Category Archives: Safer

10 Ways to Get Plastic Out of Your Kitchen

Plastics seem to invade every aspect of our lives, and the kitchen is no exception. From cooking to storage to packing food for on the go, there are places that we can ditch the plastic in favor of safer, more Earth-friendly materials. Take some time to inventory the plastic in your kitchen and see if your kitchen can go plastic-free. It’s easier than you think!

Plastic is no good for the planet, and it’s no good for people, either. Plastic pollution is a serious environmental problem. It pollutes our waterways, causing ocean dead zones and killing countless numbers of aquatic life. You don’t want plastic coming in contact with your food, either, especially hot or acidic foods. Plastic cooking utensils and food storage containers can leach toxins into the food that it touches. No, thank you!

10 Ways to Get Plastic Out of Your Kitchen

Luckily, there are lots of simple ways to get plastic out of your cooking processes. One word of caution: if you’re getting rid of plastic that you already have, like ladels or tupperware, see if you can come up with crafty or creative ways to reuse them elsewhere, rather than sending them to the landfill. That plastic still exists, even if it’s not in your home!

Ready to ditch the plastic in your kitchen? Here are 10 tips to get you going!

1. Store your food in glass or metal. Instead of plastic Tupperware containers, chose metal or glass food storage. Glass Mason jars are great for storing bulk items like beans, grains and nuts. You can also check retailers like The Container Store. I’ve seen some great glass and metal food storage options there.

2. No more baggies! When you’re packing lunch, choose reusable glass or metal containers instead of plastic baggies or plastic Tupperware containers.

3. Choose reusable. You don’t need plastic forks and spoons in your lunchbox! Grab metal utensils from your own utensil drawer instead. If you want something that’s just for lunch, check out these cute, reusable wooden utensils!

4. Get rid of plastic cooking utensils. Ditch the plastic tools like spatulas and serving spoons in favor of metal ones.

5. Skip the processed food and produce in plastic bags. Processed food almost always means disposable plastic packaging, so choose whole foods wherever you can. When you’re hitting the produce section, don’t buy fruits and veggies in plastic wrap or those plastic mesh bags.

6. Forget bottled water. Chances are you already don’t buy bottled water, but just in case there are any hold outs out there, this is a no-brainer. Bottled water is expensive and the plastic bottles are unhealthy. Choose filtered tap water in a reusable glass or BPA free metal bottle instead.

7. Bring your own bag to the grocery store. You probably also already have reusable grocery bags, but what about when you’re in the bulk or produce aisle? Skip the single-use plastic bags in favor of reusable produce bags instead.

8. Buy dishwasher detergent that comes in a cardboard box. Dishwasher detergent often comes in a plastic container. Skip the plastic and opt for the powdered stuff in a cardboard box. Even better? Make your own dishwasher detergent!

9. Make your own dish soap. No need to buy dish soap in a plastic bottle, either. You can make your own dish soap at home! I know, the Dr. Bronner’s in this recipe comes in a plastic bottle, but many co-ops offer bulk refills of Dr. Bronner’s, so at least you only have to buy the one bottle. If anyone has suggestions for getting around this one, I’d love to hear them!

10. Skip the nonstick. Did you know that the nonstick coating on pots and pans is actually plastic? Instead of nonstick, choose cast iron or stainless steel so you can cook plastic free!

How do you keep the plastic out of your kitchen?

Cast Iron 101: Cooking, Cleaning and Seasoning
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Your Kitchen Sponge is Gross. Here’s How to Change That.

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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10 Ways to Get Plastic Out of Your Kitchen

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While hurricanes struck, Scott Pruitt was up to some interesting activities

This story was originally published by Mother Jones and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

The devastation from hurricanes Irma and Harvey, the two weeks of catastrophic flooding, and the toxic aftermath should have been opportunities for the head of the EPA to snap into action. Had Scott Pruitt done so, it would have been in stark contrast with his tenure so far, which has mostly consisted of making the case that the regulatory power of the EPA should be undermined and advocating that his agency be made smaller in size and scope, be deprived of a robust budget and enforcement power, and shift focus to what he likes to call “regulatory certainty” for polluting industries.

In the past, the EPA’s job in the aftermath of storms has been to help ensure that victims do not return to homes and neighborhoods that are toxic cesspools. The environmental aftermath of Harvey and Irma has been particularly devastating, with Superfund sites that have flooded, pipelines that have have leaked, forced evacuations because of explosions at the Arkema chemical plant, and a hazardous mix of floodwaters and sewage.

A week ago, George W. Bush’s EPA administrator, Christine Todd Whitman, wrote a scathing assessment in the New York Times of how Pruitt has been performing on the job. “The agency created by a Republican president 47 years ago to protect the environment and public health may end up doing neither under Mr. Pruitt’s direction,” she noted. When reflecting on Pruitt’s performance during Hurricane Harvey, she added that the EPA’s recent actions, including the EPA’s attack on an AP reporter, “are only the latest manifestations of my fears.”

Whitman may have missed some of Pruitt’s other activities. During the two hurricanes, the EPA administrator has appeared in far-right media, blasted the Obama administration and the mainstream media, disparaged discussions about climate change, and rolled back more regulations. Here are some noteworthy Pruitt sightings that took place during the recent weeks when severe weather battered the United States:

Aug. 28: Harvey’s deluge was in its fourth day, the death toll had risen to nine, and parts of Texas had already seen nearly 40 inches of rain when Pruitt had an interview with the right-wing media site Breitbart. At the end, host Alex Marlow pressed Pruitt on his response to coverage that connected the hurricane to climate change. What he didn’t mention was the growing consensus among scientists that climate change will worsen the severity of these storms. A discussion about “a cause and effect isn’t helping the people of Texas right now,” Pruitt replied. “I think for opportunistic media to use events like this to, without basis or support, just to simply engage in a cause-and-effect type of discussion, and not focus upon the needs of people, I think is misplaced.”

Over the course of the two storms, Pruitt would have several opportunities to repeat this observation.

On the same day, Pruitt was also interviewed by another sympathetic conservative radio host, Newsmax’s Joe Pagliarulo.

Pruitt explained what the EPA was doing to respond to Harvey: First, he praised his fast response to Texas’ request to waive gasoline mix requirements to avert shortages. He then mentioned a refinery monitoring center that is working “with industry, private-sector folks to ensure that things are secure.” Finally he added that the EPA is observing drinking-water quality and any potential contamination from landfills.

He even came up with an unusual new definition for what environmentalism means: “Is true environmentalism ‘Do not touch’? Or is it, ‘Hey, we’ve been blessed with natural resources across our country and we should use and cultivate those natural resources with what: environmental sensitivity? Environmental stewardship?””

Aug. 31: The Arkema chemical plant exploded near Houston. The same day, six Senate Democrats sent a letter to Pruitt asking him to respond to a series of accusations about how he’s limited transparency and public information access at the EPA. “At your direction, the political leadership of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is taking deliberate steps to thwart transparency,” the senators wrote. “It is essential to the functioning of our democracy that our government does its business in the open. Yet according to recent press reports, you are taking measures to conceal your official actions.”

Sept. 3: The Associated Press reported that the EPA was not on the scene to survey the Houston area’s Superfund sites that were underwater and found seven sites flooded. (The EPA later estimated from aerial imagery that there were actually 13.) In response, the EPA put out a statement accusing one of the bylined reporters of inaccurate reporting because he was in Washington, D.C., and not in Houston, despite the fact that the AP had a reporting team on the scene. The EPA went on to link to conservative press to prove its point, and Pruitt’s Twitter account shared the press release.

Sept. 8: Harvey had quieted, but now, eyes were turned to Irma’s growing strength and its unclear path toward Florida. The Arkema explosion occurred just one week before Pruitt appeared on an ABC News podcast to discuss Harvey’s aftermath. In it, he defended delaying a regulation that lays out the specific information chemical companies like Arkema are required to provide first responders in the event of chemical explosions similar to the one in Houston. When asked about the “hype about climate change,” Pruitt answered, “Will there be a time and place to perhaps discuss that and debate that? Sure,” he said. “But not in the midst of the storm, not in the midst of the responses, because there’s enough to say grace over right now.”

Sept. 6: On the day that Hurricane Irma — which was at certain points a Category 5 storm — reached Puerto Rico after leveling some islands in the Caribbean, Pruitt, along with Rick Perry and other Cabinet members, were scheduled to accompany Donald Trump on a visit to an oil refinery in North Dakota, where the president delivered a speech on taxes. Pruitt didn’t attend, an EPA spokesperson confirmed, but Trump still gave the agency a shoutout in the aftermath of Harvey: “We’ve ended the EPA intrusion into your jobs and into your lives. And we’re refocusing the EPA on its core mission: clean air and clean water.”

Sept. 7: Pruitt gave a phone interview to CNN in which he repeated the same line he used with Breitbart when asked about climate change. “To use time and effort to address it at this point is very, very insensitive to this people in Florida,” he said.

The most vulnerable areas of Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina were busy engaging in the evacuation of nearly 7 million people, but that didn’t stop Miami’s Republican mayor from discussing climate change in relation to the storm.

“If this isn’t climate change, I don’t know what is,” Mayor Tomás Regalado said two days later, after he declared a Sept. 8 State of Local Emergency in his city.

Sept. 11: On Monday, Pruitt gave a wide-ranging interview to the Washington Examiner from his EPA office in Washington. The stories reported that Pruitt went after Barack Obama’s environmental record and his other adversaries:

“I’ve got to say this to you: what is it about the past administration?” Pruitt said. “Everyone looks at the Obama administration as being the environmental savior. Really? He was the environmental savior? He’s the gold standard, right? Well, he left us with more Superfund sites than when he came in. He had Gold King [the 2015 mine wastewater spill] and Flint, Michigan [drinking water crisis]. He tried to regulate CO2 twice and flunked twice. Struck out. So what’s so great about that record? I don’t know.”

He also took the opportunity to criticize Christine Todd Whitman, Bush’s EPA administrator. Pruitt said he hadn’t read her New York Times op-ed but added:

“Maybe Christine Todd Whitman likes the Obama administration,” Pruitt said. “Go ask her, I don’t know. [Obama] is the gold standard, right?”

Finally, he attacked German Chancellor Angela Merkel in anticipation of a United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York next week:

“If Chancellor Merkel … really cares about reducing CO2 in this world, why is she going away from nuclear?” Pruitt asked. “It’s so hypocritical for countries to look at the United States and say, ‘You need to do more.’ Really? So, we’ve reduced our pollutants under the Clean Air Act [criteria pollutants and CO2].”

Sept. 12: Irma had already flattened Barbuda, leaving 95 percent of the buildings destroyed and 1 million people in Puerto Rico without power for what could be months. Seventy-five percent of Florida was without power in the aftermath of the weekend’s storm, and the U.S. death toll had risen to 22. That’s when the EPA announced a two-year delay for a 2015 rule that set the first limit on toxic metals that can be discharged into wastewater from power plants. “Today’s final rule resets the clock for certain portions of the agency’s effluent guidelines for power plants, providing relief from the existing regulatory deadlines while the agency revisits some of the rule’s requirements,” Pruitt said in a statement.

This delay only adds to Irma victims’ challenges: Not only do they have to rebuild, but the Trump administration’s EPA isn’t doing much these days to make their water and air safer.


While hurricanes struck, Scott Pruitt was up to some interesting activities

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The U.S. should go Dutch to avoid building another Houston

Want to design a city to maximize flood damage? Start on very flat land — any kind of slope will help water flow out of town. Next you’d want to create incentives for people to build the city wide and low; by covering a large area with concrete and asphalt, you collect more water whenever it rains. Then, be sure not to build much in the way of a drainage system. Ideally you’d be close to a humid body of water. And if you really wanted to put a cherry on top, you’d devote the city to industry that contributes to the warming of the seas, thereby increasing the likelihood of extreme downpours.

Voilà! You’ve just built Houston.

While America’s fourth-largest city is a poster child for flood vulnerability, much of the United States is built on similar principles. When the Dutch, the experts in flood prevention, look at us, they try to be polite, but really there’s no way around the truth.

“The United States is a little bit lagging behind in flood protection, to be honest,” says Jeroen Aerts, professor of water and climate risk at Vrije University in Amsterdam.

Aerts says that good flood control rests on three pillars: first, fortification to keep water out; second, buildings that can withstand flooding; and third, resources for evacuation and reconstruction.

The United States does fine on the third pillar, but fails on the first two. We build low-slung, widespread exurbs — partly because many American cities grew after the advent of the automobile. Thus, U.S. cities lack density, violating a key tenet advanced by the Dutch for making flood control possible and affordable. To avoid future Harvey-scale events, the U.S. could do well to take a page from Holland and get ahead of flooding, rather than scrambling to recover from it.

It’s hard to keep a city dry if it’s huge. The reverse is also true, says Jeff Carney, director of the Coastal Sustainability Studio at Louisiana State University. When cities stack their housing up, rather than sprawling out, they are easier to defend and are more resilient.

One example of a well-stacked American city is New York, New York — aka the island of Manhattan. It’s compact, with more than 1.5 million people in fewer than 34 square miles of land, so flood-prevention efforts are feasible.

A couple of years ago, the New York City government allocated $100 million to build a flood barrier around the lower part of the borough, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development kicked in nearly twice that last year to ensure it becomes a reality.

“Lower Manhattan has the ability — because of the amount of people and the amount of economic value on the island — to build a wall around itself,” Carney says. “They can do infrastructure that Houston isn’t going be able to do. You’re not going to be able to pump water out of Houston. It’s just too big.”

Houston took a laissez-faire approach to development, essentially allowing people to build whatever — and wherever — they wanted. Aerts thinks the United States would benefit from a baseline urban-planning rule requiring some level of fortification against floods.

If government required a measure of flood protection, a lot of the low-lying development just wouldn’t pencil out economically. If you have to build a levee around a sprawling subdivision, it drives up construction costs, as well as home prices — and not because the neighborhood is suddenly hip. (Strangely, the Trump administration is moving in the opposite direction: Earlier this month it revoked an Obama-era rule mandating that potential future flooding be taken into account when constructing federally funded buildings.)

From a European perspective, American flood protection is astonishingly fragmented and ad hoc. Some U.S. cities use levees, drains, or pumps; others do nothing. Usually, Aerts says, cities build their protections only after a disaster. That’s the case in lower Manhattan, where the proposed flood-protection system is a direct response to Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

Still, prevention isn’t enough. Even if Houston had state-of-the-art infrastructure, according to Aerts, it would have flooded. “If we had 30 inches of rain in 12 hours, the Netherlands would flood as well,” he says. “And we have the biggest flood-safety system in the world.”

Nature can always overwhelm humanity’s efforts, and so we need backup plans.

When authorities issue a flood warning, people tend to focus on escaping by moving out of the area — getting in cars and driving away. But it’s much easier, and often safer, to go up, rather than out.

“If you can flee to a higher floor and stay there for days, you will be safe,” says Frans van de Ven, an engineer at the Dutch institute Deltares who helped New Orleans design new flood-control plans after Hurricane Katrina.

This works a lot better if the lights stay on, plumbing continues to work, and food in refrigerators stays fresh. So cities need to invest more to keep critical services above the water line, says van de Ven. If power plants and hospitals stay dry, electricity could continue to flow, and patients could be moved upstairs instead of out of town.

Apartment-dwellers like Louise Walker are exceptions to Houston’s single-family-home norm. When the water rose into her first floor apartment, Walker was able to bunk upstairs with her neighbor. This kind of “vertical evacuation” is often a better option than jamming freeways or evacuating people to convention centers, arenas, and megachurches.

“If we really are moving into a time of greater dynamics in the weather — and I think the science is suggesting that we are — we’re going to have to build our cities differently,” says Louisiana State’s Carney. “We really need to rethink our obsession with the single-family house. We need to rethink our obsession with auto-dependent development.”

Deltare’s van de Ven is less prescriptive about designing cities. He says governments have every right to build in floodplains, but they should require those houses to be constructed to withstand and mitigate floods, rather than making them worse by converting landscape that could absorb water into a bigger bathtub.

American cities have started requiring builders to pay for the problems they cause. Even Houston’s in on it. In 2010, it voted to start taxing landowners $3 for every 1,000 square feet of shingles and pavement that sheds water from their properties into the sewers. The tax is providing some money for the city to start beefing up its drainage system.

That’s good, but not good enough, van de Ven says. Because Houston is so flat, there’s nowhere for draining stormwater to go, and even the best system will be overwhelmed unless people can also capture water on their own lots.

Here’s where even the Dutch look elsewhere for inspiration. Singapore requires builders to create water-retention basins when constructing new homes.

“You dig a hole for a retention basin,” van de Ven says. “And you can use the soil from that hole to build a hill so your house is on higher ground.”

Jeroen Aerts says America focuses mostly on flood insurance — futher proof we prioritize recovery over thinking about preventing floods or how best to cope with seeing more of them.

“In general, America depends more on insurance and the self-reliance of individual citizens, which basically reflects the whole American way of thinking,” Aerts says.

That doesn’t mean that the only way to prepare for a future of floods is to go Dutch. If we want to eschew European-style centralized control in favor of free-market systems for flood management, that’s entirely possible, says van de Ven. But we have to lay the groundwork for those systems to work.

Right now, Carney says, the markets are failing because people don’t have enough information to make smart choices. For example, people are buying houses all over America without fully understanding how likely they are to lose them to floods.

“When you build a community on the wrong side of a levee and no one knows it — then people are making decisions with bad information,” he says.

For much of U.S. history, we’ve opted to clean up after floods rather than protect against them. But experts say that as the climate warms, more cities are taking the first steps to enacting the three pillars of Dutch flood protection.

“Of course we from the Netherlands are happy to help,” van de Ven says, when it comes to fortifying American cities for the future. “But it is up to you.”

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The U.S. should go Dutch to avoid building another Houston

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Why You Should Get an Eco-Friendly Yoga Mat

The number one rule of yoga? Do no harm.

Yoga shouldn?t physically injure you?if it does, you?re doing it wrong and you need to practice safer alignment.

It also shouldn?t injure or harm others?it is a practice of love and universal acceptance.

But when your yoga practice is hurting the environment? That?s when a lot of us turn a blind eye.

In our consumer culture, the yoga market is a cash cow. Americans spend over $16 million a year on yoga classes, mats, clothes and related equipment. Yoga is no longer just a lifestyle, but it has overflowed into fast fashion. Atheleisure is ubiquitous and there is always pressure for us to get more?new, new, new. But stop a minute and consider the effect all that yoga gear has on the environment.

It is tempting to buy cheap yoga mats, but they are more harmful than you may realize. Modern yoga mats are loaded with plenty of plastic-based nasties, but the one of main concern in PVC plastic. Not only are these bad for you (they contain known carcinogens?and phthalates?not things?you want seeping?in to your sweaty back), but PVC plastics?are non-biodegradable, which means they will leach toxins into the environment for years to come. How?s that for ?do no harm??

If you are bringing a reusable water bottle to class but still using a cheap, old mat, do some research. Yoga mats are technically environmental pollutants once you’re done using them. And since cheap PVC mats don’t boast quality or longevity, think of all the yoga mats you will be?dumping into the environment over time.

When buying a new eco-friendly mat, know that some mats claim to be eco-friendly, but always double check. Polyester-based mats will not biodegrade once disposed, meaning they aren’t as?green as they claim to be. And be aware that?good eco mats can get pricey! The temptation to buy a cheap mat is a powerful one, but a?better made mat is going to last a lot longer and be kinder to both you and the planet. If you can, look for mat made with natural rubber, which is both incredibly grippy and sustainable. Make sure it has enough thickness for you, but don?t opt for anything too heavy as it might make you less likely to use it.

I use and swear by?a Jade Harmony?mat, which is made from super-grippy, sustainably-harvested natural rubber and comes in a beautiful array of colors. Gone are the days of my hands slipping and sliding in downward dog, which means my mat has actually improved my practice. Talk about bang for my buck! (Bonus eco benefit: for every mat purchased, Jade plants a tree.) Of course, if you have a latex allergy you should avoid natural rubber. Opt instead for a cork mat.

And if you are looking to recycle an old yoga mat? You can repurpose old mats in your own home easily, or you may be able to recycle PVC mats by sending them back to the manufacturer to be shredded down, melted and reused.

A mat is an integral part of your yoga practice, so make sure it aligns with your core values. Don’t sacrifice your health. Don’t sacrifice the planet. Know what’s in your mat.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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Why You Should Get an Eco-Friendly Yoga Mat

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What Einstein Told His Barber – Robert Wolke


What Einstein Told His Barber

More Scientific Answers to Everyday Questions

Robert Wolke

Genre: Essays

Price: $1.99

Publish Date: March 7, 2000

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group

Seller: Penguin Random House LLC

What makes ice cubes cloudy? How do shark attacks make airplanes safer? Can a person traveling in a car at the speed of sound still hear the radio? Moreover, would they want to…? Do you often find yourself pondering life's little conundrums? Have you ever wondered why the ocean is blue? Or why birds don't get electrocuted when perching on high-voltage power lines? Robert L. Wolke, professor emeritus of chemistry at the University of Pittsburgh and acclaimed author of What Einstein Didn't Know , understands the need to…well, understand. Now he provides more amusing explanations of such everyday phenomena as gravity (If you're in a falling elevator, will jumping at the last instant save your life?) and acoustics (Why does a whip make such a loud cracking noise?), along with amazing facts, belly-up-to-the-bar bets, and mind-blowing reality bites all with his trademark wit and wisdom. If you shoot a bullet into the air, can it kill somebody when it comes down? You can find out about all this and more in an astonishing compendium of the proverbial mind-boggling mysteries of the physical world we inhabit. Arranged in a question-and-answer format and grouped by subject for browsing ease, WHAT EINSTEIN TOLD HIS BARBER is for anyone who ever pondered such things as why colors fade in sunlight, what happens to the rubber from worn-out tires, what makes red-hot objects glow red, and other scientific curiosities. Perfect for fans of Newton's Apple, Jeopardy!, and The Discovery Channel, WHAT EINSTEIN TOLD HIS BARBER also includes a glossary of important scientific buzz words and a comprehensive index. –> From the Trade Paperback edition.

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What Einstein Told His Barber – Robert Wolke

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Homo Deus – Yuval Noah Harari


Homo Deus

A Brief History of Tomorrow

Yuval Noah Harari

Genre: Life Sciences

Price: $17.99

Publish Date: February 21, 2017

Publisher: Harper

Seller: HarperCollins

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER Yuval Noah Harari, author of the critically-acclaimed New York Times bestseller and international phenomenon Sapiens, returns with an equally original, compelling, and provocative book, turning his focus toward humanity’s future, and our quest to upgrade humans into gods. Over the past century humankind has managed to do the impossible and rein in famine, plague, and war. This may seem hard to accept, but, as Harari explains in his trademark style—thorough, yet riveting—famine, plague and war have been transformed from incomprehensible and uncontrollable forces of nature into manageable challenges. For the first time ever, more people die from eating too much than from eating too little; more people die from old age than from infectious diseases; and more people commit suicide than are killed by soldiers, terrorists and criminals put together. The average American is a thousand times more likely to die from binging at McDonalds than from being blown up by Al Qaeda. What then will replace famine, plague, and war at the top of the human agenda? As the self-made gods of planet earth, what destinies will we set ourselves, and which quests will we undertake? Homo Deus explores the projects, dreams and nightmares that will shape the twenty-first century—from overcoming death to creating artificial life. It asks the fundamental questions: Where do we go from here? And how will we protect this fragile world from our own destructive powers? This is the next stage of evolution. This is Homo Deus. With the same insight and clarity that made Sapiens an international hit and a New York Times bestseller, Harari maps out our future.

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Homo Deus – Yuval Noah Harari

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We Can’t Stop Looking at These Extremely Sexual Photos of Fruit

Mother Jones

Stephanie Sarley plays with her food. Then she posts it online. The 28-year-old Bay Area artist is known for her provocative pictures of fruit—which have caught on in a big way: She has 225,000 Instagram followers and counting. Sarley thinks a lot about censorship, copyright infringement, and what makes people uncomfortable and why. I caught up with her to talk about all of that, plus her can’t-look-away art.

Photo courtesy Stephanie Sarley

Mother Jones: How did the fruit art start?

Stephanie Sarley: It was a totally spontaneous occurrence. I had gone to my local market and got all this fruit and I brought it home and I just fingered at it. I filmed it and put it on Instagram and it was a total hit. The comments started rolling in and everyone was freaking out. I wasn’t quite aware of the impact it was going to have on people.

Photo courtesy Stephanie Sarley

MJ: Why do you think people react so strongly to it?

SS: At first I thought it was the image of the vulva and the vagina, it being surrealistic and also being semi-perverted. Maybe it makes them uncomfortable to see fruit in a way they don’t normally. The surprising thing was a lot of women got mad, as if I made them think about something they didn’t want to think about. And men also thought of it more objectively, or as only a gender thing. I got a lot of appreciation from people in the queer community as well. To be a provocateur wasn’t quite the intention of the project, but it’s totally fun and I’ve gone with it.

Illustration courtesty Stephanie Sarley

MJ: Tell me about when Instagram first took down your account.

SS: Right when I was starting to get more popular, before the fruit fingering started, I posted an image of a banana with a condom and pins in it. Within 10 minutes, I got shut down. I was devastated. I was just starting to get recognition. I had 10,000 followers. I was selling my book. Jerry Saltz had just started following me! So I wrote to Instagram to say I’m an artist, not a pornographer. And they wrote back: Your profile violated our terms of services; we took you down because your work is inappropriate. I disputed it over and over again. I kept writing them obsessively. I said, “I am an artist, so you’re not going to do this to me. You’re not going to censor my work.” I actually ended up getting my profile restored in under two weeks.

photo courtesy Stephanie Sarley

MJ: I’ve seen your work pop up in other places. How do you handle copyright issues?

SS: It’s a giant battle to reclaim my art. You know, the internet is a great platform for people who didn’t have the privilege to go to the best art school, but we need to create a safer environment for creatives who don’t want their stuff ripped off. I don’t have a credit card to rely on. People are stealing my art and putting it on their albums, meme-ing it, and I need to find a new way to approach it.

Photo courtesy Stephanie Sarley

MJ: What’s next for you?

SS: I want to move on to big projects in physical spaces. I plan to do more art shows. I’ve been studying art my entire life; I don’t want to be just one thing. I don’t want to be “the crazy fruit finger-er.” I’m not just a weird sexual fetishist on the internet.

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We Can’t Stop Looking at These Extremely Sexual Photos of Fruit

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After a Career Suing Cops, This Lawyer Wants to Be Philly’s Next District Attorney

Mother Jones

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Civil rights attorney Larry Krasner has spent his career standing up to cops. A former public defender who’s no stranger to pro bono work, he’s defended Black Lives Matter protesters, ACT UP alums, the Arch Street United Methodist Church pastors, Grannies for Peace, and Occupy Philly activists.

So he hardly seems like someone who’d want to assume the mantle of one of America’s top prosecutor jobs—for one thing, Krasner has no formal political experience. But as he watched the usual suspects throwing their hats in the ring for Philadelphia’s 2017 district attorney’s race, the 56-year-old felt like it was time to try and change things from within. On February 8, standing alongside activists and organizers from groups he’d previously defended, he announced his campaign. Just a few months later, as the city gears up for its primary on May 16, Krasner’s being hailed as an unlikely favorite and a radical outsider who just might have the gumption—and the support—to shake up Philadelphia’s punitive culture and send a message to the country that mass incarceration is a failed strategy.

Nowhere is the reality of “tough on crime” more evident than Philadelphia. Former DA Lynne Abraham, winner of four straight terms from 1991 to 2010, was known both as “America’s Deadliest Prosecutor” and the “Queen of Death” for her fervid pursuit of executions, over 100 in total. Former mayor and police commissioner Frank Rizzo is among the most notorious cops in American history, once claiming he’d “make Attila the Hun look like a faggot” while on the mayoral campaign trail. That legacy has helped give the City of Brotherly Love the highest incarceration rate of the 10 largest cities in the United States, twice the national average. (It’s also the poorest, with one of the lowest-rated public school systems to boot.)

Criminal justice crusaders saw some hope when Democrat Seth Williams, a self-identified progressive reformer, took the job as the city’s first African American DA in 2010. He claimed he’d champion reasonable reforms to chip away at mass incarceration. But since then, Williams has managed to run up a rap sheet that evinces an almost cartoonish level of corruption. He has been under FBI investigation since August 2015 and on the receiving end of the largest fine ever imposed by the Philadelphia Board of Ethics for gift taking and failure to disclose contributions in excess of $175,000. He fought for the death penalty and prosecuted a man who’d been cleared of murder by DNA evidence. On February 10, Williams announced he would not seek a third term. Then on March 21, he was indicted on 23 counts of corruption and bribery-related charges. His alleged misbehavior, said an FBI special agent, was “brazen and wide-ranging, as is the idea that a district attorney would so cavalierly trade on elected office for financial gain.”

Into the void have sprung seven candidates, all jockeying for the Democratic nomination ahead of the May primary and the right to square off with Republican candidate Beth Grossman. Philadelphia is a deep blue stronghold, so the winner of the primary will likely cruise in the general election. Krasner’s campaign might be best described as an insurgency, and one that has drawn the national spotlight.

Born in St. Louis, Krasner has made Philadelphia home since age nine. He comes from a household that relied on disability checks to make ends meet, and he’s a veteran of the city’s public school system. After attending the University of Chicago, he went on to law school at Stanford, where he “accumulated a skyscraper-sized pile of student loans.” Upon graduation, he forewent prosecutor jobs to become a public defender in Philadelphia, which he considers his hometown. “I didn’t want to be a prosecutor,” he says, because “Philly had a culture that was in love with the death penalty.”

In 1992, when then-President George H.W. Bush came to Philadelphia, ACT UP, the famous activist group striving to end the AIDS crisis, marched a coffin full of fake ashes through the city, protesting perceived inaction by the president. “The coffin tipped, the ashes flew; I think the cops thought they were going to get HIV,” Krasner recalls. “The cops’ reaction was hyper violent—they cracked one person’s skull, made many of them bleed.” At that point, five years out of law school, he decided to dedicate himself to “representing people who were making the world a better place.”

In the years since, Krasner has filed more than 75 civil rights cases against police officers, and gotten 800 narcotics convictions thrown out after exposing two officers to have perjured themselves. Of the 420 protesters arrested at the 2012 Republican National Convention, Krasner won an acquittal rate of 99 percent over four years. Needless to say, these aren’t the usual credentials for someone running for a position sardonically referred to as “top cop.” When I ask him about that term, he bristles. As a district attorney, he says, “you’re supposed to seek justice in an evenhanded way—so if you know cops are dirty, you prosecute the cops.”

Against the backdrop of a new federal administration that wants to toughen rules on prosecuting crime, Krasner instead strongly believes that “mass incarceration hasn’t worked. It hasn’t made us safer; it hasn’t made us freer.” He wants to abolish the death penalty—Philly is the only city in the Northeast that still has it. He’s pledged to refuse to bring cases that have resulted from illegal stop-and-frisk actions. In Pennsylvania, which has more juveniles on life sentences without the possibility of parole than any other state in the country, Krasner has promised thorough resentencing. Rather than plastering uniform 35-year sentences on those juveniles, as the DA’s office has recommended, Krasner has vowed to revisit each case individually, considering things like childhood trauma in reducing sentences, because “this one-size-fits-all sentencing is appalling.”

Krasner also wants to end cash bail and reform civil forfeiture. Over half the people held in prisons in Philadelphia have not been convicted, but, unable to afford bail, have no choice but to await their trial behind bars. Krasner wants to implement alternatives for nonviolent offenders, like diverting addicts straight to treatment facilities, a practice known as “sweat bail.” When it comes to civil asset forfeiture, he says the city should not take anything unless there’s a conviction, and if assets are seized, they should go to the city’s general fund, not back to the DA’s office, as the program is currently structured.

The ideas seem to have resonated. Krasner has ripped up the playbook on incremental reforms, accelerating initiatives that looked politically impossible just a few years back. “Here’s what’s behind the sharp left turn in Philly’s DA race,” reads a recent article in Philly Mag profiling Krasner’s campaign. In fact, all seven Democratic candidates are now campaigning as reformers. National activist groups have hailed Philadelphia’s DA race as a historic one, a rebuke of the zero-tolerance approach championed by the current Oval Office.

“After decades of ‘wars’ on crime and drugs, public sentiment is now shifting toward a more expansive view of crime and justice,” says Marc Mauer, executive director of the Sentencing Project, a nonprofit that works on criminal justice reform. “Fortunately, a growing number of prosecutors view themselves as part of that movement.” Indeed, Krasner is not alone. 2016 saw reform candidates defeat hardline prosecutors in DA races in Florida, Louisiana, and Illinois. After a poor showing in the 2016 election cycle at the federal level, the Democratic Party has been refocusing its energy on local elections, and district attorneys’ offices have become an unlikely seat of progressive reform. Prosecutors are elected in all but four states, around 2,400 seats in total, a major political post that often runs uncontested.

Krasner is heartened to see criminal justice reform become so popular in his city’s race but remains skeptical of some of the rhetoric. Many of his competitors are former prosecutors, insiders, or assistant DAs. “The only other candidate who said he would unconditionally oppose the death penalty was supervising death penalties six months ago,” Krasner says, boasting that he’s been “walking the walk for 30 years.”

National groups are taking notice. Our Revolution, the progressive political action group associated with Bernie Sanders, endorsed Krasner. So, too, did Color of Change PAC, as well as major union groups Unite Here, PASNAP, and 1199C. He banked the endorsement of pop singer John Legend. And billionaire George Soros invested $1.45 million—a stunning amount for a local election—in a super-PAC called Philadelphia Justice and Public Safety that backs Krasner. That move brought extended scrutiny from his competitors, who have now started running negative attack ads aiming to identify Krasner as unsympathetic to victims.

Notably absent from that list of endorsements is the Fraternal Order of Police, Philadelphia’s police union, which was clashing with Krasner even before his campaign took off. When former Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy was involved in a brawl with two off-duty Philly police officers, Krasner represented him, successfully getting all charges against him dropped. That led FOP President John McNesby to describe Krasner’s candidacy as “hilarious.” “He’s not laughing now,” chuckles Krasner. In March, the FOP endorsed Rich Negrin.

Still, Krasner believes that rank-and-file police will welcome his candidacy, if he can win. He points to his close relationships with multiple commissioners and the officers whose children he’s represented. He says he believes that the police will appreciate working with a DA who doesn’t spend his time courting a run for governor. The DA’s office in Philadelphia has often served as a launch pad for political careers at the state and national levels. But Krasner seems to view a stint as the district attorney as a culmination of his life’s work, rather than a stepping stone: “My chair after the DA’s chair,” he says, “will be a beach chair.”

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After a Career Suing Cops, This Lawyer Wants to Be Philly’s Next District Attorney

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Texas’ Governor Just Signed the Most Anti-Immigrant Bill in Years

Mother Jones

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During an unannounced, five-minute livestream on Facebook Sunday night, Gov. Greg Abbott signed legislation outlawing sanctuary cities and granting law enforcement unprecedented powers in tracking down undocumented immigrants.

“Texans expect us to keep them safe—and that’s exactly what we’re going to do by me signing the law,” Abbott told the camera, punctuating his remarks by tapping the bill before signing it. “Texas has now banned sanctuary cities in the Lone Star State.”

“It won’t be tolerated in Texas,” Abbot continued. “Elected officials and law enforcement agencies, they don’t get to pick and choose what laws they will obey.”

Immigration advocates are describing it as the most hostile state law to undocumented immigrants in the country and point out that sanctuary cities are actually safer than other cities, according to FBI crime data. The Facebook Live event allowed the governor to avoid protests a typical signing would have likely drawn, the Texas Tribune noted. A spokesperson for the governor claimed the move was an effort to reach people directly where they’re consuming news.

Abbott declared banning sanctuary cities, jurisdictions that refuse to fully cooperate with federal immigration authorities, a legislative priority this year, and Texas has quickly become one of the battlegrounds in the national debate over them. When Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez announced her department would no longer comply with immigration authorities after taking office earlier this year, the governor cut off funding in retaliation and even threatened to oust her. Meanwhile lawmakers in the statehouse have been debating how wide-reaching the ban on sanctuary cities should be, settling on legislation late last month after a 16-hour marathon hearing. Horrified by the outcome, immigration advocates have pushed back, protesting at the state capitol during the lengthy hearing on the bill last month and gathering outside the governor’s mansion last night.

SB 4 does far more than simply outlaw sanctuary cities. When the new rules go into effect, law enforcement officials and other local leaders who refuse to cooperate with immigration authorities could face to up to a year of jail time and be personally fined up to $4,000. Additionally, any local government violating the law will also be subject to fines—$1,000 at first with each single subsequent infraction adding penalties that can potentially reach $25,500.

The law also grants law enforcement throughout the state sweeping new powers that many immigration advocates consider a form of profiling. One of the most controversial provisions of the new law allows police officers to question someone’s immigration status during encounters such as a routine traffic stop as opposed to during a lawful arrest.

David Leopold, an immigration lawyer and the former head of the American Immigration Lawyers Associates, says it’s the most hostile state law to undocumented immigrants in the country. “It’s like SB1070, the Arizona ‘show me your papers’ law, on steroids,” Leopold says, referring to the controversial legislation that required police to check the immigration status of anyone they detain if they believe that person might be in the country illegally.

“This is a license to racially profile,” Leopold says. “What Texas has done here is told the police…if a person has an accent, is brown, you should probably start asking questions about their immigration status.”

While much of the Arizona law was gutted by the Supreme Court in 2012, the “show me your papers” portion was not struck down—though the justices left open the possibility that such laws could be ruled as being unconstitutional at a later time.

When SB 1070 passed, it sparked outrage across the country and businesses as well as other state governments boycotted Arizona. Immigration activists are strenuously protesting the Texas measure, and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund is planning to sue before it takes effect in September. But so far, the new law isn’t attracting nearly the kind of national attention that Arizona’s law once did.

Leopold points out that this law “came up quietly.” In the seven years since SB1070 was debated, he says, the capacity for outrage about these measures has waned because “we’ve had so much outrageous news about immigration, so many outrageous things and shocking things have happened since Donald Trump took office.”

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Texas’ Governor Just Signed the Most Anti-Immigrant Bill in Years

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More Americans Are Spending Life in Prison Than Ever Before

Mother Jones

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One out of every nine prisoners in the United States is currently serving a life sentence—a record high—even as the overall prison population has fallen. That’s according to a depressing new report by the Sentencing Project, an advocacy group that’s been tracking life sentences since 2004. Almost 162,000 people are now serving life behind bars, up from 132,000 about a decade ago and 34,000 in 1984.

To put that in perspective, for every 100,000 people in America, 50 have been locked up for life. That’s roughly the total incarceration rate—including inmates whose sentences are just a few months—in Scandinavian countries like Denmark, Sweden, and Finland. And it doesn’t even account for the tens of thousands of Americans handed sentences of 50 years or more, which are considered “de facto life sentences,” says Ashley Nellis, a senior research analyst at the Sentencing Project who co-authored the report.

What’s driving the uptick? It’s not a rise in violent crime or murder—both have dropped substantially since the mid-1990s. Nor is it an increase in the number of criminals behind bars: A majority of states saw declining overall prison populations from 2010 to 2015.

The Sentencing Project

The Sentencing Project

In part, the continuing rise in lifers is a legacy of three-strikes laws and mandatory minimum sentencing. It may also be related to the shift away from capital punishment. In some states that no longer allow executions, elected officials like governors and prosecutors have championed life-without-parole sentences—which account for the biggest increase in life sentences nationally—as a way to appear tougher on crime. “Going forward, we will have a system that allows us to put these people away for life, in living conditions none of us would want to experience,” Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy, a Democrat, said in 2012 when his state abolished the death penalty. But these lengthy punishments probably aren’t keeping the public safer. “The impulse to engage in crime, including violent crime, is highly correlated with age,” the Sentencing Project notes. “Most criminal offending declines substantially beginning in the mid-20s and has tapered off substantially by one’s late 30s.”

The biggest losers of all this? Minorities. Of all the lifers and de facto lifers in the country, almost half are African American. What’s more, 12,000 of the total are locked up for crimes they committed as kids, though some are eligible for release thanks to recent court decisions. (In 2010, the Supreme Court ruled that life-without-parole sentences are unconstitutional for juveniles who didn’t commit homicide. In 2012, the justices went further, saying that mandatory life-without-parole sentences for kids, including those who committed homicide, are also unconstitutional. Nineteen states and DC now ban any kind of life-without-parole sentence for juveniles.)

Finally, it’s important to remember that many of the prisoners serving these long sentences never actually hurt anyone: Two-thirds of lifers or de facto lifers in the federal system committed nonviolent crimes—and one-third of them are serving time for drug crimes. With Attorney General Jeff Sessions at the helm of the Justice Department alongside his team of tough-on-crime advisers, there’s a good chance that won’t be changing anytime soon.

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More Americans Are Spending Life in Prison Than Ever Before

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