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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2179079554 5b061619edConfronted with ongoing protests and opposition from farmers, Monsanto is abandoning efforts to get approval for new GMO seeds in the European Union.  In addition to boosting the morale of GMO opponents, the Monsanto standdown was publicly admitted by the company.  Most often large corporations take a public relations stance that obfuscates defeats by using euphemistic public relations language or diversionary tactics.

According to CBS MarketWatch:

Monsanto doesn't plan to apply for the approval of new genetically modified seeds in Europe due to low demand from farmers and stiff opposition from the general public, the U.S. agricultural company's German spokeswoman said Sunday.

"As long as there's not enough demand from farmers for these products and the public at large doesn't accept the technology, it makes no sense to fight against windmills," Ursula Luettmer-Ouazane said Sunday, confirming a report in Berlin-based German daily TAZ newspaper.

Germany media outlet Deutsche Welle (DW) added that the German government has been vocal in its opposition to GMO seeds, as it details in an article, entitled "Monsanto gives up fight for GM plants in Europe."

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!

(Photo: Library of Congress)

PUBLIC CITIZEN ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

The following is a May 31 news release from Public Citizen:

dollarsignOn May 31, Illinois became the 14th state to call for a constitutional amendment to rid elections of corporate money and unlimited spending. This bipartisan action by the Illinois General Assembly demonstrates continuing national momentum to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s controversial Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling.

Illinois is the third state in the past month and a half to call for an amendment; West Virginia and Maine passed similar resolutions last month.

The effort in Illinois was bipartisan, underscoring what poll data have shown: People of all political stripes are deeply concerned about corporations having too much influence over our democratic process. A measure calling for a constitutional amendment was on ballots across Illinois in November and was supported by three-quarters of voters.

Illinois ranks fifth among U.S. states in population and has been called the state that most closely mirrors the demographics of the country.

Buzzflash and Truthout don’t take corporate funding - that means we’re accountable to our readers, not big business or billionaire sponsors. Please support our work by making a tax-deductible donation today - just click here to donate.

(Photo: Horia Varlan)

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

stopstealingThe takers are on the loose, mugging most of the American population and destroying a vital economy and representative democracy in the process.  They break the rules, think only of themselves, and take unaccountable advantage of decent people in society.

No, they aren't the Americans who have earned their Social Security benefits, or those who were laid off their jobs so venture capitalists such as Mitt Romney could earn an extra billion or so, or the urban and rural poor who can't find jobs because factories have been sent overseas to charnel house sweat shops (such as the one in Bangladesh in which more than 1000 slave-wage workers were killed just a short time ago).

Who are the takers in our society? The corporations who make record-breaking profits at a time when workers are enduring decreased (adjusted for inflation) pay or losing their jobs – and the too big to fail financial institutions who take advantage of an all but monopoly-hold on our money supply.

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!

The following are just a few examples of the takers in action.

Banks: Yesterday, we talked about this largely over-looked fact in terms of media coverage: seniors and the working class are not only squeezed by the threat and actual decrease of earned benefits and pay, they receive virtually no interest on their hard-earned savings.  What do the banks get (which are really now multi-faceted, hydra-headed financial institutions)? A robbers' take by using the money on which they pay literally pennies in interest to loan out at up to near 30% on some credit cards.  That's not to mention the still shady sub-prime mortgage market, hedge fund insider trading, and large bank penalties and fees for everything from checking accounts to loans.These banks aren't banks: they are financial entities with tentacles that control DC to ensure lack of regulation, which allows them to take and take and take from those of us who actually labor for a living.

(Photo: Nisha A)

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

interestratesHow much interest do you get on a regular savings account from a "bank to big to fail", such as Citibank? 

In general, you'll get 0.01 % as listed at Money-rates.com.(See "Popular Banks" section and also Citibank standard savings account rate disclosure.)

You read that right, 0.01%. So if you have a $1000 in your savings account, you will receive basically 10 cents in interest over the course of a year.  Meanwhile, a bank like Citibank is lending your money out in many ways, including its credit card division at rates up into the double digits (up to 29.99 % if you make a late payment).

But the real injustice here is that while Congress and the White House are talking about cutting back Social Security, seniors who are lucky enough to have savings are earning, in essence, no interest if they have some savings tucked in a bank account. 

I was digging through some old papers recently and found a June 23, 1995, advertisement from then StPaul Federal Bank in Chicago.  It offered 5.65% on a four-month CD. Right now Citibank is offering 0.20% on a one-year CD (minimum deposits apply to most CD offers).

In short, while the stock market is flying and those who are rich are seeing their portfolios swell with money, working stiff seniors are facing decreased payments on their earned benefits and are basically losing money in savings because inflation is outpacing virtually no interest being paid to them.

Buzzflash and Truthout don’t take corporate funding - that means we’re accountable to our readers, not big business or billionaire sponsors. Please support our work by making a tax-deductible donation today - just click here to donate.

(Photo: 401(K)2013)

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

cordrayThe Senate Republcans are trying to defang Elizabeth Warren's Consumer Financial Protecton Bureau by not officially appointing Richard Cordray as head of the agency.Count the ways that the GOP in Congress is still trying to destroy the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). There are so many that you would need a calculator.

Start with the holding up through a -- you got it – yet another "threatened" filibuster of the appointment of Richard Cordray as official head of the agency.  Currently, he is only in the position as a recess appointment.  This limits his power, term and implementation of the full consumer protection law that was enacted as part of the Dodd-Frank legislation, which the Republicans loathe, as weak as it is.

According to the Washington Post's Mike Konczl, the GOP is using its never-ending intimidation aimed at Harry Reid that they will hold up the Senate's business to block Cordray's official appointment unless, in essence, the agency s gutted through amendatory legislation.  Reid, in what now is a tired toothless threat, says that he may end the non-filibuster/filibuster by reducing a closure vote to merely needing a majority and not 60 votes.

But Reid has threatened this for years.  His dithering on dropping the "nuclear bomb" of actually making a filibuster a filibuster is either due to his agreement with the corporate status quo or he's just a naïve get along to go along wimp.  Some Democrats say changing the filibuster regulation (it is a Senate rule, not a law or constitutional provision) would force the Democrats to lose a leveraging tool if they become the minority in the Senate in 2014 or thereafter. That might make a good argument except the Democrats generally roll over and support Republican bills and federal judicial and executive branch nominees without threatening a filibuster when they are in the minority. 

(Photo: Wikipedia)

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

pbsThom Hartmann recently wrote an extremely widely read article on how the Public Broadcasting Service has evolved into a sometimes self-censored television network, in large part because major donors represent the 1% who would be the subject of discussion when it comes to economic concentration in the hands of a few.

Hartmann entitled his commentary, "The Corporate Dictatorship of PBS and NPR." The primary example Hartmann offers of how critical analysis necessary for formulating public policy is de facto censored concerns how PBS dropped the funding of a documentary called "Citizen Koch."

As Hartmann details,

Public broadcasting institutions now rely more and more on corporate and billionaire cash to operate, which is probably why PBS and NPR now filter what they play on their airwaves, so that they don’t anger their wealthy backers.

This is where the documentary “Citizen Koch” comes in.

“Citizen Koch” is a documentary about money and politics, focusing heavily on the uprising that took place in Wisconsin in 2011 and 2012.

It talks about how the Citizens United decision paved the way for secretive political spending by major players, including the Koch Brothers.

As Brendan Fischer over at the Center for Media and Democracy’s PRWatch points out, the documentary was originally supposed to air on PBS stations nationwide, but its funding was abruptly cut off when, it appears, David Koch was offended.

But why would PBS care if David Koch didn’t like one of their documentaries?

Because, according to Jane Mayer of the New Yorker, David Koch has donated upwards of $23 million to public television. And when you donate $23 million dollars to public television, you get more than just a tote bag or a coffee mug – you get to dictate the on-air programming.

This brings us to the PBS WNET affiliate in NYC, where David Koch recently sat on the board.  He was also rumored to be readying a "seven-figure" gift to the Big Apple Public Broadcasting station.

Enter Alex Gibney, who won a 2008 Academy Award for "Taxi To the Dark Side" – his meticulous and compelling exposure of the death by torture of an innocent Afghan taxi driver due to sanctioned torture in Afghanistan.  Gibney filmed a documentary for WNET, "Park Avenue: Money, Power and the American Dream" that focused on one of the wealthiest residential buildings in New York City: 740 Park Avenue.

(Photo: Melanie.Phung)

MARK KARLIN AT BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Pipeline-small image seen from belowYesterday, BuzzFlash wrote about how the de facto decision to let Alberta tar sands oil flow into the US -- and particularly Texas refineries and ports -- has already been made, beginning with the third segment of the Keystone Pipeline that is almost completed.

After we wrote the commentary, the House passed a bill that is a power grab by the big oil companies, TransCanada pipeline, and Canada to build a fourth more direct Keystone XL pipeline to Steele City, Nebraska.  It would increase capacity and profit, but it is not necessary for the tar sands oil to flow in the US; it already is.

As Politico reported on the House vote, "The House approved legislation Wednesday to green-light the Keystone XL oil pipeline (the fourth optional segment), giving Republicans a messaging victory heading into the Memorial Day recess."

It's a symbolic victory -- and an assertion of big oil power -- because Alberta Tar Sands oil is already flowing into the US as revealed by two prominent branch line leaks in Arkansas and Michigan.

(Photo: Wikipedia)

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Keystone-pipeline-routeDespite Whte House statements, the reality is that the Keystone Pipeline will be up and running this summer. Phase 3 will be completed and the spigot turned on.Yes, regardless of the earnest civil disobedience of groups and individuals protesting the 4th phase of the Keystone XL Pipeline, the reality is that within a month or two, tar sands oil from Alberta will be mainlining its way to Houston and Port Arthur, Texas.

How can that be, you ask, when President Obama has not yet made an official decision on the Keystone XL Pipeline?

The answer is simple: he has.

When Obama approved what is known as the southern leg of the pipeline (Phase 3 on the map to the right), the spigot was opened to transport the climate-killing tar sands oil to refineries and ports in Texas – and facilities along the way. The only issue outstanding is whether Obama will approve a northern branch of the Keystone XL Pipeline that will be more profitable and deliver much more volume than the current stitched together pipeline that is nearing completion.  The southern leg of the pipeline that runs from Cushing, Oklahoma, to Houston and Port Arthur in Texas should be fully constructed, with oil flowing, before Obama might even decide on the northern "express" leg that is a more direct and lucrative option for its owner, TransCanada.

It is tragically ironic that the extremely crude tar sands oil will flow to Texas just after a new report indicates that "the amount of carbon in the atmosphere is on the verge of hitting 400 parts per million, a new milestone." The extremely large release of carbon-dioxide that is feared by pipeline opponents is a by-product of the process at the source used to extract oil and bitumen (a sludgy form of petroleum) from the tar sands. In short, the ruinous pollution occurs in the production process in Alberta, and again in the refining process in Texas – and in processing facilities elsewhere along the way.

(Photo: Wikipedia)

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

wallstreet35Wall Street Regulation Takes a Giant Step Backwards to 2008Yes, as the GOP endlessly bamboozles the corporate mainstream media about Benghazi, the multitude of challenges facing the United States continues to mount.

Take for example a widely overlooked "regulation" that rolls the clock back, in many ways, to the Wild West derivatives' market leading up to the 2008 crash.

The New York Times has been one of the few "status quo" newspapers to realize the potentially ominous implications of a new Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) rule that will allow banks too big to fail to gamble with the economy, as if it were 2008 all over again. 

Yes, there has been some increased regulation of Wall Street as a result of the Dodd-Frank law – and other augmented oversight.  But it has been far too little counterweight to the powerful plutocratic forces of Wall Street. 

(Photo: david_shankbone)

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

censoredExhilirated by the promise of transparency, accountability and change, it is painful for progressives and those who believe in the guaranteed rights of the Constitution to find themselves in the midst of a Kafkaesque attack on the public's right to know, journalistic investigation of the government, increased prosecution of whistleblowers and unaccountable executive branch censorship.

It is almost incomprehensible to fathom how a president who is a constitutional lawyer has exceeded all his Republican predecessors when it comes to prosecuting and punishing whistleblowers, expanding executive branch secrecy, declaring the most basic information classifed, and intimidating and surveilling journalists.  One can be grateful that the Tea Party has not yet won the White House, but the censorship, prosecution and surveillance state measures being implemented with President Obama's approval are nothing short of creeping fascism.  That is not an exaggeration.

On the heels of the extensive Department of Justice violation of the privacy and professional protections guaranteed Associated Press reporters, Glenn Greenwald reports on how the Department of Justice accused a reporter of aiding and abetting the leaking of classified information in order to put him under extensive surveillance and interception of his communications.

As Greenwald points out:

Under US law, it is not illegal to publish classified information. That fact, along with the First Amendment's guarantee of press freedoms, is what has prevented the US government from ever prosecuting journalists for reporting on what the US government does in secret. This newfound theory of the Obama DOJ - that a journalist can be guilty of crimes for "soliciting" the disclosure of classified information - is a means for circumventing those safeguards and criminalizing the act of investigative journalism itself. These latest revelations show that this is not just a theory but one put into practice, as the Obama DOJ submitted court documents accusing a journalist of committing crimes by doing this.

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