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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2670566753 1f2db8b1e1 z (Photo: eirigipics ) 

Although it might be conventional wisdom that Western colonialism no longer exists, this is a dangerous myth. Colonialism persists in the form of the continued oppression of Indigenous peoples worldwide. Moreover, when it comes to the relationship of Europe and the US to the Global South, the old system of direct colonial rule has actually been replaced with financial control over many of the same countries that were colonized. The onerous financial conditions placed on many developing nations through the World Bank and International Monetary Fund -- including austerity measures and spending requirements for goods from developing nations -- represent the colonialist notion of knowing what's in the best interest of other countries. Like colonialism, it also happens to financially benefit the former ruling powers.

The globalization of exploitative labor further reinforces the relationship of capitalism to erstwhile colonialism. The squalid working conditions and meager wages of many workers in the Global South is the focus of a revealing book by John Smith, Imperialism in the Twenty-First Century: Globalization, Super-Exploitation, and Capitalism’s Final Crisis, which is this week's Truthout Progressive Pick. Capitalism provides the vehicle for much contemporary imperialism, but is often not perceived as such because it is not as directly visible as, say, an occupying army (although, of course, the US and Europe still occupy countries militarily as well). Colonialism used to be dependent upon direct rule of areas and countries by agents, bureaucracies and militaries representing the colonial power. Now, colonialism largely consists of financial dependencies and labor markets characterized by poverty.

In an excerpt featured on Truthout, Smith reflects on the 2014 collapse of a substandard garment factory building in Bangladesh that resulted in the deaths of more than 1,300 workers:

The collapse of Rana Plaza not only shone a light on the pitiless and extreme exploitation of Bangladeshi workers. It also unleashed a powerful pulse of x-rays that lit up the hidden structure of the global capitalist economy, revealing the extent to which the capital/labor relation has become a relation between northern capital and southern labor -- in no other sector has production shifted so completely to low-wage workers in oppressed nations while control and profits remain firmly in the grip of firms in imperialist countries.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTH

juryduty copy(Photo: Raymond Shobe)

It was a partial victory, but a notable one in the battle to reduce and eliminate bias against people of color in the criminal legal system.

The Los Angeles Times reported in a March 6 article:

The Supreme Court took a strong new stand against racial bias in jury rooms, ruling for the first time that reports of racist comments by jurors may require setting aside a verdict and holding a new trial.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, announcing the court's decision Monday, wrote that the "imperative to purge racial prejudice from the administration of justice" requires setting aside the traditional rule that bars judges from second-guessing what went on in the jury room.

The 5-3 decision announced a limited exception to that rule against second-guessing juries. The new rule covers cases in which "one or more jurors made statements exhibiting overt racial bias that cast serious doubt on the fairness and impartiality of the jury's deliberations and resulting verdict."

However, we cannot simply praise rulings like this one and stop there. The reality is, the ruling is narrow in scope. For instance, this decision doesn't address the frequent issue of prosecutors selecting juries that have few people of color on them and picking whites who they feel might bring a racial bias to their verdict if the defendant is a person of color.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

5440002785 7b1ed0ac3e zDonald Trump, lion tamer of the corporate mass media (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

I remember as a kid being in alone in a snowball fight with about eight opponents. After the first fusillade of hard icy snow pelting me I ran for the nearest cover, a mailbox. I waited a couple of minutes, the recess bell rang, and I was free to walk back into my school with just a few stragglers half-heartedly lobbing snowballs at me. In 2017, Donald Trump represents the crowd of playground bullies. In his case, he employs the tactics of overwhelming the mainstream headline-hungry media through unrelenting shock announcements and tweets.

As his early morning weekend charge via twitter that then President Obama had ordered the wiretapping of Trump at his eponymously named primary home – Trump Tower, in New York – demonstrates, he bases his accusations and "alternative fact" allegations on the notion that the truth is secondary to his manipulating what the media reports.

There has been much speculation that in charging that Obama had Trump's phone tapped, he was diverting attention from media preoccupation with Jeff Sessions having lied to Congress during his confirmation hearings to become attorney general. One can argue that Trump knew his highly dubious claim about being wiretapped by Obama – for which there is no evidence or legal precedent – would rotate off the corporate media radar in the next couple of news cycles, as it pretty much has, but it was necessary to divert increasingly headline-oriented news coverage from continuing to focus on Sessions and the alleged Trump campaign "Russian connection."

It's not the truth that matters to Trump; it's the hurdling of shocking statements, tweets and actions at such a rapid pace, the media can't catch its breath and focus on any one of his reactionary acts or over-the-top statements. His tsunami of allegations and torrent of executive actions race through the mainstream media so fast that they topple over each other.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

8294945718 e35215c93f z (Photo: joshlopezphoto)

In a partial list of Obama administration regulations that have been reversed by Congress or Trump, The New York Times notes:

Nor will hunters be banned from using lead-based bullets, which can ... poison wildlife, on 150 million acres of federal lands.

These are just a few of the more than 90 regulations that federal agencies and the Republican-controlled Congress have delayed, suspended or reversed in the month and a half since President Trump took office, according to a tally by The New York Times.

The Obama administration's ban on the use of lead bullets on federal lands was repealed on March 2 by newly confirmed Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke on his first day in office. EcoWatch reports on advocates' highly critical reaction to Zinke's order:

"Switching to nontoxic ammunition should be a no-brainer to save the lives of thousands birds and other wildlife, prevent hunters and their families from being exposed to toxic lead and protect our water," said Jonathan Evans, the Center for Biological Diversity's environmental health legal director.

"It's ironic that one of the first actions by Secretary Zinke, who fancies himself a champion of hunters and anglers, leads to poisoning of game and waterfowl eaten by those same hunting families," said Evans. "It's another sad day for public health and wildlife under the Trump presidency when special interests again prevail over common-sense environmental safeguards."

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

16501361270 da04a3b994 zVice President Mike Pence (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

After all the Trump-Pence campaign attacks on Hillary Clinton over her use of a private email account and server for government business, emails released to The Indianapolis Star have revealed that, while serving as governor of Indiana, Mike Pence used a private AOL email account to discuss security issues -- and the account was hacked last summer.

The vice president's office is scrambling to justify Pence's occasional use of a private account for official issues while governor, but the attempt to draw a distinction with Hillary Clinton because she used a separate server and he didn't is easily debunked. After all, Pence's email, on a personal AOL account, was indeed hacked -- and the primary issue with Clinton's separate account while in the State Department was the security of her correspondence. By that standard, Pence failed because his private email account was penetrated at least once.

The Indianapolis Star broke the story on March 2. Terry Cook of the Star wrote:

Emails released to The Indianapolis Star, part of the USA TODAY Network, in response to a public records request show Pence communicated via his personal AOL account with top advisers on topics ranging from security gates at the governor’s residence to the state’s response to terror attacks across the globe. In one email, Pence’s top state homeland security adviser relayed an update from the FBI regarding the arrests of several men on federal terror-related charges.

Cybersecurity experts say the emails raise concerns about whether such sensitive information was adequately protected from hackers, given that personal accounts like Pence's are typically less secure than government email accounts. In fact, Pence's personal account was hacked last summer.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

32288299604 7437f796a8 zSecretary of Education Betsy DeVos (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, long a critic of public education and a promoter of charter schools, opportunistically used historical Black colleges this week to promote "school choice" -- a euphemistic term used to describe alternatives to public education including charter schools and vouchers. A February 28 NBC News article describes the backlash to her comments:

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos drew wide-spread criticism after describing historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) as "pioneers when it comes to school choice"…

DeVos made the comment in a meeting with dozens of HBCU presidents who had met with President Donald Trump in the Oval Office Monday.

In a statement released after a listening session with the leaders, Devos noted that "HBCUs are real pioneers when it comes to school choice. They are living proof that when more options are provided to students, they are afforded greater access and greater quality. Their success has shown that more options help students flourish."

Many were quick to point out, however, that HBCUs were born out of a lack of options for black Americans following the Civil War -- when segregation and Jim Crow laws barred them from attending institutions of higher education.

DeVos was barely confirmed as secretary of education, with Vice President Mike Pence needing to rescue her nomination by breaking a 50-50 vote deadlock in the Senate in his role as president of that branch of Congress. Two Republican senators, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, voted against DeVos, citing her opposition to public schools and her lack of understanding of the role of public education in urban and rural settings. The New York Times reported that "it was the first time a vice president has been summoned to the Capitol to break a tie on a cabinet nomination."

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

6237645664 cc1ac771a8 z (Photo: Harrisburg U.S. Army Recruiting Battalion)

Trump's proposed $54 billion dollar increase to an already bloated military budget (of approximately $550 billion dollars currently) will have winners and losers. The primary winners will be the entrenched military infrastructure and defense contractors, who will benefit from the windfall of additional expenditures. In addition, the conservative and neoliberal promoters of US hegemony -- with the nation's military serving as global police enforcing US political and economic power -- will see their goal strengthened if the billions in extra budgetary funding is granted.

Among the losers will be those in the US who will be the victims of reduced government safety net programs and foreign aid, which would be cut to pay for the extra military spending. Furthermore, one can predict that the additional military outlay will result in more people dying throughout the world as a result of an increase in US military power. This could happen in ongoing wars such as those in Iraq and Afghanistan, or in the vaguely defined "war on terror," as well as in multiple other "low-intensity conflicts" throughout the world.

It should not be overlooked that an expanded military will inevitably lead to increased military activity and the resultant deaths and injuries of more military recruits in an age of an all-volunteer army. The dependence of the armed forces on military recruiting to create a sufficient fighting force was emphasized in a recent Truthout Progressive Pick book by Pat Elder, Military Recruiting in the United States.

As Elder told Truthout in an interview posted on February 19,

It's a coerced, recruited Army as much as it is a volunteer Army.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

3584139642 f7342c0060 z (Photo: Aaaarrrrgggghhhh!)

Keeping watch on the Trump-Pence administration is a dirty job, but it’s a responsibility that we take seriously. Support Truthout and BuzzFlash in this pursuit: Make a tax-deductible donation!

Living-wage jobs are scarce in the United States. The People's Action Institute (PAI), a national organization with the goal of achieving economic, racial, gender and climate justice, just released a study that reinforces the profound need for jobs that pay a wage people can live on. A PAI news release states:

The report shows the gap between job seekers and jobs that pay a living wage. According to the report, Prosperity, Not Poverty, nationally there are seven job seekers for every job opening that pays the national single adult living wage of $17.28 per hour.

In other words, six out of seven job seekers are unlikely to find work that pays enough for a single adult to make ends meet. The odds are much worse for a single parent hoping to be paid enough to support herself and a child....

[Many] communities of color, women, and LGBTQI communities are doubly impacted, by both the lack of wealth-building work available and by living in neglected communities most in need of ... public infrastructure investment.

President Trump is now proposing an infrastructure plan to Congress. We must insist that any infrastructure strategy address the needs of those most impacted by the unavailability of living wage jobs in the US.

"Hiring for new infrastructure jobs must focus on struggling communities, and include strong wage floor requirements," said Allyson Fredericksen, deputy director of research for the People's Action Institute, in a news release about the report. "These same communities must also be the first to benefit from new projects, including clean water and air, access to technology, good roads and bridges. Any plan that would privatize public assets must be rejected."

Friday, 24 February 2017 05:45

The Peril of Nuclear War in the Age of Trump

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

isaiahploughshareIsaiah: "Let Us Beat Our Swords into Plowshares" (Photo: Vanderbilt Divinity Library)

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The possibility of nuclear war is no longer theoretical.

In an interview with Reuters this week, Donald Trump boasted that the US would ratchet up its nuclear weapons to dominate nuclear capability throughout the world:

President Donald Trump said on Thursday he wants to ensure the U.S. nuclear arsenal is at the "top of the pack," saying the United States has fallen behind in its weapons capacity....

"It would be wonderful, a dream would be that no country would have nukes, but if countries are going to have nukes, we're going to be at the top of the pack," Trump said.

Russia has 7,000 warheads and the United States, 6,800, according to the Ploughshares Fund, an anti-nuclear group.

If Trump carried through on this promise, it could mean reneging on the New START Treaty of 2010 signed by President Obama, or perhaps just violating it by expanding the US ability to utilize nuclear weapons. The New START agreement placed definitive limits on US and Russian nuclear delivery systems and bombs, according to Reuters.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

6116744005 7edcffd9d3 zBoston Harbor (Photo: Bertrand Duperrin)

Keeping watch on the Trump-Pence administration is a dirty job, but it’s a responsibility that we take seriously. Support Truthout and BuzzFlash in this pursuit: Make a tax-deductible donation!

Anyone who reads Truthout reporter Dahr Jamail's work on the deleterious impacts of climate change knows that it is not a theoretical threat. However, we live in a time when the administration of Donald Trump is silencing talk of climate change -- and research about it -- in the federal government. The gap between Jamail's on-site researched reporting and current national public policy is immensely troubling and ominous for the future of the planet and its people.

Although the Earth-altering impact of climate change could become catastrophic, it is not immediately visible to many people. Therefore, it remains an abstract threat to them -- not an immediate concern. However, that has not deterred many states and local communities from preparing for some of the destruction that will likely result from climate change.

That's the case with Boston, which according to The Boston Globe is considering a giant sea barrier to protect the heart of the city from rising water:

As rising sea levels pose a growing threat to Boston’s future, city officials are exploring the feasibility of building a vast sea barrier from Hull to Deer Island, forming a protective arc around Boston Harbor.

The idea, raised in a recent city report on the local risks of climate change, sounds like a pipe dream, a project that could rival the Big Dig in complexity and cost. It’s just one of several options, but the sea wall proposal is now under serious study by a team of some of the region’s top scientists and engineers, who recently received a major grant to pursue their research.

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