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2015.18.6 BF Pantsios(Photo: Matt Niemi)ANASTASIA PANTSIOS OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch.

Once upon a time, asbestos, with its superior heat- and fire-resistant properties, was routinely used in building construction. But that was before awareness grew over the last 100 years about its connection to lung disease and several types of cancer, which can be triggered by only brief exposure to the material. Asbestos-laden materials fell from favor, as litigation ballooned into the costliest mass litigation in US history and companies manufacturing asbestos productions went bankrupt in the wake of the lawsuits.

Asbestos has now been banned in many countries, but not in the US. Although its use is less common now, asbestos still presents a danger, especially when the demolition of older buildings releases asbestos fibers into the air. According to the Environmental Working Group’s Action Fund, asbestos still kills 12,000-15,000 people annually in the US.

Now the Office of the Inspector General of US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a report on Tuesday headlined “EPA Should Update Guidance to Address the Release of Potentially Harmful Quantities of Asbestos That Can Occur Under EPA’s Asbestos Demolition Standard.” It says bluntly that the agency’s guidelines for demolishing crumbling old buildings are woefully out of date and need to be revamped to protect public health and safety.

2015.18.6 BF Marcus(Photo: Garry Knight)JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

We have grown up thinking that we were Earth’s owners and dominators, authorized to loot her. The violence that exists in the human heart, wounded by sin, is also manifest in the symptoms of illness that we see in the Earth, the water, the air and in living things.

- Pope Francis, Encyclical on the Preservation of Nature

This essay is written in memory of Rachel Carson, biologist, nature-lover, essayist, and a woman who had the moral fortitude to stand up, by herself, against the ruthless oil and chemical industries that resulted in the elimination of DDT pesticide from our environment.

If Rachel Carson were alive today she would be applauding Pope Francis’ Encyclical on how world governments must make the preservation of nature, (for there is no life without our forests, rivers, oceans and healthy soil), our moral and economic priorities instead of pushing through secret trade deals, without the people’s consent, that allow the major polluters to keep drilling, poisoning, and raping our only Home, Planet Earth, until there is nothing left to loot.

The industrial age should have been history by now. But thanks to a handful of greedy politicians, shifting to clean, harmless energy has been postponed for as long as they can postpone it—perhaps to the point of extinction of all life. That’s not hyperbole. According to Elizabeth Kolbert, the 2015 Pulitzer Prize author-scientist of The Sixth Extinction, life on this planet will perish if we don’t change course to sustainable energy as quickly as possible, given that time is running out. This major shift from the industrial paradigm to the renewable paradigm is long overdue.

ANASTASIA PANTSIOS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaMonsantoEcoWatch(Photo: EcoWatch)What’s a GMO-promoting multinational chemical company to do? Word is getting out that, while the science isn’t clear whether genetically modified crops (GMOs) themselves are harmful, the fact that they were created to be resistant to increasing amounts of pesticides such as glyphosate is a problem.

Monsanto, which manufactures the glyphosate weedkiller Roundup, reacted furiously to a report released earlier this year by the World Health Organization (WHO) that glyphosate likely causes cancer. The company demanded that WHO retract the report, repudiating the years of research by multiple scientists. With Roundup the most widely used and top-selling herbicide, Monsanto clearly has a bottom line to protect.

That bottom line has just taken another hit. In Europe, where people are far more suspicious of the extravagant claims and potential dangers of GMOs than in the U.S. and heavily regulates them, the French government has announced this week that it is restricting the sale of glyphosate weedkillers in garden centers.

“France must be on the offensive with regards to the banning of pesticides,” said ecology minister Ségolène Royal. “I have asked garden centers to stop putting Monsanto’s Roundup on sale.”

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaCreflo(Photo: Colin Brown)You've probably never heard of Pastor Creflo Dollar. He is a charismatic and controversial preacher/televangelist who founded the College Park, Georgia-based 30,000-member World Changers Church International. And, despite being investigated for financial irregularities, and later for child abuse, and a proclivity for filling his personal coffers till his cup runneth over, he doesn't embarrass easily. Although thrust into the unpleasant glare of the media spotlight after putting out a fundraising video asking his supporters to finance a $60-65 million dollar Gulfstream G650 private jet – the "Holy Grail of luxury private jets, according to Bloomberg news -- it looks like, after all the hullabaloo has died down, Dollar will get his jet, courtesy of WCCI's board of directors.

Christianity Today's Bob Smietans recently reported that the video -- viewed over 325,000 times -- "claimed that Dollar's family had been endangered by mechanical problems with the ministry's former plane, and asked 200,000 supporters of World Changer's Church International to give $300 each for a replacement. Church officials removed the video earlier this year."

Smietans pointed out that "A new video is in the works and a donation request remains live on Dollar's website, along with the apology."

ANASTASIA PANTSIOS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaPopeFrancisEcoWatch(Photo: EcoWatch)Excitement and speculation have been building for months around Pope Francis’ encyclical on climate change, which is due to be released on Thursday following a noon press conference. Now a leaked draft of the document, published Monday in Italian Magazine L’Espresso, has given Vatican watchers and environmentalists something to sink their teeth into, although the Vatican cautioned that this was not the final version, which could be similar or substantially different, and had asked that details of the draft not be published.

The contents of the leaked document, said to be called “Laudato Si (Be Praised), On the Care of Our Common Home,” won’t surprise anyone who has been following the stream of statements the Pope has been making on the environment. But by putting it in the form of an encyclical, the Pope gives official weight to the opinions he’s been expressing in many contexts.

The document addresses the role of fossil fuels on climate change and its outsized impact on poor nations, chastising wealthy countries for their disposable lifestyle. He calls for reducing carbon emissions by developing policies that hasten the switch to clean, renewable sources of energy to stave off the “unprecedented destruction of the ecosystem.”

“Humanity is called to take note of the need for changes in lifestyle and changes in methods of production and consumption to combat this warming, or at least the human causes that produce and accentuate it,” he wrote, according to a report by The Guardian. “Numerous scientific studies indicate that the greater part of the global warming in recent decades is due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases … given off above all because of human activity.”

The Pope does not enumerate or analyze the scientific basis of the climate crisis in detail but rather reflects on the moral aspects of humanity’s care for the Earth.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaHuck16(Photo: Gage Skidmore)Republican 2016 presidential candidate Mike Huckabee appears to be, to borrow a phrase from Sarah Palin, "palling around with" child molesters. First it was his vigorous defense of Josh Duggar, and now reports have surfaced that the co-author of two of his books, was excommunicated from his church for being a child molester.

After information that Josh Duggar -- the oldest child in the Duggar family of the television show 19 Kids and Counting – had sexually molested several of his sisters and a babysitter when he was a teenager, Huckabee came forward to vigorously defend Josh, who at the time of the revelations, was a high-profile spokesperson for the Family Research Council, a Washington, D.C.-based Christian conservative lobbying outfit.

On May 22, a day after reports that Duggar had molested his sisters came out, Huckabee posted on Facebook: "Let others run from them. We will run to them with our support."

Last week, during an interview with the Fox News Channel's Megyn Kelly, he said that it was all about the media "exploiting" the family. According to the Christian Post, Huckabee "suggested that the family is being targeted for their Christian views, and argued that if the story concerned liberals, it would not have created such a media stir."

COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaacalecodrought(Photo: EcoWatch)

The California State Water Resources Control Board on Friday ordered the largest cuts on record to “farmers holding some of the state’s strongest water rights,” according to The Guardian. Water officials told senior water rights holders, some of whose rights date back to 1903, to stop pumping water in California’s Sacramento, San Joaquin and delta watersheds.

It’s the first time the state has mandated such a large number of senior rights holders to curtail water use. “It will affect thousands of farmers,” says The Guardian. The last time any restrictions were placed on senior rights holders was during the 1976-77 drought, but “those curtailments were not as geographically widespread as Friday’s,” reports The New York Times. The move has been anticipated for weeks. Jay Lund, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at University of California, Davis, told The Guardian, “The order was both expected and necessary.”

In April, Gov. Jerry Brown issued unprecedented water restrictions for the state, mandating 25 percent water reduction for cities and towns. 

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaainequality(Image: craftivist collective)

It's a vicious circle of hypocrisy: Americans dependent on the safety net are urged to "get a job" by the same free-market system that pays them too little to avoid being dependent on the safety net. 

Theft, Part 1: The Average U.S. Household Pays About $400 for Safety Net Programs for Low-Wage Workers

According to the Economic Policy Institute, $45 billion per year in federal, state, and other safety net support is paid to workers in the bottom 20 percent of wage earners. Thus the average U.S. household is paying almost $400 to employees inlow-wage industries such as food service, retail, and personal care. 

Blame: Accusing the Poor

Paul Ryan said that social programs "turn the safety net into a hammock that lulls able-bodied people to lives of dependency and complacency." But 63 percent of eligible working-age poor Americans are employed, and 73 percent are members of working families. Yet in a show of hypocrisy by some of the leading safety net critics, Congress has killed or blocked or ignored numerous attempts to create better jobs for underemployed Americans. 

Greed: Profits for Stockholders, Poverty Wages for Workers

Demos study found that raising wages to $25,000 per year (about $12.50 per hour) for full-time retail workers would lift 734,075 people out of poverty. 

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaPopeFAO(Photo: EcoWatch)Ever the planetary steward, Pope Francis stressed the importance of food security, good nutrition and reducing food waste at the 39th United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) conference at the Vatican yesterday.

“Statistics on waste are very concerning: a third of food products end up under this heading,” the Pope said in front of representatives from more than 120 countries, citing FAO data showing the magnitude of edible food produced on the planet that is lost or wasted.

The Pontiff also voiced concerns over large-scale acquisitions of agricultural land by multinational companies and governments.

Climate change rightly worries us, but we cannot forget financial speculation,” he continued, explaining how both global warming drives world hunger, as well as speculators who drive up market prices of basic foods such as grains, rice and soybeans purely for their own economic gain.

“It is unsettling to know that a good portion of agricultural products end up used for other purposes, maybe good, but that are not immediate needs of the hungry,” he said.

He emphasized that access to basic foods as “a right of all people.”

2015.11.6 BF MELLINO(Photo: Jeff Kubina)COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch.

Hawaii enacted a law this week that mandates that all of the state’s electricity comes from renewable sources no later than 2045. The bill makes Hawaii the first U.S. state to adopt such a standard. This renewable energy standard is being hailed as “the most aggressive clean energy goal in the country.”

“Hawaii is making history, not only for the islands, but for the planet,” said Jeff Mikulina, executive director of the Blue Planet Foundation. “We are making a promise to future generations that their lives will be powered not by climate-changing fossil fuel, but by clean, local and sustainable sources of energy.”

The legislation was drafted by Blue Planet Foundation, whose mission is “to clear the path for 100 percent clean energy.” Many believe Hawaii can reach the goal well before 2045 because the islands are already a renewable energy leader. “Analyses from the utility and elsewhere show that 100 percent renewable energy can be achieved even earlier than 2045, by 2030,” says Blue Planet Foundation. “Hawaii’s renewable energy use has doubled in the past five years, with the islands currently generating about 22 percent of their electricity from wind, solar, geothermal and other renewable energy resources.”

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