Blogs | Mother Jones Mother Jones logo en Why the Duke Basketball Sexual-Assault Story Won't Go Away Quickly <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The Duke University student newspaper <a href="" target="_blank">reported today</a> that a player recently dismissed from the school's powerhouse men's basketball team had been twice accused of sexual assault. Moreover, it found that athletic department officials, including Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski, knew about the allegations as early as last March but failed to act for months.</p> <p>According to the <em>Chronicle</em>, two different women claimed that junior guard Rasheed Sulaimon had sexually assaulted them during the 2013-14 school year. In October 2013, a woman told classmates at a retreat that Sulaimon had assaulted her; at the same retreat in February 2014, another woman made a similar claim. The <em>Chronicle </em>reported that the team psychologist was made aware of the allegations in March 2014, and that several key members of the athletic department&mdash;including Krzyzewski, several assistant coaches, and athletic director Kevin White&mdash;found out shortly thereafter.</p> <p>At a press conference, Krzyzewski <a href="" target="_blank">declined to comment</a> on the <em>Chronicle</em> article. But here are three reasons why this particular story won't be going away anytime soon:</p> <ul><li><strong>Slow response:</strong> Neither woman filed a complaint with the university or went to the local police in part due to "the fear of backlash from the Duke fan base," according to the <em>Chronicle. </em>Nonetheless, the allegations reportedly were brought to the coaching staff shortly after the second incident was disclosed. According to the <em>Chronicle</em>, most Duke employees are required to report sexual assault; under <a href="" target="_blank">Title IX</a>, the university must investigate any such allegations. "Nothing happened after months and months of talking about [the sexual assault allegations]," an anonymous source told the newspaper. "The University administration knew."</li> <li><strong>It's Duke, and Coach K: </strong>It has been nearly nine years since the <a href="" target="_blank">Duke lacrosse rape case</a>, which fell apart after months of intense scrutiny and media attention. Given the prominence of Krzyzewski and his program&mdash;he has the most wins of any Division I coach in history, and the Blue Devils are ranked No. 3 in the country&mdash;this story could gain a lot more traction as March Madness nears.&nbsp;Sulaimon was the first player Krzyzewski has <a href="" target="_blank">dismissed</a> in his 35 years at Duke; here's how the coach described the decision in a January 29 press release: "Rasheed has been unable to consistently live up to the standards required to be a member of our program. It is a privilege to represent Duke University and with that privilege comes the responsibility to conduct oneself in a certain manner. After Rasheed repeatedly struggled to meet the necessary obligations, it became apparent that it was time to dismiss him from the program."</li> <li><strong>It's yet another sexual-assault accusation against a college athlete: </strong>The Sulaimon story comes just days after a former Louisville University basketball player was charged with <a href="" target="_blank">rape and sodomy</a>. On January 27, two former Vanderbilt University football players were <a href="" target="_blank">convicted</a> on multiple counts of sexual battery and aggravated rape, a case dissected in a <a href="" target="_blank"><em>Sports Illustrated</em></a> feature last month. And in another highly publicized recent case, Jameis Winston, Florida State University's Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback and the likely No. 1 pick in the upcoming NFL draft, was accused but never charged of raping a fellow student. (The school recently <a href="" target="_blank">cleared</a> Winston of violating its code of conduct.)</li> </ul><p><em>This post has been updated.</em></p></body></html> Mixed Media Sports Top Stories Mon, 02 Mar 2015 21:32:53 +0000 Ian Gordon 271201 at Watch John Oliver Turn America's Doomed Infrastructure Into a Summer Blockbuster <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>America's infrastructure system&mdash;from its dams, bridges, roads, airports, etc.&mdash;is deteriorating and in need of a serious renovation. It's an issue most people agree on, and as <a href="" target="_blank">John Oliver noted last night,</a> even has the attention of a "total idiot" like Donald Trump.&nbsp;<span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 2em;">Despite all this, the country remains pretty uninterested in doing anything about it.</span></p> <p>"The lack of political urgency in tackling this problem is insane," Oliver explained. "And you cannot tell me that you are not interested in this, because every summer, people flock to see our infrastructure threatened by terrorists and aliens."</p> <p>In hopes to cure America's blissful apathy to our crumbling infrastructure, <em>Last Week Tonight</em> took a cue from our movie-going habits by producing a gripping,&nbsp;<em>Armageddon</em>-like summer blockbuster to get people freaked out enough and finally start working on this major problem. Watch below:</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="" width="630"></iframe></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p></body></html> Mixed Media Video Media Mon, 02 Mar 2015 16:24:14 +0000 Inae Oh 271191 at Tikrit is an Early Test of Iraq vs. ISIS <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_tikrit_map.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;"><a href=";action=click&amp;pgtype=Homepage&amp;module=first-column-region&amp;region=top-news&amp;WT.nav=top-news&amp;_r=0" target="_blank">Well, here we go:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The Iraqi military, alongside thousands of Shiite militia fighters, began a large-scale offensive on Monday to retake the city of Tikrit from the Islamic State....<strong>Monday&rsquo;s attack, which officials said involved more than 30,000 fighters supported by Iraqi helicopters and jets,</strong> was the boldest effort yet to recapture Tikrit and, Iraqi officials said, the largest Iraqi offensive anywhere in the country since the Islamic State took control of Mosul, Iraq&rsquo;s second-largest city, in June. It was unclear if airstrikes from the American-led coalition, which has been bombing Islamic State positions in Iraq since August, were involved in the early stages of the offensive on Monday.</p> <p><strong>From a military perspective, capturing Tikrit is seen as an important precursor to an operation to retake Mosul,</strong> which lies farther north. Success in Tikrit could push up the timetable for a Mosul campaign, while failure would most likely mean more delays.</p> </blockquote> <p>This is a test of whether the American training of Iraqi troops has made much difference. If it has, this latest attempt to take Tikrit might succeed. If not, it will probably fail like all the other attempts.</p> <p>It's worth noting that 30,000 troops to take Tikrit is about the equivalent of 200,000 troops to take a city the size of Mosul. So even if the Iraqi offensive is successful, it's still not clear what it means going forward. Stay tuned.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Iraq Military Mon, 02 Mar 2015 16:09:04 +0000 Kevin Drum 271196 at O Glory! Pops Staples Was Magnificent—and Rockin' <!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><strong>The Staple Singers<br><em>Freedom Highway Complete &ndash; Recorded Live at Chicago's New Nazareth Church</em><br> Legacy<br><br> Pops Staples<br><em>Don't Lose This</em><br> dBpm/Anti-</strong></p> <div class="inline inline-right" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Screen%20Shot%202015-02-26%20at%202.24.11%20PM.png" style="height: 300px; width: 300px;"></div> <p>What a monumental legacy Roebuck "Pops" Staples left behind! From the mid-1950s on, his family group, the Staple Singers, was a premier gospel act. In the '70s, they scored a number of uplifting R&amp;B hits, including "Respect Yourself" and "I'll Take You There." Up until his death in 2000, Pops Staples continued making compelling, moving music.</p> <p><em>Freedom Highway Complete</em>, recorded in April 1965, captures Pops and his kids, Mavis, Yvonne and Pervis, at the height of their testifying powers, electrifying a churchgoing audience the month after Dr. King's history-changing marches from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. From the exuberant title track to the foot-stomping "Samson and Delilah," it's a thrilling concert, thanks to the interplay of the Staples' robust voices, Pops' shimmering, pithy guitar licks, and spirit-lifting rhythms. It's magnificent&mdash;and rockin'!</p> <p><em>Don't Lose This </em>collects 10 songs that Pops recorded in 1999 but never finished. Last year, daughter Mavis took the incomplete recordings to Wilco's Jeff Tweedy, who worked on her more recent solo albums, and together they turned the tracks into a proper album, adding voices and instrumentation. (If Tweedy took the liberty of mimicking Pops' distinctive guitar in places, he did a great job.) Mavis' rousing voice is prominent, but it's still her dad's show. His tender yet forceful singing on "Somebody Was Watching Me" and on Bob Dylan's "Gotta Serve Somebody" is sure to inspire. The album is a fitting memorial to this endearing genius.</p></body></html> Mixed Media Music Mon, 02 Mar 2015 11:00:10 +0000 Jon Young 271036 at Quote of the Day: Secret Scheming Places of Tea Party Congressmen Revealed! <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">From Republican Rep. Devin Nunes,</a> on the tactics of tea partiers who are holding up the DHS funding bill over their increasingly pointless insistence that it include a provision repealing President Obama's immigration program:</p> <blockquote> <p>While conservative leaders are trying to move the ball up the field, these other members sit in <strong>exotic places like basements of Mexican restaurants and upper levels of House office buildings,</strong> seemingly unaware that they can't advance conservatism by playing fantasy football with their voting cards.</p> </blockquote> <p>Um, OK. Not exactly <em>House of Cards</em>, but OK.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Congress Sun, 01 Mar 2015 18:43:15 +0000 Kevin Drum 271176 at Scott Walker Is Making Shit Up, Just Like His Hero Ronald Reagan <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">This morning</a>, once again trying to show that fighting against Wisconsin labor unions is pretty much the same as fighting ISIS or communism, Scott Walker repeated his contention that Ronald Reagan's early move to fire striking air traffic controllers was more than <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_reagan_patco.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">just an attack on organized labor. It was also a critical foreign policy decision. Here's what he <a href="" target="_blank">originally said last month on <em>Morning Joe</em>:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>One of the most powerful foreign policy decisions that I think was made in our lifetime was one that Ronald Reagan made early in his presidency when he fired the air traffic controllers....What it did, it showed our allies around the world that we were serious and more importantly that this man to our adversaries was serious.</p> <p><strong>Years later, documents released from the Soviet Union showed that that exactly was the case.</strong> The Soviet Union started treating [Reagan] more seriously once he did something like that. Ideas have to have consequences. And I think [President Barack Obama] has failed mainly because he's made threats and hasn't followed through on them.</p> </blockquote> <p><a href="" target="_blank">PolitiFact decided to check up on this:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Five experts told us they had never heard of such documents. Several were incredulous at the notion.</p> <p>[Joseph] McCartin...."I am not aware of any such documents. If they did exist, I would love to see them."....Svetlana Savranskaya...."There is absolutely no evidence of this."....James Graham Wilson....Not aware of any Soviet documents showing Moscow&rsquo;s internal response to the controller firings....Reagan's own ambassador to the Soviet Union, Jack Matlock, told us: "It's utter nonsense. There is no evidence of that whatever."</p> </blockquote> <p>PolitiFact's conclusion: "For a statement that is false and ridiculous, our rating is Pants on Fire." But Walker shouldn't feel too bad. After all, Reagan was also famous for making up facts and evidence that didn't exist, so Walker is just taking after his hero. What's more, Reagan's fantasies never hurt him much. Maybe they won't hurt Walker either.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum 2016 Elections International Labor Sat, 28 Feb 2015 16:06:49 +0000 Kevin Drum 271166 at Kagan: Netanyahu Speech Is a Blunder <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Even the ever-hawkish Robert Kagan thinks Republicans blew it by inviting Benjamin Netanyahu to <a href="" target="_blank">address a joint session of Congress:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Looking back on it from years hence, will the spectacle of an Israeli prime minister coming to Washington to do battle with an American president wear well or poorly?</p> <p>....Is anyone thinking about the future? From now on, whenever the opposition party happens to control Congress &mdash; a common enough occurrence &mdash; it may call in a foreign leader to speak to a joint meeting of Congress against a president and his policies. Think of how this might have played out in the past. A Democratic-controlled Congress in the 1980s might, for instance, have called the Nobel Prize-winning Costa Rican President Oscar Arias to denounce President Ronald Reagan&rsquo;s policies in Central America. A Democratic-controlled Congress in 2003 might have called French President Jacques Chirac to oppose President George W. Bush&rsquo;s impending war in Iraq.</p> <p>Does that sound implausible? Yes, it was implausible &mdash; until now.</p> </blockquote> <p>But President Obama has been poking sticks in Republican eyes ever since November, and Republicans desperately needed to poke back to maintain credibility with their base. Since passing useful legislation was apparently not in the cards, this was all they could come up with. What a debacle.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Congress International Sat, 28 Feb 2015 15:09:22 +0000 Kevin Drum 271161 at What's French for Chicken Nugget? The Truth About School Lunches Around the World <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>By now you've probably seen the <a href="http://" target="_blank">viral slideshow</a> called "School Lunches Around the World," in which a heavily processed American school lunch is contrasted against an array of fresh, healthy-looking victuals from Italy, France, Greece, etc. It's a compelling argument against the <a href="" target="_blank">puny resources</a> spent on school lunch in the United States, where, once labor and overhead are accounted for, schools get less than a dollar per daily lunch to spend on ingredients.</p> <p>But as the great school-food blogger Bettina Elias Siegel <a href="" target="_blank">points out</a>, those sumptuous photos don't depict actual meals being served in actual schools&mdash;but, rather, staged shots that oversimplify a complex topic. As it turns out, <a href="" target="_blank">Sweetgreen</a>, a chain of health-food eateries <a href="" target="_blank">located mainly on the East Coast</a>, produced the photos, but didn't make that clear on its Tumblr.</p> <p>In case you haven't seen them, here's a sampling:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/USslide_405630_5063818_free.jpg"><div class="caption">Photo: Sweetgreen<br> &nbsp;</div> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/slide_405630_5063802_free.jpg"><div class="caption">Photo: Sweetgreen<br> &nbsp;</div> </div> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/italyslide_405630_5063808_free.jpg"><div class="caption">Photo: Sweetgreen<br> &nbsp;</div> </div> </div> <p>So we see images of appetizing lunch from countries around the world contrasted against a relatively grim platter of pale chicken nuggets, potatoes, and peas from here in the good ol' USA. Siegel writes that many of her readers sent her a link to the gallery, "understandably but mistakenly" under the impression that the images depicted real-deal lunches, not a corporate photo shoot. The UK's<em> Daily Mail</em> even took them at face value, <a href="" target="_blank">blaring</a> in a headline that "Photos reveal just how meager US students' meals are compared to even the most cash-strapped of nations."</p> <p>Siegel, though, had questions:</p> <blockquote> <p>Sweetgreen says it based is photos on "some typical school meals around the world," but it doesn't tell us how it obtained the information underlying the photos. Were the meals modeled on public school menus? Private school menus? Are the meals depicted typical of what's served in a given country, or did Sweetgreen cherry-pick the most appealing items? And on what basis were the elements chosen for America's school meal?</p> </blockquote> <p>Most egregiously, the Greece photo portrays a robust lunch featuring chicken over whole grains with yogurt, pomegranate seeds, a salad, and fresh citrus. Siegel provides a reality check: Debt-plagued Greece doesn't have the resources to provide much of anything to eat for its school kids. She points to a 2013 <a href=";_r=0" target="_blank"><em>New York Times</em> piece</a> reporting that Greek schools "do not offer subsidized cafeteria lunches. Students bring their own food or buy items from a canteen. The cost has become insurmountable for some families with little or no income." Meanwhile, Siegel points out, even with dire funding for US lunches, more than 20 million economically distressed US kids had access to free or cut-rate lunches in 2013.</p> <p>She adds that some US school districts do magical things with their minuscule budgets. Besides, even in France, where schools typically have twice as much to spend on ingredients per meal, lunches in some cases can look pretty, well, American.</p> <p>Here's Sweetgreen's version of the French lunch:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/slide_405630_5063804_free.jpg"><div class="caption">Photo: Sweetgreen</div> </div> <p>And here's one of an French lunch Siegel found on the <em><a href="" target="_blank">What's for School Lunch?</a></em> blog, where "real people around the world submit their actual photos of school meals." There's no reason to assume all French lunches consist of chicken nuggets and well, <em>French</em> fries&mdash;but there's no reason to believe that Sweetgreen's idealized version is representative, either.</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/French_nuggets.png"><div class="caption">Photo: <em>What&rsquo;s for School Lunch?</em></div> </div> <p>After Siegel's posting, Sweetgreen added an appendage to its Tumblr page:</p> <blockquote> <p>Note: These images are not intended to be exact representations of school lunches, but instead, are meant to portray different types of foods found in cafeterias around the world. To create this series, we evaluated government standards for school lunch programs, and compared this data to photos that real students had taken of their meals and shared online.</p> </blockquote> <p>Sweetgreen's photo essay was designed to support an <a href="" target="_blank">effort</a> to raise funds for <a href="" target="_blank">Food Corps</a>, a "nationwide team of AmeriCorps leaders who connect kids to real food and help them grow up healthy" through cooking and gardening classes. It's an impressive bit of corporate marketing on behalf of a good cause&mdash;but not an accurate depiction of school lunch.</p></body></html> Tom Philpott Education Food and Ag Top Stories Sat, 28 Feb 2015 11:00:11 +0000 Tom Philpott 271146 at President Obama: "I Loved Spock" <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>President Obama released a <a href="" target="_blank">statement</a>&nbsp;Friday on the death of&nbsp;Leonard Nimoy. The actor, best known for his role as Spock on <em>Star Trek</em>&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">died</a> at the age of 83 earlier today.</p> <blockquote> <p>Long before being nerdy was cool, there was Leonard Nimoy. Leonard was a lifelong lover of the arts and humanities, a supporter of the sciences, generous with his talent and his time. And of course, Leonard was Spock. Cool, logical, big-eared and level-headed, the center of Star Trek&rsquo;s optimistic, inclusive vision of humanity&rsquo;s future.</p> <p>I loved Spock.</p> <p>In 2007, I had the chance to meet Leonard in person. It was only logical to greet him with the Vulcan salute, the universal sign for &ldquo;Live long and prosper.&rdquo; And after 83 years on this planet&ndash;&ndash;and on his visits to many others&ndash;&ndash;it&rsquo;s clear Leonard Nimoy did just that. Michelle and I join his family, friends, and countless fans who miss him so dearly today.</p> </blockquote> <p>Upon meeting for the first time, Nimoy said the president greeted him with the iconic <a href="" target="_blank">Vulcan salute</a>.</p> <p><iframe frameborder="0" height="354" scrollable="no" src="" width="630"></iframe></p> <p>In the past, Obama has been criticized for being too <a href="" target="_blank">"Spock-like"</a> or methodical in his proceedings, to which the president once playfully responded, "Is that a crack on my ears?"</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="473" src="" width="630"></iframe></p> <p>Nimoy's death has sparked an outpouring of eulogies from fans, fellow actors, and politicans alike. Earlier, Sen. Elizabeth Warren tweeted:</p> <center> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p>Spock is gone - and so is our last chance for a Vulcan mind meld with a great son of Boston. Sad day. <a href="">#LLAP</a></p> &mdash; Elizabeth Warren (@elizabethforma) <a href="">February 27, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>&nbsp;</p> </center> <p>RIP.</p></body></html> Mixed Media Film and TV Obama Fri, 27 Feb 2015 21:45:12 +0000 Inae Oh 271151 at Hero Mom Has the Perfect Response to Son Begging to Join ISIS <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Everyone of us can relate to having once been a stupid&nbsp;teenager, irrationally whining to our parents about needing to hang out with <em>that</em> group, wear&nbsp;<em>this</em> outfit, etc.</p> <p>Such is the case of 19-year-old <a href=";_r=1" target="_blank">Akhror Saidakhmetov</a> of Brooklyn who had a burning desire to join club ISIS, like all the <a href="" target="_blank">cool kids</a>&nbsp;seem to be doing these days. But despite having all the gear to prove he was ready to commit to the band, Saidakhmetov's dreams were ultimately crushed by a very adolescent roadblock&mdash;his mom. From the <a href=";_r=1" target="_blank"><em>Times:</em></a></p> <blockquote> <p class="rteindent1">Mr. Juraboev and Mr. Saidakhmetov bought tickets, planning to travel to Turkey and then sneak into Syria, court papers say, and as the date of their departure neared, they seemed eager.</p> <p class="rteindent1">But Mr. Saidakhmetov still needed his passport, and on Feb. 19 he called his mother. In a conversation recorded by federal agents, he asked for it. She asked him where he was going. He said to join the Islamic State.</p> <p class="rteindent1"><strong>"If a person has a chance to join the Islamic State and does not go there, on Judgment Day he will be asked why, and it is a sin to live in the land of infidels," he told her, court documents say.</strong></p> <p class="rteindent1"><strong>She hung up the phone.</strong> It is unclear if he managed to get his passport back. But the government&rsquo;s informer helped Mr. Saidakhmetov secure travel documents. In the days before he left, he told the informer that he felt that his soul was already on its way to paradise.</p> </blockquote> <p>Trust us, young Saidakhmetov, you'll thank your mom one day. We already do.</p></body></html> MoJo Religion Fri, 27 Feb 2015 19:48:41 +0000 Inae Oh 271136 at Friday Cat Blogging - 27 February 2015 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>My biopsy is scheduled for this morning, so once again you get early cat blogging. Hopper got center stage last week, so this week it's Hilbert's turn.</p> <p>Speaking of Hopper, though, a few days ago she demonstrated the wonders of the internet to me. That wasn't her intent, of course. Her intent was to chew through the charging cord of one of my landline phone extensions. This effectively turned the phone into a paperweight&mdash;and not even a very good one. But then I looked on the back of the charger and there was a model number etched into the plastic. So I typed it into Google. Despite the fact that this phone is more than a decade old, I was able to order two used replacements for $4 each within five minutes. Truly we live in a miraculous age.</p> <p>But I still wish Hopper would stop chewing on every dangling cord in the house. Steps need to be taken, but I'm not quite sure yet what they'll be.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hilbert_2015_02_27.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 5px 40px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 27 Feb 2015 19:15:07 +0000 Kevin Drum 271081 at This Correction Is Supremely Unfortunate. I Can't Stop Cringing. <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Courtesy of <em>New York Times</em> staff editor Michael Roston, this is an unfortunate push alert error:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p>Oof <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Michael Roston (@michaelroston) <a href="">February 27, 2015</a></blockquote> <p><script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script>I feel genuinely awful for whoever is responsible for this. Everyone of us has made that mistake, but this will haunt them.</p> <p>In the interest of solidarity, here's a <em>Star Wars</em> mistake I once made when I worked for <em>CNET</em>:</p> <p><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/401086_10100840630052439_343090739_n.jpg"></p> <p>Stay strong, anonymous ABC7 push alert writer. You'll come back from this.</p> <p><strong>UPDATE</strong>: The&nbsp;ABC7&nbsp;digital editor responsible seems like a mensch.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-partner="tweetdeck"> <p><a href="">@bendreyfuss</a> Haunted seems a bit much, no? <a href="">#MyBad</a> <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Eyewitness News (@ABC7NY) <a href="">February 27, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script></body></html> Contributor Fri, 27 Feb 2015 18:25:35 +0000 Ben Dreyfuss 271131 at Sean Hannity Said Some Something Really Creepy at CPAC Today <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p class="rtecenter"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="" width="630"></iframe></p> <p>In his speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference this morning, Fox&nbsp;News' Sean Hannity had some downright creepy things to say about the "young, good-looking crowd:"</p> <blockquote> <p>I can look out in the crowd, I kinda have Fox X-ray vision, and I can see that some of you women, you don't even know it yet, but you're pregnant. It's not your fault. It's not his fault.</p> </blockquote> <p>The joke&mdash;if that's what it was&mdash;bombed, drawing nervous laughter and groans from the crowd. The Twitter reaction was swift&nbsp;and perplexed:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p>Hannity has xray vision can tell that some of the women in here are pregnant? IDK it was supposed to be a joke? <a href="">#CPAC2015</a></p> &mdash; Nathalie Baptiste (@nhbaptiste) <a href="">February 27, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p>Hannity joke at <a href="">#CPAC</a> lands w a thud: "I have Fox xray vision &amp; I can see that some of you women are pregnant, though you don't know it yet"</p> &mdash; Alice Ollstein (@AliceOllstein) <a href="">February 27, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-partner="tweetdeck"> <p>Really subtle <a href="">@seanhannity</a>: if I was stupid, like a liberal, .... Also, "I can see it some of you women are pregnant you don't know it yet"</p> &mdash; Adam B. Lerner (@AdamBLerner) <a href="">February 27, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p><span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 2em;">Other CPAC attendees were apparently unfazed by Hannity's claim that he could seen into women's uteruses.</span></p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-partner="tweetdeck"> <p><a href="">@seanhannity</a> What a wonderful speech you gave before CPAC today! Wish to Heaven you'd consider running for the GOP Presidential nomination.</p> &mdash; Paula Duvall (@PaulaDuvall2) <a href="">February 27, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script></body></html> MoJo 2016 Elections Media The Right Fri, 27 Feb 2015 18:20:19 +0000 Sam Brodey 271121 at Marco Rubio Has a Peculiar Idea of How to Defeat ISIS <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Steve Benen points me to Marco Rubio today. Here is Rubio explaining how his ISIS strategy would be <a href="" target="_blank">different from President Obama's:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>&ldquo;ISIS is a radical Sunni Islamic group. They need to be defeated on the ground by a Sunni military force with air support from the United States,&rdquo; Rubio said. &ldquo;Put together a coalition of armed regional governments to confront [ISIS] on the ground with U.S. special forces support, logistical support, intelligence support and the most devastating air support possible,&rdquo; he added, &ldquo;and you will wipe ISIS out.&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>Hmmm. As Benen points out, this sounds awfully similar to what Obama is already doing. Local forces? Check. Coalition of regional governments? Check. Logistical support? Check. Air support? Check.</p> <p>But there is one difference. Rubio thinks we need a Sunni military force on the ground to defeat ISIS. The Iraqi army, of course, is mostly Shiite. So apparently Rubio thinks we should ditch the Iraqi military and put together a coalition of ground forces from neighboring countries. But this would be....who? Yemen is out. Syria is out. That leaves Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, and Turkey. Does Rubio think these countries are willing to put together a ground force to invade Iraq? Does he think the Iraqi government would allow it?</p> <p>It is a mystery. What exactly does Marco Rubio think?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Iraq Military Fri, 27 Feb 2015 18:18:50 +0000 Kevin Drum 271126 at Turn That Frown Upside Down. These Pandas Make Life Worth Living. <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>It's been so cold and terrible lately that I've really been down in the ditch emotionally. They call it <a href="" target="_blank">SAD</a>, they call it bad, they call it late for dinner. I know it as <a href="" target="_blank">&macr;\_(&atilde;&#131;&#132;)_/&macr;</a>. But put away your shrug 'cause, babe, I got a helluva drug: the kids call it <a href="" target="_blank"><em>red panda:</em></a><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" mozallowfullscreen="" scrolling="no" src="" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="630"></iframe></p> <p>Happy Friday!</p></body></html> Contributor Animals Fri, 27 Feb 2015 18:02:11 +0000 Ben Dreyfuss 270891 at RIP Leonard Nimoy <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">Leonard Nimoy</a>, best known for his role as the iconic Mr. Spock of "Star Trek" died on Friday at the age of 83.</p> <p>His wife confirmed the news to the <em>New York Times,</em> saying the actor died from "end-stage" pulmonary disease. Nimoy announced he had been battling the disease earlier this year and attributed his many years of smoking for the cause.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p>Don't smoke. I did. Wish I never had. LLAP</p> &mdash; Leonard Nimoy (@TheRealNimoy) <a href="">January 11, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Below is his last tweet:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p>A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP</p> &mdash; Leonard Nimoy (@TheRealNimoy) <a href="">February 23, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="473" src="" width="630"></iframe></p></body></html> Mixed Media Film and TV Fri, 27 Feb 2015 17:37:18 +0000 Inae Oh 271116 at California's 3-Strike Prison Reform Is Working <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>California's three-strikes law used to mean that all third-time felons had to spend at least 25 years behind bars&mdash;pretty harsh, considering that the third strike could be the result of <a href="" target="_blank">stealing a $2.50 pair of tube socks</a>. Last year, voters decided to scale back the policy, and passed two initiatives to <a href=",_Changes_in_the_%22Three_Strikes%22_Law_%282012%29" target="_blank">give judges more sentencing discretion</a> and <a href="" target="_blank">retroactively reduce the penalties for low-level drug and theft crimes.</a> Law enforcement leaders warned that the reform would set free "thousands of dangerous inmates," <a href="" target="_blank">and called it</a> "a radical package of ill-conceived policies" that "will endanger Californians."</p> <p>But almost five months after the second initiative passed, that warning sounds increasingly overblown. About 45 percent of inmates released from California prisons normally re-offend within 18 months. Of roughly 2,000 former life prisoners freed as a result of the three-strikes reform, only 4.7 percent have returned to prison, <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">according to the<em> New York Times</em></a>. These ex-convicts had been out for an average of 18 months.</p> <p>Experts say that intense exit counseling helped contribute to the low recidivism rate. "There's a lot of emotional work," Mark Faucette,&nbsp;director of community relations for the <a href="" title="The foundation&acirc;&#128;&#153;s website.">Amity Foundation</a>, told the <em>Times</em>. "They're moving from a number to a name."</p> <p>Two decades ago, fear of crime was at <a href="" target="_blank">a nationwide peak</a>.<strong> </strong>The murder of 12-year-old Polly Klaas by a career criminal helped push Californians to pass the three-strikes law, the country's strictest, in 1994. Crime rates did fall&mdash;but a 2012 <a href="" target="_blank">study</a> from UC-Riverside later found that it had nothing to do with three strikes. The law also added <a href="" target="_blank">an estimated $19 billion</a> to the state prison budget. As federal courts started pressuring <a href="" target="_blank">California to shrink its prison population</a> in 2009 due to inhumane treatment and overcrowding, the three-strikes legislation made even less sense.</p> <p>The tides may be shifting for the rest of the country, too. As my colleague Shane Bauer <a href="" target="_blank">writes</a>, a 2013 <a href="" target="_blank">poll</a> found that even among Texas Republicans, 81 percent favor treatment over incarceration for drug offenders. Other states&mdash;more than 20 of which <a href="" target="_blank">also passed three-strikes laws in the 1990s</a>&mdash;may also soon be questioning prison time as a blanket solution for low-level crimes.</p></body></html> MoJo Crime and Justice Fri, 27 Feb 2015 17:19:12 +0000 Rebecca Cohen 271016 at Republicans Shoot Selves in Foot, Schedule Second Shooting for March <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_homeland_security.jpg" style="margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Here's the latest bit of drama in the <a href="" target="_blank">DHS funding fight:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><strong>The House will vote Friday on a bill funding the Department of Homeland Security for three weeks</strong> in an attempt to avert a shutdown slated for Saturday at the massive agency.</p> <p>....Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) announced the new strategy to his rank-and-file members during a closed-door caucus meeting Thursday night. Senior Republicans predicted it would win enough support to clear the lower chamber. &ldquo;I think we&rsquo;ve got plentiful support. I was very pleased with the response. I think it&rsquo;ll be a very strong vote,&rdquo; House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) told reporters after the meeting.</p> </blockquote> <p>This is, literally, the worst possible outcome for Republicans. It means they'll spend the next three weeks embroiled in this inane battle instead of working to advance their own agenda. It means the tea party ultras will have three more weeks to whip up even more outrage. It means John Boehner will have to fight his own caucus yet again on this same subject in March.</p> <p>In the meantime, Democrats are probably cackling with glee. This has got to be one of the most dimwitted legislative own goals of all time.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Congress Fri, 27 Feb 2015 16:59:36 +0000 Kevin Drum 271111 at Watch a US Senator Use a Snowball to Deny Global Warming <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><div style="text-align:center"><script type="text/javascript" src=";width=630&amp;height=526&amp;playList=518674036"></script></div> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><em>This <a href="" target="_blank">story</a> was first published by the </em><a href="" target="_blank">Huffington Post</a> <em>and is reproduced here via the <a href="" target="_blank">Climate Desk</a> collaboration.</em></p> <p>The Senate's most vocal critic of the scientific consensus on climate change, Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, tossed a snowball on the Senate floor Thursday as part of his case for why global warming is a hoax.</p> <p>Inhofe, who wrote the book <em>The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future</em>, took to the floor to decry the "hysteria on global warming."</p> <p>"In case we have forgotten, because we keep hearing that 2014 has been the warmest year on record, I ask the chair, 'You know what this is?'" he said, holding up a snowball. "It's a snowball, from outside here. So it's very, very cold out. Very unseasonable."</p> <p>"Catch this," he said to the presiding officer, tossing the blob of snow.</p> <p>Inhofe went on to list the recent cold temperatures across parts of the United States, which included <a href="">67 new record lows</a> earlier this week according to the National Weather Service, as evidence that global warming claims are overhyped. "We hear the perpetual headline that 2014 has been the warmest year on record. But now the script has flipped."</p> <p>Despite the record lows in some parts of the country, the <a href="">nation overall</a> has been experiencing a warmer than average winter.</p></body></html> Blue Marble Video Climate Change Climate Desk Top Stories Fri, 27 Feb 2015 16:09:26 +0000 Kate Sheppard 271101 at Why Did the Pentagon Announce Its Battle Plan for Mosul Months Ahead of Time? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Last week, in a briefing to reporters, the Pentagon announced that it planned an offensive against Mosul in late spring. But why? Normally you don't telegraph military plans months in advance.</p> <p>Joshua Rovner and Caitlin Talmadge suggest two related reasons. First, the U.S. might have decided that Iraqi security is so shoddy that surprise was never in the cards. "Given the notoriously poor operational security of the Iraqi Army," they say, "the chances of keeping secret any Iraqi-led campaign were poor anyway."</p> <p>Beyond that, they speculate that the Pentagon hoped to accomplish something by <a href="" target="_blank">sending a message:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The United States may be speaking more to its coalition partners and Iraqi counterparts than to the Islamic State....<strong>The United States might be trying to signal its own trustworthiness as a partner,</strong> stiffen the backs of unmotivated Iraqi forces, create a fait accompli with regards to campaign planning, or some combination of the above. In short, it may be aiming its communications at targets other than the Islamic State.</p> <p>One can also sense a sort of &ldquo;heads we win, tails you lose&rdquo; logic to the U.S. public messages about Mosul. <strong>If the Islamic State forces uncharacteristically flee without a fight, they will face humiliation and a setback to their claims of control in Iraq.</strong> That&rsquo;s a win, at least operationally, for Washington and Baghdad. <strong>Conversely, if the Islamic State decides to stand its ground and starts trying to flow reinforcements to Mosul in preparation for the defense of the city, that could be a good thing operationally, too.</strong> These forces will be highly vulnerable to the stepped-up coalition air attacks, which are already seriously threatening the militants&rsquo; lifeline between Raqqa and Mosul. Sending reinforcements to Mosul will also draw Islamic State resources away from Syria, where the coalition&rsquo;s ability to fight is much more constrained, and into Iraq, where that ability is more robust.</p> </blockquote> <p>Hmmm. Maybe. After all, we announced the "shock and awe" campaign for weeks prior to the start of the Iraq War in 2003. The hope, presumably, was to scare the Iraqis so badly that they'd essentially give up and flee before the battle even started. It didn't really work, but no one complained about it at the time.</p> <p>There will be no shock and awe this time, though. Just a lot of grubby, house-to-house fighting led by Iraqi Shiite forces that are probably not very motivated to sacrifice their lives in order to return Mosul to Sunni control. Will it work? I can't say I'm optimistic. But I've been wrong before. Maybe I am again.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Iraq Military Fri, 27 Feb 2015 15:46:08 +0000 Kevin Drum 271096 at "Republican Stalwart" Chosen to Lead CBO <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The current director of the Congressional Budget Office, Doug Elmendorf, is pretty widely respected on both left and right, and even a lot of Republicans were hoping he'd be reappointed to a new term by the incoming Congress. But despite his sterling credentials, Elmendorf is insufficiently dedicated to the conservative id&eacute;e fixe of dynamic scoring, which insists that tax <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_keith_hall.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 25px 0px 15px 30px;">cuts will supercharge the economy and thus cost much less than you'd think. So today the CBO <a href="" target="_blank">got a new director:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><strong>GOP dismisses CBO director, picks Republican stalwart as chief scorekeeper</strong></p> <p>Republicans Friday announced they will not keep current chief congressional scorekeeper Douglas Elmendorf and will replace him with Keith Hall, an economist with a long record of service in Washington and deep ties to Republicans.</p> <p>....The CBO celebrated its 40th anniversary earlier this week, where past directors from both parties praised Mr. Elmendorf for his even-handed approach to the job. But Republicans had wanted to push the CBO to go further in the way it evaluates tax cuts by using so-called &ldquo;dynamic scoring&rdquo; to take into account the potential economic benefit feedback loop that could stem from Americans paying less to the federal government after a tax cut.</p> </blockquote> <p>I'm not sure Hall has taken a public stand on the virtues of dynamic scoring, but it's probably safe to assume that he's more sympathetic to it than Elmendorf was. Should make for a fun few years.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Congress Economy Fri, 27 Feb 2015 15:18:31 +0000 Kevin Drum 271091 at Diet Advice From Warren Buffett <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>"Is the junk-food era drawing to a close?," I recently <a href="" target="_blank">wondered aloud</a>, citing declining sales from processed food giants like Kraft and Kellogg's. If so, no one has bothered to inform gazillionaire investment mogul and octogenarian Warren Buffett. "I'm one quarter Coca-Cola,&rdquo; Buffett recently <a href="" target="_blank">told</a> <em>Fortune's</em> Patricia Sellers. "If I eat 2,700 calories a day, a quarter of that is Coca-Cola. I drink at least five 12-ounce servings. I do it everyday."&nbsp;In addition to <em>being</em> one quarter Coke, Buffett literally owns 9 percent of Coca-Cola, through his conglomerate, Berkshire Hathaway. And the cagey old investor apparently knows what he's doing&mdash;even though soft-drink sales have been declining for years, Coke's share price has <a href="" target="_blank">nearly doubled</a> since 2011, borne up by financial engineering tricks like share buy-backs, <em>Fortune</em> <a href="" target="_blank">reports</a>.</p> <p>In addition to regular infusions of the sugary soft drink, Buffett's diet regimen includes breakfasts of Utz Potato strings and chocolate chip ice cream, Sellers reports. If his diet sounds eerily similar to the one you dreamed of pursuing in first grade, that's apparently no accident. Here's Sellers:</p> <blockquote> <p>Asked to explain the high-sugar, high-salt diet that has somehow enabled him to remain seemingly healthy, Buffett replies: &ldquo;I checked the actuarial tables, and the lowest death rate is among six-year-olds. So I decided to eat like a six-year-old.&rdquo; The octogenarian adds, &ldquo;It&rsquo;s the safest course I can take.&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p><span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 24px;">For most of us, loading up on processed junk probably&nbsp;</span><a href="" style="line-height: 24px;" target="_blank">isn't</a><span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 24px;">&nbsp;the&nbsp;</span><a href="" style="line-height: 24px;" target="_blank">way</a><span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 24px;">&nbsp;</span><a href="" style="line-height: 24px;" target="_blank">forward</a><span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 24px;">. But f</span>ar be it for me to question Buffett's lifestyle choices&mdash;he's going strong at 84 and has probably made more bank in the past 15 minutes than I'll make in my entire lifetime.&nbsp;</p></body></html> Tom Philpott Food and Ag Fri, 27 Feb 2015 11:00:13 +0000 Tom Philpott 271041 at USDA Whistleblowers Tell All–and You May Never Eat Bacon Again <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>In 2004, <a href=";ticker=HRL&amp;previousCapId=23491&amp;previousTitle=TI%2520Ventures" target="_blank">Elsa Murano&nbsp;</a>stepped down from her post as chief of the US Department of Agriculture division that oversees food safety at the nation's slaughterhouses. Two years later, she joined the <a href="">board of directors of pork giant Hormel</a>, a company that runs some of the nation's largest slaughterhouses. Murano received&nbsp;$238,000 in compensation for her service on Hormel's board in <a href="" target="_blank">2014</a> alone.&nbsp;</p> <div class="inline inline-right" style="display: table; width: 1%"><a href=""><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/aggag_630-small.gif"></a> <div class="caption"><strong>Read "<a href="" target="_blank">The Spam Factory's Dirty Secret"</a> and "<a href="" target="_blank">Gagged by Big Ag." </a></strong>Illustration by Tim O'Brien</div> </div> <p>This is a classic example of the "revolving door" that separates US government regulators from the corporations they regulate. It's hardly the most shocking thing I gleaned from the whistleblower-protection group Government Accountability Project's <a href="">recent expos&eacute;</a> of conditions at three hog slaughter facilities associated with Hormel. But it's interesting to think about in light of GAP's allegations, found in sworn affidavits filed by four USDA inspectors stationed in Hormel-owned plants. Three of the inspectors chose to remain anonymous; the fourth, Joe Ferguson, gave his name.</p> <p>Their comments focus on three Hormel-associated plants, which are among just five hog facilities enrolled in a pilot inspection program run by the USDA. In the regular oversight system, USDA-employed inspectors are stationed along the kill line, charged with ensuring that conditions are as sanitary as possible and that no tainted meat ends up being packed for consumption. In the pilot program, known as HIMP (short for Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points-based Inspection Models Project), company employees take over inspection duties, relegating USDA inspectors to an oversight role on the sidelines.</p> <p>What's more, the HIMP plants get to speed up the kill line&mdash;from the current rate of 1,100 hogs per hour to 1,300 hogs per hour, a jump of nearly 20 percent. The five plants rolled out the new inspection system around 2002, USDA spokesperson Aaron Lavallee said. That's when Murano, now on the Hormel board of directors, ran the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service. If the privatization-plus-speedup formula sounds familiar, it's because the USDA ran a similar experimental program for chicken slaughter for years. After much pushback by workplace and food safety advocates and media attention (including from <a href="" target="_blank">me</a>), the USDA <a href="" target="_blank">decided not to let poultry companies speed up the kill line</a> when it opened the new system to all chicken slaughterhouses last year (though it did <a href="" target="_blank">green-light</a> turkey facilities to speed up the line from 51 to 55 birds per minute).</p> <p>All four affidavits offer blistering critiques of the hog version of the pilot program. Three themes run through them: (1) company inspectors are poorly trained and prepared for the task of overseeing a fast-moving kill line involving large carcasses; (2) company-employed and USDA inspectors alike face pressure from the company not to perform their jobs rigorously; and (3) lots of unappetizing stuff is getting through as the result of (1) and (2).</p> <p>The testimony of Inspector 3, affidavit <a href="" target="_blank">here</a>, is full of choice nuggets, though not of the sort you want to sample before lunch. Here are a few:</p> <ul><li>"Not only are plant supervisors not trained, the employees taking over USDA's inspection duties have no idea what they are doing. Most of them come into the plant with no knowledge of pathology or the industry in general."</li> <li>"Food safety has gone down the drain under HIMP. Even though fecal contamination has increased under the program (though the company does a good job of hiding it), USDA inspectors are encouraged not to stop the line for fecal contamination."</li> <li>"HIMP was initially designed for the kill of young, healthy animals. This hasn't always been the case. A lot of the animals the plant has killed were too old. Some also had different diseases. They didn't even slow down the line for the diseased carcasses."</li> <li>"The company threatens plant employees with terminations if they see them condemning too many carcasses or carcass parts."</li> </ul><p>For its part, Hormel insists that "food safety is our top priority and we have been a leader in the production of safe, quality food for more than 100 years," as Rick Williamson, Hormel's manager of external communications, wrote in an email. "In addition to the USDA inspectors at the facility, there are Hormel Foods employees trained to the standards of the USDA conducting the additional inspections," he continued. "We've found this allows the USDA inspectors better perspective and more flexibility to monitor activity and identify any issues." As for food safety concerns, he added that "our facilities consistently meet or perform better than published USDA microbiological performance standards." But he didn't respond to my request for data to back that claim up, or for commentary on charges of poor training and intimidation of inspectors. But he did add a plug for the privatized inspection and faster kill lines enjoyed by three Hormel-associated plants: "The HIMP program places more accountability on the company, and we welcome that responsibility."</p> <p>The USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service, the agency that runs the inspection program, is standing behind HIMP too.&nbsp;USDA spokesperson Aaron Lavallee pointed to a November <a href="" target="_blank">2014 FSIS report </a>that, he said, "shows that the food safety outcomes at the pilot facilities are on par with those operating under other inspection systems." The report concluded that there's "no reason to discontinue HIMP in market hog establishments."&nbsp;</p> <p>Meanwhile, the pilot inspection program will continue running as is, confined to five slaughterhouse and not expanding to include others, Lavallee said. Before expanding, he added, "the agency would first need to conduct a risk assessment to determine whether doing so would have a significant positive public health impact, and then engage in the rulemaking process, which can be lengthy."</p> <p>However, the USDA's and Hormel's rosy assessment of HIMP presents a stark contrast to a scathing <a href="" target="_blank">2013 report</a> from yet another USDA agency, the Office of the Inspector General, which found HIMP plants&mdash;which it did not name&mdash;made up three of the top 10 US hog plants earning the most food safety and animal welfare citations in the period of fiscal years 2008 to 2011. Moreover, by far the most-cited slaughterhouse in the United States over that period was in the program&mdash;it drew "nearly 50 percent more [citations] than the plant with the next highest number." The OIG also concluded that that the Food Safety and Inspection Service "did not provide adequate oversight" of HIMP over its first 15 years, and as a result,&nbsp; "HIMP plants may have a higher potential for food safety risks."</p> <p>Ted Genoways, who in 2012 wrote a harrowing <a href="" target="_blank">account</a> in <em>Mother Jones</em> of what accelerated line speeds have meant for workers slaughterhouse workers, rejects Hormel's sunny assessment. Genoways' reporting, later expanded into the superb 2014 book <em>The Chain</em>, focused on the Quality Pork Processors plant in Austin, Minnesota, which supplies its meat solely to Hormel and is one of the three Hormel-associated plants among the <a href="!ut/p/a1/jZFBT8MgFMc_i4ceKXSdy-qtNjFrXVsXo-t6MbSjlIUCAVwTP73MedBl0_EOhMfv_3j_B6xhBWuB94xiy6TA_HCuZ29ohWZBlKAMBS7SInyeLrIiRJPQAZufQBkFDw54XZWPSYLmRXil_sKK0X_67IoHJjpPcgprhW0PmOgkrHrctup7Aw02ZOsujCLtwTcY5JZwA5SWO5eB1SLNnwBnxgLZAYW1ZS1zxZigQHEsrIFrWP_ZSDk9Bc5M6ghcHoXzSrlsvr5lE4smnDtTmnREE-2_a5furVXmzkMeGsfRp1JSTvxWDh46J-mlceZ-k1ANL9XH8j5Kd7d8v4xvPgEvGaCD/#MARKET_HOGS" target="_blank">five in HIMP</a>. He recently told <a href="" target="_blank"><em>Food Safety News</em></a>, "Yes, I think the line speeds [at the HIMP plants] are too fast. When you see the workers on the line say the speeds are too fast, the inspectors say the lines are too fast, the suppliers at the farm level say the lines are too fast, there's such a unanimity of opinion that I don't think you can come to any other conclusion."</p> <p>Well, not quite unanimous. The USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service, of course, continues to defend the pilot program. But then there's its cozy ties to industry&mdash;in addition to Murano's leap to Hormel, FSIS's then-chief of staff <a href="" target="_blank">flew the coop</a> to the National Turkey Federation in 2011, and another high official <a href=";cck=1" target="_blank">bolted</a> to work for meat processor <a href="" target="_blank">OSI Group</a> just this month. Given the tasty meat industry opportunities that evidently await the USDA's food safety administrators, I take FSIS's defense of the HIMP program in the face of these sworn statements with about as much salt as you might find in a slice of Hormel's signature product, Spam.</p></body></html> Tom Philpott Food and Ag Fri, 27 Feb 2015 11:00:10 +0000 Tom Philpott 270126 at Killing Obamacare Halfway Is Worse For Republicans Than They Think <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Stuart Butler is probably the country's single most influential right-wing health care wonk. He opposed Obamacare and has long pushed a different, more conservative vision of national health care policy. But Joshua Green writes today that <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_healthcare_tyranny.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">even Butler is worried about what will happen if the Supreme Court abolishes Obamacare subsidies in the 34 states that <a href="" target="_blank">don't run their own exchanges:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><strong>Butler&rsquo;s worry is grounded in an understanding that voters with skyrocketing premiums may not blame Obama, as Republicans assume.</strong> They&rsquo;ll expect the party hellbent on destroying the law to have a solution&mdash;and react badly if none is forthcoming. Because 16 states operate their own exchanges and therefore won&rsquo;t be affected by the court&rsquo;s ruling, Butler believes the ACA will stagger on and eventually recover, since <strong>voters won&rsquo;t abide a system wherein some states have affordable, federally subsidized health-care coverage and others do not</strong>....&ldquo;People who believe the ACA instantly goes away are deluding themselves,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;By not doing anything to develop a Republican vision of how to move forward, they could end up with the very nightmare they&rsquo;re trying to avoid.&rdquo;</p> <p>....On the business front, the effects would be no less significant....Entire segments of the health system redesigned their business models to take advantage of the ACA&rsquo;s incentives. Hospitals, for instance, were given a trade-off: They stopped receiving government payments to offset the cost of treating the uninsured, cuts that amount to $269 billion over a decade. In return, they were promised millions of new patients insured through federal subsidies. <strong>&ldquo;All the major hospital systems and big insurers like Kaiser and Geisinger spent a ton of money adapting to the ACA,&rdquo; says Butler. If subsidies vanish, &ldquo;suddenly the market is misaligned. If you&rsquo;ve hired all these new doctors and health-care workers to cover all these new people walking in the door, and they don&rsquo;t come, what do you do? You lay them off.&rdquo;</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>I agree that a system in which residents of some states get subsidies and others don't is untenable. I don't know quite how the politics would play out, but the states with subsidies won't give them up, and the states without subsidies are likely to face a revolt from residents who suddenly see a benefit taken away. Something will have to give.</p> <p>The effect on the medical industry is less clear. Yes, hospitals and insurers spent a lot of money adapting to Obamacare. If it goes away, they'll have to lay off some of their staff. But how much? Obamacare has reduced the ranks of the uninsured by about 4 percentage points, and roughly half of that is in states that don't run their own exchanges. So the number of insured would probably fall (very roughly) from about 87 percent to 85 percent. That might be bad news for some small regional outfits, who will see a bigger drop locally than that, but nationally it's not a death sentence.</p> <p>Still, Butler has a good point. The fallout from the Supreme Court halfway killing Obamacare would likely be more serious than conservatives believe. They don't want to think about this because they've been committed for so long to the mantra of simply repealing Obamacare, full stop. But even their own base, which has been told relentlessly that Obamacare represents the end of the America they love, might start to demand a fix once it becomes clear just what they're missing&mdash;and what all those blue states with their own exchanges are getting.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Health Care Supreme Court Fri, 27 Feb 2015 05:39:41 +0000 Kevin Drum 271076 at One Perfect Tweet Explains the Ultimate Lesson of #TheDress <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Twitter erupted into <a href="" target="_blank">craziness Thursday night after a dress went viral.</a> What color was the dress? Some thought it was gold and white; some thought it was blue and black. People had fun. Fun was had! Had was fun! It was a good time and times were good. But this being the world we live in some Serious Cops had to flash their lights and start ticketing people for having fun.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-partner="tweetdeck"> <p>I want to apologize to everyone upset with Dress Twitter. Sorry we had fun making jokes about something silly. We're monsters.</p> &mdash; Jesse Berney (@jesseberney) <a href="">February 27, 2015</a></blockquote> <p>There are a lot of cops on the internet. Everyone's got a set of cuffs and a gun&mdash;and whatever crime they think you've committed, well, they're ready to slap those cuffs on you and sentence you to 20 years hard internet. A lot of commenters on this site are cops. Journalism Cops. I'm sure a bunch of people will comment on this post saying, "why is this news?"</p> <p>Anyway, no one likes Internet Cops. <em>Internet Cops</em> is probably the only police procedural CBS has ever passed on.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p><a href="">#TheDress</a> is a great way to find out who on Twitter takes themself way too seriously.</p> &mdash; NickBaumann (@NickBaumann) <a href="">February 27, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>The lesson of #TheDress? Put your gun down, Barney Fife. Your services aren't needed.</p> <p>P.S. <a href="" target="_blank">The dress is blue.&nbsp;</a></p> <p><em>Disclaimer: Nick Baumann is a Senior Editor at </em>Mother Jones.<em> I gave him fair <a href="" target="_blank">warning</a> I was about to blog his tweet.</em></p></body></html> Contributor Fri, 27 Feb 2015 04:14:06 +0000 Ben Dreyfuss 271071 at