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Aung San Suu Kyi addressing the members at the European ParliamentAung San Suu Kyi addressing the members at the European Parliament on October 22, 2013. (Photo: European Parliament / Flickr)ARSHAD M. KHAN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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Despite claims by Burma of efforts to improve relations between Buddhists and Muslims, the facts prove otherwise. Another 11,000 Rohingya Muslims crossed into Bangladesh the week of October 9 in the latest paroxysm of Burmese Buddhist hatred.  

Burma and its de facto leader State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi have become pariahs in the human community.

The Oxford City Council has followed the example of Oxford University, which revoked the honorary doctorate awarded to Suu Kyi, and her college, St. Hugh's, that removed her portrait displayed prominently in the foyer. On Tuesday, October 3, the vote at the City Council meeting was unanimous. It will hold a special meeting on November 27 later this year to strip Suu Kyi of the Freedom of the City of Oxford, an award bestowed on her in 1997. The city of London is to debate a similar Honorary Freedom she received there.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

pruittstopThe EPA raises acceptable radiation exposure to toxic levels. (Photo: Lorie Shaull)

Scott Pruitt, chief of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), isn't just going about destroying environmental safeguards; he has now issued a "guideline" document that states that excessive exposure to radiation is safe for human life. That means he's not only allowing more pollution that can contribute to ill health and degradation of the environment, but he is also putting us at risk when it comes to radiation. According to Bloomberg,

In the event of a dirty bomb or a nuclear meltdown, emergency responders can safely tolerate radiation levels equivalent to thousands of chest X-rays, the Environmental Protection Agency said in new guidelines that ease off on established safety levels....

It could lead to the administration of President Donald Trump weakening radiation safety levels, watchdog groups critical of the move say.

"It’s really a huge amount of radiation they are saying is safe," said Daniel Hirsch, the retired director of the University of California, Santa Cruz’s program on environmental and nuclear policy. "The position taken could readily unravel all radiation protection rules."

The "guideline" doesn't have the standing of a regulation or law, but it is reflective of the EPA's thinking regarding radiation tolerance by humans and is, therefore, worrisome.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Bannon 1016wrp(Photo: thierry ehrmann / Flickr)If Hillary Clinton were to comment on this year's collection of speakers at the Values Voter Summit, she would have to supersize that basket of deplorables. The annual gathering hosted by the Family Research Council, featured speakers of the anti-LGBT, anti-Muslim, pro-gun, alt-right, and of course, religious right variety. Every year at about this time, since its launch in the fall of 2006, the vigorously anti-LGBT Family Research Council holds the Summit. And every year when it's over, it declares it to be the most successful ever. This year, however, that claim might be accurate, featuring the first appearance by a sitting president, and, with Steve Bannon's rousing speech on Saturday, signaling the growing relationship between the alt-right and the Christian Right.

Coming off a few days of issuing a string of mean-spirited executive orders, Trump was greeted like a conquering hero by white evangelicals who, last November, put aside their moral compasses and voted overwhelmingly for him; according to exit polls, more than 80 percent of white Christian evangelicals voted for him.

Trump greeted the crowd by saying that "America is a nation of believers." He called his recent actions aimed at dismantling the Affordable Care Act "a very big step." He pointed out that he had to take "a little different route, because Congress forgot what their pledges were," a reference to their failure to repeal Obamacare. He promised that the new health care plan will "even be better."

"We are stopping cold the attacks on Judeo-Christian values," Trump said to applause. He attacked people who don't say "Merry Christmas." "They don't use the word Christmas because it is not politically correct," Trump said. "We're saying Merry Christmas again."

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Poverty 1016wrp opt(Photo: Aaaarrrrgggghhhh! / Flickr)"Fact checker" Ballotpedia said that presidential candidate Jill Stein's claim that "one in two Americans remain in or near poverty" was "untrue according to most conventional measures and definitions of near poverty." But a responsible fact-checker should know that an issue of this magnitude demands more than a cursory look at "conventional measures" of poverty. 

Furthermore, Ballotpedia may have been engaging in fake-factchecking. The service is run by the Lucy Burns Institute, a right-wingKoch-funded organization that has every incentive to avoid popular resistance by convincing Americans that they're not really poor. 

The Definitions of Poverty are Way out of Date

The povertythreshold is still based on a formula from the 1960s, when food expenses were a much greater part of the family budget. It hasn't kept up with other major expenses. Since 1980, food costs have gone up by 100%, housing 250%, health care 500%, and college tuition 1,000%.

Friday, 13 October 2017 07:22

The Calm Before the Storm

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

TrumpZombie 1013wrp opt(Photo: Matt Brown)Every time Donald Trump blurts or tweets a shocker — "Maybe it's the calm before the storm," for instance — questions flood the media.

Is he serious? What did he mean? Yes, of course, but beyond these, larger questions hover half-asked, cutting into the soul of who we are. This is painful, but not necessarily a bad thing. For me, one question that keeps emerging is: What is the relationship between Trump and the military-political system he stepped into?

That is to say, is he furthering its covert agenda (creating the conditions for more war) or, contrarily, exposing it for what it is?

Or both?

Back in February, for instance, Trump the pugnacious 14-year-old told a Reuters reporter:  "I am the first one that would like to see . . . nobody have nukes, but we're never going to fall behind any country even if it's a friendly country, we're never going to fall behind on nuclear power. It would be wonderful, a dream would be that no country would have nukes, but if countries are going to have nukes, we're going to be at the top of the pack."

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

gerrymanderThe first image representing gerrymandering, from the early 1800s. (Photo: Kenny Cole)

The most significant recent case that will have an impact on whether or not we have a robust and fair democracy is before the Supreme Court this session. Oral arguments have already been heard on the partisan practice of gerrymandering.

An October 5 Fortune article defines the practice:

Gerrymandering occurs when voting districts are redrawn to benefit one party over another in elections, forcing the other side to “waste” votes. For example, someone drawing district lines might cluster opposition party voters together in one district in order to concentrate their votes so that they influence only a few seats. Or it could mean grouping those opposition voters into districts where the other party has a lock on power—making it very difficult for the opposing party to win elections there.

Achieving this normally means dividing districts up along highly irregular lines to ensure that voters from each party are concentrated in the right areas and spread thin in others, as the Washington Post illustrates using a popular explanation adapted from Reddit. Now, with the assistance of software, state legislators are able to control gerrymandering or who ends up in a particular district with more precision than ever before.

Although the Democrats sometimes engage in gerrymandering when they control legislatures and the governorship in a state, it is the Republicans who have mastered the technique. Furthermore, as I noted in a September commentary, there are 26 states in which Republicans run all three branches of state government -- a "trifecta" of governance. Only six states are completely run by the Democrats. As a result, the Democrats are at a severe disadvantage when it comes to creating state legislative and congressional districts when they are redrawn after a census.

In the case before the Supreme Court, Gill v. Whitford, the plaintiff attorneys argue that after the 2010 census the Wisconsin legislature created state legislative districts that were highly weighted toward maximizing Republican votes.

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

pollution32The EPA has become the Environmental Pollution Agency (EPA). (Photo: Billy Wilson)

It appears that the Trump administration has seriously underestimated the costly toll of climate change in its efforts to repeal the Clean Power Plan (CPP) based on a new document released Tuesday by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The 198-page proposed analysis shows the supposed costs and benefits of undoing the Obama-era climate policy. However, as the Washington Post reported, the document shows that the Scott Pruitt-led EPA puts the cost of one ton of emissions of carbon dioxide between $1 and $6 in the year 2020—a dramatic decrease of the previous administration's 2020 estimate of $45.

This figure is known as the "social cost of carbon"—or the public cost of burning fossil fuels—which guides current energy regulations and possible future mitigation policies.

So how did the Trump EPA get this tiny figure? Mostly by considering the cost of carbon within the U.S., rather than around the world, the Post reported.

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"Pruitt has tried to cook the books on science and economics to hide the Clean Power Plan's enormous climate and public health benefits," wrote Kevin Steinberger and Starla Yeh, analysts at the Natural Resources Defense Council's Climate & Clean Air program.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017 08:13

Copenhagen Mayor: No Diesel Cars Allowed

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Copenhagen 1010wrp optCopenhagen in winter. (Photo: Kristoffer Trolle)Copenhagen's mayor proposed a ban on new diesel cars entering the city's environmental zone, a low-emission area that basically covers the whole of the capital, as early as 2019.

"It's not a human right to pollute the air for others," Lord Mayor of Copenhagen Frank Jensen told Danish newspaper Politiken (via The Local DK's translation). "That's why diesel cars must be phased out."

The mayor noted that the potential ban is "controversial" but felt it was necessary to improve the city's air quality.

About 80 people, primarily older or frail, die prematurely in the Danish capital each year due to local air pollution, including nitrous oxides from traffic, according to the newspaper.

“I know it will mean something for the many, many Copenhageners that are affected by respiratory illnesses," Jensen explained.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Rick 1011wrp opt(Portrait: Dan Lacy)In 1977, President Jimmy Carter signed legislation creating the U.S. Department of Energy. Some forty years later, the DOE is a $30 billion agency, employing nearly 100,000 people. The DOE's tasks include maintaining and guarding the U.S. nuclear arsenal, safeguarding the electrical grid, overseeing the national-science labs, monitoring climate change, and numerous other energy-related functions. It is now under the stewardship of former Texas Governor, and failed presidential candidate, Rick Perry, who, when asked at one of the Republican Party's presidential debates which government departments he would eliminate, quickly reeled off the names of the Department of Commerce and the Department of Education. And then he said: "The third agency of government I would do away with … Education … the ahhhh … ahhh … Commerce, and let's see. I can't, the third one. I can't. Sorry. Oops."

That "oops" was a stand-in for the Department of Energy.

Sciencemag.org has reported that since Trump's inauguration, his "administration has removed mentions of climate change and clean energy from websites and blocked scientists from attending conferences, said Andrew Rosenberg, director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists."

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

supremecourtusIt's not just the Supreme Court, it's the entire federal bench that is under Trump attack. (Mitchell Shapiro Photography)

On October 7, HuffPost reported the advancement of Donald Trump's appointees to the Federal Bench:

Thursday was a good day for Amy Coney Barrett. A Senate committee voted to advance her nomination to be a federal judge.

It wasn’t a pretty vote. Every Democrat on the Judiciary Committee opposed her nomination. They scrutinized her past writings on abortion, which include her questioning the precedent of Roe v. Wade and condemning the birth control benefit underthe Affordable Care Act as“a grave infringement on religious liberty.” One Democrat, Al Franken (Minn.), called her out for taking a speaking fee from the Alliance Defending Freedom, a nonprofit that’s defended forced sterilization for transgender people and has been dubbed a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

But Republicans don’t need Democrats’ votes, and now Barrett, a 45-year-old law professor at the University of Notre Dame, is all but certain to be confirmed to a lifetime post on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit — a court one level below the Supreme Court.

Barrett is the model judicial candidate for this White House: young, conservative, and opposed to abortion and LGBTQ rights.

And there were more horrifying new judges coming down the pipeline, as HuffPost noted:

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