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2015.30.3 BF Berkowitz(Photo: Luis Felipe Salas)BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

The Justice Department’s recent report on Ferguson, Missouri’s criminal justice system pointed out that African Americans were specifically targeted, seen "less as constituents to be protected than as potential offenders and sources of revenue." An NPR investigation found that Ferguson collected $2.6 million in fines and fees in 2013, the city’s second largest source of income, a good chunk of which came from minor infractions. While these revelations were shocking to some, they were not particularly surprising to either the majority of Ferguson residents, or to those following recent trends in criminal justice.

Bilking the poor has ushered in an era of offender-financed criminal justice services, a phenomenon that has become a toxic lifeline for many local governments. It has also spurred the growth of private companies whose bottom lines are forged by providing probation services and operating jails and prisons.

Being poor in America has never been easy. Since the advent of poverty programs, stigmatizing poor people -- particularly people of color -- has been a major item in the playbook of conservative politicians. These days, however, the actions of local governments are making being poor that much more difficult.

According to a new Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) report titled, "The Poor Get Prison: The Alarming Spread of the Criminalization of Poverty", “Poor people, especially people of color, face a far greater risk of being fined, arrested, and even incarcerated for minor offenses than other Americans.”

“A broken taillight, an unpaid parking ticket, a minor drug offense, sitting on a sidewalk, or sleeping in a park can all result in jail time,” Karen Dolan, an IPS Fellow who directs its Criminalization of Poverty Project, and the lead author of the report, and co-author Jodi L. Carr, a research associate at IPS, point out.

2015.30.3 BF BUCHHEIT(Photo: MTSOfan)PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

The distorted belief that wealthy individuals and corporations are job creators has led to sizeable business subsidies and tax breaks. The biggest giveaway is often overlooked: corporations use our nation's plentiful resources, largely at no cost, to build their profits.

There are several factual and well-established reasons why corporations owe a great debt to the nation that has made them rich.

Our Tax Money Pays for Much of the Research

The majority (57 percent) of basic research, the essential startup work for products that don't yet yield profits, is paid for by our tax dollars. When ALL forms of research are included -- basic, applied, and developmental -- approximately 30 percent comes from public money. In 2009 universities were still receiving ten times more science & engineering funding from government than from industry.

All of our technology, securities trading, medicine, infrastructure, and national security have their roots in public research and development. For a pageful of details look here.

Even the business-minded The Economist, with reference to Mariana Mazzucato's book The Entrepreneurial State, admits that "Ms Mazzucato is right to argue that the state has played a central role in producing game-changing breakthroughs, and that its contribution to the success of technology-based businesses should not be underestimated."

LIZABETH PAULAT OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaElephant(Photo: EcoWatch)A recent summit on elephant population and habitat has led to some dire predictions: the African elephant may go extinct within our lifetimes.

Putting the end date at just decades away, the African Elephant Summit, which hosted delegates from various Asian, European and African countries, focused on mitigating poaching and increasing elephant habitats around the continent.

The statistics presented are staggering. In the 1940s, there were thought to be around 3-5 million African elephants in the wild. These days conservation organizations are estimating only 500,000 to 700,000 elephants currently exist. The largest drops came during the 1980′s when the continent saw widespread turbulence. Rather than rising back up from the fall when stability took over much of the region, increased poaching has hastened the elephant’s population decline.

The summit highlighted the link between poverty, infant mortality and poaching, showing a correlation between desperate communities, and how susceptible they can be to engaging in the illegal wildlife trade.

Yet, despite these dire warnings, there is a small beacon of hope in the midst.

2015.26.3 BF JoNAS(Photo: Gage Skidmore)STEVE JONAS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Once upon a time there was a dystopian novel, originally published in 1996, in which a candidate of the Republican religious right makes it to the presidency in 2004. The son of a racist truck-driver who first gets elected to the House of Representatives in the time of Newt Gingrich, his name was Jefferson Davis Hague. Hague won the Presidency on a platform of “ending welfare, cutting taxes, emasculating ‘government regulation,’ especially of the environment and for consumer protection, criminalizing abortion, banning ‘sodomy’ [gay marriage was hardly an issue when the book was written in 1994-95], and establishing ‘the centrality of God in America’ ’’ (a phrase in the book actually taken from a fund-raising letter circulated by Newt Gingrich in the summer of 1995). He was able to win the presidency on a platform like that because his Democratic Party opponent was an old-fashioned Bill Clinton-like, Democratic Leadership Council type, center-right, “let’s-all-work-together-to-find-the-middle-ground,” Democrat. He had no stomach for fighting the kind of no-holds-barred fight that would have been necessary to defeat Hague. And so, with a massive turnout, especially of the Christian Right, Hague won easily.

All of Hague’s positions were drawn from real Republican/Religious Right speeches, legislative proposals, platform planks, and etc. from the 1980s and 90s. So the writing in the book was not prescient, just observant. But does this all of it possibly sound familiar now? Well, it should, because it was all there front-and-center in the Presidential-candidacy announcement speech of Ted Cruz on July 23, 2015. In fact it was eerily familiar, and in my view has to be taken very seriously.   As a commentator on NPR on March 23 noted, most candidates announce their candidacy on home grounds, often from a favorite place in their states. Picking another location can be considered very symbolic. For example, Ronald Reagan announced his 1980 candidacy at Philadelphia, MS, where the three civil rights workers had been murdered in the Freedom Summer of 1964. And he made it clear that he was not there to memorialize them.

Thursday, 26 March 2015 06:20

Wealth vs. Money

2015.26.3 BF KOEHLER(Photo: Tiz)

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ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

“There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?”

The words are those of Jonas Salk, developer of the polio vaccine, speaking to Edward R. Murrow in 1955, as quoted recently in an essay by Paul Buchheit. What was he thinking? Six decades later, the words have such a counter-resonance with prevailing thought. They exude an old-fashioned humility and innocence, like . . . striking it rich isn’t necessarily the ultimate point of life?

I read these words and sense so much spilled wisdom in them, so much wasted hope. The world we’ve created is governed these days by two unquestioned principles: commodify and dominate. And it’s chewing up the resources that used to belong to every occupant of the planet.

“Eighty people hold the same amount of wealth as the world’s 3.6 billion poorest people, according to an analysis just released from Oxfam,”Mona Chalabi wrote in January at FiveThirtyEight.com. “The report from the global anti-poverty organization finds that since 2009, the wealth of those 80 richest has doubled in nominal terms — while the wealth of the poorest 50 percent of the world’s population has fallen.”

The winners keep winning and everyone loses.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaCrossCruz(Photo: Dustin Johnston)It makes perfect sense for Senator Ted Cruz to have chosen to make his formal announcement that he is running for the Republican Party's 2016 presidential nomination in front of an audience at the late Rev. Jerry Falwell's Liberty University, the largest Christian university in the country. Cruz, who comes out of the conservative evangelical Christian Right, is going to be courting white evangelical Christian primary voters, so he might as well get started revving up their engines.

Cruz supporters see him as a highly intelligent and articulate spokesperson with an impressive academic background, and a man who is willing to take a principled stand, and stick by it regardless of the circumstances. Many on the left -- as well as some on the establishment right – tend to dismiss Cruz as a buffoon, a self-promoting carnival barker who not only goes off the rails, and is proud to live off the rails.

As is often the case, researcher and investigative journalist Bruce Wilson is cutting through what I am calling "The Fog of Ted Cruz."

In a recent Talk2Action post titled "Ted Cruz: Born From The Heart of the Dominionist Christian Right," Wilson pointed out that both Cruz, and his father Rafael, are steeped in the politics of the Religious Right. Wilson wrote that they both have deep "ties to the dominionist Christian right," and have "made frequent public appearances ... onstage with leaders from the most extreme factions of the Christian right."

COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaDenton(Photo: EcoWatch)Citizens of Denton, Texas are still fighting to keep fracking banned within city limits despite the vote last November in favor of the ban. Ever since the vote, state lawmakers in cahoots with the oil and gas industry and the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, have attempted to strip municipalities like Denton of home rule authority to override the city’s ban, according to Frack Free Denton.

The town is the first municipality in Texas to ban fracking and has consequently become ground zero for the fracking debate. Yesterday, Denton Mayor Chris Watts and City Attorney Anita Burgess traveled to Austin to testify at a hearing on two bills that have emerged in response to Denton’s fracking ban, according to Frack Free Denton. In solidarity with grassroots organizers from the Frack Free Denton movement and other residents from small Texas towns who also testified in Austin, documentary filmmaker and Denton resident Garrett Graham released a new trailer for his forthcoming film.

With the help of Frack Free Denton, Graham made a film that “chronicles Denton’s uphill battle against oil and gas interest deep in the heart of the gas patch,” said Frack Free Denton. The oil and gas industry is working hard to undo Denton’s ban and to keep other cities from following Denton’s example but residents of Denton are speaking out.

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaCancerRoundup(Photo: EcoWatch)Glyphosate, the toxic active ingredient in the Monsanto’s flagship herbicide Roundup, was “classified as probably carcinogenic to humans” according to a new report from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the Word Health Organization’s France-based cancer research arm.

Roundup is one of the world’s most widely used weed killers and the most popular in the U.S. Among farmworkers who use the herbicide, traces of the compound were found in their blood and urine that linked to a slightly increased risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, according to the report issued last week. “Case-control studies of occupational exposure in the USA, Canada, and Sweden reported increased risks for non-Hodgkin lymphoma that persisted after adjustment for other pesticides,” it said. There is also “convincing evidence” that it can cause cancer in laboratory animals.

Traces of the weed killer can also be found in food, water and in the air after it has been sprayed, according to the WHO report. In fact, according to a different study from the U.S. Geological Survey which focused on Mississippi’s highly fertile Delta agricultural region, the herbicide was present in 75 percent of air and rainfall test samples.

The WHO report focuses on industrial use of glyphosate. Home gardeners do not appear to be at risk. “I don’t think home use is the issue,” Kate Guyton of IARC told the Associated Press. “It’s agricultural use that will have the biggest impact. For the moment, it’s just something for people to be conscious of.”

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaConsume(Photo: lyzadanger)Good news, people: The "boom" is back! Yes, good times are here again, thanks to an economic boom that's being generated by (of all things) bad times.

As you might know from your own experiences, tens of millions of Americans have been hit hard, knocked down and held down in recent years by the collapse of jobs and wages. This calamity has led to a second blow for millions of the same families, who find themselves suddenly buried in piles of overdue bills for credit card charges, student loans and other consumer debt.

But the good news is that there's a bright silver lining in that dark financial cloud. Only, it's not for the indebted families, but for a booming breed of finance hucksters known as consumer debt buyers. Believe it or not, in the warped world of high finance,

"There's gold in them thar hills" of bad debt, and where there's gold, there are diggers.

Whenever a corporation issues a statement declaring that it's committed to "treating consumers fairly and with respect," chances are, it's not.

2015.23.3 BERKOWITZ BF(Photo: Libsciterp)BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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After her grandmother died in 2002, and the subsequent death of her paternal grandfather two years later, Chamique Holdsclaw’s world began to unravel.

At one time, her life mostly revolved around playing basketball. She could do just about anything asked of her – and more -- on the court. From Christ the King Regional High School in Queens, New York, to the basketball program at the University of Tennessee -- where she played for the legendary coach Pat Summitt and helped lead the Lady Vols to three consecutive national championships -- to the WNBA (Women's National Basketball Association), Holdsclaw was a star.

She won numerous prestigious awards, including the 1998 Sullivan Award for best amateur athlete -- male or female -- in the country, and she was named the Naismith College Player of the Year in 1998 and 1999. She was WNBA Rookie of the Year in 1999, became a six-time WNBA All-Star, and won a Gold Medal as part of the U.S. team (she didn’t play because of a stress fracture in her right foot) that won the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. She was one of the most recognized faces in women’s professional basketball.

A little over a decade later, in November 2012, Holdsclaw captured headlines for something altogether unexpected; she was arrested for allegedly smashing up her ex-girlfriend's car while the friend was inside. Less than a year after that, she pled guilty to aggravated assault, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony and other charges. She was fined, sentenced to three years probation, and community service.

In her 2012 autobiography titled Breaking Through: Beating the Odds Shot After Shot, Holdsclaw revealed that she had been battling depression during her professional basketball career, and had attempted suicide on one occasion.

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