancy in 2008.  John McCain has to prove he didn't collaborate with the enemy while he was in a Vietnamese prison camp.

Conspiracy theorists will always be with us.  But the adult community doesn't have to humor them.  All that does is make things worse.

Just in case you were counting on them… 16 percent of public health care workers will not report for work in a flu pandemic emergency—regardless of the severity.

The survey published in PLOS ONE was conducted among 1,835 public health workers in Minnesota, Ohio, and West Virginia from November 2006 to December 2007. 

Among the findings:

  • Public health workers who were concerned about a pandemic threat but also confident they could perform their roles with a meaningful impact on the situation were 31 times more likely to respond to work in an emergency than those who perceived the threat low and their jobs unimportant
  • Workers who perceived the threat of the emergency to be low yet strongly believed in the importance of their jobs were 18 times more likely to say they would respond to work than those who thought the threat low and their jobs unimportant


The survey could help public health agencies design, implement, and evaluate training programs for health workers. The authors' recommendations:

  • Motivate public health workers with a better understanding of why their roles make a difference
  • Don't downplay the threat of a flu scenario in order to calm workers' fears, since a sense of threat is an important motivator
  • Training should include assurances of workers' personal safety, since 24 percent of respondents considered their work environments unsafe

How about combat pay?
 

Since 2007, the city of New York has bought one way tickets for nearly 600 homeless families to the city of their choice. Destinations have included Florida, California, and even Johannesburg, South Africa, via trains, planes and automobiles. Mayor Michael Bloomberg embraced this program as a realistic and relatively inexpensive solution to New York's overcrowded homeless shelters. Sending the families to a new city, as long as they have a friend or relative to live with there, is much less expensive than the average $36,000 a year spent on a family in shelters. Once the families arrive at their new homes, New York social workers check in on their progress periodically and the city has on rare occasions fronted funds for rent and a security deposit.

In 2006, Malcolm Gladwell wrote in the New Yorker about a similarly creative program in Denver that could have saved the city a fortune while making strides towards solving its homeless problem. The experimental program gave free housing to chronically homeless people who had accumulated massive hospital bills, which were paid for by taxpayers.  The study found that subsidizing housing for homeless people cost an average of $10,000 a year per person, about a third of what the city would spend on social services if the people remained on the street. The idea, writes Gladwell, "is that once the people in the program get stabilized they will find jobs, and start to pick up more and more of their own rent, which would bring someone's annual cost to the program closer to six thousand dollars." By 2016, Denver hopes to create an additional 800 housing units for the chronically homeless to compound the success of this experimental program.

San Francisco Mayor (and now CA gubernatorial candidate) Gavin Newsom announced in 2005 that his Care Not Cash program, which took homeless people off welfare in favor of social services, had decreased the number of homeless people on welfare by 84 percent, disproving critics who said it could never work. This voter-approved initiative decreased monthly welfare checks to homeless people from $410 to $59 and used the money saved to pay for homeless services, including food and shelter.

On the surface, these experiements in New York, Denver and San Francisco sound like a homerun. They appease progressives because they offer social services to a disadvantaged population. And who doesn't love a goverment program that saves money? But they are far from perfect, and raise questions about where to draw the line and how to guarantee that once the cash runs out, the homeless won't end up back on the streets.

Andrew Sullivan responds to my post last night suggesting that in the long run community rating is more important than having a public option in the healthcare reform bill:

But how do you contain costs after you have mandated coverage? The health care industry will make more money if everyone is covered. If you don't make them commit to serious concessions, such as the public plan, this time around, how are you going to do that in the future? The answer, I'm afraid, is: you won't. Onto receivership for the US! But more people will be healthy as the dollar collapses and the economy implodes.

Let me get this straight.  Andrew Sullivan is arguing for greater federal intervention in the healthcare market?  Because that's the only way to hold down costs?

I feel like I'm living in Bizarro world.  But hey — I'm all for a public option.  I suspect it would have only a modest effect on long-term healthcare costs — which is pretty much the way I feel about every other proposal to rein in spending too — but modest is still better than nothing.  In any case, I guess this means Andrew, Mickey, and I are all in agreement on something.  Weird.

EA's "Sin to Win" promotion at Comic Con proved to be an epic fail. The sanctioned #lust Twitter tag is so swamped with critiques that its hard to find even one actual submission of an "act of lust." The original poster for the contest has been removed from Twitpic and replaced with an apology that refers to "booth babes" as "costumed reps."

In an effort to spin the promotion away from the assumption that all of their consumers are heterosexual men, EA "randomly" chose a gay gamer, who subversively submitted a photo of himself and a "booth bear."

The winner, PixelPoet, refused the runner up prize and posted the email he sent to EA about his decision on GayGamer.net, a site he invited EA to explore "as perhaps a first step in getting to know your many customers outside of the fratboy demographic this contest was seemingly designed to attract." He also gave EA several suggestions as to what should be done with the refused $240 gift card prize:

1)A new sexual-harassment training video/seminar

2) Another PR team to try to spin this whole debacle of a contest into a positive light

3) A direct phone line to EA's legal depart to use before you try anymore PR stunts

4) Six copies of your game when it releases, since I know you've lost at least that many fans with this stunt

5) Or the next time you go to Hooters (for the wings, of course), leave a $240 tip for your waitress in a karmic way of balancing out what has been done to the booth babes of SDCC due to this contest

Personally, I would love to see EA enact options 1, 4, and 5. PixelPoet at least deserves a free copy of the game, though perhaps instead of patronizing Hooters, the "costumed reps" would appreciate a $240 bonus for having to deal with the few attendees who thought the promotion was a good idea. And since, as PixelPoet points out, the promo happened on the heels of an EA event with GLAAD, it looks like they could use another sexual-harassment and safe space training.

The latest from my neck of the woods has Chicago realty group Horizon suing a former tenant $50,000 in damages over a tweet. On May 12, Amanda Bonnen tweeted the following:Realty TweetSeemingly innocuous right? It's the kind of content that a stream-of-consciousness oriented medium might be expected to produce. And hey, it could be a worse.

Apparently it can't be. Horizon released a statement yesterday that contained the following sentence:

As you can imagine, allegations of mold are taken very seriously by our organization.

And earlier in the week Jeff Michael, whose family owns the company, told the Chicago Sun-Times the Horizon Realty Group was "a sue first, ask questions later kind of an organization." It doesn't matter that Bonnen had only 20 followers at the time of her tweet or that her account has since been deleted. (See the Google cached version here.)

This story reminds me of a lawsuit that came up in a recent Mother Jones investigation. In the July/August issue of Mother Jones, Adam Matthews writes about the evils of big property owners Stellar Management. When former residents of Stellar's San Francisco Parkmerced complex anonymously complained about the facilities and management on ApartmentRatings.com, Stellar subpoened the website for the identities of the commenters. Good thing they didn't check out Yelp!, where, coincidentally, many of the complaints focus on the apparently prohibitive mold situation.

Now obviously the only reason Amanda Bonnen's story has garnered so much attention is because Twitter was involved. Look past the Twitter craze, however, and there is something at stake about the way we live now. For young professionals and students, the internet is increasingly the beginning, middle, and end of the apartment search. Horizon Group Realty acknowledges as much with the online lease application and rent pay apps featured on their website. As with so many other things, the internet has shone a bright ray of information into a formerly dark corner. In this case, it found mold. Whether or not Bonnen ends up forking over the 50k, are you going to be more careful about what you tweet? I didn't think so...

While most scientists agree that oil is abiogenic, or formed from biomass, creationist John D. Matthews (credentials unknown) has a different theory: Oil comes from God. In Answers Research Journal, which is published by the creationist ministry Answers in Genesis (the same folks who reported on the creationist Girl Scout) Matthews argues that God made petroleum in right after he made the Earth, and that the oil moved during the great flood.

As evidence for his theory, Matthews offers Noah's Ark:

Some kind of oil derivative was used by Noah to waterproof the Ark. We also have to recognize that, in the pre-Flood landscape (although we do not have detailed descriptions in the book of Genesis), we do know that a wide range of minerals were available for human use. We read of gold, onyx, soil, building materials for cities, bronze and iron. The wide range of vegetation and the number of animal kinds also point to God who was liberal with his creative activity. So that although oil is not something simple (see earlier), the idea of God directly creating oil is not unreasonable when compared with other aspects of the young-earth creationist model.

Right. Read the Mother Jones story on evangelical oil prospecting here.

HT J-Walk blog.

You might remember that the Coast Guard's 25-year, $25 billion modernization program, Deepwater, has had a lot of problems. Eight ships that contractors tried to extend from 110 feet to 123 feet ended up completely unusable, for example. But the Coast Guard plowed ahead with the construction of eight 418-foot "National Security Cutters" that are set to be the crown jewels of the service's revamped fleet. Last week, the Coast Guard kicked off construction of the Stratton, the third NSC, engraving the initials M.O. into the ship's keel in honor of Michelle Obama. But critics of the new ships maintain that their communications systems are likely vulnerable to interception, and Deepwater still faces a lot of problems. Read all about it here.