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Thursday, 01 March 2018 06:38

Melting the Ice in the Human Heart

peace on Earth, whatever that is, involves listening to the Old People: the Indigenous people, the victims of cultural, spiritual and physical genocide these last 500 years.Peace on Earth involves listening to the Old People: the Indigenous people, the victims of cultural, spiritual and physical genocide these last 500 years. (Photo: Milwaukee Teachers' Education Association)ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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How close, how intimate, have you ever gotten with Greenland?

A new documentary called Stella Polaris, directed by Yatri Niehaus -- part of Chicago's tenth annual Peace on Earth Film Festival -- takes you on a meditative journey to this lonely, extraordinary island, to its melting ice, its rampaging waters and crumbling glaciers, where climate change is a part of daily life, and where the native people have wisdom and heart to offer the rest of us.

It begins with a slow meditation on the beauty of the ice. Then, six minutes in, a wall of ice suddenly crashes into the ocean.

"The Old People of Greenland have told us, since the sixties, this time it's too late to stop it," a native man says. ". . . Your religion, your money and your politics cannot stop the melting of the Big Ice."

But the story is told matter-of-factly, mostly without rancor or blame. Indeed, it's not really a story in the ordinary sense. It's a slow walk across the ice: a swirl of light and sky, ice and ocean, in loving close-up and stunning overview.


capitolexecTrump's staff doesn't claim executive privilege on Capitol Hill, but gets it anyway (Photo: brownpau)

Hope Hicks, White House communications director, yesterday indicated that she was resigning in the near future from her position. It was one day after she testified for nine hours in a private session before the House Intelligence Committee. Although she apparently answered questions about the Trump campaign for president, she refused to answer queries about her time in the White House. Her excuse for not talking about her White House work was that the president might choose to invoke executive privilege over that period in the future. The odd part was that no executive privilege was invoked -- just the threat of it.

According to a February 28 Washington Post article, Hicks, using this ploy, was able to avoid discussing her role, if any, in writing a statement with Donald Trump that defended a key meeting of Donald Trump, Jr., and other Trump staffers with a Russian emissary in Trump Tower in New York. Emails that became public indicated that Donald Trump, Jr., was eager to talk with them about negative material on Hillary Clinton.

The excuse that Hicks could not testify about her working days in the White House because of the potential assertion of executive privilege in the future struck at least one legal expert that the Post contacted as playing fast and loose:

"This is not the first administration to try to get the benefits of executive privilege without formally invoking it," said Heidi Kitrosser, a law professor at the University of Minnesota who wrote a book on the subject. "What is new and really troubling … is that we've seen it quickly become routine that the administration sends out a witness who says, 'I categorically can't discuss this whole set of really important issues because I want to preserve the ability of the president to assert executive privilege.' And then there's no follow up by either the administration or Congress. Essentially, they are allowed to create the shadow of executive privilege, and then they sort of just hide under that shadow."


Texting 0228wrp opt(Photo: El Alvi / Flickr)Everybody hates political phone-bankers, right? Those people who don't know you but call out of the blue right when you are trying to get dinner on the table, or get your toddler to bed. They intrude into your private time and try to get you to vote for their preferred candidate. This is happening more as the primary season heats up.

And now we are even starting to text you.

I've texted people to encourage them to register to vote, to early vote, to verify their number and to identify supporters of our candidate. I have let those with felonies know that they are eligible to vote, when many have been convinced that they are not. I have identified voters who need a ride to the polls and connected them to transportation options.

During the special congressional election in Georgia last summer, as heavy downpours flooded parts of Atlanta, I texted voters real-time information about which routes to the polls were flooded and which were open, from my home in Illinois.


BushBomb 0228wrp opt(Photo: duncan c / Flickr)Fifteen years ago this March, President George W. Bush addressed the nation to announce his invasion of Iraq. It was not the first act in Bush's global war on terror, but it soon became the centerpiece. Bush's secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, had been pushing for war on Iraq for several years. He predicted that such a war "certainly" would not last more than five months and that it would cost less than $50 billion. He was wildly wrong on both counts, almost instantaneously.

Both Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney also told the American people that, despite the conclusions of UN weapons inspectors, there was "no doubt" that Saddam Hussein's regime had an active program to develop weapons of mass destruction. They claimed 100 percent certainty -- and, like Rumsfeld, they were wrong.

Whether their errors were incompetence, dishonesty or both is an open question. Whatever was in their hearts when they told those lies, the more tangible consequences of their actions remain. In the war on terror, nearly 7,000 US soldiers (and roughly as many contractors) have been killed, and more than 100 times as many US veterans -- close to 1 million -- suffer from disabilities.

Wednesday, 28 February 2018 05:53

The NRA Persistently Claims God Is on Its Side


godnraGod isn't on the side of the NRA. (Glen Scott)

I have always had contempt for the notion that God picks sides or that God wills something to happen. First of all, it sometimes appears far too many diverse faiths believe that God is worth fighting for. This makes wars a battle between Gods with millions of victims over the centuries. All in the name of God. Second of all, God never appears to have a voice confirming which side he or she or they are on. We are forced to take it on the faith of the believers in a particular religion.

Of course, we in the United States have our pledge of allegiance to remind us that God is supposedly backing American exceptionalism: "I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." Is the idea that the God we are under is ensuring the "indivisible with liberty and justice for all" part? Given that these goals of a democracy have been fought for with blood -- and are currently slipping even further away -- it seems that "God," in this context, is simply used to justify the status quo.

On February 27, Courtland Molloy reflected in the Washington Post that "it seems as if God is everywhere now, but I'm not always sure who or what people are referring to when they talk about God." In fact, try to present evidence of God's involvement in everything from health to wars and it would earn you a "pants on fire" on the PoliFact Truth-o-Meter. One of the interesting "God is on our side" claims, Molloy reports, comes from Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association (NRA). At the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) a few days ago, LaPierre stated:

There is no greater personal, individual freedom than the right to keep and bear arms, the right to protect yourself, and the right to survive…. It's not bestowed by man but granted by God to all Americans as our American birthright.

To this, Molloy sardonically responded, "A 'birthright' that results in the deaths of so many children."

Coal India's analysis lists a number of global and domestic events that have intensified doubts on the future of its main productCoal India's analysis lists a number of global and domestic events that have intensified doubts on the future of its main product. (Photo: Emilian Robert Vicol)LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

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Even the world's largest coal miner thinks the rise of renewable energy and storage technology will pose a "significant threat" to the coal sector.

Coal India, the state-owned mining company that produces 80 percent of the country's coal, has released a new report, "Coal Vision 2030," that outlines what the industry might look like in 2030.

It warns stakeholders that in the case of Indian coal, "trends portent that in the long run the demand is likely to decrease substantially."

Donald Trump speaking with supporters at a campaign rally at the Prescott Valley Event Center in Prescott Valley, Arizona, on October 4, 2016.Donald Trump speaking with supporters at a campaign rally at the Prescott Valley Event Center in Prescott Valley, Arizona, on October 4, 2016. (Photo: Gage Skidmore)JIM HIGHTOWER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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Breaking news: Trump & Company are a murderous mob!

From the start of his White House tenure, the Trumpsters have plotted, stalked and serially killed vibrant members of the English Language.

The word "Fact" was the first to go. Robust and universally respected, Fact was assassinated last year when one of Trump's hired killers poisoned it with an unknown substance nicknamed: "Alternative Fact."

Their latest victim was a much-honored word that has produced a whole family of world literature: "Satire." This powerful noun embodied the use of sarcasm and ridicule to expose the vanity and vice of public figures, but Trump himself killed satire by starving it of any meaning. How can anyone satirize a presidency that is, in reality, nothing but a fully-staged satire of vanity and vice? Satire involves exaggerating the flaws, mannerisms, oddities, etc. of various characters to convey how corrupt and contemptible they are — but it's impossible to exaggerate the awfulness of an administration that gleefully flaunts its awfulness every day.


foxdeceiveTrump uses Fox news as his megaphone and adviser. (Photo: Aaron Bassett)

Progressives have been gnashing their teeth at the right-wing worldview of Fox News since the network was founded in 1996. The death of Roger Ailes, mastermind of Fox, last year has done nothing to diminish that contempt and frustration, nor has the meteoric rise of MSNBC. However, MSNBC's rise is significant, as TVNewswer reported on January 30:

And while Fox News and CNN posted year-over-year audience declines (primarily due to each network's coverage of Trump's inauguration), MSNBC didn't experience that issue in 2018. The de-facto network of "the resistance" posted double digit prime time audience growth this past month versus Jan. 2017, growing +61 percent in prime time and +55 percent in total day....

The major ratings story of the month for MSNBC was the performance of The Rachel Maddow Show. TRMS attracted more adults 25-54 than any other cable news show in Jan. 2018. The program averaged 678,000 demo viewers, versus 660,000 from Fox News's Hannity and the 383,000 demo viewers from CNN.

That Fox News with its aging demographic would run into a headwind has been predicted for some time. However, it is still the go-to channel for reinforcing the mindset and agenda of the right wing among its diehard viewers. Furthermore, Trump's best media friend forever, Sean Hannity, is still drawing impressive numbers to his show.


Courtesy of EnviroNews

Drop 0226wrp opt(Photo: Luis Miguel Justino / Flickr)More than 170 million Americans, or around 52 percent of the entire population, may be at risk of radiation exposure through their drinking water, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), one of the country's leading water testing organizations. The EWG published its findings based on a compendium of data collected from over 50,000 public drinking systems nationwide between 2010 and 2015. The report reveals a shocking trend: much of the nation's drinking water "contains radioactive elements at levels that may increase the risk of cancer."

The EWG reported its findings after President Donald Trump re-nominated Kathleen Hartnett White as head of the White House's own Council on Environmental Quality. In an interview in 2011, Hartnett White admitted to falsifying data while she was head of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), in a scheme to show radiation levels were below the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) limit in communities where levels actually exceeded those thresholds. She justified the falsification because she said she "[didn't] believe the science of [radiation-caused] health effects" espoused by the EPA. Hartnett White also said she "placed far more trust" in the work of the TCEQ, which she admitted again in 2017 ignored EPA regulations. While her name has been withdrawn at her own request, many remain concerned about the safety of America's drinking water.


SSA 0226wrp opt(Photo: Alexander Rabb / Flickr)How was their money made? Almost entirely by passively waiting for the stock market to go up. The data sources for this report are Forbes and Credit Suisse, both of which provide precise numbers for the worsening surge in America's wealth inequality. 

U.S. wealth increased by $8.5 trillion in 2017, with the richest 2 percent getting about $1.15 trillion (details here), which is more than the total cost of Medicaid (federal AND state) and the completesafety net, both mandatory and discretionary, including the low-income programs that make up the social support package derisively referred to as 'welfare.' 

Surprisingly, the richest 1 percent did not increase their wealth by much in 2017 (although they took nearly $4 trillion in 2016). That means the second half of the richest 2 percent, Americans with an average net worth of approximately $10 million, outgained the safety net all by themselves in the past year. 

Another stunner: The richest 2-5 percent, those Americans with an average net worth of about $2.5 million, accumulated enough wealth in 2017 to pay for the safety net FOUR TIMES.

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