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The Islamic University of Gaze teaches students Arabic via Skype.Instructors talk to their academic partner in Glasgow about Arabic learning curriculum development. (Photo: The Islamic University of Gaza)MOHAMMED MOUSSA FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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Arabic is the fifth-most-commonly spoken language in the world, with an estimated 250 million native speakers. It's a useful language to know, and a university in the Gaza Strip is offering to teach it via Skype -- while reducing the isolation imposed on it by a decade-long Israeli blockade.

The Islamic University of Gaza (IUG) first began experimenting with Arabic lessons by Skype in 2016, facilitated by funding from Saudi Arabia's Arabic for All Foundation and a partnership with the University of Glasgow in Scotland. Although IUG long had offered face-to-face classes for non-native speakers, the Israeli and Egyptian blockade has dramatically reduced international visitors. This has spurred the move to online lessons, but even these still face challenges.

"We have many problems that make our work difficult, but the two biggest ones are the limits on visitors and the severe electricity shortage, which makes maintaining a strong WiFi connection difficult after hours when we don't have access to the university's back-up generators," one of the IUG instructors, Jehad Abu Jazar, told Truthout. For North Americans, the time difference (upwards of seven hours) also can pose some logistical complexity.

Police in riot gearWe know that increased policing, surveillance and enforcement don't prevent violence. Let's focus on what does: investment in widespread, accessible and quality community resources alongside transformative approaches to justice. (Photo: Tony Webster)EMMA BURKE FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

The news and commentary at Buzzflash and Truthout provide vital analysis of grassroots movements across the nation. If you dare to dissent and advocate for justice, then support independent media by making a donation!

How do we understand the terrifying and tragic reality of mass shootings in the United States as organizers and activists committed to ending war and militarism by confronting its root causes? That's the question we're asking at War Resisters League as headlines are once again ensnared in the debate around gun control -- this time with the lens focused on the incredible work and ferocity of young people who survived the Parkland massacre in February.

Parkland students join the voices of young people and students of color, disproportionately affected by gun violence, who are turning the spotlight not just on guns, but on the root causes of gun violence. As the country poured into the streets to demand change at March For Our Lives, in Washington, DC,11-year-old Naomi Wadler of Virginia took to the stage to lift up the invisibilized deaths of Black girls and women: "I am here to acknowledge and represent the African American girls whose stories don’t make the front page of every national newspaper, whose stories don't lead on the evening news. I represent the African American women who are victims of gun violence, who are simply statistics instead of vibrant, beautiful girls full of potential." For communities of color the terror of gun violence isn’t contained to mass shootings, it also comes in the form of beat cops, SWAT teams and the processes of erasure Naomi spoke about.


gillibrandSen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) has been a leader in trying to reform sexual harassment policies and procedures in the Senate. (Photo: Senate Democrats)

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In the wake of the momentum of the #MeToo movement, the United States Senate is riding in the slow lane. It has failed to move forward with sexual harassment policies that are responsive the new era of accountability that the #MeToo campaign symbolizes. The Senate is still employing a bill passed in 1995, the Congressional Accountability Act, to address issues of sexual harassment, but that legislation it is sorely lacking.

NPR recently provided some background on the law and why it needs a thorough overhaul:

Filing an official complaint about harassment on the Hill involves a multistep dispute resolution process that can stretch out for months, as described on the congressional Office of Compliance website. A staffer must first request counseling and that counseling period "normally lasts for 30 days," according to the Office of Compliance. Then, the staffer must request mediation, which also usually lasts 30 days. If that mediation doesn't resolve things, the staffer then can proceed with a lawsuit or have an administrative hearing, but can only do so 30 to 90 days after the mediation ends.

In addition, taxpayer dollars have funded settlements to staffers complaining of harassment. The Washington Post reported in December that the Treasury has spent $174,000 on settling harassment-related claims over the last five years. In February, the House unanimously passed a measure that would overhaul the Congressional Accountability Act. That bill would ensure that lawmakers who harass employees pay for settlements out of their own pockets, and it would also simplify the complaint process.

Note two things from this account: Firstly, taxpayers are still in the unacceptable position of paying for the settlement of sexual harassment claims committed by members of the Senate. Secondly, the usually more conservative House of Representatives has passed a bill that is much improved, but the Senate has failed to take it up.


Trophy 0328wrp opt(Photo: Ann Wuyts / Flickr)Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has assembled a new outdoor recreation advisory panel dominated by top executives from the industry.

The 15-member "Made in America" Outdoor Recreation Advisory Committee will advise Sec. Zinke on issues surrounding public lands. They include officials that represent fishing, shooting sports, motorized vehicles and hospitality as well as national park concessionaires.

"The Made in America Outdoor Recreation Advisory Committee is made up of the private sector's best and brightest to tackle some of our biggest public lands infrastructure and access challenges," Zinke announced Monday.

"The committee's collective experience as entrepreneurs and business leaders provide (sic) unique insight that is often lost in the federal government."

The Washington Post reported that Zinke did not appoint committee nominees offered by the Outdoor Industry Association, which advocates for activities such as mountain climbing, hiking and kayaking. The association has criticized President Trump's decision last year to shrink the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in Utah.


Spill 0328wrp opt(Photo: Patrick Luckow / Flickr)An oil spill of approximately 550 barrels (23,100 gallons) has killed more than 2,400 fish, birds and reptiles near the city of Barrancabermeja, Colombia, RCN Radio reported.

Oil started spilling from the Lizama 158 oil field in early March and spread down 15 miles of the Lizama river and 12.4 miles of the Sogamoso river.

According to local media, it took Colombia's state oil company Ecopetrol three weeks to respond to the environmental disaster.

Colombia Reports noted that the crude started escaping the oil field on March 3 but it was only this past Saturday that Ecopetrol vowed to send heavy equipment that could stop the spill.

The company said Tuesday that the spill is fully controlled and workers are carrying out environmental monitoring of the rivers. The cause of the spill is currently unclear but an investigation is underway.


tarsandstoxicBank investment in tar sands oil has increased under Trump. (Photo: Joe Brusky)

At BuzzFlash and Truthout we never shy away from criticizing powerful corporate and political forces. Support this work by making a tax-deductible donation now.

With a climate change denier as president, the signal has been given to banks and investment firms to invest in what many call "extreme fossil fuel." That trend includes "tar sands holdings more than doubling in Trump’s first year in office," according to an article in the Guardian on a new report from the Rainforest Action Network.

Given the brazen climate change denial of the Trump administration, banks have been given the green light to invest in highly concentrated carbon polluting fuels. As the Guardian summarizes,

A sharp flight from fossil fuels investments after the Paris agreement was reversed last year with a return to energy sources dubbed "extreme" because of their contribution to global emissions....

US and Canadian banks led a race back into the unconventional energy sector following Trump’s promise to withdraw from Paris, with JPMorgan Chase increasing its coal funding by a factor of 21, and quadrupling its tar sands assets.

Chase’s $5.6bn surge in tar sands holdings added to nearly $47bn of gains for the industry last year, according to the report by NGOs including BankTrack, the Sierra Club and Rainforest Action Network (RAN).

The result is that instead of trying to reduce climate change, some investment banks are accelerating the problem. The Paris accord set up a voluntary goal of reducing carbon emissions. Although the agreement was not binding, it did set a tone.


4689566084 cd1659e03e oA display of machine guns. (Photo via [FLICKR] / Flickr)

It's time to listen to the students. Across the country, teenagers have walked out of classes, stood in holy silence, and delivered stirring speeches calling out their elders for failing to prevent their schools from becoming shooting ranges for raging men. On Saturday they protested in Washington with adult allies among the throngs in the capital and at hundreds of student-organized satellite rallies nationwide.

Students have been fierce and articulate in their unequivocal demand that they attend safe schools. Recognizing the role of gender in mass murders like the one at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is critical to accomplish this goal. 

We certainly must applaud these young people for calling out the NRA -- "Our lives are worth more than your wealth" -- as well as outing the politicians whose coffers the gun lobby has lined. They know the NRA is about men and money.

In my years working to transform societal ideas about masculinity and manhood, it has become undeniable that the gender of the shooter -- almost always male -- is as essential in the gun debate as are stricter laws and mental health screenings. I'd welcome hearing high school students' thoughts in a cross - generational dialogue that included how we raise boys and how we navigate the culture of violence in which we live.

We in the 40-year old profeminist antiviolence men's movement have always viewed shootings like Parkland, Florida through a gendered lens. Men's mass murders at schools (or churches or movie theaters) need to be understood not by their location but in the larger context of our culture of violence, including, of course, men's disproportionate enactment of that violence.


A massive sinkhole in Winkler County, Texas. Google EarthA massive sinkhole in Winkler County, Texas. (Photo: Google Earth)

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

West Texas is already home to two giant sinkholes near the town of Wink caused by intensive oil and gas operations. Now, according to an unprecedented study, the "Wink Sinks" might not remain the last in the region.

Geophysicists at Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Dallas have found rapid rates of ground movement at various locations across a 4,000-square-mile swath around the two sinkholes. This area is known for processing extractions from the oil-rich Permian Basin.

The scientists made the discovery after analyzing radar satellite imagery taken between November 2014 and April 2017. Combined with oil-well production data from the Railroad Commission of Texas, the researchers concluded that the area's sinking and uplifting ground is associated with decades of oil activity and its effect on rocks below Earth's surface.

"Based on our observations and analyses, human activities of fluid (saltwater, CO2) injection for stimulation of hydrocarbon production, salt dissolution in abandoned oil facilities, and hydrocarbon extraction each have negative impacts on the ground surface and infrastructures, including possible induced seismicity," the study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, says.

One location saw as much as 40 inches of movement over the past two-and-a-half years, the geophysical team found.


Norway 0326wrp opt(Photo: Ken Douglas / Flickr)Norway - home to the world's highest per capita number of all-electric cars—is also planning to go emission-free in the friendly skies.

The Scandinavian country aims to be the first in the world to switch to electric air transport.

State-owned Avinor, which operates most of the country's airports, plans to adopt battery-powered planes in the coming years to help slow climate change, Reuters reported.

"In my mind, there's no doubt that by 2040 Norway will be operating totally electric" on short-haul flights, Dag Falk-Pedersen, head of Avinor, said at an aviation conference in Oslo.

The long-held dream of electric airliners has been stymied by battery technology and limited range. However, the aviation industry is stepping up to make this dream a reality.


China 0326wrp optChina Pavilion (Photo: Wojtek Gurak / Flickr)This month, China's National People's Congress, its Communist Party controlled legislature, has passed a new edition of the country's Constitution. Among other amendments, Chinese parliamentarians have almost unanimously approved an amendment to abolish the term limit on the presidency. The press secretary of the parliamentary session, Zhang Yesui, has stated that there is a need to adopt these amendments due to the "revolutionary changes ... especially after the 18th Party Congress," when the affirmation of a "socialism with Chinese characteristics" as a system (zhidu) was first written into the Party constitution, and Xi Jinping was elected a general secretary of the Communist Party and the president of a country. As for such "revolutionary" changes in China, they are, indeed, facing a need to deal with the new challenges -- primarily in the economy.

In 1989, after the infamous Tiananmen Square Massacre, China started to develop a unique civilizational path that integrated an authoritarian (nearly totalitarian) political regime with a market economy. Back then, China neglected to choose a path of democratization, having seen its disastrous results for Russia right after the collapse of the Soviet Union. In the early '90s, Russia tried to adapt a market economy without any necessary preparation and embraced an unlimited market freedom without any government regulation or control whatsoever.

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