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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

A Tale of Two Story Social Media latino(Image: Institute for Policy Studies)

 On Thursday evening, the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) released a report that concluded that just 100 of the wealthiest CEOs have amassed retirement funds equal to a little more than 40 percent of the US population's retirement savings.

The analysis concluded: "Just 100 CEOs have company retirement funds worth $4.7 billion — a sum equal to the entire retirement savings of the 41 percent of U.S. families with the smallest nest eggs." Furthermore:

This $4.7 billion total is also equal to the entire retirement savings of the bottom:

  • 59 percent of African-American families

  • 75 percent of Latino families

  • 55 percent of female-headed households

  • 44 percent of white working class households

To put this in perspective, the IPS found that "the top 100 CEO nest eggs are large enough to generate for each of these executives a $253,088 monthly retirement check for the rest of their lives."

Thursday, 15 December 2016 12:08

Politics as Usual Will Not Rescue Planet Earth

BOB KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

The Earth seen from Apollo 17(Photo: Wikipedia )

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As we think about the election — what went wrong, what’s been unleashed and what we should do about it — please, please, let us expand our vision beyond some technical fix or updated “message.”

Even if we’re talking about the Democratic Party.

James Zogby, founder of the Arab American Institute and a longtime member of the Democratic National Committee, discussing the Bernie Sanders phenomenon and the future direction of the party, wrote recently: “Many rank and file Democrats had lost confidence in their establishment and were looking for an authentic message that spoke to their needs.”

He was making the case for a progressive takeover of the party and the naming of Keith Ellison as DNC chair. As I read his commentary, however, even though I essentially agreed with him, I couldn’t get past the word “authentic” — especially linked as it was to the word “message,” which made it sound like the Democrat leadership needs to search its soul and come up with a better ad slogan.

And this is American politics — American democracy — as presented for our entertainment and distraction by the corporate media and the custodians of power. “The people” are acknowledged to be participants in the process of governing, which is to say, the process of creating the future, only to the extent that they have a set of limited, specific interests the powerful have to look out for. Jobs, for instance. Or protection from the enemy of the moment.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016 07:40

Journalists Are Under Siege Around the World

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

1408711192 3da176c380 oWill journalism that reveals the truth become a crime in the US?  (Photo: Yan Arief Purwanto)

 BuzzFlash and Truthout remain ad-free because of support from readers like you. Help keep our site online: Make a tax-deductible donation today.

As this year winds down, it's clear that it was a frightening one for many journalists. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the numbers of reporters serving prison sentences around the world has climbed to 259 thus far in 2016:

Turkey’s unprecedented crackdown on media brought the total number of jailed journalists worldwide to the highest number since the Committee to Protect Journalists began taking an annual census in 1990.

As of December 1, 2016, there were 259 journalists in jail around the world. Turkey had at least 81 journalists behind bars, according to CPJ’s records, the highest number in any one country at a time—and every one of them faces anti-state charges. Dozens of other journalists are imprisoned in Turkey, but CPJ was unable to confirm a direct link to their work.

China, which was the world’s worst jailer of journalists in 2014 and 2015, dropped to the second spot with 38 journalists in jail. Egypt, Eritrea, and Ethiopia are third, fourth and fifth worst jailers of journalists, respectively. Combined, the top five countries on CPJ’s census were responsible for jailing more than two-thirds of all journalists in prison worldwide.

Western countries should not feel smug because they have not made the top of the list. As we saw with the arrest of Amy Goodman and other journalists at the Dakota Access pipeline most recently, the US often uses its legal system to harass -- and sometimes rough up -- reporters who are covering protests. These acts by law enforcement do not make the CPJ list because they have not generally resulted in long detentions of reporters. The federal government has occasionally threatened reporters such as New York Times journalist James Risen with prosecution and imprisonment for refusing to testify or to identify a whistleblower, although the legal Department of Justice threats against Risen were eventually dropped after a six-year standoff. (Read my interview with Risen here.)

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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FrackEPA 1214wrp opt(Photo: EcoWatch)The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released its widely anticipated final report on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, confirming that the controversial drilling process indeed impacts drinking water "under some circumstances." Notably, the report also removes the EPA's misleading line that fracking has not led to "widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources."

"The report, done at the request of Congress, provides scientific evidence that hydraulic fracturing activities can impact drinking water resources in the United States under some circumstances," the agency stated in a media advisory.

This conclusion is a major reversal from the EPA's June 2015 pro-fracking draft report. That specific "widespread, systemic" line baffled many experts, scientists and landowners who—despite the egregious headlines—saw clear evidence of fracking-related contamination in water samples. Conversely, the EPA's top line encouraged Big Oil and Gas to push for more drilling around the globe.

But as it turns out, a damning exposé from Marketplace and APM Reports revealed last month that top EPA officials made critical, last-minute alterations to the agency's draft report and corresponding press materials to soft-pedal clear evidence of fracking's ill effects on the environment and public health.

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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Perry 1214wrp opt(Photo: Gage Skidmore)Perk up people - for I bring you tidings of great joy: Gov. "Oops" is back!

Yes, Rick Perry, the former Texas governor who specialized in putting the "goober" in gubernatorial, is being brought back from well-earned obscurity in rural Texas to join the menagerie of characters in "The Donald Show." For us lovers of low political comedy, Perry is literally an early Christmas gift from on high — not from heaven (not that high), but from the dizzying heights of Trump Tower. That's where the orange-haired Impresario-in-chief has been holding tryouts for his Washington cast, and Perry is a slapstick-perfect choice for Trump's bizarre cabinet.

Who can forget Perry's classic "oops moment" during his first failed run for the White House? Campaigning as a far-out, right-wing slasher of government services, he boldly declared in a televised debate that — by gollies — he would eliminate three federal agencies entirely, dramatically reeling off the names of his three victims: The Department of Commerce, Department of Education, and... and... and, alas, as a national TV audience watched in horror, Rick's brain just could not recall the third federal department he planned to kill off.

He was roundly ridiculed as being dumber than a dust bunny. But now — proving once again that being even quasi-smart is not a requirement for getting a high political job — Perry has been hired by Trump to be our next Secretary of Energy. Yes, that is the very agency that was third on the Goober's elimination list! He is actually being appointed to head the $32 billion department he couldn't name during the 2012 presidential race.

2016.13.12 BF Chow(Photo: Gage Skidmore)LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad has been nominated to serve as U.S. Ambassador to China in Donald Trump's Administration, a pick that has some of Big Ag's biggest players celebrating.

Branstad is the longest-serving governor in U.S. history with 22 non-consecutive years and going under his belt. During his tenure, he has built significant relationships with Iowa's agribusinesses and has helped spur trade of the state's beef, pork and soy products to Asian consumers, and once struck a $4.3 billion deal with Chinese officials for Iowa's exports.

This past October, China signed a $2.1 billion deal for Iowa soybeans to feed Chinese livestock. In November, less than a week after Trump's presidential win, Branstad traveled to China to promote Iowa beef and pork. It was his seventh such trip to China as governor.

The Republican governor's friendship with Chinese president Xi Jinping goes back three decades after Xi visited rural Iowa in 1985.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

 2016decuschamberlog121(Photo: Wikipedia)

A December report by the national consumer advocacy group Public Citizen bluntly concluded that "the U.S. Chamber of Commerce waved its dark money wand on the 2016 elections and elected a slew of GOP politicians beholden to big business." The report found that the Chamber spent 100 percent of its campaign funding on Republican candidates for the first time in its history. Furthermore, because of the Citizens United decision, it did not have to disclose the identities of the donors who supplied its campaign contribution funds.

The Public Citizen analysis found:

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce was the second largest overall non-disclosing (or “dark money”) outside spender in 2016 congressional races after the National Rifle Association, and it was the largest non-disclosing outside spender in 75 percent of the races in which it spent money. The Chamber involved itself most heavily in races for the U.S. Senate, spending a total of $25.8 million in 10 Senate races. This deluge began with a $10 million ad buy in swing states last spring as a part of their “Save the Senate” campaign, a campaign organized jointly with leading Republicans whose goal was to prevent a Democratic takeover of the closely-divided body. Moreover, for the first time, 100 percent of the Chamber’s general election spending benefited Republican candidates, suggesting that rather than being a nonpartisan voice for American business, the Chamber has become a voice solely for the Republican Party.

The Chamber works closely with the American Legislative Exchange Council  (ALEC), as well as with the Koch brothers' agenda. This bolsters its impact on both the state level and in Washington, promoting an anti-regulation, pro-fossil fuel agenda Congress. In this most recent election, the Chamber's agenda was synergistically matched with President-elect Trump's business and energy platforms. Trump's Cabinet appointees' beliefs reflect the Chamber's goals, too. Furthermore, as noted earlier earlier, the money sources behind the Chamber's campaign donations are undisclosed because it is a 501(c)(6) organization, which now has the right of "personhood" to support candidates through shadowy parallel campaign organizations.

2016.13.12 BF Wockner(Photo: Rubén Moreno Montolíu)GARY WOCKNER OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

If anyone has any questions left about what Donald Trump's energy plans will do to the climate, just read his brand new website GreatAgain.gov for clarity.

Click on "Energy Independence," sit back and start reading. It's short, succinct and devastatingly to the point:

"The Trump Administration will make America energy independent. Our energy policies will make full use of our domestic energy sources, including traditional and renewable energy sources. America will unleash an energy revolution that will transform us into a net energy exporter, leading to the creation of millions of new jobs, while protecting the country's most valuable resources -- our clean air, clean water, and natural habitats. America is sitting on a treasure trove of untapped energy. In fact, America possesses more combined coal, oil, and natural gas resources than any other nation on Earth. These resources represent trillions of dollars in economic output and countless American jobs, particularly for the poorest Americans.

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Fishing 1212wrp opt(Photo: EcoWatch)Monsanto is facing yet another lawsuit over its alleged negligent handling of PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), a banned and highly toxic group of chemicals that the company manufactured decades ago. But this time it's not another city suing the biotech giant—it's an entire state.

Washington is suing Monsanto over widespread PCBs contamination, the first U.S. state to take such an action. Gov. Jay Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced the lawsuit, filed in King County Superior Court, at a press conference in Seattle on Thursday.

According to the Associated Press, Washington is seeking damages on several grounds, including product liability for Monsanto's alleged failure to warn about the dangers of PCBs; negligence; and trespass for injuring the state's natural resources.

Before switching operations to agriculture, Monsanto was the sole manufacturer of the compound, which was used to insulate electronics, from 1935 until 1977. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) banned PCBs in 1979, due to its link to birth defects and cancer in laboratory animals. PCBs can also have adverse skin and liver effects in humans. Not only that, the chemical also lingers in the environment for many decades.

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Reaper 1212wrp(Photo: Jbuzbee)In each of the following areas of our lives, capitalism has been a deadly force in the past, and prospects for the future seem even worse with Donald Trump's Cabinet picks.

1. Meds

In 1996 Purdue Pharma began marketing its painkiller Oxycontin with a promotional campaign unlike any other seen before. As noted in the American Journal of Public Health, "The high availability of OxyContin correlated with increased abuse, diversion, and addiction, and by 2004 OxyContin had become a leading drug of abuse in the United States."

About 75% of heroin addicts used prescription opioids before turning to heroin. Deaths related to heroin have more than tripled since 2010, and a dramatic surge in overdoses has occurred among children. Opioid use is also triggering a rise in hepatitis C, which kills 19,000 people every year, most of whom can't get treatment because the drug manufacturer Gilead Sciences charges $84,000 for pills that cost less than $300 to produce. In Kentucky in 2016, for every 100 people with hepatitis C only THREE were able to receive treatment.

Donald Trump's rumored candidate for the FDA is staunch libertarian Jim O'Neill, who said about drugs: "Let’s prove efficacy after they’ve been legalized."

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