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2017.28.3 BF Franklin(Photo: Tompkins Conservation)JONATHAN FRANKLIN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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Dispatch from Chile

The road to Parque Pumalín is festooned with dozens of whitewater waterfalls that slip down the steep cliffs into a thick forest overrun by ferns and plants with leaves as big as beach umbrellas. An active volcano threatens to wipe out the sparse human settlements that are scattered like frontier outposts, often holding populations of fewer than 100 residents. The scenery, however, suddenly changes at El Amarillo, a town of perfect picket fences, exquisitely designed bridges and hand-lettered wooden signs offering help on camping and trekking.

It is here that a 25-year experiment in environmental conservation is finally coming to fruition. Parque Pumalín is a million-acre collection of untrammelled vistas and valleys that was patched together by a pair of American conservationists whose mission, known as “wildlands philanthropy”, was to keep the lands free from industrial development.

Graffiti on a portion of the US-Mexico border.(Photo: Brooke Binkowski)JOHN HEID FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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"We recognize the weight that the language of disappearance holds; we use it to call attention to the fact that disappearance is not a natural or inevitable phenomenon but rather a direct consequence of US border-enforcement policies and practices."

-- La Coalitión De Derechos Humanos, and No More Deaths, "Disappeared: How the US Border Enforcement Agencies are Fueling a Missing Persons Crisis"

The sunbaked skull seemed to complement the volcanic rocks that lie strewn around it, haunting in its symmetry. Ivory amidst ebony, splayed across the desert floor. The year-round searing heat of the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge can do that, bake things into anonymity. Were it not for the vacant eye sockets, we likely would have walked right by these human remains unaware that someone's life ended there, or nearby. Eerily the eyeless skull faced south.

Joel Smith, Director of Operations for Humane Borders, and I were hiking in the Growler Valley region of the Refuge on our annual maintenance check of loosely-scattered water stations. The region's austerity is at once beautiful and perilous. The aptly named El Camino del Diablo (Devil's Highway) cuts a parallel swath across part of the valley. There is little shade anywhere, save the occasional Palo Verde or mesquite tree. Teddy bear Cholla, salt and brittlebush, ocotillo and prickly pear cactus provide modest ground cover. The horizon is elusive. One can walk all day and not feel any closer to the mountain just ahead. Time and distance seem like illusions. I have never encountered anyone on my hikes there. Not one.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

31985903113 b5bd1b6cf1 z(Photo: Laurie Shaull)

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Karen Dolan and Peter Certo of the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) recently wrote a commentary contending that pundits and advocates are justified in calling for Jeff Sessions to step down as attorney general. Many are basing their clamor for Sessions' resignation on the revelation that he perjured himself before Congress by failing to divulge information about his previous meetings with a Russian ambassador.

However, Dolan and Certo are careful to point out that Sessions should have never been confirmed in the first place. Just take a look at his record prior to assuming office in the Department of Justice.

Sessions was barred from a federal judgeship in the 1980s due to concern about his racist attitudes. Dolan and Certo write:

As a senator, he voted to undermine the Voting Rights Act of 1964 and racked up a 20-plus year track record of opposing LGBTQ rights. He even voted against the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, and opposed adding crimes against gay people to the list of hate crimes.

Unsurprisingly, Sessions has a miserable 7 percent rating from the NAACP on affirmative action, and scores just 20 percent from the ACLU with regard to upholding civil rights.

Furthermore, he's wasted no time since becoming attorney general in putting as many brakes on the civil rights of Americans as he could in just a few weeks. He's got it out for everyone from people of color to transgender people.

KEN ROSEBORO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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Corn 0327wrp opt(Photo: Andrew Butko)Enogen, a genetically modified corn for ethanol production, has contaminated non-GMO white corn grown in Nebraska and used to make flour for tortillas and other products.

According to Derek Rovey, owner of Rovey Specialty Grains in Inland, Nebraska, a few of his contract farmers who grow non-GMO white corn had their crops contaminated by Enogen corn.

"We've had some growers who've had some problems [with Enogen]. Their corn was right next to Enogen fields," said Rovey.

Enogen's GMO trait was detected in the white corn using GMO strip tests, said Rovey.

He also said that flour made using his company's white corn tested positive for Enogen last summer.

Enogen GMO corn can contaminate food corn through cross pollination in the field or improper segregation during grain handling.

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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Oil 0327wrp opt(Photo: Creative Commons)The amount of crude oil that spewed near Belfield, North Dakota from the ruptured Belle Fourche pipeline in December was vastly underestimated.

The original estimate was around 176,000 gallons of oil. After further review, pipeline operator True Companies now reports about 12,615 barrels (529,830 gallons) of oil spilled, spokeswoman Wendy Owen told Inforum. The cause of the leak has not been determined.

The spill contaminated a hillside and Ash Coulee Creek which empties into the Little Missouri River. The break was also significant because it happened less than 200 miles away from the Oceti Sakowin Camp, where Water Protectors were protesting the heavily contested Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).

The new number makes the Belle Fourche spill one of the largest in state history and perhaps the largest oil pipeline spill that contaminated a North Dakota water body, Bill Suess, spill investigation program manager for the state's Department of Health, told Inforum.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Fence 0324wrp opt(Photo: Ladin)President Trump has been demeaning and degrading immigrants since he announced his candidacy for the presidency, and he has continued to do so right up through his first two months in office. After more than a year of his vicious blathering about the criminality of immigrants and building a border wall, a recent report by The Sentencing Project found that Immigrants, regardless of legal status, or country of origin, do not have higher crime rates than native-born citizens, verifying that even in this age of Trump-initiated fake news and Kellyanne Conway’s “alternative facts,” facts can triumph over fiction.

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As the Executive Summary to The Sentencing Project’s report titled “Immigration and Public Safety” (http://www.sentencingproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Immigration-and-Public-Safety.pdf) pointed out: In addition to his anti-immigrant rhetoric, Trump has “linked immigrants with crime through an Executive Order directing the Attorney General to establish a task force to assist in ‘developing strategies to reduce crime, including, in particular, illegal immigration, drug trafficking, and violent crime,’ and by directing the Department of Homeland Security to create an office to assist and publicize victims of crimes committed by immigrants.”

The Sentencing Project’s report was written by Nazgol Ghandnoosh, Ph.D., Research Analyst, and Josh Rovner, Juvenile Justice Advocacy Associate, at The Sentencing Project, with research assistance by Casey Anderson and Jessica Yoo, Program Associates at The Sentencing Project:

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

deportationsstop32(Photo: GGAADD)

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An article in the Guardian US today describes the importance of the work that undocumented people do in the restaurant and food hospitality industry. Using Charlotte, North Carolina as an example, the Guardian US provides evidence that many people who are undocumented are performing critical work that is essential to the country's food supply, preparation and service:

There are about 7,000 undocumented people in Charlotte’s county estimated to be working in hospitality, such as restaurants, bars and hotels, according to the Migration Policy Institute [MIP]. (The national figure is around 1.3 million.) This suggests roughly one in ten people working in hospitality positions across the city are likely undocumented, according to 2014 American Community Survey data. And that’s not to mention the people who work in the city’s food supply chain: the state’s farms and fields employ another estimated 17,000 undocumented people, according to MIP.

It’s not impossible that restaurant food in a city like Charlotte could have involved an undocumented worker at every stage – from field, to truck, to processing facility, to distribution centre, to kitchen, to the waiter placing down a plate.

This phenomenon obviously extends far beyond Charlotte.

2017.23.3 BF Hightower(Photo: mal3k)JIM HIGHTOWER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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A decade ago, some barons of the media establishment designated themselves the US's official arbiters of political truth. One of their tools is PolitiFact, a project of the Tampa Bay Times and several other major newspapers, which issues an award for the year's most outrageous falsehood. Last year's election was infested with so much disinformation and dishonesty, however, that PolitiFact's 2016 Lie of the Year was not a single prevarication, but that cluster bomb of whoppers collectively branded "Fake News."

Just as troubling as fake news is the media's systematic omission of grassroots news that people could really use. What's missing is real news of the ordinary Americans in practically every zip code, who are finding innovative solutions to big problems that the elites do nothing about. Uplifting local actions are blooming throughout our land, yet most people are unaware of them or the results: that people and communities everywhere are breaking the corporate chains that shackle them. Here are a few examples.

2017.23.3 BF Koehler(Photo: Defence Images)ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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We committed a quiet little war crime the other day. Forty-plus people are dead, taken out with hellfire missiles while they were praying.

Or maybe not. Maybe they were just insurgents. The women and children, if there were any, were . . . come on, you know the lingo, collateral damage. The Pentagon is going to "look into" allegations that what happened last March 16 in the village of al-Jinah in northern Syria was something more serious than a terrorist takeout operation, which, if you read the official commentary, seems like the geopolitical equivalent of rodent control.

The target was "assessed to be a meeting place for al-Qaeda, and we took the strike," a spokesman for the US Central Command explained. The strike involved two Reaper (as in Grim Reaper) drones and their payload of Hellfire missiles, plus a 500-pound bomb.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

churchtrumpWill Trump succeed in allowing religious organizations to be active in political fundraising and organizing? (Photo: Marie Loughin)

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Recently, a group of nearly 100 religious leaders sent a letter to President Trump urging him not to allow religious organizations to engage in partisan politics:

At the National Prayer Breakfast, you promised to "totally destroy the Johnson Amendment," which is the provision in the tax code that prohibits public charities and private foundations from intervening in elections by endorsing or opposing political candidates or parties.

For more than 60 years, this rule barring campaign intervention has helped keep tax-deductible money out of partisan politics. It has helped maintain the integrity and autonomy of our religious and charitable sectors and preserve the boundary separating church and state. It has guaranteed that Americans’ charitable giving will not be channeled into political campaigns. For those reasons, the current law is overwhelmingly supported by the public. Without this rule, nonpartisan charities and places of worship would be open to manipulation for political ends.

Up to now, charities and religious organizations have been insulated from electioneering, and instead have been committed to doing good work, like alleviating poverty, ministering to the spirit, curing disease, and addressing other basic human and social needs.

Public Citizen, a national watchdog advocating for the common good, referred to Trump's stated goal:

The Johnson Amendment recently has gained national attention after Trump vowed at the National Prayer Breakfast in February to “totally destroy” the law.

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