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LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

CAfire 1206wrp opt(Photo: Doc Searls / Flickr)California is burning again. A massive wildfire fueled by powerful Santa Ana winds has spread some 31,000 acres in Southern California, destroying 150 structures and forcing 27,000 people to evacuate.

The outbreak comes not long after October's string of devastating wildfires in Northern California that killed 44 people—the deadliest in state history.

The Thomas Fire started Monday night in Santa Paula and has burned into the city limits of Ventura, just north of Los Angeles, according to the Ventura County Fire Department. Five-hundred fire fighters are on site with additional fire resources en-route.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

whistleblowerphotoFederal whistleblowers are trapped in a Trump swamp. (Photo: Michael Fleshman)

According to a December 5 Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) news release, whistleblowers who are punished or fired from federal agencies are now unable to fully appeal their personnel cases because of Trump administration inaction. In specific, Trump has failed to appoint nominees to the three-member U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB). There are currently two vacancies, and the third member will be leaving in March.

The US Merit Systems Protection Board is the highest decision-making body regarding federal personnel actions within the government. Its decisions can be appealed to the court system. However, absent a functioning board it cannot render decisions in cases regarding retaliatory action against whistleblowers, for instance. Thus, whistleblowers who have been punished by a federal agency have no recourse at the MSPB board level regarding the government personnel system.

According to PEER,

This situation effectively nullifies the Whistleblower Protection Act, which is enforced by the MSPB. For example, at an agency such as the Department of Veterans Affairs, which is notorious for its reprisals against employees reporting wrongdoing and dangerous conditions, a whistleblower facing firing may have little recourse. If the whistleblower wins a favorable initial decision from an MSPB administrative judge, the agency could void the effects of that victory merely by filing an appeal to the full MSPB where it would join the growing, seemingly interminable backlog – and during all of this the whistleblower would be off payroll.

“By its inaction, the Trump White House has not just removed the merit system cop from the beat, it has shuttered the entire police station,” stated PEER Senior Counsel Paula Dinerstein.

EMERSON URRY OF ENVIRONEWS ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Escalante 1205wrp optThe Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. (Photo: Bureau of Land Management / Flickr)Only hours after Donald Trump announced his administration would be significantly shrinking the boundaries for much of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Southern Utah, environmental groups filed a lawsuit, naming President Donald J. Trump, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Director Brian Steed as the culprits, for what they say was an "unlawful" act.

On December 4, 2017, the President made the announcement official by signing two proclamations at a speech at the Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City, rescinding protections for nearly two million acres of federal land, in what USA Today called "the largest rollback of national monument designations in history."

The move effectively eliminates Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and replaces it with three non-contiguous units called, "Grand Staircase, Kaiparowits, and Escalante Canyons." One of the proclamations also rolled back protections on Bears Ears National Monument — a pristine area harboring many tribal artifacts and other indigenous ruins, designated by Barack Obama at the end of his presidency.

MARION NESTLE OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

FakeFood 1205wrp opt(Photo: Stéphanie Kilgast / Flickr)The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced its revised school meal rules, in words that would make George Orwell proud:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture today [Nov. 29] provided local food service professionals the flexibility they need to serve wholesome, nutritious, and tasty meals in schools across the nation. The new School Meal Flexibility Rule ... reflects USDA's commitment, made in a May proclamation to work with program operators, school nutrition professionals, industry, and other stakeholders to develop forward-thinking strategies to ensure school nutrition standards are both healthful and practical ... This action reflects a key initiative of USDA's Regulatory Reform Agenda, developed in response to the President's Executive Order to alleviate unnecessary regulatory burdens.

Try and get your head around this.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

publicschoolsapartheidPublic schools should benefit the commons. (Photo: kristina dymond)

 

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos doesn't believe in public education. She is an avid proponent of the school privatization movement, which operates through vouchers, charter schools and other means. Author Noliwe Rooks argues that school privatization enables the continuation of historic educational apartheid, oppressing people of color. Rooks wrote the book Cutting School: Privatization, Segregation, and Public Education, featured as the Truthout Progressive Pick last week. Rooks, the director of American Studies at Cornell University, argues that the so-called "education reform" privatization movement manifests as segregated education, rebranded.

In the introduction to her book, Rooks invokes the term "segrenomics" as the means by which profiteers make money from segregated and unequal education. In an interview with Truthout, she explains the term:

Segrenomics is a term I came up with to describe what I saw in so many discrete educational periods in [the US] where there was a consistent cycle for plundering funds supposedly for our nation's most vulnerable students and then hoarding those same funds to educate students who were either wealthy, or white and often times ... both.

I began to see that the separately unequal educations that define our nation were not merely the product of an apartheid imagination designed to educate different segments of our society into what a scholar named Horace Mann Bond termed the American social order, but was also a lucrative business model that from the 19th century on has aided the financial bottom lines of wealthy businesses. Looked at with that understanding, I began to see that the thicket of separate and unequal educational experiments described in the book (vouchers, charter schools, alternatively certified teachers and superintendents), many of which failed to educate the children they were created for, simply would not have been proposed if there was no money to be made from them.

Rooks also notes that "segrenomics" is "a specific form of capitalism that relies on segregation to do its work."

Monday, 04 December 2017 07:38

Boston City Council Approves Plastic Bag Ban

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Plastic 1204wrpPlastic bag pollution. (Photo: Max Lee / Flickr)You might want to bring a tote if you plan on shopping in Beantown next year. Boston City Council voted 12-0 on Wednesday to ban single-use plastic bags across the Massachusetts capital.

The measure now heads to Mayor Marty Walsh, who is said to be reviewing the proposal, which requires businesses to charge no less than five cents for other types of shopping bags, such as reusable bags, compostable plastic bags and recyclable paper bags, the Associated Press reported. Businesses would keep the proceeds from the fee.

"More than 350 million single-use plastic bags hit the streets of Boston this year alone, most of which end up filling our landfills, littering our communities, and polluting our air when burned up in incinerators," said Kirstie Pecci, director of the Conservation Law Foundation's Zero Waste Project.

Pecci noted that dozens of nearby municipalities have had similar policies for years. "This new ordinance protects the health of our neighborhoods and our environment, while at the same time easing the burden on taxpayers and saving local retailers millions. We are optimistic that Mayor Walsh will follow the lead of 59 other Massachusetts cities and towns and sign this ordinance into law."

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Guns 1204wrp opt(Photo: Pål Joakim Pollen / Flickr)Apparently enough time has passed since the Las Vegas Massacre on October 1, and the murders in Sutherland Springs, Texas, on November 5, so that National Rifle Association-backed legislators are now ready to talk about, and take action on gun policy. Not gun control; not "bump stocks," not limiting guns in America, but … wait for it … legislation that would allow concealed-carry permit holders from one state to legally carry their guns to any other state, regardless of that state's laws.

The NRA has called the concealed-carry bill its "highest legislative priority in Congress," as it would allow gun owners "to exercise their rights nationwide with peace of mind." Given the steady stream of mass shootings, we certainly want gun owners to have "peace of mind!"

In the scheme of things, it didn't really didn't take all that long for what The New York Times columnist Gail Collins called "the gun thing," to emerge from underground. And it emerged with a bang last week as the House Judiciary Committee passed an NRA-backed measure which, as The New York Times' Nicholas Fandos reported, "would hand a long-sought victory to gun rights advocates, including the National Rifle Association."

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

WarXmas 1201wrp opt(Photo: Gary Jungling / Flickr)Now that the Fox News Channel has dumped the sex-harassment-plagued Commander Bill O'Reilly, what will happen to the War on Christmas? Will President Donald Trump exercise his commander-in-chiefness, and take control of the troops?

In a December 2016 speech at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University, Trump told the audience: "You go into a department store," he said. "When was the last time you saw 'Merry Christmas'? You don't see it anymore. They want to be politically correct. If I'm president, you will see 'Merry Christmas' in department stores, believe me, believe me. "

Shortly after winning the presidency, Trump told a Wisconsin crowd "When I started 18 months ago, I told my first crowd in Wisconsin that we are going to come back here some day and we are going to say 'Merry Christmas' again. Merry Christmas. So, Merry Christmas everyone. Happy New Year, but Merry Christmas."

Last year, a Public Policy Polling survey found that "60 percent of Trump voters" were certain that there is a War on Christmas.

President of the United States Donald Trump speaking at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland.President of the United States Donald Trump speaking at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. (Photo: Gage Skidmroe / Flickr)JIM HIGHTOWER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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Sam Rayburn of Texas, who was a legendary Speaker of the U.S. House in the 1940s and '50s, offered this piece of ethical advice for lawmakers who were conflicted over whether to vote for the People of the lobbyists: "Every now and then, a politician ought to do something just because it's right."

Wow, ethics -- how quaint! Today's House Speaker, Paul Ryan, has put his own perverted twist to Rayburn's ethics, advising his Republican majority to vote for anything just because it's right-wing. Along with Donald Trump and Senate leader Mitch McConnell, Ryan is now pushing for a rewrite of America's tax law that's so far to the right that it's horribly wrong.

Tax proposals are written in dense legalese and gobbledygook, but core purpose of this 429-page monster is shockingly easy to understand: The Trump-Ryan-McConnell triumvirate intends to take money from millions of working families and give it to the world's wealthiest people and richest multinational corporations.

Thursday, 30 November 2017 06:57

Rediscovering the Art of Peace

America's mission was to "rid the world of evil." They concocted what might as well be called "the War to Promote Terror."Since 9/11, the US's mission has been to "rid the world of evil," but it might as well be called "the War to Promote Terror." (Photo: Ryan Tyler Smithright / Flickr)ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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In a time of endless war and triumphant cynicism, I found myself the other day unexpectedly walking through the doors of perception. Yeah, those doors.

"You know the day destroys the night/Night divides the day/Tried to run/Tried to hide/ Break on through to the other side . . ."

The words, the music -- the Doors, the voice of Jim Morrison -- ignite not just the Summer of Love but a something I don't dare call hope, because those days of cultural and political revolution overdosed and imploded, didn't they? War won. The Vietnam War dragged on, millions died (or thousands, if the only death toll that matters to you is that of US soldiers), MLK and RFK were assassinated, the Cold War quietly morphed into the War on Terror and eventually the 911 attacks gave the military-industrialists the "new Pearl Harbor" they needed. Today's military budget is securely bloated.

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