Category Archives: Poverty

Frack the poor! Industry lays out basic strategy

From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

Two environmental organizations will ask the state’s Office of Environmental Justice to review Range Resources’ past and future shale gas development practices to determine if the company has avoided drilling in wealthier neighborhoods and targeted poorer areas of the state.

The Center for Coalfield Justice and the Pennsylvania Chapter of the Sierra Club raised that question after they said Terry Bossert, Range’s vice president for legislative and regulatory affairs, told a Pennsylvania Bar Institute gathering in Harrisburg earlier this month, that the company tries to avoid siting its shale gas wells near “big houses” where residents might have the financial resources to challenge the industrial-type developments.

“We heard Range Resources say it sites its shale gas wells away from large homes where wealthy people live and who might have the money to fight such drilling and fracking operations,” said Patrick Grenter, an attorney and Center for Coalfield Justice executive director, who attended the lawyers’ forum. A handful of attorneys in the audience confirmed that account

Joanne Kilgour, an attorney and director of the Pennsylvania Chapter of the Sierra Club, who attended the meeting, said Mr. Bossert’s statements “pose significant environmental justice issues, and raise the question whether the companies coming into communities are really operating in the best interests of those communities.”

Chart of the day: Religion vs national income

People in rich countries are less religious than those in poor nations. . .with one notable exception especially helpful to Republican candidates. From the Pew Research Center:

BLOG Religion

They’re back: The Zombies from Wall Street

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation comes to Cleveland to look at the city’s growing bad mortgage crisis and finds a city almost as devastated as Detroit.

It’s a bad sign for other cities.

Via Journeyman Pictures:

The Zombies From Wall Street

FROM ABC’s program notes:

Next time the dinner party conversation turns to property values, consider this: in once-proud American neighbourhoods, two-storey houses are being dumped at auction for a few hundred dollars. Some are literally being given away.

In Cleveland, Ohio – once America’s economic powerhouse – it’s almost a daily event, a legacy of the banking villainy that gave us the GFC.

And now, believe it or not, the banks are playing havoc again.

Is this a family show? – Cleveland politician and activist, Jim Rokakis, when asked for a comment on the banks.

When reporter Paul Barry visited the Midwest city in 2007, “subprime” loans were pushing thousands of families into default. Many were evicted. Others just walked away, emptying out once thriving neighbourhoods.

Everybody’s gone. I’m the old lady on the street now. – East Cleveland resident Stephanie Benifield

Now Barry returns to Cleveland to find prices have plunged so far that many houses are worthless. Banks don’t even bother to foreclose on defaulters. And homeowners are now being stalked by “zombie mortgages”, which leave them liable for property taxes and maintenance costs they can’t afford, even if they’ve left their homes and declared bankruptcy.

Quote of the day: Setting the populist agenda

From Drake University law professor Anthony J. Gaughan, writing for United Press International:

The economic data make clear why populism is the dominant theme of the 2016 campaign.

Although America has the largest economy in the world, real wages have not gone up since 1972 because most workers have experienced stagnating incomes for decades. Across the country middle-income Americans face a precarious economic future. Median income has fallen in over 80 percent of America’s counties since 2000, a trend that is accelerating. Even mortality rates reflect growing income inequality. Poor and rural Americans now die at rates well above that of wealthy and urban Americans.

Meanwhile the rich just keep getting richer. A study by the Pew Research Center found that the median net worth of upper-income families is now 70 times greater than that of lower-income families. As of 2015, the 400 richest Americans had a combined wealth of $2.3 trillion. Over 75 percent of the nation’s wealth is held by 10 percent of the population, and the gap between the rich and the middle class in the United States is the highest ever measured.

America has become a nation of pervasive economic inequality. It’s no wonder, then, that the 2016 election has witnessed a populist uprising.

But class conflict does not flow only from the bottom up. It’s also a top-down phenomenon. Since the 1980s, rich Americans have maximized their share of the nation’s prosperity at the expense of the rest of the country. Adding insult to injury, a growing body of evidence suggests that many rich people today simply do not care about their fellow Americans. The old concept of noblesse oblige has declined among the wealthy to a disturbing degree.

Chart of the day II: The shame of the nation

Anyone looking for a reason for the dramatic rise of militant populism in the United States need look not farther than a report just released today by the United Nations Children’s Fund [UNICEF].

Innocenti Report Card 13, Fairness for Children: A league table of inequality in child well-being in rich countries [PDF] includes a chart that speaks volumes.

From the report:

This Report Card presents an overview of inequalities in child well-being in 41 countries of the European Union [EU[ and the Organisation for Economic  Co-operation and Development [OECD]. It focuses on ‘bottom-end inequality’ — the gap between children at the bottom and those in the middle — and addresses the question ‘how far behind are children being allowed to fall?’in income, education, health and life satisfaction.

In this chart, the United States ranks 30th of the 41 countries in terms of income inequality. But more tellingly, only Israel ranks worse in terms of child child poverty rates, with an astounding 26.3 percent of America’s children falling below the poverty line. Only Israel ranks worse:

The table ranks countries on the size of their relative income gap. This measure of bottom-end inequality captures how far the poorest children are being allowed to fall behind the ‘average’ child in each country. To provide context for the inequality measure, the table also displays the child poverty rate [measured as 50 per cent of the national median) for each country].

The table ranks countries on the size of their relative income gap. This measure of bottom-end inequality captures how far the poorest children are being allowed to fall behind the ‘average’ child in each country. To provide context for the inequality measure, the table also displays the child poverty rate [measured as 50 per cent of the national median) for each country].

Doubts linger after latest Ayotzinapa reports

BLOG Ayotz

On the night of 26 September 2014, students of the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College in rural Ayotzinapa in the state of Guerrero, Mexico,  commandeered buses to travel to demonstrations in Mexico City. Municipal police, members of the Guerreros Unidos, and, allegedly, elements of the military and federal police opened fire.

When it was over, six bodies lay on the ground, 25 others sustained gunshot and other wounds, and 43 students had vanished, kidnapped, allegedly by cartel members [previously].

The Mexican government insists that all 43 were killed by the cartel, their bodies incinerated in a rubbish dump, with their ashes then hurled into a river in plastic bags.

One bag recovered from the stream yielded enough DNA evidence to link it to one of the missing students, but the fate of the others remains unknown.

The latest development casts still more doubt on the official version.

From the Guardian:

Laboratory tests showed no evidence that Mexico’s missing 43 students were among the remains recovered from a rubbish tip, where the Mexican government insists the teacher trainees’ bodies were burned in an all-night inferno and the ashes tossed in an adjacent river.

The results, released to reporters late Friday night, dealt further discredit to the official investigation, which the attorney general at the time called “the historic truth”. The report comes as the Mexican government defended its original inquiry from accusations that it undermined the work of international investigators, who considered the fire theory implausible and scientifically impossible.

“These results do not scientifically support the attorney general’s office theory,” said Mario Patrón, director of the Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez Human Rights Centre, which was worked with the students’ families and the international investigations into the case.

“It was not possible to obtain, at this point, identifications of the genetic profiles in all the samples of skeletal remains,” along with other samples of hairs found on clothing, the attorney general’s office said in a statement. The results of one further process of DNA testing is still pending.

More from teleSUR English:

The Mexican government’s claims about what happened to the 43 forcibly disappeared Ayotzinapa students has been dealt another blow, this time by Austrian forensic experts who found no DNA links between the missing students and human remains treated as key evidence in the case, the Mexican
Investigators from Austria’s University of Innsbruck studied 53 samples of bones, hair, and clothing found on the bus where the students were traveling before they were kidnapped and almost a dozen samples from the garbage dump and river where authorities claim the bodies were burned and dumped.

But with no DNA links to the 43 students, none of the samples offered evidence of the whereabouts of the 43 students’ remains.

On 2 April ESE news service reported that results of other tests indicated that at least 17 people had been burned at the site:

Six experts have concluded that at least 17 people were incinerated at a garbage dump in the southern Mexican town of Cocula and said more tests would be carried out to determine whether the bodies of all 43 students who went missing in 2014 could have been burned to ashes there, the latest development in a case that has garnered international attention.

Ricardo Torres, spokesman for the group that conducted a new analysis at the site, said Friday there was “sufficient, even physically observable, evidence to affirm that there was a controlled, large-scale fire event” at the municipal dump in Cocula, located in the southern state of Guerrero.

He added that the skeletal remains that were collected “indicate that at least 17 adult human beings were incinerated at that place.”

In a statement to the press, Torres said the group of fire experts would only be able to establish whether a mass burning of 43 bodies occurred, as suspects detained in the case have told investigators, by carrying out large-scale tests in the coming weeks.

The families of the insist the government has been lying to them, a reasonable suspicion at the very least.

And given that scores of others had been “disappeared ” by cartels in the region in recent years, there’s even more reason to doubt.

More from Al Jazeera’s The Stream:

Mexico’s disappeared: Searching for the Ayotzinapa students

Program notes:

More than 18 months have passed since 43 students from Ayotzinapa, a town in Mexico’s southern Guerrero state, went missing and the accounts of what happened in 2014 are still unclear. The news sparked international outrage, and to this day, families and activists regularly take to the streets demanding answers.

Since then, a panel of independent experts from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) have come out poking holes at the government’s investigation. The IACHR’s involvement brought hope to people living in a country where there have reportedly been more than 20,000 disappearance cases in the past decade. But recently, Mexico’s Deputy Interior Minister Roberto Campa announced that the IACHR would cease work by the end of April, prompting some to question what will become of the 43 missing students’ case. Campa reaffirmed the government’s commitment to the investigation, emphasising his faith in the country’s institutions.

Joining this conversation:

  • John Gibler, Independent Journalist
  • Jose Carreño, Foreign News Editor – Excelsior
  • Citlalli Hernandez, Human Rights Campaigner, Serapaz
  • Everard Meade, Director, Transborder Institute

Quote of the day: It’s not like a video game

From Rory Fanning, former Army Ranger turned anti-war activist, writing in  Jacobin about a talk he gave to Chicago-area high school students:

“Is the military like Call of Duty?” one of the students asks, referring to a popular single-shooter video game.

“I’ve never played,” I respond. “Does it include kids who scream when their mothers and fathers are killed? Do a lot of civilians die?”

“Not really,” he says uncomfortably.

“Well, then it’s not realistic. Besides, you can turn off a video game. You can’t turn off war.”

A quiet settles over the room that even a lame joke of mine can’t break. Finally, after a silence, one of the kids suddenly says, “I’ve never heard anything like this before.”