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Trump's newest Environmetal Protection Agency pick, Michael L. Dourson, has massaive ties to some of the chemical industry's biggest names.Trump's newest Environmetal Protection Agency pick, Michael L. Dourson, has massaive ties to some of the chemical industry's biggest names. (Photo: TexasGOPVote / Flickr)LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

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From Scott Pruitt to Betsy DeVos, President Donald Trump has notoriously appointed a slew of individuals with serious conflicts of interests with the departments they oversee.

The latest is Michael L. Dourson, Trump's pick to head the EPA's Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, the government's chemical safety program. Media reports reveal that the toxicologist is under intense scrutiny for his extensive ties to the chemical industry and a resumé dotted with some of the biggest names in the field: Koch Industries Inc., Chevron Corp., Dow AgroSciences, DuPont and Monsanto.

After working as a staff toxicologist for the EPA from 1980 to 1994, Dourson founded and ran the Toxicology Excellence for Risk Assessment(TERA), a nonprofit research group that has been paid by chemical corporations to research and write reports that downplay the health risks posed by their products, the New York Times reports. TERA has since been renamed as the Risk Science Center at the University of Cincinnati, where Dourson is a professor.

Thursday, 21 September 2017 06:32

Reclaiming the Truth About Vietnam

American soldiers on patrol during the Vietnam War in 1965.American soldiers on patrol during the Vietnam War in 1965. (Photo: manhhal / flickr)ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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"From Ia Drang to Khe Sanh, from Hue to Saigon and countless villages in between, they pushed through jungles and rice paddies, heat and monsoon, fighting heroically to protect the ideals we hold dear as Americans. Through more than a decade of combat, over air, land, and sea, these proud Americans upheld the highest traditions of our Armed Forces."

OK, I get it. Soldiers suffer, soldiers die in the wars we wage, and the commander in chief has to, occasionally, toss clichés on their graves.

The words are those of Barack Obama, five-plus years ago, issuing a Memorial Day proclamation establishing a 13-year commemoration of the Vietnam War, for which, apparently, about $65 million was appropriated.

Veterans for Peace calls it money allocated to rewrite history and has begun a counter-campaign called Full Disclosure, the need for which is more glaring than ever, considering that there is close to zero political opposition to the unleashed American empire and its endless war on terror.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

14068005575 d18b05b51d zThe income divide, as revealed in a Census Bureau report, is a legacy of racism. (Image: US Government)

 

Last week, the Census Bureau released an alarming report. Although the mainstream corporate media generally highlighted results that showed median income for American families has risen at a good clip the past year, the gap between the median incomes for white people and people of color remains at a staggering level. According to ThinkProgress,

New Census Bureau data shows an increasingly optimistic picture for white Americans -- but far less so for Americans of color, many of whom still face stark income disparities.

Released Tuesday, the numbers appear to show good news across the board in several key areas. Median household income in the United States in 2016 was $59,039 -- a more than three percent rise from 2015 and the highest ever recorded....

But the figures also show a grim reality. While white families now earn an average income of around $65,041, that picture is far less rosy for other racial demographics. Hispanic families earn around $47,675 -- considerably lower than the over-arching average, $59,039. Worse off are Black families, who earn a median of $39,490, more than $25,000 less than their white counterparts.

The Census Bureau told ThinkProgress that no reason could be given for the gaps, and Census Bureau commentary could only be offered on the figures and trends. But experts and economists highlighted the data on social media, pointing to the numbers as a disconcerting sign that the figures reinforce income inequality in a damning way, one that also cuts along gendered lines. Janelle Jones, an economic analyst with the Economic Policy Institute, noted on Twitter that “earnings actually DECREASED for black women and Latinas” while they rose for white women (women of all races are still out-earned significantly by their male counterparts).

It's worth taking a moment to reflect on the fact that not only is there a persistent income gap between whites and people of color, but that women of color have actually seen a decline in income. That's a startling inequitable fact.

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

SolarPark 0920wrp opt(Photo: Activ Solar)The Dubai government has awarded a $3.9 billion contract to construct the 700-megawatt fourth and final phase of the world-record-holding Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park.

The project also includes the construction of an 850-foot-tall solar tower that receives focused sunlight, the world's tallest such structure once complete.

The contract was awarded to a consortium of China's Shanghai Electric and Saudi Arabia's ACWA Power, who bid a Levelized Cost of Electricity of 7.3 U.S. cents per kilowatt hour—a record low price for concentrated solar power (CSP).

"Our focus on renewable energy generation has led to a drop in prices worldwide and has lowered the price of solar power bids in Europe and the Middle East. This was evident today when we received the lowest CSP project cost in the world," Saeed Mohammed Al Tayer, managing director and CEO of DEWA, said.

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.

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