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NASA Watching Harvey from Satellites and the International Space StationNASA watches Hurricane Harvey from satellites and the International Space Station. (Photo: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center / Flickr)TRAVIS MORALES FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

"We're here to make sure people like you don't get poisoned. But no, you can't deliver your demands to Arkema's management, and no, we won't take them in for you."

That's what two FBI SWAT team members told me on September 4 at the gates of Arkema's chemical plant in Crosby, Texas -- the plant shown belching billows of dark black smoke for days on national TV.

Three of nine containers holding 500,000 pounds of highly flammable and toxic chemical caught fire when power was lost for their refrigeration, and two exploded. What was Arkema's solution to this environmental and health disaster? A mandatory evacuation order for a 1.5-mile radius around the plant and igniting the six remaining containers!

The flames are out, Arkema's CEO has "apologized" to the people of Crosby, and the company has listed some of the chemicals at its plant, but it is still refusing full disclosure -- even as at least 18 people have been taken to the hospital complaining of problems caused by smoke from the burning chemicals. 


Apocalypse 0906wrp opt(Photo: Steven Guzzardi)Jim Bakker has always been a huckster. These days, Bakker, the disgraced PTL (Praise the Lord) Club televangelist who fleeced and defrauded his audience out of more than $150 millions, got involved in some juicy sex scandals, and served time in prison, has set up an apocalyptic shop in Blue Eye, Missouri. Located in Stone County, about 30 miles southwest of Branson, Missouri, Blue Eye, according to the 2010 census, had 167 people -- 75 households and 48 families. It is in Blue Eye that Bakker is staging his televangelical and entrepreneurial resurrection, at a 700-acre property called Morningside, which is an intentional Christian community.

"A time of trouble is upon us," Bakker -- a huge supporter of President Donald Trump -- warned his audience during one episode of The Jim Bakker Show.

Whether it's the WannaCry ransomware attack; ISIS; terrorist attacks in the homeland; or devastating flooding in Texas, Bakker and his wife Lori, claim to have the right goods: "'Staying Alive' food - buckets full of freeze-dried products apparently capable of sustaining survivors through the Apocalypse," the Daily Mail's Annette Witheridge, who bought a bucket, sampled some of the food, and found it unappetizing but edible, recently reported.

In mid-May, BuzzFeed's Kelsey McKinney reported that the buckets are "the kind … that might be used to feed slop to pigs on a farm, and inside each are 18 dishes in freeze-dried food packets, making up almost 50,000 calories that, according to the purple labels slapped on their sides, have a 25-year shelf life."

Add a little water, sit back, and survive the apocalypse.


Columbus 0906wrp optStatue of Columbus in Ohio. (Photo: Wally Gobetz)As the symbols of the Confederacy have again become the targets of anti-racist social movements since the events in Charlottesville in August, activists are building on the present momentum to call for the removal or replacement of memorials belonging to other controversial figures in US history, from Christopher Columbus to Frank Rizzo. As we approach the 525th anniversary of the so-called "Discovery of America" this October 12, it is an appropriate time to revisit the stakes of what it entails to memorialize the man credited with discovering the existence of another world beyond Europe, Asia and Africa, the so-called "New World."

The key problem raised by the critics of Columbus concerns the uncritical repetition of the colonial mantra that claims Columbus "discovered" this so-called "New World." For not only is it historically documented that Columbus never knew that he had arrived at a landmass that is not "Asia" (Europeans only realized this with Amerigo Vespucci's accounts of his own trips well into the 1500s), but also and more importantly, one should ask oneself what it means to "discover" a region of the world that is not empty, but instead contains several flourishing civilizations in it. The issue is that the mantra that Columbus "discovered" anything presupposes the narrative vantage point of Western European imperialism, at the same time as it invalidates the narrative vantage points of the peoples that were visited upon by these so-called "discoverers" i.e. the Indigenous peoples of the Americas, peoples that far from being ghosts of the past continue to live in the present all around us (70 percent of Native Americans now live in cities, not reservations). If history here is written by the victors, the victims of Columbus have never been fully silenced. The victors simply refuse to hear them.


wellsfargo555Wells Fargo execs leave consumers in the dust. (Photo: Mike Mozart)

On September 1, Elizabeth Warren sent out an informational email that nailed the federal government for responding to Wells Fargo's serial fraud with a slap on the wrist. In the communication, she recounted three major illegal acts committed by the bank:

Last year, Wells Fargo got caught creating 2.1 million fake bank accounts and credit card accounts using their customers' names and credit information without permission.

Last month, Wells Fargo got caught charging 800,000 people for auto insurance they did not want or need.  

And just yesterday, we've learned that the fake accounts scandal was even worse than we thought. Wells Fargo just "discovered" an additional 1.4 million fake accounts that they had created since 2009. Unbelievable.

For many years after 2008, the Department of Justice (DOJ) fined banks for illicit practices, but did not require any major systemic or personnel changes. The DOJ left consumers vulnerable to another economic implosion by, for the most part, leaving the key leadership of financial institutions in place. What is more galling about the incidents Warren refers to, in relation to Wells Fargo, is that these infractions of the law occurred years after the 2008 debacle. That means the near implosion of the economy didn't compel the DOJ to hold the senior staff of banks personally responsible for fraudulent behavior nearly 10 years later.

 While tragedies and difficult times quite often bring out the best in the character of Americans that help their friends, neighbors and total strangers, however, when there is a crisis of this magnitude -- natural or man-made -- you can almost certainly count on "rapid-fire corporate re-engineering of societies that are reeling from shock." While tragedies and difficult times quite often bring out the best in the character of Americans that help their friends, neighbors and total strangers, you can almost certainly count on "rapid-fire corporate re-engineering of societies that are reeling from shock." (Photo: Coast Guard News)BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

"Only a crisis -- actual or perceived -- produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around." – Milton Friedman

How will the federal and state and local governments deal with post-Hurricane Harvey recovery? How and who will they deal with the toxic discharge from oil refineries, superfund sites and the raw sewage that is flooding the streets and highways of Houston and other communities? Will climate-change deniers finally take the impact of climate change – a term that Team Trump shies away from – seriously? Will Trump be able to stay focused on recovery issues? Will corporations see this as their golden ticket to vast financial gain? Will homeowners be shoved into toxic mobile homes like many were post-Katrina? Will the homeless be housed? Will a chunk of the public school system be privatized and/or voucherized? Will minorities be forced out of Houston, which, according to recent study by the Pew Research Center, is the most economically segregated city in the United States? What will be done to make the victims whole?

The public response to the devastation in Houston shows the perseverance and efficiency of people working together for a common purpose. The same should be encouraged in public education, in health care, and in affordable housing. The public response to the devastation in Houston shows the perseverance and efficiency of people working together for a common purpose. The same should be encouraged in public education, in health care and in affordable housing. (Photo: WELS Christian Aid and Relief)PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

In the worst moments of the tragedy in Houston, something remarkable about America burst into view, as government and business and military and especially ordinary citizens put aside thoughts of personal gain and dedicated themselves to the needs of fellow human beings. 

People in Texas and around the nation pitched in, through their labors and donations; neighbors and first responders saved lives; the Red Cross and other charitable organizations, including many local churches, brought food and supplies and medicine to hurricane victims; many GoFundMe initiatives were set up; the business community -- especially furniture man Jim McIngvale -- donated their goods and services; government officials remained focused on the people they were elected to represent; even the military contributed with rescue helicopters. No one seemed to care about the skin color or religion or politics of those in need. 

The empathy and cooperative spirit -- the SOCIALISM -- that gripped America was delightful to behold. But soon we return to reality.

Friday, 01 September 2017 07:10

The Man Who Stood Up to Armageddon


Tony 0901wrp optTony de Brum (Photo: Humanity House)Suddenly it's possible — indeed, all too easy — to imagine one man starting a nuclear war. What's a little harder to imagine is one human being stopping such a war.

For all time.

The person who came closest to this may have been Tony de Brum, former foreign minister of the Marshall Islands, who died last week of cancer at age 72.

He grew up in the South Pacific island chain when it was under "administrative control" of the U.S. government, which meant it was a waste zone absolutely without political or social significance (from the American point of view), and therefore a perfect spot to test nuclear weapons. Between 1946 and 1958, the United States conducted 67 such tests — the equivalent of 1.6 Hiroshima blasts every day for 12 years — and for much of the time thereafter ignored and/or lied about the consequences.

As a boy, de Brum was unavoidably a witness to some of these tests, including the one known as Castle Bravo, a 15-megaton blast conducted on Bikini Atoll on March 1, 1954. He and his family lived about 200 miles away, on Likiep Atoll. He was nine years old.

He later described it thus: "No sound, just a flash and then a force, the shock wave . . . as if you were under a glass bowl and someone poured blood over it. Everything turned red: sky, the ocean, the fish, my grandfather's net."


nravoterThe NRA and Trump are joined at the hip. (Photo: joshlopezphoto)

Earlier this year, the Trump administration ordered the National Park Service (NPS) to temporarily stop tweeting. One can assume that this was done, in part, to ensure that the NPS would get the message to stop tweeting anything "controversial' -- like actual facts that might debunk the White House's "alternative facts."

That action was one of the first hints that the executive branch was going to apply its right-wing ideology in administering the National Park Service. That ideological application has grown more apparent with time. One only need look to the growing influence of the National Rifle Association (NRA), a key Trump supporter, on the NPS and its parent, the Department of the Interior. In one telling example, the wife of Wayne LaPierre, the longtime head and chief firebrand of the NRA, has been appointed to the National Park Service Foundation board. As National Parks Traveler reported on August 28,

Susan LaPierre, co-chair of the National Rifle Association's Women's Leadership Forum and wife of NRA Executive Director Wayne LaPierre, has landed a seat on the National Park Foundation's board of directors.

Mrs. LaPierre was one of four appointments to the board made earlier this year. None of the appointments was announced in a release by either the Interior Department or Park Foundation.

Mrs. LaPierre's appointment by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke leaked out this past week in connection with a story detailing the National Park Service's opposition to a handful of sections in the Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act, or SHARE Act, that would impact the Park Service's management of fishing and hunting within the National Park System....

In her bio on NRA Women she called herself "a lifelong outdoorswoman who's always believed in the Second Amendment and the NRA." The Leadership Forum she organized a dozen years ago is a "philanthropic society of women who are dedicated to protecting and defending our Second Amendment."

Secretary Zinke is a lifetime member and zealous advocate of the NRA and its claim of unfettered Second Amendment "gun rights.

the so-called Better Deal that establishment Democrats are touting now has a few good ideas, but falls far short of what is needed, while risking further defeats in national elections by being too cautious.The so-called Better Deal that establishment Democrats are touting now has a few good ideas, but falls far short of what is needed, while risking further defeats in national elections by being too cautious. (Photo: Joe Brusky)JOHN GEYMAN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Just over a year ago, the Democratic Platform Drafting Committee voted on whether or not to endorse single-payer Medicare for All, or national health insurance (NHI). It lost by a narrow vote of 7-6, with the no votes coming from delegates chosen by Hillary Clinton, a cautious centrist awash with campaign money from special interests in the for-profit health care industry. That position is in direct opposition to the will of the people, with about 60 percent support of single-payer, and of Democrats, with about 80 percent support.

So what's happening today on this front as the Democratic Party tries to deal with its own split party on this issue? As centrist Democrats such as Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi take a victory lap in defending (so far) the Republicans' effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), with or without replacement, they are trotting out their so-called Better Deal. While this has some good ideas, they are much too small for the moment and fail to take on the chains of Wall Street, the military-industrial complex, and the medical-industrial complex. The Better Deal does not come out in favor of single-payer Medicare for All, the only way we can ever achieve universal coverage to health care as a human right for all Americans.

The undocumented immigrant community is one of great resolve and resourcefulness and these individuals will be at the forefront of this struggle. Yet it is also important for us as educators and allies to consider what we can do and how our institutions can best serve the needs of all the students in our classes, at our institutions and across the nation.The undocumented immigrant community is one of great resolve and resourcefulness. Yet it is also important for educators and allies to consider what we can do and how our institutions can best serve the needs of all the students in class. (Photo: Susan Melkisethian)KEVIN ESCUDERO FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

The future of the Deferred Action for Early Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is once again in jeopardy. While there had been talk of ending DACA earlier in Trump's presidency, this threat is more acute and immediate, given the pending lawsuit by more than 10 state attorneys general pressuring the administration to end the program by September 5.

Around 65,000 undocumented students graduate from high school every year, and with the help of DACA, more of those high school graduates are enrolling in and graduating from college. This means that educational institutions, especially colleges and universities, have a key role to play in the debate over the future of DACA. As these schools welcome undocumented and DACA students this fall, it is imperative that they respond to the threats against DACA and devise new, innovative approaches to safeguard the rights of all their community members.

What, exactly, is on the line? The DACA program, announced by President Obama in 2012, provides undocumented young people with the opportunity to obtain a Social Security number, work permit and a two-year stay of deportation, renewable in two-year increments, until age 30. According to a comprehensive, multi-year study conducted by a team of Harvard researchers, the program's success has encouraged undocumented students to pursue higher education and assisted students in finding employment related to their educational training.

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