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COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaCow(Photo: EcoWatch)The ice cream giant Breyers announced yesterday it will stop using milk from cows treated with the controversial hormone rBST. The artificial growth hormone, which stands for recombinant bovine somatotropin, is a genetically engineered hormone that farmers inject into cows to increase milk production. It’s controversial because it’s been linked to a slew of health problems in cows, and consequently, humans who drink the cows’ milk.

Bovine somatotropin (BST) is a protein hormone naturally produced in the pituitary glands of cows. Monsanto and other companies developed a recombinant version, rBST, by using a genetically engineered E. coli bacteria, according to Organic Valley. The hormone has been banned in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Israel and the European Union.

Many U.S. companies, such as Ben & Jerry’s, also owned by Unilever, went rBST-free long ago. The conscientious ice cream company made the move back in 1989. Other socially conscious companies like Chipotle have opted to go rBST-free, as well as Wal-MartHaagen DazsYoplait and Dannon yogurts that only source milk from farmers whose cows are hormone free.

Breyers plans to have most of its milk rBST-free by March. In addition to sourcing non-rBST milk, Breyers will only purchase vanilla that is certified by the Rainforest Alliance, ensuring it meets the rigorous standards of the Sustainable Agriculture Network and the Forest Stewardship Council.

COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaMonsantoSpray(Photo: EcoWatch)Yesterday on NPR’s The Diane Rehm Show, Diane Rehm and her guests discussed the race against pests and weeds, and the recent approval by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Dow AgroSciences’ herbicide Enlist Duo, a new combination of 2,4-D and glyphosate meant to fight chemical-resistant “superweeds.”

This new herbicide has many in the environmental and health communities concerned because of the dangerous impacts to human health and the environment. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and other groups sued to block the EPA’s approval because they don’t think the EPA considered all of the environmental and health impacts of the new herbicide. Many have joined the NRDC in calling for a new approach to pest and weed control that doesn’t wreak havoc on human health and the environment.

Rehm starts the discussion by talking about the most common herbicide, Monsanto’s Roundup, which she says, “is steadily becoming less effective.” Erik Olson, director of the health program for the NRDC explains why that is...

Thursday, 05 February 2015 07:14

How Do We Stop a Temper Tantrum War?

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaSkullsWar(Photo: "The Apotheosis of War" by Vasily Vereshchagin)The urgency I feel isn’t any longer to stop a particular war but to interrupt endless war: to interrupt the narrowly focused geopolitical conversation, conveyed to us over and over by media stenographers, in which lethal intervention — wherever — is always the first and only choice. The uncertainty is never a matter of “if.” It’s only a matter of “when.”

For instance: “The West needs to bolster deterrence in Ukraine by raising the risks and costs to Russia of any renewed major offensive. That requires providing direct military assistance — in far larger amounts than provided to date and including lethal defensive arms.”

The quote, which appeared in the New York Times, is from a recently issued report signed by “eight former senior American officials.” It comes with an assumed certainty and seemingly impenetrable authority. “The report was issued jointly by the Atlantic Council, the Brookings Institution and the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.” One of the insiders who put her name on it was Michèle A. Flournoy, “a former senior Pentagon official who is a leading candidate to serve as defense secretary if Hillary Rodham Clinton is elected president.”

And that’s that. It’s all so pristine and scientific-seeming. Never are the consequences of military action discussed, alluded to or acknowledged in the mainstream media, even though the wreckage of our wars is all around us. That doesn’t matter because grotesque, medieval hostility — beheadings, immolation — emerge from the wreckage. Unlike America’s impersonal, high-tech and regrettably necessary killing, our enemies perpetrate Evil Itself. The over-the-top drama of what they do continually supplants any motivation we have to engage in political self-examination. Fear rules, but fortunately we have the technology and the bottomless budget to defend ourselves.

“What’s truly ‘exceptional’ in twenty-first-century America is any articulated vision of what a land at peace with itself and other nations might be like,” William J. Astore, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, wrote recently at TomDispatch.com. “Instead, war, backed by a diet of fear, is the backdrop against which the young have grown to adulthood. It’s the background noise of their world.”

2015.2.4.Berkowitz.BFThe accelerated use of drones - originally mapped out by the Bush administration - is a direct outgrowth of the policies of President Barack Obama. (Image: Jared Rodriguez / t r u t h o u t; Adapted: jeditrilobite, david.evenson)

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

This is a story about drones. It is not about how Amazon and Alibaba are experimenting with drones to deliver goods to customers, or how the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, while still trying to develop overarching regulations for the use of drones, continues to hand out exemptions for their commercial use, or a bill (the Secure Our Borders First Act) that would allow for the use of drones "24 hours per day and for 7 days per week," or the acquisition of drones by police departments around the country, or how several media companies intend to use them for news-gathering purposes, or how it came to pass that a small drone crashed on White House grounds not to long ago, or the fact that the FAA issued a 30 mile no-fly zone around Sunday's Super Bowl.

Consider the drone, because drone warfare is here to stay.

While torture, rendition, secret prisons, and the hell hole that is Guantanamo can be placed directly at the doorsteps of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld, the accelerated use of drones - originally mapped out by the Bush administration - is a direct outgrowth of the policies of President Barack Obama.

8211403037 f144939fa3 zDespite strong resistance on the part of the fossil-fuel sector and some policymakers, a new way of thinking about energy is taking hold. (Photo: Mike Steinhoff / Flickr)ANASTASIA PANTSIOS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

The third annual Sustainable Energy in America Factbook released today documents the continuing dramatic changes in how the U.S. produces, delivers and consumes energy, and makes some projections and predictions about the direction of the energy sector in the future. The report was researched and produced by Bloomberg New Energy Finance and commissioned by The Business Council for Sustainable Energy.

“To single out just a few tell-tale headlines from the hundreds of statistics presented in this report: over the 2007-2014 period, U.S. carbon emissions from the energy sector dropped 9 percent, U.S. natural gas production rose 25 percent and total U.S. investment in clean energy (renewables and advanced grid, storage and electrified transport technologies) totaled $386 billion,” the report said.

The report backs up what other studies have been showing—that despite strong resistance on the part of the fossil-fuel sector and some policymakers, a new way of thinking about energy is taking hold. The factbook points to four significant trends:

  • the advance in infrastructure projects and technology to accommodate new forms of energy;
  • more capital flowing to projects aimed at sustainable energy development with the U.S. attracting the second highest number of dollars after China;
  • companies with high energy-related costs gravitating to the U.S.; and
  • government policies that favor the development of clean energy sources.

INTERVIEW WITH ROBERT NEUSTADT ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

abordersongs214 year old Josseline Janiletha Hernandez Quinteros, from El Salvador, was a victim of US border policy who died in the Sonoran Desert. (Photo: Rex Koningsor for Border Songs)

Today's BuzzFlash at Truthout commentary is an interview with Robert Neustadt – a professor of Spanish at Northern Arizona University - who cofounded Border Songs, a group that supports saving the lives of migrants from Mexico who often perish from the harsh desert conditions trying to make it into Arizona. 

MARK KARLIN: Why do so many migrants die trying to cross into the US through Arizona? Hasn't the US created border enforcement strategies that force people to cross through a broiling desert?

ROBERT NEUSTADT: Yes, there is no question that US government border enforcement strategies have resulted in an enormous increase in border crosser deaths. In 1994, the US government explicitly adopted a strategy called “enforcement through deterrence”, which was outlined in a Border Patrol position paper. The strategy was to seal off the easy-to-cross urban areas near El Paso, Tijuana and Nogales by building walls, ramping up Border Patrol presence, adding more sensors, technology, and recently, patrolling with drones, while leaving open swaths of remote, hazardous back country. By closing the urban areas where people traditionally crossed, enforcement pushes undocumented border crossers into desert and mountain terrain in Arizona (and Texas). This “funnel effect” is clearly a primary factor that results in migrant deaths, and has been acknowledged by everyone from policy makers to humanitarians.

During the early 1990’s, the number of border crosser deaths examined per year by the Pima County Medical Examiner in Arizona varied between 5 and 11. In the year 2010, following construction of almost 700 miles of wall and a huge increase in the number of Border Patrol agents and enforcement technology, they examined 225 human remains in the same office. I find it profoundly disturbing that most people have no idea of the scope of this crisis. These statistics are all readily available and confirmable, but you have to seek them out because the media does not cover the issue sufficiently. Since 1994, they have found over 7,000 human remains in the borderlands, the majority of these in Arizona, and this number only represents the number of bodies found! The actual number of border crosser deaths is almost certainly significantly higher though the bodies were never found.

Currently, the morgue in Tucson houses over 900 unidentified human remains of presumed border crossers. Marc Silver’s documentary film, Who is Dayani Cristal (with Gael Garcia Bernal, 2013) emphasizes the severity of the issue.

This situation is a full-blown humanitarian catastrophe, and US government border enforcement strategy is directly implicated in the dramatic increase in deaths. Even more disturbing is the fact that the number of undocumented border crossers has dropped precipitously while the rate of deaths has remained relatively steady. This means that the chance that someone will die while crossing the border has sky-rocketed, and this is a direct result of our efforts to “secure the border.” This is compounded by the fact that we have deported over two million people since Obama has been in office. Many of these people will attempt to cross to rejoin their families.

STEVE JONAS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaSniperRifle(Photo: USMC)“American Sniper” has stirred up the Right (see Fox ”News” and etc.) and it has stirred up the Left. The Right sees the movie as one about a “patriotic American,” “doing his duty to protect our country and the freedoms it stands for.” The Right sees any critic of the film, as a commie, as a traitor, as “un-American,” if not “un-Christian” (for after all, sniper Chris Kyle was fighting the Muslims, wasn’t he?) The Left, and of course I include myself in that group, see the movie in much more complex, much starker terms, which I shall address.

In terms of the standard Right-wing propaganda lines, oddly enough, Kyle didn’t see himself as “fighting to protect the American way of life” at all. Rather, when asked a direct question on a Fox ”News” show, he said that he did what he did in order to protect his buddies. Then, there is the well-discussed historical fallacy that the Iraq War had anything to do with 9/11. The old canard that a representative of Saddam Hussein’s government went to Prague, Czech Republic, to meet with a representative from al Qaeda and that meant that they were hooking up has long since been disposed of as a unproven and unlikely rumor. Do you really think that a secular Hussein, already facing strong threats from the United States, would have formed an alliance with a religiously-based terror organization that had originally been formed in Afghanistan by the same United States? The historical distortions are a minor tragedy, but a tragedy nevertheless.

Then there are the questions that have been raised about the movie’s definition of heroism. There was a great 2001 film about the Battle of Stalingrad (one of very few US films about the Soviet role in winning World War II) called Enemy at the Gates. The hero is a Red Army sniper. The villain is a Wehrmacht sniper. But hero/villain depends very much whose side you are on, doesn’t it? It’s whose side he is on. To many U.S., he’s a hero, but a sniper on the other side he would a wicked villain, killing people with abandon.

2015.2.2.Newborn.BFMaternal exposure to high levels of flame-retardants may be a contributing factor in preterm births. (Photo: US Air Force / Flickr)TONY IALLONARDO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

A new study finds expecting mothers who were exposed to a flame retardant chemical may have been more likely to have a premature birth. That’s a concern because premature babies may have more health problems and may need to stay in the hospital longer than babies born later. They also may have long-term health problems that can affect their whole lives.

Researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch have determined that maternal exposure to high levels of flame-retardants may be a contributing factor in preterm births. The study was recently published in the Journal of Reproductive Immunology. The researchers focused on PBDEs, a class of flame retardants that have been banned in several states and are used less. But, the industry has substituted PBDEs with other brominated flame retardants that continue to raise health concerns.

2015.2.2.Buchheit.BFMayor of Chicago Rahm Emanuel. (Photo: Viewminder / Flickr)PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Chicago is being privatized. Assets are being sold off, Wall Street debt is mounting, and the mayor conducts business with multi-millionaire donors who often reap benefits from their connections to City Hall. The people of Chicago, who will be electing their next mayor on February 24, need to know the facts about their city's financial problems. Some of these facts won't be found in the mainstream media.

Like Detroit in 2013, Chicago is becoming a symbol of a divided nation, of a society crippled by a 35-year-old notion that the "public good" is somehow un-American. Other U.S. cities have learned that their people and their public services are not products to be bought and sold. Chicago, under Rahm Emanuel and Richie Daley and an assortment of Illinois Governors, has been headed in the other direction.


Schools For Sale

It starts with the public schools, the anchors of their communities and centers of equal opportunity for our children. Illinois cut education spending by a greater percentage than any other state in fiscal 2012, and for 2013 it was third-worst in cuts per student. Privatizers rushed in and blamed the public system. As a result, 50 neighborhood schools were closed in Chicago, opening the way for charter schools, which take taxpayer money but have little accountability to the public and an obligation only to their investors.

REV. BILLY TALEN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

abilly76 In Grand Central Station, Rev. Billy Talen was a victim of the criminalization of dissent. (Photo: Erik McGregor)

A 24-Hour vigil at Grand Central Station organized by the group "We Will Not Be Silent" was held on on Monday, January 5, through Tuesday, January 6. "We Will Not Be Silent" publically memorialized people of color killed by the police with placards of their names on the floor, and condemned the epidemic.

I arrived to speak to the group, introduced by "Justice Jester," at noon on Tuesday. 

By time I spoke, law enforcement officials from various agencies swamped Grand Central station, and I was arrested and charged with "obstruction" and "disorderly conduct.” They had been demanding that the names of victims be picked up, and the protesters refused. I began speaking at about the time that the police intended to confiscate the signs.

After 20 hours in the New York City correctional called The Tombs, I was released and found that a completely fictional story about the arrest was planted in the Murdoch papers (the Post and the Wall Street Journal) as well as a popular liberal blog called The Gothamist. The media meme was that Reverend Billy “got physical” and “attacked a policeman.” The head of security for Grand Central Station was quoted as a source for the accusation, which was entirely untrue.

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