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marmar

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Member since: Thu Oct 28, 2004, 11:18 PM
Number of posts: 70,184

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Climate change and the price of coffee




LONDON, 26 April – In recent days Arabica coffee beans – by far the most popular variety of coffee – have been fetching around US$2 a pound on the world market. That’s nearly double the price of a year ago.

Several factors seem to be driving the market upwards: in Central America, a significant production area, an outbreak of a disease called leaf rust – believed to be linked to changes in climate – has severely damaged the crop.

A prolonged period of drought and some unseasonably cold weather in Vietnam – now the world’s second biggest coffee-producer – has cut back crop forecasts for robusta beans, mainly used for instant coffee. A lack of rain has also hit coffee-producing areas in East Africa.

But it’s climate-related events in Brazil, the world’s biggest coffee grower – responsible for about 40% of global production – which seem to be causing the most froth amongst international market traders. .................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.climatenewsnetwork.net/2014/04/coffee-is-on-a-high/



Chris Hedges: The Crime of Peaceful Protest


from truthdig:


The Crime of Peaceful Protest

Posted on Apr 27, 2014
By Chris Hedges


NEW YORK—Cecily McMillan, wearing a red dress and high heels, her dark, shoulder-length hair stylishly curled, sat behind a table with her two lawyers Friday morning facing Judge Ronald A. Zweibel in Room 1116 at the Manhattan Criminal Court. The judge seems to have alternated between boredom and rage throughout the trial, now three weeks old. He has repeatedly thrown caustic barbs at her lawyers and arbitrarily shut down many of the avenues of defense. Friday was no exception.

The silver-haired Zweibel curtly dismissed a request by defense lawyers Martin Stolar and Rebecca Heinegg for a motion to dismiss the case. The lawyers had attempted to argue that testimony from the officer who arrested McMillan violated Fifth Amendment restrictions against the use of comments made by a defendant at the time of arrest. But the judge, who has issued an unusual gag order that bars McMillan’s lawyers from speaking to the press, was visibly impatient, snapping, “This debate is going to end.” He then went on to uphold his earlier decision to heavily censor videos taken during the arrest, a decision Stolar said “is cutting the heart out of my ability to refute” the prosecution’s charge that McMillan faked a medical seizure in an attempt to avoid being arrested. “I’m totally handicapped,” Stolar lamented to Zweibel.

The trial of McMillan, 25, is one of the last criminal cases originating from the Occupy protest movement. It is also one of the most emblematic. The state, after the coordinated nationwide eradication of Occupy encampments, has relentlessly used the courts to harass and neutralize Occupy activists, often handing out long probation terms that come with activists’ forced acceptance of felony charges. A felony charge makes it harder to find employment and bars those with such convictions from serving on juries or working for law enforcement. Most important, the long probation terms effectively prohibit further activism.

The Occupy Wall Street movement was not only about battling back against the rise of a corporate oligarchy that has sabotaged our democracy and made war on the poor and the working class. It was also about our right to peaceful protest. The police in cities across the country have been used to short-circuit this right. I watched New York City police during the Occupy protests yank people from sidewalks into the street, where they would be arrested. I saw police routinely shove protesters and beat them with batons. I saw activists slammed against police cars. I saw groups of protesters suddenly herded like sheep to be confined within police barricades. I saw, and was caught up in, mass arrests in which those around me were handcuffed and then thrown violently onto the sidewalk. The police often blasted pepper spray into faces from inches away, temporarily blinding the victims. This violence, carried out against nonviolent protesters, came amid draconian city ordinances that effectively outlawed protest and banned demonstrators from public spaces. It was buttressed by heavy police infiltration and surveillance of the movement. When the press or activists attempted to document the abuse by police they often were assaulted or otherwise blocked from taking photographs or videos. The message the state delivered is clear: Do not dissent. And the McMillan trial is part of the process. ...............(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/the_crime_of_peaceful_protest_20140427



First cuts to Metro Transit spread all over Seattle area


(Seattle Times) Fewer rush-hour buses would show up, and some suburban riders would lose night trips, in the first wave of proposed King County Metro Transit budget cuts.

General Manager Kevin Desmond released a proposal Thursday of 30 routes to be scrapped and 12 routes to run less frequently, starting Sept. 27. This would save 166,000 operating hours a year, of which more than half come from reducing peak-time service.

“Routes will be more crowded, and some people will have a harder time getting to routes,” Desmond said.

Cuts are scheduled to occur in four phases through September 2015. The full plan, to reduce service hours by a total of 16 percent, was sent to the County Council on Thursday. The council is expected to vote on the cuts in June, after a series of hearings and weeks of public input. .................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2023454219_buscutsxml.html



How Elizabeth Warren's Own Book Makes The Case She Should Run For President


(Huffpost) WASHINGTON -- Sen. Elizabeth Warren is adamant that she is not seeking to move up to the White House.

"I am not running for president," the Massachusetts Democrat told The Huffington Post, as she has told many others. "You can ask that question any way you want, but you're going to get the same answer."

That's not exactly the question HuffPost was asking, though. The question was why readers of her new memoir and political treatise, A Fighting Chance, shouldn't take from it a very powerful argument for why Warren should run.

All through the book, despite her Shermanesque declarations of non-intent, can be found passages that suggest the logical next step for the middle-class girl from Oklahoma who grew into a champion for social justice is to seek the office where she could have the greatest impact.

.....(snip).....

"I am determined -- fiercely determined -- to do everything I can to help us once again be the America that creates opportunities for anyone who works hard and plays by the rules. An America of accountability and fair play. An America that builds a future for not just some of our children but for all of our children. An America where everyone gets what I got: a fighting chance," Warren writes. .....................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/27/elizabeth-warren-president_n_5219265.html?ncid=fcbklnkushpmg00000013



This Teacher’s Ethnic Studies Classes Were Banned, His Students Took the District to Court—and Won


from YES! Magazine:


When This Teacher’s Ethnic Studies Classes Were Banned, His Students Took the District to Court—and Won
Curtis Acosta's classes in Mexican American Studies gave kids pride in their heritage—until the Arizona Legislature canceled them. That's when his students became activists, and some real-life lessons began.

by Jing Fong
posted Apr 25, 2014




The Mexican American Studies (MAS) program in Tucson, Ariz., began in 1998 as a few courses and grew to 43 classes serving 1,500 students in six high schools, with similar programs in middle and elementary schools.

MAS was founded with the aim of reversing some disturbing academic trends for Chicano students in Tucson. It worked. In 2011, the high school dropout rate for MAS students in Tucson was 2.5 percent, as opposed to 56 percent for Latino students nationally. A study by Tucson United School District (TUSD) found that 98 percent of MAS students reported they did homework, and 66 percent went on to college. The program was widely regarded as helping Latino youth feel empowered and achieve their full academic and human potential.

Immigration and cultural diversity are particularly controversial in Arizona. A politically motivated campaign against the MAS program culminated in a 2010 law banning Arizona state schools from teaching ethnic studies classes, described in the law as courses that advocated "the overthrow of the United States government" and "ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals." Eventually, the school district had to stop offering MAS or lose $15 million in annual state aid.

Teachers, parents, and students filed a legal challenge to the law and lost the case. They appealed that ruling, and three years after the ban, in July 2013, a federal court ordered TUSD to reinstate high school Mexican American Studies and add African American studies. The courses are now known as "culturally relevant" classes. .................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/education-uprising/interview-with-curtis-acosta


The NSA Comes Home: Police Departments Conceal Phone Tracking Equipment From Courts


(Truthout) The intricate surveillance equipment used by the federal government to track and store the cellphone data of millions of people and to monitor terrorism suspects is making its way to Main Street.

Police departments across the nation have been trying to conceal their use of cellphone tracking equipment from local courts because of nondisclosure agreements that allow the departments to use the devices on loan - as long as they promise the manufacturer they will keep it a secret.

The devices, manufactured by the Florida-based Harris Corporation, are commonly used at the federal level, but are also proliferating across local and state police departments. The technology has been purchased under various names, including StingRay, HailStorm, Harpoon, AmberJack, KingFish and RayFish, and mimics a cellphone tower.

When cellphones connect to the device, it can record the phone’s unique information and traffic data, as well as its location. The devices can triangulate the position of a particular cellphone in relation to its antenna and other towers in the area with greater accuracy than would be possible from a network provider’s permanent tower location. ................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://truth-out.org/news/item/23294-the-nsa-comes-home-police-departments-conceal-phone-tracking-equipment-from-courts



Neoliberalism's War on Democracy


Neoliberalism's War on Democracy

Saturday, 26 April 2014 10:01
By Henry A Giroux, Truthout | Book Excerpt

The following is the introduction to Henry Geroux's new book Neoliberalism's War on Higher Education. Read it now by ordering it from Truthout.

It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.
- James Baldwin


Four decades of neoliberal policies have resulted in an economic Darwinism that promotes privatization, commodification, free trade, and deregulation. It privileges personal responsibility over larger social forces, reinforces the gap between the rich and poor by redistributing wealth to the most powerful and wealthy individuals and groups, and it fosters a mode of public pedagogy that privileges the entrepreneurial subject while encouraging a value system that promotes self-interest, if not an unchecked selfishness.1 Since the 1970s, neoliberalism or free-market fundamentalism has become not only a much-vaunted ideology that now shapes all aspects of life in the United States but also a predatory global phenomenon "that drives the practices and principles of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and World Trade Organization, trans-national institutions which largely determine the economic policies of developing countries and the rules of international trade."

With its theater of cruelty and mode of public pedagogy, neoliberalism as a form of economic Darwinism attempts to undermine all forms of solidarity capable of challenging market-driven values and social relations, promoting the virtues of an unbridled individualism almost pathological in its disdain for community, social responsibility, public values, and the public good. As the welfare state is dismantled and spending is cut to the point where government becomes unrecognizable—except to promote policies that benefit the rich, corporations, and the defense industry—the already weakened federal and state governments are increasingly replaced by what João Biehl has called proliferating "zones of social abandonment" and "terminal exclusion."

One consequence is that social problems are increasingly criminalized while social protections are either eliminated or fatally weakened. Not only are public servants described as the new "welfare queens" and degenerate freeloaders but young people are also increasingly subjected to harsh disciplinary measures both in and out of schools, often as a result of a violation of the most trivial rules.4 Another characteristic of this crushing form of economic Darwinism is that it thrives on a kind of social amnesia that erases critical thought, historical analysis, and any understanding of broader systemic relations. In this regard, it does the opposite of critical memory work by eliminating those public spheres where people learn to translate private troubles into public issues. That is, it breaks "the link between public agendas and private worries, the very hub of the democratic process."5 Once set in motion, economic Darwinism unleashes a mode of thinking in which social problems are reduced to individual flaws and political considerations collapse into the injurious and self-indicting discourse of character. Many Americans are preoccupied less with political and moral outrage over a country whose economic and political system is in the hands of a tiny, exorbitantly rich elite than they are with the challenges of being isolated and surviving at the bottom of a savage neoliberal order. This makes it all the simpler for neoliberalism to convince people to remain attached to a set of ideologies, values, modes of governance, and policies that generate massive suffering and hardships. Neoliberalism's "best trick" is to persuade individuals, as a matter of common sense, that they should "imagine (themselves) as . . . solitary agent(s) who can and must live the good life promised by capitalist culture."

As George Lakoff and Glenn Smith argue, the anti-public philosophy of economic Darwinism makes a parody of democracy by defining freedom as "the liberty to seek one's own interests and well-being, without being responsible for the interests or well-being of anyone else. It's a morality of personal, but not social, responsibility. The only freedom you should have is what you can provide for yourself, not what the Public provides for you to start out."7 Put simply, we alone become responsible for the problems we confront when we can no longer conceive how larger forces control or constrain our choices and the lives we are destined to lead. ..................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/23306-neoliberalisms-war-on-democracy



David Sirota: Wall Street’s Secret Swindle


from truthdig:


Wall Street’s Secret Swindle

Posted on Apr 25, 2014
By David Sirota


In the national debate over what to do about public pension shortfalls, here’s something you may not know: The texts of the agreements signed between those pension funds and financial firms are almost always secret. Yes, that’s right. Although they are public pensions that taxpayers contribute to and that public officials oversee, the exact terms of the financial deals being engineered in the public’s name and with public money are typically not available to you, the taxpayer.

To understand why that should be cause for concern, ponder some possibilities as they relate to pension deals with hedge funds, private equity partnerships and other so-called “alternative investments.” For example, it is possible that the secret terms of such agreements could allow other private individuals in the same investments to negotiate preferential terms for themselves, meaning public employees’ pension money enriches those private investors. It is also possible that the secret terms of the agreements create the heads-Wall-Street-wins, tails-pensions-lose effect—the one whereby retirees’ money is subjected to huge risks, yet financial firms’ profits are guaranteed regardless of returns.

North Carolina exemplifies the latter problem. In a new report for the union representing that state’s public employees, former Securities and Exchange Commission investigator Ted Siedle documents how secrecy is allowing financial firms to bilk the Teachers’ and State Employees’ Retirement System, which is the seventh largest public pension fund in America.

.......(snip).......

So what is happening to retirees’ money? As Siedle documents, more and more of it is going to pay the exorbitant fees charged by the Wall Street firms managing the pension money.

“Fees have skyrocketed over 1,000 percent since 2000 and have almost doubled since (2008) from $217 million to $416 million,” he writes, adding that “annual fees and expenses will amount to approximately $1 billion in the near future.” ...............(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/wall_streets_secret_swindle_20140425



Another (not good) climate milestone


In May 2013, it was big news when, for the first time, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere hit 400 parts per million. Now, researchers say that number has been consistently above 400 for the last month.

"This is higher than it's been in millions of years," said Pieter Tans, a senior scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Climate Monitoring and Diagnostics Laboratory.

Parts per million, or ppm, is a measure of the ratio of carbon dioxide to other gases in the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is just one type of greenhouse gas that has been found to trap heat, but it is the primary one emitted from human activities and it lingers in the atmosphere for a very long time. There is typically seasonal fluctuation in the parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide, according to scientists who track the levels. That explains why, after hitting 400 for the first time in recorded history last May, the levels declined soon after. But they hit 400 ppm again in mid-March, and have stayed above that level for all of April. ................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/22/carbon-dioxide-climate-change_n_5187844.html?ncid=fcbklnkushpmg00000013&ir=Politics



Chris Hedges: The Rhetoric of Violence


from truthdig:


The Rhetoric of Violence

Posted on Apr 20, 2014
By Chris Hedges


At least nine people were killed and at least 35 others were wounded in shootings across Chicago on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. On Thursday police announced that a man had been arrested on charges of firing on a number of motorists recently, wounding three of them, on Kansas City-area highways. On April 13 three people, including a child, were murdered at two Jewish-affiliated facilities in Overland Park, Kan., leading to the arrest of a white supremacist. On April 12, armed militias in Nevada got the federal government to retreat, allowing rancher Cliven Bundy to continue to graze his cattle on public land. All this happened over a span of only nine days in the life of a country where more than 250 people are shot every day. In America, violence and the threat of lethal force are the ways we communicate. Violence—the preferred form of control by the state—is an expression of our hatred, self-loathing and lust for vengeance. And this bloodletting will increasingly mark a nation in terminal decline.

Violence, as H. Rap Brown said, is “as American as cherry pie.” It has a long and coveted place in U.S. history. Vigilante groups including slave patrols, gunslingers, Pinkerton and Baldwin-Felts detectives, gangs of strikebreakers, gun thugs, company militias, the White Citizens’ Council, the Knights of the White Camellia, and the Ku Klux Klan, which boasted more than 3 million members between 1915 and 1944 and took over the governance of some states, formed and shaped America. Heavily armed mercenary paramilitaries, armed militias such as the Oath Keepers and the anti-immigration extremist group Ranch Rescue, along with omnipotent and militarized police forces, are parts of a seamless continuation of America’s gun culture and tradition of vigilantism. And roaming the landscape along with these vigilante groups are lone gunmen who kill for money or power or at the command of their personal demons.

Vigilante groups in America do not trade violence for violence. They murder anyone who defies the structures of capitalism, even if the victims are unarmed. The vigilantes, often working with the approval and sometimes with the collusion of state law enforcement agencies, are rarely held accountable. They are capitalism’s shock troops, its ideological vanguard, used to break populist movements. Imagine that, if instead of right-wing militias, so-called “ecoterrorists”—who have never been found responsible for taking a single American life—had showed up armed in Nevada. How would the authorities have responded if those carrying guns had been from Earth First? Take a guess. Across U.S. history, hundreds of unarmed labor union members have been shot to death by vigilante groups working on behalf of coal, steel or mining concerns, and thousands more have been wounded. The United States has had the bloodiest labor wars in the industrialized world. Murderous rampages by vigilante groups, almost always in the pay of companies or oligarchs, have been unleashed on union members and agitators although no American labor union ever publicly called for an armed uprising. African-Americans, too, have endured a vigilante reign of terror, one that lasted for generations after the Civil War.

And all the while, vigilantes have been lionized by popular culture, winning mythic status in Hollywood movies that glorify lone avengers. ................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/the_rhetoric_of_violence_20140420



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