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Yemen 0523wrp optA malnourished little girl with her mother in Yemen. (Photo: lastextremeanonymous / Flickr)On May 10, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia informed the UN Security Council and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres that Saudi Air Defenses intercepted two Houthi ballistic missiles launched from inside Yemeni territory targeting densely populated civilian areas in Riyadh, the Saudi capital. No one was killed, but an earlier attack, on March 26, 2018, killed one Egyptian worker in Riyadh and an April 28 attack killed a Saudi man.

Unlike the unnumbered victims of the Saudis' own ongoing bombardment of Yemen, these two precious, irreplaceable lives are easy to document and count. Death tolls have become notoriously difficult to count accurately in Yemen. Three years of U.S.-supported blockades and bombardments have plunged the country into immiseration and chaos.

In their May 10th request, the Saudis asked the UN to implement "all relevant Security Council resolutions in order to prevent the smuggling of additional weapons to the Houthis, and to hold violators of the arms embargo accountable." The letter accuses Iran of furnishing the Houthi militias with stockpiles of ballistic missiles, UAVs and sea mines. The Saudis' letter omits mention of massive U.S. weapons exports to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).


Wealth 0523wrp opt(Photo: TMAB2003 / Flickr)In the fierce labor wars of the last century, industrial barons employed Pinkertons and other goons to bloody the heads of laborers or simply gun down those struggling for a share of economic and political power. It was brutal, but organized workers persevered and eventually gained a share of economic and political power. From their sweat and blood, America's middle class flowered.

Today, the bands of nouveau corporate royalists (with coats of arms bearing such names as Mercer, DeVos and Koch) are determined to take back those middle-class gains of yesteryear. They are working to achieve this through a coordinated, long-term campaign to crush the ability of working people to unionize, bust America's middle-class wage structure, eliminate job security and emasculate government as a force capable of controlling corporate avarice and arrogance.

These latter-day royalists are employing a more sophisticated thuggery than brute force (though don't think they wouldn't resort to it). Instead, their goons are more likely to be in Gucci than brogans, using dollars and computers rather than clubs and guns. They have been recruiting, financing, training, deploying and coordinating thousands of political operatives to work through hundreds of front groups, law firms, think tanks, PACs, lobbying offices, media and PR consortiums, faux academic centers, astroturf campaigns and, of course , compliant politicians.


carloanjpgTrump signs off on racial discrimination in car loans. (Photo: GotCredit)

While Trump and the Republicans were demanding to know about the FBI informant who probed some staffers in the Trump campaign about alleged Russian meddling in the election, and while Trump's tweets were sucking up the mainstream media news, there was another development that went almost unnoticed. It is the kind of action that sets the US back on guaranteeing equal racial rights, and it is typical of many moves by the Trump administration and Congress to backtrack on civil rights.

What happened is that on Monday, Trump -- behind closed doors -- signed an arcane congressional action that would allow car dealers to discriminate against people of color seeking to buy vehicles. The Independent reported on the signing of the bill:

Congress voted last month to overturn guidance from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) that targeted “dealer markups” -- interest rate hikes that auto dealers place on third-party auto loans to make a profit. Mr Trump signed the bill into law on Monday in a private session.

Studies have shown minorities are regularly charged more for dealer markups than white buyers with similar credit. The CFPB warned dealers in 2013 against using these markups, saying they could lead to a lawsuit from the agency. Since then, the bureau has penalized major companies like Honda, Toyota, and Ally Financial for lending discrimination.

In fact, a recent study by the National Fair Housing Alliance (NHFA) -- entitled, "Discrimination When Buying a Car: How the Color of Your Skin Can Affect Your Car-Shopping Experience" -- sent out non-white and white testers with fake credentials to auto dealerships. All the white testers' credentials showed they had less income and were less eligible than the non-white testers for dealership car loans.


800px Bears Alaska 3Brown bears in Katmai National Park and Preserve in Alaska.

The Trump administration has proposed new regulations to overturn an Obama-era rule that protects iconic predators in Alaska's national preserves.

Wildlife protection organizations condemned the move, as it would allow hunters to go to den sites to shoot wolf pups and bear cubs, lure and kill bears over bait, hunt bears with dogs and use motor boats to shoot swimming caribou. Such hunting methods were banned on federal lands in 2015 that are otherwise permitted by the state.

The proposed rule, posted Tuesday in the federal register and pushed by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, "would remove a regulatory provision issued by the National Park Service (NPS) in 2015 that prohibited certain sport hunting practices that are otherwise permitted by the State of Alaska."



sandyhookgunsNo end in sight to the tidal wave of guns in the United States. (Photo: Patrick Feller)

The school massacres and shootings keep mounting. It is an epidemic. There are so many that we tend to bury past school gun deaths at the backs of our minds. After all, it was not long ago, in 2012, that the grotesque killings occurred at Sandy Hook elementary school in Connecticut. The nation was in shock until the next mass shootings. As CBS News reported about the incident:

Adam Lanza … who reportedly had a preoccupation with mass shootings, in particular the 1999 Columbine massacre, killed his mother, Nancy Lanza, and then drove to the elementary school, where he shot and killed 26 people, including 20 first-graders, in less than 11 minutes, before taking his own life. Two other school staffers were wounded by gunfire.

As with each mass shooting in the United States, there were calls for gun reform. However, six years later, we are still waiting on the federal level to achieve any substantial positive change in the nation's gun laws. In fact, the National Rifle Association (NRA) has quietly passed bills in Congress that ease gun control, rather than make it tighter. Furthermore, the NRA bats down gun reform bills like pesky mosquitoes. How long has it been since Columbine? The only congressional action since then on assault weapons was to remove the ban on them in 2004.

Trump has also signed executive orders that favor NRA positions. The NRA spent approximately $31 million to help elect Trump president. Ironically, Trump recently attended the annual NRA convention in Dallas, and he spoke in a gun-free zone. Yes, the Secret Service had all attendees who wanted to hear the president walk through metal detectors to ensure that they were not carrying firearms. The same was true for Vice President Pence, who spoke to the group earlier. Apparently, Trump and Pence are beneficiaries of gun-free zones, but students are not.


hauser 5 22 18The FTC should have appointed a leader of the Bureau of Consumer Protection with a proven commitment to consumer protection.

Only in a world in which the head of the Environmental Protection Agency treats the environment like an enemy of his family does the latest news from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) make any semblance of sense.

On May 16, Trump's handpicked FTC Chairman Joseph Simons and his fellow Republican commissioners installed revolving door veteran Andrew Smith to a senior leadership position at the FTC. Smith, who has spent several years specializing in advising firms which harm consumers, will now run the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection.

"Harm consumers" might sound like an exaggeration, but a glance at Andrew Smith's client list reads like a "who's who" of the worst consumer rip-offs of the past 18 months, including representing Facebook, Uber and Equifax. 

It's a wonder Wells Fargo seems to have never sought input from Smith.

The FTC's "About the FTC" page identifies as its mission: "[w]orking to protect consumers."


Meat 0521wrp optMeat mural. (Photo: b.ug / Flickr)Missouri state lawmakers passed an omnibus agriculture bill on Thursday that includes a provision prohibiting plant-based products from being labeled as "meat."

This measure would ban companies from using the term "plant-based meat" to describe their products. It would also prevent any future lab-grown products that hit the market from using the labeling.

The change was approved on a 125-22 vote and was backed by the state's pork producers, the Missouri Farm Bureau and the Missouri Cattlemen's Association, the St. Louis Dispatch reported.

Critics see the act as an attempt from the beef lobby to clamp down on the $5 billion "fake" meat industry, which has boomed from the public's increasing appetite for healthier, more humane and environmentally sustainable food products.


Fam 0521wrp optFamilies separated at the US-Mexican border. (Photo: BBC World Service / Flickr)Families are being split up in the name of "zero tolerance" immigration policies. Jeff Sessions said, "[Your] child will be separated from you as required by law. If you don't like that, then don't smuggle children over our border." John Kelly, White House chief of staff, added, "The children will be taken care of — put into foster care or whatever." Yes, he said "whatever."

This isn't much different from slave-trading days. People then were forced INTO the country and families separated; now they're forced OUT OF the country and families separated. In both cases families have done whatever is necessary, in their own personal worlds, to survive and stay together and find happiness. And in both cases an institution of authority has made rules on behalf of the better-positioned segment of society, rules which impact the lives of those deemed somehow less valuable.

This may not be the deadliest act committed by American leaders, but it's incomparably vile in its cruelty toward human beings who have been living among us, sometimes for many years. For conservatives who are always preaching the importance of stable families, it's shocking to see the little opposition to breaking up and turning out so many loving mothers and fathers and children.


Stack 0518wrp opt(Photo: Billy Wilson / Flickr)April 2018 was the 400th consecutive month of global temperatures above the 20th century average, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced Thursday.

That means the last time Earth was cooler than that average was December 1984—the same month Band Aid released "Do They Know It's Christmas."

This three-decade streak is not some fluke, NOAA scientists remarked.

"It's mainly due to anthropogenic (human-caused) warming," NOAA climatologist Ahira Sanchez told CNN. "Climate change is real, and we will continue to see global temperatures increase in the future."

The rising temps could be explained by natural causes such as an El Niño, but as Sanchez noted, "if you were to remove the human factor, you would still see a variability, but it would be up and down."


medicarealljpgCan universal coverage emerge from Trump's health insurance chaos? (Photo: Molly Adams)

Although Donald Trump continually bellows that he is going to resolve the health care insurance crisis, the facts belie his assertions. During his efforts to repeal Obamacare last year, he revealed either a cynical demagogic streak on the issue or an ignorance of the issue that impacts the most essential right of every person in the US: health. It probably is a combination of the two. After all, as Mother Jones reported in 2017, "Trump still doesn’t know the difference between health insurance and life insurance." Yes, that's correct, the president of the United States believes that extremely complicated and expensive health insurance works like term life insurance.

However, a recent poll indicates that Trump's ignorance and zeal to undo Obamacare may come back to bite the Republicans running for Congress in the midterms. As revealed in a May 16 Yahoo Finance column:

The number of uninsured Americans in 2017 saw its largest single-year increase since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act's coverage expansion, according to Gallup data....

According to the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index, the number of Americans without health insurance rose by 1.3 percentage points in 2017, representing about 3.2 million people. 

Those who experienced the largest declines in coverage included people between the ages of 18 and 25, Black and Latino people, and individuals with an annual household income of less than $36,000, according to the column.

It is not surprising, given the Republican demographics, that those most affected by anti-Obamacare campaign are the poor, people of color and the young. Remember that although Trump and the GOP were not successful at repealing Obamacare, they wounded it in many ways. This occurred through Trump executive orders and even congressional action, such as the tax restructuring bill from last year.

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