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DR. VANDANA SHIVA OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBackMonsanto(Photo: EcoWatch)Monsanto is in the news again. The Competition Commission of India, the country’s antitrust regulator, said last week that it suspects a Monsanto joint venture abused its dominant position as a supplier of genetically modified (GMO) cotton seeds in India and has issued an order citing prima facie violation of Sections 3(4) and 4 of the Competition Act, to be investigated by Competition Commission of India’s director-general.

Monsanto also faces cases brought by state governments and domestic seed manufacturers, for the astronomical royalty it charges. In previous cases, Monsanto defended itself by saying that it was “trait fees” (for using its technology in cotton hybrids) and not royalty.

Fact is that Monsanto has viewed the laws of our land as mere hurdles in its way to swindle India and our farmers. On March 10, 1995, Mahyco (Monsanto-Mahyco) brought 100 grams of cotton seeds, containing the MON531-Bt gene, into India without the approval of the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC).

Eager to establish a monopoly in India based on the smuggled MON531 gene, Monsanto-Mahyco started large scale, multi-centric, open field trials of Bt cotton in 40 locations spread across nine states, again without GEAC approval.

Article (7) of the Environment Protection Act, 1986, states: “No person shall import, export, transport, manufacture, process, use or sell any hazardous microorganisms or genetically engineered organisms/substances or cells except with the approval of the GEAC.” GMO traits, once released into the environment, cannot be contained or recalled.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaDonTrumpyPoo(Photo: Gage Skidmore)In what might be one of their last opportunities to hack away at Donald Trump’s lead in the polls, Thursday night’s Republican Party debate had both Senator Marco Rubio and Senator Ted Cruz laying into Trump, blasting him for his vague and nebulous policy plans, financial contributions to pro-immigration politicians, his refusal to issue his tax returns, and his possible involvement as a defendant in a suit against his late for-profit and beleaguered Trump University. Trump, as is his wont, flicked the charges aside with a series of insults, facial contortions and blather. It remains to be seen as Super Tuesday rapidly approaches, whether Rubio and Cruz’s attacks have any affect at the polls.

The day before the debate, a clearly exasperated writer for the ultra-conservative Patriot Post wrote: “Once upon a time, the idea of Donald Trump's securing the Republican nomination for the presidency existed only in the realm of fantasy. But as primaries in four states now reside in the history books, and The Donald has claimed three wins and 81 delegates, fantasy is merging with possibility, if not quite yet reality.”

After the debate, an ever-hopeful Patriot Post declared: “We certainly hope it's not too late for voters to realize that Trump is not the answer. He's nothing but insanely idiotic bluster, repeated over and over and over again, ad nauseum. We've endured eight months of it. Can you imagine four or eight years? To re-employ one of his phrases, that is not going to make America great again, believe us.”

Many of the headlines -- from all ends of the political spectrum – describing Trump’s march towards the Republican Party’s presidential nomination tend to maintain that the GOP is doomed if Trump heads the ticket.

However, if the campaign team of whoever is the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee thinks that running against Trump will be similar to previous presidential campaigns, I’ve got news for them: Taking on the bombastic, brash, bawdy, boastful Trump will be like nothing they’ve ever dealt with before.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaatehranThe Azadi Tower serves as an entrance into Tehran. (Photo: Christiaan Triebert)

In Iran, the polls are just closing in the national election for two governing bodies: the parliament and the "Assembly of Experts." The former is nominally the secular governing body, but it is secondary in power to the theological "Assembly of Experts," which is composed of religious figures. The Assembly elects the Supreme Leader (an ayatollah), currently Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The president of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, is described in Western media as a pragmatist who wants to integrate Iran into the international community. 

Reuters reports that a large number of moderate or relatively liberal candidates to both elective bodies were "disqualified" from running, leaving mostly "hardline" conservatives on the ballot:

The Guardian Council, appointed half by Khamenei and half by the ultra-conservative judiciary, disqualified thousands of candidates for the legislature and vetoed 80 per cent of those seeking election to the Assembly of Experts. They included Hassan Khomeini, the moderate grandson of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution and Khamenei’s predecessor.

Yet, there was an overwhelming turnout for the Iranian election - albeit an election with pre-limited choices. (Of course, we should bear in mind that in the United States, democracy is also compromised by pre-limited voting, the influence of billionaires and suspect vote-tallying practices, among other factors.)

Friday, 26 February 2016 06:44

Public Defender Meltdown in Louisiana

BILL QUIGLEY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaGavel(Photo: Jonathunder)Louisiana, which has the highest incarceration rate in the country, no longer provides public defenders to all its people accused of crimes; within months over half its public defender offices are expected to become insolvent.

“It’s a nightmare,” according to James Dixon, the chief Louisiana Public Defender. “You have people in jail that don’t have lawyers. It’s that basic.” In Louisiana, public defenders are appointed to represent nearly 250,000 people each year. Dixon has been warning of a constitutional crisis for years due to inadequate funding. His office has recently been sued in a federal class action by the ACLU.

The state public defender indicated that 24 of the 42 local public defender offices will become insolvent and restrict services in the next few months. Many already have broken down. Public defenders in 13 of Louisiana’s 42 judicial districts are already restricting services.

For example, the Lafayette Parish public defender has laid off 35 of its 52 attorneys, and imposed salary cuts of 20 percent on those who remain. The constitutional guarantee of speedy trial is gone and death penalty cases are grinding to a halt. The remaining public defenders face caseloads of 1000 felonies a year, a rate more than five times as high as recent Texas legislature mandated caseload study which concluded that public defenders should represent no more than 175 felonies a year.

New Orleans public defenders have been refusing to represent the most serious cases since January. The highly respected Marshall Project reports their budget has been cut from $9.5 million to $6 million in the past four years. That office, which represents 85 percent of those charged in criminal court, has already laid off lawyers, and cannot replaced the many lawyers who have resigned because of a hiring freeze. The office handles 10,000 misdemeanors and 8,000 felonies a year. One public defender wrote in the Washington Post that brand new lawyers have to handle cases with life sentences, carry double the number of cases that the American Bar Association recommends, do not have the time to even see their clients and are forced to plead people out to felony convictions on the day they meet them.

2016.25.2 BF Mellino(Photo: Percy)COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

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The city of Hamburg, Germany has banned single use coffee pods in state-run buildings as part of an initiative to reduce waste.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaaaaaaablankfein32Lloyd Blankfein, head of Goldman Sachs, caustically attacked Bernie Sanders but paid Hillary Clinton $675,000 in speaking fees. (Photo: DonkeyHotey)

According to an article in The Hill a few weeks back, Lloyd Blankfein - head of Goldman Sachs and symbol of Wall Street's lack of accountability - warned that Bernie Sanders is "dangerous." Blankfein told CNBC that Sanders is too set in his ways, adding, "It's a liability [in this anti-Wall Street environment] to say, 'I'm willing to compromise'… It's just incredible. It's a moment in history. Eventually people, the electorate, will notice nothing is getting done."

At no time did Blankfein, who personally supported Hillary Clinton against Barack Obama in 2008, find fault with Clinton; his alarm is solely focused on the senator from Vermont. He contrasted Sanders with more flexible candidates who are willing to work with Wall Street when he emphasized that a candidate must be "willing to compromise."

The Sanders campaign - supported by public records - charges that Wall Street donations make up a considerable portion of the Clinton war chest. She is supported by at least one huge Wall Street PAC, and, of course, has made millions of dollars in speaking fees from Wall Street financial firms.  

2016.25.2 bf berkowitz(Photo: Brian via Flickr)BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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Not everyone would elevate it to a matter for serious concern, but St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson’s latest broadside takes the cake, and maybe even the cookies. According to numerous reports, including a dailykos.com piece by Jen Hayden, in late-February Carlson issued a letter to area “Priests, Scout Leaders and Faithful of the Archdiocese,” warning them against falling prey to … wait for it … the Girl Scouts USA, and the parent organization of GSUSA, the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS).

Archbishop Carlson’s letter is loaded with accusations against the Girl Scouts, many of them repeats from previous conservative-initiated anti-Girl Scout campaigns, many of which go back more than a decade. The letter strings together a church enemies list that includes Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan (nice to see her name resurfacing), Amnesty International, Oxfam and others.

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaErin(Photo: Eva Rinaldi)Erin Brockovich is speaking out on Oklahoma’s alarming earthquake activity and she’s not afraid to tie the state’s seismicity to a certain industry.

In an interview with Oklahoma’s News9, the prominent environmental activist and consumer advocate explained she’s aware that the injection of mass quantities of fracking wastewater in disposal wells is triggering the tremors, as geologists have confirmed.

But Brockovich added, “It’s fracking, let’s just be honest.”

Oklahoma experiences more earthquakes than anywhere in the world. Before 2009, Oklahoma had two earthquakes of magnitude 3.0 or greater each year, but now there are two a day. A 5.1 magnitude earthquake that shook northwest Oklahoma two weeks ago was the third-strongest ever recorded in the state, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said. And, within the past 24 hours, seven earthquakes rattled the city of Edmond in central Oklahoma.

Brockovich told News9 that many citizens have been concerned about structural damage to their homes and have called on her to help protect their health, property and legal rights.

“These people you know, they have rights and their homes are being damaged and structural damage and its cause by a man-made condition,” Brockovich said.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaatrumpbackLooming over the United States is the possibility that the nation may elect its first Snake-Oil-Salesman-in-Chief. (Photo: Tony Webster)

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A few years back, taking advantage of his brand identity and the emergence of for-profit educational corporations, the current leading GOP presidential candidate established Trump University.  Donald Trump announced the "academic" venture, which offered no degrees or transferable credits, with his usual bombastic flourish at a news conference in 2005.

However, the unaccredited "university" became increasingly tainted by charges of fraud, profiteering, and courses that were allegedly often just high-pitch sales session for other Trump University and Trump organization products. The attorney general of New York, Eric Schneiderman - who called Trump University a scam - filed a lawsuit against Trump and The Trump Organization in 2013, according to an article last year in The Washington Post:

Schneiderman filed a $40 million civil lawsuit against Trump and the institution, accusing both of charging more than 5,000 people big money to supposedly learn Trump’s successful real estate techniques but failing to deliver. The suit says Trump U — often using high-pressure sales tactics and telling students that the next, more expensive seminar would reveal important secrets — earned about $40 million from students and seeks to the money recovered.

Last year [2014], a judge found Trump personally liable for the university’s violation of New York education laws, and this past April, and a Manhattan Supreme Court judge ruled in April that the case would have to resolved at a trial.

Meanwhile, a class-action suit was filed in California by a former Trump University student named Art Cohen who said he spent more than $36,000 on courses that failed to deliver the top-notch education the university had promised. A judge in that case ordered both sides to complete “fact discovery” by Aug. 10, according to a Courthouse News story.

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaMitchMc(Photo: Gage Skidmore)Antonin Scalia is gone. The nastiest and noisiest of right-wingers on the Supreme Court is dead.

But he can't be any more brain dead than Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader of the U.S. Senate. In a blatantly partisan ploy to prevent President Obama from nominating a successor to Scalia, McConnell has cited a historical precedent dictating that presidents who are in the last year of their term do not name new justices to the high court. "Therefore," he babbled, "this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president."

What a silly old squirrel McConnell is! Article II of the U.S. Constitution plainly states that the president "shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint ... Judges of the Supreme Court." Note that the Constitution says the president "shall" do this — as a duty to the nation. Nothing in the founding document suggests that this power and duty is voided in an election year. In fact, 13 Supreme Court nominations have been made in presidential election years, and the Senate took action on 11 of them. McConnell's assertion is bogus (and silly), for history and the Constitution clearly back Obama.

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Ironically, one who would have nailed McConnell for such a slapstick political perversion of plain constitutional language is Scalia himself. He practiced what he called "originalism" in his official judgments, insisting that the Constitution must be interpreted only by the words in it and only by the original meaning those words had for the founders when they wrote them into the document.

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