BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Thus far, the only problems with Target’s new policy of allowing transgender people to use restrooms and dressing rooms that correspond with their gender identity, are being caused by a number of conservative Christian activists --several of whom are being sent out with video cameras by the American Family Association -- rushing into Target stores to test the policy.
Not a big fan of Target stores. Shopped there occasionally over the years. Have a Target REDCard, and to the best of my knowledge it wasn’t hacked in 2013. However, now that Target is under attack by the American Family Association, the Christian Right’s boycott-launching king, I may consider doing some REDcard damage in the near future.
The dust-up over the Minneapolis-based Target began in mid-April, when the company’s management decided that employees and customers who are men according to their birth sex could use women's bathrooms and dressing rooms. A statement posted on the company’s website on April 19, under the headline “Continuing to Stand for Inclusivity” read: "[W]e welcome transgender team members and guests to use the restroom or fitting room facility that corresponds with their gender identity. ...Everyone deserves to feel like they belong."
By making this decision, Target jumped into what has become this year’s number one wedge and fundraising issue for the Christian Right; Keeping transgender people out of bathrooms.
As of this writing, Christian Right groups are claiming that more than 1 million people have signed an American Family Association-initiated petition.
pledging a boycott over the store’s bathroom policies. At the AFA website, the headline reads “Sign the Boycott Target Pledge!”
JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
I’ve been thinking about Mother’s Day—and all the mothers that will never receive flowers and cards again from their beloved children that were unnecessarily killed in the U.S. pre-emptive invasion of the Middle East.
I vaguely remember presidential candidate Barack Obama during the 2008 primary. So many different masks on this man that it’s hard to recollect that he argued for “peaceful negotiations,” and that “sending our troops into combat should be our very last resort…”
However, President Obama not only expanded instability throughout the Middle East by allowing the CIA to play havoc with Libya and Syria, which led to the deaths of tens of thousands of families, including the bombing of hospitals with wounded children under Doctors without Borders care (Afghanistan, Yemen and Syria), his decision led to eight million refugees pounding the doors of neighboring European countries.
As I explained in my last Buzzflash-Truthout commentary, dictators or no, before the Bush-Obama administrations invaded these countries, the majority of families had homes, water, food, jobs, sewer systems, electricity, and even if they didn’t like their leaders, and even if conditions may have been challenging in Syria, they at least had their families and homes and food on the table.
Like the U.S., Europeans have been financially struggling since the Wall Street banksters’ “unregulated” greed reached a 2008 global crisis. In addition to the suffering in Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen, Obama and his CIA advisors decided to make the lives of Libyans and Syrians go from difficult to unbearable. Europeans are also desperate—and they don’t know how they’re going to support millions of starving people when their own families are in dire straits much like middle-class Americans that are being crushed beneath the corporate oligarchic wheel.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, may talk about ending government corruption and reducing the taxes of his followers. However, as an April 30 Chicago Sun-Times investigation reveals, Trump saved $11.7 million in Cook County property taxes on his Chicago complex by employing a clout-heavy Chicago alderman as his local attorney:
A law firm headed by Ald. Edward M. Burke, one of Chicago’s most powerful Democrats, has helped Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and investors in his luxury downtown hotel cut their property taxes by 39 percent over seven years, saving them $11.7 million, a Chicago Sun-Times analysis has found.
Burke — one of 47 Chicago aldermen who voted to approve development of Trump International Hotel & Tower in 2002 — won reductions in six of the seven years for the hotel, retail and other commercial space in the skyscraper, records show.
Now, Burke’s law firm, Klafter & Burke, is trying to get partial refunds of those taxes for the billionaire and his investors. The firm has filed appeals in court and to a state agency, arguing the taxes paid were too high in some years.
Burke is among an elite group of current and former Chicago politicians working for law firms that specialize in helping property owners navigate Cook County’s arcane property-tax system. These clout-heavy lawyers try to persuade other elected officials — the Cook County assessor, the Cook County Board of Review’s commissioners and judges — to lower the estimated values of buildings and other real estate.
Trump and his investors saw their property taxes on the opulent Chicago Trump Tower lowered by almost 40 percent – and they are now seeking a rebate on the reduced taxes that they have paid. What this means is that other property taxpayers in Cook County, where Chicago is located, will have to pony up to pay the amount that Trump's business is saving.
ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUTWENONAH HAUTER OF
Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch
Colorado's high court today struck down the rights of Coloradans to enact local fracking bans. It's no surprise, given the massive sway of the oil and gas industry in the state. The suit was brought against Longmont (which passed a popular fracking ban in 2012) by Gov. John Hickenlooper and his industry cronies. While it's easy to be discouraged by this decision, the fact is, it will help activate citizens to pass statewide ballot measures to ban fracking in November.
And let's not forget: The movement to stop fossil fuel development just keeps winning.
On Earth Day, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo put a stop to the Constitution pipeline, a dangerous project to shipped fracked gas from Pennsylvania into New York, intersecting almost 300 bodies of water. His action sent a clear message that protecting the safety of the state's drinking water was more important than expanding Big Oil's profits. And the move didn't come out of nowhere; the same grassroots pressure that successfully pushed Cuomo to ban fracking in 2014 pushed him to reject this dirty fracked gas pipeline.
WALTER BRASCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Joe Sestak is a slow learner.
It isn't because he's dumb -- he graduated second in his class of 900 midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy, one of the most rigorous colleges in the country; a decade later, he earned a Ph.D. in political economics from Harvard.
It isn't because he doesn't have reasoning ability -- as a Naval captain, he was director of defense on the National Security Council under President Bill Clinton; as a rear admiral, he commanded a carrier battle group; as vice-admiral, he was the deputy chief of naval operations, with a specialty in warfare strategy.
Joe Sestak wasn't a slow learner when he left the military and entered civilian life. In his first of two terms as a congressman from a Philadelphia suburb, the House majority leader declared him to be the most productive member of Congress, sponsoring more significant legislation than any other member. He is a strong supporter of health care reform, the environment, and labor; he opposed the Defense of Marriage Act and discriminatory policies in the armed forces. He had a higher-than-average staff turnover because he pushed them hard and gave them little free time. But, he pushed himself even harder, not because of political ambition but because he wanted to help his constituents. Unlike many members of Congress, Sestak read and responded to all communications from his constituents, dealing with more than 10,000 items, about four times more than the average member of Congress.
LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
“They need to be released and put back into a place where we can keep an eye on them and they can reconnect with nature,” Cousteau, who is the son of legendary underwater explorer Jacques Cousteau, said.
On March 17, the scandal-plagued ocean theme park made a dramatic shift when it announced the end of it orca breeding program and that its current population of killer whales will live out their lives at the company’s habitats instead of in the wild or ocean sanctuaries. SeaWorld explained that the orcas were born under human care and have never lived in the wild, they “could not survive in oceans that include environmental concerns such as pollution and other man-made threats.”
SeaWorld CEO Joel Manby also explained in a Los Angeles Times op-ed published on the same day of the announcement that marine animals born in captivity would “likely die” if they were released.
But at the PETA-hosted conference, Cousteau argued against this reasoning seeing as how he and his team personally worked with Keiko after filming. Keiko was rehabilitated and moved to a seaside sanctuary in Iceland where he lived in ocean waters for more than five years.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
On Waging Nonviolence, Javier Gárate wrote of his acquittal -- and those of his fellow activists -- for attempting to symbolically blockade the London Arms Fair in September 2015:
After a week-long trial that ended on April 15, a judge from the Stratford Magistrate Court in London found me and seven co-defendants not guilty for our actions last September to shut down the Defence Security and Equipment International arms fair, or DSEI, on the basis that we were preventing a greater crime. This is a huge victory in the long struggle to shut down … the largest arms fair in the world, which takes place in east London every other year.
The last fair was in September 2015, and it saw more than 1,500 exhibitors from around the world displaying the latest technology of the war industry. DSEI is an invitation-only event, where invites go to governments, industry representatives and specialized press. Delegations from repressive regimes and countries violating human rights — such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Israel — walk through its corridors every other year browsing the latest weaponry [and most significantly signing contracts for billions of dollars].
The focus of Gárate and his fellow opponents of the global weaponry industry was the 2015 Defence Security and Equipment International (DSEI) exhibition held in London. RT took a look at some of the biggest corporate beneficiaries of worldwide weapons sales and found these two companies among those leading the pack:
With net sales for 2014 totaling $45.6 billion, US-based Lockheed Martin is the largest arms company in the world. Lockheed received $22 billion in contracts from the US Department of Defense alone in 2014, roughly 9 percent of all contracts awarded by the Pentagon.
Lockheed has weathered several high profile scandals since its founding in 1912. The company was caught bribing Japanese Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka in 1976, a revelation which forced his resignation. Last month the company paid $4.7 million to the Justice Department to settle charges it won a lucrative contract by paying a former US Representative-turned-lobbyist with taxpayer funds.
ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUTTED GLICK OF
Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch
Since April 2014, 10 fracking infrastructure projects have been canceled or delayed.
Here's the list:
April 2014: The Bluegrass Pipeline in Kentucky was stopped by a court decision upholding landowners' rights against the use of eminent domain to take their land for private profit.
November 2015: The Port Ambrose liquified natural gas (LNG) project was vetoed by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. The project was proposed by Liberty Natural Gas off the shores of New York and New Jersey.
March 2016: The Jordan Cove LNG export terminal and 223-mile Pacific Connector pipeline in Oregon were rejected by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), signifying FERC's first gas infrastructure rejection in 30 years.
March 2016: The Republican-dominated Georgia legislature voted overwhelming for a one-year moratorium on any new gas pipelines, setting back efforts to build thePalmetto Pipeline.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
In New Orleans, charter schools -- which make up almost the entire school district -- aren't going anywhere anytime soon. However, due to ongoing clamorous community objection to them (and the way in which they are not accountable to school board oversight), some things may be changing. For the first time, the Louisiana legislature appears poised to return all New Orleans schools -- including about 75 percent of students who are taught in charter schools, administered independently by the state through the Recovery School District -- to the governance of the Orleans Parish School Board.
As the April 27 Baton Rouge Advocate reported:
The House Education Committee voted 11-2 to advance legislation that would transfer control of 52 public schools — all charters — run by the state Recovery School District for the past decade to the Orleans Parish School Board by 2018, 2019 at the latest.
Even with the move, charter schools would retain much of their autonomy.
That last qualification is a big one, because it appears that charter schools will be able to legally flout many directives from the parish's school board, according to the Advocate:
Parents and critics voiced concerns that charter school operators are being given too much control in the arrangement set up in the Senate legislation [which has already passed in the state].
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The headline, from the Los Angeles Times, hit me like a sucker punch: "Voters' 'Bernie or Bust' efforts persist despite Sanders' vow not to be another Ralph Nader."
Actually, it was worse than that. When my brain cleared, I realized I was, once again, caught in a media straitjacket.
In just over a dozen words, the paper managed not only to trivialize everything two presidential candidates stood for, and not only to reference the myth that Nader caused Al Gore to lose an election he didn't in fact lose, but also, my God, to obliterate the last six months of a presidential campaign that had permanently shaken up the political status quo and return progressive voters to a place of permanent irrelevance to the national future.