Category: Big Picture

Dave Barry’s Holiday Gift Guide

DAVE BARRY – The holidays are a wonderful time of year, but too often, in all the excitement and craziness, we forget the real “reason for the season.” The holidays are not about parties, or decorations, or Frosty the Snowperson. Those things are fun, but they are not the true purpose of the holidays. The true purpose of the holidays is to purchase consumer electronics.

Oregon Reps Oppose Fast Track Trade Negotiations

THE LINCOLN COUNTY DISPATCH – Wednesday, 13 November 2013 14:26: Fair trade advocates praised the release of a letter today voicing congressional opposition to fast track, a policy-making process that allows trade pacts to circumvent ordinary congressional review, amendment and debate procedures. Three quarters of the House Democratic caucus—including Oregon congressional representatives Kurt Schrader and Peter DeFazio—signed the Nov. 13 letter. Representatives Earl Blumenauer and Suzanne Bonamici signed onto another letter signaling concerns over fast track for the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Obama Approves Raising Permissible Levels of Nuclear Radiation in Drinking Water

PUBLIC EMPLOYEES FOR ENVIRONMENTAL RESPONSIBILITY – The White House has given final approval for dramatically raising permissible radioactive levels in drinking water and soil following “radiological incidents,” such as nuclear power-plant accidents and dirty bombs. The final version, slated for Federal Register publication, is a win for the nuclear industry which seeks what its proponents call a “new normal” for radiation exposure among the U.S population, according Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

Today Peabody Would Lose Money on Coal Exports

CLARK WILLIAMS-DERRY – On Oct. 22, 2013, Sightline released a new report: Peabody Energy, Gateway Pacific, and the Asian Coal Bubble. The report shows that at today’s prices, there’s no way for Peabody to make money shipping coal to Asia. Peabody’s strategy is now to hope that the Asian coal bubble re-inflates—which is an increasingly risky bet, given the collapse of Asian coal prices, recent steps by China to curb coal demand, and the oversupply of coal from other Pacific Rim exporters.

Unclean at Any Speed

OZZIE ZEHNER – Electric cars don’t solve the automobile’s environmental problems. Note: Although we at The PeaceWorker are electric vehicle fans, this article raises many good questions that EV buffs need to consider. We run it in the interests of fairness and useful dialogue.

Poll: Small Business Owners Support Progressive Policies

STEPHEN MICHAEL – On August 19, 2013, the Main Street Alliance of Oregon released their most recent report, Voices of Main Street, which challenges conventional perceptions of rural small business owners’ thoughts on key policy issues. It details responding business owners’ views on economic, tax, immigration and health care issues facing Oregon and the nation.

Something in the Air: Lead Poisoning from Aircraft Fuel

MICHAEL BEHAR – The health risks of leaded gasoline are a thing of the past, right? Wrong. While jets and turboprops run on kerosene-based fuels, the majority of general aviation aircraft are piston-powered and consume aviation gasoline, or avgas. Populations close to “general aviation” airports (a term that covers nearly all types of flight activity except scheduled commercial passenger service) suffer the consequences of exposure to the lead in avgas.

New Company Earns B Corps Certification

SARA SCHNEIDER – Notogroup, a Portland-based, national executive search firm, has been awarded B Corp certification after undergoing a comprehensive examination of its business practices, by the nonprofit B Lab. Companies that are designated B Corps meet high standards for social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency.

Schrader Unveils Bipartisan Government Reform Package

KURT SCHRADER – No Labels and Congressional Problem Solvers are providing some of the only forums in Washington for Members on opposite sides of the aisle to sit down with one another and work through issues that ordinarily push us far apart. Among other efforts, the bipartisan group of Problem Solvers is unveiling a comprehensive legislative package to make government work more effectively.

Statistics Show Nonviolence Works – Here’s How

INTERVIEW BY TERRY MESSMAN – Erica Chenoweth and her co-author, Maria Stephan, reveal in their book, Why Civil Resistance Works, that during the period of 1900 to 2006, nonviolent resistance campaigns are about twice as effective as violent ones in achieving their immediate goals of either regime change or territorial change. They also found that these trends hold even under conditions where most people expect nonviolent resistance to be ineffective.
Nonviolent campaigns were effective, for instance, against dictatorships; against highly repressive regimes that are using violent and brutal repression against the movements; and also in places where people would expect a nonviolent campaign to be impossible to even emerge in the first place — such as very closed societies with no civil society organization to speak of prior to the onset of the campaign.
Chenoweth conducted her research because of the skepticism that a lot of people have about the efficacy of nonviolence in these circumstances. In most of the violent insurgencies we look at, people will say the reason they are violent is because nonviolent resistance can’t work in these conditions. This is why it’s particularly striking that even in these types of conflicts, we’re seeing nonviolence resistance outperform so dramatically.

Advanced Battery Technology Opens New Vistas for Electric Vehicles

MARC CARTER, BRIT LIGGETT, TAZ LOOMANS – Four articles at Inhabitat.com tout recent advances in battery technology that open new horizons for electric vehicles. Inhabitat.com is a weblog devoted to the future of design, tracking the innovations in technology, practices and materials that are pushing architecture and home design towards a smarter and more sustainable future. The blog also addresses innovative design and practices in technology, energy, transportation, fashion and art.

Climate Change Poses Grave Security Threat

DAMIAN CARRINGTON – Climate change poses as grave a threat to the UK’s security and economic resilience as terrorism and cyber-attacks, according to a senior military commander who was appointed as William Hague’s climate envoy this year. In his first interview since taking up the post, Rear Admiral Neil Morisetti said climate change was “one of the greatest risks we face in the 21st century,” particularly because it presented a global threat.

Military Quietly Grants Itself the Power to Police the Streets Without Local or State Consent

JED MOREY – By making a few subtle changes to a regulation in the U.S. Code titled “Defense Support of Civilian Law Enforcement Agencies” the military has quietly granted itself the ability to police the streets without obtaining prior local or state consent, upending a precedent that has been in place for more than two centuries.

GE Will Not Chase Nuke Business if Laws Don’t Change

DINESH NARAYANAN – One big multinational is almost certain to be out of the race for nuclear energy business in India. On Wednesday I had met John Flannery, outgoing President and Chief Executive Officer of GE in India for a chat before he left for his new assignment: finding targets for the company to buy. Flannery said GE will rather give up business than play within India’s civil nuclear liability rules.

The Foodopoly: Too Big to Eat

DAVID SWANSON – We’ve come to understand that the banks are too big to fail, too big to take to trial, too big not to let them write our public policy, too big not to reward them for ruining our economy. Why have we come to understand that?

Congresswoman Barbara Lee Introduces Bill to Audit the Pentagon

CONGRESSWOMAN BARBARA LEE – Congresswoman Barbara Lee has introduced the “Audit the Pentagon Act of 2013” for increased transparency and accountability in the defense budget. This bipartisan bill will cut the budget of any Federal agency by five percent that does not receive an independent audit for the previous year. To protect benefits for the nation’s veterans, military personnel accounts and the Defense Health Program would be exempt from cuts.

Nader: Postal Crisis “Manufactured”

INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC ACCURACY – Reuters reported this week that President Obama has endorsed a plan to “rescue” the Postal Service, including by reducing service one day a week.

Bloomberg reports: “A measure that may put the U.S. Postal Service under a control board, end to-the-door mail delivery and close post offices using the same process as military-base shutdowns was approved by a U.S. House panel. The bill, sponsored by Representatives Darrell Issa, a California Republican, and Dennis Ross, a Florida Republican, was approved today with Republican support and Democratic opposition.

Gene Sharp: The Machiavelli of Nonviolence

JOHN-PAUL FLINTOFF – In a long life of scholarship and dissent, Gene Sharp has been imprisoned and persecuted, but never silenced. His ideas continue to inspire resistance movements across the world. Gene Sharp is not a typical pacifist. “When I used to lecture, I would always get complaints from the pacifists,” says the academic, who turns 85 this month. “They would say I wasn’t pure…”

BAN: Recycling Cell Phones, Laptops, TVs Correctly

CHRIS THOMAS – A new national certification program ensures that recyclers properly dispose of items such as laptops, televisions and cell phones. According to the Basel Action Network (BAN), a toxic-waste watchdog group, the oversight is necessary for what’s become an international environmental nightmare.

Out with the Old: Recycling Cell Phones, Laptops, TVs…

CHRIS THOMAS – PORTLAND, Ore. – “Out with the old, in with the new” takes on a whole new meaning when the topic is electronic gear. A new national certification program ensures that recyclers properly dispose of items such as laptops, televisions and cell phones. According to the Basel Action Network (BAN), a toxic-waste watchdog group, the oversight is necessary for what’s become an international environmental nightmare.

GravityLight: the Low-Cost Lamp Powered by Sand and Gravity

OLIVER WAINWRIGHT – The problem of bringing light to remote parts of the developing world has been tackled in the past with everything from solar-powered lamps to wind-up devices and rechargeable batteries – all of which require relatively expensive kit or physical effort by the user. But two London-based designers have now developed a light source that operates on the stuff that surrounds you – earth, rocks or sand – with the helping hand of gravity.

Nuclear Test in Nevada Condemned by Iran, Japan

JOSEY WALES – Iran has strongly condemned the U.S. for carrying out a nuclear test in Nevada this week, saying the move threatens world peace and shows a hypocritical set of double standards set by Washington when it comes to nuclear research. The Iranian Foreign Ministry said the Wednesday detonation proves that US foreign policy relies heavily on the use of nuclear weapons, disregarding UN calls for global disarmament, PressTV reports.

Occupying Democracy: Amendments to Get Money out of Politics

RUSSELL SIMMONS – We have recently seen the massive expense of the political system on all levels, and we have joined forces to fight for our democracy. We refuse to let our future be auctioned off and sold to the highest bidder. When the focus of our candidates has to be on raising money, it takes time away from working with the people on the actual critical issues.

Britain Rejects U.S. Request to Use UK Bases in Nuclear Standoff with Iran

NICK HOPKINS – Britain has rebuffed U.S. pleas to use military bases in the UK to support the build-up of forces in the Gulf, citing secret legal advice which states that any preemptive strike on Iran could be in breach of international law. The Guardian has been told that U.S. diplomats have also lobbied for the use of British bases in Cyprus, and for permission to fly from U.S. bases on Ascension Island in the Atlantic and Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, both of which are British territories.

Business Warned to Prepare for Catastrophic Climate Impacts

JO CONFINO – PricewaterhouseCoopers’ latest index points to a catastrophic future unless radical action is taken now to combat climate change. “Business leaders have been asking for clarity in political ambition on climate change,” says partner Leo Johnson. “Now one thing is clear: businesses, governments and communities across the world need to plan for a warming world – not just 2C, but 4C or even 6C.”

Food Official: Land Grabs in Africa Like the “Wild West”

MARK TRAN – Amid warnings that land deals are undermining food security, the head of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has compared “land grabs” in Africa to the “wild west”, saying a “sheriff” is needed to restore the rule of law. José Graziano da Silva, the FAO’s director general, conceded it was not possible to stop large investors buying land, but said deals in poor countries needed to be brought under control.

Drones to Attack Afghanistan from Britain

MARIO LEDWITH – The hi-tech Reaper drones are primarily used to gather intelligence on enemy activity on the ground, but they also carry 500lb bombs and Hellfire missiles for precision strikes on insurgents. But the state-of-the-art American-built aircraft have sparked controversy, with human rights campaigners claiming they kill and injure large numbers of civilians and breach international law.

Special Report: Food, Beverage Industry Pays for Seat at Health-Policy Table

DUFF WILSON and ADAM KERLIN – As the world’s foremost health agency, the World Health Organization bills itself as an impartial advocate working on behalf of 194 member nations. Its mission as the public health arm of the United Nations ranges from stanching communicable diseases such as malaria and AIDS to battling what the U.N. considers the latest “global epidemic”: chronic ailments such as diabetes and heart disease caused primarily by unhealthy diets.

Millions of Unexploded Bombs Lie in Waters off U.S. Coast, Researchers Say

ALLISON BARRIE – Lurking (and leaking) beneath the world’s oceans are an estimated 200 million pounds of unexploded and potentially dangerous explosives — from bombs to missiles to mustard gas. Texas A&M oceanographers William Bryant and Niall Slowey documented two such dumpsites in the Gulf of Mexico recently. They conservatively guess that at least 31 million pounds of bombs can be found not just in the Gulf, but also off the coasts of at least 16 states, from New Jersey to Hawaii.

Yes, Coal is Dying, but No, EPA is Not the Main Reason

DAVID ROBERTS – I know lots of websites (including Grist!) allow “guest bloggers” to repost stuff. But I think of The Christian Science Monitor as something of an institution. It’s disappointing to find misleading dreck on its site. Do I have to squint at the small print before I can trust an article on CSM now? Is there no editing? You kids get off my lawn!

Oregon Supreme Court Avoids Ruling on Campaign Contribution Limits

DANIEL MEEK and LINDA WILLIAMS – The Plaintiffs and Chief Petitioners on Measure 47 are disappointed that the Oregon Supreme Court declined to rule on the Constitutionality of the campaign finance reform ballot measure enacted by Oregon voters in 2006.As Justice Robert Durham’s dissent points out: 1. The majority never reaches the substance of the Constitutional arguments; 2. The majority’s rejection of the Hazell Plaintiffs’ primary argument is based upon a perceived deficiency in the pleadings (although the State did not argue the existence of such a deficiency); and 3. The pleadings can be corrected, or the case refiled by other parties, thus presenting the Constitutional issues to the Court again.