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2017.21.3 BF Chow(Photo: Daniel Ullrich)LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

Germany is embarking on an innovative project to turn a hard coal mine into a giant battery that can store surplus solar and wind energy and release it when supplies are lean.

The Prosper-Haniel coal mine in the German state of North-Rhine Westphalia will be converted into a 200 megawatt pumped-storage hydroelectric reservoir that acts like a giant battery. The capacity is enough to power more than 400,000 homes, Governor Hannelore Kraft said, according to Bloomberg.

Founded in 1863, the Prosper-Haniel coal mine produces 3,000,000t/y of coal and is one of the few active coal mines remaining in Germany. But the mine is slated for closure in 2018, when federal subsidies for the industry dry up.

Kraft said that the miners in the town of Bottrop will remain employed at the site as it converts to its new function.

Pumped-storage facilities are not a new idea, as such systems are already in operation around the world. However, this is the first time that a coal mine will be used as part of the infrastructure.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

6355404323 cf97f9c58e z (Photo: 401(K) 2012)

 A March study by the Institute on Taxation and Economic policy concludes:

A newly updated report released today provides data that helps dispute the erroneous idea espoused during President Trump’s address to Congress that undocumented immigrants are a drain to taxpayers. In fact, like all others living and working in the United States, undocumented immigrants are taxpayers too and collectively contribute an estimated $11.74 billion to state and local coffers each year via a combination of sales and excise, personal income, and property taxes, according to Undocumented Immigrants’ State and Local Tax Contributions by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.

On average, the nation’s estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants pay 8 percent of their incomes in state and local taxes every year.

The report later speculates:

Creating a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States and allowing them to work here legally would boost their current state and local tax contributions by more than $2.18 billion a year.... Personal income tax collections would increase by $1.1 billion a year. Sales and excise taxes would increase by $702 million, and property taxes would grow by $362 million. As a result, the overall state and local taxes paid by undocumented immigrants as a share of their income would increase from 8 percent to 8.6 percent.

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Cook 0320wrp opt(Photo: Dave LaForest)For more than three months, an underwater pipeline has been spewing hundreds of thousands of cubic feet of processed natural gas per day in Alaska's Cook Inlet, possibly threatening critically endangered beluga whales, fish and other wildlife.

The 8-inch pipeline, owned and operated by Hilcorp Alaska, is leaking more than 210,000 cubic feet of gas per day. The gas is 99 percent methane and provides fuel for four platforms in Cook Inlet.

A notice from the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) revealed that Hilcorp knew about the leak as early as December but did not report the leak until Feb. 7 after a helicopter spotted gas bubbling to the surface of the water.

PHMSA said that the natural gas discharge could pose a risk to public safety, the environment and marine mammals and has given Hilcorp until May 1 to permanently repair the line or shut it down.

But conservation groups warn that waiting until May could allow the release of another 16 million cubic feet of gas. Seven groups have submitted a letter to the Trump administration urging for an immediate shutdown of the 52-year-old pipeline.

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Coin 320wrp opt(Photo: US Mint)Before taxes on the rich are cut and social programs decimated, uninformed conservatives should consider who really benefits from U.S. tax laws and assistance programs. 

The Wealthiest Americans Pay Very Little Tax On Their Full Income

When ALL forms of taxes and income are considered, poor Americans pay higher tax rates than the richest 1%. 

The analysis starts with state and local taxes, which are often ignored by apologists for big-income tax cuts. According to The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, the state and local tax rate for the poorest 20 percent of individuals is DOUBLE that of the top 1 percent (10.9 percent vs. 5.4 percent). New data from Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez, and Gabriel Zucman allows us to go further: When unrealized capital gains are included in the wealth-building of the richest 1%, the OVERALL tax rates plunge for the super-rich, causing the poorest Americans to pay the highest rates. 

What is the justification for adding unrealized capital gains to one's income? The 16th Amendment gives Congress the power "to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived." Thus, under an original definition of income developed by the American economists Robert M. Haig and Henry C. Simons in the 1920s and still utilized by financial economists, an increase in the value of a stock or other asset would be subject to taxation even if it's not sold. 

With this more accurate guide to income measurement, the real tax rates paid by the 1% can be calculated. Details can be found here. The bottom line is that poor Americans pay about 25 percent in total taxes, while the 1% pays anywhere from 18 to 23 percent.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Church 0317wrp opt(Photo: kirkenorge)Since President Donald Trump's immigration policy gave law enforcement officials unprecedented power to aggressively target immigrants in the country illegally, the nation's immigrant communities have been living in fear, from the threat of arrest, detention and deportation.

Department of Homeland Security documents "revealed the broad scope of the president's ambitions: to publicize crimes by undocumented immigrants; strip such immigrants of privacy protections; enlist local police officers as enforcers; erect new detention facilities; discourage asylum seekers; and, ultimately, speed up deportations," The New York Times' Michael D. Shear and Ron Nixon reported late last month.

"The message is: The immigration law is back in business," said a gleeful Mark Krikorian, the executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which supports restricted immigration. "That violating immigration law is no longer a secondary offense."

One area where enhanced law enforcement appears to be having a profound effect is on church attendance. In a piece titled "Trump's Policies Are Keeping Hispanics Away from Church," Christianity Today's Kate Shellnutt reported that "America's Hispanic churches [are] feel[ing] the impact of President Donald Trump's immigration initiatives in their pews each week."

"These new guidelines create anxiety and concerns about the future of the members of our church and their families," the Hispanic Baptist Pastors Alliance (HBPA), a coalition of Hispanic Southern Baptist pastors, recently stated.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

wallstreet (Photo: Naoki Nakashima)

The Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) in Washington, DC just released a report comparing the bonuses received by Wall Street employees to the earnings of minimum-wage workers. After analyzing the data, IPS concluded, according to a news release:

Wall Street banks handed out $23.9 billion in bonuses to their New York City-based employees last year, according to new figures from the New York State Comptroller. To put these figures in perspective, we've compared the Wall Street payout to low-wage workers' earnings.

    • The total bonus pool for 177,000 Wall Street employees was 1.6 times the combined annual earnings of all 1,075,000 U.S. full-time minimum wage workers.

    • The average Wall Street bonus increased by 1 percent last year to $138,210. Since 1985, the nominal value of the average Wall Street bonus has increased 890 percent, whereas the minimum wage has risen only 116 percent.

    • The much faster increase in Wall Street bonuses has contributed to racial and gender inequality, since workers at the bottom of the wage scale are predominantly people of color and female, whereas those in the financial industry's upper echelons are overwhelmingly white and male.

2017.16.3 BF Hightower(Photo: Gage Skidmore)JIM HIGHTOWER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Trump & Company claim they have a sweeping mandate from voters to remake America -- but wait, it is just a magic trick -- almost half of the electorate chose not to vote in last November's presidential election.

Here's another fact: Those of us fighting for populist justice are stronger than we've been in decades. But how can that be, since Trump is in the White House? Because the vast majority of people agree with the ideals, issues and ideas of progressive populism, not with Trumpism. Even most of his supporters were not voting for what they're getting -- a plutocratic/autocratic agenda that'll steamroll the working class and poor.

Trump was not elected on issues, but on anger. Yes, many white supremacists, misogynists, nativists and xenophobes did turn out to support his raw bigotry, but a lot of Trump voters simply heard him speaking one truth repeatedly: The system is rigged by and for the elites. That group of voters was filled with a deep, seething fury created by corporate, political, and authoritarian elites who've been flattening the majority of people for years, then callously stepping over them as if they don't exist. That's true -- so the riggees, furious at being flattened by the corporate and political powers, saw Trump as a great big bois d'arc stick they could grab to thump the whole smug establishment upside its collective head.

Thursday, 16 March 2017 06:49

The Deep State Hasn't Gone Away

2017.16.3 BF koehler(Photo: Stephen Melkisethian)ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

"In a statement to WikiLeaks, the source details policy questions that they say urgently need to be debated in public . . ."

Let me interrupt this quote from the world's declassifier in chief, regarding its latest release of impertinent, humiliating and shocking data about the American security state, simply to absorb this statement of the obvious: There is an urgent need for public debate -- ongoingpublic debate -- not simply about this or that new revelation gifted to the world by an anonymous whistleblower, but about the very fact that "national security" is a game played in secret, against a mysterious, shape-shifting array of "adversaries."

Does this game have anything at all to do with either the nation's security or the safety and stability of the whole planet? Whose interests does it serve? How does secrecy mesh with accountability?

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

CBP Badge(Photo: United States Department of Homeland Security )

Think twice about bringing electronic and digital property, including your regular cellphone, loaded with confidential information through US border crossings.

CNN reports:

In fiscal year 2016, 390 million people entered the US and 23,877 electronic media [device] searches were conducted at the border. In fiscal year 2015 there were only 4,764.

That's a fivefold increase, and that occurred under the Obama administration. Given Donald Trump's proclamations that he will aggressively "protect our borders," the number of electronic and digital media searches at US crossing points is likely to further increase.

An Associated Press article from last month notes:

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation both say they have noticed an uptick in complaints about searches of digital devices by border agents.

The increase has become most noticeable in the last month, said Adam Schwartz, a senior staff lawyer at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

“We are concerned that a bad practice that has existed under past presidents has gotten worse in quantity under the new president,” Schwartz said.

Although this practice is an invasion of privacy for everyone who is searched, it hits journalists particularly hard.

CHRIS McDERMOTT OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Tiger in the water(Photo: B_cool)China approved a new national park this month in northeast China in Jilin and Heilongjiang provinces to save two endangered species—the Siberian tiger and Amur leopard.

Only nine wild Siberian tigers were estimated to be living in this area in 1998, increasing to 27 by 2015 thanks to conservation efforts including a logging ban. The global population of Amur leopards was less than 30 in 2007, but almost doubled by 2015.

The sanctuary, to be completed by 2020, will border Russia and measure 5,637 square miles, an area 60 percent larger than Yellowstone National Park.

The current habitat for the Siberian tiger and Amur leopard is too small an area to provide enough prey for the carnivores, whose wide search for their usual elk, wild boar and deer has recently led them into residential areas. It has even been reported that tigers have been wandering into Jilin Province and eating dogs and cattle.

Governmental officials expect the national park to ease some of this conflict. "Local government plans to relocate some existing communities, factories from inside the national park area, so as to avoid conflicts between wildlife and human activities," a spokesperson for Jilin's Forestry Department told Xinhua.

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