America didn't used to be run like an old Southern slave plantation, but we're headed that way now. How did that happen?
It's been said that the rich are different than you and me. What most Americans don't know is that they're also quite different from each other, and that which faction is currently running the show ultimately makes a vast difference in the kind of country we are.
Right now, a lot of our problems stem directly from the fact that the wrong sort has finally gotten the upper hand; a particularly brutal and anti-democratic strain of American aristocrat that the other elites have mostly managed to keep away from the levers of power since the Revolution. Worse: this bunch has set a very ugly tone that's corrupted how people with power and money behave in every corner of our culture. Here's what happened, and how it happened, and what it means for America now.
WASHINGTON/NEW YORK, July 1 (Reuters) - The U.S. Department of Justice said on Wednesday it is investigating whether U.S. airlines worked together illegally to keep airfares high by signaling plans to limit flights.
The Justice Department wrote to major U.S. air carriers demanding that they detail decisions to limit the number of seats they offer, and what they've said about those plans to investors, securities analysts and the public.
Airlines contacted have been asked to provide "available seat miles on a regional and system wide basis" back to January 2010 and a raft of other data.
The top four U.S. carriers American Airlines Group Inc , Delta Air Lines Inc , United Continental Holdings Inc and Southwest Airlines Co control some 80 percent of the domestic air travel market.
The four confirmed receipt of the regulator's letter and said they are cooperating fully with the investigation. News of the probe sent the Dow Jones U.S. airlines index down 2 percent.
A quick web search for the world's most famous scientists lists, among others, Galileo, Einstein, Newton, Darwin, Stephen Hawking and Alexander Fleming. One of the few women to receive a mention is Marie Curie, a physicist and chemist who basically discovered radiation and helped apply it in the field of X-rays. She won two Nobel Prizes, in physics and chemistry. Yet even so, she was turned down for membership of the prestigious French Academie des Sciences in 1911, the very year she went on to win her second Nobel Prize. The Nobel laureate Sir Tim Hunt was heavily criticised for his disparaging remarks about women in science last week, which for some raised the issue of where women stood in the scientific community. The larger truth is that women have made big and important discoveries in science - think of Dorothy Hodgkin, the brilliant crystallographer who mapped the structure of penicillin and went on to be awarded a Nobel Prize in 1964.
The following is an excerpt fromOut of Sight: The Long and Disturbing Story of Corporations Outsourcing Catastropheby Erik Loomis (The New Press, 2015):
The new environmental laws of the 1970s proved immediately effective. Between 1972 and 1978, presence of sulfur dioxide in the environment fell 17 percent, carbon monoxide by 35 percent, and lead by 26 percent.15 Americans lauded a future of jobs and health, prosperity and beautiful nature. Unions such as the United Steelworkers of America, who represented many Donora workers, the United Auto Workers, and the Oil, Chemical, and Atomic Workers made alliances with environmentalists and promoted the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and other core legislation that protected all Americans, whether members of the working class or wealthy, from the emissions and pollutants of industry. Environmentalists for Full Employment formed in 1975 to “publicize the fact that it is possible simultaneously to create jobs, conserve energy and natural resources and protect the environment.” When Ronald Reagan became president and cut OSHA and EPA funding, the AFL-CIO and Sierra Club created the OSHA/Environmental Network to organize resistance between the two movements. Environmentalists and a Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees local representing tannery workers in Fulton County, New York, overcame past differences and worked together on both the workplace environment of the tannery and tannery-created water pollution. By the late 1990s, workers reporting environmental violations and environmentalists helped the union develop plans to improve working conditions in the plants.
Nearly one in 100 U.S. adults is in prison or jail, often as a result of questionable or biased convictions and subject to living (and dying) under conditions that research reveals as extremely inhumane
Numerous state-level studies show that between 10 and 20 percent of employers misclassify at least one worker as an independent contractor. Independent contractor (IC) misclassification occurs when a worker who should be considered a direct employee of a business—and receive a W-2 form to file with tax returns—is treated as a self-employed, “independent” contractor, and receives a 1099-MISC (miscellaneous income) form instead. The overall numbers have likely increased in recent years as workers in such traditional industries as construction, trucking, and stagecraft have been joined by a growing cadre of “on-demand workers,” who often get their assignments via the Internet (Weber and Silverman 2015). Independent contractors working in the on-demand economy include technical workers, house cleaners, drivers, and scores of others—some of whom are misclassified employees. All independent contractors, in old or new industries, are ineligible for benefits such as the minimum wage, overtime pay, unemployment insurance, and workers’ compensation.
In the 1950s, a group of Inuit children were taken from their families in Greenland to be re-educated as model Danish citizens. More than 60 years later, they want the Danish government to apologise for an experiment that did enormous damage. "It was a lovely summery day, when two grand Danish gentlemen showed up at our house," says Helene Thiesen. It was 1951 and she lived with her family in Nuuk, the capital of Greenland. "They had an interpreter with them and my older sister and I thought: What are they doing here? We were very curious. We were told to go outside while mum spoke to them. "They asked my mum if she would be willing to send me to Denmark. I would learn to speak Danish and get a good education - they said it was a great chance for me. "My mum said, 'No,' to them twice. But they kept pushing her and said we think you should send Helene to Denmark, it's only for six months. And she'll get the chance of a bright future - so we think you should let her go."
Just imagine what Michael Lewis must think of the FIFA scandal. Although Michael Lewis is a prolific non-fiction author who has written about the misdeeds and abuses of Wall Street for a quarter of a century, he has never seen the highest law enforcement officials in the land throw the book at Wall Street as they did last week at the world soccer organization known as FIFA.
Lewis first burst on the scene 25 years ago when he published Liar's Poker. Liar's Poker described the world of bond trading and the development of mortgage-backed securities at Salomon Brothers where Lewis worked.
Salomon Brothers was the gorilla on Wall Street back then, before collapsing in ignominy in the wake of its failed effort to rig the Treasury auction. But mortgage-backed securities lived on, and ultimately morphed into the complex securities that brought the world financial system to its knees in 2008.
Prominent Washington think tanks that routinely provide Congress with policy advice should refrain from taking foreign government donations, particularly from nations like Qatar that have been associated with financing extremist groups, a senior House lawmaker wrote this week in a letter to the president of the Brookings Institution.
The letter from Representative Frank R. Wolf, Republican of Virginia, was in response to an article on Sunday in The New York Times that examined the relationship between think tanks and foreign governments that have donated tens of millions of dollars in recent years to the nonprofit groups, often with an explicit goal of influencing American foreign policy.
A much-touted domestic violence law is falling short in the courts as defendants escape convictions in more than 70 percent of the cases closed under two newly created charges — assault and battery on a family member and strangulation or suffocation, a Herald review found.
The new charges added to the books were considered a key ingredient in tightening the state’s domestic violence laws in the wake of the murder case against Jared Remy, who wiggled out of domestic violence charges before killing his girlfriend, Jennifer Martel, in August 2013.
But a review of the data compiled by nine of the state’s 11 district attorneys and sent to state lawmakers this week shows:
Here’s something you probably didn’t know happened in California in the last few years, and maybe it’s something you never imagined could happen: In 2011, two high-ranking state regulators were fired from their posts for pissing off the oil industry. No one really disputes the veracity of that statement; not even Governor Jerry Brown. “They were blocking oil exploration in Kern County,” the Sacramento Bee reported Brown announcing at an event six months later. “I fired them, and oil permits for drilling went up 18 percent.”
Catherine Reheis-Boyd, president of the Western States Petroleum Association, also celebrated without restraint, unconcerned that the people of California might detect her hand guiding the Governor’s pink-slip pen. After the firings, Reheis-Boyd boasted to the Los Angeles Times that her industry once again had a “clear pathway for people to get permits and proceed with drilling in this state. The communications lines are very open.”
While the way in which the media handle the stories that are covered is bad enough, the absence of coverage is even worse. If an issue does not divide the main political parties, it vanishes from view, though the parties now disagree on hardly anything. Another study reveals a near total collapse of environmental coverage on ITV and BBC news: it declined from 2.5% (ITV) and 1.6% (BBC) of total airtime in 2007 to, respectively, 0.2% and 0.3% in 2014. There were as many news stories on these outlets about Madeleine McCann in 2014 – seven years after her disappearance – as there were about all environmental issues put together.
Those entrusted to challenge power are the loyalists of power.
Robert Looks Twice grew up in a trailer with his grandmother, uncle and eight cousins on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Looks Twice, along with two other young Native people from Pine Ridge, was a subject of Diane Sawyer's "Children of the Plains," a special that first aired on ABC in 2011.
For many Americans, "Children of the Plains" was a startling glimpse into the poverty and despair affecting the lives of Native Americans. Five cousins share a single bedroom with a collapsing ceiling. People carry the scars of generations of alcoholism and addiction. They spend their days broken and weeping in the quivering grass of the hills where their ancestors -- Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull -- captured Custer's American flag at the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876; where the 7th cavalry massacred the Lakota and poured their bodies into a mass grave at Wounded Knee in 1890. This is what happened to the first peoples of this land. This is the lot left to their children.
Now, from impoverished reservations in the West, to Congress and the White House in the East, there is a growing bipartisan movement to document and address the lack of resources and opportunities in Native communities.
Foreign vessels have been plundering the waters of West Africa for decades to stock the fish markets of Europe and Asia. Industrial fishing is depriving West African people of a vital source of protein and pushing thousands of locals into poverty and despair.
The number of suits filed against countries at the ICSID is now around 500 – and that figure is growing at an average rate of one case a week. The sums awarded in damages are so vast that investment funds have taken notice: corporations’ claims against states are now seen as assets that can be invested in or used as leverage to secure multimillion-dollar loans. Increasingly, companies are using the threat of a lawsuit at the ICSID to exert pressure on governments not to challenge investors’ actions.
“I had absolutely no idea this was coming,” Parada said. Sitting in a glass-walled meeting room in his offices, at the law firm Foley Hoag, he paused, searching for the right word to describe what has happened in his field. “Rogue,” he decided, finally. “I think the investor-state arbitration system was created with good intentions, but in practice it has gone completely rogue.”
At the turn of the last century, the “Wisconsin Experiment” led the nation as a way to develop government policies that would promote the greatest good for the most people. Gov. Robert La Follette brought together government officials, university professors and business leaders to hash out intelligent state policies.
Today there is another Wisconsin Experiment underway. This one, though, is designed to tear apart that broad civic vision and replace it with an oligarchy.
On its face, today’s Wisconsin story appears to be about budgets and entitlement. Citing the need to save money, the Joint Finance Committee of the Wisconsin Legislature at the end of May voted 12-4 to cut $250 million from the university’s budget and eliminate tenure from state law, enabling the governor-appointed Board of Regents to fire professors whenever they declared it time to “redirect” a program. Opponents are focusing on the end of tenure, but there is a larger story here about money, politics and ownership of the national government.
Significantly, Walker has referred to the measure as “Act 10 for higher education.” Act 10 was the 2011 Wisconsin Budget Repair Bill, passed by the Republican Legislature at Walker’s urging. It was the measure that created such furor in early 2011, as tens of thousands of protesters converged on the Wisconsin Capitol, Democratic senators fled to Illinois to stop a vote on the bill, and Republicans finally found a loophole in the quorum rules that enabled them to pass the measure without their Democratic colleagues.
At stake in this bitter fight was the nature of American government. Should workers have the right to bargain as a unit, joining together as a political bloc to influence both their contracts and government policies? Or should they be forced to compete for national power as individuals equal to the wealthiest men in America?
"Many people posting it wrote that the photo was taken during the recent Nepal earthquakes, and that it depicts 'a brother protecting his sister.' Pretty heartwarming, right? It’s the exact sort of thing your aunt would share on Facebook. A perfectly clear, resonant message about survival and empathy and inequality, all that good stuff. There’s only one problem: That picture is fake."
Individuals in a wide variety of species ranging from elephants, dolphins and whales to farmed animals like cows and pigs and companion animals like dogs, cats, and horses, may feel love for their relatives and friends. We scientists in the past often resorted to academic jargon (“animals experience a social bond with kin and others with whom they spend a majority of their time”). Now many of us call it what it is: a deep loving connection between two animals such that when the two are forced apart through death (or some other separation), the survivor may feel profound grief, visible to observers in new patterns of social withdrawal and/or disrupted life routines.
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