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BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

DT 0622wrp opt(Photo: Michael Vadon)Is it the end of the Christian Right as we know it, or is it the beginning of a beautiful relationship? Michael Farris, chancellor of Patrick Henry College, chairman of the Home School Legal Defense Association, and a longtime conservative evangelical leader, claimed in an op-ed piece for The Christian Post that the meeting of 1,000 conservative Christian leaders with Donald Trump “marks the end of the Christian Right.” Tim Wildmon, president of the American Family Association, believes that “it was admirable and honorable for Trump to meet with Christian leaders. [because] [h]e is not our enemy.”

About a thousand evangelical leaders met with Donald Trump in New York City on Tuesday, June 21, in a meeting convened by Dr. Ben Carson and an organization called My Faith Votes. According to The Washington Post’s Michelle Boorstein and Julie Zauzmer, “Trump won a standing ovation from hundreds of Christian conservatives who came to [the meeting] with a somewhat skeptical but willing attitude toward a man who has divided their group with comments on women, immigrants and Islam.”

The Christian Post’s Samuel Smith reported that Trump “told the crowd he has his religion to thank for the blessings that have been placed in his life.” Trump pointed out that he won several states with a high proportion of evangelical voters. And, he urged the attendees to pray for everyone but pray that the people vote for “one specific person”; that person being Trump.

"Some of the people are saying, 'let's pray for our leaders.' I said, 'You can pray for your leaders, and I agree with that, pray for everyone. But what you really have to do is pray to get everyone out to vote for one specific person,'" Trump said, according to a video posted by conservative Virginia pastor and founder of the S.T.A.N.D. conservative non-profit organization E.W. Jackson. "We can't be politically correct and say we pray for all of our leaders because all of your leaders are selling Christianity down the tubes and selling evangelicals down the tubes and it is a very bad thing that is happening."

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016june22The NRA and its state affiliates have championed guns in bars. Now they are lying about it, for the moment. (Photo: Thomas Hawk)

In May, Donald Trump spoke to an National Rifle Association (NRA) conference and received the gun lobby's presidential endorsement. It was not surprising, therefore, that after the appalling massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, Trump made statements backing the NRA's long-standing policy of favoring "the right" of patrons to carry guns into bars. Trump's support for "packing heat" in bars and nightclubs included remarks such as the following one -- made at campaign rally on June 17 -- according to Salon:

If we had people, where the bullets were going in the opposite direction, right smack between the eyes of this maniac — if some of those wonderful people had guns strapped right here, right to their waist or to their ankle, and this son of a bitch comes out and starts shooting, and one of the people in the room happened to have it, and goes boom — boom — you know what? That would have been a beautiful, beautiful sight, folks. That would have been a beautiful, beautiful sight. So don’t let them take your guns away.

Little did Trump know that the NRA, which is used to doubling down on its grotesque, lethal proposals, decided to lie about its record of lobbying in states -- often successfully -- to allow gun owners to legally bring their firearms into places that serve liquor. For those who follow the NRA's brash, provocative defense of guns and gun ownership -- after all, even former President George Herbert Walker Bush resigned from the NRA when their leadership called federal agents "jack-booted thugs" in the '90s -- it was a bit of a surprise to watch Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president and CEO of the NRA, denounce Trump's proposition. LaPierre told CBS News, when asked about Trump's ghoulish statement, "I don't think you should have firearms where people are drinking."

Chris Cox, executive director of the NRA's lobbying arm (the Institute for Legislative Action), also rebuked Trump's position, stating to ABC News, "No one thinks that people should go into a nightclub drinking and carrying firearms.... That defies common sense. It also defies the law."

Solar Impulse(Photo: Charles Barilleaux)LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

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The Solar Impulse 2 took off earlier this morning from New York City for its historic, sun-powered flight across the Atlantic Ocean. The multi-day odyssey will be the longest and perhaps the most difficult leg in the solar plane's journey around the world.

The aircraft left John F. Kennedy International Airport at 2:30 a.m. and is being piloted solo by Swiss adventurer Bertrand Piccard.

"It's my first time taking off from JFK," Piccard said over a live feed from the aircraft, according to the AFP.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016 06:40

Newt Gingrich's Last Hurrah

Newt Gingrich and Donald Trump caricatures(Photo: DonkeyHotey)BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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It doesn't surprise me one bit that Newt Gingrich is on Donald Trump's short list for vice president. And it wouldn't surprise me if Gingrich really wants the job. Despite leaving Congress in disgrace in the late-1990s, and conducting a failed run for the Republican Party's 2012 presidential nomination, over the past several decades he has rarely  been out of the spotlight. And while he has been consistently rehabbing his image, he remains a rash on the political landscape that, no matter what you do to deal with it, never goes away.

Gingrich has had numerous character-challenging episodes on his resume. In 1994, three days before the mid-term elections, Gingrich used the Susan Smith case  – a South Carolina mother who was then accused of drowning her two young sons -- to garner votes. Then Congressman Gingrich, told an Associated Press reporter that voters were moving toward the GOP: "I think that the mother killing the two children in South Carolina vividly reminds every American how sick the society is getting and how much we need to change things." Gingrich added, "The only way you get change is to vote Republican. That's the message for the last three days."

After the passage of California's Proposition 8 -- an initiative banning same-sex marriage -- Gingrich told Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly that protesters were representative of "a gay and secular fascism in this country that wants to impose its will on the rest of us."

In what might be his last chance at grabbing for the gold, Gingrich, an unapologetic Trump supporter appeared to make his boldest pitch yet to being The Donald's running mate. He  recently executed a Joseph McCarthy-like pivot by suggesting that the House of Representatives form a twenty-first century version of the infamous House Un-American Activities Committee  "to root out American citizens who plan to commit terrorist attacks in the US," Talking Points Memo's Allegra Kirkland recently reported.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016june20 nestlewaterBottled water that is "pure life." Somehow, we doubt it. (Photo: Usman Ahmed)

The refuse left behind by bottled water is damaging enough to the planet's environment, but it is also troubling that much of the spring water that fills these bottles is pumped from public lands. Take, for instance, Nestlé's Arrowhead bottled water brand. It is extracted via a pipeline from a canyon -- in California's San Bernadino Mountains -- that some environmental and activist groups argue is ecologically sensitive to the water loss. It's clearly a case of a company exploiting public land for profit.  According to a May 9 article in the San Bernadino County Sun: 

Nestlé’s withdrawal of water from a canyon watershed, which environmental groups deem critical for several endangered species, has been a growing controversy for several years.

Outcry has intensified with continuation of the drought.

Late last year, the Center for Environmental Diversity, Story of Stuff Project and Courage Campaign Institute filed a federal lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service for allowing Nestlé’s pipelines, pumps and other structures on federal land after the company’s permit expired 28 years ago.

The U.S. Forest Service, which administers the federally owned land, was paid just $524 last year for 36 million gallons of water from Strawberry Canyon in the San Bernadino forest, according to the County Sun.

Monday, 20 June 2016 08:49

Donald Trump vs. the First Amendment

WALTER BRASCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Bill 0620wrp optIf Donald Trump should become president, don’t expect his administration to be a transparent one or one that tolerates dissent and believes in the First Amendment.

At his campaign rallies, even those held at public venues, he forbids, according to his press advisories, “homemade signs, banners, professional cameras with a detachable lens, tripods, monopods, selfie sticks, back packs or large bags.”

The restriction on “professional cameras” is targeted to the media. Apparently, he doesn’t want unflattering pictures of him and his extra large baggage mouth to get to the public, although he is adept at positioning himself in front of the media for every possible story angle. If he were president, he would not have a choice of who can and cannot photograph him, because the First Amendment guarantees that public officials cannot invoke a “prior restraint,” which is what a restriction on photography would be.

Why he doesn’t want “back packs or large bags” is probably because he fears weapons at his rallies. Of course, he has said numerous times that he believes in the Second Amendment right to own and carry weapons, even assault weapons like the handguns and semi-automatic assault rifles that were used to kill 26 at the Sandy Hook elementary school, the 14 killed in San Bernardino, and the 49 killed in an Orlando nightclub.

Not allowing the public to make signs and banners is such a huge violation of the First Amendment that even the most rabid conservatives, and every judge—no matter what their judicial or political philosophy is—would laugh themselves silly at Trump’s belief that as a president he could control the message, like he is doing as a candidate.

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Justice 0620wrp opt(Photo: D. Gordon E. Robertson)While candidates bicker and Congress stagnates, the super-rich enjoy the absence of attention paid to one of our nation's most destructive issues.

The richest Americans are takers of social benefits. Yet they complain about paying 12% to 20% in taxes, even as respected researchers estimate an optimal revenue-producing rate of 80% to 90%, and even with the near-certainty that higher marginal tax rates will have no adverse effects on GDP growth.

The super-rich pay little in taxes because, as Senator Lindsey Graham said, "It's really American to avoid paying taxes, legally...It's a game we play...I see nothing wrong with playing the game because we set it up to be a game." In reality, it's a game of theft from the essential needs of education, infrastructure, and jobs.

The Richest Individuals Cheat the Most

According to a recent IRS report, an incredible $406 billion annual gap exists between owed and paid taxes, with individuals accounting for over three-quarters of the total, and with the most egregious misreporting coming from the highest income-takers.

That's about $3,000 per U.S. household in annual lost revenue. Yet even though the IRS retrieves well over $100 for every dollar in salaries paid to their agents, the agency has been rapidly losing staff, making the tax avoidance game a lot easier for the biggest cheaters.

Corporations Cheat Most Creatively

Relative to a dollar of payroll tax, corporations used to pay $3 in income tax. Now they pay 30 cents.

Exxon uses a theoretical tax to 'pay' its bill, and grandfatherly old Warren Buffett's company Berkshire Hathaway uses hypothetical amounts to avoid paying taxes.

Despite having billions in profits and nearly half of its sales in the U.S., Pfizer claimed enormous losses in the United States.

Each year the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) sells contracts worth about a quadrillion dollars, four times more than all the wealth in the world. Yet ZERO sales tax is paid on the purchases.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016june17 trumpmediaempIs Trump campaigning his brand to launch a media empire? (Photo: Russell Davies)

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Will Donald Trump be joining some of his fellow billionaires in establishing his own cable network? Can he monetize his popularity with the segment of the population that turns out at his rallies and buys Trump paraphernalia? Is there an audience for All Trump/All The Time?

Billionaires’ ownership of newspapers and other media outlets is nothing new. Earlier this month, Forbes’ Kate Vinton reported that “billionaires have long exerted influence on the news simply by owning U.S. media outlets.” Rupert Murdoch and Michael Bloomberg “are longtime media moguls who made their fortunes in the news business,” while Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who bought The Washington Post, “bought publications as a side investment after building a substantial fortune in another industry. “

According to Vinton, “Billionaires own part or all of several of America’s influential national newspapers, including The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, in addition to magazines, local papers and online publications.”

Sheldon Adelson, the multibillionaire casino magnate, a major funder of right-wing causes and candidates and a Donald Trump endorser, owns a daily newspaper in Israel called Israel Hayom; bought after being unhappy with how he was being covered in Israel. Here at home, Adelson bought the Las Vegas Review-Journal for a reported $140 million.

2016.16.6 bf chow(Photo: flo21)LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

BuzzFlash isn't funded by corporate advertising, but by readers like you. Can you help sustain this critically important work with a tax-deductible donation?

Major kudos to Hannah Rousey. The college-bound student from Lovell, Maine has turned down a $1,000 scholarship money from Nestlé subsidiary Poland Spring‬ due to her objections to bottled water and the company's environmentally destructive practices.

"I am grateful for the scholarship I have been awarded, but I cannot in good faith accept money from a company that does not exhibit sustainable and ethical practices," she wrote a letter to the bottling company on June 2, according to the Conway Daily Sun.

The 17 year old has been accepted to Sterling College in Vermont where she will pursue a degree in sustainable agriculture and environmental protection law and policy. She was one of five students who received a $1,000 Poland Spring Good Science scholarship at her high school graduation ceremony from Fryeburg Academy in Fryeburg, Maine, the Bridgton News reported.

Thursday, 16 June 2016 06:50

Mass Murder and the US Penchant for War

2016.16.6 bf koehler(Photo: Martin Frey)ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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This won't be the last.

Half a week into the Orlando tragedy, this reality remains pretty much unacknowledged, as cause-seekers focus on security and ISIS and the specific mental instability of Omar Mateen, who, as the world knows, took 49 precious lives and injured 53 others at the nightclub Pulse in the early hours of June 12.

Was it terrorism? Was it a hate crime? Apparently there's a media obsession with categorizing murder. No, this was faux-war, as all our mass killings are, waged by an army of one or two or a few. And it won't be the last. Mass killings are part of the social fabric -- still shocking, still horrifying, but becoming more and more . . . "normal."

Tighter security won't stop them. Destroying ISIS won't stop them. Banning immigrants won't stop them. Maybe nothing will -- though I don't believe that. I do believe in karma, which is to say, the idea that what goes around comes around. If we act with violence, violence will come back to haunt us.

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