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LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaGlacier(Photo: LucaG)Climate change has caused Alaska’s glaciers to melt so quickly that a one-foot thick layer of water could completely cover the entire state of Alaska every seven years, according to a new study.

Alaskan glaciers have lost 75 billion metric tons of ice every year from 1994 through 2013, The Washington Post′s Chris Mooney reported from the study, which was recently accepted for publication in the peer-reviewed Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union. Mooney also reported that the Columbia Glacier (see GIF above) alone has been sending 4 billion metric tons of water into the oceans every year.

Alaska’s melting glaciers are “punching far above their weight” when it comes to contributing to sea level rise, CBS News‘s Michael Casey pointed out, referring to how Alaska only holds one percent of the Earth’s glacial ice volume, with most of the Earth’s ice found in Antarctica and Greenland’s ice sheets.

But as the authors of the new study explained, “Despite Greenland’s ice covered area being 20 times greater than that of Alaska, losses in Alaska were fully one third of the total loss from the ice sheet during 2005-2010.”

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaatorturekilling34(Photo: Justin Norman) 

On Tuesday, the Senate voted to ban the use of torture by the United States military and intelligence agencies. Many of us were befuddled by this development. After all, wasn't the argument for holding Bush administration officials accountable for authorizing torture based on the premise it was illegal at the time?

The answer is yes: It was illegal, but apparently a majority of senators believed that there were loopholes that the Bush White House employed to justify the use of torture. The new bill attempts to eliminate any ambiguity by only allowing interrogation techniques detailed in the Army Field Manual.

An article in Slate by staff writer Joshua Keating, however, points out that even the recently passed bill has, well, loopholes:

The legislation won’t end the debate over interrogation. For one thing, critics, including a U.N. panel that U.S. officials testified before last December, have suggested that the field manual itself may not be up to the standards of international law....

There is also increasing alarm over "proxy detention," the practice of handing detainees over to the custody of third party countries with more permissive detainee treatment laws. Detainees have been subjected to brutal treatment in Afghanistan,Iraq, and Somalia while those countries’ governments were cooperating with the Obama administration’s counterterrorism efforts. CIA Director John Brennan affirmed in March that "There are places throughout the world where CIA has worked with other intelligence services and has been able to bring people into custody and engage in the debriefings of these individuals," raising concerns that the agency has not so much stopped using "enhanced interrogation" as it has outsourced it.

Yes, extraditing "detainees" to other nations who employ torture, who then share their interrogations with the CIA, means that torture still remains effectively legal.

2015.18.6 BF Pantsios(Photo: Matt Niemi)ANASTASIA PANTSIOS OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch.

Once upon a time, asbestos, with its superior heat- and fire-resistant properties, was routinely used in building construction. But that was before awareness grew over the last 100 years about its connection to lung disease and several types of cancer, which can be triggered by only brief exposure to the material. Asbestos-laden materials fell from favor, as litigation ballooned into the costliest mass litigation in US history and companies manufacturing asbestos productions went bankrupt in the wake of the lawsuits.

Asbestos has now been banned in many countries, but not in the US. Although its use is less common now, asbestos still presents a danger, especially when the demolition of older buildings releases asbestos fibers into the air. According to the Environmental Working Group’s Action Fund, asbestos still kills 12,000-15,000 people annually in the US.

Now the Office of the Inspector General of US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a report on Tuesday headlined “EPA Should Update Guidance to Address the Release of Potentially Harmful Quantities of Asbestos That Can Occur Under EPA’s Asbestos Demolition Standard.” It says bluntly that the agency’s guidelines for demolishing crumbling old buildings are woefully out of date and need to be revamped to protect public health and safety.

2015.18.6 BF Marcus(Photo: Garry Knight)JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

We have grown up thinking that we were Earth’s owners and dominators, authorized to loot her. The violence that exists in the human heart, wounded by sin, is also manifest in the symptoms of illness that we see in the Earth, the water, the air and in living things.

- Pope Francis, Encyclical on the Preservation of Nature

This essay is written in memory of Rachel Carson, biologist, nature-lover, essayist, and a woman who had the moral fortitude to stand up, by herself, against the ruthless oil and chemical industries that resulted in the elimination of DDT pesticide from our environment.

If Rachel Carson were alive today she would be applauding Pope Francis’ Encyclical on how world governments must make the preservation of nature, (for there is no life without our forests, rivers, oceans and healthy soil), our moral and economic priorities instead of pushing through secret trade deals, without the people’s consent, that allow the major polluters to keep drilling, poisoning, and raping our only Home, Planet Earth, until there is nothing left to loot.

The industrial age should have been history by now. But thanks to a handful of greedy politicians, shifting to clean, harmless energy has been postponed for as long as they can postpone it—perhaps to the point of extinction of all life. That’s not hyperbole. According to Elizabeth Kolbert, the 2015 Pulitzer Prize author-scientist of The Sixth Extinction, life on this planet will perish if we don’t change course to sustainable energy as quickly as possible, given that time is running out. This major shift from the industrial paradigm to the renewable paradigm is long overdue.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

 aaaacorny24Don't let the smiley face of Big Agriculture fool you. (Photo: David Clow)

Bigger is not always better. As Wall Street banks and big box stores such as Walmart have shown, bigger is often worse. The list of industries that have consolidated into national and global cartels is long and growing, and so is their collateral damage.

In general, this trend - accelerated by trade agreements such as the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership - means an increase in the exploitation of labor. It also means an expansion of unregulated practices that lead to global warming, and an elimination of small businesses. (For example, think about the elimination of local pharmacies, office supply stores, banks and bakeries.)

In the case of the financial industry, the consolidation of the money supply in the hands of a few institutions has reverberating global impacts. These institutions engage in predatory lending policies toward individuals and underdeveloped nations. They thrive in these efforts through minimal regulation (in the US and most other G-20 nations), and are abetted by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

This pattern is repeated in other industries, such as agriculture. A column this spring in Dollars & Sense details how Big Agriculture - which includes ancillary industries, such as pesticides and seeds - sells itself as a route to creating more and safer food for a growing population.

ANASTASIA PANTSIOS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaMonsantoEcoWatch(Photo: EcoWatch)What’s a GMO-promoting multinational chemical company to do? Word is getting out that, while the science isn’t clear whether genetically modified crops (GMOs) themselves are harmful, the fact that they were created to be resistant to increasing amounts of pesticides such as glyphosate is a problem.

Monsanto, which manufactures the glyphosate weedkiller Roundup, reacted furiously to a report released earlier this year by the World Health Organization (WHO) that glyphosate likely causes cancer. The company demanded that WHO retract the report, repudiating the years of research by multiple scientists. With Roundup the most widely used and top-selling herbicide, Monsanto clearly has a bottom line to protect.

That bottom line has just taken another hit. In Europe, where people are far more suspicious of the extravagant claims and potential dangers of GMOs than in the U.S. and heavily regulates them, the French government has announced this week that it is restricting the sale of glyphosate weedkillers in garden centers.

“France must be on the offensive with regards to the banning of pesticides,” said ecology minister Ségolène Royal. “I have asked garden centers to stop putting Monsanto’s Roundup on sale.”

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaCreflo(Photo: Colin Brown)You've probably never heard of Pastor Creflo Dollar. He is a charismatic and controversial preacher/televangelist who founded the College Park, Georgia-based 30,000-member World Changers Church International. And, despite being investigated for financial irregularities, and later for child abuse, and a proclivity for filling his personal coffers till his cup runneth over, he doesn't embarrass easily. Although thrust into the unpleasant glare of the media spotlight after putting out a fundraising video asking his supporters to finance a $60-65 million dollar Gulfstream G650 private jet – the "Holy Grail of luxury private jets, according to Bloomberg news -- it looks like, after all the hullabaloo has died down, Dollar will get his jet, courtesy of WCCI's board of directors.

Christianity Today's Bob Smietans recently reported that the video -- viewed over 325,000 times -- "claimed that Dollar's family had been endangered by mechanical problems with the ministry's former plane, and asked 200,000 supporters of World Changer's Church International to give $300 each for a replacement. Church officials removed the video earlier this year."

Smietans pointed out that "A new video is in the works and a donation request remains live on Dollar's website, along with the apology."

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaawaterdryWhen the water runs out. (Photo: Marcelo César Augusto Romeo)

Supplies of potable water are being threatened in numerous areas around the world, according to new data released by NASA. Yes, global warming is a culprit, but so are agricultural use and pollution-heavy industries.

In the not-too-distant future, we may see a widespread rationing of drinkable water. Water may then become simply unavailable in some regions. As The Washington Post reported on June 16, "new NASA data show how the world is running out of water":

The world’s largest underground aquifers – a source of fresh water for hundreds of millions of people — are being depleted at alarming rates, according to new NASA satellite data that provides the most detailed picture yet of vital water reserves hidden under the Earth’s surface.

Twenty-one of the world’s 37 largest aquifers — in locations from India and China to the United States and France — have passed their sustainability tipping points, meaning more water was removed than replaced during the decade-long study period, researchers announced Tuesday. Thirteen aquifers declined at rates that put them into the most troubled category. The researchers said this indicated a long-term problem that’s likely to worsen as reliance on aquifers grows.

Scientists had long suspected that humans were taxing the world’s underground water supply, but the NASA data was the first detailed assessment to demonstrate that major aquifers were indeed struggling to keep pace with demands from agriculture, growing populations, and industries such as mining.

If you are wondering how important aquifers are to maintaining a fresh water supply, just look to California. 

ANASTASIA PANTSIOS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaPopeFrancisEcoWatch(Photo: EcoWatch)Excitement and speculation have been building for months around Pope Francis’ encyclical on climate change, which is due to be released on Thursday following a noon press conference. Now a leaked draft of the document, published Monday in Italian Magazine L’Espresso, has given Vatican watchers and environmentalists something to sink their teeth into, although the Vatican cautioned that this was not the final version, which could be similar or substantially different, and had asked that details of the draft not be published.

The contents of the leaked document, said to be called “Laudato Si (Be Praised), On the Care of Our Common Home,” won’t surprise anyone who has been following the stream of statements the Pope has been making on the environment. But by putting it in the form of an encyclical, the Pope gives official weight to the opinions he’s been expressing in many contexts.

The document addresses the role of fossil fuels on climate change and its outsized impact on poor nations, chastising wealthy countries for their disposable lifestyle. He calls for reducing carbon emissions by developing policies that hasten the switch to clean, renewable sources of energy to stave off the “unprecedented destruction of the ecosystem.”

“Humanity is called to take note of the need for changes in lifestyle and changes in methods of production and consumption to combat this warming, or at least the human causes that produce and accentuate it,” he wrote, according to a report by The Guardian. “Numerous scientific studies indicate that the greater part of the global warming in recent decades is due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases … given off above all because of human activity.”

The Pope does not enumerate or analyze the scientific basis of the climate crisis in detail but rather reflects on the moral aspects of humanity’s care for the Earth.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaHuck16(Photo: Gage Skidmore)Republican 2016 presidential candidate Mike Huckabee appears to be, to borrow a phrase from Sarah Palin, "palling around with" child molesters. First it was his vigorous defense of Josh Duggar, and now reports have surfaced that the co-author of two of his books, was excommunicated from his church for being a child molester.

After information that Josh Duggar -- the oldest child in the Duggar family of the television show 19 Kids and Counting – had sexually molested several of his sisters and a babysitter when he was a teenager, Huckabee came forward to vigorously defend Josh, who at the time of the revelations, was a high-profile spokesperson for the Family Research Council, a Washington, D.C.-based Christian conservative lobbying outfit.

On May 22, a day after reports that Duggar had molested his sisters came out, Huckabee posted on Facebook: "Let others run from them. We will run to them with our support."

Last week, during an interview with the Fox News Channel's Megyn Kelly, he said that it was all about the media "exploiting" the family. According to the Christian Post, Huckabee "suggested that the family is being targeted for their Christian views, and argued that if the story concerned liberals, it would not have created such a media stir."

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