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Wednesday, 15 June 2016 06:32

Jim Hightower: Who Says Crime Doesn't Pay?

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Bull 0615wrp(Photo: Aseba)Hey, can we all just stop complaining that our government coddles Wall Street's big money-grubbing banks?

Sure, they went belly-up and crashed our economy with their frauds, rigged casino games, and raw greed. And, yes, the Bush and Obama regimes rushed to bail them out with trillions of dollars in our public funds, while ignoring the plight of workaday people who lost jobs, homes, businesses, wealth, and hope. But come on, Buckos, have you not noticed that the feds are now socking the bankers with huuuuuge penalties for their wrongdoings?

Wall Street powerhouse Goldman Sachs, for example, was recently punched in its corporate gut with a jaw-dropping $5 billion for its illegal schemes.

Wow, $5 billion! That's a stunning amount that Goldman Sachs has agreed to pay to settle federal criminal charges over its shameful financial scams that helped wreck America's economy in 2008. That's a lot of gold, even for Goldman Sachs. It's hard to comprehend that much money, so think of it like this: If you paid out $100,000 a day, every day for 28 years, you'd pay off just one billion dollars. So, wow, imagine having to pull Five Big B's out of your wallet! That's enough to make even the most arrogant and avaricious high-finance flim-flammer think twice before risking such scams, right? Thus, these negotiated settlements between the Justice Department and the big banks will effectively deter repeats of the 2008 Wall Street debacle... right?

Actually, no.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016June15 netneutralityUS District of Columbia Court of Appeals upholds Net Neutrality, but the battle is not over. (Photo: Free Press)

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A three-judge panel of the DC District Court of Appeals yesterday upheld the Federal Communication Commission's  (FCC) authority to regulate the internet as a "common carrier," similar to telephone service. In effect, this preserves the concept of "net neutrality," which limits the ability of internet providers to provide speed and access advantages to companies who pay higher fees. Although the corporate behemoths now dominating internet transmission (like Comcast and AT&T) plan to appeal, there's no doubt that this decision is significant.

The ruling is a major win in a struggle dating back roughly 15 years to keep the internet from turning into a mainly corporate medium, such as cable television. On Tuesday, The Washington Post described the essence of the ruling:

A federal appeals court on Tuesday upheld the government’s “net neutrality” rules, preserving regulations that force internet providers such as Comcast and AT&T to treat all online traffic — everything from Netflix and cat videos to games and downloads — equally.

The 2-1 ruling is a sweeping victory for the Obama administration and the consumer groups and internet companies that have pushed net neutrality for years. The Federal Communications Commission’s rules block internet service providers from favoring their own services and disadvantaging others; blocking other sites and apps; and creating “fast lanes” for video and other data services that pay for the privilege.

On technical grounds, the ruling upholds the FCC’s authority to regulate broadband service as a utility, much like phone service, and to forbid what it considers unreasonable practices. It applies equally to wired broadband providers like cable companies and mobile ones such as Verizon.

For years -- through two presidential administrations -- the FCC waffled about preserving "net neutrality," first attempting a relatively weak version of regulation, which didn't past muster in the courts. However, in February of 2015, the agency adopted the more stringent regulatory protections that were upheld in the appeals court yesterday.

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

bramble 750The Bramble Cay melomys have vanished from its 350m-long cay home in the Torres Strait due to sea-level rise and weather events. Photo credit: Queensland Government

The Bramble Cay melomys—a rodent found only on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef—has been declared extinct, according to a new study from researchers at the Queensland’s Department of Environment and Heritage Protection and the University of Queensland.

Alarmingly, this could be the first mammal species wiped out due to human-induced climate change.

The researchers came to the conclusion after failing to find a single specimen of the melomys, also called the mosaic-tailed rat, from its only known habitat.

“A thorough survey effort involving 900 small mammal trap-nights, 60 camera trap-nights and two hours of active daytime searches produced no records of the species, confirming that the only known population of this rodent is now extinct,” the study states.

Sea-level rise and weather events in the Torres Strait region, which lies between Australia and the Melanesian island of New Guinea, was determined as the root cause of the loss. The scientists said that the events destroyed the animals’ sole habitat on Bramble Cay, a small vegetated coral cay in northern Australia. Research showed that Bramble Cay had reduced dramatically in size from approximately 2.2 ha in 2004 to only 0.065 ha, equivalent to a 97 percent loss in the span of 10 years.

“The key factor responsible for the extirpation of this population was almost certainly ocean inundation of the low-lying cay, very likely on multiple occasions, during the last decade, causing dramatic habitat loss and perhaps also direct mortality of individuals,” the study states.

JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016 June14flintwaterPresident Obama drinking a glass of Flint water is not the same as removing lead from our water supply. (Photo: Laura Nawrocik)

No matter what you may think of President Obama, it’s easy to admire him when he makes an appearance on one of the nightly talk shows. (watch this clip from the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon). He’s charming, intelligent, a natural at quips, and serious when discussing important problems plaguing Americans.

By contrast, however, there’s a thing called “the reality check” on his track record, which has driven many a liberal Democrat up the wall by feeling the burn of betrayal at times.

True, in many cases, Obama’s hands have been tied by an obstinate and racist Republican congress, but how do you explain his own executive actions that benefit the corporate elites at the expense of public health safety issues? How do you explain his lack of action when Americans need to be rescued from corporate abuses that could easily be fixed by enforcing environmental regulations?

The word that comes to mind is “disillusionment.” There’s the impressive picture of President Obama, and then there’s Obama’s record of decisions that even his predecessors, Bush-Cheney, couldn’t come close to passing: offshore oil drilling in the Arctic, and military operations off the Alaska coast, as Truthout journalist, Dahr Jamail, explained, this is a toxic threat to the entire pristine region. Or consider the fracking boom that was unleashed across the country under the Obama administration with the full knowledge and proof that it’s contaminating our public drinking water, coupled with the fact that fracking causes earthquakes.

Whether it’s perpetual wars, right-wing coups in Latin America, oil and gas drilling, or selling slave labor and anti-environmental trade deals such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, (check the 35,000 Germans protesting Obama-TPIP), as the negatives outweigh the positives, you can understand why presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders, became immensely popular. Senator Sanders has a long, established record of action that supports his agenda.

Take, for example, Obama’s lack of action regarding the toxic lead water contamination problem at over 350 public schools. 

SUE DIBB AND DAVIN HUTCHINS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Veggies 0613wrp opt(Photo: EcoWatch)It’s back! Today is #WorldMeatFreeDay, a great time to think about how the everyday choices we make about the food we eat can impact our health and the health of the planet.

From deforestation to water pollution and climate change, the mark that industrial animal agriculture leaves on the environment is huge.

Globally, livestock production is responsible for around 14 percent of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions—that’s more than the emissions from all road vehicles in the world.

Animal agriculture is the largest source of the most powerful greenhouse gasses: methane and nitrous oxide. On top of that, growing crops for animal feed, especially soy, results in the deforestation of rainforests, releasing yet more CO2.

There is now overwhelming evidence, that we can’t possibly avoid catastrophic climate change if we don’t address the impact of high levels of meat consumption. We are already living beyond our planetary means. Feeding a growing and more affluent global population of at least nine billion by 2050 simply isn’t possible unless we make some changes.

We need a “less is better” approach to meat eating. That’s where World Meat Free Day can make a difference; by raising awareness of how simple, small changes can start to have a positive global influence. The World Meat Free Day website has a sustainability calculator that shows how meat-free meals can have an immediate impact on carbon emissions and water usage.

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

GMOcorn 0613wrp opt(Photo: EcoWatch)While genetically modified (GMO) foods seem to proliferate across the U.S., many other nations do not allow such products to enter or grow within their borders.

A Bloomberg article illustrated how the world’s vast patchwork of GMO regulations can deter international trade.

Case in point, even though the Brazilian chicken industry is suffering from a domestic corn shortage this year, companies refuse to buy corn from the U.S. because of Brazil’s stringent regulations on GMOs.

“In recent years, some of the largest commodity trading companies have refused to take certain GMO crops from farmers because the seeds used hadn’t received a full array of global approvals, something that can lead to holdups at ports or even the rejection of entire cargoes,” the article stated.

Brazil happens to be the second largest producer of GMO crops in the world after the U.S., and grows 29 varieties of GMO corn. However, the South American country has had a contentious history over GMOs and does not allow certain varieties to enter the country—the U.S. cultivates 43 types of GMO corn. Brazil also mandates that all products containing GMO ingredients carry a label and, earlier this year, the Brazilian Ministry of Justice fined major food manufacturers including Nestle, PepsiCo and a Mexican baking company for concealing the presence of GMOs in their products.

Friday, 10 June 2016 09:36

How About "None of the Above"?

WILL DURST SATIRE FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016June9 noneoftheaboveSatirist Wlll Durst wonders if the United States might be better off without anyone sitting in the Oval Office. (Photo: Descrier)

Every four years our nation’s electoral eccentricities escalate exponentially and people throw up their hands and shout, “you know, every election cycle is wacky, but especially this one.” But Especially This One! With this one, the narrative changes faster than the score of a Wiffle Ball game played with aluminum bats. It’s an election with the attention span of high- speed lint. An 18 month-long Squirrel Scamper.
 
First, everyone is talking about New York Values. Then, low-energy debaters. Violent rallies. Domestic terrorists. KKK endorsements. Rigged rules. Palace coups. Naked wives. Tiny hands. Pope bashing. Lucifer comparing. Internecine warfare between orange people.  
 
And the phrase bubbling out of everyone’s lips around the political circus this week is… “get me the hell out of here.” No. No. It’s… “third party candidate.” Dark words of terror striking fear in the hearts of major party leaders, owing to a couple of dodgy characters named Ross Perot and Ralph Nader. Or as Donald Trump would call them, “losers.” Third party candidates responsible for the downfall of Al Gore and George Herbert Walker Bush; making them not just losers, but loser enablers. Losers squared.
 
A legitimate third party candidacy hasn’t affected a US election since 2000, but this time around, faced with two candidates less popular than acid rain at a paper mache sculpture garden, the fear is the populace could easily slide over to vote for less polarizing figures. And right now, an eighteen foot alligator with irritable bowel syndrome would be less polarizing than the Donald or the Hillary.
 
It’s too late to get on the Texas ballot for independent runs, and other state deadlines are approaching fast, so prospective 2016 aspirants need to get their proverbial poop together. The blueprint for chaos is waiting to be writ.

Roundup being sold in stores despite health risks(Photo: Mike Mozart)REVEREND BILLY TALEN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

We hold hands around a truck that sprays Monsanto's "RoundUp" with its glyphosate toxin.  The old parks-green pickup carries a white plastic 500 gallon barrel. The red triangle on the side signals "Poison." The Stop Shopping Choir quietly sings "Monsanto is the Devil" as we pray to the regenerative storms of Earthalujah!

We do more than pray.  We also file the Freedom of Information Act request (FOIL), and the results of our New York FOIL are now re-created as an interactive map on our website at Revbilly.com/maps.  When we discovered that New York was not transparent with its spraying, we checked other cities… and found many do not clearly inform the exposed public.  And, we were alarmed to find that many cities are not reducing their spraying, even after all the science linking glyphosate to birth defects, autism, endocrine disruption and many cancers.

We began to file FOILs in city after city. We have 16 of them currently pending.  We have posted the spraying for five urban areas on the website: Portland, Seattle-Tacoma, Philadelphia, San Francisco and New York.  The Stop Shopping Choir is inputting the data from Los Angeles now.  We also have posted the spraying data from the entire California school system.

Thursday, 09 June 2016 06:58

School Days and Grenade Launchers

empty school hallway(Photo: WFIU Public Radio)ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Come on, they aren't tanks, they're armored rescue vehicles. And the, uh, grenade launchers would only be used to launch teargas canisters. When necessary. And the M-16s? Standard police issue.

What a journey these Los Angeles teenagers, and the civil rights group Fight for the Soul of the Cities, had, to get from there -- the ho-hum justification by (good Lord) the city's school district police force, for the accumulation of surplus Defense Department weaponry -- to here:

"Our recent meeting and dialogue has led me to review my actions as Board President during this difficult period. Upon reflection, I failed to understand the amount of pain and frustration our participation in the 1033 program could cause in the community and especially with our partners from the Dignity in Schools Campaign and the Fight for the Soul of the Cities. . . ."

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016june8 choosepeaceCould the United States government live without war? (Photo: Dave Hogg)

For all the self-styled US "patriots" who shout "USA, number one!" at rallies, please take note: A recent study finds that the United States is the 103rd most peaceful nation on Earth, out of a total of 163. This is the finding of the Global Peace Index 2016, conducted by the Institute for Economics & Peace's Vision of Humanity project. As Vision of Humanity notes in its summary of findings:

The 2016 Global Peace Index (GPI) shows the world became less peaceful in the last year, reinforcing the underlying trend of declining peace over the last decade. Results also show a growing global inequality in peace, with the most peaceful countries continuing to improve while the least peaceful are falling into greater violence and conflict....

It shows that amidst the global deterioration the world continues to spend enormous resources on creating and containing violence but very little on peace. The key to reversing the decline in peace is through building Positive Peace - a holistic framework of the key attitudes, institutions and structures which build peace in the long term. The UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 16, which focuses on peace, justice and strong institutions is critical to focusing the international community on the goal of attaining a more peaceful world....

The world continues to spend enormous amounts on creating and containing violence and little on building peace. The economic impact of violence on the global economy in 2015 was $13.6 trillion in purchasing power parity (PPP) terms. This figure represents 13.3 per cent of the world’s economic activity (gross world product) or $1,876 for every person in the world. To put this in perspective, it is approximately 11 times the size of global foreign direct investment. 

Naturally, some people and companies that reap financial profit from conflict are doing quite well.

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