Saturday, November 14, 2015

Sorry, Eating Chicken Is a Moral Crime: The Real Horrors Behind America’s Most Popular Meat

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Chicken is seen as cheap protein and convenient food. But the labor practices and "killing line" are horrifying.

Before slicing off your next bite of chicken, nibble on this for a moment: To get that bird to your table, workers make at least 20,000, sometimes up to 100,000, slicing and grabbing motions every day. To keep up with a “killing line” that runs ever faster to deliver America’s most popular meat to our plates – a breakneck rate of 140 birds a minute – a largely immigrant workforce of roughly 250,000 endures chronic and crippling injuries for poverty wages.

To churn out millions of processed chickens – 30 million a day, and a record 89 pounds a year per American consumer – the poultry industry relies on severe yet normalized worker exploitation: chronic pain, lifelong repetitive motion injuries, and humiliation. After hours slicing through thousands of birds, knives grow dull, skid off the cold slippery parts, stabbing workers in the hand or arm. Poultry workers are still routinely denied bathroom breaks; some report wearing diapers to avoid soiling themselves while processing our chicken dinners without a break.

These “lives on the line,” the title of a powerful new Oxfam America report, are the human reality behind our meals – and it turns out we are all paying a heavy price for so-called “cheap chicken.” This toll includes tens of thousands of workers maimed on the job each year, crippling bodies and livelihoods; billions of dollars in federal contracts to Tyson Foods and others, despite their long record of worker mistreatment and safety violations; and massive public expense for workers’ emergency room visits and ongoing healthcare needs. (While there is no specific breakdown for the poultry industry, the National Safety Council estimates all workplace injuries and fatalities cost taxpayers $198 billion in 2012.)

The Oxfam report amplifies a growing movement pressuring the poultry and meat packing industries to both pay and treat their workers better. Just before the report went public, on October 23, Tyson announced it will increase worker pay at some of its plants; that same day, OSHA launched a program to encourage employers to improve worker safety. Earlier this year, after pressure from the Food Chain Alliance and other groups citing labor practices, the Los Angeles Unified School District postponed renewal of contracts with Tyson and Pilgrim’s Pride to provide lunch meat.

At the root of Big Chicken’s mistreatment of workers is the economic and political clout of a few powerful corporations and their industry lobbying arms, the National Chicken Council and the American Meat Institute – which have successfully pressured both Democrats and Republicans to speed up the assembly line and weaken regulations such as injury reporting. The top four companies – Tyson Foods, Pilgrim’s Pride, Sanderson Farms and Perdue Farms – control 60 percent of the U.S. poultry market, churning out products under more than 30 name brands, according to Oxfam’s report.

While the industry touts officially declining injury rates, research by Oxfam, OSHA and others shows poultry companies discourage injury reporting by pressuring ailing workers to return to the assembly line – often leading to severe chronic injuries. A federal rule change secured by the industry in 2012 also restricted which injuries need to be reported. Even official injury data show disturbing hazards: poultry workers are five times more likely than the average employee to get hurt on the job, and seven times more likely to get carpal tunnel syndrome.

Yet more troubling, surveys of chicken factory workers in Alabama, conducted by the Southern Poverty Law Center, found 72 percent had experienced a work-related injury, 77 percent suffered cumulative trauma disorders in their hands and wrists, and 86 percent reported hand and wrist pain, swelling, numbness and inability to close their hands.

At the core of these disastrous conditions is a deadly perfect storm of soaring consumer demand for “convenient” and “cheap” protein, and a government that’s far more responsive to the industrys production concerns than to the health and safety of a quarter of a million workers.

As chicken consumption has tripled since the late 1960s, to 89 pounds a year for the average American today, the industry has ratcheted up production speeds and squeezed its workers ever tighter to maximize profits. As chicken is sliced and diced into smaller parts to meet demands for convenient food, Oxfam reports, workers pay the price through increased repetitive motions to make all those cuts.

What do we do to end the brutalities of the killing line? Oxfam America is urging the industry’s top four companies to clean up their act, increase wages and transparency on worker injuries, and to“publicly commit to core labor rights and to ensuring the health and well-being of their workers.”

We must also insist that government do its job with our tax dollars. Following Oxfam’s report, 15 members of Congress sent a letter urging OSHA to crack down on poultry industry labor abuses. Why only fifteen? Meanwhile, the Obama administration has allowed assembly-line speeds to increase dramatically, and has made matters worse by allowing more companies to conduct their own safety inspections (aka, fox guarding the henhouse). As Food and Water Watch documented in 2012, “Company employees miss many defects in poultry carcasses” – including “defects such as feathers, lungs, oil glands, trachea and bile still on the carcass.” OSHA remains woefully understaffed, able to inspect just 1% of all US workplaces, according to a 2015 study by the AFL-CIO. Hiring more workplace and food safety inspectors, and pressuring companies to hire more workers to staff the killing line, would help enforce protections and reduce both food contamination and worker injuries.

It may not be convenient, but we cannot escape the fact that the chicken we eat comes from sweatshops that endanger both workers and consumers. America’s most popular protein comes to us through the systematic exploitation of immigrants, refugees, prison inmates, and other Americans who have no other job options. This routinized mistreatment – structured into the chicken industry’s production and profit calculations and into our weekly food budgets – must end.

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Every Day, U.S. Factory Farms Produce Enough Waste to Fill the Empire State Building

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Friday, November 13, 2015

Mizzou Student Leader Is “SICK AND TIRED” Of The First Amendment

Downtrend
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A student leader at the University of Missouri is getting really tired of the First Amendment. All this talk about free speech when – all around him – fellow students’ feelings are being really hurt is just disgusting. Brenda Smith-Lezama, vice president of the student government, was asked about professors who are beginning to push […]

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Thursday, November 12, 2015

9-Year-Old Boy Sends Love Note: School FREAKS OUT

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A simple love note has landed a Florida fourth-grader in the principal’s office, accused of sexual harassment. The Hillsborough 9-year-old passed a sweet love note to the girl he has a crush on, but when it was discovered, he was sent to the principal’s office accused of sexual harassment. “He’s nine!” his mother said. “What […]

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The Blind Leading the Blind

https://ttfuture.org/blog/michael/blind-leading-blind

The central argument for limiting as much screen time as possible from birth to age eleven is to fill that body and brain with as many natural, non-technological, self-generated imaginative play experiences as possible therefore building what for millions of years would be considered a natural-normal sensory-emotional foundation for the more abstract processes that develop later.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

'Unbelievable' Farmers Harvest Neighbor's Crops After Unexpected Death

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Dozens of farmers rallied to bring in David Klinghagen's crops in one morning.

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Sunday, November 8, 2015

“US Debt Is 3 Times More Than You Think” Former Chief US Accountant Warns, Americans “Have Lost Touch With Reality”

The Burning Platform
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The name of this website comes from a David Walker quote. “The US government is on a “burning platform” of unsustainable policies and practices with fiscal deficits, chronic healthcare underfunding, immigration and overseas military commitments threatening a crisis if action is not taken soon. There are striking similarities between America’s current situation and the factors […]

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'Million Cancer Deaths From Fukushima Expected in Japan,’ New Report Reveals

GreenMedInfo
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'Million Cancer Deaths From Fukushima Expected in Japan,' New Report Reveals

A shocking new report defies the chronically underestimated impacts of the Fukushima's triple meltdown on the risk of cancer in exposed populations, which does not just include Japan, but arguably the entire world. 

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Across America, Parents Push Back Against Creeping Authoritarianism and Criminalization of Students

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Parents are bravely standing up to trends that restrict kids' freedom and love of learning.

America's public schools are the training ground for our next generation of engineers, doctors, artists, lawyers, and other professions that form our dynamic economy. Schools are also here to nurture our children, to allow them to grow, explore and have fun in an environment that is conducive to personal freedom.

But a troubling cultural undercurrent has been creeping into our education system, converting the educational experience into something that can range from the gratuitously stressful to downright racist and cruel, from high-stakes testing to the school-to-prison pipeline.

Parents are bravely standing up to these trends in a growing number of ways.

Breaking the School-to-Prison Pipeline

Recent events at Spring Valley High School in South Carolina have cast a spotlight on the increasing utilization of police officers in public schools for disciplinary tasks that used to be handled by teachers, administrators and parents. Protesters outside the state capitol called for the prosecution of the officer involved, and many said a wider institutional system that is over-policing schools is to blame. As budgetary pressures weigh down on schools, some districts are cutting back on these school resource officer (SRO) programs, as they are called.

Schools in Chico, Calif. canceled their SRO program for the first time in 15 years, thanks to budget shortfalls in April 2013. Sometimes police departments themselves are withdrawing.

“Frankly, we determined the program is no longer sustainable for the department,” said trooper Adam Reed, a spokesman for the state police in Pennsylvania said of his department's decision to end walkthroughs at schools. “We’re below our allotted complement of troopers right now. Because of that, we must focus more on operation and patrol needs, putting more troopers on the streets.”

Other SRO programs are being not abolished, but reformed. In September, a federal judge said SROs in Birmingham, Alabama have a “cavalier attitude” about the use of pepper spray on students; he ordered a $400,000 payout to six students who were pepper sprayed and ordered “new training and procedures” for SRO usage of pepper spray.

Late last month, President Obama addressed the school-to-prison pipeline, a sign that the issue is more relevant than ever.

Too Much Homework, Too Much Testing, Not Enough Rest

Much ink has been spilled on the so-called achievement gap between the United States and other countries, but less is said about the fact that this gap primarily exists between our country's lowest-performers—children living in endemic poverty—and the rest.

The focus on increasing standards—longer school days, never-ending school years, lots of homework, and endless testing—ignores the problem of poverty, instead offering the theory that simply pushing kids and their teachers harder will close the gap. Increasingly, America's parents oppose this approach. Revolts against high-stakes testing have taken place all over the country. In April, the fourth largest school district, Miami-Dade schools, eliminated nearly 300 district end-of-course exams, limiting the number to 10. Right-wing groups are working with organizations such as teachers unions to criticize the substance and/or the implementation of Common Core, which seeks to create national curriculum standards.

The movement against over-use of testing scored a major rhetorical victory recently when President Obama's administration admitted that testing has gone overboard, even claiming partial responsibility. Meanwhile, over 800 colleges and universities now no longer require the SAT or ACT in their admissions process, recognizing that these exams may have inflated worth.

Alongside the pushback against over-testing is a movement to reduce homework. In Gaithersburg, Maryland, elementary school principal Stephanie Brant decided her school would replace homework with reading. Rather than taking home complex and tiring assignments, Brant asked her teachers to assign 30 minutes of reading every day.

Many parents, teachers and administrators are also trying to bring back recess. Recess time has long been squeezed by demands for more instructional time and academic work, and parents are starting to notice. In Seattle, one public radio station started tracking recess time over the years, and found that recess time had been declining over the past four years, and that “schools with less time set aside for recess have more low-income students and students of color”—an indication that recess is increasingly a privilege for students with more privileged backgrounds. Those privileged students typically have a mix of higher achievement and more political influence, and thus less pressure from above to raise their performance quickly.

In Florida, several counties, including Polk, Orange and Osceola, are seeing petition drives by parents demanding at least 20 minutes of recess a day for elementary school students.

The Theory Behind Schools With Freedom 

It is no surprise that the schools most subjected to restrictions on freedom like high-stakes testing, cutting back recess and police presence, are those attended by the poor and racial minorities who tend to have lower academic achievement. The theory behind doing this is that these groups need strict treatment in order to raise their achievement.

But we know that countries with the smallest achievement gaps between rich and poor, and between black and Hispanic kids and white kids, follow a very different approach. Schools in Finland are known for their freedom and flexibility. High-stakes testing isn't used, recess is plentiful, and perhaps most importantly, the state provides quality child care and nutrition supports for families, avoiding the sorts of cognitive effects poverty has on American children.

 

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Nanny States of America – Parents Arrested for Letting Kids Play on Beach, Girl Given Detention for Hugging Friend

SGTreport - The Corporate Propaganda Antidote - Silver, Gold, Truth, Liberty, & Freedom
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from Liberty Blitzkrieg:

I haven’t covered the American nanny state in a while, but two articles recently caught my eye and I simply have to share. The first one relates to two parents charged with “reckless endangerment of a child,” for letting their two boys play on a Cape Cod beach for an hour unsupervised.

From [...]

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Chris Hedges: The TPP is the Most Brazen Corporate Power Grab in American History

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It's worst than any of us feared.

 

The release Thursday of the 5,544-page text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership—a trade and investment agreement involving 12 countries comprising nearly 40 percent of global output—confirms what even its most apocalyptic critics feared.

“The TPP, along with the WTO [World Trade Organization] and NAFTA [North American Free Trade Agreement], is the most brazen corporate power grab in American history,” Ralph Nader told me when I reached him by phone in Washington, D.C. “It allows corporations to bypass our three branches of government to impose enforceable sanctions by secret tribunals. These tribunals can declare our labor, consumer and environmental protections [to be] unlawful, non-tariff barriers subject to fines for noncompliance. The TPP establishes a transnational, autocratic system of enforceable governance in defiance of our domestic laws.”

The TPP is part of a triad of trade agreements that includes the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA). TiSA, by calling for the privatization of all public services, is a mortal threat to the viability of the U.S. Postal Service, public education and other government-run enterprises and utilities; together these operations make up 80 percent of the U.S. economy. The TTIP and TiSA are still in the negotiation phase. They will follow on the heels of the TPP and are likely to go before Congress in 2017.

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These three agreements solidify the creeping corporate coup d’├ętat along with the final evisceration of national sovereignty. Citizens will be forced to give up control of their destiny and will be stripped of the ability to protect themselves from corporate predators, safeguard the ecosystem and find redress and justice in our now anemic and often dysfunctional democratic institutions. The agreements—filled with jargon, convoluted technical, trade and financial terms, legalese, fine print and obtuse phrasing—can be summed up in two words: corporate enslavement.

The TPP removes legislative authority from Congress and the White House on a range of issues. Judicial power is often surrendered to three-person trade tribunals in which only corporations are permitted to sue. Workers, environmental and advocacy groups and labor unions are blocked from seeking redress in the proposed tribunals. The rights of corporations become sacrosanct. The rights of citizens are abolished.

The Sierra Club issued a statement after the release of the TPP text saying that the “deal is rife with polluter giveaways that would undermine decades of environmental progress, threaten our climate, and fail to adequately protect wildlife because big polluters helped write the deal.”

If there is no sustained popular uprising to prevent the passage of the TPP in Congress this spring we will be shackled by corporate power. Wages will decline. Working conditions will deteriorate. Unemployment will rise. Our few remaining rights will be revoked. The assault on the ecosystem will be accelerated. Banks and global speculation will be beyond oversight or control. Food safety standards and regulations will be jettisoned. Public services ranging from Medicare and Medicaid to the post office and public education will be abolished or dramatically slashed and taken over by for-profit corporations. Prices for basic commodities, including pharmaceuticals, will skyrocket. Social assistance programs will be drastically scaled back or terminated. And countries that have public health care systems, such as Canada and Australia, that are in the agreement will probably see their public health systems collapse under corporate assault. Corporations will be empowered to hold a wide variety of patents, including over plants and animals, turning basic necessities and the natural world into marketable products. And, just to make sure corporations extract every pound of flesh, any public law interpreted by corporations as impeding projected profit, even a law designed to protect the environment or consumers, will be subject to challenge in an entity called the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) section. The ISDS, bolstered and expanded under the TPP, will see corporations paid massive sums in compensation from offending governments for impeding their “right” to further swell their bank accounts. Corporate profit effectively will replace the common good.

Given the bankruptcy of our political class—including amoral politicians such as Hillary Clinton, who is denouncing the TPP during the presidential campaign but whose unwavering service to corporate capitalism assures her fealty to her corporate backers—the trade agreement has a good chance of becoming law. And because the Obama administration won fast-track authority, a tactic designed by the Nixon administration to subvert democratic debate, President Obama will be able to sign the agreement before it goes to Congress.

The TPP, because of fast track, bypasses the normal legislative process of public discussion and consideration by congressional committees. The House and the Senate, which have to vote on the TPP bill within 90 days of when it is sent to Congress, are prohibited by the fast-track provision from adding floor amendments or holding more than 20 hours of floor debate. Congress cannot raise concerns about the effects of the TPP on the environment. It can only vote yes or no. It is powerless to modify or change one word.

There will be a mass mobilization Nov. 14 through 18 in Washington to begin the push to block the TPP. Rising up to stop the TPP is a far, far better investment of our time and energy than engaging in the empty political theater that passes for a presidential campaign.

“The TPP creates a web of corporate laws that will dominate the global economy,” attorney Kevin Zeese of the group Popular Resistance, which has mounted a long fight against the trade agreement, told me from Baltimore by telephone. “It is a global corporate coup d’├ętat. Corporations will become more powerful than countries. Corporations will force democratic systems to serve their interests. Civil courts around the world will be replaced with corporate courts or so-called trade tribunals. This is a massive expansion that builds on the worst of NAFTA rather than what Barack Obama promised, which was to get rid of the worst aspects of NAFTA.”

The agreement is the product of six years of work by global capitalists from banks, insurance companies, Goldman Sachs, Monsanto and other corporations.

“It was written by them [the corporations], it is for them and it will serve them,” Zeese said of the TPP. “It will hurt domestic businesses and small businesses. The buy-American provisions will disappear. Local communities will not be allowed to build buy-local campaigns. The thrust of the agreement is the privatization and commodification of everything. The agreement has built within it a deep antipathy to state-supported or state-owned enterprises. It gives away what is left of our democracy to the World Trade Organization.”

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The economist David Rosnick, in a report on the TPP by the Center for Economic and Policy Research(CEPR), estimated that under the trade agreement only the top 10 percent of U.S. workers would see their wages increase. Rosnick wrote that the real wages of middle-income U.S. workers (from the 35th percentile to the 80th percentile) would decline under the TPP. NAFTA, contributing to a decline in manufacturing jobs (now only 9 percent of the economy), has forced workers into lower-paying service jobs and resulted in a decline in real wages of between 12 and 17 percent. The TPP would only accelerate this process, Rosnick concluded.

“This is a continuation of the global race to the bottom,” Dr. Margaret Flowers, also from Popular Resistance and a candidate for the U.S. Senate, said from Baltimore in a telephone conversation with me. “Corporations are free to move to countries that have the lowest labor standards. This drives down high labor standards here. It means a decimation of industries and unions. It means an accelerated race to the bottom, which we must rise up to stop.”

“In Malaysia one-third of tech workers are essentially slaves,” Zeese said. “In Vietnam the minimum wage is 35 cents an hour. Once these countries are part of the trade agreement U.S. workers are put in a very difficult position.”

Fifty-one percent of working Americans now make less than $30,000 a year, a new study by the Social Security Administration reported. Forty percent are making less than $20,000 a year. The federal government considers a family of four living on an income of less than $24,250 to be in poverty.

“Half of American workers earn essentially the poverty level,” Zeese said. “This agreement only accelerates this trend. I don’t see how American workers are going to cope.”

The assault on the American workforce by NAFTA—which was established under the Clinton administration in 1994 and which at the time promised creation of 200,000 net jobs a year in the United States—has been devastating. NAFTA has led to a $181 billion trade deficit with Mexico and Canada and the loss of at least 1 million U.S. jobs, according to a report by Public Citizen. The flooding of the Mexican market with cheap corn by U.S. agro-businesses drove down the price of Mexican corn and saw 1 million to 3 million poor Mexican farmers go bankrupt and lose their small farms. Many of them crossed the border into the United States in a desperate effort to find work.

“Obama has misled the public throughout this process,” Dr. Flowers said. “He claimed that environmental groups were supportive of the agreement because it provided environmental protections, and this has now been proven false. He told us that it would create 650,000 jobs, and this has now been proven false. He calls this a 21st century trade agreement, but it actually rolls back progress made in Bush-era trade agreements. The most recent model of a 21st century trade agreement is the Korean free trade agreement. That was supposed to create 140,000 U.S. jobs. But what we saw within a couple years was a loss of about 70,000 jobs and a larger trade deficit with Korea. This agreement [the TPP] is sold to us with the same deceits that were used to sell us NAFTA and other trade agreements.”

The agreement, in essence, becomes global law. Any agreements over carbon emissions by countries made through the United Nations are effectively rendered null and void by the TPP.

“Trade agreements are binding,” Flowers said. “They supersede any of the nonbinding agreements made by the United Nations Climate Change Conference that might come out of Paris.”

There is more than enough evidence from past trade agreements to indicate where the TPP—often called “NAFTA on steroids”—will lead. It is part of the inexorable march by corporations to wrest from us the ability to use government to defend the public and to build social and political organizations that promote the common good. Our corporate masters seek to turn the natural world and human beings into malleable commodities that will be used and exploited until exhaustion or collapse. Trade agreements are the tools being used to achieve this subjugation. The only response left is open, sustained and defiant popular revolt.

 

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Theresa May’s threat to the privacy of reading

As the US republic evolved, the lesson of Douglass’s insight – that there is an indissoluble link between liberty and the freedom to read what one chooses – was baked into its civic culture. It is what made American librarians into such doughty defenders of private reading. “Lack of privacy and confidentiality chills users’ choices, thereby suppressing access to ideas,” says the website of the American Library Association.

“The possibility of surveillance, whether direct or through access to records of speech, research and exploration, undermines a democratic society,” it continues. “Confidentiality of library records is a core value of librarianship. One cannot exercise the right to read if the possible consequences include damage to one’s reputation, ostracism from the community or workplace or criminal penalties. For libraries to flourish as centres for uninhibited access to information, librarians must stand behind their users’ right to privacy and freedom of inquiry... The right to privacy is the right to open inquiry without having the subject of one’s interest examined or scrutinised by others.”

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/nov/08/theresa-may-proposals-privacy-reading-draft-investigatory-powers-bill