pandemic Archives - Accuracy.Org

Billionaires Deforming Education?

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KEVIN KUMASHIRO, kevin at kevinkumashiro.com
Author of ten books on education, Kumashiro is former dean of the School of Education at the University of San Francisco and co-founder of Education Deans for Justice and Equity,

He has helped organize a statement signed by over “650 educators of color and educational scholars of color across the U.S.” calling for a “retreat from the market-based initiatives (like the so-called ‘portfolio model,’ expansion of choice, and deprofessionalizing of teaching) being foisted by billionaires upon poorer communities of color.”

The statement — “This Must End Now: Educators & Scholars of Color Against Failed Educational ‘Reforms’” begins: “The public is being misled. Billionaire philanthropists are increasingly foisting so-called ‘reform’ initiatives upon the schools that serve predominantly students of color and low-income students, and are using black and brown voices to echo claims of improving schools or advancing civil rights in order to rally community support. However, the evidence to the contrary is clear: these initiatives have not systematically improved student success, are faulty by design, and have already proven to widen racial and economic disparities. We must heed the growing body of research and support communities and civil-rights organizations in their calls for a more accurate and nuanced understanding of the problems facing our schools, a retreat from failed ‘reforms,’ and better solutions.”

Kumashiro recently wrote the piece “Corona-Capitalism and the Racialized Looting of Public Schools,” which states: “As the COVID-19 crisis unfolds, proponents of market-based reforms have wasted little time capitalizing on the same two conditions that propelled privatization post-Katrina, except at a scale and level without precedent: school closures and federal funding.”

Workers Line up for Unemployment; Billionaire Wealth Skyrockets

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AP reports this morning: “1.5 million more laid-off workers seek unemployment benefits.”

CHUCK COLLINS, chuck at ips-dc.org; also via Bob Keener, bobk at ips-dc.org
Collins is co-author of the recently released study “Billionaire Bonanza 2020: Wealth Windfalls, Tumbling Taxes, and Pandemic Profiteers.”

U.S. billionaires saw their wealth “increase by 20 percent, or $584 billion, roughly since the beginning of the pandemic, as 45.5 million Americans lost their jobs and the economy cratered,” according to a new report by Americans for Tax Fairness (ATF) and the Institute for Policy Studies — Program on Inequality, where Collins works.

Overall, “between March 18 — the rough start date of the pandemic shutdown, when most federal and state economic restrictions were in place — and June 17, the total net worth of the 640-plus U.S. billionaires jumped from $2.948 trillion to $3.531 trillion, based on the two groups’ analysis of Forbes data. Since March 18, the date Forbes released its annual report on billionaires’ wealth, the U.S. added 29 more billionaires, increasing from 614 to 643.

“The top five billionaires — Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Warren Buffett and Larry Ellison — saw their wealth grow by a total of $101.7 billion, or 26 percent. They captured 17.4 percent of the total wealth growth of all 600-plus billionaires in the last three months. The fortunes of Bezos and Zuckerberg together grew by nearly $76 billion, or 13 percent of the $584 billion total.”

“The last thing U.S. society needs is more economic and racial polarization,” said Collins. “The surge in billionaire wealth and pandemic profiteering undermines the unity and solidarity that the American people will require to recover and grow together, not pull further apart.”

Barr Prosecuting Pacifists: Activists Face Prison for Action at Huge Nuclear Weapons Base

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Mass on the Kings Bay Plowshares 7 home base porch, August 8th, 2019, Brunswick, Ga. | Courtesy of Bones Donovan

On April 4, 2018, on the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination, seven activists — following the Biblical edict to “beat swords into plowshares” — used bolt cutters to enter one of the largest nuclear weapons bases in the world at the Kings Bay Trident submarine base in Georgia.

On Monday, the first of the defendants, Elizabeth McAlister, a long time peace activist who founded Jonah House in Baltimore with her late husband Phil Berrigan, is scheduled to be sentenced. For public access to audio of this hearing, dial 1-888-684-8852, enter the call access code 2296092 and enter the security code 1234.

The support group for the Kings Bay Plowshares 7 states that the Catholic Worker activists, after entering the nuclear weapons facility “then split into three groups and prayed, prayerfully and symbolically poured blood, spray-painted messages of disarming nuclear weapons and to love one another. They hammered on parts of a shrine to nuclear missiles, hung banners quoting Dr. King, ‘the ultimate logic of racism is genocide’ and another naming the ominicidal logic of Trident. The seven waited to be arrested.”

A year ago, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and other Nobel Prize winners wrote to Attorney General William Barr asking the charges against the activists be dropped. Instead, at their trial in October, the prosecution and judge prevented the activists from mounting a series of defenses, including presenting a justification or necessity defense with Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg testifying on their behalf — or invoking international law. The prosecution and judge even effectively kept the reality of the nuclear weapons at the base from the jury. The activists were convicted on October 24.

The group states that the defendants “asked for home confinement during this time of COVID-19, as entering prison could be a death sentence. Their request was denied by the prosecution. Elizabeth McAlister, at 80 years old, the eldest of the KBP7 defendants, was notified that her court date was changed from May 28 to June 8. She is to be sentenced by video while she stays at her home in Connecticut. McAlister will probably not face additional prison time because she served over 17 months before trial.

“Martha Hennessy, granddaughter of Dorothy Day who founded the Catholic Worker Movement, was granted an adjournment and given a new date on June 29, 3:30 p.m. in Brunswick, Georgia.

“Patrick O’Neill, Clare Grady, Mark Colville, Carmen Trotta, and Fr. Steve Kelly, S.J. (who has been detained in jails in Camden County and Glynn County for more than 25 months) also asked for an adjournment and were given June 29 and 30 as their new dates to appear with no times specified yet. They were not told whether they’ll be allowed to be sentenced in person in open court or whether they’ll have to travel to Brunswick to be sentenced remotely by video once they get there. …

“As they wait for sentencing, each of the defendants and their families continue to serve as their communities’ human needs grow exponentially during this COVID-19 pandemic. The defendants call for the release of people in prisons, in federal and state prisons, county and city jails, especially the elderly, the infirm and all non-violent offenders.”

Interviews are available with:

MARK COLVILLE, markcolville9761 at gmail.com
One of the seven Plowshares activists, Colville is co-founder of the Amistad Catholic Worker House in New Haven with his wife Luz Catarineau. In late December, the New Haven Register wrote: “For their sustained, compassionate approach to building and supporting their community and for their lived opposition to war and violence, the Colvilles are the New Haven Register’s Persons of the Year.”

More information and interviews with other Plowshares activists are available via the group’s extensive website and via the media team:

Bill Ofenloch, billcpf at aol.com, @kingsbayplow7
Mary Anne Grady Flores, gradyflores08 at gmail.com