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Thursday, 25 January 2018 08:39

Governing by Scapegoat

Calling for the end the surveillance, deportations, and criminalization of undocumented peoplesDemonstrators gather in Los Angeles on September 2017, calling for the end the surveillance, deportations and criminalization of undocumented peoples. (Photo: Molly Adams)ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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Got a problem? Simplify and project.

When you have a country to govern and you have no idea what to do -- and, even more to the core of the matter, you also have a crony-agenda you want to push quietly past the populace -- there's a time-proven technique that generally works. Govern by scapegoat!

This usually means go to war, but sometimes that's not enough. Here in the USA, there's been so much antiwar sentiment since the disastrous quagmires of the last half century -- Vietnam, the War (To Promote) Terror -- we've had to make war simply part of the background noise. The military cash bleed continues, but the public lacks an international enemy to rally against and blame for its insecurity.

Creating a scapegoat enemy domestically has also gotten complicated. Thugs and punks -- predatory (minority) teenagers -- shoulder much of the responsibility for keeping the country distracted, but in this era of political correctness, politicians have to be careful. Thus the Trump administration has turned to the immigrants. Not all of them, of course -- only the ones from Latin America, the Middle East and Africa. In particular, it has turned to . . . the illegals!

Emmanuel Macron speaks at Leweb in 2014.Emmanuel Macron speaks at LeWeb in 2014. (Photo: Official LeWeb Photos)LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

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France will shut down all its coal-fired power plants by 2021, President Emmanuel Macron announced at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

The deadline is two years ahead of his predecessor Francois Hollande's goal of shutting down France's coal-powered plants by 2023.

France only produces around 1 percent of its energy from coal-fired stations, as the country is 99 percent dependent on hydrocarbon imports. However, the move from the world's fifth largest economy shows it is determined to be a leader on climate issues and sends a signal to other nations.

MICHAEL SEIFERT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

DACA 0124wrp opt(Photo: Molly Adams / Flickr)Claudia is a teacher and a soccer coach. Jessica works for child protective services. Juan married his childhood sweetheart and now is raising children who will soon have their own sweethearts. Marilu helps people fill out applications and prepare for their interviews for naturalization as US citizens.

Like most everyone else in my community, they have love/hate relationships with their bosses, worry about getting sick (no insurance), but spend more time anticipating possible vacation trips. They consider themselves religious. All of them have pretty good jobs, but small bank accounts. They are my friends and they are lovely and alive, and have been, until recently, mostly hopeful about their lives.

They are also people whose presence in the United States is "unauthorized." They all were brought to the US as children and have been unable to get their immigration status regularized (for a quick view into how crazed a process that is, you might read this article).

The "mostly" qualifier of their hope is, in large part, due to their decision a short time ago to trust the United States of America, and enroll in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Wednesday, 24 January 2018 07:28

The Kids the World Forgot

KEN HANNAFORD-RICARDI FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

KabulKids 0124 optStreet kids in Kabul. (Photo: Ken Hannaford-Ricardi)I spent much of yesterday with some kids the world forgot. Young, remarkably sturdy and resilient, they can often be naïve and almost willfully gullible. They inhabit a world that delights in tripping them up and watching them fall. They are Kabul’s Street Kids.

Every Friday morning, roughly 100 of these forgotten children sit in noisy – sometimes raucous - groups of seven to ten in a large, unheated classroom, discussing and brainstorming human rights - rights few in the international community seem to acknowledge they enjoy. On this thirty degree Kabul morning, some are in shirtsleeves; few have coats adequate for the weather. They are dirty. They are underfed. They are loved.

These kids are the smallest microcosm of Kabul's estimated 50,000 "street kids", boys and girls who dot the city’s already clogged roads selling balloons, "blessing" cars with incense, or lugging scales on which passers-by are invited to weigh themselves. They perform these demeaning tasks for a meager “fee” which helps their mothers buy food for their families.

The warming in the Arctic, which is heating up at least twice as fast as the rest of the planet, "will have profound and long-lasting repercussions on sea levels, and on weather patterns in other parts of the world," Taalas saidView from the Polar ice rim on September 2, 2009. (Photo: United Nations Photo)LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

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The United Nations announced Thursday that 2017 was the hottest year on record without an El Niño event kicking up global annual temperatures.

Last year's average surface temperatures -- driven by carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions -- was 1.1 degree Celsius above pre-industrial times, putting the world on course to breach the internationally agreed "1.5°C" temperature barrier to avoid dangerous climate change set by the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

Significantly, the Paris agreement could be negatively impacted by President Donald Trump and his administration's rash of anti-environmental policies. Trump, who famously denies climate change and wants to promote US fossil fuels, plans to repeal the Clean Power Plan that limits power plant emissions and intends to withdraw the US from the landmark climate accord.

2018.23.1 BF HightowerCEO and founder of Amazon.com, Jeff Bezos (Photo: Mathieu Thouvenin)JIM HIGHTOWER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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The hustlers claim that job incentives are a sound investment of our tax dollars, because those new jobs create new taxpayers, meaning investments soon pay for themselves. Hmmm ... not quite. In fact, not even close.

Last year, Good Jobs First tracked the 386 incentive deals since 1976 that gave at least $50 million to a corporation, and then it tallied the number of jobs created. The average cost per job was $658,427. Each! That's likely far more than cities and states can recover through sales, property, income and all other taxes those jobholders would pay in their lifetimes. Worse, the rise of megadeals in the past 10 years has made the job-incentive argument mega-ridiculous: -- New York gave a $258-million subsidy to Yahoo and got 125 jobs -- costing taxpayers $2 million per job.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

GunFlag 0122wrp opt(Photo: katesheets / Flickr)During the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump pledged over and over again that he would build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border to keep the "rapists" out, and, at the same time, he would keep America safe from "radical Islamic terrorism." Both those promises were aimed at stoking up fear and loathing against immigrants and Muslims. It certainly stirred up his base. To my knowledge, Trump, who falsely claimed to know nothing about the white supremacist David Duke, former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, turned a blind eye to terrorism perpetrated by extremist right-wing groups.

Trump's blind eye notwithstanding, terrorist acts committed by extreme right-wing groups and individuals continues to be a clear and present danger.

In late-August, the Congressional Research Service (CRS), issued a report titled Domestic Terrorism: An Overview, which maintained that while it was important in the post-9/11 period to focus on terrorist attacks emanating from outside the country, "domestic terrorists—people who commit crimes within the homeland and draw inspiration from U.S.-based extremist ideologies and movements—[and] have killed American citizens and damaged property across the country," should not be overlooked.

Monday, 22 January 2018 06:32

Revolution by Drone

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Drone 0122wrp optPhoto: Andrew Turner / Flickr)When average Americans were oppressed in the 18th century, they knew where the plutocrats lived, and they didn't have military-style police forces holding them back. The Stamp Act drove the New York masses to ransack the houses of Governor Cadwallader Colden and the British major who was pointing army artillery toward the local town. Another mob looted the house of pro-English aristocrat Thomas Hutchinson, carrying away his fine furnishings and emptying his wine cellar in part of what the British called a "war of plunder" to take away the "distinction of rich and poor." 

That doesn't happen today. The super-rich are safely ensconced in their gated estates with private security forces and 9-foot walls and surveillance systems and sniper posts. But now they have good reason to fear the future. We all do. The too-rapid evolution of intelligent machines, with the ability to make decisions that can impact human life, is bringing us closer to a man-made epidemic that we won't be able to control. As armed drones become tinier and cheaper and smarter and more readily accessible, they could launch the modern revolution of the undervalued human being.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Trumpy 0119wrp opt(Portrait: DonkeyHotey / Flickr)It's difficult to find any other reasons for President Donald Trump to fire, without explanation, the remaining members of the council advising him on the HIV/AIDS epidemic, other then he is indifferent to the health needs of minority communities, LGBTQ Americans, and that he is once again playing to his white conservative Christian evangelical base.

The Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA),which was established in 1995, makes national HIV/AIDS strategy recommendations —setting out how health officials should respond to the epidemic.

David Kilmnick, the president of the LGBT Network, criticized the dismissals. "We have finally made significant progress in trying to end the epidemic once and for all and the irrational and immature moves by Trump will only set us back," he said in a statement.

Oddly enough … or maybe not so oddly enough … in September, Trump issued an executive order "continuing 32 advisory committees — including the council on H.I.V. and AIDS — whose operating authorities had been set to expire," The New York Times reported late last year.

Protestors carry signs as they demonstrate against proposed cuts to Medical and Medicare outside San Francisco city hall on September 21, 2011 in San Francisco, CaliforniaProtestors carry signs as they demonstrate against proposed cuts to Medical and Medicare outside San Francisco city hall on September 21, 2011 in San Francisco, California. (Photo: AUCD)JOHN GEYMAN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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Medicaid was enacted in 1965 under the Lyndon Johnson administration as a social insurance program to provide lower-income Americans with the health care they need. Since then it has been solidly supported by all subsequent administrations as a social contract within our society, as a matter of fairness and necessity. As poverty and inequality have increased in more recent years, it has become a mainstay assuring necessary medical care for some 74 million Americans, covering more than one in five Americans, almost one half of births, 39 percent of children, and about two-thirds of nursing home and long-term care, and more than one-quarter of mental health services. It has been described as "the backstop for America's scattershot health care system."

Not anymore. The Trump administration is out to shrink the program by whatever means, now including administrative actions by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) that bypass action by Congress. Seema Verma, Trump's appointed head of CMS, did just that in Indiana during Michael Pence's governorship. She has recently released a 10-page memo detailing how states can apply for waivers that can rein in their Medicaid programs, even in states that expanded Medicaid since 2010 under the Affordable Care Act. Through these waivers, states can exclude able-bodied adults from coverage unless they are working at least 20 hours per week. Children and disabled people are excluded from the work requirement. Ongoing reports will be required documenting that Medicaid recipients are working. If they fail to comply with these requirements, they can be locked out of coverage entirely. These new reporting requirements will greatly increase the bureaucracy involving Medicaid.

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