MoJo Blogs and Articles | Mother Jones Mother Jones logo en California Is About to Ban Those Little Pieces of Plastic in Your Toothpaste and Face Scrub <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p dir="ltr">On Friday, the California Senate passed legislation that will ban the sale of microbeads&mdash;&acirc;&#128;&#139;those <a href="" target="_blank">colorful bits of plastic</a> that you find in face scrub, body wash, and toothpaste&mdash;in personal care products by 2020.&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr"><span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 24px;">Though a handful of <a href="" target="_blank">other states</a> &acirc;&#128;&#139;have already passed microbead bans, California's is by far the most stringent, as it doesn't provide exemptions for "biodegradeable"&nbsp;plastics. (No plastics have proven to break down in marine environments so far.)&nbsp;Because California makes up roughly one-eighth of the American market for personal care products, the legislation will likely change the way the products are designed throughout the United States.</span></p> <p dir="ltr"><span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 24px;">Johnson &amp; Johnson and Procter &amp; Gamble lobbied against the bill, which is expected to pass the State Assembly next week and be signed into law within the month.</span></p> <p>Environmental advocates have expressed concern over microbeads for years, as the particles are so small that they aren't caught in wastewater treatment plants and end up in waterways and oceans, where they don't biodegrade and are frequently mistaken for food by fish and other marine animals. There are an estimated 300,000 microbeads in a single tube of face wash; collectively, roughly&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">300 tons</a> of the plastic ends up in US waterways each year.</p> <p>"Toxic microbeads are accumulating in our rivers, lakes and oceans at alarmingly high levels. We can and must act now,"&nbsp;said assembly member Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), who authored the bill. "Continuing to use these harmful and unnecessary plastics when natural alternatives are widely available is simply irresponsible and will only result in significant cleanups costs to taxpayers who will have to foot the bill to restore our already limited water resources and ocean health."</p></body></html> Blue Marble Econundrums Health Fri, 04 Sep 2015 23:49:34 +0000 Julia Lurie 283456 at Friday Cat Blogging - 4 September 2015 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">Like Hillary Clinton,</a> we've been watching a lot of HGTV lately. This has inspired Marian to create a long list of renovation projects she'd like to do. It's inspired me to wonder if literally everyone in the world wants an open-concept floor plan these days.</p> <p>And one other thing: It's also made it clear that most interior designers on TV are dog people. How do I know? Because they seem to be very fond of rectangular sinks in bathrooms. However, as we more refined types know, this is entirely unacceptable. Ovals fit the requirements of a properly outfitted household much better.</p> <p><strong>BONUS FEATURE IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:</strong> The prefecture of Hiroshima, in the cat-crazy country of Japan, has created the first cat's-eye version of Google Street View. <a href="" target="_blank">Check it out.</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hopper_2015_09_04.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 5px 40px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 04 Sep 2015 19:06:20 +0000 Kevin Drum 283451 at The Iran Deal Highlights the Crackup of the Israel Lobby <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Jonathan Chait writes that AIPAC's failure to stop the Iran deal shows that "there is no more 'Israel lobby'; there is a red Israel lobby and a blue one." <a href="" target="_blank">And that matters a lot:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>As a simple matter of political mechanics, acquiring a veto-proof majority in both houses of Congress meant hawks needed liberal Democrats to take their side. But they did not have arguments that could appeal to liberals &mdash; even liberals with a deep emotional connection to Israel.</p> <p>....This underscores the most important tectonic forces moving beneath the Israel lobby&rsquo;s feet. Over the last 15 years, the foreign-policy debate in Israel has moved steadily rightward....[This] has pushed the American Jewish establishment to the right of American Jewry as a whole.</p> <p>....But there is more at work than simple pigheadedness or habitual aggression. Many conservative supporters of Israel do not necessarily regard the crack-up of American Jewish opinion as a problem. In their view, diplomacy with Iran is the prelude to Israel&rsquo;s annihilation, and support for Netanyahu&rsquo;s permanent occupation is the sine qua non of genuine support for Israel. It follows that the Iran debate essentially succeeded, by smoking out the fake Israel supporters. An almost giddy Jennifer Rubin <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_netanyahu_flag.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">concludes that the deal&rsquo;s victory destroys &ldquo;the myth of bipartisan support for Israel.&rdquo; The crack-up of the Israel lobby is, for its most conservative members, not a failure at all but the fulfillment of a longtime dream.</p> </blockquote> <p>Benjamin Netanyahu no longer even tries to appeal to both liberal and conservative American Jews. As Gershom Gorenberg points out, he has all but turned his government into an overseas arm of the Republican Party, apparently in the hope that this would <a href="" target="_blank">eventually work out for the best:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Netanyahu's imagined America is one in which Mitt Romney was sure to win in 2012, as can be seen from the prime minister's behavior back then. Like the Republicans to whom he is close, he treats Obama's presidency as a historical glitch. Like many Jewish Republicans, he expects American Jews to place Israel at the top of their voting priorities, to agree with his policies, and to wake up at last to the need to vote Republican. After all, that's how the American Jews he knows best see things. To these misreadings, add his irrepressible impulse to jump into American politics.</p> <p>The consequence is that Netanyahu has done more than anyone else to identify Israel&mdash;that is, the Israel shaped by his policies&mdash;with the Republican Party. Nancy Pelosi's bitter, brilliant reproach after his speech to Congress last March was the clearest possible warning that his alliance with the GOP against Obama would free, or push, Democrats to break with him. He ignored the warning.</p> </blockquote> <p>Like nearly everything else in American politics, Israel has become a dreary partisan issue. Conservatives might be thrilled with this because they think it will hurt liberals, but the evidence suggests just the opposite: it will hurt Israel instead.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 04 Sep 2015 18:54:04 +0000 Kevin Drum 283446 at Tip O' the Day: Don't Be Trapped by the Tyranny of the List <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>A couple of days ago I stumbled across a story about the weekly email that NBER sends out touting its latest working papers. They recently decided to randomize the order of the papers separately for each of the 23,000 emails they send out. "This will mean that roughly the same number of message recipients will see a given paper in the first position, in the second position, and so on."</p> <p>One thing led to another, and I never wrote about this. But Neil Irwin <a href=";emc=rss" target="_blank">picks up the ball today:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>No editorial judgment goes into the sequence in which the working papers appear. It is random, based on the order in which the paper was submitted and in which the N.B.E.R. approval process was completed. In other words, there is no inherent reason to think that the first paper listed is more groundbreaking, important or interesting than the third or 17th.</p> <p>But a lot more people read the first one listed. <strong>Showing up first in the email generated a 33 percent increase in the number of people who clicked on the working paper</strong> and a 29 percent increase in the number who downloaded it.</p> <p>Perhaps even more amazing, it wasn&rsquo;t just that more people pulled up the paper that appeared first. <strong>Those papers also received 27 percent more citations in later research,</strong> though that result was based on a relatively small time period. Having the luck to appear first in the email <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_arxiv_spike.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">meant that a given working paper had greater influence in subsequent economic research.</p> </blockquote> <p>In other words, high-IQ economists are as lazy about clicking only the first entry on a list as your average teenage Google user. And it's not just economists. The same thing is true of physicists. The inventor of arXiv, a website that publishes early copies of physics papers, <a href="" target="_blank">discovered the same thing several years ago.</a> You can see the result in the graph at the right. Physicists might be as lazy as the rest of us, but they're not dumb, and they all figured out a long time ago that being first on the list is a big deal. Since each day's announcements are made in the order they were submitted, starting at 4 pm the previous day, it means that a huge herd of physicists are all pounding their Enter keys at 4 pm in a desperate effort to be first on the next day's list.</p> <p>The moral of this story is that....economists and physicists are as lazy and irrational as everyone else? I guess. But the real moral of the story is for <em>you</em> not to be trapped by the tyranny of the list. The next time you google something, try clicking on the 8th link. In fact, do what I do and change the default number of hits to 50 per page and then try clicking the 18th link. You might be pleasantly surprised.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 04 Sep 2015 17:40:02 +0000 Kevin Drum 283441 at In Shocker, Media Learns That Donald Trump Doesn't Know Anything <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Color me surprised. I read Hugh Hewitt's interview with Donald Trump yesterday and <a href="" target="_blank">commented on it,</a> but it didn't even occur to me to say anything about the substance of Trump's replies. I mentioned as an aside that <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_trump_hewitt_gaffe_4.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 35px;">Trump, as usual, was "comically ignorant" of pretty much everything, and thought no more about it. That's just standard Trump.</p> <p>But today's headlines are all about Trump's "struggles," "stumbles," and "gaffes." That's all totally fair, but why did it take <em>this</em> interview to suddenly wake everyone up? Trump has been responding to questions this way for the entire campaign. Ask him about China, and he says he'll send Carl Icahn over. Ask him how he'll get Mexico to pay for a wall, and he says "management." Ask him about taxes and he says he'll be great for the middle class. Ask him for his favorite Bible verse and he claims that's too personal to share.</p> <p>This has been his MO all along. His ignorance&mdash;and his shameless lack of interest in fixing it&mdash;has always been obvious. He doesn't even try to hide it. He'll hire good people. He'll delegate. He'll learn it when he needs to. He's entirely up front about not knowing squat, and it's barely even caused a ripple. Until now. Suddenly everyone is shocked to learn that Trump doesn't know the difference between Hamas and Hezbollah.</p> <p>I guess it was bound to happen sometime. Perhaps the Trump show was just too entertaining to ruin with this kind of pedantry back in August. What would we all have written about without him?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 04 Sep 2015 15:53:09 +0000 Kevin Drum 283436 at Guatemala's President Resigned and Spent the Night in Jail. What's Next? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Otto P&eacute;rez Molina <a href=";action=click&amp;pgtype=Homepage&amp;module=first-column-region&amp;region=top-news&amp;WT.nav=top-news" target="_blank">resigned as president of Guatemala</a> late Wednesday night, stepping down after being implicated in a widespread<strong> </strong><a href="" target="_blank">corruption scheme</a> that earlier this year cost his vice president her job. P&eacute;rez Molina, a former military general, had refused to leave office almost until the end, defying the wishes of tens of thousands of protesters who have been <a href="" target="_blank">calling for his resignation</a> for months. Now he <a href="" target="_blank">sits in jail</a>, awaiting the results of a hearing examining the evidence against him.</p> <p>But it is what happens next that is of interest to Guatemalans and regional experts. Alejandro Maldonado, who took over the vice presidency after Roxana Baldetti resigned on May 8, was sworn in as president Thursday afternoon, but the nation faces elections this weekend that could determine whether the country's brand new era of accountability will last.</p></body></html> <p style="font-size: 1.083em;"><a href="/politics/2015/09/guatemala-president-resigns-corruption-protest-scandal"><strong><em>Continue Reading &raquo;</em></strong></a></p> Politics Civil Liberties Crime and Justice International corruption Fri, 04 Sep 2015 14:50:37 +0000 AJ Vicens 283351 at Kentucky Gay Marriage Melodrama Is Finally Over (Sort Of) <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">From Joe Davis,</a> explaining why his wife, the clerk of Rowan County, Kentucky, refuses to issue marriage licenses to gay couples:</p> <blockquote> <p>Just because five Supreme Court judges make a ruling, it&rsquo;s not a law.</p> </blockquote> <p>Actually, yes, it is. But Joe could be excused for thinking otherwise given how many allegedly serious Republican presidential candidates seem to agree with him.</p> <p>In any case, this affair has now ended in what always seemed the most obvious way: with LGBT couples getting marriage licenses from deputies in the county clerk's office. Kim Davis still objects to this, of course, because her name is on the license (by state law). But her deputies apparently aren't as keen on twiddling their thumbs in the county jail as she is. They had to decide whether to obey Davis or obey a federal judge, and they wisely chose to obey the judge.</p> <p>In theory, this is now over. But Davis remains in jail, all the better to assure her future role as a martyr for the cause and poster child for fundraising appeals by the right-wing email outrage crowd. I imagine she'll stay there just long enough to cement her reputation, and then announce that she's resigning her office. Her moment in the sun is nearly over, but her moment on the rubber chicken circuit is just beginning.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 04 Sep 2015 14:27:32 +0000 Kevin Drum 283426 at Chart of the Day: Net New Jobs in August <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The American economy <a href="" target="_blank">added 173,000 new jobs last month,</a> 90,000 of which were needed to keep up with population growth. This means that net job growth clocked in at 83,000 jobs. The headline unemployment rate fell from 5.3 percent to 5.1 percent. Hourly earnings of production and nonsupervisory employees were up at an annualized rate of 2.9 percent.</p> <p>Roughly speaking, there was nothing interesting in the guts of the report. The unemployment rate was down both because there were more employed workers and because the size of the labor force shrank a bit. The labor force participation rate stayed steady. There were no big surprises in any particular industry.</p> <p>This has left everyone free to speculate on what this report means for the prospect of the Fed increasing interest rates later this month. On the one hand, the jobs report fell a bit below expectations. On the other hand, the unemployment rate was down nicely and wages showed a bit of life. On the third hand&mdash;well, everyone's just guessing here. Basically, this month's jobs report is ordinary enough that it probably won't have much impact at all. The Fed will consider overseas weakness, labor market slack, and all the other things that have been on their plate for a while. If they were planning to raise rates before this report came out, they probably still are.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_net_new_jobs_august_2015.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 5px 5px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 04 Sep 2015 14:10:08 +0000 Kevin Drum 283421 at First Gay Couple Can Marry in County Where Clerk Went to Jail <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>On Friday, William Smith and James Yates became the first same-sex couple to be issued a marriage license in Rowan County, Kentucky.</p> <center> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">BREAKING: William Smith and James Yates just obtained a marriage license from the Rowan County Clerk's Office. <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Dominic Holden (@dominicholden) <a href="">September 4, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Video of first couple leaving the courthouse after getting their marriage license <a href="">#wsaz</a> <a href="">#ky</a> <a href="">#kimdavis</a> <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Taylor Eaton (@WSAZTaylorEaton) <a href="">September 4, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script></center> <p>Since the Supreme Court's historic decision invalidating gay marriage bans nationwide in June, county clerk Kim Davis has refused to issue licenses to gay couples citing her religious beliefs. Her continued refusal to do so <a href="" target="_blank">finally landed her in jail yesterday,</a> after a federal judge held her in contempt of law.</p> <p>US District Judge David <a href=";smtyp=cur&amp;_r=0" target="_blank">Bunning offered to release</a> the defiant clerk if she promised not to prevent her deputies from processing same-sex couples. Five of the six deputies have agreed to do so. Davis' son, a deputy clerk, was the only one to refuse.</p> <p>Davis' husband, who insisted his family's opposition to same-sex marriages did not mean they "hate these people," was <a href="" target="_blank">reportedly</a> seen outside the clerk's office on Friday holding a sign, "Welcome to Sodom and Gomorrah."</p> <p>Smith and Yates' license effectively ends the months-long showdown.</p></body></html> MoJo Gay Rights Supreme Court Fri, 04 Sep 2015 13:39:35 +0000 Inae Oh 283416 at California Is Fining a Company That's Supplied Starbucks' Bottled Water—for Making the Drought Worse <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Sugar Pine Spring Water, a California company that has supplied bottled water to Starbucks, was hit on Tuesday with a <a href="" target="_blank">complaint</a> and draft <a href="" target="_blank">cease-and-desist order</a> by the California State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) for alleged illegal diversion and bulk delivery of water in 2014 and 2015. It's the first enforcement action taken against a bottled-water supplier since the state declared a drought emergency in January 2014. &nbsp;</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">As I reported this spring</a>, Starbucks' Ethos Water brand has sourced water sold in the chain's western US stores from suppliers tapping the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains, areas the US Drought Monitor has declared to be in "exceptional drought" conditions. <a href="" target="_blank">Starbucks subsequently announced</a> it would be phasing out its use of California water over the next six months. <em>Mother Jones</em> asked Starbucks whether it was still using water from Sugar Pine Spring Water, but the company has not yet responded.</p> <p>Ethos Water has long been produced in a Safeway bottling plant in Merced, California, that uses Sugar Pine water for the Starbucks brand.</p> <p>The SWRCB <a href="" target="_blank">notified</a> Sugar Pine owner Scott Fahey in 2014 "that there was not sufficient water to continue diverting under his permit," and the company was again notified in April 2015. After Sugar Pine delayed making its water collection site available&nbsp;to SWRCB agents for inspection, government personnel deployed surveillance cameras on public roads around the locked site to capture images of tankers accessing the property. The cease-and-desist order says that between July 12 and August 5 of this year, 99 tanker trucks were counted accessing the water transfer station, which SWRCD staff estimated to contain about 653,400 gallons of water just in that time period.</p> <p>Sugar Pine taps into several springs joined by more than five miles of underground pipes that cross a mixture of private and state-owned land. The SWRCB complaint notes that Sugar Pine taps into water sources that drain into the Tuolumne River watershed and the Don Pedro Reservoir, sources relied on by the city of San Francisco and area farmers.</p> <p>The company has 20 days to request a hearing. If it doesn't, the state will issue a final cease-and-desist order, which carries a fine of up to $10,000 a day or referral to the attorney general. Fahey's attorney declined to comment to the Associated Press, which <a href="" target="_blank">reported</a> that "he anticipates a hearing before the state water board."</p> <p>California's Division of Water Rights staff is recommending a fine of $224,875 to settle the complaint.</p> <p>From our original investigation, a little more context:</p> <blockquote> <p>Ethos Water was supposed to help fix the global water crisis: Founded in 2002 in Southern California, the bottled-water company promised that for every unit it sold, it would donate a small amount of money to water charity projects in the developing world.</p> <p>The idea quickly took off. In 2005, Ethos was acquired by Starbucks. Now, for every $1.95 bottle of Ethos water it sells, Starbucks makes a 5-cent donation to the Ethos Water Fund, part of the Starbucks Foundation. "When our customers choose to buy Ethos Water, they're improving the lives of people who lack vital resources," <a href="">Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz said in 2008</a>.</p> <p>Some of the biggest celebrities in Hollywood have lent their names to Starbucks' Ethos brand. <a href="">Matt Damon starred in an ad campaign</a>, and Starbucks partnered with a company that drives celebrities to the Oscars and filled the cars with Ethos bottles, "so Leonardo DiCaprio and Cameron Diaz walked into the awards carrying Ethos Water," <a href="">as Ethos cofounder Peter Thum explained</a>. In 2011, Ethos' other cofounder, Jonathan Greenblatt, became special assistant to the president and head of the White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation. <a href="">Obama himself lauded Greenblatt</a> last fall for his "innovative solutions to America's challenges."</p> <p>Starbucks says that its partnership with Ethos has raised more than $12.3 million for water charity projects to date.</p> <p>So far, media coverage has focused on Starbucks' goal to quench the thirst of the world's parched masses; the story behind the bottled water it sells here in the United States has been a nonissue. But now, as California's historic drought wears on, Starbucks is facing a water crisis of its own.</p> <p>The bottling plant that Starbucks uses for its Ethos customers in the western United States is located in Merced, California, which is currently ranked in the "exceptional drought" category by the <a href="">US Drought Monitor</a>. Its <a href="">residents face steep water cuts</a> in their homes, and <a href="">surface water for the region's many farms is drying up</a>.</p> </blockquote> <p>Read the full investigation <a href="" target="_blank">here</a>.</p></body></html> Blue Marble Food and Ag Fri, 04 Sep 2015 10:00:10 +0000 Anna Lenzer 283391 at