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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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There's a new wave of free trade agreements coming down the pike - unless they are defeated by an uprising of those concerned about unsustainable farming, climate change, corporate interests superseding sovereignty, unfair labor practices and many more perilous threats. The three major economic pacts in the final stages of negotiation are the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), negotiated between the US and European Union; the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TTP), negotiated between the US and 11 countries in the Asia-Pacific region; and the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), negotiated between the European Union and Canada.

These trade pacts are modeled on NAFTA and its numerous successors - agreements that solidify a global corporate infrastructure that legally empowers behemoth businesses to reshape the economy of the world to suit their needs. This framework includes a little-known provision contained in most international trade agreements, called the protocol for investor-state dispute settlement. In essence, it allows multinational corporations to sue sovereign governments for claimed loss of profits due to national or local laws, such as environmental protections.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

anindig(Photo: Robbt)

It's been a pivotal, unjust and enduring false narrative that Columbus "discovered" the Americas.

How could he have "found" the western hemisphere, when millions and millions of indigenous people were already living here? The whole premise of Columbus finding previously unknown territory - celebrated on October 13 as a federal holiday (although he never even touched ground in what is now the United States) - is a dangerous Eurocentric perspective. It is a keystone in the still-prevalent delusion that white colonizers "brought" civilization to the Americas. 

Next week, Truthout and BuzzFlash will be offering a brilliant book (available now) that comprehensively debunks the framing of the history of the Americas from a conqueror's perspective: An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States, by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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A modicum of help is on the way for scientists who are under siege from climate deniers, corporations, ALEC and even some government agencies sympathetic to Chamber of Commerce influence. According to an email received by BuzzFlash from the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility:

A new program providing legal information, counseling and, when needed, formal representation to embattled scientists at no cost to them was unveiled today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). This Alliance for Legal Protection of Science (ALPS) will also field a national network of volunteer attorneys from a variety of specialties to help PEER staff counsel provide pro bono legal assistance to besieged scientists.When public scientists’ research has economic or political significance, their findings and careers are sometimes put under pressure or attack from industries or interest groups, such as fossil-fuel extractors, chemical and other manufacturers, as well as the law firms and “think tanks” they finance. Individual researchers are often ill-equipped to counter well-funded harassment campaigns.  ALPS will organize legal and other resources to protect both targeted scientists and their work products. 

The support services are much needed, given that the mainstream corporate media generally accepts assaults on the integrity of climate scientists and their work as "valid" opposing viewpoints. This is a result of two developments in news coverage. First, there is the generally established practice in current mass media of offering the reader false equivalencies rather than the establishment of fact by reporters. Second - and this is likely related to the first point – most mainstream media outlets, particularly television, are owned by parent corporations who support the pursuit of profit over the findings of scientists. If scientific research - on global warming or environmental pollution - results in conclusions that could undercut the bottom line for businesses, then it is generally in the interest of big media to call proven fact into question.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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Naomi Klein's brilliant 2008 book, "The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism," was a visionary breakthrough in understanding how the oligarchy uses catastrophic circumstances to seize economic control of nations. Taking advantage of natural, political and financial upheaval, Klein cogently argues, the apostles of Milton Friedman and Ayn Rand use disaster as an opportunity to implement extremist free-market economic policies while reducing government spending for the common good.

The mainstream media and political narrative that we have lived with for years - of lurching from one sensationalist crisis to another - has evolved into a continuous "shock doctrine." The neoliberal forces of unfettered capitalism and the global consolidation of wealth advance as we are distracted by lurid coverage that stimulates our fears but not our brains. Akira Watts eloquently addressed this ceaseless barrage of "fourth-estate" terror in a BuzzFlash commentary yesterday, "ISIS, Ebola, and Why Fear of the Unknown Makes Us Stupid."

The never-ending fusillade of frightening images and news evoke the fear of monsters from our childhood. It is news that both attracts and repulses us because of its titillating appeal to out primal phobias.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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Yes, BuzzFlash has repeatedly posted commentaries on how the wealthiest 1 percent in the United States have received 95 percent of the economic benefits from the post-2008 recovery. That alone is an astonishing and appalling statistic. However, The Chronicle of Philanthropy reports that the richest people in the US are now giving a smaller percentage of their income to charity than they did before the economy cratered.

In an October 5 article entitled, "As Wealthy Give Smaller Share of Income to Charity, Middle Class Digs Deeper," the Chronicle reports,

As the recession lifted, poor and middle class Americans dug deeper into their wallets to give to charity, even though they were earning less. At the same time, according to a new Chronicle analysis of tax data, wealthy Americans earned more, but the portion of the income they gave to charity declined.

Using the IRS data, The Chronicle was able to track gifts to charity at the state, county, metropolitan-area, and ZIP code levels. The data were for gifts to charity among taxpayers who itemize deductions on their tax forms. It captured $180-billion that was given to charity in 2012, or about 80 percent of the total amount given to charity as tabulated by "Giving USA...."

The wealthiest Americans—those who earned $200,000 or more—reduced the share of income they gave to charity by 4.6 percent from 2006 to 2012. Meanwhile, Americans who earned less than $100,000 chipped in 4.5 percent more of their income during the same time period. Middle- and lower-income Americans increased the share of income they donated to charity, even as they earned less, on average, than they did six years earlier.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

afreetuitionProtesting against tuition in the United States (Photo: aymanfadel)

While US students wallow in debt that exceeds $1 trillion, according to Forbes, Germany is now offering a tuition-free future for upcoming generations.

No, it's not a far-fetched idea for the government to invest in a country's intellectual capacity by financing advanced education. The more students who have access to the university, the greater the contribution to a nation's growth and well-being, particularly in this age of advanced technology and scientific knowledge. Instead of allowing its students to be burdened by lifelong debt - or not going to college at all because of the costs - Germany sees that it benefits the country to subsidize debt-free higher education.

A September Times of London article headlined, "German universities scrap all tuition fees," also alludes to the economic justice aspect of the policy:

All German universities will be free of charge when term starts next week after fees were abandoned in Lower Saxony, the last of seven states to charge.

"Tuition fees are socially unjust," said Dorothee Stapelfeldt, senator for science in Hamburg, which scrapped charges in 2012. "They particularly discourage young people who do not have a traditional academic family background from taking up studies. It is a core task of politics to ensure that young women and men can study with a high quality standard free of charge in Germany."

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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Stanford University professors recently released a study showing how the prolonged drought in many areas of California is linked to climate change. Stanford reported on the findings in a September 30 article:

"Our research finds that extreme atmospheric high pressure in this region – which is strongly linked to unusually low precipitation in California – is much more likely to occur today than prior to the human emission of greenhouse gases that began during the Industrial Revolution in the 1800s," said [Noah] Diffenbaugh, an associate professor of environmental Earth system science at Stanford and a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment.

The exceptional drought currently crippling California is by some metrics the worst in state history. Combined with unusually warm temperatures and stagnant air conditions, the lack of precipitation has triggered a dangerous increase in wildfires and incidents of air pollution across the state. A recent report estimated that the water shortage would result in direct and indirect agricultural losses of at least $2.2 billion and lead to the loss of more than 17,000 seasonal and part-time jobs in 2014 alone. Such impacts prompted California Gov. Jerry Brown to declare a drought emergency and the federal government to designate all 58 California counties as "natural disaster areas."

In a commentary yesterday, BuzzFlash drew attention to how global warming is currently causing 35,000 walruses to be stranded on an Alaskan beach due to the ongoing melting of the Arctic ice shelf. The California water crisis provides more evidence that the abuse of our atmosphere is beginning to directly impact humans, not just animals.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

awalrus(Photo: claumoho)

Maybe the desperation of 35,000 walruses forced to crowd onto a beach in Alaska because of global warming will awaken more people to the destructive impact happening now. After all, many polls have shown that a majority of people in the United States - this past Sunday's huge protest march in New York aside - regard climate change as an abstract future possibility. It does not generally show up as a top concern of voters.

Yet in Alaska, the walruses are evidence of a real impact happening now. According to The Guardian: 

An estimated 35,000 walruses were spotted on the barrier island in north-western Alaska on 27 September by scientists on an aerial survey flight.

The biggest immediate risk factor for the walruses now is a stampede – especially for baby walruses – but they have been facing a growing threat from climate change, the scientists said.

The extraordinary sighting – the biggest known exodus of walruses to dry land ever observed in the Arctic under US control – arrived as the summer sea ice fell to its sixth lowest in the satellite record last month.

“Those animals have essentially run out of offshore sea ice, and have no other choice but to come ashore,” said Chadwick Jay, a research ecologist in Alaska with the US Geological Survey.

Given that the "summer sea ice fell to its sixth lowest in the satellite record," the walruses are our canaries in a mineshaft. Their plight is so serious that planes are being diverted away from the beach to prevent setting off a stampede on dry land that might trample and kill many of them.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

afeudal(Photo: david_shankbone)

Since 2008, the disproportionate growth in money flowing to the top 10 and 1 percent has exponentially increased - and the wages of the bottom 90 percent of the population have, in general, either fallen or stagnated.

This has created, according to Irwin, an astonishing statistic:  

But in the first three years of the current expansion, incomes actually fell [according to the Tcherneva data] for the bottom 90 percent of earners, even as they rose nicely for the top 10 percent. The result: The top 10 percent captured an impossible-seeming 116 percent of income gains during that span. [Italics inserted by BuzzFlash.]

In short, as 90 percent of the US population loses ground, 10 percent - and particularly the top 1 percent - are actually drawing in more than 100 percent of the economic gains since 2008. This is due to adjusting figures to reflect the decrease in income for 90 percent of earners in the US.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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In the wake of the release of 46 hours of secretly recorded tapes revealing that the Federal Reserve Bank of New York consciously backed off regulating Wall Street, Sen. Elizabeth Warren is calling for the Senate to investigate. The tapes were released to NPR's "This American Life" host Ira Glass, and unveiled on a show that aired September 26.

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In a September 27 entry on her official Facebook page, Warren wrote:

When regulators care more about protecting big banks from accountability than they do about protecting the American people from risky and illegal behavior on Wall Street, it threatens our whole economy. We learned this the hard way in 2008. Congress must hold oversight hearings on the disturbing issues raised by yesterday's whistleblower report when it returns in November - because it's our job to make sure our financial regulators are doing their jobs.

Carmen Segarra, the whistleblower who revealed the tapes, was subsequently fired from her job at the Fed. Segarra has filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against the Federal Reserve. One of the major reasons she believes that she was dismissed from her job, according to ProPublica, was that she would not comply with the New York Fed's deference to Goldman Sachs.

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