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Judge Suspends Release of Herman Bell, Elderly Black Panther Jailed 45 Years, Amid Police Pressure

Truthout - Thu, 04/05/2018 - 21:00

A judge in New York has suspended the release of Herman Bell, a 70-year-old prisoner who has been granted parole after 45 years in prison. Bell was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison for the killing of two New York City police officers in 1971. At the time, he was a member of the Black Liberation Army and a former Black Panther. Since then, he has mentored thousands of young men while behind bars and kept a clean disciplinary record. State-mandated tests show he would pose the lowest possible risk if he is allowed to re-enter society. In March, the New York Parole Board granted parole for Bell, noting he had expressed remorse and was likely to lead a "law-abiding life." State law requires commissioners to consider such factors, but they've only recently started to comply. On Wednesday, a state judge agreed to hear a challenge from the widow of one of the officers, who says the board violated procedure. A hearing on the petition is set for April 13, just days before Bell's earliest originally scheduled release date. We speak with Robert Boyle, lawyer for Herman Bell, who says the board followed the rules. We are also joined by Jose Saldaña, who was incarcerated in New York until he was released by the parole board earlier this year in January, after 38 years inside. He knew Herman Bell and is now an organizer with the group RAPP, Release Aging People from Prison, who has helped push for parole reform.

TRANSCRIPT

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I'm Amy Goodman. We end today's show here in New York, where a judge has suspended the release of a 70-year-old prisoner who's been granted parole after 45 years in prison.

Herman Bell was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison for the killing of two police officers in 1971, Joseph Piagentini and Waverly Jones. At the time, Bell was a member of the Black Liberation Army and a former Black Panther. Since then, he has mentored thousands of young men while behind bars and kept a clean disciplinary record -- even after guards brutally attacked him in September. State-mandated tests show he would pose the lowest possible risk if he's allowed to re-enter society.

In March, the New York Parole Board granted Herman Bell parole, noting he had expressed remorse and was likely to lead a law-abiding life. State law requires commissioners to consider such factors, but they've only recently started to comply, after a campaign for reform. A New York Times editorial hailed Bell's release, in an editorial, saying, quote, "[T]he process worked as it should if parole is to amount to more than an empty word," unquote.

In its decision, the parole board cited a letter from the namesake son of one of the victims, Waverly Jones Jr., who wrote that he and some members of his family supported Bell's release, saying, quote, "The simple answer is it would bring joy and peace as we have already forgiven Herman Bell publicly. … On the other hand, to deny him parole again would cause us pain as we are reminded of the painful episode each time he appears before the board," again, the son of the slain police officer wrote.

But other family members of the slain officers, as well as the police union, known as the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, the PBA, have called for the board to reverse its vote, along with New York Mayor Bill de Blasio. On Wednesday, a state judge agreed to hear a challenge from the widow of Officer Piagentini, who says the board violated procedure in its decision. A hearing on the petition is set for April 13th, a week from today, just days before Bell's earliest originally scheduled release date.

For more, we're joined by Herman Bell's lawyer, Bob Boyle, and by Jose Saldaña, who was formerly incarcerated in New York state prison and was released by the parole board earlier this year, in January, after 38 years inside. He knew Herman Bell and is now an organizer with the group RAPP -- that's Release Aging People from Prison -- which has helped push for parole reform.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Bob Boyle, welcome back.

ROBERT BOYLE: Good morning.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about Herman Bell's case today.

ROBERT BOYLE: Well, Herman Bell, as you said, served 46 years in prison and was granted parole on his eighth appearance before the parole board, where he satisfied all the criteria. On this -- just a couple of days ago, the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, using, I would say, the widow of Officer Piagentini, filed a suit in state Supreme Court in Albany to block his release. And it's really an unprecedented action, although it's been tried in some cases before and failed, in that the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association is exercising, I would argue, undue influence over the criminal justice process. And they are bringing this lawsuit to block the release of someone who's satisfied every criteria for parole. And it really shows their power, that they could influence even Mayor Bill de Blasio to come out with a statement saying Herman Bell should never be paroled, when that's actually contrary to the law, because he satisfies all the criteria for release. And this was done by parole commissioners who spent two hours with him, reviewed mountains of material, everything they had to do, and finally, on his eighth appearance, granted him parole.

AMY GOODMAN: This is New York state Senator Marty Golden speaking on Fox & Friends back in March about the New York Parole Board's decision to release Herman Bell.

SEN. MARTIN GOLDEN: This is where the board acted inappropriately, and this is why we believe that this board should be taken apart, fired. One of them is that they have to consider whether the crime is so heinous that their release would undermine the respect for the law.

PETE HEGSETH: Yes.

SEN. MARTIN GOLDEN: And guess what. They didn't do that. Right? Seven previous boards -- seven previous boards said that the release would depreciate the severity of the crime. So how do seven boards come up with that, and this board comes up with their decision?

AMY GOODMAN: That's New York state Senator Marty Golden. Did they break the rules, or did they follow the rules?

ROBERT BOYLE: They followed the rules. The point he is making, the seriousness of the offense will never change. But people do change, who are behind the wall. And Herman Bell has shown that he's changed. So, on his eighth appearance after 46 years, the board recognized this and did what they were supposed to do by releasing him, ordering his release.

AMY GOODMAN: Jose Saldaña, you were just recently released from prison.

JOSE SALDAÑA: Yes, I was.

AMY GOODMAN: And you're involved with working particularly for elderly prisoners to get out of jail.

JOSE SALDAÑA: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: You knew Herman Bell in jail.

JOSE SALDAÑA: Yes, I did.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about what he did there.

JOSE SALDAÑA: Well, Herman was a great influence in me transforming my life. And he helped transform literally thousands of other people's lives. You see now a lot of the formerly incarcerated people doing very positive things in the community, serving the community. These very same people were influenced by Herman Bell.

I'd like to address that this problem that we're facing right now is a variation of the problem that I thought was corrected by the government. For years, I was a part of a group that called for parole reform. We said that the composition of the parole board needs to be changed, because you had a large majority of parole commissioners with certain backgrounds that didn't allow them to consider rehabilitation. So they were systematically denying persons convicted of violent crimes, especially when the victim was a police officer, parole, based on their personal beliefs.

Last year, the governor appointed six new parole officers with backgrounds from behavioral sciences. And these backgrounds allowed them to consider rehabilitation. And this is exactly what happened. So the problem was deemed corrected. Now, they're trying to come around the back door and do the same thing.

AMY GOODMAN: Bob Boyle, could Herman Bell still get out?

ROBERT BOYLE: Yes. I mean, the lawsuit that was filed was frivolous, because the board, in fact, considered everything they were supposed to, and made the right decision. And so, on a week from today, we hope that the judge will dismiss the suit, and so he will be released as scheduled.

AMY GOODMAN: What is the broader purpose of parole?

ROBERT BOYLE: It's to recognize that someone has in fact changed and will lead a law-abiding life and contribute to the community. This is what the purpose of parole is, in the words of the New York statute, that it's reasonably probable that the person will lead a law-abiding life. That's the standard. And Herman Bell, for years, has satisfied that standard.

AMY GOODMAN: And can you talk about the son of the slain police officer, also named Waverly, writing this letter, saying that they support the parole of Herman Bell, Waverly Jones Jr.?

ROBERT BOYLE: Well, he actually has supported parole since 2004, as has his mother and his sister, when they wrote to Herman Bell and actually had a correspondence with him. And they have urged the parole board to grant parole. But what I'd like to add to that is, while that's very important, it's not the definitive thing. It's not a debate between families of the victims. If someone satisfies the criteria for parole, they should get parole. It's wonderful he did that, but it's not determinative.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to read just the tail end of what he wrote -- again, the son of the slain officer, saying, "The fact is [that] Mr. Bell has taken responsibility for his actions, has expressed genuine remorse, is 70 years old and has been in prison for 45 years. In these times of increased hate, we need more compassion and forgiveness." As you hear that, Jose Saldaña, your response?

JOSE SALDAÑA: I greatly admire his sense of justice, and I greatly admire the fact that he didn't allow himself to be used for a racist, political agenda.

AMY GOODMAN: So, the next date is April 13th.

ROBERT BOYLE: April 13th, we'll be in court. And hopefully, the earliest release date is April 17th, and we hope to welcome him home on that day or in one of the succeeding days.

AMY GOODMAN: We want to thank you both for being with us, and want to continue the conversation after the show with a web exclusive, that we'll post online. Bob Boyle, lawyer for Herman Bell. Jose Saldaña, formerly incarcerated in New York state prison, knew Herman Bell well, now an organizer with the group RAPP, Release Aging People from Prison.

I want to wish Matt Ealy a happy birthday.

Democracy Now! is accepting applications for our paid, year-long social media fellowship, deadline May 6. Go to democracynow.org.

Categories: Latest News

Brazil's Popular Ex-President Lula Ordered to Prison After Politically Motivated Trial and Conviction

Truthout - Thu, 04/05/2018 - 21:00

A judge on Thursday ordered former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva to turn himself in to police within 24 hours and begin serving a 12-year sentence for a controversial corruption conviction, effectively removing him from Brazil's presidential election later this year, where he was the front-runner. Lula is a former union leader who served as president of Brazil from 2003 to 2010. During that time, he helped lift tens of millions of Brazilians out of poverty. His supporters say the ruling against him is a continuation of the coup that ousted Lula's ally Dilma Rousseff from power last year. We play excerpts from our recent interview with Lula and get an update from Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research and president of Just Foreign Policy, who argues "the investigation is political, and that everything [Judge Moro is] trying to do is political, including the latest order that Lula surrender today."

TRANSCRIPT

AMY GOODMAN: We begin today's show in Brazil, where a judge on Thursday ordered former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva to turn himself in to police within 24 hours to begin serving a 12-year sentence for a controversial corruption conviction. The Supreme Court's rejection of Lula's bid to stay out of jail while he appeals effectively removes him from Brazil's presidential election later this year, where he was the front-runner.

Lula is a former union leader who served as president of Brazil from 2003 to 2010. During that time, he helped lift tens of millions of Brazilians out of poverty. His supporters say the ruling against him is a continuation of the coup that ousted Lula's ally, President Dilma Rousseff, from power last year. On Thursday, Rousseff continued to defend Lula.

DILMA ROUSSEFF: [translated] They want to turn off Brazil's history, to gloss over what we did the last 13 years in our terms in office.

AMY GOODMAN: Early today, Lula appeared at his party's headquarters and briefly waved to his supporters, but made no comment. During an interview on Democracy Now! last month, President Lula said his prosecution is part of an attempt to criminalize the Workers' Party.

LUIZ INÁCIO LULA DA SILVA: [translated] We are awaiting the accusers, for the accusers to show at least some piece of evidence that indicates that I committed any crime during the period that I was in the presidency. Now, what is behind that is the attempt to criminalize my political party. What is behind that is the interest in a part of the political elite of Brazil, together with a part of the press, reinforced by the role of the judiciary, in preventing Lula from becoming a candidate in the 2018 elections.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, for more, we go to Washington, D.C., for an update from Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research and president of Just Foreign Policy. Weisbrot's new book is called Failed: What the Experts Got Wrong About the Global Economy.

Mark Weisbrot, first, can you talk about -- respond to the Supreme Court ruling, explain what it is and what this means if Lula were to go to jail today.

MARK WEISBROT: Yes, well, the Supreme Court ruled that he could be imprisoned while his appeals are pending, even though the constitution says pretty clearly that no one will be considered guilty until all their appeals have been exhausted. So, and then, of course, with amazing speed, the trial judge -- it went back to the lower court and then the trial judge, within hours, yesterday. And the trial judge ordered that he be -- he surrender to authorities today by 5:00 Brazilian time.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you explain this case?

MARK WEISBROT: Yes. Well, I mean, the biggest thing is that he was convicted without material evidence. So, he's accused -- Lula was accused of accepting a bribe in the form of remodeling of an apartment. And the big problem -- and Lula mentioned this in his interview on Democracy Now!, which I think was really, really important. I hope people read that transcript, because he explained a lot of this. But, basically, they didn't have material evidence that he ever accepted this apartment, that he ever stayed in it, that he ever -- he didn't have title to it. In fact, he didn't, any of those things.

And the evidence that they had was really just one witness, who was a construction company executive who had already pled guilty and was plea bargaining. And he had his sentence reduced from something like 16 to two years, in an exchange for implicating Lula. And, in fact, according to press reports in Brazil, in Folha de São Paulo, he actually -- they actually cut off his plea bargaining, because he originally told a story similar to Lula's, and they cut off his plea bargaining until he said what they wanted to hear -- that is, implicated Lula. And that's the evidence they have for the so-called crime.

And, you know, it's kind of misreported in the press, because they said he was convicted of taking a bribe and money laundering, but that's all the same thing. The money laundering just means that he took -- supposedly took this apartment instead of cash.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn back to Lula. He was speaking last month on Democracy Now!, describing the federal judge presiding over his case, Judge Sérgio Moro.

LUIZ INÁCIO LULA DA SILVA: [translated] Now, if my innocence is proven, then Judge Moro should be removed from his position, because you can't have a judge who is lying in the judgment and pronouncing as guilty someone who he knows is innocent. He knows that it's not my apartment. He knows that I didn't buy it. He knows that I didn't pay anything. He knows that I never went there. He knows that I don't have money from Petrobras. The thing is that because he subordinated himself to the media, I said, in the first hearing with him, "You are not in a position to acquit me, because the lies have gone too far." And the disgrace is that the one who does the first lie continues lying and lying and lying to justify the first lie. And I am going to prove that he has been lying.

AMY GOODMAN: Mark Weisbrot, can you respond?

MARK WEISBROT: Yes. I think this is very important, because, you know, you don't see this, really, in the -- you can search the media coverage. You almost never see anything where the evidence of the case is discussed, even though it's all on the web -- there's a 238-page sentencing document from this judge that discusses all the evidence and all the things that Lula just mentioned and I just mentioned -- and they just treat it as though it's a fact, every -- you know, he's guilty, and that's all there is to it. So I think that's very important.

And also, the judge's -- Judge Sérgio Moro's animus is very evident, his prejudice. For example, he had to apologize to the Supreme Court for having released illegal wiretaps of Lula's conversations with Dilma and with his lawyer and his family, and released this to the public. And he did other things, as well, to try and try the case in the media -- for example, having Lula arrested at his home with a lot of police, you know, where he had always volunteered for questioning. There was no doubt that he was available for questioning. And they had to take him away in front of the cameras and notify the media in advance. So, there are so many things that he did that show that he really is political, that the investigation is political, and that everything he's trying to do is political, including the latest order that Lula surrender today.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to go back to Lula speaking on Democracy Now!, when I asked him about the press acting as prosecutor in his case.

LUIZ INÁCIO LULA DA SILVA: [translated] I was president for eight years. Dilma was president for four years. And for 12 years, all the press did was to try to destroy my image and her image and the image of my party. I have more negative subject matter about me in the leading television news program of Brazil than all of the presidents in the whole history of Brazil. In other words, it's a daily attempt to massacre me, to tell untruths about Lula, about Lula's family. And the only weapon that I have is to confront them. And they're irritated, because after they massacred me for four years, any opinion poll by any polling institute showed that Lula was going win the elections in Brazil.

AMY GOODMAN: During my interview with Lula last month, I asked him if he would consider stepping aside, running for president, if his case did not go well in the Supreme Court.

LUIZ INÁCIO LULA DA SILVA: [translated] First of all, Amy, I'm very optimistic, very optimistic. Now, if that were to happen and I was not able -- were not able to be a candidate, if my name is not on the ballot, I think that the party would call a convention and discuss what to do. I am going to require that and call for justice to be done in the country.

AMY GOODMAN: So, that was President Lula speaking on Democracy Now! just a few weeks ago. Mark Weisbrot, what will happen now? Do you expect Lula to turn himself in today? And what does this mean for this presidential race in Brazil, one of the largest countries in the world?

MARK WEISBROT: Yes, first, I do want to say how important what he said about the media is. I mean, if we had a media like this in the United States, Barack Obama never would have been elected, because most of the country would have believed he was Muslim and not born in the United States. And so, this is the kind of media you have there. And the impeachment of Dilma, for example, would never, I don't think, have happened without this kind of constant barrage of media against both of those leaders and against the Workers' Party.

So I don't know what he's going -- I mean, I assume he's going to do what he said, and surrender to the authorities. Now, we don't really know what's going to happen from there. He's going to -- he said he's going to continue to run for president. Theoretically, he could even win from jail. That's not likely, because there's another court, having to do with the electoral decision, that would probably say that he -- or possibly say -- I think probably say that he isn't eligible to run. I mean, the whole point of this is to keep him from running, because he is the front runner and he would probably win in October. And that's largely because of what, you know, he and the Workers' Party accomplished in their 14 years in power. And that's what really this is all about. I mean, it's about the traditional elite taking what they couldn't win at the ballot box for 14 years.

So, we'll see what happens. I don't think it's over yet, because he can -- you know, he's going to -- I mean, there's millions and millions of people in Brazil who -- in fact, there was a poll last year that said 41 percent of the public thought he was being railroaded by the media and the judicial system. And so, they will see him as a political prisoner, and they will see any election that's held without him in October as illegitimate. So, I think there's going to be a continued fight, either to elect him or, if that's not possible, to elect someone else from the Workers' Party.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Mark, I asked Lula about the candidate polling second in Brazil's election, Jair Bolsonaro, the far-right-wing congressman, former soldier, who's been called the "Brazilian Trump."

LUIZ INÁCIO LULA DA SILVA: [translated] He is a member of the federal Congress. He was an Army captain in the Brazilian Army. The information that we have is that he was expelled from the Brazilian army. And his behavior is far-right-wing, fascist. He is very much prejudiced against women, against blacks, against indigenous persons, against human rights. He believes that everything can be resolved with violence. So, I don't think he has a future in Brazilian politics.

AMY GOODMAN: So, Mark Weisbrot, as we wrap up, if you can comment on Bolsonaro and also the current president, Michel Temer, and any role he may be playing in all of this?

MARK WEISBROT: Well, this is a real threat, not only of Bolsonaro himself, but also the violence that has -- you know, has been happening and threatened, as you reported and Lula talked about in his interview. You had the assassination on March 17th of Marielle Franco, the city councilor and Afro-Brazilian activist in Rio. On March 27th, Lula's caravan was shot at. And you have two Army officers, just in the last few days, saying very threatening things, the first one saying that if Lula were eventually elected, there would have to be some kind of military intervention, and then the head of the armed forces appearing to endorse that by saying, the day before the Supreme Court decision, that the -- you know, he made this speech against impunity, indicating, you know, which side the military was on in this case, and may have influenced the Supreme Court. So you have a lot of things that bring to mind the 1964 coup and the dictatorship that lasted until the late '80s. It's a very threatening and very dangerous situation.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Mark Weisbrot, of course, we'll continue to follow it. I want to thank you for being with us, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research and president of Just Foreign Policy. His new book, Failed: What the "Experts" Got Wrong About the Global Economy. This is Democracy Now! If you want to see our full hour with Lula, with the former president of Brazil, you can go to democracynow.org.

When we come back, the investigative reporter who exposed the first lie about military intervention during the Trump era. She's winning a George Polk Award today. Stay with us.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: Cecil Taylor performing solo in 1984. The visionary jazz pianist and composer died Thursday in New York at the age of 89. The jazz magazine DownBeat once wrote, "In a more embracing cultural climate, [Cecil] Taylor … would stand a pivotal link in a musical time-line: Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Bartok, Tatum, Taylor."

Categories: Latest News

Arizona Teachers Strike Is the Answer to Years of Tax Cuts and Neglect of Education

Truthout - Thu, 04/05/2018 - 21:00
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Arizona teachers are considering a strike, following the recent West Virginia and now Oklahoma and Kentucky examples, if they don't receive their requested 20 percent pay raise. 

An official strike date hasn't been set, but the teachers, following the playbooks from West Virginia, Oklahoma and Kentucky, have staged multiple protests in individual districts and at the state capitol in Phoenix for the last five weeks, using the #RedforEd hashtag on Twitter to announce and document their protests. At the capitol this Wednesday, one group of teachers gave the legislature a progress report, and there are more "walk-ins," with teachers marching into their school buildings to demand better pay.  

Teachers... what are you going to do if our Legislature doesn’t give you the salary and respect you deserve? #RedForEd pic.twitter.com/Vzn5P2LPfj

— Steve Weichert (@SteveWeichert) March 29, 2018

The organizing was fueled by a grassroots energy so strong, Thomas noted, it "caught everyone off guard." As in Oklahoma, West Virginia and Kentucky, they've been organizing through Facebook groups (which grew to 40,000 members in just three weeks, according to Thomas).

"We have the worst pay in the nation for our teachers," he continued, but pay is just the tip of the iceberg. Arizona teachers have been struggling with years of divestment from Republican governors who slashed education funding to pay for tax cuts.

Thomas dates the worst of Arizona's tax cuts back to the reaction to the 2008 Great Recession. "Before the recession, we were spending $1,000 more a student on supplies, teacher salaries and staff hirings and building repair, all of the money that goes into that."

Instead of investing in infrastructure and social services to spur post-Great Recession economic activity, Arizona's Republican governor at the time, Jan Brewer, voted for a package of corporate tax cuts, which she admitted in 2017 may have been too severe. She told the Arizona Capitol Times,

"Of course, it was a little bit too aggressive." The result, Brewer said, has been a reduction in revenues needed for state services. "Sooner or later, you have to pay the fiddler," she said.

Current Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, also a Republican, doesn't agree. Just days ago he declined to give teachers the 20 percent raise they asked for, and also vowed, as the Arizona Daily Sun reported, "to reverse any of the hundreds of millions of dollars in corporate tax cuts that have kicked in since he took office," some of which were signed when Brewer was still in office. "Each $100 million that was lost would translate to a 3 percent pay hike for teachers."

The strikes are contagious. It's been only a few weeks since West Virginia teachers went on strike, but earlier this week, Oklahoma teachers made good on the promises union organizers Alicia Priest and Mary Best explained to AlterNet in March -- to strike if their request for an approximately $10,000 pay raise was not met. They did so following the passage of a bill that gave them only $6,000 of the $10,000 they demanded, after nearly a decade without any raises.

In Kentucky, too, teachers protested at the state capitol in Frankfort, against sweeping cuts to their pensions that put teachers' hopes for retirement in peril. Schools in at least 25 counties shut down last Friday, the Huffington Post reported, with teachers calling in sick or absent, and continued their walkout this week.

Writing about the red-state teacher revolt in the Washington Post, Paul Waldman explains that "Oklahoma is a particularly pure example of conservative philosophy." Since 1992, "state law mandates a 75 percent supermajority in both houses of the legislature to raise taxes." The rule was in response to a 1990 tax increase that was specifically for school funding. Waldman argues that this "has led them to where they are today, with four-day school weeks, cold buildings and decades-old textbooks."

When teachers bring these concerns to state legislatures, they're met with disdain. "Then [they] hold out empty pockets, saying, well, we can't fund education -- when they deliberately, annually cut taxes," Thomas said. "That's going to make the next year's funding even harder."

Thomas fears a teacher exodus to surrounding, better-paying states is coming. He explained, "Teachers in Arizona can go to any surrounding state and get a significant raise... I believe both Utah and Colorado are about a $10,000 raise. New Mexico, on average, pays their teachers $15,000 more than Arizona teachers are paid."

"We need a billion-dollar reinvestment just to get back where we were 10 years ago," Thomas continued, explaining why teachers are asking for a 20 percent raise. "That's the part that the public struggles with because you almost can't believe a governor or a legislature would let... students and schools face such peril."

Strikes or walkouts in four states and counting might do something to change that. 

Categories: Latest News

Just a Small Bug

Truthout - Thu, 04/05/2018 - 21:00
Categories: Latest News

Quit Rates Jump to 17 Year High in March

Truthout - Thu, 04/05/2018 - 21:00

The percentage of unemployment due to people who voluntarily quit their jobs jumped to 13.1 percent in March, the highest level since May of 2001. This statistic is a good measure of workers' confidence in the labor market, since it means that they are prepared to leave a job even before they have new one lined up. Until this month, the quit rate had been unusually low (mostly under 11.0 percent) given the levels of unemployment we were seeing. The March level is more consistent with an unemployment rate near 4.0 percent.

This is also coinciding with some evidence of an uptick in wage growth. While the year-over-year rate was just 2.7 percent, the annualized rate, compared the average for the last three months (January, February, and March) with the prior three months (October, November, and December), was 3.2 percent. This suggests that workers may finally be getting back some of the share of income they lost to profits in the Great Recession.

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Categories: Latest News

Trump Attempts to Win Back Ann Coulter With Vicious Attacks on Immigrants

Truthout - Thu, 04/05/2018 - 21:00

Donald Trump boards Air Force One at Andrews Air Force base on April 5, 2018, near Washington, DC. (Photo: Nicholas Kamm / AFP / Getty Images)

Everyone has noticed by now that Donald Trump is no longer even attempting to stick with the script, evidently feeling that he's been ill-served by people who observe political norms and common definitions of what it is to be a president of the United States. He's starting trade wars, declaring an abrupt withdrawal from Syria and attacking businessmen who also own newspapers he wants to quash. He's been animated and energized by this newfound freedom to "tell it like it is" as he did on Thursday at a tax forum in West Virginia, where he claimed to be the first president in 40 years to deliver on taxes because only he had the guts to demand "tax cuts" instead of tax reform.

As is now the required ritual at any meeting where Trump appears, other speakers at the forum dutifully flattered and praised him. One attendee was nearly crying as she thanked him for the tax cuts, saying, "Thank you for listening to us. Thank you for fighting for us."

But despite this demonstration of loyalty and commitment, Trump is showing all the signs of a man who senses that his lover is unhappy with him. He's bringing home gifts and flowers to show how much he cares. He's hearing from friends that he's been a disappointment because he hasn't fulfilled that yuuuge promise he made when they were courting, the one that sealed the deal. He hasn't built that big beautiful wall.

Ann Coulter is one of the only 45 people Trump follows on twitter and she retweeted this so he would see it:

https://t.co/SRkswLF3zd

— Breitbart News (@BreitbartNews) April 3, 2018

Radio host Mark Levin went ballistic:

Build the damn wall! You got the House. You got the Senate. You got the presidency. You got the bureaucracy. The art of the deal, screw the art of the deal. It should be the art of the victory. The art of victory. It's time to roll Schumer. It's time to roll the Democrats.

There is ample reporting that Trump is having frequent dinner parties with his Fox News kitchen cabinet, both down in Mar-a-Lago and at the White House, and is hearing personally from the likes of Jeanine Pirro and Sean Hannity that the base is restless.

Trump's problem is that Congress didn't fund his wall beyond a "mere" $1.6 billion, which he considers an insult, and which his followers have been convinced is a capitulation on his part. They're right about that. The White House was heavily involved in all the negotiations and agreed to the numbers.  Evidently the master negotiator was busy tweeting and didn't have time to do the kind of magical arm-twisting that he promised makes such deals "easy."

He seemed to be taken by surprise when he tuned in his top political advisory panel on "Fox & Friends" on the morning of the bill-signing ceremony and learned that they were not happy. (He briefly threatened to veto the bill and single-handedly shut down the government, but was talked out of it.) He's been on a tear ever since, trying to appease those folks with some of that old-time demagoguery and the promise of bringing down the hammer on immigrants in some other satisfying way.

At first he indicated that he'd just have the military build the wall. He seems to think the federal budget is like the books at his Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City. where when he came up short to pay the bills he could just shift cash around to keep up appearances. Or maybe he figures the military budget is now so bloated that it's got billions just sitting around gathering dust, which may be true. Unfortunately, he doesn't control the books or sign the checks in the federal budget. So he'd have to get congressional approval for such a scheme, which that doesn't look likely.

He fulminated about it over the weekend and really got going after the Sunday "Fox & Friends" crew discussed an annual "caravan" of migrants from Central America. These are people seeking political asylum, for the most part, who make the trek to the border through Mexico to draw attention to their plight and travel in the safety of the spotlight. The Fox hosts interviewed Brandon Judd, president of the Border Patrol Council, who claimed these migrants would all be released into the United States, endangering decent people everywhere:

They’re going to wait for a immigration reform, and they’re going to create havoc and chaos. I mean, how many times do we have to hear stories of United States citizens being killed by people that are here illegally before we actually do something?”

Trump's flurry of angry tweets about immigrants flowing over the border to "take advantage of DACA" (which makes no sense since you had to be in the country before 2011 to qualify) was obviously inspired by his commentary, including his repeated insistence that the Senate should end the filibuster to fix the problem. (He has apparently forgotten that he couldn't even get a bare majority in the Senate, because so many Republicans refused to sign on to his immigration plan.)

None of this appeased the president's right-wing critics. But when he started talking about sending troops to the border, they got excited:

Are they going to shoot the illegals? Just standing there doesn't do a thing. We need to do what Israel does: immediate detention and removal. https://t.co/byXxDbG2po

— Ann Coulter (@AnnCoulter) April 4, 2018

Trump has been going on about changing the laws to make it easier to deport people so it's fair to assume he and Coulter are on the same wavelength there.

At the tax event in West Virginia on Thursday, the president threw away his script about the tax cuts and went on a long xenophobic rant, once again evoking his notorious announcement speech in which he claimed that Mexican immigrants were rapists and criminals. He once again made lurid remarks about girls being "cut up" by MS-13 gang members. It's an image he has disturbingly evoked in other contexts, including a creepy impression of the thug in the 1970s movie "Death Wish" saying. "I'm gonna cut you up." He once again claimed that in California undocumented immigrants vote by the millions and the state is "guarding their records," another pathetic attempt to imply that he actually won the popular vote.

Referencing that awful announcement speech, Trump claimed he'd just learned that the caravan in Mexico was full of rapists, saying, "Women are raped at levels never seen before." Nobody knows where he got that from: He just blurted it out. It may have been the ugliest and most xenophobic speech he's given since the beginning of his 2016 campaign, a rambling assault on foreigners, immigrants and the states where many of them live. It was nauseating.

It's obvious Trump is worried about this mini-rebellion on the right. It remains to be seen whether sending some National Guard troops to the border (a largely symbolic move) and this kind of crude demagoguery will quell it. If not, we could be in for a messy fight between Trump and his followers. The losers, as always, will be immigrants and refugees.

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Categories: Latest News

Court Rules EPA Unlawfully Delayed Environmental Racism Investigations for Decades

Truthout - Thu, 04/05/2018 - 21:00

Father Phil Schmitter and other advocates from a predominately Black neighborhood in Flint, Michigan filed a civil rights complaint with the EPA more than 20 years before the city became a symbol of environmental racism. The EPA finally completed its investigation into the complaint last year, and only after environmental justice groups took the agency to federal court.

Darlene McClendon, 62, at her home in Flint, Michigan, on October 11, 2016. (Photo: Brittany Greeson / For The Washington Post via Getty Images)

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A federal court ruled this week that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) violated the Civil Rights Act by delaying investigations into environmental discrimination complaints for years, even decades. For plaintiff Phil Schmitter, a priest and social justice activist from Flint, Michigan, the ruling is a bittersweet victory that was a long time coming.

Schmitter's story begins in the early 1990s, long before drinking water contaminated with dangerous levels of lead would turn Flint into an international symbol of environmental racism. At the time, Schmitter and other advocates living in a predominantly Black neighborhood on the outskirts of Flint were fighting a proposal to build a scrap wood incinerator nearby.

In October of 1994, Michigan state regulators arrived with armed guards at a school in Schmitter's neighborhood to hold a hearing on a pollution permit for the incinerator. Schmitter and other attendees were shocked: Gun-wielding guards were nowhere to be seen at previous hearings held hours away in Lansing. Did they bring the uniformed guards to Flint because residents opposing the incinerator were Black?

"That's very intimidating [to say], 'Hey, come tell us what your concerns are,' and there are these armed people here," Schmitter told Truthout in an interview.

Reams of data show that sources of industrial pollution are more likely to be located near low-income communities and neighborhoods of color.

EPA investigators would later note that the hearing in Flint was abruptly adjourned before several community members had a chance to testify. In fact, hearing voices from the Black community in Flint did not appear to be a priority for the state environmental commission. One of the previous hearings in Lansing dragged on late into the night as regulators considered permits for other projects first, and advocates from the Flint neighborhood who would later live in the shadow of the incinerator, waited hours to speak their piece after driving across the state to get there.

Two Black state lawmakers had asked to speak to regulators in advance of the earlier hearing in Lansing because a scheduling delay had made it difficult for them to arrive in time to speak, but those requests were denied. One lawmaker was only able to make comments to regulators late in the evening after traveling 120 miles. However, a white lawmaker interrupted the meeting and was allowed to make remarks, even as the commission considered postponing the portion of the hearing focused on the incinerator to another date.

"As a white man, I could see that Black people were being treated in a very different way than white people, and if that's not racism, then I don't know what is," said Schmitter, who had lived in public housing with local residents after moving to the area.

Waiting Decades for Justice

Schmitter and other activists filed two complaints with the EPA in the early 1990s, some of the first filed with the agency's fledgling civil rights office. The complaints argued that Michigan's environmental quality office had discriminated against local residents, and the decision to build the incinerator in their neighborhood followed a pattern of placing incinerators and other hazardous facilities in lower-income communities of color.

The EPA agreed to investigate their initial complaint in 1995, but that did not prevent the incinerators from going into operation months later. The facility burned wood from demolished buildings to generate electricity and spewed at least 2.2 tons of lead from paint found on the scrap wood into the air each year, according to legal records. As time passed, the EPA would designate the incinerator a "significant violator" for spewing pollution.

The EPA has only made a formal finding of discrimination twice.

The Flint complaint was not resolved until last year, and only after Schmitter and plaintiffs from four other communities filed a lawsuit against the EPA in 2015 for failing to complete investigations into civil rights complaints filed over the past two decades. By then, lead leaching from corroding pipes in Flint's municipal drinking water system had created a full-blown environmental crisis in the working class city.

Schmitter was in his late 40s when the first complaint was filed. He is now 72, and the three other advocates who signed on to the complaint have passed away.

"I could not imagine that there would still be a problem now and people wouldn't do what they are supposed to do," Schmitter said.

A Longstanding Pattern of Discrimination

For environmental justice advocates, Schmitter's story is part of a longstanding pattern at the EPA. Reams of data show that sources of industrial pollution are more likely to be located near low-income communities and neighborhoods of color, and Black and Latinx Americans often bear the brunt of toxic accidents and emissions. However, convincing the EPA to do something about this pattern of discrimination has proven very difficult.

Since the 1990s, advocates from these communities have filed more than 200 complaints with the EPA's civil rights office, alleging discrimination. However, the vast majority were rejected or dismissed, according to the Center for Public Integrity. Others, like the Flint complaint, seemed to simply fall through the cracks, remaining unresolved for years.

Out of all of these complaints, the EPA has only made a formal finding of discrimination twice. Those two findings came only in recent years, as the agency came under increasing scrutiny from environmental activists and pledged to improve the performance of its civil rights office. Other cases have resulted in agreements with state regulatory agencies to improve their public comment and non-discrimination programs, but no violations of federal law were declared.

One of the EPA's two findings of blatant discrimination was in the Flint incinerator case, which the EPA closed in January 2017 after 22 years. In a 35-page letter to Schmitter, the EPA said it had determined that Michigan's state environmental office had indeed discriminated against Black Flint residents who had opposed the incinerator during the public hearing process in the mid-1990s.

However, the EPA declined to say that air pollution from the incinerator had a "disparate impact" on the nearby Flint neighborhood Schmitter spent years fighting to protect, because emissions generally fell within levels allowed by the state's air pollution permit.

Jonathan Smith, an attorney with Earthjustice who helped bring the lawsuit against the EPA, said the EPA's determination that pollution from the incinerator did not have a discriminatory impact on the nearby community reveals a "longstanding problem" with how the agency investigates civil rights complaints.

"Pollution from a facility is still harmful regardless of whether it's within the permit limits," Smith told Truthout.

Smith said that when the EPA does agree to investigate environmental racism, it tends to focus on permits and specific scientific data rather than the broader socioeconomic implications of allowing multiple polluters to operate near poor neighborhoods of color in the first place. Residents of Flint already had multiple sources of pollution to contend with when the incinerator arrived, but the EPA only focused on pollution from the incinerator itself, not the cumulative impacts of placing it near other sources.

Smith said the emphasis on pollution permits allows the EPA to approach civil rights differently from other federal agencies and focus on individual facilities, rather than recognizing all the pollution a neighborhood must deal with. Environmental permits by design allow certain levels of pollution into the air and water that can be monitored by special equipment. By comparison, the Department of Education does not maintain predetermined levels of segregation that are deemed acceptable in public schools, for example.

Additionally, Smith said, a lack of staffing and funding at the EPA's civil rights office is a "perennial concern."

"I think if there were more institutional resources, a lot of handling of complaints could be done in a timely and thorough manner, which would be beneficial to communities across the country," Smith said.

A spokesperson for the EPA's civil rights office did not respond to a request for comment from Truthout by the time this article was published.

While the federal court in California that handed down the ruling against the EPA this week avoided making judgments on the results of the agency's civil rights investigations, it clearly agreed with the plaintiffs that the agency had violated federal law by missing statutory deadlines for completing several investigations by decades.

Schmitter considers the ruling a win, but he wishes the EPA would have just done its job in the first place. That's what he expected when he first filed the complaint over two decades ago, an assumption he now considers naïve.

However, Schmitter is not stopping now: The next step, he says, is to work with the EPA and Michigan's regulators to make sure the rights of Flint residents -- and environmental justice communities across the country -- are never ignored again. In the wake of its findings related to Schmitter's complaint and the Flint water crisis, the EPA is currently working with Michigan environmental regulators to reform their non-discrimination programs.

"This is a huge victory, but with all of the different places around the country that are being ignored on the state level, [the government] is just not helping to have a decent environment for people of color," Schmitter said.

Categories: Latest News

Educated Hope in Dark Times: The Challenge of the Educator-Artist as a Public Intellectual

Truthout - Thu, 04/05/2018 - 21:00

Increasingly, neoliberal regimes across Europe and North America have waged a major assault on critical thinking and the educational spheres in which they take place, but this also applies to creative spaces. Artistic production can change how people view the world, and that pedagogy can be dangerous to the status quo neoliberalism seeks to maintain.

(Photo: Hero Images / Getty Images)

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Increasingly, neoliberal regimes across Europe and North America have waged a major assault on critical pedagogy, public pedagogy, and the public spheres in which they take place. For instance, public and higher education are being defunded, turned into accountability factories, and now largely serve as adjuncts of an instrumental logic that mimics the values of the market. But, of course, this is not only true for spaces in which formal schooling takes place, it is also true for those public spheres and cultural apparatuses actively engaged in producing knowledge, values, subjectivities, and identities through a range of media and sites. This applies to a range of creative spaces including art galleries, museums, diverse sites that make up screen culture, and various elements of mainstream media.[1] What the apostles of neoliberalism have learned is that artistic production and its modes of public pedagogy can change how people view the world, and that pedagogy can be dangerous because it holds the potential for not only creating critically engaged students, intellectuals, and artists but can strengthen and expand the capacity of the imagination to think otherwise in order to act otherwise, hold power accountable, and imagine the unimaginable.

Reclaiming pedagogy as a form of educated and militant hope begins with the crucial recognition that education is not solely about job training and the production of ethically challenged entrepreneurial subjects and that artistic production does not only have to serve market interests, but are also about matters of civic engagement and literacy, critical thinking, and the capacity for democratic agency, action, and change. It is also inextricably connected to the related issues of power, inclusion, and social responsibility.[2] If young people, artists, and other cultural workers are to develop a deep respect for others, a keen sense of the common good, as well as an informed notion of community engagement, pedagogy must be viewed as a cultural, political, and moral force that provides the knowledge, values, and social relations to make such democratic practices possible. In this instance, pedagogy needs to be rigorous, self-reflective, and committed not to the dead zone of instrumental rationality but to the practice of freedom and liberation for the most vulnerable and oppressed, to a critical sensibility capable of advancing the parameters of knowledge, addressing crucial social issues, and connecting private troubles into public issues. Any viable notion of critical pedagogy must overcome the image of education as purely instrumental, as dead zones of the imagination, and sites of oppressive discipline and imposed conformity.

Pedagogies of repression do more than impose punishing forms of discipline on students and deaden their ability to think critically, they also further a modern-day pandemic of loneliness and alienation. Such pedagogies emphasize aggressive competition, unchecked individualism, and cancel out empathy for an exaggerated notion of self-interest. Solidarity and sharing are the enemy of these pedagogical practices, which are driven by a withdrawal from sustaining public values, trust, and goods and serve largely to cancel out a democratic future for young people. This poses a particular challenge for educators and other cultural workers who want to take up the role of engaged public intellectuals because it speaks less to the role of the intellectual as a celebrity than it does to the kind of pedagogical work in which they engage.

To read more articles by Henry A. Giroux and other authors in the Public Intellectual Project, click here.

At stake here is the need for artists, educators, and others to create pedagogical practices that create militant dreamers, people capable of envisioning a more just and democratic world and are willing to struggle for it. In this instance, pedagogy becomes not only central to politics but also a practice dedicated to creating a sense of belonging, community, empathy, and practices that address changing the way people think and navigate conflicts emotionally -- practices that awaken passion and energize forms of identification that speak to the conditions in which people find themselves. In the shark-like world of neoliberal-driven values, excessive competition, uncertainty, and deep-seated fears of the other, there is no room for empathetic conversations that focus on the common good, democratic values, or the pedagogical conditions that would further critical dialogue and the potential for students to learn how to hold power accountable.

Domination is at its most powerful when its mechanisms of control and subjugation hide in the discourses of common sense, and its elements of power are made to appear invisible. Public intellectuals can take up the challenge of not only relating their specialties and modes of cultural production to the intricacies of everyday life but also to rethinking how politics works, and how power is central to such a task. Bruce Robbins articulates the challenge well in both his defense of the intellectual and his reference to how other theorists such as Michel Foucault provide a model for such work. He writes:

But I also thought that intellectuals should be trying, like Foucault, to relate our specialized knowledge to things in general. We could not just become activists focused on particular struggles or editors striving to help little magazines make ends meet. We also had a different kind of role to play: thinking hard, as Foucault did, about how best to understand the ways power worked in our time. Foucault, like Sartre and Sontag and Said, was an intellectual, even at some points despite himself. He helped us understand the world in newly critical and imaginative ways. He offered us new lines of reasoning while also engaging in activism and political position-taking. Why, then, is there so much discomfort with using the term "intellectual" as an honorific?[3]

But power is not just a theoretical abstraction, it shapes the spaces in which everyday life takes place and touches peoples' lives at multiple registers, all of which represent in part a struggle over their identities, values, and views of others and the larger world. Critical pedagogy must be meaningful in order to be critical and transformative. That is, it should be cosmopolitan and imaginative -- a public affirming pedagogy that demands a critical and engaged interaction with the world we live in, mediated by a responsibility for challenging structures of domination and for alleviating human suffering. This is a pedagogy that addresses the needs of multiple publics. As an ethical and political practice, a public pedagogy of wakefulness rejects modes of education removed from political or social concerns, divorced from history and matters of injury and injustice. This is a pedagogy that includes "lifting complex ideas into the public space," recognizing human injury inside and outside of the academy and using theory as a form of criticism to change things.[4] This is a pedagogy in which artists, educators, and other cultural workers are neither afraid of controversy nor a willingness to make connections between private issues and broader elements of society's problems that are otherwise hidden. Nor are they afraid of using their work to address the challenges of the day.

As the practice of freedom, critical pedagogy arises from the conviction that artists, educators and other cultural workers have a responsibility to unsettle power, trouble consensus, and challenge common sense. This is a view of pedagogy that should disturb, inspire, and energize a vast array of individuals and publics. Critical pedagogy comes with the responsibility to view intellectual and artistic work as public, assuming a duty to enter into the public sphere unafraid to take positions and generate controversy, functioning as moral witnesses, raising political awareness, making connections to those elements of power and politics often hidden from public view, and reminding "the audience of the moral questions that may be hidden in the clamor and din of the public debate."[5]

Pedagogy is not a method but a moral and political practice, one that recognizes the relationship between knowledge and power, and at the same time realizes that central to all pedagogical practices is a struggle over agency, power, politics, and the formative cultures that make a radical democracy possible. This view of pedagogy does not mould, but inspires, and at the same time it is directive, capable of imagining a better world, the unfinished nature of agency, and the need to consistently reimagine a democracy that is never finished. In this sense, critical pedagogy is a form of educated hope committed to producing young people capable and willing to expand and deepen their sense of themselves, to think the "world" critically, "to imagine something other than their own well-being," to serve the public good, take risks, and struggle for a substantive democracy that is now in a state of acute crisis as the dark clouds of totalitarianism are increasingly threatening to destroy democracy itself on a global scale.[6]

Pedagogy is always the outcome of struggles, especially in terms of how pedagogical practices produce particular notions of citizenship and an inclusive democracy. Pedagogy looms large in this instance not as a technique or a prioriset of methods but as a political and moral practice. As a political practice, pedagogy illuminates the relationship among power, knowledge, and ideology, while self-consciously, if not self-critically, recognizing the role it plays as a deliberate attempt to influence how and what knowledge and identities are produced within particular sets of social relations. As a moral practice, pedagogy recognizes that what cultural workers, artists, activists, media workers and others teach cannot be abstracted from what it means to invest in public life, presuppose some notion of the future, or locate oneself in a public discourse.

The moral implications of pedagogy also suggest that our responsibilities as cultural workers cannot be separated from the consequences of the knowledge we produce, the social relations we legitimate, and the ideologies and identities we offer up to students. Refusing to decouple politics from pedagogy means, in part, that teaching in classrooms or in any other public sphere should not only simply honor the experiences people bring to such sites, including the classroom, but should also connect their experiences to specific problems that emanate from the material contexts of their everyday life. Pedagogy in this sense becomes performative in that it is not merely about deconstructing texts but about situating politics itself within a broader set of relations that addresses what it might mean to create modes of individual and social agency that enables rather than shuts down democratic values, practices, and social relations. Such a project recognizes not only the political nature of pedagogy, but also situates it within a call for artists, intellectuals, and others to assume responsibility for their actions, to link their teachings to those moral principles that allow us to do something about human suffering, as Susan Sontag once suggested.[7] Part of this task necessitates that cultural workers anchor their own work, however diverse, in a radical project that seriously engages the promise of an unrealized democracy against its really existing and radically incomplete forms. Of crucial importance to such a project is rejecting the assumption that theory can understand social problems without contesting their appearance in public life. Yet, any viable cultural politics needs a socially committed notion of injustice if we are to take seriously what it means to fight for the idea of good society. I think Zygmunt Bauman is right in arguing that "If there is no room for the idea of wrong society, there is hardly much chance for the idea of good society to be born, let alone make waves."[8]

Artists and other cultural workers should consider being more forceful, if not committed, to linking their overall politics to modes of critique and collective action that address the presupposition that democratic societies are never too just or just enough, and such a recognition means that a society must constantly nurture the possibilities for self-critique, collective agency, and forms of citizenship in which people play a fundamental role in critically discussing, administrating and shaping the material relations of power and ideological forces that bear down on their everyday lives. At stake here is the task, as Jacques Derrida insists, of viewing the project of democracy as a promise, a possibility rooted in an ongoing struggle for economic, cultural, and social justice.[9] Democracy in this instance is not a sutured or formalistic regime, it is the site of struggle itself. The struggle over creating an inclusive and just democracy can take many forms, offers no political guarantees, and provides an important normative dimension to politics as an ongoing process of democratization that never ends. Such a project is based on the realization that a democracy that is open to exchange, question, and self-criticism never reaches the limits of justice.

Theorists such as Raymond Williams and Cornelius Castoriadis recognized that the crisis of democracy was not only about the crisis of culture but also the crisis of pedagogy and education. Cultural workers would do well to take account of the profound transformations taking place in the public sphere and reclaim pedagogy as a central category of politics itself. Pierre Bourdieu was right when he stated that cultural workers have too often "underestimated the symbolic and pedagogical dimensions of struggle and have not always forged appropriate weapons to fight on this front."[10] He goes on to say in a later conversation with Gunter Grass that "left intellectuals must recognize that the most important forms of domination are not only economic but also intellectual and pedagogical, and lie on the side of belief and persuasion. Important to recognize that intellectuals bear an enormous responsibility for challenging this form of domination."[11] These are important pedagogical interventions and imply rightly that critical pedagogy in the broadest sense is not just about understanding, however critical, but also provides the conditions, ideals, and practices necessary for assuming the responsibilities we have as citizens to expose human misery and to eliminate the conditions that produce it. Matters of responsibility, social action, and political intervention do not simply develop out of social critique but also forms of self-critique. The relationship between knowledge and power, on the one hand, and creativity and politics, on the other, should always be self-reflexive about its effects, how it relates to the larger world, whether or not it is open to new understandings, and what it might mean pedagogically to take seriously matters of individual and social responsibility. In short, this project points to the need for cultural workers to address critical pedagogy not only as a mode of educated hope and a crucial element of an insurrectional educational project, but also as a practice that addresses the possibility of interpretation as intervention in the world.

Critical pedagogy can neither be reduced to a method nor is it non-directive in the manner of a spontaneous conversation with friends over coffee. As public intellectuals, authority must be reconfigured not as a way to stifle the curiosity and deaden the imagination, but as a platform that provided the conditions for students to learn the knowledge, skills, values, and social relationships that enhance their capacities to assume authority over the forces that shape their lives both in and out of schools. Power and authority are always related, but such a relationship must never operate in the service of domination or the stifling of autonomy but in the service of what I have called the practice of freedom. The notion that authority is always on the side of repression and that pedagogy should never be directive is for all practical purposes a political and theoretical flight from the educator assuming a sense of moral and political responsibility. For artists and educators to be voiceless, renounce the knowledge that gives them a sense of authority, and to assume that a wider public does not need to be exposed to modes of knowledge, histories, and values outside of their immediate experience is to forget that pedagogy is always about the struggle over knowledge, desire, identity, values, agency, and a vision of the future. Critical pedagogy for public intellectuals must always be attentive to addressing the democratic potential of engaging how experience, knowledge, and power are shaped in the classroom in different and often unequal contexts, and how teacher authority might be mobilized against dominant pedagogical practices as part of the practice of freedom, particularly those practices that erase any trace of subaltern histories, historical legacies of class struggles, and the ever persistent historical traces and current structures of racial and gender inequalities and injustices. In this sense, teacher authority must be linked both to a never-ending sense of historical memory, existing inequities, and a "hopeful version of democracy where the outcome is a more just, equitable society that works toward the end of oppression and suffering of all."[12] As I have said elsewhere:

Authority in this perspective is not simply on the side of oppression, but is used to intervene and shape the space of teaching and learning to provide students with a range of possibilities for challenging a society's commonsense assumptions, and for analyzing the interface between their own everyday lives and those broader social formations that bear down on them. Authority, at best, becomes both a referent for legitimating a commitment to a particular vision of pedagogy and a critical referent for a kind of autocritique.[13]

Any viable understanding of the artist and educator as a public intellectual must begin with the recognition that democracy begins to fail and civic life becomes impoverished when pedagogy is no longer viewed as central to politics. This is clearly the case as made visible in the election of Donald Trump to the presidency. Trump's claim that he loves the uneducated appears to have paid off for him just as his victory makes clear that ignorance rather than reason, emotion rather than informed judgment, and the threat of violence rather than critical exchange appear to have more currency in the age of Trump. In part, this political tragedy signifies the failure of the American public to recognize the educative nature of how agency is constructed, to address the necessity for moral witnessing, and the need to create a formative culture that produces critically engaged and socially responsible citizens. Such a failure empties democracy of any meaning. Such actions represent more than a flight from political and social responsibility; they also represent a surrender to the dark forces of authoritarianism. Democracy should be a way of thinking about education in a variety of spheres and practices, one that thrives on connecting equity to excellence, learning to ethics, and agency to the imperatives of the public good.[14] The question regarding what role education and pedagogy should play in democracy becomes all the more urgent at a time when the dark forces of authoritarianism are on the march all over the globe. Public values, trust, solidarities, and modes of education are under siege. As such, the discourses of hate, humiliation, rabid self-interest, and greed are exercising a poisonous influence in many Western societies. This is most evident at the present moment in the discourse of the right-wing extremists vying to consolidate their authority within a Trump presidency, all of whom sanction a war on immigrants, women, young people, poor Black youth, and so it goes. Under such circumstances, democracy is on life support. Yet rather than being a rationale for cynicism, radical democracy as both a pedagogical project and unfinished ideal should create an individual and collective sense of moral and political outrage, a new understanding of politics, and the pedagogical projects needed to allow democracy to breathe once again.

Trump's presence in American politics has made visible a plague of deep-seated civic illiteracy, a corrupt political system, and a contempt for reason; it also points to the withering of civic attachments, the collapse of politics into the spectacle of celebrity culture, the decline of public life, the use of violence and fear to numb people into shock, and a willingness to transform politics into a pathology. Trump's administration will produce a great deal of violence in American society, particularly among the ranks of the most vulnerable: poor children, minorities of colour, immigrants, women, climate change advocates, Muslims, and those protesting a Trump presidency. What must be made clear is that Trump's election and the damage he will do to American society will stay and fester for quite some time because he is only symptomatic of the darker forces that have been smoldering in American politics for the last 40 years. What cannot be exaggerated or easily dismissed is that Trump is the end result of a longstanding series of attacks on democracy and that his presence in the American political landscape has put democracy on trial. This is a challenge that artists, educators, and others must address. While mass civil demonstrations have and continue to erupt over Trump's election, what is more crucial to understand is that something more serious needs to be addressed. We have to acknowledge that at this particular moment in American history the real issue is not simply about resisting Donald Trump's insidious values and anti-democratic policies but whether a political system can be reclaimed in which democracy is not on trial but is deepened, strengthened and sustained. This will not happen unless new modes of representation challenge the aesthetics, culture, and discourse of neo-fascism. Yet, under a Trump presidency, it will be more difficult to sustain, construct, and nurture those public spheres that sustain critique, informed dialogue, and a work to expand the radical imagination. If democracy is to prevail in and through the threat of "dark times," it is crucial that the avenues of critique and possibility become central to any new understanding of politics. If the authoritarianism of the Trump era is to be challenged, it must begin with a politics that is comprehensive in its attempts to understand the intersectionality of diverse forces of oppression and resistance. That is, on the one hand, it must move towards developing analyses that address the existing state of authoritarianism through a totalizing lens that brings together the diverse registers of oppression and how they are both connected and mutually reinforce each other. On the other hand, such a politics must, as Robin D.G. Kelley has noted, "move beyond stopgap alliances"[15] and work to unite single issue movements into a more comprehensive and broad-based social movement that can make a viable claim to a resistance that is as integrated as it is powerful. For too long progressive cultural workers and activists have adhered to a narrative about domination that relies mostly on remaking economic structures and presenting to the public what might be called a barrage of demystifying facts and an aesthetics of transgression. What they have ignored is that people also internalize oppression and that domination is about not only the crisis of economics, images that deaden the imagination, and the misrepresentation of reality, but also about the crisis of agency, identification, meaning, and desire.

The crisis of economics and politics in the Trump era has not been matched by a crisis of consciousness and agency. The failure to develop a crisis of consciousness is deeply rooted in a society in that suffers from a plague of atomization, loneliness, and despair. Neoliberalism has undermined any democratic understanding of freedom, limiting its meaning to the dictates of consumerism, hatred of government, and a politics in which the personal is the only emotional referent that matters. Freedom has collapsed into the dark abyss of a vapid and unchecked individualism and in doing so has cancelled out that capacious notion of freedom rooted in bonds of solidarity, compassion, social responsibility, and the bonds of social obligations. The toxic neoliberal combination of unchecked economic growth and its discourse of plundering the earth's resources, coupled with a rabid individualism marked largely by its pathological disdain for community and public values, has weakened democratic pressures, values, and social relations and opened the door for the election of Donald Trump to the American Presidency. This collapse of democratic politics points to an absence in progressive movements and among various types of public intellectuals about how to address the importance of emotional connections among the masses, take seriously how to connect with others through pedagogical tools that demand respect, empathy, a willingness to listen to other stories, and to think seriously about how to change consciousness as an educative task. The latter is particularly important because it speaks to the necessity politically address the challenge of awakening modes of identification coupled with the use of language not merely to demystify but to persuade people that the issues that matter have something to do with their lived realities and daily lives. Pressing the claim for economic and political justice means working hard to develop alternative modes of consciousness, promote the proliferation of democratic public spheres, create the conditions for modes of mass resistance, and make the development of sustainable social movements central to any viable struggle for economic, political, and social justice. No viable democracy can exist without citizens who value and are willing to work towards the common good. That is as much a pedagogical question as it is a political challenge.

Footnotes:

[1] Henry A. Giroux, On Critical Pedagogy (New York: Bloomsbury, 2011).

[2] On this issue, see Henry A. Giroux, Neoliberalism's War on Higher Education(Chicago: Haymarket Press, 2014); Susan Searls Giroux, "On the Civic Function of Intellectuals Today," in Gary Olson and Lynn Worsham, eds. Education as Civic Engagement: Toward a More Democratic Society (Boulder: Paradigm Publishers, 2012), pp. ix-xvii.

[3] Bruce Robbins, "A Starting Point for Politics," The Nation, (October 22, 2016). Online: https://www.thenation.com/article/the-radical-life-of-stuart-hall

[4] Edward Said, Out of Place: A Memoir (New York: Vintage, 2000) p. 7.

[5] Edward Said, "On Defiance and Taking Positions," Reflections On Exile and Other Essays (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2001), p. 504.

[6] See, especially, Christopher Newfield, Unmaking the Public University: The Forty-Year Assault on the Middle Class (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2008).

[7] Susan Sontag, "Courage and Resistance," The Nation (May 5, 2003), pp. 11-14.

[8] Zygmunt Bauman, Society under Siege (Malden, MA: Blackwell: 2002), p. 170.

[9] Jacques Derrida, "Intellectual Courage: An Interview," trans. Peter Krapp, Culture Machine, Volume 2 (2000), pp. 1-15.

[10] Pierre Bourdieu, Acts of Resistance (New York: Free Press, 1998), p. 11.

[11] Pierre Bourdieu and Gunter Grass, "The 'Progressive' Restoration: A Franco-German Dialogue," New Left Review 14 (March-April, 2002), P. 2

[12] Richard Voelz, "Reconsidering the Image of Preacher-Teacher: Intersections between Henry Giroux's Critical Pedagogy and Homiletics," Practical Matters (Spring 2014), p. 79.

[13] Henry A. Giroux, On Critical Pedagogy (New York: Continuum, 2011) p.81.

[14] Henry A. Giroux, Dangerous Thinking in the Age of the New Authoritarianism(New York: Routledge, 2015).

[15] Robin D. G. Kelley, "After Trump," Boston Review (November 15, 2016). Online: http://bostonreview.net/forum/after-trump/robin-d-g-kelley-trump-says-go-back-we-say-fight-back

Categories: Latest News

Human Role in Climate Change Removed From Science Report

Truthout - Thu, 04/05/2018 - 21:00

National Park Service officials have deleted every mention of the human impact on climate change in drafts of a long-awaited report on sea level rise and storm surge that is intended to protect parks and visitors from the effects of climate change. This directly contradicts Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's vow to Congress that his department is not censoring science.

Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke speaks at the 2018 Conservative Political Action Conference on February 23, 2018, in National Harbor, Maryland. (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

This story was originally published by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting, a nonprofit news organization based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Learn more at revealnews.org and subscribe to the Reveal podcast, produced with PRX, at revealnews.org/podcast.

National Park Service officials have deleted every mention of humans' role in causing climate change in drafts of a long-awaited report on sea level rise and storm surge, contradicting Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's vow to Congress that his department is not censoring science.

The research for the first time projects the risks from rising seas and flooding at 118 coastal national park sites, including the National Mall, the original Jamestown settlement and the Wright Brothers National Memorial. Originally drafted in the summer of 2016 yet still not released to the public, the National Park Service report is intended to inform officials and the public about how to protect park resources and visitors from climate change.

Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting obtained and analyzed 18 versions of the scientific report. In changes dated Feb. 6, a park service official crossed out the word "anthropogenic," the term for people's impact on nature, in five places. Three references to "human activities" causing climate change also were removed.

The 87-page report, which was written by a University of Colorado Boulder scientist, has been held up for at least 10 months, according to documents obtained by Reveal. The delay has prevented park managers from having access to the best data in situations such as reacting to hurricane forecasts, safeguarding artifacts from floodwaters or deciding where to locate new buildings.

The omissions reflect a broader crackdown on climate science at federal agencies, including removal of references to human impacts, since President Donald Trump took office. Trump previously called climate change a Chinese hoax, took steps to withdraw from an international agreement to cut greenhouse gases and moved toward reversing President Barack Obama's policies to regulate power plant emissions.

The word "anthropogenic," the term for people's impact on nature, was removed from the executive summary of the sea level rise report for the National Park Service.

Critics say the National Park Service's editing of the report reflects unprecedented political interference in government science at the Interior Department, which oversees the park service.

Jonathan Overpeck, a climate scientist and dean of the University of Michigan's School for Environment and Sustainability, said the deletions are "shocking from a scientific point of view, but also from a policy point of view."

"To remove a very critical part of the scientific understanding is nothing short of political censorship and has no place in science," he said. "Censorship of this kind is something you'd see in Russia or some totalitarian regime. It has no place in America."

Several scientists said the editing appears to violate a National Park Service policy designed to protect science from political influence.

"It looks like a pretty clear-cut, blatant violation of what we generally would consider to be scientific integrity," said Jane Lubchenco, who led the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration under Obama.

National Park Service spokesman Jeffrey Olson said the agency would not comment on the editing of a report that had not yet been released. He said that it was premature to report on it and that it would be released soon.

A reference to "human activities" causing climate change was deleted from the report.

Zinke testified at a Senate committee hearing last month that the Interior Department has not changed any scientific documents.

"There is no incident, no incident at all that I know that we ever changed a comma on a document itself. Now we may have on a press release," Zinke told the senators. "And I challenge you, any member, to find a document that we've actually changed on a report."

Zinke's press secretary said no one at the Interior Department was available to comment about the report.

A hallmark of the Trump administration is equivocation about climate change to downplay the scientific consensus that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from the burning of fossil fuels are warming the planet.

Columbia University's Silencing Science Tracker documents more than 100 instances of government trying to restrict research or public information about climate change. Among them are reports on climate change that have been stripped from government websites. Climate change was removed from the Federal Emergency Management Agency's strategic plan. Environmental Protection Agency employees were issued talking points that promote an inaccurate message about gaps in climate science and downplay the role of human activities in global warming.

The edited national parks report "is probably the biggest scientific integrity violation at the Department of Interior, by far … because this is an actual scientific report," said Joel Clement, who was the Interior Department's top climate change official in the Obama administration. He resigned in October after Zinke reassigned him to an oil and gas accounting office and now is a senior fellow for the Union of Concerned Scientists working on scientific integrity issues.

"By taking the words out, they are depowering the (climate change) issue," Clement said. "It's a horrible thing for reports to be suppressed and for the words to be changed."

Censored Words and Phrases

The report, titled, "Sea Level Rise and Storm Surge Projections for the National Park Service," reveals that national treasures will face severe flooding if global greenhouse gases keep increasing. Some of its projections, according to the drafts, include:

• In North Carolina, the Wright Brothers National Memorial has the highest projected increase in sea level among parks nationwide -- 2.69 feet by 2100 under a scenario of high growth of greenhouse gases. Along with Cape Lookout and Cape Hatteras national seashores, the memorial could face significant permanent flooding. "Future storm surges will be exacerbated by future sea level rise nationwide; this could be especially dangerous for the Southeast Region where they already experience hurricane-strength storms," the report says.

• In Virginia, three parks -- Colonial National Historical Park, home of Historic Jamestowne; Fort Monroe National Monument; and Petersburg National Battlefield -- face the biggest potential sea level increases in the park service's Northeast region -- 2.66 feet by 2100.

• Parks in the Washington, DC, region could experience some of the greatest sea level increases -- 2.62 feet by 2100. "Storm surge flooding on top of this sea level rise would have widespread impacts," the report says.

• If a Category 2 hurricane hit Florida's Everglades National Park, the entire park could be flooded, with most of it under several feet of water.

Reveal obtained almost 2,000 pages of drafts of the report showing tracked changes and dating back to August 2016 -- along with dozens of pages of other documents about the report and preparations to release it -- in response to a public records request to the state of Colorado.

The lead author, University of Colorado geological sciences research associate Maria Caffrey, worked full time on the report on contract with the park service from 2013 through 2017.

Caffrey declined to discuss the editing and long delay in releasing her report, instead referring questions to the park service. Asked whether she has been pressured to delete the terms "anthropogenic" and "human activities," she replied, "I don't really want to get into that today."

"I would be very disappointed if there were words being attributed to me that I didn't write," she said. "I don't think politics should come into this in any way."

Although references to human-induced change were deleted, data and maps showing the severity of impacts on the parks were unchanged.

In drafts dated January 2017 to May 2017, the executive summary starts: "Changing relative sea levels and the potential for increasing storm surges due to anthropogenic climate change present challenges to national park managers."

But editing dated Feb. 6, 2018, changed that to: "Ongoing changes in relative sea levels and the potential for increasing storm surges present challenges to national park managers."

In a section about 2012's Hurricane Sandy, one of the costliest storms to hit the US, this sentence was deleted: "This single storm cannot be attributed to anthropogenic climate change, but the storm surge occurred over a sea whose level had risen due to climate change."

An entire sentence was removed from the report's section on Hurricane Sandy.

The introduction also was substantially altered in February. These two sentences were deleted: "While sea levels have been gradually rising since the last glacial maximum approximately 21,000 years ago, anthropogenic climate change has significantly increased the rate of global sea level rise. Human activities continue to release carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere, causing the Earth's atmosphere to warm."

Other scientists who reviewed the draft reports said the deletions about the cause of climate change were alarming.

"It's hiding from the public the reality of the causes and the possible options to choose or influence what scenario plays out," Lubchenco said.

Some of the editing apparently remained in play. Caffrey has pushed back on at least some of the deletions, according to a March draft.

Editing notes in a draft obtained by Reveal indicate that many of the deletions were made by Larry Perez, a career public information officer who coordinates the park service's climate change response program.

Perez declined to comment on why the changes were made. Watchdog groups say that in some cases, career officials within the administration may be self-censoring to avoid angering Trump appointees. In others cases, they may be responding to verbal orders from superiors who have been told to avoid creating records that eventually could be made public.

The National Park Service's scientific integrity policy prohibits managers from engaging in "dishonesty, fraud, misrepresentation, coercive manipulation, censorship, or other misconduct that alters the content, veracity, or meaning or that may affect the planning, conduct, reporting, or application of scientific and scholarly activities." It also requires employees to differentiate between their opinions or assumptions and solid science.

Marcia McNutt, president of the National Academy of Sciences, said "the edits are glaringly in violation" of the science cited in the report and "such alterations violate" the policy.

"The individual who edited the document is making a personal opinion/assumption that runs counter to the scientific consensus that greenhouse gas emissions responsible for sea level rise are of anthropogenic origin and that the threat to the National Park Service assets arises primarily from human activities," said McNutt, who led the US Geological Survey, the Interior Department's main scientific agency, from 2009 to 2013.

Clement, who worked for seven years as a high-ranking director in the Interior Department, said it would be unusual for such editing to occur without an order from a top supervisor.

"I can't imagine a career man or woman would take those steps without some sort of direction," he said.

The editing seemed to cross a line that Zinke drew during last month's hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Sen. Mazie Hirono, a Democrat from Hawaii, pressed Zinke about censoring science. She asked him about department officials deleting this line from a press release about a newly published scientific article: "Global climate change drives sea-level rise, increasing the frequency of coastal flooding."

In his testimony, Zinke differentiated editing press releases from altering scientific reports. He also rebuffed suggestions that he considers references to climate change unacceptable, saying "man has been an influencer" on the warming climate.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a Republican from Alaska and the committee's chairwoman, summarized Zinke's comments: "I think you were pretty clear … that within the department, you're not altering the reports that are coming out from the agencies."

Why the Deletions Matter

Caffrey, the park service report's lead author, said it's crucial that the report address the human role in climate change. One of her key findings is that decisions about reducing greenhouse gases will determine how much peril the coastal national parks face from sea level rise and storm surge.

The report calculates projected sea level rise in 2030, 2050 and 2100 under four scenarios for global emissions. For instance, projections for the National Mall and Memorial Parks in Washington in 2100 range from 1.74 feet to 2.62 feet. The low end envisions a future in which people burn significantly less coal and other fossil fuels, while the upper number reflects increases in use.

"What scenario we choose to follow in the future will have a significant impact on how we protect our resources, like the National Park Service resources," Caffrey said. "I feel it's an important part to include in the report because it's an essential part of those findings."

In an October 2016 webinar for park staff about her research, Caffrey showed an aerial photo that depicts Washington in 2100 if global emissions rise and a Category 3 hurricane hits the city. The National Mall and Constitution Avenue are flooded. Water surrounds museums.

"We can see the results could potentially be quite catastrophic," Caffrey said in an interview.

The report is intended to be released with an interactive website that would allow the public and park managers to visualize rising waters in their favorite parks.

"You can zoom in and move around and see the underlying infrastructure and see what's at risk," said William Manley, a University of Colorado Boulder research scientist who worked on data, maps and the online viewer.

"The data and the viewer, if released, would help park decision-makers to see more clearly what decisions they should make to avoid costly mistakes," he said. In addition, "the maps and information would be helpful to resource managers in preparation for any storms that were forecasted."

For instance, if the report had been released by late last summer, park managers could have consulted it when Hurricanes Irma and Maria, both Category 5 storms, headed toward the US Virgin Islands in September. The storm surge maps for Virgin Islands National Park could have shown managers which areas were likely to flood. The interactive viewer possibly could have helped evacuation planning.

"It's becoming clearer and clearer to most Americans that weather patterns are changing, climate change is a real phenomenon, and it's affecting things they care about, people they love and places that they love," said Lubchenco, the former NOAA administrator.

"I think what we are seeing is an effort to undermine that realization in a very subtle way. And it's very dangerous. It's counter to the best interests of a fully democratic society."

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Categories: Latest News

In Wake of Gaza Massacre, Israeli Leaders Should Be Prosecuted for War Crimes

Truthout - Thu, 04/05/2018 - 21:00

A Palestinian man wears a gas mask as he walks in the smoke during a protest in the West Bank city of Ramallah on April 6, 2018. Clashes erupted on the Gaza-Israel border Friday, a week after Israeli force killed 19 Palestinians at similar demonstrations. (Photo: Abbas Momani / AFP / Getty Images)

On March 30, Israel Defense Forces soldiers shot 773 unarmed Palestinian protesters in Gaza, killing 17 and wounding 1,400. This premeditated use of deadly force against peaceful protesters is illegal and the Israeli leaders who ordered the massacre should be prosecuted for war crimes.

A Palestinian man wears a gas mask as he walks in the smoke during a protest in the West Bank city of Ramallah on April 6, 2018. Clashes erupted on the Gaza-Israel border Friday, a week after Israeli force killed 19 Palestinians at similar demonstrations. (Photo: Abbas Momani / AFP / Getty Images)

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On March 30, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers shot 773 unarmed Palestinian protesters in Gaza, killing 17 and wounding 1,400. Twenty remain in critical condition. The protesters were marching to demand the internationally mandated right of return of refugees to their cities and villages in what now constitutes Israel.

The Israeli leaders who ordered the massacre were in clear violation of international law. They should be prosecuted for war crimes.

Premeditated Use of Deadly Force Against Peaceful Protesters

The use of deadly force against the peaceful protesters was premeditated. The IDF deployed 100 snipers to the border fence between Gaza and Israel, where 30,000 to 40,000 Palestinians had gathered for the Great March of Return. In a damning tweet, later deleted, the IDF wrote, "Nothing was carried out uncontrolled; everything was accurate and measured, and we know where every bullet landed."

Jihad al-Juaidi, director of the ICU at the al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza, told Al Jazeera that all of the injured people who came to the hospital were shot in the head, pelvic joints or knee joints. "This shows that Israeli forces were shooting-to-kill, or to cause disabilities," al-Juaidi stated.

To read more stories like this, visit Human Rights and Global Wrongs.

B'Tselem, a Jerusalem-based human rights organization, characterized the military orders as "shoot-to-kill unarmed Palestinians taking part in these demonstrations."

"Israeli soldiers were not merely using excessive force, but were apparently acting on orders that all but ensured a bloody military response to the Palestinian demonstrations," Eric Goldstein, deputy director of Human Rights Watch's (HRW) Middle East and Africa division, stated.

Senior IDF officers told Haaretz before the protest that a large number of casualties was "a price we would be willing to pay to prevent a breach" of the fence at the border.

Israeli leaders fostered the false narrative that Hamas was sponsoring the protest. Jason Greenblatt, US envoy to Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, followed suit, tweeting, "Hamas is encouraging a hostile march on the Israel-Gaza border" and accused Hamas of "inciting violence against Israel."

To read more stories like this, visit Human Rights and Global Wrongs.

But the demonstration was actually organized by several Palestinian civil society organizations. "No Palestinian faction, organization or group can claim this march as its own. Hamas was simply riding the wave," Jamil Khader wrote on Mondoweiss. Palestinian flags, not factional ones, were visible.

Conflating civilians with terrorists and framing the planned response as protection against a security risk, Israeli authorities referred to Gaza as a "combat zone."

Lethal Force Can Only Be Used if Imminent Threat to Life

It is illegal to shoot unarmed civilians under international humanitarian law. Some protesters threw rocks and burned tires near the border fence. But HRW found "no evidence of any protester using firearms or any IDF claim of threatened firearm use at the demonstrations." No Israeli soldiers were killed and "the army did not report any injuries to soldiers."

"Even if a Palestinian was throwing a stone, the chances that under these conditions such an act could cause an imminent threat to life -- the only situation that would justify the use of lethal force under international law -- are infinitesimal," Yousef Munayyer, executive director of the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, wrote on HuffPost. "Indeed, even if Palestinians were trying to climb the fence, that would not give Israel the right to use lethal force."

Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director of HRW, concurred, stating, "Israeli allegations of violence by some protesters do not change the fact that using lethal force is banned by international law except to meet an imminent threat to life."

Indeed, the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement specifies, "intentional lethal use of firearms may only be made when strictly unavoidable in order to protect life."

"Senior Israeli leaders who unlawfully called for the use of live ammunition against Palestinian demonstrators who posed no imminent threat to life bear responsibility" for the deaths and injuries, HRW asserted in a statement. That includes Israel's prime minister, defense minister and chief of staff.

B'Tselem, which has called for Israeli soldiers to disobey patently illegal orders, described the legal duty to disobey unlawful orders: "It is also a criminal offense to obey patently illegal orders. Therefore, as long as soldiers in the field continue to receive orders to use live fire against unarmed civilians, they are duty-bound to refuse to comply."

Prosecute Israeli Leaders in International Criminal Court

Israeli leaders responsible for the deaths and injuries on March 30 should be prosecuted in the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Under the Fourth Geneva Convention, an occupying power has a legal duty to protect the occupied. Grave breaches of the convention constitute war crimes. They include willful killing; willfully causing great suffering or serious injury; intentionally directing attacks against the civilian population; and intentionally launching attacks with knowledge they will cause incidental loss of life or injury to civilians The IDF committed all of these grave breaches on March 30.

Furthermore, under international humanitarian law, the IDF failed to comply with the principles of distinction and proportionality. Distinction requires parties to a conflict to direct their attacks only against people taking part in the hostilities. Proportionality prohibits an attack if the damage to the civilian population will be greater than the military advantage anticipated from the attack. The IDF violated both of those principles on March 30.

An independent commission of inquiry convened by the UN Human Rights Council to investigate Israel’s 2014 massacre in Gaza documented the deaths of 2,251 Palestinians, which included 1,462 civilian deaths and the injuring of 11,231 Palestinians. Six civilians and 67 soldiers were killed and 1,600 injured on the Israeli side. The commission concluded that Israel, and to a lesser extent, Palestinian armed groups, had likely committed violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law, some constituting war crimes. 

Currently, ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda is conducting a preliminary examination into the 2014 massacre. She should expand her inquiry to include the events of March 30, 2018.

US Vetoes Security Council Resolution Calling for Investigation

UN Secretary-General António Guterres and European Union diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini advocated independent investigations into the use of deadly force by the IDF at the border fence on March 30. But the day after the massacre, the United States vetoed a Security Council resolution that called for an "independent and transparent investigation" and affirmed the right of Palestinians to peaceful protest.

Avigdor Lieberman, Israel's defense minister, said the IDF soldiers "deserve a medal" for protecting the border. "As for a commission of inquiry -- there won't be one," he declared on Israeli Army Radio.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised his troops for "guarding the country's borders" and permitting "Israeli citizens to celebrate the [Passover] holiday peacefully," adding, "Well done to our soldiers."

Rabbi Alissa Wise, deputy director of Jewish Voice for Peace, noted in a statement, "The Israeli military evidently believes that any time Palestinians assert their basic rights in any way, they will be considered violent, and met with deadly violence."

Meanwhile, the Palestinian protests are slated to last until May 15, the day Palestinians commemorate the Nakba, or the "great catastrophe" of 1948-9, when Israel expelled 800,000 Palestinians from their lands to create Israel. Approximately 70 percent of the 1.3 million Gazans are refugees.

"I think the only way truly forward is to recognize that there is a root cause: 70 years of Nakba," Wise said.

Categories: Latest News

Economic Update: Winds of System Change

Truthout - Thu, 04/05/2018 - 21:00

This week's episode discusses how the French strikes protect workers' gains; how subprime loans are rising as students pay more for college; and how the West Virginia teachers' strikes are inspiring strikes in Oklahoma, Arizona and Kentucky. We also address the depth of US poverty in comparison with other nations, and explore how high tariffs on imported trucks have created high prices. Also included is an interview with Dr. Harriet Fraad on Stormy Daniels as part of the "winds of change" rising in the US.

To see more stories like this, visit Economic Update: Your Weekly Dose of Revolutionary Economics

To listen in live on Saturdays at noon, visit WBAI's Live Stream

Economic Update is in partnership with Truthout.org

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Permission to reprint Professor Wolff's writing and videos is granted on an individual basis. Please contact profwolff@rdwolff.com to request permission. We reserve the right to refuse or rescind permission at any time.

Categories: Latest News

How the Wireless Industry Convinced the Public Cellphones Are Safe and Cherry-Picked Research on Risks

Truthout - Wed, 04/04/2018 - 21:00

Ninety-five out of every 100 American adults owns a cellphone today. And worldwide, three out of four adults now have cellphone access. The wireless industry is one of the fastest-growing on Earth, raking in annual sales of $440 billion in 2016. But are cellphones safe? A new investigation by The Nation suggests that's a question that cellphone giants prefer you don't ask. We speak with Mark Hertsgaard, The Nation's environment correspondent and investigative editor. His report, co-authored with Mark Dowie, is headlined "How Big Wireless Made Us Think That Cell Phones Are Safe."

Please check back later for full transcript.

Categories: Latest News

Caravan of Central American Migrants Holds a Mirror to Cruel US Immigration Policy and Imperialism

Truthout - Wed, 04/04/2018 - 21:00

Despite efforts by Mexican immigration authorities to disband a caravan of Central American migrants, hundreds are still bound for the US-Mexico border. This comes after an early-morning tweet from President Trump that said the caravan "is largely broken up thanks to the strong immigration laws of Mexico and their willingness to use them so as not to cause a giant scene." The group People Without Borders, or Pueblo Sin Fronteras, has organized the caravan since 2010 to draw attention to the right to seek asylum and refuge. This year its members are disproportionately from Honduras, which remains in political upheaval after US-backed right-wing President Juan Orlando Hernández was inaugurated for a second term despite allegations of widespread voting fraud in November. We get an update from Arturo Vizcarra, a volunteer with People Without Borders. He just returned from the caravan.

Please check back later for full transcript.

Categories: Latest News

The Dolls of Militarism: From War Hawks to Chickenhawks

Truthout - Wed, 04/04/2018 - 21:00

Donald Trump holds a joint press conference with Baltic Heads of State in the East Room of the White House on April 3, 2018, in Washington, DC. (Photo: Cheriss May / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Sometimes I get sick of saying it, but just when you thought it couldn't get any worse…

Donald Trump's continual cabinet reshuffling -- otherwise the stuff of reality-TV drama -- has become genuinely frightening. Like so many Russian matryoshki or nesting dolls, the president has been removing one war hawk after another, only to reveal yet more extreme versions of the same creature. And rumor has it that such personnel moves have yet to reach their end point.

In just the last few weeks, President Trump has fired his secretary of state and national security adviser, while nominating two fanatical replacements: CIA Director Mike Pompeo and former UN Ambassador John Bolton. The "old" team, Rex Tillerson and Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster, were flawed choices from the start, but Pompeo and Bolton seem like an instant formula for a war -- or two or three of them. (And keep in mind that we're already actively fighting at least seven wars across the Greater Middle East and Africa.)

Tillerson gutted the State Department and, had he stuck around, might have gone down as one of the worst secretaries of state ever to walk the halls of Foggy Bottom. Still, the former ExxonMobil CEO does seem to have tried to restrain Trump's more extreme positions on the Paris climate accords and the Obama-era Iran nuclear deal. In addition, as his infamous "moron" comment suggests, he evidently wasn't cowed by our bully-in-chief.

Lieutenant General McMaster was no prince either. He helped craft a National Defense Strategy that all but declared a new Cold War on Russia and China. He was also to the right of reasonable on Iran and North Korea. Nevertheless, he is an intelligent man with genuine academic bona fides. I've met the guy and, even though we disagree on almost everything, he's certainly preferable to a zealot like Bolton. McMaster thinks critically and wasn't always reflexively pro-war. However, Trump, a man who likes his information in tiny doses (and preferably on Fox News), reportedly found H.R.'s detailed briefings insufferable. And McMaster's recent suggestion that Russia played an "incontrovertible" role in the 2016 US election evidently didn't help him one bit either.

Think about it for a second. An embattled, scandal-ridden administration suddenly fires two hawkish, though tenuously mainstream, foreign policy advisers and replaces them with off-the-grid warmongers. Connect those dots and it gets scary, fast. In fact, the situation is starting to resemble a Hollywood-style, Wag-the-Dog, drum-up-a-war-to-distract-the-populace scenario.

With whom? Given the proclivities of Pompeo and Bolton, the obvious candidate is Iran. After all, as their records suggest, both the incoming secretary of state and the national security adviser suffer from acute cases of Iran hysteria and have been beating the Islamic Republic war drum for years now. So look for Trump and his two new subordinates to strike a less than substantial deal with nuclear North Korea (to show their cuddly diplomatic side) and then pivot toward tearing up the Iran nuclear deal in May and heading for military action against non-nuclear -- and so more vulnerable -- nuclear-pact-adhering Iran.

Count on this, at least: it's going to be one hell of a ride for America's already overstretched military men and women -- and one hell of a cash bonanza for an already flush military-industrial complex.

The Bolton Problem

No question about it: John Bolton is a nightmare. If he worked for Iran or any other Muslim state, we'd label him a fundamentalist extremist. But he's ours and his religion of choice has long been chauvinist interventionism, so instead he tends to get the lifeless (and perhaps not even accurate) label "neoconservative."

How bad is he? Well, we'd all undoubtedly be far better served if Michael Bolton were national security adviser and just sang "How Am I Supposed to Live Without You" throughout his term in office.

The national security adviser holds an incredibly influential position and doesn't even require Senate confirmation hearings. Need proof? The establishment's favorite statesman-cum-war criminal Henry Kissinger started out in that position for President Richard Nixon. The thought of Bolton's voice being the final one Trump hears (and he's well-known to be prone to whatever last catches his attention) before making decisions about war and peace should chill us all.

How dangerous is Bolton, who came to Trump, like so many others, via his position as a commentator at Fox News? Back in 2005, he couldn't even pass muster among Republicans in Senate confirmation hearings to become President George W. Bush's ambassador to the United Nations. Dubya had to slip him in with a recess appointment (a decision even he came to regret). But give Bolton credit, at least, for consistency. He's been wrong about every significant foreign policy move since 9/11. Of course, he was hardly alone in that in Washington politics, but he does stand out for his unapologetic regime-change enthusiasm. He's repeatedly called for preventive war with North Korea. He's long called for regime change in Iran by force of arms and, back in distant 2017, even placed a time stamp on that event (the end of 2018)!

He still insists that the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which shattered that country and the entire region, was justified, a fact that ought in itself to have disqualified him in the eyes of a president who, on the campaign trail, repeatedly called that war "dumb."

A man who hasn't learned from or even accepted the failure of regime change in Iraq is now to take the helm coordinating US military policy for the future. If Iraq didn't constitute a mistake, then what would? It's hard to imagine. If preventive war -- not exactly street legal in international law -- is A-okay, why not, say, regime change in Syria (another country the president recently claimed he wanted to get out of) and risk war with Turkey, Iran, and Russia as well? Or how about directly taking on Iran, an event that could make the invasion of Iraq look like the "cakewalk" it was billed as back in early 2003? There are plenty of nasty regimes out there and you can bet on one thing: Bolton will advise the president to use his $716 billion military for more than just parades.

The Pompeo Problem

In 1986, Mike Pompeo was the class valedictorian at West Point and he then spent some time in the pre-9/11 Army. You might think that, all these years later, he would have at least a hint or two about the real-life costs of unwinnable, unnecessary wars in the Greater Middle East. Still, he's clearly on the war-with-Iran train. He's even bragged that it would only take 2,000 air sorties to wipe out Iran's nuclear capabilities. The million-dollar question that should follow evidently doesn't even occur to him: What then? A ground invasion? An indefinite blockade and/or no fly zone? How would Israel respond? What about Russia? Would Shia militias turn on American troops elsewhere in the region?

If James Mattis keeps his job (an open question these days for the man who has confided to ever-ready-to-leak colleagues that he doubts he can even work with John Bolton), Pompeo could become the nation's first top diplomat in memory to be more hawkish than the secretary of defense, himself a former four-star general. Foggy Bottom could then be renamed War Department 2.0.

Pompeo is a staunch Islamophobe and has even received an award from the extremist anti-Muslim hate group ACT for America. The presumptive secretary of state possesses the anti-Islamic, Christian zealotry of Vice President Mike Pence combined with the bombast of Trump and the (dangerous) intellect of the purported "adults" in (or now leaving) the "room," Mattis and McMaster.

No less unsettling: Pompeo's actions at his last job as CIA director. While there, for example, he fought to release documents that were designed to intimate alleged collusion between Iran and al-Qaeda. Forget all you know about the Middle East in these last years; forget that Osama bin Laden and Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei were on opposite sides of an ongoing, regional sectarian war; forget that Iran is actively fighting al-Qaeda-linked groups in Syria, Yemen, and Iraq. Pay attention to Pompeo, a man ready to insist that Iran equals al-Qaeda and so is, in fact, the sort of 9/11-associated culprit to which Congress meant to apply its 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force.

In other words, while at the CIA, Pompeo continued to peddle an updated version of the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld playbook that sold their invasion of choice -- in that case, falsely linking Iraqi autocrat Saddam Hussein to al-Qaeda -- to an uninformed citizenry. Or to put it another way, Pompeo and Bolton are on the same page, both ready to replay an old script one more time.

If John Bolton is still a true believer when it comes to the doctrine of crusading regime change, then Mike Pompeo is exactly the diplomat-in-chief to sell it to an intellectually unengaged president, a largely AWOL Congress, and a distracted public. All the pieces will soon be in place for the next disaster.

From Hawkish Generals to Chickenhawks

So what's really going on here? Two disturbing trends seem to be at work: the move from rule by general to rule by civilian chickenhawk and the end of dissent (or even debate) within Trump's inner circle.

The president's initial record of appointing not one but three of "his" generals to run the national security team and the White House was itself a threat to the republic and its time-honored tradition of civilian primacy over the military. Those three flag officers -- McMaster, Mattis, and retired general John Kelly -- already inhabited their own echo chamber when it came to America's wars. All of them were still wedded to the myth of the Iraq surge to "victory" of 2007-2008. According to this fable (still widely accepted in military circles), the US military could've/would've/should've won in Iraq after General David Petraeus's famed "surge" there, if only feckless Barack Obama had left the troops in Iraq just a bit longer (by which they meant, as in South Korea after 1953, for more or less ever).

In addition, appointing highly decorated veterans in an era in which all things military are adulated in this country had its own potential for squelching dissent. Witness Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders taunting a reporter that it would be "highly inappropriate" to question White House Chief of Staff John Kelly because he had once been a four-star Marine general. Still, Mattis and McMaster are at least intelligent, somewhat principled men who haven't always toed the Trump line or kissed the proverbial ring. (McMaster had been bucking authority inside the Army for three decades, even writing a book arguing that the joint chiefs should have stood up to President Lyndon Johnson in the Vietnam War years.)

The president's new appointees, civilians though they are, will out-hawk the generals any day of the week. Bolton, in particular, had made a name as a Fox News commentator calling for war with North Korea and Iran in the sort of language one doesn't -- in my experience -- even hear in the military ranks. So, big picture, the national security state seems now to be moving from one threat to democracy, a politicized military, to another: the frenzied chickenhawkery of even more extreme civilians.

What President Trump seems to value most is sycophantic loyalty not to the nation but to himself, a quality that's the most essential aspect of any cult of personality. Which means one thing: outright dissent of any real sort inside the administration is a thing of the past (an autocratic mood that could, sooner or later, spread to the larger society). What did McMaster and Tillerson ultimately have in common? Simply put, both attempted to restrain Trump's more extreme impulses and neither truly clicked with the president on a personal level. Big mistake. What this president wants above all else isn't critical thinking or informed debate on crucial issues but total allegiance.

The defining characteristics of this White House are nepotism and sycophancy. John Bolton is never going to temper Trump's most bellicose instincts and Pompeo is already a Trump sycophant. When defending Pompeo's appointment, Trump's two main arguments were that he was a West Point graduate and that they are "always on the same wavelength." It's been widely reported that the two men have hit it off on a personal and professional level, as Pompeo personally delivered daily oral CIA intel briefs in the Oval Office (since Trump loathes reading). Pompeo grasped just how to get what he wanted in such a situation: stay in the boss's good graces. Mind-melding with the president is the path to promotion in this administration.

As America enters the second spring of the Trump era, it's creeping ever closer to yet more war. McMaster and Mattis may have written the National Defense Strategy that over-hyped the threats on this planet, but Bolton and Pompeo will have the opportunity to address these inflated threats in the worst way possible: by force of arms.

Trump finally has the minions he wants: devoted and fervently militaristic.

And while the public remains focused on the man's outlandish shenanigans, his team will be cooking up something far worse: a new war to put all the others to shame.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author, expressed in an unofficial capacity, and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, the Department of Defense, or the US government.

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Categories: Latest News

The Unbelievable Trump

Truthout - Wed, 04/04/2018 - 21:00
Categories: Latest News

US Schools Disproportionately Punish Black Students, GAO Report Confirms

Truthout - Wed, 04/04/2018 - 21:00
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Heavy-handed racialized punishment starts at an early age, the Government Accountability Office confirmed on Wednesday.

The federal watchdog released a report finding that Black students are over-represented among severely reprimanded elementary, middle and high school students.

While Black children and teenagers make up 15.5 percent of all public school students, they're disproportionately represented among the number of students who have received out-of-school suspensions (38.7 percent), school-related arrests (34.9 percent), and expulsions (30.1 percent).

And while boys are over-represented among students who receive major punishments, Black girls were reprimanded in US schools at almost twice the rate of White boys (10 percent and 5.2 percent, respectively).

"Regardless of the level of school poverty, Black students, boys, and students with disabilities were suspended from school at disproportionately higher rates than their peers," GAO said.

The comptroller also noted that both the trends and overall discipline rates get worse, as poverty increases.

The report also noted that Black students are even more likely to be punished at charter schools than their conventional counterparts.

"That is, although they represented about 29 percent of all students in charter schools," GAO explained, "Black students accounted for more than 60 percent of the students suspended from charter schools (about 32 percentage points higher than their representation in those schools)."

Public charter schools are often touted as a salve by those who accuse conventional public schools of failing marginalized populations.

Though the report was careful to stress that its findings don't "establish whether unlawful discrimination has occurred," it did cite previous research on a legal form of discrimination: implicit bias.

"For example, one study found that Black girls were disproportionately disciplined for subjective interpretations of behaviors, such as disobedience and disruptive behavior," GAO said.

The watchdog  also cited another study that used "eye-tracking technology" to show "teachers gazed longer at Black boys than other children when asked to look for challenging behavior based on video clips."

Categories: Latest News

To Defend "Must-Run" Commentaries, Sinclair Forces Stations to Use Commentary by Former Trump Aide

Truthout - Wed, 04/04/2018 - 21:00

Then Trump campaign senior advisor Boris Epshteyn leaves Trump Tower in New York City, on November 14, 2016. (Photo: Kena Betancur / AFP / Getty Images)

Facing a flood of external criticism and internal dissent over its efforts to force news anchors to recite scripts bashing the media, Sinclair Broadcast Group doubled down on Wednesday by feeding its news stations yet another must-run clip in which the company's chief political analyst and former Trump adviser Boris Epshteyn defends Sinclair's attempts to inject right-wing commentary into local news segments.

"In terms of my analysis playing during your local news, as you see, my segments are very clearly marked as commentary," Epshteyn notes in a new segment that was internally titled "MEDIA BASHING OF THE SINCLAIR BROADCASTING GROUP."

"Here's the bottom line: I am proud to be the chief political analyst at Sinclair," Epshteyn adds. "My goal with every segment is to tell you facts which you may not already know, and then my take on those facts. I am thrilled to keep sharing the truth and my perspective with you, day in and day out."

Watch:

Contrary to Epshteyn's claim that he and Sinclair are always quick to draw a distinction between news coverage and analysis, his segments have not always been accompanied by a "commentary" label.

Matt Pearce of the Los Angeles Times -- who first reported on the segment Wednesday -- highlighted one mash-up of Epshteyn clips in which he offers his take on "tax reform," North Korea, and the debt ceiling.

The word "commentary" is notably absent from the segment's logo.

Sinclair's latest must-run segment comes amid growing outrage over its efforts to impose right-wing ideology on local news coverage that reaches tens of millions of Americans by forcing local anchors to read what have been characterized as propaganda scripts.

Due to threats of retaliation from the company and the massive costs of quitting, many Sinclair employees have either remained silent or expressed their outrage to media outlets anonymously.

As Common Dreams reported on Wednesday, Justin Simmons -- a producer at a Sinclair-owned station in Nebraska -- resigned as a result of the right-wing media giant's practices, saying, "I didn't go into news to give people biased information."

"Resigning seemed like the least I could do," he added. "I wish there was more."

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Categories: Latest News

Right-Wing Feedback Loop: How Trump and the GOP Are Radicalizing Each Other

Truthout - Wed, 04/04/2018 - 21:00

House Speaks Paul Ryan greets Donald Trump as he arrives on stage to speak at the National Republican Congressional Committee March Dinner at the National Building Museum on March 20, 2018, in Washington, DC. (Photo: Mandel Ngan / AFP / Getty Images)

As horrifying as Trump's policies may be, it's important to keep in mind that they are fully in line with conventional conservatism in the US. The real danger is not that Trump has broken away from the Republican Party, but that he is the very embodiment of a party unleashed from any pretext of a belief in democracy or pluralism.

House Speaks Paul Ryan greets Donald Trump as he arrives on stage to speak at the National Republican Congressional Committee March Dinner at the National Building Museum on March 20, 2018, in Washington, DC. (Photo: Mandel Ngan / AFP / Getty Images)

The following article could only be published thanks to support from our readers. To fund more stories like it, make a donation to Truthout by clicking here!

On April 9, John Bolton will become Donald Trump's new national security advisor, signaling the arrival of perhaps the most dangerous phase yet of the Trump administration. In Bolton, an unrepentant advocate for carrying out wars of aggression, Trump will have his Henry Kissinger, and the world will be less safe for it.

Most importantly, Bolton's appointment should put to rest any misguided hopes regarding the future of the Trump administration: It is sure to become more extreme, more chaotic, and more reflexively violent both domestically and abroad. In short, there is a very good chance that the first year of the Trump administration will be seen, in retrospect, as a relatively calm one, and that the worst is yet to come.

One month after Bolton's first day, he and Trump will be faced with the decision either to certify Iran's compliance with the nuclear deal or, as Trump promised during the campaign, to rip it up. Both Republicans and Democrats in Congress expect the Iran deal not to survive the May deadline. Also in May, Trump is scheduled to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to discuss a range of issues including denuclearization of Kim's regime and potential lessening of US military activity in the region.

Bolton, for his part, recently advocated for a first-strike bombing of North Korea and has long pushed for the United States to bomb Iran and force regime change there. In one recent meeting, he told members of the Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MEK), a cult pushing for regime change in Iran, that they would be in power by  2019.

The key dynamic at play is not Trump "radicalizing" the GOP, but rather a feedback loop of mutual radicalization in search of the farthest right position possible.

The dangers Bolton poses cannot be overstated, but it's important not to overlook what his appointment signals about the even greater dangers of Trump himself. By all accounts, he is embracing a government-of-one-by-fiat practice of leadership, and appears freer to indulge his whims, bigotries and conspiratorial fantasies. "Fourteen months into the job, Trump is increasingly defiant and singularly directing his administration with the same rapid and brutal style he honed leading his real estate and branding empire," The Washington Post reported on Saturday.

Trump's newfound freedom -- he is alternately described as "unhinged" or "unleashed" -- is often framed as a challenge to establishment Republicans. Is he dragging them down to his level? Will his extreme policies forever taint the party with accusations of overt, rather than covert, racism, sexism and xenophobia? In truth, however, Trump has governed as a traditional conservative. At the Conservative Political Action Conference, Ted Cruz and Ben Shapiro both acknowledged that they had no substantive disagreements with Trump as a president.

In many crucial areas, congressional Republicans, especially the hardliners in the Freedom Caucus, are to the right of Trump: immigrationhealth care and gun control, just to name a few. Time after time, Trump seemed willing to accept some level of compromise that the Freedom Caucus simply wouldn't. Even more notably, Mitt Romney, who through the alchemy of conventional wisdom has rebranded himself as a moderate, recently said he was to the right of Trump on immigration. Romney's stance won't surprise anyone who remembers his 2012 lobbying for "self-deportation" -- that is, making life so miserable for immigrants that they choose to leave the United States.

The key dynamic at play, then, is not Trump "radicalizing" the GOP, but rather a feedback loop of mutual radicalization in search of the farthest right position possible. That's why there's nothing contradictory in saying that Trump's policies are horrifying and that he's basically governing as a conventional conservative. That is an indictment of conservatism, not a softening of a critique of Trump.

In attempting to predict how far Trump will go and how bad things will get, many people have asked whether or not it's correct to call him a fascist. The more appropriate question to ask is: How do hard right regimes evolve and mature, and what are the warning signs for worst-case scenarios? Robert Paxton tackles this in his book, The Anatomy of Fascism. In his formulation, fascist -- or potentially fascist -- regimes have two options as they develop: to radicalize, or to revert to a traditional authoritarian rule. "Fascist regimes could not settle down into a comfortable enjoyment of power," Paxton writes. "The charismatic leader had made dramatic promises: to unify, purify, and energize his community; to save it from the flabbiness of bourgeois materialism, the confusion and corruption of democratic politics, and the contamination of alien people and cultures."

It is the dynamism of fascism, the grotesque thrill of violence and of fulfilling what the charismatic leader calls history's great plan, that gives the fascist regime its horrifying and distinctive power. Fascists "could not survive without that headlong, inebriating rush forward," writes Paxton. "Without an ever-mounting spiral of daring challenges, fascist regimes risked decaying into something resembling a tepid authoritarianism." The need to keep raising the stakes makes fascism inherently self-destructive, as its unthinking brutality ultimately consumes itself -- but not before unleashing its terror on the world.

The only way to break the feedback loop of right-wing radicalization is to create incentives for Republicans to fear general elections more than primary challenges from their right.

It's clear that Trump has chosen radicalization over normalization, and applying these historical lessons to this president offers some clues as to what to expect from the rest of his term. Trump's power, like that of a fascist leader, comes from a base that is in constant need of fuel for its anger and resentment, not from traditional conservative power structures like the military, organized religion or finance. Those institutions support Trump, clearly, but his political power is best illustrated by his never-ending campaign rallies, where he is typically at his most hateful. This dynamic is also evident in Trump's use of Twitter to provoke his base and appeal its members' most bigoted desires, and has further manifested in the evolution of Fox News to a full-on embrace of white nationalism in Tucker Carlson's primetime slot.

It is impossible to predict how exactly the remaining years of the Trump presidency will play out, of course. But Capitol Hill watchers suspect that there will not be any new major legislation this year. If that's true, and Trump's momentum stalls, there is a real danger he will focus his restlessness and need for chaos on foreign policy, where the president has nearly unfettered power, thanks to decades of executive authority consolidation at the hands of both parties. Trump's desire to show dominance through foreign policy becomes even more horrifying with Bolton at his side.

The only way to break the feedback loop of right-wing radicalization is to create incentives for Republicans to fear general elections more than primary challenges from their right. There are a few ways that could happen. The Supreme Court could rule partisan gerrymandering unconstitutional, thereby radically changing districts and creating a dynamic in which "safe" GOP-held seats could reasonably be lost to a Democrat. In addition to that, a massive blue wave in 2020 could put Democrats in control of redistricting following the 2020 census. The other way to combat GOP radicalization is to implement universal voter registration programs, same-day registration, re-enfranchisement for formerly and currently incarcerated people, and other initiatives to expand the vote.

The real danger is not that Trump is unleashed from his party -- it's that he is the very embodiment of a party unleashed from any pretext of a belief in a democratic pluralistic society. That won't change when Trump leaves the scene, and while he's still in power, he will only get more dangerous.

Categories: Latest News

As Antarctic Melting Accelerates, Worst-Case Scenarios May Come True

Truthout - Wed, 04/04/2018 - 21:00

A new study shows dramatic changes in some major Antarctic glaciers as the ice is being melted from below by unusually warm ocean water. The rate of melting is far more rapid than previously thought and scientists now fear that their worst-case sea level rise projections may come true in the near future.

(Photo: NASA HQ Photo)

Some of the world's most profound melting of glaciers is happening in the Antarctic; and is invisible from above.

According to a study recently published in the journal Nature Geoscience, the underwater melting of Antarctic glaciers is now occurring at a rate that is doubling every 20 years. This means that melting in the ice continent of Antarctica could soon outpace that occurring across Greenland, which would make Antarctica the single largest source of sea level rise.

The new study was the first complete underwater mapping of Antarctica, by far the world's largest body of ice.

The study shows that warming ocean waters have caused the base of the ice near the ocean floor around the south pole to shrink by 1,463 kilometers from 2010 to 2016. This development will likely force worst-case projections of sea level rise to be revised upwards.

The water is melting the glacier ice away from the seafloor, which was acting as a sort of plug.

The current worst-case scenario outlined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is just over 1.5 meters (4.9 feet) of sea level rise by 2100.

The new data, however, confirms a study from nearly five years ago, in which 90 sea level rise experts were surveyed and confirmed that sea level rise this century will exceed IPCC projections.

To see more stories like this, visit "Planet or Profit?"

Meanwhile, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's worst-case scenario is 2.5 meters (8.5 feet) by the same year. This worst-case scenario does not factor in the new data from the recent Antarctica study.

Glaciers Coming Unplugged

The study, based on an analysis of satellite data, found dramatic changes happening across eight of the major glaciers in Antarctica due to the warmer ocean water underneath them.

The water is melting the glacier ice away from the seafloor, which was acting as a sort of plug, keeping the ice attached to the bedrock. The study showed that the ice, which has been receding by nearly 200 meters per year, is causing the land-based ice to speed up its shift toward the sea, hence increasing sea level rise projections.

The study also warned that this phenomenon suggests a widespread pattern of rapidly increasing melting all the way around Antarctica.

A 2017 study by Cornell University showed that rising seas could result in two billion refugees by 2100.

"We're seeing this all across the ice sheet," University of Leeds climate researcher Hannes Konrad, lead author of the analysis, told Inside Climate News. "As the grounding line of the ice shelves moves back, the inland glaciers accelerate and raise global sea level."

The rate of retreat of Antarctica's eight major glaciers has now accelerated to five times the historical average, according to the study.

Sea level rise projections of more than three meters are currently being openly discussed.

2017 study by Cornell University showed that rising seas could result in two billion refugees by 2100. That is one-fifth of the total projected global population of humans, which would be 11 billion by then. Moreover, that data is based on the current, lower sea level rise projections; predictions may well increase in the near future.

Categories: Latest News

ICE Will No Longer Release Pregnant Immigrants From Detention

Truthout - Wed, 04/04/2018 - 21:00

Once again President Donald Trump has taken a swing at undocumented immigrants living in the United States. This time he announced that Immigration and Customs Enforcement will no longer automatically release detained pregnant women.

The new policy for automatic deportation or indefinite detention would reverse previous guidelines to release pregnant people unless they pose a security threat.

Huffington Post reports:

Philip Miller, deputy executive associate director for ICE's Enforcement and Removal Operations, told reporters on Thursday that many pregnant women encountered by immigration enforcement are already subject to mandatory detention by law, particularly if they were apprehended at the border and are not deemed eligible to move forward with any claims for relief.

Others may be subject to mandatory detention because they committed certain crimes within the US Since the policy went into effect in December, ICE has detained a total of 506 pregnant women, according to ICE, though the agency did not say how many of those women were later deported or released into the US He said that on March 20, the last date for which ICE has the data, there were 35 pregnant women in detention, all of them subject to mandatory detention.

This new rule is a dramatic change from the previous administration, which mandated "presumptive release." According to Pacific Standard:

Under the Obama administration, ICE officers were urged to release pregnant women "absent extraordinary circumstances," under which detention might be necessary. But an internal memo sent by ICE Acting Director Thomas Homan states that custody decisions for pregnant women should now be made on a case-by-case basis. The new directive states that, "absent extraordinary circumstances," pregnant women in their third trimester will still be released.

Pregnant people placed in federal detention centers are often offered inadequate prenatal care, limited access to health care services and poor food and living conditions -- all of which could harm maternal and fetal health. Some centers report pregnant people being forced to wait in lines in 100ºF heat just to obtain prenatal vitamins. And rates of miscarriage are far higher for detainees than the rest of the pregnant population.

Michelle Brané, director of the Migrant Rights and Justice Program at Women's Refugee Commission, told CNN that the organization condemns this new policy:

The Women's Refugee Commission has long documented the dangerous and unhealthy detention conditions that are especially dangerous and inappropriate for pregnant women. Many women are pregnant as a result of rape and violence that they experienced either on the journey to the US or that may be part of an asylum claim. Detention is especially traumatic for pregnant women and even more so for victims of rape and gender-based violence.

NARAL Pro-Choice America noted the administration's hypocrisy in fighting so furiously for abortion restrictions while putting pregnant people into centers that are likely to harm them and the babies they are carrying.

NARAL Pro-Choice America Vice President for Strategic Communications and Research Adrienne Kimmell explained:

This policy will undoubtedly further jeopardize and health of pregnant women in the ICE's custody, who are already likely facing difficult conditions and need access to health care the most. While the Trump-Pence administration brags about its 'pro-life' credentials, it does not blink an eye when it comes to the lives of our most vulnerable populations.

The American Civil Liberties Union called the new change an assault on a vulnerable population. ACLU senior staff counsel Victoria Lopez said via email statement:

This new policy further exposes the cruelty of Trump's detention and deportation force by endangering the lives of pregnant immigrant women. It removes critical protections for this vulnerable population and eliminates key reporting requirements for oversight of a detention system that needs more, not less, transparency and accountability.

Meanwhile, conservatives lauded the reversal, claiming that the change will make it less likely for undocumented people to birth children in the US and give those babies automatic citizenship. But the so-called "anchor baby" issue is largely myth.

As the Washington Post explained in 2015:

For illegal immigrant parents, being the parent of a US citizen child almost never forms the core of a successful defense in an immigration court. In short, if the undocumented parent of a US-born child is caught in the United States, he or she legally faces the very same risk of deportation as any other immigrant.

The only thing that a so-called anchor baby can do to assist either of their undocumented parents involves such a long game that it's not a practical immigration strategy, said Greg Chen, an immigration law expert and director of The American Immigration Lawyers Association, a trade group that also advocates for immigrant-friendly reforms. That long game is this: If and when a US citizen reaches the age of 21, he or she can then apply for a parent to obtain a visa and green card and eventually enter the United States legally."

The process would require so many steps and take so long that it would be virtually useless as a means of obtaining permanent citizenship.

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