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COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaCAdroughtEcoWatch(Photo: Tomas Castelazo)The Center for Investigative Reporting has outed California's biggest residential water users in The Wet Prince of Bel Air: Who Is California's Biggest Water Guzzler? The report, published earlier this month, found 365 California households each used more than 1 million gallons of water from April 2014 to April 2015.

"One million gallons is enough for eight families for a year, according to a 2011 state estimate, and many of California's mega-users pumped far more than that," says The Center for Investigative Reporting. "Of the total, 73 homes used more than 3 million gallons apiece, and another 14 used more than 6 million." The biggest user used a shocking 11.8 million gallons of water. City Lab points out that's as much water as 90 households use in an average year and enough water to fill 18 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

State officials would not reveal the names or addresses of these users out of privacy concerns. They would only give their zip codes. Bel Air tops the list with four of the five biggest water users in the state. The wealthy LA neighborhoods of Beverly Hills, Brentwood and Westwood round out the top 10.

"San Diego's posh La Jolla beachfront community" and the "affluent suburbs of Contra Costa County in the Bay Area" also have a high concentration of what The Center for Investigative Reporting refers to as "mega-users."

Published in Guest Commentary

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaacnndebatesAllowing presidential debates to be the exclusive property of a pay-TV channel is another step toward privatizing democracy. (Photo: Mohamed Nanabhay)

CNN aired the first Democratic debate last night, October 13. It also aired two Republican debates (a "main event" and an "undercard" debate) on September 16. On August 6, FOX held the first Republican debates (also televised in separate lower and upper tier candidate - based on polls - segments).

CNN bragged on its CNN Money site that "23 million [viewers] watched [the] GOP debate, a record for CNN." Adweek reported that 24 million viewers watched the first FOX GOP "main event" debate. As CNN Money stated in its article,

Historically the most popular events on TV have been shown by broadcast networks, not cable channels like CNN. According to Nielsen data, Wednesday's debate ranked as the #10 cable program ever, behind 8 college football games on ESPN and the Fox debate last month.

The Democratic debate viewership totals were not in at the time of the writing of this commentary, but an October 14 CNN Money article has already predicted that "preliminary Nielsen ratings indicate that CNN's Tuesday night debate was the highest-rated Democratic debate ever."

So the CNN and Fox cable news channels have enhanced their branding, audience and potential advertising and campaign advertising revenue by burnishing their images as "go-to" television political outlets - with the full cooperation of both major political parties who negotiated details of the debates with the two stations. 

Published in EditorBlog
Tuesday, 13 October 2015 10:45

Another Tea Party Assault on Democracy

CARL POPE OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaCarlPopeTeaParty(Photo: EcoWatch)The House Freedom Caucus is correct in lamenting that the media have trivialized their true goals by focusing on the personality of the next Speaker of the House. They are wrong to believe that a focus on their deep agenda would help their cause—for that agenda is to restore minority, not democratic, control of the “People’s House.”

The Tea Party wing of the House Republican party is seeking changes in the rules and procedures, changes designed to strip the Speaker of the ability to assemble a majority within the House and enable that majority to govern. They cloak their demands in the language of bottom-up democracy—let members offer whatever amendments they desire, let committees choose their own chairs, deny the Speaker the ability manage the flow of legislation on the House floor.

But their complaints about John Boehner’s leadership give away the game. Boehner, they claim, has betrayed conservatism by seeking legislative outcomes like lifting the debt ceiling or funding highways. These bills transparently enjoyed not only the support of a majority of the House, but a support of a majority of the Republican caucus. But to the Freedom Caucus these are treasonous compromises.

What the Freedom Caucus seeks is not more democracy, but a House in which a minority – actually 10 percent—of the House can shut down the government and destroy the full faith and credit of the U.S. government—unless in response to this blackmail wildly unpopular policies like defunding Planned Parenthood and repealing Affordable Health Care are part of the package.

Published in Guest Commentary

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaAmFlag(Photo: John P. Salvatore)American 'exceptionalism' exists in the minds of super-patriots who are more than willing to overlook their own faults as they place themselves above other people. The only question may be which of their self-serving hypocrisies is most outrageous and destructive. 

1. Corporations Hoarding $2 Trillion in Profits, Asking Taxpayers to Pay Their Employees' Wages 

Citizens for Tax Justice just reported that Fortune 500 companies are holding over $2.1 trillion in accumulated profits offshore for tax purposes, with estimated taxes due of over $600 billion. But high-profile businessmen Peter Georgescu and Warren Buffett both recently recommended that government subsidies be used to increase worker wages, and Marco Rubio agreed, suggesting that government should pay the sick leave for corporate employees. 

Georgescu proclaimed: "This country has given me remarkable opportunities.." In return, he concludes, taxpayers should "provide tax incentives to business." 

2. Mourning American Lives, But Not Foreign Lives 

Two days after President Obama expressed grief and anger about the Oregon school shootings, a hospital in Afghanistan was bombed by the U.S., killing 22 people. Our government admitted its mistake. But we haven't apologized for funding Saudi Arabia's attacks in Yemen, which are killing hundreds of civilians. Or for our drone strikes in Pakistan, which led one 13-year-old to say, "I no longer love blue skies...The drones do not fly when the skies are gray." 

Josh Earnest, the White House spokesman assured us that "If necessary, the President would implement changes that would make tragedies like this one less likely to occur in the future." But these are empty words. Professor Marc Herold'sresearch has shown that "as the U.S. bombs get smarter, civilian casualties increase." The military is encouraged to "drop bombs on sites which previously might not have been hit for fear of causing widespread civilian deaths."

Published in Guest Commentary

WALTER BRASCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaAR15MassShootings(Photo: TheAlphaWolf)Shortly after the mass murders at Umpqua Community College near Roseburg, Ore., President Obama predictedthe extreme right wing would crank out press releases declaring the nation needs fewer gun control laws and more guns.

The rabid pro-gun lobby didn’t disappoint him.

Shortly after the mass murders in a Charleston, S.C., church in June, NRA board member Charles Cotton, an attorney who fired his first shot when he was four years old, had claimedif the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, a state senator “had voted to allow gun owners to carry their own weapons [into churches], eight of his church members  . . . might be alive.” After the shootings in Oregon, Cotton saidhad the students been carrying guns, there would have been no mass murder. “How carefree do you have to be with all of the mass shootings that are going on throughout America to not have something as simple and convenient as a small knife when you go to class, let alone a gun with which to protect yourself?” Cotton asked.

The Republican presidential herd called for even more guns in a culture that has made Americans inured to violence. Presidential candidate Jeb Bush said, “Stuff happens.”

One absurdity of arming all of America is that there are no requirements that anyone with a gun needs to know how to use that gun. The possibility of any one person with a hand gun being able to react faster than the shooter, be more accurate than the shooter, or not accidentally wounding or killing others is high. Heavily armed police, better trained in weapons than most Americans, did not kill the shooter, who wore body armor; the shooter killed himself.

Published in Guest Commentary

KEN ROSEBORO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaGMopesticides(Photo: EcoWatch)As an Episcopal pastor, Dan Hinkle is a man of peace and faith, but the issue of genetically modified foods (GMOs) makes him angry.

“We don’t know the long-term effects of genetic engineering; this is a questionable process,” said Hinkle, who lives in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. “We have been force fed something we should not have been. People are being hurt by this technology. If GMOs are so safe and feed the world, why not tell us about it? These issues have gotten me fired up.”

Hinkle’s concern about GMOs led him to become a founding member of GMO Free Lancaster, a non-profit group that is working to ban GMOs and pesticides in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

Zoe Swartz, a mother, started the group after the first March Against Monsanto in May 2013.

“There was no one involved in the march in Lancaster so we started organizing,” she said.

Hinkle calls GMO Free Lancaster a “classic American grassroots organization of concerned citizens.”

Published in Guest Commentary
Wednesday, 07 October 2015 06:48

Jim Hightower | A Flagrant Liar for President?

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaCarly(Photo: Gage Skidmore)We've got a new darling in the GOP presidential race: Carly Fiorina!

Being the darling du jour, however, can be dicey — just ask Rick Perry and Scott Walker, two former darlings who are now out of the race, having turned into ugly ducklings by saying stupid things. But Fiorina is smart, sharp-witted, and successful. We know this because she and her PR agents constantly tell us it's so. Be careful about believing anything she says, though, for Darling Fiorina is not only a relentless self-promoter, but also a remorseless liar.

Take her widely hailed performance in the second debate among Republican wannabes, where she touched many viewers with her impassioned and vivid attack on Planned Parenthood. With barely contained outrage, Fiorina described a video that, she said, shows the women's health organization in a depraved act of peddling body parts of an aborted fetus. "Watch a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking," said a stone-faced Fiorina, looking straight into the camera, "while someone says, 'We have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.'"

Oh, the horror, the monstrosity of Planned Parenthood! And how moving it was to see and feel the fury of this candidate for president!

Only ... it's not true. Although she dared the audience, President Obama and Hillary Clinton to go watch it, turns out that there is no such video — no fetus with kicking legs and no demonic Planned Parenthood official luridly preparing to harvest a brain.

So did Fiorina make up this big, nasty lie herself, or did her PR team concoct it as a bit of showbiz drama to burnish her right-wing credentials and advance her political ambition? Or maybe she's just spreading a malicious lie she was told by some vicious haters of Planned Parenthood. Either way, there's nothing darling about it, much less presidential.

Published in Guest Commentary

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaMonsantoWheat(Photo: USDA)EcoWatch can exclusively confirm that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has ended its corporate partnership with Monsanto following the efforts of a group with surprising clout: Mom bloggers.

It appears that the severing between the divisive biotech company and the pediatricians association was spearheaded by Mamavation founder and “food activist” Leah Segedie, who confronted the AAP’s public affairs team after learning about this “unholy alliance,” according to a Mamavation blog post which first announced news of the split.

“I reached out to the AAP behind the scenes to discuss the negative impacts a company like Monsanto could have on their image,” Segedie told EcoWatch via email. “It was a very logical decision for them. I think it may have felt like breaking up with a bad boyfriend that never calls.”

A few months after Segedie first made contact, the AAP’s public affairs team informed her that the organizations had decided to cut ties.

EcoWatch contacted the AAP and confirmed that the academy will not renew its corporate partnership with Monsanto. According to a source at the organization familiar with the decision, the AAP regularly reviews its partnerships to make sure these companies have values that “align with what the Academy believes is in the best interest of children’s health.”

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaOKC(Photo: Leonard Brakebill)In late-September, Thomas David Deegan, a man described by authorities as an anti-government sovereign citizen, was arrested and accused "of plotting to overthrow the state government in West Virginia, hoping to establish a prototype for extremists to follow in other states," the Southern Poverty Law Center reported. At the same time, the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, issued a report "advising contractors, property inspectors, Section 8 housing administrators and Realtors how to recognize antigovernment sovereign citizens occupying vacant properties or using false deeds to support leasing."

In just seven years, the Sovereign Citizen movement, a movement that most Americans know little about, has vaulted to the top of the list of terrorist threats to the homeland according to a survey of law enforcement officials. Sovereign citizens has leaped over such better-known entities as local militias/patriots, environmental extremists, animal rights extremists, racist skinheads, neo-Nazis, and Islamic extremists, to grab the number one spot in a survey conducted by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism.

According to vox.com's Zack Beauchamp, "In a 2014 survey, the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) surveyed hundreds of law enforcement personnel at the state and local level, all of whom had training in intelligence gathering or counterterrorism. They were presented with a list of radical groups and asked to rate, on a scale of 1 to 4, how much they agreed that this group posed a terrorist threat to the US."

Given that the report was done last year before ISIS started grabbing headlines and before several mass shootings by homegrown white males, the list might look different today.

Published in Guest Commentary

COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaCoalMinersDon Blankenship’s, the former CEO of Massey Energy Co., trial started yesterday in what NBC News describes as “the biggest corporate accountability case in years.” Blankenship resigned as CEO eight months after one of its mines exploded in West Virginia in 2010, killing 29 miners.

Last November, a federal grand jury indicted Blankenship on charges that he deliberately flouted safety standards leading to the death of the 29 miners at Upper Big Branch Mine (UBB). He has been accused of “having tipped off managers about federal safety inspections ahead of time before the explosion and of having tried to cover up the company’s mismanagement after the explosion,” according to NBC News.

“Blankenship knew that UBB was committing hundreds of safety-law violations every year and that he had the ability to prevent most of the violations that UBB was committing,” the indictment said. “Yet he fostered and participated in an understanding that perpetuated UBB’s practice of routine safety violations, in order to produce more coal, avoid the costs of following safety laws and make more money.”

The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration investigation in 2011 revealed that “broken equipment failed to douse a small methane gas fire, which ignited coal dust in a giant blast that ended up as the deadliest U.S. mine accident in more than 40 years.” Blankenship, to this day, denies any wrongdoing.

Published in Guest Commentary
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