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Stifled by Corporate America, The Young Turn to Farming

organic farmers
© Jim Mone/AP Photo
Laura Frerichs, 31, is shown with husband Andy carrying infant son Eli on her organic farm outside of Hutchinson, Minn.
While fresh demographic information on U.S. farmers won't be available until after the next agricultural census is done next year, there are signs more people in their 20s and 30s are going into farming: Enrollment in university agriculture programs has increased, as has interest in farmer-training programs.

The young entrepreneurs typically cite two reasons for going into farming: Many find the corporate world stifling and see no point in sticking it out when there's little job security; and demand for locally grown and organic foods has been strong enough that even in the downturn they feel confident they can sell their products.

Farming is inherently risky: Drought, flooding, wind and other weather extremes can all destroy a year's work. And with farmland averaging $2,140 per acre across the U.S. but two to four times that much in the Midwest and California, the start-up costs can be daunting.

Still, agriculture fared better than many parts of the economy during the recession, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture predicts record profits for farmers as a whole this year.

Che Guevara

Hugo Chávez Says Obama is "A Clown and An Embarrassment"

Hugo Chávez with Ahmadinejad
© Juan Barreto/AFP/Getty Images
Hugo Chávez with Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: the Venezuelan president has been criticised for his links to Iran.
Venezuelan president makes comments after US leader criticises his links with Iran and Cuba in a newspaper interview

On the eve of his first official overseas trip since being diagnosed with cancer, Hugo Chávez has launched a blistering attack on Barack Obama, describing the US president as a "clown" and an "embarrassment".

"Focus on governing your country, which you've turned into a disaster," the Venezuelan president told state TV on Monday. Chávez touched down in the Uruguayan capital, Montevideo, on Tuesday for a summit of Mercosur, South America's leading trade bloc.

Chávez's comments followed a rare and strongly worded interview with Obama published by the Caracas-based El Universal newspaper. The American president criticised Venezuela's business and political links with Iran and Cuba, and raised concerns at what he called threats to the country's democracy.

Stormtrooper

Canada: Edmonton Woman Alleges Assault by Mall Guards

People 'who have caused problems in the past' not allowed at West Edmonton Mall

A young Edmonton woman alleges she was assaulted by security guards at West Edmonton Mall last year in a case in which she was initially charged with assault with a weapon - her jacket.


Larissa Sharphead, 20, was taken to a holding cell by guards on Oct. 25, 2010, after she and her sister had too much to drink at the Empire Ballroom, a nightclub inside the massive shopping centre.

Sharphead, who was under a 10-year ban from mall premises, was picked up by the guards just outside the Bourbon Street entrance. Surveillance video of what transpired inside the cell afterwards was obtained by CBC News.

Die

Investors Lose Faith in Stocks as Billions Pour Out of Funds

hundred dollar bill
Investors appeared to have lost faith in stocks this year.

Just over a week ago, equity mutual funds globally had the second-biggest one-day outflow of money in 2011, capping four straight weeks of net redemptions, according to data from EPFR Global.

Worldwide, investors have yanked $34 billion out of equity funds this year and put $75 billion into bonds.

In the U.S., stock funds, including both exchange-traded funds and mutual funds, squeaked out a miniscule $4 billion net inflow this year, while fixed income-focused managers collected a monster $86 billion, according to EPFR.

Burned by two bubbles in the last decade and facing the second global financial crisis in three years, investors simply don't have the risk appetite for stocks.

Newspaper

UK Phone Hacking: Morgan refuses to name McCartney voicemail source

Piers Morgan
© Associated Press
In this image made from video, CNN star interviewer Piers Morgan answers questions Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2011
CNN celebrity interviewer Piers Morgan refused to disclose details Tuesday about his most damning link to Britain's phone hacking scandal - his acknowledgment that he once listened to a phone message left by Paul McCartney for his then-wife Heather Mills.

In an eagerly awaited appearance before the U.K.'s media ethics committee, Morgan, who replaced Larry King on CNN, was visibly tense, sometimes hostile and often rejected characterizations of his actions made by inquiry lawyers as "nonsense."

The stakes were high for Morgan. More than a dozen journalists have been arrested, senior executives with Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. media empire have lost their jobs, and top U.K. police officers have resigned over their failure to tackle the phone hacking scandal. His testimony Tuesday was given under oath, and Morgan could be subject to criminal proceedings if he was found to have violated any British laws.

Stormtrooper

Dispatches From Cairo: The Worst So Far

Image
© AP / Nasser Nasser
Egyptian protesters run through the streets of Cairo as they are chased by army soldiers.
We asked Lauren Unger-Geoffroy, an Arabic-speaking American who lives in Cairo, to share her perspective of life in Egypt after the revolution. In this entry, she writes about a new surge in army brutality in suppressing protest.

Foreboding and warning. Egypt should have felt it coming. This was the worst so far. Hope is gone. The people are in despair. As our imam shouted Friday at noon prayer: Will it get worse before we have cleansed the land of Satan?

Authorities are now accusing 164 people of being involved in the new violence and interrogations have begun, with even injured people being questioned in hospitals. Many of the suspects are under 19 years old. Some are children, street kids accused of throwing Molotov cocktails. Some of the doctors at Omar Makram field hospital are being detained. At least one of the detainees has died from his injuries; activists accuse the army and security forces of torturing him in the headquarters of the national Cabinet.

Yet in my neighborhood Thursday night, a time when most Egyptians still were unaware of the beginning of this catastrophe, there was a hopeful festiveness stemming from the opening of a restaurant by a famous takeout food company. Blasting Egyptian dance music through the mosque speakers till midnight, the event was like a wedding celebration, full of lights and decorations.

The spanking-new restaurant brought some prestige to our garbage-strewn and unpaved market area. Groups of cute girls, dressed up, and guys from a nicer area a few blocks away are showing up for El Shabrawy takeout.

People

People more likely to lie when texting, study finds

Image
© New York Times
A new paper to be published next year in the Journal of Business Ethics finds that people are more likely to lie via text compared to face-to-face communications, video conferencing or audio chat.

The paper is based on a study of 140 students that were grouped into pairs and asked to engage in a role-playing game. One student took on the role of a stockbroker, the other student played a buyer. Researchers told the "stockbroker" that the stock they had to sell would lose 50% of its value in one week. They also gave the "stockbroker" a financial incentive to sell as much of the bad stock to the "buyer" as possible.

Researchers found that the stockbrokers were most likely to engage in duplicitous behavior -- either lying about the quality of the stock, or not mentioning how bad it was -- if they conducted the buy/sell conversation via text message.

They were most likely to be honest about the quality of the stock if the conversation happened via video, which beat out both face-to-face communication and audio chat.

Family

US: Children of welfare recipients in California forced to pay for welfare debt

Image
© Illustrated London News (23 December 1843)
Refuge for the Destitute
Children in California are being fined for debt payments their parents incurred while on welfare. The vindictive practice has been going on for years, as California welfare agencies collect money from family members living off of government assistance, even if a family member was a minor when the debt occurred.

Many of the debts were brought on by clerical error or fraud and therefore were especially no fault of the children. A lawsuit on behalf of two girls, Irene Ayers and Jamie Hartley, has been filed by two legal organizations, the Western Center on Law and Poverty and the Public Interest Law Project.

Patti Prunhuber, a lawyer from the Public Interest Law Project, told the WSWS that state agencies are barred from collecting payment or seeking criminal charges from cases that are more than four years old. However, according to Prunhuber, the state can still seek repayment for "extremely old" overpayments by intercepting income tax rebates and garnishing wages.

Dollar

Wealth Inequality In America May Be Worse Than It Was In Ancient Rome

roman coin
© Unknown
The 99 Percent Movement effectively changed the American political debate from debt and deficits to income inequality, highlighting the fact that income inequality has increased so much in the U.S. that it is now more unequal than countries like Ivory Coast and Pakistan. While those numbers are startling, a study from two historians suggests that American wealth inequality may actually be worse than it was in Ancient Rome - a society built on slave labor, a defined class structure, and centuries of warfare and conquest.

In the United States, the top 1 percent controls roughly 40 percent of the nation's wealth. According to the study, which examined Roman ledgers, previous estimates, imperial edicts, and Biblical passages, Rome's top 1 percent controlled less than half that at the height of its economic power, as Tim De Chant notes at Per Square Mile:
Their target was the state of the economy when the empire was at its population zenith, around 150 C.E. Schiedel and Friesen estimate that the top 1 percent of Roman society controlled 16 percent of the wealth, less than half of what America's top 1 percent control.
Of course, the millions of Romans at the bottom of the empire's class structure - the conquered and enslaved, the poorest Romans, and the women who had little civic or economic empowerment - would probably disagree with the study's conclusion. Still, it serves as yet another highlight of how large the income gap in the United States has become over the last three decades.

Star of David

The Nightmare is Now Israel's Too

israeli settler violence
© Unknown
There is a hint of poetic justice in the events of the last week. It may not be politically correct to relish in this justice, but it is only natural. Extremist Israeli settlers have recently turned some of their manic wrath on their own government alongside the ever escalating violence against the Palestinians.

The two cannot be compared in terms of magnitude, but the fact that the nightmare Israel had intended solely for the purpose of running the Palestinians off their land has turned on them is an ironic twist nonetheless.

Settlers have gone on a rampage this week, mostly against Palestinians. They have burned three mosques including one in Jerusalem, cut down dozens of olive trees, burned down cars and water tanks and attacked ordinary citizens. Palestinians have unfortunately grown accustomed to the indifference of Israel's military and political establishments towards attacks on Palestinians. Palestinians know that in the best case scenario, patrolling Israeli soldiers will turn a blind eye to the settlers and in the worst case, join them in the attack.