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Last month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced new rules raising the standards meat and dairy producers must meet to be certified organic. Yet Farm Sanctuary, the nation's leading farm animal protection organization, cautions consumers that even with these changes the "organic" label -- as well as other labels -- are often misleading and do not ensure that farm animals are treated well.
"American consumers are increasingly aware of and concerned about the cruel treatment of animals exploited for human consumption," said Gene Baur, Farm Sanctuary's president and co-founder. "The livestock industry has responded to this growing awareness by marketing their products with claims like 'humane,' 'natural,' 'cage-free,' and 'organic.' But the reality for farm animals living in these conditions is hardly as sunny as retailers would like consumers to believe. We appreciate the recent improvements in organic standards and are glad that deputy secretary of the USDA, Kathleen Merrigan, sees the current move as a 'down payment' on future reforms, but there are still serious animal cruelty concerns that need to be addressed.
"These latest reforms point to commonly abused loopholes in organic certification. While current USDA National Organic Program Regulations mandate 'access to the outdoors, shade, shelter, exercise areas, fresh air and direct sunlight suitable to the species, its stage of production, the climate and the environment,' these vague terms offer little comfort to farm animals. Variables such as the number and size of access points and how frequently they must be opened, as well as the quality of the outdoor area are left undefined. As a result, certified organic products may have come from animals who have been crowded by the thousands into a building with a single small, rarely open exit leading to a barren dirt lot -- a far cry from the paradise consumers are led to envision. What's more, even the few standards that do exist are poorly enforced. Against federal regulations, some organic certifiers have chosen not to require that the 'access to outdoors' clause be met, and despite this, they still obtain organic certification."
Farm Sanctuary's Truth Behind Labels report remains the only comprehensive analyses of animal product labeling schemes ever published to help today's consumers understand the process. The Truth Behind LabelsCampaign serves to educate consumers about the reality of these labeling schemes and to advocate for transparency in animal welfare standards.
Farm Sanctuary's summary booklet and report entitled "The Truth Behind the Labels: Farm Animal Welfare Standards and Labeling Practices," is available at https://www.farmsanctuary.org/issues/campaigns/truth_behind_labeling.html.
If you would like to speak with Farm Sanctuary President and Co-founder Gene Baur, please contact Meredith Turner at 646-369-6212 or email@example.com.
Farm Sanctuary fights the disastrous effects of animal agriculture on animals, the environment, social justice, and public health through rescue, education, and advocacy.
James's warning to MSG Entertainment illustrates the "growing consensus against the use of facial recognition in places of public accommodation," said one advocate.
The digital rights group Fight for the Future was among those applauding New York Attorney General Letitia James on Wednesday as she demanded answers from MSG Entertainment, the owner of Madison Square Garden and Radio City Music Hall, over its use of facial recognition technology to deny entry to lawyers whose firms represent people suing the company.
James wrote to MSG Entertainment and its CEO, James Dolan, to warn that they may be violating civil rights laws in New York by barring attorneys from entering their properties, even if they are not involved in litigation against the company.
"Such practices certainly run counter to the spirit and purpose of such laws, and laws promoting equal access to the courts: forbidding entry to lawyers representing clients who have engaged in litigation against the company may dissuade such lawyers from taking on legitimate cases, including sexual harassment or employment discrimination claims," wrote the attorney general.
James's letter shows that there is a "growing consensus against the use of facial recognition in places of public accommodation," said Fight for the Future director Evan Greer.
\u201cGreat to see this. Growing consensus against the use of facial recognition in places of public accommodation https://t.co/9N0Py4Mzw3\u201d— Evan Greer is on Mastodon (@Evan Greer is on Mastodon) 1674675393
The letter came a month after The New York Timesreported that Kelly Conlon, a personal injury attorney, had been informed by security guards at Radio City Music Hall that she was on an "attorney exclusion list" when she tried to enter the theater for a show in November. Conlon had been identified by facial recognition technology and flagged as being prohibited from entering because her law firm is involved in litigation against one of MSG Entertainment's restaurants.
"Reports indicate that approximately 90 law firms are impacted by the company's policy, constituting thousands of lawyers," James wrote to the company.
Since October, MSG Entertainment has removed at least four attorneys from their properties, forbidding them from attending sports games and concerts because of where they work. Dolan has claimed the policy is aimed at preventing attorneys from collecting evidence "outside proper litigation discovery channels."
Employment lawyer Benjamin Noren told the Times earlier this month that despite Dolan's claims, the policy is "a transparent effort... to stop attorneys from suing them."
"MSG Entertainment cannot fight their legal battles in their own arenas," James said in a statement. "Madison Square Garden and Radio City Music Hall are world-renowned venues and should treat all patrons who purchased tickets with fairness and respect. Anyone with a ticket to an event should not be concerned that they may be wrongfully denied entry based on their appearance, and we're urging MSG Entertainment to reverse this policy."
Caitlin Seeley George, campaigns and managing director at Fight for the Future, said MSG Entertainment's use of facial recognition illustrates "the crux of the threat of this technology" and how it is "an inherently dangerous affront to peoples' rights."
"Despite the current attention on how this policy is impacting lawyers, the truth is the impact will always be disproportionately greater for marginalized communities," said Seeley George. "James Dolan and Madison Square Garden Entertainment are adding to the long history of people in power using surveillance to silence opposition. We need lawmakers to defend peoples' rights and put an end to facial recognition in public places immediately."
"The debt limit must be cleanly raised to avoid default and ensure the continuation of funding for the government and critical programs," the AFGE president told lawmakers.
The largest union of federal workers in the U.S. urged Congress this week to raise the debt ceiling without mandating reductions in social spending, arguing that President Joe Biden is right to reject the GOP's attempt to use the nation's borrowing limit as leverage to force through devastating cuts.
"The debt limit must be cleanly raised to avoid default and ensure the continuation of funding for the government and critical programs like Social Security, Medicare, veterans' benefits, and the U.S. military," Everett Kelley, president of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), wrote in a letter sent to every member of Congress on Monday. "No negotiation that puts these programs or any aspect of federal employee compensation at risk should be considered."
Several House Republicans are threatening to block the lifting of the country's borrowing cap—an arbitrary and arguably unconstitutional figure set by Congress—unless Democrats agree to slash government spending, including on vital social programs
The U.S. government's outstanding debt officially hit the statutory limit of $31.4 trillion last Thursday, at which point the Treasury Department started repurposing federal funds.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen recently told congressional leaders that "the use of extraordinary measures enables the government to meet its obligations for only a limited amount of time," possibly through early June. She implored Congress to "act in a timely manner to increase or suspend the debt limit," warning that "failure to meet the government's obligations would cause irreparable harm to the U.S. economy, the livelihoods of all Americans, and global financial stability."
A 2011 debt ceiling standoff enabled the GOP to impose austerity and led to a historic downgrading of the U.S. government's credit rating, but the country has never defaulted on its debt. Economists warn that doing so would likely trigger chaos in financial markets, resulting in millions of job losses and the elimination of $15 trillion in wealth.
Aware that an economic calamity is at stake, many Republican lawmakers "have announced that they will not support an increase in the debt ceiling without concomitant reductions in spending, possibly in the form of reductions to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid," Kelley wrote in the letter sent earlier this week.
"The White House says it will not negotiate such an arrangement," he added. "AFGE strongly supports the administration's refusal to negotiate on this matter."
"No negotiation that puts these programs or any aspect of federal employee compensation at risk should be considered."
In a Wednesday speech from the floor of the upper chamber, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) criticized "the House GOP's reckless approach to the debt ceiling" and challenged Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) "to level with the American people" on which popular programs his party wants to cut.
"The debt ceiling is a subject of the highest consequence, and using it as a bargaining chip, using it as brinkmanship, as hostage-taking, as Republicans are trying to do is exceedingly dangerous," said Schumer.
"If the House of Representatives continues on [its] current course and allows the United States to default on its debt obligations, every single American is going to pay a terrible and expensive price," Schumer continued. "The consequences of default are not some theoretical abstraction; if default happens, Americans will see the consequences in their daily lives."
"Interest rates will go soaring on everything from credit cards, and student loans, to cars, mortgages, and more," he added. "That's thousands of dollars for each American going right out the door, and it will happen through no fault of their own."
As many observers pointed out repeatedly in the wake of the midterm elections, Democrats had the power to prevent this high-risk game of brinkmanship altogether by raising the debt ceiling—or abolishing it completely—when they still controlled both chambers of Congress.
On Wednesday, Schumer pleaded with GOP lawmakers to simply raise the debt ceiling without demanding policy concessions in exchange.
"I'd remind my Republican colleagues that they did it before when Trump was president three times; no Democratic obstruction or hostage-taking," said Schumer. "We did it once together when Biden was president. And much of this debt comes from spending when Trump was president, voted on by a Republican House and a Republican Senate."
"It's a bit of hypocrisy now to say that they can't do it again, and they are holding it hostage and are playing a dangerous form of brinksmanship," Schumer argued. "It shouldn't matter who is president. It's still bills we already incurred that must be paid for the good of all Americans."
"We can either electrify the status quo to reach zero emissions, or the energy transition can be used as an opportunity to rethink our cities and the transportation sector," says lead author of new report.
Since the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act last year, the Biden administration has been making a broad push for a future centered around electric vehicles—but a first-of-its-kind study released Tuesday warned that the EV transition —but a first-of-its-kind study released Tuesday warned that the transition must go hand-in-hand with major investments in mass transit and other steps to reduce U.S. dependence on cars altogether.
Researchers at the Climate and Community Project and University of California, Davis noted in the study, titled Achieving Zero Emissions with More Mobility and Less Mining, that the transition to electric vehicles (EVs) that the Biden administration is envisioning would require the country to mine three times the amount of lithium domestically than it currently does—all from the single U.S. mine in operation.
Global demand for lithium, which powers electric batteries, is expected to rise over 40 times by 2040, if the International Energy Agency's (IEA) "sustainable development scenario" is met, with the world reaching roughly two billion EVs on the road by 2050 in order to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions.
"The report brings into light possibilities for a future without fossil fuels that minimizes mineral extraction and new harms to communities in lithium-rich areas."
"Replacing all of the [internal combustion engine] vehicles on the road with EVs on a 1:1 basis is infeasible, particularly on the urgent timeline needed for climate mitigation," reads the report. "This would require significant increases in extraction of minerals like lithium and cobalt for EV battery packs and would also require an enormous amount of electricity."
The extraction of lithium can have "oftentimes devastating consequences," reads the report, including consumption of massive amounts of water—often in areas already facing climate crisis-fueled drought like Nevada, where 50 new lithium mine projects are being developed—water contamination; violations of Free, Prior, and Informed Consent standards for Indigenous people; and the destruction of landscapes that serve as carbon sinks.
While "preserving the status quo" and maintaining the number of cars on the road may be "politically easier," lead study author Thea Riofrancos toldThe Guardian, "it's not the fastest way to get people out of cars or the fairest way to decarbonize."
"We can either electrify the status quo to reach zero emissions, or the energy transition can be used as an opportunity to rethink our cities and the transportation sector so that it's more environmentally and socially just, both in the U.S. and globally," she added.
\u201cCheck out our latest report covered by the Guardian! \n\nOur groundbreaking research shows that we can massively reduce the need for lithium by:\n \n\ud83d\ude8e investing in buses, subways, and walkable cities\n\ud83d\ude97 limiting car size (no EV hummers, please!)\n\u267b\ufe0f recycling\u201d— Climate and Community Project (@Climate and Community Project) 1674575193
The researchers created models to determine the amount of lithium the U.S. would need to extract in order to achieve zero emissions for personal vehicles, comparing scenarios with a number of variables including car ownership rates, the size of EVs and the batteries they use, city density, public transit use, and battery recycling rates.
\u201cHow much lithium is needed to electrify the car-dependent status quo vs transforming the transportation system to increase mass transit, walking & cycling? Our new @cpluscp report finds dramatic differences. We can achieve more mobility with less mining 1/ https://t.co/hzgDJ6gm1o\u201d— Thea Riofrancos (@Thea Riofrancos) 1674572126
In the best-case scenario, the U.S. would have to extract 40,000 tons of lithium to power EVs in 2050—with demand 92% lower than under the car ownership status quo. In this scenario, battery recycling would be widespread, EVs would use small batteries, and the vehicle ownership rate would be sharply reduced.
"But results show that even if Americans can't wean themselves off cars with big lithium batteries, increasing the density of metropolitan areas and investing in mass transit would cut cumulative demand for lithium between 18% and 66%," reported The Guardian. "Limiting the size of EV batteries alone can cut lithium demand by up to 42% by 2050."
Keith Stewart, a climate and energy campaigner with Greenpeace Canada, said the study contained "fascinating and important research on how policies like investing in mass transit, walkable cities, and battery recycling, while reducing size of EVs, can cut the amount of lithium for fossil-free transportation."
"The report brings into light possibilities for a future without fossil fuels that minimizes mineral extraction and new harms to communities in lithium-rich areas," Pía Marchegiani, policy director at the Environment and Natural Resources Foundation in Argentina, told The Guardian.
The report was released a month after U.S. Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) unveiled legislation to invest in bus and light rail transportation to cut down on emissions from transportation.
"The findings of this report," Payal Sampat, mining program director at Earthworks, told The Guardian, "must jumpstart policies to invest in robust, accessible public transit systems that advance equity, reduce pollution, and get people where they need to go."