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10 Easy Things to Make Your Home Smarter

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10 Easy Things to Make Your Home Smarter

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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?

Related:
Cast Iron 101: Cooking, Cleaning and Seasoning
13 Natural Ingredients to Clean Almost Anything
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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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.

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

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Homo Deus – Yuval Noah Harari

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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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A Loss in the Courts Won’t Stop Missouri’s Anti-Abortion Wave

Mother Jones

For decades, Missouri has embarked on a quest to eliminate abortion access. Earlier this year, state legislators filed some 14 anti-abortion proposals before the start of the session, making it a prominent example of emboldened efforts on the state level in the Trump era. Those measures were dealt a blow last week when a federal judge suspended two longstanding abortion restrictions in the state, but with the GOP controlling every level of the state’s government, state lawmakers are undeterred in their efforts to restrict abortion access.

Today, a Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis is the state’s sole abortion provider licensed to serve approximately 1.2 million women of reproductive age, many of whom would face a 370 mile drive to access services, a process further protracted by a mandatory 72-hour waiting period. “People are driving hours to St. Louis, or they’re crossing over the state line into Kansas or other states in order to access services,” says Laura McQuade, the President and CEO of Comprehensive Health of Planned Parenthood Great Plains, one of the Planned Parenthood affiliates that filed a lawsuit last year challenging the Missouri restrictions.

As a leader in restricting abortion access, Missouri passed laws more than a decade ago that required doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at local hospitals and abortion clinics to meet the same structural requirements as ambulatory surgical centers. These laws were subsequently also passed in Texas, where they were challenged and finally struck down by the Supreme Court in a 5-3 ruling in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt in 2016.

Last week, in response to a challenge filed last fall by two Planned Parenthood affiliates with Missouri clinics, US District Court Judge Howard Sachs agreed to enjoin Missouri’s version of the restrictions. Sachs first announced his decision in an April 3 memo sent to the parties involved in the case. In his decision, Sachs noted that the restrictions had negatively affected women in the state and failed to comply with the Supreme Court’s ruling. “The abortion rights of Missouri women, guaranteed by constitutional rulings, are being denied on a daily basis, in irreparable fashion,” he said. “The public interest clearly favors prompt relief.” The restrictions will be halted while the effort to permanently strike down the laws moves through the courts.

Sachs’ ruling could have an immediate impact on abortion access in the state. Shortly after the decision was announced, the Missouri Planned Parenthood affiliates released a joint statement confirming their desire to increase the number of local abortion providers by expanding services to four additional Planned Parenthood locations. But Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley has promised to appeal the decision, saying that it was “wrong” with the dire consequence that laws that “protect the health and safety of women who seek to obtain an abortion” can no longer be enforced.

Last week’s ruling, however, is unlikely to deter state legislators from pursuing further abortion restrictions. Around the same time that Sachs issued the April 3 memo announcing his intent to grant the injunction, two Republican state Senators, frustrated that they were unable to block a St. Louis nondiscrimination ordinance protecting women that are pregnant, use birth control, or have had an abortion, took time during a discussion of tax hikes benefiting the state zoo to joke that women should go to the St. Louis Zoo for abortions, suggesting that it was “safer” and better regulated than the state’s lone abortion provider.

Meanwhile, shortly after Republicans in Congress moved to defund Planned Parenthood, state Republican Rep. Robert Ross proposed an amendment to House Bill 11—an appropriations bill for the Missouri Department of Social Services—that would allow the state to prevent “abortion services” providers from receiving state family planning funding. This could potentially include any group that provides even abortion referrals upon request. Allison Dreith, the executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri characterized the amended bill as having the potential to create “a public health crisis in our state, if family planning clinics, hospitals, and Planned Parenthood are defunded from Medicaid reimbursement.” The measure passed the House on a 107-39 vote and is now with the Senate.

Missouri lawmakers have faced some unintended consequences in their zeal to cut back on family planning services. In 2016, the state rejected the federal family planning funding it had received through Extended Women’s Health Services, a Medicaid program for low-income women funded by both the state and federal governments. Federal law already prevents Medicaid from reimbursing providers for the costs of most abortions, but Missouri legislators hoped to go further by completely cutting off funding to groups like Planned Parenthood by rejecting some $8.3 million dollars in federal funds, opting to create a state-funded program that would no longer have to abide by federal rules mandating that patients have the ability to choose their health care provider.

In the months leading up to the measure taking effect, Missouri has moved to block all abortion providers, including hospitals, from receiving family planning funding. But to the consternation of Missouri conservatives, many Planned Parenthood clinics in the state remained eligible for the program because they are not permitted to provide abortions. “Despite that being a simple amendment last year, apparently the Department of Social Services was confused,” Ross said when discussing his proposed amendment earlier this month, according to reports from the Missouri House of Representatives newsroom. Ross’ HB 11 amendment would change things by ensuring that even those who provide information about or referrals for abortions are excluded from the funding program.

“They have defined ‘abortion services’ so broadly that it is going to basically decimate the entire family planning network across the state of Missouri,” says Michelle Trupiano, the executive director of the Missouri Family Health Council, which allocates funding to 71 clinics in the state under the federal government’s Title X family planning program.

Trupiano notes that under the conditions of Title X, many of the state’s family planning providers are required to offer abortion referrals upon request, a mandate that could open them up to losing funding should HB 11 be adopted. “There wouldn’t be a single provider that could participate in the program,” she adds. With less than a month remaining in Missouri’s legislative session, advocates have begun lobbying lawmakers in hopes of defeating the amendment.

But given the history, advocates say, some lawmakers in Missouri will do anything to restrict abortion, even if it means an overall reduction in access for women to health care options in the process. “Responsible legislators want to move forward to other issues,” McQuade says. “But this is what Missouri is choosing to spend its time on right now. It’s deeply disheartening.”

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A Loss in the Courts Won’t Stop Missouri’s Anti-Abortion Wave

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These Four Cases Will Quickly Show Who Gorsuch Really Is

Mother Jones

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When newly minted Supreme Court Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch takes the bench later this month, he will likely have an immediate impact on a court that has been somewhat paralyzed since the unexpected death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February last year. The court, evenly divided with eight members, has waited to tackle a number of potentially thorny cases, either because they were unable to agree on whether to hear them or they were reluctant to adjudicate them. Gorsuch has been confirmed just in time to change all that.

He will also shape the future when, on April 13, he participates in his first court conference, where the justices decide which new cases to hear in the new term and which they’re rejecting. Decisions from that meeting may demonstrate quickly whether fears Senate Democrats have raised about his views on everything from religious freedom to gay rights to corporate power were on target.

Here are a few of the pending cases where Gorsuch will have an opportunity to make an early mark:

Masterpiece Cake Shop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission: In 2012, a Colorado baker named Jack Phillips refused to make a custom wedding cake for two men getting married in Massachusetts, one of the few states where same-sex marriage was legal at the time. The couple was planning a reception in Colorado, where they lived and wanted to celebrate. Phillips claimed making the cake would violate his religious beliefs. The couple sued and has prevailed at every level in Colorado courts, which found that baking a gay wedding cake would not violate Phillips’ free speech or religious freedom rights, but refusing to make one would constitute illegal discrimination based on sexual orientation.The case has been stuck in conference purgatory, relisted multiple times for consideration, but probably not for long.

The gay-cake case seems custom-made for Gorsuch, who was one of the lower court judges who ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby, the craft store that claimed providing health insurance to its employees that covered contraception violated its corporate religious freedom rights. The Supreme Court later upheld the ruling in a 5-4 decision, and critics have warned it will be used to justify the kind of anti-gay discrimination at issue in the cake case. The presence of Gorsuch on the high court, instead of Merrick Garland, President Obama’s court nominee who was denied the seat by Senate Republicans, is likely to be decisive. It probably doesn’t bode well for the LGBT community, despite Gorsuch’s claims to have gay friends.

Salazar-Limon v Houston: Even though police shootings have been in the news and the source of intense protest over the past couple of years, the eight-member Supreme Court seems to have been reluctant to wade into the fray. This case is another one that’s been languishing at the court for many months, waiting for a decision on whether it will be heard. It involves what might be called the “reaching for the waistband” defense frequently deployed by cops who shoot unarmed people of color.

In 2010, 25-year-old Mexican immigrant Ricardo Salazar-Limon had a wife, children, and a construction job. One night after a long day of work, he was out with friends and driving to see another friend when a Houston cop pulled him over for speeding. He had no criminal record, no outstanding warrants, a valid drivers’ license, and insurance on his truck. He was in the country legally and was unarmed. But the cop told Salazar he was going to jail and tried to put him in handcuffs. Salazar jerked back and walked towards his vehicle, annoyed because the officer refused to even tell him why he might be going to jail. As he was walking the officer told him to stop and then shot him in the back, leaving Salazar paralyzed from the waist down.

Salazar sued the police department alleging excessive force. In his defense, the officer claimed that he feared for his life when he shot Salazar because he had moved his hands towards his waistband while walking away. It’s the same argument that’s been employed by cops in at least two other shootings of unarmed citizens in Houston, and it works. The District Court dismissed Salazar’s case, and the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the decision. The Supreme Court is now being asked to decide whether a court can dismiss a case against an officer in a suit for excessive force “by concluding that it is an ‘undisputed fact’ that the person reached for his waistband just because the officer said he did.”

The facts in this case are infuriating, yet it’s clear that the court has been unable to get the requisite four votes needed to hear it. Whether Gorsuch will provide that additional vote is anyone’s guess, but criminal justice reformers shouldn’t hold out hope that he’ll change the outcome. He’s ruled in a similar case before. In 2013, he wrote the majority opinion in a 10th Circuit ruling dismissing a lawsuit brought by the parents of a man who was tased in head by a cop and died. The cops in that case also used a “reached for his waistband” defense.

Alaska Oil and Gas Association v. Zinke: One of the biggest concerns raised by those opposing Gorsuch’s confirmation was that his record suggested he would be hostile to environmental regulations and the agencies that create them. That theory will be tested soon after Gorsuch’s swearing in, with a case involving the fate of polar bears.

In 2008, the Bush administration’s Fish and Wildlife Service officially declared the polar bear a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. Two years later, the agency designated 187,000 square miles around the Bering Sea, the Arctic Ocean and the Alaskan North Slope as critical habitat for the bears, which created new restrictions on oil drilling in the region. The Alaskan oil industry sued and alleged that the Fish and Wildlife Service had overreached and made an arbitrary decision in selecting the boundaries for the critical habitat. The trial court partially agreed, but the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned that decision and sided with the wildlife agency. The appeal of that decision is pending before the Supreme Court, which will decide in the next few months whether to hear the case.

Federal agency overreach is something Gorsuch has a clear record on. He wrote a lengthy concurrence to one of his own opinions on the 10th Circuit, calling on the Supreme Court to limit the requirement that judges defer to federal agencies such as Fish and Wildlife when considering the implementation of laws made by Congress. This may be a sign that, despite his love of skiing, Gorsuch probably is not going to side with the polar bears.

Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer: The court agreed to hear this case last year, shortly before Justice Scalia died, but it took its own sweet time scheduling it for oral arguments. When it finally did, a year later, the case was set for the second-to-last week of arguments for the term. The court’s reluctance to decide this case may stem from the fact that it’s the most controversial church-state separation case on the docket this year, and the closest thing to a culture war case that’s likely to break out before the court recesses in June.

Here’s how we described it last fall:

A Michigan church applied for a grant from Missouri’s Scrap Tire Grant program for assistance resurfacing a playground at its preschool with a safer, rubber top made of old tires. While the church’s grant proposal was well rated, the state ultimately turned it down because the state constitution prohibits direct aid to a church. The church sued, with help from a legion of lawyers fresh off the gay marriage battles. They argue that Missouri’s prohibition, originally conceived as part of an anti-Catholic movement, violates the Establishment Clause of the Constitution, especially when the money was going to a purely secular use.

While this might have been an easy win for the church before the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, who was on the court when the justices took the case in January, the remaining eight-members might not be quite so well-disposed to rule in its favor. Forcing taxpayers to underwrite improvements to church property is in direct conflict with some of the court’s earlier rulings. Critics see a ruling for the church as a slippery-slope sort of argument, leading to compulsory government support of religion, which the Founders deeply opposed.

Once again, Gorsuch’s views in Hobby Lobby and religious freedom seem likely to predispose him to support church, but we’ll know more about his position on April 19, when he will be on the bench for the oral arguments in this case.

Liberal court watchers, having lost the confirmation fight, are now moving into breath-holding mode as they look to these cases for clues as to just what sort of justice Gorsuch is really going to be. As Elizabeth Wydra, president of the Constitutional Accountability Center said Friday, “Now that he has been confirmed, we certainly hope that Justice Gorsuch will fulfill Judge Gorsuch’s commitments: To be an independent jurist, to be a good judge who respects precedent, to be an originalist who respects the Constitution’s radical guarantee of equality, and follows the text and history of the Constitution wherever it leads.She added, “The burden remains on Gorsuch to prove that he will be a Justice who fairly applies the law and the Constitution and does not, contrary to President Trump’s promises, just represent certain segments of the population.”

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These Four Cases Will Quickly Show Who Gorsuch Really Is

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These maps show what Americans think about climate change.

In some parts of the country, the season just breezed in three weeks ahead of schedule. Balmy weather may seem like more good news after an already unseasonably warm winter, but pause a beat before you reach for your flip-flops.

According to the “spring index,” a long-term data set which tracks the start of the season from year-to-year, spring is showing up earlier and earlier across the United States.

The culprit behind the trend? Climate change. And it’s bringing a batch of nasty consequences. Early warmth means early pests, like ticks and mosquitoes, and a longer, rougher allergy season. Agriculture and tourism can be thrown off, too. Washington D.C.’s cherry blossoms usually draw crowds in April, for instance, but they’re projected to peak three weeks early this year.

Spring isn’t shifting smoothly, either. It’s changing in fits and starts. Eggs are hatching and trees are losing their leaves, but temperatures could easily plunge again, with disastrous consequences for new baby animals and plants.

Play this out another 80 years, and it’s easy to imagine a world out of sync. Sure, your picnic in December sounds nice. But bees could lose their wildflowers, and groundhogs may never see their shadows again.

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These maps show what Americans think about climate change.

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Trump has no clue what it takes to ensure clean air and water.

A New Jersey startup called Bowery grows leafy greens stacked in columns five high under the watchful eyes of an AI system.

The operation, which officially launched last week, uses 95 percent less water than traditional methods and is 100 times more productive on the same footprint of land, according to the company.

Bowery calls itself “post-organic,” a label to describe its integration of tech and farming practices and its pesticide-free produce. That distinguishes it from large-scale organic farms, which do use pesticides — they’re just organic ones.

Bowery

Its AI system automates ideal growing conditions for crops by adjusting the lighting, minerals, and water, using sensors to monitor them. It can alter conditions to tweak the taste — emphasizing a wasabi-like flavor in arugula, for instance.

More than 80 crops are grown at the farm, including baby kale, butterhead lettuce, and mixed greens. The produce is delivered to New York stores within the day after harvest, and the greens go for $3.49 a box — on par with the competition.

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Trump has no clue what it takes to ensure clean air and water.

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