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Tuesday, 26 July 2016 14:39

Offshore Wind Powers Ahead in Europe

CLIMATE NEWS NETWORK OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

WindFarm 0726wrp opt(Photo: EcoWatch)A building boom is underway offshore in Europe. Up to 400 giant wind turbines are due to be built off the northeast coast of the UK in what will be the world's largest offshore wind development.

Output from the Dogger Bank project will be 1.2 Gigawatts—enough to power more than 1 million homes.

Next year, a 150-turbine wind farm off the coast of the Netherlands is due to start operating and other schemes along the Dutch coast are in the works.

Denmark, Sweden and Portugal are major investors in offshore wind and China has ambitious plans for the sector.

Wind farms—both onshore and offshore—are seen as a key ingredient in renewable energy policy and an important element in the battle against climate change.

Published in Guest Commentary

SANDRA STEINGRABER OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Bell 0726wrp opt(Photo: Bev Sykes)At high Noon Sunday, with temperatures heading toward 95 degrees, I'm confident I was not the only one preparing to march through the streets of downtown Philadelphia who recalled that old elementary-school story about the wig-wearing drafters of the Declaration of Independence huddled inside of Independence Hall on a sweltering July day.

In fact, on the eve of the Democratic National Convention (DNC), Independence Hall was the literal destination of this march to declare our independence from fossil fuels.

In spite of the dangerous heat—or maybe precisely because there are now simply way too many extremely hot days like this one—marchers showed up in huge numbers and they brought with them a revolutionary frame of mind.

Convened by Pennsylvanians Against Fracking and Americans Against Fracking—for which I serve as science advisor—the March for a Clean Energy Revolution attracted more than 10,000 people and was endorsed by more than 900 environmental, health, labor, political, faith, justice, indigenous and student organizations groups from all 50 states of the union.

The day kicked off with a press conference at city hall that featured local and national advocacy leaders as well as individuals from communities decimated by various fossil fuel extraction, transport and storage projects.

Published in Guest Commentary

HARVEY WASSERMAN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Ballot 0725wrp opt(Photo: Anthony)As the Democratic Convention opens in Philadelphia, there’s just one one clear message that matters from the Republicans: Donald Trump will be within ten points of Hillary Clinton in the fall election. 

Thus, unless the Democrats do something about the issue of election protection, it will be within the power of key GOP swing state governors to give Donald Trump the presidency.

For all its problems, the wildly disorganized and fractious gathering in Cleveland all boiled down to Trump’s final speech. It was rambling and often incoherent. But it delivered the classic strongman message: You need ME to protect you.

Given the chaos, violence, and injustice of imperial America in 2016, that message is almost certain to sell with enough Americans to keep Trump close enough to Hillary Clinton to allow the election to be electronically stripped and flipped.

In 2008 and 2012, Barack Obama was able to overcome these barriers with a huge popular margin in more states than the GOP could reasonably steal. 

This year, in a close election, given how the mechanics of our election system operate, the decision of who will enter the White House will be in the hands of the GOP governors of such swing states as Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Michigan, Iowa and Arizona. 

Those will be the only six votes that really count in November. Should all or most of these governors (with their GOP Secretaries of State) flip the vote count for Trump, he likely has a lock on the White House.

Published in Guest Commentary

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Terror 0725wrp opt(Photo: Polish Central Archives of Historical Records)As people gain in wealth, they depend less on others, and thus they have less reason to understand the feelings and needs of the less fortunate.

That makes it difficult to relate to people without jobs, and without proper housing, and without prospects for the future. It makes it difficult to understand that their states of deprivation and desperation can make them lash out against those they consider responsible for the injustices of extreme inequality.

The following are some of the reasons for violent 'blowback' reactions that are often called 'terrorism.' These reactions occur both globally and locally. By addressing them, we may be able to reduce some of the worst effects of our perverse wealth distribution.

Many Young Men and Women Feel Cheated and Terrorized

Barack Obama said, "When millions of people — especially youth — are impoverished and have no hope for the future...resentments fester."

But ISIS members are generally middle- or upper-class males in their 20s. Security expert Ömer Taspinar explains: "It is certainly true that breeding grounds for radicalism and terrorist recruitment emerge not necessarily under conditions of abject poverty and deprivation...It is precisely when people develop high expectations, aspirations and hopes for upward mobility that we have to pay more attention to the potential for frustration, humiliation and ideological radicalization."

As a recent report by Mercy Corps put it, "Young people take up the gun not because they are poor, but because they are angry."

A key factor is "relative deprivation." Educated young men with little chance for advancement are "frustrated achievers" who frequently turn to radicalism to express their discontent. In Tunisia, for example, a largely democratic state with relatively high literacy rates, thousands of young men once enamored by "Arab Spring" optimism have joined ISIS, in an apparent attempt to escape corruption and discrimination and a lack of meaningful job opportunities.

Published in Guest Commentary

KICK KENNEDY OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Kurt 0722wrp opt(Photo: EcoWatch)In 1988, my then Hyannis Port neighbor the late Kurt Vonnegut wrote a prescient letter to the Earth's planetary citizens of 2088 for Volkswagen's TIME magazine ad campaign. His seven points of advice are perhaps more relevant today than at any time in human history. We should keep this advice in mind this election year and adopt Vonnegut's recommendations while we still can.

Here's his letter:

Ladies & Gentlemen of A.D. 2088:

It has been suggested that you might welcome words of wisdom from the past, and that several of us in the twentieth century should send you some. Do you know this advice from Polonius in Shakespeare's Hamlet: 'This above all: to thine own self be true'? Or what about these instructions from St. John the Divine: 'Fear God, and give glory to Him; for the hour of His judgment has come'? The best advice from my own era for you or for just about anybody anytime, I guess, is a prayer first used by alcoholics who hoped to never take a drink again: 'God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.'

Our century hasn't been as free with words of wisdom as some others, I think, because we were the first to get reliable information about the human situation: how many of us there were, how much food we could raise or gather, how fast we were reproducing, what made us sick, what made us die, how much damage we were doing to the air and water and topsoil on which most life forms depended, how violent and heartless nature can be, and on and on. Who could wax wise with so much bad news pouring in?

Published in Guest Commentary
Thursday, 21 July 2016 11:43

San Diego Bans Plastic Bags

KATIE POHLMAN OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Bag 0721wrp opt(Photo: EcoWatch)The San Diego City Council voted Tuesday to ban single-use plastic bags at grocery stores, pharmacies and corner markets.

The goal of the new ordinance is to encourage shoppers to use reusable bags, decreasing the number of plastic checkout bags used every year. San Diego goest through roughly 700 million plastic bags a year, with only 3 percent of them being recycled, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

"The vast majority of plastic bags we see are entangled in the brushes next to our rivers and streams," said Kristin Kuhn, community engagement manager for San Diego Coastkeeper. "After every rain event, these bags clog and choke our city's already damaged waterways."

The city's ban would require grocery stores and other food retailers to charge at least 10 cents for each paper bag or for a sturdier bag, which often cost more.

"Stakeholders have worked tirelessly with local jurisdictions throughout the state to find a solution that makes sense for both the environment and businesses," said Sophie Barnhorst, policy coordinator for the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce. "A ban on plastic and a charge for paper has the potential to achieve maximal environment gain with minimal business disruption."

San Diego's ban—which drew wide support from advocacy organizations such as the Surfrider Foundation's San Diego County chapter and San Diego Coastkeeper as well as the chamber of commerce—makes it the 150th municipality in the Golden State.

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

BlackPower 0821wrp opt(Photo: Angelo Cozzi)A few years ago, in an interview with The New York Times' William Rhoden, National Football League Hall of Famer and longtime political activist Jim Brown said: "I think within the next three or four years, there'll be a major coming together of some Black athletes and entertainers to really have a platform that can bring about a whole different awareness." Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James took the stage at the beginning of the recent ESPY Awards ceremony, and made an impassioned call for an end to the violence, perhaps signaling that Black athletes were coming together to speak about racial inequities and social justice, as Brown predicted.

While it unclear what specific issues – other than violence -- the four National Basketball Association stars were talking about, their remarks, coming in the wake of the police killing of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the police killing of Philando Castile in suburban St. Paul, Minnesota, and the shooting deaths of five police officers at a Black Lives Matter rally in Dallas, their remarks were somber, eloquent, and moving.

"Generations ago, legends like Jesse Owens, Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali, John Carlos and Tommie Smith, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jim Brown, Billie Jean King, Arthur Ashe and countless others, they set a model for what athletes should stand for," said Paul, the Los Angeles Clippers' star point guard. "So we choose to follow in their footsteps."

Dwayne Wade, recently traded from the Miami Heat to his hometown Chicago Bulls said: "The racial profiling has to stop. The shoot-to-kill mentality has to stop. Not seeing the value of black and brown bodies has to stop. But also the retaliation has to stop. The endless gun violence in places like Chicago, Dallas, not to mention Orlando, it has to stop. Enough. Enough is enough."

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Cross 0718wrp opt(Photo: Brest)Despite months of hand wringing, public and private condemnations, expressing support for, and endorsing, other candidates, and a close inspection of his miniscule theological underpinnings, many conservative Christian evangelicals are finding their way back to Donald Trump, as nearly four-fifths of evangelicals are now saying they will vote for Trump. According to the Pew Research Center’s recent survey, “Evangelical voters are rallying strongly in favor of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.”

Examining the results of the Pew survey, The Christian Examiner’s Gregory Tomlin wrote: “Evangelicals aren’t just warming to Trump; they’re on fire for the candidate.” Not everyone has the same view of the survey. In her report, Christianity Today’s Sarah Eekhoff Zyistra maintained that evangelicals will vote for Trump, “But they aren’t happy about it.”

The announcement of Indiana Governor Mike Pence as Trump’s running mate – which came after the Pew survey was released -- will make it even easier for multitudes of evangelicals to back the ticket. “I think he’s a very safe pick for Mr. Trump and I think he’s someone who will be embraced enthusiastically by conservatives and evangelical Christians,” said Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr., an early Trump supporter.

In a somewhat surprising development, evangelical leaders and voters appear to be slightly more supportive of Trump at this point in the campaign then they were four years ago with Mitt Romney. “Now, fully,78% of white evangelical voters say they would vote for Trump if the election were held today, including about a third who ‘strongly’ back his campaign.”

Pew pointed out that “White evangelical Protestants make up one-fifth of all registered voters in the U.S. and roughly one-third of all voters who say they identify with or lean toward the Republican Party.”

Published in Guest Commentary

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Gold 0718wrp opt(Photo: Agnico-Eagle Mines)Their unspoken goal is a two-class nation, with a heavily armed security force to quell resistance from the more outspoken members of the lower class. It may be somewhat of an unwitting goal, since narcissistic wealth-takers, as they build their fortunes, tend to lose their ability to empathize with others.

Barack Obama said, "We are not as divided as we seem." But those are just feel-good words. A middle class still exists, but in weakened form, as many families from the once-dominant mainstream of society continue to move up or down, mostly down. The conspirators in the breakdown of the middle class have complementary roles that allow them to divide the country as they perpetuate the myth of prosperity for all.

Congress: The Kingpins

Gun control is the most flagrant example of Congressional disdain for the middle class. Over 90% of Americans want background checks, but Congress has failed to act. The House of Representatives even rejected an amendment that would have allowed research into causes of gun violence.

The list goes on and on:

Over 90% favor laws on clean air and water, but Congress has proposed to weaken them. Almost 80% want to increase Social Security benefits. 83% want Medicare to negotiate drug prices. Nearly 90% support mandatory labeling of genetically modified foods. About two-thirds of polled Americans believe corporations pay too little in taxes. 90% support the protection of public lands.

Based on a study of 1,779 policy issues, Princeton researchers Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page concluded that "the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy."

Published in Guest Commentary

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Racehorse 0715wrp opt(Photo: Jeff Kubina)An old cowboy aphorism offers this advice: "Speak the truth. But ride a fast horse."

I relived this truism last weekend in Orlando, Florida, where I spent two hot, muggy days wrangling over policy issues as one of the members of the Democratic Party's national platform committee. Depending on the moment and the issue, the experience was both invigorating and infuriating, with refreshing outbreaks of broad and bold democratic vision, interspersed with too many rigid, Tammany Hall tactics used to dictate corporate-friendly policies. Bernie Sanders' 40-percent minority of platform members (of which I was one) managed to "Bern" the platform with more than two dozen big and very important amendments. As a result, instead of the same old business-as-usual blah-blah of party platforms, Democrats and their nominee, Hillary Clinton, are now on public record in support of the most progressive policy agenda in decades.

More about those specific policies in a moment, but first, let's get on that horse.

The worst development at the Orlando meeting was the Clinton campaign's acquiescence to the wet dream of global corporate powers: The Trans-Pacific Partnership. The platform's draft language on this horrendous TPP trade scam actually seemed to endorse it! So Sanders' forces went all out to replace such a pusillanimous surrender with an amendment to flat-out kill TPP.

I sponsored the Sanders alternative, dubbing it "a form of political Viagra to stiffen the spine of our party." Our amendment prompted panicky parliamentary manipulations by Clintonites to doctor their language so it would be a bit less wimpy — and also to block my amendment from even being considered. But Sanders' savvy policy staff outflanked them, so we forced them to debate and vote on our proposal — in view of C-SPAN's national TV audience.

Published in Guest Commentary
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