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LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Lineman 1113wrp optPhoto: Cara / Flickr)Whitefish Energy, the controversial energy firm repairing Puerto Rico's hurricane-wrecked power grid, is under fresh scrutiny for charging the island's power authority hundreds of dollars more per hour than its linemen receive.

The New York Times reported that the tiny Montana-based company—which doesn't have many of its own employees—contracted electrical workers from Florida at rates that range from $42 to $100 per hour, with an average rate of $63. Whitefish, however, has been charging the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) $319 an hour for each worker.

The Times pointed out that $319 per hour is wildly above the industry standard, even for emergency work. Notably, the rate is 17 times higher than what it would have cost to hire a lineman in Puerto Rico.

Whitefish spokesman Chris Chiames defended its costs to the newspaper, explaining that "simply looking at the rate differential does not take into account Whitefish's overhead costs" built into the rate.

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Pizza 1110wrp optPizza 1110wrp optFreedom of speech? Pizza sales? Freedom of speech? Pizza sales? For John Schnatter, founder and CEO of Papa John's International Inc., the hell with freedom of speech when business is down 8.5 percent. In 2010, Schnatter, a significant donor to President Donald Trump, a combatant in the administration's war against government regulations, and a vigorous critic of Obamacare, paid enough money to have his pizza designated the official pizza of the NFL. He is also the seemingly happy-go-lucky guy hamming it up in commercials alongside former NFL quarterback Peyton Manning. And to top it all off, Papa John's has been designated the "official pizza of the alt-right," a claim it quickly and vigorously distanced itself from.

Schnatter knows whose to blame for the pizza dip; NFL players protesting police brutality and racial injustice, and the feeble response by NFL owners and commissioner Roger Goodell. If it was up to Schnatter, the protest "should have been nipped in the bud a year and a half ago."

"The NFL has hurt us by not resolving the current debacle to the players' and owners' satisfaction," Schnatter, the company's CEO said on a conference call, according to Bloomberg News. "NFL leadership has hurt Papa John's shareholders."

According to Bloomberg News, "It's hard to quantify the connection between the NFL and pizza sales, but Papa John's did post disappointing results in the latest quarter. … [as] [i]ts shares fell as much as 13 percent … -- the most in two years -- after same-store sales missed analysts' estimates." The company, which is headquartered in Jeffersontown, Kentucky, a suburb of Louisville, and is the third largest take-out and pizza delivery restaurant chain in the United States, "trimmed its revenue and profit forecasts for the year."

Published in Guest Commentary

DAVID LEESTMA OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Pacific 1108wrp optThe Pacific Ocean seen from space. (Photo: blueforce4116 / Flickr)The Trump administration is considering cutting protections for two national monuments lying south of Hawaii in the central Pacific. The decision, scientists warn, will threaten reefs across the Pacific.

The move, according to a memo from Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke obtained by the Washington Post in September, would "allow commercial fishing" in the Pacific Remote Islands National Marine Monument and the Rose Atoll National Marine Monument.

The monuments, both created by former president Bush, protect the waters of a scattering of mostly uninhabited Islands south of Hawaii.

Although the shore reefs of these islands have long enjoyed protection from commercial fishing, the monument designations extended that protection between 50 and 200 miles from shore.

Published in Guest Commentary

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Challenges 1108wrp opt(Photo: Chris Tse / Flickr)Two Philadelphia-area children are suing President Donald Trump and two of his climate skeptic cabinet members, Energy Sec. Rick Perry and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt, to try to stop them from rolling back existing environmental protections including the Clean Power Plan.

The plaintiffs, ages 7 and 11, are backed by the Clean Air Council, Philadelphia's oldest environmental non-profit. The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on Monday.

The complaint alleges that the Trump administration's reliance on "junk science" to undo climate regulations are a threat to the young plaintiffs and other U.S. citizens.

The children are only identified by their first and last initials in the court papers. Seven-year-old plaintiff "S.B." claims to be suffering from medical issues, including severe seasonal allergies that cause recurrent nosebleeds and vomiting, that are "directly impacted by the climate" and "as a result of Defendants' affirmative acts in causing increased climate."

Published in Guest Commentary

PAT ELDER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Recruiters 1101wrp opt(Photo: Debra Sweet / Flickr)More than a hundred mothers have contacted me over the years, alarmed at the relationships their teenaged children were developing with military recruiters at school. They wanted to know what they could do about it. They were angry, and they were worried.

The fact these women reached out to me and other counter-recruitment activists demonstrates the degree of alarm they experienced. They feared their vulnerable children would enlist against their wishes. They were terrified their child would be killed while they stood by. This was the driving force of their resistance.

Several mothers told me they deeply resented the presence of military recruiters in their child's school and they described the influence recruiters were having over their child's thinking and behavior. They talked about difficult relationships they had with their children. Some said their child had forged close relationships with recruiters at school for over two years. These moms were certain their sons were going to enlist because their boys knew the pain it would inflict on their mothers.

In America, only a few are willing to risk public scorn for their opposition to the U.S. military or war in general. However, many of these mothers were hostile, like cornered prey protecting their young.

Published in Guest Commentary
Wednesday, 01 November 2017 07:38

Peace in Afghanistan From the Ground Up

KATHY KELLY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Mothers 1101wrp optAfghan mothers. (Photo: Afghan Peace Volunteers / Kathy Kelly)On a recent Friday at the Afghan Peace Volunteers' (APV) Borderfree Center, here in Kabul, thirty mothers sat cross-legged along the walls of a large meeting room. Masoumah, who co-coordinates the Center's "Street Kids School" project, had invited the mothers to a parents meeting. Burka-clad women who wore the veil over their faces looked identical to me, but Masoumah called each mother by name, inviting the mothers, one by one, to speak about difficulties they faced. From inside the netted opening of a burka, we heard soft voices and, sometimes, sheer despair. Others who weren't wearing burkas also spoke gravely. Their eyes expressed pain and misery, and some quietly wept. Often a woman's voice would break, and she would have to pause before she could continue:

"I have debts that I cannot pay," whispered the first woman.

"My children and I are always moving from place to place. I don't know what will happen."

"I am afraid we will die in an explosion."

"My husband is paralyzed and cannot work. We have no money for food, for fuel."

Published in Guest Commentary

MILO SHIFRA KESSELMAN GIOVANNIELLO FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Cops 1031wrp opt(Photo: Andrew Chang / Flickr)Last week, the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) hosted their annual conference and exposition in Philadelphia, bringing together more than 10,000 law enforcement officers, major arms suppliers and weapons distributors. The IACP, an organization of police chiefs and other law enforcement officials, has long been responsible for promoting police practices that systematically violate the civil, constitutional and human rights of Black people and other people of color.

At the conference, companies profiting from the Trump administration's intensified targeting and surveillance of communities of color had the opportunity to present their newest tactics and tools. One such company was ELTA North America, the US subsidiary of an Israeli defense manufacturer and one of four companies selected to build aprototype of Trump's wall on the US/Mexico border.

The IACP conference bills itself as offering "gentler, reformist" policing methods through workshops like "Community-Police Relations and Public Trust." But for a long time, groups representing the communities most directly impacted by police violence have said these presentations are a dangerous farce, aimed at promoting the illusion that policing can be made less harmful through better training or by recruiting different individuals, when in fact the system of policing is designed to target and control communities of color. That weekend, there were powerful demonstrations and teach-insorganized byPhilly for REAL Justiceand other Philadelphia-based groups in opposition to the conference, bringing the message that the only way to end police violence is to abolish policing.

Published in Guest Commentary

JOHN GEYMAN, MD FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

CuteHealth 1031wrp optSeattle health care rally. (Photo: SEIU 775 / Flickr)The Democratic Party, as is the case with the Republican Party, has its own civil war going on as it looks to the upcoming election cycles in 2018 and 2020. Its division over how to proceed on health care shows how wide the divide is among Democrats.

Democratic centrists, so involved in defending the Affordable Care Act (ACA) against the Republicans, are riding high on their success so far in avoiding its repeal, but shouldn’t take too much of a victory lap since the GOP has no replacement plan, especially after more than seven years. Meanwhile, the centrists are pushing aside the efforts of progressive Democrats to place universal health care through single-payer Medicare for All on the party platform. This continuing wide gulf across the Democrats’ political spectrum will delay real health care reform, weaken their impact on health care, and could easily lead to losses by Democrats in the upcoming elections.

These examples of disunity among Democrats on health care are alarming, even after their loss of more than 1,000 seats nationwide last year and Trump winning the White House.

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

BannonCPAC 1025wrp optSteve Bannon at CPAC. (Photo: Michael Vadon / Flickr)In the two months since he left the Trump administration, former White House Chief of Staff Steve Bannon has become the most prominent leader of the GOP's "anti-establishment" wing. And despite being "shunted" from the White House, as The Washington Post characterized it, Bannon and President Donald Trump "are anything but estranged. Instead, they have remained in frequent contact, chatting as often as several times a week, according to multiple associates of both of them."

In Trump-initiated phone calls, "They chew over politics, float ideas and catch up on gossip," The Post reported. "They also each ask after the other to shared confidants and friends, not unlike teenagers checking to make sure the other is not upset or disapproving." 

The Washington Post's Ashley Parker and Philip Rucker pointed out that "Trump and Bannon's evolving partnership — described by nine aides, friends and confidants, many of whom insisted on anonymity to offer a more candid portrait — is nuanced, combining tension with affection and, for now at least, is mutually beneficial." 

"Bannon is now the de facto leader of the GOP insurgent wing," ABC News' The Note recently reported. "He's the go-to man for Republican primary challengers but with a critical twist: he still has the ear, and maybe the heart, of President Donald Trump himself."

Published in Guest Commentary

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Whittier 1025wrp optThe Whittier Fire, July 13, 2017 (Photo: Glenn Beltz)Amid record wildfires devastating the north and an unusual October heatwave scorching the south, conditions in California right now are a perfect snapshot of our ever-warming world.

As California Gov. Jerry Brown said an interview with BBC's Today program on Tuesday, "Climate change is occurring, global warming is occurring, California is beginning to burn up."

But for President Trump and his administration, climate change is fact being inconveniently ignored. That's why, Brown says, states are fighting back.

When asked during his interview what California can do about Trump's intention to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement, Gov. Brown offered three tactics.

Published in Guest Commentary
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