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BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Cannabis 0515wrp optA cannabis plant. (Photo: Cannabis Training University)In a recent two-page memo, largely crafted by Steven H. Cook, a veteran drug warrior, Attorney General Jeff Sessions appears to have morphed into Harry Anslinger, a primary initiator of the decades-long drug wars. In his directive, Sessions has indicated that he is willing to turn back the clock, spend millions of dollars prosecuting drug offenders, push mandatory minimum sentences, exacerbate racial disparities in the justice system, and swell the nation’s federal prison population. Sessions policy could also prove to be a boon to private prison corporations that have federal contracts; with more arrests and convictions, more cells will be needed.

What is still unclear is how Sessions will deal marijuana -- which he has called a “dangerous drug” – in states that have medical marijuana laws, and those states that have voted to legalize marijuana.

“We’ve got too much complacency about drugs,” Sessions said at a summit in Charleston, West Virginia, on May 11, “Too much talking about recreational drugs. It’s the same thing we used to hear in the eighties. That’s what the pro-drug crowd argued then. But we realize the reality, empirical fact -- neighbors, friends, crime -- that this was not a legitimate thing. So we’re going to reverse this trend. I am committed to it. The president is committed to it. … We’re going to come together as a nation and we’re not going to allow this abuse, this threat to our country to erode our capabilities, and destroy good decent people in our country.”

In a pair of recent articles Will New Drug Czar Revive America's Disastrous Drug Wars and Drug Wars 4.0: From Anslinger to Nixon to Reagan to Trump and Sessions, we speculated about whether Attorney General Jeff Sessions was going to bring back the drug wars.

Published in Guest Commentary

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Poverty 0515wrp optA New Jersey neighborhood. (Photo: Phillies1fan777)Americans with wealth and power don't generally care about the middle and lower classes. Even worse, they are doing real damage to the people they don't care about.

But why? Either these well-positioned people are 100 percent out of touch with the realities of middle-class life in our country, or they're contemptuous of those they consider inferior, or they believe so strongly in individual 'freedom' that even the word 'social' is repugnant to them. Or perhaps they're just not smart enough to see the value of people who are different from them.

The assault continues non-stop: Taking away healthcare, either by disposing of the Affordable Care Act or slashing Medicaid; weakening consumer protection laws; repealing fair wage and workplace safety laws; cutting overtime pay; jeopardizing civil rights in the name of "religious freedom"; putting low-income mothers at risk by cutting their maternity care; increasing penalties for minor drug offenses; giving our public lands -- including the homes of Native Americans -- to oil companies; and even denying kids healthy lunches.

A method can be detected amidst the madness, looking at it from the disdainer's point of view.

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CAROL L.M. CATON FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Gavel 0510wrp optA courtroom gavel. (Photo: Jonathunder)The Congress just passed the AHCA.  That’s it! I get it! When is the next demonstration to oppose Trumpcare?  I’m in!  This week the citizenry again took to the streets, as they have nearly every week since the presidential election of 2016.  Now more than ever, I understand the passion that drives us to social activism.

My observations of what makes social change work, however, reminds me of the legal battles in support of homeless people in the 1980’s, when ordinary citizens challenged the government to provide care for the homeless.  Back then I was a newly minted social scientist studying the emerging problem of homelessness.  With the numbers of street dwellers increasing, and no organized effort by governmental agencies to address the problem of homelessness, the concerns of ordinary citizens erupted into public demonstrations and episodes of civil disobedience. What I recall most vividly of that period are the bold actions of two young New York City lawyers, concerned citizens who did not hold public office, whose hard work and dedication to social justice would dramatically increase the options of people experiencing homelessness to exit street living and embark upon a path to stable housing.

During that time I was directing community studies of people with severe mental illness who had recently been released from mental hospitals. It quickly became apparent that many of our charges did not have a place to live. They spent their days wandering the city streets, sleeping at night in parks, train stations, or other public places.  Later in the decade, the ranks of people without homes swelled nationwide with men, women, and children whose housing loss was a casualty of the high unemployment, double-digit inflation, and the scarcity of housing options for people with very low incomes. Public services for homeless people were almost non-existent in the prosperous years following World War II, and most communities were not prepared to cope with the crisis of homelessness.  In some cities voluntarism surged, with charitable organizations providing food, clothing, and blankets to people living in public spaces. Church basements and unused public buildings were hastily transformed to house the throngs of people seeking shelter.

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LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

PollutionCheck 0510wrp optA mobile pollution check vehicle. (Photo: Hindustanilanguage)A U.S. Steel plant in Portage, Indiana spilled nearly 300 pounds of a cancer-causing chemical into Burns Waterway last month, documents from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) revealed.

The release of hexavalent chromium was 584 times the daily maximum limit allowed under state law, the Times of Northwest Indiana reported, citing the documents. The plant is permitted to release only a maximum of 0.51 pounds daily.

The toxic industrial byproduct was made infamous by the environmental activist and 2000 movie of the same name, "Erin Brockovich."

The leak occurred between April 11 and April 12 and forced the closure of several Lake Michigan beaches and Indiana American Water's intake in Ogden Dunes. Burns Waterway is a tributary that flows into Lake Michigan, a drinking water source for nearby Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties.

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JOHN LaFORGE FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Nuke 0508wrp opt(The hidden agenda behind the profit-driven media's deliberate belittling of nuclear reactor accidents -- and the dangers of radiation -- is to protect significant advertising revenue. Photo: Emmelie Callewaert )Commercial media recollections of the 1986 Chernobyl catastrophe almost always minimize its global impact. A New York Times editorial last Dec. described the April 26 explosions and fires as "a volcano of deadly radioactivity that reached Poland and Scandinavia." This picture is both factually true and grossly understated -- because Chernobyl's carcinogenic fallout went far beyond northern Europe and all around the world -- a fact that is easy to verify.

For example, the UN Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) concluded in 2011 that the disaster "Resulted in radioactive material becoming widely dispersed and deposited … throughout the northern hemisphere." Then, hammering the lesson home like a drill sergeant, UNSCEAR's report ("Health effects due to radiation from the Chernobyl accident") repeats the phrase "throughout the northern hemisphere" at least five times. Chernobyl's hemispheric contamination was well known long before the UNSCEAR review, noted in hundreds of books, journals and scientific papers. The March 30, 2005 Oxford Journalsreported, "The releases of radioactive materials were such that contamination of the ground was found to some extent in every country in the Northern Hemisphere." An Environmental History of the World (2002) by Donald Hughes says, "There were measurable amounts throughout the Northern Hemisphere."

Yet trivialization is the mainstream media rule, especially after three simultaneous reactor melt-downs at Fukushima-Daiichi have contaminated the whole of the Pacific Ocean. On April 23, Abu Dhabi's "The National" said about Chernobyl: "Half a million 'liquidators,' mostly military reservists from all over the Soviet Union, tried to clean up the affected area." This is flatly untrue, because no one decontaminated the entire Northern hemisphere. Soviet conscripts worked only the region knows as the "exclusion zone" around Chernobyl reactor No. 4 in Pripyat, Ukraine.

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KATHY KELLY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Yemen 0508wrp opt(A home is destroyed in Yemen after a Saudi-led air strike on Sana'a on June 12, 2015. Photo: Creative Commons )Yemen stands as the worst-threatened of four countries where impending famine conditions have been said to comprise the single-worst humanitarian crisis since the founding of the U.N. On May 2nd, 2017, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs published a grim infographic detailing conditions in Yemen where 17 million Yemenis -- or around 60 percent of the population -- are unable to access food. The U.S. and its allies continue to bomb Yemen.

Jan Egeland, who heads the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), says that seven million Yemeni people are on the brink of famine. "I am shocked to my bones," said Egeland, following a five day visit to Yemen. "The world is letting some 7 million men, women and children slowly but surely be engulfed…" Egeland blames this catastrophe on "men with guns and power in regional and international capitals who undermine every effort to avert an entirely preventable famine, as well as the collapse of health and educational services for millions of children." Egeland and the NRC call on all parties to the conflict, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Iran, the U.S. and the U.K. to negotiate a cease fire. This weekend, the situation stands poised to become dramatically worse with the apparently imminent bombing, by Saudi Arabia, one of the U.S.’ closest allies, of the aid lifeline which is the port of Hodeida.

Egeland stresses the vital importance of keeping humanitarian aid flowing through Hodeida, a port which stands mere days or hours from destruction. "The Saudi-led, Western-backed military coalition has threatened to attack the port," said Egeland, "which would likely destroy it and cut supplies to millions of hungry civilians." U.S. congress people demanding a stay on destruction of the port have as yet won no concessions from the Saudi or U.S governments.

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Coke 0428wrp optPhoto: The "Drug War" has failed. (Zxc )Meet Rep. Tom Marino, R-Pennsylvania, a member of President Trump’s transition team, and a longtime loyal combatant in the nation’s drug wars.As a prosecutor in Pennsylvania, he steadfastly went after drug offenders, and, if as expected – and as CBS News has reported – Marino is appointed Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy” (ONDCP), it appears we’re headed for more ill-conceived and misguided drug policy initiatives, more wasted money, and greater imprisonment for minor drug offenders.  

As a Congressman, according to the Portland Mercury’s Vince Sliwoski, Marino, who represents Pennsylvania’s rural 10th Congressional District, “voted against the Rohrabacher-Farr amendments, which prohibit the Department of Justice from using federal funds to prosecute state-compliant medical marijuana actors.”

He also “voted against allowing Veterans Affairs doctors to recommend medical cannabis to patients….[a]nd he opposed measures to ease federal restrictions on hemp and cannabidiol (CBD).”

The Seattle Weekly’s Meagan Angus recently reported that Marino “supports forced inpatient hospitalization for any non-dealer, nonviolent person who pleads guilty to possession to receive constant ‘treatment’ until a doctor thinks they are fit to re-enter society.”

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ANDREW LICHTERMAN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Missile 0426wrp optA nuclear missile launch (Photo: Dnepr )The U.S. Air Force has announced a test launch of an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on April 26.

Although such tests are conducted routinely, the timing of this one may not coincidental; the U.S. military sees nuclear delivery system tests as "distinct messaging opportunities". U.S. Air Force, Doctrine Annex 3-72, Nuclear Operations, May 2015. Regardless of the timing, it is clear that the message intended for North Korea (and the rest of the world) is that the United States has nuclear weapons, and is prepared to use them. In the past, U.S. officials have said so outright. Prior to a similar test in early 2016, Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work told reporters "That's exactly why we do this... We and the Russians and the Chinese routinely do test shots to prove that the operational missiles that we have are reliable. And that is a signal ... that we are prepared to use nuclear weapons in defense of our country if necessary." David Alexander, "U.S. test-fires ICBM amid tensions with Russia, North Korea," Reuters, Feb 26, 2016.

It also is hard to see the difference between the intentions behind North Korea's displays of its nuclear and missile capabilities and those of the United States—aside from the fact North Korea has far more to fear, given that the United States has military and nuclear forces that far exceed those of North Korea, and that are exercised frequently close to North Korea's shores. Each of the 400 Minuteman III missiles currently in service carries a nuclear warhead 20 or more times as powerful as the atomic bomb dropped by the United States on Hiroshima in 1945. The U.S. also deployed nuclear-capable B-2 and B-52 bombers on several occasions following North Korean nuclear or missile tests, even conducting flyovers in South Korea. see Tara Copp, "US sends 3 nuclear stealth bombers to Pacific," Stars and Stripes, March 9, 2016; Choe Sang-Hunjan. "In Show of Alliance, American Forces Fly B-52 Bomber Over South Korea," The New York Times, January 10, 2016.

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BILL QUIGLEY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

School 0426wrpThe students in the system are taking matters in their own hands. (Photo: Blackcatuk )New Orleans is the nation's largest and most complete experiment in charter schools.   After Hurricane Katrina, the State of Louisiana took control of public schools in New Orleans and launched a nearly complete transformation of a public school system into a system of charter schools.  Though there are spots of improvement in the New Orleans charter system, major problems remain. 

Many of these problems were on display in New Orleans when the NAACP, which last year called for a moratorium on charter schools until issues of accountability and transparency were addressed, held a community forum in New Orleans on charters.  The New Orleans hearing, which can be viewed here, featured outraged students, outraged parents, and dismayed community members reciting a litany of the problems created by the massive change to a charter school system.  The single most powerful moment came when a group of students from Kids Rethink New Orleans Schools took the podium and detailed the many ways the system has failed and excluded them from participating in its transformation. 

"We really wanted to share what happens in our schools" writes 18 year old Big Sister Love Rush in an article on the challenges the students face. "How the few permanent teachers we have work so hard for us, how so many classes are ran by short term substitutes, how food runs out at meal times, and how we worry if our school's reputation is good enough to support us in getting into the college or careers we want.  We shared how we face two hour commutes to and from school, are forced to experiment with digital learning with systems like Odyssey, are punished for having the wrong color sweater, or how we worry about being able to attend a school that will give us the education we need."

 

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RHEA SUH OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

BuzzFlash and Truthout depend on reader support. Make a donation to help us continue publishing insightful, independent journalism.

Calendar 0424wrp opt(Photo: Visitor7)Like any arbitrary benchmark, the 100-day point of a new president's term normally tells us only so much about what's to come. In the case of President Trump's all-out assault on our environment and health, however, we've already seen more than enough.

In his first three months on the job, Trump has acted again and again to undo half a century of bipartisan progress in protecting our rights to clean water, air and lands. He's moved to part ways with longstanding American values of conservation in the public interest. And he's betrayed the covenant we've forged with our children to leave them a livable world.

That's not a plan to put America first. It's about putting industrial polluter profits first―and putting the rest of us at risk.

Presidents don't get to roll back generations of hard-won gains with the stroke of a pen. Working with his fellow Republicans in Congress, Trump has already killed rules to protect coal communities from mountaintop demolition that destroys forests and streams. And he may expose more public lands to the ravages of coal mining.

Much of what he's ordered, though, can be halted, slowed or turned back around―in the court of public opinion or in a court of law. To do that, we'll have to stand together and give real voice to truth against a president intent on using the full powers of his high office to try to eliminate the tools we need to protect our families and communities from ongoing harm.

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