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Wednesday, 08 August 2018 07:07

The United States of Monopoly Rule

Banksy 0808wrpArtwork by Banksy. (Photo: Chris Devers / Flickr)


America's political history has been written in the fierce narrative of war — not only our country's many military clashes with foreign nations, but also our own unending war for democracy in the U.S.

Generation after generation of moneyed elites have persisted in trying to take wealth and power from the workaday majority and concentrate both of those things in their wealthy hands to establish a de facto American aristocracy. Every time, the people have rebelled in organized mass struggles against the monopolist and financial royalists — literally battling for a little more economic fairness, social justice, and equal opportunity. And now, the time of rebellion is upon us again, for We the People are suddenly in the grip of a brutish level of monopolistic power.


schoolbussegBusing as a means of desegragation has faded, and school segregation is returning. (Photo: Jordan)



800px Ringtailed Lemurs in Berenty David Dennis /WikiCommons

Ninety-five percent of Earth's lemur population is threatened, experts warned this week, underscoring their unfortunate position as the world's most endangered primates.

Of the planet's 111 known lemur species and subspecies, 105 can be provisionally evaluated as critically endangered, endangered or vulnerable, a group of primate specialists convened by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) determined.

"This is, without a doubt, the highest percentage of threat for any large group of mammals and for any large group of vertebrates," Global Wildlife Conservation's chief conservation officer Russ Mittermeier, said in a press release.

Tuesday, 07 August 2018 06:38

Hibakusha and Hope in the Nuclear Age


495px Hiroshima NagasakiA picture of the Hiroshima bombing taken for the US government. Charles Levy /WikiCommons

This week marks 73 years since the U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6thand 9th, ultimately resulting in the deaths of more than 200,000 people. With the dawn of the nuclear age, the term "hibakusha" formally entered our lexicon.Atomic bomb survivors are referred to in Japanese as hibakusha, which translates literally as "bomb-affected-people."  The bombings and aftermath changedthe world forever and threaten the very future of mankind to this day.

 According to the Atomic Bomb Survivors Relief Law, there are three hibakusha categories. These include people exposed directly to the bomb and its immediate aftermath, those people exposed within a 2-kilometer radius who entered the sphere of destruction within two weeks of the explosion, and people exposed to radioactive fallout generally from assisting victims and handling bodies. These also include those exposed in utero, whose mothers were pregnant and belonging to any of these defined categories.

Hibakusha have provided a living legacy to the horrors and threat of nuclear war. The threat continues to this day, fueled by a new nuclear arms race initiated by the United States proposal to spend upwards of $1.7 trillion over the next 30 years to rebuild our entire nuclear arsenal. Every other nuclear nation is following suit in modernizing their arsenals as well, giving rise to the myth of nuclear deterrence that has driven the arms race since its inception.


plasticguns3dThis is a plastic squirt gun, but soon individuals will likely be manufacturing real plastic guns. (Mark Strozier)

A new frontier for technology has been developing that allows people to fabricate products through a 3-D carving machine that uses instructions to program the molding. Texan Cody Wilson, a gun rights advocate and anarchist, has been battling the government for years to distribute schematics of programs for manufacturing plastic guns out of homes, garages and other locations used by individuals. He claims, amid the legal wrangling, that he has still been able to offer the programming to more than a millions people who have downloaded his instructions.

It is true that plastic guns are illegal in the United States, as the NRA admitted in a recent email news release:

“Regardless of what a person may be able to publish on the Internet, undetectable plastic guns have been illegal for 30 years. Federal law passed in 1988, crafted with the NRA’s support, makes it unlawful to manufacture, import, sell, ship, deliver, possess, transfer, or receive an undetectable firearm.”

That statement is accurate (except for the self-proclaimed inclusion of the "NRA's support"), but it doesn't express any opposition to the distribution of gun-making instructions that are downloadable on the internet. This sort of de facto support for the expansion of gun manufacturing while claiming speciously to be against plastic guns is a telling example of the NRA's standard mode of operation. Indeed, Wilson is offering downloads that can create an AR-15 assault rifle. The likelihood that 3-D plastic guns would enter the underground gun market is quite high, and the NRA knows it. It is in favor of any means to advance the number of guns in the US.

Eurofire 0806wrpWildfires in Europe. (Photo: 15615 / Flickr)


By now we're accustomed to learning that every year brings record high temperatures around the world. Extreme weather, says Prof. Michael Mann of Pennsylvania State University, "is the face of climate change. We literally would not have seen these extremes in the absence of climate change. The impacts of climate change are no longer subtle. We are seeing them play out in real time and what is happening this summer is a perfect example of that. We are seeing our predictions come true. As a scientist that is reassuring, but as a citizen of planet Earth, it is very distressing to see that as it means we have not taken the necessary action."

Ordinary folks, rich and poor, who live in low-lying areas such as port cities and towns on rivers and coastlines, and in certain forested areas, are in increasing danger of losing their homes—and possibly their lives—to floods and fires. But members of the governing and business elite always have the option to move away from flood and fire zones, not to mention pollution and hurricanes. So where's their incentive to think ahead and about others' wellbeing?  They need to be called to account!

 Hiroshima Peace Walkers Maya Evans 2Okinawa to Hiroshima Peace Walk. (Photo: Maya Evans)


I have just arrived in Hiroshima with a group of Japanese "Okinawa to Hiroshima peace walkers" who had spent nearly two months walking Japanese roads protesting U.S. militarism. While we were walking, an Afghan peace march that had set off in May was enduring 700km of Afghan roadsides, poorly shod, from Helmand province to Afghanistan's capital of Kabul. Our march watched the progress of theirs with interest and awe. The unusual Afghan group had started off as 6 individuals, emerging out of a sit-in protest and hunger strike in the Helmand provincial capital Lashkar Gah, after a suicide attack there created dozens of casualties. As they started walking their numbers soon swelled to 50 plus as the group braved roadside bombs, fighting between warring parties and exhaustion from desert walking during the strict fast month of Ramadan.

The Afghan march, which is believed to be the first of its kind, is asking for a long-term ceasefire between warring parties and the withdrawal of foreign troops. One peace walker, named Abdullah Malik Hamdard, felt that he had nothing to lose by joining the march. He said: "Everybody thinks they will be killed soon, the situation for those alive is miserable. If you don't die in the war, the poverty caused by the war may kill you, which is why I think the only option left for me is to join the peace convoy."

WindFarm 0803wrp(Photo: steeedm / Flickr) 


Renewable energy is truly getting cheaper every day. The 800-megawatt wind farm Vineyard Wind project, the first large-scale offshore wind farm in the U.S., has offered a total levelized price of $65 per megawatt-hour (MWh)—a record low.

The planned wind farm, located 15 mies south of Martha's Vineyard, will be jointly developed by Avangrid Inc. and Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners. Their contract was filed Wednesday with the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities.

In all, Massachusetts electricity users will save about $1.4 billion over the 20-year duration of the contract, Bloomberg reported.


trumprallyTrump uses rallies to solidify an authoritarian base. (Photo: Michael Vadon)

Since the beginning of his campaign, Donald Trump has been determined to create a base of supporters who would support his authoritarian leadership without question. In this quest, he has largely succeeded. His tactics of identifying so-called enemies -- including non-white immigrants, people of color more generally, the alleged "deep state," Mueller and the Special Counsel's office as a whole, etc. -- are a means to consolidate cult-like control over the 35 to 42 percent of the voters who see him as a singular strongman to "Make America White Again." His tweets and rally statements serve to reinforce his stentorian leadership over a base of white voters who feel besieged by the changing demographics of the nation.

Although it is simplistic to make an analogy of Trumpism to Nazism, one can say with certainty that Trump -- knowingly or unknowingly -- follows some of the same propaganda techniques as Joseph Goebbels, Hitler's propaganda minister. One glaring example is how Trump tenaciously utilizes Goebbels' promotion of the big lie, as quoted here by Goebbels:

If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.


6019737826 280d4fd29a methodshop .com /WikiCommons

Deadly heat waves are breaking records and making headlines around the world this summer, but they have nothing on the heat waves that the North China Plain is likely to see in the future if we don't act now to combat climate change.

A study published in Nature Communications Tuesday found that if we do nothing to curb emissions, China's most populous and agriculturally important region could see heat waves deadly even for healthy people by 2100.

"China is currently the largest contributor to the emissions of greenhouse gases, with potentially serious implications to its own population: Continuation of the current pattern of global emissions may limit habitability of the most populous region of the most populous country on Earth," study authors Elfatih A. B. Eltahir of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Suchul Kang of the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology wrote.

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