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Americans are eating more factory-farmed meat than ever

Americans are eating more factory-farmed meat than ever

By on 17 Jun 2015commentsShare

Real, slow, farm-to-table, local, sustainable, grass-fed — all these buzzwords give happy feels to foodies trying to reclaim a healthier relationship with their food. Bad news, though: So far, it hasn’t been enough to slow the roll of industrial agriculture. Factory farms are still on the rise in the U.S., according to a new report released by Food and Water Watch. Here’s Pacific Standard with more:

The report, called “Factory Farm Nation,” found that, as the Food Movement hit full tilt, livestock raised on factory farms increased by 20 percent between 2002 and 2012. Beef cattle populations in feedlots rose by five percent during the same 10-year period (despite a historic drought). The number of dairy cows being raised on factory farms doubled between 1997 and 2012; broiler chickens in CAFOs rose by 80 percent; and industrial hogs swelled by a third.

Well, hell. Guess it’s time to up our game all over again.

Our Failed Food Movement

, Pacific Standard.



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Americans are eating more factory-farmed meat than ever

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SunnyD’s New Teen Energy Drink Has More Calories Than Coke

Mother Jones

From the people who brought you the “fruit-flavored beverage” SunnyD comes a brand new product: SunnyD X, a caffeine- and taurine-free energy drink just for teens. For now, it’s available only in convenience stores in Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C. But Sunny Delight Beverages Co. said in a press release that it has big plans to market it at “venues and locations of interest to teens, such as concerts, sporting events, skate parks and beaches.”

David Zellen, the company’s associate marketing director, touted the beverage as “carbonated energy that is uniquely provided by a combination of three carbohydrates, as well as seven B-vitamins to help metabolize the carbohydrates into energy.” He added, “Simply put, SunnyD X offers the energy teens crave without the ingredients moms tell us concern them, such as caffeine and taurine. It’s a win-win.”

Here’s what he didn’t mention: SunnyD X’s mega-dose of sugar, a whopping 50 grams per 16-oz. serving. That adds up to a lot of calories: SunnyD X has 200 calories per 16-oz. serving, while an equal amount of Coca-Cola Classic has 187 calories and 52 grams of sugar.

I asked company spokeswoman Sydney McHugh whether the company was at all concerned about the teen drink, which contains just 5 percent juice, contributing to childhood obesity. “I can tell you that we chose to use sugar as a safer source of energy,” she wrote to me in an email. Then, she pointed me toward a press release in which Ellen Iobst, the company’s chief sustainability officer, bragged that the company had reduced its average calories per serving from 92 to 48 since 2007. “Socially, we need to be taking care of the communities where we do business and our employees,” she said. “This is a way to help alleviate the obesity epidemic.” Mind you, the calorie count in SunnyD X is more than quadruple that average.

Here’s the nutritional information for SunnyD X’s orange flavor. Check out the tongue-twisting list of ingredients, too.

Image from Sunny Delight Beverage Co.

HT Consumerist.


SunnyD’s New Teen Energy Drink Has More Calories Than Coke

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Charts: Why Fast-Food Workers Are Going on Strike

Mother Jones

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC “-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN” “”>

This Thursday, fast-food workers in more than 100 cities are planning a one-day strike to demand a “livable” wage of $15 an hour. They have a point: The lowest-paid Americans are struggling to keep up with the cost of living—and they have seen none of the gains experienced by the country’s top earners. While average incomes of the top 1 percent grew more than 270 percent since 1960, those of the bottom 90 percent grew 22 percent. And the real value of the minimum wage barely budged, increasing a total of 7 percent over those decades.

More of the numbers behind the strike and the renewed calls to raise the minimum wage:

Median hourly wage for fast-food workers nationwide:

Increase in real median wages for food service workers since 1999:

Last time the federal minimum wage exceeded $8.94/hour (in 2012 dollars):

Change in the real value of the minimum wage since 1968:

Median age of fast-food workers:

Median age of female fast-food workers:

Percentage of fast-food workers who are women:

Percentage of fast-food workers older than 20 who have kids:

Income of someone earning $8.94/hour:

Federal poverty line for a family of three:

Income of someone earning $15/hour:

Income needed for a “secure yet modest” living for a family with two adults and one child…
In the New York City area: $77,378/year
In rural Mississippi: $47,154/year

Growth in average real income of the top 1 percent since 1960:

What the current minimum wage would be if it had grown at the same rate as top incomes:
More than $25

How would you and your family fare on a typical fast-food paycheck? How much does it really take to make ends meet in your city or state? Use this calculator to get a better sense of what fast-food workers are up against.

How many people are in your household? One Adult No Children
One Adult One Child
One Adult Two Children
One Adult Three Children
Two Adults No Children
Two Adults One Child
Two Adults Two Children
Two Adults Three ChildrenWhich state do you live in? Which area do you live in? (Area data not available for households without children.)How much do you make in a year? $

In order to make $___ a year, the typical fast-food worker has to work __ hours a week.

A household like yours in ___, ___ needs to earn $__ annually to make a secure yet modest living. A fast-food worker working full time would have to earn $__ an hour to make that much.

The average fast-food employee works less than 25 hours a week. To make a living wage in ___, ___ at current median wages, s/he would have to work __ hours a week.

In __ hours, McDonald’s serves __ customers and makes $__. That’s about __ Big Macs.

var median_fast_food_worker_wage = 8.94; // Source: National Employment Law Project, July 2013;
var work_weeks_per_year = 52;
var months_per_year = 12;
var average_fast_food_worker_hours_per_week = 24.4;
var average_weeks_in_a_month = 4.348;
var hours_worked_at_full_time = 40;

var days_in_2012 = 366; //leap year
var McDonalds_customers_per_day_in_2012 = 69000000; // Source: McDonalds 2012 Annual Report
var hours_in_day = 24;
var mcD_systemwide_restaurants = 34480;
var mcD_served_per_hour = McDonalds_customers_per_day_in_2012 / hours_in_day;

var mcD_earnings_in_2012 = 27567000000; // Source: McDonalds 2012 Annual Report
var mcD_earned_per_hour = Math.round(mcD_earnings_in_2012 / days_in_2012 / hours_in_day);

var cost_of_big_mac = 4;

var first_state = ‘AK’;
var first_locale = ‘Anchorage, AK HUD Metro FMR Area’;
var state_abbr =
‘AL’ : ‘Alabama’,
‘AK’ : ‘Alaska’,
‘AS’ : ‘America Samoa’,
‘AZ’ : ‘Arizona’,
‘AR’ : ‘Arkansas’,
‘CA’ : ‘California’,
‘CO’ : ‘Colorado’,
‘CT’ : ‘Connecticut’,
‘DE’ : ‘Delaware’,
‘DC’ : ‘District of Columbia’,
‘FM’ : ‘Micronesia1’,
‘FL’ : ‘Florida’,
‘GA’ : ‘Georgia’,
‘GU’ : ‘Guam’,
‘HI’ : ‘Hawaii’,
‘ID’ : ‘Idaho’,
‘IL’ : ‘Illinois’,
‘IN’ : ‘Indiana’,
‘IA’ : ‘Iowa’,
‘KS’ : ‘Kansas’,
‘KY’ : ‘Kentucky’,
‘LA’ : ‘Louisiana’,
‘ME’ : ‘Maine’,
‘MH’ : ‘Islands1’,
‘MD’ : ‘Maryland’,
‘MA’ : ‘Massachusetts’,
‘MI’ : ‘Michigan’,
‘MN’ : ‘Minnesota’,
‘MS’ : ‘Mississippi’,
‘MO’ : ‘Missouri’,
‘MT’ : ‘Montana’,
‘NE’ : ‘Nebraska’,
‘NV’ : ‘Nevada’,
‘NH’ : ‘New Hampshire’,
‘NJ’ : ‘New Jersey’,
‘NM’ : ‘New Mexico’,
‘NY’ : ‘New York’,
‘NC’ : ‘North Carolina’,
‘ND’ : ‘North Dakota’,
‘OH’ : ‘Ohio’,
‘OK’ : ‘Oklahoma’,
‘OR’ : ‘Oregon’,
‘PW’ : ‘Palau’,
‘PA’ : ‘Pennsylvania’,
‘PR’ : ‘Puerto Rico’,
‘RI’ : ‘Rhode Island’,
‘SC’ : ‘South Carolina’,
‘SD’ : ‘South Dakota’,
‘TN’ : ‘Tennessee’,
‘TX’ : ‘Texas’,
‘UT’ : ‘Utah’,
‘VT’ : ‘Vermont’,
‘VI’ : ‘Virgin Island’,
‘VA’ : ‘Virginia’,
‘WA’ : ‘Washington’,
‘WV’ : ‘West Virginia’,
‘WI’ : ‘Wisconsin’,
‘WY’ : ‘Wyoming’

var selected_state = jQuery(“#selected_state”);
var selected_locale = jQuery(“#selected_locale”);
var selected_household = jQuery(“#selected_household”);

for (var state in bfjo)
var option = jQuery(” + state_abbrstate + ”);

var fill_locale_selector = function(state_object)


for (var locale in state_object)
var option = jQuery(” + locale.replace(/,.*$/, ”) + ”);



var state = $(“#selected_state option:selected”).val();
var state_object = bfjostate;



var fill_household_selector = function(locale_object)
var selected_household = jQuery(“#selected_household”);


for (var household in locale_object)
var option = jQuery(” + household + ”);



var state = $(“#selected_state option:selected”).val();
var locale = $(“#selected_locale option:selected”).val();
var locale_object = bfjostatelocale;



enable_disable_locale = function()
var household = $(“#selected_household option:selected”).val();
if (household === ‘1P0C’ else
selected_locale.attr(‘disabled’, ”);




var state = $(“#selected_state option:selected”).val();
var locale = $(“#selected_locale option:selected”).val();
var household = $(“#selected_household option:selected”).val();
var salary = parseInt($(“#input_salary”).val());

var annual_living_wage = bfjostatelocalehousehold;
var hourly_for_living = annual_living_wage / months_per_year
/ average_weeks_in_a_month / hours_worked_at_full_time;

var hours_to_live_per_month = annual_living_wage / months_per_year / median_fast_food_worker_wage;
var weeks_to_live_per_month = hours_to_live_per_month / hours_worked_at_full_time;

var salary_monthly = salary / months_per_year;
var hours_to_salary_monthly = salary_monthly / median_fast_food_worker_wage;
var weeks_to_salary_monthly = hours_to_salary_monthly / hours_worked_at_full_time;

var hours_living_a_week = hours_to_live_per_month / average_weeks_in_a_month;
var hours_salary_a_week = hours_to_salary_monthly / average_weeks_in_a_month;

var commify = function(number)
while (/(d+)(d3)/.test(number.toString()))
number = number.toString().replace(/(d+)(d3)/, ‘$1’+’,’+’$2′);
return number;

var salary_string = commify(salary);
var yearly_living_wage_string = commify(annual_living_wage);
while (/(d+)(d3)/.test(salary_string.toString()))
salary_string = salary_string.toString().replace(/(d+)(d3)/, ‘$1’+’,’+’$2′);

while (/(d+)(d3)/.test(yearly_living_wage_string.toString()))
yearly_living_wage_string = yearly_living_wage_string.toString().replace(/(d+)(d3)/, ‘$1’+’,’+’$2′);


if (household === “1P0C” || household === “2P0C”)
jQuery(“#fast_food_calculator_locale”).text(locale.replace(/,.*$/, ”) + ‘,’);
jQuery(“#fast_food_calculator_locale2″).text(locale.replace(/,.*$/, ”) + ‘,’);




Math.round(hours_living_a_week) * mcD_served_per_hour
commify(Math.round(Math.round(hours_living_a_week) * mcD_earned_per_hour))

* mcD_earned_per_hour
/ cost_of_big_mac

var hourly_for_living_clean = Math.round(hourly_for_living * 100)
.toString().replace(/(d+)(d2)/, ‘$1’+’.’+’$2′);

return false;



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Charts: Why Fast-Food Workers Are Going on Strike

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Frackers are flushing radioactive waste into rivers

Frackers are flushing radioactive waste into rivers


Blacklick Creek in Pennsylvania.

Frackers often treat their wastewater a little bit like sewage, passing it through water treatment plants and then flushing it into streams and rivers. It may be an improvement on pumping the stuff back into the ground, which can trigger earthquakes, but new research reveals that this can be a dangerously shitty approach to managing frack water.

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, entails injecting water and chemicals into the ground to break up underground rocks and release oil and gas. When that water burbles back to the surface, however, it comes back laced with traces of metals, isotopes, and other pollutants that normally sit harmlessly deep beneath the soil.

Fracking FAQ: The science and technology behind the natural gas boom

Duke University researchers studied a fracker’s wastewater treatment plant in Pennsylvania and found it removed more than 90 percent of the radioactive radium from the wastewater. But that’s not nearly enough: The researchers

report in the journal Environmental Science and Technology

that the radioisotopes that are slipping through the cracks in the treatment system are accumulating in alarming levels in Blacklick Creek, where the wastewater is dumped.

Radium levels in the sediments at the dumping point in the creek, which eventually flows into the Allegheny River, were found to be 200 times greater than background levels. They were “above radioactive waste disposal threshold regulations, posing potential environmental risks of radium bioaccumulation,” the scientists wrote. From Bloomberg’s coverage:

“The absolute levels that we found are much higher than what you allow in the U.S. for any place to dump radioactive material,” Avner Vengosh, a professor at the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University and co-author of the study, said in an interview. “The radium will be bio-accumulating. You eventually could get it in the fish.”

Hydraulic fracturing or fracking has been blamed for contaminating streams and private water wells after spills from wastewater holding ponds or leaks from faulty gas wells. Today’s report exposes the risks of disposing of the surging volumes of waste from gas fracking. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is developing new standards for disposing of gas drilling waste.

Blacklick Creek is already something of an aquatic wasteland, turned orange and acidic by runoff from hundreds of abandoned mines — a misfortune that residents and government agencies have been trying to mend. The latest finding is bleak news not only for the fate of those restoration efforts, but for the safety of creeks and rivers throughout the nation that are becoming dumping grounds as oil and gas companies cash in.

Impacts of Shale Gas Wastewater Disposal on Water Quality in Western Pennsylvania, Environmental Science and Technology
Radiation in Pennsylvania Creek Seen as Legacy of Fracking, Bloomberg

John Upton is a science fan and green news boffin who tweets, posts articles to Facebook, and blogs about ecology. He welcomes reader questions, tips, and incoherent rants:

Find this article interesting? Donate now to support our work.Read more: Business & Technology


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Frackers are flushing radioactive waste into rivers

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Frackers are chewing up Pennsylvania’s forests

Frackers are chewing up Pennsylvania’s forests


Roads carved through Pennsylvania’s forests cause habitat fragmentation and reduce biodiversity.

Frackers don’t just foul the air and the water — they trample nature and carve up ecosystems into inadequate little pieces.

That’s the message coming out of the U.S. Geological Survey, which studied aerial photographs of a handful of Pennsylvania counties where gas companies are using hydraulic fracturing to tap deposits in  the Marcellus Shale. The survey’s analysis revealed sweeping damage and forests fragmented by new well pads, roads, and pipelines.

Jason Bell, a member of Marcellus Outreach Butler, told the Valley News Dispatch that the new study offers yet another example of why more careful regulation of the fracking boom is needed. “Often we don’t get a bird’s-eye view of what’s happening,” he said. “It’s easy to see one or two wells and think it’s having isolated effects.”

Here’s what the boom looks like when viewed from above. “Before” shots are on the left, “after” on the right:

USGSExamples of how drilling permits have led to the fragmentation of habitat in Pennsylvania’s Washington County. Click to embiggen.

In Butler County alone, the study found that fracking and conventional drilling — and the road-building required to service 109 drilling sites — had disturbed 325 acres of forest by 2010. Compared to a decade earlier, there were 36 more patches of forest in the county, and the average size of each patch was smaller — a change that the researchers said was mostly due to the drilling boom.

Even Beaver County, which is relatively untouched by frackers save for a couple drilling sites in its northeastern corner, endured 13 acres of disruption during the same period. Forests in Lackawanna and Wayne counties were also heavily affected by fracking despite being home to a small number of drilling wells.

It’s not just the acreage of disturbance that causes concern. It’s what all that drilling and road building do to the forests in between. Whenever habitat is broken up into smaller pieces, the theory of island biogeography tells us that the area’s biodiversity plummets. That’s because some wildlife can only survive deep in the woods — far away from its edges.

“Landscape disturbance can have a major impact on ecological resources and the services they provide,” USGS researcher Lesley Milheim said in a statement.

John Upton is a science fan and green news boffin who tweets, posts articles to Facebook, and blogs about ecology. He welcomes reader questions, tips, and incoherent rants: this article interesting? Donate now to support our work.Read more: Climate & Energy

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Frackers are chewing up Pennsylvania’s forests

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Repeat After Me: Always Adjust for Inflation. Always Adjust for Inflation.

Mother Jones

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If I told you that the American economy grew by more than 50 percent during Jimmy Carter’s presidency, you’d probably think I must be pulling a fast one. And you’d be right: inflation was high during Carter’s term in office, so most of that growth is an illusion. Adjusted for inflation, the economy grew 13 percent.

Likewise, if I told you that California has more violent crime than Washington DC, you’d be equally skeptical. And rightly so: California just has a lot more people than Washington DC. Adjusted for population, DC’s crime rate is three times higher than California’s.

This is why reporters really, really need to stop writing stuff like this:

After 2½ years of budget battles, this is what the federal government looks like now: It is on pace, this year, to spend $3.455 trillion.

That figure is down from 2010 — the year that worries about government spending helped bring on a tea party uprising, a Republican takeover in the House and then a series of ulcer-causing showdowns in Congress. But it is not down by that much. Back then, the government spent a whopping $3.457 trillion.

This is just flatly deceptive. Adjusted for inflation and population growth, federal spending has declined by 8 percent since 2010. In current dollars, it’s fallen from $11,800 to $10,900 per person.

The excerpt above comes from David Fahrenthold of the Washington Post, who wants to make the point that for all the screaming and shouting over the budget during the past few years, the size of government hasn’t really changed much. And that’s fine. If he wants to, he can make that point by noting that all the fuss has produced only an 8 percent decline from record highs. But what he can’t do—not honestly, anyway—is present nominal numbers in his lead and then again in a big chart, with only a tiny footnote to alert readers that he hasn’t accounted for inflation, let alone population growth.

I don’t have quite as big a problem with the rest of Fahrenthold’s story as some do. He’s basically making the point that Congress has a hard time cutting federal spending, and that’s perfectly true. If the Post thinks its readers are interested in why that is, fine. But along with the usual collection of horror-story anecdotes (roads to nowhere, tiny subsidized airports, etc.) they have an obligation to present the big picture honestly. They didn’t.

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Repeat After Me: Always Adjust for Inflation. Always Adjust for Inflation.

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Here’s the Latest in Race-Baiting Conspiracy Theories From the Right

Mother Jones

As we wait for final arguments and then a verdict in the George Zimmerman trial, Paul Waldman alerts us to the latest round of Zimmerman-related race baiting from the right-wing media. It turns out that in the days after Trayvon Martin was killed, the Justice Department sent a team of mediators down to Sanford to try to keep everybody calm. This team was universally praised for its efforts….until a couple of days ago:

Conservative media have a different take on the CRS’s efforts to diffuse the anger over the case, which came to their attention when the conservative group Judicial Watch obtained documents detailing the CRS’s expenses of a couple of thousand dollars for their time in Sanford. In their reading, it’s a Justice Department conspiracy, in which Obama and Holder are working with Al Sharpton to organize anti-Zimmerman protests.

“Docs: Justice Department Facilitated Anti-Zimmerman Protests,” said the Daily Caller. Fox News, which has been treating its viewers to the commentary of thoughtful race analysts like Mark Fuhrman and Pat Buchanan about this case, was a tad more circumspect, posing it as a question: “Did Justice Department Support Anti-Zimmerman Protests After Martin Shooting?” ssaw the entire prosecution as a result of the mediators: “Judicial Watch: Zimmerman Prosecution Might Have Been Forced By DOJ-Organized Pressure.” Powerline was even more dramatic: “Did the Department of Justice Stir Up Trayvon Martin Riots?” Interesting question, particularly since there were no riots. “The United States government has been converted by Obama and Holder into a community organizing agitator bunch!” thundered Rush Limbaugh in response to the report about the CRS. “This regime saw an opportunity to turn something into a profoundly racial case for the express purpose of ripping the country apart.”

Dave Weigel has more in Slate. “The DOJ did mediate,” he reports. “The result was peaceful rallies, after which a police chief resigned and Zimmerman was charged. The argument on the right now is that even this mediation tipped the scales.” Read the rest if you want to stay au courant with all the conservative conspiracy theories that don’t make it to the front page of the New York Times.

Link – 

Here’s the Latest in Race-Baiting Conspiracy Theories From the Right

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After mass bumblebee die-off, activists call for new pesticide rules

After mass bumblebee die-off, activists call for new pesticide rules


If only bees could read.

Even as Oregonians are mourning and memorializing the tens of thousands of bees killed in a recent pesticide spraying, they’re also trying to prevent other bees from meeting a similarly tragic end. That means keeping the pollinators away from the poisoned trees that caused the deaths. And for some activists, it also means pushing for new rules and policies to curb use of neonicotinoid insecticides.

The tragedy started a week and a half ago when a landscaping company sprayed Safari neonic insecticide over 55 blooming trees around a Target parking lot in Wilsonville, Ore. Soon thereafter bees started dropping dead. The number of bees killed in the incident has risen to more than 50,000, making it the biggest known bumblebee die-off in American history. The insecticide was reportedly sprayed in an attempt to kill aphids.

Mace Vaughan / Xerces SocietyInsect-proof netting being draped over insecticide-drenched trees in Wilsonville, Ore.

To stop the slaughter, nets have been draped over the insecticide-drenched linden trees to prevent pollinators from reaching their flowers. The time and equipment needed for the draping were donated by five cities, three landscaping companies, and volunteers, according to the Xerces Society, a nonprofit that works to conserve insects and has been helping to coordinate the effort.

Xerces Executive Director Scott Black told Grist that the Wilsonville die-off, and a similar but less dramatic Safari-induced die-off in a linden tree in Hillsboro, Ore., represent the “tip” of a pollinator-killing iceberg.

“These insecticides are used throughout the country in both urban and agricultural environments,” Black said. “If these events had not happened over areas of concrete, I am not sure anyone would have ever noticed. The insects would just fall into the grass to be eaten by birds as well as ants and other insects.”

Black said his group will send letters to local and state agriculture departments across the country, urging them to end the use of neonicotinoid insecticides on trees, lawns, and for other cosmetic purposes on lands that they manage. He said such a policy is in place is Ontario.

(Separately, beekeepers and activists are suing the federal government in an effort to ban the use of neonicotinoids in America. The pesticides are deadly to pollinators and their use is being banned in Europe.)

Xerces also wants warning labels mandated in aisles of stores where insecticides are sold to help consumers understand their hazards.

“In urban areas, most of the pesticides used are purely cosmetic. It’s to have a perfect lawn. It’s to have a perfect rose. It’s to have a linden tree that doesn’t have aphids that drop honey dew,” Black said. “Losing valuable pollinators, such as bees, far outweighs the benefits of having well-manicured trees and lawns.”

Mace Vaughan / Xerces SocietyA bumblebee kept away from poisoned flowers by netting.

John Upton is a science fan and green news boffin who tweets, posts articles to Facebook, and blogs about ecology. He welcomes reader questions, tips, and incoherent rants:

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CBO Report: Immigration Reform Would Reduce the Federal Deficit

Mother Jones

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The Congressional Budget Office has scored the Senate’s immigration reform bill, and the news is pretty good for deficit hawks. According to CBO estimates, the bill would:

Increase federal direct spending by $262 billion over the 2014–2023 period. Most of those outlays would be for increases in refundable tax credits stemming from the larger U.S. population under the bill and in spending on health care programs….
Increase federal revenues by $459 billion over the 2014–2023 period. That increase would stem largely from additional collections of income and payroll taxes….
Decrease federal budget deficits through the changes in direct spending and revenues just discussed by $197 billion over the 2014–2023 period.

Compared to its baseline estimates, CBO also projects that if the immigration bill is passed, GDP will increase a bit over the next decade; wages will go down a bit but then rise in the decade after that; capital investment will rise; and the productivity of labor and of capital will go up. All of these effects are fairly small, however. Economically, a pretty reasonable takeaway is that immigration reform would probably have a positive effect, but not a large one.

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CBO Report: Immigration Reform Would Reduce the Federal Deficit

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Boy Scouts: You Can Be Gay Until You Turn 18

Mother Jones

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Boy Scouts and their families deliver signatures protesting the ban. GLAAD

Today, on a muggy afternoon in Grapevine, Texas, members of the Boy Scouts of America‘s National Council voted 61-38 percent to stop discriminating against kids in the program on the basis of sexual orientation, overturning a national ban on gay Scouts that the organization has enforced for decades. The BSA will continue barring gay adults from serving as scoutmasters and volunteers, meaning that teenagers who come out during their time with the program could be booted after they turn 18. The decision is seen as a compromise between church groups that partner with the Scouts and those eager to see the program fully end its discrimination against gays.

“No youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone,” states the new resolution, acknowledging that “youth are still developing, learning about themselves and who they are, developing their sense of right and wrong, and understanding their duty to God to live a moral life.”

“It’s an incomplete step, but still a step in the right direction,” Zach Wahls, an Eagle Scout raised by two lesbian mothers, and founder of Scouts for Equality, tells Mother Jones. His organization, along with Scouts, parents, and volunteers who support overturning the ban, have been rallying in Texas for days, across from the Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center, where more than 1,400 BSA voting members from across the United States cast their votes this afternoon. Scouts in uniform faced off against about two dozen protesters supporting than ban—and “a couple local guys driving by in trucks, saying anti-gay stuff,” Wahls says.

Controversy over the ban picked up last fall, when major backers like the Intel Foundation and UPS stopped funding the program because of its discriminatory policy. In January, the BSA said it would vote on the issue. The following month, President Obama said he supported overturning the ban, and celebrities like Carly Rae Jespen and Dr. Phil followed suit. There have been over 1.8 million signatures submitted in favor of overturning the ban, according to Rich Ferraro, vice president of communications at GLAAD, a gay right group, in contrast to 19,000 signatures in favor of it, delivered by the Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian organization.

The Boy Scouts, which was founded in 1910 with an oath promising that Scouts would be “morally straight,” have a long history of discriminating against gay members. In 1980, an Eagle Scout and aspiring Scout leader was kicked out for attending his prom with a male date. In June 2000, the US Supreme Court affirmed in a 5-4 decision that the Boy Scouts could continue barring gay Scout leaders. And as recently as April, 2012, an Ohio mom and den leader named Jennifer Tyrrell was forced out of the organization for being gay.

The new policy, which kicks in January 1, makes it so that member troops can no longer discriminate against gay youth. But anyone who is gay and over 18 years old still won’t be allowed to be a Scout leader or volunteer. (The Boy Scouts’ coed Venturing program, aimed at young adults, will allow gay members until they are 21.) This means that gay Scouts like 16-year-old Pascal Tessier can continue to participate in the program without fear of being kicked out, and will have the opportunity to earn the prestigious rank of Eagle Scout like his older brother has. But under the new policy, he would still be banned from the program when he turns 18.

When Mother Jones asked BSA whether or not it would eventually consider voting on the ban on gay adult members, a spokesperson said: “This is not about a step or progression…It is the option that did not, in some way, prevent kids who sincerely want to be a part of Scouting from experiencing this life-changing program and to remain true to the long-standing virtues of Scouting.”

Tyrrell, the mom ousted for being gay and still unwelcome under the new policy, said in a press release, “I’m so proud of how far we’ve come, but until there’s a place for everyone in Scouting, my work will continue.”

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Boy Scouts: You Can Be Gay Until You Turn 18

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