9 Confirmed Dead, at Least 25 Missing in Oakland Fire at Artist Collective Warehouse Party

AlterNet.org - December 3, 2016 - 2:41pm
Click here for reuse options! Officials have not been able to complete their search, and it is likely that the death toll will rise to 30 or more.

Last night a fire killed at least nine people attending a warehouse party at an artist co-op Satya Yuga space called Ghostship in Oakland, Calif.

More than 25 people are still unaccounted for, according to Oakland Fire Chief Teresa Deloach Reed’s comments to the Associated Press Saturday morning. According to reports Saturday morning, the structure remains unstable so a complete search has not concluded, and authorities fear the death toll could rise to 30 or 40.

According to the Oakland Police Department, the three-alarm fire was reported around 11:3pm Friday at the building at 31st Avenue and International Boulevard. The majority of those confirmed dead were trapped on the building's second floor.

The cause of the fire has not yet been confirmed. The warehouse was crowded with more than 50 people when the fire began, as the venue was hosting a concert/dance party featuring musician Golden Donna Friday night. The event's Facebook page has been updating the names of those believed missing. The Oakland Police Department asks those concerned about missing people to contact the Alameda County Sheriff’s Coroner’s Bureau at (510) 382-3000.

A search is ongoing for bodies and additional survivors who may still be trapped in the debris.

Facebook offers a Safety Check Page on which people can mark themselves “safe” after attending the event at Ghostship, or check in about the safety of friends and family.

A personal note from a former Oakland resident

In a comment on the Satya Yuga Facebook page, Hernan Matamoros, whose profile says he works in production and media for several underground music festivals, wrote:

“So many of our friends and groups in our community produce underground events such as this, that I can't help to think how many other times I was at a warehouse party where a similar situation could have unfolded. This highlights the importance of taking event production seriously even if it’s at a warehouse location. Proper electrical setups, proper evacuation procedures, clearly illuminated and marked exits, fire extinguishers, and event production staff to assist and facilitate in the evacuation.”

I have many artist and underground musician friends in Oakland—several of whom have lost loved ones in the Oakland fire—and I have attended many underground parties just like the one at Ghostship. I think it’s important to note that people don’t host parties underground just for kicks, but because there is so much red tape and expense involved when you try to host an above-board, fire-safe party. It’s either illegal to play music late at night due to noise ordinances, or exceedingly expensive to get the necessary permits in order.

I once had a conversation with Lorin Ashton—aka electronic music artist Bassnectar—for an article in the local Santa Cruz, Calif. newsweekly. He joked (I think he was at least half serious) that he wants to someday move back to Santa Cruz (where he got his start while attending UCSC) and run for mayor so that he can reverse the draconian noise ordinances many young people have dubbed “No Party Laws,” which make it near impossible to throw late-night events. Prohibitive noise ordinances are increasingly popular in cities across the San Francisco Bay Area and nation.

Oakland’s noise ordinance lists music at the top of the annoying “nuisance” noises that are prohibited after 9pm, and as in most cities trying to obtain a legal permit for a party where there will be drinking and live music is a painstaking and pricey process.

The fact is that people, especially young people, have forever danced into the late hours of the night. Ask any anthropologist. It is in our nature to play music and dance at night, just as it is in our nature to alter our consciousness with substances like drugs and alcohol. If the failed war on drugs has taught us anything, it is that when drugs are outlawed, people will use them illegally and the problems associated with them will only get worse. When parties are outlawed, people will find alternative spaces to hold them, and it could end in tragedy like the Oakland fire.

Below are a couple of videos showing the December 3 fire and its aftermath, posted by Washington Post and Reuters:

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Carrier's Most Senior Employee Is Creatively Supplementing His Income This Month

AlterNet.org - December 3, 2016 - 1:00pm
Click here for reuse options! Larry Linville works as Santa Claus during the holidays.

President-elect Trump's Carrier deal this week came with a hefty price tag for Indiana: $700,000 from the state where the company operates.

Trump had made keeping Carrier in the U.S. a cornerstone of his campaign back in February, when the Indianapolis-based company announced it would be moving to Monterrey, Mexico. But this week, after discussions with Trump, as well as a little bribery with tax breaks, the air-conditioning manufacturer committed to keeping about a thousand jobs in Indiana.  

Although some experts, like Robert Reich and Bernie Sanders are skeptical about how much these little corporate giveaways really do for American workers, Carrier employees like Larry Linville felt encouraged.

"I don't really want to retire right now," he said about his half century stint at the HVAC manufacturer. "I'd like to go ahead and work a little longer." 

At 70, Linville is Carrier's oldest worker. Linville has worked at Carrier for five decades, longer than anyone else. But this month he'll be supplementing his income working as Santa Claus at the Johnson County Museum of History in Franklin, Indiana. 

"It's a relief not just for me, but for many of the younger people. I'm glad for them," Linville told RTV6 | The Indy Channel.

Linville remains skeptical about how the President-elect's plan will affect Carrier's thousand-plus workers long term, a reasonable stance given Trump's long record of promise-breaking. 

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What's New: Jewish group disturbed by the passing of anti-BDS motion

Socialist Project - December 3, 2016 - 12:00pm
Independent Jewish Voices Canada (IJV) is deeply concerned and disturbed by the passage of the private members motion 36 against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. The motion passed despite opposition from the Ontario New Democratic Party (ONDP). Several civil society organizations expressed their opposition to the motion, including CUPE Ontario, the Ontario Civil Liberties Association, the Israeli organization Boycott from Within and dozens of other groups.
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Anderson Cooper Hammers Kellyanne Conway on Trump’s Taiwan Flub: Obama ‘Never Spoke to the President of Taiwan’

AlterNet.org - December 3, 2016 - 11:23am
Click here for reuse options! Cooper asked Conway about reports that Trump spoke with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen.

Anderson Cooper Friday pressed Kellyanne Conway over her coy response to news that the president-elect broke a 37-year old U.S. protocol to not recognize Taiwan as a sovereign country, informing the former Donald Trump campaign manager that “this is uncharted waters.”

Cooper asked Conway about reports that Trump spoke with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, shocking political observers and risking a major dispute with China. The Trump talking head said she wouldn’t comment further on the call beyond what has already been disclosed.

Cooper noted the diplomatic issues that arise from Trump’s call with Taiwan, noting “the U.S. doesn’t recognize Taiwan as its own nation, “doesn’t support Taiwan independence,” and a president “hasn’t apparently spoken to the leader of Taiwan since 1979.”

Referencing Sen. Chris Murphy’s (D-CT) tweet insisting “this is how wars start,” Conways responded, “It sounds like Senator Murphy’s tweet is pretty incendiary and does not signal much of a shift from what seems to be the documented Democratic response to the election results,” adding the senator’s statement “is pretty negative and presumptive.”

“This has been long-standing U.S. policy towards China—not to recognize Taiwan,” Cooper reminded her.

“Right,” Conway responded, pausing for dramatic effect. “Again, I can’t discuss anything beyond what’s been publicly said.”

Conway later insisted the president-elect is “well aware of the U.S. policy,” scolding Cooper for presuming that he’s not.

“I don’t remember any discussions ever being asked about President Obama or president-elect Obama eight years ago at this time,” Conway said.

“Well he’s never spoken to the president of Taiwan. It is new so that is why I'm asking,” Cooper explained.

Conway responded she’s “pretty sure” President Obama made diplomatic calls as president-elect, adding she “can’t imagine” the press was as outraged as they are presently to Trump.

This is a break with U.S. policy,” Cooper said. “I mean this is uncharted waters, you know, for decades”

Conway dryly responded Trump is “fully briefed and fully knowledgable about these issues on an ongoing basis.”

Watch the video below, via CNN:

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GOP Voters Suddenly Less Enthusiastic About Repeal of Obamacare Since Election of Donald Trump

AlterNet.org - December 3, 2016 - 11:10am
Click here for reuse options! Republican support for a complete repeal of the health care law has plummeted double digits since Trump won

It’s been the central tenet of the Republican-controlled Congress for years now, and one of the biggest campaign promises of Donald Trump’s winning presidential campaign, but now a new poll indicates that actual Republican voters are suddenly less enthused about the prospects of a massive effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act now that the GOP is in charge of every branch of federal government.

A post-election survey released Thursday by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation found that support for a full repeal of the health care law, called Obamacare, has significantly decreased since Trump won the election last month.

Of the 1,202 adults Kaiser surveyed from Nov. 15-21, only about one in four Americans (26 percent) responded that they support a full Obamacare repeal. And many of the law’s provisions remain popular, even across party lines, the survey found. Most popular remains the provision that permits young adults to stay on their parents’ insurance plans until age 26, which is supported by a full 85 percent of Americans. Even the law’s program for providing federal aid to states to help them expand their Medicaid programs for the poor is supported by 80 percent of Americans.

Most of the drop in support for a real of the law comes from self-identifying Republicans in the survey.

A little more than half — 52 percent — of Republican respondents said they want Obamacare to be repealed following Trump’s election, compared to 69 percent of Republicans who supported full repeal ahead of the election in October.

“Similarly, in October,” NPR’s Richard Gonzales noted, “just 11 percent of Republicans said they wanted the law scaled back but not eliminated. In November, that percentage increased to 24 percent.”

Even among Trump voters, only 50 percent of survey participants said they still support a full repeal now that it is evident their candidate will have to navigate a replacement plan:


Still, 81 percent of respondents who voted for Trump told Kaiser that they hold an unfavorable view of Obamacare.

The poll went on to illustrate that of the less than a quarter of a Americans who actually support a full repeal of the health insurance law , 77 percent would continue to do so even if it meant that 20 million Americans who had gained coverage through Obamacare would lose their health insurance.

“While President-elect Donald Trump and Republican leaders in Congress work on a replacement to the Affordable Care Act, the new poll finds many of the law’s specific provisions remain popular even among President-elect Trump’s supporters, potentially complicating the path ahead,” the survey’s authors note.

It could be that some Republicans “got a protest vote off their chests, and they’re done with that,” Kaiser CEO Drew Altman further explained. “They now have a more moderate position.”

This is a marked shift for Trump voters from even just days after his stunning electoral upset.

A Nov. 11 Morning Consult poll found that nearly three-quarters of GOP voters said that the top priority for the Trump White House should be to repeal Obamacare:

One of Trump’s biggest campaign promises was a full Obamacare repeal within his first 100 days in office.

While the president-elect has appeared to renege on several of his campaign promises, like banning Beltway lobbyists and Wall Street insiders from his incoming administration, his supporters have consistently cried for a repeal of Obamacare — until now.

“To be frank, it’s more important he gets things moving, like getting rid of Obamacare and fixing the schools, and jobs,” a Pennsylvania Trump supporter recently toldMcClatchy when asked about his failure to “drain the swamp.”

While Congressional Republicans are reportedly rushing to pass a repeal in January, despite having no substantive replacement in sight, the HealthCare.gov portal that connects consumers to the state exchanges saw sign-ups increase over last year. Politico explains how the GOP’s gambit could play out with a base that hates the term Obamacare but apparently likes the law:

They’re crossing their fingers that the delay will help them get their own house in order, as well as pressure a handful of Senate Democrats — who would likely be needed to pass replacement legislation — to come onboard before the clock runs out and 20 million Americans lose their health insurance. The idea is to satisfy conservative critics who want President Barack Obama’s signature initiative gone now, but reassure Americans that Republicans won’t upend the entire health care system without a viable alternative that preserves the law’s popular provisions.


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Robert Reich: Are We Really Going to Let Trump Con Us on the Economy?

AlterNet.org - December 3, 2016 - 10:14am
Click here for reuse options! The Carrier deal is "trickle-down economics dressed in populist garb."

Last Thursday President-elect Donald Trump triumphantly celebrated Carrier’s decision to reverse its plan to close a furnace plant and move jobs to Mexico. Some 800 jobs will remain in Indianapolis.

“Corporate America is going to have to understand that we have to take care of our workers,” Trump told The New York Times. “The free market has been sorting it out and America’s been losing,” Vice President-elect Michael Pence added, as Trump interjected, “Every time, every time.”

The “free market” is really a collection of rules about how the economic game is played. Trump says he wants to renegotiate trade treaties that he believes causes America to “lose.”

But Trump has shown no interest in changing the rules that for over three decades have imposed unrelenting pressure on American companies to cut their payrolls by shipping jobs abroad or replacing them with automated machinery.

Carrier’s move to Mexico would save the company $65 million a year in wages, which would have boosted the profits of Carrier and its parent, United Technologies. The company relented because, once Trump was elected, the stakes for United Technologies grew much larger.

“Every penny counts, but if we step back and I’m looking at earnings of $6.60 per share this year, 2 cents is an easy concession if the president-elect listens to some of the company’s bigger concerns,” said Howard Rubel, a senior equity analyst with Jefferies, an investment banking firm in New York.

Those bigger concerns include United Technology’s military contracts, which last year generated $6.8 billion of its $57 billionin revenue – creating a yuge Trump card that made $65 million look like peanuts. The President-elect could harm the corporation’s bottom line, or, if he comes through with the big military buildup he’s promising, generate a bonanza.

Another bigger concern is taxes. United Technologies has more than $6 billion parked abroad where tax rates are low. It will make a bundle if Trump follows through with a plan to allow global corporations to bring that money home and pay a rock-bottom tax rate.

This is how Trump aims get corporate America to take care of “our workers” – bribe firms with big tax cuts, government contracts, and relief from regulations.

It’s “trickle-down” economics dressed in populist garb.

But as long Wall Street pushes corporations to maximize shareholder returns, American workers will continue to lose good-paying jobs to foreign workers or to homegrown robots. Payrolls are the biggest single cost on most companies’ balance sheets, so squeezing them is the easiest way to boost profits and share prices.

It doesn’t have to be this way. For more than three decades – from the end of World War II through the early 1980s – large corporations were responsible to their workers and communities as well as to their shareholders. They treated workers as assets to be developed – retraining them with higher skills as the companies moved to higher value-added production, or for new jobs as the companies expanded, and resorting to layoffs only as a last resort.  

This was partly due to strong trade unions, and also a government that had become a central player in the economy during the preceding years of depression and war. These two national emergencies required CEOs be “industrial statesmen” rather than relentless profit-seekers.

But a radically different vision of the corporation erupted in the 1980s when corporate raiders mounted hostile takeovers – using high-yield junk bonds, leveraged buyouts, and proxy fights against the industrial statesmen, who, in their view, were depriving shareholders of the wealth that properly belonged to them.

During the whole of the 1970s there had been only 13 hostile takeovers of large companies. During the 1980s, there were 150. Raiders mounted more than 2,000 leveraged buyouts.

Now, workers were costs to be cut. Since American manufacturing employment peaked in 1979 at nearly 20 million jobs, about 8 million of those jobs have been lost to cheaper foreign labor or to automation. According to MIT researchers, those losses accelerated after the 2001 recession, when competition from China surged.

If Donald Trump is serious about reviving good jobs in America, he’d give workers more bargaining power by strengthening trade unions, upgrading lifelong education and training, and simultaneously making it harder for Wall Street investors to take over “underperforming” companies.

But Trump won’t do any of this, as is evident by his cabinet choices for key economic posts. Steven Mnuckin, his Treasury pick, is a former Goldman Sachs partner who made billions over the past decades buying up companies and slashing payrolls. Wilbur L. Ross Jr., Trump’s pick for Commerce Secretary, made his billions using bankruptcy to protect wealthy owners while leaving workers and communities holding the bag. (Example in point: the collapse of Trump’s casino empire.)

These men exemplify the financialization of the American economy that’s focused only on high profits and rising share prices. But as we’ve painfully learned over three decades, these don’t lead to good jobs.  

Trickle-down economics dressed in populist garb is still trickle-down economics.



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85% of the Food We Eat Has Pesticide Residues

AlterNet.org - December 3, 2016 - 2:30am
Click here for reuse options! One sample of strawberries contained residues of 20 pesticides.

New government data offers a potentially unappetizing assessment of the U.S. food supply: Residues of many types of bug-killing pesticides, fungicides and weed-killing chemicals have been found in roughly 85 percent of thousands of foods tested.

Data recently released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows varying levels of pesticide residues in everything from mushrooms to potatoes and grapes to green beans. One sample of strawberries contained residues of 20 pesticides, according to the Pesticide Data Program report issued this month by the USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service. The report is the 25th annual such compilation of residue data for the agency, and covered sampling the USDA did in 2015.

Notably, the agency said only 15 percent of the 10,187 samples tested were free from any detectable pesticide residues. That's a marked difference from 2014, when the USDA found that more than 41 percent of samples were "clean" or showed no detectable pesticide residues. Prior years also showed roughly 40-50 percent of samples as free of detectable residues, according to USDA data. The USDA said it is not "statistically valid" to compare one year to others, however, because the mix of food sampled changes each year. Still the data shows that 2015 was similar to the years prior in that fresh and processed fruits and vegetables made up the bulk of the foods tested.

Though it might sound distasteful, the pesticide residues are nothing for people to worry about, according to the USDA. The agency said "residues found in agricultural products sampled are at levels that do not pose risk to consumers' health and are safe."

But some scientists say there is little to no data to back up that claim, stating that regulators do not have sufficient comprehensive research regarding how consumption of residues of multiple types of pesticides impact human health over the long term, and government assurances of safety are simply false.

"We don't know if you eat an apple that has multiple residues every day what will be the consequences 20 years down the road," said Chensheng Lu, associate professor of environmental exposure biology at the Harvard School of Public Health. "They want to assure everybody that this is safe but the science is quite inadequate. This is a big issue."

The USDA said in its latest report that 441 of the samples it found were considered worrisome as "presumptive tolerance violations," because the residues found either exceeded what is set as safe by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or they were found in foods that are not expected to contain the pesticide residues at all and for which there is no legal tolerance level. Those samples contained residues of 496 different pesticides, the USDA said.

Spinach, strawberries, grapes, green beans, tomatoes, cucumbers and watermelon were among the foods found with illegal pesticide residue levels. Even residues of chemicals long banned in the U.S. were found, including residues of DDT or its metabolites found in spinach and potatoes. DDT was banned in 1972 because of health and environmental concerns about the insecticide. 

Absent from the USDA data was any information on glyphosate residues, even though glyphosate has long been the most widely used herbicide in the world and is commonly sprayed directly on many crops, including corn, soy, wheat and oats. It is the key ingredient in Monsanto Co.'s branded Roundup herbicide, and was declared a probable human carcinogen last year by a team of international cancer scientists working with the World Health Organization. But Monsanto has claimed glyphosate residues on food are safe. The company asked EPA to raise tolerance levels for glyphosate on several foods in 2013 and the EPA agreed to do so.

The Food and Drug Administration also annually samples foods for residues of pesticides. New documents obtained from the FDA show illegal levels of two types of insecticides—propargite, used to kill mites, and flonicamid, usually aimed at killing aphids and whiteflies—were recently found in honey. Government documents also show that DEET, a common insect repellant, was recently detected by regulators in honey, and the herbicide acetochlor was found on mushrooms.

FDA scientists also reported illegally high levels of the neonicotinoid thiamethoxam found in rice, according to information from the agency. Syngenta has asked the EPA to allow for higher residues of thiamethoxam permitted in numerous crops because the company wants it to have expanded use as a leaf spray. That request is still pending, according to an EPA spokeswoman. 

The most recent public residue report issued by the FDA shows that violation rates for pesticide residues have been climbing in recent years. Residue violations in domestic food samples totaled 2.8 percent for the year 2013; double the rate seen in 2009. Violations totaled 12.6 percent for imported foods in 2013, up from 4 percent in 2009. 

Like the USDA, the FDA has skipped glyphosate in decades of testing for pesticide residues. But the agency did launch a "special assignment" this year to determine what levels of glyphosate might be showing up in a small group of foods. An FDA chemist reported finding glyphosate residues in honey and several oatmeal products, including baby food.

Private testing data released this month reported the presence of glyphosate residues in Cheerios cereal, Oreo cookies and a variety of other popular packaged foods. 

Questions on Cumulative Impacts

Whether or not consumers should worry about food containing pesticide residues is a matter of ongoing dispute. The trio of federal agencies involved in pesticide residue issues all point to what they refer to as "maximum residue limits" (MRLs), or "tolerances," as guidelines for what they say is considered safe. The EPA uses data supplied by the agrichemical industry to help determine where MRLs should be set for each pesticide and each crop the pesticides are expected to be used with. 

As long as most of foods sampled show pesticide residues in food below the MRLs, there is no reason to worry, the USDA maintains. "The reporting of residues present at levels below the established tolerance serves to ensure and verify the safety of the Nation's food supply," the 2015 residue report states. The agrichemical industry offers even broader assurances, saying there is nothing to fear from consuming residues of the chemicals it sells farmers for use in food production, even if they exceed legal tolerances. 

But many scientists say the tolerances are designed to protect the pesticide users more than consumers. Tolerances vary widely depending upon the pesticide and the crop. The tolerance for the insecticide chlorpyrifos on an apple, for instance, can be very different than the amount of chlorpyrifos allowed on citrus fruits, or on a banana or in milk, according to government tolerance data.

In the case of chlorpyrifos, the EPA has actually said it wants to revoke all food tolerances because studies have linked the chemical to brain damage in children.Though the agency has long considered residues of chlorpyrifos safe, now the agency says, they may not be. 

The "EPA cannot, at this time, determine that aggregate exposure to residues of chlorpyrifos, including all anticipated dietary exposures and all other non-occupational exposures for which there is reliable information, are safe," the EPA said last year. Dow AgroSciences, which developed chlorpyrifos in the 1960s, is protesting the EPA efforts, arguing chlorpyrifos is a "critical tool" for farmers. In the latest USDA residue report, chlorpyrifos was found in peaches, apples, spinach, strawberries, nectarines and other foods, though not at levels considered to violate tolerances.

The EPA defends its work with tolerances, and says it has been complying with the Food Quality Protection Act that requires the EPA to consider the cumulative effects of residues of substances "that have a common mechanism of toxicity." The agency says that to set a tolerance for a pesticide, it looks at studies submitted by pesticide companies to identify possible harmful effects the chemical could have on humans, the amount of the chemical likely to remain in or on food, and other possible exposures to the same chemical. 

But critics say that is not good enough—assessments must consider more realistic scenarios that take into account the broader cumulative impacts of many different types of pesticide residues to determine how safe it is to consume the mixtures seen in a daily diet. Given that several pesticides commonly used in food production have been linked to disease, declines in cognitive performance, developmental disorders and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in children, there is an urgent need for more in-depth analysis of these cumulative impacts, many scientists say. The National Research Council has declared that "dietary intake represents the major source of pesticide exposure for infants and children, and the dietary exposure may account for the increased pesticide-related health risks in children compared with adults."

"With the ubiquitous exposure to chemical mixtures, assurances of safety based on lists of individual toxicity thresholds can be quite misleading," said Lorrin Pang, an endocrinologist with the Hawaii Department of Health and a former advisor to the World Health Organization. 

Tracey Woodruff, a former EPA senior scientist and policy advisor who specializes in environmental pollutants and child health, said there is a clear need for more research. Woodruff directs the program on reproductive health and the environment at the University of California San Francisco School of Medicine. 

"This is not a trivial matter," she said. "The whole idea of looking at cumulative exposures is a hot topic with scientists. Evaluating individual tolerances as if they occur in solo is not an accurate reflection of what we know—people are exposed to multiple chemicals at the same time and the current approaches do not scientifically account for that." 

Critics say scrutiny of pesticide safety is likely to only soften given President-elect Donald Trump's decision to name Myron Ebell to oversee transition efforts at the EPA. Ebell, director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, is a staunch advocate of pesticides and their safety.

"Pesticide levels rarely, if ever, approach unsafe levels. Even when activists cry wolf because residues exceed federal limits that does not mean the products are not safe," states the SAFEChemicalPolicy.org website Ebell's group runs. "In fact, residues can be hundreds of times above regulatory limits and still be safe."

"The mixed messages make it hard for consumers to know what to believe about the safety of pesticide residues in food," said Therese Bonanni, a Clinical Dietitian at Jersey Shore University Medical Center. 

"Although the cumulative effect of consuming these toxins over a lifetime is not yet known, short-term data suggests there is certainly a reason to be cautious. The message to consumers becomes very confusing."

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What's New: The Fierce Debate Over Castro's Legacy

Socialist Project - December 3, 2016 - 2:00am
Fidel Castro’s death, at 90, has sparked a fierce debate in the West over his legacy. I specifically mention the West as elsewhere there is no debate: Castro has rightfully been lauded as one of history’s great emancipators, a man who led a revolution that succeeded in throwing off the yoke of U.S. imperialism.
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Why Men Wake up With Erections

AlterNet.org - December 2, 2016 - 4:23pm
Click here for reuse options! Morning penile erections affect all males, even males in the womb and male children.

The morning penile erection, or as it is medically known, “nocturnal penile tumescence”, is not only an interesting physiological phenomenon, it can also tell us a lot about a patient’s sexual function.

Morning penile erections affect all males, even males in the womb and male children. It also has a female counterpart in the less frequently discussed nocturnal clitoral erection.

What causes erections?

Penile erections occur in response to complex effects of the nervous system and endocrine system (the glands that secrete hormones into our system) on the blood vessels of the penis.

When sexually aroused, a message starts in the brain, sending chemical messages to the nerves that supply the blood vessels of the penis, allowing blood to flow into the penis. The blood is trapped in the muscles of the penis, which makes the penis expand, resulting in an erection.

Several hormones are involved in influencing the brain’s response, such as testosterone (the main male hormone).

This same mechanism can occur without the involvement of the brain, in an uncontrolled reflex action that is in the spinal cord. This explains why people with spinal cord damage can still get erections and why you can get erections when not sexually aroused.

What about erections while we sleep?

Nocturnal penile erections occur during Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep (the phase during which we dream). They occur when certain areas of the brain are activated. This includes areas in the brain responsible for stimulating the parasympathetic nerves (“rest and digest” nerves), suppressing the sympathetic nerves (“flight and fight” nerves) and dampening areas producing serotonin (the mood hormone).

Sleep is made up of several cycles of REM and non-REM (deep) sleep. During REM sleep, there is a shift in the dominant system that’s activated. We move from sympathetic (fight and flight) stimulation to parasympathetic (rest and digest) stimulation. This is not found during other parts of the sleep cycle.

This shift in balance drives the parasympathetic nerve response that results in the erection. This is spontaneous and does not require being awake. Some men may experience nocturnal penile tumescence during non-REM sleep as well, particularly older men. The reason for this is unclear.

The reason men wake up with an erection may be related to the fact we often wake up coming out of REM sleep.

Testosterone, which is at its highest level in the morning, has also been shown to enhance the frequency of nocturnal erections. Interestingly, testosterone has not been found to greatly impact visual erotic stimuli or fantasy-induced erections. These are predominantly driven by the “reward system” of the brain which secretes dopamine.

Since there are several sleep cycles per night, men can have as many as five erections per night and these can last up to 20 or 30 minutes. But this is very dependent on sleep quality and so they may not occur daily. The number and quality of erections declines gradually with age but they are often present well beyond “retirement age” - attesting to the sexual well-being of older men.

It’s also important to highlight the counterpart phenomenon in women, which is much less researched. Pulses of blood flow in the vagina during REM sleep. The clitoris engorges and vaginal sensitivity increases along with vaginal fluidity.

What’s its purpose?

It has been suggested “pitching a tent” may be a mechanism for alerting men of their full overnight bladder, as it often disappears after emptying the bladder in the morning.

It’s more likely the reason for the morning erection is that the unconscious sensation of the full bladder stimulates nerves that go to the spine and these respond directly by generating an erection (a spinal reflex). This may explain why the erection goes away after emptying one’s bladder.

Scientific studies are undecided as to whether morning erections contribute to penile health. Increased oxygen in the penis at night may be beneficial for the health of the muscle tissues that make up the penis.

What does it mean if you don’t get one?

Loss of nocturnal erection can be a useful marker of common diseases affecting erectile function. One example is in diabetics where the lack of morning erections may be associated with erectile dysfunction due to poor nerve or blood supply to the penis. In this case, there’s a poor response to the messages sent from the brain during sleep which generate nocturnal erections.

It is thought nocturnal erections can be used as a marker of an anatomical ability to get an erection (a sign that the essential body bits are working), as it was thought to be independent of psychological factors that affect erections while awake. Studies have suggested, however, that mental health disorders such as severe depression can affect nocturnal erections. Thus its absence is not necessarily a marker of disease or low testosterone levels.

The frequency of morning erections and erection quality has also been shown to increase slightly in men taking medications for erectile dysfunction such as Viagra.

So is all this morning action good news?

While some men will put their nocturnal erections to good use, many men are not aroused when they have them and tummy sleepers might find them a nuisance.

Since good heart health is associated with an ability to have erections, the presence of nocturnal erections is generally accepted to be good news. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is important in avoiding and even reversing erectile dysfunction, so it’s important to remember to eat healthily, maintain a healthy weight, exercise and avoid smoking and alcohol.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Trump Campaign and GOP Allies in Full Legal Panic as Recounts Could Create Electoral College Crisis

AlterNet.org - December 2, 2016 - 4:20pm
Click here for reuse options! Invoking Bush v. Gore to stop them or ignore the results.

Republicans are panicking because the Green Party’s presidential recounts in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania could prevent Donald Trump from receiving 270 Electoral College votes—the final hurdle to the presidency—on December 19.

In the past 24 hours, the Trump campaign and its GOP allies in the three states that gave him an apparent Electoral College victory after on November 8 have filed lawsuits and legal motions to block, delay and freeze the recounts. In the case of Michigan, where Trump’s lead is smallest, 10,704 votes, the state's Republican attorney general is arguing the recount's results should be ignored.

“If a recount cannot be accomplished by the ‘safe harbor’ date [a week before the Electoral College meets], or if it is started but not finished by that date, then the State Defendants must, on or before December 13, 2016, certify to the federal government the initial elector results announced on November 28, 2016,” Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said in his lawsuit filed against the Michigan board overseeing the recount and its state election director.    

The Trump campaign filed a similar complaint Thursday against Michigan's Board of State Canvassers, saying Stein has no basis for the recount because she has no grievance and no chance of winning—ignoring that presidential candidates, even in minor parties, have standing under state and federal law.

By midday Friday, the canvassers board had met to consider the Trump campaign's motion and deadlocked along partisan lines. That means the recount will resume next week, barring other appeals and court orders. Thus, the Trump campaign’s first legal move in Michigan has delayed the start, and therefore the finish of the recount, increasing the likelihood of an upcoming legal fight over whether the state's Electoral College members can vote by December 19.

But Trump allies have filed even more eyebrow-raising lawsuits in the other states. 

In Wisconsin, where counties started recounting ballots Thursday, two super PACs supporting Trump, Great America PAC and Stop Hillary PAC, sued in federal district court to stop the recount, citing the U.S. Supreme Court’s intervention in Florida in 2000 where they stopped a recount and awarded the presidency to George W. Bush. That decision followed the twisted logic that since Florida counties weren’t following identical procedures, Bush did not receive equal treatment under the law. (In Wisconsin, counties have differing voting machinery and local officials have discretion to decide if they want to recount votes by hand or electronically.)  

“The recount will be conducted in a manner that violates the requirements set forth by the U.S. Supreme Court in Bush v. Gore for recounts in presidential elections,” the pro-Trump super PACs argued. “Because Wisconsin law lacks adequate protections to ensure that similarly completely ballots will be afforded similar treatment, both within the same county and across different counties, the recount should be enjoined to prevent further Equal Protection violations from tainting the outcome of the election.”

Besides harshly dismissing the recount, the super PACS, like the Michigan attorney general, are only seeing what they want to see in the legal precedents cited. In Bush v. Gore, the Supreme Court said its equal protection ruling was not to be applied to another case. Moreover, the Greens last week sued Wisconsin’s election oversight board seeking a uniform statewide standard, hand-counting of ballots. A judge agreed that was a good idea, but said she could not order it under state law.

The pro-Trump super PACs also said that should a recount continue past December 13, when the state is supposed to certify the winner, the recount should be stopped and Trump should be declared the winner for Electoral College purposes. “Because there is no reasonable assurance the recount can accurately and carefully be conducted within that timeframe, this Court should enjoin the recount to prevent careless mistakes from tainting the results of the election, or incomplete or partial results to cast a pall over President-Elect Trump’s victory.”

Later Friday, U.S. District Court Judge James Peterson denied the super PACs' motion to halt the recount, saying there was no harm in letting the process continue. He scheduled a hearing for next Friday on the underlying lawsuit.

However, it is the Pennsylvania lawsuit, filed by that state's Republican Party and the Trump campaign, which shows the most hypocrisy. The Greens' recount has faced the roughest going in that state. The Secretary of the Commonwealth, Democrat Pedro Cortes, and other top elected Democrats are not on board. That’s prompted the Greens to file petitions signed by voters representing hundreds of the state’s 9,163 precincts, for a citizen-initiated recount. The Green Party also filed a lawsuit seeking to preserve the right to argue for a state-ordered recount once the results of its smaller effort are known.

Since filing last week, county election offices have been turning in official results and Trump’s lead has been cut by a third from more than 70,000 to 46,435 votes. It is now within 0.2% of triggering an automatic statewide recount.

Trump’s lawyers and Pennsylvania Republicans filed a motion to dismiss the Greens' lawsuit, citing much the same arguments as those made by recount opponents in Wisconsin and Michigan. But shamelessly, their legal brief quotes Cortes speaking in mid-October about the integrity of the state’s election systems. That was Cortes’ response to Trump’s campaign trail rant that the election was going to be "rigged" against him.

“Before the election, Secretary of State Pedro Cortes assured Pennsylvania voters that Pennsylvania’s voting systems are 'secure,' and criticized contrary suggestions as 'not only wrong and uninformed,' but 'dangerous,' Trump’s legal team argued with a straight face. “He [Cortes] also explained that all voting systems in Pennsylvania were ‘examined and certified to federal and state standards,’ and that voting machines were ‘not connected to the Internet,’ or ‘to one another,’ thus reducing the risk of compromise.”
The Green Party would disagree with that last statement, because it knows Pennsylvania has some of the oldest entirely paperless voting systems in the nation, including countywide tabulators that have been shown by computer scientists to be vulnerable to hacking. But the bigger point, echoed by David Cobb, campaign manager for the recount, is that Trump and the GOP do not want to examine the ballots and verify his apparent presidential election victory.
“Why is he so worried about letting this recount move forward?” Cobb said Friday. “We will continue to help Pennsylvania voters make sure that the election in Pennsylvania had integrity and that their votes counted.”

Other Recount Developments

The Greens issued an update on Friday listing the vote count anomalies they are hoping a recount will clarify. In Wisconsin, they noted that two-thirds of the counties are doing hand-counts of paper ballots, which is this only way to check against machine-induced errors. One of those counties, Ottagamie, where observers noticed that an early tabulation counted 1,500 more votes than actual ballots cast, will not be doing a hand count, which is very frustrating to election integrity activists.  

Their update said “there are a number of statistical irregularities in voting data, which merit heightened scrutiny given the historic level of concern over hacking during this election:

“Wisconsin: Three counties saw large discrepancies in votes between 2012 and 2016, with the margin of victory for Donald Trump in some cases being ten-fold higher than the GOP’s average in the last four presidential elections.

“Wisconsin: Another statistical analysis, done by Stanford PhD candidate Rodolfo Barragan and Axel Geijsel of Tilburg University, finds that even when taking into account factors like ethnicity and education, there is significant evidence that counties with electronic voting showed higher support for Trump than counties using only paper ballots.

“Michigan: More than 75,000 Michiganders cast no vote for president in the 2016 election—almost twice as many 'under-votes' than were cast in the 2012 election (49,840). The high number is a red flag, especially when considering that these 'under-votes' were concentrated in the heavily Democratic precincts of Detroit.”

The Greens also said the touchscreen voting systems in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin were especially vulnerable to hacking, and even cited a tweet by Edward Snowden affirming that point. “Hacking voting machines: not that difficult. Hiding a secret deviation in votes from after-the-fact statistical analysis: nearly impossible.”

“In Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, approximately two-thirds and one-tenth of voting, respectively, is done through touchscreen machines (DREs) that are susceptible to manipulation and hacking (and which many states have banned or are phasing out),” their summary said. “In Pennsylvania, whose voting system has been called a 'nightmare scenario' by one leading expert, the machines do not even dispense a paper ballot or receipt. As a result, the only way to conduct a full, foolproof audit is through a 'forensic analysis' —opening each machine to look for evidence of tampering or voter manipulation.”

“Optical scan voting—the method for all voting in Michigan, 85 percent in Wisconsin and one-third in Pennsylvania—is considered an improvement over DREs, but can still be breached without detection,” they continued. “The machines suffer from glitches and are prone to mistakes, including misreading voters’ markings. For example, in a recount of Ohio votes initiated by then Green Party presidential candidate David Cobb in 2004, almost 90,000 votes were left uncounted due to a machine calibration error. As such, manual hand recounts—as opposed to simply running ballots back through the machine—are essential, and considered the gold standard of recounts by election integrity experts.”

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'They Are Both Profiteers': Meet The Two Most Repellent Reptiles to Slither into Trump's Swamp

AlterNet.org - December 2, 2016 - 4:19pm
Click here for reuse options! Steven Mnuchin and Wilbur Ross will bleed the country dry.

We look at two of Donald Trump’s Cabinet picks: Steven Mnuchin for treasury secretary and Wilbur Ross for commerce secretary. Mnuchin has deep ties on Wall Street, including working as a partner for Goldman Sachs, and his hedge fund played a role in the housing crisis after it scooped up the failing California bank IndyMac in 2008. Trump’s commerce secretary pick, Wilbur Ross, is a billionaire private equity investor who specializes in flipping bankrupt companies for profit, often buying the U.S. companies at low prices and then selling them to overseas investors. He and his companies have sometimes shipped jobs and factories overseas—practices Donald Trump has railed against. We are joined by David Dayen, whose recent article for The Nation is "Wilbur Ross and Steve Mnuchin—Profiteers of the Great Foreclosure Machine—Go to Washington."

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We turn to look in more detail at two of Donald Trump’s Cabinet picks: Steven Mnuchin for treasury secretary and Wilbur Ross for commerce secretary. Mnuchin has deep ties to Wall Street, including working as a partner for Goldman Sachs, where his father also worked. Mnuchin’s hedge fund also played a role in the housing crisis after it scooped up the failing California bank IndyMac in 2008. Under Mnuchin’s ownership, IndyMac foreclosed on 36,000 families, particularly elderly residents trapped in reverse mortgages. Mnuchin was accused of running a foreclosure machine. People protested outside his home. The bank, which was renamed OneWest, was also accused of racially discriminatory lending practices. In 2015, Mnuchin sold the bank for $3.4 billion, $1.8 billion more than he bought it for.

Trump’s commerce secretary pick, Wilbur Ross, is a billionaire private equity investor. Ross specializes in flipping bankrupt companies for profit, often buying the U.S. companies at low prices, then selling them to overseas investors. He and his companies have sometimes shipped jobs and factories overseas, practices Donald Trump has railed against. He, too, had a role in the foreclosure crisis. In 2007, Wilbur Ross bought the second-largest servicer of subprime loans in America, a company called American Home Mortgage Servicing.

To talk more about Mnuchin and Ross, we’re joined by David Dayen, author of the award-winning book Chain of Title: How Three Ordinary Americans Uncovered Wall Street’s Great Foreclosure Fraud. His most recent piece for The Nation, "Wilbur Ross and Steve Mnuchin—Profiteers of the Great Foreclosure Machine—Go to Washington."

So, talk about the significance of this, David. Talk about who Mnuchin and Ross are.

DAVID DAYEN: Right, so they are both—I call them profiteers because they, like most banks and mortgage servicing companies, just profited from the lack of attention to the foreclosure crisis at the federal level. Mnuchin foreclosed on 36,000 people—in California alone. He foreclosed on much more through OneWest Bank, where he was CEO. And Wilbur Ross, through American Home Mortgage Servicing, which eventually became a company called Ocwen, also did so, and they did so illegally. These were fraudulent foreclosures, where fake documents were used to prop up those foreclosures. There are depositions with individuals from OneWest Bank saying that they spent 30 seconds looking at foreclosure files before signing affidavits that said that they knew everything in that file and reviewed all the business practices. There were forged documents routinely from Wilbur Ross’s American Home Mortgage Servicing. They were done by a third-party company known as DocX, where the CEO of that company actually is in prison right now, went to prison for five years for forging millions of mortgage assignments to be used as evidence in court cases all over the country. So, these were very normal practices, but it’s very ironic that the Obama administration kind of lost track and didn’t pay attention to this crisis that was going on. And now, after Trump’s election, he brings in two people who profited almost the most from that to help run his Cabinet.

AMY GOODMAN: And what does it mean to be head of treasury and commerce? How does that relate to what their history is around the issue of foreclosure?

DAVID DAYEN: Well, certainly, the Treasury Department is a regulatory position now. Steven Mnuchin will be the head of the Financial Stability Oversight Council, which is a superregulator that monitors systemic risk, where there was a lot of systemic risk from the financial crisis and the foreclosure crisis, and he can kind of shut it down. Steven Mnuchin has said that he will seek to privatize Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, where nine out of 10 mortgages are owned or guaranteed right now. That’s going to be a huge windfall for the hedge funds that bought Fannie and Freddie stock at a low point, at a dollar a share. If that’s spun out and privatized, it would be $30 to $40 a share.

Incidentally, one of the biggest benefactors of that would be John Paulson, who was a business partner to Steven Mnuchin in the OneWest deal. So, you know, through deregulation, through just the lack of attention to these matters, Steven Mnuchin is going to have a lot of control. Wilbur Ross, maybe less so at the Commerce Department, but still you’re talking about Donald Trump’s closest advisers, and it’s very likely they’re going to take their eyes off the ball with respect to the practices of the mortgage industry. 

AMY GOODMAN: Well, David Dayen, I want to thank you for being with us, author of the award-winning book Chain of Title: How Three Ordinary Americans Uncovered Wall Street’s Great Foreclosure Fraud. We will link to your piece in The Nation.


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Illinois Parents Call for 'Smut' Book Ban: 'We Can't Have 18-Year-Olds Reading About Sexual Issues'

AlterNet.org - December 2, 2016 - 3:30pm
Click here for reuse options! The titles include such classics as "A Separate Peace" and "I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings."

An Illinois school district is pulling one book from the shelves and reconsidering the use of all other titles taught in classrooms after a principal raised concerns about sexually explicit content.

Eric Michaelsen, the principal of Lemont High School, notified parents last month by email that “The God of Small Things,” by Arundhati Roy, had been removed from the reading list of the Academic English II class, reported the Cook County Chronicle.

“(The book) contains subject matter in some sections that is not appropriate for our students,” Michaelsen wrote in the Nov. 2 email. “The questionable passages were not assigned for students to read. The books have been collected and will not be used again.”

The email raised parent concerns that other books taught in the classroom might contain objectionable material.

“I think it was a big, huge wake-up call for parents who are questioning the school’s activities and looking at their actions and not trusting them,” said Laura Reigle, the mother of a junior.

She dismissed the 1997 book by Roy as “smut” and “porn,” and she wrote a blog post questioning Lemont’s use of 13 other titles — including “The Lovely Bones,” by Alice Sebold, “A Separate Peace,” by John Knowles, and “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings,” by Maya Angelou.

“Everyone should be questioning when high schools across the country will be having ‘Fifty Shades of Gray’ being read by minors,” Reigle wrote. “After all, look at how the material being bought and handed out by the schools, keeps escalating to containing more and more on sex, murder, suicide and homoeroticism.”

Parents and other community members discussed possible changes to the reading curriculum at a Nov. 21 school board meeting, where many agreed Angelou’s 1969 autobiography should be removed from classrooms.

“I’ve read some excerpts of (the book) that include an 8-year-old getting raped — it’s very explicit,” said parent Mary Kay Fessler. “The sexual content is too much for their young minds to process. As an adult, yes, we can process that, but as a 14-, 15-,16year-old, I don’t think they have the neurological (power) to process that.”

Resident Rick Ligthart read from a prepared statement the changes he wanted in the school district’s policy.

“Regardless of the books, I’m recommending to the board that no literature whatsoever be inclusive of literal metaphorical, figurative or allegorical words for male or female genitals,” said Ligthart, who described himself as a former tenured high school teacher. “English classes should not be involved in sexuality in literature for our kids. It shouldn’t be in any books — no books.”

“We can’t have 18-year-olds reading about masturbation or sexual issues, regardless of the literature,” he added. “I don’t care if it’s from Dickens or who else.”

School officials said “The God of Small Things” was added to the curriculum without school board approval, as district policy requires, and Reigle said she wanted more transparency in the selection process.

The district responded to the error, and the resulting outcry, by reviewing all materials used in English classes — regardless of how long they’ve been taught.

School officials will allow parents to opt out their children from reading the Angelou novel, but both Fessler and Reigle complained that would embarrass those students.

“If I don’t agree with the book’s content, my kid would then be ostracized and read different material somewhere else,” Fessler said. “I don’t think that’s fair to the child.”

James LaRue, of the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, said he was concerned that parents had trivialized Angelou’s work by branding it pornography, and he said children on the cusp of adulthood could gain much from reading such complex literary works.

“I’m the father of two grown children,” LaRue said. “We say, ‘I don’t want them to know about this evil. But literature is a good way to get ready for the world.’”

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Trump's Big Con: Watch His Supporters Become Disillusioned as He Can't Deliver on the Miracles He Promised

AlterNet.org - December 2, 2016 - 2:31pm
Click here for reuse options! The Carrier con is just the start. Voters are about to learn they've been hoodwinked.

On Thursday night President-elect Donald Trump got to do what he loves more than anything for the first time since the election: bask in the love of his fans. He held a thank-you rally in Cincinnati, where he recounted all the highlights of his glorious victory as a sea of followers in red “Make America Great Again” hats cheered and chanted, just like the good old days of last month.

It seemed a bit odd, since Trump isn’t running for anything at the moment. But since the networks all carried it live as breaking news one can imagine that this may become the main way — aside from Twitter, of course — that Trump communicates with the country. He certainly isn’t holding press conferences.

This rally came on the heels of Trump’s earlier photo-op in Indianapolis, where he took credit for the Carrier deal engineered by Indiana Gov. and Vice President-elect Mike Pence, giving the company a $7 million incentive to keep about a thousand jobs in the state. (Sen. Bernie Sanders wrote a blistering op-ed in The Washington Post exposing the deal as typical corporate welfare that demonstrates to every CEO how to extort money from the taxpayers — also known as workers.)

It turns out that Pence had rejected this same deal back in 2014, but apparently this time Trump persuaded him to change his mind.

In fact, it turns out that Trump didn’t even remember he had made a campaign promise about Carrier. At the Indianapolis event on Thursday morning, he explained that he was watching the news about a week ago and saw a story on the plant:

And they had a gentleman, worker, great guy, handsome guy, he was on, and it was like he didn’t even know they were leaving. He said something to the effect, “No, we’re not leaving, because Donald Trump promised us that we’re not leaving,” and I never thought I made that promise. Not with Carrier. I made it for everybody else. I didn’t make it really for Carrier.

And I said, “What’s he saying?” And he was such a believer, and he was such a great guy. He said, “I’ve been with Donald Trump from the beginning, and he made the statement that Carrier’s not going anywhere, they’re not leaving.” And I’m saying to myself, “Man.”

And then they played my statement, and I said, “Carrier will never leave.” But that was a euphemism. I was talking about Carrier like all other companies from here on in. Because they made the decision a year and a half ago.

But he believed that that was — and I could understand it. I actually said — I didn’t make it — when they played that, I said, “I did make it, but I didn’t mean it quite that way.”

This is the story he saw:

Carrier a/c became a rallying cry for Trump on the campaign trail. Now employees are counting on him to fulfill his promise. Watch @kevtibs. pic.twitter.com/vS4fgi8Zfg

— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) November 15, 2016

In other words, Trump had just been running his usual con game on the campaign trail. But once he saw that story he realized he had a chance for a P.R. win and he took it.

At a panel of campaign operatives on Thursday evening, Trump adviser Corey Lewandowski explained that expecting Trump’s words to have literal meaning is the media’s mistake. The Washington Post reported:

“This is the problem with the media. You guys took everything that Donald Trump said so literally,” Lewandowski said. “The American people didn’t. They understood it. They understood that sometimes — when you have a conversation with people, whether it’s around the dinner table or at a bar — you’re going to say things, and sometimes you don’t have all the facts to back it up.”

Those workers at the Carrier plant took Trump literally. And plenty of others did too. Phil Mattingly at CNN spoke with people in Cincinnati yesterday and asked them what they expect. He tweeted the following observations:

For Trump supporters, the Carrier deal is pure validation — and something they are 100% certain can be replicated here and elsewhere. Point out the IN Gov role, or the state incentives in general, or the DOD contracts — doesn’t matter. This is exactly what he said he’d do.

I’ve heard from many of them today, touting the Carrier deal. They don’t know the details. Don’t work in manufacturing. But they are genuinely stunned and excited. “If he can do this before he takes office, just imagine . . . ”

I proceed explain the specifics, the holes in it, the longer term problems it may present — “Dude, stop.” Don’t want to hear it.

And it also sets up an interesting conundrum for the Trump team — expectations among supporters were already high.

Expectations among the “meh” Trump voters weren’t so much. Well, now they are, too.

So how do you deliver for states like OH, or PA, or WI, or MI, when your VP isn’t the governor and there aren’t contracts to threaten?

The answer is that Trump can’t deliver for those states, and he won’t. He’s not a magician or a miracle worker. And no matter what Lewandowski says, there are millions of people who believed that he was going to deliver exactly what he promised.

But then, this is how Trump has always operated, isn’t it? When you think about all the people who trust him to bring back jobs that have been taken over by machines like those in steel manufacturing or to revive dying industries like coal mining, it reminds you of his numerous scams over the years when he promised people wealth and success and ended up stealing their money and crushing their dreams.

Indeed, barely two weeks ago Trump abandoned his longtime vow and settled several lawsuits claiming fraud against his Trump University. He was accused of promising thousands of people untold riches if they believed in him and followed his methods for getting rich. Unfortunately, it was a scam, and people were conned out of large sums of money and received nothing worthwhile in return.

Sadly, that’s likely to be the fate of most of those Trump voters who expect him to re-create an imaginary past and make them all prosperous and successful. He himself said that those promises were all “euphemisms,” and he didn’t mean them literally. Trump is now running his biggest con, this time on the entire population of the United States. He has every reason to believe he’ll get away with it. After all, he’s never paid any real price for his behavior before.


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Political Elites Are Trying to Wreck Massachusetts' New Marijuana Law

AlterNet.org - December 2, 2016 - 1:54pm
Click here for reuse options! The people spoke, but now, Bay State politicos are making noises about raising pot taxes and restricting home grows.

That didn’t take long.

Immediately after Massachusetts voters passed Question 4 to legalize marijuana, the top office-holder tasked with leading the implementation and regulation of the law, Treasurer Deb Goldberg, was already asking to change it.

She wasn’t alone. Within a week of people passing the initiative to tax and regulate cannabis, many other influential Bay State politicians—and at least one hack scribe, Boston Globe pro-business siren Shirley Leung—were advocating to repeal parts of the law that 1,745,945 heads pulled for.

The day after the initiative passed, Goldberg kicked it off by gesturing to extend deadlines. Later in the week, she voiced support for the state legislature to outlaw the 6-12 plant home grow provision, and to increase the tax rate. Goldberg said home grows would hurt retail sales, and cut into the state’s take as well, which is interesting since weeks ago the treasurer was complaining that the initiative was written by the commercial marijuana industry. Now she seemingly supports holding consumers captive to a marketplace that she presumably distrusts. Go figure.

And then there’s Senate President Stan Rosenberg, who supported the initiative (when he wasn’t complaining that lawmakers could have written it better, that despite the fact that both the Senate and House failed to allow a full chamber vote on any marijuana law in the last 20-plus years). Rosenberg told the Globe, “I believe that when voters vote on most ballot questions, they are voting in principle. They are not voting on the fine detail that is contained within the proposal.”

That’s quite the statement. Many voters would dispute such a characterization. Especially in this case, and especially as far as home grow goes.

“I absolutely voted for home grows,” says Stephen Mandile, a local veteran. “If the ballot question banned home grows, I would have voted [against it].” Communicating with other readers and people in the cannabis community, I heard the same thing. “Home grow is very important,” says Isaac Caplan, who also went for the initiative. “The only way to know exactly how quality your weed is is to grow it yourself.”

A few more for good measure. Matthew Krawitz, a voter from Swampscott agrees: “Just as I can brew beer in my basement, I should be able to grow a reasonable about a marijuana for personal use.”

According to Peter Bernard, director at theMassachusetts Grower Advocacy Council,“We will fight to keep home grows. That’s part of what the voters voted for. Regulate? Sure. Completely ban a home grow or arbitrarily change the tax structure? Not so fast. It’s like giving something and then immediately taking it away before you can even get the wrapper off.”

In a subsequent interview with a television news station, Senator Rosenberg edited himself, telling a reporter, “I don't believe people will be willing to get rid of home grown, but there may be some changes that would have to occur in that.”

In a remarkable moment of honesty, even Gov. Charlie Baker, who actively campaigned against the initiative, told the State House News Service, “That was one piece [the home grow provision] of that 6,000-word ballot question that I think a lot of people understood straight out of the gate.”

As for the enduring prohibitionist forces at the Globe, they’re only getting more relentless. A page one story earlier this week gave space for police chiefs to cry foul and repeat demonstrably nonsensical talking points about potency and home grow electrical fires, while last week Leung jabbed, “Congratulations Massachusetts, we just passed one of the worst pot bills in the country. Now what?” She has one hell of a selective crystal ball; while Leung foresees a nightmare weedscape on the near horizon, on the subject of her beloved Boston 2024 Olympics, the columnist once claimed “we’ll never really know” how that sunken charade would have ended for taxpayers.

Leung is pushing the same capitalist crap we are now seeing from innumerable politicians, right down to the municipal level. They have no proof to support the claim that taxes at the rate of 12 percent won’t cover the cost of implementation, yet point to the cost of regulation as a reason to increase the tax. At the same time, none have expressed much worry about the financial burden of locking up growers. Spending government resources on busting micro-grows? A-OK for this crowd. No concerns regarding those expenditures.

You’ll get a similar story from Nicholas Vita, chief executive officer of Columbia Care, which holds three medical marijuana licenses in Massachusetts (including one for Patriot Care in Boston). Vita cited his concerns about public safety in interviews, all while shamelessly omitting the reality that home grows could put a substantial dent in operations like his that sell ounces for upwards of $400.

The cries of those exaggerators and alarmists considered, I turned back to those who believe that they deserve a choice about where to obtain their legal cannabis. David Pratt, a Hyannis resident who backed legalization, notes: “Home grow is the most important part of any legalization. Without home grow we are at the mercy of the ‘big industry’ [prohibitionists] say they are so concerned about.”

“The will of the people has been voiced,” says Bernard of theMassachusetts Grower Advocacy Council. “Let's go with that before we try to break it. Nothing recreational will be out there until it all gets sorted out with the Cannabis Commission and licensing. So really, there is no recreational market before these things are in place. I know lots of people that would not have voted for it without the home grow provision. Changing the law this soon is blatantly against what voters voted on.”


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'Hamilton Electors' Declare War on Trump

AlterNet.org - December 2, 2016 - 1:12pm
Click here for reuse options! "I feel that it is my duty to cast my vote against Trump."

VP-elect Mike Pence got booed on Broadway last month, but there's a far more frustrating Hamilton story for Trump now.

Levi Guerra, 19, is an elector from Vancouver, Washington and the latest to join the renegade bipartisan group of "Hamilton Electors" planning to block Trump from the presidency when the Electoral College votes December 19.

Instead of supporting Hillary Clinton (who Washington voted for), Guerra will cast her vote for a Republican compromise candidate.

“I feel that it is my duty to cast my vote against Trump,” said Guerra. “Instead, I must vote for the person who I believe will be best for my constituents and who has the greatest chance for unifying our country.”

According to the Hamilton Electors website, the electors are honoring "Alexander Hamilton’s vision that the Electoral College should, when necessary, act as a Constitutional fail-safe against those lacking the qualifications from becoming President.”

Ironically, they're also trolling Trump with his own campaign slogan.

"In 2016 we’re dedicated to putting political parties aside and putting America first," the website reads. "Electors have already come forward calling upon other Electors from both red and blue states to unite behind a responsible Republican candidate for the good of the nation."

“I'm a former U.S. Marine and the core values are honor, courage, commitment. I don't believe Donald Trump has that," said "faithless" Colorado elector Michael Baca.

In terms of deciding a Republican alternative to Trump, “We haven’t landed on that,” Bret Chiafalo, another Washington elector admitted. However, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman and Ohio Gov. John Kasich are among the group's top choices.

In Washington state alone, Guerra is the third electoral college member to become a “faithless elector." Similarly four electors from Colorado have already pledged to do the same. But even seven electors bucking the president-elect would set an unprecedented level of political disgust.

"The last time more than one elector broke ranks was in 1912, and only then because the Republican vice-presidential candidate, James Sherman, died before the vote was held," the Guardian reported.

Washington State has 12 electors and there is a $1,000 fine for electors like Guerra who refuse to honor the election's results.

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People's Tribunal on the Iraq War Unifies Peace Movements

AlterNet.org - December 2, 2016 - 12:44pm
Click here for reuse options! The December meeting to unify global antiwar movements was organized by CodePink.

After 14 years of costly war based on lies, it’s time for truth and accountability. The People's Tribunal on the Iraq War will unify the global antiwar/peace movements with other justice movements by uplifting testimonies of the costs of this war. The Tribunal, organized by CodePink, will bring the lies that created the war on Iraq into public awareness, while demanding President Obama act on them. It will build and inspire the antiwar movement that we will need after the inauguration of the next administration in 2017. It will be a tool all groups can use to build, inspire and enliven their organizations and communities.

When: December 1-2 from 9:30am-5pm both days

Where: University of DC, David Clarke Law School Moot Court Room, 4340 Connecticut Ave, NW Washington DC.

Watch (Read CODEPINK cofounder Jodie Evans' opening remarks at the Iraq Tribunal below the video embed)

CODEPINK started as a response to Bush’s terrorists lies as the visual terrorist codes of yellow, red and orange.

\We called CODEPINK for peace. 

Now after 14 years standing in everyway we could imagine we decided to build something that would be valuable after the elections to stand again in the way of more war. Something that could heal and build the movement. We need to stand in the way of more lies, wars and costs depleting the needs of our cities.

I have been blessed to work along side some of the most caring, generous, passionate fighters for peace and justice. They are internationalist.  they understand it is all connected.  They risk and give their lives for peace, real peace.  There are millions, we know that between 12 and 15 million of us were in the streets saying no to war just days before Shock and Awe hit Baghdad. I was in Baghdad when Colin Powell lied to the world about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. I had been with the weapons inspectors that day at an earlier press conference assuring us there were none.

But the next morning we learned that Bush had followed that lie with the Game Is Over, now we launch Shock and Awe. An Iraqi women came into our room that morning looked to the sky and asked what was she going to do to protect her children, as I went down to the streets people were taping the windows and building generators for electricity.  I watched them be terrorized just by the idea of shock and awe.  But as we hear the stories from Iraq now, NO ONE could have imagined, even in all our fear and warnings how utterly devastating the situation is for everyone, including those in the US.

Since 9/11 it is estimated the cost of our response will be 5 Trillion dollars.  Instead billionaires have been made and the bottom of the world has gotten poorer.  Te US invested in destruction instead of peace.  

This tribunal speaks to the lies and costs of the Iraq War.  But the lies about war go back to the Korean War and follows from there.  The costs of war are born by those who are not on the front pages of papers or even in the history books.  we wanted to create a place where people could come, see 4 to 5 minutes from someone who with experience related to the Iraq War and follow the testimonies you hear today into the volumes of testimonies those you hear from today have offered the world in the form of articles, testimonies to Congress, books, movies, marches, and none stop offerings of the truth in the face of lies, often to personal costs and too often time in jail.

Today is just the beginning; this Tribunal will live on line and continue to grow. It will be a tool for study, for research and for history.  What we care most is that it is serves as a warning that war comes from lies and their are innumerable costs and violence begets violence.  There were many others who wanted to join but we have only two days to share many voices.  

We hope you will stay engaged, will share your stories and your concerns. We hope this begins a conversation about how we cannot normalize violence. Join us. 

Last weekend I was in Standing Rock; there were many moments where memories from Iraq returned. Starting with the beauty and kindness of the people, the generosity and capacity to be in relationship. But Standing Rock is also about lies and I hate to think of the costs of lives when the Missouri River is contaminated with oil, as all pipelines leak.

From Iraq to Standing Rock we must continue to resist the lies and refuse to pay the costs and instead create cultures of peace together.

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At Least Four Kinds of Terrorism Are Targeting Our Grandchildren—None of Them What Donald Trump Would Have You Think

AlterNet.org - December 2, 2016 - 12:39pm
Click here for reuse options! The forces that swept a narcissistic misogynist into office are gunning for us all.

Four decades of American narcissism and greed and exceptionalism have allowed the super-rich to dictate the future path of our nation. We're paying the price now, with environmental disasters, nonexistent savings for half of our families, Americans dying because of expensive health care, and a growing fear of blowback from desperate victims of our foreign wars.

Environment Be Damned 

Almost all reputable sources agree that human-caused climate change is killing people, with up to 400,000 annual deaths "due to hunger and communicable diseases that affect above all children in developing countries," and up to 7 million deaths -- over a half-million of them children under the age of five -- caused by air pollution. 

The richest people in the world create most of the pollution, yet are the least likely to feel guilty about the effects of their behavior, and the least likely to suffer from the impending environmental damage. This could lead to terror-filled years for the generations to follow us. Even the CHANCE of such misery for their grandchildren should motivate the super-rich to address the root causes of global warming. Instead, they have plans to retreat to impregnable "safe rooms" with food and water, oxygen, medical supplies, and all the amenities for a year or more of underground living. 

Disdain for the Taxes that Support Society 

Charles Koch said, "I believe my business and non-profit investments are much more beneficial to societal well-being than sending more money to Washington." 

Beneficial to society? Where is the incentive for Charles Koch, or any other billionaire beneficiary of decades of tax subsidies, to support the needs of average people? 

The breakdown in taxes began in the 1970s, when University of Chicago economist Arthur Laffer convinced Dick Cheney and other Republican officials that lowering taxes on the rich would generate more revenue. Conservatives have contorted this economic theory into the belief that all tax reductions are beneficial. It was proved wrong from the start. Several economic studies have concluded that the revenue-maximizing top income tax rate is anywhere from 50% to 75%. Yet our next president wants to cut taxes on the rich. 

There's little doubt that the perverse level of inequality caused by the Koch-like attitude led to the rebellion by once-middle-class white voters that swept a narcissistic misogynist into office. It could easily get worse, with our infrastructure crumbling and AI technology taking over mid-level jobs. Our grandchildren will face the economic terror trickling down from the greedy top. 

Profiting from Our Health Problems 

Instead of focusing on the likely risks of their product to human health, the sugar industry spent five decades blaming saturated fats rather than sugar for obesity, even paying handpicked Harvard scientists to support their view, while steering Americans to the low-fat, high-sugar diet that now seems much to blame for our health problems. The weight of the average American man has gone from 166 to 196 in the past fifty years. From 140 to 166 for women. The World Health Organization reports on the "unequivocal evidence" that childhood obesity is related in part to the intake of sugar. 

Meanwhile, other deadly substances have been pushed on us. In the 1990s the pharmaceutical industry began a massive campaign to convince Americans that opioid medications were effective for chronic pain. Today more people use prescription opioids than use tobacco. Nearly half of men without jobs are hooked on pain medication, much of it deemed unnecessary by the Annals of Surgery. About 75% of heroin addicts used prescription opioids before turning to heroin. Deaths related to heroin have nearly quadrupled in the past decade, and a dramatic surge in overdoses has occurred even among children

These children, our own children and grandchildren, are facing the terrors of drug addiction and obesity-related diseases because of the self-serving corporate demand for profit over human need. 

Blowback from Our Wars 

Yemeni resident Baraa Shiban writes: "On December 12 a bride and groom traveled to their wedding in al-Baitha province, Yemen...A U.S. drone fired at the wedding procession, destroying five vehicles and killing most of their occupants." 

The weapons we sell to Saudi Arabia are destroying villages in Yemen, killing entire families and leveling their homes, and bombingschools and hospitals and even funeral processions. Food lines are blocked at the Yemeni borders, hospitals have run out of medicine, and hundreds of thousands of children are at risk of starving to death. At least 10,000 civilians have been killed or wounded, and more than 400,000 families have lost their homes. 

Shiban concludes: "Wronged and angry men are just the sort extreme groups like al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula find easiest to recruit." 

Every American should contemplate the levels of shock and sorrow and anger that WE WOULD FEEL if another nation bombed a wedding procession in the United States. Instead, with little reflection, we tolerate the ongoing slaughter of Middle East civilians, and we disregard the prospect of terror-filled years for our grandchildren. Only the cold hearts of war-profiteering capitalists seem immune to the pain and the danger. 


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What's New: Meet the new boss, same as the old boss

Socialist Project - December 2, 2016 - 12:00pm
The fresh new face Canada showed the world at the Paris COP21 climate meetings held out hope for many Canadian climate activists that a national course change was in the works. So far, Trudeau has not updated Canada's environmental assessment process as promised. The Liberals have sponsored a biased ministerial panel to assess both the Trans Mountain and Energy East pipeline expansions.
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Donald Trump’s Treasury Nominee Will Make Vicious Vulture Capitalism Great Again

AlterNet.org - December 2, 2016 - 11:57am
Click here for reuse options! The appointment of Steve Mnuchin dispels the fantasy the president-elect is any kind of populist.

It’s still baffling that a billionaire fraudster who preyed on the financially insecure was able to present himself to the electorate as a champion of the working class, but that’s the curious political situation we find ourselves in with Donald Trump. The president-elect is doing his level damnedest to reinforce that ill-gotten reputation by working out a deal with Carrier Corp. to prevent the outsourcing of 800 jobs to Mexico. Trump is, again, presenting himself as a warrior for the blue-collar worker, even though the deal he cut with Carrier involves giving the company a huge tax break while it moves forward on outsourcing 1,300 other jobs.

Taking on Trump requires scraping away this thin populist patina and exposing him as a friend and enabler of predatory capitalism. Thankfully for Democrats, Trump is giving them some juicy opportunities to do just that by populating his cabinet with some apex predators from the financial system. And if they’re going to expose Trump as a fraud, step one is making Treasury secretary-designate Steven Mnuchin a household name.

In one respect, Mnuchin already is a household name: Namely, he made a lot of money by foreclosing on working people and throwing them out of their households. As the financial crisis of the late-2000s was unfurling, Mnuchin (a veteran of Goldman Sachs) and some of his Wall Street buddies worked out a deal with the federal government to purchase IndyMac, one of the largest mortgage lenders in the country, after it collapsed spectacularly under the weight of subprime mortgage defaults. IndyMac was renamed OneWest, and Mnuchin’s new bank set about foreclosing on thousands of homeowners.

According to the California Reinvestment Coalition, OneWest has foreclosed on over 36,000 families in California alone, and “2/3 of these foreclosures occurred in majority minority communities.” As David Dayen writes at The Nation, “it’s not hyperbole to say that every one of these foreclosures were fraudulent.” OneWest moved aggressively to foreclose on properties and was one of several financial institutions that fabricated and fraudulently backdated documents needed to establish their standing to foreclose. In 2011, OneWest was hit with a consent orderfrom the Office of Thrift Supervision documenting the various “deficiencies and unsafe or unsound practices” the bank engaged in while foreclosing on people’s homes.

All these foreclosures gave rise to a series of media reports about homeowners who were badly mistreated by OneWest. An elderly California couple tried desperately to work with the bank to modify the terms of their loan, and were told by a OneWest vice president that they’d get a 60-day extension to work things out. Their home was sold the following day without their knowledge. A Minnesota woman who was in the process of renegotiating her OneWest loan came home from work one day to find the locks on her doors had been changed. A subsidiary of OneWest moved to foreclose on an elderly Florida woman’s home after a payment error of 27 cents, Politico reported. In 2012, a California couple won a lawsuit against OneWest after they alleged that it had engaged in dual-tracking: One division of the bank slow-walked their loan modification while another barreled ahead on foreclosure proceedings.

One person who came out way ahead in all this is Mnuchin. He and his partners scooped up over $1.5 billion in profits after their first year of ownership.

To nominate someone like this for a high-level cabinet post is to invite a populist counterattack, and already we’re seeing Democrats from the party’s progressive wing hitting Mnuchin with some sharp elbows. Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio has observed that Mnuchin’s nomination “isn’t draining the swamp — it’s stocking it with alligators.” Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts has called Mnuchin the “Forrest Gump of the financial crisis” due to his uncanny knack for being at the center of all the worst Wall Street abuses.

The going theory about what happened in the 2016 election was that it represented a backlash among the lumpenproletariat against the political and financial elites who game the system for their own benefit. By picking Mnuchin as the nation’s leading financial executive, Trump has elevated a little-known avatar of this corruption. Democrats have an easy and compelling case to make that Mnuchin represents the worst of predatory finance, and that his nomination to run the Treasury undermines everything that Donald Trump claimed to stand for on the campaign trail.


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Two Surprising Factors That Make Millions of Americans Sick

AlterNet.org - December 2, 2016 - 10:50am
Click here for reuse options! How urban planning preventative medicine can keep people from getting sick in the first place.

The following is an excerpt from Prevention Diaries, by Larry Cohen. Published December 1, 2016, by Oxford University Press.

I tried to get a mortgage for a superb house in East Oakland near my office, but my application was denied without explanation. Later I learned—off the record—that banks were unwilling to lend in that area. They had “redlined” it, meaning they drew an actual red line on the map around certain neighborhoods where they refused to support either residential or commercial development. This neighborhood was extraordinarily racially, ethnically, and economically diverse, with a high percentage of people of color and people with low household income—typical redlining targets. Wealthier white neighborhoods were, needless to say, not subject to this treatment. Eventually, I was able to get the loan, but only because I had a realtor with a longstanding relationship at the local bank and other business connections that helped me get around the standard practice. Surely the fact that I was a white man with a good income made a big difference—both in my ability to get a realtor and in the bank’s willingness to lend money to me. While I had the means and access to buck the system that oppressed others in the neighborhood, the vast majority of East Oakland residents did not. 

Redlining and discriminatory lending practices are of course not limited to East Oakland—they are part of a much larger pattern of injustice that relegates low-income communities and communities of color to poor health and other forms of diminished well-being. Redlining also reinforces racial and economic segregation while concentrating poverty, poor housing conditions, and overcrowding into set areas, forcing people to live in inequitable conditions that engender poor health. The sum of this is that financial institutions, by restricting housing options, reinforce certain populations to areas with the fewest resources and access to services, jobs, and transportation. This means homes near toxic sites and polluting industries. It’s no accident that the leading causes of death—heart disease, cancer, diabetes, stroke, injury, and violence—occur with greater frequency and severity in these areas, and with earlier onset. Further, being denied a path to home ownership becomes a huge barrier to building wealth that can be passed on to the next generation. There is seemingly no end to the unfairness wrought by redlining. 

Dr. Tony Iton, Public Health Director of Alameda County (California) from 2003 to 2009 (and also a former board member at Prevention Institute), led a study that found a black child born in low-income West Oakland and a white child born 10 miles away in the middle-class Oakland Hills had an average fifteen-year difference in life expectancy. As appalling as this finding is, it’s only part of the story: life expectancy is a relatively blunt measure that reveals just one element of inequity; it only hints at the lifetime of disparity that accompanies what are too often sicker, shorter lives. 

Virtually every US inner city has these kinds of inequities—as do some suburbs, especially those just outside city limits, and many rural areas. Sir Michael Marmot, an international authority on disparities in health, noted in an interview with the World Health Organization: “If you catch the metro train in downtown Washington, D.C., to the suburbs in Maryland, life expectancy is fifty-seven years at beginning of thThe e journey. At the end of the journey, it is seventy-seven years. This means that there is a twenty-year difference in life expectancy in the nation’s capital, between the poor and predominantly Black people who live downtown and the richer and predominantly non-Black people who live in the suburbs.”

Sadly, I haven’t seen any discernable embarrassment or political fallout over this inequality—or any significant activity to address it in, of all places, our nation’s capital. Marmot has revealed the pattern of diverging life expectancy and income levels in countries around the world. In other countries, the discrepancies in life expectancy track economic status. In the United States, racism and economic injustice are deeply intertwined, exacerbating the inequities. The dismaying links between neighborhood conditions and health have been recognized by groups in Washington, New York City through the creation of transit maps that show the average life expectancy for residents living around each metro stop. In New York, visual artist and programmer Brian Foo has even used musical narration to map the profound income gaps along a subway line. Public and private projects that are disruptive to neighborhoods, such as electricity substations, freeways, and waste treatment plants, tend to be placed in the very same neighborhoods that are redlined. “This is typical of the pattern you see in poor neighborhoods,” according to Meena Palaniappan, an Oakland resident whose concern led to her becoming co-director of the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project. “Facilities that serve the whole Bay Area are located here, and West Oakland shoulders the whole environmental burden.” West Oakland residents suffer from predictably higher rates of lead poisoning, cancer, and asthma. One study shows that local children are seven times more likely to be hospitalized for asthma than the average child in California. 

Since the health problems created by inequitable community conditions all eventually require medical treatment and people living with chronic health problems often end up hospitalized, the search for solutions to these disparities in health typically begins in the medical system. The Institute of Medicine has identified three vital elements for achieving greater medical equity: equal access to high-quality treatment, diverse medical leadership that represents the populations served, and treatment that is culturally and linguistically appropriate. 

Where this line of thinking goes wrong is in assuming the medical system can play the primary role in solving the problem; as discussed already, inequity isn’t just medical. It’s a piling on of economic, environmental, and political unfairness. The gap in life expectancy isn’t principally due to differences in treatment, or in biological makeup. It’s related to ordinary community issues with ignored health impacts that degenerate into medical concerns. As Brian Smedley, the executive director of the National Collaborative for Health Equity, puts it, “It’s not your genetic code; it’s your zip code.” The environments in which people live, work, and play shape health and safety outcomes for everyone—but this impact is even more so for low-income populations and people of color, who bear the brunt of injustice manifested in challenging living conditions and social stigmas. As Marmot writes, “It is about opportunities in life … social conditions that shape the physical environment one lives in.


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