The Ocean’s Future Could Hinge on One Woman

Sylvia Earle is fighting to protect the ocean.


JAN 25, 2016

Though the Paris agreement produced in December 2015 at the United Nations Climate Change Conference is generally considered to be more ambitious than cynics expected, one subject’s absence from the agenda particularly raised Sylvia Earle’s eyebrows: ocean conservation. “It’s baffling,” Earle told The Huffington Post last week. “At the conference, the headline was, ‘What is the future we want?’ That’s still the question.”

Earle, affectionately nicknamed “Her Deepness,” has been asking the question for as long as anyone. The 80-year-old marine biologist started studying marine science in the 1950s and earned her Ph.D. in phycology (the study of algae) from Duke University in 1966. Over the next two decades, she logged thousands of underwater research hours, led the first all-female team of research divers, set diving depth records, and founded Deep Ocean Engineering, which pioneered the future of underwater research submarines. In 1990 she became the first female chief scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“The sea coast everywhere has changed,” Earle told the Academy of Achievement in 1991 after taking the job. “What do we do? How do we make it right? One of the things that increasingly has become clear is that we are losing the standards, losing the models, losing the basis for good health of the planet.”

The concerns Earle expressed then about pesticide use and the growing hole in the ozone layer over the Antarctic weren’t new, but they were under-researched, partly owing to technological limitations. “It is fundamentally essential that we have access throughout full ocean depth from the surface to the sea floor,” she said at the time. Toward that goal, Earle left NOAA in 1992 to start a deep-ocean research equipment company, and in 1998 she joined National Geographic to lead a five-year study of the United States National Marine Sanctuary. Time named her its first-ever “Hero for the Planet.”

In the same period, her anxieties over the future of oceanic ecosystems proved more and more urgent. After receiving the TED Prize in 2009, she told the crowd, “I’m haunted by the thought of what Ray Anderson calls ‘tomorrow’s child,’ asking why we didn’t do something on our watch to save sharks and bluefin tuna and squids and coral reefs and the living ocean while there was still time. Well, now is that time.”

Earle used the $100,000 prize to start Mission Blue, a nonprofit that builds public support for Hope Spots, places designated as critical to the health of the ocean and recommended for marine protection. About 12 percent of the world’s land is under some form of protection, compared with less than 4 percent of the oceans. Mission Blue hopes that number reaches 20 percent by 2020.

Even though world leaders ignored marine conservation in Paris, Earle is optimistic. “For the first time in all of our history,” she said, “children are growing up in a world where we know what we’re doing to the planet.”

2009 TED Talk by Sylvia Earle:

By Tosten Burks is a contributor for Passion of the Weiss. He has written for The Fader, GOOD, Grantland, and VICE.  Bio
(Image: Courtesy YouTube)

Gun ‘buyback’ event returns to Newport

BY DENNIS ANSTINE   For the Newport News-Times January 29, 2016

NEWPORT — In an effort to reduce the number of guns in Lincoln County, Ceasefire Oregon will hold its second annual “buyback” event on Saturday, Feb. 6.   The “Voluntary Turn-In of Unwanted Guns” event will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Newport Police Department, which is a cosponsor.  

Last year, 138 firearms were turned in for gift cards, according to Monica Kirk of Central Coast Ceasefi re. Several Oregon cities annually hold similar events.   “We were surprised at the amount that were turned in last year, and we’ll see what happens this year,” said Newport Police Chief Mark Miranda. “We have no idea what we’ll get.”  

Kirk said there will be no background checks — “no questions asked” — of people turning in guns during the voluntary event.  

Grocery store vouchers will be given in exchange for military-style rifl es ($150), handguns ($100) and long rifles ($50), with a limit of three per person. Functional firearms will be melted down.  

Kirk said the majority of the guns turned in last year were handguns, “but we received all kinds of weapons,” including two sawed-off shotguns and two museum pieces.   Cynthia Jacobi, a member of Central Coast Ceasefire’s steering committee, said the goal “is simply to get dangerous guns out of people’s homes and off the street in order to save lives.”  

Ceasefire asks that people place the guns they wish to dispose of in the trunks of their vehicles until approached by Ceasefire volunteers , who will accompany them into the police department.   Police volunteers have agreed to assist with crowd control and traffic management at the department, which is located at the north entrance to Newport City Hall.  

During last year’s event, there were people outside of City Hall seeking to purchase guns from those who were turning in weapons.   “People can still come and try to buy guns,” Miranda said. “But there’s now the issue of background checks which, since the first of the year, are required to ensure that a purchaser is eligible to possess a firearm.”  

Email for more information. To contribute, go to, Guns For Gift Cards, A Community Gun Buy Back.

Obama Moves to Expand Rules Aimed at Closing Gender Pay Gap

JAN. 29, 2016


President Obama at the White House last week. New rules proposed by the administration would expand on an executive order he issued nearly two years ago that required federal contractors to submit pay information for women and men. CreditZach Gibson/The New York Times

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration will move on Friday to require companies to report to the federal government what they pay employees by race, gender and ethnicity, part of a push by President Obama to crack down on firms that pay women less for doing the same work as men.

The new rules, Mr. Obama’s latest bid to use his executive power to address a priority of his that Congress has resisted acting on, would mandate that companies with 100 employees or more include salary information on a form they already submit annually that reports employees’ sex, age and job groups.

“Too often, pay discrimination goes undetected because of a lack of accurate information about what people are paid,” said Jenny Yang, the chairwoman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which will publish the proposed regulation jointly with the Department of Labor. “We will be using the information that we’re collecting as one piece of information that can inform our investigations.”

The requirement would expand on an executive order Mr. Obama issuednearly two years ago that called for federal contractors to submit salary information for women and men. Ms. Yang said the rules would be completed in September, with the first reports due a year later.

“Bridging the stubborn pay gap between men and women in the work force has proven to be very challenging,” said Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to Mr. Obama, noting that the median wage for women amounts to 79 percent of that for men. “We have seen progress, but it isn’t enough.”

White House officials said that the requirement was intended to bolster the government’s ability to penalize companies that engage in discriminatory pay practices and to encourage businesses to police themselves better and correct such disparities.

Marc Benioff, the chief executive of, whom the White House enlisted to help make its case for the rules, said that while he “never intended” to pay women less than men, he had discovered that his company was doing so after two female employees approached him about it.

“We’re never going to solve this issue of pay inequality if C.E.O.s like myself and others continue to turn a blind eye to what’s happening in their own corporations,” Mr. Benioff said in a conference call organized by the White House, adding that he was spending $3 million to close the pay gap at his firm.

Mr. Obama was also planning on Friday to renew his call for Congress to pass a measure allowing women to sue for punitive damages for pay discrimination. Republicans have repeatedly blocked such legislation, arguing that it would lead to frivolous lawsuits.

Republicans have sharply criticized Mr. Obama’s moves on pay equity, saying that gender discrimination is already illegal and that additional steps are not necessary.

WIN-WIN When Google increased paid maternity leave, the rate at which new mothers quit dropped 50%

The tech industry often points to a pipeline problem when talking about its gender gap. There simply aren’t enough women studying computer science, some argue, and as a result, many companies suffer from a gender imbalance, especially in technical departments.

But companies interested in narrowing the gap might also want to do a better job of keeping women who already are in the pipeline from leaving it. According to a 2008 Harvard Business Review report, 52% of women in science, engineering, and technology jobs ultimately depart from their respective fields.

Yet as Google demonstrates, a little bit of generosity can go a long way toward retaining female talent—while also ultimately improving a company’s bottom line. According to YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, who has five kids of her own, by increasing paid maternity leave in 2007 to 18 weeks from 12 weeks, parent company Google (now Alphabet) halved the rate at which new mothers quit.

“It may sound counterintuitive, but the research—and Google’s own experience—shows a generous paid maternity leave actually increases retention,” she wrote in a Jan. 27 blog post for the Huffington Post. “When women are given a short leave, or they’re pressured to be on call, some decide it’s just not worth it to return.”

The US is the only OECD country that doesn’t mandate paid maternity leave. Just 12% of American workers have paid leave to care for a baby or sick parents.

But the tech industry is beginning to gain recognition for bucking the trend. Last year, Virgin Group and Netflix extended paid leave to a year for new parents. In November, Amazon expanded its benefits to 20 weeks of paid leave for birth mothers, with the option to share six weeks of paid leave with a partner. Gaming company Unity said earlier this month that new parents will be offered 12 weeks of paid leave, with the ability to work part-time for eight weeks while earning full-time pay.

These changes do more than to make new mothers feel welcomed in the workplace. Because turnover is costly for businesses—by one estimate itcosts 20% or more of an employee’s salary to replace him or her—companies, too, benefit from keeping female employees and their expertise.

Ultimately, quitting a job to focus on motherhood—or to take up a less-demanding career—might come down to the mother’s own choice. But companies might be wise to make sure the decision isn’t so easy.

When Google increased paid maternity leave, the rate at which new mothers quit dropped 50%

On the Seventh Anniversary of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, NOW Calls for Congress to Take the Next Step

Statement of NOW President Terry O’Neill 

January 28, 2016

Washington, DC – Seven years ago, President Obama signed into law his first piece of legislation. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act that undid the damage of a 2007 Supreme Court decision that made it nearly impossible for women to enforce the Equal Pay Act against employers who paid them less than their male counterparts.

The Lilly Ledbetter Act is an important milestone — but it’s only half a solution. What’s needed now is the Paycheck Fairness Act, which makes it illegal for employers to retaliate against workers who share their salary information, and give women additional tools to fight pay discrimination. NOW applauds President Obama for his consistent support for pay equity and his commitment to fairness for all workers.

The gender wage gap has women, on average, making only 79 percent of what men earn. But the widespread piling of racial bias on top of sex discrimination results in a gender-race wage gap that leaves African American women with only 63 cents, and Latinas only 54 cents, to the dollar earned by their white male counterparts.

NOW chapters around the country are working tirelessly to build support for the Paycheck Fairness Act. It’s unacceptable for women to earn a fraction of the pay they deserve, and it’s just as wrong to tell us we’re entitled to only a fraction of fairness and justice.

For Press Inquiries Contact

Tamara Stein,, (951) 547-1241

Aargh! Just Aargh

By Lee Lynch  January 26, 2016

In our town we have a small, out of the way thrift store, dark and not heavily patronized except by people who are very down and out. The owner— and who knows her story—sells what she can, but is always willing to help out the homeless with clothing or outdoor equipment that they need to survive in this wet environment where there are beaches for sleeping and woods for encampments, soup kitchens for food, tourists for panhandling, the library for web access.
It’s not just the homeless. Garage sales and thrift stores that once were a lark for drag queens and bull dykes are such a way of life now. If the 1% or the 20% are able to buy everything they want, the rest of us, in the current economy, are grateful to be able to buy their cast offs. The underground economy—helping the destitute, bartering goods and services, garage sales, web lists—by necessity isn’t so underground any more.
Dollar stores are crazy busy since the so-called Great Recession, and not due to recreational shopping. Their food products are often good buys if you’re in the habit of reading labels carefully and their books can be great finds for $1.00, though the authors get nothing for their years of work. I find it bewildering that dollar store corporations are gobbling one another up and making someone, somewhere, obscenely rich.
Goodwill does great work, but they’re huge now and their prices are getting out of range. I, along with many of my neighbors, regularly buy from the local, less expensive Humane Society thrift shop. For household items, we matronize the ReStore, thank you Jimmy Carter. Our local cobbler can’t keep up with all the shoe repairs he gets. If we can’t fix something ourselves, we employ handymen or women, rather than licensed, bonded, insured workers, to repair our roofs, our driveways, our plumbing.
We’re all what used to be called middle class people. Just try being middle class when the Social Security checks start arriving. There was no 2016 cost of living (COLA) increase in these payments, earned through lifetimes of hard work. Something does not compute. The inflation rate didn’t trigger a COLA, but I’m paying $50.00, $70.00 or much more for generic prescription drugs that last year had no or minimal co-pays. To use a phrase from Dorothy Allison, I also call it criminal capitalism when older Americans can’t afford good health.
I count my lucky stars that my financial issues are at a level where I’m concerned about the cost of medications, not their total inaccessibility.
Of course the pharmaceutical companies are blaming the Affordable Care Act. Once again, a tool created for the people is being used to increase profits. Drugs are not manufactured to relieve pain or cure cancer or to prolong lives, they’re manufactured to make money. The balance has gone out of any equation that included keeping people alive and come down heavily on the side of making a financial killing. Aargh! Just aargh.
Online there’s Craigslist, the middleman of bartering. There’s Freecycle where people give away what they can’t sell or don’t need. I’m seeing a lot fewer listings on Freecycle than I did pre-recession. One of our friends, an underpaid care worker, shops garage sales as much as we do. For birthdays and winter holidays we exchange boxes of garage sale goodies, mailing our lightweight packages if we can’t meet. Has anyone else noticed how you can prepare a meal for a family of four on what it costs to mail a package now?
Even petsitting, a perennial cash service, is getting all big business on us. There are pet care companies with actual employees and franchises. What ever happened to the neighbors? Word of mouth? Signs on the vet’s bulletin board? We’re monetizing every little bit of America. And the world. Uber and Lyft were great ideas until they started raking in the bucks and grew and grew, taking jobs away from regulated cab drivers.
Politicians want to squeeze cash from our national monuments. Oil companies can’t wait to guzzle up natural resources from wildlife refuges. Prisons are privatized, hospitals connive to get more money from Medicare. All of this drives up costs and takes what was once affordable out of reach.
The bigger the corporations, the lower the wages, the fewer the jobs. And the corporations swell each time they subsume another business and dump another thousand employees. I am astounded by the monopolizing going on in the U.S.. We have laws to prevent such boundless greed. Apparently we need more than brakes on businesses, we need an enormous emergency brake.
A phenomenon that seems to be more common is the return, after their divorces and downsized jobs, of very adult children in their fifties and sixties, moving in with aged mom or dad in senior housing communities and elsewhere. These sons and daughters have little or nothing left; the parent is beginning to need help around his small manufactured home. These now older workers don’t go out and find jobs, mom becomes the job. The kids inherit the property and have shelter as long as they can pay the taxes. The next step may be homelessness—and a visit to the kind thrift store owner.

Copyright 2016 Lee Lynch

Republished with permission from the author.  Originally published:


Everything You Need to Know About the Planned Parenthood Videos

Our reading guide to the Planned Parenthood videos, and what has happened since.

Supreme court abortion

On Monday, a grand jury indicted David Daleiden, founder of the Center for Medical Progress, and Sandra Merritt, a center employee, on felony charges of tampering with government documents and a misdemeanor charge related to purchasing human organs. The charges stem from the investigation surrounding the controversial Planned Parenthood videos that surfaced last summer.

Marjorie Dannensfelser, president of the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List, said the videos “caused a watershed moment that we weren’t expecting.” They also helped set the stage for the latest battle in a decades-long attempt to bar Planned Parenthood from receiving federal funds.

The videos became a hot-button issue and talking points for many GOP primary candidates – some of whom turned to Facebook and Twitter to vent their frustrations with Planned Parenthood. Even Democratic front-runner, Hillary Clinton, called the pictures from the videos “disturbing,” although some of the images were later found to be deceptive [see below].

To help sort through the timeline of the controversy surrounding the videos here’s a reading guide:

The Planned Parenthood controversy over aborted fetus body parts, explained, Vox, August 2015

This explainer tackles the overall issues of – and immediate reactions to – the Planned Parenthood videos, and introduces “the deeper question” of whether or not it’s ethical to use aborted fetuses for research.

More: RH Reality Check’s continuing coverage of the Center for Medical Progress video.

Election Class of 2016: David Daleiden Is Revolutionizing Anti-Abortion Activism, VICE News, October 2015

Here’s a profile of David Daleiden, the recently indicted founder of the Center for Medical Progress who ignited the firestorm around Planned Parenthood after releasing the videos in July 2015.

More: With Planned Parenthood Videos, Activist Ignites Abortion Issue

Assault on Planned Parenthood was years in the making, The Hill, August 2015

According to Daleiden, the release of the videos had been in the works for more than two years, and the weekly release of the videos was no mere coincidence. In fact, according to some anti-abortion activists, the spacing out of the videos was beneficial to their sustained impact.

More: Planned Parenthood says video part of decadelong harassment

Republicans Alter Script on Abortion, Seeking to Shift Debate, New York Times, July 2015

The release of the videos signaled a shift in how Republicans frame the abortion debate. It turned from “war on women” methods that “put Democrats on the defensive,” according to this New York Times article.

Planned Parenthood Videos Were Altered, Analysis Finds, The New York Times, August 2015

An independent analysis of the videos commissioned by Planned Parenthood found that the videos were altered. The recordings in Houston and Denver, for example, were missing at least 30 minutes of footage each, according to video forensics expert Grant Fredericks. Daleiden’s group explained the lapsed time as “bathroom breaks and waiting periods.”

The real story behind those Planned Parenthood videos, CNN, October 2015

A CNN investigation found that the widely circulated photo from the video was actually of a stillborn birth, not an abortion. And, according to this CNN article, the video cited by Carly Fiorina in a GOP Debate “came from an outside source, an anti-abortion group called the Center For Bioethical Reform and [Daleiden] doesn’t know its origin beyond that.”

The Long GOP Fight to Defund Planned Parenthood, The Atlantic, August 2015

While the fight to bar Planned Parenthood from federal funding has been ongoing for years, the debate over fetal tissue research was long thought to be settled. In 1992,bipartisan legislation that canceled a funding ban on the practice, in hopes of finding cures to “devastating diseases” passed.

More: For Abortion Providers, a Constant Barrage of Personalized Harassment, ProPublica, December 2015

Abortion Foes Aim to Grow ‘Army’ of Planned Parenthood Spies, RH Reality Check, January 2016

“The trouble has only just begun for you,” said Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life. Anti-abortion activists say that the Planned Parenthood videos are not the end but a new beginning in training “intelligence operatives” to infiltrate Planned Parenthood.

The charges against anti-Planned Parenthood filmmaker, explained, Washington Post, January 2016

Here is a good primer on the charges that Daleiden and Merritt face, including tampering with a governmental record and attempting to buy human tissue.