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JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaGoldCoin(Photo: United States Mint)Once upon a time in our Good Ol' US-of-A, presidential contenders and their political parties had to raise the funds needed to make the race. How quaint.

But for the 2016 run, this quaint way of selecting our candidates is no longer the case, thanks to the Supreme Court's malicious meddling in the democratic process in its reckless Citizens United decision. In that decision, the five members of the Corporate Cabal decreed that "non-candidate" campaigns can take unlimited sums of money directly from corporations. Therefore a very few wealthy powers can pour money into these murky political operations and gain unwarranted plutocratic power over the election process.

And looking at the fundraising numbers, those wealthy powers have definitely taken charge of the electoral game. These very special interests, who have their own presidential agendas, now put up the vast majority of funds and run their own private campaigns to elect someone who will do their bidding.

So far, of over $400 million raised to back candidates of either party in next year's race, half of the money has come from a pool of only about 400 people — and two-thirds of their cash went not to candidates directly but to corporate-run super PACs. To get a get a grasp at what this looks like, take a peek at the super PACs supporting Ted Cruz. Of the $37 million they have raised, $36 million was pumped in by only three interests — a New York hedge fund manager, a corporate plunderer living in Puerto Rico and the owners of a franking operation who've pocketed billions from the explosive use of this destructive drilling technology.

So while Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Scott Walker and gang are the candidates, the driving forces in this election have names like Robert Mercer, Norman Braman, Diane Hendricks, Dan and Farris Wilks, Toby Neugebauer and Miguel Fernandez.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaundocWords, such as the use of alien for an undocumented immigrant, stereotype and defame.(Photo: People's World)

As of this week, California has a new law that prohibits the use of the word alien to refer to undocumented immigrants. Here’s the news as reported by the Huffington Post on August 11:

California Gov. Jerry Brown (D)signed legislation Monday removing the word "alien" in reference to undocumented immigrants from the state's labor code.

The measure, which will take effect Jan. 1, seeks to modernize the language used in California state law. Brown signed the legislation, SB 432, along with two other bills updating immigration policy on Monday.

“These bills reflect a state that both recognizes and respects the diversity — and contributions — of all Californians,” said Brown spokesman Evan Westrup, according to the Los Angeles Times

There will be, no doubt, those on the right who will charge that Brown's signing of the law is just one more example of "political correctness."

However, words have meaning.

NADIA PRUPIS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaEPAEcoWatch2(Photo: EcoWatch)The spill which sent toxic waste from an abandoned mine into a Colorado waterway last week released 3 million gallons of contaminates into the state’s 126-mile Animas River—not 1 million, as previously announced, according to new estimates by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

As the orange-hued sludge kept flowing through Colorado and into the San Juan River in New Mexico on Monday, the fallout from the massive accident continued to spread, with communities declaring states of emergency and the Navajo Nation vowing to take action against the EPA, which caused the spill.

The county of La Plata and the city of Durango, both in Colorado, each declared a state of emergency at Noon on Sunday.

La Plata County manager Joe Kerby said in a statement: “This action has been taken due to the serious nature of the incident and to convey the grave concerns that local elected officials have to ensure that all appropriate levels of state and federal resources are brought to bear to assist our community not only in actively managing this tragic incident but also to recover from it.”

Water quality tests along the rivers were still being conducted as of Monday afternoon. According to preliminary data released by the EPA on Sunday, arsenic levels in the Durango area were, at their peak, 300 times higher than normal. Lead was 3,500 times higher than normal. The waste also includes copper, zinc, aluminum and cadmium.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaatppsecretSensationalist coverage of a presidential election more than 15 months away is crowding out reporting on profoundly important issues such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership. (Photo: GlobalTradeWatch)

The next election for president of the United States will be held on November 8, 2016. Yes, that is more than 15 months from today. Yet, the mass media ratings-boosted coverage has been in full swing for - it already feels like - eons.

The daily barrage of "who is up and who is down" crowds out substantive public policy coverage and reports on pressing issues of life and death such as the Black Lives Matter movement, in favor of presidential corporate media coverage that overwhelmingly focuses on titillating aspects of candidate personalities, poll rankings and real or unreal improprieties. 

Where candidates stand on issues supersedes reporting on the issues themselves. Furthermore, mass media punditry - particularly on television - emphasizes the perception of how candidates' positions might affect them in the polls rather than the positions themselves. This is like discussing the shadows of issues that clamor for attention rather than the actual needs of the nation and its people, many of them dire.

Yes, Donald Trump has been appropriately singled out for extending his reality TV show persona into a bumptious, bigoted, bombastic presidential run - in which he leads the Republican pack in the much vaunted polls. However, the emphasis on prolonged "reporting" on a presidential race as spectacle detrimentally transforms democracy's challenges into entertainment.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaabenn3Is Netanyahu more interested in showing that he can best Obama than act in the best interests of his constituents? Looks that way.(Image: DonkeyHotey)

Should anyone be listening to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s fulminating against the Iran nuclear deal? His previous prognostications – dating back to his unbridled enthusiasm for George W. Bush’s Iraq War – place him in the same league as the late Harold Camping, whose predictions of the Rapture failed to materialize, Anne Graham Lotz, the daughter of the Rev. Billy Graham, who seems to believe that the Rapture is just around almost every corner, and his Republican Party colleagues who were certain the 2012 presidential election spelled the end of Barack Obama.

In 2002, an impassioned Benjamin Netanyahu was exceedingly bullish on President Bush’s looming War with Iraq. He was certain that it would not only usher in a new more peaceful era for the entire Middle East, but that it would also serve to encourage the youth of Iran to rebel against their country’s leaders.

Netanyahu told a Congressional committee that "every indication we have is that (Saddam Hussein) is pursuing, pursuing with abandon, pursuing with every ounce of effort, the establishment of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons.”

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaacongressThe US Congress is enacting policies that regard people of color as disposable people. (Wikipedia)

In a recent discussion of United States neoliberalism, Henry Giroux described "the practice of disposability in which more and more individuals and groups are now considered excess -- consigned to zones of abandonment, surveillance, and often incarceration." This is certainly true of poor people in the US, especially those who are people of color. Many of our well-positioned, mostly Republican Congressional leaders have shown through their actions that they don't care about such people. The resulting neglect is life-threatening for the most vulnerable among us. 

1. Denying Health Care - Tens of Thousands of Deaths Every Year: Numerous studies have shown that lack of health coverage can contribute to sickness and early death. Low-income minorities, of course, are least likely to have coverage. Just having Medicaid greatly improves one's chances of prolonging life. Yet Congress lets individual states decide the fortunes of their own poor residents. With 22 states opting out of Medicaid this year, over 5 million Americans are without vital health insurance coverage, and women - especially black women - are dying because of the lack of maternal care. And now it's getting worse, with an attack on Planned Parenthood, which saves women's lives through breast cancer screenings, and reduces abortions by providing contraceptive services. 

2. Subsidizing Pollution: The IMF estimates that global subsidies for fossil fuels have reached about $5 trillion per year, with the greatest cost going to the smog-spewing coal industry. Pollution is killing people. That is well documented by the World Health Organization. But not only is Congress complicit in the outright subsidies of fossil fuel exploration and production, it is also allowing the worst polluters, especially Exxon Mobil and Chevron, to avoid almost all their taxes. We taxpayers may be subsidizing our own early deaths. 

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaacapitolofpuertorico.jpaThe capitol of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico in San Juan, where neoliberalism meets the failure of the US colonialist enterprise. (Photo: Jorge Láscar)

Around 300,000 Puerto Ricans are estimated to have left the island in the last ten years to seek jobs on the mainland of the United States. Their destinations are varied, although many relocate to New York and more recently Orlando. This flight from Puerto Rico - which includes mostly young and well-educated people and many professionals such as physicians - is negatively impacting the present and future of the island, a de facto colony of the United States since it was "won" by the US in the 1898 Spanish-American War.

Given that Puerto Rico dipped its toes into default on a debt of more than $70 billion this past weekend - and that its population is shrinking from a high of 4 million residents to approximately 3.5 million in 2014 - the exodus of a skilled and educated workforce presents severe challenges to Puerto Rico's economic future. 

In an interview in San Juan on August 5, Carlos Frontera Santana, the adviser on legal and economic issues to the only elected official in the Puerto Rican legislature who represents the Puerto Rican Independence Party - Senator Maria de Lourdes Santiago Negrón - told Buzzflash that the trend "erodes the tax base and contributes to a brain drain." At a time that the bond market, hedge funds and vulture funds are waiting to impose further ruinous austerity on the de facto colony, the flight of Puerto Rico's skilled and professional class, in particular, leads to decreased services (think about fewer doctors and nurses), spiraling unemployment and a shrinking tax base, according to Frontera.

On the one hand, US holders of Puerto Rico's debt are demanding extreme austerity measures in return for any debt relief, just as Germany and the EU did to Greece. Last week, BuzzFlash at Truthout focused on one such suggested requirement in a commentary entitled, "Vulture Hedge Funds Want Education Slashed in Puerto Rico as Condition of Predatory Debt Relief." On the other hand, such requirements accelerate - as Frontera noted - an increased tax burden on a smaller, poorer population that leads to an economic death spiral.

2015.6.8 BF Berkowitz(Photo: DonkeyHotey)BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

A few months back, when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke before a special joint session of Congress, many of his conservative congressional brethren greeted him as a long lost brother-in-arms. Now, courtesy of the American Israel Education Foundation, the charitable arm of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), a number of congressional members are going to him. While there may be a bit of sightseeing along the way, the main purpose for two separate congressional trips – one for Democrats and the other for Republicans -- is to motivate as many congressional representatives as possible to vote against the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran.

The AIPAC-sponsored trips are only one small part of a multi-million dollar effort by the organization to put the kybosh on the nuclear deal. This summer, while AIPAC and Christian Zionist organizations – especially Pastor John Hagee’s Christian United for Israel -- will be sending their supporters to flood town hall meetings in various congressional districts, AIPAC will also be inundating “congressional offices with calls and emails, running ads in national media and employing other campaign-style tactics to sway skeptical lawmakers before a mid-September vote on the agreement,” CNN recently reported.

“From our perspective, this is one of the most significant mobilization efforts in our organization’s history,” said an official from AIPAC, “It is certainly the most important issue in a generation and we are fully engaged.”

AIPAC’s new group, Citizens for a Nuclear Free Iran’ (CNFI), a 501(c)4, could spend as much as $40 million to kill the deal. According to the Washington post, CNFI is placing “TV ads in 35 states, many of them in districts heavily populated by Jewish Americans, or represented by Jewish-American lawmakers who are seen as key deciders on the issue.” The organization “doesn’t have to disclose its donors because of its nonprofit status. … [and] its advisory board includes a heavy-hitting lineup of former Democratic senators: Evan Bayh (Ind.), Mark Begich (Alaska), Mary Landrieu (La.), and Joe Lieberman (Conn.).”

Thursday, 06 August 2015 06:39

Nuclear Disarmament: If Not Now, When?

2015.6.8 BF koehler(Photo: Devin Ford)ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Oh plaintive cry for justice, for change, for the world we must create, welling up from a tiny island nation in the Pacific Ocean. I can only pray: Let there be an authority large enough to hear it.

My first reaction, upon learning that the Republic of the Marshall Islands — former US territory, still ravaged and radioactive, the site of 67 H-bomb tests between 1946 and 1958 — has filed lawsuits against the nine nations that possess nuclear weapons demanding that they eliminate their arsenals, as per the provisions of the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, was cringing disbelief. Are they serious? I couldn’t imagine an action more futile.

But the disbelief was mixed with hope, and the hope remains vibrant as the world marks the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the launching of the geopolitics of M.A.D. Could hope possibly be more painful?

The anti-nuke lawsuits were filed in April 2014, in both US Federal Court and the International Court of Justice in The Hague. Big surprise. The US suit was dismissed some months ago as “speculative” and because the Marshall Islands “lacks standing” to bring the suit.

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaWillieWeed(Photo: Cannabis Training University)Earlier this year, music legends Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard teamed up to make a pro-marijuana video titled "It's All Going to Pot."

And, apparently they were right, for I've now learned that even the state fair is going to pot — literally. A press release from the organizers of the DC State Fair exclaims: "It's true! For the first time ever, we're hosting a new contest for local cannabis growers to show off their plants' finest buds." They're not just blowing smoke, for it turns out that Washington, D.C., voters passed a referendum in November to legalize marijuana — even to allow locals to grow up to six plants at their residences.

With the nationwide renaissance in urban agriculture, why not invite the proud cultivators of the happy weed to show off the finest produce from their pot plots? After all, state fairs already have contests for the best ice cream, pickles, homebrew, compost, flower arrangements, crafts and such — so it's not a stretch to see who can win the Marijuana Bud Blue Ribbon. The buds are to be judged on characteristics such as appearance, smell and stickiness, but not such consumer-satisfaction qualities as "duration of high" or "development of mellowness." In fact, contrary to the judging of the Tastiest Tomato category, the entry form for the Best Bud Contest specifies rather sternly that judges "will not sample or consume your submission." That's probably smart, since the whole panel of judges could dissolve into uncontrollable giggles halfway through the sampling.

From the demonization of marijuana to legalization and now to celebration — it's a trajectory of progress that reflects some mellowing in society itself. As the DC State Fair people put it, "Now that it's legal, we wanted a way to highlight this new freedom while also showing off the agricultural talents of the District's people."

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