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BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Stephen Miller is a 31-year-old who appears to have fit seamlessly into the inner circle at President Donald Trump’s White House. If you look closely during Trump’s executive order signing ceremonies, you’ll likely find the pre-maturely balding Miller lurking in the background, sometimes standing next to Steve Bannon or Reince Priebus. He’s one of a cadre of previously unknown ultra-conservative nativist provocateurs whose history includes mentoring by the alt-right’s Richard Spencer, connections to the Breitbart media operation, being communications director for Senator Jeff Sessions, and who, during the presidential campaign was a consistent rev-up-the-crowd guy at Trump rallies. Now, he is the senior adviser to the president for policy, a high-powered position, as evidenced by his significant contribution – along with Steve Bannon -- to the executive order on immigration that resulted in a firestorm of criticism and huge demonstrations at airports across the country.

In what seems like eons ago, in a June 2016 profile of Miller, Politico’s Julia Ioffe maintained that he was “a deeply unsettling figure, even to many in his own party.” “His nine-year career working for some of the most politically fringe figures on the Hill — he also worked for Michele Bachmann and helped David Brat in his primary defeat of Eric Cantor — was preceded by a trail of writings and provocations that go all the way back to high school, one that has raised the eyebrows of even conservative Republicans.”

According to a more recent piece by The Daily Beast’s Tim Mak, Miller “is as versatile as he is polarizing. A consistent theme in his life is knowing how to poke his political opponents in the eye, and he has seemed to revel in the feeling—from his childhood, to his college years, to the presidential-campaign trail.”

Published in Guest Commentary
Monday, 30 January 2017 07:27

What It Means to Live in a Breitbart Nation

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Bannon 0130wrp opt(Photo: Steve Bannon, by Don Irvine)Steve Bannon's openly declared war on the mainstream media may be the kind of hot-button news that drives headlines, but his new role on the National Security Council gives the former Goldman Sachs executive-turned-head of the ultra-right xenophobic and misogynistic Breitbart News, and the architect of Trumpism, unimaginable power. In an executive order, possibly written by Bannon himself, President Trump made it clear that Bannon could "join the government's most senior members during any meeting of the principal committee, led by national security advisor, Michael Flynn," The New York Daily News reported.  

Bannon, according to Raw Story's David Edwards, "personally overruled a decision by the Department of Homeland Security not to include green card holders in the president's temporary ban on travel from Muslim countries," a ruling that set off a firestorm of protests at airports across the country. 

“Whatever else he is, Steve Bannon is a smart guy, and he had to know that this would produce turmoil at airports around the country and widespread condemnation from the press,” Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum wrote. “In cases like this, the smart money is usually on incompetence, not malice. But this looks more like deliberate malice to me. Bannon wanted turmoil and condemnation. He wanted this executive order to get as much publicity as possible. He wanted the ACLU involved. He thinks this will be a PR win.”

Earlier in the week, Banning pointedly told The New York Times' Michael Grynbaum that: "The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while." Bannon then added, "The media here is the opposition party. They don't understand this country. They still do not understand why Donald Trump is president of the United States." 

Published in Guest Commentary

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Davos 0130wrp opt(Photo: Remy Steinegger)In-between cocktail parties at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, billionaires tried to solve global inequality and climate change. Most of the attendees had arrived by private jet, which can burn as much fuel in an hour as an average car does in a year. 

America's actions impact everyone in the world. But that doesn't seem to matter to the super-rich elite who inexplicably get to make our decisions for us. They are not only far removed from ordinary people, but they're also out-of-touch with the world around them, insulating themselves in fortified estates and bubbles of wealth like in Davos. 

Only the most insensitive among us could fail to care about the people in Madagascar described by Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times:

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Presser 0127wrp opt(Photo: Cherie Cullen)There's a new media sheriff in Washington, D.C. and his name is Sean Spicer. "The mainstream media isn't the only game in town anymore," Spicer, a former communications director and strategist for the Republican National Committee and now White House press secretary, told Fox News in a recent interview. At what was called his first briefing – which was really his second, having read an incendiary and factually inaccurate message about crowd size at the inaugural and then storming off – Spicer made it clear that the mainstream media will not be treated as deferentially as it has by previous administrations.

Which, when translated, means that such purveyors of misinformation and what Kelly Anne Conway has called "alternative facts," such as the New York Post, the city's ultra-conservative newspaper, and Newsmax, will not only get called on for questions, but will receive priority treatment.

At a subsequent news briefing, Spicer called on LifeZette, Breitbart, and The Heritage Foundation's The Fred Lucas.

According to The New York Times, Spicer has said "that he would provide access via Skype to journalists working for news organizations 'who may not have the convenience or funding to travel to Washington.' He has previously pledged to find space for talk-radio hosts and conservative bloggers."

"The order in which [Spicer] called on people suggests it is a new day when it comes to who this White House considers being priorities in terms of being called on," CNN's Jake Tapper pointed out.

Published in Guest Commentary

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH AT BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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PipeOil 0125wrp opt(Photo: Pipeline)An oil pipeline has leaked about 200,000 liters, or 52,834 gallons, of crude onto an aboriginal community in the oil-rich province of Saskatchewan, Canada.

This is the province's largest pipeline breach since July's disastrous 225,000 liter (59,438 gallon) Husky Energy Inc spill, in which some oil entered the North Saskatchewan River and cut off drinking water supply for two cities.

The latest spill happened on reserve lands of the Ocean Man First Nation. Ocean Man Chief Connie Big Eagle told Reuters that a local resident smelled the scent of oil for a week, located the spill and brought it to her attention on Friday.

While no homes were affected, the spill is about 400 meters (1,320 feet) from the local cemetery, Big Eagle said.

The Saskatchewan government was informed of the spill on late Friday afternoon, but the public was only notified of the spill on Monday.

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Push back against misinformation! Support real, independent media by clicking here to make a tax-deductible donation to Truthout and BuzzFlash.

Heritage 0125wrp opt(Photo: Amantio di Nicolao)During the Trump transition, staffers from The Heritage Foundation were quite active developing policies and pointing out potential nominees for government positions. That was only foreplay. Not since those halcyon days of the George W. Bush administration have folks at the Heritage Foundation been this giddy. If you are looking to understand where the underpinning of the Trump Administration's deregulation, tax breaks for the wealthy, Obamacare repeal and replace alternatives, climate change denial, and privatization agenda will be coming from, look no further than the Washington D.C. based Heritage Foundation, America's most influential right-wing think tank.

Almost every day for eight years, The Daily Signal, Heritage's e-mail newsletter, sounded the alarm about the Obama administration's misdeeds and the wrongheadedness of liberal policies.

Now Heritage, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, has pivoted to providing a broad-based agenda for Team Trump. Take Monday morning January 23rd for example. The Daily Signal's "Morning Bell's" headlines are bountiful and revelatory: "Trump Nominees Face 'Unprecedented' Democrat Obstructionism"; "Relief Is on the Way: What Trump's Obamacare Executive Order Will Do"; "Obama's Legacy Is a Weaker and More Divided America"; "How Obamacare Will Cost Native American Tribes Millions of Dollars"; "EPA's Top Priority Should Be to Eliminate Bogus Global Warming Models"; "Trump Should End Government Funding of NPR's Biased News."

Although Trump never seemed to be The Heritage Foundation's candidate of choice, nevertheless it appears that it has embraced him seamlessly. Perhaps most attractive to the Foundation was that Trump was an empty slate; devoid of political convictions or policy prescriptions. As the Huffington Post's Matt Fuller pointed out in August, "[F]or the Heritage Foundation ― and its cousin political operation, Heritage Action for America, which can more actively engage in political activities ― Donald Trump presents a rare opportunity: a politician without policies."

Published in Guest Commentary

DR. REESE HALTER OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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Gulls 0123wrp opt(Photo: Someone35)In last eight years, nearly 70,000 birds have been killed in the New York City area to make the skies safer for air travel.

On Jan. 15, 2009, three minutes after takeoff from New York City's La Guardia Airport, U.S. Airways Flight 1549 hit a flock of Canada geese just northeast of the George Washington Bridge and lost all engine power. Remarkably, pilots Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger and Jeff Skiles ditched the aircraft onto the Hudson River in midtown Manhattan. All passengers and crew, 155 people, escaped with only a few serious injuries.

It was the most successful ditching in aviation history known as the "Miracle on the Hudson."

Since then, the following birds have been eradicated by government agencies: 28,000 gulls, 16,800 European starlings, 6,000 brown-headed cowbirds, 4,500 mourning doves and approximately 1,800 Canada geese.

In the five years before the Hudson River emergency landing, there were 158 bird strikes per year. In the six years following the accident, 299 air strikes were recorded per year, according to statistics amassed by the Associated Press.

Published in Guest Commentary

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Commentaries like this one aren't funded by corporate advertising, but by readers like you. Can you help sustain Truthout and BuzzFlash by making a tax-deductible donation?

War 0123wrp opt(Photo: German Federal Archive)Donald Trump said, "I’m going to make our military so big, so powerful, so strong, that nobody — absolutely nobody — is gonna mess with us."

Simple-minded but deadly thinking at the top derives from influential groups and individuals who think we have to KILL to keep the rest of the world in line. The compliant mainstream media scares us into accepting wars and drone killings overseas, military-style defenses on our own streets, surveillance of our private lives. For the war-happy leadership of America, certain realities are better left unsaid, or at most reported quickly and quietly.

1. Terrorist Acts in the U.S. Were More Common 40 Years Ago

Terrorist acts are deadly, but the panicky reports of mainstream news sources scare us more than they should, as when a FOX reporter called ISIS "the single biggest threat in [America’s] 200-year history."

This graphic derived from the Rand Corporation's terrorism database shows that the frequency of terrorist acts was greatest in the 1970s and 1980s. CNN notes that "There were literally hundreds of terrorist bombings, shootings and hijackings in States during the 1970s."

Published in Guest Commentary

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Commentaries like this one aren't funded by corporate advertising, but by readers like you. Can you help sustain Truthout and BuzzFlash by making a tax-deductible donation?

Apple 0120wrp opt(Photo: fir0002)The first genetically modified (GMO) apples, which are engineered to resist browning when sliced, will arrive in select midwestern U.S. stores next month. The fruit, produced by Okanagan Specialty Fruits and sold under the brand name Arctic Apples, will be packaged as "grab-and-go" slices, according to Capital Press.

A customer will only know that the fruit is genetically modified by scanning the packaging with a smartphone. The company is adhering to the new GMO food labeling act which allows businesses to use a QR code instead of clear wording that informs consumers if a product contains GMO ingredients.

"We are selling it under the Arctic brand and we've had a lot of press and attention, so I assume most people will know what it is," Okanagan's founder and president Neal Carter told Capital Press.

The company's product can be identified with its logo of a snowflake inside an apple outline.

Published in Guest Commentary

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

SolarFarm 0118wrp opt(Photo: US Bureau of Land Management)U.S. solar employs more workers than any other energy industry, including coal, oil and natural gas combined, according to the U.S. Department of Energy's second annual U.S. Energy and Employment Report.

6.4 million Americans now work in the traditional energy and the energy efficiency sector, which added more than 300,000 net new jobs in 2016, or 14 percent of the nation's job growth.

"This report verifies the dynamic role that our energy technologies and infrastructure play in a 21st century economy," said DOE Senior Advisor on Industrial and Economic Policy David Foster. "Whether producing natural gas or solar power at increasingly lower prices or reducing our consumption of energy through smart grids and fuel efficient vehicles, energy innovation is proving itself as the important driver of economic growth in America, producing 14 percent of the new jobs in 2016."

The solar industry is particularly shining bright.

"Proportionally, solar employment accounts for the largest share of workers in the Electric Power Generation sector," the report, released on Jan. 13, states. "This is largely due to the construction related to the significant buildout of new solar generation capacity." Overall, the U.S. solar workforce increased 25 percent in 2016.

Published in Guest Commentary
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