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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.

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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
Friday, 05 February 2016 08:02

Pro-GMO Group Crosses Ethical Line

KEN ROSEBORO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaDNA(Photo: Thomas Splettstoesser)The Genetic Literacy Project (GLP) has been accused of unethical journalistic practices after it published personal information about individuals opposed to genetically modified food and changed the text of an article without the author’s permission.

GLP is an organization that heavily promotes genetic engineering of foods and attacks critics of the technology.

GLP has posted phone numbers, email and home addresses and other personal information about GMO critics. According to David Murphy, executive director of Food Democracy Now, GLP posted the phone number and email and home addresses of Don Huber, Emeritus Professor of Plant Pathology at Purdue University. Murphy contacted GLP asking them to remove the information, which they did, but shortly after GLP posted Murphy’s cell phone number and home address.

“It’s one thing to have a public disagreement with highly trained scientists and activists on a controversial subject like GMO safety, but publishing personal information, home addresses and cell phone numbers, is a new low, even for Monsanto’s smear merchant,” Murphy said. “Does Monsanto really want us publishing their CEO and top scientists like Robb Fraley’s home addresses? One wonders what they really have to hide if they’re willing to employ such slimeball tactics against their critics.”

Published in Guest Commentary

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaMonsantoWheatHarvest(Photo: USDA)Glyphosate, the main ingredient in the Monsanto’s flagship product Roundup, is now the “most widely applied pesticide worldwide,” according to a report published today in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Sciences Europe.

The paper, Trends in glyphosate herbicide use in the United States and globally, reveals that since 1974, when Roundup was first commercially sold, more than 1.6 billion kilograms (or 3.5 billion pounds) of glyphosate has been used in the U.S., making up 19 percent of the 8.6 billion kilograms (or 18.9 billion pounds) of glyphosate used around the world.

Globally, glyphosate use has risen almost 15-fold since “Roundup Ready” crops were introduced in 1996, the paper noted. These crops, such as soy, corn, canola, alfalfa and cotton, are genetically engineered to withstand direct applications of Roundup, as the product kills only the weeds.

“Genetically engineered herbicide-tolerant crops now account for about 56 percent of global glyphosate use,” agricultural economist Charles M. Benbrook, PhD, and author of the study wrote in his paper. “In the U.S., no pesticide has come remotely close to such intensive and widespread use.”

According to the study, two-thirds of the total volume of glyphosate applied in the U.S. from 1974 to 2014 has been sprayed in just the last 10 years.

“The dramatic and rapid growth in overall use of glyphosate will likely contribute to a host of adverse environmental and public health consequences,” Benbrook claimed.

Published in Guest Commentary

JANE STILLWATER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaCruzCanadian(Photo: Michael Vadon)Good grief, talk about your hypocrites.  For the past eight years, America has been forced to listen to Birthers, the GOP, Fox News and various Tea Party crazies go on and on about how Barack Obama shouldn't be our President because they claim that he was born in Kenya, right? Eight years of odious blather that we can never get back again.

Enter Ted Cruz. "I was born in Canada but I have an American mother," he tells us, "and therefore I am qualified to be President." But wait. Obama had an American mum too, and Obama was born in the United States in Hawaii.

Obama was born in Honolulu. Cruz was born in Calgary, Canada. So why does the Tea Party have its knickers all in a twist over Obama's having in their imaginations been born in Kenya -- but doesn't give a flying freak that Cruz was actually born in another nation? Hypocrisy, right?

But Obama and Cruz have somethin in common.  For the past eight years Obama has been perfectly okay with Americans like you and me going into deep and endless debt so that the Pentagon could afford to manufacture cause endless death in the Middles East. And Cruz is okay with that policy too, even proposing carpet-bombing ISIS and others in the Middle East.

Published in Guest Commentary

WALTER BRASCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaAngryElephant(Photo: Mister-E)By May, there will be no more elephants in the Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey circus.

The circus management had originally said it would cease using elephants by 2018, but revised its estimate by two years. Management said the cost to retire the elephants to the Ringling Brothers Center for Animal Conservation in Florida is less than it had first anticipated. The 13 Asian elephants on tour will join 30 others at the 200 acre facility, which has a $2.5 million annual budget.

“Our family’s commitment to save the majestic Asian elephants will continue through our breeding program, research and conservation efforts at the Center,” said Alana Feld, executive vice-president of Feld Entertainment.

P.T. Barnum first used an elephant in his circus in 1882, having purchased Jumbo from a London zoo. Since then, most circuses have toured with performing elephants, most of them Asian females because of the difficulty to train male elephants after they reach maturity. (Almost no circuses use the larger African elephants.)

Why Ringling Bros. is removing its elephants from the touring company is because of increasing public pressure and charges of animal cruelty, much of it leveled by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and other animal rights groups.

“We were very pleased that the elephants with Ringling Bros. will no longer suffer a miserable life on the road where they spend a great deal of time in boxcars and perform grueling circus tricks under the threat of punishment,” says Nicole Paquette, HSUS vice-president for wildlife protection. The circus, says Paquette, “had been one of the biggest defenders of this kind of archaic animal abuse, and the imminent end of its traveling elephant acts signaled that even one of the most tough-minded and hardened animal-use companies now recognized that the world is changing and it had to adapt.”

Published in Guest Commentary
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