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2015.2.03 Bucheit2There are at least four good reasons why America's young adults - and their parents - should take up the fight against financial firms. (Photo: Andrew Bossi / Flickr)PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Hell No, We Won't Go --1967
No Way, We Won't Pay --2015

Fifty years ago students burned their draft cards to protest an immoral war against the people of Vietnam. Today it's a different kind of war, immoral in another way, waged against young Americans of approximately the same age, and threatening them in a manner that endangers not their lives but their livelihoods.

There are at least four good reasons why America's young adults - and their parents - should take up the fight against financial firms who are holding high-interest student loans that total more than the nation's credit card debt, and more than the total income of the poorer half of America.

MARCUS ERIKSEN OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaPlasticPollution(Photo: EcoWatch)The idea that there are “patches” of trash in the oceans is a myth created 15 years ago that should be abandoned in favor of “plastic smog,” like massive clouds of microplastics that emanate out of the five subtropical gyres. My recent publication in the journal Plos One, estimates 269,000 tons of plastic from 5.25 trillion particles, but more alarming than that is it’s mostly microplastic (>92 percent in our study) and most of the plastic in the ocean is likely not on the sea surface.

Recent research has shown microplastics in ice cores, across the seafloor, vertically throughout the ocean and on every beach worldwide.  The little stuff is everywhere.

If you follow the life of plastic in the oceans, as we have done for 50,000 miles since 2009, you find the large items leaving coastlines in droves, then it rapidly shreds as it migrates toward the calmer waters of the subtropical gyres where sunlight, waves and nibbling fish rip it to micro-size particles smaller than a grain of rice. Microplastic then flow through the bodies of billions of organisms, making their way out of the gyres to deeper currents, and ultimately the seafloor. That’s the end-life of plastic.

Visualize the problem as “plastic smog” much like the way you can look up and visualize clouds of air pollution over cities. It’s very similar. We solved the air pollution problem by stopping the source with better emission controls on cars and power plants. There were people that suggested sucking air pollution out of the sky, but because people could look up and see the problem they understood that only stopping the source would work. The exact same logic applies to microplastic pollution in the world’s oceans. Because there are only a handful of scientists that understand ocean plastic pollution, and the public largely relies on the media for information, there’s an unusual amount of attention given to ideas to suck up plastic from the sea.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aflagterror2The United States has a history of terrorism to atone for. (Photo: Petter Duvander)

The United States has some atoning to do when it comes to terrorism. After all, the history of the US is founded on the terrorizing and near annihilation of Native Americans. 

Professor Edward E. Baptist makes the case in a recent book, The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism,that the US relied on slavery - including Northern textile and other industries - to boost the nation into an economic power in the years before the Civil War. Can there be a more sinister form of terrorism than the theft, brutalization and "ownership" of human lives to secure a profit?

One could also argue that bombs, drone killings, endless wars for natural resources and hegemony using advanced lethal technology are forms of contemporary economic terrorism.

Recently, a particularly heinous form of terrorism related to slavery and racism - lynching - has been the subject of a study that indicates that the practice was more widespread than previously thought.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaCrossified(Photo: Herrad of Landsberg)By recently unveiling its "Bigotry Map," which exposes "Anti-Christian Bigotry in America," the American Family Association, apparently tired of being monitored, tracked, and vilified, has decided to turn the tables on "anti-Christian bigots" in the United States, and do some tracking of its own.

On its website, a newly developed interactive map of the United States is marked by symbols identifying "groups and organizations that openly display bigotry toward the Christian faith." You can do a state-by-state search to discover which of these groups reside in your neck of the woods.

The symbols designate whether the group identified is part of the "Homosexual Agenda" – "Advocates for the legalization and promotion of same-sex marriage and viciously attacks Christians who exercise their First Amendment right to voice support for God's plan for marriage as between one man and one woman -- is out-and-out "Anti-Christian" – "Actively engages in the complete eradication of the Christian faith from society, government and private commerce. These groups file lawsuits and use intimidation to silence any reference to Christianity from the public square" -- is "Atheist" – "Does not believe in God and is critical of those who express their faith in public" – or "Humanist" – "Believes critical thinking and physical evidence are the sole basis for beliefs. Humanists believe science triumphs faith in issues of morality and decision-making."

The website also singles out four organizations, two of which deal directly with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues. They are the Human Rights Campaign; GLSEN; the Freedom From Religion Foundation; and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which has been a particular thorn in the side of the AFA ever since the SPLC labeled the AFA a hate group.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

lethalinjection(Photo: Ken Piorkowski)

CNN trumpeted the news: "Weather threat postpones Georgia's first execution of a woman in 70 years." 

The use of lethal injection as a form of capital punishment was meant to make killing in the name of the state more palatable.After all, the image of someone bound to a gurney sighing before dying makes taking someone's life seem a lot more "humane" - on a visual level - than the image of a dangling body kicking and jerking during a hanging, or smoke and fire coming from a condemned person's head during an electrocution, or blood spurting from a body after death by a firing squad.

Of course, there have been several "botched" lethal injection executions in which the deaths have been prolonged and grueling. One cause of this: Since it is increasingly difficult to procure lethal injection drugs, some eager-to-execute states have been using "untested" combinations of drugs that sometimes have horrific results. According to a 2014 article on the website Cerca, 

After recently running out of supplies of pentobarbital, some states have obtained the lethal injection drug from compound pharmacies or are experimenting with untested drug combos.

Pharmaceutical companies worldwide have boycotted the sale of drugs used for executions to U.S. prison systems in recent years. Alternatives like the gas chamber or electric chair would be problematic for states and could "raise the spectacle" level, according to death penalty expert Richard Dieter. 

Compounding pharmacies aren't subject to FDA regulation, raising concerns about drug contamination. Lawyers for inmates allege pentobarbital can cause a possibly painful and prolonged death. Several states, including Georgia, have enacted secrecy laws around the origins of their lethal drugs.

Thursday, 26 February 2015 06:49

Peace Behind Barbed Wire: The Far Side of Fear

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBarbWire(Photo: Logan King)As media ownership converges and technology “unites” us, the concept of national identity grows ever easier to exploit — and therefore, I fear, increasingly, and dangerously, simplistic.

This is the war on terror. This is the war on crime. They march on, despite the magnitude of their failures. They march on . . . because America is tough. America is exceptional.

If our news and mass-entertainment outlets valued complexity and expansion of the national IQ, we wouldn’t go to war. We’d be building our lives on the far side of fear and the far side of cynicism, which is the only place where peace is possible.

It’s not like we aren’t doing that anyway, to a certain extent. But it only becomes news when visionary journalists — peace journalists — declare that it is, which is why, every year for the last seven years now, I have written about and celebrated Chicago’s Peace on Earth Film Festival, which showcases extraordinary films that step beyond the simplistic myth of good vs. evil, us vs. them. This year the festival is scheduled for March 19-22 at the Chicago Cultural Center; as always, it’s free of charge.

“I was a thief, I was a manipulator, I was a con. I had lost all contact with my heart.”

So it is in this context that I reflect on the words of Lisandro Martinez, quoted above, and the words of a dozen other prisoners and ex-prisoners at Dominguez State Jail in San Antonio, Texas, who were among the participants in a class at the prison run by volunteers and called, of all things, Inner Peace. It almost doesn’t sound possible — a class like this at a place where we corral bad guys, “offenders,” criminals — much less that it could be effective.

2015.2.25.iMatter.BFiMatter youth march. The iMatter campaign, an initiative of Kids vs. Global Warming and Our Children’s Trust, is composed of young people driving change. (Photo: Backbone Campaign / Flickr)

COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Many young people feel they have too much at stake to wait for our leaders to get their act together and take meaningful action on climate change. In the words of one young climate activist, Alec Loorz, we need to demand our political leaders “govern as if our future matters.” With their future at stake, many youth have taken their case to the courts in the hopes that the judiciary will require the legislature to take action.

“We are all in imminent danger,” Loorz, who founded the nonprofit Kids vs. Global Warming, told Outside Magazine. “Scientists have said we have 10 years to make changes if we want to stabilize the climate by 2100—and that was back in 2005 … We care more about money and power than we do about future generations. The judicial system is the only branch of government not bought out by corporate interests.”

On Bill Moyer’s show last month, Mary Christina Wood, law professor at the University of Oregon and author of Nature’s Trust: Environmental Law for a New Ecological Age, explains what is being called the “Children’s Climate Crusade.”

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

agiulballoonsRudy G.: The Man Who Loved Himself Too Much (Photo: VictoryNH)

At BuzzFlash, we have long been critical of many of the key neoliberal policies of the Obama administration. The white House's positions on foreign policy and Wall Street, for example, have always embodied the consensus conventional wisdom of the duopoly - and that is not an expression of praise.

There are, of course, some relative differences between Obama and the GOP on several issues, such as the environment, the social safety net, job creation and a few social justice issues - but in large part, the gap is more of an intra-party dispute rather than an inter-party conflict. However, during the two terms of the Obama administration, the white Republican leaders, media and base have biliously attacked Obama and relentlessly impugned his "love of country." This has occurred despite Obama's aggressive support of the military-industrial-surveillance complex and the current financial system.

Of course, most readers of this commentary are aware that just a short while ago, Rudy Giuliani - a man inexorably in love with himself - told an audience of one-percenters in New York that, in essence, Obama is a traitor to the United States. Of all people, Fox's Megan Kelly's challenged Giuliani on air - and Giuliani responded by launching even more lacerating attacks on Obama's loyalty to the US (stating that he and his ancestors were associated with communists). Here is Giuliani's original statement at an NYC dinner honoring Wisconsin Governor Scott (Koch Brothers) Walker, as posted on FOX:

I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America. He doesn't love you and he doesn't love me. He wasn't brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up, through love of this country.

Kelly repeatedly pressed Giuliani if he stood by the accusation, which he did at that time. At one point Giuliani cut to the heart of the matter:

I don't hear from him [Obama] what I heard from Harry Truman, what I heard from Bill Clinton, what I heard from Jimmy Carter, which is these wonderful words about what a great country we are, what an exceptional country we are.

Giuliani is praising three white Democratic presidents, while lacerating Obama over the mythical notion of "American exceptionalism." At the heart of the notion of "American exceptionalism," of course, is the idea that the US was divinely chosen to be led by white Christians and to extend its empire of ruling elite values throughout the world.

HARVEY WASSERMAN OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaDiabloNuke(Photo: EcoWatch)New revelations about earthquake dangers have shaken the future of California’s Diablo Canyon nukes.

In a rare move, Washington DC’s Federal U.S. Court of Appeals will hear a landmark challenge to their continued operation.

The suit says Diablo’s owners illegally conspired with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to weaken seismic standards. “This is a big victory,” says Damon Moglen of Friends of the Earth. “The public has a right to know what the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Pacific Gas & Electric won’t admit—hundreds of thousands of people are put at immediate risk by earthquake danger at Diablo Canyon.”

Diablo is also vulnerable on state and federal water quality regulations, economic concerns and more. Citizen activism has also shut operating reactors at Humboldt, Rancho Seco and San Onofre. Proposed projects have been cancelled at Bodega Bay and Bakersfield.

California’s two remaining reactors are surrounded by more than a dozen seismic fault lines. The Shoreline fault runs within 600-700 yards of the Diablo cores, which also sit just 45 miles from the massive San Andreas fault—half Fukushima’s distance from the epicenter of the quake that destroyed it.

STEVEN JONAS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaGod(Photo: Cima da Conegliano)It was in 1832 that the first Nullification Crisis occurred. Oddly enough, it was not about slavery, but rather about money. In 1828 and 1832 Congress had passed two acts establishing protective tariffs, which benefitted the manufacturers of the North and harmed the agricultural interests of the South. South Carolina was the state that was most upset about this state of affairs.

The leading politician in South Carolina, John C. Calhoun actually resigned the Vice-Presidency so that he could more effectively lead the opposition to the tariff legislation. The South Carolina legislature passed a law that if the objectionable tariffs were not reduced further (they had been reduced between the 1828 act and the one of 1832) South Carolina would resist their collection by force of arms. The President was Andrew Jackson, a fellow Southerner to Calhoun and a slave-owner. He would have none of it and got Congress to pass a law authorizing him to use force if South Carolina did the same. In the end, the tariffs were reduced a bit further, both sides backed down, and violence was averted.

The next nullification crisis, in 1861, led to the First Civil War. This one was not over something that the Federal government had actually done, but what it, under Lincoln, the Federal government might do. Lincoln was a strong opponent of the expansion of slavery to the Territories (although he had made a clear pledge not to interfere with slavery in those states in which it existed at the time). Nevertheless, as is well-known, well before Lincoln was inaugurated, led by South Carolina, 11 states seceded and . . . . Other attempts at nullification or one sort or another took place in the South around the issue of school integration (see Gov. Faubus in Arkansas and Gov. Wallace in Alabama).

Now we are faced with another act of nullification by an organ of state government, the State’s Supreme Court in the person of its Chief Justice, against the Federal judiciary in general and the Supreme Court of the United States in particular. Interestingly enough, the issue this time around is neither money nor slavery but rather the role of theism in making both Federal and state law.

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