Jeff Deyette

News Report

With Earth Day just days away, there is no better time to be thinking about steps you and your family can take to protect the environment and our climate. And the most impactful steps are often the ones that cut your carbon emissions and save you money.In Cooler Smarter: Practical Steps for Low-Carbon Living, my colleagues and I analyzed and measured the most effective actions each of us can personally take to address the global warming emissions from our decisions as consumers.We identified a broad menu of options that fit any lifestyle and help keep you focused on the decisions that matter the most, which, our research found, are how we get around, the energy we use in our homes, the food we eat, and the stuff we buy.Fortunately, there are lots of measures you can take that will save money right away, while also lowering your carbon footprint. Here are 10 money-saving, low-carbon living tips for you to consider as we celebrate Earth Day:

  1. Make your house more airtight. Even in reasonably tight homes, air leaks may account for 15 to 25 percent of the heat our furnaces generate in winter or that our homes gain in summer. If you pay $1,100 a year to heat and cool your home, tackling those leaks could save you as much as $275 annually.
  2. Use smart power strips in your home office and home entertainment center to curb “phantom loads” and save a surprising amount on your electric bill. Shutting off your laser printer when you’re not using it, for example, could save you as much as $130 annually.
  3. Upgrade your refrigerator and air conditioner, especially if they are more than five years old. New ones are twice as efficient or more. With older fridges, an upgrade can pay for itself in as little as three years in energy savings alone.
  4. Get an electricity monitor from your local hardware store or even borrow one from many local libraries to see where the energy hogs are in your home. This can help you save hundreds of dollars annually.
  5. Change those light bulbs. New LED light bulbs can give the same light ...

The U.S. Isn’t Very Good At Preventing Our Food From Making Us Sick
Tara Culp- Ressler
News Report

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) just released this year’s food safety report — and while the agency is celebrating some incremental progress in combating foodborne illnesses, it’s clear there’s still much more work that needs to be done. When compared to a 2006-2008 period, the rate of foodborne illnesses in 2013 either increased or stayed about the same for most major disease agents. One area of relative progress is the rate of salmonella — the most common foodborne illness in the country — which decreased by about nine percent in 2013 compared with the previous three years. But that decline simply brings the rate of infection down to where it was in 2006-2008. On the other end of the spectrum, vibrio infections, which are often linked to eating raw or undercooked shellfish, jumped by 75 percent: Fortunately, vibrio is the least common bacteria, contributing to just about one percent of foodborne illnesses. Food safety experts are more concerned about salmonella and campylobacter, which are both associated with chicken, and E. coli, which includes certain strains that can make young children severely ill. Unfortunately, we’re not exactly improving much in those areas (note that there aren’t any actual smiles in the CDC’s graphic above). “For most pathogens, we haven’t really been able to move the needle in recent years,” Chris Waldrop, the director of the Food Policy Institute at Consumer Federation of America, said in a statement regarding the new report. “The decrease in Salmonella illnesses is positive, but it’s too early to tell if that will be sustained.” In the United States, about 48 million people fall ill after eating contaminated food every year, and about 128,000 of them get sick enough to land in the hospital. Advocates have been pushing for better food safety regulations for years, noting that our meat industry has considerably less oversight than Europe’s. Nonetheless, the agencies that oversee food safety have been plagued with rounds of budget cuts, including across-the-board cuts resulting from last fall’s sequester. And although the first major food safety overhaul in over 70 years, the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011, seeks to address some of these issues, FDA officials warn that won’t become a reality without more funding. Still, federal health officials say they’re hopeful about future policy changes that may help decrease the number of Americans getting food poisoning. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently released a Salmonella Action Plan to modernize the way that poultry is slaughtered and inspected.

Thomas Magstadt
Op-Ed

A house divided cannot stand.  So it says in three New Testament gospels (Matthew,  Mark, and Luke).  Abraham Lincoln echoed this idea in a famous speech in 1858.The situation in the US – and the West generally – is reminiscent of a dark period in American history following the  victory of Mao Zedong's ragtag Communist guerrillas over Chiang Kai-shek's far better armed, clothed, and fed Nationalist forces in 1949.  The "loss" of China was a prelude to McCarthyism and an crusading anti-communist witch hunt that lasted from 1950 until 1956.  The Republicans in Congress blamed the Democrats, President Truman, and specially the State Department.  The charge was baseless, but not surprising.  The USSR had colonized Eastern Europe, the Korean War was on,  and Truman had narrowly defeated Republican Thomas Dewey in the 1948 election (recall the famous photo of a beaming Truman holding up the Chicago Tribune with the erroneous headline, "DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN").  Truman's coattails had also helped the Democrats recapture the Senate in 1948 – it was an especially bitter pill for Senator  Robert ("Mr. Republican") Taft to swallow.In his Pulitzer Prize winning memoir, Present at the Creation, Dean Acheson, Truman's Secretary of State, wrote:…Senator [Robert] Taft, had been widely quoted charging in the Senate that the State Department had "been guided by a left-wing group who obviously have wanted to get rid of Chiang and were willing at least to turn China over to the Communists for that purpose." Senator [Arthur] Vandenberg had rebuked him for saying this. At the time, Mao Tse-tung was in Moscow negotiating with Stalin what proved to be the Sino-Soviet Treaty of February 14, 1950. For Acheson, "It was a supercharged moment."Obviously, Ukraine is not China Putin's Russia is not the Soviet Union, and "godless Communism" is no longer a credible cause for alarm.  But the partisanship in Washington is as bad now as is was then; to make matters worse, 2014 is an election year and the neo- conservative wing of the Republican party is hoping to capture control of the Senate.  The Far Right is casting about for a big issue to replace "Obamacare," which has lost much of its luster as a device for discrediting the White House and the Democrats.     This concatenation of circumstances gives rise to a dangerous strategic asymmetry because it's only happening on one side – ours.  Since Russia's takeover of  Crimea last month, pundits here have been jousting over who has failed what, when, and how.   

Monsanto’s RoundUp Poison 125 Times More Dangerous than Regulators Admit
Christina Sarich
News Report

If someone opened up a bottle of arsenic, would you drink it? This is a ridiculous rhetorical question, but if you asked regulators – would you eat a chemical concoction that has been found to be 125 times more toxic than glyphosate, the main toxic ingredient found in Monsanto’s RoundUp herbicide? It seems an equally insane inquiry, but even after numerous highly alarming studies published in journal after journal questioning the validity of Monsanto’s claims that RoundUp is ‘safe,’ government agencies continue to allow the herbicide to be sprayed. Will this latest study be the one to break them from their poison-induced lunacy? A new study just published in the journal Biomedical Research International reveals that despite the still reputation of agrochemicals being relatively harmless, formulations like Roundup herbicide are far more toxic than regulators have previously revealed. So – either they already knew this and refused to share it with the public, or some of them just had no idea how powerfully debilitating these chemicals could be when used together. Many regulatory agencies administer tests to look at isolated chemicals to determine in what parts per million they become toxic to humans and the environment. Far too many chemicals are used than the agencies have the capability and funds to actually test for any length of time to determine their true interaction with other chemicals already in the environment. But this study goes even further, and determines that RoundUp – and its combined chemical ingredients – are 125 times more toxic than glyphosate alone. Isolating a chemical completely loses the synergistic effect of the compound interactions that take place between multiple chemicals, and therefore does not give an accurate picture of what the chemical(s) can do. Any biologist or chemist could tell you this. The study, titled “Major pesticides are more toxic to human cells than their declared active principles,” looks at the ‘inert’ chemicals, or the adjuvants, in 9 major chemical groups that are used globally in agricultural practices due to Big Ag monopolies: 3 herbicides, 3 insecticides, and 3 fungicides. The study details how Big Ag deceives the public about the true toxicity of these chemical formulations using semantics. By focusing on only one chemical at a time, they can ‘isolate’ the results and claim that they are ‘safe’. This, even though in isolation, a chemical like glyphosate is already toxic in the parts-per-trillion range. You can imagine what happens when other toxic chemicals are then added to the mixture. If you’ve ever made a batch of cookies, you can understand what happens to a recipe if just one thing is slightly off, or you add too much of one thing, or not enough of another. Instead of a delicious batch of chocolate chip cookies, you can end up with dough that can bounce, or concrete-hard cookies ...

Thom Hartmann
Op-Ed

There’s nothing “normal” about having a middle class. Having a middle class is a choice that a society has to make, and it’s a choice we need to make again in this generation, if we want to stop the destruction of the remnants of the last generation’s middle class. Despite what you might read in the Wall Street Journal or see on Fox News, capitalism is not an economic system that produces a middle class. In fact, if left to its own devices, capitalism tends towards vast levels of inequality and monopoly. The natural and most stable state of capitalism actually looks a lot like the Victorian England depicted in Charles Dickens’ novels.At the top there is a very small class of superrich. Below them, there is a slightly larger, but still very small, “middle” class of professionals and mercantilists – doctor, lawyers, shop-owners – who help keep things running for the superrich and supply the working poor with their needs. And at the very bottom there is the great mass of people – typically over 90 percent of the population – who make up the working poor. They have no wealth – in fact they’re typically in debt most of their lives – and can barely survive on what little money they make.So, for average working people, there is no such thing as a middle class in “normal” capitalism.  Wealth accumulates at the very top among the elites, not among everyday working people. Inequality is the default option.You can see this trend today in America.  When we had heavily regulated and taxed capitalism in the post-war era, the largest employer in America was General Motors, and they paid working people what would be, in today’s dollars, about $50 an hour with benefits.  Reagan began deregulating and cutting taxes on capitalism in 1981, and today, with more classical “raw capitalism,” what we call “Reaganomics,” or “supply side economics,” our nation’s largest employer is WalMart and they pay around $10 an hour.This is how quickly capitalism reorients itself when the brakes of regulation and taxes are removed – this huge change was done in less than 35 years.  The only ways a working-class “middle class” can come about in a capitalist society are by massive social upheaval – a middle class emerged after the Black Plague in Europe in the 14th century – or by heavily taxing the rich.French economist Thomas Piketty has talked about this at great length in his groundbreaking new book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century. He argues that the middle class that came about in Western Europe and the United States during the mid-twentieth was the direct result of a peculiar set of historical events. According to Piketty, the post-World War II middle class was created by two major things: the destruction of European inherited wealth during the war and higher taxes on the rich, most of which were rationalized by the war.  This brought wealth and income at the top down, and raised working people up into a middle class.Piketty is right, especially about the importance of high marginal tax rates and inheritance taxes being necessary for the creation of a middle class that includes working-class people. Progressive taxation, when done correctly, pushes wages down to working people and reduces the incentives for the very rich to pillage their companies or rip off their workers.  After all, why take another billion when 91 percent of it just going to be paid in taxes?This is the main reason why, when GM was our largest employer and our working class were also in the middle class, CEOs only took home 30 times what working people did.  The top tax rate for all the time America’s middle class was created was between 74 and 91 percent.  Until, of course, Reagan dropped it to 28 percent and working people moved from the middle class to becoming the working poor.Other policies, like protective tariffs and strong labor laws also help build a middle class, but progressive taxation is the most important because it is the most direct way to transfer money from the rich to the working poor, and to create a disincentive to theft or monopoly by those at the top.History shows how important high taxes on the rich are for creating a strong middle class. If you compare a chart showing the historical top income tax rate over the course of the twentieth century with a chart of income inequality in the United States over roughly the same time period, you’ll see that the period with the highest taxes on the rich – the period between the Roosevelt and Reagan administrations – was also the period with the lowest levels of economic inequality.You’ll also notice that since marginal tax rates started to plummet during the Reagan years, income inequality has skyrocketed.Even more striking, during those same 33 years since Reagan took office and started cutting taxes on the rich, income levels for the top 1 percent have ballooned while income levels for everyone else have stayed pretty much flat. Coincidence? I think not.Creating a middle class is always a choice, and by embracing Reaganomics and cutting taxes on the rich, we decided back in 1980 not to have a middle class within a generation or two.  George H.W. Bush saw this, and correctly called it “Voodoo Economics.”  And we’re still in the era of Reaganomics – as President Obama recently pointed out, Reagan was a successful revolutionary.This, of course, is exactly what conservatives always push for. When wealth is spread more equally among all parts of society, people start to expect more from society and start demanding more rights.  That leads to social instability, which is feared and hated by conservatives, even though revolutionaries and liberals like Thomas Jefferson welcome it.And, as Kirk and Buckley predicted back in the 1950s, this is exactly what happened in the 1960s and ’70s when taxes on the rich were at their highest. The Civil Rights movement, the women’s movement, the consumer movement, the anti-war movement, and the environmental movement – social movements that grew out of the wealth and rising expectations of the post-World War II era’s middle class – these all terrified conservatives.  Which is why ever since they took power in 1980, they’ve made gutting working people out of the middle class their number one goal.We now have a choice in this country. We can either continue going down the road to oligarchy, the road we’ve been on since the Reagan years, or we can choose to go on the road to a more pluralistic society with working class people able to make it into the middle class.  We can’t have both.And if we want to go down the road to letting working people back into the middle class, it all starts with taxing the rich. The time is long past due for us to roll back the Reagan tax cuts. 

VOICES FOR CHANGE

Fox News Asks Rand Paul If Harry Reid Is Right to ‘Call Americans Domestic Terrorists’
Juan Cole
"

Not since George W. Bush complained that the problem with the American economy was that “too many of our imports come from abroad” has such hilarious use of the English language been on display.  The furor on the Right about Harry Reid terming “domestic terrorists” the militiamen who brought sniper rifles across state lines to confront the Bureau of Land Management produced the following interview by Fox News of Rand Paul.Eric ...

" ::
Congratulations! A New Conspiracy is Born
Joe Conason
"

With the happy news that Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky expect their first child later this year, the Clinton family can anticipate warm good wishes from most Americans — and a less uplifting response from all of the usual suspects.

" ::
Wall Street’s MIA Ethics
Jim Hightower
"

Let’s review the rap sheet of Wall Street banks: defrauding investors, cheating homeowners, money laundering, rigging markets, tax evasion, credit card ripoffs… and so sickeningly much more.At last, though, some of the cops on the bank beat seem to be having regulatory epiphanies. The New York Times reports that some financial overseers are questioning “whether such misdeeds are not the work of a few bad actors, but rather a ...

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The Grand American Tradition of Violent White Supremacy
Amy Goodman
"

Another U.S. shooting spree has left bullet-riddled bodies in its wake, and refocused attention on violent, right-wing extremists. Frazier Glenn Miller, a former leader of a wing of the Ku Klux Klan, is accused of killing three people outside two Jewish community centers outside Kansas City, Kan. As he was hauled away in a police car, he shouted “Heil Hitler!” Unlike Islamic groups that U.S. agencies spend tens of billions of dollars targeting, domestic white ...

" ::
Will Government Use Its New Leverage Over the Financial Industry?
David Sirota
"

If you read one business book this year, make it "Flash Boys" by Michael Lewis. The journalist famous for "Moneyball" and "The Big Short" takes readers inside the parasitic world of high-frequency trading that is harming the broader economy.

" ::
Antitrust in the New Gilded Age
Robert Reich
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We’re in a new gilded age of wealth and power similar to the first gilded age when the nation’s antitrust laws were enacted. Those laws should prevent or bust up concentrations of economic power that not only harm consumers but also undermine our democracy — such as the pending Comcast acquisition of Time-Warner. In 1890, when Republican Senator John Sherman of Ohio urged his congressional colleagues to act against the centralized ...

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Top 6 Pulitzer Prize ‘Traitors’ in American Journalism
Juan Cole
"

The Pulitzer Prize committee’s opinion that Edward Snowden is a public servant rather than a traitor or criminal, as evidenced in its award to The Guardian and The Washington Post for their reporting from his trove of government documents, is a scandal on the American Right.  But it is not a new scandal.  Journalism is about the public’s right to know what our government is up to.  The National Security State is about preventing us from knowing what ...

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Ryan’s Joke Is on Us
Jim Hightower
"

My guess is that Rep. Paul Ryan, the Republican Party’s highly touted budget guru, doesn’t have a very tight grip on the concept of irony.Otherwise, why would he choose April Fools’ Day to release the latest version of what the GOP intends to do to federal programs (and to the people who count on them) if it takes total control of Congress? But there he was on April 1, declaring with a straight face that, “We [Republicans] believe that ...

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Ask Not What Your Cat Can Do for You
Froma Harrop
"

A big-selling book, "Cat Sense: How the New Feline Science Can Make You a Better Friend to Your Pet," helps cat lovers understand what is going on in the hearts and brains of their kitties. Sadly, not nearly so much as they thought and hoped.

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NSA Spying is Here to Stay
Jim Hightower
"

On Monday, April 14, the the Washington Post and the Guardian US newspapers received the Pulitzer for Journalism Public Service for their reports on NSA spying. In light of their hard work, let's recap events of the last year.

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FROM AROUND THE WEB

Ukraine News

Pope Francis pleads for peace in Ukraine and Syria this Easter.

Space Travel

Penn State’s “Lunar Lions” tell Salon about their trailblazing effort to put students in space

Syria

Government forces accused of using chlorine gas in village near Hama, the third alleged gas attack in the past week.

Social Security

Paper social security benefits statements are returning to American mailboxes.

Politics

The Nobel Prize-winning Colombian novelist, Gabriel García Márquez, passed away this week in his home in Mexico City.

Murder

The Florida man was arrested on Thursday on charges of third-degree murder and child neglect with great bodily harm, according to Citrus County Sheriff’s Department.

Climate Change

There’s a reason why overwhelming evidence hasn’t spurred public action against global warming.

Oil Spills

Residents of Louisiana are tired of BP claiming that the crisis is over.

Human Rights

McConnell claims he led a 1995 investigation against a GOP senator accused of sexual misconduct. Actually, he took steps to keep it quiet.

Health

From Hobby Lobby to the Nevada rancher, members of the far right share a dangerous, anarchic pathology.

Rationality

The right’s new fixation: An angry old white man who thinks freedom means not having to follow the law.

Politics

As a candidate, he touted a proposal to curb the influence of lobbyists and donors. As a senator, he shelved that plan, and accepted contributions from influence peddlers.

President Obama

There is virtually no chance that Congress will advance Obama’s plan in its entirety.

Ukraine News

At least three assailants killed during attack on Mariupol base as top-level talks begin in Geneva over ongoing crisis.

Ukraine News

The alliance’s chief said that more air policing aircraft will fly above the Baltic region and warships will be deployed to the Baltic Sea.

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