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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaaawaynelapierremarch9Caricature of Wayne LaPierre, CEO and executive vice president of the NRA. (Image: DonkeyHotey)

In a March 8 news release, the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) charges the NRA with flouting IRS requirements to fully reveal political spending:

The National Rifle Association (NRA) failed to disclose more than $1 million in contributions to major Democratic and Republican leadership groups, bringing their total undisclosed political spending to nearly $60 million since 2008, according to a supplemental complaint filed today by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).  This is the third complaint CREW has filed regarding the NRA’s political spending scandal.Between 2008 and 2014, five 527 political organizations reported receiving more than $1 million from the NRA which the gun advocacy group failed to note.  These groups were the Democratic and Republican Governors Associations, the Democratic and Republican Attorneys General Associations and the Republican State Leadership Committee, with the vast majority of the funding going to the Republican organizations.  These donations increased as time went on, from nearly $55,000 in 2008 to more than $225,000 in 2014....

CREW’s initial complaint found that the NRA appeared to have violated federal law by failing to disclose to the IRS $33.5 million in political spending between 2008 and 2013.  CREW then supplemented this complaint after finding an additional $25 million the NRA failed to disclose in 2014.  While the NRA admits its tax records are incorrect, it appears to have done nothing to correct them.

An article on the CREW website points out that the implications of the NRA's politcal spending extend beyond the federal level and into the states.

2016.8.3 bf chow(Photo: ProgressOhio)LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

Ohio has become a major wastewater dump for the fracking industry, sparking fears of groundwater contamination and concerns that injection of wastewater into wells could trigger the same earthquakes currently rattling frack-happy Oklahoma.

The Columbus Dispatch cited new numbers from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) revealing that wastewater pumped into Ohio’s underground wells increased by more than 15 percent last year. In all, Ohio took in nearly 29 million barrels of fracking wastewater in 2015—4 million more barrels than in 2014, the Dispatch reported.

Thirteen million barrels of this wastewater came from states such as Pennsylvania and West Virginia that have strict rules against wastewater injection. About 55 percent of the fracking wastewater that ends up in Ohio injection wells came from the state itself, the Dispatch said.

2016.8.3 bf marcus(Photo: John Eckman)JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

It's a good feeling when you can drive past a gas station in an electric vehicle with little concern about the fluctuating prices of fuel, a product that is literally pushing us rapidly towards mass extinction. Yes, I know mass extinction is hard to believe—so if you don't take my word for it, read New Yorker's scientist Elizabeth Kolbert's Pulitzer-prize winning book The Sixth Extinction on how human activity (pollution) is turning our earth into a toxic mass cemetery.

It's also a good feeling to know that you're not contributing to global warming, at least not as much, and reoccurring oil disasters, if you drive an electric vehicle.

Just last week another pipeline ruptured—this time in the rainforest of Peru, contaminating Peru's rivers with thick tarry oil that immediately poisoned their fragile ecosystem of water and valuable medicinal plants.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaapovertymarch8Poverty is built into the current economic system in the United States. (Photo:Paul Downey)

In the last Democratic debate, held in Flint, Michigan - a city where, according to the most recent United States Census data, 41.6 percent of the population lives below the poverty line - presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders emphasized the importance of restoring the declining US middle class.

However appealing that almost universal bipartisan campaign meme is, it logically leads to a troubling conclusion: In order to have a "middle" class, one has to assume an ongoing "lower" class. In essence, a campaign promise to rebuild a "robust" middle class is based on the premise that a significant segment of people in the US will compose the bottom tier in the class structure - a tier that exists in a state of poverty.

As Critical Mass Progress Editor Nancy A. Heitzeg recently wrote:

Before the war on drugs became our national fixation, there was a short-lived, halfheartedly implemented war on poverty. Would that the same amount of resources and political will been expended here. But hyper-individualism, rampant capitalism, and a political discourse that persistently racializes poverty and stigmatizes governmental assistance continue to stand in the way.

We are left instead with the war on the poor...

The reality of course is that the over-whelming majority of the 47 million officially poor are there because of structure and policy - low wages, lack of affordable housing, a shrinking social safety net, a decimated public education system, a host of conservative and neoliberal "reforms" - not because of flawed personal choices.

Heitzeg goes on to write that poverty is often criminalized in a variety of ways, and certainly has become fodder for the vast expansion of the prison-industrial complex. In a BuzzFlash commentary today, law professor and columnist Bill Quigley also writes of the grotesque irony that corporations and the upper class make large profits off of those in severe economic distress. Quigley calls these predatory vultures "Reverse Robin Hoods."

2016.8.3 bf quigley(Photo: Hrag Vartanian)BILL QUIGLEY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Many see families in poverty and seek to help. Others see families in poverty and see opportunities for profit.

Here are six examples of billion dollar industries which are built on separating poor people, especially people of color, from their money, the reverse Robin Hood.

Check Cashing Businesses

Check cashing businesses. Cash a $100 check? At Walmart that will be $3. At TD bank non-customers pay $5 to cash a check from their bank.

Nearly 10 million households containing 25 million people do not have any bank account according to the FDIC. Most because they did not have enough money to keep a minimum balance in their account.

Check cashing business are part of a $100 billion industry of more than 6,500 check cashing businesses in the US, many which also provide money orders, utility bill payments and the like, according to testimony provided to Congress by the industry.  

COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaCattle(Photo: EcoWatch)More than 9 billion animals are slaughtered in the U.S. every year for meat with global demand skyrocketing. Animal agriculture is putting an ever-increasing strain on world resources, particularly global water supplies, according to VICE’s two-part episode, Meathooked and End of Water, which premieres March 4 at 11 p.m. on HBO.

In Vice’s fifth episode of season 4, Isobel Yeung traveled to feedlots, farms and slaughterhouses to learn where our meat comes from and to uncover its true costs, and Vikram Gandhi traveled to the Central Valley in California and São Paulo, Brazil to find out just how severe the global water crisis has become.

In California’s Central Valley, farmers are quickly depleting the state’s groundwater as the state remains mired in a drought, despite El Niño rains. São Paulo’s drought has become so bad that water in at least one of the area’s reservoirs is below what engineers consider zero, meaning that they have to pipe the remaining water uphill just to get it to the intake pipes.

“Meat production, globally, is an environmental disaster now,” Ken Cook, president of Environmental Working Group, said. “If we try and expand production to reach 9 billion people by 2050, it will be a complete and unthinkable disaster.”

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaChapel(Photo: Herry Lawford)To say that numerous top-tier Christian conservative evangelical leaders are having a difficult time facing the more-likely-by-the-primary reality that Donald Trump will head the GOP ticket in the fall is like saying the Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry has a pretty good 3-point shot. In other words, it is an understatement of historic proportions. From just about every conceivable angle, with just about every conceivable argument, conservative evangelicals are trying to slow down the Trump train. A recent editorial in The Christian Post was headlined “Donald Trump Is a Scam. Evangelical Voters Should Back Away.”

In his recent column, a clearly disappointed Charles Krauthammer wanted to know “What happened to the evangelicals? They were supposed to be the bedrock of the Ted Cruz candidacy. Yet on Super Tuesday he lost them to Donald Trump.” According to Krauthammer, “This time around, evangelicals are not looking for someone like them. They're looking for someone who will protect them. They've tried backing exemplary Scripture-quoting Christians - without result. After Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum and considerations of Cruz himself, they are increasingly reluctant to support like-minded candidates who are nonetheless incapable of advancing their cause in a hostile political arena so dominated by secularism.”

In an historic editorial the senior editors of The Christian Post -- which they describe as “the most popular evangelical news website in the United States and the world” – declared that “Trump does not represent the interests of evangelicals and would be a dangerous leader for our country.”

The CP editorial called Trump “a misogynist and philanderer,” an admirer of dictators, and a man who refused to quickly “disavow” the racism of former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. He has a history of “untruthfulness, questionable business practices, reported association with organized crime, and abrupt changes in fundamental positions.” Take that Jerry Falwell Jr., one of the few evangelical leaders who have endorsed Trump!

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaaaaaadukedavidmarch4David Duke (pictured above), former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, has enthusiastically endorsed Donald Trump for President. (Photo: Mark Williams)

The most revealing and shocking poll finding, however is that "Nearly 20 percent of Mr. Trump’s voters disagreed with Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, which freed slaves in the Southern states during the Civil War." Yes, according to The New York Times, a Public Policy Polling South Carolina exit survey found that 1/5 of Trump's electoral supporters in South Carolina believe that slavery should not have been abolished.

Perhaps you can argue that some of the racist and white-first polling results are skewed because they are from the state that began the Civil War, but Trump has received support from white nationalist groups around the nation. It is also no coincidence that Trump did not initially renounce the support of David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan this past weekend - and has engaged in other wink-and-nod games with active racists by retweeting white nationalist groups' statements on his personal Twitter account. He has implicitly played to the sense of whites being the victims and targets of "the others" (but not victims of the oligarchs, of course).

One might propose that Trump doesn't regularly single out Black people for disdain and defamation (although it did not go unnoticed that he egged on violence against a Black Lives Matters protester at one of his rallies). That's because he doesn't have to. The support of David Duke and white supremacist organizations are indicators that the arch-racists of the US understand Trump's message loud and clear: By taking such a draconian and slanderous stance toward Muslims and Mexicans, among others, he doesn't have to defame Blacks. Trump understands that as many profane and despicable bridges that he has crossed, speaking like George Wallace would hinder his campaign and expose him to intensified media ridicule. That would result in the end of his free bullhorn publicity ride with the mainstream press, worth tens of millions of dollars in advertising.

However, the likes of David Duke and white nationalist groups - as well as your garden variety racist - know that Trump is only excluding Black people from his target list for strategic reasons.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafightterorThe Indigenous people of the Americas have been experiencing the terrorism of white settler colonialism since 1492. (Photo: Marc Moss)

The use of waterboarding at military "black sites," the horrors of Abu Ghraib, the midnight raids to kill and terrorize "suspected militants" in Afghanistan and Iraq, and numerous other instances of torture and abuse by the US military are well-documented. Indeed, the failure of the Obama administration to prosecute any members of the Bush administration for condoning torture - including the grotesque infliction of pain that resulted in the deaths of "suspects, " as these photographs from Abu Ghraib illustrate - is appalling.

It's been a remarkable feat of the government and corporate media that the question of prosecuting high-ranking officials for condoning torture and murder has barely been raised. Neocon proponents of torture claim that it is necessary to protect "the homeland," but that's a plot line for television shows, not reality.

Even a few years ago, when torture was regularly making headlines, the argument was over a very limited definition of torture - usually focusing on waterboarding. Yet torture has always been pervasive in the US. Torture was used on the Indigenous population whose land was stolen during settler colonialism.  Torture was systematically used against slaves, while slavery remained an essential economic engine in the United States (for nearly its first 100 years).

2016.3.3 Bf Chow(Photo: Antoine.Couturier)LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

The GMO label law fight took an turn Tuesday after the Senate Agriculture Committee voted to pass the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act (SAFE) in a 14-6 vote.

Dubbed by opponents as the Denying Americans the Right to Know (DARK) Act, if voted into law, the bill would block states from requiring labeling on genetically modified (GMO) foods and pre-empt state laws that require labeling from going into effect—like the one taking effect in Vermont in July.

The Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.)-introduced bill would establish a national voluntary labeling standard for foods made with GMOs, similar to the bill already passed in the House. Proponents of the bill—such as the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), which represents more than 300 food and beverage titans—argue that a 50-state patchwork of GMO labeling policies would be costly.

The GMA, which has slapped numerous lawsuits and spent millions in lobbying against mandatory labels at the state and federal level, commended the vote.

“We thank Senator Roberts for his leadership to find a common-sense solution that now goes to the full Senate with bipartisan momentum,” said GMA president and CEO Pam Bailey, in a statement. “It is critically important that the full Senate pass this legislation as quickly as possible and for the bill to be voted on by the House. Vermont’s mandatory labeling law goes into effect on July 1, and this law could increase food costs for families across the nation by an average of $1,050 a year.”

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