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STEFANIE SPEAR OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

ConPipe 0406wrp opt(Photo: Marc Yaggi)Nearly 400 people from across the state of New York and beyond rallied in Albany today asking Gov. Cuomo to stand up to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and use the state’s authority under the Clean Water Act to deny the 401 water quality certificate for the Constitution Pipeline.

The Constitution Pipeline, a joint venture between Williams Pipeline Companies and Cabot Oil & Gas, would run approximately 124 miles from Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania to Schoharie County, New York. The pipeline would be 30 inches in diameter, and transport natural gas—the equivalent of 4.68 million gallons of oil per day—from the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania to New York state.

The rally was organized by Stop the Pipeline, with the support of 60 participating organizations. The event included speeches from prominent environmentalists, including Waterkeeper Alliance president Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., and a march from the capitol to the headquarters of the New York Department of Environmental Conservation. People whose land has already been taken by eminent domain for the construction of the pipeline led the march, followed by “the spirit of the Susquehanna,” symbolizing the water that nourishes all life.

“FERC is a rogue agency that is captured by the very industry it is supposed to regulate,” Kennedy said. “We need to reclaim our democracy from corporations that routinely pollute our water, and are now taking people’s land for their profit. Governor Cuomo can continue his environmental leadership by denying this 401 water quality certificate.”

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016April6 siliconvaleycontractMany Silicon Valley companies are part of the problem when it comes to income inequality. (Photo of Silicon Valley from the air: Patrick Nouhailler)

A recent Washington Post article highlighted how the high-tech industry, particularly in Silicon Valley, is fostering income inequality through the use of contract workers for support positions such as bus drivers and custodians, as well as for "white-collar" positions such as secretaries and accountants. The Post focused on a March 2016 study entitled, "Silicon Valley Industries: Contract Workforce Assessment." It was conducted by the Everett Program at the University of Santa Cruz. 

The Post focuses on some key findings:

There are also some crucial differences between the people who work at Google without working for Google, or work at Facebook without working for Facebook.

Subcontracted workers make about 70 percent of the salary that in-house workers in similar occupations make, or an average of $40,000 a year, compared to $113,300 for directly-hired tech employees --making it incredibly difficult to find an affordable place to live within a reasonable distance from work. According to Census data, they depend more heavily on food stamps, and 30 percent lack health insurance.

So these contracted workers, the ones who are not directly employed by Silicon Valley companies, save the corporations money at the expense of salary, job security and benefits for the workers. Meanwhile, the corporations continue to roll in exorbitant amounts of money; Facebook recently reached a market value of $340 billion.

The evolving relationship between the US and Cuba could open up new avenues for the booming organic market in the states.(Photo: Theodor Hensolt)LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

The evolving relationship between the U.S. and Cuba could open up new avenues for the booming organic market in the states.

American organic food producers and advocates, including the CEO of the Organic Trade Association and executives from Honest Tea, Stonyfield Farm and Global Organics, will be traveling to Cuba in May to take a closer look at the country’s unique, pesticide-free agricultural system and developing Cuba’s organic industry for export, POLITICO reported.

The trip will be organized by Rep. Chellie Pingree (D) of Maine. Star chef Tom Colicchio, Pingree’s friend and outspoken proponent of sustainable agriculture, will also attend.

The five-day trip is sponsored by the Center for Democracy in the Americas, which promotes a U.S. policy toward Cuba based on engagement and recognition of Cuba’s sovereignty.

2016.5.4 bf berkowitz(Photo: Chris Potter)BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

When reading about the Panama Papers it doesn't take long to recognize that it is, as the nonprofit Center for Public Integrity described it, a massive expose of "a cast of characters who use offshore companies to facilitate bribery, arms deals, tax evasion, financial fraud and drug trafficking." By massive, we're talking about some 11.5 million documents from the database of the Panama-based Mossack Fonseca -- the world's fourth biggest offshore law firm – naming numerous political leaders from countries across the globe involved in secreting away bundles of cash, as well as more than 200,000 companies and 14,153 clients of the firm.

As the Guardian pointed out, "The records were obtained from an anonymous source by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, which shared them with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). The ICIJ then shared them with a large network of international partners, including the Guardian and the BBC."

And, as the Center for Public Integrity noted, "Behind the email chains, invoices and documents that make up the Panama Papers are often unseen victims of wrongdoing enabled by this shadowy industry."

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016April5 kochbrothers5The Koch Brothers, masters of dark money.  (DonkeyHotey)

Money, according to the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, should be considered merely a tool that facilitates "free speech" under the First Amendment. The decision infamously extended unlimited dark money political spending even to corporations.

In her prodigiously documented and riveting book, Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right, Jane Mayer provides an historical account of how Charles and David Koch tenaciously built a network among the wealthiest people in the United States to buy elections and influence public policy.

In just one telling fact, Mayer provides a glimpse into the oligarchical impact on elections that the Koch network and other rich individuals and corporations are having:

The 100 biggest known donors in 2014 spent nearly as much money on behalf of their candidates as the 4.75 million people who contributed $200 or less. On their own, the top 100 known donors gave $323 million. And this was only the disclosed money. Once the millions of dollars in unlimited, undisclosed dark money were included, there was little doubt that an extraordinarily small and rich conservative clique had financially dominated everybody else.

As a "former family friend" of the Koch brothers said of Charles (as quoted by Jane Mayer), "Maybe he confused making money with freedom."

MARK RUFFALO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

TPP 0404wrp opt(Photo: EcoWatch)Many pundits were caught off-guard by the transpartisan fury over America’s trade policy rocking the presidential primary season. But it’s no surprise to me. I grew up in a working class family in Kenosha, Wisconsin. So I know why Americans have had enough of shiny promises, job-killing trade deals and Wall Street bailouts that propel ordinary people into an economic nose dive.

Hard working Americans of all political stripes recognize when the rules have been rigged against them, because they live day-to-day with the results. No doubt revolutionary change is an appealing alternative.

Since the North American Free Trade (NAFTA) and World Trade Organization agreements in the mid-1990s, America has lost more than five million manufacturing jobs net. Millions of service sector jobs also have been offshored.

During the NAFTA era, my home state lost 68,000 manufacturing jobs—one out of seven in the state. Just one example: After Chrysler received billions in a 2009 bailout, it shut its Kenosha Engine facility, cut the last 800 jobs and moved operations to Mexico.

The damage extends beyond those who lose their jobs. They compete for non-offshorable service sector jobs, pushing down wages economy-wide, hurting communities coast to coast.

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Books 0304wrp opt(Photo: Johannes Jansson/norden.org)Many of the largest U.S. corporations aren't paying the state taxes that should be funding our schools. Kids are the victims. So are the average Americans who are forced to pay higher property taxes, sales taxes, and excise taxes to meet educational budgets. Government and media sources would have us believe there's no alternative, for in a market-driven world it's heresy to make demands of big business, even when the companies are flagrantly avoiding their taxes.

Illinois: Schools Held Hostage by Just Six Corporate Tax Avoiders

The mayor and governor of Illinois are blaming each other for the Chicago Public School budget crisis, and Illinois colleges are in danger of being shut down. But Illinois lost over $1.3 billion (more than the $1.1 billion school budget shortfall) in 2015 state tax revenue to just six companies (Abbott, ADM, Boeing, Deere, Exelon, United), which together paid much less than 1% of their profits in state taxes, just pennies on the dollar for the required rate of 7.75%.

Yet it’s the children and the taxpayers of Illinois who bear the burden of reform. Illinois has one of the "Ten Most Regressive State Tax Systems," according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. In Chicago, Mayor Emanuel recently announced another $200 million in education cuts and then raised property taxes by a half-billion dollars, but the mainstream media repeatedly hushes up the corporate tax avoidance.

California: Funding Goes to Charters as Corporations Take Tax Refunds

In California, where depleted public schools are giving way to business-happy 'reformers' and charter schools, Google took a $400 million refund on its $8 billion in U.S. profits. Chevron has over half of its oil and gas wells in the United States, yet the company claimed a loss of nearly $3 billion in the U.S., a foreign profit of $7.7 billion, and a refund on all its U.S. taxes. Intel managed to pay 1/2 of one percent in state taxes, on nearly $9 billion in U.S. profits.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT 

2016april1 coaloaklandWill California Governor Jerry Brown allow Oakland to become a coal hub? (Photo: Sicko Atze van Dijk)

Throughout his lengthy political career, California Governor Jerry Brown has probably been called just about everything in the book; from Governor Moonbeam (during his first tenure) to hopeless optimist (his run for the presidency), from crass opportunist (his period as two-term mayor of Oakland), to environmental visionary (his current tenure as Governor leading the fight against climate change). However, he’s probably never been characterized as a “head in the sand” kind of guy, and yet that’s exactly the ground he’s occupying by continuing to remain silent about plans by one of his closest friends and political allies to export millions of tons of coal from Oakland’s port; a plan that could have a devastating environment and heath impact on Oakland communities.

As the Contra Costa Times reported this past November, Oakland is on the precipice of “becoming the largest coal exporter on the West Coast.” And Oakland officials have spent months reviewing “thousands of documents to determine whether they can legally oppose coal shipments from a city-owned bulk commodities terminal being constructed on the old Oakland Army Base.”

One exceedingly important issue is whether city officials, who appear to be remarkably united in their opposition, has the authority to block the plans of Phil Tagami, a prominent Oakland developer who is a longtime friend, political ally and financial supporter of Governor Brown.

“Tagami, a former port commissioner with deep personal and business ties to Gov. Jerry Brown, won the contract to oversee the city's portion of the Army Base redevelopment to transform about 160 acres adjacent to the Port of Oakland into a $500 million logistics center with new shipping terminals and warehouses,” the Contra Costa Times reported.

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

1728461908 57a92b9789 z opt(Photo: Andrew Malone)Millions of Nigerians are urging the Nigerian government to reject Monsanto’s attempts to introduce genetically modified (GMO) cotton and maize into the country’s food and farming systems.

One-hundred organizations representing more than 5 million Nigerians, including farmers, faith-based organisations, civil society groups, students and local community groups, have submitted a joint objection to the country’s National Biosafety Management Agency (NABMA) expressing serious concerns about human health and environmental risks of genetically altered crops.

The groups’ petition follows Monsanto Agricultural Nigeria Limited’s own application to NAMBA that seeks to release GMO cotton (Bt cotton, event MON 15985) into the city of Zaria as well as surrounding towns. Another application seeks confined field trials of two GMO corn varieties (NK603 and stacked event MON 89034 x NK603) in multiple locations in Nigeria.

In a press release, the groups said they are particularly alarmed about the commercial release of Bt cotton into Nigeria, which is being phased out in Burkina Faso due to the “inferior lint quality” of the GMO cultivars.

“We are totally shocked that it should come so soon after peer-reviewed studies have showed that the technology has failed dismally in Burkina Faso,” Nnimmo Bassey, the director of the Health of Mother Earth Foundation, one of the leading opposition groups, said in a statement. “It has brought nothing but economic misery to the cotton sector there and is being phased out in that country where compensation is being sought from Monsanto.”

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

AfricanElephant 0330wrp opt(Photo: Mister-E)Leonardo DiCaprio is using his clout to protect the struggling Leuser Ecosystem, a precious rainforest in Sumatra, Indonesia that’s under threat from industrial development for palm oil.

The Oscar winning actor and prominent environmental activist spent the weekend in the forest with fellow actors Adrien Brody and Fisher Stevens. According to The Jakarta Post, the crew toured Mount Leuser National Park on Sunday where they stopped by the park’s research facility and met three Sumatran orangutans.

During his visit, DiCaprio also posed for a photo with two conservationists and two endangered elephants. The Revenant star posted the image onto his Instagram page and in the accompanying caption, he warned that the expansion of palm oil plantations are “fragmenting the forest and cutting off key elephant migratory corridors, making it more difficult for elephant families to find adequate sources of food and water.”

He added that his philanthropic foundation, the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, is supporting local partners to establish “a mega-fauna sanctuary in the Leuser Ecosystem.”

The iconic Leuser Ecosystem, located in the provinces of Aceh and North Sumatra, consists of 6.5 million acres of tropical lowland rainforests, mountains and peatlands. As DiCaprio noted, the area is the last place on Earth where Sumatran orangutans, tigers, rhinos and elephants coexist in the wild. Without protection, these wildlife species are likely to be pushed to extinction.

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