Late last week, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) sent new rules designed to protect small-scale livestock farmers to the White House for final approval. Farmers have waited more than three years for the changes, which the USDA was directed to review in the 2008 farm bill. The rules haven’t been updated for several decades and have often gone unenforced. In the meantime, the meatpacking industry has grown more powerful, and small farmers have struggled to make ends meet. That is especially true in the chicken industry, in which farmers have basically been forced to contract with a handful of chicken-processing companies and have seen their wages decline drastically.
In a front-page editorial in Harrisburg’s Patriot-News today, the editors of the paper, published in central Pennsylvania, call for the immediate resignation of Penn State’s president, Graham Spanier. They also say that Joe Paterno, the iconic head coach of the Nittany Lions football team, should retire at the end of the year.
When the Canadian activist magazine AdBusters issued a call on its listserv to start the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations in New York and other cities, a couple of like-minded protesters created a companion blog on Tumblr called “We are the 99 percent.” The purpose of both the protests and the blog was to point out that the bottom 99 percent have been subsidizing the very rich and their wealth-multiplying experiments for decades. But the blog did something the protests didn’t: It allowed folks who couldn’t camp out in Lower Manhattan and risk arrest to participate. Contributors upload pictures of themselves holding handwritten notes that tell their stories of disenfranchisement, insolvency, and unfair workplace practices.
On Tuesday, the Obama administration announced its new plan for student loans: new graduates can cap their student loan repayments to 10 percent of their monthly income. After 20 years, their debt will be forgiven. Graduates already repaying their loans can consolidate and get half a percent interest rate cut. These changes will go into effect next year, two years before they were already scheduled to do so, and the administration said the move was in response to an online petition drive on its “We the People” site.
In 2006, a commercial began to air on cable television that showed happy babies gurgling through their year-one milestones. “A baby’s first smile of recognition,” a voiceover says. “That first rollover. The first step, and first word are miracles of a baby’s life.” Over graphics of a growing brain, a narrator announces that the first five years of development are critical and tells parents to “seize this small window of opportunity” to reach another milestone with their children: learning to read. The commercials direct parents to a toll-free number to buy Your Baby Can Read, a five-disc set that costs $200.