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Sacrifice Zones Part 2: Petrochemical Development Threatens the Pacific Northwest

Also see: Sacrifice Zones: Fossil Fuels Lay Waste to Iconic Landscapes

Since 2003 a rash of proposals have surfaced in communities throughout the Northwest to export vast amounts of fossil fuels to Asian markets via Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia. If these plans go through the Northwest would become home to the largest oil terminal in North America, the largest coal export facility in North America, and the largest methanol refinery in the world.

This week we present Part Two of Sacrifice Zones by Barbara Bernstein. It’s the final installment in a two-part series on the pressure to transform a region of iconic landscapes and environmental stewardship into a global center for shipping fossil fuels. Bernstein investigates how proposals for petrochemical development in the Pacific Northwest threatens the region’s core cultural, social, and environmental values.

Special thanks to Dan Serres, Eric de Place, Carol Newman, Peter Seigel, Steve Early, KMUN Coast Community Radio, Melissa Marsland, Jerry Mayer, Jan Zuckerman and Bill Bigelow.

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The Secret Republican Health Care Plan: Cutting Taxes and Destroying Medicaid

I have been wondering what I should say about the Republican health care legislation in the Senate. We do know that there is a policy split among Senators about how much and how fast to cut Medicaid. We know the bill will cut taxes. But beyond that there is more information on one of my whiteboards than what is posted in public.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is moving this legislation in secret. And there’s a reason. As The Washington Post puts it: “” So McConnell’s theory is that if the Senate’s bill were seen, debated and discussed, opposition would grow and grow, and eventually at least three of his members would bail out (the Republicans’ 52-48 majority means they can only lose two votes). Which might well be true.”

So true in fact that I am not sure which is a worse outcome for Republicans: Failing to pass a bill (ticking off their conservative base) or passing this legislation that by all independent measures will make the US health care system worse.

It’s easy to imagine the coming 2018 election commercials: Millions lose health insurance; health care-related bankruptcies on the rise; and all done in secret so that wealthy campaign donors pay less in taxes.

Indian Country, of course, is largely missing from this debate. There is an assumption that the bill doesn’t impact the Indian Health Service. But Medicaid is growing and it could be, no, ought to be, a significant funding stream for IHS. Even the Trump administration’s budget recognizes that’s budget recognizes that. It projects $914 million in third-party billing for IHS in fiscal year 2018, a slight increase. That’s mostly Medicaid. But the numbers don’t reflect what will happen if that Medicaid money is taken away because the IHS appropriations (which is essentially …read more

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Ohio's “Heartbeat Bill” Returns — and We Should All Be Scared

It’s been over six years since Janet Porter first convinced far-right Ohio legislators to introduce a bill in the state capitol that would ban abortion after a heartbeat could be detected – as early as four weeks after conception.

Since then, the bill has been voted on and blocked repeatedly. Supporters have displayed heart balloons, sent children carrying teddy bears to persuade politicians and produced advertisements about buses of children plummeting off cliffs to encourage lawmakers to move ahead with the restriction. Fetuses have even “testified” on the floor.

At the end of 2016, social conservatives finally managed to get a bill through both the house and senate — only to have Republican Governor John Kasich veto the measure when it arrived on his desk.

At that point, it seemed like we had finally reached the end of the heartbeat ban in Ohio. But, as it turns out, we were wrong.

Apparently fourth time’s a charm for Ohio’s abortion opponents, as Republican Rep. Christina Hagan reintroduced the heartbeat ban again this week. Despite the fact that it has failed to become law — again and again and again — Hagan remains positive that the time is right for an extreme, unconstitutional pre-viability abortion ban.

“I believe that children with beating hearts deserve protection in the state of Ohio, and we should work toward that effort regardless of what the political climate ever looks like,” she said, according to the Columbus Dispatch. “You can’t get distracted by variables you can’t control.” She added, “Every time we have the discussion about the validity of the child in the womb, I believe we save lives. As far as having the discussion on the House floor or in committee, I will have it at …read more

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Economic Update: Capitalism's Self-Destruction

This week’s episode discusses the declining California State University system, Trump vs. coal industry realities, Hudson Yards for the mega-rich vs. New York’s social needs, and how lotteries and legalizing pot have the same economic motives. Also included are major discussions on politics and economic betrayal, Trump’s new austerity budget, why worker co-ops deserve government support, and worker co-ops and democracy.

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

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Visit Professor Wolff’s social movement project, democracyatwork.info.

Permission to reprint Professor Wolff’s writing and videos is granted on an individual basis. Please contact profwolff@rdwolff.com to request permission. …read more

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Javier Valdez and the Drug War That Killed Him

One month ago today a burly, middle-aged reporter set out from the offices of the news weekly Riodoce that he co-founded some fourteen years ago, walking toward his car at high noon. In the preceding days, the internationally renowned journalist had admitted to people close to him that he felt anxious about his safety.

He had just penned what would be his last column that morning when his life was brought to an abrupt end by two unknown assassins using a silencer. The killers reportedly dragged him from his car and shot as many as 13 rounds into his body, in the middle of a city street.

To the shock of the nation and his many readers, fellow journalists and admirers in Mexico and abroad, Javier Valdez Cárdenas was murdered openly in his hometown of Culiacan, Sinaloa — a capital city notorious for being located in the middle of a fierce drug war.

The reason behind the shock was not that hit men struck a journalist. There have been eight journalists assassinated in Mexico this year alone, a record-breaking statistic that has propelled the nation to the top of the list of the most dangerous countries in the world in which to practice journalism, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

The reason for the shock was also not because Valdez covered a safe beat. He didn’t. His reporting, along with others at Riodoce, focuses on the politics and on-the-ground realities of the drug war.

The reason the murder shocked so many people out of complacency is that Valdez was arguably the most recognized journalist yet to have been assassinated in Mexico’s long and sordid history of impunity.

Valdez was a prolific and widely read author. In the span of his 50 years he published seven books and earned numerous …read more

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New Inhumane Record: One Person Displaced Every Three Seconds

Nearly 66 million people were forcibly displaced from their homes last year, the United Nation refugee agency has reported.

The figure equates to “one person displaced every three seconds — less than the time it takes to read this sentence, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports, stressing the “very high” pace at which conflict and persecution is forcing people to flee their homes.

The report Global Trends, which as been released ahead of the World Refugee Day on June 20, marks a jump of 300,000 since the end of 2015. “By any measure this is an unacceptable number,” said UN High Commissioner Filippo Grandi, urging “solidarity and a common purpose in preventing and resolving crisis.”

Grandi also called for properly protecting and caring for the world’s refugees, internally displaced and asylum-seekers — who currently number 22.5 million, 40.3 million, and 2.8 million, respectively.

The Biggest Refugee Producer

According to the report, Syria remains “the world’s biggest producer of refugees” with 12 million people living in neighboring countries and away from the region. There are 7.7 million displaced Colombians, 4.7 million Afghans and 4.2 million Iraqis.

However, in 2016, South Sudan became “the biggest new factor” when peace efforts broke down in July resulting in some 737,400 people fleeing by the end of the year.

Nyawet Tut, a South Sudanese mother of five in her 30s, described how soldiers set fire to her village and she had to run for her life with her own five children and five others of relatives killed in the conflict.

“My husband was killed in the war which, in addition to the shortage of food, made me decide to leave my home, everything, behind,” she told UNHCR staff during an interview at …read more

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London Fire Fuels Movement to Tackle Inequality in Britain

Just hours after a 24-story London apartment building went up in flames on June 14, Faiza Shaheen appeared on Britain’s Sky TV to connect the dots between this horrific tragedy and the city’s rank as one of the world’s most unequal.

Inequality.org co-editor Chuck Collins and I sat down with Shaheen the following day, as the death toll, now estimated at 79, continued to rise. We talked about the public anger over the fire and what she sees as the related outcry for economic and racial equity that resulted in an unexpectedly strong showing for the UK Labour Party in the country’s June 8 election. Shaheen directs the Centre for Labour and Social Studies (Class), a London-based think tank.

Inequality.org: What’s the connection between the Grenfell Tower fire and London’s extremely high levels of inequality?

Faiza Shaheen: The neighborhood surrounding the tower has the biggest gap between rich and poor of any in the country. It’s a very wealthy area, but the people living in this particular tower were mostly working class ethnic minorities. Also, in terms of voice, you see the disparities. People living in this building had clearly spoken out about the problems with safety — you can find their blogs online. But they also said they knew nothing would be done until there’s a catastrophe. Well, now that’s happened and we need to make sure the authorities can’t just brush this away anymore.

How much was the recent election about inequality?

I would say inequality was fundamental to understanding the narrative of this election. When it was first announced, people thought it would be about Brexit again. But the Labour Party very effectively pivoted away from that. Their language was about the elites and about the rest of us not getting salary increases and facing cuts to public services.

We’ve had …read more

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Myths of Globalization: Noam Chomsky and Ha-Joon Chang in Conversation

Author Ha-Joon Chang. (Photo: New America)

Author Ha-Joon Chang. (Photo: New America; Edited: LW / TO)

Income inequality is not caused by globalization itself but rather by economic policies that, since the 1980s, have increasingly been set by transnational corporations, Ha-Joon Chang and Noam Chomsky point out. But globalization during the era of industrial capitalism has always enhanced dependence, inequality and exploitation, often to horrendous extremes.

Author Ha-Joon Chang. (Photo: New America)Author Ha-Joon Chang. (Photo: New America; Edited: LW / TO)

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Since the late 1970s, the world’s economy and dominant nations have been marching to the tune of (neoliberal) globalization, whose impact and effects on average people’s livelihood and communities everywhere are generating great popular discontent, accompanied by a rising wave of nationalist and anti-elitist sentiments. But what exactly is driving globalization? And who really benefits from globalization? Are globalization and capitalism interwoven? How do we deal with the growing levels of inequality and massive economic insecurity? Should progressives and radicals rally behind the call for the introduction of a universal basic income? In the unique and exclusive interview below, two leading minds of our time, linguist and public intellectual Noam Chomsky and Cambridge University economist Ha-Joon Chang, share their views on these essential questions.

C. J. Polychroniou: Globalization is usually referred to as a process of interaction and integration among the economies and people of the world through international trade and foreign investment with the aid of information technology. Is globalization then simply a neutral, inevitable process of economic, social and technological interlinkages, or something of a more political nature in which state …read more

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Dissidents Ramp Up Direct Action Against Climate Destroyers. Who Will the Courts Defend?

(Photo: Gil Megidish; Edited: LW / TO)

The seven climate activists convicted in district courts this month were not allowed to present a “climate necessity” defense for their acts of civil disobedience. But the growing movement of climate activism against the fossil fuel industry and its political enablers is determined to keep the fight going in the courts until “climate necessity” becomes an acceptable defense.

(Photo: Gil Megidish; Edited: LW / TO)

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This month a group of climate activists were convicted in district courts in Mount Vernon, Washington, and Wawayanda, New York, for committing acts of civil disobedience against fossil fuel infrastructure. Each defendant (one in Washington and six in New York) had attempted to present a “climate necessity defense,” arguing that their nominally illegal actions were justified by the threat of climate catastrophe — in other words, that the real crime is continuing to pollute the atmosphere, not interfering with corporate property. The courts weren’t having it: The activists were convicted on June 7 on charges of varying seriousness, although they anticipate appealing their rulings.

The activists aren’t hanging their heads, though. Instead, they’re doubling down on their civil resistance mode of political activism. In doing so, they’re joining a growing movement of direct action climate dissidents across the country who have taken to the streets, the pipelines and the coal trains to do what the government won’t: confront an industry that poses an existential threat to human civilization.

The Washington trial began with an October 2016 protest in which Ken Ward — a long-time environmental leader who pursued conventional climate policy avenues …read more

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The Wealthiest Americans Keep Making Money While Inequality Grows

A Ford Fusion modified by Uber for autonomous use on the streets of Pittsburgh ahead of the launch of its driverless system, September 8, 2016. (Photo: Jeff Swensen / The New York Times)

Disposable Americans shows the impact of extreme capitalism on children; on the poor and the sick and the elderly; on people of color; on women; on workers, especially young Americans; and on all average Americans, including the middle-class and those just above and below, who make up approximately 90 percent of us, and who have become increasingly disposable to the fortunate minority at the top of the wealth distribution.

A Ford Fusion modified by Uber for autonomous use on the streets of Pittsburgh ahead of the launch of its driverless system, September 8, 2016. (Photo: Jeff Swensen / The New York Times)

To be a “winner” in capitalism requires an endless supply of disposable people. As inequality in the United States has widened, more and more Americans are dismissed as disposable “losers.” But there are policies that can reverse this pernicious trend, as Paul Buchheit shows in his new book, Disposable Americans: Extreme Capitalism and the Case for a Guaranteed Income. Order your copy today by making a donation to Truthout!

In the following lightly edited excerpt from Disposable Americans, Paul Buchheit examines the factors that have led to lower wages and less job security for most workers in the US, and the terrible material consequences that have resulted.

Our jobs are disappearing. In the not-too-distant future we might wait around for a package delivery, hurry off to class, grab a taxi downtown, consult with a financial advisor, meet the family for dinner, and then take the train home. All without being served by a single human being. No delivery person, no teacher, no cab driver, no financial advisor, no food server, no train conductor.

That may be disputed by free-market defenders, but even today many of our traditional mid-level …read more

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