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BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaTallCross(Photo: Dustin Johnston)Former Minnesota Republican Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann recently told Jan Markell, the host of a radio program "End Times," that the rapture is coming and the Obama administration's negotiations with Iran is bringing it on. "Surprisingly, over 22 percent of Americans believe that the world will end during their lifetime," Roy Speckhardt, the executive director of the American Humanist Association, recently reported in the Huffington Post. "This number is even higher when considering the religious, as 54 percent of Protestants and 77 percent of Evangelicals believe that the 'world is now living in the biblical end times.'"

To Christian filmmaker Paul Lalonde, that is music to his ears.

The filmmaker, who is trying to milk every last drop out of Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins' "Left Behind" series of wildly popular apocalyptic novels, has launched a fundraising drive for another Left Behind movie. It appears that production of Left Behind movies will only cease after the Rapture.

Despite the fact that there doesn't appear to be a craving for a sequel to last year's Left Behind box office flop, nevertheless Cloud Ten Pictures producer and CEO, Paul Lalonde, recently announced that a sequel has been green lighted and could be in theaters in the summer of 2016.

The first film, starring Nicolas Cage (actually the second time around for a series of movies based on the "Left Behind" books), garnered only $14 million domestically at the box office and $20 million worldwide. Prior to the release of the first film, Lalonde had pinned his hopes on the star power of Cage and enhanced Hollywood-like real deal action sequences.

"Now," to paraphrase Denzel Washington in the film Philadelphia, "explain to me like I'm a four-year-old why we need another Left Behind movie."

Wednesday, 22 April 2015 07:22

What BP and TEPCO Don't Want You to Know

JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaDeepWater(Photo: Louisiana GOHSEP)On my way home from the market, I happened to tune in to an interview on a program that airs on our NPR station called Making Contact. The topic of discussion was titled BP Five Years Later: Deepwater Horizon and the Cost of Oil...

Journalists, scientists and residents were interviewed about how BP’s Deep Horizon, (“Deep” is a reference to offshore deepwater drilling) that exploded into raging flames on April 20th 2010, the largest and most devastating oil catastrophe in history, created a crisis of Biblical proportions. Beneath the Gulf’s seafloor is one of the most dangerous places to drill. BP has done more to establish that fact than any other oil company.

The blowout literally transformed an ocean that was teeming with life into a toxic, dead zone. BP is not the only oil company to blame. The oil industry, with the help of their paid-off political officials, has committed egregious crimes of pollution, and irreparable damage with their oil pipes and spills to rich habitats, pelican and turtle sanctuaries, marshes, wetlands and coastal ecosystems since the 1930s. But BP’s blowout was by far the last deadly nail to the Gulf’s coffin.

Layers of oil, like a huge bathtub ring, have settled on the seafloor, the size of Rhode Island, with no signs of recovery. This thick blanket of oil has prevented regeneration of life that begins at the most basic level of the Gulf’s ecology, such as plankton—minute plants and animals that are the foundation of the ocean’s food chain. The plankton cannot survive as waters become hypoxic i.e. depleted of oxygen due to microbes digesting oil and methane gas. Once the foundation of the food chain is contaminated, nothing can survive.

2015.20.4 BF Berkowitz(Photo: Terry Kearney)BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Librarians are serving the public in ways unimaginable 20 to 25 years ago, “offering free technology workshops, small business centers and 24/7 virtual access to e-Books and digital materials.” But one thing that hasn’t changed with the passage of time is that there is a small, but vocal group of mostly conservative parents aiming to remove books they don’t approve of from library shelves; over the past few years, those efforts seem to be particularly focused on books written by authors of color.

Earlier this month during National Library Week, April 12– 18, the American Library Association (ALA) released its 2015 State of America’s Libraries report. The report covers a myriad of issues and trends that school, public and academic libraries across the country are currently facing, recognizing that “Public libraries serve as community anchors that address economic, educational, and health disparities in the community. They offer educational programs, print and digital books, access to databases, meeting spaces, and instruction on how to use new technologies.”

The American Library Association is “the oldest, largest and most influential library association in the world. Its approximately 56,000 members are primarily librarians but also trustees, publishers and other library supporters.”

An ALA Press Release titled “New State of America’s Libraries Report finds shift in role of U.S. libraries,” public libraries and librarians are viewed as change agents by addressing unique needs and identifying trends that impact the community. The majority of public libraries offer neutral space for patrons, residents and students to discuss and resolve critical issues.” 

2015.20.4 BF BUchheit(Photo: DonkeyHotey)PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Every American deserves a share of our country's co-owned wealth. While the Kochs and the Waltons may not be lining up to collect their checks, most families will, and they will benefit immensely, as will the economy in an inevitable surge of consumer spending. It's not redistribution or a handout, because each family will be reimbursed for the use of its share of the air and the land and the water, and for 70 years of labor and taxes.

Americans want to work, but available jobs don't provide a living wage. Almost three-quarters of people receiving public assistance are members of working families.

As a result of their low pay, almost two-thirds of Americans would be unable to cover a $1,000 emergency room visit with funds from their bank accounts. A national dividend would help to fix that. There are several powerful reasons why this should happen.

COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaDivestHarvard(Photo: EcoWatch)Many students have vowed to ramp up their divestment campaigns at universities across America this spring. One group who has garnered much media attention is Divest Harvard, which is wrapping up a week-long campaign known as “Harvard Heat Week.” Harvard has the largest endowment of any university in the world at $36.4 billion, and hundreds of alumni including Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, and former Colorado Senator Tim Wirth are participating in the group’s efforts this week.

After a week of sit-ins that have shut down administration offices at Massachusetts Hall, President Faust finally reached out directly to students with Divest Harvard. ”I would be happy to meet with you and a representative group of your student colleagues when you have ceased disrupting university operations,” wrote President Faust in an email.

The students however were not pleased with the offer for another closed door meeting and called for a more open process on divestment that schools like MIT have convened. Divest Harvard has made multiple requests for a more transparent process involving the entire student body, faculty and alumni. The group knows there is strong support for divestment because the student body voted 72 percent in favor of divestment and hundreds of faculty and thousands of alumni signed a letter supporting the initiative.

WALTER BRASCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaSick(Photo: Calleamanecer)Snaking its way through the Pennsylvania legislature is a bill that will block local governments from requiring companies to provide sick leave, even if unpaid, that is more than required by state or federal regulations.

There are no Pennsylvania or federal regulations requiring companies to provide sick leave. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 39 percent of all employees, and 79 percent of all employees in food service and hotel industries, have no sick leave. Unlike the United States, about 130 countries require employers to provide at least one week of sick leave per employee.

The Republican-controlled state Senate passed the bill, 37–12; the Republican-controlled House will now discuss it—and probably follow the Senate's wishes.

Gov. Tom Wolf opposes this legislation, will probably veto it, and then have to deal with a Senate that has enough votes to override that veto.

The proposed legislation is in response to Philadelphia's recent directive that requires companies with at least 10 employees to provide mandatory sick leave for its workers. Several metropolitan U.S. cities, as well as California, Connecticut, and Massachusetts, already require companies to provide sick leave to employees.

Republicans are hypocritically philosophically conflicted on the legislation. Their party believes in limited government regulation, and this bill would keep government out of private enterprise's believed-right to treat workers as serfs.

Thursday, 16 April 2015 08:28

Overfished Stocks at All-Time Low

2015.16.4 BF Eco(Photo: Kris Krüg)ANASTASIA PANTSIOS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

The number of US domestic fishing stocks listed as overfished or threatened by overfishing declined to the fewest number since 1997, according to the 2014 Status of US Fisheries report to Congress from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). NOAA has only been compiling the report since 1997, so that’s the lowest number yet, which indicates significant progress in managing fishing stocks.

A stock is on the overfishing list when annual catch is too high; it is considered overfished when the population size is too low.

“This report illustrates that the science-based management process under the Magnuson-Stevens Act is working to end overfishing and rebuild stocks,” said Eileen Sobeck, assistant NOAA administrator for fisheries. “While we have made tremendous progress, we know there’s more work to be done—especially as we continue to document changes to our world’s oceans and ecosystems. We will continue to strive toward sustainable management of our nation’s fisheries in order to preserve our oceans for future generations.”

The Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act (MFCMA) was initially passed in 1976 to oversee fishing in federal waters. The Sustainable Fisheries Act of 1996 amended the original legislation to define overfishing, require regular assessment of overfished populations and mandate plans for the recovery of overfished populations as well as the reduction of bycatch—unwanted marine life caught in the process of fishing.

The NOAA report cited two stocks that have rebounded enough to be removed from the overfished list—gag grouper in the Gulf of Mexico and North Atlantic albacore. The North Atlantic albacore and another five fish populations were removed from the overfishing list: haddock in the Gulf of Maine, gag grouper in the south Atlantic, snowy grouper on the southern Atlantic coast, Jacks complex in the Gulf of Mexico and Bluefin tuna in the western Atlantic.

2015.16.4 KRAFFSwirls of toxic petcoke dust on the Southeast Side of Chicago in a residential neighborhood. (Photo: David Barboza)GEORGIA KRAFF FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

David versus Goliath – that is how Tom Shepherd and Peggy Salazar of the Southeast [Side of Chicago] Environmental Task Force of Chicago describe their fight. Goliath, in this case, is KCBX Terminals, a division of Koch Industries.

Chicago’s Southeast Side, once an industrial hub of the steel industry, has now become a dumping ground for a filthy waste product of the petroleum industry petcoke: Piles of the stuff, some as high as an eight-story building are being dumped along the banks of the Calumet River. The BP oil refinery across the state line in Whiting, Indiana, produces the coke in the process of refining the tar sands being piped down from Alberta, Canada. BP has sub-contracted KCBX Terminals to handle the material from there.

Dust from the piles fills the air with every breeze. During particularly windy days, the area is as dark as night. Petcoke, the dregs of tar-sands refining is an oily, powdery substance that coats everything it touches – window sills, cars and laundry drying on clothes lines. It cannot be brushed off the skin; it must be washed off with soap and water.

JESSICA ENNIS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaMarylandSolar(Photo: EcoWatch)This week, the Maryland General Assembly took a key step forward to allow more Marylanders than ever to access solar energy by passing community solar legislation. Community solar projects allow multiple people to subscribe to one solar energy project and offset a portion of their electric bill from the energy generated through a credit.

The bills, HB 1087 and SB 398, create a three-year pilot program that will allow for the construction of community solar projects and will examine the impact of community solar in the state and best practices throughout the U.S.

Community solar is important because approximately 80 percent of Marylanders are currently unable to choose solar energy, either because they have shaded roofs, are renters, can’t afford a full system or don’t have access to their roof. By passing the legislation, the General Assembly created the potential for all Marylanders to benefit from solar energy.

In addition to creating access, this legislation also opens up more places for solar panels to be set up. Community solar projects can be sited in a variety of places, like the roof of an apartment building, a community center, a church or even in an open field.

If the governor signs the bill, Maryland will join 10 other states with a community solar policy. Such a law would keep Maryland at the forefront of clean energy policy. By transitioning away from burning fossil fuels to expanding clean energy, Maryland is taking major step toward lessening the impacts of climate change on our environment and on our health.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaGayPride(Photo: Kencf0618)Dr. James Dobson is talking about a second "Civil War." Rick Scarborough of Vision America Action is calling it "a Bonhoeffer moment," a reference to Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German Lutheran pastor who resisted the Nazis. Other Christian leaders are complaining that gay Activists are duping the masses.

As America awaits two and a half hours of oral argument at the Supreme Court set for the morning of Tuesday, April 28th, followed by its decision – likely in late June -- on the power of the states to ban same-sex marriages and to refuse to recognize such marriages performed in another state, the Christian right's doom and gloom squad is coming out of the closet in droves. And they're bringing the type of unrestrained rhetoric not heard since, well, those heady days last month when Indiana and Arkansas were forced to temper their strict anti-gay "religious freedom" laws.

With thirty-seven states currently allowing gay marriage and opinion polls showing over 60 per cent of the public supporting same-sex marriage, the tide has clearly turned. Many Christian right leaders, however, will not accept the memo, and instead are predicting that dreadful things will befall America should the US Supreme Court rule that same sex marriage is the law of the land. A major brief has been filed, a conference call for Christian right leaders to vent was held, and Republican Senators are also weighing in on the issue.

The underlying threat from the religious right was clearly stated by the Family Research Council's Tony Perkins, when, shortly after President Barack Obama's re-election, he warned of "a revolt, a revolution" if the Supreme Court rules in favor of same-sex marriage, with "Americans saying, 'You know what? Enough of this!'"

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