News Releases

Employers and Government Still Not Protecting Nurses and Patients

DEBORAH BURGER, ZENEI CORTEZ, JEAN ROSS, COKIE GILES, press at nationalnursesunited.org@NationalNurses
Burger, Cortez, Ross, and Giles are members of the Council of Presidents of National Nurses United. For the last month, the group has been “conducting a nationwide survey of registered nurses. More than 23,000 nurses filled out the survey about their experiences working during the COVID-19 pandemic and the responses are loud and clear:

“While it’s been months since COVID-19 struck the United States, our employers and the government are STILL not protecting us nurses and our patients.

“Despite having months to produce more PPE, the Trump administration and Congress have refused to get us the protection we need to stay safe on the front lines of this crisis. Some 87% of nurses reported having to reuse a single-use disposable respirator or mask with a COVID-19 patient.

“Here are some other troubling statistics about nurses’ lack of safety from the survey:

“Over 33 percent of nurses reported that their employer requires them to use their own sick leave, vacation, or paid time off if a nurse gets COVID-19 or is exposed to COVID-19 and needs to self-quarantine.

“Some 84 percent of nurses reported they have not yet been tested and, of those who have been tested, more than 500 nurses reported a positive result.

“More than a quarter — 28 percent  — of respondents had to reuse a so-called ‘decontaminated’ respirator with confirmed COVID-19 patients.

“We can’t allow nurses to continue to work in these conditions, leaving them vulnerable to the virus and putting their patients at risk. When nurses aren’t safe, patients aren’t safe. That’s why NNU is standing up to fight for the highest level of protections.”

The Rise of Global Activism?

The COVID-19 Global Solidarity Coalition will launch on May 23, 2020, unveiling a manifesto signed by “thousands of people and organizations worldwide. The launch will take place over a live video streaming through Zoom, Facebook Live, and YouTube. The goal is to establish guidelines, principles, and priorities for dealing with the current coronavirus pandemic to end the neoliberal assault on the environmental and social structures that protect the health and well-being of billions around the world.

“We call upon the global community to rethink the self-destructive path that humanity is presently following as demonstrated by the devastation and the continuing threat of the COVID-19 pandemic, the existential threats of climate change and nuclear war, the waste of lives and resources due to ongoing warfare and unbridled militarism, and the deplorable living conditions that billions of our sisters and brothers face daily.”

A sample of founding members is available here.

As the manifesto — which people will be able to sign here — states, “The COVID-19 crisis has revealed the urgency of changing global structures of inequity and violence. We, people around the world, will seize this historical moment … We declare our manifesto today to offer a vision of the world we are building, the world we are demanding, the world we will achieve. …

“In a world where the gap between rich and poor is obscene, with the world’s richest one percent having more than twice the wealth of 6.9 billion people, a fundamental redistribution of wealth and power globally and within nations is imperative. Every human being must have the opportunity to live a healthy, creative, and fulfilling life, free from the ravages of poverty, exploitation, and domination.”

The manifesto (found here) will be publicly launched twice on Saturday, May 23 to accommodate people in different time zones around the world: 9:00 (9 a.m.) and 21:00 (9 p.m.) New York City time. It is available in 18 languages.

More information can be found on the Coalition’s website: CovidGlobalSolidarity.org.

Contact the Coalition’s media team contact at: Covid19GlobalSolidarity at gmail.com; or:

Peter Kuznick, kuznick at american.edu
Kuznick is professor of history and director of the Nuclear Studies Institute at American University.

Would Earlier Measures Have Saved Tens of Thousands?

The New York Times is reporting in “Lockdown Delays Cost at Least 36,000 Lives, Data Show” on a study from Columbia University disease modelers that found that if physical distancing measures had begun “on March 1, two weeks earlier than most people started staying home, the vast majority of the nation’s deaths — about 83 percent — would have been avoided, the researchers estimated.”

ALISON GALVANI, alison.galvani at gmail.com
Galvani is director of the Center for Infectious Disease Modeling and Analysis at Yale University. She said today: “This study makes a lot of sense and is consistent with some of our own modeling. It’s undeniable that more rapid implementation of public health interventions would have saved lives. The non-linearity of epidemiological dynamics means that the impact of early action or inaction is amplified over time as an outbreak progresses. The window of opportunity for the prompt containment of the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States closed while messages of denial were being propagated by our President. Overall, we were exceedingly slow to implement control strategies.”

Galvani added that lifting distancing measures is now being done prematurely and such actions have “cost thousands upon thousands of lives. I fear that still many more Americans will die unless a more sustained and concerted effort is made to overcome this pandemic.”

War With China?

JAMES BRADLEY, james at jamesbradley.com
Bradley is author of several nonfiction bestsellers focused on the American experience in the Pacific and Asia, including Flags of Our Fathers and The China Mirage: The Hidden History of American Disaster in Asia

Bradley has lived in Asia off and on since he went to university in Tokyo in 1974. He is currently in the Bay of Plenty, New Zealand and producing a series on “War With China?” on his “Untold Pacific” podcast channel. Recent episodes include “America’s New McCarthyism,” “U.S. Military: ‘War with China Inevitable'” and “U.S. Military Has China Surrounded” with author and documentary filmmaker John Pilger.

In 2016, Pilger released the documentary “The Coming War on China,” which Bradley is featured in — the documentary is now online.

Bradley said today: “We’re seeing both Trump and Biden ratchet up the anti-Chinese rhetoric and it is incredibly dangerous. There’s a great deal of propaganda that depicts China as this great threat and that taps into a long history of anti-Chinese sentiment and misinformation in the U.S.

“Well before the outbreak of this pandemic, elements of the U.S. establishment have been itching in one way or another for increased conflict with China.” This includes the U.S. building “more and bigger military bases that ring China. You have the reconstitution of groups like the Committee on the Present Danger: CHINA with members like Frank Gaffney, Steve Bannon, William Bennett and the CIA’s Bradley Johnson.

“And of course, the pandemic is being exploited by many to ratchet up tensions around a trade war with China and foster resentment.”

Bradley elaborated on the work behind his book The China Mirage — today the U.S. media feature “many who are disappointed that American outreach to China over the last 20 years didn’t liberalize China, make it more American. The China Mirage focuses on this continuing U.S. delusion; the ‘mirage’ in the American mind is that China will become something more like America. Pearl Buck — a huge 20th century author — preached this mirage to the American public in the 1930’s and the U.S. made the Chinese Civil War inevitable.” As Bradley told NPR when the book came out: “Chiang Kai-shek was the China mirage incarnate. He was going to lead China to become an Americanized, Christianized country.”

The book also tracks wealthy U.S. individuals and families like the grandfather of Franklin Delano Roosevelt “who dealt with Chinese gangs to inject illegal opium into China and how many prominent East Coast families accumulated massive fortunes as drug dealers during China’s century of humiliation.” The China Mirage traces the American experience with China from presidents George Washington to Richard Nixon.

See from FAIR: “Media Fail to Identify Xenophobia as Biden Says Trump ‘Rolled Over for Chinese.’

Afghanistan: Will U.S. Finally Withdraw?

Al Jazeera reports Monday: “Afghan intelligence officials killed in Taliban car bombing.”

JUNAID AHMAD, [in Islamabad, Pakistan], junaidsahmad at gmail.com
Ahmad is director of the Center for Global Dialogue and professor of Middle Eastern politics at the University of Lahore, Pakistan. See his interviews on The Real News.

He said today: “With the recent spate of attacks in Afghanistan, the so-called ‘peace agreement’ between the U.S. and the Taliban signed just a few weeks ago seems to be in tatters. The purported truce that was to be had went to shreds the moment the negotiations ended in some resolution. The only provision that seems to have been implemented is a prisoner exchange.

“After dragging its feet” in the prolonged war, the U.S. government “was now willing to meet the principal Taliban demand: withdrawal of all U.S. forces, gradually over the next fourteen months. However, the absence of, and indifference toward, the Afghan government itself was glaringly visible in these U.S.-Taliban peace talks.

“Observers now widely believe that an Afghan ‘puppet’ government, utterly reliant on U.S. protection, is outraged by these negotiations. President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan, along with his close Indian allies, do not seem to be keen on any U.S. withdrawal that would almost certainly lead to the Taliban, or what is more appropriately considered the ethnic Pashtun resistance in Afghanistan, to win over both more territory and loyalties from the other ethnic forces in the country. The latter has already begun to happen.

“The latest Taliban attack on Afghan intelligence personnel in the city of Ghazni rests upon a strong belief that the Afghan intelligence services, alongside their Indian counterparts, are engineering a number of spectacular attacks within the country precisely to prevent the Americans from considering to withdraw. All of the attacks are routinely condemned by the Afghan government as the work of the Taliban, who on the surface of it, would have no interest in breaking the truce and peace accord since the Americans agreed to their main demand.

“What began as a hopeful sign of the ending of the two-decade bloody American occupation of the country, torn by internecine warfare for four decades now, has now (re-)turned into a chaotic war zone where the geopolitics of the region, and outside actors, prevent any steps toward reconciliation and peace.”

Pandemic Exposes Agribusiness’ “Plantation Economics”

RICARDO SALVADOR, via Ja-Rei Wang, JWang at ucsusa.org, @cadwego
Salvador is senior scientist and director of the Food and Environment Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. He wrote the piece “Agribusiness Is Using the COVID-19 Crisis to Slash Food-Worker Wages” and was recently interviewed on FAIR’s show “CounterSpin.”

Salvador said: “We recently have been forced to recognize how essential these workers are, by actually giving them that official designation. ‘Essential’ means, ‘Without you, the whole thing doesn’t work.’ But there are asymmetries here. … There’s a mismatch of supply and demand.” Workers are brought in from outside the U.S. and are exploited and not paid “the fair value of their labor. So that’s the structure of our food system. It’s very much modeled on antebellum plantation economics.

“Probably the single most influential agricultural lobby is the American Farm Bureau Federation. They say they represent farmers, but they actually represent agribusiness. And the president of that organization is Zippy Duvall. …

“The person who is carrying the water for all of this in the White House is President Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows. He very much says his whole career has been about small government. And by the way, I’ll remind everyone that we’re living in a time where, to quote Noam Chomsky a couple of weeks ago, every fiscal conservative is hiding their copy of Ayn Rand and lining up for benefits from the nanny state. There’s a lot of hypocrisy that we need to throw in these people’s faces, because that’s the urgency that the degree of exploitation and dysfunction that we’re living through demands.”

Salvador also highlighted the role of those who run meatpacking industry in the country, such as “Larry Pope, who heads Smithfield Foods, and Noel White, who heads Tyson Foods, because these are the folks who are making the decisions to force people to show up to work. They’re interested in maintaining share value more than they’re interested in preserving the health of their workers. They put out press releases saying that they value nothing more than the health of their workers, but they’re forcing them to work under highly unsafe conditions, given the etiology of this particular pandemic, the coronavirus.”

Will Pelosi Let Barr Spy on You Without a Warrant?

SEAN VITKA, sean at demandprogress.org, @demandprogress
Vitka is senior policy counsel at Demand Progress. He said: “After strong bipartisan support for the Daines-Wyden amendment in the Senate, the House of Representatives must stop Attorney General Bill Barr from spying on Americans’ online activity without a warrant.

“Thursday, the Senate passed the USA FREEDOM Reauthorization Act (H.R. 6172), which would reauthorize three expired Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) authorities, including Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act. Wednesday, the Senate adopted the Lee-Leahy amendment, which established a meaningful privacy protection for the public, religious groups, and the media. [See IPA news release: “Schiff and McConnell Fail to Increase Barr’s Surveillance Powers.”]

“However, the Senate failed to adopt the Daines-Wyden amendment, which would have made clear the government may not use Section 215 to surveil internet browsing and search histories without a warrant. Thursday, the Senate also failed to adopt the Paul amendment, which would have prohibited the use of FISA, as well as surveillance conducted under claimed Article II power, against people in the United States or in proceedings against them.”

Demand Progress Education Fund and the FreedomWorks Foundation have released a number of materials on Section 215 — including visual and written histories of how “the government has repeatedly misused” this specific authority — at Section215.org.

Vitka added: “It is now critically important that the House of Representatives add the Daines-Wyden amendment to the underlying bill. Attorney General Bill Barr personally approved the first known bulk surveillance program targeting people in the United States. That DEA [Drug Enforcement Administration] program operated for over two decades, collecting billions of records, but was only publicly revealed two years after it was shut down, in 2015. Just last year, an Inspector General report concluded that Barr initiated the DEA program without first reviewing its legality.

“We cannot wait to find out what Bill Barr’s second attempt at a mass-surveillance program looks like, and this is all the more true while Donald Trump occupies the White House. Now that we know a filibuster-proof majority of senators supports prohibiting the government from using the PATRIOT Act to spy on our online activity without a warrant, it would be dangerously irresponsible for the House to pass this reauthorization without that protection.”

Schiff and McConnell Fail to Increase Barr’s Surveillance Powers

SEAN VITKA, sean at demandprogress.org, @demandprogress
Vitka is senior policy counsel at Demand Progress, which just released a statement: “Senate adopts key privacy protection measure for the USA PATRIOT Act.”

The group states: “The Senate just adopted the Lee-Leahy amendment to the USA FREEDOM Reauthorization Act (H.R. 6172). The amendment creates critical safeguards that help address well-documented problems with FISA surveillance, for instance by ensuring independent review of applications targeting religious groups and the media.

“The deeply flawed underlying legislation would revive Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act, as well as the ‘lone wolf’ and ‘roving wiretap’ authorities, which expired on March 15, 2020, until December 1, 2023.

“Senators Daines, Leahy, Lee, Paul, Udall, Wyden, and others were able to guarantee two other votes on amendments. All amendments require 60 votes to be adopted. Earlier today, Senators Daines and Wyden’s amendment failed — 59 to 37 — after ten Democrats sided with Mitch McConnell and Bill Barr and voted against protecting internet browsing and search histories with a warrant. Votes on Senator Paul’s amendment and final passage are expected in the near future.”

Vitka said: “No committee of jurisdiction marked up or passed the underlying legislation. Instead, through a backroom deal between Adam Schiff and Jim Jordan, leadership rammed the USA FREEDOM Reauthorization Act through the House without any chance to fix the glaring problems in the underlying bill. Majority Leader McConnell tried to do the same thing, but thanks to the courage of reformers in both chambers of Congress, as well as an outpouring of support from constituents, we were able to stop him.

“With today’s vote on the Daines-Wyden amendment, most Senators, and the vast majority of Democrats, voted to protect Americans’ internet activity with a warrant. It is unconscionable that ten Democrats instead voted against that amendment, siding with Bill Barr and Mitch McConnell.

“Nevertheless, adoption of the Lee-Leahy amendment is a major victory for Americans’ civil liberties. The Lee-Leahy amendment ensures an independent voice has access to and can raise issues with FISA surveillance targeting religious groups, political groups, and the media. The underlying bill remains broken, but adoption of the Lee-Leahy amendment represents a privacy victory well beyond what many believed to be possible.”

Two Rounds of Stimulus Were Supposed to Protect Jobs — Instead We Have Record Unemployment

THOMAS FERGUSON, thomas.ferguson at umb.edu
Ferguson is professor emeritus, University of Massachusetts Boston and the author of many books and articles. His podcast interview with “The Analysis” on COVID-19 and the workforce is available here.

He said today: “We all know that the U.S. response to COVID-19 has lagged far behind other countries. But now a real trap is closing. The public premise of the government stimulus programs was that they would be needed only for a short period and channeling aid to businesses would enable them to retain workers on their payrolls. So vast sums were handed out while the Federal Reserve intervened massively in financial markets. But now unemployment is soaring, in a country whose health insurance system is keyed to the workplace. Small businesses are collapsing and plainly never got much aid. Workers are also dropping out of the workforce in enormous numbers while a major health and safety crisis rages. Government policy has got to address these issues before it’s too late. It can’t simply grant blanket immunity to businesses for the sake of a hasty, premature reopening. A major re-calibration of policy is in order.”

Contrary to Claims “Cuomo’s Order Actually Ends the Eviction Moratorium”

SUSANNA BLANKLEY, susanna at righttocounselnyc.org, @RTCNYC
While CBS and other outlets have run stories like “Cuomo: No one in New York can be evicted for not paying rent until August 20,” housing rights groups are saying that’s not accurate.

Blankley is coalition coordinator for the Right to Counsel NYC Coalition, which just put out a statement: “On Friday, May 7, New York Governor Cuomo issued an executive order, which he claimed extended the existing eviction moratorium. However, Cuomo’s executive order actually ended rather than extended our current eviction moratorium, putting thousands at risk of displacement. While Governor Cuomo’s public remarks gave the impression that he extended the moratorium until August 20, his order offers tenants very limited protections. It allows landlords to bring cases against renters who cannot pay rent, while offering limited protections to a limited number of households.

“The eviction moratorium that’s currently in place protects all tenants, commercial and residential, from eviction across New York State. Until June 20, no tenant can be evicted for any reason, period. But on Friday, May 7th Governor Cuomo issued a new executive order that ends the eviction moratorium on June 20th, and forces thousands of tenants facing lawsuits to risk their health to fight for their homes.

“By opening the door to all these new eviction cases and evictions, the new Executive Order will quickly take us back to overcrowded housing courts and families facing homelessness — both of which are guaranteed to endanger individual and public health.”

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