MoJo Blogs and Articles | Mother Jones Mother Jones logo en Tales From City of Hope #11: We Have Liftoff <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Yesterday's white blood count went from just under 0.1 to just over 0.1. Let's call it 0.05 growth. Today's count is 0.2. That's growth of 0.1.</p> <p>And <em>that</em>, my friends, is exponential growth. Sure, we could use another data point or three. And some more significant digits. And if we're being picky, a coefficient or two. But screw that. To this Caltech<sup>1</sup> dropout, it looks like exponential growth has kicked in. Booyah!</p> <p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_shiner_0.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 10px 0px 15px 30px;">In more visually exciting news, I know you all want to see my shiner, don't you? I can feel the bloodlust all the way from my hospital bed. So here it is, you ghouls. As usual with these things, it looks a lot worse than it feels. In fact, I can barely feel it all. But it's clear evidence that, yes, the bathroom really is the most dangerous room in the house.</p> <p><sup>1</sup>Did you know that the proper short form for California Institute of Technology is Caltech, not CalTech? They've been trying for decades to get the rest of the world to go along, but with sadly limited success.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 03 May 2015 17:53:43 +0000 Kevin Drum 274701 at These Photos of the Vegas Fight and the Baltimore Protests Perfectly Sum Up Inequality in America <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>On Saturday night, the biggest news story in America was the welterweight championship fight between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao, in Las Vegas (<a href="" target="_blank">Mayweather won</a>). The second biggest was probably the continuing demonstrations across the nation over the death of Freddie Gray: Police in Baltimore deployed pepper spray and <a href="" target="_blank">arrested protesters defying a 10 p.m. curfew</a>.</p> <p>The two events are completely unrelated, of course, unfolding on opposite sides of the continent. But it's hard to resist making some simple comparisons, especially when you see a photo like this one posted on Twitter <a href="" target="_blank">by Los Angeles sports reporter Liz Habib</a>. Just look at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Private Jets at Las Vegas airport!!! Wing to wing- airport closed now to private planes <a href="">#MayPac</a> <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Liz Habib (@LizHabib) <a href="">May 2, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>So much expensive hardware was heading into Las Vegas this weekend that the airport itself <a href="" target="_blank">urged private plane pilots to consider alternative places to land</a>.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Arrived in <a href="">#LasVegas</a> to a <a href="">#SoldOut</a> airport! Ready for the big fight tonight <a href="">#MayweatherPacquiao</a> <a href="">#Boxing</a> <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Emilio Estefan (@EmilioEstefanJr) <a href="">May 2, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>In attendance at the match on Saturday night was a heady mix of the superwealthy, like the CEO of CBS, Leslie Moonves&mdash;whose compensation package was worth $57.2 million in 2014, <a href="" target="_blank">according to the Wall Street Journal</a>&mdash;<a href="" target="_blank">along with the usual actors and models</a>. The match-up itself, at Las Vegas's MGM Grand Garden, <a href="" target="_blank">was expected to bring in more revenue than the GDP of 29 countries</a>.</p> <p>Meanwhile, protesters <a href="" target="_blank">across the country</a> were taking on what <a href="" target="_blank">President Obama himself has described</a> as decades of income inequality, <a href="" target="_blank">lack of opportunity</a>, and conflicts with police. Saturday night, there were more scenes of tension as demonstrators refused to comply with the city-imposed curfew:</p> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/AP771102868291.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>A man was arrested and hit with pepper spray as police enforced a 10 p.m. curfew. </strong>David Goldman/AP</div> </div> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/AP524070686303.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>A woman is loaded into the back of a van after being arrested in Baltimore, Saturday night. </strong>David Goldman/AP</div> </div> <p>The timing is coincidental. But the two unfolding events starkly illustrated what could be a major theme of the 2016 elections.</p> <p>"We have to be honest about gaps that exists across out country, the inequality that stalks our streets," <a href="" target="_blank">Hillary Clinton said on Wednesday</a>, in a wide-ranging speech about policing, race and class. And in January, Senator Ted Cruz <a href="" target="_blank">told Fox News </a>that "we're facing right now a divided America when it comes to the economy." (He blamed President Obama.)</p> <p>With images like these flashing across our screens, it's hard to imagine this topic going away anytime soon.</p></body></html> Media 2016 Elections Income Inequality Sun, 03 May 2015 15:13:58 +0000 James West 274696 at "Hell Is Empty and All the Devils Are Here." <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Here is a thing.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">.<a href="">@FloydMayweather</a> Good luck tonight Floyd.</p> &mdash; Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) <a href="">May 2, 2015</a></blockquote> <p>Here is another thing:<a href="" target="_blank"> </a></p> <blockquote> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Floyd Mayweather is a serial batterer of women.</a></p> </blockquote> <p>Have a nice day.</p></body></html> Contributor Sat, 02 May 2015 21:25:46 +0000 Ben Dreyfuss 274691 at Tales From City of Hope #10: Rebound Is Here! <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Yesterday my white blood count was &lt;0.1. How much less? No telling, but my doctor called it an "honorary" 0.1.</p> <p>But! Today my count is 0.1. Not much difference, you say, but it doesn't matter. It's higher than yesterday, and that means my transplanted stem cells are busily engrafting themselves and morphing into various blood products. Progress will be slow at first, but Friday was officially my bottom. Within a few days, my counts should start taking off much more rapidly. Huzzah.</p> <p>In less good news, I slipped in the bathroom last night and got a pulled neck muscle and a black eye for my trouble. All I need now is a swastika tattoo and I'll have the whole skinhead look down cold.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 02 May 2015 17:19:33 +0000 Kevin Drum 274686 at How Humans Can Keep Superintelligent Robots From Murdering Us All <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><em>While Kevin Drum is <a href="" target="_blank">focused on getting better</a>, we've invited some of the remarkable writers and thinkers who have traded links and ideas with him from Blogosphere 1.0 to this day to contribute posts and keep the conversation going. Today, we're honored to present a post from <a href="">Bill Gardner</a>, a health services researcher in Ottawa, Ontario, and a blogger at </em><a href="">The Incidental Economist</a><em>.</em></p> <p>This weekend, you, I, and about 100 million other people will see <em><a href="" target="_blank">Avengers: Age of Ultron</a></em>. The story is that Tony Stark builds Ultron, an artificially intelligent robot, to protect Earth. But Ultron decides that the best way to fulfill his mission is to exterminate humanity. Violence ensues.</p> <p>You will likely dismiss the premise of the story. But in a <a href="" target="_blank">book</a> I highly recommend, Oxford philosopher <a href="" target="_blank">Nick Bostrom</a> argues that sometime in the future a machine will achieve "general intelligence," that is, the ability to solve problems in virtually all domains of interest. Because one such domain is research in artificial intelligence, the machine would be able to rapidly improve itself.</p> <p>The abilities of such a machine would quickly transcend our abilities. The difference, Bostrom believes, would not be like that between Einstein and a cognitively disabled person. The difference would be like that between Einstein and a beetle. When this happens, machines can and likely would displace humans as the dominant life form. Humans may be trapped in a dystopia, if they survive at all.</p> <p>Competent people&mdash;<a href="" target="_blank">Elon Musk, Bill Gates</a>&mdash;take this risk seriously. <a href="" target="_blank">Stephen Hawking and physics Nobel laureate Frank Wilczek</a> worry that we are not thinking hard enough about the future of artificial intelligence.</p> <blockquote> <p>So, facing possible futures of incalculable benefits and risks, the experts are surely doing everything possible to ensure the best outcome, right? Wrong. If a superior alien civilization sent us a text message saying, "We'll arrive in a few decades," would we just reply, "OK, call us when you get here&mdash;we'll leave the lights on"? Probably not&mdash;but this is more or less what is happening with AI&hellip;little serious research is devoted to these issues&hellip;All of us&hellip;should ask ourselves what can we do now to improve the chances of reaping the benefits and avoiding the risks.</p> </blockquote> <p>There are also competent people who dismiss these concerns. University of California-Berkeley philosopher <a href="" target="_blank">John Searle</a> argues that intelligence requires qualities that computers lack, including consciousness and motivation. This doesn't mean that we are safe from artificially intelligent machines. Perhaps in the future killer drones will hunt all humans, not just Al Qaeda. But Searle claims that if this happens, it won't be because the drones reflected on their goals and decided that they needed to kill us. It will be because human beings have programmed drones to kill us.</p> <p>Searle has made this argument for years, but has never offered a reason why it will always be impossible to engineer machines with autonomy and general intelligence. If it's not impossible, we need to look for possible paths of human evolution in which we safely benefit from the enormous potential of artificial intelligence.</p> <p>What can we do? I'm a wild optimist. In my lifetime I have seen an extraordinary expansion of human capabilities for creation and community. Perhaps there is a future in which individual and collective human intelligence can grow rapidly enough that we keep our place as free beings. Perhaps humans can acquire cognitive superpowers.</p> <p>But the greatest challenge of the future will not be the engineering of this commonwealth, but rather its governance. So we have to think big, think long-term, and live in hope. We need to cooperate as a species and steer our technological development so that we do not create machines that displace us. At the same time, we need to protect ourselves from the expanding surveillance of our current governments (such as <a href="" target="_blank">China's Great Firewall</a> or the <a href="" target="_blank">NSA</a>). I doubt we can achieve this enhanced community unless we also find a way to make sure the superpowers of enhanced cognition are available to everyone. Maybe the only alternative to dystopia will be utopia.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Film and TV Tech Top Stories Sat, 02 May 2015 10:30:06 +0000 Bill Gardner 274591 at The Kentucky Derby Is Fueled by Tamales, and Other Gems From a Great New Podcast <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="600" scrolling="no" src=";auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%"></iframe></p> <p>When you think about the Kentucky Derby, what flavors come to mind? A refreshing mint julep? Pillowy biscuits propping up salty glazed ham? The sweet tang of pickled shrimp? Or how about&hellip;tamales? As radio journalist Tina Antolini discovered, that's the dish that best embodies "the backside" of the Derby, where horse walkers, grooms, stable cleaners, and trainers live and work. The majority hail from Central America, and due to the migratory nature of the job and a lack of kitchen access, they rely on hot plates and crockpots to re-create their traditional cuisine.</p> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Tina-SFA-Headshot-by-Pableaux-Johnson.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>Tina Antolini&nbsp;</strong>Photo by Pableaux Johnson</div> </div> <p>Antolini dug into this Derby subculture for an episode of <em><a href="" target="_blank">Gravy</a>, </em>a new biweekly podcast from the Southern Foodways Alliance that explores a changing American South through the lens of food. The podcast's host and producer isn't exactly a good ol' girl; Antolini grew up in a coastal Maine town full of "lobstermen and artists." Her mom, a cookbook editor, would spend "three hours making a complicated deal for dinner," so she developed an early interest in all things culinary. Jobs at pier-side seafood joints and upscale restaurants fortified her passion&mdash;food would become a theme in her reporting for New England Public Radio and later for the podcast <em><a href="" target="_blank">State of the (Re)Union</a>,</em> for which she is still a senior producer.</p> <p>Having a Yankee host doesn't seem to have detracted from <em>Gravy</em>'s allure. The podcast, along with its quarterly print version, won <a href="" target="_blank">Publication of the Year</a> at the 2015 James Beard Foundation Awards&mdash;a.k.a. the "Oscars of the food world." Dorothy Kalins, chair of the awards committee, commended <em>Gravy</em> for its "humor and style" and for "giving voice to the unsung characters who grow, cook, and serve our food."</p> <p>But don't come looking for recipes&mdash;Antolini rarely gets into ingredient lists. Rather, she uses food as a launchpad for stories about race, culture, health, and business. "The food has to take us somewhere," she told me. Episodes have covered water wars from the perspective of feuding oyster farms, the buried history of black culinarians, and military vets who turn to farming. And <em>Gravy </em>transcends geography. As illustrated by the Kentucky Derby episode, "the themes we are dealing with in these Southern-based stories," Antolini says, "are really at the heart of understanding the United States."</p></body></html> Media Podcasts Food and Ag Health Immigration Race and Ethnicity Sports Sat, 02 May 2015 10:05:08 +0000 Maddie Oatman 274586 at This Map Shows the Freddie Gray Protests Across the Country <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Thousands took to the streets in Baltimore earlier this week following the funeral of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, a black man who died after his spine was nearly severed while riding in a police van. Demonstrators have also gathered in New York, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., and nearly a dozen other cities. Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby <a href="" target="_blank">announced Friday</a> that the six officers involved in Gray's death will face criminal charges. Protests are planned around the country through the weekend.</p> <p>Here's a map of the latest demonstrations <a href="" target="_top">(tell us if we've missed any):</a></p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/map_image630.png"></div> <p><a href="" target="_blank">New York City</a></p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Philadelphia</a></p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Baltimore</a></p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Los Angeles</a></p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Houston</a></p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Oakland</a></p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Boston</a></p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">San Diego</a></p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Minneapolis</a></p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Denver</a></p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Albequerque, New Mexico</a></p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Washington, D.C.</a></p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Ferguson, Missouri</a></p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Seattle</a></p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">San Antonio</a></p> <p><a href="http://%22" target="_blank">Chicago</a></p></body></html> Politics Maps Civil Liberties Crime and Justice Race and Ethnicity police Fri, 01 May 2015 23:07:40 +0000 Gabrielle Canon, Bryan Schatz, and AJ Vicens 274666 at If Black People Lived As Long As White People, Election Results Would Be Very Different <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>With the mortality rate for black Americans about 18 percent higher than it is for white Americans, premature black deaths have affected the results of US elections, according to a new study from researchers at the University of Michigan and the University of Oxford.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">The study</a>, published in <em>Social Science &amp; Medicine </em>and highlighted on Friday by the UK-based <a href=";utm_source=NSNS&amp;utm_medium=SOC&amp;utm_campaign=twitter&amp;cmpid=SOC%7CNSNS%7C2014-GLOBAL-twitter#.VUO3Q14oh91" target="_blank"><em>New Scientist</em></a>, shows how the outcomes of elections between 1970 and 2004&mdash;including the presidential race between John Kerry and George W. Bush&mdash;might have been affected if there hadn't been such a disparity in the death rate. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 8.5 million black people died during that 35-year period. But if the mortality rates had been comparable, an additional 2.7 million black people would have been alive, and of those, an estimated 1 million would have cast votes in the 2004 election. Bush likely still would have won that race. But some state-level races might have turned out differently: The results would have been reversed in an estimated seven US Senate elections and 11 gubernatorial elections during the 35-year period, the researchers found, assuming that the hypothetical additional voters had cast their ballots in line with actual black voters, who tend to overwhelmingly support Democratic candidates.</p> <p>And that's before even getting to <a href="" target="_blank">incarceration</a>. Additional elections potentially would have turned out differently if voting-age black Americans who were previously convicted of felonies had been able to cast a ballot. As <em>New Scientist</em> explains:</p> <blockquote> <p>Accounting for people disenfranchised by felony convictions would have likely reversed three other senate seats. In at least one state, Missouri, accounting for just excess deaths or felony disenfranchisement would not have been sufficient to reverse the senate election &ndash; but both sources of lost votes taken together would have.</p> </blockquote> <p>While everyone's attention right now is on racial injustice in the context of policing, one of the study's authors, <a href="" target="_blank">Arline Geronimus,</a> noted that most premature black deaths were linked to <a href="" target="_blank">chronic health conditions</a> that afflict black people more than white people. "If you're losing a voting population, you're losing the support for the policies that would help that population," she told <em>New Scientist</em>. "As long as there's this huge inequality in health and mortality, there's a diminished voice to speak out against the problem."</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Elections Race and Ethnicity Top Stories Fri, 01 May 2015 22:15:29 +0000 Samantha Michaels 274661 at Obama Administration Gives Rail Companies Three Years to Fix Their Most Explosive Oil Cars <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Trains hauling crude oil have <a href="" target="_blank">continued</a> to explode across the United States and Canada this year as oil production booms in North Dakota and Alberta. <a href="" target="_blank">Nearly two dozen</a> oil trains have derailed in the past two years, many causing fiery explosions and oil spills. <a href="" target="_blank">Lawmakers</a>, <a href="" target="_blank">environmentalists</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">communities</a> in the path of these trains have ramped up pressure on the Obama administration to toughen what they see as lax safety regulations at the heart of the problem.</p> <p>Finally, some new regulations. This morning, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx stood next to Lisa Raitt, Canada's transportation minister, to <a href="" target="_blank">announce</a> coordinated rules across both countries aimed at making the industry safer by catching up to surging crude-by-oil shipments, which increased 4,000 percent from 2008 to 2014.</p> <p>According to the <a href="" target="_blank">new rules</a>, older tank cars will have to be replaced or retrofitted with new "protective shells" and insulation to prevent puncture (and potential explosion) after derailment. New tank car construction will have to comply with these standards, too.</p> <p>Oil trains will also be required to install enhanced "electronically controlled pneumatic" [ECP] braking, which allows for more control over the train when required to stop suddenly, and they will be limited to to speeds of 50 mph, and 40 mph in urban areas. <a href="" target="_blank">Many</a> <a href="" target="_blank">recent</a> train derailments and explosions have occurred at speeds far below those, however.</p> <p>And lastly, train companies will now be required to minimize the chances of explosions and oil spills happening near towns and environmentally sensitive areas by assessing route options and rail conditions more closely. Once the routes are made, companies will need to tell local and state officials along the train's pathway.</p> <p>Transportation Secretary Foxx described the rules as, "a significant improvement over the current regulations and requirements and will make transporting flammable liquids safer."</p> <p>But the new rules have already drawn criticism from regulation proponents and industry players alike. The American Railroad Association believes the new braking technology is unnecessary. "The DOT has no substantial evidence to support a safety justification for mandating ECP brakes, which will not prevent accidents," said Edward R. Hamberger, AAR president and CEO said <a href="" target="_blank">in a statement</a>. "This is an imprudent decision made without supporting data or analysis."</p> <p>But Senator Maria Cantwell, D-WA, who <a href="" target="_blank">introduced</a> legislation in March to toughen crude-by rail standards, said they didn't go far enough. "The new DOT rule is just like saying let the oil trains roll," she <a href="" target="_blank">said</a>. "It does nothing to address explosive volatility, very little to reduce the threat of rail car punctures, and is too slow on the removal of the most dangerous cars."</p> <p>Indeed, rail companies will have several years to bring their fleets up to scratch. The now-infamous DOT-111 oil tankers, <a href="" target="_blank">involved</a> in nearly half of oil train explosions since 2013, must be fixed within three years. And the so-called "unjacketed" CPC-1232 cars, which are newer but don't have protective shells (and <a href="" target="_blank">have also</a> been involved in explosions) will still be in network for up to five years.</p> <p>That amount of time is too long too wait given the potential dangers, said Anthony Swift, a deputy director at the Natural Resources Defense Council. "We can only hope the federal government revisits the broader issue of crude oil unit trains before it's too late."</p></body></html> Blue Marble Climate Desk Energy Foreign Policy Infrastructure Fri, 01 May 2015 19:53:50 +0000 Luke Whelan 274651 at Friday Cat Blogging - May 1 2015 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>With Kevin concentrating on his cancer treatment, we've rounded up some big writers to keep things rolling on the blog by contributing posts in his honor. But let's be honest: nothing's bigger on the internet than cats. So in addition to appearances from <a href="" target="_blank">Hopper and Hilbert</a>, we're taking this chance to introduce you to some other cats behind the people at <em>Mother Jones</em>.</p> <p>Today, that's Olga, who lives in Oakland with Lynnea Wool, our senior staff accountant. Among many other things, Lynnea is responsible for (full disclosure) making sure I get my paycheck. So I'd better blog carefully.</p> <center><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/der.jpg"></center> <p>Olga was the runt of a litter of Himalayan Persians when Lynnea adopted her one fine day seven years ago. Since then, they've had many happy moments. She just loves to have her armpits scratched:</p> <center><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/pitcrop.jpg"></center> <p>For a special treat, her cat-mom will put a small piece of cheese&mdash;the stinkier the better&mdash;straight on her tongue.</p> <p>This longhair needs regular trims, and I was very impressed to hear about Lynnea's method. While Olga's sleeping on her side, Lynnea will cut one half. Olga wakes up looking something like <a href="" target="_blank">Two-Face</a>, and roams around like that until Lynnea happens to catch her sleeping on her other side. Wish we had a picture of that! But you'll have to agree this one's a pretty good consolation prize:</p> <center><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/olgahat.jpg"></center></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 01 May 2015 19:35:05 +0000 Clint Hendler 274631 at