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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Mine Safety and Health Administration emblemMiners should be concerned about a loosening of job safety standards under Trump. (Image: US Government)

Donald Trump is continuing to appoint horrific nominees to oversee regulatory agencies that impact workers and the economy. To understand the extent of the damage, take a look at the "Policy Watch" of the Economic Policy Institute's (EPI) Perkins Project on Worker Rights and Wages. The institute closely follows the Trump administration's appointments and regulations, looking at whether its actions "help working people or only benefit the wealthy few," according to its website. Thus far, the White House appears determined to install individuals who have backgrounds that violate workers' rights instead of protecting them.

For example, many coal miners in states such as West Virginia and Kentucky voted for Trump, but the president is giving them the shaft when it comes to overseeing their safety. The Economic Policy Institute describes David Zatezalo, Trump's nominee to head the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA):

Zatezalo formerly served as chief executive of Rhino Resources, a coal company that had numerous clashes with MSHA officials during the Obama administration. Following the Upper Big Branch mine disaster on April 5, 2010, MSHA stepped up its enforcement efforts, and identified a number of health and safety violations at Zatezalo’s company….

MSHA [which is in the Department of Labor] carries out the provisions of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977, and mine worker deaths have decreased dramatically since then. However, to date in 2017, twelve miners have died on the job, and 25 died in 2016.

In a news alert email, EPI refers to Zatezalo as one of the Trump-appointed "foxes guarding the henhouse."

JOSEPH GERSON FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

NoNukes 0920wrp optHanging in the window of the Hard Rock Café in Bangkok. (Photo: Daniel Grosvenor)On September 20, in a formal UN ceremony, the Nuclear Weapons Prohibition Treaty will be opened for signatures. The treaty further stigmatizes nuclear weapons and seeks to outlaw their use, threatened the use, development, testing, production, manufacture, acquisition, possession or stockpiling nuclear weapons, transfer and deployment.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could unconditionally celebrate the negotiation of the "ban" treaty? It emerged from the righteous anger of most the world's nations at the nuclear powers' refusal to fulfill their Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons Treaty (NPT) obligation to engage in good faith negotiations for the elimination of their nuclear arsenals.

Who wouldn't want to celebrate 122 governments -- more than half of the UN member states -- having the gumption to insist enough and no more?

The nuclear weapons states and their allies -- that's who! Governments, militaries and elites who use preparations for and threats to use nuclear weapons to bolster their power and privilege. Men and women who practice international relations in the tradition of mafia dons. Those who profit from and have their fingers on the nuclear triggers.

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

OccMonsanto 0919wrp opt(Photo: Daniel Lobo)Two years ago, the debate over glyphosate's link to cancer took a surprising turn when the European Food Safety Authority's (EFSA) infamously rejected the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer's March 2015 classification of the weedkiller as a possible carcinogen.

However, new reporting from the Guardian reveals that the European agency's recommendation that the chemical is safe for public use was based on an EU report that directly lifted large sections of text from a study conducted by Monsanto, the manufacturer of glyphosate-based Roundup.

The particular sections cover some of the biggest questions about glyphosate's supposed health risks, including its links to genotoxicity, carcinogenicity and reproductive toxicity.

The revelation comes as the European Union debates whether it should extend its licensing of the world's most popular herbicide. As it happens, the EFSA provides scientific advice to the EU and plays a key role in the authorization of thousands of products that end up in Europe's food chain, including genetically modified organisms, pesticides, food additives and nanotech products, according to Corporate Europe Observatory, a non-profit watchdog group.

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

HealthPig 0919wrp opt(Photo: 401kcalculator.org / Flickr)Believe it or not, we can get Congress to enact a new program providing good quality, lower-cost health care for your family and (what the hell, let's think big here) for every man, woman and (especially) every child in our society.

Step One: eliminate every dime of the multimillion-dollar government subsidy that now covers platinum-level health insurance for all 535 Members of Congress and their families. Let those laissez-faire ideologues who have saddled us with an exorbitantly-expensive, dysfunctional and (let's admit it) sick system of medical profiteering experience what they've wrought, without any government pampering. This includes shutting down their "Office of the Attending Physician," a little-known spot of pure, 100 percent socialized medicine conveniently located in our U.S. Capitol to provide a full range of government-paid doctors, nurses, pharmacists and others who give immediate, on-the-spot attention to these special ones. A seriously sick child, a car wreck, a cancer diagnosis — and suddenly the civilized idea of Medicare for All will start making sense even to anti-government, you're-on-your-own Republican ideologues.

Well, you might say, they still won't feel the pain, because they're one-percenters, pulling down $174,000 a year each from us taxpayers, meaning they can afford to buy decent health insurance. Ah, but here comes Step Two: put all of our congressional goof-offs on piece-rate, pay-for-performance salaries. Why pay them a flat rate whether they produce or not? For example, American babies are more likely to die in their first year of life than babies in Poland, which provides universal health insurance for all of its people. So, every year that the U.S. Congress fails to provide health coverage for every American family, the members should get their pay docked by a third. Pay them only when they deliver for the people, not for their ideological purity.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017 05:49

Another Trump Administration Assault on Nature

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

BearsEarsInterior Secretary Ryan Zinke wants to reduce the size of several National Monuments, including Bears Ears (seen above) in Utah. (Photo: IIP Photo Archive

The Trump administration is a clear and present danger to our planet's macro-environment because of its denial of global warming. Just yesterday, Politico published an article that confirmed the White House is still pulling out of the Paris accord:

A top White House official in a meeting with foreign officials on Monday reiterated President Donald Trump's plan to withdraw from an international climate agreement unless he can secure a better deal for the United States....

"We are withdrawing and we made that as clear as it can be. I don't know how to say it any more clearly," Cohn said at the meeting, according to a third person familiar with his remarks.

Meanwhile, on the domestic side, one can expect that not only will the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) find a myriad of ways to avoid protecting the environment, but that agencies such as the Department of the Interior will reduce the size of national monuments and privatize where possible the National Park Service experience. For instance, according to a Teen Vogue report, the Trump administration revoked a partial plastic water bottle ban that had been introduced by the National Park Service in the Obama administration:

In 2011, the National Park Service (NPS) implemented a policy to curb plastic litter and "reduce our carbon footprint": a restriction on bottled-water sales at national parks. On August 16, the federal government announced that the Obama-era policy would be repealed, effective immediately. The original policy wasn't a ban, per say, since only 23 of 417 national parks in the United States — such as the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon National Park, Mount Rushmore, and Zion National Park — stopped selling bottled water, in order to encourage visitors to use refillable bottles. But the policy was colloquially referred to by media and citizens as the "water bottle ban."

"While we will continue to encourage the use of free water-bottle filling stations as appropriate, ultimately it should be up to our visitors to decide how best to keep themselves and their families hydrated during a visit to a national park," acting National Park Service Director Michael T. Reynolds said in a statement.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Meat 0918wrp opt(Photo: Shawn Harquail)In the early 1990s, legislation specifically aiming at gagging whistleblowers was introduced in several states. These "ag-gag" laws, initiated by the agricultural-industrial complex, targeted journalists, environmental and animal rights activists, preventing them from taking photographs or video at slaughterhouses and other agricultural operations. As Esquire's Charles P. Pierce recently pointed out, these laws were aimed at "criminaliz[ing] the gathering of evidence regarding environmental pollution on public lands, as well as evidence regarding unsanitary conditions in facilities like slaughterhouses and factory farms."

According to The Humane Society of the United States, "Ag-gag bills seek to make it difficult or impossible for whistleblowing employees or animal advocacy groups to expose animal cruelty or safety issues. These bills can take a variety of forms, but the intent is the same: to punish those who expose patterns of animal abuse or food safety violations on factory farms, and therefore conceal these abuses from the public." 

Recently, ag-gag laws in Utah and Wyoming were ruled unconstitutional. In July, the U.S. District Court of Utah struck down the law on the grounds that it is unconstitutional.

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

MedAll 0918wrp opt(Photo: Molly Adams / Flickr)Of course, it will pay for itself eventually, with lower administrative costs and savings on medications and provider fees. 

Universal health care is getting closer to reality at the state level, in California. The Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) has analyzed a proposal for a statewide single-payer health care system that would reduce current costs by at least 8 percent. It would be funded in two ways: (1) a continuation of Medicare and MediCal; and (2) gross receipts and sales taxes, both at 2.3 percent, with exemptions for small businesses, low-income residents, and purchases of basic necessities. Unfortunately, California has postponed the plan, at least until January, 2018. 

At the national level, Bernie Sanders' single-payer plan is forecasted to save $6 trillion over 10 years. It could be funded in part by the elimination of special treatment for capital gains, payroll taxes, and multi-million dollar estates. While anticipating inevitable resistance from monied interests, it can nevertheless be accurately demonstrated that three Americans -- or, rather, groups of Americans -- have received the most benefits from years of national productivity, and should provide most of the initial funding.

BILL QUIGLEY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Katrina 0915wrp optHurricane Katrina. (Photo: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)Dear Fellow Hurricane Survivors:

Our hearts go out to you as you try to return to and fix your homes and lives.  Based on our experiences, here are a few things you should watch out for as you rebuild your communities.

1.  Rents are going to skyrocket and waves of evictions are likely.  With so many houses damaged and so many highly paid contractors coming into your region whose companies will pay anything to house them, landlords are going to start evicting people to make way for higher paying occupants.  Work with local organizations to enact a moratorium on evictions and a freeze on rents to allow working and low income people to come home and have a place to stay.

2.  Rip off contractors and vulture businesses are probably already on the scene.  Don’t give money to anyone unless you know and trust them and do not pay for everything in advance!   

3.   Take pictures of everything that was damaged and hold onto all receipts for all your disaster expenses.  Get a special binder and keep all your papers in it.  Sadly, the process of getting assistance is going to last for years for many people and you will need to prove what damage you have.

4.  Right after a disaster there is an outpouring of compassion, support and solidarity.  Take what you need for your community.  But realize the window of compassion and support shuts much quicker than it should.  Then people will start blaming the victims.

In the thrall of big money from the fossil-fuel industry, the Republican Party has spent the last eight years stonewalling and refusing action, putting at risk the safety and security of our citizens and the future of our planet.In the thrall of big money from the fossil fuel industry, the Republican Party has spent the last eight years stonewalling and refusing action, putting at risk the safety and security of our citizens and the future of our planet. (Photo: Gage Skidmore / Flickr)ETHAN GOFFMAN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Perhaps Hurricanes Harvey and Irma will be wake-up calls to the politicians of Texas and Florida about the realities of climate change. Both are states with climate-denying governors and populations that voted for denier-in-chief Donald Trump. Florida Gov. Rick Scott has even been widely accused of banning the term "climate change" among state employees.

It seems that Mother Nature is sending a message that, yes, climate change is real and this is only the beginning. No one knows where or when, but such disasters will only get worse in coming years. And the tables have turned, as Texas Sen. Ted Cruz came begging, hat in hand, for money from Congress when four years earlier he voted to deny such funds to New York and New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy.

Nevertheless, those suffering the worst are the poor and people of color who had nothing whatsoever with denying climate change and do the least to cause it. So it seems that we should be sending whatever it takes to rebuild these lost homes and ways of life.

In a conventional court, justice is an adversarial process: Judgment comes from on high and the role of the defendant is to shut up and obey. In Restorative Justice Community Court, there is a larger, more complex understanding of the context in which crime occurs and all participants have a say in how to heal its wounds.In a conventional court, justice is an adversarial process. In Restorative Justice Community Court, there is a larger, more complex understanding of the context in which crime occurs and all participants have a say in how to heal its wounds. (Photo: AJEL / Pixabay)ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Help us bring you the perspectives and insight that you won't find in the mainstream media. Click here to support BuzzFlash and Truthout with a tax-deductible donation.

"Even if you’re the one charged, you will help create the answer."

And the court has now come to order.

The speaker is Colleen Sheehan, the presiding judge of the Restorative Justice Community Court, which opened last week in the Chicago neighborhood of North Lawndale, after several years of intense planning.

This new court – this utterly new idea about the administration, and meaning, of "justice" – is part of the Cook County Circuit Court system, launched as a two-year pilot project with the help of a $200,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice. It is also, in the eyes of the many people who have helped to make this court a reality, the beginning of something extraordinary: a movement away from punishment-based judicial proceedings to a system based on . . . healing.

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