Feast of San Sebastian

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Residents of the tiny town of San Sebastian Abasolo in the Mexican state of Oaxaca celebrate the feast of their patron saint, Saint Sebastian, on January 20. For nine days before that date, residents attend a mass at the church each day, with one family volunteering to make the arrangements. When I visited on January 15, the day started with a meal at the home of Augustin & Leonor Morales Varela. They were the volunteers this day, whose job was to arrange for the priest, the band, the flowers, and the fireworks. Before the mass, they invited at least three dozen neighbors to a meal at their home. Like most in this area, their home is surrounded by a wall, which opens on a dirt courtyard with several structures around the perimeter – an open-sided shed where dinner was served, a saint’s room, living quarters, a shed for cooking and dishwashing, and in the back, a two-stall outhouse. Turkeys and chickens roamed the courtyard. We were served mole negro with rice and chicken. The state of Oaxaca is famous for its moles — there are about seven varieties. The women had been cooking it for two days, and the results were spectacular.
After dinner, everyone joined a loose procession down the street to the church. The men carried candles and the women carried flowers. At the church, the bells rang and firecrackers were set off.  Fr. Victorio Nickolas Velasco celebrated mass, and then everyone filed out of the church and held a procession around the now-dark church courtyard. Then it was back to the house for another meal — tamales with chocolate de agua, drunk out of small bowls, and several varieties of bread.

People’s Climate March

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An estimated 400,000 marched through the streets of New York September 21, demanding urgent action on climate change.

Cinco de Mayo

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The Cinco de Mayo parade in Detroit’s Mexican-American community draws thousands of spectators each year. The parade is followed by the Blessing of the Lowriders.

Chrysler Assembly Plant

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Chrysler’s Sterling Heights Assembly Plant makes the 2015 Chrysler 200. The company recently built a modern paint shop to go along with the existing assembly plant. The paint shop is populated by robots and a few members of the United Auto Workers.

Florida Agriculture

Citrus Packinghouse

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Large farms in south Florida produce citrus, tomatoes, celery, sugar cane, and much more. An urban farm near Miami hires formerly homeless people to grow a variety of organic crops.

Cancer Surgery

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Dr. Shelly Seward performs a hysterectomy on a woman with endometrial cancer at Karmanos Cancer Institute.

New Era Windows Cooperative

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Workers at Republic Windows and Doors occupied their factory in 2008 to prevent its closing. After going through a second owner and a second plant occupation, they have now bought the equipment, formed a workers cooperative, and are making windows again. They are still members of the United Electrical Workers union.

Fermilab: High-Energy Physics Research

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Scientists conduct basic research into the smallest building blocks of matter at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab), west of Chicago. One experiment shoots an intense beam of neutrinos at nearly the speed of light 450 miles through the earth to the Soudan mine in northern Minnesota. Elsewhere, the New Muon Lab is testing superconducting radio-frequency cavities, a key technology for the next generation of particle accelerators.

Immigration Tragedies in Texas

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For Mexicans and Central Americans trying to cross the border into Texas, getting across the Rio Grande is the easy part. The real killer is 70 miles north of the river, where the Border Patrol operates a permanent checkpoint on Highway 281. To get around it, migrants must walk for days in 100 degree heat. Each years, dozens don’t make it. In many cases when bodies, or bones, are found, they are not identified. Many unidentified migrants are buried in the Sacred Heart Cemetery in Falfurrias. At Baylor University, Dr. Lori Baker and her students are studying the remains, trying to determine their identity. For those who make it alive past the Border Patrol’s internal checkpoint, more hazards remain. On a recent summer morning, a driver packed 26 migrants into a Chevy Astro van. Overloaded and unstable, the van turned over just down the road. Two men, too seriously injured to flee, were taken to a hospital. The others scattered, some recaptured by arriving Border Patrol officers.

Fast Food Workers Strike for Higher Pay

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Fast food workers in Detroit staged a one-day strike to press demands for higher wages. Most are now paid at or near the minimum wage of $7.40. They are asking for $15. More than 400 workers walked out at various chains. They were joined at a rally later in the day by hundreds of supporters from the community.

Recycling Center

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Low-wage workers sort paper, glass, plastic, and metals for recycling at the Southeastern Oakland County Resource Recovery Authority. The materials are picked up in curbside recycling bins at homes in 12 suburban Detroit communities.

Cell Phone Recycling

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Cell phones are recycled at ReCellular, a 12-year-old Michigan company. The company collects 100,000 used phones each week, inspects and repairs them, and resells them. Some of the work is done for charities, which collect used phones and profit from the sales.

Owens Lake

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The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is returning some water to California’s Owens Lake, 100 years after it began diverting water from the Owens Valley to Los Angeles via the 233-mile Los Angeles Aqueduct. The diversion ended farming in the valley and caused the lake to dry up, creating massive alkali dust storms. In recent years, LADWP has been required to mitigate the environmental damage, and it has installed a system of pipes, pumps, and dikes to re-water part of the lake.

Mint 400 Off-Road Race Through Mojave Desert

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The Mint 400 off-road vehicle race brings thousands of participants and spectators each year to the Mojave Desert near Las Vegas.

Ivanpah Solar Power Project

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In the Mojave Desert near Las Vegas, several companies including Google are finishing the Ivanpah Solar Project, a solar thermal electric generating facility. The facility’s 300,000 mirrors focus sunlight on three towers, where water is heated to steam. The $2.2 billion project will generate 377 MW of electricity, nearly doubling the amount of solar thermal electricity produced in the United States.

Hurricane Sandy

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Weeks after Hurricane Sandy swept through New York and New Jersey, hundreds of volunteers worked to provide food and supplies for storm victims.

Construction of Keystone XL Pipeline

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Despite environmental objections, construction is underway on the southern portion of the Keystone XL pipeline, which will transport Canadian tar sands oil through the U.S. In Texas, east of Dallas, trees are being cleared and pipe laid. Local landowners who object have been arrested for trespassing on their own property. Pipeline managers have re-routed the line around a group of environmentalists sitting in trees who had hoped to block construction.

Shrimp Trawler on Mobile Bay

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Well before sunrise, Captain Sid Schwartz and his crew – his dad, Jackie Schwartz, and Darrell Goleman – fire up the engine of the 52-foot trawler “Capt. Sid” and slide out of the Dog River Marina for a day of shrimping on Alabama’s Mobile Bay. The day consists of sampling the water with small “try nets” to see what might be caught in a particular location, and then dragging the main trawl net. The contents of that net must be sorted to remove the non-shrimp “bycatch.” Their hope is that the shrimp they catch will be enough to cover their expenses with enough left over to earn a modest living. Captain Schwartz is part of the Alabama Fisheries Cooperative, which sells fresh seafood tested to ensure that it is not contaminated by the BP oil spill.

Blessing of the Graves

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On All Saints Day, November 1, families and priests gather in Louisiana cemeteries for the Blessing of the Graves.

Housing Deconstruction

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Deconstruction is the process of demolishing a house or other building while saving the lumber and other materials for reuse. The WARM Training Center is developing a deconstruction program to recycle some of the many vacant houses in Detroit.

 

Various Topics: Chicago to Denver

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These are images from a trip from Chicago to Denver and back, including Wyoming coal mines, the Denver Mint, a Nebraska ranch, research at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, an oil refinery’s benzene leak into the South Platte River, light rail construction in Denver, and more…

Arizona and Nogales, Sonora

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These are photos from Arizona and the cross-border town of Nogales, Sonora.

Southern California

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Photos from two trips to southern California this year – everything from geothermal energy, wind power, and oil and gas development to L.A.’s flower and fashion districts.

Volunteers Prepare Meals at DC Central Kitchen

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Volunteers prepare meals at the DC Central Kitchen in Washington. The kitchen creates 4,500 meals every day for homeless shelters, soup kitchens, afterschool programs, rehab clinics, and other social service agencies.

Wind Farm Construction

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Construction crews are building a 133-turbine, 212.8-megawatt wind farm in Breckenridge, Michigan for Invenergy Wind and DTE Energy.

The Occupy Movement

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As the Occupy Wall Street movement spread across the country, members of the 99 Percent took to the streets in Chicago’s financial district and in downtown Detroit. The United Auto Workers joined an Occupy Detroit protest against home foreclosures at the Bank of America.

Nevada Ranchers Threatened by Las Vegas Water Pipeline

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Ranchers in eastern Nevada are afraid they’ll be put out of business by the Southern Nevada Water Authority, which wants to build a 300-mile pipeline to siphon billions of gallons of water annually from the valleys where they raise cattle and sheep. They fear that the removal of so much water would dry up their springs and make ranching impossible, much like the building of the Los Angeles Aqueduct dried up California’s Owens Lake and ended most farming in the Owens Valley. Photos are from Dean Baker’s ranch near Great Basin National Park, where he raises cattle and alfalfa, and from Hank Vogler’s Need More Sheep ranch in north Spring Valley.

March Against Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining

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Hundreds of people marched 50 miles through the southern West Virginia coal fields to protest the practice of mountaintop removal, in which the tops of mountains are scraped off and dumped in valleys to get at the coal below. The practice has dramatically reduced the number of jobs in the coal fields while destroying the mountains and polluting the water. The marchers were joined by a thousand more at Blair Mountain, site of a historic 1921 battle between union miners and coal company militia in which more than 100 were killed. Blair Mountain is now threatened with mountaintop removal operations by Arch Coal and Alpha Natural Resources.

Students Study Water Quality of the Rouge River

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Students from dozens of Detroit-area elementary, middle, and high schools study the ecology of the Rouge River every year through the Rouge Education Project. They sample river water, looking for living creatures and making various tests of water quality. The Rouge River flows through many suburban Detroit communities before emptying into the Detroit River.

Robotic Surgery

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Doctors and nurses perform robotic surgery on a cancer patient at St. John Hospital in Detroit.

Peace Activists Oppose New Nuclear Weapons Production

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Opponents of continued nuclear bomb production marched through the streets of Oak Ridge, Tennessee to the gates of the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant. They opposed the government’s plan for a new $6.5 billion Uranium Processing Facility that will build key parts of thermonuclear bombs. Several Japanese Buddhist monks walked eight days from Asheville, North Carolina to join the protest.


Public Employees Fight Back

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There’s a sense of awakening in the labor movement, as the fight against anti-labor legislation in Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana and other states spurs large protests. These photos include: a rally in Michigan in solidarity with Wisconsin public employees; a huge rally in Ohio against Governor John Kasich’s legislation; an AARP protest against Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s plan to tax pensions and use the proceeds to fund a corporate tax reduction; and auto workers wearing red t-shirts at Ford’s Michigan Assembly Plant in solidarity with Wisconsin.

Job Corps Training: Asbestos Removal and Hazardous Waste Cleanup

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Job Corps trainees learn asbestos removal and hazardous waste cleanup techniques at the Michigan Laborers’ Training and Apprenticeship Institute. Job Corps is a free job training program for low-income youth run by the U.S. Department of Labor.

From Michigan to New Mexico

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These images are from a month-long road trip from Michigan to Colorado, south to New Mexico, and back. Subjects range from energy to education, and ranching to radio telescopes, with a look at sheep, mushrooms, trail builders, pipe organs and more.




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