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Friday, 20 October 2017 07:18

The GOP and Trump: Their War Against Women

JOHN GEYMAN, MD FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

PPrally 1020wrp optA Planned Parenthood rally. Photo: Molly Adams)The escalating war on women being waged by Republicans and the Trump administration knows no bounds and violates a long history of protections for women in previous administrations over almost 50 years. Their ultimate goal is to overturn Roe v. Wade, which decriminalized abortion in 1973. In their failed bills in Congress earlier this year, the GOP and its pro-life forces attacked women's health care by attempting to restrict access to contraception and abortion, cut Medicaid and defund Planned Parenthood. Beyond his many misogynous statements, Trump has said that a woman should be "punished" for having an abortion. Soon after his inauguration, he reversed long-standing abortion-related US policy by expanding the so-called Global Gag Rule, which prevents foreign recipients of US funding from offering counseling, information or advocacy services for abortion care. Under that rule, health professionals cannot mention abortion as an option, regardless of health risks or even if a woman asks. Now his latest attack on women -- signing an executive order that allows employers with a moral or religious objection to stop insurance coverage for contraceptive services, as has been required by the ACA, that can affect up to 62 million women.

These new policies represent a stunning reversal of women's rights dating back to the Title X Family Planning Program, enacted under Republican President Nixon in 1970 with the goal to "promote positive birth outcomes and healthy families by allowing individuals to decide the number and spacing of their children." Congress passed another bill in 1975 that authorized a network of family planning centers across the US. By 2014, there were some 4,400 such centers in operation.

As Planned Parenthood clinics, 97 percent of services provided include breast exams, other preventive services such as screening for cervical cancer and sexually transmitted infections; less than 3 percent of these services are for abortion care. Over the years, Title X has greatly reduced the number of abortions in the US by preventing unintended pregnancies.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

epa33Scott Pruitt wants to limit EPA lawsuit settlements. (Photo: mccready)

In a few short months, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has proven that he will use every means at his disposal to swing a wrecking ball through environmental policy. Therefore, it may not be surprising that on October 17 the EPA issued a news release announcing that it will seek not to settle most lawsuits filed by environmental groups. According to the EPA release,

In fulfilling his promise to end the practice of regulation through litigation that has harmed the American public, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt issued an Agency-wide directive today designed to end "sue and settle" practices within the Agency, providing an unprecedented level of public participation and transparency in EPA consent decrees and settlement agreements.

"The days of regulation through litigation are over," said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. "We will no longer go behind closed doors and use consent decrees and settlement agreements to resolve lawsuits filed against the Agency by special interest groups where doing so would circumvent the regulatory process set forth by Congress. Additionally, gone are the days of routinely paying tens of thousands of dollars in attorney’s fees to these groups with which we swiftly settle."

Over the years, outside the regulatory process, special interest groups have used lawsuits that seek to force federal agencies – especially EPA – to issue regulations that advance their interests and priorities, on their specified timeframe. EPA gets sued by an outside party that is asking the court to compel the Agency to take certain steps, either through change in a statutory duty or enforcing timelines set by the law, and then EPA will acquiesce through a consent decree or settlement agreement, affecting the Agency’s obligations under the statute.

The directive does not rule out all settlements. It, however, creates an arduous process that will create multiple roadblocks to a third party suing the EPA for not doing its job of protecting the environment and people from toxic pollution and environmental degradation.

Heavy band of oil seen during an overflight on May 12, 2010, after the Deepwater Horizon oilspill.Heavy band of oil seen during an overflight on May 12, 2010, after the Deepwater Horizon oilspill. (Photo: NOAA / Flickr)LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

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Last week, a pipe owned by offshore oil and gas operator LLOG Exploration Company, LLC spilled up to 393,000 gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, reminding many observers of the Deepwater Horizon explosion seven years ago that spewed approximately 210 million gallons of crude into familiar territory.

Now, a report from Bloomberg suggests that the LLOG spill could be the largest in the U.S. since the 2010 BP blowout, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE).

The Pentagon, aligned with corporate America, has a budget that grows larger every year. The Pentagon, aligned with corporate America, has a budget that grows larger every year. (Photo: Felton Davis / Flickr)ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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The US's endless war quietly moves across the broken nations of the world. Every so often, U.S. soldiers die, as four Green Berets did several weeks ago in . . . Niger.

And the news was more about the adequacy of presidential condolences to the families of the slain soldiers than the point of our military presence there, i.e., why they died. An official sentiment was uttered by White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Oct. 5:

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of the fallen service members who made the ultimate sacrifice in the defense of the freedoms we hold so dear."

Thursday, 19 October 2017 06:25

Trump Ratchets Up Tensions With Cuba

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

cubatrumpTrump wants to move backward on relations with Cuba. (Photo: Balint Földesi)

It did not receive prolonged coverage -- and you may not have noticed -- but over this summer Donald Trump announced that he was tightening the criteria for travel to Cuba. His overall objective was apparently his ideological opposition to the Cuban state, now under the leadership of Raúl Castro. According to a CNN article from June, Trump made the criteria for US citizens traveling to Cuba stricter:

Casting the Obama administration as people who looked the other way on the Castro regime's human rights violations, Trump said that he, as President, will "expose the crimes of the Castro regime."

"They made a deal with a government that spread violence and instability in the region and nothing they got, think about it, nothing they got, they fought for everything and we just didn't fight hard enough, but now, those days are over," Trump said. "We now hold the cards. The previous administration's easing of restrictions of travel and trade does not help the Cuban people. They only enrich the Cuban regime."

Although Trump said he was "completely" canceling Obama's Cuba policy, the change is posture is only a partial shift from Obama's policy....

The Trump administration will begin strictly enforcing the authorized exemptions that allow travel between the US and Cuba and prohibit commerce with Cuban businesses owned by the military and intelligence services.

The Trump White House, however, is not severing embassy ties to Cuba or prohibiting Americans from bringing back goods from Cuba, including rum and cigars.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017 08:09

In This New Age of Automation, We Are Luddites

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Luddite 1018wrp opt(Photo: aaaf17-010 / Flickr)"THE ROBOTS ARE COMING! THE ROBOTS ARE COMING! ... EEK! THEY'RE ALREADY HERE!"

Today's proliferation of industrial robots is an advanced generation of powerful, autonomous machines driven by artificial intelligence. The profiteers and techies propelling us into the deep unknown of a robot economy concede that the fast-evolving machines will be radically disruptive, not just in the workplace, but throughout society. Yet, they insist that AI will end up a godsend, even for the millions "adjusted" out of their jobs. Trust us, they say, genuflecting to Efficiency and Productivity, their twin gods of economic progress. Intelligent robots will reduce labor costs (efficiency) and increase output (productivity), thus generating the one product the Powers That Be constantly demand from our economy: more wealth. Just wait, they say, this is gonna be BIG!

Those who question the establishment's mantra that labor-reducing technologies are inherently good and will magically enrich everyone are derided with high tech's ultimate insult — LUDDITE!

What's the origin of this corporate-hurled pejorative? In 1811, skilled weavers and other textile makers in Northern England launched a short-lived rebellion. These artisans had been the middle class of their day. Working from their own cottages, they made a decent living producing quality stockings and cloth that merchants sold throughout the Commonwealth.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Windmill 1018wrp optThe base of a windmill. (Photo: Sandra / Flickr)You don't have to be a science geek to have heard of DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, but unless you like digging deep into Department of Energy, you are unlikely to know about ARPA-E, the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy. DARPA was created in 1958 during the Eisenhower administration as a response to the Soviet Union's Sputnik launching. DARPA-funded projects have had some incredible – some might call revolutionary – success, providing technologies that influenced the creation of the Internet, the G.P.S., and numerous military and national security projects. In July of last year, the agency announced its Cyber Grand Challenge (CGC), which aims to combat security vulnerabilities.

In Michael Lewis' extensive Vanity Fair article about Rick Perry's Department of Energy, a small section of the piece talked about ARPA-E. ARPA-E was developed during the George W. Bush administration, and funded during President Obama's first administration. It is intended to be the "energy equivalent of DARPA. Now, the agency is facing Team Trump's chopping block.

ARPA-E was the place where "wildly creative ideas," and out-of-the-box thinking would find a home. To non-scientists, some of the research may seem a bit fanciful, non-productive, or even downright nutty. At ARPA-E, researcher would be given license to explore what might be thought of as unexplorable. And, at $300 million a year, who knows where small grants to researchers might lead.

"The idea behind ARPA-E was to find the best …ideas that the free market had declined to finance and make sure they were given a chance," Lewis wrote.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

swamptrumpTrump is making the DC swamp even fouler. (Photo: James Loesch)

When Donald Trump was campaigning for president, he repeatedly promised that if elected he would "drain the swamp" in Washington, DC. Tuesday, October 16 is a regrettable example of how Trump is not only not "draining" the swamp, he is building his own deplorable swamp entirely centered around him.

Yesterday at a White House news conference, for instance, Trump asserted, "People have to be careful, because at some point I fight back.... it won't be pretty." What was Trump responding to? He was threatening Sen. John McCain for criticizing Trump's foreign policy earlier in the day at an awards ceremony, according to CNBC:

Republican Senator John McCain condemned rising nationalism and isolationism in the U.S. that has gone hand in hand with Donald Trump's presidency during an awards ceremony Monday.

"We live in a land made of ideals, not blood and soil," McCain said, after he was introduced by former Vice President Joe Biden while being honored with the Liberty Medal at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.

McCain's use of the phrase "blood and soil" echoed a neo-Nazi slogan shouted during a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville in August.

McCain, CNBC reported, went onto a more sweeping censure of Trump's foreign policy.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017 08:09

A Question for Betsy DeVos

2017.17.10 bf bradyGiven the cost to taxpayers of standardized tests; given the time devoted to preparing for them; given the life-altering consequences of their scores, why is it not morally unacceptable, ethically indefensible and practically unwise to continue their use? (Photo: Alberto G. / Flickr)MARION BRADY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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Worldwide, the rate of environmental, technological and demographic change is more rapid than it's ever been, and is accelerating. If we want to maintain our way of life, we must understand the changes, manage those that can be managed, and adapt to those that are beyond our control.

Because problems can't be solved using the same kind of thinking that created them, understanding, managing and adapting to change require an ability to think in new ways. In the 1960s, thoughtful federal education legislation and funding for research encouraged educators to think freshly, and new instructional materials in the physical and social sciences, and humanities began to appear that emphasized "learning by doing" rather than merely trying to remember secondhand, delivered information. The materials went by various labels -- "inquiry," "discovery," "active learning" and "constructivism."

Aung San Suu Kyi addressing the members at the European ParliamentAung San Suu Kyi addressing the members at the European Parliament on October 22, 2013. (Photo: European Parliament / Flickr)ARSHAD M. KHAN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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Despite claims by Burma of efforts to improve relations between Buddhists and Muslims, the facts prove otherwise. Another 11,000 Rohingya Muslims crossed into Bangladesh the week of October 9 in the latest paroxysm of Burmese Buddhist hatred.  

Burma and its de facto leader State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi have become pariahs in the human community.

The Oxford City Council has followed the example of Oxford University, which revoked the honorary doctorate awarded to Suu Kyi, and her college, St. Hugh's, that removed her portrait displayed prominently in the foyer. On Tuesday, October 3, the vote at the City Council meeting was unanimous. It will hold a special meeting on November 27 later this year to strip Suu Kyi of the Freedom of the City of Oxford, an award bestowed on her in 1997. The city of London is to debate a similar Honorary Freedom she received there.

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