MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
On Wednesday, July 30, many official events celebrated Medicare's 49th anniversary of providing health coverage for seniors. Before President Lyndon Johnson signed the law enacting Medicare coverage, seniors in the United States received erratic often bankrupting care.
By all accounts, all but the most ardent elderly Tea Party stalwarts laud Medicare for its freedom of choice in providers and relative simplicity in claims processing.
Although the Affordable Care Act is hopefully a political holding position until single-payer health care for all is enacted in the US - thus catching the nation up with most of the rest of the developed world - there are still right-wingers whose goal is to dismantle the current Medicare system.
Let us listen to the public - and not the chattering pundit class - for a change on healthcare coverage, as reflected in this letter to the editor in The Hartford Current by West Hartford resident Win Heimer:
There are some in Congress who continue to call for benefit cuts for retirees and disabled Americans. For example, there continue to be calls to cut Medicare benefits by raising the age of eligibility, means-testing benefits, requiring home health co-pays and limiting Medigap coverage. These changes would do nothing to reduce the cost of health care, but instead, shift costs to beneficiaries.
July 30 is Medicare's 49th birthday. What better way to celebrate than by strengthening Medicare through a better alternative that will not harm beneficiaries? Congress should pass the Medicare Drug Savings Act introduced by Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia and Rep. Henry Waxman of California. This legislation will require drug companies to provide the government discounts for low-income Medicare beneficiaries, saving the government and taxpayers $141 billion over 10 years and all but eliminating the need to cut benefits or shift costs to beneficiaries.
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
I'm thirsty. Indeed, I'm overwhelmed by thirst, thinking about those who lack access to clean water. I'm thirsty for a different world.
"In Gaza, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians lack water, including those living in hospitals and refugee camps," Sarah Kendzior wrote in Al-Jazeera last week. "On July 15, citizens of Detroit held a rally in solidarity, holding signs that said 'Water for all, from Detroit to Palestine.' A basic resource has become a distant dream, a longing for a transformation of politics aimed at ending suffering instead of extending it."
Water is our common need, our common source of being. In bankrupt Detroit (city of my birth), as the world now knows, the poor and struggling segment of the population — the people whose overdue water bills exceed $150 — face water shutoff. The United Nations, for God's sake, has condemned the action by the city's emergency manager as a human rights violation. Thousands of residences — housing as many as 100,000 people — have had their water shut off so far, out of a total city population of 700,000.
Ironically, Detroit is surrounded by the Great Lakes, the largest body of fresh water in the world. Michigan license plates used to proclaim: "Water Wonderland."
Austerity, austerity, God shed his grace on thee . . .
AKIRA WATTS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
"What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow: this is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn" - Rabbi Hillel
As Jews go, I'm a poor one. I like Wagner and bacon, and have been known to seethe a kid in its mother's milk. I have enough tattoos to be banned from burial in any Jewish cemetery, and I gave up on God halfway through my first reading of the Old Testament - in that one passage where he acts like a genocidal psychopath.
I'm a bad Jew.
But, since my mother was Jewish, I am still, technically, Jewish. Which means that, should I so desire, I can move to Israel and, in time, become a citizen. As for the Palestinian guy in Gaza whose family has been living there for 20-odd generations? He lives in an open air prison and if he wants to spend some time in the land of his ancestors, he will be going through multiple armed check points, if he is lucky.
Or, these days, he's not visiting at all, what with the bombings and ground invasion and all. As I write, the Palestinian death toll stands at over 1200, while the Israeli death toll amounts to three civilian casualties and an IDF toll that may have surpassed 50 by now, but would have not occurred if the invasion had not been launched. A UN school has been hit for the second time, with an Israel mortar as the confirmed source, and at least 16 Gazans who sought refuge there are dead.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
As the corporation-backed and religious fundamentalist climate-change deniers continue to receive widespread mainstream media credibility, signs of global warming continue to sweep across the earth.
However, science has a way of having facts on its side, so it is no surprise that the formerly frozen Arctic Ocean is now experiencing high-wave activity. According to the Daily Digest News, "Waves as high as 29 feet [were recently] recorded in a normally waveless Beaufort Sea." (The Beaufort Sea is a section of the Arctic Ocean.):
When most people think of the Arctic, they usually imagine things like polar bears and Santa Clause. What they don’t picture are waves the size of a one-story house, because most of the Arctic Ocean is typically frozen and you can’t have big waves in frozen water. Well, tell that to the scientists from the University of Washington and the Naval Research Laboratory, who recently published their 2012 observation of big waves in the Arctic’s Beaufort Sea: During peak times, the waves averaged around 16 feet high.
The highest single wave was measured at 29 feet. Researchers fear that the waves, enabled after decades of expanding ice retreat thanks to global warming, will even further accelerate the ice breaking process in the Arctic region.
“The observations reported here are the only known wave measurements in the central Beaufort Sea,” they wrote in the report, “because until recently the region remained ice covered throughout the summer and there were no waves to measure.”
The study referred to by the Daily Digest News concludes: "This suggests that further reductions in seasonal ice cover in the future will result in larger waves, which in turn provide a mechanism to break up sea ice and accelerate ice retreat."
ECOWATCH STAFF ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) publicly released its report this week finding that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is “not consistently conducting two key oversight and enforcement activities for class II programs” for underground fluid injection wells associated with oil and gas production. The report shows that the EPA’s program to protect drinking water sources from underground injection of fracking waste needs improvement.
According to the report, “The U.S. EPA does not consistently conduct annual on-site state program evaluations as directed in guidance because, according to some EPA officials, the agency does not have the resources to do so.” The report also found that “to enforce state class II requirements, under current agency regulations, EPA must approve and incorporate state program requirements and any changes to them into federal regulations through a rulemaking.”
“The federal government’s watchdog is saying what communities across the country have known for years: fracking is putting Americans at risk,” said Amy Mall, senior policy analyst at the Natural Resources Defense Council. ”From drinking water contamination to man-made earthquakes, the reckless way oil and gas companies deal with their waste is a big problem. Outdated rules and insufficient enforcement are largely to blame. EPA needs to rein in this industry run amok.”
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Let's start with a premise I think we can all agree with: There have been no 9/11-type attacks on United States soil since, well, 9/11. Here's another statement we all probably agree with: The federal government has all sorts of arrows in its quiver when it comes to gathering intelligence to thwart such attacks. And that is where it begins to gets dicey: Unfortunately, in its counterterrorism project, the government appears to be relying more and more on perhaps the most twisted of those arrows; the use of informants, coerced and/or rewarded, entrapment, and the sting.
Since the September 2001 terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, the federal government has obtained more than 500 federal counterterrorism convictions. According to a new Human Rights Watch report (produced in association with Columbia Law School's Human Rights Institute), "nearly 50 percent of [those] ... convictions resulted from informant-based cases; almost 30 percent of those cases were sting operations in which the informant played an active role in the underlying plot."
The report, "Illusion of Justice: Human Rights Abuses in US Terrorism Prosecutions," points out that, while "[m]any prosecutions have properly targeted individuals engaged in planning or financing terror attacks... many others have targeted individuals who do not appear to have been involved in terrorist plotting or financing at the time the government began to investigate them.
"Indeed, in some cases the Federal Bureau of Investigation may have created terrorists out of law-abiding individuals by conducting sting operations that facilitated or invented the target's willingness to act."
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Larry Pratt, long-time head of the Gun Owners of America (GOA) - which is to the NRA what the Tea Party is to the GOP - believes United States representatives should live in dread of being shot.
According to Right Wing Watch,
Prominent gun lobbyist Larry Pratt is doubling down on his insistence that members of Congress should have a “healthy fear” of being shot, lecturing a congresswoman who felt threatened by one of his group’s members that she just doesn’t understand the Constitution.
Right Wing Watch first reported Pratt’s comments in a March interview with radio host Bill Cunningham. Pratt, the executive director of Gun Owners of America, told Cunningham that a member of his group had spoken to a congresswoman who told him, “you want to shoot me, don’t you.”
“Well, that’s probably a healthy fear for them to have,” Pratt said. “You know, I’m kind of glad that’s in the back of their minds. Hopefully they’ll behave.”
Since that veiled threat, Pratt has slyly retreated into translating his words into a disclaimer: “I have never encouraged, or even suggested, that anyone harm anyone.” Then he went on to explain that the fear of being shot is a tool to educate elected representatives about gun rights.
Yet, educating elected officials apparently includes once again implying that the bullet box may replace the ballot box. According to Pratt:
Should you attempt to disarm Americans the way the British crown tried 240 years ago, the same sovereign people who constituted this government using the cartridge box someday may need to reconstitute it, as clearly anticipated by the Declaration of Independence.
Larry Pratt is a spokesperson for the enemy within the United States – and what is more unnerving is that he is not even the most radical zealot of gun extremists.
EUGENE ROBINSON ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The Republican Party's paralysis on immigration is so complete -- and so utterly irresponsible -- that President Obama has no choice but to act on his own.
Just say the word immigration and most GOP members of Congress either change the subject or scurry away. Rather than tackle a suite of genuine issues whose obvious solutions would clearly benefit the nation, House Republicans prefer to pass yet more useless bills that seek -- and fail -- to take away people's health insurance.
Both parties agree that the rapid influx of more than 50,000 unaccompanied children from Central America is a crisis. Yet House Speaker John Boehner must struggle to convince his GOP majority to do something, anything, before leaving Washington for their annual month-long summer vacation.
Obama asked Congress for an emergency $3.7 billion appropriation, much of which would be spent to house and care for the children while their requests for asylum are evaluated. Senate Democrats are set to propose approving roughly $2.7 billion, shaving the president's request to the sum needed for this calendar year. There is no guarantee, however, that the bill won't be stymied by a GOP filibuster.
House Republicans, meanwhile, have been spinning their wheels. Boehner is reportedly seeking agreement on a bill that provides only about $1 billion in emergency funding, far less than Obama says is needed. And it seems likely that the House bill -- if there is one -- will seek to change a 2008 law that prevents the Central American children from being summarily deported.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
It would be an understatement to assert that The New York Times (NYT) was never sympathetic to the Occupy Movement. NYT reporting on Occupy and income inequality has generally served as a mini-me transcript of former Mayor Michael ("I'm with the titans of Wall Street") Bloomberg
Yes, The New York Times does post Paul Krugman and occasional op-eds on income inequality, but usually, its coverage of economic issues leans heavily toward the financial interests of the top percentage earners - the people who buy the luxury goods and services advertised in the paper. When it comes to the economy, the NYT is not the paper of record; it is the paper promoting the interests and lifestyles of the rich.
That was why I was surprised to see buried in the July 26 edition, in a section called Business Day, an article with this headline: "The Typical Household, Now Worth a Third Less." Now, that is a blunt headline, merited by the opening two paragraphs of the story:
Economic inequality in the United States has been receiving a lot of attention. But it’s not merely an issue of the rich getting richer. The typical American household has been getting poorer, too.
The inflation-adjusted net worth for the typical household was $87,992 in 2003. Ten years later, it was only $56,335, or a 36 percent decline, according to a study financed by the Russell Sage Foundation. Those are the figures for a household at the median point in the wealth distribution — the level at which there are an equal number of households whose worth is higher and lower. But during the same period, the net worth of wealthy households increased substantially.
When it comes to economic inequality, it doesn't get any more telling than a study that proves that the "typical" US household has decreased in net worth by a third since 2003. As BuzzFlash has noted, many analysts speculate that 95 percent of the economic rebound from the 2008 crash of the economy has ended up in the hands or offshore accounts of the top 1 percent of US households.
WALTER BRASCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
A group of white gun-rights advocates plan to sling rifles, shotguns, and semi-automatic assault weapons onto their bodies, and walk through a Black neighborhood in Houston.
What could possibly go wrong with that?!
The march through Houston's Fifth Ward is planned for August 16 to "educate" Texans about their rights to openly carry firearms.
To deflect criticism that the march is racially-insensitive, the testosterone-enhanced group, apparently with straight faces to hide its freeze-dried minds, says all it wants is for racial equality.