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2015.28.5 BF ECoWATCH(Photo: Socially Responsible Agricultural Project)ANASTASIA PANTSIOS OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch.

Factory farming has been expanding in the U.S. over the last two decades, and the size of those farms has increased dramatically—dominating the market, squeezing out smaller producers and setting the agenda for farming practices—to the detriment of food consumers.

That’s the conclusion of a new study, Factory Farm Nation: 2015 Edition, released by Food & Water Watch.

“Over the last two decades, small- and medium-scale farms raising livestock have given way to factory farms that confine thousands of cows, hogs and chickens in tightly packed facilities,” says the report. “Farmers have adopted factory farming practices largely at the behest of the largest meatpackers, pork processors, poultry companies and dairy processors. The largest of these agribusinesses are practically monopolies, controlling what consumers get to eat, what they pay for groceries and what prices farmers receive for their livestock.”

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This is occurring as the public is marching in the other direction, as demonstrated by McDonald’s declining profits, the positive public response to Chipotle’s moving toward organic, non-GMO and locally raised products, and raised awareness of the issues around meat and dairy products containing growth hormones and antibiotics used for preventive purposes due to factory farming confinement practices.

2015.28.5 BF Koehler(Photo: Daniel Grosvenor)ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

There’s a category of political intellectuals who proudly proclaim themselves “realists,” then proceed to defend and advance a deeply faith-based agenda that centers on the ongoing necessity to prepare for war, including nuclear war.

These intellectuals, as they defend the military-industrial status quo (which often supports them financially), have made themselves the spokespersons for a deep human cancer: a soul cancer. When we prepare for war, we honor a profoundly embedded death wish; indeed, we assume we can exploit it for our own advantage. We can’t, of course. War and hatred link all of us; we can’t dehumanize, then proceed to murder, “the enemy” without doing the same, ultimately, to ourselves.

That isn’t to say there’s an easy way out of the mess we find ourselves in, here in the 21st century. Indeed, I see only one way out: a critical mass of humanity coming to its senses and groping for a way to create a peace that that has more resonance than war. We don’t have much political leadership around this, especially among the planet’s dominant — and nuclear-armed — nation states. But there is some.

Finding it and connecting with it, however, seems almost beyond the realm of possibility. Robert Dodge of Physicians for Social Responsibility wrote recently, for instance, that the U.N.’s recent, month-long Review Conference on the 45-year-old Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons “was officially a failure due to the refusal of the nuclear weapons states to present or even support real steps toward disarmament.”

COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaHotShit(Photo: EcoWatch)India is in the midst of a major heatwave, which has killed at least 800 people and melted roads in New Delhi as temperatures neared 122 degrees Fahrenheit (50 degrees Celsius). India’s Meteorological Department issued heat warnings to several states where temperatures are projected to reach beyond 113 degrees Fahrenheit (45 degrees Celsius) over the next few days, according to AFP.

The worst-hit state Andhra Pradesh in southern India has recorded 551 deaths in the last week alone. Every summer, across the country, hundreds of Indians, especially the poorest members of society, die from extreme heat, while tens of thousands deal with power outages from an overstrained electric grid as air conditioning use soars, reports AFP.

But this summer season is particularly bad, the most severe since 2010 when an estimated 250 people died from heat-related causes, which was said to be the worst since record-keeping began in the 1800s. The maximum temperature in the capital hit a two-year high of 45.5 degrees Celsius on Monday, which is five degrees higher than the seasonal average, reports the Hindustan Times. And, the death toll from heat mortality could be much higher than estimated because, according to Scroll.in, “the government counts only death by heat stroke and heat exhaustion as heat wave deaths. The narrow definition does not account for the way ‘heat exposure stresses underlying physiological systems,’ a study on heat mortality in Ahmedabad said.”

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

astatueofleninstLenin statue in St. Petersburg (located in front of the House of the Soviets), formerly Leningrad. His name has been defaced from the pedestal. (Photo: haikus)

On May 1, which is known as International Workers' Day in the former Soviet Union and still celebrated by many in the working class around the world, my wife and I arrived in St. Petersburg (formerly known as Leningrad until the dissolution of the USSR, when it reverted to its original name).

Upon exiting customs in the stunning new modern St. Petersburg Pulkovo International Airport terminal, we thought that we han mistakenly taken the wrong plane and landed in a US airport. After leaving customs, the first thing I saw was a large Starbucks on my right, followed by a McDonald's. Then I strolled over to get a bottle of juice from a Hudson News store, also located within the sleek terminal waiting area.

In fact, while waiting for our luggage, illuminated rotating posters advertised a French oil aaatotalAdvertisement for French fossil fuel corporation working in partnership with Russia. Posters rotate in luggage area of St. Petersburg's international airport. (Photo: Terry Soto)company, TOTAL, that the Putin government has been working with in Siberia. The posters - - like Shell or BP - promised a bright clean energy future, and the entire lugguage conveyor belt was branded with advertisements for TOTAL.

We boarded a public bus that took us to the first metro stop into St. Petersburg, since the central city was some distance from the airport. As the bus made its way down a wide boulevard, condos (built by investors for private unit purchases) loomed on the horizon. Meanwhile, there were car dealer showrooms - the likes of Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz, Cadillac, Land Rover and more - lining the street. (On another day, I passed a Rolls Royce dealership not far from central St. Petersburg). To add to the capitalistic blight, fast-food franchises such as Kentucky Fried Chicken dotted the periphery of the main road into the city.

When we exited the Nevsky Prospekt Metro station in the bustling center of St. Petersburg, the ghosts of May 1 celebrations no longer lingered in this now-capitalistic city.

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaPostage(Photo: US Post Office)Neither rain nor sleet nor snow — nor even the likelihood that he'd be killed en route — could stop this letter carrier from making his appointed rounds.

Doug Hughes is one gutsy and creative mailman. In April, this rural letter carrier from Florida stunned the Secret Service, eluded federal aviation authorities, embarrassed Washington's haughty all-seeing security hierarchy and threw members of Congress into a chaotic panic. Hughes did all this by boldly flying his tiny, homemade, gyrocopter right through the heart of our nation's most restricted airspace, then landing it on the front lawn of the U.S. Capitol.

Far from a terrorist or a kook, Hughes was just a mailman on a mission, a patriotic citizen who — like most of us — is disgusted that Big Money interests are able to openly buy lawmakers and laws. But he did more than write a letter to his congress critter — he wrote letters to all 535 of them, loaded the missives in his mailbag and — as postal workers do — literally went the extra mile to make a "very special delivery" in his gyrocopter.

This was no flight of fancy. Doug planned his mail delivery for months, and he was fully aware that he might crash, be killed by a scramble of military jets or be gunned down by guards when he landed. Nor was it a sneak attack — he repeatedly posted his intentions in blogs; a reporter was covering his preparations; and the Secret Service had investigated and interviewed him about his plans more than a year earlier.

His landing jolted the Capitol into lockdown. Guards rushed out to arrest Doug and haul him off to some deep cellblock; a bomb squad arrived; and spooked lawmakers were scared silly. They ran around screeching that they were threatened by terrorists. Of course, the real threat to America is not some guy flying a gyrocopter in protest but the utter corruption of Congress, the courts and democracy itself by the plutocratic elites whom this mailman targeted with nothing more (nor less) dangerous than a bagful of truth-telling letters.

JOHN QUEALLY OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaFloodTexas(Photo: EcoWatch)With at least a dozen people dead and the raging high waters described as having “tsunami-type power” in Texas over the Memorial Day weekend, the latest example of extreme weather in the U.S. is being tied to a global pattern of increasingly volatile events that are claiming lives and costing billions of dollars in damage each year.

As Texas Gov. Greg Abbott expanded the range of a declared disaster zone in his state today, neighboring Oklahoma is also coping with an emergency response to flash floods and overflowing rivers.

Marking the official end of a four-year long drought in the south-central part of the country, the storms may be filling the region’s diminished reservoirs, but not without a high cost.

As the nation’s media focuses on the acute damage to property and loss of life, an international conference sponsored by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), which kicked off in Switzerland yesterday, may shed additional light on the impact that human-caused climate change is having on the planet’s highly-dynamic weather patterns.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaDuggarFreaks2(Photo: Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar)If the US Supreme Court rules in favor of same-sex marriage next month, do not expect religious right organizations to fold up their tents and go home. If anything, they will amp up the hysteria with email alerts (and fundraising appeals) squawking about the assault on traditional marriage. While they will continue to agitate around same-sex marriage, there will a not so subtle shift to another culture war battle; the fight over transgender equality.

Although there are many culture war battles to be contested, e.g., abortion, prayer in the schools, book, television and film censorship, and the mother of all fights, the religious right's distorted views of religious freedom, the battle over transgender equality is ripe for the picking. After all, transgender people are some of the few people left that the religious right can attack and demonize.

In recent years, Christian right groups have fulminated, huffed and puffed, and raised money to fight attempts to prevent discrimination against transgender youth, especially in regards to bullying, the use of bathrooms and the participation in athletics in the public schools.

Last August, Michelle Duggar, who stars in TLC's hit show, the now-suspended "19 Kids and Counting" with her husband, Jim Bob, and children, and who was intimately involved in covering up her son Josh's history of sexual molestation of young girls, viciously campaigned against an anti-discrimination bill in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

She said: "I don't believe... citizens... would want males with past child predator convictions that claim they are female to have a legal right to enter private areas that are reserved for women and girls."

If the US Supreme Court rules in favor of same-sex marriage next month, do not expect religious right organizations to fold up their tents and go home. If anything, they will amp up the hysteria with email alerts (and fundraising appeals) squawking about the assault on traditional marriage. While they will continue to agitate around same-sex marriage, there will a not so subtle shift to another culture war battle; the fight over transgender equality.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaanpr(Photo: Alyson Hurt)

Ira Glass, the man who captivates countless National Public Radio (NPR) listeners with his quirky accounts of daily life around the country, recently asserted that NPR should be supported by free market capitalism and advertising.

Could "This American Life" end up being rebranded "This United Airlines Life"?

If you have been hesitating, Glass just gave you a compelling reason to donate to Truthout (which is advertising-free and free of corporate sponsorships) now.

BuzzFlash isn’t funded by corporate advertising, but by readers like you. Can you help sustain our work with a tax-deductible donation?

Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) recently reported how Glass, responding to a deluge of criticism for his remarks in an Ad Age article, tried to clarify his statement, but just dug himself a deeper neoliberal hole, asserting that "public radio is ready for capitalism." According to FAIR:

Last week, Glass wrote a column in the public broadcasting trade paper Current (5/13/15) to “clarify” his comments: He was not suggesting that programmers “chase ratings and destroy everything that makes public radio special.” Instead, he meant he wanted “companies [to] come on our shows and pay lots of money,” and then public radio should use that money for good things–not bad things, as you might have assumed that he meant.

“It feels almost insulting to have to say,” Glass says, that he’s not calling for “turn[ing] public radio into a moronic money-grabbing wasteland of commercial shillery.” Likewise, it feels almost insulting to point out to Glass that noncommercial broadcasting was founded to be an alternative to commercial broadcasting.

In the Ad Age account, Glass was a cheerleader for corporate branding and collaboration with NPR.

2015.5.25.Quigley.BFMaster Sgt. Robert Lilly pays his respects to a fallen veteran May 28, 2013, at the Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery, Boulder City, Nevada. (Photo: US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Daniel Hughes/Released )

BILL QUIGLEY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Memorial Day is, by federal law, a day of prayer for permanent peace. But is it possible to honestly pray for peace while our country is far and away number one in the world in waging war, military presence, military spending and the sale of weapons around the world?  

Permanent War

Since 1980 the US has engaged in aggressive military action in 14 countries in the Islamic world alone, according to research published in the Washington Post:  Iran (1980, 1987-1988), Libya (1981, 1986, 1989, 2011), Lebanon (1983), Kuwait (1991), Iraq (1991-2011, 2014-), Somalia (1992-1993, 2007-), Bosnia (1995), Saudi Arabia (1991, 1996), Afghanistan (1998, 2001-), Sudan (1998), Kosovo (1999), Yemen (2000, 2002-), Pakistan (2004-) and now Syria.  In this hemisphere, US military forces invaded Grenada (1983) and Panama (1989), and landed 20,000 military forces in Haiti (1994).

US Global War Machine

The US has 1.3 million people in the military and another million serve in the military reserves. The US has more than 700 military bases in 63 countries across the world deploying more than 255,000 US military personnel there. The Department of Defense officially manages over 555,000 buildings on 4,400 properties inside the US and in over 700 properties across the globe. The US has more than 1,500 strategic nuclear warheads, over 13,000 military aircraft,  dozens of submarines, many of which carry nuclear weapons, and 88 huge destroyer warships.  

JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

asantabarbaraSunset west of Santa Barbara. (Photo: Sourav Das)

On May 19th, it was announced over breaking news that an onshore oil pipeline, owned by Plains All American Pipeline, a Houston Texas company led by ex-Flint Resources (Koch Industries) ruptured at Refugio Beach, north of Santa Barbara. An estimated 105,000 gallons of crude oil gushed into the Pacific Ocean, five times worse than the initial estimated 21,000 gallons.

I live three hours away from Refugio Beach. This quiet, isolated shoreline is a favorite beach for campers, hikers and surfers. When I was earning my undergraduate degree at UC Santa Barbara, I used to walk the trails and watch whales, shorebirds and sea otters bop in and out of the turquoise waters; tiny crabs would scuttle in between the black rocks and tide pools. Our California beaches are bristling with wildlife, including rare endangered species. The central coast is a habitat for seals, sea lions and whales, a variety of fish, which are migrating north this time of the year.

Oil kills every living thing it covers. Imagine being drenched from head to toe with thick, gooey tar: Toxic suffocation is an extremely painful way to die. That’s what happens to dolphins, whales, pelicans, otters that, unbeknownst to them, swim into the devil’s poison.

The national networks neglected to say that Plains transports oil for Exxon-Mobil. According to Miyoko Sakashita of BiologicialDiversity.org, the Houston-based company has had “175 devastating oil spills nationwide since 2006, including 11 in California,” documented by federal authorities.

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