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Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump caricatures(Photo: DonkeyHotey)ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

It was a moment as tiny as marking a ballot -- those two minutes of the second debate, when the presidential election hung suspended mid-diatribe and the candidates let go of their opponent's flaws long enough to honor a bit of common humanity.

No big deal. Yeah, I know.

But as the thing winds down to the day of reckoning, and a sense of lost values and lost democracy overwhelms me -- the election season is pure spectacle, full of sound and fury (signifying nothing?) -- I find myself going back to those two minutes over and over, trying to understand why they hit me with such force.

The second debate, possibly the ugliest playground fight of the three, was conducted in a "town hall" format, with a preselected audience of independent voters sharing the stage with the candidates, and at intervals an audience member was invited to ask the candidates a question. The debate was virtually over when moderator Martha Raddatz announced that "we've sneaked in one more question" and a man in the audience stood up.

Wednesday, 02 November 2016 08:42

A Death in Wisconsin: "This Is Not Us"


Candle 1102wrp opt(Photo: Andrew Bossi)The 400th block of Main Street Menomonie is adorable. There is a bike shop, a pizza place, and a comic book store. The electric boxes are painted with flowers and clearly, if you want to spend a weekend antiquing, you have found your freakin' happy place. From the spot on the brick sidewalk where Hussain Saeed Al Nahdi was beaten to death, you can see the sparkly lake. It's not Stars Hollow, but it's not too far off.

This is my home. These are my people. There are constellations of creameries, the fields roll out like thick fancy carpeting and the deer will walk right up and order you a beer. Eagles use my rowboat as a birdbath, and the only thing better than the fishing is the stories about the fishing. If you ignore the lack of beard, and musical talent, we're all pretty much the love child of Justin Vernon and Gentle Ben. I did my time bartending on both coasts and came home happily to this little city. This community is what people love about small towns -- it's safe, it's beautiful, it's welcoming, and at the heart of it, a university. When my Long Island girl comes to visit, I take her to this great little bar with pulled pork and twinkly lights and a cement bartop that warms up in the winter so you can literally cozy up to it on a chilly evening.

Outside of that bar, two nights ago, something very bad happened.

The thing is, we don't know exactly what. But the result was a 24- year old boy named Hussain, thousands of miles from his home and his people, bleeding on our sidewalk. Less than 48 hours later, he was dead.


BillRights 1102wrp opt(Photo: National Archives)The San Francisco 49ers were fortunate enough to have a bye this past weekend. That meant they couldn't lose another football game. It also gave the team five or six days to rest, recover from injuries, spend time with their families, and reflect on their thus-far woeful season. Forty-Niner quarterback/activist Colin Kaepernick, who initiated protests over racial inequality and police violence by taking a knee during the playing of the National Anthem -- a protest that has been picked up and carried forward by a number of NFL players, high school football teams around the country, and some athletes in other sports -- had something else on his mind.

Kaepernick has been viciously attacked for "disrespecting" the flag, been booed by fans at away games, had his likeness placed inside of a crosshairs on t-shirts sold outside the stadium before a road game against the Buffalo Bills, and recently, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump blamed him for driving down television ratings for NFL games this season.

But that hasn't stopped him from continuing his protest, and perhaps more importantly, launching a project aimed directly for at-risk youth.

Last Saturday, Kaepernick held a "Know Your Rights Camp" for Oakland-area youth. According to its website, "KNOW YOUR RIGHTS CAMP" is a free campaign for youth to raise awareness on higher education, self empowerment, and instruction to properly interact with law enforcement in various scenarios."


Samsung 1101wrp opt(Photo: EcoWatch)Samsung's lack of transparency on the disposal of its Galaxy Note 7 leaves tons of precious minerals at risk of being discarded into the environment. According to calculations by Oeko-Institut, a research and consultancy institution based in Germany, the 4.3 million smartphones contain more than 20 metric tons of cobalt, more than 1 ton of tungsten, 1 ton of silver, 100 kilograms of gold and between 20 and 60 kilograms of palladium.

These materials could be recovered but will instead end up harming the environment if Samsung doesn't repurpose or reuse them.

Despite issuing a global recall of the Galaxy Note 7, Samsung has not offered an official explanation for the malfunctioning phones. It has said that it will not recycle the returned phones but has offered no further clarity on what it will do with them.

"Samsung now has an opportunity to set an example for the industry—will it recover and reuse the precious metals and other valuable materials in these 4.3 million devices and avoid an environmental disaster or will it simply dump them?" said Jude Lee, senior IT campaigner at Greenpeace East Asia.

"We are launching a global petition challenging Samsung not to dump the phones and instead take this chance to totally rethink how it designs and produces its products."

Monday, 31 October 2016 07:13

Big Oil Is in Big Trouble


Exxon 1031wrp(Photo: EcoWatch)For years people have been warning that Big Oil's business model was fundamentally flawed and was not only putting the climate at risk, but millions of dollars of shareholders' money.

For years the industry's critics warned the industry was ignoring the risks of climate change and was just caring on drilling regardless.

But the oilmen did what the oilmen do: find oil and gas, no matter the consequences.

And the worst oil company has been Exxon which for decades has denied climate change and the impact that climate change will have on its business.

For decades it could have invested wisely in renewables but it carried on looking for oil and gas—including unconventional oil which is even more carbon intensive than conventional oil. Its critics warned this was pure folly: but the oilmen carried on drilling anyway.

Big Oil is used to doing things its own way.


IrelandFrack 1028wrp opt(Photo: EcoWatch)A bill banning hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in the Republic of Ireland was voted through the Dáil Éireann (the country's House of Representatives, so to speak) on Thursday.

According to the Irish Examiner, the bill's passage is "the first step in enforcing a nationwide ban on fracking and it will give the Government 12 weeks before it goes before further parliamentary scrutiny." The bill has now been moved to the committee stage for further review.

Fracking does not currently take place in the Emerald Isle but three exploratory licenses have been granted. The bill, The Prohibition of the Exploration and Extraction of Onshore Petroleum Bill, was introduced by Dáil member Tony McLoughlin, TD of the Fine Gael party. McLoughlin currently represents Sligo-Leitrim, a constituency that has been marked for potential shale gas exploration.

The legislation initially faced a potential eight-month delay to allow for Ireland's Environmental Protection Agency to issue a report on fracking, but the Government ultimately decided not to table the proposal.


Thorn 1027wrp opt(Photo: David Corby)If Hillary Clinton wins the presidency, one thing is for sure, the Hillary-Bashing Industrial Complex will not fade away. It remains to be seen what form the opposition will take: whether it takes the form of John McCain’s pledge – should he win re-election -- that a Republican-controlled Senate will not approve any of her Supreme Court nominees; or, a House-led crusade, led by Speaker Paul Ryan, to privatize Social Security and Medicare; or, leaders of the Christian Right, alt-right, white supremacist right, and anti-immigrant right, organizing to challenge Clinton’s agenda. And, opposition will likely not be a right-wing-only affair, as a fair number of progressives are also champing at the bit to confront Clinton’s policy proposals.

Should Hillary Clinton be elected, progressives will face an existential dilemma: How to become effective thorns in the side of Hillary Clinton, without nullifying their voices by becoming auto-reflexive naysayers. Should they compile binders of WikiLeaks to use as cudgels, or prepare binders of progressive proposals to move on? Will Hillary have a honeymoon with progressives, or merely a one-night stand?

For progressives, what does being a thorn in the side of a Clinton administration look like? Does it mean opposing every effort she might make at working with Republicans? Does it mean opposing all appointments for cabinet positions? Does it mean continuing to pillory her as a stooge of Wall Street, an enemy of the people, at every opportunity? Does it mean filling up oodles of Facebook space with critical articles, WikiLeaks posts, tweets and scuttlebutt?

How might principled progressives go about creating an effective voice and counterbalance to Clinton’s center/center-right initiatives?

Thursday, 27 October 2016 06:41

Budgeting the "Good War" for 75 Years


Arizona 1027wrp opt(Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)World War II never quite ended — it morphed.

Today we call it the status quo, or endless war, or we just don’t bother to notice it. Indeed, now more than ever we don’t notice it. It’s barely part of the 2016 election, even though we’re engaged in active conflict in half a dozen countries, toying with a relaunch of the Cold War with Russia and, of course, hemorrhaging, as always, more than half our annual discretionary budget on “defense.”

World War II has been going on for seven decades now and has no intention of ever stopping . . . of its own volition. But this year’s rocking electoral craziness — not just Hurricane Donald, but the unexpected staying power of the Bernie Sanders campaign — may well be the harbinger of transcendence. Apparently there’s another force in the universe capable of standing up to the American, indeed, the global, military-industrial status quo.

Slowly, slowly this force is organizing itself and taking human shape. This isn’t a simple process. After all, the game of empire — the game called war, the game of domination — has been coalescing political power for several thousand years now.

But our current military budget was birthed by the wars of the 20th century. William Hartung, writing recently at TomDispatch, shows the fascinating connectedness of the wars that followed VE and VJ Days, as the corporate beneficiaries of the Big War aligned with mainstream politicians of both major parties and coalesced into the Washington consensus. Over the decades they have engaged in an ongoing struggle to maintain military spending at breathtakingly high levels and avoid any sort of transition to something called peace.


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EcoFrack 1026wrp opt(Photo: EcoWatch)Yet another study has determined that hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, might be a major public health threat. In one of the most exhaustive reviews to date, researchers from the Yale School of Public Health have confirmed that many of the chemicals involved and released by the controversial drilling process can be linked to cancer.

"Previous studies have examined the carcinogenicity of more selective lists of chemicals," lead author Nicole Deziel, Ph.D., assistant professor explained to the school. "To our knowledge, our analysis represents the most expansive review of carcinogenicity of hydraulic fracturing-related chemicals in the published literature."

For the study, published in Science of the Total Environment, the researchers assessed the carcinogenicity of 1,177 water pollutants and 143 air pollutants released by the fracking process and from fracking wastewater. They found that 55 unique chemicals could be classified as known, probable or possible human carcinogens. They also specifically identified 20 compounds that had evidence of leukemia/lymphoma risk.

One of the scarier parts from this study is that the researchers could not completely unpack the health hazards of fracking's entire chemical cocktail. More than 80 percent of the chemicals lacked sufficient data on cancer-causing potential, "highlighting an important knowledge gap," the school noted.

The unconventional drilling rush in the U.S. has expanded to as many as 30 states, spelling major consequences to the air we breathe and the water we drink. The Wall Street Journal reported in 2013 that more than 15 million Americans lived within a mile of a well.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016 08:02

Jim Hightower: A Tale of Two Pipes

Standing with the Standing Rock Sioux and all the water, land, sacred site and planet "protectors" gathered in North Dakota and beyond, to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline.(Photo: Peg Hunter)JIM HIGHTOWER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

The commentary you find at BuzzFlash and Truthout can only be published because of readers like you. Click here to join the thousands of people who have donated so far.

In bad movies (and bad history alike), the Native American ceremonial pipe figured prominently as symbol of defeat -- typically in a cliched scene of subdued chieftains signing a treaty of surrender and passing around a "peace pipe" in a sorrowful gesture to seal the raw deal.

The reality is that the communal smoking of a ceremonial pipe, often filled with tobacco, is a centuries-old tradition rich in spiritual meaning for many Native people who see it as an eternal channel through which tribes seek metaphysical strength, courage and endurance. The ceremonial pipe both shapes and conveys Native people's living history, a story that's perpetually being written.

Indeed, a dramatic new chapter is unfolding this year in a volatile confrontation on a remote stretch of the Northern Plains in rural North Dakota. It's a "Battle of Two Pipes," pitting the cultural power symbolized by the Native American pipe against the bruising financial power of a giant pipeline, owned by Energy Transfer Partners.

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