The November jobs report was released today, and it brought a lot of good news. The U.S. economy added 321,000 jobs in November, well exceeding analysts’ expectations of 230,000. The unemployment rate remained at 5.8 percent. But the report also offers a reminder of the struggles that many working Americans continue to feel in the sluggish recovery.
The monthly jobs report doesn’t provide a comprehensive view of how our economy is doing, but it does offer an important glimpse into some of the macro employment and wage trends that reflect whether the economy is growing, and who is sharing in that growth. Here are five charts that show what to be happy about, and why we need to continue to work so that everyone has a chance for economic opportunity and prosperity.
More than 700 chefs and restauranteurs are calling on Congress to support legislation to mandate labeling of genetically modified foods and to oppose efforts to block state GMO labeling laws.
Advocates from Food Policy Action, Environmental Working Group, Center for Food Safety, Just Label It, and other national groups joined high-profile chefs—including Tom Colicchio, José Andrés, Art Smith, and Sam Talbot—on Tuesday for meetings with lawmakers on Capitol Hill and to deliver a petition in favor of a GMO-labeling bill sponsored by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-California) and Representative Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon).
“As chefs, we know that choosing the right ingredients is an absolutely critical part of cooking,” reads the petition. “But when it comes to whether our ingredients contain genetically modified organisms, we’re in the dark. The simple truth is consumers have the right to know what they’re feeding their families, and as chefs we have a right to know what we’re feeding our customers.”
Further, the petition points out that while 93 percent of Americans support GMO labeling, the U.S. is one of the only industrialized countries in the world without labeling laws. GMO labeling laws have passed in Vermont, Maine, and Connecticut; an Oregon ballot measure requiring labels on all genetically modified food sold in the state will be recounted after falling just shy of the votes necessary for passage in the November election.
“As a chef and father, I want to know what I’m serving my customers and kids, and the majority of Americans want honest information about the food on their tables,” said Colicchio, the owner of Craft Restaurants, co-founder of Food Policy Action, and head judge on Top Chef, who authored the petition. “Having honest, clear labeling of the foods we eat is a fundamental right, one that’s worth fighting for.”
Culinary insiders are increasingly flexing their advocacy muscles outside the kitchen and in Washington, D.C.—a phenomenon explored at Politico last week.
“Colicchio is part of a growing army of chefs across the country looking to channel their growing celebrity to influence food and agriculture policy in Washington, from school nutrition to the farm bill to animal welfare and even fisheries management,” wrote Helena Bottemiller Evich. “Their number is legion, their ranks full of names like Rachael Ray and Mario Batali along with scores of local celebrity chefs and restaurateurs—and their increasingly organized effort backs up some of the Obama administration’s sweeping food policy agenda right as it faces down an adversarial Congress.”
“Chefs are among the most influential advocates I’ve ever lobbied with,” Scott Faber, vice president of government affairs at the Environmental Working Group, told Politico. “They bring a business perspective to food policy that a traditional advocate might not bring and they rise above the partisan divide.”
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Multinational oil and gas companies are moving into increasingly vulnerable countries in Latin America, Africa, and Asia where the ecosystems, communities, and authorities are even less able to cope with the impacts of fracking and shale gas extraction, according to a new report from Friends of the Earth Europe.
The report, Fracking Frenzy: How the Fracking Industry is Threatening the Planet (pdf), shows how the pursuit of fracking in countries such as Mexico, China, Argentina, and South Africa is likely to exacerbate the climate, environment, social, and human rights problems those countries already face. While much has been written about fracking in the United States and the European Union, this study “seeks to provide a global overview of shale gas development in the rest of the world,” its authors note, focusing specifically on 11 countries that are leaders in shale development on their respective continents.
“From Brazil and Mexico to Algeria and South Africa, this thirsty industry is exploiting weak regulation and causing untold environmental and social damage in the pursuit of profit,” said Antoine Simon, shale gas campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe. “The fracking industry needs to be urgently reined in before it’s too late for our planet and people across the globe.”
Released as United Nations climate talks open in Peru, the report illustrates the variety of dangers posed by the rapidly expanding fracking industry. In Northwest Africa and Mexico, for example, longstanding water scarcity issues will only be exacerbated by fracking operations that require millions of liters of water per project. In the earthquake-prone Sichuan basin in China, the Karoo basin in South Africa, the Himalayas, or the Sumatran basin in Indonesia, drilling around complex underground geologies raises the prospect of increased seismic activity, higher costs, and “incalculable environmental impacts and risks.” In Argentina, Brazil, Russia, and South Africa, drilling activity on or near indigenous lands is already leading to conflicts with local communities.
“The emerging planned expansion of the shale gas industry outside the EU and North America raises serious concerns because of the almost unavoidable environmental, social, and health impacts already seen at existing fracking sites,” reads the report. “Given that these problems have proved difficult to avoid in countries with relatively strong regulations to protect the environment, how can this industry be properly monitored in countries where environmental standards are often lower (and sometimes non-existent), and/or where enforcement capacities are frequently limited and where corruption can be an everyday reality?”
Far greater scrutiny of the industry’s climate impacts is warranted, the report concludes, “particularly in countries which are already and will be much more directly affected by the consequences of climate change.”
Natural gas “is not—and never has been—the clean fuel that the industry has tried to claim,” it reads. “In fact it poses an immediate threat to attempts made to fight climate change.”
Friends of the Earth is urging the 195 nations gathered in Peru this week to consider these assertions.
“Around the world people and communities are already paying the price of the climate crisis with their livelihoods and lives,” said Susann Scherbarth, climate justice and energy campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe. “Fracking will only make things worse and has no place in a clean energy future. Europe and other industrialized countries most responsible for the climate crisis need to use the talks in Lima to make genuine commitments to end their reliance on corporate-controlled fossil fuels and embrace clean, citizen energy.”
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Today, the House voted on immigration. But it wasn’t on an effort to reform our broken system, or on the bipartisan bill the Senate passed more than 500 days ago. Nope. Instead, House leaders held a vote that would make our broken immigration system worse, not better.
Unproductive doesn’t begin to describe it. It’s all part of the Republican House’s pattern of payback politics — lawsuits, talks of impeachment and shutting down the government, all because the President took common-sense action in the face of congressional gridlock to make our nation and families stronger.
BILL TITLE: To establish a rule of construction clarifying the limitations on executive authority to provide certain forms of immigration relief
No provision of the Constitution, the Immigration and Nationality Act (of 1965), or other federal law shall be interpreted or applied to authorize the executive branch of the government to exempt, by executive order, regulation, or any other means, categories of persons unlawfully present in the United States from removal under the immigration laws.
Declares any action by the executive branch with the purpose of circumventing the objectives of this statute null and void and without legal effect.
Makes this Act EFFECTIVE RETROACTIVELY, applying to any such exemption made AT ANY TIME. (emphasis added)
The vote was 219-197 with 3 Democrats (Barrow, McIntyre and Peterson) voting FOR passage, and only 7 Republicans (Coffman, Denham, Diaz-Belart, Gohmert, Ros-Lehtinen, Stutzman and Valadio) voting against it. And yes of course, our illustrious representative from Nevada Congressional District 2, Mr. Mark Amodei was thrilled to cast his AYE vote as a “symbolic message” that, “that black guy in the oval office has no business doing what every President since ‘Ike’ has done via ‘executive action’.”
So, they want to retroactively nullify executive action of the President. Really? Did they bother to read the bill they just passed? What are they nullifying? Actions just this President? Or, for curiosity’s sake, is their intent to nullify immigration-related actions taken by each and every President since 1956? It does after all say, that it applies RETROACTIVELY, to ANY such exemption made at ANY time.
Talk about hypocrisy. Apparently, if it’s intent is to apply ONLY to actions by President Obama, it’s okay for them to be ambiguous in bill that they themselves choose to pass, but how dare those heathenish Democrats pass a bill the Republicans claim is ambiguous as to healthcare subsidies! That just cannot be and they’ll make sure it can’t be, by wasting taxpayer money to take >50 votes to kill it, by suing the President for not implementing on a timely bases that same bill they’re trying to kill, and by goading their benefactor buddies into pursuing nullification of various provisions of that bill through all levels of the judiciary up to and including, the Supreme Corporate (oops, I mean Supreme Court).
The outright blatant hypocrisy of their ambiguous actions is immoral, unethical and UNchristian.
According to press reports, a week after the election key GOP legislators and party officials set up an ad hoc committee to begin drafting an agenda for Nevada’s 2015 legislative session. Below are a couple of dozen ideas they’ve come up with so far. If you’re one of the Democrats who voted to stay home instead of casting a ballot in the general election, here’s what you voted for:
Disenfranchise all voters without photo ID’s.
Repeal the Modified Business Tax, the 1.17% payroll tax that only applies to businesses with more than $62,500 in quarterly wages.
Institute a school voucher program to transfer public school funding to private schools, eliminate teacher seniority rights, play teachers off against each other for bonuses, and deregulate charter schools.
Allow a one-third minority to veto ballot tax measures, just as they can now in the legislature.
Allow concealed firearms on school and college campuses.
Nullify all local gun control laws.
Demand that federal lands be “ceded back” to the state. It should be noted that Nevada never owned any of the federal lands within Nevada’s borders, and acceptance of federal jurisdiction was put into the state constitution as a condition of admission. Besides, the State of Nevada doesn’t have the money needed to manage these lands, so any cession of federal lands to the state could only mean selling them off to private interests. That wouldn’t go down very well with ranchers, who currently graze their cattle on BLM- and Forest Service-managed ranges for almost nothing.
Eviscerate construction defect and product defect laws.
Transfer the cost of Medicaid expansion from the government to the beneficiaries.
Require proof of insurance for issuance of driver privilege cards.
Restrict EBT card use “at bars, strip clubs and brothels.” This item reveals the GOP’s ignorance of existing law. The DWSS website says that EBT cards cannot be used for “any non-food item, such as pet foods, soaps, paper products, household supplies, grooming items, toothpaste and cosmetics; alcoholic beverages and tobacco; vitamins and medicines; any food that will be eaten in the store; hot foods that are ready to eat; or any food marketed to be heated in the store.” It’s safe to say that these cards are not being used at bars, strip clubs or brothels, but low-information voters who listen to Republican bloviations will no doubt believe they are.
Restrict Millennium Scholarships to citizens and documented aliens (dream on, dreamers).
Repeal the 2013 session’s energy bill (SB123), which closed the Moapa coal-fired power plant and provided ratepayer subsidies to NV Energy for investment in renewables and natural gas.
Repeal the state’s “hate crime” law (NRS 193.1675) that provides enhanced penalties for crimes targeting victims because of their race, sexual orientation, religion, color, national origin, gender identity or physical or mental disability.
Enact recommendations of Gov. Gibbons’ SAGE Commission, which among other things called for reducing health and retirement benefits for state employees, closing rural prisons, privatizing urban prisons, and outsourcing highway maintenance.
Convert the Public Employee Retirement System (PERS) from a defined benefit plan to a defined contribution plan, a change that will limit employees’ ability to cash out when they exit government service.
Eliminate “prevailing wage” requirements for public works and school construction to depress construction wages and put union contractors at a competitive disadvantage.
Resurrect the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump project.
Further weaken collective bargaining rights for public sector employees.
Repeal the state minimum wage.
Put limits on the pay of constitutional officers and their chiefs of staff.
Subject confidential public employee union contract negotiations to the Open Meeting Law.
Our immigration system has been broken for decades. And every day we wait to act, millions of undocumented immigrants are living in the shadows: Those who want to pay taxes and play by the same rules as everyone else have no way to live right by the law. That is why President Obama is using his executive authority to address as much of the problem as he can, and why he’ll continue to work with Congress to pass comprehensive reform.
According to Republican leadership, “No other president in history has used Executive powers to change immigration policy.” Really? NO other President in history? Do they own a history book? Can they read? Senator Barbara Boxer can, and she put out this tidy little list this morning on Twitter:
A President may not be able to provide a “pathway to citizenship” via Executive action, but under the authority granted by our Constitution to the President, he/she can certainly prioritize where INS should focus its efforts. Instead of breaking up working, nurturing families to deport the parents and then relegating their American-born citizen children to foster care at taxpayer expense for years, it makes much more sense to focus on rooting out criminal elements and deporting them to their countries of origin.
Speaker Boehner has had two solid years to come up with something of his own, and he’s had a bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill (S744) that was passed in the senate on 6/27/2013. Speaker Boehner alone, has been the one blocking a vote in the US House on this bill, which many claim, has more than the requisite 218 Representatives willing to stand up and vote “AYE” for passage.
Rep. Lamar Smith, R-TX, one sponsor of the “Secret Science” bill. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/DREW ANGERER
If you can say anything about activities in the U.S. House during the 2014 lame duck session, it would begin with the word “Hobbling.” First up in the house was HR1422, a bill to stuff “for profit” industry experts on the “scientific” board that advises the EPA and then prohibit the deposed scientific experts from saying ANYTHING regarding the results of their experience and research. But that wasn’t enough. Next up was HR4012, the Secret Science Reform Act of 2014.
According to the Summary on Thomas.gov:
Secret Science Reform Act of 2014 – Amends the Environmental Research, Development, and Demonstration Authorization Act of 1978 to prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from proposing, finalizing, or disseminating a covered action unless all scientific and technical information relied on to support such action is specifically identified and…
Yesterday, while the Keystone Extremely Lethal (KXL) pipeline was failing passage in the Senate, the US House was passing, HR1422, The EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act. 225 Republicans and 4 Republicans sporting Democratic credentials [Barrow (GA), Matheson (UT), Peterson (MN), and Rahall (WV)] voted AYE. Only ONE Republican broke from the rightwing pack and voted against this first of three bills [Gibson (NY19)] which are aimed at thumbing their noses at Scientists and preventing the EPA from being able to issue ANY new regulations.
It’s not enough that the GOP House believes that 3% of Climate Scientists constitutes a MAJORITY, or that 33% of Americans who either deny or have no clue whether Climate Change is a reality. Now, they’re claiming they’ll be restoring “accountability” to the EPA’s Scientific Advisory Board by erecting roadblocks and muzzling them, basically making it harder for Scientific experts to serve on the Board and instead making it easier to pack…