TOM WEISS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
We've got this.
Thanks to the courageous and indefatigable efforts of pipeline fighters everywhere, the tide has finally turned on Keystone XL. As it becomes increasingly clear that Keystone XL's northern leg is not going through, it is time to set our sights on ending all tar sands exploitation.
The Obama administration's latest election year delay on Keystone North is not a victory, but the dominoes continue to fall. Earlier this year, a citizen lawsuit denied TransCanada a route through Nebraska. Last month, it lost its permit through South Dakota. Now it faces a gauntlet of "Cowboys & Indians" vowing to stop it in its tracks.
We cannot let up until Keystone North is vanquished, but all signs point to President Obama nixing TransCanada's cross-border permit after the November elections. Don't just take my word for it.
On April 23, Rolling Stone contributing editor Jeff Goodell wrote: "I was told recently by members of the administration that the pipeline would, in fact, be rejected." On June 18, former Vice President Al Gore wrote in this same magazine: "[Obama] has signaled that he is likely to reject the absurdly reckless Keystone XL-pipeline proposal."
Both pronouncements come on the heels of former President Jimmy Carter pointedly warning the president that Keystone XL "will define your legacy on one of the greatest challenges humanity has ever faced—climate change."
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
As US elections have become increasingly determined by the unlimited political spending of shadowy organizations financed by the rich, participatory democracy has further deteriorated. Although the ascension of wealth pulling the strings in Washington DC has long been underway, the 2010 US Supreme Court Citizens United decision put the outcome of elections - particularly on the federal level - more and more in the hands of the 1%.
This is particularly true in an age when television ads, with their negative memes and characterizations, play the most significant role in forming voter perceptions. Given that TV political advertising is extremely expensive in major media markets, corporatist candidates that have the backing of groups formed by the likes of the Koch brothers most often have the ability to dominate the airwaves and a better chance at defining their opponents.
Several campaigns are underway to amend the US Constitution to exclude both the concept of corporate personhood and unlimited political campaign spending in whatever form. These organizations include Move to Amend and Democracy is for People. Proceeding with a constitutional amendment is a rough slog.
REV. BILLY TALEN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Our last remaining bit of shame is being dot-commed, with a young girl's pixilated eyes looking back at us from her murder.
I'm watching this atrocity with up to date technology, as I sit here typing. I remember a time when some techno-utopians thought that the global village would tilt us toward peace, as the violence became so vividly fore-grounded, the bleeding too painfully bright red, the searching for loved ones too real, and the eyes. Her eyes are more piercing than ever.
But reports of war's death were greatly exaggerated. Our acceptance of violence has grown with our consuming of deadly products. We watch wars, produced at great expense, with thousands of special effects engineers and Oscar-winning death scenes by trained method actors. And when a real war sneaks onto our screen, what can we do? Continue to watch.
Victims come to us as information, across the landscape of information, in the age of information consumption. And this makes the viewing experience of this child not different than the many children that we have watched burned and cut toward death. We are image predators, sitting in traffic, in trains, at home in our techno-cockpits, saving the bombed schools and hospitals to clouds overhead...
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Cliven Bundy, the Nevada-based rancher who refused to pay the over $1 million he owes in fees for having his cattle graze on public lands for twenty years, and who then assembled a posse of armed militia and antigovernment activists for a stand off against officers of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, may -- by virtue of his openly aired racist remarks about the "Negro" -- already be sitting atop history's trash heap, but there are numerous wannabes out there waiting to Cliven Bundy themselves into the headlines.
According to a new report from the Southern Poverty Law Center, "The Bundy standoff has invigorated an extremist movement that exploded when President Obama was elected, going from some 150 groups in 2008 to more than 1,000 last year."
Alabama's Mike Vanderboegh, who heads the III Percent Patriots, wrote the following on his blog: "It is impossible to overstate the importance of the victory won in the desert today. The feds were routed — routed. There is no word that applies. Courage is contagious, defiance is contagious, victory is contagious. Yet the war is not over."
Armed militia groups are currently responding to the influx of thousands of immigrants – mostly women and children from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala – by arming themselves and "standing guard" at the U.S.-Mexico border. Pictures of members of militia groups, carrying semi-automatic rifles and wearing masks, camouflage and tactical gear can be found here.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
On Wednesday, July 30, many official events celebrated Medicare's 49th anniversary of providing health coverage for seniors. Before President Lyndon Johnson signed the law enacting Medicare coverage, seniors in the United States received erratic often bankrupting care.
By all accounts, all but the most ardent elderly Tea Party stalwarts laud Medicare for its freedom of choice in providers and relative simplicity in claims processing.
Although the Affordable Care Act is hopefully a political holding position until single-payer health care for all is enacted in the US - thus catching the nation up with most of the rest of the developed world - there are still right-wingers whose goal is to dismantle the current Medicare system.
Let us listen to the public - and not the chattering pundit class - for a change on healthcare coverage, as reflected in this letter to the editor in The Hartford Current by West Hartford resident Win Heimer:
There are some in Congress who continue to call for benefit cuts for retirees and disabled Americans. For example, there continue to be calls to cut Medicare benefits by raising the age of eligibility, means-testing benefits, requiring home health co-pays and limiting Medigap coverage. These changes would do nothing to reduce the cost of health care, but instead, shift costs to beneficiaries.
July 30 is Medicare's 49th birthday. What better way to celebrate than by strengthening Medicare through a better alternative that will not harm beneficiaries? Congress should pass the Medicare Drug Savings Act introduced by Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia and Rep. Henry Waxman of California. This legislation will require drug companies to provide the government discounts for low-income Medicare beneficiaries, saving the government and taxpayers $141 billion over 10 years and all but eliminating the need to cut benefits or shift costs to beneficiaries.
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
I'm thirsty. Indeed, I'm overwhelmed by thirst, thinking about those who lack access to clean water. I'm thirsty for a different world.
"In Gaza, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians lack water, including those living in hospitals and refugee camps," Sarah Kendzior wrote in Al-Jazeera last week. "On July 15, citizens of Detroit held a rally in solidarity, holding signs that said 'Water for all, from Detroit to Palestine.' A basic resource has become a distant dream, a longing for a transformation of politics aimed at ending suffering instead of extending it."
Water is our common need, our common source of being. In bankrupt Detroit (city of my birth), as the world now knows, the poor and struggling segment of the population — the people whose overdue water bills exceed $150 — face water shutoff. The United Nations, for God's sake, has condemned the action by the city's emergency manager as a human rights violation. Thousands of residences — housing as many as 100,000 people — have had their water shut off so far, out of a total city population of 700,000.
Ironically, Detroit is surrounded by the Great Lakes, the largest body of fresh water in the world. Michigan license plates used to proclaim: "Water Wonderland."
Austerity, austerity, God shed his grace on thee . . .
AKIRA WATTS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
"What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow: this is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn" - Rabbi Hillel
As Jews go, I'm a poor one. I like Wagner and bacon, and have been known to seethe a kid in its mother's milk. I have enough tattoos to be banned from burial in any Jewish cemetery, and I gave up on God halfway through my first reading of the Old Testament - in that one passage where he acts like a genocidal psychopath.
I'm a bad Jew.
But, since my mother was Jewish, I am still, technically, Jewish. Which means that, should I so desire, I can move to Israel and, in time, become a citizen. As for the Palestinian guy in Gaza whose family has been living there for 20-odd generations? He lives in an open air prison and if he wants to spend some time in the land of his ancestors, he will be going through multiple armed check points, if he is lucky.
Or, these days, he's not visiting at all, what with the bombings and ground invasion and all. As I write, the Palestinian death toll stands at over 1200, while the Israeli death toll amounts to three civilian casualties and an IDF toll that may have surpassed 50 by now, but would have not occurred if the invasion had not been launched. A UN school has been hit for the second time, with an Israel mortar as the confirmed source, and at least 16 Gazans who sought refuge there are dead.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
As the corporation-backed and religious fundamentalist climate-change deniers continue to receive widespread mainstream media credibility, signs of global warming continue to sweep across the earth.
However, science has a way of having facts on its side, so it is no surprise that the formerly frozen Arctic Ocean is now experiencing high-wave activity. According to the Daily Digest News, "Waves as high as 29 feet [were recently] recorded in a normally waveless Beaufort Sea." (The Beaufort Sea is a section of the Arctic Ocean.):
When most people think of the Arctic, they usually imagine things like polar bears and Santa Clause. What they don’t picture are waves the size of a one-story house, because most of the Arctic Ocean is typically frozen and you can’t have big waves in frozen water. Well, tell that to the scientists from the University of Washington and the Naval Research Laboratory, who recently published their 2012 observation of big waves in the Arctic’s Beaufort Sea: During peak times, the waves averaged around 16 feet high.
The highest single wave was measured at 29 feet. Researchers fear that the waves, enabled after decades of expanding ice retreat thanks to global warming, will even further accelerate the ice breaking process in the Arctic region.
“The observations reported here are the only known wave measurements in the central Beaufort Sea,” they wrote in the report, “because until recently the region remained ice covered throughout the summer and there were no waves to measure.”
The study referred to by the Daily Digest News concludes: "This suggests that further reductions in seasonal ice cover in the future will result in larger waves, which in turn provide a mechanism to break up sea ice and accelerate ice retreat."
ECOWATCH STAFF ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) publicly released its report this week finding that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is “not consistently conducting two key oversight and enforcement activities for class II programs” for underground fluid injection wells associated with oil and gas production. The report shows that the EPA’s program to protect drinking water sources from underground injection of fracking waste needs improvement.
According to the report, “The U.S. EPA does not consistently conduct annual on-site state program evaluations as directed in guidance because, according to some EPA officials, the agency does not have the resources to do so.” The report also found that “to enforce state class II requirements, under current agency regulations, EPA must approve and incorporate state program requirements and any changes to them into federal regulations through a rulemaking.”
“The federal government’s watchdog is saying what communities across the country have known for years: fracking is putting Americans at risk,” said Amy Mall, senior policy analyst at the Natural Resources Defense Council. ”From drinking water contamination to man-made earthquakes, the reckless way oil and gas companies deal with their waste is a big problem. Outdated rules and insufficient enforcement are largely to blame. EPA needs to rein in this industry run amok.”
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Let's start with a premise I think we can all agree with: There have been no 9/11-type attacks on United States soil since, well, 9/11. Here's another statement we all probably agree with: The federal government has all sorts of arrows in its quiver when it comes to gathering intelligence to thwart such attacks. And that is where it begins to gets dicey: Unfortunately, in its counterterrorism project, the government appears to be relying more and more on perhaps the most twisted of those arrows; the use of informants, coerced and/or rewarded, entrapment, and the sting.
Since the September 2001 terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, the federal government has obtained more than 500 federal counterterrorism convictions. According to a new Human Rights Watch report (produced in association with Columbia Law School's Human Rights Institute), "nearly 50 percent of [those] ... convictions resulted from informant-based cases; almost 30 percent of those cases were sting operations in which the informant played an active role in the underlying plot."
The report, "Illusion of Justice: Human Rights Abuses in US Terrorism Prosecutions," points out that, while "[m]any prosecutions have properly targeted individuals engaged in planning or financing terror attacks... many others have targeted individuals who do not appear to have been involved in terrorist plotting or financing at the time the government began to investigate them.
"Indeed, in some cases the Federal Bureau of Investigation may have created terrorists out of law-abiding individuals by conducting sting operations that facilitated or invented the target's willingness to act."