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Civil Society: “Everyday Things Are Getting Worse” for Children in Yemen

United Nations—Persistent attacks on health care in Yemen is severely impacting children’s well-being, civil society detailed at the launch of a report.

In the report, Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict, in collaboration with Save the Children, found a series of systematic attacks on medical facilities and personnel and families’ restricted access to health care across three of the most insecure governorates in the Middle Eastern nation.

According to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), warring parties carried out at least 160 attacks against medical facilities and personnel between March 2015 and March 2017 through intimidation, air strikes, and impeded access to medical supplies.

In one incident, anti-Houthi forces raided and shutdown Al Thawra hospital for reportedly treating several injured Houthi-fighers. The hospital had also previously been shelled on numerous occasions.

In Saada, a missile struck the Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)-supported Shiara Hospital which killed six and wounded ten. The hospital served an area of approximately 120,000 people and was established as a de facto emergency room to provide access to health care for patients that would otherwise need to travel four to five hours along insecure roads to receive. A few days later, the same hospital sustained another rocket attack by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition.

Many are now afraid because of the attacks, said Watchlist’s Research Officer Christine Monaghan.

“There is a real sense of fear in the country about not being able to access healthcare when needed, about what might happen to them if they are in a clinic or a hospital and it’s bombed at a time when they visit,” she told IPS.

Following the Shiara Hospital attack, an MSF doctor reported that maternity room deliveries have ceased. “Pregnant women are giving birth in caves rather than risk coming to the hospital,” they said.

This has compounded health …read more

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Private Prison and Border Security Contractors Lobby Congress Over Trump's Border Wall

The border fence between USA and Mexico, seen from the Mexican side, where Mexico, New Mexico and Texas meet.

Congress is facing the prospect of a government shutdown over Trump’s demand for funding to start construction of a wall on the southern border. Lobbyists for private prison and border security companies have swarmed Capitol Hill as Trump initiated an immigration crackdown and called for billions more in enforcement spending.

The border fence between USA and Mexico, seen from the Mexican side, where Mexico, New Mexico and Texas meet. (Photo: dawn paley / Flickr)

Lobbyists for federal contractors that provide border security and run private prisons have been busy since Trump initiated a brutal immigration crackdown and demanded that Congress provide funding for his wall on the southern border, a proposal that is currently threatening to send the government off a fiscal cliff.

Consider GEO Group, a private prison company that runs jails for immigrants facing deportation. The company spent $350,000 on lobbying during the first quarter of 2017, more than it has ever spent over the same time frame, according to a Truthout review of lobbying records provided by the research organization MapLight. Federal filings show that a subsidiary of GEO Group also donated $250,000 to President Trump’s inaugural festivities and another $225,000 to a super PAC that supported his election.

Ethics watchdog groups have complained that the super PAC donation violates a federal law preventing government contractors from making political donations, but it may have paid off for GEO Group, which won a $110 million contract to build a 1,000-bed immigration jail in Texas earlier this month. The contract was awarded despite an ongoing class action lawsuit filed in 2014 alleging that immigrants were forced to work in slave-labor conditions at a GEO Group facility in Colorado.

In federal filings, GEO Group named …read more

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One-Hundred Days of Deconstruction: Part 1

President Donald Trump delivers remarks before he signed an executive order during a ceremony at the Environmental Protection Agency headquarters in Washington, March 28, 2017. The executive order was intended to roll back most of President Barack Obama's climate-change legacy. From left: Vice President Mike Pence, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. (Photo: Stephen Crowley / The New York Times)

Two months into Trump’s presidency, historian Douglas Brinkley said it would be “the most failed 100 days of any president.” David Gergen, a seasoned adviser to Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Clinton, agreed. But they’re using a traditional scorecard. With the help of Trump Party senators and loyalists, Steve Bannon and his boss are remaking the US.

President Donald Trump delivers remarks before he signed an executive order during a ceremony at the Environmental Protection Agency headquarters in Washington, March 28, 2017. The executive order was intended to roll back most of President Barack Obama’s climate-change legacy. From left: Vice President Mike Pence, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. (Photo: Stephen Crowley / The New York Times)

Independent media is crucial for keeping a close watch on the Trump administration and Truthout takes that responsibility seriously. If you believe in the importance of this work, make a donation today!

“If you look at these Cabinet appointees, they were selected for a reason. And that is for the deconstruction [of the administrative state].”—Steve Bannon

At its best, government saves the environment from polluters, prevents companies from exploiting consumers, safeguards individuals against invidious discrimination and other forms of injustice, and lends a helping hand to those in need. None of those principles guides the Trump/Bannon government.

Two months into Trump’s presidency, historian Douglas Brinkley said it would be “the most failed 100 days of any president.” David Gergen, a seasoned adviser to Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Clinton, agreed. But they’re using a traditional scorecard. With the help of Trump Party senators and loyalists, Steve Bannon and his boss are remaking America. Future generations won’t judge kindly those who let it happen. Then again, …read more

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Clean Water Is a Basic Human Right, and We Can and Should Make It Affordable to Everyone

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Ask someone in Flint, Michigan, or São Paolo, Brazil — the list of cities rocked by water disasters seems to grow each day — how much safe clean water is worth. Worried about contamination and drought, it might be a pretty penny. But the ability of people to actually pay for the full cost of water — from protecting it at its source to getting it to flow from the tap — depends, as it does with anything for sale, on income. And yet water isn’t simply a commodity; it’s necessary for life, so the ethics and practicalities of how society pays for clean water quickly become tricky. The truth is that our growing income inequality means growing thirst and disease.

Treating and delivering water and sanitizing effluent is not cheap, and the cost of providing safe drinking water continues to climb, fueled dramatically by crumbling infrastructure, unpredictable weather and the need to reach deeper into watersheds for safe water. Daily management and regulatory failures are also to blame. In Flint, a change of water sources caused lead to leach into drinking water. In Atlanta, where services had been privatized, quality spiraled downward, leading eventually to the city’s decision to re-municipalize water services.

Meanwhile, in the US — and all over the world — public money for water services has been drying up. Policy-makers and water utility managers are increasingly reaching into constituents’ and customers’ wallets to cover increasing costs. While such a “full-cost recovery” philosophy seems to make sense in theory based on simple arithmetic — a utility should recover all costs associated with operations — and would seem to ensure fiscal discipline as it encourages conservation (i.e., when customers pay real water costs, they use less), …read more

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Fighting Kentucky's Policy of Lifetime Disenfranchisement

Mantell Stevens is an activist, organizer, speaker, and lobbyist with Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, a grassroots social justice organization working on a number of issues, including ending Kentucky’s policy of lifetime disenfranchisement.

Kentucky is one of only three states that continue to impose lifetime disenfranchisement, permanently barring citizens from the ballot box as a consequence for any felony conviction.

We spoke with Stevens about his work, his life, and how they have come to influence each other. Our conversation appears below, edited to account for space constraints.

Erin Kelley: Could you tell us a bit about yourself, and how you became involved with efforts to restore voting rights?

Mantell Stevens: I’m 38 and I was born and raised in Lexington, Kentucky. Around the time that I was between 18 and 20 years old, I got involved with selling drugs and got my first felony. I didn’t really know the consequences at the time. Yes, I was an adult, and I knew right from wrong. But as far as long-term consequences, I wasn’t aware — and my public defender didn’t advise me of all of my options — so I pleaded to the felony charge. And, in a lot of ways, I was blindsided by that felony.

In the last couple of years, it’s been a struggle looking for employment, going to school, and getting grants and scholarships to go to school. Life is hard for convicted felons. I can name ten people off the top of my head who are in the same situation. We have past felony convictions that are so old — these convictions happened when we were kids. Basically, my current situation is living in poverty because I don’t have same the resources available to me as people who haven’t been convicted of a felony.

About …read more

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International Monsanto Tribunal Calls for Human Rights Over Corporate Rights

On Tuesday, April 18, representatives of the Organic Consumers Association and our Regeneration International project gathered in The Hague, Netherlands, along with members of other civil society groups, scientists and journalists.

We assembled to hear the opinions of the five judges who presided over the International Monsanto Tribunal. After taking six months to review the testimony of 28 witnesses who testified during the two-day citizens’ tribunal held in The Hague last October, the judges were ready to report on their 53-page Advisory Opinion.

The upshot of the judges’ opinion? Monsanto has engaged in practices that have violated the basic human right to a healthy environment, the right to food, the right to health, and the right of scientists to freely conduct indispensable research.

The judges also called on international lawmakers to hold corporations like Monsanto accountable, to place human rights above the rights of corporations, and to “clearly assert the protection of the environment and establish the crime of ecocide.”

The completion of the Tribunal judges’ work coincides with heightened scrutiny of Monsanto, during a period when the company seeks to complete a merger with Germany-based Bayer. In addition to our organization’s recently filed lawsuit against Monsanto, the St. Louis-based chemical maker is facing more than 800 lawsuits by people who developed non-Hodgkin lymphoma after being exposed to Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide. As a result of recently-made-public court documents related to those lawsuits, pressure is mounting for Congress to investigate alleged collusion between former EPA officials and Monsanto to bury the truth about the health risks of Roundup.

The timing couldn’t have been better for the Monsanto Tribunal to announce its opinions. But is time running out for us to hold Monsanto accountable — and replace its failed, degenerative model with a …read more

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Richard Wolff on Public Debt, Printing Money and How Governments Pay for Wars

In this educational video Richard Wolff, a University of Massachusetts professor of economics emeritus, Marxist economist and founder of Democracy at Work, defines public debt and explains the process of printing money. Professor Wolff also talks about the role that corporate banks play in this system as well as how politicians exploit the mechanism of money printing in order to garner political capital or justify going to wars.

To view the educational playlist with Richard D. Wolff, click here.

…read more

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Hundreds of Thousands Take to the Streets Worldwide for the Global March for Science

On Saturday, hundreds of thousands of scientists and science supporters took to the streets around the world in a global March for Science on Earth Day. More than 600 marches and rallies took place, with one on every continent, including on Antarctica. Massive marches occurred from coast to coast in the United States, including at a massive rally in Washington, DC. Among those who took to the stage were Bill Nye, “The Science Guy”; Earth Day founder Denis Hayes; former EPA environmental justice official Mustafa Ali, who resigned after Trump took office; Sam Droege of the US Geological Survey; and James Balog, of the Extreme Ice Survey, which is documenting the rapid retreat of glaciers due to climate change.

Please check back later for full transcript.

…read more

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Trump Is a Chameleon President and His Latest Shade Is War

US Army soldiers conduct a security halt during a foot patrol at the 7th Army Training Command's Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany, January 28, 2017.

US Army soldiers conduct a security halt during a foot patrol at the 7th Army Training Command’s Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany, January 28, 2017. (Photo: The US Army)

MOAB sounds more like a war-torn biblical kingdom than the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast, aka “the mother of all bombs.” Still, give Donald Trump credit. Only the really, really big bombs, whether North Korean nukes or those 21,600 pounds of MOAB, truly get his attention. He wasn’t even involved in the decision to drop the largest non-nuclear bomb in the US arsenal for the first time in war, but his beloved generals — “we have the best military people on Earth” — already know the man they work for, and the bigger, flashier, more explosive, and winninger, the better.

It was undoubtedly the awesome look of that first MOAB going off in grainy black and white on Fox News, rather than in Afghanistan, that appealed to the president. Just as he was visibly thrilled by all those picturesque Tomahawk cruise missiles, the equivalent of nearly three MOABS, whooshing from the decks of US destroyers in the eastern Mediterranean and heading, like so many fabulous fireworks, toward a Syrian airfield — or was it actually an Iraqi one? “We’ve just fired 59 missiles,” he said, “all of which hit, by the way, unbelievable, from, you know, hundreds of miles away, all of which hit, amazing… It’s so incredible. It’s brilliant. It’s genius. Our technology, our equipment, is better than anybody by a factor of five.”

Call it thrilling. Call it a blast. Call it escalation. Or just call it the age of Trump. (“If you look at what’s happened over the last …read more

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Hollow Privacy Promises From Major Internet Service Providers

It’s no surprise that Americans were unhappy to lose online privacy protections earlier this month. Across party lines, voters overwhelmingly oppose the measure to repeal the FCC’s privacy rules for Internet providers that Congress passed and President Donald Trump signed into law.

But it should come as a surprise that Republicans — including the Republican leaders of the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission — are ardently defending the move and dismissing the tens of thousands who spoke up and told policymakers that they want protections against privacy invasions by their Internet providers.

Since the measure was signed into law, Internet providers and the Republicans who helped them accomplish this lobbying feat have decried the “hysteria,” “hyperbole,” and “hyperventilating” of constituents who want to be protected from the likes of Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T. Instead they’ve claimed that the repeal doesn’t change the online privacy landscape and that we should feel confident that Internet providers remain committed to protecting their customers’ privacy because they told us they would despite the law.

We’ve repeatedly debunked the tired talking points of the cable and telephone lobby: There is a unique, intimate relationship and power imbalance between Internet providers and their customers. The FTC likely cannot currently police Internet providers (unless Congress steps in, which the White House said it isn’t pushing for at this time). Congress’ repeal of the FCC’s privacy rules does throw the FCC’s authority over Internet providers into doubt. The now-repealed rules — which were set to go into effect later this year — were a valuable expansion and necessary codification of existing privacy rights granted under the law. Internet providers have already shown us the creepy things they’re willing to do to increase their profits.

The massive backlash …read more

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