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Wednesday, 04 June 2014 07:17

The Koch Brothers Will Bankrupt Us

(Image: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/truthout/8432382363/in/photolist-fm3eMM-dR9auP-bJS88n-bu7YWi-aTfYhF" target="_blank">Jared Rodriguez / Truthout</a>)(Image: Jared Rodriguez / Truthout)WILL DURST FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

In the bad old days, medieval German Lords figured out how to pocket some quick coin by charging a toll on the primitive paths meandering across their lands. The money wasn't used to improve the roads or better the lives of the peasants or clean the rivers their pigs pooped in but rather heighten the piles in their treasury. Even back then, you just couldn't have enough pewter candlesticks.

These were the first robber barons. Literally. Rich people whose sole pursuit was to survive to become richer people. A criminal aristocracy. A term history has proved redundant.

During the Gilded Age, the flushest 1% of the country held 1/3 of the national income. In the 1920s, this figure ramped up to 2/5ths. Molehills compared to today's mountainous wealth, where the richest 400 American families control more money than the poorest 165 million of their fellow citizens put together. And if all 165 million were knelt end to end, those 400 families would have footrests from any compass point.

Wednesday, 04 June 2014 06:51

Beware of the RoboBee, Monsanto and DARPA

(Photo <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/freewildebeest/2792283343/in/photolist-6ymBQN-MVPoh-MAkA5-geqSxG-2TydVX-iU8c7m-Mg5AQ-cWvdRG-6n2Do-c9Naw-9RzcyK-aiGJbc-5Qb2e9-b5XiGD-fYoQwk-hjGshs-boJ14q-6hC9pT-8eVkAz-4EKHC-afcm1V-5fKbyg-frYu1p-nEN8u-Mg5eq-nayXg6-8kteGo-6set4x-35Ag5i-2HRHyK-dpmMDk-nwpcWw-49srXM-yjpUJ-3iFtDj-ebpRWf-hfFPDJ-8diYxj-7JRPSB-hbEwUz-6LgGYh-nbQiSA-fNDKuf-9AH1Zn-5GBwXk-eQnHH-cw9zHY-a2RuPi-9WXHfD-cQByi1" target="_blank">Toby Gray / Flickr</a>)(Photo: Toby Gray / Flickr)REV. BILLY TALEN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Let's consider for a moment the honey bee and its anticipated replacement, the RoboBee. Let's pay a visit to the frankenbee's parents, Monsanto and DARPA.

The RoboBee is a mechanical bee in the design stage at the Microrobotics Lab, housed in a well-appointed building at Harvard University. The RoboBee project's Intelligence Office declares that the robotic inventors are inspired by the bee. The RoboBee project's website and press releases use the imagery of the golden bees that we remember from our love of the cuddly buzzy honey-maker.

But something is wrong with this enterprise. While the RoboBee's press is nearly all positive, and open-faced students have posted euphoric YouTube reports of their robotic work, the whole thing looks quite different to the people of the beekeeping community, who can't help but point out that the real life honey bees and bumble bees are plummeting toward extinction.

HARVEY WASSERMAN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaFukushimaHotspot(Photo: Abasaa)The corporate media silence on Fukushima has been deafening even though the melted-down nuclear power plant's seaborne radiation is now washing up on American beaches.

Ever more radioactive water continues to pour into the Pacific.

At least three extremely volatile fuel assemblies are stuck high in the air at Unit 4. Three years after the March 11, 2011, disaster, nobody knows exactly where the melted cores from Units 1, 2 and 3 might be.

Amid a dicey cleanup infiltrated by organized crime, still more massive radiation releases are a real possibility at any time.

Radioactive groundwater washing through the complex is enough of a problem that Fukushima Daiichi owner Tepco has just won approval for a highly controversial ice wall to be constructed around the crippled reactor site. No wall of this scale and type has ever been built, and this one might not be ready for two years. Widespread skepticism has erupted surrounding its potential impact on the stability of the site and on the huge amounts of energy necessary to sustain it. Critics also doubt it would effectively guard the site from flooding and worry it could cause even more damage should power fail.

Meanwhile, children nearby are dying.

EUGENE ROBINSON ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaCoalMine2(Photo: Bureau of Land Management)Even for people who don't believe in it, climate change just got real. It's about time.

The Obama administration's proposed new rule for existing power plants -- reducing heat-trapping carbon emissions by up to 30 percent by 2030 -- is ambitious enough to get anyone's attention. No, this one measure will not halt or reverse human-induced warming of the atmosphere. But the rule is necessary in the context of seeking international consensus on solutions -- and also significant in its own right.

Before Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy could announce the new rule Monday, critics were already bellowing about higher energy rates and lost jobs. They pretended not to see that President Obama -- as with health care reform -- is taking what ought to be seen as a Republican-friendly approach.

The rule, which will not become final until next year, gives states great flexibility in how they reach the target. They are not forced to immediately begin shutting down the aging coal-fired power plants that constitute one of the biggest sources of carbon pollution. Rather, each state can take the path that best fits its circumstances -- ramping up the generation of energy from renewable sources such as wind and solar, for example, or entering regional cap-and-trade agreements.

Ultimately, however, hundreds of those aging, dirty, coal-fired plants will have to close. If the planet could speak, it would say good riddance.

(Image: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/truthout/4166367471/in/set-72157628843920995" target="_blank">Troy Page / t r u t h o u t; Adapted: Alex E. Proimos, ianmunroe, calebkimbrough</a>)(Image: Troy Page / t r u t h o u t; Adapted: Alex E. Proimos, ianmunroe, calebkimbrough)PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

The severing of our society into a plutocracy and a peasantry is so far along that statistics almost cease to have meaning. But the facts have to be told, to help explain the sickening sense that we're becoming a nation without a middle class, paralyzed by the inequality deniers and excuse makers who refuse to admit there's something wrong with their free-market capitalist system. The extremes are becoming almost intolerable.


1. A Broken System of Compensation: The Combined Salaries of 350,000 Pre-School Teachers Is Less Than That of Five Hedge Fund Managers

Pre-school teaching may be our nation's most important job. Numerous studies show that with pre-school, all children achieve more and earn more through adulthood, with the most disadvantaged benefiting the most.

Hedge fund managers, at the other extreme, are likely to bet on mortgages to fail or on food prices to rise.

It's a frightening commentary on our value system that the total income of over a third of a million pre-school teachers is less than the combined income of just five big-money speculators.

JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaGitmoPrisoners(Photo: Shane T. McCoy)This piece is dedicated to Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald for their attempt to preserve our liberties by law in the People's Bill of Rights.

In case you didn't catch the irony of the title, "Tear down this wall!" was the challenge issued by President Ronald Reagan to Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev to destroy the Berlin Wall, June 12th 1987, as a demand to increase freedom in the Eastern Bloc, freedom to come and go as one pleases, and freedom from state controlled surveillance.

My, my, my—how the tables have turned, no?

Protesters around the world are demanding that President Obama fulfill his 2008 promise to shut down Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility, a prison known for torture and abuse, and for its illegal "indefinite detention" practice.

Guantanamo Bay Prison stands as a blatant violation of Constitutional Laws. So how did it happen in the first place?

If you want a close-up view of what was passed in the Patriot Act, look no further for the results of that abhorrent piece of legislation than Guantánamo Bay prison.

Worst still, Obama's National Defense Authorization Act made certain that American citizens can also be held indefinitely without trial or charge. The Patriot Act pales by comparison to the NDAA. President Obama used Executive Action to pass it into law on New Year's Day 2012—as if it were something to celebrate. He refuses, however, to take Executive Action for shutting down GITMO. Morally speaking, the president doesn't seem to know right from wrong.

As the president emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights, Michael Ratner, put it: "Barack Obama is the first president ever in the United States to sign into law indefinite detention as part of the policy of the United States."

Friday, 30 May 2014 06:50

Insanity Extends Beyond the Shooters

WALTER BRASCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBullet1(Photo: Niels Noordhoek)During this past week, in Scranton, Pa., a 16-year old put two bullets into the head of a taxi driver and then stole about $500 earned by the cabbie that evening.

The teen, who showed no remorse when arrested a few hours later, mumbled a few words about his reasons. He said he murdered the cabbie "'Cause that's what I do to people that don't listen." The teen thought the cabbie was taking too long to get him to his destination. The driver was a 47-year-old man with a wife and two children. The gun was an unlicensed 9-mm.

A few days later, in Payson, Ariz., a three-year-old boy found a loaded semi-automatic gun in the apartment of family friend, began playing with it, and accidentally killed his 18-month-old brother. Police recovered several other weapons from the apartment.

In Homestead, Fla., a 28-year-old man, who admitted he was drinking and using cocaine, was showing off an AK-47 at a picnic. His six-year-old nephew picked up the gun when no one was watching, played with it, and accidentally killed his own grandfather.

In Isla Vista, Calif., a 22-year-old man with a history of mental problems, stabbed his three roommates, and then drove near the campus of the University of California at Santa Barbara. In about 10 minutes, he murdered three more students and wounded 13 more before committing suicide. Police say the killer had three 9 mm. weapons and about 400 rounds of ammunition, all of it purchased legally.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBasketball(Photo: Reisio)Although it has been one of the worst kept secrets in professional sports, the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) is finally coming out of the closet with a series of monster slam-dunk marketing projects aimed at the LGBT community. The league recently announced that each of its teams would be turning its marketing efforts towards the LGBT community, becoming the first pro sports league to specifically recruit gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender fans to its games. At some point in the season, each team will stage an event acknowledging and honoring the LGBT community.

According to the Associated Press, "The launch of the effort coincides with a surge of political and legal advances for the gay-rights movement in the U.S., and shifting public opinion behind many of those advances."

As LGBT issues have gained wider support both politically and legally, the sports world has been part of the changing landscape. AP pointed out that "NBA player Jason Collins became the first player in men's professional basketball to come out and played with the Nets. Former Missouri football player Michael Sam, who came out in print and televised interviews earlier this year, was drafted in the seventh round by the St. Louis Rams. And Derrick Gordon, a UMass basketball player, recently described his experience as a gay Division I player."

The WNBA campaign "includes having teams participate in local pride festivals and parades, working with advocacy groups to raise awareness of inclusion through grassroots events and advertising with lesbian media. A nationally televised pride game will take place between Tulsa and Chicago on Sunday, June 22. All 12 teams will also have some sort of pride initiative over the course of the season."

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaGlock(Photo: Ken Lunde)The world withheld love and he went to war. He was an army of one — another army of one, laying out his plans in secret torment, plotting his "day of retribution."

"The rampage shooters see themselves as moralistic punishers striking against deep injustice," Peter Turchin wrote a year and a half ago, in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre. In his essay, ominously titled "Canaries in a Coal Mine," which was published at Social Evolution Forum, he notes the upward trajectory of mass murders. Since the '60s, they've increased more than tenfold. Something's going wrong in the world we've created.

The killers are always described as loners . . . monsters, psychopaths. They're not like us, and so the motives for the killings are sought only in the rubble of their lives — in the left-behind writings and YouTube videos, the psychological reports, the fragmentary reflections of acquaintances — and they're nothing more than sterile curiosities, with a sort of reality-TV entertainment value.

So it turns out that Elliot Rodger, the 22-year-old who killed six UC Santa Barbara students, then committed suicide, last week in Isla Vista, Calif., was shut out of human connection, nailed into a coffin of isolation. He wrote in his journal some years earlier:

"I was desperate to have the life I know I deserve; a life of being wanted by attractive girls, a life of sex and love. Other men are able to have such a life . . . so why not me? I deserve it! I am magnificent, no matter how much the world treated me otherwise. I am destined for great things."

Unlike most lonely people — but like all the others who make screaming headlines out of their loneliness — he sought a military solution to his troubles. His enemies were wrecking his life, so he armed himself and went after them. He "went to war" and, in so doing, dignified his predicament and justified his course of action. Calling it "war" is a nearly airtight justification for violence — for murder.

2014.5.28.Solar.BFConstruction of the Long Island solar farm (Photo: Brookhaven National Laboratory / Flickr)RHONE RESCH OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Reposted with permission from EcoWatch.

In the ongoing war on pollution, there’s an increasingly bright light shining through the haze: solar energy.

Today, solar is providing a big boost to our environment. The 14,800 megawatts (MW) of solar currently installed in the U.S. can generate enough pollution-free electricity to displace 18 billion pounds of coal or 1.8 billion gallons of gasoline. That’s the equivalent of removing 3.5 million passenger cars off our roads and highways. For state’s trying to meet new, enhanced air quality standards, solar can be a real game changer.

Why is this so important? Because on Monday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is set to announce new air quality standards for coal and natural gas-fired power plants.

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