Wall Street’s Mutant Gene Marches On
by Jim Hightower
Posted June 14, 2012
Perhaps there’s some sort of greed gene that prompts compulsive outbreaks of financial graspiness by giant bankers. How else to explain the chronic gouges, excesses and scandals that we’re getting from this one, small subgroup of human beings?
Their latest reach is into the pockets of low- and modest-income college students who need federal student aid to help cope with today’s ever-escalating education costs. For decades, this financial assistance has come in the form of simple checks written to the students by the aid program or administered directly by the schools. But, of course, such straightforward simplicity begged the obvious question: How can we expect Wall Street bankers to grab a chunk of this student education money if it’s not routed directly through them?
Thus, from deep inside a particularly inventive banker somewhere, the greed gene shouted: “debit cards!” Rather than disbursing the aid by checks, banks get universities to issue debit cards for students to use to withdraw their aid funds electronically. More…
Five Facts That Put America to Shame
by Paul Buchheit
Posted June 2, 2012
We give prison sentences for smoking marijuana, but not for billion-dollar fraud. About half of our world-leading prison population is in jail for non-violent drug offenses. Americans have also been arrested for handing out free food in a park. Mothers in Ohio and Connecticut were jailed for enrolling their kids in out-of-district schools. As of 2003 in California there were 344 individuals serving sentences of 25 years or more for shoplifting as a third offense, in many cases after two non-violent offenses. How does the market deal with this steady tide of petty crime? It strives for more. The new trend of private prisons is dependent on maintaining a sizable prison population to guarantee profits, with no incentive for rehabilitation.
We’ve betrayed the young people who were advised to stay in school. Over 40% of recent college graduates are living with their parents, dealing with government loans that average $27,200. The unemployment rate for young people is about 50%. More than 350,000 Americans with advanced degrees applied for food stamps in 2010.
As Washington lobbyists endeavor to kill a proposed bill to reduce the interest rates on student debt, federal loans remain readily available, and so colleges go right on increasing their tuition. Meanwhile, corporations hold $2 trillion in cash while looking for investments and employees in foreign countries, and American students are forced to accept menial positions. More…
First Super Weeds, Now Super Insects – Thanks to Monsanto
by Dr. J Mercola
Posted June 1, 2012
A new generation of insect larvae is eating the roots of genetically engineered corn intended to be resistant to such pests. The failure of Monsanto’s genetically modified Bt corn could be the most serious threat ever to a genetically modified crop in the U.S.
Monsanto and the EPA swore that the genetically engineered corn would only harm insects. The Bt-toxin produced inside the plant would be completely destroyed in the human digestive system and would not have any impact at all on consumers, they claimed. Alas, they’ve been proven wrong on that account as well, because not only is Bt corn producing resistant “super-pests,” researchers have also found that the Bt-toxin can indeed wreak havoc on human health.
Bt-Toxin is now found in many people’s blood! More...
How Corporations and Local Governments Rob the Poor Blind
By Barbara Ehrenreich
Posted May 18, 2012
The trick is to rob them in ways that are systematic, impersonal, and almost impossible to trace to individual perpetrators.
Lenders, including major credit companies as well as payday lenders, have taken over the traditional role of the street-corner loan shark, charging the poor insanely high rates of interest. When supplemented with late fees (themselves subject to interest), the resulting effective interest rate can be as high as 600% a year, which is perfectly legal in many states.
It’s not just the private sector that’s preying on the poor. Local governments are discovering that they can partially make up for declining tax revenues through fines, fees, and other costs imposed on indigent defendants, often for crimes no more dastardly than driving with a suspended license. And if that seems like an inefficient way to make money, given the high cost of locking people up, a growing number of jurisdictions have taken to charging defendants for their court costs and even the price of occupying a jail cell. More..
NATO Heads for Chicago
by Stephen Lendman
Posted May 11, 2012
Dozens of NATO heads of state and other top officials plan attending. Large delegations are coming with them. So are similar partner nation contingents. The Chicago Tribune and Sun Times reported on elaborate security preparations. Hundreds of state police and National Guard forces are involved. So aren’t thousands of Chicago cops.
Secret Service staff also will be out in force. The ACLU said they’ll set up a security perimeter around McCormick Place. Part of Lake Shore Drive will be closed. It’s one of the city’s main arteries. Enormous amounts of anti-scale steel fencing will be erected. Thousands of linear feet of concrete barriers will be strategically placed. Secret Service spokesman George Ogilve declined to give specifics. The ACLU threatened court action unless details are released well in advance.
At issue are fundamental freedoms. They include speech and assembly rights. They’re also about police refraining from crackdowns on nonviolent protesters. Will Chicago respect what NATO and Washington never do on so-called “liberating” missions? Activists want to know. The city has an odious reputation. More on that below. Permits were granted for six protest events. Other groups got them earlier. Chicago cops cracked down anyway. A Secret Service/Chicago police business panel session revealed one planned tactic.
“Extraction teams” will snatch and grab protesters from crowds. Who for what reasons wasn’t explained. More…
What the U.S. can’t learn from Finland about ed reform
by Valerie Strauss
Posted Apriol 25, 2012
As the United States is looking to reform its public school system, education experts have increasingly looked at other countries for examples on what works and what won’t. The current administration has turned its attention strong performing foreign school systems. As a consequence, recent education summits hosted in the United States have given room to international education showcases.
First of all, although Finland can show the United States what equal opportunity looks like, Americans cannot achieve equity without first implementing fundamental changes in their school system. The following three issues require particular attention. More…
Arizona’s Private Prisons: A Bad Bargain
by Sasha Abramsky
Posted April 8, 2012
In mid-February, the Arizona chapter of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) released a report on the impact of private prisons in the state. Private Prisons: the Public’s Problem concluded that Arizona overpaid for private prison services between 2008 and 2010 to the tune of $10 million, and that the services it received were shoddy at best: malfunctioning alarm systems, fences with holes in them, staff who didn’t follow basic procedures and many other failings. All told, the state’s auditor general documented 157 serious security failings across five facilities that hold in-state prisoners. (There are three additional private prisons.) At least twenty-eight riots were also reported.
“The main purpose of a prison is to reduce crime,” said the AFSC’s report. “The only measurement available of how well a prison performs this function is its recidivism rates.” Yet, “none of the corporations operating in Arizona measure recidivism.” The report noted that at the private facilities there were higher staff turnover and lower staff qualifications, as well as more cases of violence than in state prisons. More…
The incentives of a for profit private prison system are all wrong. Their inventive is to maximize the number of inmates for maximium profit. A state based system has the incentive to minimize the number of inmates to reduce costs. Withe the huge growth in private prison systems, is it any wonder that the US inmate population is exploding?
Cut Wall Street Out! How States Can Finance Their Own Economic Recovery
by Ellen Hodgson Brown
Posted April 1, 2012
Pouring money into the private banking system has only fixed the economy for bankers and the wealthy; it has not done much to address either the fundamental problem of unemployment or the debt trap so many Americans find themselves in.
In this dark firmament, however, one bright star shines. The sole state to actually gain jobs is an unlikely candidate for the distinction: North Dakota. Yet, since 2000, the state’s GNP has grown 56 percent, personal income has grown 43 percent and wages have grown 34 percent. The state not only has no funding problems, but this year it has a budget surplus of $1.3 billion, the largest it has ever had.
Why is North Dakota doing so well, when other states are suffering the ravages of a deepening credit crisis? Its secret may be that it has its own credit machine. North Dakota is the only state in the Union to own its own bank. More…
Breaking Up with the Sierra Club
by Sandra Steingraber
Posted March 29, 2012
Dear Sierra Club,
I’m through with you. I was proud to be affiliated with you. I hoped to live up to the moniker you bestowed upon me.
But more than a month has past since your executive director, Michael Brune, admitted in Time magazine that the Sierra Club had, between 2007 and 2010, clandestinely accepted $25 million from the fracking industry, with most of the donations coming from Chesapeake Energy. Corporate Crime Reporter was hot on the trail of the story when it broke in Time.
The hard truth: National Sierra Club served as the political cover for the gas industry and for the politicians who take their money and do their bidding. It had a hand in setting in motion the wheels of environmental destruction and human suffering. It was complicit in bringing extreme fossil fuel extraction onshore, into our communities, farmlands, and forests, and in blowing up the bedrock of our nation. And I can’t get over it. More…
Dow and Monsanto Join Forces to Poison America’s Heartland
by Richard Schiffman
Posted February 24, 2012
In a match that some would say was made in hell, the nation’s two leading producers of agrochemicals have joined forces in a partnership to reintroduce the use of the herbicide 2,4-D, one half of the infamous defoliant Agent Orange, which was used by American forces to clear jungle during the Vietnam War. These two biotech giants have developed a weed management program that, if successful, would go a long way toward a predicted doubling of harmful herbicide use in America’s corn belt during the next decade.
Large-scale industrial farming has grown dependent on ever-increasing applications of agrochemicals. Some have compared this to a drug addict who requires larger and larger fixes to stay high. Herbicide use has increased steadily over time as weeds develop resistance and need to be doused with more and deadlier chemicals to kill them. This, in turn. requires more aggressive genetic engineering of crops that can withstand the escalating chemical assault. More…