Not everyone is in love with the White House Kitchen Garden.
‘s offense? She went organic. The
Mid America CropLife Association
(MACA), which flacks for agribusiness giants
DuPont Crop Protection
, doesn’t want the first lady getting people thinking they can grow safe, healthy, chemical-free food in their backyards. “Americans are juggling jobs with the needs of children and aging parents,” MACA complained to the White House. “The time needed to tend a garden is not there for the majority of our citizens, certainly not a garden of sufficient productivity to supply much of a family’s year-round food needs.”
While the fertilizer peddlers say the White House garden’s organic status causes them to “shudder,” Detroit-area gardener
counters: “Organic gardening has reached a level of…popularity that it so wholeheartedly deserves. The First Lady taking the step of putting in an organic garden at what is not only the White House, but the people’s house, rings not of some empty symbolic gesture, but of a sign that the tides are turning.” That is what really makes the chemical companies shudder.
Every year, American banks make billions of dollars in overdraft fees. In 2006 these individually small amounts netted $17.5 billion for the industry, and as the economy tanks, banks are expecting the bonanza to increase.
Banks automatically enroll their customers in overdraft loan programs, frequently without the option of declining. Once enrolled, the bank will cover the amount of a check even if your account is empty. The overdraft fees can reach $39 per check and are commonly incurred on multiple transactions simultaneously because of “high-to-low clearing”: the largest check is cleared first, bouncing any smaller checks that happen to clear the same day. With the use of debit cards, transactions can remain pending for days before clearing, greatly increasing the likelihood of such an unfortunate coincidence. As a result, the average overdraft is $17 while the average fee charged is $34.
Presented as a slap on the wrist for the occasional mistake, overdraft fees are actually a form of usury–small, extremely high-interest loans that target the underemployed and working poor. They are rarely a one- time occurrence. According to the
Center for Responsible Lending
(CRL), 75 percent of overdraft fees can be attributed to “chronic borrowers,” people whose finances compel them to treat this as short-term credit. CRL and
Americans for Fairness in Lending
are campaigning for the
Consumer Overdraft Protection Fair Practices Act
, which was reintroduced in Congress by
on March 12. If the act passes, banks would no longer be able to automatically enroll customers in these programs, and the manipulative practice of high-to-low clearing would no longer be legal. R.H. LOSSIN
OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE:
George W. Bush
‘s lawyers claimed that the Geneva Conventions should be dismissed as “quaint” and “obsolete” and that the president could order torture abroad and warrantless wiretapping at home, Yale Law School dean
and Indiana University law professor
were prominent among their critics. President
has now nominated Koh and Johnsen to key posts–legal adviser to the State Department and head of the Office of Legal Counsel, respectively–to help restore respect for the rule of law. Yet conservatives have mounted campaigns to oppose the nominations.