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aaaLacMeg(Photo: Personalmountains)Monday was the second anniversary of the tragic Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, oil train disaster that killed 47 people. Since then, oil trains continue to derail and explode with five already this year. Four of the derailments occurred within just four weeks.

A coalition of environmental and social justice organizations including Sierra Club, GreenpeaceForestEthics, Oil Change International, Center for Biological Diversity, Rainforest Action Network, 350.org, Friends of the Earth, Food and Water Watch and Earthworks, have launched a week of action to call for an end to crude by rail shipments. The coalition has organized more than 80 events across the U.S. and Canada to call for an immediate ban on oil trains.

Lena Moffitt, director of the Sierra Club’s Dirty Fuels campaign made the following statement:

Exploding crude oil trains do not belong on the nation’s rails, and 25 million Americans—most of them people of color—do not deserve to be living in a blast zone. The Department of Transportation needs to take responsibility, and rather than put forward wholly inadequate rules that jeopardize the health and safety of communities along rail lines, the administration should ban bomb trains outright.

Published in Guest Commentary


aaaCrossBurn(Photo: Freiindlich)Where did Earl Holt, president of the Council of Conservative Citizens, get the money to make substantial donations to Republican Party politicos? According to Yahoo Finance, the source of Holt's largesse might be coming from his marriage to Katherine Ann Cook, the widow of Irving Falk, a "successful Jewish businessman."

Prior to Wednesday, June 17, Holt was going about his business in relative anonymity. Except for being on the radar of a few watchdog organizations that monitor, and write about right-wing movements, Holt spewed a fair amount of racist venom on the Internet, but it was clearly outside of the public's eye. Then, along came Dylann Roof's white nationalist-inspired rampage at a Bible study class at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, which resulted in the deaths of nine African Americans. As a result of Roof's action, Earl Holt III suddenly was thrust into the media's spotlight.

In Dylan Roof's manifesto, he specifically cited the website of the St. Louis, Missouri-based Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC), which was founded in 1985 by a man named Gordon Lee Baum, as a major source of information and inspiration. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the CCC is the "modern day reincarnation" of White Citizens Councils. It describes the group as "a virulently racist group whose website has referred to blacks as 'a retrograde species of humanity.'"

Published in Guest Commentary


aaaEcoWatchSeafood(Photo: EcoWatch)Pink salmon—the smallest and most abundant of the Pacific salmon species, and a supper table mainstay in many parts of the world—may be swimming towards trouble.

And they are not the only dish likely to disappear from the menu. Mussels, oysters, clam and scallop could all become scarcer and more expensive as the seas become more acid. And as the world’s waters warm, fish will start to migrate away from their normal grounds at an ever-increasing rate.

New research shows that as the world’s waters acidify because of carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, the pink salmon (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha) could become smaller and less likely to survive.

Potentially Problematic

Previous studies have repeatedly and consistently explored potentially problematic consequences of change in the pH value of the world’s oceans. The higher the carbon dioxide concentrations in the air as a consequence of the burning of fossil fuels, the greater the change in oceanic acidity levels.

Published in Guest Commentary


aaaCubaObama(Photo: Raul Castro and President Obama, photo by US Government)I’ll never forget that image of President Ronald Reagan on Wall Street, holding a large pair of scissors over a symbolic pile of papers representing hard-won laws over the last century that restricted corporate monopolies, banks, unfair labor conditions and pollution. We also had important FDA regulations to protect the public from contaminated food and unsafe drugs.

Hundreds of protective laws have been sent to the slaughterhouse, compliments of the U.S. government with congressional assurance that they will never rise up to interfere with profitable industrial gains again.

Looking beyond President Obama’s persuasive speech to “chart a new course in US relations with Cuba that will engage and empower the Cuban people,” what does Obama really have in mind behind closed doors? This is the question.

President Obama is the master of giving impressive speeches, but his executive decisions, that have benefited industrial profits at our expense, speak louder than his words.

Published in Guest Commentary


aaaNeilYoungPope(Photo: EcoWatch)I imagine top executives at Monsanto are not huge fans right now of Neil Young or Pope Francis. The two might seem to lead very disparate lives. One is a life-long Canadian rocker and the other leads a flock of 1.2 billion Catholics. But lately the two have drawn the ire of corporate giants, particularly Monsanto, all over the world.

Neil Young’s album, The Monsanto Years, was released June 29 and it’s already causing quite a stir. Ahead of the album’s release, Monsanto issued a statement criticizing Neil Young for perpetuating myths about the company.

According to Pitchfork, the album “fixes its crosshairs on the GMO-pimping agribusiness behemoth that has a stranglehold on the world’s seed (and, by extension, food) supply, forcing farmers to comply their strict terms or be litigated into destitution.” To be fair, Young doesn’t just single out Monsanto. He takes on Wal-Mart, Chevron, Citizens United and Starbucks, just to name a few.

Last fall, Young made a very public boycott of Starbucks over its (and Monsanto’s) alleged support of the Grocery Manufacturers Association’s lawsuit to prevent Vermont from accurately labeling food. In April, a judge upheld Vermont’s GMO-labeling law while the case continues.

And unless you’ve been living in an off-grid community in the middle of nowhere (if so, that’s awesome), then you are probably aware that Pope Francis released an encyclical earlier this month. In that encyclical, the religious leader did not mince words when it came to the dire need for immediate action on climate change.

Published in Guest Commentary


aaaMarriageRings(Photo: Jeff Belmonte)From 1956 until 2010, CBS television's daytime lineup included America's longest-running soap opera: "As the World Turns." But times change, and now a real-life human drama of profound importance has debuted in America: "As the Generations Turn."

It's the inspiring story of our society's continuing struggle to evolve toward dignity and mutual respect ... as well as love. The moment came on June 26, 2015, when Justice Anthony Kennedy proclaimed from the ornate chamber of the Supreme Court: "The right to marry is a fundamental right inherent in the liberty of the person, and under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the 14th Amendment couples of the same sex may not be deprived of that right and that liberty."

Kennedy and Justices Breyer, Ginsburg, Kagan and Sotomayor voted to make this higher level of inclusiveness the law of the land, but they are not the producers of it. Indeed, while the court's ruling debuts a new day, it is the culmination of generations of painful struggle by brave gay and lesbian activists and advocates. And it is particularly the product of a defiant and determined LGBTQ movement for equality that arose from the brutal police riot at the Stonewall Inn in New York on June 28, 1969.

This democratic evolution from rank inequality literally came out of America's closet, rising through only a few neighborhoods at first, but then entering the consciousness of today's youth. Rejecting the shibboleths, ignorance, fears and bigotry that previously permitted such intolerable discrimination, young people have, in a remarkably short amount of time, created a generational shift in the nation's consciousness.

The true Supremes are the people themselves, and it's their awakening enlightenment that has transformed marriage equality from taboo to simple justice.

Published in Guest Commentary


aaaBabySteps(Photo: EcoWatch. The time for timid visions and baby steps is over.)Last fall, we wrote an article explaining why zero has become the most important number for humanity. Since that time, zero emissions has been embraced as an idea that’s time has come by nearly 120 countries, leading European companies, high-profile CEOs, two Pontifical Academies, climate visionaries like Al Goremainstream media outlets and, if you can believe it, even the leaders of the G7. We now address the critical issue of timelines.

Currently, the two target dates most commonly cited for achieving zero greenhouse gas emissions are 2050 and 2100. Given the extreme weather weirding we are witnessing at current levels of pollution, we shudder to think what 35 years—let alone 85 years—of continued emissions will bring. Everyone can see that the climate is already on steroids and wreaking havoc.

The urgency of our planetary emergency requires that we transition from fossil fuels to renewables not in decades, but in years. We must move beyond what conventional wisdom views as politically feasible to what this existential crisis truly demands: an all hands on deck societal mobilization at wartime speed.

To be clear, we are not suggesting ending the use of fossil fuels tomorrow. Decarbonizing our industries, homes, transportation, power generation and food production will take time, probably longer than 2020. Let’s hope it doesn’t take us until 2030. But we must make this transition as quickly as humanly possible.

In 2011, an unprecedented coalition of planetary protection leaders called on the presidents of the U.S. and China to declare a global climate emergency by launching a wartime-like mobilization to cut carbon emissions 80 percent by 2020. Because that urgent call was not heeded, we have lost precious time in the race to save civilization, and must now set our sights even higher.

Published in Guest Commentary


aaaRing(Photo: Name)Never known for being particularly gracious losers, Christian Right leaders and organizations issued statements that didn't mask their frustration and outrage after the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, which extended marriage equality rights to gays and lesbians. Behold some of the headlines:

* "Rogue Court Rejects Rule of Law: American Family Association Says SCOTUS Decision Abandons Rule of Law, Imperils Religious Liberty" -- American Family Association.

* "Supreme Court's Marriage Ruling is Shocking Abuse of Power, Will Never Be Accepted" -- Family Research Council

* "SCOTUS Marriage Decision Opposes Biblical Truth and Religious Liberties; America Will Suffer Consequences" -- Dr. Alex McFarland.

* "Court Contradicts Constitution: As Culture Moves Further From God's Truth, Ruling is Wake-Up Call to Pastors and Churches" -- American Pastors Network.
And of course there was the obligatory pitch for money: "Your gift to protect family and freedom is more crucial now than ever!" said Tom Minnery, CitizenLink.

Published in Guest Commentary


aaaKidEcoWatch(Photo: EcoWatch)In an unprecedented decision, a judge in Washington State has ruled in favor of a group of young people who filed a lawsuit last year asking that the state be required to develop a science-based plan for limiting carbon emissions in order to protect the climate for future generations.

The lawsuit, Zoe & Stella Frazier v. Washington Department of Ecology, was brought last year by eight teens and preteens, the youngest nine years old, who filed a petition last June with the Department of Ecology, requesting that it develop a rule “to recommend to the legislature an effective emissions reduction trajectory that is based on best available climate science and will achieve safe atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide by 2100.”

“Youth petitioners hereby submit this petition for rulemaking on behalf of themselves, the citizens of the State of Washington, and present and future generations of children,” it said.

Last August, the Department of Ecology denied the petition although it did not deny the scientific basis for it. The petitioners filed an appeal, arguing that they had a right to grow up in a healthy environment. King County Superior Court Judge Hollis Hill agreed with them and ordered the Department of Ecology to reconsider their petition and report back to the court by July 8 whether it will consider the science necessary to climate recovery.

“Washington State’s existing statutory limits should be adjusted to better reflect the current science,” wrote Hill in her decision. “The limits need to be more aggressive in order for Washington to do its part to address climate risks.”

Published in Guest Commentary
Wednesday, 24 June 2015 11:02

Jim Hightower | "The Donald Show"


aaaDonald(Photo: The Donald, photo by David Shankbone)Oh, joy! Oh, goody! Oh, happy day! For those of us who love the loopy side of American politics, our dream of some serious loco for 2016 has arrived: Donnie Trump in the race! For president. Of the United States. No, really!

"Wow," exclaimed a beaming Donald Trump as he stepped onstage, basking in the cheers of a throng that had assembled for his launch into the 2016 presidential race. "That is some group of people," he gushed. "Thousands."

He announced his candidacy from — where else? — Trump Tower, the luxury skyscraper on tony Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. The celebrity billionaire, who has splashed the Trump brand on casinos, hotels, resorts, condos, neckties and even steaks, now wants to put it on the Republican Party. Indeed, The Donald declared that he should be our president because, "We need somebody that can take the brand of the United States and make it great again." There you go — the U.S. is a brand, like a Big Mac, the Nike swoosh or Vidal Sassoon hair spray.

As for qualifications, Trump brandished his wealth, exclaiming that only someone "really rich" has what it takes to be America's CEO. This view that one's net worth is the measure of one's worthiness squares with an earlier self-assessment by Donnie: "Let me tell you, I'm a really smart guy."

Of course, smart is as smart does, so what does Mr. Smarty-pants propose to do as president? He claims he has "a foolproof way of winning the war with ISIS," the barbaric terrorists marauding through Syria, Iraq and elsewhere. Excellent! What is his plan? It's a secret, he says, "I don't want the enemy to know what I'm doing."

Published in Guest Commentary
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