How a Group of Starbucks Workers Emerged Victorious in Their Union Fight

The following is an excerpt of an article that was originally published on Pressenza.

Click here to read the full article.

It is hugely significant that even one café out of thousands in the iconic Starbucks coffee chain has beaten back the company’s union-busting tactics to choose collective power in the workplace.

By Sonali Kolhatkar

The iconic American coffee chain, Starbucks, employs hundreds of thousands of people in nearly 9,000 cafés nationwide. And yet, the news that a handful of Starbucks employees at one café in Buffalo, New York, recently voted to join Workers United—an affiliate of SEIU—made headlines nationally. The New York Times called it a “big symbolic win for labor,” while the Washington Post hailed it as a “watershed union vote.” Social media feeds were replete with joyous posts celebrating the vote. The café, located on Elmwood Avenue, was the only one out of three union-voting Starbucks locations in Buffalo that successfully chose to unionize.

“It is significant,” says Cedric de Leon of the Starbucks union vote. De Leon is the director of the Labor Center at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he is an associate professor of sociology, and he is the author of several books about labor organizing in the U.S. “The employer knows it and the workers know that establishing a beachhead in one of the largest corporations, and really an iconic brand in the U.S. hospitality market, is a major accomplishment.”

Ahead of ballots being cast, Starbucks tried to delay the vote and even stacked the Buffalo cafés with new staff to try to dilute “yes” votes. It flew in external managers to closely watch workers in what was seen as brazen intimidation. The company, which has long resisted union activity, brought its former Chief Executive Howard Schultz to Buffalo to discourage workers from unionizing, even shutting down its cafés during his Saturday visit so they could attend what was essentially a captive-audience address.

Given that Starbucks would go to such lengths to stop just a handful of stores from joining a union, it’s no surprise that it took 50 years after its founding for a single café to unionize. And it’s no wonder that commentators are shocked by what is a potentially groundbreaking event.

During his address, Schultz, who remains Starbucks’ largest shareholder, reportedly spoke of the company’s health insurance benefits and tuition assistance as reasons why a union was unnecessary. Believing he knows what is best for workers, Schultz had written in his first memoir, “I was convinced that under my leadership, employees would come to realize that I would listen to their concerns. If they had faith in me and my motives, they wouldn’t need a union.”

Yet there is evidence that Starbucks workers could indeed use the collective bargaining power that a union confers. A study by Unite Here of thousands of Starbucks employees working at airport locations found a racial pay gap with Black workers earning $1.85 less per hour than their white counterparts. Nearly one in five of those workers reported not having enough money to purchase food.

Read more at Pressenza.

Sonali Kolhatkar is the founder, host and executive producer of “Rising Up With Sonali,” a television and radio show that airs on Free Speech TV and Pacifica stations. She is a writing fellow for the Economy for All project at the Independent Media Institute.

COP26: Will Humanity’s ‘Last and Best Chance’ to Save Earth’s Climate Succeed?

There is a chance we can prevent the worst impacts of the climate crisis, but world leaders must hold businesses accountable and listen to Indigenous communities.

By Reynard Loki

It would be an understatement to say that there is a lot riding on COP26, the international climate talks currently being held in Glasgow, Scotland. Officially, the gathering marks the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the third meeting of the parties to the 2015 Paris climate agreement, which aims to limit the global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels, preferably limiting the increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius in order to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

Since 1995, the countries that have signed onto the UNFCCC have met every single year (except in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic), attempting to come up with an action plan to stem the climate crisis. But still, every year, the world’s greenhouse gas emissions keep going up. And for a fortnight that started on October 31, world leaders will try to come up with an action plan yet again. More than 100 heads of government and some 30,000 delegates are now gathered and deliberating in Glasgow in the most recent international attempt to implement the Paris agreement goals. CNBC called the summit “humanity’s last and best chance to secure a livable future amid dramatic climate change.”

“We face a stark choice: Either we stop it or it stops us,” said United Nations (UN) Secretary-General António Guterres in his opening remarks at the start of the World Leaders Summit of the COP26. “It’s time to say ‘enough.’ Enough of brutalizing biodiversity. Enough of killing ourselves with carbon. Enough of treating nature like a toilet. Enough of burning and drilling and mining our way deeper. We are digging our own graves… We need maximum ambition from all countries on all fronts to make Glasgow a success.”

The summit comes just a few months after the August release of a grim report published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which found that climate change was “unequivocally” caused by human activity, and that within two decades, rising temperatures will cause the planet to reach a significant turning point in global warming. The report’s authors—a group of the world’s top climate scientists convened by the United Nations—predict that by 2040, average global temperatures will be warmer than 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels, causing more frequent and intense heat waves, droughts and extreme weather events. Guterres called the bleak findings a “code red for humanity.”

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is hosting the summit, likened the race to stop climate change to a spy thriller, warning that “a red digital clock ticks down remorselessly to a detonation that will end human life as we know it.” He added, “The tragedy is this is not a movie, and the doomsday device is real.”

The dire assessment of the state of the planet’s climate was not lost on U.S. President Joe Biden, who called on world leaders to take aggressive action immediately to stave off the climate crisis in his remarks at the summit’s opening day. “There’s no more time to hang back or sit on the fence or argue amongst ourselves,” he said. “This is the challenge of our collective lifetimes, the existential threat to human existence as we know it. And every day we delay, the cost of inaction increases.”

But despite all the troubling data and dire warnings, the summit has had a fairly inauspicious start. On October 30, the day before COP26 opened, leaders of the G20 nations—19 countries and the European Union, which together are responsible for 80 percent of the world’s emissions—sought to bolster international leadership on climate change as they concluded their own meeting in Rome just before the summit in Glasgow. But their deliberations ended with a whimper: a mere reaffirmation of the Paris agreement goals. During the G20 summit, Johnson said that all the world leaders’ pledges without action were “starting to sound hollow,” and he criticized the commitments as “drops in a rapidly warming ocean.” Adding to the disappointment was the fact that the summit was not attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin or Chinese President Xi Jinping, even as both Russia and China “are among the world’s biggest polluters”: Russia and China are respectively responsible for 5 percent and 28 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions, respectively. Those two nations have pushed the goal of net-zero emissions by 2050 ahead to 2060.

A failure in Glasgow could have grave, cascading consequences. On October 26, the UN Environment Program released a worrying report warning that with “climate change intensifying… humanity is running out of time” due to the climate promises that have been made but have not yet been delivered. Failure to stem the climate crisis “would mean less food, so probably a crisis in food security. It would leave a lot more people vulnerable to terrible situations, terrorist groups and violent groups,” said UNFCCC executive secretary Patricia Espinosa. “It would mean a lot of sources of instability… [t]he catastrophic scenario would indicate that we would have massive flows of displaced people.”

“We’re really talking about preserving the stability of countries, preserving the institutions that we have built over so many years, preserving the best goals that our countries have put together,” said Espinosa, who took on the UN climate role in 2016. A former minister of foreign affairs of Mexico, Espinosa shares responsibility for the talks with UK cabinet minister Alok Sharma, who serves as the COP26 president. “What we need to get at Glasgow are messages from leaders that they are determined to drive this transformation, to make these changes, to look at ways of increasing their ambition,” Espinosa said.

In a new study published in the journal Global Change Biology, a group of international scientists found that if the world continues “business-as-usual” emissions, the impacts of the climate crisis could triple across 45 different “life zones”—distinct regions representing broad ecosystem types—across the planet. “The likely future changes in the world’s life zones is likely to have a substantial impact on [people’s] livelihoods and biodiversity,” said Dr. Paul Elsen, a climate adaptation scientist at Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and lead author of the study. “Large areas of the world are getting hotter and drier and this is already impacting the earth’s life zones,” added Elsen. The researchers predict that more than 42 percent of the planet’s land area will ultimately be affected if emissions are not significantly reduced. Dr. Hedley Grantham, director of conservation planning at WCS and a co-author of the study, said, “COP26 is our best chance of countries committing to reducing emissions and putting us on a better future pathway for climate change and its impacts.”

There have, however, been a few bright spots in the early days of the summit. On November 2, world leaders announced new plans to reduce the emissions of methane, a powerful global warming gas that “has more than 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide over the first 20 years after it reaches the atmosphere.” President Biden welcomed the methane agreement, calling it a “game-changing commitment,” while also announcing that for the first time, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was going to enforce limits on the methane “released by existing oil and gas rigs across the United States.”

The Biden administration said that the government’s vast spending bill would mark the “largest effort to combat climate change in American history.” But with this critical climate legislation stalled on Capitol Hill, Biden’s aggressive target of reducing the United States’ greenhouse gas emissions by about half of its 2005 levels by the end of this decade will likely have to be pursued through executive actions such as regulations.

And on November 2, more than 100 nations, which together are responsible for about 85 percent of the world’s forests, agreed to a landmark $19 billion plan to end and reverse deforestation by 2030. Prime Minister Johnson said that it is critical for the success of COP26 “that we act now and we end the role of humanity as nature’s conqueror, and instead become nature’s custodian,” adding that “[w]e have to stop the devastating loss of our forests, these great teeming ecosystems—three-trillion-pillared cathedrals of nature—that are the lungs of our planet.”

​​In other welcome news, 14 nations including the United States, working on the sidelines of COP26, backed a Denmark-led initiative to reduce global maritime emissions to zero by 2050. “With around 90 percent of world trade transported by sea, global shipping accounts for nearly 3 percent of global CO2 emissions,” according to Reuters.

Indeed, non-state actors, i.e., businesses, are key participants in the world’s climate goals. UN chief Guterres said that the private sector has a critical role to play in this fight—and the UN will judge the performance of businesses’ pledges to achieve net-zero emissions. “I will establish a group of experts to propose clear standards to measure and analyze net-zero commitments from non-state actors,” which will go beyond mechanisms that have been established by the Paris climate accord, he said.

In the U.S., businesses are trying to influence Biden’s massive spending plan. “Across industries, business groups successfully pushed lawmakers to make significant changes to key sections of the original $3.5 trillion bill. Their lobbying efforts revolved around Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), who ultimately sided with the business community on several issues… The White House plan does not raise tax rates on corporations—keeping a central part of the GOP’s 2017 tax cuts intact—in a stunning win for business interests,” stated an article in the Hill.

“This growing call for action can’t be underestimated,” writes EFL contributor Patti Lynn, executive director of Corporate Accountability, a consumer advocacy group, in Truthout, referring to the surge in climate activism across the world in recent years. But she also offered a caveat: “We need great social and economic change to fully and justly solve the climate crisis, and no change on this scale happens without public engagement fueling the political will to create such changes. But we also must be clear-eyed about what stands in the way of achieving such transformative change.” She added that for the world to move “from visions to actual policies that are just and effective, we must address the largest obstacle that lies between today’s status quo and a livable future for all: the influence of the fossil fuel industry on climate policy.”

Rainforest Action Network, a nonprofit environmental group, also trained their sights on the private sector, tweeting, “World leaders… must meet the climate crisis by holding brands and banks accountable to end fossil fuel expansion and deforestation.” But the COP26 homepage suggests a different story: Unilever, Scottish Power, Sainsbury’s, National Grid, Microsoft, Hitachi and GSK are some of the many corporations that COP26 thanks as “principal partners.”

And while many private firms, including several of the COP26 partners, have made significant climate commitments, they are often met with criticisms of “greenwashing”—appearing that they are climate-friendly when in fact, the promises are often not regulated by governments and actually not making a dent. “Businesses are the big polluters,” said Kristian Ronn, CEO and co-founder of Normative, a Swedish startup that has launched a carbon emissions tracker that he says can help end corporate greenwashing. The private sector is “responsible for two-thirds of the total emissions,” he said. “So they need to account for the footprint and mitigate that footprint, because essentially what gets measured gets managed.” He added, “There are no mechanisms in place to ensure the completeness of the information.”

COP26 partner Microsoft, for example, has formed Transform to Net Zero, a new initiative with several other companies, including Nike and Starbucks, to help the private sector achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. But as Emily Pontecorvo reports in Grist, “There’s one gaping hole that persists in Microsoft’s climate action, one that the company has been repeatedly criticized for: How can it expect to pull more carbon out of the air than it puts in if it’s actively helping fossil fuel companies find and pull more oil and gas out of the ground?”

As world leaders attempt to hammer out a path to achieve the Paris climate accord goals, they would do well to listen to the world’s Indigenous people, who have been successful caretakers of their ecosystems for many generations—including 80 percent of the world’s biodiversity, though they represent just 5 percent of the global population—but who are suffering on the front lines of the climate fights, from deforestation to rising seas.

Nemonte Nenquimo, leader of the Waorani tribe in the Ecuadorian Amazon, co-founder of the Indigenous-led nonprofit organization Ceibo Alliance, and an EFL contributor, wrote an open letter to world leaders in 2020 that is even more important today. “When you say that the oil companies have marvelous new technologies that can sip the oil from beneath our lands like hummingbirds sip nectar from a flower, we know that you are lying because we live downriver from the spills,” writes Nenquimo, who was named one of Time’s 100 most influential people in the world. “When you say that the Amazon is not burning, we do not need satellite images to prove you wrong; we are choking on the smoke of the fruit orchards that our ancestors planted centuries ago. When you say that you are urgently looking for climate solutions, yet continue to build a world economy based on extraction and pollution, we know you are lying because we are the closest to the land.”

Reynard Loki is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute, where he serves as the editor and chief correspondent for Earth | Food | Life. He previously served as the environment, food and animal rights editor at AlterNet and as a reporter for Justmeans/3BL Media covering sustainability and corporate social responsibility. He was named one of FilterBuy’s Top 50 Health & Environmental Journalists to Follow in 2016. His work has been published by Yes! Magazine, Salon, Truthout, BillMoyers.com, Counterpunch, EcoWatch and Truthdig, among others.

Arizona Republic Cites Voting Booth’s Steven Rosenfeld and His Extensive Reporting on the Cyber Ninja 2020 ‘Audit’

Steven Rosenfeld’s critical work in the Arizona elections cited by Arizona’s newspaper of record—shedding light on the reality of the GOP Senate in Arizona’s election “audit.”

Cyber Ninjas was never required to deliver definitive report on election results, contract shows

By Robert Anglen / Arizona Republic

Cyber Ninjas never had to deliver a definitive report about its review of Maricopa County’s 2020 election results — it only had to try.

The deal between the Arizona Senate and its contractor used soft language and didn’t list clear-cut expectations, a review of contract documents shows.

There is also little in the paperwork that would hold Cyber Ninjas accountable for producing inaccurate or incomplete results.

The key language requires the Florida-based cybersecurity firm to attempt to do little more than outline facts, according to a March statement of work signed by Senate President Karen Fann and Cyber Ninjas CEO Doug Logan.

“This audit will attempt to validate every area of the voting process,” the contract states. “The final report will attempt to outline all the facts found throughout the investigation and attempt to represent those facts in an unbiased and non-partisan way.”

Read the rest at AZ Central.

The IMI Journal—Pushing for Sane U.S. Diplomacy and Bringing Art Into Environmental Media

Anyone who has lived through the collapse of the Soviet Union—despite the decades of hype that it was on the verge of global dominance, the lies and failures of the 9/11-era wars, the warmongering, and the Cold War hyperbole about Russia and China during the past few years—may perk up and celebrate the arrival of new Globetrotter Writing Fellow James W. Carden. Carden is a former adviser to the U.S. State Department. Previously, he was a contributing writer on foreign affairs at the Nation, and his work has also appeared in the Quincy Institute’s Responsible Statecraft, the American Conservative, Asia Times, and more.

Carden’s coverage of world events and analysis are a dose of sanity in a U.S. media environment that is marked by an absence of critical thought, historical context, or grounding in diplomacy—and a superabundance of self-interested business and government narratives and apologies for short-sighted behavior. Read his latest interview with scholar Anatol Lieven on the failure of 20 years of U.S. occupation in Afghanistan, and the political future the country faces.

Additionally, I am also excited to announce the arrival of Rachel Gugelberger as a media fellow to the Independent Media Institute’s Earth | Food | Life project. She has been a mainstay in the contemporary art world for more than two decades, and her interest in the potential of art to shift attitudes around key environmental themes including food justice and nonhuman animal rights will fill a big area of social need—and help IMI continue in its mission to be media pioneers. Look for her first works appearing this fall!

As always, we depend on readers like you to keep us in motion, and make an impact in a world in need of so much change. Please support us now.

And if you aren’t up to date, please catch up with our recent work:

What Next After 20 Years of War in Afghanistan? Anatol Lieven on the U.S. Legacy and the Taliban’s Rise

James W. Carden – Globetrotter

A Climate Disaster Is Unfolding Before Our Eyes—And Politicians Still Refuse to Take Action

Sonali Kolhatkar – Economy for All

Extreme Weather Devastating U.S. Raises Calls to Pass Biden’s Infrastructure Bill

Reynard Loki – Earth | Food | Life

Afghanistan and the Purdue Pharma Case Are Reminders That the U.S. Is a Failed Narco-State, Too

Richard J. Eskow – Economy for All

You’ll Know an Economic and Social Justice Plan Is Serious If It Includes Money for the Arts

April M. Short – Local Peace Economy

Is America Doomed? Or Is This Just a Huge Opportunity for the Progressive Agenda?

Thom Hartmann – Economy for All

Why the Discovery of Natural Gas in Mozambique Has Produced Tragedies, Not Economic Promise

Vijay Prashad – Globetrotter

Taxpayers Are Funding Cruel and Outdated DOJ Training Programs That Kill Animals

Stephen R. Kaufman – Earth | Food | Life

Most Virginia Counties Won’t Offer Sunday Voting This Fall

Steven Rosenfeld – Voting Booth

In Minnesota’s ‘Most Diverse City,’ Schools Are Addressing the Community’s Deep Trauma

Sarah Lahm – Our Schools

Could California End Up With a Trump-Like Governor?

Sonali Kolhatkar – Economy for All

Growing Chorus of Republicans Criticize Arizona Senate’s 2020 Election ‘Audit’

Steven Rosenfeld – Voting Booth

Medicare for All Will Stop Political Bosses from Playing Games with Deadly Diseases

Thom Hartmann – Economy for All

Thanks, from Jan Ritch-Frel and the rest of the IMI team.

Climate Crisis Putting a Billion Children at ‘Extremely High Risk,’ Warns New UN Report

Almost half of the world’s children are seriously threatened by the rapidly deteriorating global climate.

By Reynard Loki

“Adults keep saying we owe it to the young people to give them hope. But I don’t want your hope,” said Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg in 2019. “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day.” Now the famed young eco-warrior and Nobel Peace Prize nominee might get her wish as she, along with other youth activists, has collaborated with UNICEF—a United Nations agency working in more than 190 countries and territories to provide humanitarian and developmental aid to the world’s most disadvantaged children and adolescents—to launch an alarming new report that has found that a billion children across the world are at “extremely high risk” from the impacts of climate change.

Released ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference to be held in November in Glasgow, Scotland, and on the third anniversary of Fridays for Future (FFF), the youth-led global climate strike movement founded by Thunberg, “The Climate Crisis Is a Child Rights Crisis”​​ is the first climate report to combine high-resolution geographic maps detailing global environmental and climate impacts with maps that show regions where children are vulnerable due to an array of stressors, including poverty and lack of access to education, health care or clean water. The report introduces the new Children’s Climate Risk Index (CCRI), a composite index that ranks nations based on children’s exposure to climate shocks, providing the first comprehensive look at how exactly children are affected by the climate crisis, offering a road map for policymakers seeking to prioritize action based on those who are most at risk. Nick Rees, a policy specialist at UNICEF focusing on climate change and economic analysis and one of the report’s authors, told the Guardian that “[i]t essentially [shows] the likelihood of a child’s ability to survive climate change.”

“For the first time, we have a complete picture of where and how children are vulnerable to climate change, and that picture is almost unimaginably dire. Climate and environmental shocks are undermining the complete spectrum of children’s rights, from access to clean air, food and safe water; to education, housing, freedom from exploitation, and even their right to survive. Virtually no child’s life will be unaffected,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF’s executive director. “For three years, children have raised their voices around the world to demand action. UNICEF supports their calls for change with an unarguable message—the climate crisis is a child’s rights crisis.”

In addition to finding that approximately 1 billion children—nearly half the world’s child population—live in countries that are at an “extremely high risk” from climate impacts, the report found that almost every single child on the planet has been exposed to at least one climate or environmental stressor, such as air pollution, flooding, heat waves, tropical storms, flooding or drought. Moreover, the report found that 850 million children—approximately one-third of the world’s child population—are exposed to four or more stressors.

Read the rest at Pressenza.

Reynard Loki is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute, where he serves as the editor and chief correspondent for Earth | Food | Life. He previously served as the environment, food and animal rights editor at AlterNet and as a reporter for Justmeans/3BL Media covering sustainability and corporate social responsibility. He was named one of FilterBuy’s Top 50 Health & Environmental Journalists to Follow in 2016. His work has been published by Yes! Magazine, Salon, Truthout, BillMoyers.com, CounterPunch, EcoWatch and Truthdig, among others.

Photo Credit: The Left/Flickr

Remembering the Great Scientific Crusader Who Showed That No Biological Basis for Race Exists—Richard Lewontin

Lewontin fought a lifelong battle against racism, imperialism and capitalist oppression.

By Prabir Purkayastha

On July 4, Richard Lewontin, the dialectical biologist, Marxist and activist, died at the age of 92, just three days after the death of his wife of more than 70 years, Mary Jane. He was one of the founders of modern biology who brought together three different disciplines—statistics, molecular biology and evolutionary biology—that mark the discipline today. In doing so, he not only battled crude racism masquerading as science, but also helped shed light on what science really is. In this sense, he belongs to the rare group of scientists who are equally at home in the laboratory and while talking about science and ideology at a philosophical level. Lewontin is a popular exponent of what science is, and more pertinently, what it is not.

Lewontin always harked back to what being radical meansgoing back to fundamentals in deriving a viewpoint. This method is important, as it makes radical inquiry a powerful tool in science, compared to lazier ways of relating positions to certain class viewpoints. What is the relation between genes and race, class, or gender? Does social superiority spring from superior genes, or from biological differences between the sexes? As a Marxist and activist, Lewontin believed that we need to fight at both levels: to expose class, race and gender stereotypes as a reflection of power within society, and also at the level of radical science, meaning from the fundamentals of scientific theory and data.

Richard Lewontin and the population geneticist and mathematical ecologist Richard Levins shared a passion for biology, social activism and Marxism. It is not so well known that Lewontin’s close friend Stephen Jay Gould—the paleontologist, evolutionary biologist, and popular science writer—was also a fellow Marxist. All three of them fought a lifelong battle against the racializing of biology and, later, sociobiology, which sought to ‘explain’ every social phenomenon as derived from our genes. Evolutionary biologists E.O. Wilson and Richard Dawkins—and many others—believed that humans are programmed so that society merely expresses what is already embedded in our genes. Through their eyes, white races are superior because of their genetic superiority; as are the rich. In India, there is also a genetic theory of caste to explain the supposed differences between caste groups. And as long as there are significant differences between groups of people—based on class, race, gender or caste—biological ‘explanations’ for these differences will be offered.

One of Lewontin’s pathbreaking works was to find out how much genetic diversity exists within species. This was at a time when we did not know how many genes humans had. Lewontin’s inspired guess was 20,000, far smaller than what most biologists thought then and remarkably close to what is known today. Most biologists then also believed that races had significant biological differences, which was one of the reasons why they thought that there was a much larger number of genes carrying different traits. Lewontin and geneticist John Hubby used a technique, protein gel electrophoresis, developed by Hubby, to quantify the genetic diversity in fruit flies. At that time, fruit flies were the favorite target for testing genetic theories in the laboratory. This pathbreaking exercise traced evolution at the species level to changes at the molecular level—a foundation for the field of molecular evolution—using statistical methods. The result was startling. Contrary to what most biologists believed, the exercise showed a surprising amount of genetic diversity within a given population and further revealed that evolution led to stable and diverse populations within a species. Later on, Lewontin used this method on human blood groups, to show that the result of stable genetic diversity held true for humans as well. The other result of the human blood group study was that it showed that 85.4 percent of the genetic diversity in humans was found within a population, and only 6.3 percent between ‘races.’ Race was not a biological construct but a social one.

Read the rest at Pressenza.

This article was produced in partnership with Newsclick.

Prabir Purkayastha is the founding editor of Newsclick.in, a digital media platform. He is an activist for science and the free software movement.

Photo Credit: Gringer/Wikimedia Commons

The IMI Journal: Standing Up for Democracy Today, and Learning From the Past

What makes the GOP attack on our elections system so dangerous is actually a media problem. The public has little context in which to understand the latest dangerous efforts to undermine our democracy because the corporate media model doesn’t give journalists and election experts the opportunity to explain how states actually count and certify elections.

IMI is so proud to be working with Steven Rosenfeld’s Voting Booth project, a national leader in covering the finer points and the legal issues involved. The work is priceless—the voting and elections community reads and trusts Voting Booth, helping them make better decisions; reporters from all over the country take pointers from the reporting; and the general public is getting the best view possible on what really matters and what’s at stake. The problems are bad, the crisis is real—but at least from a media standpoint, this is exactly the kind of public interest journalism that we need.

Check out Voting Booth’s latest reporting on Arizona, the Trump-era GOP experiment for how to try to crash an election system. Rosenfeld’s recent article on the Supreme Court’s decision about Arizona’s new voting laws is the best, most concise reporting on the consequences of a majority decision on voting rights you’ll find. Hold it up against the New York Times—you come away better informed, and poised to help our democracy. There are seemingly millions of subscribers for diluted journalism on the key democratic issues of our time, and only a fraction of that financial support for the journalists who are the leaders on social issues. It’s time for that to change.

We at IMI are really trying to push the boundaries and keep producing work that can shift the parameters of debate. April M. Short’s work for Local Peace Economy has recently focused on the huge historical lessons from the past about society and human nature. I urge you to sit down with her article that looks at how societies of the past have survived climate change. In it, she interviews the authors of a major study that looks at thousands of years of evidence in Mesopotamia and concluded that the societies that were cooperative and less hierarchical survived—and the ones that weren’t or couldn’t adapt did not. A social dimension to surviving climate change? The message we hear in the media for addressing climate change often comes down to individual choices we make as consumers, and how huge businesses are shifting their production process.

Another one from April Short that I keep turning back to is an interview she did with an expert on the history and culture of warfare, who compared our past to the modernized version of it that sucks up tax dollars more than any other human activity. It turns out that humanity has colossal sample sizes of thousands of years, hundreds of societies that thrived without warfare—these understandings of ancient life are in fact revolutionary when you hold them up against the way we live today. Short’s other articles on pioneering cooperation projects in the U.S. on food, housing and sustainability are inspiring people to join the good social causes and projects around us—I know it because we get the letters from readers who share that it inspired them to act within their communities.

That’s powerful media.

Please check out our other most recent stories below—and if you haven’t already, please join us and support our work!

Thanks from Jan Ritch-Frel and the rest of the IMI team.


Samuel Alito’s Assault on the Voting Rights Act Is Plunging the Supreme Court Back to the Segregation Era

The conservative majority’s opinion permits some racial discrimination in voting.

By Steven Rosenfeld

In recent decades, voting rights progress has consisted of expanding access to a ballot and the ways to cast it—such as online registration, voting from home with mailed-out ballots and other options to vote before Election Day. Those innovations have been widely embraced, especially during the 2020 election in response to health concerns during a pandemic. In the general election, 56 million people voted in a different manner than they had in 2016.

But the Supreme Court’s latest major decision on the Voting Rights Act of 1965 has imposed new standards that election law scholars say are hostile to the more expansive and convenient voting options that have surfaced in recent years. Even more troubling, the court’s conservative majority has done so in a way that is reminiscent of the arguments put forth by last century’s opponents of equal voting opportunities for racial minorities.

In Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee, the court eviscerated the strongest remaining section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA), Section 2, which held that election laws and voting rules that had a racially discriminatory impact could be blocked. (In 2013, the court, in Shelby v. Holder, neutered the VRA’s sections that allowed federal authorities to block regressive new election laws or voting rules in jurisdictions with histories of discrimination.) Perhaps most alarmingly in Brnovich, Justice Samuel Alito’s majority opinion resurrected a legal strategy embraced by the opponents of last century’s major civil rights reforms.

Brnovich held that some discriminatory impacts of an election law do not alone invalidate that law. That standard, put forth in “guideposts” laid out by Alito, means that suits challenging laws and rules that make voting harder must go beyond showing a discriminatory result. Those challenging a law must prove that its authors intended to discriminate—making it much harder to sue and win. Shifting the burden of proof from the result or effect of a law to its authors’ intent was a tactic of 1970s anti-civil rights litigants.

Read the rest at National Memo.

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, the American Prospect, and many others.

The Right Wing Is Pumping Out Critical Race Theory Attacks to Boost Its Propaganda War on Public Education

Right-wing groups are attacking diversity, equity, and inclusion work in public schools because they want to get rid of public education.

By Jeff Bryant

“No one deserves the school I went to,” says Celia Gottlieb.

Gottlieb is currently enrolled in Middlebury College and working as an intern with New York University’s Metro Center, but she is talking about the high school she attended in Highland, New York, a small community in the Lower Hudson River Valley region of the Empire State.

The Highland Central School District would raise few concerns to the casual observer. Its state data report card says the district graduates 89 percent of its students, above the national rate of 86 percent, with a college, career, and civic readiness level of four, the state’s highest rating. But Gottlieb’s negative recollections about her high school years have more to do with what went on inside the building.

“There was not a single day that I didn’t hear a student openly use the n-word,” she told me in a phone call. “Confederate flags were common. Students had Confederate flags on their cars and on their clothes. One kid wore a shirt with a Confederate flag on it nearly every day and was never told to take it off, even though a student who wore a shirt with an LGBTQ message on it was told to take it off.”

Read the rest at LA Progressive.

Jeff Bryant is a writing fellow and chief correspondent for Our Schools. He is a communications consultant, freelance writer, advocacy journalist, and director of the Education Opportunity Network, a strategy and messaging center for progressive education policy. His award-winning commentary and reporting routinely appear in prominent online news outlets, and he speaks frequently at national events about public education policy. Follow him on Twitter @jeffbcdm.

Climate Crises Can Lead to Improved Social Cooperation and Economy

A new study on the effects of climate crises in ancient Mesopotamia found increased cooperation and a more widespread distribution of power.

By April M. Short

The going assumption is that the impacts of climate disasters on institutions and economics will be negative. However, this is not always the case. Climate disasters can actually have the opposite effect, historically, as shown in a recent article about climate-related disasters in ancient Mesopotamia. The study found that climate-related tensions in effect forced greater cooperation and a more widespread distribution of power across social sectors.

The article, “Climate Change and State Evolution,” was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) on April 6 and was authored by Carmine Guerriero from the University of Bologna in Italy and Giacomo Benati from Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen in Germany. The authors note in the article’s abstract that prior literature on climate disasters in ancient societies focuses on “collapse archaeology,” and tends to correlate “severe droughts” with “institutional crises.” The article instead used a game theory approach to analyze a stream of papers that have been published in recent years on Bronze Age Mesopotamia that challenge this narrative.

Read the rest at Pressenza.

April M. Short is an editor, journalist and documentary editor and producer. She is a writing fellow at Local Peace Economy, a project of the Independent Media Institute. Previously, she served as a managing editor at AlterNet as well as an award-winning senior staff writer for Santa Cruz, California’s weekly newspaper. Her work has been published with the San Francisco Chronicle, In These Times, Salon and many others.