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adeadpeas(Photo: TheTim)Fortune Magazine (as posted on CNN Money) asks in a February 27 article, "Is there a suicide contagion on Wall Street? A series of untimely deaths at JPMorgan Chase and other banks has left observers wondering if there are more to come."

Apparently, there has been a rash of suicides in the financial executive community:

A few days ago, a Wall Street executive was debating whether he could get away from the office long enough to see his shrink uptown. In the midst of a busy workday, it was looking unlikely. Then he stumbled across an article in the New York Post with the disquieting news that a J.P. Morgan Chase (JPM) employee had jumped to his death from the bank's offices in Hong Kong, just three weeks after a fellow banker at the firm had committed suicide by jumping off the roof of the bank's London headquarters. "JPMorgan suicide is 3rd mysterious death in weeks," read the Post headline.....

The rash of suicides has sent a shudder through Wall Street and beyond. The third death referenced by the Post—that of a J.P. Morgan executive director who died inside his Connecticut home in January—did not appear to be intentional. (A report is still pending.) Yet the J.P. Morgan incidents are only the most recent in a string of at least a half-dozen suicides in the financial world since late August. Those include executives at Zurich Insurance Group (ZURVY), Deutsche Bank (DB), and Russell Investments, among other firms.

Whether this grim statistic is a trend or just a short-term cluster remains to be seen -- as well as the precipitating factors surrounding the suicides.

Thursday, 27 February 2014 07:13

Suffer the Children: Voices of Pain and Peace


ChildFear(Photo: D. Sharon Pruitt)No matter how bad it gets, we can look inside ourselves and find hope, possibility . . . the future. And when we find that, we know what it means to build peace.

"It's like I'm in a never-ending battle with my brain," Kayla said. "They called me Crazy Kayla. I have anger problems. Someone messes with me, I lose it. I was molested, raped, physically and mentally abused. I was in 127 different homes. I have a 3-month-old baby . . ."

Peace isn't the avoidance of difficult topics but their thorough, unstinting examination, not with cynicism and despair but with the certainty that salvation is mixed into the pain. All we have to do is find it.

This is precisely what a good documentary film does for us, and there are so many of them out there these days. Thirty-one such films will be showcased next week at Chicago's sixth annual Peace on Earth Film Festival, an event I've been associated with since its beginning. The four-day festival, which will be held March 6-9 — free of charge, as always — at the Chicago Cultural Center, takes on a mélange of provocative subjects: Fukushima, agribusiness, gun violence, forgiveness in the wake of violence, hospice care for prisoners, childhood mental illness, and much more.

The festival's mission, which it accomplishes every year, is to "raise awareness of peace, nonviolence, social justice and an eco-balanced world."


acantarTar Sands BlockadeTwo US senators joined a Canadian physician to call for a study to determine the health impact of the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline (northern leg), including the likelihood of increased cancer.

According to a Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC) February 26 article,

Senator Barbara Boxer, a Democrat representing California, and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat from Rhode Island, held a news conference in Washington along with Dr. John O’Connor, an Alberta physician.

O’Connor told the news conference that carcinogens get into the food chain, water and air in communities downstream from the oilsands and that those toxins are linked to cancers occurring in those areas. He said he has "no political agenda" and that he is only advocating for his patients.

O’Connor shared his concerns about higher than average cancer rates, and rare cancers, in Fort Chipewyan, and he told CBC News he is trying to shine a spotlight on the “callous indifference” to the health of those who live downstream from the oilsands....

“Health miseries follow the tarsands from extraction to transport to refining to waste disposal,” [Senator Boxer] said.

Thursday, 27 February 2014 06:24

Why Should Taxpayers Pay for Toxic Cleanups?


CopperPollution(Photo: Cls 14)If an oil or coal firm releases toxic chemicals that poisons every living thing it touches (Freedom Industries) and sends thousands of residents to the hospital from lethal exposure, (read Truthout's Editor William Rivers Pitt's recent pieces Diary of a Dying Country and The Poisoner's Reckoning), U.S. government officials not only will pat the oil-coal thugs on the back, they'll hand over a check worth millions of tax dollars for cleanup fees. And if that isn't insulting enough for you, the insurance companies will also allegedly pay the dirty energy oligarchs again for the same amount.

No criminal charges, no one goes to jail, and to add insult to injury, they're actually paid twice for contaminating our drinking water, for putting thousands of Americans in the hospital from toxic poisoning, and for turning communities into real estate nightmares.

The insurance settlements represent a drop in the bucket to oil companies that receive close to a trillion dollars a year combined in profits, but those extra millions that the oil firms pocket can make a significant difference for cash-strapped states. It's like stealing a tiny piece of candy from a baby when your store is spilling over with tons of sweets.

Why are we, the taxpayers, paying for the oil oligarchs' hazardous toxic messes in the first place?


acreditsu(Photo: *Vly*)According to a February 25 article in the business section of The Washington Post (WP), a senate report has found that the Swiss banking giant Credit Suisse knowingly enabled and assisted wealthy Americans in avoiding paying US taxes on billions of dollars in income for many years.

Furthermore, according to the WP, the congressional analysis found that the Department of Justice (DOJ) is dragging its feet in prosecuting the bank and its staff who have facilitated the defrauding of the US treasury: "The allegations were particularly stunning in the face of the budget cuts and deficits that the United States faces, lawmakers said. The report casts the Justice Department as a hapless enforcer that has dragged its feet in getting Credit Suisse to turn over the names of some 22,000 U.S. customers." During the past four years, "no one has stood trial, and the bank has not been held legally accountable, the report says."

BuzzFlash at Truthout has written numerous commentaries on how the DOJ has repeatedly failed to prosecute banks or high level bank staff for illegal patterns of behavior within banks too big to fail -- whether the financial institution is headquartered in the United States or overseas. 


chevron(Photo: romleys)If money is speech, the corporate person called “Chevron” has both a big mouth and special access to the ears of key policymakers charged with the responsibility of overseeing their business and, in some very significant ways, the future of everything.

That’s because—unlike the rest of us who often choose between the lesser of two evils—Chevron leaves nothing to chance. In 2013, Chevron spent over $10 million on lobbying. In addition to deploying well-heeled, well-paid lobbyists to make their case on Capitol Hill, the third most profitable company in the U.S. has just placed one of those lobbyists on one of the House Committees most relevant to its present and our future.

According to Lee Fang of the Republic Report, “One of Chevron’s top lobbyists, Stephen Sayle, has become a senior staff member of the House Committee on Science, the standing congressional committee charged with ‘maintaining our scientific and technical leadership in the world.’”

Hillary Clinton delivering her victory speech at the Manhattan Center Studios, following the New York 2008 primary. (Photo: <a href=" http://www.flickr.com/photos/15083709@N06/2245576555/in/photolist-4qraFa-613oYp-beZvdn-4uDKbQ-5nQ8Di-zsMs2-51Byof-4s7bTf-bEieMB-5gDW4U-74AYD3-9yMrvc-8xenQL-8gibYf-de5hpK-6RAANQ-6Rwym8-97DraE-8xenUy-de5gPo-4JssDR-8xeceY-8fUKqW-acdxfp-6gEG6n-4v5nnt-8JWLDr-4qVdkA-4uwy9p-8xecd1-8xec7J-4jHHmj-5gzAS8-8fUKkU-8fUKtw-8fRumz-8fRu94-5gDXnW-51xn4V-8geV2T-8gibT9-6RAAHw-6RAAq1-6Rwy2e-6RwysX-6Rwyvx-6bQoMh-5eT415-8fRuu6-8fUKpm-7ezMHp"target="_blank">Angela Radulescu  / Flickr</a>)Hillary Clinton delivering her victory speech at the Manhattan Center Studios, following the New York 2008 primary. (Photo: Angela Radulescu / Flickr)BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Hillary Clinton can be in the news whenever she darn well pleases. David Bossie cannot. As a former First Lady, Senator from New York, and Secretary of State, Clinton is a media superstar. David Bossie is not. However, Bossie, president and Chairman of the conservative organization, Citizens United, has gotten his share of media attention by hounding Bill and Hillary Clinton. The other night, Bossie showed up on the Fox News Channel's "The Kelly File," calling Hillary Clinton a "ruthless political operative," and he didn't mean that as a compliment.

Whatever one thinks of David Bossie, one thing is unassailable; he played a monumental role in the Supreme Court's 2010 landmark ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which allowed unlimited spending on election campaigns by corporations, unions and nonprofit organizations.

Why's Bossie so riled these days? Ironically, "[Hillary] Clinton may become ... [Citizens United's] beneficiary-in-chief, poised to cash in like no other political candidate has before," Dave Levinthal recently wrote in a piece titled "Hillary Clinton: the 'Citizen United' candidate," which was posted at the website of The Center for Public Integrity, Levinthal pointed out that "the Ready for Hillary super PAC has already raised millions of dollars from tens of thousands of donors and plans to transfer its unparalleled resources to a future Clinton campaign machine. Another super PAC, the previously pro-Barack Obama Priorities USA Action that raised more than $79 million during the last election cycle, has begun transitioning into a Clinton shadow operation."


LaborWage(Photo: US National Archives and Records Administration)At the risk of repeating myself, the federal minimum wage is far too low and needs to be raised. Republicans who claim to be worried about lost jobs can dry their crocodile tears, because a few simple measures would get all those jobs back -- and lots more.

It has been amusing to watch GOP grandees try to paint themselves as champions of the working stiff. This new appreciation for the struggles of low-wage earners was prompted by a report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), which estimates that raising the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10, as President Obama proposes, would result in the loss of 500,000 jobs.

Never mind that about 25 million workers would get raises, according to the report, or that 900,000 people would be lifted out of poverty. A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, released a statement saying that the CBO report "confirms what we've long known" and that "our focus should be creating -- not destroying -- jobs for those who need them most."

Boehner is consistent on the issue, at least, if at times a bit overdramatic: In 1996, when he was head of the House Republican Conference, he said in an interview with The Weekly Standard that "I'll commit suicide before I vote on a clean minimum wage bill."

Tuesday, 25 February 2014 06:45

The Importance of "The Monuments Men"


MonumentsMen(Photo: Columbia Pictures)Many readers of this column will know of the movie "The Monuments Men." It received a huge build-up through previews and advertising, and also through personal appearances. (I saw John Goodman do an interview for "Morning Joe.") It is about a group of fine art and architectural experts who are assigned to closely follow allied forces through France and Northern Europe as they slowly push the Nazi Army back to Germany and then closing in with the Red Army coming from the East, force the German unconditional surrender on May 7, 1945.

Their assignment (and there was no "Mr. Phelps" to accept or reject it) was multifold: to try to prevent where possible damage to priceless and irreplaceable art and architecture by allied forces, prevent the theft of fine art by the Nazis and in the case of art already stolen, recover it.

As Manohla Dargis points out in her review in The New York Times, "The story's real life heroes were a group of curators, restorers, archivists and the like who served in the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives Section, an Allied effort to protect Europe's cultural heritage."

The exploits (and there were many) of the real Monuments Men (and women) are recounted in several books, among them one by Robert Edsel with Bret Witter entitled "The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History." The actual number of monuments men and women was 345. For the purposes of his movie George Clooney whittled the number down to six.


In response to reader input, Truthout has enhanced its BuzzFlash sites.  The new and updated options offer a more diverse and interactive experience combined with a streamlined contemporary look. 

In case you have been wondering about some of the features now available to you, here is a partial list of what you can expect on a daily basis:

(Upper Right: The Original BuzzFlash, Founded 2000 -- Photo: liberal1012)

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