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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

anamtrak2(Photo: Bill Dickinson)

The direct cause of the eight Philadelphia Northeast Corridor Amtrak deaths, which occurred Monday night, will be investigated for some time. Preliminary indications are that the train was traveling at too high a speed when it rounded a curve and derailed.

Most media and policy makers continue to overlook that US transportation policy, in general, has been derailed for years. As The Guardian points out, technology exists that might have prevented the Amtrak accident by automatically slowing the train down before the curve. In fact, The Guardian article charges that the US "lags behind rest of developed world on train safety." However, that is really only a small detail within the larger picture of mass transportation neglect in the US.

The implications of a nation whose politicians - backed by the fossil fuel industry and, literally, an auto-driven economy - disdain mass transportation (except for the for-profit airlines industry) are profound. At least 35,000 people die each year in automobile accidents on the nation's sprawling roadways and little attention is given to the carnage (which includes about 3.8 million injuries resulting in medical care annually, according to the Christian Science Monitor).

Despite approximately one town of people being lost each year to car crashes - and the equivalent of a city larger than Chicago being injured due to automobiles - there is little media coverage or critique of a transportation system dependent upon cars and the resultant loss of lives.

After all, Amtrak is easy pickings for the media. Although it is technically a for-profit corporation due to an act of Congress, it is publicly funded by the self-same legislative body. This means that the media can feed the stereotype of a quasi-government service that is incompetent and dangerous.

2015.14.5 BF ECO(Photo: Autan)LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch.

To the horror of beekeepers around the country, it appears that the worrisome decline in honeybees is getting even worse. According to the latest annual government study, U.S. beekeepers reported losing 42.1 percent of the total number of colonies managed from April 2014 through April 2015, much higher than the 34.2 percent from the year prior.

The study was conducted by the Bee Informed Partnership in collaboration with the Apiary Inspectors of America and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Preliminary results indicate that U.S. beekeepers were hardest-hit in the summer of 2014, with an average loss of 27.4 percent of their hives compared to the 19.8 percent the previous summer.

While winter numbers improved about 0.6 percentage points less than the previous winter, the honeybee death rate is still too high for long-term survival. Colony losses were 23.1 percent for the 2014-15 winter months, which is normally the higher loss period.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aeconomyceo(Photo: seiuhealthcare775nw)

The AFL-CIO just released its executive compensation study covering 2014, and the chasm between workers' and CEOs' pay is rising at an alarming rate.  According to the McClatchy Washington Bureau, the gap continues to "soar":

The ratio jumped to 374-to-one in 2014, up from 331-to-one in 2013, the union report said, noting that back in 1980 it stood at 42-to-one....

[The figures take on new] importance...as economists and policymakers debate the cause of anemic wage growth. Income has been largely stagnant for workers, even as millions of new jobs have been created and the unemployment rate now stands at 5.4 percent.

[The CEO pay] increase of 15.6 percent over the prior year [is] well above the sub-par annual wage growth for workers that’s below 3 percent.

In short, with all the talk of closing the income inequality gap, it is only getting vastly worse, according to the AFL-CIO study.

2015.14.5 BF(Photo: Jaegar Moore)ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

“What struck me” journalist Christian Parenti said in a recent Truthout interview, referring to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, “was the fact that these local towns and states around the region were sending the only resources they had to New Orleans: weapons and militarized gear.

“After 30 years of the War on Drugs and a neoliberal restructuring of the state at the local level, which is not a reduction of the public sector but a transformation of the public sector, the only thing local governments had were weapons.”

Parenti’s observation summed up a deep sense of puzzled frustration I’ve been feeling for a long time, which has been growing in intensity since the Reagan era and even more so since 9/11 and the unleashed Bush agenda. Fear, exploited and unchecked, triggers a deep, “rational” insanity. We’re driving ourselves into a new Dark Age.

The driving force is institutional: government, the mainstream media, the military-industrial economy. These entities are converging in a lockstep, armed obsession over various enemies of the status quo in which they hold enormous power; and this obsession is devolving public consciousness into a permanent fight-or-flight mentality. Instead of dealing with real, complex social issues with compassion and intelligence, our major institutions seem to be fortifying themselves – with ever-increasing futility – against their imagined demons.

COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaClimatePope(Photo: EcoWatch)“The planet has enough food for all, but it seems that there is a lack of willingness to share it with everyone,” Pope Francis said at a mass yesterday as part of the opening of the general assembly of the Catholic charitable organization Caritas Internationalis.

Caritas, a confederation of 165 Catholic charity and aid groups from around the world, holds a general assembly once every four years. This year’s meeting, the first under Francis’ helm, is taking place this week. The Pope used the forum as a time to yet again take a strong environmental stance.

In his time as Pope, Francis has been a strong advocate on behalf of the world’s poor and vulnerable, especially in the facing of a changing climate. His remarks yesterday were no different.

“We must do what we can so that everyone has something to eat,” Francis said. “But we must also remind the powerful of the Earth that God will call them to judgment one day, and it will be seen if they truly tried to provide food for him in every person, and if they worked so that the environment would not be destroyed, but could produce this food.”

More news came from the Vatican yesterday when Pope Francis’ closest adviser chastised climate deniers in the U.S., blaming capitalism for their views. Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga criticized groups in the U.S. that have already come out against Francis’ highly anticipated encyclical on climate change.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

atppsecret(Photo: GlobalTradeWatch)

President Obama's patronizing criticism of Sen. Elizabeth Warren's ongoing critique of the still officially secret Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was as illogical as it was sexist. The president's broadside against Warrenthis past Saturday - in which he called her complaints "absolutely wrong" - was a sign that the TPP fast-track trade authority he covets is in trouble.

Obama's fears of Warren's impact on fast-track TPP legislation were realized on Tuesday when the Senate failed to pass a filibuster-proof vote. According to the Associated Press,

Senate Democrats have dealt President Barack Obama a stinging setback [on May 12] on trade by blocking efforts to begin full-blown debate on his initiatives.

All but one Senate Democrat defied the president Tuesday by voting to prevent consideration of his request for "fast track" trade authority. Such authority would let Obama present trade agreements that Congress could ratify or reject, but not amend.

Proponents needed 60 votes to thwart a Democratic filibuster, but managed only 52 in the 100-member Senate.

It is highly likely that when Obama offered his belittling comments about Warren's position, his advisers had already informed him that virtually the entire Democratic Party Senate caucus was going to vote against granting fast-track TPP authority. 

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaChain(Photo: Toni Lozano )The number of people with mental illness who are locked up in US prisons is astounding. A Bureau of Justice Statistics report indicated that more than 700,000 prisoners in state prisons reported symptoms or a history of a mental health disorder at midyear 2005. Additionally, nearly 480,000 people with mental illnesses are incarcerated in city and county jails; nearly double the population of state mental hospitals held 50 years ago.

People with severe mental illness, including major depression, bipolar disorders and schizophrenia comprise up to 25% of local, state and federal prisoners. If prisoners with anxiety and personality disorders are included, the statistics rise to over 50%.

Prisoners, and prison authorities, are dealing with such issues as depressive disorder, manic-depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety disorder, and personality disorder.

A recent Urban Institute report titled "The Processing and Treatment of Mentally Ill Persons in the Criminal Justice System -- A Scan of Practice and Background Analysis" stated that, "All too often, they [prisoners with mental illnesses] cycle through the criminal justice system without appropriate care to address their mental health."

2015.11.5 BF Buchheit(Photo: Flazingo Photos)PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Many of us wonder what possible reason could exist for the failure to invest in American infrastructure, to create millions of jobs as a result, and to help everyone in the long run. Analysis reveals personality traits and beliefs and misconceptions that might account for such behavior. Here's a look inside the billion-dollar brain:

1. It's All About Me

Several studies by Paul Piff and his colleagues have revealed that upper-class individuals tend to be narcissistic, with a clear sense of entitlement. Worse yet, they believe their talents and attributes - genius, even - have earned them a rightful position of status over everyone else.

Scarier yet, according to one study, the American sense of entitlement has been growing over the past 30 years, despite the fact that most of us have lost ground to the super-rich. And most disturbing is that 'upper-class' individuals tend to behave more unethically than average citizens.

 

2015.11.5 BF Berkowitz(Photo: Alan Greig)BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Rabbi Daniel Lapin, once a most-favored conservative Rabbi of the Religious Right, has been out of the news cycle since the revelations that he was a close friend, and in a working relationship, with Jack Abramoff, the super-lobbyist who served time in federal prison for corruption. However, when you want to re-insert yourself into the good graces of the Religious Right, there’s nothing better than appearing on the Family Research Council’s “Washington Watch” program, where you can make some pretty loopy claims about liberals and you won’t be challenged.

With redemption in mind, in April, Lapin offered up one of his golden oldies to FRC’s audience: there is a “sexual dimension” to how liberals relate to Islamic extremism, Lapin claimed.

“There are countless studies showing that feminine-type behavior produces an excess of estrogen in men and vice versa,” Lapin said. “Essentially, the left has fallen in love with the masculinity of Islam.”

Lapin went on: “Today, after a 30- or 40-year epidemic of leftism that has swept its sordid stain across America, we’ve become much more feminized and we are attracted to the masculine strength and brutality of Islam. This is the girl in the high school being attracted to the bad, tough guy and that’s really what’s happening. There is no other way that I know of to explain this utterly irrational — and as soon as I said to myself that it’s irrational, I said, where else do you see irrational behavior? When people are sexually attracted you see irrational behavior. On a spiritual level, the feminized American left, show business, politicians, particularly academia, all the people who love Islam, when Christianity and Judaism are exactly the reverse.”

Saturday, 09 May 2015 07:13

A Life That Mattered

2015.9.5 BF BRaschWALTER BRASCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Michael Blake died last week.

You probably don’t know the name.

You probably don’t know about his life.

You probably don’t know most of what he wrote. That’s probably because he didn’t write diet and exercise books. Or cookbooks. Or “feel good” books. Or books about celebrities. Or books that advanced junk science or conspiracy theories.

Michael Blake fused history and social issues, writing about social justice. Writing books that mattered. Writing screenplays that were never produced and then discarded.

He was born in Fort Bragg, N.C.; his father was in the Army, and later became a telephone executive. But it was his mother, Sally, who dominated his life. It was her last name, “Blake,” that he adopted as his own, pushing aside his father’s name, “Webb.”

Michael Blake studied journalism at the University of New Mexico, dropping out in his senior year; he would later study film at the Berkeley Film Institute.

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