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Lobo 0131wrp opt(Photo: Joel Cristian / Flickr)Environmental organizations filed a lawsuit on January 30, 2018, in U.S. District Court in Arizona against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), alleging the agency violated the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by ignoring science relevant to the recovery of the beleaguered Mexican wolf (Canis lupus baileyi), a.k.a. "el lobo." The legal action comes on the heels of USFWS' November release of its long-anticipated Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan — a strategy conservation groups say appeases red state ranchers and falls flat in the face of science.

The lawsuit, filed by attorneys at the Western Environmental Law Center (WELC) on behalf of Western Watersheds Project and WildEarth Guardians (Guardians), names Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and USFWS Acting Director Greg Sheehan. The complaint asserts the USFWS, an ancillary arm of the Interior Department, turned a deaf ear to its own scientists' recommendations for the minimum number of wolves and the amount of habitat needed for recovery and removal from the endangered species list.

"This recovery plan was designed by politicians and anti-wolf states, not by independent biologists," said Matthew Bishop of the Western Environmental Law Center. "It's an affront to the ESA and Congress' directive [is to] make decisions solely on the best available science."


Pumalin 0131wrp optFlowers in Pumalín Park. (Photo: Dan Lundberg / Flickr)Chilean President Michelle Bachelet signed a decree Monday to create five new national parks and expand three others, following a pledge made last year with Kristine McDivitt Tompkins, the president and CEO of Tompkins Conservation, to dramatically expand national parkland in the South American country.

More than 10 million acres of new national parklands will be created in Chile, approximately three times the size of Yellowstone and Yosemite combined, or about the size of Switzerland. Bachelet said that would increase national parklands in Chile by 38.5 percent.

The expansion includes 1 million acres of land donated by Tompkins Conservation, in what is believed to be the largest private donation of land ever from a private entity to a country.

The decree included the creation of Pumalín Park and Patagonia Park, the conservation organization's two flagship projects, while expanding others to help create the "Route of Parks," a 17-park route spanning more than 1,500 miles from Puerto Montt to Cape Horn in the continent's southern tip.


obamacareimageDespite Trump administration roadblocks, 2018 enrollment in Obamacare is robust. (Luis Rodriguez)

Obamacare has been a singular obsession for Donald Trump and the Republicans in Congress since its creation, signed into law by President Barack Obama on March 23, 2010. In the mouths of the GOP, the health insurance program has taken on a monstrous image, as though it were a monster preying upon Americans. It has been a tragically intractable attack on a healthcare insurance system that -- although far from ideal -- has assisted millions of people in the US.

Despite the ongoing attacks from the GOP, it is worth noting that Obamacare was no progressive innovation: Its structure is based on a system put into place and championed by Mitt Romney when he was governor of Massachusetts -- and implemented with the support of the George W. Bush administration, which helped fund it.

However, Trump and Congress recently took another swipe at the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and according to Politifact, their action may destabilize the entire insurance market:

The Republicans' successful drive to pass a massive tax bill allowed President Donald Trump to take another slice off of the Affordable Care Act. Effective 2019, the sweeping tax package repeals the penalty on people who might be able to afford health insurance but choose not to buy it. The individual mandate affects a relatively narrow sliver of Americans, but it has been a pillar of Obamacare.

Knowledgeable and trusted local groups have been key to the recent election victories by bona fide progressives. Knowledgeable and trusted local groups have been key to the recent election victories by bona fide progressives. (Photo: Malcolm K.)JIM HIGHTOWER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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Last June, after Democratic candidates had lost four straight special Congressional elections (Rob Quist in Montana, James Thompson in Kansas, Archie Parnell in South Carolina, and Jon Ossoff in Georgia), the US's purveyors of conventional political wisdom simultaneously jumped to the conclusion that the policies and message of Democrats were just too progressive for our nation of moderate-right voters. The Washington cognoscenti expressed dismay that, despite Trump's dismal public approval ratings and the nationwide surge of "Resist!" campaigns, the hapless Democratic Party was still unable to score any electoral victories. "Why Do Democrats Keep Losing in 2017?" queried a June headline in The Atlantic. "Democrats just went 0-4. When will they win?" asked a cynical CNN reporter. "It is a bit surprising that Democrats haven't managed a single victory yet," declared a University of Wisconsin election expert. "Panic is setting in on the left," exclaimed a Vox headline.


No, not really. The professional political observers are like cats watching the wrong mouse hole. They are so fixated on the minutia of Washington-centric politics that they're missing the much bigger story of transformative political changes that have erupted in every region of the country. Far from panicking, America's political left is organizing, strategizing, mobilizing ... and WINNING. Coalitions of local progressive activists (newly energized by an infusion of dynamic, creative young people and people of color) came together after the 2016 election. They recruited and trained candidates from their own ranks; methodically knocked on doors, having thousands of front-porch conversations with voters on basic issues; mobilized supporters for intensive election-day turn-out drives; and elected scores of audaciously populist mayors, council members, legislators, and other officials.

Paul Ryan, and the congressional delegation traveling with him, had an extraordinary opportunity to support humanitarian appeals made by UN officials and human rights organizers.  Instead, Ryan implied the only security concerns worth mentioning are those that threaten people in the US.Paul Ryan, and the congressional delegation traveling with him in Saudi Arabia, had an extraordinary opportunity to support humanitarian appeals made by UN officials and human rights organizers. Instead, Ryan implied the only security concerns worth mentioning are those that threaten people in the US. (Photo: Tony Alter)KATHY KELLY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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On January 23rd an overcrowded smuggling boat capsized off the coast of Aden in Southern Yemen. Smugglers packed 152 passengers from Somalia and Ethiopia in the boat and then, while at sea, reportedly pulled guns on the migrants to extort additional money from them. The boat capsized, according to The Guardian, after the shooting prompted panic. The death toll, currently 30, is expected to rise. Dozens of children were on board.

The passengers had already risked the perilous journey from African shores to Yemen, a dangerous crossing that leaves people vulnerable to false promises, predatory captors, arbitrary detention and tortuous human rights violations. Sheer desperation for basic needs has driven hundreds of thousands of African migrants to Yemen. Many hope, upon arrival, they can eventually travel to prosperous Gulf countries further north where they might find work and some measure of security. But the desperation and fighting in southern Yemen were horrible enough to convince most migrants that boarded the smuggling boat on January 23rd to try and return to Africa.

Referring to those who drowned when the boat capsized, Amnesty International's Lynn Maalouf said: "This heart-breaking tragedy underscores, yet again, just how devastating Yemen's conflict continues to be for civilians. Amid ongoing hostilities and crushing restrictions imposed by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition, many people who came to Yemen to flee conflict and repression elsewhere are now being forced yet again to flee in search of safety. Some are dying in the process."


slavepatrolsSlave patrols were one of the reasons we have a Second Amendment. (Patrick Feller)

In her new book, Loaded: A Disarming History of the Second Amendment, author and historian Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz fiercely debunks contemporary memes about the Second Amendment. She ties the clause to the US's militaristic culture, which was born of the war on the Indigenous people of North America and the brutal suppression of chattel slaves. Both of these violent endeavors involved militias, a point that Dunbar-Ortiz contends provided the impetus for putting the phrase "a well-regulated militia" into the Second Amendment.

In October 2017, I wrote a commentary entitled "Gun Violence Created the United States." Dunbar-Ortiz argues that the endlessly debated Second Amendment can only be understood in such a context. The colonies, such as Virginia, who put together the Bill of Rights knew exactly what the Second Amendment meant because militias of individually armed men were an accepted fact in many states. At the time of the founding of the nation, 1776, they were vital to the theft of land from the Indigenous population and the pursuit of escaped chattel slaves. The Second Amendment enshrined that state right.

After all, both endeavors were inextricably tied to the growth of the United States. The stealing of Indigenous land and the brutal pursuit of people who'd escaped from slavery were essential to the early formation of the US. Seizing Indigenous lands fulfilled the so-called "manifest destiny" of the United States, while the chattel slave economy was the primary means by which the agrarian infrastructure of the South operated. Meanwhile, the North benefited from inexpensive cotton for its textile mills and other agricultural products.

In a Truthout interview with Dunbar-Ortiz to be published soon, I asked her, "How does the Second Amendment contribute to the United States' culture of violence?"


Compass 0129wrp opt(Photo: Sergey Sokolov / Flickr)Franklin Graham, the son of Reverend Billy Graham and president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, has for years hoped to inherit his father's mantle as "America's Pastor." Instead, as the years go by, and his disturbing comments mount up, he's creeping closer and closer to occupying the space left by the death of Fred Phelps, the anti-gay zealot from Topeka, Kansas.

Graham is a mean-spirited Christian nationalist, and one of the most consistent voices arguing that Christians in this country are being persecuted, victimized and "excluded from the public square." Over the past few years, he has carved out a well-deserved reputation as one of America's leading religious-based Islamophobes. These days, he is also one of those conservative evangelical Christian leaders that appears to be able twist themselves into a pretzel in their defense of the sexpisodes of President Donald Trump.

Last week, for example, they spent a fair amount of time bending over backwards in defense of Trump's pre-2016 election $130,000 payoff to keep secret the 2006 sexual encounter he had with adult-film star Stormy Daniels. The affair happened while Trump was married to his current wife, Melania, and just a few months after Melania gave birth to their son, Barron. Now, Graham has decided to warn America that there are forces in this country that are not above staging "a coup d'etat" against Trump.

Monday, 29 January 2018 07:16

Six Big Losers in Our "Booming" Economy


Poverty 0129wrp opt(Photo: Bart Everson / Flickr)The Dow Jones Industrial Average skyrocketed from 25,000 to 26,000 in just seven trading days, prompting Donald Trump to bluster, "Our economy is booming, investments and jobs are pouring back into the country...We ARE Making America Great Again." Certainly the richest 1% are feeling great. But the stock market is feeding the nation's runaway inequality, boosting the financial wealth of a privileged few while doing NOTHING for the middle and lower classes. The biggest losers are among the MOST VULNERABLE Americans, the people who seem to be reviled by the Republicans in Congress. 

Children: While Stocks Doubled, 18% More Kids Fell Into Poverty

This is shocking and shameful. The U.S. has taken nearly half of the world's new wealth since the 2008 recession, and the stock market more than doubled from 2008 to 2014 (and tripled by 2017), but the number of children living below the federal poverty threshold increased by 18 percent from 2008 to 2014.


Disco 0126wrp opt(Photo: Hitchster / Flickr)For white Christian conservative evangelical leaders like Franklin Graham and Tony Perkins, President Donald Trump represents the kind of "muscular" Christianity they've been yearning for. The fact that Trump's bullying and moral turpitude is part of the package doesn't seem to bother them in the least.

In the wake of revelations of the latest Trump sex-related scandal – the pre-2016 election payoff to a porn star involved with Trump to buy her silence -- Graham and Perkins are claiming that Trump is a "changed man," and they're willing to grant him a "mulligan."

Graham, the son of Reverend Billy Graham, and president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association,claimed that Trump is a "changed person." Perkins, the head of the Washington, D.C. lobbying group, the Family Research Council told Politico "We kind of gave him— 'Alright, you get a mulligan. You get a do-over here.'" 

"If this behavior were occurring today, right now, as he is president of the United States, I can assure you that my support and the support of Evangelicals would be dissipating very rapidly," Perkins told CNN. "But we're talking about something that occurred ten years ago, among a number of things that occurred with this president, prior to being president."

Friday, 26 January 2018 05:43

GOP Voter Suppression Is Toxic to Democracy


votingsuppressionVoter suppression is a dagger in the heart of democracy.      (Chuck Coker)

GOP voter suppression is a singular threat to our democracy.

This week's Truthout Progressive Pick is The Best Democracy Money Can Buy: The Case of the Stolen Election, an updated documentary by investigative reporter Greg Palast. It makes the case that Trump's victory in the presidential election of 2016 would not likely have happened if Republicans in control of state governments had not impeded voting through a variety of methods, including one they have long used to great effect -- the purging of voter lists.

In this context, it is important to remember two things: the GOP controls the majority of state houses (in many cases with an assist from gerrymandering) and they indefatigably try to reduce the voting of likely opposition voters. They also try to challenge ballots and leave many of them uncounted. The aim of these strategies is to counter the changing demographic nature of the United States into a more diverse nation: a country that is less white and younger, and a country where the poor might become more empowered. Palast cites a telling statistic in a January 25 op-ed for Truthout: "According to the US Civil Rights Commission, the chance your vote will be disqualified is 900 percent higher if you're Black than if you're white."

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