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BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaForestFire(Photo: MGA73bot2)Headlines from newspapers across the Western U.S. are overwhelming and devastating; thousands of acres of forestland burning, rural communities evacuated, hundreds of homes destroyed. As huge swaths of land – 70,000 acres in California's Lake County alone -- are devoured by unprecedented wildfires, climate scientists and Forest Service officials are warning that recent megablazes, including those in the rainforest of the Olympic Peninsula, in Alaska, in eastern Oregon, and any of the ten currently raging in California, "is the present, and the future, of climate change," writes Rolling Stone's Tim Dickinson.

For the Forest Service, it's beyond an all hands-on-deck situation as large numbers of National Guard and active Army troops have been called on to fight the fires.

Despite incontrovertible evidence that climate change is magnifying and multiplying the damage caused by forest fires, climate change deniers push on.

The Republican Party's presidential candidates are standing firm with the deniers; some claiming that the debate over climate change has not yet been resolved, some suggesting that there is not enough evidence that climate change is man-made, and some maintaining that the costs of dealing with climate change is too high. And, it should be noted, with the Koch Brothers possibly pumping as much as $900 million into Election 2016, GOP candidates know very well where to turn to for there positions on climate change.

There is a searing political dimension to the issue of megablazes. Take Idaho for example, where, Jan Lee recently reported at Triple Pundit, that Gov. Butch Otter, a "stalwart against accepting any federal monies from the Obama administration," including "Medicaid allowances for the elderly and disabled, faced with increasing demand for firefighting resources, declared a state of emergency."

Published in Guest Commentary

COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaMosquito(Photo: JJ Harrison)Some Alaskans joke that mosquitoes are “Alaska’s state bird,” but the pesky insects are becoming no joke. Warming Arctic temperatures have caused their numbers to swell immensely in the region in recent years. Lauren Culler has been studying insects in Greenland for the last several years. Culler, a postdoctoral researcher for Dartmouth College’s Institute of Arctic Studies, along with a team of researchers published a study yesterday in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Their findings are not good for the humans, caribou and other mammals that call the Arctic home. The study answers why this is happening. With the Arctic warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet, the Arctics waterways (mosquito breeding grounds) are melting up to several weeks sooner. Thus, mosquitoes are hatching earlier and earlier.

“It was really when the pond thawed that triggered the hatch,” Culler told National Geographic. “That’s not unexpected. Lots of biology is triggered by these melting events.” But that’s not all Culler found. The warmer environment also allowed mosquitos to reach maturity faster, thus allowing more and more to survive to adulthood. Mosquitos are most vulnerable and most likely to be picked off by predators in their early stage of life as most animals are.

“The faster they go through these life stages, the better off they are,” Culler says. “If you’re only exposed for 20 days instead of 24, that’s good for you. That’s four days you don’t have to worry about being eaten.”

Published in Guest Commentary

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaScottWalker 2010(Photo: WisPolitics.com)Meet Scott Walker, corporate whore and lousy gambler (with taxpayer money, of course).

The Wisconsin governor says he should be America's next president because he's a proven budget whacker who, by golly, has dressed down teachers, slashed funding for higher education, busted unions and gone after welfare recipients. He's the Koch brothers' favorite because he's tough on government "moochers" — unless, of course, you're a corporate moocher. If a corporation wants public money, well, then Walker's your go-to Wisconsin whore.

Wesley Edens could vouch for the governor's willingness to bestow public favors on big men with big money. Edens is a New York City hedge-fund gazillionaire who bought the Milwaukee Bucks pro basketball team last year. Showing the usual ethical perversity that afflicts "private enterprise" sports owners, this flimflamming carpetbagger immediately demanded a $250-million subsidy from Wisconsin and Milwaukee taxpayers to build a sparkling new sports palace for him. Now, one gamble that's a more certain loser than throwing your money at Las Vegas casinos is letting public officials throw our tax dollars into building new stadiums for profiteering owners of sports teams. And Scottie was willing to take that bet.

Walker and officials of Milwaukee County are betting the farm to subsidize a flashy basketball arena for the Bucks. "Oh golly," one can imagine Scott squealing at Edens with unseemly delight, "it will be my exquisite pleasure to ramrod the deal through my Republican legislature for you, and I'll also schmooze secretly with Democratic officials of Milwaukee County to get them to put out for you!" Edens did his part to consummate this back alley affair by doling out ownership shares of his basketball team to prominent Republicans, including Jon Hammes, a developer who just happens to be co-chairman of the national finance committee for Walker's presidential run.

Published in Guest Commentary

COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaChickens(Photo: Snowmanradio)The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) released secret video footage today taken by an undercover reporter inside a Tyson Foods slaughterhouse in Texas. According to ALDF, the footage reveals an exploitative system for both workers and animals.

“The overall attitude towards the chickens at the Tyson plant is that they were thought of as objects and not living and feeling beings,” said the anonymous ALDF investigator. “They were nothing more than a commodity. It didn’t seem to matter to anyone if the chickens were hurt or killed in the pre-slaughter process. It was just part of ‘business.’”

Watch the undercover footage here.

The abuse of workers and animals in factory farms is well documented. Undercover footage from Mercy for Animals in July revealed equally appalling conditions at another Tyson’s facility. And a similar undercover investigation into Costco’s egg suppliers from The Humane Society earlier this summer sparked Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt and Bill Maher to call on the retail giant to make changes.

“Our investigation proves that the cruel treatment of chickens by Tyson Foods are not isolated incidents, but a systematic, companywide problem,” says Stephen Wells, Animal Legal Defense Fund executive director. “Tyson Foods is putting profits over not only ethical standards, but state and federal laws.”

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaApocalypse(Photo: Gustave Doré )Troy Anderson is the executive editor of Charisma, one of leading Christian evangelical publications in the world. He appears totally sincere in his beliefs. He's not a purveyor of Harold Camping-esque End Times predictions, savvy enough not to be trapped into telling us exactly when The End Times is coming. He will, however, tell you that there are abundant signs, that it could be any day now: "The signs—the last of the four blood moons, the biblical Shemitah, rise of end-time 'Babylon,' the Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage, the dangerous Iranian nuclear deal and a world drowning in debt and dangling on the edge of economic catastrophe—seem unmistakable now."

Then again, given that the Charisma magazine website featuring Anderson's story is carrying advertisements for investing in Solar panels for homes – an investment that will take a while to pay off, leadership training that "will positively impact your church, business or ministry," and subscriptions to the magazine, the End Times could be a ways off.

Ever since Harold Camping stirred up his flock into selling their worldly possessions and hunkering down for The Rapture, and subsequently becoming the subject of scorn and ridicule when it didn't happen, most End Times evangelicals are smart enough not to go there.

They are, however, not reluctant to warn Christians – and I suppose other innocent bystanders – that "harbingers of the apocalypse have been gathering for decades" but "most of the world has been largely oblivious to the gathering tempest and prophetic warnings." Now, however, "global instability—geopolitically, financially and culturally," more people are paying attention.

Published in Guest Commentary

COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaEnbridge(Photo: shannonpatrick17)The Straits of Mackinac is a narrow waterway that separates Michigan’s lower peninsula from its upper peninsula. The straights connect two of the Great Lakes: Lake Huron and Lake Michigan. But underneath this iconic part of the Great Lakes are two 62-year old pipelines.

The pipelines have never been replaced, despite the well-documented risk of a rupture. “If just one of the pipelines ruptured, it would result in a spill of 1.5 million gallons of oil—and that’s if Enbridge, the company that owns them, is able to fix the pipeline immediately,” says Motherboard. “I can’t imagine another place in the Great Lakes where it’d be more devastating to have an oil spill, University of Michigan research scientist Dave Schwab told Motherboard.

Enbridge does not have a good record when it comes to spills either. It’s responsible for more than 800 spills between 1999 and 2010, totaling 6.8 million gallons of spilled oil. And in 2010, it spilled more than 800,000 gallons into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan—creating the biggest inland oil spill in the country’s history. It did not receive as much national attention because the country was fixated on another oil spill: the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Published in Guest Commentary

2015.10.9 BF Chow(Photo: Donna Cleveland)LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

In a first for the country, California’s Environmental Protection Agency (Cal/EPA) has issued plans to list glyphosate—the toxic active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide—as known to cause cancer.

According to a “notice of intent” issued last week by the Cal/EPA’s California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), the effort falls under California’s Proposition 65, in which the state is required to publish a list of chemicals known to cause cancer or birth defects or other reproductive harm.

The same law, otherwise known as the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, also requires that certain substances identified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC)—the World Health Organization’s cancer arm—be listed as known to cause cancer.

The state agency’s Sept. 4 announcement follows a classification of glyphosate by the IARC as “probably carcinogenic to humans” in March.

“Case-control studies of occupational exposure in the USA, Canada, and Sweden reported increased risks for non-Hodgkin lymphoma that persisted after adjustment for other pesticides,” the IARC said about the herbicide. There is also “convincing evidence” that it can cause cancer in laboratory animals.

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaCrossBerk(Photo: Dustin Johnston)As if there weren't enough Christian evangelical groups beating the drums against the Obama administration's nuclear deal with Iran, another one, American Christian Leaders for Israel (ACLI) has joined the fray. Last week, ACLI, a networking project of the U.S. branch of International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ), sent a petition to the White House railing "against any agreement that does not dismantle Iran's nuclear program," according to an ACLI Press Release. The press release claims that "Some 650 Pastors and Christian leaders representing tens of millions of grassroots Americans have signed onto that letter."

"Through this joint initiative, we want to demonstrate that this is not a partisan issue, nor a Jewish issue, nor only an Israel issue, but it is an American issue, and millions of grassroots Americans are opposed to this disastrous deal," stated Susan Michael, U.S. Director for the ICEJ. "This network of Christian leaders in support of Israel is unprecedented," added Michael, "and reflects the gravity of the situation. We are asking all members of Congress to set aside partisan issues and vote against the agreement."

So while it appears nearly certain that Christian Zionists, along with the conservative pro-Israeli lobbying group AIPAC, the Republican Party and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have lost the battle over the nuclear deal with Iran, Christian evangelicals are vowing to fight on.

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL QUIGLEY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaCoinDebt(Photo: United States Mint)Even though the U.S. Supreme Court has said it is unconstitutional, Louisiana still puts hundreds of people in prison every year just because they are too poor to pay court-ordered fines, court costs and costs of probation, according to a recent investigative report by the Louisiana chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

This misuse of the criminal legal system, often called “pay or stay” is flatly illegal. The U.S. Congress outlawed the use of debtors’ prisons — jails for people too poor to pay off their debts — under federal law nearly 200 years ago in 1833.   The U.S. Supreme Court followed suit in 1983.  

But in a survey of six weeks of court records from last year, the ACLU found that hundreds of people in Louisiana were given pay-or-stay sentences and well over a hundred people were jailed for unpaid fines or court costs. If this many people were wrongly sentenced and jailed in just six weeks, that means thousands have been illegally jailed annually.

The report tells the story of Dianne Jones, a grandmother of three, who was arrested in New Orleans for possession of marijuana. She was given the choice of six months’ probation and paying $834 in fines and costs, at a rate of $150 per month, or spending every weekend in jail for six months. She protested that she did not earn enough to pay off $150 a month. Ultimately she had to accept the payment plan anyway because she was helping care for her grandchildren on the weekends so her daughter could work. Unable to pay off the last $148 of her $834 because of unanticipated moving costs, she was arrested and jailed under a $20,000 bond.   She stayed in jail until a community group took up a collection to pay off the remaining $148.

Published in Guest Commentary
Tuesday, 01 September 2015 13:55

What the World Would Look Like Without Humans

COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaElephantEcowatch(Photo: EcoWatch)Researchers out of Denmark have found that without humans, the world would have a lot more large mammals roaming around. “In a world without humans, most of northern Europe would probably now be home to not only wolves, Eurasian elk (moose) and bears, but also animals such as elephants and rhinoceroses,” researchers said in a statement.

Yes, you read that right. Northern Europe would be home to elephants and rhinoceroses. The study, conducted by researchers from Aarhus University in Denmark, investigated “what the natural worldwide diversity patterns of mammals would be like in the absence of past and present human impacts, based on estimates of the natural distribution of each species according to its ecology, biogeography and the current natural environmental template.”

And it’s not just northern Europe that has seen a dramatic decrease in mammal diversity. “In most places, there’s a very large deficit in mammal diversity relative to what it would naturally have been,” said Professor Jens-Christian Svenning, one of the coauthors of the study.

The report is a follow up to a previous analysis which found that the expansion of Homo sapiens across the planet and not a changing climate was to blame for the mass extinction of large mammals in the last 100,000 years.

The current world map of mammal diversity shows that Africa is virtually the only place with a high diversity of large mammals. There’s been a dramatic decrease in North and South America, which historically had very high levels of large mammal diversity.

Published in Guest Commentary
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