The $13 Billion Bottled Water Industry vs. the National Park Service...and American Hikers, Campers, Hunters, and Nature-Lovers

Yellowstone National Park was established in 1872 “for the benefit and enjoyment” of the American people. It was the first of 59 national parks dedicated to the conservation of 'wild nature' for posterity, and it is a symbol of national pride. Almost 14 million people a year visit our national parks to camp, hike, and enjoy nature.

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Time for Three Strikes and You're Out for Banks?

On May 20, five of the biggest banks in the world pleaded guilty to charges of interest rate manipulation and agreed to pay $2.8 billion in fines for the felonies they committed. Two of the banks, J.P. Morgan Chase and Citigroup, are U.S.-based. Each has a long rap sheet of recent settlements for their corporate misdeeds, and each has paid large fines and settlements -- nearly $35 billion in the case of JP Morgan Chase. But otherwise, these businesses go on with no reduction of rights or privileges and with no decision makers being sent to prison.

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During Public Service Recognition Week, Remember the Unsung Heroes of Hurricane Sandy: Postal Workers!

In 2013, Hurricane Sandy pushed a wall of water into New York Harbor, turning streets into rivers and basements into lakes. A power station on the lower west side of Manhattan was one of the first buildings to flood; the circuits shorted out immediately, plunging much of the city into darkness. Fifteen blocks north, the whir and bustle inside the U.S. Postal Service’s Morgan Processing and Distribution Facility was replaced by the sound of sloshing water, as employees there worked without power under the dim glow of emergency lighting.

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Reject Government Contractors Who Draw the Blinds on Sunshine

Once a year, Sunshine Week rolls around and presents us with an opportunity to assess how open and transparent our government is. But with more and more public services being contracted out to private companies, sunlight’s “disinfectant” effects are being lost, according to a new report by In the Public Interest – Closing the Books: How Government Contractors Hide Public Records. The report shows how government contractors are hiding the data needed to evaluate whether contracting out to private companies is a better deal for taxpayers than leaving services in the hands of public employees.

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What We Lose with a Privatized Postal Service

Did you know that when you ship a package through Federal Express, the U.S. Postal Service often carries it the last mile? Last year, the Postal Service delivered 1.4 billion packages for FedEx and UPS. In fact, it delivers the last mile for almost a third of FedEx packages. The 618,000 Postal Service workers also delivered nearly 66 billion pieces of first-class mail — that’s more than 100,000 pieces per carrier.

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Keystone Pipeline: Foreign Profits, American Risk

Media coverage of the Keystone XL pipeline is coalescing around a single narrative. It goes like this: environmentalists oppose the pipeline because of climate change concerns, and U.S. construction companies support the pipeline because it creates jobs. Environmentalists warn that tar sands crude oil has three times the global warming potential of conventional crude. Oil industry interests shrug and say Canadian companies will continue to extract tar sands, with or without the pipeline. Pipeline opponents then counter: fewer than 50 permanent jobs will be needed to staff the pipeline, a few thousand temporary construction jobs to build it. But this rendering of the debate misses the larger picture.

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New Legislation Aims to End High-Frequency Trading but Misses Opportunity to Invest in Critical, Underfunded Public Needs

Earlier this week, Maryland Congressman Chris Van Hollen introduced a much-needed sales tax on Wall Street transactions. The legislation would largely put an end to high-frequency trading by firms seeking to game the market.

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Valuing Labor Means Helping Workers, Especially When There Are No Jobs

As we take a three-day weekend to celebrate those who labor, let us take a moment to remember the families who won’t be planning picnics or a last trip to the beach. Despite some positive economic indicators, 9.7 million Americans are still out of work, almost a third for more than six months. More than seven million more have taken part-time work at poor wages to make ends meet even though they need full time work to pay the bills. And three-quarters of a million more have little hope and have given up looking for work and as a result are no longer counted as “unemployed.” (They are just “out of the labor force.”)

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We Can Fix This. We've Done It Before. Re-imagining Government

When I talk to people who work in Washington, DC these days, I'm struck by the resignation. The political/policy professionals with whom I interact regularly are discouraged by the political posturing that undermines serious efforts at addressing national needs. They've counted noses and can tell me why nothing can happen in the next month, before November, before the end of the year, before the next presidential election. They tell us why we should give up. The fatigue is palpable, heavy, and contagious.

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What is this Country about Anymore?

Meet Mark. He's a 58 year old, college-educated veteran who lives in Oregon. He was laid off last September and has been unable to find work since. Mark's state unemployment benefits ran out in May. Since funding for the federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation program was cut last December, Mark and more than three million other Americans, including nearly 300,000 veterans, have been denied access to a second six months of support — a vital financial lifeline in this tough economy. Mark is way behind in his rent, is selling everything of value he owns, and fears he will be homeless soon.

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