Brandon Baker

News Report

It took three years, but a Texas family finally emerged victorious in a case that could long impact fracking companies and the impact they have on the communities in which they operate.A Dallas jury favored the Parr family, which sued Aruba Petroleum back in 2011 after experiencing an array of health issues attorneys argued were the result of dozens of gas wells in the area. The family was awarded nearly $3 million in what attorneys believe was the first-ever fracking trial in U.S. history.“They’re vindicated,” family attorney David Matthews wrote in a blog post. “I’m really proud of the family that went through what they went through and said, ‘I’m not going to take it anymore’. It takes guts to say, ‘I’m going to stand here and protect my family from an invasion of our right to enjoy our property.’“It’s not easy to go through a lawsuit and have your personal life uncovered and exposed to the extent this family went through.”The family lives in Wise County, which is surrounded by gas wells from Aruba Petroleum and other firms. Bob, Lisa and their young daughter, Emma, all noticed the deterioration of their health in the months after fracking operations begin in the immediate area, some time in 2008. Lisa reported breathing difficulties, nausea and headaches, while Bob said he began having about three nosebleeds per week, compared to the rest of the 50-year-old’s life.“We can’t drink our well water,” Bob Parr told FOX 4 of the Dallas-Fort Worth area in 2011. “We can’t breathe the air without getting sick.”Young Emma also suffered nosebleeds, along with rashes and nausea. She was soon diagnosed with asthma.The Parr’s lawsuit certainly wasn’t the first lawsuit brought against an energy company for fracking-related health issues, however most plaintiffs are paid off with stern gag orders. In 2013, The Observer-Reporter in southwest Pennsylvania reported that Range Resources paid a family living near the Marcellus Shale wells $750,000 in a settlement that the company initially wanted to keep quiet. ...

Georgia Governor Signs Bill Allowing Guns in Bars, Churches, Libraries and Schools
Ian Millhiser
News Report

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (R) just signed a law former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’ (D-AZ) organization described as “the most extreme gun bill in America.” The new law allows guns in bars, churches, nightclubs and libraries. It eliminates criminal charges against people who accidentally bring guns into airports or other buildings where guns are prohibited. It expands Georgia’s Stand Your Ground law so that felons may invoke this defense. And it permits certain schoolteachers and administrators to carry firearms inside their schools.The new law is actually more moderate than an earlier draft of the legislation, which would have limited the punishment for carrying a gun on college campuses and which did not include a provision requiring people who want to bring a gun to worship services to obtain permission to do so. Nevertheless, the bill demonstrates how rapidly gun politics shifted to the right in Georgia. Last year, a less comprehensive bill allowing guns in bars and places of worship passed the Georgia house but failed to clear the state senate. Want more? Enter your email for weekly updates:  The provision authorizing guns in bars is especially likely to result in an uptick of violence. According to Washington State University Sociology Professor Jennifer Schwartz, “40% of male [homicide] offenders were drinking alcohol at the time” of their offense, and about one in three female offenders were also drinking.

Amy Goodman
Op-Ed

“I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.” So proclaimed Alabama Gov. George Wallace more than a half-century ago. His proudly racist rhetoric was matched by heinous actions: Murders, lynchings and systemic violence, often endorsed or organized by state and local governments, were inflicted on African-Americans and their allies struggling for civil rights. Despite that, those fighting for equality prevailed. Among the successes were the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, affirmative action and court-ordered integration of schools. But with this week’s U.S. Supreme Court decision supporting Michigan’s ban against affirmative action in state university admissions, and with the increasing resegregation of schools, it seems like Wallace’s dream of “segregation forever” may be alive and all too well.Nikole Hannah-Jones is an investigative journalist with the nonprofit news organization ProPublica, which has just published her yearlong, 9,000-word piece on the resegregation of public schools in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. This remarkable report, “Segregation Now,” notes that “In Tuscaloosa today, nearly one in three black students attends a school that looks as if Brown v. Board of Education never happened.” The Brown decision, issued in May of 1954, covered several pending court cases (all organized by the NAACP) challenging school segregation. U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren authored the unanimous decision, writing, “We conclude that in the field of public education the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.”Hannah-Jones tells the history of school desegregation in Tuscaloosa through the lens of three generations of the Dent family. James Dent grew up in Jim Crow Alabama, never sharing a classroom with a white student. His daughter, Melissa, first went to an integrated middle school in 1980. It had taken decades for Tuscaloosa to implement desegregation, and then only by additional court orders. The city’s two high schools were consolidated into one, Central High, which became a state powerhouse of excellence, both academic and athletic. Melissa went on to become the first in her family’s history to graduate from college. Want more? Enter your email for weekly updates:

Protecting Classrooms From Corporate Takeover: What Families Can Learn from Teachers’ Unions
Amy Dean
Op-Ed

Teachers have always held a cherished role in our society—recognized as professionals who know how to inculcate a love of learning in our children. But the "education reform" movement represented by No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top blames teachers for the problems in our public schools."The people who seek to privatize the public sector are looking for any excuse to criticize teachers," says Bob Peterson, veteran fifth-grade teacher and president of the Milwaukee Teachers' Education Association (MTEA). "We must take responsibility for our profession. If we don't step up to the plate, public education is going to be destroyed."At heart, this is a debate between competing visions of teachers' roles in public education in America. Teachers, through their unions, are defending the idea that they are best-equipped to teach children to become lifelong learners. Education "reformers," though, cite studies—such as one from the Goldwater Institute from 2004—that show that students at privately run charter schools outperform kids in public schools and say that public education would improve if public schools simply looked more like privately run schools. In privately run schools, teachers lack a collective voice, their working conditions are subject to the whims of school administrators, and they can be fired at will. This contrast with the empowered rank and file of unionized public school teachers could help explain the claims of "reformers" that traditional public school teachers are too sheltered, that they can't be dismissed easily enough, and that their unions need to be eliminated. Firing and replacing teachers based on students' scores on standardized tests, then, is part of the reformers' vision for the schools.Everyone agrees that great teachers are key to a good education. But reform advocates such as former Washington, D.C., schools chief Michelle Rhee say that schools can fire their way to excellence. In September 2013, according to a report on the public policy website Next City, Rhee spoke at Temple University. Exemplifying the rhetoric of the reformers, Rhee said, "Not everyone can do this job. If you have a pulse and pass the criminal check, a lot of school districts will just stick you in the classroom." But Rhee's approach is to evaluate teachers by giving their students standardized tests. This approach offers, at best, an imprecise evaluation, failing to measure the intangibles that make great teachers. The result is that some of the best teachers get taken out, along with a few bad ones.Peterson and other educators say that, unsurprisingly, the reformers' approach undermines those who have devoted their professional lives to educating kids. In 2010, Rhee fired 241 D.C. public-school teachers in a single day, but failed to achieve the promised turnaround in standardized test scores. The achievement gap between black and white elementary students is now wider than ever, as education writer Dana Goldstein and others have noted since Rhee's departure from D.C.Across the country, teachers' unions are ...

Dave Lindorff
Op-Ed

The lies, propaganda and rank hypocrisy emanating from Washington, and echoed by the US corporate media regarding events in Ukraine are stunning and would be laughable, but for the fact that they appear to be aimed at conditioning the US public for increasing confrontation with Russia – confrontation which could easily tip over the edge into direct military conflict, with consequences that are too dreadful to contemplate.It would be beyond ironic if, a quarter of a century after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of nearly half a century of Cold War and Mutual Assured Destruction, during all of which time US and Russian soldiers never fought against each other, we now ended up with soldiers from our two countries actually doing battle with each other, instead of just fighting proxy wars.For now, perhaps out of sheer unwillingness to accept that dreadful possibility, I’m choosing to look for the humor in this conflict.When it comes to the US, the laughs are easy to find.Start with Vice President Joe Biden, a guy who has always been hard to take seriously. I mean, we’re talking about a politician who in 1988 had to quit running for president when he was caught lifting his life story from British Labor Party leader Neil Kinnock.Still, Biden outdid even himself on his current visit to Ukraine when he called on Russia to back off in its support of pro-Russian separatists in Eastern Ukraine saying that, “No nation should threaten its neighbors by amassing troops along the border.”This from the man who is one heartbeat from the presidency of a nation that doesn’t just have an army and a navy and an airforce along its southern shore threatening its neighbor Cuba, but actually has its navy based on Cuban territory, which it refuses to leave, despite having long ago run out its lease. And the US doesn’t just threaten. It acts, most recently by attempting to fund a fake Cuban “Twitter” operation called ZunZuneo (Hummingbird Tweet) designed to enable and encourage anti-Cuban government activists to anonymously organize and create chaos. Want more? Enter your email for weekly updates:  But Biden’s not alone.There’s US Secretary of State John Kerry, who famously condemned Russia for supporting the self-determination of residents of Crimea in separating themselves from Ukraine, encouraging a referendum in which the vast majority of that Ukranian state voted to have Crimea leave Ukraine and be annexed to Russia. Kerry called Russia’s actions in Crimea, which involved no significant violence, an “incredible act of aggression,” and then went on to say, "You just don't, in the 21st century, behave in 19th-century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped up pretext."Whoa! This knee-slapper was said with a dour straight face by the top diplomat of a country that in early years of the current century has already invaded not one but two countries -- Iraq and Afghanistan -- and bombed the crap out of them, destroying both and killing over a million innocent people. As Kerry surely knows, the United States also routinely sends fighter-bombers and missile-launching drone aircraft to bomb and kill people (often civilians) in countries like Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia – all countries with which the US is not even at war!And then there’s our president, Barack Obama, who accuses Russia of “intervening in Ukraine.” Of course, we know that under Obama’s leadership, the US has, through the CIA and USAID, been intervening in Ukraine for years to the tune of $5 billion dollars used to support the people who just recently overthrew that country’s elected government, is actively “intervening” in the same way in Venezuela, seeking to spark a coup against the elected president there, and in fact, considers it America’s “god-given” right to intervene in any country of the world where it doesn’t like the government in power, or where a government shows the least bit of resistance to toeing the US line.US policies and actions and the official statements defending them have gotten so ridiculous that you don’t know whether to laugh or cry when you hear these warmongering slimeballs speak.Sadly, their historically challenged, fatuous and pathetically propagandistic attacks on Russian behavior in Ukraine are reported seriously and without question by this country’s lickspittle corporate media, which are proving to be every bit as much propaganda organs of the state as were Pravda andIzvestia in the old Soviet Union.Indeed, the corporate media take things even further. Take the New York Times. On Monday, the country’s leading newspaper ran a page-one piece by one of its most shameless hacks, Michael R. Gordon, co-authoried by colleague Andrew Kramer. This article breathlessly claimed that analysis of photos obtained by the paper “proved” that Russian special forces soldiers who had been photographed in action in Chechnya and in Georgia years ago could be seen now in eastern Ukraine pretending to be pro-Russian Ukrainians. Never mind that the blurry photos of bearded men in camo displayed as “evidence” could have been almost anyone, or could have been Russians who live in Ukraine or who were Russian military veterans who had gone there as volunteers. Gordon, who earlier played a particularly odious role at the paper in promoting, along with the execrable Judith Miller, the Bush/Cheney lie about alleged weapons of mass destruction in Iraq back in 2002/3, failed to note that there are US mercenaries (mostly former US special forces soldiers) currently working for the Ukrainian “government” -- almost certainly on the payroll of one US agency or another.(The Times editors, in 2004, were forced to publicly rebuke Miller and Gordon for their shoddy propagandistic articles alleging Iraqi WMDs, though they didn’t name the two reporters. Miller was eventually forced to leave the paper, but Gordon was allowed to stay on, and apparently continues in his role as staff propagandist).Today, the Times had to publish – albeit shyly buried on page 9 – an article backing away from its day-earlier page-one “exclusive,” conceding that the photographic evidence of Russian special forces operating in Ukraine was actually nothing of the sort. In fact, one key picture, alleged on Tuesday to have been taken in Russia, purporting to show camo-clad fighters later photographed operating in eastern Ukraine, was actually taken in Ukraine too, thus proving nothing. The freelance photographer who had taken the alleged Russian image came forward to announce where the venue actually was, and to complain that his work had been appropriated without his permission (by the US State Department, which was pushing this particular disinformation campaign).There has of course been no apology or retraction from Gordon and Kramer (in fact, at the end of their Wednesday back-down piece, they tossed in the unverifiable assertion by State Department flak Jen Psaki, that “there was considerable classified and unclassified information that had led the United State and its Western allies to charge that Russia had intervened in eastern Ukraine.”) Nor has Secretary of State Kerry, who had been promoting the photographic “evidence” of Russian forces in eastern Ukraine, apologized.Neither have Kerry or President Obama apologized for claiming, on the basis of some poorly forged leaflets in eastern Ukraine calling on local Jews to register with the local government, that there was a Nazi-like registration of Jews underway, now that that ugly story has also been proven to be the work of right-wing Ukrainian provocateurs (probably working on the US payroll).As I said, this deception and clumsy disinformation would all be laughable, except that what these lying thugs in Washington and in America’s newsrooms are doing is trying to prep Americans for military action in Ukraine, which is a country right on Russia’s southern border. And remember we’re talking about military action against Russia -- a country that has a formidable nuclear missile force, land and submarine-based, which approximates our own in its deadly power.Let’s step back a moment and think about this objectively. Suppose there were a rebellion in Cuba, supported by billions of dollars covertly provided by Russia, and that the government of Raul Castro, which has been trying to reach some rapprochement with the US, was overthrown by a pro-Russian coup. Suppose too that the US managed to encourage some Cubans living in the vicinity of the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay to secede from Cuba, and to vote to have their towns annexed by the US. How do readers suppose the US would react if Russia then complained in the UN Security Council and to the Organization of American States that the US was sneaking armed special forces into Cuba to try and get another two-thirds of the island to secede from Havana? How about if Russia also offered “non-lethal aid” to the new coup government and also sent a few warships to patrol in the strait between Cuba and Florida in a “show of resolve”?Yeah, the US position in Ukraine is laughable, but it is also frightening in its absurdity, because if this Big Lie tactic works and people take it seriously, it could lead to the ultimate disaster: a nuclear war between the two countries that actually have the ability to destroy each other, and the rest of the world with them.Ha ha. Some joke.

VOICES FOR CHANGE

This Voting Measure Has Got to Go
Jim Hightower
"

No one can deny that voting is a civic duty, right?Well that depends on who you are. The reality is that many powerful people don’t want certain ...

" ::
Race Matters: Resegregation and the Rollback of Affirmative Action
Amy Goodman
"

“I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.” So proclaimed Alabama Gov. George Wallace more than a half-century ago. His proudly racist rhetoric was matched by heinous actions: Murders, lynchings and systemic violence, often endorsed or organized by state and local governments, were inflicted on African-Americans and their allies struggling for civil rights. Despite that, those fighting for equality prevailed. Among the successes were the ...

" ::
From Farm Workers to Cheerleaders, We’re All in this Together
Jim Hightower
"

It doesn't take an IQ much higher than room temperature to realize that it's way past time to raise America's sub-poverty minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. But let's also pay attention to the millions of people trying to make ends meet on — believe it or not —America's sub-minimum wage.

" ::
Economic Policy in a Post-Piketty World
Dean Baker
"

Thomas Piketty’s new book, Capital in the 21st Century, has done a remarkable job of focusing public attention on the growth of inequality in the last three decades and the risk that it will grow further in the decades ahead. Piketty’s basic point on this issue is almost too simple for economists to understand: if the rate of return on wealth (r) is ...

" ::
Better Care Can Also Cost Less
Froma Harrop
"

Almost everyone has known or will know the helplessness of caring for — or overseeing the care of — a sick loved one. That such situations are often mired in chaos raises the anxiety level for both the patient and others trying to do the right thing.

" ::
The Rhetoric of Violence
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 ...

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Raising Taxes on Corporations that Pay Their CEOs Royally and Treat Their Workers Like Serfs
Robert Reich
"

Until the 1980s, corporate CEOs were paid, on average, 30 times what their typical worker was paid. Since then, CEO pay has skyrocketed to 280 times the pay of a typical worker; in big companies, to 354 times.Meanwhile, over the same thirty-year time span the median American worker has seen 

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Too Big to Jail?
Tom Engelhardt
"

How the mighty have fallen.  Once known as “Obama’s favorite general,” James Cartwright will soon don a prison uniform and, thanks to a plea deal, spend 13 months behind bars.  Involved in setting up the earliest military cyberforce inside U.S. ...

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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 ...

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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.

" ::

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Genetically Modified Foods

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Gay Marriage

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Ukraine News

Russian President Vladimir Putin labels anyone who opposes the Kremlin is serving the interests of the West.

Affirmative Action

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld a Michigan law banning the use of racial preferences in state university admissions.

Science

Neil Tyson explores the surprising connection between the age of the Earth and the dangers of lead.

Ukraine News

Interim PM says Russian special forces are operating in eastern Ukraine - and calls on Moscow to pull them out.

Media

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