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BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT 

2016april1 coaloaklandWill California Governor Jerry Brown allow Oakland to become a coal hub? (Photo: Sicko Atze van Dijk)

Throughout his lengthy political career, California Governor Jerry Brown has probably been called just about everything in the book; from Governor Moonbeam (during his first tenure) to hopeless optimist (his run for the presidency), from crass opportunist (his period as two-term mayor of Oakland), to environmental visionary (his current tenure as Governor leading the fight against climate change). However, he’s probably never been characterized as a “head in the sand” kind of guy, and yet that’s exactly the ground he’s occupying by continuing to remain silent about plans by one of his closest friends and political allies to export millions of tons of coal from Oakland’s port; a plan that could have a devastating environment and heath impact on Oakland communities.

As the Contra Costa Times reported this past November, Oakland is on the precipice of “becoming the largest coal exporter on the West Coast.” And Oakland officials have spent months reviewing “thousands of documents to determine whether they can legally oppose coal shipments from a city-owned bulk commodities terminal being constructed on the old Oakland Army Base.”

One exceedingly important issue is whether city officials, who appear to be remarkably united in their opposition, has the authority to block the plans of Phil Tagami, a prominent Oakland developer who is a longtime friend, political ally and financial supporter of Governor Brown.

“Tagami, a former port commissioner with deep personal and business ties to Gov. Jerry Brown, won the contract to oversee the city's portion of the Army Base redevelopment to transform about 160 acres adjacent to the Port of Oakland into a $500 million logistics center with new shipping terminals and warehouses,” the Contra Costa Times reported.

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

1728461908 57a92b9789 z opt(Photo: Andrew Malone)Millions of Nigerians are urging the Nigerian government to reject Monsanto’s attempts to introduce genetically modified (GMO) cotton and maize into the country’s food and farming systems.

One-hundred organizations representing more than 5 million Nigerians, including farmers, faith-based organisations, civil society groups, students and local community groups, have submitted a joint objection to the country’s National Biosafety Management Agency (NABMA) expressing serious concerns about human health and environmental risks of genetically altered crops.

The groups’ petition follows Monsanto Agricultural Nigeria Limited’s own application to NAMBA that seeks to release GMO cotton (Bt cotton, event MON 15985) into the city of Zaria as well as surrounding towns. Another application seeks confined field trials of two GMO corn varieties (NK603 and stacked event MON 89034 x NK603) in multiple locations in Nigeria.

In a press release, the groups said they are particularly alarmed about the commercial release of Bt cotton into Nigeria, which is being phased out in Burkina Faso due to the “inferior lint quality” of the GMO cultivars.

“We are totally shocked that it should come so soon after peer-reviewed studies have showed that the technology has failed dismally in Burkina Faso,” Nnimmo Bassey, the director of the Health of Mother Earth Foundation, one of the leading opposition groups, said in a statement. “It has brought nothing but economic misery to the cotton sector there and is being phased out in that country where compensation is being sought from Monsanto.”

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

AfricanElephant 0330wrp opt(Photo: Mister-E)Leonardo DiCaprio is using his clout to protect the struggling Leuser Ecosystem, a precious rainforest in Sumatra, Indonesia that’s under threat from industrial development for palm oil.

The Oscar winning actor and prominent environmental activist spent the weekend in the forest with fellow actors Adrien Brody and Fisher Stevens. According to The Jakarta Post, the crew toured Mount Leuser National Park on Sunday where they stopped by the park’s research facility and met three Sumatran orangutans.

During his visit, DiCaprio also posed for a photo with two conservationists and two endangered elephants. The Revenant star posted the image onto his Instagram page and in the accompanying caption, he warned that the expansion of palm oil plantations are “fragmenting the forest and cutting off key elephant migratory corridors, making it more difficult for elephant families to find adequate sources of food and water.”

He added that his philanthropic foundation, the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, is supporting local partners to establish “a mega-fauna sanctuary in the Leuser Ecosystem.”

The iconic Leuser Ecosystem, located in the provinces of Aceh and North Sumatra, consists of 6.5 million acres of tropical lowland rainforests, mountains and peatlands. As DiCaprio noted, the area is the last place on Earth where Sumatran orangutans, tigers, rhinos and elephants coexist in the wild. Without protection, these wildlife species are likely to be pushed to extinction.

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

2016march28 whalesGerman environment minister Robert Habeck and Gerd Meurs, director of the Multimar national park center, hold up some of the waste found in the sperm whales’ bodies. Photo credit: Wadden Sea National Park

Large quantities of marine debris were found in the stomachs of sperm whales that washed up dead in Germany’s North Sea coast earlier this year.

The whales first surfaced in January and February near the coastal town of Tönning in the German state of Schleswig-Holstein. After officials ordered a necropsy of the bodies, post-mortem results were announced in a presentation at the Multimar Wattforum Centre on March 23.

Four of the 13 whales had large amounts of plastic waste in their stomachs, and some of the garbage included a 13-meter-long fishing net, a 70-centimeter-long plastic car engine cover and the remains of a plastic bucket, according to a press release from the Schleswig-Holstein Wadden Sea National Park.

“These findings show us the effects of our plastic society: Animals inadvertently take in plastic and other plastic waste and suffer, and at worst, starve with full stomachs,” environment minister Robert Habeck said in a statement (via Google Translate).

“This reminds us that we step up the fight against waste in the sea,” he said.

The whales were said to be all young bulls between the ages of 10 to 15 and weighed between 12 to 18 tons. Before surfacing in the shallow waters of the Wadden Sea in the North Sea, scientists suspected that the last time the whales had anything to eat besides plastic trash was in the Norwegian Sea.

According to the press release, male sperm whales in this population spend their winter in the North Atlantic but in their search for food, they mistakenly migrated to the food-poor North Sea.

MICHAEL MANN OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Smokestacks 0328wrp opt(Photo: EcoWatch)Fossil fuel companies have been misleading the public and policymakers about the risks of their products for decades. These corporations should obviously be held accountable.

It’s odd that we aren’t able to discuss this straightforwardly. After all, accountability is common for other industries. When companies mislead the public about the health effects of the drugs they market, for instance, we hold them accountable.

Similarly, when asbestos manufacturers misled the public about the cancers their product caused, they were held accountable. When Enron misled its customers and shareholders, it was held accountable. And when we learned that Volkswagen cheated consumers by secretly embedding an emissions control “kill switch” in it’s diesel vehicles, citizens and government officials swung into action to hold the company accountable.

Most significantly, when we discovered that the tobacco industry hid information about the addictive nature and deadly toll of cigarettes and systematically engaged in a decades-long campaign to misinform the public, we held the industry accountable.

Given this history, let’s be clear about what we now know regarding the fossil fuel industry’s history of deception on climate change.

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

BernieSmile 0328wrp opt(Photo: Jonathunder)Mahatma Gandhi said, "A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members."

The visions of "greatness" coming from America's political and business and military leaders are quite the opposite, with an emphasis on the 'exceptional' people who would prefer to have nothing to do with the weaker members of society.

1. Let Government and the Media Ignore 90% of Us

Based on a study of 1,779 policy issues, Princeton researchers Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page concluded that "the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy."

Government doesn't listen to us, and the mainstream media fails to inform us about matters that might offend their corporate bosses. As Bernie Sanders explained, "The corporate media does everything they can to keep us entertained without addressing the real issues... [Young people] don’t even know that we are the only major country without healthcare for all. They don’t know that in Germany or in Scandinavia college is free...Media is not telling them that...If you talk about the real issues and people get educated on the real issues, you know what happens next? They actually may want to bring about change."

2. Sell Arms to 96 Countries

As we continue to spend half our discretionary budget on the military, one of five U.S. children live in food insecure households. President Obama said, "They are not very good at feeding their people, but they invest a huge amount in their weapons." He was talking about North Korea.

It would seem unthinkable, with fears of terrorism and new Middle East wars, to keep shipping arms to half the world, to countries where failed insurgencies leave weapons in the hands of the people who hate us. But according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the USA has sold or donated major arms to at least 96 nations in the past five years. Here again our political leaders ignore us. Most voters favor defense cuts, but most politicians don’t.

The weapons we sell to Saudi Arabia are destroying villages in Yemen, killing entire families and leveling their homes. As Glenn Greenwald summarizes, "You’ll almost never hear any of those victims’ names on CNN, NPR, or most other large U.S. media outlets...You’ll never know anything about them – not even their names, let alone hear about their extinguished life aspirations or hear from their grieving survivors."

BILL QUIGLEY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

HotDog 0325wrp opt(Photo: Czar)Two Texas mothers, who police said had no criminal record, spent five days in a notorious Louisiana jail over charges they ate two hot dogs, milkshakes and an icee at a convenience store.  The women were ordered held on $1500 dollar bond each despite the fact they had just voluntarily driven over 400 miles from Dallas to show up in court to contest the charges against them.

On January 15, 2016, Ms. Walnetta Reid and Ms. Tristan Ellis, mothers from Dallas, were stopped by a police officer in New Iberia, Louisiana.  The police told the women they had been accused of eating two hot dogs and drinking milkshakes and an icee in a gas station convenience store without paying.  The police officer handcuffed the two women and placed them in the back of the patrol car.  The women told the police officer they had not taken anything from the store.  They pleaded with the officer to look at the store surveillance videotape which would prove their innocence.  They told the officer they did go into the store but only to use the store microwave to heat up some soup they had bought at another store and for which they had a receipt.  The officer ran their names through his computer and found out they had no criminal records.  He released the women with a summons to appear in New Iberia City Court on March 14, 2016.   

Both Ms. Reid and Ms. Ellis are active in volunteer work in Dallas helping young people.  They told a friend who does volunteer work with them, C.J. Bible, they had to return to Louisiana to clear their names.

Ms. Reid and Ms. Ellis drove the 400 miles to appear in New Iberia City Court on Monday March 14, 2016.  They expected their case to go to trial.  They planned to show the court their receipt for the soup and explain to the judge that Ms. Ellis is a vegan and never eats meat of any kind, much less a hot dog.  Though they could not afford an attorney, they expected to be found innocent once the judge looked at the store videotape. 

But when their case came up, they were told there was not going to be a trial.  Court was only for them to plead not guilty or guilty.  They plead not guilty and the court set the trial for May 25.  They thought it was all over for the day until the Prosecutor asked the Judge to set cash bail on them since they had showed up on a summons and were from out of state.  Despite that they had voluntarily driven 400 miles one way to appear in court, and they had no criminal record, the judge ordered each women to put up a $1500 bail, plus $240 in court fees. 

2016.24.3 BF wasserman(Photo: IIP Photo Archive)HARVEY WASSERMAN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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Our American president’s long-overdue visit to Cuba has been a great thing for many reasons.

But maybe our elected officials should cease their hypocritical yapping about the human rights situation in Cuba until they come clean about what’s happening here in the United States.

To be sure, there is much to say about how this authoritarian regime has handled dissent. The details abound in the corporate media.

But the idea of the United States lecturing Cuba or any other country on this planet about human rights comes down somewhere between embarrassing and nauseating.

Thursday, 24 March 2016 06:34

Recovering From Militarism

2016.24.3 bf koehler(Photo: Steve Stearns)ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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The pols cry glory and revenge. They cry security. They cry greatness.

Then they stick in the needle, or the missile or the rifle shell, or the nuclear bomb. Or at least they imagine doing so. This will fix the world. And they approve more funding for war.

U.S. militarism, and the funding -- and the fearmongering -- that sustain it are out of control . . . in the same way, perhaps, that stage 4 cancer is out of control.

We talk about "the Pentagon" as though it were a rational entity, hierarchically in control of what it does, dispensable as needed to trouble spots around the world: a tool of America’s commander in chief and, therefore, of the American people. The reality, undiscussed on the evening news or the presidential debates, is something a little different. The American military is an unceasing hemorrhage of cash and aggression, committed -- perhaps only at the unconscious level -- to nothing more than its own perpetuation, which is to say, endless war.

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

LeoMeat 0323wrp opt(Photo: EcoWatch)Oscar-winning actor Leonardo DiCaprio has advocated for a number of worthy causes, from fighting climate change to the importance of conservation. Now, with a single tweet, the planetary steward shines a light on the colossal environmental impact of animal agriculture.

In his tweet, DiCaprio included a link to a stunning video from Mercy For Animals, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing cruelty to farmed animals, and promoting compassionate food choices and policies.

The 4-minute clip, with the tag-line “This is the video future generations will be wishing everyone watched today,” starts by showing the awe-inspiring, grandeur of our living, breathing planet Earth as well as its incredibly vast biodiversity. It then turns dark as footage rolls of crumbling glaciers and disappearing coastlines, and links these global catastrophes to mankind’s insatiable appetite for meat.

The video points out that animal agriculture and meat consumption is the number one cause of environmental destruction, species extinction and ocean “dead zones.” The agricultural industry has consumed one-third of all fresh water and has destroyed 91 percent of the Amazon.

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