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Avoiding plastic straws won't save the oceans or the world on its own, but as we've seen with plastic bags and public smoking, when people start thinking about their habits and making small changes, they can bring about shifts in consciousness that lead to wider societal changes. Avoiding plastic straws won't save the oceans or the world on its own, but as we've seen with plastic bags and public smoking, when people start thinking about their habits and making small changes, they can bring about shifts in consciousness that lead to wider societal changes. (Photo: Dean Hochman)DR. DAVID SUZUKI OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

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Of all the plastic products we use and take for granted, plastic drinking straws are among the most unnecessary. Designed to be used once and discarded, their only real purpose is to keep your mouth from touching a glass or ice. It made more sense in the days when contaminated vessels were more of an issue.

Now, there's a movement to get people and businesses to ditch the straws. It may not seem like a big deal, but it is. In the U.S. alone, people discard 500 million straws every day, or more than 180 billion a year. That's about 1.4 million kilograms of plastic sent to landfills and into the oceans every day!

Drinking straws have a long history and weren't always a big problem. The first ones were made from straw, or any strawlike grass or plant. That changed in the 1880s when Washington, DC, resident Marvin Stone was drinking a mint julep through a rye grass stalk. He didn't like the residue it left in his drink, and so he wrapped paper around a pencil, removed the pencil, glued the paper together and a straw was born! In 1888, Stone patented a version made from manila paper coated with paraffin.

2017.25.7 BF BerkowitzDemonstrators gather to protest the National Rifle Association on December 21, 2012.  (Photo: Joshlopezphoto)BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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Without the drummed-up fear that a black president would take guns away from law-abiding citizens, the National Rifle Association is turning toward vilifying and pillorying the Black Lives Matter movement against police brutality in order to drum up gun sales. One of the platforms it now has at its disposal is NRATV. While the fledging network may not yet be among the choices in your cable television package, or available through existing streaming services, given the power of the gun lobbying organization, NRATV may soon be coming to screen near you.

Launched in October of last year, NRATV's declared mission is to provide "The most comprehensive video coverage of Second Amendment issues, events and culture anywhere in the world." The network offers such programing as NRANEWs, presented by Ruger, NRAWOMEN, presented by Smith & Wesson, NRACOUNTRY and NRAHUNTING, as well as an array of commentators.

CURTIS JOHNSON FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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Superstorm1 0724wrp optSuperstorms are additional evidence of climate change. (Photo: Mike Trenchard)On June 30, Climatewire reported that Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Scott Pruitt had launched a government initiative "to challenge mainstream climate science" using military inspired "red-team, blue-team debates" on climate change.

According to a senior administration official,

The administrator (Pruitt) believes that we will be able to recruit the best in the fields which study climate and will organize a specific process in which these individuals ... provide back-and-forth critique of specific new reports on climate science

...

We are in fact very excited about this initiative…. Climate science, like other fields of science, is constantly changing. A new, fresh and transparent evaluation is something everyone should support doing.

Pruitt said he was moved to call for such debates after reading published articles by physicist Steve Koonin in the Wall Street Journal and climate change “skeptic” Brett Stephens in The New York Times, advocating more debate on climate. In an interview with Breitbart, Pruitt said, “The American people need to have that type of honest, open discussion, and it’s something we hope to provide as part of our leadership.” Pruitt told Reuters that it would be good to hold the debate on TV so it’s “open to the world” and that the American people “deserve it.”

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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BigAg 0724wrp optA "broiler house" used by the US poultry industry. (Photo: Joe Valbuena)Another reason for single-payer health care: The documentary What the Health shows how the lives and health of human beings are considered insignificant, and in many ways threatened, by the pursuit of profits in the meat and dairy and drug industries. 

The corporate disdain revealed by this film is nearly beyond belief. And our 'trusted' watchdog agencies, both non-profit and government, are beholden to the biggest companies, accepting money in return for their silence about the dangers of animal and pharmaceutical products. 

Some of the contentions in the documentary have been disputed, most notably the implication that sugar is not a major factor in diabetes, and that dairyis. Indeed there may be flaws in the documentary. But it clearly reveals the damaging behavior of the businesses and organizations that are contributing to human suffering. 

Despicable: Corporate Profits at the Expense of Our Health

According to the documentary (and othersources), the World Health Organization and other major health groups have labeled both processed and red meats as carcinogenic. Yet powerful lobbying efforts have kept America near the top of the world in meat consumption. The drug and chemical industries do their part by providing pesticide-filled GMO corn and soy, fed mostly to dairy cows, and with most of their antibiotic products going to fatten up the animals most of us eat.

2017.20.7 BF TraversThe greater sage grouse was denied protection under the Endangered Species Act in 2015 thanks to the anti-conservation efforts led by Wyoming Governor Matt Mead. (Photo: USFWS - Pacific Region)JULIA TRAVERS OF ENVIRONEWS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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Whitefish, Montana -- On June 28, 2017, the Western Governors' Association (WGA) released its 2017 recommendations to alter the Endangered Species Act (ESA) after its annual meeting in Montana. The resolution arrived at calls for an increase in state power over ESA implementation and an easing of the endangered species delisting process.

Jamie Rappaport Clark, President and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife (Defenders), issued this statement regarding the resolution:

The Western Governors' Association's call for legislative changes to the Endangered Species Act opens a Pandora's box in this hostile Congress. Since 2015, Congress has introduced more than 150 bills, amendments and riders that would undermine the ESA and weaken conservation measures for imperiled species. We cannot risk opening the Act to the avalanche of destructive amendments that would gut our nation's most effective law for protecting endangered and threatened wildlife.

Thursday, 20 July 2017 07:14

Civilian Death and the Language of War

The only way not to notice the repulsiveness of this is to believe, even reluctantly, in the need for the US to keep on waging war in the Middle East and eventually defeat terrorism and evil. This is how much of the media report the news of war, even when they report it critically.The only way not to notice the repulsiveness of this is to believe, even reluctantly, in the need for the US to keep on waging war in the Middle East and eventually defeat terrorism and evil. This is how much of the media report the news of war, even when they report it critically. (Photo: Pixabay)ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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Finally it comes down to this: Some people are expendable.

In certain parts of the world -- where we and our allies are waging war -- the expendable people come in two categories: terrorists (good riddance!) and civilians, whom we only kill if and when necessary, and whose deaths often elicit official apologies (if there’s no way to deny it was our fault).

Indeed, as Secretary of Defense James Mattis said, according to the Daily Beast, "There has been no change to our continued extraordinary efforts to avoid innocent civilian casualties."

We care about civilians so much -- especially children -- that we actually inconvenience ourselves in our efforts (don’t ask for details) to avoid killing them. This is true even though civilian deaths in Syria and Iraq have risen more than fourfold since Donald Trump has been in office -- according to a study for the Daily Beast conducted by the research organization Airwars -- and Trump has famously unshackled the military so that, as Mattis put it, "we can annihilate ISIS" (or as Trump put it, "bomb the shit" out of ISIS).

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JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Robbery 0719wrp optA robbery in progress. (Photo: German Federal Archive)We the People are being burgled. Again.

The latest hit is just the latest in a long string of political robberies, a nationwide crime wave being pulled off by moneyed elites and their political henchmen. With each heist, they haul off a little more of our democratic power: the ability of the working majority to have any real say in the corporate and governmental decisions that affect us.

The elites are master thieves, often plucking pieces of our power without us realizing it, until we try to use it and — phhttt — it's gone. And yet another democracy-stealing tool has recently been fabricated and quietly distributed to profiteering corporations and right-wing ideologues throughout the country: PREEMPTION.

This concept has been around since Day One of our nation, contained in the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution and in similar clauses in state constitutions. It allows higher levels of government to intervene and overrule lower levels - the Feds can legally preempt state and local laws, and states can preempt city and county ordinances.

Obviously, this extreme power is fraught with danger, so it's meant to be used sparingly and only to advance a very big public purpose like, for example, overriding state and local laws that officially sanction rank racial discrimination.

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

We the People are being burgled. Again.

The latest hit is just the latest in a long string of political robberies, a nationwide crime wave being pulled off by moneyed elites and their political henchmen. With each heist, they haul off a little more of our democratic power: the ability of the working majority to have any real say in the corporate and governmental decisions that affect us.

The elites are master thieves, often plucking pieces of our power without us realizing it, until we try to use it and — phhttt — it's gone. And yet another democracy-stealing tool has recently been fabricated and quietly distributed to profiteering corporations and right-wing ideologues throughout the country: PREEMPTION.

This concept has been around since Day One of our nation, contained in the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution and in similar clauses in state constitutions. It allows higher levels of government to intervene and overrule lower levels - the Feds can legally preempt state and local laws, and states can preempt city and county ordinances.

Obviously, this extreme power is fraught with danger, so it's meant to be used sparingly and only to advance a very big public purpose like, for example, overriding state and local laws that officially sanction rank racial discrimination.

BuzzFlash and Truthout depend on reader support -- can you make a tax-deductible donation and help publish journalism with real integrity and independence?

BRIAN TRAUTMAN, GERRY CONDON AND SAMANTHA FERGUSON FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

NukeBan 0719wrp optThe aftermath of a nuclear detonation. (Photo: US Department of Energy)On July 7th, 2017, the United Nations (UN), in a historic decision, approved a legally binding instrument to ban nuclear weapons, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Months of negotiations involving over 130 countries began in March of this year, culminating in a final draft endorsed by 122 countries. The treaty marks a significant milestone to help free the world of nuclear weapons.

The treaty emphasizes "the catastrophic humanitarian consequences that would result from any use of nuclear weapons." It forbids participating states "to develop, test, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices." Additionally, it explains that the complete elimination of nuclear weapons from international arsenals "remains the only way to guarantee that nuclear weapons are never used again under any circumstances."

In keeping with a history of being unwilling to relinquish its massive nuclear arsenal, the U.S refused to enter treaty negotiations and used its status as the sole remaining international superpower to organize a boycott that influenced approximately 40 countries.

U.S. ambassador to the UN Nikki R. Haley defended the absence of the U.S. from the negotiations, stating, "There is nothing I want more for my family than a world with no nuclear weapons, but we have to be realistic. Is there anyone who thinks that North Korea would ban nuclear weapons?" Veterans For Peace (VFP), a nonprofit working since 1985 to abolish war and nurture peace and the only veterans non-governmental organization (NGO) represented at the UN, released a statement in response, strongly criticizing the U.S.'s refusal to participate, noting that the discussions were a "series of missed opportunities by the United States to use its position as the world's undisputed military power to change the course of history … and end the danger and peril that nuclear weapons pose to the world."

2017.18.7 BF chowdhryEven though there is no real threat to US national security from the muslim community, the government has successfully reenergized centuries old stereotypes, asserting that Muslim Americans can never assimilate to the "American way" of life. (Photo: Joe Piette)NIMRA CHOWDHRY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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One day after celebrating the Muslim holiday of Eid-al-fitr with my family, I learned that the Supreme Court of the United States unanimously agreed to hear arguments on the Trump administration's Muslim travel ban. In granting review of two appellate injunctions, the Supreme Court allowed for an amended ban to go into effect.

This is what it's like to be a Muslim in the US today: living in a constant state of whiplash. One day you are with your family and friends, enjoy and celebrating each other, the next day you are assessing the effects of a new blow on the basis of your faith. Even though courts in this country have consistently found the administration's policy to be an attack on Muslims, those perceived to be Muslim and those from Muslim majority countries, the Supreme Court didn't address this issue in depth in granting its review. But what we do know is that this conversation will be front and center, when the case is heard in early October.

I am a Pakistani-Muslim American and a proud immigrant. I refuse to stand by as our nation denounces its own proclaimed values by targeting people who look like me.

cadets, it was their final full day of their Junior Cadet Leadership Course, a five-day summer camp that introduces the cadets to a military lifestyle and environment. Cadets attend a five-day summer camp that "introduces the cadets to a military lifestyle and environment." (Photo: Virginia Guard Public Affairs)PAT ELDER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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Ominous developments in three states this summer -- Oregon, Texas, New Jersey, and one city -- Chicago, provide a glimpse into the Pentagon's new playbook to recruit soldiers from high schools across the country. In brief, the military has been engaged in a robust lobbying campaign to lower academic standards to make it easier to recruit youth. 

New recruitshave long been required to hold a high school diploma or a GED certificate. This requirement is a major impediment to finding enough soldiers to meet annual targets, but even when struggling students barely manage to graduate, the Pentagon has developed a plan to marshal more of them into the military.

The Oregon Department of Education recently endorsed the Oregon National Guard's Credit Proficiency Program for use in high schools across the state. The program gives juniors and seniors the chance to earn academic credits while training for military service at Oregon National Guard facilities. The program is expected to cut the state's drop-out rate while increasing the on-time graduation rate. In 2015 Oregon's 74.8% graduation rate was the third lowest in the country.

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