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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

US: California Regulators Turn a Blind Eye to Fracking

© inquisitr.com
California Regulators Turn a Blind Eye to Fracking - Environmental Working Group

Sacramento, Calif. – State regulators have no idea how many oil and gas wells have been fracked in California despite having requested and received $3 million in new funding in 2010 to regulate the practice. Lacking actual data, they insist that drilling companies rarely use the technology in California – a head-in-the-sand stance that has now been contradicted by Environmental Working Group’s research showing that fracking has been used in the state since 1953 and is now widespread.

The state Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources says it does not plan to monitor or manage use of the technology unless the legislature requires it or the agency is handed “evidence of manifest damage and harm.”

“On the one hand, the Division remains in denial about fracking for oil,” said Bill Allayaud, EWG’s director of government affairs for California. “On the other hand, they ask for and receive funding to regulate it and then don’t do it – and have no plans to do it.”

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In hydraulic fracturing, commonly called “fracking,” drilling companies inject a mixture of water, sand and chemicals into the ground under high pressure to release oil or gas trapped in underground formations. EWG’s research documented the use of fracking in six California counties – Kern, Los Angeles, Monterey, Sacramento, Santa Barbara and Ventura.

Although the Division of Oil and Gas has reworded its factsheet on fracking multiple times, it has consistently said that practice is “uncommon” or “limited” in the state, repeating this view as recently as February, 2012. Focusing on the fact that fracking for gas is thus far relatively uncommon in California, the division takes scant notice of the reality that it has been widely used to extract oil. 

The federal Environmental Protection Agency recently found a number of “program deficiencies” in the state agency’s activities, noting that its regulation of other types of underground injection were inadequate to protect underground drinking water sources.

Since the state does not currently monitor, track or regulate fracking in any way, it can’t possibly know whether the technology is having harmful environmental effects. Congress exempted fracking from federal environmental laws, including the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act. In the absence of state regulation, California residents have no protection against environmental damage from an industry that acknowledges that fracking carries risks that include spills, leaks, explosions, injury and even death.
###

EWG is a nonprofit research organization based in Washington, DC and Oakland, Calif. that uses the power of information to protect human health and the environment. http://www.ewg.org

Victory: Grassroots Pressure Leads to Closure of Two Highly Polluting Coal Plants in Chicago

© huffingtonpost.com
Victory: Grassroots Pressure Leads to Closure of Two Highly Polluting Coal Plants in Chicago - CommonDreams.org

"Today we are ending over 100 years of pollution for profits and showing the power of community."


Marking a grassroots victory, Midwest Generation, a subsidiary of Edison International, will retire two of the oldest and dirtiest coal-fired power plants in the nation. Activists have been working for the past ten years to close the two plants located in Chicago.

Agreements signed by Midwest Generation, the Clean Power Coalition, and the City of Chicago indicate that the Fisk coal plant in Pilsen will shut down in 2012 and the Crawford coal plant in Little Village will shut down by 2014.

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Jeff Biggers reports on the news today:
In a move that should electrify the clean energy movement across the country, the tireless champions with the Chicago Clean Power Coalition have announced that Midwest Generation, a subsidiary of multinational giant Edison International, will soon shut down the Windy City's two Model-T-era coal-fired plants.

The historic victory, after a decade-long battle, marks a shift in the clean energy battle for the country: If Chicago, once hailed as the "world's largest market of coal," can go coal free, the rest of the nation must surely be close behind them.

Thanks to one of the most determined, diverse and successful clean energy campaigns in the nation--including a breakthrough campaign to pass a Clean Power ordinance--the retirement of the decrepit and deadly Fisk and Crawford coal-fired plants will end the century-long reign of the most toxic polluters in the heartland.
Adds Rosalie Mancera of Pilsen Alliance:
“Today’s victory demonstrates that people shouldn’t have to tolerate toxic polluters in their backyard. By working with our neighbors and elected officials, Chicagoans have finally won the right to breathe clean air.”
Kimberly Wasserman of Little Village Environmental Justice Organization says:
“For over ten years our communities have been fighting for the right to breathe clean air, clean land and clean water. Today we are ending over 100 years of pollution for profits and showing the power of community.  Hopefully, this is the first of many victories in Illinois, as citizens and politicians come together to hold corporate polluters accountable and usher in a clean energy future.”
Jerry Mead-Lucero of Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization notes that the work for environmental justice won't end when the plants are closed:

“Fisk and Crawford have been polluting Chicago neighborhoods for over 100 years. Our work is not over when the plants close. Midwest Generation and the City of Chicago must continue working to ensure these sites are properly cleaned up and returned to safe, productive use for our communities.”
Chicago Clean Power Coalition writes how important the closing of the plants is for public health:
The retirement of Fisk and Crawford will deliver substantial public health benefits. Researchers from the Clean Air Task Force found that pollution from Fisk and Crawford causes 42 premature deaths, 66 heart attacks and 720 asthma attacks each year. One in four Chicagoans lives within a three-mile radius of the smokestacks.

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* * *
In May of 2011, Greenpeace activists occupied the smokestack at Fisk power plant bringing the message "Quit Coal." From the smokestack climber Kelly Mitchell stated:
“It’s time for Edison International to stand up and take responsibility for the health of communities like Pilsen and Little Village, and the citizens, families and children whose quality of life has been compromised by these coal plants.

“According to the Clean Air Task force, 42 Chicagoans will die this year because of Fisk and Crawford. Will Edison choose profits over the lives of these people? Or will they shut down these plants now?”

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Research: The 10 symptoms of vitamin D deficiency you need to recognize

© n/a
The 10 symptoms of vitamin D deficiency you need to recognize by Aurora Geib

 (NaturalNews) Taking vitamin D while still young may be good for the body in the long run. Results from a study conducted by the University of Zurich have confirmed that sufficient amounts of vitamin D taken consistently are necessary to maintain bone health.

Many people believe that maintaining healthy eating habits is enough, but only few foods naturally contain significant levels of vitamin D. According to Dr. Heike A. Bischoff-Ferrari, a faculty of UZH, in order to get adequate levels of vitamin D through diet alone, two servings of fatty fish like salmon or mackerel would have to be consumed every day. It is thus necessary to increase vitamin D levels in the body through sufficient sun exposure and supplementation in order to use the sunshine vitamin's full potential for maintaining proper body functioning.

This misconception about maintaining D levels through diet does have a degree of ground since vitamin D is not a stand alone vitamin. To perform many functions, vitamin D works in cooperation with other vitamins like magnesium, which can be found in leafy green vegetables such as spinach. This unique characteristic of vitamin D has contributed to the management of many chronic illnesses.

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The many faces of vitamin D


Decades ago, health care professionals thought vitamin D was only good for keeping healthy bones and teeth. Recent advances in science, however, have put this vitamin in the spotlight by revealing its multifaceted role in the proper functioning of the human body and its ability to lower the risk of illnesses not formerly associated with it.

Despite the recent revelations about the potential of vitamin D, it appears that not everyone appreciates this discovery. The current lifestyle of working indoors has contributed to the growing number of vitamin D deficiency cases worldwide. This is compounded by the fact that not everyone is aware that he or she may be vitamin D deficient.

Am I vitamin D deficient?


The best way to discover vitamin D deficiency is to take a blood test that will measure the level of the vitamin in your blood. You can either ask your doctor to administer the test or buy a home test kit do the test yourself. However, you are certainly vitamin D deficient if you have any of the following ailments, and you need to consult with your doctor regarding your preventive, as well as curative, options as soon as possible.

1.) The flu - In a study published in the Cambridge Journals, it was discovered that vitamin D deficiency predisposes children to respiratory diseases. An intervention study conducted showed that vitamin D reduces the incidence of respiratory infections in children.

2.) Muscle weakness - According to Michael F. Holick, a leading vitamin D expert, muscle weakness is usually caused by vitamin D deficiency because for skeletal muscles to function properly, their vitamin D receptors must be sustained by vitamin D.

3.) Psoriasis - In a study published by the UK PubMed central, it was discovered that synthetic vitamin D analogues were found useful in the treatment of psoriasis.

4.) Chronic kidney disease - According to Holick, patients with advanced chronic kidney diseases (especially those requiring dialysis) are unable to make the active form of vitamin D. These individuals need to take 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 or one of its calcemic analogues to support calcium metabolism, decrease the risk of renal bone disease and regulate parathyroid hormone levels.

5.) Diabetes - A study conducted in Finland was featured in Lancet.com in which 10,366 children were given 2000 international units (IU)/day of vitamin D3 per day during their first day of life. The children were monitored for 31 years and in all of them, the risk of type 1 diabetes was reduced by 80 percent.

6.) Asthma - Vitamin D may reduce the severity of asthma attacks. Research conducted in Japan revealed that asthma attacks in school children were significantly lowered in those subjects taking a daily vitamin D supplement of 1200 IU a day.

7.) Periodontal disease - Those suffering from this chronic gum disease that causes swelling and bleeding gums should consider raising their vitamin D levels to produce defensins and cathelicidin, compounds that contain microbial properties and lower the number of bacteria in the mouth.

8.) Cardiovascular disease - Congestive heart failure is associated with vitamin D deficiency. Research conducted at Harvard University among nurses found that women with low vitamin D levels (17 ng/m [42 nmol/L]) had a 67 percent increased risk of developing hypertension.

9.) Schizophrenia and Depression - These disorders have been linked to vitamin D deficiency. In a study, it was discovered that maintaining sufficient vitamin D among pregnant women and during childhood was necessary to satisfy the vitamin D receptor in the brain integral for brain development and mental function maintenance in later life.

10.) Cancer - Researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington DC discovered a connection between high vitamin D intake and reduced risk of breast cancer. These findings, presented at the American Association for Cancer Research, revealed that increased doses of the sunshine vitamin were linked to a 75 percent reduction in overall cancer growth and 50 percent reduction in tumor cases among those already having the disease. Of interest was the capacity of vitamin supplementation to help control the development and growth of breast cancer specially estrogen-sensitive breast cancer.

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Prevention is proactive


These various health conditions associated with vitamin D deficiency need not be something to fear. A proactive approach to prevention can assist in the avoidance of the many chronic diseases associated with vitamin D deficiency. For one, thousands of dollars can be saved, not to mention the peace of mind, simply at the cost of taking a walk under the sun. Save the umbrellas for the rainy days.

Sources for this article:

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,510299,00.html
http://journals.cambridge.org
http://www.vitamindcouncil.com
http://www.naturalnews.com/032222_breast_cancer_vitamin_D.html

Monday, February 27, 2012

World: Half A Million Families Sitting In The Dark

© dw.de
"Bearded Homeless Man in Bonn"
Green Germany: Half A Million Families Sitting In The Dark - Junk Science

Many households in Germany are no longer able to pay their electricity bills. As a result, around half a million households are sitting in the dark.
The sharp price increases for electricity and gas is leading to serious payment problems for more and more consumers – even to dark apartments. Because of unpaid bills an estimated 600,000 households in Germany had their power cut off in 2010, said the consumer watch dog

Verbraucherzentrale Nordrhein-Westfalen which is based in Düsseldorf. This estimate is based on a survey of local energy providers in Germany’s most populous state.

“Price increases of around 15 percent for electricity and gas in the past two years have made energy for many households unaffordable”, said CEO Klaus Mueller. The increasing fuel poverty is alarming. What is more, ever tighter household budgets and regularly lacking competence in keeping personal finances in check are turning claims arising from unpaid energy bills quickly into an insurmountable cost trap.

Three-quarters of the 58 companies that responded to questions from the NRW consumer group reported growing problems related to energy debt and power outages. In 2010, the surveyed utilities in North Rhine-Westphalia alone sent out three million reminders for unpaid electricity bill. They issued 340,000 blocking threats and cut off power to 62,000 customers.
According to extrapolations by consumer protection groups, power has been cut off to about 120,000 households in NRW alone and to about 600,000 households nationwide. The estimates of the energy companies are consistent with the experience of the consumer advocates. A spokeswoman from the NRW consumer watch dog added that their consumer advice increasingly focuses on the question of how to comply with payment obligations towards energy suppliers.

Translation Philipp Mueller
GWPF

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Sunday, February 26, 2012

Local: Conclusive Evidence That BP Misrepresented Gulf Oil Spill Sent To Congress

© Joel Sartore/National Geographic
Conclusive Evidence That BP Misrepresented Gulf Oil Spill Sent To Congress - NaturalSociety

 Gulf Rescue Alliance (GRA) has just sent a briefing package to the Attorney Generals of Alabama and Louisiana which presents evidence they believe has never seen the light of day concerning the how and why of the Deepwater Horizon Disaster and subsequent release of toxic oil into the Gulf - oil that is still gushing from various seabed fractures and fissures.

The evidence provided therein clearly indicates:
  • The unmentioned existence of a 3rd Macondo well (the real source of the explosion, DWH sinking and ensuing oil spill).
  • The current condition of this well being such that it can never be properly capped.
  • The compromised condition of the seabed floor being such that there are multiple unnatural sources of gushers continuing to pour into the Gulf, with Corexit dispersant still suppressing its visibility.
  • That the highly publicized capped well (Well A) never occurred as reported, and in fact was an abandoned well, hence it was never the source of the millions of gallons released into the Gulf.
GRA's special report (a comprehensive compilation of research released by insiders and experts through confidential internet sources) has been forwarded to Congress in advance of BP's upcoming trial on Monday, February 27th in New Orleans, LA. Entitled "An Expert's Analysis of ROV Film Footage Taken at the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Disaster Site," it has also been submitted to the appropriate federal, state and county authorities, plaintiff attorneys, and environmental and health advocacy groups who have a stake in the outcome of the trial.

"The Gulf Rescue Alliance has no interest in publicity for itself, pointing fingers, finding who to blame or anything else; we are interested in catalyzing action on an urgent basis to save the Gulf from long-term, disastrous impacts by getting actual solutions being applied; solutions that have been blocked by the EPA for the past 23 years. We hold the EPA directly responsible for keeping in place the destructive response protocols used in this disaster aka Corexit. The Gulf and the life it supports can't wait 3, 6 or 12 months for a trial to bring a resolution; nor will a real resolution be possible if no admission occurs of the currently uncapped well. Justice and damage dollars will mean nothing if the Gulf is dead," said a spokesperson for GRA.
Much of the original underwater video that was analyzed comes from oilspillhub.org*, "an online resource for those studying the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history. The site provides an archive of the underwater video of the event, as well as additional tools and resources for educators, scientists, and engineers who are expanding our knowledge of environmental issues."
"Oilspillhub.org is developed and hosted by Purdue University working in cooperation with the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works and the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming and the Energy and Environment Subcommittee in the House Energy and Commerce Committee." - oilspillhub.org
The aforementioned "Expert's Analysis" makes plain the fact that much information, of which BP et al. was the exclusive source, had been misrepresented with prior deliberation before being submitted to the US Federal Government and other concerned parties. In many cases the forensic analysis has laid bare a pattern of tampering with evidence in an attempt to mitigate the compensatory and punitive damages BP might be forced to pay.

This extraordinary report goes on to document a scenario in which it appears that BP illegally drilled more than one well at the Macondo Prospect in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM). Furthermore, the well that was ultimately capped after 87 straight days of gushing oil and gas into the Gulf may not be the one that was licensed by the appropriate US permitting agencies.

The factual sequence of events, and especially the actual response by BP, appear to be far different from those reported in the media and by the Coast Guard. It is important to note that BP was given a lead position in the unified command structure authorized by the US Federal Government immediately following the burning and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon. This transference of authority away from the impacted state governments was unprecedented in US history and created a virtual monopoly over the flow of information from BP to the appropriate authorities, as well as to the public-at-large.

From even a cursory reading of this "Expert's Analysis" it becomes clear that the actual evolution of the BP oil spill fits a narrative that is replete with instances of covering up and altering much essential data and information, which would have served as definitive evidence against BP in numerous foreseen legal actions. Ultimately, much of the information contained in this report may serve to "indict" not only BP and their corporate co-conspirators on several different violations of federal law and state statutes, but also various departments and agencies within the US Federal Government.

However, this was not the purpose for writing this report; rather this consortium of environmental organizations, health advocacy groups and citizen activists encourage the efficient dissemination of this analysis (and its various assessments) in the interest that the much needed federal programs and state initiatives will be implemented expeditiously to "clean up the Gulf". They are particularly concerned and eager to see the proper remediation of the GOM waters, beaches, wetlands and estuaries begin in earnest.
"All this is absolutely relevant to the case at hand; and particularly getting this vital information into the hands of the Attorney General of Alabama and anyone else involved in this trial. But our purpose for doing so is to gain attention to what we consider the real situation: EPA's continued endorsement of toxic Corexit dispersants being used in the Gulf waters, as well as their enforced ban on safe, non-toxic bioremediation products such as Oil Spill Eater II-an effective EPA tested and approved product used around the world," said GRA.

"It would seem plausible that government officials knew of the information about the 3rd Well but aided in covering it up similar to the recent PEER report revealing the fact that top White House officials manipulated scientific analyses by independent experts to seriously lowball the amount of oil leaking from the BP Deepwater Horizon."
The formal report can be found at the link here.

Related:

Jan. 22, 2012: Local: BP Oil Disaster a Distant Memory for Oil Companies Eyeing the Gulf Again

Inovation: Become a Stand-Up Guy: The History, Benefits, and Use of Standing Desks

© Unknown
Jefferson’s Tall Desk
Become a Stand-Up Guy: The History, Benefits, and Use of Standing Desks by Brett & Kate McKay

In the past couple of years, as studies have come out sounding the alarm on the ill-effects of excessive sitting, the popularity of standing or stand-up desks has soared. Those who have read much of the coverage of this trend might be forgiven for thinking that standing to work constitutes a new hip fad.

But as it is with many things, everything old is new again. For the stand-up desk was cool long before the cats in Silicon Valley got hip to them. They've actually been a secret of great men for centuries. Today we'll explore the standing desk's place in history, discuss the benefits of using one, and outline how you can rediscover this old/new tradition.

The Standing Desk in History

Offices in the 19th century often had communal sitting/standing desks as opposed to individual desks for each employee.

Searching the historical record, and by historical record I mean Google Books, you'll find mentions of the standing desk in a variety of places.

Read complete article..


Saturday, February 25, 2012

Air Tools Pneumatic: Porter Cable Brad Nailers

Porter-Cable 18 Ga., 2'' Brad Nailer Kit, Model #BN200B

This Nail Gun includes a 1/4'' male coupler with dust cover, safety glasses, carrying case, and sample of 18 gauge brad nails.
  • Long life maintenance-free motor to keep from staining the work surface
  • Internal piston catch for consistent max power on every shot
  • Rear exhaust to keep contaminants away from work
  • Drives 18 ga. nails from 5/8" to 2" length
  • Tool-free jam release mechanism for easy nail removal
  • Sequential style trigger with lock off switch
  • Tool-free depth-of-drive adjustment with detents for proper setting of nail heads
  • Removable non-marring nose tip with on tool storage
  • Contact safety located behind driver guide for better visibility
  • Adjustable belt hook
  • Integrated rubber grip for improved comfort
  • Low nail reload indicator
  • Special hardened driver blade
  • Strong, lightweight, die-cast aluminum housing
Porter-Cable 18 Ga., 2'' Brad Nailer Kit, Model #BN200B

 
Porter-Cable® PIN138 23GA 13/8'' Pin Nailer

The Porter-Cable® maintenance-free 23GA 13/8" Pin Nailer is finally here! Perfect for professional and serious woodworkers alike, the PIN 138 delivers serious holding power while keeping nail visibility to a minimum.
  • Fastens materials that would normally split using larger tools
  • Will countersink 1-3/8" nails into hard materials like Oak
  • Fastens materials that would normally split using larger tools
  • Will countersink 1-3/8" nails into hard materials like Oak
  • Rear exhaust directs potential moisture and contaminates away from the work surface
  • Dual-stack ring system minimizes internal friction resulting in no maintenance yet longer life
  • Narrow nose gives you improved visibility
  • Removable non-marring tip eliminates wood indentations
  • Extra non-marring tip is included and stored in the tool
  • Weighs just 2.2 pounds
  • Aluminum body and magazine construction for durability
  • Reversible belt clip lets you keep the tool by your side when not in use
  • Excellent for small trim decorative moldings, cabinet crown molding, raised panel doors, rope and bead molding, mantle building, wood joining, as well as light fastening and clamping applications
Porter-Cable® PIN138 23GA 13/8'' Pin Nailer

 
Porter Cable 16 Ga., 2-1/2'' Finish Nailer Kit, Model #FN250C

Porter Cable's FN250C 16 Gauge Finishing Nailer had a maintenance-free motor for long life.

Porter Cable 16 Ga., 2-1/2'' Finish Nailer Kit, Model #FN250C


LIMITED OFFER
Porter-Cable Reconditioned CFFN251NR Two Nailer 2-1/2-Inch Finish and 1-1/4-Inch Brad and Compressor Combo Kit

Porter-Cable Reconditioned CFFN251NR Two Nailer 2-1/2-Inch Finish and 1-1/4-Inch Brad and Compressor Combo Kit

Reconditioned to like-new status. 1 Year Warranty! This offer is online only and not available at stores! Everything you need to start your finish woodworking, from the air compressor to the nailers, as well as air hose and fittings.
  • Portable pancake-style compressor
  • 150 PSI max/6 gallon tank/2.6 SCFM at 90 PSI
  • Compressor weighs 34 pounds
  • FN250B nailer, one BN125A nailer
  • Nailers feature jam release mechanism
  • Sturdy canvas carry bag
  • 25' air hose with coupler and plug
  • Compare to new at $329.99
Porter-Cable Reconditioned CFFN251NR Two Nailer 2-1/2-Inch Finish and 1-1/4-Inch Brad and Compressor Combo Kit

US: Farmer Faces Possible 3-year Prison Term for Feeding Community

© farmwars.info
Farmer Faces Possible 3-year Prison Term for Feeding Community by Kimberly Hartke

Customers and Other Supporters Stand with Farmer!
  
The FDA reign of terror against family farms who are serving the needs of private buying clubs is culminating in one Wisconsin farmer facing federal charges. Citizens deserve the freedom to choose, and are staging an event in support of this principled farmer, Vernon Hershberger. He is being dealt with unjustly, and is standing strong with the support of the families he serves. (Kimberly Hartke)
February 24, 2012–Baraboo, WI. Food sovereignty activists from around North America will meet at this tiny town on March 2, 2012 to support Wisconsin dairy farmer Vernon Hershberger and food sovereignty. Hershberger, who has a court hearing that day, is charged with four criminal misdemeanors that could land him in prison for three years with fines of over $10,000. The Wisconsin Department of Agricultural Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) targeted Hershberger for supplying a private buying club with fresh milk and other farm products.

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DATCP has charged Hershberger with, among other things, operating a retail food establishment without a license. Hershberger repeatedly denies this, citing that he provides foods only to paid members in a private buying club and is not subject to state food regulations. “There is more at stake here than just a farmer and his few customers,” says Hershberger, “this is about the fundamental right of farmers and consumers to engage in peaceful, private, mutually consenting agreements for food, without additional oversight.”

At a pre-court rally scheduled for 11:00am, in front of the Sauk County Courthouse in Baraboo, food rights activists will read and distribute a “Declaration of Food Independence” that asserts inherent rights in food choice. A signing ceremony will be part of the rally. The signers expect the declaration will inspire a growing food sovereignty movement. Speakers at the rally will include members of Hershberger’s club.

Hershberger and other farmers around the country have been and are facing state or federal charges against them for providing fresh foods to wanting customers. In recent months the FDA has conducted several long undercover sting operations and raids against peaceful farmers and buying clubs that have resulted in farms shutting down and consumers without access to their food.

Farm Food Freedom Coalition wants to ensure that America’s treasures, our independent farms and ranches, are able to thrive. We aim to preserve our agricultural heritage and the future availability of traditional, farm fresh foods. Americans want and deserve the freedom to choose natural, unprocessed foods for generations to come.


Information about farm raids: FarmFoodFreedom.com. For additional information on raw milk: westonaprice.org.

More event information: RawMilkFreedomRiders.com

Friday, February 24, 2012

World: Global Day of Action: Occupy Our Food Supply

Global Day of Action: Occupy Our Food Supply - CommonDreams.org

Food justice advocates rise up to confront corporate control of our food system


An alliance of Occupy groups, environmental and food justice organizations have called for a global day of action on February 27 to resist corporate control of our food system and to work towards a healthy food supply for all.

Occupy Our Food Supply is a call facilitated by Rainforest Action Network and is supported by over 60 Occupy groups and over 30 organizations including Family Farm Defenders, National Family Farms Coalition and Pesticide Action Network.

Ashley Schaeffer, Rainforest Agribusiness campaigner with Rainforest Action Network says of the day of action:
"Occupy our Food Supply is a day to reclaim our most basic life support system – our food – from corporate control. It is an unprecedented day of solidarity to create local, just solutions that steer our society away from the stranglehold of industrial food giants like Cargill and Monsanto,”
Occupy Our Food Supply supporter Vandana Shiva says:
"Our food system has been hijacked by corporate giants from the Seed to the table. Seeds controlled by Monsanto, agribusiness trade controlled by Cargill, processing controlled by Pepsi and Philip Morris, retail controlled by Walmart - is a recipe for Food Dictatorship. We must Occupy the Food system to create Food Democracy."
Occupy Wall Street’s Sustainability and Food Justice Committees also issued a letter in support of the day of action:
“On Monday, February 27th, 2012, OWS Food Justice, OWS Sustainability, Oakland Food Justice & the worldwide Occupy Movement invite you to join the Global Day of Action to Occupy the Food Supply. We challenge the corporate food regime that has prioritized profit over health and sustainability. We seek to create healthy local food systems. We stand in Solidarity with Indigenous communities, and communities around the world, that are struggling with hunger, exploitation, and unfair labor practices.”

“On this day, in New York City, community gardeners, activists, labor unions, farmers, food workers, and citizens of the NYC metro area, will gather at Zuccotti Park at noon, for a Seed Exchange, to raise awareness about the corporate control of our food system and celebrate the local food communities in the metro area.”
"When our food is at risk, we are all at risk."


In an op-ed on the Huffington Post today, Farm Aid president Willie Nelson and sustainable food advocate Anna Lappé, supporters of the day of action, emphasize that the consolidation of our food supply is harming the environment, food safety and farmers:
Our food is under threat. It is felt by every family farmer who has lost their land and livelihood, every parent who can't find affordable or healthy ingredients in their neighborhood, every person worried about foodborne illnesses thanks to lobbyist-weakened food safety laws, every farmworker who faces toxic pesticides in the fields as part of a day's work.
When our food is at risk we are all at risk.

Over the last thirty years, we have witnessed a massive consolidation of our food system. Never have so few corporations been responsible for more of our food chain. Of the 40,000 food items in a typical U.S. grocery store, more than half are now brought to us by just 10 corporations. Today, three companies process more than 70 percent of all U.S. beef, Tyson, Cargill and JBS. More than 90 percent of soybean seeds and 80 percent of corn seeds used in the United States are sold by just one company: Monsanto. Four companies are responsible for up to 90 percent of the global trade in grain. And one in four food dollars is spent at Walmart.
What does this matter for those of us who eat? Corporate control of our food system has led to the loss of millions of family farmers, the destruction of soil fertility, the pollution of our water, and health epidemics including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and even certain forms of cancer.

More and more, the choices that determine the food on our shelves are made by corporations concerned less with protecting our health, our environment, or our jobs than with profit margins and executive bonuses.

This consolidation also fuels the influence of concentrated economic power in politics: Last year alone, the biggest food companies spent tens of millions lobbying on Capitol Hill with more than $37 million used in the fight against junk food marketing guidelines for kids.
The Occupy Our Food Supply website indicates that the action is Inspired by the theme of CREATE/RESIST, and that in addition to confronting the corporation control of our food supply, we must work towards solutions to make healthy food accessible to everyone. It invites people to share their fair food solutions on their Facebook page and on Twitter using the #F27 hashtag.
* * *
Eric Holt-Giménez, Institute for Food and Development Policy/Food First Executive Director, writes that while the demand to fix the food system seems reasonable, it does not address the "inequitable foundations of the global food system."
The goal of food justice activists is a sustainable and equitable food system. Their strategy is to actively construct this alternative. Tactics include community gardens, CSAs, organic farming, etc. The problem is that this combination of strategy and tactics only addresses individual and institutional inequities in the food system, leaving the structure of the corporate food regime intact. The food justice movement has no strategy to address the inter-institutional (i.e. structural) ways that inequity is produced in the food system. By openly protesting the excesses of capitalism, Occupy does address this structure. This is why the convergence of Occupy and the food justice movement is so potentially powerful -- and why it is feared. The political alignment of these movements, however, is no small challenge.

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Thursday, February 23, 2012

US: Why I Broke Up With Bank of America

© alternet.org
Why I Broke Up With Bank of America by Rae Abileah


Wall Street banks are trashing our economy and our environment in the name of their own profits—do you buy into their corruption and greed?


"Someday the workers will take possession of your city hall, and when we do, no child will be sacrificed on the altar of profit!" – Mary Harris “Mother” Jones

Earth Divas Earth Day
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Last November, 2011, I finally made the move to ditch the corporate bank account I’ve had since I was eight years old and opened an account at a local, sustainable bank. So did thousands of Americans during Bank Transfer Day, resulting in over $4 billion dollars moved out of big banks and into credit unions.

Do you know where your money spends the night?  Wall Street banks are trashing our economy and our environment in the name of their own profits—do you buy into their corruption and greed? 
 It’s time to Pink Slip Big Banks and invest in a more peaceful and just future by moving your money!  How?  I used the Move your Money tool to find a listing of local banks and credit unions in my area.  I selected New Resources Bank in San Francisco, the same bank that Rainforest Action Network and CODEPINK use.  After opening my new account, I used the 7 Simple Steps To Move Your Checking Account checklist to really move my money, and finally, I proudly visited a B of A branch and presented them with a Pink Slip - they were friendly enough about losing my business (I admit I'm no millionaire so it wasn't a big loss, though it was the principle of the thing).

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US: Michigan's Hostile Takeover

© Unknown
US: Michigan's Hostile Takeover by Paul Abowd

A new "emergency" law backed by right-wing think tanks is turning Michigan cities over to powerful managers who can sell off city hall, break union contracts, privatize services - and even fire elected officials.

When the city of Pontiac, Michigan, shut down its fire department last Christmas Eve, city councilman Kermit Williams learned about it in the morning paper. "Nobody reports to me anymore," Williams says. "It just gets reported in the press." This was just the latest in a series of radical changes in the city, where elected officials such as Williams have been replaced by a single person with unprecedented control over the city's operation and budget.

Gov. Rick Snyder put Louis Schimmel in charge of Pontiac last September, invoking Public Act 4, a recent law that lets the governor name appointees to take over financially troubled cities and enact drastic austerity measures. Under the law, passed last March, these emergency managers can nullify labor contracts, privatize public services, sell off city property, and even dismiss elected officials.

Schimmel got to work quickly, firing the city clerk, city attorney, and director of public works and outsourcing several city departments. City fire fighters were told that they would be fired if their department was not absorbed by Waterford Township's. Schimmel has proposed putting nearly every city property up for sale, including city hall, the police station, fire stations, water-pumping stations, the library, the golf course, and two cemeteries.

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Williams and his six colleagues on city council have been stripped of their salary and official powers. "Nearly the whole city has been privatized," he laments.

Michigan's emergency-manager law is the centerpiece of the fiscal program enacted by state Republicans after they took over the Legislature and governor's mansion in early 2011. The law's supporters say it allows for a more efficient and nimble response to the budget crisis confronting local governments in the wake of the housing crash and near collapse of the auto industry. Critics are seeking to block and repeal what they call an illegal power grab meant to usurp local governments and break up public-sector unions.

"We haven't seen anything this severe anywhere else in the country," says Charles Monaco, a spokesman for the Progressive States Network, a New York-based advocacy group. "There's been nothing in other states where a budget measure overturns the democratic vote." Williams says emergency managers are able to enact draconian policies that would cost most city officials their jobs: "They couldn't get elected if they tried."

Benton Harbor, Ecorse, and Flint are also currently under emergency management. In Flint, the emergency manager has promised to restructure collective bargaining agreements with the city's police and firefighters unions. Benton Harbor's emergency manager banned elected officials from appearing at city meetings without his consent. Detroit, which is facing a more than $150 million budget shortfall, could be next: Mayor Dave Bing has proposed laying off 1,000 city workers and wrung concessions from public-sector unions in hopes of preventing Gov. Snyder from appointing an emergency manager.

Asked if the emergency-manager law hands power over to a "dictator," Schimmel sighed, "I guess I'm the tyrant in Pontiac, then, if that's the way it is."

Schimmel has pursued the most aggressive turnaround plan in the state. He says he's simply doing what elected officials have been unable to do: execute a plan for balancing the city's books quickly and efficiently. He's not there yet: The city of 60,000 is projecting a $9 million deficit for 2012. "One thing we can't do is print money," Schimmel says. "We're always chasing the dropping knife, fixing something here and losing revenue somewhere else."

With an indefinite term and a city salary of $150,000, Schimmel doesn't answer to anyone but the governor, at whose pleasure he serves. The city council can no longer make decisions but still calls meetings, which are routinely packed with angry residents. Asked by radio station WJR if the emergency-manager law hands power over to a "dictator," Schimmel sighed, "I guess I'm the tyrant in Pontiac, then, if that's the way it is."

Emergency managers aren't new in Michigan, which has been in dire financial straits for decades. Public Act 4 (officially titled the Local Government and School District Fiscal Accountability Act) beefed up a 1990 law that brought in state-appointed managers to several cities in the 2000s, without much success at stemming the flow of population, jobs, and tax revenue. Pontiac has been under some form of state-appointed management since 2009. Schimmel's predecessor laid off dozens of police officers, hired the county sheriff to patrol the city, and dismissed Mayor Leon Jukowski (whom Schimmel has rehired as a consultant paid at half his previous $104,000 salary). During that time, Pontiac's credit rating had dropped from B to triple-C. "They aren't creating revenue," Williams says of the managers. "You can't just cut your way out of a deficit."

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Pontiac is not Schimmel's first clean-up job. In 2000, he was named the emergency manager of Hamtramck, where he served for six years. In 1986, a judge appointed him to oversee Ecorse's finances after the city landed in state receivership; he stepped in and privatized city services. Today, the city is back in debt, and back under state management. Schimmel concedes that the privatization strategy can backfire, but he blames inept local government. "If you don't have an overseer of the contractor, privatization can be much more expensive than in-house services," he explains.

Schimmel is also a former adjunct scholar and director of municipal finance at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a free-market think tank that shares his enthusiasm for privatizing public services. The center has received funding from the foundations of conservative billionaire Charles Koch, the Walton family, and Dick DeVos, the former CEO of Amway who ran as a Michigan Republican gubernatorial candidate in 2006.

In 2005, Mackinac published an essay by Schimmel that called on Michigan's Legislature to give emergency managers the power to impose contract changes on public-employee unions and "replace and take on the powers of the governing body." When Republicans gained control over Lansing in 2010, Mackinac reprinted Schimmel's article. Last March, the center celebrated when the Legislature implemented its prescriptions in Public Act 4.

The Mackinac Center claims that Michigan could save $5.7 billion annually if public employees' benefits were comparable to those of private-sector workers. Public-employee unions say cuts to public-sector jobs have only worsened the state's economic woes with foreclosures and intensified reliance on state aid programs in cities like Flint, where the jobless rate was 17.5 percent at the end of 2011. "It's an acceleration of the downward spiral," says Brit Satchwell, president of the Ann Arbor Education Association, a teachers' union. "Our goal is [to] outlaw government collective bargaining in Michigan," wrote Mackinac's legislative analyst in an email to a Republican state representative last summer. (The message was obtained by the liberal think tank Progress Michigan.)

The Mackinac Center is a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council, a clearinghouse for pro-business state legislation. (Its model bills have been linked to Arizona's anti-immigration law and Wisconsin and Ohio's collective bargaining bans.) James Hohman, the center's assistant director of fiscal policy, was one of 40 private-sector representatives at an ALEC conference in December 2010 where, according to minutes from the closed-door meeting, participants hammered out model legislation that would align public- and private-sector pay and restructure state pensions. (Jonathan Williams, ALEC's tax and fiscal policy director, did not respond to requests for comment.)

Foundations affiliated with the Koch brothers have funded ALEC's reports on state fiscal policy. The State Budget Reform Toolkit and Rich States, Poor States both echo elements of Michigan's emergency-manager law, encouraging state legislators to target public employees and identify privatization opportunities. The most recent Toolkit report recommends that states create a "centralized, independent, decision-making body to manage privatization and government efficiency initiatives." Michigan's law grants far more sweeping powers to one appointee.

Nearly one year after the passage of the emergency-manager law, its opponents are rallying to blunt its impact. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the Detroit-based nonprofit Michigan Forward announced they've collected more than the required 160,000 signatures necessary to put the law up for referendum in November; they plan to deliver the signatures to the state on February 29.

Democratic Rep. John Conyers has called on the Department of Justice to review the law in light of the Voting Rights Act and the contract clause of the Constitution. As the state treasurer's office began a review of Detroit's finances to determine whether the city is eligible for an emergency manager, Democratic Sens. Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow asked Gov. Snyder not to name any more emergency managers.

The Detroit-based Sugar Law Center for Economic and Social Justice has filed a lawsuit to block the law, claiming it violates the state constitution, including the home rule provision that defines residents' rights to elect a local government. Tova Perlmutter, the law center's director, says the suit isn't just about Michigan: "If we win this case, it will give other state legislatures pause before pursuing similar laws."

Paul Abowd is a reporter at the Center for Public Integrity and an editor of the Detroit-based Critical Moment. The Center for Public Integrity is a non-profit, non-partisan investigative news outlet. He is finishing production on a documentary about the city's Brewster-Douglass housing projects.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

US: The 50-State Foreclosure Settlement- Why Hasn't Anyone Gone to Jail?

© n/a
US: The 50-State Foreclosure Settlement- Why Hasn't Anyone Gone to Jail? by Mike Whitney

Under the terms of the 50-state mortgage foreclosure settlement, US taxpayers could end up paying billions in penalties that were supposed to be paid by the banks. That's the gist of a front-page story which appeared in the Financial Times on Thursday, February 17. The widely-cited article by Shahien Nasiripour notes that the 5 banks that will be effected by the settlement - Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Wells Fargo and Ally Financial - will be able to use Obama's mortgage modification program (HAMP) to reduce loan balances and "receive cash payments of up to 63 cents on the dollar for every dollar of loan principal forgiven."

And that's not all. If borrowers stay current on their payments after their loans are restructured, the banks could qualify for additional government funds which (according to the FT) "could then turn a profit for the banks according to people familiar with the settlement terms."

How do you like them apples? Leave it to the bank-friendly Obama administration to turn a penalty into a windfall. In effect, the settlement will help the banks avoid losses on mortgages that are vastly overpriced on their books and which were probably headed into foreclosure anyway.

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Taxpayers will stump up the money for the principle writedowns that will allow the banks to extract even more tribute from underwater homeowners. What kind of penalty is that?

Here's how Mark Gongloff sums it up over at Huffington Post:
"Banks will get government cash as an incentive to work down mortgages as part of a settlement that is supposed to punish them for their malpractice. Banks have been getting taxpayer money under loan modification programs like HAMP all along: $615 million in modification incentives so far. Those incentives were tripled on Jan. 28 just days before the mortgage settlement was announced, making the deal appear even sweeter for the banks.

"You can't say this settlement has anything to do with deterrence or is punitive in nature if money is flowing into banks from taxpayers as part of the settlement," said New York University Law professor Neil Barofsky, former special inspector-general of the Troubled Asset Relief Program." ("Mortgage Foreclosure Settlement: Who Pays?", Huffington Post)
Of course, no one knows for sure how many perks and "bennies" the banks will eventually nab, because the written copy of the settlement still hasn't been released. Our guess is that the banks' will come out smelling like a rose and that the 50 Attorneys General will end up looking like fools for taking their victory lap too soon.

Keep in mind, that the banks are really only on the hook for $5 billion in cash. The rest of the $25 billion settlement will be shrugged off onto investors in mortgage-backed securities (MBS) many of who are retirees and pensioners. They're going to get clobbered while the perpetrators of this nationwide crime walk away Scott-free.

It's also worth reviewing what this case is all about, which is industrial-scale fraud directed at millions of people whose lives have been ruined by the banks. Here's a clip from an article in Reuters that helps to put it all in perspective:
"A report this week showing rampant foreclosure abuse in San Francisco reflects similar levels of lender fraud and faulty documentation across the United States, say experts and officials who have done studies in other parts of the country.

The audit of almost 400 foreclosures in San Francisco found that 84 percent of them appeared to be illegal, according to the study released by the California city on Wednesday.

"The audit in San Francisco is the most detailed and comprehensive that has been done - but it's likely those numbers are comparable nationally," Diane Thompson, an attorney at the National Consumer Law Center, told Reuters.

Across the country from California, Jeff Thingpen, register of deeds in Guildford County, North Carolina, examined 6,100 mortgage documents last year, from loan notes to foreclosure paperwork.

Of those documents, created between January 2008 and December 2010, 4,500 showed signature irregularities, a telltale sign of the illegal practice of "robosigning" documents." ("Foreclosure abuse rampant across U.S., experts say", Reuters)
Repeat: "84 percent of them appeared to be illegal ...(and) those numbers are comparable nationally."

So, why are we talking about "mortgage foreclosure settlements" instead of criminal prosecutions? Why hasn't anyone gone to jail with evidence this compelling?

Look: The banks have been foreclosing on homes they don't even legally own. That's what robosigning is. Would you be willing to accept a measly $2,000 for being tossed out of your home and onto the street by someone who doesn't even own the mortgage? Of course, not.

9 million homes have been lost to foreclosure since 2007, and there will be another 9 million before we're done. Homeowners have lost $8 trillion in home equity (in the last 4 years) and 11 million people are currently underwater on their mortgages. All of this is unprecedented. All of this is the result of fraud.

Forget about the mortgage-foreclosure settlement. It means nothing. Someone has to go to jail. That's what matters.


Monday, February 20, 2012

US: 84 Percent of San Francisco Foreclosures Fraudulent--Why are Bankers Still Getting Away with Crimes?

© alternet.org
84 Percent of San Francisco Foreclosures Fraudulent--Why are Bankers Still Getting Away with Crimes? by Kai Wright

Someone broke the financial system, and evidence that the break was willful is now piled as high as banking execs’ bonuses.

An old Eddie Murphy bit, made famous in his raunchy 1980s album “Raw,” tells you all you need to know about the foreclosure crisis. In the bit, a cheating husband has been caught in the act by his wife. “It wasn’t me,” he protests. “But I..

Last week, five of the nation’s largest banks and 49 of its attorneys general announced a $26 billion settlement that essentially let the banks off the hook for the widespread use of fraudulent documents in the foreclosure process. Thursday, the San Francisco County assessor released an audit suggesting that many, many more demonstrable crimes were committed during the foreclosure bust of the past few years. My use of passive tense is not accidental; the audit doesn’t name names, though it’s long past time we start doing so.

“It is very apparent that the system is broken from many different vantage points,” Phil Ting, the county assessor, told the New York Times’ Gretchen Morgenson. Actually, someone broke the system, and evidence that the break was willful is now piled as high as banking execs’ bonuses. Morgenson describes the audit as such: “About 84 percent of the files contained what appear to be clear violations of law, it said, and fully two-thirds had at least four violations or irregularities.”

That’s not a quirk. That’s not a system that needs tweaking. That’s not even incompetence. It’s rampant lawlessness. And it’s by design.

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World: Depleting the Seas of Fish

© Greenpeace
Depleting the Seas of Fish by Stephen Lendman

In November 2006, Washington Post writer Juliet Eilperin headlined, " World's Fish Supply Running Out, Researchers Warn," saying:

International ecologists and economists believe "the world will run out of seafood by 2048" if current fishing rates continue.

A journal Science study "conclude(d) that overfishing, pollution and other environmental factors are wiping out important species" globally. They're also impeding world oceans' ability to produce seafood, filter nutrients, and resist disease.

Marine biologist Boris Worm warned:
"We really see the end of the line now. It's within our lifetime. Our children will see a world without seafood if we don't change things."
Researchers studied fish populations, catch records, and ocean ecosystems for four years. By 2003, 29% of all species collapsed. It means they're at least "90% below their historic maximum catch levels."

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In recent years, collapse rates accelerated. In 1980, 13.5% of 1,736 fish species collapsed. Today, 7,784 species are harvested.

According to Worm, "It's like hitting the gas pedal and holding it down at a constant level. The rate accelerates over time."

Oregon State University marine biologist Jane Lubchenco said the study shows fish stocks are in trouble. "I think people don't get it," she said. "If there is a problem with the oceans, how come the case in my grocery store is so full? There is a disconnect."

National Environmental Trust vice president Gerald Leape said "This should be a wake-up call to our leaders, both internationally and domestically, that they need to protect our fish stocks. Otherwise they will go away."

Researchers conducted dozens of controlled experiments. They also examined UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) worldwide catch data since 1950 and ecosystem records. They include sediment cores and archival data going back a 1,000 years.

They said losing so many species is eroding marine ecosystem viability and their ability to resist environmental stresses.

"In 12 marine ecosystems surveyed, they found that a decline in biodiversity of 50 percent or more cut the number of viable fisheries by 33 percent, reduced nursery habitats by 69 percent and cut the ocean's capacity to filter and detoxify contaminants by 63 percent."

Read complete report..

Sunday, February 19, 2012

World: Massive Crowds as Spaniards Protest Stripping of Labor Rights

Protesters take part during a rally against the
economic policy of the Conservative Spanish
Government in Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, Feb.
19, 2012. The new conservative Popular Party
government pledges new labor reforms to
try to halt further job destruction as Spain
already has the highest unemployment rate
in the 17-nation eurozone with more than five
millions unemployed and more than eleven
million people at risk of social exclusion,
as a result of the economic crisis.
(AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
Massive Crowds as Spaniards Protest Stripping of Labor Rights - CommonDreams.org

Up to a million Spainards marched in cities across Spain Sunday in a massive protest at the new government's drive to strip them of their labor rights under the cover of austerity measures.

In echoes of Wisconsin, the labor 'reforms' proposed by Spain's conservative government would make it easier for companies to fire workers and pull out of collective bargaining agreements.

The country's two main trade unions, CCOO and UGT, organized demonstrations in at least 57 cities under the slogan: "No to the Labor Reforms - Unfair to Workers, Ineffective and Useless to the Economy and for Employment."

Unemployment in Spain has tripled since 2007, and today about 5.2 million people in the country are out of work. The official unemployment rate is running at 23%, and its youth unemployment rate is nearly 50%.
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The Associated Press reports:

Spain’s main trade unions organized marches in 57 cities, beginning midmorning in southern Cordoba. Some events that had been planned for later in the day, such as in eastern Valencia, had to be brought forward because of the early buildup of large crowds.

Union organizers said around 1 million people had marched by mid-afternoon, but official figures were not released.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s government passed the package of reforms nine days ago in an effort to shake up a labor market seen as one of Europe’s most rigid and to encourage hiring in a country battling the highest unemployment rate in the eurozone, at nearly 23 percent. [...]

The government’s sweeping changes allow Spanish companies facing declining revenues to pull out of collective bargaining agreements and have greater flexibility to adjust employees’ schedules, workplace tasks and wages, as well as making it easier and less costly to fire workers.

“If the government doesn’t rectify this, we will continue with an ever-growing mobilization,” General Workers Union spokesman Candido Mendez said.

Many protesters wore hats with large scissors on top and shouted, “Don’t cut our rights,” while others carried placards in the shape of coffins that read, “Negotiation and collective bargaining, RIP.”

Office worker Manuela Silvela, 58, said the government’s measures were doing nothing to ease the uncertainty felt in Spain.

“Workers who’ve got jobs now are worried these reforms will make it easy to lose them, and in current conditions, those who don’t have work are going to find it impossible to get a job,” she said.

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US: The Criminalization Of The Localized Economy

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The Criminalization Of The Localized Economy by Peter Goodchild

Richard Heinberg's recent Museletter 237, "The Fight of the Century," includes a curious point about criminalization: ". . . It will increasingly be up to households and communities to provide the basics. . . This is a strategy that will . . . in many cases be discouraged and even criminalized by national authorities." The question is whether such localization can survive our political leadership. Yet the localized economy is probably one of the few self-evident proposals for a future that seems to have a rather slim number of options.

The illegalities of the "localized" life begin with the fact that many of the changes that need to be made to house design, in our post-nearly-all-materials world, are in fact illegal, if not strictly criminal. Here in Canada, one cannot legally build or inhabit a house that does not have conventional plumbing and electricity, for example. And the insurance companies have their say: a house will not be insured if it is heated mainly by wood. To be respectable, one must use our declining fossil fuels, it seems. In fact, insurance companies now look for all sorts of certification, most of which cannot be considered related to alternative approaches, but all of which are expensive.

The same problem of illegality applies to many other activities, even if these are just common sense. Localized agriculture, as I learned first-hand a few years ago in Ontario, is increasingly plagued by pointless rules related to processing, packaging, labeling, and similar issues, to the extent that small-scale farmers are simply forced out of business. Much of this is done in the name of "health," but such farmers do not have the ability to set up the required laboratories and other equipment that would make their businesses compliant with these ever-expanding regulations.

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I'm sure farmers' markets are dismally inefficient at times, lacking the economy of scale that makes the supermarket chains such a delight for the average consumer. But a truck driver here in Canada once pointed out to me that the cost of sending those large vehicles back and forth from Ontario to California or Florida is just not going be feasible as time goes by: for each truck, every trip costs hundreds of dollars.

Even living off the land is largely a criminalized activity, and "protecting the wilderness" does not have a great deal to do with it. Hunting and fishing rules are so designed that, with the exception of native people, the only people who can engage in these activities are those who are rich enough not to need the food that is thereby supplied. The rules could easily be modified to suit those who are genuinely dependent on the food, but such modifications are rare. Why should a Newfoundlander be arrested for shooting an occasional caribou to feed his family, when a wealthy "sports" hunter can come from outside and take that same animal?

If there is any pattern to all these restrictions, it is that money is constantly directed away from the individual and into the faceless companies, institutions, and government departments that now dominate our lives. If Daniel Boone were alive today, he would be spending his years drifting from one form of incarceration to another.

So, yes, Heinberg is quite right in saying that the localized economy is one of the more practical alternatives to the economic problems that politicians are now stumbling through. But I still think I should get a 10-percent discount on every socially-aware book I buy, since I never read that last chapter, "What We Must Do." The key sentence is inevitably, "We must encourage our political leaders to . . . ." Unfortunately our political leaders do not respond positively to those who do such "encouraging." If anything, they are more inclined to lock up such people.

Peter Goodchild is the author of Survival Skills of the North American Indians, published by Chicago Review Press. His email address is prjgoodchild[at]gmail.com