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  • "You Might Very Well Be the Cause of Cancer": Read Bernie Sanders' 1970s-Era Essays

    Last month Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent socialist seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, repudiated a 1972 essay he wrote for the Vermont Freeman, an alternative newspaper, which included depictions of a rape fantasy from male and female perspectives. On Meet the Press, he dismissed the article as a "piece of fiction" exploring gender stereotypes—"something like Fifty Shades of Grey."

    Yet as the New York Times recently reported, during his years as a contributor to the Freeman in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Sanders often wrote about sexual norms, as he presented a broader critique of repressive cultural forces that he believed were driving many Americans literally insane. His early writings reflect a political worldview rooted in the fad psychology and anti-capitalist rhetoric of the era and infused with a libertarianesque critique of state power. Sanders feared that the erosion of individual freedom—via compulsory education, sexual repression, and, yes, fluoridated water—began at birth. And, he postulated, authoritarianism might even cause cancer.

    Yet he insisted that individual acts of protests could turn things around—a belief that would give rise to his political career.

    Continue Reading »



  • How the GOP Candidates Are Flailing on Common Core

    When a team convened by the National Governors Association began developing the Common Core curriculum standards in 2009, politicians of both parties rallied behind them, with every governor but Rick Perry and Sarah Palin committing to crafting them. Since then, the initiative—aimed at remedying disparities among state educational standards and testing after George W. Bush's No Child Left Behind program failed to achieve its goals—has gotten caught in the political crossfire. Both Democrats and Republicans criticized Common Core for being hastily rolled out, unfair to teachers and students, and a handout to the testing and curriculum companies, but the Republican reaction has been particularly intense. Some Republican critiques have taken the usual form, equating the standards with a big-government takeover of America's education system. Others have been more creative: Florida state Rep. Charles Van Zant claimed the standards would turn kids gay.

    The rapid shift in opinion on Common Core has put the Republican presidential candidates in a tricky position, and they've responded in a variety of ways. Some GOP hopefuls' support for the standards has not wavered: Call them the True Believers. Others are Contortionists whose flexible opinions about the standards bend and twist like any fine circus performer. The Die-Hards have never supported Common Core. The Debutantes only recently entered—or, in former New York Gov. George Pataki's case, re-entered—public life as politicians, and may or may not have a track record of clear positions on the standards. The Conflicted rail against Common Core because it smacks of big government but were ardent supporters of the not-exactly-laissez-faire No Child Left Behind. Finally, one candidate is simply Out to Lunch, unaware until recently that there was even such a thing as Common Core. Below is the full taxonomy.

    Two GOP HOPEFULS remain staunch supporters of Common Core.

    • Jeb Bush is the ultimate True Believer. His nonprofit, Foundation for Excellence in Education, which crisscrosses the country touting the benefits of the Common Core, has bagged more than $4 million in Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation grants. Bush says critics who float "conspiracy theories" about the standards are "comfortable with mediocrity." In May, while speaking at a Tennessee GOP dinner, Bush wondered, "Am I supposed to back away from something that I know works?" Recently, the former governor has been more tolerant of those who want to explore non-Common Core options. When Tennessee and New Jersey (home to newly announced opponent Chris Christie) revealed plans to consider new standards, Bush didn't try to sway them otherwise (as he has in the past), but rather urged them to maintain high benchmarks for their students.
    • Another True Believer is Ohio Gov. John Kasich, expected to announce his candidacy in late July. Kasich has been known to call out his fellow Republicans who have suddenly backed away from the standards. "I've asked the Republican governors who have complained about this to tell me where I'm wrong, and guess what? Silence," he said in an interview with Fox News in January. Ohio adopted the standards in June 2010, and Kasich was sworn in as governor of the state a little less than six months later. Even when Republican legislators in the state drafted Common Core repeal bills, Kasich maintained that he believes the standards are not only good for Ohio classrooms but that each state has much more control over them than his GOP opponents are letting on.



    these Four candidates were once Common Core supporters, but they are now twisting themselves into pretzels to demonstrate their consistent opposition.

    • In 2012, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said the standards would "raise expectations for every child." Today he is determined not only to get rid of the standards in his home state but to nix them nationally as well. Last August, Jindal filed a federal lawsuit against the US Department of Education and Education Secretary Arne Duncan for "impermissibly" using grant initiatives like Race to the Top to "manipulate" states into adopting the standards. Attacking the standards he once supported with the fervor of a religious convert, Jindal signed three Common Core-related bills last Monday, which among other things calls for reviewing the standards and scrapping the Common Core-aligned Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) exam, created by the controversial testing and curriculum behemoth Pearson. The next step, according to Jindal? "Elect leaders in Louisiana who are committed to getting rid of the Common Core."
    • When former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee launched his official presidential campaign website this spring, he posted a page on education that didn't mince words: "I also oppose Common Core and believe we should abolish the federal department of education. We must kill Common Core and restore common sense." In late 2013, however, while speaking with the Council of Chief State School Officers, Huckabee gave the group some advice on how to deal with growing opposition to the standards: "Rebrand it, refocus it, but don’t retreat." When Oklahoma considered dropping the standards (it eventually did opt out), Huckabee even wrote to legislators, urging them to reconsider. "It’s disturbing to me there have been criticisms of these standards directed by other conservatives," he wrote. "They’re not something to be afraid of; indeed they are something to embrace."
    • Only two years ago, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie praised the standards, signing up New Jersey to use them as part of the state’s application for a federal Race to the Top grant. "We're doing Common Core in New Jersey and we're going to continue. And this is one of those areas where I've agreed more with the president than not," Christie said at a school summit in Las Vegas in 2013. A year later, he began distancing himself from the standards, saying he had "some real concerns about Common Core and how it's being rolled out." This May, he announced plans for New Jersey to develop new, non-Common Core standards. In June, when the Washington Post pressed Christie for details on why he felt Common Core was not working, he declined to comment.
    • In January 2014, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker called for the standards to be replaced by ones "set by the people of Wisconsin," and he created a commission to reassess the benchmarks. However, Walker spent his early years as governor working to ensure that all aspects of the state's education plan were aligned with Common Core. In 2012, a state task force led by Walker and state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers released a statement toasting Common Core as "a set of rigorous new standards that are benchmarked against the standards of high performing countries."



    Four candidates have been against Common Core from the get-go.

    • In 2011, Sen. Marco Rubio pushed back against Duncan's plea that Florida adopt a tougher core curriculum, such as Common Core, in order to get a No Child Left Behind waiver. "The executive branch does not possess the authority to force states into compliance with administration reforms," Rubio said at the time. While Florida has since adopted Common Core, Rubio has remained adamant in his disapproval of the standards, saying in April that they will lead to "a national school board."
    • In March, Sen. Ted Cruz announced, "We need to repeal every word of Common Core." The standards are voluntary and not a federal mandate, but Cruz could technically get rid of No Child Left Behind, the mandate that the Obama administration loosely tied to Common Core through waivers.
    • Rick Perry is one of just two governors who refused to participate in the process of drafting the Common Core standards. "I will not commit Texas taxpayers to unfunded federal obligations or to the adoption of unproven, cost-prohibitive national standards and tests," Perry wrote to Duncan in a January 2010 letter formally rejecting the benchmarks.
    • Sen. Rand Paul has always been opposed to Common Core. According to Bloomberg, in January he sent his supporters an email with the subject line "Rotten to the Core." In the email, he wrote that the standards contain "anti-American propaganda, revisionist history that ignores the faith of our Founders and data-tracking of students from kindergarten on."



    These THREE candidates have no recent national platform from which to discuss their position on education standards. But they still have opinions.

    • Ben Carson has come out of the gate against Common Core. In April, the neurosurgeon and motivational speaker wrote an op-ed for the Washington Times in which he said high academic standards are important, but that having the government responsible for both creating and enforcing them "is naive."
    • George Pataki served as New York's governor from 1995 to 2006, so he was out of the political spotlight during much of the Common Core hullabaloo. And even though he was in office during the introduction of No Child Left Behind, he did not speak publicly about the legislation; his education pet project was the expansion of charter schools. When announcing his run for the Republican nomination in May, Pataki vowed to repeal "oppressive laws like Obamacare and Common Core." In a January interview with NH1, Pataki said, "Education has always been the prerogative of the states and should continue to be that."
    • In January, Donald Trump used the Iowa Freedom Summit as an opportunity to dis both Common Core and Jeb Bush. "He’s totally in favor of Common Core," Trump said. "That's a disaster. It's bad. It should be local and all of that."



    These TWO candidates may have been consistently against Common Core, but they have been inconsistent in their opinions on federal oversight of education.

    • "Put parents back in charge, not the government," Rick Santorum said last February at the Conservative Political Action Conference. "Back in 2012, I wasn't for Common Core. And today, I'm still not for Common Core." While he may have never been for the Common Core, in 2001 he voted for No Child Left Behind, the apex of federal accountability in schools.
    • In May, Carly Fiorina said during an appearance on CNBC, "I think Common Core is a really bad idea." She added, "Giving more money to the Department of Education doesn’t improve learning in the classroom." In 2010, when running for the US Senate in California, Fiorina often spoke about her support for the federal Race to the Top program, which encouraged states to adopt Common Core. In an education policy brief on Fiorina’s Senate campaign page, she not only praised Race to the Top for "put[ting] into place some critically important accountability measures," but she commended No Child Left Behind for helping the "US set a high bar for our students."



    Sen. Lindsey Graham is anti-Common Core today. In February 2014, he even introduced a Senate resolution that "denounced the Obama Administration" for using federal funds to "coerce" states into adopting Common Core. But in September 2013—three years after his home state adopted Common Core—Graham had no clue about it. In this video, Graham, who at the time had been a South Carolina senator for 11 years, was asked what he thought about Common Core. His answer: "What’s Common Core?"



  • Music Review: "Up in the Pine" by Heather Woods

    TRACK 1

    "Up in the Pine"

    From Heather Woods Broderick's Glider

    WESTERN VINYL

    Liner notes: Prepare for liftoff (or vertigo) on this shimmering fusion of visceral, ethereal sounds, featuring acoustic guitars, murmuring synths, and swirling voices.

    Behind the music: A member of Sharon Van Etten's band, the Portland, Oregon, resident has cited everyone from Neil Young to William Faulkner as an influence.

    Check it out if you like: Sound manipulators like Juana Molina and Julianna Barwick.

    We couldn't find a video for "Up in the Pine" online, but that doesn't mean you can't get a feel for Woods Broderick. The above audio is of "A Call for Distrance" one of the other songs on Woods Broderick's new album Glider.



  • Tom Tomorrow Celebrates 25 Years of Cartooning With a Massive Retrospective
    Tom Tomorrow

    The average lifespan of an Antarctic emperor penguin is 15 to 20 years. The average lifespan of an American comic strip is probably far shorter. Both are reasons to celebrate the 25th anniversary of This Modern World, Tom Tomorrow's unconventional political comic strip starring the endearingly acerbic Sparky the penguin.

    Earlier this year, Tomorrow (AKA Dan Perkins) was nominated for a Pulitzer—not bad for an independent cartoonist who got his start in zines and alt-weeklies and survived the bumpy switch from newsprint to pixels, not to mention two Bush administrations. To commemorate this odds-defying accomplishment, Tomorrow has spent the past year tracking down just about everything he's drawn since 1990 and compiling it in a massive, two-volume set that he's self-publishing through a just-launched Kickstarter campaign. In addition to the awesome-looking collection, incentives for funding the project include a stuffed Sparky, swag from TMW pals Pearl Jam, and a chance to indelibly ink Tomorrow with an image of America's favorite flightless political observer.

    Mother Jones: Sorry to put a damper on things, but I heard that print is dead. What are you doing compiling a 1,000-page, 15-pound set of volumes for people to buy?

    Tom Tomorrow: The same people who say that print is dead are the same people who say that the future of print is artisanal. And I see this as a very artisanal project!

    MJ: Tell me how you got the idea to put together almost everything you've done over 25 years.

    this modern world
    A mockup of the 25-year This Modern World compendium Tom Tomorrow

    TT: A couple of years ago, I ran across this big Taschen two-volume set of midcentury advertising. As I was looking at this whole package, something just clicked because I realized that my 25th anniversary was coming up. I always mark 1990 as the real start of my career because that's when the strip started getting picked up; it's when it stared getting political. (It's a little bit of an arbitrary date; really if you wanted to mark an anniversary it would have to be when I turned five, because I always drew cartoons as a kid.) But 1990 effectively marks 25 years as a professional cartoonist, and that's a big chunk of my life. And I thought it shouldn't pass without marking the moment.

    MJ: Has going though 25 years of work been nostalgic?

    TT: I wouldn't say it's been nostalgic. Initially, it was horrifying! The very early work, it makes me cringe a little bit. And then it gets pretty good within a couple of years, and I was relieved to find I was actually proud of it. A lot of this stuff I hadn't read in 20, 25 years. I was kind of surprised how well it held up, honestly.

    MJ: Well, you've been hitting so many of the same themes throughout your career. Which topics or throughlines did you see as you went through your work?

    TT: Certainly gun control, on which we've made almost no progress in 25 years. Heath care is a very interesting one as a person who's been a freelancer for 25 years. For a country that celebrates entrepreneurship, the peculiar American linkage of health care to employment status is puzzling. Obviously we have made progress on that one.

    MJ: Some of the political figures, like the Clintons and Bushes, haven't changed.

    TT: Yeah, I'm looking at all these years I've spent writing about the Bush family and hoping I don't have to do that beyond this next election.

    sparky the penguin
    Sparky, always the optimist Tom Tomorrow

    MJ: How has your perspective on the strip changed?

    TT: In 1990 there was no internet, there were no blogs, there was no social media. In those days I really viewed the strip as a vehicle for conveying information that people might not have had access to elsewhere. I don't see it quite in that light anymore; I assume people know how to use search engines. I think it's gotten a little more playful and less didactic. It's still the wordiest strip out there, but less than it used to be.

    MJ: One of incentives for the stretch goals is that if you read your top goal, you will get a Sparky tattoo.

    TT: It would be my first tattoo of my own creation. It's crazy expensive to make this; all the money is going to printers and to everyone that I've been working with who deserve to be paid for their work. It's been a tremendous amount of work to get this stuff located and scanned and sequenced. It's a labor of love until we hit some stretch goals. If we reach them, I was just trying to think of some extravagant gesture to show how much that would mean to me. So I just threw in the tattoo. I honestly didn't think about it a lot. I may come to regret it!

    Make Tom Tomorrow's regrets—and dreams!—a reality at his Kickstarter page.

    sparky the penguin
    The world meets Sparky, 1991 Tom Tomorrow

     



  • Doctors Are Prescribing Amphetamines for Binge Eating

    You may have recently seen a TV ad about the "most common eating disorder in US adults": binge eating disorder. The spot features champion tennis player Monica Seles talking about her struggles with BED, which was classified by the American Psychiatric Association as a medical condition in 2013. "My binge eating episodes would usually happen in the evenings," Seles explains from a brightly lit kitchen. "I would be back home, by myself, after a long day at the tennis courts and would just eat large quantities of food."

    Seles encourages viewers to check out BingeEatingDisorder.com for more information; according to the website, core symptoms include "regularly eating far more food than most people would in a similar time period," bingeing "on at least a weekly basis for three months," and "feeling very upset by eating binges." The website urges potential sufferers of BED to see a doctor, "bring up BED early in the appointment" because time may be limited, and prepare the doctor by sending a Binge Eating Disorder Education Kit.

    The beginning of the symptom checklist at BingeEatingDisorder.com

    If these seem a little pointed for a friendly PSA, there's good reason: Both the website and the ad campaign are paid for by Shire, a pharmaceutical company that, in January, won approval from the Food and Drug Administration to market a drug called Vyvanse to treat BED. Vyvanse is a Schedule II federally controlled substance—meaning it's acceptable for medical use but has high potential for abuse—and it's the only drug that the FDA has approved for BED. Last year, Shire spent more than $2.5 million on raising awareness among doctors about BED; by 2020, the company expects Vyvanse prescribed for BED to bring in $200-300 million per year.

    While binge eating disorder is a new diagnosis, Vyvanse isn't exactly a new drug. An amphetamine, it was until this year marketed exclusively to treat ADHD. But its latest incarnation actually represents something of a return to its roots: Before they became ADHD drugs, amphetamines, of course, were diet drugs.

    Doctors began prescribing "rainbow pills," amphetamines named for their bright colors, in the 1940s and '50s to help people lose weight. Andy Warhol's drug of choice was Obetrol, a popular diet pill composed of amphetamine salts, including methamphetamine. By the late '60s, at the peak of the drugs' use, an estimated 1 in 10 American women were consuming amphetamines.

    The cartoon caption on this 1970 Obetrol ad reads, "Either lose 45 pounds or wait for 6 more inches of snow!" California Medicine

    After numerous exposes on "Mother's Little Helper"  and "speed freaks" in Ladies Home Journal and elsewhere—as well as a study finding that nearly half of the amphetamine users took the pills for nonmedical reasons—the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (the equivalent of today's Drug Enforcement Agency) stepped in. Amphetamine products were categorized as federally controlled substances with strict regulation of when and how they could be prescribed. The FDA prohibited doctors from selling the drugs for weight loss; the only approved usages were for narcolepsy and "hyperkinetic disorder of childhood"—today's ADHD. By the end of the '70s, production and use of amphetamines had plummeted.

    The amphetamines of the '60s and '70s were a different breed from the amphetamines of today. Drugs like Vyvanse and Adderall don't contain methamphetamine, which was responsible for making the pills particularly addictive and rush-inducing. In addition, Vyvanse doesn't take effect until it's digested, thus slowing down its onset and making it ineffective to snort.

    Yet despite all the changes, many see Vyvanse as a variation on a familiar theme of amphetamines. This is in part because Vyvanse draws its lineage to Obetrol: After pharmaceutical executives saw potential in Obetrol—without the methamphetamine—to treat ADD, it was rebranded as Adderall (short for "ADD for all"). The FDA approved the drug for ADD treatment in 1996; Shire bought the company producing it a year later. Vyvanse, in turn, was developed as a still less abusable version of a key Adderall ingredient and acquired by Shire in 2007.
     

    Binge eating Disorder was first described in 1990 by a psychiatrist named Robert Spitzer. At a meeting to discuss which diagnoses should be included in the fourth edition of the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the bible of the mental health field that classifies each recognized mental illness and its symptoms, he noted that some patients regularly binged but didn't fall into the category of bulimia because they didn't purge. Over the next two years, Spitzer led a landmark study finding the practice of uncontrollable, distress-inducing binges to be a common, untreated problem among individuals participating in weight loss programs—one that some binge eaters likened to an addiction. The evidence led the DSM committee to include BED, defined as binges featuring "impaired control" at least twice a week for at least six months, as a disorder that was "not otherwise specified." Mental health practitioners were to be aware of its symptoms, but the disorder necessitated more study before it became a full-fledged diagnosis.

    This classification in 1994 served as a rallying call of sorts among eating disorder researchers; between the release of the DSM-IV and the DSM-5, in 2013, more than 1,000 studies were published on the prevalence, epidemiology, and treatments of BED. One frequently cited study by researchers at Columbia found BED prevalent in 2.8 percent of the general population, a rate far higher than anorexia or bulimia. Evelyn Attia, the director of the Columbia Center for Eating Disorders who served on the DSM-5 committee, remembers "very consistent support" from the field that patients were "coming, they were asking for help, and we needed to formally identify them."

    In 2011, Shire researchers began studying the company's top-selling drug, Vyvanse, as a treatment for BED. The first large trial showed promising results: At the end of about three months, those on high doses of Vyvanse binged about half as much as those on a placebo. By the time of the 2013 release of the DSM-5—which, with universal support from the DSM committee, included binge eating disorder—Shire had already laid the groundwork for its awareness campaign around the condition. Looking through the company's financial records, one sees a point, in mid-2013, when the bulk of its funding for educational purposes transitioned from teaching doctors how to recognize ADHD, a market that was slowly being eroded by generic drugs, to awareness of BED.

    In the year and a half before gaining FDA approval, the company spent about $4 million dollars on medical awareness of BED, including grants to the American Academy of Continuing Medical Education for a program called "the ABC's of BED" and to the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, to teach doctors about "missed opportunities in the recognition of binge eating disorder." The company also donated to patient advocacy groups, including a total of $450,000 to the Binge Eating Disorder Association (BEDA) and the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) to fund awareness activities.

    Slides from a Shire-funded continuing medical education class in 2013. Open CME

    In January of this year, Shire's application to the FDA went through an expedited approval process without the usual consultation from an outside advisory board; an FDA spokesman told me this was because Vyvanse had already been approved for ADHD and there was no existing treatment for BED. The application was based on two studies, both similar in content to the first, and both led by scientists who, between 2013 and 2014, received a combined $67,000 in consulting and travel fees from Shire. A company spokesperson told me that the studies were controlled and double blinded, and that Shire believes the studies were "conducted with the highest of ethical and regulatory standards and integrity."

    The FDA announced its approval of the drug on a Friday in January; by the following Tuesday, the company's marketing campaign to consumers was up and running, with Monika Seles speaking about her experience on Good Morning America, in People magazine, and in other media outlets.

    Two years after BED was added to the official diagnostic vocabulary, mental health experts have mixed reactions to how things are going. "Patients are feeling more confident that they'll be able to get the appropriate health care for a somewhat recognized diagnosis," says Attia.

    But Shire's gung-ho marketing has rubbed many practitioners the wrong way. "You can barely turn on the TV without seeing Monica Seles," groans Marsha Marcus, a University of Pittsburgh psychology professor.

    Some see Shire's BED education campaign as a cynical attempt to repackage a drug that's been around decades. Using Vyvanse for BED "takes us down the road of the much earlier use of [amphetamines]," says Keith Conners, a professor emeritus in medical psychology at Duke. Indeed, several psychiatrists told me that they consider Obetrol, Adderall, and Vyvanse to be essentially the "same drug."

    A Shire spokesperson told me that the company is clear about the fact that Vyvanse is for BED, not for weight loss, and that Vyvanse labeling and promotional material clearly spell out its risks, including addiction and cardiovascular problems.

    Yet even some former Shire employees who staunchly believe in Vyvanse's efficacy hinted that the awareness campaign wasn't exactly what they had in mind. "At the time, we assumed this would be focused on psychiatrists who were treating these more severely ill patients," says Jeff Jonas, who led the initial research. Michael Cola, a former Shire executive who oversaw the development of Vyvanse, was surprised to learn about the Monica Seles ads. "It started out with good intentions," he said. "I'm not sure where it is today."



  • How Motor City Came Back From the Brink?and Left Most Detroiters Behind

    On August 30, 2013, a billionaire businessman named Dan Gilbert arrived at the White House to discuss the future of Detroit. Gilbert, founder and  chairman of Quicken Loans and owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, had already invested heavily in the city; in 2010 he moved Quicken's headquarters from the suburbs to downtown and relocated several of his businesses along with 12,500 employees. Six weeks before that White House meeting, the city had filed for the largest municipal bankruptcy in US history. Gilbert was in Washington as part of an elite delegation to discuss federal assistance for the country's most visibly dysfunctional city.     

    The heads of the Kresge and Ford Foundations—large philanthropies that have roots in Detroit's industrial past and continue to invest in the city—were there, as well as the CEO of the Henry Ford hospital system and the then-chair of Wayne State University's Board of Governors. According to the Detroit News, the group met with senior administration officials including then-HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, President Obama's advisor Valerie Jarrett, and Gene Sperling, who was the director of the National Economic Council.

    The months leading up to the bankruptcy highlighted the depth of Detroit's ongoing problems. More than one-third of residents live in poverty and, since 2008, tax foreclosures have pushed 27,000 occupants out of their homes. Michigan's Republican governor had appointed an emergency manager to run the city, with the authority to renegotiate or cancel union contracts, hire and fire government employees, and sell, lease and privatize local assets. The city was often unable to provide basic municipal services like streetlights that worked or alarms for the fire department. The schools? Don't even ask.

    At the White House, Gilbert banged his fist on the table. "The one thing you guys have got to do," he thundered "is figure out how to help us do this blight work." To save Detroit, he told the assembled officials, they needed to help tear down Detroit. By tearing down tens of thousands of buildings —some still occupied, some abandoned—they would make room for new, vibrant neighborhoods.

    Gilbert's fist-pounding proved persuasive. Several weeks after the White House meeting, the Obama administration pulled together a $300 million aid package for Detroit, made up of combined federal and private dollars. There was money to hire firefighters, repair buses and begin the construction of  the M-1 Rail, a $140 million trolley line that will travel 3.3 miles through the city's gentrifying downtown. But almost half of the total was earmarked for blight removal, and Gilbert himself became co-chair of a task force charged with identifying the demolition targets. There are no minutes of the White House meeting, so it's impossible to know what discussion there was about the blight-removal approach. It also appears that not a single representative of the neighborhoods soon to be bulldozed—no minister, no community organizer, no teacher or city council member—attended the meeting. The closest person to a community representative was Dennis Archer, who had served as Detroit's mayor from 1994 to 2001.

    Continue Reading »



  • There Are 447 People With a Better Chance of Being Elected President Than Donald Trump

    When New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie formally entered the presidential race last week, many news outlets (this one included) said he was the 14th Republican to enter the fray.

    Actually, he was the 101st.

    As of July 2, there were 100 Republicans officially running for president, but technically Christie wasn't one of them. That's because he has not yet filed the all-important Statement of Candidacy form that must be submitted to the Federal Election Commission within 15 days of becoming a candidate. The other 100 Republicans have. Candidates or their committees must file the form once they receive contributions or spend more than $5,000 on their campaigns. Most of these people haven't reached that threshold but have still filed the form to register as an official candidate.

    So far, 448 people from all over the country have filed the form to run for president in next year's election. That's up from 417 in 2012 and 369 in 2008.

    So who the are these people who want to be president? A brief overview:

    • The plurality are independent (118). Republicans are a close second at 100, and 74 Democrats are in the race. The rest belong to a smattering of other parties. There are 33 candidates who declared "none" or "no party affiliation," 11 Libertarians, and three Green Party candidates.
    • Unsurprisingly, the biggest states have the most candidates. California leads the way with 59, followed by Florida (42), Texas (41), New York (32), and Pennsylvania (18). The only state without a candidate? Alaska. (That could change.)
    • A few cities are home to more than one candidate. Nine people are running in Washington, D.C., which leads the pack. Eight hopefuls come from Houston and seven from Los Angeles, while Las Vegas, Miami, and Brooklyn (New York's boroughs are listed individually) each have five. In all, more than 340 cities have someone running to be president in 2016.

    Take a look at the map above to see who is running in your state, or search the table at the bottom.



  • Stop Buying in Bulk

    This story was originally published by Slate and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

    If you're like me, you writhe in guilt-ridden anguish each time you forget to bring your canvas tote to the grocery store. But in the rare times we do remember our reusable bags, Americans tend not to think much about what we actually put inside them, according to a new survey. The takeaway: We waste a lot of extra food (and money) simply because we don't shop often enough.

    As big of a problem as it is, food waste rarely makes the news. There was some buzz a while back about France's ban on grocery stores throwing out edible food, but the numbers show that this is only a small part of the problem. Americans vastly underestimate their own food waste, which turns out to be driven mostly by a desire to avoid getting sick—even though saving money is also a top priority. That means we end up stocking our shelves with more than we need to ensure we'll always have something fresh when we want it.

    That sort of behavior is encouraged at bulk stores like Costco and Walmart, which operate on the myth that buying in bulk helps you save money. But new evidence shows that the push for huge quantities of cheap, high-quality food has caused us to be more wasteful than ever. Simply put: We're throwing away more in food waste than we are saving by buying in bulk.

    "People almost entirely neglect the cost of the food they're throwing away from their kitchen," says Victoria Ligon of the University of Arizona, who led the new study. "If you throw away a meal because you've eaten out when you weren't planning to, the cost of that restaurant meal is higher than you think. People don't account for that at all."

    Ligon's study examined shopping patterns of several households through in-depth interviews and food diaries. The results found that people are generally too ambitious in their grocery shopping—buying ingredients for meals days or weeks in advance—when our brains and appetites are hard-wired for little more than the next meal. Our lives get busy, we may schedule a few impromptu evenings out with friends, and suddenly we have a pile of furry cucumbers at the bottom of the fridge. As most people who have ever cooked a meal know, planning meals days in advance is almost impossible.

    "Every single person I talked to in my study felt very uncomfortable at the idea of throwing away food," says Ligon. "We have very strong norms in our culture around not wasting." But Ligon says people shouldn't feel guilty: "This is not a problem that stems from individual apathy. It's a structural problem."

    The bulk stores know this—their whole business model is to trick us into buying more than we need, and all the better if the food seems healthy and good for the planet. During a green push several years ago, Walmart became the biggest grocery store chain in the country. In May, Costco—that wonderland of 9-pound cases of bison jerky and terrier-sized tubs of licoricebecame the leading purveyor of organic grocery items, dethroning Whole Foods. Walmart's Sam's Club stores, which operate on a similar membership-based, it-takes-two-people-to-push-a-cart style of warehouse retail, is reportedly moving in a similar direction and greatly expanding its organic offerings. Organic food is becoming big business, at least partly because stores are able to charge higher markups.

    Which brings us back to food waste. As much as 40 percent of America's food supply gets thrown away every day, with perishable items like dairy, breads, meats, fruits, and vegetables leading the way. The total annual bill of food waste for consumers is a whopping $162 billion, which works out to about $1,300 to $2,300 per family per year. Clearly, that much food could feed a lot of people who otherwise go hungry.

    But even that huge sum doesn't factor in knock-on effects: Wasting food means we're throwing away money, but we're also throwing away 35 percent of the nation's fresh water supply and 300 million gallons of oil each year. That makes tackling food waste the low-hanging fruit amid growing concern over drought and climate change. Next to paper and yard trimmings, food takes up the biggest share of the nation's landfills—and contributes about 20 percent of the country's methane emissions.

    Ligon thinks she's found the start of a solution: Just shop more often.

    "When you're talking about food, feeling really plays a big role. Things like predicting how hungry you are, your appetite, and what you're in the mood for—in the future—turn out to be very challenging," Ligon says. "If you're shopping more frequently, you can purchase food that is meant to be eaten in a shorter time frame."

    But there's a catch. Ligon's research also revealed that people regularly buy groceries from three to seven different stores. With so many choices, there's an incentive to overbuy at each stop—especially if you don't plan on being back for a few days. We've all done this: You go into Trader Joe's planning to buy some nectarines, and you come out with an armful of specialty potato chips and four frozen pizzas.

    Ligon says same-day food delivery services like AmazonFresh (which charges $299 per year for free deliveries over $50 and provides you with a magic wand by which you can place your orders) and soon-to-emerge smartfridges that suggest recipes for you based on your food that's about to go bad (like this one Samsung showcased in 2013) might be among the most promising ways to cut down on waste, with big rewards in water, energy, and climate change—and money.

    After all, you can't waste what you don't buy in the first place.



  • Music Review: "Alerado (Take 2)" by Duke Ellington & His Orchestra

    TRACK 2

    "Alerado (Take 2)"

    From Duke Ellington & His Orchestra's The Conny Plank Session

    GRÖNLAND

    Liner notes: Get your cool on, '70s style, with a swinging mix of lounge organ, breezy flute, and brassy orchestral flourishes. Finger snapping encouraged.

    Behind the music: German producer and sound engineer Conny Plank collaborated with Ellington on this unreleased session before he became known for his work with Kraftwerk and Eurythmics.

    Check it out if you like: Later Duke (not as consistent but still rewarding).

    We couldn't find audio for "Alerado (Take 2)" online, but that doesn't mean you can't get a feel for The Conny Plank Session. The above audio is "Afrique (Take 3, Vocal)" another track off the album.



  • We Love America, and You Should, Too

    James West: Okay. How to start. How to start?

    Ben Dreyfuss: July 4th! America! That great American holiday wherein we celebrate some bit of the American story. I think the earliest bit. Or the earliest official bit? We aren't celebrating the stuff with the Mayflower.

    JW: So the idea is we're chatting about what makes this holiday so great for Americans and America and by extension the world, because for Americans: America is the world. It's a bit off-brand for Mother Jones, no?

    BD: You could say that, yes. We don't have a lot of stories called "America Is Great."

    JW: It's usually: "America: It's Far Worse Than You Think " or "America: Get Out. Seriously, Get Out While You Can."

    BD: But you can't be critical all of the time or you'll have an aneurysm. So let's talk about the truth of the thing, which is that we actually love America! We're harsh and critical about it, but that's because we love it so much. We wouldn't bother writing these stories that urge it to be better if we didn't have some deep abiding love for it.

    JW: I mean, I love America more than is reasonable, because I left a sun-soaked beach paradise with universal health coverage and a social safety net to move to this rat-infested fuckshow called New York City. But anyway, I'm going to start with a simple question. What is your favorite thing about America? FIRST THING that comes to your mind.

    BD: Blue jeans. I think blue jeans are amazing. I also love Hollywood and rock & roll. Blue jeans and Hollywood and rock & roll won the cold war.

    JW: Blue jeans, when they're not made by children in Asia.

    BD: Well, even then we invented them. "Guess" may make them in Asia but those kids are playing an American song.

    JW: "Designed in California" is how Apple describes that particular phenomenon.

    BD: Apple! Right, that's another cool thing America has. Innovation! Other places have that too, though.

    JW: Innovation is one thing I think America excels at quite legitimately and can lay claim to (despite lack of diversity hires.) Have you tried to use 3G in the UK? It's awful. And all their websites break when you try to book a ticket to see Jurassic World 3D. The internet is basically America. At least in the Anglophone world.

    BD: That's true, but in their favor they did invent radar.

    JW: Jurassic World 3D, by the way, is an American film, made by Americans.

    BD: American films are the best films. This is a fact. Cinema is—along with Jazz—the great American art form.

    JW: I think that's a fact, too. I mean, what is the comparison? French films? I don't think so. Bollywood? Bollywood is great. But very long films.

    BD: And cinema in a very real sense created the American identity that has been exported around the world. For instance, would blue jeans be as important had not James Dean worn them? The French films are all very...well, French. Great! But arty to the point of being intentionally obtuse.

    JW: British films are all set in a kitchen making tea... why is that? And Keira Knightley is in every single one of them.

    BD: Have you seen the Eddie Izzard bit on the differences between British and American films?

    BD: British films are all "room with a view and a staircase and a pond."

    JW: Now I'm in an Eddie Izzard YouTube K-hole.

    BD: "You fuck my wife? You fuck my wife?" "I am your wife!"

    JW: Okay, now I'm going to stop this.

    BD: One thing I think he gets at in this discussion of the size and expanse of American films is the thematic size and expanse of the American ideal, right?

    JW: Big, brash, uncompromising, and designed to sell you food made out of corn served in containers made of corn, in seats made of corn.

    BD: You had this ridiculous frontier mentality in the 18th century. Then you have the moon looming large in the 20th century. There is this idea that you can do anything in America! Even though this isn't true and the poverty trap here is as terrible as anywhere, it's still baked into the pitch. You came here from Australia. Did you get that growing up?

    JW: I think what most Australians refuse to really admit is that we are far more similar to Americans than we are to the British. Same frontier thing, same sense of upward-mobility (as a sometimes-flawed, problematic) national obsession, same sense that given the right circumstances everyone can achieve greatness. (Though in Australia's case, not too great, otherwise you're arrogant, "like an American.")

    BD: Haha right. "Arrogant like an American" is a very British thing. You still have traces of British in you.

    JW: It's tactical! America loomed large—and continues to loom the largest for Australians, I think. My childhood was drenched with all the cultural products your childhood was.

    BD: Nationality was—and is—far less a divide than age… because "everything is global, man!"

    JW: If I dusted off my Marxist undergraduate degree I would say something about the spread of global capitalism and America's imperialist soft power. But that's kind of boring, isn't it. Plus, I love America.

    BD: Right, I mean we're going to get into the Bad Bits later. We are liberal journalists, after all.

    JW: And if there's any country's soft power I would want, it's America's, on balance. I mean, Scandinavian furniture is really nice, and better than American, but they aren't a superpower. But given the choice of current superpowers, I would throw my chips down for America. Also, New York hosts the UN, man, and it's a beautiful building full of august (ineffective!) debate about the future of the planet!

    BD: And Hillary Clinton wasn't afraid to announce her run for president in front of it!

    JW: No. That was bold.

    BD: That was great. I think a lot of people—myself included—think of America as a leader of the world, right? But what Hillary was saying with that backdrop was that we're a leader sure, but still a member of this global community. And that's true and important and when America acts like its worst self on the global stage is when we forget that.

    JW: I've been doing some thinking about this question, and I want to get sentimental for a second about America. Are you ready?

    BD: Yes.

    JW: America got a really bad wrap in recent years around the world for obvious reasons. And it made people kind of…"bigoted" against Americans. Certainly there was this feeling that American culture is crass, debased, somehow inferior. But actually I've only ever found the opposite: a culture that is genuinely open to people and ideas, in the pursuit of creating something cool. In my case, writing and videos. But there's never any hesitation to welcome an idea in any field, from my experience. Americans are natural storytellers, and therefore natural listeners, alert to things and excited by them. That's a really fun culture to be around.

    BD: Right. Like, storytelling is a big thing in like every culture but it does hold a special place in America.

    JW: Every American has a "story." That's fun. (And great for a reporter.)

    BD: Nietzsche said that everyone tells themselves the story of their life. That's true about countries, too. We're constantly telling ourselves the American story.

    JW: Americans are especially good at framing a personal narrative, and then putting it on a path to redemption. Right, the same is true for the country.

    BD: I think we do that because—we should do it more, too—but we do that because we have done so much terrible shit. Like, I know we're talking about America as one thing right now and basically it's a very New York liberal blah blah version of America but I was raised with an acute awareness of our original sins. The story of America is necessarily one of progress because if it's not than it's a stale story where we have not risen above Klansmen.

    JW: I do like the stakes involved in the project of America though: "We've done awful shit. We'll keep doing awful shit. But we also think of ourselves as the best country on Earth, so we have to hold ourselves to a higher ideal." I mean, what a crazy motherfucking insane project that is. The Russians don't do that. The Chinese don't do that. But it matters, because if America succeeds in that project, the world is a better place for it.

    BD: But like also, yeesh, obviously America is still totally fucking awful on these issues.

    JW: Dreadful.

    BD: And it's insane. For decades in America, centuries even, lynching was just a thing that happened. Then not that long after people looked back at it with the genuine shock and outrage it deserved and wondered, "HOW THE HELL DID WE DO THAT?" I think we'll look back on a lot of stuff that happens today the same way. Not seeing ourselves—not recognizing ourselves— in our own history. That's a scary feeling. One that everyone can't help but feel time to time.

    JW: But at the same time, America has this idea of itself—rightly, wrongly—of becoming better, never settling, never being comfortable, always at war with the concept of "doing good"—and that makes it really interesting from an outsider's perspective. I'm from Australia. We go to the beach instead of confront our demons.

    BD: Haha.

    JW: I mean, if you guys had beaches like Australia's you'd do the same.

    BD: Have you been to Southern California? Southern California is the most beautiful place on Earth.

    JW: OK, apart from Southern California, which is beautiful. And the Pacific Northwest. And actually, a lot of America is really beautiful.

    BD: Gorgeous!

    JW: Haha.

    BD: There are ugly bits but even the ugly bits aren't that bad.

    JW: Coming back from Newark airport is pretty bad.

    BD: Wait, wait, before we start just listing our favorite parts of America—which we'll do in a second— I want to do something before we leave the history bit of this discussion.

    JW: Okay.

    BD: The constitution looms large, right? My dad likes to talk about how it was a first. Other people had strived for freedom and promise and ratatatata but the Constitution was the first time we codified it aspirationally and wrote it down and put it up on a wall and said, "this is us." If your father was a cobbler, and his father was a cobbler, and his father was a cobbler, you don't have to be a cobbler.

    I mean Magna Carta was codified, DAD. "Look, dad, have you even fucking read the Magna Carta?"

    JW: Apparently the Magna Carta was over-rated?

    BD: I mean, it seems like it would have to be.

    JW: Look at Britain now!

    BD: Haha.

    JW: I think Constitutional festishism can be a bit of a problem, though. Pick your amendment to be a nut about!

    BD: Right. No one seems to give a fuck about them all equally. I mean, it would be weird to do that maybe too. I hate the constitutional originalism. Like, it's not some magical document. It was written by a bunch of smart people—most of whom are in hell now by the way—hundreds of years ago. Who gives a fuck what the founding fathers would think?

    JW: Also, they would have been horrible people, by modern standards.

    BD: Horrible!

    JW: With awful teeth.

    BD: Wooden!

    JW: Thank god for fluoride. When I think of America, I think of Janis Joplin. I think of Nina Simone. I think of Martin Luther King Jr. I think of protest and struggle. There's never really been a time of calm—where counter culture has given in. All the way through to Baltimore, Ferguson, Charleston.

    BD: That's so interesting. Maybe it's just because I'm a '90s kid but I really had this disruptive change after 9/11 where I felt a calmness lost. Like that is definitely because of "white privilege" and shit though.

    JW: Yeah, the "innocence lost" narrative of 9/11 is one to poke holes in for sure, but the whole world was involved, so wasn't just about America at that point.

    BD: Sure, but I don't think it's true that it was like equally spread out over the world. A few months ago I was abroad somewhere and a political person from that country was trying to make some point and kept being like "how did you feel on 9/11?" and I was like, "stop trying to co-opt our tragedy for your own bullshit purposes."

    JW: Haha. Well, loads of countries went to war with you guys, including ours. So in that sense your tragedy was very ours.

    BD: Anyway...

    JW: Can we list other things we like about America now, in short order?

    BD: Yes. Southern California, Jazz, Hollywood, our breakfasts, the Pacific Northwest, basketball, rock & roll, going to the moon, leather jackets, bourbon, New York City.

    JW: The Good Wife. Road-trips and going to diners on road trips with my BF. HBO. The Empire State Building.

    BD: The Good Wife! The Americans! Pop music!

    JW: American newscasts and hyperbolic segues. I love them. I also love the weather segments which go for so long compared to back home.

    BD: Oh, they're amazing I love the bullshit morning shows. They're so stupid but I love them.

    JW: The national anthem is also pretty special, and amazing, piece of music. Especially as sung by Whitney.

    BD: We're good at music.

    JW: And I also think—I'm going to say it—the design of your national flag is really iconic and beautiful.

    BD: Yeah it's nice. I like it. It's on the moon, too! When the aliens come they'll be very impressed.

    JW: America! I'm so worked up about America now and feel so self-validated by my decisions to move here! Yay, America!

    BD: Yay!

    JW: Happy July 4!

    BD: Ok, so I guess that's how we wrap this up. We love America. You should too.

    JW: I think I wanna end on a quote from my favorite American play (duh—it's so unsurprising. don't laugh)... Angels in America… About the guy who wrote the national anthem, one of the characters remarks that he "knew what he was doing. He set the word 'free' to a note so high nobody can reach it."

    I like that. Sums it up for me. Still trying to hit that high note.

    BD: Perfect. All right, let's publish this motherfucker.




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