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Google Workers Are Demanding That the Company Stop Working With Police

Mother Jones

In a new letter, more than 1,600 Google workers are demanding that the company end its work with police departments across the country. "The past weeks have shown us that addressing racism is not merely an issue of words, but of actions taken to dismantle the actual structures that perpetuate it," the workers wrote in a draft of the to-be-released letter addressed to Google CEO Sundar Pichai and obtained by Mother Jones. The letter was signed by 1,670 employees, according to a screenshot that was shared with Mother Jones by someone with access to the signature list, and was organized by Googlers Against Racism, an advocacy group within the company. "While we as individuals hold difficult but necessary conversations with our family, friends and peers, we are also incredibly disappointed by our company's response," the letter continued, referencing Google's lip service to the Black Lives Matter movement. The letter also demands that the company "stop making our technology available to police forces."


Kids Are Especially Tough to Interview About Abuse. Are Robots the Solution?

Mother Jones

Cindy Bethel was 6 when her babysitter's neighbor started molesting her. Worried what else would happen if she told her parents, she confided in her stuffed panda instead. Sometimes she acted out the abuse with Barbie and Ken dolls. A few years later, the same teen neighbor raped her on a woodpile outside his house. She didn't tell anyone about the assault until long after she moved away from her Ohio hometown.


A $1 Million Virtual Tennis Tournament With Venus, Serena, McEnroe, and…Mario?!

Mother Jones

Welcome to Recharge, a weekly newsletter full of stories that will energize your inner hellraiser. See more editions and sign up here. Like everyone else in the world, Venus and Serena Williams can't play tennis right now to thousands of stadium fans. But they can play Tennis to millions of them. The superstar sisters lit up this weekend's Mario Tennis tournament for coronavirus relief in doubles showdowns with fellow pros Maria Sharapova, Naomi Osaka, and Kei Nishikori, along with Seal, Steve Aoki, and other entertainers and fashion figures.


Science Has an Ugly, Complicated Dark Side. And the Coronavirus Is Bringing It Out.

Mother Jones

It'd be foolish to base any major health policy on one scientific study and it's unclear if this study played a role in the country's fiasco over testing--widely regarded as a major failure of the administration's COVID-19 response--but it's nonetheless alarming that it was repeated as fact by the very people we're trusting to lead our country through the pandemic. That said, the mixup isn't entirely Birx's fault; after all, the study was published in a journal after peer review and it wasn't marked on PubMed as withdrawn until weeks after the retraction occurred. The real problem here is that this study even had the prominence it did. As the co-founders of Retraction Watch, a blog that tracks academic retractions, wrote in a recent article for Wired, the case involving Birx "is a particularly dismaying and consequential example of what happens when no one bothers to engage in scientific fact-checking." "But," they cautioned, "it will not be the last time that something we thought we knew about the coronavirus because it was in a published paper will turn out to be wrong."


A Science Journal Funded by Peter Thiel Is Running Articles Dismissing Climate Change and Evolution

Mother Jones

But Inference, which bills itself as a "quarterly review of the sciences," was offering me a chance to write about a topic of my own choosing (subject to their approval). They also promised to pay me "appropriately" for my work, and the timing would have been great for book promotion. While I waited for an answer, I went to Inference's website. It looked like a real science publication -- featuring the original writing of scientists and other thinkers I respect, including MIT's Noam Chomsky and George Ellis at the University of Cape Town. There were 13 issues ranging back to 2014, covering a mix of subjects including physics, biology, and linguistics.


How Driverless Cars Could Work for Good Instead of Evil

Mother Jones

This story was originally published by Grist. It appears here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration. Our gas-guzzling car culture is about to change forever, but not necessarily for good. The shift from gasoline-power to electric, the rise of ridesharing, and the invention of self-driving vehicles will soon overhaul transportation. A new report, just published by the Greenlining Institute, a racial equity nonprofit, says these three revolutions will speed us into a gridlocked and polluted future unless we put the right policies in place.


TSA Says the Number of Agents Skipping Work Has Spiked Due to the Shutdown

Mother Jones

Transportation Security Administration agents help passengers through a security checkpoint at Newark Liberty International Airport in Newark. New figures released Sunday reveal a record number of agents are not showing up to work. The Transportation Security Administration has reported that the number of airport security agents not showing up to work reached an all-time high over the holiday weekend, according to the Washington Post, a side-effect of the government shutdown that the Department of Homeland Security previously stated was non a concern. TSA agents are among the estimated 800,000 federal workers who are furloughed or working without pay during a government shutdown that is reaching its 30th day. The Washington Post reported that the number of unscheduled absences hit 8 percent nationally this weekend, up from a 3 percent a year ago.


The FBI Says Its Photo Analysis is Scientific Evidence. Scientists Disagree.

Mother Jones

This story was originally published by ProPublica. At the FBI Laboratory in Quantico, Virginia, a team of about a half-dozen technicians analyzes pictures down to their pixels, trying to determine if the faces, hands, clothes or cars of suspects match images collected by investigators from cameras at crime scenes. The unit specializes in visual evidence and facial identification, and its examiners can aid investigations by making images sharper, revealing key details in a crime or ruling out potential suspects. But the work of image examiners has never had a strong scientific foundation, and the FBI's endorsement of the unit's findings as trial evidence troubles many experts and raises anew questions about the role of the FBI Laboratory as a standard-setter in forensic science. FBI examiners have tied defendants to crime pictures in thousands of cases over the past half-century using unproven techniques, at times giving jurors baseless statistics to say the risk of error was vanishingly small. Much of the legal foundation for the unit's work is rooted in a 22-year-old comparison of bluejeans. Studies on several photo comparison techniques, conducted over the last decade by the FBI and outside scientists, have found they are not reliable. Since those studies were published, there's no indication that lab officials have checked past casework for errors or inaccurate testimony. Image examiners continue to use disputed methods in an array of cases to bolster prosecutions against people accused of robberies, murder, sex crimes and terrorism. The work of image examiners is a type of pattern analysis, a category of forensic science that has repeatedly led to misidentifications at the FBI and other crime laboratories. Before the discovery of DNA identification methods in the 1980s, most of the bureau's lab worked in pattern matching, which involves comparing features from items of evidence to the suspect's body and belongings. Examiners had long testified in court that they could determine what fingertip left a print, what gun fired a bullet, which scalp grew a hair "to the exclusion of all others." Research and exonerations by DNA analysis have repeatedly disproved these claims, and the U.S. Department of Justice no longer allows technicians and scientists from the FBI and other agencies to make such unequivocal statements, according to new testimony guidelines released last year. Though image examiners rely on similarly flawed methods, they have continued to testify to and defend their exactitude, according to a review of court records and examiners' written reports and published articles.


You Bought Smart Speakers Over the Holiday. Now What Are Amazon and Google Doing With Your Data?

Mother Jones

I recently attended a holiday potluck hosted by a tech-junkie friend who had decked out his one-bedroom apartment with smart speakers, smart lights, and small, infrared motion sensors that looked disconcertingly like cameras. Towards the end of the party, after one of the guests disappeared into the back of the apartment, another decided to play a prank. "Hey Google, turn off bathroom lights," he said quietly into a nearby sensor. A few seconds later we heard an exaggerated shriek. "Hey Google, turn lights red," my friend joined in, grinning.


Artificial Intelligence Was Supposed to Reduce Hiring Discrimination. It's Already Backfiring.

Mother Jones

In September, ProPublica revealed that a number of high-profile tech companies were using Facebook to advertise jobs only to men. This seemingly clear violation of US employment laws would have been surprising had the news organization not found similar uses of the social-media platform's advertising tools to discriminate against older workers in 2017. This finding led to Facebook being one of hundreds of parties named in a massive lawsuit for allegedly having discriminated against aging workers. As a job advertising platform, Facebook uses what are known as predictive technologies to allow companies to preselect an audience for job listings posted to its site. This means that companies like Facebook and Google can preselect targeted groups for ads that platforms identify based on user data and behavior.