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A sign on the path as you leave the beaches of the Dead Sea in Eik Bokek, Israel. (Photo:<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/emeryjl/509700872" target="_blank"> James Emery / Flickr</a>)A sign on the path as you leave the beaches of the Dead Sea in Eik Bokek, Israel. (Photo: James Emery / Flickr)AKIRA WATTS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

"What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow: this is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn" - Rabbi Hillel

As Jews go, I'm a poor one. I like Wagner and bacon, and have been known to seethe a kid in its mother's milk. I have enough tattoos to be banned from burial in any Jewish cemetery, and I gave up on God halfway through my first reading of the Old Testament - in that one passage where he acts like a genocidal psychopath.

I'm a bad Jew.

But, since my mother was Jewish, I am still, technically, Jewish. Which means that, should I so desire, I can move to Israel and, in time, become a citizen. As for the Palestinian guy in Gaza whose family has been living there for 20-odd generations? He lives in an open air prison and if he wants to spend some time in the land of his ancestors, he will be going through multiple armed check points, if he is lucky.

Or, these days, he's not visiting at all, what with the bombings and ground invasion and all. As I write, the Palestinian death toll stands at over 1200, while the Israeli death toll amounts to three civilian casualties and an IDF toll that may have surpassed 50 by now, but would have not occurred if the invasion had not been launched. A UN school has been hit for the second time, with an Israel mortar as the confirmed source, and at least 16 Gazans who sought refuge there are dead.

(Photo:<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/billb1961/7671452428" target="_blank"> bill baker / Flickr</a>)(Photo: bill baker / Flickr)

ECOWATCH STAFF ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) publicly released its report this week finding that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is “not consistently conducting two key oversight and enforcement activities for class II programs” for underground fluid injection wells associated with oil and gas production. The report shows that the EPA’s program to protect drinking water sources from underground injection of fracking waste needs improvement.

According to the report, “The U.S. EPA does not consistently conduct annual on-site state program evaluations as directed in guidance because, according to some EPA officials, the agency does not have the resources to do so.” The report also found that “to enforce state class II requirements, under current agency regulations, EPA must approve and incorporate state program requirements and any changes to them into federal regulations through a rulemaking.”

“The federal government’s watchdog is saying what communities across the country have known for years: fracking is putting Americans at risk,” said Amy Mall, senior policy analyst at the Natural Resources Defense Council. ”From drinking water contamination to man-made earthquakes, the reckless way oil and gas companies deal with their waste is a big problem. Outdated rules and insufficient enforcement are largely to blame. EPA needs to rein in this industry run amok.”

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaFBI(Photo: Federal Bureau of Investigation)Let's start with a premise I think we can all agree with: There have been no 9/11-type attacks on United States soil since, well, 9/11. Here's another statement we all probably agree with: The federal government has all sorts of arrows in its quiver when it comes to gathering intelligence to thwart such attacks. And that is where it begins to gets dicey: Unfortunately, in its counterterrorism project, the government appears to be relying more and more on perhaps the most twisted of those arrows; the use of informants, coerced and/or rewarded, entrapment, and the sting.

Since the September 2001 terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, the federal government has obtained more than 500 federal counterterrorism convictions. According to a new Human Rights Watch report (produced in association with Columbia Law School's Human Rights Institute), "nearly 50 percent of [those] ... convictions resulted from informant-based cases; almost 30 percent of those cases were sting operations in which the informant played an active role in the underlying plot."

The report, "Illusion of Justice: Human Rights Abuses in US Terrorism Prosecutions," points out that, while "[m]any prosecutions have properly targeted individuals engaged in planning or financing terror attacks... many others have targeted individuals who do not appear to have been involved in terrorist plotting or financing at the time the government began to investigate them.

"Indeed, in some cases the Federal Bureau of Investigation may have created terrorists out of law-abiding individuals by conducting sting operations that facilitated or invented the target's willingness to act."

EUGENE ROBINSON ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBorderbeachtj(Photo: James Reyes)The Republican Party's paralysis on immigration is so complete -- and so utterly irresponsible -- that President Obama has no choice but to act on his own.

Just say the word immigration and most GOP members of Congress either change the subject or scurry away. Rather than tackle a suite of genuine issues whose obvious solutions would clearly benefit the nation, House Republicans prefer to pass yet more useless bills that seek -- and fail -- to take away people's health insurance.

Both parties agree that the rapid influx of more than 50,000 unaccompanied children from Central America is a crisis. Yet House Speaker John Boehner must struggle to convince his GOP majority to do something, anything, before leaving Washington for their annual month-long summer vacation.

Obama asked Congress for an emergency $3.7 billion appropriation, much of which would be spent to house and care for the children while their requests for asylum are evaluated. Senate Democrats are set to propose approving roughly $2.7 billion, shaving the president's request to the sum needed for this calendar year. There is no guarantee, however, that the bill won't be stymied by a GOP filibuster.

House Republicans, meanwhile, have been spinning their wheels. Boehner is reportedly seeking agreement on a bill that provides only about $1 billion in emergency funding, far less than Obama says is needed. And it seems likely that the House bill -- if there is one -- will seek to change a 2008 law that prevents the Central American children from being summarily deported.

Open carry guns. (Image <a href=" http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/75/New_Hampshire_Open_Carry_2009.jpg" target="_blank">via Wikipedia</a>)Open carry guns. (Image via Wikipedia)WALTER BRASCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

A group of white gun-rights advocates plan to sling rifles, shotguns, and semi-automatic assault weapons onto their bodies, and walk through a Black neighborhood in Houston.

What could possibly go wrong with that?!

The march through Houston's Fifth Ward is planned for August 16 to "educate" Texans about their rights to openly carry firearms.

To deflect criticism that the march is racially-insensitive, the testosterone-enhanced group, apparently with straight faces to hide its freeze-dried minds, says all it wants is for racial equality.

Student homelessness increased by 10 percent in just one year. (Photo:<a href=" https://www.flickr.com/photos/corruptkitten/1648247208" target="_blank"> Denise Allen / Flickr</a>)Student homelessness increased by 10 percent in just one year. (Photo: Denise Allen / Flickr)

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Our country's wealthy white once-idealistic baby boomer generation has cheated those of you entering the working world. A small percentage of us have taken almost all the new wealth since the recession. Our Silicon Valley CEOs have placated you with overpriced technological toys that are the result of decades of American productivity, but which have mainly profited the elite members of their industries.

Although none of us in the older generations can speak for you, we can help you research the facts. And the facts are painfully clear.

Young people challenge Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) for being a climate denier at a town hall meeting on April 2, 2013. (Photo:<a href=" https://www.flickr.com/photos/forecastthefacts/8620704806/in/photolist-e8Mncu-e8MmZ1-e8FHxn-bmBHBb-9vaVJ4-baXmia-7mS2E1-9vaVAz-9vdWjC-9vdWpb-atxQxb-9QqJ9z-5UuKET-7nwhV6-7nwhSk-7nwhXR-7nKLcK-fjkK7p-gHYFC3-8McxgS-4qVL93-9chSab-fEMxbu-7a8obm-4ULBrG-ebVfyv-7pBZ9E-e8FHQz-9vdWrw-7nPEfb-7nPEbS-7nKL3n-7nPEdL-7nPE9E-boqPC-aeYSVt-atxQBS-aejdEy-8jRU36-5Nbgbi-mwTu11-c3EvMb-9z2eCG-aScRAr-buFUc4-dVGtpU-9ksVdw-7a4ygp-4Npvb2-4NtCkj" target="_blank"> ForecastTheFacts / Flickr</a>)Young people challenge Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) for being a climate denier at a town hall meeting on April 2, 2013. (Photo: ForecastTheFacts / Flickr)

BRANDON BAKER OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Just a week after a nonprofit revealed that the U.S. is lagging behind other developed countries in energy efficiency, a research firm’s data shows that the nation is the leader in denying climate change.

With more and more denial earning time on TV and in Washington, it’s not all that surprising. Still, it’s sobering to see visual data of Americans’ attitudes toward climate change compared to other countries.

The data comes from United Kingdom-based Ipsos MORI, as part of the company’s Global Trends study, which polled 16,000 people in 20 countries. The respondents were asked 200 questions about eight topics, including the environment.

Citigroup Center, Chicago. (Image <a href="http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c6/Citigroup.canary.wharf.arp.500pix.jpg" target="_blank">via Wikipedia</a>)Citigroup Center, Chicago. (Image via Wikipedia)JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Media outlets across the country trumpeted the stunning news with headlines like this: "Citigroup Punished."

At last, went the storyline, the Justice Department brought down the hammer on one of the greed-headed Wall Street giants that are guilty of massive mortgage frauds that crashed our economy six years ago. While millions of ordinary Americans lost homes, jobs, and businesses — and still haven't recovered — the finagling bankers were promptly bailed out by Washington and continue to get multimillion-dollar bonuses. So, hitting Citigroup with $7 billion in penalties for its role in the calamitous scandal is a real blow for justice!

Well, sort of. Actually ... not so much. While seven billion bucks is more than a slap on the wrist, it pales in contrast to the egregious nature of Citigroup's crime and the extent of the horrendous damage done by the bankers. In fact, when it announced the settlement, the Justice Department itself pointed out that Citigroup's fraudulent acts "shattered lives."

For most of us, paying billions is impossible to imagine, much less do. But this is a Wall Street colossus with $76 billion in revenue last year alone. It rakes in enough profit in six months to more than cover this "punishment." Also, the bank will get to deduct 40 percent of the penalty from its income tax. Then there's this little number that the prosecutors failed to mention when they announced the settlement: Citigroup's taxpayer bailout in 2008 was $45 billion — six times more than it is now having to pay back!

Wednesday, 23 July 2014 07:55

Ukraine Under Siege by the Religious Right

A wooden Russian Orthodox church just south of Kiev, Ukraine. (Photo:<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/mattsh/5481601274/in/photolist-9moD5N-k5f3rc-7WVVAg-7YxHBW-9PX5oW-ie4ov7-4jnTLR-7tFnwJ-8DwRYZ-iuHppx-AHZ32-7Wqzg1-jC3iFS-ePfwhz-4ci53F-dexowA-8HizkN-8yyNU9-aBLVk1-fxGSML-8q9diT-8mN7Md-ooRj1e-dWrFB7-9K8WkH-ogq1Vt-bNwCM6-mym9Ga-bYAS5S-9UgBsm-n6Ethr-7Hx1z8-9zv5rz-dB37K7-kfDhVh-6fkxb7-kfANYR-kfDhwb-iQnPos-hyNEQr-kfAGxV-8dazip-dYd8mg-kfDjgy-mEAjxv-9cfNgu-kfDey7-bisSax-fJGUWP-fBhFB6" target="_blank"> Matt Shalvatis / Flickr</a>)A wooden Russian Orthodox church just south of Kiev, Ukraine. (Photo: Matt Shalvatis / Flickr)BILL  BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

The World Congress of Families, an anti-gay Religious Right operation with an international focus, had been planning to hold "World Congress of Families VIII – the Moscow Congress" in Russia in September. According to a WCF Press Release, the conference has been suspended because of the "situation in the Ukraine and Crimea (and the resulting U.S. and European sanctions) [which] has raised questions about travel, logistics, and other matters necessary to plan WCF VIII."
The "situation" in Ukraine, however, isn't scaring off numerous Religious Right leaders from visiting Ukraine and pitching their wares.

As the late Actor/Comedian/Pianist, Jimmy Durante often said: "Everybody wants to get into de act." Now, it's David Barton's turn. People for the American Way's Right Wing Watch recently reported that Barton, ersatz historian and genuine Christian nationalist had also spent some time in Ukraine, where he met "with members of the government and various religious leaders in order to teach them how to build a proper government based on the teachings of the Bible."

Last week, Buzzflash ran a piece about the American Pastors Network involvement with government and religious entities in Ukraine. However, over the past fifteen years, the Religious Right has launched numerous projects aimed at the Ukrainian people.

(Photo: Protect South Portland)(Photo: Protect South Portland)NICOLE D'ALESSANDRO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

A historic vote in Maine reaffirms that residents want to keep toxic tar sands at bay.

Yesterday, South Portland City Council voted 6-1 to pass the Clear Skies Ordinance, which prohibits bulk loading of tar sands onto tankers at the waterfront and the construction of any infrastructure that would be used for that purpose.

A number of groups, including Protect South Portland, Natural Resources Council of Maine and Environment Maine, have weighed in on the issue after finding that the pipeline transfer and bulk loading of tar sands on the waterfront would increase toxic air pollution, including volatile organic compounds; contribute to climate change threats; pose unacceptable risks of pipelines leaks into lakes and rivers; threaten wildlife; and harm property values.

The bulk loading of crude has never been done in South Portland, and the city plans to keep it that way. This is the first time in which a U.S. city considering loading tar sands oil onto tankers has banned the activity. 

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