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BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaanycvigilAt a vigil and rally in New York City on June 22, 2015, a memorial pays reverence to the victims of the racist and terrorist Charleston church massacre. (Photo: The All-Nite Images)

First they said it was "too early" to talk about the issues behind the murder of nine black people attending a Bible study class at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, on Wednesday, June 17. Then they tried to shift the narrative, accusing President Barack Obama of disrespecting the victims and politicizing the issue. Then a leader of a Washington D.C.-based Christian lobbying outfit accused the president of "exploiting these tragedies to accomplish his ultimate goal: expanding government at the expense of personal freedom." In the wake of the Charleston Massacre, mainstream conservative politicians, Religious Right leaders, media outlets and pundits locked arms in an attempt to deflect any discussion of confessed killer Dylann Storm Roof's white supremacist views.

"For its part, the Christian Right wants to talk about anything but race," Frederick Clarkson, Senior Fellow for Religious Liberty at Political Research Associates, a social justice think tank in Massachusetts, told me in an email. "The Christian Right and the Republican Party are counting on the power of a narrative that claims that faith, or religion generally, and Christianity in particular are under siege in America to be a fertile campaign theme."

Clarkson added that "The mass murder of African American Christians in their own church casts into sharp relief the emptiness of the Religious Right's persecution claim. The Christians murdered at Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston were not killed primarily because of their faith, but because of their race. And everyone knows it."

Monday, 22 June 2015 08:32

War, Murder and the "American" Way

2015.22.6 KOEHLER(Photo: Light Brigading)ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

He sat with them for an hour in prayer. Then he pulled his gun out and started shooting.

And today our national numbness is wrapped in a Confederate flag. The young man who killed nine members of Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church on Wednesday night was an old-school racist. “I have to do it,” Dylann Storm Roof is said to have explained. “You rape our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go.”

Roof’s roommate told ABC News the next day that he was “big into segregation and other stuff” and “he wanted to start a civil war.” And this is America, where we have the freedom to manifest our lethal fantasies.

But this is bigger than racism and the pathetic monster of white supremacy. Racism is a name for one of the currents of righteous hatred that coils through our collective unconscious, and over the decades and centuries it has motivated terrible crimes against humanity. But the “civil war” that Roof participated in is, I think, much larger and much more meaningless. And not all the participants are loners.

“In a pattern that has become achingly familiar to him and the nation,” the New York Times reported, “Mr. Obama on Thursday strode down to the White House briefing room to issue a statement of mourning and grief as he called on the country to unify in the face of tragedy.”

Monday, 22 June 2015 06:56

Two Ways Racists Kill

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaabus(Photo: Stephen Melkisethian)

In 1931 the New Republic reported on a lynching in Mississippi: "Jim [Ivy] was staked with heavy chains and dry wood was piled knee-high around him. Gasoline tanks were tapped for fuel. Three men set the wood and Jim on fire. I saw the flames climb high on Jim. Jim screamed, prayed and cursed; he struggled so hard that he snapped one of the log chains that bound his ankles to the stake. I was looking into his eyes that second. They were popping with pain and terror...the flames reached up and burned his screaming voice into silence. The mob turned to go. It was about time for supper."

In Birmingham, Alabama on September 15, 1963, four 11- to 14-year-old girls were in the basement restroom of the 16th Street Baptist Church when a bomb went off. The ground floor collapsed on them. As shocked and bloodied churchgoers wandered through the smoky aftermath, community members began to gather outside, and Governor Wallace sent the police in to disburse the crowd. Two young black men were killed that night, one by the police and one by white thugs.

On June 17, 2015 a white man murdered nine African-American members of a bible study group at a church in South Carolina. "I have to do it," he said.

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaGlacier(Photo: LucaG)Climate change has caused Alaska’s glaciers to melt so quickly that a one-foot thick layer of water could completely cover the entire state of Alaska every seven years, according to a new study.

Alaskan glaciers have lost 75 billion metric tons of ice every year from 1994 through 2013, The Washington Post′s Chris Mooney reported from the study, which was recently accepted for publication in the peer-reviewed Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union. Mooney also reported that the Columbia Glacier (see GIF above) alone has been sending 4 billion metric tons of water into the oceans every year.

Alaska’s melting glaciers are “punching far above their weight” when it comes to contributing to sea level rise, CBS News‘s Michael Casey pointed out, referring to how Alaska only holds one percent of the Earth’s glacial ice volume, with most of the Earth’s ice found in Antarctica and Greenland’s ice sheets.

But as the authors of the new study explained, “Despite Greenland’s ice covered area being 20 times greater than that of Alaska, losses in Alaska were fully one third of the total loss from the ice sheet during 2005-2010.”

2015.18.6 BF Pantsios(Photo: Matt Niemi)ANASTASIA PANTSIOS OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch.

Once upon a time, asbestos, with its superior heat- and fire-resistant properties, was routinely used in building construction. But that was before awareness grew over the last 100 years about its connection to lung disease and several types of cancer, which can be triggered by only brief exposure to the material. Asbestos-laden materials fell from favor, as litigation ballooned into the costliest mass litigation in US history and companies manufacturing asbestos productions went bankrupt in the wake of the lawsuits.

Asbestos has now been banned in many countries, but not in the US. Although its use is less common now, asbestos still presents a danger, especially when the demolition of older buildings releases asbestos fibers into the air. According to the Environmental Working Group’s Action Fund, asbestos still kills 12,000-15,000 people annually in the US.

Now the Office of the Inspector General of US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a report on Tuesday headlined “EPA Should Update Guidance to Address the Release of Potentially Harmful Quantities of Asbestos That Can Occur Under EPA’s Asbestos Demolition Standard.” It says bluntly that the agency’s guidelines for demolishing crumbling old buildings are woefully out of date and need to be revamped to protect public health and safety.

2015.18.6 BF Marcus(Photo: Garry Knight)JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

We have grown up thinking that we were Earth’s owners and dominators, authorized to loot her. The violence that exists in the human heart, wounded by sin, is also manifest in the symptoms of illness that we see in the Earth, the water, the air and in living things.

- Pope Francis, Encyclical on the Preservation of Nature

This essay is written in memory of Rachel Carson, biologist, nature-lover, essayist, and a woman who had the moral fortitude to stand up, by herself, against the ruthless oil and chemical industries that resulted in the elimination of DDT pesticide from our environment.

If Rachel Carson were alive today she would be applauding Pope Francis’ Encyclical on how world governments must make the preservation of nature, (for there is no life without our forests, rivers, oceans and healthy soil), our moral and economic priorities instead of pushing through secret trade deals, without the people’s consent, that allow the major polluters to keep drilling, poisoning, and raping our only Home, Planet Earth, until there is nothing left to loot.

The industrial age should have been history by now. But thanks to a handful of greedy politicians, shifting to clean, harmless energy has been postponed for as long as they can postpone it—perhaps to the point of extinction of all life. That’s not hyperbole. According to Elizabeth Kolbert, the 2015 Pulitzer Prize author-scientist of The Sixth Extinction, life on this planet will perish if we don’t change course to sustainable energy as quickly as possible, given that time is running out. This major shift from the industrial paradigm to the renewable paradigm is long overdue.

ANASTASIA PANTSIOS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaMonsantoEcoWatch(Photo: EcoWatch)What’s a GMO-promoting multinational chemical company to do? Word is getting out that, while the science isn’t clear whether genetically modified crops (GMOs) themselves are harmful, the fact that they were created to be resistant to increasing amounts of pesticides such as glyphosate is a problem.

Monsanto, which manufactures the glyphosate weedkiller Roundup, reacted furiously to a report released earlier this year by the World Health Organization (WHO) that glyphosate likely causes cancer. The company demanded that WHO retract the report, repudiating the years of research by multiple scientists. With Roundup the most widely used and top-selling herbicide, Monsanto clearly has a bottom line to protect.

That bottom line has just taken another hit. In Europe, where people are far more suspicious of the extravagant claims and potential dangers of GMOs than in the U.S. and heavily regulates them, the French government has announced this week that it is restricting the sale of glyphosate weedkillers in garden centers.

“France must be on the offensive with regards to the banning of pesticides,” said ecology minister Ségolène Royal. “I have asked garden centers to stop putting Monsanto’s Roundup on sale.”

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaCreflo(Photo: Colin Brown)You've probably never heard of Pastor Creflo Dollar. He is a charismatic and controversial preacher/televangelist who founded the College Park, Georgia-based 30,000-member World Changers Church International. And, despite being investigated for financial irregularities, and later for child abuse, and a proclivity for filling his personal coffers till his cup runneth over, he doesn't embarrass easily. Although thrust into the unpleasant glare of the media spotlight after putting out a fundraising video asking his supporters to finance a $60-65 million dollar Gulfstream G650 private jet – the "Holy Grail of luxury private jets, according to Bloomberg news -- it looks like, after all the hullabaloo has died down, Dollar will get his jet, courtesy of WCCI's board of directors.

Christianity Today's Bob Smietans recently reported that the video -- viewed over 325,000 times -- "claimed that Dollar's family had been endangered by mechanical problems with the ministry's former plane, and asked 200,000 supporters of World Changer's Church International to give $300 each for a replacement. Church officials removed the video earlier this year."

Smietans pointed out that "A new video is in the works and a donation request remains live on Dollar's website, along with the apology."

ANASTASIA PANTSIOS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaPopeFrancisEcoWatch(Photo: EcoWatch)Excitement and speculation have been building for months around Pope Francis’ encyclical on climate change, which is due to be released on Thursday following a noon press conference. Now a leaked draft of the document, published Monday in Italian Magazine L’Espresso, has given Vatican watchers and environmentalists something to sink their teeth into, although the Vatican cautioned that this was not the final version, which could be similar or substantially different, and had asked that details of the draft not be published.

The contents of the leaked document, said to be called “Laudato Si (Be Praised), On the Care of Our Common Home,” won’t surprise anyone who has been following the stream of statements the Pope has been making on the environment. But by putting it in the form of an encyclical, the Pope gives official weight to the opinions he’s been expressing in many contexts.

The document addresses the role of fossil fuels on climate change and its outsized impact on poor nations, chastising wealthy countries for their disposable lifestyle. He calls for reducing carbon emissions by developing policies that hasten the switch to clean, renewable sources of energy to stave off the “unprecedented destruction of the ecosystem.”

“Humanity is called to take note of the need for changes in lifestyle and changes in methods of production and consumption to combat this warming, or at least the human causes that produce and accentuate it,” he wrote, according to a report by The Guardian. “Numerous scientific studies indicate that the greater part of the global warming in recent decades is due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases … given off above all because of human activity.”

The Pope does not enumerate or analyze the scientific basis of the climate crisis in detail but rather reflects on the moral aspects of humanity’s care for the Earth.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaHuck16(Photo: Gage Skidmore)Republican 2016 presidential candidate Mike Huckabee appears to be, to borrow a phrase from Sarah Palin, "palling around with" child molesters. First it was his vigorous defense of Josh Duggar, and now reports have surfaced that the co-author of two of his books, was excommunicated from his church for being a child molester.

After information that Josh Duggar -- the oldest child in the Duggar family of the television show 19 Kids and Counting – had sexually molested several of his sisters and a babysitter when he was a teenager, Huckabee came forward to vigorously defend Josh, who at the time of the revelations, was a high-profile spokesperson for the Family Research Council, a Washington, D.C.-based Christian conservative lobbying outfit.

On May 22, a day after reports that Duggar had molested his sisters came out, Huckabee posted on Facebook: "Let others run from them. We will run to them with our support."

Last week, during an interview with the Fox News Channel's Megyn Kelly, he said that it was all about the media "exploiting" the family. According to the Christian Post, Huckabee "suggested that the family is being targeted for their Christian views, and argued that if the story concerned liberals, it would not have created such a media stir."

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