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2015.6.7 BF MEllino(Photo: Richard Ling)COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

What’s up with all the shark attacks recently? According to the International Shark Attack File at the University of Florida, the Carolinas have had at least 10 shark attacks so far this year—seven in North Carolina and three in South Carolina. This is already more than last year, in which North Carolina saw only four attacks total for the year, according to National Geographic. “In the previous decade, there were only 25 shark attacks in North Carolina. And there have been just 55 documented shark attacks in the state between 1905 and 2014,” saysNational Geographic. Clearly, shark attacks are on the rise in the state. So what gives?

“Across the United States overall, shark attacks are on pace with an average year, and the chance of getting bit is still very low—an estimated one in 11.5 million for an ocean bather,” George H. Burgess, the director of the International Shark Attack File at the Florida Museum of Natural History, tells National Geographic. But, he adds, “Clearly, something is going on in North Carolina right now.” 

2015.6.7 BF Buchheit(Photo: Richard Lee)PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

In early 2015 Stanford University's updated CREDO Report concluded that "urban charter schools in the aggregate provide significantly higher levels of annual growth in both math and reading compared to their TPS peers."

This single claim of success has a lot of people believing that charter schools really work. But there are good reasons to be skeptical. First of all, CREDO is funded and managed by reform advocates. It's part of the Hoover Institution, a conservative and pro-business think tank funded in part by the Walton Foundation, and in partnership with Pearson, a leading developer of standardized testing materials. CREDO director Margaret Raymond is pro-charter and a free-market advocate.

The 2015 CREDO study received much of its input, according to a Louisiana source, from the New Orleans Recovery School District and charter promoter New Schools for New Orleans, who together had "embarked on a bold, five-year journey to standardize, validate and export the New Orleans charter restart model...addressing the problem of failing schools by restarting them with schools operated by charter operators."

Regarding national findings, a review of the CREDO study by the National Education Policy Center questioned CREDO's statistical methods: for example, the study excluded public schools that do NOT send students to charters, thus "introducing a bias against the best urban public schools."

2015.2.7 Pantsios(Photo: Casey Hugelfink)ANASTASIA PANTSIOS OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

Oklahoma almost never used to have earthquakes. But in the last six years they’ve increased so much that last year the state surged past California as the most seismically active state in the continental US Prior to 2009, the state averaged two quakes of greater than 3.0 magnitude annually. By 2014 that number had soared to 585, up from 109 in 2013.

The culprit? Scientists are convinced it’s the wastewater injection wells that have accompanied the explosion of fracking in that state during the same time period.

Now the Oklahoma Supreme Court has cleared the way for citizens to sue the oil and gas companies responsible for the wells. In a 7-0 decision, with two justices not voting, the court said that Sandra Ladra, a resident of Prague, Oklahoma, which was hit by a 5.6 magnitude earthquake on Nov. 5, 2011, could seek injuries for injuries she suffered in that tremor.

“On November 5, 2011, Appellant was at home in Prague, Oklahoma watching television in her living room with her family when a 5.0 magnitude earthquake struck nearby,” reads Ladra’s complaint. “Suddenly, Appellant’s home began to shake, causing rock facing on the two-story fireplace and chimney to fall into the living room area. Some of the falling rocks struck Appellant and caused significant injury to her knees and legs, and she was rushed immediately to an emergency room for treatment. She claims personal injury damages in excess of $75,000.”

The industry said that the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, which regulates the oil and gas industries and tends to be very friendly toward them, should deal with these cases. The state supreme court disagreed.

2015.2.7 BF Koehler(Photo: David_Beltra_Tejero)ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

“The existence of the approximately 14,000 photographs will probably cause yet another delay in the military commissions at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as attorneys for the defendants demand that all the images be turned over and the government wades through the material to decide what it thinks is relevant to the proceedings.”

This was the Washington Post a few days ago, informing us wearily that the torture thing isn’t dead yet. The bureaucracy convulses, the wheels of justice grind. So much moral relativism to evaluate.

“They did what they were asked to do in the service of our nation,” CIA director John Brennan said at a news conference in December, defending CIA interrogators after a portion of the 6,700-page Senate Intelligence Committee report was made public.

Serving the nation means no more than doing what you’re told.

God bless America. Flags wave, fireworks burst on the horizon. Aren’t we terrific? But this idea we celebrate — this nation, this principled union of humanity — is just a military bureaucracy, full of dark secrets. The darkest, most highly classified secret of all is that we’re always at war and we always will be. And war is an end in itself. It has no purpose beyond its own perpetuation.

This is the context of torture.

COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaNeilYoungPope(Photo: EcoWatch)I imagine top executives at Monsanto are not huge fans right now of Neil Young or Pope Francis. The two might seem to lead very disparate lives. One is a life-long Canadian rocker and the other leads a flock of 1.2 billion Catholics. But lately the two have drawn the ire of corporate giants, particularly Monsanto, all over the world.

Neil Young’s album, The Monsanto Years, was released June 29 and it’s already causing quite a stir. Ahead of the album’s release, Monsanto issued a statement criticizing Neil Young for perpetuating myths about the company.

According to Pitchfork, the album “fixes its crosshairs on the GMO-pimping agribusiness behemoth that has a stranglehold on the world’s seed (and, by extension, food) supply, forcing farmers to comply their strict terms or be litigated into destitution.” To be fair, Young doesn’t just single out Monsanto. He takes on Wal-Mart, Chevron, Citizens United and Starbucks, just to name a few.

Last fall, Young made a very public boycott of Starbucks over its (and Monsanto’s) alleged support of the Grocery Manufacturers Association’s lawsuit to prevent Vermont from accurately labeling food. In April, a judge upheld Vermont’s GMO-labeling law while the case continues.

And unless you’ve been living in an off-grid community in the middle of nowhere (if so, that’s awesome), then you are probably aware that Pope Francis released an encyclical earlier this month. In that encyclical, the religious leader did not mince words when it came to the dire need for immediate action on climate change.

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaMarriageRings(Photo: Jeff Belmonte)From 1956 until 2010, CBS television's daytime lineup included America's longest-running soap opera: "As the World Turns." But times change, and now a real-life human drama of profound importance has debuted in America: "As the Generations Turn."

It's the inspiring story of our society's continuing struggle to evolve toward dignity and mutual respect ... as well as love. The moment came on June 26, 2015, when Justice Anthony Kennedy proclaimed from the ornate chamber of the Supreme Court: "The right to marry is a fundamental right inherent in the liberty of the person, and under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the 14th Amendment couples of the same sex may not be deprived of that right and that liberty."

Kennedy and Justices Breyer, Ginsburg, Kagan and Sotomayor voted to make this higher level of inclusiveness the law of the land, but they are not the producers of it. Indeed, while the court's ruling debuts a new day, it is the culmination of generations of painful struggle by brave gay and lesbian activists and advocates. And it is particularly the product of a defiant and determined LGBTQ movement for equality that arose from the brutal police riot at the Stonewall Inn in New York on June 28, 1969.

This democratic evolution from rank inequality literally came out of America's closet, rising through only a few neighborhoods at first, but then entering the consciousness of today's youth. Rejecting the shibboleths, ignorance, fears and bigotry that previously permitted such intolerable discrimination, young people have, in a remarkably short amount of time, created a generational shift in the nation's consciousness.

The true Supremes are the people themselves, and it's their awakening enlightenment that has transformed marriage equality from taboo to simple justice.

REV. LENNOX YEARWOOD JR. AND TOM WEIS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBabySteps(Photo: EcoWatch. The time for timid visions and baby steps is over.)Last fall, we wrote an article explaining why zero has become the most important number for humanity. Since that time, zero emissions has been embraced as an idea that’s time has come by nearly 120 countries, leading European companies, high-profile CEOs, two Pontifical Academies, climate visionaries like Al Goremainstream media outlets and, if you can believe it, even the leaders of the G7. We now address the critical issue of timelines.

Currently, the two target dates most commonly cited for achieving zero greenhouse gas emissions are 2050 and 2100. Given the extreme weather weirding we are witnessing at current levels of pollution, we shudder to think what 35 years—let alone 85 years—of continued emissions will bring. Everyone can see that the climate is already on steroids and wreaking havoc.

The urgency of our planetary emergency requires that we transition from fossil fuels to renewables not in decades, but in years. We must move beyond what conventional wisdom views as politically feasible to what this existential crisis truly demands: an all hands on deck societal mobilization at wartime speed.

To be clear, we are not suggesting ending the use of fossil fuels tomorrow. Decarbonizing our industries, homes, transportation, power generation and food production will take time, probably longer than 2020. Let’s hope it doesn’t take us until 2030. But we must make this transition as quickly as humanly possible.

In 2011, an unprecedented coalition of planetary protection leaders called on the presidents of the U.S. and China to declare a global climate emergency by launching a wartime-like mobilization to cut carbon emissions 80 percent by 2020. Because that urgent call was not heeded, we have lost precious time in the race to save civilization, and must now set our sights even higher.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaRing(Photo: Name)Never known for being particularly gracious losers, Christian Right leaders and organizations issued statements that didn't mask their frustration and outrage after the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, which extended marriage equality rights to gays and lesbians. Behold some of the headlines:

* "Rogue Court Rejects Rule of Law: American Family Association Says SCOTUS Decision Abandons Rule of Law, Imperils Religious Liberty" -- American Family Association.

* "Supreme Court's Marriage Ruling is Shocking Abuse of Power, Will Never Be Accepted" -- Family Research Council

* "SCOTUS Marriage Decision Opposes Biblical Truth and Religious Liberties; America Will Suffer Consequences" -- Dr. Alex McFarland.

* "Court Contradicts Constitution: As Culture Moves Further From God's Truth, Ruling is Wake-Up Call to Pastors and Churches" -- American Pastors Network.
And of course there was the obligatory pitch for money: "Your gift to protect family and freedom is more crucial now than ever!" said Tom Minnery, CitizenLink.

2015.29.6 BF Mellino(Photo: Giandomenico Ricci)COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch.

The Dalai Lama endorsed the Pope’s encyclical on climate change yesterday while speaking at Glastonbury festival, a massive five-day festival that takes place in Somerset, England. The Buddhist leader spoke at a panel on climate change, praising the encyclical and saying it was the duty of everyone to “say more. We have to make more of an effort, including demonstrations.”

Several Republican politicians have criticized the Pope for speaking out about environmental and economic issues, including Jeb Bush, Rick Santorum and James Inhofe. But at the Glastonbury panel on climate change, the Dalai Lama said Pope Francis was “very right,” and he appreciated him releasing the papal document. The Dalai Lama called on fellow religious leaders to “speak out about current affairs which affect the future of mankind.” He also called for increased pressure on governments around the world to stop burning fossil fuels, end deforestation and transition to renewable energy sources, reports The Guardian.

He also emphasized that words alone are not enough top stop climate change. “It is not sufficient to just express views, we must set a timetable for change in the next two to four years.”

2015.29.6 BF Sirota(Photo: Backbone Campaign)DAVID SIROTA FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

In promoting a proposed trade pact covering 12 Pacific Rim nations, President Obama has cast the initiative as an instrument of equity. The Trans-Pacific Partnership would, in his words, "level the playing field" and "give our workers a fair shot." But critics argue that within the hundreds of pages of esoteric provisions, the deal — like similar ones before it — includes a glaring double standard: It provides legal rights to corporations and investors that it does not extend to unions, public interest groups and individuals.

Recently leaked drafts of the agreement show the pact includes the kind of Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions written into most major trade deals passed since the North American Free Trade Agreement. Those provisions allow companies to use secretive international tribunals to sue sovereign governments for damages when those governments pass public-interest policies that threaten to cut into a corporation's profits or seize a company's property.

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But also like past trade deals, the TPP is not expected to allow unions and public-interest groups to bring their own suits in the same tribunals to compel governments to enforce labor, environmental and human rights laws.

The discrepancy is a deliberate effort to make sure trade policy includes a "tilt toward giant corporations," Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., said.

"If a Vietnamese company with US operations wanted to challenge an increase in the US minimum wage, it could use ISDS," Warren wrote in a Washington Post op-ed in February. "But if an American labor union believed Vietnam was allowing Vietnamese companies to pay slave wages in violation of trade commitments, the union would have to make its case in the Vietnamese courts."

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