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2017.10.2.Berkowitz.BFThe 2016 list of most challenged books definitely reflect the politics of our times. (Photo: Kennedy Library / Flickr)BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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Graphic novels tackling the issues of sex and gender made up a chunk of the 2016 list of most challenged books, a list published each year by the American Library Association during Banned Books Week. In case you were preoccupied by headlines about the Trump administration's woefully inadequate response to the people of Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria's path of destruction; the president's attempted reinvigoration of the "culture wars" by slamming NFL players (mostly Black), for taking a knee during the playing of the National Anthem; and HHS Secretary Tom Price's resignation over his profligate use of government aircraft, last week was the 35th annual Banned Books Week.

"Of the top 10 books challenged in libraries, the top five were challenged for having LGBTQ content, which seems pretty significant," Mariko Tamaki, author of This One Summer, the number one book on the list, told The Washington Post's Comic Riffs.

Every year, typically during the last week in September, the American Library Association (ALA) –- and numerous other organizations -- celebrates, that's right, celebrates -- Banned Books Week. At the bannedbooksweek.org website, folks there even greet you with a hearty "Happy Banned Books Week!"

Last week was indeed Banned Books Week, which annually celebrates the freedom to read, and there were celebrations across the country in theaters, bookstores and online venues.

Published in Guest Commentary

Microsoft refuses to own up to its tax responsibility, and to its social responsibility.  Microsoft refuses to own up to its tax responsibility, and to its social responsibility. (Photo: Seattle Clouds / Flickr)PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Corporate cheating goes well beyond federal tax reporting, as big companies have used various forms of deception to keep taking from America, especially with a complicit corporate media unwilling to report the facts about their behavior. 

1. Give Us Your Technology, Infrastructure, Security, Patent Law ... but Sorry, Our Profits Were Made in Another Country.

-----Microsoft: "Rediscovering Their Soul" While Skipping Out on Their Taxes

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella writes about the "Quest to Rediscover Microsoft's Soul and Imagine a Better Future for Everyone," and the company's commitment to "humans and the unique quality we call empathy." But the empathy apparently doesn't apply to the Americans who rely on tax dollars to support basic needs. Microsoft made over half its 2017 revenue in the U.S., and it has 57 percent of its long-lived assets in our country. Yet for 2016 it claimed a LOSS IN THE U.S. and a $20 billion profit in other countries. Microsoft goes on to tell its shareholders: "As of June 30, 2017, $127.9 billion was held by our foreign subsidiaries and would be subject to material repatriation tax effects." 

Few other companies have benefited as much as Microsoft from 75 years of technological research and development in the United States. But the company refuses to own up to its tax responsibility, and to its social responsibility. 

Published in Guest Commentary
Friday, 25 August 2017 07:49

Facing History in the Age of Trump

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

TFlag 0825wrp opt(Photo: IoSonoUnaFotoCamera)Tempting as it is to isolate Donald Trump as the worst president in history (and "worst" is putting it mildly . . . more like the most narcissistically infantile, the most Nazi-friendly), doing so achieves nothing beyond a fleeting sense of satisfaction.

Yeah, he's scary. His supporters are scary. But he comes in a context.

Whether or not he's impeached, or removed from office via the 25th Amendment, his effect on the country won't go away. Trump can't be undone, any more than an act of terror — or war — can be undone.

But maybe Trump can be addressed beyond a sense of outrage. Maybe he can foment, in spite of himself, not simply change, but national transformation. Realizing this, and seizing hold of the moment he has created, may be a far more effective way of dealing with his unhinged presidency than merely exuding endless shock.

This, of course, is how the mainstream media is dealing with the situation. Journalism has never been so yellow. Extra! Extra! Trump tweets a whopper! Read all about it!

Published in Guest Commentary
Monday, 14 November 2016 07:25

Jim Hightower: Takeaways From the Election

2016.11.14.Hightower.BFDonald Trump is in the White House, but the takeaway from voters in this election is a mandate for progressive economic populism and more diversity among public officials, says Jim Hightower. (Photo: Michael Rosenstein / Flickr)JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Buckle-up, friends, it's going to be a hairy ride.

Start with Day One for President Trump (gotta get used to saying that). He will need to be up-and-at-'em no later than 12:01 a.m., for during his campaign he promised to get oodles of big stuff done on his very first day in office: Repeal Obamacare; begin working on impenetrable, physical, tall, powerful, beautiful, southern border wall; meet with Homeland security officials and generals to begin securing the Southern border; fix the Department of Veterans Affairs; repeal every single Obama executive order; suspend Syrian refugee resettlement; get rid of gun-free zones in schools; end the war on coal; defend the unborn; start taking care of ... our military; and convene top generals and inform them they have 30 days to come up with a plan to stop ISIS.

Good grief! Americans have actually put a xenophobic-misogynous-racist-nativist blowhard in the Oval Office. Has our country gone right-wing? 

Published in Guest Commentary
Friday, 10 June 2016 09:36

How About "None of the Above"?

WILL DURST SATIRE FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016June9 noneoftheaboveSatirist Wlll Durst wonders if the United States might be better off without anyone sitting in the Oval Office. (Photo: Descrier)

Every four years our nation’s electoral eccentricities escalate exponentially and people throw up their hands and shout, “you know, every election cycle is wacky, but especially this one.” But Especially This One! With this one, the narrative changes faster than the score of a Wiffle Ball game played with aluminum bats. It’s an election with the attention span of high- speed lint. An 18 month-long Squirrel Scamper.
 
First, everyone is talking about New York Values. Then, low-energy debaters. Violent rallies. Domestic terrorists. KKK endorsements. Rigged rules. Palace coups. Naked wives. Tiny hands. Pope bashing. Lucifer comparing. Internecine warfare between orange people.  
 
And the phrase bubbling out of everyone’s lips around the political circus this week is… “get me the hell out of here.” No. No. It’s… “third party candidate.” Dark words of terror striking fear in the hearts of major party leaders, owing to a couple of dodgy characters named Ross Perot and Ralph Nader. Or as Donald Trump would call them, “losers.” Third party candidates responsible for the downfall of Al Gore and George Herbert Walker Bush; making them not just losers, but loser enablers. Losers squared.
 
A legitimate third party candidacy hasn’t affected a US election since 2000, but this time around, faced with two candidates less popular than acid rain at a paper mache sculpture garden, the fear is the populace could easily slide over to vote for less polarizing figures. And right now, an eighteen foot alligator with irritable bowel syndrome would be less polarizing than the Donald or the Hillary.
 
It’s too late to get on the Texas ballot for independent runs, and other state deadlines are approaching fast, so prospective 2016 aspirants need to get their proverbial poop together. The blueprint for chaos is waiting to be writ.
Published in Guest Commentary

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaatoxicWhat if we found the political will to reprioritize the national budget and reclaim the future? (Photo: eek the cat)

Maybe if we declared “war” on poison water, we’d find a way to invest money in its “defeat.”

David Rosner and Gerald Markowitz, writing at Tom Dispatch this week about what they called “The United States of Flint,” make this point: “The price tag for replacing the lead pipes that contaminated its drinking water, thanks to the corrosive toxins found in the Flint River, is now estimated at up to $1.5 billion. No one knows where that money will come from or when it will arrive. In the meantime, the cost to the children of Flint has been and will be incalculable.”

I sit with these words: “No one knows where the money will come from.”

In the president’s latest budget proposal, $7.5 billion is earmarked to “fight ISIS,” an absurd non-threat to the nation’s survival, but no matter. We’re engaged in endless war with whoever the latest enemy happens to be and this war is endlessly funded, no questions asked. Mostly we’re engaged in war preparation, of course (and the containment of the consequences of past wars — at least the ones that can’t be ignored). As usual, the Pentagon and other war-engaged institutions will consume well over half the nation’s discretionary spending, including a $59 billion “slush fund that permits the Pentagon to break through Congress’ legislated budget caps,” according to the National Priorities Project.

Published in Guest Commentary

2016.2.8.BF.BuchheitFor every three homeless children in 2006, there are now five. For every three children on food stamps in 2007, there are now five. And yet spending on children's programs recently declined for the first time in nearly 20 years. (Image: Jared Rodriguez / Truthout; Adapted: D Sharon Pruitt, Leo Reynolds, GrungeTextures)PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

US plutocrats are afraid of too much change. But it's too late for gradual change. Only a popular uprising against big business greed can restore a semblance of justice to our perversely unequal society.

The election should be about oppression and the economy - but the economy of the 99% in the US, not of establishment wealth. So many in the US are in need of justice, including the following members of the US commons.

Black Americans and Other People of Color in the United States

"I cringed when people would ask me where I lived ... Just to say 'public housing' was basically saying that you're dirty, you're bad, you're dumb, you're lazy, you're a problem." - Shana Griffin, New Orleans activist

Emergency home repairs? Not for Black families. The average African American family had readily available liquid wealth of only $200 in 2011, less than $1 for every $100 owned by whites.

We tend to believe that education is the great equalizer. But a middle-aged Black person with a graduate degree has about the same odds of being a millionaire as a white person with only a high school diploma.

Published in Guest Commentary

COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaweatherchristA record warm Christmas is likely on its way. (Photo: Twitter)

If you’re dreaming of a white Christmas in the eastern and central U.S., you can probably keep dreaming. As EcoWatch reported last week, the unseasonably warm weather has set a number of December records.

Many cities in the eastern and central U.S. will see temperatures 10-20 degrees above average this week. If you live in the Eastern or Central U.S., Friday could be “one of the warmest Christmas Days of your lifetime,” The Weather Channel reported Sunday.

“Several cities in the East will likely see their warmest Christmas Eve or Christmas Day on record, adding to the more than 2,600 daily record high temperatures that have been tied or broken across the Lower 48 in the first 19 days of the month. This mild forecast means the prospect for a white Christmas is highly unlikely for many east of the Rockies.”

“Due to the warming effects of the strong El Niño climate pattern, many places that often have a good chance of seeing snow Christmas Day will miss out this year,” explained AccuWeather. “El Niño has helped to strengthen a west-to-east jet stream that delivers mild Pacific air across the U.S.”

Published in Guest Commentary
Wednesday, 25 November 2015 10:26

Why We Must Stop Drinking Bottled Water

ANNIE LEONARD OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT 

Plastic is displayed on a beach and the word ‘Trash’ is spelt out from golf balls. The wide variety of items shown in this image highlight the diverse range of sources from which the plastics in our oceans originate. This is part of the Ocean Defenders Campaign in which the Greenpeace ship Esperanza MV sails to the Pacific Ocean, sometimes referred to as the North Pacific garbage patch, to document the threat that plastic poses to the environment and sea life. Photo credit: © Greenpeace / Alex HoffordPlastic is displayed on a beach and the word ‘”TRASH”’ is spelt out from golf balls. The wide variety of items shown in this image highlight the diverse range of sources from which the plastics in our oceans originate. This is part of the Ocean Defenders Campaign in which the Greenpeace ship Esperanza MV sails to the Pacific Ocean, sometimes referred to as the North Pacific garbage patch, to document the threat that plastic poses to the environment and sea life. Photo credit: © Greenpeace / Alex Hofford

Thursday was Use Less Stuff Day. It was created to inspire us to rethink the stuff we use. All our stuff—cell phones, clothes, cars, disposable chopsticks, and on and on—comes from somewhere and has to go somewhere when we throw it out. That takes a big toll on the planet, so thinking about how to use less is an excellent idea.

I’ve written a bunch about the real need to re-think our approach to the holidays and the mad shopping frenzy that comes with them.

When it comes to how we do spend our dollars, the product that jumps immediately to mind as obscenely wasteful, expensive and easily preventable is bottled water.

Let’s dig a bit deeper into this. It’s true that in some parts of the world the water quality is so poor that it’s unsafe for people to drink. There are definitely some places in the U.S. wherefracking or petrochemical plants have ruined the local water supply, but even then there are better solutions than forcing the community to buy bottled water! For the most part, tap water in the U.S. is clean, readily available and thousands of times cheaper than the bottled stuff.

four-year review of the bottled water industry in the U.S. and the safety standards that govern it, including independent testing of over 1,000 bottles of water found that there is no assurance that just because water comes out of a bottle it is any cleaner or safer than water from the tap. In fact tap water is tested more frequently than bottled water.

Published in Guest Commentary

WENONAH HAUTER OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch.

Photo credit: Erik S Lesser / EPAThe language included in the TPP is more aggressive than previous trade deals and provides broad new powers for other countries and foreign corporations to challenge U.S. food safety and food labeling measures. Photo credit: Erik S Lesser / U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 

The Obama administration released the long-secret text of the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal that would weaken consumer protections, undermine U.S. food safety standards and prevent commonsensefood labeling. The language included in the TPP is more aggressive than previous trade deals and provides broad new powers for other countries and foreign corporations to challenge U.S. food safety and food labeling measures. 

The TPP is a giveaway to big agribusiness and food companies that want to use trade deals to attack sensible food safety rules, weaken the inspection of imported food and block efforts to strengthen U.S. food safety standards. The food and agribusiness industries inserted language into the text of the TPP that will undermine U.S. food safety oversight and expose consumers to risky imported foods.

The TPP includes a new provision designed to second-guess the government inspectors who monitor food imports. The so-called Rapid Response Mechanism allows companies to challenge border inspection procedures that companies claim cause unnecessary delay—like holding suspect shipments while awaiting laboratory test results—and demand that a TPP panel of experts review and provide guidance on the inspection. This would create a chilling-effect on rigorous border inspection that would be especially dangerous for problems that are not obvious, like chemical or drug residues that would only appear after more thorough examination and testing.

Published in Guest Commentary
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