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How to clean up asbestos.How to clean up asbestos. (Photo: NAVFAC / Flickr)


Attorneys and scientists with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) objected to the Trump administration's proposal of a "significant new use rule" (SNUR) for asbestos, according to internal agency emails obtained by the The New York Times.

Trump's former EPA boss Scott Pruitt quietly announced the proposal in June, framing the plan as an "important, unprecedented action on asbestos," a toxic construction material and known carcinogen that kills almost 15,000 U.S. citizens annually.

Asbestos is not banned in the U.S. but there are strict regulations on its use. But as Fast Company noted, the way the proposed rule is written could allow manufacturers to create new products containing asbestos on a case-by-case basis.

Children in a mountain village, Yemen.Children in a mountain village, Yemen. (Photo: kate_griffin13 / Flickr)


On August 9, a U.S.-supported Saudi airstrike bombed a bus carrying schoolchildren in Sa'ada, a city in northern Yemen. The New York Times reported that the students were on a recreational trip. According to the Sa'ada health department, the attack killed at least forty-three people.

According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, at least twenty-nine of those killed were children under the age of fifteen, and forty-eight people were wounded, including thirty children.

CNN aired horrifying, heartbreaking footage of children who survived the attack being treated in an emergency room. One of the children, carrying his UNICEF issued blue backpack, is covered with blood and badly burned.

Friday, 10 August 2018 07:16

Poverty, Violence and Spiritual Wildfires

Skyfire 0810wrp


'They take advantage of that opportunity and they shoot into a crowd, no matter who they hit.'

The news this past weekend emerging from my fair city, Chicago, felt like news about wildfires sweeping across California: the sudden, hellish karma of climate change, that is to say, the gradual collapse of life-sustaining conditions on Planet Earth thanks to centuries of cluelessly exploitative human activity.


6771698125 9e979f1d04 z Kate Ter Haar/Flickr

The United States has the world's largest private prison population. As The Sentencing Project's recent report Capitalizing on Mass Incarceration: U.S. Growth in Private Prisons, pointed out, "Of the 1.5 million people in state and federal prisons in 2016, 8.5 percent, or 128,063, were incarcerated in private prisons. Another 26,249 people - 73 percent of all people in immigration detention - were confined in privately-run facilities on a daily basis during fiscal year 2017." 

President Trump's zero tolerance immigration policy has resulted in a huge bump in arrests and detentions of immigrants and their children, and the concomitant rise in the need for more detention facilities. According to The Sentencing Project, an advocacy research and publishing group supporting alternatives to prison, "Trump's 2018 proposed budget to Congress asked for $1.2 billion to add 15,000 more private prison beds for immigration detention. In September 2017, ICE requested that a new immigrant detention center be constructed in South Texas, stating that it would need to hold approximately 1,000 more migrants. This facility will be operated by GEO Group, and is expected to open in late 2018." 

Trump's policies have, as Scott M. Stringer and Javier H. Valdés wrote recently in The New York Times, "one clear beneficiary: the private prison industry."


Womanpower logo WikiCommons

August 7 was Black Women's Equal Pay Day, marking the date that a Black woman must work to be paid what a white man was paid last year. In other words, Black women had to work seven additional months to be paid what the typical white man was paid in 2017. When compared to white, non-Latino men, Black women, on average, earn only 63 cents to the dollar. 

To put it plainly, we are making much less for the same contributions to the workforce. 

The wage gap is perpetuated by systematic employment discrimination, lack of pay transparency, a subpar minimum wage, unfair workplace practices, lack of affordable child care and attacks against organized labor. Black women carry the burden of both the gender and race-based bias still experienced in the workplace. 

Hot 0808wrp(Photo: Ana Guzzo / Flickr)


An ongoing heatwave has sent a record 71,266 people to hospitals across Japan between April 30 and Aug. 5 with 138 people dying from heat-related illnesses, The Japan Times reported, citing the nation's Fire and Disaster Management Agency.

The busy capital of Tokyo saw the highest number of people taken to hospitals, at 5,994. Osaka followed with 5,272. About 40 percent of the total tally consists of elderly people.

Wednesday, 08 August 2018 07:07

The United States of Monopoly Rule

Banksy 0808wrpArtwork by Banksy. (Photo: Chris Devers / Flickr)


America's political history has been written in the fierce narrative of war — not only our country's many military clashes with foreign nations, but also our own unending war for democracy in the U.S.

Generation after generation of moneyed elites have persisted in trying to take wealth and power from the workaday majority and concentrate both of those things in their wealthy hands to establish a de facto American aristocracy. Every time, the people have rebelled in organized mass struggles against the monopolist and financial royalists — literally battling for a little more economic fairness, social justice, and equal opportunity. And now, the time of rebellion is upon us again, for We the People are suddenly in the grip of a brutish level of monopolistic power.


800px Ringtailed Lemurs in Berenty David Dennis /WikiCommons

Ninety-five percent of Earth's lemur population is threatened, experts warned this week, underscoring their unfortunate position as the world's most endangered primates.

Of the planet's 111 known lemur species and subspecies, 105 can be provisionally evaluated as critically endangered, endangered or vulnerable, a group of primate specialists convened by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) determined.

"This is, without a doubt, the highest percentage of threat for any large group of mammals and for any large group of vertebrates," Global Wildlife Conservation's chief conservation officer Russ Mittermeier, said in a press release.

Tuesday, 07 August 2018 06:38

Hibakusha and Hope in the Nuclear Age


495px Hiroshima NagasakiA picture of the Hiroshima bombing taken for the US government. Charles Levy /WikiCommons

This week marks 73 years since the U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6thand 9th, ultimately resulting in the deaths of more than 200,000 people. With the dawn of the nuclear age, the term "hibakusha" formally entered our lexicon.Atomic bomb survivors are referred to in Japanese as hibakusha, which translates literally as "bomb-affected-people."  The bombings and aftermath changedthe world forever and threaten the very future of mankind to this day.

 According to the Atomic Bomb Survivors Relief Law, there are three hibakusha categories. These include people exposed directly to the bomb and its immediate aftermath, those people exposed within a 2-kilometer radius who entered the sphere of destruction within two weeks of the explosion, and people exposed to radioactive fallout generally from assisting victims and handling bodies. These also include those exposed in utero, whose mothers were pregnant and belonging to any of these defined categories.

Hibakusha have provided a living legacy to the horrors and threat of nuclear war. The threat continues to this day, fueled by a new nuclear arms race initiated by the United States proposal to spend upwards of $1.7 trillion over the next 30 years to rebuild our entire nuclear arsenal. Every other nuclear nation is following suit in modernizing their arsenals as well, giving rise to the myth of nuclear deterrence that has driven the arms race since its inception.

Eurofire 0806wrpWildfires in Europe. (Photo: 15615 / Flickr)


By now we're accustomed to learning that every year brings record high temperatures around the world. Extreme weather, says Prof. Michael Mann of Pennsylvania State University, "is the face of climate change. We literally would not have seen these extremes in the absence of climate change. The impacts of climate change are no longer subtle. We are seeing them play out in real time and what is happening this summer is a perfect example of that. We are seeing our predictions come true. As a scientist that is reassuring, but as a citizen of planet Earth, it is very distressing to see that as it means we have not taken the necessary action."

Ordinary folks, rich and poor, who live in low-lying areas such as port cities and towns on rivers and coastlines, and in certain forested areas, are in increasing danger of losing their homes—and possibly their lives—to floods and fires. But members of the governing and business elite always have the option to move away from flood and fire zones, not to mention pollution and hurricanes. So where's their incentive to think ahead and about others' wellbeing?  They need to be called to account!

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