Archive | September 5, 2013

How the Black Death Spawned the Minimum Wage

Black_DeathOK, this should be good … from Bloomberg:

Fast-food joints, long inhospitable to any kind of labor activism, are suddenly beset by a surge in strikes. Over the past few months, workers at chains such as McDonalds Corp. havewalked off the job in more than 60 cities, demanding a “living wage” of $15 an hour. Regardless of whether the strikes lead to better pay, they have rekindled debate over what constitutes a living wage.

That debate, however, has stranger, older and more curious origins than either proponents or detractors of the living wage might imagine.

The story begins in medieval England in the 14th century. Life, never particularly easy at this time in history, had become especially nasty, brutish and short. The preceding year, the “Great Pestilence,” better known as the Black Death, had arrived in continental Europe. The pandemic, one contemporary noted, “began in India and, raging through the whole of infidel Syria and Egypt,” reached England in 1349, “where the same mortality destroyed more than a third of the men, women and children.”

Once the dead had been buried, feudal society was shaken to its core by a startling realization.

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Lake Michigan Contaminated With Prescription Drugs

simpsons-fishDrugs in the water at Lake Michigan:

Via Scientific American:

Prescription drugs are contaminating Lake Michigan two miles from Milwaukee’s sewage outfalls, suggesting that the lake is not diluting the compounds as most scientists expected, according to new research.

“In a body of water like the Great Lakes, you’d expect dilution would kick in and decrease concentrations, and that was not the case here,” said Dana Kolpin, a U.S. Geological Survey research hydrologist based in Iowa.

It is not clear what, if any, effects the drugs are having on fish and other creatures in Lake Michigan. But this ability to travel and remain at relatively high concentrations means that aquatic life is exposed, so there could be “some serious near-shore impacts,” said Rebecca Klaper, an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and senior author of the study published in the journal Chemosphere.

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Senators Who Voted Yes on Syrian Strike Received More Defense Cash Than Those Who Didn’t

vaderIt’s no surprise, really, but it’s always sickening to see yet another clear sign that democracy is an illusion. (It’s particularly obvious in this case, given that the majority of Americans do not want a military strike against Syria.)

Via WIRED:

Senators voting Wednesday to authorize a Syria strike received, on average, 83 percent more campaign financing from defense contractors than lawmakers voting against war.

Overall, political action committees and employees from defense and intelligence firms such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing, United Technologies, Honeywell International, and others ponied up $1,006,887 to the 17 members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who voted yes or no on the authorization Wednesday, according to an analysis by Maplight, the Berkeley-based nonprofit that performed the inquiry at WIRED’s request.

Committee members who voted to authorize what the resolution called a “limited” strike averaged $72,850 in defense campaign financing from the pot. Committee members who voted against the resolution averaged $39,770, according to the data.

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How to Conquer the Fear of Public Speaking and Be The Truest Version of Yourself

In this video, Luke Rudkowski tells you how to deal with one of the biggest fear’s, the fear of public speaking.

He goes into great detail about his personal strategy and gives you some advice on how to mentally and physically deal with the fear. We hope this video is helpful to you and we wish to continue this dialog series so please ask us your questions on Luke’s social media.

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CIA Acknowledges Role In 1953 Overthrow Of Iran’s Democracy

iran_map1Via George Washington University’s National Security Archive:

Marking the sixtieth anniversary of the overthrow of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq, the National Security Archive is today posting recently declassified CIA documents on the United States’ role in the controversial operation.

American and British involvement in Mosaddeq’s ouster has long been public knowledge, but today’s posting includes what is believed to be the CIA’s first formal acknowledgement that the agency helped to plan and execute the coup.

The explicit reference to the CIA’s role appears in a copy of an internal history, The Battle for Iran, dating from the mid-1970s. The agency released a heavily excised version of the account in 1981 in response to an ACLU lawsuit, but it blacked out all references to TPAJAX, the code name for the U.S.-led operation. Those references appear in the latest release. Additional CIA materials posted today include working files from Kermit Roosevelt, the senior CIA officer on the ground in Iran during the coup.

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US Historical Revisionism and Imminent War with Syria

On this episode of Breaking the Set, Abby Martin remarks on the ongoing nuclear crisis in Fukushima, Japan, citing the scope of the radiation and lack of willingness by the international community to address the environmental crisis that is threatening the fate of humanity. Abby then talks to author & historian Peter Kuznick about historical revisionism in global conflicts, the US government’s double standards, the current crisis in Syria and the real factors driving US foreign policy. Abby wraps up the show talking to Brian Becker of the ANSWER Coalition and Mouaz Moustafa of the Syrian Emergency Task Force about whether or not the US should militarily intervene in Syria’s civil war, citing the rhetoric of chemical weapons, humanitarian intervention, and the lack of public support for a strike.… Read the rest

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Contracts With Workers Vs. Contracts With Banks

contracts

When are contracts ironbound, and when are they optional? Via the Center for Economic & Policy Research, Dean Baker writes:

The debate over public pensions clearly shows the contempt that the elites have for ordinary workers. While elites routinely preach the sanctity of contract when it works to benefit the rich and powerful, they are happy to treat the contracts that provide workers with pensions as worthless scraps of paper.

We see this attitude on display currently in the Detroit bankruptcy proceedings. It is even more clearly on display in efforts by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to default on the city’s pension obligations.

The basic story in both cases is that the contracts that workers had labored under are being laughed at by the elites because they find it inconvenient to carry through with the terms.

In Detroit, paying for pensions or anything else without outside assistance poses a real problem.

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The Science Behind Belief In Conspiracy Theories

ConspiraciesDean Burnett questions how supposedly rational people get caught in the tangled webs of conspiracy theories, writing in the Guardian:

With constant revelations about government surveillance and possible impending war, this must be a fertile time for conspiracy theories.

You know when you put the bins out and you realise there’s a bag in the corner that you’d forgotten about and you pick it up but it’s so old it splits and you are suddenly surrounded by swarms of furious flies and you run indoors screaming and spend three hours in the shower, shuddering? I imagine it’s a bit like that.

I’m involved in several conspiracies (apparently). When Channel 5 aired a shockingly non-critical show about moon landing conspiracies, I responded by ”confessing” it was true, and inventing other “true” conspiracies, to emphasise how ludicrous the notion was. I made up conspiracies so far-fetched that I thought nobody could possibly believe them, revealing my naiveté about what people are able/willing to take at face value.

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Radiation Leaking From Fukushima Site 18 Times Greater Than Previously Believed

fukushima

Radiation levels were being measured using devices with far-too-limited scales, the BBC reports:

Radiation levels around Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant are 18 times higher than previously thought, Japanese authorities have warned.

Last week the plant’s operator reported radioactive water had leaked from a storage tank into the ground. It now says readings taken near the leaking tank on Saturday showed radiation was high enough to prove lethal within four hours of exposure.

The Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) had originally said the radiation emitted by the leaking water was around 100 millisieverts an hour. However, the company said the equipment used to make that recording could only read measurements of up to 100 millisieverts.

The new reading will have direct implications for radiation doses received by workers who spent several days trying to stop the leak last week. Experts have said the scale of water leakage may be worse than officials have admitted.

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