Blogs | Mother Jones Mother Jones logo en Blogging Isn't Dead. But Old-School Blogging Is Definitely Dying. <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">With Andrew Sullivan giving up his blog,</a> there are fewer and fewer of us old-school bloggers left. In this case, "old school" pretty much means a daily blog with frequent updates written by one person (or possibly two, but not much more). <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_end_of_blogging.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">Ezra Klein thinks this is because <a href="" target="_blank">conventional blogging doesn't scale well:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>At this moment in the media, scale means social traffic. Links from other bloggers &mdash; the original currency of the blogosphere, and the one that drove its collaborative, conversational nature &mdash; just don't deliver the numbers that Facebook does. But blogging is a conversation, and conversations don't go viral. People share things their friends will understand, not things that you need to have read six other posts to understand.</p> <p>Blogging encourages interjections into conversations, and it thrives off of familiarity. Social media encourages content that can travel all on its own. Alyssa Rosenberg put it well at the <em>Washington Post</em>. "I no longer write with the expectation that you all are going to read every post and pick up on every twist and turn in my thinking. Instead, each piece feels like it has to stand alone, with a thesis, supporting paragraphs and a clear conclusion."</p> </blockquote> <p>I'd add a couple of comments to this. First, Ezra is right about the conversational nature of blogging. There was lots of that in the early days, and very little now. Partly this is for the reason he identified: traffic is now driven far more by Facebook links than by links from fellow bloggers. Partly it's also because multi-person blogs, which began taking over the blogosphere in the mid-aughts, make conversation harder. Most people simply don't follow all the content in multi-person blogs, and don't always pay attention to who wrote which post, so conversation becomes choppier and harder to follow. And partly it's because conversation has moved on: first to comment sections, then to Twitter and other social media.</p> <p>Second, speaking personally, I long ago decided that blog posts needed to be standalone pieces, so I'm not sure we can really blame that on new forms of social media. It was probably as early as 2005 or 2006 that I concluded two things. Not only do blog posts need to be standalone, but they can't even ramble very much. You need to make one clear point and avoid lots of distractions and "on the other hands." This is because blog readers are casual readers, and if you start making lots of little side points, that's what they're going to respond to. Your main point often simply falls by the wayside. So keep it short and focused. If you have a second point to make, just wait a bit and write it up separately not as a quick aside open to lots of interpretation, but with the attention it deserves.</p> <p>And there's a third reason Klein doesn't mention: professionalism. I was one of the first amateur bloggers to turn pro, and in my case it was mostly an accident. But within a few years, old-school media outlets had started co-opting nearly all of the high-traffic bloggers. (I won't say they co-opted the "best" bloggers, because who knows? In any case, what they wanted was high traffic, so that's what they went for.) Matt Yglesias worked for a series of outlets, Steve Benen took over the <em>Washington Monthly</em> when I moved to MoJo, Ezra Klein went to the <em>Washington Post</em> and then started up Vox, etc. Ditto for Andrew Sullivan, who worked for <em>Time</em>, the <em>Atlantic</em>, and eventually began his own subscription-based site. It was very successful, but Sullivan turned out to be the only blogger who could pull that off. You need huge traffic to be self-sustaining in a really serious way, and he was just about the only one who had an audience that was both large and very loyal. Plus there's another side to professionalism: the rise of the expert blogger. There's not much question in my mind that this permanently changed the tone of the political blogosphere, especially on the liberal side. There's just less scope for layman-style noodling when you know that a whole bunch of experts will quickly weigh in with far more sophisticated responses. Add to that the rise of professional journalists taking up their own blogs, and true amateurs became even more marginalized.</p> <p>All of this led to blogs&mdash;Sullivan excepted&mdash;becoming less conversational in tone and sparking less conversation. There are probably lots of reasons for this, but partly I think it's because professional blogs prefer to link to their own content, rather than other people's. Josh Marshall's TPM, for example, links almost exclusively to its own content, because that's the best way to promote their own stuff. There's nothing wrong with that. It makes perfect sense. But it's definitely a conversation killer.</p> <p>In any case, most conversation now seems to have moved to Twitter. There are advantages to this: it's faster and it's open to more people. Blogs were democratizing, and Twitter is even more democratizing. You don't have to start up your own blog and build up a readership to be heard. All you have to do is have a few followers and get rewteeted a bit. Needless to say, however, there are disadvantages too. Twitter is often <em>too</em> fast, and when you combine that with its 140-character limit, you end up with a lot of shrill and indignant replies. Sometimes this is deliberate: it's what the tweeter really wants to say. But often it's not. There's a premium on responding quickly, since Twitter conversations usually last only hours if not minutes, and this means you're often responding to a blog post in the heat of your very first reaction to something it says&mdash;often without even reading the full blog post first. In addition, it's simply very difficult to convey nuance and tone in 140 characters. Even if you don't mean to sound shrill and outraged, you often do. Now multiply that by the sheer size of Twitter, where a few initial irate comments can feed hundreds of others within minutes, and you have less a conversation than you do a mindless pile-on.</p> <p>I'm not really making any judgments about all this. Personally, I miss old-school blogging and the conversations it started. But I also recognize that what I'm saying about Twitter is very much what traditional print journalists said about blogging back in the day. You have to respond within a day! You have to make your point in 500 words or less! Whatever happened to deeply considered long-form pieces that took weeks to compose and ran several thousand words? Sure, those conversations took months to unfold, but what's the rush?</p> <p>Well, they were right to an extent. And now conversations have become even more compressed. Some people think that's great, others (like me) are more conflicted about it. When I respond to something, I usually want to make a serious point, and Twitter makes that awfully hard. Writing a coherent multi-part tweet is just way harder than simply writing a 500-word blog post. On the other hand, the tweet will get seen by far more people than the post and be far more timely.</p> <p>As with everything, it's a tradeoff. I miss old-school blogging. A lot of people say good riddance to it. And the world moves on.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Media Sat, 31 Jan 2015 17:32:29 +0000 Kevin Drum 269411 at Harvard is Buying Up Vineyards in Drought-Ridden California Wine Country <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>I recently wrote a <a href="" target="_blank">piece</a> about growing interest in California farmland by <a href="" target="_blank">massive investment funds</a>. But almonds and other tree nuts, the main focus of my article, aren't the only commodities drawing interest from the smart-money crowd. From what I can tell, a successful California farmland investment requires these two conditions: 1) a sought-after commodity, preferably one with a booming export market; and 2) access to water for irrigation&mdash;increasingly important as <a href="">California's drought lurches on</a>.</p> <p>Harvard University's famed <a href="">$36 billion endowment fund</a>, the <a href="">biggest of any US university</a>, has alighted upon just such a sweet spot in California's coastal <a href="">Paso Robles wine region</a>, north of Los Angeles. Reuters <a href="">reports</a> that the Harvard fund "has spent more than $60 million to purchase about 10,000 acres in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties since 2012, making it one of the top 20 growers in Paso Robles."</p> <p>The move would seem to meet my two conditions swimmingly. US wine exports (90 percent of which originate in California), are <a href="">booming</a>, up 16.4 percent in 2013, the most recent year with numbers. And as with almonds, US wine exports to China have been surging for years, as this <a href="">chart</a> I assembled last year with colleagues Jaeah Lee and Alex Park shows. And wines from grapes grown in Paso Robles should have no trouble finding buyers&mdash;<em>Wine Enthusiast </em>deemed Paso Robles the 2013 <a href="" target="_blank">"Wine Region of the Year," </a>and rival <em>Wine Spectator</em> has <a href="" target="_blank">declared</a> that it's "emerging as most dynamic [wine region] in California."</p> <p>As for water, while making its land buys, Harvard's investment company "acquired rights to drill 16 water wells of between 700 and 900 feet deep, two or three times deeper than the average residential well, according to county records," Reuters reports. 'Deeper wells will continue to give them access to water as shallower wells run dry."</p> <p>Obtaining those permits turned out to be a great move. Reuters reports that the fund acquired rights to drill seven of those wells on August 21, 2013, while "local lawmakers were trying to figure out how to deal with the <a href="">worsening water shortage</a>" in the region. Soon after the Harvard fund got its pumping permits, the county placed a "ban on new pumping from the hardest-hit part of the basin," Reuters reports.</p> <p>Reuters adds that "no environmental advocacy group has accused Brodiaea [a Harvard-owned investment firm] of trying to profit from the drought."</p> <p>In an <a href=";option=com_wordpress&amp;Itemid=171">item</a> last year, the veteran analyst Michael Fritz of the Farmland Investor Center noted the timing of Harvard's move:</p> <blockquote> <p>Some market observers have wondered if Brodiaea was a well-timed water play in light of the region&rsquo;s worsening groundwater shortage. Last August, the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors adopted an &ldquo;urgency&rdquo; ordinance that prohibits any new development or new irrigated crop production unless the water it uses is offset by an equal amount of conservation. Water levels in the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin have fallen sharply in recent years&mdash;two to six feet a year in some areas&mdash;causing wells to go dry and forcing many vineyards and rural residents to drill deeper wells, according to local accounts.&nbsp;</p> </blockquote> <p>Fritz adds that a local investor involved with managing the Harvard wine project told him that "the timing of Brodiaea&rsquo;s irrigated land purchases in San Luis Obispo County and the subsequent moratorium on new irrigation development was 'pure coincidence.'&rdquo;</p> <p>California isn't the only region upon which Harvard is placing farmland investment bets, Fritz reported. The fund also has such investments in <a href="">New Zealand</a>, Romania, Latvia, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador and Panam&aacute;, Fritz notes.</p></body></html> Tom Philpott Food and Ag Sat, 31 Jan 2015 11:00:07 +0000 Tom Philpott 269226 at We Have Some Good News For You About the Koala That Was Burned in the Fire <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>After a series of <a href="" target="_blank">devastating bushfires</a> ripped through Australia earlier this month, volunteers across the world quickly came to the rescue with custom-knitted mittens for the burned paws of koalas (<a href="" target="_blank">way <em>too</em> many volunteers, it turns out</a>). The poster koala that sparked the movement was Jeremy, whose heart-rending hospital room portrait quickly went viral.</p> <p>Good news! Jeremy is fully recovered and back in the wild. From the <a href="" target="_blank"><em>BBC</em></a>:</p> <blockquote> <p>He has since made a complete recovery, says Aaron Machado, who operates the clinic that treated the animal... "The only thing he has to do now is get used to not having any more room service," Mr Machado told the BBC.</p> </blockquote> <p>Here's to koalas everywhere!</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=4019491145001&amp;playerID=3680665367001&amp;playerKey=AQ~~,AAACKW9LH8k~,A7HfECo5t7CatyA-8fEJ4LzBn7uU7ewe&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=4019491145001&amp;playerID=3680665367001&amp;playerKey=AQ~~,AAACKW9LH8k~,A7HfECo5t7CatyA-8fEJ4LzBn7uU7ewe&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> Blue Marble Animals Climate Change Fri, 30 Jan 2015 22:09:21 +0000 Tim McDonnell 269381 at Friday Cat Blogging - 30 January 2015 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>My fatigue level is off the charts today. I have no idea what's causing this. But there are always plenty of catblogging pictures available, and you can hardly go wrong with Hilbert in a bag, can you? Enjoy.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hilbert_2015_01_30.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 5px 60px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 30 Jan 2015 19:40:29 +0000 Kevin Drum 269376 at Mitt Romney Won't Run for President in 2016 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>It's official: Mitt Romney will not seek the presidency for a third time. After <a href="" target="_blank">some news outlets reported</a> he would announce a run on a call with donors this morning, a <a href="" target="_blank">statement leaked</a> in which Romney said, "I've decided it is best to give other leaders in the Party the opportunity to become our next nominee." Here's a look back at what Mitt 3.0 could have been, as well as some highlights from 2012.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">He was going to run as a liberal.</a></p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">He had plans to be a born-again climate hawk.</a></p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">He was going to face some resistance from the Kochs.</a></p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">He had a new private equity conflict-of-interest problem. </a></p> <p>We were deprived the chance to revisit the controversy over <a href="" target="_blank">Romney's lengthy</a> <a href="" target="_blank">history of outsourcing.</a></p> <p>Also, this little problem:</p> <p class="rtecenter"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="" width="630"></iframe></p> <p>Thanks for the memories, Mitt:</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="" width="630"></iframe></p></body></html> MoJo Mitt Romney 2016 Elections Top Stories Fri, 30 Jan 2015 16:09:24 +0000 Sam Brodey 269356 at England Just Established "Yes Means Yes" Guidelines for Police Investigating Rape <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Police departments in both England and Wales have been provided an unprecedented&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">new set of recommendations</a> when it comes to investigating rape allegations. The guidelines, launched by the Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders and Martin Hewitt of the Metropolitan Police, now require officers to establish sexual consent, rather than prove when a victim says&nbsp;"no."&nbsp;</p> <p>"This is really about making sure investigators and prosecutors look at the whole context, so we're able to put strong cases before the court and we don't just focus on what a victim did or said," Saunders told the <a href="" target="_blank">BBC</a>. "We know there are too many myths and stereotypes around rape and consent &nbsp;and this is about making sure we really examine cases."&nbsp;</p> <p>The&nbsp;shift to a more <a href="" target="_blank">"yes means yes"</a> context comes as a welcome move for sexual assault advocates, who have long blamed the&nbsp;"no" standard for discouraging victims to report assaults. The new guidelines also strongly <a href="" target="_blank">emphasize </a>the need to stop blaming rape victims "for confusing the idea of consent, by drinking or dressing provocatively" as Saunders states, and clearly outline what sexual consent is.</p> <p>While many in England and Wales are applauding the change, some have been more cautious, waiting to see if police forces actually adhere to the new guidelines.</p> <p>"The CPS's new rape toolkit might make welcome headlines, but I won't be celebrating until police officers and prosecutors are made to put existing policies and guidelines in practice or face appropriate sanction for failing to do so," Harriet Wistrich wrote in a <a href="" target="_blank"><em>Guardian</em></a> column on Thursday.&nbsp;</p></body></html> MoJo Sex and Gender Fri, 30 Jan 2015 11:15:06 +0000 Inae Oh 269311 at Attention, Sunday Shows: Here Are 5 Republicans Who Won't Lie to Your Viewers About Climate Change <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>On Wednesday, I <a href="" target="_blank">wrote</a> about a new Media Matters for America <a href="" target="_blank">study</a> that shines a light on a big problem with how TV news shows cover climate change. Scientists overwhelmingly agree that humans are warming the planet, but Media Matters found that the highly influential Sunday morning talk shows often feature misleading talking points from global warming skeptics. Frequently, these segments turn into bizarre debates between those who accept science and those who reject it.</p> <p>On NBC's <em>Meet the Press</em>, for example, almost two-thirds of the climate coverage last year included "false balance," according to Media Matters. <em>Fox News Sunday</em> and ABC's <em>This Week</em> had similar problems:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="mmfa_chart6" class="image" src="/files/mmfa_chart6_1.png"></div> <p>The Media Matters study drew the attention of Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii). In a press release, he slammed the news networks for misleading viewers "by framing the facts of climate change as a 'debate.'" He urged them "to stop creating a false debate about the reality of climate change and engage in the real debate about how we can solve it."</p> <p>This presents something of a dilemma for the Sunday shows. Interviewing elected officials from both sides of the aisle is a big part of the reason these programs exist in the first place; they can't host a debate about climate policy and invite only Democrats. At the same time, however, global warming denial is so ingrained on the right that it's becoming increasingly difficult to find Republicans who can talk about the issue without misinforming viewers. The Media Matters report cites a couple examples of this: Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) <a href="" target="_blank">saying on <em>Meet the Press </em></a>that there's no scientific consensus on climate change, and North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) <a href="" target="_blank">saying on <em>This Week</em></a> that "the big debate is how much of it is manmade and how much it will just naturally happen as Earth evolves."</p> <p>Fortunately&mdash;thanks to Schatz&mdash;TV bookers now have a <a href=";session=1&amp;vote=00012" target="_blank">handy list of GOP senators</a> who acknowledge the scientific facts surrounding climate change and who, presumably, can participate in an intelligent discussion of what should actually be done about the problem. Last week, Schatz introduced legislation <a href="" target="_blank">declaring it the "sense of Congress" that climate change is real</a> and that human activity contributes significantly to it. Five Republicans voted in favor of Schatz's amendment: Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), Susan Collins (Maine), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), and Mark Kirk (Ill.). The other 49 voted no.</p> <p>There's plenty of room for disagreement on policy matters, of course. Alexander and Graham, for example, <a href=";ContentRecord_id=43fa4416-e921-87b1-ab6b-f8a9a291e798" target="_blank">have called on</a> the Obama administration to withdraw its proposed greenhouse gas emissions rules, the centerpiece of the president's climate plan. But if the networks are looking for Republicans who can speak accurately about the science, at least now they know where to find them.</p> <p><em>(Disclosure: I used to work at Media Matters.)</em></p></body></html> Blue Marble Climate Change Climate Desk Media Science Top Stories Thu, 29 Jan 2015 22:48:20 +0000 Jeremy Schulman 269341 at This Massive New Project Is Great News for Homeless Vets in Los Angeles <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>After a three-year legal battle, the US Department of Veterans Affairs <a href="" target="_blank">announced</a> on Wednesday that it will rededicate its <a href="" target="_blank">giant</a> West Los Angeles Medical Center campus to provide much-needed housing and services for the city's homeless veterans.</p> <p>The announcement stems from a settlement in a 2011 lawsuit filed by the ACLU on behalf of disabled veterans. The Los Angeles property,&nbsp;nearly 400 acres, was deeded to the federal government in 1888 to house veterans with disabilities. Instead, the campus, which is located in an affluent area, has been used for commercial rental agreements with, among others, entertainment companies, UCLA, and hotel laundry services. According to <a href="" target="_blank"><em>NPR</em></a>, Veterans Affairs had accepted between $28 million and $40 million in leasing agreements that a federal judge ruled illegal.</p> <div class="inline inline-right" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Screen%20Shot%202015-01-29%20at%2011.06.33%20AM.png" style="height: 533px; width: 350px;"></div> <p>The settlement includes a plan, set for completion by October, to build long-term housing combined with support services designed to <a href="" target="_blank">help ensure</a> that the formerly homeless, especially veterans who are physically and mentally disabled, remain housed.</p> <p>The effort is part of a larger Obama administration <a href="" target="_blank">initiative</a> to house all homeless vets by the end of 2015. Los Angeles has the nation's <a href="" target="_blank">highest number</a> of homeless vets&mdash;more than 3,700&mdash;and the newly announced plan could go a long way toward solving the problem.</p> <p>"This agreement offers VA a historic opportunity to build new community relationships in Los Angeles and continue the work needed to end veteran homelessness here," Veteran's Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald said in a statement. "VA is proud of the progress we've made in ending veteran homelessness&mdash;down 33 percent since 2010&mdash;but we won't be satisfied until every veteran has a home."</p> <p>According to a <a href="" target="_blank">report</a> released last January by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, close to 50,000 vets were homeless on any given night. States are now gearing up for their annual "Point-In-Time" count, a HUD-led event that deploys volunteers to conduct a census of the homeless in their communities. The results will indicate how much work remains to meet Obama's 2015 deadline. McDonald said he <a href="" target="_blank">plans to participate</a> in the Los Angeles count:&nbsp;</p> <blockquote> <p>"There is no question that the goal to end veteran homelessness is within reach, and we remain laser-focused on it," he said. "It's about helping communities put a system in place that can house every veteran."</p> </blockquote></body></html> MoJo Military Top Stories Homeless Thu, 29 Jan 2015 22:19:44 +0000 Gabrielle Canon 269331 at Lawmaker: Cheerleaders Should Get Paid a Real Wage <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>While football fans are getting ready for the Super Bowl this weekend, California Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) has turned her attention to the women on the sidelines. Gonzalez, a former cheerleader and labor leader, introduced a bill today that would require California's professional sports teams to classify cheerleaders as employees, thus forcing teams to provide minimum wage, paid overtime, and workers compensation.</p> <p>The bill was inspired by a <a href="" target="_blank">spate of lawsuits</a> last year in which NFL cheerleaders sued their teams for workplace violations. The first lawsuit, <em>Lacy T. et al vs. The Oakland Raiders</em>, exposed a "stunning system of abuses against cheerleaders," says Gonzalez, including sub-minimum wage pay, unpaid practices and appearances, and fines for things like <a href="" target="_blank">bringing the wrong pom-poms</a> to practice. According to an <a href=""><em>ESPN the Magazine</em> article</a>, a Raiderettes handbook simply says that it's possible to "find yourself with no salary at all at the end of the season." (Read more of our coverage of the indignities of NFL cheerleaders <a href="" target="_blank">here</a>, and of NHL's ice girls <a href="" target="_blank">here</a>).</p> <p>"NFL teams and their billionaire owners have used professional cheerleaders as part of the game day experience for decades.&nbsp; They have capitalized on their talents without providing even the most basic workplace protections like a minimum wage," Gonzalez said in a statement. Reached by phone, she added, "Nobody would never, ever question that the guy who brings you beer is going to get minimum wage, but we're not gonna pay the woman on the field who's entertaining you?" Asked whether she was concerned about pushback from NFL teams, she replied, "I don't think it's a good PR move for the NFL to be opposing minimum wage for women's workers. Let's be honest."</p></body></html> MoJo Corporations Income Inequality Sex and Gender Sports Thu, 29 Jan 2015 22:18:47 +0000 Julia Lurie 269326 at The Senate Just Approved Keystone XL <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The Senate has been a very busy bunch of beavers over the last month. After just a week of being in session, they had already <a href="" target="_blank">taken more votes than they did in all of 2014</a>. It's all thanks to the Keystone XL pipeline, which has been the primary topic of floor debate for the last three weeks.</p> <p>Almost immediately after the new Congress got started, the House passed a bill to approve construction of the pipeline. As new Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) had promised, the Senate then took up its own Keystone bill, which President Barack Obama promptly promised to veto. (The president has long maintained that he wants the pipeline to be approved&mdash;or not&mdash;through the normal State Department process, which is the usual protocol for cross-border infrastructure projects.) Democrats and Republicans alike have sought to load up the Keystone bill with a staggering number of amendments, ranging from an agreement that <a href="" target="_blank">climate change is "not a hoax"</a> to <a href="" target="_blank">removing the lesser prairie-chicken</a> from the endangered species list. As of this morning, <a href="" target="_blank">only five had passed</a>.</p> <p>Over the last few days, McConnell and Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chair Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) have urged their peers to wrap up and take a final vote on the bill, with leading Democrats and environmentalists responding that Republicans were trying to <a href="" target="_blank">"aggressively"</a> shut down debate.</p> <p>This afternoon it finally happened, and the Senate bill passed 62-36. <a href="" target="_blank">According to </a><em><a href="" target="_blank">Politico</a>,</em> House leaders have yet to decide whether to take a straight vote on the Senate bill or send it to a conference committee to resolve the differences between the two versions. Either way, the bill faces an assured veto once it reaches the Oval Office. And unless more Democrats change their tune soon, there is not enough support in the Congress to override the veto.</p> <p>What's next for the embattled pipeline? Earlier this month, the Nebraska State Supreme Court <a href="" target="_blank">ruled in favor of Keystone XL's proposed route</a>, a ruling the White House had said was the last piece of the puzzle needed before the Obama administration makes a final decision. So now, once again, the ball is back in the president's court.</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%">&nbsp; <div class="caption"> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/slack-imgs-1.com_.jpeg"><div class="caption"><strong>Via the State Department, the proposed route of the Keystone XL pipeline, shown in yellow. </strong></div> </div> </div> </div></body></html> Blue Marble Climate Change Climate Desk Energy Top Stories Infrastructure Thu, 29 Jan 2015 21:10:13 +0000 Tim McDonnell 269321 at This Chart Shows That Americans Are Way Out of Step With Scientists on Pretty Much Everything <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Here's one big reason why the US has been so slow to take aggressive action on climate change: Despite the wide consensus among scientists that it's real and caused by humans, the general public&mdash;not to mention a <a href="" target="_blank">disconcerting number</a> of prominent politicians&mdash;remains divided.</p> <p>It's not just climate change. On a range of pressing social issues, scientists and the public rarely see eye-to-eye. That's the result of a new Pew <a href="" target="_blank">poll</a> released today that compared views of a sample of 2,000 US adults to those of 3,700 scientists who are members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the group that publishes the journal <em>Science</em>.</p> <p>The biggest split was over the safety of genetically modified foods: 88 percent of scientists think GMOs are safe, compared to only 37 percent in the general public. Interestingly, college graduates were split 50-50. The gap between scientists and the public is smaller on the question of whether to mandate childhood vaccines. But it's still there. Eighty-six percent of scientists and 68 percent of all adults think vaccines should be required.</p> <p>The poll didn't attempt to explain the gaps between scientists and the general public. On some issues there are clearly factors beyond pure science, like ethics and politics, that influence opinions. For example, scientists show <em>more</em> support for nuclear power, but <em>less </em>support for fracking, than the public. As our friend Chris Mooney has reported many times, these outside factors <a href="" target="_blank">tend to creep into peoples' opinions</a> even on objective questions like whether humans have evolved.</p> <p>Lee Rainie, Pew's director of science research, added that trust in scientists can be a big factor. On GMOs, for example, 67 percent of the public believe scientists don't fully understand the health risks. And on issues like climate and evolution, the public believes there to be more disagreement within the scientific community than there actually is, he said.</p> <p>More interesting findings are below:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/pew-poll-2.jpg"><div class="caption">Pew</div> </div></body></html> Blue Marble Charts Climate Change Climate Desk Food and Ag Science Top Stories Thu, 29 Jan 2015 19:08:58 +0000 Tim McDonnell 269286 at Here's How Boehner and Netanyahu Really Screwed Up <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><em>Mother Jones </em>DC bureau chief David Corn appeared on MSNBC's <a href="" target="_blank"><em>Hardball </em></a>to discuss the ongoing fallout from <a href="" target="_blank">John Boehner's decision to invite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu</a> to address Congress:</p> <p class="rtecenter"><iframe border="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="" width="630"></iframe></p> <p>&nbsp;</p></body></html> MoJo Congress International Media Thu, 29 Jan 2015 15:22:31 +0000 269281 at Watch Larry Wilmore Explain How You Can't Escape the Koch Brothers <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>After learning that the Koch brothers and their allies plan on spending a whopping <a href="" target="_blank">$889 million</a> on 2016 elections, Larry Wilmore took to his TV show Wednesday&nbsp;evening to announce his intention to boycott all Koch Industries products.</p> <p>"I'm sorry, I can't get behind these guys," Wilmore explained. "This just doesn't smell right to me. So what do they make again?"</p> <p>But after learning that the&nbsp;answer is <em>virtually everything</em> from Dixie cups to greeting cards to Lycra, the <em>Nightly Show</em>&nbsp;host realized that&nbsp;any attempt to free himself from the Koch <a href="" target="_blank">web of influence</a> was doomed. Wilmore then reminded viewers&nbsp;that&nbsp;it's not just the Koch brothers who dole out millions to score political advantages, pointing out Michael Bloomberg and George Soros as similar examples. (It's true that there are big money liberal donors but their networks&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">pale&nbsp;in comparison</a>&nbsp;to the on the Koch brothers maintain.)</p> <p>"It's called dark money. Keeping with the white privilege convention of saying that everything bad is dark."</p> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div style="width: 640px; background-color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">&nbsp;</div> <div style="background-color:#000000;width:640px;"> <div style="padding:4px;"><iframe frameborder="0" height="354" src="" width="630"></iframe></div> </div></body></html> Mixed Media Video 2016 Elections Dark Money Thu, 29 Jan 2015 15:15:09 +0000 Inae Oh 269276 at Housekeeping Note <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>My chemotherapy, which until now has had fairly predictable side effects, seems to have entered a less predictable phase. This means that my fatigue level changes from day to day, and with it my blogging output. So some days you'll see a bunch of posts, and other days you'll see one or two. It doesn't really mean anything is wrong. It just means I'm having a predictably unpredictable bad day.</p> <p>In addition, today I have several appointments, and Marian is undergoing major surgery. Nothing life-threatening, so no worries on that score. But a very big deal nonetheless.</p> <p>In other words, there's not likely to be any blogging today. Tomorrow, who knows? As they say, tomorrow is another day.</p> <p><strong>4 PM UPDATE:</strong> According to the surgeons, Marian's surgery was entirely successful. She's still waking up from the anesthesia and has several weeks of recovery ahead of her, but everything went fine.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 29 Jan 2015 14:00:08 +0000 Kevin Drum 269271 at Here's What's at the Heart of the Crisis in Greece <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>If you're in the market for some interesting commentary on Greece, there have been a couple of good ones recently. The first comes from Paul Krugman, who, among other things, makes a point that often gets missed: Greece is already running a primary surplus. That is, they've cut spending enough over the past few years <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/images/Blog_Greece_0.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">that their budget would be balanced if it weren't for interest payments on their gigantic debt. What's more, their primary surplus is <a href="" target="_blank">slated to rise to 4.5 percent in the future:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>If Greece were to adhere totally to the previous terms, over the next five years it would make resource transfers of about 20 percent of one year&rsquo;s GDP. From the point of view of the creditors, that&rsquo;s a trivial sum. From the point of the Greeks, however, it&rsquo;s crucial; the difference between a primary surplus of 4.5 percent of GDP and, say, 1.5 percent of GDP for the Greek economy and the welfare of its citizens is huge. The only reason for the creditors to play hardball would be to make Greece an example, to discourage other debtors from trying to negotiate relief.</p> </blockquote> <p>In other words, the EU is demanding that Greece not just balance its budget, but run a large surplus that it will mostly send to large countries for whom it's a trivial sum. For Greece, though, it's a <em>huge</em> sum, the difference between years of penury and a return to growth. This is at the heart of the conflict between Greece and the EU.</p> <p>The second commentary comes from Daniel Davies, who makes the point that Greece's gigantic debt doesn't really matter <em>as debt</em>. Everyone knows Greece will never be able to pay it back. But if everyone knows this, why are Germany and the rest of the EU <a href="" target="_blank">so hellbent on refusing to write it off?</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Don&rsquo;t think of the Greek debt burden, either in cash &euro; terms or as a ratio to GDP, as an economic quantity. It basically isn&rsquo;t an economically meaningful number any more. <strong>The purpose of its existence is as a political quantity; it&rsquo;s part of the means by which control is exercised over the Greek budget by the Eurosystem.</strong> The regular rituals of renegotiation of the bailout package, financing of debt maturity peaks and so on, are the way in which the solvent Euroland nations exercise the kind of political control that they feel they need to have if they are going to be fiscally responsible for the bills.</p> <p>....It is, therefore, totally inimical to the Eurosystem to hold out any hope of the kind of debt writedown that Syriza wants, as opposed to some smaller, cosmetic face value reduction or maturity extension. <strong>The entire reason why Syriza wants to get a major up-front reduction in the debt number is to create political space to execute the rest of their program.</strong> The debt issue and the political issue are the same issue. Syriza understands this, and so does the Eurosystem.</p> </blockquote> <p>In other words, Greece doesn't want to run a large budget surplus. They want to increase government spending in order to dig their way out of their massive economic depression. The rest of the EU wants no such thing. They're afraid that if they let Greece off the hook, then (a) everyone else will want to be let off the hook, and (b) Greece will go right back to its free-spending ways and soon require another bailout. If the price of that is years of pain and unemployment, so be it.</p> <p>There's more at both links, and both are worth reading.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Economy International Thu, 29 Jan 2015 05:40:22 +0000 Kevin Drum 269266 at Why are Scam PACs So Much More Common on the Right Than the Left? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><em>Politico's</em> Ken Vogel reports on a phenomenon that's gotten a fair amount of attention on <a href="" target="_blank">both the right and the left:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Since the tea party burst onto the political landscape in 2009, the conservative movement has been plagued by an explosion of PACs that critics say exist mostly to pad the pockets of the consultants who run them....A POLITICO analysis of reports filed with the Federal Election Commission covering the 2014 cycle found that 33 PACs that court small donors with tea party-oriented email and direct-mail appeals raised $43 million &mdash; 74 percent of which came from small donors. The PACs spent only $3 million on ads and contributions to boost the long-shot candidates often touted in the appeals, compared to $39.5 million on operating expenses.</p> <p>....[Democrats] have mostly avoided the problem, though they also benefit from the lack of tea party-style insurgency on their side. That could change if the 2016 Democratic presidential primary inflames deep ideological divisions within the party. But on the right, this industry appears only to be growing, according to conservatives who track it closely.</p> </blockquote> <p>And this problem isn't limited just to consultants who set up PACs to line their own pockets. Media Matters reports that right-wing outlets routinely tout&mdash;or rent their email lists to people touting&mdash;all manner of conspiracy theories <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_allen_west_pac.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">and out-and-out frauds. <a href="" target="_blank">Here's an excerpt from Media Matters' list:</a></p> <ul><li>Mike Huckabee sold out his fans to a quack doctor, conspiracy theorists, and financial fraudsters.</li> <li>Subscribers to CNN analyst Newt Gingrich's email list have received supposed insider information about cancer "cures," the Illuminati, "Obama's 'Secret Mistress,'" a "weird" Social Security "trick," and Fort Knox being "empty."</li> <li>Five conservative outlets promoted a quack doc touting dubious Alzheimer's disease cures.</li> <li>Fox analyst Charles Payne was paid to push now worthless stocks.</li> <li>Newsmax super PAC boondoggle.</li> <li>Right-wing media helped "scam PACs" raise money from their readers.</li> </ul><p><a href="" target="_blank">More here.</a> So here's my question: why is this so much more common on the right than on the left? It would be nice to chalk it up to the superior intelligence of liberal audiences and call it a day, but that won't wash. There's just no evidence that liberals, in general, are either smarter or less susceptible to scams than conservatives.</p> <p>One possibility is that a lot of this stuff is aimed at the elderly, and conservatives tend to skew older than liberals. And while that's probably part of the answer, it's hardly satisfying. There are plenty of elderly liberals, after all&mdash;certainly enough to make them worth targeting with the same kind of fraudulent appeals that infest the right.</p> <p>Another possibility is that it's basically a supply-side phenomenon. Maybe liberal outlets simply tend to be less ruthless, less willing to set up scam fundraising organizations than conservative outlets. In fact, that actually does seem to be the case. But again: why? Contrary to Vogel's lead, this kind of thing has been a problem on the right for a long time. It definitely got worse when the tea party movement created a whole new pool of potential patsies, but it didn't start in 2009. It's been around for a while.</p> <p>So then: why is this problem so much bigger on the right than on the left? I won't be happy with answers that simply assume liberals are innately better people. Even if they are, they aren't <em>that</em> much better. It's got to be something institutional, or something inherent in the nature of American conservatism. But what?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum The Right Wed, 28 Jan 2015 23:01:29 +0000 Kevin Drum 269241 at The NFL Has a Domestic-Violence Problem, But All We Got Was This PSA <!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>Ever since the NFL <a href="" target="_blank">embarrassingly mishandled</a> the Ray Rice domestic-assault incident this summer, the league has tried to prove it has become enlightened about violence against women. Its latest attempt? A 30-second Super Bowl ad.</p> <p>The new public service announcement, which will air during the first quarter of Sunday's game, pans through a house in disarray, presumably because of a domestic dispute, while audio of a woman talking to a 911 dispatcher plays over it. At the end, a message flashes on: "Help End Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault; Pledge to Say 'No More.'" The PSA was made, free of charge, by advertising giant Grey for the sexual- and domestic-violence-awareness group NO MORE; the league <a href="" target="_blank">donated the prime advertising spot</a>, worth about $4.5 million.</p> <p>These broadcasts are part of an NFL offensive to save face after the Baltimore Ravens and the league <a href="" target="_blank">created an uproar</a> by barely punishing Rice after he was first charged with assaulting his then-fianc&eacute;e (and current wife).<strong> </strong>It wasn't until TMZ leaked security footage showing Ray Rice punching Janay Rice in an Atlantic City elevator (which Goodell dubiously <a href="" target="_blank">claimed</a> he hadn't seen before) that the NFL <a href="" target="_blank">indefinitely suspended the Ravens running back</a> and began to make an effort to change how it handles players accused of domestic violence and sexual assault.</p> <p>The NFL has since <a href="" target="_blank">reformed its punishments for players</a> involved in domestic or sexual violence, created <a href="" target="_blank">rather confusing</a> new disciplinary bodies to determine and hand out those punishments, <a href="" target="_blank">required the league</a> to attend education sessions about sexual assault and domestic violence, and <a href="" target="_blank">hired female advisers</a> to improve how the league deals with domestic violence.</p> <p>The NFL had its first test leading up to the AFC Championship game, when it <a href="" target="_blank">put the Indianapolis Colts' Josh McNary on paid leave </a>after he was charged with rape. But in order for the NFL to prove that it's committed to lasting reform of an entrenched culture that has <a href="" target="_blank">long ignored and even enabled violence against women</a>, it will&nbsp;need to continue to address these issues&mdash;long after its Super Bowl ad has aired and the dust of this horrible season has settled.</p></body></html> Mixed Media Video Sports Wed, 28 Jan 2015 20:39:16 +0000 Luke Whelan 268916 at 8 Crazy Quotes In Support of Celebrating Robert E. Lee on MLK Day <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Arkansas, Mississippi, and Alabama are the only three states in the country that celebrate&nbsp;Robert E. Lee on the same day as the Martin Luther King Jr. federal holiday. Their reasoning for the combo celebration is that the two have birthdays just a few days apart&mdash;never mind the, uh, conflict of interest.</p> <p>Today, Arkansas' elected officials had the opportunity to pass a <a href="" target="_blank">bill</a> seeking to separate the two commemorations. By doing so, Arkansas would join <a href="" style="line-height: 2em;" target="_blank">Georgia, Florida, and Virginia</a><span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 2em;">, which honor Lee&mdash;but not on MLK Day.</span></p> <p>But this morning, Arkansas representatives struck down the bill with a chorus of nays. Below are a few choice quotes from opponents of the bill explaining why:</p> <p><em>1. "Everyone in this room owes Robert E. Lee a debt."</em></p> <p><em>2. "You've got MLK parades all over the nation, but no one celebrates Lee! Well, a lot of people do, a very large crowd."</em></p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p>bill to separate recognition of MLK and Robert E Lee due up at 10am. Those opposed already here. <a href="">#arleg</a> <a href="">#ARnews</a> <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; David Goins (@dgoins) <a href="">January 28, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p><em>3. "This bill is out to change our constitution."</em></p> <p><em>4. "It's called American history."</em></p> <p><em>5. "I really wish we could all celebrate a non-separate, but equal holiday."</em></p> <p><em>6. "You wouldn't celebrate Christmas in July!"</em></p> <p><em>7. "Why are we doing this? We are chasing a non-problem."</em></p> <p><em>8. "Separate is&nbsp;not equal."&nbsp;</em></p></body></html> Mixed Media Race and Ethnicity Wed, 28 Jan 2015 19:52:25 +0000 Inae Oh 269101 at FAA to Football Fans: Super Bowl Is a No-Drone Zone <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="349" src="" width="620"></iframe></p> <p>On Wednesday, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released a 15-second warning to football fans eager to sneak a bird's-eye look at this Sunday's Super Bowl: Leave your drones at home. &nbsp;</p> <p>The No Drone Zone campaign is part of the FAA's ongoing efforts to regulate <a href="" target="_blank">small drones</a> flying over crowded stadiums. The <a href="" target="_blank"><em>Washington Post </em>reported</a> last November that the aviation agency was investigating a rash of incidents involving drones hovering over major sporting events. A month earlier, the agency extended its ban on airplane flights over large open-air stadiums to include unmanned and remote controlled aircraft.&nbsp;</p> <p>Drones over sporting events have occasionally raised alarms. In August, <a href="" target="_blank">a man was detained</a> after he flew a drone that flew over a preseason NFL game between the Carolina Panthers and Kansas City Chiefs. A month later, police questioned a <a href="" target="_blank">University of Texas student</a> who was flying a drone around Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.&nbsp;Last October, a drone carrying an Albanian flag during a soccer match between Serbia and Albania <a href="" target="_blank">sparked a riot</a> in Belgrade.</p> <p>Earlier this month, the FAA <a href="" target="_blank">issued an advisory</a> reiterating the civil and criminal penalties for pilots who drone the Super Bowl. (Also banned in the airspace above the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona: gliders, parachutes, hang gliders, balloons, crop dusters, model aircraft, and model rockets.) The <a href="" target="_blank">Goodyear blimp</a> will be allowed.</p></body></html> MoJo Sports Tech Wed, 28 Jan 2015 19:39:38 +0000 Edwin Rios 269186 at Murder In Los Angeles Is Way Down Among Teenagers <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The <em>LA Times</em> reports that murder is becoming <a href="" target="_blank">less common among teenagers:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>&ldquo;You're not seeing youngsters like you have in the past,&rdquo; said Det. Todd Anderson of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. &ldquo;You used to see a lot more kids who were 16, 17, 18, 19. While it does still <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_la_times_age_homicide_victims_0.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">happen, it seems like they are getting a little bit older.&rdquo;</p> <p>In 2000, the average homicide victim was 30 years old and in 2014, the average victim was 34 years old, according to a Los Angeles Times data analysis. The shift comes as the total number of homicides falls.</p> </blockquote> <p>Why?</p> <blockquote> <p>George Tita, a criminologist at UC Irvine who studies homicide, said the increase in age is consistent with the changing nature of gang violence and the sharp decrease in killings throughout the county.</p> <p>Others say that the trauma of losing brothers, cousins and fathers to street violence may make gang life less appealing to younger people. &ldquo;It's the little brother looking at what happened to the big brother and saying, &lsquo;I don't want to go that way,'&rdquo; said Elliott Currie, another UC Irvine criminologist. &ldquo;It's something I think we criminologists don't talk about enough.&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>That may be part of the answer. But you'll be unsurprised that there might be another, more plausible, reason: lead. Back in the 90s, the teenage and 20-something generations had grown up in the 70s and early 80s. This was an era of high lead emissions, and this lead poisoning affected their brains, causing them to become more violence-prone when they grew up.</p> <p>Today's teenagers, however, were born in the late 90s and early aughts. This was the era when leaded gasoline had finally been completely banned, so they grew up in a low-lead environment. As a result, they're less violence prone than their older siblings and less likely to find refuge in gangs.</p> <p>As always, lead is not the whole story. There have been other changes over the past couple of decades, and those changes may well have had an impact on both gangs and on crime more generally. But lead clearly has a generational impact. Younger kids are now less violent than in the past, while older folks haven't changed much. They've gotten older, which has always been associated with a drop in violent crime, but their basic temperament is still scarred by a childhood filled with lead emissions from automobiles.</p> <p>In any case, the age of a homicide victim is highly correlated with the age of the killer, and the chart above, excerpted from the <em>Times</em> story, shows homicide victimization age in 2000 and 2014. The huge bulge between age 15-30 is nearly gone, which is just what you'd expect if lead played an important role in violent crime. There may be less mystery here than the experts think.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Crime and Justice Science Wed, 28 Jan 2015 17:52:21 +0000 Kevin Drum 269116 at Greek Investors Apparently Surprised By Stuff No One Should Be Surprised About <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The latest news from Greece <a href=";action=click&amp;pgtype=Homepage&amp;module=second-column-region&amp;region=top-news&amp;WT.nav=top-news&amp;_r=0" target="_blank">is a bit peculiar:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras told his new cabinet on Wednesday that he would move swiftly to negotiate debt relief, but would not engage in a confrontation with creditors that would jeopardize a more just solution for the country....Later, the new finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, appeared to harden the tone, saying that Greece&rsquo;s bailout deals were &ldquo;a toxic mistake&rdquo; and that the new government was determined to change the logic of how the crisis had been tackled.</p> <p>While many Greeks were hopeful that Mr. Tsipras would follow through with even a fraction of his populist promises, <strong>investors were more rattled.</strong> The Athens Stock Exchange, which already had billions of euros in value wiped out during Greece&rsquo;s election campaign, fell around 7.5 percent in midday trading on Wednesday after slumping around 11 percent on Tuesday. Shares in financial companies in Greece plummeted more than 17 percent on Wednesday.</p> </blockquote> <p>I wonder what has the stock market so spooked? After all, Tsipras is just doing what he's said he was going to do all along. Everyone expected him to take <em>at least</em> this hard a line on Greek debt, if not harder. So why the sudden panic? Shouldn't this have been priced in long ago? What's new here?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Economy International Wed, 28 Jan 2015 15:50:07 +0000 Kevin Drum 269091 at No One Can Agree on What to Call Drones <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Early Monday morning, a small, <a href="" target="_blank">temporarily unidentified</a> flying object crashed on the White House lawn. The mishap, possibly the result of <a href="" target="_blank">droning under the influence</a>, prompted a salvo of alarming headlines about a stealthy violation of presidential airspace. "A Drone, Too Small for Radar to Detect, Rattles the White House," <a href="" target="_blank">declared</a> the <em>New York Times</em>. Fox News <a href="" target="_blank">announced</a>, "White House gets drone defense wake-up call," while <em>New York</em> magazine <a href="" target="_blank">warned</a>, "Secret Service Can't Protect White House From Drones."</p> <p>The most ominous-sounding word in those headlines is "drone," a term that's come to encompass everything from the two-pound <a href="" target="_blank">DJI Phantom</a> quadcopter that flew over the White House fence to the nearly <a href="" target="_blank">5,000-pound MQ-9 Reaper</a>, which can be flown remotely via satellite and fire laser-guided missiles at targets eight miles below. As Dutch designer Ruben Pater's <a href="" target="_blank">Drone Survival Guide</a> conveys, there are drones and then there are <em>drones</em>:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/drone-survival630.gif"><div class="caption"><strong>The Drone Survival Guide (in English and Pashto) </strong><a href="" target="_blank">Ruben Pater</a></div> </div> <p>Is there an easier way to differentiate a hi-tech toy from a killing machine? Why not just call that stray quadcopter a remote-controlled or model aircraft? (No one would write a headline such as "A Model Aircraft, Too Small for Radar to Detect, Rattles the White House.")</p> <p>The Federal Aviation Administration treats lightweight noncommercial drones as <a href="" target="_blank">model aircraft</a>. (They must stay <a href="" target="_blank">under 400 feet</a> and can't fly beyond the operator's line of sight.) Yet a true hobby drone is different than a traditional remote-controlled plane in one significant respect: It can fly itself. As former <em>Wired</em> editor Chris Anderson explains on <a href="" target="_blank">his site DIY Drones</a>, "Usually the UAV is controlled manually by Radio Control (RC) at take-off and landing, and switched into GPS-guided autonomous mode only at a safe altitude." The DJI Phantom can fly itself back home; users can program flight paths into <a href="" target="_blank">top-of-the-line model</a>. DIY Drones uses the terms UAV and drone interchangeably.</p> <p>Even if equating personal drones with model aircraft might irk amateur remote pilots, it would help defuse the devices' death-from-above image. That would probably please the manufacturers of military and commercial drones, who would prefer if you don't use the D-word at all. Testifying before the Senate in 2013, the head of the <a href="" target="_blank">Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International</a> (the robot lobby) <a href="" target="_blank">stated</a>, "I do not use the term 'drone.' The industry refers to the technology as unmanned aircraft systems, or UAS, because they are more than just a pilotless vehicle&hellip;The term 'drone' also carries with it a hostile connotation and does not reflect how UAS are actually being used domestically." Besides UAS, other suggested alternatives to "drone" include Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) and Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA).</p> <div class="inline inline-right" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/marilyn-drone400.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>The future Marilyn Monroe poses with a World War II-era Radioplane drone. </strong><a href="" target="_blank">US Army via Wikimedia Commons</a></div> </div> <p>While the president and White House freely <a href="" target="_blank">call them drones</a>, the military is also not keen on the designation. An Air Force spokeswoman <a href="" target="_blank">told <em>Defense News</em></a> that "There are some people who are offended by it." And UAS has its detractors: Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, <a href="" target="_blank">told a reporter</a> last year, "You will never hear me use the word 'drone,' and you'll never hear me use the term 'unmanned aerial systems.' Because they are not. They are remotely piloted aircraft."</p> <p>Yet for critics of remote-control warfare, the word economically delivers an explosive payload&mdash;much like a drone. The American Civil Liberties Union has endorsed using "drone" rather than the officially sanctioned abbreviations. "These acronyms are technical, bland, and bureaucratic. That's probably their principal advantage from the point of view of those who want to separate them from the ugly, bloody, and controversial uses to which they've been put by the CIA and U.S. military overseas," <a href="" target="_blank">writes</a> ACLU senior policy analyst Jay Stanley. "[I]f the word continues to carry a reminder that this is an extremely powerful technology capable of being used for very dark purposes, then that's not necessarily a bad thing."</p> <p>To further complicate things, some people insist that "drone" only refers to unpiloted aircraft used for target practice&mdash;the term's original meaning. As analyst Steve Zaloga <a href="" target="_blank">explained to <em>Defense News</em></a>, it was coined by an American admiral who in 1935 witnessed a demonstration of a remote-controlled British aircraft dubbed the Queen Bee: He "adopted the name drone to refer to these aircraft in homage to the Queen Bee. Drone became the official US Navy designation for target drones for many decades." (Fun fact: Future bombshell <a href="" target="_blank">Marilyn Monroe</a> assembled small target drones in a California factory during World War II.) According to Zaloga, the military kept calling all remote-controlled aircraft drones until the 1990s. (He's partial to calling them RPAs.)</p> <p>Drones will likely remain the most convenient way to describe the rapidly expanding variety of&hellip;drones. But whatever you do, don't call them "pilotless drones." That phrase especially infuriates pedants, like Drone Man, the <em>San Francisco Chronicle</em> reader who left an angry voicemail expressing his disgust at the paper's use of the seemingly redundant (yet <a href="" target="_blank">grammatically acceptable</a>) term. Here's the dance mix:&nbsp;</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="473" src="//" width="630"></iframe></p> <p>&nbsp;</p></body></html> MoJo Military Tech Top Stories Wed, 28 Jan 2015 11:00:10 +0000 Dave Gilson 268981 at 6 Terrifying Facts About Measles <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The current outbreak of measles that began in California has <a href="" target="_blank">sickened</a> 86 people and landed <a href="" target="_blank">30 babies</a> in home isolation. The California Department of Health has issued an official <a href="" target="_blank">warning</a> that "any place where large numbers of people congregate and there are a number of international visitors, like airports, shopping malls and tourist attractions, you may be more likely to find measles, which should be considered if you are not vaccinated."</p> <p>Not everyone is so concerned. In a <a href=";id=116317855073374" target="_blank">Facebook post</a> on January 16, celebrity pediatrician Robert "Dr. Bob" Sears encouraged his followers not to "let anyone tell you you should live in fear of" measles. "Ask any Grandma or Grandpa (well, older ones anyway)," he wrote, "and they'll say 'Measles? So what? We all had it. It's like Chicken pox.'"</p> <p>Well, Dr. Bob is wrong&mdash;measles is serious business. Consider these facts:</p> <ol><li><strong>Measles is one of the most contagious illnesses known to man.</strong> According to the <a href="" target="_blank">Centers for Disease Control and Prevention</a> (CDC), it infects about 90 percent of people who come into contact with it. The virus can survive on surfaces or even in the air for up to two hours. That means that if an unvaccinated person happens to pass through a room where someone with measles was a few hours before, he or she has a very high chance of contracting the disease.&nbsp;<br> &nbsp;</li> <li><strong>Some people who get measles become seriously ill.</strong> Before the advent of the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine, between 3 and 4 million people contracted measles each year in the United States. Of those, 48,000 were hospitalized, 4,000 developed the life-threatening brain condition encephalitis, and 400 to 500 died.<br> &nbsp;</li> <li><strong>Almost everyone needs to be vaccinated for measles in order to protect the most vulnerable people.</strong> The epidemiological concept of "herd immunity" means that enough people in a given community are immunized so that people who can't get vaccinated&mdash;infants that are too young to receive vaccines, people who can't get vaccinated because their immune systems are not strong enough, and the small number of people for whom the vaccine doesn't work&mdash;are protected. The threshold for herd immunity varies by disease; for measles, it's <a href="" target="_blank">92 to 94 percent</a>.<br> &nbsp;</li> <li><strong>In some places in the United States, MMR vaccination rates among kindergartners aren't anywhere near the herd immunity threshold.</strong> In Marin County, California, only 80 percent of students are up to date on their vaccinations. In Nevada County, California, the figure is 73 percent. <em>New York</em> magazine <a href="" target="_blank">reported</a> last year that dozens of New York City private schools had immunization rates below 70 percent. (Californians can check rates at individual schools <a href="" target="_blank">here</a>.)<br> &nbsp;</li> <li><strong>Worldwide, measles is far from eradicated.</strong> According to the <a href="" target="_blank">CDC</a>, in 2013, more than 60 percent of children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia Nigeria, and Pakistan were not adequately vaccinated against measles. Seventy percent of measles deaths worldwide occurred in those countries.<br> &nbsp;</li> <li><strong>Measles could make a major comeback in the United States.</strong> It's happened in other developed nations: In the mid-1990s, UK public health officials considered measles eradicated in the country&mdash;but in 2008, because of low vaccination rates, measles once again hit <a href="" target="_blank">endemic status</a>. Between 2008 and 2011, France saw <a href="" target="_blank">more than 20,000 cases of measles</a>&mdash;after virtual elimination of the disease just a few years before.</li> </ol></body></html> Blue Marble Health Top Stories Wed, 28 Jan 2015 11:00:10 +0000 Kiera Butler 269046 at Something Really, Really Terrible Is About to Happen to Our Coral <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Coral reefs cover just 0.1 percent of the ocean floor, but provide habitat to 25 percent of sea-dwelling fish species. That's why coral scientist C. Mark Eakin, who coordinates the National Oceanic and Atmospheric&nbsp;Administration's Coral Reef&nbsp;Watch program, is surprised that the warning he <a href="" target="_blank">has been sounding since last year (PDF)</a>&mdash;that the globe's reefs appear to be on the verge of a mass-scale bleaching event&mdash;hasn't drawn more media attention.</p> <p>Bleaching happens when coral loses contact with <a href="">zooxanthellae</a>, an algae that essentially feeds them nutrients in symbiotic exchange for a stable habitat. The coral/zooxanthellae relationship <a href="">thrives within a pretty tight range of ocean temperatures</a>, and when water warms above normal levels, coral tends to expel its algal lifeline. In doing so, coral not only loses the brilliant colors zooxanthellae deliver&mdash;hence, "bleaching"&mdash;but also its main source of food. A bleached coral reef rapidly begins to decline. Coral can reunite with healthy zooxanthellae and recover, Eakin says, but even then they often become diseased and may die. That's rotten news, because bleaching outbreaks are increasingly common.</p> <p>Before the 1980s, large-scale coral bleaching had never been observed before, Eakin says. After that, regionally isolated bleaching began to crop up, drawing the attention of marine scientists. Then, in 1998, an unusually strong <a href="">El Ni&ntilde;o</a> warming phase caused ocean temperatures to rise, triggering the first known global bleaching event in Earth's history. It whitened coral off the coasts of <a href="" target="_blank">60 countries and island nations,</a> spanning the<a href="" target="_blank"> Pacific Ocean, Indian Ocean, Red Sea, Persian Gulf, Mediterranean, and the Caribbean. </a>We functionally "lost between 15 percent and 20 percent of the world's coral reefs" in '98, Eakin said. Only some have recovered.</p> <p>Eakin is concerned about a relapse, because the oceans are relentlessly warming, driven by climate change from ever-increasing greenhouse gas emissions. As heat builds in the ocean, he says, coral become more vulnerable to bleaching.</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/warming%20copy.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>Getting hot in here: Coral reefs are sensitive to warming water. Oh-oh. </strong>NOAA</div> </div> <p>As a result, it no longer takes a classic strong El Ni&ntilde;o to cause warming and trigger mass bleaching. This current El Ni&ntilde;o, after starting strong last year, has essentially collapsed, in what Eakin calls a "highly unusual" pattern. Even so, the northeast Pacific is experiencing "very warm" water, he said. Overall, the oceans' waters have warmed so much in recent years that most coral areas are "right on the verge of having enough heat stress to cause bleaching and it doesn't take nearly as much to start one of these global-scale events," he said. Since 1998, there have been two major beaching events, neither driven by a strong El Ni&ntilde;o. In 2005, the Caribbean ocean experienced its worst-ever bleaching event despite a relatively tame El Ni&ntilde;o year, and in 2010,<a href="" target="_blank"> the second-ever globe-spanning bleaching event occurred</a>, again during a mild El Ni&ntilde;o. It wasn't as severe as the 1998 disaster, but unlike the earlier one, it "didn't have a strong El Ni&ntilde;o driving it," Eakin says.</p> <p>Which brings us to 2015. During our phone conversation, Eakin directed me to <a href="" target="_blank">this page</a> on NOAA's Coral Reef Watch site. He asked me to consider the below chart, which shows the water-temperature patterns that prevailed in spring&nbsp; '98&mdash;bleaching was most severe where the color is darkest red, signifying the most severe warming.</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/noaa1998%20copy.jpg"><div class="caption">NOAA</div> </div> <p>Then he directed me to the latest NOAA analysis, taken this month, that forecasts warming patterns four months into the future.</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/noaa2015%20copy.jpg"><div class="caption">NOAA</div> </div> <p>He called the warning currently happening in the Indian Ocean (the one on the left in the above charts) "amazingly similar" to the situation in '98, which foretells a warming pattern that could subject coral to a '98-scale bleaching crisis. "If you look at where we were in 1998 and look at where we are now, you see that the ocean is primed to respond with a sustained high temperature during the warm season in a way that previously took a big El Ni&ntilde;o, and now doesn't," he said.</p> <p>Again, a mass bleaching doesn't translate directly to mass coral die-off, because coral can recover. But the recovery takes decades&mdash;<a href="" target="_blank">large reefs grow about 1 centimeters per year</a>, Eakin says&mdash;and the bleaching events are coming faster and faster, each one stalling recovery and causing new damage. The emerging pattern for large-scale events looks like this: 1998, 2005 (confined mainly to the Caribbean), 2010, and now, quite possibly, 2015.</p> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/bleaching.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>Bleached coral within Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. </strong>NOAA</div> </div> <p>And another facet of climate change makes recovery even more difficult, Eakins added: <a href="" target="_blank">acidification</a>, which comes about as the oceans sponge up more and more carbon from the atmosphere. Heightened acidity makes it <a href="" target="_blank">harder for coral to absorb the calcium carbonate</a> it needs to build and maintain their skeletal structure.</p> <p>Eakin says it will take major action to reverse climate change to save the globe's coral reefs. Currently, carbon dioxide makes up nearly 400 parts per million of the atmosphere, and for coral to thrive, we'll need to throttle that back to 350 ppm or possibly even 320 ppm, he said. Those are <a href="" target="_blank">ambitious goals</a>. Making coral resilient enough to survive until we can manage to do that, he added, will require taking action against "local stressors" that also harm them, like overfishing and pollution.</p> <p>"People say corals are the rainforests of the sea. But coral reefs are more biodiverse than rainforests," he said. "It ought to be the other way around: Rainforests are the coral reefs of the land." And these glorious cradles of oceanic life aren't getting any stronger. "The punch that knocks a boxer out in the ninth round doesn't have to be as hard as the punch that would knock him out in round one," Eakin said.</p></body></html> Tom Philpott Top Stories Oceans Wed, 28 Jan 2015 11:00:09 +0000 Tom Philpott 268966 at This Map Shows Why The Midwest Is Screwed <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The ongoing drought in California has been, among other things, a powerful lesson in how vulnerable America's agricultural sector is to climate change. Even if that drought <a href="" target="_blank">wasn't specifically caused by man-made global warming</a>, scientists have little doubt that droughts and heat waves are going to get more frequent and severe in important crop-growing regions. In California, the cost in 2014 was staggering: $2.2 billion in losses and added expenses, plus 17,000 lost jobs, <a href="" target="_blank">according to a UC-Davis study</a>.</p> <p>California is country's hub for fruits, veggies, and nuts. But what about the commodity grains grown in the Midwest, where the US produces over half its corn and soy? That's the subject of a <a href="" target="_blank">new report</a> by the climate research group headed by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, and billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer (who <a href="" target="_blank">recently shut down rumors</a> that he might run for Senate).</p> <p>The report is all about climate impacts expected in the Midwest, and the big takeaway is that future generations have lots of very sweaty summers in store. One example: "The average Chicago resident is expected to experience more days over 95 degrees F by the century's end than the average Texan does today." The report also predicts that electricity prices will increase, with potential ramifications for the region's manufacturing sector, and that beloved winter sports&mdash;<a href="" target="_blank">ice fishing, anyone?</a>&mdash;will become harder to do.</p> <p>But some of the most troublesome findings are about agriculture. Some places will fare better than others; northern Minnesota, for example, could very well find itself benefiting from global warming. But overall, the report says, extreme heat, scarcer water resources, and weed and insect invasions will drive down corn and soybean yields by 11 to 69 percent by the century's end. Note that these predictions assume no "significant adaptation," so there's an opportunity to soften the blow with <a href="" target="_blank">solutions</a> like better water management, switching to more heat-tolerant crops like sorghum, or the combination of genetic engineering and data technology now <a href="" target="_blank">being pursued by Monsanto</a>.</p> <p>Here's a map from the report showing which states' farmers could benefit from climate change&mdash;and which ones will lose big time:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/crop-map-630.jpg"><div class="caption">Risky Business</div> </div></body></html> Blue Marble Maps Climate Change Climate Desk Food and Ag Science Tue, 27 Jan 2015 21:44:23 +0000 Tim McDonnell 268986 at