MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Today, Jet Blue airlines is flying the first commercial flight in a little over 50 years from the US to Cuba -- from Fort Lauderdale to the Cuban city of Santa Clara. Up until now, an American could only fly to Cuba on a charter flight and meet certain criteria to visit the island. The "requirements" still remain, but they are broad enough that most people in the US can say that one category or another applies to their visits, and the State Department is not expected to seriously enforce the stipulation. As a result, Cuba may be overrun with tourists and businesspeople.
Indeed, as CNN reports, the number of daily flights to Cuba is expected to balloon quickly:
Soon up to a maximum of 110 daily flights operated by such carriers as JetBlue, American Airlines, Delta, Frontier, Southwest and Silver Airways are due to begin flying to the ... island, according to the US Department of Transportation.
This will include service to many Cuban cities. In fact, the most lucrative routes -- to Havana -- have not yet been assigned to airlines by the Department of Transportation. There's no doubt that in a few years, Cuba is going to be hit by a tsunami of consumers and corporate profit seekers. After all, the US has long regarded Mexico, Central America, South America and the Caribbean nations as captive markets. With the conversion of Cuba into a Soviet-aligned nation after Castro's military victory, that country became the lone exception in the hemisphere: a place that was not seen by the US as an extension of its own economic system. Today, the Bolivarian revolution has foundered in Venezuela, and Dilma Rouseff is being impeached in Brazil. Ecuador and Bolivia may put up resistance to US hegemony, but remain deeply entangled in it.
In the CNN article, a recent tourist was concerned that Cuba too may soon be captured by capitalism:
For many Americans, though, the immediate concern is not security but seeing Cuba before the island emerges from the Cold War time warp of the last 50 years.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Given the cable news network’s obsession with the presidential race, with an occasional break for stories about damage caused by late-summer flooding in Louisiana, tornadoes in the Midwest, and the earthquake in Italy, it is somewhat surprising that news of Mylan Pharmaceuticals’ outrageous price increase of the EpiPen, its lifesaving injection device for those with severe allergies, has received the attention that it has.
According to Paul Keckley, publisher of a weekly newsletter on healthcare issues, Mylan’s EpiPen price increases – 461 percent since 2007 when the EpiPen sold for $100 for a pair – are nothing new, and “are core in their business strategy: this year, it also raised its prices for ursodiol, a generic medicine used to treat gallstones, by 542%, dicyclomine used for irritable bowel syndrome by 400% and metoclopramide, a generic drug that treats gastroesophageal reflux disease by 312%.”
Around the same time news broke of the massive EpiPen price increase, it was also reported that Mylan executives had received a massive salary increase. According to NBC News, “Proxy filings show that from 2007 to 2015, Mylan CEO Heather Bresch's total compensation went from $2,453,456 to $18,931,068, a 671 percent increase.”
Earlier this week, The New York Times reported that Mylan, one of the largest generic drug companies in the world, responded to outrage from patients and health care providers, by announcing that “it would it would introduce a generic version of the product, with a price about half of the existing EpiPen’s.” The new generic EpiPen “would have a wholesale list price of $300 for a pack of two, compared with just above $600 for the existing product.”
JAX JACOBSEN OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The state of Victoria in Australia has voted to ban fracking on its territory, further cementing the moratorium first put in place in 2012. It is the first Australian state to impose such a ban.
Premier Daniel Andrews announced Tuesday.
"It is clear that the Victorian community has spoken," the premier's office said in a statement. "They simply don't support fracking. The government's decision is based on the best available evidence and acknowledges that the risks involved outweigh any potential benefits to Australia."
The Victoria government had conducted a parliamentary inquiry into fracking for onshore gas in the state and received more than 1,600 submissions. Most of these were opposed to fracking.
The newly imposed ban will help protect agricultural industries and workers, the government said.
"Our state is the nation's top food and fiber producer with exports worth $11.6 billion," the statement said. "The permanent ban protects our farmers and preserves Victoria's hard-won reputation for producing high quality food."
More than 190,000 people are employed in the agricultural sector in Victoria.
JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Drought and Chimneys of Fire: It’s Abstract Until It Happens in Plain Sight:
For the last few weeks, we’ve been living under a sky of ash and smoke. The air is hazardous to one’s health; at times, it’s hard to breathe much less take my daily dog walks. A brown veil covers a bronze-colored sun. On the central coast of California, fires are raging at Big Sur, a landmark known for its Redwoods, profound cliffs and pristine beaches. South from here, the Rey Fire in Santa Barbara’s county has grown dramatically, east of Lake Cachuma.
Big Sur is also known for the legendary poet, Robinson Jeffers, who made it his home. It’s a good thing he’s dead—because if he were to see how we’ve trashed our earth and ourselves, he’d be horrified. The flames are spreading south near Hearst Castle, just an hour north of us.
We live on a ranch of dry vegetation which is susceptible to fires. All it takes is a spark. When you know the fires are closing in, you have to face the brutal reality of evacuation: you must be prepared for an escape plan, especially if you need to transport horses and animals. You have to assemble at a minimum what you deem valuable because once the winds shift, the fires can spread faster than all the hard-working fire-fighters and planes combined. There are many families that have met a tragic fate of watching their homes (all their sacred belongings) go up in flames.
The silence is haunting. Less than a decade ago, there were thousands of seasonal birds that migrated to the central coast; it served as a wildlife and bird sanctuary. At this time of year, hundreds of redwing blackbirds would gather in the willow forest where we used to have a pond that dried up after 2012 from the drought. Redwing blackbirds are loud, as if each one among the large assembly demanded the final word in their dispute, then suddenly, absolute silence, only for the cacophony to start up again. This enchanting bird-ceremony became a joyful amusement for me; in fact, the redwing blackbirds have entered the pages of my poetry many a time.
DR. DAVID SUZUKI OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Along with concerns about climate change and the distances much of our food travels from farm to plate, that's spurred a renewed interest in producing food where people live. Urban agriculture won't resolve all food production and distribution problems, but it could help take pressure off rural land while providing other advantages. From balcony, backyard, rooftop, indoor and community gardens to city beehives and chicken coops to larger urban farms and farmers markets, growing and distributing local food in or near cities is a healthy way to help the environment.
And it's much more. As writer and former Vancouver city councillor Peter Ladner (also a David Suzuki Foundation board member) writes in The Urban Food Revolution: Changing the Way We Feed Cities, "When urban agriculture flourishes, our children are healthier and smarter about what they eat, fewer people are hungry, more local jobs are created, local economies are stronger, our neighborhoods are greener and safer, and our communities are more inclusive."
Local and urban agriculture can also help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and recycle nutrient-rich food scraps, plant debris and other "wastes." Because maintaining lawns for little more than aesthetic value requires lots of water, energy for upkeep and often pesticides and fertilizers, converting them to food gardens makes sense.
PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
driverless vehicle is here, destined to eliminate millions of transport and taxi-driving positions. Car manufacturing is being done by 3-D printing. An entire building was erected in Dubai with a 3-D printer. Restaurants are being designed with no waitstaff or busboys, hotels with no desk clerks, bellhops, and porters. Robot teachers are interacting with students in Japan and the UK.
There are plenty of naysayers and skeptics, of course. The Atlantic proclaimed, "The job market defied doomsayers in those earlier times, and according to the most frequently reported jobs numbers, it has so far done the same in our own time." But this is a different time, with no guarantees of job revolutions, and in fact a time of unprecedented machine intelligence that threatens the livelihoods even of doctors, teachers, accountants, architects, the clergy, consultants, and lawyers.
Most of our new jobs are in service industries, including retail and personal health care and food service. The only one of the eight fastest-growing occupations that pays over $33,000 per year is nursing -- and even nursing may give way to Robotic Nurse Assistants. The evidence for downsized jobs keeps accumulating. A US Mayors study found that 'recovery' jobs pay 23 percent less than the positions they replaced. The National Employment Law Project estimates that low-wage jobs accounted for 22 percent of job losses but 44 percent of subsequent job gains. Business Insider, Huffington Post, and the Wall Street Journal all concur: the unemployment rate is remaining low because of low-paying jobs.
We're fooling ourselves by believing in a future with satisfying middle-class jobs for millions of Americans. It's becoming clear that income should be guaranteed, so that recipients have the wherewithal and incentive and confidence to find productive ways to serve society.
WENONAH HAUTER OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Environmental Health Perspectives revealed associations between fracking and various health symptoms including nasal and sinus problems, migraines and fatigue in Pennsylvanians living near areas of natural gas development. The study suggests that residents with the highest exposure to active fracking wells are nearly twice as likely to suffer from the symptoms.A new study out today from Johns Hopkins in
This is the third study released by Hopkins in the past year that connects proximity to fracking sites with adverse health outcomes. Last fall, researchers found an association between fracking and premature births and high-risk pregnancies, and last month, found ties between fracking and asthma.
What's more, a 2014 investigation revealed how health workers in Pennsylvania were silenced by the state Department of Health (DOH) and told not to respond to health inquiries that used certain fracking "buzzwords." Documents obtained by Food & Water Watch last year indicate the DOH was inundated with fracking-related health concerns ranging from shortness of breath and skin problems to asthma, nose and throat irritation, which were ignored or pushed aside.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
It is hard to grasp the price gouging and unregulated sky-high profiteering of drug companies in the United States, but the rise in the cost of the lifesaving EpiPens -- a drug that can save people from lethal allergic attacks -- certainly offers a searing example. As news accounts have revealed, the pharmaceutical firm Mylan raised the price of the medication by hundreds of dollars after it acquired the injection patent from another firm. There was no increase in production costs, just exorbitant overcharging to achieve extortion-level profits. After all, this is a drug that some people need to live through possible deadly allergic reactions.
As Jordan Weissman of Slate sardonically expressed in an article yesterday, "The CEO who hiked EpiPen prices actually just said, “No one’s more frustrated than me.” Say what? Heather Bresch, the Mylan CEO just quoted, would have us believe that her firm was forced by "the system" to pick the pockets of consumers to purchase a drug without which they could die? Of course, the reality is that Mylan made out like modern day brigands because of greed. The only aspect of the EpiPens scandal that Bresch is likely "frustrated" with is the public relations damage to her company and increased calls to rein in the pricing of Big Pharma. As Weissman quips, "It all almost makes you miss Martin Shkreli; at least he was happy to own his villainy."
Of course, EpiPens is only one medication. As a Truthout article recently detailed, a populist effort to bring pharmaceutical prices down -- at least for those who can least afford costly prescriptions -- is now playing out in California.
ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUTKEN ROSEBORO OF
Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch
Last year, Kade McBroom launched a non-GMO soybean processing plant in Malden, Missouri, and was optimistic about the potential to serve the fast-growing non-GMO market.
But now McBroom sees a potential threat to his new business from herbicide drift sprayed on genetically modified crops. This past spring, Monsanto Co. started selling GM Roundup Ready Xtend soybean and cotton seeds to farmers in Missouri and several other states. The seeds are genetically engineered to withstand sprays of glyphosate and dicamba herbicides. The problem is that the Xtend dicamba herbicide designed to go with the seeds has not yet been approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), leading many farmers to spray their GMO soybeans and cotton with older formulas of dicamba -- illegally.
May Not Be Able to Grow Non-GMO Soybeans
While Monsanto's GMO crops can tolerate sprays of dicamba, other crops can't. As a result, dicamba, which is known to convert from a liquid to a gas and spread for miles, is damaging tens of thousands of acres of "non-target" crops in southern Missouri and nine other states, mostly in the South. An estimated 200,000 acres are affected in Missouri alone, though the EPA puts that number at 40,000. Non-GMO and even GMO, soybeans that aren't dicamba resistant are damaged as well as peaches, tomatoes, watermelon, cantaloupe and other crops.
MARK KARLIN, BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
An August 24 New York Time article reports on how important remittances (money sent home by workers living in other countries) are to the economic stability of nations with high poverty rates:
The millions of migrant workers who drill for oil, deliver pizza or take care of older adults far from home sent nearly $582 billion back to their countries in 2015, according to the World Bank....
....remittances have become crucial to relieving some of the world’s poorest people from hunger and want, just as they have become a major revenue source for a number of fragile nations.
A separate World Bank study found that remittances were the main reason poverty had declined so sharply there in recent years. Not only do families of migrant workers benefit, the study found; so does everybody else, when the families spend that money locally.
A 2015 Reuters article stated that the Mexican government disclosed:
Two million more Mexicans fell into poverty between 2012 and 2014, government data showed on Thursday, highlighting the challenges President Enrique Pena Nieto faces in meeting pledges to lift millions out of need.
The poverty rate increased by 0.7 percentage point to 46.2 percent last year from 45.5 percent in 2012, equivalent to 55.3 million people in the nation of nearly 120 million, said government social development agency Coneval.
As a result, additional revenue -- such as remittances -- that are sent to Mexico are even more vital for many people's survival. The Mexican economy currently resembles an oligarchy, and dramatic political change in the direction of economic justice does not appear to be on the horizon in the near future. This is due to a variety of factors, including the US's efforts to ensure that Mexico does not engage in real economic reform, which would distract it from becoming a full-fledged member of the neoliberal global economy.