MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
On Thanksgiving weekend, The Chicago Tribune posted a front page article that revealed that fossil fuel and chemical companies are knowingly using tank cars that do not meet federal safety standards.
The danger, one critic in the article charges, has been apparent since the early '90s:
With tank cars brimming with tens of thousands of gallons of crude oil, these trains have been described as "virtual pipelines" passing through heavily populated residential areas.
But despite the hazardous nature of the cargoes on board, the vast majority of these tank cars do not meet the latest safety standards and should be retrofitted, according to federal officials and the railroad industry.
Older models of the type of tank car known as the DOT-111, which carry flammables like crude oil and ethanol, have an "inadequate design" and are more vulnerable to being breached in a derailment than newer versions, the National Transportation Safety Board has determined.
Critics charge that the tank car owners, who are generally oil and chemical companies, are balking at proposed requirements to fix flaws in the cars or gradually take them out of service, citing the costs involved and the demand for cars to haul oil.
STEVEN JONAS MD, MPH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Recent discoveries from the Kepler telescope have indicated that in our galaxy, the Milky Way, alone there are 647 possible "Earth-sized" planets orbiting various sun-star equivalents. (One does wonder how they get to that exact number.) And then there are an estimated 500 billion other galaxies out there. The speculation is becoming more intense as to whether or not there are other "intelligent" species on one or more of those planets. Well, the great Dr. Stephen Hawking's view to the contrary notwithstanding, given the vast distances of space it is unlikely that we will ever find out (nor would another intelligent species find out about us either). (Do note that "vast" is a word that vastly underrepresents the reality of what those distances really are.) But nevertheless one intriguing question is, if there is, or was, intelligent life that has developed the equivalent of what we call "civilization" elsewhere in the universe, is it co-existent in time with ours?
For it to be co-existent with ours, unless the timing were virtually exact, it would have to have lasted quite a bit longer than ours, because we, living in what we call "civilization," have been around for the mere twinkling of a geologic eye (less than 10,000 years). Further, our species is on the verge of self-destruction, whether due to global warming-induced climate change and its resultant disasters, over-population (and the resulting under-supply of food and water), depletion of natural resources, or nuclear war.
JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
December is a time of many holiday feasts - which makes it a good time to remember family farmers and the tremendous contributions they make to our country, culture, taste buds and tummies. But not all farmers contribute equally, which is why I'm sending out this special holiday sentiment to one group of unique agriculturalists: Thbbllllttttt!
That raspberry goes out to 50 billionaires who've been farming the U.S. farm subsidy program for years, harvesting a cornucopia of taxpayer cash for themselves or their corporate empires. They include top executives or owners of such diverse entities as Chase Manhattan Bank, Chick-fil-A, DISH Network, Fiji Water, Hyatt Hotels, Microsoft and Victoria's Secret. The diligent watchdogs of the Environmental Working Group matched the "Forbes 400" list of richest Americans with a farm subsidy database to unmask these Gucci-wearing Old MacDonalds. E-I-E-I-O, what a rip-off!
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Paul Crouch, once one of the most powerful men in the world of televangelism, has died at 79 after a ten-year battle with degenerative heart disease. Crouch, co-founder of the Trinity Broadcasting Network with his wife Janice, was a master at pitching the "prosperity gospel," and prosperity surely came his way. Crouch and Janice had "matching his-and-her mansions in Newport Beach, Calif., and used multimillion dollar corporate jets," entertainment.time.com pointed out.
Crouch's wealth not only grew out of the power of his own preaching and fundraising solicitations, it also came from selling time on his network to many of the world's best known preachers. And, the Crouches were ultimate survivors, having, as Religion Dispatches' Sarah Posner recently pointed out, "survived many a media exposé."
The Trinity Broadcasting Network, founded in 1973 -- well before the rise of the Rev. Jerry Falwell and a decade after Pat Robertson founded his Christian Broadcasting Network -- has been called the world's largest Christian broadcasting network. According to the Associated Press, the Costa Mesa, California-based TBN has "84 satellite channels and more than 18,000 television and cable affiliates as well as a Christian amusement park in Orlando."
AP reported that "Crouch began his broadcasting career while studying theology at Central Bible Institute and Seminary in his native Missouri by helping build the campus' radio station. He moved to California in the early 1960s to manage the movie and television unit of the Assemblies of God before founding Trinity Broadcast Network in 1973 with his wife."
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
An article posted in The National Journal asserts that fracking -- dangerous to the environment, the earth and humans -- has resulted in huge price breaks in natural gas for businesses, but comparatively little for consumers.
The article reveals that the industrial sector has seen the wholesale price of natural gas decrease by 66% -- attributed to fracking increases in the supply of natural gas -- but only 23% for residential consumers. This, of course, raises the issues yet again of who is benefitting from the large risk of fracking, which uses toxic chemicals, pollutes the environment, and ravages the earth's outer layer.
On a web page revealingly filled with large adds for Chevron -- "Which Industry is Creating American Jobs and Strengthening the Economy? The Answer Is Energy," one huge Chevron banner ad proclaims -- the article makes clear who is economically get a windfall from fracking:
Fracking has sent the price of natural gas plummeting, just not for the people who need it most.
The straight-out-of-the-ground price of natural gas is way down since the start of the boom in hydraulic fracturing. Back in 2008, users buying gas directly from drillers were paying an average of $7.97 per thousand cubic feet, according to the Energy Information Administration. By 2012, that cost—known as the “wellhead” price—had dropped to $2.66 in nominal dollars (not adjusted for inflation) resulting in a two-thirds discount in just five years.
EUGENE ROBINSON ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
U.S. drone attacks in Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries may be militarily effective, but they are killing innocent civilians in a way that is obscene and immoral. I'm afraid that ignoring this ugly fact makes Americans complicit in murder.
It is understandable why President Obama has made drone attacks his go-to weapon in the fight against terrorists and the Taliban. Armed, pilotless aircraft allow the CIA and the military to target individuals in enemy strongholds without putting U.S. lives at risk. But efficacy is not legitimacy, and I don't see how drone strikes can be considered a wholly legitimate way to wage war.
This is an unpopular view in Washington -- especially at the White House, where Obama and his aides have done much to erase the stain on the nation's honor left by the excesses of George W. Bush's Global War on Terrorism. It is to his great credit that Obama ended torture, shut down the CIA's secret overseas prisons and made a good-faith effort to close the detention center at Guantanamo.
But Obama has greatly expanded the use of drones, and his version of the terror war looks a lot like a campaign of assassination.
Even if the intelligence agents and military officers who operate the drones have perfect knowledge -- meaning they are absolutely certain the target is a dangerous enemy -- and fire the drones' missiles with perfect accuracy, this amounts to summary execution. Is such killing morally defensible?
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Amidst the difficulties of rolling out the private insurance company model of the Affordable Healthcare Act (ACA), it has almost gone unnoticed by the national corporate media that one state is going ahead with plans for a "single-payer" non-profit system to be implemented by 2017.
Back in 2011, the Vermont legislature passed and Governor Peter Shumlin (D) signed the single-payer goal into law, which has its signifying slogan: "Everybody in, nobody out."
This "Medicare for all" precedent was made possible by the latitude allowed in the ACA for states to create their own health insurance models.
PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
We already pay dearly for energy, medicine, banking, and telecommunications services. But a little research reveals that we're paying more -- much more -- in a variety of ways that our business-friendly mainstream media won't talk about.
1. Drug Companies: The Body Snatchers
A report by Battelle Memorial Institute determined that the $4 billion government-funded Human Genome Project (HGP) will generate economic activity of about $140 for every dollar spent. Although that estimate is controversial, drug industry executives say it's just a matter of time before the profits roll in.
Big business is quickly making its move. Celera Genomics was first, as the company initiated a private version of the genome project, incorporating the public data into their work, but forbidding the public effort to use Celera data. Abbott Labs is developing products based on the HGP. Merck's automated biotechnology facility was made possible by the HGP. Two-thirds of the products at Bristol-Myers Squibb have been impacted by the HGP. Pfizer is starting to make big profits from its genome-based cancer treatments.
BOB KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
What goes around comes around . . . and around, and around.
Last month, the day after I left Santa Rosa, Calif., a 13-year-old boy carrying a toy replica of an AK-47 was shot and killed on the outskirts of that town by a Sonoma County deputy sheriff with a reputation for being trigger-happy. The officer had ordered the boy to drop the “gun,” then in a matter of two or three seconds opened fire, giving him no chance to comply.
This is not an isolated incident, which is why it’s yet one more tragedy I can’t get out of my mind — one more logical consequence of the simplistic militarism and mission creep that’s eating us alive. This is gun culture running unchecked from boyhood to manhood, permeating national policy both geopolitically and domestically. This is the trivialization of peace. It results in the ongoing murder of the innocent, both at home and abroad, at the hands of government as well as criminals and terrorists.
“That’s America, we say, as news of the latest massacre breaks,” Henry Porter wrote in September in the U.K. Observer. The massacre of the moment was lone gunman Aaron Alexis’ slaying of 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard.
“But what,” Porter asked, “if we no longer thought of this as just a problem for America and, instead, viewed it as an international humanitarian crisis — a quasi civil war, if you like, that calls for outside intervention?”
CHESTER KULIS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT