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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

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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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JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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Justice 0424wrp(Photo: Themis, Itojyuku)In high school, I had a girlfriend who was involved in student government and all sorts of good works. While she paid attention to all that was happening in those years of the early '60s, she essentially was a moderate — certainly not some movement rebel. Or so we thought... until one lazy, Sunday afternoon. As we aimlessly "cruised the drag" of our small town in a '54 Chevy, we were paused at a red light across from a root beer stand where some teens were hanging out. Suddenly, my "moderate" girlfriend lunged halfway out of the backseat window and shouted "Wake up and piss, kids, the world's on fire!"

I stared at her wide-eyed and whopperjawed, wondering where that came from.

I've thought of that moment recently as I've seen instance after instance of the innate rebelliousness of the American people erupting across the country in surprising ways, unexpected numbers, and with astonishing intensity. No need to wonder where this comes from, however. The outbursts are a spontaneous, rapidly expanding mass rejection of Trumpism.

Our Twitter-president plays to his most frenzied partisans with his daily rata-tat-tat of executive orders and public fulminations — firing at refugees, federal judges, Chuck Schumer, the media, Nordstrom, the EPA, Mexico's president, Elizabeth Warren, laws that protect consumers from Wall Street greed, Sweden, Arnold Schwarzenegger and... no telling who's next. But while some delightedly squeal at his wild moves, many more see Trump as not merely unpresidential, but bull goose bonkers! And dangerous — recklessly using the enormous power of the presidency as a personal cudgel to attack, stigmatize and seriously harm individuals, entire religions and races, the Bill of Rights and our nation's basic values of tolerance, fairness and opportunity for all. In a twist of ironic justice, The Donald's deep darkness has sparked a prairie fire of mass opposition, raging political activism and movement organizing for the long haul.

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LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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Crop 0421wrp opt(Photo: Hinrich)Dow Chemical, whose CEO Andrew Liveris is a close adviser to President Donald Trump, is pressuring the administration to throw out a government risk study on several popular pesticides, the Associated Press reported.

The 10,000-page study found that the three pesticides under review—chlorpyrifos, diazinon and malathion—pose a risk to roughly 1,800 animals and plants protected under the Endangered Species Act. The evaluations were compiled by federal scientists over the last four years and were expected to result in new limits on how and where the highly toxic pesticides can be used.

But lawyers representing Dow and two other makers of the organophosphates sent letters to the heads of three cabinet agencies last week, asking that the study be "set aside" and saying that the results are flawed.

"Our government's own scientists have already documented the grave danger these chemicals pose to people and endangered species," said Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity. "Unable to win on the facts, Dow is now adopting the same disgraceful tactics honed by the tobacco industry and the climate deniers to try to discredit science and scrap reasonable conservation measures that will protect our most endangered animals and plants."

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BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Bill 0419wrp(Photo: Karppinen)Women's organizations are excoriating him. Advertisers are bailing on him. The president is defending him. Glenn Beck says he "deserves the benefit of the doubt." Viewers are flocking to him. Religious Right leaders are silent. So it has gone since the beginning of the month when The New York Times' Emily Steel and Michael Schmidt reported that Bill O'Reilly, the host of the Fox News Channel's "The O'Reilly Factor" – the No. 1 program in cable news – had paid out $13 million to five women "in exchange for agreeing to not pursue litigation or speak about their accusations against him."  

And, to add one more excruciatingly odd factoid to the above, O'Reilly's new book, called Old School, co-authored with Bruce Feirstein, and a defense of traditional family values, is #1 on The New York Times' "Combined Print and E-Book Best Sellers" list. The book is also doing quite well at Amazon, where, as of Sunday, April 16th, it is #10 in Books, #1 in Books, "Nationalism," "Public Affairs & Policy," and "Conservatism & Liberalism."

According to The New York Times' Alexandra Alter, Old School: Life in the Sane Lane (Henry Holt and Co.) "includes advice on how men should treat women respectfully, not as sex objects."

The "Product Description" at billoreilly.com, offers the following: "Those crusading against Old School now have a name: Snowflakes. You may have seen them on cable TV whining about social injustice and income inequality. You may have heard them cheering Bernie Sanders as he suggested the government pay for almost everything. The Snowflake movement is proud and loud, and they don't like Old School grads."

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LAWRENCE WITTNER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

GoldenDawn 0419wrp opt(Photo: Steve Jurvetson)Political parties on the far right are today enjoying a surge of support that they have not experienced since their heyday in the 1930s.

This phenomenon is particularly striking in Europe, where massive migration, sluggish economic growth, and terrorism have stirred up virulent nationalism, hatred of immigrants, and Islamophobia. Trumpeting these sentiments, parties like France's National Front (led by Marine Le Pen), Britain's United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP, led by Nigel Farage), Netherlands' Party for Freedom (led by Geert Wilders), Italy's Northern League (led by Matteo Salvini), Austria's Freedom Party, Alternative for Germany, and others have become major political players.

Only one of these rising rightwing parties is usually referred to as fascist: Greece's Golden Dawn. Exploiting Greece's economic crisis and, especially, hatred of refugees and other migrants, Golden Dawn has used violent nationalism and the supposed racial superiority of Greeks to become Greece's third-largest party. Its spokesman, Elias Kasidiaris, is known for sporting a swastika on his shoulder and for reading passages from the anti-Semitic "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" to parliament. The party also employs gangs of black-shirted thugs who beat up immigrants.

Although the other far right parties strive for greater respectability, they also provide reminders of past fascist movements. Addressing a Northern League rally, Salvini wore a black shirt while supporters waved neo-Nazi symbols and photos of Benito Mussolini. Alternative for Germany has revived words and phrases once employed by the Nazis.

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JONATHAN D. SIMON FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Mitch 0417wrp opt(Photo: Gage Skidmore)When Senator Mitch McConnell pushed the button on the "nuclear option" last week, putting an end to the filibuster as a tactic for blocking confirmation of nominees to the US Supreme Court, some may well have wondered whether the Republican majority leader would one day, when the political shoe was on the other foot, come to regret the action. But McConnell -- whose professed devotion to the hallowed traditions of the Senate yielded politely to his unrivalled strategic and tactical acumen in the service of partisan causes -- had little reason for worry.

Here's why. In establishing a bicameral legislative branch, the Founding Fathers devised the Senate as a body of geographic rather than demographic representation. That is, its numbers would reflect equal representation for each state regardless of how disproportional to population that representation might turn out to be. This at-the-time novel (and quite deliberately anti-democratic) concept, which has had various interesting effects throughout our history, is now crystallizing into what may well prove a blow to our democracy more serious than any intended or imagined by the Founders. As Senator McConnell is doubtless aware, half the population of the United States lives in the nine largest states and is represented by 18 senators; the other half gets to elect 82 senators. As McConnell also knows well, the hyper-polarization and lines of division of our era are such that solid "red" states abound, predominating among the lower-population states that elect four-fifths of the Senate. He can therefore rest easy in the knowledge that, unless those fundamental factors of American politics undergo an extremely unlikely sea change, the Democrats will not regain control of a Senate majority during his tenure and probably long after.  

But, one might object, they are so close, needing a pick-up of a mere three seats to turn the trick. This is an illusion. With every advantage in 2016 (the Republicans had to defend 24 seats to the Democrats' 10), the Democrats nonetheless fell short. In 2018 they will be paying the piper, defending 25 seats (including the two Independents who caucus with the Democrats) to the Republicans' eight. Trump's many failings notwithstanding, virtually no analysts see 2018 as a Senate pick-up year for the Democrats. Beyond that, as long as our nation remains starkly divided, both politically and geographically -- as long as Election Night maps flash a great dollop of red fringed with a thin garnish of blue -- the Republicans will be playing with house money in their quest to maintain control of the Senate.

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PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Gears 0417wrp opt(Photo: Arthur Clarke)The jobs reports would have us believe our rebound from the recession is almost complete. The reality is very different, and The Economist has some fancy words for it: "Job polarisation," where middle-skill jobs decline while low-skill and high-skill jobs increase, and while the workforce "bifurcates" into two extremes of income. 

Optimists like to bring up the Industrial Revolution, and the return to better jobs afterward. But it took 60years. And job polarization makes the present day very different from two centuries ago, when only the bodies of workers, and not their brains, were superseded by machines. 

Most Workers Today Are Underpaid

Most of our new jobs are in service industries, including retail and health care and personal care and food service. Those industries generally don't pay a living wage. In 2014 over half of American workers made less than $15 per hour, with some of the top employment sectors in the U.S. paying $12 an hour or less.

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BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

PP 0414wrp(Photo: S. MiRK)According to the Associated Press, President Donald Trump is poised “to sign legislation erasing an Obama-era rule that barred states from withholding federal family planning funds from Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers.” It is not the first time the organization, that provides invaluable health services to countless numbers of underserved women, has been in the anti-abortion movement’s crosshairs.

Not to be confused by the facts that only a very small percentage of its work revolves around providing abortion services – offered sans federal funding -- with the White House and Congress firmly controlled by Republicans, there is every indication that Planned Parenthood may be stripped of the $500-+-million a year it receives in government funding.

While the attacks on Planned Parenthood have run the gamut from clinic bombings to threats to clinic staffers, from rabid demonstrations outside clinics to picketing the homes, and leafleting the neighborhoods, of doctors providing abortions, the tool du jour these days is the surreptitious, and thoroughly doctored, video taping of unaware Planned Parenthood staffers.

Recently, the Los Angeles Times’ Jeremy Breningstall, Elizabeth D. Herman and Paige St. John, reported on the activities of David Daleiden “and a small circle of anti-abortion activists [that] went undercover into meetings of abortion providers and women’s health groups. With fake IDs and tiny hidden cameras, they sought to capture Planned Parenthood officials making inflammatory statements.”

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