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Survivors of Katrina wading through floodwater(Photo: News Muse)BILL QUIGLEY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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Hurricane Katrina hit eleven years ago.  Population of the City of New Orleans is down by over 95,000 people from 484,674 in 2000 to 389,617 in 2015.  Almost all this loss of people is in the African American community. Child poverty is up, double the national average. The gap between rich and poor in New Orleans is massive, the largest in the country. The economic gap between well off whites and low income African Americans is widening. Despite receiving $76 billion in assistance after Katrina, it is clear that poor and working people in New Orleans, especially African Americans, got very little of that help. Here are the numbers.

35           The New Orleans Regional Transit Authority reported that 62 percent of pre-Katrina service has been restored. But Ride New Orleans, a transit rider organization, says streetcar rides targeted at tourists are fully restored but bus service for regular people is way down, still only at 35 percent of what it was before Katrina. That may explain why there has been a big dip in the number of people using public transportation in New Orleans, down from 13 percent in 2000 to 9 percent now.


Pivot 0824wrp opt(Photo: Mechanics Magazine, 1824)Welcome to the world of Donald Trump's long-awaited “Pivot.” With a recent quasi-apology under his belt -- "I do regret it [the litany of insults] particularly where it may have caused personal pain” -- and a newly constituted Team Trump -- especially the media-savvy/friendly and very capable message massager Kellyanne Conway -- are you ready for the hugest and the greatest pivot ever?

The mainstream media has been craving it, only fearing that it might not materialize quickly enough. Obviously, the fading campaign desperately needs it. But will the public buy into it?

Over the past few weeks, my wife and I have been discussing "The Pivot." No, not how U.S. Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte recently pivoted away from his phony Rio robbery story and apologized; nor have we been extolling the skills of Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, or other great National Basketball Association pivot men. Broadly defined, “The Pivot,” usually happens right after the primaries, as a campaign understands it needs to soften its message and broaden its appeal. Now, after a several months long run at letting Trump be Trump, his new campaign team, and The Donald himself, may finally be recognizing that there might not be enough blue-collar white men to carry him to victory, and he needs to do something different to appeal to independents.

So, Trump has replaced the campaign’s leadership, which has led, according to some pundits, to a shift in messaging, and tone.

Trump’s so-called pivot started with his making appeals for the African American vote. ABC News’ Candace Smith reported that “Trump, who shook up his staff in recent days, appeared to strike a different tone during his speech at the Charlotte Convention Center, reading from a teleprompter, as he has chided Hillary Clinton for doing and again making an appeal to African-American voters.”


Salad 0824wrp opt(Photo: jeffreyw)Responsible reporters in the media normally transcribe political speeches so that they can accurately report them. But Donald Trump’s discourse style has stumped a number of reporters. Dan Libit, CNBC’s excellent analyst is one of them. Libit writes:

His unscripted speaking style, with its spasmodic, self-interrupting sentence structure, has increasingly come to overwhelm the human brains and tape recorders attempting to quote him.

Trump is, simply put, a transcriptionist's worst nightmare: severely unintelligible, and yet, incredibly important to understand.

Given how dramatically recent polls have turned on his controversial public utterances, it is not hyperbolic to say that the very fate of the nation, indeed human civilization, appears destined to come down to one man's application of the English language — and the public's comprehension of it. It has turned the rote job of transcribing into a high-stakes calling.

Trump's crimes against clarity are multifarious: He often speaks in long, run-on sentences, with frequent asides. He pauses after subordinate clauses. He frequently quotes people saying things that aren't actual quotes. And he repeats words and phrases, sometimes with slight variations, in the same sentence.

Some in the media (Washington Post, Salon, Slate, Think Progress, etc.) have called Trump’s speeches “word salad.” Some commentators have even attributed his language use to “early Alzheimer’s,” citing “erratic behavior” and “little regards for social conventions.” I don’t believe it.


2016aug24 trumpaliensPhotoshop of Donald Trump and his friends.  (Photo: IoSonoUnaFotoCamera)

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Oh, how the mainstream corporate media loves to roll out their templated coverage of elections every four years. This "coverage" has everything to do with personality, sports analogies and scripted timelines. And as we've pointed out in recent commentaries for the post-convention summer coverage, the mass media loves to push the candidates toward a so-called "reset" of their campaigns, a few months ahead of the general election. In this scenario, the candidates "pivot" in order to "stay on message," moving toward the mythical "center" of the voting public, which is chockfull of the often-mentioned "independent voters."

These clichéd and lazy journalistic conventions allow reporters to create a political process that is not only ridiculously predictable, but is also a betrayal of any commitment to an exploration of real public policy options.

In short, the mass media is a bit distressed because instead of rewriting articles from campaigns past, they are actually having to try to explain how Trump has managed to go through many short-lived pivots. It must be frustrating to the elite political scribes that Trump appears to be going through a revolving door and ending right back where he started, as a bully, bigoted, authoritarian narcissist.

After all, how could Trump be "pivoting" to the center when his new campaign head is Stephen Bannon, CEO of what is known as the alt-right Breitbart News (until he joined the Trump campaign)? From the beginning, Trump has been in line with the alt-right movement: openly misogynist, Islamophobic, anti-LGBTQ, anti-immigrant and authoritarian.


Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

20161aug23 polarbears

The Arctic's Baffin Bay and Davis Strait region is home to seals, bowhead whales, polar bears and up to 90 percent of the world's narwhals. The area's marine waters also provide habitat for 116 species of fish, such as Arctic char, an important dietary staple for Nunavut's Inuit communities.

Although the area is crucial to Inuit for hunting and other traditional activities, the federal government has approved underwater seismic blasting by a consortium of energy companies. They plan to fire underwater cannons from boats to map the ocean floor for oil and gas deposits, in preparation for offshore drilling.

The blasting, approved by Canada's National Energy Board in 2014, is meeting fierce opposition. Alower court affirmed the NEB decision in 2015, claiming Inuit were adequately consulted on the project—something Inuit dispute. To prevent destruction of their hunting grounds, the remote hamlet of Clyde River in Nunavut and the Nammautaq Hunters and Trappers Organizationappealed to the Supreme Court of Canada, which agreed to hear the case later this year. A positive decision could halt seismic blasting and affirm the right of Indigenous peoples to decide their own future regarding resource development in their territories, which is central to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, of which Canada is a signatory.


Modok(Photo: Eric Powell)During the Republican Party primaries, when Donald Trump skipped a debate to hold a fundraiser for veterans, one of the mega-wealthy people he touted from the stage that evening was Isaac “Ike” Perlmutter, the CEO of Marvel Comics, and a big Trump supporter, who had given one-million dollars. I don’t know this for a fact, but I’m guessing that Perlmutter may not have been aware that a few months later, Marvel would introduce a new villain to the world; M.O.D.A.A.K. aka Mental Organism Designed As America's King, a thinly disguised version of Trump.

According to The Daily Beast’s Asawin Suebsaeng, in this year’s Spider-Gwen Annual #1, released in late-June, Marvel Comics “officially turned Donald Trump into a supervillain — a xenophobic, orange-haired, Captain-America-hating supervillain who is obsessed with the quality of his hands."

Esquire’s Peter Wade pointed out that “The horrifying monster … shout[s] xenophobic things at innocent people, telling them to get ‘back on your feet, foreign filth!’"

“But have no fear,” Wade notes, “Captain America soon appears to deliver a knock-out punch to Trump-MODAAK and saves America from certain doom, as the monster mutters a final, ‘Must make America—‘ and is destroyed.”

Entertainment Weekly reported that “The character was once known as technician George Tarleton, but he was subjected to horrifying experiments that transformed him into a big-headed being. In the alternate world of Spider-Gwen Annual #1, where Peter Parker’s girlfriend Gwen Stacey was the one bitten by a radioactive spider, Modok too gets an alternate spin.”


Milk 0822wrp(Photo: Stefan Kühn)Illinois Governor Rauner recently cut "Meals on Wheels" for seniors and at-risk youth services. Chicago residents were hit with a nearly 13% property tax increase. Some Chicago public schools could face 2017 cutbacks of an incredible 20 percent.

But six of Illinois' largest corporations together paid ALMOST ZERO state income taxes this year. Full payment of their taxes would have exceeded the $1.1 billion Chicago Public School deficit.

It's much the same around the nation, as 25 of the largest U.S. corporations, with over $150 billion in U.S. profits last year, paid less than 20% in federal taxes, and barely 1% in the state taxes that are vitally important for K-12 education.

Sticking It To Low-Income Mothers

Because of the missing corporate tax revenue, House Republicans have tried to break even by proposing cuts to programs that are essential to mothers and children, such as Centers for Disease Control health programs, family planning, contraception, and -- unbelievably, again! -- food stamps. It is estimated that almost two-thirds of the proposed cuts would largely impact low- and moderate-income families.

At the state level, the suffering residents of Louisiana are facing some of the steepest regressive tax increases, along with cuts to vital programs that investigate child abuse and provide pediatric day care. The maternal death rate rose dramatically in Texas after women's health programs were cut. In Kansas, where a Republican state senator has called Governor Brownback's lowering of taxes on the rich a "train wreck," 2017 cuts are targeting universities, Medicaid recipients, and the Children’s Initiatives Fund.


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I just attended the 31st annual national Veterans for Peace convention here in Berkeley and was truly inspired by the hundreds of vets who attended it, and by their organization's heroic stand for peace.  As one vet put it, "Been there, done that -- war doesn't work."

And while wandering around the grounds of the convention center before the festivities began, I ran into Helen Caldecott, an Australian doctor who has bravely spoken out against the use of nuclear weapons ever since the terrible days of America's Cold War.  I'm not sure what I was expecting that she would look like -- perhaps Super Girl in a cape?  But she was just an ordinary-looking person, like someone you would meet on the street.  Until she started speaking to an audience of 300-plus veterans.  And then her eyes flashed, her voice rang out like a warning bell and her passion came alive.

"I am a pediatrician," she told us, "and if you love this planet, if you love the next generation of babies, you will change the priority of your lives -- because right now, America's top priority seems to be for us to come as close to nuclear war as we possibly can."


2016Aug18 extinctionspeciesThe finishing line for capitalism may be self-extinction. (Photo: Mark Wallace)

Ashley Dawson, author of Extinction: A Radical History, will be featured on Truthout on August 21 in a question and answer about his book. At one point in the interview, he tells Truthout:

Capitalism is predicated on endless expansion. It is a socio-economic system that must grow indefinitely or cease to exist. And it has to grow at a compound rate, leading it to commodify and consume ever-greater portions of the planet at an accelerating velocity. Since we only have one planet, there is clearly a fundamental contradiction between our economic system and the environment upon which it, and all of humanity, ultimately depends. But since capitalism grows in a spatially uneven manner, some people can live obscenely affluent, insulated lives while other people face stark ecological catastrophe. But at some point capitalism will take the entire planet past a point of ecological destruction from which there will be no return, at least on any time scale that is meaningful for human beings.

Current rates of extinction suggest that we are approaching that point. Looked at in historical perspective, species often go extinct, but, at the same time, new species are also constantly evolving in a process called speciation. At the moment, however, the rate of extinction far exceeds the rate of speciation. Studies suggest that over the last fifty years a shockingly high 40 percent of the world’s flora and fauna have become extinct. And this extinction rate is accelerating.

There is a direct relationship between Dawson's argument, which details the various deleterious forces of capitalism that accelerate species extinction, and Naomi Klein's seminal book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate, on the relationship between runaway global capitalism and unrelenting climate change. Both books emphasize that one of the species that may be headed for elimination from the planet is us: homo sapiens.

2016.18.8 BF Koehler(Photo: Brian Ragsdale)ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

This BuzzFlash commentary was only published thanks to support from readers like you. Click here to make a tax-deductible donation and fund more stories like it!

It's the smallest thing in the world. Does the tennis ball land inside the line or outside? But somehow, as I watched this 60-second YouTube clip of an Australian tennis match last January, and heard an explosion of joyous approval surge from the crowd, I could feel the planet shift.

Or at least it seemed that way for an instant.

In the clip, a tennis player named Jack Sock tells his opponent, Lleyton Hewitt, whose serve has just been declared out, that he should challenge the call. A little humorous disbelief bounces around the court, but eventually Hewitt says, "Sure, I'll challenge it." A judge reviews the tape and declares that the serve was in . . . and the crowd lets loose an enormous cheer.

I felt like I could hear the stunned amazement in it. Hurray for integrity! Hurray for . . . what? It was different from the usual hoots and hollers of "our guy wins" or the polite acknowledgement of "nice play."

Hurray for integrity?

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