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EditorBlog (1814)

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

puertoric6 20The Puerto Rico Senate agricultural committee is attempting to regulate experimentation with GMO seeds, specifically due to Monsanto research facilities located on the island.  According to the website Corpwatch, however, Monsanto wouldn't even send a representative to testify at a hearing about GMO research and its potential dangers.

As CorpWatch reports:

Puerto Rico has ... been a major location for the development of genetically modified crops since 1987, conducting open air field tests on corn and soy, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data. Crops developed on the island and other Monsanto research locations have a number of unusual properties – some are resistant to Monsanto's Roundup herbicide or any herbicide with glyphosate as active ingredient. Others secrete an insecticidal toxin called Bt and there are even combination strains that combine both these traits.

[Agricultural] Committee chair senator Ramón Ruiz-Nieves of the Popular Democratic Party told the media that he intends to summon Monsanto again, insisting that the company should be regulated locally since it receives substantial local and U.S. government subsidies for its activities in Puerto Rico, and is registered with the local Agriculture Department as a bona fide farmer.

This is not the first time local officials have targeted Monsanto. On April 22, senators María de Lourdes Santiago of the Puerto Rico Independence Party, and Larry Seilhamer of the New Progressive Party, introduced Senate Bill 524, which would mandate the labeling of foods with genetically modified content sold on the island. The Senate Health Committee is expected to hold hearings on this bill later this year.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

stopdruw6 19Let's stop beating around the bush.

The ongoing and daily police sweeps arresting minorities for marijuana use, sales and distribution is institutional racism, pure and simple.

There are no daily suburban police massive arrests of suburban white youth for marijuana violations, are there? BuzzFlash at Truthout hasn't read about or heard of any.

But it's more than that. As BuzzFlash posted a couple weeks back, the ACLU issued a report that found,

Black people are 3.7 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white people despite comparable usage rates, according to a report released today by the American Civil Liberties Union. The report also found that marijuana possession arrests now make up nearly half of all drug arrests, with police making over 7 million marijuana possession arrests between 2001 and 2010. "The War on Marijuana in Black and White: Billions of Dollars Wasted on Racially Biased Arrests" is the first-ever report to examine nationwide state and county marijuana arrest data by race.

Of this racist use of drug arrests to incarcerate and subjugate black males in urban areas where there are few jobs beyond drugs – and where drugs are an opiate for lack of job opportunity – the only benefit to society is those who profit from or are employed by the prison-industrial complex.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

cyber6 18Nearly lost in the scandal of domestic data mining, spyng and possible phone call monitoring of US citizens revealed by Glenn Greenwald is an article he co-authored on June 7.  In the Guardian UK piece, Greenwald and co-author Ewen MacAskill discuss the implications of President Obama authorizing the targeting of nations, organizations, and just about anybody for US government initiated cyber-attacks.

(Here is the full document obtained by Greenwald and the Guardian and sub-titled by the paper, "Eighteen-page presidential memo reveals how Barack Obama has ordered intelligence officials to draw up a list of potential overseas targets for US cyber attacks.")

The directive focuses on overseas targets, which some might think is necessary in an age when digital technology may be as powerful a weapons as bombs and military might in wielding global power.  But that raises the concerns that cyber-warfare may lead to military conflict.  As the article cautions:

In the presidential directive, the criteria for offensive cyber operations in the directive is not limited to retaliatory action but vaguely framed as advancing "US national objectives around the world". The revelation that the US is preparing a specific target list for offensive cyber-action is likely to reignite previously raised concerns of security researchers and academics, several of whom have warned that large-scale cyber operations could easily escalate into full-scale military conflict.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

poverty6 17How often do you come across an article or a television news story that presents a poor person in a positive light?  Or for that matter when do you read about or see a story on an unemployed individual or the challenges of a working class American whose salary is receding as the stock market soars?

Oh, yes every once in awhile there will be a hard luck formula piece of reporting about the plight of the economically left behind – but it's comparatively rare and is often presented in a pitying, patronizing tone.

In short, if you are not a member of the economically made, political or corporate elite, you generally don't appear in the news. You are voiceless, faceless. The reality is that you are not news; your existence is hardly worthy of note, with the obligatory exception of an occasional "gee it's tough to live like this" profile of a "welfare mom" or person unemployed and looking for work for three or four years.

Otherwise, in urban areas, the only regular stories you see about the poor is the knife and gun coverage of violence, particularly on weekends, particularly on local television news.  These video accounts of weeping relatives, blood-stained crime scenes, and eyewitnesses only serve to reinforce stereotypes of the urban poor, particularly minorities. It's voyeuristic catnip for suburbanites and the well-to-do who gain comfort in their racial views being reinforced by tawdry and sensationalistic "news delivery systems."

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

white6 14Call it a milestone – an indifferent one, grim one, or positive pluralistic one depending upon your perspective -- but the census bureau just reported that more white Americans are dying than being born.

The Washington Post headline about this statistical entrance into a new era states it succinctly: "Whites’ deaths outnumber births for first time."

In a Christian Science Monitor editorial of June 13th entitled, "Falling white birthrate: The new American ‘us’: America's white majority is slipping away faster than ever, affecting issues from the immigration debate to the future of the economy," the editorial board reflected on the development:

One demographic fact is clear: As white America ages, it will be relying more and more heavily on hardworking, tax-paying nonwhites to build a prosperous economy and fund programs, such as Social Security and Medicare, that seniors rely on.  The “we’re all in this boat together” American experiment will have a different shade of hands rowing the oars.

These demographic trend lines also suggest the importance of investing in America’s nonwhite youths. Today some 40 percent of whites ages 25 to 29 have graduated from college, compared with only 23 percent of blacks and 15 percent of Latinos. Those numbers will have to move upward and quickly. They reflect on the entire US education system, since success in college traces back all the way to getting a good start on education as early as preschool.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

death6 1It turns out that your life insurance policy may be worth nothing if you die. 

That's the grim possibility raised in a June 11 New York Times (NYT) article by financial journalist Mary Williams Walsh:

New York State regulators are calling for a nationwide moratorium on transactions that life insurers are using to alter their books by billions of dollars, saying that the deals put policyholders at risk and could lead to another taxpayer bailout.

Insurers’ use of the secretive transactions has become widespread, nearly doubling over the last five years. The deals now affect life insurance policies worth trillions of dollars, according to an analysis done for The New York Times by SNL Financial, a research and data firm.Graphic: Insurance Captivity

These complex private deals allow the companies to describe themselves as richer and stronger than they otherwise could in their communications with regulators, stockholders, the ratings agencies and customers, who often rely on ratings to buy insurance.

So what's the bottom line on some life insurance companies -- mostly the for-profits and not mutual insurance companies owned by policy holders -- who use trillions of dollars in "re-insurance" to inflate the value of their firms?

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

foreigncur6 12Despite widespread criticism that the titans of the financial world engage in illegal or destructive profiteering practices – and escape punishment except for a few scapegoats, evidence and reports of trading improprieties continue to emerge.

Of all publications, Bloomberg.com headlines the most recent alleged global financial scandal: "Traders Said to Rig Currency Rates to Profit Off Clients."  Yes, Bloomberg reports that five big-time currency traders (as in converting dollars to yen for example) say that they have engaged in or witnessed the fixing of exchange rates for greater profit.

In a rather complicated scheme that involves split-second timing, foreign currency traders, executing orders on behalf of clients, game the system to make larger profits at the expense of those who have retained them to convert currencies.

That's a wordy way of saying clients get cheated by some of the foreign currency traders, because the traders are driving up exchange rates and making money on the increased margin.

As a June 12 Bloomberg article reports:

“The FX [foreign currency exchange] market is like the Wild West,” said James McGeehan, who spent 12 years at banks before co-founding Framingham, Massachusetts-based FX Transparency LLC, which advises companies on foreign-exchange trading, in 2009.

“It’s buyer beware.”The $4.7-trillion-a-day currency market, the biggest in the financial system, is one of the least regulated. The inherent conflict banks face between executing client orders and profiting from their own trades is exacerbated because most currency trading takes place away from exchanges.

 

(Photo: bradipo)

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

foodstamps06 11On June 10, the Senate passed a farm bill that would reduce food stamp allotments by $4 billlion.  It gets worse though, the House wants to, according to The Hill, cut government-issued food stamps by a brutal $20.5 billion dollars.

Both the Senate and the House are presenting their farm bills as "austerity measures."  Heck, if Congress wants to stop subsidizing big agri-farmers not to grow crops, that's a cut in tax spending that makes sense.  (Although this bill still includes a lot of agricultural subsidies, including – gasp – tobacco.)

But cutting food stamps is purely punitive against the poor. It's the austerity "conventional wisdom" in DC that views poverty as resulting from being a lesser person, of being responsible for being hungry – or it being some sort of divine decision that some Americans have been placed into a state of purgatory.

This is at a time, according to a March 28 MSNBC article, that more US citizens require food stamps for sustenance than ever before: "A record 47.8 million people are enrolled in the program despite the recession's end and a stronger economy."

The war on food stamps is a paradox, because the program's strongest opponents are red state Republicans.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

spymaskIt's worth noting that a noticeable number of progressives are protesting not the expanded government invasion of privacy under President Obama, but rather those sites, such as BuzzFlash at Truthout, who are harshly critical of Obama for justifying a secret system of massive spying on individuals.

We've received your e-mails.

I could fill this commentary with a load of urls linking to articles raising the alarm on how a president who is a constitutional lawyer is extending the groundwork – laid by Bush and Cheney, but really begun during the cold war with the creation of agencies like the CIA, NSA and NRO (National Reconaissance Office – the spy satellite system that tracks people, monitors phone calls, and collects data from space) -- but this is really about the arc of history, democracy and common sense.

Edward Snowden, who admitted this weekend to being the leaker of the latest NSA revelation that the US is collecting -- the kind of data that moves toward the direction of a Stasi state -- is ensconced in Hong Kong, hoping that his heroic action on behalf of the Constitution will not end in his arrest and extradition.  We know what fate will await Snowden – if Hong Kong extradites him, which it probably will because it is a part of China now, and China doesn't want to encourage whistleblowers in its own nation. He will be treated as an enemy of the state, although if processed through a civilian court may not experience the psychological and deprivation torture that has been Bradley Manning's fate.

Snowden told Glenn Greenwald -- who is no doubt the subject of an investigation by the NSA, CIA and FBI using data and information collected on the constitutional lawyer turned journalist – that "I don't want to live in a society that does these sort of thing."

Already the Obama administration is calling for Snowden's prosecution.  After all, his leak is a tsuanami of an embarrassment to the White House.

(Photo: Anonymous9000)

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

nsa555The Natonal Security Agency (NSA) in Maryland.In a withering June 6 editorial entitled "President Obama’s Dragnet," the New York Times editorial board lacerated the White House for its intrusive surveillance state tactics:

The administration has now lost all credibility on this issue. Mr. Obama is proving the truism that the executive branch will use any power it is given and very likely abuse it. That is one reason we have long argued that the Patriot Act, enacted in the heat of fear after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks by members of Congress who mostly had not even read it, was reckless in its assignment of unnecessary and overbroad surveillance powers.

Based on an article in The Guardian published Wednesday night, we now know that the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Security Agency used the Patriot Act to obtain a secret warrant to compel Verizon’s business services division to turn over data on every single call that went through its system. We know that this particular order was a routine extension of surveillance that has been going on for years, and it seems very likely that it extends beyond Verizon’s business division. There is every reason to believe the federal government has been collecting every bit of information about every American’s phone calls except the words actually exchanged in those calls.

Articles in The Washington Post and The Guardian described a process by which the N.S.A. is also able to capture Internet communications directly from the servers of nine leading American companies. The articles raised questions about whether the N.S.A. separated foreign communications from domestic ones.

Despite insulting platitudes (as the NYT calls them) from the Obama administration defending the massive invasion of privacy ("Intelligence Chief Says Massive Data Collection Is No Big Deal, But Reporting It Is" -- Forbes), the NYT's fierce condemnation of, in essence, sweeping data collection may finally wake some elites in the US up to the dangers of the enabling -- euphemistically named -- "Patriot Act."

(Photo: Wikipedia)

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