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Tuesday, 22 December 2015 00:00

Mark Ruffalo: The Renewable Energy Race Is On

MARK RUFFALO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaParisCOP21(Photo: "A message of freedom and 100% renewable energy from Paris. Photo credit: Yann Arthus-Bertrand / Spectral Q")The climate agreement reached in Paris is provoking a flurry of caveats, criticisms and cautions. Many of those criticisms are warranted and there’s a lot of work ahead to make sure countries live up to their promises. But we should not miss a chance to celebrate a historic turning point.

World leaders finally made commitments to clean, renewable energy that will help to ensure a safer, healthier and more prosperous future for us all. The agreement signals that the age of fossil fuels is coming to a close and the age of renewable energy is dawning.

In many ways, the Paris deal is the mother of all market signals. To deliver on the promises world leaders made, we will need to leave coal and oil in the ground and move toward a complete reliance on clean energy. Let’s not miss the writing on the wall: fossil fuels are a losing bet, while renewables offer economic opportunity.

This is true for all segments of society—from energy investors to individual households that can save money on their energy bills by switching to rooftop solar power.

The Paris pact ratifies an ongoing renewable energy revolution spreading across the globe. Each year since 2013, the world has added more power-generating capacity fueled by renewable sources than from coal, natural gas and oil combined. Global investment in renewable energy hit $310bn last year, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. And major companies are pledging to go 100 percent renewable, too.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaatrumphairBeware of fascism in a pinstripe suit. (Photo: DonkeyHotey)

Revisiting Donald Trump's flirtation with the "birther" movement that goes back many years is worthwhile in understanding his current incarnation as the bellowing, vulgarian "king of the whites who feel displaced."

As reported in Talking Points Memo, 

Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio introduced Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump Wednesday at a rally by reminding everyone that they were both vocal members of the "birther" movement that questioned President Barack Obama's birth certificate.

Arpaio's comment came less than a day after the real estate mogul evaded a question about whether he thought Obama was a legitimate President....

Both Arpaio and Trump have been vocal members of the "birther" movement which claims Obama was born in Kenya.

In a September BuzzFlash commentary, we noted that Trumpism is really about coded white privilege. Trump may have started his campaign with scurrilous descriptions of Mexicans who seek refuge in the United States. However, in just a short period of time, he has fluidly moved from defaming Mexicans to denigrating Black Lives Matter protesters to slandering Muslims to once again evoking his "birther" movement credentials.

The "birther" movement is no small part of Trump's bombastic, demagogic appeal.

ERIN BROCKOVICH OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaPorterleak750(Photo: An infrared, time-lapse video of the natural gas leak in Porter Ranch, California. Photo credit: MSNBC / YouTube screenshot)Since October, residents of Porter Ranch, California, have been exposed to dangerous contaminants from a massive natural gas leak that continues to seep into the air, causing a catastrophe the scale of which has not been seen since the 2010 BP oil spill.

After only a week of visiting families in Porter Ranch, I am already experiencing the headaches, nausea and congestion that have plagued this community living at the center of one of the most significant environmental disasters in recent history.

Southern California Gas Co. or SoCalGas, has essentially ignored the impact to victims and its actions have instead added to their suffering. The company has refused to release air quality data that could be used to protect its residents, it has made relocation very difficult and it has forged ahead with plans to expand its facility before the leak has even been contained.

The enormity of the Aliso Canyon gas leak cannot be overstated. Gas is escaping through a ruptured pipe more than 8,000 feet underground and it shows no sign of stopping. As the pressure from weight on top of the pipe causes the gas to diffuse, it only continues to dissipate across a wider and wider area. According to tests conducted in November by the California Air Resources Board, the leak is spewing 50,000 kilograms of gas per hour—the equivalent to the strength of a volcanic eruption.

At this rate, in just one month, the leak will have accounted for one-quarter of the total estimated methane emissions in the state of California.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaadelson32Sheldon Adelson's oligarchal tale of two newspapers: in Israel and Nevada. (Image: DonkeyHotey)

There was a lot of media attention paid last week to billionaire Sheldon Adelson's purchase of the largest newspaper in Nevada, the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Speculation abounded as to the motives of Adelson - a casino magnate who currently is positioned 15th in Forbes' US billionaire rankings - in buying the largest newspaper in Nevada.

Was Adelson trying to influence the 2016 political race, particularly by staking out a favorite GOP candidate in the Nevada primary, which is the fourth GOP primary contest next year? Is he also counting on using the paper as a platform to try to swing Nevada Republican in the presidential election? After all, this is a man who spent $150 million trying to defeat Barack Obama in 2012, according to U.S. News & World Report....

After all, Adelson owns another newspaper that most Americans know little about. It is called Yisrael Hayom, and it has the largest circulation of any newspaper in Israel.  That may be due to the fact that is distributed for free: Adelson subsidizes it to the tune of some $40 million a year. The pages of Yisrael Hayom may be used by many Israelis for wrapping fish; nevertheless, it is a serious shaper of right-wing public opinion, due to its consistently extremist pro-Netanyahu positions.

The Economist, in an April 25 article, described the relationship between Yisrael Hayom and Netanyahu: "Yisrael Hayom is a freesheet owned by Sheldon Adelson, a casino mogul and supporter of Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister. Its headlines are routinely approved by the prime minister's office."

2015.21.12 BF Berkowitz(Photo: Jason Tester Guerrilla Futures)BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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Frank Gaffney has been around conservative politics longer than the Star Wars franchise. In fact, before the premier of the first Star Wars movie, Gaffney was already working as an aide under Richard Perle -- who later earned the nickname "The Prince of Darkness” -- in the office of the hawkish Democratic Senator Henry M. Jackson. These days he’s spewing anti-Muslim stories, selling fear, attacking comrades, and opponents’ alike, and promoting conspiracy theories galore. And, according to excellent reporting by veteran journalist David Neiwert, Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy “has been riding high on the tidal wave of Islamophobia he and similar anti-Muslim organizations have created, with the help of right-wing political candidates who have legitimized their dubious and often outrageous claims.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center has branded Gaffney -- who served in the Reagan administration, is a radio talk show host and contributor to the Washington Times -- “one of America’s most notorious Islamophobes.” Too hot to handle even for some conservatives, in recent years Gaffney has found himself banned from affairs organized by the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC).

Being banished by conservative comrades didn’t stop Gaffney from organizing such conferences as “Homeland Threats” -- co-sponsored by Brietbart News -- and another Brietbart co-sponsored event called “Uninvited,” which featured panels with a number of well-known anti-Muslim talking heads including Pamela Geller, Robert Spencer and Gaffney himself.  

2015.21.12 BF BUCHHEIT(Photo: Ano Lobb)PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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No one form of government can solve all our problems, especially with a contrarian and confrontational Congress. But greed, poverty, and inequality are some of the main targets of a socialist platform, and the matter of terrorism is put in better perspective by a people committed to social responsibility.

Here are some of the numbers that should shock us into rejecting non-socialist candidates:

1. Terrorism: You're About as Likely to be Killed by a Toddler as a Terrorist

The candidates and the news outlets have driven us into a frenzy of fear, even though the number of Americans killed by toddlers is about the same per year as the number of violent jihadist attacks in the U.S. since 9/11. There are more terrorist attacks if the actions of white supremacists and non-Muslim extremists are included. But there are also more toddler killings that go unreported.

Bernie Sanders noted that "the disastrous invasion of Iraq...has unraveled the region completely and led to the rise of al-Qaeda and to ISIS." And that the United States should be "trying to use diplomacy before war."

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaPrisoners2(Photo: Bart Everson)“The question now is how to change our institutions so that they promote human values rather than destroy them.”

Philip Zimbardo, who posed this question in the wake of the famous — or infamous — Stanford Prison Experiment 44 years ago, might have added: If we fail to do so, we guarantee our own social collapse.

The collapse is underway, one broken soul at a time:

“But the basic story the men told was the same: (Leonard) Strickland was pushed down a flight of stairs, and then beaten nearly to death by a large group of guards.”

This is from a recent New York Times investigative piece about inmate abuse at Clinton Correctional Facility, in upstate New York — a particularly boiling cauldron of racism in America’s prison-industrial complex. Almost all of the nearly 1,000 guards who work at the rural prison are white; the inmates, mostly from New York City, are black. Not surprisingly, the prisoners say “they face a constant barrage of racial slurs.”

And racial slurs have a way of escalating, especially under conditions in which one group of people has enormous, unchecked power over another group. Zimbardo called it the Lucifer Effect: the transformation of ordinary, decent people into . . . well, monsters. His 1971 study, in which two dozen college-student volunteers were randomly designated either guards or prisoners in a makeshift “penitentiary” in the basement of Stanford’s psych department, was meant to last two weeks but was called off after six days because the situation had gotten out of control.

Zimbardo said that he came to his senses after an outside observer, who was brought in to conduct interviews, reacted with utter shock “when she saw our prisoners being marched on a toilet run, bags over their heads, legs chained together, hands on each other’s shoulders. Filled with outrage, she said, ‘It’s terrible what you are doing to these boys!’”

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaaafanon32Let it be! (Photo: fuseboxradio)

As I saw a clip the other day of CNN promoting a presidential debate - yet again - as some sort of gladiator event, I was disgusted by how the mainstream corporate media thrives on promoting conflict to attract viewers.  

It's not just politics that becomes a caricature of a series of World Wrestling Federation bouts - it's also the superficial and sensationalist corporate media coverage of struggles for a just, equal and enlightened democracy. With all the courageous advocacy happening around the United States to achieve social justice, movements are often portrayed as some sort of pitched battle between "the forces of law and order" and activists. Corporate-run television, in particular, tends to reduce vital struggles over moral imperatives to viewer-attracting "clashes."

Activists around the country are making it very clear that the instances of violence that are the subject of protests - for example, police killings - occur within the context of systemic oppression. However, when covering protests, the mass media rarely reports that the overall goal of many of these actions is transformative change, nor do corporate outlets generally discuss the ways in which oppression has taken root in their own coverage.

Mass media does not reveal the perniciousness of the "white settler" narrative that has been handed from one US generation to the next - and how crucial it is to disrupt that narrative. Of course, with the change of narrative must come a metamorphosis in attitudes and institutional structures within the US.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaataiwanUS arms sale to Taiwan symbolizes how US exports both war and weapons. (Photo: Alan Wu)

China lodged an official protest against the Obama administration's announcement that Taiwan has been cleared to purchase $1.83 billion in US arms, according to The New York Times:

The Obama administration’s announcement that it would sell $1.83 billion worth of arms to Taiwan, including two warships and antitank missiles, has drawn a swift rebuke from China, which threatened to penalize the companies that made the armaments and summoned a United States diplomat to register an official protest.

Although the sale is not remarkably large as far as US weaponry is concerned, it is of value to look at the transaction in the context of US weapons sales.

In the last two years, we have repeatedly noted how the US economy is heavily invested in the so-called "defense industry.”

BuzzFlash commentary this summer reported on a National Priorities Project analysis which found that 54 percent of all US government discretionary spending in 2015 - more than $598 billion dollars - is going to the military. That does not include funding for intelligence agencies (such as the CIA and NSA, which receive tens of billions of dollars), nor does it include the supplemental funds that were used to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which are still not over.

Funding for the military-industrial-complex is also buried in other congressionally budgeted line items, particularly when it comes to covert programs.

War - or just ratcheting up the potential for conflict through stockpiling armaments - is profitable. For example, the National Priorities Project found that Lockheed Martin "saw over $5.5 billion in profit, and paid its CEO more than $34 millionin 2014. And the $32 billion it received from the U.S. government made up more than seventy percent of its total sales."

2015.17.12 bf marcus(Photo: - POD -)JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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$4.4 Trillion Dollars on Middle East Oil Wars

I listened to John Kerry’s optimistic speech at the COP21 Paris climate talks about how the United States is allegedly stepping up to the financial challenge to help poor countries that are or will be facing life-threatening consequences from catastrophic climate change disasters with a sense cynicism.

Some might argue that it is possible that President Obama and John Kerry are trying, but their powers are limited for the reason that they owe their allegiance to the petroleum and weapon industries.

But why then would the US government spend trillions of dollars on missiles, drones, fighter jets, and an infinite supply of bombs to gain oil control in the Middle East if the White House and Congress cared about transitioning from fossil fuels?

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