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EUGENE ROBINSON ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

IciclesAnother insane cold wave -- not the infamous "polar vortex," but its evil twin -- is bringing sub-zero and single-digit temperatures to much of the nation. And global warming may be even more extreme, and potentially more catastrophic, than climate scientists had feared.

This is, of course, no contradiction. The rallying cry of the denialists -- "It's really cold outside, so global warming must be a crock!" -- can only be taken seriously by those with a toddler's limited conception of time and space. They forget that it's winter, and apparently they don't quite grasp that even when it's cold in one part of the world, it can be hot in another.

Indeed, while the United States is having an unusually frigid month, Australia has been sweltering through record-breaking heat. Play had to be interrupted at the Australian Open tennis tournament when temperatures in Melbourne reached 109 degrees; one player said her plastic water bottle began to melt. The extreme heat came as officials reported that 2013 was the hottest year in Australia since record-keeping began more than a century ago.

On the global scale, 2013 was "merely" the fourth-warmest or seventh-warmest on record, depending whether you believe the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The agencies take slightly different approaches in analyzing and extrapolating the available data, which accounts for the discrepancy, but they agree on the big picture: It's getting hotter.

Nine of the 10 warmest years on record have occurred since 2002. Deniers who claim there has been a 15-year "pause" in global warming are cherry-picking the data to fit a pre-cooked conclusion: As a baseline they choose 1998, a year in which global temperatures took a huge, anomalous, one-time leap. If you treat 1998 as the statistical outlier that it obviously is, you see a steady and unbroken rise.

2014.1.27.Gates.BFBill Gates PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

The top individuals on the 2013 Forbes 400 list are generally believed to be makers of great companies or concepts. They are the role models of Paul Ryan, who laments, "We're going to a majority of takers versus makers in America." They are defended by Cato Institute CEO John A. Allison IV, who once protested: "Instead of an attack on the 1 percent, let's call it an attack on the very productive."

But many of the richest Americans are takers. The top twenty, with a total net worth of almost two-thirds of a trillion dollars, have all taken from the public or from employees, or through taxes or untaxed inheritances.


Bill Gates

Bill Gates may be a knowledgeable and hard-working man, but he was also lucky and opportunistic. He was a taker. In 1975, at the age of 20, he founded Microsoft with high school buddy Paul Allen. This was the era of the first desktop computers, and numerous small companies were trying to program them, most notably Digital Research, headed by brilliant software designer Gary Kildall. His CP/M operating system (OS) was the industry standard. Even Gates' company used it.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

achase4367539671 cf984dda20 mWith somewhere around $20 billion in fines for civil and criminal violations, JPMorgan Chase is making history.  Of course, as most narcos know, you've got to factor in losing some money to making a lot of money.  That means the leaders of the so-called banks too big to fail -- like their drug cartel counterparts -- are doing just fine indeed.

That is just the case with Jamie Dimon. After a year of virtually non-stop settlements with the US government for various violations of regulations and the law (but no criminal indictments or personal fines against Dimon, or prosecuted criminal charges against the JP Morgan Chase), his board felt that a 77 percent increase in his salary to $20 million a year was in order.  News of the raise came last week as 90 percent of Americans are still feeling an economy dragging them down.

As a New York Daily News January 26 editorial noted with scorn:

With too-big-to-fail arrogance on steroids, the board members of scandal-tainted JPMorgan Chase have boosted Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon’s salary by 77% to a fat, happy and offensive $20 million.

The entire lot of them are beyond shame.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

amed4881836429 95cb76dae8The current US medical system financially rewards hospitals and doctors (particularly highly compensated specialists) for performing more procedures and treating more diseased people, not for prevention (although the Affordable Care Act makes some progress in that direction).  It is perverse: The aging of the US population aside, the healthcare system becomes more profitable institutionally and personally (for medical providers) as the number of diseased patients rises and hi-tech tests and operations are performed. 

Furthermore, a recent New York Times article documented that it is not uncommon for multiple specialists to bill for even standard diagnostic procedures, even if their role was minimal or unnecessary.  

The net result is that the US healthcare system does not generally look at improving community health; it looks at marketing services to treat disease.  The more disease, the greater the revenue.

WALTER BRASCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

BrokenRailThe derailment of a 101-car CSX freight train on a bridge in a densely-populated part of Philadelphia this past week should be yet another warning to politicians who have become cheerleaders for oil and gas fracking.

The train had been hauling crude oil from the Bakken Shale in North Dakota. A severe snow storm delayed by several days removing the derailed cars and 80,000 gallons of crude oil from the decades-old bridge over I-76 and the Schuylkill River, which flows into the Delaware River. Oil and gas companies using horizontal fracking have made the Bakken the most productive oil shale in the country.

Numerous articles and scientific research studies have already shown the link between horizontal fracking and health and environmental problems. But the transportation of shale oil and gas by trains, trucks, and pipelines poses more immediate threats.

About 92,000 of the 106,000 tanker cars currently in service were built before 2011 when stricter regulations mandated new design. The older cars (DOT-111) have an "inadequate design" and are susceptible to leaks and explosions in derailments, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.

Railroad accidents in 2013 in the United States accounted for about 1.15 million gallons of spilled crude oil, more than all spills in the 40 years since the federal government began collecting data, according to the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA).

Thursday, 23 January 2014 07:06

Beyond Our Broken Dreams, A People Rise

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

ClassroomHold the dream with me, as it breaks loose from Jameale Pickett's poem. Something beyond the insane dance of crime and punishment is happening, at least this year, this moment, in Chicago's high schools. Young people are getting a chance to excel and become themselves, as more and more schools find and embrace common sense, also known as restorative justice.

The funding is fragile, precarious, but some schools in struggling communities are figuring out how to break the school-to-prison pipeline, even though the system as a whole remains wrapped up in suspensions, expulsions, zero tolerance and racism.

"The Obama administration on Wednesday urged school officials to abandon unnecessarily harsh suspension and expulsion practices that appear to target black students," the Chicago Sun-Times reported recently.

"In Chicago, although black students in 2009 made up 45 percent of (the Chicago Public Schools') enrollment, 76 percent of all CPS students who received out-of-school suspensions were black, according to Department of Education data. When it came to expulsions, black students made up 80 percent of those who were expelled."

And, as of data from a few years ago, one in four African-American students gets suspended at least once during the school year in Illinois — the highest rate in the nation. Suspensions become blemishes on one's record that are almost impossible to erase. But worst of all, the conflict at the root of every suspension, in the old system of zero tolerance, goes unaddressed — indeed, unacknowledged, either by the school system or the media. Yet every unaddressed conflict festers and grows.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

apet9048470735 1776e179a7The Koch brothers are benefitting from the Alberta tar sands operation big time as they amass mountains of a byproduct -- petroleum coke -- to sell overseas.

As with many toxic industries, the Koch brothers are locating storage large storage piles of “petcoke” in poor down-on-their-heels neighborhoods. This first came to notice in Detroit, where the Kochs were storing the hazardous material -- in open air -- along the Detroit River until ships could transport it overseas (particularly to China).

A similar storage hazard exists on Chicago's struggling Southwest Side, along the Calumet River. Many residents are revolting against Mayor Rahm Emanuel's proposed industry friendly regulations and support a ban on open storage of petroleum coke (a move opposed by Emanuel). 

According to a January 14 article in Midwest Energy News (MEN):

At a public hearing Monday night, local residents made clear that they don’t trust the City Council or Mayor Rahm Emanuel to take meaningful action on the issue.

They think the city’s proposed storage regulations  – crafted by the public health department at the mayor’s behest — would allow piles of petcoke to keep growing and polluting in their neighborhood....

Emanuel last month rejected the idea of a citywide ban on petcoke storage, saying a state or federal solution is needed. 

 

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

asingpay2

New York State Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, who represents the Chelsea and Hell's Kitchen sections of Manhattan (D-75th District), has introduced a bill to implement a true single-payer healthcare system in New York State. Although the legislation made it out of the healthcare committee of the Assembly last year, it then was basically stonewalled from going much further.

Gottfried, chair of the health committee, told BuzzFlash at Truthout, the bill was re-introduced at the beginning of this session on January 8th of 2014.

What makes Gottfried's bill distinct is that it would -- if implemented in its ideal configuration -- be a true single-payer healthcare system for all New Yorkers (except Veterans, who receive care through a government-administered system of providers employed by the Veterans Administration.)

President Obama delivers the 2011 State of the Union Address to a joint session of the United States Congress.President Obama delivers the 2011 State of the Union Address to a joint session of the United States Congress.JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

The rich truly are different from you and me - they tend to hold seats in Congress.

Our nation purports to be a representative democracy, yet you don't find many plumbers, mineworkers, dirt farmers, Walmart associates, roofers, beauty parlor operators, taxi drivers, or other "get-the-job-done" Americans among the 535 members of the U.S. House and Senate.

What you do find is an over-supply of lawmakers drawn from a very thin strata of America's population: Millionaires. In fact, the Center for Responsive Politics reports that last year — for the first time in history — more than half of our senators and House members are in the Millionaires Club. Indeed, the average net worth (the value of what they own minus what they owe) for all lawmakers now totals more than $7 million.

2014.1.22.BF.Tea PartyBILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

They didn't unseat President Obama, their candidates didn't win as many major election victories as they would have hoped, and their numbers in public opinion polls sunk, but, to inelegantly paraphrase Mark Twain, "The Tea Party ain't dead, no way, no how."

"It was a year of countervailing winds and storms. ...The Tea Party movement rose and fell across the year. Though battered and bruised, the core membership of the Tea Party's national factions continued to expand in 2013, even as public opinion waxed and waned." Those are some introductory lines to "The Status of the Tea Party Movement," a comprehensive overview of Tea Party activities over the past year, prepared by the Institute For Research & Education On Human Rights (IREHR).

According to IREHR's Devin Burghart, "The Tea Party cemented its status as an institutional force driving a significant sector of the far right. Moreover, 2013 made it crystal clear that this movement is not about debt and taxes, or even healthcare. It is filled with racists and racism, xenophobes and bigots, and it has had a deleterious effect on political and social questions. And the portfolio of issues, particularly guns and nativism, expressed a (false) sense of white dispossession."

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