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Wednesday, 02 November 2016 08:42

A Death in Wisconsin: "This Is Not Us"

AMBER GEORGAKOPOULOS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Candle 1102wrp opt(Photo: Andrew Bossi)The 400th block of Main Street Menomonie is adorable. There is a bike shop, a pizza place, and a comic book store. The electric boxes are painted with flowers and clearly, if you want to spend a weekend antiquing, you have found your freakin' happy place. From the spot on the brick sidewalk where Hussain Saeed Al Nahdi was beaten to death, you can see the sparkly lake. It's not Stars Hollow, but it's not too far off.

This is my home. These are my people. There are constellations of creameries, the fields roll out like thick fancy carpeting and the deer will walk right up and order you a beer. Eagles use my rowboat as a birdbath, and the only thing better than the fishing is the stories about the fishing. If you ignore the lack of beard, and musical talent, we're all pretty much the love child of Justin Vernon and Gentle Ben. I did my time bartending on both coasts and came home happily to this little city. This community is what people love about small towns -- it's safe, it's beautiful, it's welcoming, and at the heart of it, a university. When my Long Island girl comes to visit, I take her to this great little bar with pulled pork and twinkly lights and a cement bartop that warms up in the winter so you can literally cozy up to it on a chilly evening.

Outside of that bar, two nights ago, something very bad happened.

The thing is, we don't know exactly what. But the result was a 24- year old boy named Hussain, thousands of miles from his home and his people, bleeding on our sidewalk. Less than 48 hours later, he was dead.

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

BillRights 1102wrp opt(Photo: National Archives)The San Francisco 49ers were fortunate enough to have a bye this past weekend. That meant they couldn't lose another football game. It also gave the team five or six days to rest, recover from injuries, spend time with their families, and reflect on their thus-far woeful season. Forty-Niner quarterback/activist Colin Kaepernick, who initiated protests over racial inequality and police violence by taking a knee during the playing of the National Anthem -- a protest that has been picked up and carried forward by a number of NFL players, high school football teams around the country, and some athletes in other sports -- had something else on his mind.

Kaepernick has been viciously attacked for "disrespecting" the flag, been booed by fans at away games, had his likeness placed inside of a crosshairs on t-shirts sold outside the stadium before a road game against the Buffalo Bills, and recently, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump blamed him for driving down television ratings for NFL games this season.

But that hasn't stopped him from continuing his protest, and perhaps more importantly, launching a project aimed directly for at-risk youth.

Last Saturday, Kaepernick held a "Know Your Rights Camp" for Oakland-area youth. According to its website, "KNOW YOUR RIGHTS CAMP" is a free campaign for youth to raise awareness on higher education, self empowerment, and instruction to properly interact with law enforcement in various scenarios."

Published in Guest Commentary

GREENPEACE FOR ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Samsung 1101wrp opt(Photo: EcoWatch)Samsung's lack of transparency on the disposal of its Galaxy Note 7 leaves tons of precious minerals at risk of being discarded into the environment. According to calculations by Oeko-Institut, a research and consultancy institution based in Germany, the 4.3 million smartphones contain more than 20 metric tons of cobalt, more than 1 ton of tungsten, 1 ton of silver, 100 kilograms of gold and between 20 and 60 kilograms of palladium.

These materials could be recovered but will instead end up harming the environment if Samsung doesn't repurpose or reuse them.

Despite issuing a global recall of the Galaxy Note 7, Samsung has not offered an official explanation for the malfunctioning phones. It has said that it will not recycle the returned phones but has offered no further clarity on what it will do with them.

"Samsung now has an opportunity to set an example for the industry—will it recover and reuse the precious metals and other valuable materials in these 4.3 million devices and avoid an environmental disaster or will it simply dump them?" said Jude Lee, senior IT campaigner at Greenpeace East Asia.

"We are launching a global petition challenging Samsung not to dump the phones and instead take this chance to totally rethink how it designs and produces its products."

Published in Guest Commentary
Monday, 31 October 2016 07:13

Big Oil Is in Big Trouble

ANDY ROWELL OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Exxon 1031wrp(Photo: EcoWatch)For years people have been warning that Big Oil's business model was fundamentally flawed and was not only putting the climate at risk, but millions of dollars of shareholders' money.

For years the industry's critics warned the industry was ignoring the risks of climate change and was just caring on drilling regardless.

But the oilmen did what the oilmen do: find oil and gas, no matter the consequences.

And the worst oil company has been Exxon which for decades has denied climate change and the impact that climate change will have on its business.

For decades it could have invested wisely in renewables but it carried on looking for oil and gas—including unconventional oil which is even more carbon intensive than conventional oil. Its critics warned this was pure folly: but the oilmen carried on drilling anyway.

Big Oil is used to doing things its own way.

Published in Guest Commentary

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

IrelandFrack 1028wrp opt(Photo: EcoWatch)A bill banning hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in the Republic of Ireland was voted through the Dáil Éireann (the country's House of Representatives, so to speak) on Thursday.

According to the Irish Examiner, the bill's passage is "the first step in enforcing a nationwide ban on fracking and it will give the Government 12 weeks before it goes before further parliamentary scrutiny." The bill has now been moved to the committee stage for further review.

Fracking does not currently take place in the Emerald Isle but three exploratory licenses have been granted. The bill, The Prohibition of the Exploration and Extraction of Onshore Petroleum Bill, was introduced by Dáil member Tony McLoughlin, TD of the Fine Gael party. McLoughlin currently represents Sligo-Leitrim, a constituency that has been marked for potential shale gas exploration.

The legislation initially faced a potential eight-month delay to allow for Ireland's Environmental Protection Agency to issue a report on fracking, but the Government ultimately decided not to table the proposal.

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Thorn 1027wrp opt(Photo: David Corby)If Hillary Clinton wins the presidency, one thing is for sure, the Hillary-Bashing Industrial Complex will not fade away. It remains to be seen what form the opposition will take: whether it takes the form of John McCain’s pledge – should he win re-election -- that a Republican-controlled Senate will not approve any of her Supreme Court nominees; or, a House-led crusade, led by Speaker Paul Ryan, to privatize Social Security and Medicare; or, leaders of the Christian Right, alt-right, white supremacist right, and anti-immigrant right, organizing to challenge Clinton’s agenda. And, opposition will likely not be a right-wing-only affair, as a fair number of progressives are also champing at the bit to confront Clinton’s policy proposals.

Should Hillary Clinton be elected, progressives will face an existential dilemma: How to become effective thorns in the side of Hillary Clinton, without nullifying their voices by becoming auto-reflexive naysayers. Should they compile binders of WikiLeaks to use as cudgels, or prepare binders of progressive proposals to move on? Will Hillary have a honeymoon with progressives, or merely a one-night stand?

For progressives, what does being a thorn in the side of a Clinton administration look like? Does it mean opposing every effort she might make at working with Republicans? Does it mean opposing all appointments for cabinet positions? Does it mean continuing to pillory her as a stooge of Wall Street, an enemy of the people, at every opportunity? Does it mean filling up oodles of Facebook space with critical articles, WikiLeaks posts, tweets and scuttlebutt?

How might principled progressives go about creating an effective voice and counterbalance to Clinton’s center/center-right initiatives?

Published in Guest Commentary
Thursday, 27 October 2016 06:41

Budgeting the "Good War" for 75 Years

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Arizona 1027wrp opt(Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)World War II never quite ended — it morphed.

Today we call it the status quo, or endless war, or we just don’t bother to notice it. Indeed, now more than ever we don’t notice it. It’s barely part of the 2016 election, even though we’re engaged in active conflict in half a dozen countries, toying with a relaunch of the Cold War with Russia and, of course, hemorrhaging, as always, more than half our annual discretionary budget on “defense.”

World War II has been going on for seven decades now and has no intention of ever stopping . . . of its own volition. But this year’s rocking electoral craziness — not just Hurricane Donald, but the unexpected staying power of the Bernie Sanders campaign — may well be the harbinger of transcendence. Apparently there’s another force in the universe capable of standing up to the American, indeed, the global, military-industrial status quo.

Slowly, slowly this force is organizing itself and taking human shape. This isn’t a simple process. After all, the game of empire — the game called war, the game of domination — has been coalescing political power for several thousand years now.

But our current military budget was birthed by the wars of the 20th century. William Hartung, writing recently at TomDispatch, shows the fascinating connectedness of the wars that followed VE and VJ Days, as the corporate beneficiaries of the Big War aligned with mainstream politicians of both major parties and coalesced into the Washington consensus. Over the decades they have engaged in an ongoing struggle to maintain military spending at breathtakingly high levels and avoid any sort of transition to something called peace.

Published in Guest Commentary

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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

WALTER BRASCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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.

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

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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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
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