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KATIE POHLMAN OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Paris 0518wrp(Photo: EcoWatch)Parisians can walk, skate or cycle down the iconic Champs Elysees one day a month without worrying about traffic. The first Sunday of every month is a car-free day, an attempt to reduce pollution in the French city. The initiative began in September 2015 as the brainchild of Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo.

The Paris Breathes campaign, responsible for implementing the program, blocks off 13 sections of the city at various times throughout the day. Sections are closed for various time periods ranging from four to 10 hours, according to the campaign’s website. There are an additional four locations that go car-free for the summer months only. The first car-free day—Sept. 27, 2015—led to a 40 percent drop in nitrogen dioxide in Paris, The Guardian reported.

Paris residents seem to love the car-free days. “I think especially when the weather is like that, beautiful sunshine, we feel like it’s the holidays for us. We can walk easily, no pollution, no noise. We are very happy,” one of the participants said in the below NowThis video.

Paris leads the pack in monthly car-free days, but several large metro cities participate in international car-free day on Sept. 22 every year, including Washington, DC, Seattle and Long Island, New York.

Published in Guest Commentary

OUR CHILDREN'S TRUST OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

DEP 0518wrp opt(Photo: EcoWatch)The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court found in favor of four youth plaintiffs, the Conservation Law Foundation and Mass Energy Consumers Alliance Tuesday in the critical climate change case, Kain et al. v. Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

The court found that the DEP was not complying with its legal obligation to reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions and ordered the agency to “promulgate regulations that address multiple sources or categories of sources of greenhouse gas emissions, impose a limit on emissions that may be released … and set limits that decline on an annual basis.”

“This is an historic victory for young generations advocating for changes to be made by government. The global climate change crisis is a threat to the well being of humanity, and to my generation, that has been ignored for too long,” youth plaintiff Shamus Miller, age 17, said.

“Today, the Massachusetts Supreme Court has recognized the scope and urgency of that threat and acknowledges the need for immediate action to help slow the progression of climate change. There is much more to be done both nationally and internationally but this victory is a step in the right direction and I hope that future efforts have similar success.”

In 2012, hundreds of youth petitioned the DEP asking the agency to comply with the Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA) and adopt rules reducing the state’s greenhouse gas emissions, but that petition was denied. As a result of DEP’s reluctance to comply with the GWSA, youth filed this case arguing that the DEP failed to promulgate the regulations required by Section 3(d) of the GWSA establishing declining annual levels of greenhouse gas emissions.

Published in Guest Commentary

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Glypho 0516wrp opt(Photo: EcoWatch)Four Nebraskan agricultural workers have filed a lawsuit against Monsanto Co. alleging that the agribusiness giant’s cancer-linked product, Roundup, gave them non-Hodgkin lymphoma after many years of exposure.

The plaintiffs have also accused Monsanto of purposely misleading consumers about the safety of its blockbuster product, which contains glyphosate as its controversial main ingredient.

The plaintiffs allege that Monsanto mislabeled the product in defiance of the “body of recognized scientific evidence linking the disease to exposure to Roundup.”

Glyphosate, the most widely used herbicide in the world was infamously classified as “probably carcinogenic to humans” by the World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in March 2015.

“Case-control studies of occupational exposure in the USA, Canada, and Sweden reported increased risks for non-Hodgkin lymphoma that persisted after adjustment for other pesticides,” the IARC said about the herbicide, adding that there is also “convincing evidence” that it can cause cancer in laboratory animals.

The plaintiffs in the case are farmers Larry Domina and Robert Dickey both of Cedar County, York County farmer Royce Janzen and Dodge County agronomist Frank Pollard, the Lincoln Journal Star reported. They are represented by Omaha-based Domina Law Group and New York-based Weitz & Luxembourg.

Published in Guest Commentary

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

FrackingBad 0516wrp opt(Photo: EcoWatch)Unconventional oil and gas (UOG) operations such as fracking might allow for cheaper prices to heat your home, but a growing number of scientists are becoming concerned about its unacceptable health implications.

In the first comprehensive literature review to date on the respiratory health risks associated with UOG, experts from the Center for Environmental Health, the Institute for Health and the Environment, Physicians for Social Responsibility and the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments have found that these operations are particularly harmful to infants and young children.

The study, Hazards of UOG Emissions on Children’s and Infants’ Respiratory Health, was published today in the journal Reviews on Environmental Health.

The the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that there are nearly 700 chemicals used in the fracking process. Fracking fluids can contain a toxic slew of hazardous chemicals that can affect human health and the environment, but oil and gas companies are not required to disclose exactly what they are.

According to the study, at least five chemicals associated with unconventional oil and gas operations and fracking—tropospheric ozone, particulate matter, silica dust, benzene and formaldehyde—are linked to respiratory health issues on infants and children, including asthma, reduced lung and pulmonary function, increased susceptibility to infection, chest discomfort, difficulty breathing, lung inflammation and other adverse outcomes.

Published in Guest Commentary

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Glyphosate 0513wrp(Photo: Glyphosate USA)Last month, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) volunteered to take a urine test to see if glyphosate—the cancer-linked weedkiller—is in their system. Forty-eight MEPs from 13 different European Union countries participated in the test, and now the results are in.

According to ELISA test results from the accredited Biocheck Laboratory in Germany: “All participants excreted glyphosate by urine.”

The experiment was spearheaded by the Green Party in the European Parliament, which wants a ban on the controversial herbicide in the European Union.

The group noted in a press release of their so-called “#MEPee” test:

On average, the MEPs had 1.7 micrograms/liter of glyphosate in their urine, 17 times higher than the European drinking water norm (0.1 microgram/litre). This means that everyone we tested was way above the limit for residues of pesticides in drinking water.

Published in Guest Commentary

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

DAPL 0511wrp opt(Photo: EcoWatch)The campaign to oppose the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL) continues to gain steam with Leonardo DiCaprio and actors from the upcoming Justice League film joining the cause.

Dakota Access—a subsidiary of Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners LP—has proposed a $3.7 billion, 1,168-mile pipeline that will transfer up to 570,00 barrels of crude oil per day from the North Dakota Bakken region through South Dakota and Iowa into Illinois.

The DAPL, also referred to as the Bakken pipeline, would cross the Missouri River less than a mile away from the Standing Rock Reservation that stands in North and South Dakota. The Missouri River, one of the largest water resources in the U.S., provides drinking water for millions of people.

The people of Standing Rock, often called Sioux, warn that a potential oil spill into the river would threaten the water, land and health of their reservation.

In DiCaprio’s tweet, the Oscar-winning actor and clean energy advocate said he was “standing with the Great Sioux Nation to protect their water and lands,” and linked to a Change.org petition that urges the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to stop the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

 

Published in Guest Commentary
Wednesday, 11 May 2016 07:19

Louisiana Number One in Incarceration

BILL QUIGLEY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Chain1 0511wrp(Photo: Toni Lozano)In 2014, the US Department of Justice confirmed Louisiana remained number 1, among the 50 states, with 38,030 in prison, a rate of 816 per 100,000 over 100 points ahead of next highest state Oklahoma.  Because the US leads the world in incarcerating its people, this means Louisiana is number one in the world.  Compare Louisiana’s rate of 816 people per 100,000 with Russia’s 492, China with 119, France with 100, and Germany with 78.

Louisiana first became number 1 in the nation in 2005 when it was imprisoning 36,083 people.  Louisiana remained number 1, in 2010 with 35,207 in prison, an incarceration rate of 867 per 100,000 people, over 200 points head of the next highest state Mississippi.

It was not always so.  In 1965, Louisiana ranked 13th nationally in putting its citizens in jail with a rate of 109 prisoners per 100,000 people.  In 1978, Louisiana only held 7,291 people behind bars.  By 1986, Louisiana was 5th highest in the nation in putting its own citizens in prison, with 14,580 behind bars, a rate of 322 per 100,000, according to the US Department of Justice.   In 1990, Louisiana rose to 3rd highest in the nation, putting 18,599 behind bars, a rate of 427 per 100,000.  In 2000, Louisiana moved to 2nd highest in the nation, imprisoning 35,047 behind bars, a rate of 801 per 100,000.

The number of prisoners expanded nation-wide as a result of the “war on drugs” which was conducted in a racist way to target blacks.  But in Louisiana, the prisons also backed up when the practice of releasing prisoners for good behavior after 10 years and 6 months of their life sentences was ended in the 1970s.

Louisiana has been much more severe in sending black people to prison than whites, at least after black people were no longer slaves.   In 1860, when the Civil War started, the population of the Louisiana penitentiary was two-thirds white.  But by 1868, the population of Louisiana’s penitentiary was two-thirds black.

Published in Guest Commentary
Monday, 09 May 2016 07:55

The Collapse of the Middle-Class Job

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Class2 0509wrp(Photo: Phillies1fan777)Our middle-income jobs are disappearing. That fact may be disputed by free-market advocates, who want to believe Barack Obama when he gushes, "We’re in the middle of the longest streak of private sector job creation in history."

But the evidence shows that living-wage, family-sustaining positions are quickly being replaced by lower-wage and less secure forms of employment. These plentiful low-level jobs have padded the unemployment figures, leaving much of America believing in an overhyped recovery.

The Incredible Shrinking Job

New research is beginning to confirm the permanent nature of middle-income job loss. Based on analysis that one reviewer calls "some of the most important work done by economists in the last twenty years," a National Bureau of Economic Research study found that national employment levels have fallen in U.S. industries that are vulnerable to import competition, without offsetting job gains in other industries. Even the Wall Street Journal admits that "many middle-wage occupations, those with average earnings between $32,000 and $53,000, have collapsed."

Productive Workers, but Less of Them

High-salaried jobs in technology still exist, but they're available to fewer people as machines become smarter. Netflix, for example, serves 57 million customers with less than 2,200 employees, who have a median salary of $180,000. Google is worth $370 billion but employs only about 55,000 workers (50 years ago AT&T was worth less in today's dollars but employed about 750,000 workers). Facebook's messaging application WhatsApp has 55 employees serving 450 million customers.

As jobs are downsized, profits are maximized. Apple makes over $500,000 per employee; Facebook and Google are both over $300,000; Exxon and Phillips 66 are both well over $250,000; Merck and Allergan and Pfizer are all significantly over $100,000. Just 25 years ago GM, Ford, and Chrysler generated a combined $36 billion in revenue while employing over 1,000,000 workers. Today Apple, Facebook, and Google generate over a trillion dollars in revenue with 137,000 workers.

Researchers at the University of Chicago have estimated that half of the labor decline in this century is due to the replacement of people with computers and software. Oxford University researchers forecasted that half of all jobs will be performed by machine by the 2030s.

Published in Guest Commentary

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Solar 0506wrp opt(Photo: BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT)The price of solar power dipped to another record low on May 1 when five international companies bid as little as 2.99 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) to develop the latest phase of work at Dubai’s enormous Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum solar park, which will be one of Earth’s largest solar plants when complete.

At less than 3 cents per kWh, that’s 15 percent lower than the previous record-low bid of 3.5 cents per kWh from Italy’s Enel Green Power for a solar project in Mexico, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

The latest bid is also nearly 50 percent cheaper than last year’s winning bid of 5.84 cents per kWh for developing the 200-megawatt second phase of the same solar park, which already broke records then, The National pointed out.

“This not only marks the lowest cost ever for solar power, but also easily beats all available fossil-fuel options in Dubai on cost,” explained Dr. Moritz Borgmann, a partner at of the cleantech advisory group Apricum.

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Target 0504wrp opt(Photo: Mike Kalasnik)Thus far, the only problems with Target’s new policy of allowing transgender people to use restrooms and dressing rooms that correspond with their gender identity, are being caused by a number of conservative Christian activists --several of whom are being sent out with video cameras by the American Family Association -- rushing into Target stores to test the policy.

Not a big fan of Target stores. Shopped there occasionally over the years. Have a Target REDCard, and to the best of my knowledge it wasn’t hacked in 2013. However, now that Target is under attack by the American Family Association, the Christian Right’s boycott-launching king, I may consider doing some REDcard damage in the near future.

The dust-up over the Minneapolis-based Target began in mid-April, when the company’s management decided that employees and customers who are men according to their birth sex could use women's bathrooms and dressing rooms. A statement posted on the company’s website on April 19, under the headline “Continuing to Stand for Inclusivity” read: "[W]e welcome transgender team members and guests to use the restroom or fitting room facility that corresponds with their gender identity. ...Everyone deserves to feel like they belong."

By making this decision, Target jumped into what has become this year’s number one wedge and fundraising issue for the Christian Right; Keeping transgender people out of bathrooms.

As of this writing, Christian Right groups are claiming that more than 1 million people have signed an American Family Association-initiated petition.

pledging a boycott over the store’s bathroom policies. At the AFA website, the headline reads “Sign the Boycott Target Pledge!”

Published in Guest Commentary
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