Facebook Slider
Optional Member Code
Get News Alerts!
markkarlin

markkarlin

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016june23 rentafrientHas everything become monetized in the gilded age of the internet, even friendship? (Photo: Christopher Paquette)

BuzzFlash isn't funded by corporate advertising, but by readers like you. Can you help sustain this critically important work with a tax-deductible donation?

Rafie Drencheva came to the United States to study for an MFA in documentary filmmaking at Northwestern University. Upon settling in, thousands of miles from Bulgaria where she was raised, she came across a website -- RentaFriend.com -- that soon became the topic of her required graduation documentary. It also became the source of, well, some friendships that extended beyond a monetary agreement.

I saw Drencheva's film, "Friends for Sale," at a screening recently and was struck by how even finding friends now has been monetized on the web. Although Drencheva hasn't released the short doc for general viewing yet (she is reserving it for film festivals at the moment), suffice it to say that it documents interactions with "friends for rent." These range from fees of $20 for baking cookies with an affable woman to $100 an hour for someone who provides nurturing cuddling.  At one point, Drencheva -- who narrates the film -- exclaims that renting friends can cost as much as a Beyoncé concert.

What struck me as I watched the interactions between Drencheva and the friends she rented -- who all appeared earnest and comforting -- is what role technology has played in the creation of the rent-a-friend concept and site (which will no doubt be followed by a number of similar online endeavors). Is our increasing dependence on digital and mobile phone communication impeding our personal interactions with people? Or is the idea of renting a friend just another niche that already existed, that the internet is now technologically capable of fulfilling more readily? (Oftentimes, the assumption is made that "technology" has created a certain issue in society, when really, that issue was always with us; technology has just made it more widely visible.) The exchange of money for other people's time -- including for companionship -- is not a new concept.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016june22The NRA and its state affiliates have championed guns in bars. Now they are lying about it, for the moment. (Photo: Thomas Hawk)

In May, Donald Trump spoke to an National Rifle Association (NRA) conference and received the gun lobby's presidential endorsement. It was not surprising, therefore, that after the appalling massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, Trump made statements backing the NRA's long-standing policy of favoring "the right" of patrons to carry guns into bars. Trump's support for "packing heat" in bars and nightclubs included remarks such as the following one -- made at campaign rally on June 17 -- according to Salon:

If we had people, where the bullets were going in the opposite direction, right smack between the eyes of this maniac — if some of those wonderful people had guns strapped right here, right to their waist or to their ankle, and this son of a bitch comes out and starts shooting, and one of the people in the room happened to have it, and goes boom — boom — you know what? That would have been a beautiful, beautiful sight, folks. That would have been a beautiful, beautiful sight. So don’t let them take your guns away.

Little did Trump know that the NRA, which is used to doubling down on its grotesque, lethal proposals, decided to lie about its record of lobbying in states -- often successfully -- to allow gun owners to legally bring their firearms into places that serve liquor. For those who follow the NRA's brash, provocative defense of guns and gun ownership -- after all, even former President George Herbert Walker Bush resigned from the NRA when their leadership called federal agents "jack-booted thugs" in the '90s -- it was a bit of a surprise to watch Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president and CEO of the NRA, denounce Trump's proposition. LaPierre told CBS News, when asked about Trump's ghoulish statement, "I don't think you should have firearms where people are drinking."

Chris Cox, executive director of the NRA's lobbying arm (the Institute for Legislative Action), also rebuked Trump's position, stating to ABC News, "No one thinks that people should go into a nightclub drinking and carrying firearms.... That defies common sense. It also defies the law."

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016june20 nestlewaterBottled water that is "pure life." Somehow, we doubt it. (Photo: Usman Ahmed)

The refuse left behind by bottled water is damaging enough to the planet's environment, but it is also troubling that much of the spring water that fills these bottles is pumped from public lands. Take, for instance, Nestlé's Arrowhead bottled water brand. It is extracted via a pipeline from a canyon -- in California's San Bernadino Mountains -- that some environmental and activist groups argue is ecologically sensitive to the water loss. It's clearly a case of a company exploiting public land for profit.  According to a May 9 article in the San Bernadino County Sun: 

Nestlé’s withdrawal of water from a canyon watershed, which environmental groups deem critical for several endangered species, has been a growing controversy for several years.

Outcry has intensified with continuation of the drought.

Late last year, the Center for Environmental Diversity, Story of Stuff Project and Courage Campaign Institute filed a federal lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service for allowing Nestlé’s pipelines, pumps and other structures on federal land after the company’s permit expired 28 years ago.

The U.S. Forest Service, which administers the federally owned land, was paid just $524 last year for 36 million gallons of water from Strawberry Canyon in the San Bernadino forest, according to the County Sun.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016june17 trumpmediaempIs Trump campaigning his brand to launch a media empire? (Photo: Russell Davies)

BuzzFlash is ad-free because of sustaining support from readers like you. Help keep independent media strong by making a tax-deductible donation today!

Will Donald Trump be joining some of his fellow billionaires in establishing his own cable network? Can he monetize his popularity with the segment of the population that turns out at his rallies and buys Trump paraphernalia? Is there an audience for All Trump/All The Time?

Billionaires’ ownership of newspapers and other media outlets is nothing new. Earlier this month, Forbes’ Kate Vinton reported that “billionaires have long exerted influence on the news simply by owning U.S. media outlets.” Rupert Murdoch and Michael Bloomberg “are longtime media moguls who made their fortunes in the news business,” while Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who bought The Washington Post, “bought publications as a side investment after building a substantial fortune in another industry. “

According to Vinton, “Billionaires own part or all of several of America’s influential national newspapers, including The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, in addition to magazines, local papers and online publications.”

Sheldon Adelson, the multibillionaire casino magnate, a major funder of right-wing causes and candidates and a Donald Trump endorser, owns a daily newspaper in Israel called Israel Hayom; bought after being unhappy with how he was being covered in Israel. Here at home, Adelson bought the Las Vegas Review-Journal for a reported $140 million.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016June16 radiationwaterThe EPA is proposing to allow a dramatic increase in the radiation in our drinking water in the event of an "emergency." (Photo: John Jones)

With the appropriate concern aroused about levels of lead in drinking water in cities such as Flint, a new threat to health has been raised by a proposed Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulation. The proposed regulation would allow for a higher level of radioactivity in potable water. On June 8, EcoWatch detailed the alarming development:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)Monday to allow radioactive contamination in drinking water at concentrations vastly greater than allowed under the Safe Drinking Water Act. The new guidance would permit radiation exposures equivalent to 250 chest X-rays a year. Environmental groups are calling the proposal "shocking" and "egregious."

The EPA proposed Protective Action Guides (PAGs) would allow the general population to drink water hundreds to thousands of times more radioactive than is now legal. For example, radioactive iodine-131 has a current limit of 3 pico-curies per liter (pCi/L), in water but the new guidance would allow 10,350 (pCi/L), 3,450 times higher. For strontium-90, which causes leukemia, the current limit is 8 pCi/L; the new proposed value is 7,400 pCi/L, a 925-fold increase....

"These levels are even higher than those proposed by the Bush Administration—really unprecedented and shocking," Diane D’Arrigo, Nuclear Information and Resource Service, said.

The advocacy organization Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) has reacted with alarm to the new plan put forth by a government agency that is supposed to be protecting us from toxic substances. The EPA claims it is only being proactive, allowing for potential changed circumstances in the future, should a nuclear reactor failure like Fukushima occur in the United States. Given past problems with nuclear power facilities in the US, that is downright frightening. It brings to mind the 1979 near-catastrophe at the Three-Mile Island nuclear facility in Pennsylvania. According to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, "The Three Mile Island Unit 2 (TMI-2) reactor, near Middletown, Pa., partially melted down on March 28, 1979. This was the most serious accident in U.S. commercial nuclear power plant operating history."

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016June15 netneutralityUS District of Columbia Court of Appeals upholds Net Neutrality, but the battle is not over. (Photo: Free Press)

BuzzFlash is ad-free because of sustaining support from readers like you. Help keep independent media strong by making a tax-deductible donation today! 

A three-judge panel of the DC District Court of Appeals yesterday upheld the Federal Communication Commission's  (FCC) authority to regulate the internet as a "common carrier," similar to telephone service. In effect, this preserves the concept of "net neutrality," which limits the ability of internet providers to provide speed and access advantages to companies who pay higher fees. Although the corporate behemoths now dominating internet transmission (like Comcast and AT&T) plan to appeal, there's no doubt that this decision is significant.

The ruling is a major win in a struggle dating back roughly 15 years to keep the internet from turning into a mainly corporate medium, such as cable television. On Tuesday, The Washington Post described the essence of the ruling:

A federal appeals court on Tuesday upheld the government’s “net neutrality” rules, preserving regulations that force internet providers such as Comcast and AT&T to treat all online traffic — everything from Netflix and cat videos to games and downloads — equally.

The 2-1 ruling is a sweeping victory for the Obama administration and the consumer groups and internet companies that have pushed net neutrality for years. The Federal Communications Commission’s rules block internet service providers from favoring their own services and disadvantaging others; blocking other sites and apps; and creating “fast lanes” for video and other data services that pay for the privilege.

On technical grounds, the ruling upholds the FCC’s authority to regulate broadband service as a utility, much like phone service, and to forbid what it considers unreasonable practices. It applies equally to wired broadband providers like cable companies and mobile ones such as Verizon.

For years -- through two presidential administrations -- the FCC waffled about preserving "net neutrality," first attempting a relatively weak version of regulation, which didn't past muster in the courts. However, in February of 2015, the agency adopted the more stringent regulatory protections that were upheld in the appeals court yesterday.

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

bramble 750The Bramble Cay melomys have vanished from its 350m-long cay home in the Torres Strait due to sea-level rise and weather events. Photo credit: Queensland Government

The Bramble Cay melomys—a rodent found only on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef—has been declared extinct, according to a new study from researchers at the Queensland’s Department of Environment and Heritage Protection and the University of Queensland.

Alarmingly, this could be the first mammal species wiped out due to human-induced climate change.

The researchers came to the conclusion after failing to find a single specimen of the melomys, also called the mosaic-tailed rat, from its only known habitat.

“A thorough survey effort involving 900 small mammal trap-nights, 60 camera trap-nights and two hours of active daytime searches produced no records of the species, confirming that the only known population of this rodent is now extinct,” the study states.

Sea-level rise and weather events in the Torres Strait region, which lies between Australia and the Melanesian island of New Guinea, was determined as the root cause of the loss. The scientists said that the events destroyed the animals’ sole habitat on Bramble Cay, a small vegetated coral cay in northern Australia. Research showed that Bramble Cay had reduced dramatically in size from approximately 2.2 ha in 2004 to only 0.065 ha, equivalent to a 97 percent loss in the span of 10 years.

“The key factor responsible for the extirpation of this population was almost certainly ocean inundation of the low-lying cay, very likely on multiple occasions, during the last decade, causing dramatic habitat loss and perhaps also direct mortality of individuals,” the study states.

JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016 June14flintwaterPresident Obama drinking a glass of Flint water is not the same as removing lead from our water supply. (Photo: Laura Nawrocik)

No matter what you may think of President Obama, it’s easy to admire him when he makes an appearance on one of the nightly talk shows. (watch this clip from the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon). He’s charming, intelligent, a natural at quips, and serious when discussing important problems plaguing Americans.

By contrast, however, there’s a thing called “the reality check” on his track record, which has driven many a liberal Democrat up the wall by feeling the burn of betrayal at times.

True, in many cases, Obama’s hands have been tied by an obstinate and racist Republican congress, but how do you explain his own executive actions that benefit the corporate elites at the expense of public health safety issues? How do you explain his lack of action when Americans need to be rescued from corporate abuses that could easily be fixed by enforcing environmental regulations?

The word that comes to mind is “disillusionment.” There’s the impressive picture of President Obama, and then there’s Obama’s record of decisions that even his predecessors, Bush-Cheney, couldn’t come close to passing: offshore oil drilling in the Arctic, and military operations off the Alaska coast, as Truthout journalist, Dahr Jamail, explained, this is a toxic threat to the entire pristine region. Or consider the fracking boom that was unleashed across the country under the Obama administration with the full knowledge and proof that it’s contaminating our public drinking water, coupled with the fact that fracking causes earthquakes.

Whether it’s perpetual wars, right-wing coups in Latin America, oil and gas drilling, or selling slave labor and anti-environmental trade deals such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, (check the 35,000 Germans protesting Obama-TPIP), as the negatives outweigh the positives, you can understand why presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders, became immensely popular. Senator Sanders has a long, established record of action that supports his agenda.

Take, for example, Obama’s lack of action regarding the toxic lead water contamination problem at over 350 public schools. 

Friday, 10 June 2016 09:36

How About "None of the Above"?

WILL DURST SATIRE FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016June9 noneoftheaboveSatirist Wlll Durst wonders if the United States might be better off without anyone sitting in the Oval Office. (Photo: Descrier)

Every four years our nation’s electoral eccentricities escalate exponentially and people throw up their hands and shout, “you know, every election cycle is wacky, but especially this one.” But Especially This One! With this one, the narrative changes faster than the score of a Wiffle Ball game played with aluminum bats. It’s an election with the attention span of high- speed lint. An 18 month-long Squirrel Scamper.
 
First, everyone is talking about New York Values. Then, low-energy debaters. Violent rallies. Domestic terrorists. KKK endorsements. Rigged rules. Palace coups. Naked wives. Tiny hands. Pope bashing. Lucifer comparing. Internecine warfare between orange people.  
 
And the phrase bubbling out of everyone’s lips around the political circus this week is… “get me the hell out of here.” No. No. It’s… “third party candidate.” Dark words of terror striking fear in the hearts of major party leaders, owing to a couple of dodgy characters named Ross Perot and Ralph Nader. Or as Donald Trump would call them, “losers.” Third party candidates responsible for the downfall of Al Gore and George Herbert Walker Bush; making them not just losers, but loser enablers. Losers squared.
 
A legitimate third party candidacy hasn’t affected a US election since 2000, but this time around, faced with two candidates less popular than acid rain at a paper mache sculpture garden, the fear is the populace could easily slide over to vote for less polarizing figures. And right now, an eighteen foot alligator with irritable bowel syndrome would be less polarizing than the Donald or the Hillary.
 
It’s too late to get on the Texas ballot for independent runs, and other state deadlines are approaching fast, so prospective 2016 aspirants need to get their proverbial poop together. The blueprint for chaos is waiting to be writ.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016june8 choosepeaceCould the United States government live without war? (Photo: Dave Hogg)

For all the self-styled US "patriots" who shout "USA, number one!" at rallies, please take note: A recent study finds that the United States is the 103rd most peaceful nation on Earth, out of a total of 163. This is the finding of the Global Peace Index 2016, conducted by the Institute for Economics & Peace's Vision of Humanity project. As Vision of Humanity notes in its summary of findings:

The 2016 Global Peace Index (GPI) shows the world became less peaceful in the last year, reinforcing the underlying trend of declining peace over the last decade. Results also show a growing global inequality in peace, with the most peaceful countries continuing to improve while the least peaceful are falling into greater violence and conflict....

It shows that amidst the global deterioration the world continues to spend enormous resources on creating and containing violence but very little on peace. The key to reversing the decline in peace is through building Positive Peace - a holistic framework of the key attitudes, institutions and structures which build peace in the long term. The UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 16, which focuses on peace, justice and strong institutions is critical to focusing the international community on the goal of attaining a more peaceful world....

The world continues to spend enormous amounts on creating and containing violence and little on building peace. The economic impact of violence on the global economy in 2015 was $13.6 trillion in purchasing power parity (PPP) terms. This figure represents 13.3 per cent of the world’s economic activity (gross world product) or $1,876 for every person in the world. To put this in perspective, it is approximately 11 times the size of global foreign direct investment. 

Naturally, some people and companies that reap financial profit from conflict are doing quite well.

Page 1 of 104