MoJo Author Feeds: Rachel Morris | Mother Jones Mother Jones logo en Tuvalu v. ExxonMobil? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><strong><em>Also from the Climate Desk: A look at <a href="">domestic legal strategies to address global warming</a>.</em></strong></p> <p>The <a href="">Prun&eacute;&Aring;&#153;ov power station</a> is the Czech Republic's biggest polluter: Its 900-foot-high smokestack pushes a plume of white smoke high above the flat, featureless fields of northern Bohemia.<a href="#correction">*</a> Prun&eacute;&Aring;&#153;ov reliably wins a place on lists of Europe's dirtiest power plants, emitting 11.1 million tons of carbon dioxide each year. So when CEZ Group, the state-controlled utility, proposed an overhaul to extend the facility's life for another quarter of a century, protests flared&mdash;including one from a place about as far from the sooty industrial region as you can get, a place of tropical temperatures and turquoise seas with not a smokestack in sight. This January, the Federated States of Micronesia, some 8,000 miles away in the Pacific Ocean, lodged a legal challenge to the Prun&eacute;&Aring;&#153;ov plant on the grounds that its chronic pollution threatens the island nation's existence.</p> <p><a href=""><span class="inline inline-left"><img width="104" height="139" src="" class="image image-preview" title="" alt=""></span></a>Is that, well&mdash;legal, you might ask? In international law, there's an established principle called transboundary harm, which means that if a Canadian factory belches toxic chemicals into a river, fouling a reservoir in Vermont, sooner or later the people at the Canadian factory will be hearing from some American lawyers. For the first time, Micronesia applied this tenet to climate change&mdash;arguing that its survival is jeopardized by any large power plant that doesn't curb its carbon footprint. "They're using a very creative approach to the international legal process," says Durwood Zaelke, president of the <a href="">Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development</a>.</p></body></html> <p style="font-size: 1.083em;"><a href="/environment/2010/04/climate-desk-climate-change-legislation"><strong><em>Continue Reading &raquo;</em></strong></a></p> Environment Climate Change Climate Desk Top Stories Tue, 20 Apr 2010 08:00:21 +0000 Rachel Morris 52306 at White House Takes Question About Question Time <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>At today's White House press briefing, David Corn asked Bill Burton whether Obama would commit to holding regular Q&amp;A sessions with Republicans, following the riveting exchange last week at the GOP's issues retreat. Burton basically said no, arguing that the first session worked because of its "spontaneity." This is a pretty weak excuse. If you've ever checked out the British parliament's question time sessions, in which rowdy MPs grill the prime minister at length about the issues of the day, you'll see that they've managed to retain plenty of spontaneity over the years (sometimes a little too much.) In any case, the White House evidently still needs some convincing. Here's how you can <a href="">help.</a></p></body></html> MoJo Obama Wed, 03 Feb 2010 21:22:09 +0000 Rachel Morris 43411 at Nuclear Lab Accidentally Blows Up Building <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico accidentally blew up a building on December 16 with a Civil War-style cannon. According to an occurrence report [<a href="">pdf</a>], which was first <a href="">reported</a> by the Project on Government Oversight, the lab's Shock and Detonation Physics team was testing a large-bore powder gun when they heard a "loud unusual noise."</p> <p>About 20 minutes later, the researchers ventured out of their bunker to see what had happened. Upon further investigation of the facility&rsquo;s Technical Area 15, the team discovered that Building 562 had been blown apart. Two doors were "propelled off the structure" and concrete shielding blocks were blasted off the walls. Parts of the cannon were also found lying on the asphalt nearby. The Facility Operations Director declared a "management concern" regarding the explosion. No-one was hurt, but sources told POGO that damages could cost $3 million. The lab reported that it has conducted a "critique" of the incident.</p> <p>This is not the first time that Los Alamos has fallen short when it comes to safety and security matters. In early 2009, it emerged that the nation's major nuclear weapons lab had misplaced at least 67 computers sensitive information, and others had been stolen from a <a href="">lab employee.</a> The facility has also come under fire in recent years for, among other things, failing to <a href="">properly protect</a> nuclear materials and shipping a deadly radioative package by <a href="">Fedex</a>.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p></body></html> MoJo Energy Wed, 23 Dec 2009 18:16:57 +0000 Rachel Morris 34261 at Obama's Copenhagen Deal: Real Or Not? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>David Corn and Kate Sheppard explain how <a href="">Obama's eleventh-hour climate deal</a> was stitched together&mdash;and why it may not even be a deal at all.</p></body></html> Blue Marble Climate Change Global Climate Talks Sat, 19 Dec 2009 02:21:46 +0000 Rachel Morris 33756 at Breaking: Obama Announcing Deal <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Update: Obama is speaking. Here's the <a href="">live audio feed</a>.</p> <p>We're hearing that some kind of deal has been reached at Copenhagen and that Obama is due to speak to reporters at 4.30pm EST. We'll have details for you if/when that happens, but in the meantime you can follow the proceedings in the Bella Center minute-by-minute on Twitter by following <em>Mother Jones</em>' @DavidCornDC and @kate_sheppard.</p></body></html> Blue Marble Climate Change Global Climate Talks Fri, 18 Dec 2009 21:10:57 +0000 Rachel Morris 33456 at Tiny Tuvalu Makes Big Waves at Copenhagen <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The low-lying Pacific island nation of Tuvalu may be one of the <a href="/politics/2003/07/all-disappearing-islands%20">first casualties</a> of a warming world. It's also one of the smallest countries on earth, with no coveted natural resources or strategic clout to speak of. So when economic powerhouses balk at the idea of deep emissions cuts, what's a small player on the world stage to do? The answer: kick up a fuss. On Wednesday Tuvalu's longtime climate adviser, an Australian named Ian Fry, grabbed the spotlight at Copenhagen by halting talks until negotiators considered a new, legally binding climate protocol that Tuvalu wants adopted instead of merely a political agreement. Tuvalu's alternative treaty outlines more drastic emissions reductions aimed at preventing temperatures from rising by more than 1.5 degrees Celsius.</p> <p>In the current issue of the magazine, I have a piece about <a href="/environment/2009/11/tuvalu-climate-refugees">Tuvalu's plight</a>. One thing I realized while reporting the story is that for a vulnerable, isolated, powerless nation, political theater is one of the few weapons available. That's why imperiled Tuvalu previously pulled a world-class guilt trip by announcing plans to go completely <a href="">carbon neutral</a>, and why, at a previous round of pre-Copenhagen climate talks, government ministers from the similarly endangered Maldives convened a cabinet meeting <a href="">underwater</a>.</p> <p>But this particular maneuver may have some unintended consequences. It's no surprise that industrialized nations opposed the deep cuts outlined in its alternative treaty, which was ultimately rejected. But not before the proposal drove a wedge in the assembled developing countries at the summit&mdash;a division that could affect negotiations as the talks continue. While Tuvalu's proposal won favor with the Association of Small Island States&mdash;many of which are sitting in the same precarious boat when it comes to rising sea levels&mdash;and some African countries, it was opposed by large developing economies like India, Brazil, Saudia Arabia, and China. That's because those countries want to avoid hard commitments for their own reductions. The G77&mdash;the bloc of poorer nations&mdash;usually <a href="/environment/2009/12/poor-countries-g77-suicide-pact-copenhagen">bands together</a> at big international talks. Now, Tuvalu's plea for a more ambitious effort to combat climate change&mdash;one that would give it a shot at survival&mdash;has exposed a rift in their ranks.</p></body></html> Blue Marble International Global Climate Talks Thu, 10 Dec 2009 00:38:04 +0000 Rachel Morris 32116 at What Happens When Your Country Drowns? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><strong>IT'S A BRIGHT, BALMY SUNDAY</strong> afternoon and I'm driving through the western outskirts of Auckland, New Zealand, the kind of place you never see on a postcard. No majestic mountains, no improbably green pastures&mdash;just a bland tangle of shopping malls and suburbia. I follow a dead-end street, past a rubber plant, a roofing company, a drainage service, and a plastics manufacturer, until I reach a white building behind a chain-link fence. Inside is a kernel of a nation within a nation&mdash;a sneak preview of what a climate change exodus looks like.</p> <p>This is the Tuvalu Christian Church, the heart of a migrant community from what may be the first country to be rendered unlivable by global warming. <a target="_blank" href="">Tuvalu</a> is the fourth-smallest nation on Earth: six coral atolls and three reef islands flung across 500,000 square miles of ocean, about halfway between Australia and Hawaii. It has few natural resources to export and no economy to speak of; its gross domestic product relies heavily on the sale of its desirable Internet domain suffix, which is .tv, and a modest trade in collectible stamps. Tuvalu's total land area is just 16 square miles, of which the highest point stands 16 feet above the waterline. Tuvaluans, who have a high per-capita incidence of good humor, refer to the spot as "Mount Howard," after the former Australian prime minister who refused to ratify the <a href="">Kyoto Protocol</a>.</p> <!-- end short body --></body></html> <p style="font-size: 1.083em;"><a href="/environment/2009/11/tuvalu-climate-refugees"><strong><em>Continue Reading &raquo;</em></strong></a></p> Environment Climate Change International Top Stories Mon, 30 Nov 2009 12:00:00 +0000 Rachel Morris 27793 at What Melody Barnes Said About Gay Marriage <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Earlier this week an appearance by White House director of domestic policy Melody Barnes at Boston College's <a href="">School of Law</a> created something of a controversy. The <a href=""><em>Huffington Post</em></a> reported that Barnes "implicitly acknowledged" her support for gay marriage at the event. If true, this would possibly make her the first high-profile administration official to break publicly with Obama's <a href=";page=4">stated belief</a> that marriage is between a man and a woman. An anonymous White House official quickly denied the account, claiming that Barnes didn't discuss "her personal views on marriage equality or other issues." Attendees of the event contacted by <em>HuffPo</em> offered varying impressions of what Barnes actually said: one said she "did state that she supports marriage equality;" others recall her answer being less explicit.</p> <p><em>Mother Jones</em> has obtained a transcript of the event and Barnes certainly implied that she and President Obama have a difference of opinion when it comes to gay marriage. Barnes was asked "whether you support equal civil marriage rights for gay and lesbian Americans, and if so, are you speaking or will you speak with&nbsp;President Obama on this civil rights matter?"</p> <p>Barnes began by describing what the President is doing to promote gay rights&mdash;he has, she said, indicated that he wants to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and "encourage changes in the military." Then she returned to the original subject of the question&mdash;marriage equality: "I accept that that is very different than what you're talking about."&nbsp; She proceeded: "With regard to my own views, those are my own views. And I come to my own experience based on what I've learned, based on the relationships I've had with friends and their relationships that I respect, the children that they're raising, and that is something that I support." &nbsp;</p> <p>Barnes then suggested that she and the president have different views on the issue of gay marriage: "He hasn't articulated a shift in his position there and that is something that at this moment I accept. It is what it is, even as we continue to have a conversation with him about it."</p> <p>Her answer wasn't as direct as it could have been. But when talking about marriage, she said, "that is something that I support." Perhaps it could be claimed that she was referring only to the relationships of her friends&mdash;but her remarks also indicate that she and Obama hold different views on this issue. If Barnes does back gay marriage&mdash;which would not be terribly surprising for an Obama official&mdash;it's not a big deal. But why was the White House so quick to deny that she'd even discussed her own thoughts on the matter?</p> <p>The video will be posted on Boston College's website later this afternoon; a full transcript of the exchange is after the jump:</p></body></html> <p style="font-size: 1.083em;"><a href="/mojo/2009/11/what-melody-barnes-said-about-gay-marriage"><strong><em>Continue Reading &raquo;</em></strong></a></p> MoJo Gay Rights Fri, 13 Nov 2009 15:35:30 +0000 Rachel Morris 29133 at The Price of Health Reform: Abortion Rights? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Will health care reform come at the expense of abortion rights? The Democrats&rsquo; historic health care bill squeaked through the House on Saturday only after pro-life forces scored a major victory. Despite months of wrangling over the public option and the price tag, in the end the legislation&rsquo;s fate turned on an eleventh-hour push by conservative Democrats to broaden the bill's existing limits on government funding of abortion, in the form of an amendment authored by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.). Here&rsquo;s what happened and what it means:</p></body></html> <p style="font-size: 1.083em;"><a href="/politics/2009/11/price-health-reform-abortion-rights"><strong><em>Continue Reading &raquo;</em></strong></a></p> Politics Congress Health Care Reproductive Rights Sex and Gender Top Stories Mon, 09 Nov 2009 20:08:57 +0000 Rachel Morris 29007 at Final Defense Budget Mostly Business As Usual <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The <a href="">final conference report</a> for the $680 billion defense budget is out, representing the agreement between the House and Senate on military spending for the next financial year. The text of the legislation is 1,515 pages long, and I'm still wading through it, but here are some highlights:</p> <p>* No more money for the F-22, preserving Obama's big headline. But plenty of other unrequested items made it into the final legislation.</p> <p>* The bill asks for a study on selling the F-22 abroad, the latest tactic by the plane's supporters to keep the production line open.</p> <p>* At the eleventh hour in conference, negotiators added $560 million to develop a second engine for the F-136 Joint Strike Fighter plane. The White House had earlier threatened a veto if the second engine was funded, but Obama is expected to sign the bill anyway.</p> <p>* It also includes money for 18 Super Hornet fighter jets&mdash;<a href="">double</a> the number than the Navy asked for.</p> <p>* The bill contains a section on military commissions that forbids the interrogation of detainees by contractors; requires that all "strategic interrogations" be videotaped, and mandates that the Red Cross be allowed access to detainees held in Bagram, Afghanistan. (FYI, it also retires the tainted term "enemy combatant" from DOD lingo. They're now "alien unprivileged enemy belligerents.")</p> <p>* Contains a hate crimes provision opposed by Republicans.</p> <p>* Adds an extra $15 million to the Department of Defense Inspector General's office for oversight of contracting in Iraq and <a href="">Afghanistan</a>.</p> <p>* And perhaps my favorite: towards the end the bill calls for the Pentagon to fix its epicly busted accounting systems so that it can actually produce an auditable financial statement explaining where exactly its money goes. The deadline? "Not later than September 30, 2017."</p></body></html> MoJo Military Money in Politics Thu, 08 Oct 2009 16:00:00 +0000 Rachel Morris 28099 at