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KRISTINA SHULL, PhD AND ALFONZO GONZALEZ, PhD FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Prison1 0711wrpSunlight through prison bars. (Photo: Andreas Bohnenstengel)As most of us spend our summer enjoying the outdoors, firing up the barbecue, and spending time with our families – the men and women being held at the Adelanto Detention Facility, operated by the GEO Group, are re-launching a hunger strike to demand their safe release and to protest inhumane conditions.

The recent protest should make us think about the crisis of democracy that we are facing under President Donald Trump.This is now the third hunger strike by detainees at Adelanto. What started off as the #Adelanto9, nine men who were part of a refugee caravan that arrived at the U.S./Mexico border in May seeking political asylum, has gained momentum and now includes roughly 50 strikers. 

The Adelanto 9 first announced their hunger strike on the morning of June 12. Two days later, 33 womenlaunched a hunger strike of their own. Their demands include better medical care, fair bond amounts, to be reunited with their children and families, and to be treated "like humans, not animals."

The Adelanto 9 have been subjected to abusive and arbitrary forms of punishment for exercising the most basic rights that one would expect to have in a democracy. Three deaths have occurred there since the new year, and human rights groups have been tracking ongoing egregious conditions and medical neglect.

The American Civil Rights Union (ACLU) noted that the detainees were cuffed and pepper sprayed for their peaceful protest in a clear act of retaliation. One striker was deported as the remaining eight were separated into four groups; and GEO guards mocked them and threatened to tell the immigration judge about the strike to undermine their cases.

MARK KARLiN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

energy efficientThe Republicans in DC are rolling back energy efficiency. (Photo: Andy Melton

At a time when the fate of the planet hangs in the balance due to human-caused global warming, efforts to accelerate the use of renewables and achieve energy efficiencies should be proceeding at a full gallop. Needless to say, the White House and Congress are fully favoring carbon-emitting fossil fuels over renewables, but they are also moving to reduce energy efficiency goals.

According to a June report by Public Citizen, a DC-based progressive advocacy organization, the Trump administration is dead set on making appliances, cars and other consumer goods potentially more harmful to the Earth. In addition, the deregulations would cost jobs and greater consumer expenses. According to a June 15 Public Citizen news release,

President Trump and his allies in Congress are seeking to eliminate energy efficiency requirements for appliances, automobiles and other energy consuming applications in an effort that will cost American families and consumers trillions of dollars over time, according to a new report issued today by Public Citizen.

“Trump’s decision to target efficiency initiatives discredits his claim that he withdrew from the Paris climate accord because of concerns that the deal would cost U.S. jobs. These programs unambiguously would help meet the goals of the accord and benefit the U.S. economy and yet Trump is still targeting them,” said Taylor Lincoln, research director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division and author of the report, “Blinded by the light.”

Thus, not only are lives and the planet placed in increased jeopardy by the proposed actions, but they also represent a fattened bottom line for corporations at the expense of US consumers.

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Erin 0710wrp optErin Brockovich (Photo: Eva Rinaldi)Environmental activist Erin Brockovich is helping Oklahoma's Pawnee Nation take on several fracking companies in a lawsuit alleging that damages to its tribal buildings and reservation property was the result of man-made, or induced, earthquakes.

National Geographic reports that the Native American tribe has retained the law firm Weitz & Luxenberg, with the aid of Brockovich, to sue Eagle Road Oil LLC, Cummings Oil Company, and 25 other oil and gas companies.

In September 2016, a magnitude 5.8 earthquake—the state's largest ever recorded—struck near the town of Pawnee. The tribe alleges that wastewater injected into wells operated by the defendants caused the record-breaking quake and is seeking damages to real and personal property, market value losses, as well as punitive damages.

The lawsuit accuses the defendants of "knowingly causing" the tremors and that their actions "constitute wanton or reckless disregard for public or private safety."

The case will be heard in tribal court. "The Nation wanted this to be an assertion of their sovereignty," Curt Marshall, counsel for Weitz & Luxenberg representing the Pawnee, told National Geographic. "After all, they are a nation, a sovereign nation: they have jurisdiction, even over non-Indians, on their land."

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Net 0710 optA shredded net. (Photo: Sandstein)The entire 2017 safety net is about $850 billion, compared to over $1.5 trillion for tax expenditures, most of which are for rich Americans

The Unrelenting Wealth Grab by the 1%

The average 1% household increased its wealth by $3 million in 2016. Since much of that was in the form of stock gains, they paid tax on only a small part of their incomes, and then took an average of about $200,000 per household in tax subsidies. When ALL forms of taxes and income and capital gains are considered, the richest 1% pay lower tax rates than the poorest 20% of Americans. 

The Rich Old White Guy's Safety Net: Retirement and Health Care

Wealthy people are living longer, so they're getting much more of the late-life benefits. A Brookings report estimates that lowest-quintile Americans born in 1960 will receive "only 78 percent of the lifetime Medicare benefits received by the top income quintile." A Congressional Research Service report states: "When Social Security benefits are measured on a lifetime basis, low earners, who show little to no gains in life expectancy over time, are projected to receive increasingly lower benefits than those with high earnings." The American Medical Association agrees. The National Institutes of Health agrees. Middle- and upper-income Americans are even grabbing MEDICAID benefits because of the program's accommodating asset-exclusion limits.

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Retail 0707wrp optA typical supermarket aisle. (Photo: Lars Frantzen)Excellent news, folks: A decade after Wall Street greed crashed our economy and crushed the working class, jobs are suddenly plentiful!

As an Associated Press article joyously put it, "The U.S. job market has settled into a sweet spot of steadily solid growth." At long last, the American dream is back for working families, right? Well ... in a word: No. Further down in the article, AP's sweet news turns sour with this little admission: "About all that's still missing [in the jobs market] is a broad acceleration in pay."

In other words, you can find work, but getting paid for it is another matter. And forget about such "luxuries" as health coverage, pension, sick leave, vacation time and having a regular schedule. These are not jobs, they're jobettes! Most are in service work — such as fast food chains, amusement parks, nursing homes, Big Box retailers, car washes, delivery services, supermarkets and call centers. Nearly all are poorly paid, temporary, offer little or no upward mobility and are routinely exploitative.

Ironically, the fact that so many families have been in dire economic straits for so long that they now have to take such onerous, one-sided terms of employment increases the power of low-wage corporations. With hundreds of thousands of people scrambling at once to find jobs, the bosses can effectively conspire to hold pay levels down and get away with treating hires as disposable cogs in the corporate profit machine. Indeed, the phenomenally-bloated profits they've been enjoying are largely extracted from the labor of underpaid workers. And in a double irony, corporations rationalize the obscene salaries and bonuses they give to top executives by pointing to those same profits the executives take out of the workers' paychecks.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

betsydevos56Betsy DeVos enables for-profit colleges fleecing students. (Photo: Michael Vadon)

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is being sued for allegedly protecting the financial interests of for-profit colleges over the plight of students with excessive loans. As Politico detailed on July 6:

Eighteen states and the District of Columbia filed suit against Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Thursday over her delay of regulations meant to protect federal student loan borrowers defrauded by their schools.

The lawsuit filed in Federal District Court in D.C., led by Massachusetts and joined by 18 other Democratic attorneys general, accuses DeVos of illegally delaying the regulations aimed at predatory colleges, which were finalized by the Obama administration and had been set to take effect on July 1.

Feb 3 protest at Wells Fargo Bank, which has over $400 million invested in the Dakota Access Pipeline, part of a multi-national movement putting pressure on all the banks funding genocide to divest from the project immediately.A protest at a Wells Fargo Bank, which has over $400 million invested in the Dakota Access Pipeline, on February 3, 2017. The action was part of a multi-national movement putting pressure on all the banks funding genocide to divest from the project immediately. (Photo: Joe Piette)MICHELLE COOK AND OSPREY ORIELLE LAKE OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from Ecowatch

Despite shifts in the terrain of struggle, the courageous and determined Water Protectors of the movement to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) continue to stand strong, gain momentum and mobilize in diverse and effective ways in their work to protect Indigenous rights, water and life in North Dakota and beyond.

From powerful Indigenous and frontline leadership at the 200,000 strong People's Climate March in Washington DC, to ceaseless advocacy and actions in courtrooms, in the streets, in the halls of government, and in the offices of financial institutions that support exploitation and extraction -- the DAPL resistance continues, while also joining together with other communities to face mounting pipeline struggles including Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain, Enbridge's Line 3, TransCanada's Energy East, Sonoco Logistic's Bayou Bridge, the resurrection of TransCanada's Keystone XL and efforts to stop fossil fuel extraction at the source.

 If the United States has the chance to freeze the program that could land one of these missiles on home soil, we should take it. That wasn’t the path President Trump chose last week, however, when he met with Moon Jae-in. If the United States has the chance to freeze the program that could land North Korean missiles on home soil, we should take it. That wasn’t the path President Trump chose last week, however, when he met with Moon Jae-in. (Photo: NASA HQ Photo)RENAE REINTS AND COLE HARRISON FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

As Americans celebrated July 4 on Tuesday, North Korean President Kim Jong Un celebrated a frightening success of his own. The northern regime launched their longest-reaching weapon yet -- an intercontinental ballistic missile that some experts believe has the ability to reach Alaska. This missile launch comes just days after South Korean President Moon Jae-in met with President Donald Trump in Washington, DC. The two world leaders discussed the desired denuclearization of mutual threat North Korea, but each argued for a different methodology.

Moon, South Korea’s first progressive president in eight years, has called for a revival of something similar to the 1998 Sunshine Policy, which embraces better relations with North Korea, but was rejected by subsequent conservative governments until Moon was elected in May. The Sunshine Policy aims to open conversation on the peninsula with the eventual goal of having the North Korean government denuclearize itself. With this in mind, Moon hopes to persuade North Korea to freeze their nuclear program.

Trump, however, has thus far chosen the strategy of “maximum pressure and engagement,” increasing sanctions on North Korea and conducting military exercises. The United States has left no room for compromise, demanding only full removal of the weapons. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said negotiations “can only be achieved by denuclearizing, giving up their weapons of mass destruction … Only then will we be prepared to engage them in talks.”  Last Thursday, Trump imposed new Chinese sanctions in an attempt to cut off North Korean funding.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

volvo32Volvo is helping the internal combustion engine become a dinosaur. (Photo: Allen Watkin)

A July 5 media advisory, distributed in conjunction with a news conference in Stockholm, stated it bluntly: "Volvo Cars, the premium car maker, has announced that every Volvo it launches from 2019 will have an electric motor, marking the historic end of cars that only have an internal combustion engine (ICE) and placing electrification at the core of its future business."

It should be noted that this is applicable to newly designed cars by Volvo in 2019 and will include both 100 percent electric cars and hybrids. In addition, current models will still be manufactured with internal combustion engines, since this commitment only applies to new Volvo designs. However, it is cause for celebration that an automobile manufacturer is outpacing many governments in moving toward vehicles run on renewable energy. Unlike the US under the Trump administration, some nations are also moving away from gas-powered vehicles: The Telegraph reported today that "France plans to outlaw all petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040," according to its new environment minister, Nicolas Hulot.

In fact, the Volvo announcement represents a new intensified round for the emerging electric car market. 

JULIA TRAVERS OF ENVIRONEWS ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

WattsBar 0705wrp optThe Watts-Bar nuclear generating station. (Photo: TVA Web Team)On March 23, 2017, after less than six months of operation, the Tennessee Valley Authority's (TVA) Watts Bar 2 nuclear power unit (Watts Bar 2) was shut down. Failing components in the condenser caused America's first 21st Century nuclear reactor to cease functioning, and as of July 3, it remains shut down.

"Nuclear technology is very unforgiving… The nuclear industry is very optimistic about its projections of performance. This is more evidence that they need to temper that optimism," David Lochbaum, Director of the Nuclear Safety Project at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), told The LA Times.

Lochbaum was specifically referencing the importance of the condenser, which cools down the steam used to drive the unit's generating turbines. The unit will now be offline until sometime this summer, preventing it from providing electricity during peak demand in the TVA service region.

"We have a team of workers currently evaluating the extent of the condition within the condenser at Watts Barr 2 and we have already begun repairs that should allow us to return the unit to service sometime this summer," Jim Hopson, Manager of TVA Public Relations told EnviroNews.

Hopson also said there was no risk of radioactive material entering the environment due to the condenser failure. "The condenser is not a part of the nuclear side of the plant," he continued. "The condenser is on the power generation side, which is completely separate, so there are no radiological concerns, whatsoever."

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