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Thursday, 27 October 2016 06:41

Budgeting the "Good War" for 75 Years

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Arizona 1027wrp opt(Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)World War II never quite ended — it morphed.

Today we call it the status quo, or endless war, or we just don’t bother to notice it. Indeed, now more than ever we don’t notice it. It’s barely part of the 2016 election, even though we’re engaged in active conflict in half a dozen countries, toying with a relaunch of the Cold War with Russia and, of course, hemorrhaging, as always, more than half our annual discretionary budget on “defense.”

World War II has been going on for seven decades now and has no intention of ever stopping . . . of its own volition. But this year’s rocking electoral craziness — not just Hurricane Donald, but the unexpected staying power of the Bernie Sanders campaign — may well be the harbinger of transcendence. Apparently there’s another force in the universe capable of standing up to the American, indeed, the global, military-industrial status quo.

Slowly, slowly this force is organizing itself and taking human shape. This isn’t a simple process. After all, the game of empire — the game called war, the game of domination — has been coalescing political power for several thousand years now.

But our current military budget was birthed by the wars of the 20th century. William Hartung, writing recently at TomDispatch, shows the fascinating connectedness of the wars that followed VE and VJ Days, as the corporate beneficiaries of the Big War aligned with mainstream politicians of both major parties and coalesced into the Washington consensus. Over the decades they have engaged in an ongoing struggle to maintain military spending at breathtakingly high levels and avoid any sort of transition to something called peace.

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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EcoFrack 1026wrp opt(Photo: EcoWatch)Yet another study has determined that hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, might be a major public health threat. In one of the most exhaustive reviews to date, researchers from the Yale School of Public Health have confirmed that many of the chemicals involved and released by the controversial drilling process can be linked to cancer.

"Previous studies have examined the carcinogenicity of more selective lists of chemicals," lead author Nicole Deziel, Ph.D., assistant professor explained to the school. "To our knowledge, our analysis represents the most expansive review of carcinogenicity of hydraulic fracturing-related chemicals in the published literature."

For the study, published in Science of the Total Environment, the researchers assessed the carcinogenicity of 1,177 water pollutants and 143 air pollutants released by the fracking process and from fracking wastewater. They found that 55 unique chemicals could be classified as known, probable or possible human carcinogens. They also specifically identified 20 compounds that had evidence of leukemia/lymphoma risk.

One of the scarier parts from this study is that the researchers could not completely unpack the health hazards of fracking's entire chemical cocktail. More than 80 percent of the chemicals lacked sufficient data on cancer-causing potential, "highlighting an important knowledge gap," the school noted.

The unconventional drilling rush in the U.S. has expanded to as many as 30 states, spelling major consequences to the air we breathe and the water we drink. The Wall Street Journal reported in 2013 that more than 15 million Americans lived within a mile of a well.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016 08:02

Jim Hightower: A Tale of Two Pipes

Standing with the Standing Rock Sioux and all the water, land, sacred site and planet "protectors" gathered in North Dakota and beyond, to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline.(Photo: Peg Hunter)JIM HIGHTOWER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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In bad movies (and bad history alike), the Native American ceremonial pipe figured prominently as symbol of defeat -- typically in a cliched scene of subdued chieftains signing a treaty of surrender and passing around a "peace pipe" in a sorrowful gesture to seal the raw deal.

The reality is that the communal smoking of a ceremonial pipe, often filled with tobacco, is a centuries-old tradition rich in spiritual meaning for many Native people who see it as an eternal channel through which tribes seek metaphysical strength, courage and endurance. The ceremonial pipe both shapes and conveys Native people's living history, a story that's perpetually being written.

Indeed, a dramatic new chapter is unfolding this year in a volatile confrontation on a remote stretch of the Northern Plains in rural North Dakota. It's a "Battle of Two Pipes," pitting the cultural power symbolized by the Native American pipe against the bruising financial power of a giant pipeline, owned by Energy Transfer Partners.

2016.25.10 BF SpearConstruction of the Muskrat Falls Generation Facility began in 2013 and sources say flooding will begin in the coming days. (Photo: Innovationtrail)STEFANIE SPEAR OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

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Renowned Inuk artist Billy Gauthier has not eaten since Oct. 13. He is on a hunger strike against the proposed flooding of the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project reservoir.

The Muskrat Falls project, part of the $8.6 billion Lower Churchill hydroelectric project in Labrador, Canada, will flood the Lake Melville river valley, which has cultural and spiritual significance for the Innu and Inuit peoples.

Construction of the Muskrat Falls Generation Facility began in 2013 and sources say flooding will begin in the next 36 hours.

Opposition to this project has been long-standing. Ossie Michelin, a freelance journalist living in Labrador, has been documenting the fight against the dam. He shared how the hydroelectric project "will cut through the unceded territory of the NunatuKavut Inuit, the only group of Inuit in Canada with an outstanding land claim," and "destroy hundreds of kilometers of forest and contaminate fish and seal stocks with methylmercury."

WALTER BRASCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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Poll 1024wrp opt(Photo: Smithsonian Institution)My wife, Rosemary, a registered Republican, received a black and white poll in the mail. Plastered across the top of the sheet in bold black letters was the title: “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN.” I wonder who that could be.

On to the questions. All she had to do was to check the appropriate box and return the ballot. The survey indicated name, survey number, and a processing code, all with a bar code for identification.  She just had to check the appropriate box beneath a picture of Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, or “no opinion.” Seemed simple enough.

First question: “Hillary Clinton is working hard to win the White House so she can carry forward Barack Obama’s disastrous policies—including increased taxes—which have been so harmful to our nation’s economy. Donald Trump is dedicated to lowering taxes and instituting responsible reforms that will create jobs, strengthen free enterprise and boost economic growth. Which candidate do you trust more to put America on a secure and prosperous economic path.”

Gee, this is a hard one. Let’s think about it awhile. OK, time’s up. I guess, based upon the question, the demon Clinton wasn’t the right answer. Rosemary needed to check Trump as the one to keep the country moving forward.

There were nine questions, all similar to the first one. The other questions had to do with the federal debt, foreign policy, the nomination of federal judges, immigration, environment, and ObamaCare. The ninth one asked the most vital question: “Are you willing to financially help the Trump Make America Great Again Committee in making sure our nation finally leaves behind the ruinous policies of the past eight years and elects a Republican president who will Make America Great Again?”

Monday, 24 October 2016 07:58

New Layers of Dirt on Charter Schools

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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Soil 1024wrp(Photo: USDA)An earlier review identified the "Three Big Sins of Charter Schools": fraud, a lack of transparency, and the exclusion of unwanted students. The evidence against charters continues to grow. Yet except for its reporting on a few egregious examples of charter malfeasance and failure, the mainstream media continues to echo the sentiments of privatization-loving billionaires who believe their wealth somehow equates to educational wisdom.

The Wall Street Journal, in its misinformed way, says that the turnaround of public schools requires "increasing options for parents, from magnet to charter schools." Wrong. As the NAACP affirms, our nation needs "free, high-quality, fully and equitably-funded public education for all children." For all children, not just a select few.

The NAACP has called for a moratorium on charter schools. And Diane Ravitch makes a crucial point: "Would [corporate reformers] still be able to call themselves leaders of the civil rights issue of our time if the NAACP disagreed with their aggressive efforts to privatize public schools?"

Here are the four big sins of charter schools, updated by a surge of new evidence:

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Earth 1021wrp opt(Photo: NASA/Bill Anders)Maybe it's the phrase — "commander in chief" — that best captures the transcendent absurdity and unaddressed horrors of the 2016 election season and the business as usual that will follow.

I don't want to elect anyone commander in chief: not the xenophobic misogynist and egomaniac, not the Henry Kissinger acolyte and Libya hawk. The big hole in this democracy is not the candidates; it's the bedrock, founding belief that the rest of the world is our potential enemy, that war with someone is always inevitable and only a strong military will keep us safe.

In a million ways, we've outgrown this concept, or been pushed beyond it by awareness of global human connectedness and the shared planetary risk of eco-collapse. So whenever I hear someone in the media bring "commander in chief" into the discussion — always superficially and without question — what I hear is boys playing war. Yes, we wage war in a real way as well, but when the public is invited to participate in the process by selecting its next commander in chief, this is pretend war at its most surreal: all glory and greatness and hammering ISIS in Mosul.

"What about our safety here?" Brian Williams asked Gen. Barry McCaffrey on MSNBC the other night, as they were discussing the awfulness of terrorism and the need to bomb the bad guys out of existence. I cringed. How long can they keep selling this?

Our safety is far, far more imperiled by the fact that we have a military at all than by any enemy that military is allegedly fighting, but is, in fact, creating as it churns out endless collateral damage, a.k.a., dead and injured civilians.

DAN ZUKOWSKI OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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KingTide 1019wrp opt(Photo: EcoWatch)Sen. Marco Rubio refused to acknowledge human-caused climate change at a Florida Senate debate Monday even as a foot of water inundated city streets and sewers throughout South Florida, driven by the annual king tide combined with rising seas.

The king tide occurs when a full moon is aligned with the Earth and sun, exerting gravitational forces that are exacerbated by the naturally-occurring high tides. As sea levels around Florida have risen, these king tides have become regular flooding events.

Rubio argued for an "all-of-the-above" energy strategy, including oil, coal, natural gas and nuclear energy, and said he favored mitigation strategies, "if in fact sea levels are rising."

Patrick Murphy, Rubio's Democratic challenger, responded in the debate by saying, "Look out your window, right? There's two or three inches of saltwater on the roads right now. They were not built underwater. Go down to the Florida Keys. The reefs are dying from acidification and bleaching."

Some 76 percent of Florida's population resides in coastal communities—regions that are highly vulnerable to storm surges, high tides, rising waters and hurricanes. According to a 2010 report prepared by the Florida Oceans and Coastal Council, "Much of the current infrastructure of coastal Florida will need to be replaced or improved during ongoing sea-level rise." The report puts the cost at $3 trillion by 2030.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016 06:59

When the Election Is Over, It Will Not Be Done

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Fire 1019wrp opt(Photo: Fir0002)They're stoked by bitterness, anger, and the unbearable color of others, and they're buying into Donald Trump's trope that the election, indeed society, is rigged against them. At his rallies, they love to wear obscene-laced t-shirts, and when Hillary Clinton's name is mentioned, they come alive with chants of "Lock her up." They revile fact checking and are disgusted, not by Trump's predatory behavior and despicable comments about women, but by the way the media has reported it. And, when the election is over, and Trump has moved on to attempting to build a multi-media empire, or perhaps to an all-expenses-paid Dacha in the Russian countryside, his supporters will be holding a bag of steaming anger.

And the anger of those supporters could make the era of the Tea Party look like, well … a tea party.

A question being batted around these days is: How will the Republican Party deal with its far-right extremists; white nationalists, neo-Nazis, and alt-righters if Trump loses? How will it reckon with the theocratic Christian Right, many of whom – Jerry Falwell, Jr., Dr. James Dobson, Ralph Reed, Tony Perkins, to name a few – were all in with their support for Trump, when they start clamoring for an authentic conservative Christian evangelical candidate in 2020?

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In 2013, the Republican Party earnestly issued what was characterized as an "autopsy"; an examination of what wrong in the 2012 presidential election. Party analysts looked at why they lost, and what could be done differently. One of the areas the autopsy focused on was how to improve outreach to minority communities: "We need to campaign among Hispanic, black, Asian, and gay Americans and demonstrate we care about them, too." Questions about how the GOP could become a more inclusive party were asked and discussed.

State senator Raymond J. Lesniak has introduced a bill that would ban bear baiting and establish trash disposal rules that would reduce access to human food waste, as has been implemented in other areas with high bear populations.State senator Raymond J. Lesniak has introduced a bill that would ban bear baiting and establish trash disposal rules that would reduce access to human food waste, as has been implemented in other areas with high bear populations. (Photo: Jethro Taylor)DAN ZUKOWSKI OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission of EcoWatch

A bow hunter in New Jersey has apparently killed a popular local black bear, Pedals. Wildlife lovers are outraged as the hunter has been reportedly bragging about the kill.

Pedals, the upright-walking bear, which once had 22,000 fans on a now-defunct Facebook page, was just one of 549 bears killed by hunters during a controversial expanded hunting season. Reaction was so negative on both sides of the issue that a Facebook page dedicated to the bear was shut down Saturday night. A new Facebook page, RIP Pedals The Walking Bear, posted a plea to "please be respectful of others."

Anger may have been provoked by the defunct site's post, which read, "The hunter who has wanted him dead for nearly three years had the satisfaction of putting an arrow through him, bragging at the station."

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