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MARCUS ERIKSEN OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaPlasticPollution(Photo: EcoWatch)The idea that there are “patches” of trash in the oceans is a myth created 15 years ago that should be abandoned in favor of “plastic smog,” like massive clouds of microplastics that emanate out of the five subtropical gyres. My recent publication in the journal Plos One, estimates 269,000 tons of plastic from 5.25 trillion particles, but more alarming than that is it’s mostly microplastic (>92 percent in our study) and most of the plastic in the ocean is likely not on the sea surface.

Recent research has shown microplastics in ice cores, across the seafloor, vertically throughout the ocean and on every beach worldwide.  The little stuff is everywhere.

If you follow the life of plastic in the oceans, as we have done for 50,000 miles since 2009, you find the large items leaving coastlines in droves, then it rapidly shreds as it migrates toward the calmer waters of the subtropical gyres where sunlight, waves and nibbling fish rip it to micro-size particles smaller than a grain of rice. Microplastic then flow through the bodies of billions of organisms, making their way out of the gyres to deeper currents, and ultimately the seafloor. That’s the end-life of plastic.

Visualize the problem as “plastic smog” much like the way you can look up and visualize clouds of air pollution over cities. It’s very similar. We solved the air pollution problem by stopping the source with better emission controls on cars and power plants. There were people that suggested sucking air pollution out of the sky, but because people could look up and see the problem they understood that only stopping the source would work. The exact same logic applies to microplastic pollution in the world’s oceans. Because there are only a handful of scientists that understand ocean plastic pollution, and the public largely relies on the media for information, there’s an unusual amount of attention given to ideas to suck up plastic from the sea.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaCrossified(Photo: Herrad of Landsberg)By recently unveiling its "Bigotry Map," which exposes "Anti-Christian Bigotry in America," the American Family Association, apparently tired of being monitored, tracked, and vilified, has decided to turn the tables on "anti-Christian bigots" in the United States, and do some tracking of its own.

On its website, a newly developed interactive map of the United States is marked by symbols identifying "groups and organizations that openly display bigotry toward the Christian faith." You can do a state-by-state search to discover which of these groups reside in your neck of the woods.

The symbols designate whether the group identified is part of the "Homosexual Agenda" – "Advocates for the legalization and promotion of same-sex marriage and viciously attacks Christians who exercise their First Amendment right to voice support for God's plan for marriage as between one man and one woman -- is out-and-out "Anti-Christian" – "Actively engages in the complete eradication of the Christian faith from society, government and private commerce. These groups file lawsuits and use intimidation to silence any reference to Christianity from the public square" -- is "Atheist" – "Does not believe in God and is critical of those who express their faith in public" – or "Humanist" – "Believes critical thinking and physical evidence are the sole basis for beliefs. Humanists believe science triumphs faith in issues of morality and decision-making."

The website also singles out four organizations, two of which deal directly with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues. They are the Human Rights Campaign; GLSEN; the Freedom From Religion Foundation; and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which has been a particular thorn in the side of the AFA ever since the SPLC labeled the AFA a hate group.

Thursday, 26 February 2015 06:49

Peace Behind Barbed Wire: The Far Side of Fear

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBarbWire(Photo: Logan King)As media ownership converges and technology “unites” us, the concept of national identity grows ever easier to exploit — and therefore, I fear, increasingly, and dangerously, simplistic.

This is the war on terror. This is the war on crime. They march on, despite the magnitude of their failures. They march on . . . because America is tough. America is exceptional.

If our news and mass-entertainment outlets valued complexity and expansion of the national IQ, we wouldn’t go to war. We’d be building our lives on the far side of fear and the far side of cynicism, which is the only place where peace is possible.

It’s not like we aren’t doing that anyway, to a certain extent. But it only becomes news when visionary journalists — peace journalists — declare that it is, which is why, every year for the last seven years now, I have written about and celebrated Chicago’s Peace on Earth Film Festival, which showcases extraordinary films that step beyond the simplistic myth of good vs. evil, us vs. them. This year the festival is scheduled for March 19-22 at the Chicago Cultural Center; as always, it’s free of charge.

“I was a thief, I was a manipulator, I was a con. I had lost all contact with my heart.”

So it is in this context that I reflect on the words of Lisandro Martinez, quoted above, and the words of a dozen other prisoners and ex-prisoners at Dominguez State Jail in San Antonio, Texas, who were among the participants in a class at the prison run by volunteers and called, of all things, Inner Peace. It almost doesn’t sound possible — a class like this at a place where we corral bad guys, “offenders,” criminals — much less that it could be effective.

2015.2.25.iMatter.BFiMatter youth march. The iMatter campaign, an initiative of Kids vs. Global Warming and Our Children’s Trust, is composed of young people driving change. (Photo: Backbone Campaign / Flickr)

COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Many young people feel they have too much at stake to wait for our leaders to get their act together and take meaningful action on climate change. In the words of one young climate activist, Alec Loorz, we need to demand our political leaders “govern as if our future matters.” With their future at stake, many youth have taken their case to the courts in the hopes that the judiciary will require the legislature to take action.

“We are all in imminent danger,” Loorz, who founded the nonprofit Kids vs. Global Warming, told Outside Magazine. “Scientists have said we have 10 years to make changes if we want to stabilize the climate by 2100—and that was back in 2005 … We care more about money and power than we do about future generations. The judicial system is the only branch of government not bought out by corporate interests.”

On Bill Moyer’s show last month, Mary Christina Wood, law professor at the University of Oregon and author of Nature’s Trust: Environmental Law for a New Ecological Age, explains what is being called the “Children’s Climate Crusade.”

HARVEY WASSERMAN OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaDiabloNuke(Photo: EcoWatch)New revelations about earthquake dangers have shaken the future of California’s Diablo Canyon nukes.

In a rare move, Washington DC’s Federal U.S. Court of Appeals will hear a landmark challenge to their continued operation.

The suit says Diablo’s owners illegally conspired with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to weaken seismic standards. “This is a big victory,” says Damon Moglen of Friends of the Earth. “The public has a right to know what the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Pacific Gas & Electric won’t admit—hundreds of thousands of people are put at immediate risk by earthquake danger at Diablo Canyon.”

Diablo is also vulnerable on state and federal water quality regulations, economic concerns and more. Citizen activism has also shut operating reactors at Humboldt, Rancho Seco and San Onofre. Proposed projects have been cancelled at Bodega Bay and Bakersfield.

California’s two remaining reactors are surrounded by more than a dozen seismic fault lines. The Shoreline fault runs within 600-700 yards of the Diablo cores, which also sit just 45 miles from the massive San Andreas fault—half Fukushima’s distance from the epicenter of the quake that destroyed it.

STEVEN JONAS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaGod(Photo: Cima da Conegliano)It was in 1832 that the first Nullification Crisis occurred. Oddly enough, it was not about slavery, but rather about money. In 1828 and 1832 Congress had passed two acts establishing protective tariffs, which benefitted the manufacturers of the North and harmed the agricultural interests of the South. South Carolina was the state that was most upset about this state of affairs.

The leading politician in South Carolina, John C. Calhoun actually resigned the Vice-Presidency so that he could more effectively lead the opposition to the tariff legislation. The South Carolina legislature passed a law that if the objectionable tariffs were not reduced further (they had been reduced between the 1828 act and the one of 1832) South Carolina would resist their collection by force of arms. The President was Andrew Jackson, a fellow Southerner to Calhoun and a slave-owner. He would have none of it and got Congress to pass a law authorizing him to use force if South Carolina did the same. In the end, the tariffs were reduced a bit further, both sides backed down, and violence was averted.

The next nullification crisis, in 1861, led to the First Civil War. This one was not over something that the Federal government had actually done, but what it, under Lincoln, the Federal government might do. Lincoln was a strong opponent of the expansion of slavery to the Territories (although he had made a clear pledge not to interfere with slavery in those states in which it existed at the time). Nevertheless, as is well-known, well before Lincoln was inaugurated, led by South Carolina, 11 states seceded and . . . . Other attempts at nullification or one sort or another took place in the South around the issue of school integration (see Gov. Faubus in Arkansas and Gov. Wallace in Alabama).

Now we are faced with another act of nullification by an organ of state government, the State’s Supreme Court in the person of its Chief Justice, against the Federal judiciary in general and the Supreme Court of the United States in particular. Interestingly enough, the issue this time around is neither money nor slavery but rather the role of theism in making both Federal and state law.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT2015.2.23.Berkowitz.BFIn his first foreign policy speech since he began moving around the country raising oodles of money, Jeb Bush tried to give his father and brother props, and then claim that he is his own man. (Photo: World Affairs Council / Flickr)

It is still extremely early in 2016 presidential politics, but, with the race for the Republican Party nomination under way, we may be getting a not-so-sneaky preview of how former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush intends to navigate his way around the minefield of foreign policy decision-making by his father, President George H.W. Bush, and brother, President George W. Bush. While he still has to sit around the Thanksgiving table with his family, Jeb understands that it is of utmost importance that he offers his own foreign policy vision. Stay tuned for what appears to be the mother of all-political flip-flopping, back flipping, and political U-turns; moonwalking that would make the late Michael Jackson stand up and smile.

In his first foreign policy speech since he began moving around the country raising oodles of money while exploring a run for the presidency, Jeb Bush tried, albeit awkwardly, to give his father and brother props, and then claim that he is his own man when it comes to foreign policy issues.

Before an audience at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs Bush allowed that he’s:

“been fortunate to have a father and a brother who helped shape America's foreign-policy from the oval office. I recognize that as a result my views will often be held up in comparison to theirs. In fact, this is a great, fascinating thing in the political world for some reason. Sometimes in contrast to theirs. Look, just for the record, one more time, I love my brother, I love my dad, I actually love my mother as well, hope that's OK. And I admire their service to the nation and the difficult decisions that they had to make, but I'm my own man, and my views are shaped by my own thinking and my own experiences.”

2015.2.23.Buchheit.BFTax avoidance and federal tax subsidies cost at least $10,000 per household, per year. (Image: Lance Page / t r u t h o u t; Adapted: Steve Wampler, epicharmus)PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

That estimate is based on facts, not the conservative-style emotion that might deny the responsibility for any debt to the American people. Wealth redistribution to big business has occurred in a variety of ways to be explained below. And there's some precedent for paying Americans for the use of their commonly-held resources. The Alaska Permanent Fund has been in effect, and widely popular, for over thirty years.

The Main Argument: Corporations Have Used Our Money To Build Their Businesses

Over half (57 percent) of basic research is paid for by our tax dollars. Corporations don't want to pay for this. It's easier for them to allow public money to do the startup work, and then, when profit potential is evident, to take over with applied R&D, often with patents that take the rights away from the rest of us.

All the technology in our phones and computers started this way, and continues to the present day. Pharmaceutical companies have depended on the National Institute of Health. The quadrillion-dollar trading capacity of the financial industry was made possible by government-funded Internet technology, and the big banks survived because of a $7 trillion public bailout.

KEN JOHNSON OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaSolarPanels(Photo: EcoWatch)Mark Twain said it best, there are “lies, damned lies and statistics.” It’s hard to tell which is which after closely reviewing the latest hatchet job on solar energy by the Koch brothers’ front group, The Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA).

Aside from spelling solar correctly, much of the report, Filling the Solar Sinkhole, is untrue or misleading—including its basic assertion that the U.S. solar industry receives $39 billion in annual subsidies. Seriously? How can that be? How can an industry with a U.S. market value of $15 billion receive $39 billion in annual subsidies? The answer: it doesn’t. This is fuzzy math, and dirty tricks, at their very worst. But that shouldn’t come as a surprise. The purpose of this report isn’t to inform or educate. The purpose is to incite activists and generate scandalous headlines, when, in fact, no scandal exists.

According to PV-Tech’s John Parnell, who did a thoughtful analysis, “The report doesn’t make it clear how it arrived at the $39 billion figure. Of the 26 references cited in the report, 16 of them are from organizations that were either founded by the Koch brothers, or have received funding from them.”

Enough is enough. If clean energy critics want a bare knuckle brawl, then they’re going to get one. This type of guerrilla warfare simply isn’t going to work. Americans overwhelmingly support clean, renewable solar energy—and that scares the hell out of the Koch brothers and their lackeys. Here’s the dirty little truth: few industries benefit more from the U.S. tax code than carbon-rich big oil. By their own estimates, oil and gas tax breaks amount to a staggering $100 billion over 10 years. So how do the Koch brothers divert attention away from this? They prod conservative groups, many of which they fund directly or indirectly, to attack clean energy. If it served their purposes, they would portray Snow White as an adulteress, a deadbeat and a crack queen.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaPeaceImagine(Photo: Adam Zivner)We’re watching Katy Perry’s Super Bowl half-time show and out pops Missy Elliott, and she’s wearing a Jumpsuit, and there, on the left thigh of her outfit, is what looks like a peace symbol. While it may be a little incongruous/bizarre in this age of US acts of war, terrorist beheadings, US Drone strikes and other acts of state and non-state violence to think about the Peace Symbol, Elliot’s outfit reminded me that fifty-seven-years after its creation, the Peace Symbol is still found even in the most unlikely of places, i.e. the National Football League’s 49th Annual Super Bowl.

Over the years, the Peace Symbol has endured charges by the far right, including the John Birch Society, which claimed that it was “associated … with a broken cross, Communism, [the] anti-Christ, and Satanism,” and it has survived twentieth, and now twenty-first, century crass commercialism.

People wear the peace symbol – as jewelry, and on shirts, scarves, dresses, raingear; carry it around on their lunchboxes, book bags, umbrellas; and, I am guessing here, more than a few folks have it tattooed somewhere on their bodies. In short, the Peace Symbol has become as American as hot dogs, crappy television programs, income inequality, and mass shootings.

Few, however, know of its origins. I know this to be true because I have occasionally stopped a peace symbol wearer, and after mentioning that I admired their peace symbol, I‘ve asked them if they knew of its derivation. The question invariably draws a smile, and a blank look.

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