Friday, September 01, 2017

The working class responds to Hurricane Harvey -- SEP NEWSLETTER

The working class responds to Hurricane Harvey

By Joseph Kishore
The official preparation for and response to Hurricane Harvey have been characterized by a stunning level of incompetence and indifference, from the lack of a coordinated evacuation and emergency housing plan, to the completely ad-hoc character of rescue operations. As Houston and other parts of Texas drown and the death toll mounts, various government officials, from the White House on down, have spent much of the past several days patting themselves on the back. “You have been terrific,” Trump told the governor, the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other officials in Texas on Tuesday, hoping that no one would notice what was happening around him.
The flooding, however, has produced an overwhelming response from workers in Texas and throughout the region, who have rushed to volunteer for rescue operations, using their own equipment and receiving nothing in return.
The New York Times, which generally refers to the working class only to disparage it, wrote on Wednesday that “the response to one of the worst disasters in decades has been, in many ways, improvised.” The article continued: “Recreational vehicles—airboats, Jet Skis, motorized fishing boats—have rushed to the aid of people trapped in their homes, steered by welders, roofers, mechanics and fishermen wearing shorts, headlamps and ponchos. The working class, in large part, is being saved by the working class.” Read more »
UN says 27 dying each day in US-led siege of Raqqa
By Bill Van Auken
United Nations Deputy Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Stephen O’Brien told the UN Security Council Wednesday that 27 people are being killed each day by the US-led siege of Raqqa. The Syrian city, controlled by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, has been subjected to unrelenting US airstrikes and artillery bombardment for nearly three months, turning much of it into rubble.
Some 270,000 people have been driven out of the city, turned into homeless refugees, while an estimated 25,000 civilians remain trapped under the American firestorm. They are without food, access to clean water, electricity or medical care. Reports have come out of Raqqa that its residents have been reduced to eating grass and leaves to stave off starvation.
The UN’s chief adviser on the prevention of genocide, Adama Dieng, issued a separate statement condemning the “horrendous situation faced by civilians caught up in the offensive to retake the city from ISIS,” while the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein charged that “civilians—who should be protected at all times—are paying an unacceptable price.”
In other words, a war crime of monstrous dimensions is unfolding in plain sight, while its perpetrator, US imperialism, enjoys complete impunity. Read more »

Stop internet censorship!
End Google’s blacklist of the World Socialist Web Site!

Over three thousand sign WSWS petition against Google censorship
By Isaac Finn
Since its launch on August 14, the World Socialist Web Site’s petition against Google’s blacklisting of socialist, antiwar and progressive websites from search results has received more than 3,000 signatures, with over a thousand signing in the last ten days.
The Socialist Equality Party (SEP) and International Youth and Students for Social Equality (IYSSE) have intervened at workplaces, picket lines and campuses across the United States, informing workers and students about Google’s censorship of the WSWS.
Many workers and students have expressed outrage at the tech giant’s move to bury the WSWS in search results leading to a more than two-thirds drop in traffic to the WSWS from Google searches since April.
A Socialist Equality Party campaign team received a warm response this week at a picket of Spectrum workers. Roughly 1,800 Spectrum workers have been on strike for more than five months, over which time the WSWS has established itself as the only news source regularly covering the strike and working conditions facing telecommunication workers.
Many workers said they were hostile to Google’s attempt to suppress the WSWS, and a dozen workers signed the petition on the spot. Read more »
Death toll expected to rise as chemical explosions add to devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey
By Niles Niemuth
The number of dead and the devastation wrought by Hurricane Harvey continue to mount in what is already one of the worst disasters in American history.
The confirmed death toll from the region surrounding Houston, Texas remains at 31, but this is expected to rise rapidly as search-and-rescue teams carry out house-to-house searches now that floodwaters are beginning to subside. Meanwhile, now-Tropical Depression Harvey is making its way up through the Southeast, dumping heavy rains on Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee.
At a White House press conference Thursday, Tom Bossert, President Trump’s Homeland Security Advisor, reported that an estimated 100,000 homes have been affected by the storm. AccuWeather, a private weather forecasting company, predicts that total damages from the storm could reach $190 billion, or more than 1 percent of US Gross Domestic Product.
Adding to the danger, two explosions Thursday rocked the Arkema chemical plant in Crosby, Texas, approximately 20 miles northeast of Houston, sparking a fire and sending noxious black smoke into the air. A 1.5-mile radius around the plant was evacuated, and 21 emergency responders were treated for chemical exposure at a local hospital and discharged. Read more »
Another war threat: Trump rules out talking to North Korea
By Peter Symonds
US President Donald Trump has again placed North East Asia and the world on a knife edge by threatening North Korea with war. In a tweet yesterday, following North Korea’s launch of a missile that passed over Japan on Tuesday, he lashed out at Pyongyang and those advocating a diplomatic solution by flatly declaring: “Talking is not the answer!”
The implication of this brief phrase is obvious. If talking is not the answer, then there is no point in further UN sanctions on North Korea and additional efforts to press Beijing to bully Pyongyang into coming to the negotiating table on Washington’s terms. The only alternative is a military attack on North Korea, which Trump also implied when he emphasised on Tuesday that “all options are on the table.”
The only conclusion that the North Korean leadership can draw from Trump’s remarks is that the country faces a real and immediate danger of attack by the most powerful military on the face of the planet. This simply compounds the crisis of this unstable, ultra-nationalist regime, which regards its only option as developing and threatening to use its limited nuclear arsenal—a reactionary ploy that plays into Washington’s hands and divides the international working class, the only social force that can halt the drive to war. Read more »
The Houston flood, the anarchy of the capitalist market and the case for socialist planning
By Niles Niemuth
The disaster along the US Gulf Coast triggered by Hurricane Harvey continues to worsen as the storm moves east into Louisiana. Houston, the nation’s fourth largest city, remains inundated by unprecedented levels of flooding. The reported death toll is 30 and rising, amid reports of dozens of residents gone missing. Five days after landfall, it is still not known how many people are in need of rescue.
In its editorial on Tuesday, the New York Times wrote that rescue efforts were going “about as well as could be expected.” It added that instead of “lamenting its failure to heed long-ago warnings,” the country should “look ahead.” Ominously, it suggested that, as in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, working class areas of Houston might be left to rot, declaring that officials will need to “make difficult decisions about whether to rebuild and how.”
Twelve years after Katrina, nothing has been done to strengthen flood control systems and build up the social infrastructure to limit the impact of major storms. Nor has anything been done to plan and prepare emergency and public safety measures to deal with a severe weather event. Repeated warnings and urgent recommendations, such as were contained in the American Society of Civil Engineers’ 2014 report, “Call for a National Flood Risk Management Strategy,” have gone entirely unheeded. Read more »
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