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PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Wealth 1211wrp(Photo: Ashish Shah / Flickr)America's super-rich are taking not only from their own nation, but also from the rest of the world. Data from the 2017 Global Wealth Databook (GWD: Table 2-4) and various war reports help to explain why we're alienating people outside our borders. 

From 2012 to 2017, global wealth increased by $37.7 trillion, and U.S. wealth increased by $26 trillion. Thus, largely because of a surging stock market, our nation took nearly 70 percent of the entire global wealth gain over the past five years. Based on their dominant share of U.S. wealth, America's richest 10% -- much less than 1% of the world's adult population -- took over HALF the world's wealth gain in the past five years.

Friday, 08 December 2017 06:28

The Democratic Values of Net Neutrality

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Net 1208wrp opt(Photo: Vision Planet Media / Flickr)We're told by politicos, pundits and internet providers themselves that access to the net is crucial to our educational achievement, future prosperity and ability to be self-governing. Yet, while this digital highway is deemed vital to our nation's well-being, access to it is not offered as a public service — i.e., an investment in the common good. Instead, it is treated as just another profit center for a few corporations — so few that selling broadband access to the world wide web has become a very lucrative source of what economists call "monopoly rents," the ability of corporations in a non-competitive market to extract excess profits from customers.

Even with the monopoly rents, the great virtue of the internet is that no one controls its content. This digital communication technology has been so spectacularly successful and so socially valuable because it is a wide-open, democratic forum, accessible on equal terms to all who want to put information, images, opinions, etc. on it or to download any of the same from it. Since its invention, the guiding principle behind the use of this liberating technology has been that no corporation, government, religion or other controlling power should be its gatekeeper, impeding the free and equal flow of communication to and from those who use it (yes, there is some censorship around the world, as well as here at home, but clever users commonly find their way around it).

 

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

fedcourtatlantaU.S. District Court of Appeals, Atlanta (Photo: Steven Martin)

BuzzFlash has long covered the way in which Republican senators are more aggressive than Democrats in shaping the judiciary to achieve partisan goals. It is a subject that necessitates ongoing examination, because the GOP is resolute in attaining its objective of a right-wing federal court.

The latest flouting of Senate tradition and rules concerns a process used by both parties to delay federal judiciary nominations. It is a somewhat arcane procedure known as "blue slipping" nominees. Senators of states where nominees would serve have long been able to prevent or delay Senate Judiciary Committee hearings by simply withholding a blue slip with the name of the person under consideration from being submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee chairperson. Whether one agrees with the procedure or not, what's important to note is that the Republicans have used the option frequently to prevent Democratic nominees to the federal bench over the years.

In a recent email from People for the American Way, the progressive advocacy organization noted that in November,

[Republican] Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley announced he was going to move forward with scheduling a hearing for an extreme Trump judicial nominee -- one who is on Trump’s list for possible Supreme Court justices -- despite the fact that he has not received approval from both home-state senators for going forward. Although he adamantly supported the tradition requiring approval from both home-state senators when it came to stopping President Obama’s nominees from moving forward, Grassley is more than happy to throw them out when it comes to moving Trump’s nominees forward. Obliterating more than 100 years of Senate traditions, and in the face of his own promises not to do so, he has now scheduled the hearing for judicial nominee David Stras.

Researchers at Imperial College London have found an association between exposure to road traffic pollution and an increased risk of low birth weights at term.Researchers at Imperial College London have found an association between exposure to road traffic pollution and an increased risk of low birth weights at term. (Photo: Pixabay)LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

Our readers are our lifeline. Click here to support BuzzFlash so we can continue bringing you the latest news and commentary on today's most important issues.

We already know that air pollution is bad for our lungs, but a new study shows that air pollution can even harm a baby that hasn't left the womb.

Researchers at Imperial College London have found an association between exposure to road traffic pollution and an increased risk of low birth weights at term.

A low birth weight, which is less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces, can lead to health issues for some babies, such as breathing problems, an increased risk of infection, and low blood sugar. In the long term, babies born with a low birth weight are more likely than babies born at a normal weight to have diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and other health conditions.

 when is the right time to talk about gun control? We see something that worked elsewhere -- Australia -- and we cannot learn from that? When is the right time to talk about gun control? We see something that worked elsewhere -- Australia -- and we can't learn from that? (Photo: Joe Brusky)MELISSA A. WORK 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.

It was a nice warm evening where children, brothers, sisters, moms, dads, and friends gathered to listen to country music in Las Vegas, Nevada. They came from all different walks of life, but one thing they had in common was their love for country music singer Jason Aldean. At 10:05 p.m. thousands of lives changed forever. Bullets starting ringing out by the hundreds, and in turn fear. Some realized what was happening in seconds and managed to move to safety while others were not so fortunate. It took a few minutes until everyone realized that the dreadful sound was truly, in fact, bullets. Many lost a loved one. Some lost a father, mother, sister, brother, daughter, and or son. The Las Vegas shooting took 58 innocent lives -- the deadliest shootings in the US since the massacre of some 300 Sioux children, women, and elders 127 years ago at Wounded Knee on December 29, 1890.

Gun control has been a heated topic for years. The Second Amendment states, "A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." This was created in 1791, 226 years ago. Since then, many things have changed including technology, style, cars, but what I would like to focus is mass shootings.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

graduateschoolphotoGOP House would have graduate students subsidizing tax breaks for the wealthy. (Photo: Kevin Harber)

The Senate and House versions of tax restructuring bills still need to be reconciled in a conference committee, but both pieces of legislation clearly favor shifting tax deductions toward the wealthy. However, there are different provisions in each bill that create particular winners and losers. For example, in the House version, graduate students would get the shaft by having tuition wavers taxed. 

It's hard to believe that elected officials in Washington, DC could think of a more perverse way to diminish the nation's knowledge base. Given the often marginal incomes of graduate students, it is likely that many students would forgo graduate school rather than assume the significant additional financial burden of taxed tuition waivers. A recent article in Inside Higher Ed, which notes that many students are protesting the bill, explains this likely impact:

"If it’s filled with any, or most of, the provisions aimed at higher ed, then I’ll have to drop out of my program," said Tom DePaola, a doctoral candidate in education policy at the University of Southern California....

"I was really brought out here [to protest in Washington DC] when I saw that they were going to tax our tuition waivers as income," said Skyler Reidy, who is pursuing a Ph.D. in history at USC. "It’s going to force people out of grad school."

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

TeslaBat 1206wrp optA Tesla battery pack. (Photo: Amy Robinson / Flickr)After deploying a solar and battery system to a children's hospital in San Juan this October, Tesla has installed six more similar systems to help power the hurricane-wrecked islands of Vieques and Culebra in Puerto Rico.

In a statement to Bloomberg, Governor Ricardo Rossello's office said that Tesla installed the new units as "a humanitarian effort."

More than two months have passed since Hurricane Maria destroyed Puerto Rico's already weakened electric grid. Restoration of power has been set back by frequent outages and mired in controversy (i.e. Whitefish Energy). Electric capacity is only at 68 percent after the Sept. 20 storm hit.

As reported by Electrek, Tesla's Powerpack systems on Vieques and Culebra will act as microgrids until the main grid connected via underwater cables switches back on.

The packs will help provide the 8,825 people in Vieques and 1,797 in Culebra with reliable and renewable energy. The systems are installed at key areas, including a sanitary sewer treatment plant, the Arcadia water pumping station, the Ciudad Dorada elderly community, the Susan Centeno hospital, and the Boys and Girls Club of Vieques.

Puerto Rico Aqueducts and Sewers Authority executive Elí Díaz Atienza told Electrek that each system has a capacity of 250kW/500kWh and they can run "the Vieques facility 70 percent of the time at 100 percent capacity and the installation of Culebra 100 percent of the time at 100 percent capacity."

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

CAfire 1206wrp opt(Photo: Doc Searls / Flickr)California is burning again. A massive wildfire fueled by powerful Santa Ana winds has spread some 31,000 acres in Southern California, destroying 150 structures and forcing 27,000 people to evacuate.

The outbreak comes not long after October's string of devastating wildfires in Northern California that killed 44 people—the deadliest in state history.

The Thomas Fire started Monday night in Santa Paula and has burned into the city limits of Ventura, just north of Los Angeles, according to the Ventura County Fire Department. Five-hundred fire fighters are on site with additional fire resources en-route.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

whistleblowerphotoFederal whistleblowers are trapped in a Trump swamp. (Photo: Michael Fleshman)

According to a December 5 Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) news release, whistleblowers who are punished or fired from federal agencies are now unable to fully appeal their personnel cases because of Trump administration inaction. In specific, Trump has failed to appoint nominees to the three-member U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB). There are currently two vacancies, and the third member will be leaving in March.

The US Merit Systems Protection Board is the highest decision-making body regarding federal personnel actions within the government. Its decisions can be appealed to the court system. However, absent a functioning board it cannot render decisions in cases regarding retaliatory action against whistleblowers, for instance. Thus, whistleblowers who have been punished by a federal agency have no recourse at the MSPB board level regarding the government personnel system.

According to PEER,

This situation effectively nullifies the Whistleblower Protection Act, which is enforced by the MSPB. For example, at an agency such as the Department of Veterans Affairs, which is notorious for its reprisals against employees reporting wrongdoing and dangerous conditions, a whistleblower facing firing may have little recourse. If the whistleblower wins a favorable initial decision from an MSPB administrative judge, the agency could void the effects of that victory merely by filing an appeal to the full MSPB where it would join the growing, seemingly interminable backlog – and during all of this the whistleblower would be off payroll.

“By its inaction, the Trump White House has not just removed the merit system cop from the beat, it has shuttered the entire police station,” stated PEER Senior Counsel Paula Dinerstein.

EMERSON URRY OF ENVIRONEWS ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Escalante 1205wrp optThe Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. (Photo: Bureau of Land Management / Flickr)Only hours after Donald Trump announced his administration would be significantly shrinking the boundaries for much of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Southern Utah, environmental groups filed a lawsuit, naming President Donald J. Trump, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Director Brian Steed as the culprits, for what they say was an "unlawful" act.

On December 4, 2017, the President made the announcement official by signing two proclamations at a speech at the Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City, rescinding protections for nearly two million acres of federal land, in what USA Today called "the largest rollback of national monument designations in history."

The move effectively eliminates Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and replaces it with three non-contiguous units called, "Grand Staircase, Kaiparowits, and Escalante Canyons." One of the proclamations also rolled back protections on Bears Ears National Monument — a pristine area harboring many tribal artifacts and other indigenous ruins, designated by Barack Obama at the end of his presidency.

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