Data Suppression Is the GOP’s Latest Anti-Voter Tactic for the Midterms

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by By Steven Rosenfeld / Independent Media Institute.

As early voting has begun across America and seen record turnouts, the big question is: Will people voting for Democrats surmount the obstacles that the GOP has built in red-run states to achieve winning popular vote majorities?

Those obstacles began with extreme gerrymanders in 2011 for state legislative and U.S. House districts. They continued with newly crafted red super-majorities passing strict voter ID laws. And now, in the finale to 2018’s midterms, a new tactic is emerging that can be described as data suppression.

In short, in a handful of red-run states with change-making races, voter information that would normally add people to registration rolls is not being readily processed. That scenario creates a likely prospect of Election Day ambushes, starting with surprised people whose names are not in poll books, and then rippling outward as they fill out provisional ballots while others are delayed in line.

Versions of this voter data suppression gambit can be found in Arizona, Missouri and Georgia. These states have tight federal races—and in Georgia, one of the most-watched gubernatorial contests. In all of these red-run states, registration information affecting enough voters to possibly swing outcomes has become stuck in opaque bureaucratic pipelines.

Let’s look at these states and two others where voter information-driven tactics have surfaced—North Carolina and North Dakota.

Arizona

The state has 3.6 million voters, with 150,000 more registered Republicans than Democrats, according to the latest figures. It has competitive House races and a tight Senate race, where the polling average from RealClearPolitics.com places Democrat Kyrsten Sinema 0.3 percent ahead of Republican Martha McSally. If half of Arizona’s registered voters end up casting a ballot in November—a reasonable estimate in what’s forecast to be a record year—that means every 18,000 votes are 1 percent of the popular vote. That scenario translates into about a 5,400-vote lead by Sinema.

What’s Arizona’s data suppression ploy? Its motor vehicle agency is not forwarding change of addresses for 384,000 people getting driver’s licenses to the state’s voter registration database. Of that figure, 63,000 are people who apparently moved to a new county, meaning they have to completely re-register to vote.

It’s a safe bet that a sizable number of affected individuals have no idea what’s going on—and won’t until they try to vote. Voting rights groups sued to force this red-run state to update its statewide voter database. A federal judge sided with Arizona officials (who said they will fix this problem in 2019). Nonetheless, Arizona’s intransigence is a perfect example where barriers surrounding vetting voter data will impact and shape its 2018 electorate.

Missouri

A counterpoint to what’s unfolding in Arizona can be found in this state of roughly 4.5 million voters. Here, too, if midterm turnout is half of that electorate, then every 22,500 votes equates to 1 percent of the popular vote. In Missouri’s very tight Senate race, RealClearPolitics’ poll average has Republican challenger Josh Hawley ahead of the incumbent Democrat, Claire McCaskill, by 0.4 percent, which is approximately a 10,000-vote lead.

What is Missouri’s data suppression ploy? It’s like Arizona, and involves updated information on 200,000 voters submitted to that state’s motor vehicle agency. Notably, a federal judge this month ordered Missouri to deliver that information to election officials. Whether it will do so in time (in a manner that doesn’t impede big numbers of 2018 voters) remains to be seen—despite what looks like a victory for voting rights advocates. That skeptical take is because big state bureaucracies are not exactly speedy.

How all this plays out will not really be known until Election Day because Missouri only has limited early voting options, where tell-tale signs of snafus would first appear. Similarly, pro-voting rights litigators this week won another court ruling by overturning some elements of the state’s new and stricter voter ID law. But the late date of that ruling has led some election officials to say it will likely cause poll worker confusion, leading to voting delays.

Once again, hurdles surrounding the vetting of voter information may impede participation in close contests on Election Day.

Georgia

The governor’s race in this state of 6.9 million voters is a microcosm of this past decade’s partisan voting wars. The Republican, Secretary of State Brian Kemp, has a national reputation for aggressively purging voters, and for delaying the processing of registrations from new voters. This is especially true for the tens of thousands of voter applications submitted through a non-profit created by the Democratic contender in the governor’s race, ex-House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams. RealClearPolitics’ poll average has Kemp leading Abrams by 2 percent, which, if the midterm turnout is 50 percent, equates to about 70,000 votes.

In recent days, there has been a stream of credible reports showing Kemp is holding tens of thousands of recent registrations hostage. This is more data suppression, if you will, by not validating what’s submitted by eligible voters in a timely manner. Moreover, local officials, following a similar verification playbook, have been rejecting hundreds of early ballots in at least one non-white county. In both instances, voting rights groups have sued Georgia officials.

The big picture here is a schizophrenic voting rights tug-of-war. On one side is a state with record numbers of new voters. That is due in part to a GOP-run legislature instituting online registration several years ago and automatic voter registration in late 2016 for anyone getting a driver’s license. On one hand, 1.4 million voters have registered since November 2016. Yet on the other, Kemp’s watch has purged hundreds of thousands of registrations (668,000 last year), leaving about 250,000 new voters for 2018’s midterms, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. Amid this mix of new voters are tens of thousands via the New Georgia Project, a voter drive launched by Abrams several years ago.

The common thread in these developments is a willful delay, if not mangling or rejection, of timely voter information.

Voting rights groups have sued Kemp (in his official capacity managing the election he’s running in) over the 53,000 pending registrations. They also have sued Kemp and Gwinnett County for rejecting 8.5 percent of early absentee ballots, where, again, a voter verification process has become a pathway to suppress turnout of an opponent’s likely base. Of the pending registrations, attorneys have noted in their complaint that less than 10 percent are white. (Kemp is white; Abrams is black.) The Journal-Constitution said that less than 40 percent of Gwinnett County voters are white.

And yet another eyebrow-raising example came in early October, when, two business days before the 2018 registration deadline, the computer system running Georgia’s online registration crashed, prompting the state to extend registration by two days.

Needless to say, these snafus and obstructions do not have to be part of the voting landscape—and in many blue-run states are not. It remains to be seen what will unfold in Georgia, but you can be sure that 2018’s voter suppression narrative is not finished.

North Dakota and North Carolina

Two more states are noteworthy with voter-information plays that are intended by the GOP to preserve or gain their power.

The first is North Carolina, where the Justice Department, acting on behalf of ICE—federal immigration authorities—sought access to every government record for registered voters (including driver’s license data) since 2010 in 44 counties in the most heavily Latino region of the state. After an outcry, the DOJ backed off and said it would seek the voter files in 2019. However, as former state Board of Elections senior officials said, the DOJ has signaled that it may investigate Latino families whose members dare to vote.

The second example is from North Dakota, where there is no state voter registration requirement and where 344,360 people voted in the 2016 presidential election. In its U.S. Senate race, Republican Kevin Cramer has an 8.7 percent lead over Democratic incumbent Heidi Heitkamp, according to RealClearPolitics’ polling average. If two-thirds of those 2016 presidential voters turn out in several weeks, that equates to 2,300 votes for every percentage point—giving Cramer roughly a 20,000-vote lead.

Last week, a GOP-appointed majority on the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear a challenge to North Dakota’s new voter ID law—which requires residents to present an ID with a street address to get a regular ballot. As a dissent by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg noted, “approximately 18,000 North Dakota residents” lack that form of ID. She was mostly referring to Native Americans who live on reservations and support Democrats. In other words, the Court refused to block a restrictive measure that, were it not in place, would make the state’s Senate race more competitive.

Big Data Abounds, Except in Verifying Voters

In all of these instances, obstructing the timely processing of voter registrations and other piled-on bureaucracy—namely adding ID requirements that have nothing to do with the legal basis to be an eligible voter—appear to be the GOP’s latest anti-voter tools.

Perhaps no one should be surprised that the GOP has found more moves to try to thwart its opponent’s base in battleground contests. But it is more than ironic that in an era dominated by big data, the latest Republican voter suppression tactic is obstructing the timely processing of basic voter-verifying information.

This article was produced by Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

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Postal Workers Unite Nationwide Against Trump’s Privatization Plan

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Jessica Corbett / Common Dreams.

As the United States Postal Service (USPS) closed on Monday for a national holiday celebrated by many municipalities as Indigenous Peoples Day, workers across the country held a day of action to protest President Donald Trump’s proposal to privatize the postal service.

Under the proposal—unveiled in June as part of a 32-point plan (pdf) to significantly reorganize the federal government—USPS would “transition to a model of private management and private or shared ownership.” The White House argued that “freeing USPS to more fully negotiate pay and benefits rather than prescribing participation in costly federal personnel benefit programs, and allowing it to follow private sector practices in compensation and labor relations, could further reduce costs.”

Critics warn that such a transition would not only negatively impact service but also bring awful consequences for postal workers, who demonstrated on their day off in cities across the United States on Monday to tell the president that USPS is #NotForSale.

“Postal workers are rallying to urge lawmakers to stop the selling off of the public postal service for private profit—and to remind everyone the Postal Service is yours,” Julie Bates, a 22-year postal worker, wrote last week.

Pointing to similar moves by other countries—including the United Kingdom—as cautionary tales, Bates warned that if USPS is sold off to private interests, the public should anticipate “higher prices, slower delivery, and an end to universal, uniform, and affordable service to every corner of the country.”

While recognizing that the national mail service has faced problems in recent years, as Bates explained:

The truth is that the USPS’s problems were largely created by Congress.

A bipartisan 2006 law, the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, mandated that the USPS pre-fund future retiree health benefits 75 years into the future. That means we have to fund retirement benefits for postal employees who haven’t even been born yet.

It’s a crushing burden that no other agency or company—public or private—is required to meet, or could even survive.

Some Democratic members of Congress—including Sen. Dick Durbin (Ill.) as well as Reps. Grace Meng (N.Y.) and Dwight Evans (Penn.)—joined demonstrations in their states:

“Our postal system is older than the country itself. It was a vital component of our country’s public good then. It still is today,” Bates concluded. “And along the way, one fundamental fact has always been true: Our postal system has never belonged to any president, any political party, or any company. It’s belonged to the people of this country.”

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Supreme Court Nominee Kavanaugh Clears Crucial Senate Hurdle

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by LISA MASCARO and ALAN FRAM / The Associated Press.

A deeply divided Senate pushed Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination past a key procedural hurdle Friday, setting up a likely final showdown on Saturday in a spellbinding battle that’s seen claims of long-ago sexual assault by the nominee threaten President Donald Trump’s effort to tip the court rightward for decades.

The Senate voted 51-49 to limit debate, defeating Democratic efforts to scuttle the nomination with endless delays and moving the chamber toward a climax of a fight that has captivated the country since summer. With Republicans controlling the chamber 51-49, one Republican voted to stop the nomination, one Democrat to send it further.

Of the four lawmakers who had not revealed their decisions until Friday — all moderates — Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Jeff Flake of Arizona voted yes, as did Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Republican Lisa Murkowski of Alaska voted not to move the nomination ahead.

While the vote was a victory for the GOP, lawmakers can vote differently on the climactic confirmation roll call, which seems likely Saturday afternoon. Collins told reporters she would announce later Friday how she would go.

That left unclear whether Friday’s tally signaled that the 53-year-old federal appellate judge was on his way to the nation’s highest court, though it would be unusual for lawmakers to switch their votes on such a high-profile issue.

Confirmation would be a crowning achievement for Trump, his conservative base and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

Murkowski sat solemnly during the roll call and whispered “No” when it was her turn to vote. As the tally neared an end, she spoke with Collins, a friend. The pair was surrounded by colleagues from both parties after the vote.

All four lawmakers who’d been undeclared said little or nothing to reporters as they left the chamber.

Trump weighed in shortly after the roll call was announced, tweeting, “Very proud of the U.S. Senate for voting ‘YES’ to advance the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh!”

Vice President Mike Pence, who could have broken a 50-50 tie, watched the vote from the White House. He is heading to New York for a congressional fundraiser Friday but planned to be back in Washington for the final vote.

Friday’s procedural vote occurred a day after the Senate received a roughly 50-page FBI report on the sexual assault allegations, which Trump ordered only after wavering GOP senators forced him to do so.

Republicans said the secret document — which described interviews agents conducted with 10 witnesses — failed to find anyone who could corroborate allegations by his two chief accusers, Christine Blasey Ford and Deborah Ramirez. Democrats belittled the bureau’s findings, saying agents constrained by the White House hadn’t reached out to numerous other people with potentially important information.

The vote occurred against a backdrop of smoldering resentment by partisans on both sides. That fury was reflected openly by thousands of boisterous anti-Kavanaugh demonstrators who bounced around the Capitol complex for days, confronting senators in office buildings and even reportedly near their homes.

On the Senate floor, lawmakers’ comments underscored the lingering bitterness.

“What left wing groups and their Democratic allies have done to Judge Kavanaugh is nothing short of monstrous,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said on the chamber’s floor before the vote. He accused Democrats of using destructive, unwarranted personal attacks on the nominee and even encouraging the protesters, saying, “They have encouraged mob rule.”

Dianne Feinstein of California, that committee’s top Democrat, said Kavanaugh’s testimony at last week’s dramatic Judiciary panel hearing should “worry us all,” citing “a hostility and belligerence that is unbecoming” of a Supreme Court nominee.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called the fight “a sorry epilogue to the brazen theft of Justice Scalia’s seat.” That reflected Democrats’ lasting umbrage over Republicans’ 2016 refusal to even consider Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama’s nominee to replace the late Antonin Scalia.

When Trump nominated Kavanaugh in July, Democrats leapt to oppose him, saying that past statements and opinions showed he’d be a threat to the Roe v. Wade case that assured the right to abortion. They said he also seemed ready to knock down President Barack Obama’s health care law and to rule for Trump if federal authorities probing his 2016 campaign’s connections to Russia initiate legal action.

But that evolved into a late-summer spectacle after Ford accused Kavanaugh of trying to rape her at an alcohol-infused high school gathering in 1982, when both were teenagers. Two other women also emerged and accused him of other incidents of sexual misconduct. Kavanaugh has denied all the charges.

Under pressure from wavering Republicans, GOP leaders agreed to an extraordinary Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last week that mesmerized the nation as Ford nervously recounted her story and said she was “100 percent” certain that Kavanaugh was her attacker.

A fuming Kavanaugh strode into the same packed hearing room that afternoon and said he, too, was “100 percent” certain the incident had not occurred. He angrily accused Democrats of a “search and destroy” mission, fueled by their hatred of Trump.

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Southwest cuisine returns to its indigenous roots

Read more of this story here from Arizona Sonora News Service by Simon Asher/Arizona Sonora News.

Evan Johnson Media

A dish at Kai, the Pee-Posh Garden, rests on a plate.

Native American food has re-entered the mainstream palette.

Today, fine dining menus infuse indigenous flavors and themes. And the trend is recognized nationally. CNN recently profiled six restaurants serving Native American-inspired meals, including Kai at the Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass in Phoenix. Kai has a 2018 Forbes Travel Guide Five Star rating.

Kai’s menu boasts what Forbes lists as must-try – grilled tenderloin of tribal buffalo. Prices for these infused dishes skyrocket, with Kai’s menu running about $300 for a full-course meal titled “The Journey.”

Kai’s Head Chef de Cuisine Ryan Swanson has been with the restaurant since 2015.

Ryan Swanson, Chef de Cuisine at Kai in Phoenix.

Swanson creates dishes and courses that intertwine fine dining and the cultures of the native Pima and Maricopa communities.

Cuisine plays a quintessential part of indigenous community and culture, according to Rachelle Simpson, interim director of the University of Arizona’s Native American Student Affairs.

Simpson identifies as Acoma and Jemez, both Pueblo tribes.

“Looking at food and the importance of sharing food … in my family that’s a way of conveying our love for each other,” Simpson said. Simpson’s maternal grandmother taught her traditional ways of making tortillas, stews and pies. “Sharing in that cultural and familial wealth, I hold that very dear.”

Indigenous cuisine is often misunderstood. For many, the thought of fry bread with honey is a staple of all Native American diet.

In reality, fry bread made its way into indigenous culture during the Long Walk in 1864. U.S. Army soldiers gave rations of lard, flour and sugar to the indigenous people marching from Northern Arizona and New Mexico to Fort Sumner, N.M.

Navajo marched in the winter, according to Crow Canyon Archeological Society, and almost 200 tribal members died on the walk.

Indigenous elements are making their way back onto the plate. With restaurants like Kai and others embracing the marriage of Indigenous flavors and practices with modern techniques, the public eye is more focused on Native American food.

“It seems like there is starting to be an appreciation for new knowledge of these ancient ingredients,” said Swanson. “Perhaps we’ll soon find cholla buds and mesquite flour in a supermarket?”

An authentic Indian Taco from Cafe Santa Rosa in Tucson, Ariz.

In a Youtube video by Buzzfeed, non-indigenous people try food typical to Native culture. The participants rave about how healthy and tasty the food is and wonder why there’s such a lack of knowledge about indigenous culture and food.

Simpson and others are working on bridging the gap between the confusion in pop culture and the rich traditions that are under the radar.

“That’s where I find it’s problematic,” Simpson said. “White society (and non-natives) with cultural appropriation, there’s this desire to appropriate our designs or our style of dress, our food, our medicine, our prayers. But when it comes down to advocating for our land, our sacred sites, our water…it’s crickets, sometimes.”

In an article published by CNN, Sioux Chef Sean Sherman said Native American cuisine was far out of the public eye for so long due to the oppression of Indigenous communities – “Out of sight, out of mind.”

This has been the reality of indigenous culture in the United States. Racist caricatures of indigenous people are associated with teams such as the Atlanta Braves and Washington Redskins, or with Halloween costumes of moccasins and beaded headbands.

An important step in the reclamation of the indigenous culture is to decolonize the way you think – especially with food, according to Simpson.

Some tribes have been using less pre-processed foods and instead returning to the diets that their ancestors had before the waves of colonization.

In an article by the Minnesota StarTribune, members of an indigenous community are returning to their roots (literally) for two reasons: the native crops are cheap and easy to grow, and the community is tapping back into their ancestral culture.

“There’s a lot of sugars that are added, preservatives. … I know there are several tribes that are decolonizing their diets,” Simpson said.

Simon Asher is a reporter for the Arizona Sonora News, a service from the School of Journalism with the University of Arizona. Contact him at simon.asher1@gmail.com

Click here for a word version of the story, and high-resolution photos.

Read more

Southwest cuisine returns to its indigenous roots

Read more of this story here from Arizona Sonora News Service by Simon Asher/Arizona Sonora News.

Evan Johnson Media

A dish at Kai, the Pee-Posh Garden, rests on a plate.

Native American food has re-entered the mainstream palette.

Today, fine dining menus infuse indigenous flavors and themes. And the trend is recognized nationally. CNN recently profiled six restaurants serving Native American-inspired meals, including Kai at the Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass in Phoenix. Kai has a 2018 Forbes Travel Guide Five Star rating.

Kai’s menu boasts what Forbes lists as must-try – grilled tenderloin of tribal buffalo. Prices for these infused dishes skyrocket, with Kai’s menu running about $300 for a full-course meal titled “The Journey.”

Kai’s Head Chef de Cuisine Ryan Swanson has been with the restaurant since 2015.

Ryan Swanson, Chef de Cuisine at Kai in Phoenix.

Swanson creates dishes and courses that intertwine fine dining and the cultures of the native Pima and Maricopa communities.

Cuisine plays a quintessential part of indigenous community and culture, according to Rachelle Simpson, interim director of the University of Arizona’s Native American Student Affairs.

Simpson identifies as Acoma and Jemez, both Pueblo tribes.

“Looking at food and the importance of sharing food … in my family that’s a way of conveying our love for each other,” Simpson said. Simpson’s maternal grandmother taught her traditional ways of making tortillas, stews and pies. “Sharing in that cultural and familial wealth, I hold that very dear.”

Indigenous cuisine is often misunderstood. For many, the thought of fry bread with honey is a staple of all Native American diet.

In reality, fry bread made its way into indigenous culture during the Long Walk in 1864. U.S. Army soldiers gave rations of lard, flour and sugar to the indigenous people marching from Northern Arizona and New Mexico to Fort Sumner, N.M.

Navajo marched in the winter, according to Crow Canyon Archeological Society, and almost 200 tribal members died on the walk.

Indigenous elements are making their way back onto the plate. With restaurants like Kai and others embracing the marriage of Indigenous flavors and practices with modern techniques, the public eye is more focused on Native American food.

“It seems like there is starting to be an appreciation for new knowledge of these ancient ingredients,” said Swanson. “Perhaps we’ll soon find cholla buds and mesquite flour in a supermarket?”

An authentic Indian Taco from Cafe Santa Rosa in Tucson, Ariz.

In a Youtube video by Buzzfeed, non-indigenous people try food typical to Native culture. The participants rave about how healthy and tasty the food is and wonder why there’s such a lack of knowledge about indigenous culture and food.

Simpson and others are working on bridging the gap between the confusion in pop culture and the rich traditions that are under the radar.

“That’s where I find it’s problematic,” Simpson said. “White society (and non-natives) with cultural appropriation, there’s this desire to appropriate our designs or our style of dress, our food, our medicine, our prayers. But when it comes down to advocating for our land, our sacred sites, our water…it’s crickets, sometimes.”

In an article published by CNN, Sioux Chef Sean Sherman said Native American cuisine was far out of the public eye for so long due to the oppression of Indigenous communities – “Out of sight, out of mind.”

This has been the reality of indigenous culture in the United States. Racist caricatures of indigenous people are associated with teams such as the Atlanta Braves and Washington Redskins, or with Halloween costumes of moccasins and beaded headbands.

An important step in the reclamation of the indigenous culture is to decolonize the way you think – especially with food, according to Simpson.

Some tribes have been using less pre-processed foods and instead returning to the diets that their ancestors had before the waves of colonization.

In an article by the Minnesota StarTribune, members of an indigenous community are returning to their roots (literally) for two reasons: the native crops are cheap and easy to grow, and the community is tapping back into their ancestral culture.

“There’s a lot of sugars that are added, preservatives. … I know there are several tribes that are decolonizing their diets,” Simpson said.

Simon Asher is a reporter for the Arizona Sonora News, a service from the School of Journalism with the University of Arizona. Contact him at simon.asher1@gmail.com

Click here for a word version of the story, and high-resolution photos.

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Native bees do it better

Read more of this story here from Arizona Sonora News Service by Kaite Fletcher/Arizona Sonora News.

 

A native cactus bee (Diadasia Rinconis) sits on its preferred flowering plant. Photo by: © World Atlas

A native bee wraps its hind legs around a flower and vibrates its wings to unlock the flower’s hidden treasure –pollen. Its fuzzy body coated in yellow, the bee flies off to discover its next pot of gold.

This technique of shaking the flower’s pollen sacs, is called buzz pollination. It’s exclusive to bees that are native to Arizona and cannot be done by domesticated honeybees. The nation’s buzz about bee decline often forgets these key pollinators.

A top producer of the nation’s fruits and vegetables, Arizona farmers could take a major hit if native bee populations continue to decline.

“There are a lot of cases where honeybees cannot do the job of pollination in an agriculture setting,” said Kathryn Busby, a

Entomologist Kathryn Busby shows her collection of native bees in the University of Arizona. (Photo by Kaite Fletcher/Arizona Sonora News)

University of Arizona graduate student in entomology. “Certain types of plants require buzz pollination. Native bees just do it better.”

Native bees include bumble bees, Mason bees and carpenter bees.

Arizona holds the highest diversity of bees in the country, said pollination ecologist Stephen Buchmann, with 1,300 species that call the state home. Honeybees represent only a small number of those species.

“People aren’t aware that native bees even exist. Like the jeweled green bees – the beautiful ones, they are all around us,” Busby said. “If you look down at a flower, you are likely to see one.”

The first study on wild bees, released in 2016, suggests wild bee abundance declined in 23 percent of the U.S., including many key agricultural regions. This creates a discrepancy between increasing crop demand and falling wild bee populations. It shows that some of the most pollinator dependent crops have the strongest mismatch, such as apples and watermelon.

The first map to show the status of wild bee abundance in North America as of 2013. Photo by: © PNAS

A map of the identified regions that face mismatch between wild bee populations and crop demand. Photo by: © PNAS

Habitat loss, climate change and pesticide use threaten these native bee populations.

“Colony collapse is a combination of all these factors – chemicals, pathogens, mites, monoculture crops that affect honeybees,” Busby said. “All these things also affect the native bees. It is just much harder to quantify (for solidary native bees) because an individual nest would be abandon and no one would notice.”

Colony collapse disorder, first reported in 2006, is when a majority of adult worker bees vacate the hive with the queen and immature bees still inside.

Honeybee keepers have struggled to keep up with the increasing demand for pollination services, partly because of this abandonment. Less bees and more demand lead to increased costs for farmers.

Lucas Schvindt, a local hobbyist beekeeper, was raised around beehives in Uruguay, where his grandfather tended to 10 hives in the countryside. Some of his bees currently sit on an alfalfa field.

Commercial bee keepers tow their beehives around the country to pollinate different crops – something that most smaller, family owned farms cannot afford. The price per hive is about $200 for a couple weeks of pollination, said Buchmann, with up to two colonies needed per acre of crops.

People have the “best intentions” to help pollinators when they start beekeeping, said Schvindt, but sometimes other native pollinators are displaced in the process. Schvindt explained how an area can be oversaturated by honey bees that can outcompete native pollinators for natural resources.

Lucas Schvindt examines his honeybee hives in northeast Tucson, Arizona. (Photo by Kaite Fletcher/Arizona Sonora News)

The decline of bees not only harms the natural ecosystems, but also food security and the agricultural economy that go hand in hand.

Buchmann coined the phrase, “Thank a pollinator for every third bite of food,” back in 1996 to promote his book “Forgotten Pollinators,” he said, yet recent research showed that the statistic still holds true. Thirty-five percent of food production worldwide are pollinated by bees.

There is a $200 billion worldwide industry of pollination, according to Busby, including all pollinators from bees to bats to butterflies.

Bee pollination alone adds about $20 billion in value to agriculture crops in the U.S. each year, said Busby, because between 66 and 75 percent of crops require pollination by bees. This includes tomatoes, blueberries, almonds, squash and many more fruits, nuts and vegetables that are vital to a balanced human diet. Other crops include cotton and alfalfa, which is a major source of a cow’s diet.

This is critical in Arizona, where agriculture and agribusiness make a $17.1 billion economic impact and supports 77,000 jobs statewide, according to the 2016 Guide to Arizona Agriculture.

A comb-style hive that belongs to Schvindt. (Photo by Kaite Fletcher/Arizona Sonora News)

Increased agriculture destroys nesting habitat for solidary bees and limits their diets to a single crop. Sufficient natural pollinator habitat within farmland allows native bees to continue to make a major contribution to pollination services.

“If you really want to help the pollinators, plant flowers and local native plants for the bees,” Schvindt said.

Pollinators have been evolving with plants for 125 million years. Flowering plants radiated when bees buzzed onto the scene, evolving into the species known by modern botanists.

Climate change has created a phenological mismatch between flowering plants and pollinators, which is when the timing of a mutual relationship between two species does not coincide as before.

In simpler terms, for example, flowers bloom earlier in the warmer spring air before bees are prepared to pollinate. By the time bees are active, a flower’s pollination period has come to an end and cannot be serviced by the bees. There is also less food for the bees and their offspring.

It is a double-edged sword because if one partner becomes extinct, then the other does not have a chance for survival.

Kaite Fletcher is a reporter for Arizona Sonora News, a service provided by the School of Journalism at the University of Arizona. Reach her at kdfletcher9@email.arizona.edu

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Arizona companies scrutinized over border wall

Read more of this story here from Arizona Sonora News Service by Cedar Gardner.

 

The KWR Construction all-metal prototype border wall stands tall at 30 feet, per requirements of the project. (Photo by Reuters)

In Sierra Vista, Ramon Rosario Jr. retrieves his mail from the offices of KWR Construction. Rosario no longer works for the company, but he still holds the management in high regard.

“I’ve been with them for seven years; they are good people,” Rosario said. “All of them are good people.”

Kind words like Rosario’s are few and far between lately, as Arizona-based construction companies deliberate on whether getting involved with the border is a smart business decision, despite the immense blowback from communities, businesses and local governments.

Border wall objectors criticize Hispanic-owned KWR Construction for building one of the eight border wall prototypes standing in the desert outside of San Diego. The prototypes – which were intended to be study models – came about after President Trump, in one of his first actions in office, signed an executive order requiring four prototypes be made out of concrete and another four created with other materials.

Clouds roll into the town of Sierra Vista above the sign for the offices of KWR Construction on Thursday, Sept. 20. (Photo by Cedar Gardner).

KWR Construction built the most expensive model, with a contract of $486,411. One of the four non-concrete models, it features metal columns spaced to allow people to see through the slats and a huge, round metal top to make it difficult to climb over.

Al Anderson, general manager of KWR Construction, would not agree to an interview, but previously told The Washington Post that he tries to be politically neutral in his decision-making process.

“We want whatever jobs here along the border that we can get,” he told the Post. “And set aside our personal beliefs to support our employees.”

 

Looking down on the border town of Naco, Ariz., the border wall is just visible as the sun sets, lighting the brush on Sept, 20. (Photo by Cedar Gardner).

KWR Construction worked with border upkeep for nearly 10 years before the prototype project, so their employees are used to the added security and pressure that comes with working on the border. Rosario insists that he never felt that he was in danger when he worked on the border — there were armed guards accompanying the workers to the job site each day — but he still kept a pistol under the passenger seat of his truck.

 

An American flag hangs above the door at the offices of West Point Contractors in Tucson on Monday, Sept. 24. West Point Contractors just began the company’s first border wall project in a politicized and contentious time for immigration reform. (Photo by Cedar Gardner).

 

West Point Contractors, based in Tucson, was not one of the companies involved with the border wall prototypes, but the company did begin work on Sept. 22 along the border wall near El Paso, Texas. The $22-million project, is set to replace a 4-mile stretch of chain link fence with an 18-foot metal wall. The project is the first work the company has done on the border, according to West Point Contractors Vice President Joel Alley.

“Our project was on the books prior to Trump ever being elected,” Alley said. “At that point, there wasn’t a controversy as much as it is now and I don’t think any of my employees would have voiced concern on the fence at that point because it wasn’t politicized.”

Although West Point Contractors planned on working at the border before the heavy politicization of the issue, they still face the same kickback that other companies that worked on the wall received. On Sept. 24, El Paso County leaders voted 4-1 to officially oppose the border wall. At least 20 other cities have signed similar legislation, and Tucson’s Center for Biological Diversity submitted a letter signed by more than 40 groups, citing concerns for the wall’s effect on the environment, economy and community.

The border fence is reflected in the water as the moon shines over Naco, Ariz. on Thursday, Sept. 20. The fence was completed in May 2017. (Photo by Cedar Gardner).

Views on working on the border wall differ from person to person. Unlike Anderson, Alley thinks that standing up for one’s personal beliefs is not mutually exclusive to being a business executive, and that reflecting personal values in one’s business is part of being a good manager.

 “My best friend growing up lived in Mexico, so it’s one of those things where I don’t see it as an us versus them mentality,” Alley said. “I have laborers who are immigrants and I have family and friends who are there (in Mexico) and we care about everybody, so it’s not really black or white. … We want to do right by everybody.”

A bird soars over the border wall that makes up the property line for this house in Naco, Ariz. on Thursday, Sept. 20.(Photo by Cedar Gardner).

The border wall is now a heavily politicized issue. Alley said the company hired 24/7 security at their job site, and tries to collaborate with nonprofits and organizations who work with border aid  to “bridge the gap” and have a peaceful presence at the border.

“Four years ago, I don’t think we would have had to think about security or had to prove our company’s values as much as we do now,” Alley said.

A Border Patrol truck sits lifeless behind “private property” signs as the sun sets over Naco, Ariz. On Thursday, Sept. 20. (Photo by Cedar Gardner).

 

 

Aleksander Ellis, research director at the Center for Leadership Ethics at the University of Arizona, said there are no easy answers in these kinds of decisions for business executives and managers.

According to Ellis, there are problems with taking a utilitarian (practical, profit-driven) approach  as well as a rule-based (ethical/moral) approach, and there is really no argument to prove that one or the other is “right” in a given situation.

“The utilitarian approach tends to only think about effects on a subset of stakeholders and rarely takes into consideration long-term effects,” said Ellis. “So for the business here, there could be longer term effects if people in the community respond negatively to them taking the border contract.”

The border fence protrudes out of the grass in Naco, Ariz. on Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018, gravely blocking the trees and shacks in Mexico (Photo by Cedar Gardner).

Joseph Galaskiewicz, a sociology professor at the University of Arizona, has written extensively on border issues and agrees there is no objective — right or wrong — when it comes to these business decisions. Things are not always so “clear cut” with so many factors in play.

“Those who oppose building a wall can – and should – try to persuade firms not to cooperate with the government,” Galaskiewicz said. “But they have to respect the rights of businesses who do decide to cooperate and, in my opinion, they should not resort to illegal coercive measures to stop them.”

Cedar Gardner is a reporter for Arizona Sonoran News, a service from the School of Journalism with the University of Arizona. Contact him at cedargardner@email.arizona.edu

Click here for a Word file and high-resolution photos

 

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Sexual Assault Survivors Confront Jeff Flake Ahead of Kavanaugh Vote

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Jon Queally / Common Dreams.

Sexual assault survivors berated Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) on Friday morning after he announced he would vote Brett Kavanaugh out of the Senate Judiciary Committee despite the serious accusations against the Supreme Court nominee and the performance he offered during his testimony Thursday.

“Senator Flake, do you think that Brett Kavanaugh is telling the truth?” asked one assault survivor, according to ThinkProgress. “Do you think that he’s able to hold the pain of these countries and prepare it, that is the work of justice, the way that justice works is you recognize harm. You take responsibility for it and then you begin to repair it. You are allowing someone unwilling to take responsibility for his own actions and willing to hold the harm he has done to one woman, actually three women and not repair it. You are allowing someone who is unwilling to take responsibility for his own actions.”

While Flake had entered an elevator, the women held the door open but the senator repeatedly looked away or down and would not answer their questions or respond to their outrage.

“Look at me when I’m talking to you,” yelled another woman in visible anger. “You’re telling me that my assault doesn’t matter!”

Watch:

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A Red State Victory for Voting Rights

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by By Steven Rosenfeld / Independent Media Institute.

Voting rights advocates won a major victory in Missouri late on Friday, when a federal district court ordered the state’s Driver License Bureau to promptly forward address change information for an estimated 200,000 people who recently moved to election officials to update voter rolls before the midterm election.

This technical snafu—where one state agency has not been sharing its latest information with another; in this case, the driver bureau not sharing the latest address information with statewide election officials—is not simply bureaucratic bungling.

It is willfully turning what should be a simple matter—transferring data—into a potential voter suppression tactic. That’s because it could complicate the process for hundreds of thousands of people in states with close races, starting with U.S. Senate contests.

Slightly different variations of this problem have surfaced in Missouri and Arizona.

In Arizona, civil rights groups have been frustrated by its state Motor Vehicle Division refusal to forwarded address changes for an estimated 384,000 people to election offices. That number comes from people who did not check a box on a form agreeing to forward the change of address information, a Secretary of State spokesman said Friday, adding officials were going to fix that problem after the November 2018 election.

Unlike Missouri, voting rights activists in Arizona did not win a court order after suing. As a result, the affected individuals could face a more arduous task of casting a ballot that would be counted—as their voter information on file will not be accurate—unless they take proactive steps between now and the state’s close of voter registration. But, of course, these individuals are probably not aware there’s even a potential problem.

At issue in Missouri, where Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill faces a tough re-election bid, is whether or not a sizeable number of the estimated 580,000 voters who move within the state every year will have their voting credentials updated as part of getting news driver’s licenses. A 1993 federal law, the National Voter Registration Act, called the motor voter law, requires state agencies to offer voter registration services.

“Specifically, the lawsuit alleges that DOR [Missouri Department of Revenue that oversees driver’s licenses] is failing to provide Missouri residents with the opportunity to register and update their registration information during various license and identification card transactions,” the voting rights attorneys said this spring.

“Over 580,000 Missourians move within the state each year—approximately 200,000 of who move to a new electoral jurisdiction,” they explained. “When a voter’s registration information does not reflect their current address no matter whether they have moved within the county or not, the voter must cast a provisional ballot; and, if a voter has moved to a different election jurisdiction, their vote is discarded entirely.”

Late on Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Brian C. Wimes ordered the driver agency to fulfill the NVRA’s voter registration obligations, and ordered the state to send voter applications to people who got a new license in the past year.

“There is no dispute among the parties that ‘ensuring qualified voters exercise their right to vote is always in the public interest,’” the court held. “While the Court is cognizant of the extreme nature of preliminary injunctive relief, the circumstances of this case suggest the public’s interests in the right to vote, and ensuring that state processes follow federal law, outweigh the public costs for Defendants to comply with a preliminary injunction.”

The court ordered the state to act quickly, citing an October 10 voter registration deadline in Missouri for the November 6 election. In contrast, in Arizona, organizations like Mi Familia Vota will be scrambling to urge people to check and possibly update their voter registration information before that state’s October 9 close of registration.

This article was produced by Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

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U.S. Targets Volunteers Who Aided Immigrants

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Ilana Novick.

Nine members of No More Deaths, an Arizona faith-based advocacy group, are facing federal charges, including—for some—harboring and conspiracy. Their crimes? Providing food, water and a place to stay for migrants attempting to cross the U.S. border with Mexico. According to a report from The Intercept on Sunday, the Justice Department is “fighting to keep the communications of law enforcement officials celebrating [the nine members’] prosecution from becoming public.”

During the summer of 2017, No More Deaths members responded to distress calls from migrants crossing the border at the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, which the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service calls “incredibly hostile to those that need water to survive.”

The volunteers attempted to contact the U.S. Border Patrol for help, but according to The Intercept, their calls went unanswered for hours. Taking matters into their own hands, the volunteers drove their pickup trucks into the desert. But while Border Patrol agents ignored the calls, they began tracking the volunteers’ movements, which they would do for more than a year.

Last week, lawyers for the volunteers filed motions to convince Arizona Magistrate Judge Bruce Macdonald to drop the charges. Attached to those motions were exhibits that included text messages between U.S. Border Patrol and Fish and Wildlife Service agents, in which they appear to be celebrating the volunteers’ upcoming arrests and charges.

The Justice Department moved to seal the motions, but The Intercept was able to download them from a court records database called PACER (Public Access to Electronic Records) before it could. According to The Intercept:

<blockquote>The exhibits include text messages between a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employee and a Border Patrol agent, in which the Fish and Wildlife employee declares ‘Love it’ in response to the prosecution of the volunteers. Described in the text messages as ‘bean droppers,’ volunteers with the group No More Deaths and their organization are referred to by name in the communications between federal law enforcement officials, who describe, with apparent glee, the government’s ‘action against them.’</blockquote>

Additional evidence that the government specifically targeted No More Deaths includes a meeting with Robin Reineke, a cultural anthropologist and director of the Colibrí Center for Human Rights, an internationally renowned organization that repatriates the remains of migrants who die in the desert. In what The Intercept calls a sworn declaration, Reineke says that during the meeting, “a senior Border Patrol agent angrily told her that because of the bad press No More Deaths stirred up for his employer, the agency’s plan was to ‘shut them down.’ ”

“I got a really strong sense of retribution, revenge,” Reineke told The Intercept, adding, “he didn’t like what No More Deaths was saying to the press about Border Patrol. … I really got the strong impression that he wanted to see the camp shut down and gone.”

The Justice Department is requesting that Reineke’s declaration be sealed, too.

Nine members of No More Deaths are facing at least misdemeanor charges. One, Scott Warren, also is battling harboring and conspiracy charges, because he gave two immigrants food, water and a place to stay for three days.

Read more and see the documents at The Intercept.

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