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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

apredobama(Photo: doctress neutopia)

Celebrities come and go, but presidential attempts at despicable humor leave a foul aftertaste even after four years.

This is a truism that John Oliver recently proved on a recent "Last Week Tonight" segment (watch here) on US drone assassinations directly authorized by President Obama. At the infamous Washington White House Correspondents Dinner (this one in 2010), Obama was attempting to be humorous (watch here) when he warned:

"The Jonas Brothers are here. (Applause.) They're out there somewhere. Sasha and Malia are huge fans. But, boys, don't get any ideas. (Laughter.) I have two words for you - predator drones. (Laughter.) You will never see it coming. (Laughter.) You think I'm joking. (Laughter.)" 

The DC journalist stenographer corps laughed with abandon at the frightfully frivolous flaunting of the power to execute people using drones without any due process. This was the same Washington press gathering that laughed hysterically when then President Bush got on his knees and pretended to search for Weapons of Mass Destruction under a speakers' table long after it was clear that the active WMDs used to justify the Iraq War did not exist. 

Obama's mock threat to the Jonas brothers a few years back evoked the US indifference to those persons killed overseas by drone strikes. That is because the guffaws of the corporate media were based on the subconscious premise that Obama's boasting of his power to authorize kill strikes is limited to people of little note to DC insiders, Middle-Eastern civilians (collateral damage) and persons alleged to be terrorists or in areas where terrorists allegedly congregate. 

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...."

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. 

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.

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.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

anindig(Photo: Robbt)

It's been a pivotal, unjust and enduring false narrative that Columbus "discovered" the Americas.

How could he have "found" the western hemisphere, when millions and millions of indigenous people were already living here? The whole premise of Columbus finding previously unknown territory - celebrated on October 13 as a federal holiday (although he never even touched ground in what is now the United States) - is a dangerous Eurocentric perspective. It is a keystone in the still-prevalent delusion that white colonizers "brought" civilization to the Americas. 

Next week, Truthout and BuzzFlash will be offering a brilliant book (available now) that comprehensively debunks the framing of the history of the Americas from a conqueror's perspective: An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States, by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

ascientist(Photo: pheezy

A modicum of help is on the way for scientists who are under siege from climate deniers, corporations, ALEC and even some government agencies sympathetic to Chamber of Commerce influence. According to an email received by BuzzFlash from the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility:

A new program providing legal information, counseling and, when needed, formal representation to embattled scientists at no cost to them was unveiled today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). This Alliance for Legal Protection of Science (ALPS) will also field a national network of volunteer attorneys from a variety of specialties to help PEER staff counsel provide pro bono legal assistance to besieged scientists.When public scientists’ research has economic or political significance, their findings and careers are sometimes put under pressure or attack from industries or interest groups, such as fossil-fuel extractors, chemical and other manufacturers, as well as the law firms and “think tanks” they finance. Individual researchers are often ill-equipped to counter well-funded harassment campaigns.  ALPS will organize legal and other resources to protect both targeted scientists and their work products. 

The support services are much needed, given that the mainstream corporate media generally accepts assaults on the integrity of climate scientists and their work as "valid" opposing viewpoints. This is a result of two developments in news coverage. First, there is the generally established practice in current mass media of offering the reader false equivalencies rather than the establishment of fact by reporters. Second - and this is likely related to the first point – most mainstream media outlets, particularly television, are owned by parent corporations who support the pursuit of profit over the findings of scientists. If scientific research - on global warming or environmental pollution - results in conclusions that could undercut the bottom line for businesses, then it is generally in the interest of big media to call proven fact into question.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

ashkleindoc(Photo:BlueRobot)

Naomi Klein's brilliant 2008 book, "The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism," was a visionary breakthrough in understanding how the oligarchy uses catastrophic circumstances to seize economic control of nations. Taking advantage of natural, political and financial upheaval, Klein cogently argues, the apostles of Milton Friedman and Ayn Rand use disaster as an opportunity to implement extremist free-market economic policies while reducing government spending for the common good.

The mainstream media and political narrative that we have lived with for years - of lurching from one sensationalist crisis to another - has evolved into a continuous "shock doctrine." The neoliberal forces of unfettered capitalism and the global consolidation of wealth advance as we are distracted by lurid coverage that stimulates our fears but not our brains. Akira Watts eloquently addressed this ceaseless barrage of "fourth-estate" terror in a BuzzFlash commentary yesterday, "ISIS, Ebola, and Why Fear of the Unknown Makes Us Stupid."

The never-ending fusillade of frightening images and news evoke the fear of monsters from our childhood. It is news that both attracts and repulses us because of its titillating appeal to out primal phobias.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

acharitphil(Photo: Thomas Hawk)

Yes, BuzzFlash has repeatedly posted commentaries on how the wealthiest 1 percent in the United States have received 95 percent of the economic benefits from the post-2008 recovery. That alone is an astonishing and appalling statistic. However, The Chronicle of Philanthropy reports that the richest people in the US are now giving a smaller percentage of their income to charity than they did before the economy cratered.

In an October 5 article entitled, "As Wealthy Give Smaller Share of Income to Charity, Middle Class Digs Deeper," the Chronicle reports,

As the recession lifted, poor and middle class Americans dug deeper into their wallets to give to charity, even though they were earning less. At the same time, according to a new Chronicle analysis of tax data, wealthy Americans earned more, but the portion of the income they gave to charity declined.

Using the IRS data, The Chronicle was able to track gifts to charity at the state, county, metropolitan-area, and ZIP code levels. The data were for gifts to charity among taxpayers who itemize deductions on their tax forms. It captured $180-billion that was given to charity in 2012, or about 80 percent of the total amount given to charity as tabulated by "Giving USA...."

The wealthiest Americans—those who earned $200,000 or more—reduced the share of income they gave to charity by 4.6 percent from 2006 to 2012. Meanwhile, Americans who earned less than $100,000 chipped in 4.5 percent more of their income during the same time period. Middle- and lower-income Americans increased the share of income they donated to charity, even as they earned less, on average, than they did six years earlier.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

afreetuitionProtesting against tuition in the United States (Photo: aymanfadel)

While US students wallow in debt that exceeds $1 trillion, according to Forbes, Germany is now offering a tuition-free future for upcoming generations.

No, it's not a far-fetched idea for the government to invest in a country's intellectual capacity by financing advanced education. The more students who have access to the university, the greater the contribution to a nation's growth and well-being, particularly in this age of advanced technology and scientific knowledge. Instead of allowing its students to be burdened by lifelong debt - or not going to college at all because of the costs - Germany sees that it benefits the country to subsidize debt-free higher education.

A September Times of London article headlined, "German universities scrap all tuition fees," also alludes to the economic justice aspect of the policy:

All German universities will be free of charge when term starts next week after fees were abandoned in Lower Saxony, the last of seven states to charge.

"Tuition fees are socially unjust," said Dorothee Stapelfeldt, senator for science in Hamburg, which scrapped charges in 2012. "They particularly discourage young people who do not have a traditional academic family background from taking up studies. It is a core task of politics to ensure that young women and men can study with a high quality standard free of charge in Germany."

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