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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaataxbillion34Billionaires and millionaires should pay their fair share in estate taxes. (Photo: Robin Davies)

The consumer advocacy organization Public Citizen just issued a study that analyzes the efforts of billionaire families to - once again - try to repeal the estate tax. According to a June 25 news release by the organization,

Just nine families could dodge $25.7 billion in taxes, and perhaps as much as $54.7 billion, if the estate tax were repealed. Half of these families have spent more than a million dollars apiece lobbying Congress to repeal the tax between 2012 and the first quarter of 2015....

The families behind the eight companies pushing to repeal the tax include the Mars, Wegman, Cox, Taylor, Van Andel, DeVos, Bass, Schwab and Hall families. The Mars and Wegman families alone, who have a combined net worth of more than $63 billion, spent more than $3.5 million to lobby solely for the repeal of the estate tax during the time period studied. 

The avaricious effort is being undertaken even though the minimum tax exemption for the estate tax has risen over the years. It is now over $5 million for an individual. For a couple, the estate tax does not kick in for an inheritance of less than $10.5 million. Most of the wealthiest people in the US do not pay a tax when their wealth is distributed to heirs. According to the Public Citizen study, "Only an estimated 0.2 percent of American estates are subject to the federal estate tax."

Thursday, 25 June 2015 10:04

Lake Mead Hits Historic Low

2015.25.6 BF Mellino(Photo: Chris Richards)COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

Lake Mead hit a record low last night by falling below 1,075 feet in elevation at 1,074.98 feet, which would trigger a water-supply shortage if the reservoir doesn’t recover by January. The threshold for mandatory cuts was set in a 2007 agreement as part of the US Department of Interior’s Colorado River Interim Guidelines. These cuts would be the first set of mandatory water delivery curtailments to Lake Mead. Should the water levels continue to drop, as they are expected to, more cuts would be required.

“Water managers expect the lake’s elevation level to rebound enough to ward off a 2016 shortage thanks to a wetter-than-expected spring,” says The Arizona Republic. However, Rose Davis, a Bureau of Reclamation spokeswoman, told The Arizona Republic, “We still need a lot more water.”

The US had the wettest month ever recorded in May - ”the wettest places were parts of Arizona, Southern California, Northern Utah, a tiny spot in Nevada and a small spot on the border of Texas and Oklahoma, where precipitation was at least 500 percent of average,” said the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Still, the recent rains were not enough to end the Southwest’s 15-year drought.

2015.25.6 BF Quigley(Photo: The All-Nite Images)BILL QUIGLEY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Police kill a lot of unarmed people. So far in 2015, as many as 100 unarmed people have been killed by police. Here are fifteen of the most outrageous reasons given by police to justify killing unarmed people in the last twelve months.

First, a bit of background. So far in 2015, there have been around 400 fatal police shootings already; one in six of those killings, 16 percent, were of unarmed people, 49 had no weapon at all and 13 had toys, according to the Washington Post. Of the police killings this year less than 1 percent have resulted in the officer being charged with a crime. The Guardian did a study which included killings by Tasers and found 102 people killed by police so far in 2015 were unarmed and that unarmed Black people are twice as likely to be killed by police as whites.  

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1. He Was Dancing in the Street and Walking With a Purpose

On June 9, 2015 an unarmed man, Ryan Bollinger, was shot by police in Des Moines after “walking with a purpose” towards the police car after he exited his vehicle after a low speed chase started when he was observed dancing in the street and behaving erratically. The deceased was shot by the police through the rolled up cruiser window. The murder is under investigation.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaconstSlaveholders enhanced their own political power by advocating for the policy of partially counting enslaved Black people as persons under the US Constitution. (Photo: Kim Davies)

The GOP campaign to deny many people of color the right to vote - which has intensified in recent years - is particularly ironic considering a certain demand of slave-holding states when the US Constitution was drafted. Southern states were implacable in requiring that a slave be counted as a person in the federal census. This demand was made despite the prima facie assumption of slavery proponents that Black people were not persons and thus not able to vote.

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Why would those who regarded Black people as subhuman property be adamant about "classifying" them as people in the Constitution? An article on the Louisiana University at Lafayette website explains:

Of the 55 [Constitutional] Convention delegates, about 25 (almost half!) owned slaves. The delegates from Southern (slave) states wanted to counts slaves as part of their population. This would give the Southern states additional representatives in the U.S. House of Representatives. Delegates from the Northern (Free) states strongly opposed this, arguing that if slaves had no rights to vote (or any other rights of citizenship) then the South should not be given additional representatives in the House. Also, the North feared that counting slaves as part of the South's population would allow the South to have enough representatives in the House to out-vote the North on issues regarding slavery. The South likewise feared that not counting slaves as part of their population would give the South too few representatives in the House, thus allowing the North to out-vote the South on issues regarding slavery. The compromise they reached would arbitrarily count each slave as 3/5 of a person.

Thus, written into the original US Constitution is language that allowed white slave owners to achieve increased political power by - as a result of "compromise" - designating a slave as a 3/5 of a person, for the purposes of enhanced Southern white male political representation in Congress.  

Wednesday, 24 June 2015 11:02

Jim Hightower | "The Donald Show"

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaDonald(Photo: The Donald, photo by David Shankbone)Oh, joy! Oh, goody! Oh, happy day! For those of us who love the loopy side of American politics, our dream of some serious loco for 2016 has arrived: Donnie Trump in the race! For president. Of the United States. No, really!

"Wow," exclaimed a beaming Donald Trump as he stepped onstage, basking in the cheers of a throng that had assembled for his launch into the 2016 presidential race. "That is some group of people," he gushed. "Thousands."

He announced his candidacy from — where else? — Trump Tower, the luxury skyscraper on tony Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. The celebrity billionaire, who has splashed the Trump brand on casinos, hotels, resorts, condos, neckties and even steaks, now wants to put it on the Republican Party. Indeed, The Donald declared that he should be our president because, "We need somebody that can take the brand of the United States and make it great again." There you go — the U.S. is a brand, like a Big Mac, the Nike swoosh or Vidal Sassoon hair spray.

As for qualifications, Trump brandished his wealth, exclaiming that only someone "really rich" has what it takes to be America's CEO. This view that one's net worth is the measure of one's worthiness squares with an earlier self-assessment by Donnie: "Let me tell you, I'm a really smart guy."

Of course, smart is as smart does, so what does Mr. Smarty-pants propose to do as president? He claims he has "a foolproof way of winning the war with ISIS," the barbaric terrorists marauding through Syria, Iraq and elsewhere. Excellent! What is his plan? It's a secret, he says, "I don't want the enemy to know what I'm doing."

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaCalcuttaHot(Photo: A young boy in Calcutta seeks relief from the relentless heat. (EcoWatch))Need proof that we’re having the hottest year on record? Scorching heat is searing parts of the world, sparking wildfires and claiming lives due to heat stroke and dehydration.

1. India. The relentless heat since mid-April has claimed about 2,330 lives, overwhelming hospitals and devastating the country. As we previously reported, officials have blamed the heat on global warming.

“It’s not just another unusually hot summer—it is climate change,” said Dr. Harsh Vardhan, India’s Minister of Science and Technology and Earth Sciences. “Let us not fool ourselves that there is no connection between the unusual number of deaths from the ongoing heatwave and the certainty of another failed monsoon.”

Temperatures have neared 122 degrees Fahrenheit (50 degrees Celsius), causing roads to literally melt in New Delhi.

2. Pakistan. India’s neighboring country is also suffering from the horrible heat, with the city of Karachi experiencing temperatures of 113 degrees Fahrenheit (45 degrees Celsius). According to BBC News, the weather has led to the deaths of nearly 700 people, mostly poor and elderly.

Making matters worse, with Pakistanis observing the holy month of Ramadan and fasting during daylight hours, an increased use of electricity for air conditioning has caused outages on their already-unstable grid.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaconfedThe barbaric legacy of the Confederacy should be confined to a museum, not as active racism in the US in 2105. (Photo: Taber Andrew Bain)

Spare me the ongoing justification of the Confederate flag as a symbol of the "virtues" of the South. The excuses for revering the Confederate flag are sentimental claptrap that distracts from the evil of slavery.

Why is the historical bombast about the Confederate flag representing "a way of life" - including chivalry, God and mint juleps (among other respectable-sounding pastimes and habits) - such a ruse? Quite simply, because the South - in the wake of colonization - would have remained a series of hamlets of rural settlers if not for slavery producing profitable agricultural products, particularly cotton.

Although there were other sources of income in the South - banking, retail shops, etc. - the economic engine of the region was slavery. The "way of life" being romanticized among whites was built upon the foundation of treating people as chattel: buying them, brutalizing them, splitting up families, and killing those who sought their freedom or were defiant, in the most fundamental violation of human rights and liberty. 

Slavery - along with the slave trade, which included perhaps millions of Black people dying during transport from Africa to the US - was a grisly, horrifying practice that played out like passages in Dante's Inferno.

ANASTASIA PANTSIOS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaOKQuakes(Photo: EcoWatch)Oklahoma was never big earthquake country, but in the last six years their numbers have surged, going from an average of two a year over 3.0 magnitude to 538 last year, surpassing California as the U.S.’s most seismically active state. Regions in Texas and Ohio that rarely felt an earthquake are now seeing wave after wave of them; eight states overall have seen big increases.

Studies keep showing that the earthquakes start happening when wastewater from fracking is injected underground. Scientists say it’s because those large quantities of water, forced underground by heavy pressure, activate dormant fault lines. Now two more such studies have been added to the pile of evidence.

One of the studies, published in the journal Science, comes from a team of scientists from the University of Colorado at Boulder and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). The largest study to date, they analyzed information on earthquakes and 180,000 injection wells from Colorado to the east coast. They tied 18,000 of the wells, primarily in Colorado and Oklahoma, to earthquakes.

“This is the first study to look at correlations between injection wells and earthquakes on a broad, nearly national scale,” said University of Colorado doctoral student Matthew Weingarten, the study’s lead author. “We saw an enormous increase in earthquakes associated with these high-rate injection wells, especially since 2009, and we think the evidence is convincing that the earthquakes we are seeing near injection sites are induced by oil and gas activity.”

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaanycvigilAt a vigil and rally in New York City on June 22, 2015, a memorial pays reverence to the victims of the racist and terrorist Charleston church massacre. (Photo: The All-Nite Images)

First they said it was "too early" to talk about the issues behind the murder of nine black people attending a Bible study class at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, on Wednesday, June 17. Then they tried to shift the narrative, accusing President Barack Obama of disrespecting the victims and politicizing the issue. Then a leader of a Washington D.C.-based Christian lobbying outfit accused the president of "exploiting these tragedies to accomplish his ultimate goal: expanding government at the expense of personal freedom." In the wake of the Charleston Massacre, mainstream conservative politicians, Religious Right leaders, media outlets and pundits locked arms in an attempt to deflect any discussion of confessed killer Dylann Storm Roof's white supremacist views.

"For its part, the Christian Right wants to talk about anything but race," Frederick Clarkson, Senior Fellow for Religious Liberty at Political Research Associates, a social justice think tank in Massachusetts, told me in an email. "The Christian Right and the Republican Party are counting on the power of a narrative that claims that faith, or religion generally, and Christianity in particular are under siege in America to be a fertile campaign theme."

Clarkson added that "The mass murder of African American Christians in their own church casts into sharp relief the emptiness of the Religious Right's persecution claim. The Christians murdered at Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston were not killed primarily because of their faith, but because of their race. And everyone knows it."

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaindianprideLeonard Peltier should be able to enjoy freedom. (Photo: Hamner_Fotos)

Leonard Peltier is still imprisoned at the United States Penitentiary, Coleman in Florida, under harsh scrutiny. To what end?

Who or what is served by Peltier's incarceration? Quite simply, it is the United States government, and this country's deeply embedded racism toward its Indigenous population, bound up with settler colonialism and "Manifest Destiny"-driven expansion across the continent. The incident at Oglala occurred on a reservation, land onto which the survivors of the attempted genocide of Native Americans were forced.

When I interviewed Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, author of An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United Statesin 2014, she dispelled our grammar-school narratives of prominent US historical figures being great emancipators. She documented how Theodore Roosevelt, Walt Whitman and Andrew Jackson - among many other "benevolent" US leaders and cultural icons - were proponents of Indigenous genocide.

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