Wednesday, 01 October 2014 / TRUTH-OUT.ORG

Speakout

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.

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.

May 10

Recommended Fiction for All Ages

By William Patrick Martin, SpeakOut | Booklist

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.

May 10

Censorship Is The Norm - An Analysis by Lawrence Davidson and Janet Amighi

By Janet Amighi and Lawrence Davidson, SpeakOut | News Analysis

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.

May 10

Mother

By Andrew Lam, SpeakOut | Essay

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.

When Congress passed the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 it included an important buffer assuring the organic community that we would never lose control over the true meaning of the organic label: a diverse 15-member stakeholder board that had true statutory authority and power — the National Organic Standards Board or NOSB.

Citizens and farmers created organics as an alternative to industrial-scale agriculture and food production. As companies like Dean Foods, General Mills (hiding behind the façades of WhiteWave and Small Planet Foods respectively), Smucker's and other agribusiness giants invested in gobbling up organic brands (Silk, Horizon, Cascadian Farms, Knutson, etc.), they sent their lobbyists and the Organic Trade Association to Washington.

I unfriended another Facebook friend this week. It may seem to be a trivial matter, but for me, it is not. The reason behind my action was Syria. As in Egypt, Syria has instigated many social media breakups with people whom, until then, were regarded with a degree of respect and admiration.

But this is not a social media affair. The problems lie at the core of the Syrian conflict, with all of its manifestations, be they political, sectarian, ideological, cultural, and intellectual. While on the left (not the establishment left of course) Palestine has brought many likeminded people together, Egypt has fragmented that unity, and Syria has crushed and pulverized it to bits.

Washington - The Campaign for America's Future has thrown its support behind the student loan relief bill introduced on Tuesday by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)

CAF co-director Robert L. Borosage released the following statement:

"There are nearly 40 million Americans with outstanding student loan debt, which now averages $29,400 per graduate. That total increases with the rising costs of tuition, even at public colleges and universities, and by the failure of our own government to address college affordability."

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Speakout

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.

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.

May 10

Recommended Fiction for All Ages

By William Patrick Martin, SpeakOut | Booklist

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.

May 10

Censorship Is The Norm - An Analysis by Lawrence Davidson and Janet Amighi

By Janet Amighi and Lawrence Davidson, SpeakOut | News Analysis

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.

May 10

Mother

By Andrew Lam, SpeakOut | Essay

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.

When Congress passed the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 it included an important buffer assuring the organic community that we would never lose control over the true meaning of the organic label: a diverse 15-member stakeholder board that had true statutory authority and power — the National Organic Standards Board or NOSB.

Citizens and farmers created organics as an alternative to industrial-scale agriculture and food production. As companies like Dean Foods, General Mills (hiding behind the façades of WhiteWave and Small Planet Foods respectively), Smucker's and other agribusiness giants invested in gobbling up organic brands (Silk, Horizon, Cascadian Farms, Knutson, etc.), they sent their lobbyists and the Organic Trade Association to Washington.

I unfriended another Facebook friend this week. It may seem to be a trivial matter, but for me, it is not. The reason behind my action was Syria. As in Egypt, Syria has instigated many social media breakups with people whom, until then, were regarded with a degree of respect and admiration.

But this is not a social media affair. The problems lie at the core of the Syrian conflict, with all of its manifestations, be they political, sectarian, ideological, cultural, and intellectual. While on the left (not the establishment left of course) Palestine has brought many likeminded people together, Egypt has fragmented that unity, and Syria has crushed and pulverized it to bits.

Washington - The Campaign for America's Future has thrown its support behind the student loan relief bill introduced on Tuesday by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)

CAF co-director Robert L. Borosage released the following statement:

"There are nearly 40 million Americans with outstanding student loan debt, which now averages $29,400 per graduate. That total increases with the rising costs of tuition, even at public colleges and universities, and by the failure of our own government to address college affordability."