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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

alacampensinavox(Photo: Ian McKenzie)

There's a new wave of free trade agreements coming down the pike - unless they are defeated by an uprising of those concerned about unsustainable farming, climate change, corporate interests superseding sovereignty, unfair labor practices and many more perilous threats. The three major economic pacts in the final stages of negotiation are the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), negotiated between the US and European Union; the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TTP), negotiated between the US and 11 countries in the Asia-Pacific region; and the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), negotiated between the European Union and Canada.

These trade pacts are modeled on NAFTA and its numerous successors - agreements that solidify a global corporate infrastructure that legally empowers behemoth businesses to reshape the economy of the world to suit their needs. This framework includes a little-known provision contained in most international trade agreements, called the protocol for investor-state dispute settlement. In essence, it allows multinational corporations to sue sovereign governments for claimed loss of profits due to national or local laws, such as environmental protections.

2014.10.13.BF(Image: Jared Rodriguez / Truthout)PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

It was recently reported that Americans greatly underestimate the degree of inequality in our country. If we were given proper media coverage of the endless takeaway of our country's wealth by the super-rich, we would be infuriated. And we would be taking it personally.

Each of nine individuals (Gates, Buffett, 2 Kochs, 4 Waltons, Zuckerberg) made, on average, so much from his/her investments since January, 2013 that a median American worker would need a quarter of a million years to catch up. For the most part it was passive income, new wealth derived from the continuing productivity of America's workers.


Why We Should Take It Personally

First, because our productivity is rewarding a relatively few people. In addition, many of the top money-makers are damaging other American lives. The top nine include four people (Waltons) who pay their employees so little that we taxpayers have to pay almost $6,000 a year to support each one of the employees. And it includes two people (Kochs) who have polluted our air and water to enrich themselves while quietly funding organizations that threaten to dismantle what's left of our democracy.

2014.10.12.BF.1(Photo: Rev. Billy Talen / Stop Shopping Choir)

REV. BILLY TALEN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT​

Yesterday, we landed in St. Louis and texted our Ferguson friends as we walked from the gate. And we went to the baggage claim where the cops claimed my bag!

Of course it hadn't occurred to me, coming from the World Bank protest in Washington, DC, that my little duffel bag on wheels has what looks like a START-UP ACTIVIST KIT: a bullhorn, double AA batteries, Elvis hair goop and make-up, "Tree Spiker" the memory by Earth First founder Mike Roselle, and spare clothes and Theo's seven foot collapsible camera tripod.

We saw the cops and the sniffer-dog coming in and kept waiting for the old duffel to pop down the conveyor belt. Nothing.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

anindig(Photo: Robbt)

It's been a pivotal, unjust and enduring false narrative that Columbus "discovered" the Americas.

How could he have "found" the western hemisphere, when millions and millions of indigenous people were already living here? The whole premise of Columbus finding previously unknown territory - celebrated on October 13 as a federal holiday (although he never even touched ground in what is now the United States) - is a dangerous Eurocentric perspective. It is a keystone in the still-prevalent delusion that white colonizers "brought" civilization to the Americas. 

Next week, Truthout and BuzzFlash will be offering a brilliant book (available now) that comprehensively debunks the framing of the history of the Americas from a conqueror's perspective: An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States, by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz.

ANASTASIA PANTSIOS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaGlasgowEcoWatch(Photo: EcoWatch)The movement on college campuses to divest from fossil fuels has been growing in the U.S. and currently has commitments from 13 schools including Stanford University. Now Glasgow University has become the first academic institution in Europe to decide to divest.

This is a victory for the student-led Glasgow University Climate Action Society (GUCAS). As in the U.S., the European movement is led primarily by students. After a year-long campaign involving more than 1,300 students, freedom of information requests, rallies, flash mobs, fake oil spills and banner drops, the University of Glasgow Court voted today to remove 18 million pounds (about 29 million dollars) from investments in fossil fuel companies over a ten-year period and to freeze further investments from its entire 128 million pound endowment.

In a petition posted at gofossilfree.org, the students wrote, “The university has both a moral and a financial duty to its students to withdraw its investments from the fossil fuel industry. The moral case is clear: if it is wrong to wreck the climate, then it is wrong to profit from that wreckage. Furthermore, fossil fuels are a dangerous investment. The value of companies like Shell, BP and Chevron is based on the assumption that they will be able to dig up and sell their fossil fuel reserves. But if the world gets serious about stopping climate change, that would mean keeping 80 percent of proven fossil fuel reserves in the ground, and the assumption that forms the basis for these companies’ value will be undermined.”

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

ascientist(Photo: pheezy

A modicum of help is on the way for scientists who are under siege from climate deniers, corporations, ALEC and even some government agencies sympathetic to Chamber of Commerce influence. According to an email received by BuzzFlash from the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility:

A new program providing legal information, counseling and, when needed, formal representation to embattled scientists at no cost to them was unveiled today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). This Alliance for Legal Protection of Science (ALPS) will also field a national network of volunteer attorneys from a variety of specialties to help PEER staff counsel provide pro bono legal assistance to besieged scientists.When public scientists’ research has economic or political significance, their findings and careers are sometimes put under pressure or attack from industries or interest groups, such as fossil-fuel extractors, chemical and other manufacturers, as well as the law firms and “think tanks” they finance. Individual researchers are often ill-equipped to counter well-funded harassment campaigns.  ALPS will organize legal and other resources to protect both targeted scientists and their work products. 

The support services are much needed, given that the mainstream corporate media generally accepts assaults on the integrity of climate scientists and their work as "valid" opposing viewpoints. This is a result of two developments in news coverage. First, there is the generally established practice in current mass media of offering the reader false equivalencies rather than the establishment of fact by reporters. Second - and this is likely related to the first point – most mainstream media outlets, particularly television, are owned by parent corporations who support the pursuit of profit over the findings of scientists. If scientific research - on global warming or environmental pollution - results in conclusions that could undercut the bottom line for businesses, then it is generally in the interest of big media to call proven fact into question.

Thursday, 09 October 2014 06:27

Sweden and the Waking of Eco-Integrity

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaEcologyEarth(Photo: NASA)Startling news: Sweden now recycles 99 percent of its waste.

At least that’s what people are saying, including an official website of Sweden itself: “Less than one per cent of Sweden’s household waste ends up in a rubbish dump.” There may be less to this statement than meets the eye, but before I address that issue, I need to pause at the jolt of ecstatic excitement and jubilant incredulity I felt for a moment — that maybe the resource-consuming, planet-destroying, multinational political and economic system I’m part of is capable of correcting its own insanity, committing itself to a sustainable future and embracing the circle of life.

I’ve gotten used to living with despair: that so little of our effort, energy, intelligence and determination are invested in creating a sustainable future; and, indeed, that humanity’s macro-organizations, its national governments, its multinational business enterprises, expend their enormous power not only contributing to the devastation but sabotaging every effort to make it stop.

I’ve felt trapped in a state of permanent disconnect. Human indifference and helplessness, on a scale that is large beyond reckoning and as tiny as the car key in my hand and the bag of trash at my doorstep, seems permanently planted between me and the natural world. Only humans create garbage. Beyond our reckoning, everything has a purpose — but we cannot access or be part of this purpose, even though we come from it.

What if humanity actually committed itself, at the level of a national government, to learning from and working with nature? What if environmentalism didn’t mean (only) marching in the streets, pumping one’s fists or chaining oneself to a tree? I respect and honor such efforts — 300,000-plus people on the streets of New York demanding a sustainable future — but know that the point isn’t to celebrate individual righteousness but, rather, to awaken the integrity of our most powerful institutions.

2014.10.8.Water.BFDan River coal ash spill, February 2014. (Photo: Waterkeeper Alliance/Rick Dove)

RHIANNON FIONN FOR ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Thanks to the third-largest and most recent coal ash spill at Duke Energy’s Dan River plant in Eden, N.C., this past February—and the federal investigation and political nonsense that followed—it may seem as though coal ash is only a North Carolina issue, but it is not. Coal ash pollution is a national issue (well, truly, it’s an international issue) that warrants national media attention, though it rarely enjoys that sort of spotlight.

However, with MSNBC’s coal-ash segment last night and news from The Charlotte Business Journal that CBS’ “60 Minutes” is working on a special investigation that should air in about a month, the spotlight is coming coal ash’s way.

This will be 60 Minutes’ second special on coal ash.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

ashkleindoc(Photo:BlueRobot)

Naomi Klein's brilliant 2008 book, "The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism," was a visionary breakthrough in understanding how the oligarchy uses catastrophic circumstances to seize economic control of nations. Taking advantage of natural, political and financial upheaval, Klein cogently argues, the apostles of Milton Friedman and Ayn Rand use disaster as an opportunity to implement extremist free-market economic policies while reducing government spending for the common good.

The mainstream media and political narrative that we have lived with for years - of lurching from one sensationalist crisis to another - has evolved into a continuous "shock doctrine." The neoliberal forces of unfettered capitalism and the global consolidation of wealth advance as we are distracted by lurid coverage that stimulates our fears but not our brains. Akira Watts eloquently addressed this ceaseless barrage of "fourth-estate" terror in a BuzzFlash commentary yesterday, "ISIS, Ebola, and Why Fear of the Unknown Makes Us Stupid."

The never-ending fusillade of frightening images and news evoke the fear of monsters from our childhood. It is news that both attracts and repulses us because of its titillating appeal to out primal phobias.

2014.10.8.Hightower.BFMarriott Hotel, downtown Los Angeles. (Photo: Chris / Flickr)

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

As an old popular song from the 1970s asks, what do you get if you "work your fingers right down to the bone"? Boney fingers.

As the hardworking housekeepers for the sprawling Marriott chain of hotels know, that's more than a cute song lyric; it's the truth. Mostly women, these "room attendants," as they're called, are paid a poverty wage of barely $8 an hour by this hugely profitable lodging conglomerate to preform a very hard, physical job. Compelled to do very heavy lifting at unsafe speeds, they suffer the highest injury rate in the so-called "hospitality" industry. Some two-thirds of them have to take pain medication just to get through their day of heaving 100-pound mattresses, stooping to clean floors and toilets and twisting to readjust furniture in 15 to 20 rooms per shift.

Yet, Marriott's CEO publicly hails the very women he exploits as "the heart of the house," saying his chain likes to express its appreciation to them with "special recognition events" during International Housekeepers Week. Yes, exploited room refreshers are not rewarded with a living wage, but with their very own congratulatory week — how great is that?

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