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Tuesday, 19 September 2017 05:49

Another Trump Administration Assault on Nature

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

BearsEarsInterior Secretary Ryan Zinke wants to reduce the size of several National Monuments, including Bears Ears (seen above) in Utah. (Photo: IIP Photo Archive

The Trump administration is a clear and present danger to our planet's macro-environment because of its denial of global warming. Just yesterday, Politico published an article that confirmed the White House is still pulling out of the Paris accord:

A top White House official in a meeting with foreign officials on Monday reiterated President Donald Trump's plan to withdraw from an international climate agreement unless he can secure a better deal for the United States....

"We are withdrawing and we made that as clear as it can be. I don't know how to say it any more clearly," Cohn said at the meeting, according to a third person familiar with his remarks.

Meanwhile, on the domestic side, one can expect that not only will the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) find a myriad of ways to avoid protecting the environment, but that agencies such as the Department of the Interior will reduce the size of national monuments and privatize where possible the National Park Service experience. For instance, according to a Teen Vogue report, the Trump administration revoked a partial plastic water bottle ban that had been introduced by the National Park Service in the Obama administration:

In 2011, the National Park Service (NPS) implemented a policy to curb plastic litter and "reduce our carbon footprint": a restriction on bottled-water sales at national parks. On August 16, the federal government announced that the Obama-era policy would be repealed, effective immediately. The original policy wasn't a ban, per say, since only 23 of 417 national parks in the United States — such as the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon National Park, Mount Rushmore, and Zion National Park — stopped selling bottled water, in order to encourage visitors to use refillable bottles. But the policy was colloquially referred to by media and citizens as the "water bottle ban."

"While we will continue to encourage the use of free water-bottle filling stations as appropriate, ultimately it should be up to our visitors to decide how best to keep themselves and their families hydrated during a visit to a national park," acting National Park Service Director Michael T. Reynolds said in a statement.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Meat 0918wrp opt(Photo: Shawn Harquail)In the early 1990s, legislation specifically aiming at gagging whistleblowers was introduced in several states. These "ag-gag" laws, initiated by the agricultural-industrial complex, targeted journalists, environmental and animal rights activists, preventing them from taking photographs or video at slaughterhouses and other agricultural operations. As Esquire's Charles P. Pierce recently pointed out, these laws were aimed at "criminaliz[ing] the gathering of evidence regarding environmental pollution on public lands, as well as evidence regarding unsanitary conditions in facilities like slaughterhouses and factory farms."

According to The Humane Society of the United States, "Ag-gag bills seek to make it difficult or impossible for whistleblowing employees or animal advocacy groups to expose animal cruelty or safety issues. These bills can take a variety of forms, but the intent is the same: to punish those who expose patterns of animal abuse or food safety violations on factory farms, and therefore conceal these abuses from the public." 

Recently, ag-gag laws in Utah and Wyoming were ruled unconstitutional. In July, the U.S. District Court of Utah struck down the law on the grounds that it is unconstitutional.

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

MedAll 0918wrp opt(Photo: Molly Adams / Flickr)Of course, it will pay for itself eventually, with lower administrative costs and savings on medications and provider fees. 

Universal health care is getting closer to reality at the state level, in California. The Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) has analyzed a proposal for a statewide single-payer health care system that would reduce current costs by at least 8 percent. It would be funded in two ways: (1) a continuation of Medicare and MediCal; and (2) gross receipts and sales taxes, both at 2.3 percent, with exemptions for small businesses, low-income residents, and purchases of basic necessities. Unfortunately, California has postponed the plan, at least until January, 2018. 

At the national level, Bernie Sanders' single-payer plan is forecasted to save $6 trillion over 10 years. It could be funded in part by the elimination of special treatment for capital gains, payroll taxes, and multi-million dollar estates. While anticipating inevitable resistance from monied interests, it can nevertheless be accurately demonstrated that three Americans -- or, rather, groups of Americans -- have received the most benefits from years of national productivity, and should provide most of the initial funding.

BILL QUIGLEY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Katrina 0915wrp optHurricane Katrina. (Photo: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)Dear Fellow Hurricane Survivors:

Our hearts go out to you as you try to return to and fix your homes and lives.  Based on our experiences, here are a few things you should watch out for as you rebuild your communities.

1.  Rents are going to skyrocket and waves of evictions are likely.  With so many houses damaged and so many highly paid contractors coming into your region whose companies will pay anything to house them, landlords are going to start evicting people to make way for higher paying occupants.  Work with local organizations to enact a moratorium on evictions and a freeze on rents to allow working and low income people to come home and have a place to stay.

2.  Rip off contractors and vulture businesses are probably already on the scene.  Don’t give money to anyone unless you know and trust them and do not pay for everything in advance!   

3.   Take pictures of everything that was damaged and hold onto all receipts for all your disaster expenses.  Get a special binder and keep all your papers in it.  Sadly, the process of getting assistance is going to last for years for many people and you will need to prove what damage you have.

4.  Right after a disaster there is an outpouring of compassion, support and solidarity.  Take what you need for your community.  But realize the window of compassion and support shuts much quicker than it should.  Then people will start blaming the victims.

In the thrall of big money from the fossil-fuel industry, the Republican Party has spent the last eight years stonewalling and refusing action, putting at risk the safety and security of our citizens and the future of our planet.In the thrall of big money from the fossil fuel industry, the Republican Party has spent the last eight years stonewalling and refusing action, putting at risk the safety and security of our citizens and the future of our planet. (Photo: Gage Skidmore / Flickr)ETHAN GOFFMAN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Perhaps Hurricanes Harvey and Irma will be wake-up calls to the politicians of Texas and Florida about the realities of climate change. Both are states with climate-denying governors and populations that voted for denier-in-chief Donald Trump. Florida Gov. Rick Scott has even been widely accused of banning the term "climate change" among state employees.

It seems that Mother Nature is sending a message that, yes, climate change is real and this is only the beginning. No one knows where or when, but such disasters will only get worse in coming years. And the tables have turned, as Texas Sen. Ted Cruz came begging, hat in hand, for money from Congress when four years earlier he voted to deny such funds to New York and New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy.

Nevertheless, those suffering the worst are the poor and people of color who had nothing whatsoever with denying climate change and do the least to cause it. So it seems that we should be sending whatever it takes to rebuild these lost homes and ways of life.

In a conventional court, justice is an adversarial process: Judgment comes from on high and the role of the defendant is to shut up and obey. In Restorative Justice Community Court, there is a larger, more complex understanding of the context in which crime occurs and all participants have a say in how to heal its wounds.In a conventional court, justice is an adversarial process. In Restorative Justice Community Court, there is a larger, more complex understanding of the context in which crime occurs and all participants have a say in how to heal its wounds. (Photo: AJEL / Pixabay)ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Help us bring you the perspectives and insight that you won't find in the mainstream media. Click here to support BuzzFlash and Truthout with a tax-deductible donation.

"Even if you’re the one charged, you will help create the answer."

And the court has now come to order.

The speaker is Colleen Sheehan, the presiding judge of the Restorative Justice Community Court, which opened last week in the Chicago neighborhood of North Lawndale, after several years of intense planning.

This new court – this utterly new idea about the administration, and meaning, of "justice" – is part of the Cook County Circuit Court system, launched as a two-year pilot project with the help of a $200,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice. It is also, in the eyes of the many people who have helped to make this court a reality, the beginning of something extraordinary: a movement away from punishment-based judicial proceedings to a system based on . . . healing.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

wisconsincapitolScott Walker and Wisconsin are serving as a model for contemporary state union-busting. Wisconsin Capitol. (Photo: Basharat Alam Shah)

Scott Walker's Wisconsin model for eviscerating public unions is still very much a working model for the right wing. In fact, the Guardian posted an August 30 article on how a coordinated effort to attack public unions is underway in legislatures across the nation. Headlined "Rightwing alliance plots assault to 'defund and defang' America's unions," the report states:

Rightwing activists across the US have launched a nationwide campaign to undermine progressive politicians by depriving them of a major source of support and funding -- public sector unions.

A network of conservative think tanks with outposts in all 50 states has embarked on a “breakthrough” campaign designed to strike a “mortal blow” against the American left. The aim is to “defund and defang” unions representing government employees as the first step towards ensuring the permanent collapse of progressive politics....

The new assault is being spearheaded by the State Policy Network (SPN), an alliance of 66 state-based think tanks, or “ideas factories” as it calls them, with a combined annual budget of $80m. As suggested by its slogan -- “State solutions. National impact” -- the group outlines an aim to construct a rightwing hegemony throughout the US, working from the bottom up.

According to the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), a national corporate watchdog organization, the SPN is currently working to weaken the unions that represent first responders who are helping Houston residents get back on their feet after Hurricane Harvey.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

JS 0913wrp opt(Photo: Sharat Ganapati / Flickr)Come mid-October, representatives from possibly as many as seventy predominantly conservative Christian media organizations will be heading to Israel for a four-day "Christian Media Summit" in Jerusalem. As Ha'aretz's Judy Maltz recently reported, the conference is aimed at further cementing ties between Christian conservatives and the Israeli government.

According to Maltz, the Israeli government -- which is sponsoring the gathering of broadcasters and journalists, and paying for the participant's accommodations – is "hoping to explain the country and its often controversial policies to this new target audience."

While many issues will be discussed at the first-of-its-kind Summit, it is possible that high up on the list is solidifying opposition to those promoting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.

At the February National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) International Christian Media Convention, in Orlando, Florida, Laurie Cardoza-Moore, founder and president of Proclaiming Justice to the Nations (PJTN), sharply rebuked Christian supporting BDS. "It is fake theology, like it is fake news!" she said.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

hospitalemergencyThe police abuse and arrest of a nurse at a Utah Hospital is just the tip of the iceberg. (Photo: Hamza Butt)

The National Nurses United association occasionally uses the slogan, "Stop the Violence. Heal America." This slogan became particularly pertinent to the profession when a Salt Lake City nurse was roughed up, handcuffed and arrested in late July for following hospital policy, sanctioned by court decisions. She refused to provide a city police officer with a blood sample from an unconscious patient. In this case, clearly, the police weren't stopping violence but precipitating it -- in a hospital, of all places.

On September 1, National Nurses United strongly condemned the action in a news release:

National Nurses United today criticized the actions of Salt Lake City police officers for assaulting and arresting a University of Utah registered nurse for advocating for an unconscious patient in late July.

In a press conference yesterday RN Alex Wubbels, released a video and described how she was assaulted and arrested and handcuffed by police, even after a hospital supervisor confirmed to the officers she was in full compliance with hospital policy for refusing to allow police to take a blood sample from an unconscious patient without his consent.

“The first job of a registered nurse is always to protect and advocate for her patient, period,” said Jean Ross, RN, co-president of National Nurses United, the nation’s largest union and professional association of RNs, calling the police actions “outrageous.”

“As the videos and news accounts make clear, there is no excuse for this assault, or her arrest, which sends a chilling message about the safety of nurses and the rights of patients,” Ross said.

Hospitals are not immune from violence. For example, personal disputes that result in injury sometimes are extended into the facilities by the feuding parties.

BISHOP DWAYNE ROYSTER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

6096334425 6da6072c3e z opt(Photo: Jason Taellious / Flickr)Today, 60 clergy and faith leaders from a dozen states are descending on Capitol Hill with a single question for their representatives: Will you make a righteous decision for communities of color or will you resign?

Making a righteous decision is making a decision to resist hate. Our nation was built, and has been maintained, on a clear hierarchy of human value. Today, white supremacy shows up in the policies that the Trump administration is pushing, which keep Black and Brown communities down, if not actually out of the country. Between ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) for 800,000 Dreamers and putting forth a budget that increases spending for militarization of the border and increased raids, detention and harassment of immigrants by $2.6 billion, President Donald J. Trump is forcing us to choose which of our neighbors can stay: children or their parents. Meanwhile, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is reinvigorating the war on drugs, which imprisoned African Americans for doing the same things their white peers did.

People from all races and backgrounds benefit from government services, but congressional Republicans and the Trump administration see communities of color as unworthy of the services afforded to others. The House budget would repeal the Affordable Care Act and restructure Medicaid to cut over $1 trillion from health care and give each of the richest 400 families a tax break of $7 million annually. The president's tax plan includes $5.5 trillion in tax breaks for wealthy elites and big corporations -- so that there's little or nothing left for anyone else.

We could go on, but the point is clear. This is what it looks like when those in power perpetuate a system that serves only themselves. People of faith are building a new movement that includes people of all religions, all races and all income levels and sees every person for who they are -- children of God who deserve fair treatment, safety and opportunity, without exceptions.

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