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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

civilrightsmlkThe Trump administration is moving backwards on civil rights. (Photo: Sivlia Calderon)

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The Trump administration is wasting no time in reducing the enforcement of civil rights laws. According to a June 15 article in ProPublica,

For decades, the Department of Justice has used court-enforced agreements to protect civil rights, successfully desegregating school systems, reforming police departments, ensuring access for the disabled and defending the religious.

Now, under Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the DOJ appears to be turning away from this storied tool, called consent decrees. Top officials in the DOJ civil rights division have issued verbal instructions through the ranks to seek settlements without consent decrees — which would result in no continuing court oversight.

The move is just one part of a move by the Trump administration to limit federal civil rights enforcement. Other departments have scaled back the power of their internal divisions that monitor such abuses.

Critics of the new Department of Justice policy say it will have serious implications, according to the ProPublica piece.

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

NoDAPL 0619wrp optA protest against the Dakota Access pipeline. Pax Ahimsa GethenEnergy Transfer Partners, the company behind the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline and the fracked gas Rover Pipeline, has quite the extensive spill history, a new analysis shows.

After crunching the numbers from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), TheStreet revealed that the Dallas-based company spilled hazardous liquids near water crossings more than twice the frequency of any other U.S. pipeline company this decade.

According to the report:

"The company has spilled hazardous liquids five times near water crossings since 2010 when PHMSA started collecting detailed data. The company's spills account for almost 20% of all hazardous liquid spills near water crossings since 2010, primarily because of a 55,000-gallon gasoline spill in 2016 near the Susquehanna River in Lycoming County, Pennsylvania. TheStreet only included onshore spills in its analysis, and included subsidiary companies.

"Since 2010, the company has spilled hazardous liquids 204 times in all, ranking only behind Enterprise Products Partners LP (EPD) and Magellan Midstream Partners, LP MMP, according to TheStreet's tally."

Energy Transfer owns about 71,000 miles of natural gas, natural gas liquids, refined products and crude oil pipelines across the country.

KATHY KELLY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Yemen 0619wrp optHouse in Yemen destroyed by Saudi air strike. (Photo: Wikipedia Commons)On June 15, 2017, the New York Times reported that the government of Saudi Arabia aims to ease the concerns of some U.S. legislators over U.S. weapon sales to Saudi Arabia. The Saudis plan to engage in "a $750 million multiyear training program through the American military to help prevent the accidental killing of civilians in the Saudi-led air campaign against Houthi rebels in Yemen." Since entering the war in Yemen, in March of 2015, the Saudi coalition's airstrikes, with U.S. assistance, have destroyedbridges, roads, factories, farms, food trucks, animals, water infrastructure, and agricultural banks across the north, while imposing a blockade on the territory. For a country heavily dependent on foreign food aid, that means starving the people. At least seven million people suffer now from severe acute malnourishment.  

U.S. assistance to the Saudi-led coalition has included providing weapons, sharing intelligence, targeting assistance, and aerial jet refueling.  "If they stop the refueling, that would stop the bombing campaign literally tomorrow," says Iona Craig, who frequently reports from Yemen, "because logistically the coalition would not be able to send their fighter jets in to carry out sorties without that help."

The U.S. has also provided "cover" for Saudi violations of international law. On October 27th, 2015, Saudi Arabia bombed a Yemeni hospital operated by Doctors Without Borders. The airstrike went on for two hours, reducing the hospital to rubble. Ban Ki Moon, then Secretary General of the UN, admonished the Saudi government for attacking a medical facility. The Saudis responded that the U.S. had similarly bombed a Doctors Without Borders hospital, in Afghanistan's Kunduz province, which indeed the U.S. had, earlier that same month, on October 3, 2015. The U.S. airstrikes continued, in fifteen minute intervals, for an hour, killing 42 people and likewise reducing the Doctors Without Borders hospital to rubble and ash.

GREG PALAST FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Georgia U.S. stateGeorgia state flag. (Image: Wikipedia)

In last week's Georgia's 8th Congerssional District debate, would-be Congresswoman Karen Handel took a momentary break from attacking her opponent, Jon Ossoff, to attack a reporter: me. Handel claimed, "a reporter supposedly representing some very liberal Democratic organization almost literally accosted me." 

In fact, is was a trio of galoots working for Handel who accosted me.

But who accosted whom is less important than Handel's promoting the dangerous new trend of attacking the press, sometimes physically, when questions are uncomfortable or challenging.

It all began with my investigation for Rolling Stone Magazine, printed just before the Presidential election, in which Georgia, and the 6th Congressional District, played a notable--and ugly--role.

I had discovered that Handel's successor as Secretary of State, Brian Kemp, had employed a sophisticated, under-the-radar trick that could simply wipe away minority voter registrations by the thousands. The trick is called, “Interstate Crosscheck.”

Crosscheck's operation is based on the claim, repeated as faith by President Donald Trump, that there are “millions” of voters registered in two states who vote twice in the same election.

While not one Georgian has been convicted of this crime -- voting twice is a felony – Secretary of State Kemp has been working through a target list of an astonishing 660,708 Georgians.

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Sungei 0616wrp optThe Sungei Buloh Wetlands, part of the Singapore Biosphere Reserve. (Photo: Calvin Teo)The U.S. has quietly withdrawn 17 sites from the UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves program.

As first reported by National Geographic, the sites include a number of national forests, preserves and reserves from Alaska to the Virgin Islands (see list below). There were previously 47 biosphere reserves in the U.S.

The move was made during the International Coordinating Council of the Man and the Biosphere Programme meeting in Paris this week. Bulgaria also removed three sites.

"Prior to this year, a total of 18 sites had been removed from the program since 1997, by seven countries," National Geographic noted.

"It's not currently clear why the U.S. and Bulgaria asked to remove those sites: requests for comment have not yet been returned. In the past, sites were removed after countries were no longer able to meet the requirements of the program for protecting them."

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

parisaccord34Many US cities and states will abide by the Paris accord goals. (Photo: Klovovi)

 The United States Conference of Mayors (USCM) resoundingly rejected President Trump's withdrawal from the Paris accord, according to a statement on its website:

The United States Conference of Mayors strongly opposes President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord and has vowed that the nation’s mayors will continue their commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to alleviate the impacts of global warming.

“The U.S. Conference of Mayors is a strong proponent of the need to address climate change and we support the Paris agreement, which positions the world’s nations, including the United States, to be energy independent, self-reliant, and resilient,” said Phoenix (AZ) Mayor Greg Stanton, Chair of USCM’s Environment Committee. “A thriving economy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions are compatible by focusing on new technology, investing in renewable fuel sources, and increasing our energy efficiency....”

“Dozens of our country’s cities have already united to implement measures that combat climate change, so the President’s decision to withdraw from the Paris agreement is not representative of our nation’s leaders and their communities,” said Columbia (SC) Mayor Steve Benjamin, USCM Second Vice President. “As Mayors, we commit to protecting the planet that we will leave to the next generations, finding innovative solutions for renewable energy and working so that our communities are kept free of hazardous emissions.”

The USCM represents 1,408 cities with populations of 30,000 residents or more.

Attorney General Scott Pruitt of Oklahoma speaking at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland.Attorney General Scott Pruitt of Oklahoma speaking at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. (Photo: Gage Skidmore)LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt may have skipped the G7 climate meeting more than a day early, but he has certainly kept busy staffing his agency.

POLITICO reported that Pruitt has named energy industry attorney Patrick Traylor as a deputy in the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.

The office, which the Trump administration reportedly tried to cut, enforces key anti-pollution laws such as the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act to protect the environment and vulnerable communities.

Traylor, whose LinkedIn profile indicates he started the job in June, was a longtime partner of the international law firm Hogan Lovells and has represented companies owned by the Koch brothers and other energy industry giants.

The GOP's austere view is that getting treatment for your spouse's cancer should be like buying a new pair of shoes -- a free-market decision by customers who choose their own price point from high-dollar Neiman Marcus to barging-basement Dollar General. And some go barefoot... but, then that's their choice.The GOP's austere view is that getting treatment for your spouse's cancer should be like buying a new pair of shoes -- a free-market decision by customers who choose their own price point from high-dollar Neiman Marcus to barging-basement Dollar General.  (Photo: Pixabay)JIM HIGHTOWER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

When I think of freedom, I think of it in positive, aspirational terms -- our First Amendment freedoms, for example, or FDR's "Four freedoms" or the uplifting songs of freedom sung by oppressed people around the globe.

But right-wing, corporate-funded ideologues have fabricated a new negative notion of "freedoms" derived from individual choice. You're free to be poor, free to be politically powerless or free to be ill and uncared for -- it's all a matter of decisions you freely make in life, and our larger society has no business interfering with your free will.

This is what passes for a philosophical framework behind many of the policies of today's Republican congressional leaders. For example, they say their plan to eliminate health coverage for millions of Americans and do away with such essential health benefits as maternity care for millions more is just a matter of good 'ol free-market consumerism. As explained by Jason Chaffetz, a Utah tea party Republican, "Americans have choices. And so maybe, rather than getting that new iPhone that they just love and they want to go spend hundreds of dollars on that, maybe they should invest in their own health care."

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

trumphoteldcThe Trump old post office hotel in DC used by foreign government officials, surrounded by protesters. (Mike Maguire)

Given Donald Trump's expansive business empire -- much of it hidden away in the details of his unreleased tax filings -- being president is enhancing his "brand" and the value of his name, which he often licenses to outside investors. Furthermore, he has said that he is not running his business while he is president, but he is reaping profits from the Trump Organization because he still owns the same share of the business as he always has. As a result, when foreign powers patronize his businesses or invest in Trump properties or naming rights, he is -- in legal theory -- violating the emoluments clause of the Constitution.

Paul Pillar clarifies the emoluments clause in a recent edition of the Lobe Log:

The emoluments clause is part of a broader prohibition in the Constitution (in Article I, Section 9) that bars the granting of any title of nobility and the acceptance “of any present, Office, Emolument, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.” Emolument may be an eighteenth-century word that is not in many active vocabularies in the twenty-first century, but the concern about the effects of flattery and favor are at least as relevant today as they were when the Constitution was written. In fact, with the current president, the concern is more relevant than ever.

According to an article in the Los Angeles Times on June 12, legal action by state officials challenging Trump's flouting of the emoluments clause is now being undertaken.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017 07:36

New Coal Mine Opens, Employs Just 70 People

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Miners 0614wrp optCoal miners. (Photo: Jack Corn)Is this what Donald Trump meant when he campaigned on being the "greatest jobs president that God ever created"?

The president celebrated the 70 whole jobs created by the Acosta mine in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, the nation's newest coal mine.

"When I ended the 'war on coal,' I said I would put our incredible miners—and that's what you are, incredible—back to work," Trump said after the mine opened last Thursday, likely forgetting that his budget slashes 40 percent, or about $1 billion, from federal job training programs.

Corsa Coal Company CEO George Dethlefsen said 400 people applied for the 70 positions available at the new mine.

Dethlefsen said the mine will help the area's struggling economy but as Quartz pointed out that's "significantly fewer than the 92 jobs created by the opening of one American supermarket on average."

Most of the coal isn't even staying in the country. According to PennLive, "as for where the coal ultimately ends up, as much as 85 percent could be exported overseas to make steel in countries such as South Korea, Turkey, Egypt and Brazil, Corsa officials say."

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