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2015.4.5 BF Berkowitz(Photo: Garry Knight)BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

“Even though previous popes have spoken strongly against harming the earth and its inhabitants, one world renowned atmospheric scientist said it is going to be Pope Francis ‘to save the day,’" the Catholic News Service recently reported.

Most of today’s environmental activists are way too young to remember the Mighty Mouse Playhouse, which aired on Saturday mornings from December 1955 until September 1967. A mighty theme song kicked off each show. With Pope Francis getting ready to make what many environmentalists hope will be a game-changing statement on global warming, here’s an updated version of the Mighty Mouse theme song: “Climate change deniers never hang around, when they hear this mighty sound. ‘Here he comes to save the day.’ That means Pope Francis is on his way. Yes folks, when there's a wrong to right. Pope Francis will join the fight. On the sea or on the land, he’ll get the situation well in hand.”

Veerabhadran Ramanathan, who in the 1970s helped discover that pollutants and other gases, in addition to carbon dioxide, were contributing to the greenhouse effect, told Catholic News Service (CNS) that Pope Francis would be "the savior on the environment.”

Ramanathan said Pope Francis "has transcended Catholic religion and he's transcended Christianity. People of different followings, different nations admire this pope, they listen to his words so he has a global reach."

United Nations leader Ban Ki-moon recently spoke to an international gathering on the moral dimensions of climate change and sustainable development at the Vatican, sponsored by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, the Sustainable Development Solutions Network and Religions for Peace.

2015.4.5 BF buchheit(Photo: Elliot Brown)PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Law enforcement, education, health care, water management, government itself -- all have been or are being privatized. People with money get the best of each service.

At the heart of privatization is a disdain for government and a distrust of society, and a mindless individualism that leaves little room for cooperation. Adherents of privatization demand 'freedom' unless they need the government to intervene on their behalf.

These privatizers have a system:

1. Convince Yourself That "I Did It On My Own"

The people in position to take from society seek to rationalize their actions, and many have accomplished this through the philosophy of Ayn Rand, the author of The Virtue of Selfishness. She rejected community values, saying "Any group...is only a number of individuals...If any civilization is to survive, it is the morality of altruism that men have to reject."

Post-Ayn-Rand, in the growing era of neoliberalism, with Ronald Reagan blurting "government is the problem" and Margaret Thatcher proclaiming "There is no such thing as society," once-respected institutions like public education and public transportation were demonized as "socialist" and "Soviet-style." The message has been repeated so often by the business-backed media that the general public began to believe it. Said The Economist with regard to product development, "Governments have always been lousy at picking winners, and they are likely to become more so, as legions of entrepreneurs and tinkerers swap designs online, turn them into products at home and market them globally from a garage. As the revolution rages, governments should stick to the basics...Leave the rest to the revolutionaries."

2015.30.4 BF ecowatch(Photo: Wikipedia)COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch.

Jon Stewart is preparing for life after The Daily Show. If you’re like me you’re dreading the day he departs the show in August, but, of course, news has already broke of Stewart’s next venture. He and his wife, Tracey, reportedly decided to purchase a farm in New Jersey to house their impressive amount of rescue animals and potentially many more, according to Ecorazzi. The Stewart clan already contains two children, four dogs, two horses, two pigs, three rabbits, two guinea pigs, two hamsters, one parrot and two fish. “All rescues,” Tracey told USA Today of her enormous brood. “Except for the children.”

The move should come as no surprise to Daily Show fans. Stewart has been a consistent animal advocate throughout his time on the air. Most notably, he skewered Gov. Christie on vetoing a popular gestation crate ban. He also recently hosted Gene Baur of Farm Sanctuary to discuss animal rescue and veganism and John Hargrove, the former SeaWorld employee who became a whistleblower on the company’s animal cruelty.

 

2015.30.4 BF BERKOWITZ(Photo: David Yu)BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Some might say that the relationship between the conservative US Jewish community and Evangelicals is inviolable, with support for Israel being the cement that forever binds the two. However, a number of controversial social issues could threaten to alter a relationship that has historically been replete with questions about awkward, and not so secret, Christian objectives.

"Conservative Jews who make common cause with Christian Zionists are overlooking an inconvenient truth: Despite all of their talk about their love for Israel, religious right zealots are motivated primarily by a goofy end-of-the-world scenario cribbed from the mad scribbling of Hal Lindsey, Tim LaHaye and other 'End Times’ prophets,” Rob Boston, Director of Communications for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, told me in an email.

“In this scenario,” Boston added, “Israel needs to do certain things so that the Apocalypse can be ushered in and the Book of Revelation will come to pass. Jews, in this vision of things, are merely cannon fodder who either convert to Christianity or get burned to a crisp in the final battle when Jesus confronts the Antichrist. I'm not seeing a lot of love and respect for the Jewish faith here."

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaShakles(Photo: Klaus with K )Since the mid-1980s, prison privatization – a reality from the time of the American Revolution – has experienced unprecedented growth. Totally absorbed with profit making, it is safe to say that daily life for prisoners has not been enhanced. One of the few bright spots for many prisoners has been the face-to-face family visit. Now, along comes something called video visitation, the latest profit-making venture trying to suck up to strapped county jail systems, and suck money out of the pockets of prisoners and their families.

Video visitation is a phenomenon that "has been quietly sweeping the nation's state prisons and county jails," a report by the Prison Policy Initiative (PPI) pointed out. "Currently, more than 500 facilities in 43 states and the District of Columbia are experimenting with video visitation," according to the non-profit, non-partisan PPI.

Earlier this year, the Prison Policy Initiative (PPI) released Screening Out Family Time: The for-profit video visitation industry in prisons and jails, "its first comprehensive national survey of the video visitation industry." Maya Schenwar, Truthout's editor-in-chief and the author of Locked Down, Locked Out: Why Prison Doesn't Work and How We Can Do Better, discussed the report in a mid-February piece.

Bernadette Rabuy, Policy and Communications Associate with PPI, and co-author of the report (along with Peter Wagner, Executive Director of the Prison Policy Initiative, and a co-author of the Prison Policy Initiative's oft-cited previous expose Please Deposit All of Your Money: Kickbacks, Rates, and Hidden Fees in the Jail Phone Industry), told The Real News Network's Eddie Conway that while video visitation has its upside – allowing family members living far from their imprisoned relatives to stay in touch – it also is "being implemented to replace traditional visits."

Monday, 27 April 2015 10:47

"Dr. Evil" Turns Out to Be "Dr. Silly"

2015.27.4 BF Hightower(Photo: IntangibleArts)JIM HIGHTOWER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Big Oil, labor exploiters, industrial food factories, frackers and other corporate profiteers have been paying a lot of money to a man that celebrates himself "Dr. Evil" — the scourge of all progressive groups!

But Rick Berman is not a doctor, not evil and not a scourge. While he is a wholly unprincipled little man, he's just a self-serving huckster who grubs for corporate dollars by offering to do their dirty PR work. His specialty is taking secret funding from major corporations to publicly slime environmentalists, low-wage workers and anyone else perceived by his corporate clients as enemies.

Berman's modus operandi is not exactly sophisticated. Taking money from the likes of Phillip-Morris, Monsanto and Tyson Foods, he sets up tax-exempt front groups (with non-descript names like Center for Consumer Freedom, Employment Policies Institute and Environmental Policy Alliance), posing them as independent research and academic outfits. Each one is an empty shell, run by his small staff of political hacks out of his Washington, D.C., office, and, using the names of the front groups, Berman and Co. buy full-page newspaper ads and write opinion pieces filled with made-up facts and manufactured horror stories for clueless media outlets that amount to raw hatchet attacks on whatever progressive groups or public policies the corporate funders want to kill.

His mad dog style is hardly worrisome to those targeted, for rather than drawing converts to the corporate funder's cause, it merely rallies the usual anti-labor, anti-enviro, anti-"fill in the blank" crowd. But it still appeals to brand-name corporate clients, for Berman promises to spew their message into the media without having any of the nastiness stick to them. "We run all this stuff through nonprofit organizations that are insulated from having to disclose donors," he assured energy executives last year.

2015.27.4 BF Buchheit(Photo: fsecart)PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Because of irresponsible reporting by conservative sources, many Americans have been led to believe that social programs are bankrupting our nation. The mainstream media fawningly concurs, with statements like this from USA Today: "The massive deficits...[and] chronic underfunding...are largely the result of Washington's habit of committing too much money to benefit programs." States are now beginning to attack imagined safety net abuses, such as the use of food stamp funds to pay for fortune tellers and pleasure cruises.

But hungry people rarely waste their modest benefits, and most are eager to work to support their households. Almost three-quarters of those enrolled in food stamps and other social programs are members of working families. And according to the US Department of Agriculture, only 1 cent of every SNAP dollar is used fraudulently.

The real threat is the array of entitlements demanded by the very rich. As they get richer, they're gradually bankrupting the greater part of America, the middle and lower classes. The following annual numbers may help to put our country's expenses and benefits in perspective.

2015.23.4 BF Hoffner(Photo: Bill)ERIK HOFFNER OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Community activists from Cajamarca, Peru appeared at the annual shareholders’ meeting of Denver-based Newmont Mining Corporation this week to deliver a petition bearing 150,000 signatures protesting the company’s practices in the region, and demanded that it live up to its own goals for human rights and sustainability.

Newmont is majority owner of the massive Peruvian gold mine Yanacocha, the second largest gold mine in the world, and its planned Conga gold and copper mine nearby would be even larger, requiring a farming community to move and the four lakes they rely on for irrigation to be drained.

But the community has so far refused to relinquish its treasured land and lakes, and in response activists say the company has reacted with intimidation and harassment.

One person particularly in the company’s cross-hairs is Máxima Acuña de Chaupe, says activist Mirtha Vásquez, a Peruvian lawyer at Wednesday’s meeting. Acuña de Chaupe’s land abuts one of the four lakes but after de Chaupe refused to sell her land in 2011, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) like Earthworks reported that her family became the target of harassment and violence in the form of beatings and destruction of the family home. Then Newmont sued her for “land invasion” and violent retaliation, which it lost on appeal in December 2014.

2015.23.4 BF Berkowitz(Photo: DonkeyHotey)BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

The Koch Brothers, who have pledged to spend at least $1 billion dollars between now and the 2016 elections, first appeared to be building the Good Ship Scott Walker, and now … that may not be putting away their construction gear. At a recent fundraiser for the New York State Republican Party, David Koch told donors that he and his brother were thinking that the Wisconsin’s Governor could be a winning candidate. "We will support whoever the candidate is," David Koch said, "but it should be Scott Walker," according to an account in The New York Times.

While Koch fell short of a full-throated endorsement of Walker, several attendees at the fundraiser told The New York Times that the billionaire brothers seemed to have picked their man. "Scott Walker is terrific and I really wish him all the best,” Koch said. “He’s a tremendous candidate to be the nominee in my opinion." He later added that he wasn’t “endorsing or supporting any candidate for president at this point in time."

A day later, Charles Koch moonwalked his brother’s remarks, telling USA Today that there were four other candidates the brothers were paying close attention to: former Florida governor Jeb Bush and Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Marco Rubio of Florida. "Those are the ones we have talked to the most and who seem to be the possible leaders," he said.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaTallCross(Photo: Dustin Johnston)Former Minnesota Republican Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann recently told Jan Markell, the host of a radio program "End Times," that the rapture is coming and the Obama administration's negotiations with Iran is bringing it on. "Surprisingly, over 22 percent of Americans believe that the world will end during their lifetime," Roy Speckhardt, the executive director of the American Humanist Association, recently reported in the Huffington Post. "This number is even higher when considering the religious, as 54 percent of Protestants and 77 percent of Evangelicals believe that the 'world is now living in the biblical end times.'"

To Christian filmmaker Paul Lalonde, that is music to his ears.

The filmmaker, who is trying to milk every last drop out of Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins' "Left Behind" series of wildly popular apocalyptic novels, has launched a fundraising drive for another Left Behind movie. It appears that production of Left Behind movies will only cease after the Rapture.

Despite the fact that there doesn't appear to be a craving for a sequel to last year's Left Behind box office flop, nevertheless Cloud Ten Pictures producer and CEO, Paul Lalonde, recently announced that a sequel has been green lighted and could be in theaters in the summer of 2016.

The first film, starring Nicolas Cage (actually the second time around for a series of movies based on the "Left Behind" books), garnered only $14 million domestically at the box office and $20 million worldwide. Prior to the release of the first film, Lalonde had pinned his hopes on the star power of Cage and enhanced Hollywood-like real deal action sequences.

"Now," to paraphrase Denzel Washington in the film Philadelphia, "explain to me like I'm a four-year-old why we need another Left Behind movie."

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