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WALTER BRASCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaHKatrina(Photo: NASA/GSFC)This week is the 10th anniversary of the destruction of the southeastern gulf coast by Hurricane Katrina.

More than 1,800 people died. There is no estimate for the number of pets and wildlife. Damage was estimated at more than $100 billion.

About 80 percent of New Orleans was flooded. In Mississippi, the water surge flooded as much as 10 miles from the beaches.

The Category 3 storm should not have caused that much damage, but it exposed poorly-designed levees that should have protected New Orleans.

Sanctimonious critics, many of them conservative politicians, claimed that if the residents had evacuated New Orleans like they were ordered, the death toll and suffering would have been significantly less.

What they didn't say, however, was that almost all roads were blocked or destroyed. Even if the roads weren't damaged, evacuation would have been difficult. Many of the residents who remained were poor, Black, an often relied upon public transportation, as do many residents of urban areas. Hundreds of school buses that could have evacuated the residents were in the flood. Even if they weren't, there weren't enough drivers—most were in their own houses, which were flooded, or at the SuperDome or Convention Center, both of which sustained damage.
The media—and numerous conservative radio and TV pundits—reported looting.

But, most was for food and supplies needed to sustain the people through what would be several days of terror. Not reported was that the stores would have had to throw away the food and supplies, but would still get insurance reimbursement, whether the supplies were damaged by the flood or taken from the shelves by the storm victims.

Published in Guest Commentary
Monday, 24 August 2015 00:00

Happy 99th Birthday National Park Service

MICHAEL SAINATO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaNationalParks(Photo: EcoWatch)On Aug. 25, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed the Organic Act, which created the National Park Service (NPS), a federal bureau within the Department of the Interior designated to protect and maintain the 35 national parks and monuments under the supervision of the department at the time. Today, there are 408 national parks covering more than 84 million acres of land across the U.S. To commemorate the day, the National Parks will be offering free admission to each of the 408 parks.

“The National Park Service’s 99th birthday is an opportunity to reflect on and celebrate the role of national parks in the American story,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis. “And it’s also a time to look ahead to our centennial year, and the next 100 years. These national treasures belong to all of us, and we want everyone—especially the next generation of park visitors, supporters and advocates to discover and connect with their national parks.”

Earlier this year, the NPS kicked off the Find Your Park campaign, a social media and marketing movement to connect the parks to the millions of Americans that don’t know about them or have yet to visit one of their national parks. The largest advertising campaign in national parks history utilizes technology to encourage Americans to engage and interact with their local national parks, leading them to discover and explore even more.

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaAbramsElliott(Photo: Gage Skidmore)I am thinking about Elliott Abrams, the neoconservative former advisor to both the Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush administrations, and a great line from a song by Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks has popped into my head: "How can I miss you if you won't go away?" In a strange way, it is almost comforting to read Abrams' recent accusations in The Weekly Standard that President Barack Obama, with his advocacy for the Iran nuclear deal, is "feeding a deep line of anti-Semitism." In critiquing the president's speeches on the issue, Abrams wrote: "The president ... must know that he is here feeding a deep line of anti-Semitism that accuses American Jews of getting America into wars."

One expects nothing less from Abrams, who, over the years has worked assiduously to torpedo diplomatic efforts on several continents.

With this accusation of anti-Semitism, Abrams has joins a gaggle of Iran deal-snuffers who are throwing off their rhetorical shackles: Writing for the Jewish magazine Tablet, Lee Smith, a senior editor at the Weekly Standard and a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, claimed Obama is "hinting broadly at anti-Semitic conceits — like dual loyalties, moneyed interests, Jewish lobby" and calling his opponents "dual loyalists who are willing to send Americans out to make war on behalf of Jewish causes"; in a not so subtle reference to the Holocaust, Mike Huckabee, Republican Party presidential hopeful, maintained that the president's deal would "take the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven"; Eli Lake, a Bloomberg View columnist, recently wrote that Obama's "dog whistling" supporters who harbor fears of "the power of a bunch of disloyal bureaucrats eager to shed American blood for Israel"; Wall Street Journal editorial-page columnist Bret Stephens has charged Obama with exploiting anti-Semitism.

Published in Guest Commentary

THOM HARTMANN, ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaFukuDoomed(Photo: EcoWatch)Japan has restarted its first nuclear reactor to generate power since 2013. And that’s really bad news.

Remember what happened in 2013? Why Japan closed all of its reactors abruptly and why we’re still tracing the spread of radioactive material across our Pacific Coast and into the atmosphere?

First there was an earthquake that did significant damage to that island country—and then a tsunami quickly followed. And what happened next was the largest nuclear meltdown in the history of the world and the evacuation of 160,000 locals who lived in the area of the Fukushima power plant. We know now that Tepco—the owner of the Fukushima plant—had been warned years earlier about the dangers of an earthquake and a tsunami hitting the plant. No one did anything about it then—but even if they had—do we have any reason to believe it would have been enough? Because that’s the gamble that the Japanese nuclear industry is making with all of our futures right now. The simple fact about nuclear power generation—is that the risks and the costs dramatically outweigh any benefit. We’ve seen some of the risks—in Chernobyl we saw how human error can cause a meltdown. In the Three Mile Island incident we saw how the private corporations aren’t afraid to cut corners to pad their bottom line—even if that risks a partial nuclear meltdown. And in Fukushima we saw what happens when corporate negligence meets a natural disaster.

Considering nuclear power’s track record and the staggering risks involved—it’s amazing that anyone will insure the projects—and the simple fact is that without government backing, like the Price-Anderson Act here in the U.S., nuclear power would be impossible, because no private insurance company will cover them.

Published in Guest Commentary

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaGoldCoin(Photo: United States Mint)Once upon a time in our Good Ol' US-of-A, presidential contenders and their political parties had to raise the funds needed to make the race. How quaint.

But for the 2016 run, this quaint way of selecting our candidates is no longer the case, thanks to the Supreme Court's malicious meddling in the democratic process in its reckless Citizens United decision. In that decision, the five members of the Corporate Cabal decreed that "non-candidate" campaigns can take unlimited sums of money directly from corporations. Therefore a very few wealthy powers can pour money into these murky political operations and gain unwarranted plutocratic power over the election process.

And looking at the fundraising numbers, those wealthy powers have definitely taken charge of the electoral game. These very special interests, who have their own presidential agendas, now put up the vast majority of funds and run their own private campaigns to elect someone who will do their bidding.

So far, of over $400 million raised to back candidates of either party in next year's race, half of the money has come from a pool of only about 400 people — and two-thirds of their cash went not to candidates directly but to corporate-run super PACs. To get a get a grasp at what this looks like, take a peek at the super PACs supporting Ted Cruz. Of the $37 million they have raised, $36 million was pumped in by only three interests — a New York hedge fund manager, a corporate plunderer living in Puerto Rico and the owners of a franking operation who've pocketed billions from the explosive use of this destructive drilling technology.

So while Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Scott Walker and gang are the candidates, the driving forces in this election have names like Robert Mercer, Norman Braman, Diane Hendricks, Dan and Farris Wilks, Toby Neugebauer and Miguel Fernandez.

Published in Guest Commentary

NADIA PRUPIS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaEPAEcoWatch2(Photo: EcoWatch)The spill which sent toxic waste from an abandoned mine into a Colorado waterway last week released 3 million gallons of contaminates into the state’s 126-mile Animas River—not 1 million, as previously announced, according to new estimates by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

As the orange-hued sludge kept flowing through Colorado and into the San Juan River in New Mexico on Monday, the fallout from the massive accident continued to spread, with communities declaring states of emergency and the Navajo Nation vowing to take action against the EPA, which caused the spill.

The county of La Plata and the city of Durango, both in Colorado, each declared a state of emergency at Noon on Sunday.

La Plata County manager Joe Kerby said in a statement: “This action has been taken due to the serious nature of the incident and to convey the grave concerns that local elected officials have to ensure that all appropriate levels of state and federal resources are brought to bear to assist our community not only in actively managing this tragic incident but also to recover from it.”

Water quality tests along the rivers were still being conducted as of Monday afternoon. According to preliminary data released by the EPA on Sunday, arsenic levels in the Durango area were, at their peak, 300 times higher than normal. Lead was 3,500 times higher than normal. The waste also includes copper, zinc, aluminum and cadmium.

Published in Guest Commentary

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaWillieWeed(Photo: Cannabis Training University)Earlier this year, music legends Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard teamed up to make a pro-marijuana video titled "It's All Going to Pot."

And, apparently they were right, for I've now learned that even the state fair is going to pot — literally. A press release from the organizers of the DC State Fair exclaims: "It's true! For the first time ever, we're hosting a new contest for local cannabis growers to show off their plants' finest buds." They're not just blowing smoke, for it turns out that Washington, D.C., voters passed a referendum in November to legalize marijuana — even to allow locals to grow up to six plants at their residences.

With the nationwide renaissance in urban agriculture, why not invite the proud cultivators of the happy weed to show off the finest produce from their pot plots? After all, state fairs already have contests for the best ice cream, pickles, homebrew, compost, flower arrangements, crafts and such — so it's not a stretch to see who can win the Marijuana Bud Blue Ribbon. The buds are to be judged on characteristics such as appearance, smell and stickiness, but not such consumer-satisfaction qualities as "duration of high" or "development of mellowness." In fact, contrary to the judging of the Tastiest Tomato category, the entry form for the Best Bud Contest specifies rather sternly that judges "will not sample or consume your submission." That's probably smart, since the whole panel of judges could dissolve into uncontrollable giggles halfway through the sampling.

From the demonization of marijuana to legalization and now to celebration — it's a trajectory of progress that reflects some mellowing in society itself. As the DC State Fair people put it, "Now that it's legal, we wanted a way to highlight this new freedom while also showing off the agricultural talents of the District's people."

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaNagasakiNukeDeal(Photo: Charles Levy)This summer, there is every possibility that town hall meetings organized to discuss the Obama administration's nuclear deal with Iran will turn into replays of the crazy Tea Party-dominated 2009 town hall meetings over Obamacare. Christian Zionists are gearing up for a battle where money is no object, facts pose no impediment, and where anti-deal activists will be flooding as many meetings with members of Congress as possible.

Now that Pastor John Hagee has roundly condemned the Obama administration's nuclear deal with Iran, he's ready to put boots on the ground, and his organization's money where his mouth is. The battle over whether the US Congress will support the deal may be, among other things, the first real test of the lobbying power of America's Christian Zionists, as Hagee's newly formed entity, a 501(c)(4) political lobbying group called the CUFI Action Fund is certain to be fully engaged. Headed by veteran Christian Right activist Gary Bauer, the CUFI Action Fund was launched last month at the annual Washington, DC meeting of Hagee's Christians United for Israel (CUFI), an organization with a $7-+ million dollar budget and one that bills itself as the largest pro-Israel organization in the United States, with over two million members.

"Over the next 60 days, our focus will be the ill-conceived and stunningly bad proposed nuclear agreement with Iran," Bauer told the Christian Post. "We are going to be on Capitol Hill every day, both with lobbyists and we are also going to be in their email box and on their telephones and in their mail delivery and at their town hall meetings with people that are going to press members of Congress in both parties on this."

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaIranCrisis2(Photo: Phillip Maiwald)For Christian Zionists and neo-conservatives, the discussion over what to do about Iran is nothing new. If it were up to folks like Michael Evans, Joel Rosenberg and John Bolton, the U.S. would have bombed Iran years ago. These days, however, as the current debate over the Iranian nuclear deal continues going nuclear, conservatives are charging the Obama administration with at best being naive and getting snookered by Iranian negotiators, and at worst, with leading Israelis "to the ovens," and staging a replay (only worse) of Neville Chamberlain's Munich deal with Hitler. Iran can't be trusted is a most commonly heard refrain.

Christian Zionists, who for years have been hankering for the U.S. to exercise a more muscular approach to Iran, are committing tens of millions of dollars to killing the deal. Republicans think they have found the Golden Ticket to finally winning over Jewish voters.

While all the yammering is going on, it is worth stepping back in time to see how we got to where we are with Iran. And for that, there's no better place to turn than to Stephen Kinzer's now twelve-year-old -- but still seminal -- book, All The Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror.

All The Shah's Men describes the Central Intelligence Agency's (CIA) maiden coup -- the 1953 overthrow of Mohammad Mossadegh, the democratically elected prime minister of Iran. The coup's code name was "Operation Ajax."

Published in Guest Commentary

DIERDRE FULTON OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBernieAZ(Photo: EcoWatch)With recent polls showing Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders closing the gap with rival Hillary Clinton and out-polling all of the GOP’s leading candidates, progressives nationwide will host coordinated house parties on Wednesday to further fuel the fire of enthusiasm for the self-described democratic socialist.

On July 29, Sanders will address thousands of supporters live via streaming video from a home in Washington, DC. According to his campaign, more than 82,000 people have indicated that they plan to attend one of the more than 3,000 simultaneous local organizing meetings.

“We have a technology available to us that Barack Obama and Howard Dean did not have,” the U.S. senator from Vermont said in an interview with the New York Times‘ First Draft. “And the idea that I can simultaneously be speaking to people located in 1,000 different places is pretty, pretty exciting.” The candidate’s address will be followed by a planning meeting for anyone who wants to stay online and discuss joining his campaign.

In a wide-ranging interview with Vox published Tuesday, Sanders elaborated on this organizing strategy.

“I often make the joke, although it’s not such a joke, that if we can spend half of the time in this country talking about why the middle class is collapsing, as opposed to football or baseball, we would revolutionize what’s going on in America,” Sanders told Vox.

Published in Guest Commentary
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