MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The Rolling Stones played a concert in Havana, Cuba, on March 25. The rock magazine Rolling Stone gushed over it:
In the recent series of monumental arrivals in Cuba — Netflix, Airbnb, a U.S. president — none looms as large as the Rolling Stones, who played to an estimated 500,000 Cubans in Havana on Friday. On an island overlooked by time for more than a half century, the group became the focal point of life for at least a day. The iconic tongue logo sprouted up on T-shirts across Havana, and cabbies, bartenders and friendly locals asked almost anyone, "Do you know the Rolling Stones will play tonight?" as if to confirm that the concert was indeed real....
"This is a new time," Jagger observed to roars from the crowd, a nod to the Stones' once-outlaw status in the country....
Cuban communism might be losing steam, but over an hour into the show it was clear that Mick Jagger is not.
If a half a million people indeed attended the concert, that is about a quarter of the population of Havana....
However, and not to be a curmudgeon about celebrating their classic riffs, they also represent the marketing of music as a brand. That is why Rolling Stone magazine - itself a brand - starts out its coverage of the band's show in Cuba comparing the performance to the arrival of Netflix and Airbnb on the island still officially under a congressional embargo.
LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch
Large quantities of marine debris were found in the stomachs of sperm whales that washed up dead in Germany’s North Sea coast earlier this year.
The whales first surfaced in January and February near the coastal town of Tönning in the German state of Schleswig-Holstein. After officials ordered a necropsy of the bodies, post-mortem results were announced in a presentation at the Multimar Wattforum Centre on March 23.
Four of the 13 whales had large amounts of plastic waste in their stomachs, and some of the garbage included a 13-meter-long fishing net, a 70-centimeter-long plastic car engine cover and the remains of a plastic bucket, according to a press release from the Schleswig-Holstein Wadden Sea National Park.
“These findings show us the effects of our plastic society: Animals inadvertently take in plastic and other plastic waste and suffer, and at worst, starve with full stomachs,” environment minister Robert Habeck said in a statement (via Google Translate).
“This reminds us that we step up the fight against waste in the sea,” he said.
The whales were said to be all young bulls between the ages of 10 to 15 and weighed between 12 to 18 tons. Before surfacing in the shallow waters of the Wadden Sea in the North Sea, scientists suspected that the last time the whales had anything to eat besides plastic trash was in the Norwegian Sea.
According to the press release, male sperm whales in this population spend their winter in the North Atlantic but in their search for food, they mistakenly migrated to the food-poor North Sea.
Bill Berkowitz for BuzzFlash at Truthout
National stories about Native Americans are few and far between, and when they do appear, stereotypes generally prevail. In a recent Nieman Reports article, Jon Marcus reported on the deaths of several Native Americans at the hands of government officials; deaths that have basically gone un-or-under-reported:
* On a cold winter’s night in December 2014, a policeman who maintained that Allen Locke lunged at him with a knife, killed Locke inside his house at Lakota Community Homes in Rapid City, North Dakota. No charges were filed against the officer;
* In Denver, Colorado, Paul Castaway was killed “by police who said he was threatening his mother, though she argues that deadly force was unnecessary in this incident”;
* “William J. Dick III, a 28-year-old suspected armed robber … died in Washington State after a U.S. Forest Service agent shocked him with a Taser”;
* Larry Kobuk, 33, “died after being restrained by officers booking him into the Anchorage Correctional Complex on charges that he stole a car and drove it with a suspended license.”
It's not just police brutality and killing of Indigenous peoples that aren't generally included in ongoing national media coverage.
MICHAEL MANN OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Fossil fuel companies have been misleading the public and policymakers about the risks of their products for decades. These corporations should obviously be held accountable.
It’s odd that we aren’t able to discuss this straightforwardly. After all, accountability is common for other industries. When companies mislead the public about the health effects of the drugs they market, for instance, we hold them accountable.
Similarly, when asbestos manufacturers misled the public about the cancers their product caused, they were held accountable. When Enron misled its customers and shareholders, it was held accountable. And when we learned that Volkswagen cheated consumers by secretly embedding an emissions control “kill switch” in it’s diesel vehicles, citizens and government officials swung into action to hold the company accountable.
Most significantly, when we discovered that the tobacco industry hid information about the addictive nature and deadly toll of cigarettes and systematically engaged in a decades-long campaign to misinform the public, we held the industry accountable.
PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Mahatma Gandhi said, "A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members."
The visions of "greatness" coming from America's political and business and military leaders are quite the opposite, with an emphasis on the 'exceptional' people who would prefer to have nothing to do with the weaker members of society.
1. Let Government and the Media Ignore 90% of Us
Based on a study of 1,779 policy issues, Princeton researchers Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page concluded that "the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy."
Government doesn't listen to us, and the mainstream media fails to inform us about matters that might offend their corporate bosses. As Bernie Sanders explained, "The corporate media does everything they can to keep us entertained without addressing the real issues... [Young people] don’t even know that we are the only major country without healthcare for all. They don’t know that in Germany or in Scandinavia college is free...Media is not telling them that...If you talk about the real issues and people get educated on the real issues, you know what happens next? They actually may want to bring about change."
2. Sell Arms to 96 Countries
As we continue to spend half our discretionary budget on the military, one of five U.S. children live in food insecure households. President Obama said, "They are not very good at feeding their people, but they invest a huge amount in their weapons." He was talking about North Korea.
It would seem unthinkable, with fears of terrorism and new Middle East wars, to keep shipping arms to half the world, to countries where failed insurgencies leave weapons in the hands of the people who hate us. But according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the USA has sold or donated major arms to at least 96 nations in the past five years. Here again our political leaders ignore us. Most voters favor defense cuts, but most politicians don’t.
The weapons we sell to Saudi Arabia are destroying villages in Yemen, killing entire families and leveling their homes. As Glenn Greenwald summarizes, "You’ll almost never hear any of those victims’ names on CNN, NPR, or most other large U.S. media outlets...You’ll never know anything about them – not even their names, let alone hear about their extinguished life aspirations or hear from their grieving survivors."
BILL QUIGLEY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Two Texas mothers, who police said had no criminal record, spent five days in a notorious Louisiana jail over charges they ate two hot dogs, milkshakes and an icee at a convenience store. The women were ordered held on $1500 dollar bond each despite the fact they had just voluntarily driven over 400 miles from Dallas to show up in court to contest the charges against them.
On January 15, 2016, Ms. Walnetta Reid and Ms. Tristan Ellis, mothers from Dallas, were stopped by a police officer in New Iberia, Louisiana. The police told the women they had been accused of eating two hot dogs and drinking milkshakes and an icee in a gas station convenience store without paying. The police officer handcuffed the two women and placed them in the back of the patrol car. The women told the police officer they had not taken anything from the store. They pleaded with the officer to look at the store surveillance videotape which would prove their innocence. They told the officer they did go into the store but only to use the store microwave to heat up some soup they had bought at another store and for which they had a receipt. The officer ran their names through his computer and found out they had no criminal records. He released the women with a summons to appear in New Iberia City Court on March 14, 2016.
Both Ms. Reid and Ms. Ellis are active in volunteer work in Dallas helping young people. They told a friend who does volunteer work with them, C.J. Bible, they had to return to Louisiana to clear their names.
Ms. Reid and Ms. Ellis drove the 400 miles to appear in New Iberia City Court on Monday March 14, 2016. They expected their case to go to trial. They planned to show the court their receipt for the soup and explain to the judge that Ms. Ellis is a vegan and never eats meat of any kind, much less a hot dog. Though they could not afford an attorney, they expected to be found innocent once the judge looked at the store videotape.
But when their case came up, they were told there was not going to be a trial. Court was only for them to plead not guilty or guilty. They plead not guilty and the court set the trial for May 25. They thought it was all over for the day until the Prosecutor asked the Judge to set cash bail on them since they had showed up on a summons and were from out of state. Despite that they had voluntarily driven 400 miles one way to appear in court, and they had no criminal record, the judge ordered each women to put up a $1500 bail, plus $240 in court fees.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Judge Merrick Garland's judicial rulings and Republican fans -- including arch-conservative Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and the more-right-wing-than-you-might-realize presidential candidate and Ohio Gov. John Kasich -- indicate that Garland is about as weak as you can get, when it comes to a "liberal" Supreme Court nominee. Yet many Republicans continue to refuse to even consider the nomination.
However, the reasons behind the Republican opposition are not as straightforward as they may appear. The New York Times (NYT) has offered an additional key factor behind Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's obdurate opposition to even allowing hearings on the Garland nomination: The NRA opposes it.
In a March 24 editorial, the NYT editorial board opined:
It turns out that the most important voice in the Supreme Court nomination battle is not the American people’s, as Senate Republicans have insisted from the moment Justice Antonin Scalia died last month. It is not even that of the senators. It’s the National Rifle Association’s.
That is what the majority leader, Mitch McConnell, said the other day when asked about the possibility of considering and confirming President Obama’s nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, after the November elections. “I can’t imagine that a Republican majority in the United States Senate would want to confirm, in a lame-duck session, a nominee opposed by the National Rifle Association,” he told “Fox NewsSunday.”
We recently noted that the NRA represents a core financial backer of the Republican Party (and many individual non-urban Democratic politicians), and plays a vigorous role in turning out its members during elections.
HARVEY WASSERMAN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Our American president’s long-overdue visit to Cuba has been a great thing for many reasons.
But maybe our elected officials should cease their hypocritical yapping about the human rights situation in Cuba until they come clean about what’s happening here in the United States.
To be sure, there is much to say about how this authoritarian regime has handled dissent. The details abound in the corporate media.
But the idea of the United States lecturing Cuba or any other country on this planet about human rights comes down somewhere between embarrassing and nauseating.
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The pols cry glory and revenge. They cry security. They cry greatness.
Then they stick in the needle, or the missile or the rifle shell, or the nuclear bomb. Or at least they imagine doing so. This will fix the world. And they approve more funding for war.
U.S. militarism, and the funding -- and the fearmongering -- that sustain it are out of control . . . in the same way, perhaps, that stage 4 cancer is out of control.
We talk about "the Pentagon" as though it were a rational entity, hierarchically in control of what it does, dispensable as needed to trouble spots around the world: a tool of America’s commander in chief and, therefore, of the American people. The reality, undiscussed on the evening news or the presidential debates, is something a little different. The American military is an unceasing hemorrhage of cash and aggression, committed -- perhaps only at the unconscious level -- to nothing more than its own perpetuation, which is to say, endless war.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman, in a 2015 commentary in Free Press, rightfully charged that the ruinous "war on drugs" had its origins in a nefarious motive that had little to do with concern about harmful drug use:
The Drug War was officially born June 17, 1971, when Richard Nixon pronounced drugs to be “public enemy number one.” In a nation wracked by poverty, racial tension, injustice, civil strife, ecological disaster, corporate domination, a hated Vietnam War and much more, drugs seemed an odd choice.
In fact, the Drug War’s primary target[s were] Black[s] and young voters.
As the Vietnam War ended -- and massive youth political protest subsided -- the war on drugs rapidly took a two-tier track: incarceration for even the most minor drug "offenses" for people of color, while whites of means were generally treated leniently by the legal system for drug use. The war on drugs became embedded in the post-Civil Rights era society as a gruesome and destructive re-emergence of Jim Crow policy. It was supported in full force by the national, state, county and city police and court systems, as a means of suppressing and punishing Blacks for having survived slavery -- and a means of continuing to systematically exploit them, long after official slavery had been outlawed.