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LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaDamonFlint(Photo: EcoWatch)Matt Damon has joined the escalating outrage over Gov. Rick Snyder’s handling of the water crisis in Flint, Michigan and has called on embattled governor to step down from his post.

“At the very least he should resign! At the very least,” the Hollywood actor and co-founder of the nonprofit Water.org told The Daily Beast at the Sundance Film Festival on Saturday.

“Listen, everybody’s entitled to a fair trial in the United States of America, but that man should get one. And soon. That’s just my personal opinion.”

Flint’s water disaster started back in April 2014, when an unelected state official switched the city’s main water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River to save money. This ill-fated move has corroded Flint’s aging pipelines and exposed the city’s 102,000 residents—especially children—to the potentially crippling effects of lead poisoning and led to two outbreaks of Legionnaires Disease that has killed 10 people.

To make matters worse, emails released last week revealed that Gov. Snyder and his administration knew about Flint’s water quality issues as early as February 2015 but his administration said the problems would eventually “fade in the rearview.”

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaGuteBible(Photo: Mactographer)On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Donald Trump made a pilgrimage to the late Rev. Jerry Falwell's Liberty University. Liberty is the largest Christian University in the world, and is now run by his son Jerry Falwell Jr. At Liberty, Trump said that it was an honor to be compared to the Rev. Jerry Falwell, and he assured the 13,000 people in attendance that he would "protect Christianity."

"Christianity is under siege," Trump added. "Very bad things are happening ... Somehow we have to unify, we have to band together, we have to do really in a really large version what they've done at Liberty ... You band together, you've created one of the great universities, colleges anywhere in the country, anywhere in the world, and that's what our country has to do around Christianity."

Raw Story reported that Trump "was ridiculed by some religious leaders after his appearance at Liberty on Monday, during which he tried to shoehorn a Biblical reference into his usual stump speech."

Trump speaking at Liberty University is pretty remarkable given that Trump has never had a close connection to, or even a passing relationship with, the Christian evangelical community. That combined with the fact that back in the day, the Rev. Jerry Falwell was an outspoken critic of Martin Luther King Jr. and what he termed the "so-called freedom movement," certainly made for an unusual cultural moment. To be fair to the late Rev. Falwell, he did eventually repudiate his segregationist past, although he never embraced Martin Luther King Jr.'s civil rights/freedom struggle during his career.

Trump's appearance at Liberty was followed by his receiving the endorsement of Sarah Palin, which, given her standing in the evangelical Christian community, could nudge a few more evangelical Christians into his column.

Published in Guest Commentary

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBernieBern(Photo: Nick Solari)When I crossed paths with a Democratic Party campaign consultant in Austin last March, I suggested he come out to the local International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers hall to hear Bernie Sanders, adding that the Vermont senator was pondering a run for the presidency. "You gotta be kiddin' me," the political pro snorted. "Bernie Sanders? Let me tell ya, his chances are slim and none, and Slim don't live in Bernie's precinct. First of all, no one south of Greenwich Village ever heard of him. Second, who's gonna vote for some old senator from a tiny state of Birkenstock-wearers damn near in Canada?"

So that scoffer was a no-show, but we really didn't have room for him anyway. We had expected about 200 people — the capacity of the hall — but nearly 500 Texans showed up that night to hear the undiluted populist message of this senator "no one ever heard of."

Austin was one of the first stops on a cross-country trip that Sanders was taking to assess whether an unabashedly progressive, movement-building presidential campaign could rally any substantial support. If he ran, he intended to go right at the moneyed elites who've thoroughly corrupted our politics and rigged our economy to squeeze the life out of the middle class. But, would anyone follow? Were people really ready to do this, and could a 74-year-old, notoriously brusque Vermonter with a conspicuous Brooklyn accent be the one to spark such a modern-day American revolt? He wasn't sure, and even if it might work, he assumed it would be a slow build.

I was to introduce him at the Austin event, and as we worked our way from the parking lot, waving to an ebullient overflow group gathered outside the union building, shaking hands with people standing all along the hallway and up the stairwell, then squeezing through the jam-packed crowd in the auditorium — I said to him: "Something is happening here." He nodded and said in an astonished whisper, "Something is happening."

Published in Guest Commentary

COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaLeo(Photo: Christopher William Adach)Leonardo DiCaprio blasted the “corporate greed of the coal, oil and gas industries” in a speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland Tuesday.

DiCaprio was honored along with will.i.am, Yao Chen and Olafur Eliasson for making important contributions to improving the state of the world. He was recognized for his work in tackling climate change through his Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation and his position as an UN Messenger of Peace.

During his acceptance speech, DiCaprio urged world leaders to do more. “Last month in Paris, world leaders reached a historic agreement that provides a concrete framework to reduce carbon emissions,” he said. “This was an important first step, but we are a long way off from claiming victory in this fight for our future and for the survival of our planet.”

While traveling recently to film a documentary on the impacts of climate change, DiCaprio said he was “astonished to see that ancient glaciers” in Greenland and the Arctic are “rapidly disappearing well ahead of scientific models.” In India, he saw farmers’ fields devastated by unprecedented flooding. He said we need to keep fossil fuels in the ground, urged business leaders to divest from fossil fuels and pushed for a rapid transition to renewables.

“We simply cannot afford to allow the corporate greed of the coal, oil and gas industries to determine the future of humanity. Those entities with a financial interest in preserving this destructive system have denied and even covered-up the evidence of our changing climate,” he said. “Enough is enough. You know better. The world knows better. History will place the blame for this devastation squarely at their feet.”

Published in Guest Commentary

COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaDenmarkWind(Photo: Fanny Schertzer)Denmark produced 42 percent of its electricity from wind power in 2015, even though two major wind farms were offline, according to official data from Energinet, Denmark’s transmissions systems operator. That’s the highest figure recorded to date worldwide and 3 percent higher than the record Denmark set for wind production in 2014.

In fact, two western regions—Jutland and Funen—supplied more electricity from wind than they consumed for the equivalent of 60 days last year. Wind supplied 55 percent of electricity in the western part of the country and 23 percent in the eastern region.

“Hopefully, Denmark can serve as an example to other countries that it is possible to have both ambitious green policies with a high proportion of wind energy and other renewables in the energy supply, and still have a high security of supply and competitive prices on electricity,” the country’s Minister for Energy, Utilities and Climate Lars Christian Lilleholt told The Guardian.

According to Energinet, 2015 was a particularly windy year, which helped Denmark set the new record. But Denmark has been rapidly increasing its overall percentage of wind energy for more than a decade.

“The fact that we are now generating surplus power 16 percent of the time in the Western Danish power grid illustrates that … we can benefit from imports and exports across borders to an even greater extent,” Carsten Vittrup, an adviser to Energinet, said. Denmark sells excess energy mainly to Norway, Sweden and Germany.

Published in Guest Commentary

COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaCasinoPier(Photo: Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen)Bloomberg’s Carbon Clock serves as an ominous reminder that carbon levels are rising rapidly. The clock tracks the monthly average levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere. The current number is slightly above 400 parts per million (ppm).

“Carbon dioxide pollution is the primary reason the Earth is warming,” Bloomberg explained. “The number you see here estimates the level of CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere right now, based on monthly averages.”

Scientists estimate pre-industrial CO2 levels hovered around 280 ppm. When scientists first measured CO2 levels in 1959, they were at 316 ppm. The “danger zone,” according to Bloomberg, is 450 ppm, which we may reach in just a few decades. The climate group 350.org proposes rapidly reducing CO2 levels to below 350 ppm this century to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change.

And don’t be fooled by carbon’s seasonal cycle, Bloomberg cautioned. CO2 levels fall each spring and autumn when vegetation in the Northern Hemisphere absorbs carbon from the air, but the overall trend is still upward.

Published in Guest Commentary
Friday, 15 January 2016 00:00

Why the GOP's Fence Fantasy Is a Farce

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBorderBeach(Photo: James Reyes)A long time ago, in a not-so-faraway land, a civilization existed that was governed through a fairly rational political system. Even conservative candidates for high office had to have a good idea or two — and be quasi-qualified.

That land was the USA. It still exists as a place, but these days, Republican candidates don't even have to be qualified — much less sane — to run for the highest office in the land. All they need is the backing of one or more billionaires, a hot fear-button issue to exploit and a talent for pandering without shame to the most fanatical clique of know-nothings in their party. Also, they must be able to wall themselves off from reality, erecting a wall of political goop around their heads so thick that even facts and obvious truth cannot get through to them.

Indeed, the GOP's "One Great Issue" of the 2016 campaign for president is: The Wall. Ted Cruz practically snarls when he declares again and again that he'll "build a wall that works." Marco Rubio is absolute about it: "We must secure our border, the physical border, with a wall, absolutely." And Donnie Trump has basically built his campaign atop his fantasy of such an imperial edifice: "We're going to do a wall," he commands, as though he's barking at one of his hotel construction crews.

There are, of course, certain problems that you might expect them to address, such as the exorbitant cost of the thing, the extensive environmental damage it'll do, and the futility of thinking that people aren't clever enough to get around, over, under or through any wall. But don't hold your breath waiting for any common sense to intrude on their macho posturing.

Trump even made a TV ad depicting hordes of marauding Mexicans invading our country — proof that a huge wall is necessary! Only, the film footage he used is not of Mexican migrants, but of Moroccans fleeing into Spain. But after all, when trying to stir up fear of foreigners, what the hell does honesty have to do with it?

Published in Guest Commentary

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaGMOwheat(Photo: Bluemoose)Another country is taking action on genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Taiwan has banned schools across the nation from serving GMOs to students, citing health and safety concerns.

On Dec. 14, 2015, Taiwanese legislature passed amendments to the School Health Act to stamp out raw genetically modified ingredients as well as processed food containing GMOs.

The ban affects cafeterias and food stands in every elementary school, middle school and high school in Taiwan, The China Post reported. Schools have traditionally served food products such as soybeans, corn, salmon, tofu and soy milk that contain GMOs.

“Soy is a major ingredient in Taiwan’s school lunches,” said Lin Shu-fen of the Democratic Progressive Party, who advocated for the passage of the bill. “Genetically modified soy has been shown to contains toxic residue from pesticides.”

It’s not just schoolchildren eating tons of GMO soy. Taiwan, as a whole, is a large consumer of the crop. According to Agri-View, “Taiwan consumes more than 8 million bushels of soybeans used in soy foods. Ninety-five percent of those 8 million bushels originate in the U.S., and 7.2 million bushels of those soybeans are GMO soybeans from the U.S.”

Published in Guest Commentary

COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaCombover(Photo: BostonJerry)Donald Trump has been having a tough time in the UK lately. First, he lost his appeal with the UK Supreme Court to halt a Scottish wind farm project near his resort in Aberdeenshire. Next, a parliamentary petition, backed by more than 500,000 people, was launched to bar Trump from entering the UK. And now, a UK agency is slapping him with a fine for carbon pollution from one of his private jets.

Trump faces fines of €2,152 ($2,339) for a flight to the UK in a plane owned by a firm called DJT Operations I LLC, part of the Trump Organization.

The UK’s Environment Agency, which is charged with enforcing the European Union’s Emissions Trading System (ETS), published an updated list of those facing fines on Tuesday. The agency issued the fines to 25 operators, totaling more than £750,000 (about $1.1 million), because they failed to purchase carbon permits to cover their emissions, The Guardian said.

Those fined along with Trump are various private and commercial jet operators, including the Bahrain Royal family, insurance giant AIG and 21st Century Fox America, the company chaired by Rupert Murdoch.

“The EU Emissions Trading System is an important means of regulating emissions from aviation operators,” Liz Parkes, Environment Agency deputy director of climate change and business services, told The Guardian. “The Environment Agency’s enforcement activity is part of coordinated action across Europe.”

The trading system is designed to limit carbon pollution and mitigate climate change.

Published in Guest Commentary

COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaNunWeed(Photo: EcoWatch)Two self-proclaimed nuns, Sister Kate and Sister Darcey, grow and sell marijuana for medicinal purposes in Merced, California. But the future of their business is now in jeopardy as the Merced City Council issued a temporary ban on marijuana cultivation after a 6-0 vote on Jan. 4.

The Sisters of the Valley sell their line of medicinal salves, tonics and tinctures on Etsy. Their products, which are independently certified as organic, are high in CBD, or cannabidiol, a cannabis compound that has been shown to have significant medical benefits, and low in THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, the better known cannabis compound with psychoactive properties.

According to the sisters, they make the medicine based on “ancient ritual,” which involves turning their cannabis tinctures every morning and night, only bottling tinctures during a full moon and saying a healing prayer over every bottle and jar before it’s sold.

“We make CBD oil, which takes away seizures and a million other things,” Sister Kate told ABC News. “It’s very high in demand from cancer patients right now. And we make a salve that’s a multi-purpose salve, but we found out it cures migraines, hangovers, earaches, tooth aches and diaper rash.” The salve is made from cannabis trim, coconut oil, vitamin E, lavender oil, calendula oil and beeswax.

Published in Guest Commentary
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