Sunday, September 30, 2007

Target sells non-Organic at Organic prices

I wrote this letter today for Target. It concerns their lack of discipline selling organic foods, specifically milk. Feel free to modify a copy and send a letter yourself! Keep corporations informed of the need to have a healthy economy means caring for our home ( Earth ).

Kevin Chavis
2406 17th Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55404

T 612 7290330

September 30, 2007
Robert J. Ulrich
Chairman and CEO
Target Corporation
1000 Nicollet Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55403

Dear Robert,

I am rather upset about an article I recently read in the Sunday edition of the Star Tribune. It appears that your Archer Farms brand sells milk that claims to be Organic but is not. You can claim that it was potentially organic, but that would be very hard to buy. The organic food industry is very lucrative, and like any other rapidly expanding market, ripe for corruption. This is a black mark on your company and taints my opinion of the entire Archer Farms brand.

I am fully aware that Archer Farms is a brand. It sounds like a true farm, and does probably mislead masses. The City Pages ran an article about the brand and its ambitious plans. I think it is great that you create store brands that create added value for your store. I was hoping you would go the route of Roundy’s organic store brands, marketing at us eco-conscious consumers. But the organic milk incident does not help your cause.

Honestly, my preference for food shopping starts with the local coops, then Rainbow, and lastly you. The potential for change is there, especially if you focus on relocalizing your store contents. But this latest incident only reifies what organic consumers fear, that major corporations do not care about the standards and only want our money. I am not an anti-capitalist, my priority is fixing our environment through the dollar.

Here’s a way to regain our confidence: go beyond the ho-hum spiffy organic of the corporate market. Ensure that your suppliers are adequately certified. Label the products in a way that consumers can virtually visit the farms as Organic Valley does. And inform the public of the value of organic foods - health, environment, and local agriculture economy. A carbon impact label would also be helpful, as Wal-Mart now keeps track of several items. Visit the Wedge Coop - you get a receipt that shows you the percentage of products you purchased locally!

As savvy as Target has been this century, I am certain you will find a way to strike a balance between profit and the common good. Your actions make a huge impact, whether that is positive or not long-term will be determined by choices made today.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely yours,

Kevin Chavis
further sources:

City Pages: The Farm that doesn't exist
Star Trib: Was Target's organic milk just regular?

Saturday, September 29, 2007

How You Can Support the People of Burma

Buddhist Peace Fellowship Action Alert/News

Action Alert:
How You Can Support the People of Burma

The news from Burma is not good, with reports of the Myanmar military troops occupying monasteries, arresting monks, and cutting off all communications to the outside, including Internet. The number of people killed varies from source to source, with the official Myanmar government report at 10, but it's probably many more.

It continues to be critical for both the Myanmar and Chinese government to know that the whole world is watching this situation. Many vigils are being organized, including some generating from the BPF community.

As the situation in Burma grows more urgent, your support and involvement can make a big difference to the people of Burma (Myanmar).

What you can do:

1) Join or organize a vigil in your town or city. We have posted a
calendar of vigils on the BPF website
. There are currently events scheduled in New York City, San Francisco, Chicago, Washington DC, and Milan (Italy). We are updating the list regularly, so please keep checking it. Check with your local BPF chapter to see if they are planning a vigil.

2) Sign a petition showing your support.
* Our friends at the Buddhist Channel have initiated a global petition to garner support for the Holy Sangha. Please go to the petition online here
and follow the instructions given. This page also includes address information for the Myanmar (Burmese) Embassy in a number of countries.

* Sign the US Campaign for Burma's petition

3) Light a candle and place it in your window every night this week, along with a sign in support of the nonviolent protest. Click here to visit our website where you can download a sign that reads "The World is Watching -- Free Burma!"

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Green Party urges dropping all Jena Six charges, probe racism in justice system

search: lwcj, spol


Disclaimer: State, local, and candidate press releases made available here represent the opinions of the original source only. Opinions expressed by a state party or candidate do not necessarily represent the views of the Green Party of the United States. State party contact information, when provided with candidate releases, does not imply state party endorsement of the opinions expressed nor of the candidate (prior to gaining formal nomination by the party).

Office: PO Box 57065 Washington, D.C. 20037
Email: 202-319-7191 or toll-free (US): 866-41GREEN

Monday, September 10, 2007

Living in desperation: my life in Kenya

This is the first edition of an ongoing series. Look for the second edition next monday.
By Kathryn Nelson

there's no real beginning or end to my story of Africa. The memories of my two months there have bled into every part of my existence and are completely inescapable.

In Kenya, I was the story keeper. People saw who I was and where I came from and believed if I understood their pain I would be compelled to tell others here. So with that, I became the guardian of their stories. I promised the women, the children, the old and young that I would do my best to tell their secrets and take their burdens as my own.

This is my own story of Africa. Of suffering, religion, hope, death and personal resurrection. Once you read this, these stories will become your own and with them will come the burdens of the destitute. Take them on, share them and let them haunt you in your dreams like they do me.

The Displaced

I was granted an internship in May 2007 with the Kenyan Red Cross working in the conflict-torn area of Mount Elgon which spans Kenya and Eastern Uganda. An ongoing tribal war over land rights had irrupted once again, leaving thousands of internally displaced persons, or IDPs, raw for the picking by warlords, rebels and the Municipal Police. My job was to deliver humanitarian supplies and report my findings to Kenyan officials.

I had worked in other humanitarian crises previously, but as soon as I laid eyes on Mount Elgon, I realized this was so utterly different from anything I had ever experienced. The raw brutality of daily existence seeped from every corner of the country. There were children without any clothes, babies with giant stomachs, women burdened with 15 little ones and people dying by the minute right in front of my eyes.

There wasn't one moment in my two-month trip that I was removed from the worst form of poverty and suffering imaginable.

When I arrived at the camp for the first time there was already a large crowd waiting for help. Some came to see if the Red Cross funding crisis had subsided and others came to see a white person for the first time.

I was immediately mobbed by a group of curious children yelling, "mzungu!" (white person!) and pulling on my straight brown hair. While the older children dared their friends to touch my skin, the little ones would usually cry until their mothers gathered them in their arms to shield them from the ghost.

I stood in front of the group of IDPs and was asked to make an announcement about why I came to see them. I don't remember exactly what I said, I'm sure it wasn't too poignant or profound. I do remember telling them I was from America and that I was going to try to help them the best I could. I also remember a woman raising her hand and quietly asking, "So are going to save us?"

That woman continues to haunt me.

As I toured the first IDP camp I was introduced to a woman who said she had been raped two weeks previously by a policeman who was in charge of securing the area. The woman told her story without tears or open anguish. She showed no worry about the possibility of testing positive after the assault or the shunning she was sure to experience. She only sat there stoically and handed her story to me.

From there I moved to another camp in Cheptais to hand out food donations. Once again, there were hundreds waiting to receive aid and there was obviously not enough to go around.

I was told the bare procedural details of how to distribute food but was utterly unprepared for the chaotic process. At a previous distribution, a Red Cross volunteer was bitten by one of the IDPs out of their desperation for the dwindling amount of food.

Toward the end of the delivery, we ran out of sacks of food and knew we wouldn't receive another shipment for weeks. I was scooped back into the SUV by the Kenyan volunteers before anything erupted, and sped away from the area. There were still people clinging to the back of our truck as we drove away.

One of the last places I visited in Mount Elgon was the spot where several people were found beheaded and dismembered by the rebels. The land was still scorched from the fires lit by the Municipal Police in an attempt to rid the area of the clashing tribes.

I wanted to meet these rebels who had caused such unbelievable pain, and confront the police that were raping women and killing innocent civilians. So I did.

I left early the next morning with Stéphanie Braquehais, a reporter from Radio France Internationale, to visit the Sabaots rebel group. I had seen their faces plastered on Kenya's most wanted fliers and was eager to know who these fighters really were.

During the past few months, the government had increased their military presence in the area, forcing the Sabaots to move deep into the forests. Along with a handful of Red Cross volunteers to translate, Braquehais and I teetered on the rocky ledges of the mountain as native children ran past us laughing at the awkward mzungus.

When we arrived at our destination - an abandoned church - the leader was already waiting. He was dressed in plain clothes but had a number of radio devices to communicate with the other rebels.

We were told to place our cameras and phones on the table in front of us and were thoroughly questioned about our intentions.

As rebels filled the room, I began to notice that most of us were the same age. Although they had committed unbelievable acts of violence, they had the same faces as my friends at home.

We stayed for more than two hours, listening to stories about their struggles, families, children and dreams. They prayed for us when we departed the church and asked us to tell their story to others about the raping of their land.

I never went back to Mount Elgon.

During my last week in Kenya I turned the television on to learn that those same Sabaots fighters had been shot and killed by the local police. A stunning victory, the government claimed.

The Sabaots' prayers for peace didn't resolve the brutality in the region nor save their children from their torturous future.

They were left to die, shot and dumped in a river to be forgotten. Their photos are still on Kenya's most wanted posters. It is the only testament to their struggle.

Kathryn Nelson is the Daily's projects editor. She welcomes comments at kgnelson AT

Sunday, September 02, 2007

The Energy Emergency

By Mortimer B. Zuckerman

Oil is America's Achilles heel. WE are addicted to it. Every American consumer burns about double what a European consumes—26 barrels a year for us, 12 for Europeans. We have 5 percent of the world's population and consume 25 percent of the world's oil, and we have only 3 percent of the world's reserves. If you think there is a gas crunch now, marked by the largest oil price spike in a generation, it will be a bagatelle when China and India bring a couple of billion more people on to their highways: They are replicating our love affair with the automobile. Expect them within a generation to buy 80 million cars.

We are in a new world order. The balance of power has shifted between the fuel-guzzling West and the oil-rich producing countries. They have increasing leverage over us, with political, economic, and military consequences. We are literally over a barrel.

Here's how the chips fall. After World War II, the oil world was dominated by the "Seven Sisters," the name given to the oil companies controlling Middle East oil. These have shrunk to four: Chevron, British Petroleum, Exxon Mobil, and Royal Dutch Shell. They have been pushed aside by seven state-owned national companies, Seven Brothers, if you like: Saudi Arabia's Aramco, Russia's Gazprom, CNPC of China, NIOC of Iran, Venezuela's PDVSA, Brazil's Petrobras, and Petronas of Malaysia. The Seven Brothers control almost a third of the world's oil and gas production and more than a third of its total oil and gas reserves. By contrast, the survivors of the Seven Sisters control only about 10 percent of output and hold just 3 percent of the reserves. The Brothers are the rule makers, the international oil companies the rule takers. It is not going to change. In the next 40 years, 90 percent of new supplies, according to the International Energy Agency, will come from developing countries. Thirty years ago, 40 percent came from the industrialized nations.

Massive consequences. Nor is oil discovery keeping pace with demand. In 1930, we found 10 billion new barrels of oil and used 1.5 billion; in 1964, we discovered 48 billion barrels and consumed approximately 12 billion; in 1988, we found 23 billion barrels and used 23 billion barrels; in 2005, we found 5 billion to 6 billion barrels and consumed 30 billion barrels. With countries like China and India now in the mix, worldwide demand is growing by an average of 2 million to 3 million barrels a day every year. The world has to discover a new Saudi Arabia-size oil supplier every five years to meet this demand. But it's just not going to happen. These overwhelming numbers could produce oil prices above $100 a barrel in short order, which will ultimately have massive consequences for the world's economy and the way we live our lives. They might well cause a global recession.

How will we in the West cope when by 2030 the IEA nations will have to import 85 percent of their oil (it's 63 percent today)? None of the oil companies are investing enough. Big Oil in the West is allocating as much as 60 percent of profits to dividends and stock buybacks and reinvesting only about a third in the oil business. And the Seven Brothers are keeping an ever tighter leash on both production and investment.

They have the money, all right. Revenues have roughly doubled in the past four years. But their governments see high prices for us as meaning more income for them, while they see investment in new capacity as risking the kind of sharp price decline that occurred in the 1990s. So the national energy firms are obliged to dedicate a big chunk of their profits to support national treasuries and various political constituencies.

Mexico has treated its oil company as a national bank vault; Hugo Chávez of Venezuela spends two thirds (that's now about $7 billion) of PDVSA's budget on populist social programs; Gazprom spends the majority of its money on nonenergy activities such as banks and media companies. Even worse, because these national companies have become a source of political patronage, they are short of skilled workers and experienced managers. National pride inhibits them from relying on the technological skills of the western companies, so they don't have the professionals needed to grow their production (with the exception of Saudi Aramco and, to some extent, Petrobras). We can no longer count on the Middle East to act as the world's energy shock absorber, raising output to meet a shortage.

So much for supply. Simultaneously, the oil-producing countries are consuming more of their own production. While China's energy appetite has grabbed the headlines, by the end of this decade alone, domestic consumption will reduce the oil exports of the producers by as much as 2.5 million barrels a day. And they are guzzlers. How could they not be when gasoline prices in places like Venezuela, Iran, and the rest of the Middle East are as little as a tenth of U.S. domestic prices, averaging between 20 and 80 cents a gallon?

The net effect of all this is that the world is going to be even more energy dependent on the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and Russia. Keeping oil safe for the West once meant safeguarding supply lines from the Middle East. Now we have to build alliances and deploy ships and troops to protect other supply routes outside the Middle East, going as far as the Caspian Sea, the Andean region of South America, and West Africa.

There are other political complications inhibiting new supplies. In many countries, environmental issues have become absolutist. They conflict with the capacity to tap additional energy resources in Alaska, not to speak of the continental shelf in the waters off the lower 48 states, which, according to a recent study by the National Petroleum Council, contains enough oil to provide gasoline for 116 million cars for 47 years. Some trade-off is going to have to be considered, and this will roil the political scene forever.

As for conservation, it is not enough for the West to improve its own energy policies. Countries such as India and China must also do so. We don't know how fast these countries can and will reduce the energy intensity of their own rapid economic growth. How are we going to maintain our efforts to fight global warming by curtailing carbon dioxide when consumers in developing countries thirsting for oil will want to resort to abundant national sources of coal? They will argue that they are entitled to a phase of cheap (that is, coal) energy-intensive economic development. Is it fair, they argue, to penalize them for coming late to the development party when rich countries, during their period of rapid growth, were allowed to use as much energy as they wished with no restrictions?

Political purposes. Then there are the implications of state-owned companies in countries like Russia and Venezuela that are not just responding to market forces but are using their pricing and power for political purposes. The income generated by oil exports has supported their authoritarian regimes, which means that political reform and liberalization may suffer as the oil wealth is used by leaders in producer states to buy off their opposition. The oil revenues have clearly helped Vladimir Putin in Russia, Chávez in Venezuela, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Iran. Indeed, they deliberately seek control of the energy sectors to make sure that they themselves are the source of opportunity and wealth for their people. So how is our policy of promoting democracy going to work when this oil wealth tends to empower authoritarian elites?

The big winners will be countries like Russia and the Middle East oil producers, including Iran. The big losers will be the poorer countries. The wealthier countries can absorb higher prices because of the continuing declines in the energy intensity of their growth. But poorer countries will be disadvantaged even more. Look at a poor country like Pakistan, which doesn't have oil and may lose as much as 10 percent of its gross domestic product over the next 25 years to higher oil prices. Pakistan's economy doesn't work well even today, and its demographic curve shows a continuing rise in population.

In America, the energy crunch will intensify a lot of old political issues and bring in some new ones. We have witnessed the bipartisan failure to institute a vigorous program of conservation. We have not even been able to enact an adequate, graduated program of targets for automobile and truck gas mileage. Despite their public advocacy and political promises, the Democrats in Congress have failed to take steps to deal with these issues. In fact, we live in a political culture where neither the Republicans nor the Democrats wish to ask Americans to make sacrifices, including taxes to reduce our consumption of gasoline. Just think: If our cars had the same energy efficiencies as Europe's today, we could save 4 million barrels a day-the equivalent of Iran's total production.

This whole question of energy should be a central issue in the presidential campaign. But which of the candidates has the nerve and ingenuity to devise a way of meeting environmental concerns while seeking reliable domestic production of energy at home? We certainly cannot assume that alternative energy sources will have a major impact on an acceptable cost basis. We can build as many wind farms as we like, or as many ethanol plants, but it is not going to be possible to make much of a dent at an acceptable cost, because of the enormous volume of our daily imports of oil.

We are facing a world of higher prices and increasingly tighter supplies, creating a growing gap between worldwide demand and worldwide production, at a time when non-OPEC energy production is peaking within a few years. Eventually, this will make us even more dependent on OPEC?with all of what that means. We also can't seem to develop an appropriate energy policy that by definition will take years to implement, so that delays are only postponing the higher costs to the next generation.

It is we who are placing our own country over a barrel now.

This story appears in the September 10, 2007 print edition of U.S. News & World Report.

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