07 Apr

Truth Out Today, Thursday 7 April 2011


William Rivers Pitt | A Festival of Dumb
William Rivers Pitt, Truthout: “Every time I think I’ve seen everything, politically speaking, a new wave of nonsense comes crashing ashore and bowls me right over. Today’s installment features a game of budgetary chicken being played among the Tea Partiers in the House, the Democrats in the Senate, and an alarmingly conciliatory Obama administration. If someone doesn’t blink by midnight on Friday, the federal government will shut down and a great deal of fresh Hell will be unleashed.”
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Rush to Use Crops as Fuel Raises Food Prices and Hunger Fears
Elisabeth Rosenthal, The New York Times News Service: “The starchy cassava root has long been an important ingredient in everything from tapioca pudding and ice cream to paper and animal feed. But last year, 98 percent of cassava chips exported from Thailand, the world’s largest cassava exporter, went to just one place and almost all for one purpose: to China to make biofuel. Driven by new demand, Thai exports of cassava chips have increased nearly fourfold since 2008, and the price of cassava has roughly doubled.”
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Top Budget Negotiators Reach Deal in Principle, but Snags Remain
David Lightman and William Douglas, McClatchy Newspapers: “Congressional budget negotiators, racing to avoid a Saturday morning government shutdown, agreed in principle on spending numbers, but a final deal was still delayed by disagreement over social-policy issues, Senate Democratic leaders said Thursday. ‘The numbers are basically there,’ said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. Democrats wouldn’t give any precise numbers. Democrats had offered to cut $33 billion over the final six months of this fiscal year; Republicans, who originally sought $61 billion, sought $40 billion going into the final talks.”
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Robin Hood in Reverse
Bill Quigley, Truthout: “The rich have been getting richer and the poor and the middle class have been getting poorer in the US recently. Here are seven examples that show how the US is going through ‘Robin Hood in Reverse.’ Between 1948 and 1979, the richest 10 percent of families in the US claimed 33 percent of average income growth. Between 2000 and 2007, the richest 10 percent claimed a full 100 percent of average income growth in the US, according to the Economic Policy Institute. Business taxes were cut from 46 to 34 percent 25 years ago, according to ProPublica. But today, 115 of the big 500 companies listed on Standard and Poor’s stock index paid federal and other taxes of less than 20 percent over the last five years, according to David Leonhardt of The New York Times.”
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News in Brief: Quake Hits Japan After Workers in Nuclear Plant Fend Off Explosion, and More …
A strong undersea earthquake hit off the northeastern coast of Japan today nearly a month after an earthquake and tsunami devastated the northeastern coast of the island nation; ideological lines drawn in Congress as shutdown looms; the demand for biofuels processed from crops traditionally grown for food is driving up food prices across the world.
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Senate Votes Down Effort to Weaken EPA Authority
Halimah Abdullah and Renee Schoof, McClatchy Newspapers: “The Senate voted Wednesday against a measure that would have blocked the Environmental Protection Agency from issuing new regulations on greenhouse gasses – a move that further cripples efforts by lawmakers to weaken the agency’s regulatory authority. The measure failed to net the 60 votes needed to pass and the vote, which was 50 for and 50 against, fell largely along party lines.”
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Koch Industries, Keystone XL Pipeline … a BP on the Prairie?
Jeanine Molloff, Truthout: “As the race to develop domestically produced fuels hits a fevered pitch, especially as a reaction to the tensions in the Middle East, politicians from the president on down are seeking a ‘magic pill’ that will solve our energy problems. President Obama promised a ‘green revolution,’ with hints at promising wind and solar energy sources during the campaign, but has now done one of his famous backtracks as he pushes the idea of ‘clean coal.’ One of the alleged ‘clean coal’ sources his administration has placed under serious consideration is ‘bituminous coal’ (aka ‘unconventional petroleum deposit’), or simply put … ‘tar sands.’ Tar sands are plentiful in the US and Canada, but environmentally treacherous to mine and transport – yet, this is the ‘green energy’ the Obama administration has leaned toward – with heavy prodding from its most threatening political enemy, Koch Industries – disputed founders of the Tea Party movement.”
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Representing Knowledge Workers in the New Era
Lowell Peterson, Writers Guild East: “Recent ideologically-driven attacks on collective bargaining have inspired a national conversation about the role of organized labor in 21st Century America. The headlines have focused on teachers and other public employees, on whether it is unseemly for people who work for the government to assert any rights on the job. But the same hard-right forces that want to wipe out public sector unions oppose the very idea that employees can band together to advance their own interests. There are so many ways to rebut the shrill complaints about organized labor – so many good things unions have done for the average American over the course of decades. But perhaps this is a good opportunity for us to take stock of ourselves, to examine where we are today and what we might need to do to remain relevant in the future.”
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John Pilger | David Cameron’s Gift of War and Racism, to Them and Us
John Pilger, Truthout: “The Euro-American attack on Libya has nothing to do with protecting anyone; only the terminally naive believe such nonsense. It is the West’s response to popular uprisings in strategic, resource-rich regions of the world and the beginning of a war of attrition against the new imperial rival, China. President Barack Obama’s historical distinction is now guaranteed. He is America’s first black president to invade Africa. His assault on Libya is run by the US Africa Command, which was set up in 2007 to secure the continent’s lucrative natural resources from Africa’s impoverished people and the rapidly spreading commercial influence of China.”
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An Afghan Peace Movement, Not a US Peace Jirga
David Swanson, Truthout: “The United States, on the verge of shutting down its own government for lack of funds, just forked over another $50 million for a peace jirga (or council) to negotiate peace in Afghanistan or at least sponsor an upcoming conference in the United Arab Emirates and – perhaps more so – bribe Taliban fighters to temporarily stop fighting.”
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Sex Workers File Civil Rights Suit Against Louisiana’s “Crime Against Nature” Law
Jordan Flaherty, Truthout: “The third week of February, attorneys from New Orleans-based and national organizations brought a federal civil rights complaint against Louisiana’s 205-year-old ‘crime against nature’ statute, a law designed to penalize sex acts associated with gays and lesbians. The law, as enforced, specifically singles out oral and anal sex for greater punishment for those arrested for prostitution, including a requirement that those convicted register as sex offenders in a public database. Advocates say the law has further isolated women on the fringes of society, including those who are forced to trade sex for food or a place to sleep at night.”
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Koch’s Web of Influence
John Aloysius Farrell, The Center for Public Integrity: “Koch spends tens of millions trying to shape federal policies that affect their global business empire. At an EPA hearing last summer, representatives from Koch Industries argued that moderate levels of the toxic chemical dioxin should not be designated as a cancer risk for humans. When members of Congress sought higher security at chemical plants to guard against terrorist attacks, Koch Industries lobbyists prowled Capitol Hill to voice their opposition. And when Congress moved to strengthen regulation of the financial markets after recent collapses, Koch Industries – a major commodities and derivatives trader – deployed a phalanx of lobbyists to resist proposed changes.”
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Ellen Cantarow | Energy Is Ugly
Ellen Cantarow, TomDispatch: “For years, ‘not in my backyard’ has been the battle cry of residents in Cape Cod who stand opposed to an offshore wind farm in Nantucket Sound. The giant turbines will forever mar the beauty of the landscape, they say. Energy is ugly. Some forms more so than others, as nuclear near-meltdowns in Japan, the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, and deaths in a West Virginia Coal Mine explosion have driven home in the last year. Energy kills plants, plankton, and people. It imperils the environment, poisons the oceans, and is threatening to turn part of Japan, one of the most advanced nations on the planet, into a contaminated zone for decades to come.”
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Where Paul Ryan’s Budget Will Lead Us: Economic Disaster
Read the Article at Business Insider

Scott Walker Is Strongly Rebuked by Milwaukee County Voters: Walker’s Candidate for His Former Job Is Crushed 61 Percent – 39 Percent
Read the Article at BuzzFlash

JoAnne Kloppenburg Elected to Wisconsin Supreme Court: Official News Release Declaring Victory. Recount to Follow
Read the Article at BuzzFlash

Are Republicans Holding Up Budget Due to Anti-Environment and Anti-Abortion Demands?
Read the Article at The Associated Press

One Religious Conservative College Got More Money Last Year Than NPR: Liberty University
Read the Article at Salon

Qaddafi Paid Millions to US Firms to Polish His Global Image
Read the Article at CNN

Magnitude 7.4 Earthquake Hits Off Japan Coast
Read the Article at The Associated Press

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There’s nothing as American as apple pie, right?

And a pie is the simplest way of understanding – in a generalized sense – the political battle over the economy.

As long as the US economic pie was becoming larger, Americans – with the exception of the poor – were more or less willing to live on their piece of the pie. Of course, beginning with the Reagan era, corporations and the super rich have worked to get a larger slice of the piece for themselves, so much so that the top 5 percent of US citizens allegedly hold more wealth than the other 95 percent.

With the gradual off-shoring of jobs (particularly manufacturing) and growth of economies in other parts of the world, the American pie started to shrink – and shrink some more.

This has created a crisis that follows the line of Naomi Klein’s “Shock Doctrine.” While Americans are finding themselves with a smaller economic pie and therefore smaller slices, multinational corporations and wealthy families are taking advantage of the fear and confusion to actually increase their overall total share of the pie by even further reducing the slices received by workers and the poor.

If Paul Ryan’s draconian budget plan were ever to be adopted, the slices that the rest of us receive may be reduced to just a scattering of crumbs as our share of an increasingly smaller pie continues to decrease.

Mark Karlin
Editor, BuzzFlash at Truthout

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