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LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

NoDAPL 0619wrp optA protest against the Dakota Access pipeline. Pax Ahimsa GethenEnergy Transfer Partners, the company behind the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline and the fracked gas Rover Pipeline, has quite the extensive spill history, a new analysis shows.

After crunching the numbers from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), TheStreet revealed that the Dallas-based company spilled hazardous liquids near water crossings more than twice the frequency of any other U.S. pipeline company this decade.

According to the report:

"The company has spilled hazardous liquids five times near water crossings since 2010 when PHMSA started collecting detailed data. The company's spills account for almost 20% of all hazardous liquid spills near water crossings since 2010, primarily because of a 55,000-gallon gasoline spill in 2016 near the Susquehanna River in Lycoming County, Pennsylvania. TheStreet only included onshore spills in its analysis, and included subsidiary companies.

"Since 2010, the company has spilled hazardous liquids 204 times in all, ranking only behind Enterprise Products Partners LP (EPD) and Magellan Midstream Partners, LP MMP, according to TheStreet's tally."

Energy Transfer owns about 71,000 miles of natural gas, natural gas liquids, refined products and crude oil pipelines across the country.

Published in Guest Commentary

KATHY KELLY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Yemen 0619wrp optHouse in Yemen destroyed by Saudi air strike. (Photo: Wikipedia Commons)On June 15, 2017, the New York Times reported that the government of Saudi Arabia aims to ease the concerns of some U.S. legislators over U.S. weapon sales to Saudi Arabia. The Saudis plan to engage in "a $750 million multiyear training program through the American military to help prevent the accidental killing of civilians in the Saudi-led air campaign against Houthi rebels in Yemen." Since entering the war in Yemen, in March of 2015, the Saudi coalition's airstrikes, with U.S. assistance, have destroyedbridges, roads, factories, farms, food trucks, animals, water infrastructure, and agricultural banks across the north, while imposing a blockade on the territory. For a country heavily dependent on foreign food aid, that means starving the people. At least seven million people suffer now from severe acute malnourishment.  

U.S. assistance to the Saudi-led coalition has included providing weapons, sharing intelligence, targeting assistance, and aerial jet refueling.  "If they stop the refueling, that would stop the bombing campaign literally tomorrow," says Iona Craig, who frequently reports from Yemen, "because logistically the coalition would not be able to send their fighter jets in to carry out sorties without that help."

The U.S. has also provided "cover" for Saudi violations of international law. On October 27th, 2015, Saudi Arabia bombed a Yemeni hospital operated by Doctors Without Borders. The airstrike went on for two hours, reducing the hospital to rubble. Ban Ki Moon, then Secretary General of the UN, admonished the Saudi government for attacking a medical facility. The Saudis responded that the U.S. had similarly bombed a Doctors Without Borders hospital, in Afghanistan's Kunduz province, which indeed the U.S. had, earlier that same month, on October 3, 2015. The U.S. airstrikes continued, in fifteen minute intervals, for an hour, killing 42 people and likewise reducing the Doctors Without Borders hospital to rubble and ash.

Published in Guest Commentary

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Sungei 0616wrp optThe Sungei Buloh Wetlands, part of the Singapore Biosphere Reserve. (Photo: Calvin Teo)The U.S. has quietly withdrawn 17 sites from the UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves program.

As first reported by National Geographic, the sites include a number of national forests, preserves and reserves from Alaska to the Virgin Islands (see list below). There were previously 47 biosphere reserves in the U.S.

The move was made during the International Coordinating Council of the Man and the Biosphere Programme meeting in Paris this week. Bulgaria also removed three sites.

"Prior to this year, a total of 18 sites had been removed from the program since 1997, by seven countries," National Geographic noted.

"It's not currently clear why the U.S. and Bulgaria asked to remove those sites: requests for comment have not yet been returned. In the past, sites were removed after countries were no longer able to meet the requirements of the program for protecting them."

Published in Guest Commentary
Wednesday, 14 June 2017 07:36

New Coal Mine Opens, Employs Just 70 People

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Miners 0614wrp optCoal miners. (Photo: Jack Corn)Is this what Donald Trump meant when he campaigned on being the "greatest jobs president that God ever created"?

The president celebrated the 70 whole jobs created by the Acosta mine in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, the nation's newest coal mine.

"When I ended the 'war on coal,' I said I would put our incredible miners—and that's what you are, incredible—back to work," Trump said after the mine opened last Thursday, likely forgetting that his budget slashes 40 percent, or about $1 billion, from federal job training programs.

Corsa Coal Company CEO George Dethlefsen said 400 people applied for the 70 positions available at the new mine.

Dethlefsen said the mine will help the area's struggling economy but as Quartz pointed out that's "significantly fewer than the 92 jobs created by the opening of one American supermarket on average."

Most of the coal isn't even staying in the country. According to PennLive, "as for where the coal ultimately ends up, as much as 85 percent could be exported overseas to make steel in countries such as South Korea, Turkey, Egypt and Brazil, Corsa officials say."

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Kerr 0614wrp optGolden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr. (Photo: Keith Allison)If the Golden State Warriors are invited to Donald Trump's White House, will they go? In the wee hours of Tuesday morning, after having won the 2016-17 National Basketball Association Championship, acknowledging the love of their fans at Oakland's Oracle Arena, and spritzing themselves with champagne, Downtown Josh Brown issued an un-sourced tweet claiming that the Warriors had made a "unanimous" decision not to go to the White House if invited. While several team members and coach Steve Kerr have been outspoken in their criticisms of Trump, it appears that no such decision was made. An early morning statement from the team read:“Today is about celebrating our championship. We have not received an invitation to the White House, but will make those decisions, when and if necessary.”

Since assuming office in January, Trump has hosted Super Bowl champion New England Patriots – albeit with several players refusing to attend for political reasons -- and Clemson University, the NCAA football champion. (In 2015, the team met with President Obama at the White House in what turned into a highly spirited, fun-filled, and glorious championship celebration.)

If the Warriors turned down an invitation to the White House, it would not be surprising.

"I have no idea what kind of president he'll be because he hasn't said anything about what he's going to do," Warrior coach Steve Kerr said shortly after the election. "We don't know. But it's tough when you want there to be some respect and dignity, and there hasn't been any. And then you walk into a room with your daughter and your wife who have basically been insulted by his comments and they're distraught. Then you walk in and see the faces of your players, most of them who have been insulted directly as minorities, it's very shocking. It really is."

Published in Guest Commentary

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

TunnelFlood 0612wrp optThe Brooklyn Tunnel after Superstorm Sandy. (Photo: MTA of NYC)Climate change isn't just causing glaciers to melt, sea levels to rise and forests to set fire. It has becoming increasingly evident that Earth's rising temperatures also threatens international security.

In fact, an analysis released Friday by the Center for Climate and Security has identified 12 "epicenters," or categories, where the world's rising temperatures could trigger major global conflict.

"Any one of the climate and security epicenters can be disruptive," said Caitlin Werrell, co-president of the Center for Climate and Security and editor of the report, Epicenters of Climate and Security: The New Geostrategic Landscape of the Anthropocene. "Taken together, however, these epicenters can present a serious challenge to international security as we understand it."

The categories include eroding state sovereignty, low-lying nations going underwater, as well as the disruption in the global coffee trade that employs 125 million people worldwide.

Previous studies have identified how terrorist groups in certain regions are taking advantage of increasingly scarce natural resources such as water and food as a "weapon of war." Additionally, a U.S. military report from 2014 called climate change a "catalyst for conflict" and a "threat multiplier." President Obama once said that "no challenge poses a great threat than climate change, and it's an "immediate risk to our national security."

Published in Guest Commentary

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

GoldCoin 0612wrp optAn American Gold Eagle coin. (Photo: Public domain)Last year it was 8 men, then down to 6, and now almost 5. 

While Americans fixate on Trump, the super-rich are absconding with our wealth, and the plague of inequality continues to grow. An analysis of 2016 data found that the poorest five deciles of the world population own about $410 billion in total wealth. As of 06/08/17, the world's richest five men owned over $400 billion in wealth. Thus, on average, each man owns nearly as much as 750 million people. 

Why Do We Let a Few People Shift Great Portions of the World's Wealth to Themselves?

Most of the super-super-rich are Americans. We the American people created the Internet, developed and funded Artificial Intelligence, and built a massive transportation infrastructure, yet we let just a few individuals take almost all the credit, along with hundreds of billions of dollars. 

Defenders of the out-of-control wealth gap insist that all is OK, because, after all, America is a 'meritocracy' in which the super-wealthy have 'earned' all they have. They heed the words of Warren Buffett: "The genius of the American economy, our emphasis on a meritocracy and a market system and a rule of law has enabled generation after generation to live better than their parents did."

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Fenwick 0609wrp optFenwick Hall, College of the Holy Cross (Photo: George Rypysc III)When he was executive director during the heyday of Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition, Ralph Reed appeared to enjoy talking about organizing and conducting stealth campaigns to get conservatives elected to as many political offices in as many states as possible. In an early nineties interview with Norfolk, Virginia's Virginian-Pilot, Reed said: "I want to be invisible. I paint my face and travel at night. You don't know it's over until you're in a body bag. You don't know until election night." To the Los Angeles Times, he later explained stealth as akin to "guerrilla warfare. If you reveal your location, all it does is allow your opponent to improve his artillery bearings. It's better to move quietly, with stealth, under the cover of night."

Flash forward two decades, and Charlie Kirk, founder of the conservative group, Turning Point USA, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, has initiated his own version of stealth campaigns in order to try and seize power on college and university campuses across the nation; campuses he describes as "islands of totalitarianism."

In the book Time for a Turning Point, co-authored by Turning Point USA Board Member, Brent Hamachek, they indicated that he wanted to make Turning Point "the MoveOn.org of the right." As The Chronicle of Higher Education's Michael Vasquez pointed out, since its founding, Kirk has moved up in conservative ranks, boosting his own public profile, and receiving donations from high-powered, longtime GOP supporters, including Foster Friess, a major conservative Christian evangelical donor. The organization's budget went from $52,000 in 2012 to $5.5 million last year, according to Kirk's book.

According to Vasquez, Kirk has a launched a "secret counteroffensive" aimed at "getting young conservatives elected to student government" positions.

Why put so much effort and money into battles over student governance?

 

Published in Guest Commentary

MICHAEL MOORE OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Whistle 0607wrp optA pea whistle. (Photo: Richard Wheeler)I need one of you to help me. It might get dangerous. It may get us in trouble. But we're running out of time. We must act. It's our patriotic duty.

From the time you opened this letter to the time you get to the bottom of it, there's a decent chance that our president will have violated the constitution, obstructed justice, lied to the American people, encouraged or supported acts of violence or committed some horrible mistake that would've ended any other politician's career (or sent you or I to jail). And just like all the times he's done so in the past, he will get away with it.

Donald Trump thinks he's above the law. He acts like he's the above the law. He's STATED that he's above the law. And by firing Sally Yates, Preet Bharara and James Comey (3 federal officials with SOME authority to hold him accountable) he's taken the first few steps to make it official.

And yet, we keep hearing the same reaction to President Trump that we heard with candidate Trump after every new revelation or screw up: "He's toast!" "He can't survive this!" "He's finished!"

Make no mistake—Donald J. Trump has NO intention of leaving the White House until January 20, 2025. How old will you be in 2025? That's how long he plans to be your president. How much damage will have been done to the country and the world by then?

And that is why we must act.

Published in Guest Commentary

JOHN GEYMAN, MD FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Pills 0607wrp optVariations on a common tablet design. (Photo: Ragesoss)The just-released Trump fiscal-2018 budget proposal is devastating news for 77 million poor and lower-income Americans. As the third largest domestic program in federal spending (behind Social Security and Medicare), it has been on the chopping block of the Republican agenda for some time. Enacted in 1965, this joint federal-state program has been a crucial part of a safety net for health care over its 52-year history for eligible  children and adults, the blind and disabled, seniors, and about 16 million adults who have gained eligibility since 2010 through Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

The Trump budget would cut Medicaid spending by $834 billion and cover 14 million fewer people by 2026, while giving the wealthiest Americans a $600 billion tax cut, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Federal spending on Medicaid would be phased out through block grants to states, with the expectation that states pick up the slack for their vulnerable populations. The current federal-state share of Medicaid funding varies considerably by state—from 74 percent federal in Mississippi to 50 percent in California and New York.

The recently passed House bill, the American Health Care Act (AHCA), would implement per-capita caps on federal spending on Medicaid in 2020. As an alternative to caps, states could opt to accept block grants any time after 2019, which would give states more flexibility on who would be covered, what services would be provided, and how providers would be compensated. Four Republican governors—from Arkansas, Michigan, Nevada and Ohio—immediately wrote to House and Senate leaders that “the House bill provides almost no new flexibility for states, does not ensure the resources necessary to make sure no one is left out, and shifts significant new costs to states.

The AHCA has moved on to the Senate, where many call it dead on arrival. A 13-man working group—no women, despite the AHCA’s one-year cut in funding for Planned Parenthood—has been tasked with crafting the Senate’s own bill. Major controversies will surround such issues as reversal of the ACA’s Medicaid expansion (supported by many Republican governors), possible higher premiums for older Americans, waivers that allow states to deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions or for such essential benefits as hospital care, contraceptive services and maternity care, work requirements for eligibility, and time limits on coverage.

Published in Guest Commentary
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