MoJo Blogs and Articles | Mother Jones Mother Jones logo en Latest Gallup Result: 12 Million Newly Insured Under Obamacare <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body> <p>Speaking of the uninsured, I inexplicably failed to blog about the <a href="" target="_blank">latest Gallup results yesterday.</a> Based on polling that goes through mid-April, Gallup now estimates that about 12 million people have gained insurance since Obamacare rolled out last year. If you assume that perhaps a million people lost insurance, that's a net increase of 11 million. Of this, about half gained insurance through the exchanges. The rest gained it through Medicaid and increased participation in employer plans.</p> <p>I'm not going to try to analyze this number any further. It basically represents good news, since it's a higher estimate than we've seen before, and it also jibes with the recent Rand numbers suggesting a large rise in people covered by employer plans. Apparently the individual mandate is having a bigger impact on this than anybody predicted. However, it's one data point in a noisy series, and I suspect we still have to wait another month to get a reliable set of numbers from all the polling outfits. By the end of May, unless the various polls are in wild disagreement, I imagine we'll have a fairly good idea of just how big the impact of Obamacare has been so far.</p> </body></html> Kevin Drum Health Care Thu, 17 Apr 2014 15:38:43 +0000 Kevin Drum 250006 at Rand Paul Really Doesn't Want to Talk About His McConnell Endorsement <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body> <p>A tea party revolutionary four years ago, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has bucked many of his old supporters by backing Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, in McConnell's primary against Matt Bevin, a hedge fund executive backed by the Senate Conservatives Fund. Why would Paul do such a thing? He has been cagey, to say the least. "He asked me when there was nobody else in the race, and I said yes," the junior senator <a href="" target="_blank">told</a> Glenn Beck in February. Evidently even that was too verbose. Per the <a href="" target="_blank"><em>Glasgow (Ky.) Daily Times</em></a>, Paul has now taken his answer off the record:</p> <blockquote> <p>After addressing about 30 people who turned out to hear him, the senator opened the floor for questions.</p> <p>One constituent asked him why he came out in support of Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Louisville.</p> <p>Paul declined to answer the question publicly, saying he would speak with her in private and explain his reason for supporting the senior senator.</p> </blockquote> <p>Paul family political guru Jesse Benton, who is now managing McConnell's re-election campaign, told a tea party activist in a <a href="" target="_blank">secretly-recorded conversation</a> last year that, "between you and me, I'm sort of holdin' my nose for two years because what we're doing here is going to be a big benefit to Rand in '16, so that's my long vision."</p> <p>One reason Paul might decide to keep his explanation private: His answer sounds a lot like Benton's.</p> </body></html> MoJo Elections Thu, 17 Apr 2014 15:31:13 +0000 Tim Murphy 249986 at Daffy Duck, Glorious Archetype of Selfishness, Is 77. Here Is His First Cartoon. <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="" width="630"></iframe><br> Daffy Duck, one of America's preeminent ducks, is 77 today.</p> <p>If Bugs Bunny is the brightest star in the Looney Tunes sky, surely Daffy Duck is second. But it wasn't always that way! Before either of them, a pig named Porky occupied the top spot and on April 17, 1937 the sensational swine starred in "Porky's Duck Hunt." The Warner Brothers short featured the curly-tailed stutterer loading up his shotgun and setting out to hunt his way into America's heart, like you do. But then things don't go as planned&mdash;they can't, you see; <a href="" target="_blank">Aristotle said so</a>&mdash;and Porky comes upon a duck who isn't like the others. This duck's got a white ring around his neck and he doesn't conform, man. He won't go gently into that good night. He does what he wants. He's wacky. He flies around the frame in a very un-medicated way. Watch it. (The colorized version is embedded above. <a href="" target="_blank">Here's the original black &amp; white.</a>) It's pretty funny!</p> <p>Daffy is nameless in this first appearance, but a rose by any other name&mdash;or no name at all, a nameless rose&mdash;is still a rose. And this duck is still Daffy. Aside from his trademark white ring and lisp&mdash;voiced as he would be for 52 years by Mel Blanc&mdash;what makes him so essentially Daffy is that he's, well, nuts. This was his defining characteristic in the beginning. Created by Tex Avery, Daffy was a minor lunatic the established characters could play the foil to.</p> <p>Over the course of the next decade, however, Daffy grew from being just some prop prey in hunting sketches to a full-blown star. As he became more prominent, his character became more complex. Still wacky, Daffy matured into his most famous role, as Bugs Bunny's arch-nemesis. (Bugs, the Betty to Daffy's Veronica, the White Swan to his Black, had been introduced in 1940.) Daffy became the crafty, scheming, plotting back-stabber who, motivated by unrestrained selfishness, will do anything to get what he wants, but in the end always comes up short. His every attempt is foiled, most often by the more moral Bugs, because in Looney Tunes' moral universe, unrestrained selfishness is a killer.</p> <p>Part of us empathizes with Daffy because though his defining characteristic is selfishness, his fatal flaw is recklessness. Everyone is a little bit selfish. Selfishness is very banal and very human, and at some age most everyone learns to rein it in. At 77, Daffy still hasn't reined it in.</p> <p>Chuck Jones, who created Bugs, drew Daffy from 1951 to 1964 and was responsible for some of his most famous films. In his memoir, <em><a href=";pg=" target="_blank">Chuck Amuck: The Life and Times of an Animated Cartoonist</a></em>, Jones describes the first time he encountered within himself the voice he would one day associate with Daffy. The moment came at his sixth birthday party. After Chuck blew out the candles on his cake, his father handed him a knife and told him to cut as large a piece for himself as he wanted.</p> <blockquote> <p>At this point Daffy Duck must have had, for me, his earliest beginnings, because I found to my surprise and pleasure that I had no desire to share my cake with anyone. I courteously returned the knife to my mother. I had no need for it, I explained; I would simplify the whole matter by taking the entire cake for myself. Not knowing she had an incipient duck on her hands, she laughed gently and tried to return the knife to my reluctant grasp. I again explained that the knife was superfluous. It was impossible, I pointed out with incontrovertible logic, to cut a cake and still leave it entire for its rightful owner. I had no need and no desire to share.&nbsp;</p> <p>My father thereupon mounted the hustings (he was nine feet tall and looked like a moose without antlers) and escorted me to my room to contemplate in cakeless solitude the meaning of a word new to me: "selfish." To me then, and to Daffy Duck now, "selfish" means "honest but antisocial"; "unselfish" means "socially acceptable but often dishonest." We all <em>want</em> the whole cake, but, unlike Daffy and at least one six-year-old boy, the coward in the rest of us keeps the Daffy Duck, the small boy in us, under control.</p> <p>"You may cut as large a piece as you want" is a dangerous euphemism. There is a prescribed wedge on every birthday cake that is completely and exactly surrounded by corporal punishment. Exceeding these limits by even a thousandth of an inch brands one as "selfish." From my seventh birthday on, I learned to approach with judgment sharper than a razor's edge this line, without cutting the "un" from "unselfish" to "selfish." I learned very little about social morality but a great deal about survival, and this, after all, is what Daffy Duck is all about.</p> </blockquote> <p>So, happy birthday, Daffy, America's most famous animated cautionary tale of avarice!</p> </body></html> Mixed Media Film and TV Thu, 17 Apr 2014 15:16:31 +0000 Ben Dreyfuss 249971 at Is the Census Recount of the Uninsured a Legitimate Scandal? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body> <p>A friend of mine thinks the decision by the Census Bureau to change the way it counts the uninsured&mdash;which will make it more difficult to make pre and post-Obamacare <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_census_informed.jpg" style="margin: 20px 20px 15px 30px;">comparisons&mdash;is sleazier than I give it credit for:</p> <blockquote> <p>To me this is all about 2016. I think Democrats really want to be able to show a sharp contrast that will demonstrate the dramatic impact of an attempted repeal of the ACA, and stronger numbers on the uninsured would only help the ads that much more. The administration knows that a Republican president will be under terrific pressure to undercut and thwart the law regardless of its popularity (even if with as few fingerprints as possible) and that they will use whatever tools they have to do so. So 2016 is extremely important.</p> <p>The reason I lost it is because even with independent agencies, there is a certain measure of influence. No, the executive doesn't have a large measure of direct control over independent agencies, but they damn sure know what they are doing&nbsp;&mdash; or at least somebody does. They don't operate in a vacuum. (Except, perhaps, some of the security services.) So, this is either:</p> <blockquote> <ol> <li>Something started years ago with a drop date of Spring 2014 that (a) no one picked up on until now and no one can derail the train; or (b) the executive saw coming and was willing to let it happen to help put the best read on the numbers in advance of 2016.</li> <li>Something that has been out there (sure, everything is "out there") but languishing, which the executive decided to speed up and put in place well before 2016. The goal was to get the most positive read on the numbers, so they indirectly applied pressure to the Census to put it in place&nbsp;&mdash; and since the Census wants it anyway there's really no stick here.</li> </ol> </blockquote> <p>Of these, (1)(a) seems most implausible (even if certainly possible) and (2) seems most likely if 2016 is the primary issue. Thus, I am assuming that this is going forward with the executive's blessing on the timing, and a calculation has been made that the blowback&nbsp;&mdash; if any&nbsp;&mdash; will be among the right's base and they are already energized so this won't change the dynamic much.</p> <p>And if my assumption is correct, I still think it's a cheap / too-cute-by-half tactic that I would be calling out if the roles were flipped.</p> </blockquote> <p>I have a hard time buying this for several reasons. First, it <em>is</em> too cute by half. Obama's political shop is not the runaway train that, say, Chris Christie's apparently is. It's implausible to me that anyone there would give this more than a moment's thought before dismissing it. It's just too stupid.</p> <p>Second, it's not at all clear that the change made by the Census will make Obamacare look better. We're still going to have a clean 2013-14 comparison, after all, just not a longer-term one. Besides, surely <em>any</em> number is better than one with such a big cloud around it that it's open to merciless attack. Especially when it's one that the boffins at the Census Bureau won't defend.</p> <p>Third, there are loads of other numbers about the uninsured&mdash;Gallup, Rand, HRMS, etc. Playing games with the Census numbers won't change any of that.</p> <p>Bottom line: I continue to think this is most likely something dreamed up by technocrats in the Census Bureau who were oblivious to the political implications. I'll acknowledge that the political implications are obvious enough that this is a little hard to believe, but that's where Occam's Razor takes me. In any case, Darrell Issa is sure to open hearings on this, so I imagine we'll hear from Census officials soon enough.</p> </body></html> Kevin Drum Regulatory Affairs Thu, 17 Apr 2014 15:14:21 +0000 Kevin Drum 249996 at Putin: Eastern Ukraine is Really "Novorossiya" <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body> <p>The <em>Guardian</em> reports that Vladimir Putin held a <a href="" target="_blank">long, "meticulously stagecrafted" press conference today:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Accusing the Kiev authorities of pulling the country into an "abyss", he called on Ukraine to pull back its heavy artillery from the east of the country, asking: "Who are you going to use it against? Have you completely lost your marbles?"</p> <p>....<strong>Putin referred to the region in question by its tsarist name "Novorossiya", or "New Russia", as it was referred to in the 19th century under tsarist rule, and suggested it was a historical mistake to hand it over to Ukraine.</strong></p> <p>"It's new Russia," he told millions of watchers "Kharkiv, Lugansk, Donetsk, Odessa were not part of Ukraine in Czarist times, they were transferred in 1920. Why? God knows. Then for various reasons these areas were gone, and the people stayed there&nbsp;&mdash; we need to encourage them to find a solution."</p> </blockquote> <p>That does not sound very promising, does it?</p> </body></html> Kevin Drum International Thu, 17 Apr 2014 14:36:10 +0000 Kevin Drum 249976 at We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for April 17, 2014 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/0417-630.jpg"></div> <div id="meta"> <div class="photo-desc" id="description_div"> <p class="rtecenter"><em>Marines put out a controlled fire on a mobile aircraft fire training device at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma April 7 during a visit from Girl Scouts. The firefighting display showed how the Marines respond to an emergency situation. The mission of Girl Scouts of America is to build the courage, confidence and character of girls, who can then make the world a better place, according to their website. The Marines are aircraft rescue and firefighting specialists with ARFF, Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron, MCAS Futenma, Marine Corps Installations Pacific. (<a href="" target="_blank">U.S. Marine Corps photo</a> by Lance Cpl. David N. Hersey/Released)</em></p> </div> </div> </body></html> MoJo Thu, 17 Apr 2014 10:00:10 +0000 249846 at Should You Be Worried About Your E-Cigarette Exploding? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body> <p>Last week, an 18-year-old bartender in North Yorkshire, England, was <a href="" target="_blank">serving drinks</a> when a colleague's electronic cigarette exploded, setting the bartender's dress on fire. This was not the first reported incident of an e-cigarette exploding&mdash;over the past few years, there have been more than a dozen similar reports.</p> <p>Specifically, it's e-cigarettes' <a href="" target="_blank">lithium-ion batteries that combust</a>. These batteries are also found in laptops and cellphones. But with e-cigarettes, the batteries are especially prone to overheating because smokers use incompatible chargers, <a href="" target="_blank">overcharge the e-cigarettes</a>, or don't take sufficient safety precautions. For example, many e-cigarettes are made to plug into a USB port, which smokers may take to mean the devices can be safely charged with a computer or iPad charger. But if left too long in a common USB port, some e-cigarette batteries can fry.</p> <p>The industry acknowledges that explosions are a possibility. "I'm aware of 10 failures in the last year," Thomas Kiklas, who represents the Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association, <a href="">told</a> NBC Chicago last October. "When you charge them, they are 99.9 percent safe, but occasionally there will be failures."</p> <p>The Food and Drug Administration, which oversees tobacco products, does not currently regulate e-cigarettes. An FDA spokesperson says the agency is working to change that.</p> <p>Here is a brief history of notable e-cigarette explosions and fires:</p> <p><strong>Niceville, Florida, February 2012</strong><br> A 57-year-old Vietnam veteran was smoking an e-cigarette when it exploded in his face, knocking out his teeth and part of his tongue, according to <a href="" target="_blank"><em>ABC News</em></a><em>. </em>A fire chief told the news outlet that the accident was most likely caused by a faulty lithium battery, which exploded like a "bottle rocket."</p> <p><strong>Muskogee, Oklahoma, April 2012</strong><br> Shona Bear Clark bought an&nbsp;NJOY e-cigarette from Walmart to help her cut back on smoking half a pack a day. Clark says it exploded when she tried to remove it from its package. "<font size="2"><span lang="EN">It was as loud as firing a gun, but a gun fired right in your face," she <a href="" target="_blank">recalled</a>.</span></font></p> <p><iframe frameborder="0" height="260" scrolling="no" src=";auto_next=1&amp;auto_start=0&amp;page_count=5&amp;pf_id=9204&amp;pl_id=19942&amp;rel=3&amp;show_title=0&amp;tags=5709&amp;va_id=3434619&amp;volume=8&amp;windows=2" width="620"></iframe></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Corona, California, March 2013</strong><br> Jennifer Ries and her husband, Xavier, were driving to the airport, with their VapCigs e-cig charging in the car. "I looked around and I saw the battery to the [e-cigarette] dripping," she told <a href="" target="_blank">CBS Los Angeles</a>. "I went to unscrew it and the battery started shooting fire toward me and then exploded and shot the metal pieces onto my lap&hellip;A blowtorch type of fire and then an explosion." Ries suffered second-degree burns, and the the couple later <a href="" target="_blank">sued</a> the e-cig manufacturer.</p> <p><strong>Tulsa, Oklahoma, June 2013</strong><br> Kyle Czeschin's e-cig was plugged into his laptop. Guess what happened next? "Everything was on fire, my laptop was on fire, my lamp was on fire, the shades," he told <a href="" target="_blank">News On 6</a>.</p> <p><strong>Sherman, Texas, July 2013</strong><br> Wes Sloan wanted to kick his habit, so bought what he assumed would be a safer, electric alternative to cigarettes. "The battery was into about a two-hour charge and it exploded and shot across the room like a Roman candle," he <a href="" target="_blank">said</a>. Sloan was charging the e-cig in the USB port of a Macbook. He says he suffered second- and third-degree burns, and that he and his wife, Cathy, were treated for smoke inhalation.</p> <p><strong>Mount Pleasant, Utah, September 2013 </strong><script height="354px" width="630px" src=";ec=Ywaml0ZTq24ifZRhrVuko3cFGRBrLEjm"></script><br> A Utah mom was charging her e-cigarette in her car when she said there was "a big bang, and kind of a flash, [and] smoke everywhere," according to <a href="" target="_blank">Fox 13 News<em>.</em></a> The e-cigarette reportedly released a hot copper coil that landed in her son's car seat, burning the boy. The mom was finally able to put the fire out with an iced coffee. A fire marshal told the news outlet that the mom's charger was standard and factory-issued, and it was a "catastrophic failure of the device." He also noted this was the second e-cigarette explosion he'd investigated recently in the region.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Atlanta, September 2013</strong><br><object classid="clsid:D27CDB6E-AE6D-11cf-96B8-444553540000" codebase=",0,47,0" height="354" id="flashObj" width="630"><param name="movie" value=""> <param name="bgcolor" value="#FFFFFF"> <param name="flashVars" value="videoId=2645515478001&amp;;playerID=836827756001&amp;playerKey=AQ~~,AAAAFIvhljk~,Nz7UFI321EYSAUsYGYx5WAk9m9XiXaY8&amp;domain=embed&amp;dynamicStreaming=true&amp;autoPlay=false"> <param name="base" value=""> <param name="seamlesstabbing" value="false"> <param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"> <param name="swLiveConnect" value="true"> <param name="allowScriptAccess" value="always"> <embed allowfullscreen="true" allowscriptaccess="always" base="" bgcolor="#FFFFFF" flashvars="videoId=2645515478001&amp;;playerID=836827756001&amp;playerKey=AQ~~,AAAAFIvhljk~,Nz7UFI321EYSAUsYGYx5WAk9m9XiXaY8&amp;domain=embed&amp;dynamicStreaming=true" height="354" name="flashObj" pluginspage="" seamlesstabbing="false" src="" swliveconnect="true" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="630"></embed></object>A woman in Grant Park plugged her e-cigarette into her computer to charge it, according to <a href="" target="_blank">WSB-TV Atlanta</a><em>.</em> Fortunately, she was home when she says it began to shoot four-foot flames across the living room. (A screenshot in the above link shows the rag that the woman used to unplug the e-cigarette as it was burning.) "If I hadn't had been home, I would have lost my dogs, I would have lost my cats, I would have lost my house," she told the news station.</p> <p><strong>La Crosse, Wisconsin, September </strong><strong>2013</strong><br> The La Crosse Fire Department explains how they're learning to deal with e-cig fires:</p> <p><iframe frameborder="0" height="360" scrolling="0" src="" width="630"></iframe></p> <p><strong>Blaine, Minnesota, October 2013</strong><br> A man was charging his e-cigarette through his computer when his wife noticed that it was "sparking like a fountain firework," according to <a href="" target="_blank">KMSP Fox 9</a>. The device then "shot out like a missile" from the computer, she said. The owner of a nearby e-cigarette business told the news outlet that the battery didn't have overcharge protection, and that's likely why it overheated.</p> <p><strong>Kootenai County, Idaho, November 2013</strong><br> An e-cigarette <a href="" target="_blank">started a fire</a> in an Idaho household's living room while the family of four slept. The device, which was charging through a laptop, overheated and exploded. "If that smoke alarm didn't go off, none of us would have woken up, you know, none of us would have been able to get to the door, 'cause it would have been blocked by the flames and we would have all died," the son <a href="" target="_blank">said</a>.</p> <p><strong>Queen Creek, Arizona, November 2013</strong><br> Just four days after Kyler Lawson bought his <a href="" target="_blank">Crown Seven Gladiator e-cigarette</a>, it exploded while charging. "It shot out like a bullet, hit the window, dropped from the window to the carpet," he <a href="" target="_blank">said</a>. "Caught the carpet on fire&hellip;If you're going to charge it, be there. Be present when you're charging it because you never know what can happen."</p> <p><strong>Eugene, Oregon, November 2013</strong><br> Judy Timmons had been charging her e-cig in her car for two hours when it exploded. "I'm just glad my grandkids weren't in the backseat because it could have exploded at any time," she <a href=";c=y" target="_blank">said</a>.&nbsp;"It had enough power and momentum to shoot all the way to the backseat," Larry, her husband, said.</p> <p><strong>Colorado Springs, Colorado, November 2013</strong></p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"> <a href="" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Screen%20Shot%202014-04-15%20at%2011.52.26%20AM.png"></a> <div class="caption"><a href="" target="_blank">KRDO</a></div> </div> <p>A man in Colorado Springs was charging his e-cigarette when it exploded, setting his bed on fire, according to <a href="" target="_blank"><em>KRDO NewsChannel 13</em></a>. He used a blanket to smother the flames, suffering burns on his body and face. The manufacturer of "Foos" e-cigarettes told the news outlet that this was the first time he'd heard of their products malfunctioning. The man said that nonetheless, "I'm back on normal cigarettes now."</p> <p><strong>Sneads Ferry, North Carolina, January 2014</strong><br> A North Carolina man who spent over 20 years working as a firefighter was injured after his e-cigarette exploded in his face. He described the incident to the <a href="" target="_blank"><em>Jacksonville Daily News</em></a> as feeling like "a bunch of hot oil hit my face." After spending the night in the hospital, the newspaper reported that he continues to suffer from the incident: "The bottom of his left eyeball is sensitive to light, hard to see out of, and will need to be looked at by an optometrist."</p> <p><strong>Springfield, Missouri, January 2014</strong><br> Last Christmas Eve, Chantz Mondragon was sitting in bed with his wife when his e-cig overheated and <a href="" target="_blank">burst into flames</a>. The device was charging via a USB port on his laptop. He described the explosion as "a searing hot blinding light like a magnesium sparkler, [like] whenever you see a person welding." Mondragon also said the fire burned through his bed, and caused second-degree burns on his leg and foot.</p> <p><strong>North Yorkshire, England, April, 2014</strong><br> Eighteen-year-old Laura Baty was serving a customer at the Buck Inn Hotel when her coworker's charging e-cigarette <a href="" target="_blank">exploded</a> behind the bar. "I started crying hysterically and my arm was all black," she told the <a href="" target="_blank"><em>Press</em></a>. "My dress caught on fire as I ran away, and I just didn't know what was happening."</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="360" src="//" width="630"></iframe></p> <p><strong>London, April 2014</strong></p> <p>A woman who used an incompatible charger to charge her e-cigarette caused a major fire that took about 40 minutes to get under control, according to the <a href="" target="_blank"><em>London Evening Standard</em></a>. A member of the London Fire Brigade told the paper that, "As with all rechargeable electrical equipment, it's vitally important that people use the correct type of charger for their e-cigs to prevent fires which can be serious and could even result in death."</p> </body></html> Environment Health Regulatory Affairs Science Tech Top Stories Thu, 17 Apr 2014 10:00:09 +0000 Dana Liebelson and Asawin Suebsaeng 249791 at How Rand Paul Bailed on His Bold Plan to Reform Big-Money Politics in Washington <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body> <p>This past weekend&mdash;days after <em>Mother Jones </em><a href="" target="_blank">revealed video</a> of Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) claiming that Dick Cheney exploited 9/11 to start the Iraq War to boost profits for Halliburton, the military contractor where Cheney had been CEO&mdash;Paul claimed in interviews with <a href="" target="_blank">ABC News</a> and <a href="" target="_blank"><em>Business Insider</em></a>&nbsp;that he had never questioned Cheney's motives. He insisted he had merely noted that Cheney's Halliburton ties had posed the "chance for a conflict of interest." Paul was spinning&mdash;not acknowledging the actual comments. But when Paul was running for the US Senate in 2009 and 2010 as a tea party outsider who would take on Washington's special-interest lobbyists, he repeatedly cited the Cheney-connected Halliburton as an example of what was wrong in the nation's capital. In a <a href="" target="_blank">videotaped talk</a> on national-security policy, for example, Paul complained, "We give billion-dollar contracts to Halliburton, they turn around and spend millions on lobbyists to ask for more money from government. It's an endless cycle of special-interest lobbyists." At one campaign stop after another, Paul bashed Halliburton, and he boasted that he had a bold and imaginative plan for limiting the influence of big-money lobbyists and donors who funnel cash into the campaign coffers of candidates to win access and favors. But several years into his first term, Paul has yet to introduce this proposal&mdash;or say much, if anything, about it. In fact, he has been accepting contributions from the lobbyists he once so passionately decried.</p> <p>On March 2, 2010, Paul <a href=";list=PLF3FEC4B61D0BE59D&amp;index=58" target="_blank">appeared on CNN</a>, and host Rick Sanchez asked him&nbsp;what he would do about the "unbelievable amounts of money that are being paid from certain industries into the campaign coffers of certain politicians&hellip;and how are you going to deal with that, if you get elected?" Without pausing, Paul confidently replied:</p> <blockquote> <p>I think that I have a cure for it actually that will pass constitutional muster. What I would do is, on every federal contract, I would have a clause, and it says, if you accept this clause you voluntarily give up the right to lobby, you voluntarily give up the right to give PAC contributions.&nbsp;And I would have the top 20 officers sign it also individually, voluntarily give up their right to give [political] contributions&hellip;I'm talking about people who do business with the federal government. For example, we have big business that get billion-dollar no-bid contracts with the government. They take their first million dollars, and they buy a lobbyist. The lobbyist goes then and asks for more money. It's a vicious cycle. So I would say if you want to do business with the federal government, what I would say is let's have a clause in the contract, and it's a voluntary clause, you don't have to do business with the government, but if you do, then you give up certain things.</p> </blockquote> <p>Paul's critique was reminiscent of the position&nbsp;Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) advocated when he was a campaign finance reform firebrand years ago. McCain denounced the "iron triangle" of lobbyists, campaign contributions, and legislation. Paul, who has often slammed McCain for passing a campaign finance law imposing limits on what outside groups can do to affect federal elections, had devised his own way to break up this unseemly triangle.</p> </body></html> <p style="font-size: 1.083em;"><a href="/politics/2014/04/rand-paul-campaign-reform-cheney-halliburton-lobbying"><strong><em>Continue Reading &raquo;</em></strong></a></p> Politics Congress Money in Politics Top Stories Rand Paul Thu, 17 Apr 2014 10:00:08 +0000 David Corn 249131 at Film Review: "Burt's Buzz" <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="//" width="630"></iframe></p> <p><strong>Burt's Buzz</strong></p> <p>EVERYDAY PICTURES/FILMBUFF</p> <p>Jody Shapiro's documentary profiles Burt Shavitz, the thick-bearded, staunchly frugal, middle-aged Maine beekeeper who cofounded Burt's Bees, following his rise from hip 1960s photographer to the unlikely brand ambassador for a multimillion-dollar skin and body care empire. As a portrait of the compelling curmudgeon, <em>Burt's Buzz</em> isn't quite as penetrating as one might hope for. But it's an oddly charming peek into the world of corporate celebrity through the lens of a guy who apparently wants nothing to do with it. "No one has ever accused me of being ambitious," Shavitz says. And, of his intrusive fans: "I'd like to point the shotgun at them and tell them to be good or be gone."</p> </body></html> Mixed Media Corporations Health Thu, 17 Apr 2014 10:00:06 +0000 Asawin Suebsaeng 248956 at Map: Is There a Risky Chemical Plant Near You? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body> <p>Last April 17, an explosion at a <a href="" target="_blank">fertilizer plant in West, Texas,</a> killed 15 people, injured at least 200, and destroyed dozens of homes, schools, and a <a href="" target="_blank">nursing home</a>. In the wake of the disaster, we wondered: Can we locate the industrial sites in your community where similar incidents might occur?</p> <p>The answer to that question, it turns out, is not so simple. Even basic information about sites where hazardous chemicals are kept and what kinds of accidents can be anticipated is tucked away in official documents. Much of that data is not easily accessible due to post-9/11 security measures, making it nearly impossible to get a clear sense of whether you live, work, or go to school near the next potential West, Texas.</p> <p>Here's what we do know: Millions of Americans live near&nbsp;a site that could put them in harm's way if hazardous chemicals leak or catch fire. The Environmental Protection Agency monitors roughly 12,000 facilities that store one or more of 140 toxic or flammable chemicals that are potentially hazardous to nearby communities. In late 2012, a Congressional Research Service <a href="" target="_blank">report</a> found that more than 2,500 of these sites estimate that their worst-case scenarios could affect between 10,000 and 1 million people; more than 4,400 estimated that their worst-case scenarios could affect between 1,000 and 9,999 people.</p> <p>The interactive map below, based on data from the EPA's Risk Management Program, shows at least&nbsp;9,000 facilities where a "<a href="" target="_blank">catastrophic chemical release</a>" or what the EPA calls a "<a href="" target="_blank">worst-case scenario</a>" could harm nearby residents. Hover over any site to see its exact location, the chemicals it stores, and how many accidents it&nbsp;documented in its most recent 5-year&nbsp;reporting period.&nbsp;</p> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/legend_3-01.jpg"></div> </div> <p><iframe frameborder="0" height="500px" src=",geocoder,share.html" width="100%"></iframe></p> <p>According to chemical safety experts, this is the most comprehensive national-level chemical safety data out there. But there's a lot it doesn't tell us.</p> <p>First, don't let the facilities with no accidents fool you. Before its explosion last year, West Fertilizer's EPA records showed that it had no mishaps. "A lot of facilities, even though they haven't had any accidents, it doesn't mean they aren't capable of [one], and that the damage can't be similar to what we've seen in West, Texas," explains&nbsp;Sofia Plagakis, a policy analyst with the <a href="" target="_blank">Center for Effective Government</a>'s environmental right-to-know program. "It only takes one accident,"&nbsp;says John Deans, a former toxics campaigner at Greenpeace.</p> <p>And if you click on the West Fertilizer Co. plant in West, Texas, you won't see any record of ammonium nitrate, the prime suspect in last year's explosion. (The other suspect was anhydrous ammonia, which the EPA does monitor.) That's because the chemical is not monitored under the&nbsp;EPA's Risk Management Program. Basically, the data used to make this map can't be used to predict the next West, Texas-style accident; it couldn't even predict the first West, Texas, accident.</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Screen%20Shot%202014-04-16%20at%203.01.25%20PM.png"></div> <p>More data is out there, however. To find out more about where ammonium nitrate is stored, try the Department of Homeland Security, which <a href="" target="_blank">monitors</a> facilities that keep the chemical under its Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards program. Yet DHS never knew about West Fertilizer, even though the plant told state agencies in 2012 that it stored 540,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate, about <a href="" target="_blank">1,350 times</a> the amount that triggers the reporting requirement. While West Fertilizer didn't report to DHS, it did disclose its ammonium nitrate storage to Texas' emergency planning committee in a federally required <a href="" target="_blank">report</a> that's meant to help firefighters, hospitals, and other first responders prepare for an accident. Almost every facility on the map above also stores a chemical whose name has been redacted. That information is only accessible if you visit one of 15 EPA Federal Reading Rooms scattered across the country.</p> <p>If you're confused, you're not alone. Disparate government data sets and patchy oversight have raised more questions about chemical risks than regulators or citizens can answer. In the wake of the West, Texas, tragedy, the Obama administration promised to address these knowledge gaps and issued an <a href="" target="_blank">executive order,</a> calling for agencies such as DHS and the EPA to improve their info sharing with state agencies and local responders.</p> <p>Other organizations have tried to determine which chemical plants pose the greatest risks to nearby residents. In 2011, Greenpeace's Deans and his team set out to find some answers in the EPA data. But publicly accessible risk data doesn't say exactly how close facilities are located to communities, how many people live in those communities, or what kinds of damage an accident might cause. The West Fertilizer explosion destroyed or irreparably damaged <a href="" target="_blank">three of the town's</a> four schools. Had the accident happened during the day, Plagakis asks, "Did the school know how to get the students out of harm's way?"</p> <p>Facilities are supposed to report this information to the EPA, but these&nbsp;Offsite Consequence Analyses are not included in the agency's response to public records requests for risk management data. You can access this information at an EPA Federal Reading Room. But you're allowed one visit per month and can only bring a pen and paper. Greenpeace dispatched about a dozen researchers to the reading rooms for this project, Deans says.</p> <p>When it was done, Deans's team had identified <a href="" target="_blank">473 chemical facilities</a> that could put 100,000 people or more at risk. "Of those," they found, "89 put one million or more people at risk up to 25 miles downwind from a plant." In all, Greenpeace concluded, one out of every three Americans was at some risk of being affected by a toxic chemical release from a nearby facility.</p> <h4>Chemical Sites That Put 100,000 or More People at Risk</h4> <p><a href=""><img src="" width="630px"></a></p> <p><em>Source: <a href="" target="_blank">Greenpeace</a></em></p> <p>Still, the West Fertilizer plant, which is in a town of 2,800 people, does not show up on this map. As mounting evidence pointed to ammonium nitrate as the likely culprit in the West Fertilizer explosion, a team of Reuters reporters started looking for <a href="" target="_blank">other ammonium nitrate facilities</a> across the country to see if they could pinpoint other potentially risky locations. It found hundreds of thousands of homes, hundreds of schools, and 20 hospitals within a mile of sites that store or use the chemical.</p> <h4>Ammonium Nitrate Sites</h4> <p><iframe frameborder="0" height="529" src="" width="630"></iframe></p> <p><em>Source: <a href="" target="_blank">Reuters</a></em></p> <p>According to <a href="" target="_blank">news reports</a>, there are <a href="" target="_blank">roughly 6,000</a> facilities that store ammonium nitrate at levels that should report to Homeland Security. DHS never returned calls to verify this number, and it does not publicize the ammonium nitrate facilities it tracks under its Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards program. <a href="" target="_blank">Federal law</a> mandates that any facility storing at least 10,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate <a href="" target="_blank">disclose</a> it to local emergency planning authorities. To track down these reports, you have to ask your state for it. Some states, like Illinois, make the information easily accessible online. Others, like Arizona, have denied public requests to see the the documents. Reuters requested these Tier II reports from environmental, public safety, and emergency response agencies in all 50 states: 29 states released the information, 10 states did not respond or did not have electronic data, and 11 refused altogether.</p> <p>"The states that declined often wanted us to request information about a specific site," says Ryan McNeill, one of the Reuters reporters who worked on mapping the ammonium nitrate facilities. "They claim that's what the law intended. Our counter was that this is a silly position because it requires a citizen to know about the existence of a site with dangerous chemicals before they can request information. How is the public supposed to know whether a warehouse houses dangerous chemicals?"</p> </body></html> Environment Maps Regulatory Affairs Top Stories Thu, 17 Apr 2014 10:00:05 +0000 Jaeah Lee 248301 at