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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR AT BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

6870878979 159c7e6104 m1(Photo: 401K 2012)Lost in the coverage of America's tale of two economies (the 1% who have recieved 95 percent of the financial gains since they busted the economy in 2008 -- and the rest of us), is that seniors are especially hard hit by the disparity between so-called savings account interest (currently .01 percent at most banks) and inflation.

Yes, there still is inflation. It is relatively modest, but is still there and has a palpable impact on those on low fixed incomes - such as Social Security.  According to a website that covers inflation:

Over the longer period from December 2012 to December 2013, the US inflation rate rose 1.5 percent. That increase compares to the 1.2 percent advance in the 12 months ended November. Inflation in 2012, as another comparison, rose 1.7 percent. Noted specifically by the Labor Department, it is the first time that inflation has been under 2 percent for consecutive years since 1997-98.

Wrapping everything up, core annual inflation in 2013 rose 1.7 percent, which is the same 12-month increase noted in each of the prior three CPI reports. The total in 2012 was 1.9 percent.

Yes, it is true that Social Security recipients received a 1.7 percent increase in 2013 payments. But given that the banks (ostensibly based on the overnight interest charged by the Federal Reserve) are only paying - in general - .01 percent interest on what are falsely called "savings accounts," seniors  are losing money.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aclimatejust(Photo: Rainforest Action Network)The fossil fuel companies commit so many egregious crimes against life and the planet - and the federal government is so complicit in playing down the damage - that a numbing sets in for most of the United States population.  In an age of riding the surf of pulsating news, it is hard to recall the seemingly unending incidents of fossil fuel company pollution and ravaging of the Earth - from minor spills to massive despoiling of the planet.

Even the largest offshore oil spill in US history -- the BP Gulf blowout -- is now pretty much forgotten (or is only vaguely remembered) by the average American.

However, the devastation caused by the fossil fuel drilling frenzy now being sanctioned by the federal - and most state governments - will have the long term impact of destroying our planet and causing untold deaths. Furthermore, in the short term, it is reaping a death knell to many species on earth, including causing cancer and other terminal illnesses in humans. 

That includes the disappearance of many species on Earth, as detailed in Truthout's Progressive Pick of the Week: The Sixth Extinction, by Elizabeth Kolbert.  Even if a species is not already eradicated, the toxic impact of oil spills is extremely wide-ranging. The Washington Post yesterday posted an article, "Deepwater Horizon oil left tuna, other species with heart defects likely to prove fatal." It is one of the kinds of stories that doesn't get a lot of mileage other than the original post because it is a small piece in a big puzzle of an incremental catastrophe, lost amidst wall-to-wall coverage of a sensationalistic story, such as the mystery of what happened to Malayasin Airlines Flight 370.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aflameretarda(Photo: PressReleaseFinder)It's really not an unusual occurence in our world of corporate influence on public policy: A man or woman expert in a field gets a consulting fee from an industry accused of causing harm -- and just "coincidentally" the credentialed individual testifies before legislative bodies in support of a specific corporate position.

After all, just look at the climate-denying scientists who have received some sort of economic gain from the fossil fuel industry.  

These relatively few members of the scientific community provide a tremendous public relations tool to corporations emitting carbon dioxide.  That is because the mainstream media presents almost all issues as a point/counterpoint debate, even if the vast majority of scientists have established that climate change is an established fact and threatens an ecospheric catastrophe.

The Chicago Tribune exposed one small part of "the expert for sale" scam a couple years back in an investigative report on a state of Washington surgeon. In a follow-up story last week, The Tribune reported:

In a stern rebuke of a noted surgeon, the state of Washington has issued disciplinary charges against Dr. David Heimbach, who told lawmakers misleading stories about fatally burned babies while testifying in favor of flame retardants.

Medical licensing authorities allege that Heimbach, whose activities were exposed in a 2012 Tribune investigation, fabricated testimony, failed to disclose his ties to the chemical industry and falsely presented himself as an unbiased burn expert when he was in fact collecting $240,000 from flame retardant manufacturers.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aborderpat(Photo: CBP Photography)If you follow the news along the US-Mexican border, it sometimes appears that the approximately 20,000 US Border Patrol agents and officers are given free reign to engage in human rights abuses and violent acts against undocumented immigrants.

That's not to say that every Border Patrol officer or agent is brutal and indifferent, but there is clear evidence that many of them act that way, and the system that keeps them in place fuels this ongoing violence.

In some ways it is shocking - and in some ways it is inevitable - that a Border Patrol officer in the lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas kidnapped a mother and her two 14-year-old daughters crossing the border and sexually assaulted them.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

eugmo.gpg(Photo: greensefa)In a firm act of defiance against the chemical companies turned "food engineers," this past weekend France prohibited the MON 810 GMO corn seed. According to Reuters:

The French government, which maintains that GM crops present environmental risks, has been trying to institute a new ban on GM maize (corn) after its highest court has twice previously struck down similar measures.

The decision is timed to avert any sowing of GM maize by farmers before a draft law is debated on April 10 aimed at banning planting of GMOs (genetically modified organisms).

"The sale, use and cultivation of varieties of maize seed from the line of genetically modified maize MON 810 (...) is banned in the country until the adoption, on the one hand, of a final decision, and secondly, of (EU) community action, " said a decree published on Saturday.

Annual sowing of maize in France gets under way in the second half of March.

As reported in a BuzzFlash at Truthout commentary from June of last year entitled, "Protests Force Monsanto to Abandon GMO Expansion in Europe":

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aglobalwarmobama(Photo:FegA)

Obama's actions on global warming have long been similar to his go-to practices in general: He prefers lofty rhetoric over action, particularly when there are powerful financial forces that might aggressively challenge him. Yes, you can argue that Obama has supported renewables and - occasionally - has pointed out the destructive developing ecosphere that we are facing. However, distinguished rhetoric will not save the planet.

David Bromwich, an English professor at Yale, is perhaps the most astute dissector of the Obama character.  (You can here a few minutes of his acutely accurate analysis of Obama's role as president in a "Ring of Fire" excerpt here.)  As early as 2012, Bromwich understood the unusual dichotomy of Obama: "a blend of high resolve and extreme detachment, romantic idealism and an almost opaque unconcern with follow-through.

 

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GENE GLICKMAN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

abolcorp(Photovj_pdx)

1. Corporations are persons from the moment of conception. Conception must take place on a Drawing Board. A conception at any other location constitutes illegitimacy. Illegitimate corporations may not appear on the stock market, nor can they merge. (See Provision 6.) An illegitimate corporation can become legitimate only through appropriate gifts being donated to law enforcement agencies.

2. Any person who asserts that a particular corporation already on a Drawing Board is unworkable is guilty of Murder, if the statement prevents that corporation from being hatched; if the corporation is nonetheless hatched, the perpetrator is still guilty of Attempted Murder.

3. In order to incorporate, a hatchling must receive a charter certificate from a particular state. This certificate must contain at least three provisions: a) the hatchling’s name, b) a statement that the “Stock-Holders’ Needs” are paramount, and c) the specification of which Christian sect the hatchling will be a congregant.

4. When a hatchling is incorporated, its human creators are required to hold a baptismal party in the incorporating state, during which they must declare, under oath: “it’s a boy,” or “it’s a girl.” The human creators shall assume fiduciary responsibility for all expenses associated with this party.

5. Only official Government Regulators are permitted to babysit hatchlings.

6. Since Free Enterprise requires competition, hatchling sibling rivalry shall be fostered and encouraged.

7. When a hatchling reaches the age of five years it will be known as a “Spin-Off.” A spin-off must attend school, even if the schoolwork is too hard or too easy. Absences of three or more consecutive business days will require the presentation of a note from the CEO and an accountant’s note.

8. In the classroom, a spin-off must sit at the back of the room, so that its size will not interfere with any human pupil’s view.

9. On schooldays, all attending spin-offs shall be entitled to a free lunch. Upon graduation, the practice of a corporate free lunch shall continue, funded by the taxpayers.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR AT BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

abpoil(Photo: Kevin Baird)Perhaps what best explains why the US government restored BP's right to federal contracts and drilling the other day is this fact: It is the sixth largest corporation in the world in revenues (as calculated by FORTUNE).  Public Citizen sent out an email excoriating the federal action:

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today [March 13] that it had reached a settlement with BP to allow the oil giant to once again secure new federal government contracts and drilling leases. Tyson Slocum, director of Public Citizen’s Energy Program, issued the following statement:

Today’s announcement lets a corporate felon and repeat offender off the hook for its crimes against people and the environment. This is a company that was on criminal probation at the time of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, and it has failed to prove that it is a responsible contractor deserving of lucrative taxpayer deals.

The EPA’s condition of the retention of an independent auditor to ensure the company complies as a responsible contractor is inadequate protection for taxpayers. While we applaud the EPA for initiating the ban, it is premature to end it. BP has failed to demonstrate that the corporate culture that allowed the Alaskan pipeline spill, the Texas City refinery explosion, the propane market manipulation and the Gulf Coast tragedy has changed.

Given that the BP Gulf spill was the largest accidental oil pollution of a body of water in history, one would think that the company (which earned a $13.4 billion profit in 2014) would be on its best behavior.  That is hardly the case.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aharperobamaNorth American "Petro-Machismo" Leaders Barack Obama and Stephen Harper (Photo: Wikipedia)

Anyone in the US who is still under the illusion that the Canadian national government is enlightened and progressive has not been following the right-wing policies of Prime Minister Stephen Harper of the Conservative Party.

Harper makes George W. Bush look like a moderate. 

Nothing represents how far Canada has gone from being a government for the people -- and a good citizen of the world -- than Harper's relentless drive to develop Alberta tar sands oil production, build new high-volume pipelines in Canada and the US (including, of course, the northern section of the Keystone XL) and steadfastly support the large Canadian extraction industry, known for its exploitation of labor and toxic pollution domestically and particularly in Latin and South America.

Yet, it is still a bit shocking that the government of Canada is sponsoring (and paying for with Canadian taxpayer money, one can assume) a deceitful public relations campaign to push for the Keystone XL northern route and tar sands production as environmentally friendly.  You can find the website version of this propaganda as click-throughs in publications such as The Hill, filled with jingoistic articles such as the first one: "America and Canada: Standing together for energy independence." A writer in a progressive publication recently called this kind of fossil fuel bragging "petro-machismo."

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

abankbonus(Photo: A. Golden)It was a banner year for Wall Street bonuses in 2013, a Reuters March 12th article reports:

Wall Street's average cash bonus swelled last year to its highest since the financial crisis and the third largest on record, New York State's budget watchdog said on Wednesday.

The cash bonus pool jumped 15 percent to $26.7 billion in 2013, pushing the average cash bonus was $164,530, according to the New York state comptroller's annual estimate based on personal income tax trends.

The increased bonuses came as Wall Street posted a fifth consecutive year of profits after record losses during the 2008 financial crisis. 

The uptick in bonuses reflects statistical evidence that 95 percent of revenue and asset gains in the economy since the bust of 2008 have gone to the top one percent. According to an Associated Press analysis:

The gulf between the richest one percent and the rest of America is the widest it's been since the Roaring '20s....

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