Detecting What Unravels Our Society – Bottom-up And Top-down

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By Staff of The Nader Page – The unraveling of a society’s institutions, stability and reasonable order does not sound alarms to forewarn the citizenry, apart from economic yardsticks measuring poverty, jobs, wages, health, savings, profits and other matters economic. However, we do have some signs that we should not allow ourselves to ignore. Maliciousness, profiteering and willful ignorance on the part of our political and corporate rulers undoubtedly contribute to worsening injustice. Let’s consider some ways that we as citizens, far too often, collectively allow this to happen. Democracy is threatened when citizens refuse to participate in power, whether by not voting, not thinking critically about important issues, not showing up for civic activities or allowing emotional false appeals and flattery by candidates and parties to sway them on important issues. Without an informed and motivated citizenry, the society starts to splinter. If people do not do their homework before Election Day and know what to expect of candidates and of themselves, the political TV ads and the plutocrats’ campaign cash will take control of what is on the table and what is off the table. This leads to the most important changes a majority of Americans want ending up on the floor.

Biomass Industry’s Hollow Self-Regulatory Scheme Has Been Exposed

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By Adam Macon and Sasha Stashwick for AlterNet – If we want clean air and a livable planet, cutting down trees for fuel is one of the most counterproductive things we can do. Standing forests are a critical tool in the fight against climate change. Cutting trees down to use as fuel in energy production—known as biomass energy or bioenergy—is one of the most counterproductive things we can do if our goal is clean air and a livable planet. Despite this reality, policymakers around the world have invested heavily in bioenergy. Nowhere is this more true than in the European Union, where bioenergy policies in the U.K. and other member states enable billions in subsidies each year to flow to the balance sheets of large utility companies, padding their profits and financing the conversion of old coal-fired power plants to burn wood. Meanwhile, the evidence of the climate and ecological harm wrought by the biomass industry continues to mount. Yet too many policymakers remain unwilling to acknowledge the impacts of bioenergy and adequately limit its growth. They argue that the industry’s impacts on the climate, forests, and people are still uncertain, that we need more studies, more “proof.”

18 States And D.C. Sue Betsy DeVos Over For-Profit College Loan Rules

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By Lydia O’Connor for The Huffington Post – Eighteen states and the District of Columbia are suing Education Secretary Betsy DeVos over her decision to suspend a rule that helps student loan borrowers who were defrauded by for-profit colleges. The lawsuit, filed Thursday in federal district court in Washington, D.C., was led by Massachusetts and joined by 18 other attorneys general. It takes aim at DeVos’ decision to freeze an Obama-era rule known as the “borrower defense to repayment,” which helped forgive student loan debt for people whose for-profit colleges closed amid fraud accusations, leaving students without degrees and with piles of debt. “Across the US, students and families are drowning in unaffordable student loan debt while predatory, for-profit schools rake it in,” Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey tweeted.

These For-Profit Schools Are ‘Like A Prison’

From propublica.org

By Sarah Carr, Francesca Berardi, Zoë Kirsch and Stephen Smiley for Pro Publica and Slate – An alternative school for sixth- through 12th-graders with behavioral or academic problems, Paramount occupied a low-slung, brick and concrete building on a dead-end road in hard-luck Reading, Pennsylvania, a city whose streets are littered with signs advertising bail bondsmen, pay-day lenders, and pawn shops. Camelot Education, the for-profit company that ran Paramount under a contract with the Reading school district, maintained a set of strict protocols: No jewelry, book bags, or using the water fountain or bathroom without permission. Just as it still does at dozens of schools, the company deployed a small platoon of “behavioral specialists” and “team leaders”…

Profit Making Colleges That Loaded Students With Debt, Now In Government

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By Annie Waldman for Pro Publication – Taylor Hansen lobbied to weaken regulation of for-profit colleges. Since he joined the Education Department, it’s started doing just that. Until June 2016, Taylor Hansen lobbied for the largest trade group of for-profit colleges. At the forefront of its agenda: eliminating a rule known as “gainful employment,” which can take away federal funding from for-profit colleges if their graduates fail to earn enough to repay student loans. Last week, that goal started to become a reality. The U.S. Department of Education delayed the deadline for colleges to comply with certain provisions of gainful employment, saying it plans to review the rule.

Going After The Pain Profiteers

Newly leaked TPP text "is clearly intended to cater to the interests of the pharmaceutical industry," writes Dr. Deborah Gleeson in her analysis. (Photo: ep_jhu/flickr/cc)

By Sarah Anderson for Inequality.org – A labor leader whose son was a victim of the opioid epidemic has inspired a campaign to crack down on irresponsible drug industry CEOs. Travis Bornstein never told his friends about his son Tyler’s drug problem. He was too embarrassed. Then, on September 28, 2014, Tyler’s body was found in a vacant lot in Akron, Ohio. The 23-year-old had become addicted to opioid pain killers after several sports-related injuries and surgeries. Unable to afford long-term treatment, he ultimately turned to a cheaper drug — the heroin that killed him. “Now I have no choice but to speak out,” the elder Bornstein, president of Teamsters Local 24 in Akron…

Within 4 Years, 4 Nonprofit Hospitals In NJ Pocketed $1.7 Billion In Profits

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By Lynn Petrovich for End The Illusion – Cumulative surplus for these four nonprofit entities totaled over $2.2 Billion, cash in the bank and/or Wall Street investments/brokerage firms. In addition to the above, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (EID #22-6029397), whose mission includes “promoting the health and health care of New Jerseyans and to support research, evaluation, learning and communication efforts that can improve the nation’s health” reported almost $10 Billion in surplus funds as of 12/31/14. In 2012, Barnabas Health, NJ’s largest nonprofit conglomerate, paid its outgoing CEO, Ronald Del Mauro (he was mentioned in my May 2011 request to Monmouth Medical Center), a precedent setting severance package of $21.6 million.

Legal Marijuana Systems Do Not Have To Be For Profit

(Photo: Ryan Kang, AP)

By Beau Kilmer for USA Today – As of last week, voters in California and seven other states have passed ballot initiatives to allow for-profit companies to produce, distribute and sell non-medical marijuana. With more than 65 million peopleliving in states that have passed marijuana legalization, and a Gallup poll showing that 60% of the country supports legalizing marijuana use, national legalization may seem inevitable. As goes California, so goes the nation, right? Not necessarily. Consider what happened with medical marijuana. California was the first state to allow medical marijuana, starting nearly 20 years ago.

Corporate Profits Are Way Up, Corporate Taxes Are Way Down

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By Hunter Blair for EPI – Since 1952, corporate profits as a share of the economy have risen dramatically (from 5.5 percent to 8.5 percent), while corporate tax revenues as a share of the economy have plummeted (from 5.9 percent to just 1.9 percent). This trend has worsened since the end of the Great Recession. Between 2010 and 2015, corporate profits averaged 9.2 percent of gross domestic product, while corporate income tax revenue averaged just 1.6 percent.

Getting Immigrants Out Of Detention Is Very Profitable

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By Steve Fisher for Mother Jones – Sofía was 19 when she fled El Salvador after receiving threats from a drug cartel. In late 2014, she was caught near San Diego by the US Border Patrol and sent to an immigration detention center in Eloy, Arizona. Following eight months in detention, she was desperate to reunite with her mother, who lives in Northern California. Like many detainees, Sofía was eligible for release on bond while awaiting her immigration court proceedings. But her bond, set at $15,000, was far more than she could afford.

Stop Suing Ex-Prisoners For Room And Board

Gov. Bruce Rauner recently vetoed a bill with the potential to reduce prison recidivism. (Hans Neleman / Getty Images)

By Alan Mills and David M. Shapiro for Chicago Tribune – Illinois prisons are in crisis. They are among the most overcrowded, understaffed and underfunded in the nation — but Gov. Bruce Rauner has established himself as a barrier to serious reform. The governor recently vetoed a bill with the potential to reduce recidivism. It would end the state’s practice of destroying the finances of former prisoners by going after their assets to recover the costs of incarcerating them. The bill had passed the House and Senate with bipartisan support. Even the Department of Corrections had no objection to it.

Eliminate Profit From Punishment

Every time an organization broadcasts their commitment to deep social change, while instead prioritizing one-dimensional results for their wealthy funders, the task of dismantling multilayered systems of destruction is lost in translation. (Photo: JT)

By Cedric Lawson for Inequality – In July 2010, Marissa Alexander, a young Black woman from Florida, faced the fight of her life only nine days after giving birth to her youngest daughter. Her estranged husband, Rico Gray, attacked, strangled, and threatened to kill Marissa in her own home. To get rid of Rico, Marissa fired a warning shot into the ceiling. The single shot injured no one. And yet she was subsequently charged with several criminal charges and incarcerated for a victimless crime.

National Grid Wants RI Ratepayers To Guarantee Its Profits

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By Steve Ahlquist for RI Future – National Grid is requesting that the Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission(RIPUC) approve a 20-year gas capacity contract” withAlgonquin Gas Transmission Company LLC(Algonquin) for natural gas transportation capacity and storage services onAlgonquin’s Access Northeast Project (ANE Project).” The multinational energy conglomerate not only wants Rhode Island ratepayers to subsidize the construction of fracked gas infrastructure, they want consumers to ensure that the project is profitable for the company.

Congressional Corruption Rescues Biofuel Profits

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By Almuth Ernsting for Independent Science News – Subsidies intended for next-generation cellulosic ethanol production are to be applied to a trivial improvement to corn ethanol refining technologies. Since cellulosic ethanol qualifies for much higher subsidies, this will significantly increase corn refinery profits and boost the demand for corn but will do nothing to combat climate change or promote energy independence. This is all thanks to an EPA policy to boost the previously (almost) non-existing cellulosic biofuel production in the US by widening and watering down the definition of that term.

Taking On America’s Prison Profiteers

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By Staff of Inequality.org – No place in the world imprisons people at a higher per capita rate than the state of Louisiana. And that incarceration pays — for the profiteers who run the state’s private prisons. For the incarcerated, a totally different story. In 1998, the New York Times described one of Louisiana’s privately run facilities, the Tallulah Correctional Center for Youth, as possibly the worst such prison in the nation, a site “rife with brutality, cronyism, and neglect.”