Poverty Has Same Effect On The Brain As Constantly Pulling All Nighters

From Think Progress:  http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2013/08/30/2555601/living-poverty-effect-brain-constantly-pulling-nighters/

By Bryce Covert
on August 30, 2013

The mental strain of living in poverty and thinking constantly about tight finances can drop a person’s IQ by as much as 13 percent, or about the equivalent of losing a night of sleep, according to a new study. It consumes so much mental energy that there is often little room to think about anything else, which leaves low-income people more susceptible to bad decisions.

One of the study’s authors, Harvard economist Sandhil Mullainathan, told the Washington Post, “Poverty is the equivalent of pulling an all-nighter. Picture yourself after an all-nighter. Being poor is like that every day.”

The researchers came to this conclusion after conducting two separate experiments. The first gave low- and moderate-income shoppers at a mall in New Jersey a number of tests that measure IQ and impulse control, but half of the participants were first given a question about finances: what they would do if they needed to make $1,500 worth of repairs on their car, putting financial concerns at the forefront of their minds. They found that it reduced cognitive performance among the poor participants but not those who are well-off.

The second experiment looked at the cognitive functions of farmers in India before the harvest, when they are poor, and after the harvest, when they have much more money. The same farmer performs lower on cognitive ability before than he does after — which researchers say “cannot be explained by differences in time available, nutrition, or work effort” nor by stress. Instead, it appears to be poverty reducing their mental capacity.

A past study came to a similar conclusion: It found that scarcity can sap mental capacity and lead to short-term decision-making over long-term considerations.

Continue reading at:  http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2013/08/30/2555601/living-poverty-effect-brain-constantly-pulling-nighters/

Putting Labor Back in Labor Day

From The New York Times:  http://takingnote.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/08/29/fast-food-workers-on-strike/?_r=3

By TERESA TRITCH
August 29, 2013

The fast food strikes that began last November in New York City with walkouts by 200 workers expanded and spread to other cities in the spring and summer. On Thursday, thousands of workers in 60 cities went on a one-day strike. The demands were the same, only amplified — higher pay, to $15 an hour, and the right to organize without retaliation.

There are many reasons to support the strikers. There’s the still resonant goal — expressed by those who marched on Washington 50 years ago — of ensuring that work leads to a decent standard of living. That’s not achievable at today’s federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, or at the typical  wage for fast food workers, about $9.00  an hour. If the minimum wage had kept pace with inflation over the past 50 years, it would be about $10 an hour today. If it had kept pace with the growth in average labor productivity, it would be about $17 an hour. Split the difference and you are not far from what the strikers are calling for.

Another reason to support the strikers is economic self-interest. The low wages of fast food workers — and of workers in retail, home care and other low-wage industries — force many of them onto food stamps and other public assistance to get by. Taxpayers step up with aid because employers don’t pay enough.

There’s also the fact that fast food corporations — McDonald’s, Yum Brands (which includes Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and KFC), Wendy’s — can afford to pay more. The chief executives of McDonald’s and Yum are among the nation’s highest paid bosses. Wendy’s profits have been soaring lately. The corporations invariably say that individual franchisees set wages and franchisees say they can’t afford to pay more without raising prices, which they say would drive away customers and lead to job loss. But wages aren’t the franchisees’ only cost. They also pay rent and royalties to their corporate bosses. How about lowering those costs to create room for raises?

Of course such changes would lead to lower profits and that would translate into lower executive pay and lower shareholder returns. But we’re talking about big,profitable companies, which are big and profitable in part because they rely on underpaid labor.

Continue reading at:   http://takingnote.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/08/29/fast-food-workers-on-strike/?_r=3

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Just say no to nuclear power – from Fukushima to Vermont

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/aug/29/nuclear-power-dangers-fukushima-vermont

Fukushima showed us the intolerable costs of nuclear power. The citizens of Vermont show us the benefits of shutting it down


theguardian.com, Thursday 29 August 2013

Welcome to the nuclear renaissance.

Entergy Corp, one of the largest nuclear-power producers in the US, issued a surprise press release Tuesday, saying it plans “to close and decommission its Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Station in Vernon, Vermont. The station is expected to cease power production after its current fuel cycle and move to safe shutdown in the fourth quarter of 2014.” Although the press release came from the corporation, it was years of people’s protests and state legislative action that forced its closure. At the same time that activists celebrate this key defeat of nuclear power, officials in Japan admitted that radioactive leaks from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear catastrophe are far worse than previously acknowledged.

“It took three years, but it was citizen pressure that got the state Senate to such a position”, nuclear-energy consultant Arnie Gundersen told me of Entergy’s announcement. He has coordinated projects at 70 nuclear plants around the country and now provides independent testimony on nuclear and radiation issues. He explained how the state of Vermont, in the first such action in the country, had banned the plant from operating beyond its original 40-year permit. Entergy was seeking a 20-year extension.

The legislature, in that 26-to-4 vote, said: ‘No, we’re not going to allow you to reapply. It’s over. You know, a deal’s a deal. We had a 40-year deal.’ Well, Entergy went to first the federal court here in Vermont and won, and then went to an appeals court in New York City and won again on the issue, as they framed it, that states have no authority to regulate safety.

Despite prevailing in the courts, Entergy bowed to public pressure.

Back in 2011, Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin, who called Entergy “a company that we found we can’t trust”, said on “Democracy Now!“:

Continue reading at:  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/aug/29/nuclear-power-dangers-fukushima-vermont

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Friday Night Fun and Culture: Labor Songs for Labor Day Weekend

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WTF? “Transgender Service Must be a Priority” Really? Why?

Once again the Drums of War are sounding.

Once again the War Lovers are pleading with us trying to con us into yet another war.

We must enjoin this noble cause against Assad in Syria because he is gassing members of the Islamic Brotherhood.

Pardon my confusion but isn’t the Islamic Brotherhood a bunch of women oppressing LGBT killing fundamentalists?

Who is going to pay for this grand adventure?

Is it really a noble cause to kill people with bombs and drones to teach them that killing is wrong?

I’m friend with a number of trans-vets including Brynn Tannehill, who wrote the Huffington Post piece that stirred my cynicism.  Not that it needed much stirring.  I generally view all militarism with skepticism and I am definitely cynical when it comes to any President calling upon us to engage in any noble cause that includes bombing or invading another country.

Why should working to get TS/TG folks the ability to serve openly in the military be our first priority?

I’ve been told by numerous trans-activists that it was a mistake to focus on marriage equality and that we should be focusing on passing a trans-inclusive ENDA instead.

TS/TG folks, mainly women on the low end of the economic scale, who are often doing sex work are still being murdered at an alarming rate, but now we are supposed to make TS/TG folk’s ability to serve in the military our highest priority.

Here’s a thought.

There are a lot more TS/TG folks than previously thought.

We have all sorts of different priorities.

Just look at the divergence of views regarding Chelsea Manning.  I view her as a hero.  Many in the TS/TG’s in the military movement regard her as a traitor.

TS/TG people in the military?  Go for it, but I’ve been an anti-war activist since 1962.  Don’t expect me to join your cause.  it isn’t my cause nor do I consider it at or even near the top priority for the various TS/TG communities.

We need jobs, housing, security, medical care along with the right to marry and have a social support system.

Many of us are anti-war.  Many of us are left wing and are anti-militarism.

The priorities of TS/TG people in the military are not our priorities.  Some of us want to end the senseless wars and slice the military budget to fund social programs.

 

 

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Transgender Service Must be a Priority

From Huffington Post:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/brynn-tannehill/transgender-military-service_b_3830730.html?utm_hp_ref=gay-voices

08/30/2013

There is an exceptionally long tradition in western culture of service being a requirement for full participation in public life. In ancient Athens, only citizens with the right to vote were allowed to serve as hoplites. In Sparta only free men could serve. During the Roman Empire, having the same legal rights as other native Romans required providing military service. This cultural narrative of “service guarantees citizenship,” is still evident in modern times: in literature, film, and in civil rights movements.

Executive Order 9981, which began the process of desegregating the military, was signed by President Truman in 1947. This became one of the starting points for the civil rights movements in the 1950s and 1960s. In 1976, the service academies admitted the first female cadets and midshipmen. Over time this integration led to greater and greater roles for women in the military. Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth represents the impact of these shifts in how we see women in the military. The end of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” (DADT) was a significant factor in recent gains for lesbian and gay Americans. The argument that lesbian and gay families in the military were being adversely affected by the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) appears to have significantly swayed Justice Kennedy, the key swing vote on the Supreme Court.

It isn’t difficult to see why military service has an effect on how we think about groups of people. Being a military officer is seen as one of the most ethical and respected professions in America.

For transgender Americans, though, full participation in public life still eludes us. Even our legal ability to safely perform necessary bodily functions is considered debatable. By every statistical measure, every survey, every poll, we are the untouchables of this society. Even people who despise us acknowledge that being transgender is a massive life penalty. In general, attempts to enact specific protections for transgender people either fail, or are met with an extreme backlash. Transgender people in the media are usually at best treated as a punch line; at worst regarded as a danger to women and children.

The level of dehumanization is such that when transgender people are attacked in hate crimes, the perpetrators are much more likely to follow all the way through to murder. However, most of the ways that lesbians and gays gained acceptance are not available to us. We don’t have lovable celebrities like Ellen and George. We have very few (positive) transgender characters in the media. We are rare and often closeted, and as such very few people actually say they know a transgender person.

Continue reading at:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/brynn-tannehill/transgender-military-service_b_3830730.html?utm_hp_ref=gay-voices

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Same-Sex Married Couples To Get Federal Tax Recognition Regardless Of State

From Huffington Post:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/29/same-sex-couples-federal-taxes_n_3837444.html

08/29/2013

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of the Treasury announced Thursday that when it comes to taxes, it will recognize same-sex couples’ marriages even if they live in a state that does not.

The decision, which was prompted by the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act, marks the latest political progress for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

Prior to this spring, the Internal Revenue Service did not recognize same-sex married couples pursuant to section 3 of DOMA. Once DOMA was overturned in June, the question became: What about same-sex married couples who moved to a state that didn’t recognize their marriage (a couple married in Massachusetts who moved to Arkansas, for example)?

Thursday’s ruling by Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew provides a uniform policy for the IRS; the state of celebration — where the wedding took place — now trumps the state of residency when it comes to federal tax status for same-sex married couples.

“Today’s ruling provides certainty and clear, coherent tax filing guidance for all legally married same-sex couples nationwide. It provides access to benefits, responsibilities and protections under federal tax law that all Americans deserve,” Lew said in a statement. “This ruling also assures legally married same-sex couples that they can move freely throughout the country knowing that their federal filing status will not change.”

The new policy, which was first shared by Lew in a conference call that included LGBT advocates, holds a bit of political significance. It was the burden of federal tax law on same-sex couples, after all, that prompted the legal challenge to DOMA in the first place.

Continue reading at:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/29/same-sex-couples-federal-taxes_n_3837444.html

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