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Thursday, 26 October 2017 07:10

Praying for the Moths and Beetles

 insects are valuable -- a crucial part of the world we inhabit -- because all of life is complexly connected. Insects are valuable -- a crucial part of the world we inhabit -- because all of life is complexly connected. (Photo: Magnus Hagdorn / Flickr)ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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". . . insects as a group are in terrible trouble and the remorselessly expanding human enterprise has become too much, even for them."

And instantly I'm beyond the realm of anything I know, as I consider the gradual disappearance not of whales but of . . . beetles, moths and hoverflies, thanks to the human enterprise we call civilization, as Michael McCarthy put it in The Guardian.

It's too easy to isolate these deeply troubling matters, to focus on one, take aim and fire off blame, but in my uncertainty and aching sense of responsibility, as a full participant in the human enterprise, I find myself groping instead for understanding. We have to change course and I have no idea where or how to start, except in a million places at once, but all of these starting places have at least this much in common: reverence for the planet and life itself; acknowledgment and awe that the universe is alive and we are connected to everything in it; and a sense that even the small, mocked, discarded fragments of civilization are to be valued . . . that they are sacred.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Fort McHenry flagThe Fort McHenry Star Spangled Banner: Is the National Anthem inclusionary or exclusionary? (Photo: Wikipedia)

 A new poll reveals that a majority of whites in the United States believe there is discrimination against whites in this country. However, few white respondents claimed to have actually experienced this discrimination themselves. According to NPR,

A majority of whites say discrimination against them exists in America today, according to a poll released Tuesday from NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

"If you apply for a job, they seem to give the blacks the first crack at it," said 68-year-old Tim Hershman of Akron, Ohio, "and, basically, you know, if you want any help from the government, if you're white, you don't get it. If you're black, you get it."

More than half of whites — 55 percent — surveyed say that, generally speaking, they believe there is discrimination against white people in America today. Hershman's view is similar to what was heard on the campaign trail at Trump rally after Trump rally. Donald Trump catered to white grievance during the 2016 presidential campaign and has done so as president as well.

Yet only 19 percent of the same whites thought that they had ever faced discrimination on the job; around 13 percent thought that they had ever been discriminated against in promotions or salary; and only 11 percent thought that they had faced discrimination in relation to higher education. (Plus, of course, even when it comes to the low percentage of whites who said they experienced discrimination, the facts contradict their perception.)

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

BannonCPAC 1025wrp optSteve Bannon at CPAC. (Photo: Michael Vadon / Flickr)In the two months since he left the Trump administration, former White House Chief of Staff Steve Bannon has become the most prominent leader of the GOP's "anti-establishment" wing. And despite being "shunted" from the White House, as The Washington Post characterized it, Bannon and President Donald Trump "are anything but estranged. Instead, they have remained in frequent contact, chatting as often as several times a week, according to multiple associates of both of them."

In Trump-initiated phone calls, "They chew over politics, float ideas and catch up on gossip," The Post reported. "They also each ask after the other to shared confidants and friends, not unlike teenagers checking to make sure the other is not upset or disapproving." 

The Washington Post's Ashley Parker and Philip Rucker pointed out that "Trump and Bannon's evolving partnership — described by nine aides, friends and confidants, many of whom insisted on anonymity to offer a more candid portrait — is nuanced, combining tension with affection and, for now at least, is mutually beneficial." 

"Bannon is now the de facto leader of the GOP insurgent wing," ABC News' The Note recently reported. "He's the go-to man for Republican primary challengers but with a critical twist: he still has the ear, and maybe the heart, of President Donald Trump himself."

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Whittier 1025wrp optThe Whittier Fire, July 13, 2017 (Photo: Glenn Beltz)Amid record wildfires devastating the north and an unusual October heatwave scorching the south, conditions in California right now are a perfect snapshot of our ever-warming world.

As California Gov. Jerry Brown said an interview with BBC's Today program on Tuesday, "Climate change is occurring, global warming is occurring, California is beginning to burn up."

But for President Trump and his administration, climate change is fact being inconveniently ignored. That's why, Brown says, states are fighting back.

When asked during his interview what California can do about Trump's intention to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement, Gov. Brown offered three tactics.

DR. MEL GURTOV FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Flag 1025wrp(Photo: DVIDSHUB / Flickr)Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) says he didn’t know.  Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) and minority leader Chuck Schumer say they didn’t know either. Nor did several other US senators say they knew that the US has nearly 1,000 troops stationed in Niger, where four Green Berets were recently killed while on a counterterrorism mission. Other US congress members said they did know, but so what?  None apparently raised an eyebrow at the growing US military presence in Africa—a presence that includes combat and has not been authorized, much less debated, by congress.

Actually,all congress members should have known, not necessarily because the Pentagon says it informed everyone, which may or may not be the truth, but because news of the widespread US military deployment in Africa has been around for some time. I wrote about it in June, relying on the reporting of others on the US "arm and assist" program that finds US soldiers based in 24 African countries and perhaps double that number of "outposts" and other facilities.  Niger is just one place—Somalia, Cameroon, and Mali are others—where US forces are arming, training, and accompanying local soldiers on dangerous missions.

The US military has not, of course, publicized these missions, knowing full well that they would get unwanted attention.  But they are there, and the US Africa Command has become a crucial component of the "war on terror."  As Nick Tulse wrote last April, the US now operates "a constellation of bases integral to expanding U.S. military operations on the African continent and in the Middle East." I suspect that many members of congresschosenot to take note of these operations for political reasons: to avoid being seen as questioning the pursuit of terrorists everywhere, regardless of cost.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

opiumpoppyOxyContin is a derivative of opium from poppies. (Photo: Rach)

In the October 30 edition of the New Yorker, reporter Patrick Radden Keefe writes a thorough examination of the role of one pharmaceutical company, Purdue Pharma, in abetting the high number of deaths due to opioid overdoses in the United States. The connection is through the firm's patent on one highly addictive pain killer, OxyContin. Although there are many factors that fuel the opioid crisis in the United States -- including social injustice and economic inequality issues -- Keefe's thoroughly researched article is a telling reminder that the biggest drug pushers in the United States are legal ones: our pharmaceutical companies.

Keefe writes,

Since 1999, two hundred thousand Americans have died from overdoses related to OxyContin and other prescription opioids. Many addicts, finding prescription painkillers too expensive or too difficult to obtain, have turned to heroin. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, four out of five people who try heroin today started with prescription painkillers. The most recent figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest that a hundred and forty-five Americans now die every day from opioid overdoses.

Andrew Kolodny, the co-director of the Opioid Policy Research Collaborative, at Brandeis University, has worked with hundreds of patients addicted to opioids. He told me that, though many fatal overdoses have resulted from opioids other than OxyContin [such as fentanyl and heroin], the crisis was initially precipitated by a shift in the culture of prescribing—a shift carefully engineered by Purdue. “If you look at the prescribing trends for all the different opioids, it’s in 1996 that prescribing really takes off,” Kolodny said. “It’s not a coincidence. That was the year Purdue launched a multifaceted campaign that misinformed the medical community about the risks.”

In fact, Keefe makes the comparison in his article between drug companies that emphasize sales by persuading doctors to prescribe certain medications and heroin dealers.

ANWR, the largest protected wilderness in the U.S., consists of more than 19 million acres of pristine landscapes and is home to 37 species of land mammals, eight marine mammals, 42 fish species and more than 200 migratory bird species.Arctic National Wildlife Reserve, the largest protected wilderness in the US, consists of more than 19 million acres of pristine landscapes and is home to 37 species of land mammals, eight marine mammals, 42 fish species and more than 200 migratory bird species.(Photo: US Fish and Wildlife Service)LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

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The Senate Republicans' narrow passage of the 2018 budget plan on Thursday opened the door for oil and gas drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve (ANWR).

But Democratic lawmakers and environmental groups criticized the GOP for sneaking the "backdoor drilling provision" through the budget process. Past proposals to drill in the refuge have consistently failed.

The budget was passed through a legislative tool known as reconciliation which only requires a simple majority, rather than 60 votes. The budget was approved 51-49, with Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul joining Democrats in opposition, paving the way for President Trump's tax overhaul proposal.

"The federal government has not undertaken strategic government-wide planning to manage climate risks by using information on the potential economic effects of climate change to identify significant risks and craft appropriate federal responses," states a new study by the Government Accountability Office."The federal government has not undertaken strategic government-wide planning to manage climate risks by using information on the potential economic effects of climate change to identify significant risks. . . " states a new study by the Government Accountability Office. (Photo: [email protected] / flickr)LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

You know how important it is to have an alternative to corporate media. Keep independent journalism strong: Click here to make a tax-deductible donation to BuzzFlash and Truthout.

President Trump might think that global warming is a hoax created by the Chinese, but the Government Accountability Office (GAO), Congress's nonpartisan auditing arm, is urging the administration to craft a plan to confront climate change or else it will have to deal with its massive economic consequences.

According to a new report released by the GAO, the U.S. government has already spent more than $350 billion over the past decade on dealing with natural disasters and losses from flood and crop insurance. The tally does not even include the economic toll from this year's horrific West Coast fires and successive hurricanes, which is estimated to cost at least $300 billion.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

medicalmarijuanaWhen will the US national government take the lead on medical marijuana, not for a long time it appears. (Photo: Chuck Coker)

Peru has just joined a group of nations in legalizing the medical use of marijuana, as its Congress passed the legislation just a few days ago.

The origin of the Peruvian law shows that politicians can sometimes exercise compassion. According to the Guardian,

The legislative approval followed a government proposal to decriminalize the medical use of marijuana for the "treatment of serious and terminal illnesses" after a police raid in February on a makeshift laboratory where a group of mothers made marijuana oil for their sick children.

The laboratory was in the home of Ana Alvarez, 43, who founded the group Buscando Esperanza or Searching for Hope to treat her 17-year-old son Anthony who suffers from a rare and severe form of epilepsy called Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, as well as tuberous sclerosis, which causes tumors to grow on the brain and other organs.

The arrests led to a mass protest march in front of the Peruvian legislature. It is lamentable that such empathy and concern for health is not recognized on the federal level in the United States. There were 67 votes in favor of the bill in the Peruvian Congress, with only five in opposition and three abstentions.

Monday, 23 October 2017 07:59

Which Politicians Should We Trust?

GLEB TSIPURSKY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

News 1023wrp opt(Photo: Daniel R. Blume)In these dark days, it's hard to trust any politician. How can we tell apart the ones who spout bald-faced lies from those who actually tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? Fortunately, we now have a science-based tool for telling which politicians are comfortable committing to the truth, and which are not.

Let's get the myths out of the way: We can't trust our gut on who is telling the truth. Extensive research in psychology shows that our minds tend to search for and interpret information in ways that align with our previous beliefs, a phenomenon known as "confirmation bias." In other words, we'll tend to believe whoever tells us what we want to hear, whether or not what they're saying is true. No wonder that a study showed that most Americans who see distorted news believe it.

Traditionally, mainstream media had the role of separating the wheat of truth from the chaff of deception. However, trust in the mainstream media is at an all-time low, with a majority of citizens across the political spectrum believing it publishes a lot of distorted news. Thus, politicians who want to cover up their corrupt and unethical activities are now using false labels to attack reporters trying to uncover their misdoings. As a result, mainstream media's ability to separate the liars from the truth-tellers has been weakened.

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