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JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Resist(Photo: Kristi / Flickr)

"Progress is a nice word," said Bobby Kennedy. "But change is its motivator. And change has its enemies." Over the decades, that sobering reality has confronted every group of Americans who've endeavored to advance our society's democratic ideals of fairness, justice and opportunities for all. From the revolutionaries of the 1770s to today's grassroots rebels engaged in multiple struggles for democratic rights, every inch of progress has been vehemently opposed by entrenched enemies of change. Invariably, the upstart activists of democracy movements find themselves trivialized as unworthy and uppity by elite protectors of the status quo — "What is it those people want, anyway?" they ask with dismissive sneers.

In the early 1900s, that question was answered succinctly and eloquently by Samuel Gompers, the founding president of the American Federation of Labor. Union organizers were routinely being oppressed and literally brutalized by rapacious corporate barons, hired thugs and corrupt politicians and judges — yet they kept organizing, protesting and challenging the power structure. Why? Not just for themselves, Gompers explained, but for the Common Good:

"What does labor want? We want more schoolhouses and less jails; more books and less arsenals; more learning and less vice; more leisure and less greed; more justice and less revenge; in fact, more of the opportunities to cultivate our better natures."

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

pruittchemphotoWho will protect us from toxic chemicals? (Photo: KAdam)

In an administration of grifters, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt stands out. Pruitt has ripped off taxpayers for personal first-class travel, ordered aides to perform personal tasks, used government connections to try and find a job for his wife, and even asked an assistant to pursue buying a “Trump Home Luxury Plush Euro Pillow Top” mattress from the Trump Hotel in Washington. Pruitt managed to get a lobbyist to charge him a bargain $50 a night to stay at a Capitol Hill condo. Then, to add to the list, at government expense he built a $43,000 soundproof phone booth in his office. What is stunning is that these actions are only a partial list of Pruitt's benefiting at the taxpayer's expense and his lack of ethics.

Trump has not drained the swamp with Pruitt; he has tolerated a cesspool of corruption.

However, Pruitt's profound harm to Americans is more due to his policies than his personal errant behavior. Take for example two recent developments in his capitulation to the chemical industry.

 

XAVIER BEST FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

best 6 14 18Too many families have been traumatized by generations of US policy. GQ

A Border Patrol agent's brutal killing of Claudia Gómez González last month in Texas is just one in a growing litany of atrocities committed against Central Americans making the treacherous journey north. Still, her fate in particular stands out as a potent symbol of the legal and moral bankruptcy that has informed US immigration policy for decades. 

As an Indigenous woman from Guatemala, González's killing is a distant consequence of policies stretching back to the days of the Dwight Eisenhower administration. Back then, in 1954, the CIA organized a military coup against Guatemala's second democratically-elected leader Jacobo Arbenz. After he enacted land redistribution policies designed to empower the country's farmers, the US government, acting on behalf of the United Fruit Company (UFCO), mobilized its agents to depose him and install a military dictatorship. 

Writing in his classic study of this period in Guatemalan history, Shattered Hope, renowned Latin American scholar Piero Gleijeses described the UFCO as a "colossus" that expanded its dominion across Central America with "ruthlessness, skill, and ambition," adding that, "UFCO's annual budget was larger than those of the Central American countries in which it operated." Naturally, a corporation with this degree of economic leverage shaped much more than simply what people purchased at the market. United Fruit also determined how people traveled, how information was transmitted and, as in the case of the 1954 coup, who governed them. Fast-forward to 2018, and Guatemala, along with a host of other nations south of the US border, is still wrestling with the horrific legacy of this period.

ANDREW AUSTIN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

austin 5 14 18Cops in schools neither makes schools safe nor facilitates education. Jahi Chikwendiu/Getty

While students and allies march and rally for stricter gun control in the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglass High School massacre in Parkland, Florida, police departments around the country have joined with school districts to push for more armed officers in schools. 

Cops in schools have become an article of faith for law enforcement. Their efforts are being assisted by the National Association of School Resources Officers, which lobbies for more school resource officers (SROs) and touts the occupation as "the fastest-growing area of law enforcement," as well as the National Rifle Association, which represents the firearm and security companies who stand to profit from increased spending on school safety measures.

A SRO is a sworn law enforcement agent who is empowered to make arrests. SROs are usually armed with handcuffs, a loaded gun, an electroshock device, a tearing agent and an inventory of coercive physical techniques to achieve pain compliance.

The phenomenon of the SRO is associated with the appearance of "target hardening" approaches (bars, barriers, fences, hostile planting), surveillance, metal detectors, active-shooter drills and threat assessment training for teachers and administrators.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

antarcticajpg2Ice melt in Antarctica is increasing. (Photo: Tak)

In the midst of a presidential administration and Republican majority in Congress that deny the reality of global warming, factual research continues to indicate the looming disaster of climate change. However, due to the mainstream corporate media focus on the spectacle of Trump, there is little sustained coverage of the peril that awaits us, even though the warning signs are occasionally reported on. Furthermore, the "alternative facts" of the climate deniers stifle intensive coverage of the ruinous future due to relative inaction on reducing carbon and methane emissions.

On June 13 The Washington Post reported on a study that has just been released:

Antarctica’s ice sheet is melting at a rapidly increasing rate, now pouring more than 200 billion tons of ice into the ocean annually and raising sea levels a half-millimeter every year, a team of 80 scientists reported Wednesday.

The melt rate has tripled in the past decade, the study concluded. If the acceleration continues, some of scientists’ worst fears about rising oceans could be realized, leaving low-lying cities and communities with less time to prepare than they had hoped.

The result also reinforces that nations have a short window — perhaps no more than a decade — to cut greenhouse-gas emissions if they hope to avert some of the worst consequences of climate change.

In the period from 2012-2017, Antarctica lost 219 billion tons of ice each year, according to The Post. The article reveals a stunning comparison to that figure: "From 1992 through 1997, Antarctica lost 49 billion tons of ice annually." That's an increase of 170 billion tons of ice melt.

Wire 0513wrp(Photo: Richard Stevens / Flickr)

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

If you watched MSNBC's Rachel Maddow program this past Friday, you would have heard her extolling the virtues of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). As part of her nightly hammering away at the Russian/Team Trump collusion narrative – with her eyes particularly fixed on the monkeyshines of Paul Manafort -- Maddow noted that in 1982, President Ronald Reagan made his "first major trip overseas as president." In a speech to the British parliament he gave what Maddow characterized as "an absolutely blistering critique of the USSR."

According to Maddow, "One of the things that Reagan denounced the Soviet Union for in that speech was them giving covert political training and assistance to Marxists, Leninists in countries all over the world. Just went after the USSR. It was a very aggressive speech."

In that speech, Reagan went on to propose "foster[ing] the infrastructure of democracy, the system of a free press, unions, political parties, universities, which allows a people to choose their own way, to develop their own culture, to reconcile their own differences through peaceful means."

Shoes 0613wrp(Photo: Mike Bitzenhofer / Flickr)

KATHY KELLY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

This past Friday in Afghanistan's Ghazni province, Hazara girls joined young Pashto boys to sing Afghanistan's national anthem as a welcome to Pashto men walking 400 miles from Helmand to Kabul. The walkers are calling on warring parties in Afghanistan to end the war. Most of the men making the journey are wearing sandals. At rest stops, they must tend to their torn and blistered feet. But their mission grows stronger as they walk. In Ghazni, hundreds of residents, along with religious leaders, showed remarkable readiness to embrace the courage and vision of the Helmand-to-Kabul peace walk participants. It seems likely that ordinary Afghans, no matter their tribal lineages, share a profound desire to end forty years of war. The 17-year U.S. war in Afghanistan exceeds the lifetimes of the youngsters in Ghazni who greeted the peace walkers.

On June 7th, Afghanistan's president, Ashraf Ghani, declared a week-long halt to attacks against the Taliban. Spokespersons representing an undetermined number of Taliban affiliates accepted the ceasefire on June 9th, with the U.S. also agreeing to suspend attacks against Taliban fighters.

Can the declared cease-fire lead to negotiations and an end to the war? Given the desperate circumstances I saw during a visit to Kabul in early June, it seems clear that a lasting peace will require finding ways to employ people and enable them to provide food and water for their families.

Tuesday, 12 June 2018 07:00

Who Benefits From the "Booming Economy"?

LAWRENCE WITTNER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

 wittner 6 12 18Soaring wealth and incomes for the few do not automatically translate into better lives for the many. Vital Transparency

Although the US mass media are awash with stories about America's "booming economy," the benefits are distributed very unequally, when they are distributed at all.

Buoyed by soaring corporate profits and stock prices, the richest Americans have reached new and dazzling heights of prosperity.  As of May 2018, the growing crop of billionaires included corporate owners with unprecedented levels of wealth like Jeff Bezos ($112 billion), Bill Gates ($90 billion), and Warren Buffet ($84 billion).  Some families have also grown fantastically rich, including the rightwing Koch brothers ($120 billion) and the Walton family, owners of Walmart (nearly $175 billion).  Together with the rest of America's richest 1 percent, they possess nearly 40 percent of the nation's wealth.

But a great many Americans are not doing nearly as well as the nation's super-wealthy.  That 40 percent of the wealth, in fact, constitutes twice the total wealth held by the bottom 90 percent of the American public (about 294,000,000 people).  On May 17, 2018, the United Way released a study indicating that nearly half of American households could not afford basics like food, housing, and healthcare.  Many of the wage earners in these households were child care workers, home health aides, office assistants, and store clerks -- people who had low-paying jobs and minuscule (if any) savings. 

 

JONATHAN KING FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

king 6 12 18Agents of the US government have a track record of aggressively accusing foreign powers of violating chemical and biological weapons conventions and treaties. Veterans Today

The US missile attack on Syrian targets in April was a dangerous escalation of US military intervention in the Middle East. It was described by the White House and US State Department as a response to alleged use of chemical weapons by Syrian government forces in the town of Douma. In assessing the veracity of the US charges, it is useful to review some of the history of US claims of chemical and biological weapons attacks.

Yellow Rain

In 1981 Ronald Reagan's Secretary of State Alexander Haig charged the Soviet Union with using mycotoxins -- toxins produced by fungi -- in Southeast Asia, violating the Geneva Convention and Biological Weapons Convention. The State Department followed up with reports confirming attacks with mycotoxins and press reports appeared of interviews with Hmong residents claiming exposure to "yellow rain" which came down from the skies. 

The Reagan administration used these charges to try to discredit the Soviet Union and also to increase the Pentagon budget for chemical and biological weapons research (always labeled as "defensive" programs).

Drought 0611wrp(Photo: Bert Kaufmann / Flickr)

KATHY KELLY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Here in Kabul in early June, outside the home of several Afghan Peace Volunteers, a large drilling machine is parked on what was once a lovely garden. To this now muddy patch, workers will soon arrive for another noisy, dusty day of digging for water. The well dried up a week ago. As of today, the household has no water.

Ongoing battles between militants, government forces, and international allies have destroyed much of Kabul's water infrastructure, forcing people to drill their own wells.

Across Kabul, numerous households face similar water shortages. With an average annual rainfall of just fourteen inches, Kabul's water table has been falling each year. The current population, estimated around 4.5 million, is expected to reach 9 million by 2050. The estimated groundwater potential is enough to supply only 2 million inhabitants with water.

Alarming reports say that drought now afflicts twenty-one of Afghanistan's thirty-four provinces.

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