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Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

20161aug23 polarbears

The Arctic's Baffin Bay and Davis Strait region is home to seals, bowhead whales, polar bears and up to 90 percent of the world's narwhals. The area's marine waters also provide habitat for 116 species of fish, such as Arctic char, an important dietary staple for Nunavut's Inuit communities.

Although the area is crucial to Inuit for hunting and other traditional activities, the federal government has approved underwater seismic blasting by a consortium of energy companies. They plan to fire underwater cannons from boats to map the ocean floor for oil and gas deposits, in preparation for offshore drilling.

The blasting, approved by Canada's National Energy Board in 2014, is meeting fierce opposition. Alower court affirmed the NEB decision in 2015, claiming Inuit were adequately consulted on the project—something Inuit dispute. To prevent destruction of their hunting grounds, the remote hamlet of Clyde River in Nunavut and the Nammautaq Hunters and Trappers Organizationappealed to the Supreme Court of Canada, which agreed to hear the case later this year. A positive decision could halt seismic blasting and affirm the right of Indigenous peoples to decide their own future regarding resource development in their territories, which is central to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, of which Canada is a signatory.


Modok(Photo: Eric Powell)During the Republican Party primaries, when Donald Trump skipped a debate to hold a fundraiser for veterans, one of the mega-wealthy people he touted from the stage that evening was Isaac “Ike” Perlmutter, the CEO of Marvel Comics, and a big Trump supporter, who had given one-million dollars. I don’t know this for a fact, but I’m guessing that Perlmutter may not have been aware that a few months later, Marvel would introduce a new villain to the world; M.O.D.A.A.K. aka Mental Organism Designed As America's King, a thinly disguised version of Trump.

According to The Daily Beast’s Asawin Suebsaeng, in this year’s Spider-Gwen Annual #1, released in late-June, Marvel Comics “officially turned Donald Trump into a supervillain — a xenophobic, orange-haired, Captain-America-hating supervillain who is obsessed with the quality of his hands."

Esquire’s Peter Wade pointed out that “The horrifying monster … shout[s] xenophobic things at innocent people, telling them to get ‘back on your feet, foreign filth!’"

“But have no fear,” Wade notes, “Captain America soon appears to deliver a knock-out punch to Trump-MODAAK and saves America from certain doom, as the monster mutters a final, ‘Must make America—‘ and is destroyed.”

Entertainment Weekly reported that “The character was once known as technician George Tarleton, but he was subjected to horrifying experiments that transformed him into a big-headed being. In the alternate world of Spider-Gwen Annual #1, where Peter Parker’s girlfriend Gwen Stacey was the one bitten by a radioactive spider, Modok too gets an alternate spin.”


Milk 0822wrp(Photo: Stefan Kühn)Illinois Governor Rauner recently cut "Meals on Wheels" for seniors and at-risk youth services. Chicago residents were hit with a nearly 13% property tax increase. Some Chicago public schools could face 2017 cutbacks of an incredible 20 percent.

But six of Illinois' largest corporations together paid ALMOST ZERO state income taxes this year. Full payment of their taxes would have exceeded the $1.1 billion Chicago Public School deficit.

It's much the same around the nation, as 25 of the largest U.S. corporations, with over $150 billion in U.S. profits last year, paid less than 20% in federal taxes, and barely 1% in the state taxes that are vitally important for K-12 education.

Sticking It To Low-Income Mothers

Because of the missing corporate tax revenue, House Republicans have tried to break even by proposing cuts to programs that are essential to mothers and children, such as Centers for Disease Control health programs, family planning, contraception, and -- unbelievably, again! -- food stamps. It is estimated that almost two-thirds of the proposed cuts would largely impact low- and moderate-income families.

At the state level, the suffering residents of Louisiana are facing some of the steepest regressive tax increases, along with cuts to vital programs that investigate child abuse and provide pediatric day care. The maternal death rate rose dramatically in Texas after women's health programs were cut. In Kansas, where a Republican state senator has called Governor Brownback's lowering of taxes on the rich a "train wreck," 2017 cuts are targeting universities, Medicaid recipients, and the Children’s Initiatives Fund.


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I just attended the 31st annual national Veterans for Peace convention here in Berkeley and was truly inspired by the hundreds of vets who attended it, and by their organization's heroic stand for peace.  As one vet put it, "Been there, done that -- war doesn't work."

And while wandering around the grounds of the convention center before the festivities began, I ran into Helen Caldecott, an Australian doctor who has bravely spoken out against the use of nuclear weapons ever since the terrible days of America's Cold War.  I'm not sure what I was expecting that she would look like -- perhaps Super Girl in a cape?  But she was just an ordinary-looking person, like someone you would meet on the street.  Until she started speaking to an audience of 300-plus veterans.  And then her eyes flashed, her voice rang out like a warning bell and her passion came alive.

"I am a pediatrician," she told us, "and if you love this planet, if you love the next generation of babies, you will change the priority of your lives -- because right now, America's top priority seems to be for us to come as close to nuclear war as we possibly can."


2016Aug18 extinctionspeciesThe finishing line for capitalism may be self-extinction. (Photo: Mark Wallace)

Ashley Dawson, author of Extinction: A Radical History, will be featured on Truthout on August 21 in a question and answer about his book. At one point in the interview, he tells Truthout:

Capitalism is predicated on endless expansion. It is a socio-economic system that must grow indefinitely or cease to exist. And it has to grow at a compound rate, leading it to commodify and consume ever-greater portions of the planet at an accelerating velocity. Since we only have one planet, there is clearly a fundamental contradiction between our economic system and the environment upon which it, and all of humanity, ultimately depends. But since capitalism grows in a spatially uneven manner, some people can live obscenely affluent, insulated lives while other people face stark ecological catastrophe. But at some point capitalism will take the entire planet past a point of ecological destruction from which there will be no return, at least on any time scale that is meaningful for human beings.

Current rates of extinction suggest that we are approaching that point. Looked at in historical perspective, species often go extinct, but, at the same time, new species are also constantly evolving in a process called speciation. At the moment, however, the rate of extinction far exceeds the rate of speciation. Studies suggest that over the last fifty years a shockingly high 40 percent of the world’s flora and fauna have become extinct. And this extinction rate is accelerating.

There is a direct relationship between Dawson's argument, which details the various deleterious forces of capitalism that accelerate species extinction, and Naomi Klein's seminal book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate, on the relationship between runaway global capitalism and unrelenting climate change. Both books emphasize that one of the species that may be headed for elimination from the planet is us: homo sapiens.

2016.18.8 BF Koehler(Photo: Brian Ragsdale)ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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It's the smallest thing in the world. Does the tennis ball land inside the line or outside? But somehow, as I watched this 60-second YouTube clip of an Australian tennis match last January, and heard an explosion of joyous approval surge from the crowd, I could feel the planet shift.

Or at least it seemed that way for an instant.

In the clip, a tennis player named Jack Sock tells his opponent, Lleyton Hewitt, whose serve has just been declared out, that he should challenge the call. A little humorous disbelief bounces around the court, but eventually Hewitt says, "Sure, I'll challenge it." A judge reviews the tape and declares that the serve was in . . . and the crowd lets loose an enormous cheer.

I felt like I could hear the stunned amazement in it. Hurray for integrity! Hurray for . . . what? It was different from the usual hoots and hollers of "our guy wins" or the polite acknowledgement of "nice play."

Hurray for integrity?


TrumpPeace 0817wrp opt(Photo: CPAC)An old saying asserts that falsehoods come in three escalating levels: "Lies, damn lies, and statistics." Now, however, we've been given an even-higher level of intentional deception: Policy speeches by Donald Trump.

Take his recent highly publicized address outlining specific economic policies he would push to benefit hard-hit working families. It's an almost-hilarious compilation of Trumpian fabrications, including his bold, statesmanlike discourse on the rank unfairness of the estate tax: "No family will have to pay the death tax," he solemnly pledged, adopting the right-wing pejorative for a tax assessed on certain properties of the dearly departed. Fine, but next came his slick prevarication: "American workers have paid taxes their whole lives, and they should not be taxed again at death." Workers? The tax exempts the first $5.4 million of any deceased person's estate, meaning 99.8 percent of Americans pay absolutely nothing. So Trump is trying to deceive real workers into thinking he's standing for them, when in fact it's his own wealth he's protecting.

What a maverick! What a shake-'em-up outsider! What an anti-establishment fighter for working stiffs!

Oh, and don't forget this: What a phony!

Wednesday, 17 August 2016 08:46

Taking the Wind Out of Trump's Energy Policy


Coal 0817wrp opt(Photo: Decumanus)Black letters against a yellow background. Black letters against white. White letters against black. On yard signs. On T-shirts. On baseball caps. All with the same message: “Trump Digs Coal.”

Donald Trump says there are “ridiculous regulations [on coal] that put you out of business and make it impossible to compete.” He says if he is president, he would reduce those regulations. Those regulations that Trump doesn’t like are enforced by the Environmental Protection Agency to protect miners and the public.

In speech after speech in the coal-producing states, he has said, “We’re going to get those miners back to work . . . the miners of West Virginia and Pennsylvania . . .  [In] Ohio and all over are going to start to work again, believe me. They are going to be proud again to be miners.”  He also says the voters in coal-rich states “are going to be proud of me.”

As expected, his comments are met by extended cheers. However, other than splashing rhetoric to get votes, he doesn’t say how he plans to put miners back to work, nor does he address the issues of the high cost to create “clean coal,” or that a president doesn’t have absolute power to reduce federal legislation. But his words sound good to the mining industry in Wyoming, West Virginia, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Illinois, the top five states in coal production.


2016august17 toxicUnregulated pollution of our public waters enables corporations who privatize water supplies. (Image: Michael Smith)

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An August 5 article in AgMag, a publication of the Environmental Working Group, includes an eye-opening warning about the impact that agricultural pollution can have on drinking water, including a relatively large city such as Des Moines, Iowa:

On Thursday, Des Moines Water Works warned customers of elevated levels of microcystins, the toxins created by cyanobacteria, in their drinking water. These toxins cause acute problems with the liver, including liver failure, among other serious health problems. 

The utility was forced to switch water supplies and caution some residents to avoid consuming too much water.

The utility accelerated the public warning due to increasing concerns about the effects of these agrotoxins on human health....

Des Moines regularly faces nutrient levels three times the allowable standard in its source water, and Water Works is currently involved in a lawsuit attempting to get the growers applying nutrients to take responsibility and clean up the mess.

Of course, nothing could please the profiteering bottled water industry more than a warning not to drink local tap water, given that it boosts the sales of their product. In a recent commentary, I noted that Nestlé is extracting clean water from protected public lands to sell in places such as Des Moines. In short, private water companies make money by selling water in plastic bottles -- which are environmentally destructive -- when public water supplies become polluted.

coal miners during a sit-in(Photo: Raúl Villalón)LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

With the renewable energy sector growing leaps and bounds in the U.S., many critics -- ahem, Donald Trump -- argue that a transition to clean power would lead to the displacement of workers in the fossil fuel industry.

Admittedly, these naysayers are not exactly wrong. Coal workers are genuinely worried as mines close and high-profile coal companies declare bankruptcy. Coal jobs are indeed on the decline, with the total number of employees at U.S. coal mines dipping to 74,931 employees in 2014, a decrease of 6.8 percent from the year prior.The Obama Administration's carbon cutting policies that takes direct aim at coal plants, alongside a drop in natural gas prices are only fueling these concerns of job security.

But what if the coal industry could adapt?

In a new study published in the journalEnergy Economics, researchers from Michigan Technological University and Oregon State University found that a "relatively minor investment in retraining" would allow mostcoal workers to switch professions to the booming and job creating solar energy sector.

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