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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.


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.


Pruitt 0418wrp opt(Photo: Victoria Pickering / Flickr)Water is the lifeblood of the United States. Last week, American Rivers released findings for their 33rd annual 10 Most-Endangered Rivers report. Those vital waterways are economic drivers at a crossroads, which face existential threats. Notably, they are pivotal resources that could be protected in 2018.

Clean water is being compromised by politicians ostensibly making it a partisan issue when it shouldn't be. The waters industry, not to be confused with the bottled water business, provides drinking water and wastewater services to industrial, residential and commercial sectors of our economy. Public utilities and municipalities rely on low-interest loans from the state revolving loan funds program from Congress. Every US family is thought to be entitled not to be poisoned or killed by water flowing from their taps, regardless of their zip code. While there is no such thing as free government money to invest in water infrastructure, appropriators in the Senate and House of Representatives must strike a shrewd balance.

While it sounds absurd to citizens living outside the Beltway, a partisan class of political appointees disdain their unelected public employee counterparts working at the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Unrelenting, they scheme to defund budgets -- actions that ultimately prevent them from effectively doing their jobs.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT   berkowitz 4 17 2018US Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky speaking at an event for Turning Point USA at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland.Gage Skidmore

From Colorado State University where Turning Point USA’s founder and executive director, Charlie Kirk, told the audience that "White privilege is a myth and a lie,"toFlorida Atlantic University, where the organization is defending a professor, Marshall DeRosa, with ties to the white nationalist hate group League of the South, Turning Point USAis making its presence felt on the nation’s college campuses.

The stated mission of TPUSA is to "identify, educate, train and organize students to promote the principles of fiscal responsibility, free markets and limited government." Or as Splinter’s Katherine Krueger pointed out, the organization that is aiming "to take back America’s colleges from the menace of liberalism -- is best known for the very small but deeply embarrassing spectacles its student members make on their campuses."


PATRICIA JACKSON FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT   syriabombing jackson 4 17 2018British demonstrators protest the bombing of Syria. Alisdare Hickson

Opening our April 14, 2018, morning papers to front page photos of ghostly black sky lit by bursting missiles takes us back to March 19, 2003 -- standing in front of televisions in shock (not awe) staring at a night sky in Iraq ablaze with exploding bombs. A month before, February 15, 2003, millions of people turned out in at least 650 cities around the world to protest the United States' push to invade Iraq. Around the globe we chanted, "Not in our name" and postponed the invasion. The Bush administration manufactured claims and justified the war based on claims of Iraq having "weapons of mass destruction." Gen. Colin Powell presented the United Nations with aerial photos of hidden stockpiles in warehouses as proof. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice warned us that "mushroom clouds" would soon appear in the skies. Later, these were proven to be lies.



Monday, 16 April 2018 08:40

Equal Pay for Equal Work: It's Time


EPD 0416wrp opt(Photo: SPD-Bundestagsfraktion / Flickr)Since 1996, April 10 has been celebrated as Equal Pay Day annually. It's a day when organizations draw attention to the disparities in pay between women and men doing equal work. On Tuesday, posts that build awareness about how long it takes a woman's pay to catch up to that of white, non-Hispanic men floated across social media platforms. Bottom line: A woman shouldn't have to work for 15 months to make what a man makes in 12.

But that's just what a white woman earns compared to a white man. It takes Black women 18 months to earn as much as a white man does in one year, so to put that into calendar perspective, Equal Pay Day for Black women would be in July. For Latinas, it takes almost two years to catch up -- Equal Pay Day for Latinas would be in November. A 2017 report from the Women's Bureau of the US Department of Labor stated, "In 2015, Hispanic women earned only 56.3 percent of the median weekly earnings of White, non-Hispanic men (the largest group of workers in the labor market), [and] Black women earned 61.2 percent." That significant disparity means the loss of tens of thousands of dollars in wages for women of color, who collectively represent the largest growing sector of working people.

Those are just the cold, hard statistics. How do we actually solve wage inequality?


Enough 0416wrp opt(Photo: Michael Fleshman / Flickr)From labor rights to civil rights to antiwar movements, youth have always been on the forefront of social change. Following the tragic Parkland shooting, the potential now exists for today's generation of leaders to transform politics in ways that go far beyond gun control. To do so, youth leaders must build multiracial alliances that center the leadership of young people of color who have been most impacted by gun violence. They must also turn this moment into effective political power. The recent student marches provide evidence that these changes are already in motion.

While many have expressed surprise at the eloquence and power of the young organizers, beneath the radar, a dynamic youth organizing field has grown over the last 20 years to engage and develop many such leaders. Primarily led by high school students of color, these groups are winning powerful victories to end the school-to-prison pipeline, protect immigrant rights, address mass incarceration and more. Edna Chavez, who spoke so powerfully about the trauma of gun violence at the March for Our Lives in Washington, DC, is a member of Community Coalition in South Los Angeles, which has organized young people to win hundreds of millions of dollars to improve schools in the region while also ensuring college preparatory curriculum for all students. Padres & Jóvenes Unidos in Denver has won statewide and local policy changes to end school discipline practices that unfairly target young people of color. More than 300 such groups exist across the country.


Melt 0313wrp opt(Photo: ironpoison / Flickr)Rising temperatures are causing glaciers in Alaska's Denali National Park to melt faster than at any time in the past 400 years, according to new research.

The study was published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, a journal of the American Geophysical Union in March. The Earth science organization released details about the research Tuesday.

"We have not seen snow melt like this in at least four centuries," lead author Dominic Winski, a glaciologist at Dartmouth College, told USA Today.

For the study, Winski and 11 other researchers from Dartmouth College, the University of Maine and the University of New Hampshire examined ice cores drilled from the summit of Mt. Hunter in June 2013.

JIM HIGHTOWER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT    Dove Peace Silhouette Sunset 183267DeMarco is an admirable example of the virtue of citizen activism.

Some are born with good luck, but I was 30 years old before Lady Luck smiled on me with full radiance. She arrived in the form of a petite bundle of feistiness, inherent smarts, political savviness, personal warmth, playfulness and beauty both inside and out, named Susan DeMarco.

I apologize for turning inward for a personal commentary today, but DeMarco (as she's called by all who have known her) is an admirable example of the virtue of citizen activism. She didn't dwell in the media limelight, yet she's one of our country's everyday people who consistently works to make a positive difference in all they do, accomplishing so much more good than the bulk of politicos and other sparklies who are perpetually in the public eye. She's been a teacher, a leader of public interest groups, an investigative journalist, the author of three books, a government official, a public policy innovator and a mentor, as well as a lifelong champion of economic fairness, social justice and equal opportunity for all. In other words, as one activist put it, "she's a firecracker." For some 45 years, it's been my good fortune to team up with this woman in assorted progressive populist battles against the big shots trying to run roughshod over the democratic values of workaday people.



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ELLIOT COHEN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT   Michael Cohen headshotRecently, the FBI raided the office of Trump long-time attorney and friend Michael Cohen. IowaPolitics.com

Recently, the FBI raided the office of Trump long-time attorney and friend Michael Cohen. Emails, tax documents, and business records were seized, but the reasons for this raid are not abundantly clear at this juncture. According to a New York Times source, Cohen's 130K payment to porn star Stormy Daniels is one among many issues being investigated. One gnawing question is whether the raid might have had something to do with the Mueller investigation into possible collusion between Trump and the Russians in interfering with the 2016 Presidential election. This question is not so easily dismissed in light of Cohen's close, ongoing association with Trump throughout the campaign.  Further, if some aspects of the controversial Christopher Steele dossier are taken seriously, then it might have a lot to do with it.  

After all, Cohen helped Trump pursue business deals with the Kremlin during the 2016 presidential campaign, which cast doubt on Trump's denials of having any ties to Russia.  According to the Washington Post, Cohen once asked longtime Putin lieutenant Dmitry Peskov for assistance in reviving a languishing Trump Tower development project in Moscow. According to the Business Insider, Special Counsel Robert Mueller has been investigating the Trump Organization's attempt to secure a Trump Tower deal in Moscow.  Further, he had also been investigating Cohen's attempt to broker a “Russia-friendly peace plan” between Russia and Ukraine.

So, given Cohen's past history with Russian officials in his representation of Trump, including into the 2016 presidential campaign, it is not remarkable that his name would have appeared 24 times in the, by now, well-known Steele dossier penned by the former M16 British spy Christopher Steele. According to the Steele Dossier, Cohen played a key role “in the ongoing secret liaison relationship” between Trump and the Russian leadership.  In essence, the dossier claims that Cohen took over Manafort's role following the departure of Paul Manafort as Trump's campaign chair.   According to the dossier, Cohen's job was cover up and damage control, “to prevent the full details of Trump's relationship with Russia being exposed.” Toward this mission, Cohen allegedly held a clandestine meeting with several Russian Presidential Administration Legal Department officials in Prague in August 2016.  Allegedly, the meeting was originally supposed to be in Moscow, but a meeting in Prague was easier to deny.  According to the dossier, 

"The immediate issues had been to contain further scandals involving MANNAFORT's [sic] commercial and political role in Russia/Ukraine and to limit the damage arising from exposure of former TRUMP foreign policy advisor, Carter PAGE'S secret meetings with Russian leadership figures in Moscow the previous month. The overall objective had been to “to sweep it all under the carpet and make sure no connections could be fully established or proven.”

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