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2016.2.2 bf jaggar2(Photo: BASF - We create chemistry)KARUNA JAGGAR OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

Vice President Biden and I have something in common that I wish we did not share. We have both lost a loved one to brain cancer.

The Vice President’s 46 year old son, Beau Biden, died from the disease earlier this year.

Fifteen years ago, I was living in the San Francisco Bay Area, enjoying a blissful summer-long reunion with a dear college friend from the Midwest. Her joyful revelry in discovering San Francisco as an outgoing young, butch, queer woman, was occasionally interrupted by severe headaches. We were all shocked when she was diagnosed with brain cancer at the end of the summer. She died 20 months later, five days shy of her 29th birthday. I was heartbroken and still, so many years later, still sometimes lose my breath at the realization that she is no longer here.

My fabulous friend Danielle Drumke was the first person in my inner circle to die of cancer. I wish I could say that she was the last.

WALTER BRASCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaAngryElephant(Photo: Mister-E)By May, there will be no more elephants in the Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey circus.

The circus management had originally said it would cease using elephants by 2018, but revised its estimate by two years. Management said the cost to retire the elephants to the Ringling Brothers Center for Animal Conservation in Florida is less than it had first anticipated. The 13 Asian elephants on tour will join 30 others at the 200 acre facility, which has a $2.5 million annual budget.

“Our family’s commitment to save the majestic Asian elephants will continue through our breeding program, research and conservation efforts at the Center,” said Alana Feld, executive vice-president of Feld Entertainment.

P.T. Barnum first used an elephant in his circus in 1882, having purchased Jumbo from a London zoo. Since then, most circuses have toured with performing elephants, most of them Asian females because of the difficulty to train male elephants after they reach maturity. (Almost no circuses use the larger African elephants.)

Why Ringling Bros. is removing its elephants from the touring company is because of increasing public pressure and charges of animal cruelty, much of it leveled by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and other animal rights groups.

“We were very pleased that the elephants with Ringling Bros. will no longer suffer a miserable life on the road where they spend a great deal of time in boxcars and perform grueling circus tricks under the threat of punishment,” says Nicole Paquette, HSUS vice-president for wildlife protection. The circus, says Paquette, “had been one of the biggest defenders of this kind of archaic animal abuse, and the imminent end of its traveling elephant acts signaled that even one of the most tough-minded and hardened animal-use companies now recognized that the world is changing and it had to adapt.”

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaStrikeFist(Photo: Ralph Chaplin)Americans are feeling the impoverishing effects of the shift from middle-income to low-income jobs. The disappearance -- or, more accurately, downsizing -- of living-wage jobs is documented by numerous reports that reveal the suddenness and the extent of this affront to middle America.

First, the Neoliberal Explanation: It's Not Really Happening

Business writer Robert Samuelson calls the post-recession low-wage recovery a "myth." To support his claim he cites a study from the Economic Policy Institute which, according to Samuelson, proves that "the economy’s employment profile — the split between high- and low-paying jobs — hasn’t changed much since the recession or, indeed, the turn of the century."

But the EPI analysis is based on average wages within industries, rather than on the median, which reflects unequal growth. If the median had kept up with the average over the past 15 years, the current median wage would be $1/hour higher, or about $2,000 per year. The employment profile has actually changed a great deal since the year 2000.

There's more. The EPI analyst claims that "jobs are being added relatively in proportion to their share." But she only considers one year's data, after much of the damage had already been done. Even so, the EPI figures show that the percentage of middle-wage jobs added in 2014 was 6.3 percent less than the overall percentage of middle-wage jobs (42.7% to 40%) -- a rather dramatic change for a single year.

COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaErin(Photo: Eva Rinaldi)Environmental activist Erin Brockovich appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert to talk about the Flint water crisis. Brockovich said members of the Flint community reached out to her a year ago because they were concerned about how their water looked, tasted and smelled. She sent a team of experts to Flint to investigate and even drafted a protocol for how the city should deal with the problem.

She explained to the audience what went wrong in Flint and what the city needs to do to provide residents with potable water. Colbert then asked Brockovich if Flint was the tip of the “leadberg.” Are there other communities facing similar problems?, he asked.

Brockovich answered with a resounding yes. “I can tell you that Flint, Michigan is the tip of the iceberg,” she said. “I can tell you for certain that this is a national crisis that we are not getting ready to face. The crisis is already here. Even since Flint has hit the national stage, we’ve found out that Sebring, Ohio has the same problem … The same thing is happening in Louisiana, and we’re just now hearing rumors—I haven’t verified it before I came out—we’re having the same situation in Wisconsin.”

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaaaaaapatriarchyThe patriarchal backlash continues. (Photo: Christopher Dombres)

Yesterday, we detailed recent overt racist statements made by Maine's Tea Party Governor Paul LePage.

The last 70 years of political history has seen a recurring backlash by a significant segment of the United States' white population against progressive advances, including: an increased number of rights for people of color, advances in rights and equality for women, steps toward addressing the degradation of the environment, recognition of a secular society and the promotion of alternatives to heartless capitalism. 

However, these steps forward have been the beginning of a process, not its completion. For more than two decades, progress on these fronts has run into a brick wall of opposition - and in many cases, a rollback of rights and freedoms.

This backlash has consistently returned to the assertion of white Christian male privilege. That in large part explains why Donald Trump used his media celebrity status to make a national event out of John Wayne's daughter, Aissa Wayne, endorsing him in "the Duke's" hometown last week in Winterset, Iowa. Here was a woman endorsing Trump on behalf of the mythical, patriarchal, racist and - of course - sexist Wayne.

When it comes to women, Trump's misogynist attacks on Fox anchor Megyn Kelly - including his boycott of the GOP debate last night, supposedly because she was a moderator - and his sneering remarks about Hillary Clinton's biological functions as a woman (as well as Kelly's) - are representative of white male patriarchal revulsion at the advancement of women.

One of the most visibly ongoing assaults on women is the neverending attack on a woman's right to choose an abortion. This has most recently been evident during the right wing's rampage against Planned Parenthood, which has employed doctored videos to make evidence-less allegations against the organization. Of course, as the Voice of America reports today, a "panel clears Planned Parenthood, [and a Texas grand jury] charges its accusers [two people who took the disputed videos]."  

2015.28.1 bf koehler(Photo: Mike Andrews)ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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When I want to believe that the US is a democracy — indeed, to feel so deeply this is so that my soul trembles — I turn to Martin Luther King, who gave his life for it.

He cried out for something so much more than a process: a game of winners and losers. He reached for humanity’s deepest yearning, for the connectedness of all people, for the transcendence of hatred and the demonization of “the other.” He spoke — half a century ago — the words that those in power couldn’t bear to hear, because his truths cut too deep and disrupted too much business as usual.

But what else is a democracy than that?

“Now, it should be incandescently clear that no one who has any concern for the integrity and life of America today can ignore the present war. . . .”

Uh oh. This ain’t politics as usual. This is King standing in the oval office, staring directly into the eyes of LBJ, declaring that civil rights legislation isn’t a political favor but merely the beginning of a nation’s moral atonement.

“If America’s soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read Vietnam.”

2015.28.1 bf berkowitz(Photo: DonkeyHotey)BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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With less than a week to go before the Iowa caucus, evangelical Christian leaders are facing a huge dilemma. Should they endorse the candidate they feel has faith at the center of their lives, or should they go with someone they think can defeat either Hillary Clinton or Senator Bernie Sanders. The two leading Republican Party presidential candidates, Donald Trump and Texas Senator Ted Cruz, have been duking it out for endorsements by Religious Right leaders for the past few months. One week after speaking at Liberty University on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Trump received the endorsement of Liberty’s president Jerry Falwell Jr., who has stated that Trump “reminds me so much of my father.” At just about the same time, Tony Perkins, president of the highly influential Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council, has personally endorsed Cruz.

Although Florida Senator Marco Rubio appears to be a non-factor in Iowa, oddly enough, while some of the bigger names in evangelical Christian politics are endorsing Trump or Cruz, Rubio has, according to a report in The Christian Post, “the support of more than 70 percent of evangelical leaders and influencers, and remains their top presidential pick for the seventh month in a row, according to WORLD magazine's monthly surveys.”

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaalepageMaine Tea Party Governor Paul LePage openly reveals the racism that festers on the underside of the US "post-racial" narrative.(Photo:DonkeyHotey)

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Every once in awhile, the coded rhetoric and pernicious practices embedded in institutional racism in the US break through the surface and are revealed as explicit bigotry.

CNN began a January 27 article with this grotesque proposal from the governor of the nation's most northeastern state, "Maine Gov. Paul LePage says his state is too easy on drug crimes, suggesting it should bring back the guillotine for serious offenders." How is that grisly public policy proposal directly connected to unvarnished racism? 

Before we answer that, let's provide some context.

LePage is in his second term as the Tea Party governor of Maine. He has, as Jim Hightower pointed out in 2011, been true to the basest politics of his followers :

LePage's rampage includes busting unions, rolling back child labor laws, gutting programs for the middle class and poor, and raising the retirement age for Maine workers--all in his first few weeks in office.

Then, in late March [of 2011], LePage made his grab for gold-plated goofy greatness. As widely reported, the potentate of the Pine Tree State ordered that a 36-foot-wide mural be removed from the state's Department of Labor building. The work of art depicts historical scenes of Maine workers, but it seems that the governor and certain unnamed corporate backers found the painting too favorable toward laboring people, so--POOF!--it was summarily disappeared into a storeroom.

The Tea Party is also constructed on a sense of white entitlement, and LePage has certainly perpetuated that ignominious outlook.

COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaAirPollution1973(Photo: Frank John Aleksandrowicz)Amid the Flint, Michigan water crisis, experts warned that what’s happening in Flint could happen elsewhere. And now it appears it already has. The town of Sebring, Ohio outside of Youngstown learned Thursday that high levels of lead were detected in some residents’ water last summer.

Residents are now demanding to know why they have been left in the dark for months. According to the AP, schools have been closed for three days, children are being tested for lead poisoning, bottled water is being handed out and state regulators are calling for a criminal investigation of the town’s water plant manager.

“How long has this been going on and how much did we drink it?” Sebring resident Nina McIlvain asked. “I’m sure there’s more to it than we know.”

According to AP, last summer, seven of 20 homes where the water is routinely tested showed excessive levels of lead. The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said the manager of the small water system failed to notify the public within the required 60 days and submitted “misleading, inaccurate or false reports.” Plant manager James Bates said the allegations were an “outright lie.”

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaClimateWarm(Photo: NASA)In 1996, the Illinois-based Heartland Institute, then only twelve years old, launched a revolutionary project called PolicyFax, which combined conservative advocacy with then state-of-the-art technology to become one of the right’s leading information clearinghouses. In the environmental section of PolicyFax’s 300-page paper catalogue, hundreds of articles were listed, covering a broad range of issues including: air quality, chemicals, endangered species, energy, environmental justice, forestry, free-market environmentalism, global climate change, ozone depletion, regulatory reform, and sustainable development.

PolicyFax was accessible 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and was absolutely free to every elected official in the United States (regardless of position), every significant media worker, and researchers from many other think tanks. Heartland’s complete set of resources would be delivered directly to their desks. In many ways, Heartland’s PolicyFax helped seed the conservative movement’s long-lived project denying global warming; a project that continues unabated to this day.

A report prepared in 2000 – covering the period from 1990-1997 -- titled Challenging Global Warming as a Social Problem: An Analysis of the Conservative Movement’s Counter-Claims, “was the first comprehensive look at how conservative think tanks were trying to shape the conversation on climate,” Heather Smith recently reported in Grist, the very essential online environmental magazine.

According to the report -- prepared by Aaron M. McCright and Riley E. Dunlop, two Washington State University sociologists – information about global warming on the web sites of major conservative think tanks centered around three points: “the evidentiary basis of global warming [w]as weak, if not entirely wrong: if global warming exists, it could “have substantial benefits”; and, “the movement warned that proposed action to ameliorate global warming would do more harm then good.”  

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