You’ve Been Wrong About Fortune Cookies Your Whole Life | JENNY LUNAOCT. 15, 2016 6:00 AM

This changes everything.

The Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory in San Francisco isn’t much bigger than a narrow garage, but it produces thousands of fortune cookies each day. Large machines drip batter onto hot circular plates, hardening them in an instant. Two Chinese American women quickly grab the warm wafers, fold them over an iron, and insert a small piece of paper inside before fully closing the cookie. They move quickly under the gaze of tourists, who pay 50 cents to snap a photo.

Source: You’ve Been Wrong About Fortune Cookies Your Whole Life | Mother Jones

Here’s What It’s Like To Be a Defense Investigator in a Rigged Criminal Justice System – JUDITH COBURN AUG. 20, 2016 6:00 AM

A journalist-turned-private eye unloads.


This story first appeared on the TomDispatch website.

Once upon a time I was a journalist, covering wars in Indochina, Central America, and the Middle East. I made it my job to write about the victims of war, the civilian casualties. To me, they were hardly “collateral damage,” that bloodless term the military persuaded journalists to adopt. To me, they were the center of war. Now I’m a private eye. I work mostly on homicide cases for defense lawyers on the mean streets of Oakland, California, long viewed as one of America’s murder capitals.

Indeed, on some days Oakland feels like Saigon, Tegucigalpa, or Gaza. There’s the deception of daily life and the silent routine of dread punctured by out-of-the blue mayhem. The city’s poorest neighborhoods are sporadic war zones whose violence sometimes explodes onto streets made rich overnight by the tech boom. On any quiet day, you can drive down San Pablo Avenue past St. Columba Catholic Church, where a thicket of white crosses, one for every Oaklander killed by gun violence in a given year, crowds its front yard.


Whenever I tell people I’m a private eye, they ask: “Do you get innocent people off death row?” Or “Can you follow my ex around?” Or “What kind of gun do you carry?”

I always disappoint them. Yes, I do defend people against the death penalty, but so far all my defendants have probably been guilty—of something. (Often, I can only guess what.) While keeping them off death row may absolve me of being an accessory after the fact to murder, it also regularly condemns my defendants to life in prison until they die there.

My defendants may be guilty—but seldom of what they are charged with.

And I find spying on people their ex-spouses fantasize about killing much sleazier than actual murder. Finally, I’m a good shot, but I don’t carry a gun because that’s the best way to get shot. I work on the low-profile cases: poor people charged with murder, burglary, or robbery, who don’t have the money for a lawyer or their own P.I. (I’m paid, if you can call it that, by the state.)

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Fox Should Ask the GOP Candidates These Questions at Tonight’s Debate – —By Mother Jones Washington Bureau | Thu Jan. 14, 2016 6:00 AM EST

We won’t hold our breath.

Rainier Ehrhardt/AP

On Thursday night, the Republican 2016 wannabes will once again gather for a debate, with the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary just weeks away. Though each of these candidates has been on the debate stage multiple times this campaign—and has occasionally granted interviews to reporters—there are still many questions that they have not had to address. So editors and reporters at Mother Jones have compiled a short list of queries that we’d put to the GOP candidates. Kudos to Fox Business Network if any of these get asked.

Donald Trump

* When you appeared on the talk show of conspiracy theory promoter Alex Jones, you told him that his “reputation is amazing” and added, “I will not let you down.” Jones has championed many conspiratorial notions, including that the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School never happened and that the attacks on the World Trade Center were an inside job. So what’s “amazing” about him?

* Why did you cut a deal with Amar Mammadov—an Azerbajani businessman accused of cronyism and profiting off his family’s ties to the government—to open a new Trump hotel in Baku?

* How many new government employee will be needed to implement your plan to bar Muslims from entering the nation? Given that any would-be terrorist who happens to be Muslim would likely lie about his or her religion to reach the United States, you couldn’t rely on the statements provided by foreigners trying to get into the United States. So then wouldn’t you need an army of federal workers to investigate each person coming into the United States? And how much would this anti-Muslim program cost?

* Can you now explain what the nuclear triad is?

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The True Cost of Gun Violence in America | Mother Jones – May/June 2015

Screen Shot 2015-04-18 at Apr 18, 2015 6.19

How much does gun violence cost our country? It’s a question we’ve been looking into at Mother Jones ever since the 2012 mass shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, left 58 injured and 12 dead. How much care would the survivors and the victims’ families need? What would be the effects on the broader community, and how far out would those costs ripple? As we’ve continued to investigate gun violence, one of our more startling discoveries is that nobody really knows.


How much does gun violence cost our country? It’s a question we’ve been looking into at Mother Jones ever since the 2012 mass shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, left 58 injured and 12 dead. How much care would the survivors and the victims’ families need? What would be the effects on the broader community, and how far out would those costs ripple? As we’ve continued to investigate gun violence, one of our more startling discoveries is that nobody really knows.

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There Has Been a Fatal School Shooting Every 5 Weeks Since Sandy Hook – —By Mark Follman | Tue Dec. 9, 2014 6:00 AM EST

A Mother Jones investigation analyzes 21 attacks over the past two years.

A vigil for the victims at Sparks Middle School. Cathleen Allison/AP

A vigil for the victims at Sparks Middle School. Cathleen Allison/AP

Classes were just about to begin on the morning of October 21, 2013, when 12-year-old Mason Davis heard shots ring out on the basketball court. A teacher lay sprawled on the ground as Davis started to run for the school building. Then he saw his friend and classmate, 12-year-old Jose Reyes. “Please don’t shoot me,” Davis said, “please don’t shoot me.” That’s when Reyes pointed the 9mm Ruger at him and pulled the trigger.

Davis, who was wounded in the abdomen, was lucky to survive the attack at Sparks Middle School in Nevada, as was another student who’d been shot in the shoulder. Forty-five year-old math teacher Michael Landsberry did not make it. Reyes, who reportedly had been bullied and suffered from mental health problems, also used the semiautomatic handgun he’d taken from his parents’ home that morning to put a bullet in his own head.

In the two years since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, no school shooting has claimed as many lives, nor ones as young, as on that terrible day. But fatal gun attacks at schools and on college campuses remain a fixture of American life. They have occurred once every five weeks on average since Sandy Hook, including two attacks—one in Santa Monica and another near Seattle—in which four or more victims were killed.

With an investigation drawing on data from dozens of news reports, Mother Jones has identified and analyzed 21 deadly school shootings in the past two years. The findings include:

  • A total of 32 victims were killed (not including shooters)
  • 11 victims were injured
  • 5 shooters were killed (including four who committed suicide, and one shot dead by police)
  • The school shootings occurred across 16 states
  • 14 attacks occurred at K-12 schools, and 7 occurred on college or university campuses

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Everything You Didn’t Want To Know About Hormel, Bacon, and Amputated Limbs – —By Tom Philpott| Wed Oct. 15, 2014 6:00 AM EDT

Pixel 4 Images/Shutterstock

Much of the outrage generated by the meat industry involves the rough treatment of animals. But as Ted Genoways shows in his searing new book The Chain: Farm, Factory, and the Fate of Our Foodwhich grew of his long-form 2011 Mother Jones piece “The Spam Factory’s Dirty Secret”—the people employed in its factory-scale slaughterhouses have it pretty rough, too. The book hinges on a rare neurological disorder that, in the mid-2000s, began to affect workers in a Spam factory in Austin, Minnesota—particularly ones who worked in the vicinity of the “brain machine,” which, as Genoways writes, used compressed air to blast slaughtered pigs’ brains “into a pink slurry.” As Genoways memorably puts it: “A high-pressure burst, a fine rosy mist, and the slosh of brains slipping through a drain hole into a catch bucket.” I recently caught up with him to talk about the world of our dark, Satanic meat mills, and the bright spots he sees after immersing himself in it.

“You’ve got somebody who’s had a finger chopped off or has had a deep cut on their arm so that they’re bleeding all over their station. There’s somebody there to just pause that station and clean it while the rest of the line continues to move.”

Mother Jones: When did you first get interested in the meat industry?

Ted Genoways: I’m a fourth generation Nebraskan, and my grandfather, my dad’s dad, during the Depression, worked in the packinghouses in Omaha around the union stockyards there. One Sunday, when they were visiting relatives just outside of Omaha, my grandfather decided to take my dad in to see the packing houses, and into the hog-kill room, when he was probably about 10 years old. And my dad said that he was just sort of overwhelmed by the noise and the screeching of the hogs and the terror. My first book was a book of poems, Bullroarer: A Sequence, that had one section that dealt with some of that.

MJ: How did you go from poetry to investigating this disturbing brain disorder among meat-packing workers?

TG: Around 2000, I had a job working as a book editor at the Minnesota Historical Society Press, and the first book that I worked on there was a book called Packinghouse Daughter, by Cheri Register, about the packinghouse strike in Albert Lea, Minnesota, in 1959. Her father was one of the meatpacking workers there. I also read Peter Rachleff’s book about the Hormel strike in the ’80s in Austin, Minnesota, Hard-Pressed in the Heartland.

So it caught my eye in 2007 when there were some AP stories, and eventually the New York Times did a story, about the outbreak of this neurological disorder among the packing house workers at Quality Pork Processors in Austin. The fact that the people affected were almost entirely Hispanic intrigued me.

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Counterintuitive? North Carolina GOP Pushes Unprecedented Bill to Jail Anyone Who Discloses Fracking Chemicals May 21, 2014 by Molly Redden

This post first appeared at Mother Jones.

FILE - In this Oct. 14, 2011 file photo, a drilling rig is set up near a barn in Springville, Pa., to tap gas from the giant Marcellus Shale gas field. In an unlikely partnership between longtime adversaries, some of the nation's biggest energy companies and environmental groups announced Wednesday, March 20, 2013 that they have agreed on a voluntary set of standards for gas and oil fracking in the Northeast. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)In this Oct. 14, 2011 file photo, a drilling rig is set up near a barn in Springville, Pa., to tap gas from the giant Marcellus Shale gas field. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

As hydraulic fracturing ramps up around the country, so do concerns about its health impacts. These concerns have led 20 states to require the disclosure of industrial chemicals used in the fracking process.

North Carolina isn’t on that list of states yet — and it may be hurtling in the opposite direction.

On Thursday, three Republican state senators introduced a bill that would slap a felony charge on individuals who disclosed confidential information about fracking chemicals. The bill, whose sponsors include a member of Republican party leadership, establishes procedures for fire chiefs and health care providers to obtain chemical information during emergencies. But as the trade publication Energywire noted Friday, individuals who leak information outside of emergency settings could be penalized with fines and several months in prison.

“The felony provision is far stricter than most states’ provisions in terms of the penalty for violating trade secrets,” says Hannah Wiseman, a Florida State University assistant law professor who studies fracking regulations.

The bill also allows companies that own the chemical information to require emergency responders to sign a confidentiality agreement. And it’s not clear what the penalty would be for a health care worker or fire chief who spoke about their experiences with chemical accidents to colleagues.

“I think the only penalties to fire chiefs and doctors, if they talked about it at their annual conference, would be the penalties contained in the confidentiality agreement,” says Wiseman. “But [the bill] is so poorly worded, I cannot confirm that if an emergency responder or fire chief discloses that confidential information, they too would not be subject to a felony.” In some sections, she says, “That appears to be the case.”

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Why the EPA Can’t Manage To Block This Gnarly Herbicide – —By Tom Philpott| Mon Feb. 10, 2014 10:13 AM GMT


In the February 10 issue of the New Yorker, Rachel Aviv has an outstanding piece on Tyrone Hayes, the University of California-Berkeley biologist whose research found that atrazine, a widely used herbicide, caused extreme sexual-development problems in frogs at very low levels. Aviv’s article follows a superb Hayes profile by Dashka Slater published in Mother Jones in 2012. Aviv’s piece gives some key background on just why it’s so hard for the US Environmental Protection Agency to take action on chemicals like atrazine, which in addition to harming frogs, is also suspected of causing thyroid and ovarian cancers in people at low doses. Here’s the key bit regarding the EPA and its reliance on cost-benefit analyses to determine what chemicals the public can and cannot be exposed to:

In the U.S., lingering scientific questions justify delays in regulatory decisions. Since the mid-seventies, the E.P.A. has issued regulations restricting the use of only five industrial chemicals out of more than eighty thousand in the environment. Industries have a greater role in the American regulatory process—they may sue regulators if there are errors in the scientific record—and cost-benefit analyses are integral to decisions: a monetary value is assigned to disease, impairments, and shortened lives and weighed against the benefits of keeping a chemical in use. Lisa Heinzerling, the senior climate-policy counsel at the E.P.A. in 2009 and the associate administrator of the office of policy in 2009 and 2010, said that cost-benefit models appear “objective and neutral, a way to free ourselves from the chaos of politics.” But the complex algorithms “quietly condone a tremendous amount of risk.” She added that the influence of the Office of Management and Budget, which oversees major regulatory decisions, has deepened in recent years. “A rule will go through years of scientific reviews and cost-benefit analyses, and then at the final stage it doesn’t pass,” she said. “It has a terrible, demoralizing effect on the culture at the E.P.A.”

Hat tip: Kathleen Geier.

DonorsTrust—the Right’s Dark-Money ATM—Pumps Out Record $96 Million – By Andy Kroll | Tue Dec. 3, 2013 6:10 AM GMT

A big winner of last year’s conservative cash bonanza? Right-wing “journalism.”


DonorsTrust is the conservative movement’s little-known but hugely influential cash machine, a conduit for millions of dollars in anonymous donations to anti-union legal shops, climate change deniers, pro-life advocates, libertarian think tanks, media watchdog groups, and a panoply of other right-leaning causes. Wealthy conservatives use DonorsTrust as a surefire way to invest their money, fingerprint-free, with the assurance it will end up in the right hands. According tonew tax filings obtained by Mother Jones, DonorsTrust is growing increasingly popular among the bankrollers of the conservative movement.

Last year, DonorsTrust (and its sister group, Donors Capital Fund) doled out a record $96 million, making it one of the largest honeypots for right-leaning groups. That’s an increase from $85 million in 2011 and $78 million in 2010. DonorsTrust CEO Whitney Ball, who cofounded the group in 1999 and sometimes appears at the Koch brothers’ donor summits, says the increased giving stems from her organization’s growing profile and also conservative donors’ anger at the Obama administration. And despite worries about donor burnout within the conservative ranks, Ball says DonorsTrust is on track for another great year in 2013.

One of the biggest winners to emerge from the hundreds of pages of DonorsTrust tax documents is the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, a Virginia-based nonprofit that trains conservative and libertarian think tanks to do investigative journalism, funds right-leaning news outlets, and hires reporters for those outlets. The Franklin Center received $9.2 million from DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund, which accounted for nearly $8 of every $10 in grant money received by the Franklin Center in 2012. (The Franklin Center did not respond to multiple requests for comment.)

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