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October 2017

4 Energy Cooperatives Leading The Way To A Sustainable Future

By Lynn Benander, Diego Angarita Horowitz, Isaac Baker for Island Press - In the early 2000s in the northeastern United States, a perfect storm was brewing in which the electric utilities were about to be deregulated, activists were organizing to fight climate change, and entrepreneurs were experimenting with various renewable energy technologies. Consumers had few sustainable energy choices. Solar systems installed in the 1970s sat idle, with few solar companies still in operation able to get them back up and running. People in the Northeast have a tradition of direct democracy in governing their towns through town meetings, and barn raisings are commonly known as events where people come together to build a barn. Though communities are largely segregated by class and race, there are many places where people come together across class and race and get things done. It’s also a part of the United States where climate change is having a noticeable impact, not only on the weather, but on the forests, too. Co-op Power, launched in 2004, is a multiracial, multiclass cooperative movement. It’s a consumer-owned energy cooperative working for a just and sustainable energy future. It is also a decentralized network of community energy cooperatives in New England and New York dedicated to working together as agents of social, economic, and environmental change in their region...

This Year’s Real Halloween Horror

By Bob Lord for Inequality - The family that has made billions off trick-or-treat candy has gone generations without paying any appreciable tax on its enormous fortune. And the Trump tax plan, if adopted, would ax a huge chunk of the tax on the family’s income! The Mars family has made billions selling us M&Ms, Snickers, and countless other Halloween treats for a century now. But when it comes to paying tax, the Mars family seems to be all tricks and no treats. In fact, the family’s latest tax trick may have cost the U.S. Treasury a whopping $10 billion. What could $10 billion do? That’s the cost of delivering prenatal care to hundreds of thousands of expectant moms under Medicaid, an essential program that President Trump and the GOP Congress plan to cut by up to $1 trillion. According to the current U.S. tax code, any American worth $25 billion can expect 40 percent of that, or $10 billion, to go to Uncle Sam in estate tax, the federal levy on the personal fortunes of deep pockets who kick the bucket. Forrest Mars Jr. had a $25-billion fortune when he died in July 2016. But the Mars family has apparently been able to avoid estate tax on that entire $25 billion. How do we know? Researchers at Forbes and Bloomberg, the two business publications that track America’s billionaire wealth, have some fascinating numbers for us.

Direct Action Against Arms Fairs In New Zealand And South Korea

By Staff of War Resisters' International - In New Zealand, Peace Action Wellington organised groups from across New Zealand to resist the annual New Zealand Defence Industry Association's (NZDIA) “weapons expo”. From 7am on 10th October, around 200 people were onsite to protest the event, with the entrances to the Westpac Stadium blocked by protesters sat in the roads and hanging from banners. Jessie Dennis, a spokesperson for Peace Action Wellington said: “We’re here to stay. We think it’s totally unethical that New Zealand plays host to a Weapons Expo, and we’re not leaving until the weapons dealers do. The Weapons Expo is a trade fair for some of the biggest arms companies in the world. The delegates attending would have us believe that the products on sale and the deals being done at the Expo are somehow benign. But make no mistake, these are weapons and military hardware that play their part in the global war machine.” The protest was heavily policed, with a number of arrests and protesters accusing the police of violence. The coalition taking action included Auckland Peace Action, Peace Action Hamilton, People Against Prisons Aotearoa, Palestine Solidarity Network, Whanganui Positive Activists, It’s Our Future Manawatu, Oil Free Wellington, Unions Wellington, Pacific Panthers, Quakers, Catholic Workers and many other individual activists.

Lessons From Tennessee: Confront Hate And Win

By Zach D. Roberts for Nation of Change - Outnumbered by more than three to one and late for their own event, the White Lives Matter demonstrators left. If we should learn anything from this weekend in Shelbyville and Murfreesboro it’s confronting hate works. Saturday in Shelbyville, anti-fascists confronted the planned “White Lives Matter” rally with larger numbers and a peaceful, if not mocking tone. Hundreds of counterprotesters outnumbered at least 3 to 1 the mixed bag of white supremacists, Nazi’s and League of the South members. Clearly learning from the mistakes of Charlottesville, Shelbyville Police made certain to keep the two opposing sides far away from each other. Four lanes of road, a divider, metal gates and a line of riot-prepared police prevented the two sides from meeting. The security didn’t stop there though – the laundry list of items that were not allowed into the ‘free speech zones’ was long and included water bottles, backpacks.

Where Evictions Hurt The Most

By Sarah Holder for City Lab - Measuring the scale of America’s eviction problem has been a challenge—the data just isn’t available. While the U.S. Census bureau promised to start more diligently measuring evictions in 2017, there is not yet a national federal database. City-level records measure formal evictions, but are hard to access centrally, and miss off-the-books instances of (similarly damaging) forced moves. A new report from Apartment List aims to more accurately estimate the scope of the population at risk of eviction, building on data from its 8 million users, plus answers to 41,000 surveys on rental security. The scope, they found, is wide, and growing: One in five renters recently struggled or were unable to pay their rent, and 3.7 million renters nationwide have experienced an eviction in their lifetime as a renter. In addition to determining the frequency (and threats) of evictions,Apartment List tried to quantify the similarly insidious incidences of informal evictions, and the unhealthy nature of monthly rental insecurity. The survey asks if, in at least one of the past three months, a given renter has been unable to pay their rent in full. The one in five that answered “yes” haven’t necessarily been forced to leave their apartments under court of law, but they do face serious consequences.

American Indian Movement Co-Founder Dennis Banks Dies

By Vincent Schilling for Indian Country Today - American Indian Movement co-founder, activist, author and teacher Dennis Banks has died at 80 years of age. Banks died from complications of pneumonia he had contracted following open heart surgery. According to a recent post on his Facebook page by his family, Dennis Banks passed away at 10:10 pm on October 29, 2017 amidst family, friends and traditional song. “Our father Dennis J. Banks started his journey to the spirit world at 10:10 pm on October 29, 2017. As he took his last breaths, Minoh sang him four songs for his journey. All the family who were present prayed over him and said our individual goodbyes. Then we proudly sang him the AIM song as his final send off. Our father will be laid to rest in his home community of Leech Lake, MN. Presiding over traditional services will be Terry Nelson. We welcome all who would like to pay respects. As soon as arrangements are finalized, we will post details.Still Humbly Yours, The children and grandchildren of Nowacumig.” In response to the announcement of his death, Facebook and Twitter have already been flooded with comments. Lonn Duncan condolences to the family, our hearts, thoughts and prayers always. rest in peace brother. a true and great warrior.

New Tool For Preventing Workplace Deaths

By Russell Mokhiber of Corporate Crime Report - The database catalogues state criminal prosecutions against companies and individuals whose actions caused a worker’s death or serious injury. The database contains information on 75 incidents in 16 states that have led to criminal charges and provides additional related materials. “Every state has laws on the books that allow for criminal prosecution of employers who cause a worker’s death or serious injury,” said the Center’s Katie Tracy. “But it’s common for district attorneys to leave anything that happens in the workplace up to OSHA, even if prosecution is clearly warranted, and even though OSHA’s penalties are severely limited. It’s time for prosecutors to take workplace cases more seriously.” “Our database highlights instances in which states have pursued such cases over the past several decades to seek justice for workers and their families and to hold employers responsible for their actions,” Tracy said. “Until now, such information has been scattered across the Internet and not terribly useful to advocates and researchers.” The Crimes Against Workers database includes data on past and current cases, as well as a range of other materials, such as case files, court decisions, media clips, and advocacy resources. The database also contains information about advocacy campaigns in pursuit of criminal charges, some of which have resulted in an indictment and some of which have not.

Unlike Single Payer, Obamacare’s Design Neglects Black People

By Eli Day for Peoples Policy Report - Mainstream liberals, and in particular Democrats, have been known to cozy up to radical language and symbols just as their value, and with it the political fortunes of those who parrot and exploit them, begins to rise. The last few years are crowded with examples. I’m thinking here of liberals’ oafish performance as champions of social justice. You see it most strikingly in the warm embrace of intersectionality and Black Lives Matter (both of which emerged from the black feminist tradition). That each has exploded in popularity in recent years isn’t itself the problem. The problem is that in the hands of many a liberal politician and pundit, they’ve been rapidly evacuated of substance. Substance that otherwise includes a set of short and long-term political commitments aimed at improving black life. Anyone who claims to value those lives should feel an awful rage at the outcome. After all, rhetorical admiration for black people without a full-throated embrace of policies that stand to improve the actual lives of black people may buoy the fortunes of the speaker, but it’s a pretty shitty deal for…black people. What’s cool is that it doesn’t have to be this way. Take healthcare. Judged by the misery it inflicts on black people, few systems should be as easily slated for decimation as America’s employer-provided system. In its place, the admirers of black life should get behind Medicare-for-All pronto.

New Rules Are Killing Community Banks, Public Banks Can Revive Them

By Ellen Brown for Web of Debt Blog - At his confirmation hearing in January 2017, Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin said, “regulation is killing community banks.” If the process is not reversed, he warned, we could “end up in a world where we have four big banks in this country.” That would be bad for both jobs and the economy. “I think that we all appreciate the engine of growth is with small and medium-sized businesses,” said Mnuchin. “We’re losing the ability for small and medium-sized banks to make good loans to small and medium-sized businesses in the community, where they understand those credit risks better than anybody else.” The number of US banks with assets under $100 million dropped from 13,000 in 1995 to under 1,900 in 2014. The regulatory burden imposed by the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act exacerbated this trend, with community banks losing market share at double the rate during the four years after 2010 as in the four years before. But the number had already dropped to only 2,625 in 2010. What happened between 1995 and 2010? Six weeks after September 11, 2001, the 1,100 page Patriot Act was dropped on congressional legislators, who were required to vote on it the next day.

American Psychosis

By Chris Hedges for Truth DIg - Reality is under assault. Verbal confusion reigns. Truth and illusion have merged. Mental chaos makes it hard to fathom what is happening. We feel trapped in a hall of mirrors. Exposed lies are answered with other lies. The rational is countered with the irrational. Cognitive dissonance prevails. We endure a disquieting shame and even guilt. Tens of millions of Americans, especially women, undocumented workers, Muslims and African-Americans, suffer the acute anxiety of being pursued by a predator. All this is by design. Demagogues always infect the governed with their own psychosis. “The comparison between totalitarianism and psychosis is not incidental,” the psychiatrist Joost A.M. Meerloo wrote in his book “The Rape of the Mind: The Psychology of Thought Control, Menticide, and Brainwashing.” “Delusional thinking inevitably creeps into every form of tyranny and despotism. Unconscious backward forces come into action. Evil powers from the archaic past return. An automatic compulsion to go on to self-destruction develops, to justify one mistake with a new one; to enlarge and expand the vicious pathological circle becomes the dominating end of life. The frightened man, burdened by a culture he does not understand, retreats into the brute’s fantasy of limitless power in order to cover up the vacuum inside himself. This fantasy starts with the leaders and is later taken over by the masses they oppress.”

Fossil Fuel Allies Are Tearing Apart Ohio’s Embrace Of Clean Energy

By Brad Wieners and David Hasemyer for Inside Climate Change - COLUMBUS, Ohio—On March 30, Bill Seitz, a charismatic Republican, took to the floor of the Ohio House to make a case for gutting a 2008 law designed to speed the adoption of solar and wind as significant sources of electricity in the state. The law, he warned, "is like something out of the 5-Year Plan playbook of Joseph Stalin." Adopting a corny Russian accent, he said, "Vee vill have 25,000 trucks on the Volga by 1944!'" Nine years before, Seitz and his colleagues, Republicans and Democrats alike, had voted overwhelmingly for the measure he now compared to the work of a Communist dictator. It made Ohio the 25th state to embrace requirements and inducements to lure utilities away from coal, a major contributor of the gases fueling global climate change. Studies suggested the law would help create green energy jobs and boost the Ohio economy—and it has. Now, Seitz said, it was obsolete. Natural gas, rapidly displacing coal, was the resource Ohio ought to foster, he said. He also argued the law gives an unfair advantage to wind and solar when the state's last nuclear plant is fighting for its life. Most important, Seitz insisted, the government had no business telling anyone what kind of energy to buy.

After 41 Years, Teamsters Reform Movement Is Finally Building Power

By Stephen Franklin for In These Times - In the beginning, Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU) was full of spunk. But they didn’t have any union leaders on their side, nor many rank and file supporters, nor much strategy about turning around a corruption-riddled union. “When they said we didn’t know what we were doing, it wasn’t totally false,” says Ken Paff, who has led the TDU almost since its founding 41 years ago. “We knew what we didn’t know.” In time, the TDU learned how to become a thorn in the union’s side, challenging its contracts, finger pointing to officials’ corruption and lopsided multiple salaries, and electing reform-minded members to local and national positions. At its 41st convention from October 27 to 29 in Chicago, TDU will mark last year’s national campaign that fell only 6,000 votes short of ousting James P. Hoffa. He has led the nearly 1.3-million-member union since 1999, four years longer than his father, James R. Hoffa. But the TDU is not “just about elections,” Paff says. The talk during the upcoming convention, according to Paff, will focus on winning strong contracts, converting part-time jobs into full-time work, boosting wages that start for some at $11 an hour and protecting pensions that have been under attack.

5 Arrested For Mischief Following Kinder Morgan Protest

By Chad Pawson for CBC News - First Nations along with environmentalists, local politicians and residents are continuing their protest of the company's expansion of its Trans Mountain pipeline, which runs from Edmonton to Burnaby. The federal government has approved the $7.4 billion project. The proposed expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline from Alberta would nearly triple its capacity to 890,000 barrels per day and significantly increase crude tanker traffic off the West Coast. Still environmental and aboriginal groups have filed for a judicial review that could overturn the project's federal approval. The concern from protesters is the threat of an oil spill in Burrard Inlet. "It's a risk that we cannot take," said Rueben George with the Tsleil Waututh Nation at the protest on Saturday, one of several he has attended and spoken at.

Comments Supporting Gas Exports Rule Are Recycled Industry Copy-Pastes

By Steve Horn for Desmog - A review of the comments submitted to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) on its proposed rule to fast-track the export of small-scale liquefied natural gas (LNG) shows that roughly two dozen of of the 89 comments were directly copy-pasted from either industry itself or else pro-industry materials written by the DOE or Congress. Furthermore, all of those copy-pasted comments are anonymous, a hint that the oil and gas industry may be behind an astroturf-style comment-submitting campaign for this rule. Only one letter favoring the proposed rule, written by the American Petroleum Institute and the Center for Liquefied Natural Gas, has the industry's name on it. Three other comments supporting the rule have actual names of individuals, a law school student, a college student, and an individual who DeSmog confirmed wrote the comment out of personal interest and for a public policy course at his university. The rule, which the DOE proposed on the Friday before Labor Day, would assume exports of small-scale LNG — these days mostly obtained via hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) in the U.S. — are automatically in the “public interest” as defined by the Natural Gas Act of 1938. Comments for the proposed rule closed on October 16 and then posted online on October 24.

Neo-Nazi Coalition Rallies In Tennessee Amid Pushback

By Patrick Strickland for Aljazeera - Predicting a "strong turnout" in advance of Saturday's rallies, Schoep told Al Jazeera that the events marked the far right's "first major street action" since a deadly rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, just over two months ago. On August 12, hundreds of neo-Nazis and white supremacists travelled from across the country to Charlottesville to protest the city's decision to tear down a Confederate monument. Participants clashed with community members, anti-racist activists and anti-fascists throughout the city. By the end of the day, James Alex Fields, a 20-year-old Ohio resident, had allegedly rammed his car into an anti-racist march and killed 32-year-old activist Heather Heyer. The incident also left at least 19 people injured. "The media is claiming we started or brought violence to Charlottesville and anyone, with even half of a brain who was actually there knows the truth the Antifa violently attacked anyone who was deemed pro-white or pro-American even," Schoep, who refers to himself as the NSM's commander, said by email. He went on to allege that anti-fascists "viciously attacked us with mace, bricks, bottles, bats, chemicals, and countless urine-filled balloons and bottles" in Charlottesville.
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