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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

acellapril.jpag(Photo: Miss Millions)Just the other day, BuzzFlash at Truthout posted a commentary on how some banks and employers are now gouging laborers by paying them in electronic transfer cards - or essentially what we commonly know in the form of gift cards.  As we noted, this means profiteering fees are assessed in a variety of ways for workers to access their hard-earned salaries.

The Des Moines Register recently ran an article describing how a similar tactic is looting former prisoners - along with other fees assessed on those who are incarcerated that are excessive and take advantage of their imprisoned (lacking in basic rights) condition:

Perhaps Iowans don't care about what goes on in prisons, let alone about something as seemingly trivial as the fees imposed on inmates. But any of us could have a daughter, mother or brother who is one mistake away from entering an Iowa prison. If that happens, you will care. When you scrape together a little money to send your son to buy dental floss, you will care.

You will also witness how the loss of freedom, lack of basic pleasures and isolation is more than enough punishment for many incarcerated Iowans. You will know many are poor and mentally ill and give up a day's pay just to make a phone call home.

And then you may start to wonder just how many additional ways the Iowa Legislature can make life more of a struggle for inmates - and their families.

The analysis of prisoner fees includes a scam similar to the electronic salary card that is becoming a profitable business for banks and employers.  

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aref(Photo: ItzaFineDay)An email came to BuzzFlash at Truthout the other day with a blazing red warning of five national security threats: "Cyber Attacks • Counterintelligence • Terrorism • Weapons of Mass Destruction • Counterspace."

The organization sending the email, the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement (IDGA), primarily enriches itself off of defense and national security industry conferences in which vendors market their services and hardware to government buyers. (It is a subsidiary of a larger conference firm, IQPC.) The IDGA meetings have  a veneer of top military, surveillance and prison industry speakers, but the real action for contracts is in the exhibition areas.

Upcoming conferences include:
 
Homeland Security Conference - April 2014
Big Data for Government and Defense - April 2014
Border Management Southwest 2014 - May 2014
Arctic Patrol and Reconnaisance - May 2014
Armored Vehicles Latin America - May 2014
Prisons and Correctional Facilities - June 2014
Mission Command - June 2014

 

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

achildjob(Photo: Lady Buffalo)Remember the childhood tale of the Dutch boy who kept trying to stop the leaks in a dam with his fingers until he ran out of them?

That's what workers are facing in trying to survive.  No matter which attempt at turning them into something akin to indentured servants at the service of corporations you look at, the attacks just keep coming.

Yesterday, BuzzFlash at Truthout posted a commentary on a new insidious scheme to shortchange laborers, "Paying Employees With Gift Cards That Have Fees Is a Deplorable Economic Injustice."

When it comes to compensation for laborers today in the US, the scenario playing out is pay decreases by a thousands cuts.

At a time when some cities and states - and the Obama adminsitration and Democrats in Congress - are advocating for an increased minimum wage, which currently is $7.25, other exploitative forces are fighting against it.  

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aatm(Photo: SalFalko)As reported over and over again on BuzzFlash at Truthout, worker wages have essentially remained stagnant - when adjusted for inflation - over more than two decades, while the top 1% have increased their share of the newly growing economy by 95%.

On top of that, many of those who have become unemployed due to the recession caused by banks too big to fail, must now work at miniminum wages jobs - if they are lucky enough to find employment.

Furthermore, it appears businesses and banks are continually coming up with new ways to reduce take home pay - whether it is paying for uniforms and equipment needed on the job or replacing permanent workers with part-time ones or temps.  For a few years now, in addition, there has been a growing trend to pay workers not with checks or direct deposits to their banks, but essentially with what are commonly known as gift cards (but are more generally, in essence, pre-loaded electronic transaction cards).

Of course, while a few companies don't charge extra fees, many do.  The businesses save by not cutting checks, but as with many gift cards, the workers are saddled with paying per transaction and other fees to use their own money because of costs levied on the utilization of electronic pay cards.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

ataseRepresentational image of tasering (Photo: Photolibrium)

When The New York Times (NYT) calls the tasering of students as a "disciplinary" measure torture, it is time to take notice that our schools have been infected with the appalling post 9/11 acceptance of harsh interrogation and discipline.

After all, the NYT has long been reluctant to call many abhorrent and internationally illegal measures used by the United States in the wake of 9/11 torture.  The NYT has preferred the euphemism and more publically acceptable term "harsh interrogation techniques."

Therefore, one must take notice when the NYT published an editorial on April 11 entitled, "Torturing Children at School." One can be certain that the NYT, so squeamish about calling waterboarding torture, did not choose that word without much debate, making the implications of the editorial that much more damning and gruesome.

In particular, the NYT editorial board focuses on the practice of tasering even young students in many public schools, sometimes resulting in death.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

acharlene(Photo: Adrian Snood)Republican governors generally love to bandy about being so-called "pro-life" due to their opposition to abortions.  It is a tragically ironic and hypocritical stance considering that many of them (particularly in the South) are allowing people to die because of a political refusal to expand Medicaid.  

Apparently, to the GOP - which has been obsessed with destroying the Affordable Care Act (ACA) - life is only "sacred" for the unborn.  Once you are a delivered baby, you're on your own.

Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL) and the Republican legislature in Florida are likely responsible for the death of 32-year-old Charlene Dill, a mother of three separated from her husband. Dill did everything the anti-poor warriors in DC demands of those with limited money: She worked three jobs, budgeted her expenses and cared for her children. But she couldn't afford adequate medical care.

She died of heart failure while selling vacuum cleaners on commission.  What could be a more Republican Tea Party story of working tirelessly to provide for one's kids - and then dying because of not being able to afford health care?

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

8036143615 c34c5348ce m(Photo: origamidon)The war on the homeless - in which some cities have passed laws outlawing giving food to the homeless, not to mention longstanding laws against "vagrancy" - has taken a cruel turn. Now, some municipalities are outlawing living in cars and other vehicles.

People who live in cars are one step above the penury of complete homelessness. Denying them the shelter that an automobile provides is another cruel step in the war against people without economic means. Such actions give the term "the war on poverty" a whole new perspective: punishment for not having enough money to afford increasing rents.

The growing war on car dwellers is featured in an April 8 article in The Wall Street Journal: "Homeless Lose a Longtime Last Resort: Living in a Car: Cities in Silicon Valley, Elsewhere Crack Down on Vehicle Dwellers Driven Out of Apartments by Rents."

Nearly 70 cities are considering such crackdowns on people whose vehicles have become their homes, according to the Journal.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

anyttransit(Photo: Wikipedia)As BuzzFlash at Truthout has been beating the drum about the gloomy imminence of the disastrous impact of climate change, it is worth noting that among the larger contributors to global warming are gas-powered vehicles (think cars and trucks). 

It's not just the carbon dioxide emitted by automobiles, it's the fossil fuel nightmare that has been created by expanding urban areas to exurban locations located at great distances from city centers.  This, in turn, requires more inefficient use of energy (most of it still fossil fuel based) and more car use through the building of more expressways.

According to the Union of Concerned Scientists:

Passenger cars and light trucks represent the lion’s share of US transportation emissions and collectively produce almost one-fifth of the nation’s total global warming pollution. 

All together, transportation generates nearly 30 percent of America’s global warming emissions, including more than one-third of all US carbon dioxide emissions.

The remaining transportation-related emissions come from medium and heavy-duty vehicles (primarily freight trucks and buses), plus aircraft, shipping, rail, military, and other uses.

Remember, as we just noted, that automobiles actually contribute a greater percentage to climate change, due to the creation of an inefficient energy disbursement structure (housing, office parks, shopping) that the car makes possible.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

amethaneMethane bubble (Photo: Nutch Biser)In 1965, a singer-songwriter, Barry McGuire, wrote a song called "The Eve of Destruction." It was inspired by the decade of violent foreign wars and civil rights clashes, but applies to the current acceleration of global warming:

But you tell me
Over and over and over again, my friend
Ah, you don't believe
We're on the eve
of destruction.

Don't you understand what I'm tryin' to say
Can't you feel the fears I'm feelin' today?

Some readers may find the recent BuzzFlash at Truthout commentaries on the devastating climate change that is occurring a bit gloomy and lugubrious.  After all, if US residents turn on the television or listen to the radio, few news outlets are discussing the looming cataclysm.  Also, like carbon monoxide, it is odorless. In the air around us, it is not visible.

More frequently, nonetheless, we are seeing reports of its volatile impact in hurricanes, droughts, deluges and the melting of glaciers and the Arctic ice, among other ominous signs of its growing destructive power. 

Yet, still most people don't believe "we are on the eve of destruction," as fossil fuel plunderers are granted the rights - even subsidized by the US government - to continue their destruction of our ecosphere.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

adrought(Photo: EU Humanitarian Aid)Enviornmental journalist Mark Hertsgaard recently wrote a lamentation to future generations about the legacy of a lethal planet that we are leaving them. In The Daily Beast, he plaintively contemplates what his young daughter will be confronting in the years ahead: 

My daughter Chiara, the central character in HOT [Hertsgaard's 2011 book], is turning nine this weekend....

The grief and fear the [UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] IPCC report triggered in me stems from a central fact of our climate future: Everyone on earth below the age of 25 is already fated to spend much of their lifetime coping with the hottest temperatures our civilization has ever encountered. The laws of physics and chemistry—above all, the fact that carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere for many decades after being emitted—mean that even if humans stopped all carbon emissions overnight, global temperatures would nevertheless keep rising for at least 30 more years.

Now apply that calculation to the first great human disaster with a scientifically attributable climate fingerprint: the record heat wave that scorched Europe in 2003. It caused 71,499 excess deaths, considerably more than the number of U.S. casualties in the Vietnam war. But thanks to the physical momentum of climate change, the record heat of 2003 will be routine before Chiara is my age. By 2050, Europeans will experience summers as hot as 2003 one year out of every two.

The higher temperatures locked in for the forthcoming decades will, in turn, unleash climate impacts that will affect every person on earth.

Hartsgaard's gloomy recognition of the reality that runaway industrial civilization has sown is only moderately tempered by the hope of an uprising resulting in immediate action to mitigate the ever-brewing perfect storm of desolation.

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