Guest Commentary (4667)
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Given the cable news network’s obsession with the presidential race, with an occasional break for stories about damage caused by late-summer flooding in Louisiana, tornadoes in the Midwest, and the earthquake in Italy, it is somewhat surprising that news of Mylan Pharmaceuticals’ outrageous price increase of the EpiPen, its lifesaving injection device for those with severe allergies, has received the attention that it has.
According to Paul Keckley, publisher of a weekly newsletter on healthcare issues, Mylan’s EpiPen price increases – 461 percent since 2007 when the EpiPen sold for $100 for a pair – are nothing new, and “are core in their business strategy: this year, it also raised its prices for ursodiol, a generic medicine used to treat gallstones, by 542%, dicyclomine used for irritable bowel syndrome by 400% and metoclopramide, a generic drug that treats gastroesophageal reflux disease by 312%.”
Around the same time news broke of the massive EpiPen price increase, it was also reported that Mylan executives had received a massive salary increase. According to NBC News, “Proxy filings show that from 2007 to 2015, Mylan CEO Heather Bresch's total compensation went from $2,453,456 to $18,931,068, a 671 percent increase.”
Earlier this week, The New York Times reported that Mylan, one of the largest generic drug companies in the world, responded to outrage from patients and health care providers, by announcing that “it would it would introduce a generic version of the product, with a price about half of the existing EpiPen’s.” The new generic EpiPen “would have a wholesale list price of $300 for a pack of two, compared with just above $600 for the existing product.”
JAX JACOBSEN OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The state of Victoria in Australia has voted to ban fracking on its territory, further cementing the moratorium first put in place in 2012. It is the first Australian state to impose such a ban.
Premier Daniel Andrews announced Tuesday.
"It is clear that the Victorian community has spoken," the premier's office said in a statement. "They simply don't support fracking. The government's decision is based on the best available evidence and acknowledges that the risks involved outweigh any potential benefits to Australia."
The Victoria government had conducted a parliamentary inquiry into fracking for onshore gas in the state and received more than 1,600 submissions. Most of these were opposed to fracking.
The newly imposed ban will help protect agricultural industries and workers, the government said.
"Our state is the nation's top food and fiber producer with exports worth $11.6 billion," the statement said. "The permanent ban protects our farmers and preserves Victoria's hard-won reputation for producing high quality food."
More than 190,000 people are employed in the agricultural sector in Victoria.
JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Drought and Chimneys of Fire: It’s Abstract Until It Happens in Plain Sight:
For the last few weeks, we’ve been living under a sky of ash and smoke. The air is hazardous to one’s health; at times, it’s hard to breathe much less take my daily dog walks. A brown veil covers a bronze-colored sun. On the central coast of California, fires are raging at Big Sur, a landmark known for its Redwoods, profound cliffs and pristine beaches. South from here, the Rey Fire in Santa Barbara’s county has grown dramatically, east of Lake Cachuma.
Big Sur is also known for the legendary poet, Robinson Jeffers, who made it his home. It’s a good thing he’s dead—because if he were to see how we’ve trashed our earth and ourselves, he’d be horrified. The flames are spreading south near Hearst Castle, just an hour north of us.
We live on a ranch of dry vegetation which is susceptible to fires. All it takes is a spark. When you know the fires are closing in, you have to face the brutal reality of evacuation: you must be prepared for an escape plan, especially if you need to transport horses and animals. You have to assemble at a minimum what you deem valuable because once the winds shift, the fires can spread faster than all the hard-working fire-fighters and planes combined. There are many families that have met a tragic fate of watching their homes (all their sacred belongings) go up in flames.
The silence is haunting. Less than a decade ago, there were thousands of seasonal birds that migrated to the central coast; it served as a wildlife and bird sanctuary. At this time of year, hundreds of redwing blackbirds would gather in the willow forest where we used to have a pond that dried up after 2012 from the drought. Redwing blackbirds are loud, as if each one among the large assembly demanded the final word in their dispute, then suddenly, absolute silence, only for the cacophony to start up again. This enchanting bird-ceremony became a joyful amusement for me; in fact, the redwing blackbirds have entered the pages of my poetry many a time.
DR. DAVID SUZUKI OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Along with concerns about climate change and the distances much of our food travels from farm to plate, that's spurred a renewed interest in producing food where people live. Urban agriculture won't resolve all food production and distribution problems, but it could help take pressure off rural land while providing other advantages. From balcony, backyard, rooftop, indoor and community gardens to city beehives and chicken coops to larger urban farms and farmers markets, growing and distributing local food in or near cities is a healthy way to help the environment.
And it's much more. As writer and former Vancouver city councillor Peter Ladner (also a David Suzuki Foundation board member) writes in The Urban Food Revolution: Changing the Way We Feed Cities, "When urban agriculture flourishes, our children are healthier and smarter about what they eat, fewer people are hungry, more local jobs are created, local economies are stronger, our neighborhoods are greener and safer, and our communities are more inclusive."
Local and urban agriculture can also help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and recycle nutrient-rich food scraps, plant debris and other "wastes." Because maintaining lawns for little more than aesthetic value requires lots of water, energy for upkeep and often pesticides and fertilizers, converting them to food gardens makes sense.
PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
driverless vehicle is here, destined to eliminate millions of transport and taxi-driving positions. Car manufacturing is being done by 3-D printing. An entire building was erected in Dubai with a 3-D printer. Restaurants are being designed with no waitstaff or busboys, hotels with no desk clerks, bellhops, and porters. Robot teachers are interacting with students in Japan and the UK.
There are plenty of naysayers and skeptics, of course. The Atlantic proclaimed, "The job market defied doomsayers in those earlier times, and according to the most frequently reported jobs numbers, it has so far done the same in our own time." But this is a different time, with no guarantees of job revolutions, and in fact a time of unprecedented machine intelligence that threatens the livelihoods even of doctors, teachers, accountants, architects, the clergy, consultants, and lawyers.
Most of our new jobs are in service industries, including retail and personal health care and food service. The only one of the eight fastest-growing occupations that pays over $33,000 per year is nursing -- and even nursing may give way to Robotic Nurse Assistants. The evidence for downsized jobs keeps accumulating. A US Mayors study found that 'recovery' jobs pay 23 percent less than the positions they replaced. The National Employment Law Project estimates that low-wage jobs accounted for 22 percent of job losses but 44 percent of subsequent job gains. Business Insider, Huffington Post, and the Wall Street Journal all concur: the unemployment rate is remaining low because of low-paying jobs.
We're fooling ourselves by believing in a future with satisfying middle-class jobs for millions of Americans. It's becoming clear that income should be guaranteed, so that recipients have the wherewithal and incentive and confidence to find productive ways to serve society.
WENONAH HAUTER OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Environmental Health Perspectives revealed associations between fracking and various health symptoms including nasal and sinus problems, migraines and fatigue in Pennsylvanians living near areas of natural gas development. The study suggests that residents with the highest exposure to active fracking wells are nearly twice as likely to suffer from the symptoms.A new study out today from Johns Hopkins in
This is the third study released by Hopkins in the past year that connects proximity to fracking sites with adverse health outcomes. Last fall, researchers found an association between fracking and premature births and high-risk pregnancies, and last month, found ties between fracking and asthma.
What's more, a 2014 investigation revealed how health workers in Pennsylvania were silenced by the state Department of Health (DOH) and told not to respond to health inquiries that used certain fracking "buzzwords." Documents obtained by Food & Water Watch last year indicate the DOH was inundated with fracking-related health concerns ranging from shortness of breath and skin problems to asthma, nose and throat irritation, which were ignored or pushed aside.
ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUTKEN ROSEBORO OF
Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch
Last year, Kade McBroom launched a non-GMO soybean processing plant in Malden, Missouri, and was optimistic about the potential to serve the fast-growing non-GMO market.
But now McBroom sees a potential threat to his new business from herbicide drift sprayed on genetically modified crops. This past spring, Monsanto Co. started selling GM Roundup Ready Xtend soybean and cotton seeds to farmers in Missouri and several other states. The seeds are genetically engineered to withstand sprays of glyphosate and dicamba herbicides. The problem is that the Xtend dicamba herbicide designed to go with the seeds has not yet been approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), leading many farmers to spray their GMO soybeans and cotton with older formulas of dicamba -- illegally.
May Not Be Able to Grow Non-GMO Soybeans
While Monsanto's GMO crops can tolerate sprays of dicamba, other crops can't. As a result, dicamba, which is known to convert from a liquid to a gas and spread for miles, is damaging tens of thousands of acres of "non-target" crops in southern Missouri and nine other states, mostly in the South. An estimated 200,000 acres are affected in Missouri alone, though the EPA puts that number at 40,000. Non-GMO and even GMO, soybeans that aren't dicamba resistant are damaged as well as peaches, tomatoes, watermelon, cantaloupe and other crops.
BILL QUIGLEY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Hurricane Katrina hit eleven years ago. Population of the City of New Orleans is down by over 95,000 people from 484,674 in 2000 to 389,617 in 2015. Almost all this loss of people is in the African American community. Child poverty is up, double the national average. The gap between rich and poor in New Orleans is massive, the largest in the country. The economic gap between well off whites and low income African Americans is widening. Despite receiving $76 billion in assistance after Katrina, it is clear that poor and working people in New Orleans, especially African Americans, got very little of that help. Here are the numbers.
35 The New Orleans Regional Transit Authority reported that 62 percent of pre-Katrina service has been restored. But Ride New Orleans, a transit rider organization, says streetcar rides targeted at tourists are fully restored but bus service for regular people is way down, still only at 35 percent of what it was before Katrina. That may explain why there has been a big dip in the number of people using public transportation in New Orleans, down from 13 percent in 2000 to 9 percent now.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Welcome to the world of Donald Trump's long-awaited “Pivot.” With a recent quasi-apology under his belt -- "I do regret it [the litany of insults] particularly where it may have caused personal pain” -- and a newly constituted Team Trump -- especially the media-savvy/friendly and very capable message massager Kellyanne Conway -- are you ready for the hugest and the greatest pivot ever?
The mainstream media has been craving it, only fearing that it might not materialize quickly enough. Obviously, the fading campaign desperately needs it. But will the public buy into it?
Over the past few weeks, my wife and I have been discussing "The Pivot." No, not how U.S. Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte recently pivoted away from his phony Rio robbery story and apologized; nor have we been extolling the skills of Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, or other great National Basketball Association pivot men. Broadly defined, “The Pivot,” usually happens right after the primaries, as a campaign understands it needs to soften its message and broaden its appeal. Now, after a several months long run at letting Trump be Trump, his new campaign team, and The Donald himself, may finally be recognizing that there might not be enough blue-collar white men to carry him to victory, and he needs to do something different to appeal to independents.
So, Trump has replaced the campaign’s leadership, which has led, according to some pundits, to a shift in messaging, and tone.
Trump’s so-called pivot started with his making appeals for the African American vote. ABC News’ Candace Smith reported that “Trump, who shook up his staff in recent days, appeared to strike a different tone during his speech at the Charlotte Convention Center, reading from a teleprompter, as he has chided Hillary Clinton for doing and again making an appeal to African-American voters.”
GEORGE LAKOFF FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Responsible reporters in the media normally transcribe political speeches so that they can accurately report them. But Donald Trump’s discourse style has stumped a number of reporters. Dan Libit, CNBC’s excellent analyst is one of them. Libit writes:
His unscripted speaking style, with its spasmodic, self-interrupting sentence structure, has increasingly come to overwhelm the human brains and tape recorders attempting to quote him.
Trump is, simply put, a transcriptionist's worst nightmare: severely unintelligible, and yet, incredibly important to understand.
Given how dramatically recent polls have turned on his controversial public utterances, it is not hyperbolic to say that the very fate of the nation, indeed human civilization, appears destined to come down to one man's application of the English language — and the public's comprehension of it. It has turned the rote job of transcribing into a high-stakes calling.
Trump's crimes against clarity are multifarious: He often speaks in long, run-on sentences, with frequent asides. He pauses after subordinate clauses. He frequently quotes people saying things that aren't actual quotes. And he repeats words and phrases, sometimes with slight variations, in the same sentence.
Some in the media (Washington Post, Salon, Slate, Think Progress, etc.) have called Trump’s speeches “word salad.” Some commentators have even attributed his language use to “early Alzheimer’s,” citing “erratic behavior” and “little regards for social conventions.” I don’t believe it.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
During the Republican Party primaries, when Donald Trump skipped a debate to hold a fundraiser for veterans, one of the mega-wealthy people he touted from the stage that evening was Isaac “Ike” Perlmutter, the CEO of Marvel Comics, and a big Trump supporter, who had given one-million dollars. I don’t know this for a fact, but I’m guessing that Perlmutter may not have been aware that a few months later, Marvel would introduce a new villain to the world; M.O.D.A.A.K. aka Mental Organism Designed As America's King, a thinly disguised version of Trump.
According to The Daily Beast’s Asawin Suebsaeng, in this year’s Spider-Gwen Annual #1, released in late-June, Marvel Comics “officially turned Donald Trump into a supervillain — a xenophobic, orange-haired, Captain-America-hating supervillain who is obsessed with the quality of his hands."
Esquire’s Peter Wade pointed out that “The horrifying monster … shout[s] xenophobic things at innocent people, telling them to get ‘back on your feet, foreign filth!’"
“But have no fear,” Wade notes, “Captain America soon appears to deliver a knock-out punch to Trump-MODAAK and saves America from certain doom, as the monster mutters a final, ‘Must make America—‘ and is destroyed.”
Entertainment Weekly reported that “The character was once known as technician George Tarleton, but he was subjected to horrifying experiments that transformed him into a big-headed being. In the alternate world of Spider-Gwen Annual #1, where Peter Parker’s girlfriend Gwen Stacey was the one bitten by a radioactive spider, Modok too gets an alternate spin.”
PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
seniors and at-risk youth services. Chicago residents were hit with a nearly 13% property tax increase. Some Chicago public schools could face 2017 cutbacks of an incredible 20 percent.
But six of Illinois' largest corporations together paid ALMOST ZERO state income taxes this year. Full payment of their taxes would have exceeded the $1.1 billion Chicago Public School deficit.
It's much the same around the nation, as 25 of the largest U.S. corporations, with over $150 billion in U.S. profits last year, paid less than 20% in federal taxes, and barely 1% in the state taxes that are vitally important for K-12 education.
Sticking It To Low-Income Mothers
Because of the missing corporate tax revenue, House Republicans have tried to break even by proposing cuts to programs that are essential to mothers and children, such as Centers for Disease Control health programs, family planning, contraception, and -- unbelievably, again! -- food stamps. It is estimated that almost two-thirds of the proposed cuts would largely impact low- and moderate-income families.
At the state level, the suffering residents of Louisiana are facing some of the steepest regressive tax increases, along with cuts to vital programs that investigate child abuse and provide pediatric day care. The maternal death rate rose dramatically in Texas after women's health programs were cut. In Kansas, where a Republican state senator has called Governor Brownback's lowering of taxes on the rich a "train wreck," 2017 cuts are targeting universities, Medicaid recipients, and the Children’s Initiatives Fund.
JANE STILLWATER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
I just attended the 31st annual national Veterans for Peace convention here in Berkeley and was truly inspired by the hundreds of vets who attended it, and by their organization's heroic stand for peace. As one vet put it, "Been there, done that -- war doesn't work."
And while wandering around the grounds of the convention center before the festivities began, I ran into Helen Caldecott, an Australian doctor who has bravely spoken out against the use of nuclear weapons ever since the terrible days of America's Cold War. I'm not sure what I was expecting that she would look like -- perhaps Super Girl in a cape? But she was just an ordinary-looking person, like someone you would meet on the street. Until she started speaking to an audience of 300-plus veterans. And then her eyes flashed, her voice rang out like a warning bell and her passion came alive.
"I am a pediatrician," she told us, "and if you love this planet, if you love the next generation of babies, you will change the priority of your lives -- because right now, America's top priority seems to be for us to come as close to nuclear war as we possibly can."
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
It's the smallest thing in the world. Does the tennis ball land inside the line or outside? But somehow, as I watched this 60-second YouTube clip of an Australian tennis match last January, and heard an explosion of joyous approval surge from the crowd, I could feel the planet shift.
Or at least it seemed that way for an instant.
In the clip, a tennis player named Jack Sock tells his opponent, Lleyton Hewitt, whose serve has just been declared out, that he should challenge the call. A little humorous disbelief bounces around the court, but eventually Hewitt says, "Sure, I'll challenge it." A judge reviews the tape and declares that the serve was in . . . and the crowd lets loose an enormous cheer.
I felt like I could hear the stunned amazement in it. Hurray for integrity! Hurray for . . . what? It was different from the usual hoots and hollers of "our guy wins" or the polite acknowledgement of "nice play."
Hurray for integrity?