JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Some corporations engage in such abusive consumer rip-offs that they're just plain evil. But then there are some profiteers that dig even deeper into the dark void of their corporate souls to achieve the ultimate status: TRULY EVIL.
Consider the gang of debt collection firms that are thugglishly and lawlessly rampaging across the country ruthlessly abusing consumer rights and common decency. Susan Macharia, a California administrative employee, is one of thousands of middle-income and low-wage workers each year who get robbed by these relentless money grabbers. Out of the blue, she got a rude call in January from a collector demanding she pay $10,000 for a credit card debt she ran up in 2003.
Only, Ms. Macharia had no such debt. In fact, as she told the New York Times, she didn't even have a credit card until 2013. Yet, the collection agency declared that it had a copy of a 2006 court judgement for non-payment filed against her, addressed to her California residence — so, pay up, or else! But wait, she lived in Atlanta in 2006, not California. Nonetheless, ignoring facts, the callous collection outfit got a court to rubber stamp an order to let the creditor garnish Macharia's paycheck, effectively stealing $800 a month from her.
"I couldn't sleep," she told the Times, "and I lost so much weight because I couldn't eat. There was so much stress. And I knew I hadn't done it!" Luckily, however, a group named Public Law Center took her case, went straight to the company she supposedly owed, and showed its executives the obvious errors in the collection agency's debtor file. Embarrassed, the company called off its attack dogs and returned the money it had taken from her paychecks.
Few are so fortunate, however. This collection firm and hundreds like it are still marauding across the land, with some 3,000 people a month filing formal complaints that they're being hounded mercilessly for debts they do not owe. It amounts to legalized highway robbery.
LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
fracking measures are one step closer to appearing on Colorado's Nov. 8 ballot. Local environmental groups have collected at least 98,492 signatures for measures 75 and 78, which will allow voters to decide the fate of oil and gas operations in the state. Now, the petitions only need to pass a validation review by the Secretary of State's office to make it onto the ballot.Two anti-
As EcoWatch reported, initiative 75 would amend the state constitution to enable local governments the option to enact regulations more protective of health and safety than those required by the state, largely addressing the Colorado Supreme Court's recent decision to strike down local fracking bans approved by voters in the cities of Fort Collins and Longmont. Initiative 78 would create 2,500-foot buffer zones between homes, schools and sensitive areas like playgrounds and water sources, and all new oil and gas development.
Yes For Health and Safety, a coalition of groups pushing the two ballot initiatives, celebrated their achievement.
"I am thrilled that the people of Colorado will have their voices heard," said Tricia Olson, the executive director of Health and Safety Over Fracking. "I am so so grateful to our hundreds and hundreds of Colorado volunteers and to the organizations that stepped forward."
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
David S. Cohen, a writer at Rolling Stone, asserts that Donald Trump's statement about "Second Amendment people" yesterday could definitely be interpreted as condoning the assassination of Hillary Clinton. Here is what Trump said on August 9 in North Carolina: "If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is. I don't know." Cohen argues that Trump was engaging in a verbal act of stochastic terrorism, which the author describes in this way:
[It] means using language and other forms of communication "to incite random actors to carry out violent or terrorist acts that are statistically predictable but individually unpredictable."
Of course, Trump's "call to arms" became the top presidential campaign story of Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. Trump used to be a frequent guest on the Howard Stern show, and he may have learned from the top "shock jock" how to be a true "shock presidential candidate." Media outlets know that Trump can repeatedly deliver incendiary and grossly offensive statements that grab the interests of readers and viewers in an age when the line between news media and mass entertainment has nearly dissolved.
That trend in campaign coverage -- and Trump's ability to push the edge of the shock envelope a little bit further each day -- has helped leave the discussion of public policy issues of substance out of the presidential contest. Furthermore, what little air is left in the newsroom after the daily Trump outrageous declaration is used for a discussion of the presidential campaign as a horse race or boxing match.
As Stanford Professor David Palumbo-Liu warned in a Truthout commentary yesterday, mainstream corporate media coverage of the 2016 presidential election has focused on personality and entertainment, to the detriment of a discussion of issues that directly impact our lives:
The cult of personality that drives our political campaigns, as frighteningly entertaining as it may be, should not be at center stage, and the tensions that drive voters should not be resolved after one or another candidate disappears. The anger, violence, paranoia and deep racism that propelled Trump to the nomination, even beyond the control of the Republican Party management, will still be there, waiting to find a new champion. We had better be watchful of the new slick package that the next candidate will come in. Whether we end up in the next round of elections with "new Democrats" or "new Republicans," the essential thing is to understand the actual realities that inform our political, social and historical lives, and to probe into the institutions and powerful interests that deliver justice and well-being, unevenly and often brutally.
ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUTCLIMATE DENIER ROUNDUP OF
Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch
"The wind kills all your birds. All your birds, killed. You know, the environmentalists never talk about that," Trump reportedly said.
Actually, environmentalists do talk about that, especially when they're forced to rebuff bird-brained arguments by repeat deniers.
An estimated 970 million birds crash into buildings annually. By comparison, wind turbines kill approximately 500,000 birds a year, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. A 2013 study found that fossil fuel plants "pose a much greater threat to birds and avian wildlife than wind farms."
ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUTLORRAINE CHOW OF
Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch
The 1986 meltdown, which released radiation at least 100 times more powerful than the radiation released by the atom bombs dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima, rendered roughly 2,600 square kilometers of the area unsuitable for habitation. Greenpeace found that animals living within the exclusion zone have higher mortality rates, increased genetic mutations and decreased birth rate.
But in a twist of poetic justice, the Ukrainian government has expressed ambitions to turn 6,000 hectares within Chernobyl's "exclusion zone" into a renewable energy hub. The proposed plant would generate 1-gigawatt of solar power and 400-megawatts of biogas per year, the Guardian reported. The country is pushing for a six-month construction cycle.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
On August 8, the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) and the the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED) released a stunning report, "The Ever-Growing Gap: Failing to Address the Status Quo Will Drive the Racial Wealth Divide for Centuries to Come." Key findings include:
By 2043 -- the year in which it is projected that people of color will make up a majority of the U.S. population -- the wealth divide between white families and Latino and black families will have doubled, on average, from about $500,000 in 2013 to over $1 million.
If average black family wealth continues to grow at the same pace it has over the past three decades, it would take black families 228 years to amass the same amount of wealth white families have today. That’s just 17 years shorter than the 245-year span of slavery in this country. For the average Latino family, it would take 84 years to amass the same amount of wealth White families have today -- that’s the year 2097.
Over the past 30 years the average wealth of white families has grown by 84% -- 1.2 times the rate of growth for the Latino population and three times the rate of growth for the black population. If that continues, the next three decades would see the average wealth of white households increase by over $18,000 per year, while Latino and Black households would see their respective wealth increase by only $2,250 and $750 per year.
I interviewed Chuck Collins, director of the Program on Inequality and the Common Good at the Institute for Policy Studies, via email about just a few of the alarming conclusions in the study that he co-authored.
J.P. SOTTILE FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
What’s a Neocon to do?
Bill Kristol is downright despondent after his failed search for an alternative to Donald Trump. Max Boot is indignant about his “stupid” party’s willingness to ride a bragging bull into a delicate China policy shop. And the leading light of the first family of military interventionism — Robert Kagan — is actually lining up Neoconservatives behind the Democratic nominee for president of the United States.
At the same time, the Democrats have become the party of bare-knuckled, full-throated American Exceptionalism. That transformation was announced with a vein-popping zeal by retired general and wannabe motivational screamer John Allen at the Democratic convention in the City of Brotherly Love. During his “speech,” a few plaintive protests of “no more war” were actually drowned-out by Democrats chanting “USA-USA-USA!”
This is the same Democratic Party often criticized by Kagan & Co. as the purveyors of timidity, flaccidity, and moral perfidy. It’s not that Democrats haven’t dropped bombs, dealt arms, and overturned regimes. They have. And they’ve even got the Peace Prize-winning Obama-dropper to prove it. But unlike enthusiastically belligerent Republicans, the Dems are supposed to be the party that does it, but doesn’t really like to do it.
But now, they’ve got Hillary Clinton. And she’s weaponized the State Department. She really likes regime change. And her nominating convention not only embraced the military, but it sanctified the very Gold Star families that Neocon-style interventionism creates. It certainly created the pain of the Khan family who lost their son in the illegal war in Iraq. But the Dems didn’t mention that sad fact as they grabbed the flag away from the Republicans.
PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
over 200 years ago, when Alexander Hamilton proclaimed "The people are turbulent and changing; they seldom judge or determine right." And when James Madison argued for a republic that would make it "more difficult for all who feel it to discover their own strength, and to act in unison with each other."
Little has changed over two centuries later, as the Democratic National Committee demonstrated when they "criticized and mocked" Senator Bernie Sanders during the primary campaign. People with money and power are still appalled by the notion of a popular democracy. But something is different now. The American majority, driven by frustrated workers and well-connected young people, are better able to communicate, and to unify in pursuit of a progressive nation.
The coining of the phrase "2020 Vision" can be attributed to the Democracy Alliance, which focuses on three "key issue areas that form the core of our 2020 Vision – an inclusive economy, a fair democracy, and strong action on climate change."
The vision expounded here, in the four steps to follow, is focused on the cooperative efforts of the great majority of Americans, many of them young and few of them rich, who are beginning to understand the strength of the growing progressive movement.
ED RODGERS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
toxic algae blooms combined with a record number of boat collisions has taken a toll on Florida's manatee population this summer. Since May, eight dead manatees have been found in the Indian River Lagoon in Brevard County, a waterway that's been fouled with microscopic toxic algae, the Orlando Sentinel reported.An illness that might be linked to
"We are still narrowing down the cause, but the hypothesis is still that the change of vegetation that the manatees are eating makes them susceptible to complications in their guts," Martine de Wit, lead veterinarian with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said. De Wit said the manatees have been found with little or no seagrass in their stomachs. The animals digestive systems were filled instead with algae commonly known as seaweed. Researchers say the animals succumb to illness so quickly they drown. Videos from residents have documented the manatee's struggle.
The water coming from Lake Okeechobee contains fertilizer, sewage and stormwater, which is flushed into portions of the Indian River, according to the Sentinel. The stretch of the Indian River has been "a killing field" for brown pelicans, bottlenose dolphins, manatees and many species of fish. The microscopic algae has turned waters a greenish, brown color, some spots as thick as guacamole, as previously reported by EcoWatch.
This isn't the only year toxic algae has impacted manatees. More than 150 manatees have died in the past four years, the Sentinel said.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Most people in the US cannot compare the costs of hospital medical procedures online, according to a recent study by the advocacy group Public Citizen. That is because in 44 states, there is no requirement to disclose the listed fee for hospital surgeries and diagnostic tests on the web. Official hospital prices vary widely -- even within a local area -- because often the "sticker price" for a colonoscopy, for example, is not established based on the inherent costs of the procedure. Instead, it is set high as a price from which to bargain down with insurance providers.
Veejay Das, health care policy advocate for Public Citizen, who conducted the analysis, said in a Public Citizen news release:
Shopping for health care prices in the United States is like trying to find a light switch in the dark. If you know where you should be looking – and it’s actually there for you to find – you might have a chance, but otherwise you’ll blindly search in vain.
For anyone who doesn't have insurance and must pay a full, inflated price for hospital-based care, comparative pricing is essential to reduce extreme costs. Yet, in most of the United States, that is an extremely difficult task to undertake.
Furthermore, Public Citizen notes:
Out-of-pocket health care costs for patients are soaring in the United States. Since 2010, insurance deductibles for workers have risen three times as fast as premiums and about seven times as fast as wages and inflation, according to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.
That means it is necessary to know which hospitals are less expensive -- and to check with your insurance company for their negotiated rates for a given procedure with a hospital -- in order to plan for the financial repercussions of a medical bill.