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Move to Fight Obama’s Climate Plan Started Early

LARGO, MD - MARCH 15:  U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks on energy policy during a rally at Prince Georges Community College March 15, 2012 in Largo, Maryland. Obama said his administration has helped to bring down the United States' dependence on foreign oil while promoting alternative forms of energy, like wind and solar power.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
By CORAL DAVENPORT and JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS

WASHINGTON — In the early months of 2014, a group of about 30 corporate lawyers, coal lobbyists and Republican political strategists began meeting regularly in the headquarters of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, often, according to some of the participants, in a conference room overlooking the White House. Their task was to start devising a legal strategy for dismantling the climate change regulations they feared were coming from President Obama.

The group — headed in part by Roger R. Martella Jr., a top environmental official in the George W. Bush administration, and Peter Glaser, a prominent Washington lobbyist — was getting an early start.
By the time Mr. Obama announced the regulations at the White House on Monday, the small group that had begun its work at the Chamber of Commerce had expanded into a vast network of lawyers and lobbyists ranging from state capitols to Capitol Hill, aided by Republican governors and congressional leaders. And their plan was to challenge Mr. Obama at every opportunity and take the fight against what, if enacted, would be one of his signature accomplishments to the Supreme Court.

Within minutes of the announcement, West Virginia’s attorney general, Patrick Morrisey, stepped before a bank of cameras for a news conference at the Greenbrier resort in his home state. Flanked by Mike Duncan, the president of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, one of the nation’s top coal lobbying groups, and Greg Zoeller, the attorney general of Indiana, Mr. Morrisey announced that a group of at least 15 Republican state attorneys general were preparing to jointly file a legal challenge to Mr. Obama’s proposal.

“The final rule announced Monday blatantly disregards the rule of law and will severely harm West Virginia and the U.S. economy,” Mr. Morrisey said. “This rule represents the most far-reaching energy regulation in this nation’s history, drawn up by radical bureaucrats and based on an obscure, rarely used provision of the Clean Air Act.”

“Our coalition, in short order, will comprise of many states, consumers, mine workers, coal operators, utilities and businesses who are united in opposition to this radical and illegal policy,” he added.

5 Questions About Obama’s Climate Change Plan AUG. 3, 2015
Gov. Mary Fallin of Oklahoma is among five Republican governors who have indicated they may defy new federal regulations.Republican Governors Signal Their Intent to Thwart Obama’s Climate RulesJULY 2, 2015
President Obama, at the White House last week, is poised to make climate change a major issue in the 2016 presidential campaign.Obama Policy Could Force Robust Climate Discussion From 2016 CandidatesAUG. 2, 2015
If rules survive legal challenges, they could help shut down coal-fired plants like the Ghent Generating Station in Kentucky.Obama to Unveil Tougher Environmental Plan With His Legacy in MindAUG. 2, 2015
A coal-fired plant in Georgia. A federal court dismissed a challenge to an E.P.A. proposal to cut greenhouse gases.Court Gives Obama a Climate Change WinJUNE 9, 2015
While Mr. Obama had not even put forth a draft proposal of his plans when the group started its work, the president had made plain in several speeches that he intended to act forcefully on climate change — and that he would flex the muscle of his executive authority to do so. “If Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will,” he said in his 2013 State of the Union address. The lawyers and lobbyists wanted to be ready to fire back hard and fast when he did.

In devising its strategy, the group worked closely with the office of Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader whose coal-producing home state also stands to suffer under the regulation. While Mr. McConnell opposes the climate change regulations, his advisers knew that he had little chance of enacting legislation to block them in Congress. Instead, Mr. McConnell has taken the unusual step of reaching out directly to governors and attorneys general, urging them to refuse to submit compliance plans for the regulations, and encouraging a state-by-state rejection of the rules.

 

Mr. Morrisey, whose coal-producing home state is also struggling with the nation’s highest unemployment rate, was chosen as the public face of the suit. But key strategists joining the original planning were Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas, a former attorney general there, and Scott Pruitt, the attorney general of Oklahoma. Both already had experience suing the Obama administration over major Clean Air Act regulations.

An important ally in the effort was the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, a conservative advocacy group that pushes policy through state legislatures. Typically, the council’s committees of corporate members will craft a model bill designed to push through policies it supports, such as rolling back environmental regulations.

At a July meeting in San Diego, ALEC’s energy committee — which includes Mr. Duncan, the coal lobbyist who also worked closely with Mr. McConnell on his tactics — enacted a model bill designed to directly support state attorneys general who legally challenge the climate change plan. According to a person present at that July meeting, the bill would allow states to create funds, which could be funded by corporate donations, to support legal challenges to the climate change rules.

While it is not unusual for major corporations to sue the federal government over environmental regulations, people involved in the effort to craft a legal strategy against the climate change rules said the time, labor and coordination of the effort were unusual. That effort reflects the sweeping scope of climate change regulations, which, unless struck down in the Supreme Court, could transform huge sectors of the economy, potentially crippling the coal industry and other industrial sectors whose economic well-being relies on coal.

The Obama administration contends that despite the massive scale of the challenges trained against it, the climate change plan is legally sound. “The final rule is built on a rock-solid legal foundation,” said Thomas Reynolds, a spokesman for the agency.

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RECENT COMMENTS

DW 6 minutes ago
If Obama had started a campaign to pet puppies, these people would be fighting it, just as compulsively. It doesn’t matter if it’s for or…
Jeff 16 minutes ago
“The group — headed in part by Roger R. Martella Jr., a top environmental official in the George W. Bush administration…”Well, that…
Jim R. 16 minutes ago
Mr. Morrisey and officials from West Virginia should be using their time and effort to make their state more competitive for today’s…
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“E.P.A. is using its clear authority under the Clean Air Act to set emission standards for air pollutants,” he said. “The rule is wholly consistent with the law, and we are confident it will withstand any and all legal challenges.”

But Michael McKenna, a Republican energy lobbyist who has worked closely with the group, says that the attorneys general will not back down. “This rule was more aggressive than any of us could have imagined,” he said. “There is no lack of state attorneys general who would like to put a bullet in this thing.” The rules, a final, stricter version of a plan that the Environmental Protection Agency announced in 2012 and 2014, assigns each state a target for reducing its carbon pollution from power plants. States will be allowed to create their own plans to meet the requirements and will have to submit initial versions of their plans by 2016 and final versions by 2018.

The most aggressive of the regulations requires that by 2030, the nation’s existing power plants must cut emissions by 32 percent from 2005 levels, which is an increase from the 30 percent target proposed in the draft regulation.

the new rules a public health imperative and “the single most important step America has ever taken in the fight against global climate change.” He also sought to wrap the policy in the legitimacy of transcendental values, noting that Pope Francis issued an encyclical in June, calling action on the issue a “moral obligation.”
Even as Mr. Obama acknowledged the steep resistance from coal-producing states and industry critics, he said it was up to the United States to adopt tough standards so that other countries like China would feel compelled to take similar steps.

But Mr. McConnell made it clear he would do everything in his power to combat the rules, which he said the president had crafted because he was “tired of having to work with the Congress the people elected.”

“That’s why the administration is now trying to impose these deeply regressive regulations — regulations that may be illegal, that won’t meaningfully impact the global environment, and that are likely to harm middle- and lower-class Americans most — by executive fiat,” Mr. McConnell said. “It represents a triumph of blind ideology over sound policy and honest compassion,” he added.

 

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7 tips for eco-friendly pet owner

by Tom Szaky 

German Shepherds in field

CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 Damian Synnott

With hundreds of millions of pets across the world, being an eco-friendly pet owner can have a greater environmental impact than you might expect.

It’s easy to overlook our furry friends while seeking out ways to make our lives a bit greener and more environmentally conscious. With more than 160 million pets in American households, and possibly upwards of 800 million worldwide, our favorite companions have quickly become an unsustainable force to be reckoned with. Even so, there are plenty of ways to extend your eco-friendly lifestyle to your pets – you just have to know where to start.

1. Adopt from a shelter

spotreporting/CC BY-SA 2.0There is already a significant overpopulation of pets in the country, and purchasing that new puppy or kitten from a store or breeder only leads to greater demand for breeding. More breeding has the potential to become unsustainable very quickly, and there are already millions of homeless animals stuck in shelters across the country. The Humane Society estimates that anywhere from 6 to 8 million cats and dogs enter shelters each year, 2.7 million of which are euthanized. Adopting not only saves an animal from this fate, but it can also help overburdened shelters reduce overhead costs andpreserve their often very limited resources.

2. Spay or neuter your pet

The exact number of strays in the United States may never be pinpointed, but theASPCA estimates that there are over 70 million stray cats alone. Spaying or neutering your pets is one of the easiest and most effective ways to prevent further overpopulation. When strays – especially cats – multiply, they can severely disrupt the surrounding ecosystem. Feral cats are even listed on the Invasive Species Specialist Group’s list of worst invasive species on earth, and it is believed that they are responsible for over one billion animal deaths each year.

3. Buy earth-friendly pet care products

© ShutterstockPurchasing eco-friendly pet products is a simple change, but it can really help lower the environmental impact your pets. Dog owners, for example, can find many differentvarieties of shampoo on the market that use natural or sustainably-sourced ingredients. For cat owners, kitty litter can be an environmental concern as it often does not biodegrade. Thankfully there are litter products available made from biodegradable or recycled materials.

4. Make your own treats

BevKnits/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0Why constantly purchase new pet treats, generating even more packaging waste along the way, when you could be making your own? Specifically for dogs, Dog Treat Kitchenhas dozens of recipes for homemade goodies that you can whip up in your kitchen. Looking for some homemade cat treat ideas? If you have a green thumb, try growing some catnip or cat grass at home.

5. Choose more sustainable pet food

Yet another way to decrease the environmental impact of our pets is to choose pet food from companies with a commitment to the planet. At TerraCycle, we have partnered with pet food brands Open Farm and Wellness TruFood to open free recycling programs for pet food bag waste, allowing anyone to send us their pet food bags for recycling. Family pets are able to have their favorite sustainably produced food, while packaging waste is diverted from the landfill.

6. Compost your pet’s waste

kirstyhall/CC BY 2.0Pet waste can be a particularly hazardous pollutant – especially to nearby water sources– and dogs alone are responsible for 10 million tons of it every year. But believe it or not, your pet’s waste can be used as an effective ingredient for compost. There are plenty of tutorials online to help start a compost pile with pet waste. Keep in mind that dog waste compost is not recommended for plants and crops meant for human consumption.

7. Consider eco-friendly pet toys

Playtime can also be eco-friendly with the right products. For the cat owners, this list of eco-friendly toys boasts a wide range of fun things to keep your cat occupied. You will find everything from dye-free toys made with organic materials, to toys created with recycled or upcycled materials. To ensure old toys don’t end up in the trash, be sure to donate or upcycle them instead. You can always make your own toys as well! Cats love balls of aluminum foil, hair ties, and paper towel rolls, while dogs will always be happy with an old ball from the garage.For most of us, our favorite companions are essentially extensions of the family, and require just as much love and care. Living an eco-friendly lifestyle requires paying attention not only to the choices we make for ourselves, but those we make for our pets as well.

Tags: Pets | Recycling | Waste

 

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The Colossal Hoax Of Organic Agriculture Comment Now Follow Commen

By Henry I. Miller and Drew L. Kershen

Consumers of organic foods are getting both more and less than they bargained for. On both counts, it’s not good.

Many people who pay the huge premium—often more than a hundred percent–for organic foods do so because they’re afraid of pesticides. If that’s their rationale, they misunderstand the nuances of organic agriculture. Although it’s true that synthetic chemical pesticides are generally prohibited, there is a lengthy list of exceptions listed in the Organic Foods Production Act, while most “natural” ones are permitted. However, “organic” pesticides can be toxic. As evolutionary biologist Christie Wilcox explained in a 2012 Scientific American article (“Are lower pesticide residues a good reason to buy organic? Probably not.”): “Organic pesticides pose the same health risks as non-organic ones.”

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SAN FRANCISCO, CA – JUNE 13: A label stating ‘Produce of USA’ is wrapped around a bunch of organic carrots at a farmers market on June 13, 2012 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Another poorly recognized aspect of this issue is that the vast majority of pesticidal substances that we consume are in our diets “naturally” and are present in organic foods as well as non-organic ones. In a classic study, UC Berkeley biochemist Bruce Ames and his colleagues found that “99.99 percent (by weight) of the pesticides in the American diet are chemicals that plants produce to defend themselves.” Moreover, “natural and synthetic chemicals are equally likely to be positive in animal cancer tests.” Thus, consumers who buy organic to avoid pesticide exposure are focusing their attention on just one-hundredth of one percent of the pesticides they consume.
Some consumers think that the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) requires certified organic products to be free of ingredients from “GMOs,” organisms crafted with molecular techniques of genetic engineering. Wrong again. USDA does not require organic products to be GMO-free. (In any case, the methods used to create so-called GMOs are an extension, or refinement, of older techniques for genetic modification that have been used for a century or more.) As USDA officials have said repeatedly:
Organic certification is process-based. That is, certifying agents attest to the ability of organic operations to follow a set of production standards and practices which meet the requirements of the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 and the [National Organic Program] regulations . . . If all aspects of the organic production or handling process were followed correctly, then the presence of detectable residue from a genetically modified organism alone does not constitute a violation of this regulation. [emphasis added]

Putting it another way, so long as an organic farmer abides by his organic system (production) plan–a plan that an organic certifying agent must approve before granting the farmer organic status–the unintentional presence of GMOs (or, for that matter, prohibited synthetic pesticides) in any amount does not affect the organic status of the farmer’s products or farm.

Under only two circumstances does USDA sanction the testing of organic products for prohibited residues (such as pesticides, synthetic fertilizers or antibiotics) or excluded substances (e.g., genetically engineered organisms). First, USDA’s National Organic Production Standards support the testing of products if an organic-certifying agent believes that the farmer is intentionally using prohibited substances or practices. And second, USDA requires that certifying agents test five percent of their certified operations each year. The certifying agents themselves determine which operations will be subjected to testing.

Watch on Forbes:

 

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Cecil the lion’s killer revealed as American dentist

EXCLUSIVE: A Minnesota father of two is discovered to be the hunter who shot dead Cecil – one of Zimbabwe’s most loved lions

Walt Palmer, left, and one of his many trophies

Cecil the lion – the most famous creature in one of Zimbabwe‘s national parks – was killed by an American hunter who has boasted about shooting a menagerie of animals with his bow and arrow, The Telegraph can reveal.

Walter James Palmer, a dentist from Minnesota, is believed to have paid £35,000 to shoot and kill the much-loved lion with a bow and arrow. The animal was shot on July 1 in Hwange National Park. Two independent sources have confirmed the hunter’s identity to the paper, which has also seen a copy of the relevant hunting permit.

Conservation groups in Zimbabwe reacted angrily to the news that the 13-year-old animal had been killed: partly because the lion was known to visitors and seemingly enjoyed human contact, and partly because of the way in which he was killed. He was lured out of the national park and shot.

“He never bothered anybody,” said Johnny Rodrigues, the head ofZimbabwe Conservation Task Force. “He was one of the most beautiful animals to look at.”

A spokesman for Mr Palmer said that the hunter believed he may have shot the lion.

“As far as I understand, Walter believes that he might have shot that lion that has been referred to as Cecil,” the spokesman said.


Cecil was a popular attraction among visitors to the Hwange National Park (AFP)

“What he’ll tell you is that he had the proper legal permits and he had hired several professional guides, so he’s not denying that he may be the person who shot this lion. He is a big-game hunter; he hunts the world over.”

During the hunt – which the organisers later admitted was badly carried out – it was alleged that Cecil was lured at night about half a mile out of the national park using bait, and then shot with a bow and arrow. The next day he was found wounded by the hunters and killed, before being beheaded and skinned.

Animals cannot be killed within the confines of the park. The hunters then removed his collar – further contravening park rules.

The professional hunter, Theo Bronkhorst, said he reported the “mistake” to the Parks and Wildlife Management Authority the following day, and it is now being investigated. The landowner bordering the national park has been charged – along with Mr Bronkhorst. Both are due to appear in court on August 6.

On Tuesday, Zimbabwe National Parks issued a statement confirming the charges.

“Theo Bronkhorst, a professional hunter with Bushman Safaris, is facing criminal charges for allegedly killing a collared lion on Antoinette farm in Gwayi Conservancy, Hwange district on 1 July 2015,” the statement said.


Cecil the lion in Hwange, Zimbabwe

“All persons implicated in this case are due to appear in court facing poaching charges.

“Both the professional hunter and land owner had no permit or quota to justify the offtake of the lion and therefore are liable for the illegal hunt.”

Mr Bronkhorst, who will appear at Hwange magistrates court on Wednesday, said he was unaware of Cecil’s fame.

“It was a magnificent, mature lion. We did not know it was well-known lion. I had a licence for my client to shoot a lion with a bow and arrow in the area where it was shot,” he said.

Mr Rodrigues said the authorities in Zimbabwe were troubled by events.

“There’s considerable embarrassment about this – the Americans have banned the import of elephant trophies,” he said. “We believe the head and pelt are still in Bulawayo.

“They should be charged with poaching,” he said. “If you’re a local and you kill an animal without a licence you get between two and five years in prison.”

Mr Palmer, the client, describes himself as coming from North Dakota and having “a unique talent for creating dazzling smiles that complement each individuals tooth structure, skin tone, and facial attributes.” A request for comment left with his office had not yet been returned on Tuesday.

His website states that: “Anything allowing him to stay active and observe and photograph wildlife is where you will find Dr Palmer when he not in the office.”

He also has a well-documented fondness for shooting wild animals around the globe.


Mr Palmer with a leopard, shot in Zimbabwe in 2010

“He came to Spain to hunt with us four or five years ago,” said Guiseppe Carrizosa, a professional hunter based in Madrid. Mr Carrizosa told The Telegraph that Mr Palmer and his wife travelled to Europe to shoot chamois, fallow deer and ibex, among other animals. Mr Palmer’s reputation is such that he was listed as a client on Mr Carrizosa’s website, to publicise the tours.

“He was a real expert shot,” Mr Carrizosa said. “Bow hunting attracts people because there is much more stalking involved; you have to get very close. With a gun you can kill an animal from hundreds of metres.”

Hunting blogs feature images of him proudly showing off a 175lb leopard, which he killed with an arrow in Zimbabwe in the summer of 2010.

Walt Palmer poses with a dead elk

Other images show him posing with elk, and even with a huge endangered sheep – the Nevada Bighorn.

California Desert Bighorn Sheep are one of the most coveted animals for hunters. Each year more than $200,000 is raised by the auction of the permits to shoot dead three Desert Bighorn Sheep.

A New York Times report detailing one of Mr Palmer’s hunts, in 2009, described him as “capable of skewering a playing card from 100 yards with his compound bow.” He jokingly told the reporter that his life revolved around shooting, and that he “doesn’t have a golf game”.

The paper said that, having learnt to shoot at the age of five, Mr Palmer paid $45,000 at an auction for the right to shoot an elk in 2009, in a sale promoted as financing preservation of the elk habitat.

The father of two had, according to the paper, killed all but one of the animals listed in records produced by bow hunting group Pope and Young. The animals on the list include polar bears, bison, grizzly bears and cougars.

“Of course, it is a personal achievement to harvest any big-game animal with a bow and arrow,” said Glen Hisey, the curator of the Pope and Young records programme. “It is a way of honouring that animal for all time.”

Mr Palmer has also run into legal woes. In 2008, court records show, he pleaded guilty to making a false statement to federal wildlife officials concerning the exact location of the slaying of a black bear during a guided hunt in Wisconsin. He was sentenced to a year probation.

Lion hunting using firearms is legal in South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Tanzania – and bow and arrow hunting is legal in all the same countries but Tanzania.


Walt Palmer, middle, with the “world record” white rhino killed by bow in South Africa. Mr Palmer is pictured with Pierre Vorster, a professional hunter

Individual hunting outfits are given a certain number of permits each year to hunt individual species, but in countries like Zimbabwe the system is also open to corruption.

According to the Zimbabwe Professional Hunter and Guides Association, bow hunting is only permissible in private hunting concessions or communal hunting areas – never in a national park or government-controlled safari area.

Lions are hunted either statically, by hanging bait from a tree then hiding nearby, or by stalking. According to Zimbabwean conservationists, hunting by bow and arrow is on the increase because is it silent and therefore those hunting illegally or unethically are not detected by the authorities.

The Wildlife Conservation Research Unit at Oxford University has tracked the Hwange lions since 1999 to measure the impact of sport hunting beyond the park on the lion population within the park, using radar and direct observation.

According to figures published by National Geographic, 34 of their 62 tagged lions died during the study period – 24 were shot by sport hunters.

Dr Andrew Loveridge, one of the principal researchers on the project, told the publication that Cecil and another male lion named Jericho led two prides with six lionesses and a dozen young cubs, and he feared for the safety of the cubs now Cecil had been killed.

“Jericho as a single male will be unable to defend the two prides and cubs from new males that invade the territory. This is what we most often see happening in these cases. Infanticide is the most likely outcome,” he said.

 

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5 tips for having fun outside with kids

by Katherine Martinko (@feistyredhair)

hiking down trail with kids

© K Martinko

The key to successful outdoor adventures with young children is planning. A little effort can go a long ways.

When I told my aunt about my family’s recent camping trip to Manitoulin Island, she said, “These experiences will have a lasting effect on your kids. It’s so important to teach them to love the outdoors because that love will stay with them forever.”

While I agree completely with what she said and strive to spend as much time outdoors with my kids as possible, it’s often easier said than done. Kids, while being full of curiosity and energy, are complex little beings who can be very demanding at times. They have needs that are irrational and ridiculous at times, and can tire quickly.

I’ve learned it’s important to be prepared. With a bit of planning, an outdoor excursion can become a whole lot more enjoyable for everyone. Here are some tips for getting outside and enjoying the warmer weather with little ones.

Do your research.

Search your own neighborhood and region for interesting places to visit. Often the less famous destinations are much nicer to visit because they’re not so busy. Ask for recommendations from fellow family adventurers and seek out those off-the-beaten-track places that feel like a true discovery. Collect brochures for fun local activities and keep them in a reference file for days when you’re looking for something to do.

Take some time to figure out where you’re going ahead of time and find out the details. Is there parking? An entry fee? How accessible is it? How long does it take to get there and do the activity? Is it busy at this hour or time of year?

Dress appropriately.

Nothing ruins an adventure faster than a wet, cold, miserable child. Having the proper clothing and footwear makes the difference between a successful or disastrous outing, so give it some thought ahead of time. Pack whatever you could need, so as not to be caught unawares. Take towels, bathing suits, sunscreen, hats, bug spray, a change of clothes for everyone, extra diapers, baby carrier, picnic blanket, toilet paper, etc. and toss it all in a bag in the trunk or in a bicycle pannier – just so it’s there.

Always take food and water.

A picnic lunch gives a lovely focal point to an outing and provides additional entertainment for kids. You can keep it simple by serving pre-made food, or make it extra fun by taking along a camp stove to cook lunch. Most importantly, don’t run out of water! Take as many water bottles as you can.

Talk to your child.

You are a fount of knowledge compared to what your kids know, even if you don’t consider yourself to be a particularly gifted naturalist. Even the smallest details are worth sharing, however. Mention tree types and identify leaves; point out insects, butterflies, and animal tracks; share aloud any observations you make. Kids absorb these details and retain them.

Follow your child.

Many kids will instinctively take the lead outdoors. Let them do it. Follow them, tuning in to what they find interesting, rather than what you want them to do. Go at their speed (if you can stand all the constant stops!) and let them take in the surroundings at their own pace.

 

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Revealing Black Men During National Black Family Month

RileyCurry

By Ben Jealous and Trabian Shorters

July is National Black Family Month, which is a good time to take a moment to celebrate the role of Black men in their families and in society at large.

Let’s take a moment to reveal Black men to America. Let’s upend the stereotypes and honor what is best about the men who are raising children in our communities and our country.

Tell somebody that according to the U.S. Army, Black men serve this country in uniform at a higher rate than all other men. By that measure, Black men are the most patriotic men in America.

Post on Facebook that according to the U.S. Census, the rate of business creation by Black males has been growing at nearly twice the national average for more than a decade. By that measure, Black men are among the most enterprising men in America.

Share on Twitter that according to the Cultures of Giving Report by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Black households continue to give to charity at a higher rate than all other households. By extrapolation, Black men may be among the most generous men in America.

Enlighten somebody that according to the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics, Black men who live with their children are the most likely to bathe, dress, diaper and interact with them daily. Also, Black men who do not live with their children are the most likely to still maintain contact even after remarrying. By these measures, Black men are arguably the most engaged fathers in the country.

Black men may lead the nation in patriotism, entrepreneurship, generosity and parental engagement. But that’s not the story you’ve heard, is it?

Well, you can change that. You can begin to see and tell a more accurate story, one that is fact-based, optimistic and aspires to illuminate Black men’s roles in society as community-builders.

This is not just a wish on our part. More than 100 Black men who head community organizations, called “BMe Leaders,” have agreed to promote a vision of America’s future based upon valuing all members of the human family, recognizing Black men as assets, rejecting narratives that denigrate people, and working together in asset-oriented ways to strengthen communities.

The nation is hungry for a better story about who we are and where we are heading. We should not ignore the problems facing the Black community – but we must stop ignoring our community builders whose actions create safety, knowledge, opportunity and community.

Black men are willing to lead. Are you willing to #ReachWithUs to build more caring and prosperous communities? Get involved at www.bmecommunity.org.

About Ben Jealous and Trabian Shorters

Ben Jealous is Partner at Kapor Capital and former President and CEO of the NAACP. Trabian Shorters is founder and CEO of BMe, a growing network of all races and genders committed to building better communities across the U.S. They are co-editors of the 2015 bestseller, “REACH: 40 Black Men Speak on Living, Leading & Succeeding.” (www.reachwithus.com)

 

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Uber’s business model under attack in California but drivers remain pessimistic

Hillary Clinton criticises the Uber business model for exploiting workers

Economic policy speech slams the ‘on-demand economy’ following lawsuits against startups like Uber over responsibility to workers and employee rights

A taxi driver holds a sign reading 'no to Uber, get out!'
Experts believe Uber may soon no longer be able to classify workers as independent contractors and will be forced to give them employee rights such as sick pay. Photograph: Dirk Waem/AFP/Getty Images

In her first major speech laying out her economic agenda, Hillary Clinton on Monday slammed the “on-demand economy”, accusing bosses of exploiting their workers by “misclassifying them as contractors.”

The presidential hopeful said that while the sharing economy, led by high-profile technology startups like Uber, Airbnb and Lyft, is “creating exciting opportunities and unleashing innovation … it’s also raising hard questions about workplace protection and what a good job will look like in the future.”

Her criticisms come on the heels of numerous lawsuits against these tech companies, which connect people with workers who provide services. At the heart of the lawsuits is a fundamental dispute over what responsibility a company has toward the people it relies on, whether they’re employees or contractors, to build and maintain its brand.

The suits also raise larger questions about which employment models are best – for employers, workers and the customers they serve.

Uber court case

The ride-sharing service Uber, for instance, which connects drivers with riders using an app, has upended the taxi industry and changed the way people get around. The company has experienced staggering growth in its six-year history, and in May it was valued at an estimated $50bn. Uber’s success is due in part to its employment model – its workers are classified as independent contractors, and not employees, which means Uber isn’t responsible for a host of expenses like payroll taxes, fuel, car insurance and sick pay.

But that could soon change. The California labor commission last month ruled that an Uber driver was indeed an employee. The commission sided with the driver, Barbara Ann Berwick, agreeing that Uber was “involved in every aspect of the operation.” The company was ordered to pay Berwick around $4,000 in owed expenses. Uber has appealed the ruling, and said in a statement that the decision is “non-binding and applies only to a single driver.”

Now the company is facing a possible class action lawsuit lodged by three more Uber drivers, who say they should also be viewed as employees. On Thursday, Uber filed a motion arguing that the lawsuit represents only a small number of its drivers. Included in the motion were declarations from around 400 Uber drivers in California, asserting that the current model works for them. One driver, Howard Hsu, a real estate investor with three children, said, “I would not want to be an employee of Uber because that would mean less flexibility. Uber could tell me where to drive, when to drive, and how to drive … It would definitely make driving far less desirable if I had to be an employee.”

Uber said in a statement that there is “no typical driver”, and in one of its lawsuits noted that its 160,000 drivers in California have “little or nothing in common.” Since its inception, Uber has maintained that it is merely a platform that connects drivers with riders. Other companies that rely on a similar business model, like Uber’s ride-sharing competitor Lyft, grocery shopping service Instacart, and Postmates, a delivery company, are also facing lawsuits from workers demanding employee rights.

Uber fights back

Uber says its drivers will suffer if they are stripped of their status as independent contractors. “As employees, drivers would drive set shifts, earn a fixed hourly wage, and lose the ability to drive using other ride-sharing apps as well as the personal flexibility they most value,” an Uber spokesperson said in a statement. “The reality is that drivers use Uber on their own terms: they control their use of the app.”

And indeed, experts say that changing its business model may in fact hurt Uber drivers. A typical Uber driver earns between $16 and $30 an hour, depending on the state, which is around $6 an hour more than an average taxi or limo driver. If the company’s drivers are classified as employees, Uber will likely raise its rates and lower its pay to remain competitive.

“This will mean thousands of Uber drivers will have the basic protections of all California employees, but may be making less money,” said Roxanne Davis, an employment law attorney in Los Angeles. “Uber could easily lower the pay for the drivers to minimum wage, reimburse mileage at $0.575/mile and cover their insurance.”

Is the contractor model better for workers?

While the contractor model offers flexibility, workers aren’t always paid enough to cover insurance and retirement savings, which typically would be included in their overall compensation if they were employees.

If companies don’t stump up the extra cash to pay for these out-of-pocket expenses, then it falls squarely on the shoulders of the contractors.

“To say ‘Oh I want you independently and I’m going to pay you no more than you would get as a regular wage employee,’ – that seems like a really crummy deal,” said John-Paul Ferguson, an assistant professor of organisational behaviour at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business.

It doesn’t have to be an either/or scenario, experts say. Whether workers are classified as employees or not, companies can probably pay more and still turn a tidy profit. Massively successful companies like Uber and Lyft would have had a hard time securing venture capital if their long term profitability was based solely on paying their workers the absolute minimum.

“What we’d like to take off the table is the assumption that the sharing and on-demand economy is not profitable,” says Ferguson, “and if we were to impose any additional costs they’d go out of business.”

Some experts say it’s only a matter of time before companies like Uber have to change the way they employ people.

“Technology has caught up with the faster business model, but labour regulations have not,” said Raj Narayanaswamy CEO of Replicon, which helps big companies better optimise their time. “And this has opened up a loophole for businesses to be morally bankrupt, ignoring the obligations to its workforce because no
legal conduct has been established.”

Whatever the outcome of the pending lawsuits, it’s unlikely that just one model will work for everybody. “There are enough differences in nature of work and industries,” said Ferguson, “It’s better if we have flexibility.”

 

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