The Sinclair Broadcast Group is a notorious provider of right-wing propaganda. At the end of last year it attracted mass criticism after obliging its local news affiliates to run an item which attempted to justify Trump’s tear-gassing of asylum seeking refugees on the US border a few weeks earlier. Indeed it was Boris Epshteyn, Sinclair’s chief political analyst and former Trump aide, who said, wrongly:
Dozens of migrants attacked US Border Enforcement by throwing rocks and bottles. Ultimately, American authorities had to use tear gas to stop the attacks. Some on the left, such as Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters, were immediately up in arms about our president and his team standing up for our men and women in uniform and for our national security. The fact of the matter is that this is an attempted invasion of our country.
Trump’s extreme callousness was also highlighted in a Tweet around the same time in which he said of Puerto Rico (without evidence): “Inept politicians are trying to use the massive and ridiculously high amounts of hurricane/disaster funding to pay off other obligations. The US will NOT bail out long outstanding and unpaid obligations with hurricane relief money!” It was reported three weeks into the government shutdown that Trump was considering using funds for Puerto Rican relief to build his wall to keep non-whites out of the US from its southern border. Meanwhile a GoFundMe campaign raised en enormous amount of money (several million dollars in the first couple of days) to support the wall.
Finally, in the middle of last month a group of 400 or so peaceful supporters who urge an end to the detention and deportation of guest workers in the United States met for a gathering with prayers in San Diego not far from the US-Mexico border. But at the event, which was organised by the American Friends Service Committee, police and Border Patrol personnel arrested more than 30 of those present.
It may well turn out that the current government headed by Donald Trump will leave its greatest and most lasting damage on the environment. In his two years as president Trump has single-handedly weakened, repealed and reversed laws protecting the environment on car emissions, mercury, and coal; and has opened up previously protected areas for gas and oil drilling. In mid-December, a major rollback of the nation’s clean water regulations was announced, decreasing the number of waterways protected by the country’s Clean Water Act. Disturbingly, this will affect 60% of all such water. The intention seems obvious: to expand oil drilling and mining for the profit of a few, of course, at the expense of the many. This is certain to lead to an increase in chemical pollutants (including pesticide runoff) in areas which have hitherto been protected.
Just a few weeks after the devastating fires in California — indeed while the search for bodies was continuing and a report was being published indicating that the effects of smoke from these increasingly-frequent events can last many months— Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke acted. This is always a worrying event for those who understand ecological science (Zinke does not). His new ‘farm’ bill advances provisions to make whole-scale destruction of forests by logging in easier. ‘Forest management’ projects would be accelerated and the environmental review process removed. When he visiting Paradise (the town in California completely destroyed by the fires) at the end of November, Zinke wrongly suggested that thinning forests could help prevent wildfires.
Drill baby drill
One could be forgiven for thinking that the Trump administration has descended into yet another level of madness when — despite the US’ own severe and unambiguous warnings about climate change the week before – his gang engaged in two measures which could prove disastrous for the planet. The Department of the Interior announced plans to allow further exploration and drilling for oil on millions of acres of land which have previously been set aside as untouchable, in order to protect wildlife. Then the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) admitted that it is to end rules which currently limiting carbon emissions on any new coal plants.
Freedom has reported before on the almost unimaginably cruel and destructive practice of using extremely loud underwater seismic ‘tests’ in furtherance of oil and mineral extraction. Trump has now indicated that he will re-introduce this cruel and barbaric process in federal waters off the U.S. Atlantic coast. The response of Diane Hoskins, campaign director at Oceana, was typical of the many environmental organisations who began their protests almost immediately: “This action flies in the face of massive opposition to offshore drilling and exploration from over 90% of coastal municipalities in the proposed blast zone. These permits were already denied because of the known harm that seismic airgun blasting causes. President Trump is essentially giving these companies permission to harass, harm and possibly even kill marine life, including the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale — all in the pursuit of dirty and dangerous offshore oil. This is the first step toward offshore drilling in the Atlantic and we’re going to make sure coastal communities know what’s happening and fight this.”
Climate Change deniers are fond of saying (amongst other things) that what the Earth is experiencing now is nothing more than a cyclical event, from which it has recovered in the past and will do so again. New research published in the journal, Science , however, suggests the contrary. The work’s authors, refer to the largest extinction in Earth’s history at the end of the Permian Period, which wiped out 96% of all marine species and 70% of terrestrial species. Climatologists and palaeontologists call this the ‘Great Dying’. It now seems likely that this was indeed caused by climate change triggered by greenhouse gases — then the result of volcanic action. Justin Penn, the lead author of the findings, commented: “The ultimate driving change that led to the mass extinction is the same driving change that humans are doing today, which is injecting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.”
It was announced towards the end of last year that — despite benefiting from Trump’s tax ‘reforms’ — General Motors is planning to sack 15% of its workforce and cease production in three states.
At the end of every autumn in the US, there is a period of a month or so during which those paying for health ‘insurance’, or who are in receipt of healthcare from their employers must review, either make changes or elect to keep the coverage they have had for the previous year. As a result entirely new TV channels actually appear on viewers’ screens, in addition to mounting huge print advertising campaigns, where those in the health ‘insurance’ industry compete to push their plans. This also applies to Medicare, the largely privatised system administered by the government for the retired, and which is not without its faults but is surely preferable to a huge bureaucracy based entirely on profiteering. Living well becomes a financial frenzy.
Within the last decade or so, there has been a movement (‘Medicare for All’) to extend this what in some ways more efficient and fairer Medicare system to the population as a whole. This, of course, is resisted by the élite as ‘socialism’, ‘communism’ or state interference — largely because it would yield significantly less income to the ‘insurance’ companies; if implemented properly, they would be bypassed with reduced costs for the patient and payments directly to healthcare providers. In a paper released last year by researchers at the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI), it is made clear that such a system could actually reduce overall costs by nearly 10%.
Freedom has often noted the work of the Costs of War Project at Brown University’s Watson Institute. In an update last year, the Project noted that the death toll from American involvement overseas has increased by 113,000 compared with the last count. Their latest publication (pdf) estimates that since 2001 between 480,000 and 507,000 people have been killed because of war violence in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan alone. It’s necessary to add the more than 500,000 deaths from the war in Syria since 2011 and which the US joined in August 2014 to get an accurate total. Not everyone would agree that the US bears the responsibility for this carnage, of course. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo recently said it was time for the US to stop apologising for its work in the region because it is a ‘force for good’ there.
New data from the federal government’s own Centers for Disease Control released at the end of last year reports that the rate of deaths from firearms in the United States is now at its highest number in 20 years. Nearly 40,000 people were killed in shootings in 2017, which equates to an average of one every five hours around the clock. The majority, 60%, of these shooting deaths were suicides.
As is known, US support for Israel is based more on winning votes in the Jewish communities than on principle. At the end of last year a Palestinian-American speech pathologist, Bahia Amawi, in Austin, Texas, filed a federal lawsuit because she was sacked from her job for declining to sign an oath which would have obliged her (in part) ‘… not [to] boycott Israel during the term of the contract’; nor take any action which is ‘…intended to penalise, inflict economic harm on, or limit commercial relations with Israel’.
The official purpose of UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) is ‘to build peace through international cooperation in Education, the Sciences and Culture’. Further strengthening its own goals as greater ignorance, intolerance, disrespect for cultures and peoples other than of white males as well as the dismissal of science, the United States formally withdrew from UNESCO on 1st January this year.
Pic: U.S. Customs and Border Patrol / Flickr