Why 15,000 Indiana Teachers Just Walked Off the Job

After making waves in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Arizona, Kentucky, North Carolina and beyond, the Red for Ed movement has now spread to Indiana. Fed up with disinvestment in public schools and disrespect for their profession, teachers from across the Hoosier State are converging in Indianapolis today to hold lawmakers accountable and demand change.

Get over it? When it comes to recycled water, consumers won't

If people are educated on recycled water, they may come to agree it's perfectly safe and tastes as good -- or better -- than their drinking water. They may even agree it's an answer to the critical water imbalance in California. But that doesn't mean they're going to use recycled water -- and it sure doesn't mean they'll drink it. And the reason lies in the word 'disgust.'

Decarbonizing the power sector

Electricity supply is one of the biggest CO2 emitters globally. To keep global warming well below 2°C, several paths lead to zero emissions in the energy sector, and each has its potential environmental impacts -- such as air and water pollution, land-use or water demand. Using a first-time combination of multiple modelling systems, an international team of researchers has now quantified the actual benefits and downsides of three main roads to decarbonization.

Boosting wind farmers, global winds reverse decades of slowing and pick up speed

In a boon to wind farms, average daily wind speeds are picking up across much of the globe after about 30 years of gradual slowing. Research shows that wind speeds in northern mid-latitude regions have increased by roughly 7% since 2010.

Of course, the original experiment is also closely aligned with legacy code treatment; once management stops vigorously defending the legacy code, the new devs will play with it or replace it; the old devs will see improvements and also jump in (or leave).

Heard the debunked (throwcase.com/2014/12/21/that-) five monkeys analogy today, and was thinking it would be an apt analogy for onboarding software developers. The monkeys are the developers, management is spraying the water, and the banana is the legacy code, which slowly rots over time. Management is spraying the water, because the banana is "working code".

Google is abusing transparency laws to slow down the investigation into its own monopoly, and as bonus this intimidates witnesses.

They’re the worst scum. Can’t wait for them to be split up. If you work there, you should run.


Gut microbiota imbalance promotes the onset of colorectal cancer

Researchers have demonstrated that an imbalance in the gut microbiota, also known as 'dysbiosis', promotes the onset of colorectal cancer. The teams demonstrated that transplanting fecal flora from patients with colon cancer into mice caused lesions and epigenetic changes characteristic of the development of a malignant tumor. The pilot study led to the development of a non-invasive blood test which identifies the epigenetic phenomenon associated with dysbiosis. The test was validated in 1,000 individuals.

New, slippery toilet coating provides cleaner flushing, saves water

Researchers have developed a method that dramatically reduces the amount of water needed to flush a conventional toilet, which usually requires 6 liters.

Southern Workers Unite Around Medicare for All: “A Tremendous Liberation From Your Boss”

CHARLOTTE, N.C.—A line of cars rolls up to the government center of the largest city in a state tied with neighbor South Carolina for least unionized in the country. Members of the Southern Workers Assembly (SWA) emerge from the cars and join a picket line of Charlotte city workers. They hoist a banner declaring “The City Works Because We Do” and chant “What do we want? Medicare for All! When do we want it? Now!”

SWA is a coalition of worker committees and labor unions, including National Nurses United (NNU), the International Longshoremen’s Association, and United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America. Members from across the South converged September 21 to kick off a campaign for the immediate passage of Medicare for All, known in the House as H.R. 1384.

Although unionized workers typically have access to some type of employer-based insurance (and often pay less in deductibles than nonunion workers), skyrocketing premiums and poor coverage continue to ignite unrest in all types of workplaces. An estimated 23.6 million U.S. workers with employer-based coverage spend at least 10% or more of their income on premiums and out-of-pocket costs, while wages remain stagnant. According to a new report by the Kaiser Family Foundation, the average worker contribution for family coverage increased 25% since 2014 to a whopping $6,015 annually.

In Charlotte, Dominic Harris, 31, works as a utility technician and also serves as president of the Charlotte City Workers Union. Without Harris and his fellow workers, the gilded financial hub nicknamed Wall Street of the South could not function.

“We only have something to gain,” Harris says. Harris and other members of the SWA make it clear this is a worker-led fight to sever the chain between healthcare and employers.

Harris and other members of the SWA made it clear they do not see this as a fight for a handout; it’s a worker-led fight for a universal health program to sever the chain between healthcare and employers.

“Having Medicare for All is a tremendous liberation from your boss,” says Ed Bruno, former Southern regional director of NNU.

When nearly 50,000 United Auto Workers (UAW) walked off in September, one of their major grievances was the rising cost of health insurance. General Motors (GM) responded by canceling their benefits in an attempt to force workers back. GM restored health benefits 11 days later, and UAW finally reached an agreement with GM after more than five weeks of striking.

SWA members believe a worker-led campaign for Medicare for All has the potential to galvanize a working-class movement in the South after decades of anti-union legislation like so-called right-to-work laws. Just 2.7% of workers in North and South Carolina belong to unions. Meanwhile, health outcomes in the South lag too, and infant mortality rates remain the highest in the nation.

“Healthcare is a human right,” says Leslie Riddle, a state employee who traveled from West Virginia to join the picket line. Riddle, 44, receives coverage from the Public Employees Insurance Agency, the same state-based healthcare whose program incited West Virginia teachers to walk out in 2018. Riddle has Type 1 diabetes and is allergic to some forms of insulin, which means she could die without the correct formula. When Riddle’s insurance reclassified her insulin as non-formulary, her out-of-pocket cost rose dramatically. She survived only with financial support from her parents and free samples from her doctor.

Under Medicare for All, copayments, premiums and deductibles would be eliminated, removing financial barriers to care. This is vital for people with chronic health conditions.

SWA is focusing its efforts on reaching the overwhelming majority of Southern workers without a union. The group sets up workplace committees that help workers calculate how much of their wages are eaten up by healthcare expenses, demonstrating why Medicare for All would be a huge win. As the 2020 Democratic primary season draws closer, SWA members plan to organize town halls and petition government officials to pass resolutions in support of Medicare for All, to keep issue at the forefront of the debates.

Sekia Royall agreed to organize a workers’ committee in support of Medicare for All after she realized that guaranteed health care would allow her to focus on her dream job.

Royall currently works in the kitchen at the O’Berry Neuro-Medical Treatment Center in Goldsboro, N.C., preparing meals for patients with mental disabilities and neurocognitive disorders like Alzheimer’s disease. 

In her free time, though, Royall runs a catering business specializing in Kansas City barbecue, a rarity among the famous smokehouses that dominate eastern North Carolina. While Royall appreciates the important role she fills for her patients at O’Berry, her passion lies in running her own company. But pursuing her dream feels unrealistic to Royall, in part because it would mean losing her healthcare coverage provided through her employer.

“One of the reasons that I haven’t tried to quit my job and go full-time with my catering is because I do need healthcare coverage,” Royall says. 

roadening the labor struggle through the right to healthcare is what inspired Bruno and other veteran activists, like Black Workers for Justice co-founder Saladin Muhammad, to throw themselves into SWA’s campaign.

“Legislation has never preceded the social movement,” Bruno says. “It was always the upheaval that preceded legislation. You can pretty much take that to the bank.”

Though still in its infancy, the Southern Workers Assembly campaign could prove to be a critical test case for building the kind of large, grassroots movement that past campaigns have shown will be necessary to overcome the powerful corporate interests bent on defeating a universal, national health program.

Medicare for All supporters face stiff opposition from drug companies, private insurers and other medical profiteers who are already well-financed and unified in attacking reforms that would decrease their profit margins. One example is the Partnership for America’s Health Care Future, a corporate front group created to stymie the growing Medicare for All movement by pressuring Democratic lawmakers to protect the Affordable Care Act, steering the party away from Medicare for All in 2020.

SWA members believe they can overcome their well-heeled opposition by mobilizing enough workers.

“If we can get every worker in every workplace to support just one thing, then that thing will get passed,” Harris says. “There’s nothing that a combined group of workers can’t accomplish.”

With Net Neutrality Axed, Local Governments Are Racing To Save the Open Internet

Internet service providers like Comcast and Verizon are free to slow down, block or prioritize internet traffic as they wish, without interference by the federal government. That’s the effect of an October ruling by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, upholding a 2017 ruling by the Federal Communications Commission that reversed rules requiring what is called “net neutrality” – treating all internet traffic equally, regardless of where it’s from or what kind of data it is.

Giving corporate telecom giants this power is wildly unpopular among the American people, who know that these companies have overcharged customers and interfered with users’ internet access in the past.

However, people who advocate for an open internet, free of corporate roadblocks, might find solace in another aspect of the court’s ruling: States and local governments may be able to mandate their own net neutrality rules.

The effort is underway

Governors in six states – Hawaii, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont – have already signed executive orders enforcing net neutrality by prohibiting state agencies from doing business with internet service providers that limit customers’ online access. Four states have passed their own laws requiring internet companies to treat all online content equally: California, Oregon, Washington and Vermont. A New Hampshire bill is in the works.

More than 100 mayors representing both large urban centers such as San Francisco and small cities such as Edmond, Oklahoma, have pledged not to sign contracts with internet service providers that violate net neutrality.

These mayors are leveraging the lucrative contracts that their municipalities have with internet providers to wire public schools, libraries and local government buildings to pressure these companies into observing net neutrality throughout the city.

The emerging patchwork of local- and state-level net neutrality legislation could help ensure that millions of Americans have access to an open internet. However, people living outside of these enclaves will still be vulnerable to the whims of for-profit internet service providers. In our new book, “After Net Neutrality: A New Deal for the Digital Age,” we argue that the best way to protect the public interest is to remove internet service from the commercial market and treat broadband as a public utility.

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Corporations focus on profits

Broadband giants have spent millions of dollars lobbying against federal open internet regulations since 2006. Industry-backed efforts even included funding a network of far-right online trolls to spam the FCC’s website with anti-net neutrality propaganda. These companies continue to want the power to manipulate online traffic, such as charging users and content providers like Netflix to access each other – even though both are already paying for connections to the internet.

This history of manipulation highlights a recurring challenge to the ideal of net neutrality: Governments seek to reconcile the public’s interest in open, nondiscriminatory online communication with the profit interests of large internet service providers. The resulting policies only narrowly target corporations’ manipulative practices, while letting the companies continue to own and control the physical network itself.

Cities build their own

A different vision of how the internet could operate is already taking shape across the United States. In recent years, many cities and towns around the country have built their own broadband networks. These communities are often seeking to provide affordable high-speed internet service to neighborhoods that the for-profit network providers aren’t adequately serving.

One of the best-known efforts is in the city of Chattanooga, Tennessee, which built its own high-speed fiber-optic internet network in 2009.

Chattanooga’s experiment has been an unequivocal success: According to a 2018 survey conducted by Consumer Reports, Chattanooga’s municipal broadband network is the top-rated internet provider in the entire U.S.

More than 500 other communities around the country operate publicly owned internet networks. In general, these networks are cheaper, faster and more transparent in their pricing than their private sector counterparts, despite lacking Comcast and Verizon’s gigantic economies of scale. Because the people operating municipal broadband networks serve communities rather than large shareholders on Wall Street, they have a vested interest in respecting net neutrality principles.

Thinking bigger

A number of much larger-scale public broadband initiatives have also been proposed to combat the power of the giant internet companies. In the 2018 election cycle, Democratic gubernatorial candidates from Vermont and Michigan proposed building publicly owned statewide internet networks.

Several Democratic presidential candidates have announced plans to build thousands of miles of publicly owned high-speed internet connections. They vary in the details, but all are responses to the concentration of corporate control over internet access – both in terms of who gets high-speed service in what locations at what price, and what content those connections carry.

Together, these initiatives reflect a growing understanding that Americans need a more expansive vision of an open internet to truly realize the democratic promise of an internet that reaches everyone.

High-quality, affordable, restriction-free internet access can come from publicly owned providers that answer directly to the people. In our view, and in the eyes of a growing number of Americans, the broadband industry uses its entrenched market power to serve itself, not the public.

This piece was first posted at The Conversation.

Amazon deforestation and number of fires show summer of 2019 not a 'normal' year

The perceived scale of the Amazon blazes received global attention this summer. However, international concerns raised at the time were countered by the Brazilian Government, which claimed the fire situation in August was 'normal' and 'below the historical average'. A new report finds that the number of active fires in August was actually three times higher than in 2018 and the highest number since 2010.

Nitrous oxide levels are on the rise

Nitrous oxide is a greenhouse gas and one of the main stratospheric ozone depleting substances on the planet. According to new research, we are releasing more of it into the atmosphere than previously thought.

9 Stats That Show the Tax Code Favors the Ultra-Rich

Economic inequality in the United States is the highest it’s been in the last 50 years. In recent decades, the richest 1% of Americans have accumulated nearly 40% of the country’s wealth. The net worth of just three individuals—Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett—dwarfs that of the entire bottom 50% of Americans. And it only seems to be getting worse.

How did we get here? In a new book The Triumph of Injustice: How the Rich Dodge Taxes and How to Make Them Pay, authors Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman suggest the answer has much to do with changes to the tax code that have reduced the burden of taxation on America’s wealthiest groups and made it easier than ever for corporations to evade paying their dues. 

Policy proposals from 2020 hopefuls like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are seeking to change that. Warren’s “Ultra-Millionaire Tax” would impose a 2% tax rate on net worth in excess of $50 million, which becomes a 3% tax rate beyond $1 billion. In other words, any wealth between $50 million and $1 billion would be taxed at 2%, but the 1,000,000,001st dollar (as well as anything beyond that) would be taxed at 3%. Sanders’ “Tax on Extreme Wealth” plan goes even further by instituting a 1% tax rate on net worth above $32 million that rises steadily to 8% on all wealth over $10 billion.  Warren’s campaign claims her plan would bring in $2.75 trillion  in revenue. Sanders’ would likely raise even more, which he proposes to use as funding for his affordable housing plan, universal childcare, and some of Medicare for All. 

Here are nine statistics from The Triumph of Injustice that show how tax injustice has contributed to inequality in America and the urgent need for reform: 

52% — U.S. corporate tax rate in 1952

21% — U.S. corporate tax rate after Trump’s tax law

0% — Corporate tax rate in Bermuda

60% — Portion of profits U.S. multinationals collectively book in low-tax countries like Bermuda and Ireland

$25,000 — FDR’s proposed “maximum income” in 1942 (about $400,000 today), above which income would be taxed 100%

$1,500,000 — Average income of the top 1% of American earners today

37% — Current top marginal tax rate in America, 20% below the historical average

2018 — First year in history that America’s top 400 richest individuals paid less in taxes than the bottom 50% of earners

25% — Fraction of unpaid taxes owed by the ultra-rich, almost 15% more than for other income levels

Found some optical, 3-button, no scroll wheel, mice!

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