Laura Gottesdiener

Here Are 7 Brilliant Insights From Noam Chomsky on American Empire

Noam Chomsky is an expert on many matters -- linguistics, how our economy functions and propaganda, among others. One area where his wisdom especially shines through is in articulating the structure and functioning of the American empire. Chomsky has been speaking and publishing on the topic since the '60s. Below are seven powerful quotes on the evils, atrocities and ironies of the American empire taken from his personal site and from a fan-curated Web site dedicated to collecting Chomsky's observations.

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Burning Raqqa: The U.S. War Against Civilians in Syria

It was midday on Sunday, May 7, when the U.S.-led coalition warplanes again began bombing the neighborhood of Wassim Abdo’s family.

They lived in Tabqa, a small city on the banks of the Euphrates River in northern Syria. Then occupied by the Islamic State (ISIS, also known as Daesh), Tabqa was also under siege by U.S.-backed troops and being hit by daily artillery fire from U.S. Marines, as well as U.S.-led coalition airstrikes. The city, the second largest in Raqqa Province, was home to an airfield and the coveted Tabqa Dam. It was also the last place in the region the U.S.-backed forces needed to take before launching their much-anticipated offensive against the Islamic State’s self-proclaimed capital, Raqqa.

His parents, Muhammed and Salam, had already fled their home once when the building adjacent to their house was bombed, Wassim Abdo told me in a recent interview. ISIS had been arresting civilians from their neighborhood for trying to flee the city. So on that Sunday, the couple was taking shelter on the second floor of a four-story flat along with other family members when a U.S.-led airstrike reportedly struck the front half of the building. Abdo’s sister-in-law Lama fled the structure with her two children and survived. But his parents and 12-year-old cousin were killed, along with dozens of their neighbors, as the concrete collapsed on them.

As an exiled human rights activist, Wassim Abdo only learned of his parents’ death three days later, after Lama called him from the Syrian border town of Kobane, where she and her two children had been transported for medical treatment. Her daughter had been wounded in the bombing and although the U.S.-backed, Kurdish-led troops had by then seized control of Tabqa, it was impossible for her daughter to be treated in their hometown, because weeks of U.S.-led coalition bombing had destroyed all the hospitals in the city.

A war against civilians

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The Increasingly Horrible Truths About the Brutal U.S. Hospital Bombings

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In Appalachia, the Coal Industry Is in Collapse, But the Mountains Aren’t Coming Back

In Appalachia, explosions have leveled the mountain tops into perfect race tracks for Ryan Hensley’s all-terrain vehicle (ATV). At least, that’s how the 14-year-old sees the barren expanses of dirt that stretch for miles atop the hills surrounding his home in the former coal town of Whitesville, West Virginia.

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Magical Mystery Tour of American Austerity: How One State Is Destroying Democracy and Poisoning Its People

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A Foreclosure Conveyor Belt: the Continuing Depopulation of Detroit

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7 Shocking Ways the Military Wastes Our Money

Here are seven absurd ways the military wastes our money--and none of them have anything to do with national defense.

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How Detroit Is Splitting into Two Cities for Rich and Poor

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What My Time in America's New Oil Boomtown Taught Me About Our Climate Madness

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How Wall St. Investor Greed in Real Estate Can Devastate Families -- The Tragic Death of 2-Year Old Zahara Cedillo

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Predatory Billionaires Are Destroying What's Left of New York's Affordable Housing Rental Market

Things are heating up inside Wall Street’s new rental empire.

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A Glimpse into the Zapatista Movement, Two Decades Later

Growing up in a well-heeled suburban community, I absorbed our society’s distaste for dissent long before I was old enough to grasp just what was being dismissed. My understanding of so many people and concepts was tainted by this environment and the education that went with it: Che Guevara and the Black Panthers and Oscar Wilde and Noam Chomsky and Venezuela and Malcolm X and the Service Employees International Union and so, so many more. All of this is why, until recently, I knew almost nothing about the Mexican Zapatista movement except that the excessive number of “a”s looked vaguely suspicious to me. It’s also why I felt compelled to travel thousands of miles to a Zapatista “organizing school” in the heart of the Lacandon jungle in southeastern Mexico to try to sort out just what I’d been missing all these years.

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How Wall Street's New Empire of Rental Homes Could Blow Up the Economy

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'A Dream Foreclosed': How Financial Predators Created a Crisis That Led to 10 Million Americans Being Evicted

As President Obama heads to Phoenix today to tout the "housing recovery," journalist Laura Gottesdiener examines the devastating legacy of the foreclosure crisis and how much of the so-called recovery is a result of large private equity firms buying up hundreds of thousands of foreclosed homes. More than 10 million people across the country have been evicted from their homes in the last six years. Her new book, "A Dream Foreclosed: Black America and the Fight for a Place to Call Home," focuses on four families who have pushed back against foreclosures. "The banks exploited a larger historical trajectory of discrimination in lending and in housing that has existed since the beginning of this country. The banks intentionally went into communities that had been redlined, which meant that the Federal Housing Administration had made it a policy to not lend and not to guarantee any loans in minority neighborhoods all throughout most of the 20th century that didn’t supposedly end until well into the 1960s," Gottesdiener says. "And they exploited that historical reality and pushed the worst of the worst loans in these communities that everyone knew were unpayable debts — that Wall Street knew."

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How We Can Commemorate Boston

The Boston Marathon course runs in only one direction. Two years ago when I ran it with an old friend, we were lucky. There was a tailwind that lifted us up so hard and so fast that the race’s top male finisher, a Kenyan named Geoffrey Mutai, clocked the fastest marathon time in recorded history. Of course, even with the tailwind I could still barely walk or think by the end of the 26.2 miles. All I really remember of the finish line is sitting down on the sidewalk and being unable to stand back up for a very long time.

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South African Police Drag Man to Death

With the world’s eye still fixed on South Africa and the scandal over Oscar Pistorius—and the police mishandling of it—the country is now under scrutiny for another act of violence committed by the police themselves.

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University Buried Rape Cases Because It Was Afraid of Revealing the Grades of Alleged Rapists?

Here’s the latest (and one of the lamest) excuses a university is using to explain why it didn’t report cases of campus rape to the police: the school was afraid of revealing the grades of the alleged rapists.

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Atheists Win Civil Rights Lawsuit in Michigan

Victory!

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Some Frat Brothers Join Struggle for Equal Rights for Transgender Students on Campus

A troupe of fraternity brothers at Emerson College outside Boston have become the darlings of the Internet this week, as the story of the efforts to raise money for a transgendered brother’s surgery goes viral.

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Rapid City, S.D.: The City Without Separation of Church and State

In South Dakota, city government officials are doubling down on their unconstitutional practice of beginning each city council meeting with a Christian prayer--despite objections from residents and the threat of a lawsuit.

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10 Celebs You Didn't Know Were Atheists

It’s almost Oscar season, and we all know what that means: a parade of well-dressed, trophy-clutching men and women thanking their friends, family, spouses, and above all, God. As I watch the Academy Awards each year, I’m always left wondering: Aren’t there any atheist celebrities?

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'I'm a Good Man! I'm a Gay Man!' - Watch Inspiring Subway Car Speak Out

Often it seems as though subway preachers are mostly about preaching hate. That was the case last week when a man stood up and began railing against homosexuality. It was the usual riff, you know: God hates the gays; the gays are destroying the earth; Michael Jackson died because he was gay, etc. Per usual, the rest of the train averted their eyes and shifted uncomfortably in their seats, hoping the man would stop but reluctant to interfere lest they also look like a raving lunatic.

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Are Republican Brains Different?

A brain scan study recently revealed that Democrats and Republican process and understand risk in different ways, with Democrats more attuned to their emotions and those of others, while Republicans are more driven by fear and potential reward.

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200,000 Demand House Republicans Pass Violence Against Women Act

Remember when the House Republicans blocked the passage of approximately a million pieces of legislation last session—including the renewal of the act to prevent violence against women? Remember when the U.S. public considered blocking that legislation to be so pathetic, so despicable, just so downright offensive that President Obama coasted to victory on one of the largest gender gaps in modern electoral history?

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Mississippi Finally 'Officially' Banned Slavery -- But It's Alive and Well in America and the Rest of the World

In a major step forward, Mississippi banned slavery this week. This type of definite legislative action is ostensibly the type of thing to be excited about in an era of unprecedented political foot-dragging, so congratulations Mississippi for finally ratifying the Thirteenth Amendment. Sure, the state is a little behind the curve on this one, given that the nation is a full 148 years past the official end of slavery (more on that, in a second). But Mississippi isn’t the only state that took awhile to warm up to the idea that people shouldn't own, sell, beat and rape other people in a nation that is largely (and perhaps falsely) recognized as one of the most civilized in the world. 

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5 Times Police Killed People with Mental Disabilities

The case of a young man with Down syndrome who was asphyxiated while in police custody last week has spiraled into a shocking national news story--yet another police scandal coming just on the heels of suspicions that LAPD plotted to burn Dorner alive. The tragedy began when 26-year-old Minnesota resident Robert Saylor was reluctant to leave a movie theater, prompting employees to call the police. Without stopping to learn from Saylor’s aide that he had Down syndrome, the police handcuffed him and restrained him on the ground until he died of asphyxiation

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Oscar Pistorius Accused of Murdering His Girlfriend -- Latest Reminder That Athletes Don't Always Make for Good Role Models

A South African track star was arrested and charged with murdering his girlfriend today, shining new light on violence against women on the part of athletes.

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When God Is Not Enough: Religious States Have Highest Rates of Anti-Depressant Use

They say that religion is the opiate of the masses, but it seems that the opiates of the religious are antidepressants. 

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15-Year-Old Girl Raped, Police Dismiss the Case Because Victim and Attackers Have "Low IQs"

In some of the most disturbing and sickening news of the day, New York state police have decided that a 15-year-old girl who was sexually assaulted by three boys was in fact not sexually assaulted because both she and the boys are mentally handicapped.

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Privatizing Roads, Bridges, Schools and Energy Grids? Corporatism Pervades SOTU

The split screen during the state of the union last night was a nice touch. After all, what is more practical, more common sense--more bipartisan, perhaps--than charts? My favorite chart was the wages versus corporate profits over time. Those two jagged lines--one shooting sky high over the last decade, the other plummeting steadily over the last forty years--are worth a thousand words, as the saying goes. Throughout the State of the Union, President Obama railed against the reality the chart revealed.

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