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climatedenialjpgThe Trump administration is firmly in the climate change denial camp. (Photo: Amaury Laporte)

The Heartland Institute is back with a vengeance. After years of being written off by environmentalists as a fringe group pushing fringe ideas and policies, Heartland has found a love connection with officials from the Trump administration.

You would be justified if you were asking yourself, what in heaven’s name is The Heartland Institute? Sit back, you may be in for a bumpy ride!

Founded in 1984 by Joseph L. Bast and David H. Padden, Heartland has never enjoyed the praise or prestige heaped upon such conservative institutes as the Heritage Foundation and the Hoover Institution or the American Enterprise Institute. While consistently pushing a free-market, pro-privatization agenda, over the years it placed a major emphasis on climate change denial.

Nevertheless, Heartland became one of the more innovative conservative think tanks. Not because of its free-market ideology, but early on it developed a method of providing critical information to hundreds, if not thousands, of legislators – both state and national – and journalists, columnists and editorial board members.


Missile 1114wrp opt(Photo: Farrukh / Flickr)The escalating war of words between Trump and Kim Jong-un has put the world in more imminent danger of nuclear holocaust than at any time since the end of the Cold War. The US should revisit a vital proposal, known as the "freeze for freeze" approach, which offers the best hope for jump starting diplomacy with North Korea and turning our nation back from the brink.

Under this proposal, the US and South Korea would freeze their joint military exercises in the region in exchange for North Korea freezing its testing of ballistic missiles and nuclear warheads. This would achieve highly desirable goals for both nations, namely assurances for the US that North Korea is not making progress towards a nuclear-tipped ICBM that can reliably strike the US mainland, and assurances for North Korea that the US and South Korea are not preparing for war.

North Korea has already voiced willingness to consider a "freeze for freeze" approach. During a June 21 interview, North Korean Ambassador Key Chun-yong explained that "Under certain circumstances, we are willing to talk in terms of freezing nuclear testing or missile testing. For instance, if the American side completely stops big, large-scale military exercises temporarily or permanently, then we will also temporarily stop." Russia and Germany have also voiced support this proposal, as have American nuclear policy experts like former Secretary of Defense William Perry.


Lineman 1113wrp optPhoto: Cara / Flickr)Whitefish Energy, the controversial energy firm repairing Puerto Rico's hurricane-wrecked power grid, is under fresh scrutiny for charging the island's power authority hundreds of dollars more per hour than its linemen receive.

The New York Times reported that the tiny Montana-based company—which doesn't have many of its own employees—contracted electrical workers from Florida at rates that range from $42 to $100 per hour, with an average rate of $63. Whitefish, however, has been charging the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) $319 an hour for each worker.

The Times pointed out that $319 per hour is wildly above the industry standard, even for emergency work. Notably, the rate is 17 times higher than what it would have cost to hire a lineman in Puerto Rico.

Whitefish spokesman Chris Chiames defended its costs to the newspaper, explaining that "simply looking at the rate differential does not take into account Whitefish's overhead costs" built into the rate.


Pizza 1110wrp optPizza 1110wrp optFreedom of speech? Pizza sales? Freedom of speech? Pizza sales? For John Schnatter, founder and CEO of Papa John's International Inc., the hell with freedom of speech when business is down 8.5 percent. In 2010, Schnatter, a significant donor to President Donald Trump, a combatant in the administration's war against government regulations, and a vigorous critic of Obamacare, paid enough money to have his pizza designated the official pizza of the NFL. He is also the seemingly happy-go-lucky guy hamming it up in commercials alongside former NFL quarterback Peyton Manning. And to top it all off, Papa John's has been designated the "official pizza of the alt-right," a claim it quickly and vigorously distanced itself from.

Schnatter knows whose to blame for the pizza dip; NFL players protesting police brutality and racial injustice, and the feeble response by NFL owners and commissioner Roger Goodell. If it was up to Schnatter, the protest "should have been nipped in the bud a year and a half ago."

"The NFL has hurt us by not resolving the current debacle to the players' and owners' satisfaction," Schnatter, the company's CEO said on a conference call, according to Bloomberg News. "NFL leadership has hurt Papa John's shareholders."

According to Bloomberg News, "It's hard to quantify the connection between the NFL and pizza sales, but Papa John's did post disappointing results in the latest quarter. … [as] [i]ts shares fell as much as 13 percent … -- the most in two years -- after same-store sales missed analysts' estimates." The company, which is headquartered in Jeffersontown, Kentucky, a suburb of Louisville, and is the third largest take-out and pizza delivery restaurant chain in the United States, "trimmed its revenue and profit forecasts for the year."

Here's a question you might want to ask our Trumpestuous President and his mousey Trumpeteers in Congress: "Why are you even considering giving more tax breaks to corporate giants?"Here's a question you might want to ask our Trumpestuous President and his mousey Trumpeteers in Congress: "Why are you even considering giving more tax breaks to corporate giants?" (Photo: Rev Stan)JIM HIGHTOWER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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As anyone who has ever been to any of the many cities that are graced with a Trump hotel, casino, golf resort, etc. likely knows, Donald Trump insists that his name be gaudily displayed in giant letters across every structure he owns -- preferably in gold.

Now, he's taken ownership of a massive new structure that'll reach across all of America, and he might not want his name slapped all over this one. It's Trump's towering redo of our country's tax law -- and, no surprise, his plan is truly golden. For the super-rich, that is, revealing in hard numbers whom his presidency really serves: Not just the 1 percent, but especially the 1-percent-of-the-1-percent who are multimillionaires and billionaires... like -- guess who? -- him.

First and foremost, the Trump tax plan slashes the payments that giant corporations make to support our nation. He claims that this will let corporate elites raise the wages of workers and create jobs, winking at the fact that, of course, the elites will pocket every dime of Trump's tax giveaways. And he doesn't mention a little secret gotcha: A third of his corporate benefits would go to foreign owners of American corporations.

Thursday, 09 November 2017 06:21

The Illusion of Armed Salvation

Guns are a symptom of society's obsession with fear. And efforts to pass gun control legislation are continually on the political defensive, caught between that society and the profiteers.Guns are a symptom of society's obsession with fear. And efforts to pass gun control legislation are continually on the political defensive, caught between that society and the profiteers. (Photo: Mitch Barrie)ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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This time, the "the fire and the fury" of American mass murder erupted in church. Twenty-six people were killed, including children, one only 18 months old.

How do we stroke their memory? How do we move forward? This is bigger than gun control. We should begin, I think, by envisioning a world beyond mass murder: a world where rage and hatred are not armed and, indeed, where our most volatile emotions can find release long before they become lethal.

As I read about the shootings at Sutherland Springs, Texas, and studied Devin Patrick Kelley's troubled bio, I suddenly found myself picturing a coal miner trapped in a collapsed mine. Here was a man trapped inside himself: buried in his own troubles, disconnected from his own humanity and, therefore, everyone else's humanity. A man in such a state is utterly disempowered.

And in this country, the path back to empowerment -- for God knows how many people -- begins with owning a gun.

Thursday, 09 November 2017 05:29

The Endangered Species Act Is Endangered


endangeredspeciesThe Endangered Species Act is threatened by corporate interests. (Photo: Andy Arthur)

As powerful climate deniers threaten to destroy even the most basic environmental protections, the Endangered Species Act is also under attack, thanks to a series of proposed bills in the House of Representatives. As Climate Central explained earlier this year:

Often photographed clinging to Arctic ice floes as its habitat melts away into warming waters, the polar bear is the poster child for U.S. efforts to save wildlife on the brink of extinction using the Endangered Species Act.

But the act is quickly becoming a target of the Trump administration and Congressional Republicans who have introduced at least 11 pieces of legislation that could weaken it or prevent some threatened wildlife from being protected. 

The Endangered Species Act, or ESA, was signed into law by President Nixon in 1973 and helps to protect more than 1,600 plant and animal species considered threatened or endangered. Thanks in large part to the signing of that act, many iconic wildlife species on the brink of extinction have recovered over the past 40 years, including the bald eagle, American alligator, peregrine falcon and gray wolf.

When a bill signed into law by Richard Nixon is under assault in the Trump administration, it is clear how radical this administration and many of its supporters in Congress are. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was created in December of 1970, during the first Nixon administration. That should give you an idea of just how extreme the current administration has become on environmental matters. Under Trump, the EPA has evolved into the "unprotecting the environment" agency.


Pacific 1108wrp optThe Pacific Ocean seen from space. (Photo: blueforce4116 / Flickr)The Trump administration is considering cutting protections for two national monuments lying south of Hawaii in the central Pacific. The decision, scientists warn, will threaten reefs across the Pacific.

The move, according to a memo from Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke obtained by the Washington Post in September, would "allow commercial fishing" in the Pacific Remote Islands National Marine Monument and the Rose Atoll National Marine Monument.

The monuments, both created by former president Bush, protect the waters of a scattering of mostly uninhabited Islands south of Hawaii.

Although the shore reefs of these islands have long enjoyed protection from commercial fishing, the monument designations extended that protection between 50 and 200 miles from shore.


Challenges 1108wrp opt(Photo: Chris Tse / Flickr)Two Philadelphia-area children are suing President Donald Trump and two of his climate skeptic cabinet members, Energy Sec. Rick Perry and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt, to try to stop them from rolling back existing environmental protections including the Clean Power Plan.

The plaintiffs, ages 7 and 11, are backed by the Clean Air Council, Philadelphia's oldest environmental non-profit. The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on Monday.

The complaint alleges that the Trump administration's reliance on "junk science" to undo climate regulations are a threat to the young plaintiffs and other U.S. citizens.

The children are only identified by their first and last initials in the court papers. Seven-year-old plaintiff "S.B." claims to be suffering from medical issues, including severe seasonal allergies that cause recurrent nosebleeds and vomiting, that are "directly impacted by the climate" and "as a result of Defendants' affirmative acts in causing increased climate."

Tuesday, 07 November 2017 07:16

Jeff Bezos Wants the Keys to Your House


AmazonhightowerAmazon is consuming us. (Photo: Public.Resource.Org)

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Jeffrey Preston Bezos is the man of unbounded ambition who founded Amazon, the online retailing colossus that trumpets itself as "Earth's most customer-centric company." He's considered a model of tech wizardry for having totally reinvented retail marketing for our smart-phone, globally-linked age. Amazon peddles a cornucopia of goods through a convenient "1-click" ordering system, rapidly delivering the goods right to your doorstep.

No one has imagined corporate domination more expansively nor pushed it harder or further than Bezos, and his Amazon stands today as the most advanced and the most ambitious model of a future under oligarchic control, including control of markets, work, information, consumerism, media and beyond. He doesn't merely see himself remaking commerce with his vast electronic networks, algorithms and metrics — but rebooting America itself, including changing our society's concept of a job, the definition of community, and even our basic values of fairness and justice. It amounts to a breathtaking aspiration to transform our culture's democratic paradigm into a corporate imperium, led by Amazon.

Amazon's most recent announcement is that it wants to get inside your home — and, ironically, it's using "security" as its rationale. Rather than Amazon leaving products you order on your doorstep, the corporation wants a key to unlock your door so its delivery crews can do you the favor of placing the products you order inside your abode.

Would you give your house key to a complete stranger, letting that person — whose name you don't even know — walk right into your home when you're not there? What could possibly go wrong with that? Other than your being robbed, of course, either by rogue Amazon employees or by hackers who will certainly gain access to the corporation's computerized key codes. Or maybe "Crusher," your Pitbull, mauls the Amazon intruder and you get sued.

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