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aaaFriess(Photo: Gage Skidmore)Now that former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum has thrown his hat into a Republican ring full of hats, you can bet that Foster Friess will not be far behind. While we know a fair amount about billionaire GOP puppet masters like Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and the Koch Brothers, and while we are quite familiar with Santorum's conservative politics, we know little about Santorum's top financial backer, Foster Friess, bad jokes about using aspirin between a "gals" knees as birth control notwithstanding.

So, who is Foster Friess?

Back in 2012, it was Friess, an evangelical conservative Christian and the founder of Friess Associates -- a Wyoming investment firm that has managed several billion of equities for such clients as the Nobel Foundation of Stockholm, Vanderbilt University, and the Brandywine and Brandywine Blue mutual funds -- who practically single-handedly kept Santorum in the primary race with a fair amount of money; much of it going to Santorum's super PAC called the Red, White and Blue Fund.

In January, Friess -- who maintains he is not a billionaire; in 2012 The Wall Street Journal estimated his wealth at a little over a half-billion -- organized a meeting of "a group of Republican business executives, as well as GOP consultants from South Carolina and Iowa, ... to have conversations with Santorum about his strategy and with Friess about financing a national political operation," The Washington Post reported.

Published in Guest Commentary


aaaHotShit(Photo: EcoWatch)India is in the midst of a major heatwave, which has killed at least 800 people and melted roads in New Delhi as temperatures neared 122 degrees Fahrenheit (50 degrees Celsius). India’s Meteorological Department issued heat warnings to several states where temperatures are projected to reach beyond 113 degrees Fahrenheit (45 degrees Celsius) over the next few days, according to AFP.

The worst-hit state Andhra Pradesh in southern India has recorded 551 deaths in the last week alone. Every summer, across the country, hundreds of Indians, especially the poorest members of society, die from extreme heat, while tens of thousands deal with power outages from an overstrained electric grid as air conditioning use soars, reports AFP.

But this summer season is particularly bad, the most severe since 2010 when an estimated 250 people died from heat-related causes, which was said to be the worst since record-keeping began in the 1800s. The maximum temperature in the capital hit a two-year high of 45.5 degrees Celsius on Monday, which is five degrees higher than the seasonal average, reports the Hindustan Times. And, the death toll from heat mortality could be much higher than estimated because, according to Scroll.in, “the government counts only death by heat stroke and heat exhaustion as heat wave deaths. The narrow definition does not account for the way ‘heat exposure stresses underlying physiological systems,’ a study on heat mortality in Ahmedabad said.”

Published in Guest Commentary


aaaPostage(Photo: US Post Office)Neither rain nor sleet nor snow — nor even the likelihood that he'd be killed en route — could stop this letter carrier from making his appointed rounds.

Doug Hughes is one gutsy and creative mailman. In April, this rural letter carrier from Florida stunned the Secret Service, eluded federal aviation authorities, embarrassed Washington's haughty all-seeing security hierarchy and threw members of Congress into a chaotic panic. Hughes did all this by boldly flying his tiny, homemade, gyrocopter right through the heart of our nation's most restricted airspace, then landing it on the front lawn of the U.S. Capitol.

Far from a terrorist or a kook, Hughes was just a mailman on a mission, a patriotic citizen who — like most of us — is disgusted that Big Money interests are able to openly buy lawmakers and laws. But he did more than write a letter to his congress critter — he wrote letters to all 535 of them, loaded the missives in his mailbag and — as postal workers do — literally went the extra mile to make a "very special delivery" in his gyrocopter.

This was no flight of fancy. Doug planned his mail delivery for months, and he was fully aware that he might crash, be killed by a scramble of military jets or be gunned down by guards when he landed. Nor was it a sneak attack — he repeatedly posted his intentions in blogs; a reporter was covering his preparations; and the Secret Service had investigated and interviewed him about his plans more than a year earlier.

His landing jolted the Capitol into lockdown. Guards rushed out to arrest Doug and haul him off to some deep cellblock; a bomb squad arrived; and spooked lawmakers were scared silly. They ran around screeching that they were threatened by terrorists. Of course, the real threat to America is not some guy flying a gyrocopter in protest but the utter corruption of Congress, the courts and democracy itself by the plutocratic elites whom this mailman targeted with nothing more (nor less) dangerous than a bagful of truth-telling letters.

Published in Guest Commentary


aaaFloodTexas(Photo: EcoWatch)With at least a dozen people dead and the raging high waters described as having “tsunami-type power” in Texas over the Memorial Day weekend, the latest example of extreme weather in the U.S. is being tied to a global pattern of increasingly volatile events that are claiming lives and costing billions of dollars in damage each year.

As Texas Gov. Greg Abbott expanded the range of a declared disaster zone in his state today, neighboring Oklahoma is also coping with an emergency response to flash floods and overflowing rivers.

Marking the official end of a four-year long drought in the south-central part of the country, the storms may be filling the region’s diminished reservoirs, but not without a high cost.

As the nation’s media focuses on the acute damage to property and loss of life, an international conference sponsored by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), which kicked off in Switzerland yesterday, may shed additional light on the impact that human-caused climate change is having on the planet’s highly-dynamic weather patterns.

Published in Guest Commentary


aaaDuggarFreaks2(Photo: Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar)If the US Supreme Court rules in favor of same-sex marriage next month, do not expect religious right organizations to fold up their tents and go home. If anything, they will amp up the hysteria with email alerts (and fundraising appeals) squawking about the assault on traditional marriage. While they will continue to agitate around same-sex marriage, there will a not so subtle shift to another culture war battle; the fight over transgender equality.

Although there are many culture war battles to be contested, e.g., abortion, prayer in the schools, book, television and film censorship, and the mother of all fights, the religious right's distorted views of religious freedom, the battle over transgender equality is ripe for the picking. After all, transgender people are some of the few people left that the religious right can attack and demonize.

In recent years, Christian right groups have fulminated, huffed and puffed, and raised money to fight attempts to prevent discrimination against transgender youth, especially in regards to bullying, the use of bathrooms and the participation in athletics in the public schools.

Last August, Michelle Duggar, who stars in TLC's hit show, the now-suspended "19 Kids and Counting" with her husband, Jim Bob, and children, and who was intimately involved in covering up her son Josh's history of sexual molestation of young girls, viciously campaigned against an anti-discrimination bill in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

She said: "I don't believe... citizens... would want males with past child predator convictions that claim they are female to have a legal right to enter private areas that are reserved for women and girls."

If the US Supreme Court rules in favor of same-sex marriage next month, do not expect religious right organizations to fold up their tents and go home. If anything, they will amp up the hysteria with email alerts (and fundraising appeals) squawking about the assault on traditional marriage. While they will continue to agitate around same-sex marriage, there will a not so subtle shift to another culture war battle; the fight over transgender equality.

Published in Guest Commentary


aaaDolphinsOil(Photo: EcoWatch)It was more than five years ago when the Deepwater Horizon offshore oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico blew out, spewing an unknown amount of oil. The April 2010 accident was the worst oil spill to ever occur in U.S. waters and it had far-reaching impacts on the region’s economy and ecosystems that continue to this day.

Now a newly released study, funded by the Deepwater Horizon National Resource Damage Assessment, which includes the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, BP (the oil company responsible for the spill and others) details the disastrous impact for the spill on the health and mortality of dolphins in the Gulf.

The study, with the very scientific name of Adrenal Gland and Lung Lesions in Gulf of Mexico Common Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) Found Dead following the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, analyzes what it calls “an unusual mortality event (UME)” among dolphins off the coast of Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi between February 2010 and 2014. More than 1,300 dolphins are estimated to have died.

“The Deepwater Horizon oil spill was proposed as a contributing cause of adrenal disease, lung disease and poor health in live dolphins examined during 2011 in Barataria Bay, Louisiana,” said the study. It also analyzed dead dolphin carcasses stranded in the three states between June 2010 and December 2012 and compared the analyses to dead, stranded dolphins found outside the area or prior to the oil spill to come to the conclusion that the die-off was unprecedented and the result of an adrenal gland condition never previously seen in dolphins in the region that made them susceptible to pneumonia.

Published in Guest Commentary


aaaBillNye(Photo: Ed Schipul)Bill Nye gave the commencement speech over the weekend at Rutgers University and it’s just as inspiring as you’d imagine. Nye has been an outspoken advocate for immediate action on climate change for a long time. Last month, he sat down with President Obama in the Everglades on Earth Day to talk climate and call out the “climate denier club” in Congress. In his address to the next generation, he wastes no time delving right into environmental issues.

Here are some snippets from his speech:

“We are now deep in the most serious environmental crisis in human history. I believe you all can avoid this disaster.”

“The oncoming trouble is climate change. It is going to affect you all in the same way the Second World War consumed people of my parents’ generation. They rose to the challenge, and so will you. They came to be called the greatest generation. I want you all to preserve our world in the face of climate change and carry on as the next great generation.”

Published in Guest Commentary
Wednesday, 20 May 2015 07:11

Ten Reasons Why the US Is Now a "Regime"


aaaStillwaterSIG(Photo: Augustas Didžgalvis)We are constantly seeing and hearing our American media use the word "Regime" these days.  So exactly what is a "Regime?"  Apparently it is whatever you want it to be.

Whenever Wall Street and/or War Street want to vilify a country that disagrees with their policies of occupation and exploitation, they always begin their vilification program by calling that country's form of government a "Regime."

Here are some examples:  Syria is a "Regime" -- even though it has a constitution, holds elections and almost all Syrians support its president, Bashar Assad.  Gaddafi in Libya also operated a "Regime" -- even though his government offered the kind of free education and healthcare benefits to its citizens that most Americans can only dream about.  Cuba was (and still is) considered a "Regime" in the eyes of Wall Street and War Street.  Putin also runs a "Regime" -- even though most Russians today support him totally.

In reverse, Saudi Arabia is not a "Regime" -- even though the House of Saud uses torture, suppresses decent, beheads people, treats women badly, brutally invades other countries and supports Al Qaeda and ISIS. 

The House of Saud has spent over a trillion $$$$ of its enormous petro-dollar wealth over the last half-century on killing people and being despotic.  Just imagine what the Middle East would look like right now if the Saudis had chosen butter instead of guns.  What a waste.  And yet Saudi Arabia is still not considered to be a "Regime" by American media. 

Published in Guest Commentary


aaaTexasFracking(Photo: Joshua Doubek)Yesterday Texas Gov. Abbott signed HB 40 into law. Written by former ExxonMobil lawyer Shannon Ratliff, the statute forces every Texas municipality wanting common sense limits on oil and gas development to demonstrate its rules are “commercially reasonable.” It effectively overturns a Denton ballot initiative banning fracking that passed last November.

“HB 40 was written by the oil and gas industry, for the oil and gas industry, to prevent voters from holding the oil and gas industry accountable for its impacts,” said Earthworks’ Texas organizer Sharon Wilson. Wilson, who played a key role in the Denton ballot initiative, continued, “It was the oil and gas industry’s contempt for impacted residents that pushed Denton voters to ban fracking in the first place. And now the oil and gas industry, through state lawmakers, has doubled down by showing every city in Texas that same contempt.”

By a 59-41 percent vote, including 70 percent of straight ticket Republican voters, the residents of Denton banned hydraulic fracturing within city limits. The ban was a last resort after more than five years of fruitlessly petitioning oil and gas companies, the city and the state for help. “By signing HB40 into law, Governor Abbott just declared that industry profits are more important than our health, our homes and our kids,” said Adam Briggle, president of the Denton Drilling Awareness Group and a leader in the Frack Free Denton effort. He continued, “The letter of Texas law now says no city can ‘effectively prevent an oil and gas operation from occurring,’ no matter the threat to families’ health and safety or damage to private property.”

Published in Guest Commentary


aaaDivestUW(Photo: EcoWatch)“If it’s wrong to wreck the planet, then it’s wrong to profit from that wreckage.”

This quote by Bill McKibben has become the mantra of the fossil fuel divestment movement, the campaign which has sprouted up on hundreds of college campuses across the country with one simple goal: to get universities to stop investing in the same fossil fuel industry that is accelerating us all towards planetary catastrophe.

Here at the University of Washington in Seattle, Divest UW has gotten one of the biggest victories of the movement so far, with the Board of Regents voting to divest from coal today.

Founded in 2012, back when the fossil fuel divestment movement was just starting to spring up on college campuses, Divest UW has been pushing for this for a long time. We have shown that students here would like to see their school get its money out of dirty energy, with our divestment resolutions passing overwhelmingly in both the undergraduate and graduate student senates, but not until this week was our administration moved.

And that is why today’s victory is all the more significant: it validates all the work our group has put into this over the past three years, and we are proud to see our university recognize the growing power of the student movement to tackle climate change. With its $2.8 billion endowment, the UW is largest public university to divest from this destructive industry.

Published in Guest Commentary
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