MoJo Blogs and Articles | Mother Jones http://www.motherjones.com/rss/blogs_and_articles/107316 http://www.motherjones.com/files/motherjonesLogo_google_206X40.png Mother Jones logo http://www.motherjones.com en Future President Ben Carson Wrote 6 Books. We Read Them So You Don't Have To. http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/01/ben-carson-evolution-fossil-record <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Former neurosurgeon Ben Carson <a href="http://www.politico.com/story/2015/01/ben-carson-iowa-summit-114553.html" target="_blank">rallied</a> Republicans at the Iowa Freedom Summit on Saturday, stirring up speculation once more that the conservative activist will seek his party's presidential nomination next year. Carson has never run for office and only recently registered as a Republican, but as the author of six books over more than two decades, he does have a considerable paper trail&mdash;and it's starting to get him into trouble.</p> <p>In his 1992 book <em>Think Big</em>, for instance, Carson proposed a national catastrophic health care plan modeled on federal disaster insurance, which would be funded by a 10-percent tax on insurance companies. He also proposed re-thinking best practices concerning end-of-life care, advocating for a "national discussion that would help us all rethink our culture's mind-set about death, dying, and terminal illness"&mdash;similar to the provisions of the Affordable Care Act that conservatives now dismiss as "death panels." (A Carson spokesman told <a href="http://www.buzzfeed.com/andrewkaczynski/ben-carsons-1996-health-care-plan#.iqVDbd2EJ" target="_blank"><em>BuzzFeed </em></a>last week that the health care proposal is "as relevant to his view today as our current military action in Afghanistan is compared to our military strategy in Afghanistan two decades ago.")</p> <p>Although filled with inspiring stories of medical miracles and his own rough-and-tumble roots, Carson's books also reflect the views of a social-values warrior whose anti-gay comments recently caused him to withdraw as a commencement speaker at Johns Hopkins University, his longtime employer. A sampling:</p> <p><strong>On intelligent design (from <em>Take the Risk</em>):</strong></p> <blockquote> <p>From what I know (and all we don't know) about biology, I find it as hard to accept the claims of evolution as it is to think that a hurricane blowing through a junkyard could somehow assemble a fully equipped and flight-ready 747. You could blow a billion hurricanes through a trillion junkyards over infinite periods of time, and I don't think you'd get one aerodynamic wing, let alone an entire jumbo jet complete with complex connections for a jet-propulsion system, a radar system, a fuel-injection system, an exhaust system, a ventilation system, control systems, electronic systems, plus backup systems for all of those, and so much more. There's simply not enough time in eternity for that to happen. Which is why not one of us has ever doubted that a 747, by its very existence, gives convincing evidence of someone's intelligent design.</p> </blockquote> <p><strong>On the failing of the fossil record (from <em>Take the Risk</em>):</strong></p> <blockquote> <p>For me, the plausibility of evolution is further strained by Darwin's assertion that within fifty to one hundred years of his time, scientists would become geologically sophisticated enough to find the fossil remains of the entire evolutionary tree in an unequivocal step-by-step progression of life from amoeba to man&mdash;including all of the intermediate species.</p> <p>Of course that was 150 years ago, and there is still no such evidence. It's just not there. But when you bring that up to the proponents of Darwinism, the best explanation they can come up with is "Well...uh...it's lost!" Here again I find it requires too much faith for me to believe that explanation given all the fossils we have found without any fossilized evidence of the direct, step-by-step evolutionary progression from simple to complex organisms or from one species to another species. Shrugging and saying, "Well, it was mysteriously lost, and we'll probably never find it," doesn't seem like a particularly satisfying, objective, or scientific response. But what's even harder for me to swallow is how so many people who can't explain it are still willing to claim that evolution is not theory but fact, at the same time insisting anyone who wants to consider or discuss creationism as a possibility cannot be a real scientist.</p> </blockquote> <p><strong>On abortion <strong>(from <em>America the Beautiful</em>):</strong></strong></p> <blockquote> <p>This situation perhaps crystallizes one of the major moral dilemmas we face in American society today: Does a woman have the right to terminate another human life because it is encased in her body? Does ownership convey absolute power of life and death over the owned subject? If it does, then NFL quarterback Michael Vick was unfairly imprisoned for torturing and killing dogs in Atlanta.</p> </blockquote> <p><strong>On gay parents (from <em>The Big Picture</em>):</strong></p> <blockquote> <p>Recently a homosexual couple brought a child in to be examined on one of our neurosurgical clinical days. During lunch, after the couple had left, one of my fellow staff members commented favorably on the couple's obvious love and commitment to the child. He said to me, "I know you don't approve of homosexual relationships and wouldn't consider their home a healthy atmosphere in which to raise a child. But I was impressed by that couple. I think their sexual orientation is their business. Think what you want, but it's just your opinion."</p> <p>My response wasn't nearly that politically correct. "Excuse me, but I beg to differ," I said. "How I feel and what I think isn't just my opinion. God in his Word says very clearly that he considers homosexual acts to be an 'abomination.'"</p> </blockquote> <p><strong>On how gay marriage brought down the Roman Empire (from <em>America the Beautiful</em>):</strong></p> <blockquote> <p>I believe God loves homosexuals as much as he loves everyone, but if we can redefine marriage as between two men or two women or any other way based on social pressures as opposed to between a man and a woman, we will continue to redefine it in any way that we wish, which is a slippery slope with a disastrous ending, as witnessed in the dramatic fall of the Roman Empire.</p> </blockquote> <p><strong>On Washington[Redacted] owner Dan Snyder (from <em>One Nation</em>):</strong></p> <blockquote> <p>On the other hand, many of the greatest achievers in our society never finished college. That includes Bill Gates Jr., Steve Jobs, and Dan Snyder, who is the owner of the Washington [NFL franchise].</p> </blockquote> <p>(Carson elsewhere defended Snyder's refusal to change his team's name and <a href="http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/jun/24/carson-playing-a-name-game-with-the-redskins/" target="_blank">called</a> the oft-criticized owner "far from the demonic characterization seen in the gullible press that allows itself to be manipulated by those wishing to bring about fundamental change in America.")</p> <p><strong>On <em>Independence Day </em>(from <em>Think Big</em>):</strong></p> <blockquote> <p>I do not get to see many movies, but when I watched the video of <em>Independence Day</em> with my sons, I was struck by the portrayal of the resistance efforts mounted against the alien invaders from outer space. The frail and arbitrary distinctions so often made between various segments of society, even between different countries and ideologies, instantly melted away as the people of the entire world focused not on their differences but upon a common threat and the common goal uniting them&mdash;the protection of the planet from alien invaders.</p> </blockquote> <p>Unlike some of his fellow candidates, though, Carson has made little effort to sugar-coat his most polarizing views. Even before he revealed any political ambitions, he'd moonlighted as a traveling Creationism advocate, giving speeches on the subject and even debating skeptic Richard Dawkins on evolution in 2006:</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="473" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/JPxGnN7RV1Y" width="630"></iframe></p></body></html> Politics 2016 Elections Elections Science Top Stories Tue, 27 Jan 2015 11:30:07 +0000 Tim Murphy 268836 at http://www.motherjones.com Netanyahu to American Jews: Get Lost http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/01/netanyahu-boehner-congress-american-jews-get-lost <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>It was not so shocking that House Speaker John Boehner would seek to undermine President Barack Obama and his attempt to negotiate a nuclear deal with Iran by inviting Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu to deliver an address to Congress, in which Netanyahu will presumably dump on Obama's efforts. Nor was it so shocking that Netanyahu, who apparently would rather see another war in the Middle East than a deal that allows Iran to maintain a civilian-oriented and internationally monitored nuclear program, agreed to mount this stunt two weeks before the Israeli elections&mdash;a close contest in which the hawkish PM is fighting for his political life. Certainly, Netanyahu realized that this audacious move would strain his already-ragged ties with the Obama administration and tick off the president, who will be in office for the next two years and quite able to inconvenience Netanyahu should he hold on to power. (Even Fox News talking heads <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/01/when-will-benjamin-netanyahu-finally-go-too-far" target="_blank">acknowledged</a> that Boehner's invitation and Netanyahu's acceptance were low blows.) But what was surprising was how willing Netanyahu was to send a harsh message to American Jews: Drop dead.</p> <p>For the past six years, one big question has largely defined US politics: Are you for or against Obama? The ongoing narrative in Washington has been a simple one: The president has tried to enact a progressive agenda&mdash;health care, gun safety, a minimum-wage hike, climate change action, immigration reform, Wall Street reform, gender pay equity, expanded education programs, diminishing tax cuts for the rich&mdash;and Boehner and the Republicans have consistently plotted to thwart him. The GOP has used the filibuster in the Senate to block Obama initiatives and routine presidential appointments. The House Republicans have resorted to extraordinary means&mdash;shutting down the government, holding the debt ceiling hostage, ginning up controversies (Benghazi!)&mdash;to block the president. All this has happened as conservative allies of the Republican Party have challenged Obama's legitimacy as president (the birth certificate) and peddled vicious conspiracy theories (he's a Muslim socialist who will destroy the nation). Throughout the Obama Wars, one demographic group that has steadfastly stood with the president is American Jews.</p></body></html> <p style="font-size: 1.083em;"><a href="/politics/2015/01/netanyahu-boehner-congress-american-jews-get-lost"><strong><em>Continue Reading &raquo;</em></strong></a></p> Politics Congress Foreign Policy International Obama Top Stories Tue, 27 Jan 2015 11:00:11 +0000 David Corn 268856 at http://www.motherjones.com Check Out the Adorable Creatures and Gorgeous Vistas Obama Wants to Protect in Alaska http://www.motherjones.com/mixed-media/2015/01/photos-wilderness-animals-birds-alaska-national-wildlife-refuge <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>On Sunday, President Obama <a href="http://www.doi.gov/news/pressreleases/obama-administration-moves-to-protect-arctic-national-wildlife-refuge.cfm" target="_blank">announced</a> that he will call on Congress to increase the protection of Alaska's <a href="http://www.fws.gov/refuge/arctic/" target="_blank">Arctic National Wildlife Refuge</a> by adding more than 12 million acres of it to the National Wilderness Preservation System&mdash;the highest level of conservation protection. If Congress signs on, which is <a href="http://www.nationaljournal.com/white-house/obama-proposes-to-declare-anwr-area-as-wilderness-20150125" target="_blank">pretty</a> <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2015-01-26/white-house-tells-alaskan-senator-to-chill-out-on-anwr" target="_blank">unlikely</a>, it would be the largest wilderness designation since the <a href="http://wilderness.nps.gov/faqnew.cfm" target="_blank">Wilderness Act</a>, signed in 1964 by President Lyndon B. Johnson.</p> <p>The refuge covers nearly 20 million acres and contains five distinct ecological regions. It is home to at least 200 species of birds, 37 land mammal species, eight marine mammal species, and 42 species of fish. There are <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/01/anwr-proposal-shows-obamas-power-set-agenda-alive-and-well" target="_blank">plenty of&nbsp;political reasons</a> why Obama wants to protect it, but here are a few of the ecological ones:</p> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="ANWR" class="image" src="/files/AP01080102785.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>The coastal plain provides spring grazing for caribou and other mammals. </strong>Associated Press</div> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/1149046_639472622749967_1996008234_n_1.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>Conservationists argue that oil and gas drilling in the coastal plain would threaten the <a href="http://www.nrdc.org/land/wilderness/arcticrefuge/facts1.asp" target="_blank">millions</a> of birds that nest there.</strong><strong> </strong>USFWS</div> </div> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="MUSKOX" class="image" src="/files/muskox-in-the-snow-in-alaska.jpg" style="float: left;"><div class="caption"><strong>The furry musk ox&mdash;the Inupiat's call it "omingmak" ("the bearded one")&mdash;lives on the coastal plain year round. </strong>USFWS</div> <div class="caption"> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Screen%20Shot%202015-01-26%20at%2011.41.33%20AM.png"><div class="caption"><strong>There is a unique ecosystem of animals&mdash;that includes the arctic fox&mdash;that have adapted to survive in ANWR. </strong>USFWS</div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="Tundra swan" class="image" src="/files/tundra%20swan%20chicks.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>Tundra swans rely on the remote and undeveloped refuge to nest. </strong>USFWS</div> </div> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="Caribou" class="image" src="/files/15842503347_85dc201dfb_z.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>Caribou migrate through the coastal plain. </strong>David Gustine/USGS</div> </div> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/800px-Upper_Peter_Lake.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>According to the US Department of the Interior, oil and gas development could <a href="http://ic.galegroup.com/ic/ovic/ViewpointsDetailsPage/ViewpointsDetailsWindow?query=&amp;prodId=OVIC&amp;displayGroupName=Viewpoints&amp;limiter=&amp;disableHighlighting=true&amp;displayGroups=&amp;sortBy=&amp;zid=&amp;search_within_results=&amp;action=2&amp;catId=&amp;activityType=&amp;documentId=GALE%7CEJ3010859206&amp;source=Bookmark&amp;u=spl_main&amp;jsid=975a7e2a2c9c7f44afe1f6994d6fe45d" target="_blank">pollute water resources</a> in ANWR.</strong><strong> </strong>USFWS</div> </div> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"> <div class="caption"> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Screen%20Shot%202015-01-26%20at%2011.51.12%20AM.png"><div class="caption"><strong>ANWR is an <a href="http://www.defenders.org/press-release/arctic-national-wildlife-refuge-makes-nations-most-endangered-refuges-list" target="_blank">important denning</a> area for polar bears.</strong><strong> </strong>Alan D. Wilson</div> <div class="caption"> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Screen%20Shot%202015-01-26%20at%202.12.45%20PM.png"><div class="caption"><strong>The Alaska marmot, considered <a href="http://www.defenders.org/publications/climate_change_and_the_arctic_national_wildlife_refuge_which_species_are_most_at_risk.pdf" target="_blank">highly vulnerable</a> to changes in habitat, calls ANWR home. </strong>USFWS</div> </div> </div> </div> </div> <p>To hear Obama talk about the importance of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, watch this video:</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/3hey_WIAFVA" width="630"></iframe></p> </div> </div></body></html> Mixed Media Animals Tue, 27 Jan 2015 11:00:11 +0000 Gabrielle Canon 268866 at http://www.motherjones.com In 2014, a Record-Busting Number of People Were Freed After Being Locked Up for Years http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/01/2014-was-record-year-exonerations <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>In 2014, 125 people across the United States who had been convicted of crimes were exonerated&mdash;the highest number ever recorded, <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/documents/1509618-exonerations-in-2014-report" target="_blank">according to a new report from the National Registry of Exonerations</a> at the University of Michigan Law School. The 2014 number included 48 who had been convicted of homicide, 6 of whom were on death row awaiting execution. Ricky Jackson of Ohio spent 39 years behind bars, the longest known prison term for an exoneree, according to the NRE. Jackson was sentenced to death in 1975 after false testimony implicated him in a robbery-murder he did not commit. Texas led the nation with 39 exonerations; it is followed by New York (17), Illinois (7), and Michigan (7). The federal government exonerated eight people.</p> <p>So, why was 2014 such a record year? There were 91 exonerations each in 2013 and 2012, previously the highest totals. The NRE points to the increasing number and competence of so-called conviction integrity units (CIUs), groups established by local prosecutors that "work to prevent, to identify and to remedy false convictions." The first CIU was established in California's Santa Clara County in 2002; now, there are 15 in operation, working in high-population areas such as Houston, Dallas, and Brooklyn. As CIUs have grown, so has their effectiveness in obtaining exonerations: In 2013, CIUs' work led to 7 exonerations; in 2014, they were responsible for 49.</p> <p>The Harris County CIU, which encompasses Houston, is responsible for 33 of last year's exonerations. In early 2014, it reviewed drug cases it had prosecuted after learning that many people who had pled guilty to possession had not, in fact, possessed actual drugs. The Harris CIU's findings reflected another trend: 58 exonerations this year, nearly half of the total, were so-called "no-crime exonerations," which means, according to the NRE, "an accident or a suicide was mistaken for a crime, or&hellip;the exoneree was accused of a fabricated crime that never happened."</p> <p>Sam Gross, a University of Michigan criminal-justice expert who helps run the NRE, acknowledges that there's been a long-term rise in exonerations, but that the work of CIUs were the "engine" behind this record-setting year. He says it's likely that the number of exonerations could grow in 2015, with new districts opening their own CIUs. Despite the rising numbers, however, exonerations are still very difficult to obtain. "If we didn't get it right the first time," Gross says, "it's hard to be right the second time." If anything, the most lasting impact of CIUs' spotlight on past mistakes could be its role in preventing future errors. "It makes everyone involved sensitive to the fact that errors are possible and could happen to them," Gross says. "It's not an obscure thing that happens once in a while."</p></body></html> Politics Crime and Justice Prisons Top Stories Tue, 27 Jan 2015 11:00:10 +0000 Sam Brodey 268831 at http://www.motherjones.com Dust From Factory Farms Carries Drugs, Poop Bacteria, and Antibiotic-Resistant Genes Far and Wide http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2015/01/dust-factory-farms-antibiotic-resistant-genes <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Ever approached a feedlot teeming with thousands of cattle? Unlike industrialized hog and chicken farms, where huge enclosed buildings trap at least some of the smell, cattle feedlots are open-air&mdash;as anyone who has <a href="http://menzelphoto.photoshelter.com/gallery-image/CAFOs/G0000JkNFqjtOdaw/I0000y4Dyyimuzas/C0000rCs8qE.UG8E" target="_blank">driven Highway 5 between Los Angeles and San Francisco can testify</a>. Turns out, when you inhale the aroma, you're not just getting a blast of ammonia and other noxious fumes. You're also probably breathing in tiny particles of antibiotics, bacteria from cows' "fecal matter and gut flora," and antibiotic-resistant gene sequences. That's the conclusion of a <a href="http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/wp-content/uploads/advpub/2015/1/ehp.1408555.acco.pdf">new study</a> from Texas Tech researchers, who analyzed air samples taken just downwind of ten cattle feedlots in Texas and states to the north, each containing between 10,000 and 50,000 cows.</p> <p>The team placed portable air samplers 10-30 yards upwind and downwind of feedlots in the fall and winter months, when temperatures are mild and wind is moderate, and analyzed the particulate matter. Monenisin, an antibiotic growth promoter widely used on beef and dairy feedlots, turned up in 100 percent of samples, at much higher rates downwind (mean: 1,800 parts per billion) than upwind (below the level of measurement.) Now, monenisin isn't used in human medicine, meaning that it doesn&rsquo;t directly contribute to antibiotic resistance that affects us. But tetracycline antibiotics&mdash;used commonly to treat <a href="http://antibiotics.emedtv.com/tetracycline/tetracycline-uses.html">urinary tract infections and pink eye</a>&mdash;showed up in 60 percent of the downwind samples and 30 percent of the upwind samples, again at much lower levels upwind.</p> <p>To put these findings in perspective, the authors note they found antibiotics in the air outside of these feedlots at levels similar to those typically found within large enclosed hog operations&mdash;meaning that finding yourself 20 yards from a giant cattle lot is a lot like being <em>inside</em> a hog house. &nbsp;</p> <p>They also found bacteria "common to fecal matter and gut flora" at significantly higher levels downwind than upwind, including several that can cause human infections, including including <a href="http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/215100-overview">corynebacterium</a>), Leptospira, Clostridia, Bacteroides, and Staphylococcus.</p> <p>And they picked up gene sequences that confer resistance to tetracycline at rates thousands of time higher downwind than upwind. And get this: Those tetracycline-resistant genes appeared at much higher rates than those typically found in the liquid manure lagoons that build up in beef feedlots&mdash;meaning that wind may be even more prolific than water at spreading antibiotic-resistant genes from the farm to the surrounding region.</p> <p>So how is all this nasty stuff moving from the feedlot to the surrounding air? The authors offer a simple explanation: The ground in feedlots "consists primarily of urine and fecal material," the study notes. In the morning, all of that &hellip; stuff is relatively stable, held more or less in place by moisture from humidity. But after hours of sunlight, the floor material "becomes dry and brittle, thus becoming source material for fugitive dust."</p> <p>So what does this all add up to? The study doesn't comment on whether the particles the researchers found are at high enough levels to directly cause human harm. But that's not the main concern&mdash;most of us don't spend much time near massive concentrated cattle operations. (Feedlot workers are another story.) The larger issue is those antibiotic genes, traces of antibiotics, and fecal microbes that are being scattered far and wide. The authors note that of the nation's 2,100 large-scale (1000 head or greater) cattle feedlots, more than three-quarters are in the region of area study, the southern Great Plains (a swath stretching from northern Texas through parts of Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, and Colorado)&mdash;the very region with the "highest frequency of dust storms in the United States." The region's semi-arid conditions&mdash;as well its its propensity for prolonged droughts&mdash;provides an ideal environment for the "wind scouring of dry soils," and "aerial transport and deposition" of feedlot particles into "surrounding soil surfaces, water surfaces, vegetation, and other living organisms."</p> <p>And that's under calm weather conditions. "Fronts and other major weather patterns frequently sweep through this region, and are often associated with exceedingly high wind velocities which themselves transport significant masses of particulates into the atmosphere and across the region and continent," they add. And once in the environment, resistance genes can jump from bacteria that don't pose a threat to humans to ones that do, the authors note.</p> <p>The study is yet another reminder that the massive amounts of waste generated on factory farms don't stay on factory farms. (Here's a <a href="https://news.ncsu.edu/2011/01/014mkschalantibiotic/" target="_blank">2011 paper</a> from North Carolina State and Kansas State researchers showing that cockroaches and flies carry antibiotic-resistant bacteria from large hog facilities; and a <a href="http://oem.bmj.com/content/early/2014/09/05/oemed-2014-102095.full#ref-5" target="_blank">2014 one</a> from Johns Hopkins and University of North Carolina researchers finding that resistant bacteria leave the farm in the noses of workers.)</p></body></html> Tom Philpott Food and Ag Health Top Stories Tue, 27 Jan 2015 11:00:09 +0000 Tom Philpott 268821 at http://www.motherjones.com Democrats Accuse Republicans of a Benghazi Cover-Up http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/01/dems-accuse-republicans-benghazi-cover-up <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>It's back. Actually, it never left. Benghazi. That is, the GOP's never-ending Benghazi crusade. Last year, after Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) was tapped by House Speaker John Boehner to lead yet another Benghazi probe, he promised to helm an inquiry that would "transcend politics." But now, eight months into this latest investigation, Democrats on the House Select Committee on Benghazi have hit Gowdy with a sharp charge: that he and his Republican investigators have conducted secret meetings with witnesses without informing their Democratic colleagues on the committee. And they say that some of these interviews have yielded information that undercuts anti-Obama Benghazi allegations promoted by conservatives. In other words, the Democrats are suggesting that Gowdy has been mounting a Benghazi cover-up of his own.</p> <p>In November, Rep. Elijah Cummings, the senior Democrat on the Benghazi committee, sent Gowdy <a href="https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/1509403-2014-11-24-eec-to-tg-bipartisan-committee.html" target="_blank">a private letter</a> noting that though Gowdy had assured him that the committee's work would be conducted in a bipartisan manner, the five Democratic members of the panel and their staffer had been excluded from at least five witness interviews. Moreover, Cummings said these interviews had produced testimony that failed to corroborate key allegations.</p></body></html> <p style="font-size: 1.083em;"><a href="/politics/2015/01/dems-accuse-republicans-benghazi-cover-up"><strong><em>Continue Reading &raquo;</em></strong></a></p> Politics Congress Crime and Justice Obama The Right Top Stories Tue, 27 Jan 2015 01:02:44 +0000 David Corn 268886 at http://www.motherjones.com The FBI Just Arrested an Alleged Russian Spy Who Wanted to Know How to Trigger an Economic Meltdown http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/01/high-frequency-trading-russian-spies <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>On Friday, federal prosecutors in New York filed a complaint accusing three men, Evgeny Buryakov, Igor Sporyshev, and Victor Podobnyy, of spying for Russia. Buryakov, who was arrested in the Bronx on Monday, allegedly posed as a Russian bank official while working for Russia's intelligence service, the SVR. According to the <a href="https://www.motherjones.com/documents/1509342-buryakov-et-al-complaint" target="_blank">26-page complaint</a>, which was unsealed Monday, Buryakov had a good reason to choose that cover: He was interested in learning about high-speed Wall Street trading, automated trading algorithms, and "destabilization of markets."</p> <p>This is a real threat. As I <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/02/high-frequency-trading-danger-risk-wall-street" target="_blank">reported in 2013</a>, markets have become dramatically faster in the years since the <a href="http://edition.cnn.com/2008/BUSINESS/09/15/lehman.merrill.stocks.turmoil/index.html" target="_blank">collapse of Lehman Brothers</a>. Automated trading algorithms can buy and sell financial products in less time than it takes you to blink. Markets move way too fast for regulators to monitor. On August 1, 2012, rogue computer code at Knight Capital ran for 45 minutes before anyone at the firm could stop it. By the end of the day, the company was insolvent. And that was just "a canary in the mine," says <a href="http://www.law.umaryland.edu/faculty/profiles/faculty.html?facultynum=059" target="_blank">Michael Greenberger</a>, a University of Maryland law professor and former regulator at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). The big worry is trading algorithms causing "a series of cascade failures," warns Bill Black, another former regulator. "If enough of these bad things occur at the same time, financial institutions can begin to fail, even very large ones."</p> <p>So is it possible Russian spies are trying to find out how to purposefully unleash this chaos? The complaint doesn't make clear whether the alleged spies were trying to find out how to destabilize US markets or worried about Russian markets being destabilized. But "fears of algorithmic terrorism, where a well-funded criminal or terrorist organization could find a way to cause a major market crisis, are not unfounded," John Bates, a computer scientist who, in the early 2000s, designed software behind complicated trading algorithms, <a href="http://apama.typepad.com/my_weblog/2011/02/index.html" target="_blank">wrote in 2011</a>. "This type of scenario could cause chaos for civilization and profit for the bad guys and must constitute a matter of national security."</p> <p>According to the complaint, the FBI learned of the alleged spies' interest in market destabilization by eavesdropping on a May 2013 phone call between Buryakov and Sporyshev, a Russian trade representative. Sporyshev was the person "responsible for relaying assignments from Moscow Center to Buryakov," according to the complaint; Podobnyy was mostly responsible for "analyzing and reporting back to Moscow Center about the fruits of Buryakov's intelligence-gathering efforts." (Sporyshev and Podobnyy, who were protected by diplomatic immunity, were not arrested and have left the country.) Buryakov and Sporyshev usually met in person, but on that day they didn't have time. On the phone, Sporyshev asked Buryakov what questions an unnamed Russian news organization should ask New York Stock Exchange executives that would be useful to Russian intelligence, according to the complaint. Buryakov allegedly suggested the news organization inquire about high-frequency and automated trading systems.</p> <p>According to the complaint, Buryakov was especially interested in Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs), which are baskets of financial products that are combined and bought and sold like stocks. Many Americans might assume the Russians were interested in destabilizing American markets, but "it might be the other way around, where they are concerned with us attacking them," says Eric Hunsader, who runs Nanex, a market data firm that tracks high-speed trading. On April 23, 2014, Hunsader's company tracked <a href="http://www.nanex.net/aqck2/4619.html" target="_blank">extremely unusual movement</a> in trades of RSX, RUSL, and RUSS&mdash;three ETFs that are based on the Russian stock index. "It was something that was definitely manipulated," Hunsader says. "You don't generally see that kind of movement go on&hellip;Maybe they're concerned about us screwing with them."</p> <p>But here's another fear: If foreign intelligence services are looking into algorithms, high-speed trading, and destabilizing financial markets, nonstate actors are probably not that far behind.</p> <p>Here's a relevant excerpt from the complaint:</p> <div class="DC-note-container" id="DC-note-200527">&nbsp;</div> <script src="//s3.amazonaws.com/s3.documentcloud.org/notes/loader.js"></script><script> dc.embed.loadNote('//www.documentcloud.org/documents/1509342-buryakov-et-al-complaint/annotations/200527.js'); </script><p>Read the rest of the <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/documents/1509342-buryakov-et-al-complaint" target="_blank">complaint against the alleged Russian spies</a> here.</p></body></html> Politics Economy Foreign Policy Tech Top Stories Mon, 26 Jan 2015 23:04:03 +0000 Nick Baumann 268891 at http://www.motherjones.com Gaza in Arizona: How Israeli High-Tech Firms Will Up-Armor the US-Mexico Border http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/01/us-mexico-border-gaza-israeli-tech-wall%20 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><em>This <a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/175947/" target="_blank">story</a> first appeared on the </em><a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/" target="_blank">TomDispatch</a><em> website.</em></p> <p><a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com" target="_blank"><span class="inline inline-left"><img alt="" class="image image-preview" height="33" src="http://motherjones.com/files/images/tdispatch-notch.jpg" title="" width="100"></span></a></p> <p>It was October 2012. Roei Elkabetz, a brigadier general for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), was explaining his country's border policing strategies. In his PowerPoint presentation, a photo of the enclosure wall that isolates the Gaza Strip from Israel clicked onscreen. "We have learned lots from Gaza," he told the audience. "It's a great laboratory."</p> <p>Elkabetz was speaking at a border technology conference and fair surrounded by a dazzling display of technology&mdash;the components of his boundary-building lab. There were surveillance balloons with high-powered cameras floating over a desert-camouflaged armored vehicle made by Lockheed Martin. There were seismic sensor systems used to detect the movement of people and other wonders of the modern border-policing world. Around Elkabetz, you could see vivid examples of where the future of such policing was heading, as imagined not by a dystopian science fiction writer but by some of the top corporate techno-innovators on the planet.</p> <p>Swimming in a sea of border security, the brigadier general was, however, not surrounded by the Mediterranean but by a parched West Texas landscape. He was in El Paso, a 10-minute walk from the wall that separates the United States from Mexico.</p> <p>Just a few more minutes on foot and Elkabetz could have watched green-striped US Border Patrol vehicles inching along the trickling Rio Grande in front of Ciudad Juarez, one of Mexico's largest cities filled with US factories and the dead of that country's drug wars. The Border Patrol agents whom the general might have spotted were then being up-armored with a lethal combination of surveillance technologies, military hardware, assault rifles, helicopters, and drones. This once-peaceful place was being transformed into what Timothy Dunn, in his book <a href="http://www.amazon.com/dp/0292715803/ref=nosim/?tag=tomdispatch-20"><em>The Militarization of the US Mexico Border</em></a>, terms a state of "low-intensity warfare."</p> <p><br><strong>The Border Surge</strong></p> <p>On November 20, 2014, President Obama <a href="http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/11/20/remarks-president-address-nation-immigration">announced</a> a series of executive actions on immigration reform. Addressing the American people, he referred to bipartisan immigration legislation <a href="https://www.govtrack.us/congress/votes/113-2013/s168">passed</a> by the Senate in June 2013 that would, among other things, further up-armor the same landscape in what's been termed&mdash;in language adopted from recent US war zones&mdash;a "border surge." The president bemoaned the fact that the bill had been stalled in the House of Representatives, hailing it as a "compromise" that "reflected common sense." It would, he pointed out, "have doubled the number of Border Patrol agents, while giving undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship."</p></body></html> <p style="font-size: 1.083em;"><a href="/politics/2015/01/us-mexico-border-gaza-israeli-tech-wall%20"><strong><em>Continue Reading &raquo;</em></strong></a></p> Politics Immigration Military Tech Tom Dispatch Mon, 26 Jan 2015 22:51:42 +0000 Todd Miller and Gabriel M. Schivone 268861 at http://www.motherjones.com The Koch Brothers' Network Aims to Spend $889 Million on the 2016 Elections http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/01/koch-brothers-889-million-2016-elections <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>$889 million.</p> <p>That's how much Charles and David Koch's political network <a href="http://www.politico.com/story/2015/01/koch-2016-spending-goal-114604.html">hopes to spend</a> on the presidential race, House and Senate contests, and other elections and policy fights in 2016. That figure is not far off from&nbsp;how much President Barack Obama's and Mitt Romney's presidential efforts&nbsp;<a href="https://www.opensecrets.org/pres12/" target="_blank">each spent</a> in 2012. It is well over what John Kerry and George W. Bush <a href="https://www.opensecrets.org/pres04/index.php?graph=spending" target="_blank">together spent</a> during the 2004 campaign. This fundraising target was announced Monday morning&nbsp;at the Koch brothers' winter retreat for members of their elite donor network.</p> <p>And there's a good chance that much of the money the Kochs and their allies plan to unleash will be spent in the dark&mdash;that is, with little disclosure of the true source of those millions. (Key parts of the Koch network <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/koch-backed-political-network-built-to-shield-donors-raised-400-million-in-2012-elections/2014/01/05/9e7cfd9a-719b-11e3-9389-09ef9944065e_story.html" target="_blank">are nonprofit advocacy groups</a> that engage in political work without revealing their donors.)</p> <p>If the Koch network&mdash;which included <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/koch-backed-network-aims-to-spend-nearly-1-billion-on-2016-elections/2015/01/26/77a44654-a513-11e4-a06b-9df2002b86a0_story.html?postshare=2531422306006736">450 or so attendees</a>&nbsp;at this&nbsp;weekend's donor confab&mdash;meets it $889-million goal for 2016, it would more than double its outlay from the last presidential election season. During the 2012 campaign, the Kochs' collection of nonprofit groups spent <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/koch-backed-political-network-built-to-shield-donors-raised-400-million-in-2012-elections/2014/01/05/9e7cfd9a-719b-11e3-9389-09ef9944065e_story.html" target="_blank">over $400 million</a>, with a sizable chunk of that aimed at defeating President Obama.</p> <p>The Kochs and their donor-allies are now essentially their own political party. As the <em>New York Times</em>' Nick Confessore points out, the Koch network's $889 million exceeds the spending power&nbsp;of the Republican Party:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p>By comparison, the GOP's national campaign committees spent $657 million during the 2012 election cycle.</p> &mdash; Nick Confessore (@nickconfessore) <a href="https://twitter.com/nickconfessore/status/559818727508967424">January 26, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Here's some context from the <em>Washington Post</em> about how that money&mdash;it's unclear how much of it will come from the Koch family itself&mdash;could be spent:</p> <blockquote> <p>The $889 million goal reflects the budget goals of all the allied groups that the network funds. Those resources will go into field operations, new technology and policy work, among other projects.</p> <p>The group&mdash;which is supported by hundreds of wealthy donors on the right, along with the Kochs&mdash;is still debating whether it will spend some of that money in the GOP primaries. Such a move could have a major impact in winnowing the field of contenders but could also undercut the network&rsquo;s standing if it engaged in intraparty politics and was not successful.</p> </blockquote> <p>Marc Short, the president of Freedom Partners, which hosts the Kochs' donor enclaves, told the <em>Post</em> that "2014 was nice, but there&rsquo;s a long way to go." He said that putting free-market ideals at the center of American life is the goal of the Kochs and their allies, adding, "Politics is a necessary means to that end, but not the only one."</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/10/koch-brothers-web-dark-money" target="_blank"><img alt="the koch 130" class="hover-opacity" src="/files/thekoch130-promo.jpg"></a></div></body></html> Politics 2016 Elections Dark Money Elections The Right Mon, 26 Jan 2015 22:24:42 +0000 Andy Kroll 268896 at http://www.motherjones.com Scott Walker Is the Winner in 2016's First Republican Campaign Cattle Call http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/01/scott-walker-winner-2016s-first-republican-campaign-cattle-call <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Rep. Steve King (R&ndash;Tea Partyville) held his big annual Republican confab in Iowa this weekend, and most of the 2016 wannabe candidates for president were there. But I know you're all busy people who don't care about the details. You<iframe align="right" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="258" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/tmra5Xp_T10" style="margin: 20px 20px 15px 30px;" width="400"></iframe>just want to know who won. <a href="http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/political-animal-a/2015_01/steve_kings_cattle_call053885.php" target="_blank">Take it away, Ed Kilgore:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The consensus winner (first announced by <em>National Review's</em> John Fund, but echoed by many others) was Scott Walker, who did exactly what he needed to do: show he could twist and shout with the best of them despite his "boring" image, <strong>and make an electability argument based on the fruits of confrontation rather than compromise.</strong> This latter dimension of his appeal should not be underestimated: at a time when MSM types and (more subtly) Jeb Bush and Chris Christie continue to suggest Republicans must become less feral to reach beyond their base, here's Walker saying he won three elections in four years in a blue state by going medieval on unions, abortionists and Big Government. So Walker's passed his first test in the challenge of proving he's not Tim Pawlenty, and that's a big deal given his excellent positioning in the field.</p> </blockquote> <p>Kilgore's "Tim Pawlenty" comment is a reference to Midwestern boringness, which has generally been seen as Walker's chief shortcoming. You can judge for yourself if you watch his 20-minute speech in Iowa, but I'd say he still has some work to do on this score. He wasn't terrible, but he never sounded to me like he really struck a connection with the crowd. He knew the words but not the tune&mdash;and even his words were a little too stilted and lifeless. Anytime you deliver an applause line and nothing happens, your words still need some work. And anytime you deliver an applause line, fail to wait for applause, then interrupt yourself to tell the crowd "you can clap for that, that's all right"&mdash;well, your delivery needs some work too.</p> <p>I'm on record saying that I think Walker is the strongest candidate in the Republican field. He's got the right views, he's got a winning record, he's got the confrontational style tea partiers love, and he doesn't come across as a kook. But yes, he needs to work on the whole charisma thing. If he gets serious about that, I still like his chances in the 2016 primaries.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum 2016 Elections Mon, 26 Jan 2015 22:05:14 +0000 Kevin Drum 268901 at http://www.motherjones.com