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BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS
by Meg White

It's no secret that this has been a tough year for the news biz, particularly for progressive media. While we hear a lot about newspapers disappearing, there's an undercurrent of despair heard in the appeals of progressive news sites. Anyone who gets e-mail updates from BuzzFlash or any number of our colleagues doing similar work can attest to this fact.

Different sites deal with the problem in different ways (if you're new to us, click here for an explanation of how we do it). Appeals, fundraisers, search engine optimization schemes... and then there's always advertising. It seems not a day goes by when there isn't some new way to make money off of the white space on your computer screen.

In fact, Huffington Post just announced a way it plans to use Twitter, a micro blogging site that doesn't even make money for its creators, to generate ad revenue. However, seeing HuffPo's increasingly fluffy celebrity journalism appear next to an ad for an energy company talking about how green it supposedly has become is less shocking than what you might find as their most popular story (this morning we see Tara Reid's Playboy pics fighting Tiger Woods' wife for the top spot in that category).

But when a reader flees such fluff for a progressive bastion such as The Nation or Open Left, one doesn't expect the whitewashing of notorious megacorporations to fill the margins surrounding fearless commentary and journalism.

Published in Analysis

BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS
by Meg White

An article published by the Associated Press this past Sunday revealed documents showing Monsanto Co.'s manipulation of the seed business. The piece examines some of the contracts the company draws up for seed distributors, concluding that Monsanto's lack of competition in the market could lead to dramatically higher food prices.

Monsanto's powerful public relations machine cranked out a press release attacking the article on Saturday, seemingly before the AP even officially published it.

Monsanto's lengthy reply to this scathing piece was multifaceted. In addition to attacking quotes from the sources used by the AP as "absolutely false" and insisting they "don’t reflect reality," the company also insists that there is no lack of competition in the seed market.

Monsanto notes that there are "multiple" megacorporations from which farmers and seed distributors can choose to get their genetically-modified seeds, the names of which they spell out in a blog entry linked to the release:

Today, farmers can pick the technologies they want from developers such as Bayer Crop Science, Dow AgroSciences, DuPont’ s Pioneer Hi-Bred, Monsanto and/or Syngenta.

Plus they can choose from an ever-growing variety of seeds:

In 1998, there were 2,580 corn hybrids available to the American farmer. In 2008, there were 4,692. This represents an 82 percent increase in choice of hybrids available, including both biotech and non-biotech hybrids.

Gee, that makes me feel a lot better. Farmers have a whole slate of genetically-modified seeds to choose from!

Published in Analysis

BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS
by Meg White

It seems that the tea party organizers finally learned what a "grassroots" group looks like and how to pretend that that's what they are. The key is to combine clumsy theatrics with a manufactured chance meeting.

A slew of liberals and progressives and people with a sense of humor have picked up on the teabaggers' plans to "storm Senate offices" and then play dead.

It amounts to a lot of free press, which is why I didn't necessarily want to jump on the "look at how adorable those teabaggers are being right now" bandwagon again. But it is kind of hilarious. From the Tax Day Tea Party Web site (emphasis mine):

So here’s the plan. On Tuesday, December 15 at 8:45 AM thousands of us will meet in Washington, DC at the fountain in Upper Senate Park. From there we will march to the Senate offices, go inside, and demonstrate our opposition to the government takeover of health care. We call this plan “Government Waiting Rooms”. The intention is to go inside the Senate offices and hallways, and play out the role of patients waiting for treatment in government controlled medical facilities. As the day goes on some of us will pretend to die from our untreated illnesses and collapse on the floor. Many of us plan to stay there until they force us to leave.

The organizers urge those who cannot attend, because they are too busy Christmas shopping, to donate "MUCH NEEDED FUNDS to help us fight the government takeover of healthcare." Presumably, such funds will pay for the grape Flavor-Aid or perhaps a pizza party at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill.

Published in Analysis

BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS
by Meg White

By far the favorite phrase of commentators remarking upon President Barack Obama's acceptance speech before the Nobel Committee in Oslo, Norway today is the notion of a "just war."

Though he did not attempt to portray the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as "just wars," it is clear that Obama felt the need to justify his recent decision to send another 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan in light of his receipt of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize.

Obama and his speech writers indeed faced a difficult task in crafting a Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech for a "commander-in-chief of the military of a nation in the midst of two wars." But there is a better way to do it.

As a person who considers herself approximately 88 percent pacifist, it's hard to determine what is a "just war." But they do exist. And perhaps the best person to answer that question of when it is just to fight back is a commander of sorts who accepted the very same prize 45 years ago today.

Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. boldly spoke of the "creative battle to end the long night of racial injustice" when he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. He did so "mindful that only yesterday in Philadelphia, Mississippi, young people seeking to secure the right to vote were brutalized and murdered."

The civil rights movement was a deployment unlike any other. And King's mindfulness of the long journey ahead toward peace is one that Obama decided to mimic in his several references to King and his acceptance speech today.

Soundbites aside, it is important for Americans hearing our president talk about "just wars" to remember that King never mentioned the idea of "just racism."

Published in Analysis

BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS
by Jeffrey Joseph

Previously, BuzzFlash explored the relationship between the U.S. and its shaky, shady partner in Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai, who really only governs Kabul. The questionable history and associations of President Karzai alone certainly would not warrant a continued U.S. presence in Afghanistan. Concerns over Pakistan's nuclear war heads and material -- and the possibility that terrorists could seize control of nukes -- could suggest the real reasons why President Obama felt compelled to commit to Afghanistan in the way he has.

Pakistan's essential relevance to the war against violent Islamic fundamentalists became clear very early on during Bush's so-called "War on Terrorism." President Pervez Musharraf would later recall a forceful telephone call demand for help from then-Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage with the threat of bombing Pakistan "back to the Stone Age" if Musharraf refused to comply. Armitage would quibble over the exact verbiage, but he conceded sending a message with at least a parallel sentiment. That's because the U.S. had evidence that elements of the Pakistan Intelligence service (ISI) were providing logistical support to the Taliban and ISI.

Published in Analysis

BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS
by Meg White

Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid's nose is growing again.

Reid is trying to cover for his inclusion of a reinstatement of funding for abstinence-only education in the Senate version of the healthcare reform bill,  but I'm not buying it.

Congressional Quarterly cites Reid's spokesman saying that the reason the senior senator from Nevada chose to include the abstinence-only measure was "because he was sticking closely to the bill the Finance Committee approved in September."

That, as far as I can tell, is unmitigated bullshit. If Reid wanted to stick to the bill produced by Sen. Max Baucus' Finance Committee without selling out the students of America, he could have chosen Baucus' own amendment which was offered in direct opposition to the abstinence-only amendment offered by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT).

Published in Analysis

BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS
by Meg White

In the award-winning documentary Crude, the rainbow plumes of oil spreading into pristine streams are unmistakable. The fiery landscapes might remind you of sabotaged Kuwaiti oil fields, but the surrounding forest tells you you're looking at the Amazon. And still, the driver of the truck spreading oil waste on dirt roads as if it were salt on an icy sidewalk remains faceless.

The thing about Joe Berlinger's latest movie is that you never know who the bad guy is. But there's never a moment when you're unsure of the identity of the victims.

The film opens with an indigenous woman saying in her language, "Since the company arrived, we are ashamed to wear our traditional clothing. Most of our women no longer sing, but I will sing for you."

Crude tells the story of a lawsuit filed by 30,000 Ecuadorians against Texaco in 1993. The plaintiffs include members of the indigenous communities of Secoya, Siona, Cofán, Huaorani, Quichua, as well as colonial settlers. Chevron inherited the burden in 2001 after a merger with Texaco. The outcome of the trial is still up in the air.

What is certain is that people are suffering.

Published in Analysis

BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS
by Jeffrey Joseph

In the days following President Barack Obama's speech delineating his plans for the continued conflict in Afghanistan, the most important factor to his success there may not be the number of troops sent or the specific troop draw-down plans, but the designated diplomatic partner for the U.S. there, President Hamid Karzai.

Published in Analysis

BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS
by Meg White

An attack on a community perpetrated by an bhopal disasterramorphous group that could be in any country, with no allegiance to any particular government, constitutes a fright far removed from any conventional war. That's why we have a special word for it: terrorism.

But terrorism doesn't always come in the form of a suicide bomber. And it's not always religious extremism that drives people to commit terrorist acts. Sometimes terrorism comes in the form of a silent and nearly invisible mass, driven by cold, hard cash.

Such was the case on Dec. 3, 1984 in the Indian district of Bhopal.

Dawn hadn't broken yet. In a Union Carbide plant, large amounts of water had leaked into a tank, reacting with 42 tons of methyl isocyanate, a volatile chemical also known as MIC. Pressure forced massive amounts of toxic gas out of the factory, causing some 4,000 local residents to die as the sun rose to a new day in Bhopal.

Those who didn't die felt as if their eyes and throats were on fire. Some of them would later die of cancers, neurological damage and other ailments. Mothers would unwittingly continue a cycle of contamination as ground water poisoned the breast milk they fed to their children, many of whom would grow up with serious deformities.

Published in Analysis

BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS
by Meg White

Now that the debate is really heating up in the Senate on the healthcare reform legislation, I thought it might be helpful to take a look at the main sticking points in the bill and try to prognosticate what Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) plans on doing to bring everyone together.

High on progressives' lists of problems they have with the bill center upon the red-hot topics of reproductive rights, the strength of the public plan, and citizenship requirements for those who will benefit from reforms. So, what are the chances we'll get anything remotely close to what we want to see on these three issues?

Published in Analysis
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