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CASSIE KELLY OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Coal 0410wrp opt(Photo: Rygel, M.C.)This week, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which operates more than 200 million acres of public land, made a statement by [temporarily] changing the banner image on their website from a vast mountain range to a massive coal seam in Wyoming—staking an obvious claim in the Trump administration's campaign to bring coal and other industry jobs back to the U.S.

The [rotation came] just days after the president granted his entire salary since being in office, about $78,000, to the National Park Service, which is under the same umbrella as the BLM, both managed by the Department of the Interior. The Sierra Club was quick to point out that this sum was minuscule compared to the budget cuts Trump has proposed on the Interior, which will amount to a 12 percent slash in funding, or about $2 billion overall. [The coal seam image has now been rotated off.]

"If Donald Trump is actually interested in helping our parks, he should stop trying to slash their budgets to historically low levels," said Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune. "This publicity stunt is a sad consolation prize as Trump tries to stifle America's best idea."

The BLM manages streams and rivers, hiking trails, oil and gas fields, and coal mines. The shift from green mountains to dingy coal on their website might signify, therefore, that the little funding they have left will go to the latter. BLM spokesperson Jeff Krauss said, however, that the new image is simply part of an IT redesign, which allows for rotating photos of the many public lands BLM manages.

Published in Guest Commentary

CARL POPE OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Dow 0410wrp opt(Photo: Amitchell125)Chlorpyrifos belongs to the same family as the nerve gas sarin—suspected of being behind the appalling chemical weapon attack which occurred this week in Syria, provoking appropriate outrage from the administration. But EPA has just decided to allow the continued dousing of America's rural landscapes with a close cousin—a different chemical weapon.

Chlorpyrifos is one of the most frequently cited causes of farm-worker pesticide poisoning—but is particularly toxic to young children and the fetus. The pesticide has come across my email screens periodically for over a decade, as organizations like the Nature Resources Defense Council slogged forward, petitioning the EPA to implement a simple requirement of federal pesticide law: that any pesticide must be shown to be safe before use. In 2015 the agency said is intended to ban it—but didn't finalize the decision. Eventually, courts ordered EPA to make a final decision on the ban—and Pruitt decided to ignore the science.

He did not do so because he asserted that chlorpyrifos was safe; he simply said that there were uncertainties, and that in that situation farmers were entitled to continue to use the chemical, exposing farm workers, their children, surrounding communities and consumers of food sprayed with the chemical, to a pesticide whose safety is at best highly dubious—in quantities up to 14,000 times the safe level.

"We need to provide regulatory certainty to the thousands of American farms that rely on chlorpyrifos, while still protecting human health and the environment," Pruitt said—not the message you would expect to hear from a pediatrician if you asked him if you should give your kids foods laced with a potent neurotoxin that has been shown to damage their mental development.

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JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Activism 0407wrp opt(Photo: Carolmooredc)The list of progressive innovations at the grassroots level goes on and on, dealing with one big, complex issue after another that small-minded, corporatist ideologues refuse to tackle (often under the "principle" that government — i.e., the public, i.e., you and me — shouldn't be involved). Not only should we, but we must, for our activism is the only hope of restoring America's democratic principles and uniting ethic of the common good.

For instance, homelessness, we're told by pious politicos, is impossible to cure, and so more and more cities are resorting to criminalizing people struggling to live on the streets. But wait, say proponents of a new way of thinking: Yes, some street people are addicts or mentally ill, but the vast majority are out there because they lost jobs, got hit with major medical bills, suffered family violence or had other personal crises. And, get this — they're homeless because they don't have a place to live! Until the 1980s, when Ronald Reagan reduced tax incentives for developers to create low-income homes, America didn't have mass homelessness. But now we're millions of units short of housing that hard-hit people and families can afford. So why not address the cause?

Follow me from downtown Austin, Texas, to the eastern edge of Travis County, turn onto Hog Eye Road and go a short distance where you'll come on a giant sign saying "WELCOME." It fronts an astounding success named Community First! Village — a 27-acre, master-planned community (as opposed to temporary shelters) for 250 chronically homeless people — about a fourth of Austin's street dwellers. It's the creation of a small non-profit group, Mobile Loaves and Fishes, that's richly rooted in the religious mission espoused in Jesus's "Sermon on the Mount," admonishing the faithful to serve the needy. Indeed, the village doesn't proselytize, it serves — by providing a welcoming community of, b, and for the very people who have previously been publicly disparaged, shoved out of sight, and denied even minimal human dignity.

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CASSIE KELLY OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

CreenlandCoast 0405wrp opt(Photo: Ringomassa)Greenland's icy coastlines are withering away at a rapid pace. With ever rising temperatures in the region, scientists fear the glaciers may never grow back.

A team from Ohio State University discovered that about 20 years ago, melting on the island reached a tipping point. In this event, a layer of old snow called the firn, was frozen over and the ice sheet growth was stunted. This caused the new growth on the coastlines to halt. Combined with rising temperatures of the sea, the ice has been melting away in large sectors. At the rate it's going, the team said there will be a 1.5 inch increase in global sea level rise by 2100.

According to the study:

The find is important because it reveals exactly why the most vulnerable parts of Greenland ice are melting so quickly: the deep snow layer that normally captures coastal meltwater was filled to capacity in 1997. That layer of snow and meltwater has since frozen solid, so that all new meltwater flows over it and out to sea.

Though these findings are bad news, the researchers said there is no "immediate cause for panic." The Greenland Ice Sheet -- the second largest ice cache in the world -- is relatively intact. Associate professor at Ohio State, and co-author of the study Ian Howat, said the outer layers of ice contribute a small portion to the greater sheet, and that their melting may even be ephemeral, or seasonal to some degree.

Published in Guest Commentary
Wednesday, 05 April 2017 06:23

Make the US Pay for Trump's Climate Denial

ETHAN GOFFMAN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Carbon 0405wrp optBecause the Trump administration has recklessly undermined US obligations regarding climate change, the international community needs to put a carbon tariff on American goods. (Carbon. Photo: Alchemist-hp)For the good of the planet, and of the United States, the international community needs to put a carbon tariff on American exports now.

The Trump administration has announced that it is backing out of Obama's Clean Power Plan based largely on the mistaken belief that climate change is not happening. This makes it impossible to fulfill American commitments made in the Paris Climate Agreement signed in December 2016. As historically the largest contributor to climate change, and still the second-largest global polluter, and as the ostensible leader of the "free world," the United States has an obligation to ensure the future of the planet, a responsibility that the Trump administration is shattering.

There is little question that the results will be disastrous. Even under the Paris accords, global temperatures are still expected to rise 3°C above pre-industrial levels, three times what we have seen so far. The increase in natural disasters we've already seen is only the beginning. Understanding the need to do even more, the architects of the climate agreement called for regular meetings to toughen standards.

Contrarily, the worst effects of climate change -- which the Trump administration is pushing us toward -- will bring about 4°Cof warming, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The results will be irreversible, with extreme heat waves causing massive loss of life, complete disappearance of many glaciers, utter destruction of coral reefs, permanent flooding of coastal cities such as New Orleans, New York and Miami, and much, much more. The planet will simply be uninhabitable for humans, at least in the way we know it today.

Published in Guest Commentary
Wednesday, 29 March 2017 08:14

Maryland Bans Fracking

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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FrackTanks 0329wrp opt(Photo: Joshua Doubek)Maryland is on track to become the third state to ban hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, for oil and natural gas, after the Senate voted 35-10 on Monday for a measure already approved by the House.

The bill is now headed to Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, who is in favor of a statewide fracking ban.

Hogan, who once said that fracking is " an economic gold mine," stunned many with his complete turnaround at a press conference earlier this month.

"We must take the next step to move from virtually banning fracking to actually banning fracking," the governor said. "The possible environmental risks of fracking simply outweigh any potential benefits."

Once signed into law, Maryland would be the first state with gas reserves to pass a ban through the legislature.

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BRUCE CONWAY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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ACA 0329wrp opt(Photo: NYyankees51)The death of the "do or die" GOP health care plan, as the bill was pulled from a floor vote in the House on March 24, 2017, comes as no surprise. It was a non-coherent bill that depended entirely on votes from a large Republican majority in the House, but exposed bitter divisions between the hard-right Freedom caucus and more moderate Republicans. Despite the addition of many late amendments intended to address the concerns of the opposing groups, they often lost as many votes as were gained. This became a momentous defeat for the House Speaker Paul Ryan, President Donald Trump, and the Republican Party on what was intended to be its signature and opening domestic success.

Despite the Republicans having had seven years to develop their own health care plan, the American Health Care Act (AHCA) was a hastily drafted assemblage of ideas, largely based on Paul Ryan's 37-page white paper in 2016, Better Way, and the proposed Empowering Patients First Act by Dr. Tom Price, now the Secretary of Health and Human Services. As a replacement for a repealed Affordable Care Act (ACA), the plan would have done away with the individual mandate, promoted a free market approach, deregulated the private health insurance industry, eliminated the ACA's requirement for coverage of essential services, added tax credits and given insurers wide latitude to charge older enrollees higher prices, fully repeal Medicaid expansion, and cut back women's health care. Their longer-term goal was to privatize both Medicare and Medicaid.

Unfortunately and predictably, the debate in the media was superficially covered, disinformation and false promises were common, and legislators at the end did not know what was actually in the bill. As Republicans retreated from the issue, they were unpersuasive as to what they would do next. One day after the defeat of the repeal and replace bill in the House, President Trump declared  that "Obamacare will explode. We will all get together and piece together a plan for all the American people. Do not worry." (Oval office statement, March 24, 2017). Meanwhile, leading Democrats hailed this event as a victory for saving the ACA and assurance of ongoing coverage for many millions of Americans.

 

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KEN ROSEBORO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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Corn 0327wrp opt(Photo: Andrew Butko)Enogen, a genetically modified corn for ethanol production, has contaminated non-GMO white corn grown in Nebraska and used to make flour for tortillas and other products.

According to Derek Rovey, owner of Rovey Specialty Grains in Inland, Nebraska, a few of his contract farmers who grow non-GMO white corn had their crops contaminated by Enogen corn.

"We've had some growers who've had some problems [with Enogen]. Their corn was right next to Enogen fields," said Rovey.

Enogen's GMO trait was detected in the white corn using GMO strip tests, said Rovey.

He also said that flour made using his company's white corn tested positive for Enogen last summer.

Enogen GMO corn can contaminate food corn through cross pollination in the field or improper segregation during grain handling.

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LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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Oil 0327wrp opt(Photo: Creative Commons)The amount of crude oil that spewed near Belfield, North Dakota from the ruptured Belle Fourche pipeline in December was vastly underestimated.

The original estimate was around 176,000 gallons of oil. After further review, pipeline operator True Companies now reports about 12,615 barrels (529,830 gallons) of oil spilled, spokeswoman Wendy Owen told Inforum. The cause of the leak has not been determined.

The spill contaminated a hillside and Ash Coulee Creek which empties into the Little Missouri River. The break was also significant because it happened less than 200 miles away from the Oceti Sakowin Camp, where Water Protectors were protesting the heavily contested Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).

The new number makes the Belle Fourche spill one of the largest in state history and perhaps the largest oil pipeline spill that contaminated a North Dakota water body, Bill Suess, spill investigation program manager for the state's Department of Health, told Inforum.

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BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Fence 0324wrp opt(Photo: Ladin)President Trump has been demeaning and degrading immigrants since he announced his candidacy for the presidency, and he has continued to do so right up through his first two months in office. After more than a year of his vicious blathering about the criminality of immigrants and building a border wall, a recent report by The Sentencing Project found that Immigrants, regardless of legal status, or country of origin, do not have higher crime rates than native-born citizens, verifying that even in this age of Trump-initiated fake news and Kellyanne Conway’s “alternative facts,” facts can triumph over fiction.

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As the Executive Summary to The Sentencing Project’s report titled “Immigration and Public Safety” (http://www.sentencingproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Immigration-and-Public-Safety.pdf) pointed out: In addition to his anti-immigrant rhetoric, Trump has “linked immigrants with crime through an Executive Order directing the Attorney General to establish a task force to assist in ‘developing strategies to reduce crime, including, in particular, illegal immigration, drug trafficking, and violent crime,’ and by directing the Department of Homeland Security to create an office to assist and publicize victims of crimes committed by immigrants.”

The Sentencing Project’s report was written by Nazgol Ghandnoosh, Ph.D., Research Analyst, and Josh Rovner, Juvenile Justice Advocacy Associate, at The Sentencing Project, with research assistance by Casey Anderson and Jessica Yoo, Program Associates at The Sentencing Project:

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