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Thursday, 09 November 2017 06:21

The Illusion of Armed Salvation

Guns are a symptom of society's obsession with fear. And efforts to pass gun control legislation are continually on the political defensive, caught between that society and the profiteers.Guns are a symptom of society's obsession with fear. And efforts to pass gun control legislation are continually on the political defensive, caught between that society and the profiteers. (Photo: Mitch Barrie)ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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This time, the "the fire and the fury" of American mass murder erupted in church. Twenty-six people were killed, including children, one only 18 months old.

How do we stroke their memory? How do we move forward? This is bigger than gun control. We should begin, I think, by envisioning a world beyond mass murder: a world where rage and hatred are not armed and, indeed, where our most volatile emotions can find release long before they become lethal.

As I read about the shootings at Sutherland Springs, Texas, and studied Devin Patrick Kelley's troubled bio, I suddenly found myself picturing a coal miner trapped in a collapsed mine. Here was a man trapped inside himself: buried in his own troubles, disconnected from his own humanity and, therefore, everyone else's humanity. A man in such a state is utterly disempowered.

And in this country, the path back to empowerment -- for God knows how many people -- begins with owning a gun.

Thursday, 09 November 2017 05:29

The Endangered Species Act Is Endangered

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

endangeredspeciesThe Endangered Species Act is threatened by corporate interests. (Photo: Andy Arthur)

As powerful climate deniers threaten to destroy even the most basic environmental protections, the Endangered Species Act is also under attack, thanks to a series of proposed bills in the House of Representatives. As Climate Central explained earlier this year:

Often photographed clinging to Arctic ice floes as its habitat melts away into warming waters, the polar bear is the poster child for U.S. efforts to save wildlife on the brink of extinction using the Endangered Species Act.

But the act is quickly becoming a target of the Trump administration and Congressional Republicans who have introduced at least 11 pieces of legislation that could weaken it or prevent some threatened wildlife from being protected. 

The Endangered Species Act, or ESA, was signed into law by President Nixon in 1973 and helps to protect more than 1,600 plant and animal species considered threatened or endangered. Thanks in large part to the signing of that act, many iconic wildlife species on the brink of extinction have recovered over the past 40 years, including the bald eagle, American alligator, peregrine falcon and gray wolf.

When a bill signed into law by Richard Nixon is under assault in the Trump administration, it is clear how radical this administration and many of its supporters in Congress are. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was created in December of 1970, during the first Nixon administration. That should give you an idea of just how extreme the current administration has become on environmental matters. Under Trump, the EPA has evolved into the "unprotecting the environment" agency.

DAVID LEESTMA OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Pacific 1108wrp optThe Pacific Ocean seen from space. (Photo: blueforce4116 / Flickr)The Trump administration is considering cutting protections for two national monuments lying south of Hawaii in the central Pacific. The decision, scientists warn, will threaten reefs across the Pacific.

The move, according to a memo from Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke obtained by the Washington Post in September, would "allow commercial fishing" in the Pacific Remote Islands National Marine Monument and the Rose Atoll National Marine Monument.

The monuments, both created by former president Bush, protect the waters of a scattering of mostly uninhabited Islands south of Hawaii.

Although the shore reefs of these islands have long enjoyed protection from commercial fishing, the monument designations extended that protection between 50 and 200 miles from shore.

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Challenges 1108wrp opt(Photo: Chris Tse / Flickr)Two Philadelphia-area children are suing President Donald Trump and two of his climate skeptic cabinet members, Energy Sec. Rick Perry and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt, to try to stop them from rolling back existing environmental protections including the Clean Power Plan.

The plaintiffs, ages 7 and 11, are backed by the Clean Air Council, Philadelphia's oldest environmental non-profit. The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on Monday.

The complaint alleges that the Trump administration's reliance on "junk science" to undo climate regulations are a threat to the young plaintiffs and other U.S. citizens.

The children are only identified by their first and last initials in the court papers. Seven-year-old plaintiff "S.B." claims to be suffering from medical issues, including severe seasonal allergies that cause recurrent nosebleeds and vomiting, that are "directly impacted by the climate" and "as a result of Defendants' affirmative acts in causing increased climate."

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

capitalismjpgnov6Inequality is growing under capitalism, not decreasing. (Photo: Ian Ransley)

Extreme Poverty Cut in Half? Only in the Minds of the Capitalists

"Take a bow, capitalism." That's from The Economist, a business-happy publication that has every reason to perpetuate the myth that a world run by free enterprise is improving people's lives. Its story continues with an astounding claim: "The world now knows how to reduce poverty." Perhaps by presenting questionable data that seems to support what the business community wants us to believe.

Other super-capitalists are similarly exuding hyperbole in defense of their shaky beliefs. Said a spokesman for the American Enterprise Institute: "It was the American free-enterprise system that started to spread around the world. They looked at you and said, 'I want to have their life, their freedom, and their stuff, and they threw off their chains of poverty and tyranny.'" But it's clear, when the facts are checked, that the chains of poverty are being wrapped around more and more human beings.

Extreme Poverty Has Increased, in Terms of Wealth

According to the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Databook 2016, the median wealth of the world's adults is $2,222, down from $3,248 at the end of 2007. While the rich people of the world have taken more than their share of the $35 trillion wealth gain since the recession, the world median has dropped by over $1,000!

There are other recent indications of rising poverty. Based again on Credit Suisse wealth data, in just seven years the world's Gini Coefficient, the most widely accepted measure of inequality, has surged from 88.1 to 92.7. Wealth inequality between countries has grown dramatically. It's a stunning rise, further evidence of a world splitting into two.

Rally in front of the Supreme Court on October 3, 2017, while oral arguments for Gill v. Whitford take place inside.JOHANNES EPKE FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

In October, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Gill v. Whitford, a challenge to Wisconsin's 2011 unabashed partisan gerrymander of their state assembly map. Most of us agree that letting one political party or the other draw election maps explicitly to benefit themselves is wrong, just as we agree that allowing unlimited money to flow into our elections is wrong. What most people don't know is how gerrymandering and dark money are mutually perpetuating pieces of an intentional strategy by billionaires and big business to keep Americans politically sidelined.

The story of Gill, in which super PACs spent millions in Wisconsin leading up to 2010 to win Republicans the state legislature and control redistricting for the next decade, is a perfect opportunity to shine a light on how these pieces fit together.

Redistricting happens every 10 years after each census. In 2002, after the 2000 census, the Republican State Leadership Committee launched a project called REDMAP (REDistricting MAjority Project) with the specific goal of controlling the 2010 redistricting in key states. 

Thursday, 02 November 2017 07:31

When Bureaucracy Takes Precedence Over Humanity

What’s taking place in the case of Rosa Maria, the 10-year-old undocumented girl with Cerebral Palsy, is institutional racism, aggravated in the Trump era by an uptick in border patrol aggression.What's taking place in the case of Rosa Maria, the 10-year-old undocumented girl with Cerebral Palsy, is institutional racism, aggravated in the Trump era by an uptick in border patrol aggression. (Photo: Peg Hunter / Flickr)ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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Basically, it's kidnapping.

Were the Border Patrol agents wearing MAGA hats when they grabbed Rosa Maria Hernandez as she left her hospital room?

"It's a shocking case -- the most outrageous case I've ever seen. Is it a preview of things to come?" ACLU attorney Michael Tan said to me about the incident, shortly after the civil-rights group filed suit against the federal government demanding the 10-year-old child's release from a detention facility in Texas, 150 miles from her home in Laredo. 

Rosa Maria, who has cerebral palsy, was arrested at a children's hospital on Oct. 25, the day after she had emergency gall bladder surgery. She's been at the detention center for a week now, under the bureaucratic "care" of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which wants to ship her back to Mexico.

PAT ELDER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Recruiters 1101wrp opt(Photo: Debra Sweet / Flickr)More than a hundred mothers have contacted me over the years, alarmed at the relationships their teenaged children were developing with military recruiters at school. They wanted to know what they could do about it. They were angry, and they were worried.

The fact these women reached out to me and other counter-recruitment activists demonstrates the degree of alarm they experienced. They feared their vulnerable children would enlist against their wishes. They were terrified their child would be killed while they stood by. This was the driving force of their resistance.

Several mothers told me they deeply resented the presence of military recruiters in their child's school and they described the influence recruiters were having over their child's thinking and behavior. They talked about difficult relationships they had with their children. Some said their child had forged close relationships with recruiters at school for over two years. These moms were certain their sons were going to enlist because their boys knew the pain it would inflict on their mothers.

In America, only a few are willing to risk public scorn for their opposition to the U.S. military or war in general. However, many of these mothers were hostile, like cornered prey protecting their young.

Wednesday, 01 November 2017 07:38

Peace in Afghanistan From the Ground Up

KATHY KELLY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Mothers 1101wrp optAfghan mothers. (Photo: Afghan Peace Volunteers / Kathy Kelly)On a recent Friday at the Afghan Peace Volunteers' (APV) Borderfree Center, here in Kabul, thirty mothers sat cross-legged along the walls of a large meeting room. Masoumah, who co-coordinates the Center's "Street Kids School" project, had invited the mothers to a parents meeting. Burka-clad women who wore the veil over their faces looked identical to me, but Masoumah called each mother by name, inviting the mothers, one by one, to speak about difficulties they faced. From inside the netted opening of a burka, we heard soft voices and, sometimes, sheer despair. Others who weren't wearing burkas also spoke gravely. Their eyes expressed pain and misery, and some quietly wept. Often a woman's voice would break, and she would have to pause before she could continue:

"I have debts that I cannot pay," whispered the first woman.

"My children and I are always moving from place to place. I don't know what will happen."

"I am afraid we will die in an explosion."

"My husband is paralyzed and cannot work. We have no money for food, for fuel."

MILO SHIFRA KESSELMAN GIOVANNIELLO FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Cops 1031wrp opt(Photo: Andrew Chang / Flickr)Last week, the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) hosted their annual conference and exposition in Philadelphia, bringing together more than 10,000 law enforcement officers, major arms suppliers and weapons distributors. The IACP, an organization of police chiefs and other law enforcement officials, has long been responsible for promoting police practices that systematically violate the civil, constitutional and human rights of Black people and other people of color.

At the conference, companies profiting from the Trump administration's intensified targeting and surveillance of communities of color had the opportunity to present their newest tactics and tools. One such company was ELTA North America, the US subsidiary of an Israeli defense manufacturer and one of four companies selected to build aprototype of Trump's wall on the US/Mexico border.

The IACP conference bills itself as offering "gentler, reformist" policing methods through workshops like "Community-Police Relations and Public Trust." But for a long time, groups representing the communities most directly impacted by police violence have said these presentations are a dangerous farce, aimed at promoting the illusion that policing can be made less harmful through better training or by recruiting different individuals, when in fact the system of policing is designed to target and control communities of color. That weekend, there were powerful demonstrations and teach-insorganized byPhilly for REAL Justiceand other Philadelphia-based groups in opposition to the conference, bringing the message that the only way to end police violence is to abolish policing.

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