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2015.29.6 BF Mellino(Photo: Giandomenico Ricci)COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch.

The Dalai Lama endorsed the Pope’s encyclical on climate change yesterday while speaking at Glastonbury festival, a massive five-day festival that takes place in Somerset, England. The Buddhist leader spoke at a panel on climate change, praising the encyclical and saying it was the duty of everyone to “say more. We have to make more of an effort, including demonstrations.”

Several Republican politicians have criticized the Pope for speaking out about environmental and economic issues, including Jeb Bush, Rick Santorum and James Inhofe. But at the Glastonbury panel on climate change, the Dalai Lama said Pope Francis was “very right,” and he appreciated him releasing the papal document. The Dalai Lama called on fellow religious leaders to “speak out about current affairs which affect the future of mankind.” He also called for increased pressure on governments around the world to stop burning fossil fuels, end deforestation and transition to renewable energy sources, reports The Guardian.

He also emphasized that words alone are not enough top stop climate change. “It is not sufficient to just express views, we must set a timetable for change in the next two to four years.”

2015.29.6 BF Sirota(Photo: Backbone Campaign)DAVID SIROTA FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

In promoting a proposed trade pact covering 12 Pacific Rim nations, President Obama has cast the initiative as an instrument of equity. The Trans-Pacific Partnership would, in his words, "level the playing field" and "give our workers a fair shot." But critics argue that within the hundreds of pages of esoteric provisions, the deal — like similar ones before it — includes a glaring double standard: It provides legal rights to corporations and investors that it does not extend to unions, public interest groups and individuals.

Recently leaked drafts of the agreement show the pact includes the kind of Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions written into most major trade deals passed since the North American Free Trade Agreement. Those provisions allow companies to use secretive international tribunals to sue sovereign governments for damages when those governments pass public-interest policies that threaten to cut into a corporation's profits or seize a company's property.

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But also like past trade deals, the TPP is not expected to allow unions and public-interest groups to bring their own suits in the same tribunals to compel governments to enforce labor, environmental and human rights laws.

The discrepancy is a deliberate effort to make sure trade policy includes a "tilt toward giant corporations," Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., said.

"If a Vietnamese company with US operations wanted to challenge an increase in the US minimum wage, it could use ISDS," Warren wrote in a Washington Post op-ed in February. "But if an American labor union believed Vietnam was allowing Vietnamese companies to pay slave wages in violation of trade commitments, the union would have to make its case in the Vietnamese courts."

ANASTASIA PANTSIOS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaKidEcoWatch(Photo: EcoWatch)In an unprecedented decision, a judge in Washington State has ruled in favor of a group of young people who filed a lawsuit last year asking that the state be required to develop a science-based plan for limiting carbon emissions in order to protect the climate for future generations.

The lawsuit, Zoe & Stella Frazier v. Washington Department of Ecology, was brought last year by eight teens and preteens, the youngest nine years old, who filed a petition last June with the Department of Ecology, requesting that it develop a rule “to recommend to the legislature an effective emissions reduction trajectory that is based on best available climate science and will achieve safe atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide by 2100.”

“Youth petitioners hereby submit this petition for rulemaking on behalf of themselves, the citizens of the State of Washington, and present and future generations of children,” it said.

Last August, the Department of Ecology denied the petition although it did not deny the scientific basis for it. The petitioners filed an appeal, arguing that they had a right to grow up in a healthy environment. King County Superior Court Judge Hollis Hill agreed with them and ordered the Department of Ecology to reconsider their petition and report back to the court by July 8 whether it will consider the science necessary to climate recovery.

“Washington State’s existing statutory limits should be adjusted to better reflect the current science,” wrote Hill in her decision. “The limits need to be more aggressive in order for Washington to do its part to address climate risks.”

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaataxbillion34Billionaires and millionaires should pay their fair share in estate taxes. (Photo: Robin Davies)

The consumer advocacy organization Public Citizen just issued a study that analyzes the efforts of billionaire families to - once again - try to repeal the estate tax. According to a June 25 news release by the organization,

Just nine families could dodge $25.7 billion in taxes, and perhaps as much as $54.7 billion, if the estate tax were repealed. Half of these families have spent more than a million dollars apiece lobbying Congress to repeal the tax between 2012 and the first quarter of 2015....

The families behind the eight companies pushing to repeal the tax include the Mars, Wegman, Cox, Taylor, Van Andel, DeVos, Bass, Schwab and Hall families. The Mars and Wegman families alone, who have a combined net worth of more than $63 billion, spent more than $3.5 million to lobby solely for the repeal of the estate tax during the time period studied. 

The avaricious effort is being undertaken even though the minimum tax exemption for the estate tax has risen over the years. It is now over $5 million for an individual. For a couple, the estate tax does not kick in for an inheritance of less than $10.5 million. Most of the wealthiest people in the US do not pay a tax when their wealth is distributed to heirs. According to the Public Citizen study, "Only an estimated 0.2 percent of American estates are subject to the federal estate tax."

Thursday, 25 June 2015 10:04

Lake Mead Hits Historic Low

2015.25.6 BF Mellino(Photo: Chris Richards)COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

Lake Mead hit a record low last night by falling below 1,075 feet in elevation at 1,074.98 feet, which would trigger a water-supply shortage if the reservoir doesn’t recover by January. The threshold for mandatory cuts was set in a 2007 agreement as part of the US Department of Interior’s Colorado River Interim Guidelines. These cuts would be the first set of mandatory water delivery curtailments to Lake Mead. Should the water levels continue to drop, as they are expected to, more cuts would be required.

“Water managers expect the lake’s elevation level to rebound enough to ward off a 2016 shortage thanks to a wetter-than-expected spring,” says The Arizona Republic. However, Rose Davis, a Bureau of Reclamation spokeswoman, told The Arizona Republic, “We still need a lot more water.”

The US had the wettest month ever recorded in May - ”the wettest places were parts of Arizona, Southern California, Northern Utah, a tiny spot in Nevada and a small spot on the border of Texas and Oklahoma, where precipitation was at least 500 percent of average,” said the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Still, the recent rains were not enough to end the Southwest’s 15-year drought.

2015.25.6 BF Quigley(Photo: The All-Nite Images)BILL QUIGLEY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Police kill a lot of unarmed people. So far in 2015, as many as 100 unarmed people have been killed by police. Here are fifteen of the most outrageous reasons given by police to justify killing unarmed people in the last twelve months.

First, a bit of background. So far in 2015, there have been around 400 fatal police shootings already; one in six of those killings, 16 percent, were of unarmed people, 49 had no weapon at all and 13 had toys, according to the Washington Post. Of the police killings this year less than 1 percent have resulted in the officer being charged with a crime. The Guardian did a study which included killings by Tasers and found 102 people killed by police so far in 2015 were unarmed and that unarmed Black people are twice as likely to be killed by police as whites.  

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1. He Was Dancing in the Street and Walking With a Purpose

On June 9, 2015 an unarmed man, Ryan Bollinger, was shot by police in Des Moines after “walking with a purpose” towards the police car after he exited his vehicle after a low speed chase started when he was observed dancing in the street and behaving erratically. The deceased was shot by the police through the rolled up cruiser window. The murder is under investigation.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaconstSlaveholders enhanced their own political power by advocating for the policy of partially counting enslaved Black people as persons under the US Constitution. (Photo: Kim Davies)

The GOP campaign to deny many people of color the right to vote - which has intensified in recent years - is particularly ironic considering a certain demand of slave-holding states when the US Constitution was drafted. Southern states were implacable in requiring that a slave be counted as a person in the federal census. This demand was made despite the prima facie assumption of slavery proponents that Black people were not persons and thus not able to vote.

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Why would those who regarded Black people as subhuman property be adamant about "classifying" them as people in the Constitution? An article on the Louisiana University at Lafayette website explains:

Of the 55 [Constitutional] Convention delegates, about 25 (almost half!) owned slaves. The delegates from Southern (slave) states wanted to counts slaves as part of their population. This would give the Southern states additional representatives in the U.S. House of Representatives. Delegates from the Northern (Free) states strongly opposed this, arguing that if slaves had no rights to vote (or any other rights of citizenship) then the South should not be given additional representatives in the House. Also, the North feared that counting slaves as part of the South's population would allow the South to have enough representatives in the House to out-vote the North on issues regarding slavery. The South likewise feared that not counting slaves as part of their population would give the South too few representatives in the House, thus allowing the North to out-vote the South on issues regarding slavery. The compromise they reached would arbitrarily count each slave as 3/5 of a person.

Thus, written into the original US Constitution is language that allowed white slave owners to achieve increased political power by - as a result of "compromise" - designating a slave as a 3/5 of a person, for the purposes of enhanced Southern white male political representation in Congress.  

Wednesday, 24 June 2015 11:02

Jim Hightower | "The Donald Show"

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaDonald(Photo: The Donald, photo by David Shankbone)Oh, joy! Oh, goody! Oh, happy day! For those of us who love the loopy side of American politics, our dream of some serious loco for 2016 has arrived: Donnie Trump in the race! For president. Of the United States. No, really!

"Wow," exclaimed a beaming Donald Trump as he stepped onstage, basking in the cheers of a throng that had assembled for his launch into the 2016 presidential race. "That is some group of people," he gushed. "Thousands."

He announced his candidacy from — where else? — Trump Tower, the luxury skyscraper on tony Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. The celebrity billionaire, who has splashed the Trump brand on casinos, hotels, resorts, condos, neckties and even steaks, now wants to put it on the Republican Party. Indeed, The Donald declared that he should be our president because, "We need somebody that can take the brand of the United States and make it great again." There you go — the U.S. is a brand, like a Big Mac, the Nike swoosh or Vidal Sassoon hair spray.

As for qualifications, Trump brandished his wealth, exclaiming that only someone "really rich" has what it takes to be America's CEO. This view that one's net worth is the measure of one's worthiness squares with an earlier self-assessment by Donnie: "Let me tell you, I'm a really smart guy."

Of course, smart is as smart does, so what does Mr. Smarty-pants propose to do as president? He claims he has "a foolproof way of winning the war with ISIS," the barbaric terrorists marauding through Syria, Iraq and elsewhere. Excellent! What is his plan? It's a secret, he says, "I don't want the enemy to know what I'm doing."

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaCalcuttaHot(Photo: A young boy in Calcutta seeks relief from the relentless heat. (EcoWatch))Need proof that we’re having the hottest year on record? Scorching heat is searing parts of the world, sparking wildfires and claiming lives due to heat stroke and dehydration.

1. India. The relentless heat since mid-April has claimed about 2,330 lives, overwhelming hospitals and devastating the country. As we previously reported, officials have blamed the heat on global warming.

“It’s not just another unusually hot summer—it is climate change,” said Dr. Harsh Vardhan, India’s Minister of Science and Technology and Earth Sciences. “Let us not fool ourselves that there is no connection between the unusual number of deaths from the ongoing heatwave and the certainty of another failed monsoon.”

Temperatures have neared 122 degrees Fahrenheit (50 degrees Celsius), causing roads to literally melt in New Delhi.

2. Pakistan. India’s neighboring country is also suffering from the horrible heat, with the city of Karachi experiencing temperatures of 113 degrees Fahrenheit (45 degrees Celsius). According to BBC News, the weather has led to the deaths of nearly 700 people, mostly poor and elderly.

Making matters worse, with Pakistanis observing the holy month of Ramadan and fasting during daylight hours, an increased use of electricity for air conditioning has caused outages on their already-unstable grid.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaconfedThe barbaric legacy of the Confederacy should be confined to a museum, not as active racism in the US in 2105. (Photo: Taber Andrew Bain)

Spare me the ongoing justification of the Confederate flag as a symbol of the "virtues" of the South. The excuses for revering the Confederate flag are sentimental claptrap that distracts from the evil of slavery.

Why is the historical bombast about the Confederate flag representing "a way of life" - including chivalry, God and mint juleps (among other respectable-sounding pastimes and habits) - such a ruse? Quite simply, because the South - in the wake of colonization - would have remained a series of hamlets of rural settlers if not for slavery producing profitable agricultural products, particularly cotton.

Although there were other sources of income in the South - banking, retail shops, etc. - the economic engine of the region was slavery. The "way of life" being romanticized among whites was built upon the foundation of treating people as chattel: buying them, brutalizing them, splitting up families, and killing those who sought their freedom or were defiant, in the most fundamental violation of human rights and liberty. 

Slavery - along with the slave trade, which included perhaps millions of Black people dying during transport from Africa to the US - was a grisly, horrifying practice that played out like passages in Dante's Inferno.

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