Political MoJo

Two Journalists Shot During Live Television Broadcast

| Wed Aug. 26, 2015 10:03 AM EDT

Update, August 26, 2015, 2:25 p.m. EST: The suspected gunman, Vester Flanagan, died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, Sheriff Bill Overton announced in a press conference.

Update, August 26, 2015, 1:00 p.m. EST: Following a police chase, authorities found Flanagan suffering from a gunshot wound. It appears to have been self-inflicted.

Two members of a Virginia news crew were shot and killed during a live news segment on Wednesday morning. Authorities have identified the suspected gunman as Vester Lee Flanagan, according to multiple sources. He reportedly went by the name Bryce Williams professionally. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe told a local radio station that the suspect was believed to be a "disgruntled employee" of the news station, WDBJ.

The shooting occurred at Bridgewater Plaza, a shopping center in Moneta, Virginia, where reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward were both killed. WDBJ confirmed their deaths. The head of the local Chamber of Commerce, Vicki Gardner, who was being interviewed by Parker at the time, was also injured in the attack. She is out of emergency surgery and in stable condition.

The Augusta County Sheriff's Office couldn't immediately be reached for confirmation of the suspect's identity.

Part of the shooting was recorded on video and posted to social media accounts. It was later taken down. 

Below is a live newscast of the outlet's coverage of the shooting:

This is a breaking news post. We will update as more information becomes available.

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Donald Trump Just Had Univision Anchor Jorge Ramos Thrown Out of a Press Conference

| Tue Aug. 25, 2015 7:11 PM EDT

At a press event in Iowa Tuesday, Donald Trump had Univision news anchor Jorge Ramos removed by security after the Trump critic challenged the GOP front-runner for his positions on immigration.

"Sit down, go back to Univision," Trump said, before Ramos was removed.


Ramos reportedly returned some time later.

Also, via Brandon Wall, this is apparently how Trump calls for security:

GIF: Brandon Wall


Here's What Sexperts Think About "Female Viagra" and Why You Shouldn't Call It That

| Sun Aug. 23, 2015 3:05 AM EDT

When news broke on August 18 that the Food and Drug Administration approved Addyi, the pill that is being incorrectly referred to as the "female Viagra," it might have seemed like an obvious feminist win. Viagra has been around since 1998, but there hasn't been anything remotely comparable on the market for women. Addyi is supposed to alleviate female hypoactive sexual desire disorder (or lack of sexual desire). But as we've reported, women on Addyi experienced an increase of only one sexual event per month during clinical trials.

So what's really going on with the little pink pill? And what's the latest science on low libidos? We asked Rachel Hills, author of the The Sex Myth, and Emily Nagoski, sex educator and author of Come As You Are, to weigh in:

What is female sexual dysfunction? Hills points out that when Viagra went on the market, it aimed to treat a very specific disease: erectile dysfunction. Viagra works by increasing blood flow to the penis to get an erection hard enough for sex; it does not cause arousal. Addyi targets the brain, and it does aim to increase arousal by stimulating the brain in a way that's comparable to antidepressants. Hills says this is where it gets tricky, because "female sexual dysfunction" is not well-defined medically, and she thinks the term is being used too broadly. "It's more amorphous than erectile dysfunction because the 'disease' is basically not wanting to have sex enough," she says.

Do we need Addyi? According to Nagoski, there are two types of desire: spontaneous desire, which occurs without any physical prompting from a partner, and responsive desire, which comes from being in a sexual situation (think foreplay or dirty talk). Nagoski says it's pretty normal for women to only experience responsive desire. But, maybe because men's bodies work a little differently, women are led to believe that something is wrong with them if they don't crave sex every day. Nagoski, who has worked as a sex educator for almost a decade, often hears women say, "Once [my partner and I] got started, everything was fine. It's getting me started that's the problem." She thinks a lot of the hype surrounding Addyi is due to a lack of readily available information surrounding female sexuality.

Is this simply a pharmaceutical company trying to tap into a profitable market? A lot of the hype surrounding Addyi stemmed from good marketing, not a scientific breakthrough. "The most generous possible interpretation of the FDA responder analysis is that, of the thousands of women who were on the drug, a few experienced minimal benefit," says Nagoski. Hills is also suspicious of the motives behind treating female sexual desire with a pill: "The entire question of female sexual dysfunction was motivated by the fact that there's potentially a lot of money to be made in that." There is certainly a lot of money at stake—Sprout Pharmaceuticals, the makers of Addyi, announced that Valeant Pharmaceuticals International acquired the pill for $1 billion.

"I worry about the desire for sex becoming an imperative."

Let's talk about pleasure. Nagoski says the problem with Addyi is that it's purpose is to create desire, but the point of desire falls flat if women aren't experiencing pleasure. Hills and Nagoski believe the conversation about Addyi is too focused on how much sex women are having, regardless of whether the sex is good or not. For this reason, Hills says she doesn't buy that Addyi is a feminist victory. "It’s certainly not that I think women should not have the right to sexual desire; it’s just that I think everyone has the right to desire as much sex as they want," Hills says. "I worry about the desire for sex becoming an imperative." Nagoski adds that framing a lack of desire as a medical problem reinforces the idea that there's something wrong, which creates additional pressure that can impede libido. A focus on pleasure rather than desire could break that cycle.

So what's the key to female sexual arousal? Nagoski details an interesting theory about this in Come As You Are. The way she sees it, the brain has what's called a "dual-control model," in which there is a sexual "accelerator" and a sexual "brake." For the most part, men have more sensitive accelerators and women have more sensitive brakes—it's easier for them to lose sexual arousal. The key is figuring out what's hitting the brakes. Nagoski says it could be as simple as being distracted by grit on the sheets, or being worried someone will walk in. Or maybe it's literally cold feet—a study by Dutch scientists found that wearing socks increased a woman's chance of having an orgasm. Of course, if the sensitivity is trauma-related, Nagoski says seeing a sex therapist might be the best way to go. But for others, try to "take control of the issues you can take control of," she says.

The Head of a Major Law Enforcement Group Described Nonviolent Drug Offenders As "Peddlers of Death"

| Sat Aug. 22, 2015 6:00 AM EDT

Last month, President Barack Obama commuted the sentences of 46 nonviolent drug offenders detained in federal prisons. Given that 35,000 nonviolent inmates had applied for reduced sentences, some activists said the clemency grant did not go far enough. Apparently, not everyone agrees.

In an opinion piece Thursday, Jon Adler, the president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association (FLEOA), blasted Obama's decision by describing these nonviolent offenders as "peddlers of death." Arguing that Obama ignored the risks of drug traffickers and instead chose to "perpetuate a narrative that these felons are harmless hippies," Adler went so far as to compare the offenders to lions in an overcrowded zoo:

With limited space, rising labor, and lodging costs, which animals would the president let go? Using the president's methodology, the lions would likely be set free. Why? They eat the most food and therefore cost the most to maintain. During the 10 years of their captivity, they haven't eaten anyone or attacked their handlers. They have no known affiliation to any violent lion groups. They are totally safe to release into the public. The president's rationale for release of these federal prisoners does not benefit the American public, nor keep it safe.

Adler's FLEOA provides testimony at congressional hearings and represents more than 25,000 federal law enforcement officers from some 65 agencies. But his description of nonviolent drug offenders seems unfair for people like Antonio Bascaro, an octogenarian grandfather in a wheelchair who has been incarcerated for 35 years because he worked on a fishing boat used by Cubans to smuggle cannabis to Florida. Or what about John Knock, a first-time offender serving life in prison for conspiracy to traffic large quantities of weed that the government never even seized? (Neither man was granted clemency.)

In an investigation of weed lifers, my colleague Bryan Schatz writes:

Every year, more people are arrested for pot possession than violent crimes. Around 40,000 people are currently serving time for offenses involving a drug that has been decriminalized or legalized in 27 states and Washington, DC. Even as Americans' attitudes toward pot have mellowed, the law has yet to catch up, leaving pot offenders subject to draconian sentences born out of the war on drugs. As David Holland, a criminal-defense attorney in New York City who filed a presidential clemency petition for marijuana lifers in 2012, puts it: "The world has changed, but these poor bastards are still sitting in jail."

It's important to note that the war on drugs has disproportionately affected black and Latino men. And Obama's clemency last month went to a group of nonviolent inmates who had served more than 10 years in prison with good behavior, and who would not have received such severe sentences under today's sentencing rules. "These men and women were not hardened criminals," the president said, adding that 14 of the 46 nonviolent offenders had been given life sentences. "So their punishments didn't fit the crime."

Trump Blasts O'Malley: "Disgusting, Little, Weak, Pathetic Baby"

| Fri Aug. 21, 2015 11:58 AM EDT

Back in July, former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley apologized for saying "all lives matter" to a group of Black Lives Matter activists who had interrupted one of his speeches.

"That was a mistake on my part, and I meant no disrespect," the Democratic presidential hopeful said. "I did not mean to be insensitive in any way or communicate that I did not understand the tremendous passion, commitment, and feeling and depth of feeling that all of us should be attaching to this issue."

Great, a well-spoken, sincere apology from a white guy who, if given the benefit of the doubt, probably just didn't know any better. Problem solved, right?


In an interview on Fox News that is set to air Saturday night, Donald Trump blasted O'Malley's apology.

"And then he apologized like a little baby, like a disgusting, little, weak, pathetic baby," Trump said. "And that's the problem with our country."

Though many will groan at an adult hurling insults at another adult for realizing he made a mistake and attempting to correct himself, O'Malley may be loving the Trump exposure, considering he has been known to participate in some good old-fashioned trolling of the real estate tycoon himself.

Mother Jones has reached out to the O'Malley campaign, and we will update if it responds.

UPDATE, {8/21/2015 4:59 PM}: Lis Smith, Mr. O'Malley's deputy campaign manager responded with the following comment:

"Governor O'Malley stands with those who have the guts to stand up to Donald Trump's hate speech. It speaks volumes about the Republican Party today that this is their frontrunner. Unlike the rest of the Republican field, we're not interested in engaging in a race to the bottom with Mr. Trump."

This Chart Will Make You Even More Pissed Off About Your Ballooning Student Debt

| Fri Aug. 21, 2015 6:00 AM EDT
Many universities spend way more managing their investment portfolios than they do helping students with tuition.

For the tens of thousands of college students who are taking out another year's worth of debt in preparation for the start of classes, here's a rage-inducing data point: Many universities spend way more managing their investment portfolios than they do assisting students with tuition.

A New York Times op-ed published Wednesday by Victor Fleischer, a law professor at the University of San Diego, lays out this disparity. Fleischer cited Yale University, which paid its fund managers nearly $743 million in 2014 but gave out just $170 million in scholarships. He also noted that many universities, large and small, public and private, show the same imbalance in spending. "We've lost sight of the idea that students, not fund managers, should be the primary beneficiaries of a university's endowment," he writes. "The private-equity folks get cash; students take out loans."

Fleischer provided Mother Jones with more of his data, which is gleaned from tax forms, financial statements, and annual reports. Here's how the numbers shake out at Harvard, Yale, Stanford, and Princeton. On average, these four wealthy, elite universities spend 70 percent more on managing their investment portfolios than they do on tuition assistance. (Complete scholarship data for 2014 was not available, and some investment management fees are estimated.)

That disparity is even more glaring when you consider the tax benefits fund managers derive from working with universities. Fleischer notes that investors typically pay their fund managers about 20 percent of their investment profits. That money, called carried interest, is taxed at a lower rate for fund managers, who can claim it as capital gains instead of income.

Some universities justify the high management fees by arguing that they ensure top financial performance for their endowments. It's true that these portfolios have done quite well: Harvard's endowment is nearly $36 billion, and Yale's is more than $25 billion, a 50 percent increase since 2009. But, writes Fleischer, a little less endowment hoarding and a little more spending, both on financial aid and other educational goals, would still allow universities' money to grow generously while eliminating the hefty tuition increases that force students to take on burdensome debt.

Fleischer proposes that when Congress moves to reauthorize the Higher Education Act this term, lawmakers should require universities with assets greater than $100 million to spend 8 percent of their endowment each year. Even doing that, universities would likely continue to get exponentially richer. As he notes, the average endowment has grown 9.2 percent annually for the past 20 years (after accounting for 4 percent annual spending), a more than respectable rate of return.

Elite schools do offer need-blind admission and some of the best financial aid for low-income students. But for many students, tuition increases still mean more loans: On paper, many middle-class students often don't qualify for large scholarships, but their families also can't afford more than $50,000 in annual tuition. More generous allocation of endowments could help to roll back that trend while also funding more teaching and research. As Fleischer writes in the Times, "Only fund managers would be worse off."

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2 Brothers Inspired by Donald Trump Allegedly Attack Homeless Hispanic Man

| Thu Aug. 20, 2015 3:18 PM EDT

Boston police believe two brothers are responsible for a brutal attack Wednesday evening that left a homeless Hispanic man with a broken nose and covered in urine. One of the men, 38-year-old Scott Leader, told police he was inspired by presidential candidate Donald Trump's message on immigration. 

"Donald Trump was right, all these illegals need to be deported," Leader allegedly told cops when he was arrested with his brother, 30-year-old Steve Leader.

The Boston Globe reported that a witness saw the brothers beating the 58-year-old victim with a pole three or four times as he attempted to defend himself.

This isn't the first time the Leader brothers have been charged with a crime. After the attacks on September 11, Scott Leader was convicted with a hate crime after he assaulted a Muslim man and called him a "terrorist."

When Trump heard about the assault, he told the Globe, "It would be a shame…I will say that people who are following me are very passionate. They love this country and they want this country to be great again. They are passionate."

Trump, who is currently leading the GOP presidential field, set the tone for his campaign in June when he said that Mexican immigrants were criminals and rapists. 

Since launching his bid, Trump has continued to issue offensive comments about Latin American immigrants. Earlier this week, he offered a glimpse at his immigration plan, which promotes mass deportations and an end to birthright citizenship.

Jimmy Carter: Cancer Has Spread to My Brain

| Thu Aug. 20, 2015 11:03 AM EDT

On Thursday morning, former President Jimmy Carter revealed he will begin radiation treatment for four spots of melanoma that were detected on his brain. He will start the first round of four radiation treatments this afternoon. 

Carter made the announcement at a scheduled news conference at the Carter Center in Atlanta. Speaking to reporters, he said that even though he initially thought he only had a few weeks left to live, he was "surprisingly at ease" with his diagnosis.

"I've had a wonderful life," Carter added. "I've had a wonderful life, thousands of friends. I've had an exciting and adventurous and gratifying existence. But now I feel that it's in the hands of the God, whom I worship."

Carter said doctors first discovered the lesions when he underwent surgery to remove a small mass in his liver earlier this month.

When asked if there was anything in his life he wish he could have done differently, Carter expressed regret over the Iran hostage crisis.

"I wish I had sent one more helicopter to get the hostages and we would have rescued them," he said. Then in a lighthearted joke, Carter added, "Maybe I would have been reelected."

The 90-year-old former president first revealed he had cancer last Wednesday.

Investigations Prove the Planned Parenthood "Sting" Videos Were a Bust

| Thu Aug. 20, 2015 6:05 AM EDT

Since undercover videos that captured Planned Parenthood staff discussing fetal tissue donations were released last month, GOP officials in more than 10 states have clamored to launch investigations into the organization. On Tuesday, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley joined that group, ordering her state's health department to review the policies and practices of all abortion clinics in the state, including the three operated by Planned Parenthood.

"These practices are not consistent with the laws or character of our state," Haley wrote in her letter to the state agency tasked with regulating abortion clinics, adding that it "cannot allow an organization with broken internal oversight and a flawed corporate culture to behave the way Planned Parenthood has in other states."

In the videos, recorded surreptitiously and released by the anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress, Planned Parenthood officials talk frankly about the organization's tissue donation program and the costs associated with donating fetal tissue from an abortion. Though fetal tissue donation is a long-standing and legal practice in the United States, and has contributed to medical advancements like the polio vaccine, conservatives have used the videos to attack the health care organization, saying they provide evidence that Planned Parenthood illegally profits from the sale of aborted fetuses. And they've pushed for investigations to unmask this purported criminal wrongdoing.

But so far, those investigations are falling flat. Completed probes in GeorgiaIndianaMassachusetts, and South Dakota have spent thousands in taxpayer money but turned up no evidence that Planned Parenthood is trafficking in the sale of fetal tissue. And in most of the other states that have launched investigations—including OhioArizonaTexas, and Kansas—Planned Parenthood affiliates don't even have fetal tissue donation programs, making it hard to believe the states will find any illegal activity related to the practice. In Louisiana, where Gov. Bobby Jindal ordered an investigation in mid-July, Planned Parenthood does not even operate a single abortion clinic.

"In every state where these investigations have concluded, officials have cleared Planned Parenthood of any wrongdoing," Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Federation, told the Huffington Post. "We've said all along that Planned Parenthood follows all laws and has very high medical standards, and that's what every one of these investigations has found."

Not every governor has taken the bait. Democratic governors in Minnesota and Virginia have rejected state legislators' pleas to look into the group, saying they won't waste time investigating programs that don't exist in their states.

"As far as I'm concerned, there's no basis for an investigation at taxpayer expense into a private nonprofit organization that has stated they don't engage in those practices," Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton told local reporters after he received a letter from GOP lawmakers asking him to take action.

Other states have taken another approach since the release of the videos: Governors in Alabama and Arkansas, along with Louisiana's Jindal, have moved to block Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood, which they may not be able to do under federal law. Meanwhile, public opinion of the organization remains high. A recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that despite weeks of bad news, Planned Parenthood is still more popular than every major 2016 presidential contender, the NRA, and the Supreme Court.

This article has been revised.

Sorry, California Is Not Winning the Drought

| Wed Aug. 19, 2015 6:54 PM EDT

As the epic California drought drags through its fifth year, researchers are now saying the agricultural sector's increased reliance on groundwater could lead to an economic decline that affects all sectors statewide. 

A new economic analysis conducted by a team from the University of California-Davis shows that as the drought continues, the overtapped groundwater reserves will become increasingly expensive and inaccessible: Water shortages in the famous Central Valley could cost the state $2.74 billion in 2015, as well as nearly 21,000 jobs, which would amount to $1.3 billion in losses from California's gross domestic product and a decline of $720 million in statewide labor income.

The study claims these numbers are expected to get worse as the drought continues and more acres are fallowed, more crops lose earnings, and revenue from livestock and dairy farms declines due to dry pastures and increasing feed costs. The net water shortage is now expected to increase by 2.9 million acre-feet each year (that's more than 945 billion gallons); the researchers estimate that economic costs will grow by 6 percent by 2017.

The researchers called for better data collection on water use and drought impacts, and policies that will provide support for areas where drought-caused unemployment is severe, but they emphasized the importance of new state groundwater laws to slow the depletion of reserves—which are now relied on to make up 70 percent of water shortages.

"The transition will cause some increased fallowing of cropland or longer crop rotations," Jay Lund, director of the UC-Davis Center for Watershed Sciences, said in a statement, "but will help preserve California's ability to support more profitable permanent and vegetable crops during drought."