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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

amtrak3(Photo: Wikipedia)

Add this to another adverse side effect of fracking: On some major (and secondary routes), long freight trains filled with fracking oils and extraction supplies allegedly delay Amtrak trains for hours, enraging passengers and likely decreasing Amtrak usage on the affected routes.

Although a quick Google search of Amtrak and fracking reveals that this disruption due to fracking shipments has occurred in various parts of the nation, the most affected route appears to be the Empire Builder, which runs from Seattle to Chicago.  Indeed, the Midwest Amtrak PR representative, Mark Maglari, referred BuzzFlash at Truthout to an Amtrak service alert warning passengers of delays on the Empire Builder route:

Passengers traveling aboard Empire Builder trains can encounter significant delays due to very high volumes of freight train traffic along the route. During the previous weeks in May and June, delays averaged between three and five hours. While delays to the Empire Builder have primarily been occurring west of St. Paul, MN, passengers should anticipate delays in both directions.

Maglari pointed out what is confirmed by other sources: BNSF Railway Company owns the tracks that Amtrak uses in North Dakota. Given that the tracks are the property of BNSF, it decides which trains have de facto priority passage (even though a federal law is supposed to give priority to Amtrak), and it has apparently given fracking and oil container car shipments passage scheduling times that impede the passage of Amtrak passenger trains (and, apparently, trains carrying farm goods that are perishable).

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

anonukes322(Photo: Dizzy)

The recent White House announcement of executive branch-mandated carbon cuts has evoked much debate about whether the incremental step is going to have any significant impact on rolling back the global warming juggernaut.

According to Environmental Protection Agency Chief Gina McCarthy, however, a key objective of the federal regulation to cut back on coal power plant emissions is not in question. McCarthy, in a meeting with Chicago corporate executives, revealed that the White House's primary aim in implementation of moderately increased carbon cutback requirements is to kick-start the US nuclear power industry.

In a June 18 business section article of The Chicago Tribune, Julie Wernau reports:

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy said Tuesday that the federal agency's proposed carbon rules are designed to boost nuclear plants that are struggling to compete.

There are a handful of nuclear facilities that because they are having trouble remaining competitive, they haven't yet looked at re-licensing (to extend their operating lives). We were simply highlighting that fact,” McCarthy said at a round-table discussion with business leaders in Chicago.

The comments by the highest-ranking official charged with carrying out the Obama administration's environmental policies firmly positions the U.S. as a supporter of nuclear power, which doesn't emit carbon. Those views run counter to Germany, which is phasing out nuclear power over health and environmental concerns after Japan's nuclear disaster in 2011.

The headline of the Tribune story reinforces McCarthy's statement on the White House's public policy goal: "EPA: Carbon rules could ensure nuclear power's survival."

As an Illinois state senator and as a candidate for president in 2008, Obama voiced his support of the nuclear power industry. However, since that time - particularly post-Fukushima - the revival of the nuclear energy has not been prominent in the president's remarks about reducing global warming.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aawallstTo the Pentagon, non-violent protesters against the ruling elite are potential terrorists. (Photo: Nataraj Metz)

In a June 12 Guardian column entitled, "Pentagon preparing for mass civil breakdown: Social science is being militarised to develop 'operational tools' to target peaceful activists and protest movements," Nafeez Ahmed writes of a painfully ominous Pentagon research initiative:

A US Department of Defense (DoD) research program is funding universities to model the dynamics, risks and tipping points for large-scale civil unrest across the world, under the supervision of various US military agencies. The multi-million dollar program is designed to develop immediate and long-term "warfighter-relevant insights" for senior officials and decision makers in "the defense policy community," and to inform policy implemented by "combatant commands."

Launched in 2008 – the year of the global banking crisis – the DoD 'Minerva Research Initiative' partners with universities "to improve DoD's basic understanding of the social, cultural, behavioral, and political forces that shape regions of the world of strategic importance to the US."

Among the projects awarded for the period 2014-2017 is a Cornell University-led study managed by the US Air Force Office of Scientific Research which aims to develop an empirical model "of the dynamics of social movement mobilization and contagions." The project will determine "the critical mass (tipping point)" of social contagions by studying their "digital traces" in the cases of "the 2011 Egyptian revolution, the 2011 Russian Duma elections, the 2012 Nigerian fuel subsidy crisis and the 2013 Gazi park protests in Turkey."

Notice that the word "contagion" is used in association with democratic movements overseas. The Department of Defense (DOD) is concerned, it appears, that democracy might go viral and contaminate governments in a way that will force military intervention in order to preserve empire.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

agunscoffee

It's the third rail of US politics: Never vote against an NRA bill unless you are in a safe urban Democratic district where people prefer paninis to semi-automatics.

Of course, gun makers, gun sellers, gun show vendors, NRA execs and lobbyists - and so many more - make a fortune off the gun male entitlement fetishism in the US. Meanwhile, as the shooting of women by misogynist men, and the shooting of children in schools, and even the shooting of police officers having lunch, is doing far more to destroy the United States than a terrorist group ever could.

Heck, the gun nuts are terrorizing citizens. How do you think a kid feels when a bunch of guys with AK-47s slung over their shoulders are thumping grapefruit at their favorite store because of its name: Target? Those children are - one can presume - emotionally terrorized by the sight of guys walking around with heavy duty guns.  How do their parents explain this to the youngsters: "You see, there are good guys with semi-automatic machine guns in Target and bad guys." "How do you tell them apart," the child might ask. "I can't," the parent helplessly answers.

Of course, the ostentatious open carrying of guns in Texas into just about anywhere is the expected outcome of a climate in which politicians cower in fear that they might be picked off in a primary by the NRA. As a result, they give the gun lobby everything it wants; it's the political version of paying protection money. After all, carrying military-style weapons into Target - or other stores - is akin to saying: "Hey, look at me, I'm a real man and I have a right to scare you half to death because you don't know if I'm a good guy or bad guy, right? So suck on it!" Let's face it; that's the reality of what is going on.

And it is also going on elsewhere, including Arizona, where the gun guys are defiantly buying their lattes open-holstered at Starbucks outlets there.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

abritbp(Photo: The Logo Smith)

Wall Street gets away with illegal acts and regulatory violations by paying fines that are merely a cost of doing business. The same people continue running the financial giants and doing what they have been doing for years: pushing throughthe edge of the envelope to make gluttonous amounts of money. They are secure in knowing that neither the Securities and Exchange Commission or the Department of Justice will hold executives accountable.

Such is also the case with the fossil fuel industry. When has an oil, fracking or natural gas company honcho been held accountable for massive spills, injuries, illnesses or deaths due to toxic waste?

The Obama administration actions of actually protecting British Petroleum (BP) after the 2010 Gulf oil spill is a case in point. From the moment that the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded and a massive oil leak began, it appeared that the US government was more concerned about insulating BP from accountability and transparency than providing the US public with accurate information and corrective action. 

For those who need a reminder, the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History describes the disaster that ensued in the Gulf of Mexico as "the largest accidental oil spill in history." An April 8, 2014, a National Geographic article captures the longevity of the disaster with a headline, "Gulf Oil Spill 'Not Over': Dolphins, Turtles Dying in Record Numbers." The Deepwater Horizon devastation was only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the BP's notorious safety and environmental record.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

ainvestneig(Photo: sierraromeo [sarah-ji])The Washington Post is not known for exposing the greed, gluttony and financial exploitation of the masters of the universe who run our economy. However, last week, it did focus on an important engine for the growth in the white elite's supercharged drive to privatize public education through charter schools: hedge funds.

Yes, BuzzFlash and Truthout have extensively detailed the flaws behind the concept of charter schools somehow magically changing the urban educational landscape - without resolving the decades-old economic abandonment of large expanses of cities, as well as the incarceration-industrial complex that feeds on minority imprisonment. We've detailed studies that show a lot of money is being made off of shortchanging students in charter schools and pocketing profit (or paying high administration salaries in nonprofit charter schools, as well as their politically connected subcontracting to for-profit consultants and vendors.) We've shown that many analyses find that charter schools perform well in their first year, but then actually trail behind public schools in the Washington DC ultimate measure of education: test results.

An abundance of evidence reveals charter schools are largely a sham that benefits the white ruling elite while destroying the public education that has been the foundation of this nation.

Add a June 4 Washington Post column entitled, "Why Hedge Funds Love Charter Schools," to the journalistic case of the people vs. charter schools. Overall, the commentary adds to the larger charge that charter schools are making a lot of people a lot of money. However, it emphasizes that the radioactive sector of the runaway financial sector, hedge funds, are in on profiting from the charter school racket. 

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

afracsand2A frac sand excavation in Wisconsin. (Photo: uwex)

An essential resource needed in the fracking extraction process is a relatively rare sand - and Illinois has one of the largest supplies in the United States. As a result, once again the fossil fuel industry is forcing destructive changes in nature that threaten, in this case, farming in the United States heartland: the nation's breadbasket. This is because the sand exists in deposits under rich Illinois agricutural land.

In a June 8 article, the Chicago Tribune spelled out the financial stakes at play:

Dallas-based Eagle Materials Inc., poised to start operating in LaSalle County, estimates it would sell at least 900,000 tons of sand a year from a single mine on 564 acres. At $110 a ton, the company estimates the mine will generate $99 million a year over the next 45 years, according to a state permit application. Analysts who follow Eagle Materials say about $40 of the $110-per-ton price is pure profit.

"Mining frac sand is a lot like mining regular sand except it's wildly profitable, and that's why everyone wants to do it," said Todd Vencil, managing director of equities research at Sterne Agee, a privately owned brokerage firm based in Birmingham, Ala.

The company paid $8 million to buy the land, according to property and state records, and it expects to invest $25 million to $50 million to get the mine running, according to company filings.

The rolling corn and soybean fields near Starved Rock State Park, 95 miles southwest of Chicago, are coveted by multinational corporations for the fine-grain sand deep below the rich soil. Known as Ottawa white, the sand is uniformly circular — perfect for drillers who pump a mixture of sand and chemicals into fracking wells across the nation.

"In the world, there are not that many — geographically speaking — deposits of very high quality northern white sand that has the technical specifications that are in greatest demand. One of those areas is in Illinois, and it's close to the surface of the earth," said Robert Stewart, executive vice president of strategy, corporate development and communications at Eagle Materials.

Cities in LaSalle County, in north central Illinois, are exempt from a county ban on new sand excavation, and many are cutting deals for royalties that are being paid to towns from the frac sand mining companies.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

ajudgesec(Photo: stockmonkeys.com)On Wednesday, June 4, an appeals court overturned an earlier ruling by Federal District Court Judge Jed S. Rakoff that would have required the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to crack down harder on Wall Street banks that egregiously violate regulations and the law.

In a 2011 decision, Rakoff prohibited an SEC settlement with Citigroup from proceeding. His objections included that the SEC let Citigroup "off with little more than a slap on the wrist," according to The New York Times. Rakoff admonished the regulatory agency, saying that it could not continuously "punish" serious and massive financial wrongdoing with financial fines without requiring the banks to admit wrongdoing.

The Rakoff 2011 ruling was one of few on the federal level that challenged the SEC's and Department of Justice's (DOJ) practice of allowing Wall Street financial institutions to get away with malfeasance by levying fines that become merely the cost of doing business. In short, as BuzzFlash at Truthout has detailed many times, the primary enforcement institutions over the integrity of our financial system enable prodigious wrongdoing.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

ahomeless6(Photo: Vlastula)

BuzzFlash at Truthout has posted several commentaries on the war on the homeless, including one yesterday entitled, "Liberal Bastion of San Francisco Bay Area Continues NIMBY Crackdown on Homeless." In April, we offered the commentary, "Criminalizing People Who Live in Cars Is a New Low in the War on the Poor."

Nothing increases homelessness like income inequality. Other causes of people in the United States living without permanent shelter include a decrease in services for persons with mental health needs, less funds for agencies that provide homeless services (including places to sleep), foreclosures, domestic violence, loss of work, gentrification and the lack of availability of inexpensive single room occupancy housing, teenage runaways without resources, etc.

As a result, we have seen a nationally spreading war on the homeless that aims to make them disappear without assisting them.  Many cities and communities, as BuzzFlash noted in our commentary yesterday, regard the homeless as a form of urban blight.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

obamawartruth(Photo: Susan Melkisethian)

Okay, okay, yes, it was an accidental error that the White House released the name of the Afghanistan CIA chief to the pool reporter for the Washington Post (WP) this weekend. According to National Public Radio (NPR), the station chief was among a list of people briefing the president while he was on a surprise Memorial Day weekend visit to the troops in that still-festering war zone:

When it realized the error, the White House issued a new list — but by then, the original had been circulated to foreign and domestic news agencies. The information was included in a pool report that was emailed to thousands of recipients Sunday night.

The White House has asked that the CIA official's name not be reported because of safety concerns; NPR and other major U.S. news organizations are abiding by that request.

When the name of a CIA station chief is sent out to thousands of recipients, it is no longer a secret, even if mainstream publications choose to go along with the charade that not publishing the name will keep it one. The reality is that although this particular leak was indeed likely made by mistake, administrations - including the current White House - leak classified information on a regular basis when it is deemed to be in their interests.

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