Daniel Wagner at the Center for Public Integrity describes the new frontier in separating money from prisoners and their families. Some private corporations now charge exorbitant fees for "handling" prisoners' money -- virtually guaranteeing that prisoners stay in debt -- at a time when governments are shifting more of the prisoners' day-to-day costs onto families. Making a prisoner's family buy his or her toilet paper doesn't sound particularly conducive to rehabilitation, nor does holding their money orders hostage so they'll switch to a fee-heavy, online system. This might change when a judge comes out and says that punishing prisoners and their families beyond what the prisoner's sentence actually mandates is unconstitutional.
Laura Gottesdeiner at al Jazeera describes in a lengthy report how the latest boom in North Dakota's boom-and-bust oil cycle has resulted in polluted local farmlands. The main culprit: a wastewater known as "saltwater" (because it's actually much, much saltier than the oceanwater we normally think of as "salt water") that, when it leaks, sterilizes land and poisons animals. I don't expect oil drilling CEOs to care very much, but I hope the oil workers putting in 80-hour work weeks are attending this matter -- unless they think the food they're going to eat is always just going to come from some faraway place.
Slovakian firm wants to convert billboards into housing for the homeless. The don't-help-until-it's-an-emergency model we use to deal with the homeless in America has turned out to be far more costly than, say, Utah's and Charlotte's programs that simply put the homeless up in spare housing, but I feel compelled to note that most American billboards are higher off the ground than they are in Slovakia. I'd hate to think something like that would sink a project like this, but it might. I'd be happy to be wrong.
California Gov. Jerry Brown signs bill that would hold corporations responsible for acts of negligence against temp workers committed by their employment contractors. The law makes some unreasonable exemptions (the trucking industry?) alongside reasonable ones (businesses with fewer than five temp workers almost certainly aren't packing temp workers like sardines into trucks or levying "fees" so onerous they amount to wage theft), but this is a big deal for an often-abused segment of the workforce -- though I do worry that the Supreme Court will one day rule that of course corporations can't be held responsible for what their contractors do, in a land where so many corporations use contractors in the first place precisely because they don't want to be held accountable for the wrong they do their workers.
Finally, we learn about some other corporations that have also abandoned ties with ALEC, as big tech corporations like Google and Facebook have lately done. You may be surprised to find News Corp. among them -- until you remember that the former News Corporation split off into 21st Century Fox and News Corp. in 2013, and the new News Corp. only owns a few newspapers (like the New York Post and the Wall Street Journal) in America. The bigger surprise might be the inveterate right-wing corporation Overstock.com, but Overstock only worked with ALEC for a year anyway. That leaves oil corporation Occidental as the most notable corporation splitting from ALEC -- because hearing an oil corporation express concern that it might be linked with climate change deniers is actually news, in a world where we're used to hearing about oil corporations funding climate change deniers.