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LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Pipe 0425wrp opt (Photo: Elias Schewel / Flickr)The Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled Monday that four climate activists facing criminal charges may use an unusual "necessity defense" over their efforts to shut down a pair of tar sands pipelines owned by Enbridge Energy.

"Valve turners" Emily Johnston and Annette Klapstein were charged after shutting off the emergency valves on the two pipelines in October 2016. Johnston and Klapstein, and the two defendants who filmed them, argue their actions to stop the flow of the polluting bitumen were justified due to the threat of climate change.

The action was part of Climate Direct Action's plan to shut down five pipelines across the U.S. that deliver tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada.

The pipelines targeted were Enbridge line 4 and 67 in Leonard, Minnesota; TransCanada's Keystone pipeline in Walhalla, North Dakota; Spectra Energy's Express pipeline at Coal Banks Landing, Montana; and Kinder Morgan's Trans-Mountain pipeline in Anacortes, Washington.

RESHMI DUTT-BALLERSTADT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Barb 0425wrp optBarbara Bush(Photo: Esther / Flickr)Randa Jarrar is the latest victim of being denied free speech.

Jarrar is a Muslim American award winning writer and a tenured English professor at Fresno State University. Her mother is Egyptian and her father is Palestinian. Instead of eulogizing Barbara Bush, she tweeted on April 17 that, "Barbara Bush was a generous and smart and amazing racist who along with her husband, raised a war criminal."

Due to her unapologetic tweets, the right wing public wants her fired. The administration at Fresno State wants her disciplined and is investigating her tweets.

Everything she said in her brief tweet is factually correct.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

mcconnellSenate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

It should come as no surprise that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is speeding up the confirmation process of Trump's nominations for the federal bench. As I have pointed out before, the Republicans hold the long view in understanding the importance of the judicial branch of government to achieving a conservative agenda.

After all, McConnell basically stole a Supreme Court (SCOTUS) seat when he refused to hold hearings on Merrick Garland, Obama's appointee to succeed Antonin Scalia on the top court in the United States. The eventual confirmation of Neil Gorsuch after Trump's victory guarantees a conservative Supreme Court majority, with Justice Anthony Kennedy as the swing vote. Remember also that appointments to the federal bench are for life, so the Republicans are nominating younger judges who will have a long-term impact on the shape of the law in the United States far into the future. Gorsuch, for instance, is only 50 years old. Since few Supreme Court justices retire before age or health issues make it necessary to do so, Gorsuch is likely to be on the court for at least two to three decades.

Politico reported in an April 20 article:

Mitch McConnell is making a last dash to stock the judiciary with conservatives this year as a hedge against the chance that Republicans lose the Senate in November.

The GOP may have only a few more months of unified control of Washington to repeal Obamacare or enact President Donald Trump’s infrastructure plan. But the Senate majority leader is taking a longer view -- and confirming as many conservative judges as possible....

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

oilrigOffshore oil rig. (Photo: EcoWatch)

New Jersey has passed a law prohibiting offshore oil and gas exploration, development and production in state waters—the nation's toughest response yet to the Trump administration's plans to vastly expand offshore drilling in nearly all U.S. coastal waters.

Gov. Phil Murphy signed into law on Friday the bipartisan bill called the "Shore Tourism and Ocean Protection from Offshore Oil and Gas Act" or "STOP Offshore Oil and Gas Act."

The Democratic governor noted that signing occurred on the anniversary of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

"We do this for the millions of people who live near and love our beaches, billions of dollars in economic activity, tens of thousands of jobs, and the thousands of businesses that rely on a safe and clean shoreline," Murphy tweeted. "We do this for today and for future generations."

The state's 130-mile coastline is home to beaches, fisheries and marine life. It also supports a $44 billion tourism industry that attracts millions of visitors each year.

Monday, 23 April 2018 07:15

Examining the Kochtopus

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Koch 0423wrp opt(Photo: Walter Siegmund)Multibillionaires Charles and David Koch want nothing less than to supplant America's core democratic principle of majority rule — the will of The People — with their core plutocratic principle of inviolable property rights, also known as domination by the wealthy minority. Their notion is that "property" (accumulated wealth and the means to get it) is sacrosanct and cannot be restricted by the pesky majority for the Common Good. Cloaking their efforts with layers of dark-money front groups, the Koch brothers have used their enormous assets to mount a far-ranging, ultrasophisticated assault on American democracy.

From their early involvement in The John Birch Society (daddy Fred Koch being an early member), they continued their rightward march, and by the 1970s, both had plunged into the abyss of a laissez-fairyland plutocracy. With the fervor of religious cultists, they've devoted themselves to the cause of "liberty" — by which they mean the government's only proper role is keeping the avaricious pursuits of the wealthy owner class free from any interference by you, me and the democratic "us." They believe that We The People can neither tax the riches of the owner class nor set rules on how it treats workers, consumers, nature ... and society as a whole.

ROBERTO RODRIGUEZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Raza 0423wrp opt(Photo: Nathan Rupert / Flickr)Despite a favorable 2017 court decision, the Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) school board continues to refuse to abide by a historic ruling against the state of Arizona in regards to the 2010 legislation HB 2281. This Orwellian legislation outlawed the teaching of courses that promoted segregation or race hatred; it fined any Arizona school district that was found to be out of compliance 10 percent of its budget.

The court found that the state was motivated by racial animus in the passage of the anti-Ethnic studies proposition. Rather than abiding with the decision, other school board members are proposing Latino or Hispanic studies in place of Raza or Mexican American studies.

The rumblings coming out of the TUSD school board earlier this year appear to be ignorant not only of the ancient history of this state, but even the history of the past 12 years.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Dick 0420wrp optLauralee and Richard Uihlein. (Photo: Hope for Haiti / Flickr)He's a free-market, anti-regulation, small government, anti-union, homophobic, tax avoiding crusader. He was the fourth largest contributor to outside spending groups in the 2016 election cycle, and he and his wife are among the biggest Republican contributors in this year's midterm elections. He was a top donor to the failed Alabama Senate campaign of the disgraced Roy Moore, and he remains an enthusiastic supporter of Donald Trump. You wouldn't recognize him at a highway rest stop, and you couldn't pick him out of a line-up. Politico's Maggie Severns called him "one of the most influential, but still little-known, political donors in the country."

Like many mega-wealthy conservatives trying to shape politics, Richard Ellis "Dick" Uihlein would probably tell you that he just wants his point of view to resonate. And, since the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, his money is resonating loud and clear, not only in the race for the Senate in Wisconsin, and the battle over the governorship of Illinois, but at conservative organizations across the country.

Wisconsin's senate race has become one of the most hotly contested races this year, and the Illinois-based Uihlein is in the thick of it. According to an email from Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin's campaign, Uihlein has "directed much of his spending" toward defeating Baldwin. In Illinois, Uihlein put $2 million into the campaign chest of state Rep. Jeanne Ives, who recently lost in a close race in the GOP primary, where she challenged Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

PredatorDronePredator drone. (Photo: Greg Goebel)

Obama personally authorized killer drone strikes from a list that was regularly presented to him. With Trump, the decision-making is being deferred to the operational leadership in the CIA, and there is increased disregard for the "collateral damage" of civilians killed and injured.

In fact, Amnesty International is so concerned about the accelerating drone strikes under Trump that it issued a plea to the European nations that are logistically supporting the US drone program:

As the Trump administration prepares to further expand the USA’s lethal drone program, increasing the risk of civilian casualties and unlawful killings, Amnesty International is calling on four European countries to urgently overhaul the crucial operational and intelligence assistance they provide to the program.

Amnesty International and others have documented cases under successive US administrations where US drone strikes have killed people who were not directly participating in hostilities or posed no imminent threat to life, including children.

Indeed a report that surfaced only recently revealed Trump's willingness to have family members of targets killed.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

kris kobachKansas Secretary of State and vote suppressor Kris Kobach (Photo: DonkeyHotey)

On April 18, a federal judge in Kansas held inveterate vote suppressor Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach in contempt of court for failing to enfranchise an estimated 30,000 voters. US District Judge Julie Robinson also found Kobach liable to pay for attorney fees for the plaintiffs. The crux of the ruling invalidates Kobach's efforts to prevent people who do not show proof of citizenship from registering to vote at Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) offices.

According to The Kansas City Star:

In her ruling, U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson in Kansas City, Kan., referred repeatedly to Kobach as acting “disingenuously.”

She chastised him for failing to treat the voters affected by the ongoing court case the same as all other registered voters in accordance with a previous court order....

“The term ‘register’ is not ambiguous, nor should there have been any question that these voters were to be treated just like any other registered voter,” Robinson said in her order.

“The Court is troubled by Defendant’s failure to take responsibility for violating this Court’s orders, and for failing to ensure compliance over an issue that he explicitly represented to the Court had been accomplished,” Robinson wrote.

Robinson specifically upbraided Kobach for not sending out postcards with confirmation of voter and information about polling places to voters who had registered at DMVs but had not shown papers proving US citizenship. Judge Robinson, appointed by George W. Bush, had in 2016 directed Kobach to send out the standard registration postcards to the DMV voters in limbo, but he only partially complied.

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Enzyme 0418wrp opt(Photo: Nayanika Mukherjee / Flickr)Researchers in the UK and the U.S. have inadvertently engineered an enzyme that eats up plastic.

The enzyme is able to digest PET (polyethylene terephthalate)—the same material used in the ubiquitous plastic bottle that's clogging up landfills, coastlines and oceans around the world.

Amazingly, this discovery only happened by chance. Scientists from the University of Portsmouth in the UK and the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) were examining the structure of a natural enzyme, Ideonella sakaiensis, found in 2016 at a Japanese waste recycling center. This enzyme could already break down PET plastic—it just doesn't do it very quickly.

To understand how Ideonella sakaiensis evolved, the research team "tweaked" the structure of the enzyme by adding some amino acids, according to John McGeehan, a Portsmouth professor who co-led the work. They ended up creating an enzyme that worked even faster than the natural one.

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