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Jeru 1218wrp optThe Temple Mount (Photo: jaime.silva / Flickr)We were certainly taken aback. There was no conceivable way that the US, an honest powerbroker in the Middle East, particularly in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, could ever take sides. But then, out of the wild blue yonder, President Donald Trump chose to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital and plans to move the US Embassy there.

While consternation may be the reaction of the Democrat-leaning mainstream media and Democratic politicians, unfortunately there is no reason for such jaw-hanging stupefaction. Though this particular US policy may have now changed, Trump's policy is more of the same.

At least since the 1967 Six Day War, the United States has been Israel's strongest advocate. The US consistently protects Israel's illegal behavior from international condemnation at the United Nations and has provided at least $130 billion in primarily military aid since 1948. Additionally, bipartisan local US politics have recently, in many cases, subordinated the First Amendment to absurd and arguably treasonous "Israel first" laws penalizing supporters of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement. In one case, this prevented aid from going to Hurricane Harvey victims in Dickinson, Texas. Oddly enough, those who claim to be fervent far-right adherents of US nationalism (you've heard it, the vapid "America First" slogan) are more than willing to yield their constitutional rights on behalf of another country.


Spy 1215wrp opt(Photo: Duncan Hull / Flickr)What could be more exciting for a chickenhawk president who bullies, boasts and brags, then to have his own private spy network at his beck and call? According to The Intercept, that's exactly what Erik Prince is proposing.

Prince's latest proposal, as outlined earlier this month by The Intercept's Matthew Cole and Jeremy Scahill, is "to provide CIA Director Mike Pompeo and the White House with a global, private spy network that would circumvent official U.S. intelligence agencies, according to several current and former U.S. intelligence officials and others familiar with the proposals."

Over the past few weeks, we've been reporting on some of the proposals, projects, and schemes being hatched by Erik Prince, the founder of the notorious Blackwater private security group (now known as Academi). Prince, the brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and a friend of Steve Bannon, has been on a tear lately, proposing all sorts of big-money projects including the privatization of the war in Afghanistan War, while seizing that country's minerals; forging a partnership with the Chinese to push forward that country's Silk Road project; and, entertain the possibility of running for Senator from Wyoming.


kochbrotherstimeThe Koch brothers make a major investment in Time Inc.. (Photo: DonkeyHotey)

So, given their combined wealth of nearly $100 billion, it is worth keeping a watchful eye on the Koch brothers' investment in Time and the evolving editorial content of the publication.

In a November 28 article in The New Yorker, journalist Jane Mayer -- a specialist on the Kochs -- reported,

“Everyone who has worked in journalism knows that even if you never see the rich and powerful owner of your publication, and you have the most powerful, independent editors, it inevitably has an effect on what you write, or on what you leave out. You just don’t do a terrible story on yourself,” Emily Bell, a professor of professional practice at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, told me. Bell said that she doubts that the Kochs have put six hundred and fifty million dollars into the purchase of a media company saddled with ailing print publications only for financial reasons. “It can’t just be the return on investment, because, if so, you’re in the wrong asset class,” she said. But even if that is their intent, she argued, they will end up exerting cultural and political influence because “investments in media companies are different from any other kind of investment. Media companies affect the broader cultural life.”

Mayer herself comments of the Kochs' investment in Time, "Those familiar with the Kochs’ history, however, have reason to be skeptical about their professed passivity."

In a November 27 Guardian article by Lucia Graves, the author quotes Mary Bottari of the The Center for Media and Democracy,

Bottari told the Guardian she considered it “a smart move” on Koch’s part. “The only way they can convince the public not to worry their heads about climate change and to forget about regulating the fossil fuel industry is to create their own media megaphone,” said Bottari.

World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim opening press conference on October 9, 2014.World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim opening press conference in Washington, DC, on October 9, 2014. (Photo: Simone D. McCourtie / World Bank)LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

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In effort to bolster a global shift to clean energy, the World Bank -- which provides financial, advisory and technical support to developing countries -- announced it will "no longer finance upstream oil and gas, after 2019."

The announcement was made Tuesday at the international One Planet climate summit called by French President Emmanuel Macron, President of the World Bank Group Jim Yong Kim, and United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres.

The World Bank's plan to stop financing oil and gas exploration and extraction is aimed at helping countries meet their emissions reduction pledges made at the 2015 Paris climate talks.

Thursday, 14 December 2017 06:31

Peace on the Far Side of Nuclear Weapons

2017.14.12 bf koehlerKim Jong-un and North Korea's nuclear missile program are only a small piece of the threat faced by every human being on the planet. There's another reckless, unstable leader with his finger on the nuclear button, delivered to the planet a year ago by the flawed US democracy. (Photo: Cymru dros Heddwch | Wales for Peace Follow)ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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". . . real security can only be shared . . ."

I call it news in a cage: the fact that the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons has been awarded this year's Nobel Peace Prize.

In other words, how nice, but it has nothing to do with the real stuff going on across Planet Earth, like North Korea's recent test of an ICBM that puts the entire U.S. in the range of its nukes, or the provocative war games Trump's America has been playing on the Korean peninsula, or the quietly endless development of the "next generation" of nuclear weapons.

Or the imminent possibility of . . . uh, nuclear war.

Winning the Nobel Peace Prize is not like, say, winning an Oscar -- accepting a big, flashy honor for a piece of finished work. The award is about the future. Despite some disastrously bad choices over the years (Henry Kissinger, for God's sake), the Peace Prize is, or should be, utterly relevant to what's happening at the cutting edge of global conflict: a recognition of the expansion of human consciousness toward the creation of real peace. Geopolitics, on the other hand, is trapped in the certainties of same old, same old: Might makes right, ladies and gentlemen, so you gotta be ready to kill.


devoss345Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is a friend of the for-profit education industry. (Photo: Michael Vadon)

The for-profit college industry is, at its core, a commercial enterprise. Its model of privatization based on profiteering often harms vulnerable individuals seeking to use college as a stepping stone to viable jobs and careers.

David Halperin wrote in the Republic Report on December 6,

They [the for-profit colleges] suggest, over and over, that if a Department of Education rule or proposed rule would force them or their fellow school operators to alter or close a particular education program  — whether in teaching, nursing, IT, or hairdressing — there must be something wrong with the rule. They rarely suggest that there might, instead, be something wrong with the program — such as being of low quality, or given to admitting many students that the program is not designed to adequately assist, or simply being overpriced.

This mind-set makes these for-profit college officials the most entitled group I’ve ever observed. Many for-profit colleges get 80 percent, 90 percent, and even more of their revenue directly from federal taxpayers through student grants and loans — because so many of the students they enroll are low-income people eligible for federal student aid, or military troops and veterans who earn education benefits.

Yes, the federal government is the primary underwriter for students who attend for-profit colleges. According to Halperin, "Collectively the industry has received as much as $32 billion in a single year from the federal government." That sets up a caveat emptor scenario for students because the for-profit colleges are paid through tuition, and the students are left holding the loans that they may or may not be able to pay back. Thus, the for-profit colleges fight any regulations that would hold them accountable for student success and, particularly, for job placement for those students who graduate. They get the tuition funds, and the individual enrollees and the taxpayers are left holding the debt.

Wednesday, 13 December 2017 07:47

The GOP's Tax Breaks for the Private Jet Set


Jet 1213wrp optOne of 3M's six private Gulfstream 5 jets. (Photo: Alan Light / Flickr)When you think about who benefits from the Republican tax bill the Senate just passed, think of the people who own and ride in private luxury jets.

We know that the benefits of tax bill are skewed to the very wealthy and a handful of global corporations. Republicans have been rushing this bill fully aware that the more people learn, the less they will like it.

As Edward Kleinbard, the esteemed tax economist and former head of the non-partisan Joint Committee on Taxation, observed: "We are squandering a giant sum of money" in this tax bill. "It's not aimed at growth. It is not aimed at the middle class. It is at every turn carefully engineered to deliver a kiss to the donor class."

Kleinbard's donor class aren't people that write $100 checks to candidates. He's talking about billionaires who donate to a wide range of campaign organizations, some with their identity obscured, to move a larger agenda.

Wednesday, 13 December 2017 07:31

Historic Youth Climate Lawsuit Poised to Advance


Kids 1213wrp opt(Photo: fictures / Flickr)A landmark climate change lawsuit brought by a group of children appears poised to move forward after a Monday hearing at a federal appeals court, despite the Trump administration's efforts to dismiss the case.

Juliana v. United States was filed in 2015 on behalf of 21 young plaintiffs who argue that their constitutional and public trust rights are being violated by the government's creation of climate danger.

At the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, the three-judge panel heard oral arguments over whether President Donald Trump and his administration can evade a trial set for February.

In June, the government filed a petition for writ of mandamus with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, seeking an extraordinarily rare review of a Nov. 10, 2016 decision by U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken to deny its motion to dismiss the case. The legal maneuver basically allows an appeals court to correct an abuse from a lower court.


chipjpgMedical care for all children is essential to a nation's health. (Photo: Mike Licht)

The federal Children's Health Insurance Plan (CHIP) is currently on the chopping block in the Republican Congress due to an alleged lack of funding. At the same time, the GOP is about to begin reconciling House and Senate tax bills that will divert billions of dollars to the wealthiest Americans. The federal-state program that provides health insurance for approximately 9 million children formally expired on September 30. It is receiving a short reprieve through funding provided by a continuing resolution that will keep the government from shutting down until December 22.

The likelihood of CHIP's elimination is starting to have an impact. According to a December 13 NBC News article,

State officials in Virginia started warning families this week that the popular Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is about to run out of money.

It’s one of several states that have given notice or are preparing to tell families that funding for the program has ended and Congress has failed to renew it.

For many families, that could mean an end to their health care unless they find someone to offer free care to their kids, according to Linda Nablo, chief deputy director at Virginia's Department of Medical Assistance Services.


medicaidmattersMedicaid is threatened by Republican tax restructuring bills. (Photo: Jobs With Justice)

As the debate in Congress continues over what to do about tax cuts, Medicaid is clearly on the chopping block for devastating cuts at a time when it is increasingly needed. The stakes of these cuts are cavalierly discussed but little understood or cared about by GOP legislators.

Most Americans do not understand that Medicaid is not only the mainstay of U. S. health care, but the major access to care for tens of millions of uninsured, disabled, poor, and increasingly, middle class working people above the poverty line who cannot afford necessary care. A recent article by Phil Galewitz in Kaiser Health News describes the reach of the program which now serves as “the backstop for America’s scattershot health care system.” As the largest health care program (74 million compared to Medicare’s 55 million), Medicaid covers more than one in five Americans, with about one in four being on Medicaid at some point over the course of a year. As the workhorse of our system, Medicaid now covers 39 percent of all children, almost one-half of all births, more than 60 percent of nursing home and long-term care expenses, 41 percent of adults ages 18 to 64 with HIV, more than one-quarter of mental health services, and over one-fifth of spending on substance abuse treatment. (Galewitz, P. Medicaid covers all that? It’s the backstop of America’s ailing health system. Kaiser Health News, September 25, 2017).

Since its enactment as part of the Great Society program in 1965 as a  program to help those living in poverty, Medicaid has progressively been expanded to other population groups in subsequent years:

•  in 1987, coverage was added for pregnant women and children living in families with incomes almost twice the federal poverty level FPL;
•  in 1997, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) was enacted to cover eligible children
•  and since 2013, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) allowed states to expand Medicaid to 17 million people earning less than 138 percent of the FPL, as 31 states did.

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