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HARVEY WASSERMAN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaHotSpot(Photo: Abasaa)The catastrophe that began at Fukushima four years ago today is worse than ever.

But the good news can ultimately transcend the bad—if we make it so.

An angry grassroots movement has kept shut all 54 reactors that once operated in Japan. It’s the largest on-going nuke closure in history. Big industrial windmills installed off the Fukushima coast are now thriving.

Five U.S. reactors have shut since March 11, 2011. The operable fleet is under 100 for the first time in decades.

Ohio’s Davis-Besse, New York’s Ginna, five reactors in Illinois and other decrepit American nukes could shut soon without huge ratepayer bailouts.

Diablo Canyon was retrofitted—probably illegally—with $842 million in replacement parts untested for seismic impact. Already under fire for illegal license manipulations and an avoidable gas explosion that killed eight in San Bruno in 2010, Pacific Gas & Electric has plunged into a legal, economic and political abyss that could soon doom California’s last reactors.

Published in Guest Commentary

MICHAEL BRUNE OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaEcoWatchTPPtext(Photo: EcoWatch)The U.S. is at the tail end of negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)—a massive trade deal with Mexico, Canada, Japan, Vietnam and seven other countries. The negotiations have been conducted in secret. Now Congress will soon decide whether to grant the Obama administration “fast track” authority to have the “final” pact approved as is—meaning strict limits on Congressional debate and no amendments. That’s a terrible idea for lots of reasons—not least of which is that the TPP could sabotage the ability of the U.S. (and other nations) to respond to the climate crisis.

Senator Elizabeth Warren put her finger on the problem in an op-ed for the Washington Post “Who will benefit from the TPP? American workers? Consumers? Small businesses? Taxpayers? Or the biggest multinational corporations in the world?” Here’s a hint: The answer is definitely not “all of the above.”

Multinational corporations—including some of the planet’s biggest polluters—could use the TPP to sue governments, in private trade tribunals, over laws and policies that they claimed would reduce their profits. The implications of this are profound: Corporate profits are more important than protections for clean air, clean water, climate stability, workers’ rights and more.

This isn’t a hypothetical threat. Similar rules in other free trade deals have allowed corporations including ExxonMobil, Chevron and Occidental Petroleum to bring approximately 600 cases against nearly 100 governments. Increasingly, corporations are using these perverse rules to challenge energy and climate policies, including a moratorium on fracking in Quebec; a nuclear energy phaseout and coal-fired power plant standards in Germany; and a pollution cleanup in Peru. TransCanada has even intimated that it would use similar rules in the North American Free Trade Agreement to challenge a U.S. decision to reject the Keystone XL pipeline.

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaJebCPAC(Photo: Gage Skidmore)In 2008, Senator John McCain's campaign recognized that he needed to shore up his credentials with the Religious Right, which was skeptical about his views on critical social issues, his team went all out courting mega-church Pastor John Hagee. And when Hagee agreed to support McCain, it was a major coup. It didn't take long, however, for that coup to blow up in the Senator's face, as video surfaced of Hagee claiming that God had sent Adolph Hitler to hunt the Jews, chase them from Europe, and drive them to Palestine. McCain was forced to dump Hagee. Is Jeb Bush making the same type of McCain-like deal by taking on the unbridled conservatism of Jordan Sekulow?

Unless you're Mike Huckabee or Rick Santorum and you don't need a liaison to the Religious Right because you are your own liaison, Republican Party presidential candidates need someone to hook them up. George H.W. Bush had Doug Wead, George W. Bush had Tim Goeglein, and now Jeb Bush's Right to RISE PAC has landed Jordan Sekulow, as a senior adviser. Say goodbye to compassionate conservatism and hello to a hardcore anti-gay, anti-abortion culture warrior.

Jordan Sekulow is the conservative son of the hyper-conservative Jay Sekulow, the chief counsel of the conservative legal operation founded by Pat Robertson called the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which Jordan is the executive director. In a statement to Christian Broadcasting Network's David Brody, Sekulow said: "Governor Bush knows how to take bold conservative ideas and put them into action. While we must continue to fight the bad policies and unconstitutional overreaches of the current administration, it is time for conservatives to start talking to all Americans about how we, as a nation, can lead again at home and abroad. I am excited to begin a conversation with conservatives about Governor Bush's pro-life, pro-family, tax-cutting record in Florida and the ideas we need to put into action to give every American a chance to rise up."

Published in Guest Commentary

ANASTASIA PANTSIOS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBombTrain(Photo: EcoWatch)Yet another train carrying volatile crude oil from the Bakken shale formation in North Dakota derailed yesterday, this time in northwestern Illinois near the historic tourist area of Galena overlooking the Mississippi River. It follows recent derailments in West Virginia and Ontario. The area in which it occurred was not as remote as the Ontario derailment. However, it did not require as extensive evacuation as the one in West Virginia in which hundreds were forced from their homes in the bitter cold. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, firefighters were allowing the fireball to burn itself out.

The 105-car train included 103 cars loaded with the crude oil, with eight derailing. It’s not known yet if any oil spilled into the Mississippi River.

Residents of the Galena area might be especially uneasy about trains rolling through their area. A month ago, a train carrying ethanol derailed in Dubuque, Iowa 15 miles away, with a dozen cars going off the tracks and several landing on the frozen Mississippi River. That fire burned for a day before it went out.

So far this year, these derailments, followed by explosions and fires, have happened only in unpopulated and sparsely populated areas. But their frequency is alarming to more densely populated communities on the rail paths of these trains with many saying it’s only a matter of time until a derailment causes a disaster like the one that killed 47 in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec in July 2013—or worse.

Published in Guest Commentary

JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaCoral(Photo: Brocken Inaglory)Less than 50 years ago, the northeast forests of the Hawaiian Islands, known as the rainy side of the isles of lush tropical valleys, streams and waterfalls were pristine wild lands for thousands of rare birds, flowers, trees and plants.

For example, in Kauai's remote Wainiha Valley, a summit region of Mount Waialeale, was (the operative past tense adverb) one of the wettest areas on earth. Hidden within Hinalele Falls, there were acres of rare, intact ecosystems.

The rugged valley and summit plateau are home to more than 100 plants that exist only in Hawaii, 46 of which are only on the island of Kauai, and rare and endangered Hawaiian forest birds, the 'akikiki, akeke'e, 'apapane, 'amahiki and 'elepaio.

The Hawaiian wetlands and tropical forests are rapidly disappearing from three major causes: global warming (greenhouse gases), overpopulation and the spread of urban development-resorts. All three combined are threatening the precious botanical regions, the wildlife and the ecological balance. The rainforests' sensitive flora and rich diversity of rare plants are vanishing from diminishing rain levels and urban expansion over the last few decades.

On the west side of Kauai, the rivers have already dried up under the relentless, global warming sun. As a depressed resident of Kauai expressed it, "Rivers became streams and then evaporated before my eyes. I watched fish gasp for water until they died. There was nothing I could do. It was too sad to watch."

For some time now, the summits and valleys have been clearly visible; an odd and also heartbreaking phenomenon for the reason that the Wainiha plateaus were always shrouded in clouds. It was exceptional, indeed, when the green summits appeared naked without their majestic robes of white mists and rainbows.

Published in Guest Commentary

STEVEN JONAS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaCPAC(Photo: Gage Skidmore)For those of you who might not know (and I should think that most political types would, given the massive publicity on media of all stripes the event gets) something called the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) took place over this past weekend. It was funny, because when I heard about this year's event I thought "wait a minute; didn't they have one of these of few months ago?" No, I'm not losing it yet. That's just some evidence as to exactly how much the annual shindig is talked about.

And so I looked it up, and came across a Rightist website called The Daily Signal. (Sorry, folks, I am just no longer calling the folks who go to these things and their related media and political figures "conservatives." They ain't. Actually, in terms of wanting to preserve and conserve what is left of the Earth as a result of the depredations of capitalist imperialism, it is we Leftists who are the conservatives. "Reactionary" is a bit old-fashioned, so I'm going with the simple descriptive, "Rightist.") They ran a feature called "25 Takeaways from America's Biggest Conservative (sic) Conference." It is fascinating to see what Rightists take away from a Rightist conference. But for the most part following their order, I thought to note down what I took away, first from parts of their "Top 25," and then from perhaps a few observations of my own.

First, Scott Walker. Although his "trade-unionists are the equivalent of ISIS" remarks was first widely reported as a gaffe, and he may have backed away from it a bit, believe me, deep down inside (which is where the remark came from) this very successful Rightist politician (he won there elections in four years in a supposedly "blue" state) bleeds Koch Brother royal blue from his veins. For the Kochs, that tiny percentage of the US workforce that is still unionized is one of their biggest enemies. And it is Walker's too.

Published in Guest Commentary

REV. BILLY TALEN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBillyPancaked(Photo: Fred Askew)Since last summer, we have lived through this remarkable movement called Black Lives Matter.

So much is revealed in this movement's beginnings. How did this little township in St. Louis do this? How can it be that a patch of sidewalk in front of a police station in Ferguson, Missouri, would become the stage for the world's conscience? Is it only because local black youth refused to stop shouting there? This is the exhilarating return to the actual magic of free speech.

And now, the future. The outlines of the difficult challenge that we face in the future is shown by the legal (or illegal) end-game of this movement. The police are watching us go back to consumer society, putting wires back in our ears, withdrawing from the streets and parks – and they are attacking the remaining protesters, who now have less protection.

In November we received the disheartening news from Ferguson. Protest leaders were now being taken into custody, assigned a crime, and issued a bail level that was so high that they could not leave prison. It was a Machiavellian tactic to separate the most effective activists from their work out in public space. The human rights advocate Joan Baez helped us send them money.

Since last summer, we have lived through this remarkable movement called Black Lives Matter.

So much is revealed in this movement’s beginnings.  How did this little township in St. Louis do this?  How can it be that a patch of sidewalk in front of a police station in Ferguson, Missouri, would become the stage for the world’s conscience?  Is it only because local black youth refused to stop shouting there?  This is the exhilarating return to the actual magic of free speech.

And now, the future. The outlines of the difficult challenge that we face in the future is shown by the legal (or illegal) end-game of this movement. The police are watching us go back to consumer society, putting wires back in our ears, withdrawing from the streets and parks – and they are attacking the remaining protesters, who now have less protection.

In November we received the disheartening news from Ferguson.  Protest leaders were now being taken into custody, assigned a crime, and issued a bail level that was so high that they could not leave prison.  It was a Machiavellian tactic to separate the most effective activists from their work out in public space. The human rights advocate Joan Baez helped us send them money.

Published in Guest Commentary
Tuesday, 03 March 2015 13:26

Beyond Keystone XL

CARL POPE OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaObamaEcoWatch1(Photo: EcoWatch)President Obama’s veto last week of a Republican bill passed—precisely so that he would veto it—mandating the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline does, indeed, as former NY Mayor Michael Bloomberg pointed out, serve as “a perfect symbol of Washington’s dysfunction.” Obama made it clear that this veto, at least, was over the process, not the substance, and the Republicans had set the process up so that no self-respecting President could do other than veto.

In their last PR foray before the veto, tar sands proponents offered up an IHS-CERA study which asserted that, facts to the contrary, approving Keystone would increase the reliable supplies of oil for domestic consumers. The study asserted “the overwhelming majority” of oil flowing to refineries in the Gulf Coast would be refined and consumed in the U.S., even after XL is built—which is true, but irrelevant. If I pour a glass of water (Keystone XL) into an already full bucket (Midwest and Gulf Coal oil markets) most of the water stays in the bucket—but the bucket does not hold any more water—the increment just slops on the floor, or in this case gets exported.

The President focused on a more relevant point in his comments in Fargo last week, saying that “I’ve already said I’m happy to look at increasing pipeline production for U.S. oil. But Keystone is for Canadian oil. Sending it down to the Gulf it bypasses the U.S., it estimated to create 250, maybe, 300 permanent jobs. We should be focusing on American infrastructure for American jobs for American producers … ”

Keystone is an enormously important environmental symbol. But it is also a commercial struggle. Alberta tar sands oil and North Dakota light shale oil flows into the same markets, have access to the same refineries, and rely on the same pipelines and railroads to get them to the same customers. So it was never terribly plausible that Keystone would be good for the U.S.—it was designed to make Canadian oil more competitive in global markets, which, on balance, is not good for American producers or, since the Canadians want to escape from American markets, American consumers.

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaCash1(Photo: Colin Brown)Despite raising $13 million dollars, the organization called The National Draft Ben Carson for President “isn’t affiliated with Ben Carson and the small percentage of money it spent on independent expenditures didn’t go to him” More than a few right-wing PACS make “large payments to vendors who were owned by people who worked for the PAC,” and contribute little to causes and candidates it professes to be raising money for.

Those are a few of the revelations a researcher uncovered after he was hired by John Hawkins to investigate how a number of conservative organizations were spending the millions of dollars in donations they raised from their supporters.

John Hawkins is profoundly conservative. His right-wing credentials are impeccable. He runs a website called Right Wing News, which posts stories from a who’s who of conservative columnists and bloggers. He has authored numerous liberal-bashing articles including: “5 Reasons Liberals Hate Soldiers Like Chris Kyle,” “15 Statistics That Destroy Liberal Narratives,” “Refuting 7 Lies Liberals Have Told Millennials About Conservatives,” and “On Behalf of the Patriarchy, Liberal Feminists Can Kiss Off.”

While recognizing that “Reports about sleazy activities by conservative groups have not exactly been in short supply over the last couple of years, … pop[ing] up in the Daily Beast, Mother Jones, Washington Post, the Politico and at the Daily Caller among other outlets,” many conservatives were pre-disposed to write them off as liberal “hit pieces,” Hawkins wrote in a February 20 Right Wing News piece headlined, “50 Million Down The Tubes: How 17 Conservative PACs Are Spending Their Money.”

Published in Guest Commentary

MARCUS ERIKSEN OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaPlasticPollution(Photo: EcoWatch)The idea that there are “patches” of trash in the oceans is a myth created 15 years ago that should be abandoned in favor of “plastic smog,” like massive clouds of microplastics that emanate out of the five subtropical gyres. My recent publication in the journal Plos One, estimates 269,000 tons of plastic from 5.25 trillion particles, but more alarming than that is it’s mostly microplastic (>92 percent in our study) and most of the plastic in the ocean is likely not on the sea surface.

Recent research has shown microplastics in ice cores, across the seafloor, vertically throughout the ocean and on every beach worldwide.  The little stuff is everywhere.

If you follow the life of plastic in the oceans, as we have done for 50,000 miles since 2009, you find the large items leaving coastlines in droves, then it rapidly shreds as it migrates toward the calmer waters of the subtropical gyres where sunlight, waves and nibbling fish rip it to micro-size particles smaller than a grain of rice. Microplastic then flow through the bodies of billions of organisms, making their way out of the gyres to deeper currents, and ultimately the seafloor. That’s the end-life of plastic.

Visualize the problem as “plastic smog” much like the way you can look up and visualize clouds of air pollution over cities. It’s very similar. We solved the air pollution problem by stopping the source with better emission controls on cars and power plants. There were people that suggested sucking air pollution out of the sky, but because people could look up and see the problem they understood that only stopping the source would work. The exact same logic applies to microplastic pollution in the world’s oceans. Because there are only a handful of scientists that understand ocean plastic pollution, and the public largely relies on the media for information, there’s an unusual amount of attention given to ideas to suck up plastic from the sea.

Published in Guest Commentary
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