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Corporate Landlords' Profits Soar as Tenants Drown in Rent Hikes and Fees
2024-06-12, Common Dreams
Posted: 2024-07-02 11:21:19
https://www.commondreams.org/news/corporate-landlords

An analysis from Accountable.US showed how more than 100 million people who rent their homes in the U.S. are not seeing the benefits of what one Biden spokesperson called "the great American comeback" in their housing costs, particularly millions of people whose homes are owned by corporate landlords. The government watchdog found that the six largest corporate landlord companies brought in close to a combined $300 million in increased profits in the first quarter of 2024, with the profits mostly stemming from rent hikes. Overall in the U.S., rent prices have skyrocketed by 31.4% since 2019 while wages have increased by just 23%, meaning tenants need to earn nearly $80,000 per year to keep from being rent-burdened. The six companies included in the Accountable.US analysis on Wednesday have more than rent increases in common: They have all faced lawsuits regarding their use of the property management software company RealPage, which is alleged to have used an algorithm to fix rent prices, impacting about 16 million rental units in the United States. The group's analysis was released weeks after the Federal Bureau of Investigation conducted a raid on an Atlanta-based property management firm in the Department of Justice's antitrust investigation into RealPage regarding "allegations of a nationwide conspiracy to artificially inflate apartment rents." RealPage's ... influence covers 70% of multifamily apartment buildings.

Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on corporate corruption from reliable major media sources.


Silicon Valley Rushes Toward Automated Warfare That Deeply Incorporates AI
2024-06-25, Truthout
Posted: 2024-07-02 11:19:24
https://truthout.org/articles/silicon-valley-rushes-toward-automated-warfare-...

Venture capital and military startup firms in Silicon Valley have begun aggressively selling a version of automated warfare that will deeply incorporate artificial intelligence (AI). This surge of support for emerging military technologies is driven by the ultimate rationale of the military-industrial complex: vast sums of money to be made. Untold billions of dollars of private money now pouring into firms seeking to expand the frontiers of techno-war. According to the New York Times, $125 billion over the past four years. Whatever the numbers, the tech sector and its financial backers sense that there are massive amounts of money to be made in next-generation weaponry and aren’t about to let anyone stand in their way. Meanwhile, an investigation by Eric Lipton of the New York Times found that venture capitalists and startup firms already pushing the pace on AI-driven warfare are also busily hiring ex-military and Pentagon officials to do their bidding. Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt [has] become a virtual philosopher king when it comes to how new technology will reshape society. [Schmidt] laid out his views in a 2021 book modestly entitled The Age of AI and Our Human Future, coauthored with none other than the late Henry Kissinger. Schmidt is aware of the potential perils of AI, but he’s also at the center of efforts to promote its military applications. AI is coming, and its impact on our lives, whether in war or peace, is likely to stagger the imagination.

Note: Learn more about emerging warfare technology in our comprehensive Military-Intelligence Corruption Information Center. For more, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on AI from reliable major media sources.


Blueprint Shows Why Only Real Barrier to Global Billionaire Tax Is 'Political Will'
2024-06-25, Common Dreams
Posted: 2024-07-02 11:16:52
https://www.commondreams.org/news/billionaires-tax

Renowned economist Gabriel Zucman released a blueprint Tuesday showing the world's governments that a global minimum tax on billionaires would be both technically feasible and economically beneficial, leaving political will as the only major obstacle preventing transformative changes to an international tax structure long exploited by the ultra-rich. A 2% minimum tax on the wealth of global billionaires would raise between $200 billion and $250 billion annually in revenue from roughly 3,000 individuals globally, resources that "could be invested to support sustained economic development through investments in education, health, public infrastructure, the energy transition, and climate change mitigation." Billionaires ... pay lower effective income tax rates than those in the working class, often making use of holding companies and other complex maneuvers to dodge their obligations and stockpile massive fortunes. The world's billionaires collectively own $14.2 trillion in wealth. Structuring a new tax based on a specific percentage of billionaires' wealth would prevent ultra-rich individuals who report little to no taxable income from completely avoiding taxation. The primary barrier to establishing a global tax on billionaires is not technical, Zucman argued, but political, particularly given the sway the ultra-rich have over economic policy. A YouGov poll ... found that 59% of U.S. millionaires would support a global tax on billionaires equal to 2% of their wealth.

Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on financial inequality from reliable major media sources.


To Keep Clean Drinking Water Flowing to Paris, Farmers Are Going Organic
2024-06-25, Reasons to be Cheerful
Posted: 2024-07-02 11:14:45
https://reasonstobecheerful.world/paris-organic-farming-clean-water-supply/

About 100 miles southeast of Paris ... a charming stone aqueduct cuts across the green fields. “That’s the Aqueduct of the Vanne,” says [farmer] Zoltan Kahn. The Vanne, which supplies a fifth of Paris’s tap water, is fed by the water sources in these parts. The region is rich in biodiversity and has been a key drinking water catchment area for centuries. Since 2020, Eau de Paris, the city’s public water service, has been supporting farmers near its watersheds ... to reduce the use of pesticides and fertilizers on their crops. In other words, to go organic. When Kahn was approached by Eau de Paris with support to go fully organic, he jumped at the opportunity. In exchange for switching to organic, he would receive a so-called “Payment for Environmental Services” for each hectare of his farmland. As part of the €48 million ($51.8 million) project, Eau de Paris and the Seine-Normandy Water Agency, a public institution fighting water pollution in the region, are supporting 115 farmers based in watersheds that supply the city to either reduce their use of chemicals or go fully organic (as 58 percent of the farmers have). Already €32 million of that funding has been granted, according to Anne-Sophie Leclere, deputy director general of Eau de Paris. “It’s better for us to have cleaner, purer watersheds,” says Leclere. “This will save Paris from having to pay much more to process the water once it arrives in the city.”

Note: Explore more positive stories about healing the Earth.


How Philadelphia Is Giving Fallen Trees New Life
2024-06-24, Reasons to be Cheerful
Posted: 2024-07-02 11:12:38
https://reasonstobecheerful.world/philadelphia-reforestation-hub-carbon-smart...

Each year, US cities lose an estimated 36 million trees to development, disease and old age, many of which ultimately end up in landfills. Losing these urban trees — known to help cool their neighborhoods, lower carbon emissions and improve mental health, among other benefits — costs an estimated $96 million annually. In Philadelphia, a partnership is giving the City of Brotherly Love’s fallen trees new life. Philadelphia Parks & Rec joined forces with Cambium Carbon, a Washington, D.C.-based startup that repurposes waste wood, and PowerCorpsPHL, a local nonprofit that creates job opportunities for unemployed and under-employed 18- to 30-year-olds, to launch the Reforestation Hub. Rather than sending trees straight to the landfill or the city’s organic recycling center to simply become mulch or wood chips, the Reforestation Hub (which is co-located in the city’s organic recycling center) will salvage as many trees as it can. As many as possible will be turned into Cambium’s Carbon Smart Wood, which stores 5.23 pounds of carbon in each board foot. Fifteen percent of sales that come out of the hub will be donated to Tree Philly at the end of each year to support tree planting and maintenance across the city. While the hub formally launched only recently, in the year and a half that it’s taken to get the infrastructure in place, it has already diverted 542 logs to create 28,000 board feet of Carbon Smart Wood.

Note: Explore more positive stories about healing the Earth and technology for good.


CEO on why giving all employees minimum salary of $70,000 still "works" six years later: "Our turnover rate was cut in half"
2021-09-16, CBS News
Posted: 2024-07-02 11:10:37
https://www.cbsnews.com/news/dan-price-gravity-payments-ceo-70000-employee-mi...

It was six years ago when CEO Dan Price raised the salary of everyone at his Seattle-based credit card processing company Gravity Payments to at least $70,000 a year. Price slashed his own salary by $1 million to be able to give his employees a pay raise. He was hailed a hero by some and met with predictions of bankruptcy from his critics. But that has not happened; instead, the company is thriving. He said his company has tripled and he is still paying his employees $70,000 a year. "I make $70,000 a year," Price [said]. According to the Economic Policy Institute, average CEO compensation is 320 times more than the salaries of their typical workers. Price said despite the success his company has had with the policy, he wishes other companies would follow suit. "I would say that's the failure of this. You know, I feel like I've been shouting from the rooftops like, 'This works, this works, everybody should do it!' and zero big companies are following suit because the system values having the highest return with the lowest risk and the lowest amount of work," Price said. Price thinks Gravity's returns are up in large part because bigger paychecks have lead to fiercely loyal employees. "Our turnover rate was cut in half, so when you have employees staying twice as long, their knowledge of how to help our customers skyrocketed over time and that's really what paid for the raise more so than my pay cut," said Price.

Note: Explore more positive stories about reimagining the economy.


Kansas Sues Pfizer Over Covid-19 Vaccine’s Safety, Efficacy
2024-06-17, Bloomberg
Posted: 2024-06-24 22:50:35
https://news.bloomberglaw.com/health-law-and-business/kansas-sues-pfizer-over...

Kansas on Monday sued Pfizer Inc., accusing the pharmaceutical giant of misrepresenting the safety of its Covid-19 vaccine and violating the state’s consumer protection law. The lawsuit was filed by state Attorney General Kris Kobach in Kansas District Court, Thomas County. The suit alleges the drugmaker misled the public when it said it had a safe and effective Covid-19 vaccine. “Pfizer said its COVID-19 vaccine was safe even though it knew its COVID-19 vaccine was connected to serious adverse events, including myocarditis and pericarditis, failed pregnancies, and deaths,” the state wrote in the complaint. The company administered more than 3.5 million vaccine doses in Kansas as of Feb. 7, 2024, according to the lawsuit. The complaint also said Pfizer maintained its own adverse events database, separate from the federal Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), a national early warning system managed by the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to detect possible safety problems in US-licensed vaccines. Pfizer’s database contained cases of adverse events reported spontaneously to Pfizer, cases reported by the health authorities, and cases published in the medical literature, according to the suit. “Pfizer’s adverse events database contained more adverse event data than VAERS because it included both information in VAERS and information not in VAERS,” Kobach wrote.

Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of news articles on COVID vaccines from reliable major media sources.


Abused by the badge
2024-06-12, Washington Post
Posted: 2024-06-24 22:48:18
https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/interactive/2024/police-officer...

A Washington Post investigation has found that over the past two decades, hundreds of law enforcement officers in the United States have sexually abused children while officials at every level of the criminal justice system have failed to protect kids, punish abusers and prevent additional crimes. Accused cops have used their knowledge of the legal system to stall cases, get charges lowered or evade convictions. Prosecutors have given generous plea deals to officers who admitted to raping and groping minors. Judges have allowed many convicted officers to avoid prison time. Children in every state ... have continued to be targeted, groomed and violated by officers sworn to keep them safe. James Blair, a Lowell, N.C., police officer, met a 13-year-old girl who ran away from home. He offered to help with her school work and presented himself as a mentor. Months later, court records show, he got the girl pregnant. Matthew Skaggs, a Potosi, Mo., police officer, offered money or vape cartridges to three boys he sexually exploited. Joshua Carrier, a Colorado Springs, police officer, sexually assaulted 18 boys at the middle school where he had once worked as school police officer and later volunteered as a wrestling coach. The Post identified at least 1,800 state and local law enforcement officers who were charged with crimes involving child sexual abuse from 2005 through 2022. Officers charged with child sex crimes worked at all levels of law enforcement. Many used the threat of arrest or physical harm to make their victims comply. Nearly 40 percent of convicted officers avoided prison sentences. Children who are sexually abused by law enforcement officers sworn to protect them face lifelong consequences.

Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of news articles on police corruption and sexual abuse scandals from reliable major media sources.


The Little-Known Reason Counties Keep Building Bigger Jails: Architecture Firms
2024-05-31, The Intercept
Posted: 2024-06-24 22:45:49
https://theintercept.com/2024/05/31/jail-construction-justice-architecture-fi...

Elevatus, a Fort Wayne-based architecture firm ... has designed jails all over Indiana and in several other states. For counties that are considering expanding their current jail or building a new one, Elevatus produces feasibility studies that usually predict growing incarceration needs. In many cases, Elevatus also wins a contract to draw up the plans for the facility it recommended. That’s what happened in Allen County. Four months after Elevatus released its study, the company was hired to design the new jail. If the county’s elected officials approve the project, the firm’s design fees — factored as a percentage of the project’s total cost, as is standard for architecture firms — could be around $10 million. Elevatus is far from the only architecture firm creating feasibility studies and needs assessments that recommend substantially larger jails and then designing those buildings. Such blatant conflict of interest is occurring in counties all over the country. These studies rely on thin data to justify spending millions of dollars in public funds. The most significant consequence, though, is that more people wind up incarcerated. “Who’s in jail is a product of the policies and practices of [the] criminal justice system,” said David Bennett, a consultant for the National Institute of Corrections. “There’s no correlation between crime and incarceration rates.” Bennett [emphasizes] that the real way to reduce jail overcrowding is through policy, especially at the local level. Sheriffs have great discretion over how minor infractions are treated, who gets released on their own recognizance, and whether failure-to-appear warrants are called in. Changes like these were implemented during the pandemic, and jail populations dropped precipitously, with little downside.

Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of news articles on prison system corruption from reliable major media sources.


A Pentagon budget of $1 trillion is looming. Here’s how to stop it
2024-04-26, The Hill
Posted: 2024-06-24 22:38:39
https://thehill.com/opinion/4623255-a-defense-budget-of-1-trillion-is-looming...

The Pentagon budget is $146 billion higher than when Trump left office. Between last month’s regular appropriations and this week’s war supplemental, the 2024 Pentagon budget will be at least $953 billion. Adjusted for inflation, that’s more than the average annual U.S. military budget during World War II. A trillion-dollar Pentagon budget used to be hyperbole; now it’s almost reality. Lawmakers who want to move toward a more sensible level of military spending should know two things. The first is that public opinion is on their side. The second is that public opinion is not enough to challenge the arms industry’s influence over Washington — public pressure on Congress is needed. Political leaders demand a cash-strapped public to fund a foreign policy that’s deeply flawed and incredibly expensive. As a practical matter, the Pentagon hasn’t shown that it can even manage such gargantuan budgets, having never passed an audit. More than half of the annual military budget goes to private contractors, and the Pentagon allows these contractors to overcharge taxpayers on almost everything it buys. The arms industry goes great lengths to keep it this way. Military contractors fund influential think tanks to give their profit-driven demands a scholarly gloss, retain more lobbyists than Congress has elected officials, and pour tens of millions of dollars into elections. These tactics work. For instance, before voting to authorize $886 billion in military spending this year, each House member had received on average $20,000 in political donations from military contractors this election cycle. House members who voted for the bill accepted four times more arms industry cash than those who voted no, on average. Senators who supported the bill took five times more, on average. This correlation has been apparent in each of the last three years.

Note: Learn more about unaccountable military spending in our comprehensive Military-Intelligence Corruption Information Center.


US federal budget crosses grim milestone as interest payments overtake defense spending
2024-05-22, Yahoo News
Posted: 2024-06-24 22:36:50
https://finance.yahoo.com/news/us-federal-budget-crosses-grim-milestone-as-in...

The United States has long had the world’s biggest defense budget, with spending this year set to approach $900 billion. Yet this spending is rapidly being eclipsed by the fastest-growing portion of federal outflows: interest payments on the national debt. For the first seven months of fiscal year 2024, which began last October, net interest payments totaled $514 billion, outpacing defense by $20 billion. Budget analysts think that trend will continue, making 2024 the first year ever that the United States will spend more on interest payments than on national defense. Interest is now the third-biggest expenditure after Social Security and health. And not because any of the other programs are shrinking. While most government expenditures grow modestly from year to year, interest expenses in 2024 are running 41% higher than in 2023. Interest payments are ballooning for two obvious reasons. The first is that annual deficits have exploded, leaving the nation with a gargantuan $34.6 trillion in total federal debt, 156% higher than the national debt at the end of 2010. As a percentage of GDP, the annual deficit has nearly doubled in just 10 years, from 2.8% in 2014 to a projected 5.3% in 2024. The government is also paying more to borrow. From 2010 through 2021, the average interest rate on all Treasury securities sold to the public was just 2.1%. But in 2022, the Federal Reserve started jacking up rates to tame inflation, and the government now pays an average interest rate of 3.3%.

Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on government corruption from reliable major media sources.


OpenAI adds former NSA chief to its board
2024-06-13, CNBC News
Posted: 2024-06-24 22:34:23
https://www.cnbc.com/2024/06/13/openai-adds-former-nsa-chief-to-its-board-pau...

OpenAI on Thursday announced its newest board member: Paul M. Nakasone, a retired U.S. Army general and former director of the National Security Agency. Nakasone was the longest-serving leader of the U.S. Cyber Command and chief of the Central Security Service. The company said Nakasone will also join OpenAI’s recently created Safety and Security Committee. The committee is spending 90 days evaluating the company’s processes and safeguards before making recommendations to the board and, eventually, updating the public, OpenAI said. OpenAI is bolstering its board and its C-suite as its large language models gain importance across the tech sector and as competition rapidly emerges in the burgeoning generative artificial intelligence market. While the company has been in hyper-growth mode since late 2022, when it launched ChatGPT, OpenAI has also been riddled with controversy and high-level employee departures. The company said Sarah Friar, previously CEO of Nextdoor and finance chief at Square, is joining as chief financial officer. OpenAI also hired Kevin Weil, an ex-president at Planet Labs, as its new chief product officer. Weil was previously a senior vice president at Twitter and a vice president at Facebook and Instagram. Weil’s product team will focus on “applying our research to products and services that benefit consumers, developers, and businesses,” the company wrote.

Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on AI and intelligence agency corruption from reliable major media sources.


Edward Snowden Releases New Message: 'You Have Been Warned'
2024-06-14, Newsweek
Posted: 2024-06-24 22:31:59
https://www.newsweek.com/edward-snowden-open-ai-nsa-warning-1913173

Edward Snowden wrote on social media to his nearly 6 million followers, "Do not ever trust @OpenAI ... You have been warned," following the appointment of retired U.S. Army General Paul Nakasone to the board of the artificial intelligence technology company. Snowden, a former National Security Agency (NSA) subcontractor, was charged with espionage by the Justice Department in 2013 after leaking thousands of top-secret records, exposing the agency's surveillance of private citizens' information. In a Friday morning post on X, formerly Twitter, Snowden reshared a post providing information on OpenAI's newest board member. Nakasone is a former NSA director, and the longest-serving leader of the U.S. Cyber Command and chief of the Central Security Service. In [a] statement, Nakasone said, "OpenAI's dedication to its mission aligns closely with my own values and experience in public service. I look forward to contributing to OpenAI's efforts to ensure artificial general intelligence is safe and beneficial to people around the world." Snowden wrote in an X post, "They've gone full mask-off: do not ever trust @OpenAI or its products (ChatGPT etc.) There is only one reason for appointing an @NSAGov Director to your board. This is a willful, calculated betrayal of the rights of every person on Earth." Snowden's post has received widespread attention, with nearly 2 million views, 43,500 likes, 16,000 reposts and around 1,000 comments as of Friday afternoon.

Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on AI and intelligence agency corruption from reliable major media sources.


Report Sounds Alarm Over Growing Role of Big Tech in US Military-Industrial Complex
2024-04-17, Common Dreams
Posted: 2024-06-24 22:29:37
https://www.commondreams.org/news/military-industrial-complex-big-tech

The center of the U.S. military-industrial complex has been shifting over the past decade from the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area to Northern California—a shift that is accelerating with the rise of artificial intelligence-based systems, according to a report published Wednesday. "Although much of the Pentagon's $886 billion budget is spent on conventional weapon systems and goes to well-established defense giants such as Lockheed Martin, RTX, Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics, Boeing, and BAE Systems, a new political economy is emerging, driven by the imperatives of big tech companies, venture capital (VC), and private equity firms," [report author Roberto J.] González wrote. "Defense Department officials have ... awarded large multibillion-dollar contracts to Microsoft, Amazon, Google, and Oracle." González found that the five largest military contracts to major tech firms between 2018 and 2022 "had contract ceilings totaling at least $53 billion combined." There's also the danger of a "revolving door" between Silicon Valley and the Pentagon as many senior government officials "are now gravitating towards defense-related VC or private equity firms as executives or advisers after they retire from public service." "Members of the armed services and civilians are in danger of being harmed by inadequately tested—or algorithmically flawed—AI-enabled technologies. By nature, VC firms seek rapid returns on investment by quickly bringing a product to market, and then 'cashing out' by either selling the startup or going public. This means that VC-funded defense tech companies are under pressure to produce prototypes quickly and then move to production before adequate testing has occurred."

Note: Learn more about emerging warfare technology in our comprehensive Military-Intelligence Corruption Information Center. For more, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on military corruption from reliable major media sources.


The Publicly Funded Defense Contractor Revolving Door
2024-04-23, Jacobin
Posted: 2024-06-24 22:26:49
https://jacobin.com/2024/04/pentagon-fellows-program-sdef-defense-contractors

The Department of Defense has used taxpayer money to send elite military officers to work for some of the Pentagon’s top private contractors. From 1995 to 2021, more than 315 military officers with elite ranks as high as colonel and rear admiral have been placed at top weapons manufacturers such as Boeing, Raytheon, and Lockheed Martin, as well as other companies with billion-dollar government contracts. The arrangement has also coincided with a dramatic rise in Defense Department spending on private contractors valued in the trillions of dollars. The arrangement, called the Secretary of Defense Executive Fellows (SDEF) program, sends officers with promising military careers to work for top corporations in the defense, tech, finance, and other industries for one year. These fellows then report on how the Defense Department could incorporate some of these companies’ business practices and policies. The program has helped place corporate interests at the very heart of US military strategy. [A] report from Quincy Institute, a nonprofit think tank, is the first detailed examination of the SDEF program. The report casts doubt on the integrity of the fellowship program, calling it a “de facto lobbying tool” for private companies and a “taxpayer-funded revolving door” where more than 40 percent of the fellows have gone on to work for government contractors at some point in their postmilitary careers.

Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on corruption in the military and in the corporate world from reliable major media sources.


How the IRS went soft on billionaires and corporate tax cheats
2024-06-11, International Consortium of Investigative Journalists
Posted: 2024-06-24 22:24:25
https://www.icij.org/inside-icij/2024/06/how-the-irs-went-soft-on-billionaire...

Michael Welu worked at the IRS for decades. During his time at the IRS, he says, upper management in the division tasked with auditing large corporations and ultrawealthy people — the Large Business and International Division — was quick to dismiss any suggestion that a powerful taxpayer may have committed a crime, and commonly discouraged frontline agents from pursuing big cases. This stood in deep contrast to the office that policed small businesses and self-employed people, which was empowered to ... take an appropriately firm stance toward taxpayers breaking the law. “I was putting butchers, bakers and candlestick makers in jail, but the big stuff we really wanted to go after was being ignored,” Welu told the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. “It could be the most egregious, ridiculous scheme and they were just not interested.” Over the past five years, [the Large Business and International Division] flagged no more than 22 instances of possible tax crimes for the agency’s criminal investigators to review further — out of trillions of dollars in annual income from large corporations and ultrawealthy people that the office oversees. During the same five years, the IRS office that covers small businesses and self-employed people flagged roughly 40 times more possible crimes, sending criminal investigators 848 referrals. The IRS says the amount of U.S. taxes left uncollected could exceed $600 billion per year.

Note: According to The Guardian, "Thirty-nine of the S&P 500 or Fortune 500 paid no federal income tax at all from 2018 to 2020 while reporting a combined $122bn in profits to their shareholders." For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on government corruption and income inequality from reliable major media sources.


Dutch digital detoxers unplug en masse. Will the world follow?
2024-05-31, Positive.News
Posted: 2024-06-24 22:22:24
https://www.positive.news/society/dutch-digital-detoxers-unplug-will-the-worl...

The Offline Club, which began life in Amsterdam, offers an oasis of calm and respite from the incessant digital hustle of life lived through the black glass of a smartphone. It nurtures moments of quiet introspection over vapid doomscrolling, and encourages spontaneous conversations with strangers instead of endless keyboard arguments. The concept grew organically from the ‘offline getaway’ retreats [co-founder Ilya] Kneppelhout set up with pals Valentijn Klok and Jordy van Bennekom. The trio opened their first phone-free hangout in Amsterdam’s Cafe Brecht in February this year, and to their astonishment drew 125,000 new Instagram followers in the space of a month. Customers alternate between time to themselves and time to connect. “People don’t just pay to get rid of their phones – they’re also paying to meet others,” says Kneppelhout. “We live in quite an isolated world where we’re ever more connected online, but in the physical world, it’s hard to meet people. This is a real experience: where else are you going to be in a cafe with 30 others, and read a book or draw? It’s quite unique.” His hope is that customers will take away lasting habits from their cafe visits. “Big tech companies and the biggest social media companies are really playing with our minds, and with our time and our attention,” he says. “I think that’s bad: a counter movement is really necessary, and I think it’s happening.”

Note: Explore more positive stories on healing social division.


Planetary health diet cuts early death risk, new study shows
2024-06-10, Washington Post
Posted: 2024-06-24 22:20:29
https://www.washingtonpost.com/wellness/2024/06/10/planetary-diet-lower-morta...

Can you eat a diet that’s good for your health and good for the planet? A new study suggests that it’s possible. It found that people who ate mostly minimally processed plant foods such as nuts, beans, fruits, vegetables, whole grains and olive oil, along with modest amounts of meat, fish, eggs and dairy, had lower rates of premature death from heart disease, cancer and other chronic diseases. At the same time, their diets had a smaller environmental footprint because they consisted of foods that were grown using relatively less land and water and that were produced with fewer greenhouse gas emissions. The study ... was inspired by a landmark 2019 report from the EAT-Lancet Commission, which designed a “Planetary Health Diet” capable of sustaining 10 billion people and the planet by 2050. The planetary health diet, in broad strokes, encourages people to eat more plants and whole foods alongside small portions of meat and dairy. People whose eating habits most closely adhered to the planetary health diet were 30 percent less likely to die prematurely compared to people who ate the lowest amounts of foods that form the basis of the planetary health diet. Planetary health eaters had a 10 percent lower risk of dying from cancer, a 14 percent lower likelihood of dying from cardiovascular diseases, a 47 percent reduction in the risk of dying from lung disease, and a 28 percent lower likelihood of dying of Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders.

Note: Explore more positive stories on healing our bodies and healing the Earth.


Denmark’s Radical Plan for a Plant-Based Future
2024-06-17, Reasons to be Cheerful
Posted: 2024-06-24 22:18:51
https://reasonstobecheerful.world/denmark-radical-plan-plant-based-future/

Trine Krebs is sometimes called “the leek woman,” or even Miss Dry-Legume, of Denmark. The 48-year-old has for decades traveled around the country as, in her words, a “food inspirer,” proselytizing about all things vegetables. So when, in October 2023, the Danish government published the world’s first ever national action plan for shifting towards plant-based diets, Krebs was ecstatic. The Danish government has three main goals: to increase demand for plant-based foods, to develop supply for plant-based foods, and to improve how all the different stakeholders — from scientists to farmers and chefs, food sociologists, and nutrition experts — in this nascent domestic industry are working together. Danish authorities see reducing meat and dairy consumption as key to reaching the Nordic state’s goal of cutting carbon emissions by 70 percent before 2030, when compared to 1990. The climate think tank Concito estimates that more than half of Denmark’s land is used for farming and that agriculture accounts for about a third of its carbon emissions. Yet a published in 2021 found that the emissions made by producing plant-based foods are roughly half the amount incurred by meat production. Denmark believes ... that the necessary shift toward plant-based eating also offers a massive economic opportunity. If the country were to gain a three percent share of the global plant-based food market, it could create up to 27,000 jobs.

Note: Explore more positive stories on healing our bodies and healing the Earth.


‘The big story of the 21st century’: is this the most shocking documentary of the year?
2024-06-12, The Guardian (One of the UK's Leading Newspapers)
Posted: 2024-06-17 13:19:35
https://www.theguardian.com/film/article/2024/jun/12/the-grab-documentary-review

The Grab [is] a riveting new documentary which outlines the move by national governments, financial investors and private security forces to snap up food and water resources. What oil was to the 20th century, food and water will be to the 21st – precious, geopolitically powerful and contested. “The 20th century had Opec,” says [Nate] Halverson ... a journalist with the Center for Investigative Reporting. “In the future, we’re going to have Food Pec. [In] rural La Paz county, Arizona, a Saudi company bought about 15 square miles of farmland [and] drained the region’s aquifers beyond a generation’s worth of rain. Residents describe going without water, discovering empty wells, their houses cracked and sinking, with little recourse. The film connects their confusion to the despair of Zambian farmers displaced, via a complicated and westernized deeds system, by mercenary militias to make way for commercial farmland controlled by outside actors from various countries – China, Gulf states, the US. The culprit is not one country or company but a shadowy network of mercenary interests. Halverson and his team [obtained] ... a year’s worth of emails within the private equity firm Frontier Resource Group, founded by Erik Prince, who also founded and was the CEO of the military contracting company Blackwater – a notorious mercenary group during the US invasion of Iraq. The emails, from 2012, reveal a clear plan to obtain, by whatever means necessary, land in Africa to fulfill competing national interests. "I just want people to have great information ... because right now the people that have this information are the CIA, and Wall Street, and foreign governments and very wealthy people.”

Note: Why is the founder of Blackwater, a US defense contractor tied to countless scandals and criminal activities, buying up land in Africa? For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on food system corruption from reliable major media sources.


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