Monthly Archives: May 2015

Cutting To The Chase

In case you haven’t noticed, our government is broken. Not too many years ago, a bill dealing with veterans would pass with broad bipartisan support. Extending SNAP and unemployment benefits in a soft job market and economic recovery would be a given. Expanding infrastructure spending might stimulate some debate, but in the end would be recognized as a necessity. Something such as the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) would be reauthorized without any real opposition from either side.

But, due to the hyperpartisanship in Washington and the hijacking of one of the main parties by people and ideas that were considered fringe elements as recently as thirty five years ago, what would be considered safe bills are nothing of the sort now. We see what would formerly be considered essential legislation either die in committee, or be loaded up with controversial amendments that more often or not have nothing to do with what the original legislation was about. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was some way to strip the garbage out of a bill after it goes through Congress?

President Clinton signing the Line Item Veto Act. Photo via YouTube

President Clinton signing the Line Item Veto Act. Photo via YouTube

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By Banning Fracking Bans, Texas Picks Gas Drillers over Local Democracy

Governor Greg Abbott signs law designed to make null and void the hard-fought victory by the people of Denton, Texas who banned the hazardous drilling practice in their small town

By Jon Queally, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published May 19, 2015

Signing ceremony for HB 40. Photo via Twitter

Signing ceremony for HB 40. Photo via Twitter

In what environmental campaigners and the people of the small town of Denton, Texas are calling a clear example of fossil fuel interests trumping the will of local residents, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday signed HB 40 into law thereby undermining a local ordinance, approved overwhelmingly by voters during last year’s election, which banned fracking in the community.

After receiving Abbott’s signature, the new law became effective immediately and now forbids any Texas town or city from passing local limits or restrictions on any gas or oil drilling operations deemed “commercially reasonable” by private developers and state regulators. Though it applies to all municipalities across the state, the effort to pass the measure was largely seen as a way to combat the stunning victory by the people of Denton who made international news in November by approving their local anti-fracking ordinance in a politically right-wing state dominated by the fossil fuel industry. Continue reading

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Bold Step or Quick Fix? Obama to Restrict Military Hardware for Local Cops

Announcement of new initiative follows nine months of community uprisings over racism, police violence, and the militarization of local law enforcement

By Jon Queally, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published May 18, 2015

Many of the specific proposals Obama will talk about on Monday are taken from a White House-commissioned panel, the Task Force on 21st Century Policing, which issued a lengthy report in December on a variety law enforcement and community strategies designed to decrease the incidents of police brutality while making communities safer. (Photo: White House)

In response to long-held—and increasingly elevated—criticisms of the way predominantly poor neighborhoods and communities of color have been treated by law enforcement, President Barack Obama on Monday will announce a series of federal initiatives that will include new restrictions on the kinds of military-grade equipment made available to local police departments.

Though welcomed by many as a bold step, others question whether the new rules amount to little more than a “quick fix” that does too little to address the trend towards increasingly militarized police forces across the country. Continue reading

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The Great Grief: How To Cope with Losing Our World

In order to respond adequately, first we may need to mourn

Written by Per Espen Stoknes, Published 5-14-15 in CommonDreams.

‘To cope with losing our world,’ writes Stoknes, ‘requires us to descend through the anger into mourning and sadness, not speedily bypass them to jump onto the optimism bandwagon or escape into indifference.’ (Photo: Nikola Jones/flickr/cc)

Climate scientists overwhelmingly say that we will face unprecedented warming in the coming decades. Those same scientists, just like you or I, struggle with the emotions that are evoked by these facts and dire projections. My children—who are now 12 and 16—may live in a world warmer than at any time in the previous 3 million years, and may face challenges that we are only just beginning to contemplate, and in many ways may be deprived of the rich, diverse world we grew up in. How do we relate to – and live – with this sad knowledge?

Across different populations, psychological researchers have documented a long list of mental health consequences of climate change: trauma, shock, stress, anxiety, depression, complicated grief, strains on social relationships, substance abuse, sense of hopelessness, fatalism, resignation, loss of autonomy and sense of control, as well as a loss of personal and occupational identity. Continue reading

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In Seattle, It’s David vs. Goliath as Kayakers Hit Water to Protest Shell Oil

‘Paddle in Seattle’ activists organize flotilla in opposition to Shell’s dangerous arctic drilling plans

Written by Deirdre Fulton, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 5-16-15.

All eyes are on Seattle this weekend as activists fight Shell’s dirty Arctic plans. (Photo: Greenpeace via Twitter)

All eyes are on Seattle this weekend as activists fight Shell’s dirty Arctic plans. (Photo: Greenpeace via Twitter)

Kayaks began lining up on the shores of Seattle’s Elliot Bay early Saturday morning in preparation for the sHell No! “flotilla rally,” organized by social and environmental justice groups in opposition to Shell Oil’s plans to drill for fossil fuels in fragile Arctic waters.

Over the vocal objections of Seattle’s mayor and city council, as well as a large swath of the general public, the oil giant intends to use the Port of Seattle as a staging ground for its drilling operations off the northwest coast of Alaska.

To the dismay of environmentalists, the Obama administration earlier this week granted Shell conditional approval to resume those operations. Continue reading

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Guilty as Charged: Duke Energy to Pay Record Fine for Coal Ash Crimes

‘What this admission of guilt does not do is clean up the coal ash that continues to leak into our water supplies, into our rivers.’

By Deirdre Fulton, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published May 15, 2015

Duke Energy pleaded guilty to crimes under the Clean Water Act in federal court on Thursday, including crimes related to this spill of coal ash pollution from its site along the Dan River in February 2014. (Photo: Waterkeeper Alliance)

Duke Energy pleaded guilty on Thursday to environmental crimes and has agreed to pay a record $102 million in fines and restitution for years of illegal pollution, ignored warnings, and poorly maintained infrastructure.

U.S. District Court Judge Malcolm Howard said it is the largest federal criminal fine in North Carolina history. Continue reading

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Reversing Grassroots Win, US Senate Approves Fast Track Trade Measure

By voting away their authority to set trade negotiating objectives, the majority of our Senators chose corporate polluters over the American people,’ says Friends of the Earth

Written by Deirdre Fulton, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 5-14-15.

Barack Obama and Mitch McConnell. Photo by The White House [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Barack Obama and Mitch McConnell. Photo by The White House [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Progressives reacted with dismay as the U.S. Senate on Thursday approved a motion to begin debate on the Fast Track authority President Barack Obama needs to advance controversial trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The measure passed 65-33.

Senate Democrats blocked the first attempt to proceed on the trade legislation on Tuesday, but backtracked in the wake of further negotiations—and intense pressure from the White House.

With Thursday’s vote, Fast Track has cleared a major procedural hurdle. Continue reading

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Race to the Bottom

At least 31 people are dead after a fire gutted a rubber slipper factory yesterday in Valenzuela, which is a suburb of Manila, the capital of the Philippines. The fire started when sparks from welding equipment used to repair a broken inner gate ignited flammable chemicals that were stored in the area. More than 30 people are still unaccounted for.

Photo via Facebook

Photo via Facebook

Fires like this are a common occurrence in the Philippines. Fire and safety regulations are lax to begin with, and many times they’re just ignored.

Of course, the Philippines are far from being alone in this attitude towards regulations; we only need to look at what happened in West, Texas two years ago or the ever-increasing incidences of exploding oil trains (coming to your town soon!) to debunk that idea. And, that’s the problem; we’re beginning to see a race to the bottom..

We see more and more examples every day of what happens when you allow corporations to write the policies and laws that affect how they do business. Everything becomes fair game if it means that the profit margin’s larger, and usually one of the first things to go is safety standards, or as they put it “overreaching regulations.” Continue reading

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117 Countries Slam American Police Brutality at UN Human Rights Council

By Claire Bernish. Published May 11, 2015 by The AntiMedia.orgpolice_brutality_rhode_island_police_officer_edward_krawetz1

In what could hardly be called a surprise, the UN Human Rights Council chastised the US over its epidemic of police violence, discrimination, needless killings, and general neglect, following through with recommendations made in its first review in 2010.

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) takes place every four years to scrutinize the human and civil rights practices of each of the UN’s 193 member nations. Delegates from 117 countries took the opportunity to lambaste the US’ record of civil rights violations exacted by its brutal and racist police forces.

In an attempt to fend off the inevitable, James Cadogan, a senior counselor in the Department of Justice’s Human Rights Division, said the US must“rededicate ourselves to ensuring that our civil rights laws live up to their promise,” listing several “tragic deaths” that sparked numerous demonstrations and wide-scale unrest across the country. However, he seemed to be blind to the fundamental basis for such outrage saying the US wishes to “identify and address potential policing issues before they become systemic problems,”, even asserting a fictitious good record for holding violators accountable. As Mary McLeod, acting legal adviser to the US Dept of State, put it, “We’re proud of the work we’ve done since our last UPR.” Most would disagree. Continue reading

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Integrity? What Integrity?

One of the stories that our media likes to cover instead of covering news that really affects the human race reared its head again this last weekend. Yes, the incident known as Deflategate was back in the news, to the unspoken sighs of relief from media outlets all over the country who were suddenly freed of maybe having to run a story about something that mattered.

Yesterday, the penalties for those involved were announced by the NFL. They include Tom Brady getting a four game suspension, two team employees being suspended indefinitely and the team being fined a million dollars as well as losing draft picks.

There was the usual blathering from league spokesmen about how the people involved “compromised the integrity of the league and the game.” We would like to ask the league what integrity they’re talking about.

Ray Rice 2012. "Ray Rice 2012" by 1ravenscowboysnflfan - Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Ray Rice 2012. “Ray Rice 2012” by 1ravenscowboysnflfan – Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

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