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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.

STEVEN JONAS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaSelma(Photo: Peter Pettus)Weren't the valiant, courageous actions of civil rights advocates a triumph for social justice? Did it not lead to further advances in that struggle? And if you are referring to the movie, is it not a triumph as well, getting a film that portrays one of the signal struggles of the Movement during the 60s with such searing honesty, no holds barred in dealing with the "Which side are you on?" question, applied to this event? Well, yes, the Selma March was a triumph for the civil rights movement. It played a very important role in getting Lyndon Johnson to support what became the Voting Rights Act. It did lead to further advances in that struggle. The movie is a triumph as well, a brilliantly staged and acted docudrama which, among other things, uses the real Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, as the setting for the real march that took place across it in 1865.

Ironically enough, the bridge is named for a Confederate Brigadier General, who later, operating out of his law office, became the leader of the Alabama Ku Klux Klan in Selma and went on to become a U.S. Senator from Alabama. This is particularly ironic in the context of the Voting Rights Act and the struggle to enact it. The Ku Klux Klan was founded very shortly after the end of the civil war by an association of ex-Confederate generals, planters, certain Democratic politicians, and other white leadership who wanted to return the civil society in the South as much as possible to what it had been before the Civil War, with the exception of not having the institution of chattel slavery in place.

One of the principal objectives of the Klan, from the earliest days of its founding, was to prevent the newly freed slaves from the exercising the right to vote that had been granted to them by the 14th (1868) and 15th (1870) Amendments to the Constitution. The language of the latter is particularly instructive: "1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude. 2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation." But with the power first of the Klan, with the ever-spreading denial of the vote to African-Americans, and then with the institution over a period of some years of what was called the "Jim Crow" laws by the Democratic Party in the South, African-Americans were indeed systematically denied the right that had being guaranteed to them by the 15th amendment.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

anypd(Photo: longislandwins)

In a revealing informal survey conducted in late 2014, Reuters found that, among a random sampling of Black New York Police Department (NYPD) officers, almost all had experienced racial profiling by other police when off duty.

According to Reuters:

From the dingy donut shops of Manhattan to the cloistered police watering holes in Brooklyn, a number of black NYPD officers say they have experienced the same racial profiling that cost Eric Garner his life….

Reuters interviewed 25 African American male officers on the NYPD, 15 of whom are retired and 10 of whom are still serving. All but one said that, when off duty and out of uniform, they had been victims of racial profiling, which refers to using race or ethnicity as grounds for suspecting someone of having committed a crime.

Some of these incidents involved harrowing physical threats. 

2015.1.27.BF.COMMFaced with the facts presented by "Le Petit Journal," Fox not only apologized, but did it three times: for the mischaracterizing of embracing Paris communities; its use of a faulty poll; and its baseless claim of government-recognized "no-go zones" for non-Muslims. (Photo: Le Petit Journal via Facebook)

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

"Le Petit Journal," A French comedy show akin to "The Daily Show," used facts and satire to force Fox News to apologize for three "errors" the Murdoch network disseminated in its effort to whip up anti-Islamic hysteria through its "reporting."

Specifically, Fox had claimed that there were neighborhoods in Paris that were dangerous to non-Muslims; that there was a poll taken that showed a significant number of French young people supported ISIS; and that there were official "no-go zones" for persons who are not of the Islamic faith (this included baseless accusations that such "no-go zones" also existed in England, an assertion echoed by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal in a Fox interview).

You can watch the host of "Le Petit Journal," Yann Barthès, bask in satisfaction at the Fox admission of "errors" as he munches on popcorn and sips from a drink, here. The segment doesn't have subtitles, but you will understand most of it even if you don't speak French; the clips of Fox anchors admitting their Islamophobic claims about Paris (and England) were false are, of course, in English. It will also help to know three French expressions: La Carte (the map); Les Sondages (opinion polls); and Les No-Go Zones (the no-go zones).

2015.1.26.Brasch.BFCollege students, staff and faculty have been active in pushing their institutions to eliminate fossil fuel stocks from their portfolios. (Photo: Light Brigading / Flickr)

WALTER BRASCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Long before the price of gas and oil began to plummet, socially conscious churches, universities, nonprofit organizations, and local governments began to divest themselves of fossil fuel stock and shock the fossil fuel industry to understand the environmental and public health concerns.

The World Council of Churches, which represents about 590 million Christians in 520,000 congregations, decided in July that to continue to hold fossil fuel stock would compromise its ethics, and recommended that the 349 member denominations consider divesting oil and gas stock.

Six of the eight Anglican dioceses of New Zealand and Polynesia, and four dioceses in Australia divested their portfolios of fossil fuel stock.

2015.1.26.Buchheit.BF"Making money is all a game to the super-rich - redistribution toward the top, trickle-down delusions, tax avoidance, and even, for some of them, dabbling in criminal activities," writes Buchheit. (Image: Jared Rodriguez / t r u t h o u t)PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Just 10 percent of Americans own 91 percent of the nation's stocks and mutual funds, according to economist Edward Wolff (Table 7). Most of the remainder is held by a "middle class" that is steadily losing ground. The bottom 60 percent is almost entirely shut out (Table 2).

Stock owners, some of whom made billions of dollars last year, can defer their income taxes indefinitely, pay a reduced capital gains tax when they decide to cash in, or pass on the capital gains tax-free to their heirs.

Making money is all a game to the super-rich - redistribution toward the top, trickle-down delusions, tax avoidance, and even, for some of them, dabbling in criminal activities. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) once 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." Here's part of their game plan:


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$2 of every $5 owned today was created in the last five years, most of it from the financial markets, and almost all of it going to the richest 10 percent.

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