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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

dot1On Thanksgiving weekend, The Chicago Tribune posted a front page article that revealed that fossil fuel and chemical companies are knowingly using tank cars that do not meet federal safety standards.

The danger, one critic in the article charges, has been apparent since the early '90s:

With tank cars brimming with tens of thousands of gallons of crude oil, these trains have been described as "virtual pipelines" passing through heavily populated residential areas.

But despite the hazardous nature of the cargoes on board, the vast majority of these tank cars do not meet the latest safety standards and should be retrofitted, according to federal officials and the railroad industry.

Older models of the type of tank car known as the DOT-111, which carry flammables like crude oil and ethanol, have an "inadequate design" and are more vulnerable to being breached in a derailment than newer versions, the National Transportation Safety Board has determined.

Critics charge that the tank car owners, who are generally oil and chemical companies, are balking at proposed requirements to fix flaws in the cars or gradually take them out of service, citing the costs involved and the demand for cars to haul oil.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

afrackny12 3An article posted in The National Journal asserts that fracking -- dangerous to the environment, the earth and humans -- has resulted in huge price breaks in natural gas for businesses, but comparatively little for consumers.

The article reveals that the industrial sector has seen the wholesale price of natural gas decrease by 66% -- attributed to fracking increases in the supply of natural gas -- but only 23% for residential consumers.  This, of course, raises the issues yet again of who is benefitting from the large risk of fracking, which uses toxic chemicals, pollutes the environment, and ravages the earth's outer layer.

On a web page revealingly filled with large adds for Chevron -- "Which Industry is Creating American Jobs and Strengthening the Economy? The Answer Is Energy," one huge Chevron banner ad proclaims -- the article makes clear who is economically get a windfall from fracking:

Fracking has sent the price of natural gas plummeting, just not for the people who need it most.

The straight-out-of-the-ground price of natural gas is way down since the start of the boom in hydraulic fracturing. Back in 2008, users buying gas directly from drillers were paying an average of $7.97 per thousand cubic feet, according to the Energy Information Administration. By 2012, that cost—known as the “wellhead” price—had dropped to $2.66 in nominal dollars (not adjusted for inflation) resulting in a two-thirds discount in just five years.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

avermont12 2Amidst the difficulties of rolling out the private insurance company model of the Affordable Healthcare Act (ACA), it has almost gone unnoticed by the national corporate media that one state is going ahead with plans for a "single-payer" non-profit system to be implemented by 2017.

Back in 2011, the Vermont legislature passed and Governor Peter Shumlin (D) signed the single-payer goal into law, which has its signifying slogan: "Everybody in, nobody out."

This "Medicare for all" precedent was made possible by the latitude allowed in the ACA for states to create their own health insurance models.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

bribe11 22The US Chamber of Commerce ought to change its name to the Pirates of the Americas -- and maybe sponsor a ride at Disneyworld where everyone gets their pocket or purses picked at the end of the boat trip. 

Not only does the Chamber advocate for policies that continue to hamper small businesses, fleece consumers, and increase corporate profits to stratospheric records at the expense of workers, it also wants to pretty much legalize allowing US companies to use bribery abroad.

According to Public Citizen, which authored a recent analysis:

The report, “License to Bribe,” highlights efforts over the past several years by the US Chamber of Commerce to weaken the FCPA. According to the report, the U.S. Chamber’s five proposals “show that the organization either greatly misunderstands many of the FCPA’s enforcement realities, or that it is purposefully oversimplifying how the law is enforced (or both).”

The report also describes responses to these requests, from experts and from the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which have joint jurisdiction over FCPA matters and released guidelines seemingly in response to the US Chamber’s requests.

The responses highlight concerns that the US Chamber’s proposals would make the law less effective at curbing bribery and would weaken the health of both the world’s economy and of democratic institutions across the globe. The U.S. Chamber’s request for the FCPA to limit a company’s liability for the acts of its subsidiary, for example, was rebuffed by the DOJ and SEC because that change would give companies an incentive to create subsidiaries for the very purpose of engaging in bribery. The proposal is especially concerning given the fact that so many of the cases in which companies have been found guilty or paid settlements were ones in which this was the mechanism by which the corrupt behavior was taking place.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

chase11 21To hear the number $13 billion dollars as a fine in the much-leaked-but-finally-announced Department of Justice (DOJ) settlement with JPMorgan Chase is meant to imply that the DOJ is getting tough on Wall Street. After all, $13 billion dollars is a jaw-dropping pile of money.

In reality, it is, according to The New York Times only "half the bank’s annual profit." As BuzzFlash at Truthout has pointed out in the past, that still means roughly $6.5 billion dollars in profit for the behemoth financial institution, no apparent cut in the oligarchical compensation of the likes of JPMorgan's chief executive, Jamie Dimon, and no major changes in the salaries or composition of Dimon's executive team.

Furthermore, the NYT reports that "Marianne Lake, JPMorgan’s chief financial officer, emphasized that $7 billion of the settlement was tax-deductible." In addition, as BuzzFlash reported in an earlier commentary, JPMorgan may -- if you can believe this -- may receive several billions of dollars in FDIC insurance that would offset at least a third of the $13 billion fine.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

committeehearing2

In a tacit repudiation of White House interest in reaching a "grand bargain" that would, in effect, cut Social Security, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D - MA) has offered a rousing argument to expand Social Security, not contract it.

As BuzzFlash at Truthout pointed out yesterday, "Average Social Security Check Is $1269, But CEOs With Nest Eggs Worth Tens of Millions Want to Slash the Program":

According to the Social Security Administration, the current average Social Security benefit is a measly $1,269 -- and remember recipients paid into the fund and are being repaid their earnings in the form of barely livable retirement checks.

The economic inequity in the US, as often noted here, is only growing, reaching beyond a Grand Canyon gap.  It's more like an intergalactic distance when CEO advocates of cutting Social Security have accumulated retirement accounts "more than 1,200 times as much as the median retirement savings of U.S. workers near retirement age."

Truthout and BuzzFlash are able to confront the forces of greed and regression only because we don’t take corporate funding. Support us in this fight: make a tax-deductible donation today by clicking here!

On the issue of the Chained-CPI, which Obama is reportedly advocating for, The Nation figures that a conservative estimate indicates that the CPI would "take $15,615 in cumulative benefits from the average senior who lived to 95."

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

catfood223Fat Cat CEOs Condemn Seniors to a Life of Cat FoodAccording to a just-released Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) and Center for Effective Government report, "Platinum-Plated Pensions: The Retirement Fortune of CEOs Who Want to Cut Your Social Security":

  • Business Roundtable CEOs’ corporate retirement accounts average $14.5 million—more than 1,200 times as much as the median retirement savings of U.S. workers near retirement age.

  • A retirement fund of $14.5 million, combined with Social Security, would generate a monthly retirement check for these CEOs of $88,576. That’s 68 times what a typical U.S. retiree can expect to receive.

  • Ten Roundtable CEOs (including four who are also Fix the Debt members) have retirement plans valued at more than $50 million.

  • Three of these CEOs have retirement assets of more than $100 million:  John Hammergren of McKesson, David Cote of Honeywell, and Mike Duke of Wal-Mart.

  • Duke’s $113.2 million retirement fund is more than 7,500 times as large as his employees’ average 401(k) account balance of $15,000.

But there is nary a voice in Congress or the corporate media advocating austerity for the super-rich.  According to the Social Security Administration, the current average Social Security benefit is a measly $1,269 -- and remember recipients paid into the fund and are being repaid their earnings in the form of barely livable retirement checks.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

abrid2

Ah Thanksgiving, that quintessential of US holidays when the warmth of family and appreciation for the bounty of our nation are celebrated.  The tantalizing and comforting aroma of turkey -- with all the trimmings -- lingers as we give thanks and bask in the warmth of those we love.

Some begin the groaning board meal with a prayer; some begin with secular thanks; and some don't have enough money for a proper holiday meal.  But this is the day that symbolizes the harvest, the fruit of one's labor, the emotional recognition of the value of work and life and family and friends.

Except that the creeping consumerism of American society has been encroaching upon Thanksgiving.  Last year some big box stores started "black Friday" by opening up on Thanksgiving eve.  That new retailing strategy is continuing in 2013, with K-Mart breaking a new regrettable milestone by throwing open its doors at 6 AM on turkey day.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

bombtime11 14Climate Change: A Time Bomb for Planet EarthA recent study by the International Forum on Globalization (IFG), provides evidence that the Koch Brothers could earn at least $1 billion from Alberta tar sand land holdings (with additional profit from their processing plants and related products and services).  This is despite the unconvincing Koch Brothers claim that they have no personal interest in the pipeline.

That disconnect reflects a larger problem that befuddles the northern section of the Keystone XL Pipeline decision.  Tar sands oil is already flowing into the US and the Koch Brothers are already profiting from it through its conversion into petroleum coke.

Think Progress recently detailed the toxic pollution caused by coke pilings in Detroit and Chicago.  The owners of the processing facilities that turn the tar sand oil into petroleum coke at these two sites are, you guessed it, the Koch Brothers.  The name of the parent company is, hold your gasp, Koch Carbon.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

bushturkeyGeorge W. Bush Gets Set to Celebrate Thanksgiving/HannukahAfter 9/11, then President George W. Bush spoke of leading a Crusade against Afghanistan and Iraq.  His handlers quickly walked back the use of the word Crusade, given its connotations of endless bloodletting of non-Christians during several journeys of butchery conducted by Christian knights in the Middle Ages. Jews were killed and Muslims in the Holy Land were slaughetered mercilessly.

So it not surprising that Bush is speaking (his spokesperson won't say whether or not he is being paid his usual six digit fee) on November 14 at a Jews for Jesus fundraisier in Dallas.  Of couse, the Bush public relations machine is crying fowl at criticisms, that this is just akin to the many other speeches he gives (and gets paid for) as he avoids the public eye (most of his gigs are closed to the press).

According to The Atlantic: "Bush's chief of staff Josh Bolten previously told the magazine that the Bush family is 'very open to and respectful of faiths of all kind, but particularly Judaism.' This decision, to say the least, complicates that reputation." Did we just hear something like, "some of my best friends are Jewish"?

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