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Friday, 15 January 2016 00:00

Why the GOP's Fence Fantasy Is a Farce

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBorderBeach(Photo: James Reyes)A long time ago, in a not-so-faraway land, a civilization existed that was governed through a fairly rational political system. Even conservative candidates for high office had to have a good idea or two — and be quasi-qualified.

That land was the USA. It still exists as a place, but these days, Republican candidates don't even have to be qualified — much less sane — to run for the highest office in the land. All they need is the backing of one or more billionaires, a hot fear-button issue to exploit and a talent for pandering without shame to the most fanatical clique of know-nothings in their party. Also, they must be able to wall themselves off from reality, erecting a wall of political goop around their heads so thick that even facts and obvious truth cannot get through to them.

Indeed, the GOP's "One Great Issue" of the 2016 campaign for president is: The Wall. Ted Cruz practically snarls when he declares again and again that he'll "build a wall that works." Marco Rubio is absolute about it: "We must secure our border, the physical border, with a wall, absolutely." And Donnie Trump has basically built his campaign atop his fantasy of such an imperial edifice: "We're going to do a wall," he commands, as though he's barking at one of his hotel construction crews.

There are, of course, certain problems that you might expect them to address, such as the exorbitant cost of the thing, the extensive environmental damage it'll do, and the futility of thinking that people aren't clever enough to get around, over, under or through any wall. But don't hold your breath waiting for any common sense to intrude on their macho posturing.

Trump even made a TV ad depicting hordes of marauding Mexicans invading our country — proof that a huge wall is necessary! Only, the film footage he used is not of Mexican migrants, but of Moroccans fleeing into Spain. But after all, when trying to stir up fear of foreigners, what the hell does honesty have to do with it?

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaakeystonexlnorth32Advocates in 2014 demonstrated in front of the White House in opposition to the northern section of the Keystone XL Pipeline. (Photo: Stephen Melkisethian)

In a January 13 opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal, Kristine Delkus, an executive vice president and general counsel at TransCanada, announced that TransCanada was going to file a claim against the United States for allegedly violating NAFTA. At issue is the Obama administration denial of a permit to construct the northern section of the Keystone XL pipeline:

The administration’s decision violates international agreements. When the U.S. government signed Nafta, it committed to provide Canadian investors with various protections against unfair, inequitable, and uncompensated expropriatory and discriminatory U.S. regulatory actions. The agreement enables companies, like TransCanada, to recover damages through international arbitration when Nafta’s provisions have been violated....

The damage to TransCanada is clear. It has lost the value of the project and incurred significant costs in pursuing what should have been a robust regulatory process based on facts and established criteria, not based on meeting misplaced symbolic political objectives.

Delkus also detailed how TransCanada was simultaneously pursuing a federal lawsuit in the US, charging that President Obama's decision to prohibit the construction of the northern Keystone XL section violates the US Constitution.

The NAFTA claim highlights longstanding fears of opponents of massive corporately written trade deals that such agreements allow companies to pursue "remedies" that supersede the sovereign powers of individual nations. This is because NAFTA and similar trade pacts allow for a separate arbitration trade-agreement tribunal process for adjudicating claims. According to the Canadian publication Oilweek, TransCanada has indicated that it intends "to file for $15 billion in damages against the U.S. government under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) based on its rejection of the [northern section of the] Keystone XL Pipeline."

2016.14.1 bf mellino(Photo: Magharebia)COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

As oil prices continue to drop, renewable energy brought in a record $329.3 billion of investment last year, according to data released today from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF).

Spending on clean energy technology increased 4 percent from 2014, due to tumbling prices for photovoltaics and wind turbines, as well as large investments in offshore wind farms. According to BNEF, renewable energy installation in 2015 was up 30 percent compared to the same period in 2014, setting a record for the most installation of renewable power capacity in a year. Globally, wind and solar made up half of all new generation technologies, including fossil fuels. Around 64 gigawatts of wind capacity and 57 gigawatts of solar were commissioned.

“These figures are a stunning riposte to all those who expected clean energy investment to stall on falling oil and gas prices,” Michael Liebreich, chairman of the advisory board for BNEF, said. “They highlight the improving cost-competitiveness of solar and wind power.”

2016.14.1 bf chow(Photo: Casey Hugelfink)LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

A 4.8-magnitude earthquake has indefinitely closed fracking operations in northern Alberta, an area that has experienced a spate of tremors in recent months.

While it is too soon to tell if the temblor was triggered by fracking, if fracking is indeed the culprit, Canada will once again set a world record for the largest earthquake triggered by the controversial drilling process.

The earthquake was reported Tuesday at 11:27 a.m. approximately 30 kilometres west of Fox Creek, Alberta.

Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) has ordered the shutdown of the site operated by multinational energy company Repsol Oil & Gas, CBC News reported. The regulator automatically shuts down a fracking site when any seismic activity registers above a 4.0.

“The company has ceased operations … and they will not be allowed to resume operations until we have approved their plans,” AER spokeswoman Carrie Rosa said.

A statement from Repsol confirmed that Tuesday’s earthquake occurred during fracking operations.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaascottFlorida Governor Rick Scott embodies why individuals and corporations should not profit from providing medical care. (Image: DonkeyHotey)

Two-term Florida Governor Rick Scott (R) heavily financed both of his campaigns (2010 and 2014) out of his personal fortune, estimated at more than $130 million according to recent tax filings. Scott became a member of the one percent by co-founding what would become the largest US for-profit hospital and health care system in the 1990s: Columbia/HCA.

However, the Department of Justice (DOJ) began investigating Columbia/HCA under Clinton's Attorney General Janet Reno, and Rick Scott was forced to resign as CEO of the company in 1997 after proof of massive illegal Medicare profiteering was discovered.

2000 Forbes article provided a glimpse into some of the defrauding of the taxpayer that occurred under Scott:

The company increased Medicare billings by exaggerating the seriousness of the illnesses they were treating. It also granted doctors partnerships in company hospitals as a kickback for the doctors referring patients to HCA. In addition, it gave doctors “loans” that were never expected to be paid back, free rent, free office furniture, and free drugs from hospital pharmacies.

In the tradition of the DOJ not prosecuting CEOs, Scott was never charged with overseeing the bilking of Medicare. However, after his departure, Scott's former company (by then simply called HCA), pled guilty to 14 felony counts. Forbes reported that the Department of Justice investigation revealed that "the fraud ... ran deep within HCA’s way of doing business."

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaGMOwheat(Photo: Bluemoose)Another country is taking action on genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Taiwan has banned schools across the nation from serving GMOs to students, citing health and safety concerns.

On Dec. 14, 2015, Taiwanese legislature passed amendments to the School Health Act to stamp out raw genetically modified ingredients as well as processed food containing GMOs.

The ban affects cafeterias and food stands in every elementary school, middle school and high school in Taiwan, The China Post reported. Schools have traditionally served food products such as soybeans, corn, salmon, tofu and soy milk that contain GMOs.

“Soy is a major ingredient in Taiwan’s school lunches,” said Lin Shu-fen of the Democratic Progressive Party, who advocated for the passage of the bill. “Genetically modified soy has been shown to contains toxic residue from pesticides.”

It’s not just schoolchildren eating tons of GMO soy. Taiwan, as a whole, is a large consumer of the crop. According to Agri-View, “Taiwan consumes more than 8 million bushels of soybeans used in soy foods. Ninety-five percent of those 8 million bushels originate in the U.S., and 7.2 million bushels of those soybeans are GMO soybeans from the U.S.”

COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaCombover(Photo: BostonJerry)Donald Trump has been having a tough time in the UK lately. First, he lost his appeal with the UK Supreme Court to halt a Scottish wind farm project near his resort in Aberdeenshire. Next, a parliamentary petition, backed by more than 500,000 people, was launched to bar Trump from entering the UK. And now, a UK agency is slapping him with a fine for carbon pollution from one of his private jets.

Trump faces fines of €2,152 ($2,339) for a flight to the UK in a plane owned by a firm called DJT Operations I LLC, part of the Trump Organization.

The UK’s Environment Agency, which is charged with enforcing the European Union’s Emissions Trading System (ETS), published an updated list of those facing fines on Tuesday. The agency issued the fines to 25 operators, totaling more than £750,000 (about $1.1 million), because they failed to purchase carbon permits to cover their emissions, The Guardian said.

Those fined along with Trump are various private and commercial jet operators, including the Bahrain Royal family, insurance giant AIG and 21st Century Fox America, the company chaired by Rupert Murdoch.

“The EU Emissions Trading System is an important means of regulating emissions from aviation operators,” Liz Parkes, Environment Agency deputy director of climate change and business services, told The Guardian. “The Environment Agency’s enforcement activity is part of coordinated action across Europe.”

The trading system is designed to limit carbon pollution and mitigate climate change.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaobamahopeBarack Obama ran on a campaign of hope, but ended up with little change in the structural racism in the US. (Image: Thomas Hawk)

It was July 2004 and the Democratic Party was holding its presidential nominating convention in Boston. John Kerry would be nominated, and his team chose a nationally unknown candidate for US senator in Illinois as the keynote speaker: Barack Obama. Obama gave a dazzling 17-minute oration that catapulted him into becoming a political celebrity, helped him to win his US senate race and positioned him for the presidential race in 2008.

In light of his last State of the Union address as president, delivered last night to Congress and the nation, it is revealing to return to that 2004 pivot point in Obama's career. Included in his charismatic Boston keynote address were these words:

Tonight, we gather to affirm the greatness of our nation not because of the height of our skyscrapers, or the power of our military, or the size of our economy; our pride is based on a very simple premise, summed up in a declaration made over two hundred years ago: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness...."

Well, I say to them tonight, there's not a liberal America and a conservative America; there's the United States of America.

There's not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there's the United States of America.

Although there are a plethora of issues to discuss concerning the Obama administration - domestic and foreign - perhaps the most glaring and intractable flaw in his 2004 rhetoric was the portrayal of a nation that wasn't divided by race. 

COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaNunWeed(Photo: EcoWatch)Two self-proclaimed nuns, Sister Kate and Sister Darcey, grow and sell marijuana for medicinal purposes in Merced, California. But the future of their business is now in jeopardy as the Merced City Council issued a temporary ban on marijuana cultivation after a 6-0 vote on Jan. 4.

The Sisters of the Valley sell their line of medicinal salves, tonics and tinctures on Etsy. Their products, which are independently certified as organic, are high in CBD, or cannabidiol, a cannabis compound that has been shown to have significant medical benefits, and low in THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, the better known cannabis compound with psychoactive properties.

According to the sisters, they make the medicine based on “ancient ritual,” which involves turning their cannabis tinctures every morning and night, only bottling tinctures during a full moon and saying a healing prayer over every bottle and jar before it’s sold.

“We make CBD oil, which takes away seizures and a million other things,” Sister Kate told ABC News. “It’s very high in demand from cancer patients right now. And we make a salve that’s a multi-purpose salve, but we found out it cures migraines, hangovers, earaches, tooth aches and diaper rash.” The salve is made from cannabis trim, coconut oil, vitamin E, lavender oil, calendula oil and beeswax.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBibleKey(Photo: Malcolm Lidbury)There is a sexual harassment case that is rocking the headlines and it has nothing to do with Bill Cosby or any other Hollywood entertainer. At least ten women have thus far filed lawsuits accusing Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP) founder Bill Gothard, now 81, of sexual abuse and harassment, according to Christianity Today.

According to The Washington Post, “Each of the 10 plaintiffs -- Gretchen Wilkinson, Charis Barker, Rachel Frost, Rachel Lees, Melody Fedoriw, Jamie Deering, Ruth Copley Burger and three Jane Does -- are seeking at least $50,000 in damages, alleging that Gothard and the organization, claiming intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence, willful and wanton and civil conspiracy.

“The lawsuit in DuPage County Circuit Court in Illinois, where IBLP’s headquarters is located, charges that IBLP, its employees and board members received reports of sexual abuse, sexual harassment and ‘inappropriate/unauthorized touching’ from women and girls. But, the women allege, the defendants never reported the ‘potentially criminal allegations’ to law enforcement authorities or the Illinois Department of Children & Family Services as required by state law.”

Gothard, who, the Washington Post noted had “resigned from the ministry in 2014 after more than 30 women had alleged that he had molested and sexually harassed women he worked with, including some who were minors.” is not a household name nor did he have a popular “family values” television program, but to evangelical Christians, he has been an exalted and revered figure.

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