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aaaCopViolence(Photo: Colocho)So South Carolina has a special crime category called “disturbing schools,” which seems to be creating just that: disturbing schools. Very disturbing schools.

Not that I need to single out South Carolina. In my brief stint teaching writing as an outside consultant in several Chicago high schools, some 20 years ago, I was smacked broadside with the observation that the city’s educational system exhibited the behavior of an occupying army, at least in its low-income neighborhoods. Education was something imposed from above and force-fed to the students like bad-tasting medicine. It didn’t honor the students’ own culture.

What the kids needed was a generosity of understanding that the education system had no interest in giving them, preferring to help them along on their journey to adulthood with zero tolerance and metal detectors.

What has happened to our national intelligence, not to mention our national values? In the era of cellphone accountability, our lack thereof has a new poster boy: Officer Slam. Throw the insolent kid across the floor, break her arm if necessary, slap her in cuffs.

This is how we teach respect. This is how we teach math.

“I was screaming ‘What the f, what the f, is this really happening?’” These are the words of Niya Kenny, the brave young woman who stood up to Officer Ben Fields as he manhandled her classmate this past Monday at Spring Valley High School, in Columbia, S.C. “I was praying out loud for the girl. I just couldn’t believe this was happening.”


In today's so-called "democratic" election process, Big Money doesn't talk, it roars — usually drowning out the people's voice.

Bizarrely, the Supreme Court decreed in its 2010 Citizens United ruling that money is a form of "free speech." Thus, declared the learned justices, people and corporations are henceforth allowed to spend unlimited sums of their money to "speak" in election campaigns. But wait — if political speech is measured by money then by definition speech is not free. It can be bought, thereby giving the most speech to the few with the most money. That's plutocracy, not democracy.

Sure enough, in the first six months of this presidential election cycle, more than half of the record-setting $300 million given to the various candidates came from only 358 mega-rich families and the corporations they control. The top 158 of them totaled $176 million in political spending, meaning that, on average, each one of them bought more than a million dollars' worth of "free" speech.

Nearly all of their money is backing Republican presidential hopefuls who promise: (1) to cut taxes on the rich; (2) cut regulations that protect us from corporate pollution and other abuses of the common good; and (3) to cut Social Security, food stamps and other safety-net programs that we un-rich people need. The great majority of Americans adamantly oppose all of those cuts — but none of us has a million bucks to buy an equivalent amount of political "free" speech.


Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch.

The just-released report from the International Agency for Research on Cancer judging processed meat as clearly carcinogenic and red meat as probably carcinogenic has caused consternation among meat producers and consumers.

Meat producers do not like the “eat less meat” message. Consumers do not want to give up their bacon and hamburgers—delicious and also icons of the American way of life.

But these judgments should come as no surprise to anyone. Eating less processed and red meat has been accepted dietary advice since Ancel and Margaret Keys wrote their diet book for heart disease prevention, Eat Well and Stay Well, in 1959. Their advice: “restrict saturated fats, the fats in beef, pork, lamb, sausages …” They aimed this advice at reducing saturated fat to prevent heart disease. Federal committees and agencies have continued issuing such heart-disease advice to the present day.


aaaFrackQuakes(Photo: EcoWatch)Just like in Oklahoma, Kansas is seeing a shocking uptick in earthquakes connected to the underground disposal of wastewater from the hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, process.

The Washington Post reports that Kansas has recorded more earthquakes in the past two weeks alone than there have been in the years between 1990 and 2013. According to the Kansas Geological Survey, between Oct. 15-26, there were 52 quakes, most with a magnitude between 2.0 or 3.0. That’s a huge increase from the 19 earthquakes recorded in the state between 1990 and 2010.

In all, the number of earthquakes in the state jumped from four in 2013 to 817 in 2014, the Post reported.

In recent years, Kansas has seen an energy boom-and-bust due to technological advancements in fracking and horizontal drilling. However, this quest for oil and gas has produced mixed results, from harmful waste spills to an increase in seismic activity.

Earlier this year, the Kansas Corporation Commission, which regulates the state’s oil and gas industry, decided to limit the underground injection disposal of saltwater from oil wells mainly in Harper and Sumner Counties. The decision reportedly tamped down on the number of earthquakes in the area, according The Wichita Eagle.

However, one can only wonder if the recent spate of tremors in the state has anything to do with the commission’s regulations expiring Sept. 13.


aaaPPFA(Photo: S. MiRK)Singing a few lines from "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah" -- a song from the Disney 1946 live action and animated movie Song of the South, sung by James Baskett – and sporting a jaunty bounce in his step, Speaker of the House John Boehner stepped up to the podium and announced he was giving up his speakership and leaving Congress. Two years ago, Boehner wasn't nearly as playful after he gave in to demands to shut down the government over a fight over Obamacare. This time around, Boehner, and his Senate partner Mitch McConnell, were determined not to shut down the government despite pressure from his far right conservative brethren to shut-it-down if necessary in the battle over defunding Planned Parenthood.

However, he did give his right flank a gift; a new "select" committee to investigate Planned Parenthood. "Recent videos exposing the abortion-for-baby parts business have shocked the nation, and demanded action. At my request, three House committees have been investigating the abortion business, but we still don't have the full truth," Boehner said last week.

He topped off his gift by appointing Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn to head the committee, which will include seven other GOP representatives (four of whom will be women), and, I presume -- should they choose to participate – several congressional Democrats. The Editorial Board of the Sacramento Bee characterized Blackburn as "a partisan so far to the right that she earlier this year told BBC Radio that she doesn't accept the theory of evolution."


aaaJonStewartAnimals(Photo: David Shankbone)The rumors are true. Jon Stewart and his wife Tracey are turning their 12-acre farm in Middelton, New Jersey into an animal sanctuary affiliated with Farm Sanctuary. The organization has been working for the last three decades to end inhumane farm practices and create better lives for animals. Tracey revealed the news on Saturday night at Farm Sanctuary’s annual gala at the Plaza Hotel in New York City.

“We bought a farm in New Jersey, with the intention of starting a farm sanctuary of our own,” she said at the gala, where she and Jon were honored with an award. “We’re getting married. Farm Sanctuary and us, we’re getting married.”

It will be the fourth such Farm Sanctuary site with the original in upstate New York and two in California, according to Farm Sanctuary’s website.

The Stewart’s farm is called Bufflehead, and it’s currently home to four rescue pigs. Future inhabitants, the New York Times reports, will likely include more pigs, as well as cows, sheep, goats, chickens and turkeys.


Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

At age 13, I participated in civil rights marches and other activities. A few years later I was also active in anti-war marches and events. By the time I was 16, I helped lead a protest at my high school, which ended with a ceremonial tree-planting on the first Earth Day in 1970. I was fortunate because my family supported and encouraged my activism, as they have throughout my career.

As I look toward our planet’s future, I reflect on numerous examples from our past, in which young generations not only helped lead, but also provided the main spark that forced older decision-makers to push through change. The 1960s and ’70s in the U.S. are one big example. The Berliners tearing down the wall in 1989 is another. The Arab Spring in 2010/11 changed that corner of the world forever. And more recently, the rise of 350.org and its mass mobilization of young people, which included the People’s Climate March in New York in 2014, is a big new force in the fight to address climate change.

It’s clear that if we want change, we need to not only watch and listen to young people, but also embrace and support them to help create the change our planet needs. If the leaders at COP21 in Paris don’t get this message, they are simply missing the boat.

2015.26.10 BF Buchheit(Photo: Tax Credits)PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Rating capitalist despicability is a daunting task with Big Pharma and High Finance in the running, but Higher Ed's betrayal of a century-old trust with young Americans vaults it toward the top of the list.

Since 1862 public colleges had been expected to serve primarily as a means for the American people to achieve an inexpensive college education, and to benefit from academic research. The 1980 Bayh-Dole Act changed it all. It freed public universities from releasing new research discoveries to the public, allowing them instead to patent the results and make licensing deals with private companies. The University of California, anticipating big agri-business subsidies, took full advantage in 2013, siding with Monsanto in a lawsuit against a farmer who was accused of stealing the company's seed. The farmer lost. And universities became more deeply entrenched in the capitalist world.


aaaPoletoparis2(Photo: EcoWatch)You might have heard of Yeb Sano, the former climate change negotiator who became a climate activist after he got fed up with the slow progress of the UN climate conferences. His latest action involves walking from Rome to Paris ahead of the UN talks in Paris, COP21, to draw attention for the need to act on climate change.

Now, another group of people are kicking it up a notch and have decided to run and bike from the North and South Poles to Paris.

The group writes on its blog:

The 12,000 km [about 7,500 miles] long Southern Cycle follows Dr. Daniel Price, specialist in Antarctic climate, on his way from New Zealand to Paris. From the North, Dr. Erlend Moster Knudsen, specialist in Arctic climate, takes on the lead of the 3,000 km [1,800 miles] long Northern Run. Their team members Beth Ward and Oria Jamar de Bolsée join in the run throughout the UK, Belgium and France. They bring with them flags from the two Polar Regions—the regions where the fastest signs of climate change are now observed.

The team from the North started running from the tip of Norway a few weeks ago and crossed the Scottish border yesterday.

Thursday, 22 October 2015 09:02

Reasons Killer Whales Should Not Be Captive


Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

A disturbing new video of a SeaWorld San Diego orca too “depressed” to nurse her calf is going viral, and has once again shined a spotlight on the controversial practice of keeping killer whales in captivity.

The footage shows Orca Research Trust founder and marine biologist Ingrid Visser and former SeaWorld trainer John Hargrove observing a mother orca named Kasatka and her 2-year-old calf Makani at the ocean park’s orca facility, the Huffington Post reports.

The two observe signs of “stereotypic behavior,” such as the mother orca staring at the bottom of a concrete wall and ignoring her baby’s repeated head-bumps to get fed. They add that Makani’s constant nudging for food has left a bruise on the mother’s stomach.

“That head-bump is a precursor to nursing,” Hargrove says in the video.

“The calf is constantly trying to get food, so desperately hungry, so bored,” Visser says. “It’s a stereotypic behavior.”

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