Monday, March 31, 2014

Walmart Admits: 'Our Profits' Depend on 'Their Poverty'

From Common Dreams:  http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2014/03/26-6

Critics cite irony of annual report filing: 'This is a company that everywhere it goes it creates poverty'

Lauren McCauley

Although a notorious recipient of "corporate welfare," Walmart has now admitted that their massive profits also depend on the funding of food stamps and other public assistance programs.

In their annual report, filed with the Security and Exchange Commission last week, the retail giant lists factors that could potentially harm future profitability. Listed among items such as "economic conditions" and "consumer confidence," the company writes that changes in taxpayer-funded public assistance programs are also a major threat to their bottom line.
The company writes:
Our business operations are subject to numerous risks, factors and uncertainties, domestically and internationally, which are outside our control ... These factors include ... changes in the amount of payments made under the Supplement[al] Nutrition Assistance Plan and other public assistance plans, changes in the eligibility requirements of public assistance plans ...
Walmart, the nation's largest private employer, is notorious for paying poverty wages and coaching employees to take advantage of social programs. In many states, Walmart employees are the largest group of Medicaid recipients.

However, this report is the first public acknowledgement of the chain's reliance on the funding of these programs to sustain a profit.

According to Stacy Mitchell, senior researcher with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, the irony of their admission is that Walmart "is the company that has done, perhaps, more than any other corporation to push people into poverty."

Citing a Penn State study, Mitchell told Common Dreams that research has proven that "when Walmart opens a store, poverty rates are negatively impacted" and that the more stores that have opened in a particular county, the worse it is. "This is a company that everywhere it goes it creates poverty."

In addition to their own worker's low wages, Mitchell explains that Walmart, because of their enormous size and market power, have "held down wages for the whole sector."

Continue reading at:  http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2014/03/26-6

All Around Bigot Pat Robertson: Jews Too Busy Polishing Diamonds To Fix Their Cars


"Our Only Hope Will Come Through Rebellion"


Disturbing New Report: Air Pollution Killed 7 Million People in 2012—Or About 1 in 8 Premature Deaths

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/mar/26/stillbirth-murder-miscarriage-pregnant-women-criminals

Imagine if Jackie O got arrested for losing her son after smoking. Now meet the woman facing life in prison for something like that

theguardian.com, Wednesday 26 March 2014

Seven and a half years ago, a Mississippi teenager named Rennie Gibbs went into premature labor and delivered a stillborn baby girl named Samiya. Initially, experts attributed the baby’s death to the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck. But when traces of a cocaine byproduct showed up on the autopsy report, a medical examiner declared the stillbirth a homicide and cited cocaine toxicity as the cause. Shortly afterward, the 16-year-old Gibbs was charged with murder, specifically “depraved heart murder”, a charge that can carry a sentence of up to 20 years to life in prison.

Since her grand-jury indictment in 2007, Gibbs’s team of attorneys has been fighting for the charges to be dropped on both technical and legal grounds. The defense argues that there's no scientific proof that cocaine use can cause a stillbirth – and that the “depraved heart murder” statute did not apply to unborn children at the time of Samiya’s death. A decision is expected any day now as to whether the Gibbs case will finally proceed to trial or get dismissed. If it does go to trial, and Gibbs is convicted of murder for being 16 and pregnant, then a dangerous precedent may be established that should make anyone with a uterus feel very afraid.

This week, I spoke with one of Gibbs's attorneys, Robert McDuff, who told me that he volunteered his services to the public defender assigned to the case back in 2009 because he was concerned about the implications for women everywhere if the prosecution is successful:
It’s ridiculous that this teenager is being prosecuted for a murder charge not justified by either law or science. If she can be tried for allegedly taking drugs during her pregnancy, what is to stop other women who miscarry or suffer a stillbirth from being prosecuted because they smoked cigarettes or drank alcohol or just didn’t follow their doctor’s orders?
Central to the Gibbs case is whether her alleged cocaine use directly caused her baby’s stillbirth. A recent ProPublica investigation by Nina Martin goes into some detail on this aspect, outlining serious doubts surrounding the medical examiner's conclusion that drugs were the cause of death. The reliability of the examiner's work has been called into question before, and at least four murder convictions based on his evidence have been overturned.

Continue reading at:  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/mar/26/stillbirth-murder-miscarriage-pregnant-women-criminals

One Percenter Convicted Of Raping His Infant Child Dodges Jail Because He 'Will Not Fare Well'

From Huffington Post:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/30/robert-richards-rape_n_5060386.html?ncid=fcbklnkushpmg00000013

by  Ashley Alman03/30/2014

A Delaware man convicted of raping his three-year-old daughter only faced probation after a state Superior Court judge ruled he "will not fare well" in prison.

In her decision, Judge Jan Jurden suggested Robert H. Richards IV would benefit more from treatment. Richards, who was charged with fourth-degree rape in 2009, is an unemployed heir living off his trust fund. The light sentence has only became public as the result of a subsequent lawsuit filed by his ex-wife, which charges that he penetrated his daughter with his fingers while masturbating, and subsequently assaulted his son as well.

Richards is the great grandson of du Pont family patriarch Irenee du Pont, a chemical baron.
According to the lawsuit filed by Richards' ex-wife, he admitted to assaulting his infant son in addition to his daughter between 2005 and 2007. Richards was initially indicted on two counts of second-degree child rape, felonies that translate to a 10-year mandatory jail sentence per count. He was released on $60,000 bail while awaiting his charges.

Richards hired one of the state's top law firms and was offered a plea deal of one count of fourth-degree rape charges -- which carries no mandatory minimum prison sentencing. He accepted, and admitted to the assault.

In her sentence, Jurden said he would benefit from participating in a sex offenders rehabilitation program rather than serving prison time.

Delaware Public Defender Brendan J. O'Neill told The News Journal that it was "extremely rare" for an individual to fare well in prison. "Prison is to punish, to segregate the offender from society, and the notion that prison serves people well hasn't proven to be true in most circumstances," he said, adding that the light sentence for the member of the one percent raised questions about “how a person with great wealth may be treated by the system.” (Though perhaps it provides more answers than questions.)

According to the The News Journal, several attorneys claimed treatment over jail time was a deal more typically granted to drug addicts, not sex offenders.

Continue reading at:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/30/robert-richards-rape_n_5060386.html?ncid=fcbklnkushpmg00000013

Friday, March 28, 2014

Friday Night Fun and Culture: Linda Perhacs












The Nation's Most Segregated Schools Aren't Where You'd Think They'd Be

From Huffington Post:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/26/new-york-schools-segregated_n_5034455.html

Air Pollution = Biggest Environmental Health Risk, Says WHO

From Common Dreams:  http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2014/03/25-5

Andrea Germanos


Air pollution is the world's largest single environmental health risk, the World Health Organization said on Tuesday.

According to the body's just released estimates, seven million people died in 2012 as a result of air pollution. That amounts to one in 8 deaths worldwide.

"The risks from air pollution are now far greater than previously thought or understood, particularly for heart disease and strokes," stated Dr. Maria Neira, Director of the WHO's Department for Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health.

Their findings attribute 80 percent of outdoor air pollution-caused deaths to heart disease and stroke; those diseases were implicated in 60 percent of indoor air pollution-caused deaths.

Because the indoor air pollution is often the result of smoke and soot from cooking stoves, women and children pay a particular heavy price.

"Thanks to effective regulatory and legislative policies over the years, the United States has made significant strides towards cleaning up deadly emissions from some of the largest sources of air pollution — old dirty diesel engines and coal-fired power plants – and has done so cost-effectively," Ann Weeks, Senior Counsel and Legal Director at Clean Air Task Force, told Common Dreams. "But, as the WHO finding points out, the rest of the world, particularly the developing countries, has a long way to go."

The WHO called their new data a "significant step in advancing a WHO roadmap for preventing diseases related to air pollution" — and Weeks said the U.S. experience can help in creating such a roadmap, "particularly [for] women, children and the elderly who are most vulnerable."

WHO's Neira issued a call for action as well.

"Few risks have a greater impact on global health today than air pollution; the evidence signals the need for concerted action to clean up the air we all breathe," she stated.
_________________

Thursday, March 27, 2014

It's Ugly


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Christo-Nazi Pat Robertson On Stoning Gays; Satan Leads Gay Rights Movement


How Wall Street Is Sucking Huge Amounts of Money from Los Angeles

From Alternet:  http://www.alternet.org/economy/new-report-reveals-how-wall-street-impoverishes-los-angeles

Finance industry rakes it in from dubious fees.

By Les Leopold March 25, 2014

Los Angeles paid at least $204 million in fees to Wall Street in 2013, and probably significantly more, in addition to principle and interest payments, according to the report, "No Small Fees: LA Spends More on Wall Street than Our Streets." The study, issued today by a coalition of unions and community organizations, shows that due to revenue losses from the “Great Recession,” L.A. "all but stopped repairing sidewalks, clearing alleys and installing speed bumps. It stopped inspecting sewers, resulting in twice the number of sewer overflows." L.A. spends at least $51 million more in Wall Street in fees than it allocates for its entire budget for the Bureau of Street Services.

The researchers caution that the $204 million figure likely underestimates the true amount, because under current disclosure rules, deals made with private equity companies and hedge funds do not have to be publically disclosed. Also, because the city does not list all these fees in one centralized report, hundreds of individual documents must be reviewed to uncover the amounts. As one of the report's researchers stated,
"This is the first time an accounting of fees has been exposed for a specific public entity, and we don't think we have captured it all. So if you do this for every public entity, cities, counties, school districts, states, and universities, transportation agencies and other public entities we could be looking at an astounding amount of money for education and community services money sucked out of the system."
Astounding indeed. My back of the envelope estimate, extrapolating the L.A. experience to the economy as a whole, suggests that the fees Wall Street extracts from public entities could total more than $50 billion a year — enough to provide free tuition at every public college and university in the country.

The coalition offers the following pragmatic reforms that could be implemented quickly.

Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/economy/new-report-reveals-how-wall-street-impoverishes-los-angeles

I Didn't Find the American Dream in New York City

From Huffington Post:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/christian-gabriel/new-york-city-unemployment_b_4690969.html

Christian Gabriel 03/25/2014

I turned 31 a few months ago, and a month later I moved out of Brooklyn and back into my childhood bedroom in my parents’ house in Oakland, Calif. At that point, my latest bout of unemployment had lasted about nine months, and the looming end of my Emergency Unemployment Benefits at the year’s end prompted the begrudging decision to, at least temporarily, give up my independent life.

I graduated from Vassar College 10 years ago with a BA in Film and dived into life in New York City full of optimism and excitement for my future. I imagined that I’d be “rich and successful” by the time I was 25. After failing to secure a job in my field immediately after college I turned to retail. It was fairly easy work to get, and once I ascended into the world of high-end luxury designer sales, it afforded me just enough money to live a fairly comfortable — if still a paycheck to paycheck — existence while I pursued my creative passions. A couple-year interlude working as a production assistant on films and television shows offered some brief hope that I may actually make it into the business, but life as a freelancer was hard and I spent months on and off unemployment waiting for new projects to materialize. The desire for something stable sent me back to retail, where I remained until I was laid off a few years later. In retrospect I probably could have been more aggressive in securing a career, but in a city like New York you either work or you starve, and jobs became harder and harder to come by as the years wore on and the economy crashed, so the motivation to take what you could get and not give it up was strong.

Being poor anywhere sucks, but there’s perhaps a particular kind of soul crushing that one experiences being poor in New York City. The cost of living is so high, and the constant inundation from all around you of experiences you could be having, things you could be buying, luxury apartments where you could be living, if only you had the finances, slowly break you down inside. Various people have asked about “savings” over the years; I think at one point I might have had two or three hundred dollars in a savings account, but honestly, I don’t know how anyone who lives in New York City could have savings unless they make six figures. My “affordable” rent in Park Slope, Brooklyn was never less than $900 a month, and it never stopped going up, unlike my income. On average, after rent and bills, I probably had less than three hundred dollars per month to put toward food, other expenses and social activities. As the years wore on, and my employment became less and less steady, I relocated to a cheaper building in a less glamorous neighborhood, but since I wasn’t making as much money, that did little to ease the stress of supporting myself. Sometimes after rent and bills I had nothing leftover, and the only reason my rent checks didn’t bounce was because of my credit line with my bank.

Sometimes I really didn’t have the money to eat three full meals a day. I would splurge on a 10 dollar lunch to keep me going through the work day, and then I’d eat nuts, cheese and fruit for dinner, or a can of tuna, or a bowl of plain rice, and drink a cheap beer because I knew it would fill up my stomach. It always seemed like every time I could almost catch a break something would go wrong to keep my head under water. My bank would randomly seize a couple hundred dollars from my account because I had stopped making credit payments when I needed to pay rent, or a bedbug infestation in my building required me to wash everything I owned and buy a new mattress, or even though I had received taxed unemployment benefits somehow I still ended up owing the government money when I filed my taxes and risked having my wages garnished if I didn’t come up with the money.

Continue reading at:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/christian-gabriel/new-york-city-unemployment_b_4690969.html

Living in Certain "Desirable" Cities Isn't Worth the Pain

Many years ago, when I was 20 I thought either Greenwich Village or the Haight Ashbury were the best most desirable places to live.

My initial explorations showed me that even in 1967 New York City was an outrageously expensive place to live unless you had a rent controlled apartment.

But it had neat club where musicians I like played, all sorts of book stores and museums as well as a hip scene.

I had wanted to go to California for a long time and it was further away from home, just going was an adventure so I decided on San Francisco and the Haight Ashbury.

I was crushingly disappointed by the Haight.

Oh, San Francisco had a great music scene, was home to City Lights Books.  Just eating in the greasy spoons of Chinatown and the Mission was an adventure.

And the hip scene was beyond words.

But Berkeley had all that and more, plus it had cheap places to live as well as a far less brutal police force.

So my friends and I moved to Berkeley.

In 1974 I moved to Los Angeles.

In those days LA was a paradise.  Beautiful weather.  I found a cheap apartment on Sunset, just east of where the Strip began.

In the early 1980s I moved back to the Bay Area.  The rents were already sky high and while the music scene was still affordable living there was a struggle.


I spent the end of the 1980s back in LA.  The neighborhoods I could afford were more dangerous and the apartments weren't as nice.  The bookstores were moving away from Hollywood and everything was getting to be a struggle

When I met Tina I went to live with her on Long Island.  It was my first experience with living in suburbia.

It was nice.  Really nice, quiet with room for hobbies.

Together we moved to Dallas/Fort Worth.  We live in a nice suburb and while we are planning on down sizing to a smaller house with lower taxes we are generally looking in the same part of north east Dallas.

We like Texas in spite of the politics and religion.

Great cheap restaurants, great live music scene, Half Price Books and really nice people.

Now we live on the edge of a major metroplex, one where artists and other lower income folks can actually live and have enough left over to enjoy life.

But more importantly I don't really miss New York or Los Angeles and I sure as hell don't miss San Francisco, which I grew to hate.

But most of all I don't miss the supercilious attitudes, the pseudo-sophistication and vague sense of superiority people who live in those high price places project upon those of us who live in more affordable areas.

Virginia Christian School Bans 8 Year Old Girl Because Tomboy Looks Not Biblical - Sunnie Kahle


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

We can't just geoengineer our way out of climate change

From Rabble.Ca:  http://rabble.ca/blogs/bloggers/david-suzuki/2014/03/we-cant-just-geoengineer-our-way-out-climate-change

By David Suzuki March 18, 2014

Because nature doesn’t always behave the same in a lab, test tube or computer program as it does in the real world, scientists and engineers have come up with ideas that didn’t turn out as expected.
DDT was considered a panacea for a range of insect pest issues, from controlling disease to helping farmers. But we didn’t understand bioaccumulation back then -- toxins concentrating up the food chain, risking the health and survival of animals from birds to humans. Chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, seemed so terrific we put them in everything from aerosol cans to refrigerators. Then we learned they damage the ozone layer, which protects us from harmful solar radiation.

These unintended consequences come partly from our tendency to view things in isolation, without understanding how all nature is interconnected. We’re now facing the most serious unintended consequence ever: climate change from burning fossil fuels. Some proposed solutions may also result in unforeseen outcomes.

Oil, gas and coal are miraculous substances -- energy absorbed from the sun by plants and animals hundreds of millions of years ago, retained after they died and concentrated as the decaying life became buried deeper into the earth. Burning them to harness and release this energy opened up possibilities unimaginable to our ancestors. We could create machines and technologies to reduce our toil, heat and light our homes, build modern cities for growing populations and provide accessible transport for greater mobility and freedom. And because the stuff seemed so plentiful and easy to obtain, we could build vehicles and roads for everyone -- big cars that used lots of gas -- so that enormous profits would fuel prosperous, consumer-driven societies.

We knew fairly early that pollution affected human health, but that didn’t seem insurmountable. We just needed to improve fuel efficiency and create better pollution-control standards. That reduced rather than eliminated the problem and only partly addressed an issue that appears to have caught us off-guard: the limited availability of these fuels. But the trade-offs seemed worthwhile.

Then, for the past few decades, a catastrophic consequence of our profligate use of fossil fuels has loomed. Burning them has released excessive amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, creating a thick, heat-trapping blanket. Along with our destruction of natural carbon-storing environments, such as forests and wetlands, this has steadily increased global average temperatures, causing climate change.

Continue reading at:  http://rabble.ca/blogs/bloggers/david-suzuki/2014/03/we-cant-just-geoengineer-our-way-out-climate-change

Neil deGrasse Tyson Shows Why Small-Minded Religious Fundamentalists Are Threatened by Wonders of Universe

From Alternet:  http://www.alternet.org/belief/neil-degrasse-tyson-shows-why-small-minded-religious-fundamentalists-are-threatened-wonders

Religious belief systems prefer a small cosmos with humans firmly at the center.

By Adam Lee March 20, 2014

The new Cosmos TV series airing on Fox is a worthy reboot of Carl Sagan's original. Following in Sagan's footsteps, host Neil deGrasse Tyson takes viewers on a voyage through the outer reaches of the solar system and beyond, showing how our sun is just one star out of a hundred billion in the majestic spiral of the Milky Way galaxy, and even the Milky Way itself is a speck in the observable universe. As in the original series, he compresses the history of the universe into a single year, showing that on that scale, the human species emerges only in the last few seconds before midnight on December 31.

Sagan's Cosmos was due for an update, and not just because our computer graphics are better. Since the original series aired, we've sent robotic rovers to Mars, sampling its rocks and exploring its history. We've detected hundreds of alien planets outside the solar system, finding them by the slight gravitational wobble they cause in their home stars, or by the brief dips in light as they pass across the star's face as seen from Earth. We've found the Higgs boson, the elusive and long-theorized particle that endows everything else with mass. We've discovered that the expansion of the Universe which began with the Big Bang is accelerating, driven by a mysterious force called dark energy. All these scientific advances deserve to be recognized and celebrated.

The story of Cosmos is also the story of human beings. For the vast majority of our history as a species, we were wanderers, small hunter-gatherer bands. Civilization is a recent innovation, arising within the last few thousand years, and science is more recent still, appearing only in the last few hundred. But in just those few short centuries, we've made dramatic strides, from wooden sailing ships to space shuttles, bloodletting to bionic limbs, quill pens to the Internet. We've drawn back the curtain on ancient mythologies and glimpsed the true immensity of time and space. Compared to that vastness, we're unimaginably small and insignificant; yet we possess an intelligence and a power of understanding that, as far as we still know, is unique among all the countless worlds. As Carl Sagan said, "We are a way for the cosmos to know itself."

However, not everyone accepts this as a positive development. There have always been those who prefer a small, comprehensible cosmos, with human beings placed firmly at the center. The religious belief systems that posit such a universe were our first, fumbling attempts to explain the origin of the world, and they rarely share power gladly. Those who clash against conventional wisdom, who dare to suggest that the cosmos holds wonders undreamed of in conventional mythology, have always found themselves in grave peril from the gatekeepers of dogma who presume to dictate the thoughts human beings should be permitted to think.

Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/belief/neil-degrasse-tyson-shows-why-small-minded-religious-fundamentalists-are-threatened-wonders

America’s Extreme Right Has A Patriot Problem/After May 9, it will be punishable by 5 years in Russian prison to talk about ‘Ukrainian Crimea’

From Truth wins Out: http://www.truthwinsout.org/opinion/2014/03/39904/
America’s extreme right has long been known for its gratuitous flag waving – but who ever thought the flag would be Russian? As the crisis in Ukraine unfolds, it is becoming crystal clear that leading social conservatives and their advocacy groups are grappling with a patriot problem. While the rest of America is actually rooting for America, these right wing stalwarts are cheerleading for Mother Russia and are openly touting their affinity for Vladimir Putin in the middle of an international crisis.

In Sunday’s New York Times, reporter Ellen Barry wrote an illuminating article, “Foes of America in Russia Crave Rupture in Ties.” Barry pointed out that one of Russia’s most outspoken America-bashers is Vladimir I. Yakunin, President of Russia Railways and “one of Mr. Putin’s trusted friends.” A Russian Orthodox tycoon, he has overseen $7 billion worth of Olympic infrastructure initiatives, but his true passion is leveraging his fortune to turn Russia into a nationalistic, anti-Western theocracy. According to the New York Times:
Mr. Yakunin  presented plans for a Soviet-style megaproject to develop transportation and infrastructure in Siberia, a move toward “an economics of a spiritual type,” he said, that would insulate Russia from the West’s alien values.

He compared the project to monumental endeavors from the past: the adoption of Christianity in ancient Rus; the conquest of Siberia; electrification of the Soviet Union; the Soviet space program; and the Olympics in Sochi.
Yakunin’s dangerous vision is shared by the Rockford, Illinois-based World Congress of Families (WCF), which the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated as a hate group. Since 2010, WCF has worked closely with Russian organizations to pass 13 new anti-gay laws, the most infamous being the one that prohibits “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations to minors.” This law, which shreds free speech protections, has created “open season” on the LGBT community, with politicians, the police, and neo-Nazi vigilante groups carrying out violence and persecution. When Mother Jones magazine writer Hannah Levintova asked WCF’s Managing Director, Larry Jacobs, 
 if his organization contributed to these draconian laws, he chuckled and replied, “Yes, I think that is accurate.”

Continue reading at:  http://www.truthwinsout.org/opinion/2014/03/39904/

From Raw Story:  http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/03/25/after-may-9-it-will-be-punishable-by-5-years-in-russian-prison-to-talk-about-ukrainian-crimea/

By Tony Ortega Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The online newspaper Ukrayinska Pravda (literally “Ukrainian Truth”) reported Monday that soon, it will cost Russians up to five years in prison if they “violate the territorial integrity” of their country — which just grew after it annexed Crimea from Ukraine in a controversial referendum.

We checked, and sure enough, in December, the Russian parliament, the State Duma, adopted a new law that was signed by Vladimir Putin on December 28.

On May 9, the law goes into effect, and it will become a crime in Russia to make “public calls for action to violate the territorial integrity” of the country.

Doing so is punishable by a fine of 300,000 rubles — about $8,400 — or imprisonment up to three years.

Doing the same thing with the use of the news media or the Internet calls for a prison term of up to five years.

Ukrayinska Pravda points out that this puts non-Russians in Crimea in a tough spot.

Continue reading at:  http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/03/25/after-may-9-it-will-be-punishable-by-5-years-in-russian-prison-to-talk-about-ukrainian-crimea/

Overwhelming Evidence that Half of America is In or Near Poverty

From Alternet:  http://www.alternet.org/economy/overwhelming-evidence-half-america-or-near-poverty

And it's much worse for minority families.

By Paul Buchheit March 23, 2014
The Charles Koch Foundation recently released a  commercial that ranked a near-poverty-level $34,000 family among the Top 1% of poor people in the world. Bud Konheim, CEO and co-founder of fashion company Nicole Miller,  concurred: "The guy that's making, oh my God, he's making $35,000 a year, why don't we try that out in India or some countries we can't even name. China, anyplace, the guy is wealthy."

Comments like these are condescending and self-righteous. They display an ignorance of the needs of lower-income and middle-income families in America. The costs of food and housing and education and health care and transportation and child care and taxes have been well-defined by organizations such as the  Economic Policy Institute, which calculated that a U.S. family of three would require an average of about $48,000 a year to meet basic needs; and by the  Working Poor Families Project, which estimates the income required for basic needs for a family of four at about $45,000. The  median household income is $51,000.

The following discussion pertains to the half of America that is in or near poverty, the people rarely seen by Congress.

1. The Official Poverty Threshold Should Be Much Higher

According to the  Congressional Research Service (CRS), "The poverty line reflects a measure of economic need based on living standards that prevailed in the mid-1950s...It is not adjusted to reflect changes in needs associated with improved standards of living that have occurred over the decades since the measure was first developed. If the same basic methodology developed in the early 1960s was applied today, the poverty thresholds would be over three times higher than the current thresholds."

The original poverty measures were (and still are) based largely on the food costs of the 1950s. But while food costs have doubled  since 1978, housing has more than  tripled, medical expenses are  six times higher, and college tuition is  eleven times higher. The  Bureau of Labor Statistics and the  Census Bureau have calculated that food, housing, health care, child care, transportation, taxes, and other household expenditures consume nearly the  entire median household income.

CRS provides some balance, noting that the threshold should also be impacted by safety net programs:  "For purposes of officially counting the poor, noncash benefits (such as the value of Medicare and Medicaid, public housing, or employer provided health care) and 'near cash' benefits (e.g., food stamps..) are not counted as income."

Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/economy/overwhelming-evidence-half-america-or-near-poverty

Anti-Choicers Really Upset, For Some Reason, That Random Feminist Lady Doesn’t Want Babies

From Raw Story:  http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/03/19/anti-choicers-really-upset-some-reason-that-random-feminist-lady-doesnt-want-babies/

By Amanda Marcotte
Wednesday, March 19, 2014


Last week, I wrote a post about abortion where I explained that, personally speaking, I don’t want to have children and, because of this, I would have an abortion if my contraception failed and I got pregnant. By and large, the reception was positive, because, it appears, people are sick and tired of dancing around the topic of women’s self-determination. You shouldn’t have to cater to a sexist society’s ideas of what women “should” be like in order to justify using contraception and even abortion. Yes, most women who use these services adhere more closely to traditional gender roles than I do and want to get married and have children. Many to most already have done these things, in fact. But the point is that women should be free to be themselves, and compulsory child-bearing to force women to adhere to traditional gender roles is just wrong.

But here’s what amuses me: The official line of anti-choicers is that they’re not interested in enforcing traditional gender roles, but that their interest in banning abortion is about “life”. (How that explains their hostility to contraception, however, is something they dodge and dodge and refuse to explain.) I think that argument is in bad faith, of course. But let’s imagine, for a moment, that the “life” argument is made in good faith. If so, then my declaration of non-interest in having a baby should be utterly and completely irrelevant to you. It’s already established that I’m pro-choice and that I don’t think that an embryo is the same thing as a conscious being like a baby. That would be, if you were just interested in “life”, all you need to know. If you are utterly and completely disinterested in enforcing traditional gender roles, then your reaction to my elaboration should be, “So what? It’s not like the why of abortion matters, and we already know she thinks that abortion is not killing a person.”

Well, some right winger tweeted out my piece, and so I got slammed, naturally on Twitter, even though, from the “life” perspective, there was no new information and therefore the only reason to get agitated is because I don’t want children. And, of course, there was all sorts of gender policing in the tweets, from people trying to “diagnose” me and doing the “pray for you” bit (because they believe that it’s impossible for a normal, healthy woman to not want children) to people trotting out tired misogynist stereotypes to people threatening me with the usual threats—loneliness, misery—aimed at women who reject strict gender roles. I collected them for you!

Continue reading at:  http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/03/19/anti-choicers-really-upset-some-reason-that-random-feminist-lady-doesnt-want-babies/

The New Tribalism and the Decline of the Nation State

From Robert Reich:  http://robertreich.org/post/80522686347

Robert Reich
Sunday, March 23, 2014


We are witnessing a reversion to tribalism around the world, away from nation states. The the same pattern can be seen even in America – especially in American politics.

Before the rise of the nation-state, between the eighteenth and twentieth centuries, the world was mostly tribal. Tribes were united by language, religion, blood, and belief. They feared other tribes and often warred against them. Kings and emperors imposed temporary truces, at most.

But in the past three hundred years the idea of nationhood took root in most of the world. Members of tribes started to become citizens, viewing themselves as a single people with patriotic sentiments and duties toward their homeland. Although nationalism never fully supplanted tribalism in some former colonial territories, the transition from tribe to nation was mostly completed by the mid twentieth century.

Over the last several decades, though, technology has whittled away the underpinnings of the nation state. National economies have become so intertwined that economic security depends less on national armies than on financial transactions around the world. Global corporations play nations off against each other to get the best deals on taxes and regulations.


News and images move so easily across borders that attitudes and aspirations are no longer especially national. Cyber-weapons, no longer the exclusive province of national governments, can originate in a hacker’s garage.

Nations are becoming less relevant in a world where everyone and everything is interconnected. The connections that matter most are again becoming more personal. Religious beliefs and affiliations, the nuances of one’s own language and culture, the daily realities of class, and the extensions of one’s family and its values – all are providing people with ever greater senses of identity.

The nation state, meanwhile, is coming apart. A single Europe – which seemed within reach a few years ago – is now succumbing to the centrifugal forces of its different languages and cultures. The Soviet Union is gone, replaced by nations split along tribal lines. Vladimir Putin can’t easily annex the whole of Ukraine, only the Russian-speaking part. The Balkans have been Balkanized.


Continue reading at:  http://robertreich.org/post/80522686347

Monday, March 24, 2014

Climate Change and Human Extinction - A Personal Perspective


Neil deGrasse Tyson Shows Why Small-Minded Religious Fundamentalists Are Threatened by Wonders of Universe

From Alternet:  http://www.alternet.org/belief/neil-degrasse-tyson-shows-why-small-minded-religious-fundamentalists-are-threatened-wonders

Religious belief systems prefer a small cosmos with humans firmly at the center.

By Adam Lee March 20, 2014

The new Cosmos TV series airing on Fox is a worthy reboot of Carl Sagan's original. Following in Sagan's footsteps, host Neil deGrasse Tyson takes viewers on a voyage through the outer reaches of the solar system and beyond, showing how our sun is just one star out of a hundred billion in the majestic spiral of the Milky Way galaxy, and even the Milky Way itself is a speck in the observable universe. As in the original series, he compresses the history of the universe into a single year, showing that on that scale, the human species emerges only in the last few seconds before midnight on December 31.

Sagan's Cosmos was due for an update, and not just because our computer graphics are better. Since the original series aired, we've sent robotic rovers to Mars, sampling its rocks and exploring its history. We've detected hundreds of alien planets outside the solar system, finding them by the slight gravitational wobble they cause in their home stars, or by the brief dips in light as they pass across the star's face as seen from Earth. We've found the Higgs boson, the elusive and long-theorized particle that endows everything else with mass. We've discovered that the expansion of the Universe which began with the Big Bang is accelerating, driven by a mysterious force called dark energy. All these scientific advances deserve to be recognized and celebrated.

The story of Cosmos is also the story of human beings. For the vast majority of our history as a species, we were wanderers, small hunter-gatherer bands. Civilization is a recent innovation, arising within the last few thousand years, and science is more recent still, appearing only in the last few hundred. But in just those few short centuries, we've made dramatic strides, from wooden sailing ships to space shuttles, bloodletting to bionic limbs, quill pens to the Internet. We've drawn back the curtain on ancient mythologies and glimpsed the true immensity of time and space. Compared to that vastness, we're unimaginably small and insignificant; yet we possess an intelligence and a power of understanding that, as far as we still know, is unique among all the countless worlds. As Carl Sagan said, "We are a way for the cosmos to know itself."

However, not everyone accepts this as a positive development. There have always been those who prefer a small, comprehensible cosmos, with human beings placed firmly at the center. The religious belief systems that posit such a universe were our first, fumbling attempts to explain the origin of the world, and they rarely share power gladly. Those who clash against conventional wisdom, who dare to suggest that the cosmos holds wonders undreamed of in conventional mythology, have always found themselves in grave peril from the gatekeepers of dogma who presume to dictate the thoughts human beings should be permitted to think.

Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/belief/neil-degrasse-tyson-shows-why-small-minded-religious-fundamentalists-are-threatened-wonders

New Greenland ice melt fuels sea level rise concerns

From Raw Story:  http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/03/22/new-greenland-ice-melt-fuels-sea-level-rise-concerns/

By Climate Central
Saturday, March 22, 2014


Stability in the rapidly changing Arctic is a rarity. Yet for years researchers believed the glaciers in the frigid northeast section of Greenland, which connect to the interior of the country’s massive ice sheet, were resilient to the effects of climate change that have affected so much of the Arctic.

But new data published Sunday in Nature Climate Change reveals that over the past decade, the region has started rapidly losing ice due to a rise in air and ocean temperatures caused in part by climate change. The increased melt raises grave concerns that sea level rise could accelerate even faster than projected, threatening even more coastal communities worldwide.

“North Greenland is very cold and dry, and believed to be a very stable area,” said Shfaqat Khan, a senior researcher at the Technical University of Denmark who led the new study. “It is surprisingly to see ice loss in one of the coldest regions on the planet.”

The stability of the region is particularly important because it has much deeper ties to the interior ice sheet than other glaciers on the island. If the entire ice sheet were to melt -- which would take thousands of years in most climate change scenarios -- sea levels would rise up to 23 feet, catastrophically altering coastlines around the world.

Sea levels have risen 8 inches globally since the start of the 1900s, and current projections show that figure could rise another 3 feet by the end of this century.

Complete article at:  http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/03/22/new-greenland-ice-melt-fuels-sea-level-rise-concerns/

Hate Monger Porno Pete LaBarbera Says Anti-Gay Activists Have Been 'Sold Out' By Chick-Fil-A


KKK Leader Disputes Hate Group Label: 'We're A Christian Organization'

From Huffington Post:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/21/virginia-kkk-fliers_n_5008647.html


The leader of the Traditionalist American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan is tired of “a few rogue Klansmen” ruining the group’s reputation, and argues that the group is a non-violent Christian organization.

“We don’t hate people because of their race, I mean, we’re a Christian organization,” Frank Ancona, the group's Imperial Wizard, told Virginia's NBC 12 on Thursday. "Because of the acts of a few rogue Klansmen, all Klansmen are supposed to be murderers, and wanting to lynch black people, and we're supposed to be terrorists. That's a complete falsehood.”

Ancona’s group has come under fire from residents of Chesterfield County, Va., about 20 miles south of Richmond, for distributing KKK recruitment fliers in people's yards since January.

"We picked ours up out of our driveway and threw it in the trash," Sarah Peachee told NBC 12. "We weren't interested in even reading about it."

Ancona defended the strategy, however, citing a boom in KKK membership across the country since 2008.

"In the last six years that I've been president of this organization I've seen the numbers probably triple," Ancona told NBC 12. "The funny thing is the same neighborhoods where you're saying there are people who don't want the flier are neighborhoods where our members live, and neighborhoods where people are sympathetic to our cause and are glad to hear from us.”

Although Ancona insisted that the KKK is not a hate group, he added that “We just want to keep our race the white race."

"We want to stay white,” Ancona said. “It's not a hateful thing to want to maintain white supremacy."

Continue reading at:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/21/virginia-kkk-fliers_n_5008647.html

California officials prepare for worst as historic drought deepens wildfire risk

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/mar/19/california-drought-wildfires-danger

Severe lack of rain and sun-scorched earth means that when it comes to fire risks, California is now in a class of its own

in Auburn theguardian.com, Wednesday 19 March 2014

California is facing wildfires "outside of any normal bounds" as a historic drought turns drying brush and trees into a perfect tinderbox, officials have warned. The state recorded 665 wildfires from 1 January, about three times the average of 225 for this time of year, according to figures compiled by Cal Fire, the state's department of forestry and fire protection.

Each day without heavy rain deepened the risks of a catastrophic fire season and made it hard to deal with more wildfires if and when they broke out, officials warned. John Laird, the secretary for natural resources, told the Guardian: "This is going to be a fire season outside any normal bounds. Anything could happen at any time."

Although the wildfire season does not officially start until May in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, locals are adjusting to life on a year-round frontline.

"This is the first time it really hit home that we have this danger," said Annette Lambert, who lives with her husband and two young children on top of a thickly wooded slope with spectacular canyon views. More than 200 communities across the state, including those overlooking Auburn, were designated fire-risk zones in the drought.

The Lambert family knew they were entering a potentially dangerous area 10 years ago when they built on land covered by oak, pine, and evergreen manzanita shrubs.

The area, called Meadow Vista, meanders along the hilltops along a road too narrow for a conventional fire engine. Most of the homes are surrounded by trees and manzanitas; keep chicken coops or horses. Some of the houses were situated in such a way as to channel fire to straight up to the back door, according to fire inspectors.

"We got it from the shape of the land that fire could course right up the hill and was going to be an issue for us, and a risk that we would have to deal with," said Lambert. "But we loved the trees."
They had trouble finding homeowners' insurance because the house lies more than a mile from the nearest fire hydrant.

Continue reading at:  http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/mar/19/california-drought-wildfires-danger

Yup, You Were Right, Retailers Do Exactly What You Thought


The Tyranny of the On-Call Schedule: Hourly Injustice in Retail Labor

From The Nation:  http://www.thenation.com/blog/178879/tyranny-call-schedule-hourly-injustice-retail-labor

Michelle Chen March 19, 2014

A century ago, the misery of New York’s urban poor was embodied by the iconic scene of the morning shape-up at the docks, where rough-hewn longshoremen lined up anxiously to see if the boss would pick them for that day’s crew or turn them back empty-handed. These days, the city has a different kind of shape-up—a less visible mill of workers staffing its bustling boutiques and vendors. Instead of assembling at the waterfront, they call the manager to find out how many hours they can get on a given day—stressing about whether they’ll clock enough hours this month to make rent, or hoping their next workday doesn’t interfere with their school schedule or doctor’s appointment.
This anxiety of living not just paycheck to paycheck but hour to hour is the focus of a new policy brief on the impact of unfair schedules on wage workers. The report, published by the progressive think tank Center for Law and Social Policy and the worker-advocacy groups Retail Action Project (RAP) and Women Employed, reveals the flipside of the “flexibility” and “dynamism” of twenty-first-century retail: the tyranny of the daily schedule.

On top of the economic hardships of working a part-time job that does not pay living wage, retail workers are often further burdened by the stress of the on-call schedule: They have to call in first to see if hours are available, wait for word from the boss and, sometimes, end up with just a four-hour shift. The labor of the whole ordeal might then be offset by the financial costs of commuting and the disruption of their entire day. Ironically, while this scheduling structure brings chaos to workers’ lives, it stems from a hyper-mechanized system of computerized staffing configuration. Under huge employers like Walmart and Jamba Juice, this Tayloristically efficient programming often leaves workers at the mercy of variables like the weather (a hot day demands reinforcements for a lunchtime juice rush) or consumer whims (a slump in sales means temporarily downsizing sales-floor staff). Even full-time workers might get saddled with erratic shifts, or are pressured to work extra hours on short notice.

These strenuous schedules reflect the “Just-in-Time” business model and the parallel “need it now” consumer culture. Ever-fluctuating schedules are designed to react instantly to every fad and seasonal spasm of the market, which ties into a frenetic global manufacturing system, stretching from sweatshops in Bangladesh to Fifth Avenue show floors.

The erratic labor structure robs workers of control over their lives. Being constantly on call, without set hours, makes it extremely hard to budget for basic living expenses, like housing and childcare, and sometimes near-impossible to plan ahead for, say, saving for college. And for the working poor, irregular schedules could undermine access to safety-net programs and benefits, which is, sadly, a key resource for many low-wage retail workers who earn so little that they must rely on public welfare programs. Working too few hours, according to the report, “may limit their eligibility to claim firm-provided benefits like health insurance and sick days.” And paradoxically, if they do cobble together enough hours to pay the bills, they might then wind up earning too much to qualify for Medicaid benefits.

In addition, unfair scheduling tends to disproportionately affect people of color: black and Latino workers in New York report having hours arbitrarily changed more than their white peers.

Continue reading at:  http://www.thenation.com/blog/178879/tyranny-call-schedule-hourly-injustice-retail-labor