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Kneel 0817wrpMembers of the San Francisco 49ers, Kaepernick's former team, kneel in protest during the national anthem. (Photo: Keith Allison / Flickr)

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

On August 14, 2016, San Francisco 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick began protesting police brutality and social inequality by sitting, and later taking a knee, during the playing of the National Anthem. His action started a national conversation, one that has often gotten sidetracked.

As of this writing, despite an impressive, albeit short career, Kaepernick has not been invited to a training camp of any NFL team. In October of last year, he filed a collusion suit against NFL owners, maintaining they are working together to keep him out of football.

Thursday, 16 August 2018 07:46

Saving Democracy

MEL GURTOV FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

buttDonald Trump speaking to supporters at an immigration policy speech at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, Arizona. Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Writing on democracy, I’m reminded of a great old Stevie Wonder song, "Love’s in Need of Love Today." Democracy is in need of love today: It is taking a beating nearly everywhere, including right here. Remember the optimism that accompanied the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the collapse of the Soviet Union two years later? Democracy was going to sweep across eastern Europe, the new Russia was going to undergo dramatic changes under glasnostand perestroika. There was great hope for democratic change in Africa and Latin America. And then the backlash came, and we see what has happened in all those countries, starting with Putin’s Russia.

But then came the Arab Spring in 2011, and suddenly optimism was back in vogue. From the Persian Gulf to Tunisia, and from Syria to Egypt, it seemed that momentous change was about to unfold. Not so fast. The Syrian civil war turned ugly, Egypt gave way to the military, the ultra-conservative monarchies survived in the Gulf states, and Libya imploded following the overthrow of Gaddafi. Terrorism, real and imagined, became the new basis for concentration of power and the derailing of reform efforts.

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

9591706547 b33b3a4189 thetortmaster / Flickr

"He owned the gun legally and had a concealed carry permit."

That matters?

In an otherwise neutral and informative article, this reads like a bit of legal fetishism. Another human being is dead, oh so needlessly and pointlessly, thanks to a moment of lethally armed anger in a convenience store parking lot in Clearwater, Florida last month. But the killer's weapon was bureaucratically correct: clean as a whistle. 

This is more than merely irrelevant. There's something wrong here that our legal system is, apparently, incapable of addressing. 

The July 19 death of Markeis McGlockton was back in the news recently because the shooter, Michael Drejka, wound up being charged, a month later, with manslaughter. Thanks to the state's Stand Your Ground law, he, like George Zimmerman in 2012, was initially allowed to walk free. He had been "defending himself," or at least he thought he was, and that was good enough for the state of Florida.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

supremecourt32Brett Kavanaugh and the road to tyranny on the Supreme Court. (Photo: Geoff Livingston)

BuzzFlash has long opined on how the Republicans play the long game on federal bench appointees. They are ruthless, cunning and tenacious in pursuing their nominations, from federal circuit court benches to the Supreme Court (SCOTUS). Meanwhile, as evidenced by Mitch McConnell's refusal to let President Obama's nomination of moderate DC Appellate Court Judge Merrick Garland proceed, the Democrats appear to be docile and lacking in outrage.

McConnell often says his career legacy will be a Republican federal court system that will last for generations. Those who vet federal bench candidates, often from the right-wing Federalist Society of lawyers, are particularly adept at picking younger attorneys who are likely to serve for decades on the courts. Given how partisan the Republican appointees are, they are likely to back the GOP in stopping congressional actions that do not benefit their party and its objectives.

In the current climate of Trump usurping unilateral executive branch authority, this becomes particularly ominous. The nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court is an investment in ensuring that Trump cannot be pursued for violating the law. Truthout columnist Will Pitt wrote last month about the implications of Kavanaugh's vote on SCOTUS:

The ultimate reason why Donald Trump tapped Kavanaugh may never be fully known, but if the question appeared on the Big Board at the MGM Grand in Vegas, I’d bet all my worldly possessions on two words: Unitary Executive. See, Trump has no ideology to speak of beyond whatever serves his immediate purposes. His politics are entirely transactional — What do I get out of it? — and with Kavanaugh, Donald Trump gets a breathing “Get Out Of Jail Free” card on the highest court in the land.

Amazon 0815wrpThe aftermath of Amazon deforestation. (Photo: Oregon State University / Flickr)

OLIVIA ROSANE OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

A first-of-its-kind study published Monday shows that tax havens don't just shelter the wealth of celebrities and large corporations—they also obscure the financial transactions behind environmental destruction.

The study, published in Nature Ecology and Evolution by the Stockholm Resilience Centre at Stockholm University and Global Economic Dynamics and the Biosphere (GEDB) at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, found that 70 percent of vessels involved in illegal fishing were registered in tax havens and that 68 percent of the foreign capital transferred to sectors involved in the deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon was moved through tax havens.

"Our analysis shows that the use of tax havens is not only a socio-political and economic challenge, but also an environmental one. While the use of tax haven jurisdictions is not illegal in itself, financial secrecy hampers the ability to analyse how financial flows affect economic activities on the ground, and their environmental impacts," lead study author Victor Galaz said in an email.

Swamp 0815wrpSwamp pig. (Photo: Paul Gorbould / Flickr)

WILL DURST FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

During the 2016 presidential election Donald Trump famously proclaimed he would drain the swamp in Washington, but looking at the cast of characters he's surrounded himself with, it seems more like he invited all his carnivorous reptilian buddies to come drain their bladders in the swamp and now it's not only bigger but warmer as well.

Mr. Art of the Deal's career is littered with pyramid schemes, reneging on contracts, unpaid loans, phony foundations, phantom donations, broken promises, deceit, mendacity, moral turpitude and bad hair. He is a parody of avarice spreading a culture of corruption so large it can probably be seen from the Hubble Telescope.

Trump is the King of Corruption. The Maharajah of Malfeasance. Good God of Graft. Captain Crooked. The Pharaoh of Fraud. The Overlord of Venality. The creator and originator of Orange Collar Crime. Wouldn't be surprised if he hadn't trademarked that. His insatiable greed and con- man ways give rich people a bad name. Okay, a badder name. Boss Tweed had nothing on this Boss Tweet.

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.

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

piplineNixon Ridge pipeline explosion. Marshall County Homeland Security & Emergency Management / Facebook

A newly installed TransCanada natural gas pipeline exploded early Thursday in the remote Nixon Ridge area of Marshall County in West Virginia.

No injuries were reported but flames and smoke from the blast could be seen as far as 20 miles away, residents told local media. Area police told CBS News the fire was "very large—if you can see it from your house, evacuate."

Tuesday, 14 August 2018 06:39

DNC Will Take Fossil Fuel Money After All

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

30697353581 0d96b64ac8 bTom Perez, chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Gage Skidmore / Flickr

That was fast. Just two months after the Democratic National Committee (DNC) unanimously prohibited donations from fossil fuel companies, the DNC voted 30-2 on Friday on a resolution that critics say effectively reverses the ban, The Huffington Post reported.

The resolution, introduced by DNC Chair Tom Perez, allows the committee to accept donations from "workers, including those in energy and related industries, who organize and donate to Democratic candidates individually or through their unions' or employers' political action committees" or PACs.

It conflicts with the original resolution that called on the committee to "reject corporate PAC contributions from the fossil fuel industry that conflict with our DNC Platform."

In a conference call after the vote, Perez said that members of the labor community considered the original resolution passed in June "an attack on the working people in these industries," per The Hill.

He insisted that the DNC is still committed to the Democratic Party platform, "which states unequivocally our support for combating climate change."

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

asbestosjpgTrump will increase American mortality by bringing back highly toxic asbestos. (Photo: Visit W3Schools)

It's no surprise that career EPA staff objected to the Trump administration's new asbestos plan -- the grotesque plan allows for the horrible return of a cancerous toxin that Trump believes is harmless.

An August 8 article in Live Science provides background to the confirmed deaths and illnesses caused by asbestos use, particularly in construction:

By the 1960s, however, researchers had begun to suspect that a spike in a rare cancer of the lungs' lining called mesothelioma -- especially common among World War II-era ship insulators working with asbestos -- might be tied to the suddenly omnipresent substance, according to Scientific American. In 1973, as The Virginian-Pilot reported in 2001, a doctor testified before Congress that 1 million Americans would die of work-related asbestos diseases in the coming decades. In 1975, the brand-new EPA banned the use of asbestos in insulation, and by 1989, the EPA had taken steps to ban the use of asbestos entirely. In 1991, however, industry lawyers successfully blocked that rule from being fully implemented, according to The Mesothelioma Center, an advocacy group.

The website asbestos.com puts it more bluntly:

Asbestos fibers most often accumulate in lung tissue and in the membrane lining the lungs called the pleura. Benign asbestos-related diseases include asbestosis, pleuritis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which make it difficult for patients to breathe.

Asbestos also causes malignant diseases such as lung cancer, pleural mesothelioma and peritoneal mesothelioma, and it is the No. 1 cause of occupational cancer in the world.

How to clean up asbestos.How to clean up asbestos. (Photo: NAVFAC / Flickr)

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Attorneys and scientists with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) objected to the Trump administration's proposal of a "significant new use rule" (SNUR) for asbestos, according to internal agency emails obtained by the The New York Times.

Trump's former EPA boss Scott Pruitt quietly announced the proposal in June, framing the plan as an "important, unprecedented action on asbestos," a toxic construction material and known carcinogen that kills almost 15,000 U.S. citizens annually.

Asbestos is not banned in the U.S. but there are strict regulations on its use. But as Fast Company noted, the way the proposed rule is written could allow manufacturers to create new products containing asbestos on a case-by-case basis.

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