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DAN ZUKOWSKI OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

InFrack 0930wrp opt(Photo: EcoWatch)The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ruled that the state's controversial Act 13 is unconstitutional, calling it a special law that benefits the shale gas industry. The massive Marcellus Shale formation, which underlies a large area of Western Pennsylvania, provides more than 36 percent of the shale gas produced in the U.S.

The Pennsylvania State Legislature passed Act 13 in 2012 and it was almost immediately challenged by seven of the state's municipalities along with the Delaware Riverkeeper Network and a private physician. The onerous law enabled natural gas companies to seize privately owned subsurface property through eminent domain, placed a gag order on health professionals to prevent them from getting information on drilling chemicals that could harm their patients, and limited notification of spills and leaks to public water suppliers, excluding owners of private wells that supply drinking water for 25 percent of Pennsylvania residents. Act 13 also pre-empted municipal zoning of oil and gas development.

"The decision is another historic vindication for the people's constitutional rights," stated Jordan Yeager, lead counsel on the case representing the Delaware Riverkeeper Network and Bucks County municipalities on the case. "The court has made a clear declaration that the Pennsylvania legislature cannot enact special laws that benefit the fossil fuel industry and injure the rest of us."

On Dec. 19, 2013, the state Supreme Court issued a narrow ruling on the grounds that the law violated the Environmental Rights Amendment of the Pennsylvania Constitution. That ruling returned local zoning rights to municipalities. It also ordered the state Commonwealth Court to reconsider other provisions. The ruling by the Supreme Court issued Wednesday addresses those rulings and should end the litigation.

Published in Guest Commentary

DAN ZUKOWSKI OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Tigers 0928wrp opt(Photo: EcoWatch)In legal tiger farms across China, some 6,000 caged cats are kept in filthy conditions and will be killed for dubious medicinal uses and as home decor for the country's newly-rich elite. The sordid business is mostly legal, but hides behind carefully-worded agreements and pretensions of conservation. The issue is expected to be addressed at this week's Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) meeting in Johannesburg.

It is estimated that 60 percent of China's 1.4 billion people use so-called traditional medicines made from tiger bones, rhinoceros horn, bear gall bladder and other exotic animal parts. As China has grown in recent decades, creating a larger middle class and many newly rich entrepreneurs, demand for tiger parts has grown.

"The use of endangered tiger products and their medicines is seen as a symbol of high status and wealth," states Tigers in Crisis.

China signed on to CITES, but maintains about 200 tiger farms, where tigers are bred to serve this growing market. Claiming that these tiger parts are for domestic consumption, and therefore not subject to the treaty on international trade, China also defends the tiger farms as a captive breeding program that actually helps the species.

However, in 1993, China banned trading in tiger bone, and a 1988 wildlife law that purports to protect endangered species sets forth a policy of "actively domesticating and breeding the species of wildlife."

Published in Guest Commentary
Wednesday, 28 September 2016 06:44

Jim Hightower: Laboratories of Democracy

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Lab 0928wrp opt(Photo: Tweenk)In a 1932 dissenting opinion, Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis noted that the benefit of America's federal structure is that "a single courageous state may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country."

During my two terms as Texas Agriculture Commissioner, I was lucky enough to get the chance to put the Brandeis proposition into practice. There, we succeeded in establishing a broad network of farmers markets, providing state certification and labeling for organic products, promulgating comprehensive pesticide protections, creating food marketing co-ops, encouraging farmers to grow high-value nonconventional crops (from apples to wine grapes), financing and developing locally-owned ag processing facilities, opening the doors of corporate-controlled commerce so small farmers and food artisans could sell their products in supermarkets and even in international markets, and promoting both water conservation and the use of renewable energy sources, Brandeis' "laboratory" realized!

But — oops — meet unintended consequences of Brandeisian theory: The gaggle of small-minded, far-right extremists who've grabbed the levers of gubernatorial power and established notoriously regressive regimes in Wisconsin, North Carolina, Kansas, Florida, Maine, Michigan, Arizona, Oklahoma, Indiana, and Texas. These governors share an uncanny uniformity in the policies (written by the American Legislative Exchange Council or ALEC) they push and the political language they use — as if operating from a common plan, advancing the same duo of governmental goals:

— To increase the power and profits of the corporate interests that put up the campaign cash that keep the governors in office by delivering subsidies, no-bid contracts, special tax breaks, regulatory benefits, etc.

— To knock down working-class and poor people by such despotic actions as suppressing voter turnout, destroying unions, bashing immigrants, militarizing police forces, slashing education budgets, corporatizing government programs, cutting human services for the needy, holding down wages, using theocratic piety to invade women's bodies and rights, and autocratically pre-empting the democratic authority of activist citizens and local governments.

Published in Guest Commentary
Monday, 26 September 2016 07:50

Readers Want News, Not Fluff

WALTER BRASCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Type 0926wrp opt(Photo: Willi Heidelbach)The New York Post, a Rupert Murdoch tabloid publication that isn’t likely to win a Pulitzer Prize anytime soon, splashed a full page picture of a smiling Jennifer Anniston on its Sept. 21 front cover. In the upper left-hand space it placed all-capitals text: “BRANGELINA 2004–2016.” Inside the Post were four full consecutive pages, and a half page and part of a column deeper in the newspaper, all devoted to one of the most critical social issues facing the country—Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are getting a divorce.

People magazine put the multi-million dollar couple on its cover, and teased us with the text: “WHY SHE LEFT” and “THE REAL STORY.” US magazine had an “EXCLUSIVE.” ABC, CBS, CNN, FOX NEWS, MSNBC, and NBC evening newscasts all devoted air time to the divorce. “Entertainment Tonight,” “TMZ,” dozens of entertainment-fueled TV programs, Reuters and AP news services, hundreds of daily newspapers and countless online blogs all had coverage of the epic event. The news also dominated the social media, especially Twitter and Facebook.

Barely covered that day by the establishment media was in-depth coverage and analyses of President Obama’s speech the day before at the United Nations general assembly. Also lightly covered was a petition to the UN Human Rights Council by the Standing Rock Sioux sovereign nation to halt construction of a $3.8 billion 1,150 mile pipeline that would not only disturb that nation’s sacred burial grounds and could possibly pollute the Missouri River, but would be built on ground seized by eminent domain by Energy Transfer Partnersof Dallas, Texas.

Why there was negligible coverage of public affairs issues and maximum coverage of a celebrity divorce is based upon economics and poor business practices.

Media profits, once running anywhere from 5 to 30 percent, depending upon the medium, declined significantly in the Great Recession during the last two years of the Bush–Cheney administration. Businesses significantly cut their advertising budgets; consumers stopped subscriptions.

Published in Guest Commentary

GEORGE LAKOFF FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Rose 0926wrp opt(Photo: Georges Seguin)As strange as it may sound, the sound symbolism of a name has become an unnamed central issue in the 2016 presidential campaign. As a cognitive linguist, my job is to study the issue and, at the very least, to name it.

Perhaps the best-known discussion of naming occurs in Juliet’s soliloquy in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Here is Juliet, proclaiming that all that divides her from Romeo are their family names.

Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
What's Montague? It is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
What's in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call'd,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title.

Shakespeare here was writing about love, not profit or politics. Donald Trump’s father changed the family name from Drumpf to Trump. It was a name change worth billions. Herr Drumpf understood the power of naming, as has his son, who renames his rivals: Lyin’ Ted, Little Mario, Crooked Hillary.

Published in Guest Commentary

MICHAEL BRUNE OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Maxima 0923wrp(Photo: EcoWatch)Early Sunday morning, Máxima Acuña, a 2016 recipient of the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize, was reportedly attacked at her home in Peru when hitmen illegally entered the property. Máxima was awarded the 2016 Goldman Prize for her fight against the expansion of the Yanacocha Mine, a subsidiary of Colorado-based mining giant Newmont and Peruvian-based mining company Buenaventura. The hitmen that attacked Máxima and her partner, Jaime Chaupe, were reportedly hired by the mining companies.

It is with healing thoughts and a heavy heart we wish Máxima and her partner a quick recovery from this outrageous attack. Máxima has been an inspiration in the fight to protect her land, her livelihood and her community from the greed and destruction of the mining companies operating in Peru. Her bravery and persistence have helped shape the world in untold ways, and we are intensely disturbed by Sunday's events.

The continued attacks and assassinations of the brave environmental and indigenous rights activists around the world is a clear indication that we still have a long way to go to ensure a world that is truly safe, equitable and inclusive for all.

 

Published in Guest Commentary

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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TrumpSimper 0921wrp opt(Photo: Gage Skidmore)To many hard-working people, this is a time of economic uncertainty. Thus, it is important to point out that America's superrich are intentionally and brazenly knocking down the middle class and poor to further enrich themselves. They are aided by clueless, corrupt politicians who don't care about the future of ordinary Americans or of America itself. In these hard times, along comes Donald J. Trump, a swaggering billionaire braggart promising greatness by goading working-class white people into mollifying their pain and anxiety by despising those "other people" situated near them on the social-economic ladder.

The media establishment has erroneously put the "populist" crown on Trump, endorsing his absurd assertion that he might be a billionaire, but he's "our" billionaire, fighting for us commoners!

I'm not telling anyone how to vote, and I certainly understand the inclination to grab the biggest stick you can find to whack the bejeezus out of those holding you and your family down. Trump has sold himself as the biggest, baddest stick around, the "outsider" who pummeled Jeb!, Marco, Ted, and the entire Republican establishment.

But I am here to say, don't be a sucker. There's not a single populist muscle in Donnie's whole plutocratic body. He will sell out wage earners, small business people, and anyone else to serve his own needs or whims, as his lifelong record (as opposed to his recent rhetoric) reveals.

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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Baseball 0921wrp opt(Photo: Schyler)One of the unforeseen results of San Francisco 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick taking a stand against racism and police brutality, by at first sitting, and later taking a knee, during the playing of the national anthem before NFL games, is that other athletes in other sports are being asked to comment.

While several African American players in the NFL have sat, kneeled, or raised gloved fists during the national anthem in solidarity, few athletes in other sports, save soccer's Megan Rapinoe, have done so.

And, according to Baltimore Orioles' centerfielder Adam Jones, there isn't likely to be any overt displays of protest coming from African American baseball players. because, as he told USA Today, "Baseball is a white man's sport."

Next season will be the 70th anniversary of that day in April when the Brooklyn Dodgers' Jackie Robinson took the field, breaking the color barrier in major league baseball. A few days ago, Jones told USA Today that while he and some other players might be sympathetic to Kaepernick and the causes he is bringing attention to, people should not expect African Americans in baseball to publicly protest.

Published in Guest Commentary

KRISTIN FALZON OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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Cups 0919wrp opt(Photo: EcoWatch)France is taking another big step towards being more environmentally conscious by implementing a controversial new law that will ban plastic cutlery, plates and cups.

The measure was part of the Energy Transition For Green Growth bill that was passed in 2015 and went into effect last month. But producers of disposal plates, cups and cutlery will have until 2020 to make sure their products are made with biologically sourced materials and can be composted.

The ban was initially proposed by the Europe Ecologie-Greens Party to help cut the energy used in making plastic in addition to the waste it creates. While the move is sure to please environmentalists, opponents argue that product bans hurt consumers.

Pack2Go Europe Secretary General Eamonn Bates told The Associated Press the company is urging the European Union to take legal action against France for violating the European Union's rules on free movement of goods.

Published in Guest Commentary

PAUL BUCHHEIT OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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Stairs 0919wrp(Photo: CDC)TTheTThe large-scale movements demanding justice that have developed over the past few years have evoked passion and sympathy from many people.  These are the leaders of finance who use our infrastructure, technology, security, law, location, and especially our people to make billions in profits while paying almost nothing in return.

Especially the securities traders. An impoverished mother pays up to 10% in sales tax when she buys shoes for her kids, but the customers of companies with a quadrillion dollars in sales pay zero sales tax. Quadrillion sounds like gazillion, but it's a real number -- a thousand trillion, about four times the value of all the world's wealth.

Among many of the protests have been acts of resistance demanding an end to the murdering and brutalizing of people of color in killing zones.  Structural racism and police who have a license to kill are at the heart of this problem, but some of the fault lies squarely in the financial districts of New York and Chicago and other large financial centers.

The Shame of Chicago

With a quadrillion dollars in sales and the collection of transfer fees, contract fees, brokerage fees, Globex fees, clearing fees, and surcharges, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange achieved a profit margin (54%) higher than any of the top 100 companies in the nation from 2008 to 2010, and in recent years it's risen to nearly 60%.

Despite being the most profitable big firm, CME complained that its taxes were too high, and they demanded and received an $85 million tax break from the State of Illinois.

Meanwhile, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner has cut funding for funerals, AIDS programs, "Meals on Wheels" for seniors, and programs for at-risk youth.

Published in Guest Commentary
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