Experts Warn: US ‘on Course to Repeat’ BP Gulf Disaster

“The risk of another blowout is real,” write former MMS head Elizabether Birnbaum, Oceana’s Jacqueline Savitz

– Andrea Germanos, staff writer

BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig ablaze on April 21, 2010. (Photo: U.S. Coast Guard)

The U.S. is “on a course to repeat our mistakes” and face another oil disaster like BP’s Macondo well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico, two experts warn.

The chilling cautionary words are given by former offshore drilling regulator Elizabeth Birnbaum and Jacqueline Savitz, vice president for U.S. Oceans at conservation organizationOceana, in op-ed published in the New York Times days ahead of the fourth anniversary of the epic oil catastrophe.

Birnbaum was head of Minerals Management Service at the time of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, but in a move seen by some as “scapegoat firing” was ousted from the position weeks after the well began to spew oil into the Gulf. She is now a consultant at SEB Strategies.

Birnbaum and Savitz write that the Obama administration has yet to act on recommendations which could make offshore drilling safer.

“We would never have imagined so little action would be taken to prevent something like this from happening again. But, four years later, the Obama administration still has not taken key steps recommended by its experts and experts it commissioned to increase drilling safety. As a result, we are on a course to repeat our mistakes,” they write.

One the remaining threats Birnbaum and Savitz highlight has to do with blowout preventers, a point outlined in a “detailed and damning” December 2011 report of the National Academy of Engineering. The report found fault with the Deepwater Horizon’s blowout preventer, and indicated that that same equipment “may be present” at other drilling operations. Yet new standards for blowout preventers have yet to be enforced, deepwater drilling continues, and new drilling leases in the Gulf are issued each year.

“The risk of another blowout is real,” they write.

Rather than scale back drilling, oceans face another assault with the administration’s proposal to allow the use of seismic air guns for oil exploration along the Atlantic coast, which Oceana has warned could amount to “death sentence” for marine mammals.

“We have seen this pattern before. The expansion of drilling into deeper water and farther from shore was not coupled with advances in spill prevention and response,” Birnbaum and Savitz write in their op-ed.

This captures the ‘risk addiction’ award-winning journalist and author Naomi Klein described in her TED talk delivered months after the Macondo well blowout. Klein said that “even more striking than the ferocious power emanating from that well was the recklessness with which that power was unleashed — the carelessness, the lack of planning that characterized the operation from drilling to clean-up.”

“If there is one thing BP’s watery improv act made clear, it is that, as a culture, we have become far too willing to gamble with things that are precious and irreplaceable, and to do so without a back-up plan, without an exit strategy,” Klein continued.

That reckless gamble is all too real for the wildlife in the Gulf still suffering and community members still awaiting compensation for the catastrophe that is far from over.

“The request by coastal residents four years later is the same as in 2010,” stated Colette Pichon Battle, Executive Director of the Gulf Coast Center for Law and Policy. “Clean up the oil. Pay for the damage. And, ensure that this never happens again.”

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2012-12-02: What I’ve Been Reading

Iceland Did it Right…and Everyone Else is Doing it Wrong

News Report: Iceland’s commitment to its program, a decision to push losses on to bondholders instead of taxpayers and the safeguarding of a welfare system that shielded the unemployed from penury helped propel the nation from collapse toward recovery, according to the Washington-based fund. The rebound continues to wow officials, including International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde, who recently referred to the Icelandic recovery as “impressive”.

Deja Moo (BS) All Over Again

Robert Reich, Déjà vu All Over Again Op-Ed: Haven’t we been here before? It’s as if the election never occurred – as if the Republicans hadn’t lost six or seven seats in the House and three in the Senate, as if Obama hadn’t won reelection by a greater number of votes than George W. Bush in 2004. And as if the fiscal cliff that automatically terminates the Bush tax cuts weren’t just weeks away. Déjà vu all over again.

Robert Reich, Bungee-Jumping Over the Fiscal Cliff Op-Ed: What’s the best way to pressure Republicans into agreeing to extend the Bush tax cuts for the middle class while ending them for the wealthy? The President evidently believes it’s to scare average Americans about how much additional taxes they’ll pay if the Bush tax cuts expire on schedule at the end of the year. He plans to barnstorm around the country, sounding the alarm.

Why Are Cows Tails Dropping Off?

imageFracking Our Food Supply, Elizabeth Royte | The Nation:  In Louisiana, seventeen cows died after an hour’s exposure to spilled fracking fluid. (Most likely cause of death: respiratory failure.) In north central Pennsylvania, 140 cattle were exposed to fracking wastewater when an impoundment was breached. Approximately seventy cows died; the remainder produced eleven calves, of which only three survived. In western Pennsylvania, an overflowing waste pit sent fracking chemicals into a pond and a pasture where pregnant cows grazed: half their calves were born dead. The following year’s animal births were sexually skewed, with ten females and two males, instead of the usual 50-50 or 60-40 split.

Ambient air testing by a certified environmental consultant detected elevated levels of benzene, methane, chloroform, butane, propane, toluene and xylene—compounds associated with drilling and fracking, and also with cancers, birth defects and organ damage. Her well tested high for sulfates, chromium, chloride and strontium; her blood tested positive for acetone, plus the heavy metals arsenic (linked with skin lesions, cancers and cardiovascular disease) and germanium (linked with muscle weakness and skin rashes).”

GMO Cops: Biotech Giant Hires Former Cops to ‘Enforce Patents’

Anthony Gucciardi, News Report: “So perhaps DuPont has realized that they better start shaking down their clients now before their empire ultimately collapses along with Monsanto. And if it’s not resistant rootworms, horrendous failures to yield, or a disturbingly high rate of farmer suicide, its the numerous country-wide bans on GMOs that continue to be announced each month. From Russia to Peru (which passed a monumental 10 year ban), GM crops are effectively being phased out of the international food supply.”

Kenya Bans Importation of GMO Foods

Video Feature: Public Health minister Beth Mugo subsequently directed all Public Health Officers at all ports of entry and all other government regulators to enforce the ban on importation of Genetically Modified Foods in the country. This she says was following the decision made by the cabinet to ban the importation of GMO foods into the country due to inadequate research done on GMOs and scientific evidence provided to prove the safety of the foods until such a time that the country will certify that they have no negative impacts on the health of consumers.

Sorry Monsanto: Govt Admits GM Bt Cotton Crops Fail 40%

Lisa Garber, News Report: The government of Maharashtra, a state in western India, has acknowledged for the first time that Bt cotton is a failure that will likely reduce yields by 40%, from 3.5 to 2.2 million quintal. The region’s cotton farmers will face about Rs6,000 crore, over 1 billion USD. Accumulated losses are to be even more staggering: Rs 20,000 crore, or about 3.6 billion USD, due to rising cultivation costs.

Are Human Genes Patentable? Supreme Court Will Decide

BRCA1 and BRCA2 are two of the 23,000 genes in the human genome, 20 percent of which have been patented.  We all have these genes, but women with certain genetic mutations are estimated to have up to an 85 percent lifetime risk for breast cancer and 50 percent risk for ovarian cancer.  Myriad Genetics obtained patents on the “isolated” forms of the two genes, which simply means it patented the human gene once removed from the cell.  This includes the BRCA genes from every person in the United States.  Myriad has enforced its patents on the genes so that it has a monopoly on BRCA genetic testing.

Appeal vowed in Nevada same-sex marriage ruling

Karen Golinski, Amy CunninghisA federal court challenge to Nevada’s ban on same sex marriage has been turned back in U.S. District Court, but proponents vowed Friday to fight on with an argument that a pair of state laws regarding same-sex unions unconstitutionally make gay couples “second-class citizens.”  Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund attorney Tara Borelli noted that a Thursday ruling by U.S. District Chief Judge Robert Jones came a day before the U.S. Supreme Court considers whether to take up the gay marriage question, and just weeks after voters approved same-sex marriage in three states and defeated a ban in a fourth.

Report: America’s Domestic Workers Raise Kids, Care for Seniors, Run Households Without Benefits, Protections or a Living Wage

Domestic Workers.Mike Ludwig, Truthout: The first-of-its-kind assessment of the domestic workforce finds that the people who substantially help drive the US economy are themselves overworked, underpaid, sometimes abused and often in dire economic straits.

Methyl Iodide Federal Registration Pulled

imageOne of the most toxic pesticides on earth is now off the market thanks to an Earthjustice lawsuit.  The company that manufactures methyl iodide, an extremely toxic pesticide that is often applied to strawberries, is no longer applying for federal registration of the chemical – effectively ending its toxic legacy. Check out the interview below with Greg Loarie, our attorney who led the case against methyl iodide! Click SHARE or LIKE!

 

GOP Extremists Continue to Push Repugnant Anti-Women Laws

Pro Choice.

This absurd period of legislative history that became dubbed the “war on women” (though it affected people of all genders) culminated in this year’s notorious spate of comments from Tea Party-approved candidates about rape — legitimate, god-willed or otherwise — and resulted in the biggest anti-misogynist backlash at the ballot box we’ve seen in a long time.

Women handily voted for Obama, vetoed extreme anti-choicers and listed abortion as an important issue in exit polls. But in several states, GOPers seemed not to get the message. At all. Some of them are continuing to fight the same battles, in some cases putting women’s access at risk.

New push to reduce antibiotic use in farm animals

Officials with Keep Antibiotics Working, whose mission is to eliminate the inappropriate use of antibiotics in food animals, urged the White House and Congress on Wednesday to push forward with legislation limiting antibiotics in livestock immediately.

They argued that American lives are at risk because farmers are feeding healthy animals a high volume of unneeded antibiotics, and when those animals enter the food supply, humans are developing resistance to certain bacteria.

Ending the US War in Afghanistan? It Depends on the Meaning of the Word ‘War’

Dave Lindorff, Op-Ed: How do you “end” a war by simply having one side say it’s over, unless you actually do stop fighting and walk away? Certainly the invading side in a foreign war can call that war quits, but if the other side doesn’t, and the invader stays on the battlefield — which in Afghanistan is the whole county — you haven’t ended it at all. The other side will continue to hit you until you’re gone.

EPA Slaps BP and in the Process, Punishes the Pentagon

R. Jeffrey Smith, New Analysis: EPA acted two weeks after the corporation entered guilty pleas in federal court to 14 criminal counts, including manslaughter, related to the spill. It was not a speedy decision, however, since EPA employees began considering a contracting ban years ago in response to a BP oil spill in 2006 and a refinery explosion in 2005. “Do we want to do business with this  foreign corporation, which has a horrendous record of chronically violating U.S. law?”

Latest Sanction Against BP Goes Beyond Gulf Spill

Abrahm Lustgarten, News Analysis: When the Obama administration temporarily banned BP from federal contracts Wednesday, it pointed to BP’s “lack of business integrity” and conduct relating to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and spill. The sanction, however, has been years in the making. BP has been criminally convicted in four previous cases — including a 2005 explosion in Texas that killed 15 workers — and the EPA has been considering broader debarment proceedings against the company since at least 2005.

Conflict of Interest?  Susan Rice, Top Candidate for Secretary of State, Has Millions Tied to Canadian Tar Sands

Stephen Lacey, News Report: “According to a report from OnEarth Magazine, Rice has millions of dollars tied up in top Canadian energy companies — including TransCanada, the company pushing for the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. Because the pipeline crosses international borders, its approval falls under the jurisdiction of the State Department. That means Rice — or any other candidate tapped to head the State Department — would be responsible for approving or rejecting the project.”

Thinking the Unthinkable: What if America’s Leaders Actually Want Catastrophic Climate Change?

Dave Lindorff, Op-Ed: What if the leaders of the United States — and by leaders I mean the generals in the Pentagon, the corporate executives of the country’s largest enterprises, and the top officials in government — have secretly concluded that while world-wide climate change is indeed going to be catastrophic, the US, or more broadly speaking, North America, is fortuitously situated to come out on top in the resulting global struggle for survival?

Why Climate Deniers Have No Scientific Credibility – In One Pie Chart

Jim Powell , News Analysis: “Global warming deniers often claim that bias prevents them from publishing in peer-reviewed journals. But 24 articles in 18 different journals, collectively making several different arguments against global warming, expose that claim as false. Articles rejecting global warming can be published, but those that have been have earned little support or notice, even from other deniers.”

Warehouse Worker Lawsuit Targets Walmart

Adithya Sambamurthy and Jim Morris, News Analysis: The staffing agencies have agreed to pay a collective $450,000 in fines and back wages to settle citations issued by California labor officials, who raided the warehouse the same month the lawsuit was filed last year. Schneider, which was not cited by the state, said in a statement that it “played no role in determining the rate or method of pay” that led to the violations. By adding Walmart – the warehouse’s only customer – to the lawsuit, lawyers for the workers are seeking to prove that the company pressured Schneider to hold down costs by underpaying subcontractors.

How Congressional Republicans and Fox News Displayed their Profound Debt Ceiling Ignorance

Jeff Spross, News Analysis: “The debt limit does not control or limit the ability of the federal government to run deficits or incur obligations. Rather, it is a limit on the ability to pay obligations already incurred.” The President does not have discretionary control over how much the country borrows. Obama’s new proposal gives him no such control. It would merely make hikes in the ceiling automatic, in accordance with the debt necessitated by budgets Congress has already passed.

Avoiding a New American Recession

Martin Feldstein, Op-Ed: “America’s national debt has more than doubled in the past five years, and is set to rise to more than 100% of GDP over the next decade unless changes in spending and taxes are implemented. A well-designed combination of caps to limit tax expenditures and a gradual slowing of growth in outlays for entitlement programs could reverse the rise in the debt and strengthen the US economy.”

Why Austerity Economics Hurts Low-Wage Workers the Most

Robert Reich, Op-Ed: Walmart – the trendsetter for big-box retailers – is also doing well. And it pays its executives handsomely. The total compensation for Walmart’s CEO, Michael Duke, was $18.7 million last year – putting him number 82 on Forbes’ list. The wealth of the Walton family – which still owns the lion’s share of Walmart stock — now exceeds the wealth of the bottom 40 percent of American families combined, according to an analysis by the Economic Policy Institute.

Under the Reading Lamp — 4/30/2012

ALEC’s Comeuppance

Jim Hightower, Op-Ed: “ALEC’s operatives take these cookie-cutter bills from state capitol to state capitol, getting Republican governors and key legislators to introduce them. Then the organization helps organize astroturf campaigns to ram such ugliness into law. Gov. Scott Walker’s repressive agenda in Wisconsin is an ALEC product. So is Arizona’s war on Latinos, as is Florida’s murderous “stand your ground” shoot-em-up law.”

Putting Our Premiums Into Medical Care, Not Profits

Wendell Potter, News Analysis: “The recent news from the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation that health insurers will have to send rebate checks totaling more than $1.3 billion to Americans this summer was especially gratifying to me. It more than justified my decision three years ago to clue members of Congress in on how insurance companies have systematically been devoting ever-increasing portions of our premium dollars to rewarding their shareholders and top executives.”

Top Republican Strategist Denies Women are Paid Less Than Men

Igor Volsky, Video Report: “Now we know, at least from both of your perspectives,” Maddow said, pointing to Castellanos and Romney surrogate Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), “women are not fairing worse than men in the economy that women aren’t getting paid less for equal work.” “It’s about policy and whether or not you want to fix some of the structural discrimination that women really do face that Republicans don’t believe is happening,” she added.

Five Tax Fallacies Invented by the 1%

Paul Buchheit , Op-Ed: “In 2009, the United States ranked 26th out of 28 OECD countries in total federal, state, and local taxes as a percent of GDP. Only Chile and Mexico had lower tax rates. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, ‘federal taxes on middle-income Americans are near historic lows.’ For taxpayers in the top 1%, the tax burden has fallen dramatically in recent years.”

AZ Lawmakers Lash Out at Imaginary United Nations Conspiracy With Assault on All Poverty & Environmental Laws

Ian Millhiser, News Report: “If this bill becomes law, Arizona’s government agencies would instantly be forbidden from doing anything to reduce poverty. Or to combat air pollution. Or to ensure that radioactive waste does not contaminate the environment. Or potentially to do anything at all to promote human health. Under this bill, Medicaid, state unemployment and welfare programs and nearly any environmental programs would need to cease, immediately.”

War, Money, and Moral Hazard

Thomas Magstadt, Op-Ed: “In the wake of the US bank-induced 2008 global financial crisis, policy makers, pundits, and economists suddenly rediscovered moral hazard in the under-regulated "free-market economy" both as a theoretical concept and as an existential danger. Nobody was more ardent in pushing this idea than then Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson, who served in that position from 2006 to 2009.”

Don’t Let Congress Kick College Grads in the Teeth

Robert Borosage, Op-Ed: “The Republican chair of the House education committee says he has “serious concerns” about the bill. And the Republican budget — championed by Paul Ryan and embraced as “marvelous” by Mitt Romney — both calls for deep cuts in Pell grants and assumes that the interest rates on government sponsored student loans will double. What are the Republican “concerns”? They claim to be opposed to the $6 billion cost of keeping the rate low. But jacking up the rate simply shifts that $6 billion cost onto the next generation of students who are already crushed by debt.”

Trickle-Down Gulf Wreck-onomics

Robert S. Becker, Op-Ed: “‘BP’s toxic sludge inundation,’ or ‘BP’s fatal frothy flood,’ even ‘BP’s contagion of contaminated crude’ — crude and indiscriminate indeed when this glut of gunk continues its death march. Even bacteria called upon to consume oil slicks are nixed, slain by two million gallons of the solvent concoction Corexit. Keen observer of the Gulf tragedy, I’d be downright remiss to withhold scandalous news about oil stuck to human skin, eyeless shrimp, fish-scale infections, or rising mortality for marine mammals and previously endangered sea turtles.”

Feds File First Criminal Charges Related to BP Gulf Spill

Abrahm Lustgarten, News Analysis: “According to an FBI affidavit submitted to the court along with the indictment, Mix, who worked for BP until January 2012, was directly involved in BP’s efforts to understand how much oil was flowing out of the broken Macondo well. On April 21, 2010, Mix estimated that between 68,000 and 138,000 barrels of oil were leaking each day— far more than the 5,000 barrels that were estimated publicly at the time.”

Fracking Industry California Dreamin’: A Future California Nightmare?

Steve Horn, Op-Ed: “Yesterday, The Bakersfield Californian reported that another oil and gas industry giant is making its way to The Golden State: Hess Corporation. Hess has operations on six of the seven global continents and will be headed to California’s yet-to-be-fracked Monterey Shale basin, which contains some 15 billion barrels of proven recoverable shale oil, according to the Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration.”

Chesapeake Energy Well Blowout in Wyoming Causes Evacuation, Methane “Roared” for Days

Brendan DeMelle, News Report: “Once again, the failure appears tied to a faulty casing job. The Douglas Budget reports that, “the horizontal part of the drilling had been completed. The drillers pulled out the bit and were going to run the casing into the horizontal leg of the well.” That’s when the blowout occurred, apparently. Tom Doll, a Wyoming State Oil and Gas supervisor, told local press that the state had no idea how much methane gas had spewed into the air following the blowout, and would rely on Chesapeake to supply an answer.”

Rights Groups Hold International Drone Summit in Washington, DC

News Report: “We’re dragging this secretive drone program out of the shadows and into the light of day,” said Medea Benjamin, one of the Summit organizers and author of the new book Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control. “It’s time for the American public to know the true extent—and consequences—of the killing and spying being done in our name.” Lawyers representing Pakistani drone-strike victims and journalists investigating the attacks shared their experiences of these events in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. New footage of interviews with victims was aired.

The Viet Nam Conflict and the Fabricated Lies of War

Javier Rodriguez, Op-Ed: “That war was no different than the occupation of Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, the war against that other colonial power, Spain, the recent coup de tat against President Manuel Celaya and the democratically elected government in Honduras, and this one in particular hits the veins, the war on Mexico, where we lost over half of the territory. Indisputably history says, they have all been fabricated. No exceptions.”

Burden of Proof: Geithner, Obama, and Wall Street’s Unpunished Crimes

Richard (RJ) Eskow, Op-Ed: “Now the President’s really cracking down on Wall Street, we were told. In the face of widespread criticism for his proposed foreclosure fraud settlement with five top banks, the President eventually accompanied that deal with a promise of tougher enforcement. He appointed New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who had been pursuing banks and resisting previous deals, to his previously lethargic mortgage fraud group.”

Arrest of BP Scapegoat: Real Killers Walk

by Greg Palast – Special for Buzzflash at Truthout

The Justice Department went big game hunting and bagged a teeny-weeny scapegoat.  More like a scape-kid, really.

Today, Justice arrested former BP engineer Kurt Mix for destroying evidence in the Deepwater Horizon blow-out.

I once ran a Justice Department racketeering case and damned if I would have ‘cuffed some poor schmuck like Mix––especially when there’s hot, smoking guns showing greater crimes by BP higher ups.

Last week, I released evidence we uncovered that BP top executives concealed evidence of a prior blow-out.  Had they not covered up the 2008 blow-out in then Caspian Sea, then the Deepwater Horizon probably would not have blown out two years later in 2010. [Watch the film and read the stories.]

I urge you to read the affidavit of FBI agent Barbara O’Donnell which the government filed in arresting Mix.  His crime is deleting texts from his phone indicating that the blown-out Macondo well was gushing over 15,000 barrels of oil a day, not 5,000 as BP told the public and government.  If true, it’s a crime, destruction of evidence.  But Mix is a minnow.  What about the sharks?  The texts were obviously sent tosomeone (named only “SUPERVISOR” by the FBI).  If “Supervisor” knew, then undoubtedly so did BP managers higher up.  Presumably, even CEO Tony Hayward would have gotten the message on his racing yacht.

Destruction of evidence is not nice, but concealment of evidence and fraud by corporate bigs, is the bigger crime.  I hope, I assume, I demand that we find out what Supervisor’s supervisors knew and when they knew it––and didn’t tell us.

And far, far, far more important:  when is the Justice Department going to go after the greater wrongdoing? Let’s begin with the cover-up before the spill that the drilling methods used on the Deepwater Horizon had led to a blow-out nearly two years earlier.

Let’s face it:  to go after the bigger crime means going after the entire industry.  The earlier blow-out was concealed by BP as well as its partners Exxon and Chevron and, by the US State Department under Condoleezza Rice.  [If you want to get that story, please check out Part II:  BP Covered Up Prior Oil Spill at Ecowatch.org.]

One point in Mr. Mix’s defense.  During my investigation of the Deepwater Horizon, I found that employees who provide evidence against BP find their careers floating face down in the Gulf.

BP and other oil companies punish troublemakers by writing “NRB” on their record.  That means “Not Required Back”––and the worker is banned from the offshore rigs.  No doubt, Mr. Mix thought long and hard about what would happen to his career if his texts came to light.  Not an excuse for crime, but it’s a fact.  It’s the guys on top putting on this kind of pressure that should be doing the perp walk:  the Big Bad BP Wolves, not their mixxed-up scapegoat.

****

Re-prints permitted with credit to Greg Palast

Greg Palast is the author of Vultures’ Picnic, which centers on his investigation of BP, bribery and corruption in the oil industry. Palast, reports can be seen on BBC-TV and Britain’s Channel 4.

You can read Vultures’ Picnic, “Chapter 1: Goldfinger,” or download it, at no charge: click here.

Under the Reading Lamp — March 7, 2012

ANALYSIS: The End of Health Insurance as We Know It?
Wendell Potter, News Report:
Bertolini ticked off a number of reasons why providing basic health insurance to Americans was no longer viable — changes in demographics and the economy and, of course, health care reform at both the state and federal levels. What he did not say was that the standard operating practices of the industry were simply not sustainable and actually contributed more to the demise of the business model than any external factors.
HR 347 & S 1794 aka The ‘Trespass Bill’ of 2011 Criminalizes Protest…
Jeanine Molloff, Op-Ed:
“The legislators responsible for bringing this legislative excrement to life are Representative Tom Rooney (R-Fla.) in the House of Representatives and Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT.) leading the Senate version. The ‘Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011’ sounds more like an appropriations bill authorizing monies for federal grounds landscaping. This bill potentially makes peaceable protest anywhere in the U.S.–a federal felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.”
Nurses Fight for a Dose of Tax JusticeNurses for Tax Justice photo by SJSEEM
Sarah Anderson, News Analysis:
National Nurses United (NNU), a union representing registered nurses, is a major, visible force in the growing movements challenging corporate power. One of their key demands is a financial transaction tax: a small fee on each trade of stocks, derivatives, bonds, and other financial instruments, which could generate massive revenues while discouraging high-frequency speculative trading.
99% Spring April 9-15
Dave Johnson, Video Compilation:
“Action Coming — Spread The Word! This is a Big Deal, just look at end of this post for the list of organizations that are signed on to this so far – and more coming. April 9-15, 2012, the 99% Spring: 100,000 Americans will train for non-violent direct action. Sign up. And spread it around. This spring, the 99% Spring.We will gather across America, 100,000 strong, in homes, places of worship, campuses and the streets to train ourselves in non-violent action and join together in the work of reclaiming our country. History is calling; it’s time to step up.”
Jim Hightower | Woody at 100
Jim Hightower, Op-Ed: “In these times of tinkle-down economics — with the money powers thinking that they’re the top dogs and that the rest of us are just a bunch of fire hydrants — we need for the hard-hitting (yet uplifting) musical stories, social commentaries and inspired lyrical populism of Woody Guthrie. This year will mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of this legendary grassroots troubadour, who came out of the Oklahoma dust bowl to rally America’s “just plain folks” to fight back against the elites who were knocking them down.”
Obama Releases Housing Plan to Help Military Veterans Who Were Victims of Illegal Foreclosures
Travis Waldron, News Report:
Obama’s plan seeks to remedy those problems by providing relief to members who sold their homes at a loss due to a permanent change in station, and provides $10 billion from mortgage services to bolster the Veterans Housing Benefits Program. It also draws on the recent mortgage fraud settlement between the government and major lenders to force banks to compensate service-members who were improperly foreclosed upon by paying lost equity, plus interest, and $116,785.
State Investigators, Workers Cite Labor Abuses in Warehouse EmpireLilly Fowler, News Analysis: “As a warehouse worker in the Inland Empire region of Southern California, the nation’s biggest distribution hub for consumer goods, Jorge Soto handles shipments for retail giant Walmart every day. But Soto, who works for a subcontractor, claims that, along with routine jobs such as unloading trucks, he also has been ordered to perform an illegal task: falsifying employees’ time sheets to cheat them out of getting the minimum wage.”
Limbaugh Launched 46 Personal Attacks on Fluke; He Apologized for Two Words
Research:
“Rush Limbaugh has ‘sincerely apologize[d]’ for using the words ‘slut’ and ‘prostitute’ to describe Georgetown Law student Sandra Fluke on two separate days and claimed that he ‘did not mean a personal attack’ on her. These statements fail to account for the other 44 times that Limbaugh personally insulted Fluke over the course of three days. Fluke testified before the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, much of her testimony was about women who take birth control for medical reasons.”
Monsanto’s Roundup Shown to be Ravaging Butterfly PopulationMike Barrett, News Report: A 2011 study published in the journal Insect Conservation and Diversity found that increasing acreage of genetically modified Roundup Ready corn and soybeans is heavily contributing to the decline in monarch butterfly populations within North America. Milkweed, a plant butterflies rely on for habitat and food, is being destroyed by the heavy use of glyphosate-based pesticides and Roundup Ready crops. Over the past 17 years, the monarch butterfly population in central Mexico has declined, reaching an all-time low in 2009-2010.
Dean Baker | Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and the Bowles-Simpson Commission ReportDean Baker, Op-Ed: “Parents often find it useful to tell their children about non-existent creatures to instill habits of good behavior. It seems that many political leaders are going the same route. How else can one explain the repeated references to the Bowles-Simpson commission report and its advice to the country on how to reduce the deficit? The point here is a simple one: there was no Bowles-Simpson commission report. There was no document that commanded the necessary majority of commission members to be adopted as an official report.”
The True Cost of Tar Sands
Joe Romm, Video Report:
“What does environmental devastation actually look like? At TEDxVictoria, photographer Garth Lenz shares shocking photos of the Alberta Tar Sands mining project — and the beautiful (and vital) ecosystems under threat. This powerful talk is for anyone who thinks the tar sands are just another source of oil — and that the only source of greenhouse gases from the tar sands come from burning gas and oil.”
The Best Reason for the Very Rich to be Paying A Lot More in Taxes
Paul Buchheit , Op-Ed:
“The super-rich like to believe their own initiative and creativity have been the primary drivers of growth in technology and science and business and medicine. Some innovative business leaders deserve credit for putting the pieces together on specific initiatives. But the pieces themselves were put together over many years by thousands of less conspicuous people.”
Where are the Progressive Christians?
Dekker Dreyer, Op-Ed:
“Where are the left-wing Christian voices in American politics? The rise of Rick Santorum to a contender position in the GOP primary race, alongside the current debate over contraception has shown proof positive that Christian conservative politics are near the height of their power in guiding the national conversation. This month, while questioning President Obama’s Christianity, Bill O’Reilly said, “A Christian wouldn’t be telling other Christians that you have to put your belief system aside and do what the government tells you as far as birth control or anything else.”
The ‘All Natural’ Scam: How to Shop Healthy For You and Your Family
Andre Evans, News Analysis:
“How do you make an educated food purchase that will protect you and your family from harmful yet common food contaminants? You must be privy to the subtleties. Many people today accept ‘all natural’ as a stamp of integrity for their food. FDA regulations, however, make the guidelines for authenticity rather lenient, and capitalize on the unawareness of the average buyer with strong advertising.”
How to Fund an American Police State
Stephan Salisbury, Op-Ed:
“Government budgets at every level now include allocations aimed at fighting an ephemeral “War on Terror” in the United States. A vast surveillance and military buildup has taken place nationwide to conduct a pseudo-war against what can be imagined, not what we actually face. The costs of this effort, started by the Bush administration and promoted faithfully by the Obama administration, have been, and continue to be, virtually incalculable. In the process, public service and the public imagination have been weaponized.”
Greg Palast | BP Settlement Sells Out Victims
Greg Palast, Op-Ed: And here’s the sick, sick part. This is exactly the same thing BP did in the Exxon Valdez case. It was BP, not Exxon, that was responsible for stopping the spread of oil in Alaska in 1989. In Alaska, decades ago, BP told federal regulators it would have oil spill “boom” (the rubber that corrals the spreading stuff) ready to roll out if a tanker hit. When the Exxon Valdez struck Bligh Reef, BP’s promised equipment wasn’t there: BP had lied.
BP Settlement Leaves Most Complex Claims Unresolved
Abrahm Lustgarten, News Report:
The payout agreed to Friday is BP’s best estimate of what it will cost to meet outstanding claims, but is not capped and could wind up being higher. As of now, though, the amount is significantly less than many had expected and does not appear to require BP to spend any money that it had not already agreed to pay. The settlement will come out of a $20 billion fund set aside in June 2010 by BP at the behest of President Obama to cover claims from disaster victims.
The Right-Wing Effort to Smear Obama and Liberals as ‘Anti-Israel’
Ben Adler, Op-Ed:
On Sunday ECI released a thirty-minute Web video intended to build a case that Obama has not been a loyal friend to Israel. Its documentation takes the same approach as the ads. They quote partisans leveling criticisms against Obama rather than offering strong independent evidence. They ask what Obama’s real approach to Israel has been and then answer with a long quote from Peter Berkowitz, a senior fellow at the very conservative Hoover Institution.
Anthony Gucciardi | Genetically Modified Food Labeling Initiative Gains Momentum
Anthony Gucciardi, News Report:
Advocates have repeatedly demonstrated their resistance to GMOs, with more than 500 activist groups banding together over the Just Label It campaign. One petition to the FDA, filed by the Center for Food Safety, called upon the agency to require labels for GMO-containing foods. Shockingly, the petition received 85,000 signatures in support. The number marked the most ever for a federal food petition.Deadline Today to tell Congress to Label GMOs! http://t.co/4e0oPCxl
Free Trade Or Democracy, Can’t Have BothD
ave Johnson, Op-Ed:
Recent stories about the conditions of Apple’s contractors in China have opened many people’s eyes about where our jobs, factories, industries and economy have been going, and why. The stories exposed that workers live 6-to-12-to-a-room in dormitories, get rousted at midnight to work surprise 12-hour shifts, get paid very little, use toxic chemicals, suffer extreme pollution of the environment, etc. Is this “trade?” Or is it something else?
America the Possible: A Manifesto
Gus Speth, Op-Ed:
We work the media and other channels to raise public awareness of our issue, and try to shift public understanding and discourse in our favor. We lobby Congress, the current administration, and government agencies with well-crafted and sensible proposals. When necessary, we go to court. With modest resources, we devote what we can to the electoral process and to candidates for public office. And we hope somehow that lightning will strike and events will move in our favor.
What If Corporations Couldn’t Use Our Commons for Free?Invest in Sharing PhotoA cushion of reliable income is a wonderful thing. It can help pay for basic necessities. It can be saved for rainy days or used to pursue happiness on sunny days. It can encourage people to take entrepreneurial risks, care for friends, or volunteer for community service. Conversely, the absence of reliable income is a terrible thing. It heightens anxiety and fear. It diminishes our ability to cope with crises and transitions. It traps many families on the knife’s edge of poverty, and makes it harder for poor people to rise.
The Opposite of Snobbery
David Sirota, Op-Ed:
N+1 magazine notes that since the late 1970s, when Santorum was enjoying his taxpayer-subsidized higher education, “the price of tuition at U.S. colleges has increased over 900 percent.” In 2011, that meant the average total cost of a year at a public university was $21,477, up 5.4 percent in just 12 months. Thanks to cuts to programs that make college and vocational education more affordable — cuts Santorum supported in Congress