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Wednesday, 25 November 2015 10:26

Why We Must Stop Drinking Bottled Water


Plastic is displayed on a beach and the word ‘Trash’ is spelt out from golf balls. The wide variety of items shown in this image highlight the diverse range of sources from which the plastics in our oceans originate. This is part of the Ocean Defenders Campaign in which the Greenpeace ship Esperanza MV sails to the Pacific Ocean, sometimes referred to as the North Pacific garbage patch, to document the threat that plastic poses to the environment and sea life. Photo credit: © Greenpeace / Alex HoffordPlastic is displayed on a beach and the word ‘”TRASH”’ is spelt out from golf balls. The wide variety of items shown in this image highlight the diverse range of sources from which the plastics in our oceans originate. This is part of the Ocean Defenders Campaign in which the Greenpeace ship Esperanza MV sails to the Pacific Ocean, sometimes referred to as the North Pacific garbage patch, to document the threat that plastic poses to the environment and sea life. Photo credit: © Greenpeace / Alex Hofford

Thursday was Use Less Stuff Day. It was created to inspire us to rethink the stuff we use. All our stuff—cell phones, clothes, cars, disposable chopsticks, and on and on—comes from somewhere and has to go somewhere when we throw it out. That takes a big toll on the planet, so thinking about how to use less is an excellent idea.

I’ve written a bunch about the real need to re-think our approach to the holidays and the mad shopping frenzy that comes with them.

When it comes to how we do spend our dollars, the product that jumps immediately to mind as obscenely wasteful, expensive and easily preventable is bottled water.

Let’s dig a bit deeper into this. It’s true that in some parts of the world the water quality is so poor that it’s unsafe for people to drink. There are definitely some places in the U.S. wherefracking or petrochemical plants have ruined the local water supply, but even then there are better solutions than forcing the community to buy bottled water! For the most part, tap water in the U.S. is clean, readily available and thousands of times cheaper than the bottled stuff.

four-year review of the bottled water industry in the U.S. and the safety standards that govern it, including independent testing of over 1,000 bottles of water found that there is no assurance that just because water comes out of a bottle it is any cleaner or safer than water from the tap. In fact tap water is tested more frequently than bottled water.

Published in Guest Commentary


Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch.

Photo credit: Erik S Lesser / EPAThe language included in the TPP is more aggressive than previous trade deals and provides broad new powers for other countries and foreign corporations to challenge U.S. food safety and food labeling measures. Photo credit: Erik S Lesser / U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 

The Obama administration released the long-secret text of the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal that would weaken consumer protections, undermine U.S. food safety standards and prevent commonsensefood labeling. The language included in the TPP is more aggressive than previous trade deals and provides broad new powers for other countries and foreign corporations to challenge U.S. food safety and food labeling measures. 

The TPP is a giveaway to big agribusiness and food companies that want to use trade deals to attack sensible food safety rules, weaken the inspection of imported food and block efforts to strengthen U.S. food safety standards. The food and agribusiness industries inserted language into the text of the TPP that will undermine U.S. food safety oversight and expose consumers to risky imported foods.

The TPP includes a new provision designed to second-guess the government inspectors who monitor food imports. The so-called Rapid Response Mechanism allows companies to challenge border inspection procedures that companies claim cause unnecessary delay—like holding suspect shipments while awaiting laboratory test results—and demand that a TPP panel of experts review and provide guidance on the inspection. This would create a chilling-effect on rigorous border inspection that would be especially dangerous for problems that are not obvious, like chemical or drug residues that would only appear after more thorough examination and testing.

Published in Guest Commentary


aaaaaaaaaaaaclimatejusticeClimate Justice means holding big oil companies accountable for being duplicitous about global warming. (Photo: Rainforest Action Network)

I’m still trying to process recent revelations in the LA Times and the Pulitzer-winning Inside Climate News about the extent to which ExxonMobil has worked to deny climate change. It knew about the threat of a planet warmed by burning fossil fuels as far back as the 70’s, and while publicly denying these risks, built them into its business plans. Wait, what?!

To make matters worse, ExxonMobil‘s climate denialism isn’t just a thing of the past–it’s ongoing.

While deeply shocking, it’s sadly not surprising: Greenpeace has been exposing ExxonMobil’s climate denialism for more than a decade. Yes, it’s outrageous, but now we need to turn that outrage into action to get governments and citizens to hold ExxonMobil and other fossil fuel companies legally accountable for the damage their activities have caused.

How do we know ExxonMobil is still blocking climate action?

For one, ExxonMobil remains a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). This corporate “bill mill” pushes climate-denying legislation on lawmakers through closed-door meetings.

Published in Guest Commentary


aaaaaaaaaaaaaaecinjuFour years after the Occupy uprising, economic inequality in the United States continues to soar. (Photo: Coco Curranski)


Bernie Sanders showed his outrage about inequality at the Democratic Debate, and more and more Americans are understanding his message. Indignation is likely to grow with new data from the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Databook, which reveals the wealthy elite's continuing disdain for the poor, for the middle class, and for people all around the world. 

Some of the most troubling disparities are hidden in the myriad tables of this remarkably comprehensive publication. The purpose here is to translate the numbers into wealth gap realities that victimize the great majority of Americans. Details can be viewed at You Deserve Facts

1. At the Bottom: Of the Half-Billion Poorest Adults in the World, One out of Ten is an American

That seems impossible, with so many extremely poor countries, and it requires a second look at the data, and then a third look. But it's true. In the world's poorest decile (bottom 10%), one out of ten are Americans, many of whom are burdened with so much debt that any remnant of tangible wealth is negated. Other nations have high debt, most notably in Europe, but without an excessive burden on their poorest citizens. 

Incredibly, then, nearly 50 million of America's 243 million adults are part of the world's poorest 10%. In contrast, over 110 million American adults are among the world's richest 10%.  

Published in Guest Commentary
Monday, 07 September 2015 06:29

Ten Troubling Numbers on Labor Day Week 2015


aaaaaaaaaaaaminwageLabor is the economic engine of the United States. (Photo: UUSC)

  • 5.1. The official unemployment rate is 5.1 percent, or 8 million people, according to the US Department of Labor. However, this widely reported “official” number overlooks the millions of people unemployed for more than a year nor does it count those who are working part-time and looking for full-time work. The Department of Labor monthly report which includes people working part-time and looking for full-time work shows the real rate of unemployment is 10.3 percent.
  • 6. It has been 6 years since the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour was raised.
  • 8.9. Millions of adults, 8.9 million in fact, work full-time, year round and earn too little to lift their families out of poverty.
Published in Guest Commentary
Sunday, 06 September 2015 15:04

On Labor Day, Why We Need a Guaranteed Income


aaaaaaaaaincomeWhen the economy is devastated by avarice, those without jobs deserve a guaranteed income. (Photo: Doran)

A thought for Labor Day: In the not-too-distant future we might wait around for a package delivery, hurry off to class, grab a taxi downtown, meet the family for dinner, and then take the train home. All without being served by a single human being. No delivery person, no teacher, no cab driver, no food server, no train conductor. 

Our jobs are disappearing. The benefits of a half-century of productivity, in which we and our parents all played a role, have largely accrued to the relatively few people who know how to make money by coordinating all the technological components, or by managing the money themselves. 

And despite the relentless optimism of starry-eyed pundits and tech leaders, the great majority of Americans will NOT be prepared to turn new technologies into life-sustaining employment. 

1. Our Jobs Are Disappearing

The jobs that kept the middle class out of poverty -- education, construction, social services, customer service, transportation, administrative support -- have dramatically declined since the recession. Programmers and engineers and financial experts are still in demand. But nine of the ten fastest growingoccupations don't require a college degree

Published in Guest Commentary


aaaaaaaaacapitalism(Photo: Daniel Lobo)

To followers of Ayn Rand and Ronald Reagan, and to all the business people who despise government, 'community' is a form of 'communism.' Even taking the trainis too communal for them. Americans have been led to believe that only individuals matter, that every person should fend for him/herself, that "winner-take-all" is the ultimate goal, and that the winners have no responsibility to others. 

To the capitalist, everything is a potential market: education, health care, even the right to water. But with every market failure, it becomes clearer that basic human rights can't be bought and sold like cars and cell phones. The pursuit of profit, when essential needs are part of the product, means that not everyone will be able to pay the price. Some will be denied those essential needs. 

Global Failures

Capitalism hasn't been able to control runaway global inequality. For every $1.00 owned by the world's richest 1% in 2011, they now own $1.27. They own almosthalf the world's wealth. Just 70 of them own as much as 3.5 billion people. 

Capitalism has not been able -- or willing -- to control the "race to the bottom" caused by "free trade," as mid-level jobs continue to be transferred to low-wage countries. 

Nor has capitalism been able to control global environmental degradation, with trillions in subsidies going to polluters that don't even pay their taxes, and with corporations ignoring any semblance of social responsibility as they seek ways toprofit from global warming 

Published in Guest Commentary

Wenonah Hauter of Ecowatch on BuzzFlash at Truthout

aaaaaaafrackerNew EPA methane regulations may actually increase fracking. (Photo: Environmental Illness Network)

Today the Obama Administration released proposed regulations to directly regulate methane leaks from the oil and gas industry. If adopted, these regulations would wrongly promote natural gas as a “clean” alternative to oil and coal. These weak regulations leave the impression that pursuing natural gas benefits the environment, providing a justification for continuing to drill and frack.

Besides contaminating water and causing earthquakes, drilling and fracking for gas is impacting the global climate.

Published in Guest Commentary


aaaaaabenn3Is Netanyahu more interested in showing that he can best Obama than act in the best interests of his constituents? Looks that way.(Image: DonkeyHotey)

Should anyone be listening to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s fulminating against the Iran nuclear deal? His previous prognostications – dating back to his unbridled enthusiasm for George W. Bush’s Iraq War – place him in the same league as the late Harold Camping, whose predictions of the Rapture failed to materialize, Anne Graham Lotz, the daughter of the Rev. Billy Graham, who seems to believe that the Rapture is just around almost every corner, and his Republican Party colleagues who were certain the 2012 presidential election spelled the end of Barack Obama.

In 2002, an impassioned Benjamin Netanyahu was exceedingly bullish on President Bush’s looming War with Iraq. He was certain that it would not only usher in a new more peaceful era for the entire Middle East, but that it would also serve to encourage the youth of Iran to rebel against their country’s leaders.

Netanyahu told a Congressional committee that "every indication we have is that (Saddam Hussein) is pursuing, pursuing with abandon, pursuing with every ounce of effort, the establishment of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons.”

Published in Guest Commentary


aaaaacongressThe US Congress is enacting policies that regard people of color as disposable people. (Wikipedia)

In a recent discussion of United States neoliberalism, Henry Giroux described "the practice of disposability in which more and more individuals and groups are now considered excess -- consigned to zones of abandonment, surveillance, and often incarceration." This is certainly true of poor people in the US, especially those who are people of color. Many of our well-positioned, mostly Republican Congressional leaders have shown through their actions that they don't care about such people. The resulting neglect is life-threatening for the most vulnerable among us. 

1. Denying Health Care - Tens of Thousands of Deaths Every Year: Numerous studies have shown that lack of health coverage can contribute to sickness and early death. Low-income minorities, of course, are least likely to have coverage. Just having Medicaid greatly improves one's chances of prolonging life. Yet Congress lets individual states decide the fortunes of their own poor residents. With 22 states opting out of Medicaid this year, over 5 million Americans are without vital health insurance coverage, and women - especially black women - are dying because of the lack of maternal care. And now it's getting worse, with an attack on Planned Parenthood, which saves women's lives through breast cancer screenings, and reduces abortions by providing contraceptive services. 

2. Subsidizing Pollution: The IMF estimates that global subsidies for fossil fuels have reached about $5 trillion per year, with the greatest cost going to the smog-spewing coal industry. Pollution is killing people. That is well documented by the World Health Organization. But not only is Congress complicit in the outright subsidies of fossil fuel exploration and production, it is also allowing the worst polluters, especially Exxon Mobil and Chevron, to avoid almost all their taxes. We taxpayers may be subsidizing our own early deaths. 

Published in Guest Commentary
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