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2015.24.9 BF Koehler(Photo: Wally Gobetz)ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

“Native Americans have to concede that rain dances don’t work.”

Yeah, snort. How funny can you get? It’s the New Rules segment of “Real Time with Bill Maher” and the host has just tossed his gag tomahawk at the First People. A picture fills the screen: Indians in full regalia, dancing. The caption below it says “Tribal Thumpers.” He pauses, straight-faced, eyeballs rolling in sarcasm. There’s a trickle of laughter amid the awkward silence, then Maher turns away from the camera, presumably toward the crew back stage, and calls out in his fake shame-on-me voice, “Are you making fun of Indians, Bill?”

The moment lasts about 20 seconds, then he’s on to the next putdown joke.

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So why am I still thinking about it a week later? Indeed, it has a hold of me like a car alarm that won’t shut up. What’s reverberating in my head isn’t some moral offense at a politically incorrect joke, which I could, I think, shrug off. What I can’t let go of is the arrogant American ignorance fueling this gag. It wasn’t funny. It was just stupid — but stupid in a way that celebrates and perpetuates pretty much everything that’s wrong with who we are.


aaaCoalRemoval(Photo: JW Randolph)From the time I was a teenager, I’ve wrestled with the question of good and evil. The question led me to the study of philosophy and literature. When I was sixteen years old, I began reading the Russian authors, starting with Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment.   Naïve, I sided with Alyosha Karamazov, a saintly loving monk—a man who, despite the despicable things that humans do to one another, held faith in the goodness of God, and in the idea that humans are fundamentally good, but they do evil things in a state of ignorance.

This idea that evil is committed in a state of ignorance goes back to Plato’s definition of wrongdoing, a concept that St. Augustine accepted, only he referred to the Higher Good as God and that a person could do evil acts only in the absence of God’s Love, i.e., he/she lived in ignorance, a kind of dark void of the soul.

But what if you know what you’re doing is wrong and you do it anyway?

It wasn’t until I came across a profound statement, uttered by Alyosha’s brother, Ivan, an intellectual skeptic, that this inquiry of good and evil became far more confusing than initially conceived. At the time, I didn’t know that it was a famous hypothesis:

If God is dead, then everything is permitted.

I reasoned that if you took that statement to its final conclusion—it would most likely point to the end of humanity because without moral guidance, and enforced legal restrictions, men would push the limits of their greed and avarice to mass suicide.


aaaGlacierPeruEcowatch(Photo: Edubucher)While countries have dragged their feet for years on meaningful climate action, many cities around the world have forged ahead with sustainability efforts. In July, about 60 mayors pledged to fight climate change at a two-day conference hosted by Pope Francis.

Several cities have even made impressive strides to ditch fossil fuels in favor of renewables. Two recent reports have confirmed that 100 percent renewable energy is possible. Earlier this summer, professors out of Stanford and U.C. Berkeley laid out a plan for the U.S. to convert to 100 percent renewable energy in less than 40 years, and Monday Greenpeace published its Energy Revolution 2015 report, which proposes a pathway to a 100 percent sustainable energy supply by 2050.

A report issued last week by CDP, a a U.K.-based nonprofit, and AECOM shows that “96 cities—one third of cities participating in CDP—are already taking action to decarbonize their electricity supply. And 86 percent of these cities say taking action on climate change presents an economic opportunity.”

This year, 308 cities reported to CDP. Nearly half a billion people call these cities home—equivalent to the combined population of the U.S., UK and France. The report found that “currently over a third of cities get more than three quarters of their electricity from non-fossil fuel sources, showing that cities are actively using cleaner energy sources.”


aaaSerra(Photo: Olivier)During his July visit to Bolivia, Pope Francis “apologized for the ‘grave sins’ of colonialism against the native people of the Americas,” USA Today’s Bill Theobald recently reported. “I humbly ask forgiveness, not only for the offense of the church herself, but also for crimes committed against the native peoples during the so-called conquest of America,” the pope said. Why then is Pope Francis canonizing Junípero Serra, the embodiment of crimes committed against native peoples in California?

Why is Pope Francis conferring sainthood on a man whose actions led to the destruction of native peoples in California? Sainthood for Serra, a man who founded missions where native peoples were imprisoned and tortured, and where thousands died? At the time of the announcement, it seemed that Pope Francis, who seems to be a man with a great yearning for social justice, might be unfamiliar with the complete Serra story?

In January, when Pope Francis announced plans to canonize Serra, it opened deep and old wounds. On Wednesday, however, at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., Serra, who the pope called an “evangelizer of the West,” will become America’s first Hispanic saint.

Serra the “evangelizer,” was also an agent of colonialism, death and destruction.

2015.21.9 BF sirota(Photo: Elizabeth Bean)DAVID SIROTA FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Environmental groups and Democratic legislators are pressuring New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to say that General Electric must continue cleaning up the massive pollution the company dumped into the Hudson River from 1947 to 1977. Cuomo's own environmental officials say the pollution continues to cause "ongoing contamination," and federal officials warn that GE's plan to end its cleanup this fall could harm the effort to restore the river's ecosystem.

But the Democratic governor — who has benefited from GE's campaign cash — is declining to say whether he agrees.

In comments to reporters in Albany earlier this month, the governor said he thinks the company should "follow the law and the agreements that have been made." Under the 2002 agreement in question, GE is planning to shut down its cleanup operations at the end of 2015 — which, environmental groups claim, will leave behind at least 35 percent of the carcinogenic polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) the company dumped into the river during the mid-20th century.

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"I know there are claims for (GE) to do more above and beyond that," Cuomo said of the request by legislators and environmental groups. But, he added, "I haven't really looked into that."


Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

Thanks to a months-long investigation by the Pulitzer-prize winning InsideClimate News, we learned last week that ExxonMobil’s own scientists had secretly confirmed the science behind human-caused climate change as early as the late 1970s.

Yes—this is the same ExxonMobil that has funded efforts to attack the science of climate change for more than two decades. As I recount in The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars, I found myself at the center of those attacks because of the iconic Hockey Stick graph my co-authors and I published back in the late 1990s. The graph highlighted, in an easily understandable way, the unprecedented nature of modern global warming. As a result, it proved greatly inconvenient for vested interests, like ExxonMobil, who are opposed to regulation of carbon emissions—from the burning of fossil fuels—that are behind the warming of the globe and the associated changes in climate.

The parallels with the tobacco industry, which knew about—and hid from the public—the health dangers of cigarette smoking, are staggering. Indeed, the industry-funded climate change denial campaign, as I discuss in The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars, has its roots in the earlier tobacco industry disinformation campaign.


aaaForestFire(Photo: MGA73bot2)Headlines from newspapers across the Western U.S. are overwhelming and devastating; thousands of acres of forestland burning, rural communities evacuated, hundreds of homes destroyed. As huge swaths of land – 70,000 acres in California's Lake County alone -- are devoured by unprecedented wildfires, climate scientists and Forest Service officials are warning that recent megablazes, including those in the rainforest of the Olympic Peninsula, in Alaska, in eastern Oregon, and any of the ten currently raging in California, "is the present, and the future, of climate change," writes Rolling Stone's Tim Dickinson.

For the Forest Service, it's beyond an all hands-on-deck situation as large numbers of National Guard and active Army troops have been called on to fight the fires.

Despite incontrovertible evidence that climate change is magnifying and multiplying the damage caused by forest fires, climate change deniers push on.

The Republican Party's presidential candidates are standing firm with the deniers; some claiming that the debate over climate change has not yet been resolved, some suggesting that there is not enough evidence that climate change is man-made, and some maintaining that the costs of dealing with climate change is too high. And, it should be noted, with the Koch Brothers possibly pumping as much as $900 million into Election 2016, GOP candidates know very well where to turn to for there positions on climate change.

There is a searing political dimension to the issue of megablazes. Take Idaho for example, where, Jan Lee recently reported at Triple Pundit, that Gov. Butch Otter, a "stalwart against accepting any federal monies from the Obama administration," including "Medicaid allowances for the elderly and disabled, faced with increasing demand for firefighting resources, declared a state of emergency."


Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

New research reveals that nearly half (45 percent) of the world’s 100 largest companies are “obstructing climate change legislation.” And those that aren’t actively obstructing climate policy are members of trade associations that do. A full 95 percent of these companies are members of trade associations “demonstrating the same obstructionist behavior.”

With help from the Union of Concerned Scientists, UK-based nonprofit InfluenceMap has released a report identifying the best and worst of the world’s major companies when it comes to climate policy.

“More and more, we’re seeing companies rely on their trade groups to do their dirty work of lobbying against comprehensive climate policies,” said Gretchen Goldman, lead analyst at Union of concerned Scientists. “Companies get the delay in policy they want, while preventing nations from acting to fight climate change. It is unacceptable that companies can obstruct climate action in this way without any accountability.”


Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

Unlike last month’s GOP primary debate, where climate change was not mentioned at all during the prime time debate and only briefly mentioned in the so-called “happy hour” debate, the topic finally received some airtime at last night’s debate. Held at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, the debate was hosted by CNN. Over the course of the three-hour debate, there was one question on climate change. It lasted about four minutes, which is only slightly longer than the amount of time devoted to candidates picking out their secret service names.

“We received a lot of questions from social media about climate change,” says CNN moderator Jake Tapper. One group, NextGen Climate pushed very hard ahead of the debate for the candidates to talk about climate change. They rolled out a three-figure ad campaign ahead of the debate, invoking Ronald Reagan’s “Common Sense” speech to urge CNN moderator Jake Tapper to ask candidates how they would address climate change—specifically what their plans are to get the country to 50 percent renewables by 2030.


aaaMosquito(Photo: JJ Harrison)Some Alaskans joke that mosquitoes are “Alaska’s state bird,” but the pesky insects are becoming no joke. Warming Arctic temperatures have caused their numbers to swell immensely in the region in recent years. Lauren Culler has been studying insects in Greenland for the last several years. Culler, a postdoctoral researcher for Dartmouth College’s Institute of Arctic Studies, along with a team of researchers published a study yesterday in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Their findings are not good for the humans, caribou and other mammals that call the Arctic home. The study answers why this is happening. With the Arctic warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet, the Arctics waterways (mosquito breeding grounds) are melting up to several weeks sooner. Thus, mosquitoes are hatching earlier and earlier.

“It was really when the pond thawed that triggered the hatch,” Culler told National Geographic. “That’s not unexpected. Lots of biology is triggered by these melting events.” But that’s not all Culler found. The warmer environment also allowed mosquitos to reach maturity faster, thus allowing more and more to survive to adulthood. Mosquitos are most vulnerable and most likely to be picked off by predators in their early stage of life as most animals are.

“The faster they go through these life stages, the better off they are,” Culler says. “If you’re only exposed for 20 days instead of 24, that’s good for you. That’s four days you don’t have to worry about being eaten.”

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