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The supermarket in my previous community, through its blatantly substandard offerings served the same purpose as many of the statues that are being taken down. It institutionalized a general narrative about the inferiority of certain members of our population that persists in our society.The supermarkets in low-income communities, through its blatantly substandard offerings, serve the same purpose as many of the statues honoring white supremacy. It institutionalizes a general narrative about the inferiority of certain members of our population that persists in our society. (Photo: Ricardo / Flickr)RAYGINE DIAQUOI FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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The events in Charlottesville have had repercussions all over the nation, forcing debate about the meaning behind many of our well-known monuments and the importance of removing statues that do not reflect our greatest ideals. In focusing on more obvious testaments to oppression, we must not neglect to examine the way that everyday structures, such as a grocery store, can reflect injustice.

Last month, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the 18 members of a commission that would," develop guidelines on how the City should address monuments seen as oppressive and inconsistent with the values of New York City." I hope that the individuals called to be a part of this commission that will guide our treatment of "symbols of hate" will use this opportunity to bring attention to all of our shrines to injustice, even supermarkets. 

I am a native New Yorker and have lived in three of our wonderful city's five boroughs. Recently, I moved from a lower-income zip code with a median income of  $26,410 to a higher income one, median income $46,210. As soon as the movers brought the last of the boxes into the apartment, I went to the neighborhood supermarket to grab some quick items to eat.

What can we do with this apparently endless cycle of tragedy? The endemic problem of gun violence is real, but hope need not be lost.What can we do with this apparently endless cycle of tragedy? The endemic problem of gun violence is real, but hope need not be lost. (Photo: N W / Flickr)WIM LAVEN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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"This was a terrible tragedy, but sometimes these things just happen and there's nothing anyone can do to stop them," said North Carolina resident Samuel Wipper, echoing sentiments expressed by tens of millions of individuals who reside in a nation where over half of the world's deadliest mass shootings have occurred in the past 50 years and whose citizens are 20 times more likely to die of gun violence than those of other developed nations." – The Onion (which publishes slightly different versions of this after every mass shooting for years)

Today members of Congress send thoughts and prayers to Las Vegas. The Onion, a satire site, posts: "NRA Says Mass Shootings Just The Unfortunate Price Of Protecting People's Freedom To Commit Mass Shootings" and "'No Way To Prevent This,' Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens."

Guns are big business, this year they've looked to keep shooters' eardrums safe, through the sale of silencers. Who cares that some students at the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007 credited hearing the shots fired with keeping them at a safe distance?

Scenes from the March For Change rally against gun violence at the State Capitol in Hartford in the wake the killings at Sandy Hook Elementary School. (February 14, 2013)Scenes from the March For Change rally against gun violence at the State Capitol in Hartford, Connecticut, on February 14, 2013 (Photo: CT Senate for Democrats / Flickr)BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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"You're waving still-warm bodies around to shill for your pet projects that have zero to do with and would have in no way prevented the Las Vegas shooting... Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?" a conservative friend wrote me after my column ("Post Las Vegas Massacre, Prayers and Condolences Are Not Enough: Stop The Gun Madness in This Country") about the murder of at least 59 and the wounding of more than 500 at a country music festival in Las Vegas Sunday night, was posted online line Monday morning.

After mass shootings -- "477 Days. 521 Mass Shootings. Zero Action From Congress." according to the Editorial Board of The New York Times -- it is inevitable that some Americans will try and explain them away by turning toward other explanations, except the proliferation of guns in the country. Some comments are worth hearing and trying to understand, despite how ridiculous or opportunist, or caught in a maelstrom of denial.

KATHY KELLY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

starvationSculptures of famine. (Photo: provided by Kathy Kelly)

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Earlier this year, the Sisters of St. Brigid invited me to speak at their Feile Bride celebration in Kildare, Ireland. The theme of the gathering was: “Allow the Voice of the Suffering to Speak.”

The Sisters have embraced numerous projects to protect the environment, welcome refugees and nonviolently resist wars. I felt grateful to reconnect with people who so vigorously opposed any Irish support for U.S. military wars in Iraq. They had also campaigned to end the economic sanctions against Iraq, knowing that hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children suffered and died for lack of food, medicine and clean water. This year, the Sisters asked me to first meet with local teenagers who would commemorate another time of starvation imposed by an imperial power.

Joe Murray, who heads Action from Ireland (Afri), arranged for a class from Dublin’s Beneavin De La Salle College to join an Irish historianin a field adjacent to the Dunshaughlin work house on the outskirts of Dublin.

Such workhouses dot the landscape of Ireland and England. In the mid-19th century, during the famine years, they were dreaded places. People who went there knew they were near the brink of death due to hunger, disease, and dire poverty. Ominously, behind the workhouse lay the graveyard. 

The young men couldn’t help poking a bit of fun, at first; what in the world were they doing out in a field next to an imposing building, their feet already soaked in the wet grass as a light rain fell? They soon became quite attentive.

2017.10.2.Berkowitz.BFThe 2016 list of most challenged books definitely reflect the politics of our times. (Photo: Kennedy Library / Flickr)BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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Graphic novels tackling the issues of sex and gender made up a chunk of the 2016 list of most challenged books, a list published each year by the American Library Association during Banned Books Week. In case you were preoccupied by headlines about the Trump administration's woefully inadequate response to the people of Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria's path of destruction; the president's attempted reinvigoration of the "culture wars" by slamming NFL players (mostly Black), for taking a knee during the playing of the National Anthem; and HHS Secretary Tom Price's resignation over his profligate use of government aircraft, last week was the 35th annual Banned Books Week.

"Of the top 10 books challenged in libraries, the top five were challenged for having LGBTQ content, which seems pretty significant," Mariko Tamaki, author of This One Summer, the number one book on the list, told The Washington Post's Comic Riffs.

Every year, typically during the last week in September, the American Library Association (ALA) –- and numerous other organizations -- celebrates, that's right, celebrates -- Banned Books Week. At the bannedbooksweek.org website, folks there even greet you with a hearty "Happy Banned Books Week!"

Last week was indeed Banned Books Week, which annually celebrates the freedom to read, and there were celebrations across the country in theaters, bookstores and online venues.

Microsoft refuses to own up to its tax responsibility, and to its social responsibility.  Microsoft refuses to own up to its tax responsibility, and to its social responsibility. (Photo: Seattle Clouds / Flickr)PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Corporate cheating goes well beyond federal tax reporting, as big companies have used various forms of deception to keep taking from America, especially with a complicit corporate media unwilling to report the facts about their behavior. 

1. Give Us Your Technology, Infrastructure, Security, Patent Law ... but Sorry, Our Profits Were Made in Another Country.

-----Microsoft: "Rediscovering Their Soul" While Skipping Out on Their Taxes

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella writes about the "Quest to Rediscover Microsoft's Soul and Imagine a Better Future for Everyone," and the company's commitment to "humans and the unique quality we call empathy." But the empathy apparently doesn't apply to the Americans who rely on tax dollars to support basic needs. Microsoft made over half its 2017 revenue in the U.S., and it has 57 percent of its long-lived assets in our country. Yet for 2016 it claimed a LOSS IN THE U.S. and a $20 billion profit in other countries. Microsoft goes on to tell its shareholders: "As of June 30, 2017, $127.9 billion was held by our foreign subsidiaries and would be subject to material repatriation tax effects." 

Few other companies have benefited as much as Microsoft from 75 years of technological research and development in the United States. But the company refuses to own up to its tax responsibility, and to its social responsibility. 

Friday, 29 September 2017 06:58

Martin Luther King, Jr. on the Vietnam War

DAVID KRIEGER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

MLK 0929wrp opt(Portrait: Dave McKeague)In preparing for a panel discussion about Martin Luther King, Jr., I re-read the sermon that he delivered at the Riverside Church in New York City. The sermon is titled, "Why I Am Opposed to the War in Vietnam," and it took place on April 4, 1967, one year to the day before King's assassination.

Dr. King was cautioned by many of his advisors not to give that sermon because it was sure to alienate influential supporters of the civil rights movement, including President Lyndon Johnson. Nonetheless, King spoke out.

He gave a powerful and eloquent sermon, one well worth reflecting on, particularly in light of the new Ken Burns and Lynn Novick ten-part documentary on the war in Vietnam. I'll review below some of the lines in King's sermon that jumped out at me

Dr. King said, "I see this war as an unjust, evil and futile war. I preach to you today on the war in Vietnam because my conscience leaves me with no other choice." Dr. King is speaking truth to power in naming the war for what it was -- "unjust, evil and futile." King was a great leader because he led from his conscience and, in doing so, inspired and empowered others to do so.

In Beirut, tens of people gathered in front of the Saudi Embassy in solidarity with them for their fight for their basic human right to move freely.People gather in front of the Saudi Embassy in Beirut on June 18, 2011, in solidarity with Saudi women and their fight for the basic human right to move freely. (Photo: Joelle Jatem / Flickr)MEDEA BENJAMIN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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It looks like 27 years of protesting, along with international pressure and government recognition that it needs more Saudi women in the workforce, has finally paid off.

In a royal decree, Saudi King Salman announced on September 26 that Saudi women, who have been the only women in the world banned from driving, will have that right as of June 2018. The move brings the Saudi Arabia a step closer to joining the 21st century, but Saudi women remain shackled by extreme gender segregation and a guardianship system that is a form of gender apartheid.

For decades Saudi women have been fighting to lift the driving ban. In 1990, a protest was organized by Aisha Almana, a Saudi woman who had studied -- and driven -- in the United States. Almana and forty-six other women piled into cars and drove around the capital. They were arrested and thrown in jail. Their passports were confiscated, those with government jobs were fired, and they were denounced in mosques across the country.The ban on driving, along with the general lack of reliable and safe public transportation, has had a terrible impact on middle class and poor Saudi women who cannot afford their own personal drivers. It has been a major factor keeping women at less than 20 percent of the labor force. The recent introduction of ride-sharing apps like Uber and Careem have helped, but are still too expensive for many women as a daily form of transportation.

Thursday, 28 September 2017 06:44

The Courage to Kneel

Trump, you might say, is the logical consequence of a passive, spectator citizenry: a "leader" who tweets the unconscious impulses -- the fears and hatreds -- of his supporters and delivers one comforting scapegoat after another for the public to revile.Trump, you might say, is the logical consequence of a passive, spectator citizenry: a "leader" who tweets the unconscious impulses -- the fears and hatreds -- of his supporters and delivers one comforting scapegoat after another for the public to revile. (Photo: Gage Skidmore / Flickr)ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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Kneel, touch the earth.

"Oh say can you see . . . "

The anthem starts. I can feel the courage . . . of Colin Kaepernick, the (then) San Francisco 49ers quarterback who refused to stand for the national war hymn, not when one of the wars was directed at Americans of color. Occupying the public spotlight that he did, Kaepernick risked -- and received -- widespread condemnation. Rabid fans burned replicas of his jersey. I’m sure as he knelt that first time, as his knee touched the earth, he had a sense of what he was setting off.

This is patriotism.

A year later, his action still resonates. The president got involved (of course), ranting and tweeting that kneeling NFL players should be fired, thus, as Adam Erickson points out, joining his list of scapegoats:

"Donald Trump," he writes at the Raven Foundation website, "attempts to push this mythical narrative on almost every minority: Muslims, Mexicans, African Americans, journalists, immigrants, the transgender community, and now we can include professional athletes in the long list of Trump’s scapegoats. The mythical narrative (i.e., the lie) he espouses is that these minorities pose a significant threat to American values."

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Coffee 0927wrp optCoffee beans. (Photo: United Nations)Human civilization utterly depends on our precious food supplies, but the planet's sixth mass extinction of plants and animals currently underway is also threatening the world's food crops, according to a new report from Bioversity International.

"Huge proportions of the plant and animal species that form the foundation of our food supply are just as endangered [as wildlife] and are getting almost no attention," Ann Tutwiler, director general of Bioversity International, wrote in an article for the Guardian.

"If there is one thing we cannot allow to become extinct, it is the species that provide the food that sustains each and every one of the seven billion people on our planet," she said.

According to the report, 940 cultivated species are already threatened. Tutwiler emphasized the impact on popular foods and commodities:

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