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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

You would think obeying the law would be a high priority for the flag-waving right-wingers, but obviously not for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

As Talking Points Memo reported, Walker and the Wisconsin GOP went ahead and started implementing their rammed through anti-union law, despite a judicial order not to do so.

In fact, the Walker administration has already stopped collecting dues for the public unions and has increased health care insurance deductions, again in defiance of a legal restraint until the court suits concerning the law proceed further along.

Now we learn, via a nonpartisan Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau report, that contrary to Walker's claims that he is reducing the state budget by 6 percent, it will actually increase spending by 1 percent.

You have to wonder how much Walker could have actually cut the budget by raising fair share taxes on tax-dodging corporations and millionaires, instead of using unions as a scapegoat.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

The attack that is being waged on unions in Republican-controlled states across the nation is not just an economic war to lower the working person's standard of living. As the Tea Party governor of Maine has shown, it is an assault on the basic dignity of labor itself.

According to The Associated Press (via Maine Public Broadcasting), Gov. Paul LePage (R-Maine) considers artwork that pays homage to the integrity and struggles of the working person to be "inappropriate" in a state government building:

LePage has ordered the removal of a 36-foot mural depicting the state's labor history from the lobby of the Department of Labor headquarters building in Augusta.

In addition, the LePage administration is renaming several department conference rooms that carry the names of pro-labor icons such as Cesar Chavez.

LePage spokesman Dan Demeritt says the mural and the conference room names are not in keeping with the department's pro-business goals and some business owners complained.

Given that the mural in question was in the Maine executive branch office that represents the workers of the state, the action appears to symbolize more than a "pro-business" tilt: it's an anti-labor attack of the pettiest sort.

Throughout history, governments that have resorted to censorship and banned art based on political outlook have not fared well in the long term.

The human spirit is too strong to endure such restrictions on a basic freedom.

In this case, a mural that pays homage to the working class has a right to hang with dignity on the wall of the Maine Department of Labor.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Many of the older nuclear reactors in the United States have the same flawed General Electric design as the Fukushima, Japan, plant that is facing ongoing radiation leakage.

In fact, just in the last few hours, we have learned that one of the core reactors at Fukushima was apparently breached and that radioactive particles are contaminating sea water outside the containment area:

Speculation surrounding the extent to which the radiation may be leaking into the Pacific Ocean was also mounting after tests last weekend found nearby seawater contaminated 1,850 above legal limits.

More recent tests showed that this figure has dropped, although Hidehiko Nishiyama, a spokesman for the Nuclear and Industrial Agency said that he suspects radioactive water from the plant is leaking into the ocean.

Yet, there is little active, visible protest in the US to the threat of nuclear power plants designed and run by private corporations for profit.

Contrast that to the 200,000 protesters against nuclear energy who took to the streets this weekend in Germany.

Despite radioactivity reported in the rain as far away as the East Coast of the US , the nuclear issue hasn't reached a critical point of debate here.

But it should, because the nuclear power lobbying industry is hard at work in Washington to make sure federal loan guarantees and subsidies come their way, along with immunity for damage done by a nuclear catastrophe.

It will be too late to save lives after a nuclear plant disaster in the US.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

How did it happen so quickly that the news moved from the energizing protests in Wisconsin to the nuclear disaster in Japan and then the US military bombing of Libya?

We barely had a chance to be invigorated by the spontaneous massive crowds in Madison before ominous news swept across our TV and computer screens.

Suddenly, the weighty questions of responsibility for a potential nuclear catastrophe and when America goes to war and under what circumstances intruded into an unexpected moment of progressive unity.

Not that the corporate media covered the Wisconsin rallies extensively. The mainstream media pretty much ignored the Madison story.

But on Truthout, you got a chance to cherish the moment.

The promise of the uprising in Wisconsin shouldn't fade, nor should we let it.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Will we one day wake up to a completely Walmartized world?

That's a question that is not out of the realm of possibility, considering Walmart's rapid expansion around the globe, including - of course - as a manufacturer and seller in China.

South Africa has given conditional approval to Walmart buying up the nation's third-largest retailer, but is having some second thoughts, according to WalmartWatch.org.

Apparently, some departments in the South African government are now concerned about Walmart's commitment to buying local produce and the issue of local businesses and unions. According to a South African newspaper:

A key condition sought by the three departments is that the merged entity will "at least maintain or increase the percentage of pre-merger local procurement by product category."

The departments' submission suggests that Walmart and Massmart's initial "willingness to co-operate in an attempt to alleviate those concerns" faded significantly last month after the Competition Commission recommended unconditional approval for the proposed merger....

The departments have requested the postponement [of the final approval of the merger] because they now believe that as a result of "the refusal of the merging parties to make any tangible or enforceable commitments, particularly with regard to procurement and small (especially broad-based BEE) businesses," it is necessary for them to intervene more actively in the merger proceedings.

In short, Walmart is saying - as was the mantra in the Bush administration - trust a large corporation to self-regulate itself.

As Ronald Reagan said about the Soviet Union, however, a more appropriate stance in relation to Walmart would be "trust, but verify."

Or better yet, let them show the world that they can be trusted. They've got a lot of work to do there.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

"Utah becomes first in US to have state gun."

In case you are wondering, the winner is a Browning M1911 semiautomatic pistol.

So, right up there with other state symbols of Utah - like the state tree (blue spruce) - is a gun, and a semiautomatic one at that.

As Rosie Gray wrote in The Village Voice:

The timing on this is about as bad as it could get, two months after Gabrielle Giffords' shooting and the debate that provoked about gun control.

Not trying to say that this will spur people to violence, but it's an alarmingly casual way to look at guns. It's almost like people in this country have just forgotten what guns do, as if they're simply fun little playthings and not in fact instruments of death.

What's next, a state nuclear power plant?

Mark Karlin, Editor of BuzzFlash at Truthout

A few days ago, CNBC's Larry Kudlow said what many wealthy Wall Street investors were probably thinking, and it was shocking.

Kudlow, a cable news financial "pundit," reassured the business world about the Japanese earthquake and tsunami: "The human toll here looks to be much worse than the economic toll, and we can be grateful for that."

On Twitter, Kudlow apologized, but his words represented the heartlessness at the center of today's casino economy: everything is reduced to a financial win or loss.

There is something ethically debased when the financial impact of a disaster is of more concern than the human toll. What happens to a society when money is valued more than life?

Since Kudlow's remark, at least 150 workers in Japan (in teams of 50 at a time) have been exposing themselves to high levels of radiation in order to prevent a nuclear catastrophe. They are the heroes.

Next to them, Kudlow looks extremely small and selfish.

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Mark Karlin, Editor of BuzzFlash at Truthout

Want a confirmation of corporate governance, just look at the Forbes top global corporations for 2010:

1. JPMorgan Chase - United States
2. General Electric - United States
3. Bank of America - United States
4. ExxonMobil - United States
5. ICBC - China

Fortune uses somewhat different criteria and ranks BP as number four and Wal-Mart as number one.

In short, the Forbes and Fortune top US headquartered companies compose sort of the wish list of big contributors to political campaigns. So, if you were running, let's say a re-election campaign for president, you might want to adopt policies that favor these businesses and court key people in their top staffs.

So, would an administration favor Wall Street policies that benefit the likes of JP Morgan Chase and Bank of America, keep any top executives from being indicted, and appoint a top JP Morgan Chase honcho as White House chief of staff? Would that administration have some of the key people behind the de-regulation policies that caused a multi-trillion dollar Wall Street collapse serve as the senior economic policy team in the White House?

Would an administration looking to top-level corporate support for a national campaign reassure General Electric (GE) that it was 100% behind nuclear power plants despite their newly proven catastrophic potential (and this one occurring in a poorly designed GE facility)? Would such an administration appoint the head of GE as his jobs czar when GE's main employment activity appears to be exporting jobs from the US?

Would such a White House re-instate deepwater drilling so soon after a disastrous and preventable massive spill by BP in the Gulf of Mexico, and let BP off with a slap on the wrist after it pretty much dictated post-blow out strategy to the US government?

Would the First Lady team up with Wal-Mart - to brandish its image - on an anti-obesity campaign when Wal-Mart is still primarily selling junk consumer food?

Maybe it's just a coincidence that the top US headquartered global corporations appear to be getting their way with policy in the White House, and that the president is great pals with these "masters of the universe" who run these companies.

Maybe it is just all a big coincidence.

But more likely, this is what happens when the audacity of hope turns into the harsh reality of cynicism.

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Mark Karlin, Editor of BuzzFlash at Truthout

If you don't remember Karen Silkwood, you should if you value your life and the lives of your loved ones.

Silkwood disclosed the numerous dangers lurking at the nuclear power plant in Oklahoma where she worked. In fact, Silkwood - a member of the Oil, Chemical & Atomic Workers Union, it should be noted - cited so many potential dangers to staff at the Kerr-McGee facility, that she was asked to testify before the Atomic Energy Commission in 1974.

Later that year, Silkwood was found to be contaminated with 400 times the legal limit for plutonium. Silkwood contended that she had been exposed to the plutonium as retaliation for her whistleblowing.

Having arranged to turn over papers that would have allegedly showed the culpability of Kerr-McGee for multiple risks at the nuclear plant, she was killed when her car ran off the road while she was en route to meet a New York Times reporter. No documents were found in her car and the circumstances of the accident indicated that Silkwood may have been rammed from behind.

In a civil trial, Kerr-McGee made the rather difficult-to-believe claim that Silkwood intentionally poisoned herself with plutonium. Subsequently, 44 pounds of plutonium were found missing from the plant.

Eventually, Kerr-McGee entered into a settlement with Silkwood's family for just over $1 million.

If you don't remember Karen Silkwood, you should.

She exposed the dark side of the nuclear power industry, and likely died for doing so.

Will we end up in the same grave if our government continues to holding up the nuclear industry to be flawless, almost divinely empowered to prevent accidents?

The nuclear industry is a business that is out to make profits. We've already witnessed what Wall Street did by operating that way. Are we prepared to continue to run that risk with nuclear radiation?

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Mark Karlin, Editor of BuzzFlash at Truthout

Yes, it's the tale of two Americas.

To its no doubt cheering readership, The Wall Street Journal reported today that big CEO bonuses are back - and back big time:

CEO bonuses at 50 major corporations jumped a median of 30.5%, the biggest gain in at least three years, according to a study of the first batch of corporate CEO pay disclosures by consulting firm Hay Group for The Wall Street Journal.

Meanwhile, amid a continued unemployment crisis, indications of financial distress and basic subsistence are also soaring:

From November to December of 2010 487,000 Americans were added to the food stamp program. Keep in mind this all occurred while the stock market continued to soar and has rallied nearly 100 percent from the lows reached in March of 2009.

Working and middle class Americans barely have enough to pay for the monthly bills so speculating in Wall Street is likely the least of their concerns. The data on food stamp usage usually trails the current calendar date by one quarter. The latest data we have is from December of 2010. However, we are adding roughly 300,000 people per month to the food stamp program called SNAP. If that is the case, as of today we now have 45,000,000 Americans participating in the food stamp program....

This is the highest percent of Americans on food assistance since the Great Depression when there was no food assistance early on aside from local charities.

It's a tale of two Americas: one gorging on gluttony, and one barely able to survive. And the safety net for those in need is being cut with a machete knife as the richest among us get richer.

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