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ANASTASIA PANTSIOS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaCAdrought(Photo: EcoWatch)The Salton Sea, a huge, shallow manmade lake located in the Sonoran Desert in California’s Imperial and Coachella valleys, has had problems for years. Its increasing saltiness has killed off most of its once-abundant fish species. Its shrinking water level has caused a reduction in water available for agricultural use, along with many dramatic photos of exposed lakebed and abandoned towns that were once seaside resorts. While the sea is no longer a resort destination for Hollywood celebrities as it was in the ’50s and ’60s, it’s still a playground for birds, with more than 400 species living along its shores or migrating through the area. But those populations could also be in jeopardy if its waters continue to recede.

And that exposed lake bed is expected to grow, thanks to California’s prolonged drought, now in its fourth year, and reductions in apportionment of water from the Colorado River which feeds the 360-square-mile sea. For many years, farmers in the agriculturally rich Imperial Valley would take more than their allocation of Colorado River water, viewing water as an infinite resource. But with growing demand from other southwestern states, with their growing populations and their own stresses due to drought, they became less able to do do. And now the drought and state-mandated water reductions have increased competition for whatever water is available, putting the Salton Sea at risk.

And that’s only the beginning of the problems that could be fueled by the sea’s receding water level.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

atoxhaz(Photo: eek the cat)

Why would a nonprofit organization need to launch a website that provides the public with data on exposure to toxic chemicals in the workplace? Quite simply, because the US government isn't doing a good job of it.

In a recent news release, PEER (Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility) states, "Workplace chemical exposures are the nation’s eighth leading cause of death but the US lacks any strategy for preventing the more than 40,000 premature deaths each year." PEER goes on to note:

"More Americans die each year from workplace chemical exposure than from all highway accidents, yet we have no national effort to stem this silent occupational epidemic," stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, pointing out that allowed chemical exposure on-the-job is roughly 1000 times higher than in the general ambient environment. "In the US, environmental protection stops at the factory door."

As a result, PEER has established a web resource that does the work that the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) should be offering online. The database is called, "Put the H back in OSHA."

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaFriess(Photo: Gage Skidmore)Now that former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum has thrown his hat into a Republican ring full of hats, you can bet that Foster Friess will not be far behind. While we know a fair amount about billionaire GOP puppet masters like Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and the Koch Brothers, and while we are quite familiar with Santorum's conservative politics, we know little about Santorum's top financial backer, Foster Friess, bad jokes about using aspirin between a "gals" knees as birth control notwithstanding.

So, who is Foster Friess?

Back in 2012, it was Friess, an evangelical conservative Christian and the founder of Friess Associates -- a Wyoming investment firm that has managed several billion of equities for such clients as the Nobel Foundation of Stockholm, Vanderbilt University, and the Brandywine and Brandywine Blue mutual funds -- who practically single-handedly kept Santorum in the primary race with a fair amount of money; much of it going to Santorum's super PAC called the Red, White and Blue Fund.

In January, Friess -- who maintains he is not a billionaire; in 2012 The Wall Street Journal estimated his wealth at a little over a half-billion -- organized a meeting of "a group of Republican business executives, as well as GOP consultants from South Carolina and Iowa, ... to have conversations with Santorum about his strategy and with Friess about financing a national political operation," The Washington Post reported.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

8260830302 00bb81341d zStrengthen the US by investing in education, not Wall Street and government profits on student loans. (Photo: Michael Fleshman)

As college tuition rises in the US, the government and private profiteers are making more money at the expense of students. This hits economically disadvantaged students particularly hard. Higher education is becoming increasingly unaffordable for them, even with loans. Indeed, all young people who think about attending college - except for the scions of the richest families - face an increasing deterrent to receiving a degree: years and years of indebtedness.

Why? Because the potential high debt of going to college versus the uncertainty of financial returns is now a high-risk decision for many young people. This is particularly true in an economy in which even many of those with college degrees face an uncertain and volatile job market.

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A recent article by Susanne Soederberg posted at Dollars and Sense makes the point that the United States is severely weakening its future educational capital, as the government and private sector rake in profits while sacrificing advanced educational opportunities. Soederberg also writes that "educational debt has become a ticking time bomb." 

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.

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