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JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaCAwater(Photo: fir0002)Residents of California have been warned by Governor Jerry Brown (D) that should they shower or water trees and gardens at an amount that exceeds the state’s mandatory limits (i.e. cutting urban water use 25 percent) they will be harshly penalized with water fines.

That’s a sensible rule given the fact that California is running out of water statewide. For instance, lakes are vanishing, rivers drying up and snowmelt levels are way below normal at 6%. Worse still, the state’s main source of groundwater is drying up from the consequences of global warming, primarily caused from industrialization and pollution.

California is facing the worst drought in history—so we get it. Be careful. Don’t waste water. Conserve. But I’d like to ask the Gov why the oil and gas companies can use as much groundwater as they want with impunity?

Ranchers would also like to know why fracking has a free pass to use up to 80 percent of the diminishing groundwater, while at the same time there’s not enough grass to feed horses and cattle. Why is the so-called “green” Governor giving the fossil fuel industry a free pass?  

Meanwhile, Californians only use 20 percent of the water supply for personal use. Eighty percent of the water in the state is used for fracking and Big Ag farming.

Published in Guest Commentary

COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaDesert(Photo: Tomas Castelazo)California gets most of the attention in drought news coverage because so much of the state is in exceptional drought—the highest level—but 72 percent of the Western U.S. is experiencing drought conditions, according to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor data.

When California’s snowpack assessment showed that the state’s snowpack levels were 6 percent of normal—the lowest ever recorded—it spurred Gov. Brown’s administration to order the first-ever mandatory water restrictions. California’s snowpack levels might be the lowest, but the Golden State is not the only one setting records. A new report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) finds that nine states reported record low snowpack. The report states:

The largest snowpack deficits are in record territory for many basins, especially in the Cascades and Sierra Nevada where single-digit percent of normal conditions prevail. Very low snowpacks are reported in most of Washington, all of Oregon, Nevada, California, parts of Arizona, much of Idaho, parts of New Mexico, three basins in Wyoming, one basin in Montana and most of Utah.

Only high elevation areas in the Rocky Mountains and Interior Alaska had normal or close to normal snowpack levels. “The only holdouts are higher elevations in the Rockies,” said Garen. “Look at the map and you’ll see that almost everywhere else is red.” Red indicates less than half of the normal snowpack remains. Dark red indicates snowpack levels are less than 25 percent of normal.

Published in Guest Commentary

DR. DAVID SUZUKI OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaKochBrosEcoWatchSuzuki(Photo: EcoWatch)Brothers Charles and David Koch run Koch Industries, the second-largest privately owned company in the U.S., behind Cargill. They’ve given close to US$70 million to climate change denial front groups, some of which they helped start, including Americans for Prosperity, founded by David Koch and a major force behind the Tea Party movement.

Through their companies, the Kochs are the largest U.S. leaseholder in the Alberta oilsands. They’ve provided funding to Canada’s pro-oil Fraser Institute and are known to fuel the Agenda 21 conspiracy theory, which claims a 1992 UN non-binding sustainable development proposal is a plot to remove property rights and other freedoms.

Researchers reveal they’re also behind many anti-transit initiatives in the U.S., in cities and states including Nashville, Indianapolis, Boston, Virginia, Florida and Los Angeles. They spend large amounts of money on campaigns to discredit climate science and the need to reduce greenhouse gases, and they fund sympathetic politicians.

In late January, 50 U.S. anti-government and pro-oil groups—including some tied to the Kochs and the pro-oil, pro-tobacco Heartland Institute—sent Congress a letter opposing a gas tax increase that would help fund public transit, in part because “Washington continues to spend federal dollars on projects that have nothing to do with roads like bike paths and transit.”

The letter says “transportation infrastructure has a spending problem, not a revenue problem,” an argument similar to one used by opponents of the transportation plan Metro Vancouver residents are currently voting on. Vancouver’s anti-transit campaign is led by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation—a group that doesn’t reveal its funding sources and is on record as denying the existence of human-caused climate change—along with Hamish Marshall, a conservative strategist with ties to Ethical Oil.

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaDanSavage(Photo: Weebot)If it seems like the Christian Right never runs out of Culture War targets, that's because the Christian Right never tires of the money-making, headline-grabbing Culture Wars. And, it's been a solid few months for the Christian Right with an uptick in activity: they're defending anti-gay laws in Indiana and Arkansas; continued railing against what they see as a coordinated attack on Christians in the U.S.; beseeched the Supreme Court not to make same-sex marriage the law of the land; supported more and more onerous anti-abortion legislation in the states; and doctored Texas text books to force students to view the Bible as an essential document of the Founding Fathers.

And now, they are about savaging Dan Savage!

An AFA Action Alert, posted Wednesday, April 8, is headlined "Disney/ABC Glorify X-Rated Bully Dan Savage In Prime Time Sitcom." The Alert features a Family Research Council "video montage" containing "examples" of Savage's "vitriolic hate speech"; "but be warned, they are extremely graphic and offensive."

To the folks at the American Family Association, Savage is "one of the cruelest, most vile political activists in America," Monica Cole, Director of OneMillionMoms.com, recently wrote in the AFA's The Stand. "A perusal of Dan Savage's work reveals a career built on advocating violence — even murder — and spewing hatred against people of faith. Savage has spared no one with whom he disagrees from his vitriolic hate speech. We have included examples in the link below, but be warned, they are extremely graphic and offensive."

The AFA's new battle is over a television program just announced by ABC-Disney developed by Savage and "disgustingly titled, 'Family of the Year'" Monica Cole pointed out. (Other reports have the show tentatively named "The Real O'Neals."

Published in Guest Commentary

ANASTASIA PANTSIOS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBigB(Photo: EcoWatch)This week, President Obama is launching a slew of new initiatives to focus on how climate change affects community health and how those effects can be better addressed. He kicked it off by declaring April 6-12 National Public Health Week to emphasize the importance of engaging the public health system as well as private companies and local governments to take action to mitigate the health impacts of climate change.

“We know climate change is not a distant threat,” said the White House press release. “We are already seeing impacts in communities across the country. And while most Americans see climate change hitting their communities through extreme weather events—from more severe droughts and wildfires to more powerful hurricanes and record heat waves—there are other threats climate change poses to the American people. In the past three decades, the percentage of Americans with asthma has more than doubled, and climate change is putting these individuals and many other vulnerable populations at greater risk of landing in the hospital. Certain people and communities are especially vulnerable, including children, the elderly, the sick, the poor and some communities of color. Rising temperatures can lead to more smog, longer allergy seasons and an increased incidence of extreme-weather-related injuries.”

To meet those challenges, the White House is kicking off a series of actions to engage various stakeholders, identify solutions, provide wider access to climate and health data and other significant information and make sure the next generation of medical professionals is trained to address the ways in which climate change is making people sick.

Published in Guest Commentary

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBeggar(Photo: Sidney Paget)At last, America's political leaders indicate that they now hear the voices and feel the pain of the poor and of the millions of working families slipping out of the middle class.

Congress had previously paid no attention to the ever-widening chasm between the rich and the rest of us, but that inequality has recently emerged as a top political topic in the race for such Republican presidential contenders as Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio. They are publicly lamenting the wealth gap and — by gollies — proposing solutions. Alas, though, the "solution" proposed by each of them is not to provide help for those who've been knocked down, but to offer aid to the same corporate elites who've been enriching themselves by knocking down the middle class and holding down the poor.

Specifically, their solution is to cut taxes on corporations and the rich, do away with environmental and labor protections and cut or privatize government programs — from Head Start to Social Security — that ordinary people count on. For example, Sen. Rubio proposes to kill the food stamp program (even though the need for it is greater than ever) and redirect that money into what he calls a subsidy for low-wage workers. Does he think we have sucker-wrappers around our heads? That's not a subsidy for workers, but for low-wage employers. Why should taxpayers subsidize the poverty pay of profitable giants such as McDonald's, rather than making them pay living wages and cover their own labor costs?

I guess we should count it as progress that Republican candidates are at least having to admit that inequality is a problem, but come on — offering the same old failed, anti-government snake oil is an insult to the American people. Jeb Bush shows how vacuous their flim-flammery is by saying that, to address the ever-widening wealth and income gap, he'll "celebrate success and ... cherish free enterprise." Gosh, what a comfort that'll be to America's hard-hit majority.

It may be futile to hope that the GOP's gaggle of corporate-hugging, right-wing presidential candidates will seriously address the issue of rising inequality in our "Land of Opportunity" — but where are the Democrats?

Published in Guest Commentary

COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaOilRig(Photo: VaderSS)Today, six activists from the Greenpeace ship Esperanza have climbed aboard an Arctic-bound Shell oil rig, the Polar Pioneer, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, 750 miles northwest of Hawaii.

The six volunteers have set up camp on the underside of the Polar Pioneer’s main deck with enough supplies to last for several days. They took this action because last week the U.S. Department of the Interior approved Shell’s drilling lease in the Alaskan Arctic, despite having been previously overruled in court twice for failure to meet environmental regulations. So now, Shell could start drilling in 100 days.

“We’re here to highlight that in less than 100 days Shell is going to the Arctic to drill for oil,” said Johno Smith from New Zealand, one of the six that is aboard the Shell oil rig. “This pristine environment needs protecting for future generations and all life that will call it home. But instead Shell’s actions are exploiting the melting ice to increase a manmade disaster. Climate change is real and already inflicting pain and suffering on my brothers and sisters in the Pacific.

“I believe that shining a light on what Shell is doing will encourage more people to take a strong stand against them and other companies who are seeking to destroy this planet for profit. I’m just one voice out here, but I know I’m not alone, and millions if not billions of voices demanding the right to safe and healthy lives will have a huge chance of changing things.”

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaArchMO(Photo: Moofpocket)Let's paraphrase, and sing along with the late great Robert Preston, playing the fake Professor Harold Hill in The Music Man, "Well, ya got trouble, my friend, right there, I say, trouble right there in the Show Me State. ... With a capital 'S' and that rhymes with Mess. And a capital 'H' that stands for Hate."

There is a big hateful troubling mess brewing in the Show Me State these days, as two prominent Republicans, one who had declared his intention to run for governor, and other, one of his closest political advisors and friends, committed suicide in a little over a month. And two of the people who may have been most responsible for the clown-suit politics that drove both suicides are a longtime local Republican Party political consultant and strategist who last summer signed onto Team Ted Cruz, and, the current chairman of Missouri's Republican Party.

According to several reports in Missouri newspapers, Jeff Roe, the founder and principal of the Kansas City, Missouri-based Axiom Strategies, was responsible for preparing a radio advertisement aimed at trashing the gubernatorial candidacy of former Missouri State Auditor Tom Schweich, one of the men who committed suicide.

The Kansas City Star reported that the spot, "labeled Schweich as a weak candidate for governor and pointed out that his political foes would 'squash him like the little bug that he is.' The 60-second radio ad – which also compared Schweich to Barney Fife, the hapless fictional deputy sheriff of Mayberry, on "The Andy Griffith Show" -- aired Feb. 19 and 20 on Kansas City radio station KMBZ-AM during the "Rush Limbaugh" program, shortly before Schweich committed suicide.

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL McKIBBEN OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaGuardianDivest(Photo: EcoWatch)Here’s how far we’ve come in just a couple of years: One of the world’s most respected and influential news organizations—the Guardian Media Group—announced Wednesday that it will divest from fossil fuels.

The move follows the launch of The Guardian‘s own climate change campaign, in partnership with 350.org, to press two of the world’s largest charitable foundations to stop investing in oil, coal and gas companies.

The chairman of the Guardian Media Group called the move a “hard-nosed business decision” that is justified on both ethical and financial grounds. I couldn’t agree more.

It was also the second billion-dollar divestment commitment in just two days: Syracuse University in New York also ditched fossil fuels this week, demonstrating once again that cutting ties with the fossil fuel industry is both feasible and responsible.

Now is the time to increase the pressure on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust—two of the world’s largest charities, and both explicitly dedicated to global health—to do the same. Can you help us reach 200,000 signatures this week?

Add your name to the petition calling on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust to stop investing in the climate crisis.

Published in Guest Commentary

HARVEY WASSERMAN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaTesla(Photo: Norio Nakayama)Back in early 2010 Ohio stood at the cusp of a modern 21st century technological revolution.

It had won a new federal-funded rail line to finally re-join Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton and Cincinnati.

Tesla electric sales networks were moving into the state, bringing full player status in the spread of the world’s most advanced automobiles.

And we had adopted a forward-looking green energy package poised to bring billions of new investments along with thousands of new jobs.

Then the 19th century re-took control.

Today Ohio’s fossil-fueled, landlocked capital city is the western world’s largest with neither internal commuter light rail nor access by passenger train service from anywhere else.

After trying to ban them altogether, Ohio has strictly limited sales of advanced electric Tesla cars.

And after being at the cusp of major solar and wind power advances, the state has all but killed the prospects for any large new green energy projects. The state may now miss one of history’s biggest and most profitable technological transformations.

Published in Guest Commentary
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