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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
Wednesday, 13 July 2016 15:02

Trump vs. the World on the Climate Crisis

STEFANIE SPEAR OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Glacier 0713wrp opt(Photo: Luca Galuzzi)A groundbreaking study was released today by the Sierra Club Political Committee showing Donald Trump would be the only world leader to deny the science and dangers of climate change if elected president. The data in the report shows that Trump could possibly be the only world leader not calling for urgent climate action.

"Donald Trump's failure to acknowledge basic climate science wouldn't just leave him isolated on the world stage as president, it would undermine our relationships with key allies and threaten our ability to work effectively internationally," Sierra Club Global Climate Policy Director John Coequyt said.

"Trump's climate science denial would make him a global laughingstock if it wasn't so dangerous. Every single leader on Earth—from Germany to India to Somalia to Japan—recognizes that the climate crisis is happening and demands the world's attention, but Trump is sticking his head in the sand while the seas are rising."

The report shows a global consensus on climate change among world leaders and provides comprehensive research that identifies attributable, verifiable statements, quotes and actions from current world leaders, including Heads of State and Heads of Government. They all acknowledge climate science and the need for climate action. Many of the nations mentioned in the report have signed the Paris climate accord and submitted their climate plans to the United Nations.

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL QUIGLEY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Bullets 0713wrp opt(Photo: Thewellman)“Put those damn weapons down. I'm not going to tell you again, goddamn it. Get those goddamn weapons down.” That was the first command of one of Louisiana’s most revered figures, General Russell Honore, when he arrived in New Orleans in 2005 to direct the military recovery after Hurricane Katrina. The General’s directions have not been followed in Baton Rouge.

Since the police killing of Alton Sterling, thousands of people in Baton Rouge have been non-violently protesting day and night all over the city. There has been no arson in Baton Rouge, no looting, no burning cars, no windows broken, and no people beaten. Police report that a rock or other material was thrown at them but there is no video of such action nor have there been any arrests for such actions.

Despite these non-violent protests, around 200 people have been arrested and the police have shown a militarized and aggressive response.

When Ferguson police showed a militarized response to protestors, General Honore was again plainspoken. "Any time we have policemen pointing weapons at American citizens, they need to go through retraining." Baton Rouge police, who have a documented history of brutality, clearly need retraining.

After Ferguson, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) issued a scathing report on the police response to protests in Ferguson and they came up with numerous recommendations for law enforcement.   While the police have smartly pulled back from protests at the scene of the Sterling killing, many of the DOJ recommendations are being ignored in other protests around Baton Rouge.

Published in Guest Commentary

GWENDOLYN WU OF TAKEPART ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Styrofoam 0708wrp opt(Photo: Acdx)San Francisco residents will soon have to drink their to-go cups of coffee out of something else, because those soft Styrofoam cups will be no more.

The San Francisco County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a ban last week on the sale of polystyrene foam, popularly known by the trademarked name Styrofoam. Foam packing, cups and mooring buoys will be prohibited starting Jan. 1, 2017.

"I just passed the toughest anti-Styrofoam law in the country and we did it unanimously," Board of Supervisors President London Breed wrote on her Facebook page after the vote. "This is a huge step for our environment and health. San Francisco is on our way to leading the country on environmental policy—again!"

Breed spearheaded the latest ban, extending a 2006 ordinance that ordered prepared-food merchants to stop using all polystyrene containers. Plastic foam products for crafts and insulation will not be affected by the ban.

"The reason why this was passed is that it's not practically recyclable, causes a unique harm in the environment and there were better alternatives," Jack Macy, commercial zero waste senior coordinator for San Francisco's Department of the Environment, told TakePart.

Polystyrene disintegrates slowly in landfills, taking centuries to break down entirely. There are a few polystyrene recycling centers in San Francisco, such as GreenCitizen and Recology, but they can only make a small dent in the 25 billion polystyrene to-go cups Americans throw away annually.

Published in Guest Commentary
Wednesday, 06 July 2016 14:26

Zero-Waste Markets Hit the US

KATIE POHLMAN OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Fillery 0706wrp opt(Photo: EcoWatch)Zero-waste markets are coming to the U.S. While very popular in Europe, this trend in grocery shopping isn’t as well known in North America.

The Fillery, brainchild of Sarah Metz, is “a place where one fills empty containers with goods, such as grains, nuts, seeds, coffee, tea, spices, oils and the like,” according to the shop’s KickStarter page. Customers can bring their own reusable containers to the shop or purchase compostable ones to place their products in.

“We aim to improve the health of our community in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, and the environment by offering alternatives to the plastic entombed, chemical laden options which are ubiquitous in both pantries and landfills worldwide,” reads the KickStarter page.

Metz’s motivation for The Fillery came after a self-realization, she wrote in her KickStarter bio.

After lots of experimenting with recipes from my extensive library of cookbooks (thanks, mom!), I’ve acquired a cabinet full of ingredients that will likely go bad before I finish them. A few days ago, I counted 10 types of flour in my cupboard. I see at least four problems with this: 1. food waste is a huge problem. 2. packaging waste is a huge problem 3. it is expensive, and 4. it takes up too much space in my tiny Brooklyn kitchen. Combine this with my frustration in trying to find conscientiously sourced, responsibly packaged, healthy groceries nearby, and you have my motivation for The Fillery.

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL QUIGLEY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Prison 0606wrp(Photo: Andreas Bohnenstengel)Voice of the Ex-Offender (VOTE) and 8 individuals filed a class action voting rights challenge for 70,000 people in Louisiana saying they are illegally prohibited from voting. The VOTE suit charges that the Louisiana legislature wrongfully and unconstitutionally passed a law disallowing people convicted of felonies from voting if they are on probation or parole. 

VOTE’s suit points out that the Louisiana Constitution only prohibits people who are “under an order of imprisonment” from voting and that this was intended only to prohibit people actually in prison or escapees from voting. The VOTE suit further notes that the Louisiana state constitutional convention voted down an attempt to restrict voting for people on probation.  

The class action lawsuit was filed on behalf of the 70,000 people in Louisiana who are probation or parole. The US Department of Justice reports over 41,000 people in Louisiana are on probation and over 27,000 are on parole. It was filed in Baton Rouge and names the State of Louisiana, the Governor and the Secretary of State as defendants.

VOTE is an organization that began in 1987 as the Angola Special Civics Project, a group at the Louisiana Penitentiary run by prisoners who had become paralegals. VOTE, now run by Norris Henderson, was officially created in 2003 when it focused on voter registration for pre-trial detainees and people convicted of misdemeanors. Henderson is a nationally recognized expert in human rights for prisoners and ex-offenders.   

VOTE has registered thousands of people to vote. It educates the public about the collateral consequences of convictions that inhibit successful reentry. VOTE has partnered with Tulane Medical School to provide medical care for people leaving prison and has partnered with other organizations to win several recent victories including Ban the Box and a new public housing policy.

Published in Guest Commentary
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