Sunday, January 8, 2017

Seaborne Fukushima Radiation Plume Hit West Coast, Corporate Media Reported It Dangerously

 
"It is not a question any more: radiation produces cancer, and the evidence is good all the way down to the lowest doses," says the late Dr. John Gofman, Professor Emeritus at the University of California, Berkley, in his book Nuclear Witnesses: Insiders Speak Out.
On December 12, 2016, EnviroNews USA's own Editor-in-Chief Emerson Urry touched off a firestorm with his news article titled, "It's Finally Here: Radioactive Plume From Fukushima Makes Landfall on America's West Coast," which claimed "medical science and epidemiological studies have demonstrated time and again that there is no safe amount of radiation for a living organism to be subjected to -- period."
In his piece, Urry also exposed other news agencies like NBC, the New York Post, USA Today and The Inquisitr, catching them with their pants down, in the act of repeating the false assertions of the U.S. and Canadian researchers, telling people not to worry about the recently detected low amounts of cesium 134 found in salmon, and that the levels were within "safe" or "accepted" thresholds for human health. [EDITOR'S NOTE: Emerson Urry recused himself from all editorial duties on this news story.]
Thom Hartmann picked up the article by Urry and read it on his show. Then Hartmann offered up his own journalistic explanation on how radiation works, and addressed the problem with the proclamation that there is a "safe" level of radiation to consume or be exposed to.
"As the element is decaying it is throwing off radiation, and the radiation, if it hits the DNA in the nucleolus and the nucleus of a cell, can alter that DNA in ways that can produce things like cancer," Hartmann said. "Now it can also cause simply the cell to die or it can mutate the cell in all kinds of other weird ways, and so it's kind of a numbers game. If you irradiate a million cells... you might get two or three that become cancerous. That's all it takes, right? You've got cancer," Hartmann continued in his video report. "The cesium could cause no cancer, or it could cause cancer in the first cell it irradiates. To say that there is a safe level of radiation is frankly wrong. It's just wrong."
VIDEO: THOM HARTMANN REPORTS ON ENVIRONEWS OREGON'S ARTICLE ON FUKUSHIMA PLUME HITTING AMERICA'S WEST COAST

Urry said later in a statement, "It's one thing for the media to regurgitate trivial facts on trivial matters, but to blindly repeat that consuming low levels of radiation is 'safe,' is irresponsible reporting and borders on dangerous. News editors should take care to do their due diligence on a matter as serious as leading readers to believe consuming any amount of radiation is 'safe' when medical science and epidemiology, dating back 50 years to the present, have demonstrated repeatedly that that's just not true. Even the smallest exposures increase the risk of cancer to the subject."
According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry's (ATSDR) report titled, "Public Health Statement for Cesium" from 2004, "stable and radioactive cesium can enter your body from the food you eat or the water you drink, from the air you breathe, or from contact with your skin. When you eat, drink, breathe, or touch things containing cesium compounds that can easily be dissolved in water, cesium enters your blood and is carried to all parts of your body… No known taste or odor is associated with cesium compounds."
Cesium is similar enough to potassium that it can fool the body. This results in its bioaccumulation. When cesium enters the biological system of a fish, which is then eaten by a larger fish, the larger fish becomes contaminated. As the larger fish eats more, it becomes more contaminated. The cesium accumulates in its body. When a person eats that fish, he or she also ingests the cesium that hasn't decayed or been excreted. The more seafood that person eats, the more radioactive material he or she will be exposed to.
The researchers who discovered the cesium recently also made the mistake of equating the dangers of consuming seaborne isotopes to that of receiving an x-ray, missing the point entirely that ingested or inhaled "internal particle emitters" are known to be especially hazardous.
"Consuming food containing radionuclides is particularly dangerous. If an individual ingests or inhales a radioactive particle, it continues to irradiate the body as long as it remains radioactive and stays in the body," said Dr. Alan Lockwood, MD in an article on Fox News Health.
"Children are much more susceptible to the effects of radiation and stand a much greater chance of developing cancer than adults," said Andrew Kanter, MD, President of the Board for Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) in that same Fox News Health article. "So it is particularly dangerous when they consume radioactive food or water."
Those who might expect the government to protect them from contamination by radiation have only to look at the downwinder situation in Utah or the consequences of Gofman's research in the late 1960s. According to Gofman's obituary in the L.A. Times, "Gofman and his colleague at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Arthur R. Tamplin, developed data in 1969 showing that the risk from low doses of radiation was 20 times higher than stated by the government. Their publication of the data, despite strong efforts to censor it, led them to lose virtually all of their research funding and, eventually, their positions at the government laboratory." Their conclusions were for the most part, later validated.
"There is no safe level of radionuclide exposure, whether from food, water or other sources, period," said Jeff Patterson, DO, immediate past President of PSR, in late March of 2011 in the immediate aftermath of the meltdowns. "Exposure to radionuclides, such as iodine 131 and cesium 137, increases the incidence of cancer. For this reason, every effort must be taken to minimize the radionuclide content in food and water."
"There is no safe dose of radiation," says Prof. Edward P. Radford, Physician and Epidemiologist as quoted by GreenMedInfo.
In an email to EnviroNews, nuclear expert Arnie Gundersen said Japan had raised the maximum allowable exposure by 20 times the previous number for civilians to be able to return to their homes. The U.S. and the EPA have considered such plans in the case of a nuclear accident. In food, the U.S. has an allowable dosage of radiation that is 12 times what Japan allows.
"Corporations get the benefit, civilians take the risk," Gundersen wrote.
While Urry and Hartmann have sounded the alarm, there remain unanswered questions that desperately need to be resolved. Who will clean up the contamination in the food chain? How much radiation exposure will governments continue to say is safe in spite of the medical research? How can people trust what's on their plate and in their corporate owned media?

Life on Earth is Dying. Thousands of Species Cease to Exist


On the day that you read this article, 200 species of life on Earth (plants, birds, animals, fish, amphibians, insects, reptiles) will cease to exist. Tomorrow, another 200 species will vanish forever.

The human onslaught to destroy life on Earth is unprecedented in Earth’s history. Planet Earth is now experiencing its sixth mass extinction event and Homo sapiens sapiens is the cause. Moreover, this mass extinction event is accelerating and is so comprehensive in its impact that the piecemeal measures being taken by the United Nations, international agencies and governments constitute a tokenism that is breathtaking in the extreme.

And it is no longer the case that mainly ‘invisible’ species are vanishing: those insects, amphibians and small animals about which you had never even heard, assuming they have been identified and given a name by humans.

You and I are on the brink of driving to extinction some of the most iconic species alive today. For a photo gallery of threatened species, some of which are ‘critically endangered’, see ‘World’s wildlife being pushed to the edge by humans – in pictures’.

If you want to read more about some aspects of the extinction threat, you can do so in these recent reports: ‘World Wildlife Crime Report: Trafficking in protected species’ and ‘2016 Living Planet Report’  which includes these words: ‘The main statistic from the report … shows a 58% decline between 1970 and 2012. This means that, on average, animal populations are roughly half the size they were 42 years ago.’

And if you want to read just one aspect of what is happening in the world’s oceans, this recent UN report will give you something to ponder: ‘New UN report finds marine debris harming more than 800 species, costing countries millions’. 


Of course, some of what is happening is related to the ongoing climate catastrophe and there isn’t any good news on that front. See ‘What’s Happening in the Arctic is Astonishing’.

But not everything that is going badly wrong is well known either. Did you know that we are destroying the Earth’s soil? See ‘Only 60 Years of Farming Left If Soil Degradation Continues’.

And did you realise that even nitrogen is now a huge problem too? See ‘Scientists shine a spotlight on the overlooked menace of nitrogen’.

Of course, military violence has devastating consequences on the Earth’s ecosystems too, destroying land, water and atmosphere (not to mention killing human beings) in the fight over resources. You will get no joy from the article ‘Iraq’s oil inferno – government inaction in the face of eco-terrorism’ or the website of the Toxic Remnants of War Project. 

But every single aspect of military spending is ultimately used to destroy. It has no other function.

While 2.5 billion human beings do not have enough to eat. See ‘One in three people suffers malnutrition at global cost of $3.5 trillion a year’

As you read all this, you might say ‘Not me’! But you are wrong. You don’t have to be an impoverished African driven to killing elephants for their tusks so that you can survive yourself. You don’t have to be a farmer who is destroying the soil with synthetic poisons. You don’t have to be a soldier who kills and destroys or a person who works for a corporation that, one way to another, forces peasants off their land.

You just have to be an ‘ordinary’ person who pays your military taxes and consumes more than your share of world resources while participating without challenge in the global system of violence and exploitation managed by the global elite.

‘Why is this?’ you might ask.

This is because the primary driver of the human-induced mass extinction is not such things as some people hunting a particular lifeform to extinction, horrendous though this is. In fact, just two things drive most species over the edge: our systematic destruction of land habitat – forests, grasslands, wetlands, peatlands, mangroves… – in our endless effort to capture more of the Earth’s wild places for human use (whether it be residential, commercial, mining, farming or military) and our destruction of waterways and the ocean habitat by dumping into them radioactive contaminants, carbon dioxide, a multitude of poisons and chemical pollutants, and even plastic.

And do you know what drives this destruction of land and water habitats? Your demand for consumer products, all of which are produced by using land and water habitats, and the resources derived from them, often far from where you live. The most basic products, such as food and clothing, are produced on agricultural land, sometimes created by destroying rainforests, or taken from the ocean (where overfishing has savagely depleted global fish stocks). But in using these resources, we have ignored the needs of the land, oceans and the waterways for adequate regenerative inputs and recovery time.

We also participate, almost invariably without question or challenge, in the inequitable distribution of resources that compels some impoverished people to take desperate measures to survive through such means as farming marginal land or killing endangered wildlife.

So don’t sit back waiting for some miracle by the United Nations, international agencies or governments to solve this problem. It cannot happen for the simple reason that these organizations are all taking action within the existing paradigm that prioritizes corporate profit and military violence over human equity and ecological sustainability.

Despite any rhetoric to the contrary, they are encouraging overconsumption by industrialized populations and facilitating the inequitable distribution of income and wealth precisely because this benefits those who control these organizations, agencies and governments: the insane corporate elites who are devoid of the capacity to see any value beyond the ‘bottom line’. See ‘The Global Elite is Insane’. 

If you want action on the greatest challenge human beings have ever faced – to avert our own extinction by learning to live in harmony with our biosphere and equity with our fellow humans – then I encourage you to take personal responsibility.

If you do, you need to act. At the simplest level, you can make some difficult but valuable personal choices. Like becoming a vegan or vegetarian, buying/growing organic/biodynamic food, and resolutely refusing to use any form of poison or to drive a car or take an airline flight.

But if you want to take an integrated approach, the most powerful way you can do this is to systematically reduce your own personal consumption while increasing your self-reliance. Anita McKone and I have mapped out a fifteen-year strategy for doing this in ‘The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth’.

You might also consider signing the online pledge of ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World’ which obviously includes nonviolence towards our fellow species.

One of the hidden tragedies of modern human existence is that we have been terrorized into believing that we are not personally responsible. See ‘The Delusion “I Am Not Responsible”‘.


It isn’t true but few people feel powerful enough to make a difference.

And every time you decide to do nothing and to leave it to someone else, you demonstrate why no-one else should do anything either.

Extinction beckons. What will you do?

Defying Donald Trump’s Kleptocracy

Go To Original

The final stages of capitalism, Karl Marx predicted, would be marked by global capital being unable to expand and generate profits at former levels. Capitalists would begin to consume the government along with the physical and social structures that sustained them. Democracy, social welfare, electoral participation, the common good and investment in public transportation, roads, bridges, utilities, industry, education, ecosystem protection and health care would be sacrificed to feed the mania for short-term profit. These assaults would destroy the host. This is the stage of late capitalism that Donald Trump represents.

Trump plans to oversee the last great campaign of corporate pillaging of America. It will be as crass and brazen as the fleecing of the desperate people, hoping for a miracle in the face of dead-end jobs and ruinous personal debt, who visited his casinos or shelled out thousands of dollars for the sham of Trump University. He will attempt to unleash a kleptocracy—the word comes from the Greek klépto, meaning thieves, and kratos, meaning rule, so it is literally “rule by thieves”—one that will rival the kleptocracies carried out by Suharto in Indonesia and Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines. It is not that Trump and his family will use the influence of government to increase their wealth, although this will certainly take place on a massive scale; it is that hundreds of billions of federal dollars will be diverted into the hands of cronies, sleazy bankers, unethical financial firms and scabrous hedge fund managers. The pillars of the liberal state will be obliterated.

The only possibility for halting the destruction being designed by the Trump transition team is sustained resistance and civil disobedience that will create popular pressure for impeachment. This is why I will be at the march in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 21 and speak that evening at a rally with Kshama Sawant and Jill Stein.

Trump is impulsive, ignorant and inept. His corruption and greed are so unfettered he may become a burden and embarrassment to his party and the nation, as well as a danger to himself. The longer he stumbles in the unfamiliar corridors of governmental power the more vulnerable he becomes. But if we are not in the streets to hold the system accountable he may be able to cling to power and inflict significant damage.

Laurence Tribe, a professor of constitutional law at Harvard Law School, has argued that Trump could be impeached under the Constitution’s emoluments clause. This clause prohibits a federal officeholder from receiving from a foreign power anything of value that could compromise the exclusive loyalty owed to the Constitution. Trump’s global businesses make him vulnerable, Tribe argues, to foreign pressure from countries where he has assets. “Trump’s continued interest in the Trump Organization and his steady stream of monetary and other benefits from foreign powers put him on a collision course with the emoluments clause,” Tribe wrote in The Guardian.

If, however, we suffer another catastrophic domestic terrorist attack or launch a new war, the political space to examine and prosecute Trump and remove him from office will disappear. The rhetoric from the Oval Office will become bloodcurdling. The security and surveillance state will go into hyperdrive. Any dissent, including mere criticism of the president, will be attacked as helping our enemies. Trump and his kleptocrats, under the familiar cover of national security and war, will transform huge sums of government money into personal assets.

The Trump transition team is busy anointing its coterie of kleptocrats. The appointment of Betsy DeVos (from a family with a net worth in excess of $5 billion) to become secretary of education means she will oversee the more than $70 billion spent annually on the Department of Education. DeVos—the sister of Eric Prince, who founded the notorious private security firm Blackwater Worldwide—has no direct experience as an educator. She promoted a series of for-profit charter schools in Michigan that make money but have had dismal academic results. She sees vouchers as an effective tool to funnel government money into schools run by the Christian right. Her goal is to indoctrinate, not educate. She calls education reform a way to “advance God’s kingdom.”Trump has already proposed using $20 billion of the department’s budget for vouchers. The American system of public education, already crippled by funding cuts, will be destroyed if Trump and DeVos succeed.

The Department of Veterans Affairs spends $152.7 billion a year on veterans’ benefits that include general health care and treatment in VA hospitals. Last week Trump publicly weighed allowing veteransto use the for-profit health care system. Cleveland Clinic CEO Toby Cosgrove (annual salary $2.3 million) is one of the front-runners to head the VA.

“I’ve been saying we have to take care of our vets,” Trump told reporters Wednesday at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Fla. “We are working on something to make it great for our veterans because they are treated very, very unfairly.”

“We think we have to have kind of a public-private option, because some vets love the VA,” he added. “Definitely an option on the table to have a system where potentially vets can choose either/or or all private.”

Rep. Tom Price, a Georgia Republican (net worth $13 million), has been selected by Trump to be secretary of health and human services. He plans to abolish Obamacare. He said he expects the House to push for Medicare privatization “within the first six to eight months” of the Trump administration.

Steve Mnuchin (net worth $40 million), a former partner at Goldman Sachs and the president-elect’s choice to lead the Department of the Treasury, told Fox Business that “getting Fannie and Freddieout of government ownership” is one of the Trump administration’s top 10 priorities. This is also the stated goal of Trump’s choice for budget director, Rep. Mick Mulvaney (net worth $3 million), a Republican from South Carolina.

The privatization of the government-backed mortgages would see financial institutions authorized to issue mortgage-backed securities that carry a government guarantee. If the mortgages failed under the privatization scheme, the taxpayer would foot the bill. If the mortgages succeeded, the banks would get the profit. The privatization plan amounts to the institutionalization of the 2008 government bailout for big banks. It could cost the taxpayer billions.

The biggest pot of gold is the $2.79 trillion contained in or owed to the Social Security fund. The kleptocrats will work hard under Trump to divert this money into the hands of hucksters and crooks on Wall Street. Tom Leppert (net worth $12 million), the former mayor of Dallas, whom Trump is expected to name to head the Social Security Administration, not surprisingly advocates the privatization of Social Security and Medicare. The infusion of this kind of liquidity into an overheated stock market would probably bring on a crash that would evaporate perhaps as much as 40 percent of the Social Security fund, rendering it insolvent.

“I will never shy away from any issue, even the so-called ‘third rail’ of entitlement reform,” Leppert wrote about privatizing Social Security as he campaigned for the Texas Senate in 2012. “Talk to any young person today, and they will tell you Social Security and Medicare won’t be there for their generation. To preserve these vital programs, we first and foremost must not change anything for those ages 55 and older. These folks rely on their benefits and we’ve made a promise to them. But for younger workers, we need to provide Medicare subsidies for the purchase of certified private plans, raise the retirement age, encourage greater retirement savings, and launch an initiative of Personal Retirement Accounts to allow every American, not just the wealthy, to save and invest toward their retirement. Make no mistake—if we don’t act now, these programs will go bankrupt. The simple fact in this debate is that people who oppose reform are the ones who want to destroy our entitlement system.”

He went on to call for abolishing Medicare. “This would be gradually phased-in over time and would not affect anyone currently over the age of 55,” he wrote. “For younger individuals, when they reach retirement, they will receive a subsidy from the federal government that will allow them to purchase certified coverage plans. Those with the lowest incomes would receive more funds from vouchers and would be eligible for additional Medicaid coverage.”

Social services and government programs under Trump will be continually degraded. Profits for those who oversee privatized educational, health and Social Security funds will skyrocket. This orgy of predation—the dream of the 1 percent—will be accompanied by further austerity among the citizenry, along with soaring personal costs for health care, utilities and basic services and a crippling debt peonage.

We will not have a champion in the Democratic Party’s Senate minority leadership, headed by the party’s slicked-up version of Trump, Sen. Chuck Schumer (net worth $700,000). Schumer sits on the Senate Finance Committee, whose members are loyal and well-compensated allies of the 1 percent, and he is a member of the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee. His chief role in the party has been to raise millions of dollars from Wall Street for the party, himself and party candidates including his friend and protégé, the now disgraced Anthony Weiner, a former member of the House.

Schumer’s donors and allies include hedge fund moguls Steven Cohen (net worth $13 billion), John Paulson (net worth $8.6 billion), Stanley Druckenmiller (net worth $4.4 billion), Paul Tudor Jones (net worth $4.3 billion), Paul Singer (net worth $2.2 billion) and James Chanos (net worth $1.5 billion) and Donald Trump (net worth $3.7 billion).

Schumer is the senator-of-choice for Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and Citigroup. Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns, before they collapsed in 2008, lavishly funded his campaigns. Schumer joined with Republicans in 1999 to repeal the Glass-Steagall Act, which had created walls between investment and commercial banks. This repeal set the stage for the 2008 global financial crisis. Schumer voted to bail out Wall Street in 2008. He sponsored an amendment that barred the Securities and Exchange Commission from overseeing credit rating agencies, such as Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s Investors Service.

Schumer, like Trump, is addicted to his own celebrity. He, like Trump, believes that politics is fundamentally about public relations. This is why he trots out Bernie Sanders, his new “chair of outreach” for Senate Democrats, to stand behind him like a store mannequin at press conferences.

America has only one genuine political party. It is the corporate party. Schumer and Trump are charter members. They will work together—as Trump has predicted—as a well-oiled wrecking crew.

Trump’s illiteracy, lack of self-discipline and insatiable greed are profound faults. He does not listen to others. He is cursed with a self-destructive ego and unbridled narcissism. He cares nothing for the law. And he usually acts on impulse. But Trump will not be toppled unless we rise up in sustained protests to defy his racism, misogyny, religious bigotry and wanton plunder. If he is impeached and convicted, it will slow, although not halt, the corporate state’s disemboweling of America. And that, for now, is probably our best hope for the new year.

U.S. Special Operations Numbers Surge in Africa’s Shadow Wars


Africa has seen the most dramatic growth in the deployment of America’s elite troops of any region of the globe over the past decade, according to newly released numbers.

In 2006, just 1% of commandos sent overseas were deployed in the U.S. Africa Command area of operations. In 2016, 17.26% of all U.S. Special Operations forces — Navy SEALs and Green Berets among them — deployed abroad were sent to Africa, according to data supplied to The Intercept by U.S. Special Operations Command. That total ranks second only to the Greater Middle East where the U.S. is waging war against enemies in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen.

“In Africa, we are not the kinetic solution,” Brigadier General Donald Bolduc, the chief of U.S. Special Operations Command Africa, told African Defense, a U.S. trade publication, early this fall. “We are not at war in Africa — but our African partners certainly are.”

That statement stands in stark contrast to this year’s missions in Somalia where, for example, U.S. Special Operations forces assisted local commandos in killing several members of the militant group, al-Shabab and Libya, where theysupported local fighters battling members of the Islamic State. These missions also speak to the exponential growth of special operations on the continent.

As recently as 2014, there were reportedly only about 700 U.S. commandos deployed in Africa on any given day. Today, according to Bolduc, “there are approximately 1,700 [Special Operations forces] and enablers deployed… at any given time. This team is active in 20 nations in support of seven major named operations.”

Using data provided by Special Operations Command and open source information, The Intercept found that U.S. special operators were actually deployed in at least 33 African nations, more than 60% of the 54 countries on the continent, in 2016.

Map-7-03
Special Operations Forces deployments in 33 African countries in 2016. Map: The Intercept
 
“We’re supporting African military professionalization and capability-building efforts,” said Bolduc. “The [Special Operations forces] network helps create specific tailored training for partner nations to empower military and law enforcement to conduct operations against our mutual threats.”
 
The majority of African governments that hosted deployments of U.S. commandos in 2016 have seen their own security forces cited for human rights abuses by the U.S. State Department, including Algeria, Botswana, Burkina Faso,Burundi, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Kenya, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, and Tanzania, among others.

According to data provided to The Intercept by Special Operations Command, elite U.S. troops are also deployed to Sudan, one of three nations, along with Iran and Syria, cited by the U.S. as “state sponsors of terrorism.”

“U.S. [Special Operations forces] have occasionally met with U.S. State Dept. and interagency partners in Sudan to discuss the overall security situation in the region,” Africa Command spokesperson Chuck Prichard wrote in an email.

Special Operations Command spokesman Ken McGraw added, “Their visit had nothing to do with Sudan’s government or military.”

Friday, December 30, 2016

No “Peace on Earth” in 2016

Go To Original
“Peace on Earth, and goodwill to men”—so goes the line of an oft-sung Christmas carol. The end-of-the-year holidays are a season in which such sentiments are generally expressed, genuinely by broad sections of the population, with utmost cynicism and hypocrisy by various figures in the political establishment.
The actual trajectory of world politics, however, was perhaps best reflected in a tweet from the soon-to-be president of the United States. “The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability,” Trump declared on Thursday. This was followed by a statement from MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski on Friday: “Let it be an arms race. We will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all.”
The statements from Trump, part of an exchange with Russian President Vladimir Putin, in which both men boasted of the nuclear arsenals of their respective countries, seems like a fitting close to a year of bloodshed.
In 2016, large portions of the globe were engulfed in military conflict. And those states that were nominally at peace spent their time preparing for war and mistreating refugees from armed conflict.
Although definitive figures have not yet been released, at least 150,000 people have been killed in armed conflicts throughout the world in 2016. There were three “major wars,” with a 2016 death toll of over 100,000:
 The Syrian civil war, in which 46,442 people were reportedly killed this year. Since the US began backing the Islamist insurgency in 2011, up to 470,000 people have died. The war has forced 4.9 million people to flee abroad and displaced 6.6 million people within Syria itself.
 The Iraq war, in which 23,584 people were killed this year. Since the United States invaded the country in 2003, more than a million people have died. As of November, 3.1 million people were internally displaced in the country, and millions more had fled abroad.
 The war in Afghanistan, in which 21,932 people were killed this year. Since the United States began providing arms to the Mujahedeen, the predecessor of Al Qaeda, in 1978, more than two million people have been killed in that country, which was torn apart by the 2001 invasion and occupation.
These three conflicts accounted for two-thirds of global deaths in military conflicts. They have also led to a refugee crisis unparalleled in scale since World War II. According to the United Nations, there were 65.3 million displaced people at the end of 2015, up by 5 million since 2014, and by nearly 25 million since 2011.
The surge in refugees, together with their increasingly cruel treatment by destination countries, has led to the highest number of refugee deaths ever recorded by the International Organization for Migration.
Some 7,100 refugees died last year, up from 5,740 in 2015. Half of the fatalities took place as refugees sought to enter Europe across the Mediterranean Sea from war and devastation in the Middle East and North Africa.
This year, Europe shut its doors to refugees. The EU agreed to pay Turkey to serve as the gatekeeper of Europe and block refugees from entering, as it militarized its border patrol and deployed the navies of its member countries to stop “people smuggling.”
This change is best exemplified by Germany, the region’s most powerful state, which is rapidly militarizing as it asserts itself as the dominant European power. While Chancellor Angela Merkel hypocritically proclaimed a “welcoming culture” toward refugees in 2015, this month she adopted large sections of the program of the fascistic Alternative for Germany, calling for a ban on the full-face veil and demanding a further crackdown on refugees.
Beyond the “hot wars” of Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, the drive of the US to militarily encircle China has poured fuel on the world’s regional flashpoints. This year, nearly 300 people died in raids and shelling over the border between India and Pakistan, both nuclear-armed powers. Meanwhile military tensions between North and South Korea, which also threaten escalation into nuclear war, have dramatically intensified.
A quarter century of unending and expanding war is reaching a new and even more explosive stage. Beginning with the first Gulf War of 1991, which directly preceded the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the United States has sought, through a succession of adventures abroad, to reverse its long-term economic decline.
Obama will leave office as the first US president to serve two full terms under continuous war. He will go down in history as the man who proclaimed the right of the president to assassinate US citizens without due process, and who personally authorized drone “hits” that led to the deaths of thousands of people.
These unending wars, however, have failed to achieve their desired end. Over the past fifteen years, China has tripled its share of the world export market, while America’s share of exports has declined. US military operations, from Iraq to Afghanistan to Libya, have turned into quagmires and debacles. The defeat of the CIA’s Islamist proxies in Syria this month has hammered home the failure of the United States to impose its will upon the Middle East and the world.
But only a fool would believe that these failures will turn America’s warmongering ruling elite into pacifists. Rather, they have led the American ruling class to focus ever more directly on its larger competitors.
The inauguration of Donald Trump will mark a new phase in global conflict. Trump’s provocations against China and his declaration that he welcomes a new arms race with Russia are only the initial indications of the lengths to which his administration is prepared to go to preserve the interests of the American oligarchy.
The year 2017, the centenary of the Russian revolution of 1917, will once again place the struggle against war as the highest and most urgent political task facing mankind.

The United States of Inequality

Go To Original
Earlier this month, economists Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman, leading experts on global inequality, released a groundbreaking study on the growth of income inequality in the United States between 1946 and 2016.
While the economists’ earlier studies made substantial advances in documenting inequality in the United States, the most unequal developed country in the world, this is the first survey claiming to “capture 100 percent of national income,” including the impact of taxation, social programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, and income from capital gains.
The result is a fuller picture of social inequality in the United States than any previous attempts. The conclusions are staggering, revealing that over the course of the past four decades there has occurred one of the most rapid upward redistributions of income in modern history.
The economists found that the pre-tax share of national income received by the bottom half of the US population has been cut nearly in half since 1980, from 20 percent to 12 percent, while the income share of the top one percent has nearly doubled, from 12 percent to 20 percent. “The two groups have basically switched their income shares,” the authors note, “with 8 points of national income transferred from the bottom 50 percent to the top 1 percent.”
The study documents a sharp change between 1946-1980 and 1980 to the present. In the first period, the pre-tax incomes of the bottom 50 percent of earners more than doubled, growing by 102 percent, while the incomes of the top 1 percent increased by only 47 percent and the top 0.001 percent by 57 percent.
Since 1980, however, the incomes of the bottom 50 percent of earners have stagnated at about $16,000 a year (in current dollars), while the incomes of the top 1 percent have grown by 205 percent, and the top 0.001 percent by 636 percent.
After accounting for the impact of various tax credits and social programs, the economists found that the incomes of the bottom half of income earners increased by 21 percent since the 1980s. They note, however, that none of this increase has gone into disposable income. Rather, it is almost entirely the result of increased health care payouts from Medicare, which has simply been absorbed by the pharmaceutical giants and insurance companies engaged in price-gouging for vital health care services.
The principal factor in the surge in income inequality, particularly since 2000, has been the growth in “capital income,” that is, the stock market. The inflation of stock market bubbles has been the primary form through which the ruling class and its political representatives have engineered a massive transfer of wealth.
The figures contained in the report by Piketty, Saez and Zucman reflect historical transformations in the structure of American capitalism and class relations in the United States. The colossal growth of social inequality is bound up with the decay of American capitalism and decline in its world economic position.
Historians have often remarked that during its early days, the United States was the most socially egalitarian region of the Western world. The growth of monopolization and finance capital in the latter part of the 19th century transformed America into a land of “robber barons” at one pole and workers and immigrants whose living conditions were exposed in such works as Jacob Riis’ How the Other Half Lives, published in 1890, and Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle of 1906.
But along with these processes came the growth of the workers’ movement, which, largely through the efforts of socialists, fought to organize the American working class across its myriad ethnic, religious and regional divisions. The Russian Revolution of 1917 gave new impetus to these struggles, including the militant labor actions of the 1930s that led to the formation of the industrial unions.
The American ruling class, alarmed by the prospect that American workers would follow the example set by the Bolsheviks, and having at its disposal the economic might of the world’s largest and most advanced industrial economy, set out on a program of social reform exemplified by President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, which introduced Social Security and curbed the worst abuses of Wall Street.
The United States emerged from the Second World War as the dominant global power, commanding more than 50 percent of world economic output. By the late 1960s, however, the economic domination of American capitalism began to decline, as the economies of Europe and Asia were rebuilt. A series of economic and political crises culminated in the combination of economic stagnation and inflation of the 1970s.
The US ruling class responded by embarking on a policy of class war, deindustrialization and financialization. With President Jimmy Carter’s appointment of Paul Volcker to head the Federal Reserve in 1979, the US central bank threw the United States into a manufactured recession. After coming to power in 1981, Ronald Reagan launched a full-scale social counterrevolution, initiated by the breaking of the PATCO air traffic controllers’ strike and firing and blacklisting of the strikers. Similar policies were pursued by the ruling classes throughout the world.
The trade unions played a vital role in facilitating this offensive, isolating and betraying every attempt at resistance by the working class throughout the 1980s and incorporating themselves into the structure of corporate management and the state. By the end of the decade, the unions had transformed themselves, for all practical purposes, into arms of the companies and the government. The bureaucratic elites that dominated them devoted all their efforts to suppressing and sabotaging working class struggle.
Every subsequent administration, Democratic and Republican alike, has pursued policies that promote social inequality, including successive rounds of financial deregulation, repeated tax cuts for corporations and top income earners, the slashing of social programs, and the elimination of workplace protections.
After the 2008 financial crisis, the Obama administration accelerated these processes. The White House continued and expanded the bank bailouts initiated under the Bush administration and helped funnel trillions of dollars to Wall Street through the Federal Reserve’s “quantitative easing” programs, while working, as in the 2009 auto restructuring, to slash wages.
Under the incoming administration of President-elect Trump, the offensive against the working class will sharply intensify. The election of Trump represents something new. He has staffed his cabinet with billionaires, far-right, pro-business ideologues, and generals—all of them dedicated to the impoverishment of the working class and the ever more violent suppression of popular opposition.
But Trump does not emerge from nowhere. He is not some aberration. Rather, he is the noxious culmination of the decay of American capitalism, growth of unprecedented levels of social inequality and collapse of American democracy.