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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

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaCrossified(Photo: Herrad of Landsberg)By recently unveiling its "Bigotry Map," which exposes "Anti-Christian Bigotry in America," the American Family Association, apparently tired of being monitored, tracked, and vilified, has decided to turn the tables on "anti-Christian bigots" in the United States, and do some tracking of its own.

On its website, a newly developed interactive map of the United States is marked by symbols identifying "groups and organizations that openly display bigotry toward the Christian faith." You can do a state-by-state search to discover which of these groups reside in your neck of the woods.

The symbols designate whether the group identified is part of the "Homosexual Agenda" – "Advocates for the legalization and promotion of same-sex marriage and viciously attacks Christians who exercise their First Amendment right to voice support for God's plan for marriage as between one man and one woman -- is out-and-out "Anti-Christian" – "Actively engages in the complete eradication of the Christian faith from society, government and private commerce. These groups file lawsuits and use intimidation to silence any reference to Christianity from the public square" -- is "Atheist" – "Does not believe in God and is critical of those who express their faith in public" – or "Humanist" – "Believes critical thinking and physical evidence are the sole basis for beliefs. Humanists believe science triumphs faith in issues of morality and decision-making."

The website also singles out four organizations, two of which deal directly with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues. They are the Human Rights Campaign; GLSEN; the Freedom From Religion Foundation; and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which has been a particular thorn in the side of the AFA ever since the SPLC labeled the AFA a hate group.

Published in Guest Commentary
Thursday, 26 February 2015 06:49

Peace Behind Barbed Wire: The Far Side of Fear

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBarbWire(Photo: Logan King)As media ownership converges and technology “unites” us, the concept of national identity grows ever easier to exploit — and therefore, I fear, increasingly, and dangerously, simplistic.

This is the war on terror. This is the war on crime. They march on, despite the magnitude of their failures. They march on . . . because America is tough. America is exceptional.

If our news and mass-entertainment outlets valued complexity and expansion of the national IQ, we wouldn’t go to war. We’d be building our lives on the far side of fear and the far side of cynicism, which is the only place where peace is possible.

It’s not like we aren’t doing that anyway, to a certain extent. But it only becomes news when visionary journalists — peace journalists — declare that it is, which is why, every year for the last seven years now, I have written about and celebrated Chicago’s Peace on Earth Film Festival, which showcases extraordinary films that step beyond the simplistic myth of good vs. evil, us vs. them. This year the festival is scheduled for March 19-22 at the Chicago Cultural Center; as always, it’s free of charge.

“I was a thief, I was a manipulator, I was a con. I had lost all contact with my heart.”

So it is in this context that I reflect on the words of Lisandro Martinez, quoted above, and the words of a dozen other prisoners and ex-prisoners at Dominguez State Jail in San Antonio, Texas, who were among the participants in a class at the prison run by volunteers and called, of all things, Inner Peace. It almost doesn’t sound possible — a class like this at a place where we corral bad guys, “offenders,” criminals — much less that it could be effective.

Published in Guest Commentary

HARVEY WASSERMAN OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaDiabloNuke(Photo: EcoWatch)New revelations about earthquake dangers have shaken the future of California’s Diablo Canyon nukes.

In a rare move, Washington DC’s Federal U.S. Court of Appeals will hear a landmark challenge to their continued operation.

The suit says Diablo’s owners illegally conspired with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to weaken seismic standards. “This is a big victory,” says Damon Moglen of Friends of the Earth. “The public has a right to know what the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Pacific Gas & Electric won’t admit—hundreds of thousands of people are put at immediate risk by earthquake danger at Diablo Canyon.”

Diablo is also vulnerable on state and federal water quality regulations, economic concerns and more. Citizen activism has also shut operating reactors at Humboldt, Rancho Seco and San Onofre. Proposed projects have been cancelled at Bodega Bay and Bakersfield.

California’s two remaining reactors are surrounded by more than a dozen seismic fault lines. The Shoreline fault runs within 600-700 yards of the Diablo cores, which also sit just 45 miles from the massive San Andreas fault—half Fukushima’s distance from the epicenter of the quake that destroyed it.

Published in Guest Commentary

STEVEN JONAS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaGod(Photo: Cima da Conegliano)It was in 1832 that the first Nullification Crisis occurred. Oddly enough, it was not about slavery, but rather about money. In 1828 and 1832 Congress had passed two acts establishing protective tariffs, which benefitted the manufacturers of the North and harmed the agricultural interests of the South. South Carolina was the state that was most upset about this state of affairs.

The leading politician in South Carolina, John C. Calhoun actually resigned the Vice-Presidency so that he could more effectively lead the opposition to the tariff legislation. The South Carolina legislature passed a law that if the objectionable tariffs were not reduced further (they had been reduced between the 1828 act and the one of 1832) South Carolina would resist their collection by force of arms. The President was Andrew Jackson, a fellow Southerner to Calhoun and a slave-owner. He would have none of it and got Congress to pass a law authorizing him to use force if South Carolina did the same. In the end, the tariffs were reduced a bit further, both sides backed down, and violence was averted.

The next nullification crisis, in 1861, led to the First Civil War. This one was not over something that the Federal government had actually done, but what it, under Lincoln, the Federal government might do. Lincoln was a strong opponent of the expansion of slavery to the Territories (although he had made a clear pledge not to interfere with slavery in those states in which it existed at the time). Nevertheless, as is well-known, well before Lincoln was inaugurated, led by South Carolina, 11 states seceded and . . . . Other attempts at nullification or one sort or another took place in the South around the issue of school integration (see Gov. Faubus in Arkansas and Gov. Wallace in Alabama).

Now we are faced with another act of nullification by an organ of state government, the State’s Supreme Court in the person of its Chief Justice, against the Federal judiciary in general and the Supreme Court of the United States in particular. Interestingly enough, the issue this time around is neither money nor slavery but rather the role of theism in making both Federal and state law.

Published in Guest Commentary

KEN JOHNSON OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaSolarPanels(Photo: EcoWatch)Mark Twain said it best, there are “lies, damned lies and statistics.” It’s hard to tell which is which after closely reviewing the latest hatchet job on solar energy by the Koch brothers’ front group, The Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA).

Aside from spelling solar correctly, much of the report, Filling the Solar Sinkhole, is untrue or misleading—including its basic assertion that the U.S. solar industry receives $39 billion in annual subsidies. Seriously? How can that be? How can an industry with a U.S. market value of $15 billion receive $39 billion in annual subsidies? The answer: it doesn’t. This is fuzzy math, and dirty tricks, at their very worst. But that shouldn’t come as a surprise. The purpose of this report isn’t to inform or educate. The purpose is to incite activists and generate scandalous headlines, when, in fact, no scandal exists.

According to PV-Tech’s John Parnell, who did a thoughtful analysis, “The report doesn’t make it clear how it arrived at the $39 billion figure. Of the 26 references cited in the report, 16 of them are from organizations that were either founded by the Koch brothers, or have received funding from them.”

Enough is enough. If clean energy critics want a bare knuckle brawl, then they’re going to get one. This type of guerrilla warfare simply isn’t going to work. Americans overwhelmingly support clean, renewable solar energy—and that scares the hell out of the Koch brothers and their lackeys. Here’s the dirty little truth: few industries benefit more from the U.S. tax code than carbon-rich big oil. By their own estimates, oil and gas tax breaks amount to a staggering $100 billion over 10 years. So how do the Koch brothers divert attention away from this? They prod conservative groups, many of which they fund directly or indirectly, to attack clean energy. If it served their purposes, they would portray Snow White as an adulteress, a deadbeat and a crack queen.

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaPeaceImagine(Photo: Adam Zivner)We’re watching Katy Perry’s Super Bowl half-time show and out pops Missy Elliott, and she’s wearing a Jumpsuit, and there, on the left thigh of her outfit, is what looks like a peace symbol. While it may be a little incongruous/bizarre in this age of US acts of war, terrorist beheadings, US Drone strikes and other acts of state and non-state violence to think about the Peace Symbol, Elliot’s outfit reminded me that fifty-seven-years after its creation, the Peace Symbol is still found even in the most unlikely of places, i.e. the National Football League’s 49th Annual Super Bowl.

Over the years, the Peace Symbol has endured charges by the far right, including the John Birch Society, which claimed that it was “associated … with a broken cross, Communism, [the] anti-Christ, and Satanism,” and it has survived twentieth, and now twenty-first, century crass commercialism.

People wear the peace symbol – as jewelry, and on shirts, scarves, dresses, raingear; carry it around on their lunchboxes, book bags, umbrellas; and, I am guessing here, more than a few folks have it tattooed somewhere on their bodies. In short, the Peace Symbol has become as American as hot dogs, crappy television programs, income inequality, and mass shootings.

Few, however, know of its origins. I know this to be true because I have occasionally stopped a peace symbol wearer, and after mentioning that I admired their peace symbol, I‘ve asked them if they knew of its derivation. The question invariably draws a smile, and a blank look.

Published in Guest Commentary

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBlood(Photo: Crystal)Good and evil leap from the headlines: “Egyptian planes pound ISIS in Libya in revenge for mass beheadings of Christians.”

It’s nonstop action for the American public. It’s the history of war compressed into a dozen words. It’s Fox News, but it could be just about any mainstream purveyor of current events.

Once again, I feel a cry of despair tear loose from my soul and spill into the void. Our politics are out of control. There’s no sanity left — no calmness of strategic assessment, no impulse control. At least none of that stuff is allowed into the mainstream conversation about national security, which amounts to: ISIS is bad. The more of them we (or our allies of the moment) kill, the better. USA! USA!

We’re in a state of perpetual war and have no intention of escaping it. Certainly we have no intention of critiquing our own actions or — don’t be silly — questioning the effectiveness of war, occupation or high-tech terror (think: “shock and awe”) as a means to create a stable, secure world. The interests of war have dug in for the long haul, fortified by the cynicism of the media they own. The voices of reason cry from the margins. When a trickle of sanity finds its way into the mainstream, it’s mocked until it goes away.

Published in Guest Commentary

HARVEY WASSERMAN OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaDavisBesse(Photo: EcoWatch)As the world’s nuke reactors begin to crumble and fall, the danger of a major disaster is escalating at the decrepit Davis-Besse plant near Toledo, Ohio.

Now the plant’s owners are asking the Ohio Public Utilities Commission to force the public to pay billions of dollars over the next 15 years to subsidize reactor operations.

But Davis-Besse’s astonishing history of near-miss disasters defies belief. Its shoddy construction, continual operator error and relentless owner incompetence would not be believed as fiction, let alone as the stark realities of a large commercial reactor operating in a heavily populated area.

Time and again Davis-Besse has come within a fraction of an inch and an hour of crisis management time. Today its critical shield wall is literally crumbing, with new cracks opening up every time the northern Ohio weather freezes (like this week).

The company’s owners have blacked out the entire Northeast including 50 million customers—the largest such disaster in world history.

Published in Guest Commentary

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBastille(Photo: "The Storming of the Bastille," de Launay)If revolution is to happen, we Americans must be made aware of the destructive failures of the free-market system, and we must be angry enough to act, and, most of all, we must agree on a single demand of the people with money and power who have perversely redistributed our national wealth. First some maddening facts:

1. For Every BILLION DOLLARS of New Stock Market Wealth, Most of Us Averaged ONE DOLLAR in Stock Gains

In the six years since the recession the stock market has risen by $8 trillion, the great majority of it going to the richest 10%. In 2013 alone it rose by $5 trillion. On average, each of us in the bottom 90% earned a dollar every time the market went up another billion. (Details here.)

2. Each Year Since the Recession, the "Upper Class" (Richest 10%) Has Accumulated Enough New Wealth to Pay the Total Cost of Social Security Four Times Over

The upper class is defined here as the top 10%, families with minimum wealth of $660,000 and minimum income somewhere between $114,000 and $140,000.

Social Security too expensive? Not in comparison to the flow of wealth to the upper class, many of whom, at the lower end of the 10%, may not consider themselves rich, but have still benefited. In the six years since the recession these 16 million families have increased their wealth by $4 trillion per year, which is more than four times the cost of Social Security.

Published in Guest Commentary
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