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DR DAVID SUZUKI OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaOceanTrash(Photo: NOAA)June 8 is World Oceans Day. It's a fitting time to contemplate humanity's evolving relationship with the source of all life. For much of human history, we've affected marine ecosystems primarily by what we've taken out of the seas. The challenge as we encounter warming temperatures and increasing industrial activity will be to manage what we put into them.

As a top predator, humans from the tropics to the poles have harvested all forms of marine life, from the smallest shrimp to the largest whales, from the ocean's surface to its floor. The staggering volume of fish removed from our waters has had a ripple effect through all ocean ecosystems. Yet the ocean continues to provide food for billions of people, and improved fishing practices in many places, including Canada, are leading to healthier marine-life populations. We're slowly getting better at managing what we catch to keep it within the ocean's capacity to replenish. But while we may be advancing in this battle, we're losing the war with climate change and pollution.

In the coming years, our ties to the oceans will be defined by what we put into them: carbon dioxide, nutrients washed from the land, diseases from aquaculture and land-based animals, invasive species, plastics, contaminants, noise and ever-increasing marine traffic. We once incorrectly viewed oceans as limitless storehouses of marine bounty and places to dump our garbage; now it's clear they can only handle so much.

Published in Guest Commentary

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaJournalism(Photo: Kai Mörk)Too often "the law" is nothing more than prejudice embedded in jargon.

So the Obama administration, in its attempt to hammer another national security leaker, is directly challenging the right of journalists to protect confidential sources. Administration lawyers, arguing this week before the Supreme Court — which rejected New York Times reporter James Risen's appeal of a Circuit Court decision that could require him to testify in the case against a former CIA officer — asserted, according to the Times, that "reporters have no privilege to refuse to provide direct evidence of criminal wrongdoing by confidential sources."

Wrongdoing is one thing but, wow, "criminal wrongdoing" is quite another. The phrase bristles with righteous fury, summoning a sense of no-nonsense seriousness that sends a tremor to the very foundations of our society. The former CIA guy the administration wants to nail, Jeffrey Sterling, may have passed classified information — this is the government's contention — along to reporter Risen, and therefore endangered the nation's security. Criminal wrongdoing! Same as murder, rape and shoplifting. Freedom of the press doesn't give journalists the privilege to protect people like this.

One problem here is that the discussion of this issue is safely confined to abstract concepts. When we unravel the facts of this matter and put them in a real context of national — indeed, global — security, the legal trumpet-blasting reduces to a kind of weak toot. This is all about nuclear weapons, geopolitics . . . and public relations, specifically, the government's right to orchestrate what the public knows.

Published in Guest Commentary

HARVEY WASSERMAN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaFukushimaHotspot(Photo: Abasaa)The corporate media silence on Fukushima has been deafening even though the melted-down nuclear power plant's seaborne radiation is now washing up on American beaches.

Ever more radioactive water continues to pour into the Pacific.

At least three extremely volatile fuel assemblies are stuck high in the air at Unit 4. Three years after the March 11, 2011, disaster, nobody knows exactly where the melted cores from Units 1, 2 and 3 might be.

Amid a dicey cleanup infiltrated by organized crime, still more massive radiation releases are a real possibility at any time.

Radioactive groundwater washing through the complex is enough of a problem that Fukushima Daiichi owner Tepco has just won approval for a highly controversial ice wall to be constructed around the crippled reactor site. No wall of this scale and type has ever been built, and this one might not be ready for two years. Widespread skepticism has erupted surrounding its potential impact on the stability of the site and on the huge amounts of energy necessary to sustain it. Critics also doubt it would effectively guard the site from flooding and worry it could cause even more damage should power fail.

Meanwhile, children nearby are dying.

Published in Guest Commentary

EUGENE ROBINSON ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaCoalMine2(Photo: Bureau of Land Management)Even for people who don't believe in it, climate change just got real. It's about time.

The Obama administration's proposed new rule for existing power plants -- reducing heat-trapping carbon emissions by up to 30 percent by 2030 -- is ambitious enough to get anyone's attention. No, this one measure will not halt or reverse human-induced warming of the atmosphere. But the rule is necessary in the context of seeking international consensus on solutions -- and also significant in its own right.

Before Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy could announce the new rule Monday, critics were already bellowing about higher energy rates and lost jobs. They pretended not to see that President Obama -- as with health care reform -- is taking what ought to be seen as a Republican-friendly approach.

The rule, which will not become final until next year, gives states great flexibility in how they reach the target. They are not forced to immediately begin shutting down the aging coal-fired power plants that constitute one of the biggest sources of carbon pollution. Rather, each state can take the path that best fits its circumstances -- ramping up the generation of energy from renewable sources such as wind and solar, for example, or entering regional cap-and-trade agreements.

Ultimately, however, hundreds of those aging, dirty, coal-fired plants will have to close. If the planet could speak, it would say good riddance.

Published in Guest Commentary

JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaGitmoPrisoners(Photo: Shane T. McCoy)This piece is dedicated to Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald for their attempt to preserve our liberties by law in the People's Bill of Rights.

In case you didn't catch the irony of the title, "Tear down this wall!" was the challenge issued by President Ronald Reagan to Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev to destroy the Berlin Wall, June 12th 1987, as a demand to increase freedom in the Eastern Bloc, freedom to come and go as one pleases, and freedom from state controlled surveillance.

My, my, my—how the tables have turned, no?

Protesters around the world are demanding that President Obama fulfill his 2008 promise to shut down Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility, a prison known for torture and abuse, and for its illegal "indefinite detention" practice.

Guantanamo Bay Prison stands as a blatant violation of Constitutional Laws. So how did it happen in the first place?

If you want a close-up view of what was passed in the Patriot Act, look no further for the results of that abhorrent piece of legislation than Guantánamo Bay prison.

Worst still, Obama's National Defense Authorization Act made certain that American citizens can also be held indefinitely without trial or charge. The Patriot Act pales by comparison to the NDAA. President Obama used Executive Action to pass it into law on New Year's Day 2012—as if it were something to celebrate. He refuses, however, to take Executive Action for shutting down GITMO. Morally speaking, the president doesn't seem to know right from wrong.

As the president emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights, Michael Ratner, put it: "Barack Obama is the first president ever in the United States to sign into law indefinite detention as part of the policy of the United States."

Published in Guest Commentary
Friday, 30 May 2014 06:50

Insanity Extends Beyond the Shooters

WALTER BRASCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBullet1(Photo: Niels Noordhoek)During this past week, in Scranton, Pa., a 16-year old put two bullets into the head of a taxi driver and then stole about $500 earned by the cabbie that evening.

The teen, who showed no remorse when arrested a few hours later, mumbled a few words about his reasons. He said he murdered the cabbie "'Cause that's what I do to people that don't listen." The teen thought the cabbie was taking too long to get him to his destination. The driver was a 47-year-old man with a wife and two children. The gun was an unlicensed 9-mm.

A few days later, in Payson, Ariz., a three-year-old boy found a loaded semi-automatic gun in the apartment of family friend, began playing with it, and accidentally killed his 18-month-old brother. Police recovered several other weapons from the apartment.

In Homestead, Fla., a 28-year-old man, who admitted he was drinking and using cocaine, was showing off an AK-47 at a picnic. His six-year-old nephew picked up the gun when no one was watching, played with it, and accidentally killed his own grandfather.

In Isla Vista, Calif., a 22-year-old man with a history of mental problems, stabbed his three roommates, and then drove near the campus of the University of California at Santa Barbara. In about 10 minutes, he murdered three more students and wounded 13 more before committing suicide. Police say the killer had three 9 mm. weapons and about 400 rounds of ammunition, all of it purchased legally.

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBasketball(Photo: Reisio)Although it has been one of the worst kept secrets in professional sports, the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) is finally coming out of the closet with a series of monster slam-dunk marketing projects aimed at the LGBT community. The league recently announced that each of its teams would be turning its marketing efforts towards the LGBT community, becoming the first pro sports league to specifically recruit gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender fans to its games. At some point in the season, each team will stage an event acknowledging and honoring the LGBT community.

According to the Associated Press, "The launch of the effort coincides with a surge of political and legal advances for the gay-rights movement in the U.S., and shifting public opinion behind many of those advances."

As LGBT issues have gained wider support both politically and legally, the sports world has been part of the changing landscape. AP pointed out that "NBA player Jason Collins became the first player in men's professional basketball to come out and played with the Nets. Former Missouri football player Michael Sam, who came out in print and televised interviews earlier this year, was drafted in the seventh round by the St. Louis Rams. And Derrick Gordon, a UMass basketball player, recently described his experience as a gay Division I player."

The WNBA campaign "includes having teams participate in local pride festivals and parades, working with advocacy groups to raise awareness of inclusion through grassroots events and advertising with lesbian media. A nationally televised pride game will take place between Tulsa and Chicago on Sunday, June 22. All 12 teams will also have some sort of pride initiative over the course of the season."

Published in Guest Commentary

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaGlock(Photo: Ken Lunde)The world withheld love and he went to war. He was an army of one — another army of one, laying out his plans in secret torment, plotting his "day of retribution."

"The rampage shooters see themselves as moralistic punishers striking against deep injustice," Peter Turchin wrote a year and a half ago, in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre. In his essay, ominously titled "Canaries in a Coal Mine," which was published at Social Evolution Forum, he notes the upward trajectory of mass murders. Since the '60s, they've increased more than tenfold. Something's going wrong in the world we've created.

The killers are always described as loners . . . monsters, psychopaths. They're not like us, and so the motives for the killings are sought only in the rubble of their lives — in the left-behind writings and YouTube videos, the psychological reports, the fragmentary reflections of acquaintances — and they're nothing more than sterile curiosities, with a sort of reality-TV entertainment value.

So it turns out that Elliot Rodger, the 22-year-old who killed six UC Santa Barbara students, then committed suicide, last week in Isla Vista, Calif., was shut out of human connection, nailed into a coffin of isolation. He wrote in his journal some years earlier:

"I was desperate to have the life I know I deserve; a life of being wanted by attractive girls, a life of sex and love. Other men are able to have such a life . . . so why not me? I deserve it! I am magnificent, no matter how much the world treated me otherwise. I am destined for great things."

Unlike most lonely people — but like all the others who make screaming headlines out of their loneliness — he sought a military solution to his troubles. His enemies were wrecking his life, so he armed himself and went after them. He "went to war" and, in so doing, dignified his predicament and justified his course of action. Calling it "war" is a nearly airtight justification for violence — for murder.

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaTeaPartyBerkowitz(Photo: NYyankees51)After Mitt Romney's crushing defeat in the 2012 presidential election, and the Republican Party's failure to capitalize on seemingly winnable Senate seats, Karl Rove and his financial community decided they'd had enough of flawed Tea Party-identified and backed candidates with predilections for saying outrageous ridiculous things.

In order to attain a Mitch McConnell-run Senate in January 2015, Rove decided to back so-called establishment conservatives in the 2014 primaries, that is, candidates who are far right ideologically, but wouldn't expound nonsensical gibberish when quizzed by the media. The Tea Party on the other hand, claiming that it wanted nothing more to do with McConnell and his capitulating ilk, fielded and supported more ideologically compatible candidates against Republican "establishment" figures.

Now that the dust has just about settled from the GOP primaries, Rove has built a roster of candidates he believes can win control of the Senate in November. And the Tea Party? After experiencing a number of losses in big races, many in the mainstream media, as is their wont, are writing them off, claiming that their influence has diminished.

The Wall Street Journal proclaimed, "GOP sees primaries taming the tea party." The Washington Post's conservative columnist, Jennifer Rubin, talked about "the tea party's demise," while the Post's Jaime Fuller said the Tea Party "isn't just losing; it's losing badly." Rick Sanchez, writing for Fox News Latino, said "Good Bye Tea Party, We Hardly Knew Ye." CNBC wondered if "the tea party was over" And Time magazine pointed out "GOP rolls tea party in primaries."

Published in Guest Commentary

STEVEN JONAS MD, MPH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaButt(Photo: Sillyputtyenemies)Maria Bartiromo was a longtime financial market analyst for CNBC who recently left that channel and transferred over to the Fox Business Network. She appeared occasionally on CNBC's pre-market-opening show, "Squawk Box." On one of those occasions, she was engaged in a discussion about the problems that capitalism is facing. I believe that it was in the context of what one of Squawk Box's co-hosts, Andrew Ross Sorkin (also of The New York Times), was saying about the subject. In the course of it, she uttered a quite remarkable phrase, hailing what she termed "the moral imperative of capitalism."

The phrase came to mind in considering the current battle over climate change and what, if anything, to do about it. It is already affecting us. And of course, the degree of potential damage to the Earth as know it, physically, and for many of its species including ours in terms of long-term survival, is accelerating at ever-increasing rate. Indeed, there is a newly discovered major threat, the melting of a significant part of the Antarctic Ice Shelf, about which, apparently, nothing can be done. That is, in this case, even if there were a will, there is no way. For example, major parts of the State of Florida and of New York City, may well eventually be under water. Not fun, I should think. Nevertheless, there are some folks who [view this outcome from different perspective.

Of course, in the United States in particular there is a very large, very well-funded, and therefore very loud chorus that denies that global warming and one of its major consequences, climate change, is even taking place. And if it is taking place, human beings have nothing to do with it, and even if we did, doing anything to moderate the future certain changes, like enacting a "carbon tax" would just "ruin the economy" donchaknow. So where, you might be asking at this point, does the concept of "morality" come into all of this? Well, one kind of behavior that virtually everyone, atheist, theist, and everyone in-between, believes is immoral is stating as fact and truth something that you know to be false. This is where the "tobacco" in the title above comes in.

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