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LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaPopeFAO(Photo: EcoWatch)Ever the planetary steward, Pope Francis stressed the importance of food security, good nutrition and reducing food waste at the 39th United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) conference at the Vatican yesterday.

“Statistics on waste are very concerning: a third of food products end up under this heading,” the Pope said in front of representatives from more than 120 countries, citing FAO data showing the magnitude of edible food produced on the planet that is lost or wasted.

The Pontiff also voiced concerns over large-scale acquisitions of agricultural land by multinational companies and governments.

Climate change rightly worries us, but we cannot forget financial speculation,” he continued, explaining how both global warming drives world hunger, as well as speculators who drive up market prices of basic foods such as grains, rice and soybeans purely for their own economic gain.

“It is unsettling to know that a good portion of agricultural products end up used for other purposes, maybe good, but that are not immediate needs of the hungry,” he said.

He emphasized that access to basic foods as “a right of all people.”

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaausterity(Photo: 401(K) 2012

Here is a lamentable historical fact to consider when reflecting upon a recent cruel proposal of Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner to deny heat and air conditioning assistance to the poor: In 1995, a severe heat wave in Chicago caused approximately 750 deaths among residents who could not afford air conditioning. 

Illinois has one of the largest debts among US states, with billions of dollars in additional unfunded liability. The state legislature - which is currently controlled by Democrats - is wrangling over a budget for the next fiscal year, which starts July 1. Rauner is threatening to veto the proposed Democratic state financial plan because it includes a projected deficit, which the Democrats want to resolve at a later date.

Rauner, who champions austerity for the poor and working class while promoting economic incentives for corporations, appears largely indifferent to the lesson of 1995 in Chicago. Indeed, according to The Chicago Tribune, the governor is proposing saving a paltry "$90 to $95 million a year" by denying energy subsidies to the poor and elderly to pay for air conditioning and heat:

The governor's plan to withhold state money that helps poor residents pay their electric and gas bills was met with concern and resistance Thursday [June 11] at a hearing in Chicago.

Seniors, people with disabilities and parents of young children shared stories of hardship at the Loop hearing, saying in written or oral testimony that they rely on the money to heat and cool their homes during frigid Illinois winters and sweltering summers. The program, they said, also helps preserve basic decencies such as the ability to cook, refrigerate food, wash clothes and take a hot shower. 

2015.11.6 BF MELLINO(Photo: Jeff Kubina)COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch.

Hawaii enacted a law this week that mandates that all of the state’s electricity comes from renewable sources no later than 2045. The bill makes Hawaii the first U.S. state to adopt such a standard. This renewable energy standard is being hailed as “the most aggressive clean energy goal in the country.”

“Hawaii is making history, not only for the islands, but for the planet,” said Jeff Mikulina, executive director of the Blue Planet Foundation. “We are making a promise to future generations that their lives will be powered not by climate-changing fossil fuel, but by clean, local and sustainable sources of energy.”

The legislation was drafted by Blue Planet Foundation, whose mission is “to clear the path for 100 percent clean energy.” Many believe Hawaii can reach the goal well before 2045 because the islands are already a renewable energy leader. “Analyses from the utility and elsewhere show that 100 percent renewable energy can be achieved even earlier than 2045, by 2030,” says Blue Planet Foundation. “Hawaii’s renewable energy use has doubled in the past five years, with the islands currently generating about 22 percent of their electricity from wind, solar, geothermal and other renewable energy resources.”

Thursday, 11 June 2015 07:02

Swimming While Black

2015.11.6 koehler(Photo: Stephen Melkisethian)ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

“He came into the call out of control, and as the video shows, was out of control during the incident.”

And cellphone videos continue to unravel America’s “law and order” paradigm. You might almost call it the cellphone revolution, as random video clips keep exposing a dark side of our social order that used to be so easy to deny. YouTube has become the gateway to our collective conscience, such as it is.

Nobody was killed in the latest racism-tinged clip of policing malfeasance to go viral — the disrupted pool party in McKinney, Texas — but once again a disturbing buzz permeates the nation, as . . . huh? … a profanity-spewing police officer is shown flinging a teenage girl in a bathing suit to the ground and grinding his knee into her back as he handcuffs her, then pulling out his handgun and waving it menacingly at several teenage boys, also wearing bathing suits and obviously unarmed, all because . . . the (African-American) kids were noisy, and maybe some of them didn’t have permission to be swimming at this particular public pool in a mostly white subdivision?

The usual defenses of such actions — “he was just doing his job” or “they didn’t comply with his orders” — fall short of the mark. The officer, Eric Casebolt, who in 2008 had won his department’s Patrolman of the Year award, was suspended shortly after the video went public and a few days later resigned from the force. His chief, Greg Conley (quoted above), condemned his behavior at the scene; and even the Fraternal Order of Police, generally supportive of every act of police brutality, criticized not the waving of a gun at kids in bathing suits but his “use of profanity.”

None of these official condemnations closes the case. There are too many searing questions raised by this pool-party video for it to be buried and forgotten, and it fits too jarringly into an emerging national context as new as the social media and, at the same time, 400 years in the making: In America, if you’re black, you’re automatically the enemy. If you’re black, you lose. The law is not on your side.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaacalwaterCalifornia needs more water not a pricey water bar. (Photo: Joyce Cory)

The idea of a gourmet water bar - with prices as high as $20 a bottle - sounds like the punch line to a bad joke about drought-stricken California. However, it's for real.

According to an article in Yahoo Finance, the Ray's and Stark Bar in Los Angeles has a 46-page menu of bottled water and is a rousing financial success. Yahoo Finance describes the bar's growth since it opened two years ago:

Business at the bar has jumped 500% and his [the manager's] water menu has expanded to two other locations, including the Hollywood Bowl. His $50 per person water tasting class has sold out each session since it began this year. 

“[Customers] are going into the water menu, looking for different springs, saying ‘I like this, this has so much sodium, this has so much magnesium,’” he says.

No, this is not excerpted from a satirical story in The Onion. 

COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaLakeMead(Photo: EcoWatch)Lake Mead, America’s largest U.S. reservoir when at capacity, is about to hit a critical new low. The reservoir near Las Vegas on the Colorado River has been in decline for decades because the reservoir and the larger Colorado River system has been over-allocated for many years. As of yesterday, the elevation of Lake Mead was 1,075.96. The reservoir is only days away from hitting 1,075 feet, according to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s projections. That number is the threshold set in a 2007 agreement as part of the U.S. Department of Interior’s Colorado River Interim Guidelines, which calls for delivery cuts if water levels in Lake Mead drops below that level.

These cuts will be the first set of mandatory water delivery curtailments to Lake Mead. Should the water levels continue to drop, as they are expected to—due to the prolonged drought, climate change and poor water management—more cuts will be required. The Western Water Policy Program and the Bren School of Environmental Management at the University of California, Santa Barbara recently released their spring report, The Bathtub Ring, which examines the impacts as Lake Mead levels decline to 1075 feet, 1050 feet, 1025 feet and 1000 feet.

The Bureau of Reclamation predicts the first round of cuts could take place in January 2017 with Arizona and Southern Nevada seeing the biggest cuts. Arizona plans to curtail “groundwater recharge efforts” and cut “deliveries to farmers with low-priority rights,” according to the Las Vegas Sun. Arizona’s cities “would be unaffected, at least initially.” Southern Nevada, for its part, “has prepared with conservation, saving enough water that residents and businesses won’t be affected if a portion no longer is available.”

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaracismchoking(Photo: The All-Nite Images)

A tsunami of racist brutal and deadly policing is being reported daily. Of course, killings and police assaults on people of color are not a new development. A rising movement of resistance - along with the increased availability of video recordings of the incidents - have finally brought police racism to the forefront.

Of course, the systemic context on the war on people of color is also deeply tied to the mass incarceration system, which is where the prisoners of that war are deprived of their rights and, often for decades, stigmatized and used as sources of revenue for a vast criminalization industry.

This is the byproduct of cultural and state institutional polices that sanction the open presence of police racism and racist strategies of policing. Northerners who smugly believe that this is a problem confined to the South are enabling the problem's perpetuation in the former Union states.  

Look at any large northern state and you will find a disproportionate number of people of color confined in the mass incarceration system. You will also find policing strategies that are created to treat people of color, particularly those of limited economic means, as guilty until proven innocent. The police practices of the US's three largest cities - New York, Los Angeles and Chicago - are all rife with entrenched racism.

Tuesday, 09 June 2015 12:25

Is the Fracking Boom Coming to an End?

ANASTASIA PANTSIOS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaFrackWellhead(Photo: Joshua Doubek)Since fracking began its boom period in the last decade, its supporters have promoted it as the answer to all of  the U.S.’s energy issues. It would free us from dependence on foreign oil, they said, thereby strengthening national security. And in fact, the U.S. has become the world’s largest exporter of fossil fuels, while prices at the gas pump have dropped steeply as fracked oil and gas production has exploded. States like Texas, Colorado, North Dakota, Pennsylvania and Ohio have welcomed frackers to their shale deposits, even though others, such as New York and Maryland, have resisted the lure due to concerns about fracking’s impacts on human health and the environment.

But could the gravy train be derailing? While production is still at record levels, there are signs that should worry any company or economy that is heavily invested in the fracking process.

Compared to conventional wells, fracked wells tend to be initially productive but taper off quickly and then are shut down as operators move to new locations. And that is starting to catch up with them.

“Production has to come down because rigs drilling for oil are down 57 percent this year,” James Williams, president of Arkansas-based energy consultancy WTRG Economicstold Bloomberg News. “Countering that is the fact that the rigs we’re still using are more efficient and drilling in areas where you get higher production. So that has delayed the decline.”

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaHastert(Photo: Neutrality)Late last week, the Associated Press' Mary Clare Jalonick reported that a Montana woman interviewed by the FBI claimed that "her brother was sexually abused while in high school by [former House Speaker] Dennis Hastert, the wrestling coach who would become speaker of the House."

According to the AP story, Jolene Burdge of Billings, Montana, said "that the FBI interviewed her in mid-May about Hastert. She said her brother told her before he died in 1995 that his first homosexual contact was with Hastert and that the relationship lasted through all of his high school years."

Burdge, who in an interview with ABC's "Good Morning America" identified her brother as Stephen Reinboldt, "said Hastert had been a father figure to him at high school. But she also said she believed that relationship had caused irreparable harm. 'He damaged Steve, I think, more than any of us will ever know,' she told the morning show," AP reported.

Too much time has passed for Hastert to be indicted on sexual abuse charges, but he has been indicted on charges "accus[ing] Hastert of evading bank regulations in withdrawing hundreds of thousands of dollars and lying to the FBI about the reason for the withdrawals. The document says Hastert agreed to pay a total of $3.5 million to someone identified only as 'Individual A' to 'compensate for and conceal (Hastert's) prior misconduct' against that person. But it does not go into any detail about the alleged misconduct."

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaacnnlogo3(Photo: Gregor Smith)

You may not know that sometimes the "news" that you are reading in a newspaper, online, or watching on television is not really "objective" news at all: it's paid-corporate PR that is known as native advertising.

The reason that you might not realize that you are reading an article or whole section that is nothing more than an ad disguised as news is that often the disclaimers that "this content is paid for" (or some variation in wording) are in such small type, you can hardly see them. Add that to the fact that regular news consumers are now often reading information at a dizzying pace so that even if there were a large disclaimer, it might go unnoticed by readers surfing through news sources.

In short, the line between the already corporate-influenced and self-serving mass media news coverage and ads is becoming increasingly blurred. It's hard to imagine that the corporate imprimatur on what is news and the frame in which it is presented could get worse, but it is.

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