Wage theft, sushi style

I think any employer who can get away with it is practicing some form of wage theft at this point, whether it’s stealing tips or misclassifying workers as independent contractor to avoid paying their taxes:

On May 1, International Worker’s Day, a half circle of Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC) members and supporters surrounded the entrance to Fat Salmon, a high-end sushi restaurant in Philadelphia. They watched as Diana A. (she asked her last name not be used) walked into the restaurant to deliver a prepared statement denouncing, among other things, what some workers have described as an intricate system for stealing their tips.

Diana and two other workers have been “on strike” since last April 15, when they confronted the restaurant’s owner, Jack Yoo, with a similar statement listing their grievances. The May Day document included the names of four other employees who are still working but signed on in support. (Fat Salmon workers are not unionized, but the National Labor Relations Act protects any worker, union or not, who “engage in…concerted activities for the purpose of… mutual aid or protection.”)
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Valley fever

As the climate changes so dramatically, we’re seeing all kinds of new health threats as a result.

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — California and federal public health officials say valley fever, a potentially lethal but often misdiagnosed disease infecting more and more people around the nation, has been on the rise as warming climates and drought have kicked up the dust that spreads it.

The fever has hit California’s agricultural heartland particularly hard in recent years, with incidence dramatically increasing in 2010 and 2011. The disease — which is prevalent in arid regions of the United States, Mexico, Central and South America — can be contracted by simply breathing in fungus-laced spores from dust disturbed by wind as well as human or animal activity.
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What a brave new world

Yep. I have to admit, my friends were right about the dangers of GMO food. I didn’t want to believe it, because I’m 1) lazy and 2) poor, and didn’t want to have to search out special food, but I do it as much as possible now:

Biotech giant Syngenta has been criminally charged with denying knowledge that its genetically modified (GM) Bt corn kills livestock during a civil court case that ended in 2007 [1].

Syngenta’s Bt 176 corn variety expresses an insecticidal Bt toxin (Cry1Ab) derived from the bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) and a gene conferring resistance to glufosinate herbicides. EU cultivation of Bt 176 was discontinued in 2007. Similar varieties however, including Bt 11 sweet corn are currently cultivated for human and animal consumption in the EU.

The charges follow a long struggle for justice by a German farmer whose dairy cattle suffered mysterious illnesses and deaths after eating Bt 176. They were grown on his farm as part of authorised field tests during 1997 to 2002. By 2000, his cows were fed exclusively on Bt 176, and soon illnesses started to emerge. He was paid 40 000 euros by Syngenta as partial compensation for 5 dead cows, decreased milk yields, and vet costs (see [2] Cows ate GM Maize and DiedSiS 21). During a civil lawsuit brought against the company by the farmer however, Syngenta refused to admit that its GM corn was the cause, claiming no knowledge of harm. The case was dismissed and Gloeckner remained thousands of euros in debt.

Cheaper

It doesn’t do the job, but it’s cheaper for employers and that’s really all that counts! Gin and Tacos:

Children born since the year ~1995 will need to have the concept of a pension explained to them. It will be about as relevant to their lives as the carburetor, the telephone switchboard operator, and the Victrola. And we will have to explain that after St. Ronnie descended from heaven and a lot of people in expensive suits spent ten years doing blow, corporate America came up with this great idea: rather than having a defined benefit, why not have defined contribution retirement plans? It would cost employers far less, sure, but it would benefit the working stiff, too! Why be saddled to a defined benefit when you can invest your money in Mutual Funds (remember when those were all the rage? Gosh, I Love the 90s!tm) and watch it grow, like, 10-15% per year! Hell, maybe 20%.

The internet came along at just the right time to make this seem plausible. Look! Websites! E-Trade! You can be your own stockbroker! Sure, nobody really understands any of this shit, but… Mutual Funds! A trained monkey could pick those, and our Investment Professionals take care of the rest. You just get a drink with an umbrella in it, sit back, and watch your money grow.

Now that this new era of capitalism is mature – if any aspect of such a scheme can be so labeled – it turns out that the estimates of future gains may have been slightly exaggerated. Maybe we all were a tad optimistic. So maybe it has been more like 5% annualized, if you’re lucky. And then there’s the Investment Professionals. Boy, we should maybe have screened them a little more carefully, or supervised them a little, or maybe not incentivised gambling with your money for short-term gains. And then there was that whole real estate thing, which no one could have foreseen. Everyone knows that real estate is a good investment! OK, OK. Lessons learned.
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Hunger strike

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I remind you that there is no evidence against the vast majority of inmates (Afghan warlords turned random people in for the reward money). The wingnuts insist that because some of the man released joined al Qaeda, we can’t let anyone go! Oh, and in case you forgot, we are the alleged “good guys” in this gruesome situation:

Emaciated and frail, more than 100 men lie on concrete floors of freezing, solitary cells in Guantánamo, silently starving themselves to death.

Stripped of all possessions, even basics such as a sleeping mat or soap, they lie listlessly as guards periodically bang on the steel doors and shout at them to move an arm or leg to prove they are still conscious.

The notorious detention centre is in crisis, suffering a rebellion of unprecedented scale, with most of the camp on lockdown and around two-thirds of the 166 detainees on hunger strike.

This week 40 American military nurses were drafted in to try to stem a mass suicide. The last Brit inside, Shaker Aamer, has said he is prepared to strike to his death.
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Oh dear

But but but… the Very Serious People say we need to start another war ASAP:

(Reuters) – U.N. human rights investigators have gathered testimony from casualties of Syria’s civil war and medical staff indicating that rebel forces have used the nerve agent sarin, one of the lead investigators said on Sunday.

The United Nations independent commission of inquiry on Syria has not yet seen evidence of government forces having used chemical weapons, which are banned under international law, said commission member Carla Del Ponte.

“Our investigators have been in neighboring countries interviewing victims, doctors and field hospitals and, according to their report of last week which I have seen, there are strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof of the use of sarin gas, from the way the victims were treated,” Del Ponte said in an interview with Swiss-Italian television.

“This was use on the part of the opposition, the rebels, not by the government authorities,” she added, speaking in Italian.

Del Ponte, a former Swiss attorney-general who also served as prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, gave no details as to when or where sarin may have been used.

Oh, and just in case you were wondering: I heard on the news this morning that the administration may send the rebels more arms, I guess as a reward for showing such initiative. Freedom!

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