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Huffington Post: ‘Koch Brothers Exposed:’ New Film Examines How Billionaire Brothers Shaped The Political Narrative

By Lucia Graves at Huffington Post

WASHINGTON — Over the past two years, Charles and David Koch have commanded a great deal of attention and been held up as an example of how corporate forces have corrupted the democratic process in America. Now a provocative new film, “Koch Brothers Exposed,” seeks to uncover how the Koch brothers have manipulated the political narrative for personal and ideological gain, particularly in the post-Citizens United era.

The film, directed by Robert Greenwald, who notably uncovered unethical labor practices at Wal-Mart in his documentary “Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Wages,” is set to premiere in New York City on March 29.

In an interview with The Huffington Post, Greenwald said that the Kochs’ money and power have had an “unparalleled” impact.

“The Kochs are using their money, their power and the inequalities of our system for personal gain,” he said, “and the size and scale that they’re doing it at is fairly impressive.”

The political media company Greenwald founded, Brave New Films, conducted financial research and interviewed people around the country, asking them questions about how the Kochs have impacted their lives. Notable subjects include Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), environmental advocate Van Jones and Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel.

The filmmakers’ requests to interview the Koch brothers themselves, however, were denied. “They hide,” said Greenwald, “and [they're] not just hiding from us.”

See the trailer and a full list of the film’s findings, via a press release, below.

Read more at Huffington Post.

Huffington Post: Arturo De Los Santos Continues To Resist Freddie Mac-Led Eviction From Re-Occupied Home

By Gabriel Lerner at the Huffington Post

Almost a week after they were scheduled to be evicted forcibly from their home, the De Los Santos family is still living in the Riverside house they bought in 2002 — and then re-occupied last December — surrounded by a small group of sympathizers from groups like Occupy LA and Occupy Riverside.

The family is requesting that government-owned corporation Freddie Mac renegotiate their mortgage, which they feel was foreclosed upon prematurely, and allow them to pay their debt. “I have the money to pay,” said De Los Santos to The Huffington Post. But according to Freddie Mac, there is no mortgage or loan to be modified.

“This mortgage was foreclosed upon in mid-November 2010, and it was finished at that point,” stated Brad German, Freddie Mac’s senior director for public relations, speaking to The Huffington Post. “The mortgage was foreclosed upon. It is not in hibernation, it’s a done deal. This mortgage was extinguished,” said German, adding, “Pretty much this has turned into a PR stunt.”

End of story? Not likely.

Last December when Arturo and Magdalena De Los Santos and their four children reoccupied the foreclosed home, from which they had been evicted six months earlier, they say they did it to force Freddie Mac to come to a settlement that will enable them to return home legally.

Arturo is a fourth-generation Mexican-American from Texas and a former Marine; Magdalena is an immigrant from Acapulco, Mexico. Arturo has worked for the same company for 21 years as a supervisor. “I make good money,” he said. Ten years after purchasing their dream house, this middle-class family finds itself in limbo, fighting to remain in the home where they raised their four children: Brandon, 12; Sasha, 10; Kevin, 8; and Millie, 7.

Today, the De Los Santos family is part of a group of activists led by the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), an organization that confronts Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae over their roles in the foreclosure crisis. The De Los Santos family story was reported by The Huffington Post last Tuesday, when a five-day notice to vacate their home, issued by the Riverside Sheriff’s Department, expired. Since then, they and their supporters have been waiting for the expected forcible evacuation.

“We wanted to express our support in a nonviolent way,” Peter Kuhns, an organizer with ACCE, told The Huffington Post. “We want to be present at the moment it happens.”

They were not the only ones waiting — Freddie Mac is waiting as well. On Friday, Freddie Mac sought a court order asking the Riverside Sheriff to enforce the eviction order.

“The company has apparently decided to have the family removed at all costs,” said Kuhns.

De Los Santos insists on his offer to pay what he owes, to resume making mortgage payments and be allowed to remain legally in the home. “I make enough money,” he stated repeatedly.

And this may have been his problem.

Read the rest of Arturo’s story at Huffington Post.

Huffington Post: Arturo De Los Santos, Foreclosure Crisis Victim, Faces Eviction From Re-Occupied Home (VIDEO)

By Gabriel Lerner at Huffington Post

LOS ANGELES — Arturo De Los Santos and his wife Magdalena have been fighting to keep the home in Riverside, California, where they raised their four children and on which they have pinned their hopes and dreams.

Barring a last-minute miracle, the sheriff is set to evict them Tuesday morning. But De Los Santos and his family say they are not going anywhere.

Chase’s foreclosure department put the house, located at 3270 Layton Court, up for sale, even as the bank’s own loan modification department was finalizing an agreement that would have allowed the family to stay put.

“They have a department of loan modification and a department of foreclosure, which is stronger,” Arturo De Los Santos told The Huffington Post this weekend, switching back and forth between English and Spanish. He says he is both upset and disgusted because two weeks after receiving an eviction notice, his request for a loan modification was approved, but by then, he was unable to get his house back.

The De Los Santos family epitomizes the growing number of people who work hard, follow the rules and achieve the American Dream, only to see it crumble into a nightmare. After reaching an agreement to make reduced payments on a trial basis until a final settlement was defined, and making three payments in accordance to that agreement, “the loan modification department didn’t accept my money. They said, we are not accepting more payments,” said De Los Santos.

Read more about Arturo De Los Santos at Huffington Post.

Huffington Post: Jorge Gutierrez, Undocumented Queer Activist Works To Bring LGBT And Pro-Immigration Groups Together

By Gabriel Lerner at Huffington Post

Jorge Gutiérrez, 27, was addressing a hall packed with almost 200 young people in Memphis, Tennessee.

Like him, they were brought to the United States as children. Like him, they grew up as Americans. Although they were bilingual, English was their first language.

Their parents came illegally, so they too, are undocumented.

Then, he told them that he is not only undocumented, but also gay. He asked the pro-immigrant organizations represented there to be inclusive. If there were others who, like him, were undocumented and LGBT, he asked them to stand up and come down to the front.

One by one, more than 20 activists stood up and approached. Some of them were revealing their sexual identity for the first time. Some were well known activists in the DREAMers movement.

Gutiérrez, currently lives in Santa Ana, California. At the age of 10, he arrived illegally from El Cora, Nayarit, Mexico, with his mother, two brothers and two sisters. In 2008 he graduated from Cal State University – Fullerton with a BA in English.

He is undocumented and queer, one of many.

“Some of the most recognized leaders of the DREAMer movement, who never talked about it, are now out of the closet, and are calling on others to do the same,” he told The Huffington Post in a series of phone calls.

Read the full story at Huffington Post’s Latino Voices.

Giselle Ramirez, Speaks Out About Being A Hispanic Lesbian (VIDEO)

by Huffington Post Latino Voices + Gay Voices | November 29, 2011

Giselle Ramirez, is a self-proclaimed “working class-chicana, a proud queer women, concerned citizen of the world, and a conscientious objector to dehumanization.”

In her YouTube testimony, Giselle says growing-up she was bullied because of her sexual orientation referring to a specific incident where she was physically assaulted by two other girls in a school bus. Her video appeared on CUENTAME, a non-profit organization which seeks to create a community by bringing a voice for latinos through short videos, documentaries and interviews.

She says in the video that “being a queer latino is harder. There is a lot ignorance and also a language barrier. My parents are only spanish speakers and there is not a lot of information out there for them that’s in Spanish. We get lost in translation and I think thats why there’s so much lack of acceptance and ignorance towards the subject.”

Giselle was born and raised in Los Angeles. Her parents are Mexicans who migrated illegally into the country but were granted residency through Reagan’s Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, according to Ramirez.

Her parents weren’t accepting of her sexual orientation and Ramirez says that growing up she was “constantly in fear I was going to go to hell because I’m a lesbian.” Giselle claims that being Catholic played a role in her parents’ reaction towards her sexual orientation. She says that her family isn’t very religious, but attending church was “still a big part of the culture, of being catholic, of being Mexican.”

New York State Senator Rev. Ruben Díaz statements support this claim. “I believe that God does not allow gay marriage. It’s the Bible, it’s Mother Nature,” Díaz said before same sex marriage law passed in New York, according to Fox News Latino. ”It’s the tradition… the culture. We are Hispanic, we just come from a different culture.”

But Giselle didn’t let religion or culture stand in her way. When the Ramirez family moved to Lubbock, Texas considered to be the second most conservative city in the country, according to CUENTAME. Giselle and her girlfriend Bianca Molina, organized a gay pride parade in the city.

“Lubbock’s first Pride Fest brought together more than 500 gay and straight individuals from around West Texas,” according to CUENTAME.

Giselle’s mother, sister, brother and sister in-law all attended the parade and according to Giselle “it changed their perspective of the queer community. Like we’re just people and they realized that… we’re just people.”

Inmates In Private Georgia Prison Charged Five Dollars Per Minute For Phone Calls

by Harry Bradford at Huffington Post | November 18, 2011

For inmates at one Georgia prison, a one minute phone call could cost them five times more than they earn for a day of work.

The Correction Corporation Of America’s Stewart facility, a private prison in Lumpkin, Georgia, is forcing prisoners to pay five dollars per minute to use the phone, Alternet reports (h/t ThinkProgress). The exorbitant rate would break most people’s budget, but it’s especially costly for inmates that the prison who make just one dollar per day to work at the facility.

Faced with huge budget shortfalls, states are increasingly relying on privatized prisons to house criminals in their state and the for-profit corporations behind those prisons are coming up with various ways to maximize revenue. The money the Stewart prison is collecting from its 2,000 prisoners to use the phone helped the prison net profits of $35 to $50 million a year, ThinkProgress reports.

Compared to the total earnings of CCA that sum may seem small, however. Last year, the private prison company raked in $1.7 billion in revenues, according to FOX Business. GEO Group, another for-profit prison corporation headquartered in Boca Raton, Florida, saw $1.3 billion in revenues in 2010.

The telephone rates are just one way private prisons are maximizing revenues. To help keep their facilities stocked with inmates, the private prison industry helped to draft Arizona’s tough immigrationlaw and lobbied aggressively to get it passed, NPR reports. Indeed, while they make up only 10 percent of prisoners nationwide, according to a separate NPR report, the number of prisoners in private prisons has increased 1,600 percent from 1990 to 2009, the American Civil Liberties Union reports.

An even more controversial private prison source of income is the what federal prosecutors are calling “Kids for Cash,” — owners of private juvenile detention giving kickbacks to judges to sentence minors for benign offenses in an effort to boost revenue – FOX Business reports. In Pennsylvania, two judges were recently sentenced to over 40 years in prison combined for accepting kickbacks from the owner of a juvenile detention center.

The judges sentenced minors for offenses that included a 10-year-old girl accidentally lighting her room on fire and a 13-year-old boy throwing food at his mother’s boyfriend, according to Fox Business.

Meanwhile, government-run prisons face dire budget constraints forcing them to take unprecedented measures. A prison in Riverside, California announced that it will start charging prisoners $142.42 a day to save an estimated $3 to $5 milllion, CNNMoney reports. The Texas, thousands of prisoners aretwo meals a day on weekends, after the prison system made cuts to deal with budget constraints.


Robert Greenwald Partners With Progressive Media For ‘Who Are The One Percent?’ Series

by Zach Carter at Huffington Post | November 3, 2011

Inspired by the Occupy movement, 10 progressive media outlets are crowd-sourcing contributions for a film series dubbed “Who Are The One Percent?” focusing on economic inequality and political corruption.

The project, led by filmmaker Robert Greenwald’s Brave New Foundation, will seek input from progressive readers and viewers for in-depth profiles of about a dozen very wealthy individuals who use their financial power to extract wealth from others by exploiting the political process.

Greenwald specifically hopes the films will be shown at Occupy events.

“We want to support the Occupy movement in any way we can, and we’re hoping one way is to make these available to ground Occupy actions,” Greenwald told HuffPost.

Beginning Thursday, readers can go to Brave New Foundation’s website and suggest people who should be profiled. They’ll also be able to vote on others’ suggestions. Once the audience has settled on subjects for the films, they’ll be encouraged to send in information on the wealthy targets.

The films will all be released online digitally through Brave New Foundation. They will be supplemented by material from AlterNet, The Nation, The Center for Media and Democracy, Truthout, The Young Turks and other outlets, which will all be seeking input from their own readers and listeners.

John & Ken Show Boycott: GM Pulls Ads From Controversial Morning Show

by Anna Almendrala at Huffington Post | October 26, 2011

Major advertisers for the controversial morning radio show John & Ken are leaving in droves thanks to a boycott organized by the National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC) and immigrants rights activists in Southern California.

The radio show became the target of an advertising boycott on October 6 after the show’s hosts John Kybolt and Ken Chiampou gave out the personal cellphone number of DREAM act advocate Jorge-Mario Cabrera in September. The hosts encouraged their listeners to call him and voice their opposition to the bill, which would give public and private assistance to undocumented college students (the bill has since passed).

In fact, GM’s official twitter account has been sending similar messages out to followers for hours now in response to a Twitter campaign championed by Cuentame, a Latino advocacy group working in concert with NHMC on the advertising boycott.

Cuentame founder Axel Caballero praised GM for their action and credited the power of social media for its power to put pressure on major companies. He also told The Huffington Post that Cuentame would continue “to push back against the racial and violent rhetoric that is peddled by folks like John and Ken, who are only interested in pushing their hate agenda.”

Click here for the full story.

Koch-Owned Georgia-Pacific Plant Linked To High Cancer Rates, Film Alleges

by Lucia Graves and Jordan Howard at Huffington Post | October 13, 2011

WASHINGTON — David Bouie, a 64-year-old resident of Crossett, Ark., says something isn’t right on Penn Road. In the 15 homes on his street, 11 people have recently died of cancer. The casualties include George Parker and his wife, Ollie Parker, as well as Bobbie Sue Gibbs and her neighbor Tom Perkins, both of whom passed away with multiple cancers. Dolores Wimberly, a former neighborhood resident, says her daughter Laetitia, a nonsmoker, died of lung cancer at 43; and Penn Road resident Norma Thompson says her husband died of lung cancer, while she continues to have breathing problems, often relying on a respirator.

“Whenever we take a trip out of town, our respiratory system seems to get better,” said David Bouie’s wife, Barbara, who has spent her entire life in Crossett, the largest city in Ashley County. “I don’t have trouble breathing, or use my eye drops, or anything. But when we come home, it starts all over again — the headache, everything.”

provocative new video by political filmmakers Brave New Films says that Crossett residents who suffer from poor air quality and ambient carcinogens are victims of pollution emitted by a Koch Industries-owned paper manufacturer, Georgia-Pacific. The plant is located directly upstream from the channel behind Penn Road. “Whatever’s in (the water) is killing these trees,” says David Bouie in the video. “You can see the steam coming from the stuff. It gets up in the air, and it flows over where our property is.”

Click here for the full story.

Guillermo Gomez-Sanchez, Mentally Impaired Man Awaiting His Fate In Deportation Trial (VIDEO)

by Aurelia Fierros at Huffington Post Latino Voices | September 15, 2011

Guillermo Gomez-Sanchez, a Mexican national and lawful U.S. resident declared incompetent to stand trial in an ongoing deportation case, will learn his fate from an immigration judge in San Diego on Dec. 8, 2011.

This 50 year-old man has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and speaks little English, and he has languished in detention for five years. Four of these years were spent in immigration custody, lost in a detention system that — unlike its criminal justice counterpart — lacks clear and appropriate procedures to address the mentally impaired.

Click here for the full story.

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