Blogs | Mother Jones Mother Jones logo en Watch Drought Take Over the Entire State of California in One GIF <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><span id="docs-internal-guid-36f40aff-8db7-54ad-b673-8f3e77369c0d">California, the producer of half of the nation's </span><a href="">fruits, veggies</a>, and <a href="">nuts</a>, is experiencing its third-worst drought on record. The dry spell is expected to cost the state billions of dollars and thousands of jobs, and farmers are digging into <a href="">groundwater supplies</a> to keep their crops alive. We've been keeping an eye on the drought with the <a href="">US Drought Monitor</a>, a USDA-sponsored program that uses data from soil moisture and stream flow, satellite imagery, and other indicators to produce weekly drought maps. Here's a GIF showing the spread of the drought, from last December 31&mdash;shortly before Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency&mdash;until July 28.</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/CA_DROUGHT_PUB_1_sec.gif"></div></body></html> Blue Marble Climate Change Food and Ag Top Stories Fri, 01 Aug 2014 10:00:11 +0000 Julia Lurie, AJ Vicens, and Alex Park 257461 at First Indochina War Ended 60 Years Ago [Photo] <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"> <p><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/HD-SN-99-02043-630.jpg"></p> <div class="caption"><strong>A wounded Vietminh prisoner is given first aid by Franco Vietnamese medicals after hot fire fight near Hung Yen, south of Hanoi, 1954. </strong>US Department of Defense</div> </div> <p>On this date in 1954 the first Indochina War officially ended. After a long war in Viet Nam, culminating in the nearly four month battle of Dien Bien Phu, the French withdrew under the the Geneva Acccords. That agreement also also divided Viet Nam along the 17th parallel under the condition that a unification election would be held two years later. When elections didn't happen as planned, the communist Viet Minh fought to reclaim the South, which eventually drew the United States deeper into the fight between the Communists and Western-backed South Vietnamese government.</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/HD-SN-99-02041-630.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>A French Foreign Legionnaire goes to war along the dry rib of a rice paddy, during a recent sweep through communist-held areas in the Red River Delta, between Haiphong and Hanoi. Behind the Legionnaire is a U.S. gifted tank, 1954. </strong>US Department of Defense</div> </div> <p>&nbsp;</p></body></html> Mixed Media Foreign Policy Military Fri, 01 Aug 2014 10:00:10 +0000 Mark Murrmann 257346 at California Projects Very Modest Obamacare Rate Hikes in 2015 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">Good news from the Golden State!</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Defying an industry trend of double-digit rate hikes, California officials said the more than 1.2 million consumers in the state-run Obamacare insurance exchange <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_california_obamacare_increases_2015_small.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">can expect modest price increases of 4.2% on average next year.</p> <p>...."We have changed the trend in healthcare costs," said Peter Lee, Covered California's executive director. "This is good news for Californians."....State officials and insurers credited the strong turnout during the first six-month enrollment window that ended in April for helping to keep 2015 rates in check.</p> </blockquote> <p>It's still early days for Obamacare, and it's not yet clear if it deserves credit for keeping California's rate hikes low. It may instead be due to the recent slow growth of medical costs nationally. Nonetheless, this is a very positive sign. California is a big market, and it's one that's traditionally seen steep rate hikes in the individual insurance market. At the very least, we can certainly say that conservative predictions of catastrophically high rate increases thanks to Obamacare have turned out to be groundless. Again.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Health Care Fri, 01 Aug 2014 05:30:09 +0000 Kevin Drum 257501 at Feds Say Big Banks Are Still Too Big to Fail <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Six years after the financial crisis, the largest US banks are likely still too-big-to-fail, according to a study <a href="" target="_blank">released</a> Thursday afternoon by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). That means that these massive financial institutions are still so important to the wider financial system that they can expect the government to bail them out again if they are close to collapse.</p> <p>Even though the GAO study found that this advantage banks enjoy dropped off significantly in 2013, "this is a continuing issue," Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), who has introduced legislation aimed at ending bank bailouts, <a href="" target="_blank">told <em>Bloomberg</em> Thursday</a>. "Too-big-to-fail is not dead and gone at all. It exists."</p> <p>During the financial crisis, the government forked out $700 billion to bail out the nation's biggest banks. The 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform act imposed new requirements on Wall Street designed to prevent this from happening again. The law gave federal Wall Street regulators more authority to dismantle failing financial institutions, mandated that banks hold more emergency funds on hand, and required banks to submit to yearly stress tests to ensure that they can withstand another crisis.</p> <p>How effective these measures have been in ending too-big-to-fail is still an open question, and <a href="" target="_blank">subject to heated debate</a> in the halls of Congress. <a href="" target="_blank">Other</a> <a href="" target="_blank">reports</a> have found that even after Dodd-Frank, big banks still enjoy a huge advantage over smaller, community banks in terms of lower borrowing rates, thanks largely to the perception that they can't fail. Many investors believe the government will still bail out large, systemically important banks if they are again faced with collapse, whereas the economy can afford to lose a local bank or two. As a result, the biggest US banks benefited from a $70 billion too-big-to-fail subsidy in 2012, according to a March <a href="" target="_blank">report</a> by the International Monetary Fund.</p> <p>Sen. Vitter, as well as Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), and John McCain (D-Ariz.) have introduced legislation that attempts to truly end big bank bailouts by <a href="" target="_blank">forcing banks to hold larger emergency reserves</a> and <a href="" target="_blank">shrinking the size of massive Wall Street firms</a>.</p></body></html> MoJo Corporations Economy Regulatory Affairs Fri, 01 Aug 2014 00:06:12 +0000 Erika Eichelberger 257456 at John Boehner's Lawsuit Against Obama Is Perfectly Reasonable <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>I've made this point before, but I'd like to make it again: Exactly <em>why</em> is John Boehner's lawsuit against President Obama so frivolous? I don't mean this in a strictly legal sense. It may be that the suit fails immediately for lack of standing.<sup>1</sup> Or that the merits of this particular case don't hold water. We can let the lawyers battle that out.</p> <p>Politically, though, what's wrong with asking a court to decide if a federal agency has overstepped the will of Congress in its execution of the law? The answer, of course, is: nothing. People do it all the time, hundreds of times a year. The <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/images/Blog_US_Capitol_0.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">only difference here is that a house of Congress is doing it. But why does that suddenly make it frivolous?</p> <p>It could be that you think courts should stick to their traditional practice of staying neutral in "political" disputes between branches of the government. That's fine. But it's not an argument that's gotten much air time. You might also think it sets a bad precedent. But again, I'm not hearing that. Instead, the argument seems to be that this suit is simply absurd on its face, an idiotic piece of grandstanding by the Republican Party.</p> <p>There's no question that it's a piece of grandstanding. Nor that House Republicans could be making better use of their time. And yes, it's obviously deeply politically motivated. But that doesn't mean it's frivolous. So once again: why is it that suing a federal agency over its interpretation of a law suddenly becomes ridiculous just because Congress does it?</p> <p>I'm open to good arguments on this score. Go ahead and convince me.</p> <p><sup>1</sup>I hope not, though. I understand why standing is important,<sup>2</sup> but I'm unhappy that there seem to be a fair number of colorably important cases in which it's all but impossible to find someone with standing to sue. That's just not right.</p> <p><sup>2</sup>Honest, I really do.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Congress Obama Thu, 31 Jul 2014 23:24:07 +0000 Kevin Drum 257491 at Microsoft Loses Another Round in E-Mail Privacy Case <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">The latest in the privacy wars:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>A federal court in New York ruled Thursday that Microsoft must comply with a U.S. search warrant to turn over a customer&rsquo;s e-mails held in a server overseas.</p> <p>....A number of tech firms and privacy advocates have joined [Microsoft] in arguing that if the government prevails and can reach across borders, it will cause foreign individuals and businesses to flee to their non-U.S. competitors. <strong>Microsoft also argued that the United States would not be in a position to complain when foreign governments do the same and insist on access to e-mail content stored in the country.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Hmmm. How <em>would</em> we feel if, say, an Egyptian court demanded that Microsoft turn over emails stored on a server in California? Hmmm.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Civil Liberties Thu, 31 Jul 2014 22:08:45 +0000 Kevin Drum 257481 at Yes, the CIA Spied on the Senate <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Earlier this year, CIA Director John Brennan accused staffers from the Senate Intelligence Committee of removing classified material from the CIA office where they were researching a report on the agency's use of torture during the Bush administration. This turned out to be very poor tradecraft on Brennan's part, since it implicitly revealed the fact that the CIA was spying on Senate staffers even though it wasn't supposed to. Brennan tried to mount a suitably aggressive counterattack to Senate outrage over this, <a href=";ihp=1" target="_blank">but today it all came crashing down:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>CIA employees improperly accessed computers used by the Senate Intelligence Committee to compile a report on the agency&rsquo;s now defunct detention and interrogation program, an internal CIA investigation has determined.</p> <p>....The statement represented an admission to charges by the panel&rsquo;s chairwoman, Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., that the CIA intruded into the computers her staff used to compile the soon-to-be released report on the agency&rsquo;s use of harsh interrogation methods on suspected terrorists in secret overseas prisons during the Bush administration.</p> <p>CIA Director John Brennan briefed Feinstein and the committee&rsquo;s vice chairman, Saxby Chambliss, R-GA, on the CIA inspector general&rsquo;s findings and apologized to them during a meeting on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, Boyd said.</p> </blockquote> <p>I find that my reaction remains one of schadenfreude. Dianne Feinstein and the rest of the Intelligence Committee seem to be mostly unconcerned with the omnipresent surveillance apparatus constructed by the US intelligence community, so it's hard to feel very sorry for them when they learn that this apparatus is also sometimes directed at Senate staffers. If this affair had persuaded a few senators that maybe our intelligence chiefs are less than totally honest about what they do, it might have done some good. But it doesn't seem to have done that. With only a few exceptions, they're outraged when the CIA spies on <em>them</em>, but that's about it.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Civil Liberties Congress Thu, 31 Jul 2014 17:43:07 +0000 Kevin Drum 257451 at We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for July 31, 2014 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p class="rtecenter"><em>US Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division participate in a training mission in Florida. <span class="meta-field photo-desc ">(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christopher Callaway.)</span></em></p></body></html> MoJo Military Thu, 31 Jul 2014 16:12:25 +0000 257426 at Why American Politics Is Broken In One Sentence <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Dave Weigel explains modern politics <a href="" target="_blank">in a single sentence:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Voters are aware of a border crisis, they are aware that Barack Obama is president&mdash;they blame him for nothing getting done.</p> </blockquote> <p>Yep. Republicans can basically do anything they want and never get blamed for it. Most voters don't even know who's in control of Congress anyway. When something goes wrong, all they know is (a) something went wrong, and (b) Barack Obama is the president and he should have done something about it.</p> <p>That being the case, what incentive do Republicans have for making things go right? Pretty much none. This is, roughly speaking, a fairly new insight, and it explains most of what you need to know about American politics in the Obama era.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Congress Obama Thu, 31 Jul 2014 16:06:20 +0000 Kevin Drum 257421 at The Feds Are Demanding That Twitter Turn Over More User Info Than Ever <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>US law enforcement and intelligence agencies are hitting Twitter with more information requests about its users than ever before, and in most cases the social network is handing over some data, according to a new <a href="" target="_blank">report released by the company</a> on Thursday. Twitter notes that many of the government demands, which are typically related to criminal investigations, are originating from <a href="" target="_blank">California, New York, and Virginia. </a>They're coming from federal, state, and local law enforcement and intelligence officials, a Twitter spokesman says.</p> <p>Like <a href="" target="_blank">several other tech companies</a>, Twitter releases transparency reports disclosing information about the government requests for user data it has received. According to the latest report, between January 1 and June 30, Twitter received just over 2,000 requests for information covering about 3,100 Twitter accounts from authorities in 54 countries, with about 1,250 of those requests coming from US agencies. That's a sharp increase from the previous six months, when there were about 1,400 requests, around 830 of those from the US. According to the Twitter spokesman, US authorities have placed more information requests over the last six months than the company has ever received in a similar timeframe.</p> <p>While Twitter granted zero requests to some countries that requested information recently, such as Turkey, Venezuela, and Pakistan, the social network handed over at least some information in 72 percent of the cases when US authorities requested it.</p> <p>While the social network can report a tally of law enforcement-related requests, the social network is barred by the US government from publishing the specific number of national security-related requests&mdash;such as <a href="" target="_blank">national security letters and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court orders</a>&mdash;it has received. Twitter <a href="" target="_blank">notes</a> that it met with the FBI and the Justice Department earlier this year to push for more transparency.</p></body></html> MoJo Tech Top Stories Thu, 31 Jul 2014 15:54:49 +0000 Dana Liebelson 257396 at This Is the Lamest Defense of GMO Foods Ever <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><iframe align="right" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="258" src="" style="margin: 8px 20px 15px 30px;" width="400"></iframe>Over on our environment blog, Chris Mooney posts an excerpt from an interview in which Neil deGrasse Tyson <a href="" target="_blank">defends GMO foods:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>"Practically every food you buy in a store for consumption by humans is genetically modified food," asserts Tyson. "There are no wild, seedless watermelons. There's no wild cows...You list all the fruit, and all the vegetables, and ask yourself, is there a wild counterpart to this? If there is, it's not as large, it's not as sweet, it's not as juicy, and it has way more seeds in it. We have systematically genetically modified all the foods, the vegetables and animals that we have eaten ever since we cultivated them. It's called artificial selection."</p> </blockquote> <p>This is a very common defense of GMO foods, but I've always found it to be the weakest, least compelling argument possible. It's so weak, in fact, that I always wonder if people who make it are even operating in good faith.</p> <p>It's true that we've been breeding new and better strains of plants and animals forever. But this isn't a defense of GMO. On the contrary, it's precisely the point that GMO critics make. We have about 10,000 years of evidence that traditional breeding methods are basically safe. That's why anyone can do it and it remains virtually unregulated. We have no such guarantee with artificial methods of recombinant DNA. Both the technique itself and its possible risks are completely different, and Tyson surely knows this. If he truly believed what he said, he'd be in favor of removing all regulation of GMO foods and allowing anyone to experiment with it. Why not, after all, if it's really as safe as Gregor Mendel cross-breeding pea plants?</p> <p>As it happens, I mostly agree with Tyson's main point. Although I have issues surrounding the way GMO seeds are distributed and legally protected, the question of whether GMO foods are safe for human consumption seems reasonably well settled. The technology is new enough, and our testing is still short-term enough, that I would continue to err on the side of caution when it comes to approving GMO foods. Still, GMO breeds created under our current regulatory regime are basically safe to eat, and I think that lefty critics of GMO foods should stop cherry picking the evidence to scare people into thinking otherwise.</p> <p>(Please send all hate mail to Tom Philpott. He can select just the juiciest ones to send along to me.)</p> <p>But even with that said, we shouldn't pretend that millennia of creating enhanced and hybrid breeds tells us anything very useful about the safety of cutting-edge laboratory DNA splicing techniques. It really doesn't.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Food and Ag Thu, 31 Jul 2014 15:47:09 +0000 Kevin Drum 257416 at Quote of the Day: Vulture Fund Suing Argentina Is Just a Lonely Defender of the Free Market <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Here is fellow hedge fund manager Daniel Loeb defending Paul Singer, the billionaire owner of the vulture fund that successfully forced Argentina into default because it was insisting on <a href=";_type=blogs&amp;hp&amp;action=click&amp;pgtype=Homepage&amp;version=HpSumSmallMedia&amp;module=first-column-region&amp;region=top-news&amp;WT.nav=top-news&amp;_r=0" target="_blank">full payment for old Argentine bonds:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>He doesn&rsquo;t get into fights for the sake of fighting. He believes deeply in the rule of law and that free markets and free societies depend on enforcing it.</p> </blockquote> <p>You betcha. Anytime a Wall Street tycoon is supposedly fighting for deep principles, hold onto your wallet. They don't become billionaires because of their deep commitment to fair play and the unfettered operation of capital markets. However, there's also this:</p> <blockquote> <p>The big question, however, is whether Argentina will ever pay Elliott what it wants. If the firm fails to collect, that would underscore the limits of its legal strategy. There is no international bankruptcy court for sovereign debt that can help resolve the matter. Argentina may use the next few months to try to devise ways to evade the New York court. Debt market experts, however, do not see how any such schemes could avoid using global firms that would not want to fall afoul of Judge Griesa&rsquo;s ruling.</p> </blockquote> <p>This is an interesting point. Normally, Argentina would just continue to pay the holders of its "exchange" bonds and refuse to pay the vulture funds that refused to go along with the terms of its bankruptcy and restructuring a decade ago. Elliott and the other vultures would be out of luck. The problem is that Argentina's payments are funneled through a US bank, and the judge in the case has forced US banks to halt payments.</p> <p>But in all the articles I've read about this, I've never really seen an adequate explanation of why it's so impossible to avoid funneling payments through the US. I get that Argentina can no longer use an American US bank. Also, I assume, they can't use a big global bank that does business in the US. But surely there are mid-size banks that do no business in the US that could act as payment agents? If dollars were the issue, they could pay off in euros instead. I don't know what it would take legally for Argentina to switch either payment agents or the denominations of its bonds, but it doesn't <em>sound</em> impossible. And yet apparently it is. Why?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Economy International Thu, 31 Jul 2014 14:24:21 +0000 Kevin Drum 257401 at Gaza Conflict Divides Congressional Progressives <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>With the war in Gaza continuing without an end in sight, congressional leaders are <a href="">rallying</a> to condemn Hamas rocket attacks and support Israel. But members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus have been divided over the conflict, with some commending Israel's military for its use of precision weapons and others outraged by the conflict&rsquo;s mounting Palestinian civilian causalities.&nbsp;</p> <p>The division was clear on July 29 when caucus co-chair Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), who has visited Gaza three times since 2009 and previously <a href="" style="line-height: 24px;">condemned</a>&nbsp;the Israeli blockade of Gaza, published an <a href="">op-ed</a> in the <em>Washington Post</em> that highlighted recent Palestinian civilian casualties&mdash;including four children who were "blown up on a beach"&nbsp;by an Israeli attack. He noted that most Gaza residents "aren't rocket shooters or combatants. For the past several years they have lived in dreadful isolation. The status quo for ordinary Gazans is a continuation of no jobs and no freedom." Ellison again called for an end to Israel's blockade and urged Hamas to give up its rockets: "There is no military solution to this conflict. The status quo brings only continued pain, suffering and war." &nbsp;</p> <p>Yet this is not the consensus view within the 65-member <a href="" target="_blank">Progressive Caucus</a> that Ellison co-leads. In recent weeks, other caucus members have focused on the rocket attacks launched against Israel and lent their support to its aggressive military reaction.</p> <p>Toward the start of Israel's air campaign in Gaza, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), a stalwart liberal representing Manhattan's Upper West Side, issued a <a href="">statement</a> condemning Gaza's rocket attacks and calling for the public to support Israel "to take whatever measure she deems necessary to defend the population against the attempted murder by these terrorists." Nadler attended a <a href="" target="_blank">rally</a> in front of New York's city hall with other prominent New York Democrats to express support for Israel's actions in Gaza. Two days later, on July 16,&nbsp;caucus member Rep. Lois Frankel (D-Fla.) issued a <a href="">statement</a> with Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) calling for solidarity with Israel.</p> <p>"Israel has gone far beyond what we have seen any other country do trying to protect the civilian population of its enemy," Nadler said. Frankel and Deutch similarly praised the Israeli military for using "pinpoint technology to minimize any collateral damage." So far more than 800 Palestinian civilians, including 232 children, have been killed by Israeli strikes in Gaza <a href="" target="_blank">as of July 30</a>.</p> <p>Last week, Progressive Caucus member Jim McDermott (D-Wash.), a psychiatrist by training, condemned Israel&rsquo;s attacks on hospitals. "The proximity of military targets or the suspicion of hidden weapons and militants is an invalid excuse in the targeting of a hospital or ambulance,"&nbsp;he said in a statement.</p> <p>"You should not be put in danger in a medical situation by someone alleging that there's some reason they should attack a hospital or doctor,"&nbsp;he tells <em>Mother Jones</em>.&nbsp;</p> <p>On July 18, Ellison and five other representatives&mdash;all progressive caucus members&mdash;signed a <a href="" target="_blank">letter</a> to President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry calling for the White House and the State Department to "redouble your efforts" to press for a cease fire in Gaza. Contrast that to 2009, when 54 House Democrats signed a <a href="" target="_blank">letter</a> drafted by Ellison and McDermott urging the president "to work for tangible improvements to the humanitarian concerns" in Gaza.&nbsp;</p> <p>As for Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), who co-chairs the caucus with Ellison, he has not said much publicly about the current war in Gaza. Although he signed the 2009 letter, he did not lend his name to the July 18 call for a cease fire. His office did not respond to requests for comment.</p></body></html> MoJo Congress Foreign Policy International Thu, 31 Jul 2014 13:22:20 +0000 Alex Park 257166 at British Army Officially Withdrew From Northern Ireland 7 years Ago [Photos] <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>After 38 years, Operation Banner&ndash;Britian's operation in Northern Ireland&ndash;officially came to an end on July 31st, 2007. It was initially sold in 1969 as a "limited operation" by British Home Secretary Jim Callaghan but wound up being the longest continuously running operation by the British military.</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/AP890714010.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>A female catholic screams at a British soldier in Belfast on August, 14, 1989. </strong>AP</div> <div class="caption">&nbsp;</div> </div> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/AP05091204525-630.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>A burnt out digger blocks a road near the Albertbridge Road in east Belfast, Northern Ireland, Monday, Sept. 12, 2005. Protestant extremists attacked police and British troops into a third day Monday, littering streets with rubble and burned-out vehicles in an orgy of violence sparked by anger over a restricted parade. Crowds of masked men and youths confronted police backed by British troops in dozens of hard-line Protestant districts in Belfast and several other towns. Gunmen opened fire on police and soldiers in at least two parts of the capital Sunday night, but nobody was hit. </strong>Peter Morrison/AP</div> <div class="caption">&nbsp;</div> </div> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/AP720201046-630.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>A young child, resting on a man's shoulders, holds a hanging effigy of a British soldier during a march in Belfast, capital of Northern Ireland, Feb. 1972. The rally follows the deadly shooting of 13 demonstrators by British paratroopers during the civil rights march on Jan. 30, known as Bloody Sunday. </strong>Michel Laurent/AP</div> <div class="caption">&nbsp;</div> </div> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/AP05080101256-630.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>A British soldier begins work on taking down a British Army watchtower in South Armagh, Northern Ireland, Monday, Aug. 1, 2005. Security is being downgraded and spying watch posts on hills are being removed after the recent statement by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) that they were giving up the armed struggle for a united Ireland. </strong>Peter Morrison/AP</div> </div> <p>&nbsp;</p></body></html> Mixed Media Military Thu, 31 Jul 2014 10:00:07 +0000 Mark Murrmann 257266 at Film Review: "15 to Life" <!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><a href="" target="_blank">15 to Life</a></p> <p>HITPLAY PRODUCTIONS</p> <p>"Are you the same person that you were at age 14?" one of Kenneth Young's lawyers asks in <em>15 to Life</em>, a documentary challenging the ethics of sentencing kids to life in prison&mdash;a routine punishment only in America. Filmmaker Nadine Pequeneza follows Young, charged with four armed robberies as a teen, as he seeks release in the wake of a 2010 Supreme Court decision limiting juvenile life sentences to kids convicted of murder. She weaves interviews with Young and his family, lawyers, and crime victims together with harrowing photographs of youthful inmates to depict a justice system that only perpetuates the sort of violence it was intended to keep in check.</p> <p><em>This review originally appeared in the </em><a href="" target="_blank">July/August 2014 Issue</a> <em>of </em>Mother Jones.</p></body></html> Mixed Media Civil Liberties Crime and Justice Film and TV Human Rights Prisons Supreme Court Thu, 31 Jul 2014 10:00:06 +0000 Nina Liss-Schultz 252776 at Republicans About to Blow Up Emergency Border Crisis Funding <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The Obama administration is&mdash;once again&mdash;being forced to go into crisis mode to keep the government functioning because Republicans refuse to do their most basic job: appropriating money to deal with emergencies. This time it's for the <a href="" target="_blank">refugee disaster on the border:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Border agencies say their existing budgets &mdash; sapped by added costs from overtime, detention and transportation for the children, more than 57,000 of whom have arrived since October &mdash; will start running dry before lawmakers get back in September.</p> <p>Administration officials warn that the price of congressional inaction will be steep, estimating the cost of caring for each immigrant youth runs between $250 and $1,000 a day.</p> <p>"Scary," Sen. Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Democrat, said about the agencies' budget outlook.</p> <p>On Wednesday, officials at the Office of Management and Budget were putting together plans to scrounge up funds. But without congressional approval, President Obama is limited to moving around money only in small amounts. That probably means the redistribution <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/images/Blog_Immigration_Sign.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">will touch many different programs &mdash; a distressing prospect for officials in vulnerable agencies.</p> </blockquote> <p>So why is it that Republicans can't agree on even a minimal stopgap funding bill? <a href="" target="_blank">Because Ted Cruz is grandstanding again:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>&ldquo;The Obama White House should put Ted Cruz on the payroll,&rdquo; said Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.), a vocal Cruz opponent. &ldquo;We have a chance to pass a good bill, not a perfect bill. Boehner is working hard to get to 218 votes and yet there is Ted Cruz, telling us to do nothing. If he wants to come over and run for speaker, that&rsquo;s fine, but otherwise he should stay over there in the Senate.&rdquo;</p> <p>....At a conference meeting Tuesday, Boehner announced that he would pare down his initial framework after hearing numerous complaints about its size and scope....But Steve King, Gohmert and Salmon &mdash; along with Cruz and others &mdash; want House Republicans to defund Obama&rsquo;s Deferred Action for Child Arrivals program, which has granted temporary relief for some children of illegal immigrants and is set for renewal this fall. Boehner has resisted the idea. But late Wednesday, GOP aides said that leaders were likely to allow a vote on a standalone bill that would defund DACA before voting to approve the border spending measure. If the bill to defund DACA were to pass, it wasn&rsquo;t clear exactly how House leaders would merge the two proposals and send them to the Senate.</p> </blockquote> <p>Basically, Cruz is trying to rally House conservatives to vote against Boehner's stopgap bill unless it also kills DACA, the so-called mini-DREAM executive action that halts deportations of children who have been in the country for many years. If he succeeds, then no funding bill will pass before Congress goes on vacation. That's why the Obama folks are in crisis mode. We can't just starve the kids who have come across the border, after all, and that means Obama is once again forced to be the grown-up in the room.</p> <p>Your Republican Party at work, folks. George Washington would be proud.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Congress Immigration Thu, 31 Jul 2014 05:07:03 +0000 Kevin Drum 257386 at Watch: UN Agency Spokesman Breaks Down In Tears While Talking About Gaza School Bombing <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>United Nations Relief Works Agency spokesman Chris Gunness has been talking to media outlets around the world about the situation in Gaza, "advocating passionately," as he <a href="" target="_blank">puts it</a>, "for Palestine refugees to enjoy all their rights to the full, including the right to a just and durable solution." Gunness' agency runs schools in Gaza that are being used as shelters by Palestinian families and have been attacked <a href="" target="_blank">six times </a>in the current conflict (the Israeli military says it has found rockets in the schools on occasion). On Wednesday he was talking to an Al Jazeera interviewer about the most recent school bombing, which <a href="" target="_blank">reportedly left 15 dead</a>. "The rights of Palestinians, even their children, are wholesale denied, and it's appalling," he <a href=";" target="_blank">said</a> before breaking into tears. Watch:</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="//" width="630"></iframe></p></body></html> MoJo Thu, 31 Jul 2014 01:07:50 +0000 AJ Vicens 257381 at LA's Crappy Old Pipes Mean More Epic Floods Are Coming <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Yesterday at around 3:30 pm, a water main burst near the campus of UCLA in the Westwood neighborhood of Los Angeles. It <a href="" target="_blank">gushed for nearly three hours</a>, sending water as high as 30 feet into the air and flooding campus&mdash;cars' wheels were submerged, the brand-new basketball court was covered in standing water, eager students brought boogie boards. As much as <a href="" target="_blank">10 million gallons are estimated to have been lost</a>, at a rate of 38,000 gallons per minute.</p></body></html> <p style="font-size: 1.083em;"><a href="/blue-marble/2014/07/los-angeles-bad-pipes-epic-floods"><strong><em>Continue Reading &raquo;</em></strong></a></p> Blue Marble Wed, 30 Jul 2014 22:38:35 +0000 Sam Brodey 257361 at We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for July 30, 2014 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p class="rtecenter"><em>The USS George Washington conducts flight operations east of Okinawa. (<span class="meta-field photo-desc " id="yui_3_16_0_rc_1_1_1406740317802_1495">US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Beverly J. Lesonik</span>.)</em></p></body></html> MoJo Military Wed, 30 Jul 2014 17:17:14 +0000 257341 at Fast-Food Workers Just Took McDonald’s Down a Notch <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>On Tuesday evening, the federal government dealt a huge blow to McDonald&rsquo;s, which has for over a year and a half been the target of worker protests and lawsuits over its low wages and questionable labor practices.</p> <p>McDonald&rsquo;s has long maintained that as a parent company, it cannot be held liable for the decisions individual franchises make about pay and working conditions. On Tuesday, the general counsel at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) <a href="" target="_blank">ruled</a> that this is nonsense, saying that the $5.6 billion company is indeed responsible for employment practices at its local franchises. That means that the company is no longer shielded from <a href="" target="_blank">dozes of charges</a> pending at regional NLRB offices around the country alleging illegal employment practices.</p> <p>"McDonald&rsquo;s can try to hide behind its franchisees, but today&rsquo;s determination by the NLRB shows there's no two ways about it," Micah Wissinger, an attorney who brought a case on behalf of New York City McDonald's workers said in a statement Tuesday. "The Golden Arches is an employer, plain and simple."</p> <p>The Fast-Food Workers Committee along with the Service Employees International Union has <a href="" target="_blank">filed numerous complaints</a> against the company with the NLRB since November 2012. Most recently, workers <a href="" target="_blank">filed seven class action lawsuits</a> against McDonald&rsquo;s corporate and its franchises in three states alleging wage theft. The NLRB <a href="" target="_blank">consolidated</a> all these complaints into the case it decided on Tuesday, which focused on whether McDonald's corporate can be considered as a "joint employer" along with the owner of the franchise.</p> <p>Since the fall of 2012, fast-food workers at McDonald's, Burger King, and KFC franchises around the country <a href="" target="_blank">have been striking</a> to demand a $15 minimum wage and the right to form a union without retaliation. The strikes recently <a href="" target="_blank">went global</a>. Organizers say Tuesday's ruling will lend workers new momentum in their ongoing battle against the fast-food mega-chain.</p></body></html> MoJo Corporations Economy Labor Wed, 30 Jul 2014 16:55:03 +0000 Erika Eichelberger 257336 at Lucy and the Great 10% Myth <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Andrew Sullivan reminds me of something I was curious about the other day. <a href="" target="_blank">He quotes Jeffrey Kluger,</a> who writes in <em>Time</em> that he's annoyed with the movie <em>Lucy</em> because it perpetuates the ridiculous myth that we only use 10 percent of our brains. I sympathize. I was sort of annoyed just by seeing that in the trailer. But it did make me wonder: where did this urban legend come from, anyway? <a href="" target="_blank">Wikipedia to the rescue:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>One possible origin is the reserve energy theories by Harvard psychologists William James and Boris Sidis...William James told audiences that people only meet a fraction of their full mental potential....In 1936, American writer Lowell Thomas summarized this idea...."Professor William James of Harvard used to say that the average man develops only ten percent of his latent mental ability."</p> <p>In the 1970s, psychologist and educator Georgi Lozanov, proposed the teaching method of suggestopedia believing "that we might be using only five to ten percent of our mental capacity."....According to a related origin story, the 10% myth most likely arose from a misunderstanding (or misrepresentation) of neurological research in the late 19th century or early 20th century. For example, the functions of many brain regions (especially in the cerebral cortex) are complex enough that the effects of damage are subtle, leading early neurologists to wonder what these regions did.</p> </blockquote> <p>Huh. So we don't really know for sure. That's disappointing but not surprising. It's remarkable how often we don't know where stuff like this comes from.</p> <p>As for its continuing popular resonance, I have a theory of my own. There are an awful lot of people out there with&nbsp;remarkable&mdash;and apparently innate&mdash;mental abilities. They can multiply enormous numbers in their heads. They can remember every day of their lives. That kind of thing. And yet, they operate normally in other regards. The fact that they've stored, say, distinct memories of the past 15,000 days of their lives doesn't seem to take up any cerebral space or energy that they needed for anything else. So surely all that storage and retrieval capacity is just sitting around unused in the rest of us?</p> <p>No, it's not. But the idea resonates because freakish mental skills seem to be so much further out on the bell curve than freakish physical skills. It makes the whole 10 percent thing seem pretty plausible. And that's why it sticks around.</p> <p><strong>POSTSCRIPT:</strong> Or does it? I mean, has anyone tried to find out how many people still believe this myth? For all I know, everyone has long been aware that it's not true. We need a poll!</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Film and TV Science Wed, 30 Jul 2014 15:44:07 +0000 Kevin Drum 257326 at An Awful Lot of People Think Obama Is Bored With Being President <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>You have to give the Fox News polling operation credit for mixing things up in an interesting way sometimes. At first glance, their latest poll is just a collection of all the usual leading questions about Obama busting up the Constitution, Obama being a loser compared to Vladimir Putin, Obama being incompetent, etc. etc. This is mostly yawn-worthy stuff intended as fodder for their anchors. All that's missing is a question about whether Obama plays too much golf. <a href="" target="_blank">But then there's this:</a></p> <p><img align="cednter" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_poll_obama_want_to_be_president.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 5px 40px;"></p> <p>Who else would think to ask a question like that? But it's kind of fascinating, really. And what's most fascinating is that it's barely partisan at all. In virtually every group, something like 40 percent of the respondents think Obama is bored with the whole presidenting thing. That goes for Democrats as well as Republicans; for blacks as well as whites; for the rich as well as the poor; and for liberals as well as conservatives. It's not quite a majority in any group&mdash;though it's pretty close among Hispanics and senior citizens&mdash;but an awful lot of people sure are convinced that Obama has already checked out of the Oval Office. He might want to do something about that.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Obama Wed, 30 Jul 2014 15:05:08 +0000 Kevin Drum 257321 at GDP Increases At a Smart 4.0% Rate in Second Quarter <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Here's something that counts as good news: GDP increased in the second quarter <a href="" target="_blank">at an annual rate of 4.0 percent.</a> At the same time, the first quarter numbers were revised to a slightly less horrible -2.1 percent growth rate. This means, <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_gdp_2014_q2.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">roughly speaking, that the economy has grown about 1.9 percent over the first half of the year.</p> <p>Now, this is obviously nothing to write home about. A growth rate of 1 percent per quarter is pretty anemic. Still, it's better than expectations after the terrible Q1 numbers, and the rebound in Q2 suggests there really was some make-up growth. A fair amount of this growth came from inventory build-up, which is normally a reason for caution, but after two previous quarters of inventory decline it's probably not the warning sign it might otherwise be.</p> <p>All in all, this is decent news. It's still not possible to say that the economy is roaring along or anything, but the Q1 number now looks like it really was an anomaly. Slowly and sluggishly, the economy is continuing to recover for the ~95 percent of us who haven't been unemployed for months or who haven't given up and exited the labor force entirely. For those people, economic growth is still slow enough to leave them behind. One good quarter is nice, but we still have a lot of work to do.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Economy Wed, 30 Jul 2014 14:15:54 +0000 Kevin Drum 257311 at Jimmy Hoffa Went Missing 39 Years Ago Today [Photo] <!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/AP7301010398.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>Teamsters Union President James R. Hoffa, left, stands with Anthony Provenzano, right, and fellow union members during Hoffa's visit to New Jersey. </strong>AP</div> <div class="caption">&nbsp;</div> </div> <p>On this date in 1975, Jimmy Hoffa was last seen around 2:45 p.m. outside a Detroit area restaurant. His unlocked car was found at the restaurant, but there were no other signs of his whereabouts. Hoffa's disappearance sparked numerous theories as to what might have happened to him, and where he might be buried. In 1982, on the seventh anniversary of his disappearance, Hoffa was legally declared dead.<br> &nbsp;</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/20060617_zaf_m67_001-630.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>Jimmy Hoffa poses for a photo on July 24, 1975, just six days before his disappearance.&nbsp; </strong>Tony Spina/MCT/ZUMA Press</div> </div> <p>&nbsp;</p></body></html> Mixed Media Crime and Justice Wed, 30 Jul 2014 10:00:09 +0000 Mark Murrmann 257226 at Bud and Miller Are Trying to Hijack Craft Beer—and It’s Totally Backfiring <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>InBev and MillerCoors loom over the US beer landscape like&hellip;well, like one of those monstrous inflatable Bud Light bottles that spring up at certain football tailgate parties and outdoor concerts. Together, the two global giants own nearly 80 percent of the US beer market. InBev alone, corporate owner of Budweiser, spends a <a href="">staggering $449 million on US advertising</a>.</p> <p>But also, like those vast blow-up beer bottles, their presence is not-so-faintly ridiculous and always teetering. The industry's signature light beers are suffering a "slow, watery death," <em>BusinessWeek </em>recently <a href="">reported</a>, their sales declining steadily.</p> <p>Meanwhile, independent breweries cranking out distinctive product&mdash;known as craft breweries&mdash;are undergoing an accelerating renaissance. "Sales of craft beers grew 16 percent in volume over the past year versus a 1.7 percent decline for the biggest U.S. beer brands," Bloomberg <a href="" target="_blank">reported</a> in January. And new craft breweries are budding like hop flowers in spring. Here are the latest numbers, just out from the <a href="">Brewer's Association</a>. Note that that the number of US craft brewers has nearly doubled since 2010, and grew 20 percent in the past year alone.</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/craft1.jpg"><div class="caption">Chart: The Brewers Association</div> </div> <p>Now, here's an historical look at the situation, a chart that I also included the <a href="">last time I looked at the craft-beer revival</a>, back in 2011. Note that the number of breweries plunged with the coming of Prohibition, surged with the onset of legalization in the 1930s, and then began a long, slow decline as the beer industry consolidated into the hands of giants like Budweiser, Coors, and Miller. By the end of the 1970s, the entire US beer market was being satisfied, if that's the word, by fewer than 100 large brewing facilities.</p> <p>And then, starting in the early '80s&mdash;with the gradual demise of <a href="">Prohibition-era restrictions like the one that kept breweries from selling beer directly to the public</a>, as well as people's growing distaste for watered-down swill&mdash;the craft-brew revival, the one reaching full flower today, emerged.</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/us_brewery_count_biodesicthumb400x339.jpg"><div class="caption">Chart: Biodesic</div> </div> <p>For its part, Big Beer has responded to the declining popularity of its goods in two ways. The first is relentless cost cutting. When Belgian mega-brewer InBev bought US corporate beer giant Bud in 2008, it very <a href="" target="_blank">quickly slashed 1,400 jobs, about 6 percent of its US workforce</a>. And the laser-like focus on slashing costs has continued, as this aptly titled 2012 <a href="" target="_blank"><em>BusinessWeek</em> piece, "The Plot to Destroy America's Beer,"</a> shows.</p> <p>The second is to roll out phony craft beers&mdash;brands like ShockTop and Blue Moon&mdash;and buy up legit craft brewers like Chicago's Goose Island, which InBev did in 2011. Other ersatz "craft" beers include Leinenkugel, Killian's, Batch 19, and Third Shift. The strategy has been successful, to a point. Bloomberg reports that InBev has seen its Goose Island and Shock Top sales surge.</p> <p>But there's a catch: These stealth Big Beer brands aren't "putting the microbrewers who started the movement out of business," Bloomberg <a href="" target="_blank">reports</a>. Rather, "the new labels are taking sales from already-troubled mass-market brands owned by the industry giants peddling these crafty brews." In other words, consumers aren't dropping Sierra Nevada or Dogfish Head and reaching for the Shocktop. Rather, ShockTop sales are being propped up by refugees from Bud Light and the like.</p> <p>Meanwhile, the beer world is buzzing about what would be the granddaddy of all mergers: rumors are swirling that InBev is preparing a bid to takeover SABMiller, a move that would give the combined company 30 percent of the globe's beer market. The motivation, reports the <a href="" target="_blank"><em>St. Louis Post Dispatch</em></a>: "A-B InBev could reap $2 billion in cost-savings through an acquisition of their largest rival, through global procurement and shared services, and eliminating job redundancies."</p> <p>While Big Beer attempts to solve its problems with crafty marketing and yet more giantism, US craft brewers are trying out innovative business models. Big-name craft brewers <a href="" target="_blank">Full Sail</a> (Oregon), <a href="" target="_blank">New Belgium</a> (Colorado), and <a href="" target="_blank">Harpoon</a> (Boston) are all fully employee-owned. Here in Austin, <a href="" target="_blank">Black Star Brewery and Pub</a> is cooperatively owned by 3,000 community members and managed by a "workers assembly" as a "democratic self-managed workplace." It may sound like it should be a cluster, but the place is always packed, the service is brisk, the food is good, and the beer is excellent. And the employees proudly refuse tips, citing their living wage as the reason. Meanwhile, a forthcoming worker-owned project, <a href="" target="_blank">4thTap Brewing Co-op</a>, is creating excitement among Austin beer nerds with its promise to "bring radical brewing to the forefront of the Texas craft beer scene."</p> <p>For me, all of this ferment underlines an important point about the US food scene: It may be dominated by a few massive, heavily marketed companies at the top, but that doesn't stop viable alternatives from bubbling from below.</p></body></html> Tom Philpott Corporations Food and Ag Top Stories Wed, 30 Jul 2014 10:00:07 +0000 Tom Philpott 257181 at