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JOHN GEYMAN, MD FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

CuteHealth 1031wrp optSeattle health care rally. (Photo: SEIU 775 / Flickr)The Democratic Party, as is the case with the Republican Party, has its own civil war going on as it looks to the upcoming election cycles in 2018 and 2020. Its division over how to proceed on health care shows how wide the divide is among Democrats.

Democratic centrists, so involved in defending the Affordable Care Act (ACA) against the Republicans, are riding high on their success so far in avoiding its repeal, but shouldn’t take too much of a victory lap since the GOP has no replacement plan, especially after more than seven years. Meanwhile, the centrists are pushing aside the efforts of progressive Democrats to place universal health care through single-payer Medicare for All on the party platform. This continuing wide gulf across the Democrats’ political spectrum will delay real health care reform, weaken their impact on health care, and could easily lead to losses by Democrats in the upcoming elections.

These examples of disunity among Democrats on health care are alarming, even after their loss of more than 1,000 seats nationwide last year and Trump winning the White House.

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

BannonCPAC 1025wrp optSteve Bannon at CPAC. (Photo: Michael Vadon / Flickr)In the two months since he left the Trump administration, former White House Chief of Staff Steve Bannon has become the most prominent leader of the GOP's "anti-establishment" wing. And despite being "shunted" from the White House, as The Washington Post characterized it, Bannon and President Donald Trump "are anything but estranged. Instead, they have remained in frequent contact, chatting as often as several times a week, according to multiple associates of both of them."

In Trump-initiated phone calls, "They chew over politics, float ideas and catch up on gossip," The Post reported. "They also each ask after the other to shared confidants and friends, not unlike teenagers checking to make sure the other is not upset or disapproving." 

The Washington Post's Ashley Parker and Philip Rucker pointed out that "Trump and Bannon's evolving partnership — described by nine aides, friends and confidants, many of whom insisted on anonymity to offer a more candid portrait — is nuanced, combining tension with affection and, for now at least, is mutually beneficial." 

"Bannon is now the de facto leader of the GOP insurgent wing," ABC News' The Note recently reported. "He's the go-to man for Republican primary challengers but with a critical twist: he still has the ear, and maybe the heart, of President Donald Trump himself."

Published in Guest Commentary

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Whittier 1025wrp optThe Whittier Fire, July 13, 2017 (Photo: Glenn Beltz)Amid record wildfires devastating the north and an unusual October heatwave scorching the south, conditions in California right now are a perfect snapshot of our ever-warming world.

As California Gov. Jerry Brown said an interview with BBC's Today program on Tuesday, "Climate change is occurring, global warming is occurring, California is beginning to burn up."

But for President Trump and his administration, climate change is fact being inconveniently ignored. That's why, Brown says, states are fighting back.

When asked during his interview what California can do about Trump's intention to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement, Gov. Brown offered three tactics.

Published in Guest Commentary

DR. MEL GURTOV FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Flag 1025wrp(Photo: DVIDSHUB / Flickr)Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) says he didn’t know.  Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) and minority leader Chuck Schumer say they didn’t know either. Nor did several other US senators say they knew that the US has nearly 1,000 troops stationed in Niger, where four Green Berets were recently killed while on a counterterrorism mission. Other US congress members said they did know, but so what?  None apparently raised an eyebrow at the growing US military presence in Africa—a presence that includes combat and has not been authorized, much less debated, by congress.

Actually,all congress members should have known, not necessarily because the Pentagon says it informed everyone, which may or may not be the truth, but because news of the widespread US military deployment in Africa has been around for some time. I wrote about it in June, relying on the reporting of others on the US "arm and assist" program that finds US soldiers based in 24 African countries and perhaps double that number of "outposts" and other facilities.  Niger is just one place—Somalia, Cameroon, and Mali are others—where US forces are arming, training, and accompanying local soldiers on dangerous missions.

The US military has not, of course, publicized these missions, knowing full well that they would get unwanted attention.  But they are there, and the US Africa Command has become a crucial component of the "war on terror."  As Nick Tulse wrote last April, the US now operates "a constellation of bases integral to expanding U.S. military operations on the African continent and in the Middle East." I suspect that many members of congresschosenot to take note of these operations for political reasons: to avoid being seen as questioning the pursuit of terrorists everywhere, regardless of cost.

Published in Guest Commentary
Monday, 23 October 2017 07:59

Which Politicians Should We Trust?

GLEB TSIPURSKY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

News 1023wrp opt(Photo: Daniel R. Blume)In these dark days, it's hard to trust any politician. How can we tell apart the ones who spout bald-faced lies from those who actually tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? Fortunately, we now have a science-based tool for telling which politicians are comfortable committing to the truth, and which are not.

Let's get the myths out of the way: We can't trust our gut on who is telling the truth. Extensive research in psychology shows that our minds tend to search for and interpret information in ways that align with our previous beliefs, a phenomenon known as "confirmation bias." In other words, we'll tend to believe whoever tells us what we want to hear, whether or not what they're saying is true. No wonder that a study showed that most Americans who see distorted news believe it.

Traditionally, mainstream media had the role of separating the wheat of truth from the chaff of deception. However, trust in the mainstream media is at an all-time low, with a majority of citizens across the political spectrum believing it publishes a lot of distorted news. Thus, politicians who want to cover up their corrupt and unethical activities are now using false labels to attack reporters trying to uncover their misdoings. As a result, mainstream media's ability to separate the liars from the truth-tellers has been weakened.

Published in Guest Commentary

JOHN GEYMAN, MD FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Oxy 1023wrp opt(Photo: Cindy Shebley)In recent days, after six months of excellent investigative reporting, The Washington Post and CBS 60 Minutes, have jointly brought to our attention a very important expose of the back story behind the growing, unprecedented public health crisis in the U. S.—our opioid epidemic. More than 90 Americans die every day from opioid drug overdoses. These overdoses have already killed some 200,000 (more than three times the number of U. S. military deaths in the Vietnam War), overdose deaths continue to rise, and there is no end in sight. Here we have two goals: (1) to better understand how this crisis has come about and continues to increase; and (2) to outline some of the lessons we can already draw from this experience.

What’s behind this increasing crisis that is still uncontrolled?

Drug overdose deaths used to be rare, but are now the leading cause of accidental death in this country, more than peak annual deaths caused by motor vehicle accidents, guns and HIV infection. Opioids are drugs that stimulate the brain’s opioid receptors, including hydrocodone and oxycodone (the most commonly prescribed opioids), heroin, and in just recent years, fentanyl. Prescribed opioids can be essential for short-term use after surgery or accidents and for palliative care in terminal conditions. But they are often abused for chronic pain and can lead to patients becoming addicted to them.

Published in Guest Commentary
Friday, 20 October 2017 07:18

The GOP and Trump: Their War Against Women

JOHN GEYMAN, MD FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

PPrally 1020wrp optA Planned Parenthood rally. Photo: Molly Adams)The escalating war on women being waged by Republicans and the Trump administration knows no bounds and violates a long history of protections for women in previous administrations over almost 50 years. Their ultimate goal is to overturn Roe v. Wade, which decriminalized abortion in 1973. In their failed bills in Congress earlier this year, the GOP and its pro-life forces attacked women's health care by attempting to restrict access to contraception and abortion, cut Medicaid and defund Planned Parenthood. Beyond his many misogynous statements, Trump has said that a woman should be "punished" for having an abortion. Soon after his inauguration, he reversed long-standing abortion-related US policy by expanding the so-called Global Gag Rule, which prevents foreign recipients of US funding from offering counseling, information or advocacy services for abortion care. Under that rule, health professionals cannot mention abortion as an option, regardless of health risks or even if a woman asks. Now his latest attack on women -- signing an executive order that allows employers with a moral or religious objection to stop insurance coverage for contraceptive services, as has been required by the ACA, that can affect up to 62 million women.

These new policies represent a stunning reversal of women's rights dating back to the Title X Family Planning Program, enacted under Republican President Nixon in 1970 with the goal to "promote positive birth outcomes and healthy families by allowing individuals to decide the number and spacing of their children." Congress passed another bill in 1975 that authorized a network of family planning centers across the US. By 2014, there were some 4,400 such centers in operation.

As Planned Parenthood clinics, 97 percent of services provided include breast exams, other preventive services such as screening for cervical cancer and sexually transmitted infections; less than 3 percent of these services are for abortion care. Over the years, Title X has greatly reduced the number of abortions in the US by preventing unintended pregnancies.

Published in Guest Commentary
Wednesday, 18 October 2017 08:09

In This New Age of Automation, We Are Luddites

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Luddite 1018wrp opt(Photo: aaaf17-010 / Flickr)"THE ROBOTS ARE COMING! THE ROBOTS ARE COMING! ... EEK! THEY'RE ALREADY HERE!"

Today's proliferation of industrial robots is an advanced generation of powerful, autonomous machines driven by artificial intelligence. The profiteers and techies propelling us into the deep unknown of a robot economy concede that the fast-evolving machines will be radically disruptive, not just in the workplace, but throughout society. Yet, they insist that AI will end up a godsend, even for the millions "adjusted" out of their jobs. Trust us, they say, genuflecting to Efficiency and Productivity, their twin gods of economic progress. Intelligent robots will reduce labor costs (efficiency) and increase output (productivity), thus generating the one product the Powers That Be constantly demand from our economy: more wealth. Just wait, they say, this is gonna be BIG!

Those who question the establishment's mantra that labor-reducing technologies are inherently good and will magically enrich everyone are derided with high tech's ultimate insult — LUDDITE!

What's the origin of this corporate-hurled pejorative? In 1811, skilled weavers and other textile makers in Northern England launched a short-lived rebellion. These artisans had been the middle class of their day. Working from their own cottages, they made a decent living producing quality stockings and cloth that merchants sold throughout the Commonwealth.

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Windmill 1018wrp optThe base of a windmill. (Photo: Sandra / Flickr)You don't have to be a science geek to have heard of DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, but unless you like digging deep into Department of Energy, you are unlikely to know about ARPA-E, the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy. DARPA was created in 1958 during the Eisenhower administration as a response to the Soviet Union's Sputnik launching. DARPA-funded projects have had some incredible – some might call revolutionary – success, providing technologies that influenced the creation of the Internet, the G.P.S., and numerous military and national security projects. In July of last year, the agency announced its Cyber Grand Challenge (CGC), which aims to combat security vulnerabilities.

In Michael Lewis' extensive Vanity Fair article about Rick Perry's Department of Energy, a small section of the piece talked about ARPA-E. ARPA-E was developed during the George W. Bush administration, and funded during President Obama's first administration. It is intended to be the "energy equivalent of DARPA. Now, the agency is facing Team Trump's chopping block.

ARPA-E was the place where "wildly creative ideas," and out-of-the-box thinking would find a home. To non-scientists, some of the research may seem a bit fanciful, non-productive, or even downright nutty. At ARPA-E, researcher would be given license to explore what might be thought of as unexplorable. And, at $300 million a year, who knows where small grants to researchers might lead.

"The idea behind ARPA-E was to find the best …ideas that the free market had declined to finance and make sure they were given a chance," Lewis wrote.

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Bannon 1016wrp(Photo: thierry ehrmann / Flickr)If Hillary Clinton were to comment on this year's collection of speakers at the Values Voter Summit, she would have to supersize that basket of deplorables. The annual gathering hosted by the Family Research Council, featured speakers of the anti-LGBT, anti-Muslim, pro-gun, alt-right, and of course, religious right variety. Every year at about this time, since its launch in the fall of 2006, the vigorously anti-LGBT Family Research Council holds the Summit. And every year when it's over, it declares it to be the most successful ever. This year, however, that claim might be accurate, featuring the first appearance by a sitting president, and, with Steve Bannon's rousing speech on Saturday, signaling the growing relationship between the alt-right and the Christian Right.

Coming off a few days of issuing a string of mean-spirited executive orders, Trump was greeted like a conquering hero by white evangelicals who, last November, put aside their moral compasses and voted overwhelmingly for him; according to exit polls, more than 80 percent of white Christian evangelicals voted for him.

Trump greeted the crowd by saying that "America is a nation of believers." He called his recent actions aimed at dismantling the Affordable Care Act "a very big step." He pointed out that he had to take "a little different route, because Congress forgot what their pledges were," a reference to their failure to repeal Obamacare. He promised that the new health care plan will "even be better."

"We are stopping cold the attacks on Judeo-Christian values," Trump said to applause. He attacked people who don't say "Merry Christmas." "They don't use the word Christmas because it is not politically correct," Trump said. "We're saying Merry Christmas again."

Published in Guest Commentary
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