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Thursday, 07 January 2016 00:00

Taking on the Nuclear Goliath

2016.7.1 BF KOEHLER(Photo: International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons)ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

“Just as we stood for freedom in the 20th century, we must stand together for the right of people everywhere to live free from fear in the 21st century. And . . . as the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon, the United States has a moral responsibility to act. We cannot succeed in this endeavor alone, but we can lead it, we can start it.

“So today, I state clearly and with conviction America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.”

Uh . . .

These words, the core of President Obama’s first major foreign policy speech, delivered in Prague in April 2009, now resonate with nothing so much as toxic irony — these pretty words, these words of false hope, which disappeared into Washington’s military-industrial consensus and failed to materialize into action or policy.

James Carroll, writing at Mother Jones in 2013, describes what happened in the wake of this extraordinary policy declaration:

“In order to get the votes of Senate Republicans to ratify the START treaty, Obama made what turned out to be a devil’s bargain. He agreed to lay the groundwork for a vast ‘modernization’ of the US nuclear arsenal, which, in the name of updating an aged system, is already morphing into a full-blown reinvention of the arms cache at an estimated future cost of more than a trillion dollars. In the process, the Navy wants, and may get, 12 new strategic submarines; the Air Force wants, and may get, a new long-range strike bomber force. Bombers and submarines would, of course, both be outfitted with next-generation missiles, and we’d be off to the races. The arms races.”

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaFearBerkowitz1(Photo: D Sharon Pruitt)At Central Florida's Lowell Correctional Institute, the largest women's prison in the country, the most salacious of women-in-prison movie scenarios meets a real life "Dante's Inferno"; in this case, the nine circles of suffering embody day-to-day life. A recent Miami Herald I-Team investigation found Lowell Correctional Institute to be a cesspool of corruption, where prisoners have been forced to exchange sex for basic necessities, where rape and sexual assault have become routine, where the smuggling of drugs and other contraband is rampant, and corruption and cover-ups proliferate.

Marion County Chief Assistant State Attorney Ric Ridgway has called what's happening at Lowell, "akin to prostitution."

"With 2,696 inmates in a sprawling maze of drab gray, un-airconditioned buildings, the institution sits amid rolling green hills and pristine thoroughbred horse farms in Central Florida," the Miami Herald's Julie K. Brown recently reported. "But the women who have done time here say Lowell's quiet veneer belies the corruption, torment and sexual abuse within."

According to the investigation, "Documents show inmates have complained that officers from the Florida Department of Corrections spit in their faces, threaten to slam them into concrete and call them whores, bitches and porch monkeys. They say male prison staffers tramp through the showers, make them flash their breasts on a whim and force them to beg for basic necessities, like toilet paper, soap and sanitary napkins."

KYLA MANDEL OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaHot(Photo: EcoWatch)So you thought December was unusually warm? Well, ditch that sweater because 2016 is forecasted to be the hottest year ever recorded.

According to the UK Met Office, the global average temperature for next year is expected to be between 0.72 C and 0.96 C above the long-term (between 1961-1990) average of 14 C.

There is just a 5 percent chance that 2016 will be below the 2015 global average temperature, the Met Office said.

“2015 is on track to be the warmest year on record and this forecast suggests 2016 is likely to be at least as warm, if not warmer,” Professor Chris Folland, Met Office research fellow, said.

As the Met Office explained, human-induced climate change and a “smaller effect” from El Niño caused by unusually warm waters in the tropical Pacific Ocean are the main drivers within its forecast.

“The Met Office’s 2016 forecast is certainly dramatic and, if realized, would be towards the upper end of the range predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in their most recent assessment report,” Ed Hawkins, an associate professor at the University of Reading, told Carbon Brief.

Tuesday, 29 December 2015 00:00

How Dick Cheney Ruined My Christmas

JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaCheneyMarcus(Photo: Senior Airman Julianne Showalter)My Christmas was ruined.  I accidentally came across a picture of Dick Cheney, George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld. I tried to erase that awful image that lingered like a terrific migraine headache, Cheney’s stern, crooked mouth, the lies and deceptions, but it left an indelible stain on my brain. 

Nightmares of the Bush years crossed the theatre of my mind with the knowledge that it all began with Bush and Cheney, the devastating consequences that led to a world-wide depression from bombs to poverty to turning our soldiers into creatures of their decadent policies of brutality and torture. 

I sat down to write this editorial because I want to remember. 

To remember is to know, contrary to Obama’s speeches, that we can never “move forward” until justice is served, until the war criminals are prosecuted and sentenced to long prison terms for authorizing illegal invasions, torture, mass killings, and for stealing billions of dollars, what could be characterized as the largest burglary of our nation’s treasury in the history of the United States. 

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaJesusRedPope(Photo: Andreas Wahra)Aah, 'tis the season for family, friends, eggnog, chipmunks singing Christmas carols — and all-out, no-mercy, blow-'em-all-to-hell war.

Not war like in Afghanistan. No, no — this is the far right's God-awful "War on Christmas." In this season of Peace on Earth, a delusional faction of rightists has cooked up a hokey "cultural crisis" to rally their own followers by fomenting hatred of ... well, of whom? "Blasphemous-liberal-Democrat-atheist-humanists," they shout!

The infidels are not accused of lobbing actual bombs in this "war," but Words of Mass Destruction. Specifically, wail the purists, unholy left-wingers go around saying "happy holidays," rather than "merry Christmas," as Jesus taught us to say. Or was it Constantine the Great in the fourth century who came up with that?

Never mind, the rightists' point is that diabolical lefties (i.e., Marxists) are out to ban Christmas entirely. Heroic defender of the faith Sarah Palin has even written a thin book about this devious plot, revealing that "happy holidays" is merely "the tip of the spear in a larger battle to ... make true religious freedom a thing of America's past."

Luckily, note the Merry Christmas crusaders, there are such bright lights as Indiana State Sen. Jim Smith. Smith hopes to join Texas, Alabama, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Tennessee in the "Merry Christmas Club" — in pushing state laws to allow Christian icons and ceremonies into our schools. Then there's U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn from Colorado. He and 35 of his fellow Republican congress critters have proposed a House resolution to protect Christmas. "A creche in every public space," is their cry, "a cross on every city hall." To hell with Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, the winter solstice, etc.: This is war!

Actually, no, this is hokum, flimflammery, hoodoo, camel dung. It's also insulting that they would attempt to try to generate a major social conflict over the fiction that the phrase "happy holidays" constitutes religious discrimination, whine that they are a repressed minority and equate it with war. First: Jews, Muslims and others don't get to brand public spaces as their religious property. Second: Nearly three-fourths of Americans are Christian, so drop the put-upon martyr pose. And third: War really is hell, with blood, lifelong trauma and death, so stop pretending you're in one.

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBrain(Photo: Gaetan Lee)1. Accept that Poverty Causes Marital Problems, Not the Other Way Around

In his condescending way, libertarian Charles Murray wrote: "There remains a core of civic virtue and involvement in working-class America...Married, educated people who work hard and conscientiously raise their kids shouldn't hesitate to voice their disapproval of those who defy these norms." Senator Marco Rubio agrees, calling marriage the "greatest tool" for lifting families out of poverty.

Marriage, to such people, spreads magic anti-poverty dust over newly-wedded couples.

Here are the facts: Upper-class and lower-class divorce rates rose and fell in similar fashion until the late 1980s, around the time inequality began to rip apart the fabric of American society, and to break down low-income family life. Evidence keeps piling up. Studies show that children whose families receive housing vouchers end up with higher marriage rates. On the other hand, two-thirds of single mothers who heed conservative advice and get married end up divorced. And despite what Murray's followers might think, race isn't a factor. A Pennsylvania study concluded that "over time, it has become evident that poor economic circumstances would produce comparable effects on whites just as they did for blacks." Pew Research Center found little difference between white and black fathers, and the Center for Disease Control found that black fathers are in many ways more involved with their kids than fathers in other racial groups.

2. Learn that Democratic Socialism Does Not Mean Government Control

Social democracy is 100 percent American. Our nation instituted a public education system, a long-successful retirement program, and a national park system. Gar Alperovitz describes the modern form of socialism, which is "about decentralizing power, changing the flow of power to localities rather than to the center." The Evergreen Cooperative in Cleveland, the public Bank of North Dakota, the Tennessee Valley Authority, and the Chattanooga Internet service are all examples of the distributed popular control of essential services. The approach works.

The most socialist program in the U.S. is probably the Alaska Permanent Fund, which has received bipartisan support for 40 years, even from staunch Republicans such as Sarah Palin.

COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaweatherchristA record warm Christmas is likely on its way. (Photo: Twitter)

If you’re dreaming of a white Christmas in the eastern and central U.S., you can probably keep dreaming. As EcoWatch reported last week, the unseasonably warm weather has set a number of December records.

Many cities in the eastern and central U.S. will see temperatures 10-20 degrees above average this week. If you live in the Eastern or Central U.S., Friday could be “one of the warmest Christmas Days of your lifetime,” The Weather Channel reported Sunday.

“Several cities in the East will likely see their warmest Christmas Eve or Christmas Day on record, adding to the more than 2,600 daily record high temperatures that have been tied or broken across the Lower 48 in the first 19 days of the month. This mild forecast means the prospect for a white Christmas is highly unlikely for many east of the Rockies.”

“Due to the warming effects of the strong El Niño climate pattern, many places that often have a good chance of seeing snow Christmas Day will miss out this year,” explained AccuWeather. “El Niño has helped to strengthen a west-to-east jet stream that delivers mild Pacific air across the U.S.”

Tuesday, 22 December 2015 00:00

Mark Ruffalo: The Renewable Energy Race Is On

MARK RUFFALO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaParisCOP21(Photo: "A message of freedom and 100% renewable energy from Paris. Photo credit: Yann Arthus-Bertrand / Spectral Q")The climate agreement reached in Paris is provoking a flurry of caveats, criticisms and cautions. Many of those criticisms are warranted and there’s a lot of work ahead to make sure countries live up to their promises. But we should not miss a chance to celebrate a historic turning point.

World leaders finally made commitments to clean, renewable energy that will help to ensure a safer, healthier and more prosperous future for us all. The agreement signals that the age of fossil fuels is coming to a close and the age of renewable energy is dawning.

In many ways, the Paris deal is the mother of all market signals. To deliver on the promises world leaders made, we will need to leave coal and oil in the ground and move toward a complete reliance on clean energy. Let’s not miss the writing on the wall: fossil fuels are a losing bet, while renewables offer economic opportunity.

This is true for all segments of society—from energy investors to individual households that can save money on their energy bills by switching to rooftop solar power.

The Paris pact ratifies an ongoing renewable energy revolution spreading across the globe. Each year since 2013, the world has added more power-generating capacity fueled by renewable sources than from coal, natural gas and oil combined. Global investment in renewable energy hit $310bn last year, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. And major companies are pledging to go 100 percent renewable, too.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaatrumphairBeware of fascism in a pinstripe suit. (Photo: DonkeyHotey)

Revisiting Donald Trump's flirtation with the "birther" movement that goes back many years is worthwhile in understanding his current incarnation as the bellowing, vulgarian "king of the whites who feel displaced."

As reported in Talking Points Memo, 

Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio introduced Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump Wednesday at a rally by reminding everyone that they were both vocal members of the "birther" movement that questioned President Barack Obama's birth certificate.

Arpaio's comment came less than a day after the real estate mogul evaded a question about whether he thought Obama was a legitimate President....

Both Arpaio and Trump have been vocal members of the "birther" movement which claims Obama was born in Kenya.

In a September BuzzFlash commentary, we noted that Trumpism is really about coded white privilege. Trump may have started his campaign with scurrilous descriptions of Mexicans who seek refuge in the United States. However, in just a short period of time, he has fluidly moved from defaming Mexicans to denigrating Black Lives Matter protesters to slandering Muslims to once again evoking his "birther" movement credentials.

The "birther" movement is no small part of Trump's bombastic, demagogic appeal.

ERIN BROCKOVICH OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaPorterleak750(Photo: An infrared, time-lapse video of the natural gas leak in Porter Ranch, California. Photo credit: MSNBC / YouTube screenshot)Since October, residents of Porter Ranch, California, have been exposed to dangerous contaminants from a massive natural gas leak that continues to seep into the air, causing a catastrophe the scale of which has not been seen since the 2010 BP oil spill.

After only a week of visiting families in Porter Ranch, I am already experiencing the headaches, nausea and congestion that have plagued this community living at the center of one of the most significant environmental disasters in recent history.

Southern California Gas Co. or SoCalGas, has essentially ignored the impact to victims and its actions have instead added to their suffering. The company has refused to release air quality data that could be used to protect its residents, it has made relocation very difficult and it has forged ahead with plans to expand its facility before the leak has even been contained.

The enormity of the Aliso Canyon gas leak cannot be overstated. Gas is escaping through a ruptured pipe more than 8,000 feet underground and it shows no sign of stopping. As the pressure from weight on top of the pipe causes the gas to diffuse, it only continues to dissipate across a wider and wider area. According to tests conducted in November by the California Air Resources Board, the leak is spewing 50,000 kilograms of gas per hour—the equivalent to the strength of a volcanic eruption.

At this rate, in just one month, the leak will have accounted for one-quarter of the total estimated methane emissions in the state of California.

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