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The commentary you find at BuzzFlash and Truthout can only be published because of readers like you. Click here to join the thousands of people who have donated so far.

EcoFrack 1026wrp opt(Photo: EcoWatch)Yet another study has determined that hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, might be a major public health threat. In one of the most exhaustive reviews to date, researchers from the Yale School of Public Health have confirmed that many of the chemicals involved and released by the controversial drilling process can be linked to cancer.

"Previous studies have examined the carcinogenicity of more selective lists of chemicals," lead author Nicole Deziel, Ph.D., assistant professor explained to the school. "To our knowledge, our analysis represents the most expansive review of carcinogenicity of hydraulic fracturing-related chemicals in the published literature."

For the study, published in Science of the Total Environment, the researchers assessed the carcinogenicity of 1,177 water pollutants and 143 air pollutants released by the fracking process and from fracking wastewater. They found that 55 unique chemicals could be classified as known, probable or possible human carcinogens. They also specifically identified 20 compounds that had evidence of leukemia/lymphoma risk.

One of the scarier parts from this study is that the researchers could not completely unpack the health hazards of fracking's entire chemical cocktail. More than 80 percent of the chemicals lacked sufficient data on cancer-causing potential, "highlighting an important knowledge gap," the school noted.

The unconventional drilling rush in the U.S. has expanded to as many as 30 states, spelling major consequences to the air we breathe and the water we drink. The Wall Street Journal reported in 2013 that more than 15 million Americans lived within a mile of a well.

Published in Guest Commentary


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Poll 1024wrp opt(Photo: Smithsonian Institution)My wife, Rosemary, a registered Republican, received a black and white poll in the mail. Plastered across the top of the sheet in bold black letters was the title: “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN.” I wonder who that could be.

On to the questions. All she had to do was to check the appropriate box and return the ballot. The survey indicated name, survey number, and a processing code, all with a bar code for identification.  She just had to check the appropriate box beneath a picture of Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, or “no opinion.” Seemed simple enough.

First question: “Hillary Clinton is working hard to win the White House so she can carry forward Barack Obama’s disastrous policies—including increased taxes—which have been so harmful to our nation’s economy. Donald Trump is dedicated to lowering taxes and instituting responsible reforms that will create jobs, strengthen free enterprise and boost economic growth. Which candidate do you trust more to put America on a secure and prosperous economic path.”

Gee, this is a hard one. Let’s think about it awhile. OK, time’s up. I guess, based upon the question, the demon Clinton wasn’t the right answer. Rosemary needed to check Trump as the one to keep the country moving forward.

There were nine questions, all similar to the first one. The other questions had to do with the federal debt, foreign policy, the nomination of federal judges, immigration, environment, and ObamaCare. The ninth one asked the most vital question: “Are you willing to financially help the Trump Make America Great Again Committee in making sure our nation finally leaves behind the ruinous policies of the past eight years and elects a Republican president who will Make America Great Again?”

Published in Guest Commentary
Monday, 24 October 2016 07:58

New Layers of Dirt on Charter Schools


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Soil 1024wrp(Photo: USDA)An earlier review identified the "Three Big Sins of Charter Schools": fraud, a lack of transparency, and the exclusion of unwanted students. The evidence against charters continues to grow. Yet except for its reporting on a few egregious examples of charter malfeasance and failure, the mainstream media continues to echo the sentiments of privatization-loving billionaires who believe their wealth somehow equates to educational wisdom.

The Wall Street Journal, in its misinformed way, says that the turnaround of public schools requires "increasing options for parents, from magnet to charter schools." Wrong. As the NAACP affirms, our nation needs "free, high-quality, fully and equitably-funded public education for all children." For all children, not just a select few.

The NAACP has called for a moratorium on charter schools. And Diane Ravitch makes a crucial point: "Would [corporate reformers] still be able to call themselves leaders of the civil rights issue of our time if the NAACP disagreed with their aggressive efforts to privatize public schools?"

Here are the four big sins of charter schools, updated by a surge of new evidence:

Published in Guest Commentary


Earth 1021wrp opt(Photo: NASA/Bill Anders)Maybe it's the phrase — "commander in chief" — that best captures the transcendent absurdity and unaddressed horrors of the 2016 election season and the business as usual that will follow.

I don't want to elect anyone commander in chief: not the xenophobic misogynist and egomaniac, not the Henry Kissinger acolyte and Libya hawk. The big hole in this democracy is not the candidates; it's the bedrock, founding belief that the rest of the world is our potential enemy, that war with someone is always inevitable and only a strong military will keep us safe.

In a million ways, we've outgrown this concept, or been pushed beyond it by awareness of global human connectedness and the shared planetary risk of eco-collapse. So whenever I hear someone in the media bring "commander in chief" into the discussion — always superficially and without question — what I hear is boys playing war. Yes, we wage war in a real way as well, but when the public is invited to participate in the process by selecting its next commander in chief, this is pretend war at its most surreal: all glory and greatness and hammering ISIS in Mosul.

"What about our safety here?" Brian Williams asked Gen. Barry McCaffrey on MSNBC the other night, as they were discussing the awfulness of terrorism and the need to bomb the bad guys out of existence. I cringed. How long can they keep selling this?

Our safety is far, far more imperiled by the fact that we have a military at all than by any enemy that military is allegedly fighting, but is, in fact, creating as it churns out endless collateral damage, a.k.a., dead and injured civilians.

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KingTide 1019wrp opt(Photo: EcoWatch)Sen. Marco Rubio refused to acknowledge human-caused climate change at a Florida Senate debate Monday even as a foot of water inundated city streets and sewers throughout South Florida, driven by the annual king tide combined with rising seas.

The king tide occurs when a full moon is aligned with the Earth and sun, exerting gravitational forces that are exacerbated by the naturally-occurring high tides. As sea levels around Florida have risen, these king tides have become regular flooding events.

Rubio argued for an "all-of-the-above" energy strategy, including oil, coal, natural gas and nuclear energy, and said he favored mitigation strategies, "if in fact sea levels are rising."

Patrick Murphy, Rubio's Democratic challenger, responded in the debate by saying, "Look out your window, right? There's two or three inches of saltwater on the roads right now. They were not built underwater. Go down to the Florida Keys. The reefs are dying from acidification and bleaching."

Some 76 percent of Florida's population resides in coastal communities—regions that are highly vulnerable to storm surges, high tides, rising waters and hurricanes. According to a 2010 report prepared by the Florida Oceans and Coastal Council, "Much of the current infrastructure of coastal Florida will need to be replaced or improved during ongoing sea-level rise." The report puts the cost at $3 trillion by 2030.

Published in Guest Commentary
Wednesday, 19 October 2016 06:59

When the Election Is Over, It Will Not Be Done


Fire 1019wrp opt(Photo: Fir0002)They're stoked by bitterness, anger, and the unbearable color of others, and they're buying into Donald Trump's trope that the election, indeed society, is rigged against them. At his rallies, they love to wear obscene-laced t-shirts, and when Hillary Clinton's name is mentioned, they come alive with chants of "Lock her up." They revile fact checking and are disgusted, not by Trump's predatory behavior and despicable comments about women, but by the way the media has reported it. And, when the election is over, and Trump has moved on to attempting to build a multi-media empire, or perhaps to an all-expenses-paid Dacha in the Russian countryside, his supporters will be holding a bag of steaming anger.

And the anger of those supporters could make the era of the Tea Party look like, well … a tea party.

A question being batted around these days is: How will the Republican Party deal with its far-right extremists; white nationalists, neo-Nazis, and alt-righters if Trump loses? How will it reckon with the theocratic Christian Right, many of whom – Jerry Falwell, Jr., Dr. James Dobson, Ralph Reed, Tony Perkins, to name a few – were all in with their support for Trump, when they start clamoring for an authentic conservative Christian evangelical candidate in 2020?

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In 2013, the Republican Party earnestly issued what was characterized as an "autopsy"; an examination of what wrong in the 2012 presidential election. Party analysts looked at why they lost, and what could be done differently. One of the areas the autopsy focused on was how to improve outreach to minority communities: "We need to campaign among Hispanic, black, Asian, and gay Americans and demonstrate we care about them, too." Questions about how the GOP could become a more inclusive party were asked and discussed.

Published in Guest Commentary


Murrah 1017wrp opt(Photo: Murrah Federal Bldg., by Staff Sergeant Preston Chasteen)As Donald Trump and his white nationalist/alt-right supporters stir up his base with anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric, threats of anti-Muslim violence has been on the rise. Which brings us to Kansas, where some militia members are acting out. I wouldn’t call them good old boys because that can be a term of endearment. Besides, they're not really boys, all being in their late forties.

The guys, Curtis Allen, 49, Gavin Wright, 49, and Patrick Stein, 47, apparently decided it was time to take it big time to some Somali immigrants in the town of Garden City, Kansas. Garden City, located in southwestern Kansas, is the county seat of Finney County, and has a population of something over 25,000 people. In addition to Somali immigrants, Garden City is also home to Mexican-Americans, Vietnamese and other Southeast Asians, many of whom work at the Tyson Foods meat packing plant, located about five miles from the city, and other meat packing factories.

From once having a girlfriend working at a meat packing plant in Emporia, Kansas, I know that it's a really tough job: Tough on the hands, tough on the feet, and if you're working the night shift tough on family life. 

Allen and Wright, both of Liberal, Kansas, and Stein, of Wright, Kansas are all members of a small "militia" group called the Crusaders, which may be aligned with the “sovereign citizens” movement. They wanted to “wake people up.” And the best way they thought of doing that was to bomb the guck out of an apartment complex that perhaps as many as 120 Somalis live at. And, since one of the apartments in the complex doubled as a mosque, they figured they'd have a mosque notched onto their resume.

All of the planning took place while stalking the apartment complex. Only they weren't very discreet, as they'd drive by and scream at Somali women in traditional clothing, calling them “fucking raghead bitches.”

They set the date; the day after Election Day. They wanted to be sure that their action would not affect the election.

Published in Guest Commentary


Narcissus 1017wrp opt(Photo: "Narcissus," by Caravaggio)When Donald Trump blurted out "that makes me smart" as a reason for non-payment of taxes, he was revealing a truth about the American narcissist. Senator Lindsey Graham was equally arrogant when he stated, "It's really American to avoid paying taxes, legally...It's a game we play.." The game has become very popular, with an incomprehensible three-quarters of Fortune 500 companies stashing profits in offshore tax havens, avoiding over $700 billion in U.S. taxes.

Who Are the Narcissists?

They're people who don't feel any responsibility to the society that made them rich, largely because they believe in the "self-made" myth. Their numbers are growing. For every 100 households with $100 million in assets in 2010, there are now 160.

Some of the super-rich care about average Americans, and some are well-intentioned philanthropists, but in general, as numerous studies have shown, wealthier individuals tend to be imbued with a distinct sense of entitlement. They believe their talents and attributes - genius, even - have earned them a rightful position of status over everyone else.

The narcissists care less about the feelings and needs of others, they become anti-social, they are less generous with their money, they move further to the right, and they become less willing to support the economic needs of all members of society. People in rich countries have been found to express less concern about their environmental impact.

And as the wealth gap widens, people at the two extremes become more and more distrustful of each other.

Most disturbing is that 'upper-class' individuals tend to behave more unethically than average citizens. Especially at the highest levels, where career success has been associated with Machiavellianism -- doing anything necessary to get ahead. A recent study of 261 U.S. senior professionals found that 21 per cent had clinically significant levels of psychopathic traits, compared to about one percent in the general population. That's roughly the same rate as for prisoners.

Published in Guest Commentary
Friday, 14 October 2016 06:08

The Origin of the Trump Species


Gold 1014wrp opt(Photo: Agnico-Eagle Mines Limited)The 2016 election campaign has left the victims of global capitalism behind.  

On one side is Hillary Clinton, the quintessential representative of the financial and political elites, who was temporarily forced into adopting a progressive populist message by her primary opponent, Bernie Sanders.  On the other side, there is Donald Trump; a narcissistic con man who was born on third base and insists he hit a home run.  By the dictionary definition, I believe Mr. Trump is a sociopath, having no moral judgment, and no ability to empathize or put events into perspective.  Mr. Trump’s condition is serious, however, I don't think it is rare.  

In fact, Mr. Trump's life of dubious financial dealings is a metaphor for how our unregulated capitalist system has evolved.  Success is only measured in terms of accumulated wealth.  Executives of large companies are compensated based solely on short-term returns to investors, resulting in cutthroat financial dealings and accounting gamesmanship.  Decisions are made in remote boardrooms with no consideration of their social impact. 

By most measures, Mr. Trump has been a success in the world of high stakes real estate investing, deal making, and accumulating personal wealth.   His path to attaining this wealth has also been a subject of controversy, since Mr. Trump has left a trail of financial dead bodies in his wake; serial bankruptcies, questionable labor practices, legions of unpaid employees and creditors, and some well-publicized scams that were barely, if at all, legal.

Published in Guest Commentary


Paris 1012wrp opt(Photo: EcoWatch)Earlier this summer, Paris quietly passed a new law encouraging residents to help green the City of Light by planting their own urban gardens.

Although the measure was adopted on July 1, the news has only recently made headlines in France and on U.S. sites such as Inhabitat and Condé Nast Traveler.

The initiative, "permis de végétaliser" (or "license to vegetate"), is part of Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo's 2020 target of adding 100 hectares (247 acres) of vegetation on the city's walls and roofs, with a third dedicated to urban agriculture.

To encourage citizens to become "gardeners of the Parisian public space," any resident can now apply for a renewable three-year permit to start their own urban garden project. Participants can green the capital in various ways, from planting fruit trees to creating living walls to a rooftop garden. Upon request, the city will also provide a planting kit that includes topsoil and seeds.

Published in Guest Commentary
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