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COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaweatherchristA record warm Christmas is likely on its way. (Photo: Twitter)

If you’re dreaming of a white Christmas in the eastern and central U.S., you can probably keep dreaming. As EcoWatch reported last week, the unseasonably warm weather has set a number of December records.

Many cities in the eastern and central U.S. will see temperatures 10-20 degrees above average this week. If you live in the Eastern or Central U.S., Friday could be “one of the warmest Christmas Days of your lifetime,” The Weather Channel reported Sunday.

“Several cities in the East will likely see their warmest Christmas Eve or Christmas Day on record, adding to the more than 2,600 daily record high temperatures that have been tied or broken across the Lower 48 in the first 19 days of the month. This mild forecast means the prospect for a white Christmas is highly unlikely for many east of the Rockies.”

“Due to the warming effects of the strong El Niño climate pattern, many places that often have a good chance of seeing snow Christmas Day will miss out this year,” explained AccuWeather. “El Niño has helped to strengthen a west-to-east jet stream that delivers mild Pacific air across the U.S.”

Published in Guest Commentary
Tuesday, 22 December 2015 00:00

Mark Ruffalo: The Renewable Energy Race Is On

MARK RUFFALO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaParisCOP21(Photo: "A message of freedom and 100% renewable energy from Paris. Photo credit: Yann Arthus-Bertrand / Spectral Q")The climate agreement reached in Paris is provoking a flurry of caveats, criticisms and cautions. Many of those criticisms are warranted and there’s a lot of work ahead to make sure countries live up to their promises. But we should not miss a chance to celebrate a historic turning point.

World leaders finally made commitments to clean, renewable energy that will help to ensure a safer, healthier and more prosperous future for us all. The agreement signals that the age of fossil fuels is coming to a close and the age of renewable energy is dawning.

In many ways, the Paris deal is the mother of all market signals. To deliver on the promises world leaders made, we will need to leave coal and oil in the ground and move toward a complete reliance on clean energy. Let’s not miss the writing on the wall: fossil fuels are a losing bet, while renewables offer economic opportunity.

This is true for all segments of society—from energy investors to individual households that can save money on their energy bills by switching to rooftop solar power.

The Paris pact ratifies an ongoing renewable energy revolution spreading across the globe. Each year since 2013, the world has added more power-generating capacity fueled by renewable sources than from coal, natural gas and oil combined. Global investment in renewable energy hit $310bn last year, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. And major companies are pledging to go 100 percent renewable, too.

Published in Guest Commentary

ERIN BROCKOVICH OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaPorterleak750(Photo: An infrared, time-lapse video of the natural gas leak in Porter Ranch, California. Photo credit: MSNBC / YouTube screenshot)Since October, residents of Porter Ranch, California, have been exposed to dangerous contaminants from a massive natural gas leak that continues to seep into the air, causing a catastrophe the scale of which has not been seen since the 2010 BP oil spill.

After only a week of visiting families in Porter Ranch, I am already experiencing the headaches, nausea and congestion that have plagued this community living at the center of one of the most significant environmental disasters in recent history.

Southern California Gas Co. or SoCalGas, has essentially ignored the impact to victims and its actions have instead added to their suffering. The company has refused to release air quality data that could be used to protect its residents, it has made relocation very difficult and it has forged ahead with plans to expand its facility before the leak has even been contained.

The enormity of the Aliso Canyon gas leak cannot be overstated. Gas is escaping through a ruptured pipe more than 8,000 feet underground and it shows no sign of stopping. As the pressure from weight on top of the pipe causes the gas to diffuse, it only continues to dissipate across a wider and wider area. According to tests conducted in November by the California Air Resources Board, the leak is spewing 50,000 kilograms of gas per hour—the equivalent to the strength of a volcanic eruption.

At this rate, in just one month, the leak will have accounted for one-quarter of the total estimated methane emissions in the state of California.

Published in Guest Commentary

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaPrisoners2(Photo: Bart Everson)“The question now is how to change our institutions so that they promote human values rather than destroy them.”

Philip Zimbardo, who posed this question in the wake of the famous — or infamous — Stanford Prison Experiment 44 years ago, might have added: If we fail to do so, we guarantee our own social collapse.

The collapse is underway, one broken soul at a time:

“But the basic story the men told was the same: (Leonard) Strickland was pushed down a flight of stairs, and then beaten nearly to death by a large group of guards.”

This is from a recent New York Times investigative piece about inmate abuse at Clinton Correctional Facility, in upstate New York — a particularly boiling cauldron of racism in America’s prison-industrial complex. Almost all of the nearly 1,000 guards who work at the rural prison are white; the inmates, mostly from New York City, are black. Not surprisingly, the prisoners say “they face a constant barrage of racial slurs.”

And racial slurs have a way of escalating, especially under conditions in which one group of people has enormous, unchecked power over another group. Zimbardo called it the Lucifer Effect: the transformation of ordinary, decent people into . . . well, monsters. His 1971 study, in which two dozen college-student volunteers were randomly designated either guards or prisoners in a makeshift “penitentiary” in the basement of Stanford’s psych department, was meant to last two weeks but was called off after six days because the situation had gotten out of control.

Zimbardo said that he came to his senses after an outside observer, who was brought in to conduct interviews, reacted with utter shock “when she saw our prisoners being marched on a toilet run, bags over their heads, legs chained together, hands on each other’s shoulders. Filled with outrage, she said, ‘It’s terrible what you are doing to these boys!’”

Published in Guest Commentary

COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaArenewables(Photo: EcoWatch)Nassau, New York, a town of 5,000 people just outside of Albany, New York, plans to disconnect from the electrical grid. Last week, the town board voted to get 100 percent of its power from renewables by 2020. The town is making the move both as a way to “increase its reliance on renewable sources of energy and to gain some energy independence,” Politico New York reported.

“If all goes as planned, within the next four years, all six of the town buildings will be disconnected from the grid,” said Nassau Supervisor Dave Fleming. The rest of the town is developing a plan to get all of its power from renewable sources in the next four years.

“It’s not the be-all to end-all for what we should be doing as a state and a nation, but it’s a good first step,” he said. “From a practical perspective, it’s possible,” he added. “We have a lot of ‘people resources’ in our community.”

The town plans to use a combination of rooftop and ground-mounted solar, wind turbines and methane-capture from the landfill to generate its energy.

Though the tiny town’s transition to renewables may not have the impact of, say, New York City going fossil-fuel-free (Mayor Bill de Blasio has pledged for municipal operations to run on 100 percent renewable energy before 2050), it’s just one of many cities and towns around the world making the transition.

Published in Guest Commentary

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaRaindrop(Photo: Acagastya)There is a constant flow of headlines these days confirming the mess we've made: "Looks Like Rain Again. And Again"; "Alaska Will Keep Melting"; "Climate Change a Worry to Central Bankers, Too"; "Warning on Climate Risk: Worst to Come."

This is far from a natural phenomenon. A handful of corporate interests are causing these catastrophes. Oil, coal, auto and a few other industrial powers have profited for decades by spewing fossil fuel contaminants into the world's atmosphere.

Some experts were speaking out about this mess nearly 40 years ago:

"There is general scientific agreement that the most likely manner in which mankind is influencing the global climate is through carbon dioxide release from the burning of fossil fuels," wrote James Black in 1978.

"Over the past several years, a clear scientific consensus has emerged," said Roger Cohen in September 1982. "There is unanimous agreement in the scientific community that a temperature increase of this magnitude would bring about significant changes in the Earth's climate, including rainfall distribution and alterations in the biosphere."

The significance of these early calls to action is that they came from Exxon!

Inside Climate News revealed in an investigative series released this fall that the oil superpower (now infamous for its relentless campaign of lies to discredit climate science) was briefly a paragon of scientific integrity. From 1978 through the '80s the corporation's research headquarters were a buzzing hive of farsighted inquiry into the "greenhouse effect," as the process of climate change was then called.

But in 1988, the elegant space inhabited by principle was suddenly invaded by the indelicate demands of profit. Dr. James Hansen, NASA's renowned climate expert, testified to Congress that fossil pollution of Earth's atmosphere had already surpassed the crisis point. "Global warming has begun," Hanson concluded.

Published in Guest Commentary

WILL DURST FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBullyingNo(Photo: Andrevruas)Bullies love fear. And once they sniff its smoke, the real pros know how to fuel and exploit it. Always claiming to represent the greater good, when what they specialize in is looking out for #1. And flinging loads of #2 at the rest of us. Consequently, the people most susceptible to their reviled reveille are the weak, the ignorant, the powerless, other bullies and folks with neck tattoos.

Hitler, Stalin and Joe McCarthy all secured status in the Big Time Bully Hall of Fame by railing against imaginary enemies. Creating an "us versus them" story line where anybody who doesn't look like us, is a THEM. Which can lead to an incestuous behavior typically endowing royal families with weak chins.

Quickly tiring of having sand kicked in their face by a series of invading hordes, Russia turned to bullies for self- preservation. One of the reasons the Russian people never really warmed up to Mikhail Gorbachev even though we thought he was the bees' knees. Or the bear's hair. Or kittens' mittens. Whatever. We liked him. They didn't.

The architect of Perestroika didn't want to bury the West, he wanted to partner with it, to give his people Madonna CDs and Happy Meals. Bars of soap without splinters of bone in them. Can't we all get along? But after the Soviet Union dissolved, they kicked him out. So, apparently, the answer is nyet, we can't.

Vladimir Putin has since run his country by parading around as the guy you don't want to mess with, compared to Obama, who is the guy you don't want to play backgammon with. Putin is a dangerous bully and wants you to know it. That's why he's always pulling stunts like riding wolves bareback shirtless. Wrestling sharks. For crum's sake, the guy is 5' 7". Barely taller than Tom Cruise. Maybe he should play Jack Reacher in the sequel.

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBLMwonttakeit(Photo: INeverCry)In his bestselling book, Between The World And Me, an extended essay told as a letter to his 15-year-old son, Samori, Ta-Nehisi Coates writes: "I am writing you because this is the year you saw Eric Garner choked to death for selling cigarettes; ... that John Crawford was shot down for browsing in a department store. And you have seen men in uniform drive by and murder Tamir Rice, a twelve-year-old whom they were oath-bound to protect. And you have seen men in the same uniforms pummel Marlene Pinnock, someone's grandmother, on the side of the road." If and when Coates' book goes to paperback, there are likely to be many more examples of the epidemic of police violence.

Pick a city, just about any city -- or maybe even a smallish town -- and there's a good chance that sometime during the year on the front page of your local newspaper you'll find a headline similar to: "Video puts new light on shooting," which appeared in the Saturday, December 12 edition of the San Francisco Chronicle. The headline topped a story about the December 2nd fatal police killing of 26-year-old Mario Woods in the city's Bayview neighborhood. Surrounded by five police officers, Woods, with a knife in his hand, apparently had his arms down by his sides when the officers, claiming to be threatened, fired at least fifteen, and maybe as many as twenty shots.

According to the Chronicle's Vivian Ho, a video "shows [that] San Francisco police officers fired a barrage of shots at [Woods] while he held his arms at his sides, an apparent contradiction to the Police Department's account that he prompted his killing by threatening an officer with a kitchen knife."

In this age when just about everyone has the tools to take videos and then instantaneously post them, two phrases in Ho's piece stand out: a) "a video shows" and, b) "apparent contradiction to the Police Department's account." It is no great secret that official accounts by police – and corroboration by fellow officers – are justifiably and all too frequently suspect.

Published in Guest Commentary

SOHARA MEHROZE SHACHI OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaCOP21protest(Photo: EcoWatch)The latest version of the draft COP21 agreement that came out yesterday was a slap in the face of even the most pragmatic optimists. With most of the crucial elements now bracketed (i.e. uncertain), the agreement has been almost reduced to empty rhetoric and far from what is needed to prevent global temperature rise beyond the catastrophic 2 degree level, let alone 1.5 degrees.

“Offer of 1.5 as an inspiration is not what we are expecting,” says Azer Girmai of LDC Watch. “It will not become a tradeoff for our demands. We insist for developed countries to commit.”

The new draft presents two options for mitigation, a not very ambitious quantitative target and a qualitative target which would either be carbon neutrality or decarbonization—neither of which is very ambitious. There is also a bracketed goal for a very ambitious goal which is most likely to be rejected. However, these options will allow countries to keep emitting.

With regards to finance, the agreement is equally disappointing. While it says financial assistance would be provided to vulnerable countries, the options do not promise much and the key words and specifics are all bracketed. “This is a reflection of the resistance of developed country parties to describe finance that is in anyway meaningful,” says Lidy Nacpi, regional coordinator of WECAN.

Published in Guest Commentary

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBlankenship(Photo: Magnus Manske)Don Blankenship didn't get what he deserves in his federal trial, but he definitely deserves what he got.

"Guilty," declared all 12 West Virginia jurors who pondered the charge that this arrogant and avaricious CEO of Massey Energy Company willfully conspired to violate America's mine safety laws. As a result of that conspiracy, 29 miners were essentially murdered by the corporation on April 5, 2010, in a horrific explosion deep inside Massey's Upper Big Branch coal mine.

Blankenship, a multimillionaire right-wing ideologue, union-buster, and political heavyweight, ran the Upper Big Branch mine like a lawless third-world operator. It was one of the most dangerous workplaces in the country, because this kingpin of King Coal relentlessly put profit over people, recklessly endangering miners. But coal is, indeed, king in West Virginia, so the laws are written to coddle the royals of the industry. Thus, Blankenship's guilt is to be punished by a maximum of one year in prison — and his diamond-studded legal team intends to have the jury's unanimous verdict of guilt tossed down the dark shaft of judicial favoritism for the rich.

What the mining baron deserved was to be put in stocks on the state's capitol grounds, where he would be subjected to a steady stream of derision from the families of mineworkers who were degraded, made ill and even killed to haul up coal so Don could live in luxury. He escaped that justice, but he'll never shake off the guilty judgment of the jurors — or of the American people who followed the long, widely covered trial that fully documented the rank immorality of this man and his ill-gotten fortune.

He undoubtedly thinks he got away with murder, but in the Court of Public Opinion, his legacy is that he has turned the name Blankenship into a four-letter word.

Published in Guest Commentary
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