MoJo Blogs and Articles | Mother Jones Mother Jones logo en We're Eating Less Meat—Yet Factory Farms Are Still Growing <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The United States remains one of the globe's most <a href="">carnivorous nations</a>, but things have changed subtly in recent decades. While our consumption of chicken has skyrocketed, we're eating much less read meat.&nbsp;</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Redmeat_Poultry2-01%20copy.png"><div class="caption">Carolyn Perot</div> </div> <p>Overall per capita meat consumption has fallen nearly 10 percent since the 2007-'8 financial meltdown; and as we cut back on quantity, we're more likely to <a href="">pay up</a> for animals <a href="">raised outside</a> and not dosed with all manner of drugs.</p> <p>Meanwhile, though, the meat industry lurches on, consolidating operations and stuffing its factory-scale facilities ever tighter with animals, as the organization Food and Water Watch shows in a recently updated <a href=";location:US;year:2012">map</a>:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><a href=""><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/ff-map-630.gif"></a> <div class="caption"><strong>See the interactive version of this map <a href="" target="_blank">here</a>. </strong>Food and Water Watch</div> </div> <p>The charts below show the big picture. Note that the overall number of animals kept on US farms is leveling off, and in the case of beef cattle and meat chickens (broilers), actually dropping a bit. But the number of animals stuffed into each facility remains steadily on the rise for beef and dairy cows, hogs, and egg-laying hens. The number of meat chickens per site has plateaued&mdash;at the stunning level of more than 100,000 birds.</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/tot.jpg"></div> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/persite.jpg"></div> <p>Among the many ecological problems you create when you concentrate so many animals in one place is massive loads of manure. How much?</p> <blockquote> <p>These factory-farmed livestock produced 369 million tons of manure in 2012, about 13 times as much as the sewage produced by the entire U.S. population. This 13.8 billion cubic feet of manure is enough to fill the Dallas Cowboys stadium 133 times.</p> </blockquote> <p>When humans live together in large numbers, as in cities, we've learned to treat our waste before sending it downstream. The meat industry faces no such requirement, and instead collects manure in large outdoor cesspools (known, picturesquely, as "lagoons") before being spread on surrounding farmland. Some individual counties churn out much more waste than large metropolises. Here's Food and Water Watch on the nation's most dairy- and hog-centric counties:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/dairy_0.jpg"></div> <p>&nbsp;</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/hog_2.jpg"></div> <p>Recycling manure as farm fertilizer is an ecologically sound idea in the abstract&mdash;but when animals are concentrated in such numbers, they produce much more waste than surrounding landscapes can healthily absorb. As a result, nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus leach into streams and rivers, feeding algae blooms and fouling drinking water. Then there are bacterial nasties. "Six of the 150 pathogens found in animal manure are responsible for 90 percent of human food- and water-borne diseases<em>: Campylobacter, Salmonella, Listeria, E. coli 0157:H7, Cryptosporidium</em> and <em>Giardia</em>," Food and Water Watch reports.</p> <p>Air, too, is a problem, as anyone who's ever gotten close to a teeming cow, pig, or chicken facility can testify. Thousands of people, of course, are forced to live near them or work on them, and it's no picnic. "Overexposure to hydrogen sulfide [a pungent gas emanating from lagoons] can cause dizziness, nausea, headaches, respiratory failure, hypoxia and even death," Food and Water Watch states. "[W]orkers in factory farm facilities experience high levels of asthma-like symptoms, bronchitis and other respiratory diseases."</p> <p>And these counties tended to be bunched together in great manure-churning clusters. Note, for example, how most industrial-scale hog production takes place in the Midwest and in eastern North Carolina:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Screen%20Shot%202015-06-02%20at%202.26.47%20PM.png"></div> <p>While Big Chicken has chosen to alight largely upon the southeast, the Mississippi Delta, and California's Central Valley:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Screen%20Shot%202015-06-02%20at%202.33.13%20PM.png"></div> <p>So why are these large facilities humming even as US eaters cut back? Globally, demand for meat continues to rise, and the dark-red spots on the maps above have emerged as key production nodes in an increasingly globalized meat market. US meat exports have tripled in value since 1997 (<a href="">USDA numbers</a>), and the industry <a href="">wants more</a>, as evidenced by its <a href="">push</a> to support the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal with Asia.</p></body></html> Tom Philpott Charts Food and Ag Health Top Stories Wed, 03 Jun 2015 10:00:16 +0000 Tom Philpott 276441 at America's Cops Shoot More People Than Criminals Do In These Countries <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>If the current <a href="" target="_blank">trend</a> continues, police are on track to fatally shoot nearly 1,000 Americans by the end of the year. If you took that number alone, the United States would still have a higher per capita firearm-related murder rate than most of the world's developed nations', according to an analysis by <a href="" target="_blank">Vocativ</a>.</p> <p>Vocativ compiled data from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and found that police shootings in the United States outnumber all gun-homicides in France, England, Germany, Chile, Canada, and 25 other developed nations. Here's how those figures line up, using 2013 data:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="1114" mozallowfullscreen="mozallowfullscreen" msallowfullscreen="msallowfullscreen" oallowfullscreen="oallowfullscreen" src="//" webkitallowfullscreen="webkitallowfullscreen" width="100%"></iframe></p></body></html> Politics Charts Crime and Justice Guns police Wed, 03 Jun 2015 10:00:15 +0000 Bryan Schatz 276436 at The Saddest Reason We Keep Having These Awful Ferry Disasters <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Much is still unknown about Monday's deadly passenger ship accident on China's Yangtze River that has left over 400 people missing, likely trapped in the hull of the capsized boat. The <em>Eastern Star</em> cruiser, carrying 456 people, was sailing in treacherous conditions, according to the ship's captain and engineer, who were both rescued hours after the boat sank. China's official weather service has since confirmed that there were heavy storms in the area.</p> <p>While global statistics on boat disasters are hard to come by, the <em>Eastern Star</em> incident could end up being among of the deadliest passenger ship accidents in recent years, anywhere in the world. Just five fatalities have been confirmed so far, with 14 people rescued. But once all the passengers are accounted for, the death toll could surpass the number of victims from <a href="" target="_blank">last year's ferry disaster</a> in South Korea, which killed 304 people.</p> <p>It's been a tragic two years on the world's waterways. Roughly <a href="">700 migrants from the Middle East and Africa drowned</a> off the Libyan coast in April. A Bangladeshi ferry carrying up to 140 people capsized and sank in February, <a href="">killing an estimated 70 people</a>. And in May of last year, rescuers found just 40 bodies, after another boat sank in Bangladesh. Police there <a href="">estimated that roughly 100 passengers were never found</a>.</p> <p>Monday's accident in China raises questions about whether or not the ship should have been sailing in such extreme weather, and how quickly search and rescue teams were able to locate the boat and mount and effective operation. Those two factors are common contributors to maritime disasters around the world, according to Abigail Golden, a research associate with the <a href="">Worldwide Ferry Safety Association</a>.</p> <p>While details about the latest incident are still sketchy, generally speaking "there are trends around the world that you can see, if you look at the data," Golden said.</p> <p>Golden maintains what is perhaps the most comprehensive database of ferry accidents that have occurred around the world in recent years (it's open source, and available <a href="" target="_blank">here</a>). Golden conservatively estimates that, as of September 2014, roughly 16,880 fatalities had occurred in 160 deadly ferry accidents since 2000. Ninety-five percent of those accidents occurred in the developing world. A quarter were in Bangladesh, and nearly 6 percent were in China. Other countries where its particularly dangerous to take a ferry ride include Senegal, Tanzania, Indonesia, and the Philippines.</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="250" mozallowfullscreen="mozallowfullscreen" msallowfullscreen="msallowfullscreen" oallowfullscreen="oallowfullscreen" src="//" webkitallowfullscreen="webkitallowfullscreen" width="100%"></iframe></p> <p>It's unclear from this data whether or not boat trips like this week's journey down the Yangtze are necessarily more dangerous than other forms of transportation, such a driving or taking a plane&mdash;a definitive, apples-to-apples comparison is hard to come by. But with boats, "a lot of issues are the same around the world," said Golden. "It's weak regulation, it's overcrowding of vessels, lack of things like weather information, and a lack of training of the crew."</p> <p>"Human error is immensely prevalent," Golden added. She estimates that 54 percent of total accidents and 67 percent of total fatalities are caused by human error. That includes over-crowding, misjudgment of weather conditions, and improper storage of cargo, which can result in unexpected shifts in the ship's balance if cargo moves suddenly or is too heavy for the boat. (South Korean authorities <a href="" target="_blank">pointed</a> to this as a factor in last year's accident).</p> <p>Weather incidents, such as high waves and typhoons, were present in half of all the accidents Golden compiled, and while not fatal in and of itself, overcrowding played a role in roughly half of ferry accidents in the dataset.</p> <p>Passengers reacting to a disaster, without proper safety advice or direction from the crew, might "rush to a single side of the ferry which of course can then capsize it, or they might climb to higher points of the ferry like the roof, which would then of course raise the center of gravity," causing the ship to sink, she said. Once the ship has sunk, the disaster can quite easily overwhelm the search and rescue capabilities of the country involved. The final death tolls tend to be a result of "very multi-faceted" causes, Golden said.</p> <p>Golden stressed that until more is known about Monday's accident, it's unclear whether the <em>Eastern Star</em> could qualify as a "ferry" for purposes of her study, since Golden's dataset only includes boats that are part of regular commuter fleets that make scheduled stops, rather than chartered cruises.</p> <p>The Worldwide Ferry Safety Association database is imperfect, Golden admits. Without a central agency to report statistics to, most of the information is gleaned from local news reports, which can be spotty and contradictory. "Obviously these reporters are not naval engineers or weather experts, so a lot of that information is quite vague," she said. "Finding incident and accident reports that we can actually use for our purposes is quite difficult."</p> <p>But one thing is certain about ferry deaths, says Golden: "There is definitely more out there. If anything, what we have is an underestimate rather than an overestimate."</p> <p>Why is it so hard to find an authoritative dataset of passenger boat accidents and their causes?</p> <p>"Honestly, safety is not a sexy or exciting concept to many people," Golden said. "It's not a quick fix. It's not like going in with UNICEF after an earthquake and handing out bottles of water and seeing people's beaming faces. It's a long, slow, arduous process."&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p></body></html> Politics China International Top Stories Wed, 03 Jun 2015 10:00:12 +0000 James West 276431 at These 8 Republican Sugar Daddies Are Already Placing Their Bets on 2016 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The 2016 election is more than a year and a half away, but conservative megadonors are already picking their favorite candidates:</p> <table align="center" border="1" cellpadding="3" cellspacing="0" style="width: 620px;"><thead><tr><th bgcolor="000000" scope="col"><span style="color:#FFFFFF;"><span class="section-lead">Megadonor</span></span></th> <th bgcolor="000000" scope="col"><span style="color:#FFFFFF;"><span class="section-lead">2016 pick</span></span></th> <th bgcolor="000000" scope="col"><span style="color:#FFFFFF;"><span class="section-lead">Meeting of the minds</span></span></th> </tr></thead><tbody><tr><td bgcolor="f38683"><strong>Norman Braman </strong><br> Billionaire car dealer and former owner of the Philadelphia Eagles</td> <td class="rtecenter"> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Rubio-95_2.jpg"></div> <p><strong>Marco Rubio</strong></p> </td> <td>Rubio is "the candidate of today and tomorrow," Braman <a href="" target="_blank">tells </a><em><a href="" target="_blank">Mother Jones</a>. </em>"Read his book and you'll see."</td> </tr><tr><td bgcolor="f38683"><strong>Robert Mercer</strong><br> Hedge Fund magnate and the <a href="" target="_blank">owner of</a> a $2 million model train set</td> <td class="rtecenter"> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Cruz_95_1.jpg"></div> <p><strong>Ted Cruz</strong></p> </td> <td>Mercer's firm has been <a href="" target="_blank">accused</a> of dodging $6 billion in taxes; Cruz has mused about <a href="" target="_blank">abolishing</a> the IRS.</td> </tr><tr><td bgcolor="f38683"><strong>Foster Friess</strong><br> Crocodile hunting mutual fund financier</td> <td class="rtecenter"> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/santorum-98_2.jpg"></div> <p><strong>Rick Santorum</strong></p> </td> <td>Friess, who <a href="" target="_blank">joked</a> about aspirin's contraceptive powers while backing Santorum in 2012, <a href="" target="_blank">told the <em>Washington Post</em></a>, "I am clearly in the Santorum camp."</td> </tr><tr><td bgcolor="f38683"><strong>Larry Ellison</strong><br> Founder of Oracle and owner of a private Hawaiian island</td> <td class="rtecenter"> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/paul_rubio_0.jpg"></div> <p><strong>Rand Paul and Rubio</strong></p> </td> <td>Ellison has held big-ticket fundraisers for <a href="" target="_blank">both</a> <a href="" target="_blank">candidates</a> at his $200 million Japanese-style Silicon Valley estate.</td> </tr><tr><td bgcolor="f38683"><strong>Ken Langone </strong><br> Home Depot cofounder who <a href=";pg=PT68&amp;lpg=PT68&amp;dq=%22I%27m+nuts,+I%27m+rich,+and+boy,+do+I+love+a+fight!%22&amp;source=bl&amp;ots=W7PQ3__TZY&amp;sig=vGZbhWhRmoWvMMFFB47sOKVHzM0&amp;hl=en&amp;sa=X&amp;ei=WF1nVa30E8vyoASQg4Eg&amp;ved=0CC0Q6AEwAw#v=onepage&amp;q=%22I%27m%20nuts%2C%20I%27m%20rich%2C%20and%20boy%2C%20do%20I%20love%20a%20fight!%22&amp;f=false" target="_blank">once said</a>, "I'm nuts, I'm rich, and boy, do I love a fight!"</td> <td class="rtecenter"> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/christie_95_0.jpg"></div> <p><strong>Chris Christie</strong></p> </td> <td>Langone, who <a href="" target="_blank">initially supported</a> Christie in 2012, has <a href="" target="_blank">offered to build a bridge</a> between his donor network and the New Jersey governor.</td> </tr><tr><td bgcolor="f38683"><strong>Sheldon Adelson </strong><br> Casino tycoon who <a href=";disp=D&amp;type=V&amp;superonly=N" target="_blank">dropped</a> more than $93 million to defeat Obama in 2012</td> <td class="rtecenter"> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Rubio-95_3.jpg"></div> <p><strong>Rubio...maybe</strong></p> </td> <td>Adelson has received visits from Rubio, but is staying coy. His spokesman <a href="" target="_blank">told <em>Politico</em></a>, "He's going to keep his powder dry until he needs to weigh in."</td> </tr><tr><td bgcolor="f38683"><strong>Charles and David Koch</strong> Billionaire bros who have <a href="" target="_blank">vowed to spend</a> $900 million in 2016</td> <td class="rtecenter"> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Walker_95_0.jpg"></div> <p><strong>Scott Walker...maybe</strong></p> </td> <td>David Koch reportedly likes Walker's chances, but the brothers <a href="" target="_blank">plan to hold "auditions"</a> for GOP candidates this summer.</td> </tr></tbody></table></body></html> Politics Charts 2016 Elections Dark Money Elections Rand Paul Scott Walker Ted Cruz Top Stories Wed, 03 Jun 2015 10:00:08 +0000 — By the MoJo News Team 275891 at BPA Messes With Your Hormones—and It's in These Canned Foods <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Heads up, canned-food eaters: A <a href="" target="_blank">report</a> released today by the Environmental Working Group details which canned food brands use bisphenol A (BPA) in the lining, and which don't.</p> <p>Most of us know BPA as the plastic additive that mimics the hormone estrogen and has been removed from things like <a href="" target="_blank">water bottles</a> and <a href="" target="_blank">baby formula</a> packaging. But BPA lines an estimated <a href="" target="_blank">75 percent</a> of canned foods in North America, <a href="" target="_blank">protecting</a> the metal from corroding and preventing bacteria from getting in. This has environmental advocates concerned, because the chemical leaches into the contents of cans at far <a href="" target="_blank">higher rates</a> than it does into, say, the water in your water bottle.</p> <p>A 2011 Harvard <a href="" target="_blank">study</a> found that those who ate canned soup every day for five days had levels of BPA in their urine that were ten times those who had fresh soup. Another <a href="" target="_blank">study</a> from the same year found BPA in 71 out of 78 canned food samples, with concentrations varying drastically between food types and even within the same product. The Food and Drug Administration <a href="" target="_blank">maintains</a> that BPA is "safe at the current levels occurring in foods," though <a href="" target="_blank">scientists</a> have linked low-dose, long-term exposure of the chemical to to breast cancer, changes in the reproductive system, and other health problems.</p> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><a href=""><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/PLASTIC_BOY_200.png"></a> <div class="caption"><a href="" target="_blank"><strong>Read <em>MoJo</em>'s investigation on BPA-free plastics. </strong></a></div> </div> <p>There isn't as much research on canned beverages, like beer or soda, but <a href="" target="_blank">existing</a> <a href="" target="_blank">studies</a> have found that the contents don't tend to interact with the lining in a way that leads to leaching. Also less concerning, at least at the moment, are Tetra Paks&mdash;the cardboard cartons lined with aluminum and polyethylene, a different kind of plastic. The liner <a href="" target="_blank">isn't known</a> to cause cancer or disrupt hormones.</p> <p>The report released today by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) shows the results of a survey of 252 canned food brands. Of the companies that answered, a little more than half reported using BPA lining in all canned products, and another 24 percent use BPA in some products. The companies that use BPA in all their canned products, listed below, include familiar brands like Progresso, Hormel, Green Giant, Ocean Spray, Wolfgang Puck Organic Soups, and Manischewitz.</p> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/BPA-Chart_0.png"><div class="caption">Environmental Working Group</div> </div> <p><span id="docs-internal-guid-3b685fea-b5ca-2b4b-97d4-24647496dbe1">The EWG report also found that 31 brands use BPA-free linings for all their products. </span>But before we get to those brands, it's worth noting that some BPA replacements may not be any better than BPA itself.</p> <p>"We can tell you that BPA is definitely toxic," says Renee Sharp, research director at EWG. "<span id="docs-internal-guid-3b685fea-b5b9-57e4-9b35-f9572eead391">What we can't tell you is exactly what people are shifting to, or really what the impact of those chemicals are."</span></p> <p>Some BPA replacements are also hormone disrupters that have similar effects to BPA. (For more on the health impacts of BPA-free plastics, check out my colleague Mariah Blake's stellar <a href="" target="_blank">feature</a> on the subject.) Existing natural substitutes, like oleoresin (a combination of oil and the resin of plants) don't always hold up for storing more acidic foods, like tomatoes.</p> <p>In its recommendations to consumers, the EWG suggests subbing in fresh, frozen, or dried food for canned food; purchasing food in alternative packaging, like glass; and, if canned food is unavoidable, never heating food in the can.</p> <p>With that said, here are the brands that the group found to use BPA-free lining in all canned goods:</p> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/BPA-free-chart_0.png"></div></body></html> Environment Econundrums Food and Ag Health Top Stories Wed, 03 Jun 2015 04:05:05 +0000 Julia Lurie 276356 at Elizabeth Warren's "Most Watched" Video Is Absolutely Fantastic <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Last week, Senator Elizabeth Warren participated in a conference hosted by <a href="" target="_blank">tech website Re/Code</a>, where she was asked a policy question about infrastructure spending. What followed was an incredibly powerful response that touched upon the Massachusetts senator's signature issues&mdash;student loans, misplaced Washington interests, and the systematic problems hurting middle class Americans.</p> <p>"The only way we get change is when enough people in this country say 'I'm mad as hell and I'm fed up and I'm not going to do this anymore," Warren said. "You are not going to represent me in Washington, DC, if you are not willing to pass a meaningful infrastructure bill. If you are not willing to refinance student loan interest rates and stop dragging in billions of dollars in profits off the backs of kids who otherwise can't afford to go to college. If you don't say you're going to fund the NIH and the NISF, because that is our future. We have to make these issues salient and not just wonky."</p> <p>The video is now officially Warren's <a href="" target="_blank">most watched video</a>, according to her digital director. <strong>Watch below: </strong></p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="" width="630"></iframe></p> <p><em><a href="" target="_blank">(h/t Vox)</a></em></p></body></html> MoJo Corporations Income Inequality Tue, 02 Jun 2015 22:05:26 +0000 Inae Oh 276401 at Well, Well, Well, Look Who Just Endorsed a Bold Fix For Climate Change <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Oil companies are pretty much the last ally you'd think of when it comes to advancing big-picture solutions to climate change. These are the companies, after all, whose product is <a href="" target="_blank">responsible</a> for causing a significant amount of climate change in the first place&mdash;and pretty much every proposed fix for global warming necessarily involves burning less oil.</p> <p>So it came as a bit of a surprise Monday when six of the leading European oil companies, including BP and Shell, <a href="" target="_blank">unveiled a letter</a> addressed to the United Nations climate chief calling for a price on carbon emissions (read the full letter below).</p> <p>"We believe that a price on carbon should be a key element" of ongoing UN-led international climate negotiations, the letter said. This week representatives from nearly 200 countries are meeting in Bonn, Germany, to prepare for a summit in Paris this winter where they hope to produce a powerful global accord on fighting climate change. The letter called on the world's governments to create new national carbon markets where they don't currently exist (like most of the United States, for example), and to eventually link those markets internationally.</p> <p>As <em>Bloomberg Business</em> pointed out, the letter is "<a href="" target="_blank">unprecedented</a>," in that it's the first time a group of major oil companies have banded together to advocate for a serious climate change policy. It was <a href="" target="_blank">welcomed by the UN's top climate official</a>, Christiana Figueres, who said that the "oil and gas industry must be a major part of the solution to climate change."</p> <p>Most environmental economists and policy wonks agree that making companies pay for their carbon pollution&mdash;whether through a tax or a cap-and-trade system&mdash;is a fundamental step for any meaningful reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. The basic idea is that making carbon pollution expensive will drive big polluters to clean up. Policies like this are already gathering steam across the globe, from <a href="" target="_blank">Canada to China.</a> (California and a few Northeast states have regional carbon markets, but a national carbon price is still a non-starter in the US Congress.) Recently, Australia <a href="" target="_blank">demonstrated just how effective carbon pricing</a> can be, in a counterintuitive way: Carbon emissions dropped immediately after the country implemented a carbon tax, then jumped right back up when the tax was repealed.</p> <p>If Monday's letter is any clue, oil companies are reading the writing on the wall, and they know that one way or another, it's time to start planning for a future when carbon pollution is more expensive and tightly regulated. Well, some oil companies: Conspicuously absent from the letter are any US oil companies, like Chevron or ExxonMobil; all the signatories are European. In fact, just last week Exxon chief Rex Tillerson <a href="" target="_blank">implicitly blasted his European peers</a> for cozying up to the UN on climate issues, saying his company wouldn't "fake it" on climate change and that investing in renewable energy is tantamount to "losing money on purpose."</p> <p>The head of French oil giant Total addressed the cross-Atlantic schism in <a href="" target="_blank">comments to Reuters</a>, saying that the European companies were set on throwing their weight behind carbon pricing "<span id="articleText">without necessarily waiting for an American to come on board."</span></p> <p>Although carbon pricing "obviously adds a cost to our production and our products," the letter says, the companies would prefer consistency and predictability over the patchwork of policies that exists now. In other words, it's easier to justify and plan investments in lower-carbon projects, such as replacing coal with natural gas, when carbon prices are stable and "even-handed," the letter said. At the same time, these companies have come under <a href="" target="_blank">increasing pressure from shareholders</a> to address how they'll stay profitable in the future, as restrictions on carbon emissions are tightened.</p> <p>To that end, a few of the signatories already have their own <a href="" target="_blank">internal "shadow" carbon price</a>, where investment options are calculated with a hypothetical carbon price added in, as a way of anticipating future policies.</p> <p>Still, progressive-sounding statements notwithstanding, oil companies are oil companies, and the letter gives no indication that any of them have plans to replace fossil fuels as their primary product. Shell, for one, is just weeks away from a <a href="" target="_blank">new foray into offshore drilling</a> in the Arctic. And according to <a href="" target="_blank"><em>Bloomberg</em></a>, the European companies are no better than their American counterparts in terms of their actual carbon footprint. So it remains to be seen how committed the companies will be to supporting sweeping changes to the global energy system, or if letters like this are just a clever way to stay relevant as the international climate talks forge ahead. Either way, the paradox of a corporation calling for a carbon price while still pursuing fossil fuel extraction is just more evidence that the free market won't fix climate change voluntarily&mdash;governments have to create new policies, like an international carbon price, that energy companies can't evade.</p> <p>Here's the letter:</p> <div class="DV-container" id="DV-viewer-2091463-paying-for-carbon-letter">&nbsp;</div> <script src="//"></script><script> DV.load("//", { width: 630, height: 800, sidebar: false, container: "#DV-viewer-2091463-paying-for-carbon-letter" }); </script><noscript> <a href="">Paying for Carbon Letter (PDF)</a> <br><a href="">Paying for Carbon Letter (Text)</a> </noscript></body></html> Blue Marble Climate Change Climate Desk Energy Top Stories Infrastructure Tue, 02 Jun 2015 21:38:58 +0000 Tim McDonnell 276416 at How Mitch McConnell Tried—and Failed—to Weaken NSA Reform <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The USA Freedom Act, the bill that reforms the Patriot Act and stops the US government's bulk collection of phone records, finally passed the Senate on Tuesday after the chamber rejected three amendments from GOP Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) aimed at weakening the bill's reforms.</p> <p>McConnell originally supported leaving the Patriot Act with all of its surveillance powers intact, but he faced resistance from both Democrats and Republicans, including die-hards such as Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) who were happy to let bulk collection simply disappear without creating a replacement. So McConnell agreed to proceed with the USA Freedom Act, but proposed four amendments to address what he called the bill's "<a href="" target="_blank">serious flaws</a>." (He withdrew one of them.)</p> <p>Harley Geiger, chief counsel of the Center for Democracy and Technology, called McConnell's amendments "unnecessary for national security" and said that they would "erode both privacy and transparency."</p></body></html> <p style="font-size: 1.083em;"><a href="/politics/2015/06/mitch-mcconnell-nsa-reform-freedom-act"><strong><em>Continue Reading &raquo;</em></strong></a></p> Politics Civil Liberties Rand Paul Top Stories Tue, 02 Jun 2015 21:07:55 +0000 Max J. Rosenthal 276391 at Oh Snap. The Feds Are Reportedly After Sepp Blatter. <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The<em> New York Times </em><a href=";smid=nytcore-iphone-share&amp;_r=0" target="_blank">reports that authorities are confirming</a> to them that Sepp Blatter is indeed the subject of a federal corruption investigation:</p> <blockquote> <p>Mr. Blatter had for days tried to distance himself from the controversy, but several United States officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that in their efforts to build a case against Mr. Blatter they were hoping to win the cooperation of some of the FIFA officials now under indictment and work their way up the organization.</p> </blockquote> <p>No one could have predicted.</p></body></html> Contributor Tue, 02 Jun 2015 20:50:30 +0000 Ben Dreyfuss 276456 at Google's New Diversity Stats Are Only Slightly Less Embarrassing Than They Were Last Year <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Around this time last year, Google shocked Silicon Valley by voluntarily <a href="" target="_blank">releasing statistics</a> on the diversity of its workforce. The move helped shame other large tech companies into doing the same, and the picture that emerged wasn't pretty: In most cases, only 10 percent of the companies' overall employees were black or Latino, compared to 27 percent in the US workforce as a whole. For its own part, Google <a href="" target="_blank">admitted</a> that "we're miles from where we want to be," and pledged to do more to cultivate minority and female tech talent.</p> <p>Now Google has an update: Its 2015 diversity stats, <a href="" target="_blank">released yesterday</a>, show that it has moved inches, not miles, toward a workforce that reflects America. The representation of female techies ticked up by 1 percentage point (from 17 to 18 percent), Asians gained 1 point, and whites, though still the majority, slipped by 1 point. Otherwise, the numbers are unchanged:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/google-chart.WEB_.gif"><div class="caption">Google</div> </div> <p>"With an organization our size, year-on-year growth and meaningful change is going to take time," Nancy Lee, Google's vice president of people operations, <a href="" target="_blank">told</a> the <em>Guardian</em>. Last year, Google spent $115 million on diversity initiatives and dispatched its own engineers to historically black colleges and universities to teach introductory computer science courses and help graduating students prepare for job searches. But unlike Intel, another big tech company that has prioritized diversity, Google has not set firm goals for diversifying its talent pool.</p> <p>"While every company cannot match Intel's ambitious plan, they can set concrete, measurable goals, targets, and timetables,"&nbsp;said a statement from the Reverend Jesse Jackson, who last year played a key role in convincing Google and other companies to disclose their diversity stats. "If they don't measure it, they don't mean it."</p></body></html> MoJo Charts Race and Ethnicity Tech google Tue, 02 Jun 2015 20:36:48 +0000 Josh Harkinson 276446 at