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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

asinpay(Photo: niXerKG)Here are two basic facts to remember about the health care system in the United States. First, there is the high cost, as noted in a 2012 report on PBS: 

How much is good health care worth to you? $8,233 per year? That’s how much the U.S. spends per person.

Worth it?

That figure is more than two-and-a-half times more than most developed nations in the world, including relatively rich European countries like France, Sweden and the United Kingdom. On a more global scale, it means U.S. health care costs now eat up 17.6 percent of GDP....

Whether measured relative to its population or its economy, the United States spends by far the most in the world on health care.

The U.S. spent $8,233 on health per person in 2010. Norway, the Netherlands and Switzerland are the next highest spenders, but in the same year, they all spent at least $3,000 less per person. The average spending on health care among the other 33 developed OECD countries was $3,268 per person.

That statistic brings up the much-beloved free market criteria of return on investment (ROI), at which the US performs abysmally according to many studies when it comes to health.  

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

adetroitShould Detroit annex itself to the Ukraine to receive US financial aid? (Photo: dreaming_of_rivers)

Biting satire, as The Daily Show and The Colbert Report so uproariously reveal, is often closer to the heart of reality than the "packaged reality" it mercilessly skews. 

In the BuzzFlash at Truthout e-mail this weekend, we received our weekly quips from Howard Albrecht, an octogenarian comic writer who staffed many of the top shows of the golden age of comedy during the '50s and '60s.  Retired now, Albrecht's audience is his list serve.  This Saturday, his package of one-liners included this one: "To help stabilize the region, the US is giving a billion dollars to Ukraine. In an effort to uplift their city, Detroit just declared war on Russia."

Like the cutting remarks on Comedy Central, there is a ring of absurdist truth in Albrecht's sarcastic proposition: if we want to save an American city decimated by national and corporate financial neglect and abandonment, then instead of declaring the city bankrupt, why don't the remaining citizens of Detroit issue a declaration of war against Putin's Russian Federation?

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

alatteLattes or Sex? Alaskan state senator says it is your choice. (Photo: My Sight, as You See)Only in the state Sarah Palin was elected governor of could you find a state senator, John Coghill (GOP) from North Pole (a top-of-the-world themed suburb of Fairbanks), opposing birth control and Planned Parenthood, while avidly arguing Medicaid should only pay for abortions in extreme circumstances.  

That fits right in with his colleague's -- Sen. Fred Dyson's (GOP) -- confounding argument that sex is "recreational" unless it is for procreation, and, therefore, family planning should not be funded by Medicaid (even though the federal government would pay 90% of the tab). According to the Anchorage Daily News, 

Dyson says condoms cost a dollar apiece and for the price of four or five lattes, a woman could get birth control pills for a month. Dyson says sexual activity is largely "recreation" and the public shouldn't be required to finance "other people's recreation."

So if you are on limited means in Palin's home state, wouldn't this mean if you are married, for instance -- and of limited means, you might have to choose between a cup of coffee and making love with your husband or wife (or whomever).

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

acorprom(Photo:MittRomneys)

It is a good time to reach for the upchuck bag when a politician or billionaire lectures Americans "to work hard and play by the rules" when the idle rich regard such an attitude with undistilled cynicism.

In fact, you could argue that for many, if not most of the 1%, their motto is to get as much pleasure, leisure and opulent comfort out of life by not playing by the rules. 

Here are five examples of why it is brazenly hypocritical for the super wealthy and their political puppets to advise time-clock punching Americans to work hard and play by the rules:

1) The wealthy, their lobbyists, and the politicians that they control in Congress, the White House and in legislative bodies throughout the land write the rules.  To put it mildly, that is a conflict of interest.  In short, the rules that the working person plays by are written to favor the richest in the land -- and to assist them in becoming richer.  

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

chevrontoxlegChevron's toxic legacy in Ecuador (Photo: Rainforest Action Network)Yesterday, a New York federal judge overturned a $9.5 billion Ecuadorean court judgment against Chevron for failure to clean up toxic oil drlling waste in an indigenous area, Lago Agrio, of the Amazon.

This was a dramatic and heartbreaking example of how a company with multi-billion dollars in profits, like Chevron, can delay a case -- and then shop around to find a favorable venue (even after losing the lawsuit) until the verdict is overturned.  Meanwhile, the US attorney, Steven Donziger, who had been representing the residents of Lago Agrio, was ultimately the excuse the judge used for reversing the fine against Chevron. It was imposed, remember, by an Ecuadorean court.

Many of the local residents who live near the toxic pits and polluted waters that Chevron was responsible for cleaning up (the toxic time bomb had been created by Texaco, which Chevron acquired in 2000) filed a class action lawsuit in 2003.  They claimed, as was shown in a documentary that damns Chevron with the details of the case, "Crude," that Chevron was allowing the continued pollution of water and the earth that the indigenous Ecuadorians depend upon for subsistence, resulting in illnesses, deaths, and diseased fish and crops.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

atppcur(Photo: GlobalTradeWatch)It is difficult for critics to attack specifics of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), allegedly nearing a completed agreement.  That is because, as almost all progressives are aware, the TPP is being negotiated in secret with only corporations, lobbyists and governments privy to the talks.

The TPP represents the longstanding US doctrine that global corporations (led by US-based companies) and concentrated capital should determine -- with the consent of nation states -- international financial and, therefore, labor policy.

There are no dissenting advocacy groups involved in TPP (meaning no public input), no unions, no environmental groups that might urge the prevention of climate change, no one to challenge the power of the captains of industry and their fan clubs represented by officials of national governments (mostly in the developed world).

The TPP is rumored, from leaked sections and conversations, to be vast in scope and has been described as NAFTA on steroids.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

astoptar(Photo: someones.life)As hundreds of activists were arrested (in front of the White House) Sunday protesting the proposed new northern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline, the "toxic sludge" propaganda of its owner, TransCanada, is flooding the media.
 
First, here is some background.
 
BuzzFlash reported last week that while the focus of activists trying to save planet Earth has been on the new northern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline, Canadian tar sands oil have already started to flow through the current older pipeline to Cushing, Oklahoma, and from there through the brand new sourthern leg of the Keystone pipeline that President Obama eagerly approved awhile back.  Tar sands oil, as we reported last year, has also flowed through other pipeline systems, causing massive spills in Michigan and Arkansas.
 
In short, the notion that stopping the new Keystone XL pipeline northern branch will keep tar sands oil out of the US is false.  The tar sands crude is already flowing into the US, just not at the volume its producers want in order to create more profit.  The increased damage to our atmosphere due to Alberta tar sands oil being transported via pipelines is already underway, as we again emphasized in a BuzzFlash at Truthout commentary last week, "First Canadian Tar Sands Oil Flows Through Southern Keystone XL Pipeline as Senators Warn of Cancer Risks."

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

adeadpeas(Photo: TheTim)Fortune Magazine (as posted on CNN Money) asks in a February 27 article, "Is there a suicide contagion on Wall Street? A series of untimely deaths at JPMorgan Chase and other banks has left observers wondering if there are more to come."

Apparently, there has been a rash of suicides in the financial executive community:

A few days ago, a Wall Street executive was debating whether he could get away from the office long enough to see his shrink uptown. In the midst of a busy workday, it was looking unlikely. Then he stumbled across an article in the New York Post with the disquieting news that a J.P. Morgan Chase (JPM) employee had jumped to his death from the bank's offices in Hong Kong, just three weeks after a fellow banker at the firm had committed suicide by jumping off the roof of the bank's London headquarters. "JPMorgan suicide is 3rd mysterious death in weeks," read the Post headline.....

The rash of suicides has sent a shudder through Wall Street and beyond. The third death referenced by the Post—that of a J.P. Morgan executive director who died inside his Connecticut home in January—did not appear to be intentional. (A report is still pending.) Yet the J.P. Morgan incidents are only the most recent in a string of at least a half-dozen suicides in the financial world since late August. Those include executives at Zurich Insurance Group (ZURVY), Deutsche Bank (DB), and Russell Investments, among other firms.

Whether this grim statistic is a trend or just a short-term cluster remains to be seen -- as well as the precipitating factors surrounding the suicides.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

acantarTar Sands BlockadeTwo US senators joined a Canadian physician to call for a study to determine the health impact of the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline (northern leg), including the likelihood of increased cancer.

According to a Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC) February 26 article,

Senator Barbara Boxer, a Democrat representing California, and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat from Rhode Island, held a news conference in Washington along with Dr. John O’Connor, an Alberta physician.

O’Connor told the news conference that carcinogens get into the food chain, water and air in communities downstream from the oilsands and that those toxins are linked to cancers occurring in those areas. He said he has "no political agenda" and that he is only advocating for his patients.

O’Connor shared his concerns about higher than average cancer rates, and rare cancers, in Fort Chipewyan, and he told CBC News he is trying to shine a spotlight on the “callous indifference” to the health of those who live downstream from the oilsands....

“Health miseries follow the tarsands from extraction to transport to refining to waste disposal,” [Senator Boxer] said.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

acreditsu(Photo: *Vly*)According to a February 25 article in the business section of The Washington Post (WP), a senate report has found that the Swiss banking giant Credit Suisse knowingly enabled and assisted wealthy Americans in avoiding paying US taxes on billions of dollars in income for many years.

Furthermore, according to the WP, the congressional analysis found that the Department of Justice (DOJ) is dragging its feet in prosecuting the bank and its staff who have facilitated the defrauding of the US treasury: "The allegations were particularly stunning in the face of the budget cuts and deficits that the United States faces, lawmakers said. The report casts the Justice Department as a hapless enforcer that has dragged its feet in getting Credit Suisse to turn over the names of some 22,000 U.S. customers." During the past four years, "no one has stood trial, and the bank has not been held legally accountable, the report says."

BuzzFlash at Truthout has written numerous commentaries on how the DOJ has repeatedly failed to prosecute banks or high level bank staff for illegal patterns of behavior within banks too big to fail -- whether the financial institution is headquartered in the United States or overseas. 

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