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Tuesday, April 9, 2019 - 1:30pm
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Secretary Perdue to deliver remarks at the Release of the 2017 Census of Agriculture  

WHAT: Secretary Perdue will deliver remarks at the event highlighting the release of the 2017 Census of Agriculture. Following the remarks, Secretary Perdue will hold a press conference.

*NOTE: The 2017 Census of Agriculture will be released at 12:00pm ET Thursday, April 11th.

WHEN: THURSDAY, April 11th beginning at 1:00pm ET.

WHERE: Whitten Patio, USDA Whitten Building, 1400 Jefferson Drive SW, Washington, DC 20250

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Wealth, Stealth, and Boeing

By Mel Gurtov

1034 words

The Very Rich Get Richer

America is “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” It is also the province of the wealthy. Regardless of administration but most especially now, wealth has been the great separator: the rich get richer, the poor stay poor, and the middle class keeps losing ground. Central to keeping matters that way is political power, and with a wealthy (not to mention corrupt and conniving) businessman in the White House, the very rich can rest easy, knowing their interests will be protected and advanced.
 

In one of his many insightful essays, Robert Reich points to the “grotesque imbalance [that] is undermining American democracy”:

Over the last four decades, the median wage has barely budged. But the incomes of the richest 0.1% have soared by more than 300% and the incomes of the top 0.001% (the 2,300 richest Americans), by more than 600%. The net worth of the wealthiest 0.1% of Americans almost equals that of the bottom 90% combined.

The rich-poor divide in the US is central to our disunity, Reich contends. (He’s not alone: Ray Dalio, billionaire founder of the Bridgewater hedge fund, agrees). Unlike Dalio, most of the wealthiest Americans quail at the thought of imposing major new taxes on wealth and love the benefits of Trump’s “tax reform.” What an extraordinary windfall that tax bill is for them and the largest corporations: for example, $12.4 billion in tax savings for Apple, AT&T, Bank of America, Verizon, and Walmart in the first three quarters of 2018 alone. Adding insult to injury, many of these companies are using those savings to cut jobs and buy back their stocks, inflating their value, rather than (as Trump predicted) invest in creating jobs at home (The Hightower Lowdown, February 2019).
 

Meantime, most Americans—nearly 60 percent—support the ideas of Elizabeth Warren, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and others for real tax reform that would force the mega-corporations and the superrich to pay their fair share. Until they do, we are saddled with high taxes and national debt, now roughly $2 trillion. Paul Krugman cites the human interest here: “think of all the other things we could have done with $2 trillion—all the infrastructure we could have built and repaired, all the people who could have been given essential health care.”
 

The American economic story is that wealth inequality increases along with increasing wealth overall. The higher up in the wealth chain one is, and most especially at the top 1 percent of households, the greater the gains in riches. (Keep in mind that wealth disparity is even greater than income disparity.) And, as the same source emphasizes, the wealth gap is very much racial: white families at every level of wealth on average are several times wealthier than nonwhite families.
 

The captains of industry in America are not faceless. Far from it: most of them and their corporations are household names, such as Bill Gates of Microsoft, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Sergey Brin and Larry Page of Google, Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway, and the Charles G. and David H. Koch brothers. These men may not literally rule the world, but their companies occupy dominant positions in particular industries, their opinions get immediate attention and wide dissemination, and their access to leading politicians worldwide is guaranteed. They are among the handful of billionaires—26 now—who have as much wealth ($1.4 trillion) as roughly 3.8 billion people, or half the world population. You can see a list of the top 500 billionaires at http://www.bloomberg.com/billionaires/.

Gaming the System at Boeing

Dennis Muilenburg, the chairman and CEO of Boeing, took in about $30 million last year when salary, stock options, and other wealth are figured in. His company broke records for revenue ($101 billion) and profit ($10.5 billion). Muilenburg is not on the Bloomberg list, but his exceptional wealth and his company’s high ranking among US corporations do count politically, in the same way that Amazon, Facebook, and the other giants count.
Which brings me to the story of the ill-fated Boeing 737 Max 8, the most recent illustration of how corporate America works.
 

The Max 8 became a staple of the Boeing system thanks to a self-regulated certification process—a seamless interaction between company and regulator. “In practice,” inside sources report, “one Boeing engineer would conduct a test of a particular system on the Max 8, while another Boeing engineer would act as the FAA’s representative, signing on behalf of the U.S. government that the technology complied with federal safety regulations . . . ” Limited oversight, as well as an insufficient number of inspectors and the absence of independent analysis, meant that no one had sufficient authority to monitor the monitors.
 

It helps, of course, to have the FAA run by former airline executives (its new administrator worked for Delta), and have former lobbyists occupy influential posts in the department of transportation (run, let’s remember, by Elaine Chao, wife of Mitch McConnell). It further helps if you have an army of lobbyists (Boeing has about 100) who spend lots of money (over $15 million a year) doing their job, backed by large donations to political candidates ($2.4 million), 329 of whom now serve in Congress.
 

All this political effort has over many years made Boeing a quasi-government airline. It earns the company billion-dollar contracts—over $23 billion in 2017—and the certainty that when foreign governments are choosing which company will supply their commercial or military aircraft, Washington and commercial attachés in US embassies abroad will lobby for Boeing.

 

Thus, if we want to know why the Swamp is so hard to drain, we need only look at the phenomenon called MAGIC: the military-academic-governmental-industrial-complex. This tight-knit interpenetration of public and private interests promotes common interests in profit and power. The complex constantly revitalizes itself, crossing party lines. Yes, on occasion there are disruptions to the smooth functioning of the system, such as the Max 8’s (belated) grounding and federal investigation, the pressure building on Facebook over sharing of private data, and the European Union’s fines of Google. But no one should doubt that these companies will survive and continue to prosper. They have the MAGIC.

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Mel Gurtov, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Portland State University.

 

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Why Everyone Should Know About Interventional Empathy:
A Way to Deescalate Destructive and Self-Destructive Behavior

By Dr. Mark Goulston
 

What would you do if you encountered a suicidal person? You may never have given this subject much thought, which is why we created Stay Alive, a new 75-minute video/podcast documentary available here on YouTube, serving at-risk populations and featuring suicide survivor Kevin Hines and suicide prevention advocate Rayko. (#StayAliveNow) In a time when mental illness, including depression, anxiety, and PTSD, is at an all-time high, it's more important than ever to know what to do to calm down an at-risk person.

Suicide is now the second-leading cause of death among teenagers in the United States, after accidents. The hope that we could help people find their way out of despair was the impetus for creating this film. Suicide prevention isn't just about helping the person who is afflicted. To really move the needle toward saving lives, we need to remove the societal stigma surrounding suicide.

This process begins with helping the people who care about at-risk individuals gain understanding and offer support. The next step is helping society recognize the true struggles of those at risk. Misunderstanding and judgment only further isolate a person who is suicidal. Instead, it's time for more compassion. When everyone understands how much suffering is really going on, we have a real chance to reach out and save lives.

            If someone in your life—or perhaps even a stranger—appears to be out of control and potentially self-destructive or dangerous, interventional empathy is a powerful tool. It's a simple process I have been sharing with law enforcement officers as a way to deescalate potentially violent situations. But anyone can learn to practice interventional empathy, and it could help save someone's life.

            Here is a six-step process for showing interventional empathy if you or someone you encounter appears as if they may become violent or self-destructive:

Step 1: Say, "Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!" Saying this signals you or others to stop agitated behavior. It's pretty primal. After all, this is the same thing you say to a horse when it rears up and is about to start galloping out of control.

Step 2: Say, "Shh...Shh...Shh...Shh..." This sound signals to quiet not just people's words but their minds as well. It's what our teachers did in elementary school, and it still works to quiet a noisy room.

Step 3: Ask, "What happened to you to get you so upset?" This is a way of validating that people have a reason to be upset as opposed to telling them they're wrong or to just "shut up!"

Step 4: Say, "Tell me more." Saying this invites the person to share a story of events leading to this confrontation. As they relate their story, they will feel listened to, understood, and will understand that you are validating the fact that something led to the current confrontation.

Step 5: Ask, "Is this why you're acting the way you are?" This question connects what they say to how they are behaving and communicates that you understand that whatever they are doing makes sense from their point of view. This further deepens your rapport. It also increases their oxytocin levels and decreases their levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, lowering their reactivity and agitation.

Step 6: Say, "A better thing to do right now would be to ______________." Once the person relaxes, you can suggest an alternate behavior. By using "fill in the blank" language, you invite the person to help you come up with a better solution. This empathetic communication transforms their combativeness into communication and helps you both come up with a way out of the situation.

Why This Works

            Empathy is a secret weapon for calming down agitated people. It works because it literally disarms each part of a person's brain in sequence, moving from their most primitive reptilian 'fight or flight' brain, through their mammalian emotional brain, and up into their human rational brain.

 When someone is in trouble, they need the gift of empathy more than anything else. Luckily, we are all equipped to offer this to anyone who needs it. And whether that person in need is you, your best friend, your child, or a stranger on the street, you can change a life—maybe even save a life—by showing that you care.

# # #

If you or someone you love needs help, call 911 or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or visit www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

About Dr. Mark Goulston:

Dr. Mark Goulston is the co-creator and moderator of the suicide prevention documentary Stay Alive. He is a former UCLA professor of psychiatry, FBI hostage negotiation trainer, suicide and violence prevention expert, and one of the world's foremost experts on listening. He is the author of the best-selling "Just Listen": Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone, which became the top book on listening in the world. Dr. Goulston's HBR IdeaCast episode Become a Better Listener is ranked number one of all their podcasts. He is also host of the My Wakeup Call podcast. Dr. Goulston is on the Board of Advisors for HealthCorps and will be receiving the Dr. W. Mark Warfel Resilient Heart Award in April 2019.

For more information, visit Dr. Goulston's website at www.markgoulston.com.

About Stay Alive (#StayAliveNow):

Stay Alive is a 75-minute video/podcast documentary serving at-risk populations. The program's two sections, Understanding and Helping, deliver messages of education, compassion, and caring for those who are in deep despair, along with guidance for their families and friends who love them. Stay Alive is recommended for individuals, families, schools, communities, social services, and churches—anywhere there is a need. Moderated by Mark Goulston, MD, participants in Stay Alive's intimate and disclosing discussion also include Kevin Hines, best known as the man who jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge and survived (www.kevinhinesstory.com), and suicide prevention advocate Rayko (www.rayko.com). #StayAliveNow

 

Stay Alive is available here on YouTube, and will be available on Amazon Prime Video and other distribution channels free of charge. 

For more information, please visit www.stayalivevideo.com.