As Trump Bullies Over Border Wall, Mexico Offers Aid for Harvey Victims

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by Julia Conley, staff writer, August 28, 2017

commondreams.org

As Trump Bullies Over Border Wall, Mexico Offers Aid for Harvey Victims

The United States' southern neighbor responded with diplomacy to the president's latest Twitter attack

 

With a clear, diplomatic response, the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Sunday quashed President Donald Trump's latest attempt to convince the public that Mexico will pay for the border wall he promised his supporters, and debunked a number of his other repeated claims about the United States' southern neighbor—while offering help to the U.S. as Texas copes with the impact of Hurricane Harvey.

Mexico released its statement after Trump sent the following tweets, as Harvey was bringing catastrophic flooding to Houston on Sunday.

"As the Mexican government has always maintained, our country will not pay, under any circumstances for a wall or physical barrier that is built in US territory along the Mexican border," read the statement. "This determination is not part of a Mexican negotiating strategy, but a principle of national sovereignty and dignity."

The country also addressed the president's assertion that the wall is needed to protect Americans from Mexican criminals, pointing out that drug trafficking is a problem of demand as well as supply:

With regard to the violence generated in Mexico by the illicit traffic in drugs, arms and money between our countries, we reiterate that it is a shared problem that will only end if its root causes are addressed: the high demand for drugs in the United States and the offer from Mexico (and other countries)...Only on the basis of the principles of shared responsibility, teamwork and mutual trust can we overcome this challenge.

A free and independent press is essential to the health of a functioning democracyIndependent journalism has never been more fragile and at risk.

The Foreign Ministry took on an almost parental tone to address Trump's tweet about NAFTA and his penchant for discussing foreign relations, trade, and his policy agenda via Twitter, saying, "Mexico will not negotiate NAFTA, nor any other aspect of the bilateral relationship, through social networks or the media."

The statement ended by noting that Mexico has offered support to the U.S. "to deal with the impacts of [Hurricane Harvey], as good neighbors should always do in times of difficulty."

The Foreign Ministry's statement left out the fact that the U.S. has relied heavily on Mexican aid in the recent past. As the Washington Post reported Monday, Mexico provided significant aid to the U.S. in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

"Marking the first time that Mexican troops had set foot on U.S. soil since the Mexican-American War in 1846, President Vicente Fox sent an army convoy and a naval vessel laden with food, water and medicine," wrote Max Bearak in the Post. "By the end of their three-week operation in Louisiana and Mississippi, the Mexicans had served 170,000 meals, helped distribute more than 184,000 tons of supplies and conducted more than 500 medical consultations."

On Twitter, commentators also noted the especially poor timing of Trump's latest attack on Mexico, considering the U.S. may need to take Mexico up on its offer of aid in the coming days.

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As Trump Pushes Massive Saudi Weapons Deal, Yemenis Suffer from Cholera, War, and Famine

Written by Super User on . Posted in Front News

by Lauren McCauley, staff writer 

www.commondreams.org

As Trump Pushes Massive Saudi Weapons Deal, Yemenis Suffer from Cholera, War, and Famine 

One possible outcome of Trump's visit could be a green light to attack the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah, where the bulk of the humanitarian aid enters Yemen

President Donald Trump will arrive in Saudi Arabia on Friday bearing a major arms deal for the Gulf kingdom, which observers warn will swiftly then be used against the people of Yemen, who are currently facing a deadly cholera outbreak, devastating famine, and two years of war that shows no sign of abating.

In exchange for the $110 billion package, said to be the largest arms deal in history, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman has offered "to invest at least $200 billion in American infrastructure and open up new business opportunities for U.S. companies inside the kingdom," according to Alternet's Max Blumenthal, a move that is expected to win the U.S. president points in the rust belt states of Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin.

"The weapons," Blumenthal added, "would then be used to pulverize Yemen."

The deal, partially brokered by Trump's son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, includes a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, as well as precision guided-munitions that had previously been withheld by the Obama administration "out of fear that they would be used to bomb civilians in Yemen," the New York Times reported. During his time in office, former President Barack Obama oversaw $115 billion in arms sold to the Gulf state.

"The package also includes 'maritime assets,' meaning ships, so the Saudis can assume more of the burden of policing the Persian Gulf and Red Sea against Iranian aggression," the Times further wrote. "It does not include high-end items like the advanced F-35 fighter, whose sale to Saudi Arabia would alarm Israel."

Trump is expected to receive a "royal welcome" in the capital Riyadh, where the Saudis are hosting an Arab Islamic American Summit with leaders from dozens of Muslim countries. Trump, a prolific tweeter, is also expected to give a keynote on social media use as well as a speech at the inauguration of a new counterterrorism center said to be focused on Islam.

Blumenthal notes: "The address will likely have less to do with tolerance than with interests that converge around hostility to Iran, the drive to destroy a government in Yemen that is seen as its proxy, and selling the tens of billions in weapons the meat grinder operation requires."

Kristine Beckerle, Yemen and Kuwait researcher with Human Rights Watch, is among many who have warned that the U.S. risks being complicit in war crimes in Yemen, as the latest sale is being brokered amid mounting evidence of unlawful attacks.

"More than two years into the war, we've documented 81 apparently unlawful coalition attacks and almost two dozen in which U.S. weapons were used," Beckerle wrote earlier this month. "For weapons produced later and shipped now, pleading ignorance is no longer plausible."

"There is no mystery here," she continued. "The Saudi-led coalition has committed scores of unlawful attacks, many amounting to war crimes. Continued arms sales not only send a clear message to the coalition that it can kill civilians with impunity, but they increasingly put U.S. officials at legal risk for aiding those crimes."

Notably, the Trump administration has been forthright about its disinterest in enforcing human rights abroad, with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson recently explaining that such concerns would not interfere with U.S. foreign policy.

Throughout the visit, the American delegation will meet with many members of the Saudi-led coalition that has been bombing Yemen with U.S. assistance for more than two years.

The visit will take place as the embattled nation "is in the grip of a humanitarian crisis," the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said Thursday, as "two million people have been displaced, malnutrition is rife, and, the United Nations estimates, a Yemeni child dies every ten minutes from preventable illnesses. Now a cholera outbreak has become the latest, deadly threat."

Yemen could see as many as 300,000 cases of cholera within six months and an "extremely high" number of deaths, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned on Friday, as aid groups have struggled to contain the epidemic partially because of the nation's devastated health facilities and infrastructure.

To date, over 23,400 suspected cholera cases and 242 deaths have been reported in 18 governorates, WHO noted.

"The speed of the resurgence of the cholera epidemic is unprecedented (for Yemen)," WHO Yemen representative Nevio Zagaria told reporters. 

Reuters continued:

Caused by the ingestion of the Vibrio cholerae bacterium from fecally contaminated water or food, cholera's sudden onset of acute watery diarrhea and can kill within hours, although three-quarters of infected people show no symptoms. The short incubation period means outbreaks can spread with explosive speed, especially in places without safe water and proper sanitation, according to the WHO. 

Yemen has been ruined by two years of civil war, with 18.8 million people needing humanitarian aid, many of them on the brink of famine, and less than 45 percent of health facilities fully functional.

The United Nations published a map on Friday highlighting how the cholera outbreak is spreading "in exactly the same places that are suffering most from food insecurity."

"We have a situation where the areas most affected by Cholera are also the most insecure," according to UN Dispatch. "Unless there is a de-escalation of the conflict, these numbers will only get worse."

Unfortunately, one possible outcome of Trump's visit could be a green light to attack the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah, "where the bulk of the humanitarian aid enters Yemen," noted Medea Benjamin, co-founder of anti-war organization CodePink.

"Further escalation of the war in Yemen, particularly an offensive to seize Hodeidah from the Houthi rebels, will mean even more death and hunger for the Yemeni people," Benjamin wrote at Common Dreams on Friday.

"Trump should not use this trip to support Saudi Arabia's aggressive agenda, aggravate Sunni-Shia tensions, and further enrich U.S. weapons makers," she added. "Instead, he should put a halt to weapons sales and press the Saudis to sit down with Iran and other regional players to find a political solution to the devastating regional conflicts, starting with Yemen."

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As Trump Ramps Up War on Terror, US Bombings Kill 170+ Civilians This Week

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 Jessica Corbett, staff writerAugust 22, 2017

www.commondreams.org

As Trump Ramps Up War on Terror, US Bombings Kill 170+ Civilians This Week

If Syria and Iraq are the model of "success," Trump's war expansion should terrify Afghan civilians

 

Raqqa, Syria

As President Donald Trump expands the war in Afghanistan, which Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Tuesday is partly inspired by "successful" tactics used in the war against the Islamic State (ISIS), Reuters reports that in the past week alone, more than 170 civilians were killed by U.S.-led airstrikes in Raqqa, a Syrian city ISIS considers its capitol.

"The monitoring group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 42 people, including 19 children and 12 women, were killed on Monday in strikes that destroyed buildings where families were sheltering," Reuters reports. The observatory claims this marks the single largest daily death toll since the U.S.-backed Syria Democratic Forces (SDF), a coalition of Kurdish and Arab militias, began their mission to capture Raqqa in June.

Following the Monday night speech in which Trump confirmed he will expand the war in Afghanistan, Tillerson said tactics being used in Syria and Iraq will now be brought to Afghanistan.

"I think we're taking a lot of lessons learned from our success there, and we'll translate those to Afghanistan," Tillerson added.

Considering estimates that civilian casualties will double under Trump in the U.S.-led war against ISIS in Syria and Iraq, activists and commentators argue the president's decision to "expand authority for American armed forces" in Afghanistan—which reportedly includes sending 4,000 more troops—"will only continue this upward trend of civilian casualties," as Common Dreams reported Tuesday.

Shortly after the U.S.-led coalition launched its offensive to capture Raqqa, a United Nations investigator said that intensified airstrikes by the coalition were responsible for a "staggering loss of civilian life" in the city, Common Dreams reported in June.

"The United States is now one of the deadliest warring parties in Syria," Laura Gottesdiener wrote for TomDispatch last month. Citing reports and photographs from Syrian journalists and activists, as well as first-person accounts from family members of Raqqa civilians, Gottesdiener observed that the American offensive "looks a lot less like a battle against the Islamic State and a lot more like a war on civilians."

Summarizing coalition action as it prepared to launch its "much-anticipated offensive," Gottesdiener wrote:

These human rights groups and local reporters say that, across Syria in recent months, the U.S.-led coalition and U.S. Marines have bombed or shelled at least 12 schools, including primary schools and a girls' high school; a health clinic and an obstetrics hospital; Raqqa's Science College; residential neighborhoods; bakeries; post offices; a car wash; at least 15 mosques; a cultural center; a gas station; cars carrying civilians to the hospital; a funeral; water tanks; at least 15 bridges; a makeshift refugee camp; the ancient Rafiqah Wall that dates back to the eighth century; and an Internet café in Raqqa, where a Syrian media activist was killed as he was trying to smuggle news out of the besieged city.

"Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently," a citizen journalist group, told Reuters that since the Raqqa offensive began, at least 946 civilians have been killed. Tuesday, the group tweeted recent details and photos documenting the carnage of the U.S.-backed bombing:

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As Trump Wages War on Science, Energy Grows for Worldwide March for Science

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by Nika Knight, staff writer

Friday, March 31, 2017

www.commondreams.org

As Trump Wages War on Science, Energy Grows for Worldwide March for Science

Nearly 400 marches in 37 countries will take place on April 22, demonstrating global resistance to Trump agenda

President Donald Trump's administration has fulfilled his campaign rhetoric when it comes to waging war on science, from erasing WhiteHouse.gov references to climate change on the day of his inauguration, to banning the term "climate change" at the Department of Energy's climate office, to proposing massive cuts to medical research to fund a new U.S.-Mexico border wall.

"People have woken up."

—Jane GoodallAs Trump attacks science, though, scientists worldwide are fighting back.

On April 22, a global March for Science will see 400 events in 37 countries, with a massive march in Washington, D.C. Organizers also announced Thursday that prominent scientists Bill Nye, Lydia Villa-Komaroff, and Mona Hanna-Attisha will be honorary co-chairs of the March for Science.

Political action on such a large scale is notable for scientists, who by and large refrain from engaging with politics.

"There's been a building desire to speak out, especially among young scientists and [the March for Science] became a fulcrum to that shift," said national co-chair for the march Dr. Jonathan Berman in a Reddit AMA ("Ask Me Anything") Friday.

Indeed, the more action the Trump administration takes against science, the more the popular resistance is galvanized to speak out.

Notable scientist and primatologist Jane Goodall this week strongly condemned Trump's executive order repealing Obama-era climate rules, for example. "[B]eing not a scientist in [the climate] field, I tend to listen to scientists who do work in that field, like Nicholas Stern, and I would not dream of refuting the science that shows climate change is happening," Goodall said.

"It's happening everywhere. It's already having devastating effects in many parts of the word and the droughts are getting worse, flooding's getting worse, storms, hurricanes are getting more frequent and more violent," Goodall continued.

Prominent climate scientist and managing director of the Arctic Institute Victoria Herrmann also spoke out this week in a Guardian op-ed that accused the Trump administration of steadily deleting online archives of her research. "Each defunct page is an effort by the Trump administration to deliberately undermine our ability to make good policy decisions by limiting access to scientific evidence," Herrmann wrote.

"These back-to-back data deletions come at a time when the Arctic is warming twice as fast as the global average," Herrmann added. "Just this week, it was reported that the Arctic's winter sea ice dropped to its lowest level in recorded history. The impacts of a warming, ice-free Arctic are already clear: a decline in habitat for polar bears and other Arctic animals; increases in coastal erosion that force Alaskans to abandon their homes; and the opening up of shipping routes with unpredictable conditions and hazardous icebergs."

Conditions are indeed worsening in the Arctic, as just this week it was reported that yet another heatwave is descending on the polar region.

"[W]hile these stories have become an almost monthly fixture, make no mistake," wrote Climate Central's Brian Kahn. "It is extremely abnormal for the Arctic—or any other part of the world for that matter—to be repeatedly blitzed by temperatures this far above normal and the impacts are reshaping the region."

As the urgency for resistance grows, Goodall told journalists that she is hopeful because so many scientists are heeding the call for action.

"If we allow this feeling of doom and gloom to continue then it will be very, very bad, but my job is to give people hope, and I think one of the main hopes is the fact that people have woken up: people who were apathetic before or didn't seem to care," Goodall said.

"Now suddenly it's like they've heard a trumpet call: 'What can we do? We have to do something,'" the primatologist added.

Those interested in doing something can find a march to join on April 22 here, and follow along on social media under the hashtags #ScienceMarch and #GlobalScienceMarch:

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As US Inequality Breeds Oligarchy, New Report Details Pathway to Equity

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by Jake Johnson, staff writer, August 7, 2017

www.commondreams.org

As US Inequality Breeds Oligarchy, New Report Details Pathway to Equity

"Inequality effectively disenfranchises us, diminishing what our vote at the ballot box means relative to the influence of money drowning out our voice in the public square."

 

Pervasive and growing inequality is corroding American democracy, and only ambitious solutions—including healthcare for all, a living wage, and the elimination of corporate money from the political process—will be sufficient to remedy the crisis.

That is the conclusion of a new report published Monday by the Next System Project and the Institute for Policy Studies. Their analysis makes overwhelmingly clear that despite the Trump administration's self-serving celebrations of the stock market boom and recent monthly job data, the vast majority of Americans remain locked out of America's tremendous wealth.

"After decades of stagnant wages, most low-income workers are now struggling to get by on poverty wages."

—Chuck Collins, Institute for Policy StudiesBuilding on the research of economists Thomas Piketty, Gabriel Zucman, and Emmanuel Saez—who recently found that the bottom half of the income distribution has been "completely shut off from economic growth" for the past several decades—the new report  highlights the systemic causes of America's vast inequities, including the concentration of political power at the very top, systemic racism, and the dwindling power of organized labor in the face of sustained corporate attacks.

All of these factors, combined with the changes wrought by globalization and technological change, have converged to produce inequities that are vast and ultimately unsustainable.

"After decades of stagnant wages, most low-income workers are now struggling to get by on poverty wages," the report—titled Reversing Inequality: Unleashing the Transformative Potential of an Equitable Economy—notes. "Nearly half of the workforce is stuck in jobs paying less than $15 an hour. According to Oxfam USA, 43.7 percent of workers—58.3 million people—earn less than $15 an hour, including 53 percent of black workers and 60 percent of Latino workers. Over 41 million of these workers earn under $12 an hour."

Meanwhile, the richest Americans continue to accumulate exorbitant wealth. The report highlights several data points that underscore this fact:

    "The top one-tenth of 1 percent (an estimated 160,000 households with net worth that starts at $20 million) now own more than 22 percent of all US household wealth in 2012, up from 7 percent in the 1978."

    "This tiny subgroup—the true American elite—now owns as much as the bottom 90 percent of U.S. households combined."

    The combined wealth of the Forbes 400 amounts to around $2.3 trillion. "Together, this small group has more wealth than the bottom 61 percent of the US population combined."

    "The net worth of the wealthiest 20 billionaires—all of whom could sit in one Gulfsteam 650 luxury jet— exceeds that of the bottom half of the U.S. population combined."

This vast chasm between the wealthiest and everyone else has ramifications that reach far beyond the economic sphere, notes Chuck Collins, the author of the report and the director of the Program on Inequality at IPS.

"Public health, education, racism, and environmental degradation all have roots in the systemic inequalities deeply ingrained in our economic model," Collins observes.

Additionally, the report highlights inequality's corrosive effects on the democratic process.

"Public health, education, racism, and environmental degradation all have roots in the systemic inequalities deeply ingrained in our economic model."

—Chuck Collins"Inequality effectively disenfranchises us, diminishing what our vote at the ballot box means relative to the influence of money drowning out our voice in the public square," the report notes. "It warps lawmakers' priorities and blocks necessary reforms."

Collins goes on to quote former President Jimmy Carter, who made waves in 2015 with his description of the American political system as "an oligarchy with unlimited political bribery."

All of these facts make inequality "the most pressing issue of our time," Collins argues.

The report closes by offering numerous ways to tackle inequality, which are broken down into four categories, including policies that would "lift the floor, level the playing field, break up the over-concentration of wealth, and check unbridled corporate power."

Some of the ideal steps forward would include:

    Guaranteeing healthcare to all Americans;

    Making the minimum wage a living wage;

    Ensuring that every worker has "family medical leave, sick leave, and protections against wage theft, racial discrimination, and sexual harassment";

    Making public college tuition-free;

    Enacting reforms that would "limit campaign contributions, ban corporate contributions and influence, and require timely disclosure of all political donations";

    Restoring progressive taxation and eliminating avenues used by the wealthy to avoid paying taxes;

    Breaking up "mega-banks" and vigorously enforcing anti-trust measures.

Acknowledging the drastic nature of these proposed solutions, the report closes by arguing that systemic change can only "flow from a shared vision of what is possible."

"We want greater equality as a good in itself," the report concludes, "but also for the good it brings."

In the face of America's staggering inequities, however, President Donald Trump has proposed and implemented a slew of measures that will make America's inequality crisis—which has already been deemed the worst in the industrialized world—even worse.

"It's hard to imagine many of these solutions moving forward at the national level in the current political environment," Collins says, but there are "opportunities to incubate them in states and localities and lay the groundwork for a future political realignment."

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