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Tuesday, 21 June 2016 06:40

Newt Gingrich's Last Hurrah

Newt Gingrich and Donald Trump caricatures(Photo: DonkeyHotey)BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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It doesn't surprise me one bit that Newt Gingrich is on Donald Trump's short list for vice president. And it wouldn't surprise me if Gingrich really wants the job. Despite leaving Congress in disgrace in the late-1990s, and conducting a failed run for the Republican Party's 2012 presidential nomination, over the past several decades he has rarely  been out of the spotlight. And while he has been consistently rehabbing his image, he remains a rash on the political landscape that, no matter what you do to deal with it, never goes away.

Gingrich has had numerous character-challenging episodes on his resume. In 1994, three days before the mid-term elections, Gingrich used the Susan Smith case  – a South Carolina mother who was then accused of drowning her two young sons -- to garner votes. Then Congressman Gingrich, told an Associated Press reporter that voters were moving toward the GOP: "I think that the mother killing the two children in South Carolina vividly reminds every American how sick the society is getting and how much we need to change things." Gingrich added, "The only way you get change is to vote Republican. That's the message for the last three days."

After the passage of California's Proposition 8 -- an initiative banning same-sex marriage -- Gingrich told Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly that protesters were representative of "a gay and secular fascism in this country that wants to impose its will on the rest of us."

In what might be his last chance at grabbing for the gold, Gingrich, an unapologetic Trump supporter appeared to make his boldest pitch yet to being The Donald's running mate. He  recently executed a Joseph McCarthy-like pivot by suggesting that the House of Representatives form a twenty-first century version of the infamous House Un-American Activities Committee  "to root out American citizens who plan to commit terrorist attacks in the US," Talking Points Memo's Allegra Kirkland recently reported.

Monday, 20 June 2016 08:49

Donald Trump vs. the First Amendment

WALTER BRASCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Bill 0620wrp optIf Donald Trump should become president, don’t expect his administration to be a transparent one or one that tolerates dissent and believes in the First Amendment.

At his campaign rallies, even those held at public venues, he forbids, according to his press advisories, “homemade signs, banners, professional cameras with a detachable lens, tripods, monopods, selfie sticks, back packs or large bags.”

The restriction on “professional cameras” is targeted to the media. Apparently, he doesn’t want unflattering pictures of him and his extra large baggage mouth to get to the public, although he is adept at positioning himself in front of the media for every possible story angle. If he were president, he would not have a choice of who can and cannot photograph him, because the First Amendment guarantees that public officials cannot invoke a “prior restraint,” which is what a restriction on photography would be.

Why he doesn’t want “back packs or large bags” is probably because he fears weapons at his rallies. Of course, he has said numerous times that he believes in the Second Amendment right to own and carry weapons, even assault weapons like the handguns and semi-automatic assault rifles that were used to kill 26 at the Sandy Hook elementary school, the 14 killed in San Bernardino, and the 49 killed in an Orlando nightclub.

Not allowing the public to make signs and banners is such a huge violation of the First Amendment that even the most rabid conservatives, and every judge—no matter what their judicial or political philosophy is—would laugh themselves silly at Trump’s belief that as a president he could control the message, like he is doing as a candidate.

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Justice 0620wrp opt(Photo: D. Gordon E. Robertson)While candidates bicker and Congress stagnates, the super-rich enjoy the absence of attention paid to one of our nation's most destructive issues.

The richest Americans are takers of social benefits. Yet they complain about paying 12% to 20% in taxes, even as respected researchers estimate an optimal revenue-producing rate of 80% to 90%, and even with the near-certainty that higher marginal tax rates will have no adverse effects on GDP growth.

The super-rich pay little in taxes because, as Senator Lindsey Graham said, "It's really American to avoid paying taxes, legally...It's a game we play...I see nothing wrong with playing the game because we set it up to be a game." In reality, it's a game of theft from the essential needs of education, infrastructure, and jobs.

The Richest Individuals Cheat the Most

According to a recent IRS report, an incredible $406 billion annual gap exists between owed and paid taxes, with individuals accounting for over three-quarters of the total, and with the most egregious misreporting coming from the highest income-takers.

That's about $3,000 per U.S. household in annual lost revenue. Yet even though the IRS retrieves well over $100 for every dollar in salaries paid to their agents, the agency has been rapidly losing staff, making the tax avoidance game a lot easier for the biggest cheaters.

Corporations Cheat Most Creatively

Relative to a dollar of payroll tax, corporations used to pay $3 in income tax. Now they pay 30 cents.

Exxon uses a theoretical tax to 'pay' its bill, and grandfatherly old Warren Buffett's company Berkshire Hathaway uses hypothetical amounts to avoid paying taxes.

Despite having billions in profits and nearly half of its sales in the U.S., Pfizer claimed enormous losses in the United States.

Each year the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) sells contracts worth about a quadrillion dollars, four times more than all the wealth in the world. Yet ZERO sales tax is paid on the purchases.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016june17 trumpmediaempIs Trump campaigning his brand to launch a media empire? (Photo: Russell Davies)

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Will Donald Trump be joining some of his fellow billionaires in establishing his own cable network? Can he monetize his popularity with the segment of the population that turns out at his rallies and buys Trump paraphernalia? Is there an audience for All Trump/All The Time?

Billionaires’ ownership of newspapers and other media outlets is nothing new. Earlier this month, Forbes’ Kate Vinton reported that “billionaires have long exerted influence on the news simply by owning U.S. media outlets.” Rupert Murdoch and Michael Bloomberg “are longtime media moguls who made their fortunes in the news business,” while Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who bought The Washington Post, “bought publications as a side investment after building a substantial fortune in another industry. “

According to Vinton, “Billionaires own part or all of several of America’s influential national newspapers, including The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, in addition to magazines, local papers and online publications.”

Sheldon Adelson, the multibillionaire casino magnate, a major funder of right-wing causes and candidates and a Donald Trump endorser, owns a daily newspaper in Israel called Israel Hayom; bought after being unhappy with how he was being covered in Israel. Here at home, Adelson bought the Las Vegas Review-Journal for a reported $140 million.

2016.16.6 bf chow(Photo: flo21)LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

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Major kudos to Hannah Rousey. The college-bound student from Lovell, Maine has turned down a $1,000 scholarship money from Nestlé subsidiary Poland Spring‬ due to her objections to bottled water and the company's environmentally destructive practices.

"I am grateful for the scholarship I have been awarded, but I cannot in good faith accept money from a company that does not exhibit sustainable and ethical practices," she wrote a letter to the bottling company on June 2, according to the Conway Daily Sun.

The 17 year old has been accepted to Sterling College in Vermont where she will pursue a degree in sustainable agriculture and environmental protection law and policy. She was one of five students who received a $1,000 Poland Spring Good Science scholarship at her high school graduation ceremony from Fryeburg Academy in Fryeburg, Maine, the Bridgton News reported.

Thursday, 16 June 2016 06:50

Mass Murder and the US Penchant for War

2016.16.6 bf koehler(Photo: Martin Frey)ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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This won't be the last.

Half a week into the Orlando tragedy, this reality remains pretty much unacknowledged, as cause-seekers focus on security and ISIS and the specific mental instability of Omar Mateen, who, as the world knows, took 49 precious lives and injured 53 others at the nightclub Pulse in the early hours of June 12.

Was it terrorism? Was it a hate crime? Apparently there's a media obsession with categorizing murder. No, this was faux-war, as all our mass killings are, waged by an army of one or two or a few. And it won't be the last. Mass killings are part of the social fabric -- still shocking, still horrifying, but becoming more and more . . . "normal."

Tighter security won't stop them. Destroying ISIS won't stop them. Banning immigrants won't stop them. Maybe nothing will -- though I don't believe that. I do believe in karma, which is to say, the idea that what goes around comes around. If we act with violence, violence will come back to haunt us.

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Bottle 0615wrp opt(Photo: Epipowell)Ocean plastic pollution is an increasingly devastating crisis, and this new infographic shows exactly where the plastic trash is coming from, where it ends up and why it’s important to start our fight against this environmental scourge at the beach.

The graph, provided by UK-based Eunomia Research & Consulting, shows that more than 80 percent of the annual input of plastic litter, such as drink bottles and plastic packaging, comes from land-based sources. The remainder comes from plastics released at sea, such as lost and discarded fishing gear.

Significantly, Eunomia was able to come up with a new estimate of annual global emissions of “primary” microplastics, such as microbeads, fibers or pellets. (“Secondary” microplastics are the result of larger pieces of plastic breaking down into smaller pieces.)

The firm calculated that emissions of microplastics range from 0.5 to 1.4 million tonnes per year, with a mid-point estimate of 0.95 million tonnes. Vehicle tires are the biggest culprits, releasing 270 thousand tonnes of debris into our waterways annually.

These tiny non-biodegradable pieces of plastic are a cause for worry, as they are being gobbled up by plankton and baby fish like junk food, and works its way up the food chain. Microplastics have been found in in ice cores, across the seafloor, vertically throughout the ocean and on every beach worldwide. As EcoWatch mentioned previously, microplastics are also very absorbent, meaning they pick up the chemicals it floats in.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016 06:32

Jim Hightower: Who Says Crime Doesn't Pay?

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Bull 0615wrp(Photo: Aseba)Hey, can we all just stop complaining that our government coddles Wall Street's big money-grubbing banks?

Sure, they went belly-up and crashed our economy with their frauds, rigged casino games, and raw greed. And, yes, the Bush and Obama regimes rushed to bail them out with trillions of dollars in our public funds, while ignoring the plight of workaday people who lost jobs, homes, businesses, wealth, and hope. But come on, Buckos, have you not noticed that the feds are now socking the bankers with huuuuuge penalties for their wrongdoings?

Wall Street powerhouse Goldman Sachs, for example, was recently punched in its corporate gut with a jaw-dropping $5 billion for its illegal schemes.

Wow, $5 billion! That's a stunning amount that Goldman Sachs has agreed to pay to settle federal criminal charges over its shameful financial scams that helped wreck America's economy in 2008. That's a lot of gold, even for Goldman Sachs. It's hard to comprehend that much money, so think of it like this: If you paid out $100,000 a day, every day for 28 years, you'd pay off just one billion dollars. So, wow, imagine having to pull Five Big B's out of your wallet! That's enough to make even the most arrogant and avaricious high-finance flim-flammer think twice before risking such scams, right? Thus, these negotiated settlements between the Justice Department and the big banks will effectively deter repeats of the 2008 Wall Street debacle... right?

Actually, no.

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

bramble 750The Bramble Cay melomys have vanished from its 350m-long cay home in the Torres Strait due to sea-level rise and weather events. Photo credit: Queensland Government

The Bramble Cay melomys—a rodent found only on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef—has been declared extinct, according to a new study from researchers at the Queensland’s Department of Environment and Heritage Protection and the University of Queensland.

Alarmingly, this could be the first mammal species wiped out due to human-induced climate change.

The researchers came to the conclusion after failing to find a single specimen of the melomys, also called the mosaic-tailed rat, from its only known habitat.

“A thorough survey effort involving 900 small mammal trap-nights, 60 camera trap-nights and two hours of active daytime searches produced no records of the species, confirming that the only known population of this rodent is now extinct,” the study states.

Sea-level rise and weather events in the Torres Strait region, which lies between Australia and the Melanesian island of New Guinea, was determined as the root cause of the loss. The scientists said that the events destroyed the animals’ sole habitat on Bramble Cay, a small vegetated coral cay in northern Australia. Research showed that Bramble Cay had reduced dramatically in size from approximately 2.2 ha in 2004 to only 0.065 ha, equivalent to a 97 percent loss in the span of 10 years.

“The key factor responsible for the extirpation of this population was almost certainly ocean inundation of the low-lying cay, very likely on multiple occasions, during the last decade, causing dramatic habitat loss and perhaps also direct mortality of individuals,” the study states.

JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016 June14flintwaterPresident Obama drinking a glass of Flint water is not the same as removing lead from our water supply. (Photo: Laura Nawrocik)

No matter what you may think of President Obama, it’s easy to admire him when he makes an appearance on one of the nightly talk shows. (watch this clip from the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon). He’s charming, intelligent, a natural at quips, and serious when discussing important problems plaguing Americans.

By contrast, however, there’s a thing called “the reality check” on his track record, which has driven many a liberal Democrat up the wall by feeling the burn of betrayal at times.

True, in many cases, Obama’s hands have been tied by an obstinate and racist Republican congress, but how do you explain his own executive actions that benefit the corporate elites at the expense of public health safety issues? How do you explain his lack of action when Americans need to be rescued from corporate abuses that could easily be fixed by enforcing environmental regulations?

The word that comes to mind is “disillusionment.” There’s the impressive picture of President Obama, and then there’s Obama’s record of decisions that even his predecessors, Bush-Cheney, couldn’t come close to passing: offshore oil drilling in the Arctic, and military operations off the Alaska coast, as Truthout journalist, Dahr Jamail, explained, this is a toxic threat to the entire pristine region. Or consider the fracking boom that was unleashed across the country under the Obama administration with the full knowledge and proof that it’s contaminating our public drinking water, coupled with the fact that fracking causes earthquakes.

Whether it’s perpetual wars, right-wing coups in Latin America, oil and gas drilling, or selling slave labor and anti-environmental trade deals such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, (check the 35,000 Germans protesting Obama-TPIP), as the negatives outweigh the positives, you can understand why presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders, became immensely popular. Senator Sanders has a long, established record of action that supports his agenda.

Take, for example, Obama’s lack of action regarding the toxic lead water contamination problem at over 350 public schools. 

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