Truthout Stories http://www.truth-out.org Sun, 28 Aug 2016 05:02:32 -0400 en-gb We Can Have a Healthy Climate With Zero Warming in Our Lifetimes http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/37394-we-can-have-a-healthy-climate-with-zero-warming-in-our-lifetimes http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/37394-we-can-have-a-healthy-climate-with-zero-warming-in-our-lifetimes

Redkill Lodgepole Pine stand behind a field of Douglas' Sunflower at Steamboat Lake State Park, Colorado.A healthy climate is not always as it seems. Redkill Lodgepole Pine stand behind a field of Douglas' Sunflower at Steamboat Lake State Park, Colorado. Less than 0.7 degree Celsius of average warming across the globe was responsible for allowing the native mountain pine beetle to kill 20 percent of western US forests between the late 1990s and 2010. The attack continues today with the addition of spruce and fir beetles to the infestation. (Photo: Bruce Melton)

We can have a climate with zero warming. Some of the tools for getting us there, such as alternative energy, are widely known but they cannot reverse the trend in our lifetime. Atmospheric carbon renewal can, and we have the proven technologies to do it.

Redkill Lodgepole Pine stand behind a field of Douglas' Sunflower at Steamboat Lake State Park, Colorado.A healthy climate is not always as it seems. Redkill Lodgepole Pine stand behind a field of Douglas' Sunflower at Steamboat Lake State Park, Colorado. Less than 0.7 degree Celsius of average warming across the globe was responsible for allowing the native mountain pine beetle to kill 20 percent of western US forests between the late 1990s and 2010. The attack continues today with the addition of spruce and fir beetles to the infestation. (Photo: Bruce Melton)

We can have a healthy climate -- a climate with zero warming -- in our lifetimes. The message for the last 20 years has been that we have to reduce emissions drastically to prevent dangerous climate change of more than 2 degrees C (3.6 F). This strategy would have likely worked when it was first suggested, but we have delayed far too long since then. Now, even stringent emissions reductions allow our warming to at least double and likely triple before finally beginning to cool.

We must begin to reduce the load of already-emitted, long-lived carbon dioxide (CO2) climate pollution in the sky, regardless of costs. The good news is that, not only will costs be very similar to many things we do in our society today whose costs are taken for granted, but by disconnecting emissions reductions strategies from the removal of already-emitted climate pollution in our sky, we vastly simplify the myriad strategies that have been developed to avoid dangerous climate change.

Haven't We Begun to Deal With Climate Pollution?

The Clean Power Plan, implemented by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in February 2016 seeks to limit emissions to Kyoto Protocol Era levels by 2030 -- 18 years later than Kyoto's 2012 target. Meanwhile, at the UN Paris Climate Conference in 2015, President Obama committed the US to an emissions reduction of 80 percent below 2005 levels by 2050. This is 30 years behind Kyoto Phase 2 goals of 80 percent emissions reductions by 2050.

Clearly, current rules and commitments are far behind those set 20 years ago. Moreover, since the beginning of the Kyoto Era, we have emitted almost as much climate pollution as we emitted in the previous 230 years. The Clean Power Plan has been stayed by an unprecedented Supreme Court decision pending a decision in the lower courts, but will likely be upheld.

Because of the great delay in action, current US emission reduction policy -- along with 80 percent commitments around the globe -- would allow the concentration of CO2 in our atmosphere to rise to 440 ppm by 2050-60, and would allow the temperature to rise by anywhere from 1.6 to 2.7 degrees C, or double to triple our current warming. Under this best-case scenario of aggressive emissions reductions, global temperature still would not fall back to today's levels for 400 to 500 years and would not fall back to preindustrial "zero warming" for thousands of years.

Is 2 Degrees C Safe?

The demarcation of the "2 degrees C" threshold for dangerous climate change -- set in 1990 by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) -- was an effort to put real numbers to the concept of "dangerous climate change." The IPCC's 166-page document is summarized by two sentences that spell out the risks of climate change with a certain warming:

Beyond 1.0 °C may elicit rapid, unpredictable, and non-linear responses that could lead to extensive ecosystem damage....

An absolute temperature limit of 2.0°C can be viewed as an upper limit beyond which the risks of grave damage to ecosystems, and of non-linear responses, are expected to increase rapidly.

The wording of the two statements above sheds light on just how "safe" 2 degrees C actually is. In contrast to these statements from 26 years ago, current extreme events are happening with less than a degree of warming. Even the most aggressive emissions reduction strategies allow for warming that is over double what has already occurred. Plus, warming-caused feedbacks generally grow more profound with increased heat, meaning that impacts will increase faster and become more extreme relative to impacts happening already.

What Is the Safe Target?

The Paris climate talks last year -- the 21st meeting of the IPCC -- made the strong suggestion that we stop using 2 degrees C of warming as a description of a "safe threshold" to dangerous climate change; and it was agreed that efforts would be made to limit warming to 1.5 degrees C or less. But is this sufficient?

The IPCC has a long and significant history in the academic literature of badly underestimating the impacts of climate change. An excellent example is that as late as the 2007 IPCC report, Antarctica was not supposed to begin losing ice until after 2100. In the 2013 report, however, Antarctic ice loss is now approaching that of Greenland. Importantly, the first academic findings on Antarctic ice loss were published in 1994. The consensus process of the IPCC causes their statements to lag recently published science; in this case, by 20 years.

Meanwhile, in 2008, James Hansen, the former 32-year director of the US climate modeling agency at NASA, lowered his threshold for dangerous climate change to 300-350 ppm CO2, or about 0.5 to 1.0 degree C of warming. We are at 400 ppm today; preindustrial CO2 was 280 ppm.

The rapid increase in extreme weather events we have been experiencing could hardly be viewed as "safe." However, other dramatic impacts are quickly making themselves apparent. Reports of the initiation of the collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) are becoming frequent. Megafires, according to an article in National Geographic, have grown to sizes that National Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell says would have been "unimaginable" two decades ago. NASA and Columbia University say heat extremes, such as the $12.7 billion Texas/Southern Plains drought in 2011, are made 10 to 100 times more likely with already experienced warming. This work also says that these extreme heat events, that once happened across 0.1 to 0.2 percent of the Northern Hemisphere, now happen across 10 percent of the Northern Hemisphere every year.

Prehistoric evidence of abrupt sea level rise when Earth was about as warm as it is today -- about 121,000 years ago -- shows that the collapse of the WAIS resulted in 6.5 to 10 feet of sea level rise in what could be as little as 10 to 24 years. After more than two decades of IPCC sea level rise estimates of about two feet in 100 years, modeling is finally beginning to approach prehistoric evidence. The challenge has been that the IPCC rely on modeling that they themselves admit is underestimated. The former modeling of only four inches from Antarctica by 2100 is now at three feet. It is important to understand that this new modeling work is in its infancy and like the IPCC, likely underestimates. The good news is that modeling has broken free of the previous constraints that so badly underestimated ice sheet collapse relative to actual prehistoric evidence.

With the latest ice sheet collapse warning in April 2016, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is looking forward to upcoming publication of ongoing research from multiple sources. NOAA says that because the lag in time between academic research and inclusion of that research in the scientific consensus can be as much as "ten years," in the next few years we will see academic publication that shows 10 feet of sea level rise from Antarctica will happen in the next 50 years. This rate is far greater than the adaptability threshold of three feet per century.

With only two meters of total sea level rise (6.5 feet), 187 million people would be physically displaced. Work from the German National Science Academy says that flooding from only 1.2 meters (4 feet) of sea level rise would impact up to 310 million people and cause up to $210 trillion in damages by 2100.

The excessive heat and flooding extremes that we have already endured -- as well as the unimaginable impacts from the 10 feet of sea level rise that is set to occur -- have been caused by warming of 0.7 degrees C or less. That current policy and commitments allow additional warming that is more than double what we have already seen is ample evidence that current climate pollution strategy is far behind.

Zero Warming -- a Primer

This brings us back to that question: How do we move forward?

Some of the tools for getting us there are widely known: efficiency increases, alternative energy, agriculture improvements, reforestation, electric cars, smart grids, DC power transmission, showering with a friend. These are all important and critically so, because of the great risk of further increasing extremes. But these tools all allow warming of double to more than triple our current level before the temperature begins to very, very slowly cool. Emissions reductions help -- in that they reduce the amount of CO2 that we are releasing into the sky -- but even with aggressive emissions along the lines of the greatest reductions feasible, our climate continues to warm for at least 50 years. What is needed, if we are going to leave our children a healthy climate, are tools that can immediately begin to reduce the very long-lived CO2 that is already in our sky.

Fortunately, science has advanced a bit over the past 20 years. There is now a set of technologies out there that have been proven to do the job of atmospheric carbon removal. For $21 trillion (the cost of US health care from 2000 to 2009), we could create an infrastructure that would remove 50 ppm CO2 from our sky and make a huge dent in the atmospheric loading that is causing the warming. This cost is about $200 per ton of CO2. Newer technologies hold even more exciting prospects cost-wise. The best estimates for new technologies are at $20 per ton for capture and 20 percent more for disposal. The company, Global Thermostat, in Menlo Park, California, has a full-scale industrial pilot project that uses waste heat and is reportedly capturing CO2 at $10 per ton.

Some of the new technologies are even more compelling. One new line of research shows that CO2 captured directly from the sky can be used to create carbon nanofibers, a very advanced material that could be used to build almost anything from automobiles to homes. Production costs are similar to that of aluminum and the carbon fibers have a value 1,000 times that of aluminum. There is a fuel cell technology that can capture carbon dioxide from direct fossil fuel generation emissions that does not require additional energy and actually increases the generation capacity of the energy facility.

Then there are the solar radiation management technologies (SRM), such as injecting sulfates or tiny mirror-like particles into the upper atmosphere to reflect sunlight. There is some very important work ongoing in this field of geoengineering that could be revolutionary as well. But whereas the climate pollution removal techniques described above are relatively simple, the implications of SRM are no less significant than the greenhouse gas experiment we have been implementing for centuries. Take sulfate injection, for example. This technique is often suggested to have grave acid rain consequences but the amount of sulfates used is 100 times less than what is required to create significant acid rain. Maybe more importantly, once sulfate injection ceases, impacts to the atmosphere are completely gone after two years or less. The bottom line, however, is that atmospheric geoengineering is little studied and fraught with challenges, and far more work needs to be done before implementation is seriously considered.

The Next Steps to a Healthy Climate

We need to give ourselves permission to go beyond emissions reductions alone and seek a healthy zero-warming climate. A group of dedicated academics and climate science outreach specialists are doing just that. The Healthy Climate Project is the first to approach the issue of a zero-warming healthy climate.

What we can do as individuals is vitally important because policy grows from public will. Discuss healthy climate goals with your peers. Mainstream the concept. We need to fund development and increased research for even more compelling technologies than already exist, build a safety monitoring organization (like the Food and Drug Administration, but for carbon removal), and scale up these technologies.

The Healthy Climate Project is the first of its kind. Its "Declaration" asks President Obama to authorize research to complete the industrialization of new atmospheric CO2 removal and storage technology and commit to a healthy climate for America.

We have the tools. Now we need to allow ourselves to go beyond emissions reductions alone, in order to leave our children a planet free from dangerous climate change.

Note: Detailed references for the claims in this article can be found here.

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Opinion Sat, 27 Aug 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Socializing the Corrupt: Cheating, Education and Law Enforcement in Pennsylvania http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/37391-socializing-the-corrupt-cheating-education-and-law-enforcement-in-pennsylvania http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/37391-socializing-the-corrupt-cheating-education-and-law-enforcement-in-pennsylvania

Collaborations between higher education institutions and law enforcement agencies in Pennsylvania have multiplied in the past two decades. Although they purportedly aim to improve law enforcement by educating current and future law enforcers, they have effectively lowered academic integrity standards and encouraged systemic cheating.

Cheating in online courses was not only tolerated, but to some extent, also encouraged by Penn State.(Photo: ini budi setiawan / Flickr)

Collaborations between higher education institutions and law enforcement agencies in Pennsylvania have multiplied in the past two decades. Although many of these collaborations purportedly aim to improve law enforcement by educating current and future generations of police officers, they have unfortunately produced ethically questionable and socially deleterious consequences, such as lowering academic integrity standards, encouraging systemic cheating and artificially inflating graduation rates. As a result, higher education institution executives and law enforcement leaders in Pennsylvania have managed to create an educational system for socializing successive generations of corrupt police.

The expression socialization of the corrupt is Charles Bahn's. In the 1975 article "The Psychology of Police Corruption," he compares police corruption to academic cheating. In a study of students' attitudes towards cheating and their actual cheating behavior, there was no correlation. Students who disapproved of cheating still cheated; others who approved of cheating chose to abstain. Bahn concludes that, "while verbal morality is learned, it is not necessarily true that the related behaviors are also learned." The implication of this study for police training is that being taught the importance of an institution's core values (e.g., honesty, integrity, fidelity) and expressing one's commitment to these values do not curtail unethical behavior. Socializing the corrupt means filling students' heads with empty slogans and moral platitudes, hoping that they will do what is right in any particular situation.

In their own lapses of moral judgment and unethical behavior, higher education and law enforcement leaders effectively socialize students to behave similarly. For this reason, we should be particularly alert to partnerships between higher education institutions and law enforcement agencies that lower standards for ethical conduct, fail to enforce academic integrity policies or tolerate and/or encourage systemic cheating. When cheating is systemic, the problem cannot be reduced to the actions of a few bad actors or wayward students. Instead, it must be appreciated in terms of the relations and processes of the whole system. Executive leadership, administration and/or faculty explicitly or implicitly accept and endorse certain features of the entire learning process (e.g., lack of exam proctors, students' advance access to exam questions, widespread use of cheat sheets), the acceptance and endorsement of which gives an imprimatur to students' cheating behavior. Although most (though not all) of these features violate college and university policies, they are tolerated -- and in some cases encouraged -- by instructors, administrators and executive leaders who prioritize the achievement of productivity goals (e.g., retention and graduation rates) over academic integrity. In Pennsylvania, collaborations between law enforcement and academic institutions that enable systemic cheating and socialize the corrupt are becoming increasingly widespread.

Penn State World Campus

As a higher education institution, Penn State has suffered its fair share of controversy over the past decade. The Sandusky scandal, Joe Paterno's unpopular banishment (as well as his subsequent death) and the National Collegiate Athletic Association sanctions have scarred the institution's reputation, though perhaps not permanently. The Paterno family and the successor to Penn State's president Graham Spanier have sought to recover the good name of the former football coach and Penn State. I have worked as a philosophy faculty member at Penn State's Hazleton campus for the past seven years.

When former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky raped boys from his charity, The Second Mile, Penn State administrators covered up the crimes in order to protect the institution's reputation. However, the victims came forward; Sandusky was convicted on 52 counts of child molestation, and Joe Paterno, Graham Spanier and other university officials who failed to report the abuse were ousted. Not surprisingly, Penn State's student enrollment declined sharply soon after the Sandusky scandal became news. Enrollment numbers, especially at the satellite campuses, are still far below what they were prior to the scandal. The only division of Penn State with growing enrollment is World Campus, Penn State's online division.

In 2006, I was recruited to teach courses for World Campus. One of World Campus's academic integrity policies, intended to prevent systemic student cheating, was that the final exams for all its courses had to be proctored in person by someone approved by the administration. Otherwise, administrators and instructors feared that students would pay someone more knowledgeable than them to take their exams in their place. This unethical form of student cheating, called "ghosting," is specifically prohibited in the boilerplate academic integrity policy that is included in almost every Penn State course syllabus. For many students, finding a proctor and having the proctor approved by a World Campus administrator was an inconvenience. A year later, the policy had been largely scrapped in favor of the honor system for most courses in Penn State World Campus's course catalog (only a few online courses in math, sciences and sociology still require proctors).

When I complained in 2009 about the disappearance of proctors, I soon found myself without courses to teach the following term. In 2015, when I was invited back to World Campus and taught one course, I complained about poor course design and my suspicion that many students were cheating. One of the most engaged and industrious students in the course, Matthew Gagala, also complained to the philosophy department chair and academic division dean that the course was poorly designed. I was promptly told that I would never teach another philosophy course for World Campus again.

The removal of the proctoring safeguard is obviously a sore issue for faculty, since we are duty-bond to uphold academic integrity standards. For executive leaders and administrators, though, dispensing with the proctoring requirement meant one less barrier to increasing enrollments and generating tuition dollars from Penn State's only growing division.

Penn State World Campus serves an emerging and largely untapped student population from the corporate and military sectors. These students have limited time. For most, their employers are willing to pay the entire tuition bill or a substantial portion of it. Retaining and graduating these tuition-paying students is a major objective of Penn State. Many who earn their Penn State degrees through World Campus, particularly those serving in the military, eventually pursue careers in law enforcement. The removal of the exam-proctoring safeguard signaled to students that cheating in online courses was not only tolerated, but to some extent, also encouraged by Penn State. Academic integrity was nothing more than an empty slogan that took up space in the cluttered policies section of a course syllabus.

The decision to scrap the proctor requirement in most of the World Campus courses is not on par with the Sandusky scandal cover-up. Nonetheless, the lesson Sandusky teaches us is that we should voice our outrage when Penn State's leaders try to hide the truth. Former Penn State student and instructor Kristin Rawls hopes others will see the Sandusky scandal as a call for social action and public accountability. "Ultimately, I hope that the Sandusky case will have an important public impact, empowering others like me to speak out and motivating the public to demand answers about just what goes on in State College -- even beyond the football stadium," she writes.

Likewise, we should ask why World Campus decided to lower its academic integrity standards and demand accountability, including an explanation of what alternative to in-person proctoring prevents ghosting in Penn State's online courses.

In their own examination of the fallout from Penn State's Sandusky scandal, Henry and Susan Giroux noted, "The corporate university is descending more and more into what has been called 'an output fundamentalism,' prioritizing market mechanisms that emphasize productivity and performance measures that make a mockery of quality scholarship and diminish effective teaching -- scholarly commitments are increasingly subordinated to bringing in bigger grants to supplement operational budgets negatively impacted by the withdrawal of governmental funding."

Penn State's key productivity measures include enrollment, retention and graduation rates, which help in the recruitment of new cohorts of students who apply, accept and enroll at Penn State every year. Lowering academic integrity standards and encouraging systemic cheating in online courses has artificially inflated the figures for these output measures, including (but not exclusively for) military students, many of whom go on to pursue careers in law enforcement. In this way, Penn State has contributed to socializing new generations of corrupt police in Pennsylvania.

Harrisburg Area Community College

Harrisburg Area Community College (HACC) has become embroiled in its own share of controversy over the past two decades, including employee theft of a quarter-of-a-million dollars by an executive vice president and warnings from their accreditor for lack of student learning and curriculum assessment. The same accreditor, Middle States Commission on Higher Education, had also warned Penn State over its mishandling of the Sandusky scandal.

In 2004, a cheating scandal erupted at HACC's municipal police academy. Cadets in the present and past classes reported that copying exams and employing them as cheat sheets was tolerated and even encouraged by instructors who announced in class that test questions and entire exams were reused from term to term. The release of the copied exams to the media led to an administrative crackdown and enforcement of HACC's long-neglected academic integrity policy. 

In its press release, HACC's leadership team offered its own account, clearly aimed at softening perceptions that the cheating was systemic:

The cadets involved had received copies of questions gleaned from earlier tests. Many of those questions are used from year to year and they are supposed to remain confidential even after the cadet leaves the academy. The earlier tests appear to have been recreated from memory after leaving the exams. There is no indication that physical copies of the exams ever left the testing room.

After three parallel investigations, no instructors or administrators at HACC's municipal police academy were punished for reusing test questions or entire exams. While a majority of the cadet class had been involved in the cheating, only two would be dismissed from the academy. HACC's leadership merely assured the public that it was "working with the Municipal Police Officers Training Commission to enhance the security of the entire testing procedure."

Similar to Penn State, HACC does not require proctors for online exams. A relative of mine in one of HACC's Associates programs once confessed to me that she had cajoled boyfriends and family members for years to complete her online coursework for her, including writing her papers and taking her online exams. As an educator, I felt I had an ethical duty to report her plagiarism and ghosting to HACC. Without inspecting all of the available evidence, HACC reported that it had completed an investigation and found no reasons for disciplining the student. I then filed a FOIA request to find out why HACC would so easily dismiss these flagrant academic integrity violations, but HACC denied my request on the grounds that disclosing the investigation records would violate the student's privacy, as protected by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). I believe that the FERPA exemption claim was only a pretext to hide the mechanisms by which HACC tolerates and encourages systematic student cheating for the sake of bolstering its retention and graduation rates.

Pennsylvania State Police Academy at Hershey

In February 2016, another cheating scandal came to light, this one at the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) Academy in Hershey. The similarities between it and the HACC municipal police academy scandal would shock, except for the long history of police training collaborations between PSP and HACC. (For instance, PSP and HACC jointly manage a Polygraph Institute at the Northeast Counterdrug Training Center.)

The official story of how the cheating scandal was exposed is that an instructor found a cadet's cheat sheet and contacted the media to report the wrongdoing. However, this account overlooks the curious fact that the cheating was made possible by the PSP instructor (and others like him at the Academy), who recycled test questions and entire tests from term to term. An alternative story offered by dismissed cadets is that one cadet had a crisis of conscience, alerted the media and administrators at the Academy, only to become a casualty of the affair, one of the 29 cadets who either quit or were forced to leave the Academy.

Many of the incoming cadets have little or no college education. Their anxiety about memorizing the procedures, laws and codes in the 1,900-page Criminal Justice Handbook likely influenced their decision to cheat. Almost identical to the HACC cheating scandal, prior cohorts of cadets had prepared the cheat sheets and handed them to successive incoming classes. Some instructors looked the other way, while others openly supported reliance on these inherited shortcuts. According to a report from Wallace McKelvey on PennLive.com, four cadets who either gave up or were told to leave anonymously described the cheating scheme as instructor-approved.

McKelvey writes: "Instructors routinely told the cadets, 'the next class should have it easier than you did.' That meant that members of the 143rd class provided study materials to the 144th class that they had been given by the members of the 142nd class." After a cadet confessed, he learned the truism that a good deed never goes unpunished. "Telling the truth did nothing for me," he said.

Meanwhile, in an earlier report on PennLive.com, McKelvey also reported that an anonymous source within the PSP Academy expressed disappointment that the platitudes about honesty and integrity that instructors teach cadets never influenced their behavior:

One thing I preach to young troopers is don't lie, period. Police officers don't get rich from this job. The one thing you bring to this profession, and should leave with, is your integrity.

Another lamented, "You're not supposed to lie, cheat, or steal." Nevertheless, Bahn's conclusion rings true in the wake of the PSP Academy cheating scandal: verbal morality and actual moral behavior, never the twain shall meet.

An Unfortunate Way Forward

Besides the collaborations between HACC and the PSP, Penn State has also offered to become a partner with the PSP in its struggle to overcome this public relations nightmare and recruit a larger and more diverse police force. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf described the challenge the state of Pennsylvania and the PSP face: "We're trying to address the issue of replenishing the state police force with more cadet classes. Obviously, if there indeed is a cheating scandal and people disqualify themselves because they aren't living up to the high standards of the state police in terms of integrity, that will create a problem, but I'm doing what I can." Penn State researchers will survey cadets and determine ways to boost recruitment, retention and graduation rates, similar to how Penn State overcame the Sandusky scandal by tapping a new population of students through its online division, World Campus. Unfortunately, this way forward may mean that the PSP Academy emulates HACC and Penn State, continually lowering academic integrity standards and encouraging systemic cheating, while maintaining secrecy and silencing dissent for the sake of artificially inflating productivity figures. In short, Pennsylvania is now poised to socialize whole new generations of corrupt state troopers.

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News Sat, 27 Aug 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Vijay Prashad: Hillary Clinton Shows Dangerous Tendency to Go to War No Matter the Consequences http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/37387-vijay-prashad-hillary-clinton-shows-dangerous-tendency-to-go-to-war-no-matter-the-consequences http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/37387-vijay-prashad-hillary-clinton-shows-dangerous-tendency-to-go-to-war-no-matter-the-consequences

In our extended interview with scholar Vijay Prashad, he discusses the US presidential election and notes that while President Obama was reticent, then-Secretary of State "Hillary Clinton led the charge against Libya. This shows, to my mind, a profound dangerous tendency to go into wars overseas, damn the consequences. If you're looking at this from outside the United States, there's a real reason to be terrified."

TRANSCRIPT

AMY GOODMAN: And what do the US elections mean for what's taking place now?

VIJAY PRASHAD: Well, look, I mean, it's -- you can see from your news report at the beginning that, in domestic terms, there is a great difference between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Donald Trump has not only been absorbed by the white nationalists, but he himself appears to be a white nationalist. But seen from the rest of the world, the difference between the two is minimal. You know, here you have Donald Trump, who is, in many ways, erratic. God knows what he'll do once he becomes president. He will lead a party --

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think God knows what he'll do, once he --

VIJAY PRASHAD: Yeah, I think God knows what he'll do. You know, I mean, I think that if the Republican Party was at such a place where Ted Cruz, who said that he would like to bomb Syria, to see the desert essentially be irradiated -- if the Republican Party can see somebody like that as normal, as rational, then, you know, God help us if the Republicans are in charge of things.

But let's take the case of Hillary Clinton. You know, here's somebody who actually pushed Obama to go into the Libyan operation. You know, Obama was reticent to enter the operation in Libya. The French were very eager. And Hillary Clinton led the charge against Libya. This shows, to my mind, a profound dangerous tendency to go into wars overseas, you know, damn the consequences. And I think, therefore, if you're looking at this from outside the United States, there's a real reason to be terrified that whoever becomes president -- as Medea Benjamin put it to me in an interview, whoever wins the president, there will be a hawk in the White House.

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News Fri, 26 Aug 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Black Women Do Breastfeed, Despite Intense Systemic Barriers in the US http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/37385-black-women-do-breastfeed-despite-intense-systemic-barriers-in-the-us http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/37385-black-women-do-breastfeed-despite-intense-systemic-barriers-in-the-us

(Image: Jared Rodriguez / Truthout)(Image: Jared Rodriguez / Truthout)

Despite the best efforts of Black Women Do Breastfeed, Black Mothers Breastfeeding Association and others, a racial gap in breastfeeding rates persists in the US, largely owing to centuries of stigma, an absence of systemic support and lack of affirmative images of Black breastfeeding women.

(Image: Jared Rodriguez / Truthout)(Image: Jared Rodriguez / Truthout)

The movement to normalize breastfeeding in this country has generated positive results, but a racial gap in breastfeeding rates persists. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 79 percent of all newborn infants in the US started out breastfeeding in 2011. That is good news for both babies and mothers, as breastfeeding yields significant health benefits, such as a lower risk of asthma and childhood leukemia for children, and a lower risk of gynecological cancers and osteoporosis for mothers. But the data suggest that US mothers require more support in order to continue breastfeeding. Among US-born children in 2011, only 49 percent were still breastfeeding at six months; and at 12 months, only 27 percent of those babies were still breastfeeding. For Black mothers and their babies, support needs are greater, as Black women's rates of breastfeeding initiation and duration are significantly lower than the US average.

Only 58.9 percent of Black women initiate breastfeeding, while 75.2 percent of white women and 80 percent of Latina women initiate breastfeeding. A CDC report looking at babies born from 2000 to 2008 found that "Black infants consistently had the lowest rates of breastfeeding initiation and duration across all study years. Black mothers may need more, targeted support to start and continue breastfeeding."

In order to increase breastfeeding rates, and the health benefits that derive from breastfeeding, African American mothers require systemic change to accomplish three essential tasks: erode the racial disparities in hospitals where babies are born, reduce the hyper-aggressive marketing efforts of corporations that produce formula, and curtail the violence of poverty that denies Black women the adequate maternity leave policies they need to breastfeed and the workplace conditions they need to pump.

Key Health Benefits

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that women who are able to do so breastfeed for at least the first two years of life. Even the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that women breastfeed beyond that organization's 12 month minimum guideline "for as long as mutually desired by mother and baby." Breastfed babies have lower risk of eczema, ear infections, SIDS, Type 2 diabetes, diarrhea and vomiting, and lower respiratory infections, in addition to lower risk of asthma, obesity and childhood leukemia. Breastfeeding also has positive effects on cognitive development that increase with longer breastfeeding durations.

With all these health benefits, it's crucial that African American infants derive the power of breast milk from their mothers. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Minority Health, Black infants have 2.2 times the mortality rate as white infants and are 3.5 times as likely to die as infants due to complications related to low birth weight. Author and breastfeeding advocate Kimberly Seals Allers, the project director of the First Food Friendly Community Initiative, insists that the normalization of breastfeeding in the Black community is a matter of life and death. "Breastfeeding in the Black community is particularly important because of our high infant mortality rates," she says. "Our babies are disproportionately born too small, too sick or too soon -- these babies need breast milk the most to stay alive! We often think of breastfeeding in this country as a choice/lifestyle issue, but in our community, where even college-educated Black women are more likely to have a low birth or preterm birth, breast milk, with its preventive health benefits and immunological properties, is crucial."

The power of breastfeeding is also crucial to the health of Black mothers. The National Cancer Institute reports that white women are more likely to get breast cancer, but Black women are more likely to die from the disease. Black women also have higher rates of cervical cancer and the highest death rate from this disease. A 2013 study published in Gynecologic Oncology found that white women "have a higher incidence of ovarian cancer compared to Black women. However, the all-cause ovarian cancer mortality in Black women is 1.3 times higher." And a 2009 article published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) concluded that "Black women with endometrial cancer have a poorer prognosis compared with white women." Breastfeeding also reduces the mother's risk of gynecological cancers, including ovarian cancer and uterine cancer, as well as breast cancer and osteoporosis.

Breast milk is also a contributor to greater financial health (a significant bonus given that Black women earn 77 cents for every dollar earned by white women) and to the health of the planet (an important issue in communities of color where the experience of environmental injustice presents additional health consequences). This perfect food is always the right temperature, is free and reduces mothers' carbon footprint because there is no formula packaging to dispose of.

Babies and mothers who miss the opportunity to benefit from breast milk often live in what Allers calls "first food deserts": areas where the majority of employers do not have a breastfeeding policy, where the local child care facilities have not been trained to properly handle breast milk and where public places like museums and shopping malls do not have nursing rooms. These areas also lack breastfeeding support groups and the majority of residents polled in them say they would be uncomfortable seeing a woman breastfeed. In first food deserts, the nearest hospitals have generally not been designated "Baby-Friendly," and statistics confirm that local doctors do not provide lactation referrals.

Allers says, "Just as we understand there are areas in the US where people can't easily access healthy food, there are areas of the country where there are literal deserts of support, resources and sentiment for mothers to successfully feed their infants their healthiest food. Most of these communities are primarily Black and brown. My work as director of the First Food Friendly Community Initiative is all about creating a nationally replicable model to turn these vulnerable communities into more supportive environments. But there are inequities of support that need to be addressed."

Breastfeeding and Black Women: A Painful History

Although the barriers to breastfeeding initiation and duration are contemporary issues -- but they are rooted in and complicated by histories of enslavement.

"We can't discount the fact that during slavery Black women were stopped from breastfeeding their own children to breastfeed the slave master's children," Allers says. "Historical records show that many slave children died because their mothers could not breastfeed them enough. Because of this, there is sometimes a negative association with breastfeeding, especially among older relatives, as something we were forced to do, something we did for others and not for ourselves, or something associated with a negative part of our history."

Images of African American women caring for white children populate the American cultural landscape in everything from film and television to advertising and sales. Popular contemporary images of Black nannies holding white children that regurgitate the Aunt Jemima trope erase the children and other family members that Black woman were forced to leave every day for no pay (during slavery) or for barely enough pay (a dynamic that continues even today). This erasure of living, real Black children empties the American imagination, influencing even those health care professionals who work in Black communities. Their implicit bias perpetuates stereotypes that have real health consequences.

"Another issue is the negative stereotype that Black women don't breastfeed," Allers explains. "As a result, many health professionals don't give important information [about breastfeeding] to Black women."

Little to nothing in US culture popularizes images of Black breastfeeding women in a positive, affirming way, and so stereotypes persist.

This influence of popular culture on African American breastfeeding awareness is significant. Rebecca Jackson-Artis -- an actor, writer, comedian, lactation specialist and doula who coordinates a program within the V.O.I.C.E. Therapeutic Solutions PLLC mental health agency in Raleigh, North Carolina, which focuses on assisting underserved women during pregnancy, birth and postpartum -- says: "Media is powerful, and when we continuously hear about what we are not doing, it is like a goal vacuum. It sucks at our willingness to understand lactation and make it a part of our motherhood journey."

The images of Black women caring for white children are not counter-balanced by images of Black breastfeeding women caring for their own children, even in pamphlets and other materials meant to encourage breastfeeding. "There are little to no postpartum resources for African American mothers in their communities, and if an African American mom lives in a high resource community she doesn't see herself in the information provided," Jackson-Artis says. "The power of seeing yourself in the solution is imperative."

Allers points to white celebrities like Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Garner, Gwen Stefani and Alyssa Milano who have worked to promote breastfeeding in the mainstream and says, "Black women really haven't had as many mainstream role models." Moreover, in popular culture, Black women's bodies are often presented as sex symbols rather than as the bodies of maternal caretakers of their own children.

The legacy of slavery contributes not only to the dangerous idea that breastfeeding is a white woman's experience, but also contributes to the hyper-sexualization of Black mothers who do breastfeed. Allers, who founded Black Breastfeeding 360, a multimedia content library on the Black breastfeeding experience, says that this "hyper-sexualization of Black women's bodies also makes the body politics of breastfeeding especially unique for Black women."

With a history of public shaming and the forced exposure of Black women's bodies for public auction, it is no wonder African American mothers receive less support when they voluntarily expose their breasts to nurse.

Targeting Black Mothers: The Role of the Formula Industry

Meanwhile, formula manufacturers are pushing to fill each Black mother's hand with a plastic bottle even before she attempts to cup her own breast to feed her child.

Allers identifies the US government as the number one purchaser of infant formula in this country. She adds that while the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program -- a government-run supplemental food program that provides federal money to states to serve low-income pregnant and post-partum women and their children up to age five with health referrals, nutrition education and food -- has improved breastfeeding support, its offer of a free supply of formula implies that formula is the best alternative.

Obviously the gift of free formula can be a literal lifesaver for an infant whose mother is unable to breastfeed for medical reasons. For mothers who could breastfeed but don't know the value of breast milk, however, or for mothers who simply need support to learn how to breastfeed, opportunities for optimal health are denied when the distribution of formula becomes routine. In these cases, infant formula functions as more than just a free giveaway to the underserved.

Allers has conducted cultural competency in breastfeeding training with hospital staff and reports that "there are a lot of negative perceptions of Black women and many have assumed we won't [breastfeed] so they don't bother to encourage and inform." She adds that hospital administrators allow infant formula representatives to host events and provide meals for nurses, thus influencing the recommendations parents receive about infant feeding.

Nurses likely believe they are simply sharing the bounty when they hand out free goody bags containing formula at the hospital, but these goody bags undermine breastfeeding, as "women are told that their milk may fail and the formula is there 'just in case'," Allers says. Despite the research, the relationship between hospitals and formula companies endures. "Infant formula companies have been insidious in making multimillion dollar deals with hospitals to market free samples to mothers when they are discharged," Allers adds.

Simone Toomer, an independent contractor for the Brooklyn Health Department's By My Side Doula support program and a certified lactation counselor for their breastfeeding hotline insists, "No hospital or medical office should give out formula unless requested, as per the World Health Organization (WHO), however, it happens all the time. Families are being sent home with ready-made Similac bottles, not fully understanding that milk production is supply and demand." Toomer explains that mothers have to breastfeed or pump to maintain their milk supply and having formula "sitting right there on the counter" at home increases the chance that a new mother will use it and her own supply of breast milk will be compromised as a result. "Unless medically indicated, everyone should have a fair shot at nursing and seeking support if needed," she says.

When a hospital sends new parents home with a free diaper bag stuffed with formula and a batch of coupons to buy more, the implication is clear: the hospital knows best, and the hospital endorses the use of formula.

From Workplaces to Hospitals, a Lack of Systemic Support

For Black mothers who are also working women, the barriers to greater breastfeeding duration are even higher.

According to a 2007 fact sheet published by the Institute for Women's Policy Research (IWPR), of the 100 most family-friendly employers in this country, 24 percent provide four weeks or less paid maternity leave and 52 percent provide six weeks or less. Twenty-eight percent of the best companies do provide nine or more weeks of paid maternity leave, but seven percent offer only one-to-two weeks and another seven percent offer no maternity leave at all.

"In this country, we have no federal maternal leave," Allers says. "Many mothers are returning to work two-to-three weeks after breastfeeding and they may not have the job security to advocate and navigate pumping at work. With these structural barriers, breastfeeding for any meaningful duration has become a privilege -- the privilege of women who can stay at home/work from home, a privilege for women at progressive companies who have added paid maternity leave or with an office to easily pump."

In her work as a postpartum doula and lactation counselor with an independent practice, Toomer has witnessed all these impediments to breastfeeding firsthand. "When we look at Brooklyn, La Leche League groups stop at Bed-Stuy [a community experiencing gentrification] and nothing goes towards East New York, Canarsie and Brownsville [neighborhoods that are overwhelmingly African American]," she says. "I mention to clients to check insurance coverage of lactation support and many have no idea of this. When you have someone who needs to go back to school or work because circumstance doesn't allow extended maternity leave, we see nursing interrupted."

These disparities in access to breastfeeding support begin even before new mothers leave the hospital where they delivered.

A 2011 CDC report identified multiple ways in which traditional hospitals privilege white women in their provision of breastfeeding support. Jackson-Artis has seen this racial disparity in traditional hospitals, even excellent traditional hospitals, firsthand. "I was a breastfeeding peer counselor in a very progressive hospital and I saw repeatedly how Black women and Brown women were treated in regards to postpartum care and lactation support," she says. "There is an assumption we are going to formula feed and be negative about breastfeeding. We are either feared or ignored. So, we receive subpar support. I even had a white pediatrician say to me, 'Black women aren't receptive to breastfeeding help.' Need I say more?"

Statistics suggest that this blaming of the victim is less likely to take place in hospitals that go through the rigorous process to be designated Baby-Friendly, a UNICEF/WHO initiative that rewards birthing centers, including hospitals, that support breastfeeding. An abstract published in the Journal of Human Lactation in May 2007 said that, "Breastfeeding duration is traditionally poor in low-income, Black populations in the United States. Among a predominantly low-income and Black population giving birth at a US Baby-Friendly hospital, breastfeeding rates at 6 months were comparable to the overall US population."

Of course, Black women cannot wait for more hospitals to do the hard work required to become Baby-Friendly. We continue to be our own best advocates for better health through breastfeeding. Allers is the founder of Black Breastfeeding Week, a celebration of Black motherhood she established "to create an awareness week during Breastfeeding Awareness Month in August to just focus on showing breastfeeding as important in our community." At the annual Twitter party celebrating Black Breastfeeding Week, Allers says there were nine million impressions.

These online celebrations of Black breastfeeding begin to generate a different narrative for African American mothers, one that celebrates breastfeeding within a community that has endured centuries of stigma and struggle. And on-the-ground changes are apparent too.

"Brooklyn is a hot spot right now [for breastfeeding awareness within Black communities]," Toomer said, "and I think, as we are becoming aware and awake, we will continue to see change. Knowledge is being passed along and our communities are becoming empowered slowly but surely."

In her work, Toomer also sees more women of color becoming lactation counselors and consultants and certifying bodies like Doula Trainings International are making this profession more accessible by offering scholarships specifically earmarked for women of color. Toomer adds that raising awareness of the racial disparities in breastfeeding rates is key.  "We are becoming more transparent in the reality of these disparities, what to expect and how to overcome," Toomer says. "We are shifting."

Jackson-Artis, who held a board position in Breastfeed Chicago for five years, says:

Many of us are actively changing the world with our work. Kimberly Durdin and Sherry Payne are making sure there are IBCLCs [International Board Certified Lactation Consultants] of color throughout the US. They are accepting donations to make sure African American women can afford lactation education via scholarships and support. Kimberly Seals Allers is making sure our activism is in the media with her blog and lectures around the country. Tytina Sanders-Bey works hard every week to provide support groups and classes in the south side of Chicago. Leah Hayes educates and supports many African American mothers in Alabama. Afrykayn Moon Aku is finishing her powerful documentary about the history of Black women in breastfeeding. Moon has had podcasts and a YouTube channel getting the word out about our vital role in the success of African American women breastfeeding.

These are just some of the African American women working to improve maternal and infant health through breastfeeding advocacy. This advocacy insists on the powerful best that comes from our own bodies.  "Breastfeeding is empowering in a world that doesn't always value our children," Allers says. "When we breastfeed," she adds, "we show that we do."

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News Fri, 26 Aug 2016 00:00:00 -0400
EPA's Inaction Made Way for Lead Poisoning in Children, Lawsuit Claims http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/37384-epa-s-inaction-made-way-for-lead-poisoning-in-children-lawsuit-claims http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/37384-epa-s-inaction-made-way-for-lead-poisoning-in-children-lawsuit-claims

Research shows that children can suffer lead poisoning from lower levels of exposure than previously believed dangerous. Although the EPA agreed to initiate new standards for assessing lead-related dangers back in 2009, advocates say the federal government has dropped the ball.

The most common cause of lead poisoning in children is lead dust from deteriorating lead-based paint. (Photo: Gregory Roberts)The most common cause of lead poisoning in children is lead dust from deteriorating lead-based paint. (Photo: Gregory Roberts)

Environmental justice and public health groups are demanding that the federal government update regulations and expand efforts to protect young children from lead poisoning, which can cause irreversible cognitive and behavioral problems and tends to be more common in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color.

In a lawsuit filed on Wednesday, a coalition of groups asked a federal court in California to mandate that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) update its standards for assessing dangerous levels of lead dust on surfaces in homes and residential buildings, especially those built before 1978, when regulators began restricting the amount of lead in lead-based paints.

In 2009, the EPA granted a citizens' petition to update its lead dust standards and agreed to initiate rulemaking proceedings, after new scientific evidence showed that existing standards were inadequate for protecting children from lead poisoning. However, seven years have passed and the agency has yet to set new rules.

"EPA's outdated standards and lack of enforcement let lead remain hidden and silent, causing irreversible brain damage, learning disabilities and reduced IQ in children," said Queen Zakia Rafiqa Shabazz, mother of a son with lead poisoning and founder of United Parents Against Lead, in a statement. "We as parents want to protect our children but we can do little against an invisible enemy. A child is a terrible thing to waste."

In a recent report, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) said the EPA's current standards provide only "an illusion of safety." The group said that most existing lead paint standards used by regulators, federal housing officials and home renovators fail to protect children because, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) most recent findings, there is no safe level of lead exposure for children.

In a brief statement in response to questions from Truthout, the EPA said it would "review the lawsuit and respond."

The AAP also recommended that the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) expand the resources it provides for controlling lead hazards and develop new protocols for public health offices across the country.

Fully addressing the problem of lead will also require a new level of diligence among contractors repairing aging houses. The most common cause of lead poisoning in children is lead dust from deteriorating lead-based paint, which can be found on household surfaces after renovations and repairs. Linda Kite, the executive director of the Healthy Housing Initiative in Los Angeles, told Truthout that establishing stricter EPA standards for the amount of lead dust considered safe on floors and other services would require contractors to be more conscientious about cleaning up lead dust before finishing a job.

"These standards will require contractors to clean up lead and clean up their act," Kite said. "This is completely preventable, it's clear cut, it's lead dust, it goes up their nose or into their mouths and that's how [children] are poisoned."

In particular, the EPA's standards impact public housing units: HUD and environmental and public health agencies rely on the standards in crafting local regulations and evaluating lead contamination in public housing.

Of course, housing-based lead dust is not the only route to poisoning. Children are also exposed to lead in contaminated soil and water, and recent high-profile cases of lead contamination have brought national attention to the problem. The contamination of the municipal water supply in Flint, Michigan earlier this year is perhaps the most well-known case.

Meanwhile, in May, the community of East Chicago, Indiana, found out that the EPA had discovered dangerous levels of lead contamination leftover from industrial plants that closed years ago, in soil around a public housing complex and an elementary school back in 2009. The agency did not notify residents of the dangers until May of this year.

"Somebody dropped the ball somewhere," said Lonnie Randolph, a state legislator from East Chicago in a recent interview with the Associated Press.

Kite said that when the EPA first established its lead dust standards for household surfaces, such as floors and window sills in 2001, the population of the United States as a whole had higher levels of lead in its blood. Since then, public health policies, such as mandates to remove lead from gasoline, have drastically decreased lead exposure across the general population and shifted metrics for researchers.

Until recently, children were thought to have lead in their blood at a "level of concern" if test results showed a concentration of 10 or more micrograms per deciliter, according to the AAP. New research shows that problems -- including inattention, impulsivity, aggression and hyperactivity, as well as lower IQ scores and academic performance -- begin at levels of less than half that amount.

In light of this research, the EPA must reduce the acceptable level of lead dust left on floors following a construction project by at least four times, according Kite and the AAP.

In Los Angeles, Kite's organization often identifies "pockets" in neighborhoods where children have higher levels of lead in their blood, especially in low-income neighborhoods where buildings are old and most residents are renters with little control over their living conditions. Kite said families that attempt to hold contractors and landlords accountable for lead dust contamination often find eviction notices on their front doors.

"I'm a single mom and I don't want you poisoning my baby, so now I'm getting kicked out of my house," Kite said, referring to families that her organization works with on a daily basis.

In such neighborhoods, direct lead exposure can be compounded by soil contaminated by lead leftover from industrial facilities and cleanup sites, which are disproportionately placed near areas where low-income and communities of color live.

Kite said lead exposure can also be a problem in middle-income neighborhoods, where young families often buy old homes and attempt to fix them up on their own, without realizing that dust created by repairs and paint scraping can poison their own children if they fail to clean up properly.

"This is not the way to find out about lead," Kite said.

Kite said that although convincing the EPA to update its standards would be a start, it is not a fix-all. Contractors must take responsibility for cleaning up their worksites and local public health officials and building inspectors must be diligent about issuing violations when necessary. A sheer lack of affordable housing in cities, such as Los Angeles, often forces low-income people into homes and residential buildings with high levels of lead, so fighting for housing justice is also crucial to eliminating lead poisoning.

"In Los Angeles County we know that 99 percent of cases of lead-poisoned children are from old housing and the surrounding contaminated soil," Kite said. "Revising the dust standards is a critical step in primary prevention and will tackle this problem efficiently."

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News Fri, 26 Aug 2016 00:00:00 -0400
The ADHD Epidemic: Smart Drugs and the Control of Bodies and Minds http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/37382-the-adhd-epidemic-smart-drugs-and-the-control-of-bodies-and-minds http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/37382-the-adhd-epidemic-smart-drugs-and-the-control-of-bodies-and-minds

The steady expansion of ADHD diagnosis and cognitive stimulant prescription has been driven by the profit-seeking educational projects of the pharmaceutical industry. In 2010, Americans spent $7 billion on ADHD drugs. By 2015 the amount spent had risen to $12.9 billion.

(Photo: Erich Ferdinand)(Photo: Erich Ferdinand; Edited: LW / TO)

This is an excerpt from Scripted Bodies: Corporate Power, Smart Technologies, and the Undoing of Public Education (Routledge 2016)

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), which has seen massive recent increases in diagnosis since 2000, is defined as a difficulty in paying attention, restlessness, and hyperactivity.  By 2010, nearly one in three US children age 2-17 had been diagnosed as suffering ADHD, and by 2012, diagnoses of ADHD had risen 66% in the prior decade. Ballooning rates of diagnosis for ADHD have been met with unprecedented levels of medical prescriptions principally for the amphetamine pharmaceutical drugs Adderall and Ritalin. By 2011 11% of all US children 4-17 were diagnosed with ADHD and 6.1% were taking ADHD drugs and an estimated 8% to 35% of university students in the US using cognitive stimulants. Boys are diagnosed at nearly three times the rate as girls. About 80% of those children diagnosed with ADHD are using these medications. Children below the poverty line are diagnosed at higher rates especially poor toddlers.

Some scientific literature claims ADHD results from underdevelopment of parts of the brain responsible for executive function, that is, the parts of the brain responsible for self-control. Doctors and psychologists use the US-based psychological diagnosis manual DSM-IV to diagnose ADHD 3-4 times more frequently than their European counterparts do with the ICD-10. Spectacular increases in diagnosis and radically disparate rates of diagnosis lend empirical weight to cultural theories of ADHD that suggest the disorder is principally a social construct rather than a biologically-based medical pathology. 

The public discourse on both ADHD and the overprescription of medical solutions to it have seldom exceeded narrow questions about the individual health side effects of putting kids on uppers and the "fairness" of using performance enhancing drugs in educational competition. What is taken for granted in corporate media coverage is a system of test-oriented high stakes educational competition that filters into capitalist competition.  The promise of using cognitive enhancing drugs is presented as the promise of a greater capacity to study and perform on tests, to consequently advance educationally to higher and more elite levels of schooling, and ultimately to cash educational advancement in for employment and luxury consumption of goods and services.  The consumption of the drugs begins a chain of knowledge consumption that ends with rarified commodity consumption.  More recent news coverage of the over-prescription of Ritalin and Adderall such as the coverage in The New York Times has emphasized psychological side effects such as psychosis, withdrawal, and depression.  There is more at stake in drugging kids for educational and ultimately economic competition than physical health and psychological health.  The use of pharmacological technologies for educational competition participates in a broader contestation over what constitutes valuable knowledge, intelligence, and political agency.

A student is restless in class, bored by lessons, and finds paying attention and sitting still excruciating. In an era of neoliberal educational restructuring, youth are expected to display corporeal discipline, docility, and a willingness to endure lessons that are increasingly standardized, scripted, and removed from individual and social meaning.  The student in the instrumentalized, hyper-rationalized, and vocational era of neoliberal education is required to become a disciplined consumer of commodified knowledge. Proper self-discipline in the name of producing "college and career readiness" increasingly brings together the imperative for students to use the tools of bodily control to be entrepreneurial "subjects of capacity." That is, proper attention is demanded of students to display test based performance outcomes that allow the student to compete for shrinking access to the world of work, income, and commodity consumption.

(Image: Routledge)(Image: Routledge) Smart Drugs and the Pursuit of Profit

The steady expansion of ADHD diagnosis and cognitive stimulant prescription has been driven by the profit-seeking educational projects of the pharmaceutical industry. The US-based industry targets parents, teachers, and doctors with drug advertisements and educational materials that encourage diagnosis and prescription. These educative projects have succeeded.  In 2010, Americans spent $7 billion on ADHD drugs. By 2015 the amount spent had risen to $12.9 billion.

The radical rise in ADHD diagnoses by two thirds over the first decade of the millennium coincided with the implementation of the federal No Child Left Behind law that centered on high stakes standardized testing.  The "high stakes" part of the high stakes testing puts economic sanctions on low test scores and rewards high test scores. As Maggie Koerth-Baker has observed, "…[W]hen a state passed laws punishing or rewarding schools for their standardized –test scores, A.D.H.D. diagnoses in that state would increase not long afterward.  Nationwide, the rates of ADHD diagnosis increased by 22 percent in the first four years after No Child Left Behind was implemented." Studies that break down ADHD diagnosis by state confirm that the states with the greatest financial penalties under No Child Left Behind are also the states with the greatest rates of diagnosis, especially for youth below the poverty line.

Based in an industrial efficiency model of knowledge transmission, high stakes standardized tests undermined the historical efforts of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to use federal funds progressively to support schools and districts in poverty. Instead, high stakes testing punishes schools with low tests scores and rewards schools with high scores, thereby exacerbating educational resource inequality by affirming the connection between the wealth of classes and the cultural capital that the tests affirm or punish. In the era of neoliberal "accountability," "smart drugs" are used as a tool to raise test scores for teachers subject to value added assessment whose job security and income is now linked to test scores. Likewise, in schools and districts in need of financial support and with low, stagnant, or declining test scores, smart drugs offer a means to game the regressive federal system.

The neoliberal imperatives for testing, scripted lessons, and direct instruction for "higher outputs" have created institutional conditions and financial rewards and punishments so that ADHD symptoms of restlessness, inattentiveness, and hyperactivity have become more prevalent, numerous, and more likely to be identified.  That is, the new culture of control in schools is inseparable from the trend for the radical rise in the medical pathologization of students. Reasonable individual responses (like restlessness) to repressive institutional conditions – like disassociation from the environment, extreme boredom, and inability to find relevance in the assignment -- become the basis for the identification of disease and the prescription of drugs.  Moreover, the medical pathologizing of students is interwoven with neoliberal ideology in education in which knowledge, learning, and intelligence are understood through the register of economic competition, social mobility, and opportunity.  Koerth-Baker writes, "From parents' and teachers' perspectives, the diagnosis is considered a success if the medication improves kids' ability to perform on tests and calms them down enough so that they're not a distraction to others." As well, the high stakes testing and drugging of students facilitates the expansion of the multi-billion dollar test and textbook publishing industry and creates profits for the medico-pharmaceutical industry.

Smart Drugs Against Critical Pedagogy

The nexus between pharmaceutical control of kids' attention and the steady expansion of standardized testing and standardization of curriculum transforms the social and individual value of knowledge while also undermining critical pedagogies and efforts to develop in students a critical consciousness for engaged social intervention.  While the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 allows states to reduce the number of standardized tests promoted under No Child Left Behind, it maintains the requirement for standardized testing, ties state funding for teacher and leader preparation to student test scores, and comes following the federally promoted installation of a massive state-based infrastructure in testing and standardization.

Smart drugs promise intelligence, but, in fact, by being promoted in conjunction with standardized testing and the standardization of curriculum, they foster ways of thinking that devalue some of the most crucial questions of knowledge and curriculum.  It is crucial to emphasize that cognitive enhancers are tools.  I am criticizing the use of these tools in school as compensatory for an approach to schooling that devalues thinking and abstracts knowledge from the self and society.  That is, smart drugs are used to promote efficacious consumption of knowledge in place of questions that ought to be interwoven with the process of schooling such as:  What values and assumptions undergird claims to truth?  What are the social positions, class and cultural interests represented by knowledge and the kinds of questions that are asked?  The dominant educational reforms share the same framing assumptions about knowledge as the smart drug trend. 

The Common Core State Standards, the recently revised and consolidated teacher certification standards CAEP, and the new system to assess student teachers in colleges of education EdTPA (owned by educational publishing giant Pearson NCS) share crucial elements that accord with the anti-critical trends of the high stakes standardized test era and the use of smart drugs. The standards for the Every Student Succeeds Act, the Common Core State Standards, the teacher certification standards in CAEP, and the revised guidelines for student teaching under EdTPA do not encourage the comprehension of knowledge in relation to the subjective experiences, contexts, identity positions, and social conditions of students. They also do not foster forms of teaching and learning that facilitate comprehension of how subjective experience is produced by objective structures, systems, institutions, and realities in the world.  They also do not encourage a critical approach to learning in which knowledge is comprehended in terms of its social conditions of production or the social conditions for acts of interpretation.  They also do not treat knowledge in terms of its possibilities for facilitating political agency to reconstruct subjective experience and to engage and transform objective realities. 

Smart drugs used in conjunction with repressive pedagogies like scripted lessons, grit and other forms of resurgent behaviorism, have a political implication that is diametrically opposed to that of critical pedagogy.  Critical pedagogy addresses experiences which are meaningful to students and helps them to comprehend those meaningful experiences in terms of the broader forces and struggles that produce those experiences.  Smart drugs are being overprescribed in order to work on the body to allow the mind to endure or even enjoy the focus on that which is meaningless so that students can study for standardized tests and their decontextualized content.   This corporate dream of replacing thought with stimulation is the same dream of ending contemplative thought that animates the positivist school reforms of standardized testing, scripted lessons and the rest.  Contemplative thought, the work of interpretation, cedes to the memorization and accumulation of decontextualized facts. In contemporary positivist school reforms such as standardized testing, the meanings behind the facts, the selection and value of truth claims are determined elsewhere by the ones who know, the experts, the test makers who sit in the offices of large corporations such as Educational Testing Services and Pearson NCS.  Thought resides there, with them.  The practice of drugging children for test preparation undermines intelligence, the work of interpretation and judgment of the meanings of texts and claims to truth. 

Critical pedagogies ideally begin with meaningful student experience and educative contexts to foster interpretation of how broader social forces produce these contexts and meaningful experiences.  Such interpretation ideally forms the basis for social intervention.  While critical pedagogies aim to expand understanding of the production of both knowledge and subjective experience, prescriptive methodologies and positivist forms of schooling aim to decontextualize knowledge and reduce comprehension of experience to the individual.  The contemporary discourse and use of smart drugs contributes to conceptions of the self, the social, and the school that are at odds with public and critical forms of schooling and life.

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News Fri, 26 Aug 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Day Laborers Leader on Right-Wing Hostility: "So Far, We Have Won This Fight" http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/37381-day-laborers-leader-on-right-wing-hostility-so-far-we-have-won-this-fight http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/37381-day-laborers-leader-on-right-wing-hostility-so-far-we-have-won-this-fight

Pablo Alvarado is executive director of the Los Angeles-based National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) -- a group dedicated to building a movement among low-wage workers, most of them immigrants and many of them undocumented. The 49-year old Alvarado, who came to the United States in 1990 from El Salvador, views NDLON as both a workers' rights and an immigrants' rights organization. It has been an important player in campaigns to win local minimum wage laws and to stop the exploitation of immigrant workers, many of whom survive in the shadow economy as day laborers, housekeepers, gardeners, restaurant workers and janitors.

We recently spoke with Alvarado in his small office at the Pasadena Community Job Center in Pasadena, California, one of some 70 worker centers in 21 states connected with NDLON. He is a whirlwind of activity, typically working 12 hours a day, running a national organization while engaged in the daily activities of the Pasadena center -- counseling workers, organizing demonstrations, negotiating with city officials, raising money and supervising staff.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Mark Maier and Peter Dreier: Tell us about your life in El Salvador before you came to the United States.

Pablo Alvarado: I came to the US in 1990 when I was 22. My mother was a housekeeper with nine children. Three died while they were small. My father was a peasant who worked the land. We lived in a village called El Nispero, surrounded by coffee plantations. There was no running water. We had to go to the city to carry the water. My father had oxen and we would bring water in barrels. My mother never went to school. She learned to read and write from the newspaper that wrapped the rice or beans. My father went up to third grade. He was right wing and a very smart man. He could talk you about communism and the Cold War, or almost anything.

You went to university and received a B.A. in social science in El Salvador. How did that happen?

My family was one of the first in the village to send their kids to high school. My brother was nicknamed "Bachiller," what they call you when you graduate from high school. He went on to university and got a degree to be an elementary school teacher. He needed hundreds of hours of community service so he came back to the same village and started a literacy class for peasants. His method was based on the ideas of Paulo Freire (the Brazilian educator who wrote Pedagogy of the Oppressed).

I went along with him to the classes. Even though I was only 10 years old, I began to understand the Freirian methodology he was using. You don't just teach the syllabic meaning of the word. You also teach the social meaning. It was fantastic. I remember the thick voices of the older men who were picking coffee during the day, repeating the vowels. It was music to my ears at that age.

Were you politically active in El Salvador?

Some of the residents of my village included powerful people in the military, including members of the death squads. If they didn't like you, if you spoke up for your rights or complained about the government, they could torture or even "disappear" you.

There was a soccer field in the village, the only flat property in the village where young people could play. But it was bought by a powerful person in the village, who was close to the military and their death squads. He closed the soccer field and began preparing the land to grow corn, disregarding the people who had played there for decades. One day he brought in his oxen and farm equipment and began preparing the land, disregarding a prior agreement to lease it to the soccer team.

Now, my father was a right winger aligned with the military. But he was also the president of the local soccer team. That afternoon, when all the peasants were coming from work, he led a protest and demanded that the owners negotiate with them to keep the soccer field open. He never would have called it an occupation, but that's what it was. We were so close to having a massacre right there. My father was the balance, the mediator. He stopped a massacre. If he hadn't been present, there would have been a lot of dead people.

I was there, watching it all happen. That was when I began to understand some of the basic concepts of justice and the power of organizing.

Why and how did you come to the United States?

It was my last day of college. When I got home I saw the whole family was meeting. My younger brother (had) received death threats because he'd join(ed) the (anti-government) armed struggle in the village where we grew up. He was 16 at that time. My family ask me to accompany him to the United States the next day. It cost us $3,000, each, for coyotes (smugglers who help people cross the US-Mexico border). We were very vulnerable. Even the Mexican police robbed us of our money. 

At the time, the (U.S) border control wasn't as tight as it is now. The coyotes put five people in the trunk of a Toyota Corolla. My brother was ahead of me and was about to go in another car. I grabbed him and we waited for the next car. That was lucky, because the border patrol stopped the first car and caught the people trying to get into the United States. My brother and I took the next car.  

What did you do when you arrived in the United States?

I worked as a day laborer from 1990 until 1995. First I worked at a party rental store from Fridays through Mondays when the business was good. I helped set up and take down parties. But on Tuesdays to Thursdays I went to the day labor corner. I did that for eight months. Then I got a job in a factory in Chatsworth (a Los Angeles suburb) where they made shampoos. I hated that job so much. There were two Salvadorans and about 25 Mexicans. My first job there was to wash the barrels of Vaseline. That was the worst job. Nobody wanted to do that job. But with my work ethic, I washed them well, so that was my job for a long time.

My sister worked for this rich man who made dolly carts used to move film equipment. She got me a job there in North Hollywood. I worked there for nine months. I would grind the metal to make the parts for the carts. The workers at the factory included Armenians, Central Americans and Mexicans. During the 40-minute break we'd play soccer. It was unhealthy, socially, the Mexicans versus the Central Americans. They would just go at each other. So I initiated the process to form a soccer team to play on weekends. Everyone was included in the team. Things changed because we would be playing on the same team. The Central Americans and Mexicans started to get along because they played with each other instead of against each other.

Also, at the factory, there were four people I worked with who didn't know how to read or write. I began to teach a class in that factory. In the nine months I was there, they learned to read and write.

Later on, I established a class in Pasadena and one of my students was an older man. One day he came to class in pain because he fell from a tree at his work. He was pruning a large tree. Even though he didn't drink, that day he was drunk. He drank to survive the pain. When I took him to the hospital with a broken shoulder, the nurses didn't want to care for him because he was drunk. As I was talking to him and other workers, I started to think about my own experience as a worker, both in El Salvador and in the United States. I had never heard the words "health and safety" with regard to work, but I realized that a lot of immigrant workers work in dangerous jobs and needed some protection, and it wasn't going to happen unless they were organized and demanded better working conditions.

How did NDLON get started?

We officially started NDLON in 2001 during the first convention in Northridge (an area of Los Angeles). NDLON was the first national organization to take up the cause of day laborers -- not only to organize workers but also to protect them and help them integrate into their communities. Though not all are directly affiliated with our network, NDLON has helped to open more than 70 day labor offices in 21 states. Thousands of workers go to these job centers across the country every day. Nationwide these centers have about 300 employees. Most of them work as organizers. About 30 percent of organizers were former day laborers. We also have a few lawyers on the staffs of these local worker centers. Our national office is in Los Angeles (and) has a staff of 25, including organizers and lawyers as well as finance and development staff.

Each of the centers is autonomous and operates independently, but we have some common goals and strategies and we shared the same principles. In these centers we do all kinds of projects and provide services. We do wage claims, ESL (English as a Second Language), job skills training, deportation defense.

The job centers are hiring halls. It's like the streets but more orderly. The centers bring transparency to the contractual agreement between workers and employer. There is clarity about wages and working conditions. If employers are not satisfied with the work, they know where to go. Sometimes when workers mess things up at the workplace, the folks at the centers send a crew to fix the mistake. The centers also advocate for and organize workers who face wage theft and other problems. They also help immigrant workers become naturalized and fight deportation. We organize to change public policy, like the minimum wage and immigrant rights. The centers have become more than hiring halls. They are worker and immigrant rights institutions. They are community centers.

What is the relationship between NDLON and the US labor movement?

In the past, NDLON had a very contentious relationship with labor unions. Back in 1998 or 1999, the AFL-CIO (American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations) had their convention in Los Angeles. A group of 50 day laborers went to check it out and they were kicked out. Some of the union delegates were chanting "scabs, scabs."  For many years the major unions weren't interested in organizing immigrant workers. That's begun to change, at least in certain unions. And the labor movement has changed its tune on immigrant rights. We've shifted the way that the labor movement thinks about migrant and low-wage workers.

How did your relationship to unions change?

At first they didn't understand what we do. They thought we were scabs -- like in 2001 when the janitors in LA went on strike with SEIU. The janitorial companies went to the day labor centers to hire workers. But we had educated our workers about the strike so instead of workers going to work for the employer, they joined the strikers. At the big march down Wilshire Boulevard, there were 250 day laborers walking with the janitors.

Our workers were charging $15 per hour for their services and this was in place before the Fight for 15 began. So one day we asked some progressive labor leaders to come and check out what we do. We took 20 labor leaders to one of our corners in Agoura Hills. That day the workers were insisting on getting a minimum wage of $120 a day, which was $20 more than they'd been paid before. Most of the workers came from the same indigenous town in GuatemaLA Before they demanded a higher wage, they discussed what impact it might have. Will we lose employers? It went back and forth. But after that discussion, they decided to insist on the higher wage. And they did. 

The Fight for 15 is not a fight that starts with the employer. It is a fight that starts with the workers themselves, when they decide that they are worth the money and more. The time for voting came up after a 90-minute discussion and the workers in Agoura Hills voted 85-15 for the pay increase. This was in early 2006. The main leader at the corner drew a line on the dirt floor and then he asked those that voted no to move to the other side of the line. He stood in front of them and said, "I want the 85 who voted in favor of increasing the minimum wage to look at them. They are not our enemies. But if we are not vigilant, they will drag down our wages and working conditions. And we want to know who they are and we want them to look at our faces and know that they have the same needs we have." The labor leaders were watching in surprise. They said, "this is the way my grandparents started their union."

So that was the moment when some labor union leaders understood that there were new kids on the block and that we should be allies, not adversaries. They understood that it was time to open up. A few months later, we signed a partnership agreement with the AFL-CIO.

What does NDLON do for immigrants' rights?

We played a big role in the fight for DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). We had been pushing for administrative relief for a long time, even when the mainstream immigrant rights groups said it was too narrow, that we have to fight for comprehensive immigration reform. Citizenship or nothing, they said. And they didn't even ask undocumented folks what they wanted.

Before DACA, we conducted about 20 ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) shutdowns with civil disobedience across the country. People put their bodies under the deportation buses. Day laborers chained themselves to the White House gates because President Barack Obama's administration kept deporting people and breaking up families in record numbers. When it was clear that comprehensive immigration reform wasn't moving forward, we worked with the "Dreamers" to push for DACA. Our litigation director, Jessica Karp Bansal, helped make the case that President Obama had the authority to carry out DACA.

The mainstream immigrant rights groups were primarily focused on federal laws, but the struggle goes on in localities -- at city halls, at neighborhood meetings, at schools and in courts. Every time we open a job center we are legalizing people from the bottom up. I call the day laborer centers, "street level immigration reform." Day laborer centers are sanctuary institutions. Every time we push a locality to adopt sanctuary measures, we are achieving immigration reform.

We have to build immigrants' and workers' power at the local level and then we'll have a stronger voice when we go to Washington. So far, Congress has been hijacked by the extremists, so they're not going to pass anything soon. But we will continue to push localities to be more friendly to immigrants while we push for administrative relief at the federal level. There are multiple layers of uncertainty for immigrants. And we have to build multiple layers of protection everywhere in the country.

I think both the Republicans and a segment of Democrats want to have immigration as a wedge issue rather than accomplishing a solution. It works for both of them: The Republicans appease their increasingly nativist voters and the Democrats keep making progress to turn Latinos into a permanent Democratic voting bloc. The more to the right the GOP becomes, the less the Democrats have to do to be different and satisfy Latinos. If we want to win rights for people, we must delink our struggles from partisan politics.

What have been some of the big issues at the local level?

We've mostly struggled against anti-immigrant and anti-day labor laws at the local level. We've worked with other groups to push back against local police cooperating with immigration officials. Now about 350 localities have laws drawing a line between immigration agents and local police.

We've also fought against local laws that prohibit day laborers from gathering in public places to wait for jobs. We won a big victory in 2012 when the anti-day laborer ordinance in Redondo Beach (a Los Angeles suburb) was ruled unconstitutional. (The US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the law, aimed at cracking down on day laborers, is an unconstitutional restriction on free speech.)

Have worker centers faced hostility from conservatives and anti-immigration groups?

Yes, of course. Every day, we work with undocumented workers. In many cities, we get funding from the local government. So right-wing groups, like Judicial Watch, are constantly targeting us. They try to get local governments to withdraw our funding. They try to get officials to arrest and deport the workers we serve.  

But we push back. The number of worker centers is growing. We now have centers in Tucson and Phoenix. We opened a center in Alabama, where there's a growing number of immigrant workers. We are moving into Utah, Las Vegas, North Carolina, etc. People have a right to have a space of their own. Everybody knows that these workers' centers are quintessential sanctuary institutions and, as such, they are the target of racist groups. They have orchestrated legal attacks and coordinated demonstrations across the country. They wanted to provoke workers into violence. But we have responded peacefully. For every person they mobilized to demonstrate against our center, we had 15 defending our community. So far, we have won this fight.

You play several instruments -- the bass, conga, guitar -- and play in a band, and use music in your political work. How did that happen?

I was 14 when I began teaching myself to play guitar, and then I played in the local choir where faith-based liberation theology was preached. We would sing "La Misa Campesina" songs. One of the things that I've learned is that you can turn every significant act of oppression into a practice of liberation.

For example, in 1996 we were organizing day laborers in the City of Industry (a working-class suburb of Los Angeles). This was right after Prop 187 (an anti-immigrant proposition that denied public services to those without documentation) so the situation was very hostile and the sheriff called the immigration agents who came into a parking lot where mobile HIV testing was taking place. After everyone ran away, one of the workers, Omar Sierra, wrote a ballad about what happened that day. We had an emergency meeting that afternoon and about 50 men came and he brought his guitar and he began to sing his song for everyone, "The Ballad of Industry," and that's how the day labor band was formed. 

After this experience, we asked Omar to bring his guitar and sing rather than giving speeches about the lives of workers. We began to go to other corners to look for other day labor musicians. We didn't go to school to learn music. Most of us taught ourselves. Our band, Los Jornaleros del Norte, (Day Laborers of the North), traveled up and down California playing at marches and rallies. We'll play anywhere where there's a struggle for workers' and immigrants' rights -- a parking lot, outside of LA County jail, a park or a concert hall. The band's membership is fluid. But we share the same political views. We have three albums. You can find some of our music on our website.

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News Fri, 26 Aug 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Economic Update: Capitalism's Lack of Sense http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/37380-economic-update-capitalism-s-lack-of-sense http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/37380-economic-update-capitalism-s-lack-of-sense

This episode of Professor Wolff's radio show discusses universities, politicians, graduate students unionizing, Bill Gates' obscene wealth and Harley-Davidson's illegal pollution. The show also examines capitalism's insufficient demand, unemployment's wastes and state subsidies for all systems.

To see more stories like this, visit Economic Update: Your Weekly Dose of Revolutionary Economics

To listen in live on Saturdays at noon, visit WBAI's Live Stream

Economic Update is in partnership with Truthout.org

Your radio station needs Economic Update! If you are a radio station, check this out. If you want to hear Economic Update on your favorite local station, send them this.

Visit Professor Wolff's social movement project, democracyatwork.info.

Permission to reprint Professor Wolff's writing and videos is granted on an individual basis. Please contact profwolff@rdwolff.com to request permission. We reserve the right to refuse or rescind permission at any time.

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News Fri, 26 Aug 2016 00:00:00 -0400
The Tax Evasion Double Standard: How US CEOs Are Withholding Revenue http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/37379-the-tax-evasion-double-standard-how-us-ceos-are-withholding-revenue http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/37379-the-tax-evasion-double-standard-how-us-ceos-are-withholding-revenue

Wisconsin's 99% march on GE at their Shareholder meeting in Detroit, Michigan, on April 25, 2012. (Photo: Wisconsin Jobs Now)Wisconsin's 99% march on GE at their shareholder meeting in Detroit, Michigan, on April 25, 2012. (Photo: Wisconsin Jobs Now)

If I refused to pay any taxes until the US government lowered my taxes to a so-called "fair rate," I'd almost certainly be arrested for tax evasion. But when The Washington Post asked Apple CEO Tim Cook about the billions that his company has stashed in tax havens around the world, Cook declared: "We're not going to bring it back until there's a fair rate. There's no debate about it."

And nothing happened, either to Cook or to Apple. Because when it comes to taxes, it's truer today than ever that only the little people pay.

Apparently though, that's not enough for the CEOs of multinational corporations, like Tim Cook. He doesn't just want to avoid taxes, he wants Americans to know that Congress isn't writing the rules; Apple is.

See more news and opinion from Thom Hartmann at Truthout here.

Dave Johnson from Campaign for America's Future wrote a great article about this titled, "CEO Of Giant Corporation Tells US Government He's the Boss of Them." In it, Johnson writes:

[T]hese days huge multinational corporations are the boss of our Congress. So, CEO Cook gets away with it, and with keeping $181 billion in tax havens to dodge paying $59 billion in taxes. Cook knows he can just come out and say they are not going to pay their taxes until there is a "fair rate."

And he's right.

But Apple is by no means the only corporation doing this.

In March, Citizens for Tax Justice reported that US Fortune 500 corporations are avoiding up to $695 billion in US federal income taxes by holding $2.4 trillion of "permanently reinvested" profits offshore. That's nearly $700 billion that the largest US corporations -- corporations like Netflix, Nike and Citigroup -- are stashing in offshore tax havens.

And now Tim Cook is setting an outrageous precedent by flagrantly declaring that Apple won't pay a dime of what's owed unless the US government does what he says.

It's not that these corporations don't rely on tax dollars from the government; they use our interstates, they use our municipal water systems, our court systems protect their patents and copyrights, and their products rely on government-developed technologies like GPS. They just don't want to pay for it.

Corporate executives like Tim Cook are plainly putting profits and the well-being of their investors ahead of the well-being of the country. Average Americans can't decide to refuse to pay taxes for any reason.

But a CEO like Tim Cook can simply say that his corporation won't bring its money home until he gets what he wants -- "no debate about it."

In his piece, Johnson translates exactly what a "fair rate" means:

[H]uge multinational corporations will tell you a 'fair rate' would be zero. Or better yet, how about We the People just bow down and pay taxes to them. The corporate tax rate used to be 50%. CEOs complained it was "unfair" so it was lowered to 35%.

In reality, though, the Government Accountability Office estimated in 2013 that the average effective corporate tax rate is only about 17 percent, including state and local taxes -- about the same as an individual who earned $37,000 a year. And right now we are basically paying taxes to them: We buy Apple's products, they stash the revenue overseas, and then we pay for the roads, water and technologies that their business depends on. It's average working Americans who are most hurt by this type of corporate tax evasion.

In 1952, about 32 percent of federal revenues came from corporate taxes, and only 8.7 percent came from payroll taxes. In 2016 though, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reported that the corporate income tax only accounted for about 11 percent of federal revenues, while the payroll tax accounted for closer to 33 percent of total federal revenue.

Think about that: Multinational corporations have nearly $700 billion in unpaid taxes stashed overseas while average working Americans paid for a third of the federal government's revenues -- over $1 trillion!

Conservatives are intentionally lying when they declare that it's impossible to raise enough revenue to accomplish big goals like rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure, building a completely renewable energy grid and guaranteeing tuition-free college.

We just need to rein in companies that put their company's profits ahead of the well-being of the United States and act like paying taxes is a negotiation.

This type of greed that puts corporate profits and investor dividends ahead of our nation would have been unthinkable for the generation that fought World War II, but it's become textbook behavior for big businesses ever since Ronald Reagan changed the game and ushered in the "shareholder revolution" of the 1980s.

Our tax code needs to be fixed to encourage companies to come home and pay their taxes, and to block companies from doing business in the US without paying their fair share.

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Opinion Thu, 25 Aug 2016 00:00:00 -0400
From #NoDAPL to #FreedomSquare: A Tale of Two Occupations http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/37378-from-nodapl-to-freedomsquare-a-tale-of-two-occupations http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/37378-from-nodapl-to-freedomsquare-a-tale-of-two-occupations

The American empire required the erasure of Indigenous and Black humanity. Now both communities are standing up for self-determination -- against the contamination of Native land in North Dakota and for an alternative to the brutal police state in Chicago -- and finding common ground.

Caption: Chicago organizer and co-founder of the grassroots group Assata's Daughters, Page May expresses solidarity with #NoDAPL protesters. (Photo: Courtesy of Paige May)Chicago organizer and co-founder of the grassroots group Assata's Daughters, Page May, expresses solidarity with #NoDAPL protesters. (Photo: Courtesy of Page May)While the world watched the Olympics, and reporters echoed Donald Trump's latest absurdities, Black and Indigenous freedom fighters were holding space in revolutionary ways, and their struggles continue.

On the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota, Natives have been encamped for 146 days, in an ongoing effort to thwart construction of the Dakota Access pipeline. In Chicago, Black organizers with the #LetUsBreathe collective have created a living, breathing community space in the shadow of the infamous Homan Square police compound -- a facility that some call a "black site," where people have been held for days on end without being able to contact loved ones or an attorney and where some have been tortured.

The camps in Standing Rock territory have brought my own people -- Native people -- together in a collective struggle beyond anything I've witnessed in my lifetime. With a full spectrum of our people in attendance, from elders who held Wounded Knee in 1973 to young families who've come with their children and pets in tow, our peoples have come together to thwart the construction of a 1,172-mile oil pipeline that would imperil the Standing Rock Sioux's drinking water and disturb sacred and cultural sites. Like many Natives around the country who are using up their vacation days and scraping together gas money to join this historic stand, I spent a few days in Standing Rock recently. It was overwhelming to not only see so many of my people, from so many walks of life, gathered together in common cause, but to also see so many faces from Native justice movements around the country. One after another, I would see old friends and co-strugglers, arriving and contributing whatever skills they could to strengthen the camps.

"We've been taught by the Oceti Sakowin Council here that this kind of gathering of the Seven Council Fires hasn't happened since the Battle of Little Big Horn, when the Lakota banded together to beat down General Custer," Miwok protester Desiree Kane told me in an interview.

With entire families and tribal elders gathered in prayerful camps now populated by over 2,000 demonstrators, some have expressed shock that the state has pulled out previously provisioned drinking water for the protesters. For those on the ground, the news was troubling, but unsurprising. "No one here is surprised the State pulled out clean water for the camp," said Kane. "This is all just a 2.0 version of the oldest fight on the continent."

In Chicago, where I returned home after my journey to the frontlines of #NoDAPL, the #LetUsBreathe collective has been maintaining its Freedom Square encampment for 34 days. Staffed by volunteers, Freedom Square provides free books, free meals and a wide variety of educational workshops and cultural programming in the over-policed, financially neglected community of North Lawndale. Originally formed in concert with a blockade organized by the Black Youth Project 100, Freedom Square is a testament to the kind of investments #LetUsBreathe organizers say the City of Chicago should be making in Black communities -- rather than spending four million dollars a day on Chicago's infamously violent police department.

As neighborhood children flocked to Freedom Square to partake in community meals and enjoy dance lessons and other workshops provided at the site, it became a place where self-determination, love and abolitionist ideology meet the struggle of real world expression. Instead of simply denouncing the police, #LetUsBreathe organizers have committed themselves to an exploration of what building safety and community looks like, without involving the state, while also endeavoring to improve the lives of those living in the community. With concrete demands around police brutality, a highly successful school supply drive for neighborhood youth, and ongoing cultural programming, Freedom Square is a celebration of Black life, Black love and Black resistance.

Native protesters Dean Dedman and Remy show their support for #FreedomSquare from the frontlines of #NoDAPL. Dedman has played a key role in documenting the #NoDAPL protests, while Remy, an arts trainer with The Indian Problem, has helped produce art on the frontlines. (Photo: Desiree Kane)Native protesters Dean Dedman and Remy show their support for #FreedomSquare from the frontlines of #NoDAPL. Dedman has played a key role in documenting the #NoDAPL protests, while Remy, an arts trainer with The Indian Problem, has helped produce art on the front lines. (Photo: Desiree Kane)

Freedom Square has made a priority of improving the lives of Black people living in an oppressed community, but the occupation is clearly more than a neighborhood-based project. It is a direct action that models human potential in a moment of significant social unrest -- an aim that many of Chicago's Black Lives Matter protests have aspired to.

While many Black Chicago organizers are focused on defending the lives of their own people, expressions of solidarity and intersectional analysis have repeatedly emerged in the city's protest scene. Last month, the grassroots group Assata's Daughters devoted a section of a rally about anti-Black police violence to Indigenous issues, and the connectivity between state violence against Native peoples and Black people.

Chicago's Black organizers are aware that Natives are likewise struggling, both with police violence and threats to their life-giving water supplies. "The fight to prevent the pipeline from encroaching on Native land illustrates the ways in which the horrible legacy of genocide against our Indigenous family continues to be resisted," Black Lives Matter Chicago organizer, Aislinn Pulley explained in an interview. "Like the fight for Black lives, the fight for Indigenous rights reflects a struggle for self-determination," says Pulley. "The foundation of American empire required the erasure of both Indigenous and Black humanity. These fights for liberation are intrinsically linked, and [that] is why we continue to stand in unflinching solidarity with our Indigenous family."

Atena Danner, a Chicago organizer with the Lifted Voices direct action collective shows support for #NoDAPL on social media. (Photo: Courtesy of Atena Danner)Atena Danner, a Chicago organizer with the Lifted Voices direct action collective, shows support for #NoDAPL on social media. (Photo: Courtesy of Atena Danner)In North Dakota, the connectivity of these struggles is also on the minds of some of those resisting the pipeline. Kwavol Hi'osik is a 34-year-old Akimel O'otham #NoDAPL protester who organizes with the South Mountain Freeway Resistance in her native Arizona. Having travelled to the frontlines of #NoDAPL to join this collective moment of Native resistance, Hi'osik reflected on the connections between Native and Black struggle.

"These kinds of situations are always placed onto communities of color. Understanding the lack of food systems, environmental racism, all of these are connecting issues," Hi'osik told me in an interview. Seeing the leadership of women and femmes as a common element in Black and Brown struggles, Hi'osik noted, "As women, we organize ourselves daily between our communities and households. So, it's not uncommon for the women to offer solutions and to be doing the work."

Speaking to the uniqueness of the historical moment, when two encampments are slowly forcing an awareness of Black and Indigenous issues, Hi'osik suggested that both Black and Native movements are experiencing a different kind of propulsion in the age of social media. "We have instant connection at our fingertips and young people are using these tools in the war."

Hi'osik also sees connectivity in the spirituality of Black and Brown strugglers and organizers. "One connecting issue is the strong and heavy presence of spirituality and community," she said. "That is the basis of all of our struggles and the thing that unites us."

Cody Hall, a Cheyenne River Sioux organizer and spokesperson for the Red Warrior Camp at Standing Rock had these words to offer to the organizers who are maintaining Chicago's Freedom Square: "Please, stand your ground and speak with your spirit, and never let the oppressors take the narrative from you, because peace is power."

Encampment, as a protest tactic, has deep historic roots. It means merging the freedom dreams of an oppressed people with the gritty, on-the-ground realities of holding space -- often in harsh conditions. Both encampments have held fast in the face of storms and excessive heat and both face possible, if not probable, state reprisal in the coming days. But as #LetUsBreathe organizer Kristiana Colón recently wrote, "Liberation is not some distant utopian goalpost where a journey of political struggle concludes."

Liberation, as both Black and Native strugglers are reminding us in real time, is the work of living our resistance and our freedom dreams as we create manifestations of both in the world.

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News Thu, 25 Aug 2016 00:00:00 -0400