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    Truthout Interviews Dahr Jamail on Electromagnetic Radiation War Games in Washington State

    Truthout - Sun, 11/23/2014 - 12:41

    If you value media that isn’t controlled by advertisers or billionaire sponsors, show your support today! Donate to Truthout now to keep independent media strong.

    An EA-18G Growler refuels from a KC-130 Hercules. (Photo: Staff Sft. Amanda Dick / US Navy)

    Also see: Dahr Jamail | Navy Plans Electromagnetic War Games Over National Park and Forest in Washington State

    Ted Asregadoo speaks to Truthout staff reporter Dahr Jamail about the Navy's plan to conduct war games involving electromagnetic radiation in a protected park and forest in Washington State.

    In Washington State, the US Navy plans to conduct war game exercises over the Olympic National Forest and Olympic National Park that involve the use of electromagnetic radiation. These training exercises, if allowed to proceed, will involve flights of the Navy's EA 18G Growler jet outfitted with new communication jamming equipment that uses electromagnetic radiation to disable an enemy's communication networks. These games would last almost a year, and Growler jets would be flying over the area up to sixteen hours a day. The level of noise pollution will be high, but more importantly, so will the health and environmental effects on the landscape and the creatures that inhabit the space. Truthout staff reporter Dahr Jamail wrote a thorough piece on Truthout about the lack of public notification of these war games, the health effects of prolonged or intense electromagnetic radiation on human and animal life and the efforts of residents to stop these games from happening. In this Truthout Interviews, Jamail explains the current state of this battle between the residents who will be affected by the training exercises and the Navy's insistence that health and environmental consequences would be minimal. 

    Truthout Interviews Dahr Jamail on Electromagnetic Radiation War Games in Washington State

    Truthout - Sun, 11/23/2014 - 12:41

    If you value media that isn’t controlled by advertisers or billionaire sponsors, show your support today! Donate to Truthout now to keep independent media strong.

    An EA-18G Growler refuels from a KC-130 Hercules. (Photo: Staff Sft. Amanda Dick / US Navy)

    Also see: Dahr Jamail | Navy Plans Electromagnetic War Games Over National Park and Forest in Washington State

    Ted Asregadoo speaks to Truthout staff reporter Dahr Jamail about the Navy's plan to conduct war games involving electromagnetic radiation in a protected park and forest in Washington State.

    In Washington State, the US Navy plans to conduct war game exercises over the Olympic National Forest and Olympic National Park that involve the use of electromagnetic radiation. These training exercises, if allowed to proceed, will involve flights of the Navy's EA 18G Growler jet outfitted with new communication jamming equipment that uses electromagnetic radiation to disable an enemy's communication networks. These games would last almost a year, and Growler jets would be flying over the area up to sixteen hours a day. The level of noise pollution will be high, but more importantly, so will the health and environmental effects on the landscape and the creatures that inhabit the space. Truthout staff reporter Dahr Jamail wrote a thorough piece on Truthout about the lack of public notification of these war games, the health effects of prolonged or intense electromagnetic radiation on human and animal life and the efforts of residents to stop these games from happening. In this Truthout Interviews, Jamail explains the current state of this battle between the residents who will be affected by the training exercises and the Navy's insistence that health and environmental consequences would be minimal. 

    Eight Main Street Job Creators Who Are Rebooting the Economy, Starting With Those Who Need It Most

    Truthout - Sun, 11/23/2014 - 12:24

    (Image: Working together via Shutterstock)From the Deep South to the West Coast, these entrepreneurs are making sure jobs and dollars grow - and stay - in places hardest hit by hurricanes, poverty, and gentrification.

    Our culture is obsessed with them. Often young, with a pioneering spirit, entrepreneurs embody a certain kind of American dream; come up with brilliant ideas for products or services that meet (or even better, create) a market need and a viable business plan, find investors, and make lots of money. OK, it’s slightly more complicated than that—but let’s go with it.

    While everyone's heard of Steve Jobs and the like, less known innovators and entrepreneurs are creating an economy where everyone has opportunities, no matter their background. They invest in businesses that provide well-paying jobs to English-language learners in Oakland, California; they create networks of investors to revolutionize the food system in Alabama; and they mentor small-business owners to help local enterprises thrive in Phoenix, Arizona.

    The Business Alliance for Living Local Economies (BALLE), a nonprofit that supports visionary local economy projects, chose 17 of these leaders for its third cohort of BALLE Fellows. For 18 months, Fellows will share strategies that have worked in their regions—like lowering interest rates on loans for small businesses that provide jobs to the formerly incarcerated; and developing “investor clubs” that make it easy to invest in communities. The goal is to strengthen local economies in every corner of the United States.

    Meet 8 of them here.

    José Corona - Oakland, California

    José likes to say that his dad, who emigrated with José and the rest of his family from Mexico, was a social entrepreneur before it was trendy. José saw his dad grow a successful agricultural business in Watsonville, California, treat his employees well, pay them fairly, and provide benefits. His dad even helped a few of his workers start their own farms.

    José now works with entrepreneurs developing businesses that do things like make natural nut butters, roast coffee, and sell local meat, as the CEO and president of Inner City Advisors (ICA). He feels like his work is exactly what he needs to be doing, practicing the values his dad instilled in him: integrity, trust, relationships, and “hustling in the right way.”

    Although the Bay Area's tech boom has caused an explosion of employment, José says it's still difficult for many people to find employment—like people who have been incarcerated, are learning English, or have lower education levels.

    ICA isn’t a training program for job seekers. Instead, it mentors startups and small businesses to help them recruit and train workers.

    José works with Premier Organics, a company that makes natural peanut butters and other products. Premier Organics hired Mauricio, originally from South America, as one of their first employees on the production line. Mauricio was responsible for manually putting labels on jars. With advising from ICA, Premier Organics offered Mauricio long-term job training, which allowed him to advance from line operator to team leader—and then to manager. He is now the operations manager for the whole company.

    ICA also launched the Fund Good Jobs initiative that invests in small businesses that provide living-wage jobs with benefits and opportunities for advancement. In 2013, ICA companies created almost 3,000 jobs—and the average wage for ICA company jobs is $14.50 per hour (twice the federal minimum wage).

    Jessica Norwood - Mobile, Alabama

    After years of working on political action committees and electoral campaigns in Washington, DC, and New York City, Jessica moved home to the Gulf Coast of Alabama for some much needed rest in the summer of 2005.

    Two weeks later, Hurricane Katrina hit. The destruction caused by the storm was amplified by the already overstretched infrastructure and poverty of the region.

    Jessica witnessed families and neighbors who had barely survived on minimum wage before the storm struggle to pay for the gas they needed to evacuate—and then for food and lodging once they left.

    When people in the Gulf Coast started returning to their homes, Jessica saw families returning to public housing only to find the buildings padlocked, leaving many without other housing options. In low-income neighborhoods throughout Alabama, schools that had closed during the storm never reopened.

    In the midst of these challenges, Jessica saw many reasons to hope. Online networks of people popped up to help separated loved ones find each other Neighbors shared tools like shovels and saws to assist in cleaning up damaged houses.

    Through all of this, she said she learned that “we are innovators, we are producers and we are each other's best assets.”

    Jessica began connecting young people who were excited about rebuilding the South, and in 2007 founded the Emerging Changemakers Network.

    After the first three years, Network members included town mayors, state representatives, and business owners, many of whom had less time to volunteer but were still looking for ways to improve their communities. They had other resources to offer, like disposable income to invest.

    The Network decided to focus its investments on Alabama's food economy. Before anyone put up money, Jessica said the Network first sought to understand the food economy as a whole, talking to everyone from grocery store owners to farmers to the bankers that lend to them.

    Emerging Changemakers launched “SOUL’utions,” a network of investment clubs that pooled money from people in the same town or city to invest in solutions in their area. One group provided a loan for a group of small farmers to purchase a tractor.

    Jessica says that while they don’t invest huge amounts of money, it’s enough to catalyze other funders, like the Department of Agriculture or the Ford Foundation.

    Alfa Demmellash - Jersey City, New Jersey

    During college at Harvard University in the early 2000s, Alfa was inspired by Muhammad Yunus’ Grameen Bank, which pioneered a microlending model that helped alleviate poverty for women in Bangladesh.

    The summer after she graduated, she spent time in the neighborhoods on MLK Drive in Jersey City, just a short drive away from the burgeoning downtown area. While volunteering at soup kitchens and other social service agencies in majority low-income and African-American neighborhoods, she wondered if this microlending practice could be applied there.

    Alfa remembers people in those neighborhoods telling her that she and friend Alex Forrester were “do-gooder” college kids, and that they wouldn’t stick around. She said they felt an immediate responsibility to stay, listen, and learn.

    Alfa and Alex met Harvey George, who ran Friends of Lifers Youth Corp, Inc., a youth program helping people who were formerly incarcerated find housing and jobs. Alfa was immediately inspired by the way he, who had spent 17 years in prison, mentored and counseled the people who passed through his soup kitchen. They were often distressed and hopeless. He helped them create their own opportunities.

    The pair started raising money from family and friends to make small loans to people in Jersey City who were eager to start or grow their own businesses, from florist shops to accounting firms. They soon realized, though, that it was not access to loans that the entrepreneurs lacked, but the skills to manage a small business—and the social connections to grow it.

    So they decided to shift their focus from offering loans to providing business education. They started Rising Tide Capital, Inc., and opened the Community Business Academy. Academy courses included customer service and marketing, and the program offered mentorship from established business-owners and a support network of fellow entrepreneurs. The initial class included founders of businesses that included a greeting card company, catering service, and cleaning company. Harvey George was one of the first students.

    Since then, the program has graduated more than 1,000 entrepreneurs and runs courses in three cities in New Jersey, with two courses in Spanish.

    Carlos Velasco - Phoenix, Arizona

    Carlos grew up in Guayaquil, Ecuador. During those years, much of the country was experiencing 70 percent unemployment. But, he said, neighbors looked out for each other and there was a real sense of community.

    When he needed something to eat, his grandmother would send him to the tiendita, the corner store. The owner would give him what he could, no questions asked.

    “We didn’t have money,” he said. “But we didn’t have the issues we have [here in the United States]: disconnection, crime, diabetes, a sense of people not knowing who they are.”

    He moved to the United States when he was twelve. At school, he felt the social pressure to do well and achieve something great. He says now, in many neighborhoods in Arizona, he doesn’t see that motivation in many young people.

    In the area near Carl Hayden High School in Phoenix, for example, there are Jack in the Boxes, several Circle K’s—convenience stores that are pretty different from the tiendita Carlos visited growing up—and other chain restaurants and retailers. Entry-level and management jobs at large chains are the only employment options many young people feel they have.

    In addition, Carlos says the chain stores crowd out locally owned businesses, particularly Spanish-preferred businesses or those owned by people who have immigrated to the United States.

    In response to these challenges, Carlos and his colleagues at Fuerza Local, a community organization that supports locally-owned, Spanish-preferred businesses in Phoenix, developed a Spanish-language business accelerator program. The program offers 12 classes on topics like customer service and marketing, encourages participation in an online, group savings tool, and, upon graduation of the program, provides a line of credit at MariSol Credit Union.

    The accelerator program has supported restaurants, a cake-selling business, mechanic shop, and a coffee shop, among many others. The second cohort of business-owners graduated in July.

    Aaron Tanaka - Boston, Massachusetts

    Aaron has been organizing and learning from the residents of low-income areas like Roxbury and Dorchester in Boston for almost 10 years. In 2005, he helped start the Boston Workers Alliance (BWA), a community organization of unemployed and underemployed workers. They began work on the “Ban the Box Campaign,” advocating for legislation that bars employers from asking applicants if they have a criminal record.

    The campaign won a key victory in 2010 when the Massachusetts state legislature passed a criminal record reform bill including a Ban the Box provision. Aaron learned two important things from the campaign: that organizing work must be led by those most impacted, in this case people with criminal records; and that even if this campaign and others like it solved discrimination in hiring processes, there still would not be enough jobs.

    There is such a need to organize around issues that are directly and immediately impacting people’s lives, like minimum wage and paid sick leave campaigns, Aaron said. So it doesn’t feel like there is time to take on the underlying causes of economic inequality and injustice.

    Aaron began to find ways to support civic leaders and organizers in long-term visioning about what an economy that benefits all kinds of people could look like. He co-founded the Center for Economic Democracy.

    Last year, the BWA campaigned for the allocation of $1 million of the city of Boston’s budget for a youth-led, participatory budgeting process. Aaron and the Center for Economic Democracy supported the process, in which dozens of youth participated and decided to fund the renovation of a park and playground in the Franklin neighborhood, provide laptops to three public high schools, and create “Designated Free Wall Space” for graffiti and other visual artists to showcase their work, among other projects.

    Aaron says this process was just one way to open the conversation about democratizing the economy and alternative approaches to public finance.

    Jay Bad Heart Bull - Minneapolis, Minnesota

    Before moving to Minneapolis to attend the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, Jay thought that most people in the Twin Cities would have plenty of employment opportunities at one of the many Fortune 500 and biomedical companies in the area. He had completed high school and tribal college on the Pine Ridge Indian reservation in South Dakota and the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota, and witnessed widespread unemployment in rural regions.

    When he arrived in Minneapolis, though, he soon realized that the Native community in Minneapolis was not benefiting from the city's wealth and opportunities. Further, he saw that the money coming into the community, through grants or social services, quickly left.

    When Jay became the president and CEO of the Native American Community Development Initiative (NACDI), he set out to change that. In 2008, he and the team at NACDI recruited the Woodlands National Bank, a Native-American owned bank based in Hinckley, Minnesota, to open in South Minneapolis. He says this move was a message to the community that people could keep their dollars circulating locally.

    NACDI then bought an office building in South Minneapolis by raising grant money and financing the remainder through the Woodlands Bank. Owning property in the neighborhood where they work opened many more opportunities. NACDI began leasing space in the ground floor of their building to a Native American man to run a coffee shop, which provides jobs for youth from the South Minneapolis neighborhood.

    NACDI also opened an art gallery, All My Relations, featuring Native American art. Now, NACDI and other community organizations in South Minneapolis use the art gallery space to host events, like fundraisers and candidate forums during local elections.

    Euneika Rogers-Sipp - Stone Mountain, Georgia

    Just before starting high school, Euneika and her family moved from a rural community in North Carolina to the suburbs outside Atlanta. From there, she left for college in London in the mid-1980s. Euneika says her experience leaving the rural South—and then, the South altogether—is typical of the exodus that has been happening in largely African-American, poor, and rural communities for decades.

    The difference is that Euneika returned. She felt pulled by a love of family, tradition, and place, but also an urgency about the environmental degradation she saw when she visited. She started Sustainable Rural Regenerative Enterprises for Families to help restore the social and economic fabric of the South's rural areas.

    Her first project was in Gees Bend, Wilcox County, one of the poorest counties in Alabama. For years, the women of Gees Bend have been making vibrant and colorful quilts. Euneika saw this as one example of the gap between rich cultural heritage and the lack of economic opportunity in the rural South. So, she helped turn the quiltmaking into a cottage industry, and supported the town in building up a cultural tourism economy.

    She has since been working with other towns across the Southeast to encourage cultural tourism there, collaborating with other local craft makers, and people who want to open restaurants, open their homes for homestays, or lead tours. In addition to bringing much needed economic opportunity to the region, she hopes cultural tourism will restore a connection to place—for the people who grew up there, and for others who want to experience and understand the history of the South.

    Andrea Chen - New Orleans, Louisiana

    Andrea started her career as a high school English teacher in New Orleans. She soon realized that many of her 11th- and 12th-grade students were reading on a fourth-grade level. While developing teaching strategies to bring them up to level, Andrea also dug deeper to figure out why.

    There are a lot of factors, like an underfunded education system, that play into it. But, she said, a lot of the problem came down to poverty.

    She and some friends started Propeller, a business incubator and co-working space designed to bring together social entrepreneurs and policymakers inspired to tackle problems like blighted land, failing schools, and food shortages.

    Propeller runs a 10-month fellows program that supports entrepreneurs starting businesses with a social goal, like providing healthy food to schools or offering doula and childbirth education services to low-income women in New Orleans.

    To find out more—and meet BALLE's other fellows—visit bealocalist.org.

    Eight Main Street Job Creators Who Are Rebooting the Economy, Starting With Those Who Need It Most

    Truthout - Sun, 11/23/2014 - 12:24

    (Image: Working together via Shutterstock)From the Deep South to the West Coast, these entrepreneurs are making sure jobs and dollars grow - and stay - in places hardest hit by hurricanes, poverty, and gentrification.

    Our culture is obsessed with them. Often young, with a pioneering spirit, entrepreneurs embody a certain kind of American dream; come up with brilliant ideas for products or services that meet (or even better, create) a market need and a viable business plan, find investors, and make lots of money. OK, it’s slightly more complicated than that—but let’s go with it.

    While everyone's heard of Steve Jobs and the like, less known innovators and entrepreneurs are creating an economy where everyone has opportunities, no matter their background. They invest in businesses that provide well-paying jobs to English-language learners in Oakland, California; they create networks of investors to revolutionize the food system in Alabama; and they mentor small-business owners to help local enterprises thrive in Phoenix, Arizona.

    The Business Alliance for Living Local Economies (BALLE), a nonprofit that supports visionary local economy projects, chose 17 of these leaders for its third cohort of BALLE Fellows. For 18 months, Fellows will share strategies that have worked in their regions—like lowering interest rates on loans for small businesses that provide jobs to the formerly incarcerated; and developing “investor clubs” that make it easy to invest in communities. The goal is to strengthen local economies in every corner of the United States.

    Meet 8 of them here.

    José Corona - Oakland, California

    José likes to say that his dad, who emigrated with José and the rest of his family from Mexico, was a social entrepreneur before it was trendy. José saw his dad grow a successful agricultural business in Watsonville, California, treat his employees well, pay them fairly, and provide benefits. His dad even helped a few of his workers start their own farms.

    José now works with entrepreneurs developing businesses that do things like make natural nut butters, roast coffee, and sell local meat, as the CEO and president of Inner City Advisors (ICA). He feels like his work is exactly what he needs to be doing, practicing the values his dad instilled in him: integrity, trust, relationships, and “hustling in the right way.”

    Although the Bay Area's tech boom has caused an explosion of employment, José says it's still difficult for many people to find employment—like people who have been incarcerated, are learning English, or have lower education levels.

    ICA isn’t a training program for job seekers. Instead, it mentors startups and small businesses to help them recruit and train workers.

    José works with Premier Organics, a company that makes natural peanut butters and other products. Premier Organics hired Mauricio, originally from South America, as one of their first employees on the production line. Mauricio was responsible for manually putting labels on jars. With advising from ICA, Premier Organics offered Mauricio long-term job training, which allowed him to advance from line operator to team leader—and then to manager. He is now the operations manager for the whole company.

    ICA also launched the Fund Good Jobs initiative that invests in small businesses that provide living-wage jobs with benefits and opportunities for advancement. In 2013, ICA companies created almost 3,000 jobs—and the average wage for ICA company jobs is $14.50 per hour (twice the federal minimum wage).

    Jessica Norwood - Mobile, Alabama

    After years of working on political action committees and electoral campaigns in Washington, DC, and New York City, Jessica moved home to the Gulf Coast of Alabama for some much needed rest in the summer of 2005.

    Two weeks later, Hurricane Katrina hit. The destruction caused by the storm was amplified by the already overstretched infrastructure and poverty of the region.

    Jessica witnessed families and neighbors who had barely survived on minimum wage before the storm struggle to pay for the gas they needed to evacuate—and then for food and lodging once they left.

    When people in the Gulf Coast started returning to their homes, Jessica saw families returning to public housing only to find the buildings padlocked, leaving many without other housing options. In low-income neighborhoods throughout Alabama, schools that had closed during the storm never reopened.

    In the midst of these challenges, Jessica saw many reasons to hope. Online networks of people popped up to help separated loved ones find each other Neighbors shared tools like shovels and saws to assist in cleaning up damaged houses.

    Through all of this, she said she learned that “we are innovators, we are producers and we are each other's best assets.”

    Jessica began connecting young people who were excited about rebuilding the South, and in 2007 founded the Emerging Changemakers Network.

    After the first three years, Network members included town mayors, state representatives, and business owners, many of whom had less time to volunteer but were still looking for ways to improve their communities. They had other resources to offer, like disposable income to invest.

    The Network decided to focus its investments on Alabama's food economy. Before anyone put up money, Jessica said the Network first sought to understand the food economy as a whole, talking to everyone from grocery store owners to farmers to the bankers that lend to them.

    Emerging Changemakers launched “SOUL’utions,” a network of investment clubs that pooled money from people in the same town or city to invest in solutions in their area. One group provided a loan for a group of small farmers to purchase a tractor.

    Jessica says that while they don’t invest huge amounts of money, it’s enough to catalyze other funders, like the Department of Agriculture or the Ford Foundation.

    Alfa Demmellash - Jersey City, New Jersey

    During college at Harvard University in the early 2000s, Alfa was inspired by Muhammad Yunus’ Grameen Bank, which pioneered a microlending model that helped alleviate poverty for women in Bangladesh.

    The summer after she graduated, she spent time in the neighborhoods on MLK Drive in Jersey City, just a short drive away from the burgeoning downtown area. While volunteering at soup kitchens and other social service agencies in majority low-income and African-American neighborhoods, she wondered if this microlending practice could be applied there.

    Alfa remembers people in those neighborhoods telling her that she and friend Alex Forrester were “do-gooder” college kids, and that they wouldn’t stick around. She said they felt an immediate responsibility to stay, listen, and learn.

    Alfa and Alex met Harvey George, who ran Friends of Lifers Youth Corp, Inc., a youth program helping people who were formerly incarcerated find housing and jobs. Alfa was immediately inspired by the way he, who had spent 17 years in prison, mentored and counseled the people who passed through his soup kitchen. They were often distressed and hopeless. He helped them create their own opportunities.

    The pair started raising money from family and friends to make small loans to people in Jersey City who were eager to start or grow their own businesses, from florist shops to accounting firms. They soon realized, though, that it was not access to loans that the entrepreneurs lacked, but the skills to manage a small business—and the social connections to grow it.

    So they decided to shift their focus from offering loans to providing business education. They started Rising Tide Capital, Inc., and opened the Community Business Academy. Academy courses included customer service and marketing, and the program offered mentorship from established business-owners and a support network of fellow entrepreneurs. The initial class included founders of businesses that included a greeting card company, catering service, and cleaning company. Harvey George was one of the first students.

    Since then, the program has graduated more than 1,000 entrepreneurs and runs courses in three cities in New Jersey, with two courses in Spanish.

    Carlos Velasco - Phoenix, Arizona

    Carlos grew up in Guayaquil, Ecuador. During those years, much of the country was experiencing 70 percent unemployment. But, he said, neighbors looked out for each other and there was a real sense of community.

    When he needed something to eat, his grandmother would send him to the tiendita, the corner store. The owner would give him what he could, no questions asked.

    “We didn’t have money,” he said. “But we didn’t have the issues we have [here in the United States]: disconnection, crime, diabetes, a sense of people not knowing who they are.”

    He moved to the United States when he was twelve. At school, he felt the social pressure to do well and achieve something great. He says now, in many neighborhoods in Arizona, he doesn’t see that motivation in many young people.

    In the area near Carl Hayden High School in Phoenix, for example, there are Jack in the Boxes, several Circle K’s—convenience stores that are pretty different from the tiendita Carlos visited growing up—and other chain restaurants and retailers. Entry-level and management jobs at large chains are the only employment options many young people feel they have.

    In addition, Carlos says the chain stores crowd out locally owned businesses, particularly Spanish-preferred businesses or those owned by people who have immigrated to the United States.

    In response to these challenges, Carlos and his colleagues at Fuerza Local, a community organization that supports locally-owned, Spanish-preferred businesses in Phoenix, developed a Spanish-language business accelerator program. The program offers 12 classes on topics like customer service and marketing, encourages participation in an online, group savings tool, and, upon graduation of the program, provides a line of credit at MariSol Credit Union.

    The accelerator program has supported restaurants, a cake-selling business, mechanic shop, and a coffee shop, among many others. The second cohort of business-owners graduated in July.

    Aaron Tanaka - Boston, Massachusetts

    Aaron has been organizing and learning from the residents of low-income areas like Roxbury and Dorchester in Boston for almost 10 years. In 2005, he helped start the Boston Workers Alliance (BWA), a community organization of unemployed and underemployed workers. They began work on the “Ban the Box Campaign,” advocating for legislation that bars employers from asking applicants if they have a criminal record.

    The campaign won a key victory in 2010 when the Massachusetts state legislature passed a criminal record reform bill including a Ban the Box provision. Aaron learned two important things from the campaign: that organizing work must be led by those most impacted, in this case people with criminal records; and that even if this campaign and others like it solved discrimination in hiring processes, there still would not be enough jobs.

    There is such a need to organize around issues that are directly and immediately impacting people’s lives, like minimum wage and paid sick leave campaigns, Aaron said. So it doesn’t feel like there is time to take on the underlying causes of economic inequality and injustice.

    Aaron began to find ways to support civic leaders and organizers in long-term visioning about what an economy that benefits all kinds of people could look like. He co-founded the Center for Economic Democracy.

    Last year, the BWA campaigned for the allocation of $1 million of the city of Boston’s budget for a youth-led, participatory budgeting process. Aaron and the Center for Economic Democracy supported the process, in which dozens of youth participated and decided to fund the renovation of a park and playground in the Franklin neighborhood, provide laptops to three public high schools, and create “Designated Free Wall Space” for graffiti and other visual artists to showcase their work, among other projects.

    Aaron says this process was just one way to open the conversation about democratizing the economy and alternative approaches to public finance.

    Jay Bad Heart Bull - Minneapolis, Minnesota

    Before moving to Minneapolis to attend the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, Jay thought that most people in the Twin Cities would have plenty of employment opportunities at one of the many Fortune 500 and biomedical companies in the area. He had completed high school and tribal college on the Pine Ridge Indian reservation in South Dakota and the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota, and witnessed widespread unemployment in rural regions.

    When he arrived in Minneapolis, though, he soon realized that the Native community in Minneapolis was not benefiting from the city's wealth and opportunities. Further, he saw that the money coming into the community, through grants or social services, quickly left.

    When Jay became the president and CEO of the Native American Community Development Initiative (NACDI), he set out to change that. In 2008, he and the team at NACDI recruited the Woodlands National Bank, a Native-American owned bank based in Hinckley, Minnesota, to open in South Minneapolis. He says this move was a message to the community that people could keep their dollars circulating locally.

    NACDI then bought an office building in South Minneapolis by raising grant money and financing the remainder through the Woodlands Bank. Owning property in the neighborhood where they work opened many more opportunities. NACDI began leasing space in the ground floor of their building to a Native American man to run a coffee shop, which provides jobs for youth from the South Minneapolis neighborhood.

    NACDI also opened an art gallery, All My Relations, featuring Native American art. Now, NACDI and other community organizations in South Minneapolis use the art gallery space to host events, like fundraisers and candidate forums during local elections.

    Euneika Rogers-Sipp - Stone Mountain, Georgia

    Just before starting high school, Euneika and her family moved from a rural community in North Carolina to the suburbs outside Atlanta. From there, she left for college in London in the mid-1980s. Euneika says her experience leaving the rural South—and then, the South altogether—is typical of the exodus that has been happening in largely African-American, poor, and rural communities for decades.

    The difference is that Euneika returned. She felt pulled by a love of family, tradition, and place, but also an urgency about the environmental degradation she saw when she visited. She started Sustainable Rural Regenerative Enterprises for Families to help restore the social and economic fabric of the South's rural areas.

    Her first project was in Gees Bend, Wilcox County, one of the poorest counties in Alabama. For years, the women of Gees Bend have been making vibrant and colorful quilts. Euneika saw this as one example of the gap between rich cultural heritage and the lack of economic opportunity in the rural South. So, she helped turn the quiltmaking into a cottage industry, and supported the town in building up a cultural tourism economy.

    She has since been working with other towns across the Southeast to encourage cultural tourism there, collaborating with other local craft makers, and people who want to open restaurants, open their homes for homestays, or lead tours. In addition to bringing much needed economic opportunity to the region, she hopes cultural tourism will restore a connection to place—for the people who grew up there, and for others who want to experience and understand the history of the South.

    Andrea Chen - New Orleans, Louisiana

    Andrea started her career as a high school English teacher in New Orleans. She soon realized that many of her 11th- and 12th-grade students were reading on a fourth-grade level. While developing teaching strategies to bring them up to level, Andrea also dug deeper to figure out why.

    There are a lot of factors, like an underfunded education system, that play into it. But, she said, a lot of the problem came down to poverty.

    She and some friends started Propeller, a business incubator and co-working space designed to bring together social entrepreneurs and policymakers inspired to tackle problems like blighted land, failing schools, and food shortages.

    Propeller runs a 10-month fellows program that supports entrepreneurs starting businesses with a social goal, like providing healthy food to schools or offering doula and childbirth education services to low-income women in New Orleans.

    To find out more—and meet BALLE's other fellows—visit bealocalist.org.

    Is the Grass-Fed Really Greener? Beef Production in the Americas

    Truthout - Sun, 11/23/2014 - 12:05

    In the Americas, three nations prevail as leading consumers and producers of beef: the United States, Brazil, and Argentina. From burgers to filet mignon, beef is often considered a staple food, even a delicacy. Its consumption is deeply ingrained in some cultures, but only a few understand the impact of industrial demand of cattle products. Most people are not aware that beef production is directly responsible for producing vast levels of greenhouse gases and expanding deforestation, especially in the Amazon forest region. In fact, in the past 25 years forests with an area the size of India have been cleared in Central and South America.[1] Although demand for beef has stagnated in the U.S. and certain Latin American countries, worldwide consumption continues to expand, and producers in the Western hemisphere are eager to supply. In fact, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) predicts that beef production and consumption will double by 2050, a situation that can ultimately be costly to the environment.[2] The article does not attempt to promote the eradication of beef from the personal diet, but to present an argument for the preservation of the environment, which includes a decrease in current levels of consumption, as well as innovative farming practices.

    In terms of production, the U.S. takes the lead with an average of 11 million tons produced per year, followed by Brazil with 9.7 million tons and Argentina with 2.6 million tons.[3] In the U.S., people consume an average of three hamburgers a week, resulting in 156 burgers a year per person.[4] Argentina has historically been a prime consumer, and in the 1960s citizens consumed about 222 pounds per person every year. Beef plays a central role in the culture and identity of Argentina, so much so that in the 1990s former President Carlos Menem once joked, “Don’t come to my country if [you’re] vegetarian.”[5] Today, their consumption is slightly lower at about 129 pounds per person, but it is still well above the global average of 58.4 pounds per person a year.[6] Even though certain countries have reduced their consumption, overall worldwide trends indicate that beef-lovers are on the rise, especially in developing countries.

    Patterns of beef consumption in developed countries are adapting to new trends, medical discoveries, and high prices. Inflation has caused an increase in beef prices, driving consumers to seek other sources of food. In addition, many farmers have decided to opt out of the business of cow grazing to enter the high-demand market of soy and corn production because these crops are inexpensive to grow and sell at high prices. The decrease in consumption can also be attributed to medical studies, which reveal that beef elevates levels of cholesterol and must be consumed in moderation. Lastly, compared to other types of meat, beef production has the most costly effect to the environment.

    According to the Worldwatch Institute, “Over the last 30 years, the number of farm animals – and that includes both four-footed livestock like cattle and pigs and goats and sheep, as well as poultry – has increased about 23 percent since 1980.”[7] The increase of meat demand cannot be attributed to developed countries, but to developing ones. Economic growth in developing countries has spurred a broader middle class. People tend to spend their additional earnings on more expensive items, such as meat products. However, if demand keeps rising, suppliers will opt for cattle-raising methods that are more resource-efficient but worse off for people’s health and environmental welfare.

    The cattle-raising quandary

    Average shoppers purchase food at supermarkets without taking a look at labels. Consumers tend to buy beef products based on price and type of cut. Rarely do people inquire as to what occurred before the product arrived at the store. In order to be more conscious omnivores, consumers must be aware of what they eat because the process of food production inevitably has a nefarious effect on personal health and the environment.

    There are two predominant techniques employed to raise cows. One method, called grazing, allows cattle to wander throughout enclosed grasslands. Grazing is considered more humane; cows are free to roam the land before heading to the slaughterhouse. Grazing methods imply that cows eat mostly grass and are not given antibiotics, hormones, or supplements. Of course, there are variations to these methods, such as feeding cows with grains and vitamins during the final stages of their lives to accelerate growth. Raising livestock naturally is an extremely slow process and utilizes large amounts of water and land in order to achieve an optimal beef weight. It takes much longer to raise a cow naturally, and consequently more resources are used for its growth. In the past 40 years, vast areas of forests have been destroyed to give way to agriculture and cattle ranching.[8] In addition, cows produce large amounts of natural waste that contains methane, a greenhouse gas that is harmful to the environment. Methane accounts to 18 percent of all greenhouse gases, and livestock waste is three times more potent than human waste.[9] At least through grazing, cows sequester carbon emissions on the pasture and this results in better air and water quality than feedlots.[10]

    Grazing techniques are most regularly used in Brazil and Argentina, although different demands are pushing for new developments.[11] Often seen in the United States, feedlot mechanisms are gaining traction all over the world. Grazing requires vast tracts of land that are utilized solely for the cows’ livelihood, but yield little production as they take years to mature. As a result, farmers are encouraged to use the land to plant corn or soy, products that have a higher demand. Instead of grazing, they turn to feedlots, which confine the cows in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). Cows in feedlots are fed on a corn and soy diet, amongst other grains, even though these are not part of a natural diet for cattle. In many feedlots, cows are administered hormones and antibiotics to speed growth. The total lifespan of the cow is shorter, which means less use of water, food, and land. However, cows produce methane and large concentrations of these gases harm the environment. In addition, a shorter lifespan means more beef is produced, since this allows more cows to move through the feedlots.[12]

    Studies show that red meat is linked to heart disease and cancer. In a study, heavy consumers of red meat were associated with low physical activity, smoking, and higher body mass.[13] Corn is not the natural food of cows, and therefore grain-fed beef contains about 22-39 percent more cholesterol. Grass-fed beef is healthier because it has higher levels of linoleic acid and omega-3. [14] There is no perfect way to raise cattle, but given the choice, grass-fed is healthier and friendlier to the environment.

    Albeit not the greenest activity, eating beef is deeply embedded in the culture of countries in the Americas, especially in Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, and the United States. As a result, it is foolish to assume that everyone can completely cut off his or her beef consumption. In addition, its production plays a significant role in the economy. However, more sustainable practices should be encouraged. Individuals can reduce their carbon footprint by lowering their consumption or choosing either organic or 100% grass-fed beef. In addition, innovative practices from the farmers’ side can increase the fertility of the land and reduce gas emissions. One noteworthy example is Estancia Grass-fed Beef that works with the traditional Argentine model of cattle grazing. It involves a rotating system of 5-7 years of cattle ranching followed by 1-2 year crop cycle.[15] Their model maintains the fertility of the soil and avoids monoculture, a dangerous method that deprives the soil of its nutrients. Those willing to supply their products, while still being mindful of the environment, should follow sustainable practices, such as Estancia’s. In addition, it is everyone’s job as conscious consumers to be aware of the products they eat. By simply cutting a few portions of meat a week, each individual can play a significant role in the preservation of the environment.

     

    References:

    [1] ftp://ftp.fao.org/docrep/fao/010/a0262e/a0262e00.pdf 

    [2] http://www.fao.org/news/story/en/item/35571/icode/

    [3] http://www.foeeurope.org/sites/default/files/publications/foee_hbf_meatatlas_jan2014.pdf

    [4] http://www.opb.org/news/blog/ecotrope/shrinking-the-environmental-footprint-of-beef/

    [5] http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/14/world/americas/argentina-falls-from-its-throne-as-king-of-beef.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

    [6] http://www.beefusa.org/udocs/annualpercapitaconsumption-meat-boneless491.pdf

    [7] http://www.voanews.com/content/decapua-farm-animals-29mar12-144898655/179917.html

    [8] ftp://ftp.fao.org/docrep/fao/010/a0262e/a0262e00.pdf

    [9] http://www.opb.org/news/blog/ecotrope/shrinking-the-environmental-footprint-of-beef/

    [10] http://www.opb.org/news/blog/ecotrope/which-is-greener-grass-fed-or-grain-fed-beef/

    [11] http://animalfrontiers.org/content/1/2/46.full

    [12] http://www.opb.org/news/blog/ecotrope/which-is-greener-grass-fed-or-grain-fed-beef/

    [13] http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/13/health/research/red-meat-linked-to-cancer-and-heart-disease.html?_r=0

    [14] http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=141

    [15] http://grist.org/sustainable-food/in-argentina-factory-farms-replacing-grass-fed-beef/

    Is the Grass-Fed Really Greener? Beef Production in the Americas

    Truthout - Sun, 11/23/2014 - 12:05

    In the Americas, three nations prevail as leading consumers and producers of beef: the United States, Brazil, and Argentina. From burgers to filet mignon, beef is often considered a staple food, even a delicacy. Its consumption is deeply ingrained in some cultures, but only a few understand the impact of industrial demand of cattle products. Most people are not aware that beef production is directly responsible for producing vast levels of greenhouse gases and expanding deforestation, especially in the Amazon forest region. In fact, in the past 25 years forests with an area the size of India have been cleared in Central and South America.[1] Although demand for beef has stagnated in the U.S. and certain Latin American countries, worldwide consumption continues to expand, and producers in the Western hemisphere are eager to supply. In fact, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) predicts that beef production and consumption will double by 2050, a situation that can ultimately be costly to the environment.[2] The article does not attempt to promote the eradication of beef from the personal diet, but to present an argument for the preservation of the environment, which includes a decrease in current levels of consumption, as well as innovative farming practices.

    In terms of production, the U.S. takes the lead with an average of 11 million tons produced per year, followed by Brazil with 9.7 million tons and Argentina with 2.6 million tons.[3] In the U.S., people consume an average of three hamburgers a week, resulting in 156 burgers a year per person.[4] Argentina has historically been a prime consumer, and in the 1960s citizens consumed about 222 pounds per person every year. Beef plays a central role in the culture and identity of Argentina, so much so that in the 1990s former President Carlos Menem once joked, “Don’t come to my country if [you’re] vegetarian.”[5] Today, their consumption is slightly lower at about 129 pounds per person, but it is still well above the global average of 58.4 pounds per person a year.[6] Even though certain countries have reduced their consumption, overall worldwide trends indicate that beef-lovers are on the rise, especially in developing countries.

    Patterns of beef consumption in developed countries are adapting to new trends, medical discoveries, and high prices. Inflation has caused an increase in beef prices, driving consumers to seek other sources of food. In addition, many farmers have decided to opt out of the business of cow grazing to enter the high-demand market of soy and corn production because these crops are inexpensive to grow and sell at high prices. The decrease in consumption can also be attributed to medical studies, which reveal that beef elevates levels of cholesterol and must be consumed in moderation. Lastly, compared to other types of meat, beef production has the most costly effect to the environment.

    According to the Worldwatch Institute, “Over the last 30 years, the number of farm animals – and that includes both four-footed livestock like cattle and pigs and goats and sheep, as well as poultry – has increased about 23 percent since 1980.”[7] The increase of meat demand cannot be attributed to developed countries, but to developing ones. Economic growth in developing countries has spurred a broader middle class. People tend to spend their additional earnings on more expensive items, such as meat products. However, if demand keeps rising, suppliers will opt for cattle-raising methods that are more resource-efficient but worse off for people’s health and environmental welfare.

    The cattle-raising quandary

    Average shoppers purchase food at supermarkets without taking a look at labels. Consumers tend to buy beef products based on price and type of cut. Rarely do people inquire as to what occurred before the product arrived at the store. In order to be more conscious omnivores, consumers must be aware of what they eat because the process of food production inevitably has a nefarious effect on personal health and the environment.

    There are two predominant techniques employed to raise cows. One method, called grazing, allows cattle to wander throughout enclosed grasslands. Grazing is considered more humane; cows are free to roam the land before heading to the slaughterhouse. Grazing methods imply that cows eat mostly grass and are not given antibiotics, hormones, or supplements. Of course, there are variations to these methods, such as feeding cows with grains and vitamins during the final stages of their lives to accelerate growth. Raising livestock naturally is an extremely slow process and utilizes large amounts of water and land in order to achieve an optimal beef weight. It takes much longer to raise a cow naturally, and consequently more resources are used for its growth. In the past 40 years, vast areas of forests have been destroyed to give way to agriculture and cattle ranching.[8] In addition, cows produce large amounts of natural waste that contains methane, a greenhouse gas that is harmful to the environment. Methane accounts to 18 percent of all greenhouse gases, and livestock waste is three times more potent than human waste.[9] At least through grazing, cows sequester carbon emissions on the pasture and this results in better air and water quality than feedlots.[10]

    Grazing techniques are most regularly used in Brazil and Argentina, although different demands are pushing for new developments.[11] Often seen in the United States, feedlot mechanisms are gaining traction all over the world. Grazing requires vast tracts of land that are utilized solely for the cows’ livelihood, but yield little production as they take years to mature. As a result, farmers are encouraged to use the land to plant corn or soy, products that have a higher demand. Instead of grazing, they turn to feedlots, which confine the cows in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). Cows in feedlots are fed on a corn and soy diet, amongst other grains, even though these are not part of a natural diet for cattle. In many feedlots, cows are administered hormones and antibiotics to speed growth. The total lifespan of the cow is shorter, which means less use of water, food, and land. However, cows produce methane and large concentrations of these gases harm the environment. In addition, a shorter lifespan means more beef is produced, since this allows more cows to move through the feedlots.[12]

    Studies show that red meat is linked to heart disease and cancer. In a study, heavy consumers of red meat were associated with low physical activity, smoking, and higher body mass.[13] Corn is not the natural food of cows, and therefore grain-fed beef contains about 22-39 percent more cholesterol. Grass-fed beef is healthier because it has higher levels of linoleic acid and omega-3. [14] There is no perfect way to raise cattle, but given the choice, grass-fed is healthier and friendlier to the environment.

    Albeit not the greenest activity, eating beef is deeply embedded in the culture of countries in the Americas, especially in Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, and the United States. As a result, it is foolish to assume that everyone can completely cut off his or her beef consumption. In addition, its production plays a significant role in the economy. However, more sustainable practices should be encouraged. Individuals can reduce their carbon footprint by lowering their consumption or choosing either organic or 100% grass-fed beef. In addition, innovative practices from the farmers’ side can increase the fertility of the land and reduce gas emissions. One noteworthy example is Estancia Grass-fed Beef that works with the traditional Argentine model of cattle grazing. It involves a rotating system of 5-7 years of cattle ranching followed by 1-2 year crop cycle.[15] Their model maintains the fertility of the soil and avoids monoculture, a dangerous method that deprives the soil of its nutrients. Those willing to supply their products, while still being mindful of the environment, should follow sustainable practices, such as Estancia’s. In addition, it is everyone’s job as conscious consumers to be aware of the products they eat. By simply cutting a few portions of meat a week, each individual can play a significant role in the preservation of the environment.

     

    References:

    [1] ftp://ftp.fao.org/docrep/fao/010/a0262e/a0262e00.pdf 

    [2] http://www.fao.org/news/story/en/item/35571/icode/

    [3] http://www.foeeurope.org/sites/default/files/publications/foee_hbf_meatatlas_jan2014.pdf

    [4] http://www.opb.org/news/blog/ecotrope/shrinking-the-environmental-footprint-of-beef/

    [5] http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/14/world/americas/argentina-falls-from-its-throne-as-king-of-beef.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

    [6] http://www.beefusa.org/udocs/annualpercapitaconsumption-meat-boneless491.pdf

    [7] http://www.voanews.com/content/decapua-farm-animals-29mar12-144898655/179917.html

    [8] ftp://ftp.fao.org/docrep/fao/010/a0262e/a0262e00.pdf

    [9] http://www.opb.org/news/blog/ecotrope/shrinking-the-environmental-footprint-of-beef/

    [10] http://www.opb.org/news/blog/ecotrope/which-is-greener-grass-fed-or-grain-fed-beef/

    [11] http://animalfrontiers.org/content/1/2/46.full

    [12] http://www.opb.org/news/blog/ecotrope/which-is-greener-grass-fed-or-grain-fed-beef/

    [13] http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/13/health/research/red-meat-linked-to-cancer-and-heart-disease.html?_r=0

    [14] http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=141

    [15] http://grist.org/sustainable-food/in-argentina-factory-farms-replacing-grass-fed-beef/

    Efforts to Curb Destructive Palm Oil Plantations Brings Together Strange Bedfellows

    Truthout - Sun, 11/23/2014 - 11:55

    Will corporations and activists join forces to end deforestation in Indonesia?

    September brought good news for the world’s forests with the unveiling of the New York Declaration on Forests at the UN Climate Summit. The Declaration, which pledges to end global deforestation by 2030, was signed by 130 governments, including the US, Germany, Indonesia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Perhaps most significantly, it was also backed by commitments from 40 major food corporations to eliminate palm oil grown on deforested land from their supply chains.

    That’s a big deal, given that palm oil has been the single largest driver of tropical deforestation in recent years. When the medical establishment deemed trans-fats heart-unhealthy in the mid-1990s, demand for the supposedly more benign palm oil soared, increasing nearly six-fold since the year 2000. Palm oil is now used in nearly half of all foods on supermarket shelves, added to everything from breakfast cereals to margarine to potato chips. It is also an ingredient in shampoo, soaps, cosmetics, toothpaste, and laundry detergents, and is used as a feedstock for biofuels.

    Palm oil is cheap. It is the highest yielding oil crop in the world, and the most abundant. The World Wildlife Fund estimates that every hour, an area of rainforest the size of 300 football fields is cleared to make way for new palm oil production — mainly in Indonesia, the country with the highest rate of deforestation in the world.

    At this breakneck and still accelerating pace, 98 percent of the Indonesian rainforest will be gone by 2022, and along with it one of the greatest remaining biodiversity treasure troves on Earth. The palm oil boom has been a disaster for the orangutan, the Sumatran tiger, the clouded leopard, the pigmy elephant, and countless lesser known endangered species whose homelands are rapidly being converted to large-scale plantations.

    It has also been catastrophic for the climate. Indonesia is currently the third largest carbon polluting country in the world, trailing only China and the US. Over 85 percent of the nation’s emissions come from forest destruction, which releases carbon stored in trees and ancient peatland swamps into the atmosphere. Once cleared, the peatlands dry out and are often set on fire, smoldering for months or even years, and transforming the greatest carbon sinks on the planet into leading carbon dioxide emitters. These fires were also responsible for the dangerous haze that caused work in Singapore and southern Malaysia to grind to a halt for weeks during June and July of 2013.

    The group Forest Trends estimates that 80 percent of forest destruction in Indonesia between 2000 and 2012 was illegal, occurring outside the bounds of the concessions that the government has set aside for commercial development. Palm plantations were responsible for three-quarters of this illegal deforestation.

    In 2007, the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) launched a campaign to persuade Cargill — the largest exporter of palm oil into the US, and one of a handful of traders that dominate the industry — to stop buying oil grown on newly cut forests and peatlands. When Cargill refused to budge, RAN changed its strategy and began targeting the company’s clients, the so-called “snack food 20,” which includes corporations like Hershey’s, General Mills, and Kraft.

    This new tactic paid off. Some of the high profile brands began demanding that their suppliers get serious about deforestation. And in September, Cargill announced a sweeping no-deforestation policy and endorsed the New York Declaration on Forests, joining other major palm oil traders including the Singapore-based Wilmar and the Indonesian company Golden Agri-Resources. The two leading pulp and paper companies in Indonesia, Asia Pacific Resources International Limited and Asian Pulp and Paper, have followed suit with their own commitments.

    Over half of the “Snack Food 20” have also joined the no-deforestation pledge, including Mars, Nestle, Kellogg’s and Unilever. These companies have also agreed to drop suppliers who produce palm oil on stolen and misappropriated lands, or that use forced or child labor.

    “The last few months have seen a welcome race to the top,” Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, said in a press release. “Consumers have sent companies a clear signal that they do not want their purchasing habits to drive deforestation and companies are responding.”

    But there are still some notable holdouts. The food and beverage giant PepsiCo has not yet committed to protecting worker and community land rights. Kraft, Heinz, Nissin Foods, and Campbell’s Soup have offered no credible public commitment to change their palm oil procurement practices.  Malaysia-based commodity trader Kuala Lampur Kepong and Singapore-based Musim Mas have likewise refused to make commitments concerning palm oil practices.

    Gemma Tillack, agribusiness campaign director at RAN, called on investors in these laggard companies to “put pressure on them to address these gaps.” In an interview, Tillack added that, even amongst the cooperating companies, “most still lack comprehensive, time-bound implementation plans.” They also have yet to develop credible grievance mechanisms to allow NGOs, labor groups, and indigenous communities in Indonesia to raise complaints when they observe instances of noncompliance.

    Traceability will play a key role in implementing no-deforestation policies in Indonesia. Fortunately, Global Forest Watch (GFW), an online forest monitoring and support system, has used satellite imagery to create a multilayered, interactive map of Indonesia’s forest lands — a valuable tool for increasing transparency throughout the supply chain. Using this map, GFW is currently advising Unilever about which of its mills are more likely to be engaged in illegal activities like burning and deforestation; information that Unilever will then use to conduct investigations on the ground.

    “We supply the data which companies use to better manage their supply chains, and NGOs use to look for violations and issues to focus on,” said Elizabeth Baer, GFW’s global commodities manager. “We think it’s amazing that advocacy has worked and driven these companies to make such ambitious commitments — the pace of change is unlike anything that I’ve seen before in my career. But it’s incredibly challenging for these companies to make good on their pledges within the time frame they’ve promised. So there is a lot of effort, a lot of resources and brainpower being poured in to help them do so.”

    In addition to tracking developments on the ground, GFW is negotiating with both food corporations and NGOs to hammer out basic ground rules and definitions for the no-deforestation pledge — like what constitutes a “forest,” and how conflicts between all of the various stakeholders are to be adjudicated and resolved.

    Some environmental groups remain wary of corporate motives, and plan to carefully monitor the developments on the ground in Indonesia to make sure that the public commitments don’t end up as exercises in “greenwashing and delay,” as one recent RAN blog put it.

    The jury is still out on whether the New York Declaration on Forests will halt the bulldozers that are clearing Indonesia’s magnificent rainforest. Nevertheless, Tillack is guardedly hopeful: “In the last 12 months we’ve seen an unprecedented shift toward adopting responsible palm oil production standards. But the devil is in the details, and now it is time to put these commitments into action. We’ll be working hard to hold companies to account to insure that they are implementing their pledges.”

    Efforts to Curb Destructive Palm Oil Plantations Brings Together Strange Bedfellows

    Truthout - Sun, 11/23/2014 - 11:55

    Will corporations and activists join forces to end deforestation in Indonesia?

    September brought good news for the world’s forests with the unveiling of the New York Declaration on Forests at the UN Climate Summit. The Declaration, which pledges to end global deforestation by 2030, was signed by 130 governments, including the US, Germany, Indonesia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Perhaps most significantly, it was also backed by commitments from 40 major food corporations to eliminate palm oil grown on deforested land from their supply chains.

    That’s a big deal, given that palm oil has been the single largest driver of tropical deforestation in recent years. When the medical establishment deemed trans-fats heart-unhealthy in the mid-1990s, demand for the supposedly more benign palm oil soared, increasing nearly six-fold since the year 2000. Palm oil is now used in nearly half of all foods on supermarket shelves, added to everything from breakfast cereals to margarine to potato chips. It is also an ingredient in shampoo, soaps, cosmetics, toothpaste, and laundry detergents, and is used as a feedstock for biofuels.

    Palm oil is cheap. It is the highest yielding oil crop in the world, and the most abundant. The World Wildlife Fund estimates that every hour, an area of rainforest the size of 300 football fields is cleared to make way for new palm oil production — mainly in Indonesia, the country with the highest rate of deforestation in the world.

    At this breakneck and still accelerating pace, 98 percent of the Indonesian rainforest will be gone by 2022, and along with it one of the greatest remaining biodiversity treasure troves on Earth. The palm oil boom has been a disaster for the orangutan, the Sumatran tiger, the clouded leopard, the pigmy elephant, and countless lesser known endangered species whose homelands are rapidly being converted to large-scale plantations.

    It has also been catastrophic for the climate. Indonesia is currently the third largest carbon polluting country in the world, trailing only China and the US. Over 85 percent of the nation’s emissions come from forest destruction, which releases carbon stored in trees and ancient peatland swamps into the atmosphere. Once cleared, the peatlands dry out and are often set on fire, smoldering for months or even years, and transforming the greatest carbon sinks on the planet into leading carbon dioxide emitters. These fires were also responsible for the dangerous haze that caused work in Singapore and southern Malaysia to grind to a halt for weeks during June and July of 2013.

    The group Forest Trends estimates that 80 percent of forest destruction in Indonesia between 2000 and 2012 was illegal, occurring outside the bounds of the concessions that the government has set aside for commercial development. Palm plantations were responsible for three-quarters of this illegal deforestation.

    In 2007, the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) launched a campaign to persuade Cargill — the largest exporter of palm oil into the US, and one of a handful of traders that dominate the industry — to stop buying oil grown on newly cut forests and peatlands. When Cargill refused to budge, RAN changed its strategy and began targeting the company’s clients, the so-called “snack food 20,” which includes corporations like Hershey’s, General Mills, and Kraft.

    This new tactic paid off. Some of the high profile brands began demanding that their suppliers get serious about deforestation. And in September, Cargill announced a sweeping no-deforestation policy and endorsed the New York Declaration on Forests, joining other major palm oil traders including the Singapore-based Wilmar and the Indonesian company Golden Agri-Resources. The two leading pulp and paper companies in Indonesia, Asia Pacific Resources International Limited and Asian Pulp and Paper, have followed suit with their own commitments.

    Over half of the “Snack Food 20” have also joined the no-deforestation pledge, including Mars, Nestle, Kellogg’s and Unilever. These companies have also agreed to drop suppliers who produce palm oil on stolen and misappropriated lands, or that use forced or child labor.

    “The last few months have seen a welcome race to the top,” Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, said in a press release. “Consumers have sent companies a clear signal that they do not want their purchasing habits to drive deforestation and companies are responding.”

    But there are still some notable holdouts. The food and beverage giant PepsiCo has not yet committed to protecting worker and community land rights. Kraft, Heinz, Nissin Foods, and Campbell’s Soup have offered no credible public commitment to change their palm oil procurement practices.  Malaysia-based commodity trader Kuala Lampur Kepong and Singapore-based Musim Mas have likewise refused to make commitments concerning palm oil practices.

    Gemma Tillack, agribusiness campaign director at RAN, called on investors in these laggard companies to “put pressure on them to address these gaps.” In an interview, Tillack added that, even amongst the cooperating companies, “most still lack comprehensive, time-bound implementation plans.” They also have yet to develop credible grievance mechanisms to allow NGOs, labor groups, and indigenous communities in Indonesia to raise complaints when they observe instances of noncompliance.

    Traceability will play a key role in implementing no-deforestation policies in Indonesia. Fortunately, Global Forest Watch (GFW), an online forest monitoring and support system, has used satellite imagery to create a multilayered, interactive map of Indonesia’s forest lands — a valuable tool for increasing transparency throughout the supply chain. Using this map, GFW is currently advising Unilever about which of its mills are more likely to be engaged in illegal activities like burning and deforestation; information that Unilever will then use to conduct investigations on the ground.

    “We supply the data which companies use to better manage their supply chains, and NGOs use to look for violations and issues to focus on,” said Elizabeth Baer, GFW’s global commodities manager. “We think it’s amazing that advocacy has worked and driven these companies to make such ambitious commitments — the pace of change is unlike anything that I’ve seen before in my career. But it’s incredibly challenging for these companies to make good on their pledges within the time frame they’ve promised. So there is a lot of effort, a lot of resources and brainpower being poured in to help them do so.”

    In addition to tracking developments on the ground, GFW is negotiating with both food corporations and NGOs to hammer out basic ground rules and definitions for the no-deforestation pledge — like what constitutes a “forest,” and how conflicts between all of the various stakeholders are to be adjudicated and resolved.

    Some environmental groups remain wary of corporate motives, and plan to carefully monitor the developments on the ground in Indonesia to make sure that the public commitments don’t end up as exercises in “greenwashing and delay,” as one recent RAN blog put it.

    The jury is still out on whether the New York Declaration on Forests will halt the bulldozers that are clearing Indonesia’s magnificent rainforest. Nevertheless, Tillack is guardedly hopeful: “In the last 12 months we’ve seen an unprecedented shift toward adopting responsible palm oil production standards. But the devil is in the details, and now it is time to put these commitments into action. We’ll be working hard to hold companies to account to insure that they are implementing their pledges.”

    How Did We Get Here? Reflections on the 2014 Midterms

    Truthout - Sun, 11/23/2014 - 10:48

    This story wasn't published because of advertisers or corporate sponsors, but through support from Truthout readers. Click here to join the community that keeps us going!

    Democrats are paying heavily for their political failures - and for ditching the working stiff.

    Dick Tuck, the legendary political prankster and wit, once ran for local office in San Francisco and lost. His concession speech, in its entirety: “The people have spoken — the bastards.”

    Now, you know me — I wouldn’t say anything like that about the recent elections. It’s vulgar and I’m couth.

    However, if the shoe fits…

    Perhaps it’s safer to quote the Sage of Baltimore, H.L. Mencken, who said: “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.”

    The 2014 midterms were a Mencken moment.

    It was a disaster for the Democratic Party, of course. They lost every election that was possible to lose and a few that weren’t. But it was an even greater disaster for the American people.

    Statue of Free Enterprise, an OtherWords cartoon by Khalil Bendib

    Faced with an onrushing manmade climate crisis, U.S. voters have now elected a congressional majority that denies global warming. (Did I mention that it’s also a majority financed by oil, gas, and coal money?)

    Burdened with a reverse Robin Hood tax structure that robs the poor to give to the rich, voters elected the people who are most adamant that the rich, the richer, and (most of all) the richest be taxed lightly (if at all) lest they cease creating jobs.

    Whether they create jobs or not.

    Angered by the political gridlock in Washington, Americans not only reelected the leaders of the Republican obstructionist caucus, they substantially increased its numbers.

    Frustrated by President Barack Obama’s inability to clear up the mess in the Middle East (Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and all that), they backed the party that made the mess in the first place and has yet to so much as apologize for it.

    The result is that We the People find ourselves at the mercy of cynical manipulators joined at the hip with true-believing ignoramuses.

    How did we get here?

    I blame the Democrats for having lost their identity as a progressive party of the working stiff. The Democratic Party is instead…nothing at all. It’s a collection of political strands that pull in one direction and push in the other.

    Moreover, it’s leaderless. Obama has his virtues — he’s bright and reasonable — but he’s an awful politician. He makes Jimmy Carter look like Lyndon Johnson.

    Nothing makes this clearer than his treatment of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Essentially, he made a speech and let his crack federal bureaucracy handle the details.

    To make a long story short, it didn’t work. The rollout was horrendously inept, and Obama did next to nothing to sell the plan to a confused public until it was too late.

    Into the resulting vacuum the Republicans injected a never-ending barrage of vitriol. Without being very specific, they characterized the plan as an unparalleled disaster. And they did it on a daily basis. For two years or more, Republicans could hardly broach any subject — the war, the economy, the weather — without including a rant on the evils of making health care more widely available.

    Regrettably, this demonization of health care carried the day, even though the plan overcame its early problems to become a success. Its flaws were exaggerated. Its virtues became secrets.

    That’s a failure of political leadership, which Democrats paid for heavily.

    There’s talk now in Washington of a new spirit of cooperation between the two major parties. This talk is generally between people who start drinking before noon.

    For the past six years Republicans in Congress have done everything in their power to delegitimize President Obama. They’ve questioned his citizenship, his patriotism, his intelligence, and his religion. They did that while narrowly controlling one house of Congress.

    To think that giving them full control of both chambers will make them kinder, gentler, and more amenable to compromise requires a leap of faith available only to saints and fools.

    May God help the United States the next time we have to raise the debt limit.

    How Did We Get Here? Reflections on the 2014 Midterms

    Truthout - Sun, 11/23/2014 - 10:48

    This story wasn't published because of advertisers or corporate sponsors, but through support from Truthout readers. Click here to join the community that keeps us going!

    Democrats are paying heavily for their political failures - and for ditching the working stiff.

    Dick Tuck, the legendary political prankster and wit, once ran for local office in San Francisco and lost. His concession speech, in its entirety: “The people have spoken — the bastards.”

    Now, you know me — I wouldn’t say anything like that about the recent elections. It’s vulgar and I’m couth.

    However, if the shoe fits…

    Perhaps it’s safer to quote the Sage of Baltimore, H.L. Mencken, who said: “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.”

    The 2014 midterms were a Mencken moment.

    It was a disaster for the Democratic Party, of course. They lost every election that was possible to lose and a few that weren’t. But it was an even greater disaster for the American people.

    Statue of Free Enterprise, an OtherWords cartoon by Khalil Bendib

    Faced with an onrushing manmade climate crisis, U.S. voters have now elected a congressional majority that denies global warming. (Did I mention that it’s also a majority financed by oil, gas, and coal money?)

    Burdened with a reverse Robin Hood tax structure that robs the poor to give to the rich, voters elected the people who are most adamant that the rich, the richer, and (most of all) the richest be taxed lightly (if at all) lest they cease creating jobs.

    Whether they create jobs or not.

    Angered by the political gridlock in Washington, Americans not only reelected the leaders of the Republican obstructionist caucus, they substantially increased its numbers.

    Frustrated by President Barack Obama’s inability to clear up the mess in the Middle East (Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and all that), they backed the party that made the mess in the first place and has yet to so much as apologize for it.

    The result is that We the People find ourselves at the mercy of cynical manipulators joined at the hip with true-believing ignoramuses.

    How did we get here?

    I blame the Democrats for having lost their identity as a progressive party of the working stiff. The Democratic Party is instead…nothing at all. It’s a collection of political strands that pull in one direction and push in the other.

    Moreover, it’s leaderless. Obama has his virtues — he’s bright and reasonable — but he’s an awful politician. He makes Jimmy Carter look like Lyndon Johnson.

    Nothing makes this clearer than his treatment of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Essentially, he made a speech and let his crack federal bureaucracy handle the details.

    To make a long story short, it didn’t work. The rollout was horrendously inept, and Obama did next to nothing to sell the plan to a confused public until it was too late.

    Into the resulting vacuum the Republicans injected a never-ending barrage of vitriol. Without being very specific, they characterized the plan as an unparalleled disaster. And they did it on a daily basis. For two years or more, Republicans could hardly broach any subject — the war, the economy, the weather — without including a rant on the evils of making health care more widely available.

    Regrettably, this demonization of health care carried the day, even though the plan overcame its early problems to become a success. Its flaws were exaggerated. Its virtues became secrets.

    That’s a failure of political leadership, which Democrats paid for heavily.

    There’s talk now in Washington of a new spirit of cooperation between the two major parties. This talk is generally between people who start drinking before noon.

    For the past six years Republicans in Congress have done everything in their power to delegitimize President Obama. They’ve questioned his citizenship, his patriotism, his intelligence, and his religion. They did that while narrowly controlling one house of Congress.

    To think that giving them full control of both chambers will make them kinder, gentler, and more amenable to compromise requires a leap of faith available only to saints and fools.

    May God help the United States the next time we have to raise the debt limit.

    Links 11/23/14

    Naked Capitalism - Sun, 11/23/2014 - 07:55
    Categories: political economy

    “And Smelt So”: Tropes of Rot and Corruption in Political Life

    Naked Capitalism - Sun, 11/23/2014 - 07:45
    Here is my desk, out in the garden, after the first snow, and after the first melt:
    Categories: political economy

    Sign up to the Mathaba Briefing

    News From Mathaba.Net - Sun, 11/23/2014 - 07:10

    Join world decision-makers in receiving the Mathaba Briefing so you are informed of what you need to know and not only what the masses are meant to know... more... | PDA

    High Marginal Tax Rates on the Top 1%

    Naked Capitalism - Sun, 11/23/2014 - 02:55
    Optimal tax rates for the rich are a perennial source of controversy. This column argues that high marginal tax rates on the top 1% of earners can make society as a whole better off. Not knowing whether they would ever make it into the top 1%, but understanding it is very unlikely, households especially at younger ages would happily accept a life that is somewhat better most of the time and significantly worse in the rare event they rise to the top 1%.
    Categories: political economy

    Women Rising 26: A Ride on the People's Climate Train

    Truthout - Sat, 11/22/2014 - 14:43

    In September of 2014, Women Rising radio rode the People's Climate train coast to coast, with over 200 activists heading to New York City to join the largest climate change march in history.

    Featuring:

    • Valerie Love, Center for Biological Diversity, No Tar Sands Campaigner
    • Penny Opal Plant, Indigenous climate activist
    • Lauren Wood, Utah's Peaceful Uprising co-founder
    • Teresa Jimenez, Urban Tithe organizer
    • Shannon Biggs, Global Exchange Community Rights program director
    • Rosalind Harris, Global Climate Justice Alliance
    • Michael Brune, Sierra Club executive director
    • Sister Santussika, Tony Sirna, Camille Herrera, Carrie, Riders on the People's Climate Train
    • People's Climate Train Singers

    Women Rising 26: A Ride on the People's Climate Train

    Truthout - Sat, 11/22/2014 - 14:43

    In September of 2014, Women Rising radio rode the People's Climate train coast to coast, with over 200 activists heading to New York City to join the largest climate change march in history.

    Featuring:

    • Valerie Love, Center for Biological Diversity, No Tar Sands Campaigner
    • Penny Opal Plant, Indigenous climate activist
    • Lauren Wood, Utah's Peaceful Uprising co-founder
    • Teresa Jimenez, Urban Tithe organizer
    • Shannon Biggs, Global Exchange Community Rights program director
    • Rosalind Harris, Global Climate Justice Alliance
    • Michael Brune, Sierra Club executive director
    • Sister Santussika, Tony Sirna, Camille Herrera, Carrie, Riders on the People's Climate Train
    • People's Climate Train Singers

    Arts Students Are Motivated More by Love of Subject Than Money or Future Careers

    Truthout - Sat, 11/22/2014 - 14:07

    Science and engineering subjects are often presented as better career choices for students than the arts or humanities. Nicky Morgan, the education secretary, recently said that STEM subjects – sciences, technology, engineering and maths – unlock doors to all sorts of careers and that pupils who study maths to A Level earn 10% more over their lifetime.

    Previous research has shown that there are actually lots of factors including ability, personality, motivation as well as family and educational background which impact on what undergraduate degree people take and their ongoing career success. And our new research has shown that the importance of the different types of motivation varies depending on the subject a student chooses.

    Importance of motivation

    When we are excited about something, whether it is a hobby or an interesting work-related task, we tend to perform better and apply a variety of creative approaches. If we are focused on a particular goal, we might be more organised and use a more structured approach in delivering the expected result.

    This focus on an external goal, such as financial success, is known as "extrinsic" motivation, while enjoyment is known as "intrinsic" motivation. Both are very important for career success but in different ways. Extrinsic motivation leads to better performance, while intrinsic motivation to a deeper, more thorough way of learning.

    Our new research shows that students studying for different degrees differ in their level of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. We asked a sample of 896 prospective students who attended open days and 989 current students at two large UK universities in the Russell Group the reasons for their degree choice. They were asked to rate how true statements such as: "I have chosen this degree because I was always interested in this subject" or: "I have chosen this degree because it provides good career options" were for them.

    Different degrees, different reasons

    We found differences in the reasons that students of certain subjects had for choosing their degrees, as the graph below shows. For example, current and prospective engineering students rated career options as a very important reason for their choice of degree, while interest in the subject was a low one. Yet arts and humanities students showed the opposite: prospective students reported enjoyment factor as important in their degree choice, while career was not as important on the agenda.

    Both types of motivation are important to success on the career path, both in a person's degree and their future job. So it is necessary to have a goal to be successful in your career. It is also important to provide students with an opportunity to follow their intrinsic motivation to enjoy their studies because they will perform better at what they enjoy.

    Restructure arts degrees

    Careers are often judged by financial success – and not without a reason. And graduates from arts and humanities degrees seem to make less money than their STEM peers. For example, a 2011 report by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, puts most arts and humanities subjects at the bottom of the pay scale.

    But perhaps the reason for that is not that those careers are a bad choice. If arts and humanities degrees attract people who are not career-driven, could that explain why they do not do as well financially in their career in the future? In order to make more money, you need to strive for that – it doesn't just come by itself.

    If it is the case that arts and humanities students do not do as well financially because of low career aspirations, should we discourage them from choosing arts and humanities? Probably not – these degrees are where they might do the best – because they enjoy it. Instead, universities should provide them with more career focus in their undergraduate courses that can make those students more structured in achieving their career goals.

    But we need to exercise caution in doing this. Previous research has shown that, in certain cases, external rewards such as being praised for being on top of your class actually undermine intrinsic motivation. This might lead to a "surface" type of learning where students are focusing on reproducing material accurately for a test without necessarily understanding it. If people start the degree because it is enjoyable and then are made to focus too much on external achievements, it might paradoxically make them enjoy the process of study less.

    And if people are not that keen on what they are doing and just do it for the pay, they may be less likely to do a good job – or they might drop out if better-paid work opportunities arise. So the key is to let people choose what they enjoy – and then help them to make it into a career.

    Arts Students Are Motivated More by Love of Subject Than Money or Future Careers

    Truthout - Sat, 11/22/2014 - 14:07

    Science and engineering subjects are often presented as better career choices for students than the arts or humanities. Nicky Morgan, the education secretary, recently said that STEM subjects – sciences, technology, engineering and maths – unlock doors to all sorts of careers and that pupils who study maths to A Level earn 10% more over their lifetime.

    Previous research has shown that there are actually lots of factors including ability, personality, motivation as well as family and educational background which impact on what undergraduate degree people take and their ongoing career success. And our new research has shown that the importance of the different types of motivation varies depending on the subject a student chooses.

    Importance of motivation

    When we are excited about something, whether it is a hobby or an interesting work-related task, we tend to perform better and apply a variety of creative approaches. If we are focused on a particular goal, we might be more organised and use a more structured approach in delivering the expected result.

    This focus on an external goal, such as financial success, is known as "extrinsic" motivation, while enjoyment is known as "intrinsic" motivation. Both are very important for career success but in different ways. Extrinsic motivation leads to better performance, while intrinsic motivation to a deeper, more thorough way of learning.

    Our new research shows that students studying for different degrees differ in their level of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. We asked a sample of 896 prospective students who attended open days and 989 current students at two large UK universities in the Russell Group the reasons for their degree choice. They were asked to rate how true statements such as: "I have chosen this degree because I was always interested in this subject" or: "I have chosen this degree because it provides good career options" were for them.

    Different degrees, different reasons

    We found differences in the reasons that students of certain subjects had for choosing their degrees, as the graph below shows. For example, current and prospective engineering students rated career options as a very important reason for their choice of degree, while interest in the subject was a low one. Yet arts and humanities students showed the opposite: prospective students reported enjoyment factor as important in their degree choice, while career was not as important on the agenda.

    Both types of motivation are important to success on the career path, both in a person's degree and their future job. So it is necessary to have a goal to be successful in your career. It is also important to provide students with an opportunity to follow their intrinsic motivation to enjoy their studies because they will perform better at what they enjoy.

    Restructure arts degrees

    Careers are often judged by financial success – and not without a reason. And graduates from arts and humanities degrees seem to make less money than their STEM peers. For example, a 2011 report by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, puts most arts and humanities subjects at the bottom of the pay scale.

    But perhaps the reason for that is not that those careers are a bad choice. If arts and humanities degrees attract people who are not career-driven, could that explain why they do not do as well financially in their career in the future? In order to make more money, you need to strive for that – it doesn't just come by itself.

    If it is the case that arts and humanities students do not do as well financially because of low career aspirations, should we discourage them from choosing arts and humanities? Probably not – these degrees are where they might do the best – because they enjoy it. Instead, universities should provide them with more career focus in their undergraduate courses that can make those students more structured in achieving their career goals.

    But we need to exercise caution in doing this. Previous research has shown that, in certain cases, external rewards such as being praised for being on top of your class actually undermine intrinsic motivation. This might lead to a "surface" type of learning where students are focusing on reproducing material accurately for a test without necessarily understanding it. If people start the degree because it is enjoyable and then are made to focus too much on external achievements, it might paradoxically make them enjoy the process of study less.

    And if people are not that keen on what they are doing and just do it for the pay, they may be less likely to do a good job – or they might drop out if better-paid work opportunities arise. So the key is to let people choose what they enjoy – and then help them to make it into a career.

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