US Topping Polls Of ‘Greatest Threat To World Peace’

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By Shane Quinn for the Duran. Last week Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro described the United States as, “the most criminal empire in the history of mankind”. Whether such a statement is true, one cannot deny the US has repeatedly topped polls of international opinion on the subject: Which country do you think is the greatest threat to peace in the world today? Time and again the global community have overwhelmingly voted the US as “the greatest threat” to their existence. In one such WIN/Gallup poll from less than four years ago, the US garnered three times the votes of second-place Pakistan. Such decisive results are hardly reported in the Western mainstream, it would be ill-advised to inform unsuspecting Westerners of useless facts – instead they are disappeared down George Orwell’s memory hole. As a consequence of the predictable survey results, perhaps the question should be framed rather differently – “How can nations be secured in the face of the US threat?”

The Collapse Of Trumpcare And The Rise Of Single Payer

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By Adam Gaffney and Zackary D. Berger for The BMJ Opinion – Two major developments in September upended US healthcare politics. The month’s end saw the failure of a last-ditch blitz by Senate Republicans to dispatch the Affordable Care Act (ACA) via the Graham-Cassidy bill, a painful defeat for opponents of Obamacare, including President Trump. And on 13 September, Senator Bernie Sanders’ single-payer “Medicare-for-All” bill was released, galvanizing proponents of progressive healthcare reform. Among the notable aspects of Sanders’ bill was its co-sponsorship by 16 Senators (as opposed to zero for Sanders’ last bill), among whom were most of the potential Democratic 2020 presidential contenders. Rising support for single-payer in the Senate follows a similar shift in the House of Representatives, where a majority of Democratic lawmakers now support Representative John Conyers’ single-payer bill. The immediate impact of these single-payer bills—given that neither will pass in the current Congress—may seem modest. Yet in conjunction with the collapse of Republicans’ ACA repeal efforts, they could signal a new era in American healthcare politics.

US Withdrawal From UNESCO: Abandonment Of Principles

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By Anuradha Mittal for IPS – OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA, Oct 18 2017 (IPS) – A woman shopkeeper is standing on a plastic chair to avoid knee high swirling rainwater mixed with sewage. “I work with a women’s cooperative selling products made by Palestinian women in my shop. The sewage water has gone into the electric wires, so I have no electricity. Everything in the shop is destroyed. The metal door [that was] installed to protect the settlers prevents the water from flowing out into the main drain. . . . This means we suffer every time it rains. They [the settlers] want us to move from here. This is why they make our life hard,” she cries. The silent rain accompanies wails of those impacted. This is the Old City of Hebron – the largest city in the West Bank and the only city in the Occupied Palestinian Territory apart from Jerusalem, with illegal settlements inside the city. As the sewage water in the market rises, Palestinian shopkeepers and residents point out the holes in the gate to allow for water to go through. However, cement blocks and sand placed by the settlers have closed the water drainage. I am reminded of my time in Hebron, with last week’s announcement of US withdrawal from UNESCO, the Paris-based cultural, scientific, and educational organization of the United Nations, accusing it of “anti-Israel bias.”

Only Nonviolent Resistance Will Destroy Corporate State

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By Chris Hedges for Truth Dig – The encampments by Native Americans at Standing Rock, N.D., from April 2016 to February 2017 to block construction of the Dakota Access pipeline provided the template for future resistance movements. The action was nonviolent. It was sustained. It was highly organized. It was grounded in spiritual, intellectual and communal traditions. And it lit the conscience of the nation. Native American communities—more than 200 were represented at the Standing Rock encampments, which at times contained up to 10,000 people—called themselves “water protectors.” Day after day, week after week, month after month, the demonstrators endured assaults carried out with armored personnel carriers, rubber bullets, stun guns, tear gas, cannons that shot water laced with chemicals, and sound cannons that can cause permanent hearing loss. Drones hovered overhead. Attack dogs were unleashed on the crowds. Hundreds were arrested, roughed up and held in dank, overcrowded cells. Many were charged with felonies. The press, or at least the press that attempted to report honestly, was harassed and censored, and often reporters were detained or arrested. And mixed in with the water protectors was a small army of infiltrators, spies and agents provocateurs, who often initiated vandalism and rock throwing at law enforcement and singled out anti-pipeline leaders for arrest.

Toxic Firefighting Chemicals 'The Most Seminal Public Health Challenge'

The Australian government has continued to maintain there is no concrete evidence of a link between the chemicals used in firefighting foam and adverse health impacts. Photograph: Guillermo Salgado/AFP/Getty Images

By Christopher Knaus for The Guardian – A top United States environmental official has described the contamination of drinking water by toxic firefighting chemicals as the most seminal public health challenge of coming decades. The US, like Australia, is still grappling with how to respond to widespread contamination caused by past use of per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (Pfas) in firefighting foam. The manmade chemicals share a probable link with cancer, do not break down in the environment and have contaminated groundwater, drinking water, soil and waterways. The Australian government has continued to maintain there is no concrete evidence of a link between the chemicals and adverse health impacts, but has been criticised for the inadequacy of its response. The government’s stated position sits in stark contrast with a view expressed this week by a senior official in the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a government agency and the country’s leading public health institution. Patrick Breysse, director of the CDC’s National Centre for Environmental Health, described the chemicals as “one of the most seminal public health challenge for the next decades”, according to the Bloomberg news agency.

Man Convicted Of Murder In Case Activists Say Covers Up Police Shooting

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By Baynard Woods for The Real News Network – A Baltimore jury convicted Keith Davis Jr. for the murder of Kevin Jones on Tuesday evening, after only a couple hours of deliberation in a case full of police irregularities. Davis, a focal point of the city’s activist community, was the first person to be shot by Baltimore Police in June 2015, following the in-custody death of Freddie Gray that rocked the city with protests. Davis was initially acquitted of all but one of the charges against him—but that one charge, police said, tied him to Jones’ murder. Police claimed that Davis hijacked an unlicensed cab, driven by a man named Charles Holden, who then pulled up beside a police car, causing the gunman to flee. Two officers chased the man who fled the car on foot and eventually cornered Davis in a garage, where they, and other officers who had since arrived on the scene, fired more than 40 shots at him. At the time, they claimed that Davis fired at them, a claim later retracted. When Davis, who was on his cellphone with his fiancée Kelly Holsey throughout the ordeal, was hit by three bullets he fell to the ground. Police later claimed that they found a gun and Davis’ wallet on top of a refrigerator inside the garage. The police story did not stand up. “To my recollection that don’t look like him to me,” Holden, the primary witness, said in court. Another witness, Martina Washington, who was in the garage when Davis ran in, testified that police had influenced her description of the man who entered the garage.

Federal Court Dismisses Resolute SLAPP Suit Against Greenpeace

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By Staff of Greenpeace – SAN FRANCISCO, October 16, 2017 — Today, the United States District Court for the Northern District of California dismissed all claims in the controversial case that major logging company Resolute Forest Products [2] filed against Greenpeace Inc., Greenpeace Fund, and Greenpeace International, Stand.earth and individual defendants, including claims under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) act. The court’s decision sends a clear message to corporations that attacks on core democratic values like freedom of speech and legitimate advocacy on issues of public interest will not be tolerated. District Judge Jon S. Tigar wrote in his order dismissing the case that “the defendants’ speech constituted the expression of opinion, or different viewpoints that [are] a vital part of our democracy.” Noting that “Greenpeace’s publications at issue rely on scientific research or fact”, the judge added that “[t]he academy, and not the courthouse, is the appropriate place to resolve scientific disagreements of this kind.” Resolute will be allowed to amend its filing as a formality, but Greenpeace is confident that any such attempt will meet a similar fate. Greenpeace USA General Counsel Tom Wetterer said in response to the decision:

Israeli Arms Maker Picked To Build Prototype Of Trump’s Border Wall

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By Ali Abunimah for The Electronic Antifada – An Israeli arms maker has been picked by the US Department of Homeland Security to build a prototype of the wall President Donald Trump has vowed to build along the full length of the US-Mexico border. Elta North America is one of eight firms that will receive about $300,000-$500,000 each to build test versions of the barrier. Trump now says his wall will be “see through,” suggesting an emphasis on fences and electronic monitoring, rather than concrete. Construction of the prototypes is expected to begin this fall near San Diego. The company is the Maryland-based subsidiary of Elta Systems Ltd., which is owned by one of Israel’s leading arms companies, Israel Aerospace Industries. Elta is not the only Israeli firm that pitched itself to build Trump’s wall. Magal Security Systems, a company that has helped Israel isolate Gaza from the outside world, earlier expressed its interest in winning the contract.

BNP To Halt Shale Oil Financing, Expand Funds For Renewables

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By Fabio Benedetti Valentini and Russell Ward for Bloomberg – BNP Paribas SA pledged to stop financing shale and oil sands projects, expanding earlier commitments in support of global efforts to tackle climate change. France’s largest bank will no longer do business with companies whose main activity stems from oil and natural gas obtained from shale or oil sands, it said in a statementWednesday. The policy covers companies involved in activities ranging from exploration to marketing and trading. The company also won’t fund oil or gas projects in the Arctic region. BNP Paribas said it’s committed to bringing its financing and investment activities in line with international efforts to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. Achieving that goal relies on reducing the world’s dependence on fossil fuels, starting with energy from shale and oil sands, the bank said. Echoing environmentalists on a disputed subject, the bank said the extraction of fuel from these sources emits high levels of greenhouse gases and harms the environment in other ways. BNP Paribas may be the first large bank to blacklist shale oil, which has enabled the U.S. to curb oil imports and pushed down energy prices. The lender’s financing for tar sands, Arctic oil and other carbon-intensive fuels totaled $1.94 billion last year, ranking it 17th among international banks, according to a report by the Rainforest Action Network and other environmental groups. That’s down from $3.74 billion in 2014.

Hundreds Of Billions In Taxes Avoided Off-Shore By Corporations

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By Staff of U.S. PIRG – U.S.-based multinational corporations are allowed to play by a different set of rules than small and domestic businesses or individuals when it comes to paying taxes. Corporate lobbyists and their congressional allies have riddled the U.S. tax code with loopholes and exceptions that enable tax attorneys and corporate accountants to book U.S.-earned profits in subsidiaries located in offshore tax haven countries with minimal or no taxes. Often a company’s operational presence in a tax haven may be nothing more than a mailbox. Overall, multinational corporations use tax havens to avoid an estimated $100 billion in federal income taxes each year. Every dollar in taxes that corporations avoid must be balanced by higher taxes on individuals, less public investments and services and more federal debt. But corporate tax avoidance is not inevitable. Congress could act tomorrow to shut down tax haven abuse by revoking laws that enable and encourage the practice of shifting money into offshore tax havens. This should be the cornerstone of any congressional tax reform effort. Instead, many in Congress are considering proposals that would make offshore tax avoidance worse. By failing to act, our elected officials are tacitly approving a status quo in which corporations don’t pay what they owe and ordinary Americans inevitably must make up the difference.

The Real Reason Behind Trump’s Angry Diplomacy In North Korea

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By Ramzy Baroud for Politics for the People – To understand the United States’ stratagem in the Pacific, and against North Korea in particular, one has to understand the fundamental changes that are under way in that region. China’s clout as an Asian superpower and as a global economic powerhouse has been growing at a rapid speed. The US’ belated ‘pivot to Asia’ to counter China’s rise has been, thus far, quite ineffectual. The angry diplomacy of President Donald Trump is Washington’s way to scare off North Korea’s traditional ally, China, and disrupt what has been, till now, quite a smooth Chinese economic, political and military ascendency in Asia that has pushed against US regional influence, especially in the East and South China Seas. Despite the fact that China has reevaluated its once strong ties with North Korea, in recent years, it views with great alarm any military build-up by the US and its allies. A stronger US military in that region will be a direct challenge to China’s inevitable trade and political hegemony. The US understands that its share of the world’s economic pie chart is constantly being reduced, and that China is gaining ground, and fast. The United States’ economy is the world’s largest, but not for long. Statistics show that China is blazing the trail and will, by 2030 – or even sooner – win the coveted spot.

Yes, Half Of Americans Are In Or Near Poverty: Here's More Evidence

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By Paul Buchheit for Common Dreams – The poverty threshold is still based on a formula from the 1960s, when food expenses were a much greater part of the family budget. It hasn’t kept up with other major expenses. Since 1980, food costs have gone up by 100%, housing 250%, health care 500%, and college tuition 1,000%. The Congressional Research Service (CRS) says, “If the same basic methodology developed in the early 1960s was applied today, the poverty thresholds would be over three times higher than the current thresholds.” Three times higher! The median household income in the U.S. in 2016 was $59,039. The Economic Policy Institute’s 2015 Family Budget Calculator determined that the median budget for a two-parent, two-child family is $63,741. As CRS concluded, that’s about three times higher than the current poverty threshold. In 2014, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, median household expenses were $36,800, against income of about $54,000. But that includes very little for wealth-building investments, such as short- and long-term savings, college education, and life insurance. After accounting for annual outlays for these essential and/or typical family expenses, the median household in the lower third was $2,300 in debt.

Why Do Media Keep Saying Iran Has Nuclear Weapons Program?

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By Adam Johnson for FAIR – The problem with all of these excerpts: Iran does not have a nuclear weapons program. It has a civilian nuclear energy program, but not one designed to build weapons. Over 30 countries have civilian nuclear programs; only a handful—including, of course, the US and Israel—have nuclear weapons programs. One is used to power cities, one is used to level them. If you are skeptical, just refer to a 2007 assessment by all 16 US intelligences agencies (yes, those 16 US intelligence agencies), which found Iran had “halted” its nuclear weapons program. Or look at the same National Intelligence Estimate in 2012, which concluded again that there “is no hard evidence that Iran has decided to build a nuclear bomb.” Or we can listen to the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad, which concurred with the US intelligence assessment (Haaretz, 3/18/12). The “Iran Deal,” formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), is built on curbing Iran’s civilian nuclear program, out of fear—fair or not—that it could one day morph into a nuclear weapons program. But at present, there is no evidence, much less a consensus, that Iran has an active nuclear weapons program. JCPOA cannot be used as per se evidence such a program exists today; indeed, it is specifically designed to prevent such a program from developing down the road.

Convicted, But Still Policing

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By Jennifer Bjorhus and MaryJo Webster for Star Tribune – The creation of the POST Board in 1977 made Minnesota a pioneer in police accountability. A series of highly publicized police shootings and protests at the time — similar to the incidents involving Jamar Clark and Philando Castile — galvanized state lawmakers to create one of the nation’s first police licensing systems. Minnesota became the first state to require law officers to hold at least a two-year college degree — a point of pride even today. Since then, however, other states have expanded the powers of their licensing bodies, while Minnesota’s board has continued to emphasize training and education. Today, the range of behavior considered grounds for state discipline in Minnesota is narrower than in many other states — and has gone nearly unchanged since 1995. A felony conviction is grounds for mandatory license revocation, and a gross misdemeanor triggers POST Board review, but not necessarily discipline. For misdemeanors, the board concerns itself with only a select group of crimes. Convictions for misdemeanor drunken driving and 5th degree assault, for example, do not trigger a review. Neither does on-duty conduct such as excessive use of force, even when cities pay tens of thousands of dollars to victims to settle claims.

NAFTA Talks Falter, Time To Increase Pressure

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By Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers. The NAFTA-2 negotiations seem to be faltering after the fourth round of talks recently held in the United States. The Trump administration is pushing Mexico and Canada aggressively to include provisions from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) in order to renegotiate NAFTA in a way that benefits US corporations. Mexico and the US are under particularly high pressure to complete the talks successfully as each country has major elections in 2018. News reports of the highly secretive talks describe the negotiations as hitting roadblocks.

Chavistas Take 17 Of 23 States In Venezuelan Regional Elections As Opposition Cries Fraud

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By Lucas Koerner for Venezuela Analysis – Caracas, October 15, 2017 (venezuelanalysis.com) – President Nicolás Maduro’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) won 17 of 23 states in Sunday’s gubernatorial elections, the National Electoral Council (CNE) has confirmed. According to CNE President Tibisay Lucena, 61.14 percent of Venezuela’s eighteen-million-strong electorate came out to vote, marking a record participation in the country’s regional elections, second only to the 65.45 percent turnout in 2008. The result defied forecasts of high abstention fueled by the current economic crisis as well as polls showing dissatisfaction with the leadership of both the government and political opposition. With 95 percent of all votes counted, the governing PSUV won in the states of Amazonas, Apure, Aragua, Barinas, Carabobo, Cojedes, Falcon, Guarico, Lara, Miranda, Monagas, Sucre, Trujillo, Yaracuy, Delta Amacuro, and Vargas. For its part, the opposition Democratic Action party triumphed in Anzoátegui, Merida, Tachira, and Nueva Esparta, while the First Justice party took the strategic northwestern border state of Zulia. The CNE has yet to release final results for the mineral rich Amazonian state of Bolivar in the country’s southeast border.