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2015.17.12 BF berkowitz(Photo: DonkeyHotey)BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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Donald Trump who sat out the Vietnam War, is ready to “bomb the s**t out of ISIS.” Senator Ted Cruz, who never served in the military, has said several times that he wants to “carpet-bomb ISIS into oblivion,” joking that we’ll find out if “sand can glow in the dark.” And, a new poll from the Harvard Institute of Politics, found that in the wake of the Paris attacks, 60 percent of the 18- to 29-year-olds polled say they support committing U.S. combat troops to fight ISIS. 62 percent say it ain't gonna be them. Chickenhawkdom is alive and well in America.

In the Tuesday night’s Republican Party debate in Las Vegas, Donald Trump basically advocated a bombing campaign of ISIS that would kill thousands of civilians, including women and children. Responding to a question by moderator Hugh Hewitt, Trump said: “I would be very, very firm with families. They might not care very much about their lives but they do care about their families’ lives.” 

In his stump speeches, Trump has regularly bashed Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, calling for his execution. In a campaign stop in Massachusetts, Trump asked, after calling the soldier a “dirty, rotten traitor”: “What do we do with Sergeant Bergdahl, 50 years ago?” Trump shaped his hand like a pistol. “That’s right,” he said. “Boom. Boom!… Boom, he’s gone. He’s gone!” According to the Washington Post, “On at least one occasion, Trump also has also suggested dropping Bergdahl off in Afghanistan, which he said would save the United States a bullet.” (The U.S. Army recently announced that Bergdahl will face a military court on charges of desertion and endangering fellow soldiers.)

Earlier this year, Trump demeaned Senator John McCain’s imprisonment in Vietnam during the Vietnam War, calling him a loser for having his plane shot down. According to Talk2Action’s wilkyjr, “A New York Times writer did research on Trump after his criticism of Senator McCain …. The research by the writer stated that while McCain was suffering incarceration in Southeast Asia, Donald was club hopping in down town New York equipped with a draft deferment, wealth from his father, and personal privileges few enjoyed.”

Senator Ted Cruz, like most of the GOP’s presidential candidates – with the exception of Senator Lindsey Graham – has never served in the military. On Tuesday night in Vegas, after Cruz said he would aggressively bomb ISIS, he was asked by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, “Does that mean leveling the ISIS capital of Raqqa in Syria, where there are hundreds of thousands of civilians?” Cruz replied, “What it means is using overwhelming airpower to utterly and completely destroy ISIS.”

COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaArenewables(Photo: EcoWatch)Nassau, New York, a town of 5,000 people just outside of Albany, New York, plans to disconnect from the electrical grid. Last week, the town board voted to get 100 percent of its power from renewables by 2020. The town is making the move both as a way to “increase its reliance on renewable sources of energy and to gain some energy independence,” Politico New York reported.

“If all goes as planned, within the next four years, all six of the town buildings will be disconnected from the grid,” said Nassau Supervisor Dave Fleming. The rest of the town is developing a plan to get all of its power from renewable sources in the next four years.

“It’s not the be-all to end-all for what we should be doing as a state and a nation, but it’s a good first step,” he said. “From a practical perspective, it’s possible,” he added. “We have a lot of ‘people resources’ in our community.”

The town plans to use a combination of rooftop and ground-mounted solar, wind turbines and methane-capture from the landfill to generate its energy.

Though the tiny town’s transition to renewables may not have the impact of, say, New York City going fossil-fuel-free (Mayor Bill de Blasio has pledged for municipal operations to run on 100 percent renewable energy before 2050), it’s just one of many cities and towns around the world making the transition.

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaRaindrop(Photo: Acagastya)There is a constant flow of headlines these days confirming the mess we've made: "Looks Like Rain Again. And Again"; "Alaska Will Keep Melting"; "Climate Change a Worry to Central Bankers, Too"; "Warning on Climate Risk: Worst to Come."

This is far from a natural phenomenon. A handful of corporate interests are causing these catastrophes. Oil, coal, auto and a few other industrial powers have profited for decades by spewing fossil fuel contaminants into the world's atmosphere.

Some experts were speaking out about this mess nearly 40 years ago:

"There is general scientific agreement that the most likely manner in which mankind is influencing the global climate is through carbon dioxide release from the burning of fossil fuels," wrote James Black in 1978.

"Over the past several years, a clear scientific consensus has emerged," said Roger Cohen in September 1982. "There is unanimous agreement in the scientific community that a temperature increase of this magnitude would bring about significant changes in the Earth's climate, including rainfall distribution and alterations in the biosphere."

The significance of these early calls to action is that they came from Exxon!

Inside Climate News revealed in an investigative series released this fall that the oil superpower (now infamous for its relentless campaign of lies to discredit climate science) was briefly a paragon of scientific integrity. From 1978 through the '80s the corporation's research headquarters were a buzzing hive of farsighted inquiry into the "greenhouse effect," as the process of climate change was then called.

But in 1988, the elegant space inhabited by principle was suddenly invaded by the indelicate demands of profit. Dr. James Hansen, NASA's renowned climate expert, testified to Congress that fossil pollution of Earth's atmosphere had already surpassed the crisis point. "Global warming has begun," Hanson concluded.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaaaaaahedgefund2Hedge funds and charity don't mix well. (Photo: Simon Cunningham)

What is motivating a hedge fund to acquire a Catholic nonprofit hospital system in the San Francisco Bay Area? Is it a burst of Christmas spirit? After all, the Daughters of Charity hospitals serve a significant number of poor people in medical need.

We are skeptical that the acquiring hedge fund, BlueMountain Capital Management fund, is simply serving as a compassionate Santa Claus.

December 14 article on the San Francisco Chronicle's SFGate site posed the financial paradox of the acquisition, given that the hospital is known for its care for the poor:

Hospital officials said patients should not notice any major changes. "Patients should see the same level of care and attention and concern for their health," said Rick Rice, spokesman for Daughters of Charity. "We expect that service to continue."

Daughters of Charity, which is based in Los Altos Hills, had been losing about $150 million a year and was searching for a buyer for years. A New York hedge fund seemed an unlikely entity to take over a nonprofit health system that treats a fair number of poor and uninsured patients.

WILL DURST FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBullyingNo(Photo: Andrevruas)Bullies love fear. And once they sniff its smoke, the real pros know how to fuel and exploit it. Always claiming to represent the greater good, when what they specialize in is looking out for #1. And flinging loads of #2 at the rest of us. Consequently, the people most susceptible to their reviled reveille are the weak, the ignorant, the powerless, other bullies and folks with neck tattoos.

Hitler, Stalin and Joe McCarthy all secured status in the Big Time Bully Hall of Fame by railing against imaginary enemies. Creating an "us versus them" story line where anybody who doesn't look like us, is a THEM. Which can lead to an incestuous behavior typically endowing royal families with weak chins.

Quickly tiring of having sand kicked in their face by a series of invading hordes, Russia turned to bullies for self- preservation. One of the reasons the Russian people never really warmed up to Mikhail Gorbachev even though we thought he was the bees' knees. Or the bear's hair. Or kittens' mittens. Whatever. We liked him. They didn't.

The architect of Perestroika didn't want to bury the West, he wanted to partner with it, to give his people Madonna CDs and Happy Meals. Bars of soap without splinters of bone in them. Can't we all get along? But after the Soviet Union dissolved, they kicked him out. So, apparently, the answer is nyet, we can't.

Vladimir Putin has since run his country by parading around as the guy you don't want to mess with, compared to Obama, who is the guy you don't want to play backgammon with. Putin is a dangerous bully and wants you to know it. That's why he's always pulling stunts like riding wolves bareback shirtless. Wrestling sharks. For crum's sake, the guy is 5' 7". Barely taller than Tom Cruise. Maybe he should play Jack Reacher in the sequel.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBLMwonttakeit(Photo: INeverCry)In his bestselling book, Between The World And Me, an extended essay told as a letter to his 15-year-old son, Samori, Ta-Nehisi Coates writes: "I am writing you because this is the year you saw Eric Garner choked to death for selling cigarettes; ... that John Crawford was shot down for browsing in a department store. And you have seen men in uniform drive by and murder Tamir Rice, a twelve-year-old whom they were oath-bound to protect. And you have seen men in the same uniforms pummel Marlene Pinnock, someone's grandmother, on the side of the road." If and when Coates' book goes to paperback, there are likely to be many more examples of the epidemic of police violence.

Pick a city, just about any city -- or maybe even a smallish town -- and there's a good chance that sometime during the year on the front page of your local newspaper you'll find a headline similar to: "Video puts new light on shooting," which appeared in the Saturday, December 12 edition of the San Francisco Chronicle. The headline topped a story about the December 2nd fatal police killing of 26-year-old Mario Woods in the city's Bayview neighborhood. Surrounded by five police officers, Woods, with a knife in his hand, apparently had his arms down by his sides when the officers, claiming to be threatened, fired at least fifteen, and maybe as many as twenty shots.

According to the Chronicle's Vivian Ho, a video "shows [that] San Francisco police officers fired a barrage of shots at [Woods] while he held his arms at his sides, an apparent contradiction to the Police Department's account that he prompted his killing by threatening an officer with a kitchen knife."

In this age when just about everyone has the tools to take videos and then instantaneously post them, two phrases in Ho's piece stand out: a) "a video shows" and, b) "apparent contradiction to the Police Department's account." It is no great secret that official accounts by police – and corroboration by fellow officers – are justifiably and all too frequently suspect.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaapocshallThe future of the earth may hang on the consequential difference between "shall" and "should" when it comes to averting environmental destruction across the planet. (Photo: Robert Hruzek)

A December 13 Politico European Edition article discusses how the replacement of the word "shall" with "should" became a vital necessity to the signing of the final COP21 agreement. According to Politico, the last-minute switch to "should" - in reference to compliance with agreement goals by the signatory nations - was made at the request of the United States. President Obama was allegedly worried that the use of the word "shall" would require legal obligations of the US, ensuring almost certain defeat of ratification of what then would be deemed a treaty by the Republican-controlled Senate.

However, it can be speculated that other nations were also concerned about the legal implications of a mandate as opposed to voluntary compliance with the COP21 goals. In short, by replacing the word "shall" with "should," the nations most responsible for ruinous global warming policies will have a lot of wiggle room in implementing the final document.

The National Resources Defense Council, which generally praises the Paris talks, does, however, inadvertently admit its key failings in an article on the top "takeaways" from the accord:

  • It’s not a formal treaty and it doesn’t commit us [the United States] to any new international legal obligations.

  • It doesn’t contain legally binding carbon targets.

  • Each country has put forth its own voluntary proposals for ambitious carbon reductions.

Monday, 14 December 2015 00:00

The End of Fossil Fuels Is Near

2015.14.12 BF Naidoo(Photo: Takver)KUMI NAIDOO OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

The wheel of climate action turns slowly, but in Paris it has turned. There’s much in this deal that frustrates and disappoints me, but it still puts the fossil fuel industry squarely on the wrong side of history.

Parts of this deal have been diluted and polluted by the people who despoil our planet, but it contains a new temperature limit of 1.5 degrees. That single number and the new goal of net zero emissions by the second half of this century, will cause consternation in the boardrooms of coal companies and the palaces of oil-exporting states and that is a very good thing. The transition away from fossil fuels is inevitable.

Now comes our great task of this century. How do we meet this new goal? The measures outlined simply do not get us there. When it comes to forcing real, meaningful action, Paris fails to meet the moment. We have a 1.5 degree wall to climb, but the ladder isn’t long enough. The emissions targets outlined in this agreement are simply not big enough to get us to where we need to be.

There is also not enough in this deal for the nations and people on the frontlines of climate change. It contains an inherent, ingrained injustice. The nations which caused this problem have promised too little to help the people on the frontlines of this crisis who are already losing their lives and livelihoods for problems they did not create.

2015.14.12 BF Buchheit(Photo: 401(K) 2012)PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Recent reports have documented the growing rates of impoverishment in the U.S., and new information surfacing in the past 12 months shows that the trend is continuing, and probably worsening.

Congress should be filled with guilt -- and shame -- for failing to deal with the enormous wealth disparities that are turning our country into the equivalent of a 3rd-world nation.

Half of Americans Make Less Than a Living Wage

According to the Social Security Administration, over half of Americans make less than $30,000 per year.

That's less than an appropriate average living wage of $16.87 per hour, as calculated by Alliance for a Just Society (AJS), and it's not enough -- even with two full-time workers -- to attain an "adequate but modest living standard" for a family of four, which at the median is over $60,000, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

AJS also found that there are 7 job seekers for every job opening that pays enough ($15/hr) for a single adult to make ends meet.

SOHARA MEHROZE SHACHI OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaCOP21protest(Photo: EcoWatch)The latest version of the draft COP21 agreement that came out yesterday was a slap in the face of even the most pragmatic optimists. With most of the crucial elements now bracketed (i.e. uncertain), the agreement has been almost reduced to empty rhetoric and far from what is needed to prevent global temperature rise beyond the catastrophic 2 degree level, let alone 1.5 degrees.

“Offer of 1.5 as an inspiration is not what we are expecting,” says Azer Girmai of LDC Watch. “It will not become a tradeoff for our demands. We insist for developed countries to commit.”

The new draft presents two options for mitigation, a not very ambitious quantitative target and a qualitative target which would either be carbon neutrality or decarbonization—neither of which is very ambitious. There is also a bracketed goal for a very ambitious goal which is most likely to be rejected. However, these options will allow countries to keep emitting.

With regards to finance, the agreement is equally disappointing. While it says financial assistance would be provided to vulnerable countries, the options do not promise much and the key words and specifics are all bracketed. “This is a reflection of the resistance of developed country parties to describe finance that is in anyway meaningful,” says Lidy Nacpi, regional coordinator of WECAN.

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