Guest Commentary (5225)
PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
That's not hyperbole. There is ample evidence for a growing inability of people around the world to maintain the basic human needs of physical health and mental stability and a living wage and a desire to live in peace.
Most of us recognize the need for some semblance of equality in our relationships with others. But a smallish group of shockingly wealthy households around the world -- especially in America -- is gaining more and more power along with their wealth. They're making it nearly impossible to reverse the deadly effects of an unnaturally unequal society, in part because they're no longer connected to the world beyond their estates. They police us, they starve our public institutions, they abhor any form of social cooperation, they blame the poor for being poor. The means to restore some balance is steadily slipping away.
The Richest .01% Are Wealth-Obese
In the United States, where wealth inequality is extreme and getting worse (see analysis here):
-- The richest 12,600 households (the .01%) have an average of over $800,000,000 in wealth (mostly financial)
-- The poorest 63,000,000 households (the bottom 50%) have an average of about $16,000 in wealth (mostly housing)
JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Inequality doesn't just come out of the blue; it's intentionally created by decisions that elites make — usually behind closed doors, so those knocked down don't know what (or who) hit them.
Take America's 4 million fast-food workers, whose average pay hovers around a miserly $300 a week before taxes.
With the labor market tightening, why don't they just hop down the street to another franchise offering a better deal? Many try that, only to be rejected again and again, unaware that most fast-food chains have hidden within their franchising contracts "no-hire agreements," prohibiting one franchisee from hiring another's employees.
In a landmark study this year, two prominent labor economists at Princeton found that these secret bans on wage competition are used by more than 70,000 chain restaurants, including Burger King, Carl's Jr., Domino's and Pizza Hut.. By colluding to prevent millions of Americans from switching jobs to increase their incomes and opportunities, these giants have artificially kept the pay of fast-food workers and many other franchise employees stuck at poverty levels. That's one place inequality comes from — and it's downright un-American.
JAMES BAIER, MICHAEL MUSHARBASH AND AUTUMN VOGEL FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The abolition of nuclear weapons is a progressive issue we need to take seriously.
As American medical students, we attended the Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony in Oslo, Norway, on December 10, 2017. The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) won this year's prize for raising global awareness on the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of using nuclear weapons. In 2017, ICAN's coalition of civil society organizations across 100 countries successfully pressured governments to adopt the first-ever UN treaty that categorically bans nuclear weapons. International treaties to reduce nuclear arsenals have been in existence for decades, so why did the Nobel Prize Committee choose to honor ICAN? The organization's efforts are unique because the campaign reframes nuclear disarmament as a humanitarian issue. Seeing how these outdated, dangerous weapons impact people and the environment underlines the imperative to abolish them entirely, so that regional conflicts can no longer threaten the survival of the entire species. This global movement is largely driven by ordinary citizens who care about health, human rights and the environment. Many in this international movement are members of the "millennial" generation, who traveled to Oslo from multiple continents across the globe.
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
"Mr. Kim may be partly motivated by an intense need to roll back sanctions that, by all accounts, have begun to bite."
Whoa and ouch. This was my wakeup paragraph. I was sitting at Starbucks, reading the New York Times, feeling confusing old emotions wash over me on the first day of the New Year, when suddenly these words hit me like a sucker punch: The sanctions against North Korea "have begun to bite"?
Compare this throw-away fragment of international news with a brief analysis of the effect of U.S. and global sanctions against North Korea by the Council on Foreign Relations: "Sanctions are often felt most by ordinary families, not the power elites who are the intended targets. . . . Sanctions and extended periods of drought have left many of North Korea's twenty-five million people malnourished and impoverished."
The wakeup bite for me wasn't that the New York Times was wrong, simply that, as it presented the latest bit of international news to its global audience, the context of its reporting wasn't factual data but 21st century mythology.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Who would have thought that in a season where he was locked out by NFL owners, didn't take a single snap, or play a single down, former San Francisco 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick's kneeling during the playing of the national anthem in 2016, in protest over police brutality and social injustice, would continue to resonate this year? Who would have thought that Gregg Popovich, the highly esteemed coach of the NBA's San Antonio Spurs, would become one of the most outspoken voices against the calumnies of President Donald Trump? Who could have imagined that the most resonant anti-Trump tweet of the year would come from LeBron James, the world's best and most recognized basketball player?
Those are some of the remarkable developments that marked the year in sports; a watershed year in which athletes' political activism grew exponentially. Their actions garnered pushback from the NFL's conservative billionaire owners, a Pizza magnate, conservative columnists and fans, and, from the president himself.
When LeBron James tweeted at President Trump: "U bum @StephenCurry30 already said he ain't going! So therefore ain't no invite. Going to White House was a great honor until you showed up!", James was calling out the president for being shallow, petty, and spiteful.
ANDREW MOSS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
As we enter a new year, 800,000 Dreamers await news of their fate in this country. Thwarted by a president who will soon terminate the only program giving them temporary reprieve from harassment or deportation, stood up by a Congress that couldn't muster the will last year to grant them a pathway to permanent residency, they wait.
But not all are simply standing by. On New Year's Day I scan the internet, seeking photos and stories of Dreamers willing to share something of their lives and their contributions to America. On a USA Today site, I read about Ellie, whose DACA status enabled her to attend community college fulltime, earn an associate's degree, and eventually become the first person in her family to attend a four-year university. I learn about Julio, for whom DACA meant the opportunity to become a mortgage loan officer and a tax-paying, contributing member of his community. There is Carla, who started a digital marketing business, and there, too, is Reyna, who founded an organization that advocates for migrant youth.
These are only a few of the many Dreamers who have not been deterred from speaking out and sharing their stories. When Donald Trump announced last September that he would terminate the Obama-era DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) Program by March, 2018, many Dreamers began protesting in Washington and other cities for a just resolution of the crisis, seeking to galvanize public support. They have persisted in telling their truths in an era of official distortions and betrayals.
LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
“Republicans in Congress continue to attack the Endangered Species Act despite overwhelming support from Americans of all political stripes for this landmark conservation law," said Brett Hartl, government affairs director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “These attacks are designed to reward special interests that would plunder our natural resources even if it causes wildlife to go extinct."
Unfortunately, with President Trump in the White House, "these types of attacks are more likely to become law, severely harming our nation's imperiled wildlife," the Center for Biological Diversity warned.
MATT NELSON FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The damage to homes, lives and communities from Hurricane Maria continues to mount in Puerto Rico months later. About one-third of approximately 425,000 Puerto Rican homeowners are behind on mortgage payments, tens of thousands of whom haven't made payments in months. Some economists predict that if the current indicators hold, the entire island is destined for a fate similar to Detroit's.
Recently, Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo A. Rosselló ordered a review of every death that has occurred on the island since the hurricane, given mounting evidence that the actual death toll likely exceeds 1,000 rather than the 64 deaths that comprise the official count today. And the ill-health effects from Hurricane Maria are not relegated only to the island. Puerto Rico is home to more than 100 medical supply manufacturing plants. Hospitals on the mainland are feeling the impact and experiencing shortages of basic medical supplies like saline solution and IV bags.
At a November hearing on environmental effects after the storms, the chair of the environmental panel of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. John Shimkus, said, "Hurricanes Irma and Maria uncovered the intensified issues associated with aging and inefficient energy infrastructure, contaminated sites that are rapidly multiplying, landfills that are already overflowing and possibly the most contaminated drinking water supply in the United States."
KATHY KELLY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
On May 2, 2017, before becoming Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, as Minister of Defense, spoke about the Saudi-led coalition's war in Yemen, a war he orchestrated since March of 2015. "A long war is in our interest," he said, explaining that the Houthi rebels would eventually run out of cash, lack external supplies and break apart. Conversely, the Saudis could count on a steady flow of cash and weapons. "Time is on our side," he concluded.
Powerful people in the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Sudan, Bahrain, Kuwait, Morocco, Senegal and Jordan have colluded with Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince to prolong the war against Yemen. The Saudis have employed Sudanese fighters from the terrifying Janjaweed militias to fight in small cities along Yemen's coast line. The seeming objective is to gain ground control leading to the vital Port of Hodeidah. UAE military are reported to operate a network of secret prisons where Yemenis disappear and are tortured, deterring people from speaking up about human rights violations lest they land in one of these dreaded prisons.
Among the most powerful warlords participating in the war are the US and the UK.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Over the years, there have been numerous examples of powerful, popular and hypocritical Religious Right leaders and televangelists. Who can forget the Rev. Jimmy Swaggart balling on television, after his dalliances with prostitutes was exposed? Or televangelist Jim Bakker serving prison time for fleecing his flock out of millions of dollars, and enjoying his own brand of sexual peccadilloes? Or the Rev. Ted Haggard, the former head of the National Association of Evangelicals and founder and pastor of New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado, who was caught up in a sex and drugs scandal? Those scandalous incidents, pale in comparison to today's evangelical leaders whose unbridled support for Donald Trump, takes hypocrisy to a much deeper level.
In his quest to become America's number one preacher, Franklin Graham, the son of the evangelist Billy Graham, has instead become one of the most unhinged leaders on the Religious Right. "Never in my lifetime have we had a Potus willing to take such a strong outspoken stand for the Christian faith like Donald Trump," Graham tweeted. Dallas pastor Robert Jeffress, an early and outspoken supporter of Trump, sees Trump as God's messenger: "God intervened in our election and out Donald Trump in the Oval Office for a great purpose." And, of course there's Liberty University's Jerry Falwell, Jr., another early and unwavering supporter of the thrice-married, pussy grabbing president.
Why do Graham, Jeffress, Falwell, Jr., and other conservative evangelicals have no qualms about embracing Trump?
CAROLYN COE FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Amrullah has a small frame and a soft voice. He used to have a reputation as a fighter and would fight with the rich kids. He'd get angry because they had nicer clothes. By fighting, he wanted to show his power. But now, at age 11, he believes that fighting is bad. When he sees those same boys, he says he no longer cares to fight.
"They have their way," he says. "I have my way, and my way is nonviolent."
The other boys asked Amrullah why he stopped fighting, but when he explained his new way of thinking, they couldn't understand.
Amrullah has studied nonviolence at the Street Kids School, in Kabul, Afghanistan, for almost three years. The school, with 94 students this year, is a project of the Afghan Peace Volunteers (APVs) at the Borderfree Nonviolence Community Centre. There, the students also gain literacy and math skills, supplementing their lessons at the government schools. Each month, they receive modest food rations. The students become empowered as the stories and ideas they share in class become woven into later school lessons. In March, 2018, Amrullah and other third-year students will graduate. The hope is that they will continue their general studies in the public schools.
GLEB TSIPURSKY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
banned the top US public health agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), from using seven words, including "evidence-based" and "science-based."Do you want your medical treatment to be based on science? The Trump administration disagrees. It
Prominent public health advocates have expressed outrage about these measures. For example, Sandro Galea, dean of the Boston University School of Public Health, tweeted "This is astonishing. It would be a parody of a flailing effort to limit the effectiveness of #publichealth if it did not suggest a real problem. #7words."
Such censorship is a direct blow at the essence of science: accurately describing the physical world around us. Science is the best method that we as human beings have of figuring out the truth of reality, and wishing away the facts by trying to substitute them with "alternative facts" will greatly impede scientific progress.
Moreover, these measures will cause many more people to get sick and die. After all, how can the CDC implement effective public health interventions if it cannot use terms like "evidence-based" and "science-based" in its official documents?
BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUTLORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH FOR
Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch
The city of Shenzen, China is home to a staggering 16,000 buses. To compare, that's more buses than the five largest North American bus fleets combined (New York City, Los Angeles County, New Jersey Transit, Chicago and Toronto).
Now, after a six-year effort to replace its diesel-fueled buses, the major Chinese city is well on its way to become the world's first city to electrify its entire public transit bus fleet.
Shenzen has methodically electrified its buses in recent years to curb unhealthy air pollution and cut emissions. According to the United Nations' Climate Action program, in 2015 there were 3,600 electric buses on the city's roads. By 2016, the number increased to 9,000. By May 2017, the number reached 14,500. The remaining 1,500 buses will go emission-free before the end of the year.
JIM HIGHTOWER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
In the 1980s, when I was Texas Ag commissioner, my staff and I proposed a comprehensive set of state rules to protect farmworkers, public health, our water supplies and farmers themselves from the life-threatening consequences of toxic pesticides.
But trying to enact these policies in Texas meant taking on the enormous money and power of the chemical lobby, as well as a hostile Republican governor, and a legislature largely made up of corporate lapdogs. All of the above were howling furiously at us, snarling that they were going to shred the new protections we'd laid out. When I told my legislative director that it seemed like the political odds were against us, his response was not a confidence booster: "Some of the evens are against us, too," he said.
Yet, by rallying a big coalition of family farmers, consumers, environmentalists, labor groups, church leaders, and others, and then bringing these "outsiders" inside the usually closed legislative lair to confront the cozy club of lawmakers and lobbyists -- we won!