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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016june20 nestlewaterBottled water that is "pure life." Somehow, we doubt it. (Photo: Usman Ahmed)

The refuse left behind by bottled water is damaging enough to the planet's environment, but it is also troubling that much of the spring water that fills these bottles is pumped from public lands. Take, for instance, Nestlé's Arrowhead bottled water brand. It is extracted via a pipeline from a canyon -- in California's San Bernadino Mountains -- that some environmental and activist groups argue is ecologically sensitive to the water loss. It's clearly a case of a company exploiting public land for profit.  According to a May 9 article in the San Bernadino County Sun: 

Nestlé’s withdrawal of water from a canyon watershed, which environmental groups deem critical for several endangered species, has been a growing controversy for several years.

Outcry has intensified with continuation of the drought.

Late last year, the Center for Environmental Diversity, Story of Stuff Project and Courage Campaign Institute filed a federal lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service for allowing Nestlé’s pipelines, pumps and other structures on federal land after the company’s permit expired 28 years ago.

The U.S. Forest Service, which administers the federally owned land, was paid just $524 last year for 36 million gallons of water from Strawberry Canyon in the San Bernadino forest, according to the County Sun.

Monday, 20 June 2016 08:49

Donald Trump vs. the First Amendment

WALTER BRASCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Bill 0620wrp optIf Donald Trump should become president, don’t expect his administration to be a transparent one or one that tolerates dissent and believes in the First Amendment.

At his campaign rallies, even those held at public venues, he forbids, according to his press advisories, “homemade signs, banners, professional cameras with a detachable lens, tripods, monopods, selfie sticks, back packs or large bags.”

The restriction on “professional cameras” is targeted to the media. Apparently, he doesn’t want unflattering pictures of him and his extra large baggage mouth to get to the public, although he is adept at positioning himself in front of the media for every possible story angle. If he were president, he would not have a choice of who can and cannot photograph him, because the First Amendment guarantees that public officials cannot invoke a “prior restraint,” which is what a restriction on photography would be.

Why he doesn’t want “back packs or large bags” is probably because he fears weapons at his rallies. Of course, he has said numerous times that he believes in the Second Amendment right to own and carry weapons, even assault weapons like the handguns and semi-automatic assault rifles that were used to kill 26 at the Sandy Hook elementary school, the 14 killed in San Bernardino, and the 49 killed in an Orlando nightclub.

Not allowing the public to make signs and banners is such a huge violation of the First Amendment that even the most rabid conservatives, and every judge—no matter what their judicial or political philosophy is—would laugh themselves silly at Trump’s belief that as a president he could control the message, like he is doing as a candidate.

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Justice 0620wrp opt(Photo: D. Gordon E. Robertson)While candidates bicker and Congress stagnates, the super-rich enjoy the absence of attention paid to one of our nation's most destructive issues.

The richest Americans are takers of social benefits. Yet they complain about paying 12% to 20% in taxes, even as respected researchers estimate an optimal revenue-producing rate of 80% to 90%, and even with the near-certainty that higher marginal tax rates will have no adverse effects on GDP growth.

The super-rich pay little in taxes because, as Senator Lindsey Graham said, "It's really American to avoid paying taxes, legally...It's a game we play...I see nothing wrong with playing the game because we set it up to be a game." In reality, it's a game of theft from the essential needs of education, infrastructure, and jobs.

The Richest Individuals Cheat the Most

According to a recent IRS report, an incredible $406 billion annual gap exists between owed and paid taxes, with individuals accounting for over three-quarters of the total, and with the most egregious misreporting coming from the highest income-takers.

That's about $3,000 per U.S. household in annual lost revenue. Yet even though the IRS retrieves well over $100 for every dollar in salaries paid to their agents, the agency has been rapidly losing staff, making the tax avoidance game a lot easier for the biggest cheaters.

Corporations Cheat Most Creatively

Relative to a dollar of payroll tax, corporations used to pay $3 in income tax. Now they pay 30 cents.

Exxon uses a theoretical tax to 'pay' its bill, and grandfatherly old Warren Buffett's company Berkshire Hathaway uses hypothetical amounts to avoid paying taxes.

Despite having billions in profits and nearly half of its sales in the U.S., Pfizer claimed enormous losses in the United States.

Each year the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) sells contracts worth about a quadrillion dollars, four times more than all the wealth in the world. Yet ZERO sales tax is paid on the purchases.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016june17 trumpmediaempIs Trump campaigning his brand to launch a media empire? (Photo: Russell Davies)

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Will Donald Trump be joining some of his fellow billionaires in establishing his own cable network? Can he monetize his popularity with the segment of the population that turns out at his rallies and buys Trump paraphernalia? Is there an audience for All Trump/All The Time?

Billionaires’ ownership of newspapers and other media outlets is nothing new. Earlier this month, Forbes’ Kate Vinton reported that “billionaires have long exerted influence on the news simply by owning U.S. media outlets.” Rupert Murdoch and Michael Bloomberg “are longtime media moguls who made their fortunes in the news business,” while Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who bought The Washington Post, “bought publications as a side investment after building a substantial fortune in another industry. “

According to Vinton, “Billionaires own part or all of several of America’s influential national newspapers, including The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, in addition to magazines, local papers and online publications.”

Sheldon Adelson, the multibillionaire casino magnate, a major funder of right-wing causes and candidates and a Donald Trump endorser, owns a daily newspaper in Israel called Israel Hayom; bought after being unhappy with how he was being covered in Israel. Here at home, Adelson bought the Las Vegas Review-Journal for a reported $140 million.

2016.16.6 bf chow(Photo: flo21)LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

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Major kudos to Hannah Rousey. The college-bound student from Lovell, Maine has turned down a $1,000 scholarship money from Nestlé subsidiary Poland Spring‬ due to her objections to bottled water and the company's environmentally destructive practices.

"I am grateful for the scholarship I have been awarded, but I cannot in good faith accept money from a company that does not exhibit sustainable and ethical practices," she wrote a letter to the bottling company on June 2, according to the Conway Daily Sun.

The 17 year old has been accepted to Sterling College in Vermont where she will pursue a degree in sustainable agriculture and environmental protection law and policy. She was one of five students who received a $1,000 Poland Spring Good Science scholarship at her high school graduation ceremony from Fryeburg Academy in Fryeburg, Maine, the Bridgton News reported.

Thursday, 16 June 2016 06:50

Mass Murder and the US Penchant for War

2016.16.6 bf koehler(Photo: Martin Frey)ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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This won't be the last.

Half a week into the Orlando tragedy, this reality remains pretty much unacknowledged, as cause-seekers focus on security and ISIS and the specific mental instability of Omar Mateen, who, as the world knows, took 49 precious lives and injured 53 others at the nightclub Pulse in the early hours of June 12.

Was it terrorism? Was it a hate crime? Apparently there's a media obsession with categorizing murder. No, this was faux-war, as all our mass killings are, waged by an army of one or two or a few. And it won't be the last. Mass killings are part of the social fabric -- still shocking, still horrifying, but becoming more and more . . . "normal."

Tighter security won't stop them. Destroying ISIS won't stop them. Banning immigrants won't stop them. Maybe nothing will -- though I don't believe that. I do believe in karma, which is to say, the idea that what goes around comes around. If we act with violence, violence will come back to haunt us.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016June16 radiationwaterThe EPA is proposing to allow a dramatic increase in the radiation in our drinking water in the event of an "emergency." (Photo: John Jones)

With the appropriate concern aroused about levels of lead in drinking water in cities such as Flint, a new threat to health has been raised by a proposed Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulation. The proposed regulation would allow for a higher level of radioactivity in potable water. On June 8, EcoWatch detailed the alarming development:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)Monday to allow radioactive contamination in drinking water at concentrations vastly greater than allowed under the Safe Drinking Water Act. The new guidance would permit radiation exposures equivalent to 250 chest X-rays a year. Environmental groups are calling the proposal "shocking" and "egregious."

The EPA proposed Protective Action Guides (PAGs) would allow the general population to drink water hundreds to thousands of times more radioactive than is now legal. For example, radioactive iodine-131 has a current limit of 3 pico-curies per liter (pCi/L), in water but the new guidance would allow 10,350 (pCi/L), 3,450 times higher. For strontium-90, which causes leukemia, the current limit is 8 pCi/L; the new proposed value is 7,400 pCi/L, a 925-fold increase....

"These levels are even higher than those proposed by the Bush Administration—really unprecedented and shocking," Diane D’Arrigo, Nuclear Information and Resource Service, said.

The advocacy organization Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) has reacted with alarm to the new plan put forth by a government agency that is supposed to be protecting us from toxic substances. The EPA claims it is only being proactive, allowing for potential changed circumstances in the future, should a nuclear reactor failure like Fukushima occur in the United States. Given past problems with nuclear power facilities in the US, that is downright frightening. It brings to mind the 1979 near-catastrophe at the Three-Mile Island nuclear facility in Pennsylvania. According to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, "The Three Mile Island Unit 2 (TMI-2) reactor, near Middletown, Pa., partially melted down on March 28, 1979. This was the most serious accident in U.S. commercial nuclear power plant operating history."

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Bottle 0615wrp opt(Photo: Epipowell)Ocean plastic pollution is an increasingly devastating crisis, and this new infographic shows exactly where the plastic trash is coming from, where it ends up and why it’s important to start our fight against this environmental scourge at the beach.

The graph, provided by UK-based Eunomia Research & Consulting, shows that more than 80 percent of the annual input of plastic litter, such as drink bottles and plastic packaging, comes from land-based sources. The remainder comes from plastics released at sea, such as lost and discarded fishing gear.

Significantly, Eunomia was able to come up with a new estimate of annual global emissions of “primary” microplastics, such as microbeads, fibers or pellets. (“Secondary” microplastics are the result of larger pieces of plastic breaking down into smaller pieces.)

The firm calculated that emissions of microplastics range from 0.5 to 1.4 million tonnes per year, with a mid-point estimate of 0.95 million tonnes. Vehicle tires are the biggest culprits, releasing 270 thousand tonnes of debris into our waterways annually.

These tiny non-biodegradable pieces of plastic are a cause for worry, as they are being gobbled up by plankton and baby fish like junk food, and works its way up the food chain. Microplastics have been found in in ice cores, across the seafloor, vertically throughout the ocean and on every beach worldwide. As EcoWatch mentioned previously, microplastics are also very absorbent, meaning they pick up the chemicals it floats in.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016 06:32

Jim Hightower: Who Says Crime Doesn't Pay?

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Bull 0615wrp(Photo: Aseba)Hey, can we all just stop complaining that our government coddles Wall Street's big money-grubbing banks?

Sure, they went belly-up and crashed our economy with their frauds, rigged casino games, and raw greed. And, yes, the Bush and Obama regimes rushed to bail them out with trillions of dollars in our public funds, while ignoring the plight of workaday people who lost jobs, homes, businesses, wealth, and hope. But come on, Buckos, have you not noticed that the feds are now socking the bankers with huuuuuge penalties for their wrongdoings?

Wall Street powerhouse Goldman Sachs, for example, was recently punched in its corporate gut with a jaw-dropping $5 billion for its illegal schemes.

Wow, $5 billion! That's a stunning amount that Goldman Sachs has agreed to pay to settle federal criminal charges over its shameful financial scams that helped wreck America's economy in 2008. That's a lot of gold, even for Goldman Sachs. It's hard to comprehend that much money, so think of it like this: If you paid out $100,000 a day, every day for 28 years, you'd pay off just one billion dollars. So, wow, imagine having to pull Five Big B's out of your wallet! That's enough to make even the most arrogant and avaricious high-finance flim-flammer think twice before risking such scams, right? Thus, these negotiated settlements between the Justice Department and the big banks will effectively deter repeats of the 2008 Wall Street debacle... right?

Actually, no.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016June15 netneutralityUS District of Columbia Court of Appeals upholds Net Neutrality, but the battle is not over. (Photo: Free Press)

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A three-judge panel of the DC District Court of Appeals yesterday upheld the Federal Communication Commission's  (FCC) authority to regulate the internet as a "common carrier," similar to telephone service. In effect, this preserves the concept of "net neutrality," which limits the ability of internet providers to provide speed and access advantages to companies who pay higher fees. Although the corporate behemoths now dominating internet transmission (like Comcast and AT&T) plan to appeal, there's no doubt that this decision is significant.

The ruling is a major win in a struggle dating back roughly 15 years to keep the internet from turning into a mainly corporate medium, such as cable television. On Tuesday, The Washington Post described the essence of the ruling:

A federal appeals court on Tuesday upheld the government’s “net neutrality” rules, preserving regulations that force internet providers such as Comcast and AT&T to treat all online traffic — everything from Netflix and cat videos to games and downloads — equally.

The 2-1 ruling is a sweeping victory for the Obama administration and the consumer groups and internet companies that have pushed net neutrality for years. The Federal Communications Commission’s rules block internet service providers from favoring their own services and disadvantaging others; blocking other sites and apps; and creating “fast lanes” for video and other data services that pay for the privilege.

On technical grounds, the ruling upholds the FCC’s authority to regulate broadband service as a utility, much like phone service, and to forbid what it considers unreasonable practices. It applies equally to wired broadband providers like cable companies and mobile ones such as Verizon.

For years -- through two presidential administrations -- the FCC waffled about preserving "net neutrality," first attempting a relatively weak version of regulation, which didn't past muster in the courts. However, in February of 2015, the agency adopted the more stringent regulatory protections that were upheld in the appeals court yesterday.

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