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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


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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


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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.

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Observer 0916wrp opt(Photo: EcoWatch)The Energy Observer, the world's first boat powered by solar, wind and self-generated hydrogen, is gearing up for its scheduled maiden journey in February.

The €4.2m ($4.72 million) vessel—nicknamed the "Solar Impulse of the Seas"—aims to circumnavigate the globe using only clean power, a feat similar to Solar Impulse 2's historic, solar-powered flight around the world that was completed this past July.

The boat will sail for six years around the world as a floating exhibition and clean energy laboratory, with stops in 50 countries and 101 ports of call.

"For the first time, Energy Observer will allow us to explore the oceans without leaving any trace behind us," Jerome Delafosse, a director and co-captain of the expedition, said in the video.

The multi-hulled catamaran, a former racing vessel that won the 1994 Jules Verne Trophy for the fastest circumnavigation of the world, stands at 30 meters in length and 12.80 meters in width. Its green upgrade is currently in full swing at a shipyard in Saint Malo, France where it awaits installation of 130 square meters of solar panels, two vertical axis wind turbines, two reversible electric motors and electrolysis equipment—all to help produce and store hydrogen onboard.

Published in Guest Commentary
Wednesday, 14 September 2016 07:13

Jim Hightower: Cleaning Up After Pundits


Mop 0914wrp opt(Photo: Alborzagros)Being a muckracking political writer often makes me feel like a custodian in a horse barn, constantly shoveling manure. It's a messy, stinky job — but on the bright side, the stuff is plentiful, so the work is steady. Indeed, I'm now a certified Equine Excrement Engineer, having developed a narrow, but important, professional specialty: cleaning off the horsestuff that careless politicos and sloppy media types keep dumping on the word "populist."

As you might imagine, in this year of global turmoil, I've been especially busy. Populism — a luminous term denoting both an uplifting doctrine of egalitarianism and a political-economic-cultural movement with deep roots in America's progressive history — has been routinely sullied throughout 2016 by elites misusing it as synonym for ignorance and bigotry:

— When right-wing, anti-Muslim mobs in a few European nations literally went to their national borders to block desperate Syrian war refugees from getting safe passing into Europe, most mainline media labeled the boisterous reactionaries "populists."

— When flummoxed elites in Great Britain, frantic over Brexit, blindly blamed their people's vote to exit the European Union on the "populist" bigotry of working-class Brits.

— When, back in the USA, the unreal reality show The Donald spooked the corporate/political establishment, which denied that Trump harness public fury toward them smugly attributed his rise solely to "populist" bumpkins who embraced his demeaning attacks on women, Mexicans, Muslims, union members, immigrants, people with disabilities and veterans, among others. Indeed, the power elites sneeringly branded Trump himself a "populist."

Published in Guest Commentary


Kap 0914wrp opt(Photo: Daniel Hartwig)In addition to the ever-present questions about how each team would play on the field during the opening weekend of the NFL, an unexpected parallel story line was taking center-stage, thanks to San Francisco 49er backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Would any of the players follow his lead and protest racial inequality by sitting, or taking a knee, during the playing of the “The Star Spangled Banner?”

According to a CNN report, four members of the Miami Dolphins -- Jelani Jenkins, Arian Foster, Michael Thomas, and Kenny Stills – “knelt next to each other in a line which included their standing teammates.” In Kansas City, Chief’s cornerback Marcus Peters “rais[ed] a gloved fist, in a pose reminiscent of Tommie Smith and John Carlos on the medal stand at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. Peters had previously spoken of his ‘100 percent’ support of Kaepernick's stance.”

Before the Arizona Cardinals-New England Patriots game in Arizona, the Patriots’ Martellus Bennett and Devin McCourty raised their gloved fists in protest.

In addition to initiating a conversation and actions amongst fellow NFL players, being a major topic on sports talk radio, and dominating social media, especially the Twittersphere, Kaepernick’s activism has also filtered down to the high school level.

Published in Guest Commentary


Monsanto 0912wrp opt(Photo: EcoWatch)India is steeped in a synthesized controversy created by Monsanto on the first GMO crop, supposedly approved for commercialization. Engaged in litigation on many fronts, Monsanto is trying to subvert our patent laws: Protection of Plant Variety and Farmers Right Act, Essential Commodities Act and Competition Act. It is behaving as if there is no Parliament, no democracy, no sovereign laws in India to which it is subject. Or it simply doesn't have any regard for them.

In another theatre, Monsanto and Bayer are merging. They were one as MoBay (MonsantoBayer), part of the poison cartel of I.G. Farben. The controlling stakes of both corporations lie with the same private equity firms. The expertise of these firms is in war. I.G. Farben, Adolf Hitler's economic powerhouse and pre-war Germany's highest foreign exchange earner, was also a foreign intelligence operation. Hermann Schmitz was president of I.G. Farben, Schmitz's nephew Max Ilgner was a director of I.G. Farben, while Max's brother Rudolph Ilgner ran the New York arm as vice-president of Chemnyco.

Paul Warburg, brother of Max Warburg (board of directors, Farben Aufsichtsrat), founded the U.S. Federal Reserve System. Max Warburg and Hermann Schmitz played a central role in the Farben empire. Other "guiding hands" of Farben Vorstand included Carl Bosch, Fritz ter Meer, Kurt Oppenheim and George von Schnitzler. Each of them was adjudged a "war criminal" after World War II, except Paul Warburg.

Monsanto and Bayer have a long history. They made explosives and lethally poisonous gases using shared technologies and sold them to both sides in the two world wars. The same war chemicals were bought by the Allied and Axis powers, from the same manufacturers, with money borrowed from the same bank.

Published in Guest Commentary
Monday, 12 September 2016 06:55

Five Deadly Sins of Big Pharma


Capsules 0912wrp opt(Photo: Sage Ross)For Mylan, it was a perfect plan -- diabolical, unstoppable. The company made changes in its anti-allergy EpiPen dispenser in 2009, enough to give it patent protection. Then, in 2012, it began to give away free pens to schools, gradually making school nurses at least partly dependent on them. Meanwhile the company was successfully lobbying for the "Emergency Epinephrine Act," commonly referred to as the "EpiPen Law," which encouraged the presence of epinephrine dispensers in schools. Most recently, after raising the price from $100 to $600, Mylan announced a half-price coupon, making itself appear generous even though the price had effectively jumped from $100 to $300.

This is capitalism at its worst, a greedy and disdainful profit-over-people system that leaves millions of Americans sick...or dead. These are the sins of the pharmaceutical industry.

1. Gouging Customers

The Mylan story is just one of many. An American with cancer will face bills up to $183,000 per year, even though it hasn't been established that the expensive treatments actually extend lives. A 12-week course of Sovaldi, for hepatitis, costs Gilead Sciences about $84 and is priced at $84,000.

This is an industry that can suddenly impose a 60,000% increase on desperately ill people. Yet the pharmaceutical industry's profit margin is matched only by the unscrupulous financial industry for the highest corporate profit margin.

Published in Guest Commentary


Sacred 0909wrp opt(Photo: EcoWatch)A first round of motions was passed Tuesday by the 1,300 government and civil society members of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) at its World Conservation Congress taking place in Hawaii. These include a ban on gillnet fishing in Mexico that threatens the vaquita porpoise and also restrictions on the illegal trade of pangolins.

Among the 85 motions like these that are up for a vote this week are some involving the direct and urgent needs of people too, including indigenous people whose sacred sites and lands face destructive forces. One need only look at the Dakota Access Pipeline battle here in the U.S., which would disturb sacred sites as well as water sources of the Standing Rock Sioux, to imagine that this sort of injustice happens to indigenous groups everywhere.

That's why many representatives from such groups are in Hawaii lobbying IUCN delegates to support Motion 26, which would declare their sacred natural sites to be "no go zones" for developers. As a resolution, it would be non-binding on governments, but would be one more tool for groups to use in pushing for policy changes at a local and national level. It is due for a vote by the delegates, probably on the last day of the Congress, which ends Sept. 10.

NGOs have also lined up strongly in support of the motion (the progress of which can be followed on Twitter via the hashtags #Motion26 and #VoteForIUCNMotion26), including Women's Earth and Climate Action Network and also Amazon Watch, whose Andrew Miller, when asked why, said ...

Published in Guest Commentary


Fox 0907wrp opt(Photo: EcoWatch)A new study from professors at Oklahoma State University has found that Republicans and Democrats have never been so far apart on climate issues.

"What was once a modest tendency for Congressional Republicans to be less pro-environmental than their Democratic counterparts has become a chasm—with Republicans taking near-unanimous anti-environmental stances on relevant legislation in recent years, especially 2015," the study said.

This distance between the parties was further exacerbated by the rise of the Koch-funded Tea Party, which took the hard line of fully dismissing the climate change threat, often making climate change a lightning rod for voters who were outraged at Washington.

As they stoked fears about the U.S. government attempting to pass legislation to limit greenhouse gas emissions, the Tea Party normalized climate denial throughout the Republican Party, according to Oklahoma State University's Prof. Riley E. Dunlap and Jerrod H. Yarosh, and Michigan State Associate Professor Aaron M. McCright.

Another study, cited by The Guardian Tuesday, concludes that the growth of conservative media has cemented this gap.

Conservative newspaper The Wall Street Journal was found to publish inaccurate information on the topic, according to a report by Media Matters for America.

Published in Guest Commentary
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