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STEFANIE SPEAR OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaParisShoes(Photo: EcoWatch)More than 2,300 events spread across 175 countries took place this weekend prior to the Paris climate talks, which begin Monday. Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets demanding world leaders take urgent action on climate change.

The Global Climate March—including marches, concerts, rallies, workshops, bike rides and film screenings—had one clear message: “Keep fossil fuels in the ground and finance a just transition to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050.”

“The scale and diversity of today’s events are astounding,” said May Boeve, executive director of 350.org. “Worldwide people are ready for the end of fossil fuels and the dawn of renewables. World leaders can no longer ignore this urgent call for action as the climate crisis continues to unfold. It is time for them to stand on the right side of history.”

Published in Guest Commentary

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaApotheosisWarKoehler(Photo: Vasily Vereshchagin)"Since the people are sovereign under our Constitution . . ."

Ralph Nader writes in a recent essay that we should demand acknowledgement of this fact from our presidential candidates and ask what they will do to restore this sovereignty to the American people, in their various manifestations as voters, taxpayers, workers and consumers.

"Regardless of their affiliation with either of the two dominant parties," he writes, "politicians are so used to people being spectators rather than participants in the run-up to Election Day that they have not thought much about participatory or initiatory democracy."

"Spectator," "participant" . . . these are trigger words for me. I deeply fear the reckless ascendance of that first word in our cultural and political structures, as world events are increasingly reduced to reality TV mélanges of celebrity and violence. Meanwhile, the second word shrivels. This is America the superpower, its management the province of a shadowy consensus of corporate militarists.

"It's hard to run for President as an opponent of the permanent U.S. security state," writes Jeffrey Sachs. "Being a card-carrying member of the U.S. security establishment is the mainstream media's definition of a 'serious' candidate."

Go Hillary?

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COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaCruzDuh(Photo: Gage Skidmore)The Associated Press (AP) asked eight climate and biological scientists to grade (on a 0-100 scale) the comments of top presidential candidates for their scientific accuracy. To eliminate bias, the names of the candidates were removed from their comments, so the scientists were scrutinizing them merely on scientific grounds.

The Republicans did not fare as well. Jeb Bush was the only GOP candidate to receive a passing score of 64 percent. In dead last, at a mere 6 percent, was Ted Cruz.

“This individual understands less about science [and climate change] than the average kindergartner,” Penn State University professor Michael Mann wrote after reading Cruz’s statements before the candidates’ identities were revealed. “That sort of ignorance would be dangerous in a doorman, let alone a president.”

The other candidates’ percentages were as follows, according to the AP: Chris Christie, 54; John Kasich, 47; Rand Paul, 38; Carly Fiorina, 28; Marco Rubio, 21; Donald Trump, 15; and Ben Carson, 13.

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BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaTrumpCPACaaa(Photo: Gage Skidmore)Glendon Scott Crawford had an idea about how to deal with Muslims in America; build a weapon that would irradiate as many of them as possible. Pamela Geller is a professional anti-Muslim provocateur who in the spring, held a cartoon competition in Garland, Texas, to award the best cartoon mocking the Prophet Muhammad. While most conservatives aren't talking in "final solution" terms, and are not looking to intentionally provoke violence, the mindlessness of the marginalized is seeping into the mainstream. Ideas once thought of as unsuitable for serious discussion, anti-democratic and decidedly un-American are starting to take hold with the Republican Party.

Months ago, Donald Trump kicked off his campaign with slanderous comments about Mexican immigrants. Those comments played well with the base, and they became standard fare at his campaign events. However, since the horrific Paris murders, Trump has seized upon new actionable targets; Muslim Americans and Muslim refugees. Now, Trump is voicing support for shuttering mosques, creating a database for monitoring all Muslims, and re-instituting waterboarding. Ben Carson has declared no Muslim is worthy of being in his cabinet, let alone being elected president. Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush have advocated accepting only Christian refugees from Syria. And, just about every Republican Party presidential candidate, more than 30 governors (the vast majority from the GOP), and key sectors of the religious right are espousing their versions of keep the Syrian refugees out of the United States.

Ideas that were thought of as fringe, anti-American and anti-democratic are leading today's political debate within the Republican Party and, they seem to be gaining traction within the body politic.

Published in Guest Commentary

WALTER BRASCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaSyrianKids(Photo: Trocaire)Fear, laced with paranoia, is driving the American response against allowing Syrian refugees into the United States.

President Obama has said he would accept 10,000 refugees, all of them subjected to intense scrutiny before being admitted to the country. France, with a population about one-fifth that of the United States, despite the worst attack on its soil since World War II, will accept 30,000 refugees.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) told the Senate, "We are not a nation that delivers children back into the hands of ISIS because some politician doesn't like their religion." Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.), a Jew, said the nation should "not allow ourselves to be divided and succumb to Islamophobia," and that when "thousands of people have lost everything—have nothing left but the shirts on their backs - we will not turn our backs on the refugees."

They are among a minority. Only 28 percent of Americans believe the nation should allow Syrian refugees into the United States, according to an independent Bloomberg poll. Fifty-three percent say absolutely deny any Syrian refugee, and apparently anyone who is a Muslim, a place in the United States; 11 percent say admit only Christians; 8 percent aren't sure.

The governors of 30 states, mostly in the South and Midwest, have also said they don't want Syrian refugees in their states. Gov. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) has even ordered his state agencies to deny residence to two Syrian families who had undergone extensive background checks by the FBI and other agencies and were scheduled to be relocated in Indianapolis. The governors' opinion, fueled by politics not compassion, really doesn't matter; the acceptance and relocation of refugees fleeing oppression is a federal, not a state issue.

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JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaHiSpeedRail(Photo: Smiley.toerist)(Photo: Smiley.toerist)Practically every wealthy nation today is making major investments in building high-speed rail networks to transport their people: Japan, Canada, France, Russia, India, England, Morocco, Korea, Saudi Arabia, Italy, China, Mexico, Poland, Spain, Brazil, Germany, South Africa, Turkey and more. But not us, the wealthiest nation, with dozens of cities dotted across a continent with millions of people who need fast, convenient rail connection.

Why are we stuck in traffic on roadways and runways and left with a pokey, out-of-date rail system while nations with a small fraction of our resources — such as Morocco, Poland and Turkey — are cruising on HSR networks? Because our leaders sold us out to corporate hucksters who fed us ideological lies. Their fairy tale was that mass transit is creaky, inherently inefficient, and socialist — and that Americans deserve the independence that comes from a one-person-one-car doctrine.

As early as the 1930s, giant corporate consortiums formed to buy out more than 100 of America's very effective networks of streetcars and interurban train systems. Not to run them, but to rip out the tracks and pave over the rail right-of-ways to make roads. Likewise, corporate profiteers mounted a new offensive in the 1990s to undermine the higher-speed potential of Amtrak's Acela trains, hiring such Koch-funded front groups as Cato Institute, Heritage Foundation and Reason Foundation to spread hokey "analyses" that brand Amtrak as a slow train to collectivist hell. They also bought trainloads of politicians, who're still promoting the fabricated studies and talking points of the corporate-cabal to derail HSR proposals.

Despite attempts to kill the notion of a national passenger rail system, trains are only getting more popular. Here are just a few things that HSR would offer our county ...

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BILL McKIBBEN OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBillMc2(Photo: EcoWatch)This letter to the future by Bill McKibben is part of the Letters to the Future campaign, a national effort to encourage people from all walks of life to write six generations into the future about climate change. The campaign puts a spotlight on the importance of world leaders agreeing to a global climate treaty at COP21 in Paris.

Dear Descendants,

The first thing to say is, sorry. We were the last generation to know the world before full-on climate change made it a treacherous place. That we didn’t get sooner to work slowing it down is our great shame, and you live with the unavoidable consequences.

That said, I hope that we made at least some difference. There were many milestones in the fight—Rio, Kyoto, the debacle at Copenhagen. By the time the great Paris climate conference of 2015 rolled around, many of us were inclined to cynicism.

And our cynicism was well-taken. The delegates to that convention, representing governments that were still unwilling to take more than baby steps, didn’t really grasp the nettle. They looked for easy, around-the-edges fixes, ones that wouldn’t unduly alarm their patrons in the fossil fuel industry.

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BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaCuffsBerk(Photo: Klaus with K)This is a story about the ginned-up "superpredator" scare of the 1990s, the imprisonment of tens of thousands of black youth, and the survival of Reginald Dwayne Betts.

In the early 1990s, John Dilulio, a Princeton political scientist, coined the term "superpredator" to call attention to "stone-cold predators," "kids that have absolutely no respect for human life and no sense of the future." DiIulio and co-authors described these young people as "fatherless, Godless, and jobless" and as "radically impulsive, brutally remorseless youngsters, including ever more teenage boys, who murder, assault, rob, burglarize, deal deadly drugs, join gun-toting gangs, and create serious [linked] disorders." Criminologist James A. Fox warned of a juvenile "crime wave storm" and an impending "bloodbath" of teen violence.

Reginald Dwayne Betts was one of the teens caught up in the wave of imprisonment that resulted from these myths. Now, after a long, and sometimes tortuous journey that included eight and a half years in prison, he is now a poet, teacher and law student. He was born months before Ronald Reagan won the White House, and came of age during the Reagan/George H.W. Bush/Bill Clinton administrations, when crack cocaine saturated inner-city streets, fear reigned supreme, the criminalization of young black people became the order of the day, and "lock 'em up and throw away the key" was the criminal legal system's mantra.

Last year, The New York Times' "Retro Report" pointed out that the "superpredator jeremiads ... proved to be nonsense. They were based on a notion that there would be hordes upon hordes of depraved teenagers resorting to unspeakable brutality, not tethered by conscience ... Chaos was upon us, DiIulio proclaimed back then in scholarly articles and television interviews. The demographics, he said, were inexorable. Politicians from both major parties, though more so on the right, picked up the cry. Many news organizations pounced on these sensational predictions and ran with them like a punt returner finding daylight."

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COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaIceTurner(Photo: Doc Searls)Many young people, such as 13-year-old Hallie Turner, are worried that their generation will have to deal with the most intense consequences of unchecked climate change. That’s why Turner, an eighth-grader in North Carolina, is one of a number of young people across the country who is suing her state over its failure to address climate change.

Turner’s case is being brought forth by the help of Our Children’s Trust, an Oregon-based climate change nonprofit that has helped youth around the country file lawsuits at the state level and is also helping 21 young people sue President Obama and the federal government for violating the youngest generation’s constitutional rights to life, liberty and property by not addressing climate change. Attorneys from Duke University’s Environmental Law and Policy Clinic and Gayle Tuch, a Forsyth County lawyer, are also representing Turner.

“It’s important to me because I feel like this is an issue that impacts everyone,” Turner told The News Tribune. “And it’s an issue, it’s not only affecting me, but it’s affecting future generations.”

She’s challenging a decision made last year by the state’s Environmental Management Commission and pushing for the state to mandate that North Carolina reduce its carbon emissions by at least four percent each year. “Hallie’s not asking for more than what’s considered best available science,” said attorney Tuch.

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ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaCopViolence(Photo: Colocho)So South Carolina has a special crime category called “disturbing schools,” which seems to be creating just that: disturbing schools. Very disturbing schools.

Not that I need to single out South Carolina. In my brief stint teaching writing as an outside consultant in several Chicago high schools, some 20 years ago, I was smacked broadside with the observation that the city’s educational system exhibited the behavior of an occupying army, at least in its low-income neighborhoods. Education was something imposed from above and force-fed to the students like bad-tasting medicine. It didn’t honor the students’ own culture.

What the kids needed was a generosity of understanding that the education system had no interest in giving them, preferring to help them along on their journey to adulthood with zero tolerance and metal detectors.

What has happened to our national intelligence, not to mention our national values? In the era of cellphone accountability, our lack thereof has a new poster boy: Officer Slam. Throw the insolent kid across the floor, break her arm if necessary, slap her in cuffs.

This is how we teach respect. This is how we teach math.

“I was screaming ‘What the f, what the f, is this really happening?’” These are the words of Niya Kenny, the brave young woman who stood up to Officer Ben Fields as he manhandled her classmate this past Monday at Spring Valley High School, in Columbia, S.C. “I was praying out loud for the girl. I just couldn’t believe this was happening.”

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