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WENONAH HAUTER OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaFrackingCuomo(Photo: Joshua Doubek)Fantastic news came from the state of New York this week when the Cuomo administration announced its decision to ban fracking in the state. This exciting decision is a tribute to everyone who has worked so hard in New York to protect the state from the ravages experiences elsewhere from fracking.

Here’s the full story: On Wednesday, the Governor convened a cabinet meeting where Acting Health Commissioner Howard Zucker presented the findings of the Department of Health’s review on fracking. He described the peer-reviewed studies showing that fracking contaminates air and water and harms health, and he highlighted that many of the long-term health effects are still unknown, as epidemiological studies have not been conducted. Comissioner Zucker ended his presentation by saying, “Would I live in a community that would allow fracking? The answer is no.”

Then in this real-time drama, Joe Martens, the Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation indicated the department would issue “legally binding findings to prohibit high volume hydraulic fracturing in New York.” They will be included in the supplemental generic environmental impact study that will be released in the New Year, an approach that Governor Cuomo supports, and that will effectively ban fracking in New York.

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaWarehouse(Photo: Warehouse, Green Logistics Co.)During the hectic holiday shopping season, Jeff Bezos' Amazon.com may seem like a great option, especially for us procrastinators. Anything you want can be shipped directly to your doorstep. All it takes is a few clicks on the Amazon website and — of course — some of your hard-earned money.

The media sings the praises of Bezos' concept and business. But what you may not know is that, as head of the Amazon beast, Bezos is hard on his labor force. In fact, this past May, he was awarded a less-coveted prize by the International Trade Union Confederation: "World's Worst Boss."

Consider one of the most difficult of Amazon jobs — the "picker." In each warehouse, hundreds of them are simultaneously scrambling throughout a maze of shelves, grabbing products. This is hard, physically painful labor, for two reasons. First, pickers must speed-walk on concrete an average of a dozen miles a day, for an Amazon warehouse is shockingly big — more than 16 football fields big, or eight city blocks — and pickers must constantly crisscross the expanse. Then, there are miles of 7-foot-high shelves running along the narrow aisles on each floor of the three-story buildings, requiring the swarm of pickers to stoop continuously. They are directed by handheld computers to each target. For example, "Electric Flour Sifters: Dallas sector, section yellow, row H34, bin 22, level D." Then they scan the pick and must put it on the right track of the 7 miles of conveyor belts running through the facility, immediately after which they're dispatched by the computer to find the next product.

Secondly, the pace is hellish. The pickers' computers don't just dictate where they're to go next, but how many seconds Amazon's time-motion experts have calculated it should take them to get there. The scanners also record the time each worker actually takes — information that is fed directly into a central, all-knowing computer. The times of every picker are reviewed and scored by managers who have an unmerciful mandate to fire those exceeding their allotted seconds.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

acuba(Photo: flippinyank)

An archaic relic of the Cold War - propped up by a literally dying contingent of pro-Batista US citizens of Cuban descent in Florida and conservatives who still think there is a Soviet Union - is about to be demolished by the Obama administration. As The New York Times headline declares: "Obama Announces U.S. and Cuba Will Resume Diplomatic Relations."

Amid ruinous and deadly US foreign policy, the diplomatic shunning of Cuba - along with a congressional boycott of the nation - stands as a singular act of international stupidity. The United States loyally props up dictators, tyrants and neoliberal clones in Latin and South America, often helping maneuver them into power. (This is happening relatively less under Obama, but let's not forget official State Department policy such as his administration's recognition of the Honduran military coup.) Moreover, the US has used a deadly war on drugs to secure the expansion of US-based corporations south of the border.

The State Department and Congress have long been holdouts in politically recognizing the island nation of Cuba, with a population of 11.25 million. European nations have had both diplomatic and economic relations with Havana for years, as does Canada.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014 08:47

Abolishing the CIA

2014.12.17.CIA.BF"Abolish the CIA," says Robert Koehler. "It serves national insecurity." (Image: Lance Page / t r u t h o u t; Adapted: public domain / Wikimedia)ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

The shock resonating from the Senate Intelligence Committee’s CIA torture report isn’t due so much to the revelations themselves, grotesque as the details are, but to the fact that they’re now officially public. National spokespersons (except for Dick Cheney) can no longer deny, quite so glibly, that the United States is what it claims its enemies to be.

We’re responsible for the worst sort of abuses of our fellow human beings: A half-naked man freezes to death. A detainee is chained to the wall in a standing position for 17 days. The stories have no saving grace, not even “good intelligence.”

The Axis of Evil smiles, yawns: It’s home.

The question is, what do we do with this moment of national self-awareness? Beyond demanding the prosecution of high-level perps, how about really changing the game? I suggest reviving S. 126, a bill introduced into the U.S. Senate on Jan. 4, 1995 by Daniel Patrick Moynihan, titled: Abolition of the Central Intelligence Agency.

The causes of acts of mass violence are a lot more complex than gun advocates would want us to believe. (Photo: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/phuongnguyen89/8060335519/in/photolist-dhgjW4-4KYyX-86scjh-5HEnyV-dgEDzb-2k2NYr-7by1WJ-hsYkNC-eMmGp1-a7Az6P-7w3YB5-5YAhA-m9QRF-m9HNs-ma5vV-m9HNr-m9XCe-ma4ct-m9HNq-ma5vT-m9XCj-m9XCf-m9XCk-m9XCo-ma1gV-ma2x9-ma1gU-ma2x8-m9YS8-m9YS6-m9XCq-m8CjS-ma1gT-m8CjK-m8CjL-m8CjP-m8CjM-ma1gS-m9FDt-mxoeoY-7Cv7xe-62i6As-eRvubZ-4VvqeT-jajxyR-eED4bq-eEwX5t-eEwXzR-eED2Pm-eEwXMM" target="_blank">  theglowingstars / Flickr</a>)The causes of acts of mass violence are a lot more complex than gun advocates would want us to believe. (Photo: theglowingstars / Flickr)BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

With every new mass shooting in this country resulting in casualties, people with mental illness are singled out for blame. While access to the United States' mental health care system is woefully lacking, the proliferation of guns and the ease with which anyone can get them - a central cause of mass shootings - is typically swept under the rug.

Two years ago this past weekend, 20-year-old Adam Lanza fatally shot 20 children and six adults with his mother's Bushmaster XM15-E2S rifle at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. The nation was shocked, saddened and outraged. If there were ever an opportunity for the implementation of some very basic, common sense laws controlling guns, that was the time.

However, the National Rifle Association applied full-court pressure, Congress failed to act. National Rifle Association President Wayne LaPierre blamed "delusional killers" for violence in the United States, and provocatively called for a "national registry" of persons with mental illness. Instead of any meaningful gun control measures, pro-gun advocates and their media representatives obscured the issue and blamed mentally ill people for the mass shootings epidemic.

STEVEN JONAS MD, MPH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaTorturePunch(Photo: Sherurcij)As the world that is interested in such matters knows, the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee has finally released the (redacted) 524-page Executive Summary of its 6000-page report on torture and the CIA, headed "Panel Faults C.I.A. Over Brutality and Deceit in Terrorism Interrogations." One cannot be sure why the Chair, Sen. Diane Feinstein of California, decided to release it over the mounting objections of both the White House and the CIA as well as most Republicans (apparently in favor of the use of torture, from the sound of it/them). But she may have been informed that one Senator or another, especially the outgoing Senator from Colorado, Mark Udall, would do it himself if she didn't. (It is rumored that Sen. Udall may still put the whole report into the Congressional Record. If he does, I would strongly suggest that he never again fly in a small aircraft.) At any rate, even just the Executive Summary presents a huge amount of horrifying detail. (I need not detail it here; it and a huge amount of commentary has already appeared in The Times and many other news sources, print, electronic and other.)

It happens that a good deal of the information contained in it has been known, in relative bits and pieces, for quite some time. What the Senate Committee has done is assemble a huge amount of material in one place, and then put their imprimatur on the information, which it has been collecting in sometimes gruesome detail over the past six years. Of course the Republicans have reacted in horror, not at the details of the torture itself and the catalog of CIA cover-ups, incompetence, disorganization, amateurism, and what-have-you, but at the fact that they have all been made public. Of course, Sen. Feinstein and her Democratic colleagues knew full well that if they didn't release the document now, it would never see the light of day, at least for the next two years of a Republican Senate majority. Further, even if the Democrats were to retake the Senate in 2016, by that time it would be a) old news and b) the CIA and its allies within and outside of government would have had many more opportunities to a) cover their tracks and b) further justify their actions with the repetitive aid of Fox"News.".

One should note that Democrats hardly have entirely clean hands in this matter. After all, the Obama White House didn't want even the heavily redacted Executive Summary published. Further, right at the start of its Administration, the Obama White House and its "Justice" Department made clear that they would not be going after any of the torturers or, much more importantly, the torture-enablers starting with Cheney, based on what was even then already widely known about the program. Not only has it done nothing to prosecute the perpetrators, it has even allowed the promotion of many of them. Furthermore, we have the odd occurrence that Obama's current CIA director, John Brennan, who knew about the program when he was Obama's counter-terrorism advisor in 2009, and is a member of a Democratic Administration, criticized the Report not only as inaccurate, but also "flawed," "partisan" (sic), and "frustrating."

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

8293879669 5c019705d1 zThe NRA experienced a rare defeat in Congress as surgeon general is confirmed. (Photo: Josh Lopez)

It took a technical parliamentary maneuver by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) that backfired, but after long last the National Rifle Association (NRA) has lost a vote.

Vivek Murthy, MD, was confirmed on Monday as the nation's next surgeon general - despite a strong lobbying push against him by the NRA, because he views gun violence as a public health problem. This perspective among many physicians has long been a primal fear of the NRA. The fanatical organization, operating on behalf of the gun industry and armed white males (which is the subtext of its coded appeals to racial fears), is concerned that if gun violence is considered an epidemic, then it might erode the rallying cry of the Second Amendment meme by shifting the focus of the debate on guns.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014 06:51

Squatting on the Flag

WILL DURST FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaAmFlag(Photo: Staben)If you believe the recently released Senate Intelligence Committee torture report, you might be tempted to conclude that the CIA lied to the press and the public and to Congress about the extent and effectiveness of its torture campaign. And that conclusion would be correct, sir. And the amazing thing is people are amazed.
 
Yes. Of course the CIA lies. That’s what they do. Lying and cheating and stealing are its total and complete job description. Glance at their listing on the civil service careers website: “fluid interpretation of situational morality required.” That’s why when old CIA guys retire they go to work as oil industry lobbyists or Hollywood publicists.
 
The CIA lied. Wow. What the next big revelation: Fire is hot? The New York Philharmonic is musically inclined? Shia LaBoeuf is bug suck crazy? Scorpions make lousy pre-school pets? Contracting dysentery is a lousy career move? Tiramisu is tasty?
 
One thing you got to give our beleaguered spy agency: they are on the cutting edge in the use of creative euphemisms. In their world, “sleep management” means refusing to let someone sleep, possibly for more than a week, and “special rendition” means kidnapping people right off the street. Like an involuntary Uber ride. If Uber made passengers wear ankle manacles and black bags over their heads.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

439276711 f0dfb6a64c z(Photo: Carlito)

Buzzflash has published many columns about the nationwide war on homelessness: a push to render homeless people invisible by displacing them from economically comfortable residential, business and recreational areas. Increasingly, even feeding those who are hungry has become a crime.

December 10 column in BeyondChron draws attention to "the eviction of what has been called America’s largest homeless encampment: 68 acres of creek-side property inhabited by some 300 men, women, and children residing in tents, shanties, and underground adobe dwellings."

This is occurring in San José, California, and is representative of the expanding attempts to remove homeless individuals and panhandlers from the public view of people with means. This is happening with greater frequency in areas of the country that have more temperate weather, since such cities attract those without money who can live outdoors year round without fear of dying from freezing weather.

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

11535767036 89b6e2e409 z(Image: Devendra Makkar)

One of the themes of the superb writing of Henry Giroux is that more and more Americans are becoming "disposable," recognized as either commodities or criminals by the more fortunate members of society. There seems to be a method to the madness of winner-take-all capitalism. The following steps, whether due to greed or indifference or disdain, are the means by which America's wealth-takers dispose of the people they don't need. 

1. Deplete Their Wealth

Recent analysis has determined that half of America is in or near poverty. This is confirmed by researchers Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman, who point out: "The bottom half of the distribution always owns close to zero wealth on net. Hence, the bottom 90% wealth share is the same as the share of wealth owned by top 50-90% families - what can be described as the middle class." 

The United States has one of the highest poverty rates in the developed world. It's much worse since the recession, especially for blacks and Hispanics

From 2008 to 2013 the stock market, which is largely owned by just 10% of Americans, gained 18% per year. Well-to-do stockholders get capital gains tax breaks, including a carried interest subsidy that Robert Reich calls "a pure scam." 

The bottom half of America, relying on regular bank accounts, earn about one percent on their savings. 

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