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PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

SSA 0226wrp opt(Photo: Alexander Rabb / Flickr)How was their money made? Almost entirely by passively waiting for the stock market to go up. The data sources for this report are Forbes and Credit Suisse, both of which provide precise numbers for the worsening surge in America's wealth inequality. 

U.S. wealth increased by $8.5 trillion in 2017, with the richest 2 percent getting about $1.15 trillion (details here), which is more than the total cost of Medicaid (federal AND state) and the completesafety net, both mandatory and discretionary, including the low-income programs that make up the social support package derisively referred to as 'welfare.' 

Surprisingly, the richest 1 percent did not increase their wealth by much in 2017 (although they took nearly $4 trillion in 2016). That means the second half of the richest 2 percent, Americans with an average net worth of approximately $10 million, outgained the safety net all by themselves in the past year. 

Another stunner: The richest 2-5 percent, those Americans with an average net worth of about $2.5 million, accumulated enough wealth in 2017 to pay for the safety net FOUR TIMES.

DANA DRUGMAND FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

ParklandKids 0223wrp opt(Photo: Lorie Shaull / Flickr)The student survivors speaking out in the wake of yet another horrific mass shooting represent a significant element of igniting social change -- the mobilization of young people fed up with a rotten political-economic system that puts profits above all else. The courageous Marjory Stoneman Douglas students know that the NRA has effectively bought US elected officials. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio confirmed this during a televised CNN town hall on Wednesday night. When asked by Stoneman Douglas student Cameron Kasky if he would stop taking donations from the NRA, Rubio said that people buy into his agenda. Over the course of his career, Rubio has received more than $3 million from the leading gun manufacturers' lobby.

These students refuse to accept pay-to-play politics and business as usual. Their words and actions are incredibly inspiring. We need to hear from these youngsters. As I wrote in a 2015 op-ed in Truthout, "we especially need the energy and the voices of young people. As Millennials, we need to rise to our historic moment and lead the call for justice and the transformation to a more sustainable society. We have to treat this as the fight of our lives…"

Although I was writing then about climate justice, these words are just as relevant today in the context of gun violence. Young people are seizing this moment and leading the call for change. They are literally fighting for their lives.

Tony Perkins, president of the right wing hate group the Family Research Center.Tony Perkins, president of the right wing hate group the Family Research Council. (Photo: wikimedia)BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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Ever since the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) named the Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council (FRC) a hate group, the FRC began a concerted effort to delegitimize the organization. Now, it contends, the time is ripe to raise money for its anti-SPLC campaign.

For the FRC, it's not only about ending abortion, appointing radical right wing justices to the Supreme Court, re-banning same-sex marriage, or continuing to demonize transgender people. According to Tony Perkins, the president of the FRC, one of the organization's highest priorities in 2018 is "exposing" the "radical agenda" of the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Montgomery, Alabama-based right-wing monitoring group.

Perkins has been down this road before, but now, in a fundraising email to supporters, he stated that "Part of the resources we raise are dedicated to continue our tracking and researching the ins and outs of the SPLC's radical agenda, exposing it online at sites like SPLCexposed.com, monitoring their activities, and alerting families, Christians, and other concerned citizens about their destructive activities."

Specifically mentioned in Perkins' missive are: the SPLC's "Teaching tolerance" campaign, which "is dead set on putting a militant LGBT curriculum in every single public school classroom in America [his bold and underlines]. Those that oppose their effort are branded a 'hate group,' including parents who are concerned about their children's education"; and, focusing on the SPLC's "Best Practices" handbook, in which the organization "directs teachers and administrators to create an LGBT-inclusive 'school climate' by using gender inclusive language and encouraging students to attend events with same-sex dates."

A light brigade holding up "Not One More" in front of the capitol in Madison, Wisconsin on June 1, 2014.A light brigade holding up "Not One More" in front of the capitol in Madison, Wisconsin on June 1, 2014. (Photo: Joe Brusky)ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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The cries of terror and disbelief continue. Teenagers lie down in front of the White House to protest the nation's tepid, stalled gun-control legislation. Parents grieve for their children and stare at the wound carved into the American soul. Assault rifles have more rights than schoolchildren.

A movement simmers, or so it seems, a week after the latest deadly school shooting: seventeen people killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, many more injured. A disturbed loner yet another one is arrested.

It's not simply violence, but wildly profound violation, yet again, yet again, of the deepest of human values: Life is sacred.

Isn't it?

How can this keep happening?

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Famine0221wrp opt(Photo: UNMISS / Flickr)An official with the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warns that climate change and conflict are leading to food insecurity for millions of people living in Africa.

"Undernourishment appears to have risen from about 21 percent to nearly 23 percent between 2015 and 2016," Bukar Tijani, FAO's assistant director general for Africa, said Monday at a conference in Sudan.

"Over the same period, the number of undernourished rose from 200 million to 224 million in Africa. This is a cause of concern for all of us," he said, noting that the continent's population is expected to reach 1.7 billion by 2030.

This rise in undernourishment and food insecurity is linked to the effects of climate change and natural disasters, Tijani later explained to AFP.

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Forest 0221wrp opt(Photo: bjornsphoto / Flickr)Trump Forest—a global reforestation project aiming to offset President Trump's anti-climate policies—has reached 1 million trees after thousands of pledges from around the world.

Trump Forest was launched just under a year ago after POTUS announced he was pulling the U.S. from the Paris agreement.

"Thanks to you guys, you've pledged more than a million trees all over the world to try and offset that ignorance," Adrien Taylor, one of the three founders of the project, said in a video message announcing the milestone. "In doing so, you've not only offset some of the carbon emissions that have come out of the Trump administration, you've also helped reforest communities, and you've helped create a small silver lining in the very dark cloud of ignorance which is in the White House."

The idea behind the effort is simple. "US President Donald Trump doesn't believe in the science of human-caused climate change. He wants to ignore one of the greatest threats to healthy life on Earth," the project website states.

A US military Black Hawk helicopter in flight. A US military Black Hawk helicopter in flight. Pixabay Photovia [PIXABAY] / PixabayROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

It's so easy to paper over the real American security void with verbiage about strength vs. weakness and the endless need to upgrade the military. 

Here's Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, for instance, quoted the other day in The Guardian: "It is incumbent upon us to field a more lethal force if our nation is to retain the ability to defend ourselves and what we stand for." 

This is the cornerstone of The Great Lie, the foundation of global suffering and disorder: that all the glorious abstractions for which we stand -- freedom, democracy, etc. -- are maintained by violence and the threat of violence. The strength of evil, see, is almost infinite, and it lurks uncontained beyond our borders, but it stays away from us as long as it fears us. Therefore, do not, under any circumstances, question the size of our military budget.

This is the directive followed by much of the US media, even as that budget continues to swell and the wars we wage grow ever more intractable. Indeed, the Trump administration's recently released 2019 budget proposal includes $716 billion for the military. Think of it as a quiet hemorrhage. Mattis, this time referenced by the Associated Press, says it's needed "to pull the military out of a slump in combat readiness at a time of renewed focus on the stalemated conflict in Afghanistan and the threat of war on the Korean peninsula."

agriculture 1359862 1920Pixabay Photovia [PIXABAY] / PixabayLORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT 

Monsanto lost its bid to overturn Arkansas' ban on dicamba, a controversial weedkiller linked to extensive damage to famers' crops in the state as well as several other states.

The agribusiness giant makes a version of the herbicide called XtendiMax that's paired with its seeds that are genetically engineered to resist the product. DuPont Co. and BASF SE also sell their own dicamba-based formulations.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza dismissed Monsanto's lawsuit Friday citing a recent Arkansas Supreme Court ruling which held that the state cannot be made a defendant in court.

"We are disappointed in the court's decision to dismiss our legal challenge of the plant board's restrictions, and we will consider additional legal steps that might be appropriate," Scott Partridge, the company's vice president of global strategy, told the Associated Press in a statement. "We look forward to the day when Arkansas growers can benefit from the latest weed-control technology on the market."

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

BLM 0216wrp opt(Photo: 5chw4r7z / Flickr)In the past year, we've seen a burst of audacious political assertiveness coming out of Old Dixie, and I'm not talking about those Trumpeteering, tiki-torch-brandishing, tinhorn KKKers the media focuses on. The real story is that a fresh, "Reclaim the South" movement of young African-American populists is emerging, kindling long-suppressed hope in the racially scarred Deep South and offering the possibility of real economic and cultural progress.

Guess who's mayor of Jackson, Mississippi, the state's capitol city? Chokwe Antar Lumumba — a black, 34-year-old lawyer who was raised in Jackson in a family and community of longtime Black Power activists. Last June, backed by Our Revolution and Working Families Party, Lumumba was elected with 93 percent (!) of the vote, and he promptly pledged to make Jackson "the most radical city on the planet." By radical, he means aggressively innovative in developing policies and programs focused directly on lifting up Jackson's middle-class and poor residents, rather than adopting the failed trickle-down model of nearly every other city. For example, instead of giving away government subsidies to lure rich corporations, Lumumba is trying to make the city a national showcase of home-grown cooperative enterprises owned by the people themselves.

Thursday, 15 February 2018 08:29

Trump's Double Standard on House Russia Memos

ELLIOT D. COHEN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

trumphypocrisyDonald Trump, hypocrisy is thy middle name. (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

On Friday, February 9, President Donald J. Trump blocked release of the Democratic Party’s ten-page Russia memo that attempts to rebut the Republican Russia memo, and sent it back to the House Intelligence Committee for redaction. The President has alleged that the memo contains sensitive information that cannot be released. However, the President has a conflict of interest that arguably legally disqualifies him from making such a decision in the first place.

Trump released the Republican memo even though the FBI warned that it contained sensitive information that could jeopardize national security. In fact, he announced that he would release it apparently before he even read it. Then, after releasing it, he tweeted that it “totally vindicated” him and showed that there was “no collusion” between him and Russia during the 2016 presidential election. Now, Trump refuses to release the Democratic memo which attempts to refute the validity of the Republican memo, alleging that it contains sensitive information that could jeopardize national security. However, Trump can’t have it both ways. His impartiality in deciding against releasing the Democratic memo can therefore be reasonably questioned in light of his double standard. It is not remarkable, therefore, that the question may be raised as to whether permitting a sitting president such authority is even legal. In fact, there is federal law that may disqualify Trump from attempting to make a decision involving even the appearance of such a conflict of interest.

According to paragraph (a) of 28 U.S. Code § 455 (‘Disqualification of justice, judge, or magistrate judge”), “any…magistrate judge of the United States shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned.” Further, the President of the United States serves as the nation’s “Chief Magistrate.” The president is the chief magistrate of the United States just as the governors are the chief magistrates of their respective states. A Chief Magistrate is “the head of the executive department of government of a nation, state, or municipal corporation.” Indeed, this judicial, discretionary authority to make judgments within the confines of the Constitution was adopted from English law and asserted from the nation’s very inception by Alexander Hamilton and George Washington.

There is no doubt that in deciding whether it would even be lawful to release the Democratic memo, and if so, in what form, Trump would be exercising judicial discretion in his capacity as Chief Magistrate.

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