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COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaDivestHarvard(Photo: EcoWatch)Many students have vowed to ramp up their divestment campaigns at universities across America this spring. One group who has garnered much media attention is Divest Harvard, which is wrapping up a week-long campaign known as “Harvard Heat Week.” Harvard has the largest endowment of any university in the world at $36.4 billion, and hundreds of alumni including Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, and former Colorado Senator Tim Wirth are participating in the group’s efforts this week.

After a week of sit-ins that have shut down administration offices at Massachusetts Hall, President Faust finally reached out directly to students with Divest Harvard. ”I would be happy to meet with you and a representative group of your student colleagues when you have ceased disrupting university operations,” wrote President Faust in an email.

The students however were not pleased with the offer for another closed door meeting and called for a more open process on divestment that schools like MIT have convened. Divest Harvard has made multiple requests for a more transparent process involving the entire student body, faculty and alumni. The group knows there is strong support for divestment because the student body voted 72 percent in favor of divestment and hundreds of faculty and thousands of alumni signed a letter supporting the initiative.

WALTER BRASCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaSick(Photo: Calleamanecer)Snaking its way through the Pennsylvania legislature is a bill that will block local governments from requiring companies to provide sick leave, even if unpaid, that is more than required by state or federal regulations.

There are no Pennsylvania or federal regulations requiring companies to provide sick leave. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 39 percent of all employees, and 79 percent of all employees in food service and hotel industries, have no sick leave. Unlike the United States, about 130 countries require employers to provide at least one week of sick leave per employee.

The Republican-controlled state Senate passed the bill, 37–12; the Republican-controlled House will now discuss it—and probably follow the Senate's wishes.

Gov. Tom Wolf opposes this legislation, will probably veto it, and then have to deal with a Senate that has enough votes to override that veto.

The proposed legislation is in response to Philadelphia's recent directive that requires companies with at least 10 employees to provide mandatory sick leave for its workers. Several metropolitan U.S. cities, as well as California, Connecticut, and Massachusetts, already require companies to provide sick leave to employees.

Republicans are hypocritically philosophically conflicted on the legislation. Their party believes in limited government regulation, and this bill would keep government out of private enterprise's believed-right to treat workers as serfs.

Thursday, 16 April 2015 08:28

Overfished Stocks at All-Time Low

2015.16.4 BF Eco(Photo: Kris Krüg)ANASTASIA PANTSIOS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

The number of US domestic fishing stocks listed as overfished or threatened by overfishing declined to the fewest number since 1997, according to the 2014 Status of US Fisheries report to Congress from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). NOAA has only been compiling the report since 1997, so that’s the lowest number yet, which indicates significant progress in managing fishing stocks.

A stock is on the overfishing list when annual catch is too high; it is considered overfished when the population size is too low.

“This report illustrates that the science-based management process under the Magnuson-Stevens Act is working to end overfishing and rebuild stocks,” said Eileen Sobeck, assistant NOAA administrator for fisheries. “While we have made tremendous progress, we know there’s more work to be done—especially as we continue to document changes to our world’s oceans and ecosystems. We will continue to strive toward sustainable management of our nation’s fisheries in order to preserve our oceans for future generations.”

The Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act (MFCMA) was initially passed in 1976 to oversee fishing in federal waters. The Sustainable Fisheries Act of 1996 amended the original legislation to define overfishing, require regular assessment of overfished populations and mandate plans for the recovery of overfished populations as well as the reduction of bycatch—unwanted marine life caught in the process of fishing.

The NOAA report cited two stocks that have rebounded enough to be removed from the overfished list—gag grouper in the Gulf of Mexico and North Atlantic albacore. The North Atlantic albacore and another five fish populations were removed from the overfishing list: haddock in the Gulf of Maine, gag grouper in the south Atlantic, snowy grouper on the southern Atlantic coast, Jacks complex in the Gulf of Mexico and Bluefin tuna in the western Atlantic.

2015.16.4 KRAFFSwirls of toxic petcoke dust on the Southeast Side of Chicago in a residential neighborhood. (Photo: David Barboza)GEORGIA KRAFF FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

David versus Goliath – that is how Tom Shepherd and Peggy Salazar of the Southeast [Side of Chicago] Environmental Task Force of Chicago describe their fight. Goliath, in this case, is KCBX Terminals, a division of Koch Industries.

Chicago’s Southeast Side, once an industrial hub of the steel industry, has now become a dumping ground for a filthy waste product of the petroleum industry petcoke: Piles of the stuff, some as high as an eight-story building are being dumped along the banks of the Calumet River. The BP oil refinery across the state line in Whiting, Indiana, produces the coke in the process of refining the tar sands being piped down from Alberta, Canada. BP has sub-contracted KCBX Terminals to handle the material from there.

Dust from the piles fills the air with every breeze. During particularly windy days, the area is as dark as night. Petcoke, the dregs of tar-sands refining is an oily, powdery substance that coats everything it touches – window sills, cars and laundry drying on clothes lines. It cannot be brushed off the skin; it must be washed off with soap and water.

JESSICA ENNIS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaMarylandSolar(Photo: EcoWatch)This week, the Maryland General Assembly took a key step forward to allow more Marylanders than ever to access solar energy by passing community solar legislation. Community solar projects allow multiple people to subscribe to one solar energy project and offset a portion of their electric bill from the energy generated through a credit.

The bills, HB 1087 and SB 398, create a three-year pilot program that will allow for the construction of community solar projects and will examine the impact of community solar in the state and best practices throughout the U.S.

Community solar is important because approximately 80 percent of Marylanders are currently unable to choose solar energy, either because they have shaded roofs, are renters, can’t afford a full system or don’t have access to their roof. By passing the legislation, the General Assembly created the potential for all Marylanders to benefit from solar energy.

In addition to creating access, this legislation also opens up more places for solar panels to be set up. Community solar projects can be sited in a variety of places, like the roof of an apartment building, a community center, a church or even in an open field.

If the governor signs the bill, Maryland will join 10 other states with a community solar policy. Such a law would keep Maryland at the forefront of clean energy policy. By transitioning away from burning fossil fuels to expanding clean energy, Maryland is taking major step toward lessening the impacts of climate change on our environment and on our health.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaGayPride(Photo: Kencf0618)Dr. James Dobson is talking about a second "Civil War." Rick Scarborough of Vision America Action is calling it "a Bonhoeffer moment," a reference to Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German Lutheran pastor who resisted the Nazis. Other Christian leaders are complaining that gay Activists are duping the masses.

As America awaits two and a half hours of oral argument at the Supreme Court set for the morning of Tuesday, April 28th, followed by its decision – likely in late June -- on the power of the states to ban same-sex marriages and to refuse to recognize such marriages performed in another state, the Christian right's doom and gloom squad is coming out of the closet in droves. And they're bringing the type of unrestrained rhetoric not heard since, well, those heady days last month when Indiana and Arkansas were forced to temper their strict anti-gay "religious freedom" laws.

With thirty-seven states currently allowing gay marriage and opinion polls showing over 60 per cent of the public supporting same-sex marriage, the tide has clearly turned. Many Christian right leaders, however, will not accept the memo, and instead are predicting that dreadful things will befall America should the US Supreme Court rule that same sex marriage is the law of the land. A major brief has been filed, a conference call for Christian right leaders to vent was held, and Republican Senators are also weighing in on the issue.

The underlying threat from the religious right was clearly stated by the Family Research Council's Tony Perkins, when, shortly after President Barack Obama's re-election, he warned of "a revolt, a revolution" if the Supreme Court rules in favor of same-sex marriage, with "Americans saying, 'You know what? Enough of this!'"

JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaCAwater(Photo: fir0002)Residents of California have been warned by Governor Jerry Brown (D) that should they shower or water trees and gardens at an amount that exceeds the state’s mandatory limits (i.e. cutting urban water use 25 percent) they will be harshly penalized with water fines.

That’s a sensible rule given the fact that California is running out of water statewide. For instance, lakes are vanishing, rivers drying up and snowmelt levels are way below normal at 6%. Worse still, the state’s main source of groundwater is drying up from the consequences of global warming, primarily caused from industrialization and pollution.

California is facing the worst drought in history—so we get it. Be careful. Don’t waste water. Conserve. But I’d like to ask the Gov why the oil and gas companies can use as much groundwater as they want with impunity?

Ranchers would also like to know why fracking has a free pass to use up to 80 percent of the diminishing groundwater, while at the same time there’s not enough grass to feed horses and cattle. Why is the so-called “green” Governor giving the fossil fuel industry a free pass?  

Meanwhile, Californians only use 20 percent of the water supply for personal use. Eighty percent of the water in the state is used for fracking and Big Ag farming.

COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaDesert(Photo: Tomas Castelazo)California gets most of the attention in drought news coverage because so much of the state is in exceptional drought—the highest level—but 72 percent of the Western U.S. is experiencing drought conditions, according to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor data.

When California’s snowpack assessment showed that the state’s snowpack levels were 6 percent of normal—the lowest ever recorded—it spurred Gov. Brown’s administration to order the first-ever mandatory water restrictions. California’s snowpack levels might be the lowest, but the Golden State is not the only one setting records. A new report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) finds that nine states reported record low snowpack. The report states:

The largest snowpack deficits are in record territory for many basins, especially in the Cascades and Sierra Nevada where single-digit percent of normal conditions prevail. Very low snowpacks are reported in most of Washington, all of Oregon, Nevada, California, parts of Arizona, much of Idaho, parts of New Mexico, three basins in Wyoming, one basin in Montana and most of Utah.

Only high elevation areas in the Rocky Mountains and Interior Alaska had normal or close to normal snowpack levels. “The only holdouts are higher elevations in the Rockies,” said Garen. “Look at the map and you’ll see that almost everywhere else is red.” Red indicates less than half of the normal snowpack remains. Dark red indicates snowpack levels are less than 25 percent of normal.

2015.13.4 BF Berkowitz2(Photo: Tony Webster)BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Police departments across the country, already involved in a hyper-militarized frenzy, may soon have another disquieting option at their fingertips; Robocops. The term Robocop first came into our collective consciousness with the release of the 1987 science fiction movie of the same name, written by Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner, and directed by Paul Verhoeven. The action movie revolved around the murder of a police officer who is then revived -- with his body replaced by artificial parts. The film’s broad-based dystopian vision included corporate malfeasance, gangsters running amuck, the media, gentrification, authoritarianism, greed, privatization, and capitalism, according to Wikipedia.

The late Roger Ebert called the film "a thriller with a difference." In 2007, Entertainment Weekly named it the #14 in its list of the greatest action movie of all time. A year later, Empire magazine chose it as one of The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time, placing at #404, and The New York Times had it on its list of The Best 1000 Movies Ever Made. Last year’s RoboCop remake, while not nearly the critical success of the first film, brought in more that $240 million at the box office worldwide.

P2015.13.4 BF Buchheit(Photo: Ian Carroll)AUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

America's wealth grew by 60 percent in the past six years, by over $30 trillion. In approximately the same time, the number of homeless children has also grown by 60 percent.

Financier and CEO Peter Schiff said, "People don't go hungry in a capitalist economy." The 16 million kids on food stamps know what it's like to go hungry. Perhaps, some in Congress would say, those children should be working. "There is no such thing as a free lunch," insisted Georgia Representative Jack Kingston, even for schoolkids, who should be required to "sweep the floor of the cafeteria" (as they actually do at a charter school in Texas).

The callousness of US political and business leaders is disturbing, shocking. Hunger is just one of the problems of our children. Teacher Sonya Romero-Smith told about the two little homeless girls she adopted: "Getting rid of bedbugs, that took us a while. Night terrors, that took a little while. Hoarding food.."

America Is a 'Leader' in Child Poverty

The US has one of the highest relative child poverty rates in the developed world. As UNICEF reports, "[Children's] material well-being is highest in the Netherlands and in the four Nordic countries and lowest in Latvia, Lithuania, Romania and the United States."

Over half of public school students are poor enough to qualify for lunch subsidies, and almost half of black children under the age of six are living in poverty.

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