MoJo Blogs and Articles | Mother Jones Mother Jones logo en Friday Cat Blogging - 19 September 2014 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_squirrel_2014_09_19.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 20px 15px 30px;">We have a very busy squirrel in our backyard. He is tireless in his quest to find pine cones and bury them in our garden. In fact, every time Marian goes out to do some gardening, she routinely digs up half a dozen pine cones. They're everywhere. But squirrels are squirrely little critters, and it's hard to catch them in the act. Yesterday, however, our local squirrel was zipping across our fence with a pine cone in its mouth, and stopped just long enough for me to acquire hard photographic evidence of his hardworking ways. If I were a squirrel, I'd spend my autumns just keeping an eye on this guy so that I could pilfer his treasure during winter.</p> <p>In other news, certain of my family members were annoyed with my choice of catblogging photo last week. They wanted the picture of Mozart snoozing on my mother's car with his face reflected in the paint job. Well, patience is a virtue, and this week that's the picture you get. As for next week, who knows? Perhaps by then we'll no longer have a need for guest cats.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_mozart_2014_09_19.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 5px 65px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 19 Sep 2014 18:47:45 +0000 Kevin Drum 260641 at Thanks to Obamacare, Way Fewer Women Have To Pay Extra For Birth Control <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>There's some good&nbsp;news for women who would rather not pay an arm and a leg to keep from getting pregnant.</p> <p>The Guttmacher Institute, which tracks reproductive health costs, has been <a href="" target="_blank">periodically surveying</a> a group of 1,800 privately insured women ages 18-39 about how much they pay out of pocket for various kinds of birth control. The first survey was in the fall of 2012, just before the Affordable Care Act&nbsp;required insurance plans to stop applying co-pays or deductibles to&nbsp;most contraceptives. At the time, only 15 percent of the women said they didn't have to pay anything over and beyond their monthly premiums. By the spring of 2014, that percentage had more than quadrupled.</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="375" mozallowfullscreen="mozallowfullscreen" msallowfullscreen="msallowfullscreen" oallowfullscreen="oallowfullscreen" src="//" webkitallowfullscreen="webkitallowfullscreen" width="100%"></iframe></p> <p>It's not just women who benefit. Given that contraception is <a href="" target="_blank">far cheaper</a>&nbsp;than the cost of unintended pregnancies, there are also plenty of savings for employers and insurers. So why do roughly one out of three women with private insurance still have to pay extra for the Pill, say, when the ACA supposedly forbids it? According to Judy Waxman, vice president of health and reproductive rights at the National Women's Law Center, many women are still on plans established before March 2010 that were "<a href="" target="_blank">grandfathered</a>" into the law, meaning they don't have to comply with the new rules. If an insurer wants to change a plan significantly, however, it'll lose the exemption. About a quarter of health plans still have the grandfather status, Waxman says, but they're disappearing fast.</p> <p>Then, of course, there's the <a href="" target="_blank">Hobby Lobby contingent</a>: employers who say their religious objections to birth control should excuse them from covering some, if not all, forms of it. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, <a href="" target="_blank">90 religious challenges</a> are now pending in the federal courts, and judges have allowed many employers to withhold coverage of contraceptives until their cases are&nbsp;resolved. (The ACA already exempts churches, religious colleges, and certain other institutions from its mandate.)</p> <p>There are a handful of insurers still charging extra for birth control in violation of the law, says Adam Sonfield, a public policy analyst at&nbsp;Guttmacher and an author of the study. Either they don't understand the rules, haven't yet updated their billing procedures, or are breaking the law deliberately. "The way insurance is regulated is pretty diffuse," he says. "We know there are still insurers out there inappropriately interpreting the rules."</p> <p>The National Women's Law Center has&nbsp;a <a href="" target="_blank">step-by-step guide</a> on its website for women who think they're being charged when they shouldn't be. It's unclear, Waxman says, how many women have convinced their insurers to fix the problems, but the center is applying pressure and working with insurers and state officials when they catch wind of a conflict.</p> <p>Overall, Sonfield and Waxman see the Guttmacher numbers as a big win. And given how <a href="" target="_blank">surprisingly expensive</a> it can be just to cover the out-of-pocket costs, the report makes the recent GOP <a href="" target="_blank">push</a> for over-the-counter contraceptives&mdash;leaving women to pay the full price&mdash;even less attractive. "This analysis shows that the contraceptive coverage guarantee under the ACA is working as intended," Sonfield <a href="" target="_blank">writes</a>. Adds Waxman: "It's a great improvement."</p></body></html> Politics Charts Regulatory Affairs Religion Reproductive Rights Sex and Gender Top Stories Fri, 19 Sep 2014 18:38:03 +0000 Tasneem Raja 260601 at Quote of the Day: Nathan Deal Is Tired of Barack Obama's Treachery <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>From Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, apparently upset that his tax-fighting economic policies aren't yet producing a <a href="" target="_blank">paradise on earth:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>It&rsquo;s ironic that in a year in which Republican governors are leading some of the states that are making the most progress, that they almost, without exception, are classified as having a bump in their unemployment rates. Whereas states that are under Democrat governors&rsquo; control, they are all showing that their unemployment rate has dropped. And I don&rsquo;t know how you account for that. <strong>Maybe there is some influence here that we don&rsquo;t know about.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Maybe! It might be that the Obama administration is cooking the books to make Republicans looks bad. Or maybe Democrats in Georgia are deliberately refusing work in order to spike the unemployment numbers. Or&mdash;and this is my suspicion&mdash;maybe computers have finally acquired human-level intelligence and they don't like Nathan Deal! If I were a computer, I sure wouldn't.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum The Right Fri, 19 Sep 2014 17:26:40 +0000 Kevin Drum 260631 at When I Was 5, I, Um -- What Were We Just Talking About? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_shrug.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">I remember approximately diddly-squat<sup>1</sup> about my childhood. But why? Melissa Dahl <a href="" target="_blank">explains the latest research to me today:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The way parents tend to talk to their sons is different from the way they talk to their daughters. Mothers tend to introduce more snippets of new information in conversations with their young daughters than they do with their young sons, research has shown. And moms tend to ask more questions about girls&rsquo; emotions; <strong>with boys, on the other hand, they spend more time talking about what they should do with those feelings.</strong></p> <p>This is at least partially a product of parents acting on gender expectations they may not even realize they have, and the results are potentially long-lasting, explained Azriel Grysman, a psychologist at Hamilton College who studies gender differences and memory. &ldquo;The message that girls are getting is that talking about your feelings is part of describing an event,&rdquo; Grysman said....&ldquo;And it&rsquo;s quite possible, over time, that those tendencies will help women establish more connections in their brains of different pieces of an event, which will lead to better memory long-term.&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>So I can blame my crappy memory on my mother? Cool.</p> <p><sup>1</sup>This is a technical term used by neurologists and memory researchers.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Science Fri, 19 Sep 2014 17:06:55 +0000 Kevin Drum 260626 at Guy Buys First New iPhone, Immediately Drops It On National TV <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>It's new iPhone day! All around the globe thousands of hungry ducks are lining up to be one of the first few to get their hands on Cupertino's fresh new phones. In Perth, "a boy called Jack" got the very first one. Naturally, he was swarmed by media, which led to this:</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="//" width="630"></iframe></p> <p>Thankfully, <a href="" target="_blank">the iPhone was not hurt</a>.</p> <p><em>Mother Jones </em>Senior Australian <a href="" target="_blank">James West </a>was not immediately available for comment.</p></body></html> Mixed Media Tech Fri, 19 Sep 2014 16:22:21 +0000 Ben Dreyfuss 260621 at The Justice Department Claims This Defamation Case Will Reveal State Secrets—But Won't Say How <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>In an unprecedented move, Attorney General Eric Holder has intervened in a defamation lawsuit, seeking to have the case thrown out on the grounds that it will <a href="" target="_blank">reveal state secrets</a>&mdash;without publicly explaining how it would do so. On Wednesday, a lawyer for the plaintiff in the case, a Greek business mogul accused of doing business with Iran, fired back at Holder in a letter to the court that essentially says: Prove it.</p> <p>Dismissal of the lawsuit, which was <a href="" target="_blank">filed in federal court</a> in 2013, would be highly unusual. Neither party in the suit is connected to the government, and the Justice Department insists on keeping its interest in this case a mystery. In the past when the Justice Department has invoked state secrets, a high-ranking official has offered a public explanation to the court. But Holder asserts that in this case, he cannot discuss the Justice Department's reasoning, nor the agency or information that the lawsuit might compromise.</p></body></html> <p style="font-size: 1.083em;"><a href="/politics/2014/09/eric-holder-state-secrets-defamation-lawsuit-iran"><strong><em>Continue Reading &raquo;</em></strong></a></p> Politics Civil Liberties Obama Top Stories Fri, 19 Sep 2014 16:09:40 +0000 Molly Redden 260541 at Republicans Really, Really Want to Send Ground Troops Into Iraq <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>I missed this <a href="" target="_blank">NYT/CBS poll</a> when it came out a couple of days ago, but a friend pointed it out to me this morning. I don't think much comment is necessary. It's pretty easy to see how the fight against ISIS is going to turn into a massive game of Munich-mongering and appeasement-baiting in short order. Yikes.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_poll_ground_troops_isis.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 6px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Iraq Military Obama The Right Fri, 19 Sep 2014 14:44:42 +0000 Kevin Drum 260616 at Obama Signs Order to Take Away Your Antibiotics <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href=";action=click&amp;pgtype=Homepage&amp;version=HpSum&amp;module=second-column-region&amp;region=top-news&amp;WT.nav=top-news&amp;_r=0" target="_blank">Here's the latest from the White House:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The Obama administration on Thursday announced measures to tackle the growing threat of antibiotic resistance, outlining a national strategy that includes incentives for the development of new drugs, tighter stewardship of existing ones, and improvements in tracking the use of antibiotics and the microbes that are resistant to them.</p> <p>....John P. Holdren, the director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, told reporters that the new strategy &mdash; <strong>established by an executive order that President Obama signed on Thursday</strong> &mdash; was intended to jolt the federal government into action to combat a health crisis that many experts say it has been slow to recognize.</p> </blockquote> <p>I guess we can all see where this is going, right? It'll start with Alex Jones, maybe, and then Glenn Beck will catch the infection. Drudge will get it next, then Limbaugh, and finally the entire crew of Fox News will come down with it. The tyrant Obama is taking our amoxicillin away from us! Think of the children and their earaches!</p> <p>Sadly, there's no treatment for this airborne virus. We just have to let it burn itself out. Maybe someday scientists will find a cure for <em>vox bardus</em>.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Health Care Obama Fri, 19 Sep 2014 14:30:04 +0000 Kevin Drum 260611 at We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for September 19, 2014 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p class="rtecenter"><em>US Marines board the USS Germantown, an amphibious dock landing ship in the Philippine Sea. (US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Amanda R. Gray)</em></p></body></html> MoJo Military Fri, 19 Sep 2014 13:42:30 +0000 260606 at These Stunning Photos of Greenland's "Dark Snow" Should Worry You <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="black ice" class="image" src="/files/jason-box-snow-630.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>Isn't ice supposed to be white? </strong>Jason Box<br> &nbsp;</div> </div> <p><em>This <a href="" target="_blank">story</a> originally appeared in </em><a href="" target="_blank">Slate</a> <em>and is republished here as part of our <a href="" target="_blank">Climate Desk</a> collaboration.</em></p> <p>Jason Box knows ice. That's why what's happened this year concerns him so much.</p> <p>Box just returned from a trip to Greenland. Right now, the ice there is&hellip;black:</p> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="black snow" class="image" src="/files/box-snow-1-630.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>Dark ice is helping Greenland's glaciers retreat. </strong>Jason Box</div> </div> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="crevasses" class="image" src="/files/box-snow-2-630.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>Crevasses criss-cross the Greenland ice sheet, allowing melt water to descend deep beneath the ice. </strong>Jason Box</div> </div> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="dark ice" class="image" src="/files/box-snow-3-630.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>This year, Greenland's ice was the darkest it's ever been. </strong>Jason Box</div> </div> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="unusual" class="image" src="/files/box-snow-4-630.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>Box and his team are trying to discover what made this year's melt season so unusual. </strong>Jason Box</div> </div> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="black flag" class="image" src="/files/box-snow-5-630.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>Box marks his study sites, appropriately, with black flags. </strong>Jason Box</div> </div> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="dark snow" class="image" src="/files/box-snow-6-630.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>Box's 'Dark Snow' project is the first scientific expedition to Greenland to be crowdfunded. </strong>Jason Box</div> </div> <p>The ice in Greenland this year isn't just a little dark&mdash;it's record-setting dark. Box says he's never seen anything like it. I spoke to Box by phone earlier this month, just days after he returned from his summer field research campaign.</p> <p>"I was just stunned, really," Box told me.</p> <p>The photos he took this summer in Greenland are frightening. But their implications are even more so. Just like black cars are hotter to the touch than white ones on sunny summer days, dark ice melts much more quickly.</p> <p>As a member of the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, Box travels to Greenland from his home in Copenhagen to track down the source of the soot that's speeding up the glaciers' disappearance. He aptly calls his crowdfunded scientific survey <a href="" target="blank">Dark Snow</a>.</p> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="melt season" class="image" src="/files/box-snow-7-630.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>This year was another above-average melt season in Greenland. </strong>National Snow and Ice Data Center</div> </div> <p>There are several potential explanations for what's going on here. The most likely is that some combination of increasingly infrequent summer snowstorms, wind-blown dust, microbial activity, and forest fire soot led to this year's exceptionally dark ice. A more ominous possibility is that what we're seeing is the start of a cascading feedback loop tied to global warming. Box mentions this summer's <a href="" target="blank">mysterious Siberian holes</a> and <a href="" target="blank">offshore methane bubbles</a> as evidence that the Arctic can quickly change in unpredictable ways.</p> <p>This year, Greenland's ice sheet was the darkest Box (or anyone else) has ever measured. Box gives the stunning stats: "In 2014 the ice sheet is&nbsp;precisely&nbsp;5.6 percent darker, producing an additional absorption of energy&nbsp;equivalent with roughly twice the US annual electricity consumption."</p> <p>Perhaps coincidentally, 2014 will also be the year with the highest number of forest fires ever measured in Arctic.</p> <p>Box ran these numbers exclusively for <em>Slate</em>, and what he found shocked him. Since comprehensive satellite measurements began in 2000, never before have Arctic wildfires been as powerful as this year. In fact, over the last two or three years, Box calculated that Arctic fires have been burning at a rate that's double that of just a decade ago. Box felt this finding was so important that he didn't want to wait for peer review, and instead decided to publish first on <em>Slate</em>. He's planning on submitting these and other recent findings to a formal scientific journal later this year.</p> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="fires" class="image" src="/files/box-snow-8-630.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>Arctic and sub-Arctic fires were more powerful in 2014 than ever recorded before. </strong>Jason Box/NASA</div> </div> <p>Box's findings are in line with recent research that shows the Arctic is in the midst of dramatic change.</p> <p>In total, more than <a href="" target="blank">3.3 million hectares</a> burned in Canada's Northwest Territories alone this year&mdash;nearly 9 times the long term average&mdash;resulting in a charred area bigger than the states of Connecticut and Massachusetts combined. That figure includes the massive Birch Creek Complex, which could end up being the <a href=";theprefvalue=0" target="blank">biggest wildfire</a> in modern Canadian history. In July, it spread a smoke plume all the way to Portugal.</p> <p>In <a href="" target="blank">an interview</a> with Canada's <em>National Post</em> earlier this year, NASA scientist Douglas Morton said, "It's a major event in the life of the earth system to have a huge set of fires like what you are seeing in Western Canada."</p> <p>Box says the real challenge is to rank what fraction of the soot he finds on the Greenland ice is from forest fires, and what is from other sources, like factories. Box says the decline of snow cover in other parts of the Arctic (like Canada) is also exposing more dirt to the air, which can then be more easily transported by the wind. Regardless of their ultimate darkening effect on Greenland, this year's vast Arctic fires have become a major new source of greenhouse gas emissions from the thawing Arctic. Last year, <a href="" target="blank">NASA scientists found</a> "amazing" levels of carbon dioxide and methane emanating from Alaskan permafrost.</p> <p>Earlier this year, Box <a href="" target="blank">made headlines</a> for a strongly worded statement along these lines:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p>If even a small fraction of Arctic sea floor carbon is released to the atmosphere, we're f'd.</p> &mdash; Jason Box (@climate_ice) <a href="">July 29, 2014</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>That tweet landed Box in a bit of hot water with his department, which he said now has to approve his media appearances. Still, Box's sentiment is inspiring millions. His "f'd" quote is serving as the centerpiece of a <a href="" target="blank">massive petition</a> (with nearly 2 million signatures at last count) that the activist organization Avaaz will deliver to "national, local, and international leaders" at this month's global warming rally in New York City on Sept. 21.</p></body></html> Environment Climate Change Climate Desk International Top Stories Fri, 19 Sep 2014 11:00:06 +0000 Eric Holthaus 260576 at