Read more about Norway: ecowatch.com/tag/norway
Harvesting the sun's rays as they reflect off a mountain. Read more about Norway: ecowatch.com/tag/norwayvia World Economic Forum
Posted by EcoWatch on Tuesday, February 27, 2018
Good Morning America
Dick’s Sporting Goods CEO on decision to no longer sell assault-style rifles: ‘We don’t want to be a part of this story’
“If these kids are brave enough to organize and do what they’re doing, we should be brave enough to take this stand,” says DICK’S Sporting GoodsCEO Edward Stack, after the company announced it would stop selling assault-style weapons in all of its stores http://cnn.it/2t66Njk
“If these kids are brave enough to organize and do what they’re doing, we should be brave enough to take this stand," says DICK'S Sporting Goods CEO Edward Stack, after the company announced it would stop selling assault-style weapons in all of its stores http://cnn.it/2t66Njk
Posted by CNN on Wednesday, February 28, 2018
Study: US inequality persists 50 years after landmark report
By Russell Contreras, Associated Press February 27, 2018
For 40 years, right-wing activists and fronts for the 1% have had their knives out for a Supreme Court precedent that protects the ability of public employee unions to represent their members and even nonmembers, and to speak out on matters of public interest.
That precedent faces a mortal threat in a case scheduled for oral argument at the Supreme Court on Monday. Indications are that a conservative majority of justices is poised to overturn it. That would have implications for worker rights, principles of fair compensation and income inequality, none of them good — unless you’re a millionaire.
The case is Janus vs. AFSCME. The issue in the case is the “agency fee,” which public employee unions in 22 states, including California, charge workers who are represented by those unions. The fee is a subset of union dues, which are paid by members. It’s supposed to cover only contract-related union functions such as contract negotiations and enforcement, including grievance procedures.
Through the agency fee, workers in union-represented jobs pay for those services but are shielded from paying for political activities with which they disagree. In those 22 states, the unions are legally bound to represent all workers in jobs under their jurisdiction, even if they aren’t members. The fee obviously is a key to unions’ performing all their functions, for if it weren’t required, many members would quit the union, taking their dues with them and leaving the union without the resources to do its job. That’s what union opponents would like to see.
The groups backing the Janus case like to dress up their quest as a campaign to protect the free speech of teachers, healthcare workers or other public employees. We’ve explained before that it’s nothing of the kind. The cases aren’t about free speech or improving education for children. They’re about silencing the political voice and the negotiating strength of teacher and other public employee unions by cutting off their revenues. The campaign is a prime example of pure political cynicism, garbed with faux principle and backed by billions of self-interested dollars.
The main object of the Janus case and others like it has been to overturn a 1977 Supreme Court precedent known as Abood vs. Detroit Board of Education.
Abood established the principle that while public employees represented by unions couldn’t be forced to support union political positions with their dues, they shouldn’t get a free ride on the nonpolitical activities of unions either.
Thus did the “agency” or “fair share” fee receive the Court’s seal of approval. The implicit idea was to address the free-rider problem — people who received the benefit of union representation but didn’t want to pay.
Anti-union forces rapidly geared up to combat Abood. They pressed for state laws to invalidate agency fees. In California, they brought three anti-union initiatives to the ballot between 2000 and 2016, including a 2005 measure sponsored by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. All three failed.
And they went to court.
The labor-oriented Economic Policy Institute and Mary Bottari of In These Times have documented that the anti-Abood coalition includes right-wing groups such as the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, and the State Policy Network. They and other sponsors of these legal cases and related legislative initiatives are affiliated with the Koch brothers, the Sarah Scaife Foundation, the Mercer Family Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation.
Some operate behind the scrim of umbrella groups such as the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and the Center for Individual Rights. But at heart, they’re a network of right-wing billionaire families. The outfit representing Mark Janus, the Liberty Justice Center, is an offshoot of the Illinois Policy Institute; both have received funding from organizations in this network, including the Charles Koch Institute.
Do you really think these people have the interests of ordinary workers at heart? Me neither.
The lawsuits aimed at overturning Abood have been relentless. In 2012, the Supreme Court heard Knox vs. SEIU, a California case that turned on the type of fee notice unions had to give nonmember employees. The court upheld Abood, but Justice Samuel Alito, who wrote the majority opinion, expressed doubts about the precedent. “The free-rider argument as a justification for compelling nonmembers to pay a portion of union dues represents something of an anomaly,” he wrote — “one that we have found to be justified by the interest in furthering ‘labor peace,’ ” but “an anomaly nevertheless.”
Alito implied that he would take a hatchet to Abood if the opportunity arose, giving heart to anti-union forces.
In 2014, Harris vs. Quinn, which had been launched in 2010 on behalf of home healthcare workers in Illinois, reached the Supreme Court. The court didn’t overturn Abood, ruling instead that the home care workers weren’t actually full-fledged state employees so the precedent didn’t apply to them. Alito again wrote the majority opinion and took further potshots at Abood, which he denigrated at length.
That drew pushback from Justice Elena Kagan, who replied that “the Abood rule is deeply entrenched, and is the foundation for not tens or hundreds, but thousands of contracts … across the nation.”
Kagan also pointed out the downside of stripping unions of their financial resources. The agency fee recognizes the special role of unions in public employee bargaining, she observed, because they must represent members and nonmembers equally. “It ensures that a union will receive adequate funding, notwithstanding its legally imposed disability … so that a government wishing to bargain with an exclusive representative will have a viable counterpart.”
Then came Friedrichs vs. California Teachers Assn., a 2016 case, also from California, that took direct aim at Abood. Friedrichs was about to give the court’s conservatives the opportunity they sought to overturn Abood, but an act of God intervened: the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, who was expected to join the anti-Abood majority. That left the court split 4-4, which meant the pro-Abood decision of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco stood. Now that Scalia’s seat has been filled by the even more conservative Neil Gorsuch, the anti-Abood cabal feels even more confident. At its core, Janus is just an Illinois version of Friedrichs.
The backers of these lawsuits have tried to turn the “free-rider” principle on its head, arguing that mandatory agency fees turn nonmembers into “forced riders.” They say that the resistance of some workers to paying even agency fees shows that those workers don’t believe they get any benefit from union representation.
That notion was challenged in a friend-of-the-court brief filed by 36 moderate and progressive economists. They observed that workers might refuse to pay voluntary fees out of “simple self-interest” — that is, saving the money, even if they appreciated the union’s representation. This, of course, is exactly what union opponents are hoping for.
Roy Moore is haunting the GOP Senate primary in Missouri
The failed Senate candidate and accused child molester has endorsed a fringe candidate in the race, and his biggest donor is bankrolling the establishment favorite.
Addy Baird February 26, 2018
A women wears an “I voted” sticker as she waits the arrival of Republican senatorial candidate Roy Moore for his election night party. Credit: Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Failed Alabama Republican Senate candidate and accused child molester Roy Moore is now haunting the GOP primary in Missouri.
Last Friday, Moore endorsed Courtland Sykes, a Republican who demanded in an official campaign statement last month that his fiancée always have a home-cooked dinner waiting for him.
“I want to come home to a home cooked dinner at six every night, one that she fixes and one that I expect one day to have daughters learn to fix after they become traditional homemakers and family wives,” Sykes said in January. “Think Norman Rockwell here and Gloria Steinem be damned.”
In the same statement, Sykes called feminists “she devils” and said he didn’t want his someday-daughters, bless their hearts, to be “career-obsessed banshees.”
Moore — who lost to Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL) last December after eight women came forward during the election accusing Moore of sexual misconduct — wrote in a letter endorsing Sykes that the Trump-styled Republican is a “man of impeccable character, courage, and Christian faith.”
“We need men like Courtland Sykes in the Senate of the United States, a leader who will not only say what is right, but also a leader who will do what is right,” the letter said. “If you are tired of special interest politicians and liberal news organizations who seek to control us with ‘fake news,’ then I ask for you to vote for Courtland Sykes in the upcoming election for United States Senate.”
Sykes backed Moore during the special election, saying the judge was a “legendary patriot who stands up and fights no matter what” in a video released last November.
In addition to endorsing Moore’s campaign, the video was a 40-minute “mini-documentary” full of conspiracy theories undermining the women who accused Moore of sexual misconduct and abuse and railing against The Washington Post, which first reported some of the allegations against Moore.
“If the Washington Post has its way with Roy Moore in Alabama, then liberals win any election by liberal media lying, and fake news media returns to control politics in America with propaganda, with fake news like the floozy attacks, until conservative America ends or until America itself is finished,” Sykes said in the video. “And we’re not going to let that happen.”
In a release announcing Moore’s endorsement Monday, Sykes reportedly thanked Moore and said it was an honor to be back by one of the country’s “most courageous and legendary conservative figures.”
Sykes is considered a long shot candidate by both Republicans and Democrats in Missouri. The campaign had just $1,800 in the bank at the end of last year, according to The Kansas City Star.
But Sykes isn’t the only Republican Senate hopeful in Missouri running in Moore’s shadow.
Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley (R) is benefiting from donations from businessman Richard Uihlein, who was revealed last November to be Moore’s biggest donor. Through the Proven Conservatives PAC, Uihlein donated $100,000 to support Moore. Now, the mega-donor — who dropped eight figures on 2016 races — has turned his sights to Missouri.
Uihlein has donated $2 million to the Club for Growth Action Missouri super PAC, which is backing Hawley. Uhliein also donated the legal maximum directly to Hawley’s campaign.
Asked whether he’d vote for Moore in the special election last December, Hawley declined to reject the accused predator, saying he “would want to see the evidence.”
“At least some of them are allegations of criminal wrongdoing,” he told reporters at the time. “And that I don’t know what the truth is, but Judge Moore does. And I think that if these allegations are true, he should not be running… I would want to see the evidence. It would be the obligation of the ethics committee, if they did undertake an investigation, to gather actual hard evidence, to weigh the facts and make a report on it.”
In a statement in January, the Missouri Democratic party hit Hawley over the remarks.
“Now we know why Josh Hawley refused to denounce Roy Moore — they share the same out-of-state megadonor,” communications director Brooke Goren said. “This revelation is further proof that a small number of millionaires and dark money special interests are trying to buy Missouri’s U.S. Senate seat for Josh Hawley — and Hawley is willing to do what they ask in return.”
Republicans reportedly have been privately fretting about Hawley in recent weeks, however, after Hawley fell short of expected fundraising goals recently and drew national attention for comments he made linking the sexual revolution to human trafficking.
“We have a human trafficking crisis in our state and in this city and in our country because people are willing to purchase women, young women, and treat them like commodities,” Hawley said in audio first obtained by The Kansas City Star last month. “There is a market for it. Why is there? Because our culture has completely lost its way. The sexual revolution has led to exploitation of women on a scale that we would never have imagined, never have imagined.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story said Club for Growth was backing Sykes. They are backing Hawley.
February 24, 2018
An agricultural giant.
An agricultural giant.via World Economic Forum
Posted by EcoWatch on Saturday, February 24, 2018
Native Communities are Fighting for a More Inclusive Farm Bill
Farm policy has long ignored tribal governments and communities. A coalition of tribes aims to change that.
By Kim Baca February 26, 2018
About 10 miles west from the Missouri border in the wooded, lush-green northeastern corner of Oklahoma sits the first tribally owned meat-processing plant in the country.
In addition to processing its own beef and bison, the 4,800-member Quapaw Tribe manages four greenhouses that grow fresh herbs and vegetables and a bee operation that both pollinates its plants and produces honey. The Quapaw people also roast their own coffee, which they package and sell, and earlier this year, they opened a craft brewery.
While participating in greater America’s enterprise system, the Quapaw also use some of what they produce to feed their own people and surrounding non-Native communities. In addition to supplying the steakhouse and restaurants at its casinos with freshly grown food, the tribe distributes bison to senior citizens and at the reservation’s daycare center.
“Our contention is tribes are not sovereign unless they can feed themselves,” said Ross Racine, executive director of the Intertribal Agriculture Council. “But today, $3.3 billion of Native American agricultural products go into the commodity market. [By contrast,] Quapaw is eating what they are growing.”
Although agriculture continues to play a big role in Native life today, the Quapaw’s ability to feed themselves is nearly unique. While the overwhelming majority of farm operators in the U.S. are white, among farmers of color an estimated 30 percent are Native American or Alaska Native, and together they generate $3.3 billion in sales each year. But Native producers have little access to critically important resources such as credit, insurance, or loan programs, and that fact limits their ability to be fully autonomous.
Hoping to ensure that the voices of the nation’s original caretakers are heard, Native American groups have come together to advocate for more inclusion, greater funding, and extensive revisions in the upcoming farm bill, which will replace the soon-to-expire Agricultural Act of 2014. For nearly a year, the Native Farm Bill Coalition—made up of more than 22 tribes, tribal organizations, and nonprofits across the country—has been meeting to craft policy for the $489 billion omnibus bill, which oversees food assistance for more than 46 million low-income Americans, as well as food safety, agriculture insurance and losses, agricultural research, and rural housing and economic development.
“The farm bill holds the potential for tribal governments and producers to feed their own people in their own tribal food systems,” said Colby Duren, co-author of a report commissioned by the Native Farm Bill Coalition, during a recent webinar. “All of this will help spur economic development [and] build critical infrastructure, which is lacking in a lot of communities. [It will] be able to support traditional foods and … improve health, nutrition, food access and food security.”
Designing a Bill to Support Native Communities
Native communities’ lack of access to resources is due partly to the status of Native lands, which are held in trust by the U.S. government, making traditional landowner financing difficult to obtain. Without access to capital, much of the food produced on those lands is processed and consumed outside the community. Additionally, while non-Native communities have had access to various U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs since the 1940s, only in 1990 were the first Native producers eligible for these programs, Racine said.
“We’re in a phase of catch-up,” he said.
The disadvantages Native Americans face when it comes to land and food access have roots that stretch back centuries. Starting in the late 1800s, the federal government used treaties to force many to convert to a western model of agrarianism and land management. The U.S. government assisted tribes in the transition—offering education, health care, and the right to self-govern, among other provisions—as a way to assimilate and settle Native people, who were seen as culturally inferior, in exchange for their land. Yet tribes already had their own traditional foraging and agricultural systems, and tribal land reduction and relocation destroyed many of those those foodways.
The effects were extremely detrimental to Native American wellbeing. With limits imposed on fishing, foraging, and hunting—and pushed out to rural areas with limited access to a commercial market—many tribal people became dependent on food distribution programs, which often contained processed food. As a result, Native Americans suffer some of the highest rates of diabetes and obesity in the country.
Those new SNAP boxes the Trump Administration proposed to near-universal outrage earlier this month? They’ve been regularly supplied to Native American reservations for 40 years.
Last summer, the Native Farm Bill Coalition published Regaining Our Future, a report detailing their recommendations to better support Native people in each of the bill’s 12 titles, or sections. Their suggestions include extending credit and conservation programs, allocating research dollars to land grant tribal colleges, and providing access to international markets for certified Native American products, among others.
The coalition also calls for tribes to issue their own Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, formerly called food stamps, which makes up 80 percent of the overall farm bill. (Currently, a majority of states manage the SNAP programs on Native American reservations.) Tribes would also like traditional and locally grown foods included in food distribution programs to help curb diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and other diet-related illnesses that Native Americans experience at higher rates. In some Native communities, one-quarter of members are participating in a federal food program.
Making Room at the Table
As Congress begins the process of reviewing the mammoth bill this spring, staffers with the office of Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) said bipartisan discussions on tribal recommendations that could be incorporated in the omnibus legislation or through supplemental bills are now taking place.
Already, Udall—who serves as vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs—and three other Democratic senators have introduced the Tribal Nutrition Improvement Act, which provides funding and adds federally recognized tribes to the list of governments authorized to administer federal food programs including the National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs, the Summer Food Service Program, and the Child and Adult Care Food Program. The legislation would allow tribes to directly administer school food programs without having to go through state agencies.
Though President Trump’s proposed 2019 budget calls for large cuts to American Indian programs, tribes are still hopeful that their voices may be heard, citing several gains in the last farm bill and support from congressional leaders familiar with tribal issues.
“For too long, Indian Country has been knocking at the door of each new farm bill negotiation, asking for a seat at the table as sovereign governments alongside states and counties,” Udall said. “This year, there is bipartisan support for including Indian Country in the farm bill negotiations and adding provisions to support Indian Country through sections like those on nutrition and economic development to name a few,” he continued, adding that he and Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) have started discussions with tribes, the USDA, and Congress.
“I’m optimistic that we can continue to make progress,” Udall said. “We all need to come together to push the door open and make room at the table.”
Making progress on food sovereignty is of paramount importance to Racine and other Native leaders. “There has never been a society in the history of the world that has survived without the ability to feed itself,” said Racine during a recent Senate Committee on Indian Affairs hearing on agribusiness in Indian Country. “Agriculture is a tradition on our reservations, not the product.”
This article is part of a series published by Civil Eats in partnership with GATHER, a documentary chronicling the movement for Native American Food Sovereignty.
Top photo courtesy of Seeds of Native Health.
February 27, 2018
Catholic faith leaders are gathering to pray, sing, and commit acts of civil disobedience at the Capitol today to put pressure on Congress to protect DREAMers from deportation. #Catholics4DREAMers
Catholic faith leaders are gathering to pray, sing, and commit acts of civil disobedience at the Capitol today to put pressure on Congress to protect DREAMers from deportation. #Catholics4DREAMers
Posted by NowThis Politics on Tuesday, February 27, 2018