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DAVID SIROTA ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBooze(Photo: Chris huh)When Colorado voters in 2012 approved a ballot measure legalizing marijuana, the state did not merely break new ground in the ongoing battle over narcotics policy. It also bolstered an innovative new political message that compares cannabis to alcohol.

Two years later, that comparison is being deployed in key marijuana-related elections throughout the country, and drug reform advocates are so sure marijuana is safer than alcohol, they are now challenging police to a "drug duel" to prove their point.

The proposal for the duel from David Boyer, an official with the Maine chapter of the Marijuana Policy Project, came after South Portland Police Chief Edward Googins announced his opposition to a municipal referendum to legalize marijuana possession.

"Claims that marijuana is safer than alcohol are so bogus it's not even funny," Googins told a local newspaper.

In response, Boyer has challenged the police chief to a "hit for shot" duel — for every shot of alcohol Googins takes, Boyer would take a toke of marijuana, and the public would be able to see who is in worse physical condition in the end.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Thomas Paine by Matthew Pratt 1785-95Was Tom Paine (above) a militant? (Painting: Matthew Pratt)

The mainstream media performs its transcriptionist role flawlessly every time it reports about "militants" being killed in various attacks around the world.

The world "militant" marginalizes anyone who is slain by those in power, deeming those people worthy of being killed because they are an alleged threat to the US (or an ally who supports US hegemony). Of course, if you are an advocate for regime overthrow in a country where the US wants to establish a new, pro-neoliberal government, then you are labeled a "freedom fighter" in the press.

Virtually no corporate media reports uses the word "alleged" before the word militants. If people are opposed to a status quo power and organize armed resistance, and the US or a friendly government calls them "militants," they have - the media implies - been killed justifiably.

There are a lot of perilous implications of labeling people killed in military or CIA attacks as "militants." 

2014.10.27.Jonas.BF(Photo: Lucky Rubi / Flickr)

STEVEN JONAS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

An epidemic is sweeping the country. Congress - especially the GOP - is outraged. The Republican propaganda machine, especially Fox - and increasingly CNN - is going full blast with an ongoing headline basically blaring, "The Increasingly Incompetent President's Responsibility to do Something, now!", claiming dilly-dallying, shilly-shallying on the part of the White House, the CDC and what have you.

After all, an epidemic can kill about 1,200 people per day in the US. But wait (as Paul Krugman is fond of saying), that's deaths due to cigarette smoking. It happens that the nation, principally various government agencies, is doing something about this epidemic, using a wide variety of interventions. Smoking rates among adults are down by over half since the publication of the first Surgeon General's Report on Smoking and Health in 1964. (The truth of the science in that report was of course denied with vigor by the tobacco industry until the late 1990s - sound familiar?) In fact, due to the various smoking prevention and quit-smoking programs, tobacco-related deaths should be down to about 600 per day in 30-40 years. But that will still be a lot of preventable deaths that will occur from ongoing peddling of cigarettes for massive profits.

There's another epidemic that kills at least 180 people per day. But wait. Those deaths are due to drinking alcoholic beverages. Not only is there not a national program to deal with the problem, there is an ongoing massive advertising campaign to use the substance. And the ads are usually accompanied by some version of the alcohol beverage companies' idiotic "know when to say when" slogan. Really? You mean when you get drunk, and, say, "I shouldn't drive," you should be capable of "knowing when to say when?"

2014.10.27.Buchheit.BF(Image: Lance Page / t r u t h o u t; Adapted: DSMexiCo / Flickr)PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Global inequality, like global warming, is a disease that may be too far along to ever be cured.

We seem helpless, both in the U.S. and around the world, to stop the incessant flow of wealth to an elitist group of people who are simply building on their existing riches. The increasing rate of their takeaway is the message derived from the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Databook (GWD).

It's already been made clear that the richest Americans have taken almost all the gains in U.S. wealth since the recession. But the unrelenting money grab is a global phenomenon. The GWD confirms just how bad it's getting for the great majority of us.

1. US - Even the Upper Middle Class Is Losing

In just three years, from 2011 to 2014, the bottom half of Americans lost almost half of their share of the nation's wealth, dropping from a 2.5% share to a 1.3% share (detail is here).

Most of the top half lost ground, too. The 36 million upper middle class households just above the median (6th, 7th, and 8th deciles) dropped from a 13.4% share to an 11.9% share. Much of their portion went to the richest one percent.

This is big money. With total U.S. wealth of $84 trillion, the three-year change represents a transfer of wealth of over a trillion dollars from the bottom half of America to the richest 1%, and another trillion dollars from the upper middle class to the 1%.

AKIRA WATTS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBanksyReaper(Photo: Banksy)With a mere 11 days remaining until election day, the news appears grim for the Democratic Party. The general consensus seems to be that it is more likely than not that the Republicans will retake the Senate. And that, Democratic Party diehards argue, would pretty much be the end of the world. Fundraising emails from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee are growing increasingly shrill, frantic, and frequent. The post-electoral circular firing squad has begun to polish its weapons.

Clearly, we are all doomed, they tell us, unless a few Democratic candidates can somehow hold the line. Let’s take a look at some of those brave few, shall we? In Kentucky, we have Allison Grimes, who cannot bring herself to admit whether or not she cast a vote for our center-right president. In Alaska, we have Mark Begich, who can’t get enough of the Keystone Pipeline. In Arkansas we have Mark Pryor, who couldn’t quite bring himself to support limited gun control measures in the wake of Newtown. In Georgia we have Michelle Nunn, who appears to be deeply ambivalent about the Affordable Care Act.

Hmmm. It seems as though a common thread here is that these candidates, all of whom are in tight races, are running as far and as fast from many progressive positions as they can. Yet they want our money and our votes. Because - they tell us - the Republicans will literally bring about the apocalypse and, even if none of these candidates can bring themselves to act like Democrats, they’ve still got that D after their name. Which, of course, is all that matters.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

adronedeath(Photo: AK Rockefeller)

According to the The Bureau of Investigative Journalism - an independent nonprofit organization in Britain - only four percent of US drone victims in Afghanistan have been confirmed to be "named as Al Qaeda members." The Bureau oversees a "Naming the Dead" project that has confirmed 2,379 men, women and children killed as a result of 400 CIA drone strikes in Pakistan since 2004. Most of those who lost their lives in the drone attacks remain unidentified.

The Bureau's research is challenging to conduct, because the drone strikes cause such decimation that many body parts are so dispersed that identification becomes difficult. In addition, many of the strikes occur in remote areas in Pakistan.  However, the trend appears clear that drone strikes - as Jeremy Scahill detailed in his book "Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield" – appear to primarily kill people who pose no threat to the United States. That is because the CIA justifies drone strikes by location of "known terrorists," whether the people are at the targeted site at the particular time of the attack are even remotely associated with Al Qaeda or perceived by intelligence services to be plotting against the US.

The CIA, the White House and the Pentagon basically adopt a standard that if you are blown to bits in a drone strike, you deserve it. Why? Because you are hanging out in an area where US intelligence services claim individuals who pose an "imminent threat" to the nation have been seen. What qualifies as an "imminent threat" will never be known, in most cases, because the CIA is not forthcoming in most drone strikes about the targets or what constitutes an "imminent threat." 

Thursday, 23 October 2014 11:08

Fracking Threatens Millions of Californians

ANASTASIA PANTSIOS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaDrillingEcoWatch(Photo: EcoWatch)A new report shows that 5.4 million Californians—more than 14 percent of its 38.3 million population—live within a mile of an oil or gas well, and almost four million of those, or nearly 70 percent, are Hispanic, Asian or African-American, according to a new Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) report Drilling in California: Who’s at Risk? Non-whites make up slightly more than 40 percent of California’s total population.

“California’s communities of color have long been dumping grounds for industrial pollution—and our analysis shows that fracking is poised to pile on more if the oil and gas industry has its way,” said NRDC senior scientist Miriam Rotkin-Ellman and one of the report’s authors. “From polluted skies to contaminated drinking water and hazardous waste, communities of color in California get way more than their fair share. If the oil and gas industry gets their way, drilling—and the environmental and health threats from fracking, acidizing and other technologies—will be piled onto communities already staggering under smoggy skies and unsafe water. From Los Angeles to the state’s farms and ranches, this industry must not be allowed to poison our people’s health.”

Unfortunately, it already is. Nearly two million of those people close to the wells already live in a community with a disproportionate amount of air, water and soil pollution, due to nearby industrial plants, hazardous waste facilities and toxic clean-up sites as well as transportation corridors. Nearly 92 percent of those residents are non-white, a group at outsized risk for respiratory conditions like asthma.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

apoppyfieldafgOpium field in Afghanistan. (Photo: isafmedia)

After 14 years of covering the shady underside of US politics and international policy, it would be easy to assert that all too often, "the more things change, the more they stay the same."

It became clear within a couple of years after the US invaded Afghanistan that the Bush administration's claim to be implementing a vigorous opium eradication program in that nation was fabricated for domestic political reasons. The reality was that the practical politics of the occupation resulted in opium production actually increasing in Afghanistan. According to Listcrux.com and other sources, Afghanistan remains the number one producer of opium (also the derivative for heroin) in the world.

Indeed, the US occupation has been good for opium growers, very good. According to an official US analysis by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, opium cultivation in the nation is now at record levels. The title of the government report says it all: "Poppy Cultivation in Afghanistan: After a Decade of Reconstruction and Over $7 Billion in Counternarcotics Efforts, Poppy Cultivation Levels Are at an All-Time High." 

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaMyLai(Photo: Ronald L. Haeberle)“When somebody asks, ‘Why do you do it to a gook, why do you do this to people?’ your answer is, ‘So what, they’re just gooks, they’re not people. It doesn’t make any difference what you do to them; they’re not human.’

“And this thing is built into you,” Cpl. John Geymann testified almost 44 years ago at the Winter Soldier Investigation, held in Detroit, which was sponsored by Vietnam Veterans Against the War. “It’s thrust into your head from the moment you wake up in boot camp to the moment you wake up when you’re a civilian.”

The cornerstone of war is dehumanization. This was the lesson of Nam, from Operation Ranch Hand (the dumping of 18 million gallons of herbicides, including Agent Orange, on the jungles of Vietnam) to My Lai to the use of napalm to the bombing of Cambodia. And the Winter Soldier Investigation began making the dehumanization process a matter of public knowledge.

It was a stunning and groundbreaking moment in the history of war. Yet — guess what? — the three-day hearing, in which 109 Vietnam veterans and 16 civilians testified about the reality of American operations in Vietnam, doesn’t show up on the “interactive timeline” of the Department of Defense-sponsored website commemorating, as per President Obama’s proclamation, the 50-year anniversary of the war.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

ajanetyellenJanet Yellen (Photo: International Monetary Fund)                                                         

Although the head of the Federal Reserve Board, Janet Yellen, isn't yet calling for systemic change in the US economic system - nor is she likely to - she did no doubt shock the financial barons by acknowledging income inequality in the US in a recent speech.

In remarks on October 17 to the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, Yellen, according to Wall Street on Parade, appeared to formally recognize at least some of glaring disparities in distribution of income and assets in the US:

“The past several decades have seen the most sustained rise in inequality since the 19th century after more than 40 years of narrowing inequality following the Great Depression.” Using data from the Fed’s Survey of Consumer Finances, Yellen punctuated her message with these hair-raising figures:

“The wealthiest 5 percent of American households held 54 percent of all wealth reported in the 1989 survey. Their share rose to 61 percent in 2010 and reached 63 percent in 2013;

“The lower half of households by wealth, held just 3 percent of wealth in 1989 and only 1 percent in 2013. To put that in perspective…the average net worth of the lower half of the distribution, representing 62 million households, was $11,000 in 2013.”

“This $11,000 average is 50 percent lower than the average wealth of the lower half of families in 1989, adjusted for inflation.”

The Wall Street Journal took note of Yellen's focus on wealth disparity in an article entitled, "Janet Yellen Decries Widening Income Inequality: Central Bank Chief Says Wealth Disparity Could Be Impeding Economic Mobility." 

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