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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

astudenthomeless(Photo: scribbletaylor)

Of all the compelling statistics about a nation that is seeing most of its wealth consolidated in the hands of a few oligarchs, one of the most distressing is that the number of homeless students in the United States is rising every year - and is currently at record levels.

The Huffington Post recently reported on a government study that provided the statistical proof:

The number of homeless students in the United States reached a record high during the 2012-13 school year, according to the latest data from the U.S. Department of Education.

The report released Monday shows that homeless children enrolled in public preschool and grades K-12 jumped 8 percent from the previous school year to hit 1,258,182.

Yes, that is more than 1.25 million students in the United States who meet the definition of being homeless. It is hard to think of a greater indication of the degradation of values in the US than this trend. 

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

asurvcameraParody of a Homeland Security poster. (Photo: ThreeErin)I am currently reading two books that brilliantly illustrate the destruction and corrosion caused by the exponentially expanding covert branch of government: Tom Engelhardt's Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World; and James Risen's Pay Any Price: Greed, Power and Endless War. (Shadow Government is currently a Truthout Progressive Pick of the Week, and Pay Any Price will become one in about two weeks.)

Engelhardt, editor of the venerable TomDispatch.com, writes of an increasingly sprawling post-9/11 shadow government that is growing into a covert parallel government, with only token accountability to Congress and the FISA court. In a Truthout interview with Engelhardt (which will be posted on October 30), he describes the US surveillance and "global security" state as a "proselytizing warrior religion": "As with so many religions, its god an eye in the sky, an all-seeing being who knows your secrets." Of course, the implication is that those who are the high priests also paradoxically control the image and power of the God they worship. In their minds, the chiefs of all the homeland security offshoots are both believers and deities.

It's not only the power of faith in this intelligence and military cult that keeps it expanding at a feverish pace. As James Risen recounts in Pay Any Price, so much taxpayer money has been tossed at post-9/11 "Homeland Security" projects that there is a new class of members of the oligarchy: those who joined the 1% as a result of US government privatized intelligence and military contracts.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Thomas Paine by Matthew Pratt 1785-95Was Tom Paine (above) a militant? (Painting: Matthew Pratt)

The mainstream media performs its transcriptionist role flawlessly every time it reports about "militants" being killed in various attacks around the world.

The world "militant" marginalizes anyone who is slain by those in power, deeming those people worthy of being killed because they are an alleged threat to the US (or an ally who supports US hegemony). Of course, if you are an advocate for regime overthrow in a country where the US wants to establish a new, pro-neoliberal government, then you are labeled a "freedom fighter" in the press.

Virtually no corporate media reports uses the word "alleged" before the word militants. If people are opposed to a status quo power and organize armed resistance, and the US or a friendly government calls them "militants," they have - the media implies - been killed justifiably.

There are a lot of perilous implications of labeling people killed in military or CIA attacks as "militants." 

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

adronedeath(Photo: AK Rockefeller)

According to the The Bureau of Investigative Journalism - an independent nonprofit organization in Britain - only four percent of US drone victims in Afghanistan have been confirmed to be "named as Al Qaeda members." The Bureau oversees a "Naming the Dead" project that has confirmed 2,379 men, women and children killed as a result of 400 CIA drone strikes in Pakistan since 2004. Most of those who lost their lives in the drone attacks remain unidentified.

The Bureau's research is challenging to conduct, because the drone strikes cause such decimation that many body parts are so dispersed that identification becomes difficult. In addition, many of the strikes occur in remote areas in Pakistan.  However, the trend appears clear that drone strikes - as Jeremy Scahill detailed in his book "Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield" – appear to primarily kill people who pose no threat to the United States. That is because the CIA justifies drone strikes by location of "known terrorists," whether the people are at the targeted site at the particular time of the attack are even remotely associated with Al Qaeda or perceived by intelligence services to be plotting against the US.

The CIA, the White House and the Pentagon basically adopt a standard that if you are blown to bits in a drone strike, you deserve it. Why? Because you are hanging out in an area where US intelligence services claim individuals who pose an "imminent threat" to the nation have been seen. What qualifies as an "imminent threat" will never be known, in most cases, because the CIA is not forthcoming in most drone strikes about the targets or what constitutes an "imminent threat." 

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

apoppyfieldafgOpium field in Afghanistan. (Photo: isafmedia)

After 14 years of covering the shady underside of US politics and international policy, it would be easy to assert that all too often, "the more things change, the more they stay the same."

It became clear within a couple of years after the US invaded Afghanistan that the Bush administration's claim to be implementing a vigorous opium eradication program in that nation was fabricated for domestic political reasons. The reality was that the practical politics of the occupation resulted in opium production actually increasing in Afghanistan. According to Listcrux.com and other sources, Afghanistan remains the number one producer of opium (also the derivative for heroin) in the world.

Indeed, the US occupation has been good for opium growers, very good. According to an official US analysis by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, opium cultivation in the nation is now at record levels. The title of the government report says it all: "Poppy Cultivation in Afghanistan: After a Decade of Reconstruction and Over $7 Billion in Counternarcotics Efforts, Poppy Cultivation Levels Are at an All-Time High." 

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

ajanetyellenJanet Yellen (Photo: International Monetary Fund)                                                         

Although the head of the Federal Reserve Board, Janet Yellen, isn't yet calling for systemic change in the US economic system - nor is she likely to - she did no doubt shock the financial barons by acknowledging income inequality in the US in a recent speech.

In remarks on October 17 to the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, Yellen, according to Wall Street on Parade, appeared to formally recognize at least some of glaring disparities in distribution of income and assets in the US:

“The past several decades have seen the most sustained rise in inequality since the 19th century after more than 40 years of narrowing inequality following the Great Depression.” Using data from the Fed’s Survey of Consumer Finances, Yellen punctuated her message with these hair-raising figures:

“The wealthiest 5 percent of American households held 54 percent of all wealth reported in the 1989 survey. Their share rose to 61 percent in 2010 and reached 63 percent in 2013;

“The lower half of households by wealth, held just 3 percent of wealth in 1989 and only 1 percent in 2013. To put that in perspective…the average net worth of the lower half of the distribution, representing 62 million households, was $11,000 in 2013.”

“This $11,000 average is 50 percent lower than the average wealth of the lower half of families in 1989, adjusted for inflation.”

The Wall Street Journal took note of Yellen's focus on wealth disparity in an article entitled, "Janet Yellen Decries Widening Income Inequality: Central Bank Chief Says Wealth Disparity Could Be Impeding Economic Mobility." 

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

apredobama(Photo: doctress neutopia)

Celebrities come and go, but presidential attempts at despicable humor leave a foul aftertaste even after four years.

This is a truism that John Oliver recently proved on a recent "Last Week Tonight" segment (watch here) on US drone assassinations directly authorized by President Obama. At the infamous Washington White House Correspondents Dinner (this one in 2010), Obama was attempting to be humorous (watch here) when he warned:

"The Jonas Brothers are here. (Applause.) They're out there somewhere. Sasha and Malia are huge fans. But, boys, don't get any ideas. (Laughter.) I have two words for you - predator drones. (Laughter.) You will never see it coming. (Laughter.) You think I'm joking. (Laughter.)" 

The DC journalist stenographer corps laughed with abandon at the frightfully frivolous flaunting of the power to execute people using drones without any due process. This was the same Washington press gathering that laughed hysterically when then President Bush got on his knees and pretended to search for Weapons of Mass Destruction under a speakers' table long after it was clear that the active WMDs used to justify the Iraq War did not exist. 

Obama's mock threat to the Jonas brothers a few years back evoked the US indifference to those persons killed overseas by drone strikes. That is because the guffaws of the corporate media were based on the subconscious premise that Obama's boasting of his power to authorize kill strikes is limited to people of little note to DC insiders, Middle-Eastern civilians (collateral damage) and persons alleged to be terrorists or in areas where terrorists allegedly congregate. 

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

abed(Photo: locomomo)

In the United States, people with limited financial means are getting poorer.

That trend becomes even more accelerated as those who have no cash on hand are forced to go into debt and pay high interest rates. In fact, BuzzFlash has long covered the ways in which the wealthy are becoming richer, in part due to the increasing indebtedness of those who are living on less money.

For the financial sector, the increase in profits comes on the high interest rates paid by the middle class and poor on borrowed money (this includes credit card payments and payday loans, among other lending vehicles).

However, there is a growing group of people in the US who are so cash-short that they cannot even obtain credit. Entrepreneurs have now figured out how to exploit this population that is barely surviving. According to an October 13 article in The Washington Post, "Rental America: Why the poor pay $4,150 for a $1,500 sofa...."

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

atppcancer(Photo: GlobalTradeWatch)

In its analysis of a US-proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) provision, Public Citizen found that the corporate profits of Big Pharma would be increased and protected at the expense of providing medical care to people with cancer:

Access to affordable cancer treatments in the U.S and 11 other countries would be delayed for years if terms revealed today in the leaked draft Intellectual Property Chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) were to go into effect, Public Citizen said. The text, obtained by WikiLeaks, analyzed in collaboration with Public Citizen and released today also shows worrying developments on other patent and copyright issues and explains in part why TPP talks remain deadlocked a month before President Barack Obama’s declared deadline for a deal.

The leak shows our government demanding rules that would lead to preventable suffering and death in Pacific Rim countries, while eliminating opportunities to ease financial hardship on American families and our health programs at home,” said Peter Maybarduk, director of Public Citizen’s Global Access to Medicines Program. Public Citizen’s analysis and background information is available at http://www.citizen.org/tpp-ip-wikileaks

Measures in the text, which advantage the patent-based pharmaceutical industry, face stiff opposition from most of the other TPP countries and health care advocates....

The patent protections on drugs and biotechnological advancement used to prolong life for individuals with cancer are being championed on behalf of the pharmaceutical and biotech industries by negotiators for the US government. 

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

adiablocanyonDiablo Canyon power plant in California. Will it become the US's Fukushima? (Photo: Nuclear Regulatory Commission)

You have to go to The Japan Times to find out that this week's Typhoon Phanfone caused a significant spike in the radioactive contamination of groundwater at Fukushima:

The radioactive water woes at the stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant got worse over the weekend after the tritium concentration in a groundwater sample surged more than tenfold this month.

A spokesman for Tokyo Electric Power Co. [TEPCO] said Saturday that heavy rain caused by Typhoon Phanfone probably affected the groundwater after the storm whipped through Japan last week.

Some 150,000 becquerels of tritium per liter were measured in a groundwater sample taken Thursday from a well east of the No. 2 reactor. The figure is a record for the well and over 10 times the level measured the previous week.

According to The Japan Times, the news gets worse: "In addition, materials that emit beta rays, such as strontium-90, which causes bone cancer, also shattered records with a reading of 1.2 million becquerels, the utility said of the sample."

Searching through Google news, this writer could not find any coverage in US news (or other Western media, for that matter) of this harrowing development.

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