Warmer waters in the Pacific Northwest are killing salmon

EcoWatch

February 17, 2019

Warmer waters in the Pacific Northwest are killing salmon before they can reproduce.

This is particularly devastating to the Tulalip people, who trace their cultural heritage to salmon.

Here’s the written story: ecowatch.com/climate-change-salmon-pacific-northwest

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Climate Change Is Cooking Salmon in the Pacific Northwest

Warmer waters in the Pacific Northwest are killing salmon before they can reproduce. This is particulatly devastating to the Tulalip people, who trace their cultural heritage to salmon.Here's the written story: ecowatch.com/climate-change-salmon-pacific-northwestNexus Media News

Posted by EcoWatch on Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Protecting Our Coral Reefs

CNN

February 15, 2019

Here is why some places are banning sunscreen that is damaging coral reefs https://cnn.it/2DLnTVP

Here is why some places are banning sunscreen that is damaging coral reefs https://cnn.it/2DLnTVP

Posted by CNN on Friday, February 15, 2019

Facing A Critical Shortage Of Drivers, The Trucking Industry Is Changing

NPR – National

Facing A Critical Shortage Of Drivers, The Trucking Industry Is Changing

Trucking companies have had a tough time hiring drivers willing to hit the road for long hauls. Now the U.S. is speeding toward a critical shortage of truck drivers in the next few years and companies are upping pay, making the job easier, and opening it up to new kinds of drivers. John Bazemore/AP

 

It’s never been harder to hire long-haul truck drivers, even though companies are making the job more lucrative, less aggravating and more inclusive.

The driver shortage stretches back a quarter century, and lately a run-up in freight demand, staggeringly high turnover rates and waves of baby boomer retirements are compounding the problem.

The American Trucking Associations figures companies need about 60,000 drivers, a number that could top 100,000 in just a few years.

Trucks move almost all of the food and other items Americans purchase, and the shortage of drivers is driving up shipping rates.

“It’s not like these folks are making horseshoes,” says Todd Spencer, president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. “Trucking is an absolutely essential, critical industry to the nation, to everybody in it,” Spencer says.

Trucking companies are responding in three basic ways: recruiting drivers who don’t fit old trucker stereotypes, making the job easier and raising pay.

Pay hikes

“It’s certainly a natural market reaction whenever there’s a shortage — pay goes up, and we’ve seen that,” says Bob Costello, chief economist for the American Trucking Associations.

Costello says trucking companies boosted pay sharply last year. Gordon Klemp, president of the National Transportation Institute, figures that increase was close to 10 percent on average, which would make average driver salaries crest at $60,000 by his estimates. And Costello says truckers are demanding more than good pay.

Truck driving trainees work in the classroom at Wilson Logistics driving school in Springfield, Mo. Despite pay hikes and greater inclusivity, there is still a critical shortage of long-haul truck drivers. Frank Morris/KCUR

 

“If you’re not getting a 401(k), health care, paid time off, you need to get a different job, because you can get all of that,” says Costello.

Some trucking companies sweeten the deal with bonuses for signing on, referring people, or just staying with a company. Some have begun offering free, online college tuition for drivers.

But even with the recent pay hikes, Klemp says drivers make less now than they did in the 1980’s, adjusted for inflation.

The way truckers can be treated by shipping companies is another huge issue.

Most long-haul truckers are paid by the mile, not by the hour. And some routinely spend hours waiting to load or unload at shipping facilities. That wait time cuts straight into drivers’ income. Thomas J. O’Conner, president of YRC Freight, says his company and others are taking a harder line with shipping customers who tie up their drivers.

“If you’re tying up my driver or my equipment, then it’s going to be harder for me to justify dedicated equipment to your business needs or charging what I charge you today,” says O’Connor. “It’s going to cost you more.”

But O’Connor admits that improving pay and alleviating headaches won’t solve the driver shortage.

Attracting new drivers

“I think as an industry we need to be more creative and resourceful to attract and retain top-notch people, O’Connor says.

And there’s one huge group of people in particular the industry needs to attract: women. Currently about 8 percent of long-haul drivers are female.

“So, that’s clearly an opportunity for us,” O’Connor says.

The trucking industry’s efforts to increase that percentage seem to be working.

“More women are coming into the fold, [a] more diverse population,” says Angela Thornton, an African-American woman who’s training for a driving job with the trucking company Wilson Logistics. “It’s starting to become more flexible, and more welcoming.”

But Thornton, whose father is a trucker, says that while companies may be more welcoming of women, minority and LGBT drivers, aspects of the trucking industry are not.

Ellie O’Daire, a transgender driver, at a Sapp Bros. truck stop in Percival, Iowa. The industry has become more inclusive as it seeks to alleviate a critical shortage of drivers. Frank Morris/KCUR

 

Long-haul truck drivers work and live in their trucks. There aren’t many places to park a semi, so drivers are tied to truck stops for food and truck bathrooms, night after night.

“[There are] safety concerns, especially if you’re a solo female driver,” Thornton says.

This is the kind of thing trucking companies hate to hear, given the importance they place on recruiting women. But companies have an advocate in Ellen Voie, president and CEO of Women in Trucking.

“We work with the truck stops on lighting and fencing and reporting to them a truck stop that’s not safe,” Voie says.

Voie estimates the percentage of women who are long-haul drivers has doubled in the past dozen years, and she expects it to take off sharply in the near future.

Making the trucking industry safer would also help companies attract and retain people like Ellie O’Daire, a transgender woman who drives for Jim Palmer Trucking

“I got into [truck driving] in the most millennial way possible. I was playing too many video games,” O’Daire says.

O’Daire says a game that simulated truck driving sparked questions about the real life industry. It wasn’t long before she encountered a Wilson Logistics employee online, who ushered her into a trucking company founded and run by Darrel Wilson.

John Bounds sits behind the wheel of a driving simulator. Frank Morris/KCUR

 

Wilson says the job has changed dramatically since he started driving with his father in the 1970’s. Many new trucks have automatic transmissions and the type of safety features you might expect on a new car: cameras and computers that watch lanes, look out for obstacles and even hit the brakes automatically sometimes. Modern technology also allows companies to track drivers meticulously, which annoys some veteran truckers.

“If someone likes it, they can almost make it into a big video game for themselves, and I think Ellie does a pretty good job of that,” says Wilson at his desk in Springfield, Mo. “She buys into our safety technology, doesn’t buck it. So, yes I think as technology changes, the folks it appeals to change and our face changes.”

There’s no doubt the face of trucking is changing, it’s just not clear that’s happening fast enough to reverse the deepening shortage of truck drivers.

Fresno’s Freedom School is Changing the Narrative on Farming for Black Youth

Civil Eats

Fresno’s Freedom School is Changing the Narrative on Farming for Black Youth

The year-round vegetable farm and job-skills program in an investment in the city’s African-American youth.

At New Light for New Life Church of God in West Fresno, the well-tended backyard yields a colorful fall crop—green and purple cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, and curly kale. A few stalks of okra are left, too, as a reminder of summer’s bounty. But this is not just any church garden. This is the Freedom School Demonstration Farm, a year-round vegetable farm managed by a core group of 37 children and their adult mentors.

“It’s very healing to get your hands in the dirt,” said Aline Reed, Freedom School’s board chair. “For African-American children, especially, we are changing the narrative of working outside—of planting, harvesting, and working.”

The church’s associate pastor, the Rev. Floyd D. Harris Jr. (pictured above), founded the Freedom School in 2015 based generally on the Freedom Schools of the 1960’s Civil Rights movement. This school is a wrap-around program for West Fresno youth, offering cultural, educational, and job skills programs to at-risk students in grades K-12.

The urban farming group meets on Saturdays during the school year and twice a week during the summer, including at least three farmers’ markets held at the church. Children also perform public service projects and give produce to seniors and others in the neighborhood. In addition to agriculture, the Freedom School teaches tangible job skills such as construction, landscaping, janitorial work, photography, journalism, and video production.

A flock of geese fly over Freedom School Fresno’s demonstration farm, located behind New Light for New Life Church of God. (Photo © Joan Cusick)A flock of geese fly over Freedom School Fresno’s demonstration farm, located behind New Light for New Life Church of God.

Dr. Ruth Dahlquist-Willard, a small farms advisor with the University of California Cooperative Extension Service in Fresno, occasionally works with community programs like the Freedom School. “It’s a small group, but they are filling an important role in the food security of our communities,” she said. “You’ve got projects like the Freedom School and the Sweet Potato Project [run by the West Fresno Family Resource Center] that are providing young people opportunities they might not have had in job development.”

Harris grew up in West Fresno and remains passionate about the need to lift up its low-income residents. One recent analysis rated Fresno, 8 percent of whose 527,000 residents are Black, the 10th-worst U.S. city for African-Americans to live in: the Black median income is $25,895, less than half the average white income in the city, and the Black poverty rate is 41.2 percent—one of the largest rates for any city—compared with a 13 percent white poverty rate. Fresno was the only West Coast metro area to make the list.

“When the children come [to the Freedom School], they see a sense of self, a sense of love, a sense of purpose, a sense of someone to care about me,” Harris said. “At the Freedom School, we are about character-building. We’re about discipline. We’re about having fun.”

Growing and Learning Year-Round

When Maria Else joined the Freedom School Board in 2017 as its secretary and curriculum coordinator, the urban farming program “was only supposed to be in the summer,” she said. But based on the children’s interest and enthusiasm, the demonstration farm extends year-round.

“Farming has so many parts to it,” Else said. “The kids all kind of gravitate toward different areas. And that’s what we want to teach them: Agriculture is not just planting. It is engineering and science and so many different aspects.”

Marie Else manages Freedom School's curriculum. (Photo © Joan Cusick)Marie Else manages Freedom School’s curriculum.

The curriculum covers a wide range of topics, too. In January and February, the Saturday classes focus on African-American culture and history. (While Fresno is a predominantly Latinx city, and the Freedom School is open to students of all backgrounds, its home in an African-American church guides much of its curriculum and student body.)

In the spring, several weeks of planting are followed by farm maintenance. During the summer, the program expands to twice a week, allowing time for harvesting, selling, and field trips. In September, the urban farmers prepare their entry for the Big Fresno Fair, where they’ll enter recipes such as watermelon chutney and craft projects like black-and-green potholders.

As the year winds down, the students plant and maintain winter crops while learning about nutrition and cooking. The young students have learned to prepare dishes such as stuffed peppers, black-eyed pea hummus, dill pickles, and their award-winning watermelon chutney. Healthy eating is a frequent topic.

“We talk to them about different diseases and illnesses that affect African-Americans, including high rates of diabetes and high blood pressure,” Else said.

They’re also getting exposure to the world of agricultural research. Last spring, researchers selected the Freedom School as one of three test sites to grow two types of black-eyed peas—one a U.S. commercial blend, and the other an aphid-resistant strain crossed with Nigerian lines from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture. The project included researchers Bao-Lam Huynh and Philip Roberts of U.C. Riverside, plus Nick Clark and Dahlquist-Willard, both with the U.C. extension service. Freedom School students helped plant, maintain, and harvest the peas. Dahlquist-Willard is analyzing their results.

“The Nigerian blend did not get one aphid on it, and they were planted right next to the American blend, which was covered in aphids,” Else reported. “We don’t know what kind of magic is in those Nigerian black-eyed peas.”

Changing the Narrative of Black Farmers

Arogeanae Brown, who grew up in Fresno and now works for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), wrote her Virginia Tech master’s thesis about nine Black-led community-based agricultural programs, including Freedom School Fresno. She also devoted time to mentoring its students when she came home between semesters, talking with them about agricultural careers and introducing them to groups like 4-H and Future Farmers of America.

“It’s very healing to get your hands in the dirt,” says board member Aline Reed. (Photo © Joan Cusick)“It’s very healing to get your hands in the dirt,” says board member Aline Reed.

Although the ag programs Brown studied welcome children of all races, Brown concluded, the emphasis on Black history helped African-American children thrive. “[The school’s] major focus was allowing students to have a knowledge of their history—where they come from and how the land is managed,” she said. “To get students interested in agriculture overall, we really have to dig up our history and understand slavery.”

Freedom School also strives to change the Black farmer stereotype, which is often cited as a barrier to entry for ag-related careers.

“Most Blacks have an impression of farming based on our history in this country,” said Fresno farmer Will Scott, citing a history of slavery, sharecropping, and Jim Crow laws. “But we need to get back into it from a new approach. We need to get young people of color back to the farm not just so they can grow their own food but so they can participate in the food system.”

                                     A student poster for Freedom School hangs in the multipurpose room, where classes are held.

The challenge facing black farmers in Fresno are mirrored nationwide. In the 2012 USDA Census of Agriculture, Black farmers accounted for just 1.4 percent of the country’s 3.2 million farmers. California reported 526 Black farm operators—.7 percent of the state’s nearly 78,000 total farms—of whom only 345 were principal operators in charge of day-to-day operations. In Fresno County alone, only 42 out of 5,683 farms reported African-American farmers.

Harris sees the Freedom School as one way to give African-American children in West Fresno the extra help they need to avoid becoming another statistic. Of more than 100 students to complete the program, several have received college scholarships, and two have completed USDA internships.

“God has favor on us,” Harris said, “because when we look at the success rate of our students—the grades are going up, the behaviors are getting better, they’re eating better, and they’re winning competitions. This is self-esteem building.”

Board Chair Reed said the Freedom School shows kids that agriculture is not just a pastime; “This is something you can devote a career to and make it your future,” she said.

Harris agreed. “When we can see our children walking across the stage with a second degree and a $100,000 job waiting on them at the USDA, that’s what we want to see,” he said. “We want these children to grow into healthy Black men and healthy Black women, and to change society to be a healthy place for them.”

Can Eating Organic Lower Your Exposure to Pesticides?

Civil Eats

Can Eating Organic Lower Your Exposure to Pesticides?

A new study tracks the pesticides and residues in a small cohort of eaters, and found significant reductions when they switched to an all-organic diet.

For consumers uncertain about the value of organic food, a new study adds evidence to a larger body of research showing that eating organic very well may reduce pesticides in the human body. The study, which was just published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Research, finds that families eating a 100 percent organic diet rapidly and dramatically reduced their exposure to four classes of pesticides—by an average of 60 percent—over six days.

Conducted by researchers at the University of California at Berkeley School of Public Health and funded in part by the nonprofit environmental group Friends of the Earth, the study builds on prior studies—including one conducted on adults in Australia, and two on children in Seattle and California—which all similarly found that switching to organic food quickly and substantially reduced pesticide exposures.

The researchers studied 16 people in four demographically and geographically diverse families, hailing from Oakland, Minneapolis, Baltimore, and Atlanta. Researchers tested participants for a select group of pesticides and their breakdown products in urine; working with independent laboratories to analyze urine samples, they found 14 different compounds that represented up to 40 different pesticides. After six days on the organic diet, overall pesticide levels dropped 60.5 percent in both the adults and children.

“It’s striking that the levels dropped so dramatically after only six days,” said Kendra Klein, senior scientist at Friends of the Earth and one of the report’s authors. “That’s the good news,” she said. “We’re seeing that something you ingest can clear from your body in a few days. The problem is that we’re eating that food so continuously that we’re getting a daily exposure despite the excretion.”

The study provides important information to consumers who seek to limit their exposure to the hundreds of millions of pounds of pesticides and herbicides used in the U.S. today, say researchers.

“Families need this type of information,” says Bruce Lanphear, professor, Faculty of Health Science at Simon Fraser University, who was not involved with the study. “In the absence of a robust regulatory system that protects consumers, these types of studies are critical for consumers or families to make these choices.”

While the study reaffirms previous research, it also breaks new ground by testing for newer classes of pesticides that are now the most widely used in the U.S. today to kill insects, namely neonicotinoids and pyrethroids. Previous organic diet studies focused primarily on organophosphates, such as chlorpyrifos, an older class of pesticides with enough well-documented human toxicity results that some scientists recently called for a ban on all of them.

“To date, we just don’t have enough information about these pesticides that are being used now, such as pyrethroids and neonicotinoids,” says lead author Carly Hyland, a doctoral student at the University of California. “There haven’t been enough large-scale studies.” The new study aimed in part to start building that knowledge base.

But its broader aim, says Klein, was to “understand what pesticides people are exposed to on a conventional diet and what are the possibilities for reducing that exposure.”

Organic Diets Reduce Pesticide Exposures

The families the researchers chose represent a small but geographically and racially diverse group. Pesticide levels were tested in their urine for six days on a conventional diet, and then six days on an all-organic diet.

Though the study group was small, a total of 158 urine samples were collected, which allowed for researchers to find statistical significance in the results—which Lanphear says makes it fairly robust. “I don’t have any doubt, given this study and others, that we wouldn’t expect to see similar reductions in pesticides in other populations,” he told Civil Eats.

Chensheng Lu, a professor at Harvard University who led the Seattle organic diet study, agreed that the results have broader implications because of their consistency with previous research. “The major take-home message is very consistent,” he says.

Organophosphates dropped the most, with a 70 percent overall reduction. Chlorpyrifos—which has been linked to increased rates of autism, learning disabilities, and reduced IQ in children—dropped 61 percent in participants, and malathion, a probable human carcinogen, dropped 95 percent.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has not banned chlorpyrifos, despite its own scientists’ advice and a federal court order telling it to do so in August 2018. A U.S. appeals court last week agreed to hear the EPA’s case against banning the pesticide.

The only herbicide included in the study, 2,4-D, dropped by 37 percent in the post-organic urine samples. The fifth most widely used pesticide in 2012 in the U.S. (the last year for which statistics are available) 2,4-D was an ingredient of the defoliant Agent Orange during the Vietnam War, and has been shown to have wide-ranging health impacts from endocrine disruption to liver damage to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Glyphosate, the number one herbicide used today and the focus of a recent, landmark lawsuit against Bayer-Monsanto for the herbicide’s link to cancer, was not included in the study because laboratory methods for detecting it in humans are still in development, according to Hyland, although a number of studies have found the presence of glyphosate in foods on grocery shelves.

“Glyphosate is a difficult compound to be analyzed” in humans, agreed Lu.

New Pesticides, Old Problems?

Among the newer classes of pesticides studied, pyrethroid levels dropped overall by about 50 percent and the one neonicotinoid detected (out of two researchers set out to study) dropped by 84 percent. The other neonicotinoid wasn’t found in the urine samples.

The pyrethroid results somewhat surprised Hyland. “For a long time, we believed that residential use was the greatest source of exposure to pyrethroids because they’re used commonly for pets, ticks, and pest control management,” she said. However, the sharp decreases in pyrethroids in the bodies of the participants after shifting to organic foods showed that “at least some of these exposures are attributable to diet.”

While the health impacts of the newer pesticides aren’t as well-studied, research to date suggests links to a range of neurodevelopmental, reproductive, immunological, and endocrine disorders. More is known about the environmental impact of neonicotinoids, which are thought to be a key contributor to colony collapse disorder in bees.

Humans, said Lanphear, are part of a massive experiment. “When industry and government say that pyrethroids are safe, what they really mean is that we haven’t done the research to know [whether] they’re safe for humans. We’ll find out after pregnant women and children are exposed whether or not they’re harmful.”

Lu agreed. “I can almost predict that what happened to glyphosate will happen to neonicotinoids in the very near future,” he said, referring to the EPA’s repeated claims that the pesticide was safe, only to have the International Agency for Research on Cancer determine it to be potentially carcinogenic.

Among major pesticide manufacturers, Dow Dupont declined the opportunity to comment on the implications of organic diet intervention studies, and Syngenta responded that they wouldn’t comment until they have had a chance to review the published study.

William Reeves, Global Health and Safety Issues Management Lead at Bayer Crop Science, told Civil Eats by email, “Pesticides are commonly used in both conventional and organic agriculture. Regardless of whether food is conventional or organic, the EPA and other regulatory authorities have strict rules when it comes to pesticide residues … Data from regulatory agencies in Europe, Canada, and the United States show that trace residues of pesticides in food, when detectable, are usually far below any level of concern. What is most important for everyone is to eat a balanced diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables.”

Moving to ‘Organic for All’

In an effort to make organic food more widely available, Friends of the Earth is launching an advocacy campaign, Organic for All.

Cost is one barrier for families to switch to organic food. Certified organic food on average costs 47 percent more than conventional food, according to Consumer Reports, though prices vary widely and in some cases organic may be cheaper.

“Everyone should be able to afford food that farmers can make a living off of,” says Klein. “But the people who are going to get squeezed in bringing costs down on organics are farmers.” For this reason, driving down the market for organic food isn’t a workable answer on its own. Instead, she adds, “it’s about changing the rules of the game and the government support system.”

Klein argues that organic farmers should receive a far greater percentage of government subsidies than they currently get. “Less than 2 percent of federal agricultural research funding goes to organic methods,” she says. “Just think what we could do even if we directed just a fair share into organic research programs.”

The 2018 Farm Bill was a step in the right direction, she says, increasing funding for the National Organic Program from $9 million to up to $24 million by 2023. Farmers will benefit, she says, noting that U.S. farmers are unable to keep up with the pace of growing consumer demand for organics, as massive quantities of foreign grown organic foods have entered the market here. “U.S. farmers are losing out because they don’t have adequate support to transition. We’re importing enormous amounts of organic soy and corn [from outside the U.S.] that Midwestern farmers could be growing.”

Retailers can also play a key role, says Klein, by requiring growers in their supply chains to phase out pesticides like chlorpyrifos and neonicotinoids. Costco took steps last June by encouraging all of its produce suppliers to phase out use of both those pesticides. Whole Foods has gone further, listing the pesticides that even its conventional growers can’t use because they are known to be harmful to pollinators or people.

Hyland worries that consumers who are worried about the presence of pesticides in their bodies but can’t afford organic will stop eating fruits and vegetables and suggests that they take small steps, such as by avoiding members of the “dirty dozen” list of produce, such as apples and spinach, known to have heaviest levels of pesticide residues.

Prior to the study, one of its participants from Atlanta, Boyd Baker, said he bought some organic items, like bananas or carrots, but that he didn’t buy a lot of organic. That was largely because it’s hard to find where he shops. A writer and producer of a live variety show, Baker does the majority of the shopping and cooking for his family, which includes his wife and two teenage children.

The pesticide residues present in the Boyd family's urine samples while eating a convention and organic diet.

The pesticide residues present in the Boyd family’s urine samples while eating a conventional (dark orange) and organic (light orange) diet.

Baker told Civil Eats that he found the study results “surprising and little shocking.” “Just to see the dramatic shift…there’s no way it can’t make you think a little more about what you put in.”

Now, he adds, he doesn’t think twice about opting for organic foods in the grocery store, especially if the price difference isn’t large. “You can pay your farmer or you can pay your doctor,” says Baker.

Netflix posted U.S. profits of $845 million and didn’t pay a dime in federal or state income taxes

Democratic Coalition Against Trump
February 8, 2019

“The popular video streaming service Netflix posted its largest-ever U.S. profit in 2018­­—$845 million—on which it didn’t pay a dime in federal or state income taxes. In fact, the company reported a $22 million federal tax rebate.”

Tell Congress to repeal the budget-busting #GOPTaxScam giveaway to the rich here: http://bit.ly/2GGTGH3

LABOR411.ORG

Every developed nation, from Japan to England to Canada, has extensive fast train systems, yet it is being mocked by ignorant people in this country

Occupy Democrats
February 8, 2019

“Every developed nation, from Japan to England to Canada, has extensive fast train systems, yet it is being mocked by ignorant people in this country without understanding why efficient mass transportation is better than being a slave to your individual car. In Spain for example, all my friends had cars but used the metro system during the week, and used their cars on the weekends to go out or travel outside the city. It actually stimulates the economy when people aren’t wast

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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez sheds light on the US financial system and political corruption

CNN
February 8, 2019

Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez calls out President Donald J. Trump in a 5-minute corruption “lightning round game,” shedding light on the US financial system and political corruption

Ocasio-Cortez calls out Trump in 5 minute corruption game

Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez calls out President Donald J. Trump in a 5-minute corruption "lightning round game," shedding light on the US financial system and political corruption

Posted by CNN on Friday, February 8, 2019