Facebook Slider
Optional Member Code
Get News Alerts!

BRUCE CONWAY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

No ads or "sponsored" content here! Help keep Truthout and BuzzFlash ad-free by making a tax-deductible donation.

ACA 0329wrp opt(Photo: NYyankees51)The death of the "do or die" GOP health care plan, as the bill was pulled from a floor vote in the House on March 24, 2017, comes as no surprise. It was a non-coherent bill that depended entirely on votes from a large Republican majority in the House, but exposed bitter divisions between the hard-right Freedom caucus and more moderate Republicans. Despite the addition of many late amendments intended to address the concerns of the opposing groups, they often lost as many votes as were gained. This became a momentous defeat for the House Speaker Paul Ryan, President Donald Trump, and the Republican Party on what was intended to be its signature and opening domestic success.

Despite the Republicans having had seven years to develop their own health care plan, the American Health Care Act (AHCA) was a hastily drafted assemblage of ideas, largely based on Paul Ryan's 37-page white paper in 2016, Better Way, and the proposed Empowering Patients First Act by Dr. Tom Price, now the Secretary of Health and Human Services. As a replacement for a repealed Affordable Care Act (ACA), the plan would have done away with the individual mandate, promoted a free market approach, deregulated the private health insurance industry, eliminated the ACA's requirement for coverage of essential services, added tax credits and given insurers wide latitude to charge older enrollees higher prices, fully repeal Medicaid expansion, and cut back women's health care. Their longer-term goal was to privatize both Medicare and Medicaid.

Unfortunately and predictably, the debate in the media was superficially covered, disinformation and false promises were common, and legislators at the end did not know what was actually in the bill. As Republicans retreated from the issue, they were unpersuasive as to what they would do next. One day after the defeat of the repeal and replace bill in the House, President Trump declared  that "Obamacare will explode. We will all get together and piece together a plan for all the American people. Do not worry." (Oval office statement, March 24, 2017). Meanwhile, leading Democrats hailed this event as a victory for saving the ACA and assurance of ongoing coverage for many millions of Americans.

 

Published in Guest Commentary

KEN ROSEBORO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Help us publish more commentaries like this one: Make a tax-deductible donation to BuzzFlash and Truthout today!

Corn 0327wrp opt(Photo: Andrew Butko)Enogen, a genetically modified corn for ethanol production, has contaminated non-GMO white corn grown in Nebraska and used to make flour for tortillas and other products.

According to Derek Rovey, owner of Rovey Specialty Grains in Inland, Nebraska, a few of his contract farmers who grow non-GMO white corn had their crops contaminated by Enogen corn.

"We've had some growers who've had some problems [with Enogen]. Their corn was right next to Enogen fields," said Rovey.

Enogen's GMO trait was detected in the white corn using GMO strip tests, said Rovey.

He also said that flour made using his company's white corn tested positive for Enogen last summer.

Enogen GMO corn can contaminate food corn through cross pollination in the field or improper segregation during grain handling.

Published in Guest Commentary

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Help us publish more commentaries like this one: Make a tax-deductible donation to BuzzFlash and Truthout today!

Oil 0327wrp opt(Photo: Creative Commons)The amount of crude oil that spewed near Belfield, North Dakota from the ruptured Belle Fourche pipeline in December was vastly underestimated.

The original estimate was around 176,000 gallons of oil. After further review, pipeline operator True Companies now reports about 12,615 barrels (529,830 gallons) of oil spilled, spokeswoman Wendy Owen told Inforum. The cause of the leak has not been determined.

The spill contaminated a hillside and Ash Coulee Creek which empties into the Little Missouri River. The break was also significant because it happened less than 200 miles away from the Oceti Sakowin Camp, where Water Protectors were protesting the heavily contested Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).

The new number makes the Belle Fourche spill one of the largest in state history and perhaps the largest oil pipeline spill that contaminated a North Dakota water body, Bill Suess, spill investigation program manager for the state's Department of Health, told Inforum.

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Fence 0324wrp opt(Photo: Ladin)President Trump has been demeaning and degrading immigrants since he announced his candidacy for the presidency, and he has continued to do so right up through his first two months in office. After more than a year of his vicious blathering about the criminality of immigrants and building a border wall, a recent report by The Sentencing Project found that Immigrants, regardless of legal status, or country of origin, do not have higher crime rates than native-born citizens, verifying that even in this age of Trump-initiated fake news and Kellyanne Conway’s “alternative facts,” facts can triumph over fiction.

Help us publish more commentaries like this one: Make a tax-deductible donation to BuzzFlash and Truthout today!

As the Executive Summary to The Sentencing Project’s report titled “Immigration and Public Safety” (http://www.sentencingproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Immigration-and-Public-Safety.pdf) pointed out: In addition to his anti-immigrant rhetoric, Trump has “linked immigrants with crime through an Executive Order directing the Attorney General to establish a task force to assist in ‘developing strategies to reduce crime, including, in particular, illegal immigration, drug trafficking, and violent crime,’ and by directing the Department of Homeland Security to create an office to assist and publicize victims of crimes committed by immigrants.”

The Sentencing Project’s report was written by Nazgol Ghandnoosh, Ph.D., Research Analyst, and Josh Rovner, Juvenile Justice Advocacy Associate, at The Sentencing Project, with research assistance by Casey Anderson and Jessica Yoo, Program Associates at The Sentencing Project:

Published in Guest Commentary

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

No ads or "sponsored" content here! Help keep Truthout and BuzzFlash ad-free by making a tax-deductible donation.

Hawking 0322wrp opt(Photo: Jim Campbell/Aero-News Network)Professor Stephen Hawking could one day realize his dream of space travel thanks to Virgin founder and space-enthusiast Richard Branson.

"I have already completed a zero gravity flight which allowed me to float weightless, but my ultimate ambition is to fly into space," Hawking told host Piers Morgan of "Good Morning Britain" on Monday. "I thought no one would take me but Richard Branson has offered me a seat on Virgin Galactic and I said yes immediately."

Branson's spaceflight company aims to provide suborbital spaceflights to space tourists. However, the venture has faced a number of delays, including a fatal explosion in 2007 during a ground test and test flight crash in 2014. (Might I suggest that if Branson cannot offer the stars to Hawking, maybe Elon Musk's SpaceX can?)

"My three children have brought me great joy—and I can tell you what will make me happy, to travel in space," Hawking said.

The 75-year-old theoretical physicist and cosmologist was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis lateral sclerosis (ALS) when he was 21.

Published in Guest Commentary

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Cook 0320wrp opt(Photo: Dave LaForest)For more than three months, an underwater pipeline has been spewing hundreds of thousands of cubic feet of processed natural gas per day in Alaska's Cook Inlet, possibly threatening critically endangered beluga whales, fish and other wildlife.

The 8-inch pipeline, owned and operated by Hilcorp Alaska, is leaking more than 210,000 cubic feet of gas per day. The gas is 99 percent methane and provides fuel for four platforms in Cook Inlet.

A notice from the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) revealed that Hilcorp knew about the leak as early as December but did not report the leak until Feb. 7 after a helicopter spotted gas bubbling to the surface of the water.

PHMSA said that the natural gas discharge could pose a risk to public safety, the environment and marine mammals and has given Hilcorp until May 1 to permanently repair the line or shut it down.

But conservation groups warn that waiting until May could allow the release of another 16 million cubic feet of gas. Seven groups have submitted a letter to the Trump administration urging for an immediate shutdown of the 52-year-old pipeline.

Published in Guest Commentary

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Coin 320wrp opt(Photo: US Mint)Before taxes on the rich are cut and social programs decimated, uninformed conservatives should consider who really benefits from U.S. tax laws and assistance programs. 

The Wealthiest Americans Pay Very Little Tax On Their Full Income

When ALL forms of taxes and income are considered, poor Americans pay higher tax rates than the richest 1%. 

The analysis starts with state and local taxes, which are often ignored by apologists for big-income tax cuts. According to The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, the state and local tax rate for the poorest 20 percent of individuals is DOUBLE that of the top 1 percent (10.9 percent vs. 5.4 percent). New data from Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez, and Gabriel Zucman allows us to go further: When unrealized capital gains are included in the wealth-building of the richest 1%, the OVERALL tax rates plunge for the super-rich, causing the poorest Americans to pay the highest rates. 

What is the justification for adding unrealized capital gains to one's income? The 16th Amendment gives Congress the power "to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived." Thus, under an original definition of income developed by the American economists Robert M. Haig and Henry C. Simons in the 1920s and still utilized by financial economists, an increase in the value of a stock or other asset would be subject to taxation even if it's not sold. 

With this more accurate guide to income measurement, the real tax rates paid by the 1% can be calculated. Details can be found here. The bottom line is that poor Americans pay about 25 percent in total taxes, while the 1% pays anywhere from 18 to 23 percent.

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Church 0317wrp opt(Photo: kirkenorge)Since President Donald Trump's immigration policy gave law enforcement officials unprecedented power to aggressively target immigrants in the country illegally, the nation's immigrant communities have been living in fear, from the threat of arrest, detention and deportation.

Department of Homeland Security documents "revealed the broad scope of the president's ambitions: to publicize crimes by undocumented immigrants; strip such immigrants of privacy protections; enlist local police officers as enforcers; erect new detention facilities; discourage asylum seekers; and, ultimately, speed up deportations," The New York Times' Michael D. Shear and Ron Nixon reported late last month.

"The message is: The immigration law is back in business," said a gleeful Mark Krikorian, the executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which supports restricted immigration. "That violating immigration law is no longer a secondary offense."

One area where enhanced law enforcement appears to be having a profound effect is on church attendance. In a piece titled "Trump's Policies Are Keeping Hispanics Away from Church," Christianity Today's Kate Shellnutt reported that "America's Hispanic churches [are] feel[ing] the impact of President Donald Trump's immigration initiatives in their pews each week."

"These new guidelines create anxiety and concerns about the future of the members of our church and their families," the Hispanic Baptist Pastors Alliance (HBPA), a coalition of Hispanic Southern Baptist pastors, recently stated.

Published in Guest Commentary

CHRIS McDERMOTT OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Tiger in the water(Photo: B_cool)China approved a new national park this month in northeast China in Jilin and Heilongjiang provinces to save two endangered species—the Siberian tiger and Amur leopard.

Only nine wild Siberian tigers were estimated to be living in this area in 1998, increasing to 27 by 2015 thanks to conservation efforts including a logging ban. The global population of Amur leopards was less than 30 in 2007, but almost doubled by 2015.

The sanctuary, to be completed by 2020, will border Russia and measure 5,637 square miles, an area 60 percent larger than Yellowstone National Park.

The current habitat for the Siberian tiger and Amur leopard is too small an area to provide enough prey for the carnivores, whose wide search for their usual elk, wild boar and deer has recently led them into residential areas. It has even been reported that tigers have been wandering into Jilin Province and eating dogs and cattle.

Governmental officials expect the national park to ease some of this conflict. "Local government plans to relocate some existing communities, factories from inside the national park area, so as to avoid conflicts between wildlife and human activities," a spokesperson for Jilin's Forestry Department told Xinhua.

Published in Guest Commentary

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

GreatLakes 0315wrp opt(Photo: NASA)Officials from Enbridge Energy Partners insisted on the structural safety of its 64-year-old pipelines that pass under the Straits of Mackinac even though a company-commissioned study found that the lines' protective coating has deteriorated in some areas.

"I believe this pipeline is in as good of condition as it was on the day it was installed," Enbridge's director of integrity programs Kurt Baraniecki said at a Pipeline Safety Advisory Board meeting in Lansing, Michigan on Monday.

But the 250 protestors who showed up to the meeting responded to the comments with "derisive howls and laughter," the Detroit Free Press reported.

The meeting was centered around the Canadian oil transport company's heavily contested Enbridge Line 5 that lies just west of the Mackinac Bridge and carries roughly 23 million gallons of crude oil and liquid natural gas each day.

Built in 1953, the 645-mile, 30-inch-diameter pipeline runs from Superior, Wisconsin, across Michigan's Upper and Lower Peninsulas before terminating in Ontario, Canada. As it travels under the Straits of Mackinac, a narrow waterway that connects Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, Line 5 splits into twin 20-inch-diameter, parallel pipelines.

Published in Guest Commentary
Page 8 of 132