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The US Will See 50 Percent More Lightning Strikes, Thanks to Global Warming

Mother Jones

By now we’re familiar with some of the scarier potential impacts of climate change: Floods, fires, stronger hurricanes, violent conflicts. Well, here’s a new one to add to your nightmares. Lightning strikes in the continental United States will increase roughly 12 percent for every degree Celsius of global warming, a study published today in Science finds. If warming continues unchecked, that could translate into a 50 percent increase in lightning by the end of the century—three strikes then for every two strikes now. (On average, there are currently about 25 million strikes per year.)

Does this mean an increase your odds of getting struck by lightning? Technically yes, I guess, but I wouldn’t worry about that. Instead, the increase matters because lightning strikes are the principle cause of wildfires, which are already predicted to become more severe due to global warming. In one 24-hour period in August, lightning in Northern California started 34 wildfires. The study doesn’t make any specific predictions about wildfire activity, but knowing about future lightning conditions is an important part of that equation.

Lightning is notoriously hard to account for in climate models, because the models can only represent large-scale atmospheric forces like wind speed, moisture, and temperature; they can’t show relatively small electric pulses, said Anthony Del Genio, an atmospheric scientist for NASA who was not involved with the study. So to get a sense of how lighting patterns will change in future climates, scientists have to rely on “proxies”—third-party forces they can model that have a known relationship to lightning. Early lightning studies in the 1990s, for example, made inferences based on how the heights of clouds—thought to be one contributor to lightning patterns—are expected to change with global warming, Del Genio said.

But lightning is a complex phenomenon that still isn’t fully understood by atmospheric scientists, so proxies have mostly proven to be imperfect for one reason or another. As a result, the Science study explains, previous estimates for how lightning will change with global warming range from an increase of 5 percent to and increase of more than 100 percent for each degree of temperature rise. Not very informative.

This study presents a new proxy for lightning—a proxy that author David Romps of the University of California-Berkeley thinks is much stronger than any of the previous ones. It’s actually a combination of two proxies: precipitation and “CAPE,” a standard measure of the kinetic energy clouds hold as they rise in the atmosphere. Lightning is the product of electrical charges caused by ice particles of different densities colliding in clouds, so Romps chose factors that would be necessary for lightning to occur: Enough precipitation to form ice, and enough upward energy to keep the ice suspended.

Taken together, those proxies accurately predicted 77 percent of actual lightning strikes observed in the US in 2011 by a national web of electromagnetic sensors. That result, Romps said, is a sign that these proxies are “doing a remarkably good job” of representing lightning patterns.

The video below shows the data Romps used to compare his hypothesis to observed lightning strikes, here represented as red dots. The original was over five minutes long—with one second for every day of the year—so we sped it up a bit.

The next step was to use data from 11 existing climate models to find out how precipitation and CAPE are predicted to change with global warming. Although Romps said the correlation between warming and CAPE is still being studied, all 11 models predicted it would increase by the end of the century. In other words, global warming will probably produce clouds that have stronger upward momentum. Combine that with predicted precipitation and, according to Romps, you get a sense of how much more lightning we can expect to see.

In this study, Romps’ dataset paints its predictions with a broad brush; the data isn’t detailed enough to know how lightning will change in specific parts of the country, or how the frequency will change in different seasons. But Del Genio says that the study advances our understanding of which weather forces contribute most to lightning. What’s more, he says, Romps’ work give us a strong indication of what lies ahead.

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The US Will See 50 Percent More Lightning Strikes, Thanks to Global Warming

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Park Service to Congress: Only YOU Can Prevent Government Shutdowns

Mother Jones

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Perhaps nothing is more emblematic of the frustration Americans felt during the October government shutdown, which cost the economy an estimated $24 billion, than the furor over the shuttering of more than 400 federal national parks. Republicans accused Democrats of keeping veterans from seeing the World War II monument in Washington, DC. Democrats blamed the Republicans (who effectively held the nation’s budget hostage for 16 days until they couldn’t politically afford to anymore) of seizing the park issue to distract from the economy. But now, the US National Park Service—which lost $450,000 a day in park entry and activity fees during the shutdown—has a new message for Congress: No, we’re not going prepare for another government shutdown, because you need to do your job.

The smack-down took place at a hearing last week before the House Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation, which weighed in on a new bill introduced by Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) in October. The Provide Access and Retain Continuity (PARC) Act, which has 17 Republican co-sponsors, would allow states to keep national parks operating in the event of another shutdown and would make them eligible for reimbursement by the federal government. (During the shutdown, six states entered into a similar agreement.) Right now, the government is only funded until January 15, meaning that Republicans could potentially pull the same shenanigans all over again in 2014. Stewart tells Mother Jones, “This bill is designed to provide some safeguards to local communities that rely heavily on access to public lands in the event that a shutdown does occur.”

According to a National Park Service spokesman, more than 11 million people were unable to visit parks during the shutdown, and the park service lost about $7 million in park entry fees. The Park Service also estimates that communities within 60 miles of a national park suffered a collective negative economic impact of $76 million for each day of the shutdown. But Bruce Sheaffer, Comptroller of the National Park Service,testified that the agency “strongly opposes the bill.” He said:

We have a great deal of sympathy for the businesses and communities that experienced a disruption of activity and loss of revenue during last month’s government shutdown and that stand to lose more if there is another funding lapse in the future. However, rather than only protecting certain narrow sectors of the economy…from the effects of a government shutdown in the future, Congress should protect all sectors of the economy by enacting appropriations on time, so as to avoid any future shutdowns.

Sheaffer took issue with other parts of the bill, noting that forcing the Park Service to rely on state revenue would be “a poor use of already strained departmental resources” and would “seriously undermine the longstanding framework established by Congress for the management of federal lands.” While Sheaffer didn’t object to another GOP-backed bill on the table—the Protecting States, Opening National Parks Act, which would reimburse states for National Park expenses incurred during the October shutdown—he concluded that planning for another shutdown “is not a responsible alternative to simply making the political commitment to provide appropriations for all the vital functions the federal government performs.”

Scheaffer’s position had support from Rep. Raul Grijalva, (D-Ariz.), who told Cronkite News Service at the hearing, “We shouldn’t be coming up with doomsday preparations.” But Stewart says, “The Park Service opposition is odd and misses the point. Of course the preferred course of action is to avoid future lapses in funding.” He adds, “While I cannot predict the future, I do not anticipate another shutdown during the 113th Congress.”

When Mother Jones asked the National Park service whether it considered the GOP’s fixation on funding national parks a way to deflect blame away from the shutdown, a spokesman said, “Your question asks us to speculate on an issue. We don’t do that.”


Park Service to Congress: Only YOU Can Prevent Government Shutdowns

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Behind the War To Begin All Wars

Mother Jones

This story first appeared on the TomDispatch website. The illustrations in this piece come from Joe Sacco’s The Great War: July 1, 1916: The First Day of the Battle of the Somme with the kind permission of its publisher, W.W. Norton, and the slightly adapted text, which also appears in that book, comes originally from Adam Hochschild’s To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918 and is used with the kind permission of its publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

In a country that uses every possible occasion to celebrate its “warriors,” many have forgotten that today’s holiday originally marked a peace agreement. Veterans Day in the United States originally was called Armistice Day and commemorated the ceasefire which, at 11 a.m. on November 11, 1918, ended the First World War.

Up to that point, it had been the most destructive war in history, with a total civilian and military death toll of roughly 20 million. Millions more had been wounded, many of them missing arms, legs, eyes, genitals; and because of an Allied naval blockade of the Central Powers, millions more were near starvation: the average German civilian lost 20% of his or her body weight during the war.

A stunned world had never experienced anything like this. In some countries for years afterward, on November 11th, traffic, assembly lines, even underground mining machinery came to a halt at 11 a.m. for two minutes of silence, a silence often broken, witnesses from the 1920s reported, by the sound of women sobbing.

Like most wars, the war of 1914-1918 was begun with the expectation of quick victory, created more problems than it solved, and was punctuated by moments of tragic folly. As the years have passed, one point that has come to symbolize the illusions, the destructiveness, the hubris, the needless deaths of the entire war — and of other wars since then — has been the first day of the Battle of the Somme.

The preparations for that battle went on for months: generals and their staffs drew up plans in their châteaux headquarters; horses, tractors, and sweating soldiers maneuvered thousands of big 13-ton guns into position; reconnaissance planes swooped above the German lines; endless trains of horse-drawn supply wagons carried artillery shells and machine gun ammunition up to the front; hundreds of thousands of soldiers from across the British Empire, from the Orkney Islands to the Punjab, filled frontline trenches, reserve trenches, and support bases in the rear. All was in preparation for the grand attack that seemed certain to change the course of the war. And then finally on the first day of July 1916, preceded by the most massive bombardment British artillery had ever fired, the battle began.

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You can see the results of the battle’s first day in dozens of military cemeteries spread out across this corner of France, but perhaps the most striking is one of the smallest, on a hillside, screened by a grove of trees. Each gravestone has a name, rank, and serial number; 162 have crosses and one a Star of David. When known, a man’s age is engraved on the stone as well: 19, 22, 23, 26, 21, 20, 34. Ten of the graves simply say, “A Soldier of the Great War, Known unto God.”

Almost all the dead are from Britain’s Devonshire Regiment, the date on their gravestones July 1, 1916. Most were casualties of a single German machine gun several hundred yards from this spot, and were buried here in a section of the frontline trench they had climbed out of that morning. Captain Duncan Martin, 30, a company commander and an artist in civilian life, had made a clay model of the battlefield across which the British planned to attack. He predicted the exact place at which he and his men would come under fire from the machine gun as they emerged onto an exposed hillside. He, too, is here, one of some 21,000 British soldiers killed or fatally wounded on the day of greatest bloodshed in the history of their country’s military, before or since.

Dreams of Swift Victory

In almost every war, it seems, the next planned offensive is seen as the big breakthrough, the smashing, decisive blow that will pave the way to swift victory. Midway through the First World War, troops from both sides had been bogged down for the better part of two years in lines of trenches that ran across northern France and a corner of Belgium. Barbed wire and the machine gun had made impossible the war of dramatic advances and glorious cavalry charges that the generals on both sides had dreamed of.

To end this frustrating stalemate, the British army planned an enormous assault for a point near where the River Somme meandered its slow and weed-filled way through French wheat and sugar-beet fields. A torrent of supplies began pouring into the area to equip the half million British Empire troops involved, of whom 120,000 would attack on the first day alone. This was to be the “Big Push,” a concentration of manpower and artillery so massive and in such a small space that the German defenses would burst open as if hit by floodwaters.

After the overwhelmed Germans had been bayoneted in their trenches, it would be a matter of what General Douglas Haig, the British commander in chief, called “fighting the Enemy in the open,” and so battalions were trained intensively in maneuvering across trenchless meadows. Finally, of course, streaming through the gap in the lines would come the cavalry, three divisions’ worth. After all, hadn’t glorious charges by men on horseback been a decisive element in warfare for millennia?

Troops unrolled 70,000 miles of telephone cable. Thousands more unloaded and piled ammunition in huge dumps; stripped to the waist and sweltering in the summer heat, they dug endlessly to construct special roads to speed supplies to the front. Fifty-five miles of new standard-gauge railway line were built. With as many British soldiers crammed into the launching area as the population of a good-sized city, new wells had to be drilled and dozens of miles of water pipe laid. No detail was forgotten.

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British troops, the plan went, would move forward across no-man’s-land in successive waves. Everything was precise: each wave would advance in a continuous line 100 yards in front of the next, at a steady pace of 100 yards a minute. How were they to be safe from German machine gun fire? Simple: the pre-attack artillery bombardment would destroy not just the Germans’ barbed wire but the bunkers that sheltered their machine guns. How could this not be when there was one artillery piece for every 17 yards of front line, all of which would rain a total of a million and a half shells down on the German trenches? And if that weren’t enough, once British troops climbed out of their trenches, a final “creeping barrage” of bursting shells would precede them, a moving curtain of fire riddling with shrapnel any surviving Germans who emerged from underground shelters to try to fight.

The plan for the first day’s attack on July 1, 1916, was 31 pages long and its map included the British names with which the German trenches had already been rechristened. Preparations this thorough were hard to conceal, and there were occasional unnerving signs that the German troops knew almost as much about them as the British. When one unit moved into position, it found a sign held up from the German trenches: WELCOME TO THE 29TH DIVISION.

Several weeks before the attack, 168 officers who were graduates of Eton met for an Old Etonian dinner at the Hotel Godbert in Amiens, a French city behind the lines. In Latin, they toasted their alma mater — “Floreat Etona!” — and raised their voices in the school song, “Carmen Etonense.” Enlisted men entertained themselves in other ways. A haunting piece of documentary film footage from these months, taken from a Red Cross barge moving down a canal behind the lines, shows hundreds of Allied soldiers stripped completely bare, wading, bathing, or sunning themselves on the canal bank, smiling and waving at the camera. Without helmets and uniforms, it is impossible to tell their nationality; their naked bodies mark them only as human beings.

Riding a black horse and with his usual escort of lancers, General Haig inspected his divisions as they rehearsed their attacks on practice fields where white tapes on the ground stood for the German trenches. On June 20th, the commander in chief wrote to his wife, “The situation is becoming more favourable to us.” On June 22nd he added, “I feel that every step in my plan has been taken with the Divine help.” On June 30th, as the great artillery barrage had been thundering for five days, Haig wrote in his diary, “The men are in splendid spirits…. The wire has never been so well cut, nor the Artillery preparation so thorough.” For good measure, the British released clouds of deadly chlorine gas toward the German lines.

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As it grew close to zero hour, 7:30 a.m. on July 1st, men detonated 10 enormous mines planted by British miners tunneling deep beneath the German trenches. Near the village of La Boisselle, the crater from one remains, a stark, gaping indentation in the surrounding farmland; even partly filled in by a century of erosion, it is still 55 feet deep and 220 feet across.

When the artillery barrage reached its crescendo, 224,221 shells in the last sixty-five minutes, the rumble could be heard as far away as Hampstead Heath in London. More shells were fired by the British this week than they had used in the entire first 12 months of the war; some gunners bled from the ears after seven days of nonstop firing. At a forest near Gommecourt, entire trees were uprooted and tossed in the air by the shelling and the forest itself set on fire.

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Behind the War To Begin All Wars

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Corn on "Hardball": Ted Cruz’s Father "Represents the Far Right of the Tea Party"

Mother Jones

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Mother Jones DC bureau chief David Corn spoke with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews tonight about revelations that Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-Texas) father called the United States a “Christian Nation” and told President Obama to go “back to Kenya.”

David Corn is Mother Jones’ Washington bureau chief. For more of his stories, click here. He’s also on Twitter.

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Corn on "Hardball": Ted Cruz’s Father "Represents the Far Right of the Tea Party"

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Radiolab on The New York City Poop Train


Warhammer 40,000: The Rules – Games Workshop

There is no time for peace. No respite. No forgiveness. There is only WAR. In the nightmare future of the 41st Millennium, Mankind teeters upon the brink of destruction. The galaxy-spanning Imperium of Man is beset on all sides by ravening aliens and threatened from within by Warp-spawned entities and heretical plots. Only the strength of the immortal […]

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Izzy & Lenore – Jon Katz

BONUS: This edition contains an excerpt from Jon Katz’s Going Home . In his previous books, New York Times bestselling author Jon Katz introduced us to the delightful menagerie at Bedlam Farm, including Izzy, the unforgettable border collie rescue. Now, in Izzy & Lenore, Katz delves deeper into his connection with the beautiful, once-abandoned […]

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Cat Sense – John Bradshaw

Cats have been popular household pets for thousands of years, and their numbers only continue to rise. Today there are three cats for every dog on the planet, and yet cats remain more mysterious, even to their most adoring owners. In Cat Sense , renowned anthrozoologist John Bradshaw takes us further into the mind of the domestic cat than ever before, using […]

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Cesar Millan’s Short Guide to a Happy Dog – Cesar Millan

After more than 9 seasons as TV’s Dog Whisperer, Cesar Millan has a new mission: to use his unique insights about dog psychology to create stronger, happier relationships between humans and their canine companions. Both inspirational and practical, A Short Guide to a Happy Dog draws on thousands of training encounter […]

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The Reef Aquarium Volume Three – J. Charles Delbeek & Julian Sprung

This comprehensive reference discusses and illustrates the science, art and technology of building reef aquariums. Covers new approaches to filtration, lighting, and system design, plumbing, pumping, and electrical design, foods and feeding, new aquascaping techniques and future trends in the hobby. This is the Bible for all reef aquarium enthusiasts.

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Codex: Space Marines (Enhanced Edition) – Games Workshop

The Space Marines are the chosen warriors of the Emperor, and the greatest fighting force of the Imperium. Each Space Marine is a genetically enhanced super soldier, easily a match for a dozen lesser men, armed with some of the deadliest weapons in the galaxy and encased in formidable power armour. This codex explores the formations and Chapters of the Space […]

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The Art of Raising a Puppy (Revised Edition) – Monks of New Skete

For more than thirty years the Monks of New Skete have been among America’s most trusted authorities on dog training, canine behavior, and the animal/human bond. In their two now-classic bestsellers, How to be Your Dog’s Best Friend and The Art of Raising a Puppy, the Monks draw on their experience as long-time breeders of German shepherds and as t […]

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Munitorum: Grav-guns – Games Workshop

An ancient relic of the Adeptus Mechanicus, the graviton gun turns a targets mass against it, crushing them in their armour or causing their bones to snap under their own weight. When turned again a vehicle the gun’s effects are even more terrible, its gravity beam crumpling even the heaviest tank into little more than a pulverised wreck. About this Series: […]

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How to Raise the Perfect Dog – Cesar Millan & Melissa Jo Peltier

From the bestselling author and star of National Geographic Channel’s Dog Whisperer , the only resource you’ll need for raising a happy, healthy dog. For the millions of people every year who consider bringing a puppy into their lives–as well as those who have already brought a dog home–Cesar Millan, the preeminent dog behavior expert, says, “Yes, […]

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Index Astartes: Stalkers and Hunters – Games Workshop

Space Marines use specialist anti-aircraft tanks like the Stalker and the Hunter to cover their assaults and keep the skies clear of foes. The Stalker employs fearsome twin icarus cannons capable of a prodigious rate of fire, while the Hunter carries skyspear missiles, each one incorporating the desiccated remains of a savant to guide it unerringly to its ta […]

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Radiolab on The New York City Poop Train

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I Am the Ghost of Barry Eichengreen

Mother Jones

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Today’s nerd game of the moment is “Which Economist Are You?” This involves answering questions that have previously been posed as part of the IGM Economic Experts Panel and then seeing which economist your answers match best. I got bored after 19 questions, and then skipped around and answered a few more randomly. The machine appears to think I am most like Barry Eichengreen, which is pretty good company, I think, so I’m happy. You can try it out yourself here.

FUN NOTE: If you go down the list and blindly agree (“strongly agree,” actually) with the first 20 questions, then you are Hyun Song Shin. If you strongly disagree with the first 20 questions, you are Hyun Song Shin. If you are uncertain about all 20, you are Hyun Song Shin. Apparently Hyun Song Shin is the ideal median economist.

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I Am the Ghost of Barry Eichengreen

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The Public Wants a Special Prosecutor to Investigate the IRS

Mother Jones

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A recent Quinnipiac poll suggests that the public isn’t too concerned about either Benghazi or the subpoena of AP phone records. But they are concerned about the IRS scandal. Ed Kilgore highlights a disturbing piece of this:

The most startling finding from the Q-poll is that 76% of respondents—including 63% of Democrats and 88% of Republicans—favor the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate the IRS allegations. This may simply reflect the fact that many people don’t know who to trust as the “scandal” drags on, and/or that partisans assume the “other side” has too much control over the investigations. But these are some formidable numbers for a course of action that most liberal elites—and a growing number of conservative elites—deplore as threatening a nightmarish return to the 1990s at their worst.

My guess is that most people simply don’t understand the implications. “Special prosecutor” sounds pretty benign, after all. They just aren’t aware that, in practice, they mostly turn into obsessive, Ahab-like trawlers through every nook and cranny of the federal government.

It sure seems like there ought to be some way to keep them more focused, though. Obviously that didn’t work with Ken Starr, but why can’t a special prosecutor be appointed jointly by House, Senate, and president, with a limited mandate and a clear timeframe? Say, one year or so. And an agreement that the mandate can’t be changed unless all three agree to it. It seems like that ought to be doable. So why isn’t it?

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The Public Wants a Special Prosecutor to Investigate the IRS

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Walmart fined $82 million for dumping poisons

Walmart fined $82 million for dumping poisons

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The enchanted interior of a Walmart store.

Walmart doesn’t just scrimp on employee wages. It also scrimps on employee training, and that led to its workers dumping returned pesticides, bleach, and other hazardous products into the trash or sewer systems.

On Tuesday, Walmart pled guilty to violations of federal environmental laws and agreed to pay $81.6 million in fines and penalties for improper hazardous waste disposal.

From an EPA press release:

[U]ntil January 2006, Wal-Mart did not have a program in place and failed to train its employees on proper hazardous waste management and disposal practices at the store level. As a result, hazardous wastes were either discarded improperly at the store level — including being put into municipal trash bins or, if a liquid, poured into the local sewer system — or they were improperly transported without proper safety documentation to one of six product return centers located throughout the United States.

“By improperly handling hazardous waste, pesticides and other materials in violation of federal laws, Wal-Mart put the public and the environment at risk and gained an unfair economic advantage over other companies,” said Ignacia S. Moreno, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.

Some of the $81.6 million will be invested in community projects, such as a new $6 million center that will help retailers learn how to properly handle hazardous waste.

But fear not for the company’s solvency in the wake of its reckless handling of solvents. From The New York Times:

The guilty plea comes after settlements that Wal-Mart reached with California and Missouri in 2010 and 2012 on the same charges. Tuesday’s fines include $60 million for violations of the Clean Water Act in California; $14 million for a violation of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act in Missouri; and a $7.6 million civil penalty to the E.P.A.

In total, Wal-Mart will have paid more than $110 million to resolve all these related cases. Wal-Mart, which had $128 billion in revenues last year, said the payments should not have a material effect on its business.

See also: Walmart’s greenwash: Why the retail giant is still unsustainable

John Upton is a science fan and green news boffin who


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Walmart fined $82 million for dumping poisons

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How Thinking About Thinking Reduced Crime in Chicago

Mother Jones

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Harold Pollack draws my attention today to the results of a large-scale study he conducted recently with several other researchers in low-income Chicago schools. The study design was fairly simple: first, they chose several thousand teenage boys with horrible risk profiles. Their group was 70 percent black and 30 percent Hispanic; had an average GPA of 1.7; and had missed 40 out of 170 days of school the previous year. Over a third of them had been arrested at least once prior to the study.

They randomly assigned these boys to a control group or a treatment group. The randomization was done beforehand to avoid choosing a treatment group that differed in some unknown way from the control group. The treatment group was offered a chance to participate in a program called “Becoming a Man,” which focused strongly on improving poor judgment and decision making. Here’s an example:

At 3pm on Saturday, June 2, 2012, in the South Shore neighborhood just a few miles from the University of Chicago, two groups of teens were arguing in the street about a stolen bicycle. As the groups began to separate, someone pulled out a handgun and fired….Two weeks later, prosecutors filed first-degree murder charges against the alleged shooter, Kalvin Carter — 17 years old.

…. In Chicago, the site of our study, police believe that roughly 70 percent of homicides stem from “altercations,” compared to only about 10 percent from drug-related gang conflicts….At 3pm on June 2 on the south side of Chicago, is Kalvin Carter thinking about 3:01 — or even consciously thinking at all, for that matter? Automatic, intuitive decision-making is also susceptible to systematic biases, partly because the brain’s automatic “system” tends to emphasize explanations that are coherent rather than necessarily correct. Examples of such errors include hostile attribution bias….confirmation bias….or catastrophizing.

The intervention in the study was not really all that intense: the kids all skipped one regular class and attended 27 one-hour weekly sessions during the school year. In addition, some of the kids also attended after-school sessions. The primary purpose of the sessions was to teach cognitive behavioral therapy—”thinking about thinking”—in an effort to get the participants to change the way they interact with the rest of the world. The results were pretty stunning:

We find that participation reduced violent crime arrests by 8.1 arrests per 100 youth….Arrests in our “other” (non-violent, non-property, non-drug) category decreased by 11.5 arrests per 100 youth….Participation also led to lasting gains in an index of schooling outcomes equal to 0.14 standard deviations (sd) in the program year and 0.19sd in the follow-up year….We estimate our schooling impacts could imply gains in graduation rates of 3-10 percentage points (7-22 percent). With a cost of $1,100 per participant, depending on how we monetize the social costs of violent crime, the benefit-cost ratio is up to 30:1 just from effects on crime alone.

All my usual caveats apply here. This is just one study. We don’t know how well it would scale. We don’t know if the effects will last. But the design of the program is encouraging: it’s not expensive, and it doesn’t require highly trained coaches. Nor is it designed to help everyone. This quote tells most of the story:

As one juvenile detention staff member told us: “20 percent of our residents are criminals, they just need to be locked up. But the other 80 percent, I always tell them — if I could give them back just ten minutes of their lives, most of them wouldn’t be here.”

This program is designed for those 80 percent whose lives spiral out of control because of one or two dumb mistakes. And it seems to work. More studies like this, please.

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How Thinking About Thinking Reduced Crime in Chicago

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Four Republicans Who Don’t Understand the Constitution They’ve Sworn to Defend

Mother Jones

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Members of Congress swear an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States, but that doesn’t mean they understand it. Over the past week, several Republican lawmakers have expressed outrage over the fact that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the surviving suspect in the Boston marathon bombings, was read his rights and reportedly stopped talking to interrogators. These GOPers have accused President Barack Obama of making a grave error by recognizing the constitutional rights of a suspected terrorist.

The Obama administration, however, didn’t have a choice in the matter. Tsarnaev was read his rights by a magistrate judge during an initial appearance that was required by the federal rules of criminal procedure, which are rooted in the constitutional right to due process under the law. The Supreme Court has held that, barring exigent circumstances, a criminal suspect has to be brought before a judicial officer within 48 hours, give or take, at which point the suspect is informed of his rights no matter what.

The interrogation priorities of law enforcement officials don’t count as exigent circumstances, because the point of the rule is to prevent secret detention and to inform suspects of the charges against them. The public safety exception to reading suspects their rights affects whether suspects’ statements can be used in court. It does not affect the requirement that a suspect see a judge within 48 hours. These Republicans don’t seem to understand that distinction.

Rep. Peter King (R-NY): The former chairman of the House homeland security committee told CNN the fact that Tsarnaev was read his rights was “disgraceful” and said “It is the matter of life and death. I don’t know of any case law which says that magistrate has a right to come in to a hospital room and stop an interrogation.” Rep. King, let me Google that for you.

Senator Dan Coats (R-Ind.): On CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday, Coats said that he “was very surprised that they moved as quickly as they did. We had, I think, legal reasons and follow-up investigative reasons to drag this out a little bit longer…I think the AG, attorney general, should have sent a signal basically saying we’re within our legal bounds in doing this for the public safety exemption.” This seems to be a popular misconception. Again, the public safety exception affects the admissibility of statements in court. It does not magically eliminate a suspect’s constitutional right to a speedy trial.

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas): Rep. McCaul is the current chairman of the House homeland security committee, and a former federal prosecutor, so it’s difficult to believe he doesn’t know the federal rules of criminal procedure. “The only other avenue we had to get this intelligence is through this emergency exception to the Miranda warning,” McCaul told CNN. “But in my judgment, the FBI was cut short in their interrogations when the magistrate judge decided to Mirandize him within 16 hours…I think that cost us dearly in terms of valuable intelligence.” Yes, that’s a former federal attorney mangling not only the nature of the public safety exemption and the requirement to bring the suspect before a judge, but also constitutional separation of powers. The FBI does not get to tell judges when they should see suspects.

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich): Probably the only thing more embarrassing than being a federal prosecutor who doesn’t understand the federal rules of criminal procedure is being a former FBI agent who doesn’t understand them. Enter Rep. Rogers, chair of the House intelligence committee, who in an interview with MSNBC last week slammed the judiciary for “interceding” in an interrogation, referring to Tsarnaev being read his rights as “confusing” and a “horrible, God-awful policy” that is “dangerous to the greater community.” It’s not that confusing: The public safety exemption does not allow interrogators to indefinitely detain and interrogate suspects in violation of their constitutional rights.

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has gone a different route and argued that Tsarnaev should have been held in military detention as an “enemy combatant.” But federal law specifically defines those who can be detained militarily as individuals who are play an operation role in foreign terrorist groups like Al Qaeda, and so far the evidence indicates the Tsarnaevs acted alone. It’s also possible that holding an American citizen like Tsarnaev in military detention after apprehending him on US soil would be unconstitutional even if some tie to foreign terrorist organizations were discovered.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is accused of doing horrible things. But he is an American citizen who is entitled to all the rights due him under the Constitution, none of which would mean anything if the government could pick and choose when they apply. Then they wouldn’t be rights at all.

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Four Republicans Who Don’t Understand the Constitution They’ve Sworn to Defend

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