Italy: Army unveils ‘cut-price cannabis’ farm – BBC News

BBC News
Italy: Army unveils 'cut-price cannabis' farm
BBC News
The Italian army has unveiled its first cannabis farm, set up to try to lower the cost of medical marijuana in the country. The army's foray into cannabis production was first announced by the government in September, and its first crop is coming along

and more »


Coal’s Collateral Damage


piece of coal detail

(Image: Shutterstock)

Coal’s death throes are drawing closer, especially in Appalachia.

Nearly three-quarters of the coal extracted from West Virginia, Virginia, and Kentucky these days is being mined at a loss. The number of coal companies declaring bankruptcy or edging toward it is mounting.

That’s good for people and the planet. Burning coal fuels climate change, causes cancer, and spreads asthma. And yanking coal out of the ground wrecks the places where it’s found.

You might figure that low prices and declining demand would make mountaintop removal mining — one of the worst crimes against nature and humanity big business has ever committed — less of a threat to surrounding communities.

That would be nice. As it turns out, the people who live on the frontlines aren’t catching a break yet.

If you’re unfamiliar with the mechanics, picture this: Thick forests of trees growing on peaks get mowed down. Explosives decapitate mountains. A jumbled heap of crushed rocks and dirt laced with the remains of dead animals and plants choke valleys. Entire ecosystems, villages, and graveyards vanish. Rivers and streams are poisoned or smothered.

The amount of strip-mined coal has fallen by 60 percent across Appalachia since 2008. But the most extreme form of strip-mining, which reduces verdant mountainsides into rubble-strewn dead zones, is encroaching more than ever on adjacent communities.

The non-profit group Appalachian Voices reached that conclusion by scouring Google Earth Engine’s highly specialized maps in an innovative new study. Why did people on the ground need fancy imaging systems to sharpen their focus on what’s going on in places like Inman, Virginia?

“Only from the air can you fully grasp the magnitude of the devastation,” wrote University of Kentucky professor Erik Reece of what he’s witnessed on flights above the Appalachians. “The desolation stretches like a long scar up the Kentucky-Virginia line, before eating its way across southern West Virginia.”

I half-dreaded, half-hoped to at least glimpse these wastelands during a recent family road trip around West Virginia’s New River Gorge.

Most of the massacred mountains are far from public roadways. Even when we veered off beaten paths, we saw lots of hawks, wild rhododendron, and waterfalls, but no manmade plateaus. So I bought a copy of Coal Country at a Charleston bookstore.

It’s a collection of haunting essays about mountaintop removal mining by Reece and other outraged Appalachian activists. Companies like Arch Coal and Alpha Natural Resources were pulling big profits in 2009, when the book came out, which the industry used to justify this assault on mountains.

What a difference six years make. Arch lost $ 113 million between January and March. Its shares sell for about a buck, down from their $ 75 peak. And the company might not manage to repay the $ 5 billion it owes creditors, the Moody’s rating agency suggests.

It takes huge machines for Arch and its competitors to decimate mountains, carve out the coal, and render the land uninhabitable. Those 80-ton bulldozers are pricey. Companies, therefore, usually borrow to pay for their mountaintop removal mining operations.

Having found government unwilling to end this scourge, environmentalists are pressing big banks to stop financing it. So far, Barclays Bank, Wells Fargo, Royal Bank of Scotland, UBS, BNP Paribas, Société Générale, and PNC Bank have all sworn off mountaintop removal mining.

Coal powered the industrial revolution and kept the lights on for billions of people over the past century. As it collapses, remember that the industry’s pain can’t compare with the suffering it brought to the people and creatures who make their homes in the world’s most ancient mountains.

“When I was a kid, down at the bottom of the mountain, I could get crawdads, pick them up out of the water with my toes,” the late activist Larry Gibson wrote in Coal Country about his West Virginia homestead. “Now, nothing lives on the land. What they’ve done is irreversible. You can’t bring it back.”

The post Coal’s Collateral Damage appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.

Columnist Emily Schwartz Greco is the managing editor of OtherWords, a non-profit national editorial service run by the Institute for Policy Studies.


$150M available to states to strengthen and expand innovative job training and reemployment strategies for laid-off workers

Losing a job is often traumatic, especially when the layoff was unexpected and through no fault of the worker. For those struggling with long-term unemployment, the trauma can deepen to despair and frustration as finances dwindle and prospects are limited.|||||||

Caught in a trap – The story of poverty wages behind Asian shrimp sold in European supermarkets

Fairfood International’s latest report exposes the unacceptably low wages and harsh labour conditions of shrimp workers working in the shrimp peeling and processing industry in Asia. These shrimp are sold by European supermarkets like Lidl, ALDI, Plus and Jumbo.

This report focuses on the abuses in the Thai shrimp industry. Thailand is one of the largest producers of tropical shrimp in the world and some of the worst transgressions and exploitation of the migrant workers were found in Thailand, where Burmese shrimp workers earn next to nothing and are bonded by debts.

Fairfood’s report Caught in a trap – The story of poverty wages behind Asian shrimp sold in European supermarkets was published on 8 April 2015 and is an initiative of Fairfood’s Shrimp project. This project has conducted research in India, Vietnam, Bangladesh Thailand and did a field study in the Samut Sakhon area in Thailand: one of the main sources of shrimp for many European supermarkets.

This report ties in with Fairfood’s Living Wage campaign, which sees a living wage – a wage sufficient for the basic needs of workers and their families, such as food, clothing, healthcare and education – as a human right.

The key issues in the report are:

  • Lidl, Plus, Jumbo and ALDI sell shrimp which are sourced from Asia;
  • The shrimp from Asia are peeled and processed by hundreds of thousands of shrimp workers in Thailand, Vietnam, India and Bangladesh who earn unacceptably low wages, which are not enough to live on;
  • The majority of workers in the Thai shrimp industry, in particular, are migrants from Burma, who have paid brokers high amounts for placements, travel, and visas to work in the industry.
  • Burmese shrimp workers in Thailand end up earning 8 Euro a day, while their costs of living are at least 12 Euros a day;
  • Their wages are further diminished by numerous deductions from their pay checks for things like work equipment, as well as debt repayments for work permit fees, visa costs or debts to brokers. As a consequence Burmese shrimp workers must rely on overtime to be able to survive; working weeks in excess of 60 hours a week are commonplace;
  • Because of their huge buying power, supermarkets have the power and influence to determine how and under what conditions the food is produced as well as what consumers buy;
  • Fairfood calls upon supermarkets to take up their responsibility and to ensure a living wage for all their workers in their supply chains.

Read the Report – ‘Caught in a trap’

Cover Shrimp Report




OuiShare, at the cutting edge of the Collaborative Society – The Rude Baguette

The Rude Baguette
OuiShare, at the cutting edge of the Collaborative Society
The Rude Baguette
We've taken this broad view, which is really structured around 4 to 5 main pillars, including Collaborative Finance, Collaborative Production, new types of governance in organization, open knowledge and education, and Collaborative Consumption, which


France Outflanks, Outrages Renault’s Ghosn – Wall Street Journal

Wall Street Journal
France Outflanks, Outrages Renault's Ghosn
Wall Street Journal
Emmanuel Macron had some news: France had begun snapping up shares in Renault as part of a plan to tighten its grip on the auto maker. His ministry would disclose the activity to investors the next morning. For Mr. Ghosn, a manager known for nitpicking …

and more »


US: Ban Hazardous Child Labor in Tobacco Farming – eNews Park Forest

eNews Park Forest
US: Ban Hazardous Child Labor in Tobacco Farming
eNews Park Forest
Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–April 16, 2015. The US Congress should promptly enact legislation introduced on April 16, 2015 that would provide needed protections for children working in US tobacco farming, Human Rights Watch said today. Bills were …
Democrats want children off tobacco farmsThe Hill
New legislation would ban kids from working on tobacco farmsFusion

all 8 news articles »


The cost of a global food system – The Stanford Daily

The cost of a global food system
The Stanford Daily
As of 2006 the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimated that 65% of vegetable oil traded was palm oil and they expect that to continue to rise in the coming decades. The high demand for palm oil and the fact that it grows in tropical areas


Italian Towns Push Back on Growing Burden of Europe’s Migrant Crisis – Wall Street Journal

Wall Street Journal
Italian Towns Push Back on Growing Burden of Europe's Migrant Crisis
Wall Street Journal
The Italian government is locked in a battle with local towns and regions that are resisting—and even ignoring—demands from Rome to resettle the surging number of migrants in their areas. This month, at least 20 mayors threatened to resign or


Investigation in Utah and Arizona secures wages and benefits for more than 1,000 construction workers who were wrongly classified

A nearly five-year federal investigation of illegal business practices by 16 defendants in Utah and Arizona has yielded $ 700,000 in back wages, damages, penalties and other guarantees for more than 1,000 construction industry workers in the Southwest, the U.S. Department of Labor announced today. |||||||