Today, a coalition of over fifty social justice organizations including Food & Water Watch urged President Obama and Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell to declare the ongoing water crisis in Detroit a public health emergency. The groups have asked the Obama administration to make money available from the Public Health Emergency Fund to restore water service to residents affected by the shutoffs. “Thousands of Detroit families do not have running water in their homes for drinking, hygiene and sanitation,” said Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter. “This is a growing public health crisis that the Obama administration has the power to stop. It is completely unconscionable that anyone would be forced to endure these conditions.” In March, the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, under the direction of state-appointed Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr, announced an aggressive campaign to disconnect the water service of thousands of households that are either $150 or 60 days behind on their water bills. In Detroit, 38.1 percent of residents, including more than half of children there, live in poverty. Over the last decade, residential water charges have more than doubled.
Before Zaida Ramos joined Cooperative Home Care Associates, she was raising her daughter on public assistance, shuttling between dead-end office jobs, and not making ends meet. “I earned in a week what my family spent in a day,” she recalled. After 17 years as a home health aide at Cooperative Home Care Associates (CHCA), the largest worker-owned co-op in the United States, Ramos recently celebrated her daughter’s college graduation. She’s paying half of her son’s tuition at a Catholic school, and she’s a worker-owner in a business where she enjoys flexible hours, steady earnings, health and dental insurance, plus an annual share in the profits. She’s not rich, she says, “but I’m financially independent. I belong to a union, and I have a chance to make a difference.” Can worker-owned businesses lift families out of poverty? “They did mine,” Ramos said. Should other low-income New Yorkers get involved in co-ops? She says, “Go for it.” New York City is going—in a big way—for worker-owned cooperatives. Inspired by the model of CHCA and prodded by a new network of co-op members and enthusiasts, Mayor Bill de Blasio and the New York City Council allocated $1.2 million to support worker cooperatives in 2015’s budget. According to the Democracy at Work Institute, New York’s investment in co-ops is the largest by any U.S. city government to date.
Campaign Nonviolence is a new movement building a culture of peace by mainstreaming active nonviolence and by connecting the long-term nonviolent global struggles to abolish war, end poverty, reverse climate change, and challenge all violence. Campaign Nonviolence will launch this long-term movement September 21-27, 2014 by taking nonviolent action in hundreds of local cities across the United States and beyond. At a moment when the horror of war is palpably clear—and the ongoing violence of poverty and climate change wreaks havoc across our planet—we have a chance to say with one voice that we are ready to join together for a better way. This is the vision and foundation of Campaign Nonviolence. Campaign Nonviolence is now organizing in 50 states and the District of Columbia with 115 nonviolent actions planned for September 21-27 in every part of the country, and new ones are being posted every day. Campaign Nonviolence actions include marches, rallies, vigils, nonviolent direct action or other forms of public witness.
That was before Operation Protective Edges. On August 2, The National reported: “Soros Fund Management, the family office of the billionaire investor George Soros, has sold its stake in SodaStream, the soda making appliance producer that profits from the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories and was made popular by actress Scarlett Johansson’s endorsement. The decision comes as a number of big international investors, including the fund linked to the Microsoft founder Bill Gates, join in a burgeoning financial boycott of Israel amid a push by the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement and other groups seeking more rights for Palestinians. SodaStream, headquartered in the Israeli city of Lod, has its main factory in the West Bank settlement of Ma’ale Adumim.
Steven Rosenfeld: Your book starts with a very sober assessment of the American middle-class. It’s shrinking. It’s disappearing in our lifetime. And the reason is that most work-related income is not enough. It’s insufficient and that’s getting worse. Tell me about that. Peter Barnes: One can throw out all the numbers, but rather than do that, just think back. Some of us, like myself, are old enough to remember when there were lots of good-paying steady jobs, both in the private sector and public sector. They had benefits, covered health insurance, and provided pensions. That was what the middle-class was built on when I was growing up. Now, for a variety of reasons, including globalization, and automation, and the decline of labor unions, that is no longer the case. And most of the younger people who are entering the labor market today don’t get jobs like that. It’s kind of a “you’re on your own economy.” Everybody temps. They have more than one job. They’re always marketing themselves on LinkedIn or something like that to get the next job. They don’t get health coverage. They have to pay for their own pensions and so forth. On top of which, education costs are way up. Students have debts they have to pay. All these things are different and they are not changing. They are going down, not up, as far as the middle-class goes.
It’s been nearly 40 years since the discovery of Ebola, yet we’re dealing with its deadliest outbreak in history and one that is four times larger the first. Back then, in 1976, the scientific community knew nothing about the hemorrhagic fever. Blood containing the mystery virus was innocently sent in a blue thermos to Belgium, where Flemish scientists figured out they were unwittingly handling a violently lethal pathogen, and named it after a river in what was then Zaire. Since then, we’ve learned a lot about Ebola: that it’s spread through contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person, that we can stop it by using simple precautionary measures and basic hygiene practices. But every once in a while, these nightmarish outbreaks pop up and capture the international imagination. Worries about global spread are worsened by the fact that Ebola has no vaccine and no cure. Here’s what’s surprising and interesting about this state of affairs: it is not caused by a lack of human ingenuity or scientific capacity to come up with Ebola remedies. It’s because this is an African disease, and our global innovation system largely ignores the health problems of the poor.
Economic inequality in the United States has been receiving a lot of attention. But it’s not merely an issue of the rich getting richer. The typical American household has been getting poorer, too. The inflation-adjusted net worth for the typical household was $87,992 in 2003. Ten years later, it was only $56,335, or a 36 percent decline, according to a study financed by the Russell Sage Foundation. Those are the figures for a household at the median point in the wealth distribution — the level at which there are an equal number of households whose worth is higher and lower. But during the same period, the net worth of wealthy households increased substantially. The Russell Sage study also examined net worth at the 95th percentile. (For households at that level, 95 percent of the population had less wealth.) It found that for this well-do-do slice of the population, household net worth increased 14 percent over the same 10 years. Other research, by economists like Edward Wolff at New York University, has shown even greater gains in wealth for the richest 1 percent of households. For households at the median level of net worth, much of the damage has occurred since the start of the last recession in 2007. Until then, net worth had been rising for the typical household, although at a slower pace than for households in higher wealth brackets.
Fast-food workers say they’re prepared to escalate their campaign for higher wages and union representation, starting with a national convention in suburban Chicago where more than 1,000 workers will discuss the future of the effort that has spread to dozens of cities in less than two years. About 1,300 workers are scheduled to attend sessions Friday and Saturday at an expo center in Villa Park, Ill., where they’ll be asked to do “whatever it takes” to win $15-an-hour wages and a union, said Kendall Fells, organizing director of the national effort and a representative of the Service Employees International Union. The union has been providing financial and organizational support to the fast-food protests that began in late 2012 in New York City and have included daylong strikes and a protest outside this year’s McDonald’s shareholder meeting that resulted in more than 130 arrests. “We want to talk about building leadership, power and doing whatever it takes depending on what city they’re in and what the moment calls for,” said Fells, adding that the ramped-up actions will be “more high-profile” and could include everything from civil disobedience to intensified efforts to organize workers. “I personally think we need to get more workers involved and shut these businesses down until they listen to us,” perhaps even by occupying the restaurants, said Cherri Delisline, a 27-year-old single mother from Charleston, S.C., who has worked at McDonald’s for 10 years and makes $7.35 an hour.
The latest report from the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty reveals that most municipalities believe in criminalizing, not helping, the down and out. For the report, the organization studied laws in 187 cities. Seventy-six percent of towns prohibit begging in specific public places, a 20 percent increase since 2011. However, the most dramatic uptick, the authors write, “has been in city-wide bans on fundamental human activities” such as sleeping in your car. A full 43 percent of cities prohibit people from sleeping in vehicles, an increase of a shocking 119 percent since 2011. And 53 percent of cities prohibit people from parking themselves on a curb or against a building. That’s down 3 percent since 2011, but at a time when the number of homeless people is expected to rise in 2014 and affordable housing is in short supply, these ordinances and laws come off as draconian.
Most Americans probably think a major goal of philanthropy is to fight poverty. But a closer look reveals that giving by foundations and philanthropists exacerbates wealth inequality in the United States. Look at some of the trends: Thousands of local fundraising groups have been created to raise private money for public schools–and almost all of them channel resources primarily to schools attended by the children of people who live in affluent neighborhoods. Elite colleges and universities are the major beneficiaries of multimillion-dollar gifts, and its those kinds of donations that are a key reason giving to higher education grew 9 percent last year. Yet these institutions are so high-priced, few low-income and working-class students can afford to attend. Arts institutions saw donations soar in the past year, according to “Giving USA,” also because of donations by the wealthy. Most of the institutions that benefit from the bulk of private donations are established institutions that cater to the upper and middle classes. Meanwhile, “Giving USA” showed much smaller gains for social-service groups and other kinds of organizations that raise money primarily from people who aren’t multibillionaires.
1. We, the Heads of State and Government of the member States of the Group of 77 and China, have gathered in the city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Plurinational State of Bolivia, for the commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the establishment of the Group. 2. We commemorate the formation of the Group of 77 on 15 June 1964 and recall the ideals and principles contained in the historic Joint Declaration of the Seventy-Seven Developing Countries, signed at the end of the first session of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), held in Geneva. 3. We recall that the first ever statement of the Group of 77 pledged to promote equality in the international economic and social order and promote the interests of the developing world, declared their unity under a common interest and defined the Group as “an instrument for enlarging the area of cooperative endeavour in the international field and for securing mutually beneficent relationships with the rest of the world”.
In this episode of Acronym TV, Derek Poppert of Global Exchange talks with Dennis about his Re-Think The Cup series. In a recent piece from the series, FIFA: Return The Beauty To The Beautiful Game, Derek writes: “So who wins the World Cup? While it may seem that decision is still getting played out in stadiums across Brazil, FIFA president Sepp Blatter is surely laughing from his luxury suite. The winner had already been decided well before the first match even began. FIFA’s 4 billion dollars in untaxed revenue from the event is the trophy. It appears to be of little interest to Mr. Blatter or other FIFA execs that this trophy has come on the backs of 200,000 low-income people being forcefully evicted from their homes to make room for the event, 8 construction workers dying in the frenzied rush to erect stadiums on time, or 14 billion dollars in Brazilian taxpayer money being spent on the tournament in the face of poverty, inequality, and widespread social issues within Brazil.”
In preparation for hosting the World Cup, the Brazilian government spent the outrageous amount of $10 billion and displaced as many as 250,000 people–evicting the poorest from their homes and sweeping up homeless from the streets. Since the World Cup started, thousands have protested lavishing public resources on a sports event while poverty is rampant. Journalists Tim Eastman and Shay Horse have been in Brazil covering the protests and events outside the sports arenas. We had the opportunity to visit a group of families who were victims of these forced removals. One hundred days ago, military police evicted 160 families of the Telerj area of Rio de Janeiro from their homes. They lived in an area which had been gifted by the government of Dilma Roussef. For a short time, they occupied City Hall but were violently ejected by military police. Since then, they have traveled around and resettled in various areas of Rio, wandering from place to place without a home.
As the Fourth of July is celebrated across the US – in the glow of unprecedented economic polarization, a ballooning prison population, and a barrage of dire climatological studies, among other pieces of evidence leading ever more people to consider whether our collective way of life is in need of a fundamental transformation – an examination of the ostensible objects of our celebration (independence and democracy) seems in order. Aside from the concept of independence (and the question it implies: independence from what?) democracy, it should be remarked, is an especially vague and ambiguous concept. Indeed, because democracy can refer to egalitarian, emancipatory politics, as well as to the political-economic systems of the slavery-based societies of the southern US or ancient Athens – an initial distinction should be drawn between egalitarian forms of democracy (which tend to be organized more or less horizontally, with social resources distributed more or less evenly) and what, in practical terms, are really plutocratic societies – or what, perhaps, can be termed market-based democracies (which tend to be more or less hierarchical and representational). And it’s the market-based or plutocratic society that, with only minor egalitarian democratic interruptions and adjustments, exists today and characterizes what democracy has meant since the bourgeois democratic revolutions of the late 18th century.