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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

coalminingdisPhoto of graves of miners from another disaster, the Sago Mine explosion in 2006. (Photo: Nancy)

 A member of the oligarchy is finally being held criminally responsible for worker deaths.

Don Blankenship, former CEO of Massey Energy (King Coal in West Virginia), was just indicted for putting profits above the lives of his company's employees resulting in a 2010 explosion that killed 29 miners at the Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia.

Those are among the charges contained in a federal indictment announced on November 13 by the Department of Justice. According to the West Virginia MetroNews Network,

The 43-page four-count federal indictment of former Massey Energy president and CEO Don Blankenship portrays an operator obsessive about upping production at the cheapest cost. Federal prosecutors allege it was an attitude that led to the deadly explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine in Raleigh County that killed 29 miners.

The indictment, announced Thursday by U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin, alleges Blankenship knew about UBB’s safety problems and the practice of alerting supervisors underground when federal mine inspectors arrived at UBB for inspections. It’s also alleged he lied to the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission about mine safety in the days after the April 5, 2010 explosion in an attempt to help Massey’s stock price.

Blankenship was charged with conspiracy to violate mandatory federal mine safety and health standards, conspiracy to impede federal mine safety officials, making false statements to the United States Securities and Exchange Commission and securities fraud....

The indictment alleges Blankenship was driven by the numbers and in doing so ignored dozens of safety violations at UBB and covered up others. Federal prosecutors said from April 3, 2009, to April 5, 2010, Blankenship received 249 daily safety violation reports from the UBB mines but did very little to correct the problems.

One can read the specific details of Blankenship's alleged culpability in the actual federal indictment.

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaNetMap(Photo: Map of the Internet by The Opte Project)When it comes to Internet Service Providers and high-speed Internet, the consumer marketplace has hardly been a model of competitiveness. Some of us are lucky enough to be able to choose from two providers, and some of us only have access to one.

These digital conduits are essential parts of America's utility infrastructure, nearly as basic as electricity and water pipes. They connect us (and our children) to worldwide knowledge, news, diverse viewpoints and other fundamental tools of citizenship. And, of course, we can buy and sell through them, be entertained, run our businesses, connect with friends, get up-to-the-minute scores, follow the weather and — yes indeedy — pay our bills.

Yet while this digital highway is deemed vital to our nation's well-being, access to it is not offered as a public service — i.e., an investment in the common good. Instead, it is treated as just another profit center for a few corporations

Amassing market power to gouge customers is bad enough, but ISP's plan on eviscerating the pure egalitarian ethic of the Internet, which is why they were so upset when President Obama recently urged the FCC to back a free and open Internet.

Like an uncensored global bulletin board, the great virtue of the Internet is that no one controls its content. This digital communication technology has been so spectacularly successful and so socially valuable because it is a wide-open, democratic forum, accessible on equal terms to all who want to put information, images, opinions, etc. on it or to download any of the same from it. Since its invention, the guiding principle behind the use of this liberating technology has been that no corporation, government, religion, or other controlling power should be its gatekeeper.

COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaFrancisPope(Photo: EcoWatch)In what has become an annual tradition, Pope Francis wrote a letter to Tony Abbott, the Prime Minister of Australia and this year’s leader of the G20 Summit, which will take place Nov. 15-16 in Brisbane, Australia. On the heels of a report by the Overseas Development Institute and Oil Change International, which is the first detailed breakdown of fossil fuel exploration subsidies by all G20 countries, the Pope has voiced his concerns about the state of world affairs:

To the Honourable Tony Abbott
Prime Minister of Australia

On 15 and 16 November next in Brisbane you will chair the Summit of Heads of State and Government of the world’s twenty largest economies, thus bringing to a close Australia’s presidency of the Group over the past year.  This presidency has proved to be an excellent opportunity for everyone to appreciate Oceania’s significant contributions to the management of world affairs and its efforts to promote the constructive integration of all countries.

The G20 agenda in Brisbane is highly focused on efforts to relaunch a sustained and sustainable growth of the world economy, thereby banishing the spectre of global recession. One crucial point that has emerged from the preparatory work is the fundamental imperative of creating dignified and stable employment for all. This will call for improvement in the quality of public spending and investment, the promotion of private investment, a fair and adequate system of taxation, concerted efforts to combat tax evasion and a regulation of the financial sector which ensures honesty, security and transparency.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

asunkshipofstateIs the US ship of state sinking due to a grossly imbalanced distribution of wealth? (Photo: Donna)

Another study (published last month) confirms the startling imbalance of wealth in the United States.

According to The Guardian, the analysis "shows how the top 0.1% of families now own roughly the same share of wealth as the bottom 90%." If a ship had that disproportionate distribution in terms of weight, it would list to one side and sink. That is, perhaps, what the analogy portends for a functioning democracy in the US: the ship of state is taking on water and is unable to right itself.

Professors of economics Emmanuel Saez (University of California, Berkeley) and Gabriel Zucman (London School of Economics and Politics) based their findings on "evidence from capitalized income tax data" since 1913 combined with an analysis of the "flow of funds" during that period. In the abstract for their research paper, they conclude:

The bottom 90% wealth share first increased up to the mid-1980s and then steadily declined. The increase in wealth concentration is due to the surge of top incomes combined with an increase in saving rate inequality.

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaChicago(Photo: Daniel Schwen)The vision is a city interlaced with restorative justice hubs — community centers that bring hope and promise to troubled kids in a town where too many of them are dying. "It is not OK that my friends and I have already planned our funerals," then-high school senior Keann Mays-Lenoir told a crowd of 300 people a year ago, at a rafter-shaking meeting where the idea was introduced.

It builds slowly, from the bottom up. Reclaim common sense. Reclaim community. Reclaim Chicago.

I've written a fair amount about restorative justice — RJ — over the last few years. It's a movement about healing and sanity, truth, dignity, respect, wholeness. It's catching on in Chicago, where I live: in the schools, in the juvenile justice system, in the broken 'hoods. RJ is about repairing harm, not punishing wrongdoers and, in the process, saddling them with a lifelong identity as criminals. It's also about telling the truth, and building relationships with truth as the bedrock. It's about connecting.

"This is about making kids irresistible forces for positive change."

The speaker was Judge Sophia Hall, presiding judge of the Resource Section of the Juvenile Justice and Child Protection Department of the Circuit Court of Cook County, who hosts a semiannual, region-wide meeting about restorative justice, held, appropriately, at Juvenile Court. The topic was the hubs: the vision of a different kind of city, where teenagers aren't planning their own funerals but, rather, figuring out their futures, with the help of mentoring adults, in a world in which they feel welcome.

2014.11.12.Berkowitz.BFEbola-fearing Fox News host Elisabeth Hasselbeck schooled by Dr. Anthony Stephen Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. (Screen grab via Sam Seder / YouTube)

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

As of this moment (unless something happened overnight that I'm not aware of), there are no Ebola cases in the US. Was Ebola in the US really President Obama's Katrina, as so many right-wing commentators, radio & television talk show hosts and conservative evangelical Christian preachers claimed? Will the fear mongering/flight-suspending/border-closing advocates apologize to President Obama? Will Bill O'Reilly, Megyn Kelley and Sean Hannity apologize to President Obama? Will Chris Christie apologize to President Obama? Will Pastor John Hagge, who maintained that through his godless policies, Obama was bringing Ebola into the country, apologize?

Will there be more Ebola cases here? Very possible. Is our health system gearing up to make sure it doesn't get out of hand? I think so. Do we need to do much more to stop the spread of Ebola in West Africa. No doubt about that.

We've got an Ebola Czar. Will the Senate please get off their collective duffs and approve a Surgeon General?

2014.11.12.GOP.BF (Image: Jared Rodriguez / t r u t h o u t; Adapted: j-fi, Gage Skidmore)BOB FITRAKIS AND HARVEY WASSERMAN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Since the Bush-Cheney-Rove theft of the 2000 election in Florida, the right of millions of American citizens to vote and have that vote counted has been under constant assault.

In 2014, that systematic disenfranchisement may well have delivered the US Senate to the Republican Party.  If nothing significant is done about it by 2016, we can expect the GOP to take the White House and much more.

The primary victims of this GOP-led purge have been young, elderly, poor and citizens of color who tend to vote Democratic.  The denial of their votes has changed the face of our government, and is deepening corporate control of our lives and planet.

There’s no doubt the Democrats have alienated their core constituency and given millions of their former supporters little reason to vote.  Perpetual war, blank checks for mega-banks, stiffing the working poor while giving away the planet to the rich----these are all part of the malaise.   Our political landscape is currently defined by corporate personhood and its gutting of the Democratic Party.  

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

atarsandscanada(Photo: Peter Blanchard)

 

While activists trying to save the planet from global warming are trying to prevent construction of a new northern leg to the Keystone XL pipeline, Canada faces the retrofitting of what would could become North America's largest oil capacity tar sands pipeline – running from Alberta to Quebec and Nova Scotia.

Maude Barlow, chairperson of the Council of Canadians, recently wrote about TransCanada Corp's effort to create the Energy East project for tar sands oil by converting an existing natural gas pipeline. In Toronto's Globe and Mail, Barlow details three myths about the potentially ruinous Energy East proposal. She concludes:

More to the point, it's past time for our governments to strongly commit to seeing through a just transition off of fossil fuels.

There are already examples of communities and countries making great strides in reducing fossil fuel dependency. Investing in public transit, energy efficiency and renewable energy sectors generates far more jobs than pipeline and fossil fuel development....

This is where our future actually lies, not in picking our poison – or in the case of Energy East, shouldering the risk and enabling someone else's poison.

It is vital to remember that this is not just Canada's challenge. Approval of the Energy East project by the conservative government in Ottawa would have perilous implications for accelerating global warming on a massive scale.

WILLIAM RIVERS PITT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaArlington(Photo: Remember)My deepest and most sincere apologies to all of my veteran friends, but I need to be honest: I simply hate this day. I've had this low-and-slow weeping thing going on basically from the moment I got out of bed this morning. Tomas Young is dead, and I can't stop thinking about all the letters I've received from the loved ones of so many other fallen soldiers over the last 12 years.

What's worse, this maudlin weepiness makes me sick because my emotions are making it about me, and not them, and that sucks big rocks, but I can't seem to help it. When I was 13 years old, all I wanted was to serve the way my father who volunteered for service in Vietnam did. An accumulation of experiences and opinions culminated with the recruiter sitting in my living room some 25 years ago, days after my 18th birthday, telling me Saddam Hussein was worse than Hitler and his army was vast, but if I signed up right then and there, I probably wouldn't see combat for at least four years, and the only thing going through my head was BULLSHIT BULLSHIT BULLSHIT THIS GUY IS FULL OF BULLSHIT, so I didn't sign, and I never served, and I'm glad of it, because it was the correct decision...

...but all these years later, on this day of days, I recall that decision, and I think of the men and women who went when I didn't, and how very many of them are gone, or damaged, or simply done. We're averaging 22 veteran suicides a day these days. Once upon a time, I wrote that when a person dons the uniform of the armed services and swears the oath, the nation to which they have pledged their life also owes an oath: not to cast that precious life onto the pyre of profit and political ambition. I weep slowly today, to no small degree, because the other half of that oath has not been kept.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

amoneycorrupts(Photo: Light Brigading)

An analysis of the 2014 election results, according to a "Morning Line" email from the PBS NewsHour, reconfirms that the torrent of money unleashed by Citizens United is continuing the trend of selling democracy to the highest contributors.

According to PBS "Morning Line" email received by BuzzFlash at Truthout:

We already know that the $4 billion spent on this midterm election was more than any other midterm in history. It was the most on congressional elections ever, including during a presidential year. What do the numbers really tell us? These two stats jumped out at us from a post-analysis done by the Center for Responsive Politics:

- 94 percent of biggest spenders in House races won, up slightly from 2012
- 82 percent of biggest spenders in Senate races won, up from 76 percent in 2012

What that means is, as one of us noted on NewsHour Monday night money, more specifically who spends the most, is about as good a predictor that there is of who will win a race.

Of course, there were other factors at work in the 2014 Republican rout, including ongoing voter suppression of non-whites and the poor, questionable electronic voting software and a seventy-two year record low turnout.

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