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Amazon 0815wrpThe aftermath of Amazon deforestation. (Photo: Oregon State University / Flickr)


A first-of-its-kind study published Monday shows that tax havens don't just shelter the wealth of celebrities and large corporations—they also obscure the financial transactions behind environmental destruction.

The study, published in Nature Ecology and Evolution by the Stockholm Resilience Centre at Stockholm University and Global Economic Dynamics and the Biosphere (GEDB) at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, found that 70 percent of vessels involved in illegal fishing were registered in tax havens and that 68 percent of the foreign capital transferred to sectors involved in the deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon was moved through tax havens.

"Our analysis shows that the use of tax havens is not only a socio-political and economic challenge, but also an environmental one. While the use of tax haven jurisdictions is not illegal in itself, financial secrecy hampers the ability to analyse how financial flows affect economic activities on the ground, and their environmental impacts," lead study author Victor Galaz said in an email.

Swamp 0815wrpSwamp pig. (Photo: Paul Gorbould / Flickr)


During the 2016 presidential election Donald Trump famously proclaimed he would drain the swamp in Washington, but looking at the cast of characters he's surrounded himself with, it seems more like he invited all his carnivorous reptilian buddies to come drain their bladders in the swamp and now it's not only bigger but warmer as well.

Mr. Art of the Deal's career is littered with pyramid schemes, reneging on contracts, unpaid loans, phony foundations, phantom donations, broken promises, deceit, mendacity, moral turpitude and bad hair. He is a parody of avarice spreading a culture of corruption so large it can probably be seen from the Hubble Telescope.

Trump is the King of Corruption. The Maharajah of Malfeasance. Good God of Graft. Captain Crooked. The Pharaoh of Fraud. The Overlord of Venality. The creator and originator of Orange Collar Crime. Wouldn't be surprised if he hadn't trademarked that. His insatiable greed and con- man ways give rich people a bad name. Okay, a badder name. Boss Tweed had nothing on this Boss Tweet.

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piplineNixon Ridge pipeline explosion. Marshall County Homeland Security & Emergency Management / Facebook

A newly installed TransCanada natural gas pipeline exploded early Thursday in the remote Nixon Ridge area of Marshall County in West Virginia.

No injuries were reported but flames and smoke from the blast could be seen as far as 20 miles away, residents told local media. Area police told CBS News the fire was "very large—if you can see it from your house, evacuate."

Tuesday, 14 August 2018 06:39

DNC Will Take Fossil Fuel Money After All


30697353581 0d96b64ac8 bTom Perez, chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Gage Skidmore / Flickr

That was fast. Just two months after the Democratic National Committee (DNC) unanimously prohibited donations from fossil fuel companies, the DNC voted 30-2 on Friday on a resolution that critics say effectively reverses the ban, The Huffington Post reported.

The resolution, introduced by DNC Chair Tom Perez, allows the committee to accept donations from "workers, including those in energy and related industries, who organize and donate to Democratic candidates individually or through their unions' or employers' political action committees" or PACs.

It conflicts with the original resolution that called on the committee to "reject corporate PAC contributions from the fossil fuel industry that conflict with our DNC Platform."

In a conference call after the vote, Perez said that members of the labor community considered the original resolution passed in June "an attack on the working people in these industries," per The Hill.

He insisted that the DNC is still committed to the Democratic Party platform, "which states unequivocally our support for combating climate change."


asbestosjpgTrump will increase American mortality by bringing back highly toxic asbestos. (Photo: Visit W3Schools)

It's no surprise that career EPA staff objected to the Trump administration's new asbestos plan -- the grotesque plan allows for the horrible return of a cancerous toxin that Trump believes is harmless.

An August 8 article in Live Science provides background to the confirmed deaths and illnesses caused by asbestos use, particularly in construction:

By the 1960s, however, researchers had begun to suspect that a spike in a rare cancer of the lungs' lining called mesothelioma -- especially common among World War II-era ship insulators working with asbestos -- might be tied to the suddenly omnipresent substance, according to Scientific American. In 1973, as The Virginian-Pilot reported in 2001, a doctor testified before Congress that 1 million Americans would die of work-related asbestos diseases in the coming decades. In 1975, the brand-new EPA banned the use of asbestos in insulation, and by 1989, the EPA had taken steps to ban the use of asbestos entirely. In 1991, however, industry lawyers successfully blocked that rule from being fully implemented, according to The Mesothelioma Center, an advocacy group.

The website asbestos.com puts it more bluntly:

Asbestos fibers most often accumulate in lung tissue and in the membrane lining the lungs called the pleura. Benign asbestos-related diseases include asbestosis, pleuritis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which make it difficult for patients to breathe.

Asbestos also causes malignant diseases such as lung cancer, pleural mesothelioma and peritoneal mesothelioma, and it is the No. 1 cause of occupational cancer in the world.

How to clean up asbestos.How to clean up asbestos. (Photo: NAVFAC / Flickr)


Attorneys and scientists with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) objected to the Trump administration's proposal of a "significant new use rule" (SNUR) for asbestos, according to internal agency emails obtained by the The New York Times.

Trump's former EPA boss Scott Pruitt quietly announced the proposal in June, framing the plan as an "important, unprecedented action on asbestos," a toxic construction material and known carcinogen that kills almost 15,000 U.S. citizens annually.

Asbestos is not banned in the U.S. but there are strict regulations on its use. But as Fast Company noted, the way the proposed rule is written could allow manufacturers to create new products containing asbestos on a case-by-case basis.

Children in a mountain village, Yemen.Children in a mountain village, Yemen. (Photo: kate_griffin13 / Flickr)


On August 9, a U.S.-supported Saudi airstrike bombed a bus carrying schoolchildren in Sa'ada, a city in northern Yemen. The New York Times reported that the students were on a recreational trip. According to the Sa'ada health department, the attack killed at least forty-three people.

According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, at least twenty-nine of those killed were children under the age of fifteen, and forty-eight people were wounded, including thirty children.

CNN aired horrifying, heartbreaking footage of children who survived the attack being treated in an emergency room. One of the children, carrying his UNICEF issued blue backpack, is covered with blood and badly burned.

Friday, 10 August 2018 07:16

Poverty, Violence and Spiritual Wildfires

Skyfire 0810wrp


'They take advantage of that opportunity and they shoot into a crowd, no matter who they hit.'

The news this past weekend emerging from my fair city, Chicago, felt like news about wildfires sweeping across California: the sudden, hellish karma of climate change, that is to say, the gradual collapse of life-sustaining conditions on Planet Earth thanks to centuries of cluelessly exploitative human activity.


greencardjpgGreen cards and citizenship are not just for whites like Melania Trump's parents. (Time Out Chicago)

The bestowal of US citizenship on Viktor and Amalija Knavs yesterday -- the parents of Melania Trump who herself only became a citizen in 2006 under murky unclarified circumstances after receiving a controversial green card -- reeks of Trump hypocrisy.

From the very beginning of his campaign for president, Donald Trump has made it clear that he was going to virulently target non-white immigration. Like leaders of many white supremacist and nationalistic movements before him, Trump has kept up an ongoing drumbeat against the refugees seeking entry into the US from Mexico and Central America, referring to them as everything from "rapists" to an "infestation." His is the language of all fascists who evoke a national racial purity.

Trump understands that to build a fascist authoritarian base, followers need an enemy. He is dangerously riding a volatile backlash to the growing multicultural makeup of the US. This will increase if the Republicans continue to guarantee GOP electoral victories through gerrymandering and voter suppression.

That also explains why Trump is threatening to shut down the government by vetoing the fall budget if his wall along the Mexican border isn't built. The wall has become a symbolic goal for whites who see themselves as besieged by "criminal" immigrants. Trump's continued emphasis on the wall is another way to drive home his determination to strictly limit non-white immigration to the United States.


6771698125 9e979f1d04 z Kate Ter Haar/Flickr

The United States has the world's largest private prison population. As The Sentencing Project's recent report Capitalizing on Mass Incarceration: U.S. Growth in Private Prisons, pointed out, "Of the 1.5 million people in state and federal prisons in 2016, 8.5 percent, or 128,063, were incarcerated in private prisons. Another 26,249 people - 73 percent of all people in immigration detention - were confined in privately-run facilities on a daily basis during fiscal year 2017." 

President Trump's zero tolerance immigration policy has resulted in a huge bump in arrests and detentions of immigrants and their children, and the concomitant rise in the need for more detention facilities. According to The Sentencing Project, an advocacy research and publishing group supporting alternatives to prison, "Trump's 2018 proposed budget to Congress asked for $1.2 billion to add 15,000 more private prison beds for immigration detention. In September 2017, ICE requested that a new immigrant detention center be constructed in South Texas, stating that it would need to hold approximately 1,000 more migrants. This facility will be operated by GEO Group, and is expected to open in late 2018." 

Trump's policies have, as Scott M. Stringer and Javier H. Valdés wrote recently in The New York Times, "one clear beneficiary: the private prison industry."

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