Saturday, July 9, 2016

7-9-16 Activist Newssletter

Saturday July 9, 2016, Issue #229
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CONTENTS: (Don't hesitate to send comments about articles)

1.   Photo of The Month — Turkey Bans Pride Event
2.   Putin Warns of War as Nato Moves Ever Closer
3.  The Racist System Must Be Transformed
4.   Great News For Animal Lovers
5.   Trump and the White Working Class
6.   U. S. Inequality’s Getting Worse
7.   The Millennial Generation and Socialism
8.   No End to Washington's Long Wars
9.   War Crimes by Some U.S.-Backed Syrian Rebels
10. The Real Number of U.S. Drone Casualties
11. U.S. Strategies and China's Future
12. Why Does Gun Control Fail in America?
13. Stop Bomb Trains in Their Tracks
14. The Ignored Lesson of The Somme Offensive
15. Stephen Hawking: The Biggest Threats to Humankind
16. Are Americans Violent, Greedy and Arrogant?
17. Free Leonard Peltier at Last
18. Eagles: Falling for Each Other
19. Trump; Populist or Racist?
20. Could Brexit Weaken Nato and U.S.?
21. Brexit or Not — 'There Will Always Be England!'

1.   PHOTO OF THE MONTH — Turkey Bans Pride Event

Shocked reactions as Turkish riot police attacked an LGBT community rally in the capital. 
(Photo: Ozan Kose/AFP/Getty Images.)

By the Activist Newsletter

Police fired teargas and rubber pellets to disperse an LBGT march in Istanbul that had been banned after ultra-nationalists said “degenerates” could not demonstrate. Hundreds of riot police cordoned off Taksim Square in the heart of the city to prevent the Trans Pride rally taking place during Ramadan.

Authorities banned transgender and gay pride marches throughout the June 6 to July 5  religious event. Ebru Kırancı, a spokeswoman for the Lambdaistanbul LGBTI Solidarity Association, said: “Football fans can rally in this country whenever they want. We were going to do a peaceful activity. The holy month of Ramadan is an excuse. If you are going to respect Ramadan, respect us too. The heterosexuals think it’s too much for us, only two hours in 365 days.”

Istanbul’s annual gay pride parade, said to be the biggest event of its kind in the Muslim world, was due to take place on 26 June. Gay pride parades have been held in the city since 2003, attracting tens of thousands of attendees, but last year’s march was broken up by police.

Turkish anti-riot police  attempt to disperse demonstrators. (Photo: Gurcan OzturkAFP/Getty.)

Anti-NATO demonstrators protested in Warsaw during meeting.
By the Activist Newsletter

Russian President Vladimir Putin has told Western reporters that the world is headed down a course that could lead to war, including nuclear war. Within days the U.S and NATO seemed to be proving his point.

Meeting with foreign journalists at the conclusion of the Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum June 17, Putin criticized them for their "tall tales." He specifically charged that they reported as truth misinformation provided to them by the United States about its anti-ballistic missile systems being constructed in Eastern Europe.

The Russian leader  pointed out that since the Iran nuclear deal, the White House claim that its European anti-missile system is to "protect against Iranian missiles," as the White House absurdly alleged, has been exposed as a lie. He predicted that Washington was extending the range of the system to the point that Moscow's nuclear potential, and thus the nuclear balance between the U.S. and Russia, would be placed in jeopardy.

Three weeks later, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said at a summit in Warsaw that "President Obama and leaders of the 27 other NATO allies declared the initial building blocks of an ballistic missile system operationally capable" — and that it now was in possession of the military alliance as well as the U.S. He revealed: "This means that the U.S. ships based in Spain, the radar in Turkey and the interceptor site in Romania are now able to work together under NATO command and control," adding that the umbrella was "entirely defensive" and "represents no threat to Russia's strategic nuclear deterrent."

Moscow recognizes that a significant U.S.-NATO anti-missile system could block much of a retaliatory Russian response to an American nuclear first strike. The fear of retaliation by either side, known as Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD), is what mainly prevented a devastating nuclear engagement during the Cold War. In addition to perfecting its anti-missile system the U.S. has launched a trillion dollar effort to "modernize" its nuclear weapons and delivery systems.

AP reported July 8 that "NATO leaders have geared up for a long-term standoff with Russia, ordering 4,000 multinational troops, including 1,000 Americans, to Poland and the Baltic states to help defend them and make Moscow rethink any plans for military intervention. They also recognized cyberspace as an operational domain for NATO activities, committed to boosting civil preparedness and renewed a pledge to spend a minimum of 2 percent of their national incomes on defense."
Washington, which dominates NATO, is well aware Moscow has no intention of invading Europe. NATO commander Gen. Petr Pavel recently acknowledged the idea was untenable. The alliance's action is its latest move to ever more tightly surround Russia with military power while draining the economy with sanctions. The statement about "an alliance ballistic missile system" is particularly worrisome.
Romanian and NATO officials mark the start to construction
 of a new missile defense site in  October, 2013

The U.S. is also anxious to deploy a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile system in South Korea — a plan sharply criticized this week by both Russia and China. The Russian Foreign Ministry charged July 8: "From the very beginning of the discussion of this issue we have consistently and invariably pointed at the most dangerous consequences of such a decision and called for our partners not to make this wrong choice. Unfortunately, our calls have remained unheard."
China's Foreign Ministry said the same day the system would destabilize the security balance in the region: "China strongly urges the United States and South Korea to stop the deployment process of the THAAD anti-missile system, not take any steps to complicate the regional situation and do nothing to harm China's strategic security interests."

The U.S., as world hegemon, will simply ignore these rational arguments from two major countries that are well aware of the first strike implications of anti-missile systems and that they may someday be the target. This explains why Putin virtually pleaded with the Western media to begin using their critical faculties at last in assessing deceptive statements from Washington: 

"We know year by year what's going to happen, and they know that we know. It's only you that they tell tall tales to, and you buy it, and spread it to the citizens of your countries. You people in turn do not feel a sense of the impending danger. This worries me. How do you not understand that the world is being pulled in an irreversible direction while they pretend that nothing is going on. I don't know how to get through to you anymore."


Protestors rally outside the White House July 8 deploring police murders of two black men
 in two days. (Photo: Paul J. Richards,AFP Getty Images.)
By Aislinn Pulley, Truthout Op-Ed

There are moments when atrocities are so horrendous that they paralyze. I am feeling that sense of immobility now.
I already knew that on average, a Black person is extra judicially murdered by the police or a vigilante every 28 hours in the United States, thanks to a study by the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement. I had yet, however, to witness this fact in real time, until yesterday
Days ago, the world watched the horrendous police murder of Philando Castile take place mere hours after the videotaped murder of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, became public. For the first time, a police murder was live streamed on Facebook. That reality is simultaneously astonishing and sickening.
President Obama responded to both killings with a statement that included mention of his task force on policing. He said:
"….Two years ago, I set up a Task Force on 21st Century Policing that convened police officers, community leaders and activists. Together, they came up with detailed recommendations on how to improve community policing. So even as officials continue to look into this week's tragic shootings, we also need communities to address the underlying fissures that lead to these incidents, and to implement those ideas that can make a difference."

This statement exemplifies how incapable the government is of ending police killings. It problematically tasks communities with finding the solutions to a state-created problem, while tacitly implying that the issue of racist police violence is rooted within our communities themselves. The culminating assertion is that it is the community's responsibility to implement answers to these "underlying fissures" in order to "make a difference." While this is true, it is true for reasons not intended by the president. It is always our duty to free ourselves. Our freedom will not be willingly granted by the state. Freedom is always forced. It is always asserted and taken. However, the president's statement tacitly implies that communities experience this level of police violence due to conditions for which they are at fault, thus criminalizing and blaming victimized communities.

Major demonstration in New York City protested deaths of Philando Castile and  Alton Sterling. 
 The government's response to this crisis of public disapproval at police violence and killing is to convene a study/task force/benign body of appointed persons, release findings and then assert that change has occurred. This method of performance is used to ease mass anxiety because it appears to be "doing something." But we must ask, what is the government doing? What have such appointed bodies accomplished? Have they ended police killings? Have police been held accountable for murder?
We can look to Rekia Boyd, Justus Howell, Ronald Johnson, Freddie Gray and Mike Brown for those answers. No. The killings have not ended. Police have not been held accountable for murder.
We must face these hard truths if we are serious about ending this misery.  If we understand that the U.S. police evolved from slave patrols, then we can understand how police became the violent state units they are today. The police were formerly the protectors of the slave system, and they are now the protectors of the ruling powers. Their main societal role is to keep order against the reactions that inequalities produce within our society. What this means is that poor communities that are disenfranchised by high unemployment, lack of access to quality education, health care and affordable housing are violently patrolled because these conditions produce social unease. The police's role is to contain this unease. This unease will increase where the gap between the haves and have-nots is widest. The question then becomes not how do you reform a system that is meant to suppress, but rather, can it be reformed at all?
Proposed solutions that exclude envisioning a world without police and their accompanying violence, terror and murder must be challenged. What sense would it make to ask for a kinder slave patroller when the problem is slavery itself? The same is true of U.S. policing now. American policing has always included the violent suppression of poor people, Black people and those most marginalized as part of its inherent functioning. We must challenge ourselves to imagine a society in which this is no longer true. We must challenge ourselves to connect the role of police in society to the system in which they are called to operate and then ask why this system requires such violence in order to exist. Why is violent policing a seemingly necessary component of the functioning of the United States? We must remove the masks, the distractions, and we must get to the root. Our blood will continue to be shed until we are able to answer these questions collectively.
Alton Sterling.
What societal changes are needed in order for Black people to be free from state violence in any capacity, be it slavery, prisons, police or any other apparatus, in the United States? Having a Black president is not enough; we can see that now. What is needed is not merely an increase in Black politicians; we now have the most Black representation in power in U.S. history. It is not Black cops; we can look to Freddie Grey's death. It is not body cameras; we can see how the use of body cameras did not save the life of Alton Sterling.
It is a question of power and who has that power. Police kill because they are being allowed to kill. Police kill us disproportionately because Black life is disposable.  
Can we challenge our imaginations to picture a country that does not require our blood and our death as an inherent part of its structure? Can we organize to end the systems that work against our lives? Can we create a new society?
We must move forward with an honest assessment of why this country requires Black death as a part of its functioning. We must be courageous enough to question the roots of American capitalism, which for 400 years has used Black subjugation to build and maintain its wealth, even with a Black president in power. As Martin Luther King Jr. instructed us, we must question the very foundation of this society:
Philando Castile murdered in Falcon Heights, Minnesota. 
"And one day we must ask the question, 'Why are there 40 million poor people in America?' And when you begin to ask that question, you are raising questions about the economic system, about a broader distribution of wealth. When you ask that question, you begin to question the capitalistic economy. And I'm simply saying that more and more, we've got to begin to ask questions about the whole society."

Our goal needs to be ending the structures and systems that are producing more needless death, misery and pain — from cash bail, to prisons, to global warming and pollution, to high-priced health care. Police violence and mass shootings are symptoms of a sick society. We need courage to imagine justice beyond the confines of what currently exists. The justice we call for must not only free ourselves but create a new world in which the full human potential of us all can be nurtured and realized and where the violence that inhabits our planet is eradicated. This requires, at minimum, livable wage jobs, full education and a society free from violence and senseless killings — a society not organized around greed and profit, but around caring for the people and the Earth as a whole. We get there by remaining steadfast in our conviction that justice is on the side of the oppressed, and it is through our fight that we make it possible to create a society that enables liberation for all.
We are fighting for a world in which death at the hands of senseless violence — including the violence of the state or vigilantes, and the poisoning of the planet by pollution and war — is a distant memory of an antiquated society long ago. Understanding that our liberation is key to the larger fight to end all suffering is how we may save ourselves. It is how we may save our world. We have nothing to lose but our chains.
—Aislinn Pulley is a lead organizer with Black Lives Matter Chicago, founding the chapter as part of the Freedom Ride to Ferguson in August 2014. She is an organizer with We Charge Genocide; a founding member of Insight Arts, a cultural nonprofit that uses art for social change; as well as a member of the performance ensemble, End of the Ladder. She is a founder of the young women's performance ensemble dedicated to ending sexual assault, Visibility Now, as well as the founder and creator of urban youth magazine, Underground Philosophy.
— From Truthout, July 8, printed with permission.

After animals were experimented upon to train students they were killed. That's finally ended.
By Lindsay Pollard-Post, PETA, July 1, 2016

The days of drugging animals, cutting them open, and killing them so that medical students could learn surgery, drug dosing and physiology are finally over.

The last school that was still clinging to this cruel practice, the University of Tennessee’s College of Medicine–Chattanooga, recently announced that it has stopped using live animals. The announcement follows the same decision by Johns Hopkins University. As the last two holdouts officially renounced live-animal training, all medical schools in the U.S. and Canada are now free of cruel animal-based training practices!

Bravo to the 12,000 members of Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) for three decades of hard work to end deadly and archaic live-animal training in medical schools. Neal Barnard, president of PCRM, writes, “In 1985, when I founded the Physicians Committee, most medical schools required students who were eager to learn how to treat and heal to instead kill their first patient.” But thanks to years of persistence by PCRM and others, one by one, medical schools across North America have ended these horrific animal mutilations. And now, doctors will learn to heal patients without harming and killing animals.

Celebrating the victory.
It’s time for the U.S. Department of Defense to follow suit and switch to advanced simulators instead of using live animals for trauma training courses. The New York Times editorial board June 25 called for a ban on animal use in military medical training, stating, "There's no reason the Pentagon should continue inflicting cruelty on animals." Leading medical and veterans organizations have also joined the campaign. Please consider urging urge your congressional representatives to modernize military medical training by supporting the BEST Practices Act (S. 587/H.R. 1095) to modernize military medical training.

                                                                                                                         New Yorker
By Arun Gupta

Jon Lovell, 66, is as typical a Trump voter as any. I ran into him at a Trump victory party in the suburbs of Portland the night of the Oregon Republican primary. Lovell works in construction, is white, older, a Republican, and a Vietnam-era Marine Corps vet. “I do flooring, drywall, renovations, all sorts of construction,” he said. He supports Trump because of all “the Hispanics you see on construction sites. They’ll do the job for less than I will.”
Lovell’s animus toward Hispanics goes beyond the workplace. He mentioned a recent home-renovation job.
 “I fixed up this lady’s three-bedroom house she rents for $800 a month,” he said. “It was trashed by Hispanics. She puts a family in every bedroom and one in the garage. She spends $10,000 to $15,000 to renovate it every couple a years. I said, ‘Why don’t you rent to a White family? It won’t get trashed.’ She said, ‘If I do, one of them loses their job and I don’t get the rent. If one of the Hispanics loses their job, I’ll still get the rent from someone.’”
I didn’t bother pointing out that cramming four families into a single-family home is a sure way to trash it—regardless of their ethnicity. Instead, I told Lovell I’d seen similar situations many times in New York City. “She is probably charging each family close to full rent, raking in $2,500 or more a month,” I said. “That’s why she can afford to renovate it every two years.”
Lovell was silent, processing what I’d said. I added, “They’re being exploited as well.”
We talked about his family—a daughter with a college degree and successful career, another one in and out of jail, and a son with mental-health problems living on Supplemental Security Income. He spoke with affection of his troublesome daughter, who is Lesbian. “I told her, just because you’re Gay doesn’t mean you need to get into all those drugs and violence.” Fifteen years ago, her partner called Lovell and told him to pick up his four grandchildren or she would ship them off to foster care.
Lovell, who is divorced, raised the children alone. The family depended on food stamps, Medicaid, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. The youngest is now in college, and the others have already graduated.
I asked him how he reconciled his support for Republicans with his family surviving on welfare. He hesitated. His eyes grew wet. Finally, he said, “People need help. We can’t cut these programs. They need them to survive.”
Lovell is one of more than 40 Trump supporters I’ve interviewed, including at a thousands-strong rally in Eugene, Oregon; at Portland State University; and at the victory party. He embodies the paradox of Trump’s appeal: Workers ravaged by global capitalism want the government to help “real Americans” and punish undocumented workers—instead of going after the bosses who hired them, like Trump himself. In this context, “building the wall” with Mexico is a literal manifestation of their anxieties about the economy, society, and race.

                                                                                   James Ferguson, The New York Review of Books

Many commentators, however, focus exclusively on Trump’s bombast and racism, and conclude his supporters are “a disparate group of bigots” and “idiots” who “are not victims.” This is as uninformed as believing that deporting 11 million immigrants will revive working-class fortunes.
For one, 14 million people voted for Trump in the primaries, and no group that large is a monolith. The supporters I met included military vets, retirees, high-school students, entrepreneurs, college graduates, business owners, factory workers, service industry employees, police officers, management personnel, union members, and lawyers. I discovered a sprinkling of Asians, Blacks, and Gays, and interviewed many women, though Trump’s support is disproportionately male. I met Christian conservatives and atheists, pro-war hawks and isolationists, fervent supporters who said, “We love Trump so much it hurts,” and voters in disbelief that they were supporting a vulgar reality-TV star because, in their view, he was the lesser evil.
A wealth of data also shows Trump’s support is tied to economic and social distress. His backing is highest among Whites who are affected by declining and stagnant wages, are less likely to have high-school or college degrees, have been knocked out of the workforce, or whose life expectancy declined.
The last fact, established by a recent study, is astonishing because declines in life expectancy are extremely rare in industrialized countries — even in wartime. It’s proof that middle-aged White workers are suffering in distinct ways from an economic war that’s waged as much by liberals as conservatives. The booming stock market of the 1990s did not soften the blows these workers suffered from Clinton policies like NAFTA, mass incarceration, restricting access to welfare, and deregulating Wall Street.
Donald Trump knows and exploits this. In Eugene, he lacerated the Clintons by calling NAFTA a “disaster [that] has destroyed big, big sections of our country.” Trump’s racialized economic "populism" thrives when both parties are in thrall to Wall Street.
Many of the White workers planning to vote for Trump would likely have supported a Democratic candidate in the past, but the party now offers them little. Adding insult to injury, liberals deride them as privileged and ignorant racists, rather than acknowledging their real economic grievances.
While I did not ask them specifically about Bernie Sanders, a few mentioned that he was their second choice after Trump. Those who liked Sanders spoke of their personal economic woes and supported policies such as ending corporate free-trade deals and creating public infrastructure programs.

Two of the Old Boys. Build the Mexico wall!USA, USA.
Race, however, is the big stumbling block for the left-leaning Trump voters. A candidate like Sanders can’t do it alone. Stronger unions and social movements could help these voters develop progressive class politics, rather than leaving them vulnerable to Trump-style populism.
The two most prominent positions Trump voters take on immigration reveal opportunities for progressive campaigns in the future. The first describes immigration as a tax burden. At the Trump rally in Eugene, Michael, a 34-year-old courier, said, “You can’t just walk over the border and suck off the system, getting food stamps and health care.”
Mariah, a 40ish retail employee, agreed. “Immigration is the biggest thing,” she said. “Don’t come to this country and suck us dry.”
Likening immigrants to parasites is a racist trope. And it’s incorrect: The difference between what the U.S. government spends on public services used by undocumented immigrants and what it earns from the taxes they pay is minuscule, if anything. It’s unlikely these voters can be won over to progressive economic policies because they are Tea Partiers hostile to social programs. Janice, a mill worker, was dead-set against Sanders because “he wants to tax us and spread our money around.”
But not all Trump supporters view undocumented immigration in this way. Others link it to wages, jobs, and free trade. Rick, 29, who studies electrical engineering at Oregon State University, said, “Illegal immigrants are driving down wages for lower-class workers.”

Paul, 42, a carpenter, said, “I’ve been laid off more than working the last three years. I see Trump as being for the little people.” Paul, who said Sanders was his second choice, supported restrictions on immigration. “It’s time to take America back. Bring our jobs back.”
While the language carries whiffs of racism, it’s crucial to remember that it’s not a terminal disease. It’s a learned behavior and a social system, as Michelle Alexander describes in her book The New Jim Crow. Providing class-based alternatives can help people unlearn racism. That was one of the lessons of the 2012 election. Running against Mitt Romney, Barack Obama did 56 points better among White male workers who were union members than among those who were not. It’s a powerful sign of how class can outweigh race —and disrupts the notion that the White working class is inherently racist.
Yet Hillary Clinton’s campaign has veered the other way, declaring single-payer health care will “never, ever come to pass,” attacking Sanders’ calls for free higher education, and dismissing calls to break up investment banks because doing so would not end sexism, racism, or homophobia.
She’s charted a similar course on free trade, providing an opening for Trump. Her election-year flip-flop on the Trans-Pacific Partnership can’t distract from her longstanding allegiance to Wall Street. The legacy of NAFTA and the $21.6 million she has pocketed from corporate speeches since 2013 has weakened her credibility among White working-class Democrats in the industrial Midwest. But rather than try to win them back, some Democrats have mused that she can snatch “two socially moderate Republicans and independents” away from Trump for every blue-collar voter she loses in the region.
Ah, the good old days.

Trump has also found a surprising opening with Republicans like Jon Lovell, who are concerned about cuts to social programs. Trump attacks Clinton from the left by flirting with raising the minimum wage and strengthening Social Security. These positions resonate with supporters who rely on Social Security, military and police pensions, Medicaid, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and welfare. Three supporters I spoke with acknowledged receiving Supplemental Security Income for disabilities. The Clintons are no friend of the workers on this front either, as in the 1990s they pushed through the disastrous cuts to welfare and even wanted to privatize Social Security.
No doubt many Trump voters are cold-hearted, racist, and view life as dog-eat-dog. But many others are suffering, and the Clinton wing of the Democratic Party is responsible for much of the economic pain they’re experiencing.
Given how many voting blocs he’s alienated, Trump’s paths to victory are narrow at best. But having blown up a campaign system dependent on fundraising, advertising, consultants, polling, and careful scripting, Trump has blazed a path for a future demagogue who can employ racist populism while ditching the vulgarity.
By cynically using race and gender to pit workers against each other, Hillary Clinton is able to advance her Wall Street agenda. This will only alienate more workers from the Democrats. The best way to defeat Trumpism is by fusing race, class, and gender issues.
A starting point is learning to listen to Trump voters, finding genuine points of connection that can lead them away from divisive bigotry to the common good.
— Arun Gupta wrote this article for YES! Magazine June 30. He is an investigative reporter who contributes to YES!, The Nation, teleSUR, The Progressive, Raw Story, and The Washington Post. He is a graduate of the French Culinary Institute in New York City and author of the upcoming Bacon as a Weapon of Mass Destruction: A Junk-Food-Loving Chef’s Inquiry into Taste (The New Press). Follow him on Twitter @arunindy.


By the Activist Newsletter

Income inequality in the U.S. increased last year, even as virtually all incomes have finally started to rise.

Economist Emanuel Saez, whose groundbreaking studies of inequality have helped reshape the political debate, reported July 1 that earnings for the top 1% percent reached a “new high” in 2015 with an income increase of 7.7% — twice that of the average wage earner.

Saez declared “Incomes (adjusted for inflation) of the top 1% of families grew from $990,000 in 2009 to $1,360,000 in 2015, a growth of 37%… (while) the incomes of the bottom 99% of families grew only by 7.6% – from $45,300 in 2009 to $48,800 in 2015.”

Saez adds, “As a result, the top 1%of families captured 52%of total real income growth per family from 2009 to 2015.... This uneven recovery is unfortunately on par with a long-term widening of inequality since 1980, when the top 1% of families began to capture a disproportionate share of economic growth.”

The divergence in the mid-1970s from the relationship of higher pay for productivity increases, plus the new era of economic conservatism after President Ronald Reagan took office in 1980, are largely responsible for the intolerable growth of inequality. Washington's 40-year imposition of conservative economics has grossly exploited the working class, the poor, and a substantial sector of the middle class. It's time for the American people to take action to end this era.

— This edited and reconstructed article is based on a July 6 report published by the Campaign for America's Future.


This is not a typical sign held by the "Bernie generation," and the political
revolution they seek is far more tentative than that put forward by
 socialist revolutionaries — but they are out there by the millions,
moving left. At the moment they may be able to force the
 Democratic Party to finally adopt a partially liberal
agenda after 40 years of
gravitating  from the center
left to
 center right. This would be a significant first 

step, but hopefuly there may be many more.
By Anis Shivani

Few developments have caused as much recent consternation among advocates of free-market capitalism as various findings that millennials, compared to previous generations, are exceptionally receptive to socialism.

recent Reason-Rupe survey found that a majority of Americans under 30 have a more favorable view of socialism than of capitalism. Gallup finds that almost 70% of young Americans are ready to vote for a “socialist” president. So it has come as no surprise that 70 to 80% of young Americans have been voting for Bernie Sanders, the self-declared democratic socialist.

Some pundits have been eager to denounce such surveys as momentary aberrations, stemming from the economic crash, or due to lack of knowledge on the part of millennials about the authoritarianism they say is the inevitable result of socialism. They were too young to have been around for Stalin and Mao, they didn’t experience the Cold War, they don’t know to be grateful to capitalism for saving them from global tyranny. The critics dismiss the millennials’ political leanings by repeating Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan’s mantra, “There is no alternative,” which prompted the extreme form of capitalism we now know as neoliberalism.

But millennials, in the most positive turn of events since the economic collapse, intuitively understand better. Circumstances not of their choosing have forced them to think outside the capitalist paradigm, which reduces human beings to figures of sales and productivity, and to consider if in their immediate lives, and in the organization of larger collectivities, there might not be more cooperative, nonviolent, mutually beneficial arrangements with better measures of human happiness than GDP growth or other statistics that benefit the financial class.

Indeed, the criticism most heard against the millennial generation’s evolving attachment to socialism is that they don’t understand what the term really means, indulging instead in warm fuzzy talk about cooperation and happiness. But this is precisely the larger meaning of socialism, which the millennial generation—as evidenced in the Occupy and Black Lives Matter movements—totally comprehends.

Capitalism has only itself to blame, forcing millennials to look for an alternative.

Let’s recall a bit of recent history before amnesia completely erases it. While banks were bailed out to the tune of trillions of dollars, the government was not interested in offering serious help to homeowners carrying underwater mortgages (the actual commitment of the U.S. government was $16 trillion to corporations and banks worldwide, as revealed in a 2011 audit prompted by Sanders and others). Facing crushing amounts of debt, millennials have been forced to cohabit with their parents and to downshift ambitions. They have had to relearn the habits of communal living, making do with less, and they are bartering necessary skills because of the permanent casualization of jobs. They are questioning the value of a capitalist education that prepares them for an ideology that is vanishing and an economy that doesn’t exist.

After the Great Depression, regulated capitalism did a good enough job keeping people’s ideas of happiness in balance. Because of job stability, wage growth, and opportunities for mobility, primarily driven by progressive taxation and generous government services, regulated capitalism experienced its heyday during 1945-1973, not just in America but around the world. Since then, however, the Keynesian insight that a certain level of equality must be maintained to preserve capitalism has been abandoned in favor of a neoliberal regime that has privatized, deregulated, and “liberalized” to the point where extreme inequality, a new form of serfdom, has come into being.

He's admired by the young for his fearless promulgation of positive social change.

Millennials perceive that what is on offer in this election cycle on the part of one side (Trump) is a return to a regulated form of capitalism, but with a frightening nationalist overlay and a disregard for the environment that is not sustainable, and on the other side (Clinton) a continuation of the neoliberal ideology of relying exclusively on the market to make the best decisions on behalf of human welfare.

They understand that the reforms of the last eight years have been so mild, as with the Dodd-Frank bill, as to keep neoliberalism in its previous form intact, guaranteeing future cycles of debt, insolvency, and immiseration. They haven’t forgotten that the capitalist class embarked on an austerity campaign, of all things, in 2009 in the U.S. and Europe, precisely the opposite of what was needed to alleviate misery.
But millennials are done with blind faith in the market as the solution to all human problems. They question whether “economic growth” should even be the ultimate pursuit. Ironically, again, it is the extreme form capitalism has taken under neoliberalism that has put millennials under such pressure that they have started asking these questions seriously: Why not work fewer hours? Why not disengage from consumer capitalism? Why trust in capitalist goods to buy happiness? Why not discover the virtues of community, solidarity, and togetherness? It is inchoate still, but this sea change in the way a whole generation defines happiness is what is going to determine the future of American politics.

Millennials understand that overturning capitalist memes to address the immediate social and ecological crises is only the starting point. The more difficult evolution is to reorient human thought, after more than 500 years of capitalist hegemony, to think beyond even democratic or participatory socialism, to a more anarchic, more liberated social organization, where individuals have the potential to achieve freedom and self-realization, precisely the failed promise of capitalism.... In effect, capitalism is losing its future constituency, not just in America, but in other parts of the world as well....

— From AlterNet, June 29, 2016. Anis Shivani’s books in the last year include Soraya: Sonnets and Whatever Speaks on Behalf of Hashish: Poems. His book Assessing Literary Writing in the Twenty-First Century comes out in early 2017. 


U.S. Army soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 8th Field Artillery fire a howitzer last week in Kandahar Province.  (Photo: Baz Ratner, Reuters.
By the Activist Newsletter

President Obama's decision July 5 to keep 8,400 U.S. troops in Afghanistan into 2017 is a reminder that he is the only U.S. chief executive who will have waged continuous wars for eight years by the end of his second term.

Ironically, Obama says the only way to end the conflict is through a lasting political settlement between the Afghan government and the Taliban — a superlative contradiction to Washington's original intention to destroy the extremist governing organization when it bombed and invaded the country after the 9/11attacks on New York and Washington. Obama may have opposed the Iraq war (though he voted for every military budget to keep it going) but he famously defined the Afghan war as “a cause that could not be more just."

The White House sought a quick victory, with a greatly enhanced increase in troops. Public opinion polls showed that 30% of Democratic voters opposed the increase, but 63% of Republicans ecstatically supported the proposal, enough to satisfy the president that escalating the war was correct.

In 2014, the Obama administration said it would withdraw all troops from the Afghan theater by the end of 2016. The plan changed months later as battlefield and political reality finally began to impose itself upon the administration. The new focus last year was to reduce troops from the current level of about 9,800 to 5,500 by the end of this year. But because of Taliban gains and the introduction to Afghanistan of rival forces from Islamic State and al-Qaeda — all products of former President Bush's two wars and earlier support (1979-1995) of warlords and extremist Sunni organizations — the White House decided to scrap the planned decrease. At this point there are also at least 5,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, additional Special Operations forces in Syria and those engaged in the drone wars in several countries

Obviously, the next president will inherit the Bush-Obama wars. The New York Times noted May 14: "The front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, Hillary Clinton, has been more receptive to conventional military engagements than Mr. Obama. The presumptive Republican nominee, Donald J. Trump, has pledged to bomb the Islamic State into oblivion, though he has sent contradictory messages about his willingness to dispatch American ground troops into foreign conflicts."

One way or another, these wars will continue and probably expand. Many Americans have forgotten all about them. The massive U.S. peace movement virtually collapsed after most Democrats stopped protesting when "peace candidate" Obama took office. Hopefully they will reappear when either Clinton or Trump enters the White House.


Troops of al-Qaeda's al-Nusra Front. In addition to fighting its rival Islamic State, the Syrian army, and Hezbollah, al-Nusra battles against groups supported by the U.S. and Saudi Arabia.
By Simon Hooper, Middle East Eye

Armed groups in rebel-held northern Syria, including the al-Qaeda-aligned al-Nusra Front and Ahrar al-Sham, have committed war crimes and imposed a strict version of Islamic law that in some cases of punishment amounts to torture, Amnesty International said in a report released on July 5.

Amnesty said that some of the groups were believed to have been supported by governments such as the U.S., Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and called on regional powers to stop supplying them with arms.

The UK-based human rights group also named three other opposition factions — Nureddin Zinki, the Levant Front and Division 16 — and said the five groups had carried out "a chilling wave of abductions, torture and summary killings" in the northern Aleppo, Idlib provinces and surrounding areas.

The groups have detained and tortured lawyers, journalists, and children — among others — for criticizing them, committing acts seen as immoral, or being minorities, the report said.

"Many civilians live in constant fear of being abducted if they criticize the conduct of armed groups in power or fail to abide by the strict rules that some have imposed," said Philip Luther, head of Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa program.

Soldiers with the jihadist rebel army Ahrar al-Sham, a group that's largely been supported Turkey. They are aligned with al-Nusra and join in attacking U.S.-backed Islamist groups.
"In Aleppo and Idlib today, armed groups have free rein to commit war crimes and other violations of international humanitarian law with impunity," he added.

"States that are members of the International Syria Support Group including the U.S.A, Qatar, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, which are involved in negotiations over Syria, must press armed groups to end such abuses and comply with the laws of war. They must also cease any transfer of arms or other support to groups implicated in committing war crimes and other gross violations,” said Luther.

Meanwhile, Jaish al-Tahrir (Army of Liberation) — another U.S. supported anti-government faction — reported July 3 that fighters from al-Nusra stormed their headquarters in northwestern Syria and kidnapped their commander, Mohammad al-Ghabi, along with 40 other combatants. The U.S. is known to have directly supported Jaish al-Tahrir in the past with weapons and even salaries for individual fighters. Al-Nusra has attacked several Washington-backed groups in northwestern Idlib province, most recently raiding the warehouses of Division 13 in the town of Maarat al-Numan.

By Jack Serle

Five child victims of U.S. drone strike in western Pakistan.
The U.S. government claimed July 1 that it has killed between 64 and 116 “non-combatants” in 473 counter-terrorism drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Libya between January 2009 and the end of 2015.

This is a fraction of the 380 to 801 civilian casualty range recorded by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism from reports by local and international journalists, NGO investigators, leaked government documents, court papers and the result of field investigations. CodePink declared July 7: "The reality is eight times higher than the administration admits. Release the names!"

While the number of civilian casualties recorded by the Bureau is six times higher than the U.S. Government’s figure, the assessments of the minimum total number of people killed were strikingly similar. The White House put this figure at 2,436, whilst the Bureau has recorded 2,753.

Since becoming president in 2009, Barack Obama has significantly extended the use of drones in the "war on terror." Operating outside declared battlefields, such as Afghanistan and Iraq, this air war has been largely fought in Pakistan and Yemen.

The Commander in Chief gets to see how it works. Note the "pilot's" laughter and smiles,
Washington's announcement comes three years after the White House first said it planned to publish casualty figures, and four months after President Obama’s chief counter-terrorism adviser, Lisa Monaco, said the data would be released.

The figures released do not include civilians killed in drones strikes that happened under George W Bush, who instigated the use of counter-terrorism strikes outside declared war zones and in 58 strikes killed 174 reported civilians.

Continued at
— From the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, July 1.

The global hegemon is kept awake by a recurring nightmare.
 [We've said before and repeat — "There is no more important international political relationship than that between the United States and China." The following article by Stratfor provides a geopolitical analysis of the possibilities of peace or war between the two, based on four different U.S. strategies and China's supposed responses. This article does not represent all our views but it is basically objective and important. Stratfor describes itself as "a geopolitical intelligence firm that provides strategic analysis and forecasting to individuals and organizations around the world."
By Stratfor
Stratfor recently wrote that China's economic rise has created for it an imperative to secure key trade routes and to protect its overseas resources and markets from foreign interdiction. This adds to the three imperatives that have historically defined the country's geopolitics: the maintenance of a united Han China, control of the country's buffer regions and the protection of its coastline. Although this new imperative does not dictate China's attitude toward its neighbors or the United States, it introduces an underlying compulsion that in the years to come will reshape the costs and benefits of different courses of action.
Because this imperative compels China to be more proactive, and in particular to expand its maritime capabilities and reach, it necessarily creates conflict with the United States, whose own imperatives compel it to contain China's rise. The United States must respond to China's rise because of its need to control the world's oceans and to prevent the emergence of another regional hegemon, even if this need does not determine the precise nature and timing of that response.
Tension between the two is inevitable. How this tension plays out, however, is beyond the scope of what could be called fundamental geopolitical analysis, which is concerned with "first principles," the hardwired structural constraints and imperatives that shape the direction of international politics. First principles tell us, for instance, that Europe in 1900 was bound for war. They do not explain why war came in 1914 rather than in 1905 or 1920; or why Germany conducted war the way it did in both world wars; or why Britain, France, Russia and the United States responded to Germany's rise as they did and when they did. Likewise, first principles tell us that so long as China's wealth and power continues to grow, its relationship with the United States will be marked by competition and conflict. But they do not predict whether China will go to war with the United States, or whether one will ultimately accommodate the other, or whether the two will find some other form of agreement.

Grand Strategy
To understand these matters, it is necessary to look beyond the fundamental constraints and imperatives of the first principles to the process by which states evaluate their environments and formulate policies. In other words, it is necessary to consider grand strategy — in particular that adopted by the United States.
We focus on U.S. strategy because the United States' overwhelming military power, economic heft and political influence mean that its decisions, more than any other external variable, will determine the course of Chinese action in the long run. This is not to suggest that China is unconcerned by countries such as Russia, Japan and India, but insofar as the fundamental geographic, historical and economic realities that shape China's behavior leave its leaders room to maneuver, the most important factor in determining which strategy they choose will be the United States. Moreover, as both the most powerful state in the international system and the most secure great power in history, the United States has greater freedom than any other country to determine its desired strategy. To understand the future of East Asian security, it is necessary to outline the strategic options available to the United States and to assess their likely consequences for China's rise.
Four Core Strategies
The United States today can choose from four basic grand strategic postures: isolationism, offshore balancing, selective intervention and extra regional dominance.
Isolationism entails complete disengagement from security affairs beyond the borders of the United States and its immediate neighbors. Isolationism is hardly viable for the United States because, as the sole world power, the country is responsible for protecting the sea lines of communication on which it and the international economic order depend. Still, the concept is popular among the American public, so it could factor into future U.S. foreign policy. Isolationism's continued influence is largely a consequence of the power of its logic: Because the United States is protected by two oceans and overwhelming military (including nuclear) power, isolationists ask, what good does it do the United States to divert precious resources away from the home economy and toward maintaining peace in distant regions?

The second potential grand strategy, which international relations scholars commonly refer to as offshore balancing, advocates that the United States disengage militarily from other regions except in the unlikely event that a potential hegemon emerges in one of the world's three most geopolitically significant spheres: Europe, East Asia or the Middle East. Advocates of offshore balancing believe the United States should intervene only to the extent that secondary powers in other regions are unable to balance against a rising regional hegemon themselves.
The third basic strategic approach is commonly referred to as selective engagement. According to this strategy, the United States should move proactively to maintain peace and to prevent the rise of potential hegemons in Europe, East Asia and the Middle East but should largely eschew direct intervention in other, less geopolitically significant regions. Unlike offshore balancing, a strategy of selective engagement requires that the United States maintain a robust and active security presence beyond its own backyard, rather than merely count on regional partners to balance against and constrain the rise of potential hegemons in other parts of the world.
The final strategy is what has been called global dominance, extra regional hegemony or offensive containment. The core of this strategy is that the United States, as the "indispensable nation," has both a right and responsibility to intervene and to assert its interests around the globe, including in regions or in conflicts that do not present serious threats to U.S. national security. In recent decades, this strategy has been evident in U.S. foreign policy approaches as diverse as neoconservatism and liberal internationalism, which differ in their relative emphases on international institutions and on the uses of American military power but which otherwise share a basic commitment to global peacekeeping and to the active use of U.S. power to reshape the international system in its image.
Since the end of the Cold War, the final approach has, with minor fluctuations, formed the backbone of U.S. foreign policy. But it is important to recognize that each of these approaches is, at least in theory or in part, viable. The geopolitics of the United States is such that it, unlike its rivals, has comparatively wide room to choose how to behave because it is less geographically, economically or militarily constrained than others. There is no structural barrier to the United States adopting a relatively more accommodative military and economic posture toward potential rivals, especially if the benefits of doing so outweigh the costs. By the same token, so long as the United States largely maintains its economic and military preponderance, it will remain capable of moving offensively — whether militarily or through political-economic means, or both — to assert its interests globally. What motivates the United States to adopt one strategy over another is a separate question. The point here is simply to note that many more strategic postures are available to the United States than to any of its rivals, including China.
Obama knew precisely how Xi would respond. Guess why!

The Implications for China

It is impossible to anticipate precisely how the U.S. approach to China will evolve over the next decade, much less how U.S. behavior toward China will interact with and influence the decisions and actions of the Chinese. But a number of baseline scenarios can be considered.
A U.S. grand strategy that erred on the side of isolationism or offshore balancing would likely create a more relaxed and accommodative strategic environment for China. Such an environment would not only give China greater flexibility as it struggles to manage internal social and economic problems, but it would also lower the risk that China will adopt a more assertive regional security posture in the short term. Meanwhile, such a U.S. strategy might temper China's feelings of insecurity, which largely originate from the threat posed by U.S. naval power. This would reduce its incentive to behave assertively and to risk reaction by regional rivals such as Japan and Vietnam. In sum, by reducing the size of U.S. power in the region, a U.S. strategy of isolationism or offshore balancing would increase the likelihood of a stronger, more assertive China five or 10 years from now. In the short run, though, it could ease China's security concerns, reducing the likelihood of regional conflict.
By contrast, a strategy of selective engagement or extra regional dominance, both of which would call for an active and robust U.S. military presence in the region and would likely entail containing or constraining China economically and strategically, would make it more difficult for China to achieve its domestic economic and political imperatives as well as to emerge as a true peer competitor to the United States. At the same time, such a strategy would raise the risk that tension with China evolves into open conflict, whether directly between the United States and China or between proxies such as North Korea and countries in Southeast and Central Asia.

Given the United States' basic grand strategic posture since the end of the Cold War (a posture that is, no less, intimately tied to deeply held beliefs across the U.S. political establishment regarding the nature and uses of U.S. power), a strategy more in line with selective engagement or extra regional dominance appears more likely than one of offshore balancing or isolationism, at least for now. Grand strategic postures — especially those that entail substantial preliminary costs, as the current U.S. global military presence does — are often enormous commitments that are difficult for countries to break from and that become even harder to break over time. Even so, though the United States will inevitably seek to constrain China to the extent that China represents a potential regional hegemon, how the United States does so — and thus when and how the interaction plays out — is far from decided.
Perhaps most important, whatever strategy the United States adopts toward China, the effects are bound to be mixed and even contradictory. A less aggressive United States may generate room for a more assertive China (depending, for example, on how Japan acts), or it may have the opposite effect, easing China's external security concerns at a time when the Chinese government would prefer to focus its energies inward on its multiplying domestic economic and social fissures. A more aggressive U.S. posture could have similarly mixed effects. The bottom line is that considering the basic geopolitical relationship between the United States and China today, a variety of outcomes is equally plausible. Determining which outcome is most likely, and how it is most likely to unfold, requires constant and careful attention not to what policymakers say they want or intend to do, but to how the material and strategic environments in which they operate evolve. 

Ernesto Vergne prays at a cross honoring his friend Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado
and the other victims at a memorial to those killed in the Pulse nightclub mass
shooting a few blocks from the club, June 17 in Orlando, Florida.
By the Activist Newsletter

In his review of three new books on gun control published in the July 14 New York Review of Books, David Cole writes:

"Editorials call for new laws to limit access to the tools of mass murder. Gun rights advocates respond that the answer lies in getting more guns into the right hands, not in gun bans that will prove ineffectual in a nation that already boasts approximately 300 million guns, or 88 for every 100 people.

"A few isolated states may strengthen their gun laws, but at least an equal number will do the opposite. In the year after the Sandy Hook shooting, 11 states made their gun control laws tougher, but at least two dozen states loosened theirs. And on the national stage, nothing will be done. As we saw after Sandy Hook, even when the public overwhelmingly supported a modest bill to extend background checks to private gun sales, the bill never made it out of the Senate."

Many millions of Americans demand change, but nothing happens. Cole, a Professor of Law and Public Policy at Georgetown University Law Center, offers an interesting analysis:

"The NRA (National Rifle Association) may advocate for an individual right, but its influence derives precisely from collective democratic action. Far from threatening democracy, it expertly deploys the techniques of majoritarian politics. The NRA has achieved its victories not by threats of insurrection but through the classic methods of democracy: debate, dialogue, lobbying, and electioneering. Its source of strength lies not in the weapons its members own or carry, but in the votes they cast and the arguments they make.

"Gun control advocates will not make progress until they recognize that the NRA’s power lies in the appeal of its ideas, its political engagement and acumen, and the intense commitments of its members. Until gun control advocates can match these features, they are unlikely to make much progress. That the gun industry may have helped construct modern gun culture does not negate the very real power that culture holds today. Americans apparently want guns for many reasons, but self-protection from dangers, real or imagined, ranks high among them, and the Supreme Court has expressly legitimated that desire. Arguments that such dangers are exaggerated certainly can be made but so far they have not had much purchase.

"The long tradition of gun regulations almost certainly means that the Supreme Court will not construe the Second Amendment to invalidate most gun laws on the books today, but that simply leaves the matter to the political process, where the NRA is plainly winning. If history is any guide, it will succeed in thwarting any new gun control initiative prompted by the Orlando massacre. What all three of these books fail to confront is that the most important factor in the state of our gun laws is not the Supreme Court, the Second Amendment, or the gun industry, but the [five million member] NRA. Without effective countervailing [political] engagement by those who favor gun control, guns will continue to be a central feature in American political life, and books like these will continue to be both tragically timely and ineffectual."

— Cole's new book, Engines of Liberty: The Power of Citizen Activists to Make Constitutional Law, was published in April.


Up to a thousand people blocked rail tracks in Albany, N.Y. earlier this year.
By Amanda MacMillan

Good schools, crime stats, walkability, even pollution levels—these are just a few of the variables you typically take into account when considering a move to a new community. What may not come to mind, however, is whether millions of gallons of highly volatile crude oil are currently — or may someday soon be — barreling through town on a regular basis.

That’s a very real issue for the 25 million Americans who live within a mile of a crude-oil-by-rail route, according to nonprofit environmental group Stand (formerly Forest Ethics). With the boom in fracking and resulting expansion of oil refining in the United States, tanker trains carrying flammable and explosive cargo are increasingly crisscrossing the country: Before the recent slump in gas prices put the brakes on the trend, oil-by-rail transport had increased from 9,500 carloads of crude in 2008 to more than 400,000 carloads in 2014, according to the Association of American Railroads—a 42-fold increase.

Accidents are on the rise, too. A 2016 investigation by Chicago magazine uncovered 17 derailments of North American crude oil trains significant enough to have generated news coverage in the previous three years. (Many other, minor accidents go unreported by the media.) The residents of Mosier, Oregon, were among the latest communities to learn about the consequences of such an accident in June 2016, when a 96-car train carrying North Dakota crude derailed, catching fire and spilling hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil into the town’s sewer system and into the environmentally sensitive Columbia River Gorge.

Things could have been a lot worse. The most serious rail disaster in recent history occurred in July 2013, when an unattended oil train rolled down a hill and exploded in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, killing 47 people and destroying most of the downtown area. At least eight other recent derailments have also resulted in explosions—including the massive fireball unleashed when tankers from a 109-car crude train jumped the rails in Mount Carbon, West Virginia, in 2015 — enough to earn this mode of transport its scary nickname: bomb train

Crude oil train derailment in Mosier, Oregon, June 3, 2016.  (Photo: Levi Read, U.S. Coast Guard.)

Significant changes in the way oil is now shipped have contributed to this grim toll. Crude oil used to be carried on the rails “by manifest” — that is, on trains with a variety of other cargoes. But today’s “unit trains” carry just one cargo — often highly volatile crude from North Dakota’s Bakken shale formation — and these trains may have 80 cars or more. While the volume of methods have changed, oversight and regulation of hazardous cargoes on railroads have fallen dangerously behind. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is one of many advocacy groups that oppose the shipment of crude oil on unit trains, at least until more stringent regulations are put in place to make it safe. “We need to ensure that transporting oil by rail doesn’t put communities at risk,” says Anthony Swift, director of NRDC’s International program, who studies oil production and delivery in the United States and Canada.

Unfortunately, under existing federal regulation of the railroads, moving crude oil on mile-long unit trains — with an increased risk of the chain reactions that can cause derailments, and toxic emissions leaking from the thousands of tanker cars in use at any time — is perfectly legal. The U.S. Department of Transportation is currently updating its guidelines for crude-by-rail transport, but judging from preliminary drafts, advocates don’t expect significant changes. Many people who live near rail corridors are not even aware of the potential danger, and few communities have the equipment and training to deal with a derailment involving volatile materials. But that doesn’t mean concerned citizens should feel helpless. First, find out if your town is in the path of potential danger.

Find out if you’re at risk
If you live near train tracks, there’s a chance your home, school, or place of work could lie within the impact zone of a train route that carries crude oil. Stand, the environmental advocacy group, maintains a searchable map online that shows all known oil-by-rail routes, along with the government’s mandated half-mile evacuation radius for oil train derailments and one-mile potential impact zone in case of fire (at But keep in mind that even outside the blast zone, you’re not necessarily safe from a train disaster. “A derailment and explosion of multiple cars carrying Bakken crude has the potential for a much wider area of damage than shown on this map,” the website states.

If oil trains do run through your city or town, there may not be an easy way to stop them — at least not right now. What you can do is make your local and state officials, along with your fire department and emergency responders, aware of the risks your community faces. To be clear, there’s not much they can do to prepare for a worst-case situation, says Stand’s director of communications, Eddie Scher. “The best municipal fire departments in America are equipped to fight fire from a single roadway tanker truck. That’s about 10,000 gallons, or only one-third, of a tanker train car, and these trains can have 100 cars,“ he says...

—From NRDC, July 6, 2016.

A member of the military stands amid the gravestones on June 30 at the Thievpal Memorial to the Missing of the Somme in France during a vigil to commemorate the 100th anniversary
of the bloody Battle of the Somme during World War I.
(Photo: Getty Images.)
By the Activist Newsletter

On July 1, Britain and France ceremonially marked 100 years since their troops fought and died side by side in the Battle of the Somme against Germany, one of the defining offensives of World War I. Fought on French soil, it was also one of the most deadly battles in history. Nearly 20,000 soldiers died the first day and one million who were left dead, injured or missing in the 141-day battle. So wretched was the battlefield that the bodies of over 70 ,000 British troops were never identified.

Historically it stands as a stunning rebuke to war and the waste of so many young soldiers and civilians — a rebuke so far honored in the breech. It is estimated that 24 million people were killed in the "war to end all wars." World War 2 was worse (up to 85 million died worldwide), and World War 3 is all too imaginable to ignore, but ignore we may until it is too late.
Wilfred Owen.

Some of the most poignant antiwar poems ever written derived from the horrors of World War 1, which lasted from July 28, 1914 to Nov. 11, 1918. Wilfred Owen (1893-1918), is considered the best of these poets. He was killed in action at the age of 25 just seven days before the Armistice. Owen was essentially a pacifist who enlisted in the British Army in September 1915 "in order to help these boys — directly by leading them as well as an officer can; indirectly, by watching their sufferings that I may speak of them as well as a pleader can." Here are three of his poems.

The Parable of the Young Man and the Old

So Abram rose, and clave the wood, and went,
And took the fire with him, and a knife.
And as they sojourned, both of them together,
Isaac the first-born spake, and said, My Father,
Behold the preparations, fire and iron,
But where the lamb for this burnt-offering?
Then Abram bound the youth with belts and straps,
And builded parapets the trenches there,
And stretched forth the knife to slay his son.
When lo! an angel called him out of heaven,
Saying, Lay not thy hand upon the lad,
Neither do anything to him. Behold,
A ram, caught in a thicket by its horns;
Offer the Ram of Pride instead of him.
But the old man would not so, but slew his son,
And half the seed of Europe, one by one.


Under his helmet, up against his pack,
After the many days of work and waking,
Sleep took him by the brow and laid him back.
And in the happy no-time of his sleeping,
Death took him by the heart. There was a quaking
Of the aborted life within him leaping ...
Then chest and sleepy arms once more fell slack.
And soon the slow, stray blood came creeping
From the intrusive lead, like ants on track.

Whether his deeper sleep lie shaded by the shaking
Of great wings, and the thoughts that hung the stars,
High pillowed on calm pillows of God’s making
Above these clouds, these rains, these sleets of lead,
And these winds’ scimitars;
— Or whether yet his thin and sodden head
Confuses more and more with the low mould,
His hair being one with the grey grass
And finished fields of autumns that are old ...
Who knows? Who hopes? Who troubles? Let it pass!
He sleeps. He sleeps less tremulous, less cold
Than we who must awake, and waking, say Alas!

Strange Meeting

It seemed that out of battle I escaped
Down some profound dull tunnel, long since scooped
Through granites which titanic wars had groined.

Yet also there encumbered sleepers groaned,
Too fast in thought or death to be bestirred.
Then, as I probed them, one sprang up, and stared
With piteous recognition in fixed eyes,
Lifting distressful hands, as if to bless.
And by his smile, I knew that sullen hall,— 
By his dead smile I knew we stood in Hell.

With a thousand fears that vision's face was grained;
Yet no blood reached there from the upper ground,
And no guns thumped, or down the flues made moan.
“Strange friend,” I said, “here is no cause to mourn.” 
“None,” said that other, “save the undone years,
The hopelessness. Whatever hope is yours,
Was my life also; I went hunting wild
After the wildest beauty in the world,
Which lies not calm in eyes, or braided hair,
But mocks the steady running of the hour,
And if it grieves, grieves richlier than here.
For by my glee might many men have laughed,
And of my weeping something had been left,
Which must die now. I mean the truth untold,
The pity of war, the pity war distilled.
Now men will go content with what we spoiled.
Or, discontent, boil bloody, and be spilled.
They will be swift with swiftness of the tigress. 
None will break ranks, though nations trek from progress.
Courage was mine, and I had mystery;
Wisdom was mine, and I had mastery: 
To miss the march of this retreating world
Into vain citadels that are not walled.
Then, when much blood had clogged their chariot-wheels, 
I would go up and wash them from sweet wells,
Even with truths that lie too deep for taint.
I would have poured my spirit without stint
But not through wounds; not on the cess of war.
Foreheads of men have bled where no wounds were.

“I am the enemy you killed, my friend.
I knew you in this dark: for so you frowned
Yesterday through me as you jabbed and killed.
I parried; but my hands were loath and cold.
Let us sleep now…."

[A fascinating analysis explaining the meaning of the enigmatic "Strange Meeting" is at]


Stephen Hawking in 1993 before the full ravages of motor neuron disease appeared, as they do today. This debilitating terminal illness leads to loss of all motor functions. Hawking 
quickly became very disabled and at the age of 21 was given two years to live. 
He is now 74 and is considered the world’s leading theoretical physicist — a 
tribute to his extraordinary determination to live and to contribute to 
humankind. (Photo:David Montgomery, Getty Images.)
By Gabriel Samuels

Professor Stephen Hawking says he believes pollution and human “stupidity” remain the biggest threats to mankind, while also expressing his concerns over the use of artificial intelligence in warfare.

He argued “we have certainly not become less greedy or less stupid” in our treatment of the environment over the past decade, during an interview on Larry King Now, which is hosted on Ora TV.

Professor Hawking said: “Six years ago, I was warning about pollution and overcrowding, they have gotten worse since then. The population has grown by half a billion since our last interview, with no end in sight. At this rate, it will be eleven billion by 2100. Air pollution has increased by 8% over the past five years. More than 80% of inhabitants of urban areas are exposed to unsafe levels of air pollution. The increase in air pollution and the emission of increasing levels of carbon dioxide. Will we be too late to avoid dangerous levels of global warming?”

Professor Hawking went on to outline his concerns about the future of artificial intelligence technologies, and specifically their primary use in weaponry. He said: “Governments seem to be engaged in an AI arms race, designing planes and weapons with intelligent technologies. The funding for projects directly beneficial to the human race, such as improved medical screening, seems a somewhat lower priority.

“I don’t think that advances in artificial technology will necessarily be benign. Once machines reach the critical stage of being able to evolve themselves, we cannot predict whether their goals will be the same as ours.”

The cosmologist was speaking at the Starmus science conference in Tenerife [the largest of the canary Islands], themed this year as a tribute to his life’s work. [The third Starmus International Festival is an gathering focused on celebrating astronomy, space exploration, music, art, and allied sciences such as biology and chemistry..]

At the meeting he revealed ambitious plans to map the entire known universe using radiation patterns. It is hoped the cosmologists' work will reveal the nature of the dark energy which is causing the universe to expand more rapidly.

— From The Independent (UK), June 28, 2016.

By Teresa Welsh, McClatchy News

A worldwide survey found that majorities of people in the UK, Canada, Spain and Australia think of Americans as violent, greedy and arrogant.

The poll, conducted by the Pew Research Center, found that a median of 54% of people in countries surveyed associated the negative trait of arrogance with Americans. Some 52% associate greed, and 48% say Americans are violent.People in Australia and Greece were most likely to see Americans as being violent, while those in India were the least likely to view U.S. citizens that way.

Americans themselves don’t deny these attributions: 55% said Americans are arrogant, 57% said they are greedy and 42% said they are violent. Those views vary by political affiliation, with Democrats associating Americans with those characteristics more than Republicans do.

The starkest contrast comes with the attribute of violent, with 50% of Democrats associating that trait with Americans and only 29% of Republicans doing so. The survey polled 20,132 respondents in 16 countries from April 4 to May 29, 2016.


By Teresa Albano

When I first got active in the labor and social justice movements some 35 years ago, there were a few slogans that seemed omnipresent: "Free Nelson Mandela"; "Free Mumia Abu Jamal"; "Free Leonard Peltier and all political prisoners."

Mandela eventually won his freedom. Victims of the FBI's infamous and secret COINTELPRO program were also released, such as Black Panther Eddie Conway, who after 44 years was eventually freed. Abu Jamal still languishes in jail, but he and the lawyers and broad grassroots movement working to free him have succeeded in getting the death penalty sentence commuted.

But time is running out for American Indian Movement activist Peltier. It is a now or never moment to win his freedom. That's why he and supporters have filed a petition for clemency with President Barack Obama. In a moving and eloquent letter, marking the 41st anniversary of the tragic firefight that led to the deaths of two FBI agents, Ronald Williams and Jack Coler, AIM activist Joe Stuntz and the eventual imprisonment of Peltier, he wrote of his "great remorse" for lives lost and the grieving of loved ones. He also wrote this sobering sentence, "I believe that this President is my last hope for freedom, and I will surely die here if I am not released by January 20, 2017."

Peltier at 71 is not in good health. He suffers from diabetes, high blood pressure, and a heart condition. He has maintained his innocence for four decades. President Obama, who has taken important initiatives regarding Native American rights and sovereignty, is Peltier's "last hope."

Writing a letter of support for Peltier in June 23 edition of The New York Review of Books, Martin Garbus and Rose Styron put the push for clemency in the larger context of justice for Native people.

"The clemency petition is not about Leonard's guilt or innocence-it is about all of the issues that Leonard Peltier has come to represent during four decades in prison, including, among other things, the historic injustices against Native Americans; the distrust between Native American communities and federal law enforcement agencies; the poverty and polarized conditions on Pine Ridge Reservation in the 1970s, which were exacerbated, in part, by an ineffective federal response; the ensuing violence that drove Pine Ridge to become the scene of many murders of Native Americans; and the circumstances that led up to and followed the June 26, 1975, shootout, in which two young FBI agents and one young American Indian lost their lives," they wrote.

For the sake of justice, take a moment to send a letter to President Obama, voicing your support for freedom for Peltier:

— Teresa Albano is associate editor of People's World, where this article first appeared June 30.


By Patricia Edmonds

Bald eagles, aka Haliaeetus leucocephalus, seem to be models of decorum. The raptors mate for life, unless one partner dies early. Year after year most return to the same nests. Birds in some so-called monogamous species still mate with other partners; bald eagles seem not to.

But when it comes to courtship, bald eagles put the wild in wildlife.

The maneuver above — known as the cartwheel display or death spiral — is chief among their “spectacular courtship rituals,” says wildlife ecologist David Buehler of the University of Tennessee. “The two soar up to high altitude, lock talons, and tumble and cartwheel toward Earth.” They let go before reaching the ground — except when they don’t. In 2014 two adult eagles, talons locked, were found tangled in a Portland, Oregon, tree. (They eventually broke free and flew off.)

The courtship display is about “determining the fitness of your mate” and making that mate want to mate with you, Buehler says. “It’s like going out on the dance floor if you’re a really good dancer.” There are risks: The stunt could, for instance, end in a fatal crash. “It’s an interesting tension,” he says, “between succeeding with a mate and maintaining your own survival.”

— From the National Geographic, July 2016. (Photo: Harry Eggens) 

[The great reporter Wayne Barrett knows just about everything criminal and foul about Donald Trump. He's covered him for 50 years and in 1991 wrote an exposé biography of this corrupt, disreputable and duplicitous businessman. Following is a very brief excerpt from two interviews with Barrett broadcast on Democracy Now July 1 and 5 ( You will learn much from these interviews, as did we.]

By the Activist Newsletter

Wayne Barrett: The thing that maybe disturbs me the most about the media coverage of [Trump], particularly television, is to call him a populist. You know, we’re now saying that what just happened in Britain was supposedly a populist expression.

Well, the whole history of populism is against elites, you know, and what’s driving the Trump campaign, and what I think drove the Brexit vote, is not animosity towards elites. That may be a small part of it, but what’s really driving it is antagonism towards immigrants, mostly minorities. That’s what’s driving the Trump campaign.

I thought it was pretty remarkable, when you will listen to the Dana Bashes and the other commentators on CNN, one election after another, when he carried all but Texas of the old Confederacy, and they would, one night after another, say, "Isn’t it remarkable that a kid from Queens is winning in Alabama?" instead of offering the logical explanation for it, which is that it’s naked racism that he is appealing to.

They instead say, "It’s the thirst for an outsider. What’s driving this is the thirst for an outsider," when on the same day they renominated Richard Shelby, who actually had a right-wing opponent and who was the chair of banking in the Senate and who was getting all of his money from Goldman Sachs and every other house, you know, contributing to him.

He’s an embodiment of the insider, and they nominated him overwhelmingly, so he didn’t even face a runoff. There were two candidates running against him. And these people who were attracted by an outsider were all apparently simultaneously attracted by the ultimate insider.

Well, what explains that? I think it is so clear that race is the driving motive of this campaign, the driving cause for its success. The scapegoating of everybody who’s not a white male is what’s driving this candidacy, and it’s led to success so far. Whether or not there’s enough of that to elect him president, I mean, this still is the same country that elected Barack Obama twice and, after four years of experience with him, reelected him in 2012.

It’s not a dramatically different country than it was in 2012, so I got to believe that there are limits to this race card. But that’s the only explanation, to me, for going from one unbelievably manipulative, contrived, false statement after another, attacking a judge. I actually think that attacking the judge may have been not a mistake on his part, but something very consciously done to say, "Look, even a big guy like me, they’re screwing with even me, these Mexicans. You know, I know what you’ve got. I know you got a problem back there, but they can even take me on!" So I think that race is the absolute undercurrent.


Millions in Great Britain wish to remain "Europeans." They recently held a huge protest march.
By the Activist Newsletter

[Donald Trump has praised Britain's impending exit from the European Union and indicates it will not weaken U.S. power in Europe. He evidently has no understanding of how much London's membership in the EU strengthens Washington's hold over its European allies. This brief excerpt from the July 4 Foreign Affairs article NATO After Brexit indicates otherwise.]

"....EU entities such as Europol are tasked with Europe’s security and intelligence portfolio and will lose the substantial assets, tangible and not, that the United Kingdom has brought to the table. The country’s highly capable security and intelligence services have helped power EU efforts in this area, and even if the partners reach alternate arrangements (for access to data and so on), the United Kingdom will lose the ability to lead and influence from within.

There is also the EU’s relationship with NATO to keep in mind. It has always been a challenge to avoid duplication and inefficiency between the EU and NATO. But the potential for divergence between the two entities could be magnified now that the United Kingdom is no longer around to bridge the breach. Taking a hardheaded approach to threats — including those in the newest domain, cyberspace — the United Kingdom has worked in the past to focus European minds and resources on the most pressing issues, in a way that makes use of the complementarity between these security architectures. Whether this process will continue in practice, rhetoric aside, remains to be seen.

"Historically, the United Kingdom has also acted as linchpin between Europe and the United States, cementing the security bond across the pond. Although some of the luster has worn off the special relationship, the fact remains that the United Kingdom has long served as a touchstone for the United States in its dealings with Europe writ large, and it remains the United States’ closest European ally.

With both countries now outside the EU bloc, and in the absence of a principal long-standing interlocutor, the United States could well find it harder to make its case to Europe on issues of critical importance. From the imposition of economic sanctions on Russia and Iran to the designation of Foreign Terrorist Organizations, the United States was instrumental in getting to the goal when differences within the EU existed."


Victoria Bateman.
By May Bulman, The Independent, July 2, 2016

A Cambridge academic walked naked into a faculty meeting of economists June 28 in an act of protest against the UK's vote to leave the European Union.

Victoria Bateman, a fellow in economics at Cambridge University, arrived at the meeting June 28 with the words "Brexit leaves Britain naked" written across her stomach and breasts.

Ms Bateman reportedly sat through the two-hour meeting, in which 30 other economists were discussing teaching material and courses at Cambridge University's Faculty of Economics, without anyone mentioning her lack of clothing.

Nigel Knight, director of studies at Churchill College and chair of the meeting, did however reportedly look at her and say: "I think we need some cups for the coffee."

It is not the first time Ms Bateman has bared all in public. In 2014, she posed for a nude portrait by painter Anthony Connolly, which then went on public display at the Mall Galleries.

Talking about her decision to pose nude in The Guardian, Ms Bateman said she had hoped to raise questions about the depiction of women and "challenge the blinkered association between the body and sex".

Ms Bateman has researched the development of the UK economy, and openly opposed the UK leaving the EU before the referendum.  In an article for Bloomberg, she previously wrote that the effect would be "sizeable" and that "many working families would be noticeably worse off."

— The hyper patriotic song There Will Always Be An England, was written in 1939, the year Nazi Germany declared war. It comforted the people of Britain during the war and on occasion it is still played today. Our use in the headline had nothing to do with the decision to quit the EU. It's a tribute to the immeasurable British fortitude of the 30 economists who remained mute and continued the meeting during Ms Bateman's justified, if irregular, protest. Lastly, the historic indirection of chairperson Knight's "coffee cups" observation should instantly by rewarded with Knighthood. This occasion makes us wonder  why we ever revolted against so intellectually subtle a Septere'd Isle,  "this blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England!"

Well, that's all for now, but do keep this in mind: