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LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Kochs 0629wrp opt(Photo: EcoWatch)Billionaire oil barons Charles and David Koch are reaching into their deep pockets to fund Republican candidates in the tight Senate races in Ohio and Nevada, two states that have seen powerful political and corporate interests block progress in renewable energy.

According to NBC News, the Koch Super PAC Freedom Partners Action Fund has announced it will buy $2.7 million television and digital ads to help Ohio Republican incumbent Sen. Rob Portman defeat Democrat Ted Strickland in the key swing state. The candidates are currently locked in a dead heat with each polling at 42 percent.

This news comes after the Super PAC’s announcement last week that it is spending $1.2 million on advertising to boost Nevada Republican Rep. Joe Heck’s race against Democrat and former Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto to replace Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid. That race is also pretty much tied.

The Koch brothers have notoriously dumped wild sums of money on conservative causes and campaigns, with more than $88 million in traceable funding to groups attacking climate change science, policy and regulation. According to NBC News, the two latest $3.7 million ad buy brings the Super PAC’s spending to $19.3 million in an effort to control the Senate.

So who are the Koch-approved Senate choices for Ohio on Nevada?

Rob Portman, who has been in office since 2011, is a pro-business conservative who has a prominent track record of choosing fossil fuel interests over environmental protection. As Cinncinati.com reported, he was a vocal opponent to the Obama administration’s regulations to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and has introduced an amendment that would let states opt out of those clean power rules.

Published in Guest Commentary

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Eye 0627wrp opt(Photo: Alexageev)This year's freakish presidential election has now devolved into an ethnic brouhaha between two foreigners: A Mexican and a German.

The "Mexican" is Gonzalo Curiel. He's a federal judge who was actually born in Indiana, raised and educated as a Hoosier, and is presently presiding over a U.S. district court in San Diego. The German is Donald Drumpf, soon to be the Republican nominee for America's highest office. Drumpf has had fraud cases against him by former students of his Trump U (U as in "university"). These students who paid tens of thousands of dollars say they were conned out of their hard-earned money by Trump U. The judge presiding over this case is Gonzalo Curiel, and Trump the candidate recently became unhinged over the idea that "a foreigner" would be allowed to pass judgment on an upstanding American citizen like himself.

But, wait — Curiel is a full-blooded American citizen! No he's not, cried The Donald, he's "a Mexican," pointing to the jurist's family heritage. But, wait again — Donnie himself is not pure-blood Americano (only Native Americans can claim that). In fact, The Donald's forbearers have been in our country for only about 120 years. His grandfather, Friedrich Drumpf, immigrated to the U.S. from Kallstadt, Germany, about 120 years ago and Anglicized his name from Drumpf to Trump.

Still, the GOP's nativist and racist 2016 flag bearer insists that even though we Americans are proud to be a nation of immigrants, an American with Mexican genes should be disqualified from overseeing the fraud trials, for he'd inherently be biased against the candidate who has promised to "build a wall" between the U.S. and Mexico. So, does his screwy, self-serving claim that one's background trumps one's commitment to fairness also mean that a Muslim -American judge should also be disqualified from any trial of his wrongdoings, since the GOP presidential wannabe says he intends to ban all Muslim immigrants from entering the U.S.? "Absolutely," he said flatly.

Published in Guest Commentary

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Solar 0506wrp opt(Photo: US Bureau of Land Management)Missouri’s Department of Transportation (MoDOT) has announced plans to install solar panels at a rest stop alongside the iconic Route 66 as part of the department’s “Road to Tomorrow Initiative.”

The Historic Route 66 welcome center in Conway, Missouri will receive the nation’s first solar roadway panels on a public right of way.

“… part of why we picked this location is because of the the historic Route 66 concept,” Laurel McKean, MoDot assistant district engineer, told KY3. “You know, here’s one of the main roadways that’s iconic for the United States, and being able to use the history to create potentially the future.”

The panels were developed by Solar Roadways, an Idaho-based startup founded by Scott and Julie Brusaw.

Their project received tons of attention in 2014 after the world caught wind of the couple’s ambitious plan to harness the energy being soaked up by the country’s roads and parking lots all day. Their viral video “Solar FREAKIN’ roadways” has been viewed more than 21 million times to date.

KY3 reported that MoDot will first test out a 12-by-20 foot patch of panels on a sidewalk leading to the rest stop’s main entrance.

“This is kind of the first phase, and we hope in the future that we then can move it out into maybe the parking lot, and then maybe into a travel area,” McKean said.

Published in Guest Commentary

HARVEY WASSERMAN OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Diablo 624wrp opt(Photo: EcoWatch)As worldwide headlines have proclaimed, California’s Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) says it will shut its giant Diablo Canyon reactors near San Luis Obispo, and that the power they’ve been producing will be replaced by renewable energy.

PG&E has also earmarked some $350 million to “retain and retrain” Diablo’s workforce, whose union has signed on to the deal, which was crafted in large part by major environmental groups.

On a global scale, in many important ways, this marks the highest profile step yet towards the death of U.S. nuclear power and a national transition to a Solartopian green-powered planet.

For Californians, as we shall see, there’s an army of devils in the details, which cannot be ignored. But let’s deal with the big picture first.

The three most important lines on nuke power’s Diablo tombstone may be these ...

Published in Guest Commentary

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Oreo 0622wrp opt(Photo: Robbgodshaw)For generations, kids from age 3 to 100 have loved munching on chocolaty Oreo cookies dipped in a glass of milk. But just over a year, ago, the tasty treat suddenly went sour.

In May 2015, bakery workers in Nabisco's monumental 10-story plant in Chicago's Marquette Park neighborhood had been expecting some sweet news from their corporate headquarters. Rumor had it that their renown facility — after more than half a century and millions of Oreos — was about to receive a $130-million modernization investment to upgrade equipment and to add new production lines. So, the future looked bright and spirits were high on May 15 of last year when management convened members of Local 300 of the Bakery Workers Union to announce that the investment was indeed going to be made.

In Salinas, Mexico.

For decades, the Marquette Park community has been proud that the delectable smell of "milk's favorite cookie" wafts through their neighborhood. But the noses of Nabisco's corporate brass are clogged with greed, incapable of sniffing out anything but ever-fatter profits for themselves and other rich shareholders. Taking the NAFTA low road, they intend to move the iconic Oreo brand — and the jobs of 600 top-quality bakery workers — from Chicago to Mexico, where the minimum wage is a bit more than $4. Not per hour, but per day.

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

DT 0622wrp opt(Photo: Michael Vadon)Is it the end of the Christian Right as we know it, or is it the beginning of a beautiful relationship? Michael Farris, chancellor of Patrick Henry College, chairman of the Home School Legal Defense Association, and a longtime conservative evangelical leader, claimed in an op-ed piece for The Christian Post that the meeting of 1,000 conservative Christian leaders with Donald Trump “marks the end of the Christian Right.” Tim Wildmon, president of the American Family Association, believes that “it was admirable and honorable for Trump to meet with Christian leaders. [because] [h]e is not our enemy.”

About a thousand evangelical leaders met with Donald Trump in New York City on Tuesday, June 21, in a meeting convened by Dr. Ben Carson and an organization called My Faith Votes. According to The Washington Post’s Michelle Boorstein and Julie Zauzmer, “Trump won a standing ovation from hundreds of Christian conservatives who came to [the meeting] with a somewhat skeptical but willing attitude toward a man who has divided their group with comments on women, immigrants and Islam.”

The Christian Post’s Samuel Smith reported that Trump “told the crowd he has his religion to thank for the blessings that have been placed in his life.” Trump pointed out that he won several states with a high proportion of evangelical voters. And, he urged the attendees to pray for everyone but pray that the people vote for “one specific person”; that person being Trump.

"Some of the people are saying, 'let's pray for our leaders.' I said, 'You can pray for your leaders, and I agree with that, pray for everyone. But what you really have to do is pray to get everyone out to vote for one specific person,'" Trump said, according to a video posted by conservative Virginia pastor and founder of the S.T.A.N.D. conservative non-profit organization E.W. Jackson. "We can't be politically correct and say we pray for all of our leaders because all of your leaders are selling Christianity down the tubes and selling evangelicals down the tubes and it is a very bad thing that is happening."

Published in Guest Commentary
Monday, 20 June 2016 08:49

Donald Trump vs. the First Amendment

WALTER BRASCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Bill 0620wrp optIf Donald Trump should become president, don’t expect his administration to be a transparent one or one that tolerates dissent and believes in the First Amendment.

At his campaign rallies, even those held at public venues, he forbids, according to his press advisories, “homemade signs, banners, professional cameras with a detachable lens, tripods, monopods, selfie sticks, back packs or large bags.”

The restriction on “professional cameras” is targeted to the media. Apparently, he doesn’t want unflattering pictures of him and his extra large baggage mouth to get to the public, although he is adept at positioning himself in front of the media for every possible story angle. If he were president, he would not have a choice of who can and cannot photograph him, because the First Amendment guarantees that public officials cannot invoke a “prior restraint,” which is what a restriction on photography would be.

Why he doesn’t want “back packs or large bags” is probably because he fears weapons at his rallies. Of course, he has said numerous times that he believes in the Second Amendment right to own and carry weapons, even assault weapons like the handguns and semi-automatic assault rifles that were used to kill 26 at the Sandy Hook elementary school, the 14 killed in San Bernardino, and the 49 killed in an Orlando nightclub.

Not allowing the public to make signs and banners is such a huge violation of the First Amendment that even the most rabid conservatives, and every judge—no matter what their judicial or political philosophy is—would laugh themselves silly at Trump’s belief that as a president he could control the message, like he is doing as a candidate.

Published in Guest Commentary

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Justice 0620wrp opt(Photo: D. Gordon E. Robertson)While candidates bicker and Congress stagnates, the super-rich enjoy the absence of attention paid to one of our nation's most destructive issues.

The richest Americans are takers of social benefits. Yet they complain about paying 12% to 20% in taxes, even as respected researchers estimate an optimal revenue-producing rate of 80% to 90%, and even with the near-certainty that higher marginal tax rates will have no adverse effects on GDP growth.

The super-rich pay little in taxes because, as Senator Lindsey Graham said, "It's really American to avoid paying taxes, legally...It's a game we play...I see nothing wrong with playing the game because we set it up to be a game." In reality, it's a game of theft from the essential needs of education, infrastructure, and jobs.

The Richest Individuals Cheat the Most

According to a recent IRS report, an incredible $406 billion annual gap exists between owed and paid taxes, with individuals accounting for over three-quarters of the total, and with the most egregious misreporting coming from the highest income-takers.

That's about $3,000 per U.S. household in annual lost revenue. Yet even though the IRS retrieves well over $100 for every dollar in salaries paid to their agents, the agency has been rapidly losing staff, making the tax avoidance game a lot easier for the biggest cheaters.

Corporations Cheat Most Creatively

Relative to a dollar of payroll tax, corporations used to pay $3 in income tax. Now they pay 30 cents.

Exxon uses a theoretical tax to 'pay' its bill, and grandfatherly old Warren Buffett's company Berkshire Hathaway uses hypothetical amounts to avoid paying taxes.

Despite having billions in profits and nearly half of its sales in the U.S., Pfizer claimed enormous losses in the United States.

Each year the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) sells contracts worth about a quadrillion dollars, four times more than all the wealth in the world. Yet ZERO sales tax is paid on the purchases.

Published in Guest Commentary

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Bottle 0615wrp opt(Photo: Epipowell)Ocean plastic pollution is an increasingly devastating crisis, and this new infographic shows exactly where the plastic trash is coming from, where it ends up and why it’s important to start our fight against this environmental scourge at the beach.

The graph, provided by UK-based Eunomia Research & Consulting, shows that more than 80 percent of the annual input of plastic litter, such as drink bottles and plastic packaging, comes from land-based sources. The remainder comes from plastics released at sea, such as lost and discarded fishing gear.

Significantly, Eunomia was able to come up with a new estimate of annual global emissions of “primary” microplastics, such as microbeads, fibers or pellets. (“Secondary” microplastics are the result of larger pieces of plastic breaking down into smaller pieces.)

The firm calculated that emissions of microplastics range from 0.5 to 1.4 million tonnes per year, with a mid-point estimate of 0.95 million tonnes. Vehicle tires are the biggest culprits, releasing 270 thousand tonnes of debris into our waterways annually.

These tiny non-biodegradable pieces of plastic are a cause for worry, as they are being gobbled up by plankton and baby fish like junk food, and works its way up the food chain. Microplastics have been found in in ice cores, across the seafloor, vertically throughout the ocean and on every beach worldwide. As EcoWatch mentioned previously, microplastics are also very absorbent, meaning they pick up the chemicals it floats in.

Published in Guest Commentary
Wednesday, 15 June 2016 06:32

Jim Hightower: Who Says Crime Doesn't Pay?

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Bull 0615wrp(Photo: Aseba)Hey, can we all just stop complaining that our government coddles Wall Street's big money-grubbing banks?

Sure, they went belly-up and crashed our economy with their frauds, rigged casino games, and raw greed. And, yes, the Bush and Obama regimes rushed to bail them out with trillions of dollars in our public funds, while ignoring the plight of workaday people who lost jobs, homes, businesses, wealth, and hope. But come on, Buckos, have you not noticed that the feds are now socking the bankers with huuuuuge penalties for their wrongdoings?

Wall Street powerhouse Goldman Sachs, for example, was recently punched in its corporate gut with a jaw-dropping $5 billion for its illegal schemes.

Wow, $5 billion! That's a stunning amount that Goldman Sachs has agreed to pay to settle federal criminal charges over its shameful financial scams that helped wreck America's economy in 2008. That's a lot of gold, even for Goldman Sachs. It's hard to comprehend that much money, so think of it like this: If you paid out $100,000 a day, every day for 28 years, you'd pay off just one billion dollars. So, wow, imagine having to pull Five Big B's out of your wallet! That's enough to make even the most arrogant and avaricious high-finance flim-flammer think twice before risking such scams, right? Thus, these negotiated settlements between the Justice Department and the big banks will effectively deter repeats of the 2008 Wall Street debacle... right?

Actually, no.

Published in Guest Commentary
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