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Guest Commentary (4759)

DR. REESE HALTER OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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Gulls 0123wrp opt(Photo: Someone35)In last eight years, nearly 70,000 birds have been killed in the New York City area to make the skies safer for air travel.

On Jan. 15, 2009, three minutes after takeoff from New York City's La Guardia Airport, U.S. Airways Flight 1549 hit a flock of Canada geese just northeast of the George Washington Bridge and lost all engine power. Remarkably, pilots Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger and Jeff Skiles ditched the aircraft onto the Hudson River in midtown Manhattan. All passengers and crew, 155 people, escaped with only a few serious injuries.

It was the most successful ditching in aviation history known as the "Miracle on the Hudson."

Since then, the following birds have been eradicated by government agencies: 28,000 gulls, 16,800 European starlings, 6,000 brown-headed cowbirds, 4,500 mourning doves and approximately 1,800 Canada geese.

In the five years before the Hudson River emergency landing, there were 158 bird strikes per year. In the six years following the accident, 299 air strikes were recorded per year, according to statistics amassed by the Associated Press.

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Commentaries like this one aren't funded by corporate advertising, but by readers like you. Can you help sustain Truthout and BuzzFlash by making a tax-deductible donation?

War 0123wrp opt(Photo: German Federal Archive)Donald Trump said, "I’m going to make our military so big, so powerful, so strong, that nobody — absolutely nobody — is gonna mess with us."

Simple-minded but deadly thinking at the top derives from influential groups and individuals who think we have to KILL to keep the rest of the world in line. The compliant mainstream media scares us into accepting wars and drone killings overseas, military-style defenses on our own streets, surveillance of our private lives. For the war-happy leadership of America, certain realities are better left unsaid, or at most reported quickly and quietly.

1. Terrorist Acts in the U.S. Were More Common 40 Years Ago

Terrorist acts are deadly, but the panicky reports of mainstream news sources scare us more than they should, as when a FOX reporter called ISIS "the single biggest threat in [America’s] 200-year history."

This graphic derived from the Rand Corporation's terrorism database shows that the frequency of terrorist acts was greatest in the 1970s and 1980s. CNN notes that "There were literally hundreds of terrorist bombings, shootings and hijackings in States during the 1970s."

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Commentaries like this one aren't funded by corporate advertising, but by readers like you. Can you help sustain Truthout and BuzzFlash by making a tax-deductible donation?

Apple 0120wrp opt(Photo: fir0002)The first genetically modified (GMO) apples, which are engineered to resist browning when sliced, will arrive in select midwestern U.S. stores next month. The fruit, produced by Okanagan Specialty Fruits and sold under the brand name Arctic Apples, will be packaged as "grab-and-go" slices, according to Capital Press.

A customer will only know that the fruit is genetically modified by scanning the packaging with a smartphone. The company is adhering to the new GMO food labeling act which allows businesses to use a QR code instead of clear wording that informs consumers if a product contains GMO ingredients.

"We are selling it under the Arctic brand and we've had a lot of press and attention, so I assume most people will know what it is," Okanagan's founder and president Neal Carter told Capital Press.

The company's product can be identified with its logo of a snowflake inside an apple outline.

2017.19.1 BF Berkowitz 2Franklin Graham during his Decision America tour at the Nebraska State Capitol Building in Lincoln, Nebraska. (Photo: Wikimedia)BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Commentaries like this one aren't funded by corporate advertising, but by readers like you. Can you help sustain Truthout and BuzzFlash by making a tax-deductible donation?

On Friday, January 20, when Donald Trump is sworn in as the 45th President of the United States, he will be surrounded by a group of Christian conservative evangelical preachers. Trump's evangelical entourage, according to J. Lee Grady, the former editor of the evangelical publication, Charisma, and now the director of The Mordecai Project, is slated to "include Paula White, a Pentecostal pastor from Florida who is sometimes credited with bringing Trump to faith; evangelist Franklin Graham; Hispanic minister Sammy Rodriguez (who denounced Trump's anti-immigrant comments); and African-American preacher Wayne T. Jackson of Detroit." There will also be a rabbi and a Catholic cardinal "on the stage."

White, the senior pastor at New Destiny Christian Center, has been Trump's "spiritual advisor," Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham and president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, and is someone who has been an exceedingly Obamaphobic voice since President Obama's first took office in 2009, recently maintained that God played a role in Trump's electoral triumph. Jackson is a Detroit-based prosperity preacher, and the founder of an African-American Christian TV network.

2017.19.1 BF Koehler(Photo: lilyo)ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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The icon's day has come and gone, and -- oh, the irony -- eight people were fatally shot in Chicago on his weekend. Another eight were shot during a Martin Luther King rally and celebration in Miami.

God knows how many more died this past weekend: around the country, around the world.

An enormous wrong called human violence continues to roll across Planet Earth, but we bring less understanding to it than we had 50 years ago, when King spoke at Riverside Church in New York City and stood courageously against the war in Vietnam.

"We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation," King said in his electrifying and disturbing speech, which merged the movement for civil rights and social justice with the growing national outrage against war. "The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. And history is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate. . . .

"We are now faced with the fact, my friends, that tomorrow is today."

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

SolarFarm 0118wrp opt(Photo: US Bureau of Land Management)U.S. solar employs more workers than any other energy industry, including coal, oil and natural gas combined, according to the U.S. Department of Energy's second annual U.S. Energy and Employment Report.

6.4 million Americans now work in the traditional energy and the energy efficiency sector, which added more than 300,000 net new jobs in 2016, or 14 percent of the nation's job growth.

"This report verifies the dynamic role that our energy technologies and infrastructure play in a 21st century economy," said DOE Senior Advisor on Industrial and Economic Policy David Foster. "Whether producing natural gas or solar power at increasingly lower prices or reducing our consumption of energy through smart grids and fuel efficient vehicles, energy innovation is proving itself as the important driver of economic growth in America, producing 14 percent of the new jobs in 2016."

The solar industry is particularly shining bright.

"Proportionally, solar employment accounts for the largest share of workers in the Electric Power Generation sector," the report, released on Jan. 13, states. "This is largely due to the construction related to the significant buildout of new solar generation capacity." Overall, the U.S. solar workforce increased 25 percent in 2016.

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Pitchfork 0118wrp opt(Photo: Robert Couse-Baker)Buckle up, friends. Most Americans are about to be detoured onto a rough and rocky back road called "Trump Way." The autocratic tycoon was unabashed on the campaign trail in promising his victory would ensure millions of people a dire future, including mass deportations of immigrants, refugee bans and frontal assaults on women. But they're not the only ominous prospects. It will surprise many of the working stiffs who voted for the blustery billionaire to learn something he didn't communicate in his hectoring, "truth-telling" speeches: His little-discussed economic agenda is filled with provisions that would permit 1-percenters to travel more luxuriously than ever in the smooth, fast lanes of life, while the middle class and the poor are flagged onto Trump Way for a hairy, four-year ride of even more downward mobility. The proposed package includes:

—Immediately seizing control of the National Labor Relations Board, turning it into a corporate bulldozer to destroy workers' rights, particularly the right to organize unions

—"Yuuuuge" new tax cuts for corporations and the super rich, busting the budget for addressing human needs

—Privatization of such basics as public education, Medicare and Social Security

—Deregulation of corporate profiteers — from Wall Street banksters to Big Oil polluters

—Eliminating the federal minimum wage

—Freeing corporations from rules that prohibit discrimination in hiring, paying, promoting and firing workers

2017.17.1 BF Talen(Photo: OccupyReno MediaCommittee)REVEREND BILLY TALEN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

On Jan. 11th, in Des Moines, Iowa -- Reverend Billy Talen and his co-defendant Father Frank Cordaro were found innocent of the charge of Trespass, with possible $500 fine and 30 days in prison. In her decision, Judge Carol Coppola refused to accept the prosecution's motion to stop Talen and Cordaro from invoking the 1st Amendment in their defense. This is a reflection on the brief trial by Reverend Billy.                                   

"Your honor -- he's a professional protester!" the assistant District Attorney called out in horror. Wylie Stecklow my long-suffering pro bono lawyer standing next to me cast a wry side-long glance.

Why the demonization of protest?

Protesters supported by volunteer donations are not a new idea. We create national holidays for some of the prominent ones. Sometimes you just have to go out and ask for help! In the Church of Stop Shopping we have 200 people who give $2 each month. We call these friends "Holy Rollers."

2017.17.1 BF Buchheit(Photo: Giuseppe Milo)PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

The reality of the disposable American has been building up in recent years, and new evidence keeps pouring in. Now the potential exists for greater suffering under the rule of a billionaire Cabinet that is far, far removed from average workers and renters and homeowners.

First the "Upside" -- 5% of Us Are Millionaires

Depending on the source, America has anywhere from 7 million to 13.5 million millionaires -- about 5% of U.S. adults, and about a 40% increase in just six years. At the other end, 90% of us have gained NOTHING since 1997, and at least half of us NOTHING since 1980.

New Evidence of an Overall Collapse

Recent studies show America at or near the bottom among developed countries in disposable income poverty, income and wealth inequality, safety net provisions, employment, economic mobility, life expectancy, infant mortality, and the well-being of children. We've run the table. The better part of America is equivalent to a third-world country.

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Rex 0113wrp opt(Photo: Rex Tillerson, by ExxonMobil)ExxonMobil was dealt a major blow on Wednesday after a Massachusetts judge ordered the company to hand in more than 40 years of climate research.

On Wednesday, Suffolk Superior Court Judge Heidi E. Brieger denied the oil giant a protective order that would have blocked Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey's subpoenas for Exxon's internal research on climate change.

"This affirms our authority to investigate fraud," Healey tweeted after the decision. "ExxonMobil must come clean about what it knew about climate change."

Exxon spokesman Alan Jeffers told Reuters the company was "reviewing the decision to determine next steps."

In June, the company filed a lawsuit at a federal court in Texas to block Healey's investigation. However, a Texas judge later ruled that the court had no jurisdiction over an investigation in Massachusetts.

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