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BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

amlkphoto(Photo: courtesy of caboindex)

During a recent appearance on the One America News Network’s “The Rick Amato Show,” Bishop Council Nedd II, a longtime member of the National Center for Public Policy Research’s Project 21 black leadership network, said: “If the election of President Obama is somehow some sort of fulfillment of Dr. King’s dream, you know, maybe, at this point, Dr. King’s dream has become a nightmare.  A horrible nightmare that’s sort of run amuck.” Nedd added: “There are hurting people in this country right now. There are a lot of people upset. There are a lot of people who are ill at ease for a variety of different reasons which, in my opinion, all fall on President Obama’s lap…”

Say what?

Black conservatives are consistent guests on the Fox News Channel; when the Religious Right and/or secular right needs to add some color to one of their gatherings, they call a Black conservative to the podium; Black conservatives have aligned with Christian Right organizations, leading the charge against Obamacare and same-sex marriage. When it comes to condemning police misconduct, there’s hardly a word from any of the better known Black conservatives.

In time for the celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday and the national holiday in his name, the Black conservative organization, Project 21, a project of the National Center for Public Policy Research, issued a Press Release titled “Black Conservatives Available to Discuss Importance, Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.”

WENONAH HAUTER OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaMonsantoEcowatch(Photo: EcoWatch)Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) approved the sale and planting of Monsanto’s genetically engineered dicamba-tolerant soybeans and cotton. This approval follows that of 2,4-D tolerant soybeans and corn, billed as the next generation of herbicide-tolerant crops to tackle glyphosate (Roundup)-resistant weeds.

Dicamba-tolerant soy and cotton are simply the latest example of USDA’s allegiance to the biotechnology industry and dependence upon chemical solutions. This continues the disturbing trend of more herbicide-tolerant crop approvals taking place under President Obama’s watch.

Once again, the USDA has neglected to look at the full range of impacts associated with these GMO herbicide-tolerant crops. Instead the agency has opted for a short-term solution to superweeds that have become resistant to herbicides because of previous approvals of GMOs, thereby perpetuating and escalating chemical use.

The USDA’s Environmental Impact Statement predicted that dicamba use will increase 88-fold and 14-fold for soybeans and cotton, respectively, compared to current levels. Dicamba-tolerant crops will allow for wider windows of spraying throughout the season at unprecedented levels. Now that dicamba will be used in larger quantities, Monsanto has petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency to increase the tolerance level of dicamba on cottonseed 150-fold. Higher levels of dicamba in the environment and our food pose unacceptable risks to human health and a wide variety of flora and fauna.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaCommiePope(Photo: Jeffrey Bruno)I can't be absolutely certain, but I'm pretty sure that Pope Francis is not walking around with Mao's Red Book stuffed into an inside pocket of his papal robes, or that he's starting a study group for Das Capital. Nevertheless, with the release of a new book titled "Pope Francis: This Economy Kills," the Pope's critics are sure to ratchet up their labeling of him with the "C" word (Communist), and the "M" word (Marxist). The Christian Post headlined its recent story about the new report: "Communist or Christian? Pope Francis Defends Vatican Report Titled 'This Economy Kills' in Criticism of Global Financial System."

Stoyan Zaimov's story in the CP (oops, there we go again), uh ... Christian Post, starts by pointing out that Pope Francis maintains he's not a communist, but he says that he will continue to criticize the global economic system because of "Jesus' call for Christians to serve the poor."

"Jesus affirms that you cannot serve two masters, God and wealth," Francis said in an interview with the Italian newspaper La Stampa. "Is it pauperism? No, it is the Gospel."

Pope Francis said that "Markets and financial speculation cannot enjoy absolute autonomy. We cannot wait any longer to resolve the structural causes of poverty in order to cure our society of an illness that can only lead to new crises."

Friday, 16 January 2015 05:37

Get Ready to Buy Your Plane Tickets to Cuba

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

ahistorichavanaHistoric Havana (Photo: Gerry Balding)

Among the first specific steps toward implementing the normalization of relations with Cuba, the Obama administration announced on January 15 that it will allow commercial airlines to fly scheduled flights to the island. Currently, only charter flights to Cuba arranged by State Department-approved travel agencies are allowed. Individual waivers to travel to Cuba from the US will no longer be required from the Treasury Department. 

According to The Washington Post,

Freed from cumbersome requirements to obtain a Treasury Department license, individual Americans will be able to travel to Cuba provided they say the trip is intended to serve religious, educational or other approved purposes under the still-standing U.S. embargo. When they return, they can bring up to $400 in Cuban goods, including $100 worth of alcohol and tobacco.

U.S. airlines will be allowed to fly scheduled routes to Cuba for the first time in decades.

Currently, US citizens who want to travel to Cuba without meeting the bureaucratic requirements - and additional expense of going through a US-sanctioned travel agency and paying high charter fares - illegally fly from third-party nations, such as Mexico and Canada, to Havana. Cuban immigration complies with requests not to stamp the passports of such travelers, who fly back to the third-party nation and then buy a return ticket to the US.

ROBERT REDFORD OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaKeystoneRedford2(Photo: EcoWatch)The new Republican majority in Congress wants to force approval of the Keystone XL pipeline for dirty tar sands oil. President Obama announced he will veto bills that bypass the official review of Keystone XL.

There are plenty of reasons to block these bills and this pipeline.

Keystone XL would carry the dirtiest oil on the planet from Canada through the American heartland. The vast majority of it would be shipped overseas, while people here at home cope with the threat of contaminated water and difficult-to-clean-up oil spills.

Polluters are fighting hard to get Keystone approved. The oil and gas industry pumped $53.1 million into last year’s congressional campaigns—87 percent of which went to Republican candidates. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell raked in $608,000 from the industry for his 2014 campaign, and now he is putting Keystone XL at the heart of his big polluter agenda.

But this isn’t just a battle over industry influence. This is a choice about the kind of nation we want to live in.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

asamesong(Photo: bunky's pickle)

BuzzFlash has noted many a time that the Creation Museum in Kentucky has featured dinosaurs with saddles. Holding that evolution is a misguided theory, the creationists behind the museum exhibit attempt to show - by placing the saddles on dinosaurs - that people lived contemporaneously with dinosaurs. This, supposedly, proves that everything on earth was created simultaneously in a divine burst of benevolence.

Charles Pierce took note of this bizarre representation of something akin to a gigantic terrestrial reptile just waiting to be mounted by a cowboy. He told Truthout that it inspired his best-selling book, Idiot America. Indeed, the exhibition would have been a magical presidential visit photo op for Ronald Reagan's iconic image if the museum had been around for his years in office. Skeptics would have called it a dinosaur sitting atop a dinosaur.

However, that hypothetical Reagan-bashing image may now be replaced by another, less easy-to-depict reality: Perhaps, today, it is the two-party system in the United States that is riding the United States back into a social and economic Mesozoic Era. Even if one successfully argues that there are significant, though marginal, differences between Democratic and Republican politicians on social issues and perhaps on the environment, it is difficult to see major distinctions between the two parties on economic and foreign policy issues. (Both fall solidly in the neoliberal camp.)

Granted, the Republicans may often sound more strident and unhinged, but in the end, there is basically a consensus - as far as voting in Congress - on trumped up wars abroad and particularly on neoliberal global free trade and financial policies.

Thursday, 15 January 2015 07:20

Partners in Terror: This Is Bigger Than Satire

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaParisMarch(Photo: Elya)“Je suis Charlie. Tout est pardonné.”

Muhammad in tears adorns the new cover of Charlie Hebdo: “I am Charlie. All is forgiven.” This is bigger than satire.

I take a deep breath, uncertain how to write about last week’s insane shooting spree in Paris. My daughter and her husband live there. “Things are normal,” she told me a few days afterward, “but there’s a presence — this thing that has happened. It’s in the air.”

A few days later I came upon this headline at the McClatchy Washington bureau website: “U.S. airstrike in Syria may have killed 50 civilians.”

The story reports: “The civilians were being held in a makeshift jail in the town of Al Bab, close to the Turkish border, when the aircraft struck on the evening of Dec. 28, the witnesses said. The building, called the Al Saraya, a government center, was leveled in the airstrike. It was days before civil defense workers could dig out the victims’ bodies.”

The building, in fact, had been turned into a jail by Islamic State police. It contained guards and between 35 and more than 50 prisoners, according to different witnesses’ accounts. The prisoners “had been jailed shortly before the airstrike for minor infractions of the Islamic State’s harsh interpretation of Islamic law, such as smoking, wearing jeans or appearing too late for the afternoon prayer.”

IS arrested them. We killed them. Partners in terror.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aharvarddiv(Photo: 350.org) 

Recently, Truthout featured Lani Guinier's book The Tyranny of the Meritocracy, which focuses on the need to change the type of students selected by prestigious universities. She encourages the transformation of institutions such as Ivy League schools from factories for the elite status quo into schools that prepare future generations of engaged citizens who can work collaboratively for the common good.

Guinier focuses on how the most competitive universities largely base their admissions' policies on standardized test scores, competitiveness, individual ambition and, of course, likely candidates to perpetuate the economic and social status quo.

In an excerpt from Guinier's book recently posted on Truthout, she writes:

Merit as defined by test-based admissions has harnessed "schools and universities to the task of sieving people" according to a "narrow band of values."  Those values, as it turns out, are the production and reproduction of privilege but without obligation or shame. The rise of the testocratic meritocracy has enabled those already at the top of the heap to continue to preside without a sense of moral or political accountability. The privileged have come to believe that their "advancement comes from their own merits," and thus they are entitled to their power.

Guinier advocates that changes in admissions' policies can alter the impact of institutions in creating a truly robust and socially responsible democracy.

2015.1.14.Sanders.BFSen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) discusses comprehensive climate change legislation. (Photo: Public Citizen / Flickr)STEFANIE SPEAR OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell promised to allow an open amendment process for the Keystone XL pipeline and yesterday Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont put his pledge to the test. Sanders introduced an amendment that would officially put Congress on record with their position on climate change. Sanders amendment will be offered to a bill that would force approval of the Keystone XL pipeline.

Sanders amendment asks:

It is the sense of Congress that Congress is in agreement with the opinion of virtually the entire worldwide scientific community that—

  1. climate change is real
  2. climate change is caused by human activities
  3. climate change has already caused devastating problems in the U.S. and around the world
  4. a brief window of opportunity exists before the United States and the entire planet suffer irreparable harm; and
  5. it is imperative that the United States transform its energy system away from fossil fuels and toward energy efficiency and sustainable energy.”

“The American people need to know whether Congress is listening to the overwhelming majority of scientists when it comes to climate change,” Sanders said. “On this issue, the scientists have been virtually unanimous in saying that climate change is real, it is caused by human action, it is already causing devastating problems which will only get worse in the future and that we need to transform our energy system away from fossil fuel. Do members of Congress believe the scientists or not?” he asked.

2015.1.14.AFA.BFThe American Family Association's Bryan Fischer. (Screen grab via RWW Blog / YouTube)BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

A prominent Christian right radio broadcaster recently claimed that the terrorist attacks in Paris was an example of God’s use of “idolators” to punish the satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, for mocking Christianity. The perpetrators of the murderous attacks on the magazine, and a Jewish grocery store, stated that they were out to avenge the mocking of Muhammad by Charlie Hebdo. While both were correct in their assessments of the work of the cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo, and while they are not two peas from the same pod, their stated beliefs does make for a strange confluence of religiosity.  

According to People for the American Way’s Right Wing Watch, on a recent broadcast the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer claimed that the terrorist murders in Paris were actually God’s way of punishing staff members of Charlie Hebdo for mocking Christianity.

“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain,” Fischer told his listeners. “They [Charlie Hebdo] made a career out of taking the name of God, the God of the Bible, the father of the Lord Jesus,” Fischer added.

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