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Avoiding plastic straws won't save the oceans or the world on its own, but as we've seen with plastic bags and public smoking, when people start thinking about their habits and making small changes, they can bring about shifts in consciousness that lead to wider societal changes. Avoiding plastic straws won't save the oceans or the world on its own, but as we've seen with plastic bags and public smoking, when people start thinking about their habits and making small changes, they can bring about shifts in consciousness that lead to wider societal changes. (Photo: Dean Hochman)DR. DAVID SUZUKI OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

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Of all the plastic products we use and take for granted, plastic drinking straws are among the most unnecessary. Designed to be used once and discarded, their only real purpose is to keep your mouth from touching a glass or ice. It made more sense in the days when contaminated vessels were more of an issue.

Now, there's a movement to get people and businesses to ditch the straws. It may not seem like a big deal, but it is. In the U.S. alone, people discard 500 million straws every day, or more than 180 billion a year. That's about 1.4 million kilograms of plastic sent to landfills and into the oceans every day!

Drinking straws have a long history and weren't always a big problem. The first ones were made from straw, or any strawlike grass or plant. That changed in the 1880s when Washington, DC, resident Marvin Stone was drinking a mint julep through a rye grass stalk. He didn't like the residue it left in his drink, and so he wrapped paper around a pencil, removed the pencil, glued the paper together and a straw was born! In 1888, Stone patented a version made from manila paper coated with paraffin.

2017.25.7 BF BerkowitzDemonstrators gather to protest the National Rifle Association on December 21, 2012.  (Photo: Joshlopezphoto)BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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Without the drummed-up fear that a black president would take guns away from law-abiding citizens, the National Rifle Association is turning toward vilifying and pillorying the Black Lives Matter movement against police brutality in order to drum up gun sales. One of the platforms it now has at its disposal is NRATV. While the fledging network may not yet be among the choices in your cable television package, or available through existing streaming services, given the power of the gun lobbying organization, NRATV may soon be coming to screen near you.

Launched in October of last year, NRATV's declared mission is to provide "The most comprehensive video coverage of Second Amendment issues, events and culture anywhere in the world." The network offers such programing as NRANEWs, presented by Ruger, NRAWOMEN, presented by Smith & Wesson, NRACOUNTRY and NRAHUNTING, as well as an array of commentators.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

healthinsDonald Trump needs go back to school when it comes to understanding health insurance. (Photo: Chris Potter)

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The New York Times fact-checked an interview three reporters from the paper conducted with Donald Trump last Wednesday. The president was in error on several occasions, stating what his aide Kellyanne Conway has called "alternative facts." Perhaps the most astonishing revelation was that Trump appeared not to know the difference between life insurance and health insurance. This is staggering ignorance for a president, not to mention one who is leading the battle against the Affordable Care Act.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that at least 20 million people will lose health coverage in any of the proposed Republican "repeal and replace" bills. So many lives are on the line, and the president of the United States thinks that health insurance works like life insurance.

The New York Times explained Trump's egregious misunderstanding of health insurance as revealed in the interview:

"You're 21 years old, you start working and you're paying $12 a year for insurance, and by the time you're 70, you get a nice plan," Mr. Trump said. "Here's something where you walk up and say, 'I want my insurance.'"

Mr. Trump's description aligns with life insurance or Social Security more accurately than health insurance. A 21-year-old who took out a whole life insurance policy, for example, would pay premiums until death, and the amount accumulated over the decades would be paid out to beneficiaries.

A 21-year-old who purchases a health insurance policy is not paying premiums to save up for care 50 years down the line.

CURTIS JOHNSON FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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Superstorm1 0724wrp optSuperstorms are additional evidence of climate change. (Photo: Mike Trenchard)On June 30, Climatewire reported that Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Scott Pruitt had launched a government initiative "to challenge mainstream climate science" using military inspired "red-team, blue-team debates" on climate change.

According to a senior administration official,

The administrator (Pruitt) believes that we will be able to recruit the best in the fields which study climate and will organize a specific process in which these individuals ... provide back-and-forth critique of specific new reports on climate science

...

We are in fact very excited about this initiative…. Climate science, like other fields of science, is constantly changing. A new, fresh and transparent evaluation is something everyone should support doing.

Pruitt said he was moved to call for such debates after reading published articles by physicist Steve Koonin in the Wall Street Journal and climate change “skeptic” Brett Stephens in The New York Times, advocating more debate on climate. In an interview with Breitbart, Pruitt said, “The American people need to have that type of honest, open discussion, and it’s something we hope to provide as part of our leadership.” Pruitt told Reuters that it would be good to hold the debate on TV so it’s “open to the world” and that the American people “deserve it.”

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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BigAg 0724wrp optA "broiler house" used by the US poultry industry. (Photo: Joe Valbuena)Another reason for single-payer health care: The documentary What the Health shows how the lives and health of human beings are considered insignificant, and in many ways threatened, by the pursuit of profits in the meat and dairy and drug industries. 

The corporate disdain revealed by this film is nearly beyond belief. And our 'trusted' watchdog agencies, both non-profit and government, are beholden to the biggest companies, accepting money in return for their silence about the dangers of animal and pharmaceutical products. 

Some of the contentions in the documentary have been disputed, most notably the implication that sugar is not a major factor in diabetes, and that dairyis. Indeed there may be flaws in the documentary. But it clearly reveals the damaging behavior of the businesses and organizations that are contributing to human suffering. 

Despicable: Corporate Profits at the Expense of Our Health

According to the documentary (and othersources), the World Health Organization and other major health groups have labeled both processed and red meats as carcinogenic. Yet powerful lobbying efforts have kept America near the top of the world in meat consumption. The drug and chemical industries do their part by providing pesticide-filled GMO corn and soy, fed mostly to dairy cows, and with most of their antibiotic products going to fatten up the animals most of us eat.

2017.20.7 BF TraversThe greater sage grouse was denied protection under the Endangered Species Act in 2015 thanks to the anti-conservation efforts led by Wyoming Governor Matt Mead. (Photo: USFWS - Pacific Region)JULIA TRAVERS OF ENVIRONEWS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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Whitefish, Montana -- On June 28, 2017, the Western Governors' Association (WGA) released its 2017 recommendations to alter the Endangered Species Act (ESA) after its annual meeting in Montana. The resolution arrived at calls for an increase in state power over ESA implementation and an easing of the endangered species delisting process.

Jamie Rappaport Clark, President and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife (Defenders), issued this statement regarding the resolution:

The Western Governors' Association's call for legislative changes to the Endangered Species Act opens a Pandora's box in this hostile Congress. Since 2015, Congress has introduced more than 150 bills, amendments and riders that would undermine the ESA and weaken conservation measures for imperiled species. We cannot risk opening the Act to the avalanche of destructive amendments that would gut our nation's most effective law for protecting endangered and threatened wildlife.

Thursday, 20 July 2017 07:14

Civilian Death and the Language of War

The only way not to notice the repulsiveness of this is to believe, even reluctantly, in the need for the US to keep on waging war in the Middle East and eventually defeat terrorism and evil. This is how much of the media report the news of war, even when they report it critically.The only way not to notice the repulsiveness of this is to believe, even reluctantly, in the need for the US to keep on waging war in the Middle East and eventually defeat terrorism and evil. This is how much of the media report the news of war, even when they report it critically. (Photo: Pixabay)ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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Finally it comes down to this: Some people are expendable.

In certain parts of the world -- where we and our allies are waging war -- the expendable people come in two categories: terrorists (good riddance!) and civilians, whom we only kill if and when necessary, and whose deaths often elicit official apologies (if there’s no way to deny it was our fault).

Indeed, as Secretary of Defense James Mattis said, according to the Daily Beast, "There has been no change to our continued extraordinary efforts to avoid innocent civilian casualties."

We care about civilians so much -- especially children -- that we actually inconvenience ourselves in our efforts (don’t ask for details) to avoid killing them. This is true even though civilian deaths in Syria and Iraq have risen more than fourfold since Donald Trump has been in office -- according to a study for the Daily Beast conducted by the research organization Airwars -- and Trump has famously unshackled the military so that, as Mattis put it, "we can annihilate ISIS" (or as Trump put it, "bomb the shit" out of ISIS).

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

trumpnaftaTrump's NAFTA renegotiation goals are aimed more at helping corporations than uplifting workers. (Photo: Michael Vadon)

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Do not be fooled by Donald Trump's refusal to pursue the Trans-Pacific Partnership. That "position" appears to be a one-off, as his administration appears headed toward a renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that will make it worse -- and will mirror many of the Trans-Pacific Partnership's problems. A recent article in In These Times states:

Trump campaigned and won the U.S. presidential election in no small part due to his anti-free-trade positions. He galvanized millions of voters for whom the considerable promises of globalization have long since given way to the stark realities of rising inequality and declining living standards.

After assuming the presidency, Trump decided it was politically necessary to kill off the wildly neoliberal Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) to appease his popular base. This decision was met with dismay by nearly all big corporations and elites from both political parties.

But now, in an act of political judo, Trump is trying to use the same anti-establishment, pro-American rhetoric from his campaign to craft a neoliberal NAFTA renegotiation that will include everything demanded in the recently scuttled TPP – and more. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, as well as others in Trump's administration, have been surprisingly straightforward about these intentions.

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JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Robbery 0719wrp optA robbery in progress. (Photo: German Federal Archive)We the People are being burgled. Again.

The latest hit is just the latest in a long string of political robberies, a nationwide crime wave being pulled off by moneyed elites and their political henchmen. With each heist, they haul off a little more of our democratic power: the ability of the working majority to have any real say in the corporate and governmental decisions that affect us.

The elites are master thieves, often plucking pieces of our power without us realizing it, until we try to use it and — phhttt — it's gone. And yet another democracy-stealing tool has recently been fabricated and quietly distributed to profiteering corporations and right-wing ideologues throughout the country: PREEMPTION.

This concept has been around since Day One of our nation, contained in the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution and in similar clauses in state constitutions. It allows higher levels of government to intervene and overrule lower levels - the Feds can legally preempt state and local laws, and states can preempt city and county ordinances.

Obviously, this extreme power is fraught with danger, so it's meant to be used sparingly and only to advance a very big public purpose like, for example, overriding state and local laws that officially sanction rank racial discrimination.

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

We the People are being burgled. Again.

The latest hit is just the latest in a long string of political robberies, a nationwide crime wave being pulled off by moneyed elites and their political henchmen. With each heist, they haul off a little more of our democratic power: the ability of the working majority to have any real say in the corporate and governmental decisions that affect us.

The elites are master thieves, often plucking pieces of our power without us realizing it, until we try to use it and — phhttt — it's gone. And yet another democracy-stealing tool has recently been fabricated and quietly distributed to profiteering corporations and right-wing ideologues throughout the country: PREEMPTION.

This concept has been around since Day One of our nation, contained in the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution and in similar clauses in state constitutions. It allows higher levels of government to intervene and overrule lower levels - the Feds can legally preempt state and local laws, and states can preempt city and county ordinances.

Obviously, this extreme power is fraught with danger, so it's meant to be used sparingly and only to advance a very big public purpose like, for example, overriding state and local laws that officially sanction rank racial discrimination.

BuzzFlash and Truthout depend on reader support -- can you make a tax-deductible donation and help publish journalism with real integrity and independence?

BRIAN TRAUTMAN, GERRY CONDON AND SAMANTHA FERGUSON FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

NukeBan 0719wrp optThe aftermath of a nuclear detonation. (Photo: US Department of Energy)On July 7th, 2017, the United Nations (UN), in a historic decision, approved a legally binding instrument to ban nuclear weapons, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Months of negotiations involving over 130 countries began in March of this year, culminating in a final draft endorsed by 122 countries. The treaty marks a significant milestone to help free the world of nuclear weapons.

The treaty emphasizes "the catastrophic humanitarian consequences that would result from any use of nuclear weapons." It forbids participating states "to develop, test, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices." Additionally, it explains that the complete elimination of nuclear weapons from international arsenals "remains the only way to guarantee that nuclear weapons are never used again under any circumstances."

In keeping with a history of being unwilling to relinquish its massive nuclear arsenal, the U.S refused to enter treaty negotiations and used its status as the sole remaining international superpower to organize a boycott that influenced approximately 40 countries.

U.S. ambassador to the UN Nikki R. Haley defended the absence of the U.S. from the negotiations, stating, "There is nothing I want more for my family than a world with no nuclear weapons, but we have to be realistic. Is there anyone who thinks that North Korea would ban nuclear weapons?" Veterans For Peace (VFP), a nonprofit working since 1985 to abolish war and nurture peace and the only veterans non-governmental organization (NGO) represented at the UN, released a statement in response, strongly criticizing the U.S.'s refusal to participate, noting that the discussions were a "series of missed opportunities by the United States to use its position as the world's undisputed military power to change the course of history … and end the danger and peril that nuclear weapons pose to the world."

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