Ralph Nader: Questions, Questions Where are the Answers?

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By Ralph Nader  In the Public Interest  September 18, 2018

 

In an oft-reported exchange between Gertrude Stein, an American widely known for her wisdom and glittering 1920s Parisian literary salon, and one of her earnest admirers, the admirer asked her – “What are the answers, Madame Stein?” She replied “What are the questions?”

Within our media/political/corporate culture of self-censorship and taboo topics, we should restate Ms. Stein’s rejoinder—what are the questions of gravity and relevance that are chronically unasked?

Here are some questions that should be asked, until answered!

  1. Why are Supreme Court nominees, including Judge Brett Kavanaugh, not asked by the Senate Judiciary Committee about corporate crime, tyrannical, one-sided fine print contracts, weakened tort law and U.S. violations of constitutional and international law affecting all Americans?”
  2. Why do reporters and elected and regulatory officials decline to ask questions about peer-reviewed studies concluding a minimum of 250,000 Americans are losing their lives every year due to preventable problems in hospitals? (see Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine’s May 2016 report). Five thousand fatalities a week on the average plus many more preventable injuries and illnesses should be an ongoing subject of urgent inquiry for action.
  3. Computerized billing fraud is rampant. Last year in the health care industry alone, computerized billing fraud amounted to about $350 billion dollars. The leading expert, Harvard’s Malcolm Sparrow, and a Congressional GAO report estimate at least 10% of all health expenditures are a result of fraudulent billings. Why aren’t the TV networks, PBS and NPR, and the major newspapers all over this massive ongoing heist?
  4. Sanctions imposed on foreign agencies and personnel are flying out of Washington. What are these sanctions, how are they enforced, are they legal under international law, is there any due process to protect the innocent or indirect victims, and how are they countered? There are regular stories about the U.S. government announcements of sanctions, but no follow-up questions about this burgeoning unilateral foreign policy.
  5. The Taliban is composed of no more than 30,000 to 35,000 fighters without an air force, navy or heavy ground armor. Why are they holding down for over a decade U.S. forces and their allies many times their number, with advanced weaponry, and enlarging their territorial control? Is it because expelling foreign invaders motivates their astonishing determination? And who are all those suicide bombers and what is motivating them to stand in line waiting for the call?
  6. Why has the Congressional scrutiny of the wasteful, unauditable military budget crumbled as never before with the Democrats voting for more money than even Trump initially asked for in the last funding cycle? Over 50 percent of the federal government operating expenses goes to defense? Both parties act as if adequate money for infrastructure repair in this country is nowhere to be found.
  7. Why aren’t the hundreds of full-time reporters covering Congress demanding to know why members, or their staff, routinely do not reply to substantive letters, calls, or e-mails, without constant hammering by citizens? The exception is if you are a campaign donor. Why are Congressional offices often so unavailable during working hours? If you are lucky you can leave a message on the office voicemail. Inside the heavily guarded Russell Senate Office Building, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) even locks the door to his suite of offices.
  8. Similar non-responsiveness holds true with government agencies in the executive branches at the federal and state levels. A group of citizens, including me, has been waiting for months to get a reply from the Justice Department about their request for the Department‘s position on starting a long needed corporate crime database. One would think that newspapers, begging for readers, would do regular, random surveys of these agencies who, after all, work for the people they are shutting out. Small wonder citizens are turned off government when they can’t get through to get answers to their critical inquiries. . .

via Ralph Nader: Questions, Questions Where are the Answers?

The Economic ‘Recovery’ Is Leaving More Than 50 Million Americans Behind

Economic conditions in half of the zip codes in the US have actually worsened since the recovery began.

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For more than half of American communities, the economic “recovery” that has created millions of jobs and pushed GDP growth above 4% during Q2 never happened. Indeed, while urban centers like New York City have created millions of jobs, a study recently highlighted by Axios showed that economic conditions in half of the zip codes in the US have actually worsened since the recovery began.

Among other findings, the Distressed Communities Index highlighted the fact that more than 50 million Americans live in distressed communities, while more than 80 million live in prosperous communities.

The 2017 DCI finds that 52.3 million Americans live in economically distressed communities—the one-fifth of zip codes that score worst on the DCI. That represents one in six Americans, or 17 percent of the U.S. population.

By comparison, 84.8 million Americans live in prosperous communities—the one-fifth of zip codes that score best on the…

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Hidden History: Israel’s Persecution of Jordan Valley Bedouins

The Last Shepherds of the Jordan Valley

Al Jazeera (2012)

Film Review

This documentary depicts the systematic persecution of Bedouin shepherds in the Jordan Valley by the Israeli government. Although their ancestors have farmed the occupied West Bank for thousands of years, Israel is determined to drive these Palestinians from their homeland because the Jordan River is the main source of much of Israel’s water. Since 1997, the Israel Defense Force has routinely demolished their homes, shot their sheep and/or arrested them without charge.

The majority of Palestinians fled the Jordan Valley during the 1967 war. Israel prohibits those who left from returning. Ten thousand remained. Although many of their descendants have been driven out, at present the Jordan Valley is home to 60,000 Palestinians.

The Israeli government has illegally confiscated most of the shepherds’ lands for a military firing range. They have also allowed Israeli settlers to build illegal settlements.

Local families are forbidden to draw water from their own well, which is now deemed the property of the Israeli military.

Instead they must travel 27 km and pay $7 per cubic meter to buy water from Israel.

Since the documentary was first released in 2012, Israel has arrested one of the women for participating in its filming.

The Korean People Alone Must Decide on Their Future

 

A substantial portion of the discussions surrounding the ongoing Korean peace process is centred around issues stemming from the positions of the United States, China, Russia and Japan towards both Korean states. But while the historic relations of Korea with the superpowers including its two superpower neighbours and other members of the wider north east Asian community are relevant to present matters, as a sovereign people, only the Koreans themselves can decide the ultimate course of the peace process. The two existing Korean states should not continue to be artificially separated due to foreign sanctions, threats or diktats and nor should anyone force economic harmonisation against the will of the Korean people, even though it would appear that such models are increasingly favoured in both Pyongyang and Seoul. Instead, any such decisions regarding a peaceful future for Korea must be voluntary on the part of Koreans themselves.

While such sentiments may appear to be self-evident, the history of Korea’s artificial division is demonstrative of the fact that these basic principles were discarded in the 1940s and 50s. After the long Japanese occupation of Korea ended in 1945, the country was split into zones of occupation between the USSR and USA, much as Germany and Austria were split into separate zones of occupation after the Second World War ended in Europe.

As time wore on, the Soviets and Americans could not agree on the best way to implement a Korea wide election that would have established a new post-war government. As a result, rather than continue negotiations between the two superpowers at the newly formed United Nations, UN officials under the heavy influence of Washington instead allowed for a unilateral election to be held only in the US occupied portion of Korea (the south).  What transpired was a deeply controversial election in 1948, one marred by violence where the far-right strongman Syngman Rhee literally attacked leftist activists, voters and organisers in an election described by multiple international observers as deeply unsatisfactory.

Throughout 1948 and 1949, violence continued to foment in the south as rebellions grew against Syngman Rhee’s authoritarian leadership. In 1950, forces of the DPRK which also proclaimed its statehood in 1948, crossed into the south to relieve the Korean freedom fighters of the south, thus beginning a three year long war in Korea during which 2.5 civilians were killed or wounded.

While the Armistice of 1953 solidified the re-divided Korean peninsula with the 38th parallel being the dividing line, in the following year the Geneva Conference was held in order to determine the future of both Korea and French Indochina (the modern states of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia). While the conference was unable to make any progress in respect of Korea, it ironically set the stage for the partition of Vietnam on the 17th parallel with Ho Chi Minh’s communist Vietminh forces controlling the north and the western backed State of  Vietnam led by Ngo Dinh Diem forming in the south after Diem refused to hold countrywide elections- opting only to hold controversial elections in the south, thus repeating the geographically (and ideologically) unilateral approach of Syngman Rhee.

But while Vietnam reunited after 1975, the Korean people remain divided to this day. This is why it is crucial that the failures of the Geneva Conference of 1954 are not repeated in the present day Korean peace process. Since the early 1950s, both Korea states have matured into sovereign nations but nevertheless, the legacy of the division of Korea and the war the followed has led to many international players and the US in particular to seemingly taking for granted the fact that foreigners somehow have a unique role in determining the future of a single Korean race.

The warm embrace shared today between Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in as the South Korean President’s plane landed at Pyongyang’s airport is a helpful reminder that a people divided by foreigners can only be united through discussions and agreements among Koreans from both sides of the border.

Koreans on both sides of the 38th parallel were cheated of their self-determination by the hand of neo-imperialism in the 1940s and it is high time that those who think they can dictate to either Korean state realise that a permanent peace is only possible through ever more frequent north-south dialogue, the kind of which transpired today in Pyongyang.

 

Source: The Korean People Alone Must Decide on Their Future

Congress Members Demand Trump Seek Approval Before Military Action In Syria

The letter is signed by a handful of Republicans including Thomas Massie, Mark Sanford, and Walter Jones, as well as 42 Democrats.

peoples trust toronto

A group of over 40 Congress members have sent President Trump a bipartisan letter reminding him that the US Constitution requires that the president seek Congressional approval before taking military action in Syria or elsewhere. Congressman Justin Amash (R-Mich.) announced via Twitter on Monday that the letter had been sent to the White House.

Ironically Rep. Amash made the announcement just as Monday’s evening’s massive Israeli strike on Syria was underway, which resulted in a downed Russian surveillance plane carrying 14 troops amidst the confusion of missiles flying over the Mediterranean as it was hit by Syrian defense attempting to stave off the attack by Israel. 

While the Pentagon formally denied any US role in the strikes, it was an extremely dangerous situation with yet again the potential for serious escalation between Russia and the US and its allies. 

The letter was signed by a handful of Republicans including Thomas Massie, Mark Sanford, and…

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25 Michigan Senators Sponsor National Popular Vote

25 of Michigan’s 38 state Senators are sponsoring the National Popular Vote bill, including 15 Republicans and 10 Democrats.

The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

3 things to do:

 


<Vermont state Senator Christopher Pearson testifies at Michigan House hearing on National Popular Vote.

 
BACKGROUND
Five out of our 45 Presidents have come into office without receiving the most popular votes nationwide. State winner-take-all laws are the reason why a candidate can win the Presidency without winning the national popular vote.  Under these state laws, all of a state’s electoral votes are awarded to the candidate receiving the most popular votes in each separate state.

A national popular vote for President is an achievable goal that can be in place in time for the 2020 election. The bill has already been enacted into law in 12 states possessing 172 electoral votes (CA, CT, DC, HI, IL, MA, MD, NJ, NY, RI, VT, WA).  It will take effect when enacted by additional states having 98 electoral votes. The bill has previously passed one chamber in 11 states with 89 electoral votes (AR, AZ, CO, DE, ME, MI, NC, NM, NV, OK, OR). A total of 3,155 state legislators have endorsed it.
It does not take an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to change state winner-take-all laws.  State winner-take-all laws were enacted by state legislatures using their authority under Article II of the U.S. Constitution (and may be changed in the same way):
“Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors….”
The winner-take-all method of awarding electoral votes was used by only three states in the nation’s first presidential election in 1789 (and repealed by all three by 1800). It was never debated at the Constitutional Convention, and never mentioned in the Federalist Papers. It did not become predominant until 1880 — almost a century after the U.S. Constitution was written.
Under the National Popular Vote bill, the national popular vote winner will receive all the electoral votes from the enacting states. The bill will take effect when enacted by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes — enough to elect a President (270 of 538).  Then, when the Electoral College meets in mid-December, the national popular vote winner will become President because the enacting states will represent at least 270 electoral votes. Thus, the Electoral College will represent the will of the voters in all 50 states (and DC).
Here are some other things you might do to help make sure that the President elected in 2020 is the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and DC.
  • Please share the National Popular Vote home page (www.NationalPopularVote.com) with your friends on Facebook or other social networks.  Please ask your friends to tell their state legislators to support the National Popular Vote bill in their state using our convenient email system.
  • Visit your state legislators at their local office or state capitol office to emphasize your support. Or, phone them. You can look up their office address, phone, and web address by entering your zip code and address at www.NationalPopularVote.com/write and then clicking on “contact info for my legislators and officials.”
  • Learn more about National Popular Vote from short videos.
  • Learn more about National Popular Vote from chapter 9 of our book Every Vote Equal: A State-Based Plan for Electing the President by National Popular Vote.  The entire book is free to read or download.
  • Contribute to National Popular Vote  The National Popular Vote organization employs lobbyists in numerous states as well as its own traveling representatives to help pass the bill.

Thank you.

Dr. John R. Koza, Chair
National Popular Vote

Source: http://myemail.constantcontact.com/25-of-38-Michigan-Senators-sponsor-National-Popular-Vote.html?soid=1116971938310&aid=48-lbRRh2gA

News Pictures – Putin and Erdogan agree to set up a ‘demilitarised zone’ in Idlib

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said that the agreement between Putin and Erdogan meant that no military action would be taken against Idlib.

News Exc Celebrity

Article and photos from hienalouca.com

The presidents of Russia and Turkey said Monday they had agreed to create a ‘demilitarised zone’ around Syria‘s Idlib, in a move aimed at preventing a military assault on the rebel-held province.

‘We have decided to create a demilitarised zone some 15 to 20 kilometres deep along the line of contact between the armed opposition and regime troops by October 15 of this year,’ President Vladimir Putin said after more than four hours of talks with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

This would entail a ‘withdrawal of all radical fighters’ from Idlib including the Al-Nusra Front, Putin said.

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Putin and Erdogan met on Monday to discuss the situation in rebel-held Idlib, Syria as Russian forces surrounded the town

Putin and Erdogan met on Monday to discuss the situation in rebel-held Idlib, Syria as Russian forces surrounded the town

Putin and Erdogan met on Monday to discuss the situation in rebel-held Idlib, Syria as Russian forces surrounded the town

The two leaders also agreed on the withdrawal of ‘heavy weaponry from this zone,’ including tanks, multiple launch rocket systems, and…

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