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2016.10.5 bf chow(Photo: Mike Mozart)LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

The House Science, Space and Technology Committee is questioning why the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)posted and then suddenly pulled its highly anticipated risk assessment of glyphosate, the main ingredient in weedkillers such as Monsanto's flagship herbicide Roundup.

On April 29, the EPA's Cancer Assessment Review Committee published a report online about glyphosate concluding that the chemical is not likely carcinogenic to humans. However, even though it was marked "Final" and was signed by 13 members of CARC, the report disappeared from the website three days later.

The EPA said that the report was "inadvertently" released. A spokeswoman said:

"Glyphosate documents were inadvertently posted to the Agency's docket. These documents have now been taken down because our assessment is not final. EPA has not completed our cancer review. We will look at the work of other governments as well as work by HHS's Agricultural Health Study as we move to make a decision on glyphosate. Our assessment will be peer reviewed and completed by end of 2016."

Following the move, committee chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) sent a letter on March 4 to EPA administrator Gina McCarthy announcing that his committee is launching an investigation into the matter and is asking that the EPA provide all documents and communications related to the glyphosate study from Jan. 1, 2015 to present. He is giving the EPA until May 18 to provide this information.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016May10 rednosewal24A 2015 billboard promoting Red Nose Day, a corporate branding opportunity to allegedly reduce childhood poverty in the United States. (Photo: Steven Feldman)

Red Nose Day, which has an affiliated campaign in the UK, is described by its sponsoring organization, Comic Relief Inc. (which the Red Nose Day website notes "is not connected to the former American charity Comic Relief that was supported by Billy Crystal, Robin Williams and Whoopi Goldberg"), as follows:

Red Nose Day is a fundraising campaign run by the non-profit organization Comic Relief Inc., a registered 501(c)(3) American public charity. Funds raised go to the Red Nose Day Fund and last year benefited children in all 50 states and 15 countries internationally through programs to keep children and young people safe, healthy and educated. Comic Relief Inc. in the US and Comic Relief UK are independent sister organizations that are joined by their shared vision of a just world, free from poverty and the mission to drive positive change through the power of entertainment…

The US Red Nose Day initiative distributes the money it raises to charities in the US, including the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, Oxfam of America, Covenant House and the National Council of Raza. There appears little doubt from the statistics cited on the Red Nose Day website that some poor children are indeed aided by the Red Nose Day commercial tie-in efforts, and that some incremental good will come out of the initiative.

Red Nose Day is officially on May 26, when "a live 2-hour primetime television event that brings together the biggest stars for a night of fun and laughs” -- as described on the Red Nose Day website -- will air on NBC. In 2015, according to the site, "Red Nose Day raised $23 million, changing the lives of children all over the USA and around the world."

The campaign’s slogan -- "Laugh. Give. Save a kid" -- does raise pesky questions about a corporate promotional charity event that unabashedly offers to combine fun, comedy and helping "kids who need it most." That is because it does not appear that any systemic change results from Red Nose Day that would permanently reduce or eliminate poverty, and $23 million is a paltry amount, when a sea of transformative change is needed. Red noses are not going to eliminate, reduce or have a significant impact on the condition of youth poverty in the United States. 

Monday, 09 May 2016 07:55

The Collapse of the Middle-Class Job

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Class2 0509wrp(Photo: Phillies1fan777)Our middle-income jobs are disappearing. That fact may be disputed by free-market advocates, who want to believe Barack Obama when he gushes, "We’re in the middle of the longest streak of private sector job creation in history."

But the evidence shows that living-wage, family-sustaining positions are quickly being replaced by lower-wage and less secure forms of employment. These plentiful low-level jobs have padded the unemployment figures, leaving much of America believing in an overhyped recovery.

The Incredible Shrinking Job

New research is beginning to confirm the permanent nature of middle-income job loss. Based on analysis that one reviewer calls "some of the most important work done by economists in the last twenty years," a National Bureau of Economic Research study found that national employment levels have fallen in U.S. industries that are vulnerable to import competition, without offsetting job gains in other industries. Even the Wall Street Journal admits that "many middle-wage occupations, those with average earnings between $32,000 and $53,000, have collapsed."

Productive Workers, but Less of Them

High-salaried jobs in technology still exist, but they're available to fewer people as machines become smarter. Netflix, for example, serves 57 million customers with less than 2,200 employees, who have a median salary of $180,000. Google is worth $370 billion but employs only about 55,000 workers (50 years ago AT&T was worth less in today's dollars but employed about 750,000 workers). Facebook's messaging application WhatsApp has 55 employees serving 450 million customers.

As jobs are downsized, profits are maximized. Apple makes over $500,000 per employee; Facebook and Google are both over $300,000; Exxon and Phillips 66 are both well over $250,000; Merck and Allergan and Pfizer are all significantly over $100,000. Just 25 years ago GM, Ford, and Chrysler generated a combined $36 billion in revenue while employing over 1,000,000 workers. Today Apple, Facebook, and Google generate over a trillion dollars in revenue with 137,000 workers.

Researchers at the University of Chicago have estimated that half of the labor decline in this century is due to the replacement of people with computers and software. Oxford University researchers forecasted that half of all jobs will be performed by machine by the 2030s.

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Solar 0506wrp opt(Photo: BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT)The price of solar power dipped to another record low on May 1 when five international companies bid as little as 2.99 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) to develop the latest phase of work at Dubai’s enormous Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum solar park, which will be one of Earth’s largest solar plants when complete.

At less than 3 cents per kWh, that’s 15 percent lower than the previous record-low bid of 3.5 cents per kWh from Italy’s Enel Green Power for a solar project in Mexico, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

The latest bid is also nearly 50 percent cheaper than last year’s winning bid of 5.84 cents per kWh for developing the 200-megawatt second phase of the same solar park, which already broke records then, The National pointed out.

“This not only marks the lowest cost ever for solar power, but also easily beats all available fossil-fuel options in Dubai on cost,” explained Dr. Moritz Borgmann, a partner at of the cleantech advisory group Apricum.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016may6 bclinton24Hillary Clinton has suggested that she might appoint her husband, who played a leadership role in championing trade deals that have hemorrhaged jobs from the US, as jobs czar to create manufacturing positions. Say what? (Photo: Eric Austin)

Politicians in tight spots often say the most puzzling things. While campaigning in coal country, where large numbers of miners are without jobs, Hillary Clinton has been met by grassroots opposition to her (hopefully accurate) comment earlier this year that coal, as a fuel, is on its last legs.

As Politico reported on May 2,

Clinton has faced increased scrutiny and backlash from coal-producing areas of the country after boasting at a March town hall, "We're going to put a lot of coal companies and coal miners out of business." Though she followed up by saying that the United States should "make it clear that we don't want to forget those people," the remark created consternation in the coal community. On Sunday, Bill Clinton confronted protesters in West Virginia unhappy with his wife's comments.

The Hill reported on May 5 that current polling shows Clinton potentially facing an embarrassing loss to Bernie Sanders in the upcoming West Virginia primary on May 10, but also confronting the possibility that Donald Trump could carry the state in November:

West Virginia is shaping up to be a terrible state for Hillary Clinton

2016.5.5 BF Durst(Photo: DonkeyHotey)WILL DURST FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

One of the oddest moments in a presidential campaign filled brim-spillingly with them, is the sight of the Republican Party struggling to rally around its presumptive nominee, Donald J. Trump. Perhaps "rally" is too strong of a word. More of a depressed dawdle. A lackluster loiter. Melancholy mosey. Crematory crawl.

The party is exhibiting all the enthusiasm of a condemned man walking barefoot to the gallows up 13 steps of broken glass like an eight-year old forced to rip a switch off a birch tree prior to a paternal spanking. A film critic trudging through the lobby of a multiplex for a preview of the next Transformers movie.

A shame that Elizabeth Kubler-Ross died a decade ago, and can't witness all five of her Stages of Grief being spun out at the same time. Depending on where you look, the GOP can be seen going through denial, anger, bargaining, depression and a reluctant acceptance. She could even update her classic with new stages: dejection, mortification, suicidal gloom, self- immolation and eye gouging panic.

Mark Karlin, Editor of BuzzFlash at Truthout

2016 May5AmericanDreamThe so-called "American Dream" needs to be less about money and materialism and more about justice, quality of life and the common good. (Photo: James Walsh)

According to the findings of a Marist Poll commissioned by Boston PBS station WGBH earlier this year, "The American Dream [is] still alive, but ... a majority of U.S. residents believe the American middle class is just a vestige of the past." That WGBH summary of the poll notes:

While 58% [of parents] think their children will be better off than they are now, about one-third, 33%, say their children will be in a worse position. The picture becomes bleaker when the focus shifts to the future of America’s youth, in general. Nearly half of residents, 48%, believe most children in the United States will grow up to be worse off than their parents while 43% say children, overall, will be better off....

A news release that I received on April 5 from a publicist for WGBH put it more bluntly:

A majority of U.S. residents believe the American middle class is just a vestige of the past, according to an Exclusive Point Taken-Marist Poll, commissioned by WGBH Boston for its new late-night, multi-platform PBS debate series Point Taken. But, despite a pessimistic view about the viability of the American middle class, most adults nationally think the American Dream is attainable for themselves, 69%. Although fewer, many think it is in reach for other Americans, 58%, as well.

Given the nation's radical and growing income inequality, the perceptions of those surveyed in the poll [as shown in charts]  appear rosier than the reality of the economic chasm in the US.  The poll raises the question about how the hope of achieving an economic dream can defy economic data, given that most of those polled thought the middle class was dying. Where will the 69 percent of those who believe that "the American Dream" is attainable end up? That's 69 percent too many people to squeeze into the 1 percent.

Thursday, 05 May 2016 06:49

Cowardice and Exoneration in Kunduz

AC-130 gunship(Photo: BattleSpartan)ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

"The people are being reduced to blood and dust. They are in pieces."

The doctor who uttered these words still thought the hospital itself was a safe zone. He was with Doctors Without Borders, working in Kunduz, Afghanistan, where the Taliban and government forces were engaged in hellish fighting and civilians, as always, were caught in the middle. The wounded, including children, had been flowing in all week, and the staff were unrelieved in their duties, working an unending shift.

Their week ended at 2 a.m. last Oct. 3 when -- as the world knows -- a U.S. AC-130 gunship began strafing the hospital, the crew apparently acting on the mistaken belief that this was a Taliban compound. The strike lasted for an hour, continuing even though the humanitarian organization contacted the Pentagon and pleaded that it stop.

A total of 211 shells hit the hospital. The Intensive Care Unit was wiped out. Every patient in the unit except for a 3-year-old girl was killed, some burning to death in their beds. A total of 42 people -- patients, staff and doctors -- died because of this lethal mistake.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Target 0504wrp opt(Photo: Mike Kalasnik)Thus far, the only problems with Target’s new policy of allowing transgender people to use restrooms and dressing rooms that correspond with their gender identity, are being caused by a number of conservative Christian activists --several of whom are being sent out with video cameras by the American Family Association -- rushing into Target stores to test the policy.

Not a big fan of Target stores. Shopped there occasionally over the years. Have a Target REDCard, and to the best of my knowledge it wasn’t hacked in 2013. However, now that Target is under attack by the American Family Association, the Christian Right’s boycott-launching king, I may consider doing some REDcard damage in the near future.

The dust-up over the Minneapolis-based Target began in mid-April, when the company’s management decided that employees and customers who are men according to their birth sex could use women's bathrooms and dressing rooms. A statement posted on the company’s website on April 19, under the headline “Continuing to Stand for Inclusivity” read: "[W]e welcome transgender team members and guests to use the restroom or fitting room facility that corresponds with their gender identity. ...Everyone deserves to feel like they belong."

By making this decision, Target jumped into what has become this year’s number one wedge and fundraising issue for the Christian Right; Keeping transgender people out of bathrooms.

As of this writing, Christian Right groups are claiming that more than 1 million people have signed an American Family Association-initiated petition.

pledging a boycott over the store’s bathroom policies. At the AFA website, the headline reads “Sign the Boycott Target Pledge!”

JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Ammunition 0504wrp opt(Photo: Department of Defense)I’ve been thinking about Mother’s Day—and all the mothers that will never receive flowers and cards again from their beloved children that were unnecessarily killed in the U.S. pre-emptive invasion of the Middle East.

I vaguely remember presidential candidate Barack Obama during the 2008 primary. So many different masks on this man that it’s hard to recollect that he argued for “peaceful negotiations,” and that “sending our troops into combat should be our very last resort…”

However, President Obama not only expanded instability throughout the Middle East by allowing the CIA to play havoc with Libya and Syria, which led to the deaths of tens of thousands of families, including the bombing of hospitals with wounded children under Doctors without Borders care (Afghanistan, Yemen and Syria), his decision led to eight million refugees pounding the doors of neighboring European countries.

As I explained in my last Buzzflash-Truthout commentary, dictators or no, before the Bush-Obama administrations invaded these countries, the majority of families had homes, water, food, jobs, sewer systems, electricity, and even if they didn’t like their leaders, and even if conditions may have been challenging in Syria, they at least had their families and homes and food on the table.

Like the U.S., Europeans have been financially struggling since the Wall Street banksters’ “unregulated” greed reached a 2008 global crisis. In addition to the suffering in Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen, Obama and his CIA advisors decided to make the lives of Libyans and Syrians go from difficult to unbearable. Europeans are also desperate—and they don’t know how they’re going to support millions of starving people when their own families are in dire straits much like middle-class Americans that are being crushed beneath the corporate oligarchic wheel.

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