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  • Pentagon Won?t Prosecute Troops Involved in Deadly Strike on Afghan Doctors Without Borders Hospital

    The Pentagon does not plan to prosecute any of the military personnel involved in a deadly airstrike on a hospital in Afghanistan last fall.

    The announcement came as the Pentagon released its investigation, which provided new details about the circumstances that led to the attack.

    The incident, in which a US aircraft bombed a Doctors Without Borders medical facility continuously for at least 30 minutes, left 42 civilians dead—including medical staff and patients. The attack destroyed the main building, including the emergency room and intensive care unit. Some patients were burned alive in their hospital beds.

    After a six-month investigation, the Pentagon concluded 16 service members, including one general officer, "failed to comply with the law of armed conflict and rules of engagement."

    Those individuals got administrative sanctions but will not face criminal charges, announced General Joseph Votel, commander of the US Central Command.

    Some were members of the air crew that carried out the strike and others were members of the Army Special Forces unit that called in air support. Five of the service members were ordered out of Afghanistan and the general officer was removed from command. Others were sent to counseling, ordered to take retraining courses, and issued letters of reprimand—which can prevent future promotions.

    A Doctors Without Borders (also known as Médecins Sans Frontières) official said the organization hasn't had time to review the full investigation but the sanctions that have been announced so far are insufficient.

    "The administrative punishments announced by the US today are out of proportion to the destruction of a protected medical facility, the deaths of 42 people, the wounding of dozens of others, and the total loss of vital medical services to hundreds of thousands of people," Doctors Without Borders press officer Tim Shenk said in a statement.

    "The lack of meaningful accountability sends a worrying signal to warring parties, and is unlikely to act as a deterrent against future violations of the rules of war," he said.

    The organization also renewed its call for an independent investigation by the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission into whether the incident constitutes a war crime. General Votel emphasized that the investigation concluded that no war crime had taken place because the targeting of the hospital had been unintentional. The report calls the bombing a "tragic incident" caused by "a combination of human errors, compounded by process and equipment failures."

    The investigation also revealed new details about the bombing:

    • The aircrew was supposed to be targeting a nearby building, which had been overrun by Taliban fighters.
    • When the crew was en route to its target in Kunduz, the aircraft flew off course.
    • Due to technological and communication failures, the air and ground crew mistakenly identified the hospital as the intended target.
    • Even though the hospital was on the military's no-strike list, the aircrew didn't have access to that list during their flight.

    The US government also announced that it has offered condolence payments to more than 170 individuals and families affected by the strike, and the Department of Defense has committed to spend $5.7 million to help rebuild the hospital.

    You can read the Pentagon's summary of its findings here.



  • The Supreme Court Just Made Government Hacking Much Easier

    A Supreme Court ruling issued Thursday could make it much easier for the FBI and other federal law enforcement agencies to hack computers across the country, angering privacy advocates and drawing a rebuke from Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

    The court approved a change to Rule 41 of the federal rules of criminal procedure, which outlines how federal criminal cases are run. The current version of the rule says search warrants are only valid in the relatively small judicial districts where they were issued. Under the new rule, magistrate judges would be able to issue warrants that apply to computers throughout the country, allowing law enforcement officers to hack and infect them remotely. The change still has to be approved by Congress, which has until December 1 to reject or alter the rule change before it automatically takes effect.

    The government says the change is necessary to keep up with wide-ranging computer networks and criminals who use tools to hide their physical locations online. Courts in Oklahoma and Massachusetts threw out evidence this month in two child pornography cases stemming from the government's takeover of a dark-web site called Playpen, which it used to insert tracking tools into the computers of people accessing child porn. Because the order allowing the takeover was issued by a judge in Virginia, the judges in the two cases said, the evidence from the investigation could not be used elsewhere.

    But privacy advocates say the rule change is an attempt by the government to expand its hacking powers without public debate. "Instead of directly asking Congress for authorization to break into computers, the Justice Department is now trying to quietly circumvent the legislative process by pushing for a change in court rules, pretending that its government hacking proposal is a mere procedural formality rather than the massive change to the law that it really is," said Kevin Bankston, the director of the Open Technology Institute at the liberal-leaning New America Foundation, in a statement.

    Sen. Ron Wyden also attacked the rule change as overly broad. "Under the proposed rules, the government would now be able to obtain a single warrant to access and search thousands or millions of computers at once; and the vast majority of the affected computers would belong to the victims, not the perpetrators, of a cybercrime," he said in a press release. Wyden has promised to introduce a bill that would reverse the Supreme Court's ruling.



  • A Week of Slaughter in Aleppo Also Destroyed One Of Its Hospitals

    On Wednesday night, two missiles from the Assad regime's Syrian Arab Air Force struck the Al Quds hospital in Aleppo, killing at least 14 medical staff and patients, including one of the last pediatricians who still worked in Syria's largest city. Within 24 hours of the attack, widespread airstrikes and shelling in the area killed at least another 60 people, bringing Syria's death toll for the week to around 200. Rescue workers from Syria Civil Defense, which lost five of its own members when targeted strikes hit one of its centers earlier in the week, report that they are "still dragging people from the rubble."

    "This devastating attack has destroyed a vital hospital in Aleppo, and the main referral center for pediatric care in the area," wrote Muskilda Zancada, Doctors Without Borders' head of mission for Syria, in an online statement. "Where is the outrage among those with the power and obligation to stop this carnage?"

    In Syria's five-year-old war that has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives, the attack on the Doctors Without Borders-supported Al Quds hospital is part of a broader pattern of Bashar Al-Assad's systematic targeting of civilian infrastructure. Airstrikes on civilian neighborhoods and medical facilities are the norm, despite being illegal under international law. The United Nations estimates that at least half of Syria's medical facilities have been destroyed. A report from the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) from February 2015 estimated that some 600 medical professionals had been killed in the fighting, a figure that doesn't account for the past year of the conflict.

    "Compounding this tragedy is that the dedication and commitment of the staff of Al Quds, working under unimaginable conditions, has been unwavering throughout this bloody conflict," said Zancada. A press release from SAMS this morning said that Mohammed Wasim Moaz, the last remaining pediatrician in the eastern part of Aleppo, was considered "one of the best pediatricians left in Syria."

    This week's increased attacks on Aleppo come amid what was supposed to be a partial ceasefire in Syria, but which has all but collapsed. Staffan de Mistura, the UN envoy for Syria, characterized the talks as "barely alive," the Guardian reports. "How can you have substantial talks when you have only news about bombing and shelling?" he asked.

    Meanwhile, many believe the situation in Aleppo will only get worse in coming weeks, with reports of a military buildup around Aleppo that some fear will result in the government's attempt to embark on a complete siege of the city's civilian neighborhoods.

    "Wherever you are, you hear explosions of mortars, shelling and planes flying over," said Valter Gros of the International Committee of the Red Cross in a statement yesterday. "There is no neighborhood of the city that hasn't been hit. People are living on the edge. Everyone here fears for their lives and nobody knows what is coming next."

    In videos of the ongoing violence posted online, rescue workers drag bodies—including those of children—from collapsed buildings, old men sob, residents race injured victims away in cars, and a terrified young girl in pigtails cries quietly in the arms of a man.

    A week before the most recent onslaught, Syria Civil Defense—a volunteer organization established in 2013 that attempts to provide help to victims of the massive bombing campaigns—posted a heartbreaking tweet, as new rounds of airstrikes began hitting Aleppo following a brief respite from the fighting under the ceasefire. The tweet foreshadows what appears to be yet another bloody chapter in Syria's war:

    "We return to work with sadness and heavy hearts," Syria Civil Defense reported a few days later. As the UN warns of a "catastrophic breakdown"—noting that in the past 48 hours, one Syrian has been killed every 25 minutes—the worst may still lie ahead.



  • Chaos at California?s GOP Convention

    With California's unusually high-stakes primary just weeks away, the top contenders for the Republican presidential nomination have descended on their party's state convention in Burlingame, a suburban enclave 16 miles south of San Francisco. This weekend's convention will be a key opportunity for Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and John Kasich: For the first time in at least a half century, the GOP presidential nomination will hinge on who Californians vote for in the state's June 7 primary. This has empowered local GOP officials, some of whom have toiled in obscurity for years, running quixotic candidates against Nancy Pelosi or denouncing local climate-change laws in Santa Cruz. Suddenly, these GOP officials now possess valuable connections with potential volunteers and local voters.

    I have a ticket to the convention and will be posting live updates here.



  • President Obama's Plan to Make America Smarter About Guns

    On Friday, President Barack Obama released a plan for the federal government to promote the development of smart-gun technology. The guns, also known as "personalized firearms," employ biometric or other sensor technologies to prevent them from being fired by anyone other than their owners.

    "Today, many gun injuries and deaths are the result of legal guns that were stolen, misused, or discharged accidentally," Obama said in a Facebook post. "As long as we've got the technology to prevent a criminal from stealing and using your smartphone, then we should be able to prevent the wrong person from pulling a trigger on a gun."

    Obama began advocating smart guns in January, as part of his latest push to confront America's costly gun violence crisis. He ordered the departments of Justice, Defense, and Homeland Security to develop a strategy to promote the technologies and expedite government procurement of the weapons. The report released Friday details the following initiatives:

    • By October, the departments of Justice and Homeland Security will establish requirements that smart-gun manufacturers need to meet in order for their guns to be purchased by law enforcement agencies. They will also identify agencies willing to participate in a smart-gun pilot program.
    • The Department of Defense will help manufacturers test smart-gun technologies at the US Army Aberdeen Test Center in Maryland. Manufacturers will be eligible to win cash prizes for successful designs.
    • The Department of Justice has authorized agencies to apply certain federal grants to the purchase of smart guns.

    Gun companies first pursued smart guns in the 1990s, in part at the urging of the Clinton administration. Colt, Smith & Wesson, and O.F. Mossberg & Sons developed prototypes. The products were shelved, however, when market research showed consumers didn't trust the weapons—and after the National Rifle Association and other gun rights activists denounced the companies for a product they claimed was a Trojan horse for gun control.

    The recent rise in mass shootings has helped renew interest in smart guns, including among investors in Silicon Valley. The Smart Tech Challenges Foundation, created by angel investor Ron Conway after the 2012 Newtown massacre, has handed out about $1 million in funding to gun safety startups. One grant recipient was Jonathan Mossberg, a former Mossberg & Sons VP and the developer of the iGun, a shotgun that will only fire if the shooter is wearing a special ring. Mossberg, who is working on miniaturizing his technology for handguns, told me by phone on Friday that Obama's efforts could "raise a whole lot of interest and give people a sense of this market."

    By one estimate, smart guns may be a $1 billion slice of the industry. The White House initiative could help create more opportunity in the major market for supplying law enforcement agencies. Mossberg and a handful of other smart-gun developers have long been trying to get police departments interested in their weapons; an estimated 5 to 10 percent of police deaths occur when officers' own firearms are used against them. Some law enforcement leaders have shown support for adopting the technology, including San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr.

    But strong opposition continues: The NRA remains sharply critical of Obama's policy, which suggests the gun industry is likely to follow suit and ignore efforts on the technology. The Fraternal Order of Police, a national interest group representing the rank and file, is also signaling skepticism. "Police officers in general, federal officers in particular, shouldn't be asked to be guinea pigs in evaluating a firearm nobody's even seen yet," FOP Director James Pasco told Politico. "We have some very, very serious questions." (Politico failed to note that a charity run by the FOP has received at least $125,000 since 2010 from another conservative gun lobbying group, the National Shooting Sports Foundation.)

    Obama on Friday also announced several other gun safety initiatives, including a proposed rule requiring the Social Security Administration to better report mental-illness information to the federal background check system, and a gun violence prevention conference to be hosted by the White House in May.



  • Watch Amy Schumer Mock America's Gun Habit

    Comedy's It Girl is back again to mock the country's lax gun laws. In a sketch on last night's episode of Inside Amy Schumer, Schumer and her co-star play two hosts on a home shopping network eager to sell their products, including a Steve Irwin commemorative coin and, of course, a gun.

    "Here's what great about this...pretty much anyone can purchase this!" Schumer says as her co-host plays with the handgun before taking some calls from shoppers at home.

    After a man calls in asking to buy a commemorative coin, Schumer instead offers him a firearm. The caller laments that he's unable to purchase one as he has several violent felonies. "Caller, you bite your tongue, you silly goose!" Schumer responds. "You can absolutely get a gun if you have several felonies, as long as you buy it on the internet or at a gun show."

    Her co-host informs the caller that at a gun show, he can buy guns from unlicensed dealer, no questions asked.

    "Just a reminder for all the parents at home: These make perfect stocking stuffers," Schumer says as she lovingly handles the gun. "These are great for any age group." 

    Another caller expresses interest in buying "a lot of these," but fears he is unable to, as he's a suspected terrorist on the no-fly list.

    "Aw, you're fine, sweet potato fries," Schumer responds. "No one can you tell you that you don't have a right to buy a gun in this country you're trying to destroy!"

    Schumer signs off with a pre-commercial promo for her next product. "We're going to be selling you United States congressmen and senators whose influence can be purchased much cheaper than you think," she says. Several names of the top recipients of gun lobby money in Congress appear on screen, including Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Mitch McConnell.

    Schumer and Julianne Moore are among the slew of famous names who have aligned with the gun safety group Everytown for Gun Safety. Schumer became a vocal gun control advocate after a shooting in a Louisiana movie theater left two people dead last year during a screening of her movie Trainwreck. Schumer also tapped into her political connections: Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York is her cousin. Last summer, the two joined forces to urge Congress to pass common-sense gun legislation.

    It's not the first time Amy Schumer has mocked America's obsession with the Second Amendment. Last October, Schumer hosted Saturday Night Live, starring in a parody commercial for guns that ended with the tagline, "Guns. We're here to stay."



  • Teenagers Are Having Fewer Kids?Here's Why

    The number of teenage women having children has hit an all-time low, thanks in large part to increased contraceptive access and use among Hispanic and African American teenagers, according to a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    For decades, the United States has had higher rates of teen pregnancy than most other developed countries. But recent increases in access to contraception, particularly to long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) such as IUDs and implants, have helped women of all ages reduce the chances of unintended pregnancy. Since 2002, LARC use has increased five-fold, with most of that change being due to greater use of IUDs.

    Though the CDC stopped short of completely attributing the drop in teen births to contraceptives like LARCs, according to the report "preliminary data" suggests that the use of evidence-based reproductive health services, including contraceptives, is what has led to the huge drop in childbirth among young women over the last ten years.

    The drop was particularly notable among Hispanic and African American teenagers. Birth rates for young Hispanic women fell 51 percent since 2006, and for black teenagers 44 percent. That's a big deal, because Hispanic and African American teenagers have historically had much higher rates of teen pregnancies than their white counterparts. Ten years ago, the birth rate for Hispanic teens was nearly 80 births per 1,000 women, but the rate for white teens was around 25. Now, the rate for Hispanic women is closer to 40.

    Still, even though the number of white teens having children has also decreased, black and Hispanic teens still have twice as many pregnancies as their white peers.  According to the report, that's because social inequalities, like income and education, and employment opportunities, remain low in communities of color and influence rates of teen pregnancy.

    "The United States has made remarkable progress in reducing both teen pregnancy and racial and ethnic differences," CDC Director Tom Frieden told the Washington Post. "But the reality is, too many American teens are still having babies."



  • GOP Insider Trent Lott Tried to Broker a Kasich-Rubio Ticket to Thwart Donald Trump

    The other day, I bumped into Trent Lott, the former Republican Senate majority leader who's now at the law and lobbying firm Squire Patton Boggs (its clients include Airbus, Goldman Sachs, and Royal Dutch Shell). He's always polite and chatty—these days he's promoting a book he wrote with former Democratic Sen. Tom Daschle called Crisis Point that decries the partisan polarization of Washington and offers proposals for de-gridlocking the city—and he asked me what I was up to. I noted that I had just finished listening to a Donald Trump speech. Lott rolled his eyes. I asked which candidate he liked best, though I had a good guess. Almost all the former Capitol Hill GOPers who are now lobbyists in DC are pulling for Ohio Gov. John Kasich, and, sure enough, Lott declared he's on Team Kasich. And, Lott added, he had been trying to thwart Trump.

    How so? I asked.

    Lott said he had actively tried to broker a deal between Kasich and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), another Washington Republican favorite whose presidential campaign did not last too long once the voting started. This was Lott's plan: Kasich and Rubio would agree to run as a ticket, with Rubio in the veep slot, and the pair would keep this quiet and not announce the deal until days before the Republican convention. This dramatic, headline-grabbing move, in Lott's thinking, would dominate the news, as GOPers gathered in Cleveland, and potentially rewrite the narrative of the Republican race. That is, the Kasich-Rubio ticket would be the story, not Trump. This would "shake up the landscape," Lott said.

    Lott told me that he had put some time into this idea but, alas, it was now probably dead. Why? First, he said, Kasich's alliance with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), which lasted several nanoseconds, had gotten in the way. That ill-fated deal—under which Kasich would not campaign in Indiana and give Cruz a one-on-one shot at Trump—bolstered Trump's claim that Republican insiders were plotting against him and conniving to undermine the will of  GOP voters. Another brokered arrangement, Lott said, would look awful. In essence, the party deal-makers could only get one shot to concoct a stop-Trump deal, and they had blown their chance.

    And there was another reason to pull the plug on the Kasich-Rubio plan, Lott said: It now seemed as if Trump would snag the 1,237 delegates needed to obtain the nomination—or get damn close. Lott is one of the growing number of GOP bigwigs saying that if the real estate mogul is close to the magic number, it will be all but impossible to not hand him the presidential nomination. Not even a Kasich-Rubio dream ticket—well, it's a dream for K Street Republicans, at least—could stop Trump, if he's within spitting distance of 1,237.

    "But I tried," Lott said.

    I later asked a Kasich adviser about Lott's plan, and he said, "The Kasich-Rubio or Rubio-Kasich team has been hanging around for months as a concept that could potentially be very popular with the delegates. I know of no active pursuit of that concept presently, perhaps because what I have heard is that Rubio has been making overtures to Trump." (Rubio and Trump! How's that for wonderful political gossip?)

    Lott went on to note that he believes Trump could win a general election against Hillary Clinton. "There's something happening in this country, and Trump has tapped into it," he explained. Lott pointed out that when he goes back home to Mississippi he comes across plenty of blue-collar workers who are pissed off about trade deals and immigration. They're for Trump, and some are Democrats. He noted that when he was in Congress he supported every trade deal that came through but now would not. And, he added, did you know this: One out of five households in this country don't have anyone working in a job. His analysis: It's a mess out there, and Trump could well ride populist anger into the White House.

    But would Lott vote for Trump over Clinton? "Yes, I would," Lott answered, without any hesitancy. Really? I replied. He said he would have no qualms doing so. But, he added, if Vice President Joe Biden were the Democratic candidate, he would vote for Biden.

    "That's not going to happen," I said.

    "Yeah," Lott replied. "That's too bad."



  • America's Most Notorious Coal Baron Is Going to Prison. But He Still Haunts West Virginia Politics.

    As CEO of Massey Energy, central Appalachia's largest coal producer, Don Blankenship towered over West Virginia politics for more than a decade by spending millions to bolster Republican candidates and causes. That chapter came to an end in April, when Blankenship was sentenced to a year in prison for conspiring to commit mine safety violations in the period leading up to the deadly 2010 explosion at Massey's Upper Big Branch mine. But even in absentia, he casts a long shadow over state politics. For evidence, look no further than the contentious Democratic primary for governor.

    The campaign pits Jim Justice, a billionaire coal operator and high school basketball coach, against two opponents—state Senate Minority Leader Jeff Kessler, and Booth Goodwin, the former US attorney who prosecuted Blankenship. Justice holds a double-digit lead in the polls and (not unlike another billionaire running for office this year) is spending much of his time arguing that his 10-figure net worth will insulate him from special interests. But when he was asked about the Blankenship conviction at a campaign stop earlier this month, he ripped into Goodwin for what he considered to be a sloppy, opportunistic prosecution.

    "I think we spent an ungodly amount of money within our state to probably keep Booth Goodwin in the limelight and end up with a misdemeanor charge," Justice told WOAY TV. "If that's all we are going to end up with, why did we spend that much money to do that?"

    Blankenship originally faced up to 30 years for making false statements to federal regulators, but he was convicted on only the least serious of three counts—the misdemeanor conspiracy charge. In Goodwin's view (and in the minds of plenty of Blankenship's critics), his light sentence is the product of weak mine safety laws, not lax prosecution. As he told the Charleston Gazette-Mail, "It is not our fault that violating laws designed to protect workers is punished less harshly than violations of laws designed to protect Wall Street." (Nor was the Blankenship case a one-time gimmick—prior to that trial, Goodwin also secured the convictions of a handful of Blankenship's subordinates at Massey.)

    Goodwin fired back at Justice in a fundraising email to supporters. He referred to Blankenship as Justice's "good friend," alleging that Justice "took him as his personal guest to the 2012 Kentucky Derby two years after the horrific Upper Big Branch mine explosion," and that he attended a gala that night with Blankenship, hosted by then-Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, "while the families of the UBB miners who were killed were still suffering their loss." (A Beshear spokesman told the Louisville Courier-Journal at the time that Blankenship attended Derby Day events as Justice's guest, which Justice's campaign denies.) For good measure, he noted that Justice, like Blankenship, had racked up a huge tab of mine safety violation fines, some $2 million of which had gone unpaid and were considered "delinquent" prior to the start of the campaign. (Justice began paying off the fines after an NPR investigation made the total bill public.)

    On Monday, Goodwin's campaign went after Justice again, releasing an ad based on the front-runner's remarks about the Blankenship prosecution. In the spot, Judy Jones Petersen, the sister of a miner who died at UBB, speaks straight to the camera and suggests that the two coal operators have more in common than Justice would like to admit.

    "I don't really understand why Mr. Justice would step out against the integrity of this incredible prosecution team," Petersen says. "He of all people as a coal mining operator should understand the plight of coal miners, but I think that unfortunately the plight that he understands best is the plight of Don Blankenship."

    She goes on to call Goodwin a "hero" for prosecuting Blankenship.

    Justice, for his part, is running his own ad—touting an endorsement from the United Mine Workers praising him for his record on safety and job creation. The union's president, Cecil Roberts, previously called the UBB disaster "industrial homicide," and fought Blankenship over mine safety and workers' rights for three decades. His message is a not-too-subtle contrast with Blankenship and Massey: "Jim is one of the good coal operators."

    Don't expect Blankenship's shadow to shrink as the race heats up. The Democratic primary is set for May 10—two days before the notorious coal boss reports to federal prison.



  • Why the People Picking California's Tomatoes Can't Afford to Eat Them

    Spring is upon us, which means the weather is finally nice enough to sit outside and munch on a grilled burger slathered with ketchup. Or, if you prefer, a crispy salad topped with strawberries and walnuts. Either way, chances are that at least a few of the ingredients in your meal were grown in California—the country's cornucopia. The Golden State cultivates more than a third of all vegetables and two-thirds of all fruits and nuts sold domestically. California is also home to the largest number of farmers markets and, according to the most recent USDA Organic Survey, the highest number of 100 percent organic farms of any state.

    But many of the people growing and picking this food would view a fresh spring picnic as a rare luxury. A high percentage of farmworkers in California's agricultural counties struggle with hunger and diet-related health problems, according to a new report by the policy research group California Institute for Rural Studies. Nearly half of the workers interviewed in Yolo County, just east of the state's capital, have trouble putting dinner on the table, a rate nearly three times higher than national and state averages.

    "Ironically, the same agricultural workers who are responsible for producing an abundance of food find themselves at serious risk of hunger, diet-related chronic diseases, unsafe living and working conditions, and inadequate access to health care," the report states.

    Yolo County is just east of Sacramento and encompasses the headquarters of the Mariani Nut Company, one of the biggest privately held walnut and almond producers in the world, and Rominger Brothers Farms, subject of this profile by former New York Times columnist Mark Bittman. Yolo is the state's largest producer of safflower, used to make vegetable oil, and the state's third-largest producer of grain.

    The area is best known for its tomatoes. A whopping 96 percent of the United States' processing tomatoes—which are used in pizza sauce, ketchup, and soup—are grown in California, and Yolo is the second-largest producer in the state. When asked what they would buy if money were no object, the workers surveyed listed tomatoes over all other fruits and vegetable. Yet, as the CIRS report notes, though tomatoes are a staple for many of the Latino farm workers employed there, those very same workers cannot always afford to buy them locally.

    Almost one-third of the farmworkers CIRS interviewed said they didn't have enough food to eat a balanced and nutritious diet regularly, and 15 percent had to eat less or stop eating because there wasn't enough money for food. Two previous surveys by the California Institute for Rural Studies have also shown that workers in Fresno County and Salinas, which are located south of Yolo, also face high rates of hunger. Fresno is known for its almonds and grapes, while the coastal region of Salinas produces much of the nation's lettuce and strawberries.

    Part of the reason farmworkers have trouble accessing nutritious food in these agricultural areas may have to do with geography. Rural Yolo County qualifies as a food desert, with vast stretches lacking any supermarkets. Yolo County Food Bank serves about 47,000 people per month and more than a quarter of its stock is fresh produce, but there are still stretches in the county's rural northwest, where 40 percent of the farmworkers surveyed live, that the food bank doesn't serve, because the program tends to focus on more urban areas.

    Access to healthy food is also deeply tied to low earnings and the undocumented status of many farmers. Farm workers nationwide make an average salary of just $13,000. And about half of California's farmworkers are undocumented. Many don't apply for food assistance programs, the study found, because they are afraid of getting detained or deported.

    While California farm workers struggle to fill their pantries, their employers are busy stocking kitchens across the globe. California produces more than 400 different types of foods, from berries and celery to milk and almonds, and exports them to many different countries, including the European Union, Canada, China, India, and Turkey. According to the latest USDA figures, in 2014, nearly 16 percent of total US agricultural exports abroad originated in California, the highest of any state. (Iowa came in second at just 7.5 percent.)

    Given the success of the agricultural industry in California, says Gail Wadsworth, co-executive director of CIRS and one of the authors of the report, there's no reason why farmworkers should get the short end of the stick. CIRS has advised the Yolo Food Bank to encourage more farms to contribute fresh food to the food bank or directly to their workers. Says Wadsworth: "I don't see any rational reason why farmworkers, who are essential to every American's well-being, should be so poorly paid."




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