Saturday, August 13, 2016

August 14 Activist Newsletter


ACTIVIST NEWSLETTER
Saturday, August 13, 2016, Issue #230
Contact us or subscribe to Newsletter at jacdon@earthlink.net

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CONTENTS:
1a. Photo of The Month
1.   Trump Hits Media for Reporting Truth 
2.  A Still Uncertain Election
3.  Radicalizing Outside the Democratic Convention
4.  The Politics of Sanders and Corbyn
5.  Feds Slam Baltimore Cops for Racist Abuse
6. Obama Seeks More Nuclear Weapons
7. The Increased Danger of Nuclear War
8.   China, Russia to Launch South China Sea Drills
10.  Behind the Gender Pay Gap
11. The Wage Gap for Mothers
12. Bombings Strike Southern Thailand
13. The Meaning of Restored Turkey-Russia Relationa in Middle East 
14. Argentine Mothers Complete 2,000th March
15.   Ecuador To U.S. — You Aren't World's Judge
16. Two Big U.S. Unions Now Partners
17. Chelsea Manning Found Guilty
18. Support Free Speech in New York State
19. World Groundwater is Drying Up
20. Largest Wild Animal Species Face Extinction

21. New World Capuchins and Stone Tools

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To Our Russian Readers:
           
We are gratified that so many of you are reading the Activist Newsletter. In the month of July, 4,048 of you came to our Newsletter. If you wish, send us your e-mail address so we can inform you when next issue is ready. Our address is  jacdon@earthlink.net Also you have no use for our local calendar and we can arrange for you not to get it. Lastly, we hope you pass on to your friends that they should check out our Newsletter. If you have positive or negative criticism of our articles let us know.

Thanks, Jack A. Smith, editor
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To Fidel: Happy 90th Birthday. You have been a constant inspiration. 
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1A.   PHOTO OF THE MONTH  
Spirit of the South Bronx, 1970s


An exhibition of photographs now at the Museum of the City of New York (until Oct. 7) documents the decline and poverty of the South Bronx in the 1970s. Shot by local boy Mel Rosenthal at the height of the area’s devastation. The photos also testify to the resilience of the local community. We knew the South Bronx then and have always respected the incredible endurance and strength of these urban victims of America's unequal and racist society. More photos from this period are available at
https://www.theguardian.com/culture/gallery/2016/jun/29/south-bronx-america-photographs-mel-rosenthal

Saint Athanasia’s baseball team, South Bronx, 1970s.


 


Mother and daughter pause in the ruins, where they still lived at the time, on Claremont Parkway.
A few more photos from this collection are available at
https://www.theguardian.com/culture/gallery/2016/jun/29/south-bronx-america-photographs-mel-rosenthal 
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1.    TRUMP HITS MEDIA FOR REPORTING TRUTH 


By Andy Borowitz.

NEW YORK (The Borowitz Report)—The Republican nominee Donald Trump tore into the media on Thursday for what he called their “extremely unfair practice” of reporting the things he says.

“I’ll say something at a rally and I look out and see all these TV cameras taking every word down,” Trump told Fox News’ Sean Hannity. “No one in politics has ever been subjected to this kind of treatment.”

“It’s unbelievable and, frankly, very unethical,” he added.

At a rally in Florida, the candidate lashed out at a TV cameraman whom he caught in the act of recording his words for broadcasting purposes.

“Look at him over there, picking up everything I’m saying, folks,” Trump shouted. “Get him out of here.”

In his interview with Fox, Trump hinted that he might drop out of this fall’s televised Presidential debates if the media continues its practice of reporting the things he says.

“I’ve always said that I would be willing to debate if I’m treated fairly,” Trump told Hannity. “But if the media keeps recording everything I say, word for word, and then playing it back so that everyone in the country hears exactly what I said, I would consider that very, very unfair.”

—Andy Borowitz is a New York Times best-selling author and a comedian who has written for The New Yorker since 1998. He writes the satirical Borowitz Report for newyorker.com.
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2.   A STILL UNCERTAIN ELECTION


Virtually draped with  flags, Hillary accepts her nomination as the Democratic candidate.
By Jack A. Smith

Is it possible that Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump will self-destruct well before the election?  It certainly looked that way, given one major blunder after another in the days after his nomination at the July 18–21 Republican National Convention in Cleveland. Here's another question: Or is it possible he can win? Both options are still on the table because despite voting polls both candidates continue to remain unpopular with the majority of Americans.

Meanwhile, in a mass fundraising letter to her supporters this week, Hillary Clinton declared: "I know what we are capable of doing together. Together we can break down every barrier holding Americans back, and build ladders of opportunity for everyone. America was built by people who had each other's backs, who understood we all have to do our part and that at our best we all rise together. That's the Democratic vision I've worked toward my whole life." Who knew this woman, who seemed fairly conservative all her political life, was a secret socialist? As such, however, she should have mentioned slavery, the destruction of Native American society and the gross exploitation of the working class throughout those years to her quaint "all rise together" version of American history.

In recent weeks the billionaire businessman has generated extreme turmoil within his own party by mocking the Muslim parents of a U.S. Army captain killed in Iraq, refusing to support the re-election of key Republicans (such as House Speaker Paul D. Ryan), questioning why he shouldn't use nuclear weapons, and  — to top it off — seeming to call for gun owners to protect the 2nd Amendment by, well, shooting Clinton. There's no telling what absurdity he will utter next.

But — don't bet on Hillary Clinton yet to win in November, even though she was ahead in polls in the days after her nomination at the July 25-28 Democratic Convention in Philadelphia. Real Clear Politics combined different six big time national polls in August up to the 12th. The result: Hillary leads by 6.8% — 47.8 to Trumps 41.0. The Aug. 2 CNN tally, not in the combined list, was Clinton, 45%, Trump 37%, Donald Johnson (Libertarian) 10 and the Green party's Jill Stein, 5%. However, Gallop Aug. 3 reported the most recent poll of Americans about their views of the candidates, not how they would vote:  62% viewed Trump unfavorably and 52% thought so of Clinton.

Given the unpopularity issue, plus the contradictions in each party between the ruling establishments and rank-and-file and the possibility of staggering surprises or revelations to come in the nearly three months before the election (including the danger of a terrorist attack, and the probability of more computer hacking), nothing is certain at this stage.


Working class white males are a minority of Trump's backers, though often portrayed as much larger. These enthusiastic women are attending a rally for Trump and VP nominee Gov. Mike Pence.
Trump reversed himself Aug. 5 and finally endorsed the re-elections of House Speaker Paul D. Ryan and Senators John McCain (Arizona) and Kelly Ayotte (New Hampshire). In return, what used to be the GOP establishment is trying to accommodate to the most bizarre of presidential candidates and to what Stephanie Coontz describes as "the crudest alliance of racists, nativists, misogynists, and 'know-nothings' that America has seen in any national election since before World War II." Rumors never cease that Republican leaders may find a way to kick him off the ticket before election day. At the same time there is great fear about retaliation from his supporters.

Trump's hard-core right wing constituency remains enthusiastic about their bombastic candidate, despite — or rather because of — his right wing nationalism, racism, anti-Muslim and anti-Latino prejudices, as well as his extraordinary egotism, dishonesty and blatant ignorance. Whether Trump wins or loses, he has galvanized and given strength and direction to millions of Americans who previously kept their bigoted views within the family or expressed them only to fellow haters. Now it's all out there since Trump entered the Republican primaries and may become more intense.

Despite some conservative billionaires and multimillionaires holding back their usual large donations to the Republican presidential race because of Trump's antics and disregard for certain traditional rightist issues, the New York Times reported Aug 4: "Trump all but erased his enormous fund-raising disadvantage against Hillary Clinton in the span of just two months, according to figures released by his campaign Aug. 3, converting the passion of his core followers into a flood of small donations on a scale rarely seen in national politics.

Vermont Sen. Bernard (Bernie) Sanders financed his entire $200 million campaign on small donations and nearly gained the nomination. He showed for the first time in the modern era that a candidate for high office need not sell out to the plutocracy to obtain electoral power.

Sen. Sanders, who gathered 13,168, 222 primary votes to Clinton's 16,847,084, may have lost the nomination but he succeed in politicizing multimillions of Americans toward progressivism and the left.  He has created a mass constituency for social change. Hopefully this force will be organized for action within the next year. Sanders further acquired more power within the Democratic party because of his huge following. It is assumed he will use that influence to promote support for his progressive legislative proposals. Had he refused to support Clinton he would have been ignored by the Democratic party or no longer considered a member of the party he recently joined to become a candidate. This could ruin his reform efforts.

WHAT'S NEXT?


Mass demonstration against Trump outside Republican convention in Cleveland.
After a year of sharp infighting within America's two ruling parties it is now clear that the traditional Republican establishment has lost its internal struggle for control, and the Democratic establishment won its fight against Sanders.  But this could all change.

If Trump loses in November, the former GOP leadership will quickly return to power, making sure to embrace some of the programs of the fallen candidate in order to retain most of his voters.  If he wins, the traditional GOP leadership will seek to exert dominant influence over a president who has no idea how to govern or what to do in office. Republican ultra-conservative Vice Presidential candidate Mike Pence and far right Speaker Ryan among others will see to that. Meanwhile, conservative Old Boys will be plotting to take over after Trump's term ends.

If Clinton loses it seems likely the Democrats will have to reorganize the party and it would be logical for the liberal/left to exert more leadership after years of being silenced during the center right Obama and Clinton eras. If Hillary wins, not much will change. However, a lot depends the pro-Bernie forces. It is not clear whether they will become an independent organization, the left liberal sector of the party or other configurations.

The problems afflicting the working class are finally being talked about in the U.S. today because they are among the reasons why both official parties are experiencing serious uprisings from their generally pliant rank and file voters. The fact is both parties were long aware that the working class and sectors of the middle class have been experiencing mounting hard times over recent decades— and they did nothing to alleviate this situation.  Guess who made the following statement and when it was made:

“You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton Administration, and the Bush Administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

These prescient words were uttered at a California campaign fundraiser in 2008 by Sen. Barack Obama who, since then, has taken no significant action to mitigate this crisis. Indeed, it only seems to have convinced him to fight harder for passage of the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement, which will eliminate more jobs.

Clinton supported the TPP for years until it became evident last year that Bernie's opposition to the pact was popular with many voters, and she turned against it.  It is notable, however, that when the Sanders contingent sought to insert opposition to the TPP into the party platform, Clinton delegates defeated the measure. News reports indicate Obama will launch a major effort to pass the trade pact before he leaves office in January. He has two reasons for pushing further. The TPP will highly benefit U.S. and international corporations and, though rarely mentioned, it is a key part of the administration's efforts to reduce China's influence in East and South Asia. China has not been invited to join, of course,

Colorful CodePink giving the Republicans their due. They protested at both conventions.
THE ECONOMIC SYSTEM

Trump revealed his economic program Aug. 8. Although he tried to make it appear his plan benefitted all the American people, including the working class, it turned out to be a typical right wing neoliberal program vastly benefitting the ruling class.  The New York Times commented editorially Aug. 9:

"Trump said that he wanted to usher in 'economic renewal,' but most of his proposals would hurt the economy, rack up huge deficits, accelerate climate change and leave the country isolated from the world. In a speech billed as a blueprint for stimulating growth and creating jobs, Mr. Trump offered a grab bag of ideas that borrow from discredited supply-side economics, the fossil fuel industry’s wish list and 'America First' isolationism....

"Mr. Trump told the Detroit Economic Club that he would cut taxes to an extent not seen since Ronald Reagan was in the White House. He said he would slash the corporate tax rate to 15%, arguing that the current statutory 35% is one of the highest among developed countries. He did not mention that the average effective corporate tax rate was 18.1% in 2015, including state and local taxes...."

In trying to understand why both official political parties put the needs of the 1% to10% of the people first and those of the rest of the population second, keep in mind: Despite their differences, both parties adhere to neoliberal capitalism — the contemporary resurgence of 19th century ideas associated with laissez-faire economic liberalism. The Republicans are stauncher advocates, of course. Such a system usually transfers control of economic matters to the private sector. It insists that governments must limit subsidies, minimize social spending for the people, reduce deficit spending, limit protectionism, back deregulation of private enterprise and privatize businesses run by the state. Its goal is to "free" the economy by eliminating state-imposed regulations and barriers. It's that system that is the problem.

Within this neoliberal context the plutocracy prefers that the U.S. remains a two-party electoral system — one party far right, the other center right, functioning as the "lesser evil," which, in this case, Hillary is to the Donald. This insures there will be continual struggle between two parties, but all well within the assigned economic system. (There are those, such as economist Paul Krugman, who view the Democratic Party as center left. The last time the party was center left was in the 1960s when it was responsible for some amazing reforms and social programs. Today's party is much closer to the now obsolete Moderate Republicans, hence center right. For example, Obama's only significant, though flawed, social program, the Affordable Care Act, was a copy of the then Moderate Republican Gov. Mitt Romney's 2006 health plan for Massachusetts.)

The two-party proviso is why it is so difficult to construct a viable national left third party in America. The last serious effort to do so was the left wing Progressive party in 1948 when Roosevelt's former Vice President Henry A. Wallace ran against Democrat Harry Truman and Republican Thomas Dewey. The Progressives opposed Truman's beginning stages of the Cold War against the USSR and demanded the end of nuclear weapons. They blasted Jim Crow racism supported by the Democratic southern Congressional delegation, and backed women's rights, worker rights and civil rights. The new party was supported by communists, socialists and the left. It was redbaited viciously through the campaign, but it managed to obtain 2.4% of the popular vote. The subsequent crackdown on the political left lasted for decades.

There are a number of left political third parties in America, nearly all of them quite small and ignored by the media. Of these, several represent various socialist tendencies and several others operate within a capitalist perspective.

As a result of the Bernie Sanders campaign and his popularization of democratic socialism, the Green Party — which in the 2012 election championed "responsible stakeholder capitalism" — this year decided it sought a decentralized "alternative economic system" to capitalism. The nature of that system wasn't thoroughly defined but it was based on "workplace and community democracy." The Greens declared:

Jill Stein addressing Green Convention in Houston Aug. 6
"We believe the old models of capitalism (private ownership of production) and state socialism (state ownership of production) are not ecologically sound, socially just, or democratic and that both contain built-in structures that advance injustices. Instead we will build an economy based on large-scale green public works, municipalization, and workplace and community democracy. Some call this decentralized system ecological socialism, communalism, or the cooperative commonwealth but whatever the terminology, we believe it will help end labor exploitation, environmental exploitation, and racial, gender, and wealth inequality and bring about economic and social justice due to the positive effects of democratic decision making." This sounds as though it was quickly put together with a lot of loose ends.

The Green party is expected to benefit considerably in November because an undetermined number of Bernie's supporters will not vote for Clinton, and the Green party views itself as the alternative. Green presidential candidate Dr. Jill Stein, who obtained less than 1% in the 2012 election, may get 5% this year because she has been heavily courting Bernie fans since he backed Clinton after leading the fight against her.

The Party for Socialism and Liberation, which the Activist Newsletter has backed in past presidential elections, isn't on the New York State ballot this year but is in other states. PSL is also fielding a woman candidate for president — revolutionary socialist activist and union leader Gloria LaRiva, who won the important presidentilal nomination of California's large Peace and Freedom party Aug. 13. Her running mate, Dennis Banks, is a lifelong activist for social justice and co-founder of the American Indian Movement. They call for socialist reforms in the state.


A WOMAN CANDIDATE

Protesters yell as DNC Chairwoman, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla.,  arrives for a Florida delegation breakfast in Philadelphia on the first day of the Democratic  Convention. She
 announced she would step down  after hacked E-mails disclosed "impartial" 
DNC committee worked against Bernie's nomination.
It is long past time for a woman to be elected to the White House. This is a major matter of gender equity that must be addressed and supported. It cannot, of course, be addressed adequately unless the politics of the candidate selected for this historic role actually will fight to fulfill the social, economic and political needs and demands of the majority American working families who have been neglected for decades by both parties.

One stunning example of such neglect was casually articulated to a reporter for Democracy Now who was randomly asking questions of Bernie supporters picketing outside the convention. "My name is Jacinta Mack. I’m 35 years old. I’m from Queens, New York. And I’ve been in Philadelphia since Sunday. I’m here as a Bernie supporter and protesting." Asked "can you describe this sign that you’re carrying?" She replied: "It is a big poster board that is carved out with Bernie’s name on one side and "Never Hillary" on the other side. When I was younger, my family was on welfare, and Bill Clinton was in office. And they passed welfare reform. We weren’t qualified for food stamps any longer. The monthly money that we got was cut. And then the subsidized housing was also cut. And my mother was required to go out and apply for a certain number of jobs, but she was a single mother of six children and wasn’t able to meet their requirements. We struggled tremendously. And my mother actually became a sex worker."

Hillary Clinton strongly supported President Bill Clinton's "ending welfare as we know it." The legislation was backed by nearly all Republican politicians. Hillary continued to defend the measure until recently when Sanders sharply criticized this conservative maneuver.

Aside from the grudging acceptance of several progressive platform proposals from Sanders as payback for his endorsement, all indications are that a Clinton presidency will fail to satisfy the legitimate demands of masses of working class, middle class and poor women and men— particularly now when such unmet needs have accumulated for decades. A certain criticism of Wall St. has also entered the Democratic candidate's vocabulary, but it is largely just rhetoric.

In recent decades, progressive election campaign promises are usually the first to be abandoned by the Democrats when its candidate enters the Oval office. Clinton has been and remains a servant of Wall Street, the big banks, the principal corporations and the richest 1% of the population who function as a plutocracy without the corporate mass media ever uttering the name.

In an Aug. 4 column in TomDispatch.com, titled The Decay of American Politics,
 Andrew J. Bacevich
wrote of Clinton:
 
Hillary in Libya just after murder of Gaddafi.
"Even by Washington standards, Secretary Clinton exudes a striking sense of entitlement combined with a nearly complete absence of accountability.  She shrugs off her misguided vote in support of invading Iraq back in 2003, while serving as senator from New York.  She neither explains nor apologizes for pressing to depose Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, her most notable 'accomplishment' as secretary of state. 'We came, we saw, he died,' she bragged back then, somewhat prematurely given that Libya has since fallen into anarchy and become a haven for ISIS. [Last week President Obama resumed bombing Libya to dislodge the Islamic State, which occupied the coastal city of Sirte as a consequence of Clinton's enthusiasm for regime change in Libya. U.S. Special Forces contingents are also fighting in Libya. The main fighting to liberate Sirte is by troops of one of the three factions claiming to rule the country. And it appears they may succeed in driving IS out of this coastal city.]

"The essential point here is that, in the realm of national security, Hillary Clinton is utterly conventional. She subscribes to a worldview (and view of America’s role in the world) that originated during the Cold War, reached its zenith in the 1990s when the United States proclaimed itself the planet’s 'sole superpower,' and persists today remarkably unaffected by actual events. On the campaign trail, Clinton attests to her bona fides by routinely reaffirming her belief in American exceptionalism, paying fervent tribute to the world’s 'greatest military,' swearing that she’ll be 'listening to our generals and admirals,' and vowing to get tough on America’s adversaries. These are, of course, the mandatory rituals of the contemporary Washington stump speech, amplified if anything by the perceived need for the first female candidate for president to emphasize her pugnacity."

FOREIGN POLICY






Nearly 15 years of the Bush-Obama wars have caused death and destruction throughout the Middle East, beginning with the invasion of Afghanistan, then the illegal war of choice against Iraq, spreading further over the years. After this election a third presidential
 name will be added to the list. The wars are hardly mentioned much less debated by the candidates. Nothing will change after the election, given the caliber of the two candidates and the historic nature of the two war parties. The photo is of Homs in Syria, destroyed in February.
Clinton and the Democratic establishment have seen to it that there will be no substantive changes in Washington's current foreign/military affairs, which are based on the policy adopted after the implosion of the Soviet Union over a quarter century ago. In essence: Enforce unilateral U.S. global hegemony.

The 2016 platform says succinctly: "American leadership is essential to keeping us safe and our economy growing in the years ahead. It would be a dangerous mistake for America to abandon our responsibilities. We cannot, as Donald Trump suggests, cede the mantle of leadership for global peace and security to others who will not have our best interests in mind." Trump's remarks have been distorted, of course, as they are elsewhere in the platform.

The Middle East situation won't change. Bush-Obama wars will continue and probably get bigger under a Clinton administration, certainly increasing action to oust the Assad government in Damascus. David Cole captured the flavor Of Obama's militarism in the Aug. 18 N.Y. Review of Books:

 "The news that the United States had killed 150 unnamed individuals in a country halfway around the world with which it is not at war [Somalia, last March] generated barely a ripple of attention, much less any protest, here at home. Remote killing outside of war zones, it seems, has become business as usual.

This is a remarkable development, all the more noteworthy in that it has emerged under Barack Obama, who came to office as an antiwar president, so much so that he may be the only person to win the Nobel Peace Prize based on wishful thinking. Our Peace Prize president has now been at war longer than any other American president, and has overseen the use of military force in seven countries—Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia. In the latter four countries, virtually all the force has come in the form of unmanned drones executing suspected terrorists said to be linked to al-Qaeda or its “associated forces.”

The Democratic platform also notes: "A strong and secure Israel is vital to the United States because we share overarching strategic interests and the common values of democracy, equality, tolerance, and pluralism. That is why we will always support Israel’s right to defend itself, including by retaining its qualitative military edge, and oppose any effort to delegitimize Israel, including at the United Nations or through the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions." As though the issue were Israel's right to defend itself and not the imprisonment and bombings of Gaza, the continual Israeli land-grab in West Bank and the rights of Palestinians in general.

THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING

The Democrats are doing their best  to make it appear
 that Trump is conniving with Russia to defeat Clinton,
 which we address below. This  extraordinary  picture
was recently put together by a talented artist
who  has concealed his identit
y.


The Democratic campaign platform on NATO is dishonest when it argues: "We reject Donald Trump’s threats to abandon our European and NATO allies, all while he praises Putin."  Trump — ever the money-minded businessman — suggested that he might not come to the aid of a NATO country that had not paid its dues. This was an outlandish statement, but hardly abandoning Europe. And he seemed to be facetious when he said that Russian intelligence should try to hack Clinton's "missing emails."

Trump also said he wanted to talk to the Russians in hopes of developing a less fraught relationship. This is a good idea that the Democratic candidate implies is treason. Would that she would try it if she enters the White House, but Clinton views Russia and China as enemies with which the U.S. eventually may go to war — and that's that.

It is interesting that Great Britain, America's closest ally, has evidently decided to depart from the U.S. concerning Russia. Boris Johnson, the UK's new foreign secretary, said Aug. 11 that Britain must "normalize" its relationship with Russia after years of hostility. He spoke on the phone with the Russian foreign minister, Serge Lavrov, and reportedly "discussed a possible normalization of bilateral ties." The Telegraph (UK) also reported that Prime Minister Theresa May spoke earlier by telephone with Russian President Vladimir Putin and "questioned the current state of Russian-British relations." The pair will meet at the G20 summit of world leaders in China next month.

Candidate Clinton and her clique virtually made Trump into a Russian spy reporting regularly to President Putin, the most recent of many world leaders Washington has unjustly demonized since the end of World War II. It has not been proven that Putin or Russia, for that matter, hacked the thousands of E-mails from the Democratic Party computers that were publicized by WikiLeaks.

So far some news outlets including the New York Times are reporting the incident was a "Russian cyberattack," carried out by two Russian intelligence groups, but U.S. government officials are only quoted as having  "high confidence" that the Russians were involved. "High confidence" means no proof.

The United States never stopped interfering and spying on Russia following the collapse of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics Dec. 26, 1991 and the immediate transition to capitalism under the government of hard drinking President Boris Yeltsin, who ruled with considerable American support and guidance to the end of 1999. The U.S. knew virtually everything going on in the Russian Federation during that period — from spy satellites to commuter transmissions, telephone conversations, agents on the ground, paid informants within the government and Americans connected to the White House who actually worked with Yeltsin and his regime in developing state policy. The U.S. intention was to swiftly transform Russia into a capitalist country dependent upon and serving the interests of U.S imperialism.

American plans began to crumble when Vladimir Putin was elected president in 2000 (he was acting president from 1999-2000). He won a second term in 2004, became prime minister in 2008 and was reelected president in 2012 to the present.  Even his enemies acknowledge Putin's popularity rating is about 80%. Putin continued the transition to capitalism, and ultimately became an open critic of the communist era, but absolutely denied the U.S. the ability to establish hegemony over the federation. The demonization began soon after it was clear he would not only keep Russia independent but began to criticize aspects of America's aggressive foreign policy. In recent years U.S. government officials began referring to him as a "thug," among other accusations. Speaking at the Democratic Convention July 24,Vice President Joe Biden actually referred to the popular Russian leader as a "dictator" despite his overwhelming victory in the 2012 election. The next day a spokesperson for Obama refused to dispute Biden's remark.

As far as the spying allegation is concerned, suffice to say both sides do it. Regarding Putin and Trump it is wise to remember Putin is extremely intelligent and experienced and Trump is not. Why wouldn't the Russian leader be interested in a presidential candidate who didn't hold an angry grudge against him and his country and  seems to abjure the possibility of a war? We all know that both Obama and Clinton are enmeshed in the old Cold War. Clinton may be considered the lesser evil but in this case she's more dangerous.

CRITICISM OF BERNIE

Bernie and Hillary at convention after he praised her.
Sanders has received criticism from a vocal sector of his constituency and some left elements for supporting Hillary Clinton after his primary defeat instead of immediately forming a third party or accepting an invitation to become the candidate of the Green Party. Various post-convention opinion polls show between 70% and 90% of Bernie's supporters intend to vote for Clinton.

Although this newsletter has long supported the construction of a viable left third party and has only backed socialist or left third-party presidential candidates over the years, we disagree with a few of the extreme criticisms aimed at Sanders, particularly that of journalist Chris Hedges, who backs the Green Party candidate, and in a speech outside the convention after hundreds of Sanders' delegates walked out. It was reprinted on the Internet. We think his unfortunate rant speaks far more about the critic than the subject. Below is a short quote from this speech:

"The parade of useful idiots, the bankrupt liberal class that long ago sold its soul to corporate power, is now led by Sen. Bernie Sanders.... He [Bernie] took his 30 pieces of silver and joined with a bankrupt liberal establishment on behalf of a candidate who is a tool of Wall Street, a proponent of endless war and an enemy of the working class. Sanders, like all of the self-identified liberals who are whoring themselves out for the Democrats, will use fear as the primary reason to remain enslaved by the neoliberal assault. And, in return, the corporate state will allow him and the other useful idiots among the 1% to have their careers and construct pathetic monuments to themselves."

Bernie did a successful job within the limits of his mandate. However he could have handled the end game better after Clinton won the primary. He was pledged to support the winner but appeared overenthusiastic in his backing and praise for Hillary — whom he had been excoriating, correctly, for many months. At the convention, in his speech and when he called for the vote to be unanimous in Hillary's favor, he went over the top, much to the chagrin of a number of his 1,900 delegates. Also he should have been in much closer touch with his nationwide followers in the disappointing final few weeks, urging them to look ahead by putting forward a number of concrete proposals. Some delegates at the convention complained that they received little guidance. The July 30 edition of The Economist noted: "In the end Bernie Sanders came through. The Senator from Vermont had threatened to take his fight for a "political revolution" to the floor of the Democratic National Convention.... But when his aggrieved supporters had the temerity to take that threat seriously by booing the convention's early stages, Mr. Sanders tried to calm them and just about succeeded."



The Washington Post reported: "Bernie Sanders closed out the first day of the Democratic party’s convention with a forceful plea for his supporters to get behind the party’s nominee Hillary Clinton. The Vermont senator spoke to a packed arena that had for hours swung wildly from unified highs to divided lows….' Based on her ideas and her leadership, Hillary Clinton must become the next president of the United States.' Sanders said. 'The choice is not even close.' Even as he spoke, the reaction was mixed and emotions ran high. His most ardent supporters called out “We want Bernie!” Others stood silently, tears streaming down their faces. Meanwhile, Clinton’s supporters rose to their feet, chanting “Hillary! Hillary! Hillary!”

WHY DID BERNIE RUN FOR THE NOMINATION?


March supports Bernie in Philadelphia as Democratic convention began.

Sen. Sanders was 74 near the end of long career and he wanted to finally get his progressive message out to the masses of people when he decided last year to become a Democrat and run for the presidential nomination. He knew the times and attitudes were changing after decades of stagnant wages, lower benefits, lousy jobs for the working class, huge student debts, and grave economic inequality — all of which were exacerbated by the 2008 Great Recession and sluggish recovery. 

He thought the only way his leftist program and critique would get any significant press and TV coverage from the corporate mass media was if he entered the Democratic primary. It is true that U.S. mass media always suppress news about left wing, socialist or communist third parties.

Bernie switched from being a lifelong political independent espousing social democracy to a Democrat when he announced his candidacy in late May 2015. There were six candidates; he said that if he lost he would support the winner. Neither he nor anyone else anticipated how popular his candidacy would become. At the time, Clinton was considered a sure winner. By the time Clinton gained enough votes to secure the nomination in June, more than a hundred million adults not only heard his message but many of them — often for the first time — were won over to the radical views of a self-declared democratic socialist.  The U.S. socialist left has benefitted from Bernie's openness and for his incredible ability to attract millions of young people to a quite mild social democratic banner.

It is important to understand Bernie's goals, as we wrote in March (An Incredible Election Year in America — click on 3-13-16 Activist Newsletter): "The Democratic party liberal and left sector has been sharply constricted by the traditional leadership and the Clinton and Obama two-term administrations, despite the fact that liberalism in Democratic ranks has increased 17% since 2001, according to a Gallup poll last June. That means 47% of Democrats are socially liberal and economically moderate liberal.... Sanders seeks to motivate and lead the party left to demand and exercise considerably more political clout. The party hierarchy views this as an act of apostasy. Most funders equate it to a kick in the teeth."

The political "revolution" Sanders called for was intended to transform the center right Democratic Party to once again stand as a center-left party such as existed during its two periods of social reform benefitting millions of working class, middle class and poor Americans — during the Great Depression, led by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and the 1960s, led by President Lyndon B. Johnson. Many of his objectives, such as free college education, and generous family leave, have existed for decades in the social democratic countries.

Sanders did not propose scrapping capitalism but he did seek to modify neoliberalism by introducing some of the popular reforms that exist mainly in the Scandinavian countries and less so in Germany, France and occasionally elsewhere. He hopes that eventually the U.S. will become a democratic socialist society, but his job was to create an uprising within the Democratic party that might be a step in that direction.

Bernie had no intention to head the Green ticket or break his promise to support the winner of the primary in order to form an independent third party just a few months before the election. It takes at least a year or two of hard work by many people in 50 states, and a considerable amount of money, for a new third party to run a serious national campaign for presidential office.

BERNIE TODAY

Sanders is now raising funds to support a number of progressive candidates for Congress who backed his campaign, the latest being Zephyr Teachout (New York); Rick Nolan (Minnesota); and Pramila Jayapal (Washington). Teachout is in our 19th congressional district in the Mid-Hudson Valley, and we and our local readers support her.

Bernie's latest communication to millions of his supporters arrived a few days ago:

"Election days come and go, but the struggle for economic, social, racial and environmental justice continues. Together, we built something special and unprecedented through our presidential campaign. Now, we are going to take the next steps for our political revolution. We are building a new organization called Our Revolution. Our goal will be the same as in our campaign: we must work to transform American society by making our political and economic systems work for all of us, not just the 1%."

Sanders has created a large constituency for further political advances against the erosion of what remains of true democracy and equality in the existing neocapitalist system. It is to be hoped that the genuine left in America will seriously seek to attract and organize members of this new force for intensive radical political activism and not simply for electoral politics.

As we end we recall two incidents at the convention leftists and progressives should never forget. First, the Democratic Party's instructions to Clinton delegates to drown out Bernie delegates with a particular response if they began chanting unauthorized slogans. On Aug. 28, during a speech by retired Marine Corps General John Allen, a relatively small number of delegates began chanting "No More War " and were quickly made inaudible by the insistent (and "authorized"), ultra-nationalist chant "USA, USA, USA...." Allen joined in at the microphone. The Republicans also had an unforgettable moment during a speech by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. As he was making the case that Clinton was a criminal, thousands began hatefully chanting, "Lock her up, Lock her up, Lock her up...."

We thought these passing incidents spoke volumes about both parties.
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3.   RADICALIZING OUTSIDE 
THE DEMOCRATIC CONVENTION



A supporter of Bernie Sanders wears tape across her mouth in protest on the floor at the Democratic Convention July 25, 2016. (Photo: Carlos Barria /Reuters.)
By Ben Becker

The dramatic booing during Bernie Sanders’ speech from his core supporters — his own delegates at the Democratic National Convention — may well register historically as a turning point in the development of a new socialist movement in the United States.

As Sanders declared to them, “We must elect Hillary Clinton,” they erupted in anger and chanted back at him, “We want Bernie!” That apparent contradiction, of booing and cheering Sanders’ words in alternate breaths, is completely understandable.

The delegates were booing because Bernie the Individual appeared to be parting ways with Bernie the Movement. Both the Individual and the Movement have gone by the same name and have been conjoined for the last year, but they are two different political phenomena that are now decisively separated. The Bernie Sanders electoral campaign came to a crashing end — but the Bernie Sanders progressive movement, now in need of a new name and a new strategy, wants to keep fighting.

A few snapshots from the week in Philadelphia speak to this reality:

On Sunday, the day before the Convention began, thousands marched for clean energy — a dividing line between Sanders and Clinton, who supports fracking. We spoke with many Sanders supporters on the ground, and were surprised to find many even had an air of excitement and anticipation that Sanders had some trick up his sleeve and had formulated a secret plan with his delegates to win the nomination.
The DNC leaks, confirming what the Sanders campaign had been saying for a year, followed by the resignation of the hated DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz and her immediate hiring by the Clinton campaign, charged up his base. Now that the whole world had material proof of the DNC conspiracy against Sanders on behalf of Clinton, some believed Sanders would withdraw his endorsement of her. This hope would be erased the next morning.

Already there were indicators that the delegates would not be tamed or directed by Sanders. Throughout the week, the mass media portrayed the unwavering activists of Sanders’ political revolution as petulant children. In truth they had come to Philadelphia to fight on behalf of the causes that had inspired them for the last year: against militarism and neoliberalism, for universal health care and higher education, to challenge the power of Wall Street and its trade deals, and to advance the living conditions of poor and working people. Compared to the generally well-heeled Clinton delegates, selected from the party officialdom, many Sanders delegates were from the grassroots, talented volunteers and working-class organizers. A large number of them had not been involved in politics at all this time last year. Forced by DNC regulations to stay in $400/night hotels, they had fundraised for weeks to get to Philadelphia, and weren’t inclined to let the moment pass.
Sanders supporters walking out of Democratic convention.
Many delegates clearly understood that Sanders would not provide leadership to their struggle in this final Convention phase, and they were looking for new ideas and tactics. After the climate justice march, as our group headed towards a forum to demand freedom for U.S. political prisoners, a well-dressed young woman spotted our socialist t-shirts, introduced herself as a California delegate for Sanders, and asked us where the next action was. We asked her what the plan was for inside the Convention, and she replied, “Well what do you think I should do?” She gave us her cell phone number on the spot if we had any ideas.
On Monday, at a pre-planned 5-mile “March for Bernie” the most popular chant was “Hell No, DNC — We won’t vote for Hillary!” The chants celebrating Sanders — who that morning had heard boos from his own delegates — were sporadic and less widespread.

About half-way through the march Sanders’ activists volunteered their bullhorns to the well-organized socialist contingents in the crowd, including the PSL, who began chanting for immigrant rights, workers’ rights, women’s and LGBTQ rights, the defense of Muslim communities and Black Lives Matter. These chants were widely embraced and repeated at the same volume as the anti-Hillary ones. When socialist banners and red flags made their way to the front of the march, no one batted an eye. A PSL chant that on Sunday had only been picked up by parts of the crowd suddenly got a better reception: “Down, down with Trump and Clinton — Up, up with socialism!”

Signs of political radicalization were evident. At one point, when the front of the march temporarily stopped so that the back could catch up, an angry Bernie supporter stepped forward to challenge those of us with the bullhorns. She said, “We can’t wait until Thursday to say this [when Clinton was to become the official nominee] — we have to show them that we’re leaving the party now. We have to say: ‘DemExit Now! DemExit Now!

We followed her recommendation and within moments the entire march was repeating it. It was a powerful moment. For years socialists have essentially chanted to the people “Break with the Democrats” — with little to no effect. And now, after a year of campaigning inside the Democratic Party, outside a Democratic convention that they had come to influence, a mass of progressive people were chanting the same thing back to the socialists.

On Tuesday, the signs and enthusiasm for Green Party Presidential nominee Jill Stein became more prominent, and the two successive marches — “Black Resistance at the DNC” and “Shut Down the DNC” — both drew a few thousand people, with new militancy, that continued until late in the night. When Hillary Clinton’s name was officially nominated, by Sanders, a large group of delegates walked out in a secretly pre-planned action. They marched from the convention center and met up with the other demonstrations.

By Wednesday, word began to circulate of the mistreatment of Sanders delegates inside the Convention hall, how their signs had been ripped from their hands, how their anti-war chants were drowned out with “U.S.A.” A number of delegates made their way directly to the Socialist Convergence, where Stein and other prominent intellectuals and activists spoke to a packed audience of 700 people. The convergence functioned as a sort of leftist counter-convention throughout the week. The raucous room debated how to characterize Sanders’ endorsement of Clinton — an outright betrayal or an understandable maneuver — and if Clinton indeed represented the “lesser evil.”



Sanders backers rally outside Wells Fargo convention. 

On the final day of the Convention, PSL Vice-Presidential candidate Eugene Puryear joined a “Which way forward for the political revolution” panel with Kshama Sawant of Socialist Alternative, Glen Ford of Black Agenda Report, Howie Hawkins of the New York Green Party, and Gayle McLaughlin, former Green Party mayor of Richmond, Calif. As a way forward, Sawant, Hawkins and McLaughlin each promoted the Stein campaign and local electoral contests in which progressives could run to win outside of the Democratic Party and achieve concrete gains for poor and working people. Glen Ford mainly offered a critique of the Sanders campaign and an analysis of the Democratic Party leadership as an equal threat to Trump, suggesting it represented “corporate fascism” in the United States and around the world.


Puryear articulated a clear call to prepare for intense social struggle, for the forces of the “political revolution” to not overly focus on, and double down on, a rigged electoral process. Instead of the progressive “tearing ourselves apart” over who to cast a vote for in November, a better use of this movement’s energy would be to connect with those communities who have largely given up on change through elections, and to organize for massive street struggles under either Trump or Clinton.

For over a year, many socialists have only seen Bernie the Individual, the New Deal liberal who caucused with the Democratic Party in Congress for decades and pledged to redirect his campaign behind Clinton in the event of his loss. They treated the movement behind him as sheep who would follow him — a mass of people drawn to radical-sounding policies who would then be easily contained and redirected like the campaigns of Dennis Kucinich in the past.

It was a reasonable assumption from the standpoint of historical patterns and analysis, but incorrect as an organizing approach. It under-appreciated the depths of the anti-establishment feeling and failed to prepare for the looming contradiction between Bernie the Individual and the Bernie Movement. It impatiently demanded a radical break with the Democratic Party, forgetting the central organizing principle that people who want to make change often travel down the path of least resistance to begin, and that their political consciousness is radicalized through direct experience in the struggle. Saying “I told you so” now that Sanders has let down his base will result in little influence among the thousands and millions who poured their time, energy and hard-earned dollars into the campaign.

The only way to truly influence a movement of a great mass of people entering the world of struggle is to stand with them, to work alongside them, to help them navigate and understand the challenges they confront step-by-step in the process.

From the beginning, the Party for Socialism and Liberation, while running our own independent socialist campaign, has attempted to stand alongside the people drawn into Bernie Movement, and emphasized our basic solidarity with their fight against Wall Street and the Democratic Party machine. Above all, what we emphasized in conversations with Sanders supporters across the country was the necessity of building a strong and durable independent movement that could continue to fight and grow regardless of the Democratic nominating process.

We encouraged Sanders supporters to insist he prepare an independent candidacy in the event that Clinton stole the nomination. We called on registered Democrats in critical closed primary contests to vote Sanders and in New York helped mass distribute the “Battle of New York” newspaper featuring social movement voices in support of Sanders; this was a small effort, but it appeared to have an impact as the only part of Harlem that went for Sanders is located around our New York City office. As Sanders prepared to funnel his movement behind Clinton, lowering its aims to DNC platform reform, we argued such reforms would be empty and meaningless; the important thing was to keep the fight going in the streets and against the DNC.

For the PSL, this engagement with the Sanders Movement was not aimed at the election of Sanders. Our aims were to popularize socialist politics, to engage with Sanders activists and to grow the progressive insurgency leading into a highly unstable, contested DNC that could result in a considerable rupture within that ruling-class party. Given that oppressed communities and the organized working class remain basically captive constituencies of the Democratic Party, it is inconceivable that a mass radical political upsurge could take place in the United States without such an inner-party rupture.
For those of us on the ground in Philadelphia throughout the week, the events there confirmed this basic prognosis. The Sanders campaign indeed drew people into Democratic Party politics for a year, but it did so in the context of struggle with that party. It culminated not with their pacification, but with unadulterated anger at the Democratic Party, and a vast number of people seeking radical, left-wing alternatives to it.


Black Lives Matter protesters clash with police near the site of Democratic Convention July 26, 2016. (Photo: Bryan Woolston / Reuters.)

Of course, this is not the case for everyone who voted Sanders — according to estimates from a few weeks ago, 28 percent of Sanders voters say they will not support Clinton under any circumstance, and that number is likely to shrink as the “lesser evil” pressure on them grows — but this was the general sentiment for the many thousands of Sanders supporters who came to the DNC as protesters or delegates.
There is no question that the months ahead will be tough for legions of progressive voters, who will be badgered, harassed, guilt-tripped and even privilege-baited into casting votes for Hillary Clinton — the very icon of the Wall Street-backed, pro-war political establishment. Many will bend to the unrelenting pressure so that they are not demonized for causing Trump’s election. Others are genuinely and understandably afraid of what a Trump presidency would mean.
The question of who to vote for in November, however, is a narrow question compared to the larger political process underway. The tens of millions of people who looked to the Sanders campaign to provide a progressive alternative to the ruling-class status quo are now being forced to choose between a right-wing Democratic Party and a far-right Republican Party. The next president will be highly unpopular from their first day in office.

The general population, especially young people, are considerably to the left of these ruling-class parties. A considerable segment of people feel entirely disenfranchised by the political process and have direct experience showing that the system is rotten to the core and rigged against them — a lesson that will not be soon forgotten.

No single movement or cause has yet emerged to replace the Sanders campaign and tap into that vast progressive energy and vision that it conjured, but this contradiction — between the neoliberal, reactionary government and the people — is sure to explode under the next president. The next explosion is unlikely to begin with revolutionary socialist politics, but it will start with a critical lesson: the Democratic Party is not the people’s party.

Ben Becker is a founding member of the PSL and serves as editor of the print edition of Liberation. He teaches U.S. history in New York City. . Twitter @BenBecker_ 
———————

4.   THE POLITICS OF SANDERS AND CORBYN

Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the British Labor party.

By Daniel Taylor

Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders: two survivors of the 1960s who, for about a year, have seemed as much in spiritual harmony as Simon and Garfunkel.

Both their bewildered detractors and their super-fans have upheld the grandfatherly reformists as models of a new left populism of the Anglosphere, destined to lead their decrepit neoliberal parties to a political rebirth as activist parties.

But this month, the duo experienced creative differences, and their paths diverged dramatically. No more can the two be linked without qualification. On the same day, one surrendered and the other plunged further into battle.

On 12 July, Sanders led his followers into darkness. He offered his full endorsement to Hillary Clinton, and vowed to do everything in his power to help promote the woman who he had spent months denouncing, not just as a flawed candidate, but as the individual incarnation of the “rigged economy” against which a “political revolution” was required.

Clinton was the unity candidate of the Democratic establishment. As such, she was implicated in their worst crimes: their embrace of capital punishment, mass incarceration and rapprochement with overt southern racism; their glorification of privatization, globalization and welfare “reform” that condemned the poor and unemployed to penury; entanglement with the untouchable banks and financial institutions that devastated the economy while accumulating untold wealth; and massacre after massacre in the Middle East.




Corbyn , leaving home with his wife for regular bike rides.
These atrocities catalogue the eradication of hope from the lives of US working people over the last three decades. Clinton was not just implicated, but usually to be found in the vanguard.

Sanders built immeasurable moral authority from drawing attention to this truth: that the anointed candidate for the “progressive” party was, in fact, a dyed-in-the-wool reactionary. Over months, his challenge to Clinton has inspired and shaped the world view of hundreds of thousands. The more he resisted, the more he inspired. On 12 July, he used that moral authority to purchase a new lease on life for Clinton. He will now finish his political career as the hype man for the villain he swore to defeat, and for the political system she represents.

Meanwhile, Jeremy Corbyn announced that he was defying the attempts to depose him and would appear on the ballot for an upcoming leadership election. As Clinton grinned at her domesticated Bernie, the Labor Party right was thrown into panic. “Today is the day that the Labor party was stabbed in the heart and killed,” was the assessment of warmongering Blairite John McTernan, while rank and file “Corbynistas” ecstatically set about organizing for their greatest challenge yet. [Blairite, of course, refers to former Prime Minister Blair.]

Why did Sanders crumble, while Corbyn’s story continues?

First there are the men themselves. In an epoch when left institutions are weak, celebrities do matter. The choices made by Corbyn and Sanders, like those of Alexis Tsipras and Pablo Iglesias before them, can decisively shape their movements. Sanders has always chosen to play the game. Nominally “independent”, he has always been comfortable with the establishment, from his days as Burlington mayor to his time in the Senate.

Corbyn has never sought to be incorporated. He preferred to spend his time in parliament as a sort of paid free-range militant activist, attending pickets, chairing demonstrations and making jam. Sanders surreptitiously became part of the system he denounced; Corbyn, like Frodo Baggins, is able to play a great role partly because his years on the margins have made him unused to compromising. That difference was represented in their politics: Sanders was, all along, a reasonably open supporter of Western imperialism, while Corbyn has a long track record of supporting anti-colonial and anti-imperialist resistance movements.

Corbyn always seems ready to speak at big and small rallies for many causes.
But the differences go far beyond those of personality.

For one thing, organization matters. The Labor party, despite its long decline, retains the institutions of a mass party: branches and party units where sympathizers can organize. Corbyn’s supporters have formed a quasi-independent political grouping through which to coordinate their struggle. That’s why the Labor branches are being smothered by the Blairite bureaucrats. And it’s part of why the top-down US Democratic Party – which doesn’t have a real membership, let alone local branches – is unsuitable ground for a left wing intervention.

It’s not just about party structure. There’s a more fundamental difference – class. As Lance Selfa put it in The Democrats: a critical history, the Democratic Party is “a self-consciously capitalist party throughout, responding to the needs of business rather than the desires of its ‘constituents.’” Key sections of the capitalist class, such as Wall Street, overwhelmingly support the Democrats.

The British Labor party, like its counterpart in Australia, is a much more contradictory institution. Though it has always put itself at the service of the system, it is structurally intertwined with the trade unions and the workers’ movement. The unions have substantial institutional influence in the party – many key party positions are held by union leaders, and a significant number of MPs emerged out of the labor movement. It was the 12 union delegates on the National Executive Committee who swung the vote in favor of allowing Corbyn on the leadership ballot.

This isn’t to say the union leaders always, or even often, act in the interests of their members or the working class more broadly. The history of laborism is one of the subordination of workers’ interests to those of capital. But at certain junctures, particularly when the Labor parliamentarians have moved so far to the right and come into conflict not only with the party members but also the trade unions, the link between the labor movement and the party can give the left a space to intervene that it will never have in an organization like the Democrats.

The unions’ relatively uncompromising stance in defense of Corbyn has, so far, been reflected in Corbyn’s combat against the right wing Labor institutions, and in their reciprocal reluctance to accept a compromise with him. It may still falter, and it faces a mighty challenge in the coming weeks. But Corbyn’s escalation, coinciding with Sanders’ disgraceful end, shows us what gives sustained strength to the left: connection to the workers’ movement, ongoing political organization and a refusal to settle in to the system of deal making and compromise.

Those who advise an abandonment of those principles, on grounds of either pragmatism or innovation, can observe the results of the natural experiment provided in these two extraordinary campaigns.

— From Red Flag, July 18, 2016

———————

5.   FEDS SLAM BALTIMORE COPS FOR RACIST ABUSE


Protestors gather outside the Baltimore Police Department's Western District
 police station before a march for Freddie Gray.
By Sarah Lazare / AlterNet/ as edited by the Activist Newsletter

When Baltimore erupted in an uprising last year following the violent death of Freddie Gray in police custody, angry protesters, most of them black youth, were widely denounced as criminals and thugs. Maryland’s governor deployed the National Guard as riot police poured in from across the state and residents faced a city-wide curfew. At one point, cops surrounded and maced high school students in the Mondawmin neighborhood, a provocation described as “absolutely vile” by Brian Arnold, an eyewitness and former Baltimore City high school teacher. As rumors of a “gang truce” circulated, no holds were barred in the clampdown on protests.

Yet, as in Ferguson, Missouri, it was the sustained mobilization to Baltimore’s streets that forced the world to see the systemic racism of the city’s police department, and forced Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake to ask the Department of Justice to launch an investigation.

The Justice Department released the findings of its investigation in a damning report Aug. 10 revealing that it "found reasonable cause to believe that the Baltimore City Police Department (BPD) engages in a pattern or practice of conduct that violates the First and Fourth Amendments of the Constitution as well as federal anti-discrimination laws. 

"BPD makes stops, searches and arrests without the required justification; uses enforcement strategies that unlawfully subject African Americans to disproportionate rates of stops, searches and arrests; uses excessive force; and retaliates against individuals for their constitutionally-protected expression.  The pattern or practice results from systemic deficiencies that have persisted within BPD for many years and has exacerbated community distrust of the police, particularly in the African-American community.  The city and the department have also entered into an agreement in principle to work together, with community input, to create a federal court-enforceable consent decree addressing the deficiencies found during the investigation."



In other words, Baltimore’s widely demonized protesters were telling the truth. They were expressing outrage at a police force whose atrocities against their community are now confirmed and documented in harrowing detail by the federal government.

Hundreds of people march through the streets of Baltimore to seek justice for the death for Freddie Gray who died from injuries suffered in Police custody, Baltimore on April 22, 2015. (Photo: Samuel Corum—Anadolu Agency/Getty Image.)
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“I’m glad we were able to make them see what’s been going on forever,” Tawanda Jones, whose brother Tyrone West suspiciously died in police custody in 2013 after he was picked up during a traffic stop, told AlterNet. “They were doing anything to us and literally getting away with it.”

The report cites the city’s “zero tolerance” policing practices, dating to the late 1990s, as responsible for “repeated violations of the constitutional and statutory rights, further eroding the community’s trust in the police.”

Such policies target black communities, the report confirms. “BPD officers recorded over 300,000 pedestrian stops from January 2010–May 2015, and the true number of BPD’s stops during this period is likely far higher due to under-reporting,” the investigation states. “These stops are concentrated in predominantly African-American neighborhoods and often lack reasonable suspicion.”

Meanwhile, approximately 44% of pedestrian stops occur in just “two small, predominantly African-American districts that contain only 11% of the city’s population,” the report states. “Consequently, hundreds of individuals — nearly all of them African American—were stopped on at least 10 separate occasions from 2010–2015. Indeed, seven African-American men were stopped more than 30 times during this period.”

Pedestrian stops often occur without any reasonable suspicion. According to the report, only 3.7% of such stops resulted in an actual citation or arrest, and “many of those arrested based upon pedestrian stops had their charges dismissed upon initial review by either supervisors at BPD’s Central Booking or local prosecutors.”

“In some cases, unconstitutional stops result from supervisory officers’ explicit instructions,” the report states. “During a ride-along with Justice Department officials, a BPD sergeant instructed a patrol officer to stop a group of young African American males on a street corner, question them, and order them to disperse. When the patrol officer protested that he had no valid reason to stop the group, the sergeant replied, ‘Then make something up.’”

Once stopped by police, individuals are subject to dehumanizing treatment, including strip searches performed in public for no apparent reason to do so. According to the report, police exhibit hostility toward the public they are entrusted to protect:

"Interviews with BPD officers throughout the chain of command also revealed that officers openly harbor antagonistic feelings towards community members. We found a prevalent “us-versus-them” mentality that is incompatible with community policing principles. When asked about community-oriented problem solving, for example, one supervisor responded, “I don’t pander to the public....”

The New York Times noted that the report also "painted a picture of a police culture deeply dismissive of sexual assault victims and hostile toward prostitutes and transgender people. It branded the Baltimore Police Department’s response to sexual assault cases “grossly inadequate.”
A short-lived victory march took place when six police officers were charged with Gray's death death, but three were found innocent  and charges were dropped on the others.
"Baltimore officers sometimes humiliated women who tried to report sexual assault, often failed to gather basic evidence, and disregarded some complaints filed by prostitutes. Some officers blamed victims or discouraged them from identifying their assailants, asking questions like, “Why are you messing that guy’s life up?”

"And the culture seemed to extend to prosecutors, investigators found. In one email exchange, a prosecutor referred to a woman who had reported a sexual assault as a “conniving little whore.” A police officer, using a common text-message expression for laughing heartily, wrote back: 'Lmao! I feel the same.'”

In one of these incidents — memorialized in a complaint that the Department sustained —  officers in BPD's Eastern District publicly strip-searched a woman following a routine traffic stop for a missing headlight. Officers ordered the woman to exit her vehicle, remove her clothes, and stand on the sidewalk to be searched. The woman asked the male officer in charge "I really gotta take all my clothes off?" The male officer replied "yeah" and ordered a female officer to strip-search the woman.

The female officer then put on purple latex gloves, pulled up the woman's shirt and searched around her bra. Finding no weapons or contraband around the woman's chest, the officer then pulled down the woman's underwear and searched her anal cavity. This search again found no evidence of wrongdoing and the officers released the woman without charges. Indeed, the woman received only a repair order for her headlight. The search occurred in full view of the street, although the supervising male officer claimed he "turned away" and did not watch the woman disrobe. After the woman filed a complaint, BPD investigators corroborated the woman's story with testimony from several witnesses and by recovering the female officer's latex gloves from the search location. Officers conducted this highly invasive search despite lacking any indication that the woman had committed a criminal offense or possessed concealed contraband. The male officer who ordered the search received only a "simple reprimand" and an instruction that he could not serve as an officer in charge until he was "properly trained."

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6.  OBAMA SEEKS MORE NUCLEAR WEAPONS


President Obama made the case for a nuclear-free world in Prague in April 2009, above. He repeated the same pledge this May in  Hiroshima. Guess what now.
By the Activist Newsletter

The U.S. Air Force has just started the process of obtaining new intercontinental ballistic missiles and controversial nuclear cruise missiles along with other weapons of mass destruction, according to Defense One July 30. The Pentagon contacted war manufacturers July 28 urging them to begin bidding to design and manufacture this latest phase of President Obama's trillion-dollar "modernization" of U.S. nuclear weapons and delivery systems. 

Defense One reported that "the move comes amid the highest tension with Russia since the end of the Cold War and flies in the face of senators who have called on the Obama administration to cancel plans to build the new cruise missile, called the Long-Range Standoff Weapon, or LRSO.

In a statement, referring to the two existing and one planned nuclear-capable bombers, Air Force officials said “The LRSO weapon system will be a cost-effective force multiplier for B-52, B-2, and B-21 aircraft to credibly deter adversaries and assure U.S. allies of our deterrent capabilities.” The Pentagon wants to deploy the new ICBMs in the late 2020s. The main targets, without doubt, are China and Russia.

On July 20, 10 Senate Democrats, led by Ed Markey (D-MA) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), led eight of their colleagues in sending a letter to President Obama urging him to scale back excessive nuclear modernization plans, adopt a policy of no-first-use of nuclear weapons, and cancel launch-on-warning plans.

They noted that in his recent speech in Hiroshima, he called on nations to “have the courage to escape the logic of fear and pursue a world without [nuclear weapons]”—and ask him to heed and follow through with his own words. They end the letter saying "We must do everything we can to reduce the risk of nuclear war.”

Other senators signing the letter include Al Franken (D-Minn.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

The Democratic Party election platform that brought Barack Obama to power in 2009 had this to say about nuclear weapons: "America will seek a world with no nuclear weapons and take concrete actions to move in this direction.... We will make the goal of eliminating nuclear weapons worldwide a central element of U.S. nuclear weapons policy
———————

7. THE INCREASED DANGER OF NUCLEAR WAR




By Conn Hallinan

 “Today, the danger of some sort of a nuclear catastrophe is greater than it was during the Cold War,” warns William Perry, “and most people are blissfully unaware of this danger.”

A former U.S. defense secretary from 1994 to 1997, Perry has been an inside player in the business of nuclear weapons for over 60 years. And his book, My Journey at the Nuclear Brink, is a sober read. It’s also a powerful counterpoint to NATO’s current European strategy, which envisions nuclear weapons as a deterrent to war: The purpose of nukes “is to prevent major war, not to wage wars,” argues the Alliance’s magazine, NATO Review.

But as Perry points out, it’s only by chance that the world has avoided a nuclear war — sometimes by nothing more than dumb luck — and, rather than enhancing our security, nukes “now endanger it.”
The 1962 Cuban missile crisis is generally represented as a dangerous standoff resolved by sober diplomacy. In fact, it was a single man — Russian submarine commander Vasili Arkhipov — who countermanded orders to launch a nuclear torpedo at an American destroyer that could have set off a full-scale nuclear exchange between the Soviet Union and the United States.

There were numerous other incidents that brought the world to the brink. On a quiet morning in November 1979, a NORAD computer reported a full-scale Russian sneak attack with land and sea-based missiles, which led to scrambling U.S. bombers and alerting U.S. missile silos to prepare to launch. But it turned out there was no Soviet attack — just an errant test tape.

Lest anyone think the incident was an anomaly, a little more than six months later NORAD computers erroneously announced that Soviet submarines had launched 220 missiles at the United States. This time the cause was a defective chip that cost 49 cents — again resulting in scrambling interceptors and putting the silos on alert.

But don’t these examples prove that accidental nuclear war is unlikely? That conclusion is a dangerous illusion, argues Perry, because the price of being mistaken is so high — and because the world is a more dangerous place than it was in 1980.

It’s been 71 years since atomic bombs destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and humanity’s memory of those events has dimmed. But even were the entire world to read John Hersey’s Hiroshima, it would have little idea of what we face today.
Anti-nuclear demonstration in Japan, They know the truth about nuclear war.

The bombs that obliterated those cities were tiny by today’s standards, and comparing “Fat Man” and “Little Boy” — the incongruous names of the weapons that leveled both cities — to modern weapons stretches any analogy beyond the breaking point. If the Hiroshima bomb represented approximately 27 freight cars filled with TNT, a one-megaton warhead would require a train 300 miles long.

Each Russian RS-20V Voevoda intercontinental ballistic missile packs 10 megatons.

What’s made today’s world more dangerous, however, aren’t just advances in the destructive power of nuclear weapons, but a series of actions by the last three U.S. administrations.

First was the decision by President Bill Clinton to abrogate a 1990 agreement with the Soviet Union not to push NATO further east after the reunification of Germany or to recruit former members of the defunct Warsaw Pact.

NATO has also reneged on a 1997 pledge not to install “permanent” and “significant” military forces in former Warsaw Pact countries. This month NATO decided to deploy four battalions on or near the Russian border, arguing that since the units will be rotated, they’re not “permanent” or large enough to be “significant.” It’s a linguistic sleight of hand that doesn’t amuse Moscow.

Second was the 1999 U.S.-NATO intervention in the Yugoslav civil war and the forcible dismemberment of Serbia. [528 Yugoslav civilians were killed in the NATO airstrikes. It’s somewhat ironic that Russia has been accused of using force to “redraw borders in Europe” by annexing Crimea, which is exactly what NATO did to create Kosovo. The U.S. subsequently built Camp Bond Steel, Washington’s largest base in the Balkans.

Third was President George W. Bush’s unilateral withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and the decision by the Obama administration to deploy anti-missile systems in Romania and Poland, as well as Japan and South Korea.

Last is the decision by the current White House to spend upwards of $1 trillion upgrading its nuclear weapons arsenal, which includes building bombs with smaller yields, a move that many critics argue blurs the line between conventional and nuclear weapons.

The Yugoslav War and NATO’s move east convinced Moscow that the U.S.-led alliance was surrounding Russia with potential adversaries, and the deployment of anti-missile systems, or ABMs — supposedly aimed at Iran’s non-existent nuclear weapons — was seen as a threat to Russia’s nuclear deterrent.

One immediate effect of ABMs was to chill the possibility of further cuts in the number of nuclear weapons. When Obama proposed another round of warhead reductions, the Russians turned it down cold, citing the anti-missile systems as the reason. “How can we take seriously this idea about cuts in strategic nuclear potential while the United States is developing its capabilities to intercept Russian missiles?” asked Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin.

When the U.S. endorsed the 2014 coup against the pro-Russian government in Ukraine, it ignited the current crisis that has led to several dangerous incidents between Russian and NATO forces — at last count, according to the European Leadership Network, more than 60. Several large war games were also held on Moscow’s borders. Former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev went so far as to accuse NATO of making “preparations for switching from a cold war to a hot war.”

In response, the Russians have also held war games involving up to 80,000 troops.

It is unlikely that NATO intends to attack Russia, but the power differential between the U.S. and Russia is so great — a “colossal asymmetry,” Dmitri Trenin, head of the Carnegie Moscow Center, told the Financial Times — that the Russians have abandoned their “no first use” of nuclear weapons pledge.

It’s the lack of clear lines that makes the current situation so fraught with danger. While the Russians have said they would consider using small tactical nukes if “the very existence of the state” was threatened by an attack, NATO is being deliberately opaque about its possible tripwires. According to NATO Review, nuclear “exercises should involve not only nuclear weapons states… but other non-nuclear allies,” and “to put the burden of the doubt on potential adversaries, exercises should not point at any specific nuclear thresholds.”

In short, keep the Russians guessing. The immediate problem with such a strategy is: What if Moscow guesses wrong?

That won’t be hard to do. The U.S. is developing a long-range cruise missile — as are the Russians — that can be armed with conventional or nuclear warheads. But how will an adversary know which is which? And given the old rule in nuclear warfare — use ‘em or lose ‘em — uncertainty is the last thing one wants to engender in a nuclear-armed foe.

Indeed, the idea of no “specific nuclear thresholds” is one of the most extraordinarily dangerous and destabilizing concepts to come along since the invention of nuclear weapons.

There is currently no evidence that Russia contemplates an attack on the Baltic states or countries like Poland. Given the enormous power of the United States, which offers a security guarantee to NATO members, such an undertaking would court national suicide.

Nor do Russia’s recent border conflicts suggest otherwise. Moscow’s “aggression” against Georgia and Ukraine was provoked. Georgia attacked Russia, not vice versa, and the Ukraine coup torpedoed a peace deal negotiated by the European Union, the United States, and Russia. Imagine Washington’s vi
ew of a Moscow-supported coup in Mexico, followed by an influx of Russian weapons and trainers.

Recent protest at new nuclear plant in Kansas City. 

In a memorandum to the recent NATO meetings in Warsaw, the group Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity argued as much. “There is not one scintilla of evidence of any Russian plan to annex Crimea before the coup in Kiev and coup leaders began talking about joining NATO,” the members insisted. “If senior NATO leaders continue to be unable or unwilling to distinguish between cause and effect, increasing tension is inevitable with potentially disastrous results.”

The organization of former intelligence analysts also sharply condemned the NATO war games that followed. “We shake our heads in disbelief when we see Western leaders seemingly oblivious to what it means to the Russians to witness exercises on a scale not seen since Hitler’s army launched ‘Unternehmen Barbarossa’ 75 years ago, leaving 25 million Soviet citizens dead.”

While the NATO meetings in Warsaw agreed to continue economic sanctions aimed at Russia for another six months and to station four battalions of troops in Poland and the Baltic states — along with separate U.S. forces in Bulgaria and Poland — there was an undercurrent of dissent. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras called for deescalating the tensions with Russia and for considering Russian President Vladimir Putin a partner rather than an enemy.

Greece was not alone. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier called NATO maneuvers on the Russian border “warmongering” and “saber rattling.” French President Francois Hollande said Putin should be considered a “partner,” not a “threat,” and France tried to reduce the number of troops being deployed in the Baltic and Poland. Italy has been increasingly critical of the sanctions as well.

Rather than recognizing the growing discomfort of a number of NATO allies and that beefing up forces on Russia’s borders might be destabilizing, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry recently inked defense agreements with Georgia and Ukraine.

After disappearing from the radar for several decades, nukes are back, and the decision to modernize the U.S. arsenal will almost certainly kick off a nuclear arms race with Russia and China. Russia is already replacing its current ICBM force with the more powerful and long range “Sarmat” ICBM, and China is loading its own missiles with multiple warheads.

Add to this volatile mixture military maneuvers and a deliberately opaque policy in regards to the use of nuclear weapons, and it’s no wonder that Perry thinks that the chance of some catastrophe is a growing possibility.

— From Foreign Policy in Focus, July 20, 2016. Conn Hallinan can be read at dispatchesfromtheedgeblog.wordpress.com andmiddleempireseries.wordpress.com
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8.   CHINA, RUSSIA LAUNCH  SOUTH CHINA SEA DRILLS



Chinese missile frigate Yuncheng launches an anti-ship missile during a military exercise 
in the waters near south China's Hainan Island and Paracel Islands, July 8, 2016

By Global Times (Chinese daily associated with the CPC), July 29, 2016

The Chinese Ministry of Defense announced July 28 that China and Russia will launch a joint military drill in the South China Sea in September, a move observers say shows the two countries have formed a "semi-alliance" in the face of an increasingly assertive U.S.

"This is a routine drill between two military forces aimed at strengthening the developing China-Russia strategic cooperative partnership," said Yang Yujun, spokesperson for the Ministry of National Defense during a regular monthly press conference in Beijing.

Even though Yang said the exercise is not directed against third parties, experts consider that the choice of location and the timing show the drill is aimed specifically at countering the increasing U.S. military presence in the Asia-Pacific.

Shi Yinhong, director of the Center for American Studies at the Renmin University of China, told the Global Times that "due to the great pressure Russia receives from the West in Europe, Moscow is becoming more motivated to having deeper strategic cooperation with Beijing at this moment. The drill is an obvious example in the military area."

Shi believes there is no denying that the U.S. is the major strategic rival of both China and Russia. Under pressure from the U.S., China and Russia are moving their bilateral relationship to a semi-alliance level, Shi said.
Chinese sailors training for upcoming China-Russia sea drills.

China and Russia are both permanent members of the UN Security Council with veto powers. The two countries have cooperated on many international issues in the past, including the Syria crisis and nuclear issue in both Iran and North Korea.

On June 26, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a joint statement in Beijing which aims to reinforce global strategic stability. Experts believe that the military drill in the South China Sea in September is an action based on that statement.

The joint statement makes clear that China and Russia want strategic stability. As both countries believe the U.S. is encroaching on the geopolitical balance in the region, it is only natural for the two nations to stand together, Shi said.

Song Zhongping, a Beijing-based military expert, said the drill's location also shows a strong signal to countries that are trying to get involved in the South China Sea issue militarily.

In 2015, the China-Russia joint military drill was in the Sea of Japan; in 2014, in the East China Sea. "It's very clear that both countries will pick a hot spot region to launch a drill.... This year China and Russia both agreed to have the drill in the South China Sea [and it] has a specific political aim," Song said

In September 2016, the G20 Summit will be held in Hangzhou, China, while the ASEAN Summit will also take place in Vientiane Laos, but experts stressed that the timing of the drill has nothing to do with these events.

Rather, said Song, it is based on the season and weather conditions, not diplomatic reasons. In September, conditions in the South China Sea are ideal for the exercises.

Shi believes that "Chinese and Russian military forces will avoid the G20 Summit due to the sensitiveness of the timing." [Hangzhou is to the North with an outlet to the East China Sea.]

On the specific military aims of the drill, Song considers that the two navies will focus on traditional naval battle craft, such as anti-submarine and anti-aircraft missions, but the drill will be bigger in scale than last year's.

Infrastructure on South China Sea islands might also be used during the drill, Song said. "The Yongxing Island airport in the Xisha Islands can be used for military aircraft, but others in the Nansha Islands are not ready yet," he noted. 
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pix Afghan man casket          caption: A man carries an empty casket for a funeral ceremony, in Kabul. Afghanistan, held a national day of mourning, a day after a suicide bomber killed at least 80 people who were taking part in a peaceful demonstration in Kabul. The attack was claimed by the Islamic State group.

9.    JUMP IN CIVILIAN CASUALTIES IN AFGHANISTAN


A surge in Taliban attacks as security is handed to local forces in Afghanistan has reversed a recent decline in civilian casualties, according to a United Nations report.

By the Activist Newsletter, based on various press reports

Civilian casualties in the 15-year U.S. Afghan war reached a record high in the first six months of 2016, according to the United Nations July 25. The report revealed that 1,601 civilians were killed and 3,565 wounded from this January through June. About a third of the dead were children. The UN, which began reporting these figures in 2009, said that insurgent groups were responsible for 60% of casualties since that time.

The report comes after 80 protesters from the Hazara ethnic group were killed (230 were wounded) in a suicide blast in Kabul July 23. The Hazaras are a long-oppressed Shi'ite minority in Sunni Muslim Afghanistan who were peacefully demonstrating for an electrical transmission line for their towns' The anti-Shi'ite Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack — its first in the Afghan capital. IS is a relative newcomer to the Afghan war, entering — as in Iraq, Syria, and Libya — as a consequence of U.S. invasions and regime-change operations. The Taliban condemned the bombing in a statement. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani declared July 24 a national day of mourning. Reuters reported June 26 heavy fighting between IS and security forces in eastern Afghanistan. The attacks show IS constitutes a real threat to a government weakened by political infighting while battling the Taliban.

President Obama announced in early July he would maintain 8,400 troops in Afghanistan through the end of his presidency, despite earlier plans to withdraw all troops by this year. In mid-July, NATO leaders committed to continuing support for Afghan security forces until 2020, promising the Kabul government $1 billion annually over the next three years. Washington spends a minimum $3.45 billion in annual funds to pay for Afghan security forces. The Kabul government spends over  $400 million a year on security.

Rachel Reid, the advocacy manager for Middle East, North Africa, and Southwest Asia at Open Society Foundations, has long researched the deaths of civilians in Afghanistan by U.S., Afghan and NATO forces as well as by the Taliban and other groups. On July 9 she wrote for Al Jazeera:

"The Afghan government would be facing a far less grave security situation today had the U.S. and NATO not caused so much civilian harm prior to transition, as we heard from many senior U.S. and Afghan officials and experts in our research.

"This harm was caused in a number of ways, including entrenching abusive local commanders for short-term security gains, or being hoodwinked into targeting civilians accused of being Taliban by their rivals, as well as civilian casualties in air strikes and detention operations.


"Despite the very real short-term threat from the Taliban, the Afghan security forces need to recognize that restraint is a strategic necessary in the mid to long-term. In practical terms this means that the Afghan National Security Council should publish its national policy on the protection of civilians, which was promised months ago.... Civilian harm from Afghan security forces has jumped sharply, up 70%in the first quarter of 2016 compared with 2015, according to UN data." Second, the Afghan government needs to put more into accurate reporting of civilian harm, and analyzing mitigation efforts.

Taliban soldiers with captives.
In a recent article Stratfor stated: "For much of Afghanistan's history, its combination of competing ethnic groups, illogical boundaries and impotent central government have weakened its status as both a nation and a state. Today, these problems persist, and Afghanistan finds itself burdened with four interrelated challenges: a political system unable to advance reform, a military unable to monopolize the use of force, an anemic economy over reliant on foreign aid, and a perennially strained relationship with neighboring Pakistan. 

"Without a concerted effort to address these issues, Afghanistan will be unable to quash the Taliban insurgency and achieve political and economic stability. Consequently, the current government, led by President Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, will not fulfill one of the key requirements of its assumption of power — implementing the electoral reforms necessary to hold parliamentary and district council elections. 

"Of course, the Afghan government will still have help from the U.S. and NATO, but ultimately, Afghanistan's challenges have roots in its geopolitical fault lines, and the security alliance can, at best, help only to manage the country's problems instead of solving them."
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10.  BEHIND THE GENDER PAY GAP


By the Economic Policy Institute (EPI)

Critics of the widely-cited statistic that women are paid 79 cents for every dollar men are paid often claim that the gender pay gap is the result of women opting for careers in lower-paid, female-dominated industries. In “Women’s work” and the gender pay gap, EPI senior economist Elise Gould and research assistant Jessica Schieder argue that women’s pay is determined by a variety of societal factors that both guide women into lower-paying fields and depress their pay regardless of their occupation.

“Leaving aside the fact that women’s career choices are shaped by gender norms and expectations, the fact is that most of the gender wage gap can be explained by the fact that women, on average, are paid less than men in the same occupation,” said Gould.


Women earn less than men at every education level
Average hourly wages, by gender and education, 2015
Education level           Men             Women
Less than high school  $13.93         $10.89
High school                 $18.61           $14.57
Some college              $20.95            $16.59
College                       $35.23            $26.51
Advanced degree       $45.84            $33.65

Gould and Schieder argue that women’s careers are shaped from a young age by discrimination, societal norms, and other forces that guide them into lower-paying occupations. By the time a woman earns her first dollar, the authors argue, her occupational choice is the culmination of years of education, guidance by mentors, parental expectations, hiring practices, and widespread norms and expectations about work–family balance. In fact, by the time women arrive at college, they are already less likely to be interested in high-paying fields such as engineering, computer science, and physics than their male counterparts.
“It’s important to realize that women’s career choices do not happen in a vacuum,” said Schieder. “Girls are steered toward gender-normative careers from a young age, and that has a profound impact on their earnings later on.”

Even for women who do go against the grain and pursue careers in high-paying fields, sexism and hostile work environments often drive them away. The long hours required for some of the highest-paid occupations, the authors point out, are incompatible with historically gendered family responsibilities.
Lastly, Gould and Schieder argue the problem isn’t just that women are choosing lower-paying fields, but also that women’s work is undervalued by society. Many professions where pay is set too low by market forces, but which clearly provide enormous social benefits, are female-dominated. Furthermore, when women have entered traditionally male fields, the average pay in that field tends to decline—evidence that women’s work simply isn’t valued as highly as men’s.

“Serious attempts to understand the gender wage gap should avoid blaming women for not working hard enough or picking high-paying careers,” said Gould. “We need to look at how our economy provides unequal opportunities for women at every point of their education, training, and career choices.”

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11. THE WAGE GAP FOR MOTHERS



From the National Women's Law Center

Women in the U.S. who work full time, year round are typically paid only 79 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts, but the wage gap between mothers and fathers is even larger.

Mothers who work outside the home full time, year round typically make only 73 cents for every dollar paid to fathers. Compared to white, non-Hispanic men, mothers of color fare even worse: African American mothers make 53 cents and Latina mothers 47 cents compared to white, non-Hispanic fathers.

Research shows that the motherhood wage gap for single mothers is larger than for all mothers and that mothers working in low-wage jobs suffer a larger motherhood penalty than mothers who work in high-wage jobs. 

Stereotypes about mothers and fathers contribute to this disparity: one study found that mothers are recommended for significantly lower starting salaries, are perceived as less competent, and are less likely to be recommended for hire than non-mothers, whereas fathers are actually recommended for significantly higher pay and are perceived as more committed to their jobs than non-fathers. The wage gap between mothers and fathers exists in every state, but the size of the gap varies from 16 cents in Vermont to 47 cents in Louisiana.
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12. BOMBINGS STRIKE SOUTHERN THAILAND


 Scene at one of the bombings in Thailand. (Photo from the Bangkok Post)
By the Council on Foreign Relations and the Activist Newsletter

A series of 13 bombing incidents Aug. 10, 11 and 12 hit popular tourist areas in southern Thailand, killing at least four people and injuring 35 others in five southern provinces. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, which comes days before the one-year anniversary of the bombing of a Hindu shrine in Bangkok. Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha denounced the attacks as "an attempt to create chaos and confusion." A police investigation is under way.

In a national referendum last weekend, Thailand voted in favor of a constitution drafted by the current ruling junta, but opposition to the charter was restricted ahead of the vote.

From Thitinan Pongsudhirak in the Guardian: "What sets apart the latest attacks is their timing and selected targets. The violence has come within a week of the passage of a constitution that vests substantial power and authority in a 250-member senate appointed by the junta to keep elected representatives in check. Against a backdrop of stifled media and a ban on political gatherings, and with a 59% turnout (61% in favor), Thai voters endorsed a constitution that will set the political direction for the coming years. The anti-junta forces who lost out in the referendum have an incentive to show bold defiance and lay down a challenge against the regime,"

From BBC Southeast Asia correspondent Jonathan Head: "The southern insurgency has continued for 12 years and killed more than 6,000 people, but has rarely spread outside the three Malay-Muslim provinces, and almost never targeted Thailand's many tourist hotspots. Targeting a royal town, Hua Hin, the favored retreat of the royal family, and on a day when many Thais are celebrating Queen Sirikit's 84th birthday, is also significant. Whoever carried out these attacks, they surely intended to send a message, shaking public confidence in the military's ability to maintain peace and order."

From CFR's Karen Brooks "It would be a mistake, however, to understand the conflict as one of personalities or individuals— the wealthy and powerful Thai Chinese Shinawatra family versus the traditional Thai elite. Former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra (2001-2006) was polarizing — beloved by the people of the countryside for his populist policies and hated by human rights and civil society groups due to allegations of various abuses, including corruption. But the real issue bedeviling Thai politics for the past decade has been a lack of consensus regarding how political and economic power should be allocated in the Kingdom of the Chakri Dynasty, which has ruled the country since the late 1700s."
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13. THE MEANING OF RESTORED TURKEY-RUSSIA RELATIONS IN THE MIDDLE EAST 



Turkish President Erdoğan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin open a new page in bilateral relations as both leaders hold meetings in St. Petersburg this week.
By Stratfor

Perhaps nothing epitomizes the cozier relationship between Russia and Turkey better than the lunch Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin had from plates painted with a picture of the two shaking hands — but potential joint strikes on the Islamic State come close. On Thursday, Turkey and Russia began meetings in St. Petersburg focused specifically on how to address the Syrian conflict under the framework of a "trilateral mechanism" involving Damascus. Iran, too, is trying to get in on the action. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif is expected to meet with his Turkish counterpart and Erdogan on Aug. 12 in Ankara, and rumors are circulating that the dialogue between Iran, Russia and Turkey could soon expand to also directly include Syria.

For Damascus and its allies, the possibility of striking a bargain with Turkey on the Syrian civil war is a golden opportunity. Turkey plays a pivotal role in supplying the rebels fighting the al Assad government. Without Turkey's support, the rebels — who recently lost ground in the south and have shifted their focus decidedly to the north and the city of Aleppo — would be much weaker in the face of the Iranian- and Russian-backed loyalist offensives already wearing them down. As part of a deal with the Syrian government, Turkey could not only stop helping the rebels, but because of its location it could also halt the flow of other rebel aid from Qatar and Saudi Arabia. In fact, if Damascus were able to convince the Turkish government to change its policy on Syria, it would be tantamount to ensuring victory. This kind of swap on Turkey's part, however, is highly unlikely.

But even if Turkey will not abandon support of the Syrian rebels, it may engage with Iran and Russia on shared goals, including containing the Islamic State and Kurdish rebels. Given the international and domestic forces working against the Turkish government right now, it makes sense for Turkey to set aside its differences with Russia and Iran over some aspects of the Syrian conflict so as to collaborate where they have shared interests. For example, Turkey, like Russia, already has considerable economic links with Iran: On Aug. 10, Turkey's customs minister announced that since sanctions against Iran were lifted in January there has been a 30% increase in trade between the two countries. Both would like to continue fostering those ties. 

Even though Turkey will not completely abandon the rebels or its agenda of expanding Sunni influence in Syria, it may change its strategy in the country to appease Iran and Russia. Erdogan has only to look to Putin for guidance: Russia portrayed itself as a pragmatic actor in negotiations with the United States even as it primarily targeted U.S.-backed rebel forces in Syria. Similarly, the Turks can work to strike bargains with the Russians and Iranians without ceasing their support for the rebels. In fact, if those bargains helped Turkey gain greater access to the Syrian battlefield, Ankara could deploy its air force in northern Syria against the Islamic State and the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG).

Turkey could very likely make concessions to Iran and Russia on Syria. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has said that no Syrian solution is possible without Russian support and that negotiations on Syria should start with areas of common ground. Furthermore, Turkey has indicated that it is willing to reconsider its opposition to Russian strikes in Syria if they target only the more extreme rebels. Turkey's recent closure of the Bab al-Hawa border crossing, even if temporary, could be a Turkish concession already made to Russia. And, of course, if any agreement can be reached, the Islamic State is the common stated target. The visions of each power will become clearer in Syria as the task of defeating that common enemy nears completion.

In any negotiation, all parties involved will try to promote their own interests. In reconciling with Russia, Turkey wants to clear the obstacles in northern Syria preventing it from targeting the Islamic State and Kurdish militias and to boost its economy. By proposing to wage joint strikes with Russia against the Islamic State, Turkey wants to reduce the risk of reprisal from Russia for its action in Syria. Russia, though, is determined to maintain tight control over the Syrian battlefield. Russia (and Iran) also, however, could benefit from aligning with Turkey — a U.S. ally and NATO member — to make it appear as though the United States is the lone irrational outlier in Syria. Russia's interests, therefore, seem to contradict one another. However Russia responds to Turkey's proposals, it will help determine the trajectory of the Syrian conflict.


Equally important will be the rumored meetings scheduled between the Turkish and Syrian governments facilitated by Iran. Though Turkey is highly unlikely to ever support Syrian President Bashar al Assad, it could decide to talk directly with al Assad or support a transition government that includes him. For Iran, supporting al Assad has been a critical part of its regional strategy, and it is in Iran's interests to maintain that relationship. One thing — and possibly the only thing — Turkey and Syria can agree on, however, is opposition to the Kurdish People's Protection Units.

It might seem that with Turkey's new willingness to negotiate, anything is possible, but Turkey also must be careful that its diplomacy with Russia and Iran does not backfire. If Turkey becomes too friendly with either country, its relationship with its Syrian rebel proxies could crumble. In fact, some rebel groups have already distanced themselves from Ankara. Even more critical is the potential damage to Turkey's already tense relationship with the United States and its other NATO partners. Turkey's membership in NATO is crucial for both Ankara and the alliance, and Turkey will undoubtedly be careful in how it develops its new relationships with Russia and Iran, two NATO foes.

Ultimately, though, Turkey is not completely defying the United States by becoming more friendly with the regional allies traditionally seen to oppose Washington. The United States itself is considering expanding its cooperation with Russia. For a conflict as complicated and intractable as that in Syria, it only makes sense that the countries involved explore their options for tactical compromises, even if their strategic interests remain fundamentally opposed.

—Reprinted with permission. Stratfor is a geopolitical intelligence firm that provides strategic analysis and forecasting to individuals and organizations around the world.  https://www.stratfor.com.
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14. ARGENTINE MOTHERS COMPLETE 2,000th MARCH
 Mothers march on behalf of missing children.
By Democracy Now

In Argentina, the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo held their 2,000th march in Buenos Aires on Aug. 11demanding justice for their children who went missing during the country’s military dictatorship. The Mothers have been staging regular protests in the Plaza de Mayo since 1977.


Said Hebe de Bonafini: "Dear children, all the 30,000 missing, 15,000 who were shot in the streets, the 8,900 political prisoners and more than 2 million in exile who have all become our children, this is no small thing. It’s the heavy burden of so many children, but it is so beautiful, so amazing, so unique. I think that there are no women like us in the world with the strength in our bellies, in our hearts, in our bodies, with so much responsibility for our children whom we love, whom we love and whom we continue to defend."

The march came just days after the United States declassified documents showing that former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger thwarted the State Department’s efforts to stop the mass killings by instead praising Argentina’s military leaders in 1978.
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15.   ECUADOR TO U.S. — YOU AREN'T WORLD JUDGE



By teleSUR, 30 July 2016

The U.S. Department of State included Ecuador in a list of countries apparently lacking in transparency. The Ecuadorean government struck back at criticism from the United States July 29, saying that Washington does not have the right nor a mandate to criticize the internal policies of foreign countries.

"The United States has no international or multilateral mandate... to go around judging countries, to play the role of judge of the world,  no country has that right; there are international bodies for that," said Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Guillaume Long.

The latest spat between Quito and Washington comes as the result of a report by the U.S. Department of State that included Ecuador in a list of 57 countries that apparently do not meet some fiscal transparency levels established by the U.S. government.

“The Ecuadorean Foreign Ministry expresses its serious concern about the creation of unilateral and biased reports that unfairly harm our country’s international image,” read an earlier statement issued by the ministry.

Long said it was “ironic” that a country that is “home to many tax havens” would think it appropriate to criticize other governments regarding their transparency.

Ecuador has recently set out to tackle tax havens, leading an international campaign to address the issue and taking measures domestically to rein in their use.

President Rafael Correa is seeking a mandate from the Ecuadorean people that would prevent politicians and public servants who store their money in offshore tax havens from holding public office.
Meanwhile, Long was recently at the Vatican to propose measures to eliminate tax havens throughout the world.

Quito and Washington have had tense relations since the arrival of President Correa to power due to his anti-imperialist policies.
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16. TWO BIG U.S. UNIONS NOW PARTNERS


Mary Kay Henry and Lee Saunders — presidents of SEIU and AFSCME, respectively — stand beside AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka.  (Photo:  Carolyn Kaster/AP.)
By Press Associates Inc.

LAS VEGAS: Two of the nation's largest unions, AFSCME and the Service Employees, who represent thousands of the same types of workers — nurses, public service workers and more — will create "unity partnerships" for joint planning, bargaining, legislation, politics and organizing. And down the road, their plan adds, they may merge.

The detailed plan, revealed in a resolution AFSCME convention delegates approved in mid-July, builds on a three-way politics-only alliance between those two unions and the American Federation of Teachers in the 2012 national election campaign. And it may well make both unions, both political powerhouses, even more influential in that field.

And since AFSCME and SEIU, with almost four million members combined, overlap far more than either does with AFT, the new, more comprehensive alliance is more significant. SEIU's board previously approved the alliance, but did not spell it out in detail. AFSCME does.

The resolution, entitled AFSCME and SEIU: Unstoppable unions that never quit, points out both must "come together and work collaboratively to unite workers and communities to challenge the rapidly growing inequity in wealth and power" that threatens society in general and workers and unions, private and public, in particular.

While the two recognize past differences in structure and style — AFSCME is the largest AFL-CIO union and SEIU is the largest in Change To Win, for example — the resolution decides, "the times demand we build on our common purpose."

That means setting up a lot of joined structure, along with "innovating in collective bargaining, exploring creation of new forms of self-sustaining democratic worker organization" beyond that model, expanded joint organizing and determination to "lead and participate in the wider social-economic justice movement."

To do that, the unions will create the unity partnerships at all levels for "joint goal setting and strategic planning, joint bargaining and representation" before common employers, "coordinated bargaining" where their members are in the same industry or labor market, joint priorities and strategies to deal with legislators and government agencies, joint political activities and joint "communication, legal, mobilization and research strategies."

They also want other unions to join them. And "based on the durability and effectiveness of the partnerships... we will explore ways to deepen and expand our collaborative efforts, including consideration of an institutional merger that would formally unite the strengths of both."

The two unions also decided to appoint a joint committee to "foster the collaboration" and work out the practical details of the unity partnerships. But it also says the boards of the two unions could "modify or end the collaboration" and that both unions must vote on any proposed structural changes. 
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Pix  Chelsea Manning suicide attempt   Caption: People hold signs calling for the release of imprisoned WikiLeaks whistleblower Chelsea Manning while marching in a gay pride parade in San Francisco, last Aug. 19. (Photo: Reuters.)

17. CHELSEA MANNING FOUND GUILTY
Sign carried at New York City Gay Pride march.
By Victoria Cavaliere, Reuters, July 29, 2016

Chelsea Manning faces a series of new “administrative offenses” stemming from her suicide attempt in early July that could land her in solitary confinement for decades.

Manning, who is best known for her imprisonment over the leaking of U.S. diplomatic cables and evidence of war crimes, was notified by the Army July 28 that she was under investigation, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

The ACLU said the 28-year-old soldier remains despondent over what the civil liberties group describes as the Army's continued denial of appropriate health care for her.

Manning, who was born with male sex organs, revealed after being convicted of espionage that she identifies as a woman and that she would be seeking hormone therapy as soon as possible. The U.S. military, however, has dragged its feet on her transition, causing distress and mental health issues for Manning, according to the ACLU. Manning, despite being a transgender woman, continues to be held at an all-male facility.

“The government has long been aware of Chelsea's distress associated with the denial of medical care related to her gender transition and yet delayed and denied the treatment recognized as necessary,” said ACLU attorney Chase Strangio in an online statement.

The ACLU denounced the latest disciplinary action as "unconscionable." If convicted, Manning could be reclassified into maximum security, face an additional nine years in medium security detention, and indefinite solitary confinement, the ACLU said.

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18. SUPPORT FREE SPEECH IN NEW YORK STATE
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By Fred Nagel

Is Israel exempt from criticism, not only at Vassar College but all of New York State?

Gov. Andrew Cuomo's recent executive order stipulates that any criticism of Israel is by definition anti-Semitism. He plans to defund all groups in the state that support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) international movement.. The order also establishes a vaguely defined "blacklist" of supposed anti-Semitic groups advocating BDS. Citizens of New York State haven't seen this type of government sponsored blacklisting since the McCarthy era.

Free speech regarding Israel has been attacked in recent years at highly regarded Vassar College in the Mid-Hudson Valley city of Poughkeepsie.  An African American freshman was expelled and the group Students for Justice in Palestine was stripped of its status as a campus organization. Vassar President Catharine Bond Hill accused the group of lacking "curtsey on campus" and creating fear in Jewish students by talking about the plight of the Palestinians. Then came articles in the media — "Hatred on the Hudson" in the "Daily News," and "Majoring in Anti-Semitism at Vassar" in the "Wall Street Journal."

This February, after pressure by pro-Zionist alumni , Hill condemned a lecture by visiting Rutgers professor of Women and Gender Studies, Dr. Jasbir Puar. She was invited by several Vassar departments and student groups, including Jewish Studies.

The criticism was based on second hand reports of what Puar had actually said about Israel's mistreatment of Palestinians. Hundreds of academics across the country immediately signed a petition defending Dr. Pear's right to free speech on campus. (Professor Puar has also been accused of anti-Semitism for comments critical of Israel during a speech she delivered at Dartmouth in May.)

When the student government passed a resolution this spring advocating for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, Hill threatened to withhold funding for all student groups on campus.

No country should escape responsibility for human rights abuses. Invasions and occupations of other peoples have always been wrapped in the flags of nationalism, patriotism, and religion. We as free citizens of a democracy must always defend our rights to criticize such human rights abusers and apartheid states, lest our government destroy our own First Amendment rights for free speech and expression.

In the Mid-Hudson Valley, the fight to preserve free speech starts with WoodstockFreeSpeech.org. Please go to this site and sign the petition guaranteeing citizens the right to boycott racism and injustice wherever and by whomever it takes place.

— The author is an activist in the Mid-Hudson Valley.
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19. WORLD GROUNDWATER IS DRYING UP
A shepherd drinks water on the dry bed of Manjara Dam, which supplies water to Latur and nearby villages in the Indian state of Maharashtra. India has been enduring a severe drought, which has forced millions of farmers to rely more heavily on groundwater, which has been pumped out more rapidly than it can be naturally replenished.


By Laura Parker, National  Geographic, July 14, 2016
.... Around the world, alarms are being sounded about the depletion of underground water supplies. The United Nations predicts a global shortfall in water by 2030. About 30% of the planet's available freshwater is in the aquifers that underlie every continent.

More than two-thirds of the groundwater consumed around the world irrigates agriculture, while the rest supplies drinking water to cities. These aquifers long have served as a backup to carry regions and countries through droughts and warm winters lacking enough snowmelt to replenish rivers and streams. Now, the world’s largest underground water reserves in Africa, Eurasia, and the Americas are under stress. Many of them are being drawn down at unsustainable rates. Nearly two billion people rely on groundwater that is considered under threat.

Richard Damania, a lead economist at the World Bank, predicts that without adequate water supplies, economic growth in the most stressed parts of the world could decline by 6% of GDP. His findings conclude that the most severe impacts of climate change will deplete water supplies.
“If you are in a dry area, you are going to get a lot less rainfall. Run-off is declining,” he says. “People are turning to groundwater in a very, very big way.”

But few things are more difficult to control than groundwater pumping, Damania says. In the United States, farmers are withdrawing water at unsustainable rates from the High Plains, or Ogallala Aquifer, even though they have been aware of the threat for six decades.

“What you have in developing countries is a large number of small farmers pumping. Given that these guys are earning so little, there is very little you can do to control it,” Damania says. “And you are, literally, in a race to the bottom.”

....  As regions and nations run short of water, Damania says, economic growth will decline and food prices will spike, raising the risk of violent conflict and waves of large migrations. Unrest in Yemen, which heavily taps into groundwater and which experienced water riots in 2009, is rooted in a water crisis. Experts say water scarcity also helped destabilize Syria and launch its 2011 civil war. Jordan, which relies on aquifers as its only source of water, is even more water-stressed now that more than a half-million Syrian refugees arrived.

Jay Famiglietti, lead scientist on a 2015 study using NASA satellites to record changes in the world’s 37 largest aquifers, says that the ones under the greatest threat are in the most heavily populated areas.
"Without sustainable groundwater reserves, global security is at far greater risk,” he says. “As the dry parts are getting drier, we will rely on groundwater even more heavily. The implications are just staggering and really need to be discussed at the international level.”

More is known about oil reserves than water. Calculating what remains in aquifers is extraordinarily difficult. In 2015, scientists at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada concluded that less than 6% of groundwater above one-and-a-half miles in the Earth’s landmass is renewable within a human lifetime. But other hydrologists caution that measurements of stores can mislead. More important is how the water is distributed throughout the aquifer. When water levels drop below to 50 feet or less, it is often not economically practical to pump water to the surface, and much of that water is brackish or contains so many minerals that it is unusable.

Depleted groundwater is a slow-speed crisis, scientists say, so there's time to develop new technologies and water efficiencies. In Western Australia, desalinated water has been injected to recharge the large aquifer that Perth, Australia's driest city, taps for drinking water. China is working to regulate pumping. In west Texas, the city of Abernathy is drilling into a deeper aquifer that lies beneath the High Plains aquifer and mixing the two to supplement the municipal water supply.

— The full article is at http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/07/world-aquifers-water-wars/
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20. LARGEST WILD ANIMAL SPECIES FACE EXTINCTION



By Science News/Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), July 27, 2016

A team of conservation biologists is calling for a worldwide strategy to prevent the extinction of the world's largest mammal species. In a public declaration published July 27 in the journal BioScience, more than 40 conservation scientists and other experts are calling for a coordinated global plan to prevent the world's megafauna from sliding into oblivion.

Approximately 59% of the world's biggest mammalian carnivore species and 60% of the largest herbivores are now listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened Species as threatened with extinction.

Among the threats cited by the group as drivers of this mass extinction are illegal hunting, deforestation and habitat loss, the expansion of agriculture and livestock into wildlife areas, and the growth of human populations. [Trophy hunting, as these pictures attest, is another reason.]

According to Dr. William Ripple, professor of ecology at Oregon State University and lead author of the study: "The more I look at the trends facing the world's largest terrestrial mammals, the more concerned I am we could lose these animals just as science is discovering how important they are to ecosystems and to the services they provide for people."

All of these large species play critical roles in their ecosystems. Species at risk include elephants that provide a suite of vital ecosystem services as ecological engineers, dispersing seeds and nutrients across vast areas. "The loss of elephants in the forests of Central Africa is increasingly damaging the function of the region's most important ecosystems," said WCS conservation scientist Dr. Fiona Maisels, one of the study's co-authors. "We're only beginning to understand how vital these keystone species are to the health of rainforests and other species that inhabit them."

Dr. Elizabeth Bennett, the Wildlife Conservation Society's (WCS) Vice President of Species Conservation and a co-author on the study declared: "The biggest threat for many species is direct hunting driven by a demand for meat, pets, and body parts for traditional medicines and ornaments.... Only a massive commitment from the international community will stop this rampant destruction of so many animal populations."
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21. NEW WORLD CAPUCHINS AND STONE TOOLS


Capuchin monkey. J. P. Miles winner of the 2016 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year award for this Feb. 12, 2016, picture of a White Faced Capuchin monkey in Costa Rica.

By Science News

New archaeological evidence suggests that Brazilian capuchins have been using stone tools to crack open cashew nuts for at least 700 years. Researchers say, to date, they have found the earliest archaeological examples of monkey tool use outside of Africa.

In their paper, published in Current Biology, they suggest it raises questions about the origins and spread of tool use in New World monkeys. The research was led by Dr. Michael Haslam of the University of Oxford, who in previous papers presents archaeological evidence showing that wild macaques in coastal Thailand used stone tools for decades at least to open shellfish and nuts.

This latest paper involved a team from Oxford and the University of São Paulo in Brazil, who observed groups of modern capuchins at Serra da Capivara National Park in northeast Brazil, and combined this with archaeological data from the same site. Researchers watched wild capuchins use stones as hand-held hammers and anvils to pound open hard foods such as seeds and cashew nuts, with young monkeys learning from older ones how to do the same.

The capuchins created what the researchers describe as "recognizable cashew processing sites," leaving stone tools in piles at specific places like the base of cashew trees or on tree branches after use. They found that capuchins picked their favorite tools from stones lying around, selecting those most suitable for the task. Stones used as anvils were over four times heavier than hammer stones, and hammers four times heavier than average natural stones. The capuchins also chose particular materials, using smooth, hard quartzite stones as hammers, while flat sandstones became anvils.''''
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That's enough for this issue. Keep in mind: