Friday, August 31, 2012

The True Story of Mitt Romney and Bain Capital

Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone:

The reality is that toward the middle of his career at Bain, Romney made a fateful strategic decision: He moved away from creating companies like Staples through venture capital schemes, and toward a business model that involved borrowing huge sums of money to take over existing firms, then extracting value from them by force. He decided, as he later put it, that "there's a lot greater risk in a startup than there is in acquiring an existing company." In the Eighties, when Romney made this move, this form of financial piracy became known as a leveraged buyout, and it achieved iconic status thanks to Gordon Gekko in Wall Street. Gekko's business strategy was essentially identical to the Romney–Bain model, only Gekko called himself a "liberator" of companies instead of a "helper."

Here's how Romney would go about "liberating" a company: A private equity firm like Bain typically seeks out floundering businesses with good cash flows. It then puts down a relatively small amount of its own money and runs to a big bank like Goldman Sachs or Citigroup for the rest of the financing. (Most leveraged buyouts are financed with 60 to 90 percent borrowed cash.) The takeover firm then uses that borrowed money to buy a controlling stake in the target company, either with or without its consent. When an LBO is done without the consent of the target, it's called a hostile takeover; such thrilling acts of corporate piracy were made legend in the Eighties, most notably the 1988 attack by notorious corporate raiders Kohlberg Kravis Roberts against RJR Nabisco, a deal memorialized in the book Barbarians at the Gate.

Romney and Bain avoided the hostile approach, preferring to secure the cooperation of their takeover targets by buying off a company's management with lucrative bonuses. Once management is on board, the rest is just math. So if the target company is worth $500 million, Bain might put down $20 million of its own cash, then borrow $350 million from an investment bank to take over a controlling stake.

But here's the catch. When Bain borrows all of that money from the bank, it's the target company that ends up on the hook for all of the debt.

Now your troubled firm – let's say you make tricycles in Alabama – has been taken over by a bunch of slick Wall Street dudes who kicked in as little as five percent as a down payment. So in addition to whatever problems you had before, Tricycle Inc. now owes Goldman or Citigroup $350 million. With all that new debt service to pay, the company's bottom line is suddenly untenable: You almost have to start firing people immediately just to get your costs down to a manageable level.

"That interest," says Lynn Turner, former chief accountant of the Securities and Exchange Commission, "just sucks the profit out of the company."
Continue reading here.

Matt Taibbi on Romney's greed, vulture capitalism - A new article by reporter Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone sheds new light on the origin of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's fortune, revealing how Romney's former firm, Bain Capital, used private equity to raise money to conduct corporate raids. Taibbi writes: "What most voters don't know is the way Mitt Romney actually made his fortune: By borrowing vast sums of money that other people were forced to pay back. This is the plain, stark reality that has somehow eluded America's top political journalists for two consecutive presidential campaigns: Mitt Romney is one of the greatest and most irresponsible debt creators of all time. In the past few decades, in fact, Romney has piled more debt onto more unsuspecting companies, written more gigantic checks that other people have to cover, than perhaps all but a handful of people on planet Earth."

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Jill Stein's first ad: corny, but she's the real deal

No false claims of "hope and change". The US Green Party, unlike Obama and the Democrats, are actually a progressive workers' party:


Our country cannot truly move forward until the roots of inequality are pulled up, and the seeds of a new, healthier economy are planted. Thus, the Green New Deal begins with an Economic Bill of Rights that ensures all citizens:

1. The right to employment through a Full Employment Program that will create 25 million jobs by implementing a nationally funded, but locally controlled direct employment initiative replacing unemployment offices with local employment offices offering public sector jobs which are “stored” in job banks in order to take up any slack in private sector employment.

2. Worker’s rights including the right to a living wage, to a safe workplace, to fair trade, and to organize a union at work without fear of firing or reprisal.

3. The right to quality health care which will be achieved through a single-payer Medicare-for-All program.

4. The right to a tuition-free, quality, federally funded, local controlled public education system from pre-school through college. We will also forgive student loan debt from the current era of unaffordable college education.

5. The right to decent affordable housing, including an immediate halt to all foreclosures and evictions.

Continue reading the summary US Green Party's "Green New Deal" here.

Climate change: The day the world went mad

The Guardian:

As record sea ice melt scarcely makes the news while the third runway grabs headlines, is there a form of reactive denial at work?

Yesterday was August 28th 2012. Remember that date. It marks the day when the world went raving mad.

Three things of note happened. The first is that a record Arctic ice melt had just been announced by the scientists studying the region. The 2012 figure has not only beaten the previous record, established in 2007. It has beaten it three weeks before the sea ice is likely to reach its minimum extent. It reveals that global climate breakdown is proceeding more rapidly than most climate scientists expected. But you could be forgiven for missing it, as it scarcely made the news at all.

Instead, in the UK, the headlines concentrated on the call by Tim Yeo, chair of the parliamentary energy and climate change committee, for a third runway at Heathrow. This sparked a lively debate in and beyond the media about where Britain's new runways and airports should be built. The question of whether they should be built scarcely arose. Just as rare was any connection between the shocking news from the Arctic and this determination to increase our emissions of greenhouse gases.

I wonder whether we could be seeing a form of reactive denial at work: people proving to themselves that there cannot be a problem if they can continue to discuss the issues in these terms.

The third event was that the Republican party in the United States began its national convention in Tampa, Florida – a day late. Why? Because of the anticipated severity of hurricane Isaac, which reached the US last night.

As Kevin Trenberth of the National Centre for Atmospheric Research, noted earlier this year:
"Basic theory, climate model simulations, and empirical evidence all confirm that warmer climates, owing to increased water vapor, lead to more intense precipitation events even when the total annual precipitation is reduced slightly … all weather events are affected by climate change because the environment in which they occur is warmer and moister than it used to be."
(h/t: Joe Romm at Climate Progress)
The Republican party's leading lights either deny climate change altogether, or argue that people can adapt to whatever a changed climate may bring, so there's nothing to worry about.

The deluge of reality has had no impact on the party's determination to wish the physical world away. As points out, most of the major figures lined up to speak at the convention deny that man-made climate change is happening.

When your children ask how and why it all went so wrong, point them to yesterday's date, and explain that the world is not led by rational people.

Billionaire donor's daughter shoves reporter

Democracy Now!:

When Democracy Now! senior producer Mike Burke attempted to interview billionaire casino magnate and Republican donor Sheldon Adelson inside the Republican National Convention, a woman identified as Adelson’s daughter grabbed our video camera, tried to take it into a private suite and then threw the camera to the ground. While Adelson’s daughter first accused Burke of hitting her, she later came out of the suite to apologize. The incident was caught on tape, shortly after Burke questioned another billionaire GOP donor, David Koch, as well as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Republican National Committee chair Michael Steele. Burke files a report and joins us to describe what happened.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

"I don't remember" 89 times: Rob Ford grilled

The Toronto Star:

Mayor Rob Ford thought he could be in a conflict of interest only if the item he was voting on benefited the city, and had no knowledge of a handbook city staff gave him and other council members that explains conflicts. 

That’s according to remarks recorded in a transcript (click here for PDF or scroll down) of a closed-door June 27 deposition by lawyer Clayton Ruby, who will give him another grilling — in open court this time — on Wednesday during a three-day conflict of interest hearing.

If the lawsuit launched by resident Paul Magder is successful, Ford would be automatically kicked out of office unless the judge deems his actions inadvertent or an error of judgment, or the sum involved “insignificant.” 

Ford also told Ruby he voted to spare himself from paying back donations to his foundation, which gives football equipment to schools, because the foundation is “fantastic” and “saves kids’ lives.” Asked if he regretted his actions for even a moment, Ford replied: “Absolutely not.”

But the mayor was much less emphatic about many other things, including his first vote on the issue, in December 2010, and when it returned to council last February because he had failed to repay, as ordered, $3,150 in improperly solicited donations by lobbyists, their clients and a business.

During the roughly three-hour deposition, Ford replied “I don’t recall,” or “I don’t remember” a total of 89 times, prompting a chiding from Ruby about his “memory problem.”

Ford initially suggested he relied on city legal staff to alert him if he was in a possible conflict of interest, and said they did not do that in February.

Ford — a councillor for 10 years before he was elected mayor in late 2010 — told Ruby he couldn’t recall ever receiving the handbook that city staff give all council members at the beginning of each council term.

It states members have a duty not to participate in the decision-making process on an item in which they have a “direct or indirect pecuniary interest.” It doesn’t matter whether the issue at hand benefits the city.

Continue reading here.

Tracking the effects of climate change

Al Jazeera has been tracking the effects climate change has been having on the world's landscape and its people. As the ice retreats, a crucial environment is literally disappearing into the sea. In the third part of his series, Al Jazeera's Nick Clark travels from Qaanaaq, in the west coast of Greenland, to Canada.

Republican platforms: from moderate to extremist

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The Washington Post:

The word “abortion” does not appear in a Republican Party platform until 1976, when the party concedes that it is deeply split between those who support “abortion on demand” and those who seek to protect the lives of the unborn.

The quest for lower taxes does not define Republicanism until the 1980s, and matters of faith play almost no role in the GOP’s plank until the 1990s.

The Republican Party, viewed through its quadrennial platform documents, is consistently business-oriented and committed to a strong defense, but has morphed over the past half-
century from a socially moderate, environmentally progressive and fiscally cautious group to a conservative party that is suspicious of government, allied against abortion and motivated by faith.

Influenced by the rise of tea party activists, this year’s platform, adopted Tuesday at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, has shifted to the right, particularly on fiscal issues. It calls for an audit of the Federal Reserve and a commission to study returning to the gold standard. There are odes of fidelity to the Constitution but also calls for amendments that would balance the federal budget, require a two-thirds majority in Congress to raise taxes and define marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

The new plank urges the transformation of Medicare from an entitlement to a system of personal accounts, increased use of coal for energy and a ban on federal funding to universities that give illegal immigrants in-state tuition rates.

For decades, the party presented itself as “moderate” or even “progressive.” The 1960 plank, for example, touts “progressive Republican policies” such as “liberal pay” and says the government “must be truly progressive as an employer.”

In 1972, the platform celebrates Republicans’ use of wage and price controls to curb inflation, a doubling of federal spending on manpower training, and a tripling of help to minorities.

For decades, Republicans emphasize federal funding for public transit. Then, in 1980, a turn: “Republicans reject the elitist notion that Americans must be forced out of their cars. Instead, we vigorously support the right of personal mobility and freedom as exemplified by the automobile.”

Throughout the 1960s and ’70s, the GOP platform includes vigorous support for an equal-rights amendment to protect women. Then, in 1980, the party stalemates: “We acknowledge the legitimate efforts of those who support or oppose ratification.”

The 1960 plank calls for government workers to receive “salaries which are comparable to those offered by private employers.” In 1984, public-sector workers are redubbed “bureaucrats” and “Washington’s governing elite,” and are blamed for “an epidemic of crime, a massive increase in dependency and the slumming of our cities.” Republicans pledge a major cut in the government workforce.

The watershed platform of 1980 introduces tax cuts and an increasingly critical attitude toward government. “The Republican Party declares war on government overregulation,” it says.

In 1960, Republicans give “firm support” to “the union shop and other forms of union security” and say that “Republican conscience and Republican policy require that the annual number of immigrants we accept be at least doubled.” Four years later, the GOP bashes Democrats for being “federal extremists” wedded to an ever more intrusive central government.

Continue reading here.

Republicans stripping women of their rights

As debate rages over Republican positions on abortion, we ask if a war is being waged on women's right to choose. Guests: Judy Norsigian and Frank Schaeffer.

Rocky Anderson on stymying of third parties

Democracy Now!:

Former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson is running for president with the newly formed Justice Party. Although hailing from a solidly red state, Anderson has been known as one of the most progressive mayors of any major U.S. city in recent years. During his two mayoral terms from 2000 to 2008, Anderson was an outspoken champion of LGBT rights, environmental sustainability and the antiwar movement in opposition to the Iraq War. But Anderson says his entry into the race has been hampered by the united Democratic-Republican opposition to third-party candidacies. "Without a doubt, these two parties, Republicans and Democrats, have a stranglehold on our democracy," Anderson says. "Getting on the ballot is a nightmare."

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

GOP's nightmarish response to MLK's "Dream"

49 years ago today - Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous "I Have A Dream" speech - a speech in which he envisioned a more equal and just America. Unfortunately - Republicans are gathering in Tampa this week to undo just about everything MLK dreamed of.

Poverty stalks Republican National Convention

In the US all eyes are on Florida this week as the Republican National Convention continues. But just down the road from the politicians, journalists and protesters is one of the poorest areas in the state where homeless shelters and charities have seen a surge of people in need. Al Jazeera's Andy Gallacher reports.

Israeli military exonerated for Rachel Corrie killing

Democracy Now!:

An Israeli judge has cleared Israel’s military of responsibility for the killing of the U.S. peace activist Rachel Corrie. A 23-year-old college student, Corrie was crushed to death by an Israeli army bulldozer in Gaza nine years ago. She was standing in front of a Palestinian home to help prevent its demolition. Today’s ruling came in a wrongful death civil suit brought by Corrie’s family, with the judge rejecting any negligence on the part of the driver and finding that Corrie’s death resulted from "an accident she brought upon herself." Today’s ruling follows an earlier internal Israeli army investigation that also exonerated the bulldozer drivers. The Corrie family had been seeking a symbolic $1 in damages, as well as legal fees.

If American land was divided as American wealth

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Why higher wages make economic sense

Larry Hubich and Erin Weir, Opinion, The Leader-Post:

Recent Saskatchewan government news releases trumpet record numbers for wholesale trade, building permits and exports. But as Labour Day approaches, we should consider that many Saskatchewan workers do not share in the prosperity they create.

In particular, our province soon will have the embarrassing distinction of Canada's lowest minimum wage. On Sept. 1, Alberta's hourly minimum rises to $9.75, leaving us last at $9.50.

Our province should aspire to have Canada's best minimum wage. Specifically, we propose phasing in a minimum wage of $11, which would match Nunavut as the highest of any province or territory.

The government should index this to inflation to help protect low-income earners from having their buying power eroded by Saskatchewan's rising cost of living.

Some of the benefits of a fair minimum wage are obvious. It means more much-needed income in the hands of low-paid working people. Increasing the wages of workers at the lowest end of the income spectrum would also add to consumer spending in the province, helping local businesses and other participants in the economy.

More than any other group, low-income earners spend their money in their communities. For example, they're far less likely to make foreign investments or to travel abroad. Increasing Saskatchewan's minimum wage would bolster the provincial economy.

Continue reading here.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Professors endorse pot legalization in Colorado

The Raw Story:

More than 100 college professors across the nation signed an open letter on Tuesday endorsing a Colorado ballot measure that would legalize marijuana and regulate it like alcohol, in a move timed to coincide with President Barack Obama’s campaign stop at Colorado State University.

The letter was released by The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, the principal group supporting Amendment 64, the marijuana legalization ballot initiative being put before voters this November. The law would permit adults over the age of 21 to possess one ounce of marijuana or six marijuana plants. It does not propose any any changes that would affect employee drug testing or laws prohibiting driving while intoxicated.

Most of the letter’s co-signers identified themselves as coming from “the fields of law, health, economics, and criminal justice.”

“For decades, our country has pursued a policy of marijuana prohibition that has been just as ineffective and wasteful as alcohol prohibition,” they wrote. “We have reviewed Amendment 64 and concluded that it presents an effective, responsible, and much-needed new approach for Colorado and the nation.”

“The State of Colorado, as well as our nation, have successfully walked the path from prohibition to regulation in the past,” the professors concluded. “Eighty years ago, Colorado voters approved a ballot initiative to repeal alcohol prohibition at the state level, which was followed by repeal at the federal level. This year, we have the opportunity to do the same thing with marijuana and once again lead the nation toward more sensible, evidence-based laws and policies.”

An August survey by the Democratic-affiliated Public Policy Polling group found that 47 percent of Colorado voters favor Amendment 64, while just 38 percent oppose it.

Continue reading here.

Strikers regroup at South African mine

Hundreds of defiant miners have regrouped for a protest near the spot where South African police killed 34 of their colleagues, as platinum giant Lonmin said less than a quarter of employees had shown up for work.

Meanwhile, the ANC national executive has met over concerns President Jacob Zuma is losing political support over his handling of the incident.

Al Jazeera's Tania Page reports from the Marikana mine.

Behind a mining monopoly

Canadian companies control a majority of Latin American mining. Activists say those companies are polluting and violating indigenous rights.

NDP under Mulcair: government in waiting

The Hill Times:

When Parliament returns, NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair will face a renewed Conservative government that lost control of its agenda in the spring, but after six months in his job, political observers say, he’ll continue to be an “overwhelming success” as he has managed to solidify the party’s support in Quebec, unite his caucus, and show that his team is a government in waiting.

“I don’t want to exaggerate but I think he’s been an overwhelming success so far in his short time as leader,” said David McGrane, University of Saskatchewan political science professor and an expert on the New Democrats.

Prof. McGrane said that Mr. Mulcair (Outremont, Que.) has been particularly impressive in the way he’s been able to keep support for the party in Quebec, which had been flagging after the Orange Crush that swept the province in May 2011, going strong.

“Overnight he solidified Quebec for them, and after that he really started to make roads in English Canada, particularly in Ontario and even in the west and Atlantic Canada. In terms of the polls it’s been a success so far,” he said.

The NDP trail the Conservatives nationally by just five per cent, with 32 per cent support. The Conservatives sit at 37 per cent while the Liberals sit at 20 per cent and the Greens and the Bloc Québécois sit at six per cent each. The poll was conducted by Abacus Data and released Aug. 15. It’s considered accurate plus or minus 2.2 per cent 19 times out of 20.

Mr. MacLachan said that Mr. Mulcair has been particularly adept at uniting the NDP caucus after the leadership race.

To that end Mr. Mulcair has also done a good job of showcasing other strong NDP players and improving the party’s credibility as a government in waiting.

Mr. Mulcair has also been working to set up a binary in the House of Commons, framing the debates as between the Conservatives and the New Democrat Official Opposition and pushing the Liberals and their leader Bob Rae (Toronto Centre, Ont.) out of the picture.

Prof. McGrane said that Mr. Mulcair has been “very effective” at this so far.

“More and more Canadians are only seeing politics in a very polarized fashion between the NDP and the Conservatives,” said Prof. McGrane.

Continue reading here.

Obama's war on pot: dire economic consequences

The Huffington Post:

San Francisco - It's been less than a year since the Obama administration launched an aggressive crackdown on medical marijuana in California, and the government's actions have already taken a significant toll on the economy.

Since Department of Justice officials announced last October that they would be going after cannabis operations throughout the state, hundreds of dispensaries from San Diego to Yuba County have been forced to shut down. Thousands of employees at said businesses have lost their jobs as a result, and California is losing out on much-needed sales tax revenue.

"The average dispensary employs half a dozen to ten people and has gross revenues on the order of $500,000 to $1 million per year," Dale Gieringer, director of the California chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), told The Huffington Post. "Therefore we are talking about thousands of legal jobs and tens of millions in tax revenues lost."

Though the drug remains illegal under federal law, California became the first state to legalize cannabis for medicinal purposes when voters passed Proposition 215 in 1996. Recent figures released by Americans for Safe Access (ASA), a national coalition dedicated to promoting legal access to the plant, revealed that medical marijuana sales generate upwards of $100 million in annual tax revenues for the state.

California's coffers could certainly benefit from that money. State leaders are struggling to close a foreboding $16 billion budget deficit. Governor Jerry Brown has repeatedly warned that if voters fail to pass his plan to temporarily increase taxes in November, he will be forced to implement severe cuts to schools and public safety services.

Continue reading here.

Monday, August 27, 2012

US embraces for Hurricane Isaac

John Terrett is in Alabama, one of the US states expected to bear the brunt of Tropical Storm Isaac.

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Stephen Harper's climate change plan

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Syria accused of massacre near Damascus

Several hundred bodies have been found in a town near Damascus after a ferocious assault by the Syrian army, according to a watchdog group, as activists accused government forces of a gruesome "massacre".

A grisly video issued by the opposition showed bodies piled up wall-to-wall in a mosque complex in Daraya after a massive offensive by troops battling to crush insurgents who have regrouped in the outskirts of the capital.

Al Jazeera's Gerald Tan reports.

US arms sales hit record levels

US weapons sales hit a record high in 2011, according to a congressional report. The country sold $66bn worth of arms last year, tripling the number it sold in 2010. The previous record was $31bn in 2009. The report said that the sales were driven by countries in the Gulf region, where tension centred around potential military action against Iran has been building. The biggest customer for the US arms industry was Saudi Arabia, according to the report. All in all, the US sold 78 per cent of the world's arms in 2011. Russia was a distant second, with $4.8bn in arms sales. Al Jazeera speaks to Richard Weitz, the director for the Centre for Political-Military Analysis at the Hudson Institute in Washington DC, about the significance of the latest revelations.

NYPD: muslim spy program generated no leads

Democracy Now!:

After years of spying on Muslim neighborhoods, infiltrating groups and eavesdropping on conversations across the northeastern United States, the New York City Police Department has admitted its secret Demographics Unit failed to yield a single terrorism investigation or even a single lead. In the years following the Sept. 11 attacks, the NYPD secretly infiltrated Muslim student groups, sent informants into mosques, eavesdropped on conversations and created databases showing where Muslims lived, worked and prayed. We’re joined by Adam Goldman, who co-wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning Associated Press series that revealed the spy program and, most recently, its failure.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Spain's rebel mayor fights back at austerity cuts

As Spain tries to climb out of recession, governmment critics say those being hit hardest by austerity measures are the poor. One mayor is urging local politicians not to go along with the cuts. But, as Nadim Baba reports, his tactics are proving controversial.

Harper allows RCMP to use torture tainted info

The Canadian Press:

Ottawa - The Conservative government has quietly given Canada's national police force and the federal border agency the authority to use and share information that was likely extracted through torture.

Newly disclosed records show Public Safety Minister Vic Toews issued the directives to the RCMP and the Canada Border Services Agency shortly after giving similar orders to Canada's spy service.

The government directives state that protection of life and property are the chief considerations when deciding on the use of information that may have been derived from torture.

They also outline instructions for deciding whether to share information when there is a "substantial risk" that doing so might result in someone in custody being abused.

As key members of Canada's security apparatus, both the RCMP and border services agency have frequent and extensive dealings with foreign counterparts.

The directives are almost identical to one Toews sent last summer to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service — instructions that were roundly criticized by human rights advocates and opposition MPs as a violation of Canada's international obligations to prevent the brutalization of prisoners.

Each of the directives is based on a framework document — classified secret until now — that indicates the information-sharing principles apply to all federal agencies.

Continue reading here.

Astronaut Neil Armstrong passes away

US astronaut Neil Armstrong has died at the age of 82. He attained worldwide fame after becoming the first man to set foot on the moon back in 1969. He is reported to have recently had heart surgery and is believed to have developed complications. Al Jazeera's Rob Reynolds reports.

Colombia wealth gap leaves poor short-changed

Colombia is often referred to as one of the oldest democracies in Latin America, yet it had an ongoing armed conflict for more than 50 years. Millions of people were displaced by the violence. The inequality gap in the country is also one of the worst in the western hemisphere. The richest one per cent of people own more than half of Colombia's land, while the wealthiest 20 per cent earn almost 30 times more than the poorest 20 per cent. Al Jazeera's Lucia Newman reports from the capital, Bogota.

Reagan, FBI undermined student movement

Democracy Now!:

Investigative journalist Seth Rosenfeld’s new book, "Subversives: The FBI’s War on Student Radicals, and Reagan’s Rise to Power," is based on more than 300,000 pages of records Rosenfeld received over three decades through five Freedom of Information lawsuits against the FBI. The book tracks how then-FBI director J. Edgar Hoover ordered his agents to investigate and then disrupt the Free Speech Movement that began in 1964 on the Berkeley campus of the University of California. In part two of our interview, Rosenfeld discusses how Ronald Reagan collaborated with the FBI to target California’s student movement and strengthen Reagan’s own rise to power.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The fight to label genetically modified food

If you were eating something completely unnatural - something that
could make you sick - give you cancer - make your testicles shrink -
heck, even kill you - wouldn't you want to know? If you answered yes -
then you're on the same side as over 90% of your fellow Americans.
Poll after poll over the last few years - has shown that more than 90%
of Americans support specific labeling of genetically modified foods
that they buy in grocery stores. And European and other developed
countries require labeling of GMOs -- genetically modified foods. But
even though for years Americans have been demanding the right to know
what's in their food - and whether or not it's franken-food - not a
single piece of state or federal legislation has ever been passed to
make it happen. Which brings us to California. Efforts to force the
state legisature to pass laws to require labeling of genetically
modified foods have failed - so now citizens of the state have taken
matters into their own hands. After collecting more than a million
signatures - the citizens of California put proposition 37 on the
ballot for November - which will force all genetically modified foods
to have special labels. Good news, right? the fight is just
starting. That's because the biggest purveyors of genetically modified
foods - giant corporations like Monsanto, DuPont, Coca-Cola, Pepsi,
Nestle - all of them are spending enormous amounts of money to defeat
Prop 37. They don't want you to know what's in your food. Monsanto
alone has spent more than 4 million bucks - so too has Dupont - and in
total the GMO industry has raised $25 million to kill prop 37 - and to
kill your right to know what's in the food you eat. On the other hand
- the supporters of Prop 37 - have only raised $2 million. This is
going to be an uphill battle.

UFOs on Mars?

The circular-looking object in this enlarged image of the surface of Mars is on the horizon of the landscape where NASA's Curiosity rover sits, waiting for its first drive to explore the red planet. Is this an unidentified object or simply a very large rock?

NASA's Curiosity rover had hardly touched down on the surface of Mars on Aug. 5 when its cameras started transmitting images back to Earth of some odd things -- what some were calling UFOs.

In one instance of Martian weirdness, YouTube poster StephenHannardADGUK put a curious Curiosity image through a series of filters, revealing a number of UFO-type objects, or specks or blotches, in the sky above.

Here's an enhanced version of the four alleged UFOs above Mars.

"After watching the video, it is actually quite clear that these are one-pixel sized image anomalies," said video analyst Marc Dantonio, who has studied many UFO videos and created special effects and physical models for U.S. government projects.

"I fully concur at this point that these are dead pixels on the imager," Dantonio told The Huffington Post in an email. "All CCD [cameras] have them, and in a bland atmosphere like that at Mars, they would be very obvious as opposed to an active atmosphere like Earth, where they could end up hidden for a long time before anyone noticed them."

The mysteries began as soon as Curiosity touched down.

Curiosity was lowered onto Mars' surface from the descent module by means of a crane type device and rockets that allowed it to hover until making a soft landing. Once it reached ground, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory scientists sent the descent stage off, so as to not land on top of the rover. 

Shortly after Curiosity made its amazing, precise landing in Gale Crater, the rover sent an image to Earth of something that looked like a dust storm in the distance. Approximately 45 minutes later, as seen in the dual image below, another image snapped of the same location by Curiosity showed the dust anomaly was gone.

"If you look at the left image, we believe we've caught what is the descent stage impact on the Martian surface," said NASA engineer Steven Sell.

"The descent stage would have already impacted by the time this picture was taken," Sell told reporters at the JPL in Pasadena, Calif. "But the evidence we have that this is something we caused is the fact that the same image from the same camera taken 45 minutes later -- that artifact is not there anymore."

Here's another Martian mystery.

A film sequence transmitted by Curiosity shows white-colored objects moving near the horizon of the red planet, reports

In the following video, a white object can first be seen lifting up from the horizon, followed shortly by another object at the left of the field of view, moving toward the right, slightly above the horizon.

Check out this video of the two white objects.

Continue reading here.

1/2 million call centre jobs shipped overseas

Ron Collins, Communication Workers of America (CWA) joins Thom Hartmann. A job that's becoming increasingly harder and harder to find in America over the last few years is one in the call center industry. Since 2006 - a half-millions American call centre jobs have been packed up and shipped overseas to low-wage countries. Companies like Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and T-Mobile are the some of the biggest culprits when it comes to killing American call centre jobs. But, Democrats in Congress have been pushing legislation to put an end ot this mass exodus of jobs. The Unite States Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act cuts off federal loans and benefits to companies that off-shore their call center jobs. This bill also keeps a running list of companies that have off-shored call centre jobs in an effort to discourage the practice. Back in June, the House of Representatives took a vote on this legislation - and most Republicans lined up against it - killing the bill - and leaving the few Americans who still have call center jobs screwed. But now, Democrats in the Senate are trying to revive the legislation with the help of Senators Sherrod Brown in Ohio and Bob Casey in Pennsylvania - two states that have been hit really hard by call center job losses. As Senator Sherrod Brown said this week in defense of the United States Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act: "When companies send call center jobs overseas, they don't just frustrate consumers - they hurt our economy as well. With thousands of Ohioans looking for work, it just doesn't make sense to ship these jobs overseas." He's right - so what can be done to make sure this legislation passes to stimulate OUR economy - instead of stimulate foreign economes with what used to be American call centre jobs.

The Cafe - US: Still #1?

The US is the most powerful nation on earth, but its position of global supremacy is being challenged - economically, militarily and politically. And the person many Americans hold responsible for these failings is the president who promised them change. The worldwide economic crisis of 2008 started in the US and the aftershocks are still being felt today. Unemployment is running at more than eight per cent, productivity is down and the national debt is a whopping $137bn. Such turmoil makes it hard to honour electoral promises. The country is deeply divided. The machinery of government has been tied in knots by partisan bickering and the rise of the right-wing, anti-state Tea Party and the street protests of the left-wing Occupy Wall Street movement are a reminder of how polarised the nation has become. Despite this, Barack Obama, the US president, has pushed through healthcare reform and turned around the failing auto industry. He has stopped the war in Iraq and killed Osama bin Laden. But is this enough to win re-election for a second term? And, whoever wins, will the next president have the unenviable task of overseeing the US' decline?

Mississippi River faces problems (climate change)

A prolonged drought has taken a heavy toll on the Mississippi River, drastically lowering water levels of the largest river in the US. The problem is so severe that cargo barges are getting stuck while trying to navigate through it, forcing suppliers to instead make deliveries by road - a much more costly alternate route that has driven up prices. The Mississippi River's water level is currently four times lower than it was last year, with forecasts showing little sign of rain in the near future. John Terrett reports from Missouri.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Republican "Legislative" rape - not legitimate!

Nancy Cohen, author, Delirium & Sarah Seltzer, Alternet, join Thom Hartmann. Republicans are quickly trying to distance themselves from Rep. Todd Akin's "legitimate rape" comments - and are calling for him to drop out of his Senate race. But - isn't this really the height of hypocracy - since the party today officially adopted the legislative version of Akin's extremism position on rape and abortion?

The rags to riches journey of secondhand clothes

Every year, more than half a billion dollars' worth of secondhand clothes are sent out of the United States, and many of those items end up in developing countries. Yet few people know how their old clothes get to the needy. As part of Al Jazeera's series "Rags to Riches", Tom Ackerman travelled to Virginia to find out how one person's trash can be someone else's treasure.

Matt Taibbi, Eliot Spitzer on Eric Holder's failure

Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone:

Got a chance to talk with Eliot Spitzer last night about Eric Holder's decision not to prosecute Goldman Sachs for the offenses laid out in the Levin report.

I was trying not to be too obvious in making the point that Spitzer is an example of the kind of guy you would want looking at that Goldman case. Not only did I not want to look like a suck-up, but I wasn't sure how, "As you know, Eliot, a prosecutor is supposed to be kind of a dick!" would go over. Because I would have meant it in the most complimentary way possible. And it has nothing to do with politics. If you read James Stewart's Den of Thieves you can see that Rudy Giuliani had some of the same key qualities. A good prosecutor should look down the barrel of a bunch of millionaire lawyers at Davis Polk or White and Case and feel turned on by the challenge of combat. Making a deal with any devil should burn him at the core, keep him awake at night.

But that's exactly who Eric Holder and Lanny Breuer haven't been, exactly who Bob Khuzami at the SEC hasn't been. Instead of being fighters, they've been dealmakers and plea-bargainers. They've dealt out every major financial scandal, from Abacus to the Muni-bid-rigging cases (they prosecuted a few low-level guys at GE but let the big players at the big banks skate) to the Citigroup fraud settlement that was so bad a judge threw it back at the govenment's face. In that latter case, amazingly, the govenment is now fighting not for its constituents, but for its right to give out crappy deals to repeat-offender banks without judicial review.

Why do Republicans distrust scientists?

As the US presidential campaign of Republican candidate Mitt Romney is sideswiped by a Missouri senate candidate's understanding of biology, we ask whether Republicans have a problem with science. It does seem that many in the party have a problem accepting scientific orthodoxy. So why do many Republicans mistrust scientists? Guests: Ronald Numbers, Barry Bickmore, Ryan Grimm.

Analyst silenced for warning of far-right militants

Democracy Now!:

While many were shocked by the massacre at the Sikh temple, our guest, Daryl Johnson, had warned years ago that such an attack was imminent. While working as a senior analyst in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in 2009, Johnson authored a report warning about the increasing dangers of violent right-wing extremism in the United States, sparking a political firestorm in the process. Under pressure from Republican lawmakers and popular talk show hosts, DHS ultimately repudiated Johnson’s paper. Johnson drew his conclusion on his 15 years of experience studying domestic terrorist groups — particularly white supremacists and neo-Nazis. "Leading up to this report ... we received numerous accolades from law enforcement, intelligence officials, talking about the great work we were doing in the fight against domestic terrorism," Johnson says. "And then, in lieu of the political backlash, the department decided to not only stop all of our work, stop all of the training and briefings that we were scheduled to give, but they also disbanded the unit, reassigned us to other areas within the office, and then made life increasingly difficult for us." Johnson, now the owner of a private consultancy firm, has authored a new book, "Right Wing Resurgence: How a Domestic Terrorist Threat Is Being Ignored."

Thursday, August 23, 2012

CAW union votes to form super union with CEP

CAW National President Ken Lewenza speaks at the Canadian Automotive Workers' First Constitutional and Collective Bargaining Convention in Toronto on Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2012.

Toronto - Canadian Auto Workers delegates have voted unanimously to merge with the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada, combining two of Canada's largest private-sector unions.

The union said Wednesday all of the 1,000 delegates voted for the merger at the CAW's constitutional and collective bargaining convention in Toronto.

"This new union has the potential to change the way workers are represented in this country, bringing about stronger democracy in the workplace and greater community involvement," CAW president Ken Lewenza said after his union's vote.

"This union will pose a serious challenge to the unrepresentative, unfair economic and political systems workers now find themselves caught in."

The deal still has to be decided by CEP delegates, who will vote on the proposal when they meet in Quebec City in October.

The new union would represent more than 300,000 workers across roughly 20 economic sectors.
Most of the membership would be concentrated in manufacturing, communications and transportation.

Lewenza and other key players have said the two groups must join forces in order to ensure protection for existing members and inject some life back into the national labour movement.

It will be hard for the CAW to part with its name, Lewenza said Wednesday before the results of the vote were announced.

"But it's a name," he said, adding that a new approach to organized labour is needed in light of what he calls the government's attack on unions in recent years.

Continue reading here.

Protest at Target for unfair treatment of Canadians

Picketers blasted Target outside its Canadian headquarters In Mississauga Wednesday

Unionized workers delivered a blistering attack on Target and corporations like it on Wednesday, at a protest in front of the company’s new Canadian headquarters in Mississauga.

“We need to fight back against this corporate greed. We need to build a huge movement to take back this country for workers,” said Motilall Sarjoo, president of the Mississauga Brampton Labour Council.

Sarjoo was addressing a crowd of about 120 people, including union members and leaders of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW), the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) and NDP MP Wayne Marston.

The group had gathered to deliver a petition to Target executives, asking them to respect the seniority and benefits of Zellers employees who are being laid off as Target takes over Zellers leases across Canada as part of a $1.8-billion deal with HBC.

An estimated 27,300 employees are being let go as a result of the transaction. About 15,000 of them work in stores being converted to Target stores.

Target, a discount retailer based in Minneapolis, plans to open its first stores in the GTA in 2013.

Target has maintained that it has no responsibility towards the Zellers employees, because it bought only Zellers leases from HBC. Citing its status as a private company, HBC has repeatedly declined to comment.

Kevin Shimmin, a spokesman for the UFCW, said members are not picketing HBC because the legal agreement between HBC and Target states that HBC cannot take any action or make any comment on the issue. 

“If you’re in the service industry in Canada, this is the fate that awaits you when you have these companies from the U.S. gobbling up the retail industry in Canada,” OFL president Sid Ryan told the protesters.

“This is essentially the future of labour in the service industry in Canada.”

He said Stephen Harper’s Tory government supports policies that make Canadian workers more “competitive,” which means lower wages, lower benefits, no unions and no pension plan.

“Target hiding behind this excuse of a real estate transaction is wrong,” said Ryan.

Anthony Rankine, 31, attended the rally to support his mother, Angela Rankine, a former Zellers employee who has been an outspoken critic of how workers have been treated.

“We have to stand up. Young people have to stand up for our parents. We are the future,” he said.

Continue reading here.

Canadian students resume protests

Thousands of university students in the Canadian city of Montreal have marched against planned tuition-fee increases.

Student unions voted against boycotting classes as a form of protest earlier this week, and many are now focusing their attention on the country's next parliamentary election, set to take place on September 4 in Quebec.

Daniel Lak reports from Wednesday's demonstration in Montreal.

US war on drugs: A racist but failed policy?

Gil Kerlikowske, president Barack Obama's drug czar, has said that the US war on drugs has not been successful and that "It's very clear we can't arrest our way out of this

But despite promises by the president to re-evaluate US drug policies - more than half of Obama's drug control budget continues to go towards law enforcement.

And as the war on drugs rages in America's inner cities, the issue has not come up on the campaign trail of either President Obama or his Republican opponent, Mitt Romney.

FBI fought 60s students, aided Reagan’s rise

Democracy Now!:

Investigative journalist Seth Rosenfeld’s new book, "Subversives: The FBI’s War on Student Radicals, and Reagan’s Rise to Power," is based on more than 300,000 pages of records Rosenfeld received over three decades through five Freedom of Information lawsuits against the FBI. The book tracks how then-FBI director J. Edgar Hoover ordered his agents to investigate and then disrupt the Free Speech Movement that began in 1964 on the Berkeley campus of the University of California. The protests prevailed and helped spawn a nationwide student movement. Rosenfeld outlines in great detail how FBI records show agents used "dirty tricks to stifle dissent on the campus." In the book’s more than 700 pages, he uses the documents to explore the interweaving stories of four main characters: the FBI’s J. Edgar Hoover; actor and politician Ronald Reagan, who was running for governor of California at the time; Clark Kerr, then the University of California president and a target of scorn from both Reagan, Hoover and student activists; and legendary Free Speech Movement leader and orator, Mario Savio.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Jill Stein feature interview

A feature interview with US Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein, who discusses her party's campaign and the overwhelming influence and hold that big corporate money has in American electoral politics.

Will Colombia's protesting workers be heard?

A group of former General Motors workers have stitched their lips shut in a hunger strike outside the US embassy in Colombia demanding justice alleging unfair dismissal for reporting on workplace injuries. Are the rights of workers in Colombia adequately protected under the US-Colombia Labour Action Plan of April 2011? Guests: Austin Robles, David Bacon, Gimena Sanchez-Garzoli.

Baltimore: Anatomy of an American city

The election of the first black US president offered hope to millions of African Americans across the country. But have four years of an Obama presidency seen positive change for black communities in the US' inner cities? Fault Lines' Sebastian Walker spends time with those on the front lines of the failed drug war to understand some fundamental dynamics of race, poverty, incarceration and economic truths in the US in an election year.

The Stream: American terror, rising Islamophobia

We look at rising Islamophobia in the US and what can be done about it.

Paul Ryan’s extreme stance on abortion

Democracy Now!:

Republicans are mounting increasing pressure on Missouri Rep. Todd Akin to end his bid to unseat Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill after he claimed that women’s bodies can prevent pregnancies in cases of what he called "legitimate rape," a comment he later apologized for. The controversy is spilling in the presidential race due to Akin’s close ties to Mitt Romney’s running mate, Paul Ryan. In 2011, Ryan and Akin co-sponsored the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, which attempted to redefine rape by introducing the term "forcible rape." We speak to Michelle Goldberg, senior writer for Newsweek/The Daily Beast. Her latest article is titled "Todd Akin’s Rape Comment Was Bad, but His Abortion Views Are Much Worse."

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Unions fighting back against corporate greed

CAW president Ken Lewenza speaks at the union’s convention Monday in Toronto on Monday, August 20, 2012.

The economy is recovering in fits and starts, but there’s one area where growth is accelerating: the number of employers telling workers to abandon any hope of winning wage increases.

The word to workers is that they must agree to freeze their wages – a position the Ontario government is taking in negotiations with teachers and a point the Canadian units of the Detroit Three car companies have made clear to the Canadian Auto Workers union.

But the most extreme example comes from Caterpillar Inc., whose workers at a plant in Joliet, Ill., capitulated to company demands after a three-and-a-half month strike and agreed to freeze their wages for the next six years.

The heavy equipment giant, which posted a profit of $4.9-billion (U.S.) in 2011, is “essentially saying that what you can expect from competitive success is less to workers,” said Harley Shaiken, a professor at University of California, Berkeley, and a long-time observer of U.S. labour.

“And that unwinds the history of the U.S. in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, where competitive success resulted in more for workers, which in turn fuelled purchasing power and economic growth.”

The attitude among companies that the coffers are empty when it comes to sharing with workers will be tested over the next month in CAW contract talks with the Detroit Three.

The union is insisting that workers be rewarded for the concessions they made to help save two of the companies during the recession.

The companies have no moral right to demand more concessions, CAW president Ken Lewenza told a throng of workers gathered Monday in Toronto for a CAW convention.

The pressure on unionized workers is not new, but stubbornly high unemployment levels and the fresh memories of the 2008-2009 recession are giving employers powerful leverage not only to hold the line on wages, but also roll back benefits built up over decades.

In Canada, companies in some cases have enjoyed extra help in the form of the federal government, which legislated employees back to work at Air Canada and Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd.

Continue reading here.

Soldiers committing suicide reaches record high

Democracy Now!:

The month of July set a record high for the number of suicides in the U.S. military. An Army report reveals a total of 38 troops committed suicide last month, including 26 active-duty soldiers and 12 Army National Guard or reserve members — more soldiers than were killed on the battlefield. The reasons for the increase in suicides are not fully understood. Among explanations, studies point to combat exposure, post-traumatic stress, misuse of prescription medications and personal financial problems. Army data suggest soldiers with multiple combat tours are at greater risk of committing suicide. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta addressed the issue in June at the annual conference on suicide prevention in the military, saying, “Despite the increased efforts, the increased attention, the trends continue to move in a troubling and tragic direction.” We speak with Marguerite Guzmán Bouvard, whose new book is called, “The Invisible Wounds of War: Coming Home from Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Union pushes new responses to neo-liberalism

Canadian Auto Workers:

CAW National Secretary-Treasurer Peter Kennedy reminded delegates about the continuing challenges facing the labour movement in Canada and around the globe.

Since the last CAW convention and the election of CAW President Ken Lewenza, the global economic meltdown has meant storm clouds over the entire economy and especially tough times in the manufacturing sector.

He outlined the many challenges and the response of the union in fighting back against three decades of the neo-liberal, anti-worker agenda. In the last decade alone more than 800,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost. Since the last convention three years ago and the culmination of that agenda, GM and Chrysler have gone through a major restructuring and there were 110 workplace closures and 11,000 members’ jobs have been lost at CAW workplaces alone, he said.

As a result the CAW and the entire labour movement have looked at new ways of representing the interests of working people. A key event at the CAW’s 1st Constitutional and Collective Bargaining Convention is the writing of a new chapter in union renewal under the new union project of CAW and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union (CEP).

Delegates to the CAW Convention will vote on the report of the New Union Proposal Committee in the afternoon of the August 22.

Kennedy blasted the Harper government for its increasingly hostile attacks on the labour movement, unions and working people.

Government interference in collective bargaining at Canada Post, Air Canada, CP Rail, the introduction of Bill C-377 on union finances, as well as several Conservative provincial parties pushing US style “right to work” legislation to limit unions, show the Conservatives and business interests know that unions are the counter balance to unfettered capitalism.

“But we’re not gone – and we’re not going away” Kennedy said. “This week we will show we have plenty of fight left,” he vowed.

Greek history threatened by austerity cuts

The threat to Greece's ancient monuments comes because the state budget for cultural heritage has been slashed and there are fears that unprotected sites could be looted or ancient treasures left to crumble. Greek finance officials on Monday held new talks on finalising $14.19bn in spending cuts necessary for the country to continue receiving the international rescue loans that are protecting it from bankruptcy. Al Jazeera's Jacky Rowland reports from Athens.

Massacre in South Africa

Democracy Now!:

South African police shot dead 34 striking workers at platinum mine last week, setting off a wave of protests. In what has been described as “South Africa’s first post-apartheid massacre,” the miners were killed after demanding more pay and walking off the job at the Marikana mine, the world’s third largest producer of platinum. South Africa’s National Police chief Riah Phiyega is drawing public outrage for defending her officers. She said, "It was the right thing to do" though “we are sorry that lives were lost.” For more, we’re joined by Gavin Capps, a member of the group "Land Reform and Democracy in South Africa" at the University of Cape Town in South Africa.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Republican: "legitimate rape" causes no pregnancy

(click image for larger view)

Senate Candidate and Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) told a local television station on Sunday that “legitimate rape” rarely produces pregnancy because “the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” Akin cited conversations with unnamed doctors for the bizarre claim. Watch it:
Akin sponsored legislation that would redefine rape in federal law to limit funding for abortion providers and has a long track record of uninformed and extreme views about women’s health. He has a consistently radical anti-choice voting record in the House, wants to ban the morning after pill, and has expressed concern that criminalizing marital rape gives women “a legal weapon to beat up on the husband” during a divorce. 

Akin’s crusade against women’s access to medical services fits with his broader worldview, which is heavily influenced by a particularly virulent group of fundamentalist thinkers described as “Christian supremacists” by the Anti-Defamation League.

NASA turning Star Trek into reality?

Some NASA critics have argued it should be sending astronauts back to the moon before aiming for an asteroid, which would take at least six months to reach. But NASA officials say an asteroid mission would finally bring manned flight completely out of the grasp of earth gravity - at last turning Star Trek into reality.

Cannabis shrinks tumors, slows cancer


Editor's Note: The following is an excerpt from Acid Dreams author Martin A. Lee's new book Smoke Signals: A Social History of Marijuana -- Medical, Recreational, and Scientific  (Simon and Schuster, 2012):  

Peer-reviewed scientific studies in several countries show THC and other compounds found only in marijuana are effective not only for cancer symptom management (pain, nausea, loss of appetite, fatigue, and so on), but they confer a direct antitumoral effect as well. 

There is mounting evidence that cannabinoids may “represent a new class of anticancer drugs that retard cancer growth, inhibit angiogenesis [the formation of new blood vessels] and the metastatic spreading of cancer cells,” according to the scientific journal Mini-Reviews in Medicinal Chemistry

Studies from scientists around the world have documented the anticancer properties of cannabinoid compounds for various malignancies, including (but not limited to): 

• Prostate cancer. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin found that the administration of the synthetic cannabinoid WIN-55,212–2, a CB-1and CB-2 agonist, inhibited prostate cancer cell growth and also induced apoptosis. 

•Colon cancer. British researchers demonstrated that THC triggers cell death in tumors of the colon, the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. 

• Pancreatic cancer. Spanish and French scientists determined that cannabinoids selectively increased apoptosis in pancreatic cell lines and reduced the growth of tumor cells in animals, while ignoring normal cells. 

• Breast cancer. Scientists at the Pacific Medical Centers in San Francisco found that THC and other plant cannabinoids inhibited human breast cancer cell proliferation and metastasis and shrank breast cancer tumors. 1.3 million women worldwide are diagnosed yearly with breast cancer and a half million succumb to the disease.

• Cervical cancer. German researchers at the University of Rostock reported that THC and a synthetic cannabinoid suppressed the invasion of human cervical carcinoma into surrounding tissues by stimulating the body’s production of TIMP-1, a substance that helps healthy cells resist cancer. 

• Leukemia. Investigators at St. George’s University and Bartholomew’s Hospital in London found that THC acts synergistically with conventional antileukemia therapies to enhance the effectiveness of anti-cancer agents in vitro (in a test tube or petri dish). Scientists had previously shown that THC and cannabidiol were both potent inducers of apoptosis in leukemic cell lines. 

• Stomach cancer. According to Korean researchers at the Catholic Uni- versity in Seoul, WIN-55,212–2, the synthetic cannabinoid, reduced the proliferation of stomach cancer cells. 

Continue reading here.

Syrian refugees spend sombre Eid in camps

The UN says more than 170,000 Syrian refugees have been registered in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. Nearly 70,000 of them are in Turkey, where the government is worried that number will grow as fighting intensifies. Al Jazeera's Stefanie Dekker reports.

Worldwide solidarity protests for Pussy Riot

Democracy Now!:

On Friday, three members of the feminist punk group Pussy Riot were sentenced to two years in prison for staging a peaceful protest against Russian President Vladimir Putin inside an Orthodox church. A judge rejected the argument their act was a form of political protest, instead ruling it was motivated by religious hatred. As the verdict came down Friday, solidarity protests took place in more than 60 cities around the world marking a global day of action. The Pussy Riot case was seen as a key test of how far Putin would go to crackdown on dissidents during his third stint as president. We go to Moscow to speak with Alisa Obraztsova, a member of the legal team defending Pussy Riot, and Pyotr Verzilov, husband of jailed band member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Thousands gather at largest cannabis rally

The Associated Press:

Seattle - Tens of thousands of people descended on a waterfront park in Seattle Friday for the opening of what's billed as the nation's largest marijuana rally – an event that has a pressing political edge this year as Washington state's voters consider whether to legalize the fun use of pot for adults.

Colorado, Oregon and Washington already have medical marijuana laws. And all three also have legalization measures on the November ballot.

Washington's would allow sales of up to an ounce of dried marijuana at state-licensed stores and could bring the state nearly $2 billion in tax revenue over the next five years – if the federal government doesn't try to block the law from taking effect. Pot remains illegal under federal law.

Washington's measure, Initiative 502, also would prevent nearly 10,000 marijuana possession arrests every year in the state, proponents say.

"It looks like we're finally reaching a critical mass to end this critical mess," Hempfest director Vivian McPeak said as the festival began. "If I-502 passes, it'll be a historic moment."

Organizers expected at least 150,000 people at the three-day event. Thousands milled along the 1.5-mile long park under a blazing sun Friday afternoon, stopping at booths advertising colorful glass pipes, hemp clothing and medical marijuana dispensaries. Young women shouted at passersby to encourage them to obtain medical marijuana authorizations – "Are you legal yet?" – while other festival goers rested on driftwood logs, lighting joints and pipes.

Continue reading here.

South African mine workers continue to protest

Striking mine workers have rallied in South Africa, where police shot and killed 34 of their colleagues three days ago. Officers say they acted in self defence. But others say it was a massacre of the kind not seen since the end of Apartheid - and want President Jacob Zuma to resign. Al Jazeera'a Erica Wood reports.

27,300 Zellers workers get nothing in billion deal

Angela Rankin was laid off from Zellers after 13 years. At age 50 she's wondering what's next for her

Angela Rankin knows exactly how much Target paid Zellers for the leases to 220 stores across Canada.

It wasn’t a billion. It was $1.8-billion -- $1.825-billion to be more precise.

Rankin was let go on July 28 from the Zellers at Dufferin and Dupont in Toronto after 13 years working the cash, the sales floor and as a pharmacy technician, with nothing more than the legally mandated severance pay her employers were required to give.

“It’s selfishness. It’s sad,” says Rankin, 50, a mother of one who helps support cousins in Jamaica.

“I don’t know what they’re thinking. I don’t know where their mind is. It’s greediness.”

Rankin will speak at a demonstration led by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union on Wednesday, Aug. 22, at 11 a.m., in front of Target’s Canadian headquarters in Mississauga.

“Target needs to do the right thing – keep the workers and respect their wages and benefits,” says Kevin Shimmin, national representative of the UFCW Canada,

Target posted earnings Wednesday of $704 million (U.S.), or $1.06 per share, in the period ended July 30. Overall revenue rose 3.5 per cent to $16.45 million in the quarter. Revenue at stores opened at least a year rose 3.1 per cent.

The chain will open its first stores in Canada in 2013.

Rankin worked 28 hours a week at Zellers and when she left she was earning $11.97 an hour. She kept a second job to make ends meet. She worked in security for eight years. She works part-time for the UFCW.

Now, at 50, she’s wondering what’s next. Should she apply for another retail job? Should she go back to school? She knows she loves helping people any way she can.

“It doesn’t have to be this way,” says Kendra Coulter, a professor at the Centre for Labour Studies at Brock University. 

“This is a decision that has been made at the corporate level by Target and Zellers and HBC.”

She blames Stephen Harper’s Conservative government for failing to protect workers.

“If a very profitable foreign company is going to come into our country to rebrand stores, our citizens deserve respect and some criteria have to be met. They’re not building infrastructure from scratch, they’re not creating an enterprise that didn’t exist, they are rebranding stores,” said Coulter.

Of the 220 Zellers leaseholds originally purchased in 2011, Target kept 189. It transferred 45 of the 189 to other retailers, including 39 to Walmart. In July, HBC announced that it would be closing its remaining 85 stores.

There were 273 Zellers locations in Canada before the deals were made, each location employing between 100 and 150 people. About 15 Zellers stores were unionized.

That means at least 27,300 people across Canada lost their jobs as a result of the transactions.

Continue reading here.