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State Agency Met Privately With Oil-By-Rail Firm Ahead Of Permitting

Oregon state environmental regulators are deciding whether to issue an air permit for a contested oil-by-rail operation in Portland, a site that received local approval after a deal worked out in private between the company and city officials. Now, new documents show that the state agency also met privately with the company before the application was submitted.  The agency said the meeting was informational and involved no commitments. But for groups that oppose oil-by-rail in Portland, the documents add to the sense that multiple layers of government are favoring the company’s interests over public health and safety. 

Private Hospitals Will Be Made Public For Duration Of Coronavirus Pandemic

Some 2,000 beds, nine laboratories and thousands of staff have been drafted into the public system, Leo Varadkar said at a press conference today. Speaking at the same press conference, Health Minister Simon Harris said “there can be no room for public versus private” when responding to the Covid-19 crisis. “We must of course have equality of treatment, patients with this virus will be treated for free, and they’ll be treated as part of a single, national hospital service. “For the duration of this crisis the State will take control of all private hospital facilities and manage all of the resources for the common benefit of all of our people. There can be no room for public versus private when it comes to pandemic,” Harris said. A further 219 cases of Covid-19 were confirmed in the Republic of Ireland last night, bringing the total number of cases here to 1,125.

‘This Land Is Your Land’: Reclaiming Public Land For Communities In Brooklyn

Here's the problem: Located primarily in areas of the city where low-income communities of color live today, more than a thousand vacant public lots languish behind fences, collecting garbage. One such lot was in Paula Segal's Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood in Brooklyn. In 2010, she began talking to her neighbors about this lot. She gathered as much information as she could find about it and called a community meeting. That meeting led to more meetings, which led to Myrtle Village Green: an active, nearly 2-acre community space with garden beds, an outdoor movie screening area, a pumpkin patch, and an educational production and research farm. From then on, she thought, "How many more such lots are there in New York City?" She got access to city data and learned that, in 2001, 596 acres of public land were waiting for communities to transform them, and soon after, 596 Acres was born.

Using Public Spaces To Organize Communities

By Sam Allen for Transition Network - One summer night in 2014, Lucille Burns, a 34-year-old mother, was shot and killed while trying to break up a fight. Tamar Manasseh, a mother of two who had already seen too much gun violence in her Chicago neighborhood of Englewood, was devastated. Then she sprang into action. As she wrote in her recent op-ed for Truthout, “I didn’t know what I was going to do. I had a theory, though: If enough adults, mainly moms, sat outside in lawn chairs and eye-catching shirts, violence would cease. I knew how much my own teenagers hated to be watched and how different their behavior was when they were, so I figured all teenagers would pretty much react the same way to supervision. So, I started my project: Mothers Against Senseless Killings. Every evening, we set up our lawn chairs and a barbecue grill on the block where that shooting took place — a block that had also seen high levels of gun violence in the past. We fed not only the bodies of the people in the community, but also their souls.” In the three years since MASK was formed, not a single act of violence has taken place on their block – not even a fistfight. Volunteers sign up to feed the block every summer night, and special events draw crowds to the corner, like the MASK Back-to-School Block Party with backpack giveaways, DJs, barbers, braiders, face painters, and tattoo removal services.

Public Power As A Vehicle Towards Energy Democracy

By Johanna Bozuwa for The Next System Project - “We would line up all of our inhalers in a row on the benches before we would go run, just in case,” recounts Kristen Ethridge; an Indiana resident near some of the most polluting power plants in the country. Asthma rates are so bad from the toxic emissions that many students cannot make it through gym class without their inhalers. Cancer and infant mortality rates in the area are through the roof. These plants are owned by some of the biggest names in the utility business including groups like Duke Energy and AEP. Gibson Power Plant, the worst of them all, emits 2.9 million pounds of toxic compounds and 16.3 million metric tons of greenhouse gases a year. What’s more, most of the energy generated in these plants is transported out of state, leaving Indiana with all the emissions and very little gain. Indiana’s power plants provide a window into how our current electrical system works. It is a system dominated by a small number of large powerful companies, called investor-owned utilities. Their centralized fossil fuel plants are at the heart of our aging electricity grid—a core contributor to rapidly-accelerating climate change. The carbon emissions associated with these power providers are but one symptom of larger systemic issues in the sector. Investor-owned utilities are traditionally profit-oriented corporations whose structures are based on an paradigm of extraction.

Our Best Shot At Meeting Paris Goals? Make Energy Public

By Sarah van Gelder for Yes! Magazine - Mayors across the country have vowed to deliver on the goals of the Paris climate accord in defiance of President Trump’s decision to back out. But how can they, realistically, when the national government is questioning climate science and promoting coal, fracking, and pipelines? Simply put: Make energy public. Instead of privatizing city services, as some policymakers have long advocated, a new report shows that public ownership gives cities and towns the best shot at meeting renewable energy and efficiency targets. “Reclaiming Public Services: How Cities and Citizens are Turning Back Privatization,” a study by the Amsterdam-based Transnational Institute, challenges the ideas that governments are ineffective service providers, that private companies are more efficient, and that austerity budgeting and reductions in public service are inevitable. Cities and towns that want well-run water and sanitation services, low-cost access to the internet, and affordable housing should keep those operations public or run by local nonprofits, the report found. If these services are now private, the institute recommends “re-municipalization.” The report is based on research involving 1,600 cities in 45 countries that have chosen public ownership over corporate ownership, especially of their energy and water systems.

The Bait And Switch Of Public-Private Partnerships

By Pete Dolack of Systemic Disorder - This being the age of public relations, the genteel term “public-private partnership” is used instead of corporate plunder. A “partnership” such deals may be, but it isn’t the public who gets the benefits. We’ll be hearing more about so-called “public-private partnerships” in coming weeks because the new U.S. president, Donald Trump, is promoting these as the basis for a promised $1 trillion in new infrastructure investments. But the new administration has also promised cuts to public spending. How to square this circle? It’s not difficult to discern when we recall the main policy of the Trump administration is to hand out massive tax cuts to big business and the wealthy, and provide them with subsidies. Public-private partnerships are one of the surest ways of shoveling money into the gaping maws of corporate wallets, used, with varying names, by neoliberal governments around the world, particularly in Europe and North America.

Big Oil & Gas Get Exclusive Access To Public Lands

By Staff of The Real News Network - The world’s biggest banks are driving climate change by pumping billions of dollars into extreme fossil fuels, according to a new report released this week from Greenpeace, Rainforest Action Network, BankTrack, Sierra Club, and Oil Change International. Investigative journalist Steve Horn has taken a closer look for us at the machinations of public lands and how they’re being auctioned off to oil and gas interests for drilling and mining for as little as $1.50 an acre. In the U.S., Keep It In the Ground movement has focused in on the leasing of public lands. Let’s take a look at a clip from one of their campaigns.

Big Oil Plots To Keep Public Out Of Public Land Bidding

By Steve Horn for Desmog - At the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission (IOGCC)'s 2016 meeting in Denver, Colorado this week, a representative from a prominent oil and gas lobbying group advocated that auctions of federal lands should happen online “eBay”-style — a clear attempt to shut the public out of the bidding process for fossil fuel leases on public lands. Speaking on public lands issues in front of IOGCC's public lands committee, Kathleen Sgamma — Western Energy Alliance's (WEA) vice president of governmental affairs — compared environmental groups' Keep It In The Ground campaign actions

Our Public Lands’ Carbon Bomb

By Kieran Suckling in The Huffington Post - When many people think of America's public lands, they think about pristine, wide-open spaces in the West. But lurking beneath them is a massive carbon bomb that we unleash at our own peril. A new report released Wednesday finds that unleased fossil fuels on public lands and offshore areas - publicly owned fossil fuels controlled by federal agencies - hold up to 450 billion tons of greenhouse gases. If we allow that coal, oil and natural gas to be developed, we'll cripple America's ability to meet its obligation to cut carbon and avoid the worst effects of the global climate crisis. That's why it's never been more clear that President Obama - and whoever comes after him in the White House - needs to pledge to ban new fossil fuel leases on U.S. public lands and offshore coastal areas.

Why Public Transportation Is So Limited In The US

By Daniel Faris in Truth Out - On a recent trip to Baltimore, I encountered something startling: a US city with a public transportation system that actually works. From buses to water taxis, Baltimore's Charm City Circulator (or CCC) was established in 2010 by former mayor Sheila Dixon. The program boasts a fleet of around 30 vehicles that shuttle more than 3,000 daily riders along four color-coded routes meeting over 100 city stops. The service has a smartphone app, it consists entirely of hybrid vehicles, and the fare is nonexistent. That's right: the buses are 100 percent free. I thought, Surely there has to be a catch. Then I stepped back and asked myself: Why? All across the world, there are close to100 cities that offer free public transportation, and about one fifth of them are in the US. So what do these cities know that the rest of the country doesn't? Is the public transportation system in the US really as bad as everyone says? And if so, why?

The PAH: Defending The Right To Housing In Spain

By Timothy Ginty in RoarMag - In February 2009, after the Spanish government had shown itself incapable of enforcing Article 47 of the Spanish Constitution — declaring that “all Spaniards have the right to enjoy decent and adequate housing” — a citizens’ assembly was held in Barcelona to establish the Platform for People Affected by Mortgages, or the PAH (Spanish: Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca), a social movement which would wait for neither government action nor market corrections for this right to be enforced. The PAH’s immediate aims are simple — the prevention of the systematic eviction of tens of thousands of debtors across Spain — but its larger dream is bolder: the achievement of the socio-economic conditions in which the human right to housing may be secure.

National Plutocrat Radio: Corporate 1%’s Dominate NPR’s Boards

For a public radio service, NPR is notoriously known for its lack of diversity within its staff, audience and guests invited onto their shows—problems that NPR has itself acknowledged (6/30/14). A new FAIR study finds thatNPR’s diversity problem also extends into the board of trustees of its most popular member stations: Two out of three board members are male, and nearly three out of four are non-Latino whites. Fully three out of every four trustees of the top NPR affiliates belong to the corporate elite. While a majority of the board is populated by NPR station managers with backgrounds in public media, the rest of the board members have strong ties to the corporate sector. This includes NPR CEO Jarl Mohn, who has an extensive background in commercial media, having held executive positions within E! Entertainment, MTV and VH1.

Protesters Win: Berkeley Post Office Saved

In early April, the US Postal Service won. They got a Federal Judge to dismiss, without prejudice, Berkeley's lawsuit against the sale of the downtown Berkeley Post Office. Funny thing though, nobody in Berkeley thinks the Post Service won, and for Postal Service management it was at best a pyrrhic victory. In order for them to extract that ruling, they had to attest that the 2000 Allston Way building was no longer for sale, and aver that they had rescinded their decision to move services out of the building. In an amusing twist Judge Alsup had asked the Postal Service lawyers during oral arguments whether they would rescind their "Final Determination Regarding Relocation of Relocation Services in Berkeley."

Domestic Terrorism, Youth And The Politics Of Disposability

Education is no longer a public good but a private right, just as critical thinking is no longer a fundamental necessity for creating an engaged and socially responsible citizenship. Neoliberalism's disdain for the social is no longer a quote made famous by Margaret Thatcher. The public sphere is now replaced by private interests, and unbridled individualism rails against any viable notion of solidarity that might inform the vibrancy of struggle, change, and an expansion of an enlightened and democratic body politic. One outcome is that we live at a time in which institutions that were designed to limit human suffering and indignity and protect the public from the boom and bust cycles of capitalist markets have been either weakened or abolished.
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