Tag Archives: activism

Should You Pay If Your Identity Is Stolen?

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data breachIdentity theft has been an increasingly serious problem for several years, something that’s unlikely to change soon. News stories about a data breach at some large retailer appear regularly, often affecting tens of thousands or even millions of customers. Last year there were almost 50% more data breaches than in 2013, a total of 1,500 separate attacks, more than four every day. The number of records lost or stolen grew by 78% from 2013 to 2014, to nearly one billion. On average, each data breach resulted in almost 700,000 records being compromised.

I have had my personal data ‘stolen’ twice, years apart from two different businesses and fortunately I didn’t have any negative impact other than minor inconvenience. Like most people, I assumed that merchants are responsible for the costs of fixing any problems caused by the data theft, but that’s not necessarily true. At my credit union, when they are notified of a third-party breach, they act “immediately to change account numbers and issue new credit and debit cards for members who were affected.”

However credit unions and other financial institutions often end up absorbing the costs of doing so because merchants are legally allowed to shift the costs of data breaches to others. Following the widely publicized data loss at Target two years ago, credit unions ended up paying over $30 million and issuing nearly five million new credit and debit cards to members. These costs are then passed along to the members, who had nothing to do with the problem (other than being a Target customer).

If this doesn’t seem fair, you can do something about it today. From my credit union:

“We’re calling on Congress to step up and protect credit union members by supporting The Data Security Act of 2015 (S. 961). This bill is a good start to addressing this critical issue by:

  • Strengthening merchant standards to be comparable with those of credit unions.
  • Mandating a federal notification requirement for merchants when breaches occur.
  • Providing a floor for data security standards nationwide.

Overall, this bill represents the best attempt so far at legislation to stop merchant data breaches.”

Contact your U.S Representative and Senators and voice your for this important effort. The Credit Union National Association has also created an online tool to facilitate sending an e-mail to your federal elected officials.

The Bombing of Earth First!

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Judi Bari's bombed car.On May 24, 1990 a bomb ripped through the car of Earth First! organizer Judi Bari as she and Darryl Cherney were driving through Oakland, CA. They were on their way to a rally in support of Redwood Summer, a campaign they were organizing to halt the logging of California’s old growth redwoods.

Ten years later, I produced a 5-hour radio special all about the bombing, FBI COINTELPRO activities targeting Earth First! organizers and many aspects of the civil rights lawsuit Judi and Darryl filed (spoiler alert: and won) against the FBI and others.

This 2-minute excerpt from the show features Judi providing a quick synopsis of the bomb plot. I will post the entire special, in segments, shortly.

‘Dear Humanity, We Have A Systems Problem’

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Reprinted from Common Dreams – Originally Published Thursday, April 02, 2015

‘Dear Humanity, We Have a Systems Problem’:  New Project Aims to Promote Deep Solutions, Radical Transformation

‘It’s time to talk about alternatives,’ says team of thinkers behind the Next System Project

“It’s time to talk about what’s next.”

“It is time for Americans to think boldly about … what it will take to move our country to a very different place, one where outcomes that are truly sustainable, equitable, and democratic are commonplace.”

Those are the words of academic and author Gar Alperovitz, founder of the Democracy Collaborative, who—alongside veteran environmentalist Gus Speth—this week launched a new initiative called the “Next Systems Project” which seeks to address the interrelated threats of financial inequality, planetary climate disruption, and money-saturated democracies by advocating for deep, heretofore radical transformations of the current systems that govern the world’s economies, energy systems, and political institutions.

As part of the launch, the Next Systems Project produced this video which features prominent progressive figures such as actor and activist Danny Glover, economist Juliet Schor, 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben, labor rights activist Sarita Gupta, and others:

According to the project’s website, the effort is a response to a tangible and widespread “hunger for a new way forward” capable of addressing various social problems by injecting “the central idea of system change” into the public discourse. The goal of the project—described as an ambitious multi-year initiative—would be to formulate, refine, and publicize “comprehensive alternative political-economic system models” that would, in practice, prove that achieving “superior social, economic and ecological outcomes” is not just desirable, but possible.

“By defining issues systemically,” the project organizers explain, “we believe we can begin to move the political conversation beyond current limits with the aim of catalyzing a substantive debate about the need for a radically different system and how we might go about its construction. Despite the scale of the difficulties, a cautious and paradoxical optimism is warranted. There are real alternatives. Arising from the unforgiving logic of dead ends, the steadily building array of promising new proposals and alternative institutions and experiments, together with an explosion of ideas and new activism, offer a powerful basis for hope.”

The mission statement of the project—articulated in a short document titled It’s Time to Face the Depth of the Systemic Crisis We Confront (pdf)—has been endorsed by an impressive list of more than 350 contemporary journalists, activists, academics, and thought leaders from various disciplines who all agree  the current political and economic system is serving the interests of “corporate profits, the growth of GDP, and the projection of national power” while ignoring the needs and wellbeing of people, communities, ecosystems and the planet as a whole.

The statement addresses the dire crisis that now confronts humanity, but also marks the important element of optimism which undergirds the project. It reads, in part:

“The good news is that the inability of traditional politics and policies to address fundamental challenges has fueled an extraordinary amount of experimentation in communities across the United States—and around the world. It has also generated an increasing number of sophisticated and thoughtful proposals for transformative change. Together these developments suggest that it is possible to build a new and better America beyond the failed systems of the past and present. […]

It is time for Americans to think boldly about what is required to deal with the systemic difficulties facing the United States. It is time to explore genuine alternatives and new models—’the next system.’ It is time to debate what it will take to move our country to a very different place, one where outcomes that are truly sustainable, equitable, and democratic are commonplace.”

As part of the official launch, the team behind the project published a kick-off report—titled The New System Project: New Political-Economic Possibilities for the 21st Century (pdf)—which lays out the problems and the proposed set of solutions in more detail. Key goals of the project, as listed in the report, include:

  • To crack through the national media silence and to radically shift the national dialogue about the future away from narrow debates about policies that do not alter any significant decaying trend to awareness that what must be changed is the nature of the political-economic system itself.
  • To stimulate national debate about how best to conceive different possible models of a radically different system based on genuine democracy, equality, ecological sustainability, a peaceful global foreign policy, and a thorough-going culture of cooperative community based on non-violence and respect for differences of race, gender, and sexual preference.
  • To give publicity to the many “next system” models and approaches now being developed and refined in many parts of the nation and around the world.
  • To engage committed academics, on the one hand, and activist organizers and thinkers, on the other, in an ongoing process of close collaborative work and common development in furtherance of such work.
  • To help develop concrete “elements” that will likely be required to deal with the structural reorganization of any next system design— and, at the same time, to invest in and work with others to help nurture a rising generation of young scholars who can carry the work forward over the coming decades.

Next month, as part of the project’s public engagement strategy, key members and supporters—including Alperovitz and Speth—will participate in an online webinar in order to expand the conversation about these ideas with people across the country.

According to Alperovitz and Speth, bringing people together around these ideas is one of the key aspects of the new project. As they note in an essay published on Common Dreams, “If we can roll up our sleeves and get organized and serious about really tackling the system question, about building a new system of political economy, there are grounds for optimism that deep and far-reaching change is possible.”

Let the conversation begin.

News Story – The Economics of Happiness

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econhappyI spent this past weekend at The Economics of Happiness conference, recording talks, meeting some amazing people, and conducting and setting up future interviews. While it’s a huge challenge to condense many hours of content into a few minutes, I feel like this news story I produced for KBOO, provides a reasonable summation of the event. I have almost 10 hours of audio to produce and will begin loading it here soon, so check back regularly.

Here’s the intro read by the news anchor prior to playing my piece:

Portland hosted the fourth ‘Economics of Happiness’ conference this past weekend. Inspired by a film of the same name, both of which were produced by the International Society for Ecology and Culture, the conference shared many key aspects of global economic re-localization efforts. Andrew Geller was there and filed this report.

Update on Israel Wi-Fi Supreme Court Case

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no wifiThis a very brief teaser of a much bigger update to happen soon.

For over three years, Israeli attorney Dafna Tachover has been suing the state of Israel to remove Wi-Fi from Israeli schools due to health concerns and children suffering from electromagnetic hypersensitivity. She’s used a special petition that goes straight to the Supreme Court, which has seemed receptive to her arguments thus far, granting a preliminary (but not intermediate) injunction.

On February 11th at a ‘final’ hearing, the Court was unhappy to learn that the government lied, asserting that the Ministry of Education’s position on Wi-Fi in schools was in compliance with recommendations from the both the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Environmental Protection. So the Court immediately demanded affidavits from both ministries by February 26th, at which point Dafna will have 15 days to respond.

A final decision could arrive in March. If in favor of the plaintiffs, it would be a groundbreaking legal case and possibly a valid precedent that could be cited elsewhere. This short clip summarizes the key part of the February 11 hearing. It is part of a much longer interview I aim to post soon. You can also listen to a lot of background on this case from an interview we did (Dafna joins in at 27:30) in May 2014.

Author of new French radiofrequency protection law speaks

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IF

On January 29th, French lawmaker Laurence Abeille (Europe Ecologie-Greens) made history when her law regulating public exposure to radiofrequency radiation was adopted. The law (2) “on sobriety, transparency, information and consultation for exposure to electromagnetic waves” is the first such law in France and Ms. Abeille thinks the first in Europe at a national level.

The bill bans all wireless devices in “spaces dedicated to the care, resting and activities of children under 3 years,” primarily nurseries and daycare centers. In primary schools, wi-fi will be off by default and turned on only when no alternative is available. Within the next year, the national government will produce a report about people suffering from electromagnetic hypersensitivity and microwave ‘hot spots’ will need to have their levels reduced.

Laurence Abeille
     Laurence Abeille

Although significantly watered down from her original version filed two years ago, Ms. Abeille feels this is a very important first step to protecting the people of France, and especially children, from uncertain but potentially serious health effects from constant microwave exposure. We have a detailed discussion about the law, the struggle to get it passed, her plans to make sure it is properly implemented and how she wants to continue working on this issue.

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EPA Sued Over Nanotechnology Pesticides

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The Center for Food Safety (CFS), in conjunction with several other groups, filed a lawsuit last week against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over the agency’s failure to regulate new nanomaterial pesticides. The lawsuit results from several years of EPA inaction on a 2008 legal petition demanding that they regulate these pesticides.  George Kimbrell, a senior attorney with CFS said “Six years ago we provided EPA a legal and scientific blue print to address to regulate these novel materials under its pesticide authority. The agency’s unlawful and irresponsible delay ends now.”

Nanotechnology involves manipulating materials at the atomic and molecular level. Nanomaterials are so small that they cannot be seen with an ordinary microscope — a strand of human hair is 50,000 to 80,000 nanometers wide. Beyond being really really small, nanomaterials often behave differently because of their size, in ways that are unpredictable compared to the same material/s produced at a larger scale.

These unknown properties increase the potential for biological interaction and toxicity. If nanomaterials enter the blood stream, they can move freely through all organs and tissues. As Jaydee Hason, CFS senior policy analyst puts it, “Nanomaterials are novel technologies that pose unique risks unlike anything we’ve seen before.”

Nano-silver is the most common nanomaterial in consumer products, often used for its antimicrobial properties. However, since they are intended to kill bacteria, the products qualify as pesticides , which the EPA recognizes. In their petition six years ago, CFS identified 260 nano-silver consumer products, a number that is now over 400. While a definitive number is hard to find since there are no labeling requirements for nano-scale products, The Project on Emerging Nanotechnology says there over 1600 consumer products using nanotechnology.

According to the EPA, “silver nanoparticles have been incorporated into many consumer products…dietary supplements, laundry detergents, body soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste, disinfectant sprays, kitchen utensils, clothing and children’s toys.”  This despite a lack of knowledge regarding “release of silver nanoparticles” from these products, how and where they may travel once loose, and an inadequate understanding of “the physico-chemical properties of nanoscale silver [regarding] transport, transformation, exposure, and bioavailability of this element.”

CFS is representing itself, its sister nonprofit, the International Center for Technology Assessment, as well as, Beyond Pesticides, the Center for Environmental Health, Clean Production Action, and the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy in the lawsuit.