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WENONAH HAUTER OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Fracking 0826wrp opt(Photo: Joshua Doubek)A new study out today from Johns Hopkins in 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.

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.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016august26 bigpharmaBig Pharma is spending millions of dollars trying to defeat a California pro-consumer proposition. (Image:EnvironmentalIllnessNetwork)

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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.

soybeans destroyed by pesticides(Photo: United Soybean Board)KEN ROSEBORO OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

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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

2016august25 remittancesRemittances to Mexico total an estiamated $25 billion and play a key role in the survival of the poor, who comprise more than 45 percent of the population. (Photo: Richard Allaway)

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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.

Survivors of Katrina wading through floodwater(Photo: News Muse)BILL QUIGLEY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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Hurricane Katrina hit eleven years ago.  Population of the City of New Orleans is down by over 95,000 people from 484,674 in 2000 to 389,617 in 2015.  Almost all this loss of people is in the African American community. Child poverty is up, double the national average. The gap between rich and poor in New Orleans is massive, the largest in the country. The economic gap between well off whites and low income African Americans is widening. Despite receiving $76 billion in assistance after Katrina, it is clear that poor and working people in New Orleans, especially African Americans, got very little of that help. Here are the numbers.

35           The New Orleans Regional Transit Authority reported that 62 percent of pre-Katrina service has been restored. But Ride New Orleans, a transit rider organization, says streetcar rides targeted at tourists are fully restored but bus service for regular people is way down, still only at 35 percent of what it was before Katrina. That may explain why there has been a big dip in the number of people using public transportation in New Orleans, down from 13 percent in 2000 to 9 percent now.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Pivot 0824wrp opt(Photo: Mechanics Magazine, 1824)Welcome to the world of Donald Trump's long-awaited “Pivot.” With a recent quasi-apology under his belt -- "I do regret it [the litany of insults] particularly where it may have caused personal pain” -- and a newly constituted Team Trump -- especially the media-savvy/friendly and very capable message massager Kellyanne Conway -- are you ready for the hugest and the greatest pivot ever?

The mainstream media has been craving it, only fearing that it might not materialize quickly enough. Obviously, the fading campaign desperately needs it. But will the public buy into it?

Over the past few weeks, my wife and I have been discussing "The Pivot." No, not how U.S. Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte recently pivoted away from his phony Rio robbery story and apologized; nor have we been extolling the skills of Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, or other great National Basketball Association pivot men. Broadly defined, “The Pivot,” usually happens right after the primaries, as a campaign understands it needs to soften its message and broaden its appeal. Now, after a several months long run at letting Trump be Trump, his new campaign team, and The Donald himself, may finally be recognizing that there might not be enough blue-collar white men to carry him to victory, and he needs to do something different to appeal to independents.

So, Trump has replaced the campaign’s leadership, which has led, according to some pundits, to a shift in messaging, and tone.

Trump’s so-called pivot started with his making appeals for the African American vote. ABC News’ Candace Smith reported that “Trump, who shook up his staff in recent days, appeared to strike a different tone during his speech at the Charlotte Convention Center, reading from a teleprompter, as he has chided Hillary Clinton for doing and again making an appeal to African-American voters.”

GEORGE LAKOFF FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Salad 0824wrp opt(Photo: jeffreyw)Responsible reporters in the media normally transcribe political speeches so that they can accurately report them. But Donald Trump’s discourse style has stumped a number of reporters. Dan Libit, CNBC’s excellent analyst is one of them. Libit writes:

His unscripted speaking style, with its spasmodic, self-interrupting sentence structure, has increasingly come to overwhelm the human brains and tape recorders attempting to quote him.

Trump is, simply put, a transcriptionist's worst nightmare: severely unintelligible, and yet, incredibly important to understand.

Given how dramatically recent polls have turned on his controversial public utterances, it is not hyperbolic to say that the very fate of the nation, indeed human civilization, appears destined to come down to one man's application of the English language — and the public's comprehension of it. It has turned the rote job of transcribing into a high-stakes calling.

Trump's crimes against clarity are multifarious: He often speaks in long, run-on sentences, with frequent asides. He pauses after subordinate clauses. He frequently quotes people saying things that aren't actual quotes. And he repeats words and phrases, sometimes with slight variations, in the same sentence.

Some in the media (Washington Post, Salon, Slate, Think Progress, etc.) have called Trump’s speeches “word salad.” Some commentators have even attributed his language use to “early Alzheimer’s,” citing “erratic behavior” and “little regards for social conventions.” I don’t believe it.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016aug24 trumpaliensPhotoshop of Donald Trump and his friends.  (Photo: IoSonoUnaFotoCamera)

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Oh, how the mainstream corporate media loves to roll out their templated coverage of elections every four years. This "coverage" has everything to do with personality, sports analogies and scripted timelines. And as we've pointed out in recent commentaries for the post-convention summer coverage, the mass media loves to push the candidates toward a so-called "reset" of their campaigns, a few months ahead of the general election. In this scenario, the candidates "pivot" in order to "stay on message," moving toward the mythical "center" of the voting public, which is chockfull of the often-mentioned "independent voters."

These clichéd and lazy journalistic conventions allow reporters to create a political process that is not only ridiculously predictable, but is also a betrayal of any commitment to an exploration of real public policy options.

In short, the mass media is a bit distressed because instead of rewriting articles from campaigns past, they are actually having to try to explain how Trump has managed to go through many short-lived pivots. It must be frustrating to the elite political scribes that Trump appears to be going through a revolving door and ending right back where he started, as a bully, bigoted, authoritarian narcissist.

After all, how could Trump be "pivoting" to the center when his new campaign head is Stephen Bannon, CEO of what is known as the alt-right Breitbart News (until he joined the Trump campaign)? From the beginning, Trump has been in line with the alt-right movement: openly misogynist, Islamophobic, anti-LGBTQ, anti-immigrant and authoritarian.

DR. DAVID SUZUKIE OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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.”

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