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And down the moral rabbit hole we go.

The New York Times reported last week that US soldiers still fighting the war in Afghanistan — 14 years on — are under orders to be “culturally sensitive” regarding different attitudes among our Afghan allies about, uh . . . the sexual abuse of children.

One officer was relieved of his command several years ago, the Times informed us, because he punched out an Afghan militia commander “for keeping a boy chained to his bed as a sex slave.” And in 2012, three Marines were shot and killed at a US base in Helmand Province by a 17-year-old Afghan “tea boy” who may also have been the sex slave of a warlord ally stationed there — possibly in retaliation for the Marines’ failure to intervene in the situation. The father of one of the murdered Marines said that officers had told his son “to look the other way” regarding child rape “because it’s their culture.”

Oh, the sensitivity!

Shane Harris, writing a few days later in The Daily Beast, expanded on the moral helplessness of the American invaders in such matters: “A 45-minute scripted presentation given to Marines as part of their pre-deployment process . . . explains that laws and norms about sexual relations vary from country to country, and that in Afghanistan in particular, sexual assault is a ‘cultural’ issue, and not a purely legal one,” he wrote.


After learning about Pope Francis’ secret visit last week with Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who denied marriage licenses to same-sex couples, defied a court order, served a few days in jail, and has now become the poster girl of “religious freedom” for the Christian Right, and her husband, two questions came to mind: Why did the pope meet with Davis? Why the secrecy?

I was searching for something succinct that might describe the pope’s trip and his meeting with Davis. Clint Eastwood’s “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” struck a chord. As did Winston Churchill’s October 1939 statement commenting on the actions of Russia: The meet up with Davis “is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key.”

And the key may be the bastardization of the concept of “religious freedom,” which conservative Christians have glommed onto, and are using it to shake as many dollars out of the right-wing money tree as possible.

The visit with the Davis’ occurred on Thursday, September 24, after the pope’s historic address to Congress.

The New York Times reported that during the visit with Davis and her husband, Joe, the pope “gave her rosaries and told her to ‘stay strong,’” according to Davis’ lawyer Mat Staver, who has been gobbling up face time on the cable news channels, and, to borrow a phrase from the San Francisco Chronicle’s Mick LaSalle, “has all the subtlety of a piano crashing onto the sidewalk.”


aaaGoldCoinKoch(Photo: Benedetto Pistrucci)Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) and “a coalition of deep-pocketed liberal groups, including a pair of super PACs backing Hillary Clinton” have been holding strategic meetings for months “examining the 2016 map and plotting attacks against the powerful Koch brothers‘ network,” according to Politico.

A key organizer of the effort, David Brock will present his findings tomorrow, using polling and research, to the Senate Democratic Caucus. The Koch brothers network of conservative mega-donors plans to spend a staggering $889 million for the 2016 presidential race.

Brock believes that highlighting the “massive political spending” of the Koch brothers network is a “critical component” of boosting Democratic candidates, including Clinton, in 2016.

In August, the billionaire brothers held a donor conference in California, in which several of the top presidential candidates—former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (who has now withdrawn from the race) and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina—flocked to the event to seek donations. This led Donald Trump to call these candidates “puppets” of the Koch brothers.


aaaPesticides(Photo: Doc James)Two separate U.S. agricultural workers have slapped lawsuits against Monsanto, alleging that Roundup—the agribusiness giant’s flagship herbicide—caused their cancers, and that the company “falsified data” and “led a prolonged campaign of misinformation” to convince the public, farm workers and government agencies about the safety of the product.

The first suit, Enrique Rubio v. Monsanto Company, comes from Enrique Rubio, a 58-year-old former field worker who worked in California, Texas and Oregon. According to Reuters, he was diagnosed with bone cancer in 1995, and believes it stemmed from exposure to Monsanto’s widely popular weedkiller and other pesticides that he sprayed on cucumber, onion and other vegetable crops. Rubio’s case was filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on Sept. 22.

That same day, a similar lawsuit, Fitzgerald v. Monsanto Company, was filed in federal court in New York by 64-year-old Judi Fitzgerald, who was diagnosed with leukemia in 2012. She claims that her exposure to Roundup at the horticultural products company she worked for in the 1990s led to her diagnosis.

The plaintiffs have accused the company of falsifying the safety of the product and putting people at risk.


aaaaaaaaaawarren32Elizabeth Warren took on a corporate-funded study by a Brookings think tank fellow and won. (Photo: AFGE)

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) continues to pierce the veil of how the DC professional class of "experts" is frequently corrupted by financial gain. In this case, a fellow for the Brookings Institution received $40,000 from an investment firm to write a study that was critical of a proposal supported by Warren and the White House.

The regulation in question would simply compel transparency by financial advisors, requiring them to disclose to investors if they or their firms would monetarily benefit from advice given to clients.

According to a September 29 article in Boston.com, Warren tenaciously pursued the exposure of a financially compromised report co-author by writing a letter to Brookings:

On Tuesday morning, the Washington Post reported that Sen. Elizabeth Warren wrote a letter to the Brookings Institution, a prestigious Washington think tank, over a study that criticized a proposed Labor Department regulation on financial advisors.

Warren wrote that the report’s co-author Robert Litan—who was commissioned nearly $40,000 by an investment firm that also reviewed the report—was “highly compensated and editorially compromised work on behalf of an industry player seeking a specific conclusion.”

On Tuesday afternoon, The Hill reported that Litan, Brookings’ nonresident senior economic fellow, will resign....

It [the study] was also funded by the Capital Group, a investment firm that manages $1.4 trillion in American funds and had “made opposition to Labor’s rule one of its top priorities,” according to the Post.

Brookings is often described by the corporate mass media as a “liberal” think tank. However, in reality, Brookings is not particularly "liberal."


aaaaaaaaaachristcolPlaque dedicated to Christopher Columbus in Washington State asserting in self-justifying Eurocentric arrogance that he "gave to the world a continent." (Photo: C Hanchey)

September 25 article in The Huffington Post by Julian Brave NoiseCat identifies a linchpin essential to understanding the legal framework that allowed the US slaughter and conquest of Native Americans.

The precedent begins with legal Papal Bulls that sanctified - prior to the landing of Columbus in the Caribbean in 1492 – the subsequent brutal Spanish and Portuguese seizure of South America and the Caribbean. It was the Vatican's assertion of a divine right to lands occupied by “heathens” that ultimately became the legal basis for the ruthless United States expansion westward through the theft of land occupied by Indigenous peoples.

Based on what is known as the Doctrine of Discovery, the Vatican issued a series of decrees in the 15h Century, providing so-called divine authority for the beginning of slave trafficking, among other merciless acts of empire expansion, carnage and profiteering. Eventually, the Papal Bulls condoned - “in God's name” - the seizure of the Americas by European Christians, for exploitation of their mineral and agricultural riches - and for the brutalization, torture, killing and enslavement of Indigenous peoples in the name of Christ.


aaaRonnie bigfood(Photo: EcoWatch)Welcome to Degeneration Nation.

After decades of self-destructive business-as-usual—empire-building, waging wars for fossil fuels, selling out government to the highest bidder, lacing the environment and the global food supply with GMOs, pesticides, antibiotics, growth hormones, toxic sweeteners, artery-clogging fats and synthetic chemicals, attacking the organic and natural health movement, brainwashing the body politic, destroying soils, forests, wetlands and biodiversity and discharging greenhouse gas pollution into the atmosphere and the oceans like there’s no tomorrow—we’ve reached a new low, physically and morally.

Distracted by know-nothing media conglomerates and betrayed by cowardly politicians and avaricious corporations, homo sapiens are facing and unfortunately in many cases still denying, the most serious existential threat in our 200,000-year evolution—catastrophic climate change, compounded by deteriorating public health and the dictatorial rise of political elites and multinational corporations such as Monsanto.

Unless we move decisively as a global community to transform our degenerative food, farming and energy systems, we are doomed.

To reverse global warming and re-stabilize the climate, we will need not only to slash CO2 emissions by 90 percent or more, taking down King Coal and Big Oil and converting to renewable sources of energy, but we must also simultaneously remove or draw down 100-150 ppm of the excess (400 ppm) CO2 and greenhouse gases that are already overheating our supersaturated atmosphere. How do we accomplish the latter? Through regenerative agriculture and land use.


aaaCapsules(Photo: Würfel)Get this. And get it straight. Gordon Gekko was wrong. Greed is not good. Greed is bad. Greed eats away the core of society like a golden parasitic leech the size of Manitoba. Or Saskatchewan. One of those Provinces or Territories or Protectorates or whatever they use in Canada to keep their license plates distinct.

And practicing and/or defending greed makes you nothing but a blood sucking tick no matter how fancy a suit you're wearing. Or size of the diamonds around your wrist. Or how free range the organic heirloom Chicken Florentine is on your plate.

The movie "Wall Street" came out in 1987. And after Vietnam and Watergate and an oil embargo and 4 years of scolding by Jimmy Carter, a little irrational exuberance may have seemed warranted. But that was 30 years ago. Too much is no longer not enough. Too much has gotten way out of hand. Today's too much is much much too much.

In his UN address, the Pope said it best. "A selfish and boundless thirst for power and material prosperity leads both to the misuse of available natural resources and to the exclusion of the weak and disadvantaged." You know what; he's right. Got to love Papa Frankie. The guy is like a slightly older more lovable Argentinian Bernie Sanders. With the crank dialed down to a manageable hum.

Let's be honest; what we're really talking about here is that idiot CEO, Martin Shkreli who raised the price of the life saving drug, Daraprim, from $13.50 a pill to $750 each, because, and I quote, he "needs to start making a profit." A 5,455% increase: which if produce distributors did to onions would make a side of rings about 3 grand.

This predatory price gouge follows in the carnivorous footsteps of Gilead Sciences who developed a drug called Solvadi, a cure for Hepatitis C. The treatment regimen consists of 84 pills. Each one costing 1000 dollars. That's right. 84 thousand dollars. But then you're cured. And after all, how much is your life worth? Half of what you own? Everything? Your first born?

2015.28.9 BF Brasch(Photo: 401(K) 2012)WALTER BRASCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Beneath a three-column headline in my local newspaper was a barely-edited press release.

That’s not unusual. With the downsizing of newsrooms, there’s more room for wire service soft features and press releases. But this one caught my attention.

SystemCare Health in New Jersey promoted a graduate of a college in my town to the lofty position of Senior Director of Doctivity.

I checked the dictionary—“Doctivity” didn’t exist. I checked WebMD, the website for amateurs to learn the meaning of unpronounceable medical terms—and how to recognize their symptoms and treatments. Nothing there.

That left SystemCare Health’s website, which spewed a barrage of buzzwords and useless gibberish, the kind that people in marketing and business think will impress those who speak fluent English.

2015.28.9 BF Buchheit(Photo: Chris Tolworthy)PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Corporate data from numerous sources, including annual reports directly from the companies themselves, has been merged and matched and managed into two spreadsheets that reveal state-by-state corporate tax avoidance. The results show how people all over the US are being deprived of revenue that should be going to education and infrastructure.

1. Most of the State Tax Avoidance Is by the Largest Companies

Before considering individual states, it will be instructive to consider the total state tax payments (and non-payments) by 45 of the nation's largest corporations. The data is derived from "current state tax" figures in the 10-K forms submitted to the SEC by the companies themselves.

These 45 corporations paid about $15 billion over two years, less than a third of their required state tax obligation of $46 billion, as calculated with the 2014 corporate state tax rates in their home states. Over $30 billion was avoided by these corporations in 2013-14, often by deferring taxes, and in some cases by using hypothetical or theoretical amounts to 'meet' their obligations.

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