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aaaLakeMead(Photo: EcoWatch)Lake Mead, America’s largest U.S. reservoir when at capacity, is about to hit a critical new low. The reservoir near Las Vegas on the Colorado River has been in decline for decades because the reservoir and the larger Colorado River system has been over-allocated for many years. As of yesterday, the elevation of Lake Mead was 1,075.96. The reservoir is only days away from hitting 1,075 feet, according to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s projections. That number is the threshold set in a 2007 agreement as part of the U.S. Department of Interior’s Colorado River Interim Guidelines, which calls for delivery cuts if water levels in Lake Mead drops below that level.

These cuts will be the first set of mandatory water delivery curtailments to Lake Mead. Should the water levels continue to drop, as they are expected to—due to the prolonged drought, climate change and poor water management—more cuts will be required. The Western Water Policy Program and the Bren School of Environmental Management at the University of California, Santa Barbara recently released their spring report, The Bathtub Ring, which examines the impacts as Lake Mead levels decline to 1075 feet, 1050 feet, 1025 feet and 1000 feet.

The Bureau of Reclamation predicts the first round of cuts could take place in January 2017 with Arizona and Southern Nevada seeing the biggest cuts. Arizona plans to curtail “groundwater recharge efforts” and cut “deliveries to farmers with low-priority rights,” according to the Las Vegas Sun. Arizona’s cities “would be unaffected, at least initially.” Southern Nevada, for its part, “has prepared with conservation, saving enough water that residents and businesses won’t be affected if a portion no longer is available.”


aaaaracismchoking(Photo: The All-Nite Images)

A tsunami of racist brutal and deadly policing is being reported daily. Of course, killings and police assaults on people of color are not a new development. A rising movement of resistance - along with the increased availability of video recordings of the incidents - have finally brought police racism to the forefront.

Of course, the systemic context on the war on people of color is also deeply tied to the mass incarceration system, which is where the prisoners of that war are deprived of their rights and, often for decades, stigmatized and used as sources of revenue for a vast criminalization industry.

This is the byproduct of cultural and state institutional polices that sanction the open presence of police racism and racist strategies of policing. Northerners who smugly believe that this is a problem confined to the South are enabling the problem's perpetuation in the former Union states.  

Look at any large northern state and you will find a disproportionate number of people of color confined in the mass incarceration system. You will also find policing strategies that are created to treat people of color, particularly those of limited economic means, as guilty until proven innocent. The police practices of the US's three largest cities - New York, Los Angeles and Chicago - are all rife with entrenched racism.

Tuesday, 09 June 2015 12:25

Is the Fracking Boom Coming to an End?


aaaFrackWellhead(Photo: Joshua Doubek)Since fracking began its boom period in the last decade, its supporters have promoted it as the answer to all of  the U.S.’s energy issues. It would free us from dependence on foreign oil, they said, thereby strengthening national security. And in fact, the U.S. has become the world’s largest exporter of fossil fuels, while prices at the gas pump have dropped steeply as fracked oil and gas production has exploded. States like Texas, Colorado, North Dakota, Pennsylvania and Ohio have welcomed frackers to their shale deposits, even though others, such as New York and Maryland, have resisted the lure due to concerns about fracking’s impacts on human health and the environment.

But could the gravy train be derailing? While production is still at record levels, there are signs that should worry any company or economy that is heavily invested in the fracking process.

Compared to conventional wells, fracked wells tend to be initially productive but taper off quickly and then are shut down as operators move to new locations. And that is starting to catch up with them.

“Production has to come down because rigs drilling for oil are down 57 percent this year,” James Williams, president of Arkansas-based energy consultancy WTRG Economicstold Bloomberg News. “Countering that is the fact that the rigs we’re still using are more efficient and drilling in areas where you get higher production. So that has delayed the decline.”


aaaHastert(Photo: Neutrality)Late last week, the Associated Press' Mary Clare Jalonick reported that a Montana woman interviewed by the FBI claimed that "her brother was sexually abused while in high school by [former House Speaker] Dennis Hastert, the wrestling coach who would become speaker of the House."

According to the AP story, Jolene Burdge of Billings, Montana, said "that the FBI interviewed her in mid-May about Hastert. She said her brother told her before he died in 1995 that his first homosexual contact was with Hastert and that the relationship lasted through all of his high school years."

Burdge, who in an interview with ABC's "Good Morning America" identified her brother as Stephen Reinboldt, "said Hastert had been a father figure to him at high school. But she also said she believed that relationship had caused irreparable harm. 'He damaged Steve, I think, more than any of us will ever know,' she told the morning show," AP reported.

Too much time has passed for Hastert to be indicted on sexual abuse charges, but he has been indicted on charges "accus[ing] Hastert of evading bank regulations in withdrawing hundreds of thousands of dollars and lying to the FBI about the reason for the withdrawals. The document says Hastert agreed to pay a total of $3.5 million to someone identified only as 'Individual A' to 'compensate for and conceal (Hastert's) prior misconduct' against that person. But it does not go into any detail about the alleged misconduct."


aaaacnnlogo3(Photo: Gregor Smith)

You may not know that sometimes the "news" that you are reading in a newspaper, online, or watching on television is not really "objective" news at all: it's paid-corporate PR that is known as native advertising.

The reason that you might not realize that you are reading an article or whole section that is nothing more than an ad disguised as news is that often the disclaimers that "this content is paid for" (or some variation in wording) are in such small type, you can hardly see them. Add that to the fact that regular news consumers are now often reading information at a dizzying pace so that even if there were a large disclaimer, it might go unnoticed by readers surfing through news sources.

In short, the line between the already corporate-influenced and self-serving mass media news coverage and ads is becoming increasingly blurred. It's hard to imagine that the corporate imprimatur on what is news and the frame in which it is presented could get worse, but it is.


astpetevictmemRelatives of an estimated 16 - 25 million Russians who lost their lives during WW II hold placards in memory of their loved ones on Victory Day (May 9, 2015) in St. Petersburg. (Photo: Bobchik)

It was the 70th celebration of Victory Day over Nazi Germany on May 9 in St. Petersburg, Russia, and I was there. On the Internet in my hotel, I read that the US was snubbing the day. Victory Day honors the Russian WW II dead and Russians take pride in the defeat of an adversary that nearly conquered the Soviet Union.

Obama and Western European leaders did not send senior officials to the largest Victory Day gathering in Moscow, ostensibly to further repudiate Russian President Vladimir Putin for the ongoing Ukraine crisis.

However, being in St. Petersburg on what is also called the "Great Patriotic War Victory Day," I saw a massive outpouring of modern Russian, now capitalist, citizens carrying placards with photos of ancestors who died in WW II.  As the Business Insider reported in a 2014 article, "In terms of total numbers, the Soviet Union bore an incredible brunt of casualties during WWII. An estimated 16,825,000 people died in the war, over 15 percent of its population." Some estimates run in the range of 20 - 26 million Russians killed in WW II, which would raise the percentage of mortalities among the population at the time to approximately 20 – 25 percent of the then Soviet population. By contrast, the US lost approximately 420,000 soldiers, according to the Business Insider, or roughly one percent of the nation's population.

What's more, during the nearly 900-day gruesome Nazi siege of St. Petersburg (known as Leningrad in WW II) - the History website estimates the loss of "an estimated one million Soviet lives [including military defenders], perhaps hundreds of thousands more." It is possible then that perhaps half of current St. Petersburg residents have relatives going back one to three generations who died as a result of the war.

2015.8.6 BF Wasserman(Photo: : : w i n t e r t w i n e d : :)HARVEY WASSERMAN OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article republished with permission from EcoWatch.

Ok. So we don’t expect much from these mega-blockbuster disaster films.

But maybe just a hint about reality could spice things up. At least maybe a passing acknowledgement that the actual San Andreas could turn the Diablo Canyon nukes into a seething heap of radioactive rubble and permanently irradiate all of California?

Is that too much to ask, even of Hollywood?

Apparently so.

In a Hollywood high-budget Earth-coming-to-an-end flick like this one, there will always be a lame love story, totally improbable close calls where death is narrowly escaped again and again, and lead characters—male and female alike—with zero body fat who emerge onto the screen fresh from four hours of pumping iron.

San Andreas more than delivers on all of the above. The male lead (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) might be mistaken in some circles for basketball superstar LeBron James, who is six feet eight, 250 pounds—but who leaps like a gazelle and ball handles like a ballerina.

2015.8.6 BF Buchheit(Photo: Kevin Burkett)PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

The discussion to follow borrows from several resources, summarized at You Deserve Facts:

  1. Freedom House: Determinations of national 'freedom' based on political rights and civil liberties.
  2. Democracy Index: Classification of nations as 24 full democracies, 50 flawed democracies, 35 hybrid regimes and 36 authoritarian regimes. States without militarization rankings and arms transfer data were excluded.
  3. Global Militarization Index: The relative weight and importance of the military apparatus of one state in relation to its society as a whole.
  4. SIPRI Arms Transfers Database: Information on all transfers of major conventional weapons. Figures from this leading arms-tracker Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) are generally low, because they represent estimates of current (not agreed-upon) production costs (not sales costs).
  5. Global Wealth Databook: Credit Suisse 2014 Wealth Statistics.

Terrifying Facts

The most militarized states (1/4 of the total) received almost 2/3 of America's arms transfers (i.e., the 38 most militarized of 148 nations, plus Taiwan, which did not have a militarization ranking). This, of course, prompts a question about cause and effect: Do our arms sales contribute to increased militarization of other countries, or does the militarization encourage more business with the United States? Either way, our behavior is unconscionable.

Over a quarter of all our arms sales goes to five "Non-Free" countries: UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iraq, Oman (Democracy Index calls three of them "authoritarian regimes," and Iraq and Egypt "hybrids").


aaaDevilsTower(Photo: VaderSS)In my last Buzzflash at Truthout piece, Oil Kills Everything It Covers, I wrote about Plains All American’s horrific oil tragedy that happened on the 19th of May off Refugio Beach, north of Santa Barbara. It could have been prevented if Plains had installed a state-required automatic shut-off valve. But in the 1980s, Plains won a lawsuit that gave regulatory control of the company to the federal government, which didn’t require an automatic shut-off valve. Why? Security maintenance is “unprofitable”. Consequently, an estimated 105,000 gallons of crude oil gushed into the Pacific Ocean from a ruptured, eroding pipe. Tar balls are currently washing up on favorite, southern California beaches. In a twist of irony, angry reporters have been barred from inspecting the on-going damage, a blatant violation of their First Amendment rights. Talk about distorting the Bill of Rights, an oil corporation can exercise “freedom of speech and freedom of the press,” but apparently, those rights and protections are not afforded to individuals or journalists.  

Many of these oil & gas pipelines are over 30 years old in the U.S. It should be a mandatory requirement to replace them all. Or better yet, replace fossil fuels with solar and wind energy. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) said that “this oil spill off the Santa Barbara coast is tragic. This highlights the dangers posed by these pipelines and underscores why I have spent decades fighting against oil drilling off the California coast.” Plains’ long delay and clean-up response have been described as “shockingly insufficient.”  

The heartbreaking part of this tragedy is that this oil spill is going to kill a lot of whales, dolphins, seabirds and much more...


walmartmarket(Photo: Mike Mozart)

Joann Lo, Co-Director of the Food Chain Workers Alliance, recently wrote on Capital & Main:

Walmart, number one on the Fortune 500 list of American companies, has net sales totaling $473.1 billion. With foodstuffs making up 55 percent of its sales, this corporation controls 25 percent of grocery sales in the U.S. Consequently, Walmart’s actions and inactions reverberate through the food chain, making huge impacts on agricultural practices, treatment of workers, consumer health, the environment and outsourcing of jobs. In recognition of these impacts, Walmart has created an  "Ethical Sourcing" standards manual for its suppliers. But our investigation of Walmart’s practices shows that the thirst for extraordinary profits too often wins out over a code of ethics.

The Food Chain Workers Alliance just released a report, "Walmart at the Crossroads." The analysis concludes, "Walmart’s commitments to improving standards appear to be mostly a public relations stunt and haven’t translated into improvements in conditions for most of its food supply chain."

BuzzFlash pointed out in a column this week that Ben & Jerry's, now a wholly owned subsidiary of the global corporation Unilever, tries to avoid responsibility for the squalid working conditions and substandard pay of many of its dairy farm workers through a so-called voluntary compliance program for subcontracted dairy farms, Walmart hides behind voluntary compliance "ethical sourcing" guidelines.

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