BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
It's difficult to find any other reasons for President Donald Trump to fire, without explanation, the remaining members of the council advising him on the HIV/AIDS epidemic, other then he is indifferent to the health needs of minority communities, LGBTQ Americans, and that he is once again playing to his white conservative Christian evangelical base.
The Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA),which was established in 1995, makes national HIV/AIDS strategy recommendations —setting out how health officials should respond to the epidemic.
David Kilmnick, the president of the LGBT Network, criticized the dismissals. "We have finally made significant progress in trying to end the epidemic once and for all and the irrational and immature moves by Trump will only set us back," he said in a statement.
Oddly enough … or maybe not so oddly enough … in September, Trump issued an executive order "continuing 32 advisory committees — including the council on H.I.V. and AIDS — whose operating authorities had been set to expire," The New York Times reported late last year.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) is a reliable supporter of Donald Trump. He recently was one of two senators who implausibly claimed, during a meeting on DACA, that Trump did not use a highly derogatory and profane term about majority non-white nations. In short, Cotton almost certainly lied to provide the president with cover for wanton bigotry. Charles Pierce writes of Cotton and Trump in the January 16 Esquire: "The two of them share an instinct for vicious, self-serving political utilitarianism, an overweening ambition far beyond their actual talents, and a casual disinterest in the truth if it conflicts with expedience."
It is not, therefore, surprising that Cotton and Trump share an intolerance toward those individuals and groups that disagree with them. Of course, it is one of the most basic assumptions of democracy that constituents can communicate their concerns and criticisms to their representatives through a variety of means, such as emails, letters, the telephone and protests. This ability for constituents to express their views is one of the most vital ingredients in a robust democracy.
However, Cotton -- a Tea Party favorite -- apparently doesn't believe that such communication is welcome, when it comes to those who take issue with his positions. The Arkansas Times reported on January 18 that Cotton's Washington, DC office has been issuing cease-and-desist letters to some of his Arkansas residents, warning them not to contact Cotton.
JOHN GEYMAN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Medicaid was enacted in 1965 under the Lyndon Johnson administration as a social insurance program to provide lower-income Americans with the health care they need. Since then it has been solidly supported by all subsequent administrations as a social contract within our society, as a matter of fairness and necessity. As poverty and inequality have increased in more recent years, it has become a mainstay assuring necessary medical care for some 74 million Americans, covering more than one in five Americans, almost one half of births, 39 percent of children, and about two-thirds of nursing home and long-term care, and more than one-quarter of mental health services. It has been described as "the backstop for America's scattershot health care system."
Not anymore. The Trump administration is out to shrink the program by whatever means, now including administrative actions by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) that bypass action by Congress. Seema Verma, Trump's appointed head of CMS, did just that in Indiana during Michael Pence's governorship. She has recently released a 10-page memo detailing how states can apply for waivers that can rein in their Medicaid programs, even in states that expanded Medicaid since 2010 under the Affordable Care Act. Through these waivers, states can exclude able-bodied adults from coverage unless they are working at least 20 hours per week. Children and disabled people are excluded from the work requirement. Ongoing reports will be required documenting that Medicaid recipients are working. If they fail to comply with these requirements, they can be locked out of coverage entirely. These new reporting requirements will greatly increase the bureaucracy involving Medicaid.
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Uh . . . pardon me while I interrupt this false alarm to quote Martin Luther King:
"Science investigates," he says inThe Strength To Love, "religion interprets. Science gives man knowledge, which is power; religion gives man wisdom, which is control. Science deals mainly with facts; religion deals mainly with values. The two are not rivals."
These words stopped me in my tracks on MLK Day. They seemed to fill a hole in the breaking news, which never quite manages to balance power with wisdom, or even acknowledge the distinction.
Our relationship to power is unquestioned, e.g.: "In the United States itself, there are around [nuclear] 4,500 warheads, of which approximately 1,740 are deployed," Karthika Sasikumar writes at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. "Even more worrying, around 900 of these are on hair-trigger alert, which means that they could be launched within 10 minutes of receiving a warning (which could turn out to be a false alarm). . . .
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Yesterday, Donald Trump tweeted out his personal awards for alleged "fake news" -- a term by which he means any news coverage that is critical of him or that he doesn't like. It's his way of keeping his base sufficiently misled and the mass news media off balance.
However, it would be hard for Trump to apply his "fake news" label to a just-released international Gallup Poll that reveals that the US's standing in the world has plummeted under his presidency. Germany is now, according to the poll, the "top-rated global power. The poll reveals that respect for US leadership has dropped 40 points in Canada and 28 points in Mexico (the two other major economic powers in North America). That's quite a plummet in a little less than a year.
CNN summarizes the findings in a January 18 article,
The Gallup poll puts global approval of US leadership at just 30%, slightly behind China on 31% and only three points ahead of Russia. Germany is now the top-rated global power in the world, with an approval rating of 41%, according to the survey.
The US rating is down nearly 20 points from the 48% approval rating in the last year of President Barack Obama's administration, Gallup said. It's also four points lower than the previous low of 34%, seen in the final year of George W. Bush's presidency.
LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
"From all of the events of this past year I have a profound concern that the mission of stewardship, protection, and advancement of our National Parks has been set aside," the head of the panel, Tony Knowles, wrote in a letter of resignation addressed to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who oversees management of the country's national parks and monuments.
The letter was signed by nine of the panel's 12 members. The bipartisan panel was appointed by former President Obama. The terms of the members who quit were due to expire in May.
The advisory board, first authorized in 1935, advises the director of the National Park Service and the interior secretary on matters relating to the National Park Service and the National Park System.
DAVID SWANSON FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
I get to introduce three terrific speakers to you on the topic of Latin America and the Caribbean, but first I'm allowed to say what I'm thinking for five minutes, so I'll do that. I'm thinking that the first European bases on this coast were foreign bases, that they moved west, and that the practice has never paused. I live almost next door to the former home of James Monroe whose Monroe Doctrine, as evolved and abused over the centuries, ought to be buried. The U.S. policy of antidemocratically and often violently seeking to dominate the nations to its south, in the name of preventing some other force from doing so, has seen its shelf-life expire. The communism excuse is gone. The terrorism and drugs excuses are weak and getting weaker.
The United States keeps small numbers of troops in almost every country or territory to its south, with the biggest numbers in Puerto Rico, Cuba, Honduras, and El Salvador, with many more within striking distance in Texas and Florida, where the U.S. maintains a command center that claims to command the hemisphere. The U.S. even has use of an island in the middle of the Atlantic that the British used in the Falklands war. And its bases include one at the tip of South America.
Is Latin America a military threat to the United States or the world? Hardly. The threat perceived by some segment of the U.S. is of an influx of refugees from hardships, including mostly human-created disasters, and most of those created in part by U.S. militarism. Of all the world's big weapons dealers, none are located in Central or South America or the Caribbean. But almost the entire area is sent weapons from the United States. While the U.S. encourages higher military spending in these countries and sets an example by spending over $1 trillion per year itself, Brazil is the only country in the region to spend over 1% of that, or $10 billion. It spends $24 billion. Every nation in this region and on earth spends closer to Costa Rica's $0 than to the United States' $1 trillion.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
While Trump continues to dominate mass media coverage with his tweetstorms, thousands of refugees continue to die trying to seek asylum in Europe. It is not a story that can compete with the sensationalism of a president who understands the values of modern corporate media. After all, Trump's outrageous tweets are good for attracting news consumers, and that enhances advertising dollars. Add that to compassion fatigue, and the deaths of those desperate to escape insufferable conditions end up receiving little coverage.
The objective of most European nations has been to work with Libya and other nations to prevent asylum seekers from making the perilous journey to Europe. This strategy, of course, doesn't deal with the root causes of mass emigration. Furthermore, as Al Jazeera News reported toward the end of last year: while the number of refugees has decreased, the percentage of deaths has actually increased. This tragic phenomenon is due to the increased use of the hazardous route from North Africa across the Mediterranean Sea, resulting in many drownings.
As Al Jazeera explains,
At this year's rate, one refugee dies for every 50 who make it to Europe. Last year, one person died for every 90 who safely reached Europe.
BRIAN TERRELL FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
On Thursday, January 11, the sixteenth anniversary of the opening of the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba was marked by a coalition of 15 human rights organizations gathered in Lafayette Park, across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House in Washington, DC. An interfaith prayer service was followed by a rally featuring song and poetry and addresses by activists from the sponsoring organizations, including attorneys for some of those detained at Guantanamo, few of these charged with any crime and some cleared for release years ago. Despite his declaration that "In the dark halls of Abu Ghraib and the detention cells of Guantanamo, we have compromised our most precious values," President Obama failed to fulfill his promise to close the prison and days before his inauguration last year, Donald Trump tweeted, "There should be no further releases from Gitmo. These are extremely dangerous people and should not be allowed back onto the battlefield."
I participated in the day’s events as part of the Witness Against Torture community. This was our fourth day of fasting, reflection and action together and many of us wore orange jump suits and black hoods representing the 41 Muslim men still held there. After the rally, WAT performed a simple ritual, serving 41 cups of tea one at a time to "detainees" who each lifted their hood to accept their cup and take a sip before laying it down in a row on the sidewalk. The names of the men were spoken aloud and had been written on each of the styrofoam cups, remembering that drawing and writing on such cups has been one of few outlets for expression for many detainees.
KEN HANNAFORD-RICARDI FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The number of visitors passing through the Afghan Peace Volunteers' (APVs') Borderfree Nonviolence Community Center in Kabul is incredible. Each afternoon, nearly sixty high-school-age students attend free classes to prepare them for the rigorous KanKor test, required of every Afghan desiring to attend public university. By 8:00 this morning, women from neighboring districts had begun arriving on foot, by taxi, or on bicycle, bringing hand-sewn duvets which the young APV's will distribute to the city's poor. There is no sign on the door; the address is not published; there is no central telephone number. And yet they come.
Almost immediately following lunch this afternoon, a young university student arrived, bringing unexpected news concerning the recent bombing of a Shia cultural center which had killed 45 people and injured many more. Well-dressed in jeans and warm sweater, he told us that three female relatives had been at the center at the time of the blasts. Two had been killed; the other was expected to recover. A fourth victim, the young man's friend, had also perished.