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2016august17 toxicUnregulated pollution of our public waters enables corporations who privatize water supplies. (Image: Michael Smith)

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An August 5 article in AgMag, a publication of the Environmental Working Group, includes an eye-opening warning about the impact that agricultural pollution can have on drinking water, including a relatively large city such as Des Moines, Iowa:

On Thursday, Des Moines Water Works warned customers of elevated levels of microcystins, the toxins created by cyanobacteria, in their drinking water. These toxins cause acute problems with the liver, including liver failure, among other serious health problems. 

The utility was forced to switch water supplies and caution some residents to avoid consuming too much water.

The utility accelerated the public warning due to increasing concerns about the effects of these agrotoxins on human health....

Des Moines regularly faces nutrient levels three times the allowable standard in its source water, and Water Works is currently involved in a lawsuit attempting to get the growers applying nutrients to take responsibility and clean up the mess.

Of course, nothing could please the profiteering bottled water industry more than a warning not to drink local tap water, given that it boosts the sales of their product. In a recent commentary, I noted that Nestlé is extracting clean water from protected public lands to sell in places such as Des Moines. In short, private water companies make money by selling water in plastic bottles -- which are environmentally destructive -- when public water supplies become polluted.

coal miners during a sit-in(Photo: Raúl Villalón)LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

With the renewable energy sector growing leaps and bounds in the U.S., many critics -- ahem, Donald Trump -- argue that a transition to clean power would lead to the displacement of workers in the fossil fuel industry.

Admittedly, these naysayers are not exactly wrong. Coal workers are genuinely worried as mines close and high-profile coal companies declare bankruptcy. Coal jobs are indeed on the decline, with the total number of employees at U.S. coal mines dipping to 74,931 employees in 2014, a decrease of 6.8 percent from the year prior.The Obama Administration's carbon cutting policies that takes direct aim at coal plants, alongside a drop in natural gas prices are only fueling these concerns of job security.

But what if the coal industry could adapt?

In a new study published in the journalEnergy Economics, researchers from Michigan Technological University and Oregon State University found that a "relatively minor investment in retraining" would allow mostcoal workers to switch professions to the booming and job creating solar energy sector.


Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

A New Jersey native and mother of two has set off on a two-month paddling journey from Chicago to New Orleans to raise awareness about water quality issues.

Blue Frontier Ocean Explorer Margo Pellegrino set off via the Sanitary Canalon her 20-foot outrigger canoe on Aug. 10 from the Lincoln Park Boathouse in Chicago.

This downstream-upstream challenge will first take her from the Windy City into the Mississippi. Then, she'll traverse upstream on the Illinois River into Kentucky Lake and onto the Tennessee River and the Tenn-Tom Waterway. From Mobile, Alabama, she will paddle into the Mobile Bay and head west into New Orleans.


2016aug16 churchchristian(Photo: Marie Loughin)

Is the 2016 election the last stand politically for white Christians in the United States? That's the question academic John Sides implies in a Washington Post interview with Robert P. Jones, the author of the recently released book, The End of White Christian America.

I have written numerous commentaries this election cycle on how Donald Trump is the "great white hope" to restore the White House and the US to representing the interests of white privilege, white tribalism and the restoration of blatant racism as an acceptable political and cultural stance among whites.

When it comes to religion, Donald Trump's ongoing defamation of Muslims and draconian proposals for restricting the access of Muslims to the United States and even intensive monitoring of Muslims within the United States is certainly aimed at opportunistically ratcheting up xenophobia and Islamophobia. However, it is also an attempt to corral white Christians -- particularly Evangelicals -- behind an unabashed bigoted white authoritarian Christian – although perhaps in name only -- presidential candidate.

Trump's extension of Nixon's strategy to include not just southern whites, but all whites who believe in white privilege and that the United States is losing its "Christian heritage" is borne out by clear demographic trends. In a 2015 article, Time concluded "white Christians now make up less than half of America":

White Christians no longer make up the majority of the U.S. population, a new survey has found.

The number of white Christians in America has dwindled to 46 percent of the total population from 55 percent in 2007, according to a Pew Research Center survey released Monday by National Journal’s Next America project.


BPat 0815wrp opt(Photo: Bbsrock )y now, one would think that Pat Buchanan would have long ago been relegated to the trash heap of history. Buchanan, a senior advisor to Presidents Nixon, Ford and Reagan, and who was once considered the go-to guy for paleoconservatives, seemed to have faded in importance from those heady days when he co-hosted CNN’s Crossfire, and gave the rousing and incendiary culture war speech at the 1992 Republican Party convention.

As The Australian’s Nikki Savva recently wrote, Buchanan “ran against the first George Bush for the Republican nomination, promising to build a wall or dig a giant ditch along the border between the US and Mexico. So it’s not a new idea. The same people cheering Trump now applauded Buchanan then — it’s just their numbers have grown.” Now, thanks to Donald Trump’s candidacy, and the band of white nationalists supporting him, Buchanan is in full pundefocating mode.

According to People for the American Way’s Right Wing Watch, Buchanan, the author of the new book “The Greatest Comeback: How Richard Nixon Rose From Defeat to Create the New Majority,” is all in with Trump’s claim that if he loses it will be because the election is rigged. And, furthermore, according to Buchanan, Trump’s loss could signal the beginning of a revolution in America.

In a WND column headlined “Yes, The System Is Rigged,” Buchanan – whose column is syndicated in a number of mainstream newspapers -- maintains that if the election “ends with a Clintonite restoration and a ratification of the same old Beltway policies, would that not suggest there is something fraudulent about American democracy, something rotten in the state?”


Woody 0812wrp opt(Photo: Al Aumuller)In 1950, Woody Guthrie signed a lease for an apartment in a Brooklyn building owned by Fred Trump (the father of Donald Trump). Earlier this year, Will Kaufman, a Professor of American Literature and Culture, University of Central Lancashire, visited the Tulsa, Oklahoma-based Woody Guthrie Archives (http://woodyguthriecenter.org/archives/), to do research.

Kaufman pointed out that “Guthrie’s two-year tenancy in one of Fred Trump’s buildings and his relationship with the real estate mogul of New York’s outer boroughs produced some of Guthrie’s most bitter writings.” Kaufman maintained that Guthrie’s writing -- which haven’t yet been published – “should be, for they clearly pit America’s national balladeer against the racist foundations of the Trump real estate empire.” Particularly in light of Donald Trump declaring last year that his “legacy has its roots in my father’s legacy.”

Guthrie had dealt with racism and inequality in several songs, recognizing that racism wasn’t only manifested in the South. According to Kaufman, “songs such as ‘The Ferguson Brothers Killing,’ … condemned the out-of-hand police killing of the unarmed Charles and Alfonso Ferguson in Freeport, Long Island, in 1946, after the two young black men had been refused service in a bus terminal cafe.”

The song “Buoy Bells from Trenton,” “denounced the miscarriage of justice in the case of the so-called ‘Trenton Six’ – black men convicted of murder in 1948 by an all-white jury in a trial marred by official perjury and manufactured evidence.”

Guthrie, a strong and active supporter of the great Paul Robeson – an underappreciated African American icon -- “stood shoulder to shoulder with Robeson, Howard Fast and Pete Seeger against the mobs of Peekskill, New York, where American racism at its ugliest had inspired 21 songs from his pen (one of which, ‘My Thirty Thousand,’ was recorded by Billy Bragg and Wilco).”


2016aug12 demrepDemocracy or Duopoly? (Image: DonkeyHotey)

The corporate media is pretty consistent in its formulaic coverage of presidential races. On July 6, I noted in a commentary how predictable it was that the established pundits were urging that Trump needed to get "on message" in order to be a viable candidate. I pointed out that Trump was already "on message" -- his message was that of a bigoted, sneering demagogue. The establishment political media, however, always covers presidential elections with a template that includes solemnly advice on how presidential candidates must "move to the center" and "stay on message." The idea is that they must give speeches filled with party-line pablum and platitudes in order to win over the much-touted but illusive "independent vote."

If a candidate continues to, in the view of pompous pundits, go "off message," the scribes move to claiming that a particular campaign needs a "reset." For example, on August 8, a Reuters article declared, "Trump seeks a campaign reset with Detroit economic speech." On August 9, a Washington Post article stated that the "next step in Donald Trump’s reset" would be "wooing evangelical pastors." A number of Trump "shock" statements in the past few days have resulted in some talking heads calling for a "reset" on Trump's "reset."

Yes, if a presidential candidate doesn't stay "on message" (which generally means "pivoting" to the mythical "center" as defined by the DC establishment press) then that campaign and candidate need a whole series of "resets."

To those disgruntled by this "lesser of two evils" election, however, the reset that is needed is quite different: What's necessary is to rewind the clock and start over with a new way to choose multiple presidential candidates. Right now, in our two-party system, the way presidential elections are legally structured and covered by the media make a third-party victory extraordinarily improbable. It shouldn't be that way, but it is. We, indeed, have what is often cited as a duopoly on the national level -- or a two-party presidential election franchise.

The two-party dominance of presidential elections has been a major contributor to the creation of a stultified democracy, one in which the institutional interests and the influence of the wealthy and corporations on each party has stifled robust debate and change. What we get are presidential campaigns that reflect the institutional interests of the two parties -- and don't for a moment think that billionaire Donald Trump does not embody both the pro-wealth and, in general, the social policies of the GOP.  Every four years, the media treats candidates as if they can just change costumes ("move to the center," "reset," etc.) and become more electable. Of course, a tacit corporate media assessment of being "on message" involves candidates of either major party adopting economic positions that benefit corporations, since the mass media consists of large corporate ownership, in general.


2016aug11 whistleblowerWhistleblowers and confidential journalistic sources are essential to transparency in government. (Photo: Steven Depolo)

The Truthout Progressive Pick of book this week is The Killing of Osama Bin Laden, by famed investigative journalist Seymour Hersh. Hersh makes a very persuasive case that the official version of how bin Laden was found and killed was filled more with drama than fact. The White House manufactured a version of the event that was like a Hollywood script, which it actually became in the film Zero Dark Thirty. For outing the fallacies in the White House tale of the bin Laden killing, Hersh was ostracized by both the office of the president and other government agencies, as well as mainstream media reporters and outlets.

Why? Because if Hersh and his sources were correct in how the US came to find bin Laden's location and conduct the operation to assassinate him, then it meant that all the other media outlets who swallowed the official story whole were negligent in investigating the details surrounding the raid.

My first question to Hersh, and his answer -- which will appear in an interview with him on Truthout this Sunday -- reveals why confidential sources and whistleblowers are so important at a time when government narratives crafted for entertainment-driven news outlets go unchallenged:

Mark Karlin: I found your narrative based on research and informants very persuasive. Your version of how Osama bin Laden came to be killed was ridiculed by the White House, the intelligence communities and the military. Why do you think the mainstream press – and even The Guardian – marginalized your sourced account as conspiratorialist?

Seymour Hersh: The mainstream press relies on access. The reporters covering beats – most notably national security beats – must be able to get calls returned and interviews when needed. This does not mean that the reporters on those beats are incompetent or in the hands of the White House – it is just a fact of life that those who cross boundaries, as defined by the White House, do not get the same treatment as those who faithfully reflect the view of the President and his minions.

It is especially so when it comes to crisis reporting – an airplane tragedy, a battlefield victory or defeat. Thus, the White House controlled all details of the story from the moment President Obama announced the kill, and it did all – as White Houses will – to glorify the President’s action and shape the story in ways that would help in Obama’s re-election the next year. The major media lined up for information, and begged and pleaded for any scraps that could be labeled exclusive. Once the narrative was set, any significant change in the story had to be resisted by the White House, and especially by those who wrote the initial stories....

2016.11.8 BF Mulkey(Photo: Newtown grafitti / Flickr)BRUCE MULKEY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

It's in times such as these that I am compelled to acknowledge my own racism. For though I was raised by white liberal parents who early on supported Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights movement during the Sixties, I grew up in America, in fact, in the South, and thus I unconsciously took on common beliefs and attitudes prevalent in the dominant cultural paradigm about people whose skin was darker than mine. "White people are smarter." "Black people are better athletes." Etcetera. And though I've become conscious of those beliefs, I have not rooted them all out and will need to work to do so throughout my entire life. At the very least, however, I can notice when my mind makes snap judgments and recognize them for the falsehoods they are.

It's in times such as these that I am compelled to acknowledge how I've benefited and continue to benefit from white privilege. From attending high school in my youth in a new building with relatively current textbooks while black kids on the other side of town were all segregated into one old building with hand­me­down books from the white schools to currently walking down the streets of Asheville at any time of day or night without fear of being harassed by the police, I have benefited from white privilege.

Nuclear protesting at the White House(Photo: Jesse / Flickr)ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Donald Trump is a reckless fool. But the U.S. defense establishment is M.A.D.

And herein lies one of the darker problems with the Trump candidacy, and the reason why so many establishment conservatives are awkwardly distancing themselves from America's leading narcissist -- if not running screaming into the night in fear for their lives (and everyone else's).

Trump as commander in chief? Trump with his finger on the button?

When the subject of nukes has come up in interviews, he has come across as creepily naïve. For instance, according to MSNBC's Joe Scarborough, Trump allegedly hounded a foreign policy expert with the question: "If we have them, why can't we use them?"

And when Chris Matthews, in another interview, scolded Trump for even suggesting that maybe -- maybe -- launching a nuclear attack might be necessary someday, he shot back: "Then why are we making them? Why do we make them?"

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