Blogs | Mother Jones Mother Jones logo en This Map Shows Why The Midwest Is Screwed <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The ongoing drought in California has been, among other things, a powerful lesson in how vulnerable America's agricultural sector is to climate change. Even if that drought <a href="" target="_blank">wasn't specifically caused by man-made global warming</a>, scientists have little doubt that droughts and heat waves are going to get more frequent and severe in important crop-growing regions. In California, the cost in 2014 was staggering: $2.2 billion in losses and added expenses, plus 17,000 lost jobs, <a href="" target="_blank">according to a UC-Davis study</a>.</p> <p>California is country's hub for fruits, veggies, and nuts. But what about the commodity grains grown in the Midwest, where the US produces over half its corn and soy? That's the subject of a <a href="" target="_blank">new report</a> by the climate research group headed by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, and billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer (who <a href="" target="_blank">recently shut down rumors</a> that he might run for Senate).</p> <p>The report is all about climate impacts expected in the Midwest, and the big takeaway is that future generations have lots of very sweaty summers in store. One example: "The average Chicago resident is expected to experience more days over 95 degrees F by the century's end than the average Texan does today." The report also predicts that electricity prices will increase, with potential ramifications for the region's manufacturing sector, and that beloved winter sports&mdash;<a href="" target="_blank">ice fishing, anyone?</a>&mdash;will become harder to do.</p> <p>But some of the most troublesome findings are about agriculture. Some places will fare better than others; northern Minnesota, for example, could very well find itself benefiting from global warming. But overall, the report says, extreme heat, scarcer water resources, and weed and insect invasions will drive down corn and soybean yields by 11 to 69 percent by the century's end. Note that these predictions assume no "significant adaptation," so there's an opportunity to soften the blow with <a href="" target="_blank">solutions</a> like better water management, switching to more heat-tolerant crops like sorghum, or the combination of genetic engineering and data technology now <a href="" target="_blank">being pursued by Monsanto</a>.</p> <p>Here's a map from the report showing which states' farmers could benefit from climate change&mdash;and which ones will lose big time:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/crop-map-630.jpg"><div class="caption">Risky Business</div> </div></body></html> Blue Marble Maps Climate Change Climate Desk Food and Ag Science Tue, 27 Jan 2015 21:44:23 +0000 Tim McDonnell 268986 at No, Saudi TV Didn't Blur Out Michelle Obama's Face When the President Met King Salman <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Twitter is <a href=";src=typd" target="_blank">hopping</a> right now about how Saudi TV allegedly blurred Michelle Obama's face, thanks to this YouTube video:<iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="//" width="630"></iframe></p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-cards="hidden" lang="en"> <p>Saudi TV blurred out Michelle Obama's face when she and Barack met King Salman! <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Jack Moore (@JFXM) <a href="">January 27, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-cards="hidden" lang="en"> <p>Our producer just referred to the blurring of Michelle Obama here as a "blurka" <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Christopher Hayes (@chrislhayes) <a href="">January 27, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Only it's bullshit. The <a href="" target="_blank">YouTube uploader</a> appears to have added the blur, not some Saudi TV network.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p>lots of people in Saudi Arabia tweeting at me that the <a href="">@FLOTUS</a> blur was done by the person who uploaded the video and not by Saudi TV</p> &mdash; Jennifer Epstein (@jeneps) <a href="">January 27, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" lang="en"> <p><a href="">@jeneps</a> this is absolutely not true. I saw this LIVE, First Lady was not blurred. I believe it's the person who uploaded the video.</p> &mdash; &Ugrave;&#133;&Ugrave;&#134;&Ugrave;&#138;&Oslash;&plusmn;&Oslash;&copy; &Ugrave;&#133;. &Oslash;&sect;&Ugrave;&#132;&Oslash;&sup1;&Ugrave;&#130;&Ugrave;&#132;&Oslash;&sect; (@MunirahAlOqla) <a href="">January 27, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>(Here is another video the YouTuber uploaded <a href="" target="_blank">that's blurred</a>.)</p> <p>This version shows no such blur:</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="//" width="630"></iframe></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-cards="hidden" lang="en"> <p>This Saudi TV footage a) Shows Michelle Obama unblurred b) Appears to show Obama &amp; King Salman walking to a waltz. <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Tom Gara (@tomgara) <a href="">January 27, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-cards="hidden" lang="en"> <p>Saudi TV video shows Michelle Obama was not blurred out as some reporting; likely scraped &amp; blurred then posted <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Brian Ries (@moneyries) <a href="">January 27, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Nothing is real on the internet.</p></body></html> Mixed Media Tue, 27 Jan 2015 21:32:27 +0000 Ben Dreyfuss 268996 at Mormon Church Comes Out in Support of LGBT Rights <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>In a groundbreaking news conference on Tuesday, the Mormon Church officially announced its support for some LGBT rights, on the condition that the same legal protections are extended to all religious groups. But in doing so, the church also made clear their<span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 24px;">&nbsp;endorsement did not reverse the church's opposition to&nbsp;</span><a href="" style="line-height: 24px;" target="_blank">same-sex marriage.</a><span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 24px;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p>"We call on local, state, and the federal government to serve all of their people by passing legislation that protects vital religious freedoms for individuals, families, churches, and other faith groups while protecting the rights of our LGBT citizens in such areas as housing, employment, and public accommodation in hotels, restaurants, and transportation," Elder Dallin Oaks, <a href="" target="_blank">a top official of the church</a>, said. "[These] protections are not available in many parts of the country."</p> <p>"We must all learn to live with others who do not share the same beliefs or values," church<strong>&nbsp;</strong>officials <a href=";SECTION=HOME&amp;TEMPLATE=DEFAULT" target="_blank">stated</a>.&nbsp;</p> <p>The announcement comes as an <a href="" target="_blank">anti-discrimination</a>&nbsp;bill makes its way through Utah's state legislature that seeks to&nbsp;ban gender-based discrimination in the workplace and housing. In the past, the church has made overtures towards&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">friendlier LGBT&nbsp;stances</a>,&nbsp;but Tuesday's press conference is by far its most clear endorsement of gay rights. <em>Mother Jones</em>' Stephanie Mencimer has covered the church's <a href="" target="_blank">evolution</a> on same-sex marriage:</p> <blockquote> <p>In the five years since the LDS church sent busloads of the faithful to California to canvass neighborhoods, and contributed more than $20 million via its members to support the initiative, it has all but dropped the rope in the public policy tug of war over marriage equality. The change stems from an even more remarkable if somewhat invisible transformation happening within the church, prompted by the ugly fight over Prop. 8 and the ensuing backlash from the flock.</p> <p>Although the LDS's prophet hasn't described a holy revelation directing a revision in church doctrine on same-sex marriage or gay rights in general, the church has shown a rare capacity for introspection and humane cultural change unusual for a large conservative religious organization.</p> </blockquote> <p>"I am proud that the LDS Church has seen fit to lead the way in non-discrimination," state senator and founder of the Utah Pride Center&nbsp;Jim Dabakis said in a news release following the announcement. "As a religious institution, Mormons have had a long history of being the victims of discrimination and persecution. They understand more than most the value and strength of creating a civil society that judges people by the content of their character and their ability to do a job."</p> <p>Watch Tuesday's announcement below:</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="//" width="630"></iframe></p></body></html> MoJo Gay Rights Religion Tue, 27 Jan 2015 19:38:22 +0000 Inae Oh 268946 at ISIS Fighters Lose Kobani In Win For Obama's Iraq Strategy <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_kobani_1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;"><a href="" target="_blank">From the <em>LA Times</em>:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Kurdish fighters in the Syrian border town of Kobani appeared poised Monday to deal a decisive defeat to Islamic State militants after months of street clashes and U.S. aerial bombardment, signaling a major setback for the extremist group.</p> <p>....<strong>The apparent breakthrough shows how U.S. air power, combined with a determined allied force on the ground, can successfully confront Islamic State.</strong> The military watched with surprise as Islamic State continued sending hundreds of fighters, vehicles and weapons to Kobani, which was of no critical strategic importance to the overall fight but had become something of a public relations fight.</p> <p>"Essentially, they said, 'This is where we are going to make a stand' and flooded the region with fighters," said Col. Edward Sholtis, a spokesman for U.S. Air Force Central Command, in charge of air operations in the battle against the Islamic State.</p> </blockquote> <p>My expert in all things Kurdish emailed me this comment today: "This is a big deal, and it proves the viability of Obama's strategy of working with proxies in Iraq and Syria to defeat ISIS. My prediction is we won't hear much boasting about it from Obama though. These aren't the politically chosen proxies."</p> <p>I've been one of the skeptics of Obama's strategy, and I'll remain so until the Iraqi military demonstrates the same fighting ability as the Kurdish peshmerga. Kobani, after all, is more a symbolic victory than anything else, and ISIS continues to control large swathes of Iraq. Nonetheless, at a minimum this shows that ISIS is hardly unbeatable, something that Iraqi forces probably needed to see.</p> <p>Bottom line: this is a proof of concept. When we can do the same thing in Mosul with Iraqi forces in the lead, then I'll be a real believer.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Iraq Tue, 27 Jan 2015 17:33:24 +0000 Kevin Drum 268951 at Obama's Trip to India Shortened His Life by 6 Hours <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Over the weekend President Barack Obama was in India for talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on nuclear power, trade, climate change, <a href="" target="_blank">and other topics</a>. The climate piece was, if not necessarily a letdown, certainly less exciting than Obama's <a href="" target="_blank">wide-reaching deal with China</a> in November. Crucially, the China deal included specific carbon emissions reduction targets; those were left out in India over Modi's (<a href="" target="_blank">arguably justifiable</a>) insistence that the country be able to aggressively expand its electricity infrastructure to fight poverty.</p> <p>Instead, India committed to expand its solar power capacity by 33-fold within seven years, and to work closely with the United States in advance of major UN climate talks in Paris in December. (India's participation will be vital for the summit to produce a meaningful international agreement.)</p> <p>As <em>Bloomberg</em>'s <span class="author" itemprop="author">Natalie Obiko Pearson <a href="" target="_blank">noted</a>, </span>Obama got a first-hand taste in the trip of how important it is for India to fuel its growth with clean energy sources. India is already the world's third-largest greenhouse gas emitter behind China and the US, and air pollution in many of its cities far exceeds even the <a href="" target="_blank">infamous levels in Beijing and other Chinese megalopolises</a>.</p> <p>In fact, Delhi&mdash;the capital city where Obama's meetings took place&mdash;has the world's highest concentration of PM 2.5, <a href="" target="_blank">according to the UN</a>. These tiny airborne particulates can increase the risk of heart disease and a host of really awful respiratory ailments. The PM 2.5 levels in Delhi are so insanely bad that breathing the air for only a few hours can have irreversible health impacts&hellip;even on the leader of the free world.</p> <p>From <em><a href="" target="_blank">Bloomberg</a>:</em></p> <blockquote> <p>During Obama's three-day visit, PM2.5 levels in Delhi have averaged between 76 to 84 micrograms per cubic meter, according to <a href="" rel="external" title="Open Web Site">data</a> collected by India's Ministry of Earth Sciences&hellip;Those levels translate roughly into an estimated loss of 2 hours a day in <a href="">life expectancy</a>, said <a href="" rel="external" title="Open Web Site">David Spiegelhalter</a>, a statistician at the University of Cambridge, who specializes in quantifying risk in a way that is understandable to the public.</p> </blockquote> <p>Obama was there for three days, so that's six hours off his life. That is profoundly terrifying. It also underscores how, for developing countries, the need to stem pollution from power plants is about much more than solving the long-term problem of global warming. It's about addressing an urgent pubic health crisis.</p> <p><em>This post has been updated.</em></p></body></html> Blue Marble Climate Change Climate Desk Health International Obama Tue, 27 Jan 2015 17:08:54 +0000 Tim McDonnell 268931 at Check Out the Adorable Creatures and Gorgeous Vistas Obama Wants to Protect in Alaska <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>On Sunday, President Obama <a href="" target="_blank">announced</a> that he will call on Congress to increase the protection of Alaska's <a href="" target="_blank">Arctic National Wildlife Refuge</a> by adding more than 12 million acres of it to the National Wilderness Preservation System&mdash;the highest level of conservation protection. If Congress signs on, which is <a href="" target="_blank">pretty</a> <a href="" target="_blank">unlikely</a>, it would be the largest wilderness designation since the <a href="" target="_blank">Wilderness Act</a>, signed in 1964 by President Lyndon B. Johnson.</p> <p>The refuge covers nearly 20 million acres and contains five distinct ecological regions. It is home to at least 200 species of birds, 37 land mammal species, eight marine mammal species, and 42 species of fish. There are <a href="" target="_blank">plenty of&nbsp;political reasons</a> why Obama wants to protect it, but here are a few of the ecological ones:</p> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="ANWR" class="image" src="/files/AP01080102785.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>The coastal plain provides spring grazing for caribou and other mammals. </strong>Associated Press</div> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/1149046_639472622749967_1996008234_n_1.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>Conservationists argue that oil and gas drilling in the coastal plain would threaten the <a href="" target="_blank">millions</a> of birds that nest there.</strong><strong> </strong>USFWS</div> </div> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="MUSKOX" class="image" src="/files/muskox-in-the-snow-in-alaska.jpg" style="float: left;"><div class="caption"><strong>The furry musk ox&mdash;the Inupiat's call it "omingmak" ("the bearded one")&mdash;lives on the coastal plain year round. </strong>USFWS</div> <div class="caption"> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Screen%20Shot%202015-01-26%20at%2011.41.33%20AM.png"><div class="caption"><strong>There is a unique ecosystem of animals&mdash;that includes the arctic fox&mdash;that have adapted to survive in ANWR. </strong>USFWS</div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="Tundra swan" class="image" src="/files/tundra%20swan%20chicks.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>Tundra swans rely on the remote and undeveloped refuge to nest. </strong>USFWS</div> </div> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="Caribou" class="image" src="/files/15842503347_85dc201dfb_z.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>Caribou migrate through the coastal plain. </strong>David Gustine/USGS</div> </div> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/800px-Upper_Peter_Lake.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>According to the US Department of the Interior, oil and gas development could <a href=";prodId=OVIC&amp;displayGroupName=Viewpoints&amp;limiter=&amp;disableHighlighting=true&amp;displayGroups=&amp;sortBy=&amp;zid=&amp;search_within_results=&amp;action=2&amp;catId=&amp;activityType=&amp;documentId=GALE%7CEJ3010859206&amp;source=Bookmark&amp;u=spl_main&amp;jsid=975a7e2a2c9c7f44afe1f6994d6fe45d" target="_blank">pollute water resources</a> in ANWR.</strong><strong> </strong>USFWS</div> </div> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"> <div class="caption"> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Screen%20Shot%202015-01-26%20at%2011.51.12%20AM.png"><div class="caption"><strong>ANWR is an <a href="" target="_blank">important denning</a> area for polar bears.</strong><strong> </strong>Alan D. Wilson</div> <div class="caption"> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Screen%20Shot%202015-01-26%20at%202.12.45%20PM.png"><div class="caption"><strong>The Alaska marmot, considered <a href="" target="_blank">highly vulnerable</a> to changes in habitat, calls ANWR home. </strong>USFWS</div> </div> </div> </div> </div> <p>To hear Obama talk about the importance of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, watch this video:</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="//" width="630"></iframe></p> </div> </div></body></html> Mixed Media Animals Tue, 27 Jan 2015 11:00:11 +0000 Gabrielle Canon 268866 at Dust From Factory Farms Carries Drugs, Poop Bacteria, and Antibiotic-Resistant Genes Far and Wide <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Ever approached a feedlot teeming with thousands of cattle? Unlike industrialized hog and chicken farms, where huge enclosed buildings trap at least some of the smell, cattle feedlots are open-air&mdash;as anyone who has <a href="" target="_blank">driven Highway 5 between Los Angeles and San Francisco can testify</a>. Turns out, when you inhale the aroma, you're not just getting a blast of ammonia and other noxious fumes. You're also probably breathing in tiny particles of antibiotics, bacteria from cows' "fecal matter and gut flora," and antibiotic-resistant gene sequences. That's the conclusion of a <a href="">new study</a> from Texas Tech researchers, who analyzed air samples taken just downwind of ten cattle feedlots in Texas and states to the north, each containing between 20,000 and 50,000 cows.</p> <p>The team placed portable air samplers 10-20 yards upwind and downwind of feedlots in the fall and winter months, when temperatures are mild and wind is moderate, and analyzed the particulate matter. Monenisin, an antibiotic growth promoter widely used on beef and dairy feedlots, turned up in 100 percent of samples, at much higher rates downwind (mean: 1,800 parts per billion) than upwind (below the level of measurement.) Now, monenisin isn't used in human medicine, meaning that it doesn&rsquo;t directly contribute to antibiotic resistance that affects us. But tetracycline antibiotics&mdash;used commonly to treat <a href="">urinary tract infections and pink eye</a>&mdash;showed up in 60 percent of the downwind samples and 30 percent of the upwind samples, again at much lower levels upwind.</p> <p>To put these findings in perspective, the authors note they found antibiotics in the air outside of these feedlots at levels similar to those typically found within large enclosed hog operations&mdash;meaning that finding yourself 20 yards from a giant cattle lot is a lot like being <em>inside</em> a hog house. &nbsp;</p> <p>They also found bacteria "common to fecal matter and gut flora" at significantly higher levels downwind than upwind, including several that can cause human infections, including including <a href="">corynebacterium</a>), Leptospira, Clostridia, Bacteroides, and Staphylococcus.</p> <p>And they picked up gene sequences that confer resistance to tetracycline at rates ranging from 100 to more than 1,000 times higher downwind than upwind. And get this: Those tetracycline-resistant genes appeared at much higher rates than those typically found in the liquid manure lagoons that build up in beef feedlots&mdash;meaning that wind may be even more prolific than water at spreading antibiotic-resistant genes from the farm to the surrounding region.</p> <p>So how is all this nasty stuff moving from the feedlot to the surrounding air? The authors offer a simple explanation: The ground in feedlots "consists primarily of urine and fecal material," the study notes. In the morning, all of that &hellip; stuff is relatively stable, held more or less in place by moisture from humidity. But after hours of sunlight, the floor material "becomes dry and brittle, thus becoming source material for fugitive dust."</p> <p>So what does this all add up to? The study doesn't comment on whether the particles the researchers found are at high enough levels to directly cause human harm. But that's not the main concern&mdash;most of us don't spend much time near massive concentrated cattle operations. (Feedlot workers are another story.) The larger issue is those antibiotic genes, traces of antibiotics, and fecal microbes that are being scattered far and wide. The authors note that of the nation's 2,100 large-scale (1000 head or greater) cattle feedlots, more than three-quarters are in the region of area study, the southern Great Plains (a swath stretching from northern Texas through parts of Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, and Colorado)&mdash;the very region with the "highest frequency of dust storms in the United States." The region's semi-arid conditions&mdash;as well its its propensity for prolonged droughts&mdash;provides an ideal environment for the "wind scouring of dry soils," and "aerial transport and deposition" of feedlot particles into "surrounding soil surfaces, water surfaces, vegetation, and other living organisms."</p> <p>And that's under calm weather conditions. "Fronts and other major weather patterns frequently sweep through this region, and are often associated with exceedingly high wind velocities which themselves transport significant masses of particulates into the atmosphere and across the region and continent," they add. And once in the environment, resistance genes can jump from bacteria that don't pose a threat to humans to ones that do, the authors note.</p> <p>The study is yet another reminder that the massive amounts of waste generated on factory farms don't stay on factory farms. (Here's a <a href="" target="_blank">2011 paper</a> from North Carolina State and Kansas State researchers showing that cockroaches and flies carry antibiotic-resistant bacteria from large hog facilities; and a <a href="" target="_blank">2014 one</a> from Johns Hopkins and University of North Carolina researchers finding that resistant bacteria leave the farm in the noses of workers.)</p></body></html> Tom Philpott Food and Ag Health Top Stories Tue, 27 Jan 2015 11:00:09 +0000 Tom Philpott 268821 at Scott Walker Is the Winner in 2016's First Republican Campaign Cattle Call <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Rep. Steve King (R&ndash;Tea Partyville) held his big annual Republican confab in Iowa this weekend, and most of the 2016 wannabe candidates for president were there. But I know you're all busy people who don't care about the details. You<iframe align="right" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="258" src="" style="margin: 20px 20px 15px 30px;" width="400"></iframe>just want to know who won. <a href="" target="_blank">Take it away, Ed Kilgore:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The consensus winner (first announced by <em>National Review's</em> John Fund, but echoed by many others) was Scott Walker, who did exactly what he needed to do: show he could twist and shout with the best of them despite his "boring" image, <strong>and make an electability argument based on the fruits of confrontation rather than compromise.</strong> This latter dimension of his appeal should not be underestimated: at a time when MSM types and (more subtly) Jeb Bush and Chris Christie continue to suggest Republicans must become less feral to reach beyond their base, here's Walker saying he won three elections in four years in a blue state by going medieval on unions, abortionists and Big Government. So Walker's passed his first test in the challenge of proving he's not Tim Pawlenty, and that's a big deal given his excellent positioning in the field.</p> </blockquote> <p>Kilgore's "Tim Pawlenty" comment is a reference to Midwestern boringness, which has generally been seen as Walker's chief shortcoming. You can judge for yourself if you watch his 20-minute speech in Iowa, but I'd say he still has some work to do on this score. He wasn't terrible, but he never sounded to me like he really struck a connection with the crowd. He knew the words but not the tune&mdash;and even his words were a little too stilted and lifeless. Anytime you deliver an applause line and nothing happens, your words still need some work. And anytime you deliver an applause line, fail to wait for applause, then interrupt yourself to tell the crowd "you can clap for that, that's all right"&mdash;well, your delivery needs some work too.</p> <p>I'm on record saying that I think Walker is the strongest candidate in the Republican field. He's got the right views, he's got a winning record, he's got the confrontational style tea partiers love, and he doesn't come across as a kook. But yes, he needs to work on the whole charisma thing. If he gets serious about that, I still like his chances in the 2016 primaries.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum 2016 Elections Mon, 26 Jan 2015 22:05:14 +0000 Kevin Drum 268901 at Here's How Much You Should Tip Your Delivery Guy During A Blizzard <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>As you may have heard, a <a href="" target="_blank">blizzard</a> is about to destroy life as we know it on the Eastern seaboard. Your children, your children's children, their children's children will all learn of this snowfall in stories. If a normal snowstorm is, as the wise men used to say, "God shedding a bit of dandruff," then what we are about to experience can only be described as, well, God shedding...a lot of dandruff? An avalanche of dandruff? One or two revelations of dandruff? We're going to be knee-deep in God's dandruff, is what I'm saying.</p> <p>If, like mine, your fridge is bare of everything but the essentials (Tabasco, old Bloody Mary mix, a few jars of pickles) then you're probably hoping to make it through this thing via one of two ancient ways: 1) <a href="" target="_blank">master-cleanse </a>or, 2) Seamless. Assuming you take the second door, the question becomes: What do you tip a delivery man during a blizzard? What is morally acceptable?</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p>Don't forget, NYC: if you skipped going to the store because you can just order Seamless you're a monster who's headed for the 9th circle &lt;3</p> &mdash; Matt Langer (@mattlanger) <a href="">January 26, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Let's first dispense with the question of whether or not it is <em>ever</em> acceptable&mdash;regardless of gratuity&mdash;to order delivery during a blizzard. Leave that to the poets and the ethicists. It doesn't matter in the real world. <a href="" target="_blank">People order delivery more during bad weather</a>. Them's the facts. You are going to order delivery in bad weather.</p> <p>During really bad weather like blizzards and apocalypses, a lot of restaurants nix their delivery offerings altogether&mdash;and NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio has banned all non-emergency vehicles, including delivery bikes, after <a href=";set=vb.5281959998&amp;type=2&amp;theater" target="_blank">11pm Monday night</a>. But the ones that manage to stay open&mdash;and in this case are willing to deliver on foot well into the night&mdash;reap the benefits of constrained supply. If this were Uber, it would result in surge pricing to get more restaurants delivering. But since GrubHub and its parent company Seamless don't do that&mdash;and they shouldn't unless there is some way of ensuring that the increase goes to the delivery person and isn't pocketed by the owner&mdash;we're thrown into this sort of state of moral worry. You know in your bones that the guy who brings you pizza in sub-zero weather should get more than the guy who brings you pizza when it's 68 degrees and sunny. But how much more?</p> <p>GrubHub Seamless crunched the numbers on tips during last year's polar vortex and found that residents in some <a href="" target="_blank">zip codes increased their tips by as much as 24 percent</a>, but on the whole, New Yorkers raised their normal tipping amount by a meager 5 percent. In the Midwest, however, where the temps dipped especially low, gratuities rose higher, to <a href="" target="_blank">14 percent in Chicago and 15 percent in Detroit and Minneapolis. </a>Maybe the stereotypes are true and Midwesterners really are the nicest people in the country.</p> <p>So, more. Tip more. How much should you tip a delivery man in a blizzard? More. <em>More than you usually tip.</em> Whatever you usually tip, tip better. Are you a good tipper normally? Become a great tipper. Are you an awful tipper? Become a just-bad tipper. (Also, you're a very bad person, and no one likes you very much.)</p> <p>Want a strict system? Don't trust your heart to lead you to the right amount? <a href="" target="_blank"><em>New York</em></a> magazine can help. Last year they spoke to Adam Eric Greenberg, a UC San Diego Ph.D. who co-authored an <a href="" target="_blank">empirical analysis on the relationship between weather and tipping</a>. Here's what he told them:</p> <blockquote> <p>When the weather is bad, be a bit more generous by tipping 20 to 22 percent. If it's raining outside, tip 22 to 25 percent. If there's any snow accumulation, add a dollar or two on top of what you'd tip if it were raining. Having to work as a delivery guy during a blizzard is similar to getting stuck with a party of 20 as a restaurant server, so if you hear weather forecasters promising a "polar vortex, " a 30 percent tip is not outrageous.</p> </blockquote> <p>So, there you have it: <strong>30 percent.</strong> Anything under 25 percent and you go to Hell.</p></body></html> Mixed Media Mon, 26 Jan 2015 20:45:48 +0000 Ben Dreyfuss 268791 at Does the Internet Really Make Dumb People Dumber? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>I don't normally get to hear what Bill Gates thinks of one of my ideas, but today's the exception. <a href="" target="_blank">Because Ezra Klein asked him:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><strong>Ezra Klein:</strong> ....Kevin Drum, who writes for <em>Mother Jones</em>, has a line I've always thought was interesting, which is that the internet makes dumb people dumber, and smart people smarter. Do you worry about the possibility that the vast resources the internet gives the motivated, including online education, will give rise o a big increase in, for lack of a better <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_internet_dumb_smart.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">tterm, cognitive or knowledge inequality that leads to further rises in global inequality?</p> <p><strong>Bill Gates:</strong> Well, you always have the challenge that when you create a tool to make activity X easier, like the internet makes it easier to find out facts or to learn new things, that there are some outliers who use that thing extremely well. It's way easier to be polymathic today than it was in the past because your access to materials and your ability if you ever get stuck to find people that you can engage with is so strong.</p> <p>But to say that there's actually some negative side, that there actually will be people that are dumber, I disagree with that. I mean, I'm as upset as anyone at the wrong stuff about vaccination that's out there on the internet that actually confuses some small number of people. There's a communications challenge to get past.</p> <p>But look at IQ test capability over time. Or even take a TV show today and how complex it is &mdash; that's responding to the marketplace. You take <em>Breaking Bad</em> versus, I don't know, <em>Leave it to Beaver</em>, or <em>Combat!</em>, or <em>The Wild, Wild West</em>. You know, yeah, take <em>Combat!</em> because that was sort of pushing the edge of should kids be allowed to watch it.</p> <p>The interest and complexity really does say that, broadly, these tools have meant that market-driven people are turning out more complex things. Now, you can say, "Why hasn't that mapped to more sophistication in politics or something like that?" That's very complicated. But I don't see a counter trend where there's some group of people who are less curious or less informed because of the internet.</p> <p>I'm sure that was said when the printing press came along and people saw romance novels and thought people would stay indoors and read all the time. But I just don't see there being a big negative to the empowerment.</p> </blockquote> <p>Unsurprisingly, Gates agrees that the internet can make smart people smarter. By analogy, the printing press also made smart people smarter because it gave them cheap, easy access to far more information. Since they were capable of processing the information, they were effectively smarter than they used to be.</p> <p>It's equally unsurprisingly that he disagrees about the internet making dumb people dumber. It's a pretty anti-tech opinion, after all, and that's not the business Bill Gates is in. But I think his answer actually belies his disagreement, since he immediately acknowledges an example of precisely this phenomenon: the anti-vax movement, something that happens to be close to his heart. Unfortunately, to call this merely a "communications challenge" discounts the problem. Sure, it's a communications challenge, <em>but that's the whole point</em>. The internet is all about communication, and it does two things in this case. First, it empower the anti-vax nutballs, giving them a far more powerful medium for spreading their nonsense. On the flip side, it makes a lot more people vulnerable to bad information. If you lack the context to evaluate arguments about vaccination, the internet is much more likely to make you dumber about vaccinating your kids than any previous medium in history.</p> <p>The rest of Gates' argument doesn't really hold water either. Sure, IQ scores have been rising. But they've been rising for a long time. This long predates the internet and has nothing to do with it. As for TV shows, he picked the wrong example. It's true that <em>Breaking Bad</em> is far more sophisticated than <em>Leave it to Beaver</em>, but <em>Breaking Bad</em> was always a niche show, averaging 1-2 million viewers for nearly its entire run. Instead, you should compare <em>Leave it to Beaver</em> with, say, <em>The Big Bang Theory</em>, which gets 10-20 million viewers per episode. Is <em>Big Bang</em> the more sophisticated show? Maybe. But if so, it's not by much.</p> <p>In any case, the heart of Gates' response is this: "I don't see a counter trend where there's some group of people who are less curious or less informed because of the internet." I won't pretend that I have ironclad evidence one way or the other, but I wouldn't dismiss the problem so blithely. I'm not trying to make a broad claim that the internet is making us generally stupider or anything like that. But it's a far more powerful medium for spreading conspiracy theories and other assorted crap than anything we've had before. If you lack the background and context to evaluate information about a particular subject, you're highly likely to be misinformed if you do a simple Google search and just start reading whatever comes up first. And that describes an awful lot of people.</p> <p>Obviously this has been a problem for as long humans have been able to communicate. The anti-fluoridation nutballs did just fine with only dead-tree technology. Still, I think the internet makes this a more widespread problem, simply because it's a more widespread medium, and it's one that's especially difficult to navigate wisely. Hopefully that will change in the future, but for now it is what it is. It doesn't <em>have</em> to make dumb people dumber, but in practice, I think it very often does.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tech Mon, 26 Jan 2015 18:55:43 +0000 Kevin Drum 268871 at The Pentagon Is Holding an Essay Contest to Honor Saudi Arabia's Brutal King. Here's Our Entry. <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Shortly after Abdullah Bin Abdul-Aziz, the 90-year-old king of Saudi Arabia, died <a href="" target="_blank">last Friday</a>, the Pentagon and Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, <a href="" target="_blank">paid their respects</a> by inviting college students to participate in a "research and essay competition" in the late monarch's honor. No prize has been announced, but the Pentagon issued a press release about the contest listing the deceased monarch's considerable accomplishments: "the modernization of his country's military," his "lifetime" support of Saudi Arabia's alliance with the United States, his support of "scholarly research," and what Dempsey called the king's "remarkable character and courage." Although, as a woman, I wouldn't be recognized as a full human being by the king, here is my essay contest submission:</p> <p><strong>On women's rights:</strong></p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Amnesty International, December 11, 2014: Saudi Arabia</a>: Two women arrested for driving.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Human Rights Watch, April 20, 2008:</a> Male guardianship laws forbid women from obtaining passports, marrying, studying, or traveling without the permission of a male guardian.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Human Rights Watch, December 2, 2014:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The informal prohibition on female driving in Saudi Arabia became official state policy in 1990. During the 1990-91 Gulf War, <a href=";src=pm" target="_blank">female American soldiers were permitted to drive on military bases in Saudi</a><u> Arabia</u>, and Saudi women organized a protest demanding the right to drive in Saudi Arabia as well. Dozens of Saudi women drove the streets of Riyadh in a convoy to protest the ban, which then was just based on custom. In response, officials arrested them, suspended them from their jobs, and the Grand Mufti, the country&rsquo;s most senior religious authority, immediately declared a fatwa, or religious edict, against women driving, stating that driving would expose women to &ldquo;temptation&rdquo; and lead to &ldquo;social chaos.&rdquo; Then-Minister of Interior Prince Nayef legally banned women&rsquo;s driving by decree on the basis of the fatwa.</p> </blockquote> <p><strong>On migrant worker's rights:</strong></p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Human Rights Watch, December 1, 2013</a>: Hundreds of thousands of workers were arrested and deported, some reporting prison abuses during their detentions. No standard contract for domestic workers was ever drafted. Human Rights Watch interviewed migrant workers about the arrests:</p> <blockquote> <p>One of the Ethiopians, a 30-year-old supervisor at a private company, said he heard shouts and screams from the street, and left his home near Manfouha to see what was happening. When he arrived near Bank Rajahi on the road to the Yamama neighborhood, west of Manfouha, he saw a large group of Ethiopians crying and shouting around the dead bodies of three Ethiopians, one of whom he said had been shot, and two others who had been beaten to death. He said six others appeared to be badly injured.<br><br> He said he saw Saudis whom he called&nbsp;<em>shabab</em>&nbsp;(&ldquo;young men&rdquo; in Arabic), and uniformed security forces attack the Ethiopians who had gathered. The&nbsp;<em>shabab</em>&nbsp;were using swords and machetes, while some of the uniformed officers were beating the migrants with metal police truncheons, and other officers were firing bullets into the air to disperse the crowd. He said that he narrowly escaped serious injury when a Saudi man swung a sword at his head. It missed, but hit his arm, requiring stitches to close the wound.&nbsp;</p> </blockquote> <p><strong>On peaceful protest:</strong></p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Human Rights Watch, December 18, 2013:</a> Authorities arrested and charged many peaceful protestors for "sowing discord" and challenging the government.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Amnesty International, December 4, 2014:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>On 6 November, the authorities sentenced Mikhlif al-Shammari , a prominent human rights activist and an advocate of the rights of Saudi Arabia&rsquo;s Shi&rsquo;a Muslim community, to two years in prison and 200 lashes on charges related to his peaceful activism. In a separate case, on 17 June 2013 Mikhlif al-Shammari had already been sentenced by the Specialized Criminal Court (SCC) to five years in prison, followed by a 10-year travel ban, on charges related to his peaceful activism. The court also banned him from writing in the press and on social media networks, and from appearing on television or radio.</p> </blockquote> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Human Rights Watch, January 10, 2015:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>King Abdullah of <a href="">Saudi Arabia</a> should overturn the lashing and prison term for a blogger imprisoned for his views and immediately grant him a pardon. Saudi authorities lashed Raif Badawi 50 times on January 9, 2015, in front of a crowded mosque in Jeddah, part of a judicial sentence of 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison for setting up a liberal website and allegedly insulting religious authorities.</p> </blockquote> <p><strong>On torture:</strong></p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">The Washington Post, November 19, 2004: </a></p> <blockquote> <p>A federal prosecutor in Alexandria made a comment last year suggesting that a Falls Church man held in a Saudi Arabian prison had been tortured, according to a sworn affidavit from a defense lawyer that was recently filed in federal court in Washington.</p> <p>The alleged remark by Assistant U.S. Attorney Gordon D. Kromberg occurred during a conversation with the lawyer, Salim Ali, in the federal courthouse in Alexandria, according to Ali's affidavit.</p> <p>The document was filed Oct. 12 in connection with a petition by the parents of the detained man, Ahmed Abu Ali, who are seeking his release from Saudi custody.The lawyer stated in the affidavit that he asked Kromberg about bringing Abu Ali back to the United States to face charges so as "to avoid the torture that goes on in Saudi Arabia."</p> <p>Kromberg "smirked and stated that 'He's no good for us here, he has no fingernails left,' " Salim Ali wrote in his affidavit, adding: "I did not know how to respond [to] the appalling statement he made, and we subsequently ceased our discussion about Ahmed Abu Ali."</p> </blockquote> <p><strong><a href="" target="_blank">In conclusion, from Human Rights Watch:</a></strong></p> <blockquote> <p>For [Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz's half-brother and successor, <a href="">Salman bin Abdulaziz]</a> to improve on Abdullah&rsquo;s legacy, he needs to reverse course and permit Saudi citizens to peacefully express themselves, reform the justice system, and speed up reforms on women&rsquo;s rights and treatment of migrant workers.</p> </blockquote></body></html> MoJo Foreign Policy Human Rights International Top Stories Mon, 26 Jan 2015 17:29:45 +0000 Jenna McLaughlin 268811 at ANWR Proposal Shows That Obama's Power to Set the Agenda Is Alive and Well <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Here's the latest salvo in President Obama's <a href="" target="_blank">flurry of executive activity following the 2014 election:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>President Obama proposed designating 1.4 million acres of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as protected wilderness, drawing cheers from environmentalists but setting off a bitter new battle Sunday with the Republican-controlled Congress over oil and gas drilling in pristine areas of northern Alaska.</p> <p>The plan would permanently bar drilling and other forms of development in the 19.8-million-acre refuge&rsquo;s coastal plain, a narrow strip between the Brooks Range mountains and the Arctic Ocean where caribou give birth. The area, estimated to hold 10.3 billion barrels of oil, is <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_anwr_caribou.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 25px 0px 15px 30px;">home to more than 200 species, including polar bears, wolverines, musk oxen and thousands of migratory birds.</p> </blockquote> <p>Now, technically this is meaningless. ANWR has been a battleground for years, as much symbolic as anything else. The amount of oil it could produce isn't really huge, but then again, the environmental damage that a pipeline would produce probably isn't that huge either.<sup>1</sup> In any case, the Interior Department already bans drilling in ANWR, and there's no way that a Republican Congress is going to pass a bill to make a drilling ban permanent. So what's the point of Obama's proposal?</p> <p>It's simple: once again he's using the agenda-setting power of the presidency. Basically, he's making ANWR something that everyone now has to take a stand on. Talking heads will fulminate on one side or the other, and Republicans will respond by introducing legislation to open up ANWR to drilling. This isn't something they were planning to spend time on, but now they probably will. Their base will demand it, as will the Republican caucus in the House and Senate. Nothing will come of it, of course, but it will eat up time that might otherwise have been spent on something else.</p> <p>And that's why Obama is doing this. It also lays down a marker and lets everyone know that Democrats are the party of natural beauty while Republicans are the party of Big Oil. It can't hurt to make that clear. Still, that's not the main goal here. The main goal is to toss some sand in the gears of Republican plans for the 115th Congress. Obama is proving once again that even with the opposition in control of Congress, he still has the power to decide what people are going to talk about.</p> <p><sup>1</sup>Please address all hate mail regarding this assertion to my editors. Thanks.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Energy Obama Mon, 26 Jan 2015 16:59:16 +0000 Kevin Drum 268826 at It's Time for Greece to Decide If It's Leaving the Euro <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>As expected, the Syriza party won power in Sunday's election in Greece. Their platform is pretty simple: the austerity forced on Greece after the 2008 financial collapse is no longer tolerable. The Greek economy is in shambles, growth is negative, and unemployment is above 25 percent. Europe needs to forgive its loans to Greece and allow the Greek economy to grow again. <a href=";action=click&amp;pgtype=Homepage&amp;module=first-column-region&amp;region=top-news&amp;WT.nav=top-news&amp;_r=0" target="_blank">Here is Europe's response so far:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>&ldquo;The Greeks have the right to elect whoever they want; we have the right to no longer finance Greek debt,&rdquo; Hans-Peter Friedrich, a senior member of [Angela] Merkel&rsquo;s conservative bloc, told the daily newspaper <em>Bild</em> on Monday. &ldquo;The Greeks must now pay the consequences and cannot saddle German taxpayers with them.&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>In other words: Screw you. The loans need to be repaid no matter the cost. This has been the German position for some time<sup>1</sup>, and the German position is the de facto European position. So we have a standoff.</p> <p>It's unclear what will happen next. There will be negotiations, of course, but the truth is that Syriza doesn't have much leverage. They can threaten to unilaterally default and leave the eurozone, but that's about it. A few years ago, that would have meant something because everyone was afraid that if Greece defaulted, perhaps Spain and Italy and Portugal and others would follow suit. This could well have destroyed the euro. Today things are exactly the <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/images/blog_greece_germany.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">opposite. Nobody is really afraid that other countries would follow Greece in leaving the euro, but they <em>are</em> afraid that if they make serious concessions then other countries will want their debt forgiven too. And that's simply not on the German agenda.</p> <p>So is Syriza serious? Will they really default if they don't get what they want? Leaving the euro would be no easy task and would cause immense economic pain. The only question is whether the pain would be worth it in the long run. It might be, but it's hardly an easy call, and it would take real guts for Syriza to call Germany's bluff and leave the euro. The practical problems alone&mdash;how fast can you create new physical currency and coins to replace euros?&mdash;are nearly insurmountable. The economic problems of capital flight and being shut out of the international loan market would be colossal. Greeks would take an instant hit to their standard of living, perhaps as large as 50 percent.</p> <p>But it still might be worth it. The Greeks may calculate that in the medium term, exiting the euro and adopting a devalued currency would allow their economy to become competitive and finally start growing again. Without that, they could be looking at a decade or more of pain and stagnation.</p> <p>So there's the question: which road would leave Greece better off in 2025? Years more of stagnation followed by a slow, painful recovery? Or a huge hit now followed&mdash;maybe&mdash;by a robust recovery? It's not an easy question.</p> <p>And of course, there's also the purely emotional aspect of all this. The Germans are tired of the whining Greeks. The Greeks are tired of living under the German jackboot. It may simply be time for a divorce, consequences be damned. The next few months will be a time of high tension for Europe.</p> <p><sup>1</sup>Ironically, this was the position of the allies toward German reparation debt following World War I, and we all know how that turned out. But no one is afraid of Greece starting a new world war, so no one cares about the irony.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Economy International Mon, 26 Jan 2015 16:17:13 +0000 Kevin Drum 268816 at This Is Not a Drill: 29 Million Brace for Massive, Historic Snowstorm <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><strong>Update: Monday, January 26, 6:35 p.m. EST: </strong>This was the scene outside our office this afternoon. Yikes!</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="//" width="630"></iframe></p> <p><strong>Update: Monday, January 26, 6:00 p.m. EST: </strong>From <a href="" target="_blank">our friends at Climate Central</a>, here's a little background on the weather forces behind the storm and how they relate to man-made climate change:</p> <blockquote> <p>The low pressure area at the heart of the storm is tracking along the East Coast in a way that lets it exploit the contrast between the cold air over land and the warmth of the oceans, which are running more than 2&deg;F warmer than normal along much of the coast, said <a href="">Kevin Trenberth</a>, a climatologist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo. The warmer ocean waters mean more moisture in the atmosphere for the storm to suck up; the cold air over the continent ensures that moisture falls as snow.</p> </blockquote> <p><strong>Update: Monday, January 26, 5:00 p.m. EST:</strong> New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has decided to put a "hard stop" on the region's public transit later tonight in preparation for worse snow conditions starting in the early hours of Tuesday:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p>As per <a href="">@NYGovCuomo</a>, all <a href="">@NYCTSubway</a>, <a href="">@NYCTBus</a>, <a href="">@LIRR</a> and <a href="">@MetroNorth</a> operations will be fully closed by 11pm.</p> &mdash; MTA (@MTA) <a href="">January 26, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>New Yorkers were piling into the subway ahead of the evening rush hour:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/bliz-6.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>Heading into the Union Square subway entrance Monday afternoon. </strong>Tim McDonnell</div> </div> <p><strong>Update: Monday, January 26, 2:45 p.m. EST:</strong> Even just after a couple hours of snow dumped by the strengthening blizzard, New York City's landscape is white-washed for the first time this season:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/bliz-1.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>NYC's heroic fleet of food delivery cyclists soldiered on as snow came down in Manhattan. </strong>Tim McDonnell</div> </div> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/bliz4.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>Almost as soon as it started, the snow was coming down in sheets. </strong>Tim McDonnell</div> </div> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/bliz-5.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>In Midtown, so begins the long battle to keep sidewalks clear of snow and ice. </strong>Tim McDonnell</div> </div> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/bliz-3.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>Stay warm, little guy! </strong>Tim McDonnell</div> </div> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/bliz-2.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>Central Park quickly turned into a winter wonderland. </strong>Tim McDonnell</div> </div> <p><strong>Update: Monday, January 26, 2:15 p.m. EST:</strong> As the blizzard begins to hit New York City, my colleague James West ventured out to capture some Brooklyn street scenes, in super-slow motion (flick the player to HD for some fun snow-falling prettiness):</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="//" width="630"></iframe></p> <p>After a few months of mild weather, today and tomorrow the East Coast is in for one hell of a snowstorm. <a href="" target="_blank">Twenty-nine million people</a> from New Jersey to Maine are under a blizzard alert. Here's the latest snow forecast for the Boston region from the National Weather Service:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p>Looks like <a href="">@NWSBoston</a> is all in. 28" for Boston (verbatim current fcst) would be a new all-time record. <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Eric Holthaus (@EricHolthaus) <a href="">January 26, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>And New York:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p>Here is our latest storm total snow range forecast graphic. <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; NWS New York NY (@NWSNewYorkNY) <a href="">January 26, 2015</a></blockquote> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script>The range shown for New York here&mdash;up to two feet dumped on the city by Wednesday&mdash;is at least down from yesterday's estimates, when, <a href="" target="_blank">as our friend Eric Holhaus at <em>Slate </em>reported</a>, meteorologists were warning that it could be the largest blizzard in the city's history. Still, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio <a href="" target="_blank">told residents</a> "to prepare for something worse than we have seen before." The worst of the worst is expected starting Monday afternoon and through Tuesday.</p> <p>Stay tuned here for more updates, as well as images from inside the storm.&nbsp;</p></body></html> Blue Marble Photo Essays Climate Change Climate Desk Science Top Stories Mon, 26 Jan 2015 16:10:17 +0000 Tim McDonnell 268801 at In This Hopeful New Video, UNICEF and Electronic Artist RL Grime Tackle the Horrors of Child Marriage <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="//" width="630"></iframe></p> <p>Every year around the world, more than 14 million girls are wed, typically to much older men, before they turn 18. The child brides, who more often than not are forced into these marriages by their parents, find themselves socially isolated and more likely than older wives to be beaten by their husbands or in-laws. In Chad, where nearly 70 percent become child brides, girls are more likely to die in childbirth than attend secondary school.</p> <div class="inline inline-right" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="RL Grime" class="image" src="/files/RL%20credit%20Andi%20Ellowayrsz1.jpg" style="height: 362px; width: 250px;"><div class="caption"><strong>"Before UNICEF approached me, I was unaware of this epidemic," RL Grime told me. </strong>Andi Elloway</div> </div> <p>This new video, a collaboration between UNICEF and the electronic music producer RL Grime, tells the story of a child bride who meets a sad end&mdash;but with a twist. Featuring Grime's haunting new song "Always," the video will be used in the African Union's #ENDChildMarriageNOW campaign to highlight how children and communities suffer when girls marry too young. It "transmits a very strong message because it shows a too common reality in the life of many young girls," says UNICEF's Chad representative. "The video, at the same time, also shows an alternative story full of hope. It portrays the crucial role education can play in empowering girls and the collective change needed in the society to end child marriage."</p> <p>According to UNICEF, giving girls better access to education, offering economic incentives and support for families, and implementing legislation to restrict child marriage are all crucial to solving the problem. But the first step is simply to make people aware of it.</p> <p>RL Grime, whose real name is Henry Steinway, and whose tracks have clocked millions of listens on <a href="" target="_blank">YouTube</a> and <a href="" target="_blank">SoundCloud</a>, was happy to help. "Before UNICEF approached me, I was unaware of this epidemic of child marriage that is plaguing Chad and other places globally," he writes in an email. "So when they came to me with the opportunity I was happy to be involved and help shed light on a very real world topic."</p> <p>He picked "Always," the opening track from <em>VOID</em>, his first full-length album, because he felt it evokes both the gravity of the problem and the idea of hope. "I think it's a somber yet uplifting track," he writes. "The lyric 'I feel better when I have you near me' really meshed well with the overall theme of the video, which to me hits on this sense of community."</p> <p>The video has been officially endorsed by the First Lady of the Republic of Chad, who will present it to other leaders at the Summit of the African Union in Addis Ababa later this month.</p></body></html> Mixed Media Human Rights International Music Mon, 26 Jan 2015 14:00:10 +0000 Gabrielle Canon 268721 at The Go-Betweens, Expert Edition <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="//" width="630"></iframe></p> <div class="inline inline-right" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="Go Betweens" class="image" src="/files/Screen%20Shot%202015-01-21%20at%2012.54.26%20PM.png" style="height: 250px; width: 250px;"></div> <p>Led by gifted singer-songwriters Robert Forster and Grant McLennan, Australia's Go-Betweens were a jangly folk-rock combo that compiled an impressive body of work from the late '70s to late '80s, broke up, and then reunited for another strong run in the early 2000s&mdash;until McLennan suffered a fatal heart attack in 2006. While comparisons to the Velvet Underground and R.E.M. are not implausible, the band was really its own unforgettable creature, suggesting a punk group trying to play nice pop songs, but not quite getting things right. Sometimes sweet, often astringent, the duo's songs never felt pat or predictable (or truly finished), creating the sensation of hearing riveting first takes of future classics.</p> <p>Compiled by Forster, <em>G Stands for Go-Betweens</em> contains four vinyl discs, including their first three albums and a compilation of early singles, and four CDs that offer a whopping 70 rarities, including an electrifying '82 live show. It's not for beginners&mdash;either of the early albums <em>Before Hollywood</em> or <em>Spring Hill Fair</em> makes a good starting point&mdash;but anyone who's already joined the cult will find this imposing package irresistible.</p></body></html> Mixed Media Music Mon, 26 Jan 2015 11:00:09 +0000 Jon Young 268601 at Has Netanyahu Finally Gone Too Far With His Contempt for Obama? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>I keep wondering if it's ever possible for Benjamin Netanyahu to go too far. He's treated President Obama with truly astonishing levels of contempt and disdain for nearly his entire tenure, and he's done it in the apparent belief that his political support in the US is so strong and so bipartisan that he'll never be held to account for it. And so far he hasn't been.</p> <p>But what about his latest stunt? The fact that John Boehner invited him to address Congress is hardly surprising. Boehner needed to poke Obama in the eye to demonstrate his conservative bona fides, and this was a perfect opportunity since he knew Netanyahu would deliver plenty of trash talk about Obama's Iran policy. But the fact that <em>Netanyahu</em> kept the invitation a secret from the administration and failed to even notify them he was planning a visit&mdash;well, that's a whole different story. As former US ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk put it, "Netanyahu is using the Republican Congress for a photo-op for his election campaign....Unfortunately, the US relationship will take the hit. It would be far wiser for us to stay out of their politics and for them to stay out of ours."</p> <p>And it turns out that even two Fox News hosts agree. <a href="" target="_blank">Max Fisher relays the story:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Two prominent Fox News hosts, Chris Wallace and Shepherd Smith, harshly criticized Boehner and Netanyahu on Friday for secretly arranging a Netanyahu speech to Congress that is transparently aimed at undermining President Obama, and set up without the White House's knowledge.</p> <p>...."I agree 100 percent," Wallace said when Smith read a quote from Indyk criticizing the Boehner-Netanyahu maneuver. Wallace went on:</p> <blockquote> <p>And to make you get a sense of really how, forgive me, wicked, this whole thing is, the Secretary of State John Kerry met with the Israeli Ambassador to the United States for two hours on Tuesday, Ron Dermer. The ambassador, never mentioned the fact that Netanyahu was in negotiations and finally agreed to come to Washington, not to see the president, but to go to Capitol Hill, speak to a joint session of congress and criticize the president's policy. I have to say I'm shocked.</p> </blockquote> <p>Smith said, "it seems like [Netanyahu's government] think[s] we don't pay attention and that we're just a bunch of complete morons, the United States citizens, as if we wouldn't pick up on what's happening here."</p> </blockquote> <p>Shep Smith goes off the Fox reservation all the time, so perhaps his comments aren't too much of a surprise. But although Wallace is no Sean Hannity, he's fairly reliably conservative and even he was shocked.</p> <p>So has Netanyahu finally gone over the line? So far I haven't heard much criticism from sitting US politicians, so I'd have to say not. Not yet, anyway. But it sure seems like the day is going to come. No matter how close an ally Israel is, there's only so much contempt their leaders can show for a sitting American president and his policies. Eventually the American public is going to lose patience, even the folks who aren't huge Obama fans themselves.</p> <p>It hasn't happened yet. Maybe it never will. But it sure seems as if Benjamin Netanyahu is hellbent on pushing the line until he finally rings a bell he can't unring. The only question now is whether he stays in office long enough to make that final, fatal mistake.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Congress Foreign Policy Obama Top Stories Sun, 25 Jan 2015 23:15:41 +0000 Kevin Drum 268786 at Bill Nye Slams Bill Belichick: "What He Said Didn't Make Any Sense" <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><iframe height="354" scrolling="no" src="" style="border:none;" width="630"></iframe><br> Let me start by saying, I don't know anything about football. I'm from Los Angeles. We don't have a football team. I went to NYU where the most popular sporting event is the Spring production of <em>Damn Yankees. </em>Up until very recently I thought football was soccer but with players who didn't have feet, instead their legs ended with sort of rounded nubs&mdash;"balls," if you will&mdash;and I thought it was so awful that millions of Americans get together every Sunday&mdash;which is the Lord's day, by the way&mdash;to force disabled folk to compete in some sort of blood sport. It's not that though. It turns out it's the real life version of <a href="" target="_blank">NFL Blitz</a>, which it turns out isn't just a video game. It's based on a real thing. Anyway, what am I talking about?</p> <p>Oh yeah! #Deflategate! The Patriots! (Why are they called "the Patriots"? I get that it's about the American Revolution and Massachusetts played a key role in that but come on, we're all patriots here, FOX News. Even the Bengals fans.) I don't like the Patriots because they're from Boston and Boston is the home of the worst NBA team in the whole wide world, the Celtics, who had the audacity to beat my Los Angeles Lakers a couple of times in the 1980s. Also, the Red Sox! They're pretty awful! And Boston is a very cold city, at least in the winter. A <a href="" target="_blank">not-so-long ago history of racism</a>, Boston also has, let's not forget. And New England clam chowder is garbage compared to Manhattan clam chowder. So, I say this just to be transparent. I don't think I personally want the Patriots to win the Super Bowl. Maybe I do. The Seahawks don't sound great. <a href="" target="_blank">Pete Carroll is apparently a 9/11 truther</a>, which is a turnoff.</p> <p>Let's veer this ramble towards the news: #Deflategate! Bill Belichick says he didn't do it. It wasn't him. It was Mr Blue in the Library with the piano wire. Or, something. He has a scientific explanation for why the balls were tested to be <a href="" target="_blank">under-inflated</a>.</p> <blockquote> <p>"We simulated a game-day situation, in terms of the preparation of the footballs, and where the footballs were at various points in time during the day or night. ... I would say that our preparation process for the footballs is what we do &mdash;I can't speak for anybody else -- and that process raises the PSI approximately one pound," Belichick said. "That process of creating a tackiness, a texture -- a right feel, whatever that feel is, whatever that feel is. It's a sensation for the quarterback. What's the right feel -- that process elevates the PSI one pound, based on what our study showed. Which was multiple balls, multiple examples in the process, as we would do for a game."</p> </blockquote> <p>I don't know what any of that really means. It reads like gibberish to me. I, like so many Republican politicians, am not a scientist. Bill Nye is though and <a href="" target="_blank">he says it's gibberish too</a>:</p> <p>"What he said didn't make any sense...Rubbing the football, I don't think, can change the pressure."</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="//" width="630"></iframe></p> <p>And that's the news. Goodnight and good luck.</p> <p>P.S. One of the things I was confused about was how deflated balls would give an advantage to a football team, because presumably it would make them less aerodynamic, but as my colleague<a href="" target="_blank"> Tim McDonnell notes, it's about "grippiness."</a></p></body></html> Contributor Sun, 25 Jan 2015 20:21:51 +0000 Ben Dreyfuss 268781 at This Washington Post Headline Is the Funniest Thing You'll Read All Weekend <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Got the winter blues? Well, turn that frown upside down! Here's a thing to make you smile.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p>Sarah Palin says she&rsquo;s "seriously interested" in a 2016 campaign <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Washington Post (@washingtonpost) <a href="">January 24, 2015</a></blockquote> <p><script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script>In other pretend candidate news:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" lang="en"> <p>Guys he's totally serious this time RT <a href="">@costareports</a>: Trump ends his speech: "I am seriously thinking of running for president"</p> &mdash; Josh Barro (@jbarro) <a href="">January 24, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>What a time to be alive.</p></body></html> Mixed Media 2016 Elections Sat, 24 Jan 2015 19:31:50 +0000 Ben Dreyfuss 268776 at This Is Why Under-Inflated Footballs Could Have Given Tom Brady An Advantage <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>To those of us for whom the nuances of professional football tactics are a bit of a mystery, there was one question looming over New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady's <a href="" target="_blank">surreal Ballghazi press conference yesterday</a> that went unanswered: What's so great, in theory, about a deflated football? Seems like, if anything, an under-inflated ball would be less aerodynamic?</p> <p>Turns out, the potential benefit is all about grippiness. From <em><a href="" target="_blank">Fox Sports</a>:</em></p> <blockquote> <p><a href="" target="_blank">John Eric Goff</a>, professor of physics at Lynchburg College in Virginia and author of &ldquo;Gold Medal Physics:&nbsp;The Science of Sports,&rdquo; told that the league-mandated PSI range is ideal for playing football. &ldquo;If, however, there&rsquo;s rain or snow or something else happening, that would make the ball a bit slicker, so having a bit less pressure in the ball makes it easier to squeeze and the grip improves,&rdquo; he added.</p> </blockquote> <p>Interesting!</p></body></html> Mixed Media Science Sports Fri, 23 Jan 2015 23:20:51 +0000 Tim McDonnell 268766 at Black Man Lawfully Carrying Gun Gets Pummeled by White Vigilante at Walmart <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>There is no shortage of debate about whether <a href="" target="_blank">allowing citizens to carry concealed guns</a> makes society safer. You may be shocked to learn that the answer could depend in part on <a href="" target="_blank">the color of a citizen's skin</a>.</p> <p>Exhibit A this week, from Florida: A surveillance video from a Walmart located near Tampa shows 62-year-old <a href="" target="_blank">Clarence Daniels</a>&nbsp;trying to enter&nbsp;the store to purchase some coffee creamer for his wife&nbsp;this past Tuesday. He barely steps through the automatic doors before he is pummeled&nbsp;by shopper&nbsp;Michael Foster, a 43-year-old white man.</p> <p>"He's got a gun!" Foster shouts, to which Daniels replies, "I have a permit!"</p> <p>According to local news reports, Foster originally spotted Daniels in the store's parking lot placing his legally owned handgun underneath his coat. In keeping with Florida's well-known <a href="" target="_blank">vigilante spirit</a>, Foster decided to take matters into his own hands by following&nbsp;Daniels&nbsp;into the Walmart. Without warning, he tackled Daniels and placed him in <a href="" target="_blank">a&nbsp;chokehold</a>.&nbsp;</p> <p>Police soon arrived and confirmed Daniels indeed had a permit for the handgun.&nbsp;</p> <p>"Unfortunately, he tackled a guy that was a law-abiding citizen," <a href="" target="_blank">said</a> Larry McKinnon, a police spokesperson. "We understand it's alarming for people to see other people with guns, but Florida has a large population of concealed weapons permit holders."</p> <p>Foster is now facing battery charges.&nbsp;</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="//" width="630"></iframe></p></body></html> Mixed Media Video Guns Race and Ethnicity Fri, 23 Jan 2015 21:40:42 +0000 Inae Oh 268746 at Melinda Gates Shames Anti-Vaxxers "Who Have Forgotten What Measles Death Looks Like" <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>On the heels of an increasingly widening measles outbreak at <a href="" target="_blank">Disneyland</a>&nbsp;in California, where at least 28&nbsp;of the people infected were reportedly unvaccinated,&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Melinda Gates</a> is urging parents to take advantage of healthcare resources in the United States and get their children vaccinated.</p> <p>"We take vaccines so for granted in the United States," Gates explained during an appearance on HuffPost Live Thursday. "Women in the developing world know the power of [vaccines]. They will walk 10 kilometers in the heat with their child and line up to get a vaccine because they have seen death."</p> <p>In detailing the struggle parents in the developing world endure to have their children vaccinated, Gates said Americans have simply "forgotten what measles death looks like."&nbsp;</p> <p>Through her&nbsp;philanthropy work with husband Bill Gates, Melinda&nbsp;has long worked to help people in developing countries&nbsp;obtain basic healthcare treatment, including vaccine deliveries.&nbsp;</p> <p>"I'd say to the people of the United States: We're incredibly lucky to have that technology and we ought to take advantage of it," she added.&nbsp;</p> <p>In the United States, the highly contagious disease has reemerged in recent years&nbsp;thanks to the&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">anti-vaccination movement</a> and personal belief exemptions. Use of the controversial waivers is particularly prominent in California.</p> <p>The recent outbreak at Disneyland has heightened&nbsp;the debate. According to the<em> Associated Press</em>, those infected range from just <a href="" target="_blank">seven months to 70-years-old</a>, including five park employees.&nbsp;</p> <p>Dr. James Cherry, a specialist in pediatric infectious diseases at the University of California-Los Angeles,&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">told the <em>New York</em> <em>Times</em></a> the current outbreak is "100 percent connected" to the anti-immunization movement.</p> <p>"It wouldn't have happened otherwise&mdash;it wouldn't have gone anywhere. There are some pretty dumb people out there."</p> <p><iframe frameborder="0" height="354" scrollable="no" src=";autoPlay=false" width="630"></iframe></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p></body></html> Mixed Media Video Health Fri, 23 Jan 2015 21:20:55 +0000 Inae Oh 268726 at That Time Badass Feminist Queen Elizabeth II Gave Saudi Arabia's King a Lesson in Power <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Great Britain's Queen Elizabeth II is known to have a wicked sense of humor, and some mean driving skills. One day back in 1998, she deployed both spectacularly to punk Saudi Arabia's <a href="" target="_blank">late King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz</a>. Back then, Abdullah was a Saudi crown prince visiting Balmoral, the vast royal estate in Scotland. The Queen had offered him a tour of the grounds&mdash;here's what happened next, <a href="" target="_blank">according to former British ambassador to Saudi Arabia Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles</a>:</p> <blockquote> <p>The royal Land Rovers were drawn up in front of the castle. As instructed, the Crown Prince climbed into the front seat of the Land Rover, with his interpreter in the seat behind. To his surprise, the Queen climbed into the driving seat, turned the ignition and drove off. Women are not&mdash;yet&mdash;allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia, and Abdullah was not used to being driven by a woman, let alone a queen. His nervousness only increased as the queen, an Army driver in wartime, accelerated the Land Rover along the narrow Scottish estate roads, talking all the time. Through his interpreter, the Crown Prince implored the Queen to slow down and concentrate on the road ahead.</p> </blockquote> <p>Royal custom discourages repeating what the Queen says in private, Cowper-Coles explained, but the anecdote was corroborated by Abdullah, and became, in the diplomat's words, "too funny not to repeat."</p> <p>Abdullah went on to <a href="" target="_blank">cultivate the image of a reformer as king</a>. One thing he didn't change, despite the Queen's badass stunt: women <a href="" target="_blank">still can't drive in Saudi Arabia</a>.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p></body></html> MoJo International Sex and Gender Fri, 23 Jan 2015 19:22:04 +0000 Sam Brodey 268736 at Friday Cat Blogging - 23 January 2015 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>I wrote this morning's short post and then spent the rest of the morning napping. This is ridiculous, and I don't know what's going on. I'm a thousand percent better than I was Tuesday and Wednesday, but still dog tired. One possibility is that this is due to a change in my chemo schedule. Instead of getting all three meds on Friday, I got two of them on Friday and then the third as a standalone on Monday. The next day I was wiped out. Anyway, I <em>hope</em> that's the reason, since this was a one-time thing. I'll ask about it today, though I have little hope of getting any satisfactory answers.</p> <p>In any case, it's finally Friday, so how about some catblogging? This week features a brand new addition to the extended family of Drum cats. My friend Professor Marc sends along this photo of Ivan Davidoff, his new Siberian. His report: "Seems to like being around people, but is not a cuddle-kitty. He likes being petted, will frequently come see if I&rsquo;m still in the home office if I&rsquo;m working there, sometimes jumps onto the desk to be next to me, but is not a lap cat. Maybe that will come as he gets more comfortable. Has woken us up in the middle of the night to get affection, but is not pushy about it." He is certainly a handsome critter, no?</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_ivan_davidoff_2015_01_23.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 5px 40px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 23 Jan 2015 19:17:53 +0000 Kevin Drum 268751 at No Money Left Behind: Education Entrepreneur Cashes in on Bush Family Ties <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>In this week's <em>New Yorker</em>, Alec MacGillis <a href="" target="_blank">discusses</a> Jeb Bush's approach to education reform, the realm in which Bush, as Florida's governor, had sought to make his biggest mark. In 1995, his efforts to improve the state's public schools catalyzed his political career and, later, fueled competition with his brother George, who as president rolled out the No Child Left Behind Act:</p> <blockquote> <p>Jeb Bush made it known that he thought his own approach superior, because it sought to grade schools on improvements in individual students' scores, rather than just on schools' performance in a given year. "There were lots of conversations about the work in Texas and how Florida had improved on that," [school superintendent Jim] Warford said. According to education officials, Jeb's team had little respect for Rod Paige, the former Houston schools superintendent whom George W. Bush had named Secretary of Education. "It was a little prickly in Florida," Sandy Kress, who worked on the implementation of No Child Left Behind, said. "It was 'We're going to do it our way and can do it better.'"</p> </blockquote> <p>Their sibling rivalry notwithstanding, the Bush bros have common ties to one particularly controversial educational entrepreneur. Starting in the late 1990s, Randy Best, <a href="" target="_blank">whom I profiled at the end of George W. Bush's second term</a>, used his connections to the president to transform a virtually unknown for-profit education company, Voyager, into a "selling juggernaut" (in his words) that he unloaded in 2005 for $360 million.</p> <div class="inline inline-right" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Best-and-Co-Final.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>Randy Best </strong>Steve Brodner</div> </div> <p>The key to Voyager's success was the way it it used revolving doors in Bush's Education Department to <a href="" target="_blank">game the procurement process</a>. Its dealings prompted a scathing DOE inspector general's report in 2006 and a harshly worded Senate report the following year. "Many programs, including Voyager, were probably adopted on the basis of relationships, rather than effectiveness data," G. Reid Lyon, who co-wrote the No Child Left Behind Act and later consulted for Best, told me in 2008. "I thought all this money would be great; it would get into schools. But money makes barracudas out of people. It's an amazing thing."</p> <p>The controversy surrounding Voyager didn't dissuade Best from starting another education company. Founded in 2005, Academic Partnerships persuades colleges to outsource to the firm their degree programs in subjects such as business and education, which it puts online in exchange for a hefty chunk of the profits. Nor did Voyager dissuade Jeb Bush from partnering with Best. Here's MacGillis:</p> <blockquote> <p>Best needed someone to lend credibility to the company. Florida had spent heavily on Voyager during Jeb Bush's governorship, and, in 2005, when Bush was still in office, Best spoke with him about going into the education business. By 2011, Bush had joined Academic Partnerships as an investor and an adviser, and he became the company's highest-profile champion. Best told the Washington <em>Post</em> that Bush's annual salary was sixty thousand dollars, but he did not disclose the terms of Bush's investment stake. For the first time, Bush was making money in an educational enterprise.</p> </blockquote> <p>Last month, after announcing his intent to run for president, Bush resigned from Academic Partnerships and several other business affiliations. Yet if Bush's family history is any guide, Randy Best 2.0 is just getting started.</p></body></html> MoJo 2016 Elections Bush Education Jeb Bush Fri, 23 Jan 2015 18:12:32 +0000 Josh Harkinson 268701 at