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PATRICIA JACKSON FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

DMZ 0717wrpElectric fences in the Korean Demilitarized Zone. (Photo: Wikipedia public domain)June was the sixty-fourth anniversary of the Korean War. It began in 1950 and ended 1953. Did people at that time in this country, even today, know the truth about our destruction in North Korea?

South Korea did not sign onto the 1953 cease fire armistice agreement with the People's Republic of China, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, and the United Nations that established a demilitarized zone separated at the 38th parallel. The possibility of using the Atom Bomb was considered during this war. North Korea and South Korea, a country divided, become another proxy war. Today, the risk of nuclear weapons ignites again with the threat of even greater weapons capable of massive destruction.

The countries involved in Korea today are the same, the United States, China, and Russia – then still the Soviet Union. The U.S. still maintains 28,500 troops in South Korea, including a division headquarters, an armored brigade, an aviation brigade, and an artillery brigade. China and Russia have established troops on their borders with North Korea.

Two hot heads of state exchange dangerous rhetoric. Trump's simplistic assessment of the situation offers, "North Korea is looking for trouble." "If China decides to help, that would be great," the post continued. "If not, we will solve the problem without them! U.S.A."

A DPRK Foreign Ministry spokesman in turn responds. "The DPRK will react to a total war with an all-out war, a nuclear war with nuclear strikes of its own and surely win a victory in the death-defying struggle against the U.S. imperialists."

Published in Guest Commentary

MARIANNE HIRSCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

MarianneWarsawView of POLIN Museum, facing the Monument to the Ghetto Heroes. This side of the monument shows the Great Deportation of 300,000 Jews to the Treblinka death camp in the summer of 1942. (Photo: Wojciech Kryński) Standing in front of the Ghetto Heroes Monument in Warsaw, Poland, some months ago, I felt immersed in an archaeology of layered histories. The monument commemorates the unique and improbable armed uprising by Jewish ghetto partisans against Nazi forces in 1943. But it also bears witness to how the brutal annihilation of a local minority in the very heart of an urban neighborhood has been both remembered and forgotten during nearly 70 years. Now, standing in front of the remarkable new Polin Museum of the History of Polish Jews, it speaks not only of heroes, but also of ordinary lives cut short by genocide.

Being there as a child of survivors of the Romanian Holocaust, I felt in touch with witness visitors who preceded me -- descendants of Holocaust victims and survivors like me, tourists, heads of state the world over, as well as visitors whose symbolic import resonates into the future. How could any of us do justice to the victims? What is our responsibility to them and to our own present, to the violence we continue to witness?

When Donald Trump chose not to stop there on his recent visit to Warsaw, he didn't just snub the Jewish community or fail to pay tribute to Jewish resistance, he also rejected an entangled transnational history of responsible witnessing. He thus extricated the United States from a web of shared memory and acknowledgement that goes beyond the nationalist self-congratulation that he fosters.

Published in Guest Commentary

MICHAEL SEIFERT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

ImmigrationRights 0712wrp optAn immigration rights protest march. (Photo: z2amiller)In mid-May, just before the end of the school year, a mother drove to a local grammar school to pick up her three children. As she was parking her truck, a Brownsville police officer, apparently doing traffic duty, asked her for her papers. The woman, however, having suffered an onslaught of news reports about SB4, the Texas "Show Me Your Papers" law, told me that she thought that he meant her immigration documents. The policeman was only asking about her driver's license and proof of insurance.

The woman, shaken, went into the school office to collect her children.

Inside the school, the mother ran into the school secretary. As is the case in many communities, the secretary is considered a reliable source of knowledge. This mom, afraid, pled her case. "But the police have no right to ask me for my papers; they have no right to do that on school property! Who can I complain to?"

The secretary responded, "Ah, but you see, with that new law, SB4, everything has changed. The police can come into the school any time they want and they can take illegal people away. You should be glad that he didn't deport you. But he will be back!"

The mother of three gasped; the secretary went back to answering phones and attending other parents' needs. The mother went home and called her local parish. The priest was able to calm her fears, reminding her that she had the support of her church, and of many others. "I am not sure what exactly we will do as a parish," the priest told me, "But we will come up with something."

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Pence 0712wrp optMike Pence at CPAC. (Photo: Gage Skidmore)Shortly after the November election, The Intercept's Jeremy Scahill observed that while Mike Pence is often seen as the adult in the room, and a "counterbalance" to Donald Trump, "there is every reason to regard him as, if anything, even more terrifying than the president-elect." Scahill called Pence's ascension to vice president "a tremendous coup for the radical religious right."

While many in the nation were celebrating Pride Month – held in June to commemorate the activists who began the modern gay rights movement at the Stonewall Riots -- the White House was silent.

During the same period, Vice President Mike Pence was off singing the praises of Dr. James Dobson, one of America's premier conservative Christian anti-gay political leaders. Pence told a cheering crowd at a celebration in Colorado Springs, Colorado, of the 40th anniversary of James Dobson's "Focus on the Family" radio program, that they have "an unwavering ally in President Donald Trump."

Pence said that the passage of President Trump's health care bill will finally "defund Planned Parenthood once and for all," and he added that "the time is now" to re-engage in politics.

Earlier in June, at Ralph Reed's Faith & Freedom Road to Majority conference, Pence praised Dobson, calling him his "mentor," when the founder of Focus on the Family received the organization's Winston Churchill Lifetime Achievement Award. Pence assured the audience that Trump will "never stop fighting for the values and ideals that make this nation great."

Published in Guest Commentary
Tuesday, 11 July 2017 07:47

No Such Thing as a Just War

KATHY KELLY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Salmon1Benjamin Salmon, conscientious objector. (Photo: Kathy Kelly)Several days a week, Laurie Hasbrook arrives at the Voices office here in Chicago. She often takes off her bicycle helmet, unpins her pant leg, settles into an office chair and then leans back to give us an update on family and neighborhood news. Laurie's two youngest sons are teenagers, and because they are black teenagers in Chicago they are at risk of being assaulted and killed simply for being young black men. Laurie has deep empathy for families trapped in war zones. She also firmly believes in silencing all guns.

Lately, we've been learning about the extraordinary determination shown by Ben Salmon, a conscientious objector during World War I who went to prison rather than enlist in the U.S. military. Salmon is buried in an unmarked grave in Mount Carmel Cemetery, on the outskirts of Chicago.

In June, 2017, a small group organized by  "Friends of Franz and Ben" gathered at Salmon's gravesite to commemorate his life.

Mark Scibilla Carver and Jack Gilroy had driven to Chicago from Upstate NY, carrying with them a life size icon bearing an image of Salmon, standing alone in what appeared to be desert sands, wearing a prison-issue uniform that bore his official prison number. Next to the icon was a tall, bare, wooden cross. Rev. Bernie Survil, who organized the vigil at Salmon's grave, implanted a vigil candle in the ground next to the icon. Salmon's grand-niece had come from Moab, Utah, to represent the Salmon family. Facing our group, she said that her family deeply admired Salmon's refusal to cooperate with war. She acknowledged that he had been imprisoned, threatened with execution, sent for a psychiatric evaluation, sentenced to 25 years in prison, a sentence which was eventually commuted, and unable to return to his home in Denver for fear of being killed by antagonists. Charlotte Mates expressed her own determination to try and follow in his footsteps, believing we all have a personal responsibility not to cooperate with wars.

Published in Guest Commentary

KRISTINA SHULL, PhD AND ALFONZO GONZALEZ, PhD FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Prison1 0711wrpSunlight through prison bars. (Photo: Andreas Bohnenstengel)As most of us spend our summer enjoying the outdoors, firing up the barbecue, and spending time with our families – the men and women being held at the Adelanto Detention Facility, operated by the GEO Group, are re-launching a hunger strike to demand their safe release and to protest inhumane conditions.

The recent protest should make us think about the crisis of democracy that we are facing under President Donald Trump.This is now the third hunger strike by detainees at Adelanto. What started off as the #Adelanto9, nine men who were part of a refugee caravan that arrived at the U.S./Mexico border in May seeking political asylum, has gained momentum and now includes roughly 50 strikers. 

The Adelanto 9 first announced their hunger strike on the morning of June 12. Two days later, 33 womenlaunched a hunger strike of their own. Their demands include better medical care, fair bond amounts, to be reunited with their children and families, and to be treated "like humans, not animals."

The Adelanto 9 have been subjected to abusive and arbitrary forms of punishment for exercising the most basic rights that one would expect to have in a democracy. Three deaths have occurred there since the new year, and human rights groups have been tracking ongoing egregious conditions and medical neglect.

The American Civil Rights Union (ACLU) noted that the detainees were cuffed and pepper sprayed for their peaceful protest in a clear act of retaliation. One striker was deported as the remaining eight were separated into four groups; and GEO guards mocked them and threatened to tell the immigration judge about the strike to undermine their cases.

Published in Guest Commentary

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Erin 0710wrp optErin Brockovich (Photo: Eva Rinaldi)Environmental activist Erin Brockovich is helping Oklahoma's Pawnee Nation take on several fracking companies in a lawsuit alleging that damages to its tribal buildings and reservation property was the result of man-made, or induced, earthquakes.

National Geographic reports that the Native American tribe has retained the law firm Weitz & Luxenberg, with the aid of Brockovich, to sue Eagle Road Oil LLC, Cummings Oil Company, and 25 other oil and gas companies.

In September 2016, a magnitude 5.8 earthquake—the state's largest ever recorded—struck near the town of Pawnee. The tribe alleges that wastewater injected into wells operated by the defendants caused the record-breaking quake and is seeking damages to real and personal property, market value losses, as well as punitive damages.

The lawsuit accuses the defendants of "knowingly causing" the tremors and that their actions "constitute wanton or reckless disregard for public or private safety."

The case will be heard in tribal court. "The Nation wanted this to be an assertion of their sovereignty," Curt Marshall, counsel for Weitz & Luxenberg representing the Pawnee, told National Geographic. "After all, they are a nation, a sovereign nation: they have jurisdiction, even over non-Indians, on their land."

Published in Guest Commentary

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Net 0710 optA shredded net. (Photo: Sandstein)The entire 2017 safety net is about $850 billion, compared to over $1.5 trillion for tax expenditures, most of which are for rich Americans

The Unrelenting Wealth Grab by the 1%

The average 1% household increased its wealth by $3 million in 2016. Since much of that was in the form of stock gains, they paid tax on only a small part of their incomes, and then took an average of about $200,000 per household in tax subsidies. When ALL forms of taxes and income and capital gains are considered, the richest 1% pay lower tax rates than the poorest 20% of Americans. 

The Rich Old White Guy's Safety Net: Retirement and Health Care

Wealthy people are living longer, so they're getting much more of the late-life benefits. A Brookings report estimates that lowest-quintile Americans born in 1960 will receive "only 78 percent of the lifetime Medicare benefits received by the top income quintile." A Congressional Research Service report states: "When Social Security benefits are measured on a lifetime basis, low earners, who show little to no gains in life expectancy over time, are projected to receive increasingly lower benefits than those with high earnings." The American Medical Association agrees. The National Institutes of Health agrees. Middle- and upper-income Americans are even grabbing MEDICAID benefits because of the program's accommodating asset-exclusion limits.

Published in Guest Commentary

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Retail 0707wrp optA typical supermarket aisle. (Photo: Lars Frantzen)Excellent news, folks: A decade after Wall Street greed crashed our economy and crushed the working class, jobs are suddenly plentiful!

As an Associated Press article joyously put it, "The U.S. job market has settled into a sweet spot of steadily solid growth." At long last, the American dream is back for working families, right? Well ... in a word: No. Further down in the article, AP's sweet news turns sour with this little admission: "About all that's still missing [in the jobs market] is a broad acceleration in pay."

In other words, you can find work, but getting paid for it is another matter. And forget about such "luxuries" as health coverage, pension, sick leave, vacation time and having a regular schedule. These are not jobs, they're jobettes! Most are in service work — such as fast food chains, amusement parks, nursing homes, Big Box retailers, car washes, delivery services, supermarkets and call centers. Nearly all are poorly paid, temporary, offer little or no upward mobility and are routinely exploitative.

Ironically, the fact that so many families have been in dire economic straits for so long that they now have to take such onerous, one-sided terms of employment increases the power of low-wage corporations. With hundreds of thousands of people scrambling at once to find jobs, the bosses can effectively conspire to hold pay levels down and get away with treating hires as disposable cogs in the corporate profit machine. Indeed, the phenomenally-bloated profits they've been enjoying are largely extracted from the labor of underpaid workers. And in a double irony, corporations rationalize the obscene salaries and bonuses they give to top executives by pointing to those same profits the executives take out of the workers' paychecks.

Published in Guest Commentary

JULIA TRAVERS OF ENVIRONEWS ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

WattsBar 0705wrp optThe Watts-Bar nuclear generating station. (Photo: TVA Web Team)On March 23, 2017, after less than six months of operation, the Tennessee Valley Authority's (TVA) Watts Bar 2 nuclear power unit (Watts Bar 2) was shut down. Failing components in the condenser caused America's first 21st Century nuclear reactor to cease functioning, and as of July 3, it remains shut down.

"Nuclear technology is very unforgiving… The nuclear industry is very optimistic about its projections of performance. This is more evidence that they need to temper that optimism," David Lochbaum, Director of the Nuclear Safety Project at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), told The LA Times.

Lochbaum was specifically referencing the importance of the condenser, which cools down the steam used to drive the unit's generating turbines. The unit will now be offline until sometime this summer, preventing it from providing electricity during peak demand in the TVA service region.

"We have a team of workers currently evaluating the extent of the condition within the condenser at Watts Barr 2 and we have already begun repairs that should allow us to return the unit to service sometime this summer," Jim Hopson, Manager of TVA Public Relations told EnviroNews.

Hopson also said there was no risk of radioactive material entering the environment due to the condenser failure. "The condenser is not a part of the nuclear side of the plant," he continued. "The condenser is on the power generation side, which is completely separate, so there are no radiological concerns, whatsoever."

Published in Guest Commentary
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