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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

abed(Photo: locomomo)

In the United States, people with limited financial means are getting poorer.

That trend becomes even more accelerated as those who have no cash on hand are forced to go into debt and pay high interest rates. In fact, BuzzFlash has long covered the ways in which the wealthy are becoming richer, in part due to the increasing indebtedness of those who are living on less money.

For the financial sector, the increase in profits comes on the high interest rates paid by the middle class and poor on borrowed money (this includes credit card payments and payday loans, among other lending vehicles).

However, there is a growing group of people in the US who are so cash-short that they cannot even obtain credit. Entrepreneurs have now figured out how to exploit this population that is barely surviving. According to an October 13 article in The Washington Post, "Rental America: Why the poor pay $4,150 for a $1,500 sofa...."

RICHARD A. STITT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaOohRahISIS(Photo: US Army)So, this is what the Bush-Cheney administration left behind: A militant, America-hating Islamic Shiite government that is teetering on the edge of collapse.

That collapse is due mostly to the Shiite central government's exclusion of Sunni participation, all carried out under the auspices of the Bush mandates that totally disbanded the Baathist army. They also demonized and banished the Sunni civilians such as doctors, attorneys, engineers, chemists, teachers and other professionals.

During the height of Bush's war, long after Saddam Hussein was captured and jailed in 2003, Shiite militias raided Baghdad's Sunni principalities and neighborhoods, routinely confiscating their property and driving millions of Sunni families into exile.

Today, rabid Bush apologists and Obama-hating refuseniks like Lindsey Graham and John McCain are braying that "We won the war!" and they blame Barack Obama for losing it. They howl that we should have left U.S. troops behind so that they could be easy targets for both the Sunni ISIS militias and the Iran-supported Iraqi government's mercenary army which George W. Bush established when he installed his puppet, Islamic Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Malki.

The Iraqi army which the U.S. taxpayers paid for to the tune of $25 billion proved just how impotent and unprepared they were when it came time to protect their own country. In August ISIS militias poured across the border from Syria into Iraq but when confronted with actual combat the Iraqi army stripped off their uniforms, turned all their weapons and equipment over to the ISIS marauders and ran like scared rabbits.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

atppcancer(Photo: GlobalTradeWatch)

In its analysis of a US-proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) provision, Public Citizen found that the corporate profits of Big Pharma would be increased and protected at the expense of providing medical care to people with cancer:

Access to affordable cancer treatments in the U.S and 11 other countries would be delayed for years if terms revealed today in the leaked draft Intellectual Property Chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) were to go into effect, Public Citizen said. The text, obtained by WikiLeaks, analyzed in collaboration with Public Citizen and released today also shows worrying developments on other patent and copyright issues and explains in part why TPP talks remain deadlocked a month before President Barack Obama’s declared deadline for a deal.

The leak shows our government demanding rules that would lead to preventable suffering and death in Pacific Rim countries, while eliminating opportunities to ease financial hardship on American families and our health programs at home,” said Peter Maybarduk, director of Public Citizen’s Global Access to Medicines Program. Public Citizen’s analysis and background information is available at http://www.citizen.org/tpp-ip-wikileaks

Measures in the text, which advantage the patent-based pharmaceutical industry, face stiff opposition from most of the other TPP countries and health care advocates....

The patent protections on drugs and biotechnological advancement used to prolong life for individuals with cancer are being championed on behalf of the pharmaceutical and biotech industries by negotiators for the US government. 

Thursday, 16 October 2014 07:03

New Atheism Should Expand Its Horizons

AKIRA WATTS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaAtheistJesus(Photo: Toby Hudson)Last week, things got a little out of hand on Real Time With Bill Maher, when a discussion of radical Islam descended into white, liberal men yelling at each other. The central point, which was for some inexplicable reason brought by Ben Affleck, is that the tenor of the criticism of Islam, as articulated by representatives of the new atheist movement such as Maher and Sam Harris, has more than a little whiff of bigotry and racism. Shouting ensued and, a week later, we’re still arguing over the aftermath.

As one who has ended up, out of simple lack of interest in deities of any sort, in the atheist camp, the whole exchange rubbed me the wrong way. Reducing religious debates to television sound-bites is never a winning proposition, but the discussion served to highlight what seems to be a very real streak of Islamophobia within the new atheist movement. Pointing this out is nothing new, but it’s a disturbing trend, especially given the continued rise in anti-Muslim hate crimes. It also gives political cover to those wishing to escalate our most excellent efforts against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

But that’s just it, isn’t it? ISIS: the big beheading elephant in the global room. You can’t not talk about them, and doing so necessarily involves a critique of their extreme take on Islam. The problem is that the savagery of ISIS is then used to justify attacks upon all of Islam, as if it were some monolithic entity. Of course, the Koran and the Hadith both contain exhortations to violence. They also contain words of peace. It is more than possible, as the vast majority of Muslims do, to repudiate the violence in their sacred text.

Thursday, 16 October 2014 06:29

Ten Facts About Being Homeless in the USA

BILL QUIGLEY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaHomelessBroadway(Photo: sonyblockbuster)Three True Stories

Renee Delisle was one of over 3500 homeless people in Santa Cruz when she found out she was pregnant. The Santa Cruz Sentinel reported she was turned away from a shelter because they did not have space for her. While other homeless people slept in cars or under culverts, Renee ended up living in an abandoned elevator shaft until her water broke.

Jerome Murdough, 56, a homeless former Marine, was arrested for trespass in New York because he was found sleeping in a public housing stairwell on a cold night. The New York Times reported that one week later, Jerome died of hypothermia in a jail cell heated to over 100 degrees.

Paula Corb and her two daughters lost their home and have lived in their minivan for four years. They did laundry in a church annex, went to the bathroom at gas stations, and did their studies under street lamps, according to America Tonight.

Fact One: Over half a million people are homeless.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

adiablocanyonDiablo Canyon power plant in California. Will it become the US's Fukushima? (Photo: Nuclear Regulatory Commission)

You have to go to The Japan Times to find out that this week's Typhoon Phanfone caused a significant spike in the radioactive contamination of groundwater at Fukushima:

The radioactive water woes at the stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant got worse over the weekend after the tritium concentration in a groundwater sample surged more than tenfold this month.

A spokesman for Tokyo Electric Power Co. [TEPCO] said Saturday that heavy rain caused by Typhoon Phanfone probably affected the groundwater after the storm whipped through Japan last week.

Some 150,000 becquerels of tritium per liter were measured in a groundwater sample taken Thursday from a well east of the No. 2 reactor. The figure is a record for the well and over 10 times the level measured the previous week.

According to The Japan Times, the news gets worse: "In addition, materials that emit beta rays, such as strontium-90, which causes bone cancer, also shattered records with a reading of 1.2 million becquerels, the utility said of the sample."

Searching through Google news, this writer could not find any coverage in US news (or other Western media, for that matter) of this harrowing development.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaArk(Photo: Michel Wolgemut)If you've never made it to Mt. Ararat to search for remnants of Noah's Ark; visited Johan's Ark, a Noah's Ark-themed mobile structure in the Netherlands, built by Dutch creationist Johan Huibers, or the Noah's Ark theme park in Hong Kong; stopped off for a slide or two at Noah's Ark watermark -- "America's largest Waterpark" -- in Wisconsin; or didn't catch Noah the movie with Russell Crowe, do not despair. Set to open in 2016 is Ark Encounter, a Christian fundamentalist theme park in Kentucky, which will feature a 510-foot replica of Noah's Ark. Ark Encounter has been dependent on property tax breaks, donations and bonds to get off the ground, but its highly anticipated tourism tax credit worth millions of dollars, may be at risk, as questions are being raised about its discriminatory hiring practices.

Besides the 510-foor replica of Noah's Ark, the Ark Encounter project is unique in that it has received: "preliminary approval for $18 million in state tax incentives to offset the cost of the park's construction; a 75 percent property tax break over 30 years from the City of Williamstown (a town of about 3,000 near where the park will be located); an $11-million road upgrade in a rural area that would almost exclusively facilitate traffic going to and from the park; a $200,000 gift from the Grant County Industrial Development Authority to make sure the project stays in that county; 100 acres of reduced-price land and, finally $62 million municipal bond issue from Williamstown that Ham claims has kept the project from sinking," Simon Brown reported in the October issue of Church & State, a publication of the Washington, D.C. –based American United for the Separation of Church and State.

According to Brown, "the bonds received junk status, which is the lowest possible rating for an investment. ... [making] it highly unlikely that anyone who buys them will actually get money back." Although the bonds "initially sold poorly," Ham announced earlier this year that "the bond offering had succeeded."

AKIRA WATTS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

akiratorture(Photo: Kilho Park )On October 9, some 2086 days after President Obama signed an executive order requiring the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, testimony continued in a court case challenging the routine practice of force-feeding detainees. It is somewhat disturbing to hear that what is being challenged is not the practice of force-feeding, in and of itself, but merely the manner in which it is being carried out. Abu Wa’el Dhiab, the individual bringing the suit, would simply like the force-feedings to be carried out in a more comfortable fashion.

And that is apparently where we’ve arrived, 2000+ days after Guantanamo was ordered to be closed. We are not debating why this closure has yet to happen. We are not questioning the practice of force-feeding, which is widely considered to be inhuman and degrading treatment. No. We’re watching a court case in which a detainee begs to be placed in a more comfortable chair while the force-feeding occurs, and even that minor request is opposed by government testimony.

Perhaps you may find it a small solace that detainees are offered a choice of nutrient flavors – from vanilla to strawberry, butter pecan to chocolate. Or that, if they are well behaved, they may be fed communally, watching television and sitting in padded chairs whilst nutrients are forced into their bodies.

Does that make you feel any better?

I thought so.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

alacampensinavox(Photo: Ian McKenzie)

There's a new wave of free trade agreements coming down the pike - unless they are defeated by an uprising of those concerned about unsustainable farming, climate change, corporate interests superseding sovereignty, unfair labor practices and many more perilous threats. The three major economic pacts in the final stages of negotiation are the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), negotiated between the US and European Union; the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TTP), negotiated between the US and 11 countries in the Asia-Pacific region; and the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), negotiated between the European Union and Canada.

These trade pacts are modeled on NAFTA and its numerous successors - agreements that solidify a global corporate infrastructure that legally empowers behemoth businesses to reshape the economy of the world to suit their needs. This framework includes a little-known provision contained in most international trade agreements, called the protocol for investor-state dispute settlement. In essence, it allows multinational corporations to sue sovereign governments for claimed loss of profits due to national or local laws, such as environmental protections.

2014.10.13.BF(Image: Jared Rodriguez / Truthout)PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

It was recently reported that Americans greatly underestimate the degree of inequality in our country. If we were given proper media coverage of the endless takeaway of our country's wealth by the super-rich, we would be infuriated. And we would be taking it personally.

Each of nine individuals (Gates, Buffett, 2 Kochs, 4 Waltons, Zuckerberg) made, on average, so much from his/her investments since January, 2013 that a median American worker would need a quarter of a million years to catch up. For the most part it was passive income, new wealth derived from the continuing productivity of America's workers.


Why We Should Take It Personally

First, because our productivity is rewarding a relatively few people. In addition, many of the top money-makers are damaging other American lives. The top nine include four people (Waltons) who pay their employees so little that we taxpayers have to pay almost $6,000 a year to support each one of the employees. And it includes two people (Kochs) who have polluted our air and water to enrich themselves while quietly funding organizations that threaten to dismantle what's left of our democracy.

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