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DR. DAVID SUZUKI OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaSuzukiEcoWatch(Photo: EcoWatch)In 1997, Canada restricted import and transfer of the gasoline additive MMT because it was a suspected neurotoxin that had already been banned in Europe. Ethyl Corp., the U.S. multinational that supplied the chemical, sued the government for $350 million under the North American Free Trade Agreement and won! Canada was forced to repeal the ban, apologize to the company and pay an out-of-court settlement of US$13 million.

The free trade agreement between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico was never designed to raise labor and environmental standards to the highest level. In fact, NAFTA and other trade agreements Canada has signed—including the recent Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement with China—often take labor standards to the lowest denominator while increasing environmental risk. The agreements are more about facilitating corporate flexibility and profit than creating good working conditions and protecting the air, water, land and diverse ecosystems that keep us alive and healthy.

Canada’s environment appears to be taking the brunt of NAFTA-enabled corporate attacks. And when NAFTA environmental-protection provisions do kick in, the government often rejects them.

According to a study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, more than 70 percent of NAFTA claims since 2005 have been against Canada, with nine active cases totaling $6 billion outstanding. These challenge “a wide range of government measures that allegedly interfere with the expected profitability of foreign investments,” including the Quebec government’s moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBossie(Photo: Gage Skidmore)You are undoubtedly aware that the financial network that Charles and David Koch have established is aiming to spend nearly one billion dollars on the 2016 elections. They'll be numerous public relations outfits, advertising firms, and media experts vying to soak up some cash. Will Citizens United's David Bossie grab a seat on the Koch Brothers' gravy train?

In 2008, the conservative movement was preparing to go balls (inflated, not deflated) to the wall against Hillary Clinton. Anti-Hillary projects were developed at a fever pitch: Books were written; documentaries readied; websites set up. Hillary: The Movie, the mother of all attack films -- produced by David Bossie and his organization, Citizens United – was to be aired on cable TV before the Democratic primaries. Everything was in place and then ... and then ... the federal government blocked the film from being aired, arguing that it wasn't a movie, but an extended political commercial. Barack Obama knocked off Clinton in the Democratic primaries, and ultimately won the White House. The best-laid anti-Clinton plans were waylaid.

For conservatives, however, all was not lost. The U.S. Supreme Court took up the case called Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. In 2010, it ruled 5-4 that spending limits in the McCain-Feingold act were unconstitutional, and that allowed virtually unlimited contributions by corporations and unions to political action committees.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

amittromking(Image: Donkey Hotey)

Mitt Romney and some other renowned Republicans are now attempting to rebrand themselves as "anti-poverty" fighters.

This is a bit like the Koch Brothers waking up one day, calling a press conference and announcing that they are beginning a campaign to end personal, corporate, PAC and organizational giving to political candidates and affiliated support groups.

The GOP is great at disseminating and emphasizing top-down Frank Luntz-style memes. That's in large part due to the authoritarian nature of the Republican Party, which is a well-disciplined machine of candidates, media and political stunts. A bit like the military or police, Republicans, in general, follow the chain of command. 

That is why the new Republican emphasis on the so-called elimination of poverty extends down from Romney to two local Wisconsin legislators. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel,

Two influential Republican lawmakers proposed a plan Wednesday to fight poverty in Milwaukee's inner city by pushing big changes in the state's schools, tax code and regulations.

Many of the proposals are controversial, including creating urban zones without corporate taxes, typical union rules and state markup requirements on retail sales, and a plan to convert struggling public schools in Milwaukee into independent charter schools answering to a new board....

"People all over the place are hurting, but particularly in these neighborhoods, people are hurting," Rep. Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield) said as he introduced the proposals.

"It's trying to invite new people to the table and try new approaches," Kooyenga said of the agenda he put forward with Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills).

The pattern is clear: Word has come down from the Republican pollsters and sloganeers on high that the GOP must repackage Bill Clinton's "I feel your pain" empathy strategy to position itself for 2016.

JANE STILLWATER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaPovertyStillwater(Photo: Phillies1fan777)This has been a busy month for me, including helping my daughter prepare for the birth of my next granddaughter, getting a bunch of surgical procedures out of the way so I can be bionic by the time I become our new arrival's caregiver after her new mum goes back to work, worrying about the role of the CIA in creating radical "Islam," and still struggling through Thomas Pretty's 600-page book on modern economics. And the more that I read in Capital for the 21st Century, the angrier I get.
According to Piketty, Europe and America have traditionally been divided into two basic classes for a long long long time: The "haves" and the "have-nots." Traditionally, the "haves" have owned the capital (most of it inherited) and the "have-nots" have provided the labor. For many past centuries, it had been pretty much upstairs and downstairs in Western economies, just like on the BBC TV series.

But then two world wars came along and totally shook up these two formerly set-in-stone class lines, creating a unique glitch in time wherein a new large middle class was suddenly born -- in both Europe and the United States.

According to Piketty, this was an almost-unique experience in Western economic history - where the wealthy were taken down a notch and the working class and poor were elevated up. However, this "accidental equality" was too good to be true for long, and the wealthy classes fought back and the dream died -- and so here we are, back again, deja vu, once more playing at "Upstairs Downstairs" like our ancestors did.

You may wish that Piketty is wrong about the recent disappearance of the new middle class? But unfortunately he's not.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

abringbaIt is racist just to be concerned about violence against whites. (Photo: Michael Fleshman)

One can deplore and be appalled by the loss of life that occurred on 9/11, at the ghastly destruction of families and grief that rippled across the nation, as BuzzFlash was and is. One can also feel horror for the staff at Charlie Hebdo who were gunned down in a summary execution, as well as the killings that occurred in the Kosher supermarket in Paris. We at BuzzFlash felt the grief of lives cut short by such appalling premeditated murders.

It is an injustice, however, to confine the outpouring of public mourning for victims of violence to those of white European identity.

It is human nature, in general, to associate with the identity group that an individual feels is most like him or her. That may be one exlanation why so many in the Eurocentric nations and their white colonialized offshoots - including the US and Canada - are aghast at the killings of people like themselves, but hardly appear to notice or grieve for people of other colors and backgrounds who suffer horrible massacres.

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaJailKoehler1(Photo: Bart Everson)"It'd be really hard to have a higher recidivism rate than we have in Cook County."

Maybe this is the place to start a brief meditation on changing the world, or at least Chicago . . . known to some of its residents as "Chiraq."

The speaker is Elena Qunitana, executive director of the Adler Institute on Public Safety and Social Justice, which, in partnership with Roosevelt University's Mansfield Institute for Social Justice and Transformation, recently completed a study on Cook County's dysfunctional juvenile justice system.

What we're doing isn't working, justice-wise, order-wise, sanity-wise. The state of Illinois is bankrupt and yet its jails are full to bursting, at a cost, per occupant, equal to or greater than the cost of luxury suites at its ritziest hotels. And 90 percent of the teenagers who enter the system come back within three years of their release. This is no surprise: The system is a spiral of entrapment, especially for young men of color.

Why? What's the point of such a costly and ineffective system (if "effectiveness" is measured by bringing positive change rather than by simple self-perpetuation)? Bureaucratic punishment is not the answer to social disorder; instead, it's a major contributor to the disorder, shattering families and communities and branding people for life as permanent wrongdoers — "ex-felons" — yet answerable only to its own rules and procedures. It has nothing to do with . . . what's that word again? Oh yeah, healing. Deep in the hidden core of the American system of justice is a determination to dehumanize people, not rescue them.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

apopeonincomein(Image: Devendra Makkar)

It is rare for a corporate media outlet to focus on those killed by the grindstone of economic inequality. That is why a profile of the final hours of 32-year-old Maria Fernandes's life, chronicled in The New York Times last year, still stands out. The victims who die from economic inequality are not abstract collateral damage in public policy debates; they are real people.

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The cause of death among those struggling to survive might be stress, punishing manual labor, inadequate diet or a variety of other factors. In the case of Maria Fernandes, The New York Times' headline observed, "For a Worker With Little Time Between 3 Jobs, a Nap Has Fatal Consequences."

No one directly killed Fernandes, but she died as a result of the circumstances of living on a minimum-wage income that forced her to often live out of her SUV in order to juggle part-time jobs at three different Dunkin' Donuts in and around the Newark, New Jersey, area. The Times described the precipitating factor of her fatality:

Ms. Fernandes slept in her running S.U.V. so often that she started keeping a container full of fuel in the back. Mr. Carter [her boyfriend] warned that this wasn’t safe, but Ms. Fernandes brushed aside his concerns. She couldn’t run the risk of waking up to an empty tank.

Last summer, a convenience store employee noticed Fernandes slumped over in her car.

2283251419 33712596ef zRepower Our Schools calls for the Charlotte and Durham, North Carolina school boards to pass a resolution committing to run their schools on renewable energy this year. (Photo: Chandra Marsono / Flickr)STEFANIE SPEAR OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Now that solar is cheaper than electricity from the grid in 42 of 50 largest U.S. cities, it’s no wonder that a coalition of education, health, labor and environmental organizations launched a campaign to encourage North Carolina’s public school districts to transition to 100 percent renewable energyRepower Our Schools was launched today calling for the Charlotte and Durham, North Carolina school boards to pass a resolution committing to run their schools on renewable energy this year.

According to a recent report from The Solar Foundation, school districts across the country could each save more than $1 million over 30 years by installing a solar system.

“As utility rates continue to rise across North Carolina, solar continues to get cheaper—providing an affordable alternative for the school districts,” said Greenpeace Charlotte field organizer Michael Zytkow. “Repowering Our Schools stands to save money that can be reinvested in the classroom. By making this commitment, school boards are committing not only to save precious funds, but also to protect our kids’ health, help save our environment and provide real-world learning experiences for students.”

5443666483 3702695aef zBillboard for Franklin Graham crusade in Haiti. (Photo: James Emery / Flickr)BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Why should you be interested in the ongoing prattling of the Rev. Franklin Graham? Let me count the ways: 1) He’s the son of Billy Graham, the world-renowned evangelist, and that gives him access to a multitude of media platforms; 2) He desperately wants to inherit his father’s unofficial title of “America’s Pastor”; and, 3) He is considered a highly respected player in the world of conservative Christian evangelicalism.

Graham is also a mean-spirited Christian nationalist, and one of the most consistent voices arguing that Christians in this country are being persecuted, victimized and “excluded from the public square.” And, over the past few years, he has carved out a well-deserved reputation as one of the United States' leading religious-based Islamophobes.

Instead of inheriting his father’s mantle, Franklin Graham seems to be on the road to occupying the space left by the death of Topeka’s anti-gay madman, Fred Phelps.

Franklin Graham’s latest sortie into Islamophobia occurred recently, when he vigorously opposed a decision by Duke University to allow the Adhaan, i.e. the Muslim call to prayer, to be announced from the bell tower of the campus’s Christian chapel. Graham took to Facebook to exclaim: "As Christianity is being excluded from the public square and followers of Islam are raping, butchering and beheading Christians, Jews, and anyone who doesn't submit to their Sharia Islamic law, Duke is promoting this in the name of religious pluralism. I call on the donors and alumni to withhold their support from Duke until this policy is reversed."

2015.1.28.Marcus.BFA breached oil pipeline in Montana has spilled as many as 50,000 gallons of crude oil in and around the Yellowstone River. (Screen grab via DAHBOO77 / YouTube)JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Members of both Houses that are owned by the Koch brothers should be forced to clean up Bridger Pipeline’s devastating oil disaster.  An estimated 50,000 gallons of crude oil spilled into the frozen Yellowstone River, one of America’s great wildlife treasures, for a second time.  It’s too painful for words to describe. As reported in Al Jazeera:

When an oil pipeline burst in July 2011 and poured 63,000 gallons of crude into the Yellowstone River 200 miles upstream from Dena Hoff’s farm of wheat, beans and corn on the Great Plains in Glendive, she felt disgusted. When it happened again Saturday, she felt terror. This pipeline breach was underneath the Yellowstone River, just a few feet from her sheep pasture. The new spill poured out some 50,000 gallons of crude oil. And that’s on top of the 63,000 gallons of oil that spilled in the same area in 2011. Leaders of this small riverside farming and ranching community in northeastern Montana warned residents not to drink their tap water, because benzene, a carcinogen, was found in the municipal water system. Oil slicked the river for dozens of miles, almost to the border with North Dakota. Hoff’s property smelled sickeningly like diesel.

In addition to poisoning the drinking water and vital farmland, one can only imagine how many precious endangered species, birds and animals, will die from this devastating spill.

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