Chart of the day: Campaign 2016 demographics

From a massive new report from the Pew Research Center, a breakdown showing the support for presidential candidates among different demographic groupings:


Corporate charter schools bid for Oakland schools

Charter schools, the corporate answer to the venerable Ameruican public school system, reap huge profits, money they can use to try to buy elections.

And just that is happening in Oakland, California, where corporate charter school money is flooding the election for the city’s school board.

Just how much cash is pouring in is evident in this graphic from the East Bay Express:


More from the alternative weekly:

If it were just a matter of raising money from parents, teachers, and community members, then school-board candidates James Harris, Huber Trenado, and Jumoke Hinton Hodge’s financial advantage over their opponents would be minimal. For example, the incumbent board chairman Harris has raised $11,836 from individual contributors for his re-election this year. That’s not much more than Chris Jackson, his challenger, who has scraped together $9,622.

But Harris, Trenado, and Hinton Hodge benefit from two independent-expenditure committees funded by super-wealthy charter-school advocates, which have raised millions since 2014.

These committees are on track to spend about half-a-million dollars to help Harris and Hinton Hodge keep their seats on the board, and to help Trenado unseat Roseann Torres.

Critics worry, however, that this “outside money” distorts Oakland’s school-board races.

California’s public schools have been financially crippled for decades, thanks to Proposition 13, the property tax limitation passed by California voters in 1978 during the massive inflation of the Jimmy Carter years.

The man whose name is forever linked to the measure, Howard Jarvis, told us way back in 1977 that his intent in pushing measure was to “to demolish local government and eliminate all the bureaucracy.”

The biggest beneficiaries of Proposition 13 have been giant corporations, thanks to the measure’s provisions placing sever limit on annual property tax increases, given that corporations hold their properties for decades, while homeowners move every few years, triggering a reassessment of their new homes at full market value,m while long-term holdings are based on 1975 assessment, plus those small annual increases.

As a result, homeowners pay an ever-increasing share of the cost of local government.

Schoolls, police and fire departments, and public streets are the main functions of local governments, and all have been hard hit by the Proposition 13 tax limits.

The growth of charter schools in California is a direct result of Jarvis and his ballot measure, and Oakland is just the latest symptom of a growing plague.

GMO corn contamination spreads rapidly in Spain

When UC Berkeley’s Ignacio Chapela and David Quist discovered evidence that genes from commercially engineered crops had invaded native maize strains in the Mexican heartland where native peoples have first bred the grass-like teosinte into modern corn, Monsanto began a smear campaign that cost Chapela his professorship. [Previously, and here’s a story we wrote for the Berkeley Daily Planet at the time.]

It took a lawsuit to win Chapela tenure at Cal, but the corporate muscle displayed by the Big Agra nearly destroyed a promising career and sent a powerful message to other researchers about the dangers of challenging Monsanto’s hunger to control the world’s crops.

Subsequent research has confirmed the migration of engineered genes into a variety of crops — including Mexican maize strains.

And now comes word that Spanish organic farmers are discovering that a plague of GMO contamination is sweeping through crops on the Iberian peninsula.

Here’s a brief report on the growing Spain from Deutsche Welle:

Spain: GM corn spreading unchecked

Program notes:

Genetically modified corn appears to be contaminating non-GMO varieties through cross-pollination. It’s a disaster for organic farmers as the insect-resistant GM corn can spread unchecked. Environmentalists want to stop its cultivation immediately.

Transgenic corn ancestor could become Spanish superweed

Pesticide resistant genes inserted into GMO crops have produced a new class of invasive plants called superweeds, plants just as tolerant of corporate herbicides like Monsanto’s Roundup as the Roundup Ready crops the company peddles.

In the ultimate ironic twist, a new weed is invading Spain, the Mexican grass-like plant from which ancient Mexicans bred the plant that was to become modern maize, or corn.

And now the fear is that a genetic flow between GMO corn and teosinte could produce a superweed threatening to the region’s entire corn crop.

Sustainable Pulse reported on the crisis in February:

Teosinte and maize have the potential to interbreed and form hybrids. This applies equally to genetically engineered maize MON810, produced by Monsanto and grown on more than 100,000 hectares in Spain. Due to the risks of appearance of an invasive, transgenic teosinte species, the organisations have asked the Commission and the Spanish government to ban the cultivation of MON810 in 2016.

Teosinte was discovered in Spain for the first time in 2009, but has never been reported to the Commission by the Spanish authorities nor by Monsanto. However, Monsanto is legally obliged to publish annual monitoring reports about the cultivation of MON810 in the EU and potential environmental hazards, including crossbreeding. That maize is not supposed to cross and interbreed with any other species in the EU was an important precondition for allowing genetically engineered maize to be cultivated in the EU.


“Thousands of hectares of transgenic maize producing an insecticide Bt toxin are being grown in areas affected by the spread of teosinte. If gene flow takes place from MON810 to the teosinte, it could become even more invasive”, said Blanca Ruibal, responsible for Food and Agriculture at Amigos de la Tierra. “We are highly concerned that neither the Spanish government nor Monsanto has officially informed the Commission about this major threat to agriculture and the environment. Europe could soon find itself in a situation with transgenic plants persisting and spreading not only in Spain but also in other maize growing regions in countries such as France, Italy and Portugal.”

More from Critical Scientists Switzerland:

The wild ancestor of commercial maize, teosinte, has been detected in Aragon, Catalonia and Navarra, Spain and is spreading as an invasive species in maize growing areas. In one region where growing maize is the main source of income for farmers, the teosinte population has already reached such a high density, that the local governments has issued and enacted a ban on maize cultivation to prevent teosinte from spreading further.

Since in Spain the transgenic maize MON810 is grown on more than 100’000 hectares, it is feared that teosinte could interbreed with MON810, potentially resulting in an invasive transgenic teosinte species. If the hybrids between MON810 and teosinte inherit the insect resistant trait from MON810 they are likely to show higher fitness compared to the native teosinte plants, thereby increasing the invasive potential.

The fact that maize has no wild relatives in Europe to cross and interbreed with, was an important precondition for allowing genetically modified maize to be cultivated in the EU. Thirteen civil society organisations have now asked the EU Commission and the Spanish government to ban the cultivation of MON810 in 2016.

Big  Agra has opened Pandora’s Box, and there’s no going back.

Headline of the day: Don’t act like you’re surprised

From the New York Times:

Some Trump Voters Warn of Revolution if Clinton Wins

  • Some fans of Donald J. Trump worry that their concerns and frustrations will be forgotten if Hillary Clinton wins. Others predict violent conflict.
  • “People are going to march on the capitols,” one said. “They’re going to do whatever needs to be done to get her out of office.”

Map of the day: Two-thirds of all species imperiled

Between 1970 and 2020, humans may have accounted for the loss of two-thirds of the planet’s species, according to a new report from the World Wildlife Federation.

blog-bio-keyAccording to the Living Planet Report, these are the regions most greatly impacted, with the United State’s Great Plains among the hardest hit by climate change and other human activities, along with much of Africa, Latin America, Asia, and Australia.

They key is to the right:


More from the World Wildlife Federation:

Global biodiversity is declining at an alarming rate, putting the survival of other species and our own future at risk. The latest edition of WWF’s Living Planet Report brings home the enormity of the situation – and how we can start to put it right. The Living Planet Index reveals that global populations of fish, birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles declined by 58 per cent between 1970 and 2012. We could witness a two-thirds decline in the half-century from 1970 to 2020 – unless we act now to reform our food and energy systems and meet global commitments on addressing climate change, protecting biodiversity and supporting sustainable development.

The following chart depicts the scale of the changes:


Trump gives a big boost to white supremacists

Surprise, surprise.

From Vanderbilt University:

The presidential race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump has coincided with a large spike in white supremacist activity on the Internet, with Jewish journalists targeted in particular, according to a Vanderbilt professor.

“The Trump campaign has given the white nationalist movement a long-awaited opportunity to spread its message to a national audience,” said Sophie Bjork-James, who tracks white nationalist Internet groups and is a post-doctoral fellow and lecturer of anthropology at Vanderbilt University.

“Trump’s messages about limiting immigration and banning Muslims from the United States have given the movement one of its largest membership boosts in decades, which will have impact long after this election cycle.”

According to Bjork-James:

  • The founder of the white nationalist website Stormfront, Don Black, claims a 30 to 40 percent spike in web traffic in 2015 after Trump’s anti-immigration and ban Muslim speeches.
  • The Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi website, was created in 2013. The site went from 1.2 million visits per month in 2015 to 1.9 million visitors per month today.
  • went from 32 million visits per month in 2015 to 75 million visits per month in September of 2016.
  • The “alt-right” term or Alternative Right was started by white nationalist Richard Spencer and is an attempt to rebrand the racist right as a legitimate part of the political spectrum.

“The radical right in particular has decided that targeting Jews and ratcheting up anti-Semitic language is a strategy,” Bjork-James said. “Neo-Nazism is a defining belief in white nationalism.”

Bjork-James’ research interests include tracking white nationalist movements and has published her findings in The Apartheid Conscience: What the white nationalist movement can teach us about the reproduction of white supremacy in America, “Cyber Racism: White Supremacy Online and the New Attack on Civil Rights” and the chapter titled “Cybersupremacy: The new face and form of white supremacist activism” in Tactics in Hard Times: Practices and Spaces of New Media.

Newt Gingrich doubles down on the hypocrisy

And he did it last night on Trump-friendly Fox News, blasting anchor Megyn Kelly for dubbing The Donald a sexual predator:

What makes the Newt-turd umbrage ever more absurd is the former House Speaker’s own sexual conduct, divorcing two wives after they were diagnosed with serious diseases.

As Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo wrote in 2011 when New was floating a leaden presidential balloon:

Newt famously dumped wife #1 for wife #2 while wife #1 was in the hospital recovering from cancer surgery. As in literally went to the hospital to present her with divorce papers while she was recovering from surgery for uterine cancer.

He eventually dumped wife #2 for wife #3 shortly after wife #2 was diagnosed with MS back in 1999. And he was having the affair on wife #2 with wife #3 while he was turning the country upside down trying to drive Bill Clinton from office over his affair with Monica Lewinsky. . .the pattern with Gingrich shows a level of hypocrisy, cruelty and emotional immaturity that most people won’t accept in a president.

Gee, no wonder he’s a Trump supporter. . .

But, to be fair, Newt has a point about President Bubba’s sexual predation.
Still, we never saw anything like The Donald’s open bragging from Bill Clinton, nor an example of such crass and utterly inappropriate braggadocio as this, reported by the London Daily Mail:

‘I worked like hell to pick her up’: Donald Trump bragged about trying to woo Kelly Preston in a letter he wrote just days after her teenage son died

  • Donald Trump bragged about hitting on Kelly Preston in a 2009 letter 
  • Trump wrote the letter just days after Preston’s son, Jett, died of a seizure 
  • ‘I met (her) at a club and worked like hell to try and pick her up,’ he wrote 
  • Trump wrote the post on the website of his now-defunct Trump University