Blogs | Mother Jones Mother Jones logo en Peculiar Eyesight Question <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>I'll be asking my optometrist about this shortly, but just for fun I thought I'd throw it out to the hive mind to see if anyone knows what's going on.</p> <p>Over the past couple of weeks, I've noticed that my distance vision is a little fuzzy. Time for new glasses, you say, and you're probably right. But here's the odd thing. I keep all my old glasses, and last night I tried them all on just to see if an <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_red_blue_led_clocks.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">older prescription worked better than my current glasses. What I discovered was a little strange.</p> <p>Right under my TV I happen to have two LED clocks. One uses red LEDs and the other uses blue LEDs. With my current glasses, the blue LEDs are sharp and the red LEDs are fuzzy. But when I put on glasses that are a few years old, it changes. The red LEDs are sharp and the blue LEDs are fuzzy. The difference is quite noticeable, not a subtle thing at all.</p> <p>Anyone know what this is all about?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Health Sat, 28 Mar 2015 16:14:38 +0000 Kevin Drum 272551 at Should We Welcome Saudi Arabia to the Fight in the Middle East? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>I have occasionally griped in this space about the fact that putative Middle East allies like Saudi Arabia and Jordan basically use the American military as a sort of mercenary force to fight their own tribal battles. Sure, they provide basing rights, and sometimes money, but they want us to do all the fighting, and they complain bitterly about American naivet&eacute; when we don't fight every war they think we should fight.</p> <p>Recently this has changed a bit, with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan launching independent air attacks against various neighbors and Saudi Arabia even making noises about launching ground attacks in Yemen. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? <a href="" target="_blank">Josh Marshall makes some useful points:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>It is always dangerous when power and accountability are unchained from each other. In recent decades, we've had a system in which our clients look to us for protection, ask for military action of various sorts&nbsp;&mdash; but <em>privately</em>. <strong>And then we act, but always in the process whipping up anti-American sentiment, mixed with extremist religious enthusiasms, which our allies often, paradoxically, stoke or accommodate to secure their own holds on power.</strong> This is, to put it mildly, an unstable and politically toxic state of affairs. This does not even get into the costs to the US in blood and treasure.</p> <p>There are pluses to the old or existing system. We control everything. Wars don't start until we start them. But the downsides are obvious, as well. <strong>And nowhere has this been more clear than with the Saudis. The Saudis sell us oil; and they buy our weapons. We start wars to protect them, the reaction to which curdles in the confines of their domestic repression and breaks out in terrorist attacks against us.</strong> I don't mean to suggest that we are purely victims here. We're not. But it's a pernicious arrangement.</p> <p>This is why I think we should be heartened to see the Saudis acting on their own account, taking action on their own account for which they must create domestic support and stand behind internationally.</p> </blockquote> <p>There's more, and Marshall is hardly unaware of the risks in widespread military action among countries that barely even count as coherent states. "Still, the old system bred irresponsibility on many levels, including a lack of responsibility and accountability from the existing governments in the region. For all the dangers and unpredictabilities involved with having the Saudis or in other cases the Egyptians stand up and take actions which they believe are critical to their security on their own account is better for everyone involved."</p> <p>Some food for thought this weekend.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum International Military Sat, 28 Mar 2015 16:01:59 +0000 Kevin Drum 272546 at BREAKING: Italian Court Reaches Verdict In Amanda Knox Case <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><em>AFP</em> has the <a href=";_ylt=AwrBEiG90hVV9BUAPL3QtDMD" target="_blank">breaking news</a>:</p> <blockquote> <p>Italy's top court on Friday cleared Amanda Knox of the 2007 murder of British student Meredith Kercher, bringing a sensational end to an eight-year legal drama.</p> <p id="yui_3_16_0_1_1427493755398_1081">Judges at the Court of Cassation also cleared Knox's Italian ex-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito after ten hours of deliberations in Rome.</p> </blockquote> <p>&nbsp;</p></body></html> Contributor Fri, 27 Mar 2015 22:06:48 +0000 Ben Dreyfuss 272536 at Koalas Are Cute and Cuddly. This Video Proves They Are Also Fearsome Warriors. <!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></p><div id="mininav" class="inline-subnav"> <!-- header content --> <div id="mininav-header-content"> <div id="mininav-header-image"> <img src="/files/images/motherjones_mininav/koala-mini-nav_1.jpg" width="220" border="0"></div> <div id="mininav-header-text"> <p class="mininav-header-text" style="margin: 0; padding: 0.75em; font-size: 11px; font-weight: bold; line-height: 1.2em; background-color: rgb(221, 221, 221);"> Weekends are always better when they start with koalas. </p> </div> </div> <!-- linked stories --> <div id="mininav-linked-stories"> <ul><span id="linked-story-270971"> <li><a href="/blue-marble/2015/02/koala-car-jack"> This Koala Is So Cute You'll Want It To Get Away With Stealing This Kid's Car</a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-272511"> <li><a href="/mixed-media/2015/03/you-didnt-know-koalas-were-fierce"> Koalas Are Cute and Cuddly. This Video Proves They Are Also Fearsome Warriors. </a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-269381"> <li><a href="/blue-marble/2015/01/jeremy-koala-australia-bushfire-returned-wild"> We Have Some Good News For You About the Koala That Was Burned in the Fire</a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-268041"> <li><a href="/blue-marble/2015/01/wildfires-koala-paws-burn-australia-mittens"> Please, Please Stop Making Mittens for Koalas</a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-264866"> <li><a href="/mixed-media/2014/11/here-photo-president-obama-holding-koala"> Here Is a Photo of President Obama Holding a Koala</a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-243481"> <li><a href="/blue-marble/2014/01/heat-wave-photos-australian-open"> PHOTOS: Koalas, Tennis Players Grapple with Australian Heat Wave</a></li> </span> </ul></div> <!-- footer content --> </div> <p>Oh, Australia. Even when you're just taking the dog out for a walk, you might walk straight into a CRAZY KOALA WRASSLIN' MATCH.</p> <p>This fight raises fresh questions about the <a href="" target="_blank">Secret Service's competency</a>: Why would they let the president <a href="" target="_blank">get so close</a> to one of these dangerous beasts!?&nbsp;</p> <p>Happy Friday.</p></body></html> Mixed Media Video Animals Fri, 27 Mar 2015 20:15:13 +0000 Tim McDonnell 272511 at Illegal Pot Farms Are Literally Sucking California Salmon Streams Dry <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Water-map-web_0.gif"><div class="caption"><strong>Outlet Creek watershed in Northern California's Mendocino County. </strong>Scott Bauer</div> </div> <p>Northern California pot farmers are using up all of the water that normally supports key populations of the region's federally protected salmon and steelhead trout.</p> <p>That, at least, is the conclusion of a new study, <a href="" target="_blank">published last week in the journal PLOS One</a>, that examined four California watersheds where salmon and trout are known to spawn. In the three watersheds with intensive pot cultivation, illegal marijuana farms literally sucked up all of the water during the streams' summer low-flow period, leaving nothing to support the fish.</p> <p>Author Scott Bauer, a biologist with the state department of fish and wildlife, estimated the size and location of outdoor and greenhouse pot farms by looking at Google Earth images and accompanying drug enforcement officers on raids. He did not include "indoor" grows&mdash;marijuana grown under lamps in buildings.</p> <p>After visiting 32 marijuana greenhouses in eight locations and averaging the results, Bauer extrapolated his findings to all greenhouses in the study area&mdash;virtually nothing else is grown in greenhouses in this part of the country. The sites contained marijuana plants at a density of about one per square meter, with each plant (taking waste and other factors into account) using about six gallons of water a day. Overall, he calculated, pot operations within the study yielded 112,000 plants, and consumed 673,000 gallons of water every day.</p> <p>And that is water the area's fish badly need. The Coho salmon population is listed as threatened under both state and federal Endangered Species Acts, and is designated as a key population to maintain or improve as part of the state's recovery plan.&nbsp;</p> <p>Bauer collected his data last year, at a time when California's drought had already become its worst in more than 1,200 years. When I spoke to him at the time, he told me that pot farming had surpassed logging and development to become <a href="" target="_blank">the single biggest threat to the area's salmon</a>. Now that that the drought is expected to extend into a fourth year, the same streams could run dry again this summer, and remain so for an even longer period of time.</p> <p>Overall, the outdoor and greenhouse grows consume more than <a href="" target="_blank">60 million gallons of water a day</a> during the growing season&mdash;50 percent more than is used by all the residents of San Francisco.</p> <p>"Clearly, water demands for the existing level of marijuana cultivation in many Northern California watersheds are unsustainable and are likely contributing to the decline of sensitive aquatic species in the region," Bauer's study concludes. "Given the specter of climate change"&mdash;and the attendant rise of megadroughts&mdash;"the current scale of marijuana cultivation in Northern California could be catastrophic for aquatic species."</p></body></html> Blue Marble Food and Ag Marijuana Top Stories drought Fri, 27 Mar 2015 20:06:30 +0000 Josh Harkinson 272476 at Forget Elizabeth Warren. Another Female Senator Has a Shot to Fill the Senate's New Power Vacuum. <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>In the nanoseconds after Democratic Senate leader Harry Reid <a href="" target="_blank">announced</a> Friday morning that he will give up his leadership post and retire in 2016, liberal groups raced to <a href="" target="_blank">promote</a> their go-to solution for almost any political problem: Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Much like the movement to draft Warren for president, the idea of putting her in charge of the Democratic caucus was more dream than reality. Warren's office has already <a href="" target="_blank">said</a> she won't run, and as <em>Vox</em>'s Dylan Matthews <a href="" target="_blank">explains</a>, putting Warren in charge of the Democratic caucus would prevent her from holding her colleagues accountable when they stray too far from progressive ideals.</p> <p>Instead, Reid's likely replacement is New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, who already has endorsements from Reid and&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Dick Durbin</a>, the outgoing minority leader's No. 2. But lefties have long been wary of Schumer, who, thanks to his home base in New York City, is far more sympathetic to Wall Street than the rest of his caucus. And lost in the Warren hype is another female senator: Washington's Patty Murray.</p> <p>As caucus secretary, Murray is the fourth-ranking member of Senate Democratic leadership, behind Reid, Durbin, and Schumer. If she decides to take on Schumer for Reid's job, Murray could be the first woman to serve as a party leader in the US Senate. Murray's office didn't respond to a request for comment on whether she'd run for the job and, besides a general <a href="" target="_blank">statement</a> praising Reid, was notably quiet on Friday.</p> <p>In 2013, I cowrote a <a href="" target="_blank">profile of Murray for <em>The American Prospect</em></a> looking at her role in leading Democrats' negotiations with Republicans on the budget, and explained how she's a pragmatic progressive who will push for the most liberal policies she can pass while still being willing to forge compromise with the centrists in her party:</p> <blockquote> <p>There's something peculiarly undefined about Murray's ideology. She's a liberal, a West Coast liberal to be precise: strong on social issues, the environment, workers' rights, and the government's role in society. She hews closely to the Democratic talking points of the day. But it's hard to discern a coherent vision or theory behind her views. She is as far left as you can go without alienating the centrists in the party. More than anything, she's a pragmatist. Success trumps belief in the "right" things. At the same time, Murray doesn't venerate moderation for its own sake&mdash;she's no Rahm Emanuel. "She's a strong progressive," says a former Budget Committee staff member, "but she won't tilt at windmills, she won't force a vote on something she knows she's not going to win."</p> </blockquote> <p>Murray certainly has the r&eacute;sum&eacute; to compete for the job. She led the Democrats' campaign arm in 2012, when the party picked up two Senate seats, defying pundits' predictions. She <a href="" target="_blank">forged a budget agreement</a> with Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) in 2013 that averted across-the-board budget cuts. Murray is generally press-shy&mdash;she flies home across the country each weekend instead of doing the Sunday show circuit&mdash;which would leave room for other Senate stars, including Warren, to be the party's public face while Murray controls the behind-the-scenes negotiations. But as that budget committee staffer told me in 2013, Murray isn't known for picking fights she can't win. If she runs against Schumer, it'll be because she thinks she has a real shot at Reid's post.</p></body></html> MoJo Congress Top Stories Fri, 27 Mar 2015 19:58:21 +0000 Patrick Caldwell 272506 at Japan Wants You to Believe That These Coal Plants Will Help the Environment <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Japan is at it again. Back in <a href="" target="_blank">December</a>, the country got caught trying to pass off $1 billion worth of investments in coal-fired power plants in Indonesia as "climate finance"&mdash;that is, funding to fight climate change. Coal plants, of course, are the world's single biggest source of carbon dioxide emissions.</p> <p>Today, the <a href="" target="_blank">Associated Press discovered over half a billion more</a>:</p> <blockquote> <p>Japanese officials now say they are also counting $630 million in loans for coal plants in Kudgi, India, and Matarbari, Bangladesh, as climate finance. The Kudgi project has been marred by violent clashes between police and local farmers who fear the plant will pollute the environment.</p> <p>Tokyo argues that the projects are climate-friendly because the plants use technology that burns coal more efficiently, reducing their carbon emissions compared to older coal plants. Also, Japanese officials stress that developing countries need coal power to grow their economies and expand access to electricity.</p> </blockquote> <p>Putting aside Japan's assumption that developing countries need coal-fired power plants (a view still under much <a href="" target="_blank">debate</a> by energy-focused development economists), the real issue here is that there isn't an official, internationally recognized definition of "climate finance." In broad strokes, it refers to money a country is spending to address the problem of climate change, through measures to either mitigate it (i.e., emit less carbon dioxide from power plants, vehicles, etc.) or adapt to it (building sea walls or developing drought-tolerant seeds, for example). But there remains little transparency or oversight for what exactly a country can count toward that end.</p> <p>The reason that matters is because climate finance figures are a vital chip in international climate negotiations. At a UN climate meeting in Peru late last year, Japan announced that it had put $16 billion into climate finance since 2013. Likewise, President Barack Obama last year pledged <a href="" target="_blank">$3 billion</a> toward the UN's Green Climate Fund, plus several billion more for climate-related initiatives in his proposed <a href="" target="_blank">budget</a>. Other countries have made similar <a href="" target="_blank">promises</a>.</p> <p>Each of these commitments is seen as a quantitative reflection of how seriously a country takes climate change and how far they're willing to go to address it, and there's always pressure to up the ante. And these promises from rich countries are especially important because in many cases the countries most affected by climate change impacts are developing ones that are the least equipped to do anything about it&mdash;and least responsible for the greenhouse gas emissions that caused global warming in the first place. But the whole endeavor starts to look pretty hollow and meaningless if it turns out that "climate finance" actually refers to something as environmentally dubious as a coal plant.</p> <p>These numbers will take on increasing significance in the run-up to the major climate summit in Paris in December, which is meant to produce a wide-reaching, meaningful international climate accord. So now more than ever, maximum transparency is vital. &nbsp; &nbsp;</p></body></html> Blue Marble Climate Change Climate Desk Energy International Top Stories Infrastructure Fri, 27 Mar 2015 19:26:20 +0000 Tim McDonnell 272496 at Friday Cat Blogging - 27 March 2015 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Today I get to spend six hours in a chair getting Cytoxan pumped into my body. So this is it. No more tests or consults. This is the first actual step in the second stage of my chemotherapy. Following this infusion, I will spend a week injecting myself with a drug that (a) stimulates white blood cell production and (b) will apparently make me feel like I have the flu. Next, I spend a week in LA sitting in a chair several hours a day while they extract stem cells from my body. Then a week of rest and then the stem cell transplant itself, which will put me out of commission for a minimum of three weeks.</p> <p>So no blogging today. Next week is iffy. Probably nothing much the week after that either. Then maybe some blogging during my rest week. And then I'll go offline probably completely for a month or so. It all depends on just how quickly I recover from the transplant. We'll see.</p> <p>In the meantime, here are Hopper and Hilbert, hale and hearty as ever. Have a nice weekend, everyone.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hilbert_hopper_2015_03_27.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 5px 60px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 27 Mar 2015 16:00:10 +0000 Kevin Drum 272456 at Harry Reid Announces His Retirement <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><strong>Update, 12:26 p.m.:</strong> Shortly after announcing his retirement, Reid <a href="" target="_blank">endorsed</a> Sen. Chuck&nbsp;Schumer (D-N.Y.) to replace him. "I think Schumer should be able to succeed me,&rdquo; he told the <em>Washington Post</em> in an interview at his DC residence.&nbsp;</p> <p>Senate Minority&nbsp;Leader Harry Reid <a href="" target="_blank">announced on Friday </a>he will not be seeking reelection when his term comes to an end next year. He announced his retirement in a YouTube video:</p> <center> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p>My life&rsquo;s work has been to make Nevada and our nation better. Thank you for giving me that wonderful opportunity. <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Senator Harry Reid (@SenatorReid) <a href="">March 27, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script></center> <p>The decision to retire, the 75-year-old senator from Nevada said, "has absolutely nothing to do" with the injury he sustained back in January from an exercising accident or his new role as minority leader following the Democrats' loss during the midterm elections. In an interview with the <em>New York Times</em> <a href="" target="_blank">he explained</a>, "I want to be able to go out at the top of my game. I don&rsquo;t want to be a 42-year-old trying to become a designated hitter."</p> <p>In the video, Reid continues with a message to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, "Don't be too elated. I'm going to be here for 22 more months, and you know what I'm going to be doing? The same thing I've done since I first came to the Senate. We have to make sure the Democrats take control of the Senate again."</p> <p>&nbsp;</p></body></html> MoJo Video Congress Elections Fri, 27 Mar 2015 12:21:47 +0000 Inae Oh 272486 at Democrats Should Pass the Doc Fix Bill <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>A bill to permanently reform the ridiculous annual charade over the Medicare "doc fix" <a href=";action=click&amp;pgtype=Homepage&amp;module=first-column-region&amp;region=top-news&amp;WT.nav=top-news" target="_blank">passed the House today:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The House overwhelmingly approved sweeping changes to the Medicare system on Thursday, in the most significant bipartisan policy legislation to pass through that chamber since the Republicans regained a majority in 2011.</p> <p>The measure, which would establish a new formula for paying doctors and end a problem that has bedeviled the nation&rsquo;s health care system for more than a decade, has already been blessed by President Obama, and awaits a vote in the Senate. The bill would also increase premiums for some higher income beneficiaries and extend a popular health insurance program for children.</p> </blockquote> <p>But of course there's a problem:</p> <blockquote> <p><strong>Senate Democrats have been resistant to provisions in the bill that preserve restrictions on the use of federal money for abortion services</strong> and extend a children&rsquo;s health program for only two years, but they are expected to eventually work with Senate Republicans to pass the measure.</p> </blockquote> <p>This is similar to the problem with the bipartisan human trafficking bill, which Senate Democrats filibustered last week because of a provision that none of its funds could be used to pay for abortions.</p> <p>I suppose this will get me a lot of flack for being a sellout, but I think Dems should approve both bills. Yes, the abortion provisions are annoying, and go slightly beyond similar language that's been in appropriations bills for decades. But <em>slightly</em> is the operative word here. Like it or not, Republicans long ago won the battle over using federal funds for abortions. Minor affirmations of this policy simply don't amount to much aside from giving Republicans some red meat for their base.</p> <p>This is mostly symbolic, not substantive. Let's pass the bills.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Health Care Reproductive Rights Thu, 26 Mar 2015 21:07:09 +0000 Kevin Drum 272461 at This Lawmaker Publicly Discussed Her Rape and Abortion. And Some Dude Laughed. <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>While speaking out against a proposed bill in Ohio that aims to ban abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, Rep. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) revealed on Wednesday she had been raped during her time in the military and chose to have an abortion.</p> <p>"You don't respect my reason, my rape, my abortion, and I guarantee you there are other women who should stand up with me and be courageous enough to speak that voice," <a href="" target="_blank">Fedor said before the state senate.</a> "What you're doing is so fundamentally inhuman, unconstitutional, and I've sat here too long."</p> <p>Her testimony comes just weeks after an <a href="" target="_blank">Arizona lawmaker</a> shared details about her own abortion, which she had after being sexually assaulted by a male relative when she was a young girl. In a later editorial for <a href="" target="_blank"><em>Cosmopolitan</em></a>, Rep. Victoria Steele said that while she was glad to have spoken out and share her story during the legislative debate, she resented the fact that "women have to tell their deepest, darkest traumas in public" in order for lawmakers to grasp how dangerous such anti-abortion bills were to women and their health.</p> <p>In Fedor's case, not only did she feel she had to share her trauma with her colleagues, at one point she was forced to pause and address the fact a man appeared to be laughing at her while she spoke.</p> <p>"I see people laughing and I don't appreciate that," she said. "And it happens to be a man who is laughing. But this is serious business right now and I'm speaking for all the women in the state of Ohio who didn't get the opportunity to be in front of that committee and make this statement."</p> <p>Ohio's House Bill 69 eventually <a href="" target="_blank">passed </a>with a 55-40 vote. The legislation now goes to the senate, and if passed, will make it a fifth-degree felony and result in up to $2,500 and possible jail time for doctors who perform the abortions.</p> <object classid="clsid:D27CDB6E-AE6D-11cf-96B8-444553540000" codebase=",0,47,0" height='354""' id="flashObj" width="630"><param name="movie" value=";isUI=1"><param name="bgcolor" value="#FFFFFF"><param name="flashVars" value="videoId=4134552171001&amp;playerID=1148472331001&amp;playerKey=AQ~~,AAABCveqeEk~,BRLBX-1yBlngZ35whr_dStkPV5pOiI5Q&amp;domain=embed&amp;dynamicStreaming=true"><param name="base" value=""><param name="seamlesstabbing" value="false"><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"><param name="swLiveConnect" value="true"><param name="allowScriptAccess" value="always"><embed allowfullscreen="true" allowscriptaccess="always" base="" bgcolor="#FFFFFF" flashvars="videoId=4134552171001&amp;playerID=1148472331001&amp;playerKey=AQ~~,AAABCveqeEk~,BRLBX-1yBlngZ35whr_dStkPV5pOiI5Q&amp;domain=embed&amp;dynamicStreaming=true" height='354""' name="flashObj" pluginspage="" seamlesstabbing="false" src=";isUI=1" swliveconnect="true" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="630"></embed></object></body></html> MoJo Video Reproductive Rights Sex and Gender Thu, 26 Mar 2015 20:42:45 +0000 Inae Oh 272451 at More Welfare = More Entrepreneurs? Maybe! <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Walter Frick writes in the <em>Atlantic</em> about recent research which suggests that a strong social safety net increases entrepreneurship. For example, one researcher found that expansion of the food stamp <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_safety_net.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">program led to a <a href="" target="_blank">higher chance that eligible households would start new businesses:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Interestingly, most of these new entrepreneurs didn&rsquo;t actually enroll in the food stamp program. It seems that expanding the availability of food stamps increased business formation by making it less risky for entrepreneurs to strike out on their own. Simply knowing that they could fall back on food stamps if their venture failed was enough to make them more likely to take risks.</p> </blockquote> <p>The same is true of other programs. For example, the Children&rsquo;s Health Insurance Program:</p> <blockquote> <p>By comparing the rate of entrepreneurship of those who just barely qualified for CHIP to those whose incomes just barely exceeded the cutoff, he was able to estimate the program&rsquo;s impact on new business creation. <strong>The rate of incorporated business ownership for those eligible households just below the cutoff was 31 percent greater than for similarly situated families that could not rely on CHIP to care for their children if they needed it.</strong></p> <p>The same is true of recent immigrants to the United States. Contrary to claims by the right that welfare keeps immigrants from living up to their historic role as entrepreneurs, CHIP eligibility increased those households&rsquo; chances of owning an incorporated business by 28 percent.</p> <p><strong>The mechanism in each case is the same: publicly funded insurance lowers the risk of starting a business, since entrepreneurs needn&rsquo;t fear financial ruin.</strong> (This same logic explains why more forgiving bankruptcy laws are associated with more entrepreneurship.)</p> </blockquote> <p>Personally, I'd tentatively file this under the category of news that's a little too good to be true. After all, I'm a liberal. I <em>want</em> to believe this! And I haven't noticed that European rates of entrepreneurship are especially great, despite the fact that their safety net is much stronger than ours.</p> <p>Still, what's true in America might be different from what's true in Europe. Different cultures etc. So it's worth reading the whole piece, which is generally pretty nuanced in its claims. At the very least, though, it certainly suggests that a strong safety net doesn't <em>hurt</em> entrepreneurship.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Economy Thu, 26 Mar 2015 18:09:45 +0000 Kevin Drum 272446 at Wondering What Happens in the Cockpit of a Crashing Plane? Read This Story. <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>An international airliner falls out of the sky, seemingly for no reason. A cryptic recording from the cockpit voice recorder. The crash of Germanwings flight 9525 on Tuesday has, at least in the early going, left investigators with a lot of puzzling questions. It's also drawn obvious parallels to an earlier incident&mdash;the 1999 crash of EgyptAir 990 off the coast of Massachusetts.</p> <p>That crash, which killed 217 people, was ultimately chalked up to "<span class="st">manipulation of the airplane controls,</span>" according to the National Transporation Safety Board. But that euphemism left a lot unsaid. In <a href="" target="_blank">a masterful piece in the <em>Atlantic</em> in 2001</a>, reporter William Langewiesche sought to piece together the mystery of what actually happened:</p> <blockquote> <p>I remember first hearing about the accident early in the morning after the airplane went down. It was October 31, 1999, Halloween morning. I was in my office when a fellow pilot, a former flying companion, phoned with the news: It was EgyptAir Flight 990, a giant twin-engine Boeing 767 on the way from New York to Cairo, with 217 people aboard. It had taken off from Kennedy Airport in the middle of the night, climbed to 33,000 feet, and flown normally for half an hour before mysteriously plummeting into the Atlantic Ocean sixty miles south of Nantucket. Rumor had it that the crew had said nothing to air-traffic control, that the flight had simply dropped off the New York radar screens. Soon afterward an outbound Air France flight had swung over the area, and had reported no fires in sight&mdash;only a dim and empty ocean far below. It was remotely possible that Flight 990 was still in the air somewhere, diverting toward a safe landing. But sometime around daybreak a Merchant Marine training ship spotted debris floating on the waves&mdash;aluminum scraps, cushions and clothing, some human remains. The midshipmen on board gagged from the stench of jet fuel&mdash;a planeload of unburned kerosene rising from shattered tanks on the ocean floor, about 250 feet below. By the time rescue ships and helicopters arrived, it was obvious that there would be no survivors. I remember reacting to the news with regret for the dead, followed by a thought for the complexity of the investigation that now lay ahead. This accident had the markings of a tough case. The problem was not so much the scale of the carnage&mdash;a terrible consequence of the 767's size&mdash;but, rather, the still-sketchy profile of the upset that preceded it, this bewildering fall out of the sky on a calm night, without explanation, during an utterly uncritical phase of the flight.</p> </blockquote> <p>Read the entire piece <a href="" target="_blank">here</a>.</p></body></html> MoJo International Thu, 26 Mar 2015 17:52:52 +0000 Tim Murphy 272441 at Eventually, Two Billionaires Will Duke It Out For President Every Four Years <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_money_elections.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">This is from yesterday, but I really can't pass it up. Matea Gold and Tom Hamburger write in the <em>Washington Post</em> that presidential candidates are no longer much interested in "bundlers" who can raise a paltry million dollars or so for their campaigns. Terry Neese, a successful bundler for George W. Bush, <a href="" target="_blank">is their poster child:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>This year, no potential White House contender has called &mdash; not even Bush&rsquo;s brother, Jeb. As of early Wednesday, the only contacts she had received were e-mails from staffers for two other likely candidates; both went to her spam folder.</p> <p>&ldquo;They are only going to people who are multi-multimillionaires and billionaires and raising big money first,&rdquo; said Neese, who founded a successful employment agency. &ldquo;Most of the people I talk to are kind of rolling their eyes and saying, &lsquo;You know, we just don&rsquo;t count anymore.&rsquo; &rdquo;</p> <p>....In the words of one veteran GOP fundraiser, traditional bundlers have been sent down to the &ldquo;minor leagues,&rdquo; while mega-donors are &ldquo;the major league players.&rdquo;</p> <p><strong>The old-school fundraisers have been temporarily displaced in the early money chase because of the rise of super PACs, which can accept unlimited donations.</strong> This year, White House hopefuls are rushing to raise money for the groups before they declare their candidacies and have to keep their distance.</p> </blockquote> <p>So does this matter? Does it matter whether candidates get contributions from a thousand millionaires vs. a hundred billionaires? Are their political views really very different?</p> <p>In a way, I suppose not. Rich is rich. One difference, though, might be in the way specific industries get treated. If you take a ton of money from Sheldon Adelson or the Koch Brothers, you're more likely to oppose internet gambling and specific energy-related regulations than you might be if you were simply taking money from a whole bunch of different gambling and energy millionaires.</p> <p>On a broader note, though, it has the potential to alienate the electorate even more. Things are bad enough already, but when it becomes clear that presidential candidates are practically being bought and sold by a literal handful of the ultra-rich, how hard is to remain uncynical about politics? Pretty hard.</p> <p>In the end, maybe this doesn't matter so much. Big money is big money, and most people are already convinced that big money controls things in Washington DC. Still, as bad as things are, they can always get worse. Eventually, perhaps each successful candidate will be fully funded by a single billionaire willing to take a flyer with pocket money to see if they can get their guy elected. This is not a healthy world we're building.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Money in Politics Thu, 26 Mar 2015 16:20:54 +0000 Kevin Drum 272426 at Middle East War Suddenly Getting a Lot More Warlike <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>I'm a little behind on the news right now, but it sure looks like things are getting a whole lot hotter in the Middle East. Here are a few headlines:</p> <blockquote> <p>Saudi Jets Strike Yemen in Bid to Halt Houthis</p> <p>Tikrit airstrikes draw U.S. into battle between militants and Iraqi forces</p> <p>Obama Says He Will Delay Withdrawal of U.S. Troops from Afghanistan</p> <p>Iran-backed rebels loot Yemen files about U.S. spy operations</p> <p>U.S. Role in Middle East Revamped Amid Chaos</p> </blockquote> <p>That last headline comes from the <em>Wall Street Journal</em>, and seems to sum things up pretty well. <a href="" target="_blank">The story includes this:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>[Kenneth] Pollack, the former CIA analyst, said the military campaign in Yemen is unlikely to have a positive effect on the country&rsquo;s fractured dynamics.</p> <p>&ldquo;The idea that this is going to produce some kind of a peaceful settlement is ridiculous,&rdquo; Mr. Pollack said. &ldquo;The more likely outcome is it just prolongs the stalemate.&rdquo; <strong>The Persian Gulf countries could consider the use of ground troops to make progress,</strong> which should be a concern for the U.S., he said.</p> </blockquote> <p>What could go wrong?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum International Military Thu, 26 Mar 2015 15:17:03 +0000 Kevin Drum 272416 at The Real Reason to Worry About GMOs <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>In a recent column, the<em> New York Times</em>' Mark Bittman makes an important point about the controversy around genetically modified foods. "[T]o date&nbsp;<a href="">there's little credible evidence</a>&nbsp;that any food grown with genetic engineering techniques is dangerous to human health," he writes. Yet the way the technology has been used&mdash;mainly, to engineer crops that can withstand herbicides&mdash;is deeply problematic, he argues.</p> <p>Here's why I think Bittman's point is crucial. The below chart, from the&nbsp;pro-biotech International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications, gives a snapshot of what types of GMO crops farmers were planting as of 2012. In more <a href="" target="_blank">recent reports</a>, the ISAAA doesn't break out its data in the same way, but it's a fair assumption that things are roughly similar three years later, given that no GMO blockbusters have entered the market since.</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/clive-james-biotech-acres.jpg"><div class="caption">Chart: The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications,</div> </div> <p>If you add up all the herbicide-tolerant crops on the list, you find that about 69 percent of global GM acres are planted with crops engineered to withstand herbicides. But that's an undercount, because the GM products listed as "stacked traits" are engineered to repel insects (the Bt trait) <em>and</em> to withstand herbicides. Adding those acres in, the grand total comes to something like 84 percent of global biotech acres devoted to crops that can flourish when doused with weed killers&mdash;chemicals that are sold by the very same companies that sell the GMO seeds.</p> <p>As Bittman points out, almost all of the herbicide-tolerant crops on the market to date have been engineered to resist a single herbicide, glyphosate. And weeds have evolved to resist that herbicide, forcing farmers to apply heavier doses and or added older, more toxic chemicals to the mix.</p> <p>Rather than reconsider the wisdom of committing tens of millions of acres to crops developed to resist a single herbicide, the industry plans to double down: Monsanto and rival Dow will both be <a href="">marketing crops next year</a> engineered to withstand both glyphosate <em>and</em> more-toxic herbicides&mdash;even though scientists like Penn State University's David Mortensen are <a href="">convinced</a> that the new products are "likely to increase the severity of resistant weeds" and "facilitate a significant increase in herbicide use."</p> <p>Meanwhile, unhappily, the World Health Organization has recently decreed glyphosate, sold by Monsanto under the Roundup brand name, a "probable carcinogen"&mdash;a designation Monsanto is <a href="">vigorously trying to get rescinded</a>.</p> <p>So, given that 20 years after GM crops first appeared on farm fields, something like four-fifths of global biotech acres are still devoted to herbicide-tolerant crops, Bittman's unease about how the technology has been deployed seems warranted. It's true that genetically altered <a href="" target="_blank">apples</a> and <a href="" target="_blank">potatoes</a> that don't brown as rapidly when they're sliced will soon hit the market. They may prove to be a benign development. But it's doubtful that they'll spread over enough acres to rival herbicide-tolerant crops anytime soon. And humanity has thrived for millennia despite the scourge of fast-browning apples and potatoes. The same isn't true for ever-increasing deluges of toxic herbicides.</p></body></html> Tom Philpott Food and Ag Science Top Stories Thu, 26 Mar 2015 10:00:08 +0000 Tom Philpott 272396 at "Everything Could Be Taken Away From Me": Watch This Woman Bravely Fight an Anti-Transgender Bill <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>As Florida lawmakers continue to consider a bill aiming to make it a criminal act for <a href="" target="_blank">transgender people</a> to use the bathroom of their choice, we'd like to direct your attention to Cindy Sullivan, who spoke out against the bill in incredibly brave and <a href="" target="_blank">emotional testimony</a> earlier this month.</p> <p>"I see this bill as effecting not just my business but my partner's business," Sullivan said. "If I go to use the restroom, everybody in that restroom has the ability to sue me and my family, affect my child, affect my reputation. Everything could be taken away from me."</p> <p>"You could put me in jail for being me!"</p> <p>As her tears well, Sullivan repeatedly looks behind her shoulder, as the bill's sponsor, state representative Frank Artiles watches on.</p> <p>House Bill 583 has already been approved by <a href="" target="_blank">two subcommittees</a> and is expected to be reviewed by the house judiciary committee later this week. In Kentucky and Texas, lawmakers are attempting to pass similar anti-transgender legislation. All three states have the support and financial backing of the Alliance Defending Freedom, an influential conservative group.</p> <p>Sullivan, who began her testimony noting she too was a Republican, slammed the bill as "government intrusion at its worst."</p> <p>"I'm a throw-away piece of trash, in this country of freedom, and liberty, and respect."</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="400" mozallowfullscreen="" scrolling="no" src="" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="640"></iframe></p> <p>&nbsp;</p></body></html> MoJo Video Civil Liberties Gay Rights Sex and Gender Wed, 25 Mar 2015 23:37:48 +0000 Inae Oh 272391 at Ted Cruz Expected to Headline Event With a Man Who Compared Muslims to Nazis <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who announced his candidacy for President on Monday via Twitter, is expected to speak <a href="" target="_blank">at</a> the Young America's Foundation's "New England Freedom Conference" in Nashua, New Hampshire on Friday.</p> <p>Also on the lineup is Robert Spencer, the co-founder of Stop Islamization of America and director of the Jihad Watch blog. He is notorious for his attacks on Islam. "It's absurd" to think that "Islam is a religion of peace that's been hijacked by &hellip; extremists," he <a href="">said</a> at the Conservative Political Action Conference in February. He has <a href="">compared Muslims to Nazis</a> and <a href="">demanded</a> that Muslims take a loyalty test before being appointed to public office in America. He has told reporters that Islam is <a href="">here to take over America</a>, and that President Barack Obama is <a href="">secretly</a> a Muslim. His book opens with the rallying cry of the Crusades, "God wills it!" and he calls for a second crusade <a href="">against Islam</a>.</p> <p>The conference, to be hosted at the Radisson in southeast New Hampshire, <a href="">bills itself</a> as a conservative gathering on "why big government policies are a big problem" and "ways to effectively push back against leftist, big government threats to your freedoms." It's hosted by the Young America's Foundation, which has previously been linked to extremists. Young Americans for Freedom, which merged with the Young America's Foundation in 2011, hosted an event <a href=";c=Zu7GojTVYR9YouYv6xSy5D6xOxmBbnT0F36MDp72l4whWxV-Zuq8ng==&amp;ch=XOHfV-PSFGpE46WmBTPruvS-IhCvyTJlGonEawVFCbJFqboDIPTOow==">in 2007</a> in which Nick Griffin&mdash; who was the chairman of the British National Party, a white supremacist group, and a Holocaust denier&mdash;spoke. Two board members of Young America's Foundation, Ron Robinson and James B. Taylor, <a href="">also ran</a> a political action committee that donated thousands of dollars to a white nationalist organization, the Charles Martel Society.</p> <p>The Council on American Islamic Relations criticized Cruz for agreeing to speak at a conference that is providing a platform to Spencer. "If Senator Cruz believes that he can campaign for president while sharing center stage with a professional hate monger like Robert Spencer, I seriously doubt his ability to win the US minority vote or unite the country as president," said CAIR Government Affairs Manager Robert McCaw.</p> <p>"Senator Cruz has been invited to speak to Young America's Foundation," says Rick Tyler, a spokesperson for Cruz's campaign. "He intends to keep that commitment."</p></body></html> MoJo 2016 Elections Religion Ted Cruz The Right Top Stories Wed, 25 Mar 2015 18:36:13 +0000 Jenna McLaughlin 272366 at Should Your State Be Able to Ignore the Nation's Most Important Pollution Law? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Earlier this month, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) proposed a bold solution for any state that doesn't like President Barack Obama's flagship plan to slash carbon emissions: <a href="" target="_blank">Just ignore it</a>. The new rule, issued under the Clean Air Act, aims to reduce the nation's carbon footprint 30 percent by 2030. It would require every state to devise a plan to cut the carbon intensity (pollution per unit of energy) of its power sector. By simply ignoring the mandate, McConnell reasoned, states could delay taking steps like shuttering or retrofitting coal-fired power plants until the rules get killed by the Supreme Court (even though the chances of that happening are pretty remote).</p> <p>Last week, McConnell <a href="" target="_blank">justified</a> his unusual suggestion that state regulators deliberately ignore federal law by arguing that the rules themselves are illegal. And yesterday, he took his campaign to a new level by introducing&mdash;on behalf of GOP co-sponsors Rob Portman (Ohio), Roy Blunt (Mo.), Tom Cotton (Ark.), and Orrin Hatch (Utah)&mdash;an <a href="" target="_blank">amendment</a> to the Senate's massive budget bill. It would allow any state to opt out of the rule if that state's governor or legislature decides that complying would raise electric bills, would impact electricity reliability, or would result in any one of a litany of other hypothetical problems. The amendment could get a vote later this week.</p> <p>Meanwhile, over in the House, Reps. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) and Fred Upton (R-Mich.) have introduced a <a href="" target="_blank">bill</a> along essentially the same lines, which is set to to be debated by the Energy and Power Subcommittee, which Whitfield chairs, next month.</p> <p>Republicans are pitching these proposals as necessary steps to protect Americans from the power-hungry, climate-crazed Obama administration. But if passed, they might do more to protect the interests of coal companies. In fact, the Portman amendment introduced by McConnell explicitly allows states to opt out if the rules would "impair investments in existing electric generating capacity"&mdash;in other words, if they require the early retirement of any power plants. The apparent justification is that in order to comply with the Environmental Protection Agency, states will have to quickly implement sweeping changes to their power system that could leave residents with expensive, unreliable power.</p> <p>In reality, many energy economists (not to mention <a href="" target="_blank">utility companies</a> themselves) have found that the range of options states have to comply with the EPA&mdash;such as mandating better energy efficiency and building more renewable energy&mdash;are <a href="" target="_blank">more than enough to keep the lights on and bills stable</a>, while simultaneously burning less coal. (Meanwhile, regardless of any new EPA rules, coal is already on a precipitous and probably irreversible decline thanks largely to the recent glut of cheap natural gas.)&nbsp;</p> <p>Both bills also work on the assumption that the rules grossly overstep the EPA's authority by extending beyond coal-fired smokestacks to the whole power system. That question is likely to be at the heart of the <a href="" target="_blank">inevitable court battles</a> over the rule. But as leading environmental lawyer Richard Revesz testified to a House committee this month, wide-reaching plans like this have been <a href="" target="_blank">successfully implemented</a> under the Clean Air Act for other pollutants like sulfur and mercury throughout the legislation's 40-year history.&nbsp;</p> <p>In any case, giving states the option to opt out of federal air quality rules essentially undermines the entire premise of the Clean Air Act, probably the most powerful piece of environmental legislation ever passed. As Natural Resources Defense Council policy chief David Doniger <a href=";utm_medium=tweet&amp;utm_campaign=socialmedia" target="_blank">put it yesterday</a>: "These bills would force us back to the dark days half a century ago when powerful polluters had a free hand to poison our air, because states were unwilling or unable to protect their citizens."</p></body></html> Blue Marble Climate Change Climate Desk Congress Energy Top Stories Infrastructure Wed, 25 Mar 2015 17:20:06 +0000 Tim McDonnell 272356 at Neil DeGrasse Tyson Blasts Florida's Alleged Ban on Discussing Climate Change <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Neil DeGrasse Tyson has now weighed in on Florida's alleged <a href="" target="_blank">ban on using the words</a> "climate change" and "global warming" in government communications. The astrophysicist-turned-TV-star&nbsp;told a Sarasota, Fla., crowd on Monday that he was astonished by the report, adding he thought "as a nation we were better than this."</p> <p>"Now we have a time where people are cherry picking science,"&nbsp;Tyson <a href=";tc=pg" target="_blank">said</a>, according to the <em>Herald Tribune of Sarasota</em>. "The science is not political. That's like repealing gravity because you gained 10 pounds last week."</p> <p>Earlier this month, the&nbsp;Florida Center for Investigative Reporting published an&nbsp;<a href="" style="line-height: 2em;" target="_blank">explosive story alleging</a> that Scott's administration had instituted an unwritten policy&nbsp;forbidding government employees from using "climate change," "global warming," and "sea level rise" in official communications.&nbsp;The governor has since denied the report, but several environmental groups have called for&nbsp;<a href="" style="line-height: 2em;" target="_blank">a probe</a> into the alleged ban.</p> <p>In his remarks Monday, Tyson said that while it may be easy to shame politicians for their climate change denial<span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 24px;">, it's ultimately the voters who are responsible.</span></p> <p>"Debating facts takes time away from the conversation," <a href="" target="_blank">Tyson said</a>, according to the <em>Bradenton Herald</em>. "We should be talking about what we are going to do about this. I don't blame the politicians for a damn thing because we vote for the politician. I blame the electorate."</p> <p>This isn't the first time Tyson has scolded voters for electing science-denying politicians. In a January interview with the <em><a href="" target="_blank">Boston Globe</a>, </em>he said he used to get "bent out of shape" about elected officials like <a href="" target="_blank">snowball-wielding</a> Senator James Inhofe publicly claiming climate change is a hoax. But his views have since evolved.</p> <p>"The real challenge to the educator is not beating politicians over the head, or lobbying them, or writing letters," he said. "It's improving the educational system that shapes the people who elect such representatives in the first place."</p></body></html> Mixed Media Climate Change Climate Desk Science Wed, 25 Mar 2015 15:38:04 +0000 Inae Oh 272351 at The People Who Pick Your Organic Strawberries Have Had It With Rat-Infested Camps <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>When most of us think of Mexican food, we visualize tacos, burritos, and chiles rellenos. But we should probably add cucumbers, squash, melons, and berries to the list&mdash;more or less the whole supermarket produce aisle, in fact. The United States imports more than a <a href="">quarter of the fresh fruit and nearly a third of the vegetables</a> we consume. And a huge portion of that foreign-grown bounty&mdash;<a href="">69 percent of vegetables and 37 percent of fruit</a>&mdash;comes from our neighbor to the south.</p> <p>Not surprisingly, as I've <a href="">shown before</a>, labor conditions on Mexico's large export-oriented farms tend to be dismal: subpar housing, inadequate sanitation, poverty wages, and often, labor arrangements that approach slavery. But this week, workers in Baja California, a major ag-producing state just south of California, are standing up. Here's <a href="" target="_blank">the <em>Los Angeles Times</em>:</a> "Thousands of laborers in the San Quint&iacute;n Valley 200 miles south of San Diego went on strike&nbsp;Tuesday, leaving the fields and greenhouses full of produce that is now on the verge of rotting."</p> <p>In addition to the work stoppage, striking workers shut down 55 miles of the Trans-Peninsular Highway, a key thoroughfare for moving goods from Baja California to points north, the Mexico City newspaper <em>La Jornada</em> (in Spanish) <a href="" target="_blank">reported</a> after the strike started on March 17.</p> <p>The blockade has been lifted, at least temporarily. But the "road remains hard to traverse as rogue groups stop and, at times, attack truck drivers," the<em> LA Times</em> reports. And the strike itself continues. The uprising is starting to affect US supply chains. An executive for the organic-produce titan Del Cabo Produce, which grows vegetables south of the San Quint&iacute;n Valley but needs to traverse it to reach its US customers, told the<em> Times</em> that the clash is "creating a lot of logistical problems&hellip;We're having to cut orders." And "Costco reported that organic strawberries are in short supply because about 80% of the production this time of year comes from Baja California," the <em>Times</em> added. The US trade publication <em>Produce News</em> <a href="" target="_blank">downplayed</a> the strike's impact, calling it "minor."</p> <p>Meanwhile, the strike's organizers plan to launch a campaign to get US consumers to boycott products grown in the region, mainly tomatoes, cucumbers, and strawberries, inspired by the successful '70s-era actions of the California-based United Farm Workers, headed by Cesar Chavez, <em>La Jornada </em><a href="">reported</a> Tuesday.<strong> </strong>And current UFW president Arturo Rodriguez has issued a <a href=";b_code=org_pre&amp;b_no=16318&amp;page=1&amp;field=&amp;key=&amp;n=133">statement of solidarity</a> with the San Quint&iacute;n strikers.</p> <p>Such cross-border organizing is critical, because the people who work on Mexico's export-focused farms tend to be from the same places as the people who work on the vast California and Florida operations that supply the bulk of our domestically grown produce: the largely indigenous states of southern Mexico. And the final market for the crops they tend and harvest is also the same: US supermarkets and restaurants.</p> <p>In a stunning <a href="" target="_blank">four-part series</a> last year, <em>LA Times</em> reporter Richard Marosi documented the harsh conditions that prevail on the Mexican farms that churn out our food. He found:</p> <blockquote> <ul><li>Many farm laborers are essentially trapped for months at a time in rat-infested camps, often without beds and sometimes without functioning toilets or a reliable water supply.</li> <li>Some camp bosses illegally withhold wages to prevent workers from leaving during peak harvest periods.</li> <li>Laborers often go deep in debt paying inflated prices for necessities at company stores. Some are reduced to scavenging for food when their credit is cut off. It's common for laborers to head home penniless at the end of a harvest.</li> <li>Those who seek to escape their debts and miserable living conditions have to contend with guards, barbed-wire fences, and sometimes threats of violence from camp supervisors.</li> <li>Major US companies have done little to enforce social responsibility guidelines that call for basic worker protections such as clean housing and fair pay practices.</li> </ul></blockquote> <p>As for their counterparts to the north, migrant-reliant US farms tend to treat workers harshly as well, as the excellent 2014 documentary <em>Food Chains</em> demonstrates. The trailer, below, is a good crash course on what it's like to be at the bottom of the US food system. In honor of National Farm Worker Awareness Week, the producers are <a href="">making it available for $0.99</a> on iTunes. And <a href="" target="_blank">here</a>'s an interview with the film's director, Sanjay Rawal, by <em>Mother Jones</em>' Maddie Oatman.</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="" width="630"></iframe></p></body></html> Tom Philpott Food and Ag International Labor Top Stories Wed, 25 Mar 2015 10:00:10 +0000 Tom Philpott 272336 at Robot-Building 6-Year-Old Girls Talking Tech With Obama Is the Best Thing You'll See All Week <!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>On Monday, President Obama made his annual rounds at the White House Science Fair. The event is a breeding ground for adorable interactions with kid-nerds (See 2012's <a href="" target="_blank">marshmallow-shooting air cannon</a>), but <a href="" target="_blank">his chat</a> yesterday with five cape-wearing Girl Scouts from Oklahoma was especially magical.</p> <p>The 6-year-olds from Tulsa's Girl Scout Troup 411 were <a href="" target="_blank">the youngest</a> inventors selected to present at this year's fair. <a href="" target="_blank">Inspired by</a> conversations with a librarian and one of the girls' grandmas, they built a mechanical Lego contraption that can turn pages, to help patients with mobility issues read books.</p> <p>The group of first graders and kindergartners explain to Obama that the device is a "prototype" that they came up with in a "brainstorming session." One of the girls asks Obama if he's ever had his own brainstorming session.</p> <p>"I have had a couple brainstorming sessions," replies an amused Obama. "But I didn't come up with anything this good!"</p> <p>Another girls asks what he came up with:</p> <p>"I mean, I came up with things like, you know, health care. It turned out ok, but it started off with some prototypes," the president says.</p> <p>And then they all go in for a group hug. GOLD.</p> <p>Suzanne Dodson, the coach of the Lego team and the mom of one of the scouts, told <a href="" target="_blank"><em>Tulsa World</em></a> that she's glad the girls are getting such positive attention for their project: "It really is a problem with girls, when they get to middle school, they lose confidence in their own ability to succeed in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math)" she said. "Having this experience at young age really gives them a confidence boost."</p></body></html> Mixed Media Tech Tue, 24 Mar 2015 23:56:46 +0000 Hannah Levintova 272341 at Housekeeping Note <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>I'll be busy with various tests and doctor appointments all day Wednesday, so no blogging. I should be back on Thursday, health permitting.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 24 Mar 2015 22:27:07 +0000 Kevin Drum 272331 at Everything Changed on 9/11, Starting With Ted Cruz's Musical Taste <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><object classid="clsid:D27CDB6E-AE6D-11cf-96B8-444553540000" codebase=",0,47,0" height="270" id="flashObj" width="480"><param name="movie" value=";isUI=1"><param name="bgcolor" value="#FFFFFF"><param name="flashVars" value="videoId=4131746112001&amp;;playerID=58264559001&amp;playerKey=AQ~~,AAAAAASoY90~,_gW1ZHvKG_0UvBsh7aZU7MXZe77OcsGq&amp;domain=embed&amp;dynamicStreaming=true"><param name="base" value=""><param name="seamlesstabbing" value="false"><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"><param name="swLiveConnect" value="true"><param name="allowScriptAccess" value="always"><embed allowfullscreen="true" allowscriptaccess="always" base="" bgcolor="#FFFFFF" flashvars="videoId=4131746112001&amp;;playerID=58264559001&amp;playerKey=AQ~~,AAAAAASoY90~,_gW1ZHvKG_0UvBsh7aZU7MXZe77OcsGq&amp;domain=embed&amp;dynamicStreaming=true" height="270" name="flashObj" pluginspage="" seamlesstabbing="false" src=";isUI=1" swliveconnect="true" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="480"></embed></object> <p>During a segment of <a href="" target="_blank">CBS's <em>This Morning</em> show</a>, Senator Ted Cruz attempted to explain how the attacks on September 11&nbsp;moved him to shun the soulless genre of rock music and pick up country:</p> <blockquote> <p>You know, music is interesting. I grew up listening to classic rock and I&rsquo;ll tell you sort of an odd story. My music tastes changed on 9/11. And it&rsquo;s a very strange&mdash;I actually, intellectually, find this very curious, but on 9/11, I didn&rsquo;t like how rock music responded. And country music collectively, the way they responded, it resonated with me and I have to say, it&mdash;just as a gut level, I had an emotional reaction that says, &ldquo;These are my people.&rdquo; And so ever since 2001 I listen to country music, but I&rsquo;m an odd country music fan because I didn&rsquo;t listen to it prior to 2001.</p> </blockquote> <p>September 11, the day the music died for our only declared presidential candidate and now the phoniest dude you'll run into at a country concert. This is going to be a wildly entertaining road to 2016.</p> <p><em><a href="" target="_blank">(h/t Slate</a></em>)</p></body></html> MoJo Video 2016 Elections Music Ted Cruz Tue, 24 Mar 2015 19:26:54 +0000 Inae Oh 272291 at Has Israel Given Up On Democrats? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Israel is doing its best to spy on the nuclear negotiations between Iran and the West. No surprise there. But the Obama administration believes they've <a href="" target="_blank">taken things too far:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The spying operation was part of a broader campaign by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu&rsquo;s government to penetrate the negotiations and then help build a case against the emerging terms of the deal, current and former U.S. officials said....The espionage didn&rsquo;t upset the White House as much as <strong>Israel&rsquo;s sharing of inside information with U.S. lawmakers and others to drain support from a high-stakes deal intended to limit Iran&rsquo;s nuclear program,</strong> current and former officials said.</p> <p>....&ldquo;People feel personally sold out,&rdquo; a senior administration official said. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s where the Israelis really better be careful because a lot of these people will not only be around for this administration but possibly the next one as well.&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>The upshot of all this is that support for Israel is rapidly becoming a partisan issue. &ldquo;If you&rsquo;re wondering whether something serious has shifted here, the answer is yes,&rdquo; a senior U.S. official said. &ldquo;These things leave scars.&rdquo; This is not likely to be good for Israel in the long term.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum International Tue, 24 Mar 2015 15:46:45 +0000 Kevin Drum 272266 at