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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016 May24cpdpatchChicago's contract with the Fraternal Order of Police union has many provisions that obstruct investigations of misconduct. (C. Holmes)

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According to an article in the Chicago Tribune this past Sunday, for decades the City of Chicago has negotiated contracts with the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) that grant cops special rights to avoid accountability for misconduct and violence committed against citizens:

From the moment Chicago's Fraternal Order of Police started negotiating its first contract with City Hall 35 years ago, the union identified an issue that would prove key to its members: ensuring officers had robust protections when they were investigated for misconduct.

City Hall had its own focus: money.

Since that first contract, mayors from Jane Byrne to Rahm Emanuel have routinely fought to hold tight on the bottom line, while the union that represents thousands of rank-and-file officers has worked to, among other things, build layers of insulation from scrutiny.

One product of that bargain between the city and the FOP has been a flawed system in which officers are rarely held accountable for misconduct. 

The special contract concessions allow Chicago police officers special rights during internal investigations of their conduct, which the police do not afford to civilians. According to the Tribune,

Critics say the provisions provide police the opportunity to collude and even formulate a favorable version of events after an incident such as a shooting. They say, too, that they can create a chilling effect that keeps some victims from coming forward for fear of retaliation. 

KEN KIMMELL ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Reposted with Permission of the Union of Concerned Scientists 

Fraud 0523wrp opt(Photo: Union of Concerned Scientists)On Wednesday, I received a letter signed by thirteen members of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. In my thirty years as an attorney, public official, and now UCS President, I have never seen anything quite like it. The letter states that the House Science Committee is “conducting oversight of a coordinated attempt to deprive companies, non-profit organizations and scientists of their First Amendment rights.” This sounds like an oversight effort UCS could support—but for what follows.

The representatives are requesting “all documents and communications” between UCS and state attorneys general and between UCS and other NGOs related to our work to hold oil and gas companies accountable for deception. Apparently, these elected representatives believe that UCS and others have infringed on the free speech rights of fossil fuel companies such as ExxonMobil.

How? By sharing information with these attorneys general about whether ExxonMobil and others misled the public about the dangers of climate change, and by explaining how climate change caused by burning fossil fuels is harming people and places in their states.

You know what else this tells me? The campaign to hold companies accountable is working.

How absurd is this request?

Let’s start with the premise of the letter—that the free speech rights of companies such as ExxonMobil are violated by an investigation. This is nonsense. No company has a First Amendment right to knowingly provide misinformation about the harm associated with its product (in this case the emissions of heat trapping gases from the combustion of fossil fuels). And attorneys general have every right to investigate whether the companies’ actions amounted to an actionable fraud.

In fact, the letter itself compromises the First Amendment rights of the Union of Concerned Scientists and the other recipients of this letter.

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Sledge 0523wrp(Photo: M.T. Richardson)As often noted in the passionate writings of Henry Giroux, poor Americans are becoming increasingly 'disposable' in our winner-take-all society. After 35 years of wealth distribution to the super-rich, inequality has forced much of the middle class towards the bottom, to near-poverty levels, and to a state of helplessness in which they find themselves being blamed for their own misfortunes.

The evidence keeps accumulating: income and wealth -- and health -- are declining for middle-class America. As wealth at the top grows, the super-rich feel they have little need for the rest of society.

Income Plummets for the Middle Class

According to Pew Research, in 1970 three of every ten income dollars went to upper-income households. Now five of every ten dollars goes to them.

The Social Security Administration reports that over half of Americans make less than $30,000 per year. That's less than an appropriate average living wage of $16.87 per hour, as calculated by Alliance for a Just Society.

Wealth Collapses for Half of Us

Numerous sources report that half or more of American families have virtually no savings, and would have to borrow money or sell possessions to cover an emergency expense. Between half and two-thirds of Americans have less than $1,000.

For every $100 owned by a middle-class household in 2001, that household now has just $72.

Not surprisingly, race plays a role in the diminishing of middle America. According to Pew Research, the typical black family has only enough liquid savings to last five days, compared to 12 days for the typical Hispanic household, and 30 days for a white household.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016 May20malheurMalheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon, where armed anti-federal land militants occupied the site and demanded the public land from the US government earlier this year. (Photo: John Matthews)

During the armed occupations of the Cliven Bundy ranch in 2014 and of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge this year, the "sovereign citizen" militants carrying out the occupations were seizing federally owned lands and demanding their privatization. The unjust irony of these demands was that -- in both cases -- the militants were descendants of white colonialist settlers trying to claim personal ownership of land that is the rightful property of Indigenous peoples.

The occupations of the Bundy ranch area and Malheur were covered by the mainstream media as a standoff between law enforcement officials on the federal and local levels versus the militia occupiers. A vital public policy issue that the confrontations raised is to what extent are public lands under threat in the West.

A new report, "The Disappearing West," by the Center for American Progress offers an ominous analysis of the diminishing Western lands open for public use. "Every 2.5 minutes, the American West loses a football field worth of natural area to human development," the study states. The report, conducted in conjunction with Conservation Science Partners, warns of the looming peril:

From governors’ mansions to the halls of Congress, questions about land and wildlife conservation command relatively little attention today. The conventional wisdom seems to hold that the most consequential battles over America’s wild places are already settled. President Theodore Roosevelt, Sierra Club founder John Muir, and the environmental activists of the 1960s won protections for national parks, national forests, and wilderness areas. In the eyes of some politicians, the West’s open spaces are not only well protected, but too well protected. An anti-parks caucus in the U.S. Congress, for example, wants to block new national parks and sell off the West’s national forests to private owners....

Friday, 20 May 2016 07:31

Will Vegans Save the World?

DR. DAVID SUZUKI OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Vegan 0520wrp opt(Photo: EcoWatch)Will vegans save the world? Reading comments under climate change articles or watching the film Cowspiracy make it seem they’re the only ones who can. Cowspiracy boldly claims veganism is “the only way to sustainably and ethically live on this planet.” But, as with most issues, it’s complicated.

It’s true, though, that the environment and climate would benefit substantially if more people gave up or at least cut down on meat and animal products, especially in over-consuming Western societies. Animal agriculture produces huge amounts of greenhouse gas emissions, consumes massive volumes of water and causes a lot of pollution.

But getting a handle on the extent of environmental harm, as well as the differences between various agricultural methods and types of livestock and balancing that with possible benefits of animal consumption and agriculture isn’t simple.

Estimates of how much animal agriculture adds to greenhouse gases range widely, from about 14 to more than 50 percent of total global emissions. Agriculture exacerbates climate change in a number of ways. Clearing carbon sinks such as forests to grow or raise food can result in net greenhouse gas increases. Farming, especially on an industrial scale, also requires fossil fuel–burning machinery, as does processing and transporting agricultural products.

Determining the overall contribution is complicated by the fact that livestock agriculture accounts for about 9 percent of human-caused CO2 emissions but far greater amounts of other greenhouse gases, which are worse in many ways but less dangerous in others.

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, livestock farming produces 65 percent of human-related nitrous oxide, which has 296 times the global warming potential as CO2. It also contributes “37 percent of all human-induced methane (23 times as warming as CO2), which is largely produced by the digestive system of ruminants and 64 percent of ammonia, which contributes significantly to acid rain.” But methane stays in the atmosphere for about 12 years and nitrous oxide for about 114, while CO2 remains for thousands of years.

microplastics found in most toiletries(Photo: Oregon State University)LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

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Microplastics, the scourge of beaches, oceans, waterways and aquatic life worldwide, might also be polluting the air we breathe, according to environmental health experts.

The Guardian reported that a research team at King’s College in London is looking into the issue.

"There is a possibility, a real possibility, that some of those microparticles will be entrained into the air, and they will be carried around and we will end up breathing them," said Frank Kelly, a researcher and professor of environmental health at King’s College, at an evidence session at the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) in the UK.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016may17 financereformIf large corporate donors didn't have influence over presidential candidates, senators and congresspeople, why would they contribute to them? (Photo: Barry Solow)

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An analysis, released on May 18 by Public Citizen, a nonprofit citizens' rights advocacy groupfound that in 2016 the "financial sector accounts for more than half of all money given by donors contributing $1 million or more to presidential super PACs." According to a news release announcing the findings, Public Citizen verified that,

The financial services sector is on pace to obliterate its records for political spending this election cycle, led by a select group of donors who have given at least $1 million to super PACs devoted to presidential candidates, according to a new report (PDF) by Public Citizen....

The securities and investment industry, a subset of the finance sector that includes hedge funds and private equity funds, also has given more to outside groups than in any full election cycle.

“This pace of giving is particularly remarkable for two reasons,” said Taylor Lincoln, research director for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division and author of the report. “First, the financial sector and securities industry already were the biggest donors in every election cycle on record. Second, they set these records without supporting two of the three remaining candidates.”

Who is the only candidate still in the Democratic-Republican race to benefit from this largesse? Hillary Clinton, who received financial sector services donations (as well as donations from other sectors) through three super PACs. However, she is not the only candidate to receive super PAC funding. The Republican candidates who have now dropped out of the presidential race received large amounts of Super PAC money. Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump rejected super PAC backing, but it is very possible that Trump will segue from a primarily self-funded (plus free massive media coverage) campaign to PAC, super PAC and large donor funding in the general election. Sanders continues to run a purely individual-donor-fueled campaign.

What is a super PAC?

wind turbines(Photo: Aaron)KATIE POHLMAN OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

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Portugal just took a huge step forward in the renewable energy arena. The country ran on solar,wind and hydropower energy for 107-hours straight from 6:45 a.m. May 7 to 5:45 p.m. May 11,The Guardian reported.

This was a landmark event for Europe and renewable energy. In that four-day period, the European country didn’t have to turn to coal or fossil fuels for its electricity needs.

Francisco Ferreira, president of Portuguese sustainability NGO Zero, told The Independent:

Portugal has been investing considerably in renewables, particularly in electricity, since this will be the main final energy within the next decades with the transition from fossil fuels in road transportation to electric vehicles.

KATIE POHLMAN OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Paris 0518wrp(Photo: EcoWatch)Parisians can walk, skate or cycle down the iconic Champs Elysees one day a month without worrying about traffic. The first Sunday of every month is a car-free day, an attempt to reduce pollution in the French city. The initiative began in September 2015 as the brainchild of Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo.

The Paris Breathes campaign, responsible for implementing the program, blocks off 13 sections of the city at various times throughout the day. Sections are closed for various time periods ranging from four to 10 hours, according to the campaign’s website. There are an additional four locations that go car-free for the summer months only. The first car-free day—Sept. 27, 2015—led to a 40 percent drop in nitrogen dioxide in Paris, The Guardian reported.

Paris residents seem to love the car-free days. “I think especially when the weather is like that, beautiful sunshine, we feel like it’s the holidays for us. We can walk easily, no pollution, no noise. We are very happy,” one of the participants said in the below NowThis video.

Paris leads the pack in monthly car-free days, but several large metro cities participate in international car-free day on Sept. 22 every year, including Washington, DC, Seattle and Long Island, New York.

OUR CHILDREN'S TRUST OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

DEP 0518wrp opt(Photo: EcoWatch)The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court found in favor of four youth plaintiffs, the Conservation Law Foundation and Mass Energy Consumers Alliance Tuesday in the critical climate change case, Kain et al. v. Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

The court found that the DEP was not complying with its legal obligation to reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions and ordered the agency to “promulgate regulations that address multiple sources or categories of sources of greenhouse gas emissions, impose a limit on emissions that may be released … and set limits that decline on an annual basis.”

“This is an historic victory for young generations advocating for changes to be made by government. The global climate change crisis is a threat to the well being of humanity, and to my generation, that has been ignored for too long,” youth plaintiff Shamus Miller, age 17, said.

“Today, the Massachusetts Supreme Court has recognized the scope and urgency of that threat and acknowledges the need for immediate action to help slow the progression of climate change. There is much more to be done both nationally and internationally but this victory is a step in the right direction and I hope that future efforts have similar success.”

In 2012, hundreds of youth petitioned the DEP asking the agency to comply with the Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA) and adopt rules reducing the state’s greenhouse gas emissions, but that petition was denied. As a result of DEP’s reluctance to comply with the GWSA, youth filed this case arguing that the DEP failed to promulgate the regulations required by Section 3(d) of the GWSA establishing declining annual levels of greenhouse gas emissions.

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