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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016aug9 wealthdivide(Photo: Institute for Policy Studies)

On August 8, the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) and the the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED) released a stunning report, "The Ever-Growing Gap: Failing to Address the Status Quo Will Drive the Racial Wealth Divide for Centuries to Come." Key findings include:

  • By 2043 -- the year in which it is projected that people of color will make up a majority of the U.S. population -- the wealth divide between white families and Latino and black families will have doubled, on average, from about $500,000 in 2013 to over $1 million.

  • If average black family wealth continues to grow at the same pace it has over the past three decades, it would take black families 228 years to amass the same amount of wealth white families have today. That’s just 17 years shorter than the 245-year span of slavery in this country. For the average Latino family, it would take 84 years to amass the same amount of wealth White families have today -- that’s the year 2097.

  • Over the past 30 years the average wealth of white families has grown by 84% -- 1.2 times the rate of growth for the Latino population and three times the rate of growth for the black population. If that continues, the next three decades would see the average wealth of white households increase by over $18,000 per year, while Latino and Black households would see their respective wealth increase by only $2,250 and $750 per year.

I interviewed Chuck Collins, director of the Program on Inequality and the Common Good at the Institute for Policy Studies, via email about just a few of the alarming conclusions in the study that he co-authored.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016aug5 hospitalsWhy aren't hospital charges required to be posted online? (Photo: Michael Kappel)

Most people in the US cannot compare the costs of hospital medical procedures online, according to a recent study by the advocacy group Public Citizen. That is because in 44 states, there is no requirement to disclose the listed fee for hospital surgeries and diagnostic tests on the web. Official hospital prices vary widely -- even within a local area -- because often the "sticker price" for a colonoscopy, for example, is not established based on the inherent costs of the procedure. Instead, it is set high as a price from which to bargain down with insurance providers.

Veejay Das, health care policy advocate for Public Citizen, who conducted the analysis, said in a Public Citizen news release:

Shopping for health care prices in the United States is like trying to find a light switch in the dark. If you know where you should be looking – and it’s actually there for you to find – you might have a chance, but otherwise you’ll blindly search in vain.

For anyone who doesn't have insurance and must pay a full, inflated price for hospital-based care, comparative pricing is essential to reduce extreme costs. Yet, in most of the United States, that is an extremely difficult task to undertake.

Furthermore, Public Citizen notes:

Out-of-pocket health care costs for patients are soaring in the United States. Since 2010, insurance deductibles for workers have risen three times as fast as premiums and about seven times as fast as wages and inflation, according to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

That means it is necessary to know which hospitals are less expensive -- and to check with your insurance company for their negotiated rates for a given procedure with a hospital -- in order to plan for the financial repercussions of a medical bill.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016aug4 gmolabelingOn July 29, President Obama signed a bill that is a setback for our right to know about GMOs in food. (Photo: David Goehring)

You may have read that President Obama signed a so-called GMO "labeling" law on July 29. Media outlets like ABC News reported that the bill "mandate[es] GMO labeling."

However, the reality of the new legislation is what Rick North, writing on the progressive commentary forum BlueOregon, calls a "sham":

It’s a major victory for Monsanto, the biotech industry and Grocery Manufacturer’s Association, all of whom know labeling could diminish their profits.

Most polls found about 90% of respondents wanted on-the-package GMO labeling, an almost-unheard-of support level for any issue. True public advocates, like the Organic Consumers Association, Consumers Union, Center for Food Safety, Food and Water Watch, Cornucopia Institute, Food Democracy Now, etc., exposed the bill for the charade it was.

All to no avail.

Why does North consider calling the so-called "GMO labeling" bill a misnomer? North cites one reason, among others:

This is a labeling law that doesn’t require labeling. It allows toll-free numbers and QR codes requiring smart phones to read. Any corporation trying to hide its use of GMO’s (i.e. most of them) will employ the QR codes.

Wednesday, 03 August 2016 07:36

Is Trump Eager to Let the Nukes Fly?

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016august3 nuclearwarheadNuclear warhead on Titan missile (Photo: Tommaso Galli)

In just a few days, on August 6, it will be the anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. It was the beginning of the nuclear age: an age in which the US, the Soviet Union and now many other nations have the ability to annihilate the people of the world with nuclear weapons.

The Cold War stand-off between the US and the Soviet Union, with nuclear "mutually assured destruction" (MAD) as an ever-present threat was a key motivating factor in the clamor for nuclear disarmament. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, "No Nukes" was a thriving movement with frequent protests.

Although anti-nuclear-weapons advocacy has dramatically decreased since the Cold War ended, the threat of nuclear conflict is still a looming issue.

According to the Arms Control Association, the United States currently maintains around 7,100 nuclear warheads, while Russia still has 7,300 (although it is in the process of dismantling some of them). Another seven nations are known to have nuclear weapons.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016august1 phoenixArid Phoenix doesn't need its piped in water bottled by Nestlé. (Photo: Jerry Ferguson)

 Phoenix is the sixth-largest city in the United States. It draws all of its water from sources that exist far beyond the horizon of the arid desert and craggy mountains that surround it.

Although some city officials claim Phoenix has excess water at the moment, other analysts claim that with the rise in global warming and the battle in the Southwest between municipalities and states over dwindling water supplies, Phoenix will face a water crisis in the not-so-distant future. A 2015 Slate article warns that "as Lake Mead hits record lows and water shortages loom, Arizona prepares for the worst."

This scenario is seen as an opportunity by Nestlé Waters -- the biggest bottled water company in the world -- not as a cause of concern for the survival of Phoenix residents. After all, if you can tip your privatization toe in a dwindling water supply, your product -- necessary to life -- becomes more valuable over time.

A May 13 article in The Arizona Republic states:

Nestlé Waters will spend $35 million to revamp a west Phoenix warehouse into a plant treating city water and selling it as Pure Life brand bottles, city and company officials said.

The plant is projected to fill 264 million half-liter bottles in its first year, or almost 35 million gallons.

That's more than enough water to supply 200 Phoenix households for a year. The plant is expected to create 40-50 jobs.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016july22 trumpauthThe triumph of authoritarianism and scapegoating in Cleveland. (Photo: IoSonoUnaFotoCamera )

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Donald Trump asserted in his acceptance speech for the Republican nomination that only he can "fix" the violence and terrorism that he says is threatening individuals in the United States. His campaign has largely been based on inciting fear of "the other" among white Americans. Now that he has lit that fire among his supporters and unleashed a hideous bonfire of hate, he is positioning himself as the authoritarian (just call it fascist) solution to the frenzied fear that he has created among his supporters.

In his remarks in Cleveland (see transcript here) Trumped promised:

I have a message for all of you: The crime and violence that today afflicts our nation will soon, and I mean very soon, come to an end. Beginning on January 20th, 2017, safety will be restored.

The Guardian US observed, as have other news sites and journalists, that Trump is bringing back the Nixonian "law and order" code wording for keeping the nation white through hyper-aggressive policing:

In his warnings of “crime and violence” and his solemn pledge that “I am the law and order candidate," Trump sounded notes eerily similar to Richard Nixon’s campaign rhetoric in 1968.

Then, in the aftermath of consecutive summers of widespread riots across the US, Nixon ran as the candidate of “law and order...."

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016july20 trumpcolonialThe coronation of Trump as GOP nominee for president has its origins in white settler colonialism. (Photo: Kl801)

BuzzFlash isn't funded by ads or subscription revenue, but by readers like you. Can you help sustain us by making a tax-deductible donation now?

A 21st-century white self-proclaimed billionaire became the official 2016 presidential nominee of the Republican party on Tuesday night. Pundits have relentlessly speculated about how it came to be that a candidate so brazen in his misogyny, bigotry, xenophobia, foreign policy ignorance and factlessness could succeed in obtaining the Republican nod to run for president.

There are many factors that resulted in the Trump nomination -- including the savvy use of his celebrity status and understanding of contemporary television (combined with Twitter) as an entertainment medium -- but the fact is, he is a racist carnival barker, and his racism is at the center of his rise to the pinnacle of leadership in the Grand White Party.

I was listening to the Thom Hartmann Program a couple of weeks ago. Hartmann, as I recall, had a guest on who referred to Trump's use of a technique mastered by Dick Nixon, known by the acronym FIBS. FIBS stands for a political strategy based on fear, ignorance, bigotry and sneering. That about sums up Trump, doesn't it?

However, if you had to take one element of "FIBS" and identify it as the key to Trump being crowned the GOP presidential nominee, "bigotry" would lead the list by a long stretch. Of course, bigotry evokes and is reinforced by fear, ignorance and sneering. Still, the pedestal upon which Trump's triumph rests is raw, seething, hateful racism.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016july15 cabbagesCabbages. (Photo: Mike Licht)

On Wednesday, I wrote that "while hunger and poverty persist in the US, half of the edible food is thrown away." That's a shocking statistic for a nation that still indulges in the self-congratulatory -- but obviously false -- myth of being the land of plenty. Those who go hungry in the United States could likely be fed with the overwhelming amount of crops, produce and restaurant food that is thrown away and left to rot. It is a stunning statistic, exemplifying both indifference and social injustice. Over the years, we have even discussed how some cities have taken a punitive attitude toward feeding the homeless, including arresting people who distribute food to those without shelter.

One group concerned about the pressing issue of feeding the hungry -- Food Not Bombs -- is making a dent in the waste of much-needed food through creative redistribution, explaining:

We arrange the collection of produce, bread and other food that can't be sold from grocery stores, bakeries, and produce markets. They put this food to the side and we pick it up at a scheduled time. This way, we build personal relationships with local food providers and are able to collect larger amounts of better quality food with more regularity.

Over the years, Food Not Bombs has been repeatedly harassed by police in a number of cities, including San Francisco, for providing free food to the homeless.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016July14 socsecurekidsSocial Security offers a safety net component for many children. (Image; Chris Potter)

The Center for Global Policy Solutions -- a think tank focusing on vulnerable populations in the US --issued a report this week, "Overlooked but Not Forgotten: Social Security Lifts Millions More Children Out of Poverty." It reconfirms the important role that Social Security plays in reducing childhood impoverishment. The executive summary of the report, which was released on January 12, confirms that Social Security is not only an economic necessity for many seniors, but it is also a critical support for more than 3 million children:

Social Security’s role in lifting millions of Americans out of poverty has been widely documented. However, the national focus on the program’s income assistance for senior citizens has obscured the fact that Social Security is also one of the federal government’s largest antipoverty programs for children. It serves more children than such discretionary programs as Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).

In 2014, there were 3.2 million children under age 18 directly receiving Social Security income benefits either as the surviving dependent of a parent or guardian who had died, the dependent of a disabled worker, or the dependent of a retiree. Many of these children come from the nation’s most economically vulnerable households. As a result, Social Security is often the only financial safeguard protecting them from the harmful effects of poverty.

Yet, the number of children benefitting from Social Security is commonly underestimated. Using data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey and the Social Security Administration’s Annual Statistical Supplement, this paper demonstrates an undercount in the number of Social Security beneficiaries under age 18. In fact, when children who are not direct beneficiaries but live in extended families that receive Social Security are added to the official figure, the number of children who benefit from the program doubles to 6.4 million. This represents 9 percent of all U.S. children under the age of 18 and 11 percent of all Social Security beneficiaries.

The report also confirms that despite conservative efforts to reduce and privatize the Social Security program, the number of children who benefit from Social Security has fortunately increased.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016july homelessvetsVeterans need more housing and assistance. (Photo: Rusty Clark)

At almost any big sporting championship, there's the moment when a baritone announcer becomes solemn, pauses and then introduces a heart-tugging spectacle honoring US military veterans. Usually the crowd roars and waves the flag, feeling a sense of both patriotism and pity for the person, wounded in action, who is brought onto the field. When the presentation is over, however, the rush of jingoistic rhetoric subsides -- as does concern about the fate of individual veterans.

One could argue that such tributes to veterans serve the consciences of those who rely on a voluntary military to assure the continuation of a prosperous lifestyle. These dazzling displays of gratitude, however, do not do much to meet the actual needs of psychologically and physically wounded veterans, as well as those in economic need.

Furthermore, the ephemeral warm and fuzzy feeling sports fans receive for "supporting our troops" by simply responding to a presentation are part of a marketing message. According to a 2015 PBS Newshour report:

The United States Department of Defense paid the National Football League more than $5 million in taxpayer money between 2011 to 2014 to honor U.S. soldiers and veterans at games, an investigation revealed this week.

Nearly $5.4 million was given to 14 NFL teams across the country, the bulk of which ($5.3 million) was supplied by the National Guard and the rest paid by the Army and Air Force, according to government records obtained by NJ.com.

But instead of purely heartfelt salutes to soldiers from hometown football teams, the halftime segments were reportedly part of paid promotions under federal advertising contracts for the military.

One might say the entire unseemly enterprise is more Hollywood production than "heartfelt."

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