Drug Pollution Leads To Shrimp Coketails | A Capitalist Fantasyland | America’s Worst War

MAY 3, 2019  /   SUBSCRIBE


“When he thought of his history, what resonated with him now was not all that he had suffered but the divine love that he believed had intervened to save him.”

“His books were the closest thing he had to furniture and he lived in them the way other men live in easy chairs.”

– Laura Hillenbrand



Drug Pollution Leads To Shrimp Coketails: Drug waste contamination of the water supply is a growing problem. In the mostly rural county of Suffolk, in the eastern part of the UK, researchers who took samples of shrimp from 15 locations were surprised to find cocaine in every sample tested. Other illicit drugs such as ketamine, pesticides and pharmaceuticals were also noted as being widespread. The scientists, from Kings College London and the University of Suffolk, were looking at the levels of various “micro-pollutants” in freshwater shrimp. “Whether the presence of cocaine in aquatic animals is an issue for Suffolk, or more widespread an occurrence in the UK and abroad, awaits further research,” one said. Their study has been published in Environmental International. In 2018 The Guardian reported that drugs, plastics and flea killer were threatening the UK’s rivers, and new pollutants were not being monitored. At that time researchers at the University of Manchester found “extraordinarily” high levels of microplastics in the river Tame, the highest ever recorded in the world. Additional reads: “Pharmaceuticals in the water supply.” (Americanrivers.org); “External Medicine: Discarded Drugs May Contaminate 40 Million Americans’ Drinking Water.” (Scientific American)



No Data For You: The war in Afghanistan has cost Americans more than 2,200 lives and over $840 billion in the 17.5 years since it began. The US military has been releasing information to the public about how much of Afghanistan is under Afghan government control and how much is under control of the Taliban. The amount of land under government control has dropped over time, from 72 percent of districts in November 2015 to 54 percent of districts in October 2018. The data is typically released quarterly by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), a body set up by Congress to audit US spending in the war. But the report released Wednesday said the NATO-led mission had “formally notified SIGAR that it is no longer assessing district-level insurgent or government control or influence.” The reason given by the US military command in Afghanistan was that district stability data “was of limited decision-making value to the Commander.” No reason was given for why the data about who controlled what territory would not be useful to a commander. An epic American fiasco. (NPR)

East vs. West in Venezuela: Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido’s call Wednesday for millions of protesters to take to the streets in the “largest march” in the country’s history, ground to a halt by the afternoon. Guaido had urged the military to join in the bid to force President Nicolas Maduro from power, but the armed forces leadership refused to defect. Many demonstrators had left by late afternoon, and National Guard troops fired tear gas at those who remained. One young woman died in surgery after being shot in the head during a protest in Caracas. The US and the EU are among a number of countries recognizing Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate head of state, while Maduro is backed by countries including Russia, China and Cuba. With the usurpation now appearing to have been reduced to a political stalemate it is not known what more Guaido can do at this point. (Reuters)

Fourth Time’s The Charm: The 66-year-old, thrice married and divorced King of Thailand married the head of his personal security detail in a surprise wedding three days before his official coronation. He has given her the title Queen Suthida. King Maha Vajiralongkorn became constitutional monarch after the 2016 death of his revered father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who spent 70 years on the throne. In June 2018 Vajiralongkorn formally turned over the vast wealth of the royal family, in excess of $30 bn, to himself. The new bride, Suthida Tidjai, was a former flight attendant for Thai Airways. In 2014, Vajiralongkorn appointed her deputy commander of his bodyguard unit, promoting her to a full army general after the death of his father. Thailand has been a constitutional monarchy since 1932 but the royal family still holds enormous loyalty, power and wealth; the king is also insulated from criticism by some of the strictest lese majeste laws in the world. (Guardian)



Democrats Are Cock-A-Doodle-Done Waiting On Barr: House Judiciary Committee member Steve Cohen (D-Tenn) had some fun at Attorney General William Barr’s expense Thursday, after Barr failed to appear for a scheduled hearing before the committee. Cohen placed a bucket of KFC and a prop chicken at Barr’s empty chair at the witness table. Despite the levity, Democrats are clearly frustrated by what they see as the Trump administration’s obstruction of Congress’ oversight role. Committee Chair Jerry Nadler (D-NY) had demanded an unredacted version of the Mueller report on Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, which has been ignored, and the president has vowed to fight all congressional investigations into his business and finances. Nadler said he would give the Justice Department “a day or two” to turn over the unredacted report; he also threatened to hold Barr in contempt of Congress if he refused to comply. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was asked at her weekly news conference on Capitol Hill Thursday whether Barr had lied to Congress. She replied in the affirmative. (NPR)

Roundtrip White Flight: In the 1950s and 1960s the term “white flight” described the phenomenon of white people moving out of urban areas and into suburban areas, mostly to avoid school desegregation. Toward the end of the 20th century those suburbs had become much more diverse as middle-class Hispanic, Asian-American and African-American families moved to those predominantly white neighborhoods. Now since 2000, white people are increasingly moving back into nonwhite areas close to urban centers.

In city after city a map of racial change shows mostly poor, mostly African-American neighborhoods near downtown growing whiter. “Gentrification” describes the process by which deteriorated urban neighborhoods are renovated, “upscaled,” due to the influx of more affluent residents. However, white flight and white return are not opposite phenomena, generations apart, in American cities. They’re two sides of one coin. In places where white households are moving, reinvestment is possible primarily because of the disinvestment that came before it.

Many of the neighborhoods were segregated by law and redlined by banks, their infrastructures neglected by cities. Highways were built that isolated them, and housing projects were concentrated in them. To more affluent newcomers, the land was a bargain. Once white people began moving in, new mortgage money became available, the land became more valuable, and taxes went up, often followed by longtime, poorer residents being pushed out. (NYT)



A Techno-Capitalist Endgame of No Worker Rights: A gig economy is one in which temporary, flexible jobs are commonplace, and companies tend toward hiring independent contractors and freelancers instead of full-time employees. Roughly 57 million people in the US do some sort of work in the gig economy, such as driving cars for Uber and Lyft or managing apartments on Airbnb. Lots of these people work full time for these companies, but they’re not considered employees; instead they’re independent contractors who don’t get benefits like insurance, workers’ comp or paid vacation. They’re not covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), a 1938 law guaranteeing overtime pay and minimum wage to many who work over 40 hours a week. Gig workers have been fighting to be treated like employees, and sociologists, labor experts and economists have weighed in on the debate, largely agreeing that they deserve the same treatment as regular employees. In 2015 President Obama’s Labor Department took the position that most gig workers should be included in the FLSA. Trump’s Labor Department has reversed that position, writing in an April 29 letter that gig economy workers should not be classified as employees by companies. (Vox)

Charlie Capitalist & Modern Times: Last Friday Walmart and Target stock tumbled after Amazon announced free one-day shipping for Prime members. Imagine — hundreds of thousands of orders being sorted, pulled, boxed, and shipped almost as fast as the order was placed. How do they do it? Documents obtained in a Freedom of Information request show that workers in those massive fulfillment centers are monitored, supervised and have their productivity tracked by robots. If they don’t move fast enough — meaning packing hundreds of boxes per hour — they’re fired. According to a letter from a company attorney: “Amazon’s system tracks the rates of each individual associate’s productivity, and automatically generates any warnings or terminations regarding quality or productivity without input from supervisors.” (Amazon says supervisors are able to override the process.) The company operates more than 75 fulfillment centers in North America, with more than 125,000 full-time employees. The documents indicate thousands lose their jobs each year for failing to move packages quickly enough. (CNBC, Verge)




Charlie Chaplin – Factory Work

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