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aaaNeil(Photo: Ole Hagen)Sorry Taylor Swift, it looks like Neil Young is most definitely not a “Starbucks lover.” Young released a new anthem last week decrying Starbucks for its alleged support of Monsanto and genetically modified organisms (GMOs). “I want a cup of coffee, but I don’t want a GMO. I’d like to start my day off, without helping Monsanto,” Young sings.

Young and the band The Promise of The Real debuted an acoustic version of the song, “A Rock Star Bucks A Coffee Shop,” in Maui, Hawaii at “OUTGROW Monsanto,” an event put on to call attention to Monsanto’s destructive practices in Hawaii.

Hawaii is considered the global epicenter for GMO seed testing, according to Paul Towers of Pesticide Action Network. Corporations based around the globe test and grow GMO seeds in Hawaii, which can be grown year-round in the islands’ tropical climate, before shipping them to places like Iowa to sell to U.S. farmers and across the globe, according to Towers. Earlier this month, a jury awarded 15 residents $500,000 in damages for pesticide contamination from the biotech company DuPont-Pioneer.

Young’s new song is part of his upcoming album “The Monsanto Years,” due out June 29. Young has been a food advocate for years. He’s the co-founder of Farm Aid, and when it came to light that Starbucks was supporting Monsanto in fighting Vermont’s GMO labeling law last fall, Young publicly declared he would be boycotting Starbucks.


aaaCuffs(Photo: André Karwath)The US Department of Justice (DOJ) reports 2.2 million people are in our nation’s jails and prisons and another 4.5 million people are on probation or parole in the US, totaling 6.8 million people, one of every 35 adults.  We are far and away the world leader in putting our own people in jail.  Most of the people inside are poor and Black.  Here are 40 reasons why

​ - and there are more​.

One: It is not just about crime.  Our jails and prisons have grown from holding about 500,000 people in 1980 to 2.2 million today.  The fact is that crime rates have risen and fallen independently of our growing incarceration rates.

Two: Police discriminate.  The first step in putting people in jail starts with interactions between police and people.  From the very beginning Black and poor people are targeted by the police.  Police departments have engaged in campaigns of stopping and frisking people who are walking, mostly poor people and people of color, without cause for decades.  Recently New York City lost a federal civil rights challenge to their police stop and frisk practices by the Center for Constitutional Rights during which police stopped over 500,000 people annually without any indication that the people stopped had been involved in any crime at all.  About 80 percent of those stops were of Black and Latinos who compromise 25 and 28 percent of NYC’s total populationChicago police do the same thing stopping even more people also in a racially discriminatory way with 72 percent of the stops of Black people even though the city is 32 percent Black.

Three: Police traffic stops also racially target people in cars.  Black drivers are 31 percent more likely to be pulled over than white drivers and Hispanic drivers are 23 percent more likely to be pulled over than white drivers.  Connecticut, in an April 2015 report, reported on 620,000 traffic stops which revealed widespread racial profiling, particularly during daylight hours when the race of driver was more visible.


aaadairycow(Photo: Kabsik Park)

Michelle Chen reports in The Nation that the wholesome, feel-good, socially conscious image of Ben & Jerry's ice cream is tainted by the exploitation of many dairy workers. These laborers are employed by dairy farmers that Ben & Jerry's contracts with for the milk used in its ice cream.

Ben & Jerry's was started in 1978 by the eponymous Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield in a converted gas station in Burlington, Vermont. The bright cartoonish pints, the innovative flavors and the company's opposition to the use of Bovine Growth Hormone and GMOs catapulted the brand into grocery stores across the nation. The ice cream's popularity made Cohen and Greenfield multi-millionaires when they sold Ben & Jerry's to Unilever, a global corporation based in Holland and England, in 2000.

However, there is something rotten in a pint of Cherry Garcia. According to Chen,

Labor advocates say the ice-cream empire’s socially minded branding is greased with the sweat of an exploited workforce, rotten with poverty wages, squalid housing, and abusive bosses. So immigrant workers are barnstorming Vermont’s dairy industry to demand Milk with Dignity....

According to Migrant Justice’s survey of 172 dairy workers, about 40 percent earned less than the state minimum wage of about $9. Roughly a third observed that they were treated worse than US-born workers. And with workweeks averaging about 60 to 80 hours and frequent injuries, the labor conditions were not only harsh but also hostile, with some reporting verbal abuse and being denied medical care or even a break for the bathroom or eating.


Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch.

Solar Impulse 2, the first solar airplane able to sustain flight at night with a pilot on board has been making its way around the world over the past few months. The plane took off today a little after 2 a.m. on Sunday in Nanjing, China. The flight from Nanjing to Honolulu, Hawaii is the seventh and longest leg of the first round-the-world solar flight. It will take an estimated six days to complete the roughly 5,000-mile journey. The first leg of the journey took place in early March, taking off from from Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates and landing in the Omani capital, Muscat.

If the flight is successful, it will be the longest ever flight on solar power, both in terms of distance and time.


aaaaiowacaucusPassion for a candidate, not a tentative preference, is key to turnout in caucus states such as Iowa. (Photo: DonkeyHotey)

This past weekend, the self-described newspaper "of record" decided that Bernie Sanders might possibly be a "credible challenge" to Hillary Clinton in the Iowa caucuses. That was the verdict of a Sunday article in The New York Times (NYT).

In fact, the NYT - some eight months before people assemble in gyms and rooms throughout Iowa to decide the Democratic nominee for president - gave an official green light to the mass media (which had generally been ignoring Sanders as a candidate) to state that the senator from Vermont is "gaining momentum."

It's key to remember how important horse-race-like coverage of presidential campaigns is to generating viewership and profit for major media outlets. It would not be difficult to conflate ESPN with CNN in this regard: Sports and elections are covered very similarly.

How significant is the transition from the dominant media mostly ignoring Bernie Sanders as a presidential candidate to now taking him somewhat seriously, as indicated by the NYT article? To gain perspective on that, it is worthwhile to revew a key dynamic in the mass media coverage of the last presidential race Hillary Clinton in which Hillary Clinton ran. 

Monday, 01 June 2015 06:45

US Policies Discard the Elderly

2015.1.6 BF Buchheit(Photo: Kevin Dooley)PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Elder abuse is defined as "harmful acts toward an elderly adult, such as physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional or psychological abuse, financial exploitation, and neglect.." Financial exploitation comes from the banking industry; neglect emanates from the halls of Congress; and emotions are stirred through the stories of impoverished seniors:

From Reno, Nevada: Here I am at an age when I should be thinking about retiring, desperately trying to find a job. I have used my savings...I'm seeking a court injunction to try and save my home.

From Laurel, Maryland: I am over 60, and I was pushed out of my job because of my age. My rent, car note, and electricity are all two months behind. I can barely get food. Utilities will be cut off soon.

From Bend, Oregon: I exhausted all my 401(k) retirement savings...I'm one month away from losing everything and am now on Food Stamps. I'm an unhappy Republican...

In Detroit, Michigan: 74-year-old Willie Smith saw her monthly SNAP benefits cut from $73 to $57. Also in Detroit, 63-year-old J.B. Hillman-Rushell and her 83-year-old mother were going to four different church food pantries for nearly all of their food.


aaaCAdrought(Photo: EcoWatch)The Salton Sea, a huge, shallow manmade lake located in the Sonoran Desert in California’s Imperial and Coachella valleys, has had problems for years. Its increasing saltiness has killed off most of its once-abundant fish species. Its shrinking water level has caused a reduction in water available for agricultural use, along with many dramatic photos of exposed lakebed and abandoned towns that were once seaside resorts. While the sea is no longer a resort destination for Hollywood celebrities as it was in the ’50s and ’60s, it’s still a playground for birds, with more than 400 species living along its shores or migrating through the area. But those populations could also be in jeopardy if its waters continue to recede.

And that exposed lake bed is expected to grow, thanks to California’s prolonged drought, now in its fourth year, and reductions in apportionment of water from the Colorado River which feeds the 360-square-mile sea. For many years, farmers in the agriculturally rich Imperial Valley would take more than their allocation of Colorado River water, viewing water as an infinite resource. But with growing demand from other southwestern states, with their growing populations and their own stresses due to drought, they became less able to do do. And now the drought and state-mandated water reductions have increased competition for whatever water is available, putting the Salton Sea at risk.

And that’s only the beginning of the problems that could be fueled by the sea’s receding water level.


atoxhaz(Photo: eek the cat)

Why would a nonprofit organization need to launch a website that provides the public with data on exposure to toxic chemicals in the workplace? Quite simply, because the US government isn't doing a good job of it.

In a recent news release, PEER (Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility) states, "Workplace chemical exposures are the nation’s eighth leading cause of death but the US lacks any strategy for preventing the more than 40,000 premature deaths each year." PEER goes on to note:

"More Americans die each year from workplace chemical exposure than from all highway accidents, yet we have no national effort to stem this silent occupational epidemic," stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, pointing out that allowed chemical exposure on-the-job is roughly 1000 times higher than in the general ambient environment. "In the US, environmental protection stops at the factory door."

As a result, PEER has established a web resource that does the work that the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) should be offering online. The database is called, "Put the H back in OSHA."


aaaFriess(Photo: Gage Skidmore)Now that former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum has thrown his hat into a Republican ring full of hats, you can bet that Foster Friess will not be far behind. While we know a fair amount about billionaire GOP puppet masters like Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and the Koch Brothers, and while we are quite familiar with Santorum's conservative politics, we know little about Santorum's top financial backer, Foster Friess, bad jokes about using aspirin between a "gals" knees as birth control notwithstanding.

So, who is Foster Friess?

Back in 2012, it was Friess, an evangelical conservative Christian and the founder of Friess Associates -- a Wyoming investment firm that has managed several billion of equities for such clients as the Nobel Foundation of Stockholm, Vanderbilt University, and the Brandywine and Brandywine Blue mutual funds -- who practically single-handedly kept Santorum in the primary race with a fair amount of money; much of it going to Santorum's super PAC called the Red, White and Blue Fund.

In January, Friess -- who maintains he is not a billionaire; in 2012 The Wall Street Journal estimated his wealth at a little over a half-billion -- organized a meeting of "a group of Republican business executives, as well as GOP consultants from South Carolina and Iowa, ... to have conversations with Santorum about his strategy and with Friess about financing a national political operation," The Washington Post reported.


8260830302 00bb81341d zStrengthen the US by investing in education, not Wall Street and government profits on student loans. (Photo: Michael Fleshman)

As college tuition rises in the US, the government and private profiteers are making more money at the expense of students. This hits economically disadvantaged students particularly hard. Higher education is becoming increasingly unaffordable for them, even with loans. Indeed, all young people who think about attending college - except for the scions of the richest families - face an increasing deterrent to receiving a degree: years and years of indebtedness.

Why? Because the potential high debt of going to college versus the uncertainty of financial returns is now a high-risk decision for many young people. This is particularly true in an economy in which even many of those with college degrees face an uncertain and volatile job market.

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A recent article by Susanne Soederberg posted at Dollars and Sense makes the point that the United States is severely weakening its future educational capital, as the government and private sector rake in profits while sacrificing advanced educational opportunities. Soederberg also writes that "educational debt has become a ticking time bomb." 

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