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Thursday, 22 September 2016 06:39

Free the Snake River, Remove the Dams

Save the Snake flotilla demonstration(Photo: Backbone Campaign)GARY WOCKNER OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

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Buck Ryan, the Snake River Waterkeeper, put it this way, "Removing hydroelectric dams is progress -- we no longer have to destroy rivers and kill endangered fish to keep the lights on."

As I paddled my kayak amidst the hundreds of people in the Free The Snake flotilla last weekend, I believe Ryan is on the right track. Dams are a 50 to 100 year old technology -- it's time to remove even more dams along America's diminished waterways and replace that aged technology with flourishing solar and wind energy systems.

2016 was the second year for the Free The Snake flotilla. Co-sponsored by more than a dozen non-profit groups and organized by Save Our Wild Salmon and Patagonia, the flotilla took place on the Idaho border on the Snake River. Four huge dams on the lower Snake River have contributed to several species ofsalmonbeing placed on the endangered species list. Removing the dams would help restore the salmon and a way of life in the Snake and Columbia River basins.

The flotilla included participation from river conservation and fishing groups, native American tribes and local businesses, all who have a stake in seeing the lower Snake River dams removed. Since the dams were built more than 30 years ago, only about 1 percent of salmon return from the sea to their native spawning grounds along the river. Historically, around 8 million salmon would return from the sea, swim up the Columbia River and then up into the Snake. That number is now down to around 80,000. Further, the vast majority of those fish are bred and stocked every year, with few or none being original wild salmon.

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TrumpSimper 0921wrp opt(Photo: Gage Skidmore)To many hard-working people, this is a time of economic uncertainty. Thus, it is important to point out that America's superrich are intentionally and brazenly knocking down the middle class and poor to further enrich themselves. They are aided by clueless, corrupt politicians who don't care about the future of ordinary Americans or of America itself. In these hard times, along comes Donald J. Trump, a swaggering billionaire braggart promising greatness by goading working-class white people into mollifying their pain and anxiety by despising those "other people" situated near them on the social-economic ladder.

The media establishment has erroneously put the "populist" crown on Trump, endorsing his absurd assertion that he might be a billionaire, but he's "our" billionaire, fighting for us commoners!

I'm not telling anyone how to vote, and I certainly understand the inclination to grab the biggest stick you can find to whack the bejeezus out of those holding you and your family down. Trump has sold himself as the biggest, baddest stick around, the "outsider" who pummeled Jeb!, Marco, Ted, and the entire Republican establishment.

But I am here to say, don't be a sucker. There's not a single populist muscle in Donnie's whole plutocratic body. He will sell out wage earners, small business people, and anyone else to serve his own needs or whims, as his lifelong record (as opposed to his recent rhetoric) reveals.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016refugeeOur comfort in the West creates much of the refugee crisis that the mass media so underreports. (Photo: brx0)

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Just how much does the mainstream press like to spend days upon days getting sucked into a farcical debate about whether Donald Trump is "officially" a birther or not?

I've written it before and I'll write it again: In 2016, if it's not entertaining, it's not news. Donald Trump is like a bigoted vaudeville comedian resurrected from mothballs, a bombastic bloviator who knows how to dominate the midway at a state fair. He is a cross between a tin-siding salesman, a demagogue and -- as he told Marureen Dowd recently -- a promoter of the frisson (shudder of excitement) of violence.

What passes for US mass media today is -- speaking of violence -- a megaphone for vitriol, scapegoating, and cheap "shock jock" tricks. 

Meanwhile, national and global events that shape lives and lead to untimely deaths pass with barely a headline, shoved to the background by the grand carnival known as the 2016 US presidential election.

How many examples of the planet's dire needs -- and potential solutions -- could be covered as part of the daily news if titillation and personality gaffes were not the primary stories driving the news? Occasionally, the reality of our dystopian world receives coverage, like a head bobbing briefly up above the water -- and then sinking back down to drown. That's an analogy that relates directly to one particular reality: As Middle East Eye reported today, at least 39 people were killed this morning when a migrant boat sank off the coast of Egypt. "Over 3,000 people have drowned in the Mediterranean on the way to Europe so far this year," according to Middle East Eye.

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Baseball 0921wrp opt(Photo: Schyler)One of the unforeseen results of San Francisco 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick taking a stand against racism and police brutality, by at first sitting, and later taking a knee, during the playing of the national anthem before NFL games, is that other athletes in other sports are being asked to comment.

While several African American players in the NFL have sat, kneeled, or raised gloved fists during the national anthem in solidarity, few athletes in other sports, save soccer's Megan Rapinoe, have done so.

And, according to Baltimore Orioles' centerfielder Adam Jones, there isn't likely to be any overt displays of protest coming from African American baseball players. because, as he told USA Today, "Baseball is a white man's sport."

Next season will be the 70th anniversary of that day in April when the Brooklyn Dodgers' Jackie Robinson took the field, breaking the color barrier in major league baseball. A few days ago, Jones told USA Today that while he and some other players might be sympathetic to Kaepernick and the causes he is bringing attention to, people should not expect African Americans in baseball to publicly protest.

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016toxicWe're just consumers for toxic products as far as chemical companies are concerned. (Photo: Daniel Go)

Article reprinted with permission from Ecowatch

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Four of the country's largest chemical companies have been accused of selling billions of dollars worth of harmful isocyanate chemicals but intentionally concealing their dangers to consumers and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over the past several decades.

EcoWatch learned that the recently unsealed whistleblower lawsuit was served on the chemical companies on Wednesday. The lawsuit was originally filed under seal in federal court in Northern California.

Kasowitz brought this action on behalf of itself and the federal government to recover more than $90 billion in damages and penalties under the FCA, which imposes penalties for concealing obligations to the government.

According to a copy of the lawsuit seen by EcoWatch, "Each of these companies is separately liable to the United States Government for billions of dollars in civil reporting penalties, which continue to accumulate by tens of thousands of dollars daily, and for billions of dollars in similarly increasing breach of contract damages."

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Cups 0919wrp opt(Photo: EcoWatch)France is taking another big step towards being more environmentally conscious by implementing a controversial new law that will ban plastic cutlery, plates and cups.

The measure was part of the Energy Transition For Green Growth bill that was passed in 2015 and went into effect last month. But producers of disposal plates, cups and cutlery will have until 2020 to make sure their products are made with biologically sourced materials and can be composted.

The ban was initially proposed by the Europe Ecologie-Greens Party to help cut the energy used in making plastic in addition to the waste it creates. While the move is sure to please environmentalists, opponents argue that product bans hurt consumers.

Pack2Go Europe Secretary General Eamonn Bates told The Associated Press the company is urging the European Union to take legal action against France for violating the European Union's rules on free movement of goods.

PAUL BUCHHEIT OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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Stairs 0919wrp(Photo: CDC)TTheTThe large-scale movements demanding justice that have developed over the past few years have evoked passion and sympathy from many people.  These are the leaders of finance who use our infrastructure, technology, security, law, location, and especially our people to make billions in profits while paying almost nothing in return.

Especially the securities traders. An impoverished mother pays up to 10% in sales tax when she buys shoes for her kids, but the customers of companies with a quadrillion dollars in sales pay zero sales tax. Quadrillion sounds like gazillion, but it's a real number -- a thousand trillion, about four times the value of all the world's wealth.

Among many of the protests have been acts of resistance demanding an end to the murdering and brutalizing of people of color in killing zones.  Structural racism and police who have a license to kill are at the heart of this problem, but some of the fault lies squarely in the financial districts of New York and Chicago and other large financial centers.

The Shame of Chicago

With a quadrillion dollars in sales and the collection of transfer fees, contract fees, brokerage fees, Globex fees, clearing fees, and surcharges, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange achieved a profit margin (54%) higher than any of the top 100 companies in the nation from 2008 to 2010, and in recent years it's risen to nearly 60%.

Despite being the most profitable big firm, CME complained that its taxes were too high, and they demanded and received an $85 million tax break from the State of Illinois.

Meanwhile, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner has cut funding for funerals, AIDS programs, "Meals on Wheels" for seniors, and programs for at-risk youth.

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Observer 0916wrp opt(Photo: EcoWatch)The Energy Observer, the world's first boat powered by solar, wind and self-generated hydrogen, is gearing up for its scheduled maiden journey in February.

The €4.2m ($4.72 million) vessel—nicknamed the "Solar Impulse of the Seas"—aims to circumnavigate the globe using only clean power, a feat similar to Solar Impulse 2's historic, solar-powered flight around the world that was completed this past July.

The boat will sail for six years around the world as a floating exhibition and clean energy laboratory, with stops in 50 countries and 101 ports of call.

"For the first time, Energy Observer will allow us to explore the oceans without leaving any trace behind us," Jerome Delafosse, a director and co-captain of the expedition, said in the video.

The multi-hulled catamaran, a former racing vessel that won the 1994 Jules Verne Trophy for the fastest circumnavigation of the world, stands at 30 meters in length and 12.80 meters in width. Its green upgrade is currently in full swing at a shipyard in Saint Malo, France where it awaits installation of 130 square meters of solar panels, two vertical axis wind turbines, two reversible electric motors and electrolysis equipment—all to help produce and store hydrogen onboard.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

sep162016 warrenElizabeth Warren during the opening of the Consumer Protection Financial Bureau, which she designed, in 2010. (Photo: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau)

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Last week, I wrote a commentary on how approximately 5,300 Wells Fargo bank staff members had been fired for allegations of creating millions of fraudulent credit card and savings accounts. It appears that the Wells Fargo employees were feverishly trying to meet high marketing quotas to receive bonuses. It also appears that Wells Fargo executives overlooked the rampant illegal behavior, amidst a climate that emphasizes increasing the number of accounts without scrutinizing the tactics used to do so.

Wells Fargo does not appear to be investigating whether or not Carrie Tolstedt -- who oversaw the division where the phony accounts were set up -- should be held responsible for the bank fraud uncovered by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). National Public Radio (NPR) reported that Tolstedt had previously planned to retire from her position and "is set to depart her post with $124.6 million in stock and options." NPR added:

"When Carrie Tolstedt's retirement was announced in July, Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf called her a 'dear friend,' 'role model' and 'standard-bearer for our culture.'

A culture of government overlooking corruption on Wall Street led to the 2008 economic crisis. Now, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) who created the CFPB is saying that the US government -- including the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) -- are, yet again, going easy on large financial institutions who continue to engage in multi-pronged rogue behavior. "There's a serious problem with senior management at Wells Fargo," Warren told CNBC earlier this week.

2016.15.9 BF ChowMelting icebergs in Ilulissat Icefjord, Greenland (Photo: United Nations Photo)LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

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Leonardo DiCaprio may be the star of his latest documentary, Before the Flood, but something much bigger takes center stage: Earth.

The Oscar-winning actor and longtime environmental advocate celebrated the world premiere of his climate change documentary on Friday at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).

"Looking forward to sharing this documentary with everyone as we continue to act on #climatechange together," DiCaprio tweeted.

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