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Huffington This Week: Headwinds

Posted: 03/07/2013 8:34 pm

In this week's issue, Tom Zeller looks at one man's journey to build a wind farm off the shores of Cape Cod. Twelve years after Jim Gordon, a New England developer of natural gas plants, launched his effort to build the country's first offshore wind project -- known as Cape Wind -- the effort is mired in a bureaucratic tangle of permits, sign-offs, and lawsuits. None of the 130 envisioned wind turbines -- which would send power to shore via undersea cables -- have been built. As Zeller writes, "More than a dozen lawsuits, citing everything from potential disruption of whale and bird migrations to interference with airplane and shipping traffic, the wrecking of commercial fishing grounds and the desecration of sacred Native American sites, have thrown sand in the project's gears at every turn."

Through Gordon, Zeller puts flesh and blood on two of the most pressing crises facing our country: climate change and infrastructure. And while the momentum is slowly gaining -- see President Obama's State of the Union address, where he spoke of action on climate change "for the sake of our children and our future," and promised to "speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy" -- Zeller's story shows that, in many cases, there are simply too many obstacles standing in the way of meaningful change.

As Matthew Brown, an attorney with Common Good -- a nonpartisan group trying to simplify and streamline the approval and rejection process -- puts it, "There has to be a better way. It shows just exactly how far away from the purposes of the process the actual reality has come."

Elsewhere in the issue, Dave Jamieson writes about the bakers of Panera Bread and their efforts to unionize. It's a story of the rapid rise of Panera -- one of the country's increasingly prevalent "fast-casual" restaurants -- and the bitter battle some of its employees are fighting to unionize. A year and a half ago, Jamieson writes, a group of Panera bakers in Michigan decided to join a union, "to improve working conditions and earn something a little closer to a middle-class living." But as Jamieson writes, they've encountered obstacles, including one of the chain's major franchisees, Paul Saber, who is waging an aggressive anti-union campaign.

We meet Kathleen VonEitzen, a Panera baker who spends her 10 p.m.-dawn shift turning out fresh baguettes, cookies, scones, and bagels, and who earns $10.45 per hour, or about $21,000 per year -- just enough to pay the bills, but not enough to cover her husband's heart medication. And Kyle Schilling, a Michigan union hopeful, who says, "I came into this thinking we had the right to bargain collectively. They make it so that it's almost impossible. They just wear you down."

This story appears in Issue 39 of our weekly iPad magazine, Huffington, in the iTunes App store, available Friday, March 8.

 
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