Community Articles from 2014

The Town That Turned Poverty Into a Prison Sentence

The Town That Turned Poverty Into a Prison Sentence
by Hannah Rappleye and Lisa Riordan Seville
Posted July 21, 2014

Most states shut down their debtors’ prisons more than 100 years ago; in 2005, Harpersville, Alabama, opened one back up.Harpersville’s experiment with private probation began nearly ten years ago. In Alabama, people know Harpersville best as a speed trap, a stretch of country highway where the speed limit changes six times in roughly as many miles. Indeed, traffic fines are by far the biggest business in the town of 1,600, where there is little more than Big Man’s BBQ, the Sudden Impact Collision Center and a dollar store. In 2005, the court’s revenue was nearly three times the amount that the town received from a sales tax, Harpersville’s second-largest source of income. The fines had become key to Harpersville’s development, but it proved difficult to chase down those who did not pay. So, that year, Harpersville decided to follow in the footsteps of other Alabama cities and hire JCS to help collect.

JCS is considered a significant player in the private probation universe. And while recent revenue statements for the privately held company aren’t available, what is known is that JCS operates in some 480 courts across the country. In larger courts, JCS can net as much as $1 million in probationers’ fees each year, according to an estimate by Human Rights Watch. More…

Standing Up to Disaster Capitalism in Detroit

Standing Up to Disaster Capitalism in Detroit
by John Nichols
Posted July 19, 2014

the sanctity of the contractAs Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and his appointed “emergency manager” were steering Detroit into bankruptcy last fall, the public-policy think tank Demos released a groundbreaking report on the city’s financial circumstance—and how to address it.

Demos recognized that deindustrialization, high unemployment and an exodus of residents had left Detroit uniquely vulnerable: “the current bankruptcy filing is the result of a severe decline in revenue, caused by the 2008 financial crisis, and cuts in annual state revenue sharing starting in 2011. Risky Wall Street deals further jeopardized the city’s public finances by threatening immediate payments that the city could not afford.”

Now, as the Detroit Water and Sewage Department is drawing international criticism for shutting off water service for low-income families, activists are asking why the people are being forced to pay while the Wall Street banks live large. On Friday, members of the National Nurses United union and local, state and national groups will march and rally in downtown Detroit to say the priorities are out of whack. Their message is direct: “Let’s Tax Wall Street, Get Our Money Back, and Turn on the Water!” More…

Against Austerity in Detroit: “Water Is a Human Right”

Against Austerity in Detroit: “Water Is a Human Right”
By John Nichols
Posted July 14, 2014

water is a human rightWater is a human right.The United Nations formally “recognizes the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right that is essential for the full enjoyment of life and all human rights.”

A new European Citizens Initiative declares, “Water is a public good, not a commodity.”

Former President Jimmy Carter writes, “Clean water is a basic human right. Without it, the other rights may not even matter. Human societies cannot be healthy, prosperous and just without adequate supplies of clean water. What could be a more basic right than clean water?”

So why are children in Detroit marching through that battered city’s downtown with signs reminding officials that “Kids Need Water to be Healthy” and “Kids Without Water Can’t Brush Their Teeth”? Why are religious leaders being arrested when they seek to prevent the shutoff of water services to families who cannot afford to pay bloated bills? More…

Evo Morales: “Our Liberation is for the Whole of Humanity”. For a Global Brotherhood Among The People

Evo Morales: “Our Liberation is for the Whole of Humanity”. For a Global Brotherhood Among The People
By Evo Morales Ayma
Posted June 29, 2014

Evo MoralesThe worst tyranny faced by humankind is allowing basic services to be under the control of transnational corporations. This practice subjugates humanity to the specific interests and commercial aims of a minority who become rich and powerful at the expense of the life and security of other persons.

This is why we claim that basic services are inherent to the human condition. How can a human being live without potable water, electrical energy or communications? If human rights are to make us all equal, this equality can only be realized through universal access to basic services. Our need for water, like our need for light and communications, makes us all equal. More…

In 33 U.S. Cities, Feeding The Homeless Has Been Criminalized

In 33 U.S. Cities, Feeding The Homeless Has Been Criminalized
by Tom McKay
Posted June 16, 2014

illegal to be homelessIn case the United States’ problem with homelessness wasn’t bad enough, a forthcoming National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) report says that 33 U.S. cities now ban or are considering banning the practice of sharing food with homeless people. Four municipalities (Raleigh, N.C.; Myrtle Beach, S.C.; Birmingham, Ala.; and Daytona Beach, Fla.) have recently gone as far as to fine, remove or threaten to throw in jail private groups that work to serve food to the needy instead of letting government-run services do the job.

“I’m just simply baffled by the idea that people can be without shelter in a country, and then be treated as criminals for being without shelter,” said human rights lawyer Sir Nigel Rodley, chairman of the U.N. committee. “The idea of criminalizing people who don’t have shelter is something that I think many of my colleagues might find as difficult as I do to even begin to comprehend.” More…

Corporate Bee Killers Sponsor National Pollinator Week

Corporate Bee Killers Sponsor National Pollinator Week
By Ronnie Cummins
Posted June 15, 2014

poisoned beesConcerned about the bees and the butterflies? Interested in celebrating National Pollinator Week? It’s happening next week, June 16-22. And it’s brought to you, in part, by none other than Monsanto and Bayer.

Who supports (i.e. funds) the Pollinator Partnership? Among others, Bayer and Monsanto–the very companies that are killing pollinators with insecticides and genetically engineered crops.

It’s all part of a well-documented, well-funded (and shameless) public relations campaign by the pesticide industry to give the appearance of “caring” about the die-off of bees and butterflies, while diverting attention from the cause of those die-offs–highly profitable products made by Monsanto and Bayer. More…

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Quotable Sayings

Congressman Don Beyer

I live in the city of Alexandria where, as a Republican your vote doesn’t count, just as a Democrat in Kansas, your vote doesn’t count, and [ranked-choice voting] then would turn it around and make sure that everybody’s voice is heard.

Congressman Don Beyer

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