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BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaDuggarFreaks2(Photo: Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar)If the US Supreme Court rules in favor of same-sex marriage next month, do not expect religious right organizations to fold up their tents and go home. If anything, they will amp up the hysteria with email alerts (and fundraising appeals) squawking about the assault on traditional marriage. While they will continue to agitate around same-sex marriage, there will a not so subtle shift to another culture war battle; the fight over transgender equality.

Although there are many culture war battles to be contested, e.g., abortion, prayer in the schools, book, television and film censorship, and the mother of all fights, the religious right's distorted views of religious freedom, the battle over transgender equality is ripe for the picking. After all, transgender people are some of the few people left that the religious right can attack and demonize.

In recent years, Christian right groups have fulminated, huffed and puffed, and raised money to fight attempts to prevent discrimination against transgender youth, especially in regards to bullying, the use of bathrooms and the participation in athletics in the public schools.

Last August, Michelle Duggar, who stars in TLC's hit show, the now-suspended "19 Kids and Counting" with her husband, Jim Bob, and children, and who was intimately involved in covering up her son Josh's history of sexual molestation of young girls, viciously campaigned against an anti-discrimination bill in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

She said: "I don't believe... citizens... would want males with past child predator convictions that claim they are female to have a legal right to enter private areas that are reserved for women and girls."

If the US Supreme Court rules in favor of same-sex marriage next month, do not expect religious right organizations to fold up their tents and go home. If anything, they will amp up the hysteria with email alerts (and fundraising appeals) squawking about the assault on traditional marriage. While they will continue to agitate around same-sex marriage, there will a not so subtle shift to another culture war battle; the fight over transgender equality.

Published in Guest Commentary

ANASTASIA PANTSIOS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaDolphinsOil(Photo: EcoWatch)It was more than five years ago when the Deepwater Horizon offshore oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico blew out, spewing an unknown amount of oil. The April 2010 accident was the worst oil spill to ever occur in U.S. waters and it had far-reaching impacts on the region’s economy and ecosystems that continue to this day.

Now a newly released study, funded by the Deepwater Horizon National Resource Damage Assessment, which includes the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, BP (the oil company responsible for the spill and others) details the disastrous impact for the spill on the health and mortality of dolphins in the Gulf.

The study, with the very scientific name of Adrenal Gland and Lung Lesions in Gulf of Mexico Common Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) Found Dead following the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, analyzes what it calls “an unusual mortality event (UME)” among dolphins off the coast of Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi between February 2010 and 2014. More than 1,300 dolphins are estimated to have died.

“The Deepwater Horizon oil spill was proposed as a contributing cause of adrenal disease, lung disease and poor health in live dolphins examined during 2011 in Barataria Bay, Louisiana,” said the study. It also analyzed dead dolphin carcasses stranded in the three states between June 2010 and December 2012 and compared the analyses to dead, stranded dolphins found outside the area or prior to the oil spill to come to the conclusion that the die-off was unprecedented and the result of an adrenal gland condition never previously seen in dolphins in the region that made them susceptible to pneumonia.

Published in Guest Commentary

COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBillNye(Photo: Ed Schipul)Bill Nye gave the commencement speech over the weekend at Rutgers University and it’s just as inspiring as you’d imagine. Nye has been an outspoken advocate for immediate action on climate change for a long time. Last month, he sat down with President Obama in the Everglades on Earth Day to talk climate and call out the “climate denier club” in Congress. In his address to the next generation, he wastes no time delving right into environmental issues.

Here are some snippets from his speech:

“We are now deep in the most serious environmental crisis in human history. I believe you all can avoid this disaster.”

“The oncoming trouble is climate change. It is going to affect you all in the same way the Second World War consumed people of my parents’ generation. They rose to the challenge, and so will you. They came to be called the greatest generation. I want you all to preserve our world in the face of climate change and carry on as the next great generation.”

Published in Guest Commentary
Wednesday, 20 May 2015 07:11

Ten Reasons Why the US Is Now a "Regime"

JANE STILLWATER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaStillwaterSIG(Photo: Augustas Didžgalvis)We are constantly seeing and hearing our American media use the word "Regime" these days.  So exactly what is a "Regime?"  Apparently it is whatever you want it to be.

Whenever Wall Street and/or War Street want to vilify a country that disagrees with their policies of occupation and exploitation, they always begin their vilification program by calling that country's form of government a "Regime."

Here are some examples:  Syria is a "Regime" -- even though it has a constitution, holds elections and almost all Syrians support its president, Bashar Assad.  Gaddafi in Libya also operated a "Regime" -- even though his government offered the kind of free education and healthcare benefits to its citizens that most Americans can only dream about.  Cuba was (and still is) considered a "Regime" in the eyes of Wall Street and War Street.  Putin also runs a "Regime" -- even though most Russians today support him totally.

In reverse, Saudi Arabia is not a "Regime" -- even though the House of Saud uses torture, suppresses decent, beheads people, treats women badly, brutally invades other countries and supports Al Qaeda and ISIS. 

The House of Saud has spent over a trillion $$$$ of its enormous petro-dollar wealth over the last half-century on killing people and being despotic.  Just imagine what the Middle East would look like right now if the Saudis had chosen butter instead of guns.  What a waste.  And yet Saudi Arabia is still not considered to be a "Regime" by American media. 

Published in Guest Commentary

ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaTexasFracking(Photo: Joshua Doubek)Yesterday Texas Gov. Abbott signed HB 40 into law. Written by former ExxonMobil lawyer Shannon Ratliff, the statute forces every Texas municipality wanting common sense limits on oil and gas development to demonstrate its rules are “commercially reasonable.” It effectively overturns a Denton ballot initiative banning fracking that passed last November.

“HB 40 was written by the oil and gas industry, for the oil and gas industry, to prevent voters from holding the oil and gas industry accountable for its impacts,” said Earthworks’ Texas organizer Sharon Wilson. Wilson, who played a key role in the Denton ballot initiative, continued, “It was the oil and gas industry’s contempt for impacted residents that pushed Denton voters to ban fracking in the first place. And now the oil and gas industry, through state lawmakers, has doubled down by showing every city in Texas that same contempt.”

By a 59-41 percent vote, including 70 percent of straight ticket Republican voters, the residents of Denton banned hydraulic fracturing within city limits. The ban was a last resort after more than five years of fruitlessly petitioning oil and gas companies, the city and the state for help. “By signing HB40 into law, Governor Abbott just declared that industry profits are more important than our health, our homes and our kids,” said Adam Briggle, president of the Denton Drilling Awareness Group and a leader in the Frack Free Denton effort. He continued, “The letter of Texas law now says no city can ‘effectively prevent an oil and gas operation from occurring,’ no matter the threat to families’ health and safety or damage to private property.”

Published in Guest Commentary

MORGAN SINCLAIRE OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaDivestUW(Photo: EcoWatch)“If it’s wrong to wreck the planet, then it’s wrong to profit from that wreckage.”

This quote by Bill McKibben has become the mantra of the fossil fuel divestment movement, the campaign which has sprouted up on hundreds of college campuses across the country with one simple goal: to get universities to stop investing in the same fossil fuel industry that is accelerating us all towards planetary catastrophe.

Here at the University of Washington in Seattle, Divest UW has gotten one of the biggest victories of the movement so far, with the Board of Regents voting to divest from coal today.

Founded in 2012, back when the fossil fuel divestment movement was just starting to spring up on college campuses, Divest UW has been pushing for this for a long time. We have shown that students here would like to see their school get its money out of dirty energy, with our divestment resolutions passing overwhelmingly in both the undergraduate and graduate student senates, but not until this week was our administration moved.

And that is why today’s victory is all the more significant: it validates all the work our group has put into this over the past three years, and we are proud to see our university recognize the growing power of the student movement to tackle climate change. With its $2.8 billion endowment, the UW is largest public university to divest from this destructive industry.

Published in Guest Commentary

HARVEY WASSERMAN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBombCloud(Photo: US DoE)For the third time in a decade, a major fire/explosion has ripped apart a transformer at the Indian Point reactor complex.

News reports have taken great care to emphasize that the accident happened in the “non nuclear” segment of the plant.

Ironically, the disaster spewed more than 15,000 gallons of oil into the Hudson River, infecting it with a toxic sheen that carried downstream for miles. Entergy, the nuke’s owner, denies there were PCBs in this transformer.

t also denies numerous studies showing serious radioactive health impacts on people throughout the region.

You can choose whether you want to believe the company in either case.

But PCBs were definitely spread by the last IP transformer fire. They re-poisoned a precious liquid lifeline where activists have spent decades dealing with PCBs previously dumped in by General Electric, which designed the reactors at Fukushima.

Meanwhile, as always, the nuclear industry hit the automatic play button to assure us all that there was “no danger” to the public and “no harmful release” of radiation.

But what do we really know about what happened and could have happened this time around?

Published in Guest Commentary

COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaClimatePope(Photo: EcoWatch)“The planet has enough food for all, but it seems that there is a lack of willingness to share it with everyone,” Pope Francis said at a mass yesterday as part of the opening of the general assembly of the Catholic charitable organization Caritas Internationalis.

Caritas, a confederation of 165 Catholic charity and aid groups from around the world, holds a general assembly once every four years. This year’s meeting, the first under Francis’ helm, is taking place this week. The Pope used the forum as a time to yet again take a strong environmental stance.

In his time as Pope, Francis has been a strong advocate on behalf of the world’s poor and vulnerable, especially in the facing of a changing climate. His remarks yesterday were no different.

“We must do what we can so that everyone has something to eat,” Francis said. “But we must also remind the powerful of the Earth that God will call them to judgment one day, and it will be seen if they truly tried to provide food for him in every person, and if they worked so that the environment would not be destroyed, but could produce this food.”

More news came from the Vatican yesterday when Pope Francis’ closest adviser chastised climate deniers in the U.S., blaming capitalism for their views. Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga criticized groups in the U.S. that have already come out against Francis’ highly anticipated encyclical on climate change.

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaChain(Photo: Toni Lozano )The number of people with mental illness who are locked up in US prisons is astounding. A Bureau of Justice Statistics report indicated that more than 700,000 prisoners in state prisons reported symptoms or a history of a mental health disorder at midyear 2005. Additionally, nearly 480,000 people with mental illnesses are incarcerated in city and county jails; nearly double the population of state mental hospitals held 50 years ago.

People with severe mental illness, including major depression, bipolar disorders and schizophrenia comprise up to 25% of local, state and federal prisoners. If prisoners with anxiety and personality disorders are included, the statistics rise to over 50%.

Prisoners, and prison authorities, are dealing with such issues as depressive disorder, manic-depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety disorder, and personality disorder.

A recent Urban Institute report titled "The Processing and Treatment of Mentally Ill Persons in the Criminal Justice System -- A Scan of Practice and Background Analysis" stated that, "All too often, they [prisoners with mental illnesses] cycle through the criminal justice system without appropriate care to address their mental health."

Published in Guest Commentary

DAVID SIROTA ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaHill(Photo: Josve05a)Less than three weeks into her presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton has already accomplished a stunning feat: She appears to have unified large swaths of the Democratic Party and its activist base to support the core tenets of the Citizens United decision — the one that effectively allowed unlimited money into politics.

That 2010 Supreme Court ruling declared that, unless there is an explicit quid pro quo, the fact that major campaign donors "may have influence over or access to elected officials does not mean that these officials are corrupt." The theory is that as long as a donor and a politician do not agree to an overt bribe, everything is A-OK.

When the ruling was handed down, Democrats were outraged, and Hillary Clinton herself has recently suggested she wants it overturned. Yet with revelations that firms with business before Clinton's State Department donated to her foundation and paid her husband, Clinton's campaign and rank-and-file Democratic activists are suddenly championing the Citizens United theory.

In campaign statements and talking points — and in activists' tweets and Facebook comments — the party seems to be collectively saying that without evidence of any explicit quid pro quo, all the Clinton cash is acceptable. Moreover, the inference seems to be that the revelations aren't even newsworthy because, in the words of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, "there's nothing new" here.

To advocates for limiting the influence of money in politics, this pushback from Democrats is particularly rich (pun intended) coming from a party that spent a decade asserting that Republicans raking in cash from Big Oil and pushing oil-friendly policies was rank corruption. The Democratic defense of their presumptive presidential nominee registers as especially disturbing to campaign finance reform advocates considering the mighty efficiency of the Clinton fundraising machine.

Consider a few undisputed facts that we surfaced in our reporting at the International Business Times...

Published in Guest Commentary
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