Guest Commentary (4198)
ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUTDR. VANDANA SHIVA OF
Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch.
Citizens of the US are being denied the right to know what they are feeding their families. Despite the fact that 90 percent of American citizens want GMO labeling on their food, big business is doing everything it can to prevent people from accessing their rights. Representative Pompeo’s bill, popularly known as the DARK Act (Denying Americans the Right to Know), has been written almost entirely by the biotech industry lobby. While American citizens are advocating for their rights to knowledge and healthy, affordable food, Monsanto’s legal team is busy on every legislative level trying to prevent this from happening.
Monsanto’s subversion of democratic legal processes is not new. In fact, it is their modus operandi, be it the subversion of LA’s decision to be GMO free by amending the California Seed Law—equating corporations with persons and making seed libraries and exchange of seed beyond 3 miles illegal—or suing Maui County for passing a law banning GMOs.
Decades before there was a “debate” over GMOs and Monsanto’s PR and law firms became the busiest of bees, India was introduced to this corrupting, corporate giant that had no respect for the laws of the land. When this massive company did speak of laws, these laws had been framed, essentially, by their own lawyers.
Today, Indian cotton farmers are facing a genocide that has resulted in the death of at least 300,000 of their brothers and sisters between 1995 and 2013, averaging 14,462 per year (1995-2000) and 16,743 per year (2001-2011). This epidemic began in the cotton belt, in Maharashtra, where 53,818 farmers have taken their lives. Monsanto, on it’s own website, admits that pink bollworm “resistance [to Bt] is natural and expected” and that the resistance to Bt “posed a significant threat to the nearly 5 million farmers who were planting the product in India.” Eighty four percent of the farmer suicides have been attributed to Monsanto’s Bt Cotton, placing the corporation’s greed and lawlessness at the heart of India’s agrarian crisis.
PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Corporations have reaped trillion-dollar benefits from 60 years of public education in the U.S., but they're skipping out on the taxes meant to sustain the educational system. Children suffer from repeated school cutbacks. And parents subsidize the deadbeat corporations through increases in property taxes and sales taxes.
Big Companies Pay About a Third of their Required State Taxes
An earlier report noted that 25 of our nation's largest corporations paid combined 2013 state taxes at a rate of 2.4%, a little over a third of the average required tax. Many of these companies play one state against another, holding their home states hostage for tax breaks under the threat of bolting to other states.
Without Corporate Taxes, K-12 Public Education Keeps Getting Cut
Overall spending on K-12 public school students fell in 2011 for the first time since the Census Bureau began keeping records over three decades ago. The cuts have continued to the present day, with the majority of states spending less per student than before the 2008 recession.
It's Getting Worse
Total corporate profits were about $1.8 trillion in 2013 (with other estimates somewhat higher or lower). The $46 billion in total corporate state income tax in 2013, as reported by both Ernst & Young (Table 3-A) and the Census Bureau, amounts to just 2.55% of the $1.8 trillion in corporate profits, a drop from the 3% paid in the five years ending in 2012.
KYLE MCCARTHY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Recently, Arne Duncan, US Secretary of Education, and Under Secretary Ted Mitchell held a conference call discussing the Department's plans for debt relief for Corinthian College students as well as to discuss holding other predatory schools accountable.
Some of these schools have brought the ethics of payday lending into higher education. They prey on the most vulnerable students, and leave them with debt that they too often can't repay. We must have accountability to protect both students and taxpayers.
Duncan is absolutely right. Many for-profit colleges promote themselves as career colleges, when in reality, they often leave students deep in debt, and without a degree. Corinthian is one example, but hardly the only culprit of this.
Just look at Globe University and the Minnesota School of Business (MSB). These two schools make up the bulk of the Globe Education Network, a family-owned chain of more than 30 for-profit colleges, which are often branded as "premier, family-managed system of career colleges, universities and training centers." Though they are marketed as being premiere, statistics paint a very different picture and often leave students worse off than before they enrolled. Both Globe University and MSB have high tuition, sky-high average student debt, high student loan default rates, poor graduation rates, and face numerous accusations of deception and high-pressure recruiting tactics.
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
“. . . no real security, just powers of retaliation.”
This was Norman Mailer, four-plus decades ago, writing in Miami and the Siege of Chicago about the obsessive security measures – “helicopters riding overhead like roller coasters, state troopers with magnums on their hip and crash helmets, squad cars, motorcycles” – at the Democratic and Republican national conventions, which . . . uh, didn’t actually provide security, but sure allowed us to get even afterwards.
This is still the unnoticed insanity haunting the American news cycle, whether the story being reported is domestic or international. As a society, we’re armed and dangerous – and always at war, both collectively and individually. We’re endlessly declaring bad guys (officially and unofficially) and endlessly protecting ourselves from them, in the process guaranteeing that the violence continues. And the parallels between “them” and “us” are unnerving.
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Mohammad Abdulazeez opened fire at a naval reserve training facility in Chattanooga and killed five people. He was suffering from depression and possibly radicalized by ISIS. Fox News headlined the story: “Tennessee gunman was armed to the teeth and ready for war with America.” The story pointed out that he was a naturalized American citizen born in Kuwait.
ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUTSTEFANIE SPEAR OF
Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch
The Arctic has been in the news a lot lately since President Obama gave conditional approval to Shell to start drilling for oil and gas in the northernmost part of the Earth. Shell could begin exploratory drilling as early as next week, risking devastating oil spills and ensuring more carbon emissions pumped into the atmosphere, undermining the goals set by the US in its fight against climate change.
To bring greater awareness to these dire concerns, Golden Globe-winner Keri Russell, Oscar-nominated director Darren Aronofsky, Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune along with veterans advocates Genevieve Chase and BriGette McCoy, and author Rebecca Solnit just visited the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. They saw firsthand why millions of Americans want the Arctic permanently protected.
“Going to Alaska was a lifelong dream,” said Russell. “I’m amazed by the incredible beauty and serenity of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Having the chance to camp and raft the Kongakut River and completely immerse myself in nature was a life changing experience and an important reminder that we need to protect these lands for future generations.”
PETER PHILLIPS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
July 18th 2015 was the first day of this year’s summer camp for the world’s business and political aristocracy and their invited guests. 2,000 to 3,000 men, mostly from the wealthiest global one percent, gather at Bohemian Grove, 70 miles north of San Francisco in California’s Sonoma County—to sit around the campfire and chew the fat—off-the-record—with ex-presidents, corporate leaders and global financiers.
Speakers this year giving “Lakeside Chats” include past Secretary of Defense and the CIA Leon Panetta, Paul Volcker Jr. former Federal Reserve Chairman, retired Admiral Mike Mullen former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, NYU Law Professor Bryan Stevenson, producer Norman Lear, the founder of AOL Steve Case, and Christopher Hill former US Ambassador to Iraq.
The Bohemian Grove summer encampments have become one of the most famous private men's retreats in the world. Club members and several hundred world-class guests gather annually in the last weeks of July to recreate what has been called "the greatest men's party on earth." Spanning three weekends, the outdoors event includes lectures, rituals, theater, camp parties, golf, swimming, skeet shooting, politics, sideline business meetings and feasts of food and alcohol.
One might imagine modern-day aristocrats like Henry Kissinger, the Koch brothers, and Donald Rumsfeld amid a circle of friends sipping cognac and discussing how the "unqualified" masses cannot be trusted to carry out policy, and how elites must set values that can be translated into "standards of authority."
BILL QUIGLEY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
When Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast on August 29, 2005, the nation saw tens of thousands of people left behind in New Orleans. Ten years later, it looks like the same people in New Orleans have been left behind again. The population of New Orleans is noticeably smaller and noticeably whiter. While tens of billions poured into Louisiana, the impact on poor and working people in New Orleans has been minimal. Many of the elderly and the poor, especially poor families with children, never made it back to New Orleans. The poverty rate for children who did made it back remains at disturbingly high pre-Katrina levels, especially for Black children. Rents are high and taking a higher percentage of people’s income. The pre-Katrina school system fired all it teachers and professionals and turned itself into the charter experiment capital of the US even while the number of children in public schools has dropped dramatically. Since Katrina, white incomes, which were over twice that of Blacks, have risen three times as much as Blacks. While not all the numbers below are bad, they do illustrate who has been left behind in the ten years since Katrina hit.
33 Rent in New Orleans is up 33 percent for one bedroom apartments and 41 percent for two bedroom apartments since Katrina hit. This is very tough because in New Orleans, 55 percent of residents rent. The national average is 35 percent. In 2005, one bedroom was $578 and two was $676. In 2015, it is $767 for one and $950 for two. CNN/Money recently named New Orleans as one of the worst cities in the US for renters. Before Katrina the average renter spent 19 percent of its income on rent. The Data Center, a terrific resource for information on the region, reports 37 percent of renters in New Orleans now spend more than 50 percent of their income to rent. Rental apartments are mostly substandard as well with 78 percent, nearly 50,000 apartments, in the city needing major repairs.
38 In 2005, 38 percent of the children in New Orleans lived in poverty, 17 percentage points higher than the US as a whole. The most recent numbers show 39 percent of the children in New Orleans live in poverty, still 17 percentage points higher than the national average. 82 percent of these families have someone working in the family so the primary cause is low wages.
PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The FBI defines terrorism as "Acts dangerous to human life...intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population." Much of the behavior of our current health care system meets that definition. The facts show intention on the part of corporations to intimidate the population by using market strategies to charge whatever they like for their medical products and services, and an effort to coerce the public into accepting the current system as the only option.
The Average American Family Pays $4,000 for Medical Fraud and Subsidies
Medical billing fraud is estimated at 10 percent of all health care, or about $270 billion, while patent monopolies raise the price of prescription drugs by another $270 billion a year. Combined, this represents an astonishing annual cost of over $4,000 to an average American household. As The Atlantic puts it, "The people most likely to bilk the system are doctors and medical providers, not 'welfare queens.'"
Intimidation by Outrageous Markups
In a recent analysis of 50 hospitals (49 for-profit) with the highest charge-to-cost ratios in 2012, the average markup was 1,000 percent, which means that a procedure costing a hospital $100 is marked up to $1,000 for us.
Some of the markups test the limits of sanity: an 80-cent needle for $143.25 (a 17,000 percent markup). A 25-cent IUD device for $1,000. A blood test that costs $10 in one hospital and $10,000 in another.
ROBERT C. KOEHLER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Austerity, the tool of neoliberal capitalism, stands up to Greek democracy and stares it down. Oh well.
We’re remarkably comfortable with soulless economics.
Pope Francis, speaking this week in Paraguay, cried to the nations of Planet Earth: “I ask them not to yield to an economic model . . . which needs to sacrifice human lives on the altar of money and profit.”
But we have yielded to this economic model, in thought, word and deed:
“At issue,” USA Today informs us, “is whether Greece has taken adequate steps to cut spending and raise taxes to deserve the new three-year, $59 billion infusion of funds it has requested, and whether it can be trusted to follow through on the austerity program it has proposed as the price for new loans.”
The pope’s words haven’t penetrated the pseudo-objective certainties of financial reporting, much less the dark sanctuaries of money and power. But they must. And eventually they will, or human evolution is dead. An allegedly impersonal economic structure, which quietly benefits the infinitesimally few who have far more than they need, is no foundation for our future.
This economic system is a relic of the Industrial Age, or perhaps it’s a relic of the Agricultural Revolution. It’s imbued with deep prejudices — human beings can be bought and sold, the nurturing of human life (women’s work) has no monetary value whatsoever — and reinforces our place outside the circle of life, separated from one another and from our deepest values.
ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUTJEFF BIGGERS OF
Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch
Signaling a watershed shift in recognizing the national health crisis from cancer-linked strip mining in central Appalachia, more than 200,000 people have signed historic CREDO Action and Earthjustice petitions, calling on Congress to pass the Appalachian Communities Health Emergency Act(H.R. 912) and enact a moratorium on new mountaintop removal coal mining (MTR).
With the Appalachian coal industry in a tailspin and the global banking community pulling out of mountaintop removal financing, the extraordinary show of support for the ACHE Act campaign effectively acknowledges that the only defenders of the cancer-linked radical strip mining operations are a handful of absentee coal companies, indicted coal baron Don Blankenship, and their fringe supporters in Congress.