How the Powerless Win Power

Economy, Policies

How the Powerless Win Power

Immigrant workers—particularly the undocumented—are denied basic rights, but through worker centers, they’ve aggregated their strength and bettered their lives.

When José Obeth Santiz Cruz arrived in Franklin County, Vermont, to work on a dairy farm, following the journey from Chiapas that so many of his young fellow villagers had traveled before, he didn’t expect to return home so quickly. But by the time he was 20, he came back to his family in a casket, after getting sucked into a mechanized gutter scraper while he was working alone in a barn and choking to death.

Cruz’s death formed a tragic connection between local labor activists and the dairy workers, eventually giving rise to a “solidarity collective,” which began to organize the dairy workforce while educating the public on the brutal working conditions they faced—60-to-80-hour weeks in hazardous conditions, in many cases earning less than the state’s minimum wage.

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The classes of capitalism

Policies, Society

The classes of capitalism

Capitalist society is divided into different classes, and the relationships between those classes shape the production of wealth, the dissemination of ideas and the nature of politics.

In 1848, Marx and Engels wrote that “society as a whole is more and more splitting up into two great hostile camps, into two great classes directly facing each other: bourgeoisie and proletariat”. By bourgeoisie they meant the capitalist class, those who made their living by owning capital, which means both factories and other equipment used in the production process, and the money used to invest in production. By proletariat they meant the modern working class—wage-earners who don’t own land or equipment, and who have to make money by selling their time to capitalists.

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Born secret — the heavy burden of bomb physics

Proflieration, Threats

Born secret — the heavy burden of bomb physics

How data restrictions shaped nuclear discovery, energy research and more.

In March 1950, an official from the Atomic Energy Commission — then the guardian of US nuclear secrets — oversaw the burning of thousands of copies of the magazine Scientific American. The contention? They contained information so secret that its publication could jeopardize the free world.

Several statements in an article about the hydrogen bomb had raised red flags with government officials, even though they had all been reported publicly before. The government’s concern was not about what was said, but about who said it. Physicist Hans Bethe, who wrote the article, had been the head of the theoretical division at the Los Alamos laboratory in New Mexico during the Manhattan Project, the top-secret Second World War programme that led to the atomic bomb.

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Emerging Infectious Diseases — Learning from the Past and Looking to the Future

Disease, Threats

Emerging Infectious Diseases — Learning from the Past and Looking to the Future

Remarkable progress has been made in preventing deaths from infectious diseases. Now, attention could shift to focusing more resources on pandemic preparedness, including detecting and containing emerging zoonotic threats while they are localized and manageable.

Since the start of the 20th century, there have  been substantial reductions in deaths from infectious diseases in high-income countries. In the United States, infectious disease mortality fell  from about 800 per 100,00 people in 1900 (accounting for nearly 50% of all deaths) to 50 percent 100 people in 1950 (account- ing for about 6% of deaths).

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Source: NEJM Group

 

The heroes I met fighting Iran’s brutal prison system

Demographic, Iran

The heroes I met fighting Iran’s brutal prison system

Sepideh Kashani was an administrator at the now-defunct Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation, Iran’s premier conservation NGO. She was as well-behaved and unassuming a prisoner as the guards could have asked for. Despite the fact that we were being held in a maximum-security detention facility, the guards sometimes forgot to close the door of her cell, and Sepideh would pull it closed herself.

Both of us spent most of our time in solitary confinement, but for a time we shared a small, cramped cell. Forced to wear blindfolds every time we left it, Sepideh would pull hers firmly over her eyes and stumble around on the arm of the guard, whereas I was forever getting in trouble for wearing mine high on my forehead, my roving eyes registering every detail of the detention site and the shady, nameless individuals who ran it.

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Covid-19 changed education in America — permanently

Education, Policies

Covid-19 changed education in America — permanently

It’s been a school year like no other. Here’s what we learned.

There was a moment last spring when every parent and employer in America suddenly realized how deeply their lives and livelihoods depended on an institution too often in the background and taken for granted: the nation’s schools.

With almost no notice, adults and children found themselves in the middle of a massive national experiment in new ways of teaching and learning, and new ways of dividing responsibilities between home, school and work.

A year later, it’s clear that the Covid-19 pandemic has changed education in America in lasting ways, and glimpses of that transformed system are already emerging.

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In prison, today’s pandemic and shades of yesterday’s: What the fight against COVID can learn from the one against AIDS

Disease, Threats

In prison, today’s pandemic and shades of yesterday’s: What the fight against COVID can learn from the one against AIDS

A few months back I was part of a cluster of six people called to the prison infirmary to be offered the seasonal flu shot; four of the other five men refused it. Today, as I listen to the loud conversations “on the gate” (people talking back and forth while locked in their cells), I hear considerable sentiment against taking the COVID-19 vaccine when it is offered. (As a result of a court order, it will now be available for New York State prisoners.)

People in more comfortable sectors of society may not understand why such distrust of the medical authorities is so widespread in here, but it’s reality-based. The infamous Tuskegee syphilis study on Black men is but the best known of the plethora of medical experiments on Black and Brown people in and out of prisons, and other vulnerable populations. On top of that, in here we all know some grim examples of the problems with prison medical care.

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What about China?

China, Demographic

What about China?

China surged past the United States to become the #1 carbon emitter in 2006. Currently (2019 data from BP’s Statistical Review of World Energy), its CO2 emissions from fossil-fuel burning are over 9,800 million metric tons (“tonnes”) a year. That is nearly double U.S. emissions for the same year, and a staggering 29 percent of total 2019 world CO2 emissions from burning coal, oil and gas. China’s 2019 emissions are nearly triple the level from 20 years earlier (3,294 million tonnes, also from the BP Review)

This is a less upbeat picture than what we portrayed in our most recent post on China, Why China’s Emissions Triumph Surpasses the United States’?, from 2017. That post highlighted four grounds for optimism on China:

1. China’s carbon emissions were well under half of U.S. emissions on a per capita basis. U.S. per capita CO2 emissions of 15.4 metric tons in 2016 were nearly two-and-a-half times as great as China’s 6.4 tonnes per person in the same year, owing to the 4-to-1 population disparity.

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America’s year of hunger: how children and people of color suffered most

Poverty, Threats

America’s year of hunger: how children and people of color suffered most

Investigation of a year’s worth of data reveals the scale of America’s hunger and food insecurity crisis during a year of Covid-19

Black families in the US have gone hungry at two to three times the rate of white families over the course of the pandemic, according to new analysis which suggests political squabbling over Covid aid exacerbated a crisis that left millions of children without enough to eat.

An investigation into food poverty by the Guardian and the Institute for Policy Research (IPR) at Northwestern University found gaping racial inequalities in access to adequate nutrition that threatens the long-term prospects of a generation of Black and brown children.

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America’s Education Deficit and the War on Youth

Education, Policies

America’s Education Deficit and the War on Youth

America’s latest war, according to renowned social critic Henry Giroux, is a war on youth. While this may seem counterintuitive in our youth-obsessed culture, Giroux lays bare the grim reality of how our educational, social, and economic institutions continually fail young people. Their systemic failure is the result of what Giroux identifies as “four fundamentalisms”: market deregulation, patriotic and religious fervor, the instrumentalization of education, and the militarization of society. We see the consequences most plainly in the decaying education system: schools are increasingly designed to churn out drone-like future employees, imbued with authoritarian values, inured to violence, and destined to serve the market.

And those are the lucky ones. Young people who don’t conform to cultural and economic discipline are left to navigate the neoliberal landscape on their own; if they are black or brown, they are likely to become ensnared by a harsh penal system.

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