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LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Whittier 1025wrp optThe Whittier Fire, July 13, 2017 (Photo: Glenn Beltz)Amid record wildfires devastating the north and an unusual October heatwave scorching the south, conditions in California right now are a perfect snapshot of our ever-warming world.

As California Gov. Jerry Brown said an interview with BBC's Today program on Tuesday, "Climate change is occurring, global warming is occurring, California is beginning to burn up."

But for President Trump and his administration, climate change is fact being inconveniently ignored. That's why, Brown says, states are fighting back.

When asked during his interview what California can do about Trump's intention to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement, Gov. Brown offered three tactics.

DR. MEL GURTOV FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Flag 1025wrp(Photo: DVIDSHUB / Flickr)Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) says he didn’t know.  Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) and minority leader Chuck Schumer say they didn’t know either. Nor did several other US senators say they knew that the US has nearly 1,000 troops stationed in Niger, where four Green Berets were recently killed while on a counterterrorism mission. Other US congress members said they did know, but so what?  None apparently raised an eyebrow at the growing US military presence in Africa—a presence that includes combat and has not been authorized, much less debated, by congress.

Actually,all congress members should have known, not necessarily because the Pentagon says it informed everyone, which may or may not be the truth, but because news of the widespread US military deployment in Africa has been around for some time. I wrote about it in June, relying on the reporting of others on the US "arm and assist" program that finds US soldiers based in 24 African countries and perhaps double that number of "outposts" and other facilities.  Niger is just one place—Somalia, Cameroon, and Mali are others—where US forces are arming, training, and accompanying local soldiers on dangerous missions.

The US military has not, of course, publicized these missions, knowing full well that they would get unwanted attention.  But they are there, and the US Africa Command has become a crucial component of the "war on terror."  As Nick Tulse wrote last April, the US now operates "a constellation of bases integral to expanding U.S. military operations on the African continent and in the Middle East." I suspect that many members of congresschosenot to take note of these operations for political reasons: to avoid being seen as questioning the pursuit of terrorists everywhere, regardless of cost.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

opiumpoppyOxyContin is a derivative of opium from poppies. (Photo: Rach)

In the October 30 edition of the New Yorker, reporter Patrick Radden Keefe writes a thorough examination of the role of one pharmaceutical company, Purdue Pharma, in abetting the high number of deaths due to opioid overdoses in the United States. The connection is through the firm's patent on one highly addictive pain killer, OxyContin. Although there are many factors that fuel the opioid crisis in the United States -- including social injustice and economic inequality issues -- Keefe's thoroughly researched article is a telling reminder that the biggest drug pushers in the United States are legal ones: our pharmaceutical companies.

Keefe writes,

Since 1999, two hundred thousand Americans have died from overdoses related to OxyContin and other prescription opioids. Many addicts, finding prescription painkillers too expensive or too difficult to obtain, have turned to heroin. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, four out of five people who try heroin today started with prescription painkillers. The most recent figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest that a hundred and forty-five Americans now die every day from opioid overdoses.

Andrew Kolodny, the co-director of the Opioid Policy Research Collaborative, at Brandeis University, has worked with hundreds of patients addicted to opioids. He told me that, though many fatal overdoses have resulted from opioids other than OxyContin [such as fentanyl and heroin], the crisis was initially precipitated by a shift in the culture of prescribing—a shift carefully engineered by Purdue. “If you look at the prescribing trends for all the different opioids, it’s in 1996 that prescribing really takes off,” Kolodny said. “It’s not a coincidence. That was the year Purdue launched a multifaceted campaign that misinformed the medical community about the risks.”

In fact, Keefe makes the comparison in his article between drug companies that emphasize sales by persuading doctors to prescribe certain medications and heroin dealers.

ANWR, the largest protected wilderness in the U.S., consists of more than 19 million acres of pristine landscapes and is home to 37 species of land mammals, eight marine mammals, 42 fish species and more than 200 migratory bird species.Arctic National Wildlife Reserve, the largest protected wilderness in the US, consists of more than 19 million acres of pristine landscapes and is home to 37 species of land mammals, eight marine mammals, 42 fish species and more than 200 migratory bird species.(Photo: US Fish and Wildlife Service)LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

The work done by BuzzFlash and Truthout is possible only through support from readers like you. Join the independent media movement: Click here to donate today!

The Senate Republicans' narrow passage of the 2018 budget plan on Thursday opened the door for oil and gas drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve (ANWR).

But Democratic lawmakers and environmental groups criticized the GOP for sneaking the "backdoor drilling provision" through the budget process. Past proposals to drill in the refuge have consistently failed.

The budget was passed through a legislative tool known as reconciliation which only requires a simple majority, rather than 60 votes. The budget was approved 51-49, with Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul joining Democrats in opposition, paving the way for President Trump's tax overhaul proposal.

"The federal government has not undertaken strategic government-wide planning to manage climate risks by using information on the potential economic effects of climate change to identify significant risks and craft appropriate federal responses," states a new study by the Government Accountability Office."The federal government has not undertaken strategic government-wide planning to manage climate risks by using information on the potential economic effects of climate change to identify significant risks. . . " states a new study by the Government Accountability Office. (Photo: [email protected] / flickr)LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

You know how important it is to have an alternative to corporate media. Keep independent journalism strong: Click here to make a tax-deductible donation to BuzzFlash and Truthout.

President Trump might think that global warming is a hoax created by the Chinese, but the Government Accountability Office (GAO), Congress's nonpartisan auditing arm, is urging the administration to craft a plan to confront climate change or else it will have to deal with its massive economic consequences.

According to a new report released by the GAO, the U.S. government has already spent more than $350 billion over the past decade on dealing with natural disasters and losses from flood and crop insurance. The tally does not even include the economic toll from this year's horrific West Coast fires and successive hurricanes, which is estimated to cost at least $300 billion.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

medicalmarijuanaWhen will the US national government take the lead on medical marijuana, not for a long time it appears. (Photo: Chuck Coker)

Peru has just joined a group of nations in legalizing the medical use of marijuana, as its Congress passed the legislation just a few days ago.

The origin of the Peruvian law shows that politicians can sometimes exercise compassion. According to the Guardian,

The legislative approval followed a government proposal to decriminalize the medical use of marijuana for the "treatment of serious and terminal illnesses" after a police raid in February on a makeshift laboratory where a group of mothers made marijuana oil for their sick children.

The laboratory was in the home of Ana Alvarez, 43, who founded the group Buscando Esperanza or Searching for Hope to treat her 17-year-old son Anthony who suffers from a rare and severe form of epilepsy called Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, as well as tuberous sclerosis, which causes tumors to grow on the brain and other organs.

The arrests led to a mass protest march in front of the Peruvian legislature. It is lamentable that such empathy and concern for health is not recognized on the federal level in the United States. There were 67 votes in favor of the bill in the Peruvian Congress, with only five in opposition and three abstentions.

Monday, 23 October 2017 07:59

Which Politicians Should We Trust?

GLEB TSIPURSKY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

News 1023wrp opt(Photo: Daniel R. Blume)In these dark days, it's hard to trust any politician. How can we tell apart the ones who spout bald-faced lies from those who actually tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? Fortunately, we now have a science-based tool for telling which politicians are comfortable committing to the truth, and which are not.

Let's get the myths out of the way: We can't trust our gut on who is telling the truth. Extensive research in psychology shows that our minds tend to search for and interpret information in ways that align with our previous beliefs, a phenomenon known as "confirmation bias." In other words, we'll tend to believe whoever tells us what we want to hear, whether or not what they're saying is true. No wonder that a study showed that most Americans who see distorted news believe it.

Traditionally, mainstream media had the role of separating the wheat of truth from the chaff of deception. However, trust in the mainstream media is at an all-time low, with a majority of citizens across the political spectrum believing it publishes a lot of distorted news. Thus, politicians who want to cover up their corrupt and unethical activities are now using false labels to attack reporters trying to uncover their misdoings. As a result, mainstream media's ability to separate the liars from the truth-tellers has been weakened.

JOHN GEYMAN, MD FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Oxy 1023wrp opt(Photo: Cindy Shebley)In recent days, after six months of excellent investigative reporting, The Washington Post and CBS 60 Minutes, have jointly brought to our attention a very important expose of the back story behind the growing, unprecedented public health crisis in the U. S.—our opioid epidemic. More than 90 Americans die every day from opioid drug overdoses. These overdoses have already killed some 200,000 (more than three times the number of U. S. military deaths in the Vietnam War), overdose deaths continue to rise, and there is no end in sight. Here we have two goals: (1) to better understand how this crisis has come about and continues to increase; and (2) to outline some of the lessons we can already draw from this experience.

What’s behind this increasing crisis that is still uncontrolled?

Drug overdose deaths used to be rare, but are now the leading cause of accidental death in this country, more than peak annual deaths caused by motor vehicle accidents, guns and HIV infection. Opioids are drugs that stimulate the brain’s opioid receptors, including hydrocodone and oxycodone (the most commonly prescribed opioids), heroin, and in just recent years, fentanyl. Prescribed opioids can be essential for short-term use after surgery or accidents and for palliative care in terminal conditions. But they are often abused for chronic pain and can lead to patients becoming addicted to them.

Friday, 20 October 2017 07:18

The GOP and Trump: Their War Against Women

JOHN GEYMAN, MD FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

PPrally 1020wrp optA Planned Parenthood rally. Photo: Molly Adams)The escalating war on women being waged by Republicans and the Trump administration knows no bounds and violates a long history of protections for women in previous administrations over almost 50 years. Their ultimate goal is to overturn Roe v. Wade, which decriminalized abortion in 1973. In their failed bills in Congress earlier this year, the GOP and its pro-life forces attacked women's health care by attempting to restrict access to contraception and abortion, cut Medicaid and defund Planned Parenthood. Beyond his many misogynous statements, Trump has said that a woman should be "punished" for having an abortion. Soon after his inauguration, he reversed long-standing abortion-related US policy by expanding the so-called Global Gag Rule, which prevents foreign recipients of US funding from offering counseling, information or advocacy services for abortion care. Under that rule, health professionals cannot mention abortion as an option, regardless of health risks or even if a woman asks. Now his latest attack on women -- signing an executive order that allows employers with a moral or religious objection to stop insurance coverage for contraceptive services, as has been required by the ACA, that can affect up to 62 million women.

These new policies represent a stunning reversal of women's rights dating back to the Title X Family Planning Program, enacted under Republican President Nixon in 1970 with the goal to "promote positive birth outcomes and healthy families by allowing individuals to decide the number and spacing of their children." Congress passed another bill in 1975 that authorized a network of family planning centers across the US. By 2014, there were some 4,400 such centers in operation.

As Planned Parenthood clinics, 97 percent of services provided include breast exams, other preventive services such as screening for cervical cancer and sexually transmitted infections; less than 3 percent of these services are for abortion care. Over the years, Title X has greatly reduced the number of abortions in the US by preventing unintended pregnancies.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

epa33Scott Pruitt wants to limit EPA lawsuit settlements. (Photo: mccready)

In a few short months, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has proven that he will use every means at his disposal to swing a wrecking ball through environmental policy. Therefore, it may not be surprising that on October 17 the EPA issued a news release announcing that it will seek not to settle most lawsuits filed by environmental groups. According to the EPA release,

In fulfilling his promise to end the practice of regulation through litigation that has harmed the American public, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt issued an Agency-wide directive today designed to end "sue and settle" practices within the Agency, providing an unprecedented level of public participation and transparency in EPA consent decrees and settlement agreements.

"The days of regulation through litigation are over," said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. "We will no longer go behind closed doors and use consent decrees and settlement agreements to resolve lawsuits filed against the Agency by special interest groups where doing so would circumvent the regulatory process set forth by Congress. Additionally, gone are the days of routinely paying tens of thousands of dollars in attorney’s fees to these groups with which we swiftly settle."

Over the years, outside the regulatory process, special interest groups have used lawsuits that seek to force federal agencies – especially EPA – to issue regulations that advance their interests and priorities, on their specified timeframe. EPA gets sued by an outside party that is asking the court to compel the Agency to take certain steps, either through change in a statutory duty or enforcing timelines set by the law, and then EPA will acquiesce through a consent decree or settlement agreement, affecting the Agency’s obligations under the statute.

The directive does not rule out all settlements. It, however, creates an arduous process that will create multiple roadblocks to a third party suing the EPA for not doing its job of protecting the environment and people from toxic pollution and environmental degradation.

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