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DAN ZUKOWSKI OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission of EcoWatch

16677857756 5475fe97a4 z 1A red wolf in the wild. (Photo: Victoria)

The commentary you find at BuzzFlash and Truthout can only be published because of readers like you. Click here to join the thousands of people who have donated so far.

The same scientists who provided the population viability analysis to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) for the red wolf have sent a rebuttal to the agency, accusing it of "many alarming misinterpretations" in its justification for removing most of the remaining animals in the wild.

Last month, the USFWS announced that it would recapture 32 of the 45 wolves in the wild and leave only those on federal lands. Currently, there are about 200 red wolves in captive breeding programs in the U.S. as part of the agency's Species Survival Plan (SSP).

The letter, released to the public today, bluntly counters the agency's proposal to recapture 32 wolves and place them in captive breeding programs:

"A singular focus on the SSP will no doubt result in extinction of red wolves in the wild."

On Sept. 29, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina issued a preliminary injunction ordering the USFWS to stop capturing and killing—and authorizing private landowners to capture and kill—members of the rapidly dwindling population of wild red wolves.

"There's no need to capture wild wolves in an effort to save the captive population, which is what the service contends," said Defenders of Wildlife attorney Jason Rylander.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

4122925426 07b8073529 zShould this building be renamed the GOP Supreme Court? (Photo: Matt Wade)

The commentary you find at BuzzFlash and Truthout can only be published because of readers like you. Click here to join the thousands of people who have donated so far.

For the right wing, Justice Antonin Scalia was to the Supreme Court what Ronald Reagan was to the presidency: St. Anton. Before Scalia's body even got cold, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky announced that no judge nominated by President Obama to replace "the revered one" would be considered by the Senate. In fact, McConnell refused to hold Senate Judicial Committee hearings on any nominee put forth by Obama, and very few Senate Republicans would even consent to holding a conversation with Obama's nominee, Judge Merrick Garland.

One doesn't need to fully support Judge Garland -- many progressives consider him a centrist on key issues -- to see how obstructionist the Republicans are being. It is as though they are hoping for some deus ex machina to appear to fill Scalia's vacant Supreme Court seat with another brash right-wing troglodyte: an individual with a masterful ability to make the most egregious defenses of assaults on justice and common sense sound like grandiloquent legalese. I frequently wrote about Scalia during his tenure -- including several commentaries about his role as the ring leader in a cult that stole the presidency and handed it to George W. Bush by a 5-4 Supreme Court decision.

One of the most gruesome and ludicrous court opinions Scalia wrote concerned Troy Davis, who was eventually executed despite evidence that indicated he was innocent. Scalia wrote in a 2009 dissent on whether Davis should be retried:

This Court has never held that the Constitution forbids the execution of a convicted defendant who has had a full and fair trial but is later able to convince a habeas court that he is "actually" innocent. Quite to the contrary, we have repeatedly left that question unresolved, while expressing considerable doubt that any claim based on alleged "actual innocence" is constitutionally cognizable.

It's frightening to think that the current Congress won't give the time of day to a judge who is about as centrist as a Democratic president's nominee could be, but lauds a jurist who believes that the US Constitution doesn't outlaw executing a person who is probably innocent.

There is some speculation in the press that Garland may not be confirmed by the Senate even if Hillary Clinton wins the election in November. Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) indirectly affirmed this possibility when he proclaimed this week that the GOP would oppose any Clinton nominee, if she becomes president.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

oct2016obamamMichelle Obama understands that words matter. (Photo: Mike Baird)

Michelle Obama was responding to Donald's Trump's excuse that he was just engaging in "locker room banter" when he boasted about sexual assault in a 2005 "hot mic" videotape with Billy Bush. Later, in the second debate, Trump claimed words were not actions, and he specifically denied ever engaging in such heinous behavior.

However, Michelle Obama was having none of that. She drew a straight line to the heart of the matter when she declared, "I can't believe I'm saying a candidate for president of the United States has bragged about sexually assaulting women." She explained that she was "shaken to the core" by Trump's words and the misogynist nature of his entire campaign:

The fact is that in this election, we have a candidate for president of the United States who -- over the course of his lifetime and the course of this campaign -- has said things about women that are so shocking, so demeaning that I simply will not repeat anything here today. And last week, we saw this candidate actually bragging about sexually assaulting women. And I can't believe that I'm saying that a candidate for President of the United States has bragged about sexually assaulting women.

And I have to tell you that I can't stop thinking about this. It has shaken me to my core in a way that I couldn't have predicted. So while I'd love nothing more than to pretend like this isn't happening, and to come out here and do my normal campaign speech, it would be dishonest and disingenuous to me to just move on to the next thing like this was all just a bad dream.

This is not something that we can ignore. It's not something we can just sweep under the rug as just another disturbing footnote in a sad election season. Because this was not just a "lewd conversation." This wasn't just locker-room banter. This was a powerful individual speaking freely and openly about sexually predatory behavior, and actually bragging about kissing and groping women, using language so obscene that many of us were worried about our children hearing it when we turn on the TV.

It now seems clear that this was not, however, just words. It's one of countless examples of how he has treated women his whole life. And I have to tell you that I listen to all of this and I feel it so personally, and I'm sure that many of you do too, particularly the women. The shameful comments about our bodies. The disrespect of our ambitions and intellect. The belief that you can do anything you want to a woman.

Thursday, 13 October 2016 08:00

Bullying Is Not Just a Problem in Schools

Mark Karlin, Editor of BuzzFlash at Truthout

8208077880 b823b7647d z 1Bullying is systemic in the United States. (Image: Ken Whytock)

So frequently the media and people in social and political leadership positions focus on reforming problems on a micro-level, when the problems are actually part of a larger institutional structure. For instance, take the repeated focus on school bullying as an issue. The authors of Bully Nation: How the American Establishment Creates a Bullying Society -- this week's Truthout Progressive Pick, which you can obtain with a donation by clicking here -- helped me understand that if we isolate school bullying from the larger US economic, military, political and cultural systems, efforts to combat it will be doomed to fail. Bullying in our schools is not an exception to our society; it is a consequence of it.

My interview with the authors of the book -- Charles Derber and Yale R. Magrass -- will be published on Sunday on Truthout. In it, the authors trenchantly lay out the conundrum of trying to halt the societal context in which this odious behavior occurs:

Bullying has been a means of controlling people, putting them in “their place,” for perhaps as long as there have been humans. Until about twenty years ago, it was dismissed as “normal,” a rite of passage that children and adolescents must go through and “get over.” Some endure relatively little of it – perhaps they are bullies themselves- and it leaves little long-term impact. For others, it is a trauma that leaves lifelong scars...

We live in militarized capitalism. Capitalism assumes competition -- winners and losers. Militarism requires violence, aggression and submission to authority. Bullying builds these very traits. Psychology is inadequate to understand the cause and power of bullying. Indeed, bullying is about power, and psychology hardly has a concept of power. It is all about individuals changing their attitudes. Sociology and politics are much better at understanding power. 1950s sociologist C. Wright Mills spoke of the “sociological imagination,” where he argued you cannot separate “personal troubles” from “public issues.” We need the sociological imagination to understand bullying -- how are children raised to blend into militarized capitalism? What kind of school system does militarized capitalism need? How do school authorities encourage a student culture which prepares for militarized capitalism and sees bullying as a “normal” part of life?

When you combine extreme capitalism with hyper-militarism, you end up with a culture that is very conducive to bullying. There should be no surprise that schoolchildren and teenagers pick up their cues from the culture at large. This also makes marginalized young people particularly vulnerable to bullying and violence in schools: The bullying of LGBTQ students, for instance, is an especially urgent problem. It is born of a larger cultural context that, in essence, values bullying in how its infrastructure works, even while denouncing it among young people.

Mark Karlin, Editor of BuzzFlash at Truthout

21016octprescripFor many Americans, Big Pharma profiteering is a matter of life and death. (Photo: Thomas Hawk )

In spite of the recent scandals regarding predatory drug pricing for many vital medications, pharmaceutical companies and their CEOs are still engaging in wanton profiteering, as I noted a couple of months ago. If people have the money, they are going to pay whatever medication costs are necessary to save their lives, unless they are fortunate enough to have rare coverage for costly prescriptions. For individuals in medical need, it may be a matter of life or death, but for the drug industry it's just a matter of price-gouging to increase shareholder profits and the excessive compensation of CEOs.

That's the conclusion reaffirmed in a report, "Outrageous Fortunes: Big Pharma Executives Cash-In on High Drug Prices," conducted by the Institute for Health & Socio-Economic Policy (IHSP), a research arm of National Nurses United. An October 10 news release from Nurses United summarized key findings:

Top pharmaceutical executives are making billions of dollars in compensation while implementing skyrocketing price increases for essential medications, according a new research report released today by the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United.

In “Outrageous Fortunes,” the report finds that pharma executives were handed over $11 billion in compensation the past five years. In 2015, the most recent year for which the data is available, the ten highest paid pharma chief executive officers (CEOs) made $327 million....

The report finds a direct connection between executive pay, profiteering – through pay for performance arrangements based on profits and stock prices – and escalating drug prices that increasingly block patient access to affordable medication.

Mark Karlin, Editor of BuzzFlash at Truthout

SamanthaBeeFeb2011 1Samantha Bee (Photo: Justin Hoch)

 In the middle of a Full Frontal segment on last month's bombings in New York and New Jersey, Samantha Bee launched into an excoriating attack on NBC "tacitly condoning a race-baiting demagogue." It's not just that NBC gave Trump a years-long platform on "The Apprentice" to position him as a credible authoritarian business leader. NBC even featured Trump, while running as a candidate for the GOP nomination, as host of "Saturday Night Live" on November 17, 2015.

Meanwhile, Jimmy Fallon has treated Donald Trump as a guest on "The Tonight Show" as an affable, playful potential president, even tousling his hair as if he were a friendly Golden Retriever. The YouTube clip of Fallon "messing" up Trump's hair -- as Trump plays the affable foil -- has received more than 8 million views, not to mention the vast audience across the United States who watched the original "The Tonight Show" farce. Yes, NBC terminated Trump's association with "The Apprentice" after he began his campaign by calling Mexican immigrants "rapists," but the network didn't terminate its association with him on other programming. It is still making money off of showcasing him to voters, expecting him to draw in big audiences (and increased advertising profits) whenever he appears on NBC.

When Trump was in his full birtherism bloom, accusing President Obama of not being a citizen, the station was fine with having Trump continue to enhance his brand on The Apprentice.  It didn't take x-ray vision to see that birtherism was both a real and symbolic movement to discredit Obama as an American because he is Black. Thus, NBC was fine with having Donald Trump, who was a leader in perpetuating a racist attack on the president of the United States, hosting "The Apprentice."

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

octvotingrightsVoting rights are being taken in away en masse, denying the most fundamental right of US citizenship. (Photo: Lauren Shiplett)

 On September 15, I wrote a commentary about how the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law filed a lawsuit to prevent Georgia from implementing an onerous "voter registration verification process." From the title, it may sound sounds like a benign vetting process, but is actually one of the many laws and regulations that Republican-controlled legislatures and governors have been using to place obstacles in the place of non-Republican voters.

This particular voter suppression strategy in Georgia requires voters to show that all the data on four pieces of official state and federal identification match before they are allowed to vote. It sounds harmless enough, but remember that there is virtually no individual voter fraud in the United States involving the casting of a ballot by a person isn't eligible to cast one. There are, however, plenty of instances of voter suppression: denying eligible people the right to vote, along with the possible hacking of vote-counting software, manipulation of final vote counts after the polls close and more.  

Requiring a process such as a four-ID-card data match to be able to vote can be directly traced back to the post-slavery efforts to keep Black people from voting. It provides the opportunity to deny large numbers of people the chance to vote, while not holding other groups of people to the same ultra-stringent requirements.

I offer my wife's ID card situation as an example of the insidious nature of the Georgia regulation. Her legal name is Teresa, but she goes by the name of Terry.  Sometimes she includes her middle name on IDs; sometimes she doesn't. Her passport has her full formal name listed, while her driver's license has her name as Terry. This means that, were she to live in Georgia, she might not be able to vote.  Exactly how consistently such a regulation -- and other non-Republican voter suppression laws -- are applied has not yet been the subject of large scale studies. However, one could speculate that primarily white suburban and rural districts are perhaps less "rigorous" in enforcing voter obstruction laws.

As we've mentioned, there are a multitude of laws and regulations aimed at making it difficult for non-Republicans to vote in Republican-run states. There are, of course, many issues on which the two major parties work as a duopoly, but -- in general -- Republicans in Congress and state legislatures try to prevent people of color and others who are likely to vote Democratic or for a third party from casting a ballot. In general, Democratic legislatures and elected officials in the federal government are for broader suffrage.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

setp30repoWells Fargo even violates the law by repossessing cars of those serving in the military. (Photo: Don Hankins)

On September 9, I wrote about how the banking giant Wells Fargo went on an illegal spree of opening false credit cards, checking and saving accounts; charged customers fees for unrequested "services"; and then fired more than 5,000 employees when the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) discovered the illicit activity. The CFPB -- conceived by Elizabeth Warren -- has limited power to address systemic banking abuse, but it did force Wells Fargo to stop these practices and pay an extremely modest fine of less than $200 million.

Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf scapegoated the terminated staff, who were paid an average of around $12 per hour. They were likely compelled to open fraudulent "cross-service" accounts to earn bonuses that would give them a living income. Stumpf himself has accumulated a reported $200 million in bank bonuses, while the executive -- Carrie Tolstedt – was expected to "retire" with a $20 million bonus.

Although Stumpf appeared to have escaped blame and financial penalty from the CPFB and other regulatory agencies, in the last week he ran into the buzzsaw of Elizabeth Warren and other senators at a Senate Banking Committee hearing. Warren has for years clamored that big bank executives should be held accountable for systemic deceptive and risky financial behavior in their institutions. Last week, Warren led the outraged condemnation of Stumpf for his nurturing of an environment that rewarded illegal behavior. CNN Money called it an "epic takedown": Warren called for Stumpf's resignation, accused him of "gutless leadership" and relentlessly castigated him for betraying consumers.

Stumpf may have thought that he was going to avoid any accountability after the original CFPB fine, but fortune is not shining upon him now. The treasurer of California has announced that it will halt much of its banking business with Wells Fargo. CNN Money also reported that Stumpf and Tolstedt will be issued multi-million dollar financial "fines" by the Wells Fargo board, in light of the Warren-led Senate committee hearings:

DAN ZUKOWSKI OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

bisenco32Bison in Yellowstone National Park face a harsh winter environment. Taken by Dan Zukowski for EcoWatch.

Three wildlife groups sued the federal government Tuesday, asking for the Yellowstone bison to be listed as a threatened or endangered species in order to protect the iconic animals from hunting and prescribed culling. Currently, park officials manage the population to about 4,000 animals using these methods. The population now numbers about 4,500.

Some 60 million bison, also known as buffalo, once roamed the prairies and grasslands of North America. They provided food, clothing and sustenance to Native Americans. In the 1800s, European settlers began hunting the animals and the U.S. Army undertook a deliberate program of extermination as a way to starve the Native peoples who depended on them. They nearly drove the bison to extinction.

By the time Yellowstone National Park was created in 1872, there were only about two dozen bison in the area. The Army was then told to protect this herd. They also brought 21 bison from two private herds to Yellowstone in 1902 to create a larger breeding population. Today's herds in Yellowstone—the only place where wild bison have lived continuously since prehistoric times—descended from these few animals.

The majestic 2,000-pound bison is an iconic symbol of the American West. On May 9, it became our official national mammal when President Obama signed the National Bison Legacy Act into law. It is a creature beloved by visitors to Yellowstone National Park—sometimes too much—but outside park boundaries, ranchers aren't fans.

Their concern is a disease called brucellosis. It can be transmitted among bison, elk and cattle, and it can cause pregnant females to abort their calves. But it isn't the bison's fault: the non-native bacteria was introduced by cattle brought to the West by early pioneers. Brucellosis was first discovered in Yellowstone bison in 1917. It's thought they likely contracted the disease from domestic cattle, and today about half the bison herd tests positive for brucellosis.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016foreclosureYour misery is Donald Trump's gain. (Photo: nzlawyer)

Yesterday, I accused Donald Trump of betraying the nation by essentially admitting, in Monday's debate, that he had not been paying federal taxes in at least some recent years -- and characterizing this as a "smart business tactic." 

By yesterday afternoon, the momentum against Trump's statements mounted, and even Vice President Joe Biden was slamming the candidate for touting his failure to pay the costs of running the United States. Trump's position epitomizes his endless illogical and contradictory statements. He implied this dubious achievement proved his ability to run the United States like a business. Of course, this makes no sense because if no one paid their taxes, there would be no government to run.

That's one baffling Catch-22 that should be enough to merit front page news and top television coverage. However, to add to this egregious disregard for the financing of the United States, Trump has also boasted of his savvy in taking advantage of a cratered housing market after 2008. Yes, that means Trump was one of those investors who was seeking to make -- and succeeded in making -- money by bottom-feeding off the housing market implosion of 2008. He advocated predatory tactics that would result in the "American Dream" of homeownership disappearing into a nightmare for countless people.

As Politico reported yesterday:

When Donald Trump said he was hoping for a collapse in the housing market before the Great Recession, it was just smart business sense, he said in the first sharp exchange of the debate.

“In fact, Donald was one of the people who rooted for the housing crisis,” Hillary Clinton said when discussing the recovery from the Great Recession. “He said back in 2006, ‘Gee, I hope it does collapse because then I can go in and buy some and make some money. Well it did collapse.”

“That’s called business, by the way,” Trump said, interrupting. But Clinton talked over him.

“Nine million people lost their jobs, five million people lost their homes,” she said.

This has been a periodic accusation leveled at Trump throughout the presidential campaign. It was the first time, however, he responded before a record-breaking audience of approximately 84 million people. To Trump, the misfortunes of many of the Americans he seeks to serve were seen by him as profitable opportunities.

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