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New York, California move to ban beauty products containing microbeads

New York, California move to ban beauty products containing microbeads


Scrubbing dead skin cells off your face and tartar off your teeth trashes the environment if it’s not done right. The right way to do it is with facial scrubs, shampoo, and toothpaste that do not contain microbeads. The microscopic balls of hard plastic flow down drains and pass through wastewater treatment plants, ending up in rivers, lakes, and oceans, where they enter the food chain.

Finding microbead-free products isn’t easy right now — you have to read ingredient lists and steer clear of products that contain “polyethylene” or “polypropylene.” Natural alternatives include ground almonds, oatmeal, and pumice.

But if lawmakers in California and New York get their ways, the microbead-loaded varieties will become nearly impossible to purchase in two of the most populous states in the country.

5 Gyres

A microbead ‘fro on Abe Lincoln.

Late last month, New York Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel (D) got the ball rolling when she introduced A.8652, which would ban the sale of personal care products and cosmetics containing microbeads. On Tuesday, Schimel was one-upped by Assemblyman Robert Sweeney (D), who, with the backing of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D) and the nonprofit 5 Gyres, introduced A.8744 — which would ban the sale, manufacture, and distribution of such products.

New York League of Conservation Voters President Marcia Bystryn said Sweeney’s bill would not only help to protect the state’s lakes and waterways, but would also “set an example for other states around the country to address this emerging environmental threat.”

And that it did.

California Assemblyman Richard Bloom (D) introduced AB 1699 on Thursday. The bill would prohibit the sale of most products containing microplastic, though it would permit tiny amounts of the tiny plastics — less than one part per million.

Proctor and Gamble, Unilever, and Colgate-Palmolive have all made recent commitments to start phasing microbeads out of their products. “We are discontinuing our limited use of micro plastic beads as scrub materials in personal care products as soon as alternatives are qualified,” a Procter & Gamble spokeswoman told the L.A. Times.

The new legislative pressure should help ensure that these corporate giants make good on their pledges to scrub the microplastics out of their cleansing products.

A.G. Schneiderman Proposes First-in-the-Nation Legislation Banning Plastic Microbeads In Commonly Used Cosmetics, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s website
5 Gyres Introduces Legislation With NY Attorney General To Ban The Microbead, 5 Gyres
Bill banning sale of cosmetics containing microbeads to be proposed, L.A. Times

John Upton is a science fan and green news boffin who tweets, posts articles to Facebook, and blogs about ecology. He welcomes reader questions, tips, and incoherent rants:

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New York, California move to ban beauty products containing microbeads

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Personal Injury Report Follow-Up

Mother Jones

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I just got back from a follow-up visit with the orthopedist, and I know you’re all eager for news. Going in, I figured that I’d end up with a cast on my left elbow for sure, but I was hoping that they’d give me a walking boot for my right ankle and not make me wear anything permanent.

But it turns out that the ER guys were more pessimistic than they should have been. There was indeed a tiny bone chip in my ankle, but it’s basically just a low ankle sprain and needs no further treatment at all. I won’t be running any marathons or anything, but I can walk on it all I want. As for my elbow, further investigation suggested that I didn’t fracture it at all. I just aggravated an old injury. It still hurts a bit, and I can’t extend it 100 percent, but it’s basically OK. No cast, no nothing. In fact, the orthopedist said it was rare to put a cast on an adult elbow.

So everything is much better than I had feared. Typing is still a little uncomfortable, but being able to type at all with two hands is a huge improvement. Hell, just being able to reach the Shift key with my left hand is an improvement. Putting capital letters in my posts has been a huge pain in the ass for the past couple of days.

So that’s the news.

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Personal Injury Report Follow-Up

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Top Dangers of the Digital Age (Infographic)

Michael H.


Boxer Puppies Cuddle Baby (Video)

34 minutes ago

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Top Dangers of the Digital Age (Infographic)

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Quick Reads: "Big, Hot, Cheap and Right" by Erica Grieder

Mother Jones

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Big, Hot, Cheap and Right: What America Can Learn From the Strange Genius of Texas

By Erica Grieder


You know that college friend, the big, boisterous, obstinate one who was always up to party, quick to fight, said the most regrettable things, and embarrassed you—but for some reason you just couldn’t drop? Well, if Texas were a person, it would be that guy. In this folksy read, Texas Monthly senior editor Erica Grieder explores her home state and its idiosyncrasies, from its fiercely independent streak to its zany characters to its deep distrust of government. While the “Texas Model”—low taxes, low services—isn’t perfect, Grieder argues that the state remains an economic powerhouse with low unemployment. And if the rest of the country would quit rolling its eyes, it might just learn a thing or two.

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Quick Reads: "Big, Hot, Cheap and Right" by Erica Grieder

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Sorry, Lindsey Graham, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Is No "Enemy Combatant"

Mother Jones

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Update: White House press secretary Jay Carney said Monday afternoon that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev would not be held as an “enemy combatant.” President Barack Obama has previously stated that he “will not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens.” The US Attorney’s Office-District of Massachusetts confirms that “Dzhokar Tsarnaev is charged with conspiring to use weapon of mass destruction against persons and property in the U.S. resulting in death.”

Before Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the surviving suspect in the attack on the Boston Marathon, was even captured, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) wanted the the 19-year-old be held in indefinite military detention as an “enemy combatant.”

“If captured, I hope the Obama Administration will at least consider holding the Boston suspect as enemy combatant for intelligence gathering purposes,” Graham tweeted last Friday. In an interview with the New York Times‘ Charlie Savage over the weekend, Graham, who is up for reelection in 2014, elaborated on his reasoning:

You can’t hold every person who commits a terrorist attack as an enemy combatant, I agree with that. But you have a right, with his radical Islamist ties and the fact that Chechens are all over the world fighting with Al Qaeda—I think you have a reasonable belief to go down that road, and it would be a big mistake not to go down that road. If we didn’t hold him for intelligence-gathering purposes, that would be unconscionable.”

Graham is wrong. The government cannot hold Dzhokhar Tsarnaev as an enemy combatant. Under current law, the fact that Tsarnaev shares an ethnicity and religion with other extremists is insufficient grounds to detain him militarily. The 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, which Graham vocally supported, defines as eligible for military detention “a person who was a part of or substantially supported Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners.” There’s no evidence yet that the suspects in the Boston bombing acted with the support of or at the behest of Al Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces. Unless that evidence emerges, it wouldn’t be legal to hold Tsarnaev as an enemy combatant, even if he and his brother were motivated by extremist religious beliefs.

“It’s actually not a close question,” says Ben Wittes, a scholar with the Brookings Institution and writer at the national security blog Lawfare who supports military detention under some circumstances. “‘Substantially support’ is a reference to providing some material aid to the forces of the enemy…It means giving active aid to the enemy forces, it doesn’t mean taking independent action that happens to be congenial for them.”

Even if evidence emerges that the suspects in the Boston bombing acted with the support of or at the behest of a foreign group, the Supreme Court has not settled whether the military can detain people who are apprehended in the United States. Both the Bush and Obama administrations dodged potential Supreme Court cases that would have decided that question, precisely because the odds are good that holding someone suspect of a crime who is arrested on American soil in military detention is unconstitutional. Having the military detain someone captured on US soil could also jeopardize prosecution: In the three cases where Americans or legal residents have been held in military detention, those suspects got lighter sentences than they probably would have otherwise, Wittes says.

Graham has said he wants Tsarnaev held in military detention so the suspect won’t “lawyer up.” In other words, Graham would like to deprive Tsarnaev of his constitutional rights before he’s even been charged with a crime, let alone convicted of one.

“We live in a system where there’s a Sixth Amendment,” says Wittes. “There’s a reason why we have that right, and I can’t do anything about it and I don’t want to.”

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Sorry, Lindsey Graham, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Is No "Enemy Combatant"

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Did Mitch McConnell Use Senate Employees for Oppo Research on Ashley Judd?

Mother Jones

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A secret recording of Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and aides discussing in February how they might attack actor/activist Ashley Judd, then a potential 2014 challenger to McConnell, attracted widespread attention after Mother Jones published it Tuesday morning. Much of the news coverage focused on the McConnell team’s comments about Judd’s religious views and her mental-health history. But the tape might raise ethics questions for McConnell and his staff.

Senate ethics rules prohibit Senate employees from participating in political activities while on government time. But the tape indicates that several of McConnell’s legislative aides, whose salaries are paid by the taxpayer, were involved with producing the oppo research on Judd that was discussed at the February 2 meeting.

More Mother Jones coverage of Mitch McConnell and the 2014 Kentucky Senate race.

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Did Mitch McConnell Use Senate Employees for Oppo Research on Ashley Judd?

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Watch: McConnell Says “Political Left Bugged My Headquarters”

Full Transcript and Audio of Mitch McConnell Campaign’s Meeting on Ashley Judd

Mitch McConnell Will Fundraise With Billionaires After Saying the GOP Is Not The Party of Billionaires

Mitch McConnell vs. the World

Yes, Potential Senate Candidate Ashley Judd Has Gotten Naked on Screen. So Have These Political Figures.

CPAC: Where Ashley Judd Rape Jokes Happen

Here’s the relevant section of the transcript:

Presenter: So I’ll just preface my comments that this reflects the work of a lot of folks: Josh, Jesse, Phil Maxson, a lot of LAs, thank them three times, so this is a compilation of work, all the way through. The first person we’ll focus on, Ashley Judd—basically I refer to her as sort of the oppo research situation where there’s a haystack of needles, just because truly, there’s such a wealth of material. Laughter.

Ah, you know Jesse slogged through her autobiography. She has innumerable video interviews, tweets, blog posts, articles, magazine articles.

The presenter was explaining that the opposition research on Judd was compiled by several people. “LAs” is congressional parlance for legislative assistants; one of the legislative assistants, Phil Maxson, gets his own shout-out. The question is whether Maxson and the other McConnell LAs were digging up material on Judd while on government time. If they were engaged in this research while on annual leave or vacation—or working outside Senate hours—they wouldn’t be violating Senate rules. But if this was done on Senate time, McConnell could have a problem. Here’s how Tara Malloy, an expert on ethics rules at the Campaign Legal Center, described the issue in an email:

Any assessment under the Ethics rules would require some more facts—most particularly whether any official resources were used in connection to the conversation or oppo research, and/or whether the conversation or other activities took place on government property. In general, however, the ethics rules do not bar staffers from engaging in campaign activity provided they do it on their own time and do not involve government resources or property.

Here is the relevant excerpt from the Senate Ethics Manual:

As discussed more fully below, Senate Rule 41 prohibits Senate staff, with the exception of specified “political fund designees,” from handling federal campaign funds. Subject to that restriction, however, and as long as they do not neglect their official duties, Senate employees are free to engage in campaign activities on their own time, as volunteers or for pay, provided they do not do so in congressional offices or otherwise use official resources. An employee’s “own time” includes time beyond regular working hours, any accrued annual leave, or non-government hours of a part-time employee. Staff may not be required to do political work as a condition of Senate employment. Just as Senate employees are free to campaign for their employing Members on their own time, they may also use their free time or, with the permission of their employing Members, reduce their Senate hours (with a commensurate reduction in pay) to campaign for presidential candidates, other federal candidates, or state or local aspirants. With respect to the question of leave time to perform campaign activities, it is the Committee’s understanding that the Senate does not recognize a “leave of absence.”

We asked Jesse Benton, McConnell’s campaign manager; Allison Moore, a spokeswoman for his Senate office; and Phil Maxson, the LA named on the tape, to explain whether the oppo work was done on Senate time, but they did not respond.

Guy Cecil, the executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which is working to defeat McConnell, sent out a series of tweets on Tuesday noting this issue:

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Did Mitch McConnell Use Senate Employees for Oppo Research on Ashley Judd?

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Ed Markey Invented Satellite TV!

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Here is Matt Yglesias cruelly baiting Bob Somerby:

It really is a little shocking in retrospect how entrenched the Gore stuff has become.

Matt is reacting to a Republican ad that tries to pretend that Rep. Ed Markey is taking credit for inventing Google and satellite TV. You know, just like Al Gore invented the internet. Yuck yuck.

Gore aside, I’ve always found it sort of fascinating how obsessed conservatives get with some of their pet rocks. Last night I happened to surf by Sean Hannity’s show for about ten seconds, and he was blathering on about the canceled White House tours. Jesus, I thought. They’re still bellyaching about that? Hannity’s designated liberal punching bag (sorry, didn’t catch who it was) seemed to feel the same way. She mostly just rolled her eyes, unable to work up the energy to pretend to take this seriously.

Do we liberals have our own pet rocks like this? It’s never quite seemed like it to me. Obviously we have ideological passions that we hammer on constantly, just like conservatives do, and it’s true that putting up pictures of “Mission Accomplished” never gets old. But on the right, there seems to be a never-ending parade of these ridiculous little things that take on a life of their own and just never go away. When newer pet rocks come along, they just acquire elder statesman status and become part of right-wing lore. In the case of the White House tours, it’s apparently all part of a Michele Bachmann-inspired conservative obsession with the curious notion that Obama lives like an emperor, complete with dancing girls dropping peeled grapes into his mouth during trips on Air Force One that he orders just because he wants to take advantage of the gourmet chefs on board and maybe get a nice view of the Potomac. Or something.

There’s a million things like this, and only a few achieve mainstream status, like the birther nonsense. The rest just ripple endlessly in the primordial ooze of conservative websites, radio shows, and Fox News. I dunno. Maybe I just don’t hang out enough on uber-lefty sites to see how much we do it too. But conservatives sure do seem to thrive on a continuing parade of weirdly invented, personality-driven scandalettes in a way that liberals don’t.

Mother Jones
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Ed Markey Invented Satellite TV!

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NRA Targets UN Arms Trade Treaty, Again

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The United Nations kicked off the first of nine days of final debate today in New York on the Arms Trade Treaty, an international pact seeking to regulate the $70 billion market in conventional weapons. Due to the unsupported belief that its largely unenforceable regulations would violate Americans’ Second Amendment rights, the treaty has once again found itself in the sights of gun-rights groups, including the National Rifle Association.

In reality, the Arms Trade Treaty, first discussed in 2006 and rejected by the Bush administration, is aimed at halting the cross-border flow of weapons into the hands of terrorists and soldiers in war-torn nations. That market is mostly unregulated now, and weapons advertised at international arms bazaars like the one in Abu Dhabi in February commonly find their way to conflict zones abroad. The treaty would take aim at weapons including tanks and missile launchers but also “small arms,” which the NRA claims could lead to a domestic crackdown on civilian-model AK-47s and other assault weapons.

The notion that the treaty would attack gun-owners’ constitutional rights ties into a popular right-wing conspiracy theory, embraced by the likes of Rand Paul, that it would lead to “full-scale gun CONFISCATION” and place lawful gun owners in an Orwellian international database. However, as the Washington Post reported, the treaty “lacks real enforcement mechanisms, but activists said it could be used to name and shame arms exporters who violate its terms.”

In 2011 and 2012, the NRA joined Larry Pratt’s conspiratorial Gun Owners of America in lobbying for a House resolution that would “express the sense of the Congress that the United States should not adopt any treaty that poses a threat to national sovereignty or abridges any rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution, such as the right to keep and bear arms.” The bill died in committee. But pressure from the gun lobby led the Obama administration to abandon talks last July on a draft of Arms Trade Treaty. Major players in the global arms trade including China and Russia also objected to the draft’s language.

In February, the American Bar Association’s Center for Human Rights concluded that the Arms Trade Treaty “would not require new domestic regulations of firearms” nor compromise the Second Amendment (PDF). In a statement last Friday, Secretary of State John Kerry said the administration “will not support any treaty that would be inconsistent with U.S. law and the rights of American citizens under our Constitution.”

But such reassurances are unlikely to convince the NRA and its allies.

Mother Jones
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NRA Targets UN Arms Trade Treaty, Again

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Fermented cow dung air freshener wins two students top science prize


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Fermented cow dung air freshener wins two students top science prize

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Will Big Donors Get Special Access to Obama? Group Still Won’t Say

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Organizing for Action, the pro-Obama nonprofit hoping to raise $50 million to mobilize Democratic supporters around the president’s agenda, kicked off its “Founder’s Summit” on Tuesday morning at the tony St. Regis Hotel near the White House. But as ex-Obama aides David Plouffe, Jim Messina, and others spoke of the need for volunteers and donors outside Washington to pressure Congress into action on gun control, immigration, and climate change, OFA itself is still dogged by reports that big donors to the group will gain special access to the president.

At the OFA summit, spokeswoman Katie Hogan said little to satisfy the group’s critics. Hogan stressed that OFA’s fundraising plans were still in flux, and she couldn’t say definitively what the group’s interactions with the Obama administration would look like or how the organization would evolve going forward. “I don’t have a crystal ball,” she told reporters before event began.

She did say that OFA’s board meetings will be closed to the public or press. The group’s main board of directors will reportedly include ex-Obama officials such as Messina, Plouffe, and former deputy campaign director Stephanie Cutter. However, it is OFA’s “advisory board” that has drawn much of the criticism. That board, according to the New York Times, will consist of supporters who’ve donated or raised $500,000 or more, and who will receive quarterly meetings with the president.

Both the White House and Jim Messina have dismissed the notion that OFA is selling access, but neither have refuted the Times story. Reformers have blasted OFA for appearing to sell access to the president, and some have called on Obama to demand that OFA be shut down.

On Wednesday evening, Obama is scheduled to speak to the 50 or 60 volunteers, donors, and other supporters who are in DC for the OFA summit. That event will be open only to small pool of reporters assigned to follow the president, and most of the summit is closed to reporters and the public. It’s a safe bet, though, that near the top of the organizers’ agenda is a plan to raise $50 million to back Obama’s second-term agenda. As Bloomberg reported, some big Democratic givers are still worn out from the campaign, when they were pressed to give time and again. OFA’s tallest hurdle going forward may be donor fatigue.

In his own remarks, Plouffe offered an indirect rebuke to OFA’s critics. “Just the notion that there’s millions of Americans that want to be part of these debates that they’ve been closed off to in Washington, that in my mind is reason enough to march forward,” he said. “This is something that should be celebrated, not criticized.”

Mother Jones
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Will Big Donors Get Special Access to Obama? Group Still Won’t Say

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