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capitolUSThe Republican Congressional bills to repeal and replace Obamacare would have meant the premature deaths of tens of thousands of people. (Photo: Reizigerin)

Last week my seven year old son got chemotherapy to treat his leukemia. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday for our family included a doctor visit to get IV chemo, a spinal tap, a twice daily steroid (and managing its side effects), and once day chemo pill.

Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday for the US Senate included multiple votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act and to take away his health insurance.

Let's look at it side by side.

Into the late hours of the night last week, US Senators voted time and again on proposals to replace, repeal in full or partially repeal the Affordable Care Act.

In the late hours of the night last week, my son struggled to stay asleep because he gets insomnia from the medicines he takes, because his medicines make him hungry and he needs to eat at night.

For breakfast, some U.S. senators ate in the private Senate dining room — a place where my son and most of us will never eat, even though our tax dollars pay for it.


NFL33Is the NFL a reactionary, conservative institution? (Photo: Parker Anderson)

It has taken years, but I’ve finally come to terms with one of the most glaring inconsistencies in my own life. Though I hold myself out as a proud progressive, cognitive dissonance has allowed me to enjoy an activity that, in all honesty, directly conflicts with my core beliefs and values. After justifying and rationalizing this activity year after year, knowing deep down inside that it is indefensible, I’m finally ready to confront it:

I can no longer be a fan of the National Football League.

This decision results from an uncomfortable truth that has become increasingly undeniable to me: The NFL, because of the values it fosters on such a grand scale, is arguably the most influential reactionary force in the United States today.

If this sounds like an exaggeration, consider the facts. The NFL’s appeal and cultural influence are vast, with loyal followers, young and old, all over the country who willingly devote large amounts of time and attention to it. Yet the values it propagates are antithetical to a progressive life stance. Militarism, nationalism, corporatism, excessive consumption, and even conservative religion and anti-intellectualism -- all are nurtured, directly or indirectly, with a sprinkling of sexism for good measure, by the league and its activities.

This was not an easy truth for me to face. I’ve followed the NFL longer than I’ve called myself a progressive, since the glory days of Roger Staubach and Terry Bradshaw. And as a New Englander, I suffered decades of disappointment as a Patriots fan before watching the team become a dynasty in the Belichick-Brady era. The Pats just won their fifth Super Bowl, but I’ve come to realize that the NFL, overtly and covertly, stands firmly opposed to my own progressive values. I’m walking away, knowing without a doubt I’m doing the right thing.


RainbowFlag 0728wrp optA rainbow flag of the LGBTQ movement. (Photo: theodoranian)On Wednesday, July 26, Team Trump carried out an anti-gay trifecta: the president banned transgender Americans from the military; the Justice department filed a brief defending discrimination against gays in the workplace; and, the president nominated a clearly anti-gay partisan to become the ambassador at large for International Religious Freedom. Unfortunately, when Donald Trump told the Republican National Convention that he would do all he could “to protect our LGBT citizens,” he apparently was talking about only protecting them from Islamic terrorists, not from himself, or conservative evangelical Christians.

Donald Trump’s decision to ban transgender Americans from the military is not the first shot he’s fired in culture wars battles against the LGBT community.

The bringing of Mike Pence, an avowedly anti-gay partisan, onto the ticket, the appointment of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and the Supreme Court appointment of Neil Gorsuch were all signals to evangelical Christians that he has their back.

Now, the seemingly out-of-nowhere tweet regarding transsexual citizens also appears to be aimed at keeping conservative evangelicals locked into the Trumposphere at a time when talk of firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions has angered many of them.


uruguaylicenseplUruguayan citizens can now legally buy marijuana at their local pharmacies. (Photo: @Doug88888)

Many countries continue to move away from war-on-drugs politics. Contrast the Trump Department of Justice's return to failed anti-drug policies with what occurred in Uruguay this week. It became the first nation in the world to begin the countrywide retail sale of marijuana on July 19. According to the HuffPo,

[Last] Wednesday, Uruguay began sales of legal marijuana for adult residents....

Uruguay’s model will look quite different from the eight U.S. states that have legalized marijuana. Since there is no one-size-fits-all marijuana legalization system, it’s important for each jurisdiction to tailor marijuana regulation to their local needs and contexts, providing the world with different models to learn from.

The Uruguayan model allows four forms of access to marijuana: medical marijuana through the Ministry of Public Health; domestic cultivation of up to six plants per household; membership clubs where up to 45 members can collectively produce up to 99 plants; and licensed sale in pharmacies to adult residents. Regulation will be overseen by the government’s Institute for the Regulation and Control of Cannabis (IRCCA).

The Drug Policy Alliance took note. Hannah Hetzer, the senior international policy manager at the Alliance, said in a press statement:

This is a historic moment. In recent years, Latin American leaders have decried the staggering human, environmental and financial costs of the war on drugs in their region. Uruguay is boldly demonstrating that concrete alternatives to failed prohibitionist policies are possible.

Demonstrators in Lahore, Pakiston on August 6, 2016 for Bike Around the Bomb.Demonstrators in Lahore, Pakistan on August 6, 2016 for Bike Around the Bomb. (Photo: Global Zero)WINSLOW MEYERS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Like many citizens for whom the daily headlines are an invitation to ponder the mental health of our political leaders, it is hard not to wonder from time to time about the risk of slipping into yet another war to end all wars -- especially when the anniversaries of Hiroshima and Nagasaki roll around, on August 6th and 9th, year after passing year. 

In this context Stanley Kramer's 1959 film, On the Beach is still worth a look. The screenplay was adapted from a novel of the same name by the English writer, Nevil Shute, who spent his later years in Australia, where both novel and film are set. 

The plot provides a coolly understated take on the end of the world. Radioactivity from all-out nuclear war, both between the U.S.S.R. and the U.S. and the Soviets and the Chinese, has done in anyone in the Northern Hemisphere who might have survived the initial blasts and fires.  Australia is still in one piece, but it is only a matter of months before the great cycles of upper atmosphere winds bring a fatal plague of radiation southward, making it game over for our species. A laconic Gregory Peck, stoically repressing his knowledge that his wife and children had been long since annihilated in the initial nuclear exchange, plays a submarine captain whose vessel survived by being underwater. He takes his loyal crew on a futile exploratory voyage from Melbourne across to the California coast, both to test the intensity of atmospheric radiation and to confirm that no one has survived beyond the Australian continent. 


dtrump333Trump uses cyberbullying to achieve strategic objectives and redirect the media. (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

....Trump also uses the "bully pulpit" to attract media attention. He understands that media outlets are attracted like moths to a flame to his outrageous bluster and disparagement of anyone he deems his enemy, and this distracts the mainstream press from focusing on his extremist and bigoted policies and gaffes.

For instance, Trump's ignorance of details of foreign policy was on display again during the latest round of tweet salvos harshly criticizing Sessions. As The Huffington Post describes a news conference Trump had with the Lebanese prime minister this week,

President Donald Trump used a White House press conference with a crucial Middle East partner on Wednesday to misrepresent the actions of the U.S. military and his own political positions, as well as demonstrate his cluelessness about the region.

Standing next to Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, a member of one of the savviest political families in the Middle East, Trump trotted out two lies in quick succession -- perhaps because he believed no one would cotton on, or more likely just because he can....

The two falsehoods on Tuesday were so striking that they partially overshadowed Trump’s other foreign affairs flub. The president was asked about Hezbollah, the armed Lebanon-based group that is tied to Iran and seen as an enemy of the U.S. Trump first said he believed Lebanon was fighting Hezbollah -- actually it forms part of Hariri’s government -- and then declared he would be making a decision on proposed U.S. sanctions against it by Wednesday. In fact, Congress hasn’t even begun to consider those sanctions yet.

Although there was some mainstream corporate media coverage of Trump's lies and lack of knowledge about the Middle East, the story got buried in the media scrum over Trump's derogatory tweets about his own attorney general. Even though Trump is largely trying to protect his own interests in suppressing the Mueller investigation with his blasts against Sessions, he is also aware that he is leading the media away from prominent scrutiny of his reactionary foreign and domestic policies and political appointments. Thus, Trump's "bully pulpit" is also used as a means of manipulating media coverage of his administration. 

Trump may be impetuous in appearing to be governing by tweets, but don't underestimate the strong possibility that he uses cyberbullying strategically.

as Gitmo remains open and the Endless War continues -- and no one is held accountable -- there is no ending to this story, just an open wound.As Guantánamo remains open and the Endless War continues -- and no one is held accountable -- there is no ending to the stories of Lakhdar Boumediene and Mustafa Ait Idir, just an open wound. (Photo: Witness Against Torture)ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

To read Witnesses of the Unseen: Seven Years in Guantánamo is to run your mind along the contours of hell.

The next step, if you're an American, is to embrace it. Claim it. This is who we are: We are the proprietors of a cluster of human cages. This torture center is still open. Men ("forever prisoners") are still being held there, their imprisonment purporting to keep us safe.

The book, by Lakhdar Boumediene and Mustafa Ait Idir -- two Algerian men arrested in Bosnia in 2011 and wrongly accused of being terrorists -- allows us to imagine ourselves at Guantánamo, this outpost of the Endless War.

"'Take him outside,' the interrogator told them. They led me up a flight of eight or nine concrete steps to a long gravel drive. It was pitch black out, and completely quiet. There was no one around. One of the soldiers grabbed my left arm, and another took my right. And then they started running.

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BenJerry 0726wrp optBen Cohen and Jerry Greenfield in 2010. (Photo: Dismas)The most important thing we can do today as conscious consumers, farmers and food workers is to regenerate public health, the environment and climate stability. We can do this most readily by moving away from industrial, GMO and factory-farm food toward an organic, pasture-based, soil-regenerative, humane, carbon-sequestering and climate-friendly agriculture system.

What's standing in the way of this life-or-death transformation? Rampant greenwashing. The proliferation of $90 billion worth of fraudulently labeled or advertised "natural" and "socially responsible" food products in the U.S. confuses even the most well-intentioned of consumers and lures them away from purchasing genuine organic or grass-fed products.

Perhaps no company personifies greenwashing more than Vermont-based Ben & Jerry's. Ben & Jerry's history—a start-up launched by two affable hippies, from a renovated gas station in Burlington, Vermont—is legendary. Despite selling out to Unilever in April 2000, the brand's handlers have preserved its quirky, homespun image and masterfully convinced consumers that Ben & Jerry's has never strayed from its mission: "to make the world a better place."

As the New York Times reported, the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) recently sent samples of Ben and Jerry's top-selling ice cream brands to an independent testing lab for analysis. Ten out of 11 samples tested positive for Roundup (glyphosate and AMPA) herbicide contamination

So much for making the world a better place.


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BorderPatrol optA US Border Patrol helicopter in flight. (Photo: Dan Sorensen)If you take Interstate 15 about two hours north from Los Angeles, heading into the high desert of San Bernardino County, you'll reach a for-profit federal detention facility called the Adelanto Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Processing Center.  The center's named for the neighboring town of Adelanto, which means "advancement" or "progress" in Spanish, and it's not an inappropriate title for a town founded a century ago by the inventor of the Hotpoint Electric Iron.  But the name now carries a rather different set of associations due to the ICE facility's presence there.

This year, eight asylum seekers from Central American countries who had been "detained" (imprisoned) at this facility went on hunger strike to affirm the right to asylum as well as to protest excessively high bail, substandard food and medical care, and other abuses.  Three detainees at Adelanto have died since March, one found hanging in his cell on March 22, the other two suffering from serious medical issues that, advocates say, had been inadequately addressed at the facility.  

This year's protest follows a previous hunger strike in 2015, when 26 detainees protested prolonged imprisonment and excessive bail while awaiting resolution of their asylum cases.  Earlier that year, over two dozen members of Congress wrote a letter to the Justice Department and ICE officials, citing numerous cases of medical neglect and calling for a halt to the facility's expansion. More recently, an immigrants' advocacy organization called CIVIC (Community Initiatives for Visiting Inmates in Confinement) issued a report asserting that Adelanto had the third highest number of sexual assault complaints of all U.S. immigration detention facilities.

Last year, the Obama administration ordered a phasing out of private federal prison facilities like Adelanto.  Citing an Inspector General's report that faulted the prisons on issues of safety and security, and noting a decline in federal inmates, Deputy Attorney General Sally Q. Yates stated in a memo that the private prisons "compare poorly" to public facilities:  "they simply do not provide the same level of correctional services, programs, and resources," she said, and "they do not save substantially on costs."


epa33Democratic senators challenge EPA on the use of a toxic pesticide. (mccready)

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According to Earthjustice, a legal environmental advocacy group, eight Democratic senators introduced a bill yesterday to ban chlorpyrifos, a pesticide linked to neurological damage in children:

Senators Tom Udall (D-NM), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Kamala Harris (D-CA) , Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Edward J. Markey (D-MA) unveiled a first-of-its-kind bill that would ban chlorpyrifos, a widely used agricultural pesticide that has been linked to reduced IQ and attention deficit disorder in children. Chlorpyrifos, an organophosphate which comes from the same chemical family as sarin nerve gas, is used on staple foods like strawberries, apples, citrus, broccoli, and more.

The Protect Children, Farmers & Farmworkers from Nerve Agent Pesticides Act, or S. 1624, amends the U.S. Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act--which oversees food safety--and prohibits all chlorpyrifos use in food. SB 1624 also directs the Environmental Protection Agency to partner with the National Research Council to assess the neurodevelopmental effects and other low-dose impacts that exposure to organophosphate pesticides has on agricultural workers and children. In addition to calling for a ban on chlorpyrifos, the bill educates the public about the history of this nerve agent pesticide and the communities that are in harms' way.

As recently reported in Energydesk, neonicotinoid pesticides -- of which chlorpyrifos is one -- can also cause harm to bees, including negatively impacting the reproductive capacity of three bee species.

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