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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."

KATHY KELLY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

War1 0705wrp opt"The Apotheosis of War" (1871) by Vasily Vereshchagin (Photo: Wikipedia public domain)At an April, 2017 Symposium on Peace in Nashville, TN, Martha Hennessy spoke about central tenets of Maryhouse, a home of hospitality in New York City, where Martha often lives and works. Every day, the community there tries to abide by the counsels of Dorothy Day, Martha’s grandmother, who co-founded houses of hospitality and a vibrant movement in the 1930s. During her talk, she held up a postcard-sized copy of one of the movement’s defining images, Rita Corbin's celebrated woodcut listing "The Works of Mercy" and "The Works of War."

She read to us. "The Works of Mercy:  Feed the hungry; Give drink to the thirsty; Clothe the naked; Visit the imprisoned; Care for the sick; Bury the dead." And then she read: "The Works of War: Destroy crops and land; Seize food supplies; Destroy homes; Scatter families; Contaminate water; Imprison dissenters; Inflict wounds, burns; Kill the living."

The following week, General James Mattis was asked to estimate the death toll from the U.S. first use in Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, of the MOAB, or Massive Ordinance Air Burst bomb, the largest non-nuclear weapon in U.S. arsenals.

"We stay away from BDA, (bomb damage assessment), in terms of the number of enemy killed," he told reporters traveling with him in Israel. "It is continuing our same philosophy that we don't get into that, plus, frankly,digging into tunnels to count deadbodies is probably not a good use of our troops' time."

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

voting763Trump's election investigation commission may really be a tool for voter suppression. (Photo: Amanda Wood)

If you think that Trump's Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity is an effort for him to try and prove that Hillary's 2016 popular vote victory of approximately three million votes was due to fraudulent voters, you are probably wrong. The demand of the infamous vice chair, former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, for every state to turn over details of their voter rolls is possibly an attempt to capture the invaluable data for use by Republicans and Trump in upcoming elections.

The commission can't realistically be an attempt to reduce voter fraud, since voter fraud is an infinitesimal occurrence in the United States, as BuzzFlash has reported in the past. In January of this year, the Brennan Center for Justice published a study, "Debunking the Voter Fraud Myth," that concluded:

Most reported incidents of voter fraud are actually traceable to other sources, such as clerical errors or bad data matching practices. [Our] report reviewed elections that had been meticulously studied for voter fraud, and found incident rates between 0.0003 percent and 0.0025 percent. Given this tiny incident rate for voter impersonation fraud, it is more likely, the report noted, that an American “will be struck by lightning than that he will impersonate another voter at the polls.”

After all, with modern sweeping data collection and pinpointing of voters for either party a reality, the information, if collected, will be a gold mine at the Trump team's disposal and a staggering advantage to Trump in his manipulation of democracy. Greg Palast has just pointed out in a July 4 advisory that despite protests by many Republican states, Kobach already has a good deal of the information through a national voter suppression project called Interstate Crosscheck that he oversaw as Kansas secretary of state, using state voter registration data provided to him by other Republican secretaries of state.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Basketball 0703wrp optA basketball falls through the hoop. (Photo: Kerelin Molina)To go, or not to go? That could be the question the NBA champion Golden State Warriors will have to grapple with if they are invited to Donald Trump's White House. More than two decades ago, Craig Hodges, a member of the NBA champion Chicago Bulls, delivered a letter protesting the mistreatment of poor people and people of color to President George H.W. Bush during the team's 1991 visit to the White House. Vilified for being so bold, Hodges was recently asked by Dave Zirin, on his Edge of Sports podcast, for his thoughts on a possible visit by the Warriors. Hodges suggested that the Warriors should consider going, and take the opportunity to deliver a message about inequality and social justice. If they don't go, Hodges said, they should be clear about why they decided not to go.

As an NBA player, the outspoken Hodges initiated a boycott against Nike, and spoke out against police brutality. After ten productive seasons, which included leading the league in three-point shooting percentage three times, winning two NBA championships, and winning the three-point shooting contest at the NBA's All-Star weekend three times, he was out of the league.  

In the Foreword to Long Shot: The Triumphs And Struggles Of An NBA Freedom Fighter, written by Craig Hodges, with Rory Fanning (Haymarket Books, 2017), Dave Zirin, sports editor for The Nation, author of numerous books about sports and politics, and the host of the Edge of Sports podcast, points out that while athletic activism flourished in the 1960s and 1970s with protests and consciousness raising by Muhammad Ali, Billie Jean King, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, and others, it cooled precipitously in the 1990s and in the early part of the twenty-first century.

However, in the face of rampant police murders of black men, and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, there has been a re-birth of activism amongst athletes. The most prominent athlete to take a stand is former San Francisco 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who took a knee during the playing of the national anthem before National Football League games last season to protest police brutality and social inequality. A free agent, Kaepernick has yet to be signed by an NFL team.   

JOHN LaFORGE FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

MOAB 0703wrp optThe Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) bomb. (Photo: US Dept. of Defense)A June 27 Pew Research Center poll says world opinion of the United States has plummeted since Donald Trump took office. Surveying people in 37 countries, 49 percent held a positive view of the United States, down from 65 percent at the end of 2016. Maybe we could cancel the fireworks this 4th of July considering the insensitive symbolism of vicariously enjoying war. 

With the Pentagon's rockets' red glare and bombs bursting in air smashing seven majority Muslim countries — Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen — negativity toward the United States is easy to understand. US drone attacks originating in Nevada, 7,200 miles from Iraq, and jet fighter-bomber strikes launched from supercarriers in the Persian Gulf are killing hundreds of frightened bystanders month after month. At least 25 civilians were killed in Mosul, Iraq on Sat., June 24 when US bombs destroyed four houses.

Every child killed or maimed by US-made weapons inevitably creates enemies among survivors. President Obama (pronounced "Oh-Bomb-Ah") made the point himself May 23, 2013 in a speech to National Defense University. He said drone attacks "raise profound questions: about who is targeted, and why; about civilian casualties, and the risk of creating new enemies…" And Obama warned that, "US military action in foreign lands risks creating more enemies."

Whether bombing civilians only "risks" creating enemies or can be positively guaranteed always to do so, is a matter of opinion. But one need only consider the globalized, mechanized, mass US military reaction to 9/11 — and the country's demonization of whole groups and religions — to know that demands for revenge, retribution, and retaliation always follow the deaths of innocents.

JENNIFER KRILL FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Methane1 0630wrp optThawed permafrost leads to methane release. (Photo: Steve Jurvetson)The Trump administration has announced the latest round in its attacks on clean, breathable air and a stable global climate: a delay on two critical federal oil and gas methane pollution rules. Less than two years after the Obama administration passed new rules limiting air pollution from fracking and other oil and gas operations, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) are revising their rules and backtracking on promises to safeguard our health and climate.

The EPA and BLM rules tackle essentially the same problem under their two jurisdictions: the intentional and unintentional release of methane from oil and gas facilities. Methane is an extremely potent greenhouse gas 86 times worse for climate than carbon dioxide. When oil and gas facilities leak, vent or flare methane (the principal component of natural gas), they are wasting taxpayer dollars and threatening our climate and our health. Oil and gas industry methane emissions reductions were a cornerstone of President Obama's Climate Action Plan, and both the EPA and BLM rules had been key in meeting our Paris climate commitments. Dismantling these safeguards is a pivotal step in the President Trump's anti-climate agenda.

Without these safeguards, oil and gas facilities will continue to operate without federal supervision, leaving nearby residents in harm's way. Right now, methane pollution from oil and gas is completely unregulated at the federal level. While methane alone does not directly impact human health, dangerous "hitchhikers" are often released with methane, including carcinogens like benzene. Oil and gas pollution is connected to higher levels of cancer, cases of asthma and respiratory problems. As a result, people living near oil and gas production are at high risk. This isn't a small subset of the population -- 12.4 million Americans live within 1/2 mile of a potentially polluting site.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

bigboxstoresEmployees have a right to a predictable schedule and pay. (Photo: Mike Mozart)

The Oregonian recently reported that Oregon could become "the first state in the nation to mandate work schedule predictability for certain food service, retail and hospitality workers":

The bill would help on-call employees, including many earning low wages, who can have shifts added or taken away at the last minute....

The Fair Work Week Act would set work scheduling standards for the largest retail, hospitality and food service employers -- those with at least 500 employees worldwide. Starting in July 2018, those companies would have to give their Oregon employees written estimates of their work schedules seven days before the start of the work week. The notice requirement would increase to 14 days in July 2020.

The law passed the Oregon House this week after passing the state Senate. It is expected to be signed shortly by Democratic Governor Kate Brown. Some cities have already passed such laws -- including New York and Seattle -- but Oregon would become the first state to require fair scheduling.

While the US military gets virtually everything it wants, the UN reports that about 20 million people in Africa and the Middle East are starving. It has requested $4.4 billion to "avert a catastrophe."  Famine is particularly afflicting South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, and Nigeria. While the US military, currently occupying countries in Africa, gets virtually everything it wants, the UN reports that about 20 million people in Africa and the Middle East are starving. Famine is particularly afflicting South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, and Nigeria. (Photo: The US Army / Flickr)MEL GURTOV FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

During the Cold War, the US military and the CIA were involved in a multitude of "indirect" interventions in developing countries.  A few -- most dramatically and tragically, Vietnam -- evolved from a supporting US role to large-scale combat missions.  The Pentagon typically defined these missions as "low-intensity conflicts," though they hardly seemed as such to the innocent people caught up in them.  Now, just below the radar, the US military is engaged in an ever-increasing number of "advise-and-assist" missions, supplemented by major arms deals and CIA-run drone strikes, that commit the US to long-term intervention in Africa and the Middle East.  And Donald Trump, unlike Barack Obama, is happy to cede operational control -- to "let the war fighters fight the war," as Stephen Bannon told CNN.

The Growing US Footprint in Africa

The US Africa Command oversees a vast array of "outposts" -- categorized in Pentagon-speak as "consisting of two forward operating sites [including the one official base in Djibouti], 13 cooperative security locations, and 31 contingency locations."  Secret documents in 2015 listed thirty-six outposts "scattered across 24 African countries.  These include low-profile locations -- from Kenya to South Sudan to a shadowy Libyan airfield -- that have never previously been mentioned in published reports.  Today, according to an AFRICOM spokesperson, the number of these sites has actually swelled to 46, including '15 enduring locations.'  The newly disclosed numbers . . . shed new light on a constellation of bases integral to expanding U.S. military operations on the African continent and in the Middle East," Nick Turse writes.

there is a consensus of fear, scapegoating and dehumanization that has always dominated a portion of American policy as well as individual behavior. Some people's lives just don't matter. Or they're in the way.There is a consensus of fear, scapegoating and dehumanization that has always dominated a portion of American policy as well as individual behavior. Some people's lives just don't matter. Or they're in the way. (Photo: Jason Eppink / flickr)ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

The US serves up its news in a caldron from hell, or so it sometimes seems. The fragments are all simmering in the same juice: bombs and drones and travel bans, slashed health care, police shootings, the Confederate flag.

Double, double, toil and trouble . . .

Suddenly I'm thinking about the statues of Confederate generals taken down in New Orleans, the Confederate flag yanked from the state capital in Charleston, S.C. . . . and the secret flag the authorities can't touch. Ray Tensing was wearing such a flag -- a Confederate flag T-shirt -- on July 19, 2015, while he was on duty as a University of Cincinnati police officer. That afternoon, he pulled over Samuel DuBose because of a missing front license plate. Less than two minutes into the stop, DuBose -- a dad, a musician, an unarmed black man -- had been shot and killed.

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