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COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBillNye(Photo: Ed Schipul)Bill Nye gave the commencement speech over the weekend at Rutgers University and it’s just as inspiring as you’d imagine. Nye has been an outspoken advocate for immediate action on climate change for a long time. Last month, he sat down with President Obama in the Everglades on Earth Day to talk climate and call out the “climate denier club” in Congress. In his address to the next generation, he wastes no time delving right into environmental issues.

Here are some snippets from his speech:

“We are now deep in the most serious environmental crisis in human history. I believe you all can avoid this disaster.”

“The oncoming trouble is climate change. It is going to affect you all in the same way the Second World War consumed people of my parents’ generation. They rose to the challenge, and so will you. They came to be called the greatest generation. I want you all to preserve our world in the face of climate change and carry on as the next great generation.”

Wednesday, 20 May 2015 07:11

Ten Reasons Why the US Is Now a "Regime"

JANE STILLWATER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaStillwaterSIG(Photo: Augustas Didžgalvis)We are constantly seeing and hearing our American media use the word "Regime" these days.  So exactly what is a "Regime?"  Apparently it is whatever you want it to be.

Whenever Wall Street and/or War Street want to vilify a country that disagrees with their policies of occupation and exploitation, they always begin their vilification program by calling that country's form of government a "Regime."

Here are some examples:  Syria is a "Regime" -- even though it has a constitution, holds elections and almost all Syrians support its president, Bashar Assad.  Gaddafi in Libya also operated a "Regime" -- even though his government offered the kind of free education and healthcare benefits to its citizens that most Americans can only dream about.  Cuba was (and still is) considered a "Regime" in the eyes of Wall Street and War Street.  Putin also runs a "Regime" -- even though most Russians today support him totally.

In reverse, Saudi Arabia is not a "Regime" -- even though the House of Saud uses torture, suppresses decent, beheads people, treats women badly, brutally invades other countries and supports Al Qaeda and ISIS. 

The House of Saud has spent over a trillion $$$$ of its enormous petro-dollar wealth over the last half-century on killing people and being despotic.  Just imagine what the Middle East would look like right now if the Saudis had chosen butter instead of guns.  What a waste.  And yet Saudi Arabia is still not considered to be a "Regime" by American media. 

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

amcprotestSocial justice movements are the vanguard for change. (Photo: Fibonacci Blue)

Expecting that the formulaic horserace process of elections will lead to dramatic social and economic change is a bit like going to a movie about revolution and expecting to walk into a transformed world when you leave the theater.

That's one key takeaway of an incisive May 18 article in Jacobin by Michael Schwartz and Kevin Young. The authors cogently argue that "social movements should focus on targeting corporations and oppressive institutions rather than politicians." Why? Because corporations and large organizations (think of the police, the military and lobbying groups such as the Chamber of Commerce and AIPAC, among many others) pull the strings of most politicians, particularly at the state and national levels.

Schwartz and Young state their case with a clarity that has history on their side:

Activists’ decision to target corporations reflects a growing conviction that the government is unresponsive to popular demands because it is unwilling or unable to stop the abuses of the corporate world (this view is supported by recent statistical findings that “the public has little or no influence” on policy). While these movements can change corporate behavior, we believe that they can also influence government policy in ways that direct pressure on politicians cannot....

Inflicting pain on corporations through disruptive mass activism has historically been the best way to reduce corporate opposition to progressive changes, and in turn, the resistance of the politicians who represent them.

ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaTexasFracking(Photo: Joshua Doubek)Yesterday Texas Gov. Abbott signed HB 40 into law. Written by former ExxonMobil lawyer Shannon Ratliff, the statute forces every Texas municipality wanting common sense limits on oil and gas development to demonstrate its rules are “commercially reasonable.” It effectively overturns a Denton ballot initiative banning fracking that passed last November.

“HB 40 was written by the oil and gas industry, for the oil and gas industry, to prevent voters from holding the oil and gas industry accountable for its impacts,” said Earthworks’ Texas organizer Sharon Wilson. Wilson, who played a key role in the Denton ballot initiative, continued, “It was the oil and gas industry’s contempt for impacted residents that pushed Denton voters to ban fracking in the first place. And now the oil and gas industry, through state lawmakers, has doubled down by showing every city in Texas that same contempt.”

By a 59-41 percent vote, including 70 percent of straight ticket Republican voters, the residents of Denton banned hydraulic fracturing within city limits. The ban was a last resort after more than five years of fruitlessly petitioning oil and gas companies, the city and the state for help. “By signing HB40 into law, Governor Abbott just declared that industry profits are more important than our health, our homes and our kids,” said Adam Briggle, president of the Denton Drilling Awareness Group and a leader in the Frack Free Denton effort. He continued, “The letter of Texas law now says no city can ‘effectively prevent an oil and gas operation from occurring,’ no matter the threat to families’ health and safety or damage to private property.”

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaAK(Photo: Erik Gregg)Twenty years ago, the Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 people caused law enforcement to pay much more attention to right wing domestic terrorists. After 9/11, however, attention quickly shifted to focusing on Muslims – both American born and/or those coming from outside the country.

According to a former Department of Homeland Security official, the DHS basically put the kibosh on analyzing homegrown terrorist threats by white supremacists, militias, the patriot movement, and anti-abortion fanatics. "[T]oday, while the number of violent incidents committed by domestic extremists is actually increasing, the holes in the net to catch them are growing larger," the Kansas City Star discovered during its extraordinary one-year investigation of domestic terrorism published this year.

Right-wing domestic terrorists have killed more than 50 people since 9/11, the Kansas City Star reported. The list includes police officers in Arkansas and Nevada, a sheriff's deputy in Florida, two sheriff's deputies in Louisiana, law enforcement officials in Oregon, three police officers in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, a teenager and his grandfather in Overland Park, Kansas, and two West African immigrants murdered in Brockton, Massachusetts.

Especially discouraging is that "the focus and some funding for preventing terrorism at home have dissolved," the Star's report pointed out, either because of a change in focus, and/or in some cases, the result of aggressive right-wing campaigns critical of government reports on the dangers of domestic terrorism.

The most blatant example of the latter occurred in 2009, after a government report "warned that the economic downturn, combined with the election of America's first African-American president and the potential passage of new firearms restrictions, could trigger a surge in extremist violence, particularly in the white supremacist and militia movements," the Star noted.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

amedship (Photo: Francesco Mazzola Maurizio)

This week, it has emerged that the European Union is considering the use of military force to prevent the massive migration of desperate refugees (particularly on ships from Libya). Representatives from the EU admit that refugees themselves will likely be killed if such action takes place, but they consider the potential deaths to be "collateral damage."

Just last month, we asked in a commentary:

Why is money free to pass through borders in a millisecond-long electronic transaction, while people are forced to die trying?

Given the international trans-border access and preferential treatment that corporations and banks receive from mega-trade accords, why are people in dire need considered so disposable?

2015.18.5 BF ECO(Photo: Benjamin Jakabek)ANASTASIA PANTSIOS OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch.

California is entering its fourth year of drought, with high temperatures, water shortages and increased wildfires. The state has taken some steps to address the impacts of that, including addressing greenhouse gas emissions and rationing its diminishing water supply. But there are signs that the impacts of drought on the state could get even worse.

1. A new study shows that if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise at current rates, some parts of Los Angeles area could be experiencing temperatures over 95 degrees for periods as long as two to three months by the end of the century, up from about 12 days now. Researchers at UCLA’s Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences found that downtown Los Angeles could see many many as 54 such days, up from an average of four, while desert areas could see many more. And in the surrounding mountainous areas, days with temperatures below freezing could be cut in half.

2. Fewer freezing days in mountainous areas will certainly impact the snow pack which is currently at record lows. Its April assessment set a record for the lowest level in the state’s history, triggering Gov. Jerry Brown’s order that residents and governments cut water use by 25 percent. Shuttered ski resorts are the least of the resulting problems. The runoff from the snow pack melting in the spring replenishes the state’s rivers, streams and reservoirs—but not so much anymore. In an L.A. Times editorial, NASA scientist Jay Famiglietti warned that California reservoirs have only a year’s supply of water left in them. With the rate of replenishment dropping, that spells trouble.

2015.18.5 BF Buchheit(Photo: Gordon Mei)PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

An emotional response to any criticism of the Apple Corporation might be anticipated from the users of the company's powerful, practical, popular, and entertaining devices. Accolades to the company and a healthy profit are certainly well-deserved. But much-despised should be the theft from taxpayers and the exploitation of workers and customers, all cloaked within the image of an organization that seems to work magic on our behalf.

1. Apple Took Years of Public Research, Integrated the Results and Packaged it as Their Own

Apple's stock market value of over $700 billion is about twice the value of any other company. It is generally regarded as innovative, trendy, and sensitive to the needs of phone and computer users all around the world. Many of us have become addicted to the beautifully designed iPhone. But the design goes back to the time before Apple existed.

Steve Jobs once admitted: "We have always been shameless about stealing great ideas." And reaping most of the benefits. As economist William Lazonick put it, "The iPhone didn't just magically appear out of the Apple campus in Cupertino. Whenever a company produces a technology product, it benefits from an accumulation of knowledge created by huge numbers of people outside the company, many of whom have worked in government-funded projects over the previous decades."

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

anatparkThe tranquility and beauty of our national parks (pictured is Yosemite) should not be co-branded with a beer company. (Photo: Tom Bricker)

The organization Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) recently criticized a US National Park Service (NPS) decision to grant "co-branding" rights to Anheuser-Busch in return for a $2.5 million fee. 

In a news release, PEER calls the agreement

a misguided means of reaching out to youth and broadening public support for parks.... To consummate the deal, NPS had to waive its long-standing policy against identifying national parks with "alcohol or tobacco products."

The exclusive "Proud Partner" agreement allows Budweiser to roll-out "patriotic packaging featuring the iconic silhouette of Lady Liberty," in the words of a corporate press release. The authorizing memo signed by NPS Director Jon Jarvis on January 21, 2015 calls for "aligning the economic and historical legacies of two iconic brands…with a corporate entity that has the same goals surrounding relevancy, diversity and inclusion" so as "to distribute our brand across the country." 

The growing corporate branding of the public commons, nonprofit events and just about anything that you can't nail down - in exchange for payment - has become a visual blight. Worse yet, corporate branding has become so omnipresent that businesses become associated with sponsoring the pleasures of public life, thus mitigating the negative perceptions of their exploitative and profiteering practices. 

MORGAN SINCLAIRE OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaDivestUW(Photo: EcoWatch)“If it’s wrong to wreck the planet, then it’s wrong to profit from that wreckage.”

This quote by Bill McKibben has become the mantra of the fossil fuel divestment movement, the campaign which has sprouted up on hundreds of college campuses across the country with one simple goal: to get universities to stop investing in the same fossil fuel industry that is accelerating us all towards planetary catastrophe.

Here at the University of Washington in Seattle, Divest UW has gotten one of the biggest victories of the movement so far, with the Board of Regents voting to divest from coal today.

Founded in 2012, back when the fossil fuel divestment movement was just starting to spring up on college campuses, Divest UW has been pushing for this for a long time. We have shown that students here would like to see their school get its money out of dirty energy, with our divestment resolutions passing overwhelmingly in both the undergraduate and graduate student senates, but not until this week was our administration moved.

And that is why today’s victory is all the more significant: it validates all the work our group has put into this over the past three years, and we are proud to see our university recognize the growing power of the student movement to tackle climate change. With its $2.8 billion endowment, the UW is largest public university to divest from this destructive industry.

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