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ANASTASIA PANTSIOS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBombTrain(Photo: EcoWatch)Yet another train carrying volatile crude oil from the Bakken shale formation in North Dakota derailed yesterday, this time in northwestern Illinois near the historic tourist area of Galena overlooking the Mississippi River. It follows recent derailments in West Virginia and Ontario. The area in which it occurred was not as remote as the Ontario derailment. However, it did not require as extensive evacuation as the one in West Virginia in which hundreds were forced from their homes in the bitter cold. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, firefighters were allowing the fireball to burn itself out.

The 105-car train included 103 cars loaded with the crude oil, with eight derailing. It’s not known yet if any oil spilled into the Mississippi River.

Residents of the Galena area might be especially uneasy about trains rolling through their area. A month ago, a train carrying ethanol derailed in Dubuque, Iowa 15 miles away, with a dozen cars going off the tracks and several landing on the frozen Mississippi River. That fire burned for a day before it went out.

So far this year, these derailments, followed by explosions and fires, have happened only in unpopulated and sparsely populated areas. But their frequency is alarming to more densely populated communities on the rail paths of these trains with many saying it’s only a matter of time until a derailment causes a disaster like the one that killed 47 in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec in July 2013—or worse.

JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaCoral(Photo: Brocken Inaglory)Less than 50 years ago, the northeast forests of the Hawaiian Islands, known as the rainy side of the isles of lush tropical valleys, streams and waterfalls were pristine wild lands for thousands of rare birds, flowers, trees and plants.

For example, in Kauai's remote Wainiha Valley, a summit region of Mount Waialeale, was (the operative past tense adverb) one of the wettest areas on earth. Hidden within Hinalele Falls, there were acres of rare, intact ecosystems.

The rugged valley and summit plateau are home to more than 100 plants that exist only in Hawaii, 46 of which are only on the island of Kauai, and rare and endangered Hawaiian forest birds, the 'akikiki, akeke'e, 'apapane, 'amahiki and 'elepaio.

The Hawaiian wetlands and tropical forests are rapidly disappearing from three major causes: global warming (greenhouse gases), overpopulation and the spread of urban development-resorts. All three combined are threatening the precious botanical regions, the wildlife and the ecological balance. The rainforests' sensitive flora and rich diversity of rare plants are vanishing from diminishing rain levels and urban expansion over the last few decades.

On the west side of Kauai, the rivers have already dried up under the relentless, global warming sun. As a depressed resident of Kauai expressed it, "Rivers became streams and then evaporated before my eyes. I watched fish gasp for water until they died. There was nothing I could do. It was too sad to watch."

For some time now, the summits and valleys have been clearly visible; an odd and also heartbreaking phenomenon for the reason that the Wainiha plateaus were always shrouded in clouds. It was exceptional, indeed, when the green summits appeared naked without their majestic robes of white mists and rainbows.

2015.5.3 BF Berkowitz(Photo: Bill Dickinson)BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

“In the late 1960s,” the Encyclopedia of Law Enforcement points out, “the blue wall [of silence] came crashing down when a New York City police officer named Frank Serpico blew the whistle on fellow officers who were engaging in illegal activities, including taking bribes from drug dealers and members of organized crime.” His attempts to alert his superiors fell on deaf ears. Serpico eventually went to the press. A commission was formed, an investigation held, a few minor reforms initiated, but basically business went on as usual.

No one whistle-blower, scathing report or series of well-intentioned initiatives is going to eliminate criminal behavior and racist actions by police departments across the country. In all too many cases, as revealed in the Justice Department’s investigation into the Ferguson, Missouri Police Department, the problem is structural. For change to occur, it’s going to take a transformation of police culture; how police go about their business. One thing that will do more good than harm is tearing down the Blue Wall of Silence.

Over the years, police departments across the country have complained that when crimes are committed in communities of color, people in those communities all too often remain silent. However, perhaps the most egregious examples of remaining silent in the face of criminal activity takes place within police departments themselves. The phrases, “the Blue Wall of Silence,” and “the Blue Veil of Silence,” describe the police officer practice of closing ranks behind each other, clamming up in the face of injustice, and protecting their own, making the holding of bad cops responsible for their actions practically impossible.

2015.5.3 BF Simon2(Photo: Keith Bacongco )JONATHAN D. SIMON FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Last month, I attended the Ninth Annual Voting And Elections Summit in Washington, hosted by Fair Vote, The Lawyers' Committee For Civil Rights Under Law, US Vote Foundation, and Overseas Vote Foundation, each a progressive organization dedicated to the betterment of elections in the United States. The summit was indeed a gathering of very bright, motivated, devoted, and patriotic individuals and organizations, whose efforts I deeply appreciate.

It was undercut, however, by a tragic, widely shared blindspot regarding the core vulnerability of the American vote counting process, both in theory and in concrete political bottom-line fact. That process, in the computerized voting era, has become and remains unobservable, offering an open invitation to targeted manipulation sweeping in its cumulative effect.

Many inadequacies of our electoral politics were addressed at the summit and many excellent ideas and reforms proposed. But my takeaway, as has often been the case at such well-intended gatherings, was that for all our attempts to redress the visible flaws of our imperfect voting system - from gerrymandering to Big Money to voter suppression to the Electoral College - if at the end of the day radically partisan and secretive outfits that provide the hardware and software that run our privatized system are counting the votes in the darkness of cyberspace, all those other reforms and initiatives will turn out to be unavailing in their effect. We have given Karl Rove, or any operative who views the bottom line and every means of "improving" it with gleeful cynicism, no reason not to keep right on smiling.

STEVEN JONAS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaCPAC(Photo: Gage Skidmore)For those of you who might not know (and I should think that most political types would, given the massive publicity on media of all stripes the event gets) something called the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) took place over this past weekend. It was funny, because when I heard about this year's event I thought "wait a minute; didn't they have one of these of few months ago?" No, I'm not losing it yet. That's just some evidence as to exactly how much the annual shindig is talked about.

And so I looked it up, and came across a Rightist website called The Daily Signal. (Sorry, folks, I am just no longer calling the folks who go to these things and their related media and political figures "conservatives." They ain't. Actually, in terms of wanting to preserve and conserve what is left of the Earth as a result of the depredations of capitalist imperialism, it is we Leftists who are the conservatives. "Reactionary" is a bit old-fashioned, so I'm going with the simple descriptive, "Rightist.") They ran a feature called "25 Takeaways from America's Biggest Conservative (sic) Conference." It is fascinating to see what Rightists take away from a Rightist conference. But for the most part following their order, I thought to note down what I took away, first from parts of their "Top 25," and then from perhaps a few observations of my own.

First, Scott Walker. Although his "trade-unionists are the equivalent of ISIS" remarks was first widely reported as a gaffe, and he may have backed away from it a bit, believe me, deep down inside (which is where the remark came from) this very successful Rightist politician (he won there elections in four years in a supposedly "blue" state) bleeds Koch Brother royal blue from his veins. For the Kochs, that tiny percentage of the US workforce that is still unionized is one of their biggest enemies. And it is Walker's too.

REV. BILLY TALEN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBillyPancaked(Photo: Fred Askew)Since last summer, we have lived through this remarkable movement called Black Lives Matter.

So much is revealed in this movement's beginnings. How did this little township in St. Louis do this? How can it be that a patch of sidewalk in front of a police station in Ferguson, Missouri, would become the stage for the world's conscience? Is it only because local black youth refused to stop shouting there? This is the exhilarating return to the actual magic of free speech.

And now, the future. The outlines of the difficult challenge that we face in the future is shown by the legal (or illegal) end-game of this movement. The police are watching us go back to consumer society, putting wires back in our ears, withdrawing from the streets and parks – and they are attacking the remaining protesters, who now have less protection.

In November we received the disheartening news from Ferguson. Protest leaders were now being taken into custody, assigned a crime, and issued a bail level that was so high that they could not leave prison. It was a Machiavellian tactic to separate the most effective activists from their work out in public space. The human rights advocate Joan Baez helped us send them money.

Since last summer, we have lived through this remarkable movement called Black Lives Matter.

So much is revealed in this movement’s beginnings.  How did this little township in St. Louis do this?  How can it be that a patch of sidewalk in front of a police station in Ferguson, Missouri, would become the stage for the world’s conscience?  Is it only because local black youth refused to stop shouting there?  This is the exhilarating return to the actual magic of free speech.

And now, the future. The outlines of the difficult challenge that we face in the future is shown by the legal (or illegal) end-game of this movement. The police are watching us go back to consumer society, putting wires back in our ears, withdrawing from the streets and parks – and they are attacking the remaining protesters, who now have less protection.

In November we received the disheartening news from Ferguson.  Protest leaders were now being taken into custody, assigned a crime, and issued a bail level that was so high that they could not leave prison.  It was a Machiavellian tactic to separate the most effective activists from their work out in public space. The human rights advocate Joan Baez helped us send them money.

Tuesday, 03 March 2015 13:26

Beyond Keystone XL

CARL POPE OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaObamaEcoWatch1(Photo: EcoWatch)President Obama’s veto last week of a Republican bill passed—precisely so that he would veto it—mandating the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline does, indeed, as former NY Mayor Michael Bloomberg pointed out, serve as “a perfect symbol of Washington’s dysfunction.” Obama made it clear that this veto, at least, was over the process, not the substance, and the Republicans had set the process up so that no self-respecting President could do other than veto.

In their last PR foray before the veto, tar sands proponents offered up an IHS-CERA study which asserted that, facts to the contrary, approving Keystone would increase the reliable supplies of oil for domestic consumers. The study asserted “the overwhelming majority” of oil flowing to refineries in the Gulf Coast would be refined and consumed in the U.S., even after XL is built—which is true, but irrelevant. If I pour a glass of water (Keystone XL) into an already full bucket (Midwest and Gulf Coal oil markets) most of the water stays in the bucket—but the bucket does not hold any more water—the increment just slops on the floor, or in this case gets exported.

The President focused on a more relevant point in his comments in Fargo last week, saying that “I’ve already said I’m happy to look at increasing pipeline production for U.S. oil. But Keystone is for Canadian oil. Sending it down to the Gulf it bypasses the U.S., it estimated to create 250, maybe, 300 permanent jobs. We should be focusing on American infrastructure for American jobs for American producers … ”

Keystone is an enormously important environmental symbol. But it is also a commercial struggle. Alberta tar sands oil and North Dakota light shale oil flows into the same markets, have access to the same refineries, and rely on the same pipelines and railroads to get them to the same customers. So it was never terribly plausible that Keystone would be good for the U.S.—it was designed to make Canadian oil more competitive in global markets, which, on balance, is not good for American producers or, since the Canadians want to escape from American markets, American consumers.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaCash1(Photo: Colin Brown)Despite raising $13 million dollars, the organization called The National Draft Ben Carson for President “isn’t affiliated with Ben Carson and the small percentage of money it spent on independent expenditures didn’t go to him” More than a few right-wing PACS make “large payments to vendors who were owned by people who worked for the PAC,” and contribute little to causes and candidates it professes to be raising money for.

Those are a few of the revelations a researcher uncovered after he was hired by John Hawkins to investigate how a number of conservative organizations were spending the millions of dollars in donations they raised from their supporters.

John Hawkins is profoundly conservative. His right-wing credentials are impeccable. He runs a website called Right Wing News, which posts stories from a who’s who of conservative columnists and bloggers. He has authored numerous liberal-bashing articles including: “5 Reasons Liberals Hate Soldiers Like Chris Kyle,” “15 Statistics That Destroy Liberal Narratives,” “Refuting 7 Lies Liberals Have Told Millennials About Conservatives,” and “On Behalf of the Patriarchy, Liberal Feminists Can Kiss Off.”

While recognizing that “Reports about sleazy activities by conservative groups have not exactly been in short supply over the last couple of years, … pop[ing] up in the Daily Beast, Mother Jones, Washington Post, the Politico and at the Daily Caller among other outlets,” many conservatives were pre-disposed to write them off as liberal “hit pieces,” Hawkins wrote in a February 20 Right Wing News piece headlined, “50 Million Down The Tubes: How 17 Conservative PACs Are Spending Their Money.”

2015.2.03Ecowatch(Photo: EcoWatch)KELLY LEVIN AND C. FORBES TOMPKINS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch.

More than 98 inches of snow has fallen in Boston this season, while workers have spent about 170,000 hours plowing the streets and distributed more than 76,000 tons of salt on roadways. At the same time, much of the American West, Rocky Mountains, and Northern and Central Plains have experienced warmer-than-average temperatures. California, in the grip of an epic drought, had its fourth-driest January ever recorded with just 15 percent of average precipitation.

So what is going on with this extreme weather, and what does it have to do with global climate change?

Due to recent analytical advancements, climate scientists are now able to more accurately determine how climate change impacts the odds of an individual extreme event occurring.

More research is planned in coming years to examine links between extreme weather and climate events and climate change, and global research already tells us a lot about the trends, including these three counterintuitive connections between climate change and extreme events:

2015.2.03 Bucheit2There are at least four good reasons why America's young adults - and their parents - should take up the fight against financial firms. (Photo: Andrew Bossi / Flickr)PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Hell No, We Won't Go --1967
No Way, We Won't Pay --2015

Fifty years ago students burned their draft cards to protest an immoral war against the people of Vietnam. Today it's a different kind of war, immoral in another way, waged against young Americans of approximately the same age, and threatening them in a manner that endangers not their lives but their livelihoods.

There are at least four good reasons why America's young adults - and their parents - should take up the fight against financial firms who are holding high-interest student loans that total more than the nation's credit card debt, and more than the total income of the poorer half of America.

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