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Tuesday, 09 June 2015 12:25

Is the Fracking Boom Coming to an End?

ANASTASIA PANTSIOS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaFrackWellhead(Photo: Joshua Doubek)Since fracking began its boom period in the last decade, its supporters have promoted it as the answer to all of  the U.S.’s energy issues. It would free us from dependence on foreign oil, they said, thereby strengthening national security. And in fact, the U.S. has become the world’s largest exporter of fossil fuels, while prices at the gas pump have dropped steeply as fracked oil and gas production has exploded. States like Texas, Colorado, North Dakota, Pennsylvania and Ohio have welcomed frackers to their shale deposits, even though others, such as New York and Maryland, have resisted the lure due to concerns about fracking’s impacts on human health and the environment.

But could the gravy train be derailing? While production is still at record levels, there are signs that should worry any company or economy that is heavily invested in the fracking process.

Compared to conventional wells, fracked wells tend to be initially productive but taper off quickly and then are shut down as operators move to new locations. And that is starting to catch up with them.

“Production has to come down because rigs drilling for oil are down 57 percent this year,” James Williams, president of Arkansas-based energy consultancy WTRG Economicstold Bloomberg News. “Countering that is the fact that the rigs we’re still using are more efficient and drilling in areas where you get higher production. So that has delayed the decline.”

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaHastert(Photo: Neutrality)Late last week, the Associated Press' Mary Clare Jalonick reported that a Montana woman interviewed by the FBI claimed that "her brother was sexually abused while in high school by [former House Speaker] Dennis Hastert, the wrestling coach who would become speaker of the House."

According to the AP story, Jolene Burdge of Billings, Montana, said "that the FBI interviewed her in mid-May about Hastert. She said her brother told her before he died in 1995 that his first homosexual contact was with Hastert and that the relationship lasted through all of his high school years."

Burdge, who in an interview with ABC's "Good Morning America" identified her brother as Stephen Reinboldt, "said Hastert had been a father figure to him at high school. But she also said she believed that relationship had caused irreparable harm. 'He damaged Steve, I think, more than any of us will ever know,' she told the morning show," AP reported.

Too much time has passed for Hastert to be indicted on sexual abuse charges, but he has been indicted on charges "accus[ing] Hastert of evading bank regulations in withdrawing hundreds of thousands of dollars and lying to the FBI about the reason for the withdrawals. The document says Hastert agreed to pay a total of $3.5 million to someone identified only as 'Individual A' to 'compensate for and conceal (Hastert's) prior misconduct' against that person. But it does not go into any detail about the alleged misconduct."

2015.8.6 BF Wasserman(Photo: : : w i n t e r t w i n e d : :)HARVEY WASSERMAN OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article republished with permission from EcoWatch.

Ok. So we don’t expect much from these mega-blockbuster disaster films.

But maybe just a hint about reality could spice things up. At least maybe a passing acknowledgement that the actual San Andreas could turn the Diablo Canyon nukes into a seething heap of radioactive rubble and permanently irradiate all of California?

Is that too much to ask, even of Hollywood?

Apparently so.

In a Hollywood high-budget Earth-coming-to-an-end flick like this one, there will always be a lame love story, totally improbable close calls where death is narrowly escaped again and again, and lead characters—male and female alike—with zero body fat who emerge onto the screen fresh from four hours of pumping iron.

San Andreas more than delivers on all of the above. The male lead (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) might be mistaken in some circles for basketball superstar LeBron James, who is six feet eight, 250 pounds—but who leaps like a gazelle and ball handles like a ballerina.

2015.8.6 BF Buchheit(Photo: Kevin Burkett)PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

The discussion to follow borrows from several resources, summarized at You Deserve Facts:

  1. Freedom House: Determinations of national 'freedom' based on political rights and civil liberties.
  2. Democracy Index: Classification of nations as 24 full democracies, 50 flawed democracies, 35 hybrid regimes and 36 authoritarian regimes. States without militarization rankings and arms transfer data were excluded.
  3. Global Militarization Index: The relative weight and importance of the military apparatus of one state in relation to its society as a whole.
  4. SIPRI Arms Transfers Database: Information on all transfers of major conventional weapons. Figures from this leading arms-tracker Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) are generally low, because they represent estimates of current (not agreed-upon) production costs (not sales costs).
  5. Global Wealth Databook: Credit Suisse 2014 Wealth Statistics.

Terrifying Facts

The most militarized states (1/4 of the total) received almost 2/3 of America's arms transfers (i.e., the 38 most militarized of 148 nations, plus Taiwan, which did not have a militarization ranking). This, of course, prompts a question about cause and effect: Do our arms sales contribute to increased militarization of other countries, or does the militarization encourage more business with the United States? Either way, our behavior is unconscionable.

Over a quarter of all our arms sales goes to five "Non-Free" countries: UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iraq, Oman (Democracy Index calls three of them "authoritarian regimes," and Iraq and Egypt "hybrids").

JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaDevilsTower(Photo: VaderSS)In my last Buzzflash at Truthout piece, Oil Kills Everything It Covers, I wrote about Plains All American’s horrific oil tragedy that happened on the 19th of May off Refugio Beach, north of Santa Barbara. It could have been prevented if Plains had installed a state-required automatic shut-off valve. But in the 1980s, Plains won a lawsuit that gave regulatory control of the company to the federal government, which didn’t require an automatic shut-off valve. Why? Security maintenance is “unprofitable”. Consequently, an estimated 105,000 gallons of crude oil gushed into the Pacific Ocean from a ruptured, eroding pipe. Tar balls are currently washing up on favorite, southern California beaches. In a twist of irony, angry reporters have been barred from inspecting the on-going damage, a blatant violation of their First Amendment rights. Talk about distorting the Bill of Rights, an oil corporation can exercise “freedom of speech and freedom of the press,” but apparently, those rights and protections are not afforded to individuals or journalists.  

Many of these oil & gas pipelines are over 30 years old in the U.S. It should be a mandatory requirement to replace them all. Or better yet, replace fossil fuels with solar and wind energy. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) said that “this oil spill off the Santa Barbara coast is tragic. This highlights the dangers posed by these pipelines and underscores why I have spent decades fighting against oil drilling off the California coast.” Plains’ long delay and clean-up response have been described as “shockingly insufficient.”  

The heartbreaking part of this tragedy is that this oil spill is going to kill a lot of whales, dolphins, seabirds and much more...

2015.4.6 BF D(Photo: UK Ministry of Defence)DAVID SIROTA FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Among all the rivers of money that have flowed to the Clinton family, one seems to raise the biggest national security questions of all: the stream of cash that came from 20 foreign governments who relied on weapons export approvals from Hillary Clinton's State Department.

Federal law designates the secretary of state as "responsible for the continuous supervision and general direction of sales" of arms, military hardware and services to foreign countries. In practice, that meant that Clinton was charged with rejecting or approving weapons deals — and when it came to Clinton Foundation donors, Hillary Clinton's State Department did a whole lot of approving.

While Clinton was secretary of state, her department approved $165 billion worth of commercial arms sales to Clinton Foundation donors. That figure from Clinton's three full fiscal years in office is almost double the value of arms sales to those countries during the same period of President George W. Bush's second term.

Thursday, 04 June 2015 06:49

Juvenile Justice and the War on Teens

2015.4.6 BF(Photo: Andrew Bardwell)ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

“Fundamental to this process is the idea of ‘collective responsibility’ . . .”

The study, released earlier this year, is called: “What Can the Cook County Juvenile Court Do to Improve Its Ability to Help Our Youth? A Juvenile Justice Needs Assessment.”

Compiled by two Chicago institutions, the Mansfield Institute for Social Justice and Transformation at Roosevelt University and the Institute on Public Safety and Social Justice at Adler University, it’s a well-documented plea for sanity.

Its fundamental finding will hardly be a surprise to anyone involved with the juvenile justice — or any other kind of justice — bureaucracy. Despite the enormous investment by governments at every level in court and penal systems, they don’t work. That is to say, they make matters worse:

“In 2012, there were 29,822 juvenile arrests in Cook County. . . . While court intervention is intended to reduce the likelihood of future offending, research findings suggest that, in fact, the opposite is true.

“. . . when compared to youth with comparable risk factors of adverse behavior and/or delinquency histories, but no juvenile court involvement, youth who appeared in court and received mild sentences (such as counseling, community service or restitution) were still 2.3 times more likely to incur adult criminal records; youth placed on probation were 14 times more likely to incur adult records; and, youth placed in a juvenile correctional institution were 38 times more likely to have adult records.”

COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaIndiaHeatWave(Photo: Hinode JAXA/NASA)The heat wave that has been ravaging India in recent weeks has now killed more than 2,500 people, making it the fifth deadliest on record. “If the death toll reaches more than 2,541, it will become the fourth deadliest heat wave in the world, and the deadliest in India’s history,” says Think Progress.

After the Indian government made an announcement today that the country was entering its first drought in six years, India’s Earth sciences minister blamed climate change for the heat wave and the deficient monsoon rains. “Let us not fool ourselves that there is no connection between the unusual number of deaths from the ongoing heat wave and the certainty of another failed monsoon,” Harsh Vardhan told Reuters. “It’s not just an unusually hot summer, it is climate change,” he said.

The minister’s statement reflects the findings of the U.N. International Panel on Climate Change, which has predicted that “India will be hit by frequent freak weather patterns if the planet warms,” according to Reuters. And, of course, India is not alone. Scientists report that extreme weather, including droughts, floods and heat waves, will increase in frequency due to climate change. On the other side of the world in the U.S., cities such as Houston, Texas were inundated by floods last week and Oklahoma City had its wettest month ever with almost five times the amount of rain it normally sees in May. Again, scientists have confirmed that this heavy downpours are increasing because of climate change.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaFalwell(Photo: Liberty University)The Rev. Jerry Falwell envisioned a university. That university would bring young Christian men and women to a beautiful campus in his hometown of Lynchburg, Virginia. The student body would multiply and the campus would expand. But due to Falwell-esque hubris, and the sexual scandals that took down fellow televangelists Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker, that university would be brought to the edge of financial ruin. The Unification Church's Rev. Sun Myung Moon, would help bail out that university, and it would again grow, adding students, professors, and more buildings. Falwell's university would develop a first class athletic program, with a new football stadium seating over 19,000 people.

University leaders envisioned the future, and that future was online. Now, the little institute of higher learning that the late Rev. Jerry Falwell, the founder of the Moral Majority, envisioned as being the pride of Lynchburg, Virginia, and the Petri dish for developing conservative true believers and activists, has grown to be the largest Christian university in America, and has the second largest enrollment in online education courses for any non-profit university in the world.

Welcome to Liberty University, where they are "Training Champions for Christ," and where a few months back, those "champions" were mandated to hear Senator Ted Cruz announce his presidential candidacy and, later, during graduation season, many "champions" heard Jeb Bush deliver a commencement address.

Not only is Liberty University the largest private, nonprofit university in the nation, the largest university in Virginia, and the largest Christian university in the world, but it has also become an online Goliath.

COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaNeil(Photo: Ole Hagen)Sorry Taylor Swift, it looks like Neil Young is most definitely not a “Starbucks lover.” Young released a new anthem last week decrying Starbucks for its alleged support of Monsanto and genetically modified organisms (GMOs). “I want a cup of coffee, but I don’t want a GMO. I’d like to start my day off, without helping Monsanto,” Young sings.

Young and the band The Promise of The Real debuted an acoustic version of the song, “A Rock Star Bucks A Coffee Shop,” in Maui, Hawaii at “OUTGROW Monsanto,” an event put on to call attention to Monsanto’s destructive practices in Hawaii.

Hawaii is considered the global epicenter for GMO seed testing, according to Paul Towers of Pesticide Action Network. Corporations based around the globe test and grow GMO seeds in Hawaii, which can be grown year-round in the islands’ tropical climate, before shipping them to places like Iowa to sell to U.S. farmers and across the globe, according to Towers. Earlier this month, a jury awarded 15 residents $500,000 in damages for pesticide contamination from the biotech company DuPont-Pioneer.

Young’s new song is part of his upcoming album “The Monsanto Years,” due out June 29. Young has been a food advocate for years. He’s the co-founder of Farm Aid, and when it came to light that Starbucks was supporting Monsanto in fighting Vermont’s GMO labeling law last fall, Young publicly declared he would be boycotting Starbucks.

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