Friday Night fun and Culture: Ewan MacColl & Peggy Seeger

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4 Ways Amazon’s Ruthless Practices Are Crushing Local Economies

From Alternet:  http://www.alternet.org/corporate-accountability-and-workplace/4-ways-amazons-ruthless-practices-are-crushing-local

The price of Amazon’s success is worker exploitation, the destruction of local enterprise and the creation of a corporate oligarch.

By Jim Hightower
September 25, 2014

Even by the anything-goes ethical code of the corporate jungle, Amazon.com’s alpha male, Jeff Bezos, is considered a ruthless predator by businesses that deal with him. As overlord of Amazon, by far the largest online marketer in the world (with more sales than the next nine US online retailers combined), Bezos has the monopoly power to stalk, weaken, and even kill off retail competitors—going after such giants as Barnes & Noble and Walmart and draining the lifeblood from hundreds of smaller Main Street shops. He also goes for the throats of both large and small businesses that supply the millions of products his online behemoth sells. They’re lured into Amazon by its unparalleled database of some 200 million customers, but once in, they face unrelenting pressure to lower what they charge Amazon for their products, compelled by the company to give it much better deals than other retailers can extract.

Lest you think predator is too harsh a term, consider the metaphor Bezos himself chose when explaining how to get small book publishers to cough up deep discounts as the price for getting their titles listed on the Amazon website. As related by Businessweek reporter Brad Stone, Bezos
 instructed his negotiators to stalk them “the way a cheetah would pursue a sickly gazelle.” Bezos’ PR machine tried to claim this sneering comment was just a little “Jeff joke,” but they couldn’t laugh it off, for a unit dubbed the “Gazelle Project” had
 actually been set up inside Amazon.

This top-level team focused on doing 
exactly what Bezos 
instructed: Pursue vulnerable small 
publishers and squeeze their wholesale
 prices to Amazon down to the point of no profit, thus allowing the online retailer to underprice every other book peddler. When Stone exposed Gazelle last year in his book, The Everything Store, the project was suddenly rebranded with a bloodless name—“Small Publisher Negotiation Program”—but its mission remains the same.

Today, Amazon sells a stunning 40 percent of all new books, up from 12 percent five years ago. It is even more dominant in the digital book market, which is fast catching up to the sales level of physical books and is widely perceived as the future of publishing. Electronic book sales were non-existent just seven years ago; today about a third of all books sold are e-books, and Amazon sells two-thirds of those. Of course, Amazon also owns Kindle, the largest-selling device for reading digital books.

With his market clout, deep-pocket financing, and ferocious 
price-cutting, Bezos has forced hundreds of America’s independ
ent bookstores to close and has humbled the superstore
 book chains that once preyed on the independents and dominated the market. Borders, the second-largest chain,
 succumbed to bankruptcy in 2011. Now Barnes & Noble, the largest brick-and-mortar bookstore, is stumbling. It has lost millions of dollars, closed dozens of stores, shrunk most others, and suffered the embarrassment of its own board chairman frantically dumping big chunks of Barnes & Noble stock.

Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/corporate-accountability-and-workplace/4-ways-amazons-ruthless-practices-are-crushing-local

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Rebecca Solnit, What to Do When You’re Running Out of Time

From Tom Dispatch:  http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/175896/

by Rebecca Solnit
September 18, 2014

The Wheel Turns, the Boat Rocks, the Sea Rises 
Change in a Time of Climate Change 
By Rebecca Solnit

There have undoubtedly been stable periods in human history, but you and your parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents never lived through one, and neither will any children or grandchildren you may have or come to have. Everything has been changing continuously, profoundly — from the role of women to the nature of agriculture. For the past couple of hundred years, change has been accelerating in both magnificent and nightmarish ways.

Yet when we argue for change, notably changing our ways in response to climate change, we’re arguing against people who claim we’re disrupting a stable system.  They insist that we’re rocking the boat unnecessarily.

I say: rock that boat. It’s a lifeboat; maybe the people in it will wake up and start rowing. Those who think they’re hanging onto a stable order are actually clinging to the wreckage of the old order, a ship already sinking, that we need to leave behind.

As you probably know, the actual oceans are rising — almost eight inches since 1880, and that’s only going to accelerate. They’re also acidifying, because they’re absorbing significant amounts of the carbon we continue to pump into the atmosphere at record levels.  The ice that covers the polar seas is shrinking, while the ice shields that cover Antarctica and Greenland are melting. The water locked up in all the polar ice, as it’s unlocked by heat, is going to raise sea levels staggeringly, possibly by as much as 200 feet at some point in the future, how distant we do not know.  In the temperate latitudes, warming seas breed fiercer hurricanes.

The oceans are changing fast, and for the worse. Fish stocks are dying off, as are shellfish. In many acidified oceanic regions, their shells are actually dissolving or failing to form, which is one of the scariest, most nightmarish things I’ve ever heard. So don’t tell me that we’re rocking a stable boat on calm seas. The glorious 10,000-year period of stable climate in which humanity flourished and then exploded to overrun the Earth and all its ecosystems is over.

Continue reading at:  http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/175896/

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The Academic Impostor Behind the Pit Bull Hysteria

From Huffington Post:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/douglas-anthony-cooper/merritt-clifton-pit-bulls_b_5866176.html


09/24/2014

The most influential advocate for the eradication of pit bulls is an academic fraud. Merritt Clifton is prominent not simply because he has been making noise for decades, but because he uniquely claims to be a rigorous statistician: a scholarly expert. People who hate pit bulls lean on this man’s putative expertise.

And he’s a charlatan.

The loudest voice in favor of eliminating pit bulls in Canada is probably Barbara Kay, a journalist with the National Post. Her campaign is largely successful: Canada has some of the most punitive breed-specific laws (BSL) in the world. And she told me proudly, in an email:

My primary source, you will not be surprised to learn, is animal-industry historian and investigative reporter for more than 40 years, Merritt Clifton, until recently editor of Animal People News and now editor of his own site, Animals 24/7. My other primary source is Colleen Lynn of Dogsbite.org.

Colleen Lynn is a menace; she’s a web designer who was once bitten by a dog, and has been on a vicious campaign to eliminate the pit bull type ever since. Still, she makes no pretense to academic credibility. Merritt Clifton, on the other hand, very much pretends to be an eminent scholar, and is truly dangerous.

In the first few minutes of the video linked here, for instance, you will see him pronounce: “I have more than a hundred peer-reviewed publications.”

This would seem truly impressive — that’s a hefty body of published work. It’s troubling, however, that not one of these publications shows up in a search on JSTOR, the comprehensive academic database online. Nor can I find a single example of his copious oeuvre in Harvard’s library, which can also be searched online. One hundred publications, admirably invisible.

I finally found one. Clifton mentions Asian Biomedicine in the video, and floating around the internet is a single article that this obscure journal published in 2011. The journal’s own website seems to have vanished, but they do say on their Facebook page that they are “peer-reviewed.” Perhaps there are a hundred such articles? Probably not: a sandbox draft of somebody trying desperately to get Clifton and his projects on Wikipedia lists one academic publication. This one.

The video is posted on a blog maintained by Josh Liddy, an activist against BSL, who notes that Clifton’s claims are “dubious.” Mr. Liddy is far too polite. These claims are “fictional.”

Continue reading at:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/douglas-anthony-cooper/merritt-clifton-pit-bulls_b_5866176.html

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Sea Change: The Ecological Disaster That Nobody Sees

From Truth Out:  http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/26202-sea-change-the-ecological-disaster-that-nobody-sees

By Richard Schiffman
Thursday, 18 September 2014

On September 21, in what is being advance-billed as the largest climate march in history, thousands of protesters will converge on New York City to focus public attention on the slow-motion train wreck of global warming. But while Americans are becoming increasingly aware that our industrial civilization is destabilizing the earth’s climate, fewer know about another environmental disaster-in-the-making: the crisis of the global oceans.

Experts warn that we are currently facing an extinction event in the oceans which may rival the “Great Death” of the Permian age 250 million years ago, when 95 percent of marine species died out due to a combination of warming, acidification, loss of oxygen and habitat – all conditions that are rife today.

Within the past half century the oceans have been transformed from the planet’s most productive bioregion into arguably its most abused and critically endangered. That is the conclusion of a report issued earlier this summer by the Global Ocean Commission, a private think tank consisting of marine scientists, diplomats and business people, which makes policy recommendations to governments.

The report catalogues a grim laundry list of environmental ills. Commercial fish stocks worldwide are being overexploited and are close to collapse; coral reefs are dying due to ocean acidification – and may be gone by midcentury; vast dead zones are proliferating in the Baltic and the Gulf of Mexico caused by an influx of nitrogen and phosphorous from petroleum-based fertilizers; non-biodegradable plastic trash – everything from tiny micro-plastic beads to plastic bags and discarded fishing gear – is choking many coastal nurseries where fish spawn; and increased oil and gas drilling in deep waters is spewing pollution and posing the risk of catastrophic spills like the Deepwater Horizon disaster which dumped an estimated 4.2 million barrels of petroleum into the Gulf of Mexico during a five-month period in 2010.

Yet these worrying trends have failed to spark public indignation. It may be a matter of “out of sight, out of mind.”

“If fish were trees, and we saw them being clear-cut, we would be upset,” renowned oceanographer Carl Safina observed in an interview with Truthout. “But the ocean is invisible to most people, an alien world.” It is hard for those of us who only see ocean life when it ends up on our dinner plates to get worked up about its destruction, Safina said.

Nevertheless, this world under the waves is vital to our survival, according to Sylvia Earle, former National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) chief scientist. “The ocean is alive; it is a living minestrone soup with an even greater diversity of life than on the land,” Earle told Truthout. “It is where most of our oxygen is created and carbon is taken out of the atmosphere. With every breath you take, you need to thank the ocean.”

Continue reading at:  http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/26202-sea-change-the-ecological-disaster-that-nobody-sees

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