MoJo Blogs and Articles | Mother Jones Mother Jones logo en Watch: UN Agency Spokesman Breaks Down In Tears While Talking About Gaza School Bombing <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>United Nations Relief Works Agency spokesman Chris Gunness has been talking to media outlets around the world about the situation in Gaza, "advocating passionately," as he <a href="" target="_blank">puts it</a>, "for Palestine refugees to enjoy all their rights to the full, including the right to a just and durable solution." On Wednesday, Gunness&mdash;whose agency runs schools in Gaza that are being used as shelters by Palestinian families, and have been attacked <a href="" target="_blank">six times </a>in the current conflict, was talking about Wednesday's school bombing that <a href="" target="_blank">reportedly left 15 dead</a>. "The rights of Palestinians, even their children, are wholesale denied, and it's appalling," he <a href=";" target="_blank">told an Al Jazeera interviewer</a> before breaking down in tears. Watch:</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="//" width="630"></iframe></p></body></html> MoJo Thu, 31 Jul 2014 01:07:50 +0000 AJ Vicens 257381 at LA's Crappy Old Pipes Mean More Epic Floods Are Coming <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Yesterday at around 3:30 pm, a water main burst near the campus of UCLA in the Westwood neighborhood of Los Angeles. It <a href="" target="_blank">gushed for nearly three hours</a>, sending water as high as 30 feet into the air and flooding campus&mdash;cars' wheels were submerged, the brand-new basketball court was covered in standing water, eager students brought boogie boards. As much as <a href="" target="_blank">10 million gallons are estimated to have been lost</a>, at a rate of 38,000 gallons per minute.</p></body></html> <p style="font-size: 1.083em;"><a href="/blue-marble/2014/07/los-angeles-bad-pipes-epic-floods"><strong><em>Continue Reading &raquo;</em></strong></a></p> Blue Marble Wed, 30 Jul 2014 22:38:35 +0000 Sam Brodey 257361 at Neil deGrasse Tyson Tells GMO Critics to "Chill Out" <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="472" src="//" width="630"></iframe></p> <p><em>Cosmos</em> star Neil deGrasse Tyson is known for <a href="" target="_blank">defending climate science</a> and the <a href="" target="_blank">science of evolution</a>. And now, in a video <a href="" target="_blank">recently posted</a> on YouTube (the actual date when it was recorded is unclear), he takes a strong stand on another hot-button scientific topic: Genetically modified foods.</p> <p>In the video, Tyson can be seen answering a question posed in French about "des plantes transgenetiques"&mdash;responding with one of his characteristic, slowly-building rants.</p> <p>"Practically every food you buy in a store for consumption by humans is genetically modified food," asserts Tyson. "There are no wild, seedless watermelons. There's no wild cows...You list all the fruit, and all the vegetables, and ask yourself, is there a wild counterpart to this? If there is, it's not as large, it's not as sweet, it's not as juicy, and it has way more seeds in it. We have systematically genetically modified all the foods, the vegetables and animals that we have eaten ever since we cultivated them. It's called <a href="" target="_blank">artificial selection</a>." You can watch the full video above.</p> <p>In fairness, critics of GM foods make a variety of arguments that go beyond the simple question of whether the foods we eat were modified prior to the onset of modern biotechnology. They also <a href="" target="_blank">draw a distinction</a> between modifying plants and animals through traditional breeding and <a href="" target="_blank">genetic modification</a> that requires the use of biotechnology, and involves techniques such as inserting genes from different species.</p></body></html> Environment Video Climate Desk Food and Ag Science Wed, 30 Jul 2014 20:20:18 +0000 Chris Mooney 257351 at Paul Ryan Refuses to Talk About the Cost of His Anti-Poverty Plan <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Last week, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) released a <a href="" target="_blank">detailed anti-poverty proposal</a> in a speech at the American Enterprise Institute. One of Ryan's top prescriptions seems to have been influenced by his previous career as a personal trainer. He has proposed that recipients of federal benefits get the <a href="" target="_blank">services of a personal case manager </a>who would help them craft long-term plans, find "opportunities for growth," and nudge them to make better choices that would lift them out of poverty and off the government dole.</p> <p>I did a quick back-of-the-envelope calculation about how much&nbsp;this might cost. Just for people on food stamps, the federal government would need about 700,000 social workers, to the tune of around $30 billion. On Wednesday, Ryan appeared at a press briefing sponsored by the <em>Christian Science Monitor</em> and fielded questions about his plan, including several about the potential cost of his caseworker proposal.</p> <p>But&nbsp;Ryan refused to say how much his life-coach-for-the-poor-plan would cost or how the government would fund it. He insisted that he wanted to talk only about "reforming" federal programs. Further explaining his reluctance to discuss money, Ryan, the House GOP's number-one number-cruncher and the&nbsp;head of&nbsp;the House budget committee, said he didn't want to talk about "statistics and numbers" because "that's all we'll talk about." He said he didn't want to distract from his laser-like focus on reforming the safety net.</p> <p>It's awfully difficult to discuss policy proposals without any sense of the pricetag, but Ryan claimed that his ideas for reform could be done in any budget context&mdash;a view that was greeted with some skepticism by the reporters present. Besides, he said, the caseworker idea isn't something he'd "mandate," simply something he recommended. So would this idea be in any legislation he might propose? Ryan was vague. Will he be introducing legislation embodying his anti-poverty plan in the fall? Maybe. Right now, he said, he just wants to keep talking.</p></body></html> Politics Congress Income Inequality Top Stories Wed, 30 Jul 2014 19:00:16 +0000 Stephanie Mencimer 257356 at We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for July 30, 2014 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p class="rtecenter"><em>The USS George Washington conducts flight operations east of Okinawa. (<span class="meta-field photo-desc " id="yui_3_16_0_rc_1_1_1406740317802_1495">US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Beverly J. Lesonik</span>.)</em></p></body></html> MoJo Military Wed, 30 Jul 2014 17:17:14 +0000 257341 at Fast-Food Workers Just Took McDonald’s Down a Notch <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>On Tuesday evening, the federal government dealt a huge blow to McDonald&rsquo;s, which has for over a year and a half been the target of worker protests and lawsuits over its low wages and questionable labor practices.</p> <p>McDonald&rsquo;s has long maintained that as a parent company, it cannot be held liable for the decisions individual franchises make about pay and working conditions. On Tuesday, the general counsel at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) <a href="" target="_blank">ruled</a> that this is nonsense, saying that the $5.6 billion company is indeed responsible for employment practices at its local franchises. That means that the company is no longer shielded from <a href="" target="_blank">dozes of charges</a> pending at regional NLRB offices around the country alleging illegal employment practices.</p> <p>"McDonald&rsquo;s can try to hide behind its franchisees, but today&rsquo;s determination by the NLRB shows there's no two ways about it," Micah Wissinger, an attorney who brought a case on behalf of New York City McDonald's workers said in a statement Tuesday. "The Golden Arches is an employer, plain and simple."</p> <p>The Fast-Food Workers Committee along with the Service Employees International Union has <a href="" target="_blank">filed numerous complaints</a> against the company with the NLRB since November 2012. Most recently, workers <a href="" target="_blank">filed seven class action lawsuits</a> against McDonald&rsquo;s corporate and its franchises in three states alleging wage theft. The NLRB <a href="" target="_blank">consolidated</a> all these complaints into the case it decided on Tuesday, which focused on whether McDonald's corporate can be considered as a "joint employer" along with the owner of the franchise.</p> <p>Since the fall of 2012, fast-food workers at McDonald's, Burger King, and KFC franchises around the country <a href="" target="_blank">have been striking</a> to demand a $15 minimum wage and the right to form a union without retaliation. The strikes recently <a href="" target="_blank">went global</a>. Organizers say Tuesday's ruling will lend workers new momentum in their ongoing battle against the fast-food mega-chain.</p></body></html> MoJo Corporations Economy Labor Wed, 30 Jul 2014 16:55:03 +0000 Erika Eichelberger 257336 at Lucy and the Great 10% Myth <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Andrew Sullivan reminds me of something I was curious about the other day. <a href="" target="_blank">He quotes Jeffrey Kluger,</a> who writes in <em>Time</em> that he's annoyed with the movie <em>Lucy</em> because it perpetuates the ridiculous myth that we only use 10 percent of our brains. I sympathize. I was sort of annoyed just by seeing that in the trailer. But it did make me wonder: where did this urban legend come from, anyway? <a href="" target="_blank">Wikipedia to the rescue:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>One possible origin is the reserve energy theories by Harvard psychologists William James and Boris Sidis...William James told audiences that people only meet a fraction of their full mental potential....In 1936, American writer Lowell Thomas summarized this idea...."Professor William James of Harvard used to say that the average man develops only ten percent of his latent mental ability."</p> <p>In the 1970s, psychologist and educator Georgi Lozanov, proposed the teaching method of suggestopedia believing "that we might be using only five to ten percent of our mental capacity."....According to a related origin story, the 10% myth most likely arose from a misunderstanding (or misrepresentation) of neurological research in the late 19th century or early 20th century. For example, the functions of many brain regions (especially in the cerebral cortex) are complex enough that the effects of damage are subtle, leading early neurologists to wonder what these regions did.</p> </blockquote> <p>Huh. So we don't really know for sure. That's disappointing but not surprising. It's remarkable how often we don't know where stuff like this comes from.</p> <p>As for its continuing popular resonance, I have a theory of my own. There are an awful lot of people out there with&nbsp;remarkable&mdash;and apparently innate&mdash;mental abilities. They can multiply enormous numbers in their heads. They can remember every day of their lives. That kind of thing. And yet, they operate normally in other regards. The fact that they've stored, say, distinct memories of the past 15,000 days of their lives doesn't seem to take up any cerebral space or energy that they needed for anything else. So surely all that storage and retrieval capacity is just sitting around unused in the rest of us?</p> <p>No, it's not. But the idea resonates because freakish mental skills seem to be so much further out on the bell curve than freakish physical skills. It makes the whole 10 percent thing seem pretty plausible. And that's why it sticks around.</p> <p><strong>POSTSCRIPT:</strong> Or does it? I mean, has anyone tried to find out how many people still believe this myth? For all I know, everyone has long been aware that it's not true. We need a poll!</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Film and TV Science Wed, 30 Jul 2014 15:44:07 +0000 Kevin Drum 257326 at An Awful Lot of People Think Obama Is Bored With Being President <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>You have to give the Fox News polling operation credit for mixing things up in an interesting way sometimes. At first glance, their latest poll is just a collection of all the usual leading questions about Obama busting up the Constitution, Obama being a loser compared to Vladimir Putin, Obama being incompetent, etc. etc. This is mostly yawn-worthy stuff intended as fodder for their anchors. All that's missing is a question about whether Obama plays too much golf. <a href="" target="_blank">But then there's this:</a></p> <p><img align="cednter" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_poll_obama_want_to_be_president.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 5px 40px;"></p> <p>Who else would think to ask a question like that? But it's kind of fascinating, really. And what's most fascinating is that it's barely partisan at all. In virtually every group, something like 40 percent of the respondents think Obama is bored with the whole presidenting thing. That goes for Democrats as well as Republicans; for blacks as well as whites; for the rich as well as the poor; and for liberals as well as conservatives. It's not quite a majority in any group&mdash;though it's pretty close among Hispanics and senior citizens&mdash;but an awful lot of people sure are convinced that Obama has already checked out of the Oval Office. He might want to do something about that.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Obama Wed, 30 Jul 2014 15:05:08 +0000 Kevin Drum 257321 at These Gun Owners Oppose the NRA's Efforts to Allow Stalkers and Abusers to Keep Their Weapons <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>On Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee is holding its <a href="" target="_blank">first-ever hearing</a> on domestic violence and guns, in light of <a href="" target="_blank">several bills</a> that aim to strengthen federal gun restrictions against abusers. Federal law <a href="" target="_blank">bans</a> felons, people subject to permanent domestic-violence protective orders, and certain people convicted of domestic-violence misdemeanors from owning guns. But it does nothing to keep firearms out of the hands of a wide range of potentially dangerous abusers, including convicted stalkers, dating partners convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors, and people under temporary restraining orders. State laws largely don't address these categories, either, and<a href="" target="_blank"> according to a <em>Mother Jones</em> analysis</a>,<a href="" target="_blank"> the d</a>ata suggests that states with fewer measures barring domestic abusers from possessing guns have more gun-related, intimate-partner homicides.</p> <p>Several Democrat-backed bills that aim to strengthen federal law when it comes to gun ownership and domestic abuse are languishing in Congress, including <a href="" target="_blank">one introduced in July 2013</a> by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) that would bar convicted stalkers and abusive dating partners from possessing guns. The gun lobby has fought back against Klobuchar's bill, with the <a href="" target="_blank"><em>Huffington Post </em></a>reporting last month that the NRA sent a letter to lawmakers blasting the measure as a backdoor attempt to limit gun ownership. The legislation "manipulates emotionally compelling issues such as 'domestic violence' and 'stalking' simply to cast as wide a net as possible for federal firearm prohibitions," the NRA told lawmakers. The powerful pro-gun-rights group has in the past <a href="" target="_blank">fought to allow domestic violence offenders to possess guns</a>, unless they're convicted felons.</p> <p>But not all gun-owners are siding with the NRA to fight these stricter gun controls. "I am a gun owner. I was shot and left for dead by my own gun," says Christy Martin, a former championship boxer whose ex-husband was <a href="" target="_blank">sentenced</a> in 2012 to 25 years in prison for attempting to murder her with a firearm. Martin flew to Washington, DC this week to attend Wednesday's hearing, at the invitation of Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun control group backed by former New York Mayor&nbsp;Michael Bloomberg. "I consider myself a physically fit, somewhat strong woman, mentally strong, emotionally strong, but it didn't matter," she says, noting that her ex-husband had a history of stalking behavior prior to the attack, and that she'd like to "close up some of those loopholes for stalkers."</p> <p>Elvin Daniel is a gun-owner and self-described NRA member who is testifying at the hearing in support of efforts to curb gun ownership for stalkers and abusers. He accuses the NRA of employing "a scare tactic" to prevent Klobuchar's bill from advancing. "I absolutely do not agree with them," he says. Daniel's sister, Zina Haughton, was <a href="" target="_blank">shot and killed by her estranged husband in October 2012</a>. "I know that Senator Klobuchar&rsquo;s bill will keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people," he says, "not law-abiding gun owners."</p></body></html> Politics Guns Top Stories Wed, 30 Jul 2014 14:45:55 +0000 Dana Liebelson 257136 at GDP Increases At a Smart 4.0% Rate in Second Quarter <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Here's something that counts as good news: GDP increased in the second quarter <a href="" target="_blank">at an annual rate of 4.0 percent.</a> At the same time, the first quarter numbers were revised to a slightly less horrible -2.1 percent growth rate. This means, <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_gdp_2014_q2.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">roughly speaking, that the economy has grown about 1.9 percent over the first half of the year.</p> <p>Now, this is obviously nothing to write home about. A growth rate of 1 percent per quarter is pretty anemic. Still, it's better than expectations after the terrible Q1 numbers, and the rebound in Q2 suggests there really was some make-up growth. A fair amount of this growth came from inventory build-up, which is normally a reason for caution, but after two previous quarters of inventory decline it's probably not the warning sign it might otherwise be.</p> <p>All in all, this is decent news. It's still not possible to say that the economy is roaring along or anything, but the Q1 number now looks like it really was an anomaly. Slowly and sluggishly, the economy is continuing to recover for the ~95 percent of us who haven't been unemployed for months or who haven't given up and exited the labor force entirely. For those people, economic growth is still slow enough to leave them behind. One good quarter is nice, but we still have a lot of work to do.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Economy Wed, 30 Jul 2014 14:15:54 +0000 Kevin Drum 257311 at