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LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Spill 0328wrp opt(Photo: Patrick Luckow / Flickr)An oil spill of approximately 550 barrels (23,100 gallons) has killed more than 2,400 fish, birds and reptiles near the city of Barrancabermeja, Colombia, RCN Radio reported.

Oil started spilling from the Lizama 158 oil field in early March and spread down 15 miles of the Lizama river and 12.4 miles of the Sogamoso river.

According to local media, it took Colombia's state oil company Ecopetrol three weeks to respond to the environmental disaster.

Colombia Reports noted that the crude started escaping the oil field on March 3 but it was only this past Saturday that Ecopetrol vowed to send heavy equipment that could stop the spill.

The company said Tuesday that the spill is fully controlled and workers are carrying out environmental monitoring of the rivers. The cause of the spill is currently unclear but an investigation is underway.

Published in Guest Commentary

VERONIKA KYRYLENKO FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

China 0326wrp optChina Pavilion (Photo: Wojtek Gurak / Flickr)This month, China's National People's Congress, its Communist Party controlled legislature, has passed a new edition of the country's Constitution. Among other amendments, Chinese parliamentarians have almost unanimously approved an amendment to abolish the term limit on the presidency. The press secretary of the parliamentary session, Zhang Yesui, has stated that there is a need to adopt these amendments due to the "revolutionary changes ... especially after the 18th Party Congress," when the affirmation of a "socialism with Chinese characteristics" as a system (zhidu) was first written into the Party constitution, and Xi Jinping was elected a general secretary of the Communist Party and the president of a country. As for such "revolutionary" changes in China, they are, indeed, facing a need to deal with the new challenges -- primarily in the economy.

In 1989, after the infamous Tiananmen Square Massacre, China started to develop a unique civilizational path that integrated an authoritarian (nearly totalitarian) political regime with a market economy. Back then, China neglected to choose a path of democratization, having seen its disastrous results for Russia right after the collapse of the Soviet Union. In the early '90s, Russia tried to adapt a market economy without any necessary preparation and embraced an unlimited market freedom without any government regulation or control whatsoever.

Published in Guest Commentary

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Capitalism 0322wrp opt(Photo: The Hamster Factor / Flickr)Today's captains of corporate capitalism like to think of themselves not as mere businesspeople, but as modern society's genius "innovators."

Sounds positive... until you ask the key question: Innovation for what purpose? After all, some of society's most inventive minds are flimflammers, Ponzi-schemers, gamers and embezzlers. Sure enough, an inordinate amount of the innovation comes out of corporate suites these days, amounting to shameless schemes to dupe and rip off rank and file workers.

The latest of these is a hustle called "gamification," an attempt by such giants as T-Mobile and Walt Disney to give game-like, "psychological" prizes to employees rather than giving pay raises or cash bonuses. As the honchos of United Airlines learned, however, not everyone bites the corporate bait.

Published in Guest Commentary
Thursday, 22 March 2018 07:04

Normalizing the United States of Violence

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

War 0322wrp opt(Photo: Stewart Black / Flickr)Addressing the Parkland shootings last month, and the apparent emergence of a movement for tougher, saner gun laws that has followed, a USA Today article asked: "What has been so different from all the other mass shootings over the years?"

In one sense, this is a reasonable question. Why now? Why didn't it happen after, you know . . . Las Vegas, Sutherland Springs, Orlando, Charleston, Sandy Hook, Aurora? And the list goes on.

But, come on. Doesn't something stunningly horrifying resonate, however faintly, in these words? How can this phrase — "all the other mass shootings?" — be out there with such matter-of-fact, cheerful neutrality, such ordinariness?

The answer, of course, is that this is a violent — an increasingly violent — country. But I still feel a disbelieving cry echo somewhere deep in my being as I read these words, and refuse to simply push on. It's almost as though the wording in this paragraph contains not just the question but the answer: If the slaughter of innocent people can be folded so neatly into a phrase, "mass shooting," allowing us to categorize one, then another, then another act of senseless carnage and file it away as recent history, then move on with our lives, might that not be a serious cause of the nothing-we-can-do-about-it syndrome gripping America?

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Cash0321wrp opt(Photo: Jackie / Flickr)Over the past several months, firearms companies and gun dealers are complaining about a "Trump Slump," with several companies reporting disappointing sales. Nevertheless, many states remain economically dependent on the firearms industry.

In a new report titled "2018's States Most Dependent on the Gun Industry," the personal finance website, WalletHub, "compared the economic impact of guns on each of the 50 states to determine which among them leans most heavily on the gun business, both directly for jobs and political contributions and indirectly through ownership."

How heavily does your state depend on the firearms industry? Where does your state stand in relation to the rest of the nation, in terms of gun industry jobs, political contributions from gun advocacy organizations, and gun ownership?

Published in Guest Commentary
Wednesday, 21 March 2018 06:58

A Culture of Violence That Starts at the Top

EDWARD HUNT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Bell 0321wrp opt(Photo: Bradley Weber / Flickr)When presenting its foreign policy goals, the Trump administration has used particularly shocking language, intensifying a culture of violence in Washington that is spreading fear throughout much of the world.

Over the past year, administration officials have called for "viciousness" in espionage operations, "lethality" in military programs and the "annihilation" of US enemies. Although President Trump recently called on the US people to create a culture that "condemns violence and never glorifies violence," his administration has continuously called for more violent military operations throughout the world.

To some degree, the Trump administration's penchant for violence is nothing new. Both the Bush and Obama administrations embraced violent military interventions as solutions to global problems. All three administrations maintained a continuous war on terror, one that has claimed more than 370,000 lives, according to the Costs of War Project at Brown University.

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

AltRight 0319wrp opt(Photo: Blink O'fanaye / Flickr)The alt-right, with its passel of unknown principals, and ultra-active social media platforms, took the mainstream media by surprise. In his book, Alt-America: The Rise of the Radical Right in The Age of Trump, veteran journalist and right-wing watcher David Neiwert, writes that the mainstream media "largely succumbed to the whitewashed version of the [alt-right] movement peddled by Breitbart.com," by frequently referring to the alt-right as being a collection of provocateurs, whose "goal," as The Washington Post once characterized it, "is often offensiveness for the sake of offensiveness in the way that many young white men embrace."

But the goals of the alt-right have always been more than mere provocation or offensiveness. In 2009, the white nationalist, Richard Spencer, coined the term "alternative right" while an editor at the paleoconservative Taki's Magazine. "Less than year later," Neiwert writes in Alt-America, Spencer "founded his own webzine and named it 'The Alternative Right.' In short order, the nature of Internet discourse at the site shortened the name of the movement it promoted to 'alt-right.' The name stuck."  

With backing from the anti-immigrant polemicist, Peter Brimelow, and the VDare Foundation, Spencer's publication fully embraced "white nationalism as his guiding philosophy, including its conspiracism, its underlying racism, and its anti-Semitism," Neiwert pointed out.

Published in Guest Commentary

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Coins 0319wrp opt(Photo: Beau Lebens / Flickr)It's not hard to envision the benefits in work opportunities, stress reduction, child care, entrepreneurial activity, and artistic pursuits for American households with an extra $1,000 per month. It's also very easy to justify a financial wealth tax, given that the dramatic stock market surge in recent years is largely due to an unprecedented degree of technological and financial productivity that derives from the work efforts and taxes of ALL Americans. A 2% annual tax on financial wealth is a small price to pay for the great fortunes bestowed on the most fortunate Americans. 

The REASONS? Careful analysis reveals a number of excellent arguments for the implementation of a Universal Basic Income (UBI). 

(1) Our Jobs are Disappearing

A 2013 Oxford study determined that nearly HALF of American jobs are at risk of being replaced by computers, AI, and robots. Society simply can't keep up with technology. As for the skeptics who cite the Industrial Revolution and its job-enhancing aftermath (which actually took 60 years to develop), the McKinsey Global Institute says that society is being transformed at a pace "ten times faster and at 300 times the scale" of the radical changes of two hundred years ago.

Published in Guest Commentary

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Micro 0316wrp optMicrobeads and microplastics. (Photo: MPCA Photos / Flickr)You now have another good reason to avoid bottled water. An investigation on brands from around the world determined that the water is often contaminated with tiny pieces of plastic.

The new study, conducted by journalism organization Orb Media and researchers at the State University of New York at Fredonia, has already prompted the World Health Organization (WHO) to launch a review into the potential risks of plastic in drinking water.

For the study, researchers tested 259 individual bottles across 11 brands purchased from 19 locations in nine countries. Using fluorescent tagging with Nile Red dye, the scientists found that 93 percent of the samples had some sort of microplastic contamination, including polypropylene, nylon and polyethylene terephthalate (PET). The bits ranged in size from the width of a human hair to a red blood cell.

One bottle showed an excess of 10,000 microplastic particles per liter. Only 17 bottles had no contamination.

Published in Guest Commentary

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Lead 0314wrp opt(Photo: Mike Morrison / Flickr)Up to 412,000 deaths a year in the U.S. can be attributed to lead exposure, according to a new study published Monday in The Lancet Public Health.

Of that figure, exposure to the toxic metal may be an "important, but largely overlooked" risk factor behind the 256,000 annual cardiovascular disease deaths in the country, the authors found.

“Our study findings suggest that low-level environmental lead exposure is an important risk factor for death in the USA, particularly from cardiovascular disease," the paper states. "It is not surprising that lead exposure is overlooked; it is ubiquitous, but insidious and largely beyond the control of patients and clinicians."

The researchers used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey to study the blood-lead levels of 14,289 people who were 20 or older between 1988 and 2011. Of the 4,422 people who died by the end of that period, those who had high lead levels (6.7 micrograms per deciliter) were at 37 percent greater risk of premature death from any cause and 70 percent times greater risk of cardiovascular death compared with people with lower lead levels (1.0 micrograms per deciliter).

Published in Guest Commentary
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