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Monday, 07 August 2017 07:25

The Forest That Overwhelms Trump Tower

REV. BILLY TALEN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

RumpTower 0807wrp opt(Photo: Lorie Shaull)It always starts with the vulnerability of risking arrest.  The activism is the purest citizenship.  We enter Trump Tower.  We walk through the submachine guns and dogs, the body armor and the golden name of the white supremacist president that hovers in space above the door.  

We are only doing what tourists do.  Ta-Nehisi Coates would say that we are walking into The Dream.  Trump Tower’s public area, where we are welcome as long as we show signs of being willing consumers of The Dream, is a 5 story high vertical mall, with gold-plated escalators zig-zagging upwards.  The hanging garden of Trump.  Fake plants on gold pillars!  We walk across the threshold of The Dream carrying the intention to subvert it and replace it with our Earthalujah!

Let’s call The Dream what it is – The Nightmare.  We have here in this building in concentrated form exactly what most Americans have everyday – the complex of responses to state-sanctioned violence on behalf of race and property and profit.  We feel the manufacture of fear, the itching-the-imagined-wound of Trump nation.  As we walk by the silent staring Secret Service we feel the fantastic imagination made by American fear – the conspiracy theories, the deadly tribalism of police, the scandal of alternative love, the remake of everyone everywhere into a monstrous "Other."

Our destination is on the 5th floor.  There is a legal never-never-land called a "Privately Owned Public Space" or POPS, and the upshot is that in 1979 Trump agreed in exchange for height variances to keep a garden open to the public.  And by the time we get to the glass door of the garden we are ready to shout.  We have such a need to re-establish our own body.  It is real and direct.  We’ve been coming back here a lot since the election, releasing our personal arts in this garden, our songs, outlandish costumes, dancing, lecturing with the lurid statistics of species extinction and climate chaos.

Published in Guest Commentary

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Gold 0807wrp optThe wealth of the few. (Photo: James Mathews)Inequality is much worse than we're led to believe by a dismissive business media. The numbers are hellish, and they're growing.

1. The Extreme Wealth Gap is Still Expanding

The U.S. has gained $30 trillion in wealth since 2008, about half of it in the stock market, much of the remainder in real estate holdings. Based on prior analyses, data from Credit Suisse and Forbes, and recent work by Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez, and Gabriel Zucman, it's a rather simple process to estimate the distribution of our nation's wealth over that time period. The following are conservative estimates, since the numbers amount to about $15 trillion, the minimum amount by which financial wealth has increased since the low point of the recession.

-- The richest 400 individuals gained an average of $2,500,000,000 each since the recession.
-- The .01% (12,000 households) gained about $120,000,000 each.
-- The rest of the .1% (120,000 households) gained about $11,000,000 each.
-- The rest of the 1% (1,068,000 households) gained about $2,500,000 each.
-- The 2-5% (4,800,000 households) gained about $900,000 each.
-- The 6-10% (6,000,000 households) gained about $285,000 each.
-- The 11-20% (12,000,000 households) gained about $117,000 each.
-- The Bottom 80% (96,000,000 households) gained about $13,000 each.

Published in Guest Commentary

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

FrackHead 0804wrp optAn abandoned fracking wellhead. (Photo: Joshua Doubek)Several earthquakes have struck Oklahoma this week, including a magnitude 4.2 that hit the central part of the state on Wednesday night.

"The past 24 hours have had an uptick in earthquake numbers, with 8 quakes ranging from 2.6-4.2 magnitude occurring in Oklahoma," USGS tweeted.

USGS described last night's 4.2 quake as "widely felt" in the city of Edmond and northern Oklahoma City.

An earthquake at that magnitude feels like a "heavy truck striking building," the agency explained on its website.

The temblor caused power outages for more than 4,600 electricity customers in north Edmond. The power was completely restored by 11 p.m. local time.

Edmond's police department reported no significant damages from that earthquake, but many locals and households were shaken up.

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

RainbowFlag 0728wrp optA rainbow flag of the LGBTQ movement. (Photo: theodoranian)On Wednesday, July 26, Team Trump carried out an anti-gay trifecta: the president banned transgender Americans from the military; the Justice department filed a brief defending discrimination against gays in the workplace; and, the president nominated a clearly anti-gay partisan to become the ambassador at large for International Religious Freedom. Unfortunately, when Donald Trump told the Republican National Convention that he would do all he could “to protect our LGBT citizens,” he apparently was talking about only protecting them from Islamic terrorists, not from himself, or conservative evangelical Christians.

Donald Trump’s decision to ban transgender Americans from the military is not the first shot he’s fired in culture wars battles against the LGBT community.

The bringing of Mike Pence, an avowedly anti-gay partisan, onto the ticket, the appointment of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and the Supreme Court appointment of Neil Gorsuch were all signals to evangelical Christians that he has their back.

Now, the seemingly out-of-nowhere tweet regarding transsexual citizens also appears to be aimed at keeping conservative evangelicals locked into the Trumposphere at a time when talk of firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions has angered many of them.

Published in Guest Commentary

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RONNIE CUMMINS OF ECOWATCH ON BNUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

BenJerry 0726wrp optBen Cohen and Jerry Greenfield in 2010. (Photo: Dismas)The most important thing we can do today as conscious consumers, farmers and food workers is to regenerate public health, the environment and climate stability. We can do this most readily by moving away from industrial, GMO and factory-farm food toward an organic, pasture-based, soil-regenerative, humane, carbon-sequestering and climate-friendly agriculture system.

What's standing in the way of this life-or-death transformation? Rampant greenwashing. The proliferation of $90 billion worth of fraudulently labeled or advertised "natural" and "socially responsible" food products in the U.S. confuses even the most well-intentioned of consumers and lures them away from purchasing genuine organic or grass-fed products.

Perhaps no company personifies greenwashing more than Vermont-based Ben & Jerry's. Ben & Jerry's history—a start-up launched by two affable hippies, from a renovated gas station in Burlington, Vermont—is legendary. Despite selling out to Unilever in April 2000, the brand's handlers have preserved its quirky, homespun image and masterfully convinced consumers that Ben & Jerry's has never strayed from its mission: "to make the world a better place."

As the New York Times reported, the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) recently sent samples of Ben and Jerry's top-selling ice cream brands to an independent testing lab for analysis. Ten out of 11 samples tested positive for Roundup (glyphosate and AMPA) herbicide contamination

So much for making the world a better place.

Published in Guest Commentary

ANDREW MOSS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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BorderPatrol optA US Border Patrol helicopter in flight. (Photo: Dan Sorensen)If you take Interstate 15 about two hours north from Los Angeles, heading into the high desert of San Bernardino County, you'll reach a for-profit federal detention facility called the Adelanto Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Processing Center.  The center's named for the neighboring town of Adelanto, which means "advancement" or "progress" in Spanish, and it's not an inappropriate title for a town founded a century ago by the inventor of the Hotpoint Electric Iron.  But the name now carries a rather different set of associations due to the ICE facility's presence there.

This year, eight asylum seekers from Central American countries who had been "detained" (imprisoned) at this facility went on hunger strike to affirm the right to asylum as well as to protest excessively high bail, substandard food and medical care, and other abuses.  Three detainees at Adelanto have died since March, one found hanging in his cell on March 22, the other two suffering from serious medical issues that, advocates say, had been inadequately addressed at the facility.  

This year's protest follows a previous hunger strike in 2015, when 26 detainees protested prolonged imprisonment and excessive bail while awaiting resolution of their asylum cases.  Earlier that year, over two dozen members of Congress wrote a letter to the Justice Department and ICE officials, citing numerous cases of medical neglect and calling for a halt to the facility's expansion. More recently, an immigrants' advocacy organization called CIVIC (Community Initiatives for Visiting Inmates in Confinement) issued a report asserting that Adelanto had the third highest number of sexual assault complaints of all U.S. immigration detention facilities.

Last year, the Obama administration ordered a phasing out of private federal prison facilities like Adelanto.  Citing an Inspector General's report that faulted the prisons on issues of safety and security, and noting a decline in federal inmates, Deputy Attorney General Sally Q. Yates stated in a memo that the private prisons "compare poorly" to public facilities:  "they simply do not provide the same level of correctional services, programs, and resources," she said, and "they do not save substantially on costs."

Published in Guest Commentary

CURTIS JOHNSON FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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Superstorm1 0724wrp optSuperstorms are additional evidence of climate change. (Photo: Mike Trenchard)On June 30, Climatewire reported that Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Scott Pruitt had launched a government initiative "to challenge mainstream climate science" using military inspired "red-team, blue-team debates" on climate change.

According to a senior administration official,

The administrator (Pruitt) believes that we will be able to recruit the best in the fields which study climate and will organize a specific process in which these individuals ... provide back-and-forth critique of specific new reports on climate science

...

We are in fact very excited about this initiative…. Climate science, like other fields of science, is constantly changing. A new, fresh and transparent evaluation is something everyone should support doing.

Pruitt said he was moved to call for such debates after reading published articles by physicist Steve Koonin in the Wall Street Journal and climate change “skeptic” Brett Stephens in The New York Times, advocating more debate on climate. In an interview with Breitbart, Pruitt said, “The American people need to have that type of honest, open discussion, and it’s something we hope to provide as part of our leadership.” Pruitt told Reuters that it would be good to hold the debate on TV so it’s “open to the world” and that the American people “deserve it.”

Published in Guest Commentary

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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BigAg 0724wrp optA "broiler house" used by the US poultry industry. (Photo: Joe Valbuena)Another reason for single-payer health care: The documentary What the Health shows how the lives and health of human beings are considered insignificant, and in many ways threatened, by the pursuit of profits in the meat and dairy and drug industries. 

The corporate disdain revealed by this film is nearly beyond belief. And our 'trusted' watchdog agencies, both non-profit and government, are beholden to the biggest companies, accepting money in return for their silence about the dangers of animal and pharmaceutical products. 

Some of the contentions in the documentary have been disputed, most notably the implication that sugar is not a major factor in diabetes, and that dairyis. Indeed there may be flaws in the documentary. But it clearly reveals the damaging behavior of the businesses and organizations that are contributing to human suffering. 

Despicable: Corporate Profits at the Expense of Our Health

According to the documentary (and othersources), the World Health Organization and other major health groups have labeled both processed and red meats as carcinogenic. Yet powerful lobbying efforts have kept America near the top of the world in meat consumption. The drug and chemical industries do their part by providing pesticide-filled GMO corn and soy, fed mostly to dairy cows, and with most of their antibiotic products going to fatten up the animals most of us eat.

Published in Guest Commentary

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JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Robbery 0719wrp optA robbery in progress. (Photo: German Federal Archive)We the People are being burgled. Again.

The latest hit is just the latest in a long string of political robberies, a nationwide crime wave being pulled off by moneyed elites and their political henchmen. With each heist, they haul off a little more of our democratic power: the ability of the working majority to have any real say in the corporate and governmental decisions that affect us.

The elites are master thieves, often plucking pieces of our power without us realizing it, until we try to use it and — phhttt — it's gone. And yet another democracy-stealing tool has recently been fabricated and quietly distributed to profiteering corporations and right-wing ideologues throughout the country: PREEMPTION.

This concept has been around since Day One of our nation, contained in the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution and in similar clauses in state constitutions. It allows higher levels of government to intervene and overrule lower levels - the Feds can legally preempt state and local laws, and states can preempt city and county ordinances.

Obviously, this extreme power is fraught with danger, so it's meant to be used sparingly and only to advance a very big public purpose like, for example, overriding state and local laws that officially sanction rank racial discrimination.

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

We the People are being burgled. Again.

The latest hit is just the latest in a long string of political robberies, a nationwide crime wave being pulled off by moneyed elites and their political henchmen. With each heist, they haul off a little more of our democratic power: the ability of the working majority to have any real say in the corporate and governmental decisions that affect us.

The elites are master thieves, often plucking pieces of our power without us realizing it, until we try to use it and — phhttt — it's gone. And yet another democracy-stealing tool has recently been fabricated and quietly distributed to profiteering corporations and right-wing ideologues throughout the country: PREEMPTION.

This concept has been around since Day One of our nation, contained in the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution and in similar clauses in state constitutions. It allows higher levels of government to intervene and overrule lower levels - the Feds can legally preempt state and local laws, and states can preempt city and county ordinances.

Obviously, this extreme power is fraught with danger, so it's meant to be used sparingly and only to advance a very big public purpose like, for example, overriding state and local laws that officially sanction rank racial discrimination.

Published in Guest Commentary

BuzzFlash and Truthout depend on reader support -- can you make a tax-deductible donation and help publish journalism with real integrity and independence?

BRIAN TRAUTMAN, GERRY CONDON AND SAMANTHA FERGUSON FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

NukeBan 0719wrp optThe aftermath of a nuclear detonation. (Photo: US Department of Energy)On July 7th, 2017, the United Nations (UN), in a historic decision, approved a legally binding instrument to ban nuclear weapons, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Months of negotiations involving over 130 countries began in March of this year, culminating in a final draft endorsed by 122 countries. The treaty marks a significant milestone to help free the world of nuclear weapons.

The treaty emphasizes "the catastrophic humanitarian consequences that would result from any use of nuclear weapons." It forbids participating states "to develop, test, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices." Additionally, it explains that the complete elimination of nuclear weapons from international arsenals "remains the only way to guarantee that nuclear weapons are never used again under any circumstances."

In keeping with a history of being unwilling to relinquish its massive nuclear arsenal, the U.S refused to enter treaty negotiations and used its status as the sole remaining international superpower to organize a boycott that influenced approximately 40 countries.

U.S. ambassador to the UN Nikki R. Haley defended the absence of the U.S. from the negotiations, stating, "There is nothing I want more for my family than a world with no nuclear weapons, but we have to be realistic. Is there anyone who thinks that North Korea would ban nuclear weapons?" Veterans For Peace (VFP), a nonprofit working since 1985 to abolish war and nurture peace and the only veterans non-governmental organization (NGO) represented at the UN, released a statement in response, strongly criticizing the U.S.'s refusal to participate, noting that the discussions were a "series of missed opportunities by the United States to use its position as the world's undisputed military power to change the course of history … and end the danger and peril that nuclear weapons pose to the world."

Published in Guest Commentary
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