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RONNIE CUMMINS OF ECOWATCH ON BNUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

BenJerry 0726wrp optBen Cohen and Jerry Greenfield in 2010. (Photo: Dismas)The most important thing we can do today as conscious consumers, farmers and food workers is to regenerate public health, the environment and climate stability. We can do this most readily by moving away from industrial, GMO and factory-farm food toward an organic, pasture-based, soil-regenerative, humane, carbon-sequestering and climate-friendly agriculture system.

What's standing in the way of this life-or-death transformation? Rampant greenwashing. The proliferation of $90 billion worth of fraudulently labeled or advertised "natural" and "socially responsible" food products in the U.S. confuses even the most well-intentioned of consumers and lures them away from purchasing genuine organic or grass-fed products.

Perhaps no company personifies greenwashing more than Vermont-based Ben & Jerry's. Ben & Jerry's history—a start-up launched by two affable hippies, from a renovated gas station in Burlington, Vermont—is legendary. Despite selling out to Unilever in April 2000, the brand's handlers have preserved its quirky, homespun image and masterfully convinced consumers that Ben & Jerry's has never strayed from its mission: "to make the world a better place."

As the New York Times reported, the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) recently sent samples of Ben and Jerry's top-selling ice cream brands to an independent testing lab for analysis. Ten out of 11 samples tested positive for Roundup (glyphosate and AMPA) herbicide contamination

So much for making the world a better place.

Published in Guest Commentary

ANDREW MOSS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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BorderPatrol optA US Border Patrol helicopter in flight. (Photo: Dan Sorensen)If you take Interstate 15 about two hours north from Los Angeles, heading into the high desert of San Bernardino County, you'll reach a for-profit federal detention facility called the Adelanto Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Processing Center.  The center's named for the neighboring town of Adelanto, which means "advancement" or "progress" in Spanish, and it's not an inappropriate title for a town founded a century ago by the inventor of the Hotpoint Electric Iron.  But the name now carries a rather different set of associations due to the ICE facility's presence there.

This year, eight asylum seekers from Central American countries who had been "detained" (imprisoned) at this facility went on hunger strike to affirm the right to asylum as well as to protest excessively high bail, substandard food and medical care, and other abuses.  Three detainees at Adelanto have died since March, one found hanging in his cell on March 22, the other two suffering from serious medical issues that, advocates say, had been inadequately addressed at the facility.  

This year's protest follows a previous hunger strike in 2015, when 26 detainees protested prolonged imprisonment and excessive bail while awaiting resolution of their asylum cases.  Earlier that year, over two dozen members of Congress wrote a letter to the Justice Department and ICE officials, citing numerous cases of medical neglect and calling for a halt to the facility's expansion. More recently, an immigrants' advocacy organization called CIVIC (Community Initiatives for Visiting Inmates in Confinement) issued a report asserting that Adelanto had the third highest number of sexual assault complaints of all U.S. immigration detention facilities.

Last year, the Obama administration ordered a phasing out of private federal prison facilities like Adelanto.  Citing an Inspector General's report that faulted the prisons on issues of safety and security, and noting a decline in federal inmates, Deputy Attorney General Sally Q. Yates stated in a memo that the private prisons "compare poorly" to public facilities:  "they simply do not provide the same level of correctional services, programs, and resources," she said, and "they do not save substantially on costs."

Published in Guest Commentary

CURTIS JOHNSON FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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Superstorm1 0724wrp optSuperstorms are additional evidence of climate change. (Photo: Mike Trenchard)On June 30, Climatewire reported that Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Scott Pruitt had launched a government initiative "to challenge mainstream climate science" using military inspired "red-team, blue-team debates" on climate change.

According to a senior administration official,

The administrator (Pruitt) believes that we will be able to recruit the best in the fields which study climate and will organize a specific process in which these individuals ... provide back-and-forth critique of specific new reports on climate science

...

We are in fact very excited about this initiative…. Climate science, like other fields of science, is constantly changing. A new, fresh and transparent evaluation is something everyone should support doing.

Pruitt said he was moved to call for such debates after reading published articles by physicist Steve Koonin in the Wall Street Journal and climate change “skeptic” Brett Stephens in The New York Times, advocating more debate on climate. In an interview with Breitbart, Pruitt said, “The American people need to have that type of honest, open discussion, and it’s something we hope to provide as part of our leadership.” Pruitt told Reuters that it would be good to hold the debate on TV so it’s “open to the world” and that the American people “deserve it.”

Published in Guest Commentary

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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BigAg 0724wrp optA "broiler house" used by the US poultry industry. (Photo: Joe Valbuena)Another reason for single-payer health care: The documentary What the Health shows how the lives and health of human beings are considered insignificant, and in many ways threatened, by the pursuit of profits in the meat and dairy and drug industries. 

The corporate disdain revealed by this film is nearly beyond belief. And our 'trusted' watchdog agencies, both non-profit and government, are beholden to the biggest companies, accepting money in return for their silence about the dangers of animal and pharmaceutical products. 

Some of the contentions in the documentary have been disputed, most notably the implication that sugar is not a major factor in diabetes, and that dairyis. Indeed there may be flaws in the documentary. But it clearly reveals the damaging behavior of the businesses and organizations that are contributing to human suffering. 

Despicable: Corporate Profits at the Expense of Our Health

According to the documentary (and othersources), the World Health Organization and other major health groups have labeled both processed and red meats as carcinogenic. Yet powerful lobbying efforts have kept America near the top of the world in meat consumption. The drug and chemical industries do their part by providing pesticide-filled GMO corn and soy, fed mostly to dairy cows, and with most of their antibiotic products going to fatten up the animals most of us eat.

Published in Guest Commentary

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JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Robbery 0719wrp optA robbery in progress. (Photo: German Federal Archive)We the People are being burgled. Again.

The latest hit is just the latest in a long string of political robberies, a nationwide crime wave being pulled off by moneyed elites and their political henchmen. With each heist, they haul off a little more of our democratic power: the ability of the working majority to have any real say in the corporate and governmental decisions that affect us.

The elites are master thieves, often plucking pieces of our power without us realizing it, until we try to use it and — phhttt — it's gone. And yet another democracy-stealing tool has recently been fabricated and quietly distributed to profiteering corporations and right-wing ideologues throughout the country: PREEMPTION.

This concept has been around since Day One of our nation, contained in the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution and in similar clauses in state constitutions. It allows higher levels of government to intervene and overrule lower levels - the Feds can legally preempt state and local laws, and states can preempt city and county ordinances.

Obviously, this extreme power is fraught with danger, so it's meant to be used sparingly and only to advance a very big public purpose like, for example, overriding state and local laws that officially sanction rank racial discrimination.

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

We the People are being burgled. Again.

The latest hit is just the latest in a long string of political robberies, a nationwide crime wave being pulled off by moneyed elites and their political henchmen. With each heist, they haul off a little more of our democratic power: the ability of the working majority to have any real say in the corporate and governmental decisions that affect us.

The elites are master thieves, often plucking pieces of our power without us realizing it, until we try to use it and — phhttt — it's gone. And yet another democracy-stealing tool has recently been fabricated and quietly distributed to profiteering corporations and right-wing ideologues throughout the country: PREEMPTION.

This concept has been around since Day One of our nation, contained in the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution and in similar clauses in state constitutions. It allows higher levels of government to intervene and overrule lower levels - the Feds can legally preempt state and local laws, and states can preempt city and county ordinances.

Obviously, this extreme power is fraught with danger, so it's meant to be used sparingly and only to advance a very big public purpose like, for example, overriding state and local laws that officially sanction rank racial discrimination.

Published in Guest Commentary

BuzzFlash and Truthout depend on reader support -- can you make a tax-deductible donation and help publish journalism with real integrity and independence?

BRIAN TRAUTMAN, GERRY CONDON AND SAMANTHA FERGUSON FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

NukeBan 0719wrp optThe aftermath of a nuclear detonation. (Photo: US Department of Energy)On July 7th, 2017, the United Nations (UN), in a historic decision, approved a legally binding instrument to ban nuclear weapons, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Months of negotiations involving over 130 countries began in March of this year, culminating in a final draft endorsed by 122 countries. The treaty marks a significant milestone to help free the world of nuclear weapons.

The treaty emphasizes "the catastrophic humanitarian consequences that would result from any use of nuclear weapons." It forbids participating states "to develop, test, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices." Additionally, it explains that the complete elimination of nuclear weapons from international arsenals "remains the only way to guarantee that nuclear weapons are never used again under any circumstances."

In keeping with a history of being unwilling to relinquish its massive nuclear arsenal, the U.S refused to enter treaty negotiations and used its status as the sole remaining international superpower to organize a boycott that influenced approximately 40 countries.

U.S. ambassador to the UN Nikki R. Haley defended the absence of the U.S. from the negotiations, stating, "There is nothing I want more for my family than a world with no nuclear weapons, but we have to be realistic. Is there anyone who thinks that North Korea would ban nuclear weapons?" Veterans For Peace (VFP), a nonprofit working since 1985 to abolish war and nurture peace and the only veterans non-governmental organization (NGO) represented at the UN, released a statement in response, strongly criticizing the U.S.'s refusal to participate, noting that the discussions were a "series of missed opportunities by the United States to use its position as the world's undisputed military power to change the course of history … and end the danger and peril that nuclear weapons pose to the world."

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Bullet 0717wrp optBullet exiting a flash suppressor. (Photo: Niels Noordhoek)During the Obama years, right wing groups repeatedly issued hysterical calls to stockpile arms against encroachment by the Obama administration. With Trump in the White House, that tune has changed; right wing paramilitary groups are being encouraged by Republican Party officials to stand armed, ready to defend Trumpism. In what appears to be an escalation of an ominous trend, the Multnomah County Republican Party (MCRP) of Portland, Oregon, voted to approve a proposal, brought by MCRP Chairman James Buchal, to allow armed members of Oregon Three Percenters, and the Oath Keepers, to provide security for future pro-Trump, alt-right, and anti-Sharia rallies. 

According to the Guardian, "Brawls and verbal confrontations punctuated the latest in a series of far-right 'patriot movement' events" recently when about "100 attendees clashed verbally and occasionally physically with 'anti-fascist' protesters."

With their members being harassed and shouted down, Buchal told the Guardian that calling in militia groups was their only recourse. Emphasizing violence coming from the left could be shaping a new and dangerous narrative enhancing the legitimacy of rightwing paramilitary groups.

"The Oregon Republican Party's sanctioning of the Three Percenters and other militia-types as security is a sinister turn for American politics," Devin Burghart, vice president on the Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights (IREHR), told me in an email exchange. "Deploying unaccountable, untrained, heavily-armed, and volatile far-right individuals at events where racism, Islamophobia, and other forms of bigotry are core themes is a recipe for disaster.

Published in Guest Commentary

PATRICIA JACKSON FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

DMZ 0717wrpElectric fences in the Korean Demilitarized Zone. (Photo: Wikipedia public domain)June was the sixty-fourth anniversary of the Korean War. It began in 1950 and ended 1953. Did people at that time in this country, even today, know the truth about our destruction in North Korea?

South Korea did not sign onto the 1953 cease fire armistice agreement with the People's Republic of China, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, and the United Nations that established a demilitarized zone separated at the 38th parallel. The possibility of using the Atom Bomb was considered during this war. North Korea and South Korea, a country divided, become another proxy war. Today, the risk of nuclear weapons ignites again with the threat of even greater weapons capable of massive destruction.

The countries involved in Korea today are the same, the United States, China, and Russia – then still the Soviet Union. The U.S. still maintains 28,500 troops in South Korea, including a division headquarters, an armored brigade, an aviation brigade, and an artillery brigade. China and Russia have established troops on their borders with North Korea.

Two hot heads of state exchange dangerous rhetoric. Trump's simplistic assessment of the situation offers, "North Korea is looking for trouble." "If China decides to help, that would be great," the post continued. "If not, we will solve the problem without them! U.S.A."

A DPRK Foreign Ministry spokesman in turn responds. "The DPRK will react to a total war with an all-out war, a nuclear war with nuclear strikes of its own and surely win a victory in the death-defying struggle against the U.S. imperialists."

Published in Guest Commentary

MARIANNE HIRSCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

MarianneWarsawView of POLIN Museum, facing the Monument to the Ghetto Heroes. This side of the monument shows the Great Deportation of 300,000 Jews to the Treblinka death camp in the summer of 1942. (Photo: Wojciech Kryński) Standing in front of the Ghetto Heroes Monument in Warsaw, Poland, some months ago, I felt immersed in an archaeology of layered histories. The monument commemorates the unique and improbable armed uprising by Jewish ghetto partisans against Nazi forces in 1943. But it also bears witness to how the brutal annihilation of a local minority in the very heart of an urban neighborhood has been both remembered and forgotten during nearly 70 years. Now, standing in front of the remarkable new Polin Museum of the History of Polish Jews, it speaks not only of heroes, but also of ordinary lives cut short by genocide.

Being there as a child of survivors of the Romanian Holocaust, I felt in touch with witness visitors who preceded me -- descendants of Holocaust victims and survivors like me, tourists, heads of state the world over, as well as visitors whose symbolic import resonates into the future. How could any of us do justice to the victims? What is our responsibility to them and to our own present, to the violence we continue to witness?

When Donald Trump chose not to stop there on his recent visit to Warsaw, he didn't just snub the Jewish community or fail to pay tribute to Jewish resistance, he also rejected an entangled transnational history of responsible witnessing. He thus extricated the United States from a web of shared memory and acknowledgement that goes beyond the nationalist self-congratulation that he fosters.

Published in Guest Commentary

MICHAEL SEIFERT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

ImmigrationRights 0712wrp optAn immigration rights protest march. (Photo: z2amiller)In mid-May, just before the end of the school year, a mother drove to a local grammar school to pick up her three children. As she was parking her truck, a Brownsville police officer, apparently doing traffic duty, asked her for her papers. The woman, however, having suffered an onslaught of news reports about SB4, the Texas "Show Me Your Papers" law, told me that she thought that he meant her immigration documents. The policeman was only asking about her driver's license and proof of insurance.

The woman, shaken, went into the school office to collect her children.

Inside the school, the mother ran into the school secretary. As is the case in many communities, the secretary is considered a reliable source of knowledge. This mom, afraid, pled her case. "But the police have no right to ask me for my papers; they have no right to do that on school property! Who can I complain to?"

The secretary responded, "Ah, but you see, with that new law, SB4, everything has changed. The police can come into the school any time they want and they can take illegal people away. You should be glad that he didn't deport you. But he will be back!"

The mother of three gasped; the secretary went back to answering phones and attending other parents' needs. The mother went home and called her local parish. The priest was able to calm her fears, reminding her that she had the support of her church, and of many others. "I am not sure what exactly we will do as a parish," the priest told me, "But we will come up with something."

Published in Guest Commentary
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