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2016.3.3 Bf Chow(Photo: Antoine.Couturier)LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

The GMO label law fight took an turn Tuesday after the Senate Agriculture Committee voted to pass the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act (SAFE) in a 14-6 vote.

Dubbed by opponents as the Denying Americans the Right to Know (DARK) Act, if voted into law, the bill would block states from requiring labeling on genetically modified (GMO) foods and pre-empt state laws that require labeling from going into effect—like the one taking effect in Vermont in July.

The Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.)-introduced bill would establish a national voluntary labeling standard for foods made with GMOs, similar to the bill already passed in the House. Proponents of the bill—such as the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), which represents more than 300 food and beverage titans—argue that a 50-state patchwork of GMO labeling policies would be costly.

The GMA, which has slapped numerous lawsuits and spent millions in lobbying against mandatory labels at the state and federal level, commended the vote.

“We thank Senator Roberts for his leadership to find a common-sense solution that now goes to the full Senate with bipartisan momentum,” said GMA president and CEO Pam Bailey, in a statement. “It is critically important that the full Senate pass this legislation as quickly as possible and for the bill to be voted on by the House. Vermont’s mandatory labeling law goes into effect on July 1, and this law could increase food costs for families across the nation by an average of $1,050 a year.”

2016.3.3bf lakoff(Photo: Darron Birgenheier)GEORGE LAKOFF FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Donald Trump is winning Republican presidential primaries at such a great rate that he seems likely to become the next Republican presidential nominee and perhaps the next president. Democrats have little understanding of why he is winning — and winning handily, and even many Republicans don't see him as a Republican and are trying to stop him, but don't know how. There are various theories: People are angry and he speaks to their anger. People don't think much of Congress and want a non-politician. Both may be true. But why? What are the details? And Why Trump?

Many people are mystified. He seems to have come out of nowhere. His positions on issues don't fit a common mold.

BILL QUIGLEY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaCompton(Photo: PD-US)Luz Herrera, social justice lawyer and UCLA law professor, was born in Tijuana to Mexican parents and grew up in the Latino neighborhoods of Los Angeles.    

Not only the first lawyer in her family, she is the first woman in her family to go to college.

Herrera did not know any lawyers and never even thought of being a lawyer until meeting some  Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) attorneys her senior year in high school.   “I decided to become a lawyer when California was in the middle of many anti-immigrant campaigns, a redistricting battle, and the tensions that lead to the 1992 civil disturbance (aka riots) in Los Angeles were brewing.”

Law school was tough.  Herrera attended Harvard Law and later wrote an article detailing her frustrations in the Harvard Latino Law Review there.   

“The first-year courses were teaching me to think like a lawyer, and while I acknowledged that I was changing, I was not all that pleased by what I was becoming. My discomfort in the law school classroom was due to my identity as a first-generation, working-class Chicana. The idea that laws were neutral and that their application was fair did not ring true in my world of working-class individuals. Despite being a student leader in college, I found myself staying silent in much the same way my parents had when they were forced to deal with legal matters.”

Law came alive only in law clinic when she found she had a real passion for providing direct services to people like those in her family and neighborhood.    She helped people who were working towards self-employment by starting businesses and nonprofits and doing real estate. 

When she graduated in 1999, she, like most of her classmates, went to work in a large corporate law firm.  Earning a six figure salary right out of law school, in her corporate work she never entered a court room and she had very little interaction with clients.   That ended after two years.

Professor Herrera is clear that “Justice is forged and earned, not given.”

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaRobinHood(Photo: Louis Rhead )The financial transaction tax is not an idea whose time has just now come; it simply has returned. From 1914 to 1966, our country taxed all sales and transfers of stock. The tax was doubled in the last year of Herbert Hoover's presidency to help us recover from the Great Depression. Today, 40 countries have FTTs, including the seven with the fastest-growing stock exchanges in the world. Eleven members of the European Union (including Germany and France) voted for a financial transaction tax to curtail poverty, restore services and put people back to work.

This is no soak-the-rich-idea. Rather than asking the Wall Street crowd to join us in paying a 6 to 12 percent sales tax, the major FTT proposal gaining support in the U.S. calls for a 0.5 percent assessment on stock transactions. That's 50 cents on a $100 stock buy versus the $8.25 I would pay for a $100 bicycle.

Even at this minuscule rate, the huge volume of high-speed trades (nearly 400 billion a year) means an FTT would net about $300 billion to $350 billion a year for our public treasury. Plus, it's a very progressive tax. Half of our country's stock is owned by the 1 percenters, and only a small number of them are in the high-frequency trade game. Ordinary folks who have small stakes in the markets, including those in mutual and pension funds, are called "buy and hold" investors: They only do trades every few months or years, not daily or hourly or even by the second, and they'll not be harmed. Rather it's the computerized churners of frothy speculation who will pony up the bulk of revenue from such a transaction tax.

An FTT is a straightforward, uncomplicated way for us to get a substantial chunk of our money back from high-finance thieves, and we should make a concerted effort to put the idea on the front burner in 2016 and turn up the heat. Not only do its benefits merit the fight; the fight itself would be politically popular. One clue to its political potential is that the mere mention of FTT to a Wall Street banker will evoke a shriek so shrill that the Mars rover hears it. That's because they know that this proposal would make them defend the indefensible: themselves.

First, the sheer scope of Wall Street's self-serving casino business model would be exposed for all to see. Second, they would have to admit that they're increasingly dependent on (and, therefore, making our economy dependent on) the stark-raving insanity of robotic, high-frequency speculation. Third, it'll be completely ridiculous for them to argue that protecting the multi-trillion-dollar bets of rich market gamblers from this tax is more important than meeting our people's growing backlog of real needs.

2016.1.3 bf lorraien chow(Photo: micagoto)LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

England will soon be home to Europe’s largest floating solar farm, if not the world. The 6.3 megawatt array consists of 23,000 solar panels that sit on the Queen Elizabeth II reservoir at Walton-on-Thames, a suburb of London near Heathrow Airport.

According to The Guardian, the £6 million (about $8 million) project will help power local water treatment plants that provide clean drinking water to London and south-east England’s 10 million residents

“This will be the biggest floating solar farm in the world for a time—others are under construction,” Angus Berry, energy manager for Thames Water, the utility which owns the site, told The Guardian. “We are leading the way, but we hope that others will follow, in the UK and abroad.”

2016.1.3 BF Chow(photo: Nattu)LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

After six nominations, Leonardo DiCaprio won his first Oscar for Best Actor for his role inThe Revenantat last night’s Academy Awards. The noted environmental activist devoted half of his acceptance speech to call for urgent collective action to fight climate change, calling it “the most urgent threat facing our species.”

The 41-year-old actor, who was favored to win the Oscar and had swept the Best Actor category in every major award show leading up to the Academy Awards, first thanked the cast and crew in his speech and then shined a spotlight on his passion project.

Making The Revenant was about man’s relationship to the natural world. A world that we collectively felt in 2015 as the hottest year in recorded history,” he said, describing how the entire production needed to move to the southern tip of this planet in Argentina just to be able to find snow.

“Climate change is real, it is happening right now,” DiCaprio continued. “It is the most urgent threat facing our entire species, and we need to work collectively together and stop procrastinating.”

DR. VANDANA SHIVA OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBackMonsanto(Photo: EcoWatch)Monsanto is in the news again. The Competition Commission of India, the country’s antitrust regulator, said last week that it suspects a Monsanto joint venture abused its dominant position as a supplier of genetically modified (GMO) cotton seeds in India and has issued an order citing prima facie violation of Sections 3(4) and 4 of the Competition Act, to be investigated by Competition Commission of India’s director-general.

Monsanto also faces cases brought by state governments and domestic seed manufacturers, for the astronomical royalty it charges. In previous cases, Monsanto defended itself by saying that it was “trait fees” (for using its technology in cotton hybrids) and not royalty.

Fact is that Monsanto has viewed the laws of our land as mere hurdles in its way to swindle India and our farmers. On March 10, 1995, Mahyco (Monsanto-Mahyco) brought 100 grams of cotton seeds, containing the MON531-Bt gene, into India without the approval of the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC).

Eager to establish a monopoly in India based on the smuggled MON531 gene, Monsanto-Mahyco started large scale, multi-centric, open field trials of Bt cotton in 40 locations spread across nine states, again without GEAC approval.

Article (7) of the Environment Protection Act, 1986, states: “No person shall import, export, transport, manufacture, process, use or sell any hazardous microorganisms or genetically engineered organisms/substances or cells except with the approval of the GEAC.” GMO traits, once released into the environment, cannot be contained or recalled.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaDonTrumpyPoo(Photo: Gage Skidmore)In what might be one of their last opportunities to hack away at Donald Trump’s lead in the polls, Thursday night’s Republican Party debate had both Senator Marco Rubio and Senator Ted Cruz laying into Trump, blasting him for his vague and nebulous policy plans, financial contributions to pro-immigration politicians, his refusal to issue his tax returns, and his possible involvement as a defendant in a suit against his late for-profit and beleaguered Trump University. Trump, as is his wont, flicked the charges aside with a series of insults, facial contortions and blather. It remains to be seen as Super Tuesday rapidly approaches, whether Rubio and Cruz’s attacks have any affect at the polls.

The day before the debate, a clearly exasperated writer for the ultra-conservative Patriot Post wrote: “Once upon a time, the idea of Donald Trump's securing the Republican nomination for the presidency existed only in the realm of fantasy. But as primaries in four states now reside in the history books, and The Donald has claimed three wins and 81 delegates, fantasy is merging with possibility, if not quite yet reality.”

After the debate, an ever-hopeful Patriot Post declared: “We certainly hope it's not too late for voters to realize that Trump is not the answer. He's nothing but insanely idiotic bluster, repeated over and over and over again, ad nauseum. We've endured eight months of it. Can you imagine four or eight years? To re-employ one of his phrases, that is not going to make America great again, believe us.”

Many of the headlines -- from all ends of the political spectrum – describing Trump’s march towards the Republican Party’s presidential nomination tend to maintain that the GOP is doomed if Trump heads the ticket.

However, if the campaign team of whoever is the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee thinks that running against Trump will be similar to previous presidential campaigns, I’ve got news for them: Taking on the bombastic, brash, bawdy, boastful Trump will be like nothing they’ve ever dealt with before.

Friday, 26 February 2016 06:44

Public Defender Meltdown in Louisiana

BILL QUIGLEY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaGavel(Photo: Jonathunder)Louisiana, which has the highest incarceration rate in the country, no longer provides public defenders to all its people accused of crimes; within months over half its public defender offices are expected to become insolvent.

“It’s a nightmare,” according to James Dixon, the chief Louisiana Public Defender. “You have people in jail that don’t have lawyers. It’s that basic.” In Louisiana, public defenders are appointed to represent nearly 250,000 people each year. Dixon has been warning of a constitutional crisis for years due to inadequate funding. His office has recently been sued in a federal class action by the ACLU.

The state public defender indicated that 24 of the 42 local public defender offices will become insolvent and restrict services in the next few months. Many already have broken down. Public defenders in 13 of Louisiana’s 42 judicial districts are already restricting services.

For example, the Lafayette Parish public defender has laid off 35 of its 52 attorneys, and imposed salary cuts of 20 percent on those who remain. The constitutional guarantee of speedy trial is gone and death penalty cases are grinding to a halt. The remaining public defenders face caseloads of 1000 felonies a year, a rate more than five times as high as recent Texas legislature mandated caseload study which concluded that public defenders should represent no more than 175 felonies a year.

New Orleans public defenders have been refusing to represent the most serious cases since January. The highly respected Marshall Project reports their budget has been cut from $9.5 million to $6 million in the past four years. That office, which represents 85 percent of those charged in criminal court, has already laid off lawyers, and cannot replaced the many lawyers who have resigned because of a hiring freeze. The office handles 10,000 misdemeanors and 8,000 felonies a year. One public defender wrote in the Washington Post that brand new lawyers have to handle cases with life sentences, carry double the number of cases that the American Bar Association recommends, do not have the time to even see their clients and are forced to plead people out to felony convictions on the day they meet them.

2016.25.2 BF Mellino(Photo: Percy)COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

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The city of Hamburg, Germany has banned single use coffee pods in state-run buildings as part of an initiative to reduce waste.

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