The Racial Wealth Divide in Trump’s America

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(Photo: Ellie / Flickr)

The majority of Black and Latino voters didn’t pull the lever for Donald Trump last November. He is, however, the president — and thus has the power to leave a lasting effect on the trajectory of their lives.

Trump has recently made headlines for making significant reversals in policy positions on issues ranging from immigration to the national debt ceiling. Perhaps, he could change his tune on how he addresses the growing racial wealth divide as well.

Will the already deep racial wealth divide grow wider under Trump, or can we begin to close it?

Recently released figures from the Census Bureau show that Black and Latino families saw a slight uptick in their household income last year. They still lagged far behind White families — with median households earning more than $ 10,000 less than their White counterparts. The racial income gap did get a bit smaller over the very short term.

Unfortunately, the long term trends go in the other direction.

A just released report I co-authored titled “The Road to Zero Wealth” looks at trends in household wealth, which includes the total sum of a families’ assets minus their debts. Wealth, not income, is the better measure of long-term financial stability.

The median Black family today has just $ 1,700 in wealth, with Latino families not far ahead at just $ 2,000. White families, meanwhile, own more than $ 100,000. That gap is staggering.

And it’s getting worse.

The report looks at racial wealth data over the past 30 years to project what we can expect in the future if current trends continue. By 2020, the end of Trump’s first term, median Black and Latino households stand to lose nearly 18 percent and 12 percent of the wealth they held in 2013, respectively.

Median White household wealth, on the other hand, looks set to increase 3 percent.

At that point, White households will own 85 times more wealth than black households, and 68 times more wealth than Latino households. That’s in just three years — let that sink in for a moment.

Looking a bit further into the future, Black families are projected to own no wealth at all by 2053. By that point, our country will be majority non-White, but Whites and non-Whites will be farther apart than ever.

That’s assuming nothing changes. If Trump moves forward with the policies he campaigned on, especially his tax “reform” plan, the gap surely grows.

Trump’s tax plan is heavily skewed toward providing massive tax breaks for the ultra-wealthy. Half of the proposed cuts will go to millionaires, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. Less than 5 percent go to families with household incomes below $ 45,000.

Perhaps more insidious is Trump’s plan to eliminate the federal estate tax, also known as the inheritance tax. This levy applies exclusively to the wealthiest 0.2 percent of households and is intended to curtail the growing concentration of wealth in families like, say, the Trumps.

Fortunately, the president has other options. He could choose to expand, rather than abolish, the estate tax.

He could also address the deep disparities in homeownership — and particularly in the mortgage interest deduction in the tax code, which benefits the wealthy and those who already own a house. Thanks to generations of discrimination in housing and credit, black families trail whites in homeownership by a margin of over 30 percent.

Unfortunately, it’s unlikely Trump changes course. While the president is nothing if not mercurial, his commitment to protecting the wealth of the already wealthy has remained steadfast.

That the vast majority of the nation’s wealth is, and always has been, held in predominantly white hands at the expense of non-whites hasn’t concerned him. Perhaps, however, he’ll change his mind.

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VIDEO: Busting Trump’s Tax Myths

President Trump begins a barn-storming tour to tout his tax plan, we’ve released a short video rebutting some of the most common Republican myths about corporate tax cuts. Trump has claimed that we’ll “see a rocket ship” once his tax plan is adopted — that’s just how much he wants us to believe the economy will take off.

But as predicted, the plan he and congressional Republican leaders released on September 27 would primarily benefit the wealthy and big corporations. For the rest of us, it would be a dud.

In this video, IPS tax expert Sarah Anderson goes head-to-head with President Trump to rebut his corporate tax cut claims. Trump says his plan will make the economy take off like a rocket. Anderson explains why it will really be a “Rocket for the Rich.”

On the corporate side, the video shows Trump claiming that slashing the federal tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent will lead to huge numbers of new U.S. jobs. Many researchers have dispelled this myth, including the U.S. Federal Reserve, theEconomic Policy Institute, and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

At the Institute for Policy Studies, we recently took a novel approach by analyzing the 92 U.S. publicly held corporations that paid an effective tax rate of less than 20 percent from 2008-2015. What we found is that overall these tax-dodging firms had median job growth of negative one percent, compared to a six percent employment increase among U.S. private sector firms as a whole. Not surprisingly, we found that some of the proceeds from this tax savings were winding up instead in higher-than-average pay for their CEOs.

The video also rebuts the president’s claim that U.S. corporations pay more in taxes than firms in other globally competitive countries. Because of all the loopholes in the U.S. tax code, government revenue from corporations is actually lower in the United States than the average for industrialized countries. And the new Republican plan gives very little detail on what loopholes they might close. At the same time, the plan offers huge new tax breaks to corporations, including allowing multinationals to pay little-to-no taxes on the profits they book offshore.

In short, Trump’s tax cuts would be like a rocket ship — but only for big corporations and the 1%. For ordinary Americans, it would mean deep cuts to Medicare, Society Security, and other services.

As he travels around the United States, let’s hope Trump hears from the majority of Americans who reject the “trickle down” theory that tax cuts grow the economy and create jobs. It’s time for the wealthy and big corporations to pay their fair share.

Video by Victoria Borneman and Peter Certo.

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How Bush’s ‘New World Order’ Became Trump’s ‘No World Order’

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(Photo: UNHCR Photo Unit / Flickr

George H.W. Bush made a bold pronouncement on September 11, 1990.

Even though Iraq had recently invaded Kuwait and the collapse of the Soviet Union was still more than a year away, Bush proclaimed the imminent dawn of a “new world order” that would be “freer from the threat of terror, stronger in the pursuit of justice, and more secure in the quest for peace.”

Despite the lofty sentiments, Bush’s “new world order” has dead-ended in the “no world order” of 2017.

What went wrong? For starters, it’s worth looking back at the term’s origins.

In early September 1990, the United States was pulling together a coalition of the willing, with the tacit approval of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, to repel Iraqi forces from Kuwait.

Confident that he could face down Saddam Hussein, Bush anticipated not only military victory but a different kind of international community. To describe it, Bush borrowed the “new world order” concept from Gorbachev, who two years earlier had used it to support a stronger role for the United Nations and a reduced role for violence in the international arena.

Yet Bush was less interested in the United Nations and more focused on insisting that “there is no substitute for American leadership.”

Indeed, Bush devoted nearly half his 1990 speech to strengthening U.S. power by setting “America’s economic house in order” — cutting taxes, debt, energy dependency and even (prudently) Pentagon spending. In this way, Bush aimed to provide a stronger underpinning for American leadership in the emerging post-Cold War era.

Bush may have talked of “a world where the rule of law supplants the rule of the jungle,” but the thrust of U.S. policy in the wake of Bush’s speech suggested a different world order altogether.

Bush’s decision to go to war against Iraq in early 1991 demonstrated the cold geopolitical calculations behind the “new world order.” The administration, despite considerable congressional and popular opposition, decided to pursue the military option against Saddam rather than wait to see if diplomacy or economic sanctions would achieve the same result.

America’s overwhelming use of force turned the first Gulf War into a “turkey shoot” that killed more than 20,000 Iraqi soldiers and 3,000 civilians. Rather than herald a new order for the Middle East, the war aggravated the existing Arab/Israeli, Saudi/Iranian, Shia/Sunni, and nationalist/Islamist divides.

Bush’s new world order turned out to be the Cold War warmed over. Instead of just containing the Soviet Union, the United States shouldered the burdens of the sole superpower — responsible for countering threats to peace everywhere, primarily by military means.

When the Soviet Union collapsed in December 1991, Washington set about consolidating its unipolar status. The cooperative vision of Gorbachev and (to a lesser extent) Bush Sr. hardened into a post-Cold War U.S. triumphalism that would eventually expand NATO to the borders of Russia.

The prospect of a stronger United Nations became instead the a la carte multilateralism of the Bill Clinton years, when the U.S. acted with others only on a selective basis — and on Washington’s terms. U.S. meddling in the Middle East, particularly the U.S. support for (and military presence in) Saudi Arabia, helped grow radical Sunni groups like al-Qaeda, which would later attack the “new world order” on the anniversary of Bush’s speech in 2001.

A bipartisan fear of global anarchy pushed a succession of U.S. leaders to attempt to maintain American dominance. While that might have been possible for a brief moment in the early 1990s, it was inherently unsustainable. The failed efforts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and elsewhere testify to the impossibility of imposing a new world order by force.

Donald Trump, despite his calls as presidential candidate to focus on rebuilding the U.S. economy, is just the latest adherent to the U.S. unipolarism that the “new world order” ultimately fostered. He sends more troops to Afghanistan, threatens North Korea with “fire and fury,” and continues the worldwide war without end against terrorism.

The United States could have helped build a truly cooperative world order in 1990. Because it didn’t, the world now faces the twin challenges to the international rule of law: the Islamic State and Donald Trump. The anarchy that many feared is now just around the corner.

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Trump’s Pardon of Joe Arpaio Is Deeply Disturbing

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(Photo: Caravan 4 Peace / Flickr)

During a speech to a group of police officers in July, President Trump returned to one of his favorite themes of the campaign season: violence. “Please don’t be too nice” to the “thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon,” Trump advised the officers. Be “rough.”

The president’s endorsement of police brutality was met with applause from the officers and shock from activists and pundits alike.

Sensing the brewing backlash, the White House insisted that the president was simply making a joke. Even Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the country’s top law enforcement official — a man with his own complicated history of encouraging the worst impulses of the police — attempted to distance himself from the controversy.

Yet the president just proved that when it comes to endorsing police brutality, especially against communities of color, he’s dead serious.

For more than 20 years, Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona terrorized Latino communities, harassed immigrants, and made life a living hell for prisoners in his care in order to build a reputation as “America’s toughest sheriff”.

These systematic violations of human and constitutional rights eventually landed Arpaio in legal trouble of his own. Then President Trump pardoned him.

Arpaio had been awaiting sentencing for a July conviction of criminal contempt.

Back in 2011, a federal judge ordered Arpaio to stop targeting and detaining Latinos just to inquire about their immigration status. Nevertheless, Arpaio persisted for another 18 months, insisting that his racial profiling was lawful. He emasculated inmates, forcing them to wear pink underwear, and attempted to starve them with food that was called inedible.

He tortured them, too: Beginning in the 1990s, Arpaio opened Tent City Jail, which forced inmates to live outside in the extreme Arizona heat. An untold number of inmates died.

To the law, Arpaio is a convicted criminal who built his career on denying the constitutional and human rights of the most vulnerable among us. To Trump, he’s “a patriot” who kept “Arizona safe.”

“Throughout his time as sheriff,” a White House statement bleated, “Arpaio continued his life’s work of protecting the public from the scourges of crime and illegal immigration.” In other words, the innocent immigrants who were harassed, and the prisoners who were tortured, were the real criminals.

Trump promised to be the “law and order candidate” during his campaign. He codified this promise once he became president in the “Standing Up For Our Law Enforcement Community” section of the White House website. “The Trump administration will be a law and order administration,” it echoed.

For the president, it seems, “standing up” for law enforcement includes allowing officers to subvert the rule of law to commit acts of brutality with impunity. Empowering law enforcement to “keep our streets free of crime and violence” means supporting racial profiling. And “law and order” only applies to some, namely those that support the president.

With Trump’s pardon of Arpaio, a message has been sent: When it comes to police brutality of the kind Arpaio perpetuated for decades, the Trump administration won’t simply be complicit in it. It will promote it.

And that’s nothing to joke about.

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Trump’s Afghanistan Speech Offers No End in Sight for the War

“Trump announcing that the U.S. is not going to reveal troop numbers or withdrawal dates is not a strategy to end the war. It is a strategy for justifying continuous, permanent war,” IPS Middle East foreign policy expert Phyllis Bennis told The Real News Network following Trump’s speech on his strategy for the war in Afghanistan.

“We have been at war in Afghanistan now for 16 years. Afghan civilians are dying in higher numbers every single year in that war since the United Nations began keeping track,” Bennis said.

Meanwhile, Trump has turned over authority not to political strategists in and around the White House or the National Security Council, but directly to the generals on the ground. He maintained that conditions on the ground will guide the U.S. moving forward, but what that really alludes to is a self-perpetuating war, Bennis argued.

“Conditions on the ground are going to continue to be terrible as long as there’s military fighting going on,” Bennis said.

Bennis said there was no commitment to diplomacy in Trump’s speech.

“Every analyst looking at this war has acknowledged that there is no military solution and that we will need a political solution that’s going to involve parts or all of the Taliban, as well as the U.S. installed, U.S. armed, and U.S. backed government in Kabul,” Bennis explained. “That’s what’s going to ultimately end this war.”

In his speech Trump also threatened the military aid the U.S. provides to Pakistan and called on India to play a larger role in the economic development of the region.

Afghanistan has long been a venue for this competition between India and Pakistan, Bennis said, “So the idea that Pakistan is going to simply back off and allow India to emerge as the major regional power inside Afghanistan is pretty unlikely.”

Taking audience questions, Bennis spoke to the Trump’s administration’s long standing policies of having corporate interests influencing decision making, in this case the effort to make war more profitable.

Military interests get billions from the Pentagon to provide weapons and other equipment, and in return, those same companies spend millions of dollars lobbying Congress to make sure these wars continue, Bennis explained.

If the Trump administration’s real goal was to figure out a way to end this war, they would have to pull out the military assets. “That’s step one.” Bennis said.

The U.S. must also look at its obligations to this country that it has decimated over decades, Bennis argued.

“We owe an enormous debt to the people of Afghanistan. We don’t owe military occupation. But we owe money, support, and an investment in diplomacy.” Bennis said.

As for the anti-war movement at home, Bennis said it must be linked to racism and Islamophobia.

“Islamophobia at home is necessary to build support against Muslim-majority countries. These wars require a way of demonizing them,” Bennis explained. Meanwhile, “wars against Black communities in this country are being militarized because tanks are being brought home from Afghanistan,” she continued.

“We can’t separate out opposing war and opposing racism,” Bennis said. “We have to build movements that cross those silos.”

The full interview originally appeared on The Real News Network.

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The Activists Who Helped Shut Down Trump’s CEO Councils

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(Photo: Pietro Francesco Rizzato / Shutterstock)

The CEOs who made up two White House advisory councils have fled like rats on a sinking ship. Their exodus — a dramatic rebuke of Donald Trump — came within 48 hours of the incendiary August 15 press conference where the President praised some of the participants of last week’s white supremacist rampage in Charlottesville, Virginia.

But many of the CEOs on these councils had been under heavy pressure to disavow Trump’s agenda of hate and racism even before Charlottesville. That pressure came from grassroots activists.

The Center for Popular Democracy, Make The Road New York, New York Communities for Change, and several other immigrant and worker advocates had led that activist campaign, targeting the leaders of nine major corporations affiliated with the Trump administration. The campaign, working through a web site called Corporate Backers of Hate, detailed the connections between the nine companies and the Trump administration and encouraged people to send emails to both the CEOs involved and members of their corporate boards.

Throughout the spring and summer, the campaign also held protests against the companies, including a civil disobedience action at the JPMorgan Chase headquarters on May Day, where 12 were arrested, and a march to JPMorgan’s annual shareholder meeting, where protestors confronted CEO Jamie Dimon for his company’s financing of private immigrant detention and mass incarceration.

The campaign also worked with a broad network of groups, including CREDO, Color of Change, SumOfUs, and Ultraviolet, to gather petitions calling for CEOs to step down from the Business Council. On August 16, they delivered more than 400,000 petitions collected from across the country to New York City offices of JPMorgan and the Blackstone private equity group, demanding that their CEOs withdraw from Trump’s advisory bodies.

Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman chaired Trump’s Strategic and Policy Forum and had personally recruited the group’s 16 members, a cohort of execs that included current and past CEOs from some of the country’s largest firms, among them Walmart, General Electric, IBM, and General Motors. Schwarzman’s firm has become one of the country’s largest owners of real estate, and Schwarzman himself has reportedly developed a very close personal relationship with President Trump, sometimes speaking to him several times a week.

The news earlier this week that the CEO councils had been disbanded brought a quick reaction from Ana Maria Archila, co-executive director of the Center for Popular Democracy. The choice that executives made to quit the Business Council, Archila noted, “should have been clear long ago – and because of the tireless and courageous advocacy of those who are affected most by Trump’s agenda, they finally made that choice today.”

JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon also issued a personal statement after the councils disbanded.

“There is no room for equivocation here: the evil on display by these perpetrators of hate should be condemned,” Dimon noted, “and has no place in a country that draws strength from our diversity and humanity.”

Archila and other activists are demanding that the CEOs like Dimon go further to reject Trump’s agenda. These execs, she stresses, need “to make clear that white supremacy has no place in this country – and neither do the private prisons and immigrant detention centers that they help finance.”

Daniel Cortés, a member of Make the Road New York who lives in Queens and was part of the group delivering the petitions, says he couldn’t believe the leaders of JPMorgan Chase and Blackstone agreed to join Trump’s business council in the first place.

“I’m glad to hear they’re gone,” adds Cortés. “But they still need to stand up against his hateful agenda that targets people of color, immigrants, Muslims, and women. If they don’t, they will remain backers of hate and they will continue to feel our outrage.”

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Trump’s Worst Collusion Isn’t With Russia — It’s With Corporations

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(Photo: Flickr / Glenn Halog)

I’ve always been a little skeptical that there’d be a smoking gun about the Trump campaign’s alleged collusion with Russia. The latest news about Donald Trump, Jr., however, is tantalizingly close.

The short version of the story, revealed by emails the New York Times obtained, is that the president’s eldest son was offered “some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary” and “would be very useful to your father.”

More to the point, the younger Trump was explicitly told this was “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” Donald, Jr.’s reply? “I love it.”

Trump Jr. didn’t just host that meeting at Trump Tower. He also brought along campaign manager Paul Manafort and top Trump confidante (and son-in-law) Jared Kushner.

We still don’t have evidence they coordinated with Russian efforts to release Clinton campaign emails, spread “fake news,” or hack state voting systems. But at the very least, the top members of Trump’s inner circle turned up to get intelligence they knew was part of a foreign effort to meddle in the election.

Some in Washington are convinced they’ve heard enough already, with Virginia senator (and failed VP candidate) Tim Kaine calling the meeting “treason.”

Perhaps. But it’s worth asking: Who’s done the real harm here? Some argue it’s not the Russians after all.

“The effects of the crime are undetectable,” the legendary social critic Noam Chomsky says of the alleged Russian meddling, “unlike the massive effects of interference by corporate power and private wealth.”

That’s worth dwelling on.

Many leading liberals suspect, now with a little more evidence, that Trump worked with Russia to win his election. But we’ve long known that huge corporations and wealthy individuals threw their weight behind the billionaire.

That gambit’s paying off far more handsomely for them — and more destructively for the rest of us — than any scheme by Putin.

The evidence is hiding in plain sight.

The top priority in Congress right now is to move a health bill that would gut Medicaid and throw at least 22 million Americans off their insurance — while loosening regulations on insurance companies and cutting taxes on the wealthiest by over $ 346 billion.

As few as 12 percent of Americans support that bill, but the allegiance of its supporters isn’t to voters — it’s plainly to the wealthy donors who’d get those tax cuts.

Meanwhile, majorities of Americans in every single congressional district support efforts to curb local pollution, limit carbon emissions, and transition to wind and solar. And majorities in every single state back the Paris climate agreement.

Yet even as scientists warn large parts of the planet could soon become uninhabitable, the fossil fuel-backed Trump administration has put a climate denier in charge of the EPA, pulled the U.S. out of Paris, and signed legislation to let coal companies dump toxic ash in local waterways.

Meanwhile, as the administration escalates the unpopular Afghan war once again, Kushner invited billionaire military contractors — including Blackwater founder Erik Prince — to advise on policy there.

Elsewhere, JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon and other architects of the housing crash are advising Trump on financial deregulation, while student debt profiteers set policy at the Department of Education.

Chomsky complains that this sort of collusion is often “not considered a crime but the normal workings of democracy.” While Trump has taken it to new heights, it’s certainly a bipartisan problem.

If Trump’s people did work with Russia to undermine our vote, they should absolutely be held accountable. But the politicians leading the charge don’t have a snowball’s chance of redeeming our democracy unless they’re willing to take on the corporate conspirators much closer to home.

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Trump’s Master Class in Tax Deceit

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(Image: Wipas Rojjanakard / Shutterstock)

It’s hard to sell a product you know people will hate. That’s the dilemma facing President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans in slinging their latest gambit on overhauling the tax code. In essence, how do you get people excited about tax cuts for the rich when the people don’t want tax cuts for the rich? In a recent pair of speeches in Iowa, Trump offered a three-part master class.

Before we get into the specifics of the sales job, let’s briefly touch on what exactly is in the tax plan. An analysis by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center of the tax plan House Majority Leader Paul Ryan put forward last year showed that by 2025, 99.6 percent of the tax cuts in the plan would go to the top 1 percent, those with incomes over $ 3.7 million.

Included in the plan is the elimination of the federal estate tax and the alternative minimum tax, and a dramatic reduction in taxes on the most profitable corporations. This is essentially the same plan Trump put forward both in detail during his campaign and in broad strokes while in office.

Now, you may be thinking, maybe this is what the people want! Well, if polling is to be believed, it’s the exact opposite of what people want. Poll after poll after poll shows that the public want to see higher taxes on the wealthy, not lower. For just one example, consider the Gallup poll that every year asks if upper-income households and corporations pay too little in taxes, and every year, without fail, since 1992, the majority says yes.

Read the full article on U.S. News and World Report’s website. 

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Trump’s Policy Is Clear: Civilian Casualties Don’t Matter in the War on Terror

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(Photo: Flickr/Leigh Blackall)

Recent news reports describe a massive increase in civilian casualties at the hands of the US military or US allies. In Mosul, Iraq, hundreds of residents have been killed as US forces join Iraqi troops in the last stage of their assault on the ISIS-held city. In Yemen, the United States is increasing its direct involvement in the Saudi-led air war being waged against the poorest country in the Arab world, as the UN and other aid workers struggle against mass famine and a looming cholera epidemic on top of the thousands already killed and millions displaced. And in Raqqa, Syria, US air strikes and white-phosphorus munitions have led to what the UN calls “a staggering loss of life,” as Washington provides backup to Kurdish and Arab forces now besieging the ISIS stronghold.

These attacks, and the skyrocketing civilian casualties that result from them, have two things in common: direct US involvement, a result of the recent escalation in Washington’s direct role in the 16-year-old Global War on Terror; and an absolute disdain for the civilian lives being destroyed in these wars.

Defense Secretary James “Mad Dog” Mattis claimed in sworn congressional testimony that

there has been no change to our rules of engagement and there has been no change to our continued extraordinary efforts to avoid innocent civilian casualties, despite needing to go into populated areas to break ISIS hold on their self-described caliphate, despite ISIS purposely endangering innocent lives by refusing to allow civilians to evacuate. And we continue all possible efforts to protect the innocent.

And yet, the already high casualty figures continue to mount. When the top UN official on the Syria war described the “staggering loss of life,” he was specifically condemning the impact of US and allied air strikes against Raqqa, not simply bemoaning the war in general. He also discussed the 160,000 people driven out of their homes by US air strikes. An estimated 200,000 more civilians—families, children, old people—are still trapped in Raqqa, and according to the AirWars monitoring group in London, “Rarely a day goes by now when we don’t see three or four civilian casualty incidents attributed to coalition air strikes around Raqqa…. All of the local monitoring groups are now reporting that the coalition is killing more civilians than Russia on a regular basis.”

Read the full article on The Nation.

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The Real Reason Trump’s Trying to Derail Cuba Advances

“Republicans, members of the business community, and even a large portion of Cuban-Americans are in favor of normalized relations with Cuba,” IPS expert on U.S.-Cuba relations Netfa Freeman told Rising Up with Sonali, so why is Donald Trump seeking to rollback Obama era Cuba policies?

The American business community doesn’t care that Cuba has a Communist system, Freeman explained, “For them, it’s better to do business with a communist country, with a socialist country, than to not do business at all.”

“That’s one of the reasons he couldn’t do a complete about-face. He’s actually having to deal with the unpopularity of it,” Freeman said.

Freeman also notes a double standard when it comes to the U.S.’ strong economic ties with other Communist countries like China and Vietnam.

So if there isn’t a true ideological divide, what’s compelling the need for a new Cuba policy?

Trump cited human rights abuses and political prisoners.

Though we can’t ignore accusations that Cuba has political prisoners, it’s important to note that many of those who were locked up as political mercenaries for the U.S. are not locked up anymore. “They’ve released a lot of people on humanitarian grounds,” Freeman said, “but in the U.S. you don’t have that. We would be remiss if we did not mention the many political prisoners in the U.S. who’ve been in prison for a long time. And are still in prison.”

When it comes to Cuba, Freeman said what’s really happening is that the U.S. is threatened by “an island that’s only 90 miles from the U.S. that’s been able to withstand all matters of things and really uphold an example of a different society.”

Cuba is open to doing business with the U.S., Freeman said, but on its own terms.

Cuba’s alternate system includes its protectionist economic system, which, Freeman points out, is non-negotiable. “They’re not going to subject themselves to free trade agreements or structural adjustment agreements from the IMF or the World Bank. They want to ensure their citizens are treated fairly when it comes to wages and tariffs.”

This is a hard-line stance more politically poignant in a time where the future of multinational trade agreements are in question.

Even so, “There’s nothing that an adviser to Trump and his administration could do to Cuba to get it to change its mind that hasn’t already been done,” Freeman said.

Watch the full interview on Rising Up with Sonali.

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