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Member since: Wed Feb 17, 2016, 11:11 AM
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Journal Archives

Baltimore’s Election Results Are Decertified as State Investigation Is Launched

Source: Truthdig by Emma Niles

Although Baltimore’s primary was held weeks ago, Maryland’s Board of Elections announced Thursday that it was rescinding certification of the election results. The Baltimore Sun reports:

Linda H. Lamone, the administrator of the State Board of Elections, said officials became concerned when city officials found 80 provisional ballots that had not been analyzed, and an unusually high discrepancy between the number of voters who checked in at polling places and the number of ballots cast. The number of ballots cast at the polls was higher than the number of check-ins at the polls, she said.

Lamone said state officials were working to determine the exact size of the problem. She expected the investigation to stretch into next week. “Baltimore City was not able to investigate and resolve these issues to our satisfaction,” Lamone said. “We are doing a precinct-level review. We are doing this in fairness to the candidates and the voters.”

Baltimore’s news comes at a time when voters around the country are alleging election fraud, and activists within the city have been voicing concerns about the election for months. “Eight data files went missing for about a day after the election, and some polling precincts opened late,” The Baltimore Sun reports, adding that “thirty-four released felons—eligible to vote under a new law—also received a Board of Elections letter before the election erroneously telling them they might not be able to vote.”

Read more: http://www.truthdig.com/eartotheground/item/baltimores_election_results_to_be_decertified_state_20160513

US Army Chaplain Resigns in Protest Over Drones, 'Policy of Unaccountable Killing'

Source: CommonDreams by Staff Writer Andrea Germanos

An Army chaplain has resigned in protest over the United States "policy of unaccountable killing" through drone warfare and the nation's continued investment into nuclear weapons, which "threaten the existence of humankind and the earth."

In his letter sent April 12, 2016 to President Barack Obama, Rev. John Antal, a Unitarian Universalist Church minister in Rock Tavern, New York, wrote, "The Executive Branch continues to claim the right to kill anyone, anywhere on earth, at any tie, for secret reasons, based on secret evidence, in a secret process, undertaken by unidentified officials."

Antal served as a chaplain from September 2012 to February 2013 at the Kandahar Airbase in southern Afghanistan. "While deployed," he wrote in Feb. 2015 a the Times Herald-Record, "I concluded our drone strikes disproportionately kill innocent people."

"From the perspective of both religious wisdom and military values, drone warfare, as conducted by the United States today, is a betrayal of what is right. My faith affirms the inherent worth and dignity of all people, everywhere. I believe Americans who share that affirmation have a responsibility to advocate for a U.S. foreign policy that reflects our regard for human dignity. Military leadership also has a responsibility to advocate for a method of war-fighting consistent with military values like respect, integrity, and personal courage. Too often, I worry, our program of drone warfare falls short of these ideals. I resign because I refuse to support U.S. policy of preventive war, permanent military supremacy, and global power projection," his letter of resignation states.

Read more: http://www.commondreams.org/news/2016/05/13/us-army-chaplain-resigns-protest-over-drones-policy-unaccountable-killing

Obama Just Cracked Down on Pollution From Fracking

Source: Mother Jones by Tim McDonnell

The Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday released the final version of new federal rules intended to curb emissions of a powerful greenhouse gas. Methane, which is the main component of natural gas, had previously been unregulated. There's a mounting pile of evidence suggesting that as the United States relies increasingly on gas to produce electricity, methane emissions are much higher than most people expected them to be.

That's a problem for the fight against climate change. Methane emissions are far lower than carbon dioxide emissions, and methane survives in the atmosphere for a relatively short period of time. But methane is far more effective at trapping heat than CO2 is, which makes it a significant near-term warming threat...

The lack of regulations on methane was one reason why President Barack Obama's climate strategy, which hinges on swapping the country's coal consumption for natural gas, has been frowned upon by some environmentalists. Even today's regulations are only a partial solution, since they only apply to new and modified natural gas infrastructure, not systems that already exist. And by some analysts' reckoning, more than 70 percent of gas-sector methane emissions from now until 2025 will come from sources that already exist.

Still, the regulation announced today achieves one of the final remaining big items on Obama's climate checklist. It aims to reduce gas-sector methane emissions 40 to 45 percent below 2012 levels by 2025 by tightening the allowed emissions from pumps, compressors, wells, and other infrastructure; requiring more frequent surveys for leaks; and implementing a data-gathering survey that will give officials and companies a better understanding of just how much methane leakage there really is. The EPA expects the regulations to cost $530 million by 2025 but to produce $690 million in environmental benefits.

Read more: http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2016/05/obama-methane-epa

'Status Quo': Shell Spews Nearly 90,000 Gallons of Oil into Gulf of Mexico in Latest Spill

Source: CommonDreams by Staff Writer Jon Queally

Royal Dutch Shell's offshore drilling operations were pouring oil into the Gulf of Mexico on Thursday, ultimately releasing nearly 90,000 gallons of oil into the water off the Louisiana coast. "We have allowed the Gulf to be perpetually treated as a sacrifice zone—a place where we tolerate pollution and disasters to continue our dependence on fossil fuels."—Michael Brune, Sierra Club.

The company said the spill was spotted above an underwater pipeline system, although specific details regarding the leak's cause were not made public. The spill left a 13-by 2-mile sheen on the water, NBC reports. While the company assured reporters and government agencies that wells in the area had been shut off and the spill was being contained, local observers expressed deep skepticism.

"What we usually see in oil industry accidents like this is a gross understatement of the amount released and an immediate assurance that everything is under control, even if it's not," said Anne Rolfes, founding director of anti-offshore drilling group the Louisiana Bucket Brigade. "This spill shows why there is a new and vibrant movement in the Gulf of Mexico for no new drilling."

Locals opposed to offshore drilling argue that oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico have become tragically commonplace. "According to the federal National Response Center, the oil industry has thousands of accidents in the Gulf of Mexico every year," the Louisiana Bucket Brigade said. This latest disaster occurred mere weeks after the six-year anniversary of BP's catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf and on the very same day that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) held a hearing on the agency's next Five Year Plan for the Gulf of Mexico.

Read more: http://www.commondreams.org/news/2016/05/13/status-quo-shell-spews-nearly-90000-gallons-oil-gulf-mexico-latest-spill

Fracking's Air Pollution Puts Infants and Children at Risk of Developing Heart, Lung Probs: New Study

Source: TRUTH-OUT by Sharon Kelly

A newly published peer-reviewed study concludes that air pollution from fracking puts people's lungs, hearts, and immune systems at risk -- and that the health risks are particularly pointed for young children and infants.

The study -- the first to specifically focus on how shale oil and gas drilling affects children ability to breathe -- concludes that starting in the womb, children's developing respiratory systems are particularly at risk from five airborne pollutants associated with fracking and drilling.

"We conclude that exposure to ozone, [particulate matter], silica dust, benzene, and formaldehyde is linked to adverse respiratory health effects, particularly in infants and children," the researchers wrote in the study, titled "Potential Hazards of Air Pollutant Emissions from Unconventional Oil and Natural Gas Operations on the Respiratory Health of Children and Infants" and published in Reviews on Environmental Health...

Meanwhile, the risks specifically associated with fracking have begun to draw the attention of politicians at the national level. "The toxic chemicals used in fracking are known to cause lung cancer and birth defects," presidential candidate Bernie Sanders wrote in an April 18 op-ed. "If we are serious about safe and clean drinking water and clean air, if we are serious about protecting the health of our children and families, and if we are serious about combating climate change, we need to phase out fracking nationwide."

Read more: http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/36025-fracking-s-air-pollution-puts-infants-and-children-at-risk-of-developing-heart-lung-problems-new-study

Following Sanders' Lead, Obama Endorses National Voting Holiday

Source: CommonDreams by Staff Writer Jon Queally

Prompted by a student journalist to address the consistent low turnout in U.S. elections, President Obama this week endorsed the idea of a national voting holiday, an idea most prominently put forth at the federal level by Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. As first reported nationally by Slate, the president was speaking with staff reporter Dan Corey of Rutgers University's student newspaper, The Daily Targum, when they had this exchange:

THE TARGUM: You have pointed out many times that voter turnout in the United States is very low, especially compared to other developed nations. But in many other countries, the government automatically registers voters and holds elections on days that are weekend days or national holidays. Do you think it’s time for the U.S. to follow their lead?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Absolutely. We are the only advanced democracy that makes it deliberately difficult for people to vote. And some of it has to do with the nature of our history and our Constitution, where we allow individual states to determine their own processes for structuring elections within certain boundaries. I think that we know some states like Oregon are doing a much better job at extending mail-in voting, increasing tools like online voting that are safe and secure, give people flexibility over a long period of time, (and) early voting. And so everything we can do to make sure that we’re increasing participation is something that we should promote and encourage. Our democracy is not going to function well when only half or a third of eligible voters are participating. The single most dramatic political change that could occur in this country—and the best way for us to relieve the frustrations that people feel around the political process—would be if we had greater participation that was more reflective of the day-to-day concerns that people have. Creating a national holiday for voting—which would give working people, parents, students, and the population at-large better poll access—has long been a policy proposal for voting rights activists who argue that single-day voting disenfranchises millions of people each year. Though not the only needed reform to lift turnout, experts argue (and evidence shows) it would go a long way toward expanding civic participation.

As Common Dreams reported at the time, Sen. Sanders in 2014 proposed a national "Democracy Day" designed to increase turnout and as a direct counter to Republican-led efforts to suppress voting nationwide....In early 2015, Sanders submitted legislation—titled the 'Democracy Day Act of 2015'—that would officially "designate Election Day as a public holiday."

Read more: http://www.commondreams.org/news/2016/05/13/following-sanders-lead-obama-endorses-national-voting-holiday

US planning new wave of deportation raids: report

Source: THE HILL by Jesse Byrnes

The Obama administration is planning a new round of raids to deport those residing in the United States illegally, Reuters reported Thursday. U.S. immigration officials are reportedly planning to conduct the raids in May and June, deporting hundreds of individuals who came to the U.S. from Central America.

The arrests will be focused on mothers and children who've already been told to leave the U.S. and minors who entered the U.S. without a guardian and are now adults, the report said.

Officials apprehended 121 individuals following raids early this year in Georgia, Texas and North Carolina. The Obama administration caught flak for those raids from immigration activists and some Democrats, including presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton.

U.S. Border Patrol apprehended 32,000 family units — mothers and children traveling together and illegally entering into the U.S. — between October and March, more than twice the number for the same period the previous year, according to Reuters. Officials have been using raids to curb border crossing after a wave of migrants illegally entered the U.S. through its southern border in 2014, straining resources of the federal government.

Read more: http://thehill.com/policy/national-security/279732-us-planning-new-wave-of-deportation-raids-report

As Wealthy Surge, U.S. Poor and Middle Class Incomes Have Gone Backward

Source: CommonDreams by Staff Writer Nadia Prupis

Middle- and low-income households in the U.S. made less money in 2014 than they did in 1999 as the middle class lost ground in almost 90 percent of the country's metropolitan areas, a new analysis by the Pew Research Center released Wednesday has found.

The report looked at 229 of the 381 federally designated "metropolitan statistical areas" in the U.S., from Seattle to Boston, which accounted for 76 percent of the nationwide population in 2014. It found that poorer households saw their income drop from a median of $26,373 in 1999 to $23,811 in 2014, while middle-class incomes fell from $77,898 to $72,919 in that same time period. The erosion of the middle class came as household incomes decreased, "a reminder that the economy has yet to fully recover from the effects of the Great Recession of 2007-09," Pew said—but more than that, it is a reflection of rising income inequality.

The report continues: The current and future status of the American middle class continues to be a central issue in the 2016 presidential campaign. Moreover, new economic research suggests that a struggling middle class could be holding back the potential for future economic growth. The national trend is clear—the middle class is losing ground as a share of the population, and its share of aggregate U.S. household income is also declining.

With fewer families in the middle tier, the gap between rich and poor is widening, the report found, with the share of adults in lower-income tiers rising in 160 areas. The report follows a previous Pew analysis which found that for the first time in more than 40 years, the middle class is no longer the majority in America.

Read more: http://www.commondreams.org/news/2016/05/12/wealthy-surge-us-poor-and-middle-class-incomes-have-gone-backward

Trump hints that Fallin and Brewer on VP short list

Source: THE HILL by By Harper Neidig

Donald Trump said on Wednesday that former Ariz. Gov. Jan Brewer and Okla. Gov. Mary Fallin are both on his shortlist for running mate.

In an interview with Fox News’ “On the Record,” the GOP presumptive nominee was asked about Brewer saying that Fallin was on the list.

“Well also Jan. Jan Brewer has been fantastic,” he said. “She has been so fantastic. You know I won so big, her territory, we won so big. And she is a fabulous woman. And I agree with you, the governor of Oklahoma -- fabulous person.”

Read more: http://thehill.com/blogs/ballot-box/presidential-races/279628-trump-says-fallin-and-brewer-on-vp-shortlist

The Fort McMurray Fire: 'Absolutely a Harbinger of Things to Come'

Source: CommonDreams by Staff Writer Deirdre Fulton

The devastating wildfire in Fort McMurray, Canada appears to be losing its intensity, as weather conditions improve for firefighters and initial assessments of staggering damage trickle in. Meanwhile, awareness of the massive fire's significance in the context of climate change continues to spread.

"Alberta's unusually early and large fire is just the latest of many gargantuan fires on an Earth that's grown hotter with more extreme weather," the Associated Press wrote on Wednesday. Indeed, the New York Times reported last month: "Fires, once largely confined to a single season, have become a continual threat in some places, burning earlier and later in the year, in the United States and abroad. They have ignited in the West during the winter and well into the fall, have arrived earlier than ever in Canada and have burned without interruption in Australia for almost 12 months."

The Times reported further on Wednesday, citing boreal forest fires "throughout the hemisphere": "Global warming is suspected as a prime culprit in the rise of these fires. The warming is hitting northern regions especially hard: Temperatures are climbing faster there than for the Earth as a whole, snow cover is melting prematurely, and forests are drying out earlier than in the past. The excess heat may even be causing an increase in lightning, which often sets off the most devastating wildfires."

"Based on what we know and in which direction the climate is going, yes, we can expect more frequent super fires," Marko Princevac, a fire expert at the University of California at Riverside, told CNBC this week. "There is scientific consensus that climate change will lead to much more intense fires, more dry areas."

Read more: http://www.commondreams.org/news/2016/05/11/fort-mcmurray-fire-absolutely-harbinger-things-come
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