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farmers, scientists and consumers are fighting back, and global health agencies are responding to the threats. Farmers, scientists and consumers are fighting back, and global health agencies are responding to the threats. (Photo: George Armstrong)JIM HIGHTOWER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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In the 1980s, when I was Texas Ag commissioner, my staff and I proposed a comprehensive set of state rules to protect farmworkers, public health, our water supplies and farmers themselves from the life-threatening consequences of toxic pesticides.

But trying to enact these policies in Texas meant taking on the enormous money and power of the chemical lobby, as well as a hostile Republican governor, and a legislature largely made up of corporate lapdogs. All of the above were howling furiously at us, snarling that they were going to shred the new protections we'd laid out. When I told my legislative director that it seemed like the political odds were against us, his response was not a confidence booster: "Some of the evens are against us, too," he said.

Yet, by rallying a big coalition of family farmers, consumers, environmentalists, labor groups, church leaders, and others, and then bringing these "outsiders" inside the usually closed legislative lair to confront the cozy club of lawmakers and lobbyists -- we won!

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

homelesssignBussing homeless people out of town is not a solution. (Photo: Bryan & Lyn)

As inequality continues to rise in the United States, more and more wealthy and gentrifying communities are declaring war on the homeless. BuzzFlash has written in the past on the increasing number of cities that are creating so many obstacles to homelessness, it is essentially making the condition illegal. It does not speak well of our society that individuals who are homeless are often treated shabbily -- as eyesores better off gone entirely.

Homelessness is not a small problem either. A study in 2016 found more than 550,000 people are homeless in the US on any given night. Children make up about 25 percent of that figure. About 110,000 LGBTQ youth are homeless and 200,000 people in families.

A 2016 article in The Economist noted how unwelcome the homeless are:

Many city dwellers do their best not to see the homeless people who share their streets and pavements. Donald Trump once famously insisted that his security guards clear all tramps and panhandlers from the pavement in front of Trump Tower. Even when the homeless aren't being chased away, they can seem invisible. In 2014, the New York City Rescue Mission, a shelter, conducted a social experiment, Make Them Visible, in which they filmed participants walking past relatives disguised as homeless people. None of the participants noticed their relations sitting on the street. "We don't look at them. We don't take a second look," said Michelle Tolson, then director of public relations for the organization, at the time.

Wednesday, 20 December 2017 07:32

Get Lost Eagles, Pipeline Comin' Through

BILL KITCHEN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Eagle 1220wrp opt(Photo: Eric Kilby / Flickr)Here's a year-end update on what New York, the state that banned fracking, has been doing to boost fossil fuel infrastructure in 2017. The state has broken ground on a huge fracked gas power plant east of the Hudson. And it's putting the finishing touches on another one west of the river. State officials are pretty proud of it. They didn't tuck it away out of sight down a country road. No, it's right next to Interstate 84 for the whole world to see when driving by. Its giant twin smoke stacks rise like a pair of extended middle fingers with an unmistakable message for our neighbors in Pennsylvania -- "Frack You." Kind of our peculiar twist on the Golden Rule.

This plant, known as Competitive Power Ventures (CPV), has been controversial from the start. Throughout its construction local residents have protested at its gates every Saturday morning. Some have been arrested and gone to jail. It has its supporters too, including Gov. Andrew Cuomo's former top aide Joe Percoco (also referred to as Mario's third son), who perhaps has been a little too pro-pipeline. He has been indicted on corruption charges related to CPV. His trial starts next month.

So there CPV stands, a monument to hypocrisy, with total disregard for what scientists are telling us about climate change and how fracked gas is as bad as, or worse than, coal. All it needs now to start spewing greenhouse gases is its connection to Pennsylvania's fracked gas via the Valley Lateral Pipeline (VLP).

Sarah Huckabee Sanders screenshot 2(Screen grab: The White House / YouTube)

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Not since those early days of President George W. Bush's War on Iraq, when Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's press briefings were considered must-see television, have we seen press briefings like the ones presided over by White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Sanders, who replaced the demoralized and utterly defeated Sean Spicer, personifies the opposite reality of one of Rumsfeld's favorite aphorisms; "known unknowns," as she is a known known.

Known now for her ability to fog up the meaning of just about anything President Donald Trump -- or anyone close to the president -- has said or tweeted, and turn it into hooey gooey fudge, followed by an attack on the press. Comparing Sanders to Sean Spicer, The New York Times' Frank Bruni pointed out in an early November column, that Sanders, "dwells without evident compunction in a gaudier fairyland of grander fictions. There's no panic. No squeak. Just that repulsed expression, as if a foul odor had wafted in and she knew — just knew — that the culprit was CNN."

Bruni called Sanders' press briefings "breathtaking": "Sanders doesn't draw nearly the censure or ridicule that Spicer did, and the reason isn't her," Bruni write. "It's us. More precisely, it's what Trump and his presidency have done to us. Little more than nine months in, we've surrendered any expectation of honesty. We're inured."

Wednesday, 20 December 2017 06:15

France to Ban Fracking and Oil Production by 2040

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

frackingnoIt's time to get serious about banning fracking. (Photo: Progress Ohio)

It may be derided as political showmanship by some, but the December 19 vote of the French parliament to ban fracking and oil production by 2040 should not be dismissed. True, France is highly dependent on importing oil and gas for its energy needs. In fact, 99 percent of the oil and gas it consumes comes from outside the country. Nevertheless, in a legislative move that includes France's territories -- championed by French President Emmanuel Macron -- a standard is set for other nations to follow in the worldwide effort to reduce climate change. France also does not intend to employ coal-powered electricity plants after 2022.

The action also resonates because it comes from the nation that hosted the Paris climate accord, which was negotiated by 196 members of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 2015. President Obama's administration signed the agreement, with Obama declaring, "This agreement will help delay or avoid some of the worst consequences of climate change."

Earlier this year, Trump announced that he was withdrawing the US from the accord. This means that now the US is the only nation that is not agreeing to the accord. For a period of time Nicaragua and Syria hadn't signed on, but subsequently joined.

The Independent believes that the Trump administration had several ulterior motives for withdrawing the US from the accord....

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

wildfiresThe global warming beat goes on as fires continue to rage through California. (Photo: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

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More than 8,400 firefighters are battling the Thomas Fire raging in Southern California's Pacific coast. The massive blaze, which charred 270,000 acres, destroyed 1,024 structures and took the life of 32-year-old Cal Fire engineer Cory Iverson, is officially the third largest wildfire in state history.

Notably, the Thomas Fire—now 45 percent contained—could potentially take the dubious title of California's largest-ever wildfire since record-keeping began in 1932. The state's largest is the 2003 Cedar Fire which burned 273,246 acres and killed 15 people....

The multiple fires that erupted across Southern California over the past two weeks have been fueled by an unusual set of forces, including stronger-than-normal Santa Ana winds, experts says.

The fast-moving Thomas fire, which began on Dec. 4, is now approaching Santa Barbara,

Monday, 18 December 2017 07:42

The Great Scamazon

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Amazon 1218wrp opt(Photo: simone.brunozzi / Flickr)As you're doing your holiday shopping this season, think about this: While big brand names travel hither, thither and yon to play Milk the Taxpayer, Amazon is totally rewriting the rules of the taxpayer subsidies game, super-sizing their piles of public money without even having to go door to door.

In September, the $136-billion-a-year, multi-tentacled monopolist sparked a prairie fire of excitement among state and local economic development officials when it coyly announced its intention to build a second corporate headquarters in Someplace, North America.

CEO Jeff Bezos baited his location-subsidy trap with red meat, announcing that Amazon "expect[ed] to invest over $5 billion in construction and grow this second headquarters to include as many as 50,000 high-paying jobs."

Then Bezos & Co. made a bold move: They sat still and waited. Stretching corporate overreach to new lengths, the Amazonian royals bid public officials to approach the Seattle throne with all the jewels, bars of gold, frankincense, myrrh and any other tribute they could muster to show their worthiness for HQ2 (Amazon's name for the proposed co-headquarters). In one stroke, Amazon switched its corporate role from asker to askee and instantly pitted taxpayers, like you and me, across Mexico, Canada and the U.S. against each other in a no-limit bidding war.

PETER CROWLEY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Jeru 1218wrp optThe Temple Mount (Photo: jaime.silva / Flickr)We were certainly taken aback. There was no conceivable way that the US, an honest powerbroker in the Middle East, particularly in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, could ever take sides. But then, out of the wild blue yonder, President Donald Trump chose to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital and plans to move the US Embassy there.

While consternation may be the reaction of the Democrat-leaning mainstream media and Democratic politicians, unfortunately there is no reason for such jaw-hanging stupefaction. Though this particular US policy may have now changed, Trump's policy is more of the same.

At least since the 1967 Six Day War, the United States has been Israel's strongest advocate. The US consistently protects Israel's illegal behavior from international condemnation at the United Nations and has provided at least $130 billion in primarily military aid since 1948. Additionally, bipartisan local US politics have recently, in many cases, subordinated the First Amendment to absurd and arguably treasonous "Israel first" laws penalizing supporters of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement. In one case, this prevented aid from going to Hurricane Harvey victims in Dickinson, Texas. Oddly enough, those who claim to be fervent far-right adherents of US nationalism (you've heard it, the vapid "America First" slogan) are more than willing to yield their constitutional rights on behalf of another country.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Spy 1215wrp opt(Photo: Duncan Hull / Flickr)What could be more exciting for a chickenhawk president who bullies, boasts and brags, then to have his own private spy network at his beck and call? According to The Intercept, that's exactly what Erik Prince is proposing.

Prince's latest proposal, as outlined earlier this month by The Intercept's Matthew Cole and Jeremy Scahill, is "to provide CIA Director Mike Pompeo and the White House with a global, private spy network that would circumvent official U.S. intelligence agencies, according to several current and former U.S. intelligence officials and others familiar with the proposals."

Over the past few weeks, we've been reporting on some of the proposals, projects, and schemes being hatched by Erik Prince, the founder of the notorious Blackwater private security group (now known as Academi). Prince, the brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and a friend of Steve Bannon, has been on a tear lately, proposing all sorts of big-money projects including the privatization of the war in Afghanistan War, while seizing that country's minerals; forging a partnership with the Chinese to push forward that country's Silk Road project; and, entertain the possibility of running for Senator from Wyoming.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

kochbrotherstimeThe Koch brothers make a major investment in Time Inc.. (Photo: DonkeyHotey)

So, given their combined wealth of nearly $100 billion, it is worth keeping a watchful eye on the Koch brothers' investment in Time and the evolving editorial content of the publication.

In a November 28 article in The New Yorker, journalist Jane Mayer -- a specialist on the Kochs -- reported,

“Everyone who has worked in journalism knows that even if you never see the rich and powerful owner of your publication, and you have the most powerful, independent editors, it inevitably has an effect on what you write, or on what you leave out. You just don’t do a terrible story on yourself,” Emily Bell, a professor of professional practice at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, told me. Bell said that she doubts that the Kochs have put six hundred and fifty million dollars into the purchase of a media company saddled with ailing print publications only for financial reasons. “It can’t just be the return on investment, because, if so, you’re in the wrong asset class,” she said. But even if that is their intent, she argued, they will end up exerting cultural and political influence because “investments in media companies are different from any other kind of investment. Media companies affect the broader cultural life.”

Mayer herself comments of the Kochs' investment in Time, "Those familiar with the Kochs’ history, however, have reason to be skeptical about their professed passivity."

In a November 27 Guardian article by Lucia Graves, the author quotes Mary Bottari of the The Center for Media and Democracy,

Bottari told the Guardian she considered it “a smart move” on Koch’s part. “The only way they can convince the public not to worry their heads about climate change and to forget about regulating the fossil fuel industry is to create their own media megaphone,” said Bottari.

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