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marmar's Journal
marmar's Journal
February 27, 2016

"If GM foods are safe, as the industry claims, then why the stubborn opposition to labeling?"

from the Progressive:

Like Knowing What You’re Eating? Get Ready for Lawsuits.

Posted: February 26, 2016
Carmelo Ruiz

The states of Vermont and California have made major strides in defending consumers’ right to know about the presence of genetically modified (GM) content in their food and the toxicity of agrochemicals. But industry wants to punish them for it.

Vermont’s state legislature passed a bill that would require GM foods sold in the state to be labeled as such. The bill, known as Act 120, signed by governor Peter Shumlin in 2014, will go into effect on July 1. And in California, the state government intends to identify Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide as a carcinogen, after concerns about the glyphosate-based agrochemical were raised by the World Health Organization.

Industry reaction to these state-level initiatives has been harsh and vindictive. The Grocery Manufacturers Association, one of the nation’s largest trade lobbies, filed suit against the state of Vermont, alleging that Act 120 is costly, misguided, unenforceable, lacks basis in health, safety and science, and runs afoul of the First Amendment and interstate commerce protections.

And California is being sued by Monsanto, which alleges that its Roundup is not a cancer risk to humans and that the WHO assessment is “inconsistent with the findings of regulatory bodies in the United States and around the world.” ............(more)

- See more at: http://www.progressive.org/news/2016/02/188581/knowing-what-you%E2%80%99re-eating-get-ready-lawsuits#sthash.ZPTi2g5U.dpuf

February 27, 2016

Trade Deals Like the TPP Are Murdering American Manufacturing

from In These Times:

Trade Deals Like the TPP Are Murdering American Manufacturing
BY Leo Gerard, United Steelworkers President

[font size="1"]The Trans-Pacific Partnership threatens to send even more American jobs overseas. (Backbone Campaign / Flickr / Creative Commons)[/font]

In the week before Valentine’s Day, United Technologies expressed its love for its devoted Indiana employees, workers whose labor had kept the corporation profitable, by informing 2,100 of them at two facilities that it was shipping their factories, their jobs, their communities’ resources to Mexico.

A few workers shouted obscenities at the corporate official. Some walked out. Others openly wept as United Technologies shattered their hopes, their dreams, their means to pay middle-class mortgages.

Three days later, 1,336 workers at Philadelphia’s largest remaining manufacturer, Cardone, learned that company planned to throw them out too and build brake calipers in Mexico instead. Two weeks earlier, a Grand Rapids, Mich., company called Dematic did the same thing to its 300 workers.

No surprise. In the first decade of this century, America lost 56,190 factories, 15 a day.

Republican presidential candidates talk incessantly of building a physical wall to keep impoverished Mexican immigrants out of America. What they fail to offer is an economic barrier to prevent the likes of United Technologies and Cardone and Dematic from impoverishing American workers by exporting their jobs to Mexico.

The president of Carrier, owned by United Technologies, gathered the Indianapolis factory employees, skilled workers who earn an average of $20 an hour, and informed them that the corporation planned to kick them to the curb but expected them to perform to the highest standards until Carrier opened a new plant in Monterrey, Mexico, where workers will be paid $3 an hour. ....................(more)


February 27, 2016

Ferguson.....Dios Mio.

Ferguson Digs In Its Heels
Colin Gordon ▪ February 17, 2016

Nineteen months have passed since the death of Michael Brown, and less than a year since the release of the Justice Department’s scathing examination of predatory racism in the Ferguson Police Department. The problem—amply documented by Justice, as well as local groups Arch City Defenders and Better Together St. Louis—was not just the starkly disproportionate impact of local courts on African Americans, but the ways in which Ferguson and other St. Louis County municipalities relied on fines and forfeitures as a source of revenue. “The residents of Ferguson do not have a police problem,” as Ta-Nehisi Coates summed it up last year, “They have a gang problem. That the gang operates under legal sanction makes no difference. It is a gang nonetheless, and there is no other word to describe an armed band of collection agents.”

The political response was slow but meaningful. Missouri Senate Bill 5, signed by Governor Nixon in July, introduced a spate of reforms, including a cap on court fines as a share of municipal revenues. Negotiations between Ferguson and the Justice Department proceeded fitfully, slowed by the city’s fiscal anxieties (“We feel that what they are asking would financially ruin the city,” as one city councilor complained just before the anniversary of Brown’s death). In January, Ferguson officials finally agreed to a settlement that would bolster community policing and meet the modest expectation that municipal code enforcement be animated by a concern for public safety rather than the city’s budget.

Last week, that deal crumbled. To the palpable dismay of community members in attendance, the Ferguson city council amended the consent decree, most notably pulling back on commitments to raise police salaries and asserting that the terms of the deal would not apply to outside agencies if the city decided to contract out policing or collections. The Justice Department wasted no time filing suit, citing the city’s “routine violation of constitutional and statutory rights, based in part on prioritizing the misuse of law enforcement authority as a means to generate municipal revenue over legitimate law enforcement purposes,” and the unlikelihood that “that the City will remedy these patterns and practices of unlawful conduct absent judicial mandate.”

It is a distressing turn of events. Ferguson’s petulant retreat is certainly animated in part by uneven citizenship that prevails in North St. Louis County, by which local authorities (as the Justice report concluded) “see some residents, especially those who live in Ferguson’s predominantly African-American neighborhoods, less as constituents to be protected than as potential offenders.” But it is also animated by mundane budgetary anxieties, by a fiscal desperation that pressed the Ferguson police—under clear and unambiguous direction from city officials—to also see those offenders as “sources of revenue.” How did it come to this? ....................(more)


February 27, 2016

Unions and Cooperatives: How Workers Can Survive and Thrive

Unions and Cooperatives: How Workers Can Survive and Thrive

Saturday, 27 February 2016 00:00
By Brian Van Slyke, Truthout | News Analysis

The year 2008 was when the big banks were bailed out, but it was also the year that catalyzed one group of window makers into democratically running their own factory.

On the former industrial hub of Goose Island in Chicago, the employees of Republic Windows and Doors made headlines after they were locked out of their jobs just before Christmas without the back pay or severance they were owed. Organized by the United Electrical Workers Union, these displaced workers did exactly what the ownership hoped they wouldn't do. They refused to quietly accept the layoffs. Instead, the workers engaged in a sitdown strike at their factory, garnering local and national media attention. Eventually, the employees won the occupation, forcing Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase (Republic's primary creditors) to create a fund to give the workers their back pay, benefits, and health insurance. This became viewed as a much-needed victory for workers and unions in a desperate economic time.

And this January, more than seven years after their initial takeover, the workers finally received their last payment won from their struggle. According to the Chicago Tribune, "The National Labor Relations Board announced Wednesday that it will distribute to 270 union workers $295,000 in back pay stemming from labor law violations."

While many people know about the takeover of Republic Windows and Doors, the story of what happened next has flown under the radar. In early 2009, not too long after the workers' sit in, a company by the name of Serious Materials chose to partially re-open the factory, and many of the worker's jobs and livelihoods were restored. That is, until Serious surprised everyone by shuttering the factory again. The country was still in the height of the great recession that put the housing market in ruins, which had devastating consequences for the window industry. And, according to the workers, Serious never made their Chicago factory a priority in its business plan. This meant that in only a few short years, these same workers had to face the prospect of job loss once more, and they had to go through the hardship of another sitdown strike. ..............(more)


February 27, 2016

The United States Has Blocked a Plan by India to Expand Solar Power and Create Local Jobs

This piece first appeared at Climate News Network.

LONDON—India has been told that it cannot go ahead as planned with its ambitious plan for a huge expansion of its renewable energy sector, because it seeks to provide work for Indian people. The case against India was brought by the US.

The ruling, by the World Trade Organisation (WTO), says India’s National Solar Mission—which would create local jobs, while bringing electricity to millions of people—must be changed because it includes a domestic content clause requiring part of the solar cells to be produced nationally.

What a difference two months make. On 12 December last year, US President Barack Obama praised the Paris Agreement on tackling climate change, just hours after it was finally concluded. “We’ve shown what’s possible when the world stands as one,” he said, adding that the agreement “represents the best chance we have to save the one planet that we’ve got”.

Clear-cut victory

The WTO says that its dispute settlement panel “handed the US a clear-cut victory . . . when it found that local content requirements India imposed on private solar power producers in a massive solar project violated trade rules, although the two sides are still discussing a potential settlement to the dispute”. ................(more)


February 26, 2016

Democracy and Decentralization: UK Labour Leaders Reframe Socialism for the 21st Century

Democracy and Decentralization: UK Labour Leaders Reframe Socialism for the 21st Century

Thursday, 25 February 2016 00:00
By Gar Alperovitz and Joe Guinan, Truthout | Op-Ed

Bernie Sanders has made an unprecedented and extraordinary contribution to the US political landscape this election cycle. Whatever the outcome of the primaries, a whole generation has learned that talking about socialism, explicitly and proudly, is no longer as politically radioactive as once supposed. But can we not expect more from our economic populism than just knitting back together a frayed social safety net, kick-starting the engines of Keynesian demand with ecologically appropriate infrastructure and imposing some long overdue reforms on our largest financial institutions? Might the United States not be ready for a socialism that actually takes the question of "who owns the economy" seriously?

Though perhaps tactically understandable, given his own previous efforts, it's a little surprising that Sanders has not made ownership (and new forms of ownership) more of a theme in his campaign. "I don't believe the government should own the means of production," he emphasized in his major speech on democratic socialism in November 2015, even though elsewhere he has given vociferous support for expanding the scope of the US Postal Service into retail banking. Community development advocates are scratching their heads, wondering why Sanders' longtime support at the municipal and state level for transformative ownership strategies - employee ownership, community land trusts, cooperative low-income housing - haven't shown up on the stump. Hillary Clinton's tepid profit-sharing plan, where businesses could claim a tax credit for 15 percent of the amount of profit they share with their workers, and which grows out of Larry Summers' "inclusive capitalism" framework, at least opens the door to a (very) weak form of ownership.

A look at what's brewing on the other side of the Atlantic gives us some reason to dream a little bigger about what might be possible and also politically viable here, especially given the new direction socialist thought is taking all around the world.

Jeremy Corbyn's insurgent, grassroots-powered win that took the British Labour Party back from neoliberal centrists shares a lot with Sanders' presidential primary campaign. However, Corbyn has tackled the ownership question head-on, coming out strong for a modern approach to public ownership as a basic principle to defend and fight for: "After a generation of forced privatisation and outsourcing of public services, the evidence has built up that handing services over to private companies routinely delivers poorer quality, higher cost, worse terms and conditions for the workforce, less transparency and less say for the public." ..........(more)


February 26, 2016

The Mad Violence of Casino Capitalism

The Mad Violence of Casino Capitalism

Posted on Feb 25, 2016
By Henry A. Giroux / CounterPunch

American society is morally bankrupt and politically broken, and its vision of the future appears utterly dystopian. As the United States descends into the dark abyss of an updated form of totalitarianism, the unimaginable has become imaginable in that it has become possible not only to foresee the death of the essential principles of constitutional democracy, but also the birth of what Hannah Arendt once called the horror of dark times. The politics of terror, a culture of fear, and the spectacle of violence dominate America’s cultural apparatuses and legitimate the ongoing militarization of public life and American society.

Unchecked corporate power and a massive commodification, infantilization, and depoliticization of the polity have become the totalitarian benchmarks defining American society. In part, this is due to the emergence of a brutal modern-day capitalism, or what some might call neoliberalism. This form of neoliberal capitalism is a particularly savage, cruel, and exploitative regime of oppression in which not only are the social contract, civil liberties and the commons under siege, but also the very notion of the political, if not the planet itself. The dystopian moment facing the United States, if not most of the globe, can be summed up in Fred Jameson’s contention “that it is easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism.” He goes on to say that “We can now revise that and witness the attempt to imagine capitalism by way of imagining the end of the world.”

One way of understanding Jameson’s comment is through the ideological and affective spaces in which the neoliberal subject is produced and market-driven ideologies are normalized. Capitalism has made a virtue out of self-interest and the pursuit of material wealth and in doing so has created a culture of shattered dreams and a landscape filled with “Broken highways, bankrupt cities, collapsing bridges, failed schools, the unemployed, the underpaid and the uninsured: all suggest a collective failure of will. These shortcomings are so endemic that we no longer know how to talk about what is wrong, much less set about repairing it.”

Yet, there is a growing recognition that casino capitalism is driven by a kind of mad violence and form of self-sabotage and that if it does not come to an end what we will experience in all probability is the destruction of human life and the planet itself. Certainly, more recent scientific reports on the threat of ecological disaster from researchers at the University of Washington, NASA, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reinforce this dystopian possibility. The undermining of public trust and public values has now given way to a market-driven discourse that produces a society that has lost any sense of democratic vision and social purpose and in doing so resorts to state terrorism, the criminalization of social problems, and culture of cruelty. Institutions that were once defined to protect and enhance human life now function largely to punish and maim. ............(more)


February 26, 2016

Citi: Here Comes a Global Recession

Citi: Here Comes a Global Recession
Growth is likely to fall apart.

(Bloomberg) After a few years of reasonably calm markets and stable growth around the world, Citigroup Inc. says the chances of a global recession are already high and only going up.

"In our view, global growth is at a highly precarious point, after 2-3 years of relative calm," the team of economists led by Willem Buiter said in their note, which is likely to exacerbate concerns about the world's ability to withstand a pause in China's stunning economic growth.

"The long-standing fragilities in the world economy relate to the structural and cyclical slowdowns in China and its unsustainable exchange rate regime, the excessive level of debt across many countries and sectors and ongoing regional and geopolitical uncertainty," the economists said. The economists have accordingly revised their forecast for growth this year in advanced economies, from a 2.4 percent in January 2015 to 1.6 percent currently, and warned that the 2016 figure "could well be lower."

When they adjust for what they call "true Chinese growth," the Citi team finds that global growth might have been as low as 2 percent year-over-year in the final quarter of 2015. ................(more)


February 25, 2016

Bust Royale Scheduled for Insane San Francisco & Silicon Valley Housing Markets

Bust Royale Scheduled for Insane San Francisco & Silicon Valley Housing Markets
by Wolf Richter • February 25, 2016

[font color="blue"]Two treacherous forces, with impeccable timing.[/font]

In the city of San Francisco, the median condo price is $1.11 million and the median house price is $1.25 million, up 72% and 88% respectively from the first quarter 2012. Median means, 50% of the units cost more, and 50% cost less.

Which creates an absurd situation: only 11% of the households in San Francisco can afford to buy a median home, according to Paragon Real Estate’s report on “affordability.” In other Bay Area counties, it’s similar. In the Silicon Valley counties of San Mateo and Santa Clara, 14% and 20% of the households can afford a median home; in Marin (just north of the Golden Gate), 17%; in Napa 21%, Alameda (East Bay) 22%, Sonoma 26%. In the US overall, 58% can.

But the calculations assume that buyers are able to make a 20% down-payment, which on a median home in SF amounts to $240,000. And it also assumes the persistence of super-low interest rates and points for a 30-year mortgage.


Renting a median one-bedroom apartment will set you back $3,400 a month, parking not necessarily included. And a median two-bedroom will set you back $4,650 a month.

But kinks are already appearing. According to Zillow data, those rents are down 5.4% from the respective peaks in June and August last year. And just then, with impeccable timing, this housing market is now facing by two powerful forces. ...........................(more)


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