Walmart Threatens To Shut Down Stores If DC Passes Living Wage Bill

From Think Progress:

By Aviva Shen
on Jul 10, 2013

Walmart fought hard to persuade DC residents to let it open stores in the district. But now the retail giant is threatening to walk away from three planned sites if the DC City Council passes a “living wage” bill that would require all major employers to pay workers a minimum of $12.50 an hour.

Walmart claims that the bill, which applies to retailers with corporate sales of $1 billion or more and stores that are 75,000 square feet or larger, is “arbitrary and discriminatory.” In a Washington Post editorial, general manager Alex Barron issued an ultimatum to Mayor Vincent Gray: veto the bill, or Walmart will halt construction on stores at Skyland, Capitol Gateway, and New York Avenue.

In less than 24 hours, the corporation is already seeing results: Some council members who voted for the living wage bill are now balking. Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie said he is “going to give this some thought” because he voted yes “without knowing Walmart was going to pull out.”

Walmart is accustomed to singlehandedly taking down worker rights legislation. Seven years ago, Walmart threatened to scrap its plans to open stores in Chicago after the city passed a similar living wage law. The mayor promptly vetoed the bill. In March, New York raised its minimum wage but gave tax subsidies to Walmart and other firms that hire seasonal workers. Unions claimed at the time that Walmart had influenced the deal behind the scenes.

Other large stores like Costco, Home Depot, Target, and Macy’s would also have to abide by the DC proposal. But the new $12.50 minimum would be an especially dramatic change for Walmart, which currently pays workers 28 percent less on average than other large retailers, even as it reaps profits of nearly $450 billion a year. In contrast, Costco will have no problem meeting DC’s requirement if it passes — the average Costco worker currently makes $21.96 an hour.

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Common Dreams: Wal-Mart to DC: We’ll Skip Town Before We Pay a Living Wage

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HISTORIC: Senate panel advances trans-inclusive ENDA

From The Washington Blade:

on July 10, 2013

A Senate committee made history on Wednesday by approving for the first time a trans-inclusive version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and picking up key Republican support from Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).

Lawmakers on the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee reported out ENDA by a 15-7 vote after a short period of discussion. No amendments were offered except for a manager’s amendment, although Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said he’ll reserve three that he planned for consideration on the Senate floor.

Senate HELP Committee Chair Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) noted the historic nature of the committee’s action prior to the vote and said it’s “time, long past time” for Congress to take action against LGBT workplace discrimination.

“Qualified workers should not be turned away or have to fear losing their livelihood for reasons that have nothing to do with their qualifications, skills or performance,” Harkin said. “Let’s not mince words: such practices are un-American. They should have no place in any American workplace.”

All 12 Democrats on the committee, including lesbian Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), are co-sponsors of the bill as well as one Republican, Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.). They each voted in favor of ENDA during the final vote.

At the start of the markup, Kirk explained he has supported ENDA — both in his capacity as a U.S. House member and a U.S. senator — because gay people should “not have that cloud of potential discrimination” in the workplace.

Speaking with reporters afterwards, Kirk explained his support for ENDA derives in part from his work as an officer in the Navy Reserve.

“For me, as you guys know, I’m a military guy,” Kirk said. “We think about how blindingly idiotic it was for Adolf Hitler to discriminate against the Jews. When you think about all the Senate pieces of the Manhattan Project, we actually developed a war-winning weapon because we were protecting creativity and science, and we became a much stronger society that allowed us to prevail. The society that is more open will be stronger, in my view, probably economically and militarily.”

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See Also:

The New Civil Rights Movement: Breaking: ENDA Passes Senate Committee By Huge Margin

Get Equal: BREAKING: ENDA Passes Out of Senate Committee, Heads to Floor

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Does gender matter when it comes to sexual consent?

From Salon:

A teen is jailed and registered as a sex offender for having sex with a female peer while “pretending” to be a boy

The young relationship started as so many do these days — online. Thirteen-year-old “Scott” and 12-year-old “M” developed a friendship that over the course of three years and many instant message conversations, bloomed into romance. M began calling Scott her boyfriend — they even talked about getting married and having kids. After M’s 16th birthday, Scott, then 17, traveled from his home in Scotland to visit her in England. They watched a movie, kissed and, before long, things went further.

It may sound like a sweet story of teenage love — but Scott was sentenced by a court in England to three years in prison and ordered to register as a sex offender for life as a result of the relationship. That’s because Scott was born Justine McNally and assigned at birth as female. In an appeal of McNally’s sentence, which was made public late last week, a U.K. court reduced McNally’s sentence but affirmed that the 18-year-old had violated M’s sexual consent by presenting as male. It was deemed a “deception” and “abuse of trust.”

I’ll be referring to McNally as female from here on out because that appears to be how she currently identifies. As the court ruling put it, though, she had a history of “self-harm” and “confusion surrounding her gender identity and sexuality.” McNally also told police that she took on the identity of Scott online — at the pivotal age of 13 — “because it made her more comfortable,” according to the ruling. Regardless of how McNally identifies, this case could be significant for those who identify as transgender — as well as those who are exploring their gender and sexuality. That’s because it sets a possible precedent in the U.K. for prosecuting people for failing to announce before a sexual encounter the gender they were assigned at birth.

Matt Kailey, author of “Just Add Hormones: An Insider’s Guide to the Transsexual Experience,” points out the potential challenges that could arise. He asks, “What happens if a person who does not identify as ‘trans’ in any way is accused of being so … because his penis is too small for his sexual partner’s tastes or her breasts are too small or not the right shape for her sexual partner’s tastes? What about a person whose genitals do not meet the ‘standard’ appearance that society expects for male and female genitalia?”

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Hurricanes And Climate Change: Storms Likely To Get Stronger And More Frequent, Study Shows

From Huffington Post:


From Climate Central’s Andrew Freedman:

Hurricanes are Mother Nature’s largest and most destructive storms. Fed by warm ocean waters and moist atmospheric conditions, about 90 such storms — also known as tropical cyclones — form worldwide each year. With the population of coastal areas growing daily and sea level on the rise, how these monster storms may change as the climate continues to warm is an increasingly urgent question facing climate scientists, insurance companies, and public officials.

A new study by Kerry Emanuel, a prominent hurricane researcher at MIT, found that contrary to previous findings, tropical cyclones are likely to become both stronger and more frequent in the years to come, especially in the western North Pacific, where storms can devastate the heavily populated coastlines of Asian nations. Emanuel’s research showed the same holds true for the North Atlantic, where about 12 percent of the world’s tropical cyclones spin each year.

Emanuel’s study casts doubt on what had been the consensus view of most climate scientists — that in most ocean basins, tropical cyclones are likely to become less frequent as the world warms, but that the storms that do occur are likely to contain stronger winds and heavier rains. That view was expressed most recently in a 2012 report from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Emanuel’s study, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, uses the latest generation of global climate models to power a series of high-resolution, regional simulations of tropical cyclones around the world.

The study compared the frequency and intensity of tropical cyclones during the period from 1950 to 2005 against projections for the 21st century, from 2006 to 2100, using a scenario in which global emissions of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, rise rapidly without being significantly curtailed.

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Privatization’s the Name of the Game for Accident-Prone Train Company Behind Lac-Mégantic Oil Disaster

From Common Dreams:

‘No more killer train’ say residents of disaster-hit town

Andrea Germanos

As the head of the company behind the runaway oil train that derailed and caused a fireball explosion in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec faced furious residents on Wednesday, he continued to defend the shoddy safety record of his company hell-bent on privatization.

Edward Burkhardt, chairman of Maine, Montreal and Atlantic Railways (MM&A) and President and CEO of Rail World, Inc., its parent company, headed to the tragedy-stricken town where he hoped he was “not going to get shot,” though he faced heckling by residents and dodged a handful of reporters.


One resident, Richard Lefebvre, carried a sign with a simple message likely felt throughout the town: “No more killer train.”


Burkhardt has been deflecting blame for the disaster, denying he had first blamed local firefighters and later saying it was the fault of an employee for not setting the brakes.

Burkhardt didn’t mention MM&A’s safety track record.

The Canadian Press, citing information from the U.S. Federal Railroad Administration, reports that the MM&A has had 8 derailments and four collisions since 2010, and it has an average of 34.7 accidents per million miles traveled, well above the national average of 2.3 accidents per million miles.  The Wall Street Journal adds that the company had “23 accidents, injuries or reportable mishaps from 2010 to 2012.”

As for the parent company itself Rail World Inc., its goals are laid bare on its own website:

A railway management, consulting and investment corporation specializing in privatizations and restructurings.  Its purpose is to promote rail industry privatization by bringing together government bodies wishing to sell their stakes with investment capital and management skills.

The Chicago Tribune adds information on how Burkhardt’s rail privatization push extends beyond North America:

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I love nature. For this I am called bourgeois, romantic – even fascist

From The Guardian UK:

Those of us who defend the planet are increasingly subject to abuse. It is the price we pay for confronting the power of money

The Guardian, Monday 8 July 2013

Two months ago, American canvas weevil was found in the archives of the National Gallery. After ravaging the Metropolitan and Guggenheim collections in the US, it is now working its way through the gallery’s storage rooms. Hundreds of old masters have been destroyed. The curators fear that much of the collection will go the same way.

The media has greeted this devastation with near-silence. A front-page article in the Guardian’s review section dismissed expressions of love for the paintings being destroyed as “bourgeois escapism”. Those seeking to arrest the spread of canvas weevil were compared to “anti-immigration demagogues [who] claim that foreigners will destroy a unique and distinctive British culture”.

Inconceivable? You would hope so – and this story is, happily, fictitious. But the responses I’ve mentioned are real, when you swap art for nature.

Earlier this year, the former energy minister John Hayes described concerns about the rainforests of Malaysia and Indonesia – which, with their tigers, orangutans and thousands of unique species, are being destroyed to grow biofuels – as “bourgeois views“. (Coming from a Tory MP, this was magnificent.) In the Guardian Review on Saturday, Steven Poole took up his call (Comfort of the wild, 6 July). Echoing Mao’s denunciations of pre-revolutionary Chinese culture, he castigated those of us who write about our love of nature as bourgeois and snobbish, and suggested that our concerns about the spread of exotic invasive animals and plants are a form of crypto-fascism – “the green version of the English Defence League”.

Exotic invasive species are a straightforward ecological problem, wearily familiar to anyone trying to protect biodiversity. Some introduced creatures – such as brown hare, little owl, field poppy, corncockle and pheasant’s eye in Britain – do no harm to their new homes, and are cherished and defended by nature lovers. Others, such as cane toads, mink, rats, rhododendron, kudzu vine or tree-killing fungi, can quickly simplify a complex ecosystem, wiping out many of its endemic animals and plants. They have characteristics (for example, being omnivorous, light-excluding, toxic or inedible to any native carnivore or herbivore) that allow them to tear an ecosystem to shreds. These aren’t cultural constructions. They are biological facts.

Comparing those who describe this process to racists is the intellectual equivalent of stating that evolution through natural selection is a coded attack on the welfare state, or that the first law of thermodynamics was hatched by green campaigners intent on conserving energy. It is to see the words but not to understand the science they describe. This fallacy – mistaking scientific findings for cultural concepts – was deliciously ripped apart by Alan Sokal’s satirical paper Transgressing the Boundaries: towards a transformative hermeneutics of quantum gravity.

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Arctic Methane: Why The Sea Ice Matters

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