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Wednesday, 27 September 2017 07:08

Take a Knee for Freedom of Religion

DAVID SWANSON FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Flags 0927wrp opt(Photo: Glenn Harper)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.

Published in Guest Commentary

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

WallSt 0925wrp opt(Photo: Gezy-Pics)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.

Published in Guest Commentary

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Bears 0925wrp optValley of Dreams, Bears Ears National Monument. (Photo: John Fowler)Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke's recommendation to reduce the size of the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah could spark a legal battle between the Navajo Nation and the Trump administration.

"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.

Published in Guest Commentary

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Pulpit 0922wrp optPulpit Rock, Colorado Springs. (Photo: Bret Maverick)What's been happening politically and culturally this year in Colorado's second largest city is inspiring. Progressive/populist organizing to build grassroots movements to counter plutocratic rule and govern in the people's interest now have a model of success in one of the least likely places.

Since the 1990s, Colorado Springs has been shaped by an inordinate number of right-wing institutions. Yet, the Springs also is home to a hardy band of progressives, including environmentalists, unionists, women's champions, scrappy entrepreneurs, LGBTQ activists, students and teachers, a sizeable immigrant population, social justice church groups and some sensible libertarians.

With Bernie Sanders bringing new, highly energized voters into play, young people who had previously evinced zero interest in the old Democratic-Republican duopoly were rallying behind Bernie's grassroots populism. His revolutionary call to rein in America's corporate oligarchs also sparked a fire in older, working-class people, including Repubs and none-of-the-above folks who'd given up on the idea that either party gave a damn about people like them. A shift was occurring in Colorado Springs' political zeitgeist — one that might open a path for new alignments and a progressive-populist movement.

Published in Guest Commentary

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

SolarPark 0920wrp opt(Photo: Activ Solar)The Dubai government has awarded a $3.9 billion contract to construct the 700-megawatt fourth and final phase of the world-record-holding Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park.

The project also includes the construction of an 850-foot-tall solar tower that receives focused sunlight, the world's tallest such structure once complete.

The contract was awarded to a consortium of China's Shanghai Electric and Saudi Arabia's ACWA Power, who bid a Levelized Cost of Electricity of 7.3 U.S. cents per kilowatt hour—a record low price for concentrated solar power (CSP).

"Our focus on renewable energy generation has led to a drop in prices worldwide and has lowered the price of solar power bids in Europe and the Middle East. This was evident today when we received the lowest CSP project cost in the world," Saeed Mohammed Al Tayer, managing director and CEO of DEWA, said.

Published in Guest Commentary

JOSEPH GERSON FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

NoNukes 0920wrp optHanging in the window of the Hard Rock Café in Bangkok. (Photo: Daniel Grosvenor)On September 20, in a formal UN ceremony, the Nuclear Weapons Prohibition Treaty will be opened for signatures. The treaty further stigmatizes nuclear weapons and seeks to outlaw their use, threatened the use, development, testing, production, manufacture, acquisition, possession or stockpiling nuclear weapons, transfer and deployment.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could unconditionally celebrate the negotiation of the "ban" treaty? It emerged from the righteous anger of most the world's nations at the nuclear powers' refusal to fulfill their Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons Treaty (NPT) obligation to engage in good faith negotiations for the elimination of their nuclear arsenals.

Who wouldn't want to celebrate 122 governments -- more than half of the UN member states -- having the gumption to insist enough and no more?

The nuclear weapons states and their allies -- that's who! Governments, militaries and elites who use preparations for and threats to use nuclear weapons to bolster their power and privilege. Men and women who practice international relations in the tradition of mafia dons. Those who profit from and have their fingers on the nuclear triggers.

Published in Guest Commentary

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

OccMonsanto 0919wrp opt(Photo: Daniel Lobo)Two years ago, the debate over glyphosate's link to cancer took a surprising turn when the European Food Safety Authority's (EFSA) infamously rejected the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer's March 2015 classification of the weedkiller as a possible carcinogen.

However, new reporting from the Guardian reveals that the European agency's recommendation that the chemical is safe for public use was based on an EU report that directly lifted large sections of text from a study conducted by Monsanto, the manufacturer of glyphosate-based Roundup.

The particular sections cover some of the biggest questions about glyphosate's supposed health risks, including its links to genotoxicity, carcinogenicity and reproductive toxicity.

The revelation comes as the European Union debates whether it should extend its licensing of the world's most popular herbicide. As it happens, the EFSA provides scientific advice to the EU and plays a key role in the authorization of thousands of products that end up in Europe's food chain, including genetically modified organisms, pesticides, food additives and nanotech products, according to Corporate Europe Observatory, a non-profit watchdog group.

Published in Guest Commentary

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

HealthPig 0919wrp opt(Photo: 401kcalculator.org / Flickr)Believe it or not, we can get Congress to enact a new program providing good quality, lower-cost health care for your family and (what the hell, let's think big here) for every man, woman and (especially) every child in our society.

Step One: eliminate every dime of the multimillion-dollar government subsidy that now covers platinum-level health insurance for all 535 Members of Congress and their families. Let those laissez-faire ideologues who have saddled us with an exorbitantly-expensive, dysfunctional and (let's admit it) sick system of medical profiteering experience what they've wrought, without any government pampering. This includes shutting down their "Office of the Attending Physician," a little-known spot of pure, 100 percent socialized medicine conveniently located in our U.S. Capitol to provide a full range of government-paid doctors, nurses, pharmacists and others who give immediate, on-the-spot attention to these special ones. A seriously sick child, a car wreck, a cancer diagnosis — and suddenly the civilized idea of Medicare for All will start making sense even to anti-government, you're-on-your-own Republican ideologues.

Well, you might say, they still won't feel the pain, because they're one-percenters, pulling down $174,000 a year each from us taxpayers, meaning they can afford to buy decent health insurance. Ah, but here comes Step Two: put all of our congressional goof-offs on piece-rate, pay-for-performance salaries. Why pay them a flat rate whether they produce or not? For example, American babies are more likely to die in their first year of life than babies in Poland, which provides universal health insurance for all of its people. So, every year that the U.S. Congress fails to provide health coverage for every American family, the members should get their pay docked by a third. Pay them only when they deliver for the people, not for their ideological purity.

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Meat 0918wrp opt(Photo: Shawn Harquail)In the early 1990s, legislation specifically aiming at gagging whistleblowers was introduced in several states. These "ag-gag" laws, initiated by the agricultural-industrial complex, targeted journalists, environmental and animal rights activists, preventing them from taking photographs or video at slaughterhouses and other agricultural operations. As Esquire's Charles P. Pierce recently pointed out, these laws were aimed at "criminaliz[ing] the gathering of evidence regarding environmental pollution on public lands, as well as evidence regarding unsanitary conditions in facilities like slaughterhouses and factory farms."

According to The Humane Society of the United States, "Ag-gag bills seek to make it difficult or impossible for whistleblowing employees or animal advocacy groups to expose animal cruelty or safety issues. These bills can take a variety of forms, but the intent is the same: to punish those who expose patterns of animal abuse or food safety violations on factory farms, and therefore conceal these abuses from the public." 

Recently, ag-gag laws in Utah and Wyoming were ruled unconstitutional. In July, the U.S. District Court of Utah struck down the law on the grounds that it is unconstitutional.

Published in Guest Commentary

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

MedAll 0918wrp opt(Photo: Molly Adams / Flickr)Of course, it will pay for itself eventually, with lower administrative costs and savings on medications and provider fees. 

Universal health care is getting closer to reality at the state level, in California. The Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) has analyzed a proposal for a statewide single-payer health care system that would reduce current costs by at least 8 percent. It would be funded in two ways: (1) a continuation of Medicare and MediCal; and (2) gross receipts and sales taxes, both at 2.3 percent, with exemptions for small businesses, low-income residents, and purchases of basic necessities. Unfortunately, California has postponed the plan, at least until January, 2018. 

At the national level, Bernie Sanders' single-payer plan is forecasted to save $6 trillion over 10 years. It could be funded in part by the elimination of special treatment for capital gains, payroll taxes, and multi-million dollar estates. While anticipating inevitable resistance from monied interests, it can nevertheless be accurately demonstrated that three Americans -- or, rather, groups of Americans -- have received the most benefits from years of national productivity, and should provide most of the initial funding.

Published in Guest Commentary
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