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Monday, 12 January 2015 07:26

Pope Francis Says No to Fracking

2015.1.12.Pope.BFPope Francis. (Image: European Parliament / Flickr)

STEFANIE SPEAR OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

We’ve been busy lately providing news on all the great ways Pope Francis is working to create a healthy, sustainable planet. In July 2014, Pope Francis called destruction of nature a modern sin. In November 2014, Pope Francis said “unbridled consumerism” is destroying our planet and we are “stewards, not masters” of the Earth. In December 2014, he said he will increase his call this year to address climate change. And, last week we announced that Pope Francis is opening his Vatican farm to the public.

Now, we learn from Nicolás Fedor Sulcic that Pope Francis is supportive of the anti-fracking movement. Watch this interview by Fernando Solanas where he met with Pope Francis soon after finishing a film about fracking in Argentina.

The movie, La Guerra del Fracking or Fracking Wars, was banned in cinemas by the Argentinian government, so the filmmakers decided to post it on YouTube. We are awaiting translation of the film and then we’ll feature it on EcoWatch.

2015.1.12.Buchheit.BF"In the mindset of big business, the best education is in learning how to make money off the children," writes Buchheit. (Image: Jared Rodriguez / Truthout)PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

In fact, except for the debilitating effects of poverty, our public school system may be the best in the world.

The most recent data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reveal that the U.S. ranked high, relative to other OECD countries, in reading, math, and science (especially in reading, and in all areas better in 4th grade than in 8th grade). Some U.S. private schools were included, but a separate evaluation was done for Florida, in public schools only, and their results were higher than the U.S. average.

Perhaps most significant in the NCES reading results is that schools with less than 25% free-lunch eligibility scored higher than the average in ALL OTHER COUNTRIES.


The Obvious: Reduce Poverty and Improve Education.

What should be obvious to our legislators is apparently not. K-12 funding declined in 2011 for the first time since the Census Bureau began keeping records. A 2014 study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that "States' new budgets are providing less per-pupil funding for kindergarten through 12th grade than they did six years ago — often far less."

Friday, 09 January 2015 09:59

The Suicide of Capitalism

STEVEN JONAS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaFlood(Photo: Kingbob86)"Suicide" means, literally, killing oneself. Most often, suicide is voluntary. However, by definition, it can be involuntary as well, as in accidentally killing oneself while cleaning a loaded handgun (which apparently people do from time-to-time). Capitalism, the world's dominant socio-economic system, is in the process of killing itself. Like the cleaner of a loaded hand-gun, capitalism thinks that there is absolutely nothing to worry about, that whatever its doing will result in no harmful outcomes, and that anyone who tells it not to do such a thing is a hoaxer of the worst order. Inadvertently killing oneself with a loaded handgun is bad enough. What capitalism is doing of course is far worse. Not only will it kill itself as a system, but it will likely take our species along with many others right along with it.

Most readers of these pages are familiar with the mountain of data dealing with global warming/climate change and its increasingly negative projected outcomes. As the cited article by Justin Gillis says: "Failure to reduce emissions, the group of scientists and other experts found, could threaten society with food shortages, refugee crises, the flooding of major cities and entire island nations, mass extinction of plants and animals, and a climate so drastically altered it might become dangerous for people to work or play outside during the hottest times of the year."

Currently, 2100 has been cited as the "tipping point" year, if no major policy changes in terms of carbon (to say nothing of methane) emissions are undertaken. However, a recent projection by the organization Green Physicists moves the "tipping point" year up to 2050. By then they estimate that: atmospheric carbon dioxide levels will have risen to twice the pre-industrial level; the global average surface temperature of our planet will have increased 2.5 degrees Centigrade [the current projected "tipping point" for irreversible catastrophe is 2.6 Deg. C.]; the temperature rise in the Arctic has been about twice that of the global mean, so that the permafrost has been melting rapidly, with the release of enormous quantities of methane (which adds to the global warming effect of CO2); the Greenland ice sheet will be virtually gone, with a likely resulting sea level rise of more (39"); and so on and so forth.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaPistolPile(Photo: Joshuashearn)Before I heard about the horrific terrorist attack on the offices of the Paris-based humor magazine, Charlie Hebdo, which resulted in the deaths of at least twelve people and the wounding of many more, I was reading a report in the Washington Examiner about a poll taken by McLaughlin & Associates that found "74.2 percent of likely voters said they fear terrorists affiliated with the Islamic State will strike U.S. targets if they aren't stopped." Now that cable television's news networks are covering the Paris events twenty-four/seven, it is likely that a similar poll taken today might reveal even higher numbers.

Joel C. Rosenberg, in an apparently self-serving move aimed at promoting his new book titled "The Third Target," commissioned the McLaughlin & Associates poll and has been touting the results at his blog. "The Third Target," according to Rosenberg is about "ISIS broadening its attacks outside of Syria and Iraq." Rosenberg, who years ago worked for current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and who currently runs a charity called The Joshua Fund, is the author of a series of best-selling novels dealing with the Middle East.

While Rosenberg's novels consistently deal with terrorist plots in the Middle East, radical Islamists, and his own apocalyptic visions, he steers clear of writing about white, homegrown, Christian-based anti-government radicals in the United States.

In actuality, there are more than enough domestic terrorist incidents to write about.

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaNYPDbadge(Photo: SGT141)Oh, the moral force of a snub.

Several hundred cops turn their backs on New York's mayor as he eulogizes one of their own, killed in the line of duty, and the media have another us-vs.-them story to report. Bill de Blasio's in trouble, accused of playing politics with the lives of heroes. And, of course, the story goes no deeper than the dramatic accusation.

As the sign of a lone protester at the officer's funeral proclaimed: "God bless the NYPD: Dump de Blasio."

There's nothing like a good, righteous condemnation to stop a national discussion. Criticizing police tactics means contributing to an anti-police atmosphere. End of debate.

Personally, I view the snub, by some New York police, as de Blasio's red badge of courage more than his moral condemnation. He stood for something outside the zone of official righteousness. He met with protesters. He ended stop-and-frisk, the tactic of warrantless street searches that primarily targeted blacks and Hispanics. He told his biracial son to "take special care in any encounter he has with police officers," in other words, refused to sugarcoat a pragmatic truth.

And he has eulogized about attaining peace other than through brute force: "As we start a new year, a year we're entering with hearts that are doubly heavy, let us rededicate ourselves to those great New York traditions of mutual understanding and living in harmony. Let us move forward by strengthening the bonds that unite us, and let us work together to attain peace."

Thursday, 08 January 2015 07:10

You Are Not Your Beliefs

AKIRA WATTS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaCharlieH(Photo: Aftermath of 2011 Charlie Hebdo firebombing. Photo by Pierre-Yves Beaudouin)It has been a day since I woke to the news that the office of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo had been attacked by armed gunmen, leaving 12 dead. The magazine had last made international headlines back in 2011, when its office was firebombed after publishing an issue featuring cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, but it has a long and rich history of attacking pretty much anyone within reach.

It would be nice to imagine that the response to this will not follow a far too predictable pattern. The attacks will be, rightfully, deplored all around. Islam will be denounced. Radical Islam will be denounced. Richard Dawkins will shoot his mouth off. The entirely reasonable claim that the actions of two individual extremists do not represent the totality of the faith will be made. Charlie Hebdo will be attacked as racist and insensitive, and defended as a shining exemplar of free speech and satire.

And meanwhile 12 people are dead because offense was taken when someone’s beliefs were attacked.

Wednesday, 07 January 2015 08:10

Fracking Ban Bill Introduced in Florida

2015.1.7.Everglades.BFMany Floridians don't think fracking belongs anywhere near the delicate ecology of the Everglades - or anywhere else in their state. (Photo: Chauncey Davis / Flickr)

ANASTASIA PANTSIOS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

There may not be any actual fracking going on in Florida yet. But some legislators there are taking no chances, introducing bills to ban the process in the state, just as New York did in mid-December. Yesterday state representative Evan Jenne introduced HB 169 which “prohibits well stimulation treatments for exploration or production of oil or natural gas.” His bill enumerated the problems caused by fracking: use of carcinogenic chemicals, heavy use of fresh water when many communities are facing water scarcity, threats to protected wildlife species, the potential to damage the surrounding environment and the emission of climate change-driving greenhouse gases.

It follows on the heels of similar legislation, SB 166, filed by state Senators Darren Soto and Dwight Bullard last month. All the bills have been introduced for consideration in the upcoming legislative session.

“Florida is home to scenic beaches, wonderful springs and the legendary Everglades,” said Soto. “This natural beauty in turn fosters a strong tourism industry, annually attracting many new residents to our shores. It must be preserved. We Floridians also get the vast majority of our water supply from ground water through the Floridan Aquifer. This critical water source must be protected from pollution to assure ample, clean water for future generations.”

Wednesday, 07 January 2015 06:45

Why Are the Police More Valued Than the People?

2015.1.7.Watts.BFPresident Obama shakes the hand of Chuck Canterbury, President of the Grand Lodge Fraternal Order of Police at the 32nd Annual National Peace Officers' Memorial Service. (Photo: James Tourtellotte / Flickr)

AKIRA WATTS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

“I’m not against the police; I’m just afraid of them.”

- Alfred Hitchcock

A funny thing happened on Monday: Chuck Canterbury, president of the Fraternal Order of Police, issued a call for federal hate crime laws to be expanded to protect law enforcement officers. I’ll return to this statement shortly – it contains a level of idiocy and entitlement that is seldom seen – but first let’s take a brief walk through some related events of the past few weeks.

To start with, the New York Police Department threw a bit of a temper tantrum. In the wake of the killing of two NYPD officers, head of the city’s Patrolman’s Benevolent Association Patrick Lynch made a number of interesting logical leaps and drew a connection between the officers’ murders and Mayor Bill de Blasio’s rather restrained criticisms of the NYPD. Apparently, de Blasio’s statement about warning his biracial son to take special care in interactions with law enforcement was simply too much for Lynch to bear, and he declared that de Blasio had “blood on his hands.”  And this was followed by the spectacle of officers turning their backs on de Blasio at the funerals of the slain policemen, and police cadets booing the mayor when he spoke at their graduation ceremony.

On a somewhat lighter note, the NYPD has taken the additional step of drastically reducing their rate of arrests and ticketing for lower level offenses. It is notable that this action, or rather inaction, has not resulted in widespread looting and chaos, and that New York City has yet to burn to the ground. This might suggest that, if the intent of the slowdown is to demonstrate the indispensability of the police force, a rethinking of strategy might be in order.

ANASTASIA PANTSIOS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaMcConnellBoehner(Photo: EcoWatch)With Congress back in session, Republican leadership is putting at the top of its agenda an item that probably isn’t at the top of most Americans’ agenda: approving the Keystone XL pipeline.

Majority leader Kevin McCarthy said that the House of Representatives will vote on Keystone XL pipeline Friday, according to the Wall Street Journal. The House has voted ten previous times to approve the pipeline but each time, it failed to clear the Democratic-controlled Senate. Now, with Republicans in charge of the Senate and a larger Republican majority in the House, its passage is guaranteed. The last House vote was 252-16, and it’s sure to garner an even larger margin this time.

The Senate is scheduled to begin consideration of the pipeline bill tomorrow with hearings in the Energy and Natural Resource Committee, headed by Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, a supporter of the project. Senate Democrats are pushing for an open process that would allow them to offer amendments, and incoming Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell has said that will happen. That means a full vote on the Senate floor could be weeks away.

“Just about the only people who think the first thing Congress should do is force approval of Keystone XL are those working for oil and gas billionaires—which explains exactly why Congressional Republicans want to do it,” said Sierra Club’s legislative director Melinda Pierce. “For those in Congress who don’t share those pro-polluter goals, this first vote will be a chance to stand together and send the message to the public that we won’t go backwards. After all, Americans didn’t vote for dirty air, dirty water or dirty energy, even if Congress is committed to doing just that.”

2014.1.5.Brasch.BFJim Harbaugh, the new head football coach at the University of Michigan, got a $2 million signing bonus, and will be paid $5 million a year for the first three years of a five-year contract. (Photo: MGoBlog / Flickr)

WALTER BRASCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Marci Rosenberg, a senior speech language pathologist at the University of Michigan, earns about $73,000 a year.       

Desmond Patton, who studies the problems of gang violence, is a professor at the University of Michigan. He earns about $80,000 a year.

Patricia Reuter-Lorenz, who works with cerebral palsy children, is a professor at the University of Michigan. She earns about $136,000 a year.

Ursula Jakob, a molecular biologist who is working on proteins to unlock new disease cures, is a professor at the University of Michigan. She earns about $112,000 a year

Dan Habib works with children who have disabilities; Martha Bailey is doing research on the correlations between living in disadvantaged neighborhoods and criminal behavior; Jason DeBord, a musician, was an orchestra conductor for several Broadway plays. All are faculty members at the University of Michigan.

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