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ROBERT F. KENNEDY, Jr., AND LYNN REDWOOD OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

ecoforestryfish copy(Photo courtesy of EcoWatch)

An international team of scientists led by the U.S Geological Survey (USGS) released a comprehensive report last week showing widespread mercury contamination across western North America.

The report, based on decades of mercury data and research, found alarming levels of mercury and methylmercury in the forests, fishes, wildlife, plants and waterways of America's western landscapes. The USGS study provides the first integrated analysis of where mercury occurs in western North America, how it moves through the environment, and the processes that influence its movement and transfer to aquatic and ultimately, the human food chain

Among the many disturbing findings are shocking accumulations of mercury in densely forested areas such as those found along the Pacific mountain ranges of California and Oregon. The scientific team showed that these critical ecosystems collect dangerous mercury loads because they receive high amounts of precipitation. Rainfall washes mercury from the atmosphere onto wet forested regions where it binds to the vegetation and accumulates in the soils and surface waters. From these vectors it can bioaccumulate in fish, including salmon.

The report confirms the findings of a January 2016 study that narrowly investigated mercury levels in rainfall. That study reported that the long-term trend of decreasing mercury levels in precipitation had leveled off and that some sites in the western U.S. were experiencing increases, which the investigators concluded were due to exploding mercury emissions from Asia.

An earlier study in 2002 reported that industrial emissions in Asia are a major source of mercury in rainwater falling along the California coast. The new USGS study describes the precise atmospheric transport mechanisms that carry massive mercury contamination from Asia and deposit the potent neurotoxin in the water, soils and biota across America's West Coast. According to the papers lead author, it is not just the mercury itself, but a cocktail of atmospheric pollutants that contribute to the deposition of mercury in rainfall. Elemental mercury behaves as a gas in the atmosphere and is not washed out in rain until it has been oxidized into a charged ionic form that can be captured by water droplets.

The USGS study sheds light on earlier research with frightening human health implications. A 2008 study reported children living in areas of high precipitation may be more likely to have autism. Those investigators looked at rainfall in California, Washington and Oregon. That team obtained autism prevalence rates for children born in those three states between 1987 and 1999 and calculated average annual precipitation by county from 1987 to 2001. The researchers also computed the autism rates in relation to the average annual precipitation in the counties when the children were younger than 3 years old.

Mark Karlin, Editor of BuzzFlah at Truthout

2106taxtrump(Photo: Phillip Ingham)

Regardless of who one plans to vote for in the November presidential election, it was the general consensus in punditry and instant-polling land that Hillary Clinton made Donald Trump look like a coarse, weary muskrat last night. Particularly in the second half of the debate.

Indeed, CNN sponsored a post-debate snap poll that found Clinton the decisive "winner":

Hillary Clinton was deemed the winner of Monday night's debate by 62% of voters who tuned in to watch, while just 27% said they thought Donald Trump had the better night, according to a CNN/ORC Poll of voters who watched the debate.

Voters who watched said Clinton expressed her views more clearly than Trump and had a better understanding of the issues by a margin of more than 2-to-1. Clinton also was seen as having done a better job addressing concerns voters might have about her potential presidency by a 57% to 35% margin, and as the stronger leader by a 56% to 39% margin.

The consensus of the post-debate Democratic and Republican pundits on MSNBC was that, ironically, Trump lost his stamina after the first third to first half of the debate, even as he bizarrely accused Hillary Clinton of not having the stamina for the job and not "looking" like a president. (Of all the defensive babble that Trump fell back on during the second half of the debate, none appeared more feeble, as The Washington Post pointed out, than his sneering accusation that Clinton did not have the endurance to be president -- while the split screen showed her standing poised and calm, as he wandered into verbal cul-de-sacs.)

However, this is not a commentary about who "won or lost" the debate, whatever one's thoughts may be about the presidential candidates of the two major political parties. Rather, it has to do with a moment in the debate that did not receive widespread coverage: the seeming concesison by Donald Trump that he may not have paid any federal taxes for years. As Hillary Clinton pointed out, Trump is the only major party presidential candidate in decades not to release his recent income taxes. Trump is using the excuse that he can't share them with the public because he is under audit by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), but Lester Holt, the moderator last night, pointed out that the IRS allows people under audit to release their income taxes if they want to.

Oil rig in East Texas(Photo: Ray Bodden)LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

Even though scientists are pretty certain that wastewater injection from fracking and conventional drilling has led to the unprecedented spate of earthquakes rollicking Oklahoma,Texas and other states in recent years. Definitive proof, however, is rare. But now, in a study published Thursday in Science Magazine, researchers have fastened another nail in the "man-made earthquakes" coffin.

Using satellite imagery, the researchers found that a series of earthquakes that struck Texas between 2012 and 2013 -- including the largest-ever quake recorded in eastern Texas -- were caused by the injection of large volumes of wastewater from oil and gas activities into deep underground wells.

As Mashable explained from the study:

Wastewater not only puts pressure on underground fault lines, causing "induced" earthquakes, but also pushes up the surface of the ground -- a phenomenon called "uplifting" that can be seen from space.

Researchers used satellite images of ground uplifting to show how wastewater disposal in eastern Texas eventually triggered a magnitude-4.8 earthquake in May 2012, the largest earthquake recorded in that half of the Lone Star state.

"Our research is the first to provide an answer to the questions of why some wastewater injection causes earthquakes, where it starts and why it stops," said study co-author William Ellsworth, a geophysics professor at Stanford's School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences.

Monday, 26 September 2016 07:50

Readers Want News, Not Fluff

WALTER BRASCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Type 0926wrp opt(Photo: Willi Heidelbach)The New York Post, a Rupert Murdoch tabloid publication that isn’t likely to win a Pulitzer Prize anytime soon, splashed a full page picture of a smiling Jennifer Anniston on its Sept. 21 front cover. In the upper left-hand space it placed all-capitals text: “BRANGELINA 2004–2016.” Inside the Post were four full consecutive pages, and a half page and part of a column deeper in the newspaper, all devoted to one of the most critical social issues facing the country—Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are getting a divorce.

People magazine put the multi-million dollar couple on its cover, and teased us with the text: “WHY SHE LEFT” and “THE REAL STORY.” US magazine had an “EXCLUSIVE.” ABC, CBS, CNN, FOX NEWS, MSNBC, and NBC evening newscasts all devoted air time to the divorce. “Entertainment Tonight,” “TMZ,” dozens of entertainment-fueled TV programs, Reuters and AP news services, hundreds of daily newspapers and countless online blogs all had coverage of the epic event. The news also dominated the social media, especially Twitter and Facebook.

Barely covered that day by the establishment media was in-depth coverage and analyses of President Obama’s speech the day before at the United Nations general assembly. Also lightly covered was a petition to the UN Human Rights Council by the Standing Rock Sioux sovereign nation to halt construction of a $3.8 billion 1,150 mile pipeline that would not only disturb that nation’s sacred burial grounds and could possibly pollute the Missouri River, but would be built on ground seized by eminent domain by Energy Transfer Partnersof Dallas, Texas.

Why there was negligible coverage of public affairs issues and maximum coverage of a celebrity divorce is based upon economics and poor business practices.

Media profits, once running anywhere from 5 to 30 percent, depending upon the medium, declined significantly in the Great Recession during the last two years of the Bush–Cheney administration. Businesses significantly cut their advertising budgets; consumers stopped subscriptions.

GEORGE LAKOFF FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Rose 0926wrp opt(Photo: Georges Seguin)As strange as it may sound, the sound symbolism of a name has become an unnamed central issue in the 2016 presidential campaign. As a cognitive linguist, my job is to study the issue and, at the very least, to name it.

Perhaps the best-known discussion of naming occurs in Juliet’s soliloquy in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Here is Juliet, proclaiming that all that divides her from Romeo are their family names.

Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
What's Montague? It is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
What's in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call'd,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title.

Shakespeare here was writing about love, not profit or politics. Donald Trump’s father changed the family name from Drumpf to Trump. It was a name change worth billions. Herr Drumpf understood the power of naming, as has his son, who renames his rivals: Lyin’ Ted, Little Mario, Crooked Hillary.

MICHAEL BRUNE OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Maxima 0923wrp(Photo: EcoWatch)Early Sunday morning, Máxima Acuña, a 2016 recipient of the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize, was reportedly attacked at her home in Peru when hitmen illegally entered the property. Máxima was awarded the 2016 Goldman Prize for her fight against the expansion of the Yanacocha Mine, a subsidiary of Colorado-based mining giant Newmont and Peruvian-based mining company Buenaventura. The hitmen that attacked Máxima and her partner, Jaime Chaupe, were reportedly hired by the mining companies.

It is with healing thoughts and a heavy heart we wish Máxima and her partner a quick recovery from this outrageous attack. Máxima has been an inspiration in the fight to protect her land, her livelihood and her community from the greed and destruction of the mining companies operating in Peru. Her bravery and persistence have helped shape the world in untold ways, and we are intensely disturbed by Sunday's events.

The continued attacks and assassinations of the brave environmental and indigenous rights activists around the world is a clear indication that we still have a long way to go to ensure a world that is truly safe, equitable and inclusive for all.

 

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

bankstersgangstersWhy are big bank CEOs not held accountable for the misdeeds of their banks? They just keep making tens of millions of dollars in bonuses off of the illegalities that happen on their watch. (Photo: Steve Rhodes)

To recap, approximately 5,300 Wells Fargo bank staff members -- many paid around $12 an hour -- had been fired earlier this month for allegations of creating millions of fraudulent credit card and savings accounts. It appears that the Wells Fargo employees were feverishly trying to meet high marketing quotas to receive bonuses. It also appears that Wells Fargo executives overlooked the rampant illegal behavior, amidst a climate that emphasizes increasing the number of accounts without scrutinizing the tactics used to do so. The scheme was discovered and investigated by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the brainchild of Elizabeth Warren. Wells Fargo was fined a mere $180 million (plus $5 million in refunds to defrauded clients), which was not much more than the $120 million Carrie Tolstedt -- who heads the Wells Fargo division overseeing the fraudulent activity -- will retire with in the near future.

As I noted in a column last Friday, Warren was having none of the tactics of Wells Fargo executives firing low-level subordinates to escape blame. As she told CNBC last week: "There's a serious problem with senior management at Wells Fargo.... All they do is fire the low-level employees. You can't run a bank like that."

In a Senate Banking Committee hearing on September 20, Warren bluntly raked Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf over the coals,

Warren said that cross selling, the practice of getting customers to sign up for new products from Wells, was designed just to "pump up the stock of Wells Fargo" and increase the value of Stumpf's stock-based compensation.

"You should resign, you should give back the money you made while this scam was going on, and you should be criminally investigated by the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission," said Warren.

Stumpf appeared unfazed by Warren's scolding and admitted that he has not fired any high-level Wells Fargo executives over the incident, just the low-paid workers seeking bonuses.

2016.22.9 BF chow(Photo: Steven Depolo)LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

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In a major setback for environmental groups, a federal judge in California has tossed out allegations that the U.S. Forest Service allowed Nestlé's bottled water operation to take water from the San Bernardino National Forest on a permit that expired back in 1988.

The decision regards a lawsuit filed against the Forest Servicein October 2015 by the Courage Campaign Institute, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Story of Stuff Project. The groups alleged that the agency was allowing Nestlé Waters North America to pipe water from public lands on a permit that had long expired.

With the ruling, the multinational food and drink corporation can continue its use of a four-mile pipeline that siphons thousands of gallons of public water a day from theStrawberry Creekwatershed and sell it back to the public as bottled water. The water is sold under the Arrowhead brand.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

heckscher32On September 21, Zahara Heckscher blocks entrance to a congressional office to protest TPP pharmaceutical provisions. (Photo: CANCERFAM.ORG )

BuzzFlash and Truthout rely on support from readers like you. If you like what you're reading, make a donation today!

In February, I reported on the arrest of Zahara Heckscher, 51, who was protesting the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) within the building entry to the massive pharmaceutical lobby in DC, PhRMA. Heckscher, who was diagnosed with breast cancer eight years ago, is experiencing its return in an advanced stage after remission.

Heckscher was cuffed and booked along with Hannah Lyon (who is 29 and has aggressive cervical cancer). Both protesters shouted that the TPP was a "death sentence" to many people with serious illnesses. This act of civil disobedience took place on World Cancer Day, February 4.

Yesterday, Heckscher was arrested again, this time while blocking the entrance to the Capitol office of Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colorado). Heckscher used the time before she was arrested to urge Polis to save the lives of people in his district by taking a stand against passage of the TPP. Heckscher, the organization that she co-founded -- Cancer Families for Affordable Medicine -- and other advocacy groups concerned about affordable medicine have become increasingly worried that President Obama, the Republican leadership and Blue Dog Democrats will try to pass the TPP in a lame-duck session of Congress. This speculation is bolstered by a presidential election in which the candidates of the two largest parties are both on record opposing the TPP. Therefore, from a politically practical perspective, the White House and the Republican leadership in Congress may believe that the period between the November election and the swearing-in of a new president offers the best opportunity for the passage of the trade deal opposed by an increasing number of Americans for a variety of reasons.

For Heckscher, her conviction is born of both personal illness and her concern about others in the US and elsewhere. People will find medication more costly in all signatory nations of the TPP, because of its locking-in of long patents and drug monopolies. For instance, Heckscher now relies upon a medication that costs $54,000 a year. Her insurance company has denied her physician's request for the drug to slow down the cancer. The medication in question is available in some other nations as a generic, but the TPP would prohibit the sale of such generics during the course of a medication's patent throughout the TPP nations. In short, a TPP nation that might sell another brand of the $54,000 drug Heckscher needs for, let's say, $10,000, would be prohibited from doing so.

Also consider this, many people in the US -- particularly seniors -- get vast savings on certain drugs by ordering them from Mexico or Canada. They would find that option essentially closed under the TPP.  This is only one example of how the TPP -- by raising, in general, the cost of medicine in all the signatory nations (including Mexico and Canada) -- will economically impact people in the US who save money by getting some of their medications from nations without stringent patent enforcements.

Thursday, 22 September 2016 06:39

Free the Snake River, Remove the Dams

Save the Snake flotilla demonstration(Photo: Backbone Campaign)GARY WOCKNER OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

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Buck Ryan, the Snake River Waterkeeper, put it this way, "Removing hydroelectric dams is progress -- we no longer have to destroy rivers and kill endangered fish to keep the lights on."

As I paddled my kayak amidst the hundreds of people in the Free The Snake flotilla last weekend, I believe Ryan is on the right track. Dams are a 50 to 100 year old technology -- it's time to remove even more dams along America's diminished waterways and replace that aged technology with flourishing solar and wind energy systems.

2016 was the second year for the Free The Snake flotilla. Co-sponsored by more than a dozen non-profit groups and organized by Save Our Wild Salmon and Patagonia, the flotilla took place on the Idaho border on the Snake River. Four huge dams on the lower Snake River have contributed to several species ofsalmonbeing placed on the endangered species list. Removing the dams would help restore the salmon and a way of life in the Snake and Columbia River basins.

The flotilla included participation from river conservation and fishing groups, native American tribes and local businesses, all who have a stake in seeing the lower Snake River dams removed. Since the dams were built more than 30 years ago, only about 1 percent of salmon return from the sea to their native spawning grounds along the river. Historically, around 8 million salmon would return from the sea, swim up the Columbia River and then up into the Snake. That number is now down to around 80,000. Further, the vast majority of those fish are bred and stocked every year, with few or none being original wild salmon.

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