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2016aug10 warondrugs(Image: dugg simpson)

David S. Cohen, a writer at Rolling Stone, asserts that Donald Trump's statement about "Second Amendment people" yesterday could definitely be interpreted as condoning the assassination of Hillary Clinton. Here is what Trump said on August 9 in North Carolina: "If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is. I don't know." Cohen argues that Trump was engaging in a verbal act of stochastic terrorism, which the author describes in this way:

[It] means using language and other forms of communication "to incite random actors to carry out violent or terrorist acts that are statistically predictable but individually unpredictable."

Of course, Trump's "call to arms" became the top presidential campaign story of Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.  Trump used to be a frequent guest on the Howard Stern show, and he may have learned from the top "shock jock" how to be a true "shock presidential candidate." Media outlets know that Trump can repeatedly deliver incendiary and grossly offensive statements that grab the interests of readers and viewers in an age when the line between news media and mass entertainment has nearly dissolved.

That trend in campaign coverage -- and Trump's ability to push the edge of the shock envelope a little bit further each day -- has helped leave the discussion of public policy issues of substance out of the presidential contest. Furthermore, what little air is left in the newsroom after the daily Trump outrageous declaration is used for a discussion of the presidential campaign as a horse race or boxing match.

As Stanford Professor David Palumbo-Liu warned in a Truthout commentary yesterday, mainstream corporate media coverage of the 2016 presidential election has focused on personality and entertainment, to the detriment of a discussion of issues that directly impact our lives:

The cult of personality that drives our political campaigns, as frighteningly entertaining as it may be, should not be at center stage, and the tensions that drive voters should not be resolved after one or another candidate disappears. The anger, violence, paranoia and deep racism that propelled Trump to the nomination, even beyond the control of the Republican Party management, will still be there, waiting to find a new champion. We had better be watchful of the new slick package that the next candidate will come in. Whether we end up in the next round of elections with "new Democrats" or "new Republicans," the essential thing is to understand the actual realities that inform our political, social and historical lives, and to probe into the institutions and powerful interests that deliver justice and well-being, unevenly and often brutally.


Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

At a rally in Pennsylvania on Monday, Donald Trump made some feather-ruffling remarks about renewable energy, directing criticisms at wind and solar power.

"The wind kills all your birds. All your birds, killed. You know, the environmentalists never talk about that," Trump reportedly said.

Actually, environmentalists do talk about that, especially when they're forced to rebuff bird-brained arguments by repeat deniers.

An estimated 970 million birds crash into buildings annually. By comparison, wind turbines kill approximately 500,000 birds a year, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. A 2013 study found that fossil fuel plants "pose a much greater threat to birds and avian wildlife than wind farms."


Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

Three decades after the worst nuclear power plant catastrophe in history, a site in Chernobyl is being reimagined as a solar energy farm -- one that would be the world's largest once built.

The 1986 meltdown, which released radiation at least 100 times more powerful than the radiation released by the atom bombs dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima, rendered roughly 2,600 square kilometers of the area unsuitable for habitation. Greenpeace found that animals living within the exclusion zone have higher mortality rates, increased genetic mutations and decreased birth rate. 

But in a twist of poetic justice, the Ukrainian government has expressed ambitions to turn 6,000 hectares within Chernobyl's "exclusion zone" into a renewable energy hub. The proposed plant would generate 1-gigawatt of solar power and 400-megawatts of biogas per year, the Guardian reported. The country is pushing for a six-month construction cycle.


2016aug9 wealthdivide(Photo: Institute for Policy Studies)

On August 8, the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) and the the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED) released a stunning report, "The Ever-Growing Gap: Failing to Address the Status Quo Will Drive the Racial Wealth Divide for Centuries to Come." Key findings include:

  • By 2043 -- the year in which it is projected that people of color will make up a majority of the U.S. population -- the wealth divide between white families and Latino and black families will have doubled, on average, from about $500,000 in 2013 to over $1 million.

  • If average black family wealth continues to grow at the same pace it has over the past three decades, it would take black families 228 years to amass the same amount of wealth white families have today. That’s just 17 years shorter than the 245-year span of slavery in this country. For the average Latino family, it would take 84 years to amass the same amount of wealth White families have today -- that’s the year 2097.

  • Over the past 30 years the average wealth of white families has grown by 84% -- 1.2 times the rate of growth for the Latino population and three times the rate of growth for the black population. If that continues, the next three decades would see the average wealth of white households increase by over $18,000 per year, while Latino and Black households would see their respective wealth increase by only $2,250 and $750 per year.

I interviewed Chuck Collins, director of the Program on Inequality and the Common Good at the Institute for Policy Studies, via email about just a few of the alarming conclusions in the study that he co-authored.


Neo 0808wrp opt(Photo: White House)What’s a Neocon to do?

Bill Kristol is downright despondent after his failed search for an alternative to Donald Trump. Max Boot is indignant about his “stupid” party’s willingness to ride a bragging bull into a delicate China policy shop. And the leading light of the first family of military interventionism — Robert Kagan — is actually lining up Neoconservatives behind the Democratic nominee for president of the United States.

At the same time, the Democrats have become the party of bare-knuckled, full-throated American Exceptionalism. That transformation was announced with a vein-popping zeal by retired general and wannabe motivational screamer John Allen at the Democratic convention in the City of Brotherly Love. During his “speech,” a few plaintive protests of “no more war” were actually drowned-out by Democrats chanting “USA-USA-USA!”

This is the same Democratic Party often criticized by Kagan & Co. as the purveyors of timidity, flaccidity, and moral perfidy.  It’s not that Democrats haven’t dropped bombs, dealt arms, and overturned regimes. They have. And they’ve even got the Peace Prize-winning Obama-dropper to prove it.  But unlike enthusiastically belligerent Republicans, the Dems are supposed to be the party that does it, but doesn’t really like to do it.

But now, they’ve got Hillary Clinton. And she’s weaponized the State Department. She really likes regime change. And her nominating convention not only embraced the military, but it sanctified the very Gold Star families that Neocon-style interventionism creates. It certainly created the pain of the Khan family who lost their son in the illegal war in Iraq. But the Dems didn’t mention that sad fact as they grabbed the flag away from the Republicans.

Monday, 08 August 2016 07:32

2020 Vision: Four Steps to Get There


Earth 0808wrp opt(Photo: NASA)Bernie Sanders started losing the election over 200 years ago, when Alexander Hamilton proclaimed "The people are turbulent and changing; they seldom judge or determine right." And when James Madison argued for a republic that would make it "more difficult for all who feel it to discover their own strength, and to act in unison with each other."

Little has changed over two centuries later, as the Democratic National Committee demonstrated when they "criticized and mocked" Senator Bernie Sanders during the primary campaign. People with money and power are still appalled by the notion of a popular democracy. But something is different now. The American majority, driven by frustrated workers and well-connected young people, are better able to communicate, and to unify in pursuit of a progressive nation.

The coining of the phrase "2020 Vision" can be attributed to the Democracy Alliance, which focuses on three "key issue areas that form the core of our 2020 Vision – an inclusive economy, a fair democracy, and strong action on climate change."

The vision expounded here, in the four steps to follow, is focused on the cooperative efforts of the great majority of Americans, many of them young and few of them rich, who are beginning to understand the strength of the growing progressive movement.


Manatee 0805wrp opt(Photo: EcoWatch)An illness that might be linked to toxic algae blooms combined with a record number of boat collisions has taken a toll on Florida's manatee population this summer. Since May, eight dead manatees have been found in the Indian River Lagoon in Brevard County, a waterway that's been fouled with microscopic toxic algae, the Orlando Sentinel reported.

"We are still narrowing down the cause, but the hypothesis is still that the change of vegetation that the manatees are eating makes them susceptible to complications in their guts," Martine de Wit, lead veterinarian with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said. De Wit said the manatees have been found with little or no seagrass in their stomachs. The animals digestive systems were filled instead with algae commonly known as seaweed. Researchers say the animals succumb to illness so quickly they drown. Videos from residents have documented the manatee's struggle.

The water coming from Lake Okeechobee contains fertilizer, sewage and stormwater, which is flushed into portions of the Indian River, according to the Sentinel. The stretch of the Indian River has been "a killing field" for brown pelicans, bottlenose dolphins, manatees and many species of fish. The microscopic algae has turned waters a greenish, brown color, some spots as thick as guacamole, as previously reported by EcoWatch.

This isn't the only year toxic algae has impacted manatees. More than 150 manatees have died in the past four years, the Sentinel said.


2016aug5 hospitalsWhy aren't hospital charges required to be posted online? (Photo: Michael Kappel)

Most people in the US cannot compare the costs of hospital medical procedures online, according to a recent study by the advocacy group Public Citizen. That is because in 44 states, there is no requirement to disclose the listed fee for hospital surgeries and diagnostic tests on the web. Official hospital prices vary widely -- even within a local area -- because often the "sticker price" for a colonoscopy, for example, is not established based on the inherent costs of the procedure. Instead, it is set high as a price from which to bargain down with insurance providers.

Veejay Das, health care policy advocate for Public Citizen, who conducted the analysis, said in a Public Citizen news release:

Shopping for health care prices in the United States is like trying to find a light switch in the dark. If you know where you should be looking – and it’s actually there for you to find – you might have a chance, but otherwise you’ll blindly search in vain.

For anyone who doesn't have insurance and must pay a full, inflated price for hospital-based care, comparative pricing is essential to reduce extreme costs. Yet, in most of the United States, that is an extremely difficult task to undertake.

Furthermore, Public Citizen notes:

Out-of-pocket health care costs for patients are soaring in the United States. Since 2010, insurance deductibles for workers have risen three times as fast as premiums and about seven times as fast as wages and inflation, according to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

That means it is necessary to know which hospitals are less expensive -- and to check with your insurance company for their negotiated rates for a given procedure with a hospital -- in order to plan for the financial repercussions of a medical bill.

plastic waste from the ocean(Photo: Bo Eide)LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

England has cut its plastic bag use by 85 percent ever since a 5 pence (7 cent) charge was introduced last October, according to government figures.

The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) announced that 6 billion fewer plastic bags were taken home by shoppers in England. The levy also resulted in a £29 million ($38 million) donated to charity and other good causes thanks to the charge.

"This is the equivalent to the weight of roughly 300 blue whales, 300,000 sea turtles or three million pelicans," DEFRA said about the eliminated bags.

To arrive at the 6 billion figure, officials calculated that the seven main retailers in England (Asda, Co-operative Group, Marks & Spencer, Morrison's, Sainsbury's, Tesco and Waitrose) passed out 7.6 billion bags in 2014. However, after the 5 pence charge was enacted, the retailers handed out just over half a billion bags in the first six months.


2016aug4 gmolabelingOn July 29, President Obama signed a bill that is a setback for our right to know about GMOs in food. (Photo: David Goehring)

You may have read that President Obama signed a so-called GMO "labeling" law on July 29. Media outlets like ABC News reported that the bill "mandate[es] GMO labeling."

However, the reality of the new legislation is what Rick North, writing on the progressive commentary forum BlueOregon, calls a "sham":

It’s a major victory for Monsanto, the biotech industry and Grocery Manufacturer’s Association, all of whom know labeling could diminish their profits.

Most polls found about 90% of respondents wanted on-the-package GMO labeling, an almost-unheard-of support level for any issue. True public advocates, like the Organic Consumers Association, Consumers Union, Center for Food Safety, Food and Water Watch, Cornucopia Institute, Food Democracy Now, etc., exposed the bill for the charade it was.

All to no avail.

Why does North consider calling the so-called "GMO labeling" bill a misnomer? North cites one reason, among others:

This is a labeling law that doesn’t require labeling. It allows toll-free numbers and QR codes requiring smart phones to read. Any corporation trying to hide its use of GMO’s (i.e. most of them) will employ the QR codes.

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