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ANASTASIA PANTSIOS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaFukushimaEcoWatch(Photo: EcoWatch)The impact of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear reactor meltdown on the region's young people is starting to add up.

104 of the area's 300,000 young people who were under 18 at the time of the disaster have been diagnosed with thyroid cancer, Japanese newspaper The Asahi Shinbun reported yesterday. This form of cancer has been linked to radiation exposure.

But, government officials in Fukushima say they do not believe the cases of thyroid gland cancer diagnosed or suspected in the 104 young people are linked to the 2011 nuclear accident.

It helps their denial that experts disagree on whether these cases of thyroid cancer can be traced back to the meltdown, which released radiation over a large area. While the slow-developing cancer only appeared in young people four years after the 1986 Chernobyl meltdown in Ukraine, radiation biology professor Yoshio Hosoi told The Asahi Shinbun that better tests allow earlier diagnoses.

"Many people are being diagnosed with cancer at this time, thanks to the high-precision tests," he said. "We must continue closely examining the people's health in order to determine the impact of radiation exposure on causing thyroid tumors."

EUGENE ROBINSON ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaFergusonProtest(Photo: Loavesofbread)To be young, male and black in America means not being allowed to make mistakes. Forgetting this, as we've seen so many times, can be fatal.

The case of Michael Brown, who was laid to rest Monday, is anomalous only in that it is so extreme: an unarmed black teenager riddled with bullets by a white police officer in a community plagued by racial tension.

African-Americans make up 67 percent of the population of Ferguson, Mo., but there are just four black officers on the 53-member police force -- which responded to peaceful demonstrations by rolling out military-surplus armored vehicles and firing tear gas. It is easy to understand how Brown and his peers might see the police not as public servants but as troops in an army of occupation.

And yes, Brown made mistakes. He was walking in the middle of the street rather than on the sidewalk, according to witnesses, and he was carrying a box of cigars that he apparently took from a convenience store. Neither is a capital offense.

When Officer Darren Wilson stopped him, did Brown respond with puffed-up attitude? For a young black man, that is a transgression punishable by death.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

dontshoot(Photo: marsmet452)You may have read about the suspension of a Ferguson police officer who aimed his rifle at peaceful protesters in the town and threatened, "I'll F**kin kill you!" last week.

Maybe you also read in The Washington Post this weekend about the past police history of Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson who shot Michael Brown to death after ordering him not to walk on the street. According to the Post, Wilson's first police job was in Jennings, Missouri, where the force was so racist and corrupt that the city council voted to rent police services from St. Louis County and disband the city police, which left Wilson without a job. Although Wilson was not formally accused of any major misconduct, the characteristics of the Jennings Police Department sound eerily familiar to those of the Ferguson police force he joined when he was left without a position. Here is how The Washington Post describes Jennings and its relationship to its former town police:

After going through the police academy, Wilson landed a job in 2009 as a rookie officer in Jennings, a small, struggling city of 14,000 where 89 percent of the residents were African American and poverty rates were high. At the time, the 45-employee police unit had one or two black members on the force, said Allan Stichnote, a white Jennings City Council member.

Racial tension was endemic in Jennings, said Rodney Epps, an African American city council member.

"You’re dealing with white cops, and they don’t know how to address black people," Epps said. "The straw that broke the camel’s back, an officer shot at a female. She was stopped for a traffic violation. She had a child in the back [of the] car and was probably worried about getting locked up. And this officer chased her down Highway 70, past city limits, and took a shot at her. Just ridiculous."

Over the weekend, you may have missed the articles about a third Ferguson police officer, Dan Page. In an April speech (that was obtained by the media) to a local chapter of a national pro-gun group of current and former police officers and military personnel called the Oath Keepers, Page didn't even try to code his racism, according to the The Guardian.

(Photo: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/marineperez/4698707308/in/photolist-8ad6YY-8Aus3-5zCkcN-rpJN4-bjoHVX-62R4Ev-g9giVA-6AVJ7p-kxZy8-6qoBmK-byTHXc-8AvSm-aekaK4-de3U-9icSX1-6qsN9C-5NrRia-7h76DU-kBxd2-gjmKrq-7DMweA-2HnKKx-iUKE8K-gYYzoZ-gLRWAA-9Xx2Cj-5jJ1TB-8YW9eM-imHXim-gF4xfF-7PBNhi-4XyVDt-enjZzB-6ypZ8K-a5idwo-2wDtw2-5xtiGh-3KPTQU-nk9MR-9YzSKW-6Qt12d-gF3cAU-5NvYAU-4v5WM-gF3RKg-fi57cm-fkQond-ayMkd1-9Yx1Jn-85HBZT" target="_blank">  miss_millions / Flickr</a>)(Photo: miss_millions / Flickr)

AKIRA WATTS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

“If you had enough money, you could hardly commit crimes at all. You just perpetrated amusing little peccadilloes.”
- Terry Pratchett

Submitted for your consideration: one Kate Meckler, a top New York City real estate broker, heiress to a tech CEO, and owner of a mansion in Southampton. Meckler had a bit of an oops back in April, and somehow managed to shoplift some $1,644 worth of clothing from Saks Fifth Avenue. As part of her plea deal, her sentence was set as five days of community service. Hooray for the criminal justice system!

Let’s engage in a brief thought experiment. Imagine that Meckler were not a real estate broker and scion of wealth and privilege. Imagine that she were, instead, a single mother working two minimum wage jobs. Of course, she probably wouldn’t have been wandering about Saks Fifth Avenue, but let’s pretend that she had been, and managed to be caught with $1,644 of shoplifted merchandise. That constitutes a class E felony, with penalties including imprisonment for up to four years. Show of hands: how many of you think this hypothetical version of Meckler would have gotten off with five days of community service?

Thought so.

But there’s no need to conduct thought experiments. We can have a look at things out there in the real world where, thanks to mandatory sentencing laws, thousands of people are serving sentences up to and including life without parole for offenses less than that of Meckler. Of course, they’re all “career criminals,” bad people who have led a life of crime, and need to be removed from our streets. Certainly none of them could ever hope to offer the vital contributions to society that a top real estate broker might.

(Photo: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/68751915@N05/6280517815/in/photolist-ayZi8V-iTWXqp-9AipNF-6kZfRj-9AijLg-jMNpQ-cWGBcw-bJEabn-5G4jgb-aC9Fwa-5d7H4F-8epdw6-82vJFB-bEoaW8-de5FdD-9AjZLn-9kEi17-2G883u-8sRWJT-9bQiyS-xysE-4Bcnxs-92LzHZ-MLpAc-9xKraN-8rGS8Y-8rGScb-8rGS5m-8rGS7o-8rDMcK-8rDMmH-2nynjX-5pimBJ-4Bcnyu-4B85Tz-4B85XK-6B46TT-ePmZsx-ePmZbZ-8rGRVj-dxRo9h-7fk4HX-hLxG48-9qCQLZ-9qCQLp-9qCQJH-jSj96-aYKed2-dfMYvD-8xjJuv" target="_blank"> 401(K) 2012 / Flickr</a>)(Photo: 401(K) 2012 / Flickr)

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Americans constantly hear about the threat of "entitlements," which in the case of Social Security and Medicare are more properly defined as "earned benefits." The real threat is the array of entitlements demanded by the very rich. The following annual numbers may help to put our country's expenses and benefits in perspective.

 

$220 Billion: Teacher Salaries

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics there are just over four million preschool, primary, secondary, and special education school teachers in the U.S., earning an average of $54,740.


$246 Billion: State and Local Pensions

Census data shows a total annual (2012) payout of about $246 billion. Only about $100 billion of this came from state and local governments, with the remainder funded by employee contributions and investment earnings. A recent Pew study showed a little over $100 billion in annual state contributions to pensions, health care, and non-pension benefits.


$398 Billion: Safety Net

The 2013 safety net (non-medical) included the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), WIC (Women, Infants, Children), Child Nutrition, Earned Income Tax Credit, Supplemental Security Income, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Education & Training, and Housing.

EUGENE ROBINSON ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaMcDonnell(Photo: Gage Skidmore)How far would you go to stay out of jail? Would you publicly humiliate your wife of 38 years, portraying her as some kind of shrieking harridan? Would you put the innermost secrets of your marriage on display, inviting voyeurs to rummage at will?

For Robert McDonnell, the former Virginia governor on trial for alleged corruption, the answers appear to be: "As far as necessary," "Hey, why not?" and "Sounds like a plan."

McDonnell's testimony this week in a Richmond federal courtroom about his wife Maureen's psychological turmoil has been both cringe-worthy and compelling. It has been clear for some time that McDonnell's strategy for winning acquittal amounted to what could be called the "crazy wife" defense. But only when he took the stand did it become apparent how thoroughly he intended to humiliate the "soul mate" he still claims to love.

McDonnell disclosed Thursday that he moved out of the family's home shortly before the trial began. "I knew there was no way I could go home after a day in court and have to rehash the day's events with my wife," he testified.

I guess not. Anyone who said such things in public about his or her spouse would be advised to clear out.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Bankhighlander2(Photo: Brian Katt)

BuzzFlash at Truthout has written many commentaries on how the Obama administration has been - and continues to be - quite lenient with Wall Street when it comes to financial malfeasance. In particular, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) have assiduously avoided, for the most part, any serious institutional or personal criminal responsibility for massive fraud committed by banks too big to fail and other mega-financial institutions. 

The settlement this week between the DOJ and Bank of America for its role in the financial fraud that busted the economy in 2008 (including its acquisition of the scam company it acquired, Countrywide Financial) is yet another example of a large fine that looks like punishment, but amounts to much, much less than meets the eye. Indeed, that is the assessment of an August 21 article in the "Dealmaker" section of The New York Times (NYT):

 

"The real financial cost to the bank could be considerably lower," said Laurie Goodman, a specialist in housing at the Urban Institute. "This is helping consumers, but it may not be costing the bank."

 

The actual pain to the bank could also be significantly reduced by tax deductions. Tax analysts, for instance, estimate that Bank of America could derive $1.6 billion of tax savings on the $4.63 billion of payments to the states and some federal agencies under the settlement. Shares of Bank of America jumped 4 percent on Thursday, suggesting investors believe that the bank could take the settlement in stride.

 

"The American public is expecting the Justice Department to hold the banks accountable for its misdeeds in the mortgage meltdown," said Phineas Baxandall, an analyst with the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, a consumer advocacy organization. "But these tax write-offs shift the burden back onto taxpayers and send the wrong message by treating parts of the settlement as an ordinary business expense."

Given that we are talking about a dominant Wall Street bank and financial behemoth, the takeaway sentence from The New York Times is: "Shares of Bank of America jumped 4 percent on Thursday, suggesting investors believe that the bank could take the settlement in stride." When a bank's stock goes up after what initially appears to be a huge fine, you know that it is nothing more than a slap on the wrist. 

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

handsup(Photo: Light Brigading)

In the August 19 Washington Post, Los Angeles police officer Sunil Dutta wrote an op-ed entitled: "I'm a cop. If you don't want to get hurt, don't challenge me." The sub-headline was, "It's not the police, but the people they stop, who can prevent a detention from turning into a tragedy."

The authoritarian belligerence of that statement says volumes about why so many police officers are so dangerous to the public whom they are supposed to be serving. Such a stance presumes that a law enforcement official has absolute powers to stop and detain any person in any fashion at anytime. It reflects the presumptuousness of power and assumes a right to use of force against anyone who contests being detained in a democracy.

Truthout Senior Editor and Lead Writer William Rivers Pitt also took note of Dutta's menacing tone in a recent fundraising e-mail for Truthout and BuzzFlash. Pitt noted, "that mindset, combined with unimaginably lethal weapons, is a threat to the very fabric of our democracy."

Clearly, the precipitating factor for Dutta's warning to citizens is the widespread dismay over the murder of Mike Brown and the use of unnecessary militarized police force in Ferguson, along with the revulsion among many at the bellicose swagger, use of brute force and wave of arrests by police in that city.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaKKK(Photo: Ras67)From the What-Is-Not-Surprising-About-This Department: USA Today is reporting that a local chapter of the Missouri Ku Klux Klan is holding a fundraiser for the Ferguson police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black teen. "All money will go to the cop who did his job against the Negro criminal," according to New Empire Knights of the KKK.

Will there be a white sheet washing contest; a how-many-crosses-can-you-burn in a given time frame contest; a cross-construction competition; an AK-47 raffle?

"We are setting up a reward/fund for the police officer who shot this thug," the Klan group said in an email. "He is a hero! We need more white cops who are anti-Zog and willing to put Jewish controlled black thugs in their place. Most cops are cowards and do nothing while 90% of interracial crime is black (and non-white) on white."

According to USA Today, "Darren Wilson, the officer involved in the Aug. 9 shooting, has been a police officer for six years, four with Ferguson Police Department, and has never had any disciplinary action taken against him. There's no indication Wilson supports the KKK's efforts."

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AND TRUTHOUT

domviol(Photo: Jeanne Menjoulet & Cle)Boston Globe reporter Yvonne Abraham wrote a shocking article this month revealing the horrifying extent of domestic violence in the Boston area:

It is all there in the police reports, set out in mundane, relentless detail. Globe data visualization reporter Gabriel Florit analyzed more than four years of reports on domestic violence between intimate partners in Boston, up to April 2014....

The reports are a critical record of the evil enacted in homes across the city. Laid end to end, they reveal the massive scale of the problem. And not just its vastness, but its pervasiveness. The potential for violence saturates every minute of a victim’s day.... You can imagine the moments that exploded, at breakfasts and dinners, in kitchens and living rooms. You can see inside the homes where abusers lurk every day, reaching for whatever object is nearby to impose their will.

What is even more dismaying is that the Globe analysis is only of domestic violence incidents reported to the police. Beyond the dots on a map that the Globe posted of the reported domestic violence, Abraham cautions, "lie countless others to whose homes police never come, because the people who would have made the calls were too embarrassed or afraid. Or because they got so used to torment they couldn’t see it for what it was. Or because their abusers promised to make things better, giving a glimpse of what made them attractive in the first place."

Furthermore, many of the police reports analyzed by the Globe are initial calls for help. Many women, due to threats or dependency, later decide to drop charges, only further to be caught up in the cycle of physical and psychological terror.

Clearly the silent epidemic of abuse is not subsiding - if the Boston area is an indicator.  

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