Guest Commentary (4877)
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
So maybe this is how the US demilitarizes, or the American public at least returns to the consciousness of the late '60s, when protests rocked the streets and people demanded an end to the savagery in Vietnam:
Donald Trump, the Fool in the Tarot deck, the harbinger of change, removes the political correctness and public relations sensitivity from US foreign policy and goes naked about conquering the world. Suddenly the US president is Julius Caesar (or maybe Caligula) with orange hair, hugging fellow tyrants, ramping up the military budget, decapitating social spending, bombing Fourth World civilians without restriction and making America great in the only way he can imagine: "fighting to win."
And Trump is so blatant he awakes the snoozing American conscience. And the awareness and the anger stirred into being become a movement, and the movement isn't mere protest over Trump's behavior but a deep and profound cry for atonement for the colonial conquest, the genocide and slavery, out of which this nation created itself, and a demand that we begin acknowledging it rather than feigning ignorance of it -- because the face of ignorance is the face of Trump -- and in this acknowledgement we begin to undo the armed insanity of its contemporary manifestation.
CASSIE KELLY OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Greenland's icy coastlines are withering away at a rapid pace. With ever rising temperatures in the region, scientists fear the glaciers may never grow back.
A team from Ohio State University discovered that about 20 years ago, melting on the island reached a tipping point. In this event, a layer of old snow called the firn, was frozen over and the ice sheet growth was stunted. This caused the new growth on the coastlines to halt. Combined with rising temperatures of the sea, the ice has been melting away in large sectors. At the rate it's going, the team said there will be a 1.5 inch increase in global sea level rise by 2100.
According to the study:
The find is important because it reveals exactly why the most vulnerable parts of Greenland ice are melting so quickly: the deep snow layer that normally captures coastal meltwater was filled to capacity in 1997. That layer of snow and meltwater has since frozen solid, so that all new meltwater flows over it and out to sea.
Though these findings are bad news, the researchers said there is no "immediate cause for panic." The Greenland Ice Sheet -- the second largest ice cache in the world -- is relatively intact. Associate professor at Ohio State, and co-author of the study Ian Howat, said the outer layers of ice contribute a small portion to the greater sheet, and that their melting may even be ephemeral, or seasonal to some degree.
ETHAN GOFFMAN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
For the good of the planet, and of the United States, the international community needs to put a carbon tariff on American exports now.
The Trump administration has announced that it is backing out of Obama's Clean Power Plan based largely on the mistaken belief that climate change is not happening. This makes it impossible to fulfill American commitments made in the Paris Climate Agreement signed in December 2016. As historically the largest contributor to climate change, and still the second-largest global polluter, and as the ostensible leader of the "free world," the United States has an obligation to ensure the future of the planet, a responsibility that the Trump administration is shattering.
There is little question that the results will be disastrous. Even under the Paris accords, global temperatures are still expected to rise 3°C above pre-industrial levels, three times what we have seen so far. The increase in natural disasters we've already seen is only the beginning. Understanding the need to do even more, the architects of the climate agreement called for regular meetings to toughen standards.
Contrarily, the worst effects of climate change -- which the Trump administration is pushing us toward -- will bring about 4°Cof warming, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The results will be irreversible, with extreme heat waves causing massive loss of life, complete disappearance of many glaciers, utter destruction of coral reefs, permanent flooding of coastal cities such as New Orleans, New York and Miami, and much, much more. The planet will simply be uninhabitable for humans, at least in the way we know it today.
KEVIN MARTIN AND REVEREND DR. HERBERT DAUGHTRY
Fifty years ago this April 4, a year to the day before he was murdered, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called us to overcome the giant triplets plaguing our society -- racism, militarism and extreme materialism -- in his 'Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break the Silence' address at Riverside Church in Manhattan. In his speech, King decried our descent into a 'thing-oriented society.' One wonders what he would think of our current, thing-oriented president.
In the remarkable speech, co-written with the late Vincent Harding, King also exclaimed, '[a] nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.' Unfortunately that is even more relevant today, as military spending consumes well over half the federal discretionary budget, and President Trump is advocating a nearly 10 percent, $54 billion increase, equivalent to the entire annual military budget of Russia, for the Pentagon and severe cuts to foreign aid, diplomacy, social and environmental programs.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
"The Mercers laid the groundwork for the Trump revolution. Irrefutably, when you look at donors during the past four years, they have had the single biggest impact of anybody, including the Kochs." -- Steve Bannon, Trump's chief strategist.
The publicity shy, Trump-supporting, secretive multi-billionaire hedge-fund tycoon Robert Mercer is a man you wouldn't recognize on the subway, in a supermarket check-out line, or be able to pick out of a line-up. Now, he is finally getting what he has avoided for years; the glare of the public spotlight. A rash of recent articles has unmasked the New York City-based hedge-fund phenomenon. And while Mercer is being reluctantly drawn out of the shadows, his daughter Rebekah, who chaired Mercer's super PAC, Make America Number 1, urged Trump to bring Bannon onto his campaign staff, and subsequently played an important role on Trump's transition team, may be getting over the family's aversion to the limelight.
ANTONY LOEWENSTEIN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
President Barack Obama's drug war legacy is paved with partially good intentions. It differed greatly between his domestic agenda and around the world. The former showed signs of bravery, challenging decades of draconian and counterproductive policy toward drug users and dealers, reducing the number of incarcerated men and women across the United States.
The latter, however, mostly continued failed ideas of the past and consisted of funding and arming some of the most repressive nations in the world, including Honduras and Mexico, worsening apocalyptic gang and drug violence. Many refugees fleeing to the US are a result of these White House directives.
PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Most Americans Are Getting Poorer. How "Health Care for the Rich" Is Killing Many of Them
In his report, "This is how American health care kills people," Ryan Cooper tells the heartbreaking story of 29-year-old Matthew Stewart, who required emergency surgery for hepatitis-induced liver damage, but learned that only about $10,000 of his $74,000 bill was covered by his "gold plan" insurance policy, partly because of out-of-network rules even in emergencies. Then, when his insurance provider decided to quit the insurance exchange, Matthew was left without a liver specialist, and he couldn't obtain Medicaid because his state of Texas had refused the option to carry it. His alternative of declaring bankruptcy and leaving the state would be delayed by a lengthy legal process exacerbated by the physical and mental stress of his illness. But the hospitals kept sending their bills.
Evidence for the Financial Collapse of the Great Majority of Americans
The poorest 90% of Americans lost nearly $2 trillion in wealth in 2015-16, an average of $8,500 per adult. Every sector of society lost money except for the richest 1%, whose members gained an average of $1.5 million in that single year.
Wealth is down in part because income is down. Median household income is about $2,000 less than it was ten years ago.
There's much more evidence for the decline of all sectors except the upper class. Almost three-quarters of American consumers die with debt. Anywhere from two-thirds to 80% lack the savings needed for unexpected expenses.
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
"The wooden carts that residents use to carry vegetables and other wares in the once busy market area instead ferried out cadavers recovered from the rubble last week."
And so . . . another "precision" bomb strike in the US's war against terror. This was the scene in Mosul earlier this month, as reported by the Washington Post. Possibly more than 200 civilians died, buried in the rubble of several buildings, which had been jammed with terrified residents of Iraq's second largest city who were seeking shelter from the war. Many of them -- including women, children -- may have died slowly, buried beneath the rubble, as rescue operations took a week to mobilize.
Words fail me. So I borrow some from Air Force Brigadier Gen. Matthew Isler, who told US News and World Report in the wake of the Mosul strike: "The density of the local fighting for those ground forces has changed. What has not changed is our support, our diligence in making sure we are taking the appropriate levels to make sure we are avoiding any harm to innocent civilians."
MEDEA BENJAMIN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
This week marks the beginning of year three of the Saudi-led military intervention in the civil war in Yemen, an intervention that has resulted in an epic tragedy of destruction and starvation. Tens of thousands of Yemenis marked the occasion by pouring into the streets of the capital, Sanna, to call for an end to the Saudi airstrikes that have been supported by the US military. But instead of pushing to jumpstart stalemated negotiations to end the conflict, the Trump administration seems anxious to get more deeply involved in the war by supporting an attack on the key port of Hodeidah and resuming halted weapons sales.
Greater US support for the Saudis, who intervened in Yemen to try to stop the Iran-friendly Houthis from coming to power, is part of Trump's "get tough" policy on Iran. But further escalation of the war in Yemen, particularly an offensive to seize Hodeidah from the Houthi rebels, will mean even more death and hunger for the Yemeni people. Jeremy Konyndyk, who was the director of foreign disaster assistance at US AID under Obama, said a serious disruption of the Hodeidah port could well "tip the country into famine."
LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The bill is now headed to Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, who is in favor of a statewide fracking ban.
Hogan, who once said that fracking is " an economic gold mine," stunned many with his complete turnaround at a press conference earlier this month.
"We must take the next step to move from virtually banning fracking to actually banning fracking," the governor said. "The possible environmental risks of fracking simply outweigh any potential benefits."
Once signed into law, Maryland would be the first state with gas reserves to pass a ban through the legislature.
BRUCE CONWAY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The death of the "do or die" GOP health care plan, as the bill was pulled from a floor vote in the House on March 24, 2017, comes as no surprise. It was a non-coherent bill that depended entirely on votes from a large Republican majority in the House, but exposed bitter divisions between the hard-right Freedom caucus and more moderate Republicans. Despite the addition of many late amendments intended to address the concerns of the opposing groups, they often lost as many votes as were gained. This became a momentous defeat for the House Speaker Paul Ryan, President Donald Trump, and the Republican Party on what was intended to be its signature and opening domestic success.
Despite the Republicans having had seven years to develop their own health care plan, the American Health Care Act (AHCA) was a hastily drafted assemblage of ideas, largely based on Paul Ryan's 37-page white paper in 2016, Better Way, and the proposed Empowering Patients First Act by Dr. Tom Price, now the Secretary of Health and Human Services. As a replacement for a repealed Affordable Care Act (ACA), the plan would have done away with the individual mandate, promoted a free market approach, deregulated the private health insurance industry, eliminated the ACA's requirement for coverage of essential services, added tax credits and given insurers wide latitude to charge older enrollees higher prices, fully repeal Medicaid expansion, and cut back women's health care. Their longer-term goal was to privatize both Medicare and Medicaid.
Unfortunately and predictably, the debate in the media was superficially covered, disinformation and false promises were common, and legislators at the end did not know what was actually in the bill. As Republicans retreated from the issue, they were unpersuasive as to what they would do next. One day after the defeat of the repeal and replace bill in the House, President Trump declared that "Obamacare will explode. We will all get together and piece together a plan for all the American people. Do not worry." (Oval office statement, March 24, 2017). Meanwhile, leading Democrats hailed this event as a victory for saving the ACA and assurance of ongoing coverage for many millions of Americans.
JONATHAN FRANKLIN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Dispatch from Chile
The road to Parque Pumalín is festooned with dozens of whitewater waterfalls that slip down the steep cliffs into a thick forest overrun by ferns and plants with leaves as big as beach umbrellas. An active volcano threatens to wipe out the sparse human settlements that are scattered like frontier outposts, often holding populations of fewer than 100 residents. The scenery, however, suddenly changes at El Amarillo, a town of perfect picket fences, exquisitely designed bridges and hand-lettered wooden signs offering help on camping and trekking.
It is here that a 25-year experiment in environmental conservation is finally coming to fruition. Parque Pumalín is a million-acre collection of untrammelled vistas and valleys that was patched together by a pair of American conservationists whose mission, known as “wildlands philanthropy”, was to keep the lands free from industrial development.
JOHN HEID FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
"We recognize the weight that the language of disappearance holds; we use it to call attention to the fact that disappearance is not a natural or inevitable phenomenon but rather a direct consequence of US border-enforcement policies and practices."
-- La Coalitión De Derechos Humanos, and No More Deaths, "Disappeared: How the US Border Enforcement Agencies are Fueling a Missing Persons Crisis"
The sunbaked skull seemed to complement the volcanic rocks that lie strewn around it, haunting in its symmetry. Ivory amidst ebony, splayed across the desert floor. The year-round searing heat of the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge can do that, bake things into anonymity. Were it not for the vacant eye sockets, we likely would have walked right by these human remains unaware that someone's life ended there, or nearby. Eerily the eyeless skull faced south.
Joel Smith, Director of Operations for Humane Borders, and I were hiking in the Growler Valley region of the Refuge on our annual maintenance check of loosely-scattered water stations. The region's austerity is at once beautiful and perilous. The aptly named El Camino del Diablo (Devil's Highway) cuts a parallel swath across part of the valley. There is little shade anywhere, save the occasional Palo Verde or mesquite tree. Teddy bear Cholla, salt and brittlebush, ocotillo and prickly pear cactus provide modest ground cover. The horizon is elusive. One can walk all day and not feel any closer to the mountain just ahead. Time and distance seem like illusions. I have never encountered anyone on my hikes there. Not one.
KEN ROSEBORO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
genetically modified corn for ethanol production, has contaminated non-GMO white corn grown in Nebraska and used to make flour for tortillas and other products.Enogen, a
According to Derek Rovey, owner of Rovey Specialty Grains in Inland, Nebraska, a few of his contract farmers who grow non-GMO white corn had their crops contaminated by Enogen corn.
"We've had some growers who've had some problems [with Enogen]. Their corn was right next to Enogen fields," said Rovey.
Enogen's GMO trait was detected in the white corn using GMO strip tests, said Rovey.
He also said that flour made using his company's white corn tested positive for Enogen last summer.
Enogen GMO corn can contaminate food corn through cross pollination in the field or improper segregation during grain handling.