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DR. VANDANA SHIVA OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBackMonsanto(Photo: EcoWatch)Monsanto is in the news again. The Competition Commission of India, the country’s antitrust regulator, said last week that it suspects a Monsanto joint venture abused its dominant position as a supplier of genetically modified (GMO) cotton seeds in India and has issued an order citing prima facie violation of Sections 3(4) and 4 of the Competition Act, to be investigated by Competition Commission of India’s director-general.

Monsanto also faces cases brought by state governments and domestic seed manufacturers, for the astronomical royalty it charges. In previous cases, Monsanto defended itself by saying that it was “trait fees” (for using its technology in cotton hybrids) and not royalty.

Fact is that Monsanto has viewed the laws of our land as mere hurdles in its way to swindle India and our farmers. On March 10, 1995, Mahyco (Monsanto-Mahyco) brought 100 grams of cotton seeds, containing the MON531-Bt gene, into India without the approval of the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC).

Eager to establish a monopoly in India based on the smuggled MON531 gene, Monsanto-Mahyco started large scale, multi-centric, open field trials of Bt cotton in 40 locations spread across nine states, again without GEAC approval.

Article (7) of the Environment Protection Act, 1986, states: “No person shall import, export, transport, manufacture, process, use or sell any hazardous microorganisms or genetically engineered organisms/substances or cells except with the approval of the GEAC.” GMO traits, once released into the environment, cannot be contained or recalled.

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaDonTrumpyPoo(Photo: Gage Skidmore)In what might be one of their last opportunities to hack away at Donald Trump’s lead in the polls, Thursday night’s Republican Party debate had both Senator Marco Rubio and Senator Ted Cruz laying into Trump, blasting him for his vague and nebulous policy plans, financial contributions to pro-immigration politicians, his refusal to issue his tax returns, and his possible involvement as a defendant in a suit against his late for-profit and beleaguered Trump University. Trump, as is his wont, flicked the charges aside with a series of insults, facial contortions and blather. It remains to be seen as Super Tuesday rapidly approaches, whether Rubio and Cruz’s attacks have any affect at the polls.

The day before the debate, a clearly exasperated writer for the ultra-conservative Patriot Post wrote: “Once upon a time, the idea of Donald Trump's securing the Republican nomination for the presidency existed only in the realm of fantasy. But as primaries in four states now reside in the history books, and The Donald has claimed three wins and 81 delegates, fantasy is merging with possibility, if not quite yet reality.”

After the debate, an ever-hopeful Patriot Post declared: “We certainly hope it's not too late for voters to realize that Trump is not the answer. He's nothing but insanely idiotic bluster, repeated over and over and over again, ad nauseum. We've endured eight months of it. Can you imagine four or eight years? To re-employ one of his phrases, that is not going to make America great again, believe us.”

Many of the headlines -- from all ends of the political spectrum – describing Trump’s march towards the Republican Party’s presidential nomination tend to maintain that the GOP is doomed if Trump heads the ticket.

However, if the campaign team of whoever is the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee thinks that running against Trump will be similar to previous presidential campaigns, I’ve got news for them: Taking on the bombastic, brash, bawdy, boastful Trump will be like nothing they’ve ever dealt with before.

Published in Guest Commentary
Friday, 26 February 2016 06:44

Public Defender Meltdown in Louisiana

BILL QUIGLEY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaGavel(Photo: Jonathunder)Louisiana, which has the highest incarceration rate in the country, no longer provides public defenders to all its people accused of crimes; within months over half its public defender offices are expected to become insolvent.

“It’s a nightmare,” according to James Dixon, the chief Louisiana Public Defender. “You have people in jail that don’t have lawyers. It’s that basic.” In Louisiana, public defenders are appointed to represent nearly 250,000 people each year. Dixon has been warning of a constitutional crisis for years due to inadequate funding. His office has recently been sued in a federal class action by the ACLU.

The state public defender indicated that 24 of the 42 local public defender offices will become insolvent and restrict services in the next few months. Many already have broken down. Public defenders in 13 of Louisiana’s 42 judicial districts are already restricting services.

For example, the Lafayette Parish public defender has laid off 35 of its 52 attorneys, and imposed salary cuts of 20 percent on those who remain. The constitutional guarantee of speedy trial is gone and death penalty cases are grinding to a halt. The remaining public defenders face caseloads of 1000 felonies a year, a rate more than five times as high as recent Texas legislature mandated caseload study which concluded that public defenders should represent no more than 175 felonies a year.

New Orleans public defenders have been refusing to represent the most serious cases since January. The highly respected Marshall Project reports their budget has been cut from $9.5 million to $6 million in the past four years. That office, which represents 85 percent of those charged in criminal court, has already laid off lawyers, and cannot replaced the many lawyers who have resigned because of a hiring freeze. The office handles 10,000 misdemeanors and 8,000 felonies a year. One public defender wrote in the Washington Post that brand new lawyers have to handle cases with life sentences, carry double the number of cases that the American Bar Association recommends, do not have the time to even see their clients and are forced to plead people out to felony convictions on the day they meet them.

Published in Guest Commentary

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaErin(Photo: Eva Rinaldi)Erin Brockovich is speaking out on Oklahoma’s alarming earthquake activity and she’s not afraid to tie the state’s seismicity to a certain industry.

In an interview with Oklahoma’s News9, the prominent environmental activist and consumer advocate explained she’s aware that the injection of mass quantities of fracking wastewater in disposal wells is triggering the tremors, as geologists have confirmed.

But Brockovich added, “It’s fracking, let’s just be honest.”

Oklahoma experiences more earthquakes than anywhere in the world. Before 2009, Oklahoma had two earthquakes of magnitude 3.0 or greater each year, but now there are two a day. A 5.1 magnitude earthquake that shook northwest Oklahoma two weeks ago was the third-strongest ever recorded in the state, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said. And, within the past 24 hours, seven earthquakes rattled the city of Edmond in central Oklahoma.

Brockovich told News9 that many citizens have been concerned about structural damage to their homes and have called on her to help protect their health, property and legal rights.

“These people you know, they have rights and their homes are being damaged and structural damage and its cause by a man-made condition,” Brockovich said.

Published in Guest Commentary

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaMitchMc(Photo: Gage Skidmore)Antonin Scalia is gone. The nastiest and noisiest of right-wingers on the Supreme Court is dead.

But he can't be any more brain dead than Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader of the U.S. Senate. In a blatantly partisan ploy to prevent President Obama from nominating a successor to Scalia, McConnell has cited a historical precedent dictating that presidents who are in the last year of their term do not name new justices to the high court. "Therefore," he babbled, "this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president."

What a silly old squirrel McConnell is! Article II of the U.S. Constitution plainly states that the president "shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint ... Judges of the Supreme Court." Note that the Constitution says the president "shall" do this — as a duty to the nation. Nothing in the founding document suggests that this power and duty is voided in an election year. In fact, 13 Supreme Court nominations have been made in presidential election years, and the Senate took action on 11 of them. McConnell's assertion is bogus (and silly), for history and the Constitution clearly back Obama.

By giving a monthly donation of even a small amount, you can make a big difference to the future of Truthout and BuzzFlash. Sign up just once and read on, knowing that you've pledged your ongoing support!

Ironically, one who would have nailed McConnell for such a slapstick political perversion of plain constitutional language is Scalia himself. He practiced what he called "originalism" in his official judgments, insisting that the Constitution must be interpreted only by the words in it and only by the original meaning those words had for the founders when they wrote them into the document.

Published in Guest Commentary
Monday, 22 February 2016 11:46

Bundy Boys Bagged By Federal Grand Jury

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaCliven(Photo: Gage Skidmore)It took nearly two years, but Nevada’s Cliven Bundy and four others “were indicted by [a] federal grand jury … on 16 felony charges related to the armed assault against federal law enforcement officers that occurred in the Bunkerville, Nev. area on April 12, 2014,” according to a Press Release issued by the Department of Justice Attorney’s Office, District of Nevada.

Back in 2014, Bundy and his family rallied hundreds of armed like-minded folks to his side in a face off against government agents causing the out strategized and out-smarted U.S. Bureau of Land Management to back down and withdraw. “The BLM's mistakes are now playing into the government's theory in the extortion and assault case against Bundy and his sons, Ammon and Ryan, according to Kathleen Bliss, a former longtime federal prosecutor,” the Las Vegas Review-Journal recently reported.

"Prosecutors are using this to show the conspiracy," said Bliss, who prosecuted organized crime and domestic terrorism cases. "This wasn't just a group that kind of showed up and got together. They definitely had a system in place, and they were organized to meet a certain goal."

As I wrote in late-April 2014, “While many following his story wondered what this government-disdaining Nevada-based rancher -- who has been illegally grazing his cattle on federal land and who marshaled armed militia forces to engage in a standoff with federal agents -- was all about, America's right wing, especially the crew at Fox News, and conservative radio talk show hosts, were quick to brand Bundy a courageous leader of a New Sagebrush Rebellion.”

Bundy’s instant hero status quickly faded when the New Sagebrush Rebellion hero started spouting such racist views about African Americans that even his most confident conservative media admirers forsook him.

Published in Guest Commentary

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBuchheitChalkboard2(Photo: M. Rehemtulla)Latoya and Jalesa, both 26, grew up on the west side of Chicago, attending Calhoun Public School during the day and stepping across the street to Marillac Social Center for after-school programs. They lived in a tough neighborhood. Latoya said the summer gunshots came as often as the sound of ice-cream truck bells in the suburbs. But everyone knew each other on those two blocks; kids walked together, to and from school and in the evenings. Parents -- most of whom had gone to Calhoun -- also knew each other, often through volunteer work at the social center. 

In 2013 Calhoun was one of 50 schools closed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel. It was shut down despite a committee recommendation that it remain open. Jalesa and Latoya, who still work at the center as they pursue other career interests, said the children are scattered now. Most of them take buses to a variety of public and charter schools outside the once-intimate neighborhood. Some have to walk a few blocks, some have to cross busy streets. None of them gather together before and after school, as they used to do on the grounds of Calhoun. 

K-12 Education is Getting Worse

A shocking new OECD report says that among developed countries the U.S. has the highest percentage of youths ages 16-19 with low numeric skills, and the 3rd-highest percentage with low literacy skills. 

SAT scores in 2015 were the lowest since the test was revised in 2005. Math scores for fourth-graders and eighth-graders dropped for the first time since the tests were first administered in 1990.

Published in Guest Commentary

COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaAlGore(Photo: Erik Charlton)Al Gore is truly optimistic about the future of humanity and our ability to address climate change. He admitted to the TED2016 audience in Vancouver on Wednesday that “every night on the news is like a nature hike through the Book of Revelation.” But he maintained, “I am extremely optimistic. We are going to win this. We will prevail.”

The former vice president began his talk by highlighting the extent of the problem. He flashed images of flooding in Miami, Chile and India, fires in Australia and ice melting in the Arctic. Greenhouse gas emissions are trapping energy in Earth’s atmosphere at a rate “equivalent to exploding 400,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs per day 365 days per year,” Gore said, quoting climate scientist James Hansen.

“It’s a big planet, but that is a lot of energy,” Gore added.

Despite all this, Gore remains hopeful, arguing humans can and are changing. “Some still doubt we have the will to act,” Gore said. “But I say the will to act is itself a renewable resource.”

Published in Guest Commentary

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaEcoWatchFrance(Photo: EcoWatch)Ségolène Royal, France’s minister of ecology, sustainable development and energy, has called for a ban on glyphosate mixed with certain adjuvants (additives) due to its perceived risks to human health.

On Feb. 12, Royal called for ANSES—France’s food, environment and health agency—to withdraw authorizations on herbicides containing glyphosate mixed with the adjuvant tallow amine, according to French newspaper Le Monde (via Google translate).

Although it wasn’t explicitly said, one can only conclude that this measure was directly targeted at Monsanto and other herbicide makers.

Tallow amine, or polyethoxylated tallow amine, aids the effectiveness of herbicides such as glyphosate. The chemical is contained in Monsanto’s widely popular weedkiller Roundup, according to the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides, which published a letter from Monsanto listing the ingredients. Roundup’s ingredients are as follows:

  • Isopropylamine salt of glyphosate (active ingredient)
  • Water
  • The ethoxylated tallow amine surfactant
  • Related organic acids of glyphosate
  • Excess isopropylamine
Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBickle(Photo: Mike Bickle at onething 2011 conference, by Jeffrey Sharkey)In 2008, Senator John McCain, the Republican Party's presidential nominee, was forced to renounce his much sought after endorsement from Pastor John Hagee after video was discovered in which Hagee claimed God sent Hitler to hunt the Jews in order to get them to Israel. 

Flash forward almost eight years, and on January 21, Pastor Mike Bickle, another evangelical preacher who has used the same Hitler hunting the Jews meme, endorsed Texas Senator Ted Cruz's bid for the White House. This time, however, instead of distancing himself from Bickle, Cruz embraced the controversial head of the International House of Prayer, a Kansa City-based ministry that partners “with Messianic Jews for the salvation of the Jewish people.”

On the day of Bickle’s endorsement, a banner headline at tedcruz.org read “Cruz For President Announces Endorsement Of Mike Bickle.” A Cruz statement declared: “Through prayer, the Lord has changed my life and altered my family’s story. I am grateful for Mike’s dedication to call a generation of young people to prayer and spiritual commitment. Heidi and I are grateful to have his prayers and support. With the support of Mike and many other people of faith, we will fight the good fight, finish the course, and keep the faith.”

It is no secret that Cruz has built his campaign around soliciting, and receiving endorsements from evangelical leaders, a strategy that he believes will convince evangelical voters that he is their man. Mike Bickle is only the latest evangelical leader to be embraced by Cruz. People for the American Way’s Right Wing Watch reported earlier this month that “Last Fall, Cruz appeared in Iowa alongside a pastor who has called for the government to use the death penalty to punish homosexuality. Not stung from the criticism he received for courting the radical pastor, Kevin Swanson, Cruz later released a statement touting the support of an anti-abortion extremist, Troy Newman, who has said that a just government would punish abortion providers with death.”

Published in Guest Commentary
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