Guest Commentary (5121)
WIM LAVEN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
"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?
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
"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
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.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
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.
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.
DAVID KRIEGER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
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.
MEDEA BENJAMIN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
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.
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
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
"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:
DAVID SWANSON FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
What is freedom of religion? It is not actually or directly freedom to think or not think religious stuff, not to the extent that one can, or chooses to, keep one's thoughts secret. Rather, it is the right to display or to refuse to display religiosity.
If you have freedom of religion, as I think everyone should, and if we all have the right to our own lives and well-being, as I think we should, then as long as you're not hurting anyone else, you have the right to hold various things sacred: books, statues, symbols, buildings, trees, whatever. And everyone else has the right not to hold those things sacred.
In Saudi Arabia, if you do not act as if you hold certain objects and words and behaviors sacred, your life is in jeopardy.
In the United States, what puts you at the greatest risk of unpleasant repercussions is not the practicing of any particular religion, with the possible exception of Islam or anything that people might mistake for Islam. What the most factors conspire to compel you to in the United States is this: flag worship.
ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUTLORRAINE CHOW OF
Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch
The French government intends to vote against and block the European Commission's proposal to reauthorize use of the controversial chemical in the European Union.
"The European Commission has proposed renewing its approval for glyphosate for another 10 years. This is far too long, given the concerns that remain over this product, and France will vote against the proposal, as clearly laid out previously in July," Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced Monday.
According to Reuters, failure to renew the license by the end of the year would initiate an automatic ban starting Jan. 1, 2018.
ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUTLORRAINE CHOW OF
Article reprinted with permission from Ecowatch
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It's becoming clear that plastic pollution is everywhere, even at the northernmost tip of the planet.
Scientists have recently found chunks of polystyrene on ice floes in the Central Arctic Ocean, about 1,000 miles from the north pole -- an area that could not be accessed before due to sea ice, the Guardian reports.
"Vessels can now access and exploit a new, unexplored and vulnerable ocean region on the planet," an expedition blog post states, noting that approximately 1 million square kilometers of the Central Arctic Ocean is likely to have been ice-free this summer.
"For the 25 years I have been exploring the Arctic I have never seen such large and very visible items of rubbish," Hadow told the Guardian. "The blocks of polystyrene were just sitting on top of the ice."
PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Most people looking to make big money are eager to disparage public systems as inefficient, wasteful, inferior. Many of those people are in a position to starve the public systems of funding, thereby making them less functional, and making the private options look more appealing.
But privatization is not the solution, it is the problem. Properly supported public systems serve more people in a more efficient and less costly way. We might begin by looking at FEMA, the underfunded disaster relief program much maligned for its response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005. But today it's a lifesaver for many people. And the alternative is an onslaught of businesses that seek profit among the hurricane victims desperate for water and food and supplies.
Privatization cuts us in two: we've become a nation of profit-makers versus the struggling middle/lower classes. This is true for health care, education, housing, and the environment.
LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
"We are prepared to challenge immediately whatever official action is taken to modify the monument or restructure any aspect of that, such as the Bears Ears Commission," Ethel Branch, Navajo Nation attorney general, told Reuters.
The tribe believes that the reduction of Bears Ears' boundaries violates the Antiquities Act, a 1906 law designed to protect archeological sites from looting and vandalism and allows presidents to designate the lands as national monuments without going through Congress.
In December, President Obama used his authority under the Antiquities Act to designate 1.35 million acres of land as the Bears Ears National Monument, which contains 100,000 significant Native American sites.