Mother Jones


The EPA's Bold New Idea Has Massive Implications for Public Health

Mother Jones

For years, the Environmental Protection Agency's regulation of radiation, carcinogens, and other toxic chemicals has been based on the cautious scientific reasoning that considers even slight exposure to toxins potentially risky to public health. From that premise, the EPA has assessed a wide range of pollution, including lung-clogging particulate matter, Superfund cleanup, water treatment, radiation exposure, and risk assessments for carcinogens like benzene. That time-honored approach may be changing because of easy-to-overlook phrasing within a paragraph buried in the proposed "Strengthening Transparency In Regulatory Science Rule," a regulation that will bar the EPA from considering a wide range of scientific studies in its rule-making. With a few sentences buried in the seven-page Federal Register text, the EPA is opening the door to a new scientific approach that--in a worst-case scenario--could further relax regulations because of the assumption that a little pollution is actually beneficial. Some scientists have considered the implications of this paragraph and described a whole array of potential problems to Mother Jones.


The EPA's Bold New Idea: A Little Bit of Pollution Is Actually Good for You

Mother Jones

For years, the Environmental Protection Agency's regulation of radiation, carcinogens, and other toxic chemicals has been based on the cautious scientific reasoning that considers even slight exposure to toxins potentially risky to public health. From that premise, the EPA has assessed a wide range of pollution, including lung-clogging particulate matter, Superfund cleanup, water treatment, radiation exposure, and as well as risk assessments for carcinogens like benzene. That time-honored approach may be changing because of easy-to-overlook phrasing within a paragraph buried in the proposed "Strengthening Transparency In Regulatory Science Rule," a regulation that will bar the EPA from considering a wide range of scientific studies in its rule making. With a few sentences buried in the seven-page Federal Register text, the EPA is opening the door to a new scientific approach that--in a worst-case scenario--could further relax regulations because of the assumption that a little pollution is actually beneficial. Some scientists have considered the implications of this paragraph and described a whole array of potential problems to Mother Jones.


Meet the Trailblazers Fighting to Change the Face of Politics

Mother Jones

One candidate fled the violence of Colombia with her mom at age nine. Another fled the Taliban at age six. A third says his parents were almost deported from the United States. Catalina Cruz and Safiya Wazir won their primary elections in New York and New Hampshire respectively last week, while William Tong is campaigning to become Connecticut's first Asian American attorney general. They're representative of a surge of minority candidates in this year's midterm elections, in which more women and people of color are not only running for office--but also winning votes and unseating entrenched politicians.


New Study Shows Stereotypes About Online Dating Are True

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You know the type: Those friends who think they've found the best way to game Tinder, insist wearing a dress instead of jeans will catch someone's attention, or that the most fruitful way to find love is by going on the Bachelor. There is so much dating lore and folk wisdom out there, but we've never really had hard data behind it--at least until now. A group of researchers recently attempted to decode the world of heterosexual online dating and found not just that women go for older men and men for younger women, but that so many Americans are seeking a partner "out of their league." On average, researchers found, both heterosexual men and women go after people who are around 25 percent more "desirable" than themselves. But, you're probably wondering, how the hell are they defining what makes someone "desirable"?


Health Insurers Are Using Your Online Shopping Cart and Zip Code to Determine Your Rates

Mother Jones

Insurers and data brokers are predicting your health costs based on data about things like race, marital status, how much TV you watch, whether you pay your bills on time or even buy plus-size clothing.Scanrail/Getty Images This story was originally co-published by ProPublica and NPR. But dig deeper and the implications of what they're selling might give many patients pause: A future in which everything you do--the things you buy, the food you eat, the time you spend watching TV--may help determine how much you pay for health insurance. With little public scrutiny, the health insurance industry has joined forces with data brokers to vacuum up personal details about hundreds of millions of Americans, including, odds are, many readers of this story. The companies are tracking your race, education level, TV habits, marital status, net worth. Then they feed this information into complicated computer algorithms that spit out predictions about how much your health care could cost them. Are you a woman who recently changed your name? You could be newly married and have a pricey pregnancy pending. Or maybe you're stressed and anxious from a recent divorce.


Donald Trump, the Chinese Exclusion Act, and the Danger of Not Learning From America's Anti-Immigrant Past

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Women detainees at Angel Island, where immigrants were processed before being allowed into the country.Courtesy of the California Historical Society. For about two hours at Oakland Technical High School last winter, Jah-Yee Woo worked with her 11th grade honors US history students to assemble a timeline. On its surface, the activity seemed simple--with students placing small, colorful pieces of paper on a poster. But each piece of paper marked a different immigration policy throughout history, placed above or below the line following student debate over whether the entry was inclusive or exclusive. Inclusive polices fell above the line, exclusionary ones below.


Tech Employees Are Rallying Against Their Companies' Work With ICE

Mother Jones

On June 17th, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff retweeted images from a CBS reporter of a detention facility in McAllen, Texas where children slept on the floor, covered in emergency blankets. Just a few days later, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella sent an all-staff email calling President Donald Trump's immigration policy "cruel and abusive." In March, Beinoff's company signed a contract with US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) to provide cloud services in order to boost the agency's hiring efforts, something that CBP has long struggled with. And at Microsoft, employees have organized to demand that Microsoft cancel its $19.4 million contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for data processing and, potentially, facial recognition software. An NBC investigation also identified active contracts between ICE and a host of prominent tech companies--Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Thomson Reuters, Motorola Solutions, and Palantir--each worth tens of millions.


Ignorance is Strength: The Trump Administration's Creepy War on Language

Mother Jones

This article first appeared at TomDispatch.com. Consider us officially in an Orwellian world, though we only half realize it. While we were barely looking, significant parts of an American language long familiar to us quite literally, and in a remarkably coherent way, went down the equivalent of George Orwell's infamous Memory Hole. This hit me in a personal way recently. I was asked to give a talk at an annual national security conference held in downtown Manhattan and aimed largely at an audience of college students.


An Amazon Echo Recorded a Family's Private Conversation and Sent it to Some Random Person

Mother Jones

In case you needed another reminder that Amazon's Echo, an internet-connected recording device designed to listen and respond to verbal commands, can pose security and privacy risks for you and your loved ones, here you go. A family in Portland, Oregon contacted the company recently to ask it to investigate why the device had recorded private conversations in their home and sent the audio to a person in another state. The family did as told, after the employee told them about receiving an audio file containing what seemed like a private conversation. At first the family did not believe the employee, but then the employee was able to relay details of the private conversation. "My husband and I would joke and say I'd be these devices are listening to what we're saying," a woman named Danielle, who didn't want her last name used, told KIRO-TV in Portland.


Facebook Admits Millions More People Were Impacted by Cambridge Analytica Breach Than Previously Known

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Facebook said Wednesday that personal data for up to 87 million people--tens of millions more than originally thought--may have been "improperly shared" with Cambridge Analytica, the data analytics firm that worked for Donald Trump's 2016 campaign. Most of those affected were in the United States, the company said. Facebook included the disclosure in the second-to-last paragraph of a company statement that also described new measures to restrict third-party access to user data. Recent stories in the New York Times and the British Observer cited a former Cambridge Analytica employee, Christopher Wylie, who said that the Facebook data of more than 50 million people had been harvested and provided to Cambridge Analytica in 2014. The data was acquired, Wylie said, in the hopes of building personality-based models to target and influence voters in US elections.