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aaaaaaaaadronePeople may need to be looking to the skies to avoid taser strikes by police, if a North Dakota law starts a trend. (Photo: Crash Symbols)

The good news is that a new law that was passed this year in North Dakota requires police in the state to obtain a court order before using a drone for surveillance. 

The bad news, however, is that according to an August 27 Ars Technica article, the same legislation allows local police to equip drones with non-lethal weapons such as tasers and utilize them for law enforcement:

Legal experts are very concerned that a new North Dakota law which allows law enforcement drones to be armed with so-called less-than-lethal weapons—including stun guns and beanbag rounds—could be highly problematic. The law, however, explicitly forbids lethal weapons....

Among other reasons, such weapons have been shown that they can, in fact, kill people. According to research by The Guardian, 39 Americans have died this year alone at the hands of police wielding a Taser. Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported Wednesday that more than 20 North American cities are pursuing large silicone-based projectiles as yet another alternative weapon.

North Dakota is believed to be the first state in the union to allow such weapons aboard state and local police drones. 

Published in EditorBlog
Thursday, 10 September 2015 07:35

Humans: The Most Dangerous Animals on Earth


aaaaaaaaaaavietnamwarVietnam War weapons. (Photo: Visit W3Schools)

Jane Stillwater, an occasional commentator on BuzzFlash, recently wrote an essay asserting that "human beings are the most dangerous predators on the planet."

Stillwater recounts how her granddaughter wanted to have an animal-themed costume party. Jane was at a loss for what to wear, until she came up with this idea:

So I thought about it a lot and finally came up with a really great animal costume, one that would still let me wear my usual uniform of jeans and a tee. I simply printed out a sign that read, "I am a HUMAN BEING, the most dangerous predator on the planet," and then slapped said sign on my back. Problem solved.

I must admit, I was a bit bemused when I first read this. Perhaps I simply felt implicated, given that I am a member of the human race. Yet, after a moment, I became less defensive and realized that Stillwater was mordantly and morbidly accurate. My realization wasn't spurred only by Stillwater's examples - a smattering of incidents of global murder in the name of factions, religions, nation states and the oligarchy - but also by the sheer number of people killed in conflicts over the last hundred years alone.

Published in EditorBlog


aaaaaaaaaaaairplaneboneyardsDavis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, a "boneyard" for US military aircraft no longer in use. (Photo: Airman Magazine)

They are called "boneyards" by military personnel, but they aren't human ossuaries. Instead, they are graveyards for machines that kill.

After the military-industrial complex's life-destroying aircraft complete their mission of death and decimation, they are replaced by newly designed Molochs of the sky. The multi-billion dollar equipment that is being phased out has to go somewhere - and most US military planes end up in what are nicknamed "boneyards." Generally, these are enormous swaths of desert in the Southwest of the United States.

"Outdated" combat - and other Pentagon - aircraft in "boneyards" can be parked for years. Some of them are used for spare parts, some are scrapped, a few are occasionally called back to service and upgraded in times of large-scale war, and some are sold to foreign national military services. For the most part, however, these former killing machines simply become metallic bones.

How ironic.

Published in EditorBlog


aaaaaaaa350Is divestment driving down the profitability of coal? (Photo: 350.org)

The campaign around the world to divest from fossil fuels has really heated up this year. Students at SwarthmoreYaleHarvard and University of Washington among many others demanded their institutions put their money where their mouth is and stop investing “in an industry that is actively destabilizing the future that our education is meant to prepare us for,” as one student at Swarthmore put it.

Not all of the campaigns so far this year have been successful, but to date, 397 institutions have at least partially divested—including foundations, faith groups, pension funds, governmental organizations, universities, nonprofits and for-profits. One notable case came from the Norwegian Parliament, which took the unprecedented step of mandating that its sovereign wealth fund (the richest in the world) divest from coal burning and coal producing companies. And, in the past few weeks, there have been some more major divestment victories: 

1. California Assembly votes to divest pension funds from coal California lawmakers passed a bill on Wednesday that requires the state’s two largest pension plans—California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) and California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS)—to divest their holdings from thermal coal.

“Coal is the fuel of the past and it’s no longer a wise investment for our pensioners,” saidassemblyman Rob Bonta, who presented the bill before the assembly. “I’m pleased that my colleagues agree: it’s time to move on from this dirty energy source.” 

Published in EditorBlog


aaaaaaamarriageKentucky Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis is denying same-sex marriages such as this one (which was issued in Seattle) because of alleged divine mandates. (Photo: 12121stMarriageLicense182)

In Kentucky, Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis continues to defy the law of the land by refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses - despite the Supreme Court's recent refusal to hear her appeal. Actually, Davis is not issuing any marriage licenses at all in her county right now, while her attorneys are assisting her in legally appealing a federal court order. This is a weak, cynical and mean-spirited legal tactic to deny same-sex marriage licenses.

September 1 New York Times article describes Davis's adamant refusal to comply with a legal mandate:

It was an unlikely scene for this rural county in northeast Kentucky and for Ms. Davis, a 49-year-old mother of four and a worshiper at Solid Rock Apostolic Church. But she said she had no choice.

“I owe my life to Jesus Christ who loves me and gave His life for me,” she wrote in a statement issued by Liberty Counsel, a conservative group that is representing her in federal court. She added: “To issue a marriage license which conflicts with God’s definition of a marriage, with my name affixed to the certificate, would violate my conscience. It is not a light issue for me. It is a Heaven or Hell decision.”

Ms. Davis grew up in Rowan County and has never lived anywhere else. It is hilly Appalachian country, with a nearly all-white population, home to sawmills, lumber companies and mobile homes. Morehead, the county seat, is full of churches and fast-food restaurants. The poverty rate is just below 29 percent. And a steady government salary is a prized thing.

The New York Times quotes Davis as claiming that she is "acting under God's authority."

Published in EditorBlog


aaaaaaaaapolarbearA Greenpeace activist, in a polar bear costume, draws attention to the impact of global warming on the Arctic region. (Photo: Greenpeace)

According the Guardian, President Obama is using an official visit to Alaska to launch a PR offensive against global warming. Obama will be utilizing evidence of massive glacier and Arctic ice melt-off to emphasize the widespread and large scale impact of climate change:

Shrinking Alaskan glaciers served as a vivid backdrop for Barack Obama’s latest push for action on climate change in Anchorage on Monday night as he warned that the equivalent of 75 blocks of ice the size of the national mall in Washington were melting from the state every year.

The president, who will visit the nearby Seward glacier on Tuesday to see its shrinkage for himself, urged international participants at the Glacier conference to act fast before it was too late to limit the impact not just on the region but the whole world.

"The Arctic is at the leading edge of climate change, a leading indicator of what the entire planet faces," warned Obama, who said new research showed 75 gigatons of ice were disappearing from Alaskan glaciers annually – each gigaton the equivalent of a block stretching from the Capitol to the Lincoln memorial and four times as high as the Washington Monument.

"Climate change is no longer some far-off problem," he added. "Climate change is already disrupting our agriculture and ecosystems, our water and food supplies, our energy and infrastructure."

One cannot deny that the president is offering a public education moment, spreading awareness about the ruinous impact of largely unfettered industrialization and fossil fuel use on the planet. However, while Obama is warning against the degradation of the earth, he is taking steps that further its deteriorating condition.

Take, for instance, Obama's authorization of Shell to begin deep-sea oil exploration in the Arctic. Simply put, this will contribute to global warming.

Published in EditorBlog


aaaaaaaaaimigrants"We are all immigrants." Translated from the Spanish. (Photo: Kevin Hoogheem)

In 1986, Jackson Browne released a withering song that decried the Reagan wars in Central America. In it, Browne pleaded that "there are lives in the balance." Although Browne was responding in particular to US government support of the Contras in the Nicaraguan civil war and military massacres in Latin America, many of the song’s lyrics are also relevant to the deaths of other people who are treated as disposable. Take for instance this passage in the song:

I've been waiting for something to happen
For a week or a month or a year
With the blood in the ink of the headlines
And the sound of the crowd in my ear

You might ask what it takes to remember
When you know that you've seen it before

Yesterday I posted a commentary entitled, "Global Neoliberalism and Wars of Empire Play Roles in Migrants' Fatal Efforts to Reach Europe." Given how many refugees of economic, political and violence crises were precipitated - in large part - by Western intervention in northern Africa and the Middle East, Jackson's impatient and urgent lyrics could apply equally well to the deaths of global refugees.

While the media this year have been more focused on migrant deaths in Europe fatalities, Donald Trump has been using migrants from Mexico and Central America as the focus of his incendiary rallying cry. Trump is stoking hatred and base fears among a segment of the US population as refugees die crossing through the desert to bypass the border wall.

Published in EditorBlog


aaaaaaaaaapeopleBelgian supporters of Amnesty International advocate on behalf of migrants to Europe. (Photo: Amnesty International)

Almost daily, there are reports of deaths of desperate migrants to Europe seeking economic refuge or safety from wars.

For example, an August 27 CNN article reports,

The discovery of a number of dead migrants in the back of a truck in Austria, just a day after the Italian coast guard said 54 people lost their lives trying to cross the Mediterranean, has highlighted once again the scale of the migration crisis gripping Europe.

Europe is not alone in experiencing an increase in refugees seeking jobs or fleeing war zones. Needless to say, for example, migration from Mexico and Central America are at the forefront of Donald Trump's appeal to bigoted xenophobia and exploitation of economic uncertainty among white voters in the US.

Published in EditorBlog


aaaaaaagrandcanEven the Grand Canyon can't escape toxic pollution. (Photo: Ronnie Macdonald)

That is also a point to remember in the case of pollution in general. For example, even though the awe-inspiring Grand Canyon National Park is free of industry, it is apparently not free of pollutants. The Nature World Report recently drew attention to this ominous reality:

A UNSECO World Heritage site and the 15th oldest national park in the U.S. the Grand Canyon is about as far removed from the congestion and pollution associated with our nation’s industrial and urban centers. And yet, according to a study by the United States Geological Survey [USGS], even the mighty Grand Canyon (and the Colorado River that forms it) isn’t immune to pollution: The levels of mercury and selenium now regularly exceed the “risk threshold” for fish and local wildlife.

Should the toxic elements enter the food supply, they could be harmful to fish and wildlife that eat them. It seems that the Grand Canyon’s remote location is of little import – the pollutants are airborne, and come from as far away as entire other countries.

The breathtaking beauty and wonder of the Grand Canyon connects us spiritually to this planet on which we reside. It is a sobering portent that this wondrous natural creation is now showing signs of measurable mercury and selenium pollution.

Incrementally ruinous global warming and pollution often do not seem to pose an immediate threat to our daily experience – they may appear remote and not worthy of immediate attention.

Published in EditorBlog


aaaaaaajebbredJeb Bush may want you to think he's the "statesman" riding in the clown car, but he's not above appealing to nativists. (Photo: DonkeyHotey)

Although Jeb Bush's campaign tries to position him as the "statesman" of the Republican candidates, he is often just another Republican candidate stirring the racist cauldron. Yes, Bush tries to generally wrap his appeal to the GOP white nativist vote in wily words  - and remind the media that he speaks Spanish and his wife is Mexican-born. However, he also mixes in occasional raw appeals to voters who viscerally hate people of color.

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In this presidential primary election cycle, following the precedent set by Donald Trump, one of the main targets for white biliousness and racism toward people of color is focused on Mexican and Central American migrants.  

As a result, Jeb Bush not too long ago attempted to hitch himself to the growing train of Republican presidential aspirants who are opposed to birthright citizenship in at least some circumstances. Their objective is to keep babies born in the United States to non-citizen parents from being granted US citizenship upon birth. Some of the candidates are even urging a repeal of the 14th Amendment.

Published in EditorBlog
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