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BILL QUIGLEY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Handcuffs 0411wrp opt(Photo: Skiddie2003)New Orleans Criminal Court Judge Arthur Hunter, a former police officer, ruled that seven people awaiting trial in jail without adequate legal defense must be released.  The law is clear.  The US Supreme Court, in their 1963 case Gideon v Wainwright, ruled that everyone who is accused of a crime has a Constitutional right a lawyer at the state’s expense if they cannot afford one.   However, Louisiana, in the middle of big budget problems, has been disregarding the constitutional right of thousands of people facing trial in its most recent statewide public defender meltdown.   Judge Hunter ruled that the Constitution makes it clear: no lawyer, no jail.

In an eleven page ruling, Judge Hunter explained that since Louisiana has failed to adequately fund indigent defense it has violated the Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel and the Fourteenth Amendment right to Due Process of seven men.  The men appearing before Judge Hunter could not be represented by the public defender because of budget cutbacks and private lawyers appointed by the court, who were denied funds for investigation and preparation of the cases, asked that the prosecutions be stopped and their clients released.  Hunter ordered the men released but stayed their release until his order could be reviewed on appeal.   

The Louisiana public defender system appears to be in the worst crisis of any state in the US.  It is a “disaster” according to The Economist, “broken” according to National Public Radio,  in “free fall” according to the New York Times, “dire” according to the Chief Justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court, and facing further cutbacks “on a scale unprecedented in the history of American public defense” according to the American Bar Association.   

While Louisiana incarcerates more of its people than any of the other 50 states, prosecutions across the state are starting to slow down because of inadequate public defense.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Horseman 0408wrp opt(Photo: Gustave Doré)While Donald Trump’s theological underpinnings are as madcap and unstable as the man himself, Ted Cruz believes that not only is America God’s chosen country, but that he has been chosen to guide the country back to its Christian moorings. Ted Cruz is a seven-mountain guy and those mountains have nothing to do with Everest, Kilimanjaro, Whitney or any of the world’s renowned peaks. Cruz’s seven mountains have to do with reclaiming, rebuilding, and reestablishing America as a Christian country, which means Christians taking dominion over seven aspects of culture: family, religion, education, media, entertainment, business and government.

The movement is called Seven Mountains Dominionism and its origin comes from Isaiah 2:2: “Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains.”

And, if you thought the culture wars was a relic of the past, Ted Cruz will fight all of the already-settled culture war battles all over again … and then some. As John Fea recently pointed out in Christianity Today, “Unlike any other candidate in the 2016 presidential race, Cruz has mastered the rhetoric first introduced by Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and others on the Religious Right.”

Much of Ted Cruz’s early religious development came from his father Rafael, who came to evangelicalism late in life but has been pounding that platform ever since. It is Rafael who once told a Christian group that he believed his son’s campaign is a fulfillment of biblical prophecy.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016april8 trump8When it comes to medical insurance, Trump's ideas are bad for the health of the US  (Photo: Gilberto A. Viciedo )

A Medicare-for-all system would be the most cost-effective, fair and humane way to provide medical care in the United States. It would immediately, for instance, reduce health care costs that are currently inflated by the profits of private insurance companies. It would also improve the availability of medical care by eliminating the for-profit incentive to deny payment for services.Those are just two of many reasons that universal government coverage would be the best way to deliver health care in this country.

Donald Trump, of course, doesn't want to go that route. After all, the Republican Party has spent years obstructing Congress by way of its obsession with repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare -- and this is one issue on which Trump and mainstream Republicans agree.

What does Trump want to replace Obamacare with? That's a good question. According to an article in an April 18 New York Times article, he has offered such a jumble of sketchy suggestions that even conservative critics of the ACA are highly critical of Trump's jerry-rigged ideas: 

Robert Laszewski, a former insurance executive and frequent critic of the health law, called Mr. Trump’s health care proposals "a jumbled hodgepodge of old Republican ideas, randomly selected, that don’t fit together...."

Mr. Trump’s health care platform "resembles the efforts of a foreign student trying to learn health policy as a second language," said Thomas P. Miller, a health economist at the American Enterprise Institute and a harsh critic of President Obama’s health law....

"It took a herculean political effort to put in place the Affordable Care Act," said [James] Capretta [a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a conservative nonprofit group], who worked at the White House Office of Management and Budget from 2001 to 2004. "To move in a different direction, even incrementally, would take an equally herculean effort, with clear direction and a clear vision of what would come next. I just don’t see that in Trump’s vague plans to repeal the law and replace it with something beautiful and great."

Those are just three of the critiques of Trump's sketchy healthcare coverage policies coming from conservative health care policy analysts.

2016.7.4 bf chow(Photo: World Bank Photo Collection)LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

A new report from the African Centre for Biodiversity, a nonprofit that aims to protect the continent’s biodiversity and food production system, accuses the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and GMO companies including Monsanto of introducing GMO technology in Africa "under the guise of philanthropy."

The report, For your own good!, also warns that GMO companies are currently conducting R&D on the genetic modification of staple African crops such as cassava, sorghum, sweet potato, pigeon pea, cowpea, banana and rice. The report says that the key countries "targeted" include, Burkina Faso, Egypt, Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda and Malawi.

According to a press release of the report, several multi-national companies including Monsanto, Dupont and Pioneer Hi-bred have donated various patented GMO technology royalty-free to experimental programs led by government-employed African scientists. The main organizations carrying out the projects include the African Agriculture Technology Foundation and the Agricultural Biotechnology Support Program and the Program for Biosafety Systems. The on-going trials are focused on drought and salt tolerance, nitrogen use efficiency, resistance to tropical pests and diseases and nutritional enhancement, or biofortification, the release says.

2016.7.4 bf koehler(Photo: DonkeyHotey)ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Here in ​the United States​, we celebrate democracy by staying in touch with the lack of it. What better way to honor our ancestors’ struggles to win the right to vote -- and have that vote counted -- than to have to struggle ourselves for the same thing?

Considering that, as I wrote four years ago, "democracy is nothing if not a perpetual nuisance to the powerful," and that apathy is the national curse, I remain amazed that we’re having a presidential race this year that cuts so deeply -- to core human values -- and is worth enduring a sort of bureaucratic totalitarianism to participate in.

This is not the intention of our system’s alleged guardians, of course, and they need to be watched far more carefully than the mainstream media regards as necessary. What we live in is not so much a democratic republic as a sociopolitical free-for-all, not quite in anyone’s control.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016April7 holybibleMaking the "Holy Bible" the official book of Tennessee violates the constitutional separation of church and state. (Photo: Charlotte Tai)

According to Joel Ebert of The Tennessean, this week the Tennessee legislature finalized passage of a bill making the Christian Bible the official state book:

Tennessee is poised to make history as the first state in the nation to recognize the Holy Bible as its official book.

After nearly 30 minutes of debate, the state Senate on Monday (April 4), approved the measure, sponsored by state Sen. Steve Southerland, with a 19-8 vote, sending the legislation to Gov. Bill Haslam’s desk.....

If Haslam signs the bill, the Bible would join a list of state symbols such as the raccoon as the state’s wild animal, the Eastern box turtle as the state reptile, the square dance as the state folk dance, milk as the official state beverage and the Barrett M82 sniper rifle as the official state rifle, which lawmakers approved earlier in the session.

Prior to the state Senate vote, the bill had been approved by the Tennessee House of Representatives. 

Official state symbols are largely unknown by residents of any state. How many Californians know that the "official state artifact" is the chipped stone bear? Or how many people in the Lone Star State are aware that the "official state amphibian" is the Texas Toad

BRIAN TRAUTMAN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Islamophobic 0406wrpVeterans For Peace opposes Islamophobia by veterans and others such as displayed in this photo. (Photo: Raphael1)Violence against American Muslims is growing faster than at any time since 9/11, with assaults on Muslim individuals and their places of worship having tripled since the Paris and San Bernardino terror attacks. A NY Times article published last December cites several examples, which include shootings and vandalism. According to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), last year set a record for the highest number of incidents targeting U.S. Mosques. As a result of this violence, Muslims across the country, including women and children, have conveyed to the public that they genuinely fear for their safety and security.
 
Hostility toward Muslims because of their religious faith is fundamental to the root and expression of Islamophobia. A 1997 report of the Runnymede Trust defined Islamophobia as "an outlook or world-view involving an unfounded dread and dislike of Muslims, which results in practices of exclusion and discrimination." The report also identified eight common misconceptions about Islam, such as the religion is inferior, primitive, and barbaric and embodies a political ideology rather than a true religious faith. For these reasons, among others, it can be argued that Islamophobia is a form of racism.
 
The hate propaganda and political demagoguery observed in the current presidential election season has fueled Islamophobia and contributed to the sharp rise in hate crimes. Many public figures, social commentators and members of the media tragically conflate terrorism with Islam, despite the lack of credible evidence pointing to any connection between the two. Sadly, it is quite possible that the anti-Muslim responses to the terror attacks in Brussels from Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and others may have incited more Islamophobia and put Muslims at greater risk of victimization.
 
There are about 3 million Muslims in the U.S. today and more than 1.6 billion worldwide. They have the same right to religious freedom, freedom from fear, and human dignity as members of any other religion, particularly in a nation that touts itself as a beacon of hope and the "Land of the Free." As citizens, we have a moral responsibility to act to protect and preserve these rights. Accordingly, Islamophobia must be confronted every time it rears its ugly head. There is no room for apathy or complacency on this matter.

STEFANIE SPEAR OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

ConPipe 0406wrp opt(Photo: Marc Yaggi)Nearly 400 people from across the state of New York and beyond rallied in Albany today asking Gov. Cuomo to stand up to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and use the state’s authority under the Clean Water Act to deny the 401 water quality certificate for the Constitution Pipeline.

The Constitution Pipeline, a joint venture between Williams Pipeline Companies and Cabot Oil & Gas, would run approximately 124 miles from Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania to Schoharie County, New York. The pipeline would be 30 inches in diameter, and transport natural gas—the equivalent of 4.68 million gallons of oil per day—from the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania to New York state.

The rally was organized by Stop the Pipeline, with the support of 60 participating organizations. The event included speeches from prominent environmentalists, including Waterkeeper Alliance president Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., and a march from the capitol to the headquarters of the New York Department of Environmental Conservation. People whose land has already been taken by eminent domain for the construction of the pipeline led the march, followed by “the spirit of the Susquehanna,” symbolizing the water that nourishes all life.

“FERC is a rogue agency that is captured by the very industry it is supposed to regulate,” Kennedy said. “We need to reclaim our democracy from corporations that routinely pollute our water, and are now taking people’s land for their profit. Governor Cuomo can continue his environmental leadership by denying this 401 water quality certificate.”

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016April6 siliconvaleycontractMany Silicon Valley companies are part of the problem when it comes to income inequality. (Photo of Silicon Valley from the air: Patrick Nouhailler)

A recent Washington Post article highlighted how the high-tech industry, particularly in Silicon Valley, is fostering income inequality through the use of contract workers for support positions such as bus drivers and custodians, as well as for "white-collar" positions such as secretaries and accountants. The Post focused on a March 2016 study entitled, "Silicon Valley Industries: Contract Workforce Assessment." It was conducted by the Everett Program at the University of Santa Cruz. 

The Post focuses on some key findings:

There are also some crucial differences between the people who work at Google without working for Google, or work at Facebook without working for Facebook.

Subcontracted workers make about 70 percent of the salary that in-house workers in similar occupations make, or an average of $40,000 a year, compared to $113,300 for directly-hired tech employees --making it incredibly difficult to find an affordable place to live within a reasonable distance from work. According to Census data, they depend more heavily on food stamps, and 30 percent lack health insurance.

So these contracted workers, the ones who are not directly employed by Silicon Valley companies, save the corporations money at the expense of salary, job security and benefits for the workers. Meanwhile, the corporations continue to roll in exorbitant amounts of money; Facebook recently reached a market value of $340 billion.

The evolving relationship between the US and Cuba could open up new avenues for the booming organic market in the states.(Photo: Theodor Hensolt)LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

The evolving relationship between the U.S. and Cuba could open up new avenues for the booming organic market in the states.

American organic food producers and advocates, including the CEO of the Organic Trade Association and executives from Honest Tea, Stonyfield Farm and Global Organics, will be traveling to Cuba in May to take a closer look at the country’s unique, pesticide-free agricultural system and developing Cuba’s organic industry for export, POLITICO reported.

The trip will be organized by Rep. Chellie Pingree (D) of Maine. Star chef Tom Colicchio, Pingree’s friend and outspoken proponent of sustainable agriculture, will also attend.

The five-day trip is sponsored by the Center for Democracy in the Americas, which promotes a U.S. policy toward Cuba based on engagement and recognition of Cuba’s sovereignty.

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