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Stairs 0919wrp(Photo: CDC)TTheTThe large-scale movements demanding justice that have developed over the past few years have evoked passion and sympathy from many people.  These are the leaders of finance who use our infrastructure, technology, security, law, location, and especially our people to make billions in profits while paying almost nothing in return.

Especially the securities traders. An impoverished mother pays up to 10% in sales tax when she buys shoes for her kids, but the customers of companies with a quadrillion dollars in sales pay zero sales tax. Quadrillion sounds like gazillion, but it's a real number -- a thousand trillion, about four times the value of all the world's wealth.

Among many of the protests have been acts of resistance demanding an end to the murdering and brutalizing of people of color in killing zones.  Structural racism and police who have a license to kill are at the heart of this problem, but some of the fault lies squarely in the financial districts of New York and Chicago and other large financial centers.

The Shame of Chicago

With a quadrillion dollars in sales and the collection of transfer fees, contract fees, brokerage fees, Globex fees, clearing fees, and surcharges, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange achieved a profit margin (54%) higher than any of the top 100 companies in the nation from 2008 to 2010, and in recent years it's risen to nearly 60%.

Despite being the most profitable big firm, CME complained that its taxes were too high, and they demanded and received an $85 million tax break from the State of Illinois.

Meanwhile, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner has cut funding for funerals, AIDS programs, "Meals on Wheels" for seniors, and programs for at-risk youth.


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Observer 0916wrp opt(Photo: EcoWatch)The Energy Observer, the world's first boat powered by solar, wind and self-generated hydrogen, is gearing up for its scheduled maiden journey in February.

The €4.2m ($4.72 million) vessel—nicknamed the "Solar Impulse of the Seas"—aims to circumnavigate the globe using only clean power, a feat similar to Solar Impulse 2's historic, solar-powered flight around the world that was completed this past July.

The boat will sail for six years around the world as a floating exhibition and clean energy laboratory, with stops in 50 countries and 101 ports of call.

"For the first time, Energy Observer will allow us to explore the oceans without leaving any trace behind us," Jerome Delafosse, a director and co-captain of the expedition, said in the video.

The multi-hulled catamaran, a former racing vessel that won the 1994 Jules Verne Trophy for the fastest circumnavigation of the world, stands at 30 meters in length and 12.80 meters in width. Its green upgrade is currently in full swing at a shipyard in Saint Malo, France where it awaits installation of 130 square meters of solar panels, two vertical axis wind turbines, two reversible electric motors and electrolysis equipment—all to help produce and store hydrogen onboard.


sep162016 warrenElizabeth Warren during the opening of the Consumer Protection Financial Bureau, which she designed, in 2010. (Photo: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau)

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Last week, I wrote a commentary on how approximately 5,300 Wells Fargo bank staff members had been fired for allegations of creating millions of fraudulent credit card and savings accounts. It appears that the Wells Fargo employees were feverishly trying to meet high marketing quotas to receive bonuses. It also appears that Wells Fargo executives overlooked the rampant illegal behavior, amidst a climate that emphasizes increasing the number of accounts without scrutinizing the tactics used to do so.

Wells Fargo does not appear to be investigating whether or not Carrie Tolstedt -- who oversaw the division where the phony accounts were set up -- should be held responsible for the bank fraud uncovered by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). National Public Radio (NPR) reported that Tolstedt had previously planned to retire from her position and "is set to depart her post with $124.6 million in stock and options." NPR added:

"When Carrie Tolstedt's retirement was announced in July, Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf called her a 'dear friend,' 'role model' and 'standard-bearer for our culture.'

A culture of government overlooking corruption on Wall Street led to the 2008 economic crisis. Now, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) who created the CFPB is saying that the US government -- including the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) -- are, yet again, going easy on large financial institutions who continue to engage in multi-pronged rogue behavior. "There's a serious problem with senior management at Wells Fargo," Warren told CNBC earlier this week.

2016.15.9 BF ChowMelting icebergs in Ilulissat Icefjord, Greenland (Photo: United Nations Photo)LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

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Leonardo DiCaprio may be the star of his latest documentary, Before the Flood, but something much bigger takes center stage: Earth.

The Oscar-winning actor and longtime environmental advocate celebrated the world premiere of his climate change documentary on Friday at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).

"Looking forward to sharing this documentary with everyone as we continue to act on #climatechange together," DiCaprio tweeted.


2016votersuprressDemocracy should be determined by universal suffrage. (Image: Chris Piascik )

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Yesterday I wrote about the diverse ways in which Republican-controlled states pass laws to "legally" suppress the non-white vote. There are occasional -- but certainly not frequent -- mainstream news stories on the same-day denial of voting rights in polling places, based on race. However, there are even fewer articles or television news segments about how many people of color, poor people and people with disabilities are disqualified from voting before the voting process even begins.

A lawsuit filed on September 13 in Georgia by the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law and other plaintiffs provides a glimpse into how creatively draconian the efforts to suppress non-white voters can be. In essence, the current process for registering to vote in Georgia is a bit like playing a slot machine that is wired to keep people of color from winning.

On September 14, the Lawyers' Committee issued a news release about its request for an injunction:

The complaint, filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, concerns Georgia's voter registration verification process, which requires all of the letters and numbers comprising the applicant's name, date of birth, driver's license number or last four digits of the Social Security number to exactly match the same letters and numbers for the applicant in the state's Department of Drivers Service (DDS) or Social Security Administration (SSA) databases. If even a single letter or number, or a hyphen, space or apostrophe, does not exactly match the database information, and the applicant fails to correct the mismatch in 40 days, the application is automatically rejected and the applicant is not placed on the registration rolls even if they are eligible to vote....

Worse, this process is resulting in the cancellation of applications submitted by African American, Latino, and Asian American applicants at rates significantly higher than White applicants. For example, of the approximately 34,874 voter registration applicants whose applications were cancelled between July 2013 and July 15, 2016, with a status reason of "Not Verified," approximately 22,189 (63.6 percent) identified as Black, 2,752 (7.9 percent) identified as Latino, 1,665 (4.8 percent) identified as Asian-American, and 4,748 (13.6 percent) identified as White.

To fully understand the ways in which this "voter verification process" is another strategy of non-white voter suppression, consider that the population of Georgia was nearly 62 percent white in 2015 -- according to the US Census Bureau -- and the Black population of the state was around 32 percent in the same year. However, nearly 64 percent of the voter applicants rejected by the state were Black, while only approximately 14 percent of those rejected were white over a recent three-year period.

Thursday, 15 September 2016 06:52

The Future Cries Out: "Water Is Life"


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The dogs growl, the pepper spray bites, the bulldozers tear up the soil.

"Water is life!" they cry. "Water is life!"

This isn't Flint, Michigan, but I feel the presence of its suffering in this cry of outrage at the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota. No more, no more. You will not poison our water or continue ravaging Planet Earth: mocking its sacredness, destroying its eco-diversity, reshaping and slowly killing it for profit.

The dogs growl, the pepper spray bites, the bulldozers tear up the soil and a judge rules against the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's demand that construction of the Dakota Access pipeline be stopped. Sorry, the wishes of the rich and powerful come first. And you protesters are just common criminals.


2016savevoteThe right to vote should be universal. (Photo: H2Woah! )

Nearly six million people with felony confictions will not be able to vote this November, because the states in which they live do not restore their voting rights after they have served their sentences, according to The Sentencing Project. This loss of the rights of citizenship can have a profound impact on individuals and elections. In fact, Al Gore might have won Florida in 2000 by tens of thousands of votes, if Jeb Bush and his then Secretary of State Kathryn Harris hadn't employed a firm, Choicepoint, to eliminate tens of thousands of people with felony records -- as well as people with identical names to those with felony records -- from the voting rolls.

That is only part of the felony disenfranchisement story in Florida. According to a 2015 Florida SunSentinel article:

Commit any felony in Florida and you lose your right to vote for life -- unless the governor and the clemency board agree to give that right back to you.

The result: more than 1.6 million Floridians -- about 9 percent -- cannot vote, hold office or serve on a jury, according to The Sentencing Project, a prison-reform group.

The FloridaSentinel notes that very few people are able to have their rights restored; in the past four years, only 1,534 people with felony convictions have had their full rights, including voting, restored.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016 07:13

Jim Hightower: Cleaning Up After Pundits


Mop 0914wrp opt(Photo: Alborzagros)Being a muckracking political writer often makes me feel like a custodian in a horse barn, constantly shoveling manure. It's a messy, stinky job — but on the bright side, the stuff is plentiful, so the work is steady. Indeed, I'm now a certified Equine Excrement Engineer, having developed a narrow, but important, professional specialty: cleaning off the horsestuff that careless politicos and sloppy media types keep dumping on the word "populist."

As you might imagine, in this year of global turmoil, I've been especially busy. Populism — a luminous term denoting both an uplifting doctrine of egalitarianism and a political-economic-cultural movement with deep roots in America's progressive history — has been routinely sullied throughout 2016 by elites misusing it as synonym for ignorance and bigotry:

— When right-wing, anti-Muslim mobs in a few European nations literally went to their national borders to block desperate Syrian war refugees from getting safe passing into Europe, most mainline media labeled the boisterous reactionaries "populists."

— When flummoxed elites in Great Britain, frantic over Brexit, blindly blamed their people's vote to exit the European Union on the "populist" bigotry of working-class Brits.

— When, back in the USA, the unreal reality show The Donald spooked the corporate/political establishment, which denied that Trump harness public fury toward them smugly attributed his rise solely to "populist" bumpkins who embraced his demeaning attacks on women, Mexicans, Muslims, union members, immigrants, people with disabilities and veterans, among others. Indeed, the power elites sneeringly branded Trump himself a "populist."


Kap 0914wrp opt(Photo: Daniel Hartwig)In addition to the ever-present questions about how each team would play on the field during the opening weekend of the NFL, an unexpected parallel story line was taking center-stage, thanks to San Francisco 49er backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Would any of the players follow his lead and protest racial inequality by sitting, or taking a knee, during the playing of the “The Star Spangled Banner?”

According to a CNN report, four members of the Miami Dolphins -- Jelani Jenkins, Arian Foster, Michael Thomas, and Kenny Stills – “knelt next to each other in a line which included their standing teammates.” In Kansas City, Chief’s cornerback Marcus Peters “rais[ed] a gloved fist, in a pose reminiscent of Tommie Smith and John Carlos on the medal stand at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. Peters had previously spoken of his ‘100 percent’ support of Kaepernick's stance.”

Before the Arizona Cardinals-New England Patriots game in Arizona, the Patriots’ Martellus Bennett and Devin McCourty raised their gloved fists in protest.

In addition to initiating a conversation and actions amongst fellow NFL players, being a major topic on sports talk radio, and dominating social media, especially the Twittersphere, Kaepernick’s activism has also filtered down to the high school level.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016 11:53

The Planet's Most Dangerous Predator Is Us


Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

4394641125 0b1916afe9 zWolves don't hold a candle to the human species as predators.    (Photo: Caninist )

Humans are the world's top predator. The way we fulfill this role is often mired in controversy, from factory farming to trophy hunting to predator control. The latter is the process governments use to kill carnivores like wolves, coyotes and cougars to stop them from hunting threatened species like caribou—even though human activity is the root cause of caribou's decline.

Predation is an important natural function. But as the human population has grown, we've taken over management of ecosystems once based on mutually beneficial relationships that maintained natural balances. How are we, a "super predator" as the Raincoast Conservation Foundation dubs us, aligning with or verging from natural predation processes that shaped the world?

One way to tell is to examine the extent to which we emulate natural processes. This principle is applied in biomimicry, where humans base inventions on natural forms and functions. (Think Velcro, patented in 1955 after George de Mestral studied the burrs on his dog's back.) Some resource-management disciplines employ biomimicry. For example, forestry management is often based on trying to imitate disturbances caused by natural events such as fires.

If we are to emulate natural predators, we must look at the types of prey killed. Non-human predators usually take down the injured, old or young. This leaves the strongest genetic material to be passed on. Human predators often target the largest males (trophy hunting) or entire packs (predator control).

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