Posted by greydogg, 99GetSmart

* DUMBING AMERICA DOWN

By Susan J. Douglas, In These Times

Among the many visionary goals of our nation’s right wing—impoverish older people, starve the poor, deny climate change, outlaw abortion and contraception, eliminate healthcare for millions—few are more foundational than defunding education in general and higher education in particular. Public colleges and universities nationwide have seen significant funding cuts over the past five years, and while the recession is usually blamed, the Right keeps the fiscal screws tight by cutting taxes on the wealthy and corporations. Here in Michigan, in Republican Gov. Rick Snyder’s first budget, there was a 15 percent cut in state aid to universities and a $1.8 billion tax cut for businesses. This equals a win-win for the Right: Keep the fat cats in your corner, and constrain the opportunity for young people to learn a host of things that might, well, make them interrogate right-wing policies. The Pew Research Center and others have found that lower income and less-educated whites are becoming more likely to vote Republican than Democrat, with 54 percent of those without a college degree identifying as Republican in 2012; only 37 percent identified as Democratic, so the gap is, well, quite wide.

And here’s the ideological bonus: Public universities, clobbered by defunding, raise tuition. Then conservative pundits like S.E. Cupp can scream about the outrageous unaffordability (and elitism, of course) of a college degree and claim that it’s money down a rat hole. As she put it, colleges are “not meeting the demand of manufacturers and employers who want people who can’t just, you know, read Freud and Nietzsche … but who can actually read a business plan.” She’s hardly alone— stories asking “Is College Worth It?” are everywhere now. Few put two and two together: that the government cuts have to be made up somehow.

The recent assaults on the value of a college degree (coupled with the shameful student loan scandal) have borne fruit: According to a College Board and National Journal poll, 46 percent of respondents believe a college degree isn’t necessary for success, while only 37 percent said so in the previous year’s poll. Here is another victory of opinion over fact. Even with the high cost of college, graduates make an average $365,000 more during their lifetimes—after you subtract all the costs of going to school—than their counterparts with only a high school degree. At the University of Michigan, where I teach, a recent calculation showed that after accounting for tuition and fees, a Michigan grad made $901,400 more than a non-college graduate. […]

READ @ http://inthesetimes.com/article/15989/dumbing_america_down/

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* THE DANGEROUS RETURN OF WATER PRIVATIZATION

By Maude Barlow and Wenonah Hauter, Utne Reader

It’s time for an integrated, holistic national water policy, including the establishment of a federal water trust fund. Instead we face the cannibalization of our public utilities by private corporations. Photo By Paul Goyette

The United States has one of the best public water supply systems in the world. More than 250 million people count on local governments to provide safe drinking water. Over the last 40 years, federal, state, and municipal governments have worked together to improve and protect water resources. The Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act have kept the U.S. on target for preserving rivers, lakes, watersheds, wetlands, natural aquifers, and other sources of fresh water.

Great strides have been made in managing waste water and storm water. More than 90 percent of community water systems in 2012 met all federal health standards. Public water utilities have been a tremendously successful model for the U.S. and continue to keep drinking water safe, accessible, and affordable for all Americans.

It hasn’t always been this way.

During the 1800s, private companies controlled the water systems of several large U.S. cities—to dire effect. Because the companies were more interested in making a profit than providing good service, many poor residents lacked access to water. As a result, cholera outbreaks were common in poor neighborhoods; water pressure was sometimes too low to stop fires, which destroyed both homes and businesses. […]

READ @ http://www.utne.com/politics/water-privatization-zm0z14jfzros.aspx#axzz2nlZyXlKM

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* EUROPEAN COMMISSION TO BAN HEIRLOOM SEEDS – CRIMINALIZE PLANTS NOT REGISTERED WITH GOVERNMENT

By Arjun Walia, Alt-Market

The European Commission is changing the European Union’s plant legislation, apparently to enhance food safety across the continent. This move has sparked a heavy  opposition from many, saying that the measure will threaten seed diversity and favour large agrochemical businesses. This new law creates new powers to classify and regulate all plant life anywhere in Europe. You can view the entire proposal in the list of sources at the bottom of this article.

The “Plant Reproductive Material Law” regulates all plants. It contains restrictions on vegetables and woodland trees, as well as all other plants of any species. It will be illegal to grow, reproduce, or trade any vegetable seed or tree that has not been been tested and approved by the government, more specifically the “EU Plant Variety Agency.” This agency will be responsible for making a list of approved plants and an annual fee must also be forwarded to the agency if growers would like to keep what they grow on the list. The new law basically puts the government in charge of all plants and seeds in Europe, and prevents home gardeners from growing their own plants from non-regulated seeds. If they did, they would now be considered criminals.

The draft text of the law has already been changed several times due to a large backlash from gardeners.

This law will immediately stop the professional development of vegetable varieties for home gardeners, organic growers and small scale market farmers. Home gardeners have really different needs – for example they grow by hand, not machine, and can’t or don’t want to use such powerful chemical sprays. There’s no way to register the varieties suitable for home use as they don’t meet the strict criteria of the PLant Variety Agency, which is only concerned about approving the sort of seed used by industrial farmers – Ben Gabel, Director of The Real Seed Catalogue […]

READ @ http://www.alt-market.com/articles/1913-european-commission-to-ban-heirloom-seeds-criminalize-plants-not-registered-with-governm

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* THE RISKS OF TRUSTING THE SNOWDEN STORY

Source: Dig Within

[…] It was originally reported that the number of documents Snowden had stolen was in the thousands. Today, however, that number is said to be nearly two million. This calls into question Snowden’s early statement, as reported by Greenwald, that he “carefully evaluated every single document… to ensure that each was legitimately in the public interest.” The huge, new number also reveals that less than one tenth of one percent of the documents (only about 900) have actually been released to the public.

How could Snowden have “carefully evaluated every single” one of what is now being said to be nearly two million documents? He only worked for Booz Allen Hamilton for a few months. According to NSA Director Keith Alexander, Snowden also worked directly for NSA for twelve months prior to that, which is interesting. But still, that would require carefully evaluating thousands of documents a day during that entire time. Didn’t he have a job apart from that?

Journalist Margie Burns asked some good questions back in June that have not yet been answered. She wondered about the 29-year old Snowden who had been a U.S. Army Special Forces recruit, a covert CIA operative, and an NSA employee in various capacities, all in just a few, short years. Burns asked “How, exactly, did Snowden get his series of NSA jobs? Did he apply through regular channels? Was it through someone he knew? Who recommended him? Who were his references for a string of six-figure, high-level security jobs? Are there any safeguards in place so that red flags go up when a subcontractor jumps from job to job, especially in high-level clearance positions?” […]

READ @ http://digwithin.net/2014/01/01/snowden/

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* THE PERFECT STORM IN TURKEY – CORRUPTION, CONFLICT, CONSPIRACY

By Michael Collins, InformationClearingHouse

The Republic of Turkey is consumed by intense conflict, conspiracy charges, and underlying financial problems that simply won’t go away. A perfect storm is brewing in Turkey.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government and supporters are charged with a secret gold-for-oil deal with Iran. The deal, in violation of trade sanctions against Iran, enriched the PM’s ministers and other key supporters involved (including the PM’s son), according to prosecutors. The deal also involved misreporting billions of dollars in trade, which, in turn, resulted in Turkey overstating national income and understating its current account deficit.

A more ominous charge focuses on Erdogan’s open support of a wealthy Saudi known for funding al Qaeda and the PM’s alleged support of Al Qaeda fighters engaged against the Syrian government. Just today, we say this headline: Turkish governor blocks police search on Syria-bound truck reportedly carrying weapons . Erdogan is a strong supporter of the Syrian rebels, assumed recipients of the weapons.

The crisis started on December 17, 2013 when dozens of Erdogan’s close associates were arrested for corruption. The arrests included the CEO of Turkey’s state bank caught with million in euros stuffed in shoeboxes. Charges and arrests continued. Prosecutors and police who handled the case were fired at the behest of the Prime Minister. The Turkish supreme court ruled that the government couldn’t interfere with police investigations through firings and intimidation. Undeterred, Erdogan fired more prosecutors claiming the charges were an attack on the Turkish state. To top it all off, authorities banned reporters from police stations and pressured the media to stop focusing on the scandals. […]

READ @ http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article37298.htm