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This Stat Will Make Deforestation Hit Home

Mother Jones - April 24, 2015 - 3:33pm

Okay, so deforestation is sad, and it's Arbor Day so we should be extra sad about it. But there are so many things to be sad about, right? Well maybe this stat, from a study that came out last month, will make the loss of the world's forests sink in for you:

More than 70 percent of the worlds's forests are within 1 kilometer of a forest edge. Thus, most forests are well within the range where human activities, altered microclimate and nonforest species may influence and degrade forest ecosystems.

That's right, we've arrived at the point where the majority of the forest in the world is just a short walk from the stuff humans have built. If you need that in graph form, here you go:

Science Advances

According to the study, which was published in the journal Science Advances, the largest remaining contiguous forests are in the Amazon and the Congo River Basin. The study also synthesized past forest fragmentation research and found that breaking up habitats to this degree has reduced biodiversity by as much as 75 percent in some areas.

Happy Arbor Day…

Why ‘The Heidi Chronicles’ Failed to Find a New Audience

The Nation - April 24, 2015 - 3:30pm
Alisa Solomon

Wendy Wasserstein’s 1989 play barely passes the Bechdel Test. Men act; Heidi reacts. What Lean-In feminist has time for that?

Say What You Will About Almonds, but They Are Wildly Popular

Mother Jones - April 24, 2015 - 1:39pm

California's thirsty almond orchards have been generating an impressive amount of debate as the state's drought drags on. But that won't likely stop their expansion. The title of a new report from the Dutch agribusiness-banking giant Rabobank explains why: "California Almonds: Maybe Money Does Grow on Trees."

The report is "exclusive for business clients of Rabobank," but an accompanying blog post offers some good tidbits. "Drought conditions and the stronger US dollar have increased the price of almonds for all buyers," it states. On the US East Coast, wholesale prices for premium almonds have risen 20 percent since last year. "In Europe, the almond is becoming increasingly popular, not only as a nutritious snack but especially as a go-to ingredient for manufacturers," it continues. There, wholesale prices are up 50 percent since last year, while "buyers in India and Hong Kong are paying 25 percent and 20 percent more, respectively."

Those higher prices will evidently more than compensate California farmers for higher watering costs, and inspire than to expand acreage. Rabobank expects California almond production to rise by 2 percent to 3.5 percent per year over the next decade, accoring to Sacramento Bee's Dale Kasler, who got a look at the Rabobank study.

That's impressive growth. If almond output expands by 3 percent per year over the next ten years, then—using this trusty formula—production will grow a whopping 34 percent between now and 2025. That's a lot of growth for a state that already churns out 80 percent of the world's almonds. This scenario doesn't imply a 34 percent expansion in almond acreage—some of the almond trees that will contribute to that growth in output have already been planted and will be coming into production over the next few years (it takes almonds about four years to begin producing after they're planted). But it does imply a robust expansion. Kasler quotes the study:

Higher prices and good profits for California almond growers will continue to encourage more planting of almond orchards.... Nurseries report very little slowing in orders of new trees.


Friday Cat Blogging - April 24 2015

Mother Jones - April 24, 2015 - 1:35pm

While Kevin is undergoing treatment, we've invited lots of exciting guest writers to stop by in his honor. But there's no reason the hospitality can't extend to another species, is there?

This week's Mother Jones affiliated cat is Max, who joined reporter Patrick Caldwell last summer as the fifth (and only feline) resident of his Washington, DC row house. Here's a shot of Max exploring the dark corners of his realm.


So amazed to discover the underground territory

A photo posted by Patrick Caldwell (@patcaldwell) on Jan 13, 2015 at 7:02pm PST


Max's background is almost as shrouded and mysterious as that crawl space. How old is he? No one knows. How many people have cared for him before Pat and his roommates? No one's quite sure about that either.

As the story goes, Max has been bequeathed from shared home to shared home like a well-loved futon as his keepers have, one after the other, moved out of the beltway. And while that might make him sound like a very mobile cat, Pat reports he's quite sedentary in most respects. His favorite form of play—swatting at things just above his head—can and usually is performed while reclining on his back. This Thanksgiving, he gave the humans a brief scare by slipping away while they were out celebrating. But true to his nature, when they came home Max seemed to have whiled away the hours just a few yards from the window they'd mistakenly left open.

Unlike Hilbert and Hopper, Max can't count on Southern California's sun to keep him warm, so over the winter his roommates cleverly rigged up a cat bed right above a radiator. Ready for a nap?



I feel ya buddy

A photo posted by Patrick Caldwell (@patcaldwell) on Feb 21, 2015 at 10:34am PST


With the roommate most responsible for Max heading to Kansas City for medical school come fall, this peripatetic puss's future is a bit unsettled. Will he stay with his current community, or will he head west? If he stays, what if the new roommate is allergic, or—as hard as this may be to imagine—not a cat person? Yes, there may be yet another loving home in his future.

Whatever happens, there's no doubt Max will land on his feet. Cats always do.

Thomas Bishop: Fox News Baselessly Blames Hillary Clinton For Uranium Deal

Media Matters - April 24, 2015 - 11:54am

Fox News baselessly suggested that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton personally approved a deal that eventually gave the Russian government ownership of U.S. uranium mines to benefit a Clinton Foundation donor. But Clinton reportedly had no personal involvement in the deal, which was approved by representatives of nine U.S. agencies after a rigorous review process.

On the April 4 edition of Special Report, host Bret Baier previewed his upcoming hour-long special on discredited conservative author Peter Schweizer's forthcoming book Clinton Cash, in which he accuses Bill and Hillary Clinton of influence peddling with foreign governments in exchange for donations to the Clinton Foundation and speaking fees. The segment focused on Schweizer's allegations regarding Clinton's purported role in approving the sale of the uranium mining company Uranium One to the Russian government.

New York Times reporter Jo Becker, whose own reporting on the Uranium One story has been criticized by the Clinton campaign for burying "original reporting that debunks the allegation that then-Secretary Clinton played any role in the review of the sale," also appeared in the segment. Both the Times and Fox reportedly "made arrangements for exclusive access" to the book.

During the preview, Schweizer detailed the sale of Uranium One to the Russian state corporation Rosatom. He and Schweizer then had the following exchange:

BAIER: Now, does Secretary Clinton factor into this?

SCHWEIZER: For that deal to go through, it needs federal government approval and one of those people that has to approve that deal is Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Baier concluded: "So what this amounts to, in the end, is a Russian company essentially controlled by Vladimir Putin, will now be in charge of a substantial portion of American uranium. Russia sends uranium to its client state, Iran. So American uranium could well be sent to the very nation we're negotiating with to try to slow its ability to develop a nuclear weapon. Thus, we see how far-reaching the effect of the Clinton blur, as Schweizer puts it, can be."

But Baier's preview omitted important context to misleadingly suggest that Clinton personally approved the Russian purchase. According to Time, which received this chapter of Schweizer's book in advance, the State Department's role in approving the deal was part of an extensive bureaucratic process, and Schweizer's chapter offers no indication of Hillary Clinton's personal involvement in, or even knowledge of, the deliberations. In fact, Time quotes Jose Hernandez, who as former Assistant Secretary of State for Economic, Energy and Business Affairs was involved the deliberations on behalf of the State Department, denying that Clinton was involved in the matter at all.

Moreover, Time pointed out that the "deal's approval was the result of an extensive interagency process that required the assent of at least nine different officials and agencies" through the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States. According to the report, "State has just one vote on the nine-member committee, which also includes the departments of Defense, Treasury and Energy. Disagreements are traditionally handled at the staff level, and if they are not resolved, they are escalated to deputies at the relevant agencies. If the deputies can't resolve the dispute, the issues can be elevated to the Cabinet Secretary level and, if needed, to the President for a decision. The official chairman of CFIUS is the Treasury Secretary, not the Secretary of State."

Furthermore, the Uranium One deal also had to receive approval from "the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, an independent agency outside of the State Department's purview, as well as Utah's nuclear regulator. The deal also received approval from Canada's foreign investment review agency."

Clinton campaign press secretary Brian Fallon has denied any wrongdoing by Clinton and criticized Becker for burying crucial facts from her report "that debunks the allegation that then-Secretary Clinton played any role in the review of the sale."

Relying largely on research from the conservative author of Clinton Cash, today's New York Times alleges that donations to the Clinton Foundation coincided with the U.S. government's 2010 approval of the sale of a company known as Uranium One to the Russian government. Without presenting any direct evidence in support of the claim, the Times story -- like the book on which it is based -- wrongly suggests that Hillary Clinton's State Department pushed for the sale's approval to reward donors who had a financial interest in the deal. Ironically, buried within the story is original reporting that debunks the allegation that then-Secretary Clinton played any role in the review of the sale.

Schweizer's book has been roundly denounced and discredited as a smear campaign which presents erroneous evidence to support its claims.

Alexandrea Boguhn: White Men Will Now Host CNN And All Broadcast Sunday Morning Political Talk Shows

Media Matters - April 24, 2015 - 11:49am

The appointment of CNN's Jake Tapper as the new host of State of the Union means that the program will join Sunday political talk shows on ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox as being anchored by white men, highlighting the long-standing lack of diversity in Sunday morning political talk shows.

CNN announced on April 24 that network host Jake Tapper would begin anchoring the network's Sunday political talk show State of the Union in June, taking over the temporary duties of Dana Bash after Candy Crowley left the program in December. Tapper's appointment to the position highlights the continued lack of diversity represented on Sunday political talk shows. CBS News also recently announced that network political director John Dickerson will replace Bob Schieffer as the host of Face the Nation when he retires this summer. All of the hosts of major Sunday political talk shows on ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, and CNN will now be white men. MSNBC's Sunday news programs, which include Up with Steve Kornacki and Melissa Harris-Perry do present a contrast to the lack of diversity at other networks.

But white men aren't just dominating the programs as hosts -- they also make up the large majority of guest appearances. According to a Media Matters report analyzing the state of diversity on the Sunday news programming in 2014, white men made up the largest proportion of guests on all shows considered. The report, which analyzed the ethnicity, gender and ideology of guests on ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos, CBS' Face the Nation with Bob Schieffer, Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace, NBC's Meet the Press with Chuck Todd, and CNN's State of the Union with Candy Crowley, found that white men dominated the guests appearances on all programs considered:

These findings underscore a 2013 Media Matters' analysis that uncovered how gender diversity on Sunday morning political talk shows had gone basically unchanged over the previous five years:

The continued lack of diversity in Sunday morning political news programming illustrates a news environment that consistently fails to bring minorities and women to the table. According to a 2014 survey by the American Society of News Editors, "the percentage of minority journalists" in the United States remains between just 12 and 14 percent -- where it has been "for more than a decade." The percentage of women in newsrooms has also gone virtually unchanged for 14 years.

Matt Gertz: NY Times Invents Former Clinton Foundation Ban On Foreign Donations

Media Matters - April 24, 2015 - 11:31am

The New York Times is urging the Clinton Foundation to reinstitute a ban that never existed on accepting donations from foreign governments.

The Times editorial board wrote on April 23 that now that Hillary Clinton is running for president, the international nonprofit "needs to reinstate the ban on donations from foreign governments for the rest of her campaign -- the same prohibition that was in place when she was in the Obama administration." Likewise, an April 23 Times news article stated that the Foundation recently "limited donations from foreign governments," but that the new policy "stops short of Mrs. Clinton's agreement with the Obama administration, which prohibited all foreign government donations while she served as the nation's top diplomat."

In fact, the 2008 memorandum of understanding entered into by the Clinton Foundation and then-President-Elect Barack Obama did not ban foreign government donations. Instead, it stated that if Hillary Clinton were confirmed as secretary of state, the Foundation would "continue to perform" its activities "on behalf of existing foreign country contributors and in fulfillment of existing and on-going commitments."

The Clinton Foundation's board agreed earlier this month to return to a similar policy given Clinton's run for president. They will "permit donations from Australia, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and the U.K. -- countries that support or have supported Clinton Foundation programs on health, poverty and climate change," according to the Wall Street Journal.

Factchecking’s impact

Columbia Journalism Review - April 24, 2015 - 11:06am
Political factchecking has grown up over the course of the past three presidential elections. Launched in 2003, FactCheck.org examined candidates’ claims during the 2004 campaign and was even incorrectly cited by Vice President Dick Cheney during a debate. The then-nascent PolitiFact.com analyzed more than 750 political statements throughout the 2008 cycle, garnering a Pulitzer Prize for its efforts. The genre...


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