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JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

asantabarbaraSunset west of Santa Barbara. (Photo: Sourav Das)

On May 19th, it was announced over breaking news that an onshore oil pipeline, owned by Plains All American Pipeline, a Houston Texas company led by ex-Flint Resources (Koch Industries) ruptured at Refugio Beach, north of Santa Barbara. An estimated 105,000 gallons of crude oil gushed into the Pacific Ocean, five times worse than the initial estimated 21,000 gallons.

I live three hours away from Refugio Beach. This quiet, isolated shoreline is a favorite beach for campers, hikers and surfers. When I was earning my undergraduate degree at UC Santa Barbara, I used to walk the trails and watch whales, shorebirds and sea otters bop in and out of the turquoise waters; tiny crabs would scuttle in between the black rocks and tide pools. Our California beaches are bristling with wildlife, including rare endangered species. The central coast is a habitat for seals, sea lions and whales, a variety of fish, which are migrating north this time of the year.

Oil kills every living thing it covers. Imagine being drenched from head to toe with thick, gooey tar: Toxic suffocation is an extremely painful way to die. That’s what happens to dolphins, whales, pelicans, otters that, unbeknownst to them, swim into the devil’s poison.

The national networks neglected to say that Plains transports oil for Exxon-Mobil. According to Miyoko Sakashita of BiologicialDiversity.org, the Houston-based company has had “175 devastating oil spills nationwide since 2006, including 11 in California,” documented by federal authorities.

ANASTASIA PANTSIOS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaDolphinsOil(Photo: EcoWatch)It was more than five years ago when the Deepwater Horizon offshore oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico blew out, spewing an unknown amount of oil. The April 2010 accident was the worst oil spill to ever occur in U.S. waters and it had far-reaching impacts on the region’s economy and ecosystems that continue to this day.

Now a newly released study, funded by the Deepwater Horizon National Resource Damage Assessment, which includes the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, BP (the oil company responsible for the spill and others) details the disastrous impact for the spill on the health and mortality of dolphins in the Gulf.

The study, with the very scientific name of Adrenal Gland and Lung Lesions in Gulf of Mexico Common Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) Found Dead following the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, analyzes what it calls “an unusual mortality event (UME)” among dolphins off the coast of Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi between February 2010 and 2014. More than 1,300 dolphins are estimated to have died.

“The Deepwater Horizon oil spill was proposed as a contributing cause of adrenal disease, lung disease and poor health in live dolphins examined during 2011 in Barataria Bay, Louisiana,” said the study. It also analyzed dead dolphin carcasses stranded in the three states between June 2010 and December 2012 and compared the analyses to dead, stranded dolphins found outside the area or prior to the oil spill to come to the conclusion that the die-off was unprecedented and the result of an adrenal gland condition never previously seen in dolphins in the region that made them susceptible to pneumonia.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

abreakbigbank(Photo: sharonkubo)

One of the key strategies of power that perpetuates economic and social injustice is the numbing of all opposition by sanctioning the status quo. This is the technique the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) wield in allowing mega-banks to continue to engage in illegal, deceptive and exploitative practices. 

BuzzFlash isn’t funded by corporate advertising, but by readers like you. Can you help sustain our work with a tax-deductible donation.

There are few subjects that BuzzFlash has covered more than the charade of the DOJ and SEC appearing to punish the big banks, while actually leaving them free to continue their systemic practice of dominating the financial industry - not infrequently through financial practices that are not only unethical and immoral, but also happen to violate the law and banking regulations.

Therefore, we are not surprised that the DOJ recently reached another sham settlement with megabanks over illegal activity, collusion to violate banking regulations and fraud. A May 20 article by The Wall Street Journal - the voice of the US and international financial industry - reports on the five banks involved with the settlement: 

Five global banks agreed to pay more than $5 billion in combined penalties and plead guilty to criminal charges to resolve a long-running U.S. investigation into whether traders colluded to move foreign-currency rates for their own financial benefit.

The settlements largely close the book on the latest industrywide investigation, one of a steady stream of probes into mortgage misdeeds, manipulative trading behavior and tax evasion. The biggest global banks have paid more than $60 billion in penalties over the past two years to resolve allegations of wrongdoing.

Most of these fines are tax-deductible, and many of them amount to less than the profits that the banks made from their law-breaking behavior.

2015.21.5 ECOWATCH(Photo: Bosc d'Anjou)ANASTASIA PANTSIOS OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch.

A judge in North Carolina has blocked the start of fracking in that state over a challenge to the membership of the commission charged with issuing the permits.

“Finally some good news in our long battle to keep fracking out of NC!” exulted North Carolina environmental nonprofit Haw River Assembly, one of the parties to the lawsuit, on its Facebook page.

The Southern Environmental Law Center(SELC) was granted the preliminary injunction it sought in Wake County Superior Court to delay the state’s Energy and Mining Commission from taking any action on permits, effectively reinstating (for the time being) the state’s longtime moratorium on fracking which was lifted by the legislature last summer. The group was representing the Haw River Assembly, a member of the Waterkeeper Alliance network, and landowner Keely Wood Puricz, whose property abuts a tract leased for natural gas exploration.

“The citizens of North Carolina deserve to have a lawful, accountable and representative agency to put in place strong protections that safeguard our communities and water supplies from the risks and harms of fracking,” said Elaine Chiosso, executive director of the Haw River Assembly. The group has members who live directly above shale deposits that could be targeted for fracking.

2015.21.5 BF Koehler(Photo: Ian Britton)ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

“As I walked down the hall, one of the police officers employed in the school noticed I did not have my identification badge with me.”

The speaker is testifying before the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. He was a high school freshman at the time. Ah, school days!

 “Before I could explain why I did not have my badge,” he went on, “I was escorted to the office and suspended for an entire week. I had to leave the school premises immediately.”

It gets better.

“Walking to the bus stop, a different police officer pulled me over and demanded to know why I was not in school. As I tried to explain, I was thrown into the back of the police car. They drove back to my school to see if I was telling the truth, and I was left waiting in the car for over two hours. When they came back, they told me I was in fact suspended, but because the school did not provide me with the proper forms, my guardian and I both had to pay tickets for me being off of school property. The tickets together were $600, and I had a court date for each one.”

Dear Mr. President, the American judicial system, especially as it is applied to low-income neighborhoods, was designed by Franz Kafka. Here it is, the insane truth of its bureaucratic pointlessness, sitting in the public record: “I was at home alone watching Jerry Springer, doing nothing,” the witness concluded his testimony, describing the ultimate effect of his banishment from school.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

acattlebreederHow can the profits of cattle ranchers trump public health? (Photo:Chris Murphy)

If you take your camera to Wyoming, be careful about the photos you take and with whom you share them. Why? Because if you reveal health hazards or pollution in the natural environment that could lead to enforcement efforts to ensure public health, you could go to jail for up to a year.

According to a May 11 article in Slate,

Why the desire for ignorance rather than informed discussion? The reason is pure politics. The source of E. coli is clear. It comes from cows spending too much time in and next to streams. Acknowledging that fact could result in rules requiring ranchers who graze their cows on public lands to better manage their herds. The ranching community in Wyoming wields considerable political power and has no interest in such obligations, so the state is trying to stop the flow of information rather than forthrightly address the problem.

In other words, the Wyoming ranchers don't want to be stopped from creating dangerous health hazards and environmental pollution because it would cost them money. So what's the solution proffered by the western state whose slogan used to be, "Wyoming Is What America Was"? Jail the messenger.

This encroachment on first amendment rights in order to protect profits (over public health and the environment) has a precedent. The cruel factory animal processing industry has been, over the past years, incrementally enacting laws that make the exposure of its pitiless and often health-threatening practices a crime. 

COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBillNye(Photo: Ed Schipul)Bill Nye gave the commencement speech over the weekend at Rutgers University and it’s just as inspiring as you’d imagine. Nye has been an outspoken advocate for immediate action on climate change for a long time. Last month, he sat down with President Obama in the Everglades on Earth Day to talk climate and call out the “climate denier club” in Congress. In his address to the next generation, he wastes no time delving right into environmental issues.

Here are some snippets from his speech:

“We are now deep in the most serious environmental crisis in human history. I believe you all can avoid this disaster.”

“The oncoming trouble is climate change. It is going to affect you all in the same way the Second World War consumed people of my parents’ generation. They rose to the challenge, and so will you. They came to be called the greatest generation. I want you all to preserve our world in the face of climate change and carry on as the next great generation.”

Wednesday, 20 May 2015 07:11

Ten Reasons Why the US Is Now a "Regime"

JANE STILLWATER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaStillwaterSIG(Photo: Augustas Didžgalvis)We are constantly seeing and hearing our American media use the word "Regime" these days.  So exactly what is a "Regime?"  Apparently it is whatever you want it to be.

Whenever Wall Street and/or War Street want to vilify a country that disagrees with their policies of occupation and exploitation, they always begin their vilification program by calling that country's form of government a "Regime."

Here are some examples:  Syria is a "Regime" -- even though it has a constitution, holds elections and almost all Syrians support its president, Bashar Assad.  Gaddafi in Libya also operated a "Regime" -- even though his government offered the kind of free education and healthcare benefits to its citizens that most Americans can only dream about.  Cuba was (and still is) considered a "Regime" in the eyes of Wall Street and War Street.  Putin also runs a "Regime" -- even though most Russians today support him totally.

In reverse, Saudi Arabia is not a "Regime" -- even though the House of Saud uses torture, suppresses decent, beheads people, treats women badly, brutally invades other countries and supports Al Qaeda and ISIS. 

The House of Saud has spent over a trillion $$$$ of its enormous petro-dollar wealth over the last half-century on killing people and being despotic.  Just imagine what the Middle East would look like right now if the Saudis had chosen butter instead of guns.  What a waste.  And yet Saudi Arabia is still not considered to be a "Regime" by American media. 

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

amcprotestSocial justice movements are the vanguard for change. (Photo: Fibonacci Blue)

Expecting that the formulaic horserace process of elections will lead to dramatic social and economic change is a bit like going to a movie about revolution and expecting to walk into a transformed world when you leave the theater.

That's one key takeaway of an incisive May 18 article in Jacobin by Michael Schwartz and Kevin Young. The authors cogently argue that "social movements should focus on targeting corporations and oppressive institutions rather than politicians." Why? Because corporations and large organizations (think of the police, the military and lobbying groups such as the Chamber of Commerce and AIPAC, among many others) pull the strings of most politicians, particularly at the state and national levels.

Schwartz and Young state their case with a clarity that has history on their side:

Activists’ decision to target corporations reflects a growing conviction that the government is unresponsive to popular demands because it is unwilling or unable to stop the abuses of the corporate world (this view is supported by recent statistical findings that “the public has little or no influence” on policy). While these movements can change corporate behavior, we believe that they can also influence government policy in ways that direct pressure on politicians cannot....

Inflicting pain on corporations through disruptive mass activism has historically been the best way to reduce corporate opposition to progressive changes, and in turn, the resistance of the politicians who represent them.

ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaTexasFracking(Photo: Joshua Doubek)Yesterday Texas Gov. Abbott signed HB 40 into law. Written by former ExxonMobil lawyer Shannon Ratliff, the statute forces every Texas municipality wanting common sense limits on oil and gas development to demonstrate its rules are “commercially reasonable.” It effectively overturns a Denton ballot initiative banning fracking that passed last November.

“HB 40 was written by the oil and gas industry, for the oil and gas industry, to prevent voters from holding the oil and gas industry accountable for its impacts,” said Earthworks’ Texas organizer Sharon Wilson. Wilson, who played a key role in the Denton ballot initiative, continued, “It was the oil and gas industry’s contempt for impacted residents that pushed Denton voters to ban fracking in the first place. And now the oil and gas industry, through state lawmakers, has doubled down by showing every city in Texas that same contempt.”

By a 59-41 percent vote, including 70 percent of straight ticket Republican voters, the residents of Denton banned hydraulic fracturing within city limits. The ban was a last resort after more than five years of fruitlessly petitioning oil and gas companies, the city and the state for help. “By signing HB40 into law, Governor Abbott just declared that industry profits are more important than our health, our homes and our kids,” said Adam Briggle, president of the Denton Drilling Awareness Group and a leader in the Frack Free Denton effort. He continued, “The letter of Texas law now says no city can ‘effectively prevent an oil and gas operation from occurring,’ no matter the threat to families’ health and safety or damage to private property.”

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