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2016july11 trumphope(Image: DonkeyHotey)

She tried to deliver a knockout rebuke to Pope Francis when he questioned Donald Trump’s Christianity for wanting to build his great wall on the border; she tackled Corey Lewandowski’s manhandling of Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields, when he was still a member of Team Trump, characterizing Fields as a "lying attention hound"; she zigged and zagged her way around trying to explain "The " multifarious positions on abortion. The she in question is Hope Hicks.

Who is Hope Hicks and how did the twenty-seven-year-old political newbie become Donald Trump’s chief gatekeeper?

Here’s what we’ve stitched together from some determined reporting about the Greenwich, Connecticut-raised Ms. Hicks, who, outside of Trump’s kids, is the only young woman in his inner circle.

A few months back, Olivia Nuzzi, writing for GQ, made an appointment to see Hicks, hoping for a one-on-one interview with Hicks, who she dubbed Donald Trump’s “accidental” press secretary. She met Hicks, but instead of an interview with her, Nuzzi got a sit-down with The Donald himself. Hicks, who was in the room was noticeably silent.

While Hicks sat quietly, Trump was effusive in his praise, telling Nuzzi: "[S]he was able to build political experience quickly. She was very natural. She was very natural when it comes to picking it up, and a lot of people can't pick it up, because it's so fast-moving. It's faster-moving than anything else."

As Michael Sebastian pointed out recently at Cosmopolitan.com, “Although her name appears in the media often, [Hope] Hicks has kept a very low profile during the campaign, scrubbing her public social media profile and staying away from stories written about her."


2016july11 filthyrichAre the wealthy sowing the seeds of their own self-destruction?  (Photo: Duncan C)

Perhaps they believe that their underground survival bunkers with bullet-resistant doors and geothermal power and anti-chemical air filters and infrared surveillance devices and pepper spray detonators will sustain them for two or three generations.

Perhaps they feel immune from the killings in the streets, for they rarely venture into the streets anymore. They don't care about the great masses of ordinary people, nor do they think they need us.

Or do they? There are a number of ways that the super-rich, because of their greed and lack of empathy for others, may be hastening their own demise, while taking the rest of us with them.

1. Pandemic (Because of Their Disdain for Global Health)

"A year ago the world was in a panic over Ebola. Now it’s Zika at the gate. When will it end?" -- Public health expert Dr. Ali Khan.

It could end with a global pandemic that spreads with the speed of the 1918 Spanish Flu, but with a virulence that kills over half of us, rich and poor alike. Vanderbilt University's Dr. William Schaffner warned us a decade ago, "You've got to really invest vast resources right now to protect us from a pandemic." Added infectious disease specialist Dr. Stephen Baum, "There's nobody making vaccines anymore because the profitability is low and the liability is high."

The flu is just one of our worries. It has been estimated that less than 10 percent of the budget for health research is spent on diseases that cause 90 percent of the world's illnesses. According to a study in The Lancet, of the 336 new drugs developed in the first decade of this century, only four of them were for diseases impacting third-world peoples. World Health Organization director Margaret Chan lamented the long decades of disregard for the African-centered effects of the Ebola virus: "Ebola has historically been confined to poor African nations. The R&D incentive is virtually non-existent. A profit-driven industry does not invest in products for markets that cannot pay."

The super-rich had better make sure their anti-chemical air filters are also anti-viral.


Styrofoam 0708wrp opt(Photo: Acdx)San Francisco residents will soon have to drink their to-go cups of coffee out of something else, because those soft Styrofoam cups will be no more.

The San Francisco County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a ban last week on the sale of polystyrene foam, popularly known by the trademarked name Styrofoam. Foam packing, cups and mooring buoys will be prohibited starting Jan. 1, 2017.

"I just passed the toughest anti-Styrofoam law in the country and we did it unanimously," Board of Supervisors President London Breed wrote on her Facebook page after the vote. "This is a huge step for our environment and health. San Francisco is on our way to leading the country on environmental policy—again!"

Breed spearheaded the latest ban, extending a 2006 ordinance that ordered prepared-food merchants to stop using all polystyrene containers. Plastic foam products for crafts and insulation will not be affected by the ban.

"The reason why this was passed is that it's not practically recyclable, causes a unique harm in the environment and there were better alternatives," Jack Macy, commercial zero waste senior coordinator for San Francisco's Department of the Environment, told TakePart.

Polystyrene disintegrates slowly in landfills, taking centuries to break down entirely. There are a few polystyrene recycling centers in San Francisco, such as GreenCitizen and Recology, but they can only make a small dent in the 25 billion polystyrene to-go cups Americans throw away annually.


2016july homelessvetsVeterans need more housing and assistance. (Photo: Rusty Clark)

At almost any big sporting championship, there's the moment when a baritone announcer becomes solemn, pauses and then introduces a heart-tugging spectacle honoring US military veterans. Usually the crowd roars and waves the flag, feeling a sense of both patriotism and pity for the person, wounded in action, who is brought onto the field. When the presentation is over, however, the rush of jingoistic rhetoric subsides -- as does concern about the fate of individual veterans.

One could argue that such tributes to veterans serve the consciences of those who rely on a voluntary military to assure the continuation of a prosperous lifestyle. These dazzling displays of gratitude, however, do not do much to meet the actual needs of psychologically and physically wounded veterans, as well as those in economic need.

Furthermore, the ephemeral warm and fuzzy feeling sports fans receive for "supporting our troops" by simply responding to a presentation are part of a marketing message. According to a 2015 PBS Newshour report:

The United States Department of Defense paid the National Football League more than $5 million in taxpayer money between 2011 to 2014 to honor U.S. soldiers and veterans at games, an investigation revealed this week.

Nearly $5.4 million was given to 14 NFL teams across the country, the bulk of which ($5.3 million) was supplied by the National Guard and the rest paid by the Army and Air Force, according to government records obtained by NJ.com.

But instead of purely heartfelt salutes to soldiers from hometown football teams, the halftime segments were reportedly part of paid promotions under federal advertising contracts for the military.

One might say the entire unseemly enterprise is more Hollywood production than "heartfelt."

Algae blooms in Lake Erie(Photo: NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Laboratory)LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

Glyphosate, the controversial main ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup and other herbicides, is being connected to Lake Erie's troubling algae blooms, which has fouled drinking water and suffocated and killed marine life in recent years.

Phosphorus -- attributed to farm runoff carried by the Maumee River -- has long been identified as a leading culprit feeding the excessive blooms in the western Lake Erie basin. Now, according to a new study from chemistry professor Christopher Spiese, a significant correlation has been established between the increased use of glyphosate to the percentage of dissolved reactive phosphorus (DRP) in the runoff.



2016jul7 warnomoreWars are largely fought now to ensure comfort and wealth, not to liberate people. (Photo: micagoto)

In the attacks of 9/11, the US government found the ideal motivating factor to pursue wars across the globe (particularly in the Middle East): fear.

Yes, there were terrorist attacks in the United States. And those attacks were all the more affronting to those in the US because since the Civil War, this country has been largely immune to any attacks on US soil (with a couple of notable exceptions, such as Pearl Harbor). We have come to see ourselves as immune to foreign attack, whether committed by nations or non-state terrorist organizations. Unlike most of the rest of the world, we have not seen our streets and sidewalks crushed by tanks and our cities bombed into rubble.

Meanwhile, according to journalist and researcher Nick Turse, the US is expanding its military action, particularly in low-level intensity conflicts, around the world. Political figures will claim that this military warfare is necessary to protect us from state enemies and terrorists alike. However, the reality is that for the most part, the US conducts war to protect its hegemony over regions of the world that supply it with raw materials, inexpensive labor and lucrative markets for corporations.

One need not look beyond the Middle East to see an example of an entire region that was first colonized by Europe in the early 1900s. The only thing that has changed since then is that the oil-rich region was carved up into nations that are still largely under the hegemonic control of the West. When oil-rich nations such as Iraq or Libya become troublesome to the US, they are "liberated" at the costs of hundreds of thousands of civilians, soldiers and US lives to ensure the ongoing availability of fossil fuel. The "dictators" are replaced with Western-friendly governments installed by the US and nations of the European Union (particularly the UK and France).

Our wars are frequently disguised under the propaganda sloganeering of fighting terrorism and "tyranny." This "sells" much better than portraying the reality of people dying and being displaced in massive numbers to ensure that wealthy people in the West -- particularly in the US -- can continue to enjoy a prosperous lifestyle. Except on rare occasions, we have not actually initiated wars to liberate the oppressed; we have fought to enrich the wealth of those who benefit from the resources that are "liberated" to our control. Western nations don't have to administer colonial governments anymore; they just have to conduct coups, install puppet governments and preserve the appearance of creating independent free nations.

Thursday, 07 July 2016 07:07

The Illusion of Security

image 2016 07 07(Photo: Gerard Van der Leun)ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

"Please be gentle."

The story is too easy to believe. At the Memphis airport, a confused, nervous teenager sets off the metal detector -- possibly because she has sequins on her shirt -- and is told she needs to come to a "sterile area." Armed guards show up to escort her. She's terrified.

This happened a year ago. The girl, then 18, is Hannah Cohen. She was flying -- at least that was the idea -- back to Chattanooga with her mother, Shirley Cohen, who had just passed through the checkpoint and was waiting for Hannah when, according to a lawsuit the family recently filed, a TSA horror story began.

Wednesday, 06 July 2016 14:26

Zero-Waste Markets Hit the US


Fillery 0706wrp opt(Photo: EcoWatch)Zero-waste markets are coming to the U.S. While very popular in Europe, this trend in grocery shopping isn’t as well known in North America.

The Fillery, brainchild of Sarah Metz, is “a place where one fills empty containers with goods, such as grains, nuts, seeds, coffee, tea, spices, oils and the like,” according to the shop’s KickStarter page. Customers can bring their own reusable containers to the shop or purchase compostable ones to place their products in.

“We aim to improve the health of our community in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, and the environment by offering alternatives to the plastic entombed, chemical laden options which are ubiquitous in both pantries and landfills worldwide,” reads the KickStarter page.

Metz’s motivation for The Fillery came after a self-realization, she wrote in her KickStarter bio.

After lots of experimenting with recipes from my extensive library of cookbooks (thanks, mom!), I’ve acquired a cabinet full of ingredients that will likely go bad before I finish them. A few days ago, I counted 10 types of flour in my cupboard. I see at least four problems with this: 1. food waste is a huge problem. 2. packaging waste is a huge problem 3. it is expensive, and 4. it takes up too much space in my tiny Brooklyn kitchen. Combine this with my frustration in trying to find conscientiously sourced, responsibly packaged, healthy groceries nearby, and you have my motivation for The Fillery.


Prison 0606wrp(Photo: Andreas Bohnenstengel)Voice of the Ex-Offender (VOTE) and 8 individuals filed a class action voting rights challenge for 70,000 people in Louisiana saying they are illegally prohibited from voting. The VOTE suit charges that the Louisiana legislature wrongfully and unconstitutionally passed a law disallowing people convicted of felonies from voting if they are on probation or parole. 

VOTE’s suit points out that the Louisiana Constitution only prohibits people who are “under an order of imprisonment” from voting and that this was intended only to prohibit people actually in prison or escapees from voting. The VOTE suit further notes that the Louisiana state constitutional convention voted down an attempt to restrict voting for people on probation.  

The class action lawsuit was filed on behalf of the 70,000 people in Louisiana who are probation or parole. The US Department of Justice reports over 41,000 people in Louisiana are on probation and over 27,000 are on parole. It was filed in Baton Rouge and names the State of Louisiana, the Governor and the Secretary of State as defendants.

VOTE is an organization that began in 1987 as the Angola Special Civics Project, a group at the Louisiana Penitentiary run by prisoners who had become paralegals. VOTE, now run by Norris Henderson, was officially created in 2003 when it focused on voter registration for pre-trial detainees and people convicted of misdemeanors. Henderson is a nationally recognized expert in human rights for prisoners and ex-offenders.   

VOTE has registered thousands of people to vote. It educates the public about the collateral consequences of convictions that inhibit successful reentry. VOTE has partnered with Tulane Medical School to provide medical care for people leaving prison and has partnered with other organizations to win several recent victories including Ban the Box and a new public housing policy.


24272362830 425ed068b4 zBillboard of a demagogue "on message." (Photo: Tony Webster)

Mainstream media pundits and Republican Party apparatchiks are expressing the desire for Donald Trump to start sounding "presidential' and to "stay on message." An Associated Press article this weekend stated:

Weary Republicans are looking for assurances that Donald Trump can maintain the discipline needed to stay on message as he prepares for a bruising general election run-up against Hillary Clinton....

As he kicked off his general election campaign Friday, a thorny question has arisen: How does the party keep Trump in check?

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell recently advised Trump on this matter, as reported by Politico:

"In addition to that, it's time to quit attacking various people you competed with or various minority groups in the country and get on message," McConnell told reporters. 

What might be an example of being "on message," to the top GOP dog in the Senate? Why, doing what the Republicans have been doing vociferously and obstructively for nearly eight years: attacking "the implementation of Obamacare."

Obsessively bloviating and babbling about a few Republican mantras would provide the "on message" credentials for Trump to be the CEO of the United States, McConnell is implying.

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