Italian police secure mafia arrests across Europe – BBC News


BBC News
Italian police secure mafia arrests across Europe
BBC News
Italian police have secured the arrest of several members of a mafia clan across Europe. The agents had been working from information given to them by a woman who had at one time been held as a virtual prisoner by the clan. Sixteen clan members were …

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Disrupting Retail: Sharing Economy And Collaborative Consumption – Bidness Etc


Bidness Etc
Disrupting Retail: Sharing Economy And Collaborative Consumption
Bidness Etc
Collaborative consumption is based on three principle systems. The redistribution system helps move resources from the haves to the have not's. Some mainstream examples are eBay Inc. (NASDAQ:EBAY) and Craigslist Inc. The product service system …
Sharing isn't caring: stop being fooled by collaborative consumptionTech City News

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Making the World Safe for Trust Fund Babies

Wealthy estate

Couples with less than $ 10.6 million and individuals with less than $ 5.3 million in wealth are exempt from the estate tax – meaning that 99.8 percent of households aren’t affected by it. (Photo: Steven Martin/Flickr)

Real wages have stagnated for decades. Homeownership rates are down. College debt is weighing down young people entering the workforce. Millions of low-wage workers eke by on a minimum wage of $ 7.25 an hour.

As the American Dream slips away for millions of people in this country, one faction of Congress is doing its best to aid a select group of folks that least needs a helping hand: trust fund babies.

More than 222 House members — nearly all of them Republicans — have co-sponsored legislation to abolish America’s inheritance tax, a levy that only applies to the estates of multi-millionaires and billionaires.

Technically called the estate tax, and derided by its opponents as the “death tax,” this part of the tax code affects only one out of every 500 Americans.

If Congress abolishes it, the already wealthy will gain the privilege of passing unlimited inheritances to their children once they die. Scrapping it would rip a $ 210 billion hole in the federal budget over the next decade, according to the Tax Policy Center.

The lawmakers determined to kill the inheritance tax go out of their way to hide the facts and pose as populists.

Repeal the estate tax

(Cartoon by Khalil Bendib)

Take Representative Kevin Brady, a Texas Republican and lead sponsor of repeal legislation. He circulates advertisements with two young farm kids next to a pickup trick with the caption, “The Death Tax crushes family farms, ranches and businesses.”

And a Kentucky PAC spent $ 1.8 million airing a TV ad featuring a farmer who bemoans the burden of the inheritance tax and praises Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (The farmer, John Mahan of Lexington, did not complain about the $ 405,692 in federal farm subsidies he received between 1995 and 2012).

The inheritance tax “continues to be the number one reason family-owned farms and businesses aren’t passed down to the next generation,” Brady recently (and wrongly) claimed.

It’s hard to fathom how a tax that 99.8 percent of households don’t pay could be a bigger threat to farmers than volatile farm prices and competition from corporate agribusiness. But don’t bank on opponents of the inheritance tax letting the facts muddle their political agenda.

As a strong supporter of the inheritance tax, I’ve seen this playbook before. Between 1996 and 2004, America’s plutocrats, including the Walton and Mars families, invested millions in a propaganda campaign designed to save themselves billions.

They plastered the media with images of farm families, alleging that the inheritance tax would be the “death of the family farm.” The only problem was, when pressed by Pulitzer Prize winning reporter David Cay Johnston, foes of the estate tax couldn’t produce a single example of an actual farm lost because of the inheritance tax. It was a complete myth.

Congress wound up weakening the tax in 2001, when opponents failed to abolish it. Now this tired debate is back, with those phony farm images and fake populism.

Here’s what really matters: Couples with less than $ 10.6 million in wealth are exempt from the inheritance tax. So are individuals with wealth under $ 5.3 million.

The inheritance tax is important because the very richest Americans already benefit from enormous loopholes that enable them to pay taxes at rates lower than average workers. The inheritance tax levels the playing field.

And the huge family fortunes now being passed onto the next generation are creating a new wave of American aristocrats.

Who are the real faces of the inheritance tax? Try the sons and daughters of the billionaires who make the Forbes 400 list, standing next to their family limousines.

There is a real problem with the inheritance tax: Billionaires are paying expensive lawyers to weasel out of paying it. Casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, for example, used a system of trusts to funnel $ 8 billion in wealth to his heirs. This maneuver let his family dodge about $ 2.8 billion in estate taxes that would be due after his death.

Instead of abolishing the inheritance tax, lawmakers should focus on closing the loopholes that empower the richest Americans to legally dodge it.

The post Making the World Safe for Trust Fund Babies appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.

Chuck Collins directs the Inequality and the Common Good project.

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Funding for project to advance worker rights in the country of Georgia available from DOL

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of International Labor Affairs today announced a $ 750,000 competitive solicitation for a project to strengthen respect for worker rights in the country of Georgia. The project will advance worker rights primarily through activities to improve the ability of worker organizations to engage effectively with the government and employers. |||||||http://www.dol.gov/opa/media/press/ilab/ILAB20141419.htm

Little to celebrate in Lebanon at Eid

Syrian refugees in Northern Lebanon, reminisce on how they celebrated Eid – the festival that marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan – back home. They reflect on how much they’ve lost, but also how lucky they feel compared to other refugees living in even more dire circumstances.

Syrian refugees in Northern Lebanon, reminisce on how they celebrated Eid – the festival that marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan – back home. They reflect on how much they’ve lost, but also how lucky they feel compared to other refugees living in even more dire circumstances, who are, for example, forced to send young children out to work in order to survive.

Dearest mother,

As I write this letter, I don’t know where you are in Syria or how you are doing. Last time we spoke was seven months ago. You’ve been on my mind every day, especially during the holy month of Ramadan.

I’m sitting in our small room in Northern Lebanon. On the wall, my daughter Amal’s new dress hangs next to my only two shirts. Its ruffled sleeves and colorful print are the only reminder that it is the festival of Eid and that we are about to celebrate the end of Ramadan. What is there to celebrate?

Nothing.

I lost you, my sweet mother, and I lost my homeland. My heart is heavy with sorrow and my eyes well with tears when I lie at night under the hot corrugated steel roof and dream of the Eids we have celebrated back home.

 Maya Hautefeuille/OxfamRemember mother the smell of freshly baked maamul and karabeej (traditional Middle Eastern sweets) that filled the house on the eve of Eid? Oh how I loved those long nights when all the women in the family gathered in your kitchen to prepare all these delicacies. And how after hours of hard work, they rushed to the hairdresser to get all glammed up and have henna drawings on their hands. The beaded scarves, the gold bangles, the musk perfume.

It’s all gone.

I can still see my husband leaving the house on the morning of Eid in his freshly ironed shirt and new trousers, to meet other men at the mosque.

Now mother, he sits all day under a tree by the roadside, trying to sell a few cigarettes packs that he hides from the scorching sun under a plastic sheet.  Every night, he comes back empty handed and his back hunched a little more.

In Aleppo, when the men came back from prayer, tables were laden with stuffed vine leaves, sambusek (meat patties), vegetable and lamb stew with white fluffy rice, nuts and dried fruits, and mountains of cakes and sweets. Aubergines, tomatoes, onions were freshly picked from our garden to prepare the feast.

This year, I will only cook one simple dish. I might not even buy meat. How can we afford it, mother? Every penny we have goes on our rent. I had to work extra hours cleaning houses to get Amal her dress.

And I praise God for his mercifulness, as I’m luckier than my neighbor: with five children and a sick husband, she had to find her 13-year old son a job as a gardener to survive. Others rely totally on humanitarian aid. Can you believe it mother? We lived happily in our homes, on our land, with our families and friends. Now we are uprooted refugees, scrambling for a piece of bread.

Oh mother, as I write these lines, I imagine you sitting in our garden shaded by the jasmine tree. Is our garden still there? Is the tree still standing? As Ramadan ends, I pray the Lord to reunite me with you and with my beloved Syria.

* * *

This letter is based on the testimonies of two Syrian refugees in Northern Lebanon, Wafaa and Khansa’, who are Oxfam beneficiaries. Interviews were conducted on July 24, 2014.

Oxfam works with Syrian refugees in five areas of Northern Lebanon where we help deliver clean water, sanitation and hygiene, as well as protection and food security.

Please help support our humanitarian work in the Syria crisis. For updates, follow us on Twitter.

I lost you, my sweet mother, and I lost my homeland.

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Gaza Conflict Seen as Providing Cover for Anti-Semitic Attacks in France – New York Times


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PARIS — Like other Jews in Paris, Rabbi Salomon Malka is shocked by the anti-Semitic attacks that have taken place on the edges of pro-Palestinian demonstrations over the past two weeks in and around the French capital. In the suburb of Sarcelles
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US Child Workers Sickened from Picking Nicotine-Filled Tobacco Leaves – Healthline

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Farmers have stake in visas for immigrants – Kearney Hub

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General Mills takes bold stand for climate action

Oxfam welcomed today’s commitment from General Mills to implement industry-leading measures to cut greenhouse gas emissions from its supply chains and press for political action to address climate change.

Oxfam welcomes General Mills’ commitments to act following tremendous public pressure

Oxfam welcomed today’s commitment from General Mills to implement industry-leading measures to cut greenhouse gas emissions from its supply chains and press for political action to address climate change. The announcement comes after more than 230,000 people signed petitions and took action as part of Oxfam’s campaign to urge food and beverage companies to help stop climate change.

General Mills, the maker of Cheerios, Haagen-Dazs and Green Giant, is one of the world’s ten biggest food and beverage companies. The commitments announced today make it the first major food and beverage company to promise to implement long-term science-based targets to cut emissions from across all of its operations and supply chains that are responsive to the goal of keeping global temperature rise below 2°C. Importantly these targets include a clear commitment to reduce “Scope 3” greenhouse gas emissions, where 92 percent of the company’s value chain climate pollution occurs, focusing on agricultural production.

The company has also signed-on to the Climate Declaration and joined Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy (BICEP) a leading advocacy coalition of businesses committed to working with policy makers to pass meaningful climate and energy legislation. Kellogg, the other target of Oxfam’s campaign, has yet to address the issues highlighted by Oxfam’s report, Standing on the Sidelines.

“Today General Mills has taken a bold step to be an industry leader in addressing the clear and present threat climate change poses to our food system,” said Monique van Zijl, campaign manager for Oxfam’s Behind the Brands campaign. “Rather than stand by silently as increasingly dangerous conditions undermine its business and the food we all eat, General Mills aims to be part of the solution. Political leaders and others in the industry should take note.

“This would not have happened without the remarkable outpouring of public action from individuals who are fed up with the lack of effort to address climate change from too many food companies and governments. It’s further evidence that consumers can really change how companies operate if they raise their voice.”

Oxfam welcome’s General Mills’ climate action commitment including its promises to:

1. Define and disclose a total supply chain greenhouse gas reduction target, including scope 1, 2, & 3 emissions, by August 2015, with a focus on achieving agriculture emissions reductions.

2. Aim to achieve zero net deforestation in high-risk supply chains by 2020. This expands its previous commitments for palm oil and packaging fiber to include other supply chains at high risk for deforestation and land degradation including, beef, soy and sugarcane.

3. Disclose top three suppliers of palm oil and sugar cane.

4. Participate in the Carbon Disclosure Project, including annual reporting on Scope 3 emissions data and responding to the Forests Information Request.

5. Publicly advocate for effective and efficient public and industry association policy, such as encouraging peers to join the Consumer Goods Forum’s zero net deforestation commitment.

6. Join BICEP and sign-on to the Climate Declaration.

7. Regularly review company statements and policies to ensure they are aligned with mitigation targets, plans, and adaptation initiatives. Report on governance-related activity on climate policy where material.

8. Assess supplier practices for all high-risk commodities of material significance and, where necessary, take action to address material issues.

The company’s full commitments can be seen at: http://www.generalmills.com/ChannelG/Issues/climate_policy.aspx/

As one of the biggest food and beverage companies on the planet General Mills has immense power to influence its suppliers and help create stronger standards in the industry. Oxfam’s report revealed that the 10 biggest food and beverage companies together emit so much greenhouse gas that, if they were a single country, they would be the 25th most polluting in the world. The report also highlighted cases in Liberia and Indonesia where suppliers of palm oil to General Mills and Kellogg are accused of clearing land and burning forests. In light of these new commitments, Oxfam expects the company to addresses the issues raised in Indonesia and Liberia with its suppliers.

Kellogg, one of General Mills’ main competitors in the industry, faces growing pressure from the public to act. General Mills has shown that the only thing standing in the way of greater climate action from food and beverage companies is the political will.

“We applaud General Mills for taking this vital first step,” said van Zijl. “We look forward to tracking the actions the company takes to follow through on their promises. The ball is now in Kellogg’s court to respond to the hundreds of thousands of people calling for climate action.”

The ball is now in Kellogg’s court to respond to the hundreds of thousands of people calling for climate action.

Monique van Zijl

Campaign manager for Oxfam’s Behind the Brands

Notes to Editors

1. Read General Mills’ new policy at: http://www.generalmills.com/ChannelG/Issues/climate_policy.aspx/

Link to statement on new GHG Emissions Target: http://www.generalmills.com/Responsibility/Environment/climate/GHG_emissions.aspx

General Mills Blog post: http://www.blog.generalmills.com/2014/07/how-the-weather-forecast-impacts-food-supply/

2. Oxfam’s investigation into climate change and the food industry is available at: Standing on the Sidelines: Why food and beverage companies must do more to tackle climate change

3. Oxfam’s Behind the Brands ranking of food and beverage companies is available at www.behindthebrands.org/scorecard

Contact Information

Ben Grossman-Cohen; Office: +1 (202) 777 2907; bgrossman-cohen@oxfamamerica.org

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