Guest Commentary (3980)
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.
ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUTANASTASIA PANTSIOS OF
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
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
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.“American Sniper” has stirred up the Right (see Fox ”News” and etc.) and
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.
ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUTTONY IALLONARDO OF
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.
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
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.
DR. DAVID SUZUKI OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
gasoline additive MMT because it was a suspected neurotoxin that had already been banned in Europe. Ethyl Corp., the U.S. multinational that supplied the chemical, sued the government for $350 million under the North American Free Trade Agreement and won! Canada was forced to repeal the ban, apologize to the company and pay an out-of-court settlement of US$13 million.In 1997, Canada restricted import and transfer of the
The free trade agreement between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico was never designed to raise labor and environmental standards to the highest level. In fact, NAFTA and other trade agreements Canada has signed—including the recent Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement with China—often take labor standards to the lowest denominator while increasing environmental risk. The agreements are more about facilitating corporate flexibility and profit than creating good working conditions and protecting the air, water, land and diverse ecosystems that keep us alive and healthy.
Canada’s environment appears to be taking the brunt of NAFTA-enabled corporate attacks. And when NAFTA environmental-protection provisions do kick in, the government often rejects them.
According to a study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, more than 70 percent of NAFTA claims since 2005 have been against Canada, with nine active cases totaling $6 billion outstanding. These challenge “a wide range of government measures that allegedly interfere with the expected profitability of foreign investments,” including the Quebec government’s moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
You are undoubtedly aware that the financial network that Charles and David Koch have established is aiming to spend nearly one billion dollars on the 2016 elections. They'll be numerous public relations outfits, advertising firms, and media experts vying to soak up some cash. Will Citizens United's David Bossie grab a seat on the Koch Brothers' gravy train?
In 2008, the conservative movement was preparing to go balls (inflated, not deflated) to the wall against Hillary Clinton. Anti-Hillary projects were developed at a fever pitch: Books were written; documentaries readied; websites set up. Hillary: The Movie, the mother of all attack films -- produced by David Bossie and his organization, Citizens United – was to be aired on cable TV before the Democratic primaries. Everything was in place and then ... and then ... the federal government blocked the film from being aired, arguing that it wasn't a movie, but an extended political commercial. Barack Obama knocked off Clinton in the Democratic primaries, and ultimately won the White House. The best-laid anti-Clinton plans were waylaid.
For conservatives, however, all was not lost. The U.S. Supreme Court took up the case called Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. In 2010, it ruled 5-4 that spending limits in the McCain-Feingold act were unconstitutional, and that allowed virtually unlimited contributions by corporations and unions to political action committees.
JANE STILLWATER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
This has been a busy month for me, including helping my daughter prepare for the birth of my next granddaughter, getting a bunch of surgical procedures out of the way so I can be bionic by the time I become our new arrival's caregiver after her new mum goes back to work, worrying about the role of the CIA in creating radical "Islam," and still struggling through Thomas Pretty's 600-page book on modern economics. And the more that I read in Capital for the 21st Century, the angrier I get.
According to Piketty, Europe and America have traditionally been divided into two basic classes for a long long long time: The "haves" and the "have-nots." Traditionally, the "haves" have owned the capital (most of it inherited) and the "have-nots" have provided the labor. For many past centuries, it had been pretty much upstairs and downstairs in Western economies, just like on the BBC TV series.
But then two world wars came along and totally shook up these two formerly set-in-stone class lines, creating a unique glitch in time wherein a new large middle class was suddenly born -- in both Europe and the United States.
According to Piketty, this was an almost-unique experience in Western economic history - where the wealthy were taken down a notch and the working class and poor were elevated up. However, this "accidental equality" was too good to be true for long, and the wealthy classes fought back and the dream died -- and so here we are, back again, deja vu, once more playing at "Upstairs Downstairs" like our ancestors did.
You may wish that Piketty is wrong about the recent disappearance of the new middle class? But unfortunately he's not.