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Thursday, 14 December 2017 06:31

Peace on the Far Side of Nuclear Weapons

2017.14.12 bf koehlerKim Jong-un and North Korea's nuclear missile program are only a small piece of the threat faced by every human being on the planet. There's another reckless, unstable leader with his finger on the nuclear button, delivered to the planet a year ago by the flawed US democracy. (Photo: Cymru dros Heddwch | Wales for Peace Follow)ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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". . . real security can only be shared . . ."

I call it news in a cage: the fact that the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons has been awarded this year's Nobel Peace Prize.

In other words, how nice, but it has nothing to do with the real stuff going on across Planet Earth, like North Korea's recent test of an ICBM that puts the entire U.S. in the range of its nukes, or the provocative war games Trump's America has been playing on the Korean peninsula, or the quietly endless development of the "next generation" of nuclear weapons.

Or the imminent possibility of . . . uh, nuclear war.

Winning the Nobel Peace Prize is not like, say, winning an Oscar -- accepting a big, flashy honor for a piece of finished work. The award is about the future. Despite some disastrously bad choices over the years (Henry Kissinger, for God's sake), the Peace Prize is, or should be, utterly relevant to what's happening at the cutting edge of global conflict: a recognition of the expansion of human consciousness toward the creation of real peace. Geopolitics, on the other hand, is trapped in the certainties of same old, same old: Might makes right, ladies and gentlemen, so you gotta be ready to kill.

Wednesday, 13 December 2017 07:47

The GOP's Tax Breaks for the Private Jet Set

CHUCK COLLINS AND JOSH HOXIE FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Jet 1213wrp optOne of 3M's six private Gulfstream 5 jets. (Photo: Alan Light / Flickr)When you think about who benefits from the Republican tax bill the Senate just passed, think of the people who own and ride in private luxury jets.

We know that the benefits of tax bill are skewed to the very wealthy and a handful of global corporations. Republicans have been rushing this bill fully aware that the more people learn, the less they will like it.

As Edward Kleinbard, the esteemed tax economist and former head of the non-partisan Joint Committee on Taxation, observed: "We are squandering a giant sum of money" in this tax bill. "It's not aimed at growth. It is not aimed at the middle class. It is at every turn carefully engineered to deliver a kiss to the donor class."

Kleinbard's donor class aren't people that write $100 checks to candidates. He's talking about billionaires who donate to a wide range of campaign organizations, some with their identity obscured, to move a larger agenda.

Wednesday, 13 December 2017 07:31

Historic Youth Climate Lawsuit Poised to Advance

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Kids 1213wrp opt(Photo: fictures / Flickr)A landmark climate change lawsuit brought by a group of children appears poised to move forward after a Monday hearing at a federal appeals court, despite the Trump administration's efforts to dismiss the case.

Juliana v. United States was filed in 2015 on behalf of 21 young plaintiffs who argue that their constitutional and public trust rights are being violated by the government's creation of climate danger.

At the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, the three-judge panel heard oral arguments over whether President Donald Trump and his administration can evade a trial set for February.

In June, the government filed a petition for writ of mandamus with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, seeking an extraordinarily rare review of a Nov. 10, 2016 decision by U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken to deny its motion to dismiss the case. The legal maneuver basically allows an appeals court to correct an abuse from a lower court.

JOHN GEYMAN, M.D., FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

medicaidmattersMedicaid is threatened by Republican tax restructuring bills. (Photo: Jobs With Justice)

As the debate in Congress continues over what to do about tax cuts, Medicaid is clearly on the chopping block for devastating cuts at a time when it is increasingly needed. The stakes of these cuts are cavalierly discussed but little understood or cared about by GOP legislators.

Most Americans do not understand that Medicaid is not only the mainstay of U. S. health care, but the major access to care for tens of millions of uninsured, disabled, poor, and increasingly, middle class working people above the poverty line who cannot afford necessary care. A recent article by Phil Galewitz in Kaiser Health News describes the reach of the program which now serves as “the backstop for America’s scattershot health care system.” As the largest health care program (74 million compared to Medicare’s 55 million), Medicaid covers more than one in five Americans, with about one in four being on Medicaid at some point over the course of a year. As the workhorse of our system, Medicaid now covers 39 percent of all children, almost one-half of all births, more than 60 percent of nursing home and long-term care expenses, 41 percent of adults ages 18 to 64 with HIV, more than one-quarter of mental health services, and over one-fifth of spending on substance abuse treatment. (Galewitz, P. Medicaid covers all that? It’s the backstop of America’s ailing health system. Kaiser Health News, September 25, 2017).

Since its enactment as part of the Great Society program in 1965 as a  program to help those living in poverty, Medicaid has progressively been expanded to other population groups in subsequent years:

•  in 1987, coverage was added for pregnant women and children living in families with incomes almost twice the federal poverty level FPL;
•  in 1997, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) was enacted to cover eligible children
•  and since 2013, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) allowed states to expand Medicaid to 17 million people earning less than 138 percent of the FPL, as 31 states did.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

BWsign 1211wrp opt(Photo: Bob Davis / Flickr)Erik Prince, the founder of the notorious Blackwater (now known as Academi) private army that wreaked havoc during the Bush-era military adventures in Iraq, the chairman of Frontier Services Group, an aviation, logistics, and security firm, brother of education secretary Betsy DeVos, and close friend to Steve Bannon, is not letting any grass grow under his mercenary and entrepreneurial feet.

In addition to his proposals to the Trump administration to privatize the war in Afghanistan and mine the country's valuable minerals, Prince is also looking to franchise FSG operations in China.

First Afghanistan: According to BuzzFeed News' Aram Roston, Prince, who recently testified to the House Intelligence Committee for its Russia investigation, "briefed top Trump administration officials directly, talked up his [Afghan privatization] plan publicly on the DC circuit, and published op-eds about it. He patterned the strategy he's pitching on the historical model of the old British East India Company, which had its own army and colonized much of Britain's empire in India. "An East India Company approach," he wrote in the Wall Street Journal Wall, "would use cheaper private solutions to fill the gaps that plague the Afghan security forces, including reliable logistics and aviation support."

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Wealth 1211wrp(Photo: Ashish Shah / Flickr)America's super-rich are taking not only from their own nation, but also from the rest of the world. Data from the 2017 Global Wealth Databook (GWD: Table 2-4) and various war reports help to explain why we're alienating people outside our borders. 

From 2012 to 2017, global wealth increased by $37.7 trillion, and U.S. wealth increased by $26 trillion. Thus, largely because of a surging stock market, our nation took nearly 70 percent of the entire global wealth gain over the past five years. Based on their dominant share of U.S. wealth, America's richest 10% -- much less than 1% of the world's adult population -- took over HALF the world's wealth gain in the past five years.

Friday, 08 December 2017 06:28

The Democratic Values of Net Neutrality

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Net 1208wrp opt(Photo: Vision Planet Media / Flickr)We're told by politicos, pundits and internet providers themselves that access to the net is crucial to our educational achievement, future prosperity and ability to be self-governing. Yet, while this digital highway is deemed vital to our nation's well-being, access to it is not offered as a public service — i.e., an investment in the common good. Instead, it is treated as just another profit center for a few corporations — so few that selling broadband access to the world wide web has become a very lucrative source of what economists call "monopoly rents," the ability of corporations in a non-competitive market to extract excess profits from customers.

Even with the monopoly rents, the great virtue of the internet is that no one controls its content. This digital communication technology has been so spectacularly successful and so socially valuable because it is a wide-open, democratic forum, accessible on equal terms to all who want to put information, images, opinions, etc. on it or to download any of the same from it. Since its invention, the guiding principle behind the use of this liberating technology has been that no corporation, government, religion or other controlling power should be its gatekeeper, impeding the free and equal flow of communication to and from those who use it (yes, there is some censorship around the world, as well as here at home, but clever users commonly find their way around it).

 

Researchers at Imperial College London have found an association between exposure to road traffic pollution and an increased risk of low birth weights at term.Researchers at Imperial College London have found an association between exposure to road traffic pollution and an increased risk of low birth weights at term. (Photo: Pixabay)LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

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We already know that air pollution is bad for our lungs, but a new study shows that air pollution can even harm a baby that hasn't left the womb.

Researchers at Imperial College London have found an association between exposure to road traffic pollution and an increased risk of low birth weights at term.

A low birth weight, which is less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces, can lead to health issues for some babies, such as breathing problems, an increased risk of infection, and low blood sugar. In the long term, babies born with a low birth weight are more likely than babies born at a normal weight to have diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and other health conditions.

 when is the right time to talk about gun control? We see something that worked elsewhere -- Australia -- and we cannot learn from that? When is the right time to talk about gun control? We see something that worked elsewhere -- Australia -- and we can't learn from that? (Photo: Joe Brusky)MELISSA A. WORK FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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It was a nice warm evening where children, brothers, sisters, moms, dads, and friends gathered to listen to country music in Las Vegas, Nevada. They came from all different walks of life, but one thing they had in common was their love for country music singer Jason Aldean. At 10:05 p.m. thousands of lives changed forever. Bullets starting ringing out by the hundreds, and in turn fear. Some realized what was happening in seconds and managed to move to safety while others were not so fortunate. It took a few minutes until everyone realized that the dreadful sound was truly, in fact, bullets. Many lost a loved one. Some lost a father, mother, sister, brother, daughter, and or son. The Las Vegas shooting took 58 innocent lives -- the deadliest shootings in the US since the massacre of some 300 Sioux children, women, and elders 127 years ago at Wounded Knee on December 29, 1890.

Gun control has been a heated topic for years. The Second Amendment states, "A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." This was created in 1791, 226 years ago. Since then, many things have changed including technology, style, cars, but what I would like to focus is mass shootings.

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

TeslaBat 1206wrp optA Tesla battery pack. (Photo: Amy Robinson / Flickr)After deploying a solar and battery system to a children's hospital in San Juan this October, Tesla has installed six more similar systems to help power the hurricane-wrecked islands of Vieques and Culebra in Puerto Rico.

In a statement to Bloomberg, Governor Ricardo Rossello's office said that Tesla installed the new units as "a humanitarian effort."

More than two months have passed since Hurricane Maria destroyed Puerto Rico's already weakened electric grid. Restoration of power has been set back by frequent outages and mired in controversy (i.e. Whitefish Energy). Electric capacity is only at 68 percent after the Sept. 20 storm hit.

As reported by Electrek, Tesla's Powerpack systems on Vieques and Culebra will act as microgrids until the main grid connected via underwater cables switches back on.

The packs will help provide the 8,825 people in Vieques and 1,797 in Culebra with reliable and renewable energy. The systems are installed at key areas, including a sanitary sewer treatment plant, the Arcadia water pumping station, the Ciudad Dorada elderly community, the Susan Centeno hospital, and the Boys and Girls Club of Vieques.

Puerto Rico Aqueducts and Sewers Authority executive Elí Díaz Atienza told Electrek that each system has a capacity of 250kW/500kWh and they can run "the Vieques facility 70 percent of the time at 100 percent capacity and the installation of Culebra 100 percent of the time at 100 percent capacity."

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