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Paul Ryan, and the congressional delegation traveling with him, had an extraordinary opportunity to support humanitarian appeals made by UN officials and human rights organizers.  Instead, Ryan implied the only security concerns worth mentioning are those that threaten people in the US.Paul Ryan, and the congressional delegation traveling with him in Saudi Arabia, had an extraordinary opportunity to support humanitarian appeals made by UN officials and human rights organizers. Instead, Ryan implied the only security concerns worth mentioning are those that threaten people in the US. (Photo: Tony Alter)KATHY KELLY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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On January 23rd an overcrowded smuggling boat capsized off the coast of Aden in Southern Yemen. Smugglers packed 152 passengers from Somalia and Ethiopia in the boat and then, while at sea, reportedly pulled guns on the migrants to extort additional money from them. The boat capsized, according to The Guardian, after the shooting prompted panic. The death toll, currently 30, is expected to rise. Dozens of children were on board.

The passengers had already risked the perilous journey from African shores to Yemen, a dangerous crossing that leaves people vulnerable to false promises, predatory captors, arbitrary detention and tortuous human rights violations. Sheer desperation for basic needs has driven hundreds of thousands of African migrants to Yemen. Many hope, upon arrival, they can eventually travel to prosperous Gulf countries further north where they might find work and some measure of security. But the desperation and fighting in southern Yemen were horrible enough to convince most migrants that boarded the smuggling boat on January 23rd to try and return to Africa.

Referring to those who drowned when the boat capsized, Amnesty International's Lynn Maalouf said: "This heart-breaking tragedy underscores, yet again, just how devastating Yemen's conflict continues to be for civilians. Amid ongoing hostilities and crushing restrictions imposed by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition, many people who came to Yemen to flee conflict and repression elsewhere are now being forced yet again to flee in search of safety. Some are dying in the process."

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Compass 0129wrp opt(Photo: Sergey Sokolov / Flickr)Franklin Graham, the son of Reverend Billy Graham and president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, has for years hoped to inherit his father's mantle as "America's Pastor." Instead, as the years go by, and his disturbing comments mount up, he's creeping closer and closer to occupying the space left by the death of Fred Phelps, the anti-gay zealot from Topeka, Kansas.

Graham is a mean-spirited Christian nationalist, and one of the most consistent voices arguing that Christians in this country are being persecuted, victimized and "excluded from the public square." Over the past few years, he has carved out a well-deserved reputation as one of America's leading religious-based Islamophobes. These days, he is also one of those conservative evangelical Christian leaders that appears to be able twist themselves into a pretzel in their defense of the sexpisodes of President Donald Trump.

Last week, for example, they spent a fair amount of time bending over backwards in defense of Trump's pre-2016 election $130,000 payoff to keep secret the 2006 sexual encounter he had with adult-film star Stormy Daniels. The affair happened while Trump was married to his current wife, Melania, and just a few months after Melania gave birth to their son, Barron. Now, Graham has decided to warn America that there are forces in this country that are not above staging "a coup d'etat" against Trump.

Monday, 29 January 2018 07:16

Six Big Losers in Our "Booming" Economy

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Poverty 0129wrp opt(Photo: Bart Everson / Flickr)The Dow Jones Industrial Average skyrocketed from 25,000 to 26,000 in just seven trading days, prompting Donald Trump to bluster, "Our economy is booming, investments and jobs are pouring back into the country...We ARE Making America Great Again." Certainly the richest 1% are feeling great. But the stock market is feeding the nation's runaway inequality, boosting the financial wealth of a privileged few while doing NOTHING for the middle and lower classes. The biggest losers are among the MOST VULNERABLE Americans, the people who seem to be reviled by the Republicans in Congress. 

Children: While Stocks Doubled, 18% More Kids Fell Into Poverty

This is shocking and shameful. The U.S. has taken nearly half of the world's new wealth since the 2008 recession, and the stock market more than doubled from 2008 to 2014 (and tripled by 2017), but the number of children living below the federal poverty threshold increased by 18 percent from 2008 to 2014.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Disco 0126wrp opt(Photo: Hitchster / Flickr)For white Christian conservative evangelical leaders like Franklin Graham and Tony Perkins, President Donald Trump represents the kind of "muscular" Christianity they've been yearning for. The fact that Trump's bullying and moral turpitude is part of the package doesn't seem to bother them in the least.

In the wake of revelations of the latest Trump sex-related scandal – the pre-2016 election payoff to a porn star involved with Trump to buy her silence -- Graham and Perkins are claiming that Trump is a "changed man," and they're willing to grant him a "mulligan."

Graham, the son of Reverend Billy Graham, and president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association,claimed that Trump is a "changed person." Perkins, the head of the Washington, D.C. lobbying group, the Family Research Council told Politico "We kind of gave him— 'Alright, you get a mulligan. You get a do-over here.'" 

"If this behavior were occurring today, right now, as he is president of the United States, I can assure you that my support and the support of Evangelicals would be dissipating very rapidly," Perkins told CNN. "But we're talking about something that occurred ten years ago, among a number of things that occurred with this president, prior to being president."

Thursday, 25 January 2018 08:39

Governing by Scapegoat

Calling for the end the surveillance, deportations, and criminalization of undocumented peoplesDemonstrators gather in Los Angeles on September 2017, calling for the end the surveillance, deportations and criminalization of undocumented peoples. (Photo: Molly Adams)ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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Got a problem? Simplify and project.

When you have a country to govern and you have no idea what to do -- and, even more to the core of the matter, you also have a crony-agenda you want to push quietly past the populace -- there's a time-proven technique that generally works. Govern by scapegoat!

This usually means go to war, but sometimes that's not enough. Here in the USA, there's been so much antiwar sentiment since the disastrous quagmires of the last half century -- Vietnam, the War (To Promote) Terror -- we've had to make war simply part of the background noise. The military cash bleed continues, but the public lacks an international enemy to rally against and blame for its insecurity.

Creating a scapegoat enemy domestically has also gotten complicated. Thugs and punks -- predatory (minority) teenagers -- shoulder much of the responsibility for keeping the country distracted, but in this era of political correctness, politicians have to be careful. Thus the Trump administration has turned to the immigrants. Not all of them, of course -- only the ones from Latin America, the Middle East and Africa. In particular, it has turned to . . . the illegals!

Emmanuel Macron speaks at Leweb in 2014.Emmanuel Macron speaks at LeWeb in 2014. (Photo: Official LeWeb Photos)LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

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France will shut down all its coal-fired power plants by 2021, President Emmanuel Macron announced at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

The deadline is two years ahead of his predecessor Francois Hollande's goal of shutting down France's coal-powered plants by 2023.

France only produces around 1 percent of its energy from coal-fired stations, as the country is 99 percent dependent on hydrocarbon imports. However, the move from the world's fifth largest economy shows it is determined to be a leader on climate issues and sends a signal to other nations.

MICHAEL SEIFERT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

DACA 0124wrp opt(Photo: Molly Adams / Flickr)Claudia is a teacher and a soccer coach. Jessica works for child protective services. Juan married his childhood sweetheart and now is raising children who will soon have their own sweethearts. Marilu helps people fill out applications and prepare for their interviews for naturalization as US citizens.

Like most everyone else in my community, they have love/hate relationships with their bosses, worry about getting sick (no insurance), but spend more time anticipating possible vacation trips. They consider themselves religious. All of them have pretty good jobs, but small bank accounts. They are my friends and they are lovely and alive, and have been, until recently, mostly hopeful about their lives.

They are also people whose presence in the United States is "unauthorized." They all were brought to the US as children and have been unable to get their immigration status regularized (for a quick view into how crazed a process that is, you might read this article).

The "mostly" qualifier of their hope is, in large part, due to their decision a short time ago to trust the United States of America, and enroll in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Wednesday, 24 January 2018 07:28

The Kids the World Forgot

KEN HANNAFORD-RICARDI FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

KabulKids 0124 optStreet kids in Kabul. (Photo: Ken Hannaford-Ricardi)I spent much of yesterday with some kids the world forgot. Young, remarkably sturdy and resilient, they can often be naïve and almost willfully gullible. They inhabit a world that delights in tripping them up and watching them fall. They are Kabul’s Street Kids.

Every Friday morning, roughly 100 of these forgotten children sit in noisy – sometimes raucous - groups of seven to ten in a large, unheated classroom, discussing and brainstorming human rights - rights few in the international community seem to acknowledge they enjoy. On this thirty degree Kabul morning, some are in shirtsleeves; few have coats adequate for the weather. They are dirty. They are underfed. They are loved.

These kids are the smallest microcosm of Kabul's estimated 50,000 "street kids", boys and girls who dot the city’s already clogged roads selling balloons, "blessing" cars with incense, or lugging scales on which passers-by are invited to weigh themselves. They perform these demeaning tasks for a meager “fee” which helps their mothers buy food for their families.

The warming in the Arctic, which is heating up at least twice as fast as the rest of the planet, "will have profound and long-lasting repercussions on sea levels, and on weather patterns in other parts of the world," Taalas saidView from the Polar ice rim on September 2, 2009. (Photo: United Nations Photo)LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

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The United Nations announced Thursday that 2017 was the hottest year on record without an El Niño event kicking up global annual temperatures.

Last year's average surface temperatures -- driven by carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions -- was 1.1 degree Celsius above pre-industrial times, putting the world on course to breach the internationally agreed "1.5°C" temperature barrier to avoid dangerous climate change set by the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

Significantly, the Paris agreement could be negatively impacted by President Donald Trump and his administration's rash of anti-environmental policies. Trump, who famously denies climate change and wants to promote US fossil fuels, plans to repeal the Clean Power Plan that limits power plant emissions and intends to withdraw the US from the landmark climate accord.

2018.23.1 BF HightowerCEO and founder of Amazon.com, Jeff Bezos (Photo: Mathieu Thouvenin)JIM HIGHTOWER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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The hustlers claim that job incentives are a sound investment of our tax dollars, because those new jobs create new taxpayers, meaning investments soon pay for themselves. Hmmm ... not quite. In fact, not even close.

Last year, Good Jobs First tracked the 386 incentive deals since 1976 that gave at least $50 million to a corporation, and then it tallied the number of jobs created. The average cost per job was $658,427. Each! That's likely far more than cities and states can recover through sales, property, income and all other taxes those jobholders would pay in their lifetimes. Worse, the rise of megadeals in the past 10 years has made the job-incentive argument mega-ridiculous: -- New York gave a $258-million subsidy to Yahoo and got 125 jobs -- costing taxpayers $2 million per job.

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