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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

6886069226 c51dae64e0 zMigrants from Cental America Riding harrowing "The Beast" train (from south to north in Mexico) to try and make it to the US. (Photo: Peter Haden)

One day after BuzzFlash at Truthout posted an interview about how the draconian US migration policies across the Mexican border are causing countless deaths in the Sonoran Desert, The Guardian ran an article entitled, "Mexico deports record numbers of women and children in US-driven effort: Tens of thousands fleeing violence and poverty deported to Central America after pressure from the US to prevent migrants reaching American border."

Unfortunately, these two facets of US brutal enforcement of brutal immigration enforcement toward Mexican and Latin Americans who are struggling to survive are only a small part of the bigger picture. It is estimated that more than 800,000 men, women and children have been deported annually in recent years, kept from entering or dying trying to get into the United States during the peak of militarized and kangaroo court deportations and border turnbacks.

What the Obama administration has done is the least of the setbacks for generally poor Latinos fleeing poverty, in large part caused by NAFTA, and violence that has been, in great part, a byproduct of the sham US "war on drugs" and the deportation of violent criminals back to their home countries. In essence, the US policy of cruel rejection of Mexico and Central America migrants in dire need and under threat of violence from gangs, the police and the military is tossing them back into a cage in which barely surviving or violent death are two of the most dire alternatives.

INTERVIEW WITH ROBERT NEUSTADT ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

abordersongs214 year old Josseline Janiletha Hernandez Quinteros, from El Salvador, was a victim of US border policy who died in the Sonoran Desert. (Photo: Rex Koningsor for Border Songs)

Today's BuzzFlash at Truthout commentary is an interview with Robert Neustadt – a professor of Spanish at Northern Arizona University - who cofounded Border Songs, a group that supports saving the lives of migrants from Mexico who often perish from the harsh desert conditions trying to make it into Arizona. 

MARK KARLIN: Why do so many migrants die trying to cross into the US through Arizona? Hasn't the US created border enforcement strategies that force people to cross through a broiling desert?

ROBERT NEUSTADT: Yes, there is no question that US government border enforcement strategies have resulted in an enormous increase in border crosser deaths. In 1994, the US government explicitly adopted a strategy called “enforcement through deterrence”, which was outlined in a Border Patrol position paper. The strategy was to seal off the easy-to-cross urban areas near El Paso, Tijuana and Nogales by building walls, ramping up Border Patrol presence, adding more sensors, technology, and recently, patrolling with drones, while leaving open swaths of remote, hazardous back country. By closing the urban areas where people traditionally crossed, enforcement pushes undocumented border crossers into desert and mountain terrain in Arizona (and Texas). This “funnel effect” is clearly a primary factor that results in migrant deaths, and has been acknowledged by everyone from policy makers to humanitarians.

During the early 1990’s, the number of border crosser deaths examined per year by the Pima County Medical Examiner in Arizona varied between 5 and 11. In the year 2010, following construction of almost 700 miles of wall and a huge increase in the number of Border Patrol agents and enforcement technology, they examined 225 human remains in the same office. I find it profoundly disturbing that most people have no idea of the scope of this crisis. These statistics are all readily available and confirmable, but you have to seek them out because the media does not cover the issue sufficiently. Since 1994, they have found over 7,000 human remains in the borderlands, the majority of these in Arizona, and this number only represents the number of bodies found! The actual number of border crosser deaths is almost certainly significantly higher though the bodies were never found.

Currently, the morgue in Tucson houses over 900 unidentified human remains of presumed border crossers. Marc Silver’s documentary film, Who is Dayani Cristal (with Gael Garcia Bernal, 2013) emphasizes the severity of the issue.

This situation is a full-blown humanitarian catastrophe, and US government border enforcement strategy is directly implicated in the dramatic increase in deaths. Even more disturbing is the fact that the number of undocumented border crossers has dropped precipitously while the rate of deaths has remained relatively steady. This means that the chance that someone will die while crossing the border has sky-rocketed, and this is a direct result of our efforts to “secure the border.” This is compounded by the fact that we have deported over two million people since Obama has been in office. Many of these people will attempt to cross to rejoin their families.

STEVE JONAS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaSniperRifle(Photo: USMC)“American Sniper” has stirred up the Right (see Fox ”News” and etc.) and it has stirred up the Left. The Right sees the movie as one about a “patriotic American,” “doing his duty to protect our country and the freedoms it stands for.” The Right sees any critic of the film, as a commie, as a traitor, as “un-American,” if not “un-Christian” (for after all, sniper Chris Kyle was fighting the Muslims, wasn’t he?) The Left, and of course I include myself in that group, see the movie in much more complex, much starker terms, which I shall address.

In terms of the standard Right-wing propaganda lines, oddly enough, Kyle didn’t see himself as “fighting to protect the American way of life” at all. Rather, when asked a direct question on a Fox ”News” show, he said that he did what he did in order to protect his buddies. Then, there is the well-discussed historical fallacy that the Iraq War had anything to do with 9/11. The old canard that a representative of Saddam Hussein’s government went to Prague, Czech Republic, to meet with a representative from al Qaeda and that meant that they were hooking up has long since been disposed of as a unproven and unlikely rumor. Do you really think that a secular Hussein, already facing strong threats from the United States, would have formed an alliance with a religiously-based terror organization that had originally been formed in Afghanistan by the same United States? The historical distortions are a minor tragedy, but a tragedy nevertheless.

Then there are the questions that have been raised about the movie’s definition of heroism. There was a great 2001 film about the Battle of Stalingrad (one of very few US films about the Soviet role in winning World War II) called Enemy at the Gates. The hero is a Red Army sniper. The villain is a Wehrmacht sniper. But hero/villain depends very much whose side you are on, doesn’t it? It’s whose side he is on. To many U.S., he’s a hero, but a sniper on the other side he would a wicked villain, killing people with abandon.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

annypdNYPD commissioner wanted a special paramilitary police unit to patrol protesters with machine guns and sniper rifles. (Photo: Stig Nygaard)

In an age when shows like "The Daily Show" and the late "Colbert Report" use irony to make the horrifying and ludicrous convincingly humorous, sometimes it is hard to believe that reality is not its own parody.

Consider a recent news conference given by New York Police Department (NYPD) Commissioner Bill Bratton, in which he proudly announced that a new police unit would prevent terrorist attacks and patrol protests with machine guns. The NYPD commissioner went out of his way to essentially equate terrorists with protesters (implying that the latter group included the recent wave of protesters who publicly condemned the killing of Eric Garner).

According to the January 29 Gothamist:

Police Commissioner Bratton made the announcement earlier today at an event hosted by the Police Foundation at the Mandarin Oriental. He said that the new 350 cop unit, called The Strategic Response Group, will be dedicated to "disorder control and counterterrorism protection capabilities" against attacks like the hostage situation in Sydney, which the NYPD's Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence John Miller said was an inevitability in NYC.

This new squad will be used to investigate and combat terrorist plots, lone wolf terrorists, and... protests. "It is designed for dealing with events like our recent protests, or incidents like Mumbai or what just happened in Paris," Bratton said....

2015.2.2.Newborn.BFMaternal exposure to high levels of flame-retardants may be a contributing factor in preterm births. (Photo: US Air Force / Flickr)TONY IALLONARDO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

A new study finds expecting mothers who were exposed to a flame retardant chemical may have been more likely to have a premature birth. That’s a concern because premature babies may have more health problems and may need to stay in the hospital longer than babies born later. They also may have long-term health problems that can affect their whole lives.

Researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch have determined that maternal exposure to high levels of flame-retardants may be a contributing factor in preterm births. The study was recently published in the Journal of Reproductive Immunology. The researchers focused on PBDEs, a class of flame retardants that have been banned in several states and are used less. But, the industry has substituted PBDEs with other brominated flame retardants that continue to raise health concerns.

2015.2.2.Buchheit.BFMayor of Chicago Rahm Emanuel. (Photo: Viewminder / Flickr)PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Chicago is being privatized. Assets are being sold off, Wall Street debt is mounting, and the mayor conducts business with multi-millionaire donors who often reap benefits from their connections to City Hall. The people of Chicago, who will be electing their next mayor on February 24, need to know the facts about their city's financial problems. Some of these facts won't be found in the mainstream media.

Like Detroit in 2013, Chicago is becoming a symbol of a divided nation, of a society crippled by a 35-year-old notion that the "public good" is somehow un-American. Other U.S. cities have learned that their people and their public services are not products to be bought and sold. Chicago, under Rahm Emanuel and Richie Daley and an assortment of Illinois Governors, has been headed in the other direction.


Schools For Sale

It starts with the public schools, the anchors of their communities and centers of equal opportunity for our children. Illinois cut education spending by a greater percentage than any other state in fiscal 2012, and for 2013 it was third-worst in cuts per student. Privatizers rushed in and blamed the public system. As a result, 50 neighborhood schools were closed in Chicago, opening the way for charter schools, which take taxpayer money but have little accountability to the public and an obligation only to their investors.

REV. BILLY TALEN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

abilly76 In Grand Central Station, Rev. Billy Talen was a victim of the criminalization of dissent. (Photo: Erik McGregor)

A 24-Hour vigil at Grand Central Station organized by the group "We Will Not Be Silent" was held on on Monday, January 5, through Tuesday, January 6. "We Will Not Be Silent" publically memorialized people of color killed by the police with placards of their names on the floor, and condemned the epidemic.

I arrived to speak to the group, introduced by "Justice Jester," at noon on Tuesday. 

By time I spoke, law enforcement officials from various agencies swamped Grand Central station, and I was arrested and charged with "obstruction" and "disorderly conduct.” They had been demanding that the names of victims be picked up, and the protesters refused. I began speaking at about the time that the police intended to confiscate the signs.

After 20 hours in the New York City correctional called The Tombs, I was released and found that a completely fictional story about the arrest was planted in the Murdoch papers (the Post and the Wall Street Journal) as well as a popular liberal blog called The Gothamist. The media meme was that Reverend Billy “got physical” and “attacked a policeman.” The head of security for Grand Central Station was quoted as a source for the accusation, which was entirely untrue.

DR. DAVID SUZUKI OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaSuzukiEcoWatch(Photo: EcoWatch)In 1997, Canada restricted import and transfer of the gasoline additive MMT because it was a suspected neurotoxin that had already been banned in Europe. Ethyl Corp., the U.S. multinational that supplied the chemical, sued the government for $350 million under the North American Free Trade Agreement and won! Canada was forced to repeal the ban, apologize to the company and pay an out-of-court settlement of US$13 million.

The free trade agreement between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico was never designed to raise labor and environmental standards to the highest level. In fact, NAFTA and other trade agreements Canada has signed—including the recent Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement with China—often take labor standards to the lowest denominator while increasing environmental risk. The agreements are more about facilitating corporate flexibility and profit than creating good working conditions and protecting the air, water, land and diverse ecosystems that keep us alive and healthy.

Canada’s environment appears to be taking the brunt of NAFTA-enabled corporate attacks. And when NAFTA environmental-protection provisions do kick in, the government often rejects them.

According to a study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, more than 70 percent of NAFTA claims since 2005 have been against Canada, with nine active cases totaling $6 billion outstanding. These challenge “a wide range of government measures that allegedly interfere with the expected profitability of foreign investments,” including the Quebec government’s moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBossie(Photo: Gage Skidmore)You are undoubtedly aware that the financial network that Charles and David Koch have established is aiming to spend nearly one billion dollars on the 2016 elections. They'll be numerous public relations outfits, advertising firms, and media experts vying to soak up some cash. Will Citizens United's David Bossie grab a seat on the Koch Brothers' gravy train?

In 2008, the conservative movement was preparing to go balls (inflated, not deflated) to the wall against Hillary Clinton. Anti-Hillary projects were developed at a fever pitch: Books were written; documentaries readied; websites set up. Hillary: The Movie, the mother of all attack films -- produced by David Bossie and his organization, Citizens United – was to be aired on cable TV before the Democratic primaries. Everything was in place and then ... and then ... the federal government blocked the film from being aired, arguing that it wasn't a movie, but an extended political commercial. Barack Obama knocked off Clinton in the Democratic primaries, and ultimately won the White House. The best-laid anti-Clinton plans were waylaid.

For conservatives, however, all was not lost. The U.S. Supreme Court took up the case called Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. In 2010, it ruled 5-4 that spending limits in the McCain-Feingold act were unconstitutional, and that allowed virtually unlimited contributions by corporations and unions to political action committees.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

amittromking(Image: Donkey Hotey)

Mitt Romney and some other renowned Republicans are now attempting to rebrand themselves as "anti-poverty" fighters.

This is a bit like the Koch Brothers waking up one day, calling a press conference and announcing that they are beginning a campaign to end personal, corporate, PAC and organizational giving to political candidates and affiliated support groups.

The GOP is great at disseminating and emphasizing top-down Frank Luntz-style memes. That's in large part due to the authoritarian nature of the Republican Party, which is a well-disciplined machine of candidates, media and political stunts. A bit like the military or police, Republicans, in general, follow the chain of command. 

That is why the new Republican emphasis on the so-called elimination of poverty extends down from Romney to two local Wisconsin legislators. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel,

Two influential Republican lawmakers proposed a plan Wednesday to fight poverty in Milwaukee's inner city by pushing big changes in the state's schools, tax code and regulations.

Many of the proposals are controversial, including creating urban zones without corporate taxes, typical union rules and state markup requirements on retail sales, and a plan to convert struggling public schools in Milwaukee into independent charter schools answering to a new board....

"People all over the place are hurting, but particularly in these neighborhoods, people are hurting," Rep. Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield) said as he introduced the proposals.

"It's trying to invite new people to the table and try new approaches," Kooyenga said of the agenda he put forward with Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills).

The pattern is clear: Word has come down from the Republican pollsters and sloganeers on high that the GOP must repackage Bill Clinton's "I feel your pain" empathy strategy to position itself for 2016.

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