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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016April19 marinelepenMarine Le Pen is the face of the rising extreme right in France, as leader of the National Front Party founded by her scurrilous father. (Photo: Rémi Noyon )

An April 17 Spiegel Online article describes the growing vigilante movement in Eastern Europe to hunt down refugees from the Middle East, sometimes physically abusing and robbing them, and expelling them (as described in translation from the original German): 

They patrol as self-appointed vigilantes in riot gear against refugee camps. They help the police and the army in border management....

From the Baltic to Bulgaria -- everywhere in Eastern Europe such right-wing private militias and vigilantes have [grown]. Many of them came years ago out of its niche existence as gun nuts and homeland security fanatics and marched, for example, as a protective force against alleged "Gypsy crime" on. Now they have discovered vigilante activity that they hope to receive increased social acceptance for: the so-called "migrant defense."

"Years of xenophobic propaganda from the very top"

The Czech political analyst and researcher of extremism Miroslav Mares of the Masaryk University in Brno calls [the militias tracking refugees from the Middle East] an "uncontrolled and dangerous phenomenon."

"The new vigilantes have left the area of ​​the subculture," said Mares. "They are well organized, action-ready political forces."

Although Spiegel Online's coverage is focused on the Baltic nations, xenophobia -- not infrequently expressed through violence -- is on the rise across Europe. This includes the lethal impact of Europe's anti-refugee policies on the thousands of refugees who have died trying to circumvent Europe's strict immigration policies. 

JOSH FOX OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Sandy 0418wrp opt(Photo: NYC MTA)The climate science is uncompromising. We’ve already warmed the earth 1 degree Celsius. And we have enough carbon and methane and other greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere and enough heat in the oceans to warm the earth another half a degree Celsius already. So if we stop all greenhouse gas emissions right now, we’ve already reached the 1.5 degree threshold. The current 1 degree rise has already increased extreme weather, caused mammoth floods and unprecedented drought, it has gotten the ice caps to start a menacing thaw. The consequences of 1 degree have been far more severe than we ever imagined and we are on our way to 1.5 no matter what we do.

Now here’s the really tough part: At 2 degrees of warming, this gets much much worse. We are at an apocalyptic vision of the planet that few people want to imagine. We see worsening ocean acidification and other habitat loss that will kill off 30-50 percent of the species on the planet, we will see tropical diseases explode out of control and perhaps most damaging the slow thaw of the ice caps enters a critical and irreversible phase leading to between 5-9 meters of sea level rise.

At 7 meters of sea level rise, the greenhouse that just held the democratic debate in Brooklyn, where we saw the most robust discussion on climate change and fracking ever in presidential politics, will be under water. This kind of sea level rise will render New York City mostly uninhabitable. Sure, the Brooklyn Bridge won’t be underwater, but the on-ramp will be. Subways will be submerged, the Lower East Side, the Financial District, Red Hook, The Rockaways, the coast of Williamsburg, disappear under the east river and life in the Big Apple is nothing like what it was before.

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Hillary 0418wrp opt(Photo: C-SPAN)If, sad to ponder, the presidential election comes down to Hillary Clinton vs. a Republican, we'll be left either way with a business-friendly neocon White House. Given Hillary's past deceits and reversals, it's easy to see why she doesn't inspire trust among the American people.

1. Environment

"I won’t let anyone take us backward, deny our economy the benefits of harnessing a clean energy future, or force our children to endure the catastrophe that would result from unchecked climate change." --Hillary Clinton, 11/29/15

Greenpeace estimates that the Clinton campaign has taken $4.5 million from fossil fuel lobbyists and donors, and Naomi Klein and Grist have reported on all the money received from ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips and other oil sources. In response, Hillary explained, rather incoherently, "I have money from people who work for fossil fuel companies. I am so sick of the Sanders campaign lying about me."

2. War

"Is there really any argument that America must remain a preeminent leader for peace and freedom..?" --Hillary Clinton, 10/31/06

Dr. Jeffrey Sachs, an advisor to the United Nations, called Hillary "the candidate of the War Machine." In her book, "Hillary's Choice," author Gail Sheehy claimed it was Hillary who encouraged the president to bomb Kosovo. Then, as Secretary of State in 2011, she strongly supported war in Libya, a country which today is overwhelmed with crime and joblessness and a lack of basic necessities. She backed the escalation of the Afghanistan war, and in 2012, according to Sachs, she was largely responsible for the obstruction of peace efforts in Syria.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Hastert 0415wrp opt(Photo: Dennis Hastert)Will former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, a confirmed serial child molester, be held to any serious legal accountability? That’s a question that Dennis Hastert himself would have quickly and undoubtedly answered in the affirmative more than a dozen years ago when he was a congressman from Illinois, and then Speaker of the US House of Representatives.

To look back on it now, it was a remarkable series of events:

In December 1998, after then Speaker Newt Gingrich resigned due to, among other things, a series of sexual peccadilloes, and after calling on President Bill Clinton to resign during the impeachment debate, Rep. Bob Livingston (R-La.) told a stunned House that he himself would not assume the speakership as planned, and would resign his seat in Congress. His resignation came after he was threatened with public disclosure of a series of his sexual peccadilloes. (Ironically, Livingston’s seat was taken by David Vitter, became the first popularly elected Republican U.S. senator from Louisiana and subsequently admitted to having been involved in a prostitution ring run, which only recently finally put the kibosh on his career.)  

Next in line for the speakership was Dennis Hastert, the mild-mannered, occasionally gruff, but seemingly harmless congressman from Illinois. But Hastert had his own major secrets, and it took more than fifteen years for them to see the light of day.

Before revelations that Hastert had sexually abused students while he was a high school teacher and wrestling coach, Hastert was all about protecting the children.

Peabody Co. stripmining coal(Photo: Jeffery Scism)MARY ANNE HITT OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

This week, a giant that had been teetering for many months finally fell, as Peabody Coal officially declared bankruptcy. For market watchers around the globe, this was a decisive movement in the long decline of an industry that once seemed invincible—the New York Times called it “Wall Street’s retreat from King Coal.” For those of us who live and work in Appalachia, this is the IMAX version of a movie we’ve seen many times before, one where coal company executives take the money and run, attempting to leave communities and taxpayers holding the bag for ruined communities, workers, mountains and rivers.

This time, we can’t let them get away with it. There’s way too much at stake.

crop duster like the one weaponized for Erik Prince(Photo: Scott Butner)BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Once again, Erik Prince is back in the news. Jeremy Scahill, who has been investigating, writing about, and exposing Prince’s private security enterprises since Prince’s Blackwater USA days, has, along with co-author Matthew Cole, come up with an explosive and comprehensive piece of investigative reporting involving the headline-avoiding Prince. Scahill and Cole’s story, published at The Intercept and titled “Echo Papa Exposed: Inside Erik Prince’s Treacherous Drive to Build a Private Air Force,  provides the details behind Prince’s secret efforts to build his own private air force.

For several months, workers at a company called Airborne Technology, located about 30 miles south of Vienna, “had worked nearly nonstop to modify an American-made Thrush 510G crop duster to the exact specifications of an unnamed client. Everything about the project was cloaked in secrecy,” Scahill and Cole report. The client was only known as “Echo Papa,” and company officials “instructed employees to use code words to discuss certain modifications made to the plane.” Echo Papa was Erik Prince, who it turned out, “owned more than a quarter of their company. “

The plane was decked out with “surveillance and laser-targeting equipment,” as well as “bulletproof cockpit windows, an armored engine block, anti-explosive mesh for the fuel tank, and specialized wiring that could control rockets and bombs. The company also installed pods for mounting two high-powered 23 mm machine guns.”

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

TownMeeting 0413wrp opt(Photo: Redjar)In my travels and conversations this year, I've been encouraged that grassroots people of all progressive stripes (populist, labor, liberal, environmental, women, civil libertarian, et al.) are well aware of the slipperiness of "victory" and want Washington to get it right this time. So over and over, Question No. 1 that I encounter is some variation of this: What should we do!?! How do we make Washington govern for all the people? What specific things can my group or I do now?

Thanks for asking. The first thing you can do to bring about change is show up. Think of showing up as a sort of civic action, where you get to choose something that fits your temperament, personal level of activism, available time and energy, etc. The point here is that every one of us can do something — and every bit helps.

Simply being there matters. While progressives have shown up for elections in winning numbers, our movement then tends to fade politely into the shadows, leaving public officials (even those we put in office) free to ignore us and capitulate to ever-present, ever-insistent corporate interests. No more. Grassroots progressives — as individuals and through our groups — must get in the face of power and stay there.

This doesn't require a trip to Washington, though it can. It can be done right where you live — in personal meetings, on the phone, via email and letters, through social media (tweet at the twits!), on petitions, and any additional ways of communication that you and other creative people can invent. Hey, we're citizens, voters, constituents — so we should not hesitate to request in-person appointments to chat with officials back home (these need not be confrontational), attend forums where they'll be (local hearings, town hall sessions, speeches, meet & greets, parades, ribbon-cuttings, receptions, etc). They generally post their public schedules on their websites. Go to their meetings, ask questions, or at least say hello, introduce yourself, and try to achieve this: MAKE THEM LEARN YOUR NAME.

CARL POPE OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Windmills 0413wrp opt(Photo: EcoWatch)Here’s a headline for climate action advocates to love: Wind and Solar Crushing Fossil Fuels. It’s Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s summary of the current state of play in global energy markets, and it’s got striking data points to support it.

In 2015, record investment in new wind and solar electricity was twice as high as dwindling capital flowing into gas and coal. More remarkable, for the first time clean energy investment topped oil and gas capital expenditures combined. Because the prices of wind and solar are plummeting, the volume of new energy being constructed grows faster than the dollars being spent: annual wind installations have doubled four times since 2000, solar a stunning seven! New bids for wind in North Africa and solar in Mexico are coming in below $0.04 kwh, half the price of new coal plants with pollution controls that meet modern health standards.

But here’s a sobering counter-point, in a forward by UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon to another report on stunning rates of renewables growth: Sustainable, renewable energy is growing, but not quickly enough to meet expected energy demand. And the BNEF numbers support this worry, showing that by 2040 at least 50 percent of new cars sold will still rely on gasoline or diesel, and that developing countries other than China continue to add more new fossil fired electrical capacity which will either be shut down prematurely or, if fully utilized, blow the world way past acceptable levels of greenhouse pollution.

So what’s the problem? While clean energy is cheaper to buy and operate than fossil, it is requires more capital at the front end—because the benefits of free sun and wind flow over time, while the expenses of turbines, panels and batteries come all at once. That’s not a big problem in industrial nations, where capital is plentiful and cheap—in fact investors are desperate for the kinds of yields clean power can bring. So fossil generation is dropping in Europe and the U.S. And it’s not a problem in China which holds enormous foreign exchange reserves—which is why China appears to be at or close to its peak emissions a full decade before it promised. But in the rest of the developing world capital is scarce or expensive or both, which makes it cheaper to buy a new coal turbine and pay for the fuel over time than to pay the whole cost of a solar or wind farm in advance.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016 April13citizensunitedtvDemocracy has become, in general, like an auction item. It can be purchased by the highest bidder. (Photo:DonkeyHotey)

Given that the televised presidential primary debates are the most common vehicle through which voters receive information on the candidates and public policy, the journalists who moderate these debates should be initiating a vigorous discussion of campaign finance reform.  However, an analysis released last week by Public Citizen, a nonprofit citizens rights advocacy group, reveals that debate moderators -- who are employed by the networks -- have barely touched upon the issue of campaign finance reform.

In its executive summary of "The Elephant in the Room: Campaign Finance System Little Mentioned in Presidential Debates Despite Americans’ Intense Concern with the Topic," Public Citizen highlights a number of points:

  • The term "Citizens United”"has been invoked only once in more than 1,000 questions asked during the 21 presidential debates conducted so far, and that question was only peripherally about the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling in Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission.
  • All told, when statements by candidates are added to moderators’ questions, the term “Citizens United” has been mentioned just 13 times out of more than 440,000 words spoken during the debates....
  • Only 15 questions asked during the debates have touched on election funding issues generally, and not a single question has sought the candidates’ policy views on our campaign finance system or proposed solutions for fixing alleged problems.

"There's a disconnect between voters and the media, who are not paying attention to something that's front and center for most Americans as never before," Lisa Gilbert, director of Public Citizen's Congress Watch, told NPR. "They're unwilling to press the candidates on solutions."

2016.12.4 bf chow2(Photo: Sam Leech)LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

The wild tiger population has increased for the first time after more than a century of constant decline.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Global Tiger Forum (GTF) said there are now 3,890 tigers according to the latest global data. In 2010, the tiger population dipped to only 3,200 compared to 100,000 in 1900.

The increase in numbers can be attributed to multiple factors including increases in tiger populations in India, Russia, Nepal and Bhutan, improved surveys and enhanced protection, the WWF said.

Actor and noted animal conservationist Leonardo DiCaprio -- whose philanthropic organization has donated more than $6.2 million to the WWF since 2010 to help boost tiger numbers -- said he was "proud" of the work being done to save the iconic species.

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