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Bolivia appeared set to become the fourth nation to ban Coca-Cola (Myanmar, North Korea, and Cuba), but quickly backed off this past week.

It's an interesting news story that reveals much about transnational corporations, the coca leaf industry in Bolivia (Coke originally used the coca leaf narcotic in its secret formula), the branding of caramel colored fizzy water as an international product sold in more than 200 nations, and the darker side of the Coca-Cola empire.

Evo Morales, the president of Bolivia, was elected as an indigenous populist president, capitalizing on his prominent position as head of the coca growers union, called the Cocalero.  A key Morales presidential campaign objective was the protection of coca growing (in limited areas) for traditional non-cocaine uses that have long been part of the Andean culture.  Morales first was elected as leader of Bolivia in 2006 and again, with 64% of the vote in 2009. 

killercoke2slice

Thursday, 09 August 2012 11:45

Blood Money Helped Start Bain Capital

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Truthout just finished a ten installment series called Truthout on the Mexican Border.  The last article concludes with the killing of Archbishop Oscar Romero in El Salvador in 1980, and the people in the State Department, the Reagan administration and congress who supported the death squads in El Salvador.  

One of the leaders of the right wing paramilitary killings in that Central American nation – as pointed out in the Truthout series -- was Roberto D'Aubuisson, who was lionized by the likes of Jesse Helms.

As The Huffington Post reports in a detailed article, some of the initial backers of the death squads in El Salvador also provided a significant part of the financing that launched Bain Capital.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Just this past weekend, in the concluding installment of Truthout on the Mexican Border, it was noted that the US assists friendly Latin American nations with setting up widespread surveillance capabilities.

Unfortunately, a federal appeals court just ruled that the United States government may wiretap American citizens without a warrant being necessary.  This legal finding means that any of us may have our telephone conversations monitored and recorded by US intelligence and law enforcement agencies:

The federal government may spy on Americans’ communications without warrants and without fear of being sued, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday in a decision reversing the first and only case that successfully challenged President George W. Bush’s once-secret Terrorist Surveillance Program.

“This case effectively brings to an end the plaintiffs’ ongoing attempts to hold the executive branch responsible for intercepting telephone conversations without judicial authorization,” a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals wrote.

Although a separate suit by the Electronic Frontier Foundation’ aimed at striking down warrantless wiretapping is still active, right now the latest ruling is the law of the land. This means you have no guarantee that the government is not monitoring your conversations, and no recourse if they are.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

No less than the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) posted a column on the history of putting to death those who engage in financial malfeasance. 

Jason Zweig, who wrote the WSJ essay, notes, "The history of drastic punishment for financial crimes may be nearly as old as wealth itself."...

In Florence during the Renaissance, the Arte del Cambio – the guild of mercantile money-changers who facilitated the city's international trade – made the cheating of clients punishable by torture. Rule 70 of the guild's statutes stipulated that any member caught in unethical conduct could be disciplined on the rack "or other corrective instruments" at the headquarters of the guild.

But financial crimes weren't merely punished; they were stigmatized. Dante's Inferno is populated largely with financial sinners, each category with its own distinctive punishment: misers who roll giant weights pointlessly back and forth with their chests, thieves festooned with snakes and lizards, usurers draped with purses they can't reach, even forecasters whose heads are wrenched around backward to symbolize their inability to see what is in front of them.

 

 

 

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

In a day or two, BuzzFlash Commentary (formerly known as the BuzzFlash blog) will move to the actual Truthout site. It is an exciting step in the continued integration of BuzzFlash into Truthout.

Not only will there be the physical move of the site (and when the move is completed, you will be reading this message on the new design), but it will now allow for photographs, videos, audio and other enhancements to be integrated into BuzzFlash at Truthout commentary.

Wednesday, 01 August 2012 06:14

The Massive Voter Fraud of the GOP

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Isn't it voter fraud to deny US citizens the right to vote?

That is what the Republican Party is engaged in its campaign to place onerous requirements on the poor, infirm and destitute seniors, the homeless, students and others to vote.

Politico recently ran background summaries on each state that has passed restrictive voter laws in an article entitled "Voter ID laws could swing states": "At least 5 million voters, predominantly young and from minority groups sympathetic to President Barack Obama, could be affected by an unprecedented flurry of new legislation by Republican governors and GOP-led legislatures to change or restrict voting rights by Election Day 2012."

Think Progress reports that "As many as 43 percent of voters in the city of Philadelphia may lack valid Pennsylvania Department of Transportation-issued photo identification, the City Paper reports. While several other forms of photo identification - including U.S. passports and many student ID cards - are acceptable proof of identity under the controversial and possibly unconstitutional new law, this statistic suggests these restrictions may provide an even larger obstacle for urban (and racial minority) communities who do not drive."

Why is the disenfranchisement of potentially millions of Americans the perpetration of a fraud? Because it would mean perhaps millions will not be able to vote due to false claims by GOP sponsors of these bills that there are massive cases of illegal voters in the United States.

In a recent Brennan Center for Justice report it is noted that Republican backed obstacles to exercise the right to vote are not limited to government-issue photo ID cards:

"Significantly, these voting law cutbacks extend well beyond the most visible and controversial step to require government-issued photo ID that many citizens don't have," said report co-author Lawrence Norden, deputy director of the Democracy Program and former Chair of the Ohio Secretary of State's bipartisan Election Summit and Conference. "An array of technical moves can add to significant barriers to the ballot. And it comes at a time when experience has taught us there are many ways to improve the voting process and expand access to the franchise while reducing costs."

The Brennan Center report also warns that "The states that have already cut back on voting rights will provide 171 electoral votes in 2012-63 percent of the 270 needed to win the presidency."

Debunking the myth of voter fraud, the Brennan Center produced a study that showed in a state such as Wisconsin, where Scott Walker led the charge against "alleged" voter fraud, there were only minute voting errors in the 2004 election (.00006% of ineligible voters casting ballots in the state that year) - and that "none of these problems could have been resolved by requiring by requiring photo ID at the polls."

Writing in the Michigan Law Review in 2007, Spencer Overton bluntly lays out the facts:

The Carter-Baker Commission's Report noted that since October 2002, federal officials had charged eighty-nine individuals with casting multiple votes, providing false information about their felon status, buying votes, submitting false voter registration information, or voting improperly as a noncitizen. Examined in the context of the 196,139,871 ballots cast between October 2002 and August 2005, this represents a fraud rate of 0.000045% (and note also that not all of the activities charged would have been prevented by a photo- identification requirement)

When you balance taking away the Constitutional right to vote of millions of Americans on the basis of 89 people being charged nationally with illegal voting over a three year period, those who seek to restrict access to the ballot box are engaged in a fraudulent scheme to impact elections through the denial of the most basic right of citizenship.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Okay, okay, it is highly unlikely to occur - particularly given that Cheney and his former finger puppet, George W. Bush, are not going to the GOP convention this year, likely because the Romney people told them that they are not welcome.

But then again, it is worth noting that legally there is nothing in the Constitution, or in the Twenty-Second Amendment (which limits presidential terms to two) that would keep a vice president from serving multiple terms. In fact, two vice presidents have even served in different administrations: John C. Calhoun and George Clinton.

Remember the bizarre idiosyncracies of the George W. Bush administration presidency began when Cheney was appointed to vet potential vice presidential candidates, only to end up being the Republican vice presidential candidate himself. How that happened is still the subject of endless speculation. But some might regard as an internal palace coup, given that Cheney and his BFF, Donald Rumsfeld, ended up pretty much running the show in the Bush Administration (although Rumsfeld was thrown off the plank and didn't survive the full two terms as defense secretary.)

So when Cheney the other day criticized John McCain for picking Sarah Palin as a "mistake" because she didn't have the experience or skills to assume the role of the presidency, a lot of pundits took note that the man who pulled George W. Bush's strings was back indirectly touting his bona fides.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

According to the US Department of Justice (DOJ) in 2003, "HCA Inc. (formerly known as Columbia/HCA and HCA - The Healthcare Company) has agreed to pay the United States $631 million in civil penalties and damages arising from false claims the government alleged it submitted to Medicare and other federal health programs, the Justice Department announced today." The DOJ entitled its press release on the settlement, "The Largest Healthcare Fraud in US History."

The DOJ news release also records additional HCA civil and criminal fraud in billing the government illegally for services:

Previously, on December 14, 2000, HCA subsidiaries pled guilty to substantial criminal conduct and paid more than $840 million in criminal fines, civil restitution and penalties. Combined with today's separate administrative settlement with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), under which HCA will pay an additional $250 million to resolve overpayment claims arising from certain of its cost reporting practices, the government will have recovered $1.7 billion from HCA, by far the largest recovery ever reached by the government in a health care fraud investigation.

Rick Scott, the Republican governor of Florida, founded what became HCA and resigned as the false claims to Medicare and other federal health programs started coming to light as a result of whistleblowers (who later received a portion of the HCA settlement).

Scott is now refusing to cooperate with the Affordable Care Act, particularly in relation to Medicaid. He regularly denounces government healthcare programs, even though his for-profit healthcare firm made nearly $2 billion in profit from these same federal government payers -- fraudulently.

The governor of the Sunshine State -- if criminal justice were fair and not subject to granting the wealthy impunity -- would very possibly be serving a prison term instead of being ensconced in the Florida's governor's mansion.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Reportedly, Mitt Romney made so many offensive comments in London that one paper posted a list of his top ten gaffes. The Vancouver Sun of Canada headlined a story, "Team Romney earns gaffe gold in Britain: Criticism of Olympics rankles British PM, while one blog Tweets Romney 'kind of like Mr. Bean.'"

A Daily Mail UK reporter also tweeted that Whitehall sources called Romney's performance "worse than Sarah Palin" and a "total car crash."

It was one diplomatic pratfall after another for the man who would be president, and on his heralded foreign policy debut tour as candidate for the White House.

You might count the Romney campaign aide's comment that Mitt would have closer ties with the UK because he understood the Anglo-Saxon bond between the two nations, well you might argue that was a calculated dog whistle to racists - and it probably was.

That statement was more offensive to the image of the US than to the UK per se, and an indication that Romney is going full tilt for the birther Tea Party vote by emphasizing that he is the "white guy" in the race, as if we didn't already know that. But bonding the right wing through bigotry against the color of one's skin helps to get racists to overlook their aversion to Romney being a dutiful Mormon.

Beyond the "look at Mitt, he's white" comment of a senior adviser, Romney's own statements in London were one pratfall of foreign policy blunders after another. Even CBS news ran a story that is headlined, "British papers blast Mitt Romney."

Let's go over a few of the insulting remarks. Romney criticized the British for not being ready for the 2012 Olympics. This so infuriated many residents of the UK that the Tory Party Prime Minister (read Republican counterpart in Britain) snidely rebuffed Romney, as reported by the Associated Press and around the world:

"Mitt the Twit" screamed Friday's headline in The Sun, which just days ago was trumpeting an embarrassing incident in which an official bus carrying the U.S. team from Heathrow airport got lost and spent hours in traffic.

"Who invited party-pooper Romney?" asked the Daily Mail.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

More than 170 workers in Freeport, Illinois, are about to lose their jobs, outsourced to China by the majority shareholder in their company: Bain Capital. Sensata is the name of the firm, and the soon to be former employees sent a direct appeal to Mitt Romney to get his former colleagues to keep their plant in the United States, according to the Associated Press:

Since early 2011, Cheryl Randecker and her co-workers have known their jobs making electronic sensors at a factory in Freeport, Ill., would be lost to China. Some even were asked to train their replacements, who were flown in from overseas.

But with the presidential election campaign in full swing, workers at the Sensata Technologies plant came up with a novel idea, a Hail Mary pass to save their jobs: Ask Mitt Romney for help.

Sensata is owned by Bain Capital, the private equity investment firm that the Republican presidential candidate once led and that has been the subject of a campaign debate about jobs and outsourcing. Romney had long since left his leadership position at Bain when Sensata bought the plant in 2010, but the Freeport City Council recently passed a unanimous 8-0 resolution calling on him to come visit and help keep the jobs in town. The workers have written him directly.

Of course, Romney hasn't responded, and he would likely use his current excuse for the outsourcing that occurred when he was CEO, president, and sole stockholder from 1999-2002: he wasn't around when it happened. Of course, that is belied, as BuzzFlash has pointed out, by Bain's investment, as early as the beginning of the 1990s, in firms that facilitate outsourcing.

The governor of Illinois, Pat Quinn (D), is visiting Freeport today to show his solidarity with the Sensata workers about to lose their jobs.

There is little hope for the workers and Romney -- who is campaigning as a job creator -- will not likely ever respond to their plea. But the real question to Romney is what would he do if he were still the owner and CEO of Bain Capital? Would he take less profit and save the US jobs in Freeport, or would he make the decision that would increase his own quarter billion dollar in assets?

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