SpeakOut is Truthout's treasure chest for bloggy, quirky, personally reflective, or especially activism-focused pieces. SpeakOut articles represent the perspectives of their authors, and not those of Truthout.
Dear Mr. Buffett,
I see in the paper that you plan to have 5,000 oil-tanker cars built for your Burlington Northern Sante Fe (BNSF) line. That should head off those regulators and lawsuits after 1,250 derailments these last two years. Exploding tanker shells and fires on those 78,000 old DoT 111 cars hauling fracked oil around the West. Forbes said your outlay would be about $1.6 billion. Not that your Berkshire company couldn’t come across with the cash what with $48 billion cash on hand and the A stock going for $185,200 a share.
I also read those other outfits with accident-prone 78,000 DoT 111 cars are learning that retrofitting just one car runs about $40,000 and cuts capacity 31,000-gallon to 28,000. That means more cars. Longer trains for people to gripe about. Sure, you can lease those 5,000 cars to shippers and stick them with insurance, and transit fees. But both of you are going to wind up in some messy, black-eye court dates. And you’re still going to have to cover labor, and those empty return trips, and track maintenance.
Today the Marijuana Arrest Research Project released data showing that racially bias marijuana arrests continue to be one of the leading arrests in New York City, despite the precipitous drop in stop and frisks.
In March 2014, the NYPD under made more marijuana possession arrests than almost every other month in 2013 under Bloomberg and Kelly. New York City'smarijuana possession arrests in the first quarter of 2014 are higher than in the third and fourth quarters of 2013, with identical racial disparities. As illustrated in graphs by the Marijuana Arrest Research Project, approximately 86% of those arrested are Black and Latino – mostly young men -- despite government studies show that young white men use marijuana at higher rates. Indeed, if this trend continues, NYPD could make as many or more marijuana arrests in 2014 as they did in 2013.
When fighting broke out between Soviet and Chinese troops along the Ussuri River, the border both nations shared in Northeast Asia, and long before President Richard Nixon considered making a surprise visit to China, Mao Zedong called in his personal physician, Li Zhisui, and presented him with a problem. "Think about this," said Mao, "We have the Soviet Union to the north and the west, India to the south, and Japan to the east. If all our enemies were to unite, attacking us from the north, south, east, and west, what do you think we should do?" Li was then shocked to learn that Mao was planning to open negotiations with their long-time rival: the United States. According to Mao, "The United States and the Soviet Union are different...America's new president, Richard Nixon, is a longtime rightist, a leader of the anti-communists there. I like to deal with rightists. They say what they really think-not like the leftists, who say one thing and mean another."(1) Surprisingly, China would use the sport of Ping-Pong to help open diplomatic relations.
According to a report released today by the AFL-CIO, 4,628 workers were killed in the United States during 2012 due to workplace injuries. Additionally an estimated 50,000 died from occupational diseases, resulting in a loss of nearly 150 workers each day from preventable workplace conditions.
“A hard day’s work should not be a death sentence,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “It is unconscionable that any worker has to choose between life and putting food on the table. When Congress votes to weaken worker protections or defund critical programs and when big corporations marginalize and deemphasize worker safety, they insult the memory of all those workers who have died while fighting to attain the American Dream.”
The report, entitled Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect, marks the 23rd year the AFL-CIO has produced its findings on the state of safety and health protections for workers within the United States. The report shows the highest workplace fatality rates were found in North Dakota, Wyoming, Alaska, West Virginia and Montana, while Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Hampshire (tied), and Washington (tied) had the lowest state fatality rates.
Booklists always stir up controversy. Serious readers justifiably hate to see masterpieces overlooked or substandard writing overrated. Uneasy in their embrace of classic titles, they want to see them neither abandoned nor overrepresented. Justifiably, they expect booklists to include diverse perspectives.
A Lifetime of Fiction: The 500 Most Recommended Reads for Ages 2 to 102 achieves a novel resolution in the perennial search for the ideal booklist. It stakes out new common ground by creating a composite based on all the major booklists, creating reading lists not just for adults, but for different age groups. The idea behind this new approach is that the natural quirks and biases of reading lists and book award lists would be offset and ameliorated by the collective wisdom of the whole. Lifetime attempts to inform the literary canon by widely surveying the most recognized reading lists from education, journalism, library science, and book award organizations.
Most Americans assume the United States government speaks "the truth" to its citizens and defends their constitutional right to "free speech" (be it in the form of words or dollars). On the other hand, it is always the alleged enemies of the U.S. who indulge in propaganda and censoring of "the truth."
In practice it is not quite that way. Washington, and more local American governments as well, can be quite censoring. Take for instance the attempt to censor the boycott of Israeli academic institutions - institutions engaged in government research that facilitates illegal settlement expansion and the use of Palestinian water resources. In this case, the fact that a call for boycott is an age-old, non-violent practice also falling within the category of free speech, is mostly disregarded. Instead we get a knee-jerk impulse on the part of just about every American politician to shut down debate, even to the point where various state legislatures threatened their own state colleges and universities with a cutoff of funds if they tolerate the boycott effort on their campuses.
Five years ago, my mother, who is now 81, was diagnosed with dementia and Alzheimer's, and her short-term memories are almost non-existent. Unless something very dramatic—death, divorce, accidents, and marriages—happens to those very dear to her she retains nothing of the immediate past. She has, too, become paranoid and housebound, and the once vivacious, outgoing and beautiful woman has become frail and depressed. Though my two older siblings and I visit my parents in Fremont practically every week, as we all live in the Bay Area, my mother nevertheless feels isolated and confused due to her increasing dementia.
But when it comes to the distant past, and especially when it involves cooking, it is another story altogether. "Mother," I say her on the phone, changing the subject. "How do you make banh tom co ngu?" It's a Vietnamese fried shrimp cake made with yam. "Well," she responds with no hesitation, "you need both rice powder and starch. You need to make sure it's of equal part and the shrimp you keep the head, that's the best part. You need to have good, light oil." She rattles off the recipe with increasing confidence. "Be careful, if you use too much starch, it doesn't get crunchy."
There are several factors that have played into a continuing wealth disparity. For starters, non-home wealth has played a vital role in determining affluence. To illustrate, the Great Recession of 2008 and subsequent recovery saw the stock market bounce back and make investors money while the housing market remains relatively stagnant. Since lower income people tend to have a greater share of their wealth concentrated in home values, they have been disproportionately affected. This is one of several factors shaping the persistent inequality in the U.S.
While this reality seems grim, there is a silver lining. One practice has consistently been associated with getting a larger share of the American income pie: going to school. About one-half of all household income is brought in by someone with at least a bachelor's degree, and the gap between the share of income earned by those who attended college and those who did not continues to grow.
Contractors, lobbyists and officials attending the Homeland Security Congress in Washington DC yesterday did a "traditional" Native American circle dance to celebrate a fictitious new US government plan, the "American Renewable Clean-Energy Network" (AmeriCAN), to convert the US to 100% renewable energy by 2030.
The conference attendees—including a retired Navy Admiral, a retired USAF General, a former Seal Team Seven leader, an aspiring Republican Congressman, lobbyists, and many homeland security contractors—applauded frequently during the stirring announcement by the US Department of Energy's "Benedict Waterman" (actually Andy Bichlbaum of the Yes Men), as well as the eloquent speech by "Bana Slowhorse" of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (actually Gitz Crazyboy, a youth worker from the Athabascan Chippewyan First Nations, whose land includes the Alberta Tar Sands).
WASHINGTON, DC - In the wake of two U.S. Supreme Court rulings in the past three years, consumers, workers and others harmed by unfair fine print in contracts are increasingly being shut out of the courthouse, a new Public Citizen and National Association of Consumer Advocates (NACA) report shows.
The report identifies 140 cases affecting thousands of consumers or employees over the past three years where a court enforced an arbitration clause and barred the claimants from participating in class actions. A Pennsylvania federal court last December enforced an arbitration clause and class-action ban against restaurant employees who sought redress against their employer for allegedly underpaying them. The court called its own ruling "lamentable" and "an unappetizing result." But it felt compelled to follow the law set by AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion in 2011 and American Express v. Italian Colors in 2013.