Showing posts from December 25, 2015

Why it took 36 years to compensate Iran hostage victims

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[The background on this seemingly weird decision and process. In 1979, the U.S. Embassy in Tehran was overrun by militant Iranian students who took 53 people captive for 444 days. The ordeal left a long-lasting toll and no chance of Iranian compensation. Now Congress has changed that under the new massive spending legislation: Survivors or their families will get up to $4.4 million each. *RON*]

Gwen Ifill, David Herszenhorn, PBS News Hour, 24 December 2015


GWEN IFILL: The Iran hostage crisis was one of the defining moments of the 1970s, and it fractured a relationship between two nations that has never healed.

Now, 36 years after it began, the former hostages are finally getting compensation. It was November 4, 1979. The U.S. Embassy in Tehran was overrun by militant Iranian students. Eventually, 53 American hostages, many of them diplomats, were held. Some were paraded around, exposed to mock firing squads and beatings. Some were pla…

17 of the Worst Corporate Crimes of 2015

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[And the beat goes on... The ongoing corporate crime wave shows no signs of abating. *RON*]
By Phil MatteraDirt Diggers Digest / AlterNet, 18 December 2015

The ongoing corporate crime wave showed no signs of abating in 2015. BP paid a record $20 billion to settle the remaining civil charges relating to the Deepwater Horizon disaster (on top of the $4 billion in previous criminal penalties), and Volkswagen is facing perhaps even greater liability in connection with its scheme to evade emission standards.

Other automakers and suppliers were hit with large penalties for safety violations, including a $900 million fine (and deferred criminal prosecution) for General Motors, a record civil penalty of $200 million for Japanese airbag maker Takata, penalties of $105 million and $70 million for Fiat Chrysler, and $70 million for Honda.

The Terrible Things That Happen When Santa Claus Visits CEOs

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["One CEO was off the charts. McKesson CEO John Hammergren pocketed $112 million in fully deductible "performance pay" in 2014. This included more than $60 million in stock options and more than $50 million in stock and bonuses tied to performance criteria. That translates into a $39 million taxpayer subsidy for the pharmaceutical company, assuming a 35 percent corporate tax rate." *RON*]
By Sarah Anderson and Scott Klinger, AlterNet, 24 December 2015
This week marks the 20th anniversary of an epic boondoggle in US policy-making history. On Dec. 20, 1995, a tax rule went into effect that was supposed to rein in CEO pay. Boy, did it backfire.

That year, the gap between pay for large company CEOs and average workers ran 180 to 1. Today, it stands at 373 to 1.

How did this reform go so very, very wrong? The idea was to put a $1 million cap on corporate tax deductions for executive pay, with the idea that boards might be loath to …

ISIS document sanctions human organ harvesting

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[Gosh - they've been taken over by market fundamentalists!! A U.S. raid found ISIS document sanctioning the harvesting of human organs, raising concerns that group may be trafficking in body parts. *RON*]
By Warren Strobel, Jonathan Landay and Phil Stewart, Reuters / Al Arabiya, 25 December 2015
Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has sanctioned the harvesting of human organs in a previously undisclosed ruling by the group’s Islamic scholars, raising concerns that the violent extremist group may be trafficking in body parts.

The ruling, contained in a January 31, 2015 document reviewed by Reuters, says taking organs from a living captive to save a Muslim’s life, even if it is fatal for the captive, is permissible.

For a U.S. government translation of the document, click here.

Reuters couldn’t independently confirm the authenticity of the document. U.S. officials say it was among a trove of data and other information obtained by U.S. speci…

NBA stars appear in anti-gun violence advertisement

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[Good for the NBA - their players influence many young people. Now let's see who airs these ads. *RON*]

BBC World News, 25 December 2015 US gun debate
US gun violence in numbers
Obama 'most frustrated' by gun laws
Why Obama is powerless to reform gun laws
US state to allow armed teachers

Stars from the US National Basketball Association (NBA) are speaking out against gun violence in advertisements being aired from Christmas Day.

The first features players and gun violence victims calling on Americans to back efforts to end shootings.

The advertisements are sponsored by campaigners Everytown for Gun Safety.

How acid rivers are corroding South Africa's landscape – in pictures

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[This should ring a few bells for British Columbians, home to the world's greatest number of lovingly protected mining corporations. In a new book photographer Eva-Lotta Jansson documents the mining industry's environmental destruction. *RON*]

Eva-Lotta Jansson, The Guardian, 25 December 2015

The flow of polluted water from past and present mines is  a chronic problem in South Africa, and large volumes of water carrying toxic sulphates and metals such as lead, zinc, copper and radioactive uranium are tainting community water supplies.

An aerial view of the Witbank township of Hlalanikahle (which means ‘stay well’ in Zulu), on the banks of the Bruigspruit, which carries a large load of acid mine drainage from the decanting coal fields across the stream

Hackers step up cyberattacks in Turkey, hit banks

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[When 'hackers' means 'Putin.' *RON*]
Can Sezer and Ebru Tuncay, Reuters / Al Arabiya, 25 December 2015

Turkish banks reported sporadic disruption to credit card transactions on Friday as hackers stepped up a two-week barrage of cyberattacks, believed to be the worst the country has seen.

Local media have suggested that the bombardment of public and financial websites could be coming from Russia, after a sharp worsening of tensions between Moscow and Ankara, or staged by hacking group Anonymous. But no clear evidence has emerged, and authorities have avoided pointing the finger.

Officials at several Turkish banks including Isbank, Garanti and state lender Ziraat Bank confirmed the attacks, saying they had caused intermittent disruption. Bank shares were unmoved by the news.

Santa's Home Is Melting. Will We Ever Bring It Back?

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[The bad news: it will all melt by mid-century. The potentially good news: it might not take long to bring it back if we're smarter than we look. *RON*]

By Tim Folger, National Geographic, 23 December 2015

Vast and white, easily visible from space, Earth’s Arctic ice cap seems such a permanent fixture—a frozen country at the top of the world—that the idea that it could ever vanish almost defies comprehension. But by the middle of the century most of it will in fact vanish, thanks to our burning of fossil fuels. The North Pole and most of the ocean around it will be free of sea ice in summer for the first time in thousands of years.

Will we ever bring the ice back?