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Trump speaking in Arizona(Photo: Gage Skidmore)BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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We recently wrote about the dilemma facing conservative evangelical Christian leaders over Donald Trump candidacy. Will they actively support Trump, and encourage their supporters to vote for him? Will they stay home? Will they support a third party candidate? Rob Boston, director of communications for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and Frederick Clarkson, a senior fellow at the Massachusetts-based Political Research Associates, two longtime observers of, and writers about the religious right maintained that when push comes to shove, most of the movement's leaders would eventually come around. Well, on June 21, dozens of religious right leaders will be coming around to New York City for a meet-up with "the Donald."

The event, "A Conversation About America's Future with Donald Trump and Ben Carson," is being sponsored by United in Purpose, My Faith Votes, Global Fund Group, FCCI, Vision America, AFA Action and the Family Research Council, and may be one of the largest gatherings of anti-gay, and anti-abortion religious leaders in quite some time.

According to Time magazine's Elizabeth Dias, "Former presidential candidate Ben Carson is working with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, and Bill Dallas, who leads United in Purpose, to plan a closed-door session for about 400 social conservative leaders to meet with Trump in the coming weeks in New York City. A broader steering group of about 20 people includes people like American Values president Gary Bauer, Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, and Family Leader president Bob Vander Plaats.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016 May26statoflibertyWill the torch welcoming refugees on the Stature of Liberty be replaced by a can of Budweiser beer? (Photo: Daniel Mennerich)

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Perhaps you have read that Budweiser has announced it is going to brand its beer cans (and bottles) simply as "America" over the summer, with all sorts of patriotic phrases emblazoned on the red, white and blue aluminum containers. It's all party of a multi-corporate sponsorship and advertising tie-in with many events, including the US team at the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games. 

In May of 2015, I wrote a commentary criticizing the National Park Service (NPS) for selling branding rights of National Park images to Budweiser (owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev, headquartered in Belgium) for $2.5 million. The agreement not only was a violation of the National Park Service guidelines, which specify that our public lands should not be affiliated with alcohol or tobacco products, but it also indicated that US government austerity policies were forcing entities that should be considered a "public good" to enter into the corporate branding tidal wave.

The "America" branding of Budweiser -- which will run through the November election and include the opportunistic slogan, ""America is in Your Hands" -- includes an image of the NPS-trademarked image of the Statue of Liberty, according to the trade publication Creativity (an offshoot of Ad Age). The use of the iconic statue -- and possibly other National Park Service-owned images -- by Budweiser during its election and US Olympic team branding initiative was made possible by the rights agreement we discussed in 2015.

The national advocacy alliance Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) -- which condemned the Budweiser relationship with the National Park Service -- is now warning of even more aggressive corporate branding arrangements being pursued by the Park Service. On May 9, it revealed in a news release.

mushroom cloud(Photo: The Official CTBTO Photostream)ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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"Look, nuclear should be off the table. But would there be a time when it could be used? Possibly, possibly . . ."

This is -- who else? -- Donald Trump, flexing, you might say, his nuclear trigger finger in an interview with Chris Matthews, who responds in alarm:

"OK. The trouble is, when you said that, the whole world heard it. David Cameron in Britain heard it. The Japanese, where we bombed them in '45, heard it. They're hearing a guy running for president of the United States talking of maybe using nuclear weapons. Nobody wants to hear that about an American president."

"Then why," Trump shoots back in all his politically incorrect, rattle-the-establishment naïveté, "are we making them? Why do we make them?"

Uh . . .

Wednesday, 25 May 2016 13:23

How to Feed the World as the Planet Warms

DR. DAVID SUZUKI OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Earth 0525wrp opt(Photo: NASA)Calculating farming’s contribution to greenhouse gas emissions is difficult, but experts agree that feeding the world’s people has tremendous climate and environmental impacts. Estimates of global emissions from farms range widely. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency puts them at 24 percent, including deforestation, making agriculture the second-largest emitter after heat and electricity.

Agriculture contributes to global warming in a number of ways. Methane and nitrous oxide, which are more potent than CO2 but remain in the atmosphere for shorter times, make up about 65 percent of agricultural emissions. Methane comes mainly from cattle and nitrous oxide from fertilizers and wastes.

According to the World Resources Institute, “Smaller sources include manure management, rice cultivation, field burning of crop residues and fuel use on farms.” Net emissions are also created when forests and wetlands are cleared for farming, as these “carbon sinks” usually absorb and store more carbon than the farms that replace them. Transporting and processing agricultural products also contribute to global warming.

We need to eat. So what’s the answer? That obesity is epidemic in parts of the world while people starve elsewhere and that an estimated one-third of food gets wasted, shows improving distribution and reducing waste are good places to start—but won’t be enough to significantly curtail agriculture’s contribution to climate change.

Reducing meat and animal-product consumption and production—especially beef—would cut emissions, but wouldn’t get us all the way.

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Uber 0525wrp(Photo: Guilhem Vellut)Pouty, whiney, spoiled-bratism is not nice coming from a four-year-old — but it's grotesque when it comes from billion-dollar corporate elites like Uber and Lyft.

The two internet-based ride-hiring brats call themselves "ridesharing" companies, but that's a deceit, for they don't share anything — their business model relies on folks needing a ride to hire a driver through the corporations' apps. With the bulk of the fare going to out-of-town corporate hedge funders.

The tow outfits have swaggered into cities all across our country, insisting that they're innovative, tech-driven geniuses. As such, they consider themselves above the fusty old laws that other transportation companies, like taxis, follow. So Uber and Lyft have made it a corporate policy to throw hissy fits when cities — from Los Angeles to Atlanta, Houston to Portland — have dared even to propose that they obey rules to protect customers and drivers.

The latest tantrum from the California giants happened in Austin, when the city council there adopted a few modest, perfectly-reasonable rules, despite the screams of PR flacks from both outfits. The petulant duo then used fibs and high-pressure tactics to get enough signatures on petitions to force a special election to overturn the council's action. Naturally, being brats, they gave the city an ultimatum — "Vote our way or we will leave town" — and assumed that Austin's tech-savvy voters would flock to do whatever the popular ride-sharing service wanted.

But they picked the wrong city. First, they ran a campaign of blatant lies, as though Austinites wouldn't question them. Then, they shoved a sickening level of corporate cash into their campaign, apparently thinking that the sheer tonnage of ads would win the day for them. However, the slicks from California turned out to be uber-goobers. Despite spending $9 million (more than the combined spending of all city council candidates in the past decade), they went down, 56-to-44 percent.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016 May25warrentrumpElizabeth Warren's scorching criticism of Donald Trump is effective because it comes from impassioned conviction candidly expressed. (Photo: AFGE)

While Bernie Sanders continues to use his candidacy to advance progressive options for the future of the United States, Hillary Clinton has already stated that she assumes she'll get the nomination. Although Sanders looks to win more delegates, his mission appears to also be focused on using his continued role as an active candidate to press for concessions from the Clinton camp and to build a movement.

Indeed, among all the news media clamor over irresolvable enmity and political differences between the Clinton and Sanders campaign, behind the scenes there are clearly negotiations going on. These talks resulted in, for example, Sanders being able to choose five members of the 15-person Democratic Party Platform Committee. Sanders is choosing people who stick in the craw of the Clinton camp and neoliberal Democratic Party leadership. According to Reuters, they are "Arab-American Institute President James Zogby; noted professor Cornel West; Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison; Deborah Parker, an activist on Native American rights; and Bill McKibben, an activist on environmental issues."

While granting Sanders and his ideas for reform a role in the convention, Clinton is moving on to continue vigorously campaigning for votes in the remaining primary, while -- as the mainstream media so frequently describes it -- "pivoting" to running against Trump.

That, however, is already proving a challenge to the sprawling bureaucratic, focus-group-vetted, poll-tested Clinton campaign. According to a commentary by Jake Novak that appeared on CNBC.com, two of three of Clinton's biggest campaign mistakes are that she generally offers uninspiring platitudes in her speeches and on social media -- and that she lets Donald Trump "drive the agenda."

Tuesday, 24 May 2016 08:21

Bill Nye: Climate Deniers Are Wrong

Bill Nye at lecture(Photo: US Embassy Tokyo)BILL NYE OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

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As you may know, I am very concerned about global warming and global climate change. The science of global warming is long settled, and one may wonder why the U.S., nominally the most technologically advanced country in the world, is not the world leader in addressing the threats enumerated by the U.S. military, the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and others. I hope people will take the facts we face into account as they head to the polls this year.

The ocean is warming and expanding. This effect alone will displace millions of people. The effects on agriculture, water supplies, and weather patterns will create a great many problems for a great many of us. By my reckoning, our delay and the reluctance of conservative presidential candidates to embrace the problem and discuss it is a result of the diligent effort of a handful of climate change deniers. They have been especially successful at introducing the idea that routine predictive uncertainty, e.g. plus or minus two percent, is somehow the same as plus or minus one hundred percent. It isn't, and the deniers are wrong.

Hemp scarf(Photo: Theo Wright)LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

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Outdoor clothing company Patagonia has released a new short film to advocate for the legalization of industrial hemp in the U.S.

The multipurpose plant, which has been used for centuries to make rope, textiles, foods, personal care products and more, became a controversial substance in 1937 due to the "Marihuana Tax Act," which basically lumped hemp with marijuana and made it illegal to grow even though the former has no psychoactive properties. Hemp is listed as a federal Schedule 1 drug in the Controlled Substances Act.

However, there are plenty of reasons why industrial hemp should be legalized, from its substantial health benefits to its potential to lower the environmental impacts of textile production. Also this: In 2016 alone, the U.S. will import an estimated $500 million in products made from the cash crop.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016 May24cpdpatchChicago's contract with the Fraternal Order of Police union has many provisions that obstruct investigations of misconduct. (C. Holmes)

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According to an article in the Chicago Tribune this past Sunday, for decades the City of Chicago has negotiated contracts with the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) that grant cops special rights to avoid accountability for misconduct and violence committed against citizens:

From the moment Chicago's Fraternal Order of Police started negotiating its first contract with City Hall 35 years ago, the union identified an issue that would prove key to its members: ensuring officers had robust protections when they were investigated for misconduct.

City Hall had its own focus: money.

Since that first contract, mayors from Jane Byrne to Rahm Emanuel have routinely fought to hold tight on the bottom line, while the union that represents thousands of rank-and-file officers has worked to, among other things, build layers of insulation from scrutiny.

One product of that bargain between the city and the FOP has been a flawed system in which officers are rarely held accountable for misconduct. 

The special contract concessions allow Chicago police officers special rights during internal investigations of their conduct, which the police do not afford to civilians. According to the Tribune,

Critics say the provisions provide police the opportunity to collude and even formulate a favorable version of events after an incident such as a shooting. They say, too, that they can create a chilling effect that keeps some victims from coming forward for fear of retaliation. 

KEN KIMMELL ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Reposted with Permission of the Union of Concerned Scientists 

Fraud 0523wrp opt(Photo: Union of Concerned Scientists)On Wednesday, I received a letter signed by thirteen members of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. In my thirty years as an attorney, public official, and now UCS President, I have never seen anything quite like it. The letter states that the House Science Committee is “conducting oversight of a coordinated attempt to deprive companies, non-profit organizations and scientists of their First Amendment rights.” This sounds like an oversight effort UCS could support—but for what follows.

The representatives are requesting “all documents and communications” between UCS and state attorneys general and between UCS and other NGOs related to our work to hold oil and gas companies accountable for deception. Apparently, these elected representatives believe that UCS and others have infringed on the free speech rights of fossil fuel companies such as ExxonMobil.

How? By sharing information with these attorneys general about whether ExxonMobil and others misled the public about the dangers of climate change, and by explaining how climate change caused by burning fossil fuels is harming people and places in their states.

You know what else this tells me? The campaign to hold companies accountable is working.

How absurd is this request?

Let’s start with the premise of the letter—that the free speech rights of companies such as ExxonMobil are violated by an investigation. This is nonsense. No company has a First Amendment right to knowingly provide misinformation about the harm associated with its product (in this case the emissions of heat trapping gases from the combustion of fossil fuels). And attorneys general have every right to investigate whether the companies’ actions amounted to an actionable fraud.

In fact, the letter itself compromises the First Amendment rights of the Union of Concerned Scientists and the other recipients of this letter.

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