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Friday, September 13, 2013

Ubiquitous US Guns Waste Lives, Money

A report released on Thursday, which will be published in the American Journal of Public Health, compiled data on firearm homicides in all 50 states from 1981-2010. It is the largest study of gun violence in the US to date. Because of the NRA’s influence on Congress, there are no data on national rates of gun ownership so the authors used the percentage of gun suicides as a proxy. “For each 1 percentage point increase in proportion of household gun ownership, firearm homicide rate increased by .9″ percent.

In a separate study, the Urban Institute found that firearm-related emergency room and inpatient procedures cost $629 million in 2010 alone, with US taxpayers subsidizing over half the costs of treatments. The average inpatient visit for a gun injury cost over $23,000 – $14,000 more than the average cost of all other inpatient visits.

The CDC has concluded that gun-related injuries and death have cost the US up to $64.6 billion.

Nigerian Villagers Reject Shell Compensation Offer

Nigerian villages launched a suit against Shell at the High Court in London in 2012, seeking compensation for two oil spills in 2008 that destroyed their livelihoods. This will end the attempt to settle the suit out of court, and lawyers on both sides will request a trial timetable.

Shell admits liability for the spills, but of course disputes the amount and the impact on the community. The Bodo community claims that 31,000 inhabitants throughout 35 villages were affected by the spill and independent experts estimate that between 500,000 and 600,000 barrels were spilled, contaminating over 45 square miles of mangroves, swamps and channels. Shell said only 4,100 barrels had initially been spilled, and that it is not liable for the rest of the spillage, which happened later.

The company offered about $1,700 total per person, which was unanimously rejected. It will take over $1 billion and up to 30 years to clean up and restore the region.

Greek Neo-Nazis Attack Communists

Thousands of Greeks protested a violent attack by the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party, which left nine Communist party members in the hospital with serious injuries.  The victims had been distributing posters in a working-class district of Athens when they were set upon by 50 Golden Dawn members with crowbars and bats.

This represents a major escalation for the party – they have previously kidnapped immigrants in the middle of the night and sent threats to minority groups. They are now deliberately increasing and expanding tensions, hoping “to create a climate of civil war.” Golden Dawn has surged in popularity as Greece’s economic woes drag on. In the last elections, they won 18 government seats and 7% of the vote and have become the nation’s third-biggest political force.

Rebels in the Philippines Accept Ceasefire

Muslim rebel leader Nur Misuari and Vice President Jejomar Binay have agreed upon a truce to begin talks on ending the 5-day siege in which at least 100 people have been taken hostage, 22 killed and 24,000 displaced. Rebels have been setting fire to houses throughout the communities they currently control. Officials suggested this could be a diversion to cover an escape due to shortages of food, supplies and ammunition.

In a speech today, the president expressed confidence that a solution could be reached, but warned that the government’s forces are “overwhelming” and that “If they harmed hostages, resorted to arson and crossed other lines … our security forces have instructions on what to do.”

 California To Raise Minimum Wage

In a bill approved by both houses of the state legislature Thursday, California’s minimum wage will gradually rise from its current $8/hour to $10/hour by 2016. The state has not raised the minimum wage in six years.

Nationally, the minimum wage is $7.25, which it has been since 2009. Despite the fact that 80% of Americans support increasing the minimum wage to $10/hour (including two-thirds of Republicans), Republican lawmakers in the House of Representatives voted down a raise. If the minimum wage had even simply kept up with inflation since the 1960s, it would currently be $10.40/hour, which would lift 6 million workers out of poverty if implemented now.

Weekend Read: From Houston AC repairman to Syrian border camp mayor

A profile of Yakzan Shishakly — a US-based businessman turned aid worker on the Syrian border. Via Al Jazeera America.

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