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JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaCubaObama(Photo: Raul Castro and President Obama, photo by US Government)I’ll never forget that image of President Ronald Reagan on Wall Street, holding a large pair of scissors over a symbolic pile of papers representing hard-won laws over the last century that restricted corporate monopolies, banks, unfair labor conditions and pollution. We also had important FDA regulations to protect the public from contaminated food and unsafe drugs.

Hundreds of protective laws have been sent to the slaughterhouse, compliments of the U.S. government with congressional assurance that they will never rise up to interfere with profitable industrial gains again.

Looking beyond President Obama’s persuasive speech to “chart a new course in U.S. relations with Cuba that will engage and empower the Cuban people,” what does Obama really have in mind behind closed doors? This is the question.

President Obama is the master of giving impressive speeches, but his executive decisions, that have benefited industrial profits at our expense, speak louder than his words.

2015.6.7 BF MEllino(Photo: Richard Ling)COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

What’s up with all the shark attacks recently? According to the International Shark Attack File at the University of Florida, the Carolinas have had at least 10 shark attacks so far this year—seven in North Carolina and three in South Carolina. This is already more than last year, in which North Carolina saw only four attacks total for the year, according to National Geographic. “In the previous decade, there were only 25 shark attacks in North Carolina. And there have been just 55 documented shark attacks in the state between 1905 and 2014,” saysNational Geographic. Clearly, shark attacks are on the rise in the state. So what gives?

“Across the United States overall, shark attacks are on pace with an average year, and the chance of getting bit is still very low—an estimated one in 11.5 million for an ocean bather,” George H. Burgess, the director of the International Shark Attack File at the Florida Museum of Natural History, tells National Geographic. But, he adds, “Clearly, something is going on in North Carolina right now.” 

2015.6.7 BF Buchheit(Photo: Richard Lee)PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

In early 2015 Stanford University's updated CREDO Report concluded that "urban charter schools in the aggregate provide significantly higher levels of annual growth in both math and reading compared to their TPS peers."

This single claim of success has a lot of people believing that charter schools really work. But there are good reasons to be skeptical. First of all, CREDO is funded and managed by reform advocates. It's part of the Hoover Institution, a conservative and pro-business think tank funded in part by the Walton Foundation, and in partnership with Pearson, a leading developer of standardized testing materials. CREDO director Margaret Raymond is pro-charter and a free-market advocate.

The 2015 CREDO study received much of its input, according to a Louisiana source, from the New Orleans Recovery School District and charter promoter New Schools for New Orleans, who together had "embarked on a bold, five-year journey to standardize, validate and export the New Orleans charter restart model...addressing the problem of failing schools by restarting them with schools operated by charter operators."

Regarding national findings, a review of the CREDO study by the National Education Policy Center questioned CREDO's statistical methods: for example, the study excluded public schools that do NOT send students to charters, thus "introducing a bias against the best urban public schools."

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaabnewsomeconfBree Newsome boldly seized the Confederate flag, taking direct action for freedom. (Image: Reposted with permission of the artist, Rebecca Cohen)

Subsequent to Newsome's arrest when she reached the bottom of the Confederate soldier memorial flagpole on South Carolina capitol state grounds, she released a statement to Blue Nation Review. In part, she wrote:

I realized that now is the time for true courage the morning after the Charleston Massacre shook me to the core of my being. I couldn’t sleep. I sat awake in the dead of night. All the ghosts of the past seemed to be rising....

This was real.

This was—this is—still happening....

It is important to remember that our struggle doesn’t end when the flag comes down. The Confederacy is a southern thing, but white supremacy is not. Our generation has taken up the banner to fight battles many thought were won long ago. We must fight with all vigor now so that our grandchildren aren’t still fighting these battles in another 50 years. Black Lives Matter. This is non-negotiable.

It is understandable why the July 4th ritual of filling the dark skies with glittering light, exploding sounds and whistles is so exciting to so many. However, watching fireworks is not enough to advance freedom in a nation that is madly in love with so many myths about liberty, instead of actively advancing it.

Thank you, Bree Newsome, for reminding us of that.

2015.2.7 Pantsios(Photo: Casey Hugelfink)ANASTASIA PANTSIOS OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

Oklahoma almost never used to have earthquakes. But in the last six years they’ve increased so much that last year the state surged past California as the most seismically active state in the continental US Prior to 2009, the state averaged two quakes of greater than 3.0 magnitude annually. By 2014 that number had soared to 585, up from 109 in 2013.

The culprit? Scientists are convinced it’s the wastewater injection wells that have accompanied the explosion of fracking in that state during the same time period.

Now the Oklahoma Supreme Court has cleared the way for citizens to sue the oil and gas companies responsible for the wells. In a 7-0 decision, with two justices not voting, the court said that Sandra Ladra, a resident of Prague, Oklahoma, which was hit by a 5.6 magnitude earthquake on Nov. 5, 2011, could seek injuries for injuries she suffered in that tremor.

“On November 5, 2011, Appellant was at home in Prague, Oklahoma watching television in her living room with her family when a 5.0 magnitude earthquake struck nearby,” reads Ladra’s complaint. “Suddenly, Appellant’s home began to shake, causing rock facing on the two-story fireplace and chimney to fall into the living room area. Some of the falling rocks struck Appellant and caused significant injury to her knees and legs, and she was rushed immediately to an emergency room for treatment. She claims personal injury damages in excess of $75,000.”

The industry said that the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, which regulates the oil and gas industries and tends to be very friendly toward them, should deal with these cases. The state supreme court disagreed.

2015.2.7 BF Koehler(Photo: David_Beltra_Tejero)ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

“The existence of the approximately 14,000 photographs will probably cause yet another delay in the military commissions at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as attorneys for the defendants demand that all the images be turned over and the government wades through the material to decide what it thinks is relevant to the proceedings.”

This was the Washington Post a few days ago, informing us wearily that the torture thing isn’t dead yet. The bureaucracy convulses, the wheels of justice grind. So much moral relativism to evaluate.

“They did what they were asked to do in the service of our nation,” CIA director John Brennan said at a news conference in December, defending CIA interrogators after a portion of the 6,700-page Senate Intelligence Committee report was made public.

Serving the nation means no more than doing what you’re told.

God bless America. Flags wave, fireworks burst on the horizon. Aren’t we terrific? But this idea we celebrate — this nation, this principled union of humanity — is just a military bureaucracy, full of dark secrets. The darkest, most highly classified secret of all is that we’re always at war and we always will be. And war is an end in itself. It has no purpose beyond its own perpetuation.

This is the context of torture.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaairaqwar55Early 2003 vigil in Washington DC against the Iraq War. (Photo: Elvert Barnes)

One of the most recent destructive legacies of the Bush administration's war with Iraq - launched on the foundation of choreographed lies - is the creation of ISIS. Add to that the implosion of Iraq in sectarian violence, the deaths and displacements of millions of people, and countless more negative consequences of the US invasion.

This autumn, two of the war's key proponents - Paul Wolfowitz and Scooter Libby - will teach a one-week course called "The War in Iraq: A Study in Decision-Making" in late October at the Hertog Foundation in Washington, DC.

According to The Hill, it doesn't seem like Wolfowitz, for one, is about to engage in any mea culpas:

In August [of 2014], Wolfowitz told The Hill the U.S. had 'won' the Iraq War in 2009.

He also said the Obama administration did not try hard enough to secure an agreement with Iraq to leave U.S. forces there after 2011.

It is likely that, in the course, Wolfowitz and Libby will adopt the Dick Cheney posture of blaming the bloody disintegration of Iraq and emergence of ISIS on President Obama for not continuing a large-scale military occupation of the country. 

COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaNeilYoungPope(Photo: EcoWatch)I imagine top executives at Monsanto are not huge fans right now of Neil Young or Pope Francis. The two might seem to lead very disparate lives. One is a life-long Canadian rocker and the other leads a flock of 1.2 billion Catholics. But lately the two have drawn the ire of corporate giants, particularly Monsanto, all over the world.

Neil Young’s album, The Monsanto Years, was released June 29 and it’s already causing quite a stir. Ahead of the album’s release, Monsanto issued a statement criticizing Neil Young for perpetuating myths about the company.

According to Pitchfork, the album “fixes its crosshairs on the GMO-pimping agribusiness behemoth that has a stranglehold on the world’s seed (and, by extension, food) supply, forcing farmers to comply their strict terms or be litigated into destitution.” To be fair, Young doesn’t just single out Monsanto. He takes on Wal-Mart, Chevron, Citizens United and Starbucks, just to name a few.

Last fall, Young made a very public boycott of Starbucks over its (and Monsanto’s) alleged support of the Grocery Manufacturers Association’s lawsuit to prevent Vermont from accurately labeling food. In April, a judge upheld Vermont’s GMO-labeling law while the case continues.

And unless you’ve been living in an off-grid community in the middle of nowhere (if so, that’s awesome), then you are probably aware that Pope Francis released an encyclical earlier this month. In that encyclical, the religious leader did not mince words when it came to the dire need for immediate action on climate change.

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaMarriageRings(Photo: Jeff Belmonte)From 1956 until 2010, CBS television's daytime lineup included America's longest-running soap opera: "As the World Turns." But times change, and now a real-life human drama of profound importance has debuted in America: "As the Generations Turn."

It's the inspiring story of our society's continuing struggle to evolve toward dignity and mutual respect ... as well as love. The moment came on June 26, 2015, when Justice Anthony Kennedy proclaimed from the ornate chamber of the Supreme Court: "The right to marry is a fundamental right inherent in the liberty of the person, and under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the 14th Amendment couples of the same sex may not be deprived of that right and that liberty."

Kennedy and Justices Breyer, Ginsburg, Kagan and Sotomayor voted to make this higher level of inclusiveness the law of the land, but they are not the producers of it. Indeed, while the court's ruling debuts a new day, it is the culmination of generations of painful struggle by brave gay and lesbian activists and advocates. And it is particularly the product of a defiant and determined LGBTQ movement for equality that arose from the brutal police riot at the Stonewall Inn in New York on June 28, 1969.

This democratic evolution from rank inequality literally came out of America's closet, rising through only a few neighborhoods at first, but then entering the consciousness of today's youth. Rejecting the shibboleths, ignorance, fears and bigotry that previously permitted such intolerable discrimination, young people have, in a remarkably short amount of time, created a generational shift in the nation's consciousness.

The true Supremes are the people themselves, and it's their awakening enlightenment that has transformed marriage equality from taboo to simple justice.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaforjulyOn the Fourth of July, celebrate the potential of democracy while acknowledging that the US was founded as an exclusive club of white male voters. (Photo: Bart)

It is July 1, which means that so-called "Independence Day" is just around the corner. It is the season for proponents of "American exceptionalism" to trot out their self-serving, jingoistic rhetoric.

Sure enough, one of my first emails this morning was from an ad hoc group of conservatives promoting an #AmericaProud website and twitter hashtag. Their objective is to "celebrate American exceptionalism" throughout July.

This BuzzFlash commentary could not have been published without the support of readers like you. Click here to make a tax-deductible donation and fund more stories like it!

The email sounds a clarion call to rally around a mythical vision of the founding of the United States. It asserts,

While the progressive left is intent on growing government, eroding man’s natural dignity from God as anchored in the Declaration of Independence, and threatening prosperity and sovereignty, this coalition knows that millions of Americans remain committed to the foundations of American exceptionalism....

American Principles Project in Action, Americans for Limited Government, Concerned Women for America, ConservativeHQ, Eagle Forum, Hillsdale College, NumbersUSA, EAGnews, Tea Party Patriots, and The Heritage Foundation are the first members to join this new and growing coalition, representing millions of Americans.

The #AmericaProud coalition of conservative groups is spreading dangerous misinformation.

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