ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUTLORRAINE CHOW OF
Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch
Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad has been nominated to serve as U.S. Ambassador to China in Donald Trump's Administration, a pick that has some of Big Ag's biggest players celebrating.
Branstad is the longest-serving governor in U.S. history with 22 non-consecutive years and going under his belt. During his tenure, he has built significant relationships with Iowa's agribusinesses and has helped spur trade of the state's beef, pork and soy products to Asian consumers, and once struck a $4.3 billion deal with Chinese officials for Iowa's exports.
This past October, China signed a $2.1 billion deal for Iowa soybeans to feed Chinese livestock. In November, less than a week after Trump's presidential win, Branstad traveled to China to promote Iowa beef and pork. It was his seventh such trip to China as governor.
The Republican governor's friendship with Chinese president Xi Jinping goes back three decades after Xi visited rural Iowa in 1985.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
A December report by the national consumer advocacy group Public Citizen bluntly concluded that "the U.S. Chamber of Commerce waved its dark money wand on the 2016 elections and elected a slew of GOP politicians beholden to big business." The report found that the Chamber spent 100 percent of its campaign funding on Republican candidates for the first time in its history. Furthermore, because of the Citizens United decision, it did not have to disclose the identities of the donors who supplied its campaign contribution funds.
The Public Citizen analysis found:
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce was the second largest overall non-disclosing (or “dark money”) outside spender in 2016 congressional races after the National Rifle Association, and it was the largest non-disclosing outside spender in 75 percent of the races in which it spent money. The Chamber involved itself most heavily in races for the U.S. Senate, spending a total of $25.8 million in 10 Senate races. This deluge began with a $10 million ad buy in swing states last spring as a part of their “Save the Senate” campaign, a campaign organized jointly with leading Republicans whose goal was to prevent a Democratic takeover of the closely-divided body. Moreover, for the first time, 100 percent of the Chamber’s general election spending benefited Republican candidates, suggesting that rather than being a nonpartisan voice for American business, the Chamber has become a voice solely for the Republican Party.
The Chamber works closely with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), as well as with the Koch brothers' agenda. This bolsters its impact on both the state level and in Washington, promoting an anti-regulation, pro-fossil fuel agenda Congress. In this most recent election, the Chamber's agenda was synergistically matched with President-elect Trump's business and energy platforms. Trump's Cabinet appointees' beliefs reflect the Chamber's goals, too. Furthermore, as noted earlier earlier, the money sources behind the Chamber's campaign donations are undisclosed because it is a 501(c)(6) organization, which now has the right of "personhood" to support candidates through shadowy parallel campaign organizations.
ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUTGARY WOCKNER OF
Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch
"The Trump Administration will make America energy independent. Our energy policies will make full use of our domestic energy sources, including traditional and renewable energy sources. America will unleash an energy revolution that will transform us into a net energy exporter, leading to the creation of millions of new jobs, while protecting the country's most valuable resources -- our clean air, clean water, and natural habitats. America is sitting on a treasure trove of untapped energy. In fact, America possesses more combined coal, oil, and natural gas resources than any other nation on Earth. These resources represent trillions of dollars in economic output and countless American jobs, particularly for the poorest Americans.
LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
facing yet another lawsuit over its alleged negligent handling of PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), a banned and highly toxic group of chemicals that the company manufactured decades ago. But this time it's not another city suing the biotech giant—it's an entire state.Monsanto is
Washington is suing Monsanto over widespread PCBs contamination, the first U.S. state to take such an action. Gov. Jay Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced the lawsuit, filed in King County Superior Court, at a press conference in Seattle on Thursday.
According to the Associated Press, Washington is seeking damages on several grounds, including product liability for Monsanto's alleged failure to warn about the dangers of PCBs; negligence; and trespass for injuring the state's natural resources.
Before switching operations to agriculture, Monsanto was the sole manufacturer of the compound, which was used to insulate electronics, from 1935 until 1977. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) banned PCBs in 1979, due to its link to birth defects and cancer in laboratory animals. PCBs can also have adverse skin and liver effects in humans. Not only that, the chemical also lingers in the environment for many decades.
PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
In each of the following areas of our lives, capitalism has been a deadly force in the past, and prospects for the future seem even worse with Donald Trump's Cabinet picks.
In 1996 Purdue Pharma began marketing its painkiller Oxycontin with a promotional campaign unlike any other seen before. As noted in the American Journal of Public Health, "The high availability of OxyContin correlated with increased abuse, diversion, and addiction, and by 2004 OxyContin had become a leading drug of abuse in the United States."
About 75% of heroin addicts used prescription opioids before turning to heroin. Deaths related to heroin have more than tripled since 2010, and a dramatic surge in overdoses has occurred among children. Opioid use is also triggering a rise in hepatitis C, which kills 19,000 people every year, most of whom can't get treatment because the drug manufacturer Gilead Sciences charges $84,000 for pills that cost less than $300 to produce. In Kentucky in 2016, for every 100 people with hepatitis C only THREE were able to receive treatment.
Donald Trump's rumored candidate for the FDA is staunch libertarian Jim O'Neill, who said about drugs: "Let’s prove efficacy after they’ve been legalized."
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
You don't need to read Charles Dickens to learn about debtors' prisons. You can just visit Sherwood, Arkansas.
A few months ago the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (Lawyers' Committee), along with Morrison & Foerster LLP and the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas (ACLU of Arkansas) filed a class action civil rights lawsuit against Sherwood in federal court. The goal of the legal action is to end the town's practice of using failure to pay court costs and petty fines as justification for imprisoning people for the "crime" of poverty.
According to a news release by the Lawyer's Committee:
The suit was filed on behalf of four individuals who allege their constitutional rights were violated by the Hot Check Division of the Sherwood District Court when they were jailed for their inability to pay court fines and fees in violation of longstanding law forbidding the incarceration of people for their failure to pay debts, and a concerned taxpayer.
"The resurgence of debtors prisons across our country has entrapped poor people, too many of whom are African American or minority, in a cycle of escalating debt and unnecessary incarceration," said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. "The Sherwood District Court epitomizes the criminalization of poverty and the corrupting effect of financial incentives on our local courts. Not only does this 'Hot Check' court completely ignore the long-standing principle that a person cannot be punished because they are poor, but by using coercive practices to collect money from the poorest Arkansans, this debtors' prison scheme generates huge revenues for the city. Revenue from the district court constitutes nearly 12 percent of the city's budget, second only to city and county sales tax..."
BRIAN TRAUTMAN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Over the past eight months, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe of North Dakota have been joined by more than 200 allied tribes and tens of thousands of non-Native activists for a nonviolent resistance campaign against Energy Transfer Partners’ (ETP) $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). The pipeline, which has been projected to transport at least 470,000 barrels of oil per day over 1,100 miles from the Bakken oil field to an existing hub in Illinois for delivery to refineries on the Gulf Coast, was rerouted in 2014 from north of Bismarck to the south, taking it through unceded treaty lands of the Sioux. Pipeline construction over this altered route desecrated sacred ancestral sites, and, until last Sunday, was slated to cross the Missouri River at the Lake Oahe reservoir, which would have threatened the safety of the drinking water of the Standing Rock Sioux and millions of people downstream.
Since April 1, individuals, groups and organizations from around the world have come together at Standing Rock to proclaim Mni Wiconi, Lakota for “water is life.” They have put their bodies and freedom on the line in support of the water protectors of the #NoDAPL effort. Veterans For Peace (VFP), on whose board of directors I currently serve, is one of these organizations. We released a solidarity statement in September. A number of our members have been actively involved in the campaign. In mid-October, I had the great privilege and honor of joining nearly a dozen of my VFP colleagues at the main resistance camp, Oceti Sakowin (the proper name for the Sioux, meaning Seven Council Fires). During my visit, I was welcomed with respect, kindness and love, and treated as a family member – a relative, a profound experience of Mitakuye Oyasin, a Lakota term/prayer meaning "all my relations" or "we are all related."
As of last week, DAPL construction was all but completed. It seemed nothing could stop the Black Snake, as the Native people call it (a moniker that is based on an old Lakota prophecy which speaks of a “black snake” bringing destruction and devastation). Then, last Sunday, following various legal decisions over many months that allowed the pipeline construction to continue, the easement to cross Lake Oahe was abruptly denied by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). The announcement came down just hours before an evacuation order for the Oceti Sakowin Camp, which was issued by USACE in late November, was set to take effect. USACE added that it would be undertaking an environmental impact statement (EIS) to examine possible alternate pipeline routes. The decision was hailed by many as a significant victory for the #NoDAPL struggle.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Dr. Ben Carson, a failed presidential candidate and a retired neurosurgeon, with absolutely no other housing experience other than he lives in one, has been nominated by President-elect Donald Trump for secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Back in September of last year, Carson was seen as a contender for the Republican Party's presidential nomination, and he was rapidly gaining on Trump in the polls. Then, the bottom fell out. Perhaps it was his lackluster performances at the debates, during which he seemed to be sleepwalking. Or perhaps Carson's run was designed merely to increase his name recognition with the public. Carson eventually dropped out and threw his support to Trump. And now, he is reaping the reward.
Carson will enter office as a blank slate. This is perhaps the only area that Trump really might be "draining the swamp," only in this case he's draining it of any experience and competence.
As I wrote in September 2015, "Carson may be soft-spoken and mild-mannered in his demeanor, but he may -- and I say this carefully -- out-Trump Trump when it comes to embodying the wacky."
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Portland, Oregon, has just adopted a new ordinance that will tax excessive CEO pay, according to a news release from the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) in Washington, DC:
In a 3-1 vote, the council agreed to add a surtax on the city's existing business license tax for firms that pay their CEOs more than 100 times what their typical worker receives. This will be the nation's first tax penalty for extreme CEO-worker pay gaps.
IPS issues a report each year called "Executive Excess." In a September commentary, I wrote about this year's report, which found that the nation's top 20 US banks gave their executives more than $2 billion dollars in tax-deductible bonuses over the past four years.
The problem of exorbitant executive pay is not limited to Wall Street and the financial world. One study at Glass Door Research estimated that "the average CEO earns 204 times median worker pay." Estimates vary from study to study, though, and it is hard to pin down numbers for some companies. However, due to a new Securities and Exchange Commission regulation, companies will be required as of 2017 to report information on worker and CEO pay that will lead to the government and other organizations being able to peg the exact CEO-to-worker ratios at any given company. Nonetheless, there is enough public information now to demonstrate that a large number of CEO salaries and bonuses far exceed 100 times the median worker salary.
Sarah Anderson, who is a co-editor of Inequality.org at the Institute for Policy Studies and has been the lead author on all 23 of the Institute's annual "Executive Excess" reports, explained to me how the Portland tax on excessive CEO income will be levied:
Publicly traded companies with extreme pay gaps will pay a surtax on top of the city's current business license tax. The surtax will be 10 percent of the business tax liability for companies with a CEO-worker pay ratio of more than 100-to-1 and 25 percent for companies with a ratio of more than 250-to-1. The Portland government has identified more than 500 corporations that do enough business in the city to be affected by the surtax, including many that regularly dominate the highest-paid CEO lists, such as Oracle, Honeywell, Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo and General Electric.
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The president-elect stumbles over the protocols of geopolitics and war, tweeting all the way.
It's not just insane. It's awkward.
"Since 1979," the Guardian points out, "the U.S. has acknowledged Beijing's claim that Taiwan is part of China, with relations governed by the 'One China' set of protocols."
But here's what Donald Trump did: He took a congratulatory phone call from Taiwan's president, Tsai Ing-we. In so doing, he became the first U.S. president or president-elect to speak directly to the Taiwanese leader in 37 years. Furthermore, he referred to her as the president of Taiwan, not the president on Taiwan, seemingly implying that the island province is actually an independent nation, totally freaking out mainland China -- and jolting our relations with that country big time. You don't want the wrong preposition to start World War 4.
Furthermore: "Weeks before President-elect Donald Trump's controversial phone call with Taiwan's president," the Guardian story continues, ". . . a businesswoman claiming to be associated with his conglomerate made inquiries about a major investment in building luxury hotels as part of the island's new airport development."