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gold star widow myeshia johnson confirms rep. frederica wilson's account of her call with trump to the word

"he couldn't remember my husband's name."

myeshia johnson, the widow of slain u.s. army sgt. la david johnson, confirmed rep. frederica wilson’s account of her phone call with president donald trump on monday.

during an interview with abc’s good morning america, johnson said that trump didn’t seem to know her husband’s name when he talked with her on the phone.

“he couldn’t remember my husband’s name,” johnson said. “that’s what hurt me the most.”

johnson told host geroge stephanopoulos that trump’s words during the phone call made her feel “very upset.”

“it made me cry even worse,” she said.

elsewhere in the interview, johnson raised questions about how the government handled the ambush in niger that killed her late husband.

“i don’t know how he got killed, where he got killed or anything,” she said, while also pointing out that she has not been allowed to see her husband’s body since it was flown back to the united states.

johnson also defended rep. wilson by saying that the congresswoman didn’t fabricate or exaggerate any details of her call with the president.

“whatever she said was not fabricated,” johnson said of wilson. “what she said was 100 percent correct.”

when asked by stephanopoulos if she had anything to say to trump now, johnson simply responded, “no, i don’t have nothing to say to him.”

 

 

 

 

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robert reich: crony capitalism is rotting the country from the inside out

democrats are still in denial about money's insidious influence on our politics.

the largest corporations and richest people in america – who donated billions of dollars to republican candidates the house and senate in the 2106 election – appear on the way to getting what they paid for: a giant tax cut.

the new york times reports that business groups are meeting frequently with key republicans in order to shape the tax bill, whose details remain secret. 

speed and secrecy are critical. the quicker republicans get this done, and without hearings, the less likely will the rest of the country discover how much it will cost in foregone medicaid and medicare or ballooning budget deficits.

donald trump has been trashing democratic institutions – the independence of the press, judges who disagree with him, uncooperative legislators – while raking in money off his presidency. but don’t lose sight of the larger attack on our democracy that was underway even before trump was elected: a flood of big money into politics.  

lest you conclude it’s only republicans who have been pocketing big bucks in exchange for political favors, consider what big tech – the industry that’s mostly bankrolled democrats – is up to. 

it’s mobilizing an army of lobbyists and lawyers – including senior advisors to hillary clinton’s campaign – to help scuttle a proposed law requiring google, facebook, and other major internet companies to disclose who is purchasing their online political advertising.

after revelations that russian-linked operatives bought deceptive ads in the run-up to the 2016 election, you’d think this would be a no-brainer. but never underestimate the power of big money, whichever side of the aisle it’s aimed at. 

often, it’s both sides. last week the washington post and “60 minutes” reported that big pharma contributed close to $1.5 million to democrats as well as republicans in order to secure enactment of the so-called “ensuring patient access and effective drug enforcement act of 2016.”

this shameful law weakened the drug enforcement authority’s power to stop prescription opioids from being shipped to pharmacies and doctors suspected of taking bribes to distribute them – a major cause of the opioid crisis. last year, americans got 236 million opioid prescriptions, the equivalent of one bottle for every adult.

overwhelming majorities of house and senate democrats voted for the bill, as well as republicans, and president obama signed it into law.

there you have it, folks. big money is buying giant tax cuts, allowing russia to interfere in future elections, and killing americans. that’s just the tip of the corrupt iceberg that’s sinking our democracy. 

republicans may be taking more big money, but both parties have been raking it in. 

average americans know exactly what’s going on. 

i just returned from several days in kentucky and tennessee, both of which voted overwhelmingly for trump.

a number of trump voters told me they voted for him because they wanted someone who’d shake up washington, drain the swamp, and get rid of crony capitalism. they saw hillary clinton as part of the problem.

these people aren’t white nationalists. they’re decent folks who just want a government that’s not of, by, and for the moneyed interests. 

many are now suffering buyer’s remorse. they recognize trump has sold his administration to corporate lobbyists and wall street. “he conned us,” was the most polite response i heard.

the big money that’s taken over american politics in recent years has created the biggest political backlash in postwar american history – inside both parties.

it’s splitting the republican party between its large corporate patrons and a base that detests big corporations and wall street.

trump is trying to straddle both by pretending he’s a champion of the working class while pushing for giant tax cuts. but if my free-floating focus group in kentucky and tennessee is any indication, the base is starting to see through it.

which you might think creates a huge opportunity for democrats heading into the 2018 midterms and the presidential election of 2020.

think again. much of the official democratic party is still in denial, continuing to debate whether it should be on the proverbial “left” or move to the “middle.”

but when it comes to getting big money out of politics and ending crony capitalism, there’s no right or left, and certainly no middle. there’s just democracy or oligarchy.

democrats should be fighting for commonsense steps to reclaim our democracy from the moneyed interests – public financing of elections, full disclosure of all sources of political funding, an end to revolving door between government and business, and attempts to reverse the bonkers supreme court decision “citizens united vs. the federal election commission.”

for that matter, republicans should be fighting for these, too.

heres’a wild idea. what if the anti-establishment wings of both parties came together in a pro-democracy coalition to get big money out of politics? 

then it might actually happen.  

 

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steve bannon is widely reviled—especially by his so-called allies

the former trump adviser has little to show for all his efforts to remake the gop.

in recent weeks, breitbart news chairman steve bannon has been trying to hype a new initiative to run challengers against “every” incumbent republican senator (except ted cruz of texas) in 2018. it’s gotten a lot of attention in the press, but the truth is that this effort is nothing new. in fact, bannon and an array of far-right conservative groups have been running these sorts of intra-gop campaigns for the last several election cycles, and essentially have nothing to show for their efforts.

mitch mcconnell, the party’s senate leader, made this point during an interview yesterday on “fox news sunday.” referring to bannon and his allies in the senate leadership fund and other conservative establishment organizations, mcconnell noted that candidates they’ve supported have largely failed to beat democrats in areas that are not overwhelmingly republican.

 

“in order to make policy, you have to actually win the election. the kind of people that are supported by the element that you’ve just been referring to are specialists in defeating republican candidates in november,” mcconnell said.

he didn’t name any names but mcconnell certainly could have gone down the list of crank candidates who somehow managed to win republican primaries only to go down to defeat against democrats in a subsequent general election: christine o’donnell in delaware, missouri’s todd akin, sharron angle in nevada, richard mourdock in indiana, joe miller of alaska and allen west in florida, to name but a few.

it’s easy to see why some political observers may have forgotten this in the wake of donald trump’s surprise victory in last year’s presidential election. (bannon was his final campaign chair, after all.) but that triumph was ultimately predicated on the new york real estate magnate's willingness to talk like a democrat rather than like a conventional anti-government conservative.

the evidence is clear in this regard. trump’s promises to protect social security and his rants against bankers and other assorted “globalists” increased the gop’s share of union vote by 10 percentage points compared to 2012. of the millions of people who voted for former president barack obama in that year who later voted for trump, most seemed to believe he was a different kind of republican. in an april survey of obama-trump voters conducted by priorities usa, just 21 percent of respondents said that they believed trump’s policies were likely to favor the wealthy. by contrast, 40 percent of these voters said that congressional republicans would be skewed toward those with the most money.

bannon is likely aware that a more economically populist gop -- or at least a populist-sounding gop -- is necessary to win elections. but so far he’s been unable to get the rest of the party, including trump, to go along with him. as the white house began pivoting toward tax reform in his final days as trump’s chief strategist, bannon tried to get republicans to raise rates on people earning more than $5 million a year. needless to say, that advice fell on deaf ears.

bannon’s counsel on funding ambitious infrastructure spending was also ignored by trump and other administration officials, although the president certainly talked about it on the campaign trail. that was one of bannon's pet projects, which he evidently saw as crucial to reversing the damaged image of the republican brand.

"we’re going to build an entirely new political movement," bannon boasted to the hollywood reporter last november after the election. "it's everything related to jobs. the conservatives are going to go crazy. i'm the guy pushing a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan. with negative interest rates throughout the world, it's the greatest opportunity to rebuild everything. shipyards, ironworks, get them all jacked up. we're just going to throw it up against the wall and see if it sticks. it will be as exciting as the 1930s, greater than the reagan revolution — conservatives, plus populists, in an economic nationalist movement."

bannon’s latest project of backing right-wing challengers to republican senators is a shell of his former grand ambitions. instead of trying to remake the gop as a populist party, he’s supporting republicans who promise not to re-elect mcconnell as senate majority leader and promise to eliminate the filibuster. as to what legislative agenda republicans might actually pursue if they somehow accomplished those things, bannon and breitbart are uncharacteristically reticent.

in addition to downsizing his aspirations, bannon also appears to be trying to make lemonade from his political lemons by taking credit for victories that were actually not his doing. as the daily caller’s alex pfeiffer noted earlier this month, alabama senate candidate roy moore was almost certainly going win the recent republican primary because his rival, the appointed incumbent luther strange, was a weak candidate wreathed in a cloud of corruption allegations.

while bannon has tried to assign himself credit for moore’s primary victory, talk radio and most of the far right actually backed another republican, rep. mo brooks, against both strange and moore. the same thing actually happened in last year's gop presidential primaries. breitbart and bannon openly favored ted cruz over trump for most of the campaign. as with moore, bannnon hitched his wagons to the eventual winner only after it became clear cruz was doomed. (that would have been about the time cruz designated carly fiorina as his prospective running mate, a sure sign of desperation.)

ultimately, while the gop as a whole is divided between its washington wing and its media wing, the media wing itself has no actual idea of what it wants. bannon’s incoherent political program is the best evidence of this. a populist republican party would indeed be a powerful force against a deeply conflicted democratic party that is still beholden to “new democrat” corporate donors and their political progeny. but getting there is likely to prove impossible for bannon, not just because the gop’s wealthy donors vehemently oppose such policies but also because most of the breitbart executive’s supposed allies do as well.

 

 

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harry belafonte issues a dire warning for america in his final public appearance

the iconic civil rights leaders fears we haven't learned from past atrocities.

civil rights activist and entertainer harry belafonte made his self-described final public appearance at carnegie music hall in pittsburgh on friday.

during a wide-ranging discussion of his life, belafonte issued a warning for our country.

he said that america "made a mistake" when it elected president donald trump, but feared the u.s. may be on the verge of committing horrific acts.

“i think the next mistake might very well be the gas chamber. and what happened to jews [under] hitler is not too far from our door,” he said.

but belafonte believes the american people have the ability to stop the country from descending into darkness and lead the nation in a positive direction.

“we have achieved a lot in my lifetime,” belafonte said. “dr. king was not about nothing. eleanor roosevelt was not about nothing. i think in the final analysis that we shall overcome because what we did is [...] we left a harvest that generations to come [will] reap. that they have not yet plowed. that they have not yet harvested.”

listen to the full audio from the event below.

 

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bill o'reilly is drawing a fraction of the crowds he once did for speaking events

media critic david zurawik describes the disgraced host's most recent humiliation.

former fox news host bill o’reilly’s disgraceful history of alleged sexual harassment is cutting into his ability to sell tickets, baltimore sun media critic david zurawik revealed on sunday.

during a panel discussion about o’reilly’s reported $32 million sexual harassment lawsuit, zurawik reflected on the fact that fox news chose to renew the host’s contract even though executives were aware of the litigation.

“this speaks to the larger question of fox news,” zurawik said. “this doesn’t change fox news. twenty years of a culture that roger ailes established and that continued takes more than firing just the head of it. and now we see how deep-seated it is.”

“o’reilly is trying to get a new tv job,” cnn host brian stelter reported. “he was back on sean hannity’s show a month ago. i don’t think he will ever be back on fox in the wake of this revelation. but what about sinclair or newsmax or oann? do you think o’reilly will ever be back on tv?”

zurawik, however, suggested that o’reilly’s days hosting television are over.

“i think he’s been pushed to the margins,” zurawik explained. “although, especially with conservative media in this country, i predict nothing. nothing surprises me sometimes when i see — once you take your news platform and say, we’re a political tool or, like [breitbart chief steve bannon], we’re a weapon. nothing surprises me because i look at it through a lens of journalism.”

“i’ll tell you something about o’reilly,” he continued. “i think he’s been marginalized in some ways that glenn beck has been marginalized. if he’s going to put his credibility up against the new york times, he’s going to lose.”

zurawik revealed that he had attended a stadium event headlined by o’reilly and dennis miller on sept. 22.

“i went to it at royal farms arena because i wanted to see what kind of effect this had on his audience,” he recalled. “it seats either 11,000 or 14,000. they wouldn’t tell me how many they had reconfigured it for. if there were 2,500 people in that audience, it was surprising.”

in fact, zurawik said that the event organizers asked him to move so that the show would appear to be more crowded.

“i bought a ticket in the upper-tier,” he remarked. “they came up before the show and said, ‘would you please sit down on the floor so that essentially it looks like we have some people here.’ bill o’reilly has been marginalized.”

“this arena was almost empty by the standards of a sell-out. it was empty seats in the second row, empty seats in the third row. nobody is going to want him on tv.”

watch the video below from cnn.

 

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david petraeus puts sarah huckabee sanders and the trump administration to shame

the former army general vehemently defended the people's right to criticize the military.

during an appeach on  abc’s this week, retired general and former cia director david petraeus told host martha raddatz that white house press secretary sarah huckabee sanders was wrong when she said that criticizing "four-star marine general" john kelly was "inappropriate."

“well, i think we’re all fair game. and i certainly experienced lots of that in testimony on capitol hill during the surge in iraq and subsequent endeavors in afghanistan central command and so forth,” patreaus said. “we, in uniform, protect the rights of those to criticize us, frankly.”

he recounted a story about criticism in the new york times after he oversaw a troop surge in iraq. he proceeded to defend the full-page ad criticizing him in the paper as "general betray us."
 
"[a]t the end of the day, we are fiercely protective of the rights of americans to express themselves even if that includes criticizing us.”
 
watch the clip below.

 

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john mccain dings trump's vietnam draft deferment without using his name

the arizona senator laments the rich were able to dodge the war.

sen. john mccain (r-az) attacked president donald trump without mentioning his name during an interview for c-span3’s american history tv.

the senator was discussing the vietnam war, in which he served as a navy pilot and became a pow after being shot down, when he raised the issue of classist draft procedures in the united states.

mccain used trump's widely-publicized reason for a medical deferment as a specific example of rich americans buying their way out of military service.

“one aspect of the conflict, by the way, that i will never ever countenance is that we drafted the lowest income level of america. and the highest income level found a doctor that would say that they had a bone spur,” mccain said. “that is wrong. that is wrong. if we are going to ask every american to serve, every american should serve.”

watch the exchange below.

 

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myeshia johnson confirms rep. frederica wilson's account of her call with trump to the word

"he couldn't remember my husband's name."

myeshia johnson, the widow of slain u.s. army sgt. la david johnson, confirmed rep. frederica wilson’s account of her phone call with president donald trump on monday.

during an interview with abc’s good morning america, johnson said that trump didn’t seem to know her husband’s name when he talked with her on the phone.

“he couldn’t remember my husband’s name,” johnson said. “that’s what hurt me the most.”

johnson told host geroge stephanopoulos that trump’s words during the phone call made her feel “very upset.”

“it made me cry even worse,” she said.

elsewhere in the interview, johnson raised questions about how the government handled the ambush in niger that killed her late husband.

“i don’t know how he got killed, where he got killed or anything,” she said, while also pointing out that she has not been allowed to see her husband’s body since it was flown back to the united states.

johnson also defended rep. wilson by saying that the congresswoman didn’t fabricate or exaggerate any details of her call with the president.

“whatever she said was not fabricated,” johnson said of wilson. “what she said was 100 percent correct.”

when asked by stephanopoulos if she had anything to say to trump now, johnson simply responded, “no, i don’t have nothing to say to him.”

 

 

 

 

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trump and kelly have a problem with women of color who don't know their place

trump's chief of staff intentionally painted rep. wilson as a money-grubbing black woman.

racism is the trump administration’s magic wand, a device it uses, to great effect, to dazzle its base, whose own proud bigotry dispenses with the need for suspension of disbelief. in the face of controversies and criticism, trump race-baits not just for cynical political reasons—though that's part of it—but because he, too, is deeply racist, so much that his presidency is basically a live-action revenge fantasy against the country’s first black president.

florida congresswoman frederica wilson is the most recent target of the noxious output produced when trump’s racism meets his unvarnished misogyny, revealing the particular contempt he holds for women of color, especially those powerful and uppity enough to publicly call him on his many failures. and if there was any question about whether chief of staff john kelly endorses trump’s targeting of women of color, recent events show this an all-hands-on-deck team effort.

like trump, kelly’s zeal for demeaning and insulting black women cannot be derailed by the actual truth. on tuesday, rep. wilson told press that while speaking with the grieving pregnant widow of army sgt. la david johnson, trump—who only bothered to make the call after a reporter questioned his 12-day delay in doing so—dismissively stated her husband “knew what he signed up for, but i guess [his death] still hurt.” trump denied making the remark, as did his press secretary, but kelly affirmed wilson’s story during a damage control-focused press conference thursday. that conflict was just one of several issues with the integrity of kelly’s speech. 

the chief of staff said he was stunned wilson had listened in on the call, though she is a longtime friend of the johnson family whose presence was requested, and kelly himself had also been listening to the exchange. he claimed he longed for the days of his childhood, when women and gold star families were "sacred," despite his high-visibility job working for a man who brags about sexual assault and insults the parents of dead soldiers. kelly also took special pains to degrade and humiliate rep. wilson using a fake news story about her behavior at a 2015 dedication of a fbi miami field office.

"[a] congresswoman stood up, and in the long tradition of empty barrels making the most noise, stood up there and all of that and talked about how she was instrumental in getting the funding for that building, and how she took care of her constituents because she got the money, and she just called up president obama, and on that phone call he gave the money, the $20 million, to build the building. and she sat down, and we were stunned. stunned that she had done it. even for someone that is that empty a barrel, we were stunned. but you know, none of us went to the press and criticized. none of us stood up and were appalled. we just said, ok, fine."

backed by a miami herald report and footage from the event, wilson revealed the numerous falsehoods in kelly’s retelling. the money for the building was secured before she was serving in congress, and nowhere in her speech did she take credit for raising the funds. instead, she highlighted her role in both sponsoring and expediting passage of a bill to name the building after two fbi agents who had been killed just four days before the event. “rep. wilson truly did the impossible, and we are eternally grateful,” former fbi head james comey said in his remarks, according to florida’s sun sentinel.

let’s be clear here: kelly didn’t misspeak or misremember wilson’s words. he intentionally told a story meant to play on the stereotype of a money-grubbing black woman—like ronald reagan’s fabricated welfare queen—who is loud, wrong, unqualified and unfit to hold a prominent position, and always looking to get over on someone else’s dime. (the phony scene is also an implicit knock against obama, who was often accused by white racists of giving copious handouts to black folks.) it’s not incidental that kelly referred to wilson as an “empty barrel,” a vessel whose only use is making “the most noise,” suggesting he holds her in such low regard he refuses to utter her name. kelly deployed that racist misogynoir caricature not just against wilson, but by extension, the family of a soldier whose sacrifice this administration pretends to value.

spreading that racist image meant so much to kelly, a gold star parent who knows the pain of losing a child, he went to the trouble of assembling a room of press to trash wilson in the hope his lies would trounce the truth. what’s more, he couched the attack in soaring, laudatory words about god, country and young lives lost on battlefields, knowing his gold star status would add emotional heft to those words. this, we’re supposed to believe, is what the trump administration considers “respecting our troops.” if the dictionary is lacking a definition for the words “politicization” or “opportunism,” a freeze-frame of kelly mid-speech should fill the space.

other racist talking heads followed kelly’s lead. tomi lahren posted side by side photos of wilson and congresswoman maxine waters, accusing the former of “anti-trump tantrums” and the latter of being “crazy.” former sheriff david clarke, the gigantic hat wearing black republican who probably has “one of the good ones” tattooed somewhere on his body, labeled wilson a “buffoon" for her slightly smaller hat. alex pfeiffer‏, who writes for tucker carlson’s white nationalist-favored outlet the daily caller, tweeted that he’s “seen frederica wilson in miami airport multiple times,” always “driven on a golf cart” by miami police. “that's the type of person she is,” pfeiffer wrote, which is a long-winded way of calling a 75-year-old woman lazy, blackness being her preexisting condition. i scoured pfeiffer’s tweets to find the one where he criticizes trump for lazily driving his golf cart across the greens, but couldn’t find it for some reason. (just kidding. i know the reason.)

trump and his team try to shut down white women and men of color as well—see trump’s rich history of woman-hating or his unhinged tweets toward outspoken black athletes—but wilson is the recipient of a level of vitriol saved for women of color. in recent weeks, trump has launched attacks against espn anchor jemele hill for stating facts about his deeply held white supremacism, and fired upon san juan mayor carmen yulín cruz for pointing out his cruelty and ineptitude toward the puerto rican people. this white house’s agenda is specifically designed to cause harm toward all americans who are not white, male, heterosexual, cisgender or christian. but it has an intolerance for black and other women of color that is unmatched, and in many ways, not even concealed.

“the sad part about it is, he didn’t know la david’s name,” wilson told politico, revisiting the insult that was trump’s condolence call. “he kept calling him ‘your guy.’ your guy did this. your guy did that. nobody cares about mr. trump. he’s not beloved. he’s not revered. so they don’t care. but i care...the conversation in my community is that he is a jerk. he’s not a real president."

 

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want to cut crime? hand out psychedelics

we could use a little peace, love and understanding.

new research suggests that psychedelic use is associated with a lesser likelihood of criminal behavior. the finding opens the door to further research on the use of classical psychedelics such as psilocybin (magic mushrooms), lsd and mescaline (peyote), in treatments aimed at reducing such behavior.

the research was done by a team of investigators at the university of alabama at birmingham led by peter hendricks, associate professor in of the department of health behavior in the uab school of public health. the results were published online last month by the journal of psychopharmacology

"these findings, coupled with both older and emerging bodies of evidence, make a case that classic psychedelics may provide enduring benefits for criminal justice populations," said hendricks. "they certainly suggest that clinical research with classic psychedelics in forensic settings should be considered." 

the study used data compiled in 13 years' worth of the national survey on drug use and health to analyze the relationship between psychedelic use and criminal behavior among the 480,000 adult respondents. respondents were asked about their past use of a number of psychedelics, including ayahuasca, dmt, lsd, mescaline, and psilocybin mushrooms and about their criminal histories.

researchers found that having ever used a psychedelic was associated with a 22% decrease in the odds of being arrested for a property crime and an 18% decrease for violent crime within the past year. use of psilocybin (magic mushrooms) in particular was linked to a decreased likelihood of either property or violent crimes.  

"these findings are consistent with a growing body of research suggesting classic psychedelics confer enduring psychological and prosocial benefits," hendricks said. "classic psychedelics can produce primary mystical experiences — also known as primary religious experiences or peak experiences — and have been used for millennia across cultures with therapeutic intention."

the findings contribute to an ever more compelling rationale for the initiation of clinical research with classic psychedelics, including psilocybin, in forensic settings, hendricks said.     

"the development of innovative and effective interventions to prevent criminal behavior is an obvious priority," he said. "our findings suggest the protective effects of classic psychedelic use are attributable to genuine reductions in antisocial behavior rather than reflecting improved evasion of arrest. simply put, the positive effects associated with classic psychedelic use appear to be reliable. given the costs of criminal behavior, the potential represented by this treatment paradigm is significant."

 

 

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how youth hostels are a cornerstone for building a local peace economy

despite airbnb, the hostel industry perseveres.

there was a time when a weary traveler who needed a cheap room in a new city for the night would turn to a youth hostel. that was before airbnb and the “sharing economy” became the thing to do, marketed as a way to connect with locals, and live like a local. it was also before the “hostel” movie trilogy, which put what some might call a “stigma” on the idea of staying in one.

but youth hostels still have their niche in the united states. they’re still cheap. and they are integrating travelers with each other and with the local community now more than ever.

hostels are uniquely different, and each has it’s own offerings. some offer adventure excursions, social events, workshops, and more, often with connections to local small businesses, community groups, and cooperatives, including bike shops and farmers markets. local staff share their local connections, with referrals to the best taco stand and cafés and local craft beers. many also have community bulletin boards, with recommendations for trusted local cab drivers, restaurants, thrift stores, bookshops, record stores, and more. each has its own vibe, so a hostel in michigan is probably different than a hostel in new york.

minneapolis international youth hostel, for example, is an old victorian mansion that is reminiscent of a proverbial midwestern grandma’s house, replete with the area rugs and light fixtures. last month, 26-year-old yuliya manyakina stayed for a weekend visit from fort yates, north dakota. “it’s just a great place to stay,” she says of the hostel. “it’s cheaper than a hotel, in a convenient downtown location, and it’s near the institute of art. i love hostels.” like many hostels, it’s also convenient to public transit.

manyakina also loves being able to connect with people from different places and different countries, and it’s one of the primary reasons she stays in hostels. “there’s people willing to make conversation and be open. that can create connections and fosters community, across cultures. “i prefer to use hostels for that social aspect when i travel alone or with a friend,” says manyakina.

brent underwood, owner of hk hostel in austin, texas, echoes that sentiment, saying hostels appeal to a different demographic than airbnb, and that airbnb hasn’t really impacted his business.

while the hostel demographic is still the 20-30-something crowd, guests are often much older or younger. during a recent visit to minneapolis, a 19-year-old traveled up from atlanta to see one of youtube star jacksepticeye’s only us shows.

björn stensson, 30, was visiting hostel memphis earlier this month from sweden. “it wasn’t only about cheaper. it’s about meeting people.” stensson and his brother were there celebrating their father thorbjörn stensson’s 70th birthday with a tour through the mississippi delta down to new orleans.

the family had an airbnb booked in new orleans, but were happy with their memphis hostel pick. “this building is very different and that’s cool in itself,” björn said. many hostels offer local art, or rooms painted by local artists.

and, there’s another bonus: “so many toilets!” gushed the elder thorbjörn, who lamented when you stay in an airbnb or hotel and there’s only one bathroom, you need to wait.

hostels are also sustainable, manyakina pointed out, recommending a green hostel in toronto. and when you’re simply sharing space and reusing a single towel and bedding, it’s not hard to see how the carbon footprint might be a bit smaller than your typical hotel.

some hostels also take the community to a deeper level. at the memphis hostel, the people who work there live there as well, and the proceeds, after expenses, go to pay for things like daily community meals served at the affiliated church next door.

alijah wilder, 21, was visiting the memphis hostel from arkansas, and didn’t know what airbnb is—a reminder of the digital divide in rural america. in town to visit friends and family, wilder says the hostel was not only cheaper, but it was also “more private” than staying with friends and family. plus, she says, “you get to cook your own food.”

underwood says hostels also create a more memorable experience. “the atmosphere, when you stay somewhere, you’ll forget the color of the sheets, the color of the walls. but cultivate the atmosphere where you can create lifelong friendships—the most important and obvious thing hostels do is foster [those] interactions.”

underwood’s austin hostel coordinates social events, group outings, and trips to a local bbq joints. an airbnb host might make a good recommendation, he says, but it’s not the same as meeting new friends at a hostel and going out with them. “it’s difficult to replicate the effect of 10 or 12 backpackers hanging out planning the next couple days.”

“mom and pop one-off locations—i love talking to them and supporting them,” he adds. “we don’t have a formal engagement [with local businesses],” he adds, saying he never wants his opinion swayed by financial reasons. that’s liberating for him and his hostel’s guests. “we’re friends with craftsman [bar] next door. so i recommend there,” along with various other cafes and restaurants he likes. he also is happy vera cruz tacos (“they have the best tacos in austin”) is nearby.

underwood also says as more people stay in hostels, the differentiation will occur that will help the industry. “with hotels, you know there’s a red roof inn or a four seasons. that segmentation can and should happen in the hostel industry, so you can more closely get the experience you’re looking for.”

and that experience—one of sharing with locals and fellow travelers—is what’s keeping hostels a popular option, in the age of airbnb.

 

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trump promises to release secret jfk files, but let’s hold the applause

presidential tweet gives him the option of caving to deep state pressure before oct. 26 deadline.

the news from the white house sounded good.

the tweet was probably sincere in expressing trump’s instinct that all of the government’s long-secret records on the assassination of president john f. kennedy should be made public. the president knows public opinion favors a conspiratorial explanation of the mysterious assassination of the popular liberal president on november 22, 1963.

he knows, too, that the bogus conspiracy theory he floated during the 2016 campaign, smearing the father of ted cruz, was effective in attracting attention and harming a rival.

trump has also heard from friend and confidante roger stone, the hard-right political operative who blames the assassination on lyndon b. johnson. stone told conspiracy theorist alex jones of infowars this week that he personally lobbied trump to release all of the documents.

but an @potus tweet is like a scholarship offer from trump university. it may have some value, but read the fine print and keep your hand on your purse at all times. trump’s opening phrase, “subject to the receipt of further information,” is a tipoff. it signals that if trump receives new information before the legal deadline of october 26, he might not allow all the records to be made public.

it’s an escape hatch for a man under deep state pressure.

the washington post reports that the national security council—meaning national security adviser h.r. mcmaster—favors postponing release of the jfk files. an nsc official told the post “that government agencies were urging the president not to release some of the documents.”

my guess is that mcmaster will funnel additional information from the cia and fbi to the oval office this week to justify keeping tens of thousands of pages of fully or partially redacted documents out of public view.

a high bar

mcmaster has his work cut out for him. trump’s populist and public relations instincts push him toward full disclosure. and the legal bar for continued secrecy is high.

the jfk records act of 1992 says that the cia, fbi and other federal agencies can request postponement of the release of records after october 26 if they certify the release will cause “identifiable harm” to u.s. interests and that the harm outweighs the public interest in full disclosure.

there is political support across the political spectrum for full disclosure from rep. walter jones and sen. charles grassley on the right to sen. pat leahy and rep. marcy kaptur on the left.

what will trump do? the truth is that he probably has not yet made up his mind. so when you read that trump will release all of the secret jfk files, caveat emptor.

 

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the democratic party must part ways with wall st

a former clinton aide writes a love letter to big banks in the new york times, conveniently forgets the 2008 crash.

doug schoen, a former consultant to bill clinton, argued the case that the democrats should keep their ties to wall street in a nyt column this morning. while he does advance his argument with some red-baiting and bad logic, he uses tradition as a starting point.

"many of the most prominent voices in the democratic party, led by bernie sanders, are advocating wealth redistribution through higher taxes and medicare for all, and demonizing banks and wall street.

"memories in politics are short, but those policies are vastly different from the program of the party’s traditional center-left coalition. under bill clinton, that coalition balanced the budget, acknowledged the limits of government and protected the essential programs that make up the social safety net.

"president clinton did this, in part, by moving the party away from a reflexive anti-wall street posture. it’s not popular to say so today, but there are still compelling reasons democrats should strengthen ties to wall street."

of course memories are not actually short, contrary to what schoen claims. many supporters of harsher policies directed against the financial sector remember the stock bubble whose crash led to what was at the time, the longest period without job growth since the great depression. they also remember a financial sector that continued to run wild as the housing bubble inflated. and they remember the great recession that followed the collapse of that bubble. and, they remember the government's bailout policies that ensured that the financial industry types would end up on their feet and not in jail.

but schoen does go beyond appealing to tradition.

 "america is a center-right, pro-capitalist nation. ... even in may 2016, when senator sanders made redistribution a central part of his platform, gallup found that only about 35 percent of americans had a positive image of socialism, compared with 60 percent with a positive view of capitalism."

it's good that schoen found an occasion to denounce "socialism" and tout capitalism. it also has nothing to do with the issue at hand. very few of the people criticizing wall street consider themselves socialists. in fact, many view the waste and corruption of wall street as being an obstacle to a more efficient productive capitalist economy. given the enormous damage caused by the collapse of the last two wall street driven bubbles, there is a pretty good case here.

then we get some great unsupported assertions, which is something i guess you get to do if you were a buddy of bill clinton:

"fourth, demonizing wall street does nothing to bridge the widening gaps in our country. wall street has its flaws and abuses, which were addressed in part by the dodd-frank financial reform law. and yes, the american people are certainly hostile to and suspicious of wall street. but using this suspicion and hostility as the organizing principle for a major political party will consign democrats to permanent minority status."

hmmm, "cracking down on wall street does nothing to bridge the widening gaps in our country," really? there are a lot of really rich people on wall street. if we applied a modest financial transactions tax and put many of them out of business, this wouldn't reduce inequality in the united states?

if we limited the tax deduction for corporate interest payments and other loopholes that have allowed private equity people to become incredibly rich, wouldn't this help to bridge the gaps in the country? how about if we made low cost retirement accounts universally available, as is being done in california, illinois, and oregon, so that people didn't have to pay thousands of dollars a year from their 401(k)s to finance types for doing nothing. wouldn't that help to close the gap?

and suppose that instead of bailing out the financial industry we had prosecuted them for the crimes they committed during the buildup of the bubble and have continued to do since then. wouldn't putting people with hundreds of millions or billions of dollars behind bars help to reduce the gap?

it seems like just about everything that progressive democrats have proposed relative to the financial sector would help to reduce the income and wealth gap. basically schoen is spewing nonsense here.

he does have a couple of good points that are worth noting. he argues that it is, "hypocritical for democrats to maintain ties to silicon valley and then turn their backs on the very people who help finance its work." well financing its work has nothing to do with the time of day. should we not prosecute a restaurant engaged in money laundering because they serve food to silicon valley types?

but schoen does have an argument that many silicon valley types (think facebook, google, and uber) are engaging in practices that are as corrupt and harmful to the economy and society as the financial industry. it is hypocritical to give these silicon valley practices a green light while going after wall street.

and schoen scores big in pointing out:

"in the 2016 election, the center for responsive politics reports, employees and companies in the securities and investment industry donatedmore than $63 million to the democratic party."

yes, it takes a lot of money to run a political campaign and wall street has helped to foot the bill for the democrats in a big way. so they may own them. bernie sanders campaign was truly revolutionary in not being dependent on big money ties, but it remains to be seen whether this has set a pattern that can be followed by other candidates. but schoen is certainly correct that wall street money has bought a lot of democratic politicians in recent decades.

  

 

 

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want to cut crime? hand out psychedelics

we could use a little peace, love and understanding.

new research suggests that psychedelic use is associated with a lesser likelihood of criminal behavior. the finding opens the door to further research on the use of classical psychedelics such as psilocybin (magic mushrooms), lsd and mescaline (peyote), in treatments aimed at reducing such behavior.

the research was done by a team of investigators at the university of alabama at birmingham led by peter hendricks, associate professor in of the department of health behavior in the uab school of public health. the results were published online last month by the journal of psychopharmacology

"these findings, coupled with both older and emerging bodies of evidence, make a case that classic psychedelics may provide enduring benefits for criminal justice populations," said hendricks. "they certainly suggest that clinical research with classic psychedelics in forensic settings should be considered." 

the study used data compiled in 13 years' worth of the national survey on drug use and health to analyze the relationship between psychedelic use and criminal behavior among the 480,000 adult respondents. respondents were asked about their past use of a number of psychedelics, including ayahuasca, dmt, lsd, mescaline, and psilocybin mushrooms and about their criminal histories.

researchers found that having ever used a psychedelic was associated with a 22% decrease in the odds of being arrested for a property crime and an 18% decrease for violent crime within the past year. use of psilocybin (magic mushrooms) in particular was linked to a decreased likelihood of either property or violent crimes.  

"these findings are consistent with a growing body of research suggesting classic psychedelics confer enduring psychological and prosocial benefits," hendricks said. "classic psychedelics can produce primary mystical experiences — also known as primary religious experiences or peak experiences — and have been used for millennia across cultures with therapeutic intention."

the findings contribute to an ever more compelling rationale for the initiation of clinical research with classic psychedelics, including psilocybin, in forensic settings, hendricks said.     

"the development of innovative and effective interventions to prevent criminal behavior is an obvious priority," he said. "our findings suggest the protective effects of classic psychedelic use are attributable to genuine reductions in antisocial behavior rather than reflecting improved evasion of arrest. simply put, the positive effects associated with classic psychedelic use appear to be reliable. given the costs of criminal behavior, the potential represented by this treatment paradigm is significant."

 

 

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why i sometimes feel alienated by my fellow social justice activists

we are alienating each other with unrestrained callouts and unchecked self-righteousness. here’s how that can stop.

callout culture. the quest for purity. privilege theory taken to extremes. i’ve observed some of these questionable patterns in my activist communities over the past several years.

as an activist, i stand with others against white supremacy, anti-blackness, cisheteropatriarchy, capitalism, and imperialism. i am queer, trans, chinese american, middle class, and able-bodied.

holding these identities scattered across the spectrum of privilege, i have done my best to find my place in the movement, while educating myself on social justice issues to the best of my ability. but after witnessing countless people be ruthlessly torn apart in community for their mistakes and missteps, i started to fear my own comrades.

as a cultural studies scholar, i am interested in how that culture—as expressed through discourse and popular narratives—does the work of power. many disciplinary practices of the activist culture succeed in curbing oppressive behaviors. callouts, for example, are necessary for identifying and addressing problematic behavior. but have they become the default response to fending off harm? shutting down racist, sexist, and similar conversations protects vulnerable participants. but has it devolved into simply shutting down all dissenting ideas? when these tactics are liberally applied, without limit, inside marginalized groups, i believe they hold back movements by alienating both potential allies and their own members.

in response to the unrestrained use of callouts and unchecked self-righteousness by leftist activists, i spend enormous amounts of energy protecting my activist identity from attack. i self-police what i say when among other activists. if i’m not 100 percent sold on the reasons for a political protest, i keep those opinions to myself—though i might show up anyway.

on social media, i’ve stopped commenting with thoughtful push back on popular social justice positions for fear of being called out. for example, even though some women at the 2017 women’s march reproduced the false and transmisogynistic idea that all women have vaginas, i still believe that the event was a critical win for the left and should not be written off so easily as it has been by some in my community.

understand, even though i am using callouts as a prime example, i am not against them. several times, i have been called out for ways i have carelessly exhibited ableism, transmisogyny, fatphobia, and xenophobia. i am able to rebound quickly when responding with openness to those situations. i am against a culture that encourages callouts conducted irresponsibly, ones that abandon the person being called out and ones done out of a desire to experience power by humiliating another community member.

i am also concerned about who controls the language of social justice, as i see it wielded as a weapon against community members who don’t have access to this rapidly evolving lexicon. terms like “oppression,” “tone policing,” “emotional labor,” “diversity,” and “allyship” are all used in specific ways to draw attention to the plight of minoritized people. yet their meanings can also be manipulated to attack and exclude.

furthermore, most social justice 101 articles i see online are prescriptive checklists. although these can be useful resources for someone who has little familiarity with these issues, i worry that this model of education contributes to the false idea that we have only one way to think about, talk about, and ultimately, do activism. i think that movements are able to fully breathe only when there is a plurality of tactics, and to some extent, of ideologies.

i am not the first nor the last to point out that these movements for liberation and justice are exhibiting the same oppressive patterns that we are fighting against in larger society. rather than wallowing in critique or walking away from this work, i choose a third option—that we as a community slow down, acknowledge this pattern and develop an ethics of activism as a response.

i believe it’s sorely needed as we struggle to mobilize in a chaotic and unjust world.

what might an ethics of activism look like?

knowing when to be hard and when to be soft

i believe that when confronting unjust situations and unjust people, sometimes hardness is necessary, and other times softness is appropriate. gaining the discernment to know when to use each is a task for a lifetime. i have often seen a burning anger at the core of activism, especially for newer activists. anger can be righteous, and it often is when stemming from marginalized peoples weary of being mistreated. and yet, i want to use my anger as a tool for reaching the deeper, healing powers i possess when carving out a path of sustainable activism. black social justice facilitator and doula adrienne maree brownwrites of her oppressors, “what if what’s needed isn’t sexy, intimidating or violent? what if what is needed is forgiveness?” i’ve spent a good deal of energy exercising my ability to speak truth to power and boldly naming my enemies. perhaps it is time to massage my heart so that i can choose to be soft toward someone in community who is hurting me, and open up the possibility of mutual transformation.

adopting a politics of imperfection and responsibility

i have been mulling over sociologist alexis shotwell’s call for the left to adopt a “politics of imperfection and responsibility” as one way to move forward toward action and away from purity. a politics of imperfection asks me to openly acknowledge the ways in which my family and i have benefited and continue to benefit from oppressive systems such as slavery, capitalism, and settler colonialism. this is an ongoing investigation into my own complicity.  i am a chinese american with immigrant parents, and my family has built economic stability by buying into the model minority myth, which is based largely in anti-blackness. as uninvited guests and visitors to this part of the world, we have claimed our new home on lands stolen from indigenous peoples. a politics of responsibility means that as i am complicit in harmful systems, i also possess full agency to do good. this allows me to commit to dismantling these systems and embracing centuries-long legacies of resistance. it means i am accountable in community spaces and do not destroy myself when others call me out on my errors. it means i practice a generosity of spirit and forgiveness towards myself and others. to do all this, i must publicly claim both imperfection and personal responsibility as an activist.

tapping into our shared humanity

marginalized people ask that privileged people look at them and see a human being, not a lesser-than being. oppressive systems operate by systemically dehumanizing some groups for the benefit of others. on the flip side, i believe people with privilege are dehumanized when internalizing their societal supremacy over others. for example, the ethnographic studies that have been conducted to explain the election of donald trump have revealed the mass identity crisis in white america. we have seen poor and working class white americans denounce people of color and diversity efforts because, sadly, they perceive them as threats to their historically established power and access. rather than base cultural identities solely on power, could we tap into what we all have in common: our humanity, no matter how trampled it is? black public theologian christena cleveland practices envisioning the humanity in those who challenge and attack her. according to her, training herself to cultivate love for her enemies makes it more effective for her to communicate and speak her truth into their hearts. she is as concerned about her well-being as she is about transforming antagonistic people in her life into “liberated oppressors.” black elder activist ruby sales firmly tells her oppressors, with unyielding love in her voice: “you can’t make me hate you.”

these are suggestions that have aided me in navigating toxic social justice environments. in testing them out, i try to stay open to new tactics while understanding that i must remain flexible and responsive to the variable stages of justice work. if we as activists do not feel safe in our experimental microcosms of justice and liberation, what can we attempt to replicate across larger society?

 

 

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how youth hostels are a cornerstone for building a local peace economy

despite airbnb, the hostel industry perseveres.

there was a time when a weary traveler who needed a cheap room in a new city for the night would turn to a youth hostel. that was before airbnb and the “sharing economy” became the thing to do, marketed as a way to connect with locals, and live like a local. it was also before the “hostel” movie trilogy, which put what some might call a “stigma” on the idea of staying in one.

but youth hostels still have their niche in the united states. they’re still cheap. and they are integrating travelers with each other and with the local community now more than ever.

hostels are uniquely different, and each has it’s own offerings. some offer adventure excursions, social events, workshops, and more, often with connections to local small businesses, community groups, and cooperatives, including bike shops and farmers markets. local staff share their local connections, with referrals to the best taco stand and cafés and local craft beers. many also have community bulletin boards, with recommendations for trusted local cab drivers, restaurants, thrift stores, bookshops, record stores, and more. each has its own vibe, so a hostel in michigan is probably different than a hostel in new york.

minneapolis international youth hostel, for example, is an old victorian mansion that is reminiscent of a proverbial midwestern grandma’s house, replete with the area rugs and light fixtures. last month, 26-year-old yuliya manyakina stayed for a weekend visit from fort yates, north dakota. “it’s just a great place to stay,” she says of the hostel. “it’s cheaper than a hotel, in a convenient downtown location, and it’s near the institute of art. i love hostels.” like many hostels, it’s also convenient to public transit.

manyakina also loves being able to connect with people from different places and different countries, and it’s one of the primary reasons she stays in hostels. “there’s people willing to make conversation and be open. that can create connections and fosters community, across cultures. “i prefer to use hostels for that social aspect when i travel alone or with a friend,” says manyakina.

brent underwood, owner of hk hostel in austin, texas, echoes that sentiment, saying hostels appeal to a different demographic than airbnb, and that airbnb hasn’t really impacted his business.

while the hostel demographic is still the 20-30-something crowd, guests are often much older or younger. during a recent visit to minneapolis, a 19-year-old traveled up from atlanta to see one of youtube star jacksepticeye’s only us shows.

björn stensson, 30, was visiting hostel memphis earlier this month from sweden. “it wasn’t only about cheaper. it’s about meeting people.” stensson and his brother were there celebrating their father thorbjörn stensson’s 70th birthday with a tour through the mississippi delta down to new orleans.

the family had an airbnb booked in new orleans, but were happy with their memphis hostel pick. “this building is very different and that’s cool in itself,” björn said. many hostels offer local art, or rooms painted by local artists.

and, there’s another bonus: “so many toilets!” gushed the elder thorbjörn, who lamented when you stay in an airbnb or hotel and there’s only one bathroom, you need to wait.

hostels are also sustainable, manyakina pointed out, recommending a green hostel in toronto. and when you’re simply sharing space and reusing a single towel and bedding, it’s not hard to see how the carbon footprint might be a bit smaller than your typical hotel.

some hostels also take the community to a deeper level. at the memphis hostel, the people who work there live there as well, and the proceeds, after expenses, go to pay for things like daily community meals served at the affiliated church next door.

alijah wilder, 21, was visiting the memphis hostel from arkansas, and didn’t know what airbnb is—a reminder of the digital divide in rural america. in town to visit friends and family, wilder says the hostel was not only cheaper, but it was also “more private” than staying with friends and family. plus, she says, “you get to cook your own food.”

underwood says hostels also create a more memorable experience. “the atmosphere, when you stay somewhere, you’ll forget the color of the sheets, the color of the walls. but cultivate the atmosphere where you can create lifelong friendships—the most important and obvious thing hostels do is foster [those] interactions.”

underwood’s austin hostel coordinates social events, group outings, and trips to a local bbq joints. an airbnb host might make a good recommendation, he says, but it’s not the same as meeting new friends at a hostel and going out with them. “it’s difficult to replicate the effect of 10 or 12 backpackers hanging out planning the next couple days.”

“mom and pop one-off locations—i love talking to them and supporting them,” he adds. “we don’t have a formal engagement [with local businesses],” he adds, saying he never wants his opinion swayed by financial reasons. that’s liberating for him and his hostel’s guests. “we’re friends with craftsman [bar] next door. so i recommend there,” along with various other cafes and restaurants he likes. he also is happy vera cruz tacos (“they have the best tacos in austin”) is nearby.

underwood also says as more people stay in hostels, the differentiation will occur that will help the industry. “with hotels, you know there’s a red roof inn or a four seasons. that segmentation can and should happen in the hostel industry, so you can more closely get the experience you’re looking for.”

and that experience—one of sharing with locals and fellow travelers—is what’s keeping hostels a popular option, in the age of airbnb.

 

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big ag's 'world food prize' is nothing but a slick propaganda campaign

every year, monsanto and its biotech allies celebrate destructive, industrialized agriculture.

on thursday, the world food prize will be ceremoniously bestowed on yet another cheerleader for degenerative agriculture.

this year’s award goes to akinwumi ayodeji adesina of nigeria, president of the african development bank, and a proud supporter of big ag and biotech. in his words, adesina says he works to "help farmers rise to the top of the value chain by industrializing agriculture."

in the lead-up to world food day (october 16) and thursday's ceremony, i’ve received a series of emails with the subject line, “how iowa is feeding the world.” the email invitations contain glowing praise for industrial, degenerative agriculture—the type that kills healthy soil life, has ruined iowa’s water and produces pesticide-contaminated food.

one email boasts:

"...in iowa, solving global hunger is business as usual, from being the #1 producer of pork, soybeans and eggs, to the cutting-edge bioscience research being conducted at the state’s universities, to groundbreaking technological innovations applied in the farms and fields—iowa has a long legacy of feeding the world."

iowa is in fact home to many good farmers. farmers who work with nature, not against it. farmers who steward their lands, and grow nutrient-rich, uncontaminated food—without benefit of the huge taxpayer-funded subsidies granted to their gmo monoculture counterparts.

but those aren’t the farmers who are ever awarded a $250,000 world food prize. because those farmers aren’t generating big profits for corporations like monsanto.

no, the farmers and “thinkers, scientists and advocates of global food security” who are gathered in des moines this week aren’t so interested in regenerative agriculture. and, as one new report after another reveal, the only thing they’re feeding the world is a slick pr campaign, founded in lies.

the truth about who’s really feeding the world (spoiler alert: it’s not industrial ag) was published this week by the nonprofit etc group in its latest edition of "who will feed us?" but before we get to that, it’s worth pointing out, again, that lack of food isn’t the root cause of world hunger.

according to multiple sources, including mercy corps: "there is now 17 percent more food available per person than there was 30 years ago. if all the world's food were evenly distributed, there would be enough for everyone to get 2,700 calories per day—even more than the minimum 2,100 requirement for proper health."

so why do 795 million people (one in nine) go to bed hungry every night? because the food being produced doesn’t get distributed to them—and even if it did, they couldn’t afford it.

poverty and distribution are the root causes of hunger. and as pope francis said this week, the link between climate change (of which industrial agriculture is a major contributor) and hunger is “undeniable."

what exactly is the world food prize?

in 1986, u.s. packaged food conglomerate general foods corporation launched the “general foods world food prize” to celebrate advances in industrial food production.

today, the “world food prize” is a public-private partnership between the state of iowa and numerous multinational agrichemical corporations, including bayer, dow, dupont, monsanto and syngenta. world food prize events happen on or around october 16, to coincide with world food day, the annual celebration of the founding in 1945 of the united nations food & agriculture organization (fao). the fao uses world food day as a call-to-action for countries to meet sustainable development goal (sdg) #2: achieve zero hunger by 2030.

according to its official website, the world food day prize is “the most significant observance of world food day anywhere around the globe.” yet interestingly, there’s no mention of the prize on the united nations food and agriculture organization (fao) website, where you think something so “significant” would bear mention by the originators of world food day?

who really feeds the world?

at a recent dinner party, the subject of monsanto and gmos came up. several of the well-educated and well-read guests asked: but without gmos, how will we feed the world?

clearly, monsanto has excelled at getting its (false) message out. which means that we have to work harder at getting out the facts—many of which are laid out, and meticulously researched and documented, in etc group’s latest publication

in honor of the real world food day, please share some of the facts, brought to you by etc group:

  1. peasants are the main or sole food providers to more than 70 percent of the world’s people, and peasants produce this food with less (often much less) than 25 percent of the resources—including land, water, fossil fuels—used to get all of the world’s food to the table.
  2. the industrial food chain uses at least 75 percent of the world’s agricultural resources and is a major source of ghg emissions, but provides food to less than 30 percent of the world’s people.
  3. for every $1 consumers pay to chain retailers, society pays another $2 for the chain’s health and environmental damages. the total bill for the chain’s direct and indirect cost is five times governments’ annual military expenditure.
  4. the chain lacks the agility to respond to climate change. its r&d is not only distorted but also declining as it concentrates the global food market.
  5. the peasant food web nurtures nine -100 times the biodiversity used by the chain, across plants, livestock, fish and forests. peasants have the knowledge, innovative energy and networks needed to respond to climate change; they have the operational scope and scale; they are closest to the hungry and malnourished.
  6. there is still much about our food systems that we don’t know we don’t know. sometimes, the chain knows but isn’t telling. other times, policymakers aren’t looking. most often, we fail to consider the diverse knowledge systems in the peasant food web.

the bottom line? according to etc group, at least 3.9 billion people are either hungry or malnourished because the industrial food chain is too distorted, vastly too expensive, and—after 70 years of trying—just can’t scale up to feed the world.

 

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how republicans get a 10% vote advantage with gerrymandering

an interview with alternet's steven rosenfeld on the gop's assault on our voting system.

counterspin's janine jackson interviewed alternet's steven rosenfeld on republican gerrymandering. read the interview below. 

janine jackson: we are definitely in challenging times, but it's useful to remember that it isn't that americans per se are opposed to gun control, human rights for lgbtq people, or affordable healthcare. at the same time, it's painful to remember why it appears that we are. it's because, as a recent piece by neal gabler for billmoyers.com reminds us, we don't have a working democracy where every voice is heard: a minority of people have outsized power.

one of the reasons for that is being considered right now in the supreme court. recalled by many of us as an old-timey graphic in middle school textbooks, the term "gerrymander" refers to the drawing of political districts in such a way as to benefit a particular party. the case gill v. whitford is focused on wisconsin, where in 2012 republicans won just 48.6 percent of the statewide vote, but captured 60 out of 99 seats in the state assembly.

here to help us see what's going on and what's at stake is steven rosenfeld. he covers national political issues for alternet, and he's author of a number of books, including the forthcoming inside job: how american elections are still rigged against voters. he joins us now by phone from san francisco. welcome to counterspin, steven rosenfeld.

steven rosenfeld: thank you very much. i'm glad to be here.

wisconsin is asking the supreme court to overturn a decision striking down the 2011 redistricting plan for the lower house of their state assembly. can you remind us what happened in wisconsin that led to this being the test case for this issue?

what happened was the republicans, after they got completely trounced by obama in 2008, saw a way back from political wilderness, as the cliche goes, and they realized that if they won enough seats in state legislatures in 2010 that they could draw the maps that would last this decade. so karl rove wrote about this in the wall street journal, the democrats from nancy pelosi to obama completely ignored it, and then the republicans went out with some of the nastiest political ads you could ever imagine at the local level, and they just emptied these legislatures out of long-time citizen legislators. they called women prostitutes, they called guys every kind of crook imaginable.

and then they drew the maps, and what they did was they drew maps segregating the reliable voters, their party's and the democrats. they looked at who came out and voted for john mccain in 2008, which was a lousy year, and they made sure that in these districts, they would have at least 56 percent, sometimes not too much more than that, reliable republican majorities. and they put the democrats, they packed them into other districts where they would typically win with 65, 70, 75 percent of the vote. so that's how you end up getting these republican supermajorities. it's how they control the us house, it's how they control all these states that you think should be purple, like wisconsin or georgia or north carolina, but instead they're firmly, firmly red.

and it turns out that if you draw lines, political districts, using race, it's illegal under federal law -- with one exception, which is sort of affirmative action for minorities. but if you draw these lines using extreme partisanship, which is what the republicans argue they did in wisconsin, so far, in the supreme court, it's been legal; it has not been judged to be illegal. but anthony kennedy, in an earlier case, sort of hinted at, well, maybe we gotta take a look at this, because it's so unfair, and if you can come up with a formula for us to prove how unfair it is and how anti-democratic is, we may consider it.

well, that is what the people in wisconsin did; they came up with the formula. a lower federal court said, ok, we agree with you. the republicans in wisconsin said, uh, we are going to appeal, and that's what's brought us to the supreme court, where basically they're going to decide the rules that will either make our national politics fairer and more balanced, or continue being as extreme as they have been through the next decade, the decade of the 2020s, because redistricting is coming right around the corner.

the way of measuring it, that's been the sort of missing piece, that's the social science that justice roberts dismisses as "sociological gobbledygook"; he claimed during the arguing of this case that "the intelligent man on the street" would never understand how you could have a formula to figure out which votes were, quote unquote, "wasted."

yeah. i should remind you that john roberts also said, before donald trump's election campaign, that we were in a post-racial society and therefore we no longer needed the voting rights act's enforcement provisions. and then within 24 hours of that supreme court decision in 2013, virtually every red state in the old south passed voter id laws, they got rid of same-day registration, they ended early voting. this is completely nuts.

yeah. and it seems so disingenuous in the extreme to say, as roberts also did, that the problem of gerrymandering should be fixed, he said through "democracy," by which he meant the normal political process. but this is the normal political process!

yes, this is democracy, and it's not very democratic.

exactly.

in fact, this is what people really don't understand. this is one of the biggest, most influential factors on why democrats and progressives have not been winning. the supreme court had a decision, before gorsuch was on it, that basically threw out north carolina's racially motivated us house districts. and the numbers in it were that republicans kept winning with 56 percent of the vote, and the democrats and the few seats they held were like 69 and 70 percent. it's not democratic when you segregate voters. the language people use is, politicians shouldn't choose their voters.

but it's segregating voters, reliable voters, and it gives you a 6 percent head start. and then you have other things that academics have tracked. strict voter id peels off another 2 or 3 percent. and then pretty soon republicans have a starting line advantage, before anybody knows who's running, of 10 percent. and for you to win elections by more than 10 percent, i mean, maybe we'll see that in 2018, but, gosh, it's so, so rare.

well, this case, gill v. whitford, is talking about the supreme court's ability to shut down extreme cases, which we should note could theoretically be committed by either major party. but that's not really a system for going forward, it doesn't sound like.

well, the republicans in 2010, after they won political monopoly control in lots of states -- they targeted a dozen states, and these are the states that are always among the finalists in presidential elections. we're talking about virginia, north carolina, florida, georgia, ohio, michigan, wisconsin, texas. and it's as if we have two entirely different countries and two entirely different sets of voting rules. we have blue state coastal america, where none of this stuff is happening. people almost don't understand how could this be happening, they can't relate to it in their experience. and then you have this red state set of rules.

and the democrats are no angels; they had plenty of things that they did to stop bernie sanders in that presidential nominating contest. i'm not sure he would have won, but they sure made it harder. the democrats who run california are not exactly angels, either. but they have done nothing on the level of a coordinated nationwide strategy to basically seize the house and seize these states.

and [republicans] have done it, and it's held for every race, every election, every two-year cycle this decade. i mean, think of it. after 2010, the house, republicans have held it. and all those states, all those states that filed those lawsuits against everything -- obamacare, lgbt rights, affirmative action this, climate change that -- this is what's been the result.

and actually, it goes worse than that, because today in the house, things have been segregated to such an extreme amongst who votes, that you have the most extreme republicans saying that, well, taking healthcare away for 20-something million people is not good enough; and paul ryan can't control them. this has created a downward spiral that's pulling us to the bottom.

finally we're recording this on october 5. do you have any thoughts right now about how gill v. whitford is likely to play out?

yeah, i do. i suspect that they're not going to touch it, which means the status quo will hold. and the reason i say that is because kennedy, who is the swing vote, said or signed on to a dissent in the north carolina case that came out and threw out their congressional house seats last spring. it was written by alito, and it said that, odious as all this extreme partisanship is, it's part of human nature and part of politics, and it just comes with the turf, and we just can't and shouldn't touch it.

and i think that even though he was the one who invited the folks in wisconsin to come up with a standard, that was several years ago, the most recent real clue we have from him is saying, well, i don't know, it just seems like it's just so much a part of human nature, and human nature is reflected in politics, we just got to live with the dark side. and i'm not optimistic.

we've been speaking with steven rosenfeld, journalist at alternet.org and author of the forthcoming inside job: how american elections are still rigged against voters. steven rosenfeld, thank you for joining us this week on counterspin.

well, thank you so much.

this piece was reprinted by truthout with permission or license. it may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.

listen to the interview audio here.

 

 

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