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Mon, 28 Nov 2022
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Poverty-Stricken Struggle with War on Welfare

It's not easy for poor people to get cash assistance in America.

Prior to welfare reform in 1996, 68 of every 100 poor families with children received cash assistance through Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC). But by 2010, under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program which replaced AFDC, just 27 of every 100 poor families received benefits. The rolls shrunk as states were given wide discretion over eligibility, benefit levels, time limits, and how to use their TANF block grants which were frozen at 1996 funding levels and not indexed for inflation.
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© n/a
Georgia is known as a particularly difficult state when it comes to accessing TANF. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), in 2008-09 for every 100 poor families with children in Georgia, only eight received cash aid.

Now the state is set to make its TANF application process even more onerous.

On Monday, Republican Governor Nathan Deal signed a law requiring that people approved for TANF receive a drug test within forty-eight hours. They also have to pay a $17 fee for the test and it isn't refunded, even if a person passes. In addition to the financial burden, forty-eight hours can be tough for someone who may need to arrange for childcare, or find transportation to a testing site.

USA

Business as Usual: A Conspiracy of Whores

Santos Obama Clinton drug war
© Unknown
Colombian President Santos and President Obama, and Hillary Clinton dancing at the Havana nightclub in Cartagena
Whore: (verb) To debase oneself by doing something for unworthy motives, typically to make money.
-The New Oxford American Dictionary

It's a challenge to make adult sense of the absurdities coming out of Colombia right now.

I had first planned to write about the Drug War aspect of President Obama's summit meeting in Cartagena, since it's quite amazing when the right-wing president of Colombia publicly lobbies the US president to shift the Drug War from military operations against supply in Latin America to a more social approach against demand in the US. After all, Colombia is the highly militarized US showcase nation in the 40-year Drug War.

"Despite all of the efforts, the immense efforts, the huge costs, we have to recognize that the illicit drug business is prospering," Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos told the attending leaders. He even advocated a process of decriminalization, though he recognized this was only a "starting point to begin a discussion that we have been postponing for far too long."

This is real news.

Our Drug War is a military/police enterprise focused on attacking the supply of drugs coming from Latin America. Santos seems to concede it's a dismal failure. He also knows the accumulated conditions of that failure are so entrenched in the hemisphere that it's hard to even begin to discuss a way out.

Bizarro Earth

Psychopathic Endless War: Afghanistan and U.S. Strategy

Last weekend, in Kabul, Afghan Peace Volunteer friends huddled in the back room of their simple home. With a digital camera, glimpses and sounds of their experiences were captured, as warfare erupted three blocks away.
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© Reuters
Smoke rises from the site of an attack in Paktia province.

The fighting has subdued, but the video gives us a glimpse into chronic anxieties among civilians throughout Afghanistan. Later, we learned more: Ghulam awakens suddenly, well after midnight, and begins to pace through a room of sleeping people, screaming. Ali suddenly tears up, after an evening meal, and leaves the room to sit outside. Staring at the sky and the moon, he finds solace. Yet another puzzles over what brings people to the point of loaning themselves to possibly kill or be killed, over issues so easily manipulated by politicians.

I asked our friend, Hakim, who mentors the Afghan Peace Volunteers, if ordinary Afghans are aware that the U.S. has an estimated 400 or more Forward Operating Bases across Afghanistan and that it is planning to construct what will become the world's largest U.S. Embassy, in Kabul. Hakim thinks young people across Kabul are well aware of this. "Do they know," I asked, "that the U.S. Air Force has hired 60,000 - 70,000 analysts to study information collected through drone surveillance? The film footage amounts to the equivalent of 58,000 full length feature films. The Rand Corporation says that 100,000 analysts are needed to understand 'patterns of life' in Afghanistan."

Briefcase

Monsanto Threatens Vermont With Legal Action if it Passes GMO Labeling Bill

monsanto

Things are heating up on the genetic engineering front in the state of Vermont, where an overwhelming 96 percent of Vermonters vehemently support "right to know" legislation that mandates full disclosure of genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) on food labels. But according to Ronnie Cummins from the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), Monsanto is now threatening to sue the state of Vermont should it dare to pass such legislation, which has stalled it in committee.

H.722, also known as the Vermont Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act, would require any food product that contains GMOs to be labeled as such. It would also prohibit GMO-containing foods from being labeled "all natural" or "naturally grown," which is quite common today, including even on some food products sold at health food grocers.

If passed, H.722 will make Vermont the first U.S. state to take a stand for transparency in food labeling, which will set a precedent for the other 49 states to mimic. And since numerous polls have showed that the vast majority of Americans from all states are in favor of GMO labeling, it will only be a matter of time before every state legislature is forced to come to terms with the GMO issue, or at least address it.

Star of David

Unexpected Turns in the Israeli-Iranian Duel

Catherine Ashton
© Unknown
Catherine Ashton, European Union's High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
Quite apart from its continued oppression and dispossession of the Palestinians, Israel has a long record of murdering its political opponents, and is widely believed to have been responsible for the assassination of five Iranian nuclear scientists in the last two years, as well as for introducing the Stuxnet virus into Iran's computer systems -- clear acts of state terrorism. -- Patrick Seale

Although it is too early to make a judgement, it looks as if Israel's Iran policy has back-fired and may result in a very different outcome from the one Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu has long sought.

Israel's thinking these past three years has been that punitive sanctions, cyber warfare and the assassination of Iran's nuclear scientists must eventually force a crippled Islamic Republic to agree to 'zero enrichment' of uranium - that is to say to dismantle its entire nuclear programme. This, it was hoped, would open the way for 'regime change' in Tehran.

To bring about sufficiently severe pressure on Iran, Israel's strategy has been to threaten to attack. It calculated -- rightly as it turned out -- that the United States and its allies would not dare call its bluff. Instead -- to head off an Israeli attack, which they feared could trigger a regional war with unpredictable and potentially catastrophic consequences -- they worked to bring Iran's economy to its knees.

Israel's strategy was working. Everything seemed to be going its way. Punitive sanctions on Iran were beginning to bite. Impatient for regime change, pro-Israeli propagandists in the United States had even started to call for covert action in support of the Iranian opposition.

Play

French economy & Presidential elections with Max Keiser

austerity
© BBC
In this edition of the show Max interviews Gonzalo Lira from LiraSPG.com. He talks about the primary economic issues for France on the eve of the presidential elections both nationally and in EU.

Gonzalo Lira is an American novelist, filmmaker and economic blogger. Starting in 2010, Lira began contributing economic analysis to Zero Hedge, Naked Capitalism, Seeking Alpha and Business Insider; in Zero Hedge, one of his posts was the second most read of 2010.


Comment: Economic perspectives on French elections, Spain and Greece. For the inside story on Sarkozy's "9/11" moment he hopes will win him another term as President, see: New Sott Report: Toulouse Shootings: Mohamed Merah Sacrificed To Give Sarkozy Election Win?


Bad Guys

Sarkozy's Last Stand

Antoine Peillon's new book connects the dots between Nicolas Sarkozy and rampant tax evasion in France.

Sarkozy napoleon
© Lobofakes.com
Après Sarkozy, le chaos!" Down to the last straw, as polls show him in dead heat with his rival, Francois Hollande, Nicolas Sarkozy issued a threatening prediction of the economic anarchy sure to rain down on France, and then Europe, if Hollande is elected President in the next few weeks. And indeed, the last time French socialists won, in 1981, stock markets plunged, auguring poorly for Mitterand's economic program, which caused inflation and currency appreciation. But according to Ségolene Royal, who ran against Sarkozy five years ago and was once married to Hollande, the real reason Sarkozy so badly wants to remain in the Elysée is because the French presidential office comes with the perk of prosecutorial immunity.

It's hard to remember that a man so roundly hated today aroused something of a wild hope during his first campaign, with his talk of "réforme" and "rupture" and his great promise to reverse the sense of decline that pervaded France. But Sarkozy has not been all good. Though the country isn't yet in flames, Sarkozy never quite managed to pull France out of the crisis. On his watch, France lost its AAA credit rating, the deficit grew by 632 billion euros (it is now Europe's largest, in nominal terms), exports stagnated, and unemployment remained unchanged.

Binoculars

Total Surveillance State: The NSA's Attack on Freedom

Five interviews on expanding domestic surveillance programs in the US from Democracy Now!

National Security Agency Whistleblower William Binney on Growing State Surveillance

In his first television interview since he resigned from the National Security Agency over its domestic surveillance program, William Binney discusses the NSA's massive power to spy on Americans and why the FBI raided his home after he became a whistleblower.

Binney was a key source for investigative journalist James Bamford's recent exposé in Wired Magazine about how the NSA is quietly building the largest spy center in the country in Bluffdale, Utah. The Utah spy center will contain near-bottomless databases to store all forms of communication collected by the agency, including private emails, cell phone calls, Google searches and other personal data.


Sherlock

Corruption in China: Bo Xilai Scandal Could Unravel Everything

Bo Xilai
© Lintao Zhang/Getty Image
One of the defining characteristics of EVERY boom is the presence of a small elite seeking to enrich itself through graft, corruption, and unethical behavior.

When the music stops and the boom busts, these same people are frequently put to the sword of public opinion. Think Bernie Madoff, Ken Lay, and Silvio Berlusconi.

The Chinese economic "miracle" of the past three decades will prove to be NO EXCEPTION.

I'm convinced that history will one day show that corrupt Communist party officials, in cahoots with shady developers and construction moguls, systematically plundered the Chinese economy, getting rich off the hard work and savings of the average person.

It's been happening on an unimaginable scale... and the fuse for the whole rotten mess to explode may have just been lit with this Bo Xilai scandal. To review, briefly

2 + 2 = 4

Santorum Plays the Elitist Card

Rick Santorum thinks making college affordable for all is elitist. How else are Americans going to find good-paying jobs?

Santorum
© Scott Olson / Getty Images
Rick Santorum speaks at a campaign rally in Lansing, Mich., on February 27.
Say what you will about this era's Republican presidential candidates, they at least have chutzpah.

Millionaire blue-blood George W. Bush pretended to be a down-home cowboy. Two-time divorcee and longtime Washington influence peddler Newt Gingrich struts around preaching about traditional family values and insisting he's a D.C. outsider. Now, topping them all is Rick Santorum, who last week declared that only "snobs" support efforts to make a college education more accessible to all Americans.

Santorum, of course, has not one, not two, but a whopping three separate degrees, two of which come from public universities - that is, two that were taxpayer-subsidized, courtesy of the "Big Government" Santorum now claims to loathe.

Hypocritical - and dare I say, snobbish - as it is for someone with such a pedigree to attack President Obama's college affordability initiatives, Santorum did inadvertently stumble into a significant question: Is higher education for everyone? The answer today is not necessarily, but that's precisely because of the affordability problem Obama aims to solve.