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NY Faces Demand For Election Reforms After Illegal Primary Voter Purge

The New York City Board of Elections admitted after a lawsuit that it broke the law by purging thousands of people from voter rolls before the 2016 New York presidential primary. State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman says the board violated “the law and New Yorkers’ trust in the institutions meant to protect their rights”

By Michael Sainato –

On October 24, the New York City Board of Elections finally admitted it broke the law by purging 117,000 voters off voter rolls in Brooklyn shortly before the 2016 Presidential Primary. The admittance came one year after a lawsuit was filed against the board for violating national and state election laws. As part of the settlement, the purged voters are to be restored to voter rolls, the board has 90 days to come up with a plan to prevent future purges and be subjected to regular audits and reports.

“The right to vote is sacred to our democracy. Yet the NYC Board of Elections illegally purged over 200,000 New Yorkers from the rolls, violating the law and New Yorkers’ trust in the institutions meant to protect their rights,” New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a statement. “This proposed settlement would overhaul NYCBOE’s practices for maintaining voter rolls, ensuring that the issues that led to the purges are addressed, and establishing frequent monitoring and oversight. My office will continue to protect all voters’ access to the polls and continue to fight to expand voting rights.”

In December 2016, Schneiderman proposed a series of election reforms in response to his office’s investigation of complaints from the 2016 New York Primary. “The voting issues we uncovered during the April primary were widespread, systemic and unacceptable,” he said in the press release. “The right to vote is the right that protects all other rights. New York must become a national leader by protecting and expanding voting rights throughout the state.” Those reforms proposed by Schneiderman and pushed for by several progressive organizations have been widely ignored by Democrats in New York.

Despite New York serving as a Democratic Party stronghold, the state’s primary elections are one of the most undemocratic in the country and 2016 served as a prime example of why. The New York Democratic primary had the second lowest voter turnout (19.7 percent) of all Democratic primaries, behind Louisiana. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign helped bring thousands of Independent voters into the Democratic Party, but New York holds closed primaries, and the New York Attorney General’s office noted that many voters were unable to vote in the primaries because their registrations were not properly processed in time for the deadline.  In New York, voters are required to register as Democrats six months before a primary to be eligible to vote in it, one of the longest time constraints on voter registration in the United States. Hillary Clinton defeated Sanders in the New York Democratic Primary, 57.9 percent to 42.1 percent, a victory that halted Sanders’ surge after he had won the last 7 of 8 primary contests.

Schneiderman proposed automatic voter registration, offering same-day registration for voters, online voter registration, restore voting rights to parolees, and develop a system of early voting. The low voter turnout in the New York Democratic Primary was a symptom of an election system in New York designed to deter democracy through voter suppression. In New York City, voters were provided only one day to vote during the week, in the most populated city in the United States. New York should serve as an example to the rest of the country in how elections should be held to expand and promote democracy rather than constrict it.

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Residents Are Warned Their Recyclables Will End Up In Landfills


Keith Ristau, President of Far West Fibers, pulls a disposable coffee cup out of a pile of curbside recycling.

Keith Ristau, President of Far West Fibers, pulls a disposable coffee cup out of a pile of curbside recycling.

Amanda Troxler/OPB

Recyclers are worried they could soon have no place to send your discarded paper and plastics. That’s because China has decided the U.S. is letting food and garbage contaminate too much of its unwanted milk jugs and other recyclables.China is the biggest buyer of recyclable plastic, paper and metal from the U.S. Starting next year, China will no longer take our recyclables. They say those materials are coming over with food scraps or types of plastic that can’t be recycled.

No more unclean chili cans. No more of the wrong types of plastic. No more things that just get tossed in recycling containers: junk like garden hoses or grocery store plastic bags.

By the end of the year, China will only accept products that have a 0.3 percent contamination rate, something industry groups said is “virtually unattainable.”

That’s left Northwest recyclers in a lurch. Oregon has been asked to allow recyclers to ship customers’ paper, plastic and metal materials to landfills.

“The problem is it has nowhere to go,” said Julie Miller of the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, in an earlier interview with EarthFix. “Recycling centers are filling up with material.”

In Washington, recycling is most often handled at the city and county levels. That means it’s difficult to tell how each municipality is handling the upcoming changes.

Brad Lovaas is with the Washington Refuse and Recycling Association. He said Friday that could mean more of the state’s recycling could be headed for the trash heap.

“If it comes to it, and they hold to this ban, if they hold to the contamination levels, there will be no market for many of the things that we collect in our curbside and commercial recycling programs right now,” Lovaas said. “There’s just no way to replicate what China consumes right now anywhere.”

Lovaas said recyclers are going to have to slow down the processing and sorting of products to meet the new standards.

That could mean, in the near term, many recyclables will be headed to the landfill — it’s not safe or healthy to just store them somewhere until further notice.

Washington’s recycling rate is around 50 percent, Lovaas said, which is above the national average, as are Oregon and California’s recycling rates. That’s one reason the West Coast is feeling the pinch of losing its biggest recyclable buyer.

“We still are questioning whether we can attain the levels that — at least right now — (China) is dictating,” Lovaas said.

Right now, Lovaas said consumers should still continue to recycle. Just check with local programs to make sure you know the rules — and throw things away if you aren’t sure if they can be recycled.

 

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Pet Owners Turn To Medical Marijuana To Treat Their Pets

Medical marijuana is legal in 28 states, though still illegal under United States federal law. As more humans turn to marijuana based treatments for their own conditions, some are finding that their pets are also experiencing relief when treated as well. Pet owners are using cannabis-based extracts, ointments and treats for issues that range from anxiety and arthritis to cancer.

Related: The National Canine Cancer Foundation: Dedicated To Finding A Cure

Because it the use of cannabis based products is illegal under federal law, there has been little research done with regard to its potential for help in humans or animals. Because of this veterinarians say there isn’t enough science to prove that cannabis is safe, or even effective in the treatment of animals, and they cannot recommend, nor prescribe it as a treatment.

Ken Pawlowski is the president of the California Veterinary Medical Association and says that vets hands are tied when it comes to the questions and requests they get from clients asking about it for their pets. They just don’t have the answers for them. Even veterinarians in California, like Dr. Karl Jandrey, who also teaches at the University of California, says that he advises clients who insist on using cannabis-treatments to do so knowing there is risk and possible expense involved. Though marijuana is legal for both medical and recreational use in California, veterinarians are legally restricted from prescribing or even recommending cannabis, and could lose their licenses if they did.

Yet, even with little science backing the efficacy of cannabis treatments in pets, many owners are still using them on their own, and thankful for the options. Most of the products they use, though not regulated, have cannabidiol, or CBD, which is found in cannabis but doesn’t get pets or humans ‘high.’ Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the compound in cannabis that is known for its psychoactive effects, and there is little to none in these products.

Related: Canine Cannabis: Medical Marijuana for Dogs

There’s been such ‘success’ among pet owners in the usage that now companies are producing and marketing cannabis products specifically for pets, even though the actual legality of the products is questionable. One such company is TreatWell Health, which is based  out of San Francisco. TreatWell sells cannabis tinctures that can be added to a pet’s food or put directly in his mouth. Alison Ettel is the co-founder of TreatWell and she says that a lot of clients are coming to her when there are no other options, particularly when prescribed medications simply don’t work.

Ettel says that TreatWell tinctures can help treat things like anxiety, pain, seizures, kidney and liver problems and even cancer and glaucoma. They are also part of end-of-life care routines to make the pets comfortable.

What clients say is that the treatments bring their pet’s back to their old selves. TreatWell client Barbara Stein said that when no traditional medicines worked for her aging cats, the cannabis did.

 

 

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Dwight Clark hit by cruelest of fates. Watch the game today.

Dwight Clark speaks in front of a mural dedicated to the 49ers on April 23, 2017, in San Francisco. Photo: The Chronicle

For most of the past four decades, it seemed that Dwight Clark had been sprinkled with lucky dust. That he had a golden horseshoe stuck somewhere on his body. Over the years, Clark would agreeably acknowledge that life had, indeed, been pretty good to the handsome kid out of Kinston, N.C.

But life has abruptly reversed course.

Clark, who will be honored on Sunday at Levi’s Stadium, is suffering one of the cruelest fates of the human condition. He revealed last spring that he had been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis — Lou Gehrig’s disease.

His condition is deteriorating. The man who became famous for touching the sky as he leaped to catch a touchdown pass is confined to a wheelchair.

It is heartbreaking. A reminder that no one is immune from the ravages of disease and physical disability.

There is precious little magic around the 49ers these days. Sunday, when the 49ers take on the Cowboys — a matchup forever changed by Clark’s catch — there will be reflections on that most idyllic, Camelot-like, of times for the team.

Thirty-eight members of San Francisco’s 1981 championship team will be on hand, along with 20 other former 49ers players. Various proceeds will go to the “Golden Heart Fund,” which supports 49ers alumni in need of assistance.

Also expected at the ceremony: Eddie DeBartolo Jr., Carmen Policy, several former employees, and Everson Walls, the Cowboy who will forever be frozen in time below Clark, hand outstretched to try to stop history.

Joe Montana will speak at halftime, to pay tribute to Clark.

“About his personality, the joy he brought to the whole Bay Area,” Montana recently said on a podcast with NBC Sports. “His personality lends itself to a light atmosphere all the time. No matter how down somebody was, he could get you to smile and laugh.”

Clark was drafted in the 10th round of the 1979 draft, back when there were 10 rounds. Bill Walsh had traveled to Clemson to work out quarterback Steve Fuller. Clark was at the workout to catch Fuller’s passes. Walsh liked what he saw in the 6-foot-4 receiver.

Walsh was one of the few who saw Clark’s potential. The only other teams to work him out were the Steelers and the Chiefs. The Cowboys had labeled Clark “undraftable.”

He came into camp with a skinny guy named Montana who — according to a hilarious recounting by the parties involved — Clark originally mistook for the kicker. The quarterback and receiver quickly bonded. They roomed together, pulled pranks on teammates, and tried to hide from the coaches, always afraid they were about to be cut from the team at any moment.

They weren’t. Though there were other key figures, most notably Walsh, who were responsible for the 49ers’ rise, Montana and Clark became the image of the team. The dashing duo: Montana, the cool gunslinger, and Clark, the affable country boy with the movie star looks.

Montana recounted that the late Freddie Solomon had nicknamed Clark “Hercules.” In Roman mythology, Hercules was known for his strength and his many adventures. That was how Clark’s teammates viewed him.

Last spring, at a touching ceremony at City Hall to announce the naming of streets in the Candlestick Point housing development, Clark was suffering but still got up to speak. He spoke about “The Catch,” and described what a perfect, right-on-the-money pass it was from Montana, just high enough where only Clark could get it.

Clark said that Montana suggested — given how the receiver felt about the perfection of the pass — the play should probably be remembered as “The Throw.”

“Give me my one play!” Clark joked.

There was more than the one play. For nine years, wearing No. 87, Clark caught passes — 506 of them, resulting in 48 touchdowns.

But that one play would come to define him, would change his life forever. Never the fastest or most talented athlete, Clark made the right play at the right moment to become an instant legend. To become a beloved part of history.

Walsh had called “sprint right option.” Solomon was the primary receiver, but he slipped coming off the line, so the timing of the play was screwed up. But Walsh had his offense practice the play since training camp and Montana knew that Clark should be getting open.

Montana let go of the ball and was pushed to the ground by Larry Bethea. He didn’t know what happened until he came off the field and equipment manager Chico Norton ran up to him.

“Boy, your buddy saved your ass,” Norton said to Montana. “He jumped out of the stadium.”

It was as though Clark had sprouted wings. A moment of pure magic.

 

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NFL legend Mike Ditka may have had the worst take of all time this week when he said, “There has been no oppression in the last 100 years that I know of.”

The former coach and star tight end of the Chicago Bears appeared on Jim Gray’s national radio show ahead of Monday Night Football, Oct. 9 to talk football, protests, and apparently his rudimentary knowledge of American history. Gray even tried to help Ditka out of the hole he dug for himself, citing the social activism of athletes like Muhammed Ali and Jesse Owens. Instead, Ditka doubled down (emphasis added):

“I don’t know what social injustices [there] have been. Muhammad Ali rose to the top. Jesse Owens is one of the classiest individuals that ever lived. I mean, you can say, ‘Are you (saying) everything is based on color?’ I don’t see it that way. I think that you have to be color blind in this country. You’ve got to look at a person for what he is and what he stands for and how he produces, not by the color of his skin. That has never had anything to do with anything.

The color of someone’s skin has never had anything to do with anything.Let me put that in bold so you can really see the foolishness of this take: The color of someone’s skin has never had anything to do with anything.

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Mike Ditka testifying during a congressional hearing on NFL compensation. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images.

Well, Mike Ditka, I’ve got some news for you. There has, in fact, been oppression against people of color in the last 100 years.

Lynchings, Jim Crow laws, the war on drugs, mass incarceration, the 1994 crime bill, gentrification, gerrymandering, ICE raids, police shootings, and more. But hey. I get it. How could we expect someone like Mike Ditka to recall a century’s worth of discrimination, hatred, and bigotry, what with all those concussions he (probably) incurred, coupled with the insular world wealthy white men of advanced age tend to create for themselves.

Ditka and his ilk may feign ignorance about the history of this country, but their willful ignorance doesn’t erase the systemic oppression happening right this second.

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Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.

So if 100 years is too much to consider, here are nine examples of oppression against people of color from the last 100 days.

And, frankly, most of these are from the past month. Just because it’s not happening to you, doesn’t mean it’s not happening. Take a seat, Ditka. I’m about to drop some knowledge.

1. The public skewering of Jemele Hill

ESPN journalist Jemele Hill was suspended from the network over tweets calling out Jerry Jones for threatening to fire any players who kneel during the national anthem. She’s been publicly attacked by the president, who she called a white supremacist. Meanwhile, Hank Williams Jr. was recently invited back to ESPN after seemingly likening President Obama to Hitler and outright calling him “the enemy.”

2.  Terror and fear in Charlottesville

White supremacists terrorized the college town of Charlottesville, Virginia, the weekend of Aug. 11-13. They brought lit tiki torches and weapons and marched menacingly — supposedly to protect the city’s Confederate monument. Counter-demonstrators came out to protest the presence of hate groups and intimidation in their community. A black man brutally attacked at the rally was recently arrested because he allegedly injured one of his attackers during the brawl (presumably in self-defense). When asked about the violence and tumult in Charlottesville, President Trump said there was “blame on both sides.”

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Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

3. Destruction is met with heartlessness in Puerto Rico

Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico. Most people on the island are still without water or electricity. The president criticized the mayor of San Juan for her “poor leadership,” then he took his time getting supplies and resources to residents and threw paper towels into the crowd. His administration also briefly hid data about the recovery effort.

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Residents wait in the rain to register with FEMA in Jayuya, Puerto Rico. Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images.

4. The relentless stream of anti-Muslim rhetoric and vandalism

In the last month, there have been acts of anti-Muslim vandalism in Farmville, Virginia; Portland, Oregon; Bellingham, Washington; Raleigh, North Carolina; and more. 2017 is on track to be one the worst years ever for anti-Muslim hate crimes.

5. The co-opting of the NFL protest against inequality

Kneeling during the national anthem began as a silent way to protest police violence and inequality against against black and brown people. Athletes and fans choosing to kneel have been met with racial slurs, death threats, and threats to their employment. A black fan seated during the anthem at a pre-season Lakers game was reportedly attacked by two white women. At the same time, Terrelle Pryor, a black NFL player, says he was called the n-word so much during a game, he had to have an NFL employee step in to assist. (In case you’re curious, he didn’t kneel during the anthem, but maybe he should have).

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Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images.

6. Dove’s careless advertisement that centered white beauty ahead of everything else

This ad from Dove, which appeared on Instagram, shows a black woman removing her shirt and skin to reveal a white woman underneath. Think of all the people who had to OK this before it got to Instagram. Now ask yourself why so many people thought it was OK to dismiss black women in that way, to ignore how the ad could be seen as portraying black women as dirty, unworthy, or not beautiful?

7. America’s dangerous obsession with memorializing the Confederacy

New monuments to the Confederacy have been planned and built, even in Union states. This is not a celebration of history. It’s intimidation and propaganda. Or to put it another way: oppression.

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Hundreds of protesters demonstrate against a Confederate monument in Fort Sanders. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

8. The legitimization of Roy Moore

Roy Moore is the Republican candidate for Senate in Alabama. Real talk: He’s an anti-Muslim, homophobic asshole who seems to enjoy terrorizing marginalized people. And he’s favored to win.

9. The acquittal of Jason Stockley

In 2011, St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley shot Anthony Lamar Smith five times. While in pursuit of Smith’s vehicle, Stockley said, “we’re killing this motherfucker, don’t you know.” Stockley didn’t apply wound-care even though another officer on the scene testified that Smith appeared alive. Stockley may have planted a gun in Smith’s car.  What does this have to do with the last 100 days? Well, Stockley was found not guilty of murder on Sept. 15, 2017. For weeks, people have taken to the streets of St. Louis to protest the verdict and demand justice for Smith.

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Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.

OK, Ditka, step aside for a second. Time to talk to the people ready to do something about willfully ignorant people like you.

Just like oppression itself, willfully ignorant people are common and dangerous. They don’t understand that “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps” is not a solution. It’s a myth. This is especially true if you don’t have boots (figurative or literal) to start with.

Like Ditka said…

“I mean, I don’t see all this, the social injustice that some of these people see. I don’t. I know my dad worked in a steel mill and he brought home a paycheck and we ate dinner every night together. We didn’t have anything, but we didn’t need anything because we had a family. That was a good time in America. I would like to see us get back to that.”

Ditka was 10 years old in 1949. WWII had just ended four years earlier and Brown v. Board of Education wouldn’t rule to integrate schools for another five years. So it’s safe to say that wasn’t a great time for everyone in America — just people who looked a lot like Ditka.

That’s why people like him are so dangerous. They simply don’t see the hatred, bigotry, and systemic oppression that our country was built on. And if they can’t see it, they will do absolutely nothing to stop it, and they could use their privilege and power to make matters worse.

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Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images.

What can you do about it? Speak up.

We all know a Ditka: Someone who just doesn’t get it and just doesn’t want to. Don’t let them off the hook. Don’t stay silent. Have those tough conversations. Call them out on their BS. Hit them with facts, figures, and the truth. Speak out against acts of oppression, and support candidates and companies that do the same.

Because whether it comes from a windbag of a football coach (sorry, Bears fans) or your dear old aunt, willful ignorance is willful ignorance. And if we want to dismantle systemic oppression, dropping knowledge is a damn good place to start.

 

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George Clooney just slammed President Trump in a very NSFW fashion

Hold on for some four-letter action

George Clooney, a charming Kentuckian liquor salesman who is also one of the world’s biggest movies stars, let loose on President Donald Trump (also a liquor salesman), in a pointed interview with the Daily Beast recently, one in which he used a palette of colorful language perhaps appropriate to the subject matter at hand.

While promoting his new film “Suburbicon,” the actor, director and Nespresso pitchman spoke to writer Marlow Stern about the ongoing skirmishes between Trump, his red-state, red-meat base and the so-called “coastal elites,” a clique of which Clooney would seem to be a member. The actor wasn’t having it:

Here’s the thing: I grew up in Kentucky. I sold insurance door-to-door. I sold ladies’ shoes. I worked at an all-night liquor store. I would buy suits that were too big and too long and cut the bottom of the pants off to make ties so I’d have a tie to go on job interviews. I grew up understanding what it was like to not have health insurance for eight years. So this idea that I’m somehow the “Hollywood elite” and this guy who takes a shit in a gold toilet is somehow the man of the people is laughable.

Fair. He continued about the notion of Hollywood elitism and exceptionalism saying, “People in Hollywood, for the most part, are people from the Midwest who moved to Hollywood to have a career. So this idea of ‘coastal elites’ living in a bubble is ridiculous.”

This, in turn, curved back to statements about our highly branded commander in chief, of course. “Who lives in a bigger bubble?” he said. “[Trump] lives in a gold tower and has twelve people in his company.” Of course, the president would argue that he employs tens of thousands, but the Oscar-winner wasn’t taking that particular bait.

“He doesn’t run a corporation of hundreds of thousands of people he employs and takes care of,” the actor said. “He ran a company of twelve people!” He then compared Trump’s past business ventures with his own work as a director. “When you direct a film you have seven different unions all wanting different things, you have to find consensus with all of them, and you have to get them moving in the same direction. He’s never had to do any of that kind of stuff.”

Clooney wrapped it all up with an F-bomb. “I just look at it and I laugh when I see him say ‘Hollywood elite,'” he said. “Hollywood elite? I don’t have a star on Hollywood Boulevard, Donald Trump has a star on Hollywood Boulevard! Fuck you!”

You know, it takes quite a lot to make a millionaire Academy Award-winning star who once lived in a 19th-Century villa on the shore of Lake Como look like a man of the people — but that is our gold-plated, gold-haired president, ladies and gentleman.

 
 

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Chicken plants in Midwest are human labor camps

by Katherine Martinko (@feistyredhair) –

chicken slaughterhouse

Public Domain USDA

When a judge sends a defendant to the ‘Chicken Farm,’ it’s considered worse than jail by some.

There are a lot of reasons to steer clear of industrially-farmed meat. From the filthy, cramped conditions in which animals are kept to the rampant disease and excessive antibiotics used to promote artificial growth, the whole industry raises serious ethical and environmental questions.

But now there’s yet another reason to question the origins of industrial meat. A recent investigation by Reveal News for the Center for Investigative Reporting has found that some chicken processing plants in the Midwest are, essentially, slave camps where men and women are sentenced to work hard for free in horrific conditions, all under the guise of rehab.

There are contradictory opinions as to the true purpose of the work camps. The main processing plant featured in the report, Christian Alcoholics & Addicts in Recovery (CAAIR), owned by Simmons Foods, Inc. and located in rural Oklahoma, promotes itself as a treatment center; however, “the program mainly relies on faith and work to treat addiction”; is unregulated by the state; and has only one licensed counsellor (out of three in the entire 280-person facility).

Meanwhile, a court administrator named Vicki Cox told reporters that participants are not sent to CAAIR for drug or alcohol treatment. “The referral is to assist the participants in developing good job skills, life skills, work ethics and personal care skills.”

Despite this, reporters found that “drug court staff repeatedly described CAAIR as treatment in court records,” which Cox dismissed as a record-keeping error.

So, which is it, and what is really going on?

The workers themselves have a different take on things. They describe a hellish work environment, standing in front of speeding conveyor belts in a frigid poultry plant, “pulling guts and stray feathers from slaughtered chickens destined for major fast food restaurants and grocery stores.”

To make matters worse, injuries are not properly treated and are often viewed by bosses as a way to get out of work. Brad McGahey, whose hand was mangled in a machine, recalls being told by CAAIR administrators, “You can either work or you can go to prison. It’s up to you.” At that point McGahey chose prison, because “anywhere is better than here.”

“The program mainly relies on faith and work to treat addiction.”

There is a serious conflict of interest, with the processing plants making enormous profits off the free labor. In the seven years since its founding, CAAIR has brought in more than $11 million in revenue. The workers also fill a labor void, resolving an issue faced by many of these processing plants prior to the creation of programs like CAAIR and without which they’d likely be forced to shut down.

Is this even legal?

“Legal experts said forcing defendants to work for free might violate their constitutional rights. The 13th Amendment bans slavery and involuntary servitude in the United States, except as punishment for convicts. That’s why prison labor programs are legal. But many defendants sent to programs such as CAAIR have not yet been convicted of crimes, and some later have their cases dismissed.”

The entire report adds a horrifying human dimension to the world of industrial meat production, extending the question of welfare from animals to the humans who process their carcasses. It’s certainly enough to put one off KFC and Popeye’s chicken forever, as CAAIR is a supplier.

It will be interesting to see what results from this investigation. It has certainly shocked many people, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma, which is now considering legal action in response. And yet, as the report concludes, CAAIR continues to expand with plans for yet another dormitory to house more laborers. Sadly, as long as demand for industrially-produced meat remains high, without the ethics of production being questioned, these injustices are likely to persist.

 

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