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JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaConsume(Photo: lyzadanger)Good news, people: The "boom" is back! Yes, good times are here again, thanks to an economic boom that's being generated by (of all things) bad times.

As you might know from your own experiences, tens of millions of Americans have been hit hard, knocked down and held down in recent years by the collapse of jobs and wages. This calamity has led to a second blow for millions of the same families, who find themselves suddenly buried in piles of overdue bills for credit card charges, student loans and other consumer debt.

But the good news is that there's a bright silver lining in that dark financial cloud. Only, it's not for the indebted families, but for a booming breed of finance hucksters known as consumer debt buyers. Believe it or not, in the warped world of high finance,

"There's gold in them thar hills" of bad debt, and where there's gold, there are diggers.

Whenever a corporation issues a statement declaring that it's committed to "treating consumers fairly and with respect," chances are, it's not.

2015.23.3 BERKOWITZ BF(Photo: Libsciterp)BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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After her grandmother died in 2002, and the subsequent death of her paternal grandfather two years later, Chamique Holdsclaw’s world began to unravel.

At one time, her life mostly revolved around playing basketball. She could do just about anything asked of her – and more -- on the court. From Christ the King Regional High School in Queens, New York, to the basketball program at the University of Tennessee -- where she played for the legendary coach Pat Summitt and helped lead the Lady Vols to three consecutive national championships -- to the WNBA (Women's National Basketball Association), Holdsclaw was a star.

She won numerous prestigious awards, including the 1998 Sullivan Award for best amateur athlete -- male or female -- in the country, and she was named the Naismith College Player of the Year in 1998 and 1999. She was WNBA Rookie of the Year in 1999, became a six-time WNBA All-Star, and won a Gold Medal as part of the U.S. team (she didn’t play because of a stress fracture in her right foot) that won the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. She was one of the most recognized faces in women’s professional basketball.

A little over a decade later, in November 2012, Holdsclaw captured headlines for something altogether unexpected; she was arrested for allegedly smashing up her ex-girlfriend's car while the friend was inside. Less than a year after that, she pled guilty to aggravated assault, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony and other charges. She was fined, sentenced to three years probation, and community service.

In her 2012 autobiography titled Breaking Through: Beating the Odds Shot After Shot, Holdsclaw revealed that she had been battling depression during her professional basketball career, and had attempted suicide on one occasion.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aevictionstop(Photo: Lynn Friedman)

recent study by researchers at Harvard and Rice Universities explored the impact of housing evictions. According to the study's abstract, it finds:

Millions of families across the United States are evicted each year. Yet, we know next to nothing about the impact eviction has on their lives. Focusing on low-income urban mothers, a population at high risk of eviction, this study is among the first to examine rigorously the consequences of involuntary displacement from housing.... Compared to matched mothers who were not evicted, mothers who were evicted in the previous year experienced more material hardship, were more likely to suffer from depression, reported worse health for themselves and their children, and reported more parenting stress.

Mothers, as the Harvard/Rice research concludes, are particularly vulnerable because they most often provide the emotional glue that holds a family together.

It makes sense that families under severe economic stress would become more distressed - and experience more health problems - after eviction, but little research has been done on the topic until now. When it comes to homelessness, three trends have become clear over the past few years: 1) The number of homeless adults, teens and children is rising; 2) the number of homeless shelters is limited; and 3) more cities are prohibiting people who are homeless from sleeping on public property.

2015.23.3 BUCHHEIT(Photo: Masha Krasnova-Shabaeva)PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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The Project on Government Oversight found that in 33 of 35 cases the federal government spent more on private contractors than on public employees for the same services. The authors of the report summarized, "Our findings were shocking."

Yet our elected leaders persist in their belief that free-market capitalism works best. Here are a few fact-based examples that say otherwise.

Health Care: Markups of 100%....1,000%....100,000%

Broadcast Journalist Edward R. Murrow in 1955: Who owns the patent on this vaccine?
Polio Researcher Jonas Salk: Well, the people, I would say. There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?

We don't hear much of that anymore. The public-minded sentiment of the 1950s, with the sense of wartime cooperation still in the minds of researchers and innovators, has yielded to the neoliberal winner-take-all business model.

COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaDivestSwarthmore(Photo: EcoWatch)Early this morning, Swarthmore Mountain Justice launched a sit-in for fossil fuel divestment at Swarthmore College. Students at this Quaker college in Pennsylvania helped launch the campus divestment movement, which is now active at hundreds of universities across North America, Europe and Australia. The 37 students and six alumni are asking the Swarthmore Board Investment Committee chair Chris Niemczewski and board chair Gil Kemp to “return to the negotiating table and agree to end the college’s investments in a rogue industry that violates Swarthmore’s Quaker values and recklessly imperils a just and sustainable future for our generation,” according to a statement from the group.

“It is unconscionable for Swarthmore, as an institution of higher education with a commitment to social responsibility, to invest in an industry that is actively destabilizing the future that our education is meant to prepare us for,” said Sophia Zaia, a freshman and sit-in organizer.

The campaign has strong support from the campus community: 1,100 faculty and alumni and 970 students (61 percent of the student body) signed a petition demanding the college divests from fossil fuels. It even has a very high profile endorsement: Christiana Figueres, the UN climate chief, who graduated from Swarthmore in 1979.

The group has chosen to sit-in because talks with the university, which started four years ago, have stalled, according to The Guardian.  The group has a proposal, on which they consulted with the vice president of finance at Swarthmore, that shows how the college can fully divest by 2020, the same year that global emissions must peak in order to avoid catastrophic climate change. “Despite this, the board rejected this historic opportunity to show international leadership on climate,” said Chris Malifronti, a freshman and sit-in organizer.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

avote(Photo: Theresa Thompson)

After President Obama stated in a speech that the United States would be a more robust democracy if everyone voted - and that it would help to reduce the influence of big money - the voter suppression meme emerged loud and clear at Fox News.

Obama, in a speech at the Cleveland City Club on March 19, stated:

It would be transformative if everybody voted. That would counteract money more than anything. If everyone voted, it would completely change the political map in this country. Because the people who tend not to vote are young, they're lower income, they're skewed more heavily towards immigrant groups and minority groups. And, you know, there are often the folks who are scratching and climbing to get in to the middle class, and they're working hard. There's a reason why some folks try to keep them away from the polls, we want to get them into the polls.

Fox's response, of course, didn't explicitly advocate imposing voting obstacles on people of color, the poor and the disabled. Instead, several programs on the network took up the meme that only "informed" voters should exercise their voting rights (clearly implying that certain groups are simply not "qualified" to vote). This idea harkens back to the time that the Constitution was created. Contrary to the glossed-over historical narratives that are taught in most schools, voting, in the early days of the US, was more or less limited to White males with property. Blacks, who were enslaved, couldn't vote. Native Americans couldn't realistically vote; they were being killed in large numbers at the time of the founding of the nation. Women of any color couldn't vote. The list of exclusions goes on.

JEFF BIGGERS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaAppalachiaEcoWatch(Photo: EcoWatch)An escalating series of lawsuits, government rulings, banking decisions and breakthrough health studies has brought the fate of devastating mountaintop removal mining in central Appalachia to the doorstep of state and federal decision-makers this week.

Mountaintop removal is not just on the ropes—it’s down for the count—and several fronts carry the same knockout message: Given the urgent health crisis from the reckless mining operation, the federal government and the states can no longer wait to act.

“The situation here could not be more urgent,” said Vivian Stockman, project coordinator at the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition. “Under West Virginia’s program, we’ve seen once-vibrant streams die, devastating floods, and loved ones exposed to toxic blasting dust take ill. Mountaintop removal coal mining has destroyed communities and threatens to destroy more. We need OSM to take action now.”

First, after witnessing the mounting health crisis and death toll of friends, family members and miners, citizens living in the fallout of the massive strip mining movements have finally prodded West Virginia state officials to review the more than two dozen peered-reviewed health studies on the impacts of mountaintop removal operations, including a recent study that “shows that dust collected from MTR [mountaintop removal] communities promotes lung cancer.”

Second, on the heels of a galvanized “People’s Foot” movement rally at the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection on Monday, a powerful notice of intent to sue the Obama administration was filed by attorney Patrick C. McGinley, a 40-year titan in coal safety laws and West Virginia University law professor, for its failure to prepare and implement a federal program for West Virginia’s documented oversight and violations of required strip mining regulations.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

rickscottFlorida Governor Rick Scott (Image: DonkeyHotey)

Although cities, beaches and towns on Florida's coast are in danger of permanent flooding due to global warming, Governor Rick Scott has reportedly issued a gag order on state officials, prohibiting them from even mentioning climate change.

According to the Miami Herald, 

DEP [Florida Department of Environmental Protection] officials have been ordered not to use the term “climate change” or “global warming” in any official communications, emails, or reports, according to former DEP employees, consultants, volunteers and records obtained by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting.

The policy goes beyond semantics and has affected reports, educational efforts and public policy in a department with about 3,200 employees and $1.4 billion budget....

“We were told not to use the terms ‘climate change,’ ‘global warming’ or ‘sustainability,’” said Christopher Byrd, an attorney with the DEP’s Office of General Counsel in Tallahassee from 2008 to 2013. “That message was communicated to me and my colleagues by our superiors in the Office of General Counsel.” 

In the Alice-in-corporate-wonderland world of Rick Scott, global warming is a fiction perpetrated by liberals trying to bring down the free-market system.

ANASTASIA PANTSIOS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaOCRNLogo(Photo: EcoWatch)Across the country, battles are raging as communities attempt to protect the air, soil and water within their borders and the safety of their residents. These battles are taking the form of debates about whether state regulations can or should erase local home rule.

Colorado and Texas are engaged in such high-profile battles after voters in communities like Denton, Texas and Boulder, Longmont and Fort Collins, Colorado, passed fracking bans. That has opened up ongoing maneuvers and lawsuits as state governments work with oil and gas companies to uphold the exploration and extraction interests of the latter despite citizen concerns about environmental pollution, noise, traffic and infrastructure stress.

But with communities and citizens becoming more and more determined to have their say, fossil fuel interests put out one blaze only to find a dozen more flaring up. Many of those communities are using a strategy developed by the Pennsylvania-based Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) to address environmental issues: a community bill of rights. Now oil and gas companies are working to suppress those bills of rights.

They were successful in Ohio last week where a judge in Cuyahoga County (Cleveland) struck down the community bill of rights passed by suburban Broadview Heights voters by a 2-1 margin n November 2012 to keep additional drilling operations out of their community. The decision is considered significant because it’s the first community bill of rights in Ohio to get a legal review. Judge Michael Astrab found it in conflict with state law. Many other Ohio cities, including Cincinnati, Youngstown, Athens and Mansfield have passed such bills of rights.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBooks2(Photo: Johannes Jansson)If you were forced to read one book written by a potential Republican Party presidential candidate, would it be by Dr. Ben Carson, Mike Huckabee, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, Rick Santorum, Rand Paul, Rick Perry or Scott Walker?

While none of these books have garnered rave reviews and aren't likely to be particularly memorable, if you chose Dr. Ben Carson's One Nation: What We Can All Do to Save America's Future (co-written with his wife Cindy), you will have picked the book that thus far has out sold all the other books combined, and by a huge margin.

Bloomberg News' David Knowles recently pointed out that "The urge to make the leap from politician to author makes sense on a number of levels. Releasing a book can help introduce a regional politician to a national audience, laying the groundwork for a campaign. While the bulk of a first-time effort will be spent on biographical details and formative anecdotes, most eventually veer toward policy positions without actually committing their authors to specifics, giving readers a hint of how he or she might govern without chiseling a platform in stone."

In 1995, before he launched his campaign for a seat in the Illinois Senate, the then unknown Barack Obama's memoir, Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance was published. In 2004, after Obama had won the U.S. Senate Democratic primary in Illinois, the book was re-published and was received favorably by numerous critics and writers: It "may be the best-written memoir ever produced by an American politician," wrote Time columnist Joe Klein. The Guardian's Rob Woodard pointed out that the book "is easily the most honest, daring, and ambitious volume put out by a major US politician in the last 50 years." Michiko Kakutani, the Pulitzer Prize-winning critic for The New York Times, described it as "the most evocative, lyrical and candid autobiography written by a future president."

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