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Monday, 26 June 2017 08:23

Trump Channels Nero

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TOM HASTINGS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

NerosTorches 0626wrp opt"Nero's Torches." (Painting: Henryk Siemiradzki, via ABC Gallery)Donald Trump is doing everything in his considerable power to insure a future of rising oceans, dirty unbreathable air, more drought in some places, far larger and hotter and deadlier forest fires, more devastating storms—hurricanes, tornadoes—and all the increased flooding, demolished homes, destruction and death that comes with it all. Nero fiddled while Rome burned and Trump tweets while America roasts.

Pulling out of the Paris Climate Accords now means the world shakes it head in disgust at the lack of US conscience, morals, values, common sense and basic decency. That singularly stupid move will cost the US jobs, cooperation, and good faith from all erstwhile international partners. 

Reversing Obama's modest Clean Power order will gain US workers no net jobs—rather, it is a foolish pandering to those who yearn for the dirty old days of black lung disease, mine collapse, gooey acidic deposition on everything in coal mining towns, and rancid air unfit for anyone. 

Meanwhile, the massive numbers of new jobs that we could be creating in solar, wind, new energy storage capacity, and all the attendant spinoff businesses will go to Germany, China, and more clever countries as we slide down to stupid. Until now, the sunny progressive states have added many new solar jobs while automation (not Obama regulation) has slashed coal jobs since 2012.

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PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Death 0626wrp opt"Still Life With a Skull" by Philippe de Champaigne. (Photo: Web Gallery of Art)It goes far beyond Donald Trump. He's just simple-mindedly exacerbating a trend. Clear signs of deterioration have been building in our nation, some of them old and some more recent, all of them related to arrogance and greed at the highest levels. Beyond these failings there is one obvious way to begin to reverse the process. 

DESTRUCTION OF FAMILIES: Losing Their Wealth, Taking Painkillers, and Dying

With American households in the bottom 90% losing an average of $17,000 in wealth in 2016, they have increasingly turned to painkillers. The U.S. consumes 80 percent of the world's opioids, with some states filling more prescriptions than there are people, and with the morbid result that drugs are now killingmore Americans than traffic accidents or gun violence. 

DEGRADATION OF HUMAN HEALTH: Ignoring the Human Right to Health Care

A much-cited Princeton study concluded, "When the preferences of economic elites and the stands of organized interest groups are controlled for, the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy." The best example today is health care, an essential human need that is simply disregarded by Congressional Republicans who are instead -- inexplicably, astonishingly -- proposing CUTS to Medicaid and a health plan acceptable to just 17 percent of the U.S. population.

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LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Coral 0623wrp optA coral outcropping. (Photo: Toby Hudson)Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke, who recently recommended a reduction in the size of the 1.35 million acre Bears Ears National Monument to President Trump, is advocating for more drilling and mining on public lands and waters.

The former Montana Rep. told Reuters that the development of America's protected federal lands could help the country become a "dominant" global energy force.

"There is a social cost of not having jobs," he said. "Energy dominance gives us the ability to supply our allies with energy, as well as to leverage our aggressors, or in some cases our enemies, like Iran."

Zinke has been tasked by Trump to review 27 national monuments across the country as part the administration's plans to expand development of public land. Reuters notes that at least six of these sites hold oil, gas and coal.

Earlier this month, the interior secretary called for a scaling back of Bears Ears despite vocal opposition from Native American tribes and environmental advocates.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

foodlabeloldThe Trump administration is delaying a requirement to update the Nutrition Facts on packaged food, denying the consumer more complete information. (Photo: FoodFacts)

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As the appalling GOP public policy attacks on all but the wealthiest Americans continue, many of the ways in which executive branch agencies are working to make the nation less healthy are getting lost in the static. Consider an issue such as food labeling: Republicans are taking active steps to reduce the amount of information provided to consumers -- information that allows us to make healthier choices.

As discussed in a DCReport article earlier this year:

Another agency under Trump has put profits before consumer health. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has extended by a year compliance of a rule that would require food retailers to provide nutritional information on menus.

Originally conceived as part of the Affordable Care Act of 2010, the Food Labeling: Nutrition Labeling of Standard Menu Items in Restaurants and Similar Establishments Rule became part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016 signed by President Barack Obama. The deadline for compliance was set at May 5, 2017. But the FDA caved to lobbyists for supermarkets and big pizza chains -- including Domino's, Papa John's, Pizza Hut, Little Caesars, Walmart and Kroger Co. -- and extended the compliance date for the rule with the option to further review it.

The rule requires calorie counts of standard food items to be placed on menus and additional nutritional information be available in writing for consumers who ask for it. The rule affects chain restaurants with more than 20 locations, supermarkets, convenience stores and other food sellers.

In a nation beset by health problems related to large-scale consumption of fast food, this is hardly good news.

If President Trump and his apologista in Congress wonder why they're consistently getting such miserable job approval ratings from the public, they should take a deep breath, hold their noses, and actually look at the god-awful policies they're pursuing.If President Trump and his apologista in Congress wonder why they're consistently getting such miserable job approval ratings from the public, they should take a deep breath, hold their noses, and actually look at the god-awful policies they're pursuing. (Photo: Gage Skidmore)JIM HIGHTOWER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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What's the matter with these people? The Trumpsters in the White House and Congress, I mean.

Start with The Donald himself, a guy who can't pass a mirror without casting an adoring eye at his own reflection. What is it about him that requires the top officials of his government to humiliate themselves publically in the White House cabinet room, making them try to outdo each other in a groveling Worship-a-thon of praise for this magnificence? And what's wrong with his Cabinet members? One after another, the Vice President, Chief of Staff, Treasury Secretary, Secretary of State and all the other supposedly-powerful luminaries of the Government of the United States of America were called upon in June's televised cabinet session to say their name, then meekly offer their smarmiest praise of Trump's integrity, agenda and manly leadership. This spectacle of forced adulation of "The Leader" was so eerily insane that even North Korea's Kim Jong Un would've been too embarrassed to orchestrate it!

Yet Trump went even further in his flight from reality. Not satiated by the string of superlatives from his cabinet of sycophants, he resorted to stroking his own ego, opening with the fanciful claim that Americans are "seeing amazing results" from his presidency. Shifting into overdrive, the chief proclaimed that "never has there been a president -- [except maybe] FDR, who's passed more legislation, who's done more things than what we've done."

Protesters march in front of the white house as part of "Act Against Torture", a group of activists that are fighting against the United States' Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib policies.Demonstrators march in front of the White House as part of "Act Against Torture," a group of activists that are fighting against the United States' Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib policies. (Photo: Greg Foster)BOB KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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The corpses pile up like sandbags along the planet's geopolitical borders.

"Perhaps his condition deteriorated and the authorities decided it was better to release him in a coma than as a corpse."

So said an expert on North Korea recently, quoted in the New York Times following the death of 22-year-old Otto Warmbier, six days after he had been released in a comatose state from a North Korean prison. He had been sentenced to 15 years of hard labor a year and a half ago because he had taken a propaganda poster off the wall in his hotel. He had been with a tour group.

Oh Lord. The shocking wrongness and horror of this young man's death -- the absurdity of his arrest, the razor slash of his tears -- is all over the news. Of course. Who couldn't identify -- with him, with his parents? He had been dehumanized. He had a future, but it got pulled away from him by uniformed lunatics, or so the news presents this tragedy: in the context of America and its enemies.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

voting22Electronic voting machines are vulnerable to specialized hackers, not just Russians. (Photo: justgrimes)

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Journalists and activists have been sounding the alarm about electronic voting machines and their proprietary software for years. The vulnerability of these machines to hacking has not been front and center for some time -- primarily due to the failure of the corporate media and legislative bodies to take it seriously. That changed, to some extent, with the charges about Russian hacking from US intelligence agencies. However, the current emphasis is on the Russians allegedly attempting to influence the 2016 election, not on the flawed electronic voting machines that make hacking possible.

For example, CNN reported on hearings yesterday in the US Capitol:

Both sides of the Capitol on Wednesday heard from experts about the extent of Russian meddling in the 2016 election, with officials for the first time revealing how many states' election-related systems were targeted by Russian hackers.

But though the government disclosed that 21 states were potentially impacted by the targeting, lawmakers were left frustrated that the public still doesn't have a full picture of what exactly the Russians did during the election and that it's not fully clear what the US will do to protect itself going forward.

On the House side, the intelligence committee heard from former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson. On the Senate side, the intelligence committee heard from an array of federal and state officials regarding election infrastructure.

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DAN ZUKOWSKI OF ENVIRONEWS ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Cuyahoga 0621wrp optThe Cuyahoga River on fire, 1969. (Photo: EnviroNews)Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., President of Waterkeeper Alliance (the Alliance), sat down with EnviroNews Editor-in-Chief Emerson Urry to discuss the organization's response to the Trump Administration, which has been active in upending environmental regulations. The interview took place June 8, 2017 in Park City, Utah at the Waterkeeper Alliance International Conference.

Kennedy began by telling EnviroNews, "We're filing just barrages of suits to stop the dismantling of the Clean Water Act." Columbia Riverkeeper, part of the Alliance based in Oregon, fired off the first lawsuit in the U.S. against EPA head Scott Pruitt on February 23, 2017, just 13 days after he was confirmed by the Senate. The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court in Seattle and aims to force the EPA to mitigate high water temperatures in the Columbia and Snake Rivers that killed 250,000 adult sockeye salmon in 2015.

The action continued a lengthy record of using the courts to protect the nation's waterways. Among the highlights cited in the 2016 Waterkeeper Alliance Annual Report are rulings that imposed fines for polluting the Chattahoochee and Potomac Rivers and prevented sand mining in San Francisco Bay. Other actions have resulted in protection for sea otters along the coast of Southern California and defeating the proposed Gateway Pacific coal export terminal in Bellingham, Washington.

Kennedy said the Alliance was also working to prevent the EPA from undoing rules that protect communities and waterways from toxic coal ash waste. The Utility Solid Waste Activities Group, which represents electric generation utilities, has filed a petition that Waterkeeper Alliance says "seeks to do away with most of the EPA's environmental safeguards for coal ash." According to Waterkeeper, at least 200 coal ash waste dumps have contaminated local water sources with arsenic, lead, mercury and chromium.

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KATHY KELLY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Peacekeeper 0621wrp optA "Peacekeeper" nuclear missile launch. (Photo: US Air Force)This week, in New York City, representatives from more than100 countries will begin collaborating on an international treaty, first proposed in 2016, to ban nuclear weapons forever. It makes sense for every country in the world to seek a legally binding ban on nuclear weapons. It would make even more sense to immediately deactivate all nuclear weapons. But, by boycotting and disparaging the process now underway, the U.S. and other nuclear armed nations have sent a chilling signal. They have no intention of giving up the power to explode, burn and annihilate planetary life. "The United States is spending $1 trillion USD over the next thirty years to modernize its nuclear weapon arsenals and triple the killing power of these weapons," says Ray Acheson, programme director at Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF). Acheson also notes that the excessive spending for nuclear weapons contrasts with U.S. cuts to vital anti-poverty programs. On June 19th, more than a dozen people blocked the U.S. Mission to the UN entrance to protest Washington's boycott of the negotiations. They were arrested for disorderly conduct, but I believe it's incomparably  more disorderly to plan for nuclear war.

During the past weekend, to support the negotiations for a treaty banning nuclear weapons, WILPF called for "Women's March to Ban the Bomb" actions in cities across the U.S. and around the world. Jane Addams, who helped found the League in 1919, was a Chicago woman who understood the crucial need to put an end to war, all war, and instead care for the neediest people. She dedicated herself to assuring that many new immigrants in her city were treated with respect, given assistance to meet basic needs and encouraged to live and work together, peaceably. Addams worked passionately to prevent nations from sleepwalking into the horrors of World War I, and she vigorously campaigned to stop the United States' entry into it.

Upon return from visiting soldiers who had been maimed while fighting in the trenches of World War I, she spoke of how the young men couldn't have carried on the war without mind-altering substances -sometimes absinthe, sometimes extra rations of rum. Families were sending laudanum and even heroin to the front lines in hampers. The soldiers couldn't kill, she concluded, if left in their right minds.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

fccbadgeThe Federal Communications Commission under Trump is once again facilitating media consolidation. (Image: Wikipedia)

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One of the giant media consolidators, the Sinclair Broadcast Group, is on the verge of acquiring the Tribune Media Company. This is not good news.

The website B&C: Broadcasting and Cable points out that when the merger is complete, "Sinclair will reach 72 percent of the country, giving the group a near-national footprint, as well as a presence in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. Sinclair also would get Tribune’s national cable channel WGN America, and multicast networks including Antenna TV." In total, Sinclair will be acquiring Tribune Media's 42 television stations.

The acquisition of Tribune Media for $3.9 billion includes the flagship WGN radio station, which broadcasts from Chicago. The Tribune's print properties, including The Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times are not part of the buyout because they are part of Tribune Publishing, which became a separate company a few years back.

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