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Wednesday, 11 May 2016 07:19

Louisiana Number One in Incarceration

BILL QUIGLEY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Chain1 0511wrp(Photo: Toni Lozano)In 2014, the US Department of Justice confirmed Louisiana remained number 1, among the 50 states, with 38,030 in prison, a rate of 816 per 100,000 over 100 points ahead of next highest state Oklahoma.  Because the US leads the world in incarcerating its people, this means Louisiana is number one in the world.  Compare Louisiana’s rate of 816 people per 100,000 with Russia’s 492, China with 119, France with 100, and Germany with 78.

Louisiana first became number 1 in the nation in 2005 when it was imprisoning 36,083 people.  Louisiana remained number 1, in 2010 with 35,207 in prison, an incarceration rate of 867 per 100,000 people, over 200 points head of the next highest state Mississippi.

It was not always so.  In 1965, Louisiana ranked 13th nationally in putting its citizens in jail with a rate of 109 prisoners per 100,000 people.  In 1978, Louisiana only held 7,291 people behind bars.  By 1986, Louisiana was 5th highest in the nation in putting its own citizens in prison, with 14,580 behind bars, a rate of 322 per 100,000, according to the US Department of Justice.   In 1990, Louisiana rose to 3rd highest in the nation, putting 18,599 behind bars, a rate of 427 per 100,000.  In 2000, Louisiana moved to 2nd highest in the nation, imprisoning 35,047 behind bars, a rate of 801 per 100,000.

The number of prisoners expanded nation-wide as a result of the “war on drugs” which was conducted in a racist way to target blacks.  But in Louisiana, the prisons also backed up when the practice of releasing prisoners for good behavior after 10 years and 6 months of their life sentences was ended in the 1970s.

Louisiana has been much more severe in sending black people to prison than whites, at least after black people were no longer slaves.   In 1860, when the Civil War started, the population of the Louisiana penitentiary was two-thirds white.  But by 1868, the population of Louisiana’s penitentiary was two-thirds black.

2016.1.5 BF Hitt(Photo: Oatsy40)MARY ANNE HITT OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

This is big -- for our climate, for clean air and water, for our future. It's also big because the U.S. government is honoring its treaty obligations. After a five-year struggle that engaged hundreds of thousands of people, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued a landmark decision Monday to deny federal permits for the biggest proposed coal export terminal in North America -- the SSA Marine's proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal, acoalexport facility at Xwe'chi'eXen (also known as Cherry Point), Washington.

In January 2015, the Lummi Nation asked the Army Corps to reject the project because it would violate U.S. treaty obligations to project the tribe's fisheries and ancestral lands. This is a huge win for the Lummi Nation and its Northwest community allies over the coal companies.

The Army Corps made the right choice and did its duty by upholding treaty rights and honoring the U.S. government's commitment to those treaties. Time and again, Pacific International Terminals has shown disregard for the Lummi Nation and its allies, who have for years voiced concerns about the project's public health, economic and environmental impacts.

2016.10.5 bf chow(Photo: Mike Mozart)LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

The House Science, Space and Technology Committee is questioning why the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)posted and then suddenly pulled its highly anticipated risk assessment of glyphosate, the main ingredient in weedkillers such as Monsanto's flagship herbicide Roundup.

On April 29, the EPA's Cancer Assessment Review Committee published a report online about glyphosate concluding that the chemical is not likely carcinogenic to humans. However, even though it was marked "Final" and was signed by 13 members of CARC, the report disappeared from the website three days later.

The EPA said that the report was "inadvertently" released. A spokeswoman said:

"Glyphosate documents were inadvertently posted to the Agency's docket. These documents have now been taken down because our assessment is not final. EPA has not completed our cancer review. We will look at the work of other governments as well as work by HHS's Agricultural Health Study as we move to make a decision on glyphosate. Our assessment will be peer reviewed and completed by end of 2016."

Following the move, committee chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) sent a letter on March 4 to EPA administrator Gina McCarthy announcing that his committee is launching an investigation into the matter and is asking that the EPA provide all documents and communications related to the glyphosate study from Jan. 1, 2015 to present. He is giving the EPA until May 18 to provide this information.

Monday, 09 May 2016 07:55

The Collapse of the Middle-Class Job

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Class2 0509wrp(Photo: Phillies1fan777)Our middle-income jobs are disappearing. That fact may be disputed by free-market advocates, who want to believe Barack Obama when he gushes, "We’re in the middle of the longest streak of private sector job creation in history."

But the evidence shows that living-wage, family-sustaining positions are quickly being replaced by lower-wage and less secure forms of employment. These plentiful low-level jobs have padded the unemployment figures, leaving much of America believing in an overhyped recovery.

The Incredible Shrinking Job

New research is beginning to confirm the permanent nature of middle-income job loss. Based on analysis that one reviewer calls "some of the most important work done by economists in the last twenty years," a National Bureau of Economic Research study found that national employment levels have fallen in U.S. industries that are vulnerable to import competition, without offsetting job gains in other industries. Even the Wall Street Journal admits that "many middle-wage occupations, those with average earnings between $32,000 and $53,000, have collapsed."

Productive Workers, but Less of Them

High-salaried jobs in technology still exist, but they're available to fewer people as machines become smarter. Netflix, for example, serves 57 million customers with less than 2,200 employees, who have a median salary of $180,000. Google is worth $370 billion but employs only about 55,000 workers (50 years ago AT&T was worth less in today's dollars but employed about 750,000 workers). Facebook's messaging application WhatsApp has 55 employees serving 450 million customers.

As jobs are downsized, profits are maximized. Apple makes over $500,000 per employee; Facebook and Google are both over $300,000; Exxon and Phillips 66 are both well over $250,000; Merck and Allergan and Pfizer are all significantly over $100,000. Just 25 years ago GM, Ford, and Chrysler generated a combined $36 billion in revenue while employing over 1,000,000 workers. Today Apple, Facebook, and Google generate over a trillion dollars in revenue with 137,000 workers.

Researchers at the University of Chicago have estimated that half of the labor decline in this century is due to the replacement of people with computers and software. Oxford University researchers forecasted that half of all jobs will be performed by machine by the 2030s.

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Solar 0506wrp opt(Photo: BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT)The price of solar power dipped to another record low on May 1 when five international companies bid as little as 2.99 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) to develop the latest phase of work at Dubai’s enormous Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum solar park, which will be one of Earth’s largest solar plants when complete.

At less than 3 cents per kWh, that’s 15 percent lower than the previous record-low bid of 3.5 cents per kWh from Italy’s Enel Green Power for a solar project in Mexico, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

The latest bid is also nearly 50 percent cheaper than last year’s winning bid of 5.84 cents per kWh for developing the 200-megawatt second phase of the same solar park, which already broke records then, The National pointed out.

“This not only marks the lowest cost ever for solar power, but also easily beats all available fossil-fuel options in Dubai on cost,” explained Dr. Moritz Borgmann, a partner at of the cleantech advisory group Apricum.

2016.5.5 BF Durst(Photo: DonkeyHotey)WILL DURST FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

One of the oddest moments in a presidential campaign filled brim-spillingly with them, is the sight of the Republican Party struggling to rally around its presumptive nominee, Donald J. Trump. Perhaps "rally" is too strong of a word. More of a depressed dawdle. A lackluster loiter. Melancholy mosey. Crematory crawl.

The party is exhibiting all the enthusiasm of a condemned man walking barefoot to the gallows up 13 steps of broken glass like an eight-year old forced to rip a switch off a birch tree prior to a paternal spanking. A film critic trudging through the lobby of a multiplex for a preview of the next Transformers movie.

A shame that Elizabeth Kubler-Ross died a decade ago, and can't witness all five of her Stages of Grief being spun out at the same time. Depending on where you look, the GOP can be seen going through denial, anger, bargaining, depression and a reluctant acceptance. She could even update her classic with new stages: dejection, mortification, suicidal gloom, self- immolation and eye gouging panic.

Thursday, 05 May 2016 06:49

Cowardice and Exoneration in Kunduz

AC-130 gunship(Photo: BattleSpartan)ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

"The people are being reduced to blood and dust. They are in pieces."

The doctor who uttered these words still thought the hospital itself was a safe zone. He was with Doctors Without Borders, working in Kunduz, Afghanistan, where the Taliban and government forces were engaged in hellish fighting and civilians, as always, were caught in the middle. The wounded, including children, had been flowing in all week, and the staff were unrelieved in their duties, working an unending shift.

Their week ended at 2 a.m. last Oct. 3 when -- as the world knows -- a U.S. AC-130 gunship began strafing the hospital, the crew apparently acting on the mistaken belief that this was a Taliban compound. The strike lasted for an hour, continuing even though the humanitarian organization contacted the Pentagon and pleaded that it stop.

A total of 211 shells hit the hospital. The Intensive Care Unit was wiped out. Every patient in the unit except for a 3-year-old girl was killed, some burning to death in their beds. A total of 42 people -- patients, staff and doctors -- died because of this lethal mistake.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Target 0504wrp opt(Photo: Mike Kalasnik)Thus far, the only problems with Target’s new policy of allowing transgender people to use restrooms and dressing rooms that correspond with their gender identity, are being caused by a number of conservative Christian activists --several of whom are being sent out with video cameras by the American Family Association -- rushing into Target stores to test the policy.

Not a big fan of Target stores. Shopped there occasionally over the years. Have a Target REDCard, and to the best of my knowledge it wasn’t hacked in 2013. However, now that Target is under attack by the American Family Association, the Christian Right’s boycott-launching king, I may consider doing some REDcard damage in the near future.

The dust-up over the Minneapolis-based Target began in mid-April, when the company’s management decided that employees and customers who are men according to their birth sex could use women's bathrooms and dressing rooms. A statement posted on the company’s website on April 19, under the headline “Continuing to Stand for Inclusivity” read: "[W]e welcome transgender team members and guests to use the restroom or fitting room facility that corresponds with their gender identity. ...Everyone deserves to feel like they belong."

By making this decision, Target jumped into what has become this year’s number one wedge and fundraising issue for the Christian Right; Keeping transgender people out of bathrooms.

As of this writing, Christian Right groups are claiming that more than 1 million people have signed an American Family Association-initiated petition.

pledging a boycott over the store’s bathroom policies. At the AFA website, the headline reads “Sign the Boycott Target Pledge!”

JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Ammunition 0504wrp opt(Photo: Department of Defense)I’ve been thinking about Mother’s Day—and all the mothers that will never receive flowers and cards again from their beloved children that were unnecessarily killed in the U.S. pre-emptive invasion of the Middle East.

I vaguely remember presidential candidate Barack Obama during the 2008 primary. So many different masks on this man that it’s hard to recollect that he argued for “peaceful negotiations,” and that “sending our troops into combat should be our very last resort…”

However, President Obama not only expanded instability throughout the Middle East by allowing the CIA to play havoc with Libya and Syria, which led to the deaths of tens of thousands of families, including the bombing of hospitals with wounded children under Doctors without Borders care (Afghanistan, Yemen and Syria), his decision led to eight million refugees pounding the doors of neighboring European countries.

As I explained in my last Buzzflash-Truthout commentary, dictators or no, before the Bush-Obama administrations invaded these countries, the majority of families had homes, water, food, jobs, sewer systems, electricity, and even if they didn’t like their leaders, and even if conditions may have been challenging in Syria, they at least had their families and homes and food on the table.

Like the U.S., Europeans have been financially struggling since the Wall Street banksters’ “unregulated” greed reached a 2008 global crisis. In addition to the suffering in Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen, Obama and his CIA advisors decided to make the lives of Libyans and Syrians go from difficult to unbearable. Europeans are also desperate—and they don’t know how they’re going to support millions of starving people when their own families are in dire straits much like middle-class Americans that are being crushed beneath the corporate oligarchic wheel.

Fracking infrastructure(Photo: Eric Gustafson)WENONAH HAUTER OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

Colorado's high court today struck down the rights of Coloradans to enact local fracking bans. It's no surprise, given the massive sway of the oil and gas industry in the state. The suit was brought against Longmont (which passed a popular fracking ban in 2012) by Gov. John Hickenlooper and his industry cronies. While it's easy to be discouraged by this decision, the fact is, it will help activate citizens to pass statewide ballot measures to ban fracking in November.

And let's not forget: The movement to stop fossil fuel development just keeps winning.

On Earth Day, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo put a stop to the Constitution pipeline, a dangerous project to shipped fracked gas from Pennsylvania into New York, intersecting almost 300 bodies of water. His action sent a clear message that protecting the safety of the state's drinking water was more important than expanding Big Oil's profits. And the move didn't come out of nowhere; the same grassroots pressure that successfully pushed Cuomo to ban fracking in 2014 pushed him to reject this dirty fracked gas pipeline.

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