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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

apeacesign2(Photo: Beth)

Christmastime is the worst.

That's when TV advertising, sappy television shows, holiday music and politicians all parrot the theme of a time of peace and goodwill toward all. Of course, the real national purpose of the end-of-year holiday season is the jingle of cash registers and fattening of corporate profits - along with vacations in tropical settings or skiing for those who can afford them.

Come January 1, however, after the football games are over and the last beer is drunk, the United States is off to another year of waging war.  

The National Priorities Project, which keeps running expenditure tabs on the costs of war, estimates that the US has now spent nearly $1.7 trillion on wars since 2001. A spokeswoman for the National Priorities Project told BuzzFlash that approximately $823 billion has been spent on the Department of Homeland Security since its creation after 9/11. She also mentioned a Washington Post article from 2013 that estimated the CIA budget at $14.7 billion. Pentagon spending alone - which comprises more than half of the US budget each year - rings in at $554 billion for 2015. To be fair, a lot of this funding overlaps, but the behemoth financial interests of the "war industry" are readily apparent from these figures. Furthermore, these estimates do not include agencies such as the State Department and many unknown "black budget" programs and smaller war and surveillance allocations.

The number of people who rely on war and "intelligence gathering" for their incomes and/or profit is enormous.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

anincomeineq(Photo: mSeattle)

Wage stagnation has been an ongoing problem for workers. One of the main reasons for this "missing" income rise among the working class - as the stock market continues to break records - is the gargantuan shift of cash and assets upward to the super-rich.

Salaries for low-to-middle-income earners in the US have not only largely stagnated (given adjustment for inflation) since the Reagan "revolution" of tax cuts for the wealthy, they have in many cases gone down, due to the decline in unions, the shift of jobs overseas and the rise of big box retailers. Many people find their wages are actually falling, as they have to accept jobs beneath their skills and previous pay levels.

Progressive journalist Harold Myerson penned a column in the Washington Post on March 11 that analyzes why wages aren't rising even though the stock market is soaring. Although, it's not the exclusive reason for the hardship of the majority of US workers, Myerson pins down a key contributing factor: shareholders of corporations are receiving most of the gains, instead of those who toil to ensure profits.

 

Thursday, 12 March 2015 08:42

Is "Sustainable Beef" an Oxymoron?

2015.12.3 BF CHOW(Photo: Marc Dalmulder)LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch.

In the face sagging beef sales, a slew of US beef industry stakeholders have formed the US Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (USRSB) to figure out how to source beef that’s, well, more “sustainable.”

And although the USRSB’s intentions might be good, Americans can’t have their steak and eat it, too. That’s because the vast amount of resources it takes to produce enough beef for the country on a commercial scale will never be truly be sustainable.

A total of 43 participants make up the roundtable, including McDonald’s, Walmart, Cargill and Tyson Foods Inc., environmental groups World Wildlife Federation (WWF) and The Nature Conservancy, as well as producers, processors, foodservice operators, packers and allied industry in the US beef value chain. According to an announcement made last week, the roundtable’s mission is to “advance, support and communicate continuous improvement in US beef sustainability through leadership, innovation, multi-stakeholder engagement and collaboration.”

2015.12.3 BF Koehler(Photo: Light Brigading)ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

“You can hang him from a tree, but he can never sign with me . . .”

Yeah, something had to happen. The cellphone video went public and the frat boys on the bus, who were just having a little politically incorrect fun, y’know, singing about Jim Crow exclusionary practices and, well, lynching, suddenly found themselves thrust into a national context, embarrassing the hell out of their fraternity and their school.

Something had to happen, but I don’t think it was “zero tolerance” — that is to say, the immediate shutting of the door on a shocking, humiliating revelation that some students have bad attitudes and haven’t learned the national lesson: overt, casual racism against African-Americans is wrong.

“I have emphasized that there is zero tolerance for this kind of threatening racist behavior at the University of Oklahoma,” school President David Boren said in the immediate wake of the video’s release, and within a day had expelled two students who had led the jaunty singing of the racist ditty, which included the incessant repetition of the “n-word.”

“I hope that the entire nation will join us in having zero tolerance of such racism when it raises its ugly head in other situations across our country,” Boren added.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

bnobleBernard Noble and his daughter. (Image: Public Defenders of Orleans Parish)

You have to crawl down deep into the sewer system and trudge through raw sewage, pinching your nose to try and reduce the stench, to even begin to comprehend the injustice of sentencing a Black 49-year-old father of seven to 13 years in jail for possessing what amounts to two joints worth of marijuana.

The sludge of waste matter on the ignoble side of the US justice system is thick with racism, a perverse "war on drugs" and bias against the poor.

Bernard Noble, a resident of New Orleans, is now in a Louisiana prison because the raw sewage of a morally corrupt "criminal justice" system is still freely flowing in so many parts of the United States.

The Orleans Parish public defenders have been campaigning to free Noble, stating on their website:

Bernard Noble, a 49-year-old native of New Orleans and father of seven children, is currently serving 13.3 years for in the Jackson Parish Correctional Center in Jonesboro, Louisiana.

His crime? Possession of 2.8 grams of marijuana - roughly enough marijuana to roll two joints.

HARVEY WASSERMAN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaHotSpot(Photo: Abasaa)The catastrophe that began at Fukushima four years ago today is worse than ever.

But the good news can ultimately transcend the bad—if we make it so.

An angry grassroots movement has kept shut all 54 reactors that once operated in Japan. It’s the largest on-going nuke closure in history. Big industrial windmills installed off the Fukushima coast are now thriving.

Five U.S. reactors have shut since March 11, 2011. The operable fleet is under 100 for the first time in decades.

Ohio’s Davis-Besse, New York’s Ginna, five reactors in Illinois and other decrepit American nukes could shut soon without huge ratepayer bailouts.

Diablo Canyon was retrofitted—probably illegally—with $842 million in replacement parts untested for seismic impact. Already under fire for illegal license manipulations and an avoidable gas explosion that killed eight in San Bruno in 2010, Pacific Gas & Electric has plunged into a legal, economic and political abyss that could soon doom California’s last reactors.

MICHAEL BRUNE OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaEcoWatchTPPtext(Photo: EcoWatch)The U.S. is at the tail end of negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)—a massive trade deal with Mexico, Canada, Japan, Vietnam and seven other countries. The negotiations have been conducted in secret. Now Congress will soon decide whether to grant the Obama administration “fast track” authority to have the “final” pact approved as is—meaning strict limits on Congressional debate and no amendments. That’s a terrible idea for lots of reasons—not least of which is that the TPP could sabotage the ability of the U.S. (and other nations) to respond to the climate crisis.

Senator Elizabeth Warren put her finger on the problem in an op-ed for the Washington Post “Who will benefit from the TPP? American workers? Consumers? Small businesses? Taxpayers? Or the biggest multinational corporations in the world?” Here’s a hint: The answer is definitely not “all of the above.”

Multinational corporations—including some of the planet’s biggest polluters—could use the TPP to sue governments, in private trade tribunals, over laws and policies that they claimed would reduce their profits. The implications of this are profound: Corporate profits are more important than protections for clean air, clean water, climate stability, workers’ rights and more.

This isn’t a hypothetical threat. Similar rules in other free trade deals have allowed corporations including ExxonMobil, Chevron and Occidental Petroleum to bring approximately 600 cases against nearly 100 governments. Increasingly, corporations are using these perverse rules to challenge energy and climate policies, including a moratorium on fracking in Quebec; a nuclear energy phaseout and coal-fired power plant standards in Germany; and a pollution cleanup in Peru. TransCanada has even intimated that it would use similar rules in the North American Free Trade Agreement to challenge a U.S. decision to reject the Keystone XL pipeline.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaJebCPAC(Photo: Gage Skidmore)In 2008, Senator John McCain's campaign recognized that he needed to shore up his credentials with the Religious Right, which was skeptical about his views on critical social issues, his team went all out courting mega-church Pastor John Hagee. And when Hagee agreed to support McCain, it was a major coup. It didn't take long, however, for that coup to blow up in the Senator's face, as video surfaced of Hagee claiming that God had sent Adolph Hitler to hunt the Jews, chase them from Europe, and drive them to Palestine. McCain was forced to dump Hagee. Is Jeb Bush making the same type of McCain-like deal by taking on the unbridled conservatism of Jordan Sekulow?

Unless you're Mike Huckabee or Rick Santorum and you don't need a liaison to the Religious Right because you are your own liaison, Republican Party presidential candidates need someone to hook them up. George H.W. Bush had Doug Wead, George W. Bush had Tim Goeglein, and now Jeb Bush's Right to RISE PAC has landed Jordan Sekulow, as a senior adviser. Say goodbye to compassionate conservatism and hello to a hardcore anti-gay, anti-abortion culture warrior.

Jordan Sekulow is the conservative son of the hyper-conservative Jay Sekulow, the chief counsel of the conservative legal operation founded by Pat Robertson called the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which Jordan is the executive director. In a statement to Christian Broadcasting Network's David Brody, Sekulow said: "Governor Bush knows how to take bold conservative ideas and put them into action. While we must continue to fight the bad policies and unconstitutional overreaches of the current administration, it is time for conservatives to start talking to all Americans about how we, as a nation, can lead again at home and abroad. I am excited to begin a conversation with conservatives about Governor Bush's pro-life, pro-family, tax-cutting record in Florida and the ideas we need to put into action to give every American a chance to rise up."

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

amcdesThe first Ray Kroc McDonald's, preserved as a museum in Des Plaines, Illinois. (Photo: George)

The world's most iconic food chain is facing some dire statistical trends. According to The Guardian, "McDonald's has announced an 'urgent need to evolve' after unveiling another slide in worldwide sales, the ninth month in a row that sales have fallen at the fast-food chain."

McDonald's is so desperate that it has announced that it will cease using chicken treated with antibiotics that are also used to treat humans (because medical advocates have shown that the ingestion of such antibiotics in food helps develop an immunity to them, which negatively impacts their medical use). Alas, as befits the golden arches of cholesterol and fried artery-clogging food, McDonald's commitment is not to be trusted: The company made a similar pledge in 2003 but never came through on its promise. 

It hurts to be betrayed by the omnipresent, global symbol of US fast food; promises, promises.

McDonald's is reeling from trends toward healthy eating, as its fast-food franchise competitors shift from the model of "logo" eating to a model aimed at meeting evolving consumer preferences.

Monday, 09 March 2015 07:33

Bibi Does Congress, Adelson Does Bibi

2015.9.3BF Berkowitz(Photo: World Economic Forum)BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

When Benjamin Netanyahu addressed Congress last week, in an extraordinarily well orchestrated and elaborately staged made-for-television spectacular, he was playing to several audiences. Ironically, perhaps the least important one was the US Congress. He had his eyes on the Israeli electorate, especially the right-wing base of his party, which fully embraces his policies and whom he expects will come out in droves to support him in the March 17 Israeli election. He was helping the Republican Party once again sock-it-to President Barack Obama. And, he was thanking one of his most important benefactors: Seated in the visitor’s gallery was Sheldon Adelson, gambling mogul, Israeli media mogul, super-Republican Party donor, and bona fide Bibi backer.

Adelson Does Bibi; Bibi Does Adelson

These days, Adelson has probably done more to boost Netanyahu’s political career than any other US citizen. In Israel, Adelson’s newspaper, the free daily Hebrew-language Yisrael Hayom, is an unequivocal and unapologetic backer Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and, like Netanyahu, opposes any peace settlement with the Palestinians. 

Adelson also owns Makor Roshon, the daily newspaper of Israel’s Zionist religious right and NRG, a news website. 

Bill Moyers and Michael Winship reported in a recent piece titled “How an American Billionaire Stands in the Way of Mideast Peace” that Adelson uses Israel Hayom “to bang the drum incessantly for Netanyahu and his right-wing Likud Party, under the reign of which Israel has edged closer and closer to theocracy. As Hebrew University economist Momi Dahan put it: ‘De facto, the existence of a newspaper like Israel Hayom egregiously violates the law, because [Adelson] actually is providing a candidate with nearly unlimited resources.’”

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