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Green / Sustainability

It's time for a new perspective on the population crisis

Sustainability | SmartBrief - Fri, 08/28/2015 - 3:18pm
Overpopulation is a serious issue, but one that too often sparks simplistic, either-or discussions in terms of fertility rate -More

Judge says Army Corps must repair wetlands

Sustainability | SmartBrief - Fri, 08/28/2015 - 3:18pm
A federal judge has ruled that the Army Corps of Engineers must spend $3 billion to repair wetlands it damaged during constru -More

Consumers don't like to be bamboozled by buzzwords

Sustainability | SmartBrief - Fri, 08/28/2015 - 3:18pm
Consumers like green buzzwords -- but only the ones they think they understand, writes Suzanne Shelton.  -More

Why green leaders must be team-builders

Sustainability | SmartBrief - Fri, 08/28/2015 - 3:18pm
Sustainability leaders must be team-builders if they want to bring about organizational change, writes Beth Heider, chief sus -More

Offshore transformer could cut connection costs by 40%

Sustainability | SmartBrief - Fri, 08/28/2015 - 3:18pm
Siemens has developed a transformer module for offshore turbines that could reduce grid connection costs by up to 40%, accord -More

GE vies for top spot in emerging US offshore wind industry

Sustainability | SmartBrief - Fri, 08/28/2015 - 3:18pm
GE is working to become a key player in the burgeoning American offshore wind industry, writes analyst Scott Levine.  -More

Learn to control your emotions

Sustainability | SmartBrief - Fri, 08/28/2015 - 3:18pm
Your fight-or-flight reflexes kick in when you're faced with high-pressure work situations, but you can calm yourself, listen -More

The Anti-Birthright-Citizenship Brigade

Environment & Health | Mother Jones - Fri, 08/28/2015 - 6:00am

For the past several years, the issue of birthright citizenship has slowly worked its way into the Republican agenda. Bills to end birthright citizenship for undocumented immigrants have routinely cropped up in Congress. So-called "anchor babies" have become a political target on the right. But now, thanks to GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump's call to end birthright citizenship for the children of undocumented immigrants, the issue is front and center, forcing the other 16 Republican candidates to make an uncomfortable choice: support rolling back the 14th Amendment, which granted equal rights to former slaves after the Civil War, or look weak on unauthorized immigration.

Enter John Eastman and Lino Graglia, two conservative constitutional scholars offering the Republican candidates a third option: an alternative history of the 14th Amendment. In their telling, the amendment was never intended to grant citizenship to the children of undocumented people. In other words, Trump and those who agree with him are not calling to repeal the 14th Amendment. They are calling to restore it.

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How Top GOP Donors Got Jeb Bush to Facilitate a Hurricane Katrina Cruise-Ship Boondoggle

Environment & Health | Mother Jones - Fri, 08/28/2015 - 6:00am

Trailing Donald Trump in the polls by a widening margin, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is trying to use the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina on Saturday to highlight his successes in crisis response. On Tuesday, his presidential campaign released a two-minute ad promoting Bush's handling of hurricanes as governor.

Bush has been widely praised for his response to Katrina, in contrast with the criticism his brother, George W. Bush, faced as president in addressing the disaster. But one thing Jeb Bush is not likely to mention on the anniversary is how he helped Carnival Cruise Lines—via a major GOP donor—land a quarter-billion-dollar federal contract to house people displaced by the hurricane. The fast-tracked contract sent $236 million to the Florida-based cruise company, but the ships sat half empty for weeks, according to the Associated Press, which wrote in 2006 that the deal "has been criticized by lawmakers of both parties as a prime example of wasted spending in Hurricane Katrina-related contracts."

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Watch the Grieving Father of the Slain Virginia Reporter Make an Emotional Plea for Gun Control

Environment & Health | Mother Jones - Thu, 08/27/2015 - 11:32am

The father of a Virginia journalist who was gunned down during a live TV broadcast delivered an emotional message about gun laws during an interview with Fox News on Wednesday night.

"We can only take some solace in the fact that she had a wonderful life, she was extremely happy," Andy Parker told Fox News' Megyn Kelly of his late daughter, Alison.

Alison, a reporter for Virginia station WDBJ, was shot on Wednesday morning along with photographer and cameraman Adam Ward. The police say the suspected gunman was Vester Flanagan, who also used the name Bryce Williams. He died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

As Andy Parker struggled through tears, he said he wanted to honor his daughter by taking a powerful stand: "We have got to do something about crazy people getting guns."

The suspected shooter, a former reporter for WDBJ, had been fired and escorted by the police off the TV station's premises in 2013. His firing came after several incidents in which he acted aggressively toward colleagues, station officials say. After Flanagan allegedly opened fire on Wednesday, ABC says a man claiming to be Bryce Williams sent a 23-page fax to the network, praising the gunmen responsible for the shootings at Virginia Tech and Columbine. The document also said racism played a role in Wednesday's shooting, and that the alleged shooter had gotten the gun days after the Charleston shooting in June.

The tragedy has sparked renewed calls for tighter gun control measures, which have historically been difficult to pass in Virginia. Since the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre that left 32 dead, gun laws have actually loosened in the state. Background checks are currently not required to purchase firearms at gun shows.

Hours after the shooting on Wednesday, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe said he would continue to push for gun control legislation, even though he was unable to pass a package in January that included restrictions on handgun purchases and new requirements for background checks. As The Huffington Post reports

"I've proposed this now twice to the General Assembly. I ran on the topic. It was part of my platform that we need tougher gun laws in the Commonwealth," McAuliffe said during a Wednesday morning appearance on WTOP's monthly "Ask the Governor" program, in which listeners and live blog readers can pose questions.  

"I will continue to push [gun control] as I have in two legislative sessions so far," he said. "I put it up again last year. It never sees the light of day."

Allison's father Andy vowed to keep fighting as well, telling Fox that he would make gun control his "mission in life":

"Whatever it takes to get gun legislation, to shame people, to shame legislators into doing something about closing loopholes and background checks and making sure crazy people don't get guns," he said. "So, this is not the last you have heard of me—this is something that is Alison's legacy that I want to make happen." 

Window Material Can Let in Sunshine While Blocking Heat

Green Living | Scientific American - Thu, 08/27/2015 - 9:07am
Researchers have developed a material that could allow you to block the heat while still enjoying the bright sunshine. These “smart windows” can also block light, while still allowing...

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These Two Candidates Are Winning the Race for Small Donors

Environment & Health | Mother Jones - Thu, 08/27/2015 - 6:00am

Political campaigns often try to portray themselves as driven by grassroots support, but they face a formidable obstacle: Most Americans don't ever make a campaign donation. Even Barack Obama, renowned for his ability to reach out to grassroots donors, got just 33 percent of his 2012 campaign's cash from people contributing less than $200. With the cost of elections rising, it's increasingly rare for a candidate to get a sizable proportion of his or her campaign cash from small donors. So far in this presidential race, just two candidates have managed to do so—and they're not two people who often find themselves in the same sentence.

Ben Carson and Bernie Sanders, two longshot candidates who have outperformed expectations in the polls, have accumulated a far higher percentage of their campaign funds from small donors than any of the other candidates, according to an analysis from the Campaign Finance Institute.

Of the $350 million that CFI counts as having been raised so far this cycle by candidates and super-PACs, just $42 million, or 12 percent, came from donors giving less than $200. By contrast, 31 percent came from the 56 donors who gave $1 million or more, and more than half came from the 474 donors who gave $100,000 or more.

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4 Reasons Why a Biden Run Would Help Sanders

Environment & Health | Mother Jones - Wed, 08/26/2015 - 3:50pm

The politerati are getting a slight break from Trumpalooza these days, thanks to the Biden Bump. The veep has been actively discussing a possible presidential run with Democratic donors and strategists as he moves toward a final decision, and political handicappers have upped the odds that Biden, still coping with the recent death of his 46-year-old son Beau, will enter the fray. This has led to a torrent of speculation about what Biden will do and what a last-minute leap might mean for the 2016 race. Could it hurt the once-inevitable-but-now-email-burdened Hillary Clinton by providing Nervous-Nellie Democrats with an alternative? Could it help Clinton by offering her a more establishment-oriented sparring partner to vanquish—which would yield a positive narrative for her campaign?

The other day, Sen. Bernie Sanders, the independent seeking the Democratic nomination who has drawn thousands to rallies and boomed in recent polls, was asked how a Biden bid would affect the contest. He characteristically pooh-poohed the question. "Politics is not a soap opera," he said. "What impact it will have on the race, I honestly don’t know. I mean, I wish I could tell you, but I don’t. Will it help or hurt me? Will it help or hurt Hillary Clinton? I just don’t know."

Yet there are several reasons why a Biden run would be good for Sanders.

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You Need to Read This Former NFL Lineman's Heartbreaking Message About Race and Bullying

Environment & Health | Mother Jones - Wed, 08/26/2015 - 2:25pm

Jonathan Martin, the ex-professional football player known best for being at the center of a major NFL bullying investigation, retired earlier this summer. At the time, reports indicated that the 26-year-old Pittsburgh native was quitting due to a back injury that would have kept him off the field for the entire upcoming season. But many thought that the bullying scandal—according to an NFL investigation, some of his Miami Dolphins teammates constantly taunted him with jokes about his sexuality and race—had much more to do with it.

Martin posted a candid, raw note to Twitter on Wednesday, revealing that he'd attempted suicide on "multiple occasions" and writing that he hoped telling his side of the story might "help some other chubby, goofy, socially-isolated, sensitive kid getting bullied in America who feels like no one in the world cares about them." Read more of his note below (the actual tweet is embedded at the bottom):

You move to Los Angeles at 10 & attend JTD, then Harvard Westlake, both environments that are completely new to you. You're one of just a handful of minorities in elite private schools. You learn to tone down your size & blackness by becoming shy, introverted, friendly, so you won't scare the little rich white kids or their parents. Neither black nor white people accept you because they don't understand you. It takes away your self-confidence, your self-worth, your sanity.

You've been told you're not "black enough" your entire life. It nearly destroys you, many times, not fitting in. Your talent & accomplishments on the field never seem to be able to overcome the demons that you carry with you from your middle school and high school experience. You're always inadequate, always the "pussy," the "weird kid who acts white."

You overcompensate, create a persona separate from who you really are, use it as motivation to gain respect from playing a game. Make a fool of yourself at times. Anything in the quest to one day to feel "cool." You see football as the only thing that you are good at, your only avenue to make the shy, depressed, weird kid from high school "cool." To the outside world, many assume you to be somewhat egotistical, womanizing, over-the-top; a typical football player.

Years later, your time in the NFL is a wake up call. In all likelihood, anyone else in your shitty locker room situation probably wouldn't take everything so personally, would've been able to brush it off and say "fuck it, you're making millions. You're starting as a rookie. You're living your dream." But you're different. Have always been different. Have always been more sensitive.

You thought your same work ethic that had made you a two-time All-American, a 2nd Rd NFL draft pick, would earn you respect. After all, you have achieved what only a select few other first-year players achieved: starting all 16 games, barely missing a snap.

You are very wrong. You realize years later, reflecting on your experiences, that sometimes you need to take what you want, what you earned, from people who refuse to give it to you. You need to demand respect, and be willing to fight for it every day. The whitewashed, hermetically-sealed bubble you grew up in and were educated in did not provide any of those lessons.

You were raised in a good household. You know that you are a flawed person. Have done stupid, regrettable things. But you know right from wrong. And consider integrity to be incredibly important. The worst thing of all, in your mind, is being called a liar.

Your job leads you to attempt to kill yourself on multiple occasions. Your self-perceived social inadequacy dominates your every waking moment & thought. You're petrified of going to work. You either sleep 12, 14, 16, hours a day when you can, or not at all. You drink too much, smoke weed constantly, have trouble focusing on doing your job, playing the sport that you grew up obsessed with.

But one day, you realize how absurd your current mindset is, that this shit doesn't matter. People don't matter. Money doesn't matter. Fame and notoriety sure as hell don't matter. Nothing matters besides your family, a few close friends, and your own personal happiness.

You play another year and a half and get badly injured. You want to keep playing, but having broken free of the addiction that football had been, you know inside that risking permanent debilitating injury isn't worth it. So you retire.

You realize that your experiences have taught you that you need to leave the baggage behind. "Friends" who you played high school football with saying whatever to get their name in an article. Former coaches blowing up your phone trying to be your financial advisor. Your god father suddenly appearing your senior year of college out of thin air bearing gifts, trying to get tickets to your games & slyly asking your parents to manage your money.

You realize who truly has had your back. Who the people are who you need to embrace. And cherish every moment you have had with them. You let your demons go, knowing that, perhaps, sharing your story can help some other chubby, goofy, socially-isolated, sensitive kid getting bullied in America who feels like no one in the world cares about them.

And let them know that they aren't alone.

If you don't know... Now you know

— Jonathan A. Martin (@J_Martin71) August 26, 2015

GOP Uses New Loophole to Crush Democratic Party in Fundraising

Environment & Health | Mother Jones - Wed, 08/26/2015 - 6:00am

Last December, the outgoing Congress slipped language into a spending bill that created a loophole allowing donors to make much larger contributions to political parties. Both parties supported the rule change at the time. But only one has been able to capitalize on it. According to filings last week, the Republican National Committee has raised nearly 10 times as much as its Democratic counterpart from donors who took advantage of the new loophole.

Following the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court decision that ushered in an era of unlimited donations to outside groups backing political campaigns, the super-PACs supporting presidential candidates have brought in eye-popping hauls. Jeb Bush's super-PAC has raised more than $100 million, and a single donor cut a $10 million check to a Ted Cruz super-PAC. Party committees, which have seen their influence diminished as outside money flows freely, have tried to get creative in boosting their fundraising totals. The RNC, which will spend heavily on both the presidential race and congressional battles next year, has been much more successful: It's raised $63 million this year, including $7.7 million in the month of July. The DNC has raised just $36.4 million, and $4.9 million in July.

That's a reversal from the last presidential election cycle. In July 2011, as the 2012 election loomed, the DNC had raised $50.6 million, to $43 million for the RNC.

A substantial portion of the Republican advantage comes from the new loophole. Previously, donors could contribute a maximum of $32,400 per year to the party. Now they can give not only $33,400 to the main fundraising accounts of the RNC and DNC (the same amount as last year, adjusted for inflation), but an additional $100,200 to three auxiliary fundraising accounts. That means an individual donor can now give a total of $334,600 a year to either party.

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This Is What Would Happen if We Repealed Birthright Citizenship

Environment & Health | Mother Jones - Wed, 08/26/2015 - 6:00am

After launching his presidential bid by calling Mexican immigrants "rapists," Donald Trump last week unveiled his plan for immigration reform: He'd "take back our country," as he put it on Fox News, by building a 2,000-mile wall at the southern border. He would deport all undocumented immigrants and defund so-called "sanctuary cities." He would create criminal penalties for anyone overstaying a visa—roughly 4.4 million people. And notably, he would seek to end the practice of birthright citizenship, which currently allows anyone born in the United States—including the children of undocumented immigrants—to automatically become citizens.

As the New York Times editorial board highlighted, six other Republican candidates have now joined the anti-birthright bandwagon, including Lindsey Graham, Rand Paul, Rick Santorum, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, and Bobby Jindal. Scott Walker initially said he agreed with Trump but has since changed his mind.

All this has human rights advocates worried. Ending birthright citizenship would result in a flood of newly created stateless children. In the United States, that would quickly become a humanitarian crisis, says David Baluarte, a law professor at Washington and Lee University and the director of the Immigrant Rights Clinic.

Around the world—in countries such as Estonia, Burma, Thailand, Côte d'Ivoire, the Dominican Republic, and many others—some 10 million people are stateless, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. They lack citizenship in the country where they were born, and they have nowhere to go where they can receive legal status. Stateless individuals cannot participate in any political process anywhere. They're often subject to arbitrary detention. They have limited access to health care and education. They are especially vulnerable to crime and have little legal recourse if they are victimized. They have no economic rights and few job prospects. In extreme cases, as with the Rohingya Muslims of Burma and the Hill Tribe population of Thailand, they're exposed to increased rates of human trafficking.

Currently, statelessness affects between 4,000 and 6,000 people in the United States—immigrants who either lacked a nationality when they reached the country or lost it after arriving. This includes Ethiopians of Eritrean descent, for example, who were stripped of their Ethiopian citizenship after fleeing persecution. It also includes those who fled the former Soviet Union and were left without a nationality after it dissolved. If these migrants are unable to gain asylum in the United States, they enter what Baluarte calls the "stateless legal limbo": They're ordered to be removed from the country, but because there's nowhere they can go, they languish for extended periods of time in immigration detention. When they're released from detention, they exist in a perpetual state of "immigration parole," Baluarte says. "They're supposed to leave the country, but they can't leave the country, because no country in the world wants them. They live under the specter of the ever-looming possibility of being redetained at the whims of the immigration officials who they're required to check in with."

If Trump and other Republicans got their way, the number of stateless people born in the United States would skyrocket. Birthright citizenship is "the most important safeguard that any country can have against statelessness," says Sarnata Reynolds, senior advisor on human rights at Refugees International, because it means statelessness will always be eliminated within one generation. Without birthright citizenship, the descendants of some undocumented immigrants could be stateless for generations to come. "We could be talking about a situation that affects tens of thousands and even hundreds of thousands," says Baluarte.

He points to an example not far from US soil. The highest court in the Dominican Republic, a country that traditionally had a robust system of birthright citizenship, recently reinterpreted the constitution to retroactively deny citizenship to the children of undocumented immigrants. The result? Nationality has been stripped from more than 200,000 people of Haitian descent. On top of that, Haiti's system of birth records was decimated in the 2010 earthquake, "so they can't prove their lineage to Haiti either," says Baluarte. "Upwards of 200,000 people are left stateless in the Dominican Republic."

How could this play out in the United States? Baluarte points to the large numbers of Haitians in South Florida, as well as immigrants from elsewhere in Latin America, Kenya, and Eastern European nations—some of which have a history of shifting nationality laws, ethnic persecution, and inadequate record keeping. "If someone is never allowed to settle into the community they're in, it's hard to get gainful employment, and to get health problems adequately addressed; it's difficult to get education," he says. "They're particularly vulnerable to arbitrary detention. They're so limited in how they can move up in society."

So far, most of the GOP candidates have avoided calling for birthright citizenship to be ended retroactively. But Trump told CNN last week that he doesn't believe people born in the United States to undocumented immigrants are in fact American citizens. "I don't think they have American citizenship," he said. "And if you speak to some very, very good lawyers—and I know some will disagree—but many of them agree with me, and you're going to find they do not have American citizenship."

Baluarte warns that ending birthright citizenship would be a disaster. If the children of migrants were not granted citizenship in the United States, the problem of statelessness "could spiral out of control," he says. "It would be a humanitarian crisis within the United States."

Here's Another Way the Recession Screwed Over Black Women

Environment & Health | Mother Jones - Tue, 08/25/2015 - 3:46pm

During the Great Recession, the government laid off a striking number of black women, a new study shows.

For a report released Monday, Jennifer Laird, a sociologist at the University of Washington, examined changes in government unemployment before, during, and after the recession. She found that women in the public sector were more likely than their male counterparts to be unemployed after the recession ended in 2009. And, as the graphs below show, black women were especially vulnerable to layoffs: The unemployment gap between white and black women increased nearly sixfold from 2008 to 2011.

Black women were more likely than any other type of public-sector worker to become unemployed, concluded Laird, who examined data from the Current Population Survey, the official source for the US monthly unemployment rate. And "once unemployed, they are the least likely to find private sector employment and the most likely to make a full exit from the labor force," she wrote.

Laird's findings are particularly striking because the public sector has historically been seen as an avenue to reduce unemployment of marginalized groups: After World War II, a series of executive orders and court decisions set out equal employment procedures for government workers, giving many women and African Americans an opportunity to earn jobs. Between 1961 and 1965, black people received 28 percent of new positions in the federal government, though they made up about 10 percent of the national population. From 1964 to 1974, there was a 70 percent increase in female government workers.

The recession changed that landscape. "The protective effect of working in the public sector decreased substantially for black workers—especially black women—after the Great Recession, while white workers were relatively insulated," Laird wrote. Since Laird controlled for a long list of variables like education, occupation, and marital status that can affect a person's odds of staying employed, she suspects discrimination may have played a role in this disparity. When state and local governments suffer from cuts in funding, Laird argued, more people are laid off, and "managers have more opportunities to discriminate."

Black women will likely be disproportionately affected if funding cuts and layoffs continue, she added: "Without a course correction, further efforts to dismantle the public sector will most likely have a negative effect on the workers who have historically gained the most from public sector employment."

Another Poll Shows Sanders Beating Clinton

Environment & Health | Mother Jones - Tue, 08/25/2015 - 2:46pm

It's beginning to look like progressives' love for Bernie Sanders' presidential run will be more than a summer fling.

On Tuesday, Public Policy Polling released a poll showing the Vermont senator topping presumed front-runner Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire by a 42-35 margin. Following far behind the top two contenders are Jim Webb at 6 percent, Martin O'Malley at 4 percent, Lincoln Chafee at 2 percent, and Lawrence Lessig at 1 percent. Just about everyone in New Hampshire likes Sanders. The Vermont senator has a 72 percent favorable rating from Democrats in the state, with only 12 percent saying they dislike him. A quarter of Democrats in the state say they have an unfavorable view of Clinton.

Clinton still isn't in too much trouble nationally. A poll average from RealClearPolitics still has her trumping Sanders by 24 percent, with nearly 50 percent of Democrats saying they'll vote for her. But New Hampshire, at least, is starting to look like a trouble spot for the former secretary of state. Sanders slowly whittled away at her lead there all summer, and a Franklin Pierce/Boston Herald poll from the beginning of August gave Sanders the same seven-point edge as the new PPP poll.

How We Can Save Our Water

Green Living | Scientific American - Tue, 08/25/2015 - 8:30am
Rising population and climate change threatens the world’s supply of freshwater. Here are some possible solutions

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